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Accusations In Iraq; Storm Planning; Golden Eggs

Aired June 2, 2006 - 07:30   ET


MILES O'BRIEN: In Indianapolis this morning, a manhunt underway after the worst crime there in perhaps 30 years. Seven people shot and killed execution style at a home near a prison last night. Three of the victims children. Police don't have a motive for the attack, but it may have begun with a home invasion.
Four are dead after a bomb attack at a crowded market in Baghdad this morning. As many as 50 others injured. Two bombs exploded in the market there.

Investigators hope to get the go-ahead to exhume bodies in the Haditha investigation. Forensic experts are then expected to examine the victims of that Marine shooting last November.

Good morning to you. I'm Miles O'Brien.


Some new developments now to tell you about involving U.S. Marines and allegations of murder. The case, though, that we're talking about has nothing to do with the ongoing Haditha investigation. Charges are expected as soon as today, in fact, against several Marines who are accused of killing an Iraqi civilian west of Baghdad. The Marines were sent back to the states during the investigation into the April incident. CNN's Sumi Das is live for us in San Diego this morning.

Sumi, good morning.

Give us the details of this particular incident.

SUMI DAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Soledad, a source familiar with the investigation has said that murder charges are likely to be filed against several Marines who are accused of the shooting incident that you just mentioned. That took place on April 26th in Hamandiyah. Again, nothing to do with the Haditha incident.

Now according to the A.P., one of the defense attorneys for one of the accused men, Jeremiah Sullivan (ph). He's an attorney who has a practice in San Diego. He has said that in addition to the charges of murder, there will also be charges of conspiracy and kidnapping and those charges will be brought against seven Marine Corps men, as well as one Navy corpsman.


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: So when do we expect to hear these charges? DAS: Well, according to that same defense attorney, Jeremiah Sullivan, he says that those official documents outlining the charges could be delivered to the men as soon as today. However, our source familiar with the investigation says he doubts that they will be handed down on Friday.

Now according to the public information officer here at Camp Pendleton, Lt. Lotin McKing (ph), we spoke to him late last night. He said that this is an ongoing investigation. It's still ongoing and no charges have been preferred. He also told us that several Marines have been placed in pre-trial confinement and several have been placed on pre-trial base restrictions. So that's the information that we have at this time.


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: All right. So it could technically come down as early as today but your sources are saying that, in fact, those charges probably won't on a Friday. So we can see it early next week maybe.

All right, Sumi Das for us this morning. Sumi, thanks.


MILES O'BRIEN: More proof the city of New Orleans didn't have a chance when Katrina hit because of shoddy work by the Army Corps of Engineers. An independent group of experts hired by the Corps out with a report this morning saying the flood protection system in New Orleans was a system in name only. Poorly planned and built. Not enough redundancy. A patch work only as strong as its weakest link.


LT. GEN. CARL STROCK, COMMANDER, ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS: In terms of how much accountability should the Corps take, absolutely. We must make it very clear that we stand behind our work. We do take accountability. And in this case, it seems sobering for us, but really this is the first time that the Corps of Engineers has had to stand up and say, we had a catastrophic failure on one of our projects.


MILES O'BRIEN: Now the Corps says it will use those hard lessons as it builds a new flood protection system for the city of New Orleans in coming years. They're asking experts all around the nation to give it their best shot as they consider ideas. And one of them that they're considering was hatched right in their own backyard.


MILES O'BRIEN, (voice over): Ivor Van Heerden could say, I told you so. And in a matter of speaking, he is. Long before Katrina, he tried to raise the red flags, but no one seemed to pay much attention. IVOR VAN HEERDEN, LSU HURRICANE CENTER: Since the 1930s, we've lost over a million acres of our coastal wetlands. And that's our outer line of defense for storm surge.

MILES O'BRIEN: That's him as the storm approached.

VAN HEERDEN: So this storm, a category four, category five, is our worst nightmare.

MILES O'BRIEN: A nightmare Van Heerden he had predicted and named Pam.

VAN HEERDEN: And what you're going to see, the arrows are the wind.

MILES O'BRIEN: A computer simulated storm he helped created at Louisiana State University's Hurricane Center. The red is the worst flooding. Van Heerden says if Katrina had followed Pam's course, the real life scenario could have been even worse.

VAN HEERDEN: Katrina came over east of New Orleans. You didn't get the maximum surge development.

MILES O'BRIEN: Now there is no doubt people are listening. Van Heerden has developed a three-part plan that he says could protect coastal Louisiana from a category five hurricane. Part one, armored levees like these in the Netherlands, combined with elaborate flood gates that would keep surging waters out. Part two, restoration of the wetlands which have been eroding. Wetlands are a natural speed bump to surging storm waters. Part three, new barrier islands to protect the wet lands.

VAN HEERDEN: This whole system, barrier islands, wetlands and then this barrier levee, we believe, would give you the protection that would mean you wouldn't even have to evacuate with a category five.

MILES O'BRIEN: So in this case, you're not just trying to beat mother nature with a club, you're trying to work with nature a little bit more, aren't you?

VAN HEERDEN: Yes. It's kind of, if you will, some kind of least interference management. You want to get nature to work with you. You're not going to fight it.

MILES O'BRIEN: Of course Van Heerden, and the LSU Hurricane Center, aren't the only ones looking for ways to make southeastern Louisiana more hurricane resistant.

COL. RICHARD WAGENAAR, ARMY CORP OF ENGINEERS: So we've lost almost five years of marsh in a period of two months.

MILES O'BRIEN: Colonel Richard Wagenaar heads the Army Corps of Engineers here. He gave us a bird's-eye view of the city. He says the Corps understands protecting New Orleans means nurturing the natural defenses. WAGENAAR: If we don't restore and reduce the losses of these marshes, then New Orleans and Saint Bernard Parish and all of these local communities on going to be on the front of the Gulf of Mexico.

MILES O'BRIEN: Wagenaar says the Corps is listening to all kinds of ideas from experts all over the world.

WAGENAAR: Right now we are in the "brainstorming period" and asking everybody to provide us their opinions and their ideas on how we should solve this issue.

MILES O'BRIEN: The Corps says it will release a draft proposal at the end of this month with a final report coming out in December 2007. The final decision will be made in Washington. But that worries Van Heerden. He saying lawmakers don't understand the urgency of the situation.

VAN HEERDEN: If we had Katrina come up similar to Hurricane Pam, we wouldn't be talking about 1,300 people, we would be talking about tens of thousands of people that would drown.

MILES O'BRIEN: So this has to be built?

VAN HEERDEN: It's not ifs or buts, it has to be built.


MILES O'BRIEN: Now, Ivor Van Heerden has come out with a book. It's called, very simply, "The Storm" and it depicts a lot of what we just talked about there and, obviously, in much greater depth. What's interesting, when you look at what happened, Chad, and let's bring Chad in on this, the Army Corps of Engineers, with a good faith effort over many years to try and make the Mississippi River navigatable all through New Orleans, funneled all that fresh water into that one spot and that is what undermined those wetlands, caused salt water intrusion there. They thrive on the fresh water from the river. And that's what made mother nature's defenses come down. So I think what they're learning is, they made matters worse in some respects. And so there's a certain amount of respect for nature which has coming out of this, don't you think?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes. You know what, when you losing some of the silt that's naturally coming down the river, that would have continued to build those marshes and those little birms on the side and you divert it going down the other way, then you lose some of that. And this wasn't even a worst case scenario, as he was talking about, Miles. A category one with a direct hit could do as much damage as this glancing category three did. So we are still not out of the woods here. Those folks have a lot of work to do and a little time to do it, as the old song goes.


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Still to come this morning, we're going to tell you how high gas prices are hurting sales at your local dollar store. That's ahead as we "Mind Your Business." MILES O'BRIEN: And next, a college graduate who's made thousands of dollars from donating her eggs. Some folks say it's too risky, though, for the money. We'll get into that in just a little bit.


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Have you seen the ads in the classified section? They offer $2,000, $5,000 even $10,000 for young women who meet the most demanding standards. Infertile couples are looking for women's eggs, but they want to be able to pick and choose the perfect donor. Deb Feyerick's been looking into this. She joins us this morning.

Kind of bizarre and the price that they can get for their eggs, wow.

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is astonishing. It is fast money but there are risks. Not just physical risks, but also emotional risks as well.


FEYERICK, (voice over): Meet Jamie Coahran. Beautiful, bright, a varsity athlete. She just graduated from the University of Colorado. She believes in ghosts and wishes on stars. It says so right in her profile.

They ask you very detailed questions.


FEYERICK: Things that you wouldn't necessarily expect. So, for example, food, your answer?

COAHRAN: My answer is crab.




COAHRAN: Fall or winter.

FEYERICK: Holiday?

COAHRAN: Christmas.

FEYERICK: These's aren't questions for some dating Web site. It's an egg donation site for couples trying to have a baby, searching for the perfect donor. The details are in the DNA and getting the right DNA doesn't come cheap. $10,000, that's the price a couple agreed to pay for Jamie's next egg donation, twice what she was paid when she first donated last year. The demand, even greater now.

Anywhere you find college kids, you're likely to finds ads in student papers promising great money. Too good to pass up. $10,000, $15,000, $20,000 for first time donors. Andrew Vorzimer is president of Egg Donation Inc., one of 250 such privately owned agencies across the United States. There's no set price for egg donations. Vorzimer, who doesn't work with anyone under the age of 21, says dangling high figures can be dangerously tempting.

ANDREW VORZIMER, PRESIDENT, EGG DONATION INC.: When you target 19, 20-year-old college ladies who are facing $50,000 $60,000, $100,000 in tuition bills, they see these advertisements in their school paper and they jump at it without considering the risks, without thinking through the ramifications of going forward.

FEYERICK: The risks in very rare cases include infertility. The ramifications include donor babies that may one day try to find their genetic mother. Yet the money can't be ignored.

Why did they say, we pick you?

And women in ivy league universities and top tier colleges can command even higher prices.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The scariest thing for most donors that go through Ivy app (ph).

FEYERICK: Egg donation requires a month long commitment, twice daily hormone shots to stimulate the ovaries and surgery under general anesthesia to remove the eggs. They're then fertilized and the resulting embryos are implanted in the birth mother's womb.

COAHRAN: You've got your appointments and everything. So, I mean, it's almost kind of like a job. It's like, why would you expect somebody to come and work for you and to do all these things for you and to be punctual and not expect any type of compensation?

FEYERICK: $25,000 is far above the $6,000 agencies say they pay for first-time donors. Yet it shows how far some couples will go to get the right kind of genes to conceive their ideal child. Doctor Zev Rosenwaks, director of the Infertility Center at Cornell Weill Medical Center, pioneered egg donation.

DR. ZEV ROSENWAKS, WEILL MEDICAL COLLEGE: I always worry about a fee being coercive. I want that patient who goes through egg donation to do it for the right reason.

FEYERICK: Do you ever think about the possibility that a child with half your genetic makeup will be out there somewhere?

COAHRAN: I mean, I think it's always in the back of your head for any egg donor or sperm donor or anybody for that matter. I just think it's a piece of them now. I don't really consider, like, oh that's half of me.

FEYERICK: And right now she doesn't think her feelings about that will change. She may even consider donating again after she has her own kids.


FEYERICK: We reached out to more than a dozen couples who have used egg donors and not one accepted our offer to go on camera. The reason, there's still a stigma associated with infertility. But also, some of these couples haven't figured out when or if they'll tell their child how they were actually conceived.


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: And I would imagine the legalities of what could -- you know, does the donor have a claim to that child one day potentially down the road? Does that child have a claim to the donor mother one day potentially down the road?

FEYERICK: There's no legal claim that they have to the child, but there's an emotional claim. If the child shows up at the door and says, hey, I'd like to meet you, my genetic half, or do I have any siblings, half siblings, what's a person a to do? And have the donors actually told their own children?

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Interesting. Ivy league, what's the cutoff age for a donor?

FEYERICK: They say that the cutoff age . . .

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Not that I'm looking. I don't think I need anymore more children related to me in the world right now. But, seriously?

FEYERICK: They say that it goes up to 33. But the truth is, is that most of the women who are donors are within, you know, 22, 25.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Young and healthy.

FEYERICK: Correct. Very young and very healthy.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Thirty-three is considered old or eggs.

FEYERICK: A little bit.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Forty is ancient for eggs.

FEYERICK: Oh, it's, yes, it's so yesterday.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: So, all right, Deb Feyerick, thanks a lot. Appreciate it.

Of course, Deb's report first aired on "Paula Zahn Now." You can catch Paula weeknights at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time.


MILES O'BRIEN: Coming up, we're "Minding Your Business." We'll look at how high gas prices are putting the squeeze on discount retailers.

And later, how do you spell victory?




MILES O'BRIEN: It's the brand new spelling bee champ, 13-year- old Katharine Close acing the word urspache or something like that. She'll join us live and tell us what it's like to be the queen of the bee or the bee of the queen, or whatever it is, ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


MILES O'BRIEN: AMERICAN MORNING hits the road next week for our "Paying the Price in the Heartland" series. Dan Lothian will report on how high fuel prices are affecting our lives. He'll be in Iowa on Monday. It's a long way from Boston. And that's all next week. So stay tuned.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: The economic divide is getting wider. Energy prices could be to blame. Carrie Lee is with us. She's "Minding Our Business" this morning.

Good morning.


We talk a lot about rising energy prices, high gas prices, how that's affecting the wallets of American consumers. But if you take a closer look, you can really see and divide between lower and higher income spending patterns. Auto sales out yesterday illustrate this point rather well. Sales of Lexus, BMW doing well, but then sales of sort of more baseline SUV models are not doing well during the month.

And you can also see this clear break down for retailers for the month of May -- Nordstrom, Neiman-Marcus saw their sales up 8 and 4 percent. Other names like Dollar General, not doing so well. Dollar General saw Q1 profits down 27 percent.

As one economist tells "The Wall Street Journal," families in the bottom fifth of the income spectrum here in this country spend 10 to 15 percent of their income on gas or energy. Those in the top fifth spend just 1 to 2 percent. So it really makes sense in the breakdowns. So when you see these economic reports about peoples' spending patterns holding steady, well that doesn't really tell the story behind the numbers necessarily.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Well that's just more bad news and it's all related to gas prices.

LEE: Yes, just taking a closer look at it, yes. So some people really getting hit hard. Another thing, and this is sort of an unfortunate twist of fate. Two of the most efficient auto plants in North America are going to be shutting down. A group called Harbor Consulting, they're highly regarded in Michigan, put together this study. They find Ford's plant in Atlanta, also GM's plant in Ontario, are two of the most efficient plants. They're, unfortunately, shutting down for reasons not related to efficiency.

Ford makes the Taurus and they are selling those cars largely to the rental market, which they want to get out of. Also the models made in Ontario from FM, they're going to be finished after 2008. So unfortunate for those two names.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Oh, how brutal for the people there.

LEE: Yes.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: You know, you work so hard, you do a good job, you meet all your, you know, levels.

LEE: Exactly.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: You're considered among the best and then it's like, oh, too bad, sorry.

LEE: Exactly. And as though Detroit doesn't have some other sales problems as well.

MILES O'BRIEN: Thank you, Carrie Lee.


MILES O'BRIEN: In a moment, the top stories, including investigations of U.S. troops in Iraq now. Seven marines could be charged with the murder of an Iraqi civilian soon.

Bodies of 24 civilians in Haditha may be exhumed to get some evidence on that alleged Marine massacre there.

And a new investigation of charges American troops deliberately killed 11 other Iraqi civilians near Bilad (ph).

Also, what looks like an execution in an Indianapolis suburb. Seven people shot dead. Men, women and children. Police are naming a suspect and a manhunt underway.

And a wildfire on the edge of a picturesque Arizona town. Four buildings already burned near Sedona. Thirty homes evacuated. Stay with us.


DAS: I'm Sumi Das at Camp Pendleton.

Allegations of murder at the hands of the U.S. military. When can we expect charges? I'll tell you coming up. KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Kathleen Koch at the Pentagon.

How did the Haditha deaths go un-investigated by the U.S. military for months? I'll explain after this.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Indianapolis police are searching for a suspect in the late-night killing of seven people. Three children are among those shot execution style.

MILES O'BRIEN: In Afghanistan, a spring offensive underway. The Taliban on the offensive. Barbara Starr is there with an exclusive look at the U.S. fight to win over Afghanistan.





SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Ursprache. That's how you spell it. What does it mean? That girl right there is the big winner. We're going to introduce you to this young lady who's walked away the queen bee this morning just ahead.

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

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: And I'm Soledad O'Brien.


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