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Bush Defends Choice of Miers for Supreme Court; Avian Flu

Aired October 4, 2005 - 19:00   ET


HEIDI COLLINS, CNN HOST: Thanks and good evening, everybody.
President Bush fights to regain footing as he faces criticism from members of his own party.

360 starts now.


ANNOUNCER (voice-over): President Bush steps up and takes some tough questions in his first formal Rose Garden news conference in four months.

GEORGE W. BUSH, U.S. PRESIDENT: We've been through a lot, but there is no question in my mind that we're going to accomplish great things.

ANNOUNCER: Tonight, with polls near record lows, a hard look at what Bush faces in his second term.

The president's Supreme Court nominee, Harriet Miers, taking heat from both the left and the right who say she is an unqualified crony or not conservative enough. Can this friend of Bush, who has never been a judge, win confirmation?

And rebuilding New Orleans. Does it make sense to shell out billions when another catastrophe could be one hurricane away? We're covering all the angles.

Live from the CNN Broadcast Center in New York, this is ANDERSON COOPER 360.


COLLINS: Good evening, everybody. I'm Heidi Collins. Anderson Cooper has the night off.

We have an awful lot to cover in the next hour, so first let's see what's happening "At This Moment."

The employees of the City of New Orleans are the newest victims of Hurricane Katrina. Mayor Ray Nagin today announced the city must layoff up to 3,000 city workers. That's about half of the city payroll. The mayor warned of further belt-tightening as New Orleans rebuilds after two devastating hurricanes. And the costs from Hurricane Katrina keep rising. The insurance industry says personal and commercial property loss claims will likely top more than $34 billion. Another damage survey will be done in about 60 days, when costs could rise even more.

And after tearing into Mexico's Gulf Coast, Hurricane Stan is now a tropical storm. Stan came ashore as a Category 1 one storm with winds topping 80 miles per hour. This past weekend, Stan crossed the Yucatan Peninsula, dumping heavy rains in Central America, killing at least 51 people in floods, mudslides and rough sea waters.

It has been a terrible season for Mississippi and Louisiana and the other Gulf Coast states and then partially for the same reasons, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita by name. But for a number of other reasons too, some would say it has also been a pretty bad season for President Bush.

As a result, at the White House today he seemed to be standing up for more than just his choice to replace retiring justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

CNN's White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux reports.


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Under fire from both the left and the right over Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers, President Bush defended his pick.

BUSH: She is a woman of enormous accomplishment. She is -- she understands the law. She's got a keen mind. She will not legislate from the bench.

MALVEAUX: A big concern among some conservatives, who suspect Miers may tip the balance of the court.

The wide-ranging press conference was aimed at helping the president regain his political footing. Since his last one in May, he's been hit with rising gas prices, sinking poll numbers and violence in Iraq, a Republican leadership charged with wrong-doing and scathing criticism over his own handling of Hurricane Katrina. Today he gave mixed reviews for the ongoing recovery efforts and continued to hold himself accountable for the government's missteps.

BUSH: I take all the responsibility for the failures at the federal level.

MALVEAUX: The president has faced tough criticism from the African American community, who were impacted especially hard by Hurricane Katrina. For the first time, the president acknowledged that despite his efforts during his reelection campaign, he's been unable to garner significant African American support.

BUSH: I was disappointed, frankly, in the vote I got in the African American community. I was. I have done my best to elevate people to positions of authority and responsibility. MALVEAUX: While Mr. Bush implored Americans to support his foreign policy in Iraq, he admitted the centerpiece of his domestic policy, reforming Social Security, has stalled.

BUSH: Well, Social Security for me is never off. It's a long- term problem that is going to need to be addressed. When the appetite to address it is, that's going to be up to the members of Congress.

MALVEAUX: One issue the president is vowing to get in front of is how to protect Americans from the dangers of a possible bird flu infection in the United States.

BUSH: We're watching it. We're careful. We're in communications with the world. I'm not predicting an outbreak. I'm just suggesting to you that we better be thinking about it.


MALVEAUX: One issue that the president did not address is the CIA leak investigation, which is expected to wrap up soon, and also involves several administration officials -- Heidi.

COLLINS: Suzanne Malveaux, live from the White House; thanks, Suzanne.

Even some of the president's supporters are thinking about his choice for the Supreme Court bench, trying to figure out who exactly she is. There isn't much to go on.

CNN's senior political correspondent Candy Crowley has that.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The president's Supreme Court nominee has gone from an unknown quantity to an unknown quantity in the bright lights.

HARRIET MIERS, SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: So far, you know, the hospitality here has been wonderful. People have been really gracious with their time.

CROWLEY: As Harriet Miers exchanged pleasantries on Capitol Hill, the president was fending off the unpleasant little reaction he got from conservatives who wanted a known.

BUSH: There should be no doubt in anybody's mind what I believe the philosophy of a judge, and Harriet Miers shares that philosophy.

CROWLEY: In a news conference coded with messages, the president sought to soothe the anxiety inside his bedrock constituency.

BUSH: I know her heart. I know what she believes.

CROWLEY: Translation: she is one of us.

BUSH: I'm interested in people that will be strict constructionists.

CROWLEY: Translation: she thinks judges should interpret, not make law. Some conservatives think the Supreme Court made law in the Rowe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion.

BUSH: She is plenty bright. She, as I mentioned earlier, she was a pioneer in Texas. She just didn't kind of opine about things, she actually led.

CROWLEY: Translation: she can hold her own, will be a forceful conservative voice among intellectual powerhouses on the Supreme Court.

But what conservatives wanted was all of this in writing, well- documented proof of judicial conservatism, somebody to count on for the ages.

BUSH: I don't want to put somebody on the bench who is this way today and changes. That's not what I am interested in. I'm interested in finding somebody who shares my philosophy today and will have that same philosophy 20 years from now.

CROWLEY: Translation: she's no David Souter, a former unknown with no paper trail, thought at the time to be a judicial conservative, Justice Souter is counted on now as a reliably liberal court vote.

On the Miers watch, the bright lights are beginning to shine on the tidbits of her paper trail. Including this 1989 questionnaire circulated by a pro-gay and lesbian rights group. Running for Dallas City Council at the time, Miers indicated her support for gay civil rights and AIDS education, positions similar to the president's if not all of his supporters.

BUSH: Am I what? (UNINTELLIGIBLE) conservative? Proudly so. Proudly so.

CROWLEY: At this point, the president's concern is not that Miers will be rejected. He is concerned the right is so upset it won't show up to help with the rest of his agenda.

Candy Crowley, CNN, Washington.


COLLINS: More now on the reaction to the president's choice of Harriet Miers for the Supreme Court. Joining me from Washington is CNN contributor and former Pentagon spokeswoman Torie Clarke, and Democratic strategist Julian Epstein.

Thanks, you guys, for being with us tonight.

Torie, let me start with you. Some conservatives have voiced their displeasure, as you know, with the Miers nomination, and warned of possible consequences, including Gary Bauers, who actually said this: "The ramifications will be felt, and not just against him," President Bush, "but against the Republican Party."

How much of a risk do you think the president is taking? And will the party actually suffer any sort of backlash?

TORIE CLARKE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You know, anytime I hear the far right and the far left upset about something, I think it was probably a pretty good decision, and I think this is going to prove to be a very, very good pick by the president. I don't put much stock in what Gary Bauers said. I think as the days and weeks go by on and we go through this process, people are going to find out that the president said what he meant. He wants somebody who interprets the Constitution strictly, who is very clear about the respective roles and responsibilities of the branches of the government. That's the way it should be. That's the way a lot of people in the United States believe a Supreme Court justice ought to act.

So I think over the long haul most people are going to be pretty happy with this pick.

COLLINS: Julian, your thoughts.

JULIAN EPSTEIN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, any time -- I can't remember the last time a president had to actually go out in a press conference and defend his nominee the day after he nominated her, and I think any time a president does that, you know that president and the nominee is in trouble, not that she won't be ultimately confirmed, but politically this president is in trouble.

To Democrats, like myself, who praise John Roberts as a brilliant choice, we're a little bit under-whelmed, and to Republicans, you either kind of get a begrudging approval for the most part, or you get outright revolt.

Now I think what it tells you is one of two things, this choice. Either the president, because of all of the other problems with Katrina, dissension inside the Republican Party, the allegations about scandal -- either he didn't want to have a political fight that a social conservative would have forced or -- and this is according to some Republicans -- this president is starting to lose his political compass and this is yet one more misstep along a series of multiple missteps in the last several months.

COLLINS: But, ultimately, let's talk about Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, who is anti-abortion. He recommended Miers, has endorsed her. Does that actually mean, Julian, that Democrats are not going to go so far as to filibuster the nomination?

EPSTEIN: I don't think they will. And I think Democrats should keep an open view. This is a candidate, as you know, who has no judicial experience, who never practiced before the Supreme Court, and unlike -- you know, you've had nominees before to the court that don't have those two things, but generally somebody like O'Connor or an Earl Warren would have had significant experience in state government.

This particular nominee doesn't have any of that, so she has a paper trail that is very thin. Now I think Democrats should keep an open mind, but keep in mind, with somebody that has this sparse of a record, any single piece of information, any single piece of paper, can define that candidacy, either positively or negatively from either the left or the right.

COLLINS: Torie, let me ask you about Republicans and the rising budget deficit. This also an issue, how the president plans on paying for the hurricanes and Iraq. Lots of discussion about that. Do you think today he said enough to put those fears aside?

CLARKE: One day is never enough to solve a big, big problem, like the deficit, and I think the president made that clear, that we're going to have to look at a lot of things to address that. And I would say, my personal opinion is that everything ought to be on the table. We ought to look at the pros and cons of everything, pork barrel spending, the drug benefit, things like that, see where we can find the money to pay for those things.

But this is not an issue just for the president of the United States. The American people know full well, he has responsibility, Congress, Republicans and Democrats, have responsibility, and a lot of people out there are saying a pox on all their houses. They know they all have the responsibility to figure out how to address it. It's not just the president of the United States.

EPSTEIN: I think that is largely right, and I think if Torie were running the White House right now they'd be in a lot better shape.

But when the question was put to Republican members of Congress, what of the $20 to $30 billion of highway pork they'd be willing to sacrifice to help rebuild Katrina stricken areas, very few members were willing to anti up. So I think -- here is the political situation right now. I think conservatives are in a bit of a meltdown, not just over deficit spending and over the situation in Iraq and the situation with the scandals, but I think the real question is whether Democrats can step up to the plate and do what Republicans did in 1994 and fill that void, not so much by attacking Republicans but more by offering a positive alternative, and to be candid, I think Democrats have a little bit more work, because that message isn't quite getting through the way it ought to be.

CLARKE: And they haven't had much practice at it. You cant' replace something with nothing, and they can't just criticize and expect people to throw out the Republican Party.


COLLINS: Sorry, we are out of time. We've struck a nerve here, and I think that we're going to be checking the ballots for Torie's name on there, if that's what I heard right.

CLARKE: Don't hold your breath.

COLLINS: All right, thanks again, guys, Torie Clarke and Julian Epstein.

CLARKE: Thank you.

EPSTEIN: Thanks for having us.

COLLINS: Coming up on 360 now, it sounds like something out of a science fiction movie, the possibility of an avian flu outbreak hitting the United States. The president addressed that worst case scenario today. We have a special report.

Plus, the focus is on Iraq and our troops there, but U.S. troops in Afghanistan face dangers every day with little recognition. We take a look at the forgotten war.

And later, controversy mounts over whether or not New Orleans Ninth Ward should be rebuilt. Some say the area is rich in history while others say it's simply a ghetto. That debate ahead.


COLLINS: More now on the potential pandemic that has the president so worried, the avian flu. Millions and millions of people could be affected if the strain of the disease hits the United States and many may die.

President Bush today pushed a discussion on how to control a possible pandemic by having the military manage the quarantine of those infected.

As CNN's Brian Todd reports, there are no easy answers in this debate.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A lethal strain that's killed roughly five dozen people in Asia with no confirmed cure, no fully developed vaccine, has the president openly discussing worst case scenarios. What if the avian flu spread to the United States?

BUSH: If we had an outbreak somewhere in the United States, do we not then quarantine that part of the country, and how do you then enforce a quarantine. One option is the use of a military that is able to plan and move, so that's why I put it on the table.

TODD: President Bush acknowledges some governors don't like the idea. And the head of the American Public Health Association says quarantining one region or even a community would be, in his words, extraordinarily difficult.

DR. GEORGES BENJAMIN, AMERICAN PUBLIC HEALTH ASSN.: The more likely thing is that the outbreak is going to be in multiple places at one time, and the odds against you being able to get a whole community quarantined and containing a section that way is probably not going to happen.

TODD: And, says Dr. Georges Benjamin, the United States military's medical corps is stretched too thin to be effectively deployed for a quarantine. Dr. Benjamin says the public health system should handle any U.S. outbreak, and he supports measures the administration has already taken: bolstering research, stockpiling vaccines that are in development and antivirals for people who already have avian flu.

World Health Organization officials say historically quarantines have worked only to delay pandemics, but they say that delay could be valuable if a deadly strain is on the move. One expert has an ominous projection if avian flu moves to the United States.

DR. MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, UNIV. OF MINNESOTA: We need to figure out how we're going to handle what could be many hundreds of thousands of dead bodies. That's the kind of planning we need right now, and that's what is going to get us through this.

TODD (on camera): So far, according to the World Health Organization, human cases of avian flu are now confined to four countries, Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. How close is this strain to spreading to the United States? Officials at the WHO and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services say there is no way to know for sure. One official at the Center for Disease Control says it's possible but unlikely.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


COLLINS: Erica Hill from HEADLINE NEWS joining us now with some of the other stories we are following tonight.

Hi -- Erica.


And some updates for you tonight on a story that we spent a lot of time on, of course, last night. Police now saying that the owner of the boat that capsized on Lake George in New York could face a fine of $25. That fine is for not having enough staff onboard. Investigators say the Ethan Allen was short one crew member when it capsized on Sunday. Of course, 20 people died in that accident. The owner of the boat company says he is shocked and saddened by what happened.

Fort Lauderdale, Florida, more trouble for a teenager who killed a six-year-old playmate. Lionel Tate now faces a criminal mischief charge after deputies said he shattered the glass in his cell door. Now he's been in jail without bail since May, this on probation violation on charges he robbed a pizza delivery man at gunpoint. Tate was on probation as part of a plea deal in the 1999 death of a family friend.

New York City, an oil tanker truck overturns on an expressway in the Bronx and catches fire. The driver was killed. 11 cars parked near the scene were either damaged or destroyed. Traffic, as you can imagine, an absolute mess. Amtrak and subway service was also suspended in the area. And in Los Angeles, a legal battle for Dr. Phil. Three plaintiffs are asking for class action status in their lawsuit that accuses the TV psychologist, Phil McGraw, of defrauding customers with his now discontinued Shape Up Diet Plan. The suit alleges the plan is useless. McGraw made no comment on the lawsuit, Heidi.

Of course, as my mom would tell you, just get a little exercise and everything in moderation.

COLLINS: That's easy enough.

HILL: There you go.

COLLINS: Erica, thanks.

Coming up on 360, Iraqi insurgents do the unbelievable, murdering teachers on school grounds.

Also tonight, the debate over rebuilding New Orleans' Ninth Ward. Is it a slum, like some suggest, or a bit of New Orleans history that deserves to be preserved?


COLLINS: Until a few days ago, Iraqi schools appeared to be the last refuge from the daily mix of suicide bombings, kidnappings and murders gripping the country, but that sanctity was shattered last week when masked gunmen dragged seven teachers from their classrooms and executed them. Now teachers and students are trying to live with the uncertainty that lies ahead.

CNN's Aneesh Raman reports.


ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Eight a.m. at Yuseva (ph) Elementary. Children line up, classes get under way, and sixth grade history teacher Hind Ali breaths a sigh of relief that she made it here alive.

HIND ALI, IRAQI TEACHER (through translator): When I leave my home, I assume that I will die. My way from home to school is very dangerous. When I heard a bomb or an explosion, I think of my daughter and husband.

RAMAN: But Hind comes every day. All the teachers do, despite the risk, to teach, to parent, to befriend a generation of Iraqi children growing up in turmoil, a cause so basic they thought it had to be beyond the insurgents' scope.

Not any more. Last week, seven teachers were murdered in Iraq. Six in the southern village of Muelha (ph). Insurgents dressed as police took them aside in an elementary school as the kids were leaving and opened fire. Grief among relatives and colleagues alike.

For Basima Hussein, a teacher of 22 years, anger breeds inspiration; purpose found in tragedy.

BASIMA HUSSEIN, IRAQI TEACHER (through translator): It's something horrible, to kill teachers, and what happened made me more Iraq, more proud to come and teach. I am not afraid to die. This is our next generation and the future depends on them.

RAMAN (on camera): Concerns here are high after the recent attacks, but also because of the October 15 vote. Schools like this are set to become polling stations and teachers fear it will make them more of a target.

(voice-over): On the street outside, barricades have just gone up. A school is now a checkpoint. And a principal is in an impossible position.

SAUD MEHDI, PRINCIPAL (through translator): Parents don't want this as a polling station. They asked me to refuse. We are worried. Many parents will stop sending their children to school.

RAMAN: There are no armed guards, no police patrols at Yuseva (ph) Elementary. They know here that the government can barely protect its own. Instead, each day for Hind, for Basima, putting their fear aside is the only way the country's hope can survive.

Aneesh Raman, CNN, Baghdad.


COLLINS: Whenever we hear about American military operations overseas, the focus tends to be solely on Iraq. The almost daily insurgent attacks there, the U.S. death toll nearing 2,000.

With all this talk about Iraq, it can be easy for someone to assume that the battle for Afghanistan is basically a done deal, that things there are much more peaceful. But as CNN's Ryan Chilcote reports, that's simply not the case.


RYAN CHILCOTE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The 2nd Battalion of the U.S. Army's 503rd Airborne Infantry went to Afghanistan six months ago expecting a peaceful deployment. They got anything but.

SETH WILLIAMS, U.S. ARMY: You know, we're watching the news too, and all the media was focused on Iraq and all of the fighting going on there, so coming to Afghanistan, we were thinking, oh, you know, this is going to be an easy tour. There's not going to be much going on. And then we come here and we start losing guys.

CHILCOTE: Soldiers like Seth Williams patrol Afghanistan's Zabul Province, a Taliban sanctuary where the United States rarely ventured until this unit arrived.

They are trained to move fast. Forty minutes after getting intelligence on a wanted Taliban leader, a platoon searches these compounds. Other search from the air. In their six months here, these soldiers estimate capturing or killing 400 Taliban. This time, they do not find the thing that they're looking for.

WILLIAMS: When it's a dry hole, we're pretty excited to get back and relax because we've been pretty exhausted.

CHILCOTE: Exhausting and deadly. The battalion lost seven soldiers in six months, 34 more wounded. But their comrades say few back home even know they're here.

WILLIAMS: When I went home on leave, everyone was just like, oh, yeah, how long have you been in Iraq? And I was like, no, I'm going to Afghanistan. I haven't been to Iraq yet.

CHILCOTE (on camera): What is their reaction to that?

WILLIAMS: Their reaction is, oh, well, at least you'll be safe in Afghanistan. Yeah.

CHILCOTE: And it's not quite that way.

WILLIAMS: Yeah, it's completely the opposite.

CHILCOTE (voice-over): Corporal Kyle Frederixson spent a year in Iraq.

CPL. KYLE FREDERIXSON, U.S. ARMY: Everyone is like, oh, it could be worse, you could go to Iraq. But my experience so far would indicate that I would rather be deployed back to Iraq than over here, personally.

CHILCOTE: This is the deadliest year yet for the United States in Afghanistan. More than 50 killed in action since January, in a place and in a war many here say their fellow Americans have all but forgotten.

Ryan Chilcote, CNN, Deshopan (ph) Valley, Afghanistan.


COLLINS: Still to come on 360, the Ninth Ward of New Orleans, it's a neighborhood that was flooded twice by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and the levees protecting it could break again. So is it worth rebuilding?

Plus, a man who won't take indictments quietly. We'll go inside the hard-hitting battle Congressman Tom DeLay is fighting against a Texas prosecutor.


COLLINS: Welcome back to 360. Anderson Cooper has the night off. I'm Heidi Collins. Lots coming up in the next half hour. But first let's see what's happening at this moment. In New Orleans and its surrounding areas, no more grim door-to-door sweeps for corpses, five weeks after Hurricane Katrina devastated the area, the search for victims officially ended today.

The Louisiana Health Department says the death toll from Hurricane Katrina now stands at 972 people. That's substantially lower than the 10,000 victims some officials initially feared.

And the investigation continues tonight into the tour boat accident in Upstate New York that killed 20 people on Sunday. Transportation officials are combing through every piece of evidence they can find to figure out what happened on Lake George. And they've released some chilling 911 tapes.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh my God! Oh my God! A boat! A boat! A boat went over just in the (INAUDIBLE) just outside of Green (ph) Harbor. It tipped right over.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How many people were in the boat?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A lot of people! They are hanging onto the bottom (INAUDIBLE) it went over! Oh, please hurry!


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, Green Harbor in Lake George, you know, Lake George?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, please send somebody really quick!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, ma'am, will do.


COLLINS: The boat was raised from the lake yesterday. Investigators are now looking into the boat's settings to determine its speed when it capsized.

In Boca Raton, Florida, an argument during Rosh Hashanah services turned into a shooting. Police say two men who had a long running dispute took their fight to the synagogue's parking lot where one man shot the other twice in his stomach. The man who was shot is hospitalized in critical condition. Police say he is expected to survive.

Tonight, no end in sight for the stark choices ahead for New Orleans. Officials fear that many new New Orleans residents will not return to a city destroyed by Hurricane Katrina and then flooded again by Hurricane Rita. The 9th Ward was hardest hit by both storms, homes flooded twice. And the big question is now, should the area be rebuilt or just bulldozed?

Tonight we take a look at both sides of the issue. We begin with CNN's Rick Sanchez who talks to people who say the area should be destroyed. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's Roselind Thomas's first day back home in the Lower 9th Ward, a neighborhood that some experts argue should be done away with.

(on camera): Would you accept the fact that maybe this should not be neighborhood anymore?

ROSELIND THOMAS, NEW ORLEANS RESIDENT: Yes, I can, because the safety of myself and my family is far more important than this piece of ground. This is just geography.

SANCHEZ (voice-over): Geography that many believe should be reverted to its natural state, a swamp.

CRAIG COLTEN, LSU PROFESSOR OF GEOGRAPHY: I think if we were try to recreate the 9th Ward and other parts of New Orleans, for that matter, as they were, they would still face a serious flood threat in the future.

SANCHEZ: The Lower 9th Ward sits in a depression. The land surrounded by higher waters. Canals border it on two sides, while the Mississippi and Lake Ponchartrain border it on the others. It's essentially a flood waiting to happen. That's why some geologists believe this area should be set aside and used as nature intended.

COLTEN: Primarily, setting aside the lowest ground as flood retention bases, that is, areas that can hold water in the event of a future flood, rather than water standing in someone's living room, let it stand in open wetland area.

SANCHEZ (on camera): It's not so much water but muck. It's been a full month since Katrina blew through here, and still, in this particular part of the 9th Ward, this depression is so deep, the water still hasn't receded.

(voice-over): Experts say if you remove the dense housing, paved roads and sidewalks from this area, the ground would have soaked up these waters much sooner, forestalling scenes like this where home after home was moved or destroyed, and car after car was toppled or tossed aside.

So what about adding more fill and making the land higher in the 9th Ward? Geographer Craig Colten says he has looked into that.

COLTEN: You add too much weight and it will simply sink.

SANCHEZ: Each of these red tags means the home is unsafe and will have to be demolished. What then? Why not rebuild, as they did after the earthquake in Northridge, California, or after the Love Canal spill in Upstate New York? And could a decision not to rebuild have to do with the fact that almost all of the people who live here are poor and black?

COLTEN: You need to make decisions not based on class or color or income. But we need to make decisions on topographic safety.

SANCHEZ: It's what residents like Roselind Thomas are now grappling with as she scrapes the muck off her son's picture that she finally made it home to retrieve.


COLLINS: For other, they see only one choice, and that is to rebuild the 9th Ward, making it even better than before. With that part of the argument, CNN's Randi Kaye now.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What Katrina didn't wipe out in New Orleans' Lower 9th Ward, the bulldozers might. Five weeks under water, the majority of the 160,000 Louisiana buildings deemed uninhabitable after the hurricane are here, red tagged by firefighters for demolition. Now, it's decision time for the 14,000 people who lived here before the storm. Rebuild, or raze?

HAROLD ROBINSON, 9TH WARD RESIDENT: All can do is pray to God that there will be another day.

KAYE: Harold Robinson grew up in the 9th Ward in the projects.

(on camera): Some people feel that because the 9th Ward has a reputation of being somewhat of a ghetto, they think it's not worth rebuilding. What do you think about that?

ROBINSON: Oh, well, what they say is what they say. But I know this, this is where I was born and raised, and I've got to give it a chance.

KAYE (on camera): The decision whether to demolish the Lower 9th Ward and let it become what it was in the beginning, wetland, may have more to do with race than geography. It is mostly below sea level. Some say it isn't safe to live here anymore, already rebuilt once after Hurricane Betsy 40 years ago. But others call Katrina an excuse to do away with this predominantly African-American crime-ridden poverty-stricken community.

SHIRLEY DUMAS, 9TH WARD RESIDENT: We are on these houses, we've been here for years. And we just don't want to see it just go away, just vanish.

KAYE: Shirley Dumas and her husband lost their home in the 9th and everything in it. They wonder why there's talk of letting their neighborhood go while other flooded parts of the city are restored.

DUMAS: We can look at Saint Bernard Parish, which is primarily all white. Are they going to rebuild Saint Bernard Parish? OK, then if they rebuild Saint Bernard, we expect them to do the same for the 9th Ward.

KAYE: If the Lower 9th Ward were to be turned into a wetland, as one proposal suggests, what would become of this living museum? Fats Domino was born here, 6-year-old Ruby Bridges first integrated the all-white William Frantz School here back in 1960, and Jackson Barracks, built before the Civil War, now home to the Louisiana National Guard.

An Upper 9th Ward city councilwoman tells CNN it should be all brought back and every homeowner should be given the same consideration. Residents we spoke with seemed more concerned about history than science and safety.

(on camera): Why do you think the 9th Ward should be rebuilt? What here is worth saving?

ALAN FONTENELLE, 9TH WARD RESIDENT: It's historical, all this area. This was founded 200 years ago. I'm not going to let them tear my house down. I've got to go clean it out and make -- at least, I'm pulling out stuff. I'm looking like I'm doing something. They can't just tear you down.

KAYE (voice-over): New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin promises a full assessment before anything is destroyed. Back at his boyhood church, Harold Robinson is praying that's true.

(on camera): What would you do if this home wasn't around anymore and it was under water?

ROBINSON: Well, I guess I'll feel like I'm on Gilligan's Island.


COLLINS: Coming to us live now from the 9th Ward in New Orleans, correspondents Randi Kaye and Rick Sanchez.

Rick, I want to start with you. You know, one community organizer has said that allowing people to return to the Lower 9th would be negligent homicide. People would be returning basically to die. Those are some pretty strong words. You spoke to that expert who we saw in your piece. Was this his assessment too?

SANCHEZ: Well, that's not the word he used. He probably used a word that might be a little less strong. He said it would be definitely putting them in harm's way. He's convinced that it would be impossible to secure this area. He thinks not only the people here would be in harm's way, but even -- he goes further, Heidi. What he says is that by not creating a basin here, by not creating a wetlands here, they are actually endangering the lives of the people who live on the other side of some of these canals, because this is the buffer that's necessary to stop those flood waters from flooding other parts of New Orleans as well.

COLLINS: Right. And, Randi, the people that you have spoken to who do want to go back, how well do you think they really understand the risk of what could happen again?

KAYE: Oh, they understand the risk, Heidi, all too well. Many of them have lived through Betsy 40 years ago. If they didn't live here during Betsy they heard the stories from their parents or their grandparents. They have seen this area flooded before. They've seen it rebuilt before. So they certainly understand the risk.

SANCHEZ: But wouldn't they then be putting a decision that's being based on their pride and their ties to the community over what should be rationality?

KAYE: They want to stay in their homes, Rick. They don't think that they need to go where the government wants them to go. They want the government to come to them. They say this is not about bulldozing, this is about protecting these people. And they want to stay right where they are.

SANCHEZ: And we talked to at least one family, as you may have heard in my piece, Heidi, who says, no. If it's going to put my children in harm's way and the government makes a decision this isn't safe, then we don't want to be here.

COLLINS: Hey, Rick, if parts of the 9th Ward were not rebuilt, where do you think all those people would go? I mean, how do we know they would actually be compensated fairly?

SANCHEZ: Well, we'd be talking probably about a situation that's very similar to eminent domain. You have to give people what the fair market value is of their home. We're figuring what, 14,000 residents here, 14,000 residents times $100,000 per house, maybe give a little, take a little. You are talking about $1.5 billion. And that might be the check that somebody in the federal government's going to have to pay with your and mine, and your tax money.

COLLINS: Very different opinions here. All right, Randi Kaye, Rick Sanchez, thank, guys.

Still to come on 360, Congressman Tom DeLay talks tough. But how valid is his argument against a Texas prosecutor accusing him of money laundering? We're covering all the angles.

Plus, journalist Judith Miller speaks to CNN for the first time since her prison release. We'll hear what she had to say.


COLLINS: Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay is fighting back. As we told you last night, a Texas grand jury indicted the Republican lawmaker on money laundering charges. Last week he was charged with conspiracy. But DeLay is dismissing the accusations and is accusing District Attorney Ronnie Earle of quote, "prosecutorial abuse."

As CNN congressional correspondent Joe Johns reports, it's a clash of two strong personalities.


JOE JOHNS, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If anyone doubted that Tom DeLay is a take-no-prisoners politician, listen to what he has to say about the man who's trying to lock him up, Travis County prosecutor Ronnie Earle. REP. TOM DELAY (R), TEXAS: The all-too predictable result of a vengeful investigation led by a partisan fanatic.

Ronnie Earle is running around like a chicken with his head cut off.

JOHNS: A remarkable public show of contempt, triggered by Earle's indictment of DeLay on charges of money laundering and conspiracy for allegedly shifting corporate money into Texas state elections.

(on camera): You keep getting in these dog fights, don't you?

RONNIE EARLE, TRAVIS COUNTY, TEXAS, D.A.: Well, it comes with the territory.

JOHNS (voice-over): Earle's territory covers the state government in Austin. In 28 years, he as prosecuted 15 elected officials for corruption, 12 of them Democrats.

EARLE: It's been my experience in prosecuting wrongdoers that the more wrong they are, the louder they holler.

JOHNS: Those who know Earle say he is motivated not by partisan desire but by a burning zeal to get big money out of politics, a zeal, say many of his critics, that pushes him to prosecute whether the legal facts are on his side or no not.

DELAY: It's just unbelievable. I mean, he's making the Keystone Kops look good.

JOHNS: Earle, a former Texas legislator and judge doesn't see himself as a Keystone Kop. In his mind, he's more like Gary Cooper in the classic western "High Noon."

GARY COOPER, ACTOR: I'm not trying to be a hero, if you think I like this, you're crazy.

EARLE: If there's not one bully, it will be another bully. That was the lesson of the movie "High Noon." That's the way the world works. If it ain't this bully, it will be the next bully. And so we have to stop the first bully. And I think that -- again, that is America's problem. That's America's issue.

JOHNS: Earle has also indicted two of DeLay's associates. John Colyandro and Jim Ellis. They worked for political action committees set up by DeLay and they are accused of helping to pull off the alleged money laundering scheme. But DeLay is clearly the big prize. Two powerful personalities, two unyielding wills, in true Texas style, it looks like this one is headed for "High Noon."

Joe Johns, CNN, Washington.


COLLINS: 360 next, a CNN exclusive. New York Times reporter Judith Miller talks about what it was like behind bars and why she made the choice to go there.

And later, why the big buzz for the words hazmat and hospitalist? We'll explain.


COLLINS: After 85 days in prison, New York Times reporter Judith Miller is finally free to speak, and decided to do that for the first time on television earlier today with CNN's Lou Dobbs.

For starters, Lou asked Miller what prison was like.


JUDITH MILLER, NEW YORK TIMES: It was the most soulless place I've ever been. I think we don't realize how much we take things for granted like color, silence, the right to take two aspirin when you feel you have a headache. It was demeaning. It was degrading. It was very lonely.

But it has to be put in perspective. It's not a deadly illness. I knew I was going to get through it one day, I didn't know how long it was going to last, and I learned a lot from it.

If I had wanted to evade the law, if I thought that I was better than the law, the law didn't apply to us, I wouldn't have sat there for 85 days to make a political point about principle, and the principle that we journalists have to safeguard the confidentiality of our sources. And it was a rather extreme way to make it, but I felt I had to.

I knew and I know that I wasn't covering for anybody. I was protecting the confidentiality of the source to whom I had given my word. I was keeping my word. And until I knew that that source genuinely wanted me to testify, and I heard that from him, I was willing to sit in jail. I didn't want to be in jail, but I knew that the principle of confidentiality was so important that I had to, because if people can't trust us to come to us to tell us the things the government and powerful corporations don't want us to know, we're dead in the water. That's why I was sitting in jail, for the public's right to know.


COLLINS: Let's find out what's coming up at the top of the hour on "PAULA ZAHN NOW."

Hi, Paula.


Here we are some five weeks and one day after Katrina hit and we have a very controversial question to pose at the top of the hour. How would you feel if the federal government was about to set up a trailer park city just down the street and essentially double the size of your city I can guess? But there are clearly two sides to the story: one about the hurricane victims who have no place else to live; and, of course, the rest of folks who preceded them living in that town. The dilemma from both points of view coming up at the top of the hour.

COLLINS: It's a tough one. All right, Paula, thanks.

ZAHN: Thank you, Heidi

COLLINS: Next on 360, never mind trying to guess what brain freeze and chick flick have in common, you'd probably just hurt yourself. We'll tell you though in a moment.


COLLINS: And a beautiful shot this fine Tuesday evening. Live from New York, the Statue of Liberty. I'm sure you recognize it. And look at the skyline. It is fall here in New York and we are loving it.

Meanwhile, here's some good news for you. Certain words a lot of us have been saying over the last few years are finally no longer rogue expressions, no longer outlaw terms unrecognized by the establishment. They are now, some of them anyway, official, sanctioned, approved and good to go, having been embraced by a dictionary.


COLLINS (voice-over): Wordsmiths of the world, rejoice! Just when you thought you were out of words, the folks at Merriam Webster have added 18 more for you to wrap your thoughts around. Words like hazmat, civil union.

OK. Technically that's two words, but who's counting?

Brain freeze, bikini wax, and -- right, right there are a few two-word phrases. And you've heard it all before. But, I'll bet you didn't know when you were calling "Bridget Jones' Diary" a chick flick, you were using unsanctioned, unofficial, possibly punishable by the word police word, until now.

RENEE ZELLWEGER, ACTOR: I can't wear that.

COLLINS: No, there's not much new about a lot of the new words. You've been using them for years. But now, these terms have taken their place among the 1,664 pages worth of words deemed dictionary worthy by Merriam Webster's lexicologist.

JOHN MORSE, PRES., PUBLISHER, MERRIAM WEBSTER INC.: The dictionary really ought to have the words that are going to stay in the language and be of interest to a lot of people.

COLLINS: There are medical words like hospitalist: a physician who specializes in treating hospitalized patients of other physicians in order to minimize the number of hospital visits by other physicians. Hmm.

There are techy words, too, like wi-fi, used to certify the interoperability of wireless computer networking devices. Right.

And metadata: data that provide information about other data. OK.

Then there are words that are just apparently impossible to say.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stick-an (ph) -- oh, stake (ph).


COLLINS: But let's be real. Can you truly describe a brain freeze?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To me that means dumb, when your brain doesn't work, so that makes you dumb.

COLLINS: Maybe not. But trust me, any woman who's had a bikini wax doesn't need a dictionary to find the right words to describe one.




COLLINS: I'm Heidi Collins, CNN's primetime coverage continues now with Paula Zahn.

Hi, Paula.

ZAHN: Hi, Heidi, thanks so much.


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