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Chaos in the Streets of Baghdad Following Deadly Car Bombing; Two U.S. Soldiers Say Comrades in Iraq were Involved in Rape, Murder; Storm Clouds Chief Worry as NASA Prepares to Launch Discover; Floodwaters Receding in Northeast

Aired July 1, 2006 - 08:00   ET


MICHAEL GRIFFIN, NASA ADMINISTRATOR: We're here to resume the shuttle return to flight process. This is our second in our sequence. The vehicle is remarkably clean, just as clean as certainly I've ever seen and I think most of us have ever seen. So we're looking forward to good weather, and when we have it, we're going to be ready to go.


BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, and the countdown is upon us. As you heard, all systems are ready for today's shuttle launch, but the weather, well, that could be a sticking point, although it's improving a little bit.

From the CNN Center, this is CNN SATURDAY MORNING, July 1st, 8:00 a.m. here in Atlanta and at Kennedy Space center in Florida, where they are preparing for that big launch today. We're going to have that countdown up for you this morning.

Good morning, everybody. I'm Betty Nguyen.

TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Tony Harris. Thanks for being with us.

Standing by live for us at the Kennedy Space Center is our Miles O'Brien.

Miles, good morning.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN SPACE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you. Thank you very much, Tony and Betty.

We are here at the Kennedy Space Center. And right now, the weather is fantastic. Of course, unfortunately, the space shuttle can't take off right now because it needs to rendezvous the International Space Station.

We'll tell you about the weather, we'll tell you about exactly what's going on with the crew. We have an expert with us, Eileen Collins, the now retired shuttle commander, first female ever to do that job. And we'll be back with them -- her and a full update for you in just a moment -- Betty and Tony.

HARRIS: Beautiful, Miles. See you in just a couple of minutes.

But first, a look at what else is happening right "Now in the news."

In Iraq, the bloodiest attack in three months. More than 60 people were killed when a car bomb exploded in a crowded Baghdad market this morning. Iraqi officials say the attack targeted a police patrol. More than 100 people were injured.

A live report from our Nic Robertson is just a minute away.

Another Internet message from Osama bin Laden may be on the way. An Islamic Web site says a new dispatch from the al Qaeda leader is expected soon. His most recent message appeared on the Internet on Friday. In it, he praised Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was killed in a U.S. airstrike last month.

In Afghanistan, insurgents fire rockets at the coalition military base in Kandahar. Two soldiers, one American and one Canadian, have been flown to Germany for treatment of serious injuries. Five other soldiers and three civilian contract workers sustained minor injuries.

NGUYEN: Also overseas, Israel says it is not making a deal for the release of an Israeli soldier held hostage by Palestinian militant groups. The militants want Israel to release a thousand Arab prisoners, including women and children. An Egyptian official is heading to Gaza in an effort to break the diplomatic deadlock.

Well, it is checkup day for Vice President Dick Cheney. He is having his annual physical this morning at George Washington University Medical Center. Doctors are checking on repaired aneurysms on the back of his knees. They're also evaluating the condition of a pacemaker the vice president received back in 2001.

Tour de France favorites Jan Ullrich and Ivan Basso are out of the race.


NGUYEN: Yes, after being implicated in a doping scandal. Spanish investigators have been looking into a ring that allegedly supplied riders with banned drugs. The other bikers, well, they're under suspicion and have been barred from the race, which starts this weekend.

Scenes of chaos on the streets of Baghdad this morning following a deadly car bombing about six hours ago now. Dozens dead and more than 100 wounded.

CNN Senior International Reporter Nic Robertson joins us from Baghdad, where the death toll keeps rising.

And Nic, curfews, more Iraqi police, security forces on the streets, in addition to coalition forces, all designed to stop this very thing from happening. And here we go again. NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And it's very interesting, because one of the comments from somebody who was very close to that attack on the streets of Sadr City, which is a Shia suburb on the northeastern outskirts of Baghdad, they said if the government can't bring security to this area, then let the Mehdi army, which is a Shia militia in that area, let them take charge. That's how the passions there are running at the moment.

The police say the bomb went off as a police patrol passed by through a crowded market area. Almost undoubtedly, this would have been a Shia police patrol. It is a Shia suburb.

The market would have been full of Shias shopping. People have been avoiding the heat of the day. It would have been very crowded when the bomb went off.

Sixty-two people killed so far, police say, 114 injured.

This has all the hallmarks of a sectarian attack. This is something the government is very worried and concerned about, the residents equally so. Despairing, it appears at this time, of the government to provide them the security they want -- Tony.

HARRIS: And Nic, also, there's word that a Sunni parliamentarian was kidnapped. What can you tell us about that?

ROBERTSON: Tayseer Mashhadani was kidnapped just a few miles from that bombing, and just an hour or so after the bombing took place. She was driving to Baghdad to attend a meeting. She was in a convoy of two vehicles with eight armed guards, had just gone through a police checkpoint, her colleagues say, when the vehicles were surrounded by armed -- by armed insurgents who approached the vehicle, stopped the vehicles, and kidnapped all of them.

There is no word yet on what's happened to the parliamentarian. She is from a relatively moderate Sunni party -- Tony.

HARRIS: Nic, any -- any thoughts on whether or not a Sunni might be behind -- or a Sunni organization might be behind this kidnapping in retaliation against Sunni politicians who are participating in this new government?

ROBERTSON: Tony, it's really very, very difficult to say. The simple analysis would say that the bombing in the market was done by Shias -- done by Sunnis, rather, killing Shias. That then, that the Sunni parliamentarian was abducted by Shias.

That's the simple analysis. Of course, it is far move complex here, and it's impossible to say at this stage who was responsible.

Her colleagues from the -- other parliamentary colleagues have implicated that the police knew something about this, her abduction. They're implying that they were Shia police, but it's just not clear at all. And it would be really too soon to point a finger or blame at who was responsible for her abduction -- Tony.

HARRIS: CNN Senior International Correspondent Nic Robertson for us in Baghdad.

And Nic, appreciate it, as always. Thank you.

NGUYEN: American soldiers killing Iraqi civilians. Another allegation, another investigation. The latest claim comes from two U.S. soldiers who said they heard some of their comrades were involved in rape and murder.

CNN Pentagon Correspondent Jamie McIntyre has the details.


JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Army sources say the allegations came up two weeks ago during combat stress debriefing sessions that followed the murders of privates Kristian Menchaca and Thomas Tucker.

According to a senior Army official, two soldiers from Menchaca and Tucker's unit the 502nd Infantry Regiment, told military counselors they heard about an incident that happened on March 12th in which two other soldiers supposedly raped an Iraqi woman and then one of the soldiers allegedly killed her and three family members, including a child. The second-hand account was enough to prompt Major General James Thurman to order a criminal probe.

A brief statement issued by the military in Iraq says, "A preliminary inquiry found sufficient information existed to recommend a criminal investigation into the incident."

An Army official says one of the suspects is confined to base in Mahmoudiya, south of Baghdad, the same area where it's alleged the four Iraqi civilians were killed in their home.

The investigation is the latest in a string of incidents in which it's alleged U.S. troops killed Iraqi civilians. In Haditha, where 24 Iraqis were killed last November, an investigations is still under way. In Hamdaniya, seven U.S. troops are charged with killing an Iraqi man in April. At Thar Thar Lake, four soldiers are charged with killing three detainees in May. And in Ramadi, two soldiers have been charged in connection with the shooting of an unarmed man in February.

(on camera): Army sources say in this latest incident, a second suspect was discharged from the service for reasons the Army won't disclose. He is believed to be in the United States and is wanted for questioning. No charges have been filed against either soldier as the investigation continues.

Jamie McIntyre, CNN, the Pentagon.


HARRIS: And for complete coverage of breaking news and today's top stories, stay with CNN, the most trusted name in news.

Well, you know what? Storm clouds are the chief worry this morning as NASA prepares to launch space shuttle Discovery. The shuttle sits on the launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida at this hour. That's where you'll find our Miles O'Brien. He joins us live, along with a special guest, former astronaut Eileen Collins, the commander of Discovery's last mission a year ago.

Miles, good morning.

O'BRIEN: Good morning to you.

Don't want to mislead folks. That was Eileen Collins and her crew a year ago this time as they made their way toward the space shuttle Discovery. That was the return to flight mission. Well, this is return to flight part two, I guess, the sequel, because many of the same issues remain out there, including the issue of that falling foam, which was ultimately the culprit that brought down the space shuttle Columbia three and a half years ago.

Let's go live, first of all, to the launch pad and take a look. This is launch pad 39B. It's about 3.5 miles over my right shoulder. And you will see a beautiful Florida morning. It doesn't get any better than that.

Space shuttle Discovery now not enveloped by that scaffolding off there to the left called the rotating service structure. The crew is in the process of getting their breakfast and suit-up procedures and weather briefings and all that.

As you take a look down, that's an interesting perspective as you look down on Discovery. And you see -- what you see at the bottom there, the lower part, you'll notice there is some gas coming out of there. That is the expulsion of hydrogen as it boils off this ever- so-cold liquid hydrogen.

Let's talk a little bit about weather. We're going to do it with somebody who knows an awful lot about it, Eileen Collins, who is now a retired shuttle commander, was strapping in a year ago, as we said.

I want to orient people a little bit. I don't think people understand why there are such tight weather constraints for the launch of a space shuttle. Let's go to the map and try to explain to people what's going on.

Florida peninsula, first of all. And as we come in on the center part of the east coast of the Florida peninsula, there you see the Cape, Cape Canaveral. Kennedy Space Center, of course, sits on that. As we zoom into the Cape, we'll give you an idea of what we're talking about here.

First of all, we are here. We'll put ourselves number one. Number two is the vacant launch pad. Number three is 39B. That is where the space shuttle Discovery sits.

Over here is the runway that the space shuttle would use if it had an abort scenario, had to return back. That is am important thing to remember here.

Eileen, a lot of what we talk about in the weather constraints has to do with the worst case scenario of having to come back, right?

EILEEN COLLINS, ASTRONAUT: Well, we have to protect, obviously, for the launch (INAUDIBLE). So you don't want any weather in that area, either. So we've got to have excellent weather today.

M. O'BRIEN: All right. I think we have a little bit of a problem with the audio right now. We'll try to fix that right now. But let's -- let's go right back to that Google map for just a moment and we'll give you a sense of what we're talking about here with the distances involved around.

It's basically a 20-mile disk all around the Cape Canaveral area, the Kennedy Space Center. And in that disk, they can't have thunderstorms reported or those so-called anvil clouds, which essentially are a thunder head buildup that has kind of gotten the head of it sheered off. And when she talks about causing lightning, there was actually an Apollo mission, Apollo 12, where the rocket itself, in going through the clouds, triggered its own lightning.

Explain that.

COLLINS: That's right. Well, the vehicle itself, as it goes up through the clouds, can generate enough, I'd say, friction with the air that you can attract the electrons and actually cause the lightning, not to mention a natural lightning strike that can also happen.

So we're very careful. We don't want to lose the electrical system on the shuttles. And the same thing applies on your return. You've got to have your electrical system to fly and land. So we've got to stay at least 30 miles away from the thunderstorms for the return to land.

O'BRIEN: Lightning, something also on the list of worries here as they get ready for the launch of the space shuttle Discovery.

Once again, Tony, no serious glitches to report in the countdown. We're watching the weather right now. Sixty percent chance the weather will permit a launch at 3:49 p.m. Eastern.

We'll be here all morning and all day -- Tony.

HARRIS: Boy, and we're watching it with you with fingers crossed.

Thank you, Miles.

And stay with us all morning long as we continue our coverage of the space shuttle Discovery launch.

Next hour, we'll speak with fork former astronaut Mike Mullane.

And this brings us to our e-mail question. Do you think NASA -- sorry -- do you think NASA is rushing to launch the shuttle?

Send your thoughts to and we will read your responses throughout the morning. And at 3:00 p.m. Eastern, we will have a special live show hosted by Miles O'Brien.

Be with us all day, CNN, the most trusted name in news.

NGUYEN: Well, the e-mail with question is a very good one, especially considering the foam and the concern regarding that.


NGUYEN: So, send in those e-mails.

HARRIS: And still ahead, the water is gone, but the trouble stays, picking up the pieces after a week of some of the worst flooding in decades. We will take you to Trenton, New Jersey, live in about four minutes.


NGUYEN: OK, what was that? Hello? Elvis left the building a long time ago, but for Japan's prime minister, a visit to Graceland, well, it's a dream come true.

Stick around to see him acting like a true Elvis fan, if that's what you want to call that. Rocking and rolling in about 10 minutes right here on CNN SATURDAY MORNING.



CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tired of the same old boring workout on the treadmill? Well, now you can spice it up just by stepping it up. Sprinting up hills, walking or running on flat roads, tread ride is an aerobic class on treadmills.

JENNIFER RENFROE, CRUNCH FITNESS DIRECTOR: It's all set to music. So we run hills and flat roads, and change the incline and change the pace. And it's a great cardiovascular workout in about 45 minutes.

COSTELLO: She says people who work out regularly on the treadmill may not be working out at the intensity they need to burn the most calories during their workouts. This class is designed to amp up the intensity level.

LYDIA O'BERRY, TREAD RIDE: You know, how your clothes fit better, you feel better about yourself. You can go home and eat a Snickers bar.

MARGO GREGORY, TREAD RIDE: I thought it was awesome. It was my first time taking the class, and I thought it was an awesome workout. I'm actually a runner, so this would be a great cross-training tool for me.

COSTELLO: Jennifer says you can make the class tougher by adding a four to 16-pound weighed vest. But that's optional. The best part is you will burn anywhere from 400 to 700 calories per hour. Carol Costello, CNN.



NGUYEN: Looking at some of the astronauts as we count down to the launch today.

In the meantime, look at these pictures. The floodwaters are receding in the Northeast. Now it's time for cleanup and recovery. Instead of a road, well, there's a river outside the door. Property damage is in the millions.

One of the hardest-hit cities, Trenton, New Jersey. And that's where we find our Jason Carroll.

Jason, are folks going to be able to head back home today?

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I don't know about today, but tomorrow, I think, is looking better. In fact, things are looking better and better throughout the city of Trenton.

In fact, we're standing along Route 29. This runs through downtown Trenton. Yesterday, this area was flooded when we were out here, Betty. But you can see today looking much better. It is dry, and, in fact, emergency crews reopened Route 29 just a few moments ago.

Right over here, you can see the Delaware River. It is still surging, but we're told that it's dropping two feet about every 12 hours. So it's looking better and better, as well.

This was one of the areas that was really affected very badly by the floods. One of the neighborhoods not too far from here, Glen Afton, that neighborhood was under several feet of water even up until yesterday. The water receded there very, very slowly.

More than 1,000 people in the area were asked to evacuate. But yesterday we spoke to one man from Glen Afton, Jeffrey McKeen. He did not evacuate, and he told us about how difficult it has been for him in order to begin the process of cleaning up.


JEFFREY MCKEEN, TRENTON RESIDENT: It's devastating. It's emotionally wrenching. I collapsed twice yesterday. I couldn't go any farther. I just had to lay down and breathe.


CARROLL: Once again, another look at the Delaware River, the surging river. Again, the river is receding. The floodwaters are receding. And, in fact, that neighborhood that Jeffrey lives in, the water has receded there this morning, as well -- Betty.

NGUYEN: A little bit of good news, but a lot of cleanup to come.

Jason Carroll, thank you for the that.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A very friendly relationship.

He's a good friend.

How close our relationship is.

He's a good buddy.


NGUYEN: Well, since they're such great buddies, the president took Japan's prime minister to Graceland. Reportedly, a dream come true for Junichiro Koizumi. The rest, well, you'll just have to see for yourself. And boy, let me tell you, you want to see this.

HARRIS: It's different.

NGUYEN: It is different -- in about three minutes, right here on CNN SATURDAY MORNING.

HARRIS: And stay with us all morning long as we continue our coverage of this afternoon's scheduled launch of space shuttle Discovery. Miles O'Brien will speak with former astronaut Mike Mullane. That's at 9:00 a.m. Eastern.

Look at that shot. What a great morning.


NGUYEN: Seven hours and 24 minutes until the space shuttle launches into space. We'll be watching that.

But in the meantime, you have got to watch this. Really, stop for a minute, look at your television screen, because it is no secret that Elvis Presley remains enormously popular nearly 30 years after his death. Perhaps the King's number one fan, well, the Japanese prime minister.

President Bush treated the prime minister to a trip to Graceland, and it is safe to say that he loved every second of it. And don't take our word for it. Watch this.


BUSH: It is such a joy to be here at Graceland. It's my first visit.



BUSH: I was hoping the prime minister would want to come to Graceland.

KOIZUMI (SINGING): Love me tender...

BUSH: He's an Elvis fan.

KOIZUMI (SINGING): Wise men say...

BUSH: See, he loves Elvis.

KOIZUMI (SINGING): I want to hold you tight.

Thank you very much, American people, for "Love Me Tender."

BUSH: He can sing a pretty good Elvis song.

KOIZUMI (SINGING): To dream the impossible dream...

BUSH: I didn't realize how much he loved Elvis.

KOIZUMI: Thank you very much for "Treat Me Nice." That's an Elvis song.

(SINGING): Treat me nice...

Thank you.

BUSH: All right. We're going to have some barbecue. Thank you.


HARRIS: Well, you know, you don't need...

NGUYEN: That's kind of baffling there.

HARRIS: Well, you don't need the sauce on that barbecue, do you?

NGUYEN: No. Look at the glasses. A little barbecue, a little karaoke.

And I guess that was air guitar. I don't really know what you call that -- that -- what was that thing that he was doing?

I can't even do it.

Mr. Koizumi might just, though, have a second career. What do you think, Vegas as an Elvis impersonator after he leaves office?

HARRIS: It's just always odd when they go off script like that, isn't it?

NGUYEN: It could be a thought. It's almost frightening.

HARRIS: What do I do with my hands? What do I do when I'm standing next to him?

NGUYEN: What is he singing?

HARRIS: What should I say?

NGUYEN: It's kind of uncomfortable just watching it.

HARRIS: Oh, man.

All right. Still ahead, all systems go. The shuttle launch controversy, we'll talk about that in the 9:00 a.m. Eastern hour. Miles O'Brien will speak with former astronaut Mike Mullane.

NGUYEN: But first, time for your "HOUSE CALL." Today's topic: "Wounded Warriors." More men and women are surviving injuries received in Iraq that in any other previous conflict. From the new ways military medics are trained, to the treatment soldiers receive stateside, Dr. Sanjay Gupta looks at these medical successes from all angles.

"HOUSE CALL" is next.



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