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Insurgent Attack; The War on Terror; Wildfires

Aired March 3, 2006 - 06:00   ET


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: It is Friday. Good morning to you, I'm Miles O'Brien.
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Carol Costello. Happy Friday! I'm in for Soledad today.

O'BRIEN: More deaths in Iraq to tell you about. Sectarian violence spills into another day. We are live in Baghdad with the latest.

Plus, President Bush wraps up his trip in India. Next stop is Pakistan. An important speech that you will see live right here coming up.

COSTELLO: A life in ashes. People in Oklahoma now seeing the destruction left behind by those wildfires.

O'BRIEN: A suit over a suit. Actress Jessica Alba sues "Playboy" magazine saying it ruined her reputation.

COSTELLO: And I can't wait to see that story.

And a very special...

O'BRIEN: Again and again.


And a very special Oscar preview, we will tell who we think will take home the gold.

O'BRIEN: We begin on a serious note, the violence continues to escalate in Iraq this morning. Insurgents taking aim at workers at a pair of brick factories and aiming at some power stations. At least 18 are dead.

Aneesh Raman joining us live now from Baghdad.

Aneesh, what can you tell us about these latest attacks?


Those attacks took place late last night in the predominantly Shia city of Nahrawan, that's just east of the capital. As you say, gunmen attacking two brick factories, killing at least 18 workers there. They also went and attacked a power station, wounding two guards and knocking out power in the city of Nahrawan.

This is a curfew. An extraordinary daytime curfew is back in place in the capital to prevent attacks against mosques during Friday prayers after a bloody week of car bombs and suicide bombings.

But south of the capital, in the predominately Shia city of Basra, there large crowds gathered for what was being described as a joint prayer between Sunnis and Shia, though we should mention that in Basra the population is just about 80 percent Shia. This, as the government still tries to bring calm to a situation that remains tense. In all, well over 400 people have been killed in the country since that attack on the sacred Shia mosque a week ago Wednesday -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: Aneesh, tell us about some political pressure that's being exerted on the prime minister. Some people would like to see him step aside.

RAMAN: Yes, mounting pressure to see the governing Shia alliance replace their candidate for prime minister, take out Ibrahim al- Jaafari, who is the current Prime Minister, just got re-nominated to the post. It comes from the Sunni, Kurdish and secular blocs. They sent a letter yesterday to the Shia alliance. In return, it seems Jaafari canceled a political meeting that was set for yesterday among all the various groups. It now puts in dire jeopardy any prospect of a unity government -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: Aneesh Raman in Baghdad, thank you very much.

Troubling news there.

Meanwhile, a majority of Americans believe Iraq is on the brink of civil war. A CNN-"USA Today"-Gallup Poll finding 73 percent think a civil war is likely in Iraq in the next year. Twenty percent say it's unlikely -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Terrorism will be a major theme for President Bush today. First, as he makes a speech from India. That will happen just over two hours from now. And then, as he flies to Pakistan.

White House correspondent Elaine Quijano is live in New Delhi this morning.

Elaine, what will the president's message be?


Well the message is going to be that India and the United States have a lot in common, a lot of mutual interests, including, of course, fighting terrorism. Now India is the world's largest democracy, so expect President Bush to highlight commonalaties between the two countries when he delivers his remarks just a short time from now. In his speech on the issue of terrorism, we are told the president will talk about cooperation between India and the U.S. in the areas of bioterrorism, cyberterrorism and aircraft security. His speech, though, comes at a time when a new poll is showing that his approval rating on the issue of terrorism has dropped. The latest CNN-"USA Today"-Gallup Poll showing 47 percent of Americans say they approve of how President Bush is handling the issue of terrorism. That's down about seven points from last month before, of course, the controversy over the ports deal developed.

Now here in India, the talk, though, is not just of terrorism and fighting terrorism. The two leaders also discussed a range of issues, including the nuclear energy deal, trade, investment and agricultural ties. All of it, Carol, really a part of President Bush's effort to reach out and change the dynamic of U.S. and India relations, which U.S. officials readily acknowledge have perhaps not been so strong in the past -- Carol.

COSTELLO: All right, let's talk about Pakistan, because that's where he goes next. What's on the agenda for the president there?

QUIJANO: Well, front and center is going to be the issue of terrorism, of course on the heels of the bombings this week. Certainly that is a main focus.

Now, the president understands that Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's leader, has been under intense pressure, internal pressure, a lot of people not happy with his close ties to the U.S. on this issue of terrorism. There of course have been attempts on Musharraf's life. So President Bush is going there to try to strengthen those ties and really let Musharraf know that the support for Pakistan's efforts in fighting terrorism is going to remain strong -- Carol.

COSTELLO: You know, some might believe it might stir up more trouble. I mean there's bound to be a lot of protests there. I know security is at an all-time high. There was a suicide bombing that killed an American diplomat the other day. Is this the best time for the U.S. president to be going to Pakistan?

QUIJANO: Well what the Bush administration is saying about that, Carol, is that it really highlights why countries have to come together to fight terrorism. And just as it is symbolic for this visit to continue, the meeting between Musharraf and President Bush itself is symbolic, even before this bombing happened. Again, wanting to reaffirm the ties between the two countries and ensure that Pakistan remains an ally that the White House can count on in the future -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Elaine Quijano live from New Delhi this morning.

Live coverage of the president's speech in India begins at 8:00 Eastern this morning.

O'BRIEN: President Bush was very interested in Hurricane Katrina, but Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff did not have a realistic grasp of the situation. That's what former FEMA Director Mike Brown is saying now. Even more video teleconferences out now illustrating confusion the day Katrina hit.

Brown, appearing on CNN's "SITUATION ROOM" with Wolf Blitzer, also says he predicted FEMA's failures.


MICHAEL BROWN, FORMER FEMA DIRECTOR: I had been screaming internally that the budget cuts, the personnel cuts, what they were doing within Homeland Security was, in effect, marginalizing FEMA. And I predicted that at some point, in a very specific memo to both Tom Ridge and to Chertoff, that at some point FEMA would fail. I just didn't expect to be in the middle of that failure.


O'BRIEN: Brown had more to say about Chertoff's role and the response.


BROWN: When Chertoff does things like tells me that I have got to go to Baton Rouge and plop my butt down in a seat in Baton Rouge and run a disaster from there, I think that shows naivete about how disasters are run. And so you've either got to get with it or move on.


BROWN: Well, I think so.


O'BRIEN: "THE SITUATION ROOM" airs weekdays, 4:00 p.m. Eastern.

Stay with AMERICAN MORNING for more with Michael Brown. He will join us live from Washington, 7:30 Eastern Time, about an hour and a half from now -- Carol.

COSTELLO: More than two dozen wildfires burning in Oklahoma are well under control this morning, but now evacuated homeowners are coming back to see the damage those fires left behind.

CNN's Christopher King has their story from Duncan, Oklahoma.




CHRISTOPHER KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Kimberly Gentry has nothing left. Wildfires burned her trailer home in Duncan, Oklahoma to the ground. The roof collapsed. The metal walls twisted and jagged as if her home imploded. The pictures of her grandchildren up in smoke, like the dry grass that fed the wildfires.

GENTRY: It was terrible, because you don't have anything left. Everything from my childhood, my son, my grandchildren, everything was in that house.

KING: Gentry had just remodeled her home. But on Wednesday afternoon, she had to evacuate. She grabbed what few belongings she could, hoping she'd return to salvage something but finding nothing.

GENTRY: Nothing. You can't even get in it.

KING: Wildfires scorched thousands of acres of grassland here in southern Oklahoma. Dry weather, high winds and temperatures, on some days soaring up to the 90s, stoked the fires.

(on camera): This used to be someone's home. All that is left now is rubble and debris. Charred earth stretches as far as the eye can see. These wildfires burned down dozens of people's homes, and with them, the memories of lives they once had.

(voice-over): Church members hugged at Liberty Baptist. Their house of worship now ashes.

MARVIN KNOX, LIBERTY BAPTIST CHURCH: There are people who are devastated. But I think they'll get over it, because we are people of faith and we believe God has a purpose and a reason for it and that good things are ahead for the church.

KING: But Kimberly Gentry isn't so optimistic. With everything she owned gone, she's not sure where to go.

GENTRY: Our families are separated. We have nothing. You just go down to the fairground and try to get free food and wait.

KING: Wait at the emergency staging center at the Stephens County Fairground and hope that somehow she finds help at rebuilding her life.

In Duncan, Oklahoma, I'm Christopher King.


COSTELLO: We hope so.

Let's head to Atlanta to check in with Chad. Hopefully sunny skies for the people of Oklahoma today.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, actually I'd go for rainy skies. That...

COSTELLO: That would be good, actually.

MYERS: Yes. Those fires were Wednesday. Yesterday it actually rained in Oklahoma.


COSTELLO: Definitely.

MYERS: Back to you. COSTELLO: And I must say you were right on with your forecast. You go -- Chad.

MYERS: It was close. I mean a lot of the snow was north of the city, and we expected that.

COSTELLO: Don't be modest.

O'BRIEN: The flurry of '06.

MYERS: The flurry of '06.

O'BRIEN: I liked that. That was good.

MYERS: All right.

O'BRIEN: Thank you.

MYERS: You're welcome.

O'BRIEN: And we had a lesson in verga, too. Chad is our man.


O'BRIEN: The stuff I know because of you really kind of scares me. Thank you.

COSTELLO: It scares me more.

MYERS: Go on "Jeopardy."

O'BRIEN: Yes, "Jeopardy."

Coming up, more on those new FEMA transcripts, they put Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco back in the crosshairs.

COSTELLO: Also, more on that fugitive dad who ditched his son instead of donating a life-saving kidney. The son might have some new hope this morning.

O'BRIEN: And a small Kansas town shaken to its core by brutal murders 50 years ago now, how a movie brought painful memories back to the surface ahead.


O'BRIEN: You can't not move...


O'BRIEN: ... the "Brick House."


O'BRIEN: You know what I mean (ph)?

COSTELLO: And at this point in Kelly's pregnancy, I don't think she'll mind if we call her a brick house.


KELLY WALLACE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. You know I was just thinking that's really harsh leading in to me with the music "Brick House." I mean I'm...

O'BRIEN: It was not our idea, we admit to that.

WALLACE: I'm feeling large, but, you know, well.

COSTELLO: You are looking good, honey.

O'BRIEN: You're large and in charge -- Kelly.

WALLACE: We're going to talk after this newscast.

Hello, everyone, we've got some headlines for you.

And we begin with President Bush who is talking terror today. He is set to deliver what's being billed as the biggest speech of his trip to South Asia. It will begin in just about two hours in New Delhi. The president then heads to Pakistan. An attack there on Thursday left one American diplomat dead.

And live coverage of the president's speech right here on AMERICAN MORNING beginning at 8:00 a.m. Eastern.

In Baghdad now, a traffic curfew aimed at curbing attacks there. However, we are just getting word about an attack last night. At least 18 workers were killed when gunmen targeted two brick factories east of Baghdad.

The Katrina blame game continues, this time the finger is pointing at Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco, again (ph). Recently released transcripts show Blanco assuring President Bush that the levees are in tact. The first levee actually breached about an hour before Blanco addressed the president.

Meantime, former FEMA Director Michael Brown is lashing out. He says Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff should be fired. Brown accuses Chertoff of not having disaster management know-how.

Former Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham is set to be sentenced today. He has been found guilty of tax evasion and bribes totaling more than $2 million. Prosecutors are asking for the maximum 10-year sentence, but Cunningham's lawyers want the judge to keep in mind that Cunningham is a war hero and that he's almost 65 years old.

And tell the truth, do you lie at work? If so, you are not alone. A new survey by says nearly one-in-five people admit to telling a lie at least once a week. Most people say they do it to appease a customer, but some bend the truth to cover up a mistake or to explain that unplanned day off.

One man who always tells the truth of course at work, Chad Myers in Atlanta.

Hi -- Chad.

MYERS: There's no way -- I'm a weatherman, of course I have to lie.

WALLACE: Exactly.

MYERS: I mean...

WALLACE: Job security, right?

MYERS: Well of course. Fifty percent of the time, if I get it right, I'm a hero, so what do you think?


COSTELLO: Yes, I was just looking at that map and thinking in political terms, and it's like completely wrong.

O'BRIEN: Red states, blue states, green states?

MYERS: Yes, I know, this has nothing to do with the political.

O'BRIEN: What's the Kermit states?

COSTELLO: Yes, exactly.

Thanks -- Chad.

MYERS: You're welcome.

COSTELLO: Price fixing in the music business. No!

O'BRIEN: I'm shocked. There's gambling.

CARRIE LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is a little bit different. This isn't payola, this isn't radio, we are talking about digital music sales here.

Now the Department of Justice investigating possible price collusion in this space. Of course Apple dominates with 99 cents per download songs. The DOJ, though, looking into four big music companies, Universal Music Group, EMI, Sony BMG and Warner Music Group. Doesn't appear to be a criminal investigation yet, but Sony has reportedly received a subpoena. And other companies have been told to expect subpoenas in the next few days.

What's happening is some of these companies have said that they want to establish tiered pricing for songs and the DOJ looking into whether there's some collusion into what those pricing levels will be. Napster also one of the companies that wants to put in tiered pricing for different types of music. So that's what's happening there.

O'BRIEN: Now because we were just talking about Napster yesterday and this new thing that's coming out. LEE: They are hoping to come out with songs, legally, by the summer, right.

O'BRIEN: Right. And they are saying that they are going to let the record companies set the prices.

LEE: They want to be more involved with the record companies, exactly.

O'BRIEN: So the bottom line is, are we going to see higher prices for songs online?

LEE: Well we could see lower prices. We could see lower prices. You know Apple has 70 percent of this market. And this is very lucrative. And this is something other companies would really like to get into. But is it going to be a free market enterprise or are they going to kind of collude on what the prices will be, that's what the DOJ wants to...

COSTELLO: Wouldn't that be illegal if they collude?

LEE: Exactly. That's what they're looking into.


LEE: That's why the subpoenas.

Quickly, have you guys done your taxes yet for 2005?

O'BRIEN: Yes, we're working on it.

LEE: Working on it. OK. All right.


O'BRIEN: Carrie, how about you?

LEE: Yes, well I always do it early.

A lot of companies have done it early, too, and a lot of them are actually admitting tax mistakes. Looks like we are at pace to match the 183 companies that have admitted to making tax mistakes in past years.

What's happening here, Sarbanes-Oxley, passed a few years ago, that's causing companies to really be more rigorous in their accounting, with their paperwork. And a lot of them are now taking a look back, saying, you know, we didn't do it the right way.

O'BRIEN: Including...

LEE: So you make mistakes. Bottom line, you're not alone.

O'BRIEN: Including H&R Block,...

LEE: Exactly. O'BRIEN: ... which I find perfectly ironic.

COSTELLO: That's scary.

LEE: You know the -- very ironic and the timing very bad.


LEE: H&R Block came out last week and said they made some mistakes, so.

COSTELLO: Did you watch "American Idol" last night?

LEE: I didn't.

COSTELLO: Miles did.

O'BRIEN: Well it's, you know, in the house, so the kids are into it.

COSTELLO: Yes. Well if you watched "American Idol" last night and you noticed Paula Abdul with some pretty bizarre behavior from the "American Idol" judge. We'll outline it for you next in "Morning Coffee."


O'BRIEN: Some new pictures just coming in, the president and first lady arriving back in New Delhi after a tour of some Indian high-tech companies. And he's making his way to New Delhi, where, in about an hour and a half, he will be giving an important speech, considered the keynote speech of this trip, then on his way to Pakistan. We'll of course bring you coverage of the speech as it happens.

Back with more in a moment.


COSTELLO: That was back when Paula Abdul looked healthy and happy, we think.

WALLACE: In the day.

COSTELLO: Back in the day, right.

O'BRIEN: We are not sure what's going on with Paula right now.

COSTELLO: No, because if you watched "American Idol" last night, she was a little loopy. She really was. I mean it caused people to scratch their heads. So, on last night -- this is last night's edition of "American Idol" -- she went into this new...

O'BRIEN: Live program.

COSTELLO: Yes. O'BRIEN: Live program.

COSTELLO: She went into this new territory. Exhibit A came during the elimination of one of the female contestants. Listen to this exchange.


RYAN SEACREST, HOST, "AMERICAN IDOL": Paula, what happened with their performances? Why are they standing here tonight?

PAULA ABDUL, JUDGE, "AMERICAN IDOL": Simon says because one of them ate pizza and the other one ate salad.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because one of them ate pizza and the other ate salad.

JACKSON: Simon, what grade are you in with comments like that?

SIMON COWELL, JUDGE, "AMERICAN IDOL": I didn't say anything like that.

JACKSON: Come on.

SEACREST: You guys realize we are on the air?

JACKSON: Yes, we're on the air and this is a real adult show.

COWELL: What are you talking about?

ABDUL: I don't know. That's the advice you gave me.

SEACREST: This is one of the most intense moments in their lives...

ABDUL: I know, I'm sorry, but he did whisper it in my ear.

SEACREST: ... and the two of you are making culinary jokes.


COSTELLO: Isn't that strange?


COSTELLO: I mean...

O'BRIEN: Seacrest was in her face on that one.

WALLACE: Yes, he was. He was saying that's...

O'BRIEN: Yes. Give him credit, because I mean this is so important to them.

WALLACE: You saw their faces.

O'BRIEN: These poor women.

WALLACE: Here they are, they are looking at them, waiting to hear something of substance.

COSTELLO: Thinking, and she's the nice one?


COSTELLO: Anyway, Paula, if you're not sure, we're not sure what she was talking about. I'm not even sure that she knew what she was talking about. But she wasn't done yet. Here is Exhibit B.


SEACREST: Paula, what happened with their performances? Why are they standing here tonight?

ABDUL: Simon says because one of them ate pizza and the other one ate salad.


COSTELLO: And that would be the same one.

O'BRIEN: People are a little loopy in the control room this morning.


COSTELLO: Do we have -- wait a minute, do we have the other one? Do we have the other one? We are efforting it.

O'BRIEN: We're efforting it.


O'BRIEN: For now, though, Exhibit B looked a lot like Exhibit A. Folks, that was just the same tape over again. Now here...

COSTELLO: Well seriously, though, I mean there must be something up with her because you don't act like that before a national audience. You just don't.

WALLACE: And I didn't see it. What did she do in Exhibit B? What did she...

COSTELLO: Well we're getting it.


COSTELLO: Yes, we don't want to give it away.


COSTELLO: But even in Exhibit A, she just looked kind of tired and kind of like there was something wrong.

O'BRIEN: We have B. Let's roll B.


WALLACE: Let's roll the tape.

O'BRIEN: Your honor.


SEACREST: Paula, advice for these two? You love them both. I know you like them both.

ABDUL: I don't know. What did you tell me?

SEACREST: Any advice?

ABDUL: What did you tell me?


JACKSON: Simon's third grade advice again.

ABDUL: Simon gave me advice and he said that on the X factor he always refers to a fortune cookie and says the moth who finds the melon...

JACKSON: No, finds the corn flake...

ABDUL: Finds the corn flake always finds the melon.

JACKSON: ... always finds the melon.

ABDUL: And one of you...


ABDUL: One of you didn't get the right...

SEACREST: Maybe that was a bad idea, guys.

JACKSON: Simon is still in third grade tonight. He's in third grade.


COWELL: Why am I getting blamed for this?

SEACREST: I don't know. Let's act like adults.

COWELL: Right.

SEACREST: This is an important moment.


COSTELLO: See, there's something up with her.

O'BRIEN: What's in that Coke glass that's what I want to know.

COSTELLO: Well, you know there have been a lot of allegations about Paula Abdul and possible drug use, alcohol use. I don't know if it's true or not, but there's definitely something up there. Yes. So just a bit of "American Idol." Sorry to bring you down, but it was just -- it's just so sad to see.

O'BRIEN: You be the judge.

WALLACE: But did you watch "Skating With Celebrities" right afterwards, that's my question? We'll get to that later.

O'BRIEN: You poor thing. Way past my bedtime.

WALLACE: I know. OK.

O'BRIEN: All right. If you don't like the ads you see on TV, on Oscar night you'll have a chance to make your own. We'll explain coming up.

COSTELLO: Plus, Jessica Alba is "Playboy's" latest cover girl, but she's none too happy about it. We'll tell you why.

Stay with us.



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