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AMERICAN MORNING

Ford to Announce Massive Job Cuts; American Hostage in Iraq; Saddam Hussein's Trial

Aired January 23, 2006 - 08:00   ET

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


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. I'm Miles O'Brien.
Is Ford running on empty? The automaker prepares to make major job cuts across the board. We'll go live to Ford headquarters for the latest.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Soledad O'Brien.

Holding out hope, a desperate plea from the family of an American journalist held hostage in Iraq.

M. O'BRIEN: And a picture that is already haunting us here, a desperate race to save people trapped in the rubble of a collapsed building in Kenya.

Those stories all ahead on this AMERICAN MORNING.

S. O'BRIEN: Good morning. Welcome back, everybody.

M. O'BRIEN: Good to have you with us this morning.

Big news from Detroit this morning. Ford finding red ink is no way to fuel a company facing billion-dollar losses. The company is slashing jobs and shutting plants on a very large scale. The announcement comes later this morning.

CNN's Ali Velshi live in Dearborn, Michigan, company headquarters, a place they call glass house.

And these days, Ali, the stones have been thrown at glass house from the Japanese, haven't they?

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right. The Japanese, who can build plants in America and run them at 100 percent capacity, Ford can't do that. Seventy-nine percent capacity is what Ford is at in America.

This is a company that makes money. In fact, just moments ago, Ford announced its earnings for 2005, $2 billion. It's actually doing pretty well, but the North American auto operations are not. And as a result of that, we are about two hours away from announcement of massive job cuts and plant closures across America.

Now, Ford did this in 2002, laying off 30,000 people, in 2005, laying off 10,000 people. We are expecting 25,000 people, up to 10 plants, including one in Hapeville, Georgia, a plant where -- where they are just not making enough stuff. In Wixom, Michigan, near us, another plant that might be closed. Two of the 10 plants -- up to 10 plants -- we might see closing.

This is a problem for Ford. They have been losing market share for 10 years and are now at the lowest point in market share that they have ever had in the company's storied history.

Ford started here in Dearborn more than a hundred years ago. And today, the great grandson of Henry Ford, Bill Ford, Jr., will be here to announce the restructuring -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Ali, if they're doing so well overseas, why aren't they employing those lessons in North America?

VELSHI: Well, that's what they've got to figure out. Part of the reason they are doing so well overseas is the Premier Auto Group. This is the -- the brands that Ford owns: Jaguar, Aston Martin, Land Rover, Volvo, those brands. The actual Ford, the blue oval that you see, that's the company that's having trouble.

And, you know, some of their best-sellers -- we see the Mustang over here, that's been doing pretty well. But the Ford Explorer, that kicked off the whole SUV craze, well, it saw its worst month in November 2005. Gas prices aren't helping that.

This company needs innovation, it needs new products, in needs to get the excitement back out there. And hopefully that is what Bill Ford is going to try to do. But in the process, tens of thousands of people will lose their job as Ford struggles to stay profitable -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: It's hard for a company of that size to respond that quickly, isn't it, Ali? They've got 120,000 employees or so, right?

VELSHI: Yes, 120,000. We could see 20 percent of those employees. That's their American workforce. We could see 20 percent of those -- those employees off the job, or at least starting to understand that they are losing their job today.

No surprise to a lot of those at those factories we are talking about. They know they're making products that aren't selling for Ford. The Minivan is not working for Ford. So we can expect today to hear of a revamp to the Minivan. It might not even be a Minivan. It might be something entirely different.

But we are expecting some major, major changes.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes. We've even heard about this so-called recyclable vehicle. "TIME" magazine out with that.

Tell us a little bit about that.

VELSHI: Bill Ford, the CEO of this company, is a noted environmentalist, somebody who says they should be making so many more of their cars as hybrid cars. He's really got to push toward this, and one of the things they're going to talk about -- they may talk about it today, but it's known to be in the works, the idea that Ford wants to make more recyclable vehicles, vehicles that are made from recyclable products and can be fully recycled as part of an effort to sustain this company for the long term.

One thing that's very important about knowing that there is a Ford in charge of this company is that these are people who have been involved in this company for many, many years. They're not looking for the short-term fix, the thing that's just around the corner.

This company needs to be rebuilt and rebuilt in a way that makes it strong and legendary because it's built the Thunderbird, the Mustang, the Model T, the F-150, which has been the biggest selling vehicle in America for decades. This has got to be the company that reinvents itself and makes itself able to withstand any changes that come in the future -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: That's a big order. Ali Velshi...

VELSHI: Yes.

M. O'BRIEN: ... there at glass house in Dearborn.

Thank you very much.

And CNN will carry the Ford announcement. Ali Velshi will be there for it, 10:30 Eastern Time this morning. Stay with us for that -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: A father's pleas to save his daughter's life. Jill Carroll, the journalist, was kidnapped on January 7, and then she appeared on an insurgent video last week. Her kidnappers gave a deadline, and that deadline, Friday, passed three days ago.

Thursday, I spoke with Jill's mother last night, and an exclusive interview with Jill's father. He appealed to her abductors.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIM CARROLL, JILL CARROLL'S FATHER: I wish to speak directly to the people holding my daughter.

I hope that you heard the conviction in Jill's voice when she spoke of your country. That was real. She is not your enemy.

When you release her alive, she will tell your story with that same conviction. Alive, my daughter will not be silenced.

Your story is one that can be told by Jill to the whole world. Allowing her to live and releasing her will enable her to do that.

You already know that my daughter is honest, sincere, and of good heart. Her respect for the Iraqi people is evident in her words that she has been reporting.

Jill started to tell your story, so please let her finish it. Through the media, if necessary, advise her family and me of how we might initiate a dialogue that will lead to her release.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

S. O'BRIEN: This morning, we're following the very latest efforts to win Jill's release from Baghdad.

Plus, there's also word of a change in the courtroom for the trial of Saddam Hussein.

CNN's Aneesh Raman has both of those stories for us from Baghdad.

Hey, Aneesh. Good morning.

ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Soledad, good morning to you.

Impassioned pleas, of course, continue for the release of Jill Carroll not just from her father, but really unprecedented support here in Iraq for Jill Carroll's release. But no news whatsoever publicly as to her fate after that Friday deadline came and went set by her captors, a group calling itself Brigades of Vengeance.

We do know that behind-the-scenes feverish efforts are being undertaken by Iraqi and U.S. officials to try and secure her release. It's tough to judge anything from this silence, Soledad.

We've seen before from insurgent groups that have taken people captive, they often extend these deadlines. At times, they do so publicly, at others they do not. We simply don't know in this case. And for those in Iraq, for her parents back in the U.S., the wait simply continues -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: All right, Aneesh. Then let's talk a little bit about the -- sort of what they are asking for. They want the release of these female prisoners. Any word on where that stands?

RAMAN: Yes, exactly. The group wants all Iraqi women that are being held in custody released.

Now, the U.S. military has said there are eight Iraqi women currently in custody. Iraqi officials have told us six of those eight were set to be released. They immediately cautioned, though, that release is completely unrelated to the demands of the hostage-takers, but we are being told that there any number of procedures that have to take place. So there's no set time on when those six of the eight Iraqi women in custody could be released -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Finally, let's talk a little bit about the Saddam Hussein trial. There's been some big changes. What kind of impact will those changes have, do you think?

RAMAN: Yes, the court in just the past hour announcing there is a new interim chief presiding judge. He's a 65-year-old, he's a Kurd. The biggest question, of course, will be, what style does this judge have? How much does he take control of this court?

The former presiding judge -- and viewers will recall his face, they've seen it often -- Rizgar Mohammed Amin, came under intense criticism not just here in Iraq, but abroad as well, for not having enough control of the court, for allowing Saddam Hussein to speak at will, for allowing the trial to become unwieldy at times. So tomorrow what we'll be looking for is what style this interim judge has and whether it's different from what we've seen before -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: You know everybody is going to be watching tomorrow.

Aneesh, thanks for the update. Appreciate it.

Other stories making news. Carol has got that.

Carol, good morning.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning.

We have more on that developing story out of Nairobi, Kenya. A building undergoing renovations collapses.

There are reports of deaths. We have no firm numbers yet, but we do know that more than 50 people have been injured.

Rescuers are digging through the rubble, using their hands looking for survivors. The lower floors of the five-store building were filled with construction workers. More than 200 people inside. More floors were being added to the building when it collapsed.

President Bush says, "I don't recall." He was asked if he ever met convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff. "TIME" and "Washingtonian" magazine both have reported about a half a dozen pictures of the two together. And if you're wondering why we are not showing them to you, well, we don't have those pictures yet.

The White House says President Bush poses for pictures with hundreds of people, and sometimes he doesn't know them.

In Australia, dozens of wildfires are burning and officials are warning the worst is yet to come. Thousands of firefighters are battling the flames. In just one of the fires, nearly 250,000 acres have been destroyed. Police are investigating whether two deaths are linked to those fires.

And in the world of sports, it will be the Steelers versus the Seahawks at Super Bowl XL. The Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Denver Broncos 34-17 to win the AFC. The Steelers are the first team seated six to reach the big game. And if you want a translation, they had to win three road games to get to the Super Bowl.

Over in the NFC, the Seattle Seahawks whipped the Carolina Panthers 34-14. The Seahawks and the Steelers will meet in Super Bowl XL, February 5, in Detroit.

And since Pittsburgh is so good at winning on the road, Detroit is deemed the home team -- I mean the Steelers are teamed the home team when they get to Detroit. And some fans are kind of worried about that. S. O'BRIEN: And who are you putting your money on?

COSTELLO: Pittsburgh.

M. O'BRIEN: All about Pittsburgh. Really?

COSTELLO: I'm all about the buzz.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes.

COSTELLO: Isn't he a lovely guy?

M. O'BRIEN: Is that because of the Detroit connection, because you're a Lions fan? Is that it, or...

COSTELLO: Well, I figure if the Lions were good they would be just like the Pittsburgh Steelers.

M. O'BRIEN: There you go.

S. O'BRIEN: That's interesting math.

COSTELLO: Well, you know, I don't know.

M. O'BRIEN: It has a black and blue division (ph) feel.

S. O'BRIEN: If the Lions weren't the Lions and were the Steelers?

COSTELLO: Well, it's kind of the same town, Pittsburgh, Detroit, kind of the same blue collar spirit.

S. O'BRIEN: We're following you. That's all right.

M. O'BRIEN: If the Lions weren't so mediocre...

S. O'BRIEN: The would be the Steelers.

M. O'BRIEN: They would be the Steelers.

S. O'BRIEN: I'm buying it.

Thanks, Carol.

Let's get a look at weather. Chad's got that

Good morning again, Chad.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: If it wasn't snowing, it would be warm.

(LAUGHTER)

(WEATHER REPORT)

S. O'BRIEN: Chad, thanks. M. O'BRIEN: All right. Thank you very much, Chad.

We have been showing you some rather disturbing pictures out of Kenya this morning. A building collapsed right in the center of Nairobi, and we saw just a little while ago that hand tapping against that broken piece of poured concrete.

A five-story building had been under construction, adding additional floors. There you see this desperate effort, piece by piece, by hand, to try to get those who are trapped out.

Reporter Nick Hughes in Nairobi. He joins us on the line right now. He's not too far away from the scene.

Nick, what can you tell us about this -- the circumstances surrounding all of this?

NICK HUGHES, REPORTER: This is downtown Nairobi, one of the most crowded, congested parts of the city. It's right on the corner of the famous River Road.

The area is being redeveloped, and there's a large building site of which about a quarter has collapsed. It's a four or five-story building, came straight down. It doesn't look like anybody had any warning.

One of the problems that the authorities are having is the sheer numbers of people in that area. There are now thousands upon thousands of people who have come to either help or just be onlookers on to this extraordinary scene. And there's a desperate struggle as they find people who are trapped and under the rubble to get them out.

M. O'BRIEN: It is a scene of chaos. We were reporting earlier, Nick, that it was a construction site, they were adding additional floors to the top. Do you know if beyond construction workers, if anybody else had occupied that office building when this occurred?

HUGHES: No. It was a construction site. It wasn't finished.

This is a partly finished building, so there would have been only construction workers on the site. But also, I think a lot of people who were injured were passersby.

The roads are so narrow and congested there that anybody who was nearby at the time could easily have been hit by falling masonry when the building came down. But now we're quite sure that there are still people, probably construction workers, still alive under the rubble. And as the authorities arrive, the fire brigades, et cetera, there is a desperate struggle to get people out alive.

M. O'BRIEN: All right. And what -- we -- of course we saw the dramatic pictures showing evidence of life beneath the rubble. Do we know -- any sense right now on the number of injured, the number of how seriously they are injured, and if there are any fatalities?

HUGHES: The hospitals are reporting about 60 injured, but I suspect that will go up. Absolutely no idea at this point, though, about how many have actually been killed.

The building has collapsed so completely that I don't think it will be -- it will be sometime before that rubble is really cleared and they can get any idea of how many people actually died. The only other way, of course, is if relatives or the employer comes forward with lists of people who were working on the site at the time and haven't reported that they are OK.

M. O'BRIEN: Nick Hughes on the line with us from Nairobi, Kenya.

A story we will keep close tabs on for you all morning. As we get developments we'll bring them to you -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: A short break. We're back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

S. O'BRIEN: We've been listening this morning to the appeals for Jill Carroll. She's the American journalist who is being held hostage in Iraq. We'll talk more this morning about the politics surrounding this kidnapping and the demand to release Iraqi women in custody.

Middle East expert Fawaz Gerges is the author of the "Far Enemy: Why Jihad Went Global." He's with us this morning.

Nice to see you.

PROF. FAWAZ GERGES, SARAH LAWRENCE COLLEGE: Same here. Thank you.

S. O'BRIEN: Let's talk about this -- the issue that really seems to be at the heart of this kidnapping, which is the release of these Iraqi women who are being held by the United States.

GERGES: Yes.

S. O'BRIEN: What is the perception in Iraq of these -- and it's a small number.

GERGES: Yes.

S. O'BRIEN: I mean, it's really not a numbers issue. It's eight or nine, depending on sort of how you do the math on it.

GERGES: Yes, 14,000 Iraqi prisoners in American prisons in Iraq.

S. O'BRIEN: So a handful.

GERGES: Just nine -- nine women. But you see, Soledad, women hold a very special protected status in Muslim societies, and many Iraqis, the overwhelming majority of the Iraqis, believe that detention of Iraqi women is highly unacceptable, dishonorable, and basically violates the country's deep traditions and values.

And they are circulating rumors not just about the detention of, you know, 10 or nine Iraqi women, that Iraqi women have been raped and violated by American soldiers. Even though the rumors are unfounded, but the rumors have done a great deal of damage. They have poured fuel on the raging fire in Iraq.

It's a highly explosive issue. It has really become terribly, terribly volatile in relation between Iraqis who oppose the American presence and the American presence in the country.

S. O'BRIEN: There is also speculation that a lot of number of these women are actually being held in order to pressure their male relatives. And whether that's true or not, how is that being read?

GERGES: Absolutely. I mean, I think this also is really complicating the relations between Iraqis and the Americans.

Many Iraqis do not buy the American story that the women are basically held for terrorist charges. Many Iraqis believe that the women are held in order to pressure the male relatives as an instrument of political pressure on Iraqis.

And not just the detention of nine Iraqi women, the rumors that are being spread on the Web sites, chat rooms, in the alleyways in Iraq that women, Iraqi women have been violated, their sexuality has been violated, they have been raped by American soldiers.

S. O'BRIEN: Inflammatory.

GERGES: Very, very terrible. Very volatile. It really complicates, I mean, the American presence in the country and relations between Iraqis and the Americans as a whole.

S. O'BRIEN: You have this debate with the U.S. saying that the women will not be released on anything other than the timeline that they were going to be released under. And you also have the Iraqi foreign ministry saying that actually they're going to be released sometime next week.

Does there seem to be...

GERGES: Yes.

S. O'BRIEN: How is this -- this contradiction really being interpreted back in Iraq?

GERGES: I think, it seems to me, there is great deal of tensions not just between the insurgents, the Iraqi insurgents, fighters, and the Americans, but also between the Iraqi government and the coalition forces. That is, the American military authorities.

Obviously, the Americans have made up their minds to release six out of the nine Iraqi women. And I believe that the sooner they are released the better.

I don't believe that the insurgents who are holding Jill Carroll are sincere about the plight of the Iraqi women. They are using Ms. Carroll as a political football for political purposes. But the question is, I think -- I mean, the United States does not need to dabble in this particular issue.

It's a highly explosive issue. I think the Iraqi government should be held -- should be holding Iraqi women. Whatever women are held should be transferred to Iraqi custody rather than the American, because remember, there is -- I mean, the question of the American military presence, the American occupation.

The rumors circulating that American soldiers have violated the honor of the Iraqi women, highly explosive, highly volatile. It really, you might say, hardens anti-American sentiment in the country. It does not help the American military goal in the country in order to recreate bridges between -- with Iraqi societies.

S. O'BRIEN: We'll see if that elevated status of women will, in the end, help Jill Carroll, if -- because she speaks Arabic, because she's a woman journalist.

GERGES: You know, Soledad, it's really amazing the outpouring of support for Jill Carroll.

S. O'BRIEN: Unprecedented, really.

GERGES: Not just by her friends. I mean, leading religious authorities have called for her unconditional release.

I mean, even, as you know, a delegation of the Council for American Islamic -- council in America here. I mean, it's a great outpouring of support, because I think many people realize she's a journalist, she's innocent, she's not a combatant. She should not be held against her will.

S. O'BRIEN: Hopefully the kidnappers will listen to all of those pleas.

Fawaz Gerges, nice to see you, as always. Thank you.

A short break. We're back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

M. O'BRIEN: Live pictures, KABC. That's a house fire in Tujunga, California. We don't know much more. Just thought we would share it with you. We're watching it.

S. O'BRIEN: Wow. Those are pretty remarkable -- look at that. That thing is fully engulfed and engaged.

We're obviously going to keep following these pictures, see if we can some get details on this story. But pretty remarkable pictures coming to you.

M. O'BRIEN: All right.

Our next story begin with a tragedy in Iraq and ends with a new life in America.

Candy Crowley picks it up.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): It has been almost three years since that day in Nasiriya, the day a sandstorm brought confusion to the chaos of the fighting, the day Daham Kasim (ph) tried to get his family out of the way of war and drove straight into it

There is, I think, four or three tanks, American tanks, in the Nasiriya gate. I don't see -- I don't -- but when -- but just I see the tanks there, I stop my car and I wait. I wait less than one minute, really. And they shoot me.

CROWLEY: Three of his children died almost instantly. The fourth died later that night after being transferred to a U.S. air base hospital.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My daughter has said, "Pop, it is very cold." But you know I have nothing to help her, because I can't stand up, I can't -- this is broken, and my legs is also broken, and the other, also. And my wife also.

The two arms -- two arms are broken. It's difficult to help my daughter -- and also died.

CROWLEY: We first met Daham (ph) and his wife Gufron (ph) a year ago as they were visiting relatives in St. Louis. They carried the kind of pain that was easy to see and hard to watch.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like this, huh? OK.

CROWLEY: Some things heal more easily than others. The open wound was the loss of their family. They wanted children.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If come a daughter, I would have the same name of my big daughter. And if come a boy, the same name of my boy. This is sure.

CROWLEY: Just before Christmas, a year to the day they arrived in the United States, there came a boy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mohammed (ph) came exactly the time when the snow begin to fall. Exactly in that day, in that minute.

CROWLEY: They are different people than they were a year ago. It is as though three lives began that day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am very, very, very happy. My son in my hand, and I can see him, touch him, speak to him. That's what I need, what I want.

My story has not destroyed me. And I stand up and now I have a baby and I can start my life again.

CROWLEY (on camera): The first time I've seen you smile. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

CROWLEY (voice over): She no longer wears only black, giggles frequently, and rarely puts Mohammed (ph) down. But her other children are just a whisper away. The day Mohammed (ph) was born, she says, was very happy and very difficult.

The thing is, now when they think of Americans, it is not just about that day in the sandstorm. They see the businessman who brought them to the U.S., the U.S. companies that donated a prosthesis and rehab, the doctors and nurses who watched over Gufron (ph), a diabetic with a history of miscarriages.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are angels, really. They are like angels with dealing with my health, the health of my wife or in the health of my -- during the delivery of my son.

CROWLEY: They have roots here now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, Mohammed (ph), he's my son. And now he is an American citizen.

CROWLEY: He is American by birthright. His parents are not. Their visa has run out. They await a decision by immigration that would allow them to stay.

This is where their life is.

Candy Crowley, CNN, St. Louis.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

M. O'BRIEN: Well, we hope they do get to stay. Daham (ph) and Gufron (ph) say they miss their homeland but believe their life and that of their new s should be here in the United States.

Boy, that's a smile worth seeing, isn't it?

S. O'BRIEN: Wow, what a tough story.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes.

S. O'BRIEN: Oh my goodness.

Ahead this morning, has al Qaeda found a new safe haven? U.S. officials say they worry about a new terrorist recruiting campaign in Africa. We'll tell you about that just ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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