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AMERICAN MORNING

Terri Schiavo Saga; The Pope's Health; Crucial Jackson Ruling

Aired March 28, 2005 - 8:59   ET

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


BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. A new plan of attack today for those trying to keep Terri Schiavo alive.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are going to Washington, D.C. to say to Speaker Hastert, enforce the order.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HEMMER: Also this morning, another sign of the pope's frail health. Why some in the Vatican say John Paul is stronger than he looks.

And when the guns are silent, the real life of U.S. troops in Iraq. The pictures that tell a thousand stories on this AMERICAN MORNING.

In Pinellas Park, Florida, Brother Paul O'Donnell, a spokesperson on behalf of the family, now at the microphone. We will listen now.

BROTHER PAUL O'DONNELL, SPOKESPERSON FOR SCHINDLER FAMILY: And Sherry was sharing stories of the times that they had together. And Terri Schiavo raised her hands up and was moving and started making guttural sounds like she does when she talks to her mother. Everyone is willing to write this woman's obituary except one person, and that's Terri Schiavo herself.

She's alert. She's awake. And she's fighting for her life.

Bob and Mary Schindler are begging, begging Governor Bush to step in and take custody of Terri. We have heard that he has the legal authority. We know that there are people in a position of authority contacting him from all over the United States encouraging him to do so.

The Schindlers want their voice to be heard. I know the governor, as myself, is in a position we never expected to be in. But the fact of the matter is, we are. And Terri Schiavo is fighting for her life.

We are begging the governor to step in, to be a man of courage and to take action to put an end to this barbaric practice that's taking place in Florida. Florida, in a state where a man is going to jail for starving animals, is killing legally this human being by court order. Mary Schindler, the strong, stoic, Italian mother, can't even bear to go in the room anymore to see her daughter. You see the Mary out here. I see Mary in the privacy of her home when I'm praying with her, when she is collapsing in tears, not understanding how this could be happening to her daughter in the United States of America.

How can people be so mean? How can people be so cruel? This is a mother's worst nightmare. And we're begging, Governor, do something today, now.

Don't join the cultural death and be writing this woman's obituary. She is alive. She is waiting. And we're urgently asking for your assistance. And free her, free her from her captivity.

Thank you.

HEMMER: Reverend Paul O'Donnell's a spokesperson for the family. We've seen him have that microphone off and on for the past 10 days running now. He is relaying a story from a friend who apparently was with Terri Schiavo recently, describing her as moving her arms and making guttural sounds. This as she has been now without water or nourishment for 10 days.

Back to Bob Franken, outside the hospice in Pinellas Park.

There is a movement in Florida still under way there, Bob, clearly, with the activists outside of that hospice. But also there is this move back up to Washington, D.C. Explain that end of the story to our viewers now.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, in the context of the news conference that we just held, which was really just a statement, the family is determined to not leave an impression that this is hopeless. They insist that if action was taken to reconnect the tube that Terri Schiavo's life could be saved.

As far as the action is concerned, they keep on putting pressure on Governor Jeb Bush, making the legal argument that he has executive powers that trump the court orders forbidding any sort of custody- taking, that type of thing. In effect, what they're saying is that Governor Bush should defy the courts. And as we heard in an exclusive interview on CNN yesterday, he says he does not have that power.

In Washington, they returned to Congress to say, in effect, put your principles where your politics were. Last week we heard of various committees up there issuing subpoenas requiring the presence of Terri Schiavo at hearings. Those hearings have been postponed.

They're going back to Washington to say, enforce those subpoenas, making the argument that the congressional subpoenas would overwhelm the court orders here. This is all very, very debatable legally. But the family is saying they cannot give up the fight. They're going to fight in any avenue they can -- Bill.

HEMMER: Bob, you've been there since the beginning. Give us a sense for that area in Florida, the community around it. How are they dealing now with the security we've seen and also the protesters who have been there almost around the clock lately?

FRANKEN: Well, the protests ebb and flow in terms of intensity. And the police have tried to maintain as cordial a presence as possible. But when the protesters step literally across the line, that is to say, the line of the property, and refuse to step back, they are arrested. And we've witnessed any number of those arrests, sometimes live on CNN.

As for the community, this is in the Tampa Bay area, not far from St. Petersburg. It is an area of mixed economics. But just down the street from us there is a school. We're talking about maybe a hundred yards from this hospice.

The school board decided that rather than take chances with the huge traffic problems here and with all that's going on, they decided to send the children, who are returning from the Easter break, to there other schools in the district. So that's what's happening. The community is having to cope with the very, very unusual, unprecedented for this community media onslaught and, of course, a story that has focused attention all over the world.

HEMMER: Bob Franken, Pinellas Park. Bob, thanks for that.

Back here in New York now, to the headlines. And Kelly Wallace has news from Iraq that starts our segment now.

Good morning.

KELLY WALLACE, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Bill. And good morning again to all of you.

"Now in the News," we begin with insurgents targeting Iraqi security forces this morning. At least three people were killed and five others wounded in the latest attacks. Meantime, Iraqi security forces captured more than 90 terror suspects south of Baghdad.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is set to show what the United States is doing to support human rights. Within the hour, Secretary Rice will release a report from the State Department. It addresses human rights abuses around the world, as well as U.S. efforts to promote democracy in 98 countries around the world.

And the two-member crew of the International Space Station back indoors after an early morning maintenance walk. The astronauts installed antennas and released an experimental satellite. These are new pictures in to CNN this morning. A fresh crew is set to arrive at the space station next month.

That gets you caught up. Back to Carol and Bill.

HEMMER: All right, Kelly. Thanks.

From Rome today, Pope John Paul II has missed another ceremony. Thousands had gathered this morning in St. Peters Square, hoping he would appear for the traditional Easter Monday blessing. But there was no sign of the pope today. He did appear Sunday, yesterday, for Easter mass, tried to talk but could not. Nonetheless, the crowd was moved by his pained efforts to greet them.

Our Vatican analyst is John Allen. He's back with us today from Rome.

And John, what do you -- or as best as you can report, what is the condition of Pope John Paul II?

JOHN ALLEN, CNN VATICAN ANALYST: Well, Bill, you know, the truth is that the Vatican, at least officially, is not giving us anything to go on. There has not been a medical bulletin since March 13, when the pope returned from the Gemelli hospital.

Unofficially, we understand that his recovery has not been as swift or as complete, obviously, as the doctors had hoped. We do, of course, have these five public appearances which are a somewhat reliable gauge. And what we can deduce from that is that the pope is continuing to experience rather severe vocal problems.

Obviously yesterday there was that agonizing moment with the microphone in front of him when he tried to speak and just wasn't able to do it. On the other hand, it should be said that yesterdays appearance, a little over 12 minutes, was by far his longest in recent weeks. And he did seem fairly composed, certainly seemed engaged with what was going on. At one stage he was following the reading of his message as a senior Vatican cardinal read it out to the crowd.

I spoke to a Vatican official just a short time ago who said the pope continues to be basically stable. Obviously they're keeping a very close watch on him. But they would stress that there is no atmosphere of imminent crisis. And I think that's about all we can say -- Bill.

HEMMER: Yes. You also spoke with a number of people who had gathered there in St. Peters Square. What was their reaction to the appearance yesterday?

ALLEN: Well, I think on the one hand, there was great joy and a certain degree of reassurance at seeing the pope at the window and for such a long period of time. On the other hand, you know, there were also many people in tears who, I think, were feeling very emotionally the pope's own frustration, his own inability to communicate. And obviously sorrow at the sense that this is a man who obviously is suffering a great deal and, largely, Bill, speaking these days through his silence.

HEMMER: John Allen, our Vatican analyst, watching things from Rome. Thank you, John. Well speak again.

Here's Carol.

ALLEN: Sure, Bill.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Michael Jackson's child molestation trial resumes this morning with the judge set to decide on an issue that could go a long way toward determining Jackson's fate. More now from CNN's Ted Rowlands.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Michael! Michael! Michael!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Michael! Michael! Michael!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Michael! Michael! Michael!

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In what some say could be the biggest day of the trial thus far, Michael Jackson could find out whether past sexual abuse allegations will be allowed in. Jackson was accused, but never charged, with allegations of abuse in 1993 and '94.

JIM MORET, POOL REPORTER: It's, I believe, do or die for both sides. The material is so potentially prejudicial that even if the groundwork isn't laid sufficiently for this case, if those jurors believe the prior allegations, they may feel Michael Jackson's done this before, he's got to pay now.

MICHAEL JACKSON, ACCUSED OF CHILD MOLESTATION: I'm totally innocent. And it's just very painful.

ROWLANDS: Over the weekend, Michael Jackson was a guest on Jesse Jackson's radio show, discussing a number of things, including the reason he showed up to court in his pajamas.

JACKSON: I was coming out of the shower, and I fell and all my body weight -- I mean, I'm pretty fragile -- all my body weight fell against my rib cage and I pretty much, I bruised my lung very badly. My lung is on the right. It's very much -- I'm in pain as we speak.

ROWLANDS: Jackson said the pain from his fall is why he was crying one day in court, not the testimony. Jackson also said that news that he may be broke is completely false, and that he finds strength in other African-American who he says have been persecuted.

JACKSON: This has been kind of a pattern among black luminaries in this country. I'm handling it by using other people in the past who have gone through this sort of thing. Mandela's story has given me a lot of strength, what he's gone through.

ROWLANDS: Last week in court, a fingerprint expert testified that he found prints from Jackson, the teenage accuser, and the accuser's brother on sexually explicit magazines seized from Jackson's Neverland Ranch. In one instance, a print of Jackson and a print from the accuser was found in this same magazine, but on different pages.

Prosecutors say they plan to call comedian George Lopez as one of their next witnesses. Lopez, who's one of a handful of celebrities that knew and helped raise money from the alleged victim who suffered from cancer.

Ted Rowlands, CNN, Santa Maria, California.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO: We shouldn't have to wait long. A ruling could come as soon as today. The judge has set aside today's first court session to hear arguments. And he says he will decide quickly.

Some legal analysts say he has likely already made up his mind. So it really is a matter of hours now.

HEMMER: Yes. Back to this storm system now.

Dangerous weather expected to move up the East Coast today, working its way across the southeastern U.S. over the weekend, with thunderstorms in Florida, up to the Carolinas. Parts of Georgia pelted Sunday with hail and winds strong enough to blow down trees.

Rains still causing flooding in Atlanta today. The airport's been delayed there. The streets look more like rivers in some areas. And rivers across the state are overflowing.

In Alabama, further west, flash flooding caused major problems on roads and highways there. It is a monster of a system.

Back to Chad, watching this.

(WEATHER REPORT)

COSTELLO: Well, let's talk basketball, because it was so exciting over the weekend. It's going to get hot in St. Louis after a weekend of March Madness thrillers.

Illinois and Louisville, North Carolina and Michigan State will face off in the final four. Three of the four NCAA regional finals went into overtime. And in last night's Kentucky-Michigan State game, double overtime.

This heart-stopping last-second Kentucky three-pointer -- oh! Forced the OT, but it was not enough to stop the Michigan State Spartans, who managed to pull off a 94-88 win. And the players for Michigan said they didn't care it went into overtime. They weren't even thinking about. That they just wanted to win.

HEMMER: Yes. And they did.

COSTELLO: They did.

HEMMER: It should be a good weekend, too. All of these games have come right down to the very end. Who do you like, by the way?

COSTELLO: I don't know. I like Louisville.

HEMMER: Yes? All right.

COSTELLO: For no apparent reason but I just like Louisville.

HEMMER: I'll take Illinois.

COSTELLO: OK.

HEMMER: Which is no stretch because they've been number one all year long. So coming up this weekend in St. Louis.

In a moment here, a scary new health risk for children at petting zoos. How a potentially deadly bacteria may have been passed on from animals to kids. And what parents need to know in a moment.

COSTELLO: And photos from the front. An incredible perspective on the war in Iraq captured by the troops fighting it. A closer look at a unique tribute just ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: Health inspectors -- health inspectors are checking petting zoos at two Florida fairs to see if that's where 15 people picked up a dangerous infection. Eleven children are among those who have been treated for kidney failure. Four of them are in critical condition this morning.

One farm that provided animals to both fairs belongs to Tom Umiker. He's live in Tampa this morning.

Good morning, Tom.

TOM UMIKER, OWNER, ADVENTURE FARM SHOWS INC.: Good morning, Carol. How are you this morning?

COSTELLO: I'm fine. Is it possible that your animals caused these kids to get sick?

UMIKER: Carol, it's entirely possible it was our animals, of course, and that's what the inspectors are doing now to -- trying to narrow down the source of the infection. Of course there are numerous other animals at the fairs as well, and numerous other sources besides animals that could be a source for this E. Coli infestation.

COSTELLO: The Florida Agriculture Department, you said, is running tests right now. What kind of tests are they doing?

UMIKER: Basically, we took a fecal sample from each of the animals that was present at the fair, and that will be cultured for the 0157 E. Coli bacteria. And then at that point they will test that that -- those results to see.

We know that it will be present. Is it present in most of the animals. It's something that in a ruminant animal naturally occurs. Now we need to see if we can narrow the strain down as to the exact carrier.

COSTELLO: We have this statement from Florida's agriculture commissioner, Charles Bronson. He says, "E. Coli bacteria is not uncommon in any farm animals. And the real key to preventing human illness is to wash hands or use hand sanitizers. E. Coli occurs naturally in the environment, and animals can have the bacteria in their system and then quickly eliminate it through their waste. It is impractical to require testing on a regular basis."

So does that mean your animals aren't regularly tested?

UMIKER: Well, E. Coli testing, they're not. His statement is entirely accurate. It can be here today and gone tomorrow, or vice versa.

Of course, all of our animals are subject to USDA requirements, as are all of the permanent petting zoo-type facilities in municipal zoos or research facilities. We come under the same guidelines.

Our animal testing that we are required to do is going to vary from state to state and is going to focus primarily on animal-borne diseases that may also inhibit humans. But E. Coli, unfortunately, is a very tough pathogen, it's not visible to the naked eye. This particular strain has been know to be in existence since the early '80s. And so we're dealing with a real tough -- a tough specimen here.

COSTELLO: And I'm trying to figure it out because, you know, I grew up on a farm, I was around cows and horses and chickens and cats and dogs for many years. You know, I never got E. Coli.

So what kinds of conditions must animals be kept in to be able to pass this along to humans?

UMIKER: Well, the basic factor is cleanliness. And that goes back to good personal hygiene as well. We recommend hand sanitation. I think the commissioner was -- very important that point he made. And also, it affects the young people and the elderly in the population.

So if you're a parent, don't be afraid to take them to visit the animals, but be ever cautious about those that may pick up things, pacifiers, their bottle, their stroller. Be very careful about that in those animal areas, and I think that the safety factor will be there.

But hand sanitation, personal hygiene is a key to this. And, of course, we do our part on our end by keeping the areas clean as we possibly can from animal fecal matter.

COSTELLO: And Tom, it's great that you're appearing on our broadcast this morning. What would you like to say to the kids in the hospital, to their parents this morning?

UMIKER: Well, our heart goes out to all of the families, certainly. And we hope everything comes to a complete resolution here and we identify this.

Our animals are in no way necessarily the carrier, but believe me, we are doing everything we can on our end to determine if they are, or if some other variant at the fair was the source. And it's entirely possible now, as we've gone through about six days of this, that the search has broadened beyond animals and to other animals. And we'll continue to do this.

But I would encourage young people, the parents, to, one, when they go to a petting zoo, a municipal zoo or a mobile petting zoo at a fair, watch those young children. Use good personal hygiene, and be safe. And our hearts do go out to those families right now.

COSTELLO: Tom Umiker, thanks for joining AMERICAN MORNING this morning.

UMIKER: Thank you, Carol.

HEMMER: About 22 minutes past the hour now. A break here in a moment. A new perspective on the Iraq war. Photos taken from a very unique viewpoint. Two of the soldiers responsible are our guests here this hour on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HEMMER: Here is Jack, heading to Arizona today for the "Question of the Day."

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Bill.

Despite all of the talk of homeland security since September 11, the fact is our borders leak like a sieve. The federal government has done nothing, nothing to fix the problem, except appropriate a lot of money to fund something called the Department of Homeland Security. But a million people a year still come over the border, a lot of them no questions asked.

So some private citizens are going to try to help. "TIME" magazine reports a vigilante group called the Minuteman Project is going to place volunteers at quarter-mile intervals along a 50-mile stretch of the Arizona-Mexican border during the entire month of April. Their purpose is not to confront migrants, but to monitor and report the migrants' locations to the U.S. Border Patrol.

Now, the question is this, should groups like this be allowed to patrol U.S. borders?

Mark in Illinois writes, "If the vigilantes help prevent hard- working Mexicans from entering the country, the rich will have to pay honest wages to get their grunt work done. Then the government will have to take action by giving the rich another tax cut in order to make up the difference."

Jimmy in Mississippi writes, "I travel to Laredo, Texas, almost weekly. Last week, I saw two Border Patrol police asleep in their truck, while about a hundred yards in front of them I saw Mexicans crawling over the fence."

Herb in Alabama writes, "Yes, U.S. citizens should be allowed to patrol the U.S.-Mexican border. I'm tired of our politicians pandering to Hispanic interests that favor open borders. It will probably take an attack by border-crossing terrorists to bring about a change in this shameful policy." And finally, Allen in Tennessee writes this: "Wouldn't we all sleep better at night knowing that a bunch of gun-toting, camouflage- wearing, marginally-employed wannabes were protecting our borders from the invasion of masons, landscape workers and food service employees?"

(LAUGHTER)

HEMMER: Allen nailed it, didn't he?

CAFFERTY: Well, I don't know.

HEMMER: All right. One more batch of these.

COSTELLO: I really liked that one.

CAFFERTY: I can tell.

COSTELLO: Well, I'm just afraid because they could carry guns.

CAFFERTY: Who could carry guns?

COSTELLO: These vigilante minutemen.

CAFFERTY: Anybody can carry guns in Arizona. The West has a little different attitude than the rest of the country.

(CROSSTALK)

COSTELLO: Well, I'm from rural America. I totally get that. But...

CAFFERTY: And the murder rate out there is probably less than it is in a lot of these big cities back here, too.

HEMMER: Ooh.

COSTELLO: It's less populated.

CAFFERTY: What?

COSTELLO: It's less populated.

CAFFERTY: No, no. I mean per capita, I mean killings per capita. Yes.

You should be on, Costello. I mean, with a name like Costello...

COSTELLO: Maybe I am right now.

HEMMER: Get a break here. Much more of AMERICAN MORNING right after the break here.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HEMMER (voice-over): Ahead on "90-Second Pop," it's official. Jennifer Aniston filing for divorce. How will Brad and Jen split their multimillion-dollar empire?

Plus, he conquered the music biz, then the fashion world. And P. Diddy now gets a whole new gig. We'll explain in "90-Second Pop."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)


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