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Is Washington Gearing Troops Up, or Letting Them Down?; President Bush Gets Top Honor From 'Time' Magazine

Aired December 20, 2004 - 06:00   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Straight ahead on DAYBREAK, U.S. troops in the war zone -- is Washington gearing them up or letting them down?
Also, he stuck to his guns. "Time" magazine says that's why President Bush gets its top honor.

And got game? Video games, that is. They're not just child's play anymore.

It is Monday, December 20.

You are watching DAYBREAK.

And good morning to you.

From the Time Warner Center in New York, I'm Carol Costello, along with Chad Myers.

Now in the news, a Kansas woman goes to federal court this morning in a shocking case. Lisa Montgomery is accused of strangling 23-year-old Bobby Jo Stinnett of Missouri and cutting Stinnett's 8- month-old infant from her womb. A judge will determine whether the case will be heard in Kansas or Missouri.

A search going on this morning for a missing 9-year-old autistic boy in eastern Pennsylvania. Logan Mitchletree was last seen Saturday afternoon in Lycoming County. Authorities say the boy is unable to speak.

Workers are clearing away debris from the site of yesterday's suicide bombing in the Iraqi city of Karbala. Sixteen people died when the car exploded near Karbala's bus station.

And have you mailed your holiday cards and packages yet? The Postal Service says tomorrow is the last day to mail your stuff if you want it delivered by Christmas. Wednesday is the deadline for in state deliveries. Just a reminder for you this morning.

Good morning -- Chad.


I think I have all my mailing done, so.

COSTELLO: Good. MYERS: Actually, all the relatives are coming to our house.


MYERS: So that I don't have to mail anything. That's the nice part.

COSTELLO: They want to see the new baby, don't they?

MYERS: Well, of course they do.

COSTELLO: Of course.

MYERS: There you go.


COSTELLO: Turning now to a growing war zone controversy. Do U.S. troops have the armor they need to fend off enemy fire? Or are they suffering needless harm as they get put in harm's way?

Our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr went to Kuwait City to get a closer look.

She joins us now -- good morning.

BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, good afternoon from here in Kuwait City, Carol.

We are, indeed, here in the Persian Gulf and we're going to join up with the U.S. Army and go visit some of these armoring facilities here in Kuwait, where troops are working literally around the clock to bolt on armor, to up armor, to get as many armored vehicles as they can off onto those roads in Iraq -- carry fuel, supplies, water, personnel north. Very, very dangerous business.

But what we are learning here is that the troops on the ground, indeed, are working at a number of facilities here in Kuwait to try and get that work done as quickly as they possibly can. We'll be joining them over the next several days to look at those armor lines, those armor operations, and see exactly what is going on here in Kuwait -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Barbara, tell us more about these factories in Kuwait. I don't think many Americans realized that the armor was being made there.

STARR: Well, what we have here in Kuwait are two facilities, essentially; two camps, if you will, where they receive the armor plating and bolt it onto some of the vehicles. And they also, basically the phrase in the Army is up armor. They add armor to the vehicles before they head into Iraq. These are the Humvees that we have all come to see so much of on television. These are also basically five ton and other wheeled vehicles, the heavy trucks that move fuel and other supplies into Iraq. And, indeed, what they also do do, and it's been a matter of some controversy, but it is standard practice in the Army, they take the vehicles that have come back here into Kuwait, that have been damaged in some fashion, and take off of them whatever usable armor there still might be, strip them down and reuse those parts. It's all part of an effort to get the armoring done as quickly as they possibly can.

COSTELLO: Well, we looking forward to seeing it actually being done and your reports to come.

Barbara Starr reporting live from Kuwait City this morning.

When it comes to the armor controversy, what do troops themselves think, especially those who have suffered the blows of combat?

Our Brian Todd went to their hospital bedside to find out.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From their hospital beds at the National Naval Medical Center, two badly wounded servicemen lend new perspective in the political battles over body armor and vehicle protection. Marine Corporal Ryan Groves, 24-years- old, his left leg amputated above the knee, just about every bone in his right leg broken.

CPL. RYAN GROVES, U.S. MARINE CORPS.: In a blink of an eye, I saw the flash and it hit right behind me.

TODD: October 17, at a Marine camp outside Fallujah, Corporal Groves, a squad leader, is getting ready to greet some newly arrived Marines. A rocket explodes right next to him. Recalling the attack, he keeps his emotions level until he relates how close he came to dying.

GROVES: Five or 10 seconds, you know, later, I would have dropped gear and put it in my seat and turned around and walked right towards where the rocket fell from, you know?

TODD (on camera): You came pretty close, you think, to it?

GROVES: Very close.

TODD (voice-over): A lot of guys like Corporal Groves were treated by Navy Corpsman Joseph Worley. For seven and a half months, his job was to patch up and evacuate wounded Marines from the battlefield, until one chaotic day in September. On a bridge outside Fallujah, Worley is running toward an exploded Humvee. In the span of less than a minute, a roadside bomb explodes next to him. A rocket propelled grenade tears through his left leg but doesn't explode. He hits the ground and immediately takes five gunshots to both legs. Then, he takes over.

CPL. JOSEPH WORLEY, U.S. NAVY: I rolled over and I put a tourniquet on my leg because I was bleeding so bad. And I shot myself up with morphine. TODD: As he shows us a left leg amputated above the knee, this 23-year-old also shows an incomprehensible spirit.

WORLEY: I realize how close I come to dying and knowing that, you know, if it wasn't for, you know, having the presence of God there, giving me the strength to do what I needed to do to survive, I wouldn't been able to come back and be with my wife -- my beautiful wife and my daughter that I'd not even met yet.

TODD (on camera): Corpsman Worley and Corporal Groves were both wearing body armor at the time they were wounded. Both say they couldn't have survived without it. One of their doctors agrees, but says the wounds these servicemen get in their extremities as a result present their own unique problems.

CMDR. PHILIP PERDUE, NAVY TRAUMA SURGEON: Because the wounds are so heavily contaminated, usually, and there's such massive tissue damage, they have to go the operating room almost immediately after they arrive. And then they go back every two to three days for dressing changes and for debrievements until we think the wound is clean enough to close.

TODD (voice-over): Both these men say their units had plenty of body armor. When we asked if they had enough vehicle armor, a hospital official interrupted each time and wouldn't let them answer. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I guess I prefer, you know, it's OK to talk about your incident.

TODD: When I asked one wounded serviceman on the ward if his unit had enough vehicle armor, he said "not even close."

Meanwhile, just a couple of rooms apart, two young men who can't move, grateful for what armor they did have.

Brian Todd, CNN, Bethesda, Maryland.


COSTELLO: And back at the Pentagon, the armor question isn't the only controversy brewing. Some law makers are blasting Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld after he admitted he has not personally signed condolence letters sent to families of troops killed in action. In a statement Rumsfeld says: "I wrote and approved the now more than 1,000 letters sent to family members and next of kin of each of the servicemen and women killed in action.

He goes on to say: "While I have not individually signed each one in the interests of ensuring expeditious contact with grieving family members, I have directed that in the future I sign each letter."

His critics say Rumsfeld's previous admission is another sign that he should step down. But the White House continues to back the defense chief.

In other news across America this morning, one witness called the pileup on a Pennsylvania highway "a vision of hell." The road is open again today. Seventeen motorists were sent to local hospitals after at least 70 vehicles were involved in a pileup on Interstate 80 near the Ohio border. Police believe the chain reaction crash was caused by whiteout conditions and excessive speed.

Three arson suspects will be in federal court today to answer charges stemming from the fires in a Maryland subdivision earlier this month. The fires caused $10 million in damage. Investigators still don't have a motive, but race and revenge are two theories being discussed. A security guard who was the first person arrested in the investigation has his hearing tomorrow.

Jurors in Houston, Texas resume deliberations in the case of an immigrant smuggling tragedy. Two men are on trial for taking part in the operation that left 19 illegal immigrants dead. Seventeen of the Mexican immigrants died inside a sealed tractor-trailer that was abandoned at a Texas truck stop in May of last year.

A Christmas classic is costing a fortune in Hawaii. How much would you spend for the smell of pine?

And tips on how to protect your identity this holiday season.

Plus, we take a look at the booming video game business. It's all the rage.

But first, here's a look at what else is making news this Monday morning.


COSTELLO: Time now for a little "Business Buzz."

If you're driving to the mall this week, you can spend a little more on presents because, guess what? You'll be spending a little less on gas, a little tiny bit less.

Carrie Lee has the specifics, live from the NASDAQ market site -- good morning.

CARRIE LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Carol, we're talking about the Lundberg Survey. We follow this report all the time. The national average for a gallon of unleaded regular gasoline, $1.83. And that is $0.10 cheaper than the last survey two weeks ago. It's also more than $0.20 below the levels from late October.

Now, we're still $0.35 above where gasoline stood at this time a year ago. Lundberg, though, says the economy is stronger than it was during that time.

The cheapest gas, Tulsa, Oklahoma, $1.56 per gallon. And we might be jealous of the great weather in Hawaii, but residents of Honolulu pay $2.32 a gallon.

I don't know, Carol. It seems like a pretty decent trade-off to me. I'd take higher gas to sit on one of those beautiful islands. Anyway, that's the latest from here.

COSTELLO: Wouldn't that be great? You know what, Carrie? We're doing a story on Christmas trees in Hawaii and there's such a shortage of Christmas trees, people are paying up to $200 apiece for them.

LEE: $200 apiece for what, five feet high? Four feet high?

COSTELLO: I don't know. It's crazy, isn't it?

LEE: Yes, well, people are committed to it.

That's an incentive to get a fake one, right?

COSTELLO: Exactly.

Hey, how are the futures looking?

LEE: Futures are looking very strong, especially tech issues. This after a little bit of selling on Friday.

One thing to watch later this week, on Wednesday, we'll get the final look at third quarter gross domestic product. And, of course, Carol, the markets closed on Friday for the day before Christmas.

So that's the latest.

COSTELLO: That's right. Christmas Eve.

LEE: That's right.

COSTELLO: Five days until Christmas.

Thank you, Carrie.


COSTELLO: Don't play games with me, unless, of course, they're video games. It's been a thumbs up year for games once thought to be only child's play.

Our technology correspondent, Daniel Sieberg, tells us all about it.


DANIEL SIEBERG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Video games may have started out as a distraction for kids, costing just a quarter at the neighborhood arcade. But electronic entertainment has now become the $8 billion gorilla in America's living room.

DOUG LOWENSTEIN, ELECTRONIC SOFTWARE ASSOCIATION: Video games have emerged as an equal partner in shaping the culture and the entertainment that people around the world consume.

SIEBERG: No fewer than 145 million Americans say they play video games. That's just more than 50 percent of the total population.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's grown to be something phenomenal.

SIEBERG: Including both hardware and software sales, the industry made about $11 billion in 2003. Compare that to only $9 billion in box office receipts for that year. The November release of Halo 2 saw sales of $125 million in its first day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We sell tens of thousands of games a week here.

SIEBERG: Part of the reason? Those kids who started out playing Atari 20 years ago, well, they're still playing, and so are their kids.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Usually a lot of sports games. Sometimes we'll play a couple of adventure games, but...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, and Halo, too. As many hours as we put behind a game console, yes, it's a great way to spend some father-son time.

SIEBERG: While demand has grown, so has the competition. The amount of money invested in a top name video game is on the level with a blockbuster movie.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're talking about $10 million, $20 million to make some of these games. You know, you're asking consumers to pay $50, $40 or $50 to buy one of these games.

DAN "SHOE" HSU, "ELECTRONIC GAMING MONTHLY": Yes, there's a lot at stake, and that's why you really have to do things very carefully, really plan out what you're going to do and execute well.

SIEBERG: Hundreds of titles this year didn't even break even. And at these budgets, it only takes one bomb to break a company. But for the top titles, Americans don't hesitate to shell out.

But could the popularity of these games just be a passing fad?

HSU: If you asked me this maybe 10 years ago, maybe. But now, you know, mom and dads are playing video games. Adults, business owners. You know, the average age of a gamer in the United States is 29 years old. So I think it's definitely here to stay.

SIEBERG: And with the backing of Santa Claus, at least for now, analysts predict the holiday season of 2004 will set a new record when the numbers come in.


SIEBERG: And a big part of the reason that 2004 is expected to be so lucrative is because several highly anticipated sequels were released in the past few months. Those include Halo 2, Doom 3, Half Life 2 and the newest game in the controversial Grand Theft Auto series. Basically, Carol, if the summer is when movie studios release their big blockbusters, then the holiday season is the equivalent for video games.

COSTELLO: So the average age of people buying 29 years old.

Doesn't that affect the industry, because they don't have much disposable income, right?

SIEBERG: That's right. It does affect the industry in a couple of ways. First of all, older gamers do have a lot more disposable income. That's important because games cost about $50 each, so that's driven revenues up. It also means that more mature titles are hitting the market. Now that can be a double-edged sword. Some older gamers want these titles, while parents worry that their young kids could be playing them, as well.

COSTELLO: Yes, because they always find a way to buy them, don't they, no matter how young?

SIEBERG: That's right. Yes, you've really got to be careful with those mature games.


Daniel Sieberg, thank you.

SIEBERG: All right.

COSTELLO: And tomorrow, Daniel's series profiles a 23-year-old who's a video game fatality and well known for it.

And on Wednesday, the virtual violence of many video games has critics turning up the heat.

On Thursday, Daniel goes to the Olympics of competitive video gaming.

And on Friday, a video game where you might not win or lose, but perhaps become the person you would like to be.

Video Games: The Series, with Daniel Sieberg all this week.

And we're back here, right after a break.


COSTELLO: I know you've heard by now, "Time" magazine's Man of the Year is George W. Bush. Many of our viewers were not pleased. But is this just partisan politics at work? We never thought this would be very controversial, but it is.

So let's head live to Washington and "Time" correspondent Viveca Novak.

Good morning, Viveca. VIVECA NOVAK, "TIME" CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Carol.

COSTELLO: I cannot believe -- we have so many e-mails, almost 600 this morning, on "Time's" choice.

Are you guys getting e-mails, too?

NOVAK: Sure. Yes, I think we always expected this to be a fairly polarizing choice. I think George W. Bush is a polarizing figure. Just look at the election. You know, I think that the reason we chose him to be Person of the Year is he did it his way, despite the fact that his popularity rating is quite low for a president. And an unpopular war and a bad economy, he managed to make the election all about foreign policy, actually some of the very issues that were most unpopular, and about leadership. And he pulled it out. He managed to convince the American public that he was more courageous and more of a leader than a war hero, John Kerry.

COSTELLO: I wanted to read a quote from the article, you know, running along the lines of what you've just said. "Time" magazine reporters say: "Bush ran big and bold and specific all at the same time, rivaling Reagan in a breadth of vision and Clinton in tactical ingenuity. He surpassed both men in winning bigger majorities in Congress and the statehouses, and he did it all while conducting an increasingly unpopular war."

NOVAK: Yes, it's pretty amazing when you think about it, but this is a guy who thinks of himself as being about big, bold strokes, about not admitting mistakes. I think one very telling detail in this story, actually, is that the Oval Office Christmas tree doesn't have doves on it, it has eagles. You know, this is a president who really wants to spread the American idea of freedom. He cares more about spreading freedom American style, I think, than peace.

COSTELLO: Well, Viveca, let me run this by you. This is an e- mail from one of our viewers, because, you know, a lot of people think President Bush is sort of manufactured by Karl Rove.

This is from Mark in Newburg, New York. He says: "I do not think George W. Bush was the correct choice. It should have been Karl Rove. He got his man reelected despite a dismal economy, a terrible mistake of a war and a poor showing at the debates. It was a brilliant strategy, to play on people's prejudices and fears in order to gain victory in November. Bravo, Karl Rove, Person of the Year."

Was he a candidate?

NOVAK: Yes. We have a very long piece on him, actually, in the magazine, as well. And it's interesting, you know, Karl Rove, I think, is somebody that is sort of a convenient foil for George W. Bush. If you hate Bush, it's convenient to think that there's this sort of evil genius behind him that manipulates him and, you know, plays politics all the time. If you love George Bush, you know, almost equally, when Bush does something that even if you're a conservative you don't like, it's convenient to blame Karl Rove and the politics that he feels is necessary. COSTELLO: Most assuredly.

How difficult is it, Viveca, to choose the Person of the Year?

NOVAK: Oh, I think it's always very difficult. There are always some obvious choices because the criteria is basically, you know, who has influenced world events or sometimes U.S. events, if there's a clear difference there, the most, who's had the most impact on us during the year, has been in the news the most. But there's always several candidates. And coming right down to picking somebody is very difficult.

In a presidential election year, it's often a little bit easier because the winner is obviously a candidate. And I think this year there weren't too many other strong contenders.

COSTELLO: All right, Viveca Novak live from Washington.

Thank you for joining DAYBREAK this morning.

NOVAK: Good to be with you.

COSTELLO: If you're wondering who else has graced the cover of "Time" as their Person of the Year, here's a look.

German leader Adolph Hitler selected as "Time's" Person of the Year for 1938.

Chosen "Time's" Person of the Year for 1945, Dwight Eisenhower. He graced a total of 18 covers, by the way.

"Time's" honor for 1968 went to NASA's Apollo 8 astronauts.

And in 1974, it was Saudi Arabia's king.

So there you have it.

Donald Rumsfeld seems to be making many people's lists, but not in a good way. Coming up, we'll look at why members of his own party are now joining the chorus of concern.

And later, how you can avoid becoming just another victim of identity fraud. We've got tips on making sure it's you who's really spending your own money.

So stick around.



COSTELLO: And good morning to you.

Welcome to the last half hour of DAYBREAK.

From the Time Warner Center in New York, I'm Carol Costello, along with Chad Myers.

Now in the news, Lisa Montgomery of Melvern, Kansas makes her first appearance in federal court today. Montgomery is accused of killing a pregnant Missouri woman and taking her unborn child. The baby girl is hospitalized this morning. She's in good condition in Topeka.

In eastern Pennsylvania, volunteers are expected to resume their search this morning for a 9-year-old autistic boy. The child, wearing a shirt, jeans and slippers, has been missing since Saturday and temperatures in the area are not expected to get above 20 degrees today.

Workers now clearing away debris from the site of yesterday's suicide bombing in the Iraqi city of Karbala. Sixteen people died when the car exploded near Karbala's bus station.

And the Postal Service is ready for the busiest mailing day of the year for cards and letters, most of them holiday greetings. Two hundred eighty million postmarks will be applied today, compared with 100 million on just any old day.

To the forecast center and Chad -- good morning.


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