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New England Recovers From Record Flooding; Battle Over the Border Heats Up; New 9/11 Video Reveals Images of Pentagon Attack

Aired May 16, 2006 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening again, everyone.
The battle on the border heats up. President Bush has laid out his plan. Now he has to fight to sell it.

And record flooding in the Northeast and dams still at a breaking point.


ANNOUNCER: Worrying about a break in the dam, praying for a break in the weather, bracing for another round of rain.

Moment of impact, 9/11 -- newly released pictures of the plane and the Pentagon and the company theories that won't go away.

Battle on the border -- putting the president's immigration plan into action. Can it survive a challenge from inside his own party?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There he is. Gator...

ANNOUNCER: He hunts alligators. The question is, after a string of attacks, are gators hunting you?


ANNOUNCER: Across the country and around the world, this is ANDERSON COOPER 360.

Live from the CNN Broadcast Center in New York, here's Anderson Cooper.

COOPER: Hey, thanks for joining us on this Tuesday night.

We begin with relief in New England, a break in the weather after days of rain, more than a foot of rain, and the worst flooding since the 1930s. Tonight, though, the focus remains squarely on dams in the area. Take a look at this one over the Powwow River in Amesbury, Massachusetts. They are -- that dam is holding.

Hundreds of people, however, who live nearby are being told to stay elsewhere, for now. So are 243 seniors evacuated from a nursing home in Lawrence, Mass. Troops from the National Guard doing a very slow, very deliberate job -- the patients being put up in hospitals around the area.

And turns out you can lead a horse to water and through it. Take a look at this, rescuers in Middleton, Massachusetts, relocating the tenants of a local stable to higher ground.

But the concern tonight is the dam on the Spicket River in Methuen. Will it hold?

CNN's Rob Marciano is there for us, joins us live.

Rob, what's the latest?

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Anderson, it's been a big concern for two days now. Even though the rain has stopped, the water here continues to go downhill.

As you mentioned, the Spicket River and Spicket dam behind me has been a concern, certainly.

I just recently spoke with a state engineer who has been out here periodically to check this dam, and he has told me why it is a concern, and why they have brought out all these sandbags, just earlier today, about three hours ago. Because some of the soil behind this dam was beginning to set loose, was beginning to swirl and beginning to undercut the sides of this dam, which is easily 50-years- plus old.

Now, the river itself has crested, but he showed me some pictures of what this dam looks like on a normal day, and there is barely a trickle of water going over this dam, and look at it now. I mean, it looks like Niagara Falls tonight, so you can be sure that not only engineers concerned for this dam, but he told me, likely, at least a dozen of these dams in this area that state engineers and inspectors have been going out to check to make sure that -- that this thing won't be blown out.

What are the chances of it collapsing, of it failing, of a wall of water going down this river? Well, he wouldn't give me a percentage, but the fact that they're out here checking it out certainly tells you the whole story.

Once we get through tomorrow and the next day, Anderson, when these waters begin to recede some more, then we will breathe a little bit more of a sigh of relief. But, tonight, still, people in this community are on edge -- back to you.

COOPER: And we have -- we have seen some remarkable pictures today and through the last couple days. We will bring you more from Rob and our other reporters in the area later on, on 360.

Parts of New England have seen as much as 15 inches of rain over the past four days. That is certainly a lot, but it's not the worst ever. Here's the "Raw Data."

In the U.S., the most rain to fall in 24 hours was in Alvin, Texas. Happened July 25 to the 26th, 1979, when Tropical Storm Claudette dumped 43 inches there. Around the world, the region to suffer the highest monthly rainfall is Meghalaya, India. Got 366 inches of rain in July of 1861. That's nearly 12 inches a day.

And listen to this. The most intense rainfall believed to have happened in Basse-Terre, Guadeloupe, on November 26, 1970. It got nearly two inches of rain in just one minute. Remarkable.

Now another kind of flood, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people coming across the Mexican border every day. Today, the White House began selling President Bush's plan for stemming the tide, but it is not an easy sell. Senators today kept wrangling. House Republicans kept sniping. Mexican officials threatened legal action. And border state governors complained they weren't even consulted, saying the president sprang his National Guard plan without so much as a heads- up.

Two reports tonight, starting with CNN's Susan Malveaux.


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): White House officials suspected the president's immigration reform plan would be a tough sell.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Look, I under -- this is a hard issue for many people.

MALVEAUX: He is right, Mr. Bush getting an earful from governors of border states on his plan to deploy 6,000 National Guard troops to bolster the Mexican border.

GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D), NEW MEXICO: I wish they'd consulted with us, because what I would have said is, I would have said accelerate the number of Border Patrol agents that you promised us. New Mexico was promised 265 new border agents from the last appropriations bill. Only a handful have arrived.

MALVEAUX: That's a concern the president tried to lay to rest today.

BUSH: The Guard's providing an interim service until those Border Patrol agents get -- get -- get stood up.

MALVEAUX: The second component of the president's immigration reform plan, a temporary-worker program, is also running into trouble from members of the president's own party, specifically the proposal to allow some illegal immigrants to earn U.S. citizenship. Critics say that amounts to amnesty.

REP. J.D. HAYWORTH (R), ARIZONA: The longer and the more flagrantly you have broken our immigration laws, the easier it will be to get on the so-called path to citizenship. I don't believe the American people will appreciate that. And I think they reject it.

MALVEAUX: To blunt the argument that such a plan is amnesty, Mr. Bush used some new words, which put the issue into moral terms. BUSH: Never lose sight of the thing that makes America unique, which is, we're a land of immigrants, and that we -- we -- you know, we're not going to discriminate against people. When we welcome somebody to our country who is here legally, willing to work and willing to realize a dream, it helps restore our soul.

MALVEAUX: The one group who is expressing support for the president's plan is the Democrats, who see Mr. Bush's proposal as the closest to their own.

SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I have my differences with the president, but he's absolutely right. He understands history. He's a border state governor, and he knows you can't do this by itself.


COOPER: Not sure that that's the kind of support the president exactly was looking for today.

I -- I noticed you pointed out that Bush was using new sort of language in trying to sell the temporary-worker program. What do you think -- what do you think is significant to that?

MALVEAUX: Anderson, I think it's very significant, because he is trying to reach out to Republican conservatives. So, when he says things like, well, we're not going to discriminate against people, or he also says as well that realizing their dreams, the immigrants, it's really restoring our souls, he is trying to frame this debate in a way that takes the moral high ground and is a language that's familiar to that group, to try to win them over.

So, I think it's very significant.

COOPER: Interesting.

Susan Malveaux, thanks.

There have been doubts raised about the timing of President Bush's decision to jump into the immigration debate now, coming, as it does, with the administration sinking in the polls, Republicans on the edge of revolt.

But even many of his critics concede, there is nothing cynical about how Mr. Bush sees the issue himself.

Some background now on his thinking from CNN's Elaine Quijano.


BUSH: We're a nation of law, and we ought to enforce our borders.

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the red-hot debate over the issue, the president's proposed temporary-worker program has infuriated fellow conservatives. Yet, he remains unflinchingly attached to the idea.

BUSH: There are hard-working people here, doing jobs Americans won't do, and they ought to be here in such a way so they don't have to hide in the shadows of our society.

QUIJANO: President Bush's position is rooted in his years spent in the Texas governor's mansion, which he says gave him firsthand experience.

BUSH: Illegal immigration puts a strain on law enforcement and public resources, especially in our border communities.

QUIJANO: But his stance now is also tied to his west Texas upbringing.

Wayne Slater of "The Dallas Morning News" has covered George W. Bush for more than a decade.

WAYNE SLATER, "THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS": As a young man in Midland, he got to know a number of Hispanics who worked in the community. And, so, these are not alien people to him.

QUIJANO: In addition, Slater says, Bush's time as managing partner of the Texas Rangers exposed them to immigrant baseball players.

SLATER: And I think it strengthened -- in George Bush's mind was understanding not simply of people as a class or a particular race, but of people who have families, have needs to work, people he understood and feels very comfortable around.

QUIJANO: In this 1999 interview, then presidential candidate George W. Bush outlined the beliefs that continue to drive his immigration policy today.

BUSH: We've got to enforce the borders, but I understand family values don't stop at the Rio Grande River. And, see, what I understand is, is that when you're a man who got feed -- kids to feed and you're making 50 cents, and you can look up north and see the chance to make $50, and your kids are hungry, that you're going to come.

Mi casa blanca es su casa blanca.

QUIJANO: In the months after his election, the president began pushing comprehensive immigration reform. But September 11 happened, and any thought of opening the borders was viewed as too risky. Now, with the election-year immigration debate boiling over, and his approval ratings in the 30s, it's clear some fellow Republicans have no problem distancing themselves from their president on this divisive issue.


COOPER: Well, the battle on the border is drawing a lot of heat. As always, we're looking for the facts and perspective. Coming up, we will get both from the best team of political reporters in the business and what their sources are telling them today.

Also, newly-released video of that horrible day at the Pentagon, will it finally silence those conspiracy theorists who say a missile, not a plane, hit the Pentagon? Tonight, we are "Keeping Them Honest."

Also, take a look at this:


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would never think that this water would overtake our property like this. But water, you cannot fight. It's going to do its thing, and that's it. There's nothing you can do about it.


COOPER: They are fighting to save their business and their home. We will have more on the massive flooding in the Northeast.

Across the country, around the world, you are watching 360.



BUSH: There ought to be a way for somebody to pay a fine or learn English or, you know, prove that they have been here for a long time working, and be able to get in line, not the head of the line, but the back of the line, in order to become a citizen.


COOPER: Well, that was the president walking a very fine line, laying out a plan for beefing up the border and for helping illegal immigrants become legal citizens.

Today, senators from both sides of the aisle put down a conservative rebellion, defeating language that would put border enforcement first, before any kind of immigration reformat. Dozens of Republicans, however, joined the losing effort, so, question one for our roundtable, Candy Crowley, Suzanne Malveaux, and John King, part of the best political team on the television.

We spoke earlier tonight.


COOPER: Susan, today most of the Senate Republican leadership voted to focus on border security only, instead of a comprehensive approach that the president asked for last night.

What's the White House reaction? They can't be all that pleased with that.

MALVEAUX: Well, Anderson, certainly, this is a big disappointment for the White House, but they don't want to take it day by day. They would rather look at this in terms of long term. President Bush was on the phone with Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, as well as the speaker of the House, Denny Hastert, to try to push forward immigration reform.

But they are getting it from all sides here. I mean, this idea of deploying the National Guard, they got an earful from a number of governors along the border states, who say they don't believe that's a good use of the National Guard, and they also heard it from members of their own party today, essentially saying: We don't believe in this guest-worker program.

We ultimately believe it's amnesty. So, they still have a very long way to go.

COOPER: Candy, clearly, last night, the White House trying to reach some sort of middle ground in this debate, trying to really appeal to kind of all sides.

Do you think they were able to do that? Do you think they feel they were able to do that, and -- and try to repair the divide within the Republican Party?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, clearly, they haven't been able to do -- do it.

Conservatives are still pretty loaded for bear on this subject, particularly on the House side. Ted Kennedy is in support of it. I'm not sure how much that helps him on the conservative side.

But the fact of the matter is that there may be -- and the White House is hoping that there may be some coalition within the Senate and within the House that they can somehow bring together. It is a very tall order, because it has to go into conference committee. And the conference committee is pretty loaded with people that don't compromise all that much.

But, you know, if the Senate can get a bill passed, the White House still thinks that there might be a coalition of Democrats and Republicans that can push something through.

COOPER: John, it seems like the National Guard proposal, which got an awful lot of headlines, didn't really go far enough to satisfy conservatives' concerns regarding border security.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No, they say it is not enough, Anderson.

And the fact that a senator who usually supports the White House, Senator John Warner, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee -- he says he will have hearings on the National Guard proposal. Now, he says he supports it, but it's clear there are still some questions to be answered on that.

Is the National Guard too worn out? Will there be enough of a National Guard presence to actually help with border security? But the White House thinks, in the end, they will be fine on that one. The key issue is the guest-worker program. And, on that one, they're already trying to quiet the conservatives down, say, wait until we get a Senate bill. Then see what happens.

Karl Rove had some key meetings at the White House today. He brought in some outside conservative groups who are fiercely opposed to this guest-worker program. They call it amnesty. And Karl Rove will go to Capitol Hill tomorrow to meet with House Republicans, asking them to give the process a chance, let the Senate go forward, and then see what we can do from there.

COOPER: Interesting.

Suzanne, you mentioned this a little bit, governors of a couple border states complaining that they weren't consulted about sending National Guard troops to the border in their own states. A, how is that possible that they weren't consulted? And -- and what is the White House saying about it?

MALVEAUX: Well, you know, it's very interesting, because the White House has been criticized about not reaching out and consulting members of Congress.

In this case, they didn't reach out and consult the governors themselves. They said it was staff-to-staff level meetings and consultations that occurred. But, clearly, Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of California were both somewhat miffed at this whole idea that they would automatically sign up to all of this.

And they said: Look, you needed to talk to us directly.

COOPER: Interesting.

Candy, what happens to the Democrats during this debate? I mean, you mentioned Senator Kennedy involvement and support. But, I mean, is there a certain amount of Democrats who just kind of want to stand on the sidelines and watch this thing unravel for Republicans?

CROWLEY: Sure. It's way too much fun to watch the Republicans sort of fall apart.


CROWLEY: And we -- let's not take the election year out of this year.

In fact, there -- there is a school of thought in the Democratic Party that it would be much better to be able to go to the polls in November going, remember all that brouhaha about getting an immigration policy? You remember the borders that weren't secure? Well, they did nothing. They can't lead.

So, there's part of that. But then you -- you have other Democrats that do seem to want to put something together. After all, it reflects on them as well. So, they're holding out hope that, somewhere, there is a middle up there, rather than just two wings.

COOPER: John, where does this go? I mean, what is the next step? What -- what's the -- the best- and, I guess, the worst- case scenario?

KING: Well, the thing to do is watch what the Senate comes up with.

Assuming the Senate comes up with a plan to the president's liking, which most people think will happen, then you have to have that conference committee that Candy spoke of. And there are some key questions here. There's no question there's majority support in the Senate and majority support in the House for something to the president's liking.

But the speaker has a rule. He will not bring a bill to the floor unless the majority of the Republicans support it. I checked in again just tonight. And top leadership aides say, he will stick to that rule. So, unless a majority of the House Republicans support a finished product, there will be no bill.

COOPER: Fascinating politics.

John King, Candy Crowley, Suzanne Malveaux, thanks.


COOPER: Coming up, new video released of the Pentagon attack on 9/11, pictures you have never seen before.

But, first, Erica Hill has a quick look at some other stories we're following -- Erica.

ERICA HILL, HEADLINE NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, President Bush says the federal government is not listening to phone calls of ordinary Americans without a court order.

But, when speaking to reporters today, Mr. Bush never confirmed or denied a report in "USA Today" that the National Security Agency collects phone records as part of a domestic surveillance program. The president did say the government will do whatever possible within the law to protect Americans.

And more now on those phone records -- Verizon today joining with BellSouth in denying key points in the "USA Today" article. Verizon says it didn't give customer records to the NSA and says it was never even asked to provide the information. "USA Today" says it is confident in its reporting and that it will take a closer look at the denials by both phone companies.

Between the Bahamas and Florida, the U.S. Coast Guard is now searching for this man, 21-year-old Daniel Dipiero, who is presumed to have fallen overboard from a cruise ship. Royal Caribbean says security footage shows the Ohio man leaning on a rail of the ship early yesterday morning. The Coast Guard wasn't notified until last night. But poor weather kept rescue planes grounded until today. And it turns out you might want to avoid driving in Miami. The city has earned the title of worst road rage in a new survey -- rounding out the top five, Phoenix, New York, L.A., and Boston.

But, Anderson, I got to tell you here, on, apparently, the nicest cities to drive, and Atlanta was number five. Not trying to dis my neighbors, but...


HILL: ... I don't agree.

COOPER: And I don't think New York is that bad.

HILL: I don't either, actually.


HILL: Having driven in New York, Boston, L.A., I -- I -- no.


COOPER: People are always waving -- when I'm driving, people are always waving me with one finger in New York. And -- and I appreciate it.

HILL: It's just their way of saying hello.

COOPER: It's nice. Exactly.


HILL: You know?

COOPER: Erica, thanks.

So, have you seen the new video? The government just released it. It shows the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon. Now, for years, conspiracy theorists have suggested that no plane ever hit the building. Well, we are going to examine the video frame by frame tonight, "Keeping Them Honest."

Plus, three fatal alligator attacks in Florida -- tonight, a veteran alligator hunter is on the case. And animal expert Jeff Corwin joins us with some potentially life-saving advice, what to do when a gator attacks.


COOPER: New images of the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon -- Washington hopes the video will end conspiracy theories that a missile, not a jet, hit the building. We're "Keeping Them Honest" -- next.


COOPER: Well, most Americans have seen the September 11 video of jets slicing into the Twin Towers. Who could forget it?

Few have seen, however, graphic images of a plane slamming into the Pentagon. That has fed conspiracy theories. Today, following a lawsuit demanding their disclosure, U.S. authorities released two videos showing exactly what happened.

CNN senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre tonight with the tape, "Keeping Them Honest."


JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR MILITARY AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Here's the video released today of American Airlines Flight 77 hitting the Pentagon at 9:38 a.m. on September 11.

Here it is from another angle. Hard to know what you are seeing, right? Let's look at it frame by frame. The two videos from Pentagon security cameras show how low and fast the plane came in. On the first, the nose of the 757 can be seen entering the frame just a few feet above the ground. The next frame shows the fiery explosion.

On the second video, the plane appears as just a white streak before impact. The videos show what eyewitnesses described, an airliner flying so low, it sheered off light posts, as if it's being brought in for a landing, before exploding in a massive fireball.

The tapes were sealed for the criminal trial of 9/11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui. But, with his sentencing, the Justice Department released them, in response to lawsuits, including one from the legal watchdog group Judicial Watch.

TOM FITTON, PRESIDENT, JUDICIAL WATCH: Well, we wanted to help put to rest conspiracy theories suggesting it was something other than a plane that hit the Pentagon, that it was a missile or a decoy of some type.

MCINTYRE: Until now, this single frame was the only image that showed the jetliner before it hit the Pentagon. And the image is so indistinct that it helped fuel conspiracy theories that abound on the Internet, despite pictures of the wreckage and eyewitness accounts.

MIKE WALTER, EYEWITNESS: I looked off. I was -- you know, looked out my window and I saw this plane, a jet, an American Airlines jet, coming. And I thought, this doesn't add up. It's really low.

MCINTYRE: The Web sites often take statements out of context, such as this exchange from CNN, in which I, myself, appear to be questioning whether a plane really hit the building.


MCINTYRE: But from my close-up inspection, there's no evidence of a plane having crashed anywhere near the Pentagon.

(END VIDEO CLIP) MCINTYRE: In fact, I was talking about an eyewitness who thought the plane landed short of the Pentagon, and went on to say, the only crash site was at the Pentagon.


MCINTYRE: The only site is the actual site of the building that's crashed in. And, as I said...


MCINTYRE: In fact, there were thousands of tiny pieces of the plane. And I personally photographed a piece of the fuselage and what appeared to be part of the cockpit.

(on camera): The video isn't clear enough to convince the most ardent conspiracy theorists. And there is still some mystery that surrounds the day. For instance, what happened to video from a hotel security camera nearby that sources tell CNN caught at least part of the attack? No one in the government even acknowledges that tape exists.

Jamie McIntyre, CNN, the Pentagon.


COOPER: Well, she was jogging one minute, dragged to her grisly death the next.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The coast is never clear in Florida. I think that's one of our biggest problems, that people need to realize Florida is gator country.


COOPER: Gator country, yes, but that doesn't explain what has happened in the last week, three alligators killing three women. We will talk to Animal Planet's Jeff Corwin, who has some tips that could save your life if you ever come face to face with a gator. And we will go out with that gator hunter right there.

Also, tonight, surviving the floods -- some victims of the New England floods are finally allowed to go back home.

We will have the latest -- next on 360.


COOPER: Tonight the worst may finally be over for New England, where flood waters have left thousands without power, drinkable water, even a place to live. Today the rain softened and the river slowly began receding, but the threat remains especially in Methuen, Massachusetts where battered old dams, the city's only protection from disaster. Once again CNN's meteorologist Rob Marciano, reports. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Floodwaters washed through the streets of Methuen, Massachusetts. A blue collar town just 30 miles north of Boston, a little town that depends on a little river, but now that river has washed over its banks and forced many residents to evacuate.

LARRY GALLANT, RESIDENT: I think I waited too long to evacuate. That's my truck over there, and I can barely even get out.

MARCIANO: Lindsey Riddle has lived here for 50 years, and he's never seen flooding like this. He's worried about his wife, who works at a mill downstream. Riddle watches the high water rip over the Spickett dam, which is holding, for now.

LINDSEY RIDDLE, RESIDENT: But if the dam breaks, how's my wife going to get home? That's what I worry about, you know? I'm high ground here. She's down on the low ground.

MARCIANO: The river is at its highest point in recorded history. Floodwaters have knocked out power to more than 3/4 of the town's residents and businesses. Carmen Pena's neighborhood is completely underwater. That's her green minivan trapped in the driveway. She's never seen a flood before and doesn't have insurance. But she's still upbeat.

CARMEN PENA, RESIDENT: Things happen. Nothing you can do. This is nature, so what you can do in nature? Nothing.

Just keep moving forward slow.

MARCIANO: At Mystic Horse Farm in Middleton, Massachusetts animal rescuers fought the floods to save 16 horses. The cold water, which at times was up to the horse's necks, made it difficult to move them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Never actually had to take horses and bring them through this amount of water.

MARCIANO: After four days of steady rain, some parts of New England have been drenched with up to 15 inches. Roads were cut off, schools closed, senior centers evacuated. So far the dam on this little river is holding, but the people here are holding their breath.

RIDDLE: I just hope everything works out for everybody, you know. It's not good. When is it going to stop raining?


MARCIANO: Live from the banks now of the of the Spickett river here in Methuen, Massachusetts. That's a question all the residents want to know, when is it going to stop raining? Well, it has stopped raining. The other question is, when is this river going to go down enough to where they can stop worrying about the dam that's behind me? The water flowing this way to that way, the sand bags that we mentioned earlier in the broadcast were brought in here.

Engineers requested them because when the water moves this viciously, it starts to peel away at the banks, and it starts to go around the dam, and that's pretty much -- that's usually how dams begin to fail because the water starts to go around the concrete structures. So they brought in these bags in order to shore up the banks, basically. This wooden structure you see here, this framing, was the beginning of a foot bridge that they were building before the flood even started. They were going to build it across this dam. Because on a typical day this dam barely has a trickle of water going over it, and now look at it tonight.

I tried to get the engineer to quantify what kind of cubic, you know, pounds per square inch we were dealing with, what kind of force, what kind of PSI, you know, if you will, of that kind of water going. He wouldn't give me a number. All he could say is it was enough to take out what was the beginning of that foot bridge, and it's enough to concern the engineers here. The water, far from receded. Many roads on this town still completely blocked, as there are up in southern New Hampshire.

So, still very on edge here, Anderson, as they wait for the waters to recede. Until then, the dams here are certainly on a weakened state. We hope that none of them burst, and we'll keep an eye out for that. That's the latest from here Anderson, back over to you.

COOPER: Rob, thanks very much. Let's hope it holds.

This is the worst flooding to hit New England in 70 years, but the people there don't want to hear about the history. They want to know if it is safe to drink the water, if it is safe to return home, safe to start rebuilding their lives. Today we went along with one couple as they begin the long journey starting over. CNN's Dan Lothian was there.


DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The storm that fueled this raging river and pushed an aging dam to its breaking point also took a swing at Phillip and Donna Silverio and didn't miss.


DONNA SILVERIO, METHUEN RESIDENT: Yes, it is. I would never think that this water would overtake our property like this, but water you cannot fight. It's going to do its thing, and that's it. There's nothing you can do about it.

LOTHIAN: The Silverios live and work along the Merrimack(PH) river in Methuen. They bought this engraving and silk screening business seven years ago and finished building their new home next door late last year.

PHILLIP SILVERIO: We love it here.

LOTHIAN: But the storm has changed the landscape.

PHILLIP SILVERIO: We were just watching things float by.

DONNA SILVERIO: Oh, yeah. Doors, gates. I actually watched a wooden bench that my son had made for me.

LOTHIAN: Just floated away?

DONNA SILVERIO: Just floated away.

LOTHIAN: Water has become the centerpiece, outside and in. Down in the basement where the couple's expensive silk screening machines and materials are kept --

PHILLIP SILVERIO: Like see the screens in the water, some of them are no good.

LOTHIAN: Water is still pouring in. It's about two feet deep.

PHILLIP SILVERIO: This is terrible. This is unbelievable. There's stuff floating all over the place.

LOTHIAN: His initial effort to hold off the river with a dirt barrier and a small pump failed.

PHILLIP SILVERIO: Yeah. Tried to pump it as we were taking stuff out. It was just -- it just came too fast.

LOTHIAN: It didn't take long for this neighborhood along the river to be swallowed by water. The rain came so hard and so fast that it all happened within a few hours. Now the Silverios are using two large pumps to dry out their business so they can reopen, and two smaller units are running in the lower level of their home.

PHILLIP SILVERIO: All I can do is just keep pumping and hope for the best. Hope my pumps outlast the river.

LOTHIAN: His wife tries to do a little business on the phone.

DONNA SILVERIO: I'm on a generator right now, so I'm lucky I even got a computer.

LOTHIAN: They are taking care of each other, and for the time being ignoring the potential price tag of the damage.

DONNA SILVERIO: We're not even thinking of that right now.

LOTHIAN: One thing they do know --

DONNA SILVERIO: We're not going anywhere. We'll just have to take a little more precautions.

PHILLIP SILVERIO: No, we're not going to move. What are you going to do? You live on the water, you have to accept it. Period end.

LOTHIAN: Even in the midst of the storm. Dan Lothian, CNN, Methuen, Massachusetts.


COOPER: What are you going to do? Well, coming up, they can grow to nearly 20 feet in size, can kill in seconds. We'll have the latest on the alligator attacks in Florida that have left three women dead. Also, take you along as a professional gator hunter, that man there, works overtime trying to calm people's fears.

Also, we'll get the facts on alligator from "Animal Planet's" Jeff Corwin. He tells us what may be behind the attacks and how difficult it is to save yourself once a gator has attacked. Next on "360."


COOPER: Coming up in our next hour, new strains of a mysterious, sometimes fatal illness. Doctors say these new strains are fiercely resistant to antibiotics, sometimes the germs can linger invisibly, making you an unknowing carrier. Dr. Sanjay Gupta has a quick preview.


I had been to about 20 doctors, most of them diagnosed it with an ingrown hair, a spider bite, acne.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It wasn't until last November when April's condition was finally identified. Its true name, Community-acquired Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus or MRSA, a brand new kind of illness, or bug, if you will, one that doctors know surprisingly little about.


COOPER: Sounds great. Much more about this including how to protect yourself in our next hour. Some important information there.

In Florida there may be as many as two million alligators lurking in the state's canals and everglades as a tourist attraction. Despite the large number, the chances of a deadly attack are rare, only 17 had been reported all the way back since 1948. So pretty slim odds. That, of course, however, is little comfort to the families of three women killed in just a few days in three separate alligator attacks. In a moment "Animal Planet's" Jeff Corwin's going to join me to talk about how gators attack their prey and how you could defend yourself. But first, a gator hunter and CNN's Susan Candiotti.


There he is.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Todd Hardwick catches gators for a living. In 25 years he's reeled in more than 1,000 of them. Compares it to riding a bucking bronco and taping its snout shut. Sometimes Hardwick asks a reporter to hold the catch pole while he catches his breath.

TODD HARDWICK, ALLIGATOR HUNTER: I have been tired for five days.

CANDIOTTI: He's been going nonstop since the first of three women were killed by three different alligators in Florida. Yovy Suarez Jimenez, jogging at dusk near Fort Lauderdale probably took a break along a canal when an alligator, suspected to be this nine-foot alligator, attacked. Her arms were found in its stomach. More than 100 miles away, another young woman went snorkeling in a canal. Friends found her with her head caught in a gator's jaws. It was too late to save her. Also last weekend, a third woman was found floating in a canal behind some homes. Todd Hardwick, veteran hunter, never at a loss for words, finally is.

HARDWICK: I'm speechless. I mean, I'm absolutely stunned.

CANDIOTTI: Of 20 fatal attacks in nearly 60 years in Florida, Hardwick cannot recall three so close together.

HARDWICK: People forget that an alligator is a cold-blooded predatory reptile. In that split second, he just, bam, gets it, pulls it into the water, game over.

CANDIOTTI: Florida wildlife agents say this year's dry season is not that unusual, and mating season's the same. It's just that man continues to elbow in on the alligator's habitat.

HARDWICK: Everybody wants their alligator caught first. Everybody's got the biggest, meanest alligator.

CANDIOTTI: And because of the string of attacks, trappers' phones are ringing off the hook.

HARDWICK: These are all state permits to go and remove alligators. They said that he was out of the water on the land and they would like him removed as soon as possible, that he's eaten three ducks already.

CANDIOTTI: Over the years Hardwick has suffered only one serious injury. He took a giant hook in an arm when a line came loose and a gator's rolls made the cut even deeper. Most trapped gators are killed. Their hide, meat, skull all sold. If attacked, same advice that you get if it were a shark. Fight for your life.

HARDWICK: Smack this gator, punch him, gouge his eyes out. They want an easy prey.

CANDIOTTI: P.S. Because the population is so healthy at a million and a half, hunting season is starting earlier this year. Susan Candiotti, CNN, Miami.


COOPER: As we said, alligators rarely kill humans. But as far as killing machines go, the alligator is right at the top of the list. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

We have to imagine is that this creature, when it's on the hunt and it's in the water and it's perusing towards its prey, it's practically invisible. It's a perfectly designed predator.


COOPER: "Animal Planet's" Jeff Corwin stops by with an alligator to show us how they kill their prey and what you should do in the rare case you're attacked.

Also tonight, the shot tonight, well it's all about Britney Spears and her baby son. Another controversy for the new mom. Oh yes, coming up on "360."


COOPER: Well we know one of the victims was jogging, another snorkeling. The third's body was found in a canal. The three women came from different lives. They all died the same way, however, killed by alligators in Florida. Three separate attacks over the past week that have stunned the state. The attacks come at the height of the alligator mating season. That really doesn't explain the sudden horror. To get some answers and find out more about these reptilian predators, I spoke to Jeff Corwin, host of "Animal Planet's Corwin's Quest". He's also a wildlife biologist. He joined me earlier.


COOPER: Jeff, alligators are still sort of a mystery to a lot of people. I know you brought a few. What can you tell us about them?

JEFF CORWIN, ANIMAL PLANET: Well, Anderson, they're such incredible creatures. I think what people fail to remember is that these animals have withstood the test of time. They've been living on our planet practically unchanged for almost 60 million years. Now, in North America we only have one species of alligator. Okay, throughout the world there's around 23 species of crocodilians. North America, American crocodile, American alligator, and this is what they look like when they begin their lives. This is a baby alligator. It's almost a hatchling.

COOPER: How old?

CORWIN: A guy like this is well under a year. He's probably about six months in age. When he began his life, he was about a 4- inch long egg in the nest with probably 40 other eggs, which, of course, was protected by a very vigilant mother.

COOPER: Now I know you have a bigger alligator to show us as well.

CORWIN: Here's a nice big one for you?

COOPER: How big will it get? CORWIN: A creature like this, again, assuming everything goes well, for the first five, six, seven years is growing rapidly. About a foot a year. Begins to slow down. And it could potentially reach about 14 feet-plus.

COOPER: At what points is an alligator actually big enough to threaten someone's life?

CORWIN: Once you start getting gators that are six, seven, especially the eight, nine-footers, they're heavy animals, they're weighing hundreds of pounds, and they are master, master predators. We have to imagine is that this creature, when it's on the hunt and it's in the water and it's perusing towards its prey, it's practically invisible. It's a perfectly designed predator. The only thing revealed above the surface are its eyes, even the eyes are camouflaged. And with regard to water, if you want to check out something cool, Anderson, if you can zoom in, can you see the close-up of this eye right there? Watch what happens. He's going to close his eyes. Watch when it opens. Did you see that?

COOPER: Yeah, what was that?

CORWIN: That's a (INAUDIBLE) membrane. It's an actual clear lens that functions like a snorkeler's mask. It allows him to keep his eyes open in a watery world while at the same time keeping eye on the prey. What's so amazing about their mouths is that their jaws, the maxillary muscles along their jaw, allows them -- if he opens his mouth like that sometimes -- there's his mouth opening up for you. All the strength in the jaw is designed for closing like that. It's almost impossible, even with a small animal like this for me to pry open its jaw. Never mind an animal that's six, seven, eight, nine feet in length.

COOPER: And how do they kill? Do they rip apart? I mean, if -- do they rip apart the prey? Do they bring it under water and drown the prey?

CORWIN: Good question. Their teeth are very sharp and certainly can rip through thick flesh. But their teeth aren't designed for biting off chunks. They don't chew their food per se like mammals would. What they'll do is they'll hold on -- see if I can get him to open his mouth again. They'll bite on to the prey, hold on to it very tightly, use their weight and their muscle strength to pull the creature into the water, and the best way for these animals to kill large prey is by drowning it.

COOPER: If you are attacked by an alligator, and, again, chances are probably greater being struck by lightning, is there anything you can actually do to get out of an alligator's mouth?

CORWIN: If I was in a situation and a gator grabbed on to me, I would fight back. I would not let that animal take me into the water, and I would bank on the fact that if I can hold him there long enough, if I can tick him off strong enough, if I -- if he's holding on to me and I'm pushing at the eyes and I'm pushing at the face and I'm trying to upset him so much and he'll open up and let go. But if he's so irritated and I'm like a hornet and I'm really staying on him, he just may let go.

COOPER: It is fascinating. Jeff Corwin, always great to talk to you. Thanks, Jeff.

CORWIN: Thanks, Anderson.

COOPER: And to just put it in perspective for a moment, only 17 attacks since 1948, although there have been three in the past week.

Coming up, Britney Spears and her baby are the shot of the day. Oh, yeah. Again. But first, Erica Hill from "HEADLINE NEWS" joins us with some of the business stories she's following. Erica?

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Anderson, what should have been a good day on Wall Street, turned sour. The Dow dipped just under 9 points for the day, following a poor showing in sales for major retailers, including Home Depot. The mega store's shares fell 5 percent on the news. The poor performance overshadowed information form the government though that suggests the Federal Reserve may soon stop raising interest rates. On the plus side, Hewlett-Packard in the black. The number two computer maker posted a robust second quarter for the net income that rose 51 percent to $1.46 billion. Positive earnings news was driven by HP's ink supply sales.

And finally, if you want to own a piece of the world's second richest man, now you can, sort of. Warren Buffett's signed ukulele up for auction on eBay. Proceeds will go to the Omaha Children's Hospital. The bidding started at $1,000. Buffett, by the way, worth a cool $42 billion. Must be nice.

COOPER: Well, it must be nice, and it's a nice thing he's doing. Time now for our shot of the day. Erica, stay tuned. I know you've been wanting to see this all day. The shot tonight, Britney Spears.

HILL: Yes.

COOPER: And, of course, yep, she did it again. I have to say that's of course the obvious joke. Singer and paparazzi fave was photographed driving with her 8 month old son in a mini cooper.

HILL: He is kind of lounging back there, huh?

COOPER: Yeah, exactly. There's nothing wrong with the car except little Sean Preston sitting in the baby seat backwards. He should be facing the back of the car. Also, we hope that Sean has some sunscreen on. Authorities say that Mrs. Spears-Federline -- is it Spears-Federline?

HILL: I think now she's just Federline legally.

COOPER: Or Mrs. K-fed. She told the world that she's pregnant again -- will not be cited we are told. And I don't know where K-Fed was. He wasn't in the car.

HILL: Maybe he was home making dinner.

COOPER: Or making some raps, recording. You know someone's got to be bringing in the Benjamin's.

HILL: For his peeps. Yeah, yeah, word.

COOPER: Completely different look at illegal immigration coming up, from the point of view of an illegal immigrant being sent home, part of the government's catch and return program. And remember the least guarded stretch of border, the one with Canada. Well guess what, it is not just with Canada, we'll take you to a spot on the Mexican border where illegal immigration is practically a walk in the park.

And another kind of battle against a new form of a very old bacteria. The old kind gave you pimples, the new kind can actually kill. Coming up next on "360."


COOPER: Good even again everyone. The president says he has a plan to fight the battle on the border. Now comes the tough part, getting it past the Republican Party.

ANNOUNCER: Marching orders, the president's plan to have National Guard troops patrol the border. Tonight the backlash from his own party and governors who said they were kept in the dark. Submerged, the flooding that left parts of New England underwater. Tonight, we're on the scene surveying the devastation, and bringing you incredible stories of survival.

And secrets revealed. In The Da Vinci Code they're the guardians of the Holy Grail. Tonight the mystery behind the Knights Templar. Across the country and around the world, this is ANDERSON COOPER 360 live from the CNN broadcast center in New York. Here's Anderson Cooper.

COOPER: And we start things off this hour with the battle on the border, which is turning into a sales campaign, but there are glitches. At a press conference today, Michael Chertoff, the secretary of homeland security had trouble providing details about how parts of the president's new plan for using the National Guard would actually work.


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