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Conflicted Reports On Whether Ayman al-Zawahiri Is Dead Or Not; Randal McCloy Remains In Coma; Democrats Threaten To Delay Alito Vote; "A Million Little Pieces" Back On Bestsellers List Thanks To Oprah; What Impact al-Zawahiri's Death May Have On War On Terror; Middle- Schooler On Life Support After Being Shot; Active Fire Season

Aired January 14, 2006 - 07:00   ET


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And now in the news, CNN is following a developing story.
Knowledgeable U.S. sources say al Qaeda's number two man may have been killed in a CIA air strike. They say yesterday's strike in a remote Pakistani village targeted Ayman al-Zawahiri. While 18 people were killed, Pakistani officials tell other reports that al-Zawahiri was not killed.

We'll have much more on this developing story in just a moment.

Wicked weather across the South overnight. In Belleville, Alabama, a woman was killed by an apparent tornado when the chimney of her home collapsed. At least 18 other homes were damaged or destroyed in that town.

Tornado watches remain in effect for parts of the Mid-Atlantic and New Year's Eve. Meteorologist Bonnie Schneider has your weekend forecast. That's coming up.

Fire conditions are extremely critical today for western Oklahoma. Forecasters say it's going to get very windy there later today. And that combined with above normal temperatures is a recipe for disaster. Two hundred fifty homes and businesses have been destroyed in the state since the fire started in November.

Laura Bush is flying to Africa tonight to attend the inauguration of Africa's first female head of state. The first lady is heading a U.S. delegation to see Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf sworn in as president of Liberia. The delegation includes Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Liberia was founded by freed American slaves in 1847.

BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, good morning, everybody.

From the CNN Center in Atlanta, this is CNN SATURDAY MORNING.

Tony is wide awake and ready to go.

It is 4:30 p.m. in Pakistan. We'll be talking about that country in a moment. 7:00 a.m. in Atlanta.

Good morning, everybody.

I'm Betty Nguyen.

HARRIS: I do go on with those headlines, don't I? On and...

NGUYEN: On and on.

HARRIS: And good morning, everyone.

I'm Tony Harris.

Thank you for being with us.

NGUYEN: Coming up this hour of CNN SATURDAY MORNING, the power of Oprah. The influential talk show host steps in to save one author's career from crumbling into a million little pieces, shall we say. And she is spreading the love.

Who said it would be a good idea to visit frigid Detroit in the middle of winter? We'll run the numbers on how the Motor City landed Super Bowl 40.

And 700 or so questions later, how did Judge Alito do in his verbal job application before the Senate? Our guest, constitutional scholar, Jonathan Turley, has some surprising answers.

HARRIS: He is the man seen on many tapes like this, delivering messages to al Qaeda and U.S. authorities. This morning, we're sifting through conflicting reports to learn if Ayman al-Zawahiri died in a CIA air strike. He is considered Osama bin Laden's right-hand man.

CNN's senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre, joins us from the Pentagon this morning with what we know now -- Jamie, good morning.

What is it that we know at this hour?

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, the main thing we don't know is whether Ayman al-Zawahiri, the number two in command in al Qaeda, was, in fact, killed in this air strike that was carried out early yesterday morning.

Knowledgeable officials have told CNN national security correspondent David Ensor that this attack was essentially based on U.S. intelligence and ordered by the CIA. The manner of attack is still not clear, apparently a missile strike that could have come from an unmanned predator drone.

Pentagon officials insisting they had no involvement in this attack. And they're urging caution, saying that in the past, these kinds of strikes aimed at getting an individual from the air, have had mixed results, at best.

And, again, we have no confirmation at this time from any U.S. official that Zawahiri was, in fact, among those killed.

We are told that the number dead in that northwest Pakistani village is somewhere between 17 or 18, including possibly some civilians who were there. Pakistani officials are sorting out who was killed. They believe that some high level al Qaeda might have been in the building, struck, including some good intelligence that Zawahiri -- Ayman al-Zawahiri might have been there.

But, again, the emphasis is on might. And at this time, U.S. officials are urging caution and saying that they have no confirmation that they, in fact, got the number two, the deputy to Osama bin Laden in al Qaeda -- Tony.

HARRIS: OK, Jamie, I know you're working this story for us.

We'll check back in with you next hour.

Jamie, thank you.

NGUYEN: Al-Zawahiri is widely considered the brains behind al Qaeda. He's certainly a high value target.

So just what does it mean in the war on terror if he was, indeed, killed in the CIA strike?

Here to talk about that is General James "Spider" Marks, our CNN military analyst -- good morning to you.


How are you?

NGUYEN: I'm doing great.

Let me ask you, what's your feeling? A lot of information coming in, some conflicting.

Is al-Zawahiri dead?

MARKS: Well, the nature of the intelligence business is that you will have conflicting data and you have to just sift through it and you have to understand that it's chaotic, basically, in its fundamental nature. So you have to very precisely and very deliberately find those confirming pieces of data.

Now, the reports are that he may be dead. The reports are he may not have been dead and, in fact, I've heard one report that he might not have even been in the area.

Again, what this talks about is intelligence sharing, the relationship that we have with the Pakistanis, which is very open and, frankly, as solid as it's going to get in terms of our efforts on terror.

But the nature of these reports, we should understand, is this is what you're going to see. I mean having served in uniform for over 30 years, the thing that we always live by is that the first report is generally always wrong. That's right, generally always wrong. So we've got to work very aggressively to try to confirm what we know and what we suspect.

NGUYEN: So what do you wait for? Do you wait for the body to be taken out to confirm that? Because, you know, al Qaeda is not going to come forth and say it? And would you suspect that they, indeed, would try to conceal that information even if he was dead?

MARKS: Betty, a couple of ways to look at it. I mean you really can look at it from one end, which is they would obfuscate, try to lie, deny, tell us nothing. You could see where they might come forward and say yes, he was martyred, ergo, let's all rise up and get a little more aggressive in our efforts in our Jihad.

But my thought is that only would you get confirming data if you were able to touch the body, do some forensics, do some DNA testing and do some dental records checks, as well.

NGUYEN: All right, General, as we wait to hear exactly whether or not he's dead, let's talk about his role in this organization.

Where did he fall in line?

Obviously, we've heard that he's Osama bin Laden's number two guy.

What did he do?

MARKS: Well, primarily he was the mastermind. He was what we would call the chief operations officer, bin Laden being the chief executive officer. So Zawahiri was the one that was really working the details, establishing the messages, promulgating those messages, routinely working the next operation. So a very critical person in al Qaeda and it would be a tremendous blow were he dead.

NGUYEN: So how would this change the al Qaeda network if he, indeed, is dead?

MARKS: Well, the thing to keep in mind is that al Qaeda is now a network. It's not necessarily, nor have we ever been able to establish, that it's hierarchical, that actions take place derivative to commands from somebody up above. You know, when bin Laden says something, it's going to happen someplace else.

That's not the case. This is very much a network. So his departure, one could argue, will affect the morale and certainly might affect the direction. But what you have is local actions, local recruitment taking place worldwide.

The bombings in London, Zawahiri took credit for those after the fact, but what you saw were local Londoners. This was local recruiting. So you had intent from the top and local actions taking place in order to meet that intent.

NGUYEN: Does this provide any clues whatsoever as to the location of Osama bin Laden himself? MARKS: It's -- I would say you can't connect those two dots. Osama bin Laden and Zawahiri would routinely move in opposite circles. You don't want to put both of those guys together in the same place, and they know it. So, no, you can't connect the dots that they're together. The suspicions still are and the intelligence community would say that it's very likely that he is in the area along that very ill defined border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

NGUYEN: General "Spider" Marks, as always, we thank you for your insights.

MARKS: Thanks, Betty.

NGUYEN: And we do want to hear from you this morning.

Would al-Zawahiri's death be a turning point in the war on terror?

We heard what the general said, but why do you think?

E-mail us your thoughts. The address is

HARRIS: Here we go. Here we go again. Severe weather pounds parts of the South and East. A suspected tornado injured at least nine people and destroyed several mobile homes in Manning, South Carolina. But that was last night. And at least 20 homes were damaged by high winds in Gastonia, North Carolina.

Meanwhile, the National Weather Service confirms a tornado hit Alabama yesterday. One woman was killed and more than a dozen homes damaged Belleville. That nasty weather system is moving up the Northeast. A tornado watch is in effect for parts of New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania, and also New York. You're looking now at the live picture from Philadelphia. Hazy, cloudy, low cloud deck.

And the folks in Washington State have to be asking will it ever stop raining? Showers are expected again today in Seattle. If that proves true, it will be the 27th straight day of rain there.


HARRIS: This is an area used to rain, but this is ridiculous.

NGUYEN: Not like that. Yes.

HARRIS: No, it is. Throughout the state, rain has caused severe flooding, mud slides and major road damage. The governor has declared a state of emergency in 12 counties. There's a football game there, too, I think tonight.

NGUYEN: A little rain -- Bonnie, there's so much weather going on. My goodness. And not all of it's good. Most of it's bad, it seems.


HARRIS: They're just not going to get control of those fires until those winds die down.


HARRIS: You know, how are you going to do that?

NGUYEN: It's dry, it's windy, it's a bad combination. Bonnie, we're looking forward to that interview. Thank you.

We want to take a look at some stories making "News Across America" this morning. Listen to this. A suitcase containing human remains was found floating in the San Francisco Bay. Investigators say boaters discovered the suitcase and popped it open. Once they saw what was in there, they closed the suitcase -- you got that right ...


NGUYEN: ... until the Coast Guard arrived. Medical examiners will use DNA testing to determine the identity.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg called for an investigation of the city's child protective services following the death of a 7- year-old. Nixzmary Brown was found dead in her family's home. Her face and body covered with marks and bruises. The girl's mother and step father face numerous charges, including murder and manslaughter. The city began investigating abuse claims against the couple last May, but failed to pursue a warrant after the child's step father began denying social workers from visiting the home.

Now to Florida. Investigators say a middle school student carrying a pellet gun was suicidal. Police were called to Milwee Middle School yesterday after 15-year-old Christopher David Penley pointed a pellet gun at students and administrators. A SWAT officer says the boy threatened to kill himself then pointed a gun at the officer, so the officer shot him.

The 15-year-old is in the hospital this morning on life support.

HARRIS: Well, after a week of withering questions on abortion, presidential power and ethics, what's the grade? What's the grade?

Still ahead, a look at how Supreme Court justice nominee Samuel Alito fared in his Senate confirmation hearings.

NGUYEN: And there's big money behind the big game. We know that. As Motown prepares for the Super Bowl, we will go "Beyond The Game" with Rick Horrow.

HARRIS: Oh, do we have to?

NGUYEN: Oh, yes we do.

HARRIS: Let's not and say we did. NGUYEN: He's raring to go.

HARRIS: And speaking of big money...

NGUYEN: Oh, yes.

HARRIS: ... as author James Frey knows, it starts rolling in when Oprah comes calling. We'll examine her Midas touch a bit later.

First a break for a second.


HARRIS: If you're just joining us this morning, good morning.

Grab a cup of coffee, sit a spell.

Let's give you an update on our top stories this morning.

Taking out al Qaeda -- tests are being conducted to determine whether Osama bin Laden's right-hand man was killed in a CIA air strike in Pakistan. U.S. sources tell CNN al-Zawahiri was the target of yesterday's air strike near the Afghan border. Pakistani officials tell other wire services al-Zawahiri was not killed.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger denies clemency for the state's oldest death row inmate. Attorneys for 75-year-old Clarence Ray Allen are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to block Tuesday's planned execution. They say he's old and too sick to be executed.

Explosive activity in Alaska -- officials say there were one, two, three, four -- count them -- five eruptions of Augustine volcano yesterday. The ash could be seen. It shot up some 30,000 feet. Alaska Airlines canceled some flights into Anchorage and Fairbanks as a safety precaution.

NGUYEN: Well, nearly two weeks after the Sago Mine tragedy, the sole survivor remains in a coma this morning in critical condition.

CNN's Christopher King has the latest on Randal McCloy.


CHRISTOPHER KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Each day since the Sago Mine disaster, Anna McCloy has been by her husband Randal's side as he lies in a coma. Anna and the couple's two children, 4- year-old Randal III and Isabel, 1-year-old, are there, too, listening to music by his favorite band, Metallica. Anna McCloy says even though her husband, her childhood sweetheart, remains in a coma, she's trying to keep his daily routine as close to normal as possible.

ANNA MCCLOY, RANDY MCCLOY'S WIFE: Well, I just got him a little bear that says "hug me" today and you put a picture of the kids in the middle of it. So I got him that today. And I got him some of his own deodorant and his own soap so that way maybe if he smells like himself, he may... KING: She hopes, emerge from his unconscious state.

Randal McCloy is the lone survivor of the tragedy that took the lives of 12 other miners. McCloy was trapped inside Sago Mine in Tallmansville for more than 42 hours, breathing in enormous amounts of carbon monoxide and other toxic gases.

McCloy is in a moderate coma in critical, but stable condition, at Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown, West Virginia.

These days, his family is keeping a low profile out of respect for the families of the other victims. They're expected to attend a memorial on Sunday for those 12 miners. And as the McCloy family prays for Randal's recovery, they and the community around Sago Mine pray they'll never have to deal with this type of tragedy again.


NGUYEN: And CNN will bring you live coverage of the Sago Mine memorial starting tomorrow. That is at 2:00 p.m. Eastern, 11:00 a.m. Pacific.


HARRIS: Are you ready? Check out these numbers. This is why Detroit lobbied hard to lure the Super Bowl to the Motor City. A $300 million economic impact. On hundred thousand out of town visitors to fill up 32,000 available rooms for rent. Three thousand members of the media promising to send images of your city around the world, publicity you simply can't buy.

The author of "When the Game Is On the Line" and CNN business sports analyst, Rick Horrow, joins us now for a look at how the cold city of Detroit beat the odds to get Super Bowl 40.

As usual, he joins us from West Palm Beach -- what do you have in your hand there? What is that?

RICK HORROW, CNN SPORTS BUSINESS ANALYST: It's a stadium, a little smaller than a normal stadium.

HARRIS: Is that Ford Field, is that what it is?

HORROW: This is Ford Field.

HARRIS: Oh, yes?

HORROW: And here's the plot. This is what happened in Green bay, by the way, in Chicago. When they wanted to build, no roof. Ford Field, roof. Super Bowl. Sorry.

HARRIS: Oh, very good.

HORROW: Yes, there you go.

HARRIS: You know, I think this is going to come down to being about stadiums and new stadiums and that whole construction story. But why Detroit? Last year it was Jacksonville, a small city. This year Detroit. It's a cold city. But do the cities have some things in common?

HORROW: Well, yes. Two years ago, a couple of years ago we had Tampa Bay and then Jacksonville and now Detroit and next year Arizona. And what they all have in common is the use of the stadium carrot to get the deal done.

HARRIS: Oh, yes.

HORROW: And Super Bowl is becoming a very important part of that. The $300 million economic impact, Tony, you talked about in Detroit, 10 years ago, Mayor Dennis Archer then and Bill Ford of the Ford family and Commissioner Tagliabue. And I was involved a little bit in that effort.

HARRIS: Right.

HORROW: We got a deal done 10 years ago to get a vote done. And the deal was if you put the roof on and you have a Super Bowl, that's the $300 million economic impact that pays for the $220 million public investment.

And, by the way, the NFL has done 24 stadium deals in the last 15 years, the most of any sport, at a cost of $8 billion in public money. And now they're looking at L.A. and San Francisco and San Diego and New York for Super Bowl proposals. And, of course, the stadium and the Super Bowl are very important parts of that package.

HARRIS: Hey, Rick, you mentioned the $300 million in economic impact for Detroit. But that's not where it ends for the Motor City. There's more that Detroit gets out of there, isn't it?

HORROW: Motown.


HORROW: Oh, you know what else it involves, it involves using sports as a very important part of their renaissance campaign. You know, they're projecting 31,000 jobs and a $3 billion increase in visitor spending because of their campaign to bring people to live and work and visit downtown Detroit. And, of course, the sports piece of this doesn't hurt either. In the last calendar year, they've had the Ryder Cup golf championship with Debroad (ph). They've also had major league baseball's All Star Game, the Pistons in the NBA finals and now Super Bowl 40.

Now, sports doesn't drive this campaign, but, Tony, it's a very, very important part of the puzzle.

HARRIS: I've got to ask you, before this is all over, you're going to visit all of the new stadiums that you've had a hand in constructing and making these deals happen for, aren't you? You're going to visit them all. There are going to be Super Bowls in all of them. HORROW: Well, Super Bowls in all of the ones that are warm or cold weather with the dome.

HARRIS: There you go.

HORROW: We've got a reprint of the book coming out. Detroit's an important part of that puzzle. So a shameless promotion by me.

HARRIS: There you go.

Very good.

I worked that in for you.

All right, let's get to the picks.


HARRIS: Last week, how did you do? Were you what...

HORROW: Hey, I did pretty well. The only one I blew was the Tampa Bay/Washington game, and anybody could have done that.

HARRIS: Well, that's because you're such a Florida homer. You pick the team, you know, that's why you messed that one up.

HORROW: Yes? Well, but that didn't explain Jacksonville/New England. I went with my head there and not my heart.

HARRIS: Right.

HORROW: So this week you want, right? Is that what you want, this week?

HARRIS: All right, well, what did I do last week? Although this doesn't really count because I didn't really go on record with it last week. I think I picked three of the four and got the Carolina game wrong. I had the Giants winning that game.

So, all right, let's move...

HORROW: Well, real quickly...

HARRIS: Oh, boy.

HORROW: ... the reason why you didn't do it on the record, by the way, is not just because last year you picked Atlanta to win the Super Bowl, as we remember...

HARRIS: Did I really?

HORROW: But Betty's Texas stuff last week in the BCS, you didn't have time for any of this because we were...

HARRIS: Routed me out. That's right.

HORROW: ... with Betty, Longhorn Betty.


HARRIS: So -- all right, so very quickly, let's get to this week's picks.

Where is Rick's picks?

Let's put them up here.

What do you have here?

HORROW: All right, very quick, all the homers because, remember, this is the week that all the teams that are the top four come off a bi-week.

HARRIS: Revenge week, yes.

HORROW: So it's Seattle that ought to handle Washington very easily. It's Denver that can be thrown. The New England Patriots is the champion. It's Chicago who will beat Carolina in a close one. And it is Indianapolis at home against Pittsburgh. It's their first meaningful game in a month, but they'll do it.

HARRIS: OK, I've got Carolina beating Chicago.

All right, we'll see where we stand next week when the dust settles.

Rick Horrow, good to see you, sir.

HORROW: Yes, sir. I can't wait.

HARRIS: Take care, man.

HORROW: All right.

HARRIS: When we come back, she's a one name wonder with a Midas touch. And when Oprah talks, people listen. And, more importantly, they shop. We'll take a closer look at the Oprah effect later, on CNN SATURDAY MORNING.


HARRIS: From the streets of Cairo to the mountains of Pakistan, we'll track the trail of al Qaeda's number two man, Ayman al-Zawahiri.


I'm Tony Harris.

NGUYEN: And I'm Betty Nguyen.

We'll have that story in just a moment.

First, here's a look at the headlines today. A tornado is suspected of pounding a mobile home community near Manning, South Carolina. At least nine people were hurt, four of them critically. Now, a second possible twister was reported in Gastonia, North Carolina, as violent storms rolled across the Southeast yesterday.

We'll be talking more about those storms with Bonnie.

A major trash fire in New Orleans' 9th Ward reportedly is still smoldering this morning. According to the "Times-Picayune" newspaper, firefighters yesterday used heavy equipment to break the burning debris piles into similar ones, which they could douse more effectively. The trash mountain is the result of tons of debris hauled out of flood damaged homes, including carpet, furniture, drywall and large appliances.

Well, the fallout from the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal is growing. Republican sources tell CNN, House Speaker Dennis Hastert is moving to push embattled Congressman Bob Ney from his committee chair post. A source close to Ney also says CNN -- or tells CNN the congressman from Ohio is considering stepping down. Government sources have told CNN that Ney is the so-called representative, one Abramoff has identified in court papers as accepting gifts in exchange for helping clients.

HARRIS: And, Betty, we're watching developments in Pakistan this morning for word of whether a CIA air strike near the Afghan border killed al Qaeda's number two man, Ayman al-Zawahiri. Pakistani intelligence sources say the attack took out three houses in a remote Pakistani village, killing 18 people, including five children.

But according to wire reports, Pakistani sources also say al- Zawahiri was not at the scene.

But just who is this man and why does he matter?

We turn now to CNN's senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson, to find out.


AYMAN AL-ZAWAHIRI, AL QAEDA LEADER: We want to speak to the whole world. Who are we?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): By the time Ayman al-Zawahiri burst onto the world scene after the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, he was already a committed Jihadi.

The young doctor came from one of Egypt's leading families. There is an al-Zawahiri Street in Cairo named for his grandfather.

Al-Zawahiri spent three years in prison after Sadat's assassination. After he got out, he made his way to Pakistan, where he treated those who fought against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. That's where he met Osama bin Laden. And by the mid- 1980s, they had found a common cause. He talked about it a decade later.

AL-ZAWAHIRI: We are working with brother bin Laden. We know him since more than 10 years. We have fought with him here in Afghanistan and we are working with him in Sudan and in many other places.

ROBERTSON: Al-Zawahiri was at bin Laden's side when he declared war on America in May, 1998. Weeks later, they launched an attack on U.S. embassies in Africa. And after the 9/11 attacks, al-Zawahiri began to come out of the shadows, taunting the U.S. making it clear that he was al Qaeda's number two.

AL-ZAWAHIRI (through translator): Oh, American people, you must ask yourselves, why all this hate against America?

ROBERTSON: Along with bin Laden, al-Zawahiri became a man on the run after the U.S. invaded Afghanistan. His wife and daughters were killed in a U.S. air strike aimed at him.

Al-Zawahiri's frequent messages in recent years on subjects ranging from the war in Iraq to the London subway attacks showed he was up to date on the news.

Nic Robertson, CNN, New York.


HARRIS: And we want to hear from you this morning.

If it turns out that Ayman al-Zawahiri is actually dead, would it be a turning point in the war on terror? That's a pretty good one this morning. You can look at this a couple of different ways.

NGUYEN: Will it galvanize...


NGUYEN: ... al Qaeda or...

HARRIS: Yes. So give us your thoughts. Our address, as always,

NGUYEN: Here are some of the other stories that made headlines this week. Baby Noor -- look at that precious little thing -- the Iraqi infant born with a severe form of spina bifida has been released from an Atlanta hospital. Now, doctors say her prognosis is excellent. In fact, Tony spoke with a doctor yesterday and he says, Tony, that she should be able to have a normal life?

HARRIS: Well, she's a paraplegic. But they think that neurologically she should be OK. They've got to drain some fluid. They're watching that situation, on her brain.

NGUYEN: But life expectancy wise?

HARRIS: Yes, yes, yes.


HARRIS: Oh, yes, yes. You know, she'll be able to live a normal, long life. Yes, absolutely.

NGUYEN: Good for her. Noor underwent surgery Monday to correct a birth defect weeks after arriving in the U.S. for the potentially life-saving treatment.

Florida police are looking for a number of suspects in the brutal beating of this man. Check it out.

HARRIS: Oh, boy.

NGUYEN: And in two other attacks on homeless men in the Fort Lauderdale area, one of the men died and the others remain hospitalized. Advocates are warning the homeless to go to a shelters or sleep in busy, well lit locations.

Singer Stevie Wonder and many other stars gathered in Los Angeles Friday to remember Lou Rawls. The smooth, soulful singer died last week of lung cancer. Besides countless albums, Rawls also raised millions of dollars for the United Negro College Fund.

And tomorrow, we will "Fast Forward" to the week ahead and tell you which stories will grab the spotlight.

HARRIS: So after days of testimony, what, about 30 hours or so of coverage on CNN...

NGUYEN: A lot of testimony.

HARRIS: ... of the hearings -- did Judge Samuel Alito pique your interest?

NGUYEN: And what did we really learn about the Supreme Court nominee?



HARRIS: Wind blown wildfires have been charring much of the Plains States for a week now. But how long will the hot and dry forecast hold for the region? Is there any relief in sight?

Bonnie Schneider will ask an expert about the fire forecast next hour on CNN SATURDAY MORNING.

We'll be right back.


GERRI WILLIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Shopping for a house online? Here's what you need to know before you begin.

First, determine your price range and get all financial documents ready and organized.

Next, create a reasonable wish list by figuring out what amenities your new home must have and which you'd like to have.

Never buy a house you've seen online without seeing it in person.

And be sure to check out both local and national realty Web sites.

I'm Gerri Willis and that's your Tip of the Day.

For more, watch "OPEN HOUSE," Saturday mornings, 9:30 Eastern, on CNN.



NGUYEN: You hear that? It was a rock star's welcome for Judge Samuel Alito as he arrived for his last day of testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Conservative supporters underlined what many Republicans believe are Alito's very good prospects for confirmation.

But it wouldn't have been a hearing on Capitol Hill without partisan bickering. Democrats are threatening to delay the vote on Alito's nomination and say the hearings raised more questions about the judge and his beliefs.

So, what exactly did we learn this week?

Jonathan Turley is a professor at George Washington University and he joins us now from Washington.

We appreciate you being with us today.

I want you to listen to a couple of things that we heard this week out of those hearings.

First of all, there were fireworks between senators over Alito's connection to this group, this Princeton alumni group that criticized admitting minorities and women.

Take a listen to the exchange between the senators.


SEN. TED KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: We're going to have votes of this committee again and again and again until we have a resolution. And I think it is at least...

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R-PA), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Well, Senator Kennedy, I'm not concerned about your threats to have votes again and again and again, and I'm the chairman of this committee.

(END VIDEO CLIP) NGUYEN: All right, well, so I need to ask you, is this much ado about nothing or is it relevant because Alito mentioned on a job application his membership to this group?

JONATHAN TURLEY, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: I think it's relevant, Betty, in the sense that very few people were entirely convinced by Judge Alito's answer. He said that he had just no recollection of being with this group and yet he bragged about it seeking a job in the Reagan administration. And that left a lot of people not quite convinced about how honest he was being about the group.

It's a very controversial group.

But, you know, Betty, the problem here is that the Democrats seemed to be flailing around. They were throwing anything they could at Samuel Alito and there was a lack of a strategy. This is a very controversial nominee and there are good reasons for him to be controversial. He has very extreme views when it comes to issues like executive authority, presidential power and government authority generally.

But what was lacking was a sense of coherence and a theme from the Democrats. They seemed to be a bunch of independent contractors all working independently instead of working as a single, cohesive group.

NGUYEN: Let's go to that executive authority issue, because that is something that's been in the news lately with eavesdropping on Americans, something that we're hearing the Bush administration, indeed, did approve of.

Did Alito go on the record at all? Or can we look at his record and see where he falls in line when it comes to government authority?

Which side is he on?

TURLEY: Well, Betty, I did a piece for "USA Today" on this because I think that the most legitimately controversial issue about Samuel Alito is not abortion, which tends to sort of suck the air out of the room as an issue. It's, rather, his approach to government authority.

If you look at his cases, he is -- his level of deference borders on willful blindness when it comes to the government. I mean he is one of the most reliable votes for the government on the court. And we're in the middle of a constitutional crisis. We have a president who claims that he can, in some cases, violate federal law in the name of national security; a Congress, many of whom have accused him of committing crimes. This is a series crisis.

And that Sam Alito is very much the embodiment of that crisis. He has an approach to the executive power which is quite extreme.

The problem is that the Democrats never seemed to develop a strategy to highlight that, to say, you know, this is what it's all about. This is a serious question and we need you to answer these questions.

Alito just answered no questions at all. I mean, in fact it was sort of like John Roberts.

These hearings have become completely contentless. There's just nothing there.

NGUYEN: Well, but what was there were the fireworks that occurred between not only the senators that we showed you in that clip, but also the exchange between senators and Alito did bring his wife to tears.

Take a listen to some of the questioning and exactly what happened when those tears flowed.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Are you really a closet bigot?


GRAHAM: No, sir, you're not. And you know why I believe that? Not because you just said it, but that's a good enough reason, because you seem to be a decent, honorable man. I've got reams of quotes from people who have worked with you, African-American judges -- I've lost my quotes. Did I check on bottom? I don't know where they're at. But glowing quotes about who you are, the way you've lived your life.


NGUYEN: You could see in the background there Alito's wife really in tears over the questioning of her husband.

Was this questioning out of line? Because you've already pointed out that there were a lot of questions, but was there really any focus? Were any of the questions out of line?

TURLEY: I have to tell you, I don't think the questions were out of line. All of us feel great sympathy for Mrs. Alito. It's often rough to see families present at some of these controversial hearings. It is -- this can often be a blood sport and I can understand why she was emotional.

But being sympathetic for her views doesn't mean that the questions themselves were out of line. His membership in this organization was a legitimate question. This type of thing has come up with past nominees. In fact, past nominees have been rejected over such things.

And so I don't think they were out of line. You can be sympathetic, but we also have to understand what's happening in the process. And I think there are serious questions that have been raised not just about Judge Alito, but about the process in general. Ironically, the largest question is not whether they're pushing too hard, but whether these hearings really have any substance left of whether they're just sort of a meaningless kabuki where everyone is going through sort of rote scripts.

NGUYEN: Yes, going through the motions, but what are we truly learning?

Jonathan, let me ask you this very quickly.

Do you think he will be confirmed?

TURLEY: I think he will, and he will owe that to the Democrats. I think they have done a perfectly horrible job in advancing their interests here. They lacked strategy, direction, discipline. There's little evidence of a Democratic Party. And I think most of us are very surprised about it. If they can't muster their troops on this one, I don't understand when they could.

NGUYEN: Jonathan Turley, law professor at George Washington University, thanks so much for speaking with us this morning.

TURLEY: Thank you.

HARRIS: And just ahead, the Oprah effect and how it could breathe new life into a 100-year-old book, more than one, as history shows us.

Also, the new controversy surrounding the talk show queen's new book club pick.

We'll be right back.


NGUYEN: Well, it's been the subject of controversy and criticism. I'm sure you've heard about it. Now author James Frey's best-selling memoir is the subject of a lawsuit.

Frey has denied allegations that parts of his book, "A Million Little Pieces," are made up. The book describes his past life as a drug addict and criminal. Oprah Winfrey fueled its success by picking it for her book club.

Well, according to wire reports, a Chicago law firm is now suing the book's publisher, alleging consumer fraud. The firm says it's acting on behalf of a reader who says she felt cheated after allegations about the book cropped up. The suit seeks class action status.

Publisher Doubleday is offering a refund to any readers who want it.

Very interesting, Tony.

HARRIS: It is. Be they truth, fiction or something in between, James Frey's memoirs can still be found on the best-seller list. "A Million Little Pieces" is back on top despite all of the controversy. And what caused the turnaround? In a word, Oprah. And she did it right here on CNN.

Our Heidi Collins has more.


OPRAH WINFREY, TALK SHOW HOST: We support the book because we recognize that there have been thousands and hundreds of thousands of people whose lives have been changed by this book.

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): That was Oprah Winfrey saving the bacon, the book and maybe the career of author James Frey.

WINFREY: Our next book is "A Million Little Pieces."

COLLINS: Of course, it was Oprah who started the book's juggernaut back in September when she chose it as a selection for her book club and sent it soaring to the top of Amazon's bestseller list. It's still there. There's a reason why "Forbes" magazine named the daytime diva the most powerful celebrity in the world.

LOLA OGUNNAIKE, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": She's able to move commerce, she's able to move the culture and she's able to tug at American women and men's heartstrings.

COLLINS: She tugs at their heart strings and tells them what to read. "A Million Little Pieces" is the 56th book Oprah's pitched to her public since she started the book club in 1996, making household names out of often obscure authors.

In 2000, she chose "Gap Creek" by Robert Morgan. Within a month, the book sold 650,000 copies. With her stamp of approval, she makes best-selling authors out of new writers.

OGUNNAIKE: If you're a no-name author and she decides that she loves your book and she puts it in her book club, you are going to be on the bestsellers list.

COLLINS: And she gives new life to old classics. Her choice of the 1875 Tolstoy novel, "Anna Karenina," forced the publisher of a new translation to rush one million extra copies into print.

OPRAH: There isn't nothing wrong with a little bit of bling.

COLLINS: It's not just books, but bling that Oprah turns into bestsellers. Every year she showers her audience with her favorite stuff, from diamond watches to iPods, from Burberry coats to laptop computers. And they all start selling like hot cakes. Something she hasn't given away, yet.

OGUNNAIKE: People trust her opinion. People believe in her taste. And they know that she is not going to B.S. them. If she believes in something and she likes something, she's going to go all out for that thing or that person.

OPRAH: I'm going to change, with your help, the laws in this country, state by state by state by state.

COLLINS: Oprah may have the power to push products, but she's also got the power to put away the bad guys. She recently featured the FBI's most wanted child molesters on her show. Forty-eight hours later, two pedophiles were behind bars.

OPRAH: I know that it resonates with millions of other people who have read this book.

COLLINS: And with a few minutes on "Larry King Live," Oprah turned a P.R. nightmare into a book selling bonanza.

James Frey has found himself a powerful friend.

Heidi Collins, CNN, New York.


HARRIS: And you can hear everything Oprah had to say about the controversy and also from the author himself tonight on a special replay of "LARRY KING LIVE."

That's at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, 6:00 Pacific.


NGUYEN: Talking about weather outside, some severe. But the last word, Bonnie, some of these tornado watches have been canceled, is that correct?


NGUYEN: Thank you so much, Bonnie.

We'll be checking in with you soon.

The next hour of CNN SATURDAY MORNING begins right now.

HARRIS: Now in the news, sources tell CNN that a top al Qaeda terror suspect was the target of a CIA air strike in Pakistan. But Pakistani sources dispute reports Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden's right-hand man, was even in the area at the time. However, the attack on a remote Pakistani village killed at least 18 men, women, and children.

Brief but intense weather swept the Southeast, spawning reported tornadoes. Several mobile homes were destroyed in rural South Carolina. Nearly two dozen homes were damaged by high winds in Gastonia, North Carolina, a subdivision there.

Laura Bush leaves Washington tonight to attend the inauguration of Africa's first female head of state. The first lady is heading a U.S. delegation to see Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf sworn in as president of Liberia. The delegation includes Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Liberia was founded by freed American slaves in 1847.

From the CNN Center, this is CNN SATURDAY MORNING. It is January 14, 8:00 a.m. here in Atlanta, and 5:30 p.m. in Pakistan.

Good morning, everyone. I'm Tony Harris.

NGUYEN: And I'm Betty Nguyen. We want to thank you for being with us this morning.

Top story now, was the U.S. on target or off its mark? More on this, and it involves Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden's right-hand man in al Qaeda . He was the reported target of a CIA air strike in a Pakistani village on Friday. Now, 18 people were killed, but was al- Zawahiri one of them?

Well, CNN senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre joins us with the latest. Some conflicting information this morning, Jamie. Was he or was he not killed?

MCINTYRE: Well, it's beginning to look like perhaps he wasn't killed, although we have no official confirmation from anyone in the U.S. government.

What knowledgeable sources did tell CNN's David Ensor yesterday was that U.S. intelligence did indicate that Ayman al-Zawahiri, the number two in al Qaeda, might-- underscore might-- have been among some suspected high-level al Qaeda figures in a series of buildings in northwest Pakistan.

Those sources also told our David Ensor that a CIA-ordered air strike was carried out, a missile attack against the target.

We do know that as many as 18 people were killed, including some women and children. But as of this morning, Pakistani officials are telling the wire services, including the Associated Press and Reuters and others, that they now believe that Ayman al-Zawahiri was not among those killed.

But again, we-- as we had no information confirming that he was killed initially, we now have no information confirming that he wasn't killed from the U.S. government.

Pentagon officials urged caution all along, saying it's extremely difficult to kill a single individual from an air strike. It requires very good intelligence, even as they stress the U.S. military was not involved in this attack.

They also pointed out that there were reports back in 2004 that Zawahiri was surrounded by Pakistani forces. In that case, it also turned out he either wasn't there or got away.

So a very difficult kind of mission to carry out, and the indication, again, from Pakistani officials is that he probably wasn't among the dead. But, again, waiting for official word.

NGUYEN: Always waiting for that official word. And we will stand by for that. Thanks for clarifying, though, for-- from the information, at least, that you know this morning, Jamie. We'll talk to you soon.

HARRIS: Couple of questions for you. If Ayman al-Zawahiri is dead, what then? Just what effect would the news have on America's war on terror? Pretty good questions.

CNN's Kathleen Koch joins us live from the White House with that part of the story. Kathleen, good morning.


Well, Zawahiri was certainly-- is certainly one of the most important targets in the war on terror, with a $25 million bounty on his head. I apologize if I repeat anything that Jamie said. We were not able to hear his comments here at the White House.

But obviously, Zawahiri is believed to have helped mastermind the 9/11 attacks. He also has been indicted for-- in the U.S. for his alleged role in the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in both Kenya and Tanzania.

President Bush, in speeches, frequently touts the administration's contention that most of al Qaeda's top leaders have been captured or killed, but the president also does make it clear in his speeches that his administration believes the war on terror is not just against one man.

And obviously, because there is this continuing ambiguity and uncertainty as to whether or not Zawahiri has actually been killed, the White House has no official reaction to the attack. President Bush himself is spending the weekend at the presidential retreat at Camp David.

Now, the strike targeting Zawahiri has been condemned by Pakistani officials, so that does certainly present a potential problem with an ally in the war on terror. And it could also undermine any improvements in the U.S. image that have occurred in Pakistan since the U.S. began helping significantly in the earthquake- recovery efforts there, Tony.

HARRIS: OK, Kathleen. And again, no official comment on this from the White House. Is that correct?

KOCH: Certainly, Tony. I mean, this-- Zawahiri's such an important figure--


KOCH: ... that the White House certainly doesn't want to take any chances. And until there is DNA proof, hard-and-fast evidence, that he's dead, they're not going to say anything about it.

HARRIS: CNN's Kathleen Koch for us at the White House this morning. Kathleen, thank you. NGUYEN: Checking news from across America now.

Lawyers for California's oldest death row inmate say he is too old and too sick to be executed. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has denied clemency for Clarence Ray Allen, who is 75, legally blind, and nearly deaf. His attorneys are taking his case to the U.S. Supreme Court. Allen was convicted of ordering three killings while behind bars for another murder. He's set for execution on Tuesday after more than 23 years on death row.

Stevie Wonder was just one of many celebrities honoring singer Lou Rawls. Rawls died last week of lung cancer. He was 72. During his funeral, the Reverend Jesse Jackson asked, Who is left among the artists fighting for children now? Over the years, as you recall, Rawls helped raise more than $200 million for the United Negro College Fund.

A tribal chairman's teenage son has reportedly been sentenced to up to one year in a juvenile center for exchanging threatening messages with a teen gunman in last year's shootings on Minnesota's Red Lake Indian reservation. According to "The Minneapolis Star Tribune," 17-year-old Luis Jardain (ph) will also be on probation until he's 21. His 16-year-old friend killed nine people in that shooting.

HARRIS: A middle-schooler is on life support this morning in a Florida hospital after being shot by a SWAT team at his school. Fifteen-year-old Christopher Lloyd Penley is in critical condition following the incident Friday in Longwood, Florida.

We go to CNN's J.J. Ramberg in Longwood for the latest. And J.J., good morning.


Well, officials and parents and students here, of course, are all still trying to make sense of what happened here yesterday at Milwee Middle School. They're also trying to figure out what would have motivated this eighth-grader to come to school with that pellet gun and represent it as a real gun.

Now, just to recap what happened yesterday, it started about 9:30 in the morning, when two students noticed that Penley had a gun in his bag. They confronted him. It resulted in a scuffle between him and one of the other students. No one was hurt at that point.

But a teacher was notified, who then notified security officers. Penley left the classroom where he was in before. He was chased through the halls by one of the resource officers in the school. And reinforcements were brought in, so more police officers and a SWAT team were brought in.

Penley was eventually cornered in an alcove in a bathroom. But during the chase, according to police reports, he had put the gun to his neck and said, I'm going to die, kill myself or die in some other way. So when he was cornered, the SWAT team was trying to negotiate with him, trying to get him to put down the gun and come out. He wouldn't talk to them other than say his first name.

And then, according to the police, he lifted the gun, aimed it at the SWAT team officer, who then, in reaction, shot Penley.

As you said, he is on advanced life support right now. As it turns out, as we know now, it wasn't a real gun, it was a pellet gun. But yesterday, in a press conference, the lieutenant, Lieutenant Weippert, who was involved in this explained how it could have been mistaken for a real gun.


LT. MIKE WEIPPERT, SEMINOLE COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT: This is the actual firearm that was held by the subject inside of the one that I'm holding during the incident. As you can see, it looks almost identical to the one that Zach Dolley (ph) is holding, which is the actual real nine-millimeter handgun.


RAMBERG: Now, pellet guns generally have a red tip. And that distinguishes them from real guns. This gun, in particular, the red tip was painted black, which, again, is why the police are saying they got confused and why most people got confused and thought that it was a real gun.

As we said before, Penley is in a hospital right now. We haven't gotten any new reports other than he's still on advanced life support, Tony.

HARRIS: Hey, J.J., are the kids in school, his classmates, are they talking? We getting any sense of what was going on with this kid?

RAMBERG: We're -- a picture of his background is starting to emerge. Some of his friends were interviewed yesterday, and they said that he was a depressed kid who wasn't happy with his life. And so while people were surprised that it was taken to this level, they weren't completely surprised that something like this had happened.

Now, "The Orlando Sentinel" is also reporting this morning that last year, there was an incident with this same student, where he said that he was being bullied, and he made some threats, and he had to move schools, and then just came back to this school recently, and we're working on finding more about that.

HARRIS: Yes, OK. CNN's J.J. Ramberg for us in Longwood, Florida. J.J., thank you.

NGUYEN: Lots of questions this morning. Here's another one for you. Were they tornadoes, or not? Whatever they were, they did a lot of damage in the Carolinas. We'll have the latest from meteorologist Bonnie Schneider about that.

HARRIS: Plus, I guess this is a weather story too. Dry, hot conditions. There's the flames on the Plains. Is there a break in sight, or will this be an explosive year for wildfires?

NGUYEN: Plus, caught on tape. Check this out. Yet another would-be bandit gets the long end of the stick. Ouch. The battering of a burglar. That's ahead, right here on CNN SATURDAY MORNING.


NGUYEN: Here's an update on our top stories today.

U.S. officials aren't saying whether they have their man. But according to wire reports, Pakistani officials say Ayman al-Zawahiri was not among 18 people killed in a CIA air strike in Pakistan yesterday.

Back in this country, Ohio Representative Bob Ney is under pressure to give up his position as chairman of the House Administration Committee. Ney has been linked to a bribery scheme involving lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Ney denies any wrongdoing.

In New Orleans, a huge fire -- look at this -- in the hurricane- battered lower Ninth Ward is still smoldering this morning.

HARRIS: Back in the Ninth again?

NGUYEN: Back in the Ninth Ward.

HARRIS: Oh, boy.

NGUYEN: A pile of debris left by Hurricane Katrina caught fire Thursday, sending smoke and flames high into the sky. The Environmental Protection Agency says dangerous chemicals could be in that smoke.


Well, parts of the South are cleaning up a real mess this morning after getting slammed with severe weather last night. And that weather system is now heading north. Reports of tornadoes touching down in the Carolinas, dozens of hopes damaged there.

In South Carolina, at least four people were critically injured when a reported tornado hit a mobile home park. And in Bellville, Alabama, a woman was killed when the chimney of her home collapsed during an apparent tornado. At least 18 other homes were damaged or destroyed.

All this nasty weather.

NGUYEN: You wouldn't think it's tornado season right now, but you've seen those tornadoes this morning.

Bonnie, there were some tornado watches that were out.


BONNIE SCHNEIDER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: One part of the country which could use the cooler temperatures, unfortunately, that's not going to see it, is the southern Plains. Warm, dry conditions continue to fan the flames as wildfires burn across the Plains states.

Is this a glimpse of the year to come, or will we have a break from fire danger?

Joining me now is Dr. Philip Bothwell, a meteorologist for the Storm Prediction Center. He's in Norman, Oklahoma, with this year's fire forecast.

Dr. Bothwell, it seems almost every day we have an area of extreme fire danger across the southern Plains. Why do you think this particular year has been so active?

BOTHWELL: Well, Bonnie, it's basically, we have been going into dry conditions there for six months. And we had the very cold conditions early December that finished killing off the fine fuels. And front after front has gone through where we've had just nothing but the dry, strong southwest winds, extremely low humidity, and very warm to almost hot temperatures. Very anomalous conditions for us around here.

SCHNEIDER: And what goes into preparing the fire forecast that you put out every day?

BOTHWELL: Well, we have a lot of model guidance, and we work with other national centers on both climate terms and down to the local forecast office. We do look at the forecast for where will the winds be the strongest, the humidity the lowest, And we also take into account the fine fuels and the fuels that are ready to burn. And this has all come together, again, over the central southern Plains here this winter.

SCHNEIDER: We talk specifically about this weekend and the next week or so. What area would you say has the biggest threat for fire danger?

BOTHWELL: Like today, it's Oklahoma and Texas to the west of I- 35 with strong, gusty winds. Now, tomorrow and Sunday, we're going to look at conditions actually expanding into eastern Oklahoma. So really, all of Oklahoma tomorrow, much of Texas, and then into Monday, we're looking at probably parts of southeastern Oklahoma into northeast Texas for Monday.

SCHNEIDER: And as we look towards the rest of the month and looking on towards February, what is your prediction for a little bit more longer-range forecast?

BOTHWELL: Well, unfortunately, right now, it really doesn't look very good for us because we're talking about above-normal temperatures and either at or below-normal precipitation. And so basically, a continuation, from what we see right now, what's been ongoing, with very little in the way of relief.

We are just so extremely dry, with many areas 10 to 20 inches below normal precipitation. So it's going to take a lot to get us out of this hole that we're in right now.

SCHNEIDER: So the next chance for a good drenching rain won't come for a while?

BOTHWELL: That's right.

SCHNEIDER: That's unfortunate. Do you expect that next year to be just as bad as this year, looking ahead to the future?

BOTHWELL: Well, what we're looking at is for 2006 here all the way from southern California, Arizona, New Mexico, to have a spring that's drier than normal and warmer. And then, more or less the rest of the year, it gets a little harder to tell as we go on.

But certainly, the southern Plains for right now, into the springtime, we're looking at Arizona and New Mexico possibly having fire conditions too.

SCHNEIDER: That's unfortunate. Doesn't seem to be getting any better. Dr. Philip Bothwell from the Storm Prediction Center in Oklahoma, thank you so much for joining us.

BOTHWELL: Thank you, Bonnie.


HARRIS: Bonnie.

SCHNEIDER: Yes, too bad, no rain in sight.

NGUYEN: Yes, the news wasn't so great for those states dealing...


NGUYEN: ... with dry, windy conditions. Yes, definitely.

Bonnie, thank you.

SCHNEIDER: You're welcome.

HARRIS: Ayman al-Zawahiri is considered the brains behind al Qaeda. And he obviously is a high-value target. Would his death be a turning point in the war on terror, though? I mean, that's, that's the question. E-mail us. Here's the address,, and we'll read your responses right after the break.

NGUYEN: We already got some pretty good ones so far.

Plus, caught on tape. Ooh! That's a beating right there. This


HARRIS: Why did we speed it up, though? It's bad enough in real time.


NGUYEN: This, well, as you saw earlier, a would-be robber learned to take a punch, or at least a hit, and then another, and another, and another, and so on and so forth.

And police are surprised when they see who is driving this weaving pickup truck. See it there? It's been quite a week. We're going to show the unbelievable story straight ahead.


NGUYEN: Just getting it together right here, folks.



NGUYEN: In case you missed it, we wanted to catch you up on some of the real live crimes all caught on tape this week. Check it out.

Police near Nashville, Tennessee, in hot pursuit of a drunk driver, or so they thought. The driver just barely avoided five, count them, five head-on collisions. Turns out he's only 7 years old. The boy took his parents' pickup truck for a joy ride but managed to pull into the driveway to end the chase. Police say the boy could face some serious charges.

HARRIS: Wait a minute. You said 7 years old, didn't you?

NGUYEN: Seven, that's it.

HARRIS: OK, that kind of went right by me. Seven years old, OK, all right.

And watch this store surveillance video carefully here. Yes, there it is. A mother and...


HARRIS: ... her two daughters are expected to recover after they were hit by a car yesterday in Wattsville (ph), California.

NGUYEN: Oh, my.

HARRIS: Sheriff's deputies say the 79-year-old driver lost control while turning into the parking lot. At first, she then fled on foot, didn't get far fast, then surrendered, and now faces felony hit-and-run charges.

NGUYEN: All right. Well, if that's not an eye opener, in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, look at this. It speaks for itself. A would-be robber is caught by surprise. Oh! Look at the clerk, pulls out a baseball bat and starts wailing on him. Ouch, ouch. And again and again. And he thinks he's escaped, but police were already at his house on another tip and arrested him after they saw he had lumps on his head, and I'm sure some other places as well. Boy, he went at him with that bat, bam, bam.



NGUYEN: , Yes, don't even try...


NGUYEN: ... to go to that store and rob it, because it ain't happening.

HARRIS: Now, here's our e-mail question of the morning. Would Ayman al-Zawahiri's death be a turning point? I've said it, like, four different ways.

NGUYEN: Zawahiri, Zawahiri...

HARRIS: Zawahiri. Would his death be a turning point in the war on terror?

NGUYEN: Well, Toriano says, "I'm not so certain that the men of al Qaeda will slow their efforts simply because of an organization designed as this one. There are five more younger guys waiting in the wings to show Osama what they can do in that role."

HARRIS: And Abdi writes, "I am sorry to say the killing al- Zawahiri or bin Laden would not be a blow to terrorists movements."

NGUYEN: All right, well, here's the question one more time. Let us know what you think. Would al-Zawahiri, are Zawahiri, however you want to say it's death, if indeed he is dead. be a turning point in the war on terror? E-mail us,

Selling lies, that's what critics are saying about this best- selling book. Do readers feel betrayed? Next hour, we're going to speak with the editor of a smoking gun to get all the juicy details.

HARRIS: But first, it's a new year full of new resolutions. Senior medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta follows three pairs of people as they work together to improve their health, struggling to cut calories and pump up their exercise. That's next on "HOUSE CALLS."


NGUYEN: Dead or alive, that's the question. Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden's right-hand man in the al Qaeda terrorist network, was the reported target of a CIA air strike Friday in a village in Pakistan. U.S. intelligence suggests Ayman al-Zawahiri was in one of the buildings destroyed in that strike.

Now, Pakistani officials say al-Zawahiri was nowhere near the area. We're going to have the latest details on this developing story in a live report at the top of the hour. TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT

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