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CNN LIVE TODAY

Six Americans Killed in Falluja Push; Suha Arafat Stirs Controversy as Husband Clings to Life

Aired November 9, 2004 - 10:32   ET

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


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back, I'm Daryn Kagan. We're just a minute past the half hour.
RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Rick Sanchez. And here's what's happening right "Now in the News."

As we get started, as many as 10,000 U.S. troops and 2,000 Iraqi soldiers are pushing into Falluja today, as the siege on the insurgent stronghold enters the second day. U.S. commanders say coalition forces have been met with sniper fire and booby traps and at least six Americans have been killed. Insurgent losses are said to be mounting with one Army unit reporting that is has killed or wounded nearly 100 militant fighters.

Meanwhile, President Bush and first lady Laura Bush will travel to Walter Reed Medical Center this afternoon to visit with troops wounded in Iraq. Mr. Bush made a similar visit in March to recognize the sacrifices of the military personnel there.

The shortage of the flu vaccine will loosen its grip in some parts of the country. Massachusetts, for example, is getting more than, we're told, 262,000 additional doses. Chicago has 25,000 new doses. Health officials in both areas say supplies still fall short of demand so high risk people will get a first priority.

Just minutes ago CNN's Christiane Amanpour, as you may have seen here exclusively, talked with Afghanistan's president-elect, Hamid Karzai. This was his first interview since the historic elections were held one month ago.

Mr. Karzai -- President-elect Karzai says progress is being made for the release of three United Nations workers who were in Afghanistan to monitor the elections. They were seized by Islamic militants in an incident very similar to hostage-takings like the ones we have seen in Iraq.

KAGAN: Let's check in on Iraq now. U.S. commanders in Falluja say that overall resistance has been minimal. That raises concerns that many of the insurgent fighters and especially their leaders may have fled the city before the offensive. Militants are said to be clustered in small groups with the largest band numbering only about 25.

Iraqi commanders have dubbed the assault Operation New Dawn but long before the sun rose the firepower of U.S. forces was at work. Our Karl Penhaul offers this view as an embedded correspondent with U.S. Marines on the outskirts of Fallujah.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The sky over Falluja seems to explode as U.S. Marines launch their much-trumpeted ground assault. War planes drop cluster bombs on insurgent positions and artillery batteries fire smoke rounds to conceal a Marine advance. Tracer fire and the rattle of machine guns crisscrosses the cityscape as insurgents fight back.

Above the raging battle, cries "Allahuakbar," "God is great," drift miles out into the desert, that Muslim clerics chant from mosque loud speakers. Many of the several thousand insurgents believe they're fighting a holy war against U.S. forces. Each second explosions rock Falluja, impossible at times to tell whether these are U.S. bombs or insurgent booby traps. The first ferocious hour-and-a- half onslaught is followed by sporadic lulls. Parts of the northeast are on fire.

Earlier in the day fighting flared in Falluja's western outskirts. U.S. Marines and Iraqi commandos seized control of the city hospital and of two bridges over the Euphrates River.

Insurgents rallied and fought a five-hour street battle. This was the picture in the desert just north of Falluja a few hours before the nighttime assault began. Marine infantrymen dug trenches to protect against insurgent mortar attack.

(on camera): It is about an hour away from sunset now and these Marines have been waiting in these makeshift trenches for most of the day. When nightfall does come, they may well get the order to go over the top and head into Falluja and that will mark the start of the ground assault on the rebel stronghold.

(voice-over): And as they waited, they thought.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, who can really say? I mean, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) unknown. I mean, you just don't really know.

PENHAUL: The fight for Falluja now under way could take several days and the threat of insurgent booby traps and suicide attacks will never be far away.

Karl Penhaul, CNN, near Falluja.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SANCHEZ: And we turn our coverage now to an update on the ailing Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat. Earlier today hospital officials said that Arafat is still in intensive care and his condition had worsened. One source tells CNN that Arafat is receiving daily blood transfusions. A group of Palestinian leaders is in Paris, they are there to visit the ailing leader. They are attending meetings with top French officials, as well, including, we're told, President Jacques Chirac. Now the wife of the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, has been keeping tight reigns on information about her husband's medical condition inside the military hospital in Paris. And now other Palestinian officials say it is enough.

CNN's Jim Bittermann has this part of the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SUHA ARAFAT, WIFE OF YASSER ARAFAT (through translator): They are trying to bury Abu Ammar alive.

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Suha Arafat's outburst, accusing top Palestinian leaders of trying to shove her husband aside, isn't the first time she has angrily confronted the cause he worked for, and she's no stranger to controversy. The woman now standing guard at Yasser Arafat's bedside, controlling access and information, has been the subject of envy and investigation.

For the past four years while her husband was under virtual house arrest in the rubble of his compound of Ramallah, 41-year-old Suha Arafat has lived in the comfortable surroundings of Paris where her financial dealings have occasionally drawn attention of French investigators. And for years her lifestyle has drawn the ire and jealously of Palestinians in the street who complain that her lifestyle is being paid for by money that rightfully belongs to the Palestinian people.

BARIA ALAMUDDIN, "AL-HAYAT": She did say, yes, I have received this money. But as you know, and I have interviewed her before on that, she takes care of a lot of things for Yasser Arafat, for also the refugees abroad.

BITTERMANN: As well, Mrs. Arafat, who once was the Palestinian leader's secretary, argues that because she represents the Palestinian people, she deserves the income she receives, around $100,000 a month. The Arafats have one daughter, now 9 years old, and have rarely been together in recent years.

From the beginning of her marriage Suha Arafat shunned life on the West Bank even though she was herself raised there by a mother deeply involved in the Palestinian cause. Now Palestinian leaders say Suha Arafat's outburst seems like meddling in Palestinian affairs.

HANAH ASHRAWI, PALESTINIAN LEGISLATOR: I can understand, this is her husband. But he is much more than Suha's husband. He is a national figure. He is a head of state. He is the father of the Palestinian people and national movement.

BITTERMANN (on camera): For more than a week now, Suha Arafat, as the Palestinian president's closest relative, has had the right to keep a tight lid on information coming from his hospital room as rumors have spread in all directions.

Now, though, the Palestinian leadership says the situation has become intolerable and that they must know once and for all whether or not Arafat will recover.

Jim Bittermann, CNN, outside Paris.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SANCHEZ: It is important to note that this is an ever changing situation. So for the very latest updates rapidly changing developments on this story and the Middle East, be sure to log onto cnn.com.

KAGAN: A difference of opinion and a verdict in jeopardy. Could jurors in the Scott Peterson be near a deadlock? They are entering another day of deliberations today. And our Rusty Dornin is live in Redwood City with the latest.

Rusty, good morning.

RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Daryn, by the end of the day the jury is asking for some 30 additional pieces of evidence, tidal charts and more wiretap phone calls between Scott Peterson and Amber Frey. But that was not the case earlier in the day when there was definitely trouble brewing in the jury room.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DORNIN (voice-over): It is what every judge doesn't want to hear, a jury so deeply divided they don't think they can agree on a verdict. Legal analysts say that's what's happening in the Scott Peterson murder trial. The judge re-read jury instructions to the panel, asking them not to hesitate changing their opinion if they could do to so to reach a verdict, instructions, say observers, normally read when a jury is deadlocked.

CHUCK SMITH, LEGAL ANALYST: What that indicates very clearly and very directly is that the jury is not getting along. There are obviously two camps. No one knows what the size of the camps are.

DORNIN: Earlier attorneys battled over a key piece of evidence when the jury rocked the boat literally. Jurors were taken to see Scott Peterson's boat up close. Apparently two jurors got inside the boat and began rocking it from side to side, possibly to see for themselves whether the boat would capsize. Prosecutors claim Peterson dumped his wife's body over the side of the boat.

JIM HAMMER, LEGAL ANALYST: If that's seen as an experiment, that is absolutely forbidden under California law. And there is case after case that have been reversed on appeal after conviction for juries conducting experiments.

DORNIN: Geragos asked for a mistrial and was denied.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DORNIN: Now after his mistrial motion was denied, he offered an alternative. He said, look, let me show my defense demonstration video where a participant threw someone about Laci Peterson's size and weight overboard on a boat very similar to Scott Peterson's. That boat capsized. Now the judge never let that video into court during the trial. He also turned down Geragos' motion to air it to the jury during deliberations. And deliberations will be getting under way in just about a half hour -- Daryn.

KAGAN: All right. And you'll be standing by. Rusty Dornin, Redwood City, California. Thank you.

We want to show you some breaking news now we're getting from Southern California, from the area known as Castaic. The sheriff's department there working to rescue a hiker.

SANCHEZ: Yes. It looks like they're going to try and life- flight this hiker. Not sure are we look at this picture, if they've already retrieved him or not. It looks -- yes, we're being told now -- oh, here's the pictures from earlier before. This was a hiker who, according to reports, right, Daryn, he had fallen some 30 feet while he was hiking in this area?

KAGAN: Down an embankment, hurt his legs and they had to go and life-flight him out of there.

SANCHEZ: There he is. Apparently the man is in his 40's. Don't know exactly when this happened or when they received the call but obviously they have sent rescue crews out there try and -- as it's often referred to in some areas, "life-flight" him out, and that's precisely what they're doing.

Boy, that's a tricky maneuver too, especially on a windy day. When you start to see that turning motion like that, sometimes it can become out of control so they have to try and make sure that they can steady him before they put him on. And that's what they're trying to do right now. Finally they get to the door and they were able to get him on.

KAGAN: And now it looks like they have landed and that they are going to get him out and hopefully get him some help. That taking place inland Golden State Freeway, I-5 near an area known as Castaic. A lot of folks go out there for some outdoor recreation.

SANCHEZ: We're going to monitor that for you throughout the morning. Now let's take a look at some of the other stories that are making news from coast to coast.

KAGAN: In Salisbury, Maryland, Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps lands in hot water. The winner of six gold medals at the summer games faces drunken driving charges. The 19-year-old has publicly apologized for his arrest.

SANCHEZ: Also, believe it or not, this landing may be considered a success. That's because neither the pilot nor the two people inside suffered any serious injuries. The single engine Piper had just taken off from a suburban Atlanta airport when it suddenly clipped some trees and then slammed right into that roof.

KAGAN: In New York, a new age mystic is just days away from delivering twins by cesarean birth at the age of 56. Aleta St. James calls herself a healer and a success coach. She conceived the children through in vitro fertilization.

SANCHEZ: We're going to talk some movies, too. It is competing on the big screen and it's expected to bring in more money than some of the top grossing motion pictures.

KAGAN: And it is only a game. Still to come, the hype behind "Halo 2." But first, here's a look at what we happen to be working on for next hour.

ANNOUNCER: Ahead on CNN, the battle of Falluja. Seemingly overmatched, how do insurgents fight the U.S. military machine? We're live from the Pentagon and Iraq at 11:00.

Then, worse case scenario. The Peterson jury may be deadlocked. CNN examines what could be going on behind closed doors.

And at noon, new details on the apparently worsening condition of Yasser Arafat. Stay with CNN, the most trusted name in news.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SANCHEZ: Welcome back, everyone, on this busy morning, I'm Rick Sanchez here with Daryn Kagan.

(STOCK MARKET REPORT)

KAGAN: We move on to some other news of the day. Within days of his re-election, President Bush met with his cabinet to outline his domestic agenda of his second term. At or near the top of that list are economic priorities. Our financial news reporter Peter Viles takes a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PETER VILES, CNN FINANCIAL NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He survived outsourcing, a huge trade deficit, weak job creation to win a victory so sweeping, the president's supporters see it as an economic vote of confidence.

MARTIN REGALIA, U.S. CHAMBER OF COMMERCE: I think on the issues of jobs the economy and trade, the message is that the American public gets it. They see the data firsthand. And when you look at the economy, you see an economy that's really doing quite well.

VILES: The president's economic priorities improve the climate for job creation by simplifying what he calls an outdated tax code, making tax cuts permanent and limiting what he calls frivolous lawsuits. But the first real test of his economic mandate could be trade, specifically pushing the Central American Free Trade Agreement, or CAFTA, through Congress.

RICHARD MILLS, DEPUTY U.S. TRADE REPRESENTATIVE: The important thing we've always tried to stress is for Americans is that the Central American market is a good size market for us. Those countries already enjoy duty-free access for many of their products, and the CAFTA will actually expand our opportunities to sell our goods and services into those markets.

VILES: The president's opponents will argue his trade policies are squeezing the middle class and feeding a trade deficit that's a financial crisis in the making.

THEA LEE, AFL-CIO: The trade deficit's more than 5 percent of GDP right now. It's more than a million dollars a minute that we import more than we export, and that's something which is not really sustainable over the long run. We simply cannot continue to consume half a trillion dollars more worth of goods and services than we produce every year.

VILES: Political pressure has not forced the administration to address the trade deficit, but market pressure might. The dollar has already fallen to nine-year lows.

Peter Viles, CNN, Los Angeles.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KAGAN: Well, you can stay with us for another quick check of your morning forecast just ahead.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRISTY FEIG, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Flu vaccines can be given in smaller doses and still protect healthier adults says a new study in "The New England Journal of Medicine." Researchers found doses as small as one-fifth the size of a normal flu vaccine, if given properly, offer as much protection as a full dose of the vaccine.

Researchers caution that the dose-varying strategy has not yet been tested for effectiveness in anybody other than healthy adults between the ages of 18 and 40 and is not yet currently being used.

And the FDA warned consumers this week that the non-prescription supplement Actra-RX may cause serious side effects such as critically low blood pressure.

Actra-RX is sold online and marketed as a treatment for erectile dysfunction. But the FDA says that the drug contains prescription strength quantities of sildenafil, the active ingredient in Viagra which should not be taken without consulting a doctor.

Christy Feig, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(WEATHER REPORT)

KAGAN: We're going to take a look at Falluja coming up and the battle that could finally snuff out the insurgent war, at least our military forces are hoping that. Next hour I'll talk to a former Marine commander about urban warfare in Falluja.

SANCHEZ: Also, what is happening in the Scott Peterson case? It is confusing these days. Is this high profile case close to a verdict? Second hour of CNN LIVE TODAY starts right after a quick break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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