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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Air Raids Going Off in Haifa, Israel; Senate Expected to Pass Measure to Expand Limits on Federal Funding for Embryonic Stem Cell Research

Aired July 18, 2006 - 09:30   ET

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


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: In other news this morning in this morning's "House Call," the Senate is expected to pass a measure to expand limits on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, a very controversial issue.
Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is at the CNN Center in Atlanta to explain it to us.

Good morning.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Carol.

Carol, embryonic stem cell research, scientists think, is one of the most promising areas of medical research. They say it could be the key to treatments to all sorts of diseases from Parkinson's, to diabetes, to even possibly paralysis. The problem is, however, that to do embryonic stem cell research you have to destroy embryos. And that's where that controversy that you mentioned comes in.

This Senate bill which is expected to pass the Senate today would allow federal funds for the first time to be used on embryos that are currently sitting in fertility clinics, with permission, of course, from the parents who made those embryos.

The House passed this measure last year. The president is expected to veto it tomorrow -- Carol.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN NEWS CO-ANCHOR: OK, so explain the process a little more to us. Let's say that I frozen dozens of embryos and I'm not going to use them anymore. What would they do? Would they approach me? Would government scientists approach me and ask me if they could use my embryos?

COHEN: Well, it wouldn't be government scientists, per se. It just might be scientists who might, let's say, have federal grant to do embryonic stem cell research. They could approach you and say, Carol, you have two dozen embryos, you're clearly not going to use these to start a family. Would you be interested in donating them for embryonic stem cell research?

Now, some families would obviously feel -- say, no. I want to donate those embryos to other people who want to use them to start a pregnancy, hopefully it could help give -- have another -- let another family have a child. But some people would say, you know, I do want to help the research. I will donate them to research. So, that's the way they would work. These are four-day old embryos. We're talking about very tiny, tiny embryos.

COSTELLO: And they're not federal either, right?

COHEN: Well no, an embryo is fertilized.

COSTELLO: Oh, it is?

COHEN: The sperm and egg have met each other and grown for four days. So, they've formed a very, very small embryo.

COSTELLO: OK. Oh I feel silly now.

COHEN: Don't feel silly.

COSTELLO: Why do you need to use embryos for this research?

COHEN: The reason why the is that those very early stage, they're believed to have tissue that can turn into virtually any tissue in the human body. You can treat them a certain way and turn them into various kinds of tissue that could be used for medical treatment. So let's say, for example, that someone is paralyzed. So that something is wrong obviously with the nerve cells. You could take these embryonic stem cells, theoretically, and turn them into nerve cells that could then possibly be used as a treatment. The reason why I'm using the word theoretically, is that this has not been tried in humans, it's been tried in animals with some success.

COSTELLO: Elizabeth Cohen thank you for explaining to us this very difficult issue. Thanks.

Coming up, a U.S. family watches and waits for word of loved ones trapped in Lebanon. We'll take a closer look at their anxious hours.

Plus more bad news for Boston's "Big Dig" project. We'll tell you why the problem might get worse. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: Oh, the opening bell ringing moments ago on Wall Street. The Dow Jones Industrials -- there it is -- the Dow Jones Industrial average starts trading at 10,747. That's up eight points on Monday and hopefully the arrows will be pointing up again today.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN NEWS CO-ANCHOR: Let's hope.

COSTELLO: I'm Carol Costello in for Soledad. We're going to hear from her in moments. She's in Cyprus.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes, in a matter of fact, let's hear from her right now. Soledad in Larnaca and she just landed there giving us a sense of what's going on there in -- at the receiving end of that evacuation effort of westerners who are trapped in Lebanon -- Soledad.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: Hey Miles, we're getting word now the Orient Queen, the ship that was going to pick up Americans and bring them from Beirut here to Larnaca port and then off load them, they're going to get some medical treatment and then be moved on back home, looks like it's delayed. It's not going to be getting into Beirut until tomorrow and that's got to be devastating news for the folks who've been waiting for any way to get out. That's a ship that can hold some 800 people.

We know that there's going to be extra security. The Iwo Jima and also the USS Gonzalez escorting that ship when it arrives and one would assume in as many trips as it has to make through the blockade of Israeli ships that now are right off the coast of Lebanon.

It's a slow process once people who get on board. And there are Americans getting out by helicopter. Also, now it's a multinational effort to get anybody you can on board and get them out of Beirut and out of Lebanon in general. So there are Americans who are getting on to some ships, as well.

There is a French ship, though, that had to leave with -- not full, really. The problem there that there -- that there -- they have to leave by sundown otherwise it gets too dangerous to be in the port and they were unable to get everybody processed, which apparently is a very slow and tedious sort of thing, and because of that they basically missed the deadline, the ability to get everybody on instead of being able to fill 1,200 spots, there was just 950. So they really left hundreds of people back in Beirut who they could have gotten on the ship if they had more time before they made their way here. That ship is docked down the road a little bit. And we expect it to be taking off this evening heading back to Beirut to do the return trip.

What Americans have been told is that they are allowed to bring one bag weighing 30 pounds, no more. Absolutely no pets allowed and also they have to sign, according to some folks, a form that basically says they're going to reimburse the government for their expenses for being evacuated. Big issues, of course the collection points. Where do you go to wait to get information? It's very hard and can be very confusing. And when you get here to Cyprus what exactly happens next? There's as I mentioned this makeshift sort of medical area they've cordoned off. They've got some gurneys set up. But, you know, they've to move on. They've got to get housing here. It's the height of tourist season and there is not an empty hotel to be had nearby. So they have to arrange for that, and then of course, arrange for their onward travel, as well. So, a lot to consider for these 25,000 estimated number of Americans who are in Lebanon at this time -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Soledad, from Larnaca, Cyprus. Thank you very much -- Carol.

COSTELLO: And because all of what you just heard from Soledad these are anxious hours for American's with family members visiting Lebanon halfway around the globe. AMERICAN MORNING's Bob Franken has the story from one Virginia family frantic to see their loved ones safe and sound.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BOB FRANKEN, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There's little Susan al Swalhi can do but watch television and look for any glimmer of news about her husband and son.

SUSAN AL SWALHI, HUSBAND AND SON IN LEBANON: Every time we see another building being bombed, you think oh, dear god, please don't let it be my husband and child in this.

FRANKEN: Mohammed al Swalhi and his 13-year-old, Hussein, son left the family less than two weeks ago to visit relatives in Beirut. That reunion suddenly placed them in the middle of an escalating war.

SWALHI: You know, your mind spins and you ask questions to your friends what would you do? How can I help them? Where did I go? Who do I talk to? Just can't rest. There's no rest.

FRANKEN: Mother and daughter complain bitterly about the assistance and information they say they've not been able to get from their government.

MARY THOMPSON, FATHER AND BROTHER IN LEBANON: Nothing is being done. Nothing. You know, the White House hanging up on you, the State Department saying, well, "didn't you receive our e-mail?" Or "still working on it." You know the crisis center not giving you any information. You know, the embassies -- you can't even get through to them. I'm sure they're being flooded with telephone calls just -- it's a waiting game and I guess that that's sufficient, or supposed to be sufficient.

FRANKEN (on camera): For those a world away here the distance makes them safer, but also more desperate because bringing in their loved ones to safety is completely out of their control.

SWALHI: You wake up one morning and they're in a nightmare and there's nothing you can do about it.

FRANKEN (voice-over): Nothing but wait and hope against hope.

Bob Franken, CNN, Manassas, Virginia.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

M. O'BRIEN: Let's check the weather now, CNN with a new weather center. Weathership enterprise I'm calling it this morning. Chad Myers is your captain.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: So far. They haven't kicked me out yet but I had a lot of fun this morning. This is the new weather center. You'll see it a lot. This will be, really, the shot that you'll see most. We'll be able to zoom in and out maybe of your area.

(WEATHER REPORT)

Now take you a little bit wider shot, show you how big the place really is. We'll be able to do an awful lot of different things here. Some of our monitors here, some of the other things we're going to talk about. We used to be on the seventh floor. I know that doesn't mean anything to you when we say "Live from studio 7B." Nobody knows what that is. But we were literally two floors away from all the action, from all the newsroom, from really the life blood of CNN and the heartbeat of CNN. Now we are here.

When there is news, when there's breaking weather we are in the heart of it. As we pan around a little bit farther the area you see behind you now that is called feeds all the way underneath the letters CNN. Feeds, in contact with all of our affiliates across the country whether there's breaking news or breaking weather, we are going to be on it here right from the fifth floor now, which, you don't care about it either except that the commissary's on the fourth floor, so now we're a little closer to the restaurant. This is the severe Weather Desk. And Severe Weather Desks is -- when you see me here turn the volume up because you're going to know that something is going on and in this hurricane season, we will be here a lot, I'm afraid.

COSTELLO: Yeah, get away from the desk now. I remember all those trips up to see you on the seventh floor where you were lonely in that ugly little room. But now...

(LAUGHTER)

I think...

O'BRIEN: I think Chad has arrived.

COSTELLO: I think he has the Porsche of weather centers now.

MYERS: It's my deluxe apartment in the sky.

(LAUGHTER)

MEYER: All right.

COSTELLO: Thank you, Chad.

Coming up the escalating crisis in the Middle East. We're going to give you the latest. The conflict in that region, nothing new, of course. Why has the same piece of land been so important to so many sides for so long? That's next on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

M. O'BRIEN: Religion and real estate. If you had to boil the Middle East conflict down to just a few words that would probably summit up. Three major religions trace their roots to this place, and they're competing claims over the holy land are what fuel the hatred and sent the missiles and bombs flying. Bruce Feiler is the best selling author of six books, including "Where God was Born," |"Abraham" and "Walking the Bible," knows as much about this region as anybody.

Good to have you with us, Bruce.

BRUCE FEILER, AUTHOR, "WHERE GOD WAS BORN": Good to see you again, Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: We talk about this in political terms and sometimes I think forget to remind people about the religious underpinnings of this hatred. Is there a way to sum this up for people so they can understand?

FEILER: I think so. I think one way is to say that there are both strands, there's geopolitical reality, which is that this piece of land, just north of Africa, just south of Europe between Asia and Mediterranean, people have wanted to control it for 10,000 years. No one's ever been able to control it.

And you -- on top of that you then have a religious overlay, you've got the Jewish claim to the land in part, because God promised it to Abraham 4000 years. Joshua conquers the land. Look where the bombs have been landing, the rockets, Tiberius, Nazareth, these are places holy to Christians. And then Muslims also say Mohammed was here, made his night journey to heaven. So, you have all three of the religious claims. But also, I think one of the things -- the Bible tells us that when political leaders are weak, they turn to religion which is something else we're seeing now.

M. O'BRIEN: So, relying on the Bible or the Koran or Torah whatever the case may be makes it very difficult to come up with room for negotiation, because, you say, "it written."

FEILER: Well, and I think the other thing is that there' are different ways of looking at every story and that's part of the problem. Let's just take this -- all this dooms day stuff, right? The book of Revelation, which is last and kind of obscure book of the New Testament say that there is going to be this great showdown between the forces of Satan and the forces of God. And a key moment in that is the destruction of Babylon.

Well, Babylon, as we know, is in Iraq, 60 miles southeast of Baghdad. A lot of the evangelical Christians supported the war in Iraq because this was going to herald dooms day, and Babylon really, in the time the geopolitical context at the time was Rome, it was the super power. So, a lot of people you're hearing the rhetoric on the right in the west saying that Islamic extremism is the horror of Babylon today and this is going to herald that showdown. But in the Muslim world, Babylon's the United States. We're the super power, they're looking at the same story and saying, hey we're bogged down in Iraq. This is heralding the end of time from Islamic points of view, so using these religious stories in a geopolitical reality, there are two sides to every story.

M. O'BRIEN: Well, it's amazing how the stories can be conflated and used in ways that can lead to bloodshed in one way or another. Are people truthfully looking at this and seeing a dooms day scenario? Are there many in the faithful who would see this as unfolding before our very eyes.

FEILER: What's going on in the Middle East is what is going on in the country, which is a battle who gets to speak for scripture, right? Who controls religion? And what we have is rival interpretations. The extremist, whether it's Hamas or Hezbollah or what's going on in Tehran, they have staked a claim, which is to say there's only one way of looking at scripture, this is the truth, and we're going to fight for the death for it. But, as you've been saying, I spent a lot of time in this region. My new book, "Were God was Born," I was in Iraq and Iran reading the Bible and you can find in scripture an alternative narrative which is that god created the world, created humans in His image, gave them custody over the environment, and told them to live with diverse neighbors.

And I think that what we have here is the extremists are articulating their version of scripture. Those of us who believe in mutual respect and tolerance, we have to speak out and say there's a rival version. If you fight us, we're going to fight you for our version, but in the end you can find in scripture a route to peace.

M. O'BRIEN: The worry is, though, that extremists on all side win the day. And that those voices of moderation somehow are silent.

FEILER: I think because we all have to get over that thing our mommas all told us, which is don't talk about politics and religion in public. The extremists do. I mean, what are planes going into buildings or rockets going to Tiberius, but extremists saying this is our version. But whether it's pulling out of Gaza where the moderates stood up in Israel and said, wait a minute, there's a rival version, the moderates, have to get over our reluctance and scream you're going to see messages of hate, we're going to stand up and say we're going to take back the Bible and say, this is our Bible, too. And in this we can find a rival narrative.

M. O'BRIEN: So perhaps then, the mistake is to answer the extremist on political terms when really they should be answered on religious terms?

FEILER: The only force strong enough to take on religious extremism is religious moderation. Secularism will not work. You have to stand up, when you hold up the scripture and says it says this, I can hold up the same scripture and say, wait a minute, it also say this. But really, extremism must be met with the voice of God, I think, but the voice of a moderate God.

M. O'BRIEN: I think we need you over there negotiating, Bruce. Thank you.

FEILER: My pleasure.

M. O'BRIEN: Bruce Feiler, author of many books including his latest is

FEILER: "Where God was Born."

M. O'BRIEN: "Where God was Born." Thank you very much.

FEILER: My pleasure.

M. O'BRIEN: Carol.

COSTELLO: Fascinating stuff. CNN "Live Today" is coming up next. Daryn, what you got for us?

DARYN KAGAN, "LIVE TODAY": Good morning to you, Carol. We are looking at firing back against Hezbollah rockets. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When the firing begins, there's little warning.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAGAN: Anderson cooper is with an Israeli artillery company on the front line. We'll have that story, plus the latest developments in the fighting.

Also they vowed to protect patients. Now a nurse and two doctors face murder charges after Katrina. Join us at the top of the hour for those stories. Breaking news and more, and I know you guys have been looking at the new weather center because big weather is big news. Well I'm going to take you in it because -- right there.

COSTELLO: I can't believe Chad's going to let you in.

KAGAN: Yeah, I kind of greased a palm earlier today. Yeah.

COSTELLO: I knew there had to be something.

KAGAN: It's an e-ticket.

COSTELLO: What's an e-ticket?

M. O'BRIEN: She's to bring the keg in -- thank you, Daryn.

COSTELLO: Thank you Daryn, business news is next with the latest on Virgin's passenger space flight program. Find out which Dallas starlet and which famous movie director have already booked their tickets into space.

We're also getting in new pictures from Haifa. We'll show the pictures to you next on AMERICAN MORNING

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: As we were telling you before we went to break, we have some new pictures in from Haifa. You can hear the sirens going off, that's announcing that rockets are about to hit somewhere in the port city. This happened moments ago, but earlier this morning Paula Hancocks who was sitting very near this location, in fact, these pictures are from her camera. She saw two rockets hit in Haifa, one near the port and another near a railway depot. We know of no injuries that occurred from those bombings. And we know of nothing destroyed. But of course we haven't been to the actual sites yet.

As you know Haifa has been under attack by Hezbollah guerrillas for the past few days. Eight people died on Sunday from rocket attacks, and as we get more pictures in, of course, we will pass them along to you -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: All right, let's mind some business, shall we? The Justice Department going after some online betting services. Gerri Willis is here for Andy Serwer.

Hello Gerri.

GERRI WILLIS, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hey Miles. Good to see you. Before we talk about that let's go down to the big board and check stocks. Right now the Dow Jones industrials is up about 45 appoints, as you can see right there. The bad news here oil prices are up nearly a dollar a barrel this morning. And we got an inflation reading that came in higher than expected. Strong earnings from a few Dow components coming in, but I got to tell you, everybody's focused on oil prices right now.

Now, on to the online gambling story which I know has caught your attention. Federal officials charged 11 people, including the CEO of a big gambling website, charging that they committed fraud in taking sports bets from U.S. citizens. Now what's interesting here is that officials caught up with Betonsports CEO, David Carruthers, at a Texas airport where he was waiting to board a flight to Costa Rica and that's where the company has operations. Now, as you know, the indictment ordered the company to stop accepting bets from being placed within the U.S. That's kind of illegal to do that, you're not supposed to do it.

M. O'BRIEN: Well, it's interesting there's a huge jurisdictional issue with the internet. If you're offshore and you're doing a business like this and it's illegal to do, and if it's completely legal in Costa Rica, it's difficult to enforce all this, isn't it?

WILLIS: That's right, it's an interesting story. We'll be on top of it, Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: All right, tell us about space now.

WILLIS: Oh, this is an exciting story. Virgin Galactic owned by billionaire, Richard Branson, says it sold 200 tickets at $200,000 a pop for a tourist trip to space and they expect to make that trip in 2008 and we're just all wondering, of course, Miles if you'll be with Victoria Principal on that?

M. O'BRIEN: Well that -- that makes it a slam dunk, doesn't it? Going to space with Victoria Principal.

WILLIS: She's going.

(CROSSTALK)

M. O'BRIEN: I wish I had the principle, if you know what I mean. I don't have the 200k. But anyway, I'll take a collection. We'll start it right now. Thank you Gerri.

WILLIS: You're welcome.

COSTELLO: I was going to say you find out the secret of her skin care line and find out about...

M. O'BRIEN: I'm sure I could find out all kinds of secrets. Yes.

COSTELLO: Coming up at the top of the hour, more powerful, more accurate, more range Hezbollah rockets going places not seen before. We'll take a closer look at the group's arsenal.

Also ahead, expanding federal funding for stem cell research. Today's Senate vote could lead to a showdown with the president. And step Mr. Bush has never taken. Much more on this AMERICAN MORNING.

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