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Quake Toll Climbs; Videotaped Beating in New Orleans; Miers Under Fire

Aired October 10, 2005 - 09:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: From the CNN Broadcast Center in New York, this is AMERICAN MORNING with Soledad O'Brien and Miles O'Brien.
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. He is still there. Christopher Columbus immortalized in, what is it, concrete? No. It's probably marble there at Columbus Circle, which we're told is the geographic center of Manhattan.


O'BRIEN: So we're told. And the source on this is the chairman of our company...

COSTELLO: Well, we have to believe him.

O'BRIEN: ... Dick Parsons, and therefore we say it's true.

COSTELLO: Even if it's not.

O'BRIEN: It is true. Therefore, it is true.

COSTELLO: No, I'm sure it is.

O'BRIEN: Happy Columbus day to you, Mr. Parsons, and the rest.

COSTELLO: Absolutely.

I'm Carol Costello, in for Soledad this morning.

Also ahead, the backlash by conservatives against Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers. President Bush says, "Trust me." Some say not so fast. We'll talk about it with political analyst Ron Brownstein, who's coming up just ahead.

O'BRIEN: All right. Let's talk about that earthquake. Staggering numbers already, 30,000 and rising. That's how many people are believed dead from the earthquake in South Asia. Most of them in northern Pakistan.

Help is coming from all around the world, but real difficult issues with accessibility there. It's a real rugged country on a good day, and then you add to that the scenes of devastation that we have seen there.

CNN's Satinder Bindra has been there and has seen it firsthand. He just returned from a hard-hit part of Pakistan. He joins us on the line now from Islamabad.

Satinder, just tell us what you saw.

SATINDER BINDRA, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Miles, I went up to a place called Batgram, and I was quite surprised that on day three many people still hadn't received any help or relief. And these people were quite literally on a short fuse.

Imagine this, when you've lost your home, you've lost your business, you've lost your loved ones, and you're hungry, your tempers can snap. So in the region that I was, I was constantly being told by the locals that when the first -- you know, food arrived in the form of trucks. There were food drives.

Miles, I also visited a small village. The village was called Chapagram (ph), and this one village paints a picture of perhaps what's happening in the hardest-hit parts of Pakistan. In Chapagram (ph), 80 people were killed, but almost every home was completely flattened and destroyed.

Now, the village's residents, those people who survived, about 1,800 of them, they've been living out in the open because they fear another earthquake. Every single day there are aftershocks.

So these people have very little facilities. They don't have any tents, little blankets, no medication. And they're waiting desperately.

This morning, the Pakistani armed forces arrived in the region for a survey, and they were accompanied a Japanese rescue team. This Japanese rescue team got to work immediately, they started surveying this village. And their first priority will be to try to find survivors.

It's three days after the earthquake, Miles, but still good chances of finding people. If people have been buried near a damp area or a water source, that water source or the dampness will keep them alive. So rescue teams still hopeful that they can still pull out people alive -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: Satinder Bindra in Islamabad. Thank you very much -- Carol.

Oh, I'm sorry. I'll keep going.

President Bush quickly responded to the crisis in South Asia, pledging money, supplies and some military help for Pakistan.

Suzanne Malveaux is at the White House with more on that.

And Suzanne, I know, particularly in the wake of Katrina, but of course before that, the tsunami, the White House very sensitive to responding quickly.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, absolutely, Miles. And as you know, Pakistan really is this strategic, very important ally to the United States, specifically when it comes to the war on terror. The administration seeing this as an opportunity to show a predominantly Muslim country that in their time of need the United States is ready, willing and able to come to their assistance.

It was just yesterday President Bush was in the Oval Office, had an emergency meeting, was updated by Pakistani officials about what it was that they needed. He was on the phone with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, specifically offering aid.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: One of the biggest concerns for the government of Pakistan is not enough airlift capacity to get into some of the rural areas where people are suffering. So we're moving choppers.

Secretary Rumsfeld is surveying the assets that he may be able to move in the area. We're working with Pakistan at all levels of government.


MALVEAUX: And Miles, just to give you a sense of the initial contributions, the package the United States is talking about, we're talking about $50 million initially in reconstruction effort. We're also talking about eight choppers headed to the region, if not already there, a C-17 carrying blankets, water and other emergency supplies, as well as a seven-member team, an assessment team to figure out what Pakistan needs in the long term -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: Suzanne Malveaux at the White House. Thanks much -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Some disturbing videotape to show you. Three New Orleans police officers now facing battering charges after that videotape showed at least two of them beating a 64-year-old man who was accused of public intoxication. Again, the video is rather disturbing. So if your kids are in the room, maybe you want to chase them out for just a minute.

AMERICAN MORNING's Alina Cho now live in New Orleans. She has more details for us.

Good morning.

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Carol, good morning to you.

Police chief Warren Riley calls the tape of the incident "disturbing." We showed it to him last night, and he says, though it doesn't show the whole picture, it does make clear these officers did do something terribly wrong.


CHO (voice over): Two New Orleans police officers are seen here trying to make an arrest. The suspect, 64-year-old Robert Davis.

Moments later, an officer on horseback maneuvers in front of the AP photographer, blocking his view. Then a glimpse.

Davis sustains several blows to the head. His head also appears to hit the wall. Later, four men, two of them clearly identified as police, push Davis to the ground and place him in a headlock.

(on camera): Well, having seen the tape, what is your reaction?

CHIEF WARREN RILEY, NEW ORLEANS POLICE DEPT.: Well, to see this tape is -- it's troubling.

CHO (voice over): Police Chief Warren Riley says tapes of the incident don't show everything.

RILEY: What is obvious is that our obvious officers used more than the force necessary.

CHO: Including this: an officer who identifies himself as S.M. Smith pushes the AP producer, pinning him against a car. In a profanity-filled tirade, the officer says, "I've been here for six weeks trying to keep myself alive. Go home."

The aftermath was caught on tape by a CNN photographer. Davis' shirt is soaked with blood. As he tries to turn over, it becomes clear he has suffered head injuries.

The suspect, Robert Davis, has been freed. He'll appear in court this week on charges including public intoxication, battery on a police officer and resisting arrest. Three New Orleans police officers are suspended, charged with battery.

RILEY: A few bad cops. It happens everywhere.

CHO: Since Hurricane Katrina there have been many complaints about bad cops here, including looting by officers. One case involves a Cadillac dealership, where the owner said officers made of with some of his cars.

RILEY: We had units that lost their entire fleet due to the flood. And they did, in fact, commandeer some of those vehicles. We're not denying that.

CHO: The chief says the cars were used for patrols and, rescues and that these are trying times.

RILEY: Where 80 percent of the city was flooded, where 80 percent of its citizens are displaced, had to be evacuated, 80 percent of the police department also lost their homes. Certainly this is a unique situation, to say the very least.


CHO: The New Orleans police officers involved in this incident are white, the suspect is black, which raises the question, did race play a role in this? And Carol, the chief, Riley, says that he has no evidence to support that.

COSTELLO: A couple of questions for you. First of all, the suspect, how is he doing? Did he have to go to the hospital after that?

CHO: He did have to go to the hospital. If you noticed in the mug shot that we showed during the piece, his eye was swollen shut. You may not have been able to see that, but he has been released from the hospital, Carol. He is free, and he will appear in court on Wednesday.

COSTELLO: The other question has to do with the motive behind this alleged beating. Some might say stress played a factor in this. What does the chief say about that?

CHO: Well, certainly there's a lot of talk about that, Carol. I did mention that to the chief. I said, "Did stress play a role in this?" He said, "It's impossible to know."

Certainly it is a possibility when you consider this, 80 to 90 percent of the police officers lost everything. Many of them are separated from their families. They are certainly working long hours. Some of them are sleeping in their squad cars still. So you can understand that it could play a role, but the chief says that is still no excuse -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Alina Cho, live in New Orleans this morning.

Other news of the day now. Let's head to Atlanta and Betty Nguyen.

Good morning, Betty.

BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Carol.

"Now in the News," a new wave of attacks today in Iraq. At least a dozen are reported dead, including one American soldier. The attacks come less than a week before Iraqis are set to vote in a referendum on a new constitution.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is heading to Afghanistan today as part of her whirlwind tour of southern and central Asia. Rice is expected to encourage Afghan leaders to continue to make progress toward democracy.

Also topping the agenda, economic reforms and greater cooperation on antiterrorism measures. Rice is also scheduled to make stops in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan.

Germany's Angela Merkel says she is the country's new chancellor. Merkel says she and Gerhard Schroeder have reached a power-sharing agreement. That deal would end a three-week standoff and make her Germany's first female chancellor.

There she is.

The parliament still has to sign, though -- sign off on that deal to make it official.

And floodwaters here in the U.S., especially in eastern Pennsylvania, are starting to recede. The leftovers from Tropical Storm Tammy dumped 10 inches of rain in the area over the weekend. At least one traffic-related death is blamed on that weather.

And winter is coming early to much of Colorado. The southern part of the state is expected to get up to -- listen to this -- 20 inches of snow in the next 24 hours.

Let's check back in now with Chad with the latest on the snow that's already falling in October.


O'BRIEN: Chad, do you think the planet is angry?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It seems it, doesn't it?

O'BRIEN: It does.

MYERS: We go right from hurricanes to snowstorms.

MYERS: I mean, of course, it's nonsense, but, you know, it does make us wonder, doesn't it?

COSTELLO: It does.

O'BRIEN: We will pose that question to the science guy.


O'BRIEN: The other science guy.

COSTELLO: The other science guy, right.

O'BRIEN: Bill Nye, the science guy, will tell us what all this means, the recent natural disasters. It might have something to do with the fact that there are 6.5 billion of us, and when something happens, there's bound to be somebody nearby.

COSTELLO: That's true.

O'BRIEN: That would be my take on it.

COSTELLO: That's true, but this has been a crazy year, Miles.


COSTELLO: Anyway, we'll hear what Bill Nye has to say.

Also, harsh words for former President Bill Clinton. Wait until you hear what former FBI director Louie Freeh said about the scandals that plagued his old boss.

O'BRIEN: Yes. No such thing as a free ride, so to speak. And next, a look at whether President Bush's confidence backfired. You know there's a fine line between confidence and hubris. You know that, right?


O'BRIEN: Maybe, just maybe, did he go over that line? That's what some are asking in the wake of the Harriet Miers' nomination.

Stay with us for more AMERICAN MORNING.


COSTELLO: President Bush's faith in Harriet Miers doesn't seem to be enough for many of the Republican Party faithful. Conservatives are split. Some are even angry about her Supreme Court nomination.

CNN political analyst Ron Brownstein joins us live now from Washington.

Good morning, Ron.


COSTELLO: So in your -- in your column you attempt to psychoanalyze the president's pick. So what did you come up with?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, you know, I think the conventional wisdom is that the president made this -- among the critics, is that the president made this choice because he feared a fight with Democrats. The theory among conservatives is that he's facing a low approval rating, he's got a tough time with Katrina, high gas prices, a grueling war in Iraq, and he didn't want to put up a nominee with a known conservative record who would provoke a big fight, and therefore he made this decision out of weakness.

My own sense is it may be too much confidence rather than too little that motivated him.


BROWNSTEIN: Well, he may have felt that the Republican majority in the Senate was likely to follow him no matter who he picked, so that he could pick someone who really maxed out on the criteria that are traditionally very important to him, which are personal connection, personal trust, a kind of -- you know, that kind of very direct awareness, and really didn't offer much to anybody else in terms of what was important to them, a demonstrable record on the issues they care about.

So you have a situation where, in effect, the argument that's being made to conservatives is, If Harriet Miers is good enough for the president, she should be good enough for you. And what we're seeing is a lot of conservatives recoiling and saying, no, we want more. COSTELLO: Yes, it's sort of like President Bush thought, like, I am conservatism kind of thing, so trust me on this. But that doesn't seem to be enough.


COSTELLO: His closest advisers, I wanted to ask you this, because I know you've talked to some of them. The president's closest advisers, did he get advice from them before naming Ms. Miers?

BROWNSTEIN: You know, I don't have a full -- I don't think anybody has a fully clear picture of exactly what happened inside the White House, but you certainly get whispers that there were concerns raised even at the staff level.

You know, they like to do things -- the president likes surprises. We know that from his entire political career. And it's not clear how widely he consulted on this. But I think there are indications that even some in his immediate orbit suggested that this might not be the best move.

COSTELLO: OK. Well, let's talk more about some in his immediate orbit, because Karl Rove, there's word, what, today, that he was calling conservatives, kind of like talking up Harriet Miers. In fact, he called James Dobson of the Focus on Family. This is an excerpt from Dobson's radio show.


DR. JAMES DOBSON, RADIO HOST: When you know some of the things that I know, that I probably shouldn't know, that take me in this direction, you will understand why I have said, with fear and trepidation, why I have said that I believe Harriet Miers will be a good justice.


COSTELLO: So what did Karl Rove say? Did he say, hey, James, Harriet Miers opposes abortion, don't worry?

BROWNSTEIN: Yes, or he may have simply said, look, you know, she's a conservative. The president says she's a conservative, she is. It may be no more than that.

This is really the problem of the tightrope they are on after this conservative backlash. On the one hand, they want to reassure conservatives and try to find ways to say, yes, she is one of you. On the other hand, they don't want to sort of frighten away the middle or give Democrats a reason to oppose her around the grounds that there's some hidden agenda here.

And I think it's a very, very difficult line, as this demonstrates. And now the Senate Judiciary Committee is talking about bringing Dobson to testify. And maybe we will find out what, if anything, he was promised.

COSTELLO: That would be so fascinating, wouldn't it?

Ron Brownstein. Thanks for joining us this morning.

BROWNSTEIN: Thank you, Carol.

O'BRIEN: Still to come on the program, a familiar refrain in Katrina's aftermath. FEMA under fire. And this time the issue is identifying the bodies.

We'll ask someone from Louisiana who should know why it's taking so long and why he is frustrated. That's next on AMERICAN MORNING.


O'BRIEN: Yes, I'm not from New Orleans, but when I die I'd like a New Orleans funeral. Can you get one even if you're not from New Orleans? Can...

COSTELLO: Why not?

O'BRIEN: Kim Bondy, executive producer, a New Orleans resident, says she'd get me one. Good.

And can I be there, too? Oh, that's something you can't help me with.

Anyway, the first traditional jazz funeral procession since disaster struck occurred over the weekend. The parade of musicians honoring New Orleans chef Austin Leslie.

Now, some of you might recall a 1980s TV show called "Frank's Place." I didn't recall it. Of course Kim did. The series was inspired by a soul food restaurant Leslie once read. Leslie died last month in Atlanta, where he had gone after being rescued from the flooding.

Did I say the name of the series?

COSTELLO: "Frank's Place."

O'BRIEN: "Frank's Place." "Frank's Place," one season, well remembered by some. Austin Leslie remembered by many over the weekend.

Well, the grim task of identifying bodies in Louisiana goes on, but at a very slow pace. Federal bureaucracy once again is the focus.

Dr. Louis Cataldie is the Louisiana emergency medical response director. He joins us from New Orleans.

Good to have you with us, Dr. Cataldie.


O'BRIEN: Let's talk about what is going on there. Let's talk about the numbers for just a moment. The numbers are kind of striking, 988 known dead in New Orleans.

CATALDIE: Actually, it's...

O'BRIEN: Is it a different number now?

CATALDIE: Actually, it's 1,021, sir.

O'BRIEN: OK. Well, you've got the latest numbers then. How many have you identified?

CATALDIE: Well, let me just give you the categories in which we're using our identification process. We have 93 people who have been released. Currently, I have 121 people that I can release, but I'm having some difficulties there.


O'BRIEN: When you say can't -- I'm sorry, help us understand. When you say release, that means it's been identified and family members can retrieve the remains? Is that what you're saying?

CATALDIE: Yes. So that means the individual has gone through the entire identification process...


CATALDIE: ... we've decided that the identity is correct, any autopsies have been performed. But my difficulties are in our callbacks, in which we're trying to locate family members who have lost loved ones. We're getting about a 40 percent inability to contact those folks.

O'BRIEN: OK. That's a big number. So 121...

CATALDIE: That's a giant number.

O'BRIEN: ... out of a thousand. Mississippi, where it is an entirely different situation, but I'd like to go through the differences, 221 known victims of Katrina, 196 have been identified. Why the big disparity there?

CATALDIE: Oh, I don't know why the disparity. I can just tell you the difficulties on our end. I'm really not familiar with what's going on in Mississippi. I'm familiar with what's going on with my people.

Unfortunately, the condition in which we're finding our individuals essentially eliminates any chance of a visual identification because of the condition in which they've been for so long out there in the water and in their houses and in that horrible muck that we're having to wade through. Another problem is that many, many of our cases, in conjunction with the attorney general, are possible crime scenes.

We are actually autopsying every person who was in a nursing home or every person who was in a hospital, who was recovering from the hospital, not just in a hospital. And unfortunately, some of those things are...

O'BRIEN: I'm sorry, when you say -- so you are talking about the nursing homes where there are criminal charges. Is that what you're saying?

CATALDIE: We are talking actually about all nursing homes. If a person was left in a nursing home...

O'BRIEN: I see.

CATALDIE: ... and died in that nursing home, the attorney general is considering that a possible crime scene.

O'BRIEN: Understand. And that obviously slows things down. All right.

And what else are factors that you have been contending with that have slowed the process?

CATALDIE: The process of identity?

O'BRIEN: Yes, sir.

CATALDIE: Well, one of the most frustrating things, of course, is that our computers weren't talking to each other. And when I say that, I'm talking about the computers at the family assistance center and the computers over at the actual de-mort (ph) center on site at the morgue. Very frustrating. And as soon as we...

O'BRIEN: Why were they not -- why were they not talking?

CATALDIE: ... got them talking to each other -- I'm not sure why they weren't talking. I'm not a computer whiz.


CATALDIE: I know that they were having difficulties running the lines. I know that we got some of our people in to help that process, and the process is now on board.


O'BRIEN: So is it fixed? The computers are fixed now, Dr. Cataldie?

CATALDIE: Yes, sir, they are.

O'BRIEN: OK. All right. Good.

CATALDIE: And as soon as I got them fixed, I was able to identify a person who had a pacemaker. We were able to go in and get that pacemaker, get that serial number, and get that person back to their loved ones. So it's just very beneficial now that they're talking.

O'BRIEN: Yes. Good. What other problems have you had to contend with?

CATALDIE: Well, there was Hurricane Rita in the middle of it all, of course. And down came the power lines out at the morgue. And of course that delayed us some. There's no doubt about that. And we were delayed initially, of course, in getting out there to retrieve our people. That was a very frustrating time for all of us.

O'BRIEN: Well, the one thing that comes up, and we've seen this reported several times, is that you were only able to work until 11:30 in the morning? Why is that?

CATALDIE: Actually, that's been corrected. And let me tell you, the morgue operation is run 24 hours a day, seven days a week if the numbers are there or the people need to be processed through that. I think what you were hearing was that when the morgue shut down, they asked everyone to leave, including our pathologist, but that's been corrected.

O'BRIEN: So why did they all leave at 11:30? I don't -- what was the reason for closing that early?

CATALDIE: Because there were no more people to process. De-mort (ph) process is totally different from the forensic process that we have to deal with as a parish and as a state. The de-mort (ph) process is primarily linked for identification, but if there's a situation in which forensics -- or there's a possible crime scene, at that point in time we step in, Orleans Parish, St. Bernard Parish, or whatever parish is there, with Dr. Minyard and his pathologists, and that becomes our process.

O'BRIEN: All right. Final thought here. Do you have any sense as to when you'll identify all of those who remain to be identified?

CATALDIE: You know -- and my heart goes out to the folks here locally, because I don't have that answer. I have 300 individuals right now in the morgue at St. Gabriel, and we have absolutely no identification on them.

These are people who don't have any identifying factors, to our knowledge. So I've got to encourage people who are missing folks locally, please use the family assistance center, please give me some information. And if you know folks who have been displaced, I've got 40 percent of a hundred, 40 people I can return to families right now, but I can't find the family members. And I know that's got to be really hurting a lot of our local people.

O'BRIEN: Is there a phone number we can give out, or that they should call?

CATALDIE: Yes, sir. The family assistance center should be able to help you with that.


CATALDIE: 866-326-9393. I think we have the number. O'BRIEN: OK.

CATALDIE: You know, again, please help us identify these people.

O'BRIEN: All right. We'll put that number on the screen a little later to remind folks, 966-326-9393.

CATALDIE: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Dr. Louis Cataldie, good luck with your efforts there. Thank you.

We'll be back with more in just a moment.



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