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U.S. Embassy Attack; Iraq-Iran Talks; Afghanistan Unrest; Presidential Address; Hurricane Florence; Not Yet Safe

Aired September 12, 2006 - 07:00   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Outside the embassy. Syrian security shot and killed four of the terrorists. No body at the embassy has been injured. Two more cars filled with bombs have been cleared from the street. The State Department says the attack is now over. Let's get right to CNN's Andrea Koppel. She's covered, obviously, the State Department extensively and she's in Washington this morning.
Andrea, good morning.

First, any idea who may have pulled this off?


Well, I just got off the phone with the Syrian ambassador to the United States, Imad Moustapha, and he told me that the Syrian government suspect a group known as Une al Sham (ph). Which is known as the soldiers of Lebanon. It's an extremist, fundamentalist group. He also said it's an offshoot of al Qaeda. The ambassador said that this group has been behind three or four attacks in Syria over the last couple of years.

The ambassador also said that the U.S. embassy in Syria is not really in a diplomatic quarter, per say. That there really isn't one. But rather in a residential community. He mentioned that there are about 30 Syrian guards who are posted around the U.S. embassy. He says 24 hours a day. And he said that the proof that there is such high security in the Syrian capitals, the fact that no body in the U.S. embassy was injured. In fact, it was the Syrian guards who were injured.

Nevertheless, Soledad, this, obviously, is quite alarming. There hasn't been a U.S. ambassador in the Syrian capital for about 18 months. So what you're talking about is there's probably a deputy chief of mission and other embassy officials there, but the U.S. ambassador to Syria is back here in Washington.


S. O'BRIEN: Is there any specific reason, Andrea, why the U.S. embassy would be targeted right now?

KOPPEL: Look, it's no secret that the United States has been an increasingly unpopular, in some instances reviled nation in the Middle East, certainly ever since the U.S. invaded Iraq back in 2003. And there is a perception among many Arabs that the U.S. is occupying Iraq. So the fact that you would have the United States embassy targeted is certainly not a surprise.

You also have, just in the last couple of months, that war between Israel and Hezbollah. There's a lot of popularity for Hezbollah in Syria. In fact, many say that the Syrians may have been supplying Hezbollah before the attack happened and, of course, the U.S. is so closely aligned with Israel.


S. O'BRIEN: Andrea Koppel on Capitol Hill this morning.

Andrea, thanks.


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: In Iraq today, a car bomb exploded in western Baghdad killing six and police say gunmen attacked a Shiite mosque northeast of the city. The assault, with mortars and rifles, claimed at least seven lives and wounded three. Amid all the violence, Iraq and Iran, once bitter enemies, but today Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is visiting Iran. Why now? CNN's Cal Perry live this morning in Baghdad with more.


CAL PERRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Miles.

For the Iraqis, it's really about not getting caught in the middle we've heard from an Iraqi government spokesman who said on two fronts. One, the Iraqis do not want to be in a position where they're passing diplomatic messages between the Americans and the Iranians. And on a second front, a stark message, saying that the U.S. basically has a base of operations here in Iraq.

If they chose to do so, they could attack Iran if that rhetoric continues to arise and even a more stark and scary message, they're concerned that the Iranians could hit the Americans here in Iraq. Security is, of course, the big issue here on the ground and that will be the key in these meetings in Iran today.


M. O'BRIEN: Who will al-Maliki be meeting with?

PERRY: Well, he's already met with the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and that meeting has just about concluded. Now the main issue again, security. We've heard mixed messages from both the Americans and the Iranians.

We heard the Iranian ambassador to Iraq here last week say that they want to take more of a leading role in training Iraqi security forces. The Americans, on the other hand, have accused Iraq of fueling the insurgency here on the ground. It will be very interesting to hear if the Iranian president offers up more training of Iraqi security forces and even more interesting to hear what the U.S. State Department has to say on the ground about that offer. Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Cal Perry in Baghdad. Thank you.


S. O'BRIEN: NATO's top commander is calling for help. General James Jones says there has been unexpected fierce fighting by Taliban militants in southern Afghanistan and he wants NATO nations to provide more troops and more equipment to battle the Taliban resurgents. CNN's Anderson Cooper imbedded with U.S. troops near the Afghan/Pakistan border. We spoke to him just a moment ago.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: One day after the commemorations of 9/11, the fight here continues. It was a day unlike really or just like just about every other one. Out on a patrol, as we did yesterday. The focus of these patrols really is interdiction. They're trying to stop foreign fighters, Taliban militants, from crossing over the border in Pakistan.

As you know, Soledad, Pakistan has signed a cease-fire agreement with Taliban militants in the border regions, on the Pakistan's side of the border. These militants, frankly, don't even recognize the border as a legitimate border. They see no difference between that part of Waziristan in Pakistan and this part of eastern Afghanistan.

So what the soldiers here are very concerned about and intelligence sources we talked to are concerned about is an uptick in fighting and an uptick in cross border incursions and they are being very vigilant now in monitoring any cross border incursions that they see. They will then tell the Pakistan military exactly when people are crossing, who is crossing, and they will wait and see what the Pakistan military can do about it.

But it's a frustrating situation. They can't pursue al Qaeda fighters or Taliban militants across the border into Pakistan. Pakistan has made it very clear they will not allow U.S. troops to operate in their sovereign territory. It makes the fight here all the more difficult and that is something we see every day.

When you go out on patrol, Soledad, the enemy is around. You can see markings of them. I can't go into too many details of how you know they are there, but it is very startling when you go on patrol just how close these fighters get and how many of the enemy there are in this whole region.


S. O'BRIEN: Anderson, a quick question for you. When you were on our air yesterday, there was some kind of rocket attack and as everybody started running in basically, you started going in. Something going on behind you? It's all right?

ANDERSON: Yes. Actually, it's odd that you say that, we're fine. What is happening is they have received some intelligence of some movement of foreign fighter or Taliban militants. I can't say exactly where, but they have a sense that they are on the move. They're receiving some intelligence. So this howitzer unit, it's 105 millimeter howitzer, there you see they're loading the 105-millimeter shell. This kind of thing happens, frankly, several times throughout the day as the intelligence comes in. They're going to get ready to fire this and we won't actually see the impact zone. The range on this howitzer is about 12 miles. So it can fire this shell a great distance. They'll also then wait to hear if it's had the desired impact that they want.

Again, Soledad, this kind of thing happens really throughout the day. Usually as they get incoming rocket fire, they coordinate the exact position of the rocket battery and then they return fire. In this case, again, it was not incoming. They just got some intelligence that they are responding to.

So, Soledad, it is an everyday occurrence. And that 9/11 commemoration, which you saw yesterday which was interrupted by incoming fire, a total of six rockets and mortars were fired at this forward operating base. They did, in the end, in the evening, decide to continue with the commemoration ceremony despite the danger. All the soldiers still gathered here in this exact spot and they had a very simple but a very somber and emotional service.

Indeed, it looks like they're going to be repositioning the howitzer, Soledad, and they'll probably be firing yet again.


S. O'BRIEN: Anderson Cooper reporting from the border for us. You can watch "Anderson Cooper 360" weeknights, 10:00 p.m. Eastern time right here on CNN.

The war on terror in Afghanistan and in Iraq, both major parts of President Bush's oval address last night on the fifth anniversary of 9/11. CNN's Elaine Quijano is live at the White House this morning.

Good morning, Elaine.

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Soledad.

The White House said this was not going to be a political speech. That the address last night was going to be reflective. And it was. But it also included some very vehement defenses of the president's national security policy. Now the president, after spending a highly emotional day visiting with people at all three of the September 11th sites, spoke of the unity that existed in those days after September 11th. But in a move that angered his Democratic critics, the president again tried to link Iraq and success there with the security for Americans.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will not leave until this work is done. Whatever mistakes have been made in Iraq, the worst mistake would be to think that if we pulled out the terrorists would leave us alone. They will not leave us alone. They will follow us. The safety of America depends on the outcome of the battle in the streets of Baghdad.


QUIJANO: Now angry Democrats quickly fired off their reactions. Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy in a statement saying that the president should be ashamed, saying that September 11th is not the time to debate the president's Iraq policy. So after a relatively quiet day of somber remembrances, Soledad, a return to the partisanship, even before September 11, 2006, had passed.


S. O'BRIEN: To what degree do you think it is difficult for the president when Osama bin Laden is still out there and you're entrenched in Iraq but not really making big progress against the man who has taken responsibility for the 9/11 attacks?

QUIJANO: Certainly that is something that Democrats have seized on. The president himself has not been shying away from even mentioning Osama bin Laden in his recent speeches, quoting him. And last night we heard the president, as well though, continue to try to make the case that top terrorists like bin Laden have, in fact, been weakened. Here's what the president said.


BUSH: Osama bin Laden and other terrorists are still in hiding. Our message to them is clear. No matter how long it takes, America will find you and we will bring you to justice.


QUIJANO: Now, of course, Democrats argue that the failure to find Osama bin Laden is evidence that the administration and Republicans who have supported the administrations policies have mismanaged the terrorism fight. And, of course, just two months, Soledad, until those congressional midterm elections. You can expect this back and forth to continue in the weeks ahead.


S. O'BRIEN: Elaine Quijano at the White House for us.

Thanks, Elaine.


M. O'BRIEN: "Happening This Morning."

The American al Qaeda operative and spokesman to face more charges here in his home country. That according to sources familiar with the investigation. Adam Gadahn has appeared in several al Qaeda videos. Already faces a sealed indictment for supporting terrorism. Those sources tell us the FBI may charge him with treason.

Primaries today in nine states and Washington D.C. Among the key races, Rhode Island's GOP primary pitting Senator Lincoln Chafee against Steve Laffey. That contest expected to be a close one.

Japan's newest heir to the throne now has a name. The first boy born into Japan's imperial family in quite some time was named today in a private ceremony. The name is Hisahito. It means virtuous, clam and everlasting. Every parent certainly hopes for the calm part.

A live look at the International Space Station now. Atlantis astronauts Joe Tanner and Heide Piper are on a space walk this morning. They're attaching a 35,000 pound truss and solar ray to the station. When they're done and connected everything, it will double the station's power production.

Well, a direct hit would have been nasty. Instead, Hurricane Florence skirted Bermuda, but it definitely kicked up some surf and heavy wind. What was it like on the ground? CNN's Karl Penhaul is there with more.

Hello, Karl.

KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Miles, that storm had been predicted to be a category two storm as it came past Bermuda. In the event it didn't strengthen to that strength. It came past as a category one. And, as you say, the saving grace was that it veered west and didn't score a direct hit on the island.

The winds were very strong. The surf was very high. But authorities say there were no injuries to people and there was no substantial to buildings either.


PENHAUL, (voice over): Waves pound Bermuda's coastline. Hurricane Florence is churning past, whipping up winds in excess of 100 miles an hour. Palm trees threaten to snap. Driving rain mixes with sea spray. But the homes on the island are built to strict standards, tough enough to weather this beating.

And then the calm after the fury. Yachts strained at their moorings in Hamilton Harbor, but there were no signs of damage. Government workers made short work of clearing uprooted trees and branches.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've just got a few trees down here in certain areas which are just blocking the road. Nothing really that major.

PENHAUL: Authorities say the hurricane knocked out power to around a third of Bermuda's residents. Most were reconnected just a few hours after Florence drifted away into the north Atlantic. David Dunkley, mayor of Bermuda's capital Hamilton, took a scooter ride to survey the debris. DAVID DUNKLEY, HAMILTON MAYOR: And everybody was well prepared ahead of time for this storm. So the awareness is very high, that means people pay attention to it. It's went very well, I believe.

PENHAUL: Several residents, like Kevin Smith, lent a hand to cleanup workers in an effort to get Bermuda ship-shape fast.

KEVIN SMITH, HAMILTON RESIDENT: I mean tomorrow we'll be back in action. All cleaned up.

PENHAUL: And by late afternoon tourists were back on the beach, hoping tomorrow would be another lazy day in paradise.


PENHAUL: Now Bermuda's international airport is due to reopen sometime today for those tourists who were left stranded on the island. For those who are staying, well, the suns up now, the skies are clear and it looks like it could just be another beautiful day at the beach.


M. O'BRIEN: Might be what you have to do, Karl Penhaul, after all that hard work. Thank you very much.

Let's get a check of the forecast. Chad Myers is at the CNN Center with more on that. And it seems like the storms are headed offshore this year for some reason. What's going on?


S. O'BRIEN: Five years after 9/11, security experts say we're safer but still vulnerable to a terror attack. Ahead this morning, we'll take a look at the nation's biggest weak spots.

Then later, what makes the brain of a genius different from the rest of us? Well, Dr. Sanjay Gupta takes a look at the quest for extreme brain power. Those stories ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


S. O'BRIEN: A CNN "Security Watch" this morning. President Bush says America is safer, but not yet safe. In his speech last night, the president talked about all that's been done since 9/11 to make the nation safer. But five years later, the focus is on the security measures that have been left undone. Homeland security correspondent Jeanne Meserve has our report.


JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT, (voice over): Tankers of highly combustible liquified natural gas pass close to Boston's city center. Security around them is tight, but the city's Homeland Security chief still worries. CARLO BOCCIA, BOSTON HOMELAND SECURITY DIRECTOR: They are incredible measures taken to product that ship. Can I say to you that that ship is vulnerability free? Absolutely not.

MESERVE: Security in the city has improved in five years. Still, Carlo Boccia wishes more was being done to safeguard truck and rail shipments of hazardous materials, to protect the city's mass transit system, to guard the historical sites cultural institutions that define the city.

BOCCIA: These are all symbols of what we are and what we come from. You know, to be able to have an enemy to be able to attack that is like attacking our soul.

MESERVE: Boccia says the city is safer, but not yet safe enough. It is a common theme all across the country. Some chemical plants have improved security, but others have not and Congress has not passed comprehensive legislation to protect them. Cockpit doors are re-enforced and some pilots armed. But most air cargo and airport employees are not screened.

New technology and more manpower protect the nation's borders, but the flow of illegal immigrants has not stopped. Billions have been spent to allow emergency workers from different agencies to talk to each other, but systems still failed in Hurricane Katrina. Whether it is port security, intelligence sharing or the readiness of the nation's health system, the story is the same, experts say, we are safer but not safe enough.

THOMAS KEAN, FORMER CHAIRMAN, 9/11 COMMISSION: It's totally inexcusable. And there's a whole variety of people to blame. The administration. The Congress has done not as much as they should.

MESERVE: The secretary of Homeland Security acknowledge gaps, but says it will take more movement on several fronts to close them.

MICHAEL CHERTOFF, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: We have a very clear plan of where we want to be over the next two years. And if we don't get -- push the backslide and if we get the appropriate authority from Congress, we're going to complete the job in short order.

MESERVE: This election season may have refocused attention on the nation's security. But resources are limited, the list of potential targets is lone, leading some experts to conclude we may never be truly safe.

Jeanne Meserve, CNN, Washington.


S. O'BRIEN: You want to stay with CNN day and night for the most reliable news about your security.

Miles. M. O'BRIEN: Coming up, an update on the war that began after 9/11. Five years later, the Taliban is back and gaining strength. Has the Pentagon taken its eye off the ball? We'll ask a general.

Plus, you want to live longer? Well, you might have to move. We'll tell you where longevity lives in America. Stay with us.


S. O'BRIEN: One key to longevity may be just like real estate, location, location, location. According to a new study from the Harvard School of Public Health, states with the highest life expectancies are Hawaii, Minnesota, Utah, Connecticut and Massachusetts. States at the bottom of the list, South Carolina, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Washington, D.C. Now race also plays a big role. Asian Americans and whites seem to live the longest. Native Americans and blacks die on average younger. No surprise that alcohol and tobacco use were also linked, as well as obesity and high blood pressure.

M. O'BRIEN: Hewlett-Packard's legal problems are now mounting. Andy Serwer is here with that.

Hello, Andy.


We're from the government and we're here to help. That's what Hewlett-Packard is dealing with this morning. Congress and federal investigators are now asking HP to turn over records in connection to the investigation of the board by the chairman Patricia Dunn. The House Energy and Commerce Committee and the FBI would be the two entities asking for those records. And there's Patty Dunn there. And, by the way, they do -- at HP, she is the chairman, by the way, so I'm not miss speaking. She is under increasing fire.

M. O'BRIEN: Not chairperson, not chairwoman . . .

SERWER: No, chairman.

M. O'BRIEN: That's what she wants.

SERWER: That's right. And so far she says she will not be a scapegoat. But, obviously, this is not over. HP, of course, famous for making copiers.

Another copier company in the news this morning is Canon. The company says it's recalling 140,000 copiers because they may produce smoke or catch fire. Boy, you thought the paper getting caught was bad. These are old copiers, though, from 1987 to 1997. A copier from 1987?

M. O'BRIEN: Well, you shouldn't have that anyway.

SERWER: I can't believe it still works with your computer, right? It can't hookup. And finally here, if you're planning on having a party for your little kiddies this fall, maybe you better rethink the balloon part because there is a helium shortage brewing.

M. O'BRIEN: Oh, no.

S. O'BRIEN: Really?

M. O'BRIEN: Really?


M. O'BRIEN: Yes. That's terrible.

SERWER: You're squandering it right now. You're wasting precious helium.

M. O'BRIEN: I'm sorry.

SERWER: Here's what's going on. There's maintenance at U.S. plants and plants in the Middle East, including plants in Algeria and Qatar. Most helium is used for industrial purposes, like aerospace and electronics. But 7 percent of helium is used for . . .

S. O'BRIEN: Fun.

SERWER: Recreational uses, such as Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Used by Macy's right there.

SERWER: That's right. And that's an interesting thing. So you're looking at possible shortages, price increases and then the Macy's Parade. What's going to happen to that?

M. O'BRIEN: Oh, my gosh, what will happen?

SERWER: I'll bet you they're going to find some.

M. O'BRIEN: I bet so.

SERWER: Those balloons, don't you think?

S. O'BRIEN: Yes.

M. O'BRIEN: Some how, some way, those balloons will fly.

SERWER: You're going to be out there huffing and puffing.

M. O'BRIEN: You bet.

SERWER: Yes. No. Stop it.

M. O'BRIEN: All right. Thank you. Enough. Enough.

S. O'BRIEN: You know how excited I was when football season began. M. O'BRIEN: Really? Were you?

S. O'BRIEN: No. No, that's . . .

M. O'BRIEN: You were not.

SERWER: That's a Tiki Barber story, that's why.

S. O'BRIEN: That's complete sarcasm. Yes, except for Tiki Barber who I love. But since football season's here again and -- but the fans -- this is a great story. One NFL team (INAUDIBLE) thousands of dollars, hundreds of thousands of dollars, in free furniture. We'll tell you about one store owner's very risky wager just ahead. Stay with us.


S. O'BRIEN: Good morning. Welcome back, everybody. I'm Soledad O'Brien

M. O'BRIEN: And I'm Miles O'Brien. Thanks for being with us.

U.S. and NATO troops in Southern Afghanistan facing a tough fight from the Taliban. NATO's top commander says Taliban fighters are digging in and fighting hard.

CNN's Barbara Starr joining us from the Pentagon with more.

Barbara, five years now since this all began. The Taliban seems to be gaining strength. Why?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Miles, this is something that U.S. and NATO military commanders have been watching very closely for the last several months. They have watched the progress of the Taliban, watched them getting stronger really since late spring of this year. And they begin to assess to situation in this say. They say that, first and foremost, of course, there is a lot of financing in Afghanistan, an awful lot of money from the poppy crop and from the drugs. That is fueling much of this, they believe.

Also the Afghan government of President Hamid Karzai remains relatively weak, especially in the southern part of the country and the eastern part, along the Pakistani border. That is where you see most of the activity. That is where NATO and U.S. forces are really fighting the Taliban.

But really one of the fundamental questions that is emerging now, and it sounds an awful lot like Iraq, Miles, are there enough troops? The top NATO commander saying that he now believes more troops are need in Afghanistan to counter this Taliban offensive.

M. O'BRIEN: So, are we at the point then, Barbara -- is it premature to talk about the level of insurgency we're seeing in Iraq?

STARR: Well, I don't think anybody thinks it's quite at the point it is in Iraq. And certainly there are some different causes, different types of organization, different funding behind the situation in Afghanistan, but the longer this debate continues, commanders say, about whether more troops are needed in Afghanistan, it does begin to sound an awful lot like the same type of evolving situation -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: On that note we leave it. Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, thank you.

In Washington as well today, lawmakers considering the fate of those terror suspects held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Republican leaders hoping to act on the president's call to create military tribunals to deal with them.

Senator Majority Leader Bill Frist wants a trio of Republicans to get in line with the White House plan, but John Warner, John McCain and Lindsey Graham are holding out so far, insisting detainees see the evidence against them.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), ARMED SERVICES CMTE.: It would be unacceptable, legally, in my opinion, to give someone the death penalty in a trial where they never heard the evidence against them. Trust us, you're guilty, we're going to execute you, but we can't tell you why -- that's not going to pass mustard; that's not necessary.


M. O'BRIEN: There are three man sticking points between what Senator Graham and what the White House would like: the use of classified intelligence, the use of coerced testimony and Geneva convention agreements for treatments prisoners humanely -- Soledad.



M. O'BRIEN: It's a beautiful day to work in space. Of course, the weather doesn't change much up there. Let's look what's going on about 250 miles above us, on the International Space Station. Pretty shot as you look at the Earth below. And there, up there -- and you can see her moving around is Heide Piper, Heide Stefanyshyn-Piper, space rookie and EVA, or extra-vehicular activity, or, for you and I, space walk rookie, involved in the process of unfurling some solar arrays or preparing for those solar arrays to be unfurled later in the mission.

They're in the process of attaching a 35,000-pound truss, which is kind of like a piece of an Erector set, with some solar arrays that will kind of move out -- let me use the other thing here. It will move out in this direction, unfold a little later. Kind of like blinds or whatever would work.

In any case, it's her first space walk. She's out there with Joe Tanner, a space veteran, who's on his sixth space walk. This is the seventieth space walk for construction on the International Space Station, the first since the loss of Columbia. Before he left, we asked Joe Tanner about what it's like working with the space rookie, Heide Piper.


JOSEPH TANNER, MISSION SPECIALIST: I told her when we first started training together, I and say yes, I have three space flights, five EVAs, and I'm older than you, but that doesn't mean anything. Your job is to question everything I say and do.


M. O'BRIEN: But say "sir" always. No, they're much more collegial than that.

In any case, this is what will happen eventually in this mission, these solar rays, which will pretty much double the production of electricity on the International Space Station, track with the sun as the space station travels around the Earth one lap every 90 minutes, as we discussed earlier, Chad?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Does it really weigh 35,000 pounds though, I'm wondering, Miles?

M. O'BRIEN: There is no weight in space, as you know. There is mass. And when things get moving in space with that much mass, you have to watch it. That's why they attach it using that shuttle robot. Can we get back to that live picture through the telestrator very quickly, and I'll just show you how they do it very quickly.

MYERS: I see it.

M. O'BRIEN: Not the telestrator though.

Yes, there you go. That's the upper part, and that's attached to -- that's the actual space station robot arm attached to the solar ray. Something like that requires that arm to move it into place, and then the space walkers can do the fine tuning and the attaching of the cables, always making sure the cable is dead before you do the reconnecting.

MYERS: Absolutely. Great shot there.

M. O'BRIEN: It is, pretty.

MYERS: Especially because it's in Hollywood, right?

M. O'BRIEN: Don't start with me on that. Don't Capricorn one me. Oh, my God.

MYERS: That was priceless.

M. O'BRIEN: Do you know how long it will take me to undo that, Chad?

MYERS: I'm not a conspiracy theorist. I'm sorry. S. O'BRIEN: Oh, that was worth it.

M. O'BRIEN: Mr. grassy knoll himself.

MYERS: There you go.


S. O'BRIEN: Hey, Chad?


S. O'BRIEN: What do you think it takes to be a genius? I mean, you would know. You're a genius?

MYERS: What's the definition, 120 for an I.Q., something like that?

S. O'BRIEN: Dr. Sanjay Gupta is going to join us in a little bit...

M. O'BRIEN: He's a genius.

S. O'BRIEN: ... and says you can just scan the brain soon and find out if people are geniuses or not.

We've got that story coming up next on AMERICAN MORNING. Stay with us.


S. O'BRIEN: Think you're smart? Well, researchers think that one day they'll be able to tell just how smart you really are just with a simple brain scan.

CNN senior medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta checked out one of the world's largest brain-research centers. And today we kick off a four-part series. It's called the quest for extreme brain power.

Good morning.


S. O'BRIEN: And how's your brain?

GUPTA: I like that, are you smart?

S. O'BRIEN: Are you a genius.

GUPTA: This has been so much fun to put together, trying to find some of the links between creativity and intelligence, for example. And we wanted to start at the beginning, and the place to start, we figured out, was with the brain. There's actually a place called the Mind Institute where they're actually MRI scans to try and determine intelligence.


GUPTA (voice-over): Just looking at a human brain, you can't tell if it belongs to a genius or a fool. You can't even tell if it's from a man or a woman.

But now, imagine actually seeing the birth of an idea, with high- tech imaging. That's what they do at the Mental Illness and Neuro Discovery or MIND Institute in New Mexico. It's a world-renowned center for brain research. This image was taken through a process call magnetoencephalography. You sounds smart just saying that. It shows electrical activity millisecond by millisecond.

REX JUNG, MIND INST.: You're seeing the brain activity over a course of one single second. So in that second, all these different things are happening in the brain.

GUPTA: First light up, the brain region handling sight, as the test subject looks at something. Next, the motor cortex, muscle control as the subject points a finger in response.

JUNG: And then up in this part of the brain, this is the frontal part of the brain, the frontal cortex -- prefrontal cortex, in which a lot of the action happens involved wit decision-making, problem solving, integration of ideas, narrowing the focus down to the specific right answer.

GUPTA: They say the higher the intelligence, the faster this pathway lights up. Based on other kinds of imaging, Dr. Rex Jung and his colleague Richard Haier say the brains of smart people are different from average brains.

Here's one surprise, the higher the I.Q., the less brain activity, as signified by the cool green color. The smart brain is more efficient.

DR. RICHARD HAIER, U.CALIF-IRVINE: It might be that more intelligent people have more tissue in certain areas to process information and, therefore, the tissue overall doesn't have to work as hard.

GUPTA: Jung and Haier continue to refine their work. Some day, they say, brain scans might replace an I.Q. test, or even the SAT for college. But right now, the secret of genius remains tantalizingly out of reach.


GUPTA: In all fairness, these guys go a lot farther than most scientists do. You can't really predict intelligence right now by looking at an MRI scan, but they say if they just get a few more people in the study, this is pretty remarkable, get a few more people in the study, they think they're going to get there. It could replace an intelligence test, might even replace the SAT test just like that one day.

S. O'BRIEN: But when you scan the brain, are you measuring potential for intelligence or actual intelligence? You could have the potential to be really smart, but if it it's not developed and promoted, you'd never realize it, right?

GUPTA: Right. So two issues there, how much is genetic versus environmental, and the researchers say a lot of it is genetic. So people are sort of born with the potential, as you say, for intelligence. But as far as how it works, how does the brain work, how efficient is it? When a problem is presented, how quickly does the brain actually solve the problem, and how little of the brain does it need to do that? That is where, they say, the basis of intelligence is. Efficient brains, more intelligence.

S. O'BRIEN: You're a brain surgeon. Can you make your brain more efficient? You know, they always say only use 10 percent of your brain. Is there a way to train your brain to be more intelligent?

GUPTA: I think environment plays a huge role, whether or not it's a certain pattern of study, whether or not it's learning different languages, which they say has a significant impact, especially at a young age, learning new languages. You can train your brain.

S. O'BRIEN: My mother always said...

GUPTA: Use a lot of big words, too...

S. O'BRIEN: You'll fool people into thinking you're smarter, even if you're not actually smarter.

What do you got coming up tomorrow in the second part of your series?

GUPTA: Tomorrow is sort of building on the same though. Can you create a genius? Can you build a genius? There was actually a sperm bank which we heard about, that actually -- the whole point was to create geniuses, taking Nobel laureates sperm, taking geniuses sperm. Did it work? I'll let you know tomorrow.

S. O'BRIEN: And matching them up with other Noble laureates?

GUPTA: No, matching them up with anybody, and just seeing if the sperm along can actually create a genius.

S. O'BRIEN: So only the guys get to donate the genius part. What about the women?

GUPTA: It's a sperm bank.

S. O'BRIEN: You could match them with women. I mean, come on.

All right, Sanjay, thanks.

Of course, Sanjay has a special called "Genius: Quest for Extreme Brain Power." That's Sunday night, 9:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN. Coming up on AMERICAN MORNING Andy Serwer is "Minding Your Business." Plus, a long shot pays off. Find out why the outcome of one NFL game meant hundreds of thousands of dollars in free furniture. That's story's ahead. Stay with us.


S. O'BRIEN: How do you make a bunch of Chicago Bears fans even more fanatical than they already are? Offer them free furniture.

Dane Placko from our Chicago affiliate WFLB explains how a risky business move turned into a big win for 206 lucky customers.


RANDY GONIGAM, OWNER, WORLD FURNITURE MALL: Bears fan through and through.

DANE PLACKO, WFLB REPORTER (voice-over): Not only is Randy Gonigam a huge Bears fan, he also happens to own a huge furniture store in far west suburban Plano. So after reading about the vaunted bears defense a few weeks ago, he got an idea to drum up business over the Labor Day weekend.

GONIGAM: I thought, here's something that would be fun. I knew the Bears were playing the Packers in the first game of the season up at Lambeau, and I thought, you know what, let's put that on the line.

PLACKO: So Gonigam sent out 30,000 direct-mail pieces, promising that any furniture sold over the Labor Day weekend would be free if the Bears shut out the Packers. Mind you Brett Favre has never been shut out in his 15 years as Packers quarterback.

The sales pitch must have worked, because Gonigam sold $300,000 worth of furniture to more than 200 customers.

(on camera): Of course you know what happened, the Packers folded like this lovely brown leather Berkline (ph) recliner, only $799 dollars, but could have been yours free if you believed in the Bears.

(voice-over): Final score, Bears 26, Packers 0.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congratulations.

PLACKO: Nadia Stanford was napping when the game ended.

DOTTIE STANFORD, FURNITURE WINNER: My husband was standing at the door and he's going five, four, three, two, one! And I thought he was nuts, nuts. So then he told me, and I didn't believe it.

PLACKO: Bears fans Doug and Kathy Cress bought $5,000 worth of furniture.

(on camera): Anything you want to say to the Bears defense? KATHY CRESS, FURNITURE WINNER: I just think they're wonders. I always have.

PLACKO (voice-over): Luck for Randy, he did buy insurance to cover some of his losses.

GONIGAM: The first thing I did was I went to my online bank account and made sure that the check for the premium on the insurance had cleared.

PLACKO: It had, so he avoided yet another sack by the Monsters of the Midway.


S. O'BRIEN: That was Dane Placko from our Chicago affiliate WFLB reporting, one of my favorite pieces of the morning.



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