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More Victims Found in California Mudslide; Howard Dean Running for DNC Chairman

Aired January 12, 2005 - 08:00   ET


Rescuers not giving up, digging through the night, but finding more victims now in the California mud slide.

And that severe weather tearing away at the landscape and claiming more homes in its path.

Howard Dean? For some, a Democratic lightning rod. Now looking to put a charge into the party's leadership. We'll talk to him about that this morning.

And red meat science -- another study takes a bite out of something many of us love to eat.

Those stories on this AMERICAN MORNING.

ANNOUNCER: From the CNN broadcast center in New York, this is AMERICAN MORNING with Bill Hemmer and Soledad O'Brien.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back, everybody.

We are still watching very closely the work that's going on in California right now. CNN's Rusty Dornin reporting in just the last hour that three more bodies were pulled from that mud slide. Also, another body recovered earlier this morning brings the death toll there to 10. We're going to hear from Rusty in just a few moments.

Also this morning, we talk with a woman who saw the mountain come crashing down. Her house just a couple away from the ones that got crashed. We'll hear her story.

HEMMER: Also, the Iraq elections less than three weeks away now. Women said to be playing a bigger role in that country's future. In a few minutes, we'll talk to a congresswoman who's giving those women a lesson in politics. The idea is to get 20 percent elected on the women's side in parliament in three weeks. We'll see if it happens.

Jack's talking about that, also, this morning, and more -- good morning.


Thank you, William.

Coming up in the "Cafferty File" in less than an hour, Wednesday, time for "Things People Say." That whacky conservative author, Anne Coulter, hits new lows in a newspaper interview. Wait until you hear what she's had to say.

A Chinese escort service comes up with a novel idea for bachelors.

And the prodigal son returns -- CNN's London correspondent Richard Quest will join us a bit later this morning. The last time he and I talked, it was about the preference of some British women for shopping over sex. Not exactly t highlight of my broadcasting career, but we'll try again with Richard in a little while.

HEMMER: All right, you're loaded.

Thank you, Jack.


HEMMER: We want to get to California straight away this morning.

The death toll there from that mud slide in La Conchita, California climbing again today. A developing story.

Straight to Rusty Dornin now with the latest there -- Rusty, hello again.

RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Bill, grim news this morning. Within the last hour, three more bodies were pulled from the rubble. We understand that those bodies were small in stature. That's all officials will say. We do know that three children were said to be missing in this landslide but they're not saying whether those bodies are those of the children. They're waiting for the coroner to identify them.

That brings the number just in the last few hours to four dead. The total, 10. Officials say that people can survive in what they call voids in these mudslides from anywhere from four or five, even to six days. But right now they're assessing the size of those air pockets to see if they're large enough for people to survive.


CHIEF BOB ROPER, VENTURA COUNTY FIRE DEPARTMENT: The further back we go in the pile, there's no voids because it's all dirt and rock. The front area of the pile is where the voids are and that's where the forward part of the houses just rolled like a snowball.

DORNIN: And then you, so you will be reassessing whether this is still a rescue operation later today?

ROPER: Correct. Yes. We go up and we talk to the rescuers firsthand, see exactly what they're in -- going through. And once we know that there is no more voids and we're not getting any sounds, then we'll start making the decisions to go into recovery mode.

(END VIDEO CLIP) DORNIN: We understand that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger will be making an aerial and a ground tour of the site about 12:30 Eastern time today. Also, the 13 that are still unaccounted for, they're not changing that number. And we'll see if that's going to change this morning -- Bill.

HEMMER: All right, Rusty Dornin with the grim news there in California.

Thanks, Rusty.

O'BRIEN: We are going to talk to an eyewitness in that mud slide who narrowly escaped with her life.

That's coming up in just a few minutes. That's right after we get to Kelly Wallace, who's got a look at the news this morning -- good morning, Kelly.


Good morning to you.

Good morning now again, everyone.

Now in the news, U.S. Marines coming onshore to help in Indonesia's tsunami recovery effort. Their efforts had been delayed because Indonesian officials objected to having armed U.S. troops on their country's soil. The Marines have now agreed to conduct those humanitarian missions unarmed.

In Iraq, a convoy attack has left at least three people dead. Iraqi police say unknown assailants set two trucks on fire southeast of Baghdad then fled with an undisclosed amount of money. At least three other people were injured in that attack. Officials say they have two suspects in custody.

News now about President Bush. He will be highlighting his new education plans today. In about two hours, the president speaks at a high school in Falls Church, Virginia. He is touting expansion of the No Child Left Behind law to high schools. And that is a measure designed to penalize schools with low achievement test scores. Some critics say the standards are too difficult to meet.

And finally in health news, Kraft Foods is moving to address concerns about childhood obesity. The nation's largest food company says it will begin phasing out advertisements for its less nutritious products to children under the age of 12. This as federal officials are set to release new dietary guidelines emphasizing more fruits, vegetables and whole grains. So obviously a good move by Kraft. Let's see if other companies follow suit.

HEMMER: Hopefully they will.


O'BRIEN: Yes. HEMMER: Thanks, Kelly.


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

Let's get right back to news on this mud slide.

Dena Hayess witnessed the mud slide.

She's in La Conchita this morning.

Dena, thanks so much for talking to us.

I know you must be very shaken up.

Give us a sense of what happened and where you were when you heard the mud slide start coming down.

DENA HAYESS, MUD SLIDE WITNESS: Well, I was -- I had been down around, on the freeway, because the freeway was about four feet deep in mud and there were floating cars. I had my camera and I was down looking at it, shooting it. And we went through the neighborhood and there were a few slides that went down the streets. And they were probably about two feet deep in mud and boulders. And the two guys that I was with, we were going to come back and shovel the dirt out because it started to build up. And that was on the back street.

So I walked home to get the shovel, noticed I had two phone calls, made the phone calls quickly and had I not, had I gone right back, I would have been right in front of the blast and had just walked past that...

O'BRIEN: The two gentlemen...

HAYESS: ... right when it happened.

O'BRIEN: The two guys who were with you, Dena, what's their status? Are they OK?

HAYESS: They're OK. The reason that I went ahead and made the phone calls was because he was taking pictures and he was going to e- mail them in. And so I thought oh, it's going to take him a little time. But I was standing on my porch on the phone when I felt the ground shaking. And I peeked around the corner and I saw the house sliding by. And I went, I said, "Oh my god! Oh my god!" and I, the phone went phsss. And it just went blank. So my poor friend was having a heart attack and -- because he heard it all. He heard the telephone poles snapping. The lines were coming in and the house was crunching and the wood cracking and it was really horrible.

O'BRIEN: He could hear it as you were talking to him on the phone?

HAYESS: On the phone. O'BRIEN: So what did you do? I mean we're looking at pictures of this slide as it comes down. It is remarkable. Did you run away for your life or did you run in?


O'BRIEN: Because obviously it was coming down on top of lots of houses where people were inside.

HAYESS: Yes. And I'm two houses over. So my backyard is completely fenced in. The only way to go was through the gate and toward the fence. So I stood there and watched and I didn't know what else was coming down on me. And I -- so then I ran out the gate and down the street. But there was nowhere else to go but toward the hill, actually, because we have an entire fence around it, our yard, because of the dog.

O'BRIEN: Were you well aware of the dangers of mudslides in this area, the history of the area?

HAYESS: It's funny you ask. I heard that -- I've heard a lot of different stories since this happened. But when I moved in, which was in April, I asked the local homeowners if they, you know, they had any problems insuring the places. They said no, no, not at all. What they told me was that there was a irrigation problem in Rincarn Ranch (ph), which is above, and that it had since been fixed.

So they weren't anticipating any slides and it was fine as long as nobody moved the existing structures that were crushed. And those were the toe of the last slide. So they had to just stay put. They built a wall where the steel pylons went 60 feet down into the ground. That got dwarfed over this. I mean it was -- no, I did not anticipate it at all. I would not have moved in over there at all, at all.

O'BRIEN: How are you holding up today?

HAYESS: I'm OK. I just heard there's some more people missing. The people that I know on a first name basis, nicknames -- because I haven't been here very long, so I know them by faces and as they come up. I know there are people shoveling along that road and it happened in, I would say, about five seconds it was just done.

And the other thing that was strange is when I saw the house going by, I didn't realize how big it was because I just couldn't see past the house that's sitting there. What I think happened is the mud just went underneath and just kept piling down underneath the structures, because I thought -- like the house was just across the street and then it's in the middle of the street. So -- and then I had no idea it went all the way down through town until I went down there.

O'BRIEN: Scary stuff to have to witness.

Dena Hayess joining us.

HAYESS: Yes. O'BRIEN: Thanks for your insight and for sharing your story with us.

HAYESS: Thanks.


O'BRIEN: Good luck to you.


Thank you.

O'BRIEN: And I know you've got some big losses in your community today to deal with, so we wish you all the best of luck.

HAYESS: Thanks, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Thank you.

We want to mention, you should be sure to catch a special edition of CNN's "NEWSNIGHT." The program is devoted to the topic of nature's extremes -- tsunamis and hurricanes and tornadoes and floods. Is the Earth trying to tell us something? That's tonight beginning at 10:00 p.m. Eastern time -- Bill.

HEMMER: A perfect topic for Chad Myers, back at the CNN Center -- Chad, good morning.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Definitely some teleconnection, Bill, between some of that, obviously maybe not the tsunami, of course, because that's a completely different event. But all this rainfall, we had the huge hurricanes coming in over this summer. You know, the jet stream is moving. The currents are moving a little bit.


HEMMER: If you can't beat them, lead them.

Howard Dean's presidential campaign just about a year ago collapsed in Iowa right around this time. Now, Governor Dean is running for Democratic National Committee chairman.

Howard Dean is my guest down in D.C.

Governor, welcome back.

Good morning to you.

HOWARD DEAN, CANDIDATE FOR DNC CHAIRMAN: Thanks for having me on, Bill.

HEMMER: Why do you want this job?

DEAN: I think the party needs to reach out into the grassroots. You know, we've done a good job getting ourselves financially solvent, but we're about 20 years behind the Republicans in terms of organization and in terms of message. And that's what we need to catch up on.

HEMMER: How many years did you say there?

DEAN: About 20. They have a deep infrastructure into the grassroots of all the states. They get involved in lower ballot races, secretary of states races, things like that. Those matter because unfortunately the Republicans believe that it's more important to make sure the Republicans are in power than it is to let democracy flourish. And they're, even their election officials now are, as we saw in Ohio, beginning to suppress votes and things like that.

We need to get into these lower ballot races in order to win. And that's one of the things I want to do as chairman.

HEMMER: Is that what Democrats can learn from this past election? Or is there more to it that Democrats can learn from Republicans?

DEAN: Oh, I think there's a lot, no, no, there's a lot we can, there's a lot we can learn. Messaging is very, very important. We did have a good organization. We did do the fundraising very, very well. But the Republicans outgunned us, particularly in the messaging area and in the get out the vote area. And we need that -- those are some areas that we need, I think, to improve on.

HEMMER: You might be familiar with Stu Rothenberg who writes for "Roll Call" down there in D.C. He said this about you and about this whole topic about the next head of the DNC. He says: "Critics of the Vermont doctor both inside and outside his own party portray him as a poor messenger for the Democrats. They argue that he is too liberal and would give the Republicans an easy target during the next two years."

Are you an easy target?

DEAN: Well, I'm not too worried about inside the beltway stuff. I think that's one of the problems that we have is that we pay too much attention to what goes on inside Washington. The truth is that most of America is very different than what goes on inside Washington. Most of America wants to hear clear messages. They want a clear direction.

You know, Newt Gingrich was the successful architect of getting rid of Democratic dominance after 40 years. He did it by differentiating his message, not by having the same message as we did. We need to take a little page -- I don't admire anything that Newt Gingrich believes in, but I do admire his discipline and his strategic ability. And we need to have a little strategic ability on our side.

HEMMER: Keep it focused on the Democrats for a second here.

By my count, what, six other candidates trying for this job. Is that number right?

DEAN: I think that's right.

HEMMER: OK. If that's the case, toot your own horn.

DEAN: Toot my...

HEMMER: Why should you get this job?

DEAN: Well, I have the ability to organize. I have a lot of support in the grassroots, which is where the real hard work gets done. And I understand that victories are won in the states and on the ground, not in Washington.

HEMMER: We'll follow it.

Howard Dean, thanks for your time this morning.

Looking to head up the DNC down there in Washington.

Nice to see you again.

Thanks for your time.

DEAN: Thanks, Bill.

HEMMER: All right.

O'BRIEN: Well, very quietly the U.S. ditches a key justification for the war in Iraq. Kamber and May take a closer look just ahead.

HEMMER: Also in a moment here, how do you translate American democracy for Iraqis? One group of candidates now getting a crash course in Politics 101.

O'BRIEN: And you might want to hold off on that hamburger. There could be a new reason to be afraid of red meat. We're "Paging Dr. Gupta" just ahead, as AMERICAN MORNING continues right here.

We're back in a moment.


O'BRIEN: Welcome back.

Jack's got a look at "The File" this morning -- hello.

CAFFERTY: Good morning.

Wednesday, time to take a look at "Things People Say," beginning with this. "I'm getting a little fed up with hearing about civilian casualties in Iraq. I think we ought to nuke North Korea right now just to give the rest of the world a warning." That from conservative author Anne Coulter in a "New York Observer" interview last week.

Can you bring that camera in here a little closer, please? It's so far away I can barely see it.

HEMMER: Do you need these?

CAFFERTY: Yes, no.


CAFFERTY: I guess not.

"Seriously, I think the rest of the countries in the Middle East, after Afghanistan and Iraq, are pretty much George Bush's bitch." Once again, Anne Coulter in a "New York Observer" interview last week.

Anne, try the decaf.

O'BRIEN: Oh my goodness.

CAFFERTY: Then there's this: "Honey, I never went anywhere and I feel I'm just as good as ever." That's Dolly Parton talking about being referred to as making a comeback.

"I'm deceptive. I can look like I'm chilling and be hauling. And I can look like I'm hauling and be chilling." Seattle Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander, who led the NFC in rushing with 1,696 yards, describing his running style.

"Stop the nagging, rent a girlfriend." This is a sign posted by an agency in China leasing ladies to bachelors who want to impress their families during the upcoming Chinese lunar new year, as in how come you don't have a girlfriend yet?

So, those are a few of the quotes from folks.

O'BRIEN: Yes, they're good.

HEMMER: Hey, I'm looking forward to seeing Richard Quest this hour, right?

CAFFERTY: I am, too. It's been a long --

HEMMER: The two of you guys are going to get reunited...

CAFFERTY: It's been a long time. It's, you know, well, we're going to talk. I don't know about reunited.

HEMMER: Thank you, Jack.

We want to get back to California. We will not leave that story for long. Blindsided again by the wicked winter weather. Rusty Dornin now reporting three more bodies discovered during that mud slide. That's in the southern part of the country. This is what's happening -- or state, rather -- in the northern part of California. What do the folks at "Farmer's Almanac" now say is coming next? We'll talk about it and they'll tell us, in a moment on AMERICAN MORNING.


O'BRIEN: A U.S. congressional delegation is just back from Amman, Jordan, where they went to train a group of Iraqi women in the art of running for and holding political office. The women are all candidates in the upcoming national elections.

Texas Representative Kay Granger is co-chairwoman of the Iraqi Women's Caucus.

And she joins us from Fort Worth to talk a little bit about her trip.

Nice to see you.

Thanks for being with us.


O'BRIEN: The candidates, as we mentioned, are all running in this upcoming national election.

You're trying to train them to do what, exactly?

GRANGER: Well, training is not necessarily why we were there. It's about just anything to encourage them, you know? Only 15 percent of the Congress, U.S. Congress is female. But in this election, every third name will be a woman's. And so we were there to meet with them, to encourage them and exchange information. These are some of the bravest women I have ever met because they're running for office under very, very adverse conditions.

And so we were there to lend our help.

O'BRIEN: Very dangerous conditions.

Did they express to you any fears about their own safety?

What did they say?

GRANGER: Absolutely. Their own personal safety and the safety of their families. They're also concerned about the safety of the voters. This is a very unusual situation where you're having an election while you're in combat. And so we talked about outreach. We talked about the things you do to campaign, but understanding that our situation is not theirs at all. We talked about the need for better outreach to make sure their voters knew what was going on, with the list and what composed the list.

But how they run and how they're elected and serve under those conditions, very intense conversations and meetings.

O'BRIEN: What were the primary questions that they had for you?

GRANGER: They had asked us a lot of questions about our background, how we got started, how we met with individualism, how we -- a question that many women often ask, how do you balance family and political life, family and careers.

But in their situation it was also how do we, as the women candidates, get the word to the administration that we want the best possible conditions. We want to make sure that as many people can vote as possible and have a legitimate election. And that's the word we carried back.

O'BRIEN: When you consider the dangers that they face, I mean, you know, far more than, I think it's fair to say, any politician faces here, obviously, in this country when they're running, why do they want to be politicians? Did they tell you sort of what was underneath make -- what was making them run?

GRANGER: Absolutely. And they don't want to be politicians. These are very well educated, very articulate, accomplished women who care about their country. Many of them have been out of the country. Some, I don't want to reveal anything that would put them in harm's way, but cannot go back to Iraq but are very supportive. They've been threatened individually, but they care -- the people that will be elected will write the constitution for their country. And so they want to be a part of that. They've been very politically active, very -- they all knew each other. They represented all the sects, political parties -- Sunnis, Shiites. They were all in that room and they care about what's going to happen to their country. They love Iraq and want -- are willing to risk their lives to be a part of this.

O'BRIEN: We don't have a ton of time, but I'm curious to know if you felt like you learned anything from them?

GRANGER: I learned more probably than they learned from me. I learned what real courage is.

O'BRIEN: Congresswoman Granger joining us, Republican from Texas.

Thank you very much.

We really appreciate the insight on that and we'll see, obviously, how things turn out in not too much time from now -- Bill.

HEMMER: Soledad, a break here.

In a moment, Howard Dean -- we just talked to him in D.C. -- coming back for more politics. And the Democrats, they did not want him a year ago. Why do they want him now? Kamber and May will duke that issue out and more when we come back here after this.



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