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AMERICAN MORNING

Crisis in the Middle East; Americans Trying to Evacuate Lebanon; Political Hot Topics; Tsunami Hits West Java Shore in Indonesia

Aired July 17, 2006 - 06:28   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Most people don't like to watch commercials, and if they have a way they'll breeze right through them. In the future, advertisers will have to come up with new ways to reach viewers.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When a commercial comes on I usually get up and go. I'm out of the room.

Commercials to me are a nuisance. If I have 20 minutes to watch something, I don't want to watch 10 minutes of commercials.

The advertisers to think way outside of the box. Get to the point. Tell me why it's going to benefit me. Make it interesting. Make it exciting. The advertisers that give you something new, something you haven't seen before, those are the commercials that I want to watch.

M. O'BRIEN: But it's going to take some big changes to keep us tuned in. More and more of us are using digital recorders, time- shifting our programs and then fast-forwarding through the commercials.

There'll be 30 million DVRs in use in another year in the U.S. So what's an advertiser to do to slow us down?

(voice over): Peter Kim of Forrester Research says instead of fighting new technology, advertisers are working in tandem with it, like inserting promotional codes good for discounts or deals that flash on the screen, giving viewers incentive to watch very carefully. But many marketers believe product placement or branded entertainment...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want the iPod.

M. O'BRIEN: ... may be the wave of the future.

PETER KIM, FORRESTER RESEARCH: ... putting products in the context of a show and integrating it within the fabric of the content rather than being separate in commercial breaks.

M. O'BRIEN: Soon advertisers may also be able to tailor commercials to consumers, specifically targeting a geographic location. KIM: We see technologies being developed to that target, consumers, based on their zip code and eventually their home. Advertisers will be able to deliver offers that they feel are most relevant to that demographic. And the future of advertising is really building deeper relationships rather than taking a mass media approach.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

M. O'BRIEN: We're going to take a break. As we leave you, we leave you with live pictures.

This is Haifa, Israel, the port city. You hear the sirens. Haifa, of course, been under attack from those rockets fired just in the southern portion of Lebanon by Hezbollah militants.

We'll keep you posted as we try to figure out what prompted those particular warnings.

Back with more in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

M. O'BRIEN: Happening this morning, President Bush headed back to the U.S. from Russia. He just wrapped up his G-8 summit duties in St. Petersburg.

Today marks the tenth anniversary of the TWA 800 explosion. A special memorial service planned near the Long Island, New York, crash site. The plane blew up shortly after takeoff from JFK Airport, killing all 230 aboard.

And a devastating attack just south of Baghdad today. Hospital officials say at least 40 were killed and dozens wounded when attackers raided an outdoor market in Mahmoudiya.

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

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Soledad O'Brien.

Let's get the very latest developments now in the crisis happening in the Middle East.

Israel launched more attacks into Lebanon early this morning. Southern suburbs of Beirut were hit, as well as the city's main port. As many as 14 people have been killed.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan are at the G-8 summit now calling for an international force to be sent to the Israel-Lebanon border. A U.S. military helicopter is expected to evacuate a few dozen Americans today.

This weekend U.S. Marines carried out 21 Americans by chopper. They were all taken to nearby Cyprus. As many as 40 Westerners were taken out by British military helicopters just a few hours ago. All the violence is sending oil prices to record levels again. Overnight trading put the price up another 55 cents to nearly $78 a barrel.

M. O'BRIEN: Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is responding to the call for international peacekeepers by saying it won't work.

CNN's Paula Newton live now from Jerusalem with more -- Paula.

PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That has his been his stand from the very beginning. He says that Hezbollah must "come to its knees" before any kind of diplomacy will work. We're told he's going to address the nation later this evening. He isn't expected to talk about the military campaign, but instead, try to boost morale here. You know, Miles, every day it seems tens of thousands of more people, more Israelis are added to the list and told to head for safe -- safe rooms and bomb shelters.

In the meantime, there is some hope in terms of some shuttle diplomacy. At least there are some ideas out there. The Europeans are trying to get a scene together whereby the two Israel soldiers are handed over to the Lebanese government and then to the Red Cross. That might try and calm down hostilities a little bit, but that wouldn't be for days. And in the meantime, the Israel government is committed to continue to pound Lebanon and Hezbollah to make sure that they do capitulate when they come to any kind of negotiating table.

Now, Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres has been very sensitive to accusations that Israel isn't showing restraint. His point is, look, any other country would act in self-defense.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHIMON PERES, ISRAELI DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, if somebody were to fire a missile from Burbank to Hollywood, would you overreact in trying to defend your land? I mean, we were attacked without any provocation, for no reason, by a irresponsible group of terrorists. I do not believe there is anybody responsible that would like to see us submit to it or lose out because of it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NEWTON: And you've heard that they're very determined to continue with this military operation. Military sources told me that they thought that possibly by the end of the week they felt that they could wipe out Hezbollah's capability by 50, 60, 70 percent, and that would make diplomacy possibly work at the table. That is the Israel take on things -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Of course, one of the big concerns for all this, Paula, is the possible rise in terrorism targeting people in Israel. We have word this morning of a suicide bomber and a plot that was foiled?

NEWTON: Yes, as soon as Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Hezbollah, you know, asked people in Israel, Palestinians to go out and perpetrate more terrorist attacks. And that's what we've seen happen today. There was a suicide bomber that tried to get into Jerusalem. He was detained, they found explosives in his bag. That's what the Israelis are telling us now.

He's been hauled off for questioning. And they're trying to detonate the bomb.

In the meantime, there was also quite a serious incident in the West Bank involving an Israel soldier. He died after a place that they were walking was booby-trapped. And three more Israeli soldiers are in serious condition.

M. O'BRIEN: Paula Newton in Jerusalem.

Thank you very much -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: We're getting word this morning it looks as if in fact a tsunami has hit the west coast of Java.

Let's take a look here.

A tsunami has hit west Java, the shore. This is coming to us from The Associated Press. Also, the Indonesian minister is being quoted in that.

Let's tell you a little bit about this tumbler (ph). The earthquake was under the sea, measure 6.8 on the Richter scale, and apparently struck at 3:00 p.m. local time.

Local witnesses said that they saw big waves coming through, sweeping away hotels and some homes on the beach. This hit buildings, as well destroying a number of residences, and a description, as well as some bodies, some people who were not able to survive the tsunami.

This is the west Java province in Indonesia. Residents saying that the destruction has been very bad.

And we are continuing to follow this story. Obviously that's a region where they had -- were concerned a tsunami might be coming through after that undersea earthquake. And now we're getting word of that coming to us.

This coming to us, I believe, this one report from Reuters and also from The Associated Press. We're going to follow that story for you.

Let's get back to the Middle East now, though.

Roughly 25,000 Americans in Lebanon caught right in the middle of the crisis. Here in the states, the families of many of them are remaining on edge as they wait for the return of their family members.

CNN's Kareen Wynter visits one California woman whose husband who is among those who are eager to get out. And the wait is a particularly hard one.

Here's her report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LINDA ANTONIUS, FAMILY MEMBER STUCK IN BEIRUT: Hey, how are you?

KAREEN WYNTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In the midst of crisis, Linda Antonius finds comfort in a cell phone and the soothing voice on the other end.

L. ANTONIUS: Thank you. And I love you very much.

TERRY ANTONIUS, STUCK IN BEIRUT: Love you, honey.

WYNTER: Her husband and soul mate of 15 years, Terry, one of thousands of Americans stranded in Lebanon, caught in the violent political conflict with Israel.

Terry and his sister flew from California to Beirut more than a week ago to visit relatives they haven't seen in decades. A family reunion months in the planning that's now turned into one unforgettable trip.

(on camera): How anxious are you to return home?

T. ANTONIUS: I couldn't even describe how anxious I am. It's just on my mind every minute.

This morning there was bombings that we hear -- you know, quite a few. Everybody's staying inside. So that's been, you know, the state.

You know, if there's a bomb that would happen to hit close by, the idea is to stay inside and put your head down. I mean, just like an earthquake drill back in California. You know, just stay inside and duck for cover.

WYNTER (voice over): Terry hopes to get home soon now that the U.S. military is planning to evacuate Americans.

T. ANTONIUS: I'm kind of shocked that it took that long for a planning team to arrive.

WYNTER: Until that happens...

(on camera): What are you looking forward to the most?

L. ANTONIUS: Being at the airport when he arrives.

WYNTER: And what are you going to say to him then?

L. ANTONIUS: I'm just going to hug him. I don't know if I'll have words.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's going to be OK. It's going to be OK.

WYNTER (voice over): Antonius says she'll continue leaning on close friends.

The Sunday ride to church was an emotional one. She has no doubt her husband will return safely.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: God bless you.

WYNTER: She believes his fate and those of other Americans overseas are in the hands of a higher power.

Kareen Wynter, CNN, Laguna Niguel, California.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

S. O'BRIEN: What's the government doing to get people like Terry Antonius out of Lebanon? We're going to talk this morning with Maura Harty of the State Department. That's at 7:30 a.m. Eastern Time.

If you have a loved one who's visiting Lebanon, instead of calling the embassy in Beirut directly, the State Department wants you to call its toll-free number. That number is 1-888-407-4747. Again, 1-888-407-4747.

You can also log on to www.travel.stated.gov.

M. O'BRIEN: Still to come on the program, the bombs falling in Israel and Lebanon are destroying lives, destroying peace, and destroying some history. Special places that are important to three major religions in the line of fire.

S. O'BRIEN: Here in this country, two wildfires are merging. It's happening in California. The weather conditions are making it hard to contain the flames.

We'll update you on what's happening there.

M. O'BRIEN: And Ralph Reed stumbling on the way to what seemed like a political cakewalk. He may know all the right people, but it turns out he knows some of the wrong ones as well

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

M. O'BRIEN: "In America" this Monday morning, a propane leak being blamed for a house explosion that killed two women outside of Albany, New York. Hundreds of volunteers from two dozen fire departments race to the scene, pulled an injured girl from the rubble yesterday. An investigation is under way.

Four people hurt when a small plane crashed and burned near Tampa, Florida. The Cessna 320 hit power lines and crashed on the edge of a state road. It happened shortly after takeoff. All four were able to escape before the plane burst into flames.

Two wildfires burning in northeastern Minnesota. And now crews from four different states have been called in to help. In one fire alone, flames have already scorched more than 3,000 acres. It's happening in a place where a fierce wind storm knocked down millions of trees earlier, and that could provide fuel for the flames.

Firefighters in southern California bracing for the worst. Two major fires there have merged. Nearly 4,000 firefighters now working in triple-digit temperatures. The Sawtooth fire now 70 percent encircled, and the smaller adjacent fire about 20 percent encircled. Thunderstorms and lightning in today's forecast could spark new flames.

S. O'BRIEN: That brings us right to the forecast. It's 44 minutes past the hour. Let's get right to Chad at the CNN Center.

Chad, how's it looking for the folks there?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: I was working -- I was working on the tsunami there, so I really wasn't paying much attention to that.

(WEATHER REPORT)

S. O'BRIEN: Still to come on AMERICAN MORNING, senators may have a plan that supports stem cell research. Will that actually cost them votes in November? We'll explain that strategy just ahead.

And more children are living with autism than ever before. There's no one definition of autism or even one treatment. Now doctors are labeling five separate kinds of autism.

That's story's ahead.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

S. O'BRIEN: Happening this morning, hundreds of people are leaving Lebanon as the Israeli-Hezbollah violence escalates. U.S. officials are drawing up plans to evacuate any of the 25,000 Americans who want to leave.

Massachusetts shuts down another tunnel in Boston's "Big Dig." It was closed when safety tests revealed dozens of potential problems. Last week, a woman was killed when part of a tunnel ceiling collapsed on her car.

And the Senate today starts debate on a bill lifting restrictions on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. It's expected to pass. The president is expected to veto it.

M. O'BRIEN: Well, it's Monday morning, and that means John Mercurio is looking at the political week ahead, as well as what happened just the last political week.

John, good morning to you. Good to have you with us.

JOHN MERCURIO, "THE HOTLINE": Good morning, Miles. Good to be here.

M. O'BRIEN: The Middle East -- as Congress gets back from the weekend, they'll be tripping over each other to go to the microphones to defend Israel. Israel, over time, has become almost one of those third rail type issues, you speak out against it and you surely face political death.

MERCURIO: Right.

M. O'BRIEN: Why is it?

MERCURIO: Well, I think it's in some ways -- it's self- fulfilling prophecy. I mean, the United States historically has one of the most important strategic relationships with Israel has since the founding of Israel more than 50 years ago. And I think because of that, Israel then dumps a considerable amount of money into -- into its lobby in Washington.

That lobby is extremely powerful. Much more powerful, of course, than a sort of pro-Palestinian relationship that the United States has with them. That relationship, that lobby, I think, of course, is on full display with the president right now at the G-8 summit in which he's probably coming out of this summit as the strongest defender of Israel.

M. O'BRIEN: Let's shift gears. Let's talk about stem cells. That's another thing we're going to be talking about this week.

There'll be a debate in the Senate about it. It's very likely there will be a bill passed which would loosen the restrictions and allow the federal government to fund this stem cell research which scientists say could lead to all kinds of remarkable cures. But some say it's tantamount to killing human life.

MERCURIO: Right.

M. O'BRIEN: The president, despite the fact that I think it's roughly two out of three Americans thinks stem cell should be supported and America should be embracing it...

MERCURIO: Even more than that in some polling.

M. O'BRIEN: ... the president, he's ready to veto this. His first veto. He's actually kind of lonely in his own party on this. Senator Bill Frist is even -- a very conservative guy, is against the president on this.

Why is he staking out such lonely ground here?

MERCURIO: Look, I think that he -- they don't have the votes in the Senate to override the veto. So I think what then begins for the president and for the Republican Party is the hard part.

You've got an election in less than five months. You've got several senators and House members in very key races, moderate Republicans, who I think the president owes a little bit of responsibility to. Senators like Jim Talent in Missouri, and Lincoln Chafee in Rhode Island, and Mike DeWine in Ohio have very tough races. This president, I think, then needs to go to those states, campaign for those Republicans up for re-election, make the case for why he issued this veto. A lot of those senators look like they'll probably oppose the president. Like you said, this Republican Party is extremely divided on this issue. But I think he -- if the president still has the sort of political capital to do so -- he's still at about 40 percent in approval ratings -- but if he can, he needs to go to those states, I think, and support those Republicans who he's making vulnerable.

M. O'BRIEN: Interesting.

All right. Let's talk about a story that perhaps hasn't gotten as much coverage nationally but you're interested in, and that's Ralph Reed. Ralph Reed, a man who made -- made his name in Republican circles as an operative of the Christian Coalition, and now in Georgia, trying to run for lieutenant governor.

It seemed like he would have a good chance, right?

MERCURIO: You would think he would. He's one of the best organizers, grassroots organizers in the Republican Party. But he's got a very tough race.

Look, the reason I'm interested in this race, it has nothing to do with Georgia and nothing to do with the lieutenant governor's office. Everything to do with this election year and what has become one of the major issues, which is this sort of -- what Democrats like to call the culture of corruption.

Ralph Reed, through -- over the past year and a half has become closely associated with Jack Abramoff, who, of course, has become the poster child of the culture of corruption that Democrats like to talk about. A Senate report came out just a couple of weeks ago that directly implicated Ralph Reed as one of Jack Abramoff's closest associates.

Reed's opponent in the Republican primary, which is tomorrow, is making a big issue out of Reed's connections, the potential -- the allegations of his -- his sort of corrupt behavior as a lobbyist. And that, I think, could hurt him.

If he wins, you've got a lot of Republicans in Washington looking at the national landscape, really don't want Ralph Reed to succeed tomorrow. So we're watching it very closely, Democrats hoping that they can use his victory as a sort of a mantra -- a call -- a rallying cry on the issue of culture -- on the issue of corruption.

M. O'BRIEN: Well, you know that they say it's not with what you know, it's who you know. And I guess that cuts both ways, right, John Mercurio?

Thanks very much for dropping by.

MERCURIO: Thank you.

M. O'BRIEN: John is, of course, the senior editor of "Hotline." He joins us every Monday morning -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: All right. As we've been telling you, an earthquake off Indonesia's Java island in the Indian Ocean appears to have caused a tsunami. We're getting some early reports of pretty significant damage.

Let's get right to CNN correspondent Kathy Quiano. She joins us by phone. She's in Jakarta for us.

Kathy, good morning. What can you tell us about this?

KATHY QUIANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, I listened -- I listened to the local radio station here. The waves as high as two meters crashed into and damaged hotels along the beach on the southwest coast of Java. So this happened shortly after a 7.2 earthquake hit that area.

There were strong aftershocks that settled. So it occurred after that one in which -- 6.1 on the Richter scale. One eyewitness said she saw at least three bodies along the beach, and people have fled to higher ground. Also hearing reports the president said there are about five people who have died from these waves that came after the quake.

S. O'BRIEN: A Question for you, and it may be too early for you to tell. But how much warning do people get? Of course the warning for -- for impending tsunamis is a huge issue, especially after the...

QUIANO: The tsunami warning system in Indonesia is still not in place. They're still trying to build it up. But people, because of that tsunami in (INAUDIBLE), have been aware of the possibility of a tsunami after a strong earthquake.

However, from eyewitness' reports that we heard on local radio, some people said that they did see shortly after the earthquake the water recede, just as it happened in 2004, and that some were not expecting bigger waves to come crashing back into the beach. However, we also know that most people did flee to higher ground and fled inland, as they were told to do so after the devastating 2004 tsunami.

S. O'BRIEN: Tell me a little bit about this -- this island. It is a resort. And I know it sounds as if a number of the hotels and the resorts themselves have suffered some damage, at least by eyewitness reports.

QUIANO: That's right. Well, this (INAUDIBLE) of Java is known as a popular tourist area. It's a tourist destination, and there are some hotels along this beach. And as we had heard earlier, one woman who was actually on that beach when the waves hit, she said that there were people along on the beach on vacation. But, of course, we also must note that school started today, and there were not as many people as we would have seen in the past few days.

But this is still a popular destination for tourists locally.

S. O'BRIEN: Any indication of aid being needed there? Or is the damage not quite as major as that?

QUIANO: Well, the (INAUDIBLE) is still trickling in, really. In fact, shortly after the quake, officials were saying that the possibility of a tsunami was not likely to happen anymore because the time had lapsed. And they were saying that a tsunami would have happened 20 minutes after the quake. And then all these reports coming in, eyewitnesses calling local radio stations, reporting that there was some damage and casualties in that area.

So it's still to say the extent of the damage, of the quake, and this tsunami.

S. O'BRIEN: CNN correspondent Kathy Quiano by phone for us. She's in Jakarta following this earthquake and the reports of a tsunami on Java island.

Kathy, thank you.

We're going to continue to follow this story for you and much more as we continue our next hour here on AMERICAN MORNING.

M. O'BRIEN: Trapped in the crossfire. The U.S. moves to get Americans out as the bombs and the rockets still fly on both sides of the Lebanon-Israel border.

S. O'BRIEN: Firefighters are now gaining the upper hand in massive wildfires in southern California. Incoming rain, though, could mean new dangers.

And record heat is expected to grip much of the country again today. Triple digits from coast to coast. We've got your extremely hot forecast ahead.

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