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Damage Caused by Ivan; Latest Violence in Iraq; Fighting a Call to Active Duty in Iraq

Aired September 17, 2004 - 08:00   ET


The shocking power of Hurricane Ivan seen in mile after mile of devastation across the South. Ivan still very much alive today, dumping tons of rain farther north and bringing instant flooding, as well.

Meanwhile in Baghdad, the streets of terror again today. Insurgents exploding another powerful car bomb there.

Also in a moment here, as we roll on on this Friday morning, on this edition of AMERICAN MORNING.


Here's Bill Hemmer.

HEMMER: Good morning, everyone on this Friday morning.

It is 8:00 on the East Coast. It is 7:00 local time here in Gulf Shores, Alabama. And good morning.

Thanks for joining us.

I am standing on Highway 59. Behind me, one mile to the ocean, and we do not know what has happened to homes, upwards of $2 million up and down the shoreline here in Alabama. That road is not allowed to be passed at this point. And behind me, you might see this river of water, also, that cuts its way through.

Yesterday at this time, and even early in the evening hours late last night, this water came all the way up here to our location. It has since receded, which is good news. But the flip side of that is this -- the mayor has been out there this morning, the police chief is there now.

But there are very few reports as to what's happening along this 12-mile stretch known as Pleasure Island. It is the top shoreline here in Alabama and there are a lot of open questions today about what is left after the devastation of Ivan.

As we go throughout the morning, though, we want to show you also this tropical depression. Still a very large weather system moving up into places like Pennsylvania now, after hitting areas like Atlanta and Tennessee late on Thursday afternoon. Flooding there. Power was down. Trees smashing homes in two, as well. Now, the death toll for Ivan now stands at 13. There are fatalities in Florida, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi. Almost two million said to be without power again today and the early damage estimate put the price tag now at $2 billion to $10 billion.

Now, there's a wide area there, but at this point, the reason why they cannot be more specific is simply because they cannot get to a lot of the areas like Gulf Shores here in Alabama.

In a moment here, we'll talk to a number of residents trying to deal with really the emotional strain of not knowing what has happened to their homes and their livelihood. Well get to that in a moment.

Also, my partner back in New York City -- Heidi, good morning to you back there.

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning to you, as well, Bill.

Also this morning, we're going to be talking about the Army and its scouring of the paperwork of former soldiers for mistakes in order to get new troops for Iraq. We're going to meet a man who says he's retired, but may have to go to war because he didn't check the right box. We'll talk about that in a moment.

For now, though, we bring in Jack Cafferty -- good morning.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You better check the right box. It's very important.

Coming up in "The Cafferty File," we've got a 12-foot long, 1,000-pound problem for residents of the Gulf Shores -- and his name isn't Ivan.

And why the billionaire Olsen twins have begun working for McDonald's. There's some pretty heavy irony in that story, as well. That's coming up in the "File," we think this hour. But we're never sure.

COLLINS: Yes, and I did not know that about the Olsen twins.

We're going to talk about it in just a moment.

Thanks so much, Jack.

We want to check on the stories now in the news, though, this morning.

A threat this hour from Russian President Vladimir Putin. According to the Interfax News Agency, Putin says Russia is now seriously preparing for preventive actions against terrorists. Lower level officials have made similar claims in recent weeks.

It is a chaotic scene in central Baghdad this hour. Officials say a suicide car bomb blew up near an Iraqi checkpoint, killing at least eight people, wounding some 40 others. Police are investigating at this time. The blast comes just hours after U.S. forces launched an air strike, killing 60 people. Military sources say they were targeting militants linked to suspected terrorist Abu Musab al- Zarqawi.

The mother of the boy Michael Jackson is accused of molesting will testify in court today. Jackson is expected to attend and it will be the first time the two have met since the accusations emerged 10 months ago. Defense attorneys want evidence taken from a detective's office thrown out and they hope the mother's testimony will help to build that case.

And some golf greats will play side by side as the Ryder Cup gets under way in Michigan this year. In just a few minutes, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson will tee off against Colin Montgomerie of Europe. That's the dominant player in the Ryder Cup. And until last month, Woods was the number one player in the world. Mickelson won the 2004 Master's tournament. So, coming out of the box with a strong, strong team there for the U.S.

Back now to Bill in Alabama.

HEMMER: All right, Heidi.

I think Max Mayfield, the director of the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida, yesterday probably put it best when he said, and quoting now, "I hate to think about what's going to happen inland."

That was when Ivan was hitting the shoreline. And now we know up and down the East Coast, really, east of the Mississippi, so many millions and millions of people affected by the storm. But no more people affected by the storm than the folks, perhaps, in the Panhandle of Florida.

We want to go straight away now to Panama City Beach and Rick Sanchez, surveying the damage there again -- Rick, hello.

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's interesting, Bill, for the very first time in three days, we're able to come out on this beach. Yesterday if I had been here, the water probably would have been up to my chest at this point and still rising.

As we walk this beach, we see what is a beautiful sight to most of us, certainly a beautiful sight for the people in charge of tourism in this tourist town of Panama City Beach.

As we walk a little closer, we find this. This is a rooftop. The Seminole Indians here in Florida would call this a chickee hut rooftop. How exactly this got here, where this came from, we don't know. We only know that officials here will soon be coming by to remove it and all the other stuff that's strewn up and down this beach.

Of course, the most deadly part of this hurricane is not far from here, just a little bit north in a place called Calhoun County, a town called Blountsville, where four people have lost their lives. And we learned this morning from EOC officials that we have been on the horn with that there is one more person they say is in very critical condition. They're hoping she'll hang on.

This all happened after a huge tornado that cut a path of about one mile, cut through the areas of both Marianna and Calhoun Counties. They say that one of those trailers where those people were actually got picked up in the air and thrown 300 feet into a tree. That's, again, where two of those people perished.

We'll be following this story here for you throughout the day.

Bill -- back over to you.

HEMMER: All right, Rick, thanks.

Back here in Gulf Shores, Alabama, the area behind me that runs along Highway 59 here is known as Pleasure Island. It is the best beachfront property in the entire State of Alabama. It's about a 12- mile strip and very, very few people have been allowed to access it, including one person, Martha Howard, my guest here, who is a resident back in Pleasure Island.

And good morning to you.


HEMMER: We talked late yesterday afternoon. The experience for you is like what, knowing that you cannot get to your home and find out whether it's standing?

HOWARD: We're really anxious because I don't know what's there. I think there's a house, but I don't know that for sure. And I don't know how much damage, how much water, what I'll find when I get back.

HEMMER: The police here have not allowed access. We can understand that.

HOWARD: Right.

HEMMER: They're especially worried about looters and a lot of damage out there that may get in the way of folks like you coming home.

Having said that, though, what have they told you?

HOWARD: I've heard that it might be another 24 hours or more before we can get there. I have heard that my house still stands. But after that, I don't know.

HEMMER: You don't know about the damage?

HOWARD: I don't know about the damage.

HEMMER: But the fact that you...

HOWARD: I think we'll probably have a tremendous amount of debris from the houses that have come apart and washed.

HEMMER: Have you been able, Martha, to contact your neighbors?

HOWARD: No, I haven't. I haven't talked to them.

HEMMER: You went inland, stayed with some friends when the storm hit.

HOWARD: Right. Right.

HEMMER: You were inside of a home taking shelter there. When the eye came through, 130-mile-an-hour winds, can you give our viewers a sense of what that experience is all about?

HOWARD: It's so scary because for me, you know, I didn't know what was going to happen next. It was, you know, the wind was so hard and all you can think about is trees falling and whether or not you're going to blow away. And then the eye comes and it's calm. And that part's not scary until you realize that something worse is coming after it.

HEMMER: Good luck to you, all right?

HOWARD: Thanks.

HEMMER: Thanks for sharing again with us today.

HOWARD: You're welcome.

HEMMER: And we'll find out later today if you get to go home and see what's left.

HOWARD: I hope so.

HEMMER: Thank you, Martha.

HOWARD: Thanks.

HEMMER: Good luck to you and your husband Wayne, OK?

HOWARD: All right.

HEMMER: Also, Heidi, one other note here. There is a local zoo here. In fact, it's just about 200 yards to my right. There were animals, and a lot of them, deer and alligators all got loose during the storm. And there is concern today, believe it or not, there's a 1,000 pound alligator on the loose today by the name of Chuckie. All the authorities are looking for him, but so far they have not found this gator, upwards of 13 feet in length.

More in a minute here from Alabama.

Back to you now in New York.

COLLINS: Yes, like they really need that to be worrying about. And Jack actually is going to talk about that here in just a minute, Bill.

HEMMER: That's so true.

COLLINS: OK, thanks so much for that.

In fact, the remnants of what was Hurricane Ivan are punishing parts of the East Coast now at this hour. In North Carolina, look at this, rescue crews used emergency ropes to help trapped residents escape their own homes and cross dangerous and fast moving floodwaters. There's a little child in someone's arms there, too.

Parts of Georgia also underwater as Ivan moved through, snapping trees like toothpicks. You see all the debris in the streets there running down there, as well.

We're going to check on the weather now with Chad Myers at CNN Center, of course, in Atlanta, to tell us more on what's happening there -- Chad, what are you seeing as you look outside there?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: You know, we're still seeing -- there's some rain here and an awful lot of street lights that aren't working in Atlanta, as well. And a lot of old trees fell down on power lines yesterday and that just happens in Atlanta, this very old town with very old trees and they get rotten inside then they fall down and the power goes out.

But we have an awful lot of rain coming down here across western New York, into Pennsylvania, as well. A little bit farther to the south, you can see the rain showers all the way down to Nashville, Atlanta, Columbia, not out of the rain yet, pretty much out of the wind. Just about everybody out of the wind. There will be some showers across the East Coast with some winds maybe to 25 or 30, but really the rain is going to be the problem today.

Here are the winds. Huntington, West Virginia at 12 miles per hour, down here into it looks like Charlotte, 17 miles per hour, even in Pittsburgh and Harrisburg, really, not that windy at all this morning. But the rain showers will obviously continue. In 15 minutes, I will show you that track of where that heaviest rain is going to be. The forecast is for over seven inches of rain today alone in Pittsburgh.

Heidi -- back to you.

COLLINS: Wow, god. All that water. I just believe it.


COLLINS: All right, Chad, thanks so much.

MYERS: You're welcome.

COLLINS: Still to come this morning, are more men claiming they've been sexually harassed at work? We're going to take a look at that.

Also, a suicide bomber hits central Baghdad. We will go live to Iraq for details on that in just a moment.

And the Army says one Reservist didn't fill out a form properly. Now, he's heading to Iraq. He's going to join us next on AMERICAN MORNING.


COLLINS: At least eight people, including police and civilians, have been killed by a suicide car bomb near a police checkpoint in Baghdad.

Diana Muriel is live now in the Iraqi capital with the very latest -- Diana, good morning to you.


Yes, we're getting these figures from the Iraqi authorities now, eight people killed, 41 injured, including three police officers killed and 21 police officers injured. This after a car bombing that took place in downtown Baghdad earlier today.

The police had set up a temporary checkpoint in this area, which is right by Haifa Street, that now infamous street known as "Little Fallujah" by American soldiers here in Baghdad. They had set up this temporary checkpoint.

According to eyewitnesses, a car had approached the checkpoint. The police had sent it away. It had turned around and came back, and that's when those on board detonated this huge explosive that ripped through the street, damaging about seven vehicles that were in the immediate vicinity.

The American military have turned up at the scene to assist the Iraqi police with their investigation. The Americans rather more successful in damage limitation when another car bomber attempted to ram the gates of a U.S. military checkpoint in Haifa Street earlier today. U.S. soldiers shot at that police car and the bomb detonated, but no one was killed other than the two men inside that vehicle -- Heidi.

COLLINS: We just keep seeing more and more of it.

All right, Diana Muriel, thanks so much for the latest from Iraq this morning.

We want to tell you about Todd Parrish now. He claims that his eight year military Reserve obligation ended last December. But the Army says Lieutenant Parrish never formally resigned his commission and now they're calling him to active duty in Iraq.

A federal judge this week denied Parrish's request for an injunction to prevent the Army from doing just that.

Todd Parrish joins us now from Raleigh, North Carolina, along with his attorney, Mark Waple.

Thanks so much for being here, gentlemen.

Appreciate your time this morning.

Kind of a complicated story. So, Mr. Parrish, I want you to tell us exactly what's going on with your case so that the people at home will understand.

TODD PARRISH, FORMER RESERVIST: Yes, I had served eight years in the United States Army active duty four, four years Reserve. And at the end of my duty period I resigned. And they said at the end of my hour period, I was supposed to resign again and that led to me being called back to duty on May 10.

And right now we've gone through the process with the military and are still waiting for them to give a decision on my appeal to the -- a denial of my exemption and also the judge, of course, as you spoke earlier, denied the preliminary injunction.

COLLINS: OK, so to be clear, what they're doing, and the Army is saying that they're calling you up now for Operation Iraqi Freedom. You don't know what capacity they're calling you up for, but why can't they do that?

PARRISH: Why can't they call me up?



MARK WAPLE, ATTORNEY FOR TODD PARRISH: Well, Heidi, I think it's a legal question. The federal courts have held that the branches of the service have to deal in a straightforward and an honest manner when they recruit young men and women like Todd Parrish, when they are usually 18 or 19 years of age.

Todd entered into an agreement with the Army to give the Army and his country eight years of service in the active and the inactive Reserves and the Army agreed to pay for three years of Todd Parrish's undergraduate education.

COLLINS: Right. But Mr. Waple, if I may, when he decided to no longer continue with his active duty obligations, which is fine, he completed them, he was not 19 years old, he was as old as he is now, which I believe is 31 years old.

Was it not his obligation to understand that he also needed to resign from the Individual Ready Reserve?

WAPLE: Absolutely not. The, if you were to look at his ROTC scholarship agreement, what you will find there is what I've just said, that he agreed to serve for eight years and the Army would pay for three years of undergraduate education, and that that agreement would end on the 19th of December of 2003.

There are only two categories of officers in the Army Individual Ready Reserves by law. The first category are officers who have a remaining service obligation. Todd Parrish is not in that category.

COLLINS: Did he or did he not, if I may ask you, or maybe Mr. Parrish would like to respond, resign from the Individual Ready Reserve, IRR, as we call it?

WAPLE: No, he did not resign from the IRR after the expiration of his military service obligation. There was an earlier resignation from active duty to inactive duty, which is really not an issue here. The issue here is whether or not he volunteered -- that's the language in the statute -- did Todd Parrish volunteer to remain in Army IRR? And there is not a single document in his official military personnel file where Todd Parrish says unequivocally I volunteer to remain in the Individual Ready Reserves.

His ROTC scholarship agreement does not say that when he came into the Army that he was coming into the Army as an officer for an indefinite period of time.

COLLINS: Now, I want to make sure I go ahead and get in what the Army is saying here, as well, just to be fair.

WAPLE: Right.

COLLINS: Here is what they tell us. As a commissioned officer, he has an obligation and a responsibility to make it known his intention to concern -- continue service, that is, to the country.

My understanding is that there is a difference between Active Reserve and Individual Ready Reserve.

WAPLE: Well, there is a difference, but it really comes down to a very simple analysis of the federal code and Todd Parrish's ROTC scholarship agreement. Todd Parrish did not volunteer to remain in the Individual Ready Reserves.

He served his country. He met his full military service obligation. He never volunteered to remain unless the Army can prevail, which it has so far, in its argument that by failing to act, that constitutes the act of volunteering to remain, which we suggest makes on sense.

COLLINS: Well, unfortunately, gentlemen, we'll have to leave it there.

WAPLE: Sure.

COLLINS: Mark Waple and Todd Parrish, we certainly appreciate your thoughts this morning.

WAPLE: Thanks.

PARRISH: Thank you.

COLLINS: Thanks so much.

And back now to Bill in Gulf Shores, Alabama -- Bill. HEMMER: All right, Heidi.

We have mentioned this so many times. When you look back at the past six weeks, with Charley and then Frances and now Ivan, the Red Cross is responding, especially in the Florida Panhandle so far. But it has been a massive effort on their part. We'll talk to a member from the Red Cross trying to help out today in places like Pensacola and Panama City Beach. We'll find out how they are doing in a moment, when our coverage continues.


COLLINS: Time for Jack now and the "Question of the Day," a little rock and roll.


"Rolling Stone" magazine, in this week's issue, says that rock and roll began with Elvis Presley's earliest recording, and there are some black artists who disagree rather strongly with that contention, a group that includes Dionne Warwick. Chuck Jackson says that without artists like Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Bo Diddley, and others, there would be no rock and roll, and Elvis likely would have wound up a country and western singer.

So, the question we're asking is: Who ought to get credit for the birth of rock and roll?

Christy writes: "I really agree with what you say, but this morning I was proud of CNN's sunrise curmudgeon." That would be me. "I was shocked and pleased that you gave black artists their due on air and spoke frankly and unabashedly about why Elvis got exposure and who influenced him. We so often talk around racial injustices and try to present Jim Crow and segregation didn't influence history. Thanks for not being afraid to make those comments."

Paul in Hellertown: "A war in Iraq, an upcoming presidential election, the South in tatters, and the 'Question of the Day' explores a magazine's selection of which singers it likes best. Perhaps tomorrow we can examine the riveting question of how many left-handed bowlers play checkers."

We could, but it's Saturday. Maybe Monday.

And Saundra in New York says: "Before Elvis Presley sang 'Hound Dog,' there was Big Mama Thornton. Before Bill Haley and the Comets popularized 'Shake, Rattle and Roll,' Big Joe Turner had done all three. And the Crew Cuts' 'Sh-Boom' was originally sung by The Chords. Chuck Berry did 'Roll Over Beethoven' long before The Beatles. Should I go on?" A lot of opinions.

COLLINS: Sh-Boom, Sh-Boom -- is that the one we're talking about?

CAFFERTY: Yes, you know the rest of that?

COLLINS: No. La la la, la la la, da di da. Not whatsoever.

CAFFERTY: There you go. You do, see?

COLLINS: Is that it?

CAFFERTY: Yes. Can you sing "Mystery Train?"



COLLINS: And thankfully for the viewers, I won't attempt it anyway.

CAFFERTY: No, that was all right. I was impressed.

COLLINS: All right, thanks, Jack.

Still ahead this morning, changing gears a bit. The Pentagon now has a week to release all of its files related to President Bush's National Guard service. More on that ahead.

And could this man one day be president? It would take a little change to the Constitution. "Gimmie a Minute" is going to talk about that in just a moment on AMERICAN MORNING.



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