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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Hurricane Noel Set to Deliver Another Blow; Interview With Texas Congressman Ron Paul

Aired November 2, 2007 - 22:00   ET

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


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. I'm Soledad O'Brien. Anderson is off tonight.
Tonight, Hurricane Noel is winding up to deliver another serious punch on land and at sea. The storm is churning north off the East Coast, gaining speed and strength. We will have the very latest just ahead.

Meantime, Mexico's Tabasco state is literally drowning from severe flooding. Tens of thousands of people are stranded on the rooftops tonight. They are waiting to be rescued.

Also, a bizarre twist in the latest O.J. Simpson saga, the one involving that alleged armed robbery that happened in Las Vegas. Well, it turns out the FBI actually knew what Simpson was planning weeks before the alleged crime.

Also ahead tonight, my one-on-one interview with Ron Paul. The straight-talking libertarian Republican is creating a lot of buzz on the campaign trail. He told me what he thinks about all the tough talk about Iran.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. RON PAUL (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is war propaganda to give us -- get the American people behind the bombing of Iran, just like the war propaganda got us all worked up and thought we had to go get Saddam Hussein, which was absolutely unnecessary.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: More of that ahead tonight.

We are beginning, though, with Hurricane Noel, which is now making its way north, after sweeping across the Bahamas today. Tonight, the storm is about 300 miles southeast -- southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.

Now, earlier this week, Noel battered the Dominican Republic and Haiti. It caused flooding and landslides, killed at least 64 people. Today, a full picture of the damage is still unfolding. Thousands have been left homeless. Some people are missing. Relief supplies are desperately needed.

Meantime Noel is very much a threat still.

CNN's Chad Myers is in Atlanta, joins us now.

Hey, Chad. What is the latest?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Hi, Soledad. Good to see you.

Big-time beach erosion all the way up and down from the Florida coast from Noel as it moved up to the northeast. Now the winds are into North Carolina and they are about to move into the Hamptons and also into Cape Cod. Cape Cod really going to get hit hard with this storm. There's going to be maybe winds to maybe Category 2 strength as it goes by Boston tomorrow afternoon.

The storm will still be an 85-mile-per-hour storm when it gets very close to Cape Cod. Yes, it will miss. The center of the storm will miss, but the winds will not. Then it slams into Nova Scotia, just to the east of where it makes contact there with Maine.

Now, the winds right now are not so bad. They are actually, from Ponte Vedra now down to about 20 miles per hour, Charleston at 14. But, if we get up toward Virginia Beach -- and I just saw a wind gust out of Cape Hatteras at 41 miles per hour. That is going to be the rule, even maybe even New York City in the 40s tomorrow. That is going to really slow down the airplanes a lot.

And then the orange here for Boston all the way up to Downeast Maine, I suspect we will see wind gusts to 80 miles per hour. I know it won't even be a hurricane then. It will just be a low. It will be a low a lot like the one and probably even stronger the one they called the perfect storm.

It's not setting up like the perfect storm, Soledad, but the winds and the waves will be bigger. The Coast Guard is out there trying to get those fishermen, because it is lobster season, trying to get those guys back to shore.

O'BRIEN: So, give me a sense of the timing, Chad. When would all of this happen? When would the -- the 80-mile-an-hour hours be hitting?

MYERS: I would say tomorrow morning for New York City and the Hamptons are going to be your highest wind gusts. And then probably 2:00, Boston, you get to your highest gusts. Boston, you could be 70 -- 70 miles per hour.

Now, out on the cape, maybe 80 or 85, and that's 2:00. They start around 9:00. They ramp up, get to their peak at 2:00 to 2:30. And, then, by 10:00 at night, they are back down to 30 miles per hour. But it's going to be a long-duration beach erosion problem all the way from the cape right on back down even to maybe as far south as Narragansett, and certainly the eastern tip of Long Island.

O'BRIEN: So, clearly, there's a clock ticking for the folks at the Coast Guard who have got to deal with this.

MYERS: Absolutely.

O'BRIEN: All right, Chad, thanks a lot.

MYERS: You're welcome, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Nice to see you, too, Chad.

MYERS: Good to see you.

And, as you heard from Chad just a moment ago, the Coast Guard Air Station on Cape Cod has been flying missions all day. They are warning ships and boats to head into port to take cover. If they are stay at sea, we're told, they risk being caught in a storm that is even bigger -- and Chad just said this -- even bigger than that perfect storm of the best-selling book and Hollywood movie. That's how dangerous things could be.

Let's get to Lieutenant Joel Carse of the U.S. Coast Guard. He joins us by phone.

Lieutenant, thanks for talking with us. We really appreciate it.

As you heard from Chad just a moment ago, he says, you know, a hurricane is potentially on path to hit a bunch of fishermen. Are you having a lot of luck reaching people who are out lobstering right now?

LIEUTENANT JOEL CARSE, U.S. COAST GUARD: Yes, we have been reaching out for the past couple of days through aircraft, doing overflights through the area, broadcasting to the fishermen that are out there.

Apparently, through the whole New England area, we are broadcasting out on Marine broadcasts, notifying the fishermen of the current conditions of the storms and when it's expected to be in the area.

O'BRIEN: Yes. Are you feeling that you're getting pretty a good success rate, that you're seeing people turn around, come back into land?

CARSE: We have noticed a decrease in the fishing traffic before. That's not a thing -- at this point, the fishermen out there don't want to waste their days at sea out there in the weather like this.

O'BRIEN: Are you able to monitor exactly who is out there? Do you know specifically?

CARSE: We have a snapshot of the fishing vessels that are out there, that go off a transponder that is transmitted out about once an hour.

O'BRIEN: OK.

Now, what's the plan if in fact you do have to get out there in the middle of the storm and rescue someone? How is that going to go?

CARSE: Hopefully -- hopefully very smoothly.

(LAUGHTER)

CARSE: In coordination with Air Station Cape Cod, which is a little bit south of us.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: I was going to say, I would assume so. But I guess I meant specifically, logistically, how would you pull that off in a storm?

CARSE: We have motor lifeboats that are stationed up and down the coast all through the New England area. And we are currently actually still working with their stations on pre-staging some of those boats in the areas.

They will be in the best position to respond to any emergency that would come up. If it exceeds the capabilities for those motor lifeboats, then we will turn to Air Station Cape Cod, who could get a helo out there on scene for these people.

O'BRIEN: All right, Lieutenant Carse, with the United States Coast Guard, thanks for talking with us. We appreciate it. I know you're super-busy. So, we're really grateful.

CARSE: All right. You guys have a good night, too. Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Thanks. You, too.

Hurricane Noel is already one of the deadliest storms so far of the season. It has destroyed homes in the Caribbean, has also taken a big toll on beaches. Chad just mentioned that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There, you're looking at more beach erosion, and you can see -- whoa! Oh, my goodness. I just got -- I just got...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Yes, that's I-Reporter William Bernstein (ph) this afternoon. He's in Nags Head, along the Outer Banks. You could see he kind of got in the middle of his own story.

Noel's moved north, off the U.S. coast from Florida to North Carolina, leaving it mark there.

More now from CNN's John Zarrella.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN MIAMI BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): Gone, but not forgotten. Hurricane Noel, mercifully, stayed off Florida's coast, but the storm's pull still caused millions in damage.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have got a lot less beach. Well, now we have no beach.

ZARRELLA: With waves as high as 15 feet and winds close to 40 miles an hour, beaches in some areas almost disappeared. And with miles of coastline affected, hundreds of thousands of tons of sand need replacing.

Daniel Bates handles that job for Palm Beach County, California.

DANIEL BATES, DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL RESOURCES: Because we have built right on top of the beach and on the dunes, there's kind of a line drawn in the sand there. And, because of that, we can't really allow the beaches to naturally creep and then recede, like they normally do.

ZARRELLA: North Carolina's coast got hit Friday with waves and wind, and, like Florida, expects erosion to be the real mark of Hurricane Noel.

By this weekend, we could see significant erosion as far north as Long Island and Cape Cod.

(on camera): Crews here in Florida will begin work immediately to restore what Noel took out to sea. But with a month left in hurricane season, and annual damage from nor'easters to follow, they may be right back where they started in the very near future.

John Zarrella, CNN, Cocoa Beach, Florida.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: Even with the threat of Noel, it's been a mild hurricane season here in the U.S. Here's the "Raw Data."

So far, Humberto is the only hurricane to hit land. That was back in June along the Texas-Louisiana border. There's been a total of 14 storms. Only four became hurricanes, a little less than the average of six per year. By the way, hurricane season is over at the end of the month.

While Noel has actually gotten lots of attention this week, another natural disaster's been unfolding on Mexico's Gulf Coast. A week of heavy rains have left tens of thousands of people stranded.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN (voice-over): A young man dives from a rooftop. Another swims through rising waters, men and women scrambling to be saved, like this child. These life-and-death struggles are playing out across parts of Mexico, with town after town submerged.

Massive flooding is leaving more than 300,000 people trapped. They have no food, no power, and no way out. The nation's president calls it one of the worst natural disasters in its history. It's also a humanitarian one.

FABIOLA NARVAEZ, JOURNALIST: The most important thing right now is to try to be safe. Ninety percent of the land in Tabasco has been flooded. So, we have water everywhere.

O'BRIEN: Tabasco is a Gulf Coast state and, right now, it is drowning.

CNN severe weather expert Chad Myers tells us why.

MYERS: The past couple of days looking at Noel here flooding the Dominican Republic and also into Haiti, there was an event here in Tabasco, pushing moisture down from the Gulf of Mexico day after day after day. The rains continued. And some spots now reporting almost 400 millimeters of rain.

What does that mean? Down here, Tabasco, here's Mexico. Tabasco, right here, 400 millimeters. You add that up, divide it, and you get about 16 inches of rain in the past 48 to 72 hours. And now that rain is running off and the floods are very deep.

O'BRIEN: The military is rushing aid, supplies and troops into the region. Hospitals and dry buildings across Mexico are now being used to provide shelter to the refugees. Many are looking for loved ones. As help pours in, officials fear the flooding will cause an outbreak of cholera. And with forecasts calling for more rain to come, the suffering may only grow.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: Coming up next on 360 -- a dramatic new twist in the O.J. Simpson saga, the evidence that the feds knew about Simpson's so- called sting operation in Las Vegas weeks before it happened.

Also ahead: my interview with presidential candidate Ron Paul. We will go one-on-one with the political underdog who has got an impressive following. That's coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LARRY KING LIVE")

THOMAS RICCIO, RECORDED AUDIO OF SIMPSON'S ALLEGED CRIME: Well, he wanted to do this so-called sting, as he kept calling it, and then having the media there and talk about how people are trying to rob from O.J. and make people feel sorry for him. I didn't think that would work. I said let's just get the stuff and keep this down.

LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": So you brought them up to the room.

Did you see the gun when you brought them up to the room?

Did you see that one of the guys had a gun?

RICCIO: I saw one of the guys with a gun.

KING: Didn't that give you pause?

RICCIO: Absolutely. It was scary as all hell. (END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Telling his story to Larry King, that's Thomas Riccio, a central figure at O.J. Simpson's armed robbery in Las Vegas.

Now, just when you thought you had heard pretty much all you possibly could about this sordid saga, comes a new bombshell. Apparently, the FBI knew in advance about Simpson's plan. Riccio tipped federal agents off about the alleged heist weeks before it happened.

AP reporter Linda Deutsch broke the story. She joins us this evening, along with CNN senior legal analyst and resident Simpson expert -- they both are -- Jeff...

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: No one knows more than Linda does.

O'BRIEN: Jeff Toobin, nice to see you.

All right, Linda then.

LINDA DEUTSCH, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Well, we have been through this together.

TOOBIN: Yes, indeed, we sure have.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: Jeff was saying the exact same thing just a moment ago. You guys have kind of lived and breathed O.J. for a long time. So, let's start with you, Linda.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: Back up for me and tell me what -- what the FBI was in fact told by Riccio.

DEUTSCH: Well, according to the FBI report that I saw today, Riccio was meeting with the FBI about something else to do with Anna Nicole Smith. And, at the end of the conversation, he suddenly dropped this idea that he and Simpson were planning this sting operation, in which they were going to get his stuff back from some memorabilia collectors, and that they wanted to have it televised, and they wanted to have media coverage.

Well, as we know, it certainly got a lot of media coverage, but the FBI did nothing about it at that time. It was three weeks before it ever happened. And, according to Riccio, they just said they didn't want any part of any more celebrity weirdo cases.

O'BRIEN: Were guns ever discussed in what Riccio was telling the FBI, you know, as far as the plan went? DEUTSCH: No, there is no mention of guns in the FBI report. It's a very cursory description of what the plan would be, and that he wanted his things back.

Obviously, O.J. Simpson has claimed in conversations with me that there were no guns involved. Riccio has said elsewhere that there were guns involved, and so have other people who are charged in this case. So, it's pretty interesting.

O'BRIEN: It is getting more and more interesting every minute, really.

Now, so, Jeff, explain how this new information helps or hurts O.J. Simpson.

TOOBIN: It's potentially, I think, very good news for O.J. Simpson, because the whole theory of the government's case is that O.J. committed an armed robbery here and a kidnapping, and he went in there knowing that some of his colleagues had guns, and they were planning on stealing his memorabilia back.

This suggests that Simpson and his sometimes business partner Riccio went to the FBI and said, look, we're not hiding anything. We want to do this sting operation. We think they stole from us. We want to get our stuff back and we want it televised.

If you're committing a crime, you don't go to the FBI. You don't ask for it to be televised. I think that's why it's potentially very good news for Simpson. It's not a smoking gun of innocence, but it is good evidence for him.

O'BRIEN: I have never heard of a smoking gun of innocence before.

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: But we will skip that for now, Linda.

Let me ask you another question, Jeff, before we go back to Linda.

If the central issue in these accusations is that, you know, did O.J. encourage a group of guys to get weapons and go in and storm the room and take their stuff back, from what Linda says, it doesn't broach that at all.

TOOBIN: It doesn't.

O'BRIEN: He's not off the hook yet on that.

TOOBIN: He's not off the hook.

And I think, if this case goes to trial, the guns are a key part of the case, because if Simpson truly believed that they were just going to knock on the door, scream at the guy, give me my stuff back, that's no crime. But, if Simpson knew or instructed his -- his colleagues to bring guns, brandish guns, that's a whole separate story. And it remains unclear -- I mean, it is pretty clear, I think, at this point that there were guns there. The real issue in this case, the whole issue in this case, is, what did Simpson know about the guns?

Some of these people who are pleading guilty say he did know. Simpson says he doesn't know.

O'BRIEN: Linda, what kind of a sting separation was O.J. envisioning? It sounds like he wanted the media. He wanted -- he wanted the FBI. He kind of wanted everybody there. Any more details that you were told?

DEUTSCH: Well, he -- he has said that he wanted to go into the room. He knew that the memorabilia dealers would be there with his stuff, which included the suit in which he was acquitted of murder, and a lot of pictures, he thought pictures of his family, that he wanted back very badly.

And he wanted to go in and just get the stuff back. In fact, he said that he brought extra people with him because he thought they were going to be up on a top floor, and they would need someone to carry the boxes out. It turned out, they were on the bottom floor, and whether they needed extra people is questionable.

But I think that Jeff is right about his take on the case. And a lot of what's going to be decided will be decided next week at a preliminary hearing in Las Vegas. If this case is going to go to trial, it will be decided then. And we are going to hear from these guys that were with him and who have pleaded guilty and said they will testify against him.

O'BRIEN: Well, let's talk about those guys, Jeff. And we only have a few seconds left.

TOOBIN: Right.

O'BRIEN: But they are not exactly stellar characters.

TOOBIN: Not exactly stellar characters, and they have been given very sweet deals by the Las Vegas authority, very likely to get just probation for pleading guilty. So, one argument the Simpson people will say, if you think this crime was so serious, Mr. Prosecutor, why did you let these people plead guilty to very minor crimes? You're just trying to get me.

O'BRIEN: Right.

DEUTSCH: I think that what the -- what the lawyer has said for Simpson is that the prosecutor has been giving away the courthouse in order to get people to testify against Simpson.

O'BRIEN: Well, there's a lot of people who wouldn't mind convicting him.

(LAUGHTER)

TOOBIN: That's right.

O'BRIEN: We both know that. All three of us know that.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: All right, Linda Deutsch, nice to see you. Thanks very much.

DEUTSCH: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: And, of course, Jeff Toobin...

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: ... too. Appreciate it.

TOOBIN: Soledad.

O'BRIEN: The plot thickens, as always.

If O.J. is convicted, what do you think his punishment should be? You can go to CNN.com/360, link to the blog, and post your comments. And we are going to read some of them coming up tonight. Or you could send us a v-mail. We love v-mail here. And we will play your comments on the air.

Let's shift to politics now. The latest average of national polls for the month of October shows front-runner Rudy Giuliani is leading with 29 percent of the vote, Fred Thompson 18 percent, John McCain 13 percent, Mitt Romney 12 percent.

Ron Paul, die-hard libertarian, former obstetrician, he is tied for dead last, with 2 percent. But here's what's incredibly intriguing. He's also pulling in a ton of money, more than $5 million, just slightly less than John McCain is bringing in. He's drawing big, decent crowds on the campaign trail, where he's a pretty straight talker.

And, when I interviewed him yesterday, we began with the military and U.S. foreign policy. Here's what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: On the core messages, in fact, from -- from you has been, you want to see troops out of Iraq, but also troops out of Korea, where we have 30,000 U.S. troops, troops out of Japan, where we have 50,000 U.S. troops, troops out of Germany, where there are about 65,000 U.S. troops.

Clearly, you're envisioning a very different kind of military than we have today. Describe what it would be if you were president, the military.

PAUL: Well, it would be more traditional. It would be following the advice of the founding fathers. It would be following the advice of President Bush when he ran in the year 2000, that we shouldn't be involved in nation-building. We shouldn't be policing the world. We should have a more humble foreign policy.

And that's been our tradition. But I think the reason they are paying more attention now is the fact that we are making little progress, and it just seems like this war in Iraq is endless, and they are scared to death it is going to spread into Iran.

At the same time, they are realizing that we are running out of money. Most people can figure it out, that we can't even fight this war without borrowing money from China and Japan and Saudi Arabia. And, any time they want to bring us to our knees, they can.

O'BRIEN: You are very strong about a policy of non-intervention, so let me throw out some -- some hypotheticals for you. Let's say you're president of the United States, and Iran says, we have nuclear weapons.

PAUL: Well, I would prefer them not to. And I think, if we had a different foreign policy, they wouldn't have an incentive.

But, if they did, I wouldn't -- I wouldn't do that much about it. I wouldn't bomb them. I mean, they're a third-rate nation. They're not going to attack us. They are incapable of even attacking their neighbors. They are incapable of and they have no history of doing this.

So, to stir up hatred that's so unnecessary and needless just doesn't make any sense. I mean, the Pakistanis have them. There's a lot of nuclear weapons floating around in the old Soviet Union. So, it isn't the nuclear weapons. We're just looking for an excuse.

This is war propaganda to give us -- get the American people behind the bombing of Iran, just like the war propaganda got us all worked up and thought we had to go get Saddam Hussein, which was absolutely unnecessary.

O'BRIEN: Back in May, at the Republican debate, you kind of got into it with Rudy Giuliani. And you were talking -- I'm -- I'm sure you remember this very well -- you were talking about the root causes of 9/11.

I am going to play for you the little clip that I know you have seen a bunch of times. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL: Non-intervention was a major contributing factor. Have you ever read about the reasons they attacked us? They attack us because we have been over there. We have been bombing Iraq for 10 years. We have been in the Middle East -- I think Reagan was right.

We don't understand the irrationality of Middle Eastern politics.

RUDOLPH GIULIANI (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That's an extraordinary statement, as someone who lived through the attack of September 11, that we invited the attack because we were attacking Iraq. I don't think I have ever heard that before, and I have heard some pretty absurd explanations for September 11.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: In a nutshell, he said what you were saying was absurd, and then he got a round loud of applause for saying that.

What did you make of his response to you?

PAUL: Well, what's extraordinary is that he did not know the real reason. Even Wolfowitz admitted that our base in Saudi Arabia prompted Osama bin Laden to prompt this attack.

The real reason they come here, the word is occupation. And, if, for any reason, we continue to believe this naively, that they come here and they want to attack us because we are rich and free, we can't take care of this problem. So, that is crucial.

But I think the really amazing thing is that he had never heard of it, because the 9/11 Commission report actually identified this as one of the reasons they came here to attack us, bases over there, the sense of occupation, our persistence in interference in -- in that land, as well as the bombing of Iraq that had been going on all through the '90s.

And, if we fail to see that -- that as the cause, we can't solve our problems.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: When we come back, what Ron Paul really plans to do with Social Security if he's elected and who he would vote for if he were to drop out of the race.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul is trailing badly in the polls. He has not broken 2 percent in national polls. He's tied for dead last in the Republican field.

Whether he's running to actually win, or if he just wants to get his message across, it is a message that certainly is setting him apart from the pack. Dr. Paul, a former obstetrician, basically wants to remake his party.

Here's the rest of our interview.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: You have called for abolishing Social Security, CIA, Homeland Security, and -- and actually a -- kind of a long list of other things that most people would consider to be fairly entrenched in our society.

Regardless of what happens to your campaign, do you think any of those things on that list I just read could have traction?

PAUL: I have never voted once to spend one penny out of Social Security. I want to make the system work while it's there. It's not ideal. It's not part of the Constitution.

But I say that the only way we can tide our people over who are dependent -- we have taught them to be dependent. We don't want to throw them out on the street. And we can save hundreds of billions of dollars if we give up on our American empire, bring these troops home, actually cut the deficit and take care of these people.

So, there's no way I -- that's not the reason I'm running for the presidency. I mean, theoretically, yes, they should not have been started. But I'm the one that has the answer on how we can take care of these people, since I have never spent any of those trust fund's money anyway.

O'BRIEN: Is there a point you have considered at which you will call it quits, if in fact the numbers don't start coming in, the number of people who say they're going to vote for you? I mean, it is, you know, 1 percent, 2 percent, 5 percent when you get to Iowa and you get to New Hampshire? Is there a point where you say, you know, if you don't start getting the numbers, you have got to be out of the race?

PAUL: I haven't thought much about that, because when I started, early on, I had no idea what would happen. And it's about 100-fold greater than I ever dreamed of. And we're -- we are growing on an exponential curve. If you look at our supporters and if you look at the money, it's unlike the other campaigns. And they are going down.

So, I think -- I think you have to reassess a campaign continuously. But we have some early primaries coming up, and I predict those numbers that you just quoted aren't going to be accurate.

O'BRIEN: If you weren't in the race, who would you vote for?

PAUL: I have no idea, because I said I would vote for anybody who would change this policy in the Middle East and bring our troops home, and have a non-interventionist foreign policy. And, so far, I have not met anybody.

And I'm also very interested in monetary policy and fiscal conservatism. And, right now, I don't see that. I think the Republican Party has lost their way. I think they are a big- government policy. The neoconservatives have taken over. The old, traditional conservative Republicans of the old right, they have -- they have lost -- they have lost their impact. And I'm trying to revive that.

O'BRIEN: If you pull up articles on you consistently, you'll see, on occasion, but consistently, there are a lot of people that describe you as a flake. And that's a quote. That's not my word. That's their word in the article.

What do you make when you read something like that about yourself?

PAUL: Well, that and radical and extremist and all that. I think they're in charge. I think anybody who believes you can print money out of thin air and think the dollar is going to maintain its value and not cause economic harm, I think that's a flaky idea. It's pretty bizarre to me.

And I think a $500 billion increase in the national debt, that's flaky. I think an American empire is flaky and weird and not wise. It's unconstitutional.

So yes, it's terminology. They're playing on words. But right now, our campaign is growing, because most Americans consider what's going on in Washington pretty flaky, and they want some changes made.

O'BRIEN: Right now looks like you've got some momentum. Dr. Ron Paul, the congressman, thank you for talking with us. And presidential candidate, I must add. Thank you for talking with us this evening. We certainly appreciate it, sir.

PAUL: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Another issue in the race for the White House is the environment, an issue that 360, of course, follows closely. Last month Anderson and Dr. Sanjay Gupta and wildlife biologist Jeff Corwin looked at the effects of climate change in a four-hour documentary called "Planet in Peril".

Now we want you to take part in the discussion by sending in questions for our panel of experts. Here's one that caught our eye.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hello, I'm Elvira (ph) from Japan. Today, let me show you my indie (ph) bag. I always carry my shopping bag with me so I don't have to ask for plastic bags when I go to supermarkets or bakery. Being Japanese, I can eat almost anything using chopsticks. So again, I have to ask for plastic forks or disposable chopsticks.

Here's my question. Do I really need to do these things? I feel like what I'm doing is too small. I won't have any impact on protecting our environment. How much impact will it have if each individual becomes eco-friendly person?

Here's one more thing left in my bag, my favorite book.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Great book. It's easy to submit a question. Just go to CNN.com/360 and click on the "send a question" link. We hope to hear from you, too.

Now, here's John Roberts with a look at what's coming up on Monday on "AMERICAN MORNING".

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN ROBERTS, CO-HOST, "AMERICAN MORNING": Thanks, Soledad.

Monday we bring you the most news in the morning, including a way you can extend your weekend. And we're not just talking about turning the clocks back an hour.

It's a new Web site selling excuses in case you don't feel like showing up somewhere on Monday morning. Everything from "my back hurts", "my grandma died" to "I have jury duty". The question is, can you get away with it?

Find out Monday morning on "AMERICAN MORNING", beginning at 6:30 a.m. Eastern -- Soledad.

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O'BRIEN: And still ahead on 360, a major scare at the nation's largest nuclear power plant. A worker, a bomb, a very tense situation.

Also ahead, the agency in charge of keeping dangerous products off store shelves under fire again. This time for allegedly taking trips paid for by the companies that are supposed to be monitoring. We're "Keeping Them Honest", coming up next.

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O'BRIEN: The watchdog agency that's set up to protect all of us, the consumer, from any kind of issues is facing accusation tonight of serious breaches of ethics. That includes shocking evidence of too much cozy ties to industries the agency is supposed to be regulating, like the makers of kids' toys.

Gary Tuchman is "Keeping Them Honest" for us.

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GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If you were going on vacation and the airline and hotel were going to pay your bills, there's a good chance you might have a soft spot in your heart for those companies, no matter what their faults.

But what if you were in charge of making sure that the consumer products in America don't hurt us or kill us? What if manufacturers you regulate paid all your expenses to see them? Might you have a similar soft spot? It's a real-life scenario with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

MASSIE RITSCH, CENTER FOR RESPONSIVE POLITICS: Consumers are going to doubt that their interests are in mind when they see the regulators of the safety of the products they buy being very cozy with the people who make those products.

NANCY NORD, ACTING CHAIRMAN, CONSUMER PRODUCTS SAFETY COMMISSION: Lead paint in toys is illegal.

TUCHMAN: This is the acting chairman of the commission, Nancy Nord. This is the former chairman, Hal Stratton. "Keeping Them Honest," CNN obtained documents showing both have had trips paid in full or in part by manufacturers of products such as toys, appliances and even fireworks. There have been more than two dozen trips since 2002.

DON MAYS, SENIOR DIRECTOR, PRODUCT SAFETY, CONSUMERS UNION: We don't believe that it's proper for the government agencies to receive money from private industry to conduct business for them, clearly. They need to represent consumers.

TUCHMAN: One trip by the current chairman was to a toy industry conference in San Francisco. Toys from China, a major concern these days. A vice president with a toy industry association says they pay for the trips when the CPSC doesn't have the funding, when it's an unplanned expense for them.

On, Capitol Hill, a call for an investigation.

SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D), OHIO: These were trips paid for by the toy industry, the industry now under scrutiny for cutting corners, cutting corners that earn big profits for industry CEOs and send toxic toys into our children's bedrooms.

TUCHMAN: Former chairman Stratton received a trip worth nearly $11,000 to Hong Kong on behalf of the American Fireworks Standards Laboratory. Its executive director says, "My view would be that it is not a conflict of interest." Neither the former nor current leaders of the commission would talk on camera.

But Chairman Nord released a statement saying, "Commission lawyers review all such trips." Still, she says, "Because questions have been raised about the adequacy of these long-standing procedures, I am asking the Office of Government Ethics to conduct a complete review of the agency's travel acceptance procedures."

So the Consumer Product Safety Commission will now wait to consume some ethical advice.

Gary Tuchman, CNN, New York.

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O'BRIEN: Haven't heard the last on that story. Clearly, the Consumer Product Safety Commission is under fire. And so is the president's choice for U.S. attorney general. But today there was some good news for the White House.

CNN's Tom Foreman has that and more in "Raw Politics".

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TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: President Bush has taken a lot of punches lately, but he wrapped up the week with a win. (voice-over) It appears his attorney general pick this week, Michael Mukasey, will be confirmed on late support from key Democrats. It was in doubt over questions about torture, but Chuck Schumer and Dianne Feinstein are now giving the nod, and that should clinch final approval.

Hillary Clinton lit into the president for suggesting those who don't share his view of the terror threat are like folks who ignored the rise of Hitler. She says such talk won't end the war in Iraq, make America safer or bring our troops home.

But look, it's a counter-counter attack. Republican Mitt Romney's latest ad rips her seven years in elected office as just not enough.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: She has never run anything, and the idea that she can learn to be president as an internship just doesn't make any sense.

FOREMAN: The draft is back. Some hard core Dems still want Al Gore in the race. He still says no. But now they've got TV ads prodding him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Imagine a renewed world, an end to the war in Iraq. Imagine Al Gore as president.

FOREMAN: And the "Raw Politics" chop of the week. Democrat Barack Obama once again says he'll negotiate with Iran. Republican Rudy Giuliani calls him naive.

But then Rudy stumbles into a foreign affairs trap. He goes on radio and says Democrat Joe Biden lacks foreign policy experience.

(on camera) The problem is, big Joe is head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, so now Rudy is serving waffles, which as you know, go just great with a side of "Raw Politics".

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O'BRIEN: Tom Foreman for us this evening.

Ahead on 360, her son, her suspected enemy. What investigators say a teenage was prepared to do to get his mother out of his life. That story is up next.

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O'BRIEN: In Maryland tonight, a teenager stands accused of attempted murder. Prosecutors say the plan was simple and pretty horrible. A hit man would carry it all out. And you won't believe who he allegedly wanted to kill.

CNN's Joe Johns has our report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As a parent, it's almost impossible to imagine what could have gone so wrong, what could have led to a headline like this. Someone tells the police your son may be trying to have you killed. Police have to find out if he's serious.

That's how it all began here last June at this house in southern Maryland, the home of Joey and Shannon Troiano, a mother and stepfather with a problem child, a police detective investigating a report that a kid from the neighborhood wanted his parents killed. That kid was their son.

(on camera) The detective said their 16-year-old son Cory had asked the mother of a friend to help him hire a hit man to kill his parents. That woman called police. Police were now asking the parents' help to get to the bottom of it.

(voice-over) To be honest, the Troianos knew Cory could be violent at times. Court documents say he had problems with anger management, depression, drug use, alcohol. His mother was afraid of him. But who could believe he'd go this far?

Neighbor Joe Paglierani told us Cory always seemed like a troubled kid.

JOE PAGLIERANI, NEIGHBOR: It was an attitude of rebellion about him. You could tell that there was definite push-back there.

JOHNS: As far as school goes, there wasn't much happening there. Court records say Cory used it as social time with his friends. Two years ago he got into trouble with the law for breaking into buildings at the county fairgrounds and causing damage to property. He was placed on probation.

PAGLIERANI: You form a picture that it's not right, something is not right. You know, he's going downhill.

JOHNS: It was only the beginning.

(on camera) Cory dropped out of high school, and that's what things apparently got worse. Published reports say he became violent, even got into a physical fight with his mother, and that's when Shannon Troiano kicked Cory out of the house.

(voice-over) The court papers say Shannon told Cory he would not be allowed to come home unless he went back to school or agreed to get his GED and go into the Marines. For a while, Cory actually stayed in a truck in his parents' yard. Then the mother of a friend said it was OK for him to come stay with them.

On June 2, word came from police that Cory was planning to meet a hit man at a motel that night to arrange their murder.

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(COMMERCIAL BREAK) O'BRIEN: Before the break, we told you about a teenage boy charged with trying to have his mother and stepfather killed. It's tough to imagine. But prosecutors are convinced he wanted them dead, even if he wasn't going to be the one to pull the trigger.

Once again, here's CNN's Joe Johns.

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JOHNS (voice-over): Night was falling here in Maryland at the home of Joey and Shannon Troiano. They already knew their 16-year-old son, Cory, had told the mother of a friend he wanted to hire a hit man to kill his parents. The woman told police.

Now it was just a few hours before Cory was headed to a hotel to meet an undercover officer posing as a hit man. And Cory's stepfather, Joey, pulled his next-door neighbor aside to tell him Cory had said something disturbing to the woman who is allowing him to stay at her house.

PAGLIERANI: He told me that Cory had asked the woman that he was staying with if -- let me see if I can remember this. He asked the woman if she would help him kill his parents. And I guess the response was no.

And then he said, "Do you know somebody that would help me kill my parents?" And of course, she said no again.

JOHNS: The question now, with everything in place, was whether Cory Ryder, just 16 years old at the time, would actually take the awful step of soliciting the murder for hire of his parents.

(on camera) But police say Cory did try to go through with it, that he met with an undercover officer at a hotel and offered to pay him to kill Joey and Shannon Troiano. They say he told the officer, "Two bullets are all it takes."

(voice-over) Court records say Cory got high on marijuana before he went to the meeting at the hotel. Cory was arrested and charged with attempted murder, first in adult court, and later moved to juvenile court.

Today Cory Ryder pleaded guilty to involvement in solicitation to kill his parents. Because he's being treated as a juvenile, Cory can be kept in detention no later than his 21st birthday.

JULIE WHITE, PROSECUTOR: For better or worse, whatever we think about it, our job is to take every one of those juveniles and rehabilitate them so that hopefully they never offend again.

PAGLIERANI: I don't want him coming back here after he's out of juvie and, you know, being bitter and angry. And you know, I don't know what's going to go on. I think the kid needs to be in jail. And that's my opinion.

JOHNS: Court records say Cory is very remorseful, that he wants to ask his parents for forgiveness if he gets the chance. But the chilling legacy of the kid who tried to hire a hit man will not easily be forgotten.

Joe Johns, CNN, Leonardtown, Maryland.

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O'BRIEN: Coming up, the "Shot of the Day". It's all about high fashion. Pretty much as high as it gets. We're talking about the price tag. And that price tag is a shocker.

First, though, Erica Hill joins us with the "360 News and Business Bulletin".

Hey, Erica.

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ERICA HILL, HEADLINE NEWS ANCHOR: Soledad, we begin with a bomb scare and temporary lockdown today at the nation's largest nuclear plant. An employee at the Arizona plant stopped today on his way to work with what was described as a pipe bomb in his truck.

A blow to prosecutors in the case against former astronaut Lisa Nowak. A federal judge throwing out important evidence, saying statements Nowak made and items taken during a search of her car were unlawfully obtained.

Nowak is accused of attempting to kidnap a rival for the affection of another male astronaut. It's unclear how the judge's decision will impact the case.

Police in South Africa have made an arrest in that sex abuse scandal that we've been following at Oprah's school for girls. A former school matron charged with assault and soliciting students for indecent acts. Police say at least seven victims have submitted statements.

Oprah Winfrey said she is grateful to the South African police for their work and sensitivity.

And Wall Street ending a volatile week with a modest rally. The Dow rose 27 points, closing at 13,595; still enough, though, to put it in the positive column. NASDAQ now gained 15 points while the S&P basically flat, Soledad, adding one. So there you go.

O'BRIEN: Kind of a rough week. Everyone's glad to see that gone.

All right, Erica, time for "The Shot of the Day". I bet you have a dress just like this in your closet. It is a glittering gold dress. It's decorated with more than...

HILL: Wow.

O'BRIEN: ... 1,500 -- that's gold coins, gold, Australian coins. It's not an attractive dress. I'm sorry.

HILL: What is that? Is that, like, a bad bustle on the hip?

O'BRIEN: It certainly has a lot of fabric. It was put on display at a fashion show in Tokyo. Look at the shoulder, too.

HILL: My lord.

O'BRIEN: That's not slimming at all.

HILL: No. And that's why, Soledad, it is not in my closet.

O'BRIEN: Yes. The creators are students at fashion college. And apparently, that dress is the most expensive dress in the world.

HILL: Hmm.

O'BRIEN: A million dollars U.S.

HILL: I am going to pass.

O'BRIEN: Because it makes you look hippy.

HILL: Exactly. I mean, otherwise I would have bought two. But it makes me look much too hippy.

O'BRIEN: If it's not going to make you look better, forget it. That's funny.

We want to remind everybody, if you want to send us your "Shot" ideas, if you see some amazing video, you can tell us about it at CNN.com/360.

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O'BRIEN: Look now at what's "On the Radar" on the 360 blog. Earlier we asked you what punishment you think O.J. Simpson deserves if he -- if he's convicted of armed robbery.

Amy of Fairfax, Virginia, writes this: "I think a judge should sentence him severely, considering he also committed a double murder in Los Angeles ten years ago. Oops -- I mean, he allegedly committed a double murder."

From David of Lake Barrington, Illinois: "Given the fact that one of the charges filed against O.J. (kidnapping) carries a potential life sentence, he could end up spending the rest of his life behind bars. Boy, I'd hate to see that."

Jamie of Bellingham, Washington, had this to say: "Poor O.J. According to his friend, he was 'set up.' Too bad. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy."

Finally this one from John in St. Louis, Missouri: "He could plead not guilty and come out with another book called 'If I Did It, It's Staying in Vegas'." Funny.

To weigh in on this or any other story, you can go to CNN.com/360. Link to the blog or send us an e-mail through our Web site.

Coming up next, Hurricane Noel heads toward the United States. Why it could be the perfect storm.

Also ahead, devastating flooding in Mexico. Entire towns are underwater. At least 300,000 people are trapped.

And what the FBI knew about O.J. Simpson's alleged armed robbery plot in Las Vegas. And how this new revelation could change against -- the case against Simpson, coming up next.

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O'BRIEN: Good evening. I'm Soledad O'Brien. Anderson is off tonight.

Tonight, Hurricane Noel is winding up to deliver another serious punch on land and at sea. The storm is churning north off the East Coast, gaining speed and strength. We'll have the very latest, just ahead.

Meantime, Mexico's Tabasco state is literally drowning from severe flooding. Tens of thousands of people are stranded on their rooftops tonight. They're waiting to be rescued.

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