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Aired December 19, 2001 - 04:30   ET

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


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: Seen in classrooms the world over, this is CNN NEWSROOM.

MICHAEL MCMANUS, CO-HOST: Welcome to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Michael McManus.

SUSAN FREIDMAN, CO-HOST: And I'm Susan Freidman.

The search goes on for Osama bin Laden and other members of the al Qaeda network. Many al Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan are believed to be heading toward neighboring Pakistan. In the meantime, the search is focusing on the Tora Bora region of eastern Afghanistan. U.S. troops and Afghan fighters are combing the area cave by cave. It's a process U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says could be lengthy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD RUMSFELD, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: We have reduced the number of areas within Afghanistan where they are likely to be. Those areas are being attacked from the ground by Afghan forces with the support of coalition forces. They are being attacked from the air.

And additional prisoners have been taken today. Additional ground has been covered, and progress continues to be made, but the task is still ahead of us, and it should not be considered that it will be accomplished in a --in a short period of time. It's going to be tough, dirty, hard work.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MCMANUS: There is also new word about the possible whereabouts of Taliban supreme leader Mullah Mohammed Omar. The intelligence chief of Kandahar Province says Omar may be in a province west of there.

But as Amanda Kibel reports, at the moment, Omar is not a top priority for local officials.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

AMANDA KIBEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Traffic police back on Kandahar streets battle drivers who have for years been allowed to do what they want. The chaos of a carnival to mark the end of the month-long fast of Ramadan.

Everywhere, signs of a city determined to turn away from a difficult and painful past. But those responsible for engineering that past are not forgotten nor forgiven. Kandahar's new intelligence chief, Haji Jul Alia, says his people know where former Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar is: just eight hours away, west of Kandahar, in Helmand Province, in the district of Bagrham.

Bagrham is a mountainous, cave-filled area and once was an al Qaeda stronghold. But Mullah Omar's capture and punishment must wait, says Jul Alia. Right now, there is urgent rebuilding to be done.

"We have no time to search for Mullah Omar right now," he says. "First, we must take care of the internal situation in Kandahar Province. The city is destroyed. First, we must make the city safe for the people living here, complete the government, provide clean water, food, jobs. There are no doctors here, no medical supplies and equipment, no schools, no education. We must demilitarize this city. These are our priorities. Mullah Omar will come later."

The intelligence community here, insists Jul Alia, is watching Mullah Omar's movements closely and waiting.

"We have special people watching him," he says. "They know every move he makes. Even if he moves house, we will know. There is no place for him to run in the whole world. He is trapped, surrounded by his enemies."

That intelligence is shared freely, says Jul Alia, with U.S. special forces here. But the U.S. search for Mullah Omar is completely separate. So far, Jul Alia's forces have not been involved in U.S. operations.

And what of Osama bin Laden? Jul Alia says he has no recent information on bin Laden's movements, but there are some tantalizing hints.

(on camera): About 15 or 20 days ago, before Kandahar fell, Jul Alia says he was told two local drivers were instructed by the Taliban's core military commander to drive some Arab passengers to the border of Grishk district in Helmand Province. There, the drivers were told to wait for what the commander described as some guests. The drivers say they waited about 30 minutes, then a convoy of some 45 vehicles approached. The drivers claim Osama bin Laden was in that convoy.

They say he got out of his vehicle, made a satellite phone call in which he spoke in Arabic. Then, he had a conversation with the Arabs in the driver's car. When the meeting was finished, the drivers say Osama bin Laden and his convoy left and drove away. That, says Jul Alia, is the last he heard of him.

Amanda Kibel, CNN, Kandahar, Afghanistan.

(END VIDEOTAPE) MCMANUS: Hamid Karzai, the man chosen to head Afghanistan's interim government, met the country's former king. Their talks in Rome, Italy were aimed at laying the groundwork for the return of King Mohammad Zahir Shah. In the meantime, wrangling over how to keep peace in Afghanistan goes on.

CNN's Robin Oakley has the latest on peacekeeping efforts.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROBIN OAKLEY, CNN LONDON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There's no doubt Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair is ready to have the U.K. spearhead a stabilization force for Afghanistan.

TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: The peacekeeping or security force in Kabul is a vital part of allowing this provisional government to exist, to prosper and to start to put Afghanistan back on its feet again. If the international community walks away from Afghanistan now, it will -- it will make exactly the same mistake that the West made some 10 or 12 years ago when it left Afghanistan to become as it became, a failed state.

OAKLEY: But while British troops like these on an exercise in the Gulf are ready to roll, the stabilization force has been held up while the politicians in Afghanistan and outside it haggled over how many troops should go, what tasks they should perform and how long they should stay.

British General John McCall, who'll command the force, has been in Kabul helping to agree the terms. Spain announced Tuesday it was prepared to commit 700 men. And there'll be another contribution conference in London Wednesday of 16 nations who've promised to help.

A key concern has been the safety of the stabilization force, given that British troops have been part of offensive action in Afghanistan already. European governments have been insisting on a U.N. resolution, which will give their contingents the right to use force in defending themselves and others. Framing that, it seems, has caused further delays.

PETER HAIN, BRITISH MINISTER FOR EUROPE: We're being very careful with our planning to make sure that our troops will be as secure as possible, but it's vital that this job is done.

OAKLEY (on camera): Afghanistan's initial insistence on a force of no more than 1,000, it seems, has been overcome. Terms of engagement for the stabilization forces are being settled. But fears remain about sending a peacekeeping force to a country where peace has scarcely been established, and nobody knows yet just how long they'll have to stay.

Robin Oakley, CNN, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FREIDMAN: Another U.S. serviceman has been injured clearing land mines in Afghanistan. This soldier's injuries are apparently not life-threatening. This is the fourth time in the past few days that a member of the U.S. military has been hurt by a land mine. It's a reminder of the dangers left by years of war.

CNN's Harris Whitbeck reports on how man's best friend is helping sniff out a few of those dangers and save lives.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HARRIS WHITBECK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Abdul Wahid trusts his dog, Dak, like he does few humans.

ABDUL WAHID, MINESWEEPER: Very nice, Dak. Good. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) nice dog.

WHITBECK: Every day, Dak puts his life on the line for his master.

WAHID: I can tell you that I trained these dogs, and I know that the dogs will not make mistakes.

(UNINTELLIGIBLE) Dak, this side.

WHITBECK: They are equal partners in a very dangerous enterprise, clearing thousands of mines from the battlefields of Afghanistan. Dak, a 3-year-old German Shepherd, is one of 187 dogs that make up one of the most effective mine-sweeping forces in the country.

WAHID: I think that the dog's work is more efficient than the miners work because mine detector can't find plastic mines under the land, but the dogs can find plastic mines under the land because they are smelling only the explosives.

WHITBECK: The dogs are trained to sniff and immediately stop and sit when they detect explosives in the ground, letting their handlers commence to deactivate the mines.

They respond to commands in English or German, and in Afghanistan, a country riddled with literally millions of hidden land mines, they have been used to clear thousands of areas.

(on camera): Amazingly only five of these dogs have been killed since the demining program started in 1989. Trainers say it's because of their uncanny sense of smell and way of perceiving danger.

(voice over): Training takes about 18 months at a kennel and training center outside of Kabul. The dogs are groomed from birth for their dangerous job. It's hard to identify the smell of explosives and to fetch a plastic ball as a reward. Their trainers say their reward for their country is much greater.

WAHID: These dogs help us very much and they found many mines under the land, and they clear for us many mined areas.

WHITBECK: They are some of Afghanistan's silent heroes and quite possibly it's best friends.

Harris Whitbeck, CNN, Kabul, Afghanistan.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: Teachers, make the most of CNN NEWSROOM with our free daily classroom guide to the program. There you'll find a rundown of each day's show so you choose just the program segment that fits your lesson plan. Plus there are discussion questions and activities and the guide highlights key people, places and news terms. Each day find hot links to other online resources and previews of upcoming desk segments.

It's all at this Web address where you can also sign up to have the guide automatically e-mailed directly to you each day. It's easy. It's free. It's your curriculum connection to the news. After all, the news never stops and neither does learning.

FREIDMAN: The attack on America and subsequent war on terrorism also released powerful emotions among U.S. students. In some cases, it affected their schoolwork, even their artwork.

CNN Student Bureau reporter Rachel Findlay brings us a story about student artists channeling their patriotism and fears into art.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RACHEL FINDLAY, CNN STUDENT BUREAU CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Since September 11, many artists nationwide have reflected America's fear, anger and pride in their work. Exhibits and events mirroring the attacks are already up and running in New York City and Boston, Massachusetts, but the influence on the artists hasn't stopped in the eastern seaboard.

Three thousand miles away, high school artists in Hillsboro, Oregon are channeling their shock and uncertainty into their work as well. Art teacher Pat Cochran's class is just one example. On the day of the attacks, Mrs. Cochran was teaching a unit on perspective using cityscapes and large skyscrapers. But as the morning's events unfolded and two of the most highly recognizable towers of New York City toppled down, the mood in her classroom changed drastically.

PAT COCHRAN, ART TEACHER: And when the events first started happening, they said, wow, you know here we've got really good skylines and buildings to look at. And about that time, the World Trade Center collapsed, and you know, it just -- it took the whole wind out of that assignment. It's like we couldn't get done with it fast enough.

FINDLAY: While many students were devastated by the attacks on September 11, many were inspired with new feelings of hope and patriotism.

JOSE CABRERA, AGE 17: I'm just starting some prelim sketches on a patriotic piece that I thought I should do after the attacks on the World Trade Center. I feel like this is a time for America to act and not react to what has happened.

FINDLAY: While some students have focused on pride, others have found inspiration for their art through people's fears.

FELICIA DECKER, AGE 14: Right now I'm working on a composition collage based on anthrax from the 9-11 attack. And I decided to do this, I guess, project because anthrax is a big issue and a lot of people are really nervous about it.

FINDLAY: Still some students have a more personal connection. Regina Marvel, for instance, has just recently moved here from Manhattan.

REGINA MARVEL, AGE 18: It was disturbing. It's kind of like you know everything I saw was, you know, completely gone, you know. I mean the people changed, you know the whole city was completely different. My friends were in college there, and it's just very shocking.

FINDLAY: With all of these strong emotional reactions, patriotic symbols in art have become a trend of their own.

COCHRAN: And I've really encouraged my students to draw from within their own emotions and literally draw into, you know, and to draw as in to pull from their own emotions. And so we've got several just very, very patriotic pieces of eagles and pieces that are reminiscent of other wars and other heroic acts that, you know, our country is very proud of, the raising of the flag at Iwo Jima and the space shuttle.

LUKE PETERSON, AGE 17: People can paint like a lot more things that would have been considered like really dumb or hokey or corny. People would be like see an eagle and like yeah, it's America, I haven't seen that before, you know. And just people can paint like on the stuff now and people will like recognize it and be like wow.

FINDLAY: Young artists, like many Americans, search for new meanings indeed.

(on camera): This has been Rachel Findlay from Hillsboro, Oregon, for CNN's Student Bureau.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MCMANUS: Sometimes a search for meaning can lead to a show of support and that's exactly what some Atlanta area youngsters are learning. These young people with challenges of their own are reaching out to the kids in New York City's homeless shelters, reaching out to offer comfort and encouragement in the wake of September 11.

Once again, CNN's Student Bureau brings us the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALLISON WALKER, CNN STUDENT BUREAU CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These homeless children, whose identities must be withheld to protect them, say they are angry about what has happened in America.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) events and what they did to the World Trade Center.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're going around blowing up people, killing people for no reason. What's the use of killing yourself, but still you're killing more people and taking your life, too.

WALKER: The Children's Restoration Network of Atlanta is encouraging these homeless children to express their feelings about their recent events. In a program called Kids Embracing Kids, they are sending letters, poems and drawings to children just like themselves in New York City.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You'll see very glad that they're not alone. And they're not the only people that are -- that are -- that are afraid right now. It's all of us that are afraid (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

WALKER: The Kids Embracing Kids program involves over 1,400 children. These children are also comforting themselves as they reflect on ways to boost the healing process.

When the World Trade Center collapsed, families suffered and the children say they can relate to that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some people died in that -- in that building. Some people jumped off the buildings. We are so sorry. You pray that you have a blessed holiday and God bless you all.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two men, different races shaking hands and the son smiling as he's glad.

WALKER: Child advocate Barbara Gillory says the aftermath has sent more children and families to shelters and food pantries.

BARBARA GILLORY, CHILDREN'S RESTORATION NETWORK: The 9-11 tragedy has had a direct impact on the increase in the homelessness simply because by not having that job, that income, they have no other choices, they have no other place to go.

WALKER: Gillory says these children feel especially compelled to help the children in New York who don't have a home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I need to help them get out of the shelter because a shelter is not a place to be.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's really sad that, to me, that like God left America and let this happen to us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If I could ask anything in the world that it'd be to get back with my mom and my sisters and brothers.

WALKER: Atlanta police volunteers were on hand for the Kids Embracing Kids drawings. They too feel a kinship with New York victims, many of whom were in the public safety field.

SERGEANT LEMAR HESTER, ATLANTA POLICE: Maybe they can identify with us as we're losing our brethren in blue up there as well.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's OK to have mixed emotions because you feel a lot of different things about this tragedy and some people feel confused, some people feel sad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is my first time doing something for somebody. It's -- I feel like I'm helping everybody.

Allison Walker, CNN Student Bureau, Atlanta, Georgia.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MCMANUS: The holiday spirit alive and well in many young hearts.

Well those kids have been good, but have you? In addition to all the other matters concerning the postal service, it's suddenly being flooded by 3,000 letters a day, destination, North Pole. Enclosed, the wish lists from good boys and girls all over the world.

Our Beth Nissen takes a trip north to see if those letters are reaching their destination.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BETH NISSEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The signs are in post offices and mail rooms across the country, warning those who receive mail and those who deliver it to be on the alert for suspicious letters and packages. That's something of a challenge for the post office in North Pole Alaska. This time of year they get 3,000 pieces of mail a day for Santa Claus and almost all of it fits the United States Postal Service description of what's suspicious.

DONNA MATTHEWS: Some of them do not even look like letters. They just - they just seem to find their way here.

NISSEN: Most of the letters to Santa are written in crude block printing and addressed simply to Santa Claus, North Pole, except for this one from a geographically-challenged child. Thousands of letters to Santa have no return address or incomplete return addresses. Senders may assume a return address is unnecessary since Santa already knows where everyone lives. According to the U.S. Postal Service, it can be a warning sign if the letter is mailed from a foreign country or if the letter carries excessive postage.

Many letters to Santa have the wrong postage or no postage. The sender of this Santa letter made his own stamp from an (INAUDIBLE) post-it note. Postal employees are also told to keep watch for packages sealed in an unusual way with excessive tape or string, for instance.

MATTHEWS: Like this isn't even an envelope. It's just stapled together. No postage. No nothing.

NISSEN: How is the North Pole post office handling all of this suspicious mail? MATTHEWS: Business as usual. Everything is exactly the same. We are still getting the mail and handling it exactly as we have for many, many years and getting it to Santa.

NISSEN: To confirm that CNN went to Santa Claus' house in the North Pole. It says it's his house right on the side, and checked with the man to whom all those letters are addressed. It says his legal name is Kris Kringle right on his driver's license. Santa Claus reports no fall-off in the number of Christmas wish lists he is getting in person.

KRIS KRINGLE: (INAUDIBLE) anything and everything that you liked.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well I kind of like the (INAUDIBLE) octopus and I think I could bring them into the water with my shark.

NISSEN: But what of requests for toy sharks and accompanying octopi (ph) that might come by post. Are you getting your mail?

KRINGLE: You know I'm definitely getting a lot of mail. I got quite a few of these. This one here is in from U.K., Oregon, New York, Illinois.

NISSEN: He has stacks full - sacks full of officially suspicious mail. It's blocked letters. There's only a partial return address.

KRINGLE: Right.

NISSEN: Even this envelope got to you.

KRINGLE: Right.

NISSEN: Santa is even receiving the most alarming kinds of suspicious mail - the packages described as lopsided or uneven, with a strange odor or with oily stains. What do children send you in addition to Christmas lists?

KRINGLE: Candy, cookies, ribbons, bows, oats, wheat - a little bit - anything and everything.

NISSEN: Oats, wheat.

KRINGLE: Well they bring that for my reindeer.

NISSEN: These two reindeer identified as Donner and Blitzen by unnamed sources are said to have received a few mailed carrots just days ago. Santa says he'll be reading his mail right up until Christmas Eve.

KRINGLE: Here is my Christmas list. (INAUDIBLE) roller skates and computer and the markers and the Barbie house.

NISSEN: What does he say to the very idea that new postal precautions will delay or disrupt mail to Santa this year.

KRINGLE: Ho. Ho. Ho. Ho. Ho. Ho. Ho. Ho. Ho. Merry Christmas and I'll see you soon.

NISSEN: Beth Nissen, CNN, North Pole, Alaska.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MCMANUS: Maybe Santa will put a little kindness and caring under everyone's tree this year.

FREIDMAN: We certainly hope so.

And let's hope the spirit of Christmas season continues to spread as our Kathy Nellis found out, for many folks, this year's holiday means just a little bit more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED BOYS CHOIR (singing): Silent night....

KATHY NELLIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Children sing favorite carols, gingerbread men get their finishing touches and the sweet smell of cookies joins the aroma of freshly cut trees.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Perfect for the stand.

NELLIS (on camera): The sights and sounds and smells of the season are all around, and this year the spirit of Christmas shines brightly in treasured traditions and homemade gifts.

(voice-over): Holiday traditions has deep roots in the Morgan household. The Christmas tree is always a do-it-yourself family affair.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean just cut down a tree every year. It's kind of if we don't do it, it like leaves an empty spot in Christmas.

NELLIS: The routines are the same, the joy and hope are the same, but this year brings other feelings as people remember the victims of terror and the troops fighting against it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I just feel sad about the soldiers over there that have to miss their Christmas with their families.

NELLIS: Those combined concerns put family at the heart of more holiday celebrations this year.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I probably have a little more emphases on being around the family because you never know what's going to happen so it's always good to be around them, spend time with them. So probably just make more effort to be more with the family.

NELLIS: But the need for family time doesn't do away with the desire for presents. The Christmas wish lists go on.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would like a desk to go in our room and a hamster. NELLIS: Perhaps to add a personal touch, perhaps because of the bad economy, many people are choosing to make their presents this year. Chandler Kennedy is designing stained-glass art for her friends.

CHANDLER KENNEDY, STAINED GLASS ARTIST: If I do this, I know I'll have the perfect present. And it's sort of satisfying to know that whenever I walk into their room there'll be something of mine hanging in their window.

NELLIS: Elizabeth Edwards is making a book for her mother.

ELIZABETH EDWARDS: I think that it's more of a personal, you know, gift, a present and it's something that comes from the heart and is actually a part of you instead of going out and buying something, just spending money, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to buy something, you pass it off as your gift. But this is something that took time and actually worked and slaved over. And I think it's a good present for, you know, especially someone like your mother, someone that's close to you that you want them to have something personal.

NELLIS: Photos are an inexpensive family friendly choice. In a frame, in a calendar, even on a CD cover or mouse pad.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because photographs are very special. I've always been told that a photograph says 1,000 words. You can look into someone's eyes in a photograph and really see everything about them. And a photograph is so incredibly wonderful. You can keep them forever.

This is for a friend of mine, and her name is Isa. And I just think she has such soulful eyes and it's just a beautiful picture. I wanted to give it to her and to show her that's she's really a wonderful person.

NELLIS: And the act of making the gifts can bring the family together, too. The Zubers (ph) bake gingerbread each year.

MR. ZUBER: We bake these and give them out to our neighbors and friends and family at the holidays.

MRS. ZUBER: This is definitely one of our main holiday traditions.

ZUBER DAUGHTER: I really like making gingerbread every year. I really look forward to it.

NELLIS (on camera): What's more fun, do you think, decorating them or eating them?

ZUBER DAUGHTER: I can't really decide.

NELLIS (voice-over): But all these traditions mix this year with new decorations, new memories.

(on camera): OK, have the terrorist attacks had any impact on the way you feel about Christmas this year?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh yes. Oh yes. We decided that -- I decided that we really needed to focus on thinking about our fallen heroes. We always had a flag on our tree and so do the children, so I thought this year we're just going to have more flags and flags everywhere in the room. I have the fire helmets on the tree. I couldn't find any policeman hats so we went with fire helmets, and all the snowmen have little flags.

NELLIS (voice-over): The spirit of America is becoming part of the Christmas spirit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well it definitely humbles me as a person. You see all the destruction on the TV and it makes you feel deep down inside more about giving than receiving.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But we're not going to do anything different because of the terrorist attack. I mean we're going to feel differently, we're going to cherish the time together more.

NELLIS: Heartfelt gestures, delicious memories, treasured traditions that make the holiday special.

Kathy Nellis, CNN, Atlanta, Georgia.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: See you. Merry Christmas.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MCMANUS: From Christmas spirit to American spirit we go.

FREIDMAN: That's right. We told you a few weeks ago about an American flag found at the World Trade Center site being sent to U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Well, here's an update. The flag was raised over Kandahar airport Tuesday by a contingent of U.S. Marines. It's inscribed with messages of encouragement and names of victims of September 11.

MCMANUS: Some call it a reminder to the U.S. troops of what they're there fighting for.

FREIDMAN: That's right.

MCMANUS: And that's all for today. We will see you tomorrow.

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