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More Violence In Iraq; Star Pitcher's Arrest; Five in '05

Aired December 28, 2005 - 07:30   ET


ANNOUNCER: You're watching AMERICAN MORNING with Soledad O'Brien and Miles O'Brien.
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Boy, they make nice newsstands here in New York City, don't they? Isn't that a nice place to buy a paper.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: It certainly is and it's a beautiful day to do it. It's going to be great here in New York City, but in other parts of the country, it was nasty.

O'BRIEN: Yes, and we're sorry to tell you that.

COSTELLO: We are sorry to tell you that.

O'BRIEN: We're going to enjoy today ourselves. We're not gloating or anything.

COSTELLO: Oh, no, not at all.

It's 7:30 Eastern. Welcome to AMERICAN MORNING. Right to the headlines now.

We have a developing story to tell you about. Firefighters keeping a close eye on smoldering grass fires in Texas and Oklahoma. The fires raced across the plains Tuesday, devouring homes and other structures. At least one woman was killed in Texas. Dry, windy conditions fueled the fast-moving fires. In Oklahoma, they're hoping the winds will die down so they can use water dumping helicopters today.

One week after leaving New Yorkers out in the cold, the city's transit workers are set to vote on a new contract. The new deal drops managements demands for higher pension contributions but makes workers kick in a bit more to health care and gives workers steady raises over the next three years. The union's executive board approved the proposal overnight.

In the Middle East, it's Israeli's deepest strike into Lebanon in more than a year. Israeli war planes blasted a Palestinian militant base near Beirut early this morning. The attack left behind damaged buildings and piles of rubble. It comes hours after rockets fired from Lebanese hit a northern Israeli town. Israel says the Lebanese government has done nothing to crack down on militant groups. No immediate reaction from Lebanon.

There is more evidence that Vitamin D does a body good. Scientists at the University of California say high doses of Vitamin D could cut your risk of developing breast, ovarian or colon cancer by as much as 50 percent. Now this is just preliminary research. More testing needs to be done. Details appear in "The American Journal of Public Health."

And it looks like 2006 will be the end of "Harry Potter." Author J.K. Rowling says she will start writing the seventh and final "Harry Potter" book next month. Rowling admits feeling both excitement and dread for the close of the series, saying she cannot imagine her life without Harry.

Let's head to the forecast center to check on that nasty weather in parts of the country.

Good morning, Jacqui.


O'BRIEN: To Iraq now and more violence to tell you about there. A colonel with the interior ministry attacked and killed. Another Iraqi regional official attacked. He escaped. And in northern Baghdad, a prison disturbance there. Four prisoners, four guards are dead. CNN's Arwa Damon is in Baghdad. She's following all this for us.

Hello, Arwa.

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Miles, that's right, an interesting development here this morning. A prison break leaving at least nine killed and about six wounded, including one U.S. soldier.

Now the Iraqi ministry of interior, a senior official there, tells us that about 6:00 in the morning some 20 detainees at this facility that houses both Iraqis and foreign nationals were out on their morning exercise. One of them attacks a guard, steals his AK- 47. The prisoners and the guards start attacking each other. A firefight breaks out. Four prisoners are killed, four guards are killed as well and another two prisoners are wounded.

Now the U.S. military issued a press statement saying that these detainees, in fact, stormed the armory, stealing the weapons from there and then attacked the guards. Now in that firefight, the U.S. military saying in addition to the other casualties, one U.S. soldier was wounded and one interpreter was killed as well.

Now as often is the case when we get initial details on the stories, it's kind of hard to piece together what's really happened. And we've spoken to both parties on both sides trying to piece this altogether and they say that the incidence are still under investigation.


O'BRIEN: Arwa, you know, we don't often hear about suicide bombing plots being kind of nipped in the bud, but that happened yesterday after a wild car chase. Tell us about it.

DAMON: Yes, that's another interesting story that kind of illustrates the sort of things that happen here on a daily level. What happened yesterday was a vehicle approached a U.S. military checkpoint in Baqubah. Now that's north of Baghdad. The U.S. military stopped it. As they were searching it, they found it to be suspicious, determined that it was going to be used to be a vehicle- borne improvised explosive device. Basically a car bomb. And now they say they didn't find any explosives inside the vehicle but that it was rigged. The wiring was rigged for it to detonate.

Now later on that same day, nearby at a nearby checkpoint, the same military unit, in fact, had a second vehicle approach them, tried to blast through the checkpoint. As that happened, the U.S. soldiers fired on it hitting the gas tank. The car then turns around, speeds away. The U.S. soldiers chase it. Finally it comes to a stop. Three men with AK-47s jump out, start firing. U.S. forces fire back. They kill one of the insurgent. The other two run away.

Soldiers that we spoke to that were involved in this tell us that the chase happened through the town, up and down alleyways. Another firefight breaks out. One of the insurgents get away but one is wounded. And as U.S. forces are surrounding him, they realize that he has a suicide vest strapped to himself and is actually going for the trigger to try to detonate. Now he is unsuccessful. They secure the area. Explosive ordinance disposal arrives, removes the vest from him, which they found to contained about three pounds of C-4.


O'BRIEN: Wow, C-4, of course, being a plastic explosive. Unbelievable. A gripping story. Arwa Damon, thank you very much.

We have an update for you on that helicopter crash in Iraq we first told you about yesterday. The military now reporting that two U.S. helicopters were actually involved. They collided while on patrol. One crashed and two crew members aboard died. The other flew back to the base. No hostile fire involved at all.


COSTELLO: Former Major League Pitcher Jeff Reardon is free on bail this morning. His lawyer says reardon will undergo a mental evaluation after his arrest for allegedly robbing a jewelry store in South Florida. "Boston Globe" Sports Columnist Dan Shaughnessy covered the four-time all-star when he played for the Red Sox in the early '90s and Dan joins us now from Boston.

Welcome, Dan.


COSTELLO: It's just such a sad story. You know, the facts seem simple. He writes a note. He gives it to the salesperson at the jewelry store. Says he has a gun. He gets away with some money. And then he simply walks away. It seems as if he wanted to get arrested. What's your take on this?

SHAUGHNESSY: Well, I think sad is a good word for this story, Carol. It really doesn't make any sense. It doesn't appear to be monetarily motivated. This man made $11 million pitching for 16 years in the big league. Lives in a home on a golf course. I think there's unspeakable sadness in his life because he lost his son a year and a half ago, almost two years in February. And it appears he has not recovered from that.

COSTELLO: He's like on five anti-depressants. He's seeing a psychiatrist. He just got an angioplasty. And it does seem like the family is not over the loss of the son in 2004. In fact, every year they write a message to their son in the newspaper. What did that say?

SHAUGHNESSY: Well, there's a Web site -- I guess a lot of papers offer this service, but down there where they live in Florida, the local paper offers a Web site where you can basically write to the deceased. And there's a lot of postings by his entire family on there. And they're very, very sad. And Jeff's wife made a posting as recently as Christmas Day. One of his former teammates made a posting the day that Jeff committed this crime.

And Jeff has postings all throughout the year where he's writing to his son in a very somber tone and saying that he hoped to get together again in the next lifetime. And that's kind of a sad thing. So, I mean, I think that no of us can know what it's like to lose a child and clearly this man has not gotten over it.

COSTELLO: Well, let me stop you because I want to read something out of your column because it was quite touching. A day after that message appeared in a newspaper in Florida, you say a day later Shane's dad lost his way into something impossibly stupid. Something that made no sense. No need looking for explanations, it will never make any sense. Jeff Reardon's world stopped making sense in February 2004. That doesn't make him innocent, only human. A member of a small and sad society of parents condemned to live with pain, with no hope to ever patch the holes in their hearts.

That really moved me. But you have to wonder, not many people would go and rob a jewelry store.


COSTELLO: And that plea for help.

SHAUGHNESSY: Right. It's still -- it's a crime. You can't go out and do it. You can't go out and rob a jewelry store just because your son died a couple of years ago. We have a society with rules that govern this. You can't have it.

In this case, it's just -- since it's not motivated by money in his case and he otherwise has no record of anything, it's just -- I think we're doing some armchair psychology here to try and explain the motivation of this thing because none of it makes any sense. COSTELLO: The community, the fans, I mean, what are they thinking about Jeff Reardon? Are they on his side? Do they feel sorry for him or did they say he did something unbelievably stupid and he should pay for it?

SHAUGHNESSY: Well, his attorney naturally says he's being -- you know, people rallying around him, his neighbors, his ex teammates, that kind of thing. I mean, Jeff's from around Massachusetts. He's from the western part of our state here. He pitched at the University of Massachusetts where he's in the Hall of Fame. He pitched for the Red Sox for three seasons. I think folks here definitely want to cut him some slack. Want to be understanding about this and hope that somehow he sees his way through it.

But, again, it's a crime. You can't go around robbing jewelry store no matter what kind of sadness is in your life.

COSTELLO: He was a good enough relief pitcher where he could get into the Hall of Fame. Will this hurt his chances?

SHAUGHNESSY: He doesn't have a chance for the Hall of Fame, unfortunately. He came up for election in the year 2000. He received only 24 votes out of over 500, less than 5 percent. You don't stay on the ballot in that case. He is no longer on the ballot. He will be turned over to a veterans committee but his chances are very, very remote for ever making the Hall of Fame. And this certainly, any remaining chance he had, this would end that.

COSTELLO: Dan Shaughnessy, sports columnist for the "Boston Globe," thanks for joining us. Also the author of "Reversing The Curse." Thank you for being with us this morning, Dan.

SHAUGHNESSY: Thank you, Carol.

O'BRIEN: Coming up, troubling signs. The economy could be headed for a recession. If we keep talking about it, it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy, but here we go.

COSTELLO: Plus, a couple of not ready for prime time players becoming unlikely rap stars. The music video that's turned into an Internet phenomenon.

O'BRIEN: Have you seen this? Have you seen it?

COSTELLO: It's pretty funny.

O'BRIEN: It's hysterical. It's hysterical.

COSTELLO: We'll show you more just ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


COSTELLO: New York City is prime for its big New Year's Eve bash. Workers have been preparing the crystal ball that drops at midnight Saturday in Times Square. The ball weighs a hefty thousand pounds. It's six feet in diameter. Thousands of spectators are expected in Times Square to take part in the countdown to 2006 and you can join in on that countdown with CNN's Anderson Cooper. He will be live in Times Square with music from the godfather of soul, James Brown, John Mayor, Harry Conic, Jr. Jackie Jeras, yes, Harry will be there. And there will be so many more. So tune in beginning at 11:00 p.m. Eastern on Saturday night for the New Year's celebration on CNN.

Now to number three in our top "Five in '05," and that would be Cindy Sheehan. A grieving mother who lost her son in Iraq. She took her opposition to the war directly to the western White House. Love her or hate her, she forced the nation and President Bush to take a hard look at the war.


CINDY SHEEHAN, ANTIWAR ACTIVIST: When I went down there, I didn't set out to say, I want to, you know, have this media circus here in Crawford, Texas. I went out there to confront the president.

COSTELLO, (voice over): But a media circus and a national movement is what she got. Love Cindy Sheehan or loathe her, the one thing that was almost impossible to do in 2005 was to ignore her. It's a fact some believe President Bush found out the hard way.

SHEEHAN: I feel as if we're having an impact here, yes.

COSTELLO: In August of this year, a grieving mother whose son was killed in action in Iraq traveled to Mr. Bush's ranch in Texas with one goal, to ask him why.

SHEEHAN: I just snapped and it just was a total spur of the moment thing. It was just like, I had just had it. Enough was enough. I was frustrated.

COSTELLO: Sheehan picked up the nickname "The Peace Mom" and her vigil quickly became a worldwide spectacle and a PR problem for the president. In the meantime, she had herself became a human lightning rod. The target of both glorification

CROWD SINGING: Singing for our love.

COSTELLO: And vilification.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have to be willing to fight for freedom.

COSTELLO: She was accused of being co-oped by the far left, a label she seemed to do little to shake by traveling to the White House and allowing herself to be dragged away in handcuffs during a protest. If anything, Sheehan, who was a self-proclaimed pacifist, is unapologetic.

SHEEHAN: What I understand about that is that they can't attack my message so they try and attack me. When I called George Bush a lying bastard, people say, do you regret that and do you wish you didn't say it? No, I don't, because he lied and he killed my son.

COSTELLO: Looking back, that's something Sheehan now fears might have gotten lost in all of this noise, the story of her son. The story of Army Specialist Casey Sheehan.

SHEEHAN: Casey was my best friend. Well, he was -- I'm sorry. This is a really hard time of year too.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I understand the anguish that some feel about the death that takes place. I also have heard the voices of those saying pull out now. I just strongly disagree.

COSTELLO: But that wasn't enough to satisfy Sheehan. She says she plans to return to Crawford at Easter. That her fight is not over.

SHEEHAN: Casey's life, he led an honorable life, and Casey's death will stand for peace, you know? And it will stand for love. I won't let it be remembered for killing and lies. I won't let it be in vain.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE, SINGING: For you I'll do anything.


O'BRIEN: Talking about breaking your heart.

COSTELLO: Yes. She just seems like such a normal person caught up in this whirlwind of events that, you know, sometimes gets out of control. She doesn't have experience at this.


COSTELLO: You know, you can argue with her politics but you can't really with her pain.

O'BRIEN: No, you can't. And, you know, everybody has their own way of dealing with grief. And we've been talking about what it would be like to lose a child. It's impossible for me to understand that. But the way she has dealt with her grief is to become so committed in a way that has really changed a national debate.

COSTELLO: And it's good to debate things. That's what this country is all about, right?

O'BRIEN: Absolutely. Yes.

COSTELLO: Tomorrow in our series "Five in '05," we take a look at the life and death of Terri Schiavo.

O'BRIEN: And coming up on the program, we're "Minding Your Business." Is the economy headed for a recession. If we keep saying so, maybe so. That story's next.

First, a holiday message from our troops overseas.

LTC. ALFREDO MONTALVO, SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS: Hello. I'm Lieutenant Colonel Alfredo Montalvo. I just want to say happy holidays to everyone in San Antonio, Texas. I'm in Mosul, Iraq. MASTER SGT. JOE MORALES, DALLAS TEXAS: Hello and greetings from Jabuti (ph), Africa. My name is Marine Master Sergeant Joe Morales. I'm the air traffic control master chief with Max 2 (ph) ATC Def (ph) point of Africa. I'd like to take this moment to wish all my friends and family back there in Dallas, Texas, happy holidays, joyous seasons and thank you for all your support. I love you all.


O'BRIEN: Who is the Earth, Wind and Fire fan? Is it Jerry (ph)? Jerry, is it you? I think it must be. Oh, that's Kool and the Gang!

SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I thought it was KC and the Sunshine Band!

O'BRIEN: Never mind. Never mind.

COSTELLO: Oh, that was so wrong!

So we should get to the markets now.

O'BRIEN: Oh, low these years ago, I used to know these things.

All right. The question is, you know, it used to be when the market would go down 105 points, that was a news story. Now it's still worth mentioning but, you know, as a percentage it's not . . .

LISOVICZ: Oh, no, it was pretty big, though.

O'BRIEN: It's a big deal, yes.

LISOVICZ: I mean, it was the biggest drop that we had seen in about two months.


LISOVICZ: And especially, you know, when you're talking about this time of year, the week between Christmas and New Year's is one of the best weeks of the year. That Santa Claus rally. We were all looking for Santa Claus, the rally.

O'BRIEN: Is it? I thought none of the traders showed up? They're all on (INAUDIBLE).

LISOVICZ: Well, that was actually a point. A lot of investors have taken off this week because Christmas and Hanukkah falling on the same day and it ends on a weekend, so everybody took the week off. So it tends to skew the numbers a little bit.

Having said that, we did have a massacre on Wall Street yesterday.

O'BRIEN: Really?

LISOVICZ: Well, the stock market seemed to take its cues from the bond market. We had this crazy thing happening with interest rates we rarely see where the longer term interest rates drop below that of the shorter term. And what that means simply without getting wonky, is that it has signaled trouble ahead.

Now will there be trouble ahead? There are a lot of concerns in the market about whether the Fed has gone too far with interest rates, whether, in fact, it has gone too far and we're going to start to see the economic recovery slow down, the market slow down. We've had three years of a bull market. Don't know, but we got hit yesterday.

O'BRIEN: You know, it's OK, we do speak wonk here. It's all right. And with, well, big subtitles.

COSTELLO: No, no, I don't speak wonk.

LISOVICZ: No, I'd say this is a wonk free zone.

COSTELLO: Yes, wonk free.

LISOVICZ: Wonk free zone.

O'BRIEN: What about consumer confidence?

LISOVICZ: Well, actually, that's one thing that could help the market today. We've seen futures turn higher today. And one reason why is that that's a piece of major economic news. What we are feeling like, and it seems like we've been a lot better than gasoline prices have been dropping since recovery in the Gulf Coast area with Hurricane Katrina and Rita, gas prices going down, job prospects improving. We're expecting some improvement in consumer confidence and that could help give the markets a lift. That will comes out at 10:00 a.m. So 30 minutes after the market opens.

O'BRIEN: All right. Thank you, Susan Lisovicz.

LISOVICZ: My pleasure.


LISOVICZ: Miles O'Brien.

O'BRIEN: Our favorite wonk.

You know, guys like me can not and should not attempt to commit rap.


O'BRIEN: There in felonious rapping it would be. And therein lies the premise for a pretty funny shtick which debuted two weekends ago on "Saturday Night Live." A couple of white guys talking about things like cupcakes and the Chronicles of Narnia in rap form. You could call it Wonder bread rap.


O'BRIEN: Oh, man they are such gangsters. Now, you may ask why we just showed you that? We showed you that because this has become an Internet sensation. And 1.2 million times it has now been downloaded.

Did you download it?

Yes, you did.

LISOVICZ: I haven't. I'm an avid watcher of "SNL," though, so.

O'BRIEN: Oh, my gosh.

COSTELLO: Let's go download it after the show.

O'BRIEN: (ph), you stepped on it, sucker! Chronicles of Narnia. Yes, I really shouldn't be doing it.

LISOVICZ: It's perfect.

O'BRIEN: Anyway, it's apparently on iTunes, all these places online you can get videos. It's very big with the kids.

All right.

COSTELLO: It was funny.

O'BRIEN: Coming up, more in our special series "Five Diets That Work." Today, a little lesson in portion control. You need to avoid that heaping plate. That's ahead. Stay with us.


O'BRIEN: Good morning. I'm Miles O'Brien.


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