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Plea for Release; Life or Death?; Port Deal?; Campus Attack

Aired March 7, 2006 - 06:00   ET


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you, I'm Miles O'Brien.

Some new videotape to show you this morning of three hostages who are being held in Iraq. Among the kidnapped is an American activist. We have got a live report ahead from Baghdad this morning.

And then this...


REZA TAHERI-AZAR, IRANIAN NATIVE: Yes, sir, I just hit several people with a vehicle.


S. O'BRIEN: A deliberate attack. These are 911 tapes released now. That attack taking place at the University of North Carolina. We'll have that story, as well.

M. O'BRIEN: A huge day in a huge trial. The Enron criminal trial we're talking about. The prosecution's star witness getting ready to testify.

Plus, the death of a baseball legend. Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett dead at the age of 45.

S. O'BRIEN: And then take a look at this videotape. It's a freak accident. It happened right on the streets of New York City. A sanitation worker stumbles, he's hit by a bus, but he lives. We'll tell you his story just ahead.

M. O'BRIEN: New video out from Iraq showing hostages pleading for their lives. Three of four Christian peace activists can be seen on a tape played on Al Jazeera. They are not identified, but they are one of the same group, one American, two Canadians and a Briton kidnapped 100 days ago.

Aneesh Raman live in Baghdad.

Aneesh, what can you tell us about the video?

ANEESH RAMAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Miles, the 25-second videotape aired without audio on Al Jazeera. An anchor there says the three hostages, two Canadians and a British national, pleaded on their governments and Arab leaders to get involved and secure their release.

Not shown on the video, American Tom Fox. It is unclear exactly why. All four were kidnapped on November 26 in the capital. They were in Iraq working for a group called Christian Peacekeepers Team. The tape is dated February 28. It's the first we've seen of them since the end of January -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Aneesh, let's shift gears here, let's talk about the U.S. ambassador offering a somewhat bleak assessment of the situation there. Tell us about that.

RAMAN: It's the strongest words we have heard from Zalmay Khalilzad since he arrived in Iraq last July. He said to the "L.A. Times" published in today's paper -- quote -- "We have opened the Pandora's Box and the question is, what is the way forward?.... The way forward, in my view, is an effort to build bridges across (Iraq's) communities."

Now this frank assessment comes at odds, really, with what we have heard from other Bush administration officials over the weekend. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Peter Pace said the situation here is going -- quote -- "very, very well." That, despite a rise in sectarian tension, a rise in violence as well, following the bombing of that Shi Askaryia Mosque.

Now Khalilzad also to the "L.A. Times" said that Iraq remains vulnerable for all-out civil war. The tensions here remain at a high level. And that is something he is clearly concerned with -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Aneesh Raman in Baghdad, thank you -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Confessed al Qaeda conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui is on trial for his life in Alexandria, Virginia. After the jury for the sentencing phase was seated on Monday, both sides delivered opening statements

More now from CNN's Kelli Arena.


KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As Moussaoui sat defiantly looking at the jury, the government described him as a proud and unrepentant terrorist. Inside the courtroom surrounded by intense security, prosecutor Rob Spencer told jurors Moussaoui "lied so murderers could follow."

The government's main argument, if Moussaoui had told the truth about what his al Qaeda brothers were up to when he was arrested in August of 2001, the FBI and other agencies may have been able to stop the September 11 attacks.

In his opening statement, Spencer told the jury that Moussaoui's lies killed the 9/11 victims as "surely as if Moussaoui had been at the controls of one of the four planes that day."

ANDY MCCARTHY, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: If he had a role and he carried it out, then he's as liable as Mohammed Atta is.

ARENA: But Ed MacMahon, one of Moussaoui's court-appointed defense attorneys told jurors, "the government's case is speculative at best," that Moussaoui did not know any specifics of the 9/11 plot and that in fact al Qaeda viewed him as a liability of sorts. In one operative's words, "cuckoo." MacMahon said "No one should be executed on such flimsy evidence, even an admitted al Qaeda member."

Moussaoui remained silent, refraining from his trademark outbursts. He never once looked at the spectators, some victim family members among them, including Hamilton Peterson, who lost his father and stepmother.

HAMILTON PETERSON, LOST FAMILY IN 9/11: It's a very proud moment in American history because we're showing the world that even when someone can wreak the types of havoc he did, that we are still a fair country.

ARENA (on camera): The trial will dredge up the horror of that day and the controversy over what the government did and didn't do to protect its citizens. As defense attorney Ed MacMahon said, the nation cried then and there probably won't be a dry eye in the courtroom when all is said and done.

Kelli Arena, CNN, Alexandria, Virginia.


S. O'BRIEN: It is the jurors who will decide whether Moussaoui will get life in prison without parole or if he will get the death penalty -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: "Security Watch" now. There may be a deal in the works that could salvage that controversial ports deal. Could a U.S. subcontractor be a solution? The Republicans are pushing the president to move away from his veto threat and approve a change in the deal with a Dubai-owned company.

Congressional correspondent Ed Henry has more.


ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Republican Peter King is pitching a compromise, DP World would not operate U.S. ports. Instead, that job would be subcontracted to American companies. King presented the plan to the White House with a warning, jump on board or the entire contract may be torpedoed.

Another prominent Republican, Senator Susan Collins, has offered a similar plan.

So far, the White House has been noncommittal. But political pressure is building on the Republicans in this midterm election because Democrats are pouncing all over the issue in order to try to burnish their national security credentials. In fact, Democrat Harold Ford, Jr., who is running for the Senate seat in Tennessee, actually filmed a campaign ad at the Port of Baltimore in Maryland, far from Tennessee, ripping the Bush administration's decision on the port deal. And other Democratic candidates are expected to jump on the bandwagon. All reasons why the White House is expected to eventually sign on to the King compromise or some variation of it.

Ed Henry, CNN, Capitol Hill.


M. O'BRIEN: Stay tuned to CNN day and night for the most reliable news about your security -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: An Iranian native freely admits to running down students at the University of North Carolina. He made his anti- American views pretty clear in a 911 call.

Rick Sanchez has that story for us.


RICK SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From the air, you can see the chaos, victims sprawled out after being plowed into by an SUV. Then, from this very place comes a call to 911 from the very person who drove the SUV.

911 OPERATOR: Orange County 911, Josh.

TAHERI-AZAR: Yes, sir, I just hit several people with a vehicle and...

911 OPERATOR: OK, you -- sir, you said you hit several people with a vehicle?

TAHERI-AZAR: Yes, sir.

SANCHEZ: The 911 operator sounds incredulous, the suspect strangely cooperative.

TAHERI-AZAR: I don't have any weapons or anything on me, you can just come and arrest me now.

SANCHEZ: This from a man who deliberately hit and injured nine people. How do we know he did it deliberately? Because he says so to reporters as he's being placed in a police car.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Were you trying to kill people?


SANCHEZ: If you listen carefully, you can detect an accent that's part Iranian and part southern. That's because Mohammed Taheri-azar, a UNC grad student, has been in the United States most of his life; but he blames the U.S. government for his actions. 911 OPERATOR: Can you tell me why you did this or...

TAHERI-AZAR: It's really to punish the government of the United States for their actions around the world.

911 OPERATOR: So you did this to punish the government?

TAHERI-AZAR: Yes, sir.

SANCHEZ: It's a sentiment the 22-year-old psychology major affirmed when he showed up for his first court appearance. There he was formally charged with nine counts of attempted murder. None of the victims was seriously hurt. His bail is set at $5.5 million.

Meanwhile, back on campus, college Republicans held what they called an antiterrorism rally. They want federal terrorism charges brought against Taheri-azar because they don't see it as a simple crime.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If everyone thinks it's a simple crime, which a lot of people do, then we cannot have -- we cannot hope to have a good response to it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He does not represent Islam. He does not represent Iran. He represents nothing but his own crazy thoughts.

SANCHEZ: CNN made repeated phone calls to the FBI to ask if terrorism charges would be filed. They would only tell us they're looking into it.

Rick Sanchez, CNN, Atlanta.


S. O'BRIEN: Rick's report first aired on "ANDERSON COOPER 360," which of course can be seen weeknights at 10:00 p.m. right here on CNN.

The star prosecution witness could take the stand today in the Enron trial. Andrew Fastow is said to be furious that his former bosses are laying all the blame on him. Fastow is now serving 10 years for his role in Enron's collapse.

The fraud and conspiracy trial of former CEO Jeffrey Skilling and the Chairman Ken Lay in its sixth week now. And they claim they didn't know about the unethical business partnerships that they claim were setup by Fastow.

M. O'BRIEN: Baseball Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett has died a day after suffering a severe stroke at his home in Phoenix. Puckett played his entire 12-year career with one team the Minnesota Twins. You don't hear that very often anymore. He was on two World Series teams. Victorious I should point out. He was forced to retire when glaucoma made him blind in one eye. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame five years ago, the second youngest person to be inducted. Kirby Puckett was 45. And, Chad Myers, I know you remember...


M. O'BRIEN: ... the '91 World Series, Game 6.

MYERS: Sure.

M. O'BRIEN: The catch and the home run that turned it around for the Twins. It's a case where I was rooting for the Braves, but you know what,...

MYERS: Right.

M. O'BRIEN: ... they deserved to win.


M. O'BRIEN: And it was on his back that they won. It was something.

MYERS: His enthusiasm was infectious for the whole team. That smile.

M. O'BRIEN: You know...

MYERS: Yes, absolutely.

M. O'BRIEN: And he was a sparkplug on top of everything else. What a -- you know way too young, way too young.

MYERS: He batted 318 for his career. That's the highest since Joe DiMaggio.

M. O'BRIEN: Isn't that something? Isn't that something?

MYERS: And it kind of gets in a little perspective...

S. O'BRIEN: Forty-five.

M. O'BRIEN: And only 45, I mean, jeez.

MYERS: Yes. Yes. Anyway -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: All right, Chad, on to other things.


S. O'BRIEN: All right, Chad, thank you very much.

MYERS: You're welcome.

S. O'BRIEN: Did you guys see these pictures? A surveillance camera caught what is truly a freak accident. You see here a sanitation worker. He's loading some kind of piping into the truck. Well it ricochets back at the same time a bus, a city bus, is coming by. He gets hit by the bus.

Right now the guy is hospitalized. He is in stable condition. His name is John Machado (ph), apparently. And they say he is able to talk. So as bad as this videotape looks, he actually is OK. And we'll update you on the status. Look at that. Poor guy.

M. O'BRIEN: You know I -- it's a bus, so take this for what it is, but it seems like it was a glancing blow, which is probably why he's -- he kind of -- could have been worse.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes, it's not -- he wasn't -- doesn't look like he was completely run over by it.

M. O'BRIEN: Wow!

S. O'BRIEN: But apparently that pipe pushed him back into oncoming traffic at the same time the bus is coming by.

M. O'BRIEN: Thanks.

S. O'BRIEN: Well one of those lucky-to-be-alive stories.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes.

S. O'BRIEN: Sure.

M. O'BRIEN: Coming up on the program, a new challenge for embattled Congressman Tom DeLay. We'll tell you why his political future could take a big hit today.

S. O'BRIEN: Also, pilots at Delta move one step closer to a strike. We'll tell you what it means for passengers.

M. O'BRIEN: And Yanni,...

S. O'BRIEN: Yanni.

M. O'BRIEN: ... the new-age musician, not Rocky (ph), I got it confused during there (ph) -- Yanni is in trouble with the law this morning.

That's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


M. O'BRIEN: No one knows. No one knows, Bruce (ph)?

S. O'BRIEN: What are we listening to?

M. O'BRIEN: Yes. We would lose on "Name That Tune."

S. O'BRIEN: Modest Mouse.

M. O'BRIEN: Modest Mouse, of course, Modest Mouse.

S. O'BRIEN: Could we play something I know? M. O'BRIEN: The kids are big with the Modest Mouse.

S. O'BRIEN: Isn't that...

M. O'BRIEN: Yes, they are. Once again, we're proving we're out of touch here.

Let's get some news in and stay in touch in other ways. Carol Costello with that.

Good morning -- Carol.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Good morning to all of you.

Insurgents in Iraq targeting the U.S. military in new attacks this morning. At least two car bombs going off in Baghdad. Both explosions aimed at U.S. convoys. Luckily none of the troops appear to be hurt. There were also other attacks in the capital. In southern Iraq, at least 4 people were killed in those attacks and 20 others were hurt.

Activist Cindy Sheehan arrested again, this time in New York. You see Sheehan and a group of other women were trying to deliver a petition to the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. Sheehan's shirt hiked up a bit as she was hauled away. The petition had 60,000 signatures urging the withdrawal of all troops and all foreign fighters from Iraq. Three others were arrested along with Sheehan.

Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay is facing some opposition in today's Republican Primary for his House seat. It is the first time on the ballot since he was indicted on money laundering charges. He has to win at least 50 percent of the votes or face a run-off election next month.

New-age musician Yanni is in trouble with the law. Remember he used to date Linda Evans of "Dynasty" fame? Well, the 51-year-old artist was arrested at his home in Florida after an alleged fight with his latest girlfriend. This photo is from the Palm Beach sheriff's office. According to police, the girlfriend says Yanni slapped her and shook her. Yanni's lawyer denied the claim, saying -- quote -- "the last thing this man would want to do is hurt his hands." After all, he plays the piano, don't you know.

And heavy rains taking their toll in Sonoma County in northern California. One of the levees there collapsed and flooded a vineyard. Parts of the highway also flooded from the rain. But officials say there is no major damage to homes in the area.

And I know, Chad, you've been talking about this. It was kind of expected.

MYERS: Yes, we had talked about it. And even Governor Schwarzenegger talked about the threat all around the state of these levees that used to hold water back from land, agricultural land. Well of course the developers thought that that was good land, too, and built a bunch of houses there. Obviously that one didn't get any houses.

But more rain coming for this weekend as well. Have to keep watching this. And you better keep watching it, too, if you live under one of those levees.


S. O'BRIEN: All right, Chad, thank you very much.

Business news now, a strike vote for Delta's pilots.

Carrie Lee has got that with our "Financial News Update."

Good morning.

CARRIE LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thank you both. Good morning to you.

This comes just days after Northwest Airlines settled its said dispute with its pilots. What's happening now, Delta pilots are starting to poll their union members about a strike. Delta, of course, is bankrupt and its pilots have failed to reach an agreement on concessions by a March 1 deadline. So the bid to reject the union's contracts went into arbitration.

Now those arbitration hearings begin in Washington March 13, that's coming up, with a ruling due by April 15. So passengers on Delta should be fine until then.

Of course Delta did get some concessions from its pilots awhile ago. Well now they want more money. Delta is looking for over $300 million. The pilots say enough already, we've given up a lot. But Delta says it needs $3 billion in order to survive. So that is what's happening here. And I think there's a pretty decent chance they might end up striking if they can't reach this...

M. O'BRIEN: Well that's the end of the airline, don't you think, it could be?

LEE: Delta says -- and this is a direct quote -- "a strike by the pilots would be fatal to Delta." So we'll have to see what happens here.

S. O'BRIEN: Gosh, it puts all of them in such a tough position. I mean you could understand the pilots' argument, which is, at some point, you know you've got to stop giving and giving and giving.

LEE: Exactly.

S. O'BRIEN: But on the other hand, you stop giving, your company is going to go out of business.

LEE: They've handed over...

M. O'BRIEN: You're mowing lawns and that's not so good either.

LEE: They've handed over a large chunk already.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes. Yes.

LEE: They really have.

S. O'BRIEN: Right.

LEE: So you feel for them.

Also, NBC Universal buying iVillage. Some people who follow Internet companies might remember this one. This is a Web site for women. It's still around. NBC is paying $600 million.

The bigger picture here, you see big media companies buying these Internet companies. "The New York Times" recently bought News Corporation has bought and some others. Viacom has purchased Neopets and a short film site iFilm.

So what this really shows is the big old media, and I don't mean old in a bad way, but the established media really trying to increase the Internet presence and really expand their horizons. So interesting here.

M. O'BRIEN: Old and yet dynamic media, boss.


LEE: Seasoned. Seasoned. What other euphemisms can we throw out there? But, yes, an interesting development here.

S. O'BRIEN: As we reference our company...

M. O'BRIEN: Yes. Yes, that might have something to do with it.

S. O'BRIEN: All right, Carrie, thank you very much.

M. O'BRIEN: Thank you -- Carrie.

LEE: Sure, my pleasure.

M. O'BRIEN: Let's check in with Carol now, "Morning Coffee" coming up.

COSTELLO: It certainly is. Today, a question for you, when is a 9-year-old girl obsessed with sexuality? When her mom is Madonna. And when is a top rated show with 38 million viewers considered a disappointment? It'll be in your cup of "Morning Coffee" next.


S. O'BRIEN: That song I know.

M. O'BRIEN: OK, you happy now?

S. O'BRIEN: Yes, I am.

M. O'BRIEN: You got a song you like.

S. O'BRIEN: Thank you, Karl (ph), you rock.

Hey, welcome back, everybody. "Morning Coffee" now.

Good morning.

COSTELLO: Good morning. Good morning to all of you.

You know how everyone has been saying Hollywood is out of touch? Well, perhaps more evidence of that. The Oscars, Hollywood's big night, drew just over 38 million people. Granted, that's more viewers than any other show last week. But Sunday's Oscars had the second lowest ratings in nearly 20 years. Only 2003 show was worse, featuring wins by Adrien Brody. Remember when he kissed Halle Berry?

S. O'BRIEN: Yes.

COSTELLO: Nicole Kidman and the movie "Chicago."

S. O'BRIEN: I thought that was -- you thought that was gross?

M. O'BRIEN: Well why is that a good show?

COSTELLO: It was a little over the top.

M. O'BRIEN: Really, too much?

S. O'BRIEN: Kind of grabbed her like this...

M. O'BRIEN: Yes. Too much of a (INAUDIBLE).

COSTELLO: Yes. Kind of like ookie (ph), anyway.


COSTELLO: Why do they say the entertainment world is out of touch? Well, let's take Madonna. Madonna says her daughter is obsessed with the sexuality of the stars. Let me remind you that her daughter, Lourdes, is 9, 9 years old. Imagine your 9-year-old girl asking, mommy, are you gay? Why were you kissing that lady on TV?

Of course Lourdes was referring to Madonna kissing Britney Spears at the MTV Music Awards just a few years ago. Now, according to "Out" magazine, Madonna said -- quote -- "I am the mommy pop star and she is the baby pop star, and I am kissing her to pass my energy on to her." That kiss did wonders for Britney, as you know, she got married to that sketchy guy, Kevin Federline, had a child.


COSTELLO: And if you've seen her recent...


COSTELLO: ... pictures, she's, I don't know. M. O'BRIEN: What she's getting...

S. O'BRIEN: Come on, hey, hey.

M. O'BRIEN: With the picture of the child -- a child in the lap, right.

S. O'BRIEN: You have a baby, it's hard to juggle it all. You can't necessarily look cute when you have a new baby, come on.

COSTELLO: I'm not even talking -- she just...

M. O'BRIEN: What else?

COSTELLO: The whole Kevin Federline shtick has rubbed off on her, seemingly, and I don't think that's been great for her career.

S. O'BRIEN: She definitely should stop being barefoot in public toilets. That's just gross.

COSTELLO: Exactly.

S. O'BRIEN: Like that, no.

COSTELLO: Exactly.

S. O'BRIEN: But you know it takes...

M. O'BRIEN: The driving thing, though, come on, that was the worst.

S. O'BRIEN: The baby, that was horrible.

M. O'BRIEN: The baby in her lap.

S. O'BRIEN: That was horrible.

M. O'BRIEN: Driving down the highway in L.A.

S. O'BRIEN: But people have been making fun of her because she's getting chunky and it's like, you know,...

M. O'BRIEN: Yes.

S. O'BRIEN: ... I mean, it's hard, it's hard to lose the weight after you have a baby.

M. O'BRIEN: I'm not saying anything about that. I'm not touching that one.

COSTELLO: No, no, no, it is difficult.


COSTELLO: But I'm just saying her whole persona has changed.

S. O'BRIEN: No, you're right, the baby driving.

COSTELLO: Yes, since she married Kfed (ph)...


COSTELLO: ... the rap star.

M. O'BRIEN: Let's talk about coffee, shall we?


M. O'BRIEN: Coffee. Have you heard about McDonald's gourmet coffee?

COSTELLO: Yes, I have.

M. O'BRIEN: Gourmet coffee, probably not too hot.

S. O'BRIEN: I didn't know they were going to...

M. O'BRIEN: Not too hot, right? It's important.

S. O'BRIEN: So they still offer regular coffee and now gourmet or only gourmet?

COSTELLO: Yes, they are competing with Starbucks, actually, so they're going to have lattes.

M. O'BRIEN: Well...

COSTELLO: Yes, they are. That's what...

M. O'BRIEN: ... maybe Dunkin. May be a little more Dunkin. I don't know.

COSTELLO: Well they are trying...

M. O'BRIEN: Well we'll be the judge.

COSTELLO: Dunkin Donuts and McDonald's are trying to compete with Starbucks. Starbucks, in some specific markets, are introducing breakfast foods to compete with McDonald's because McDonald's is now doing designer coffee.

M. O'BRIEN: Right. Well we'll see how it rates compared to Starbucks, but we're going to do a little taste test.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes, that's good.

M. O'BRIEN: We didn't include Starbucks, because, quite frankly, we think that's a whole different category of coffee.

COSTELLO: All right.

M. O'BRIEN: But we'll see. We'll see. So we'll be doing that in a little bit. You can participate. COSTELLO: Thanks.

M. O'BRIEN: We will all be the judge.

S. O'BRIEN: Thank you -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: That's the guy I am.

S. O'BRIEN: Ahead this morning also a look at the top stories. And of course you have heard of this video game "Grand Theft Auto." What about "Grand Theft Ping Pong?" That doesn't sound quite as interesting. And then look at this little guy here. Newly adopted dog, didn't take long to earn his keep, he literally saved a family's lives. We'll tell you that story ahead on AMERICAN MORNING. We're back in just a moment.

M. O'BRIEN: A cute little puppy there.



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