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North Korea Cautioned Against Missile Launch; Search Intensifies for Two U.S. Soldiers Missing in Iraq

Aired June 19, 2006 - 15:30   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: The U.S., Japan and Australia are now warning that North Korea not test a long-range missile. And how long are we talking? Well it's said to be capable of hitting the U.S. And Washington believes it's fueled up and ready to fire.

Some say the country's unpredictable leader may be bluffing, but the White House says the U.S. would have to respond properly and appropriately if that test happens. Australia warned of serious consequences and Japan is threatening a fierce protest to the U.N.. Well if North Korea does test a missile soon, it won't be the first time it's blown off warnings and threats from the outside. Here's a look at Pyongyang's missile program.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: North Korea triggered an international crisis when it last tested a long-range missile in 1988. The missile flew over Japanese territory, a fact that both surprised and outraged the Japanese government.

The north's leaders conducted the tests despite a strong warning from President Clinton. Analysts estimate that North Korea has more than 800 ballistic missiles, with the majority being short-range scuds of various types.

According to the Monterey Institute of International Studies, the north has two, possibly three types of missiles that can strike Japan as well as scuds that can hit South Korea. It carried out several missile tests in the 1990s before agreeing to a moratorium on testing in 1999.

Analysts say that at present, North Korea does not have an operational missile that can reach the U.S. U.S. officials say that a three-stage version of the missile that could be tested in the coming days could strike all of the United States. The two-stage version could possibly hit Alaska, Hawaii and parts of the western U.S. main land. Analysts point to another key fact, North Korea has not shown that it has the technology to deliver nuclear weapons with its current long-range missile system.


PHILLIPS: Will Saddam Hussein die for his alleged atrocities? If the prosecution gets its way, he will. Lawyers asked for the death penalty for the former dictator's 1982 crackdown on Shiites. Hussein and seven members of his ousted regime are charged with killing and torturing 148 Shiites. The smiling Hussein told the chief prosecutor well done after he finished his argument. The defense will present its closing arguments when the trial resumes July 10th.

Iraqi troops were the target, but only civilians were killed today in the latest car bomb attack in Baghdad. Police tell us four people died, 10 were hurt when the bomb went off at a security checkpoint. A witness says the blast was set off by remote control.

Isolating insurgents. That's what U.S. and Iraqi troops are trying to achieve in Ramadi, a hotbed for the insurgency. Coalition forces took control of the suburbs over night and every main access point in town. CNN's Nic Robertson is embedded with the 137th armored battalion bandits. He says this operation to keep more militants from getting into town is proving effective. We'll stay on the story.

Far too many American families have felt the bitter sting of war and there are times such as Father's Day when it's particularly painful.

CNN's Sumi Das the story of a family that's had to endure the loss of a father figure not once, but twice.


SUMI DAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At age six, a knock at the door forever changed Yolanda Acevedo's life. Her father was killed in the Vietnam War. Acevedo's most vivid memory is the last time they saw each other.

YOLANDO ACEVEDO, LOST FATHER AND HUSBAND: We were at the airport and we were saying good-bye, you know and we were trying to be brave. We made it through. And that was our last hug and our last kiss.

DAS: Thirty-five years later in April 2003, another life altering moment.

Y. ACEVEDO: We got the knock at the door again.

DAS: Acevedo's husband, Joe, a commander in the U.S. Navy had a heart attack while serving in the Persian Gulf. The loss this time felt not only by Acevedo, but also her two sons, now 11 and 14. This Father's Day weekend the family laid flowers at his grave and attended a service at the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial.

Y. ACEVEDO: I don't believe there's anything worse for a parent than watch your children's tears, watch them suffer, watch them in pain. Especially when you know that pain all so very well.

DAS: Acevedo says resources like survivor assistance programs have helped her sons cope.

ANDRE ACEVEDO, LOST FATHER: In a way it gets easier, but you still can't just erase what you know could have been, because you know it's not going to happen any more. STEPHAN ACEVEDO, LOST FATHER: I am going to the sixth grade and graduate from middle school just like my brother. So I think that he will never be there to see it.

DAS: On a holiday that could be somber, Andre and Stephan choose to recall their father's laughter, love and devotion to their children and country.

Y. ACEVEDO: They both died doing what they wanted to do. And we loved them both and that was part of who they were.

DAS: Sumi Das, CNN, Washington.


PHILLIPS: Well, what do you give a hero for Father's Day? How about a reunion with the young life that he helped save? Remember Baby Noor, the Iraqi child born with a spinal defect. Well a member of the Georgia National Guard helped her get to Atlanta for life- saving surgery. Lieutenant Jeff Morgan returned from Iraq last month and after spending Father's Day with his own kids, well he got a chance to see Noor for the first time since she left Iraq.


JEFF MORGAN, 1ST LT., 48TH GEORGIA NATIONAL GUARD: It was a great. It was a great Father's Day gift to be with my children and then my spirit child, I guess I can call Baby Noor. Because we definitely have that connection. And when I saw her, I couldn't believe it. It was her. She looked totally different. She's a different child, she's gained weight. She's just beautiful.


PHILLIPS: Noor is nine-months-old now. The Georgia 48th received two humanitarian awards for helping to save her life.

Two American soldiers missing in Iraq. A massive search now underway. Hear from family members as they wait for the news. We're live in Houston, home of Private Kristian Menchaca. Stay with CNN, the most trusted name in news.


PHILLIPS: Back to our top story. Two U.S. soldiers missing in Iraq, more than 8,000 other soldiers looking for them right now. Privates Thomas Tucker and Kristian Menchaca have been missing since Friday, when terrorists attacked their checkpoint south of Baghdad.

Our Ed Lavandara talked with Private Menchaca's family in Houston. He joins us live.

A number of the family members speaking out, including his wife, right, Ed?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We've heard a little bit from his wife -- excuse me. We're in the neighborhood where Kristian Menchaca grew up, here just north of downtown Houston. His wife gave a brief interview to the Associated Press late last night.

Just a short while ago, we spoke with his cousin and his brother, who still live here in this neighborhood north of downtown Houston where Kristian Menchaca grew up. They described Menchaca as a reserved, quiet guy who had grown up quite a bit since his deployment to Iraq last year. They say that when he was back here a month ago for a ten day vacation, that they had noticed that he'd become cold and quiet. And they say they figured that that was because that's what he needed to do to keep himself alive in Iraq.

He didn't share much about what he was doing, but he did tell his brother when he was here on vacation that he was working a checkpoint. And after that, his brother and the rest of his family knew that what he was doing was dangerous work.

As you can imagine, the family right now, distressed by what is going on. They are paying very close attention, watching news reports coming out of Iraq to see any kind of information they can get as to the whereabouts of Kristian Menchaca. They are not hearing much from the military, they say. They are paying close attention to television news reports, and right now they're hopeful but incredibly scared.


GABRIELA GARCIA, COUSIN: Scared. Hopeful. I am hoping that the efforts to find him don't waver, and that they intensify. All the information I have is, like sister (ph) said, through the media, the news, newspapers. And I heard that they're looking for him and the other man.

I see him as a boy. I hope they find him. I hope they continue looking. I hope they do not forget about him and that other boy, that other man. I have my hopes up that we do find them, that they keep looking, that they get more people, do what they can to find them. We're scared that he's being hurt, which is why we hope that they find him quickly.

JULIO CESAR VASQUEZ, BROTHER: Well, I was mentally preparing myself, you know, for bad news, but I never thought that he would actually be kidnapped. I mean, one thing is being killed, another thing being kidnapped. Now you have to think about what the terrorists and insurgents are doing to him, if he's still alive. They -- you know , they don't -- he might be getting tortured now. Thinking about that -- it just bothers me. One thing is getting killed in action, another thing is getting taken by terrorists and getting tortured every day.


LAVANDERA: And that is what -- one of the things that his brother is really struggling the most with right now, Kyra. We asked him repeatedly if he had any messages for his brother's captors, anything that he might want to say to them to help the situation out. He really struggled with that question. The family is struggling at this point with the idea that the fate of their loved one, their brother, lies in the hands of the people they call terrorists and insurgents. It's not a comfortable situation for them, as you might imagine -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Ed Lavandara, sure appreciate you bringing us the response from the family, though. We hadn't heard from them yet. Thanks, Ed.

Three U.S. soldiers now face charges in the deaths of three detainees in Iraq. Those charges include murder, attempted murder, conspiracy and obstructing justice. The deaths happened May 9th, and the suspects include one non-com and two soldiers from the 101st Airborne.

We may never understand their motivation, but we may learn more about personalities of the Columbine high school shooters, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. The sheriff of Jefferson County, Colorado, plans to release almost 1,000 pages of documents seized from their homes. That won't include video and audiotapes the teens made. The FBI fears those could inspire copycats. Also you know, 12 students and one teacher died in that rampage at Columbine in April of 1999.

The news keeps coming. We'll keep bringing it to you. More LIVE FROM next.


PHILLIPS: Big cars equal big safety, right? Well, it depends on the car. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety did side impact tests on eight big sedans. Top marks go to the redesigned Chevrolet Impala and Toyota Avalon, both with standard side airbags. The Buick Lucerne and Hyundai Azera, also with standard side airbags, earned an acceptable rating. Lowest scores go to the Chrysler 300, the Ford 500 and Ford Crown Victoria. All three were tested without optional side airbags.

No stain glass ceilings here. The newly elected presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States is a woman. Katharine Jefferts Schori is also a wife and mother with a pilot's license PhD in oceanography. A dozen years ago, she turned in her lab coat for a priest collar. Earlier, she gave her first national interview to us right here on LIVE FROM.


PHILLIPS: You supported the ordination of Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop. Tell me why?

KATHARINE JEFFERTS SCHORI, NEW LEADER OF EPISCOPAL CHURCH: Because I had a sense that the dioceses of New Hampshire who elected him recognized the gifts in him, gifts that were eminently well suited to the challenges of ministry in that place. They knew him, they have known him for 20 years. They had a clear sense of who he was and they believed that God was calling him to be their bishop.

PHILLIPS: So is it a sin? Is it against god's will? Is it wrong to be gay?

SCHORI: I don't believe so.

PHILLIPS: Tell me why?

SCHORI: I believe that God creates us with different gifts. Each one of us comes into this world with a different collection of things that challenge us and things that give us joy and allow us to bless the world around us. And some people come into this world with affections ordered toward other people of the same gender and some people come into this world with affections directed at people of the other gender.


PHILLIPS: Well, are you one of those folks who never gets enough "SITUATION ROOM," or "LATE EDITION," anything to get a little more Wolf? We can't blame you. We can't blame late night talk show Jimmy Kimmel. His dad even looks like Wolf, which led Jimmy to give both men a pop quiz. The high score gets to be Papa Kimmel.


JIMMY KIMMEL, TALK SHOW HOST: Whoever wins this pop quiz gets to be my dad. So the stakes are very high. Our challenger, contestant No. 1, Wolf Blitzer joins us from "THE SITUATION ROOM" in Washington. There he is.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Jimmy, glad to be here.

KIMMEL: Glad to have you, Wolf. And my birth father joins us now from his "SITUATION ROOM" in Phoenix, Arizona. Dad? There he is. You ready? You ready dad?


KIMMELL: All right. That's the only place he can concentrate. What nickname was I given after bringing a briefcase to junior high school? Dad?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it was nerd man.

BLITZER: I remember that. I remember that very vividly -- Briefcase Joe.

KIMMEL: What is my personal record for Chicken McNuggets consumed in one sitting? Dad?


KIMMEL: No, that's not correct. Wolf?

BLITZER: I was there when it happened, 75.

KIMMEL: Seventy-five, that's right. Congratulations to my new dad, Wolf Blitzer. BLITZER: Jimmy I just want you to know that I am so proud to be your new dad.

KIMMEL: Thank you.

BLITZER: And send me a present.

KIMMEL: I will, I'm going to send you the present I planned to send to my imposter dad, did not get one question right. And by the way, we didn't set the part with my dad up. Former dad, what do you have to say for yourself?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Party, robot party, robot party.

KIMMEL: You don't want to interrupt him during one of his robot parties.


PHILLIPS: It's time now to check in with CNN's Wolf Blitzer. So what did you -- did your son send you anything for Father's Day?

BLITZER: My daughter, my daughter.

PHILLIPS: Your daughter.

BLITZER: My fake son, Jimmy Kimmel? Is that who you're talking about?

PHILLIPS: Yes, that's who...

BLITZER: ... My real daughter did, she loves me very much. I don't know about my fake son, Jimmy Kimmel.

PHILLIPS: Is she jealous about Jimmy Kimmel?

BLITZER: No, everybody had a good laugh, it was very cute, very funny.

PHILLIPS: All right Wolf, what's coming up in "THE SITUATION ROOM?"

BLITZER: We've got a lot of unfunny things coming up at the top of the hour, very serious stuff. Nuclear ambitions: is the White House issuing some stern warnings to North Korea and Iran? We have the latest on the war of words, plus a look at just how close North Korea may be to having the capability of hitting U.S. soil.

Also, Howard Dean right here in "THE SITUATION ROOM." I will ask him about the Democrats plans to bring the troops home. Plus, missing American soldiers, we will find out what's being done to try to bring them home alive.

And get this, drones over Los Angeles. The city goes high tech to fight crime. All that, Kyra, coming up right here in "THE SITUATION ROOM." PHILLIPS: All right Wolf, look forward to it. Straight ahead, Ali Velshi with the closing bell and a wrap of all the action on Wall Street. Stay with us.


PHILLIPS: Well this isn't a dog bites man story. It's a dog bites cell phone and saves man's life story. This is Belle the Beagle. She is on her way to Washington to receive the Vita Wireless Samaritan Award. Why? Well, Belle saved Kevin Weaver after he collapsed from a diabetic seizure on his Florida home in February. Because of her training as a diabetic alert dog, well she knew to bite down on the number nine button on his cell phone, programmed to dial 911.

Buffalo nickles coming back, except they won't be nickles. And if you lose one, you will be out a lot more than five cents. The U.S. Mint is taking orders for a new $50 gold piece with a Native American's head on one side, a buffalo on the other. Those were on the five-cent piece from 1913 to 1938, by the way. The new coin is aimed at investors and will be the first 24-karat coin produced by the U.S. Mint. Ali Velshi is also obsessed with gold.



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