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AMERICAN MORNING

Strategy in Iraq; America Votes 2006; Stingray Stabbing

Aired October 20, 2006 - 07:59   ET

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


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you, Friday, October 20th.
I'm Miles O'Brien.

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

Lots happening this morning. Let's get right to our news wall.

Rethinking the U.S. strategy in Iraq. Out-of-control violence has U.S. military planners reconsidering all their options. So far this month more than 70 American troops have been killed in Iraq.

M. O'BRIEN: Also on our radar this morning, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Beijing, expressing doubt about those surprising comments from Kim Jong-il. The North Korean leader supposedly told Chinese diplomats he was sorry about that nuclear test. Rice says she didn't hear anything like that.

S. O'BRIEN: That 9-month-old Kentucky infant who was kidnapped after a social worker was found beaten to death is in good condition this morning. The boy's mother and her boyfriend are now in police custody.

M. O'BRIEN: Eighteen days now to the election. A new GOP campaign ad trying to push the fear button among voters. It features images of Osama bin Laden and other terrorists set against a ticking time bomb.

S. O'BRIEN: Let's get right to Chad Myers at the CNN weather center. He's watching the cold weather for us -- or the soon to be cold weather in some cases.

Hey, Chad.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes. Good morning, Soledad, Miles.

We will see rain today, and right behind it is the cold air. New York City, you're still mild right now. Temperatures in the middle 60s, but it's raining heavily in a lot of the areas there, slowing down airports and roadways.

Atlanta, a ground stop, which means that planes aren't allowed to take off to Atlanta right now. A round ring around Atlanta of a couple hundred miles.

And Philadelphia, only a 10-minute ground delay -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: All right, Chad. Thank you.

In Iraq now, more violence to report, but this time in a relatively peaceful part of the country. It's happening in Amara, which is in southern Iraq. And people there say the city has been taken over by armed militia.

A hospital official says 15 people are dead, 45 people are wounded. And this comes as Iraq continues to spiral out of control. Americans are beginning to question the strategy for victory.

CNN's Elaine Quijano is at the White House for us this morning.

Elaine, good morning.

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

Well, the Bush White House is under tremendous pressure to change its Iraq policies. As you might imagine, a number of options are being floated here in Washington, ahead of that report that's due out by the bipartisan Iraq Study Group. It will be due out after the election.

Well, the range of possibilities includes everything from redeploying U.S. forces inside Iraq, to adding more U.S. troops, to partitioning Iraq along sectarian lines. Now, the White House has been quick to dismiss a couple of those ideas, including the idea of dividing Iraq. But amidst the discussion, officials here insist that while the U.S. is not changing its overall strategy, the administration is making adjustments to deal with the situation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Tactics change all the time. Generals talk about changing tactics all the time. It happens regularly. It is nothing new in a time of war. As a matter of fact, it would be a dereliction of duty if generals did not constantly adjust to the changing conditions and tactics on the ground.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

QUIJANO: Now, Snow insists that adjustments have been made since the early days of this conflict. But clearly, Soledad, the voices here in Washington calling for the White House to find some sort of solution now include some prominent Republicans.

Of course, recently among them, Senator John Warner, who said recently that unless there is an improvement in the situation on the ground in Iraq within the next two to three months, that the U.S. should consider a change in course -- Soledad.

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

Elaine, thanks -- Miles. M. O'BRIEN: More odd, surprising comments from Kim Jong-il this morning. Chinese diplomats meeting with him say he expressed regret about that underground nuclear explosion, says he's sorry, says he's not planning another one.

This comes as the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, is in Beijing. She says she didn't hear anything like that. She is meeting with Chinese diplomats there to try to get the Chinese to enforce those sanctions that the United Nations passed.

China is saying it will work with both sides to try to break the stalemate. The U.S. is saying North Korea should return to those six- party talks with no conditions.

And Secretary Rice is knocking down that report that Kim Jong-il apologized over the nuclear test. The South Korean news organizations are reporting the apology, but the secretary says, once again, she hasn't seen anything about it -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: The search is over now for a missing 9-month-old. Police say a fugitive couple that took him have been captured.

Last night, Renee Terrell and Christopher Luttrell were found in a trailer in Godfrey, Illinois. That's about 200 miles from Terrell's home, which is in Henderson, Kentucky. Police say that five days ago the couple killed a social worker who had brought Terrell's baby -- the name is Saige -- to visit her mother, and then authorities say they took the baby and took off.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SGT. DET. JOHN NEVELS, HENDERSON POLICE: It was a very brutal, very violent murder. And, of course, we were looking for these individuals. And we were very worried about the child, too. Someone that, you know, could do that kind of extreme violence and the baby was with them -- we're very relieved.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

S. O'BRIEN: Baby Saige had been taken away from Terrell not long after his birth. Police said she had been charged with neglect. The couple will now more than likely face murder charges.

The latest now on the Mark Foley scandal. House Majority Leader John Boehner says that's his story and he's sticking to it. Boehner testified before the House Ethics Committee yesterday, and he said he stood by his statements that he told House Speaker Dennis Hastert about the former congressman, Foley's e-mails to congressional pages. He says that Speaker Hastert told him the problem had been "taken care of."

Meanwhile, the priest who Foley accuses of molesting him when he was a child is speaking out. His name is the Reverend Anthony Mercieca. And he says that he was friends with Foley, that they loved each other as brothers, that they once sat in a sauna together naked. But he does also admit that he had fondled Foley. Here's what he said to say.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

FATHER ANTHONY MERCIECA, ADMITS TO FONDLING FMR. CONGRESSMAN FOLEY: Once maybe, I touched him or so, but I didn't -- it wasn't -- because it's not something you call, I mean, rape or penetration or anything like that, you know? We were just fondling."

(END AUDIO CLIP)

S. O'BRIEN: Mercieca also says that he was going through a difficult time during what he calls his relationship with Foley and that he had turned to alcohol and pills.

We also want to take a moment to correct a mistake that was made on the air yesterday in stories about the priest who now admits that he fondled Foley. CNN and other news organizations published an incorrect photograph showing another employee of the diocese.

Well, CNN profoundly regrets the error -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: E minus 18 days and counting. That's kind of NASA speak for it's a busy time for politicians all across this great land. The election 18 days away.

A lot of close races to watch. And a new wrinkle with a new ad.

CNN Senior Political Analyst Bill Schneider has some numbers and has the ad for us.

Bill, good to have you with us. How -- how is it looking for Republicans this morning?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, the Republican Congress is in a serious amount of trouble. You know, contempt of Congress is a crime, in which case a lot of Americans could be facing some jail time, because in the latest NBC News-"Wall Street Journal" poll, only 16 percent, an appalling number, 16 percent of Americans say they approve of the way Congress is handling its job -- 75 percent disapprove.

And those numbers are very, very bad, indeed. And, of course, it's Congress that's on the ballot for re-election this year.

M. O'BRIEN: All right. Apparently our graphics have gone down. So you have to imagine those numbers for just a moment. One of the other questions we asked was about whether most members of Congress are corrupt.

What did you find there?

SCHNEIDER: Well, it shows that about -- well, exactly 50 percent of Americans say that most members of Congress are corrupt. That's the same figure that we got back in 1994, which was the last time voters acted to overthrow the majority party that controlled Congress. As you can see, there's the 50 percent who say most members of Congress are corrupt. That's up 12 points just since January.

M. O'BRIEN: All right. And we may or may not get one on the next one, but this next one goes right to the issue here as to whether people are going to pull the lever or punch the chad, or whatever the case may be out there. Hopefully there aren't going to be chads out there anymore, but anyway, for Republican or Democrat, what are we seeing?

SCHNEIDER: Well, it shows that Democrats in our poll among likely voters are 16 points ahead of Republicans when they're asked, "How would you vote for Congress this year?" That's about the same as in "The Wall Street Journal"-NBC News poll.

Of course, there's no single national race this year. But it does show that national conditions heavily favor the Democrats in this -- in this election.

M. O'BRIEN: All right. Let's talk about the so-called stakes ad. And it's an interesting one, and it hearkens back to one of the classics of all time.

SCHNEIDER: Yes, that's right. The best issue for Republicans is the one they won on in 2002 and in 2004, which is fear of terror.

So they produced this Web ad which they now say they will run on cable television. Listen to the sound effects and notice the words in the last frame.

M. O'BRIEN: It's hard to read, of course. And it sounds like, you know, on this edition of "60 Minutes" or something. But basically, what are they saying there?

SCHNEIDER: "These are the stakes." Those are the words we just saw on the screen, the same words used in one of the most famous ads in American political history, an ad that Lyndon Johnson used in his re-election race in 1964 at the height of the Cold War.

Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Six, eight, nine, nine...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one, zero.

These are the stakes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

M. O'BRIEN: "These are the stakes." And, of course, that worked very effectively for LBJ. That was -- the claim there was that Barry Goldwater would be sort of twitchy on a nuclear hair trigger.

Is this likely to resonate like that ad?

SCHNEIDER: Well, of course they're both about fear. In fact, that Democratic ad from '64 was shown only once on national television during the "Movie of the Week" in September 1964, and became a matter of intense controversy.

The charge, of course, now is different. Then, Johnson's campaign was arguing that Barry Goldwater would be reckless and aggressive. And now the charge is that Democrats will be weak in the face of a terrorist threat. But the big difference is in the political environment.

In 1964, it was just about two years after the Cuban missile crisis. Americans felt reasonably secure and were not interested in anything provocative or a new confrontation with the Soviets. In 2006, we're in the fourth year of the Iraq war and voters are fearful, perhaps, that this administration has become too provocative and confrontational.

So it's a different political environment.

M. O'BRIEN: Bill Schneider is part of the best political team on television.

Thank you, sir.

SCHNEIDER: Sure.

M. O'BRIEN: Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Some of the stories we're following for you this morning.

The U.S. military reassesses its strategy in Baghdad.

And an 82-year-old man survives a stingray stab to the heart.

We'll talk to his surgeon coming up next on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

S. O'BRIEN: These pictures just into CNN.

In Florida this morning, a landmark near Tampa Bay reduced to rubble. Just a few moments ago explosives brought down the old Higgins power plant. The plant had been around for decades, but it only took about 13 seconds to take it out.

Now a look at -- a closer look at a freak accident, one that's actually happened twice now. This morning, an 82-year-old man remains in critical condition after a stingray stabbed him in the chest with its barb. It's very reminiscent of the accident that killed "The Crocodile Hunter," Steve Irwin, back in early September.

Dr. Eugene Costantini joins us from Fort Lauderdale with an update on just how the latest victim, James Bertakis, is recovering. It's nice to see you, doctor. Thanks for talking with us.

Things were sounding...

DR. EUGENE COSTANTINI, CARDIOVASCULAR & THORACIC SURGEON: Good morning, Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Things were sounding very dire, frankly, last night. Can you update us on his condition right now, sir?

COSTANTINI: Yes, I can. Mr. Bertakis had a very uneventful evening. Of course, you may not know he went back to the operating room yesterday for some abdominal bleeding. That was taken care of. And since that time it's been completely stable.

We've had him in a medically-induced coma to allow his lungs and heart to have less work and allow us to manage those more efficiently. And since that time he's remained quite stable for us.

S. O'BRIEN: Which is great news. And I know uneventful for doctors is a very, very good thing. So what's his prognosis at this point, doctor?

COSTANTINI: Well, we're still at a very guarded prognosis. You know, his family has told us many times he's a very strong man, and we agree with that. But regardless, he's still 82 years old, and we're -- this has been a very large stress for his body. So we're keeping him as a guarded prognosis.

S. O'BRIEN: Explain to me exactly how he managed to survive, whereas we all know Steve Irwin did not in a very freakishly similar attack. The stingray barb went into his chest -- jumped on the boat and then went right in his chest.

Why was he able to survive this?

COSTANTINI: I think the key difference between Steve Irwin and Mr. Bertakis is that the barb -- Steve pulled the barb out. And if I could just show you the barb, it has serrated edges, very much like a combat knife with millions -- or multiple little fishhooks that hold it in the tissue. And when you remove that in a reverse fashion, it lacerates or cuts all the tissue on the way out.

And for Mr. Irwin, when he pulled that out, I believe the hole in the heart was released, the bleeding occurred, and it tamped (ph) out the heart muscle and he died from that. Mr. Bertakis, on the other hand, this penetrated below the skin level and he was unable to remove it.

S. O'BRIEN: I see. So he didn't remove it, which probably is what saved him in the first place. But I know you had to do some work surgically on his heart.

What happened? Did it start digging in further?

COSTANTINI: Well, as the barbs are grasped by the heart muscle, it pulls it further into the heart muscle. And actually, we could see it moving across the heart muscle on an echocardiography, where it -- and the point being so very sharp, it would move through the tissue quite easily.

S. O'BRIEN: Wow.

COSTANTINI: He had -- it migrated completely across his heart. If this is his heart, it entered on the backside of the left ventricle and migrated through the heart muscle, underneath the mitral valve, across the septum of the heart, underneath the tricuspid valve, into the right side of the heart, and then actually perforated the free right wall of the heart.

S. O'BRIEN: Wow. And so it went all the way through his heart, even though the initial sting didn't make it anything into the heart. That's amazing.

So it's really wonderful news then that he had an uneventful night and that he is in stable condition.

Dr. Costantini, thank you for talking with us.

Dr. Eugene Costantini is a cardiovascular and thoracic surgeon at Broward General Medical Center.

Thank you, sir.

COSTANTINI: Thank you.

S. O'BRIEN: Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Some of the stories we're following right now for you.

Border politics blur party lines in a tight Arizona congressional race.

Plus, living in your car. It sounds like a last resort, but for a car maker it's a selling point.

That's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

S. O'BRIEN: Here's a look at some of the top stories we're following for you this morning.

A Kentucky woman and her boyfriend are under arrest. Police say they kidnapped the woman's baby and killed a social worker.

A congressional staff member has been suspended. He is suspected of leaks to "The New York Times".

It's just 18 days until the midterm elections, and as Republicans and Democrats fight for control of Congress, there's one race where the party lines are blurring. CNN's Chris Lawrence is in Nogales, Arizona, to sort out just who is on which side of the border -- the border security issue, that is.

Hey, Chris. Good morning.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning, Soledad.

You know, the -- what to do with illegal immigrants and really how to keep their numbers from growing has caused so many divisions among Democrats and Republicans, it's impossible to tell who's who.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've seen you a lot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, good, good.

LAWRENCE (voice-over): Don't be fooled by all of the handshakes and "thank yous".

GABRIELLE GIFFORDS, ARIZONA DEMOCRAT: Hey, how are you? Thank you for being here.

LAWRENCE: This is not just another race for Congress. Take the issue of immigration.

GIFFORDS: I stand exactly where Senator John McCain is, Governor Napolitano, and even President Bush.

LAWRENCE: The woman praising prominent Republicans? She's the Democrat.

RANDY GRAF, ARIZONA REPUBLICAN: Mr. Giffords just talked about supporting the president's comprehensive immigration reform plan of which it's not comprehensive.

LAWRENCE: The President Bush basher? He's Republican. Randy Graf supports The Minutemen, and opposes a guest worker program.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For the safety of our children and all Americans, vote for Randy Graf. It's a vote for a secure border.

LAWRENCE: Graf didn't even get endorsed by Jim Kolbe, the returning Republican he's trying to replace.

GRAF: I stood up to our congressman two years ago. I stood up to the establishment. I stood up to our president.

LAWRENCE: And now they won't stand by him. Because of his immigration views, the National Republican Party has stopped spending money on his campaign.

WILLIAM DIXON, POLITICAL ANALYST: Gabrielle Giffords has taken a broader approach, one that ironically is much closer to President Bush's approach and John McCain's approach. LAWRENCE: While Republicans across the country are running away from the president, this Democrat is stride for stride on immigration.

GIFFORDS: If an idea is a good idea, it is a good idea. It doesn't matter whether or not it's a Republican idea or a Democrat idea.

LAWRENCE: The thing is, John McCain a the chief sponsor of that very same immigration legislation, the one that includes a guest worker program. And who did McCain endorse?

GRAF: Hi, Randy Graf running for Congress out here in the district.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LAWRENCE: That's right, Randy Graf. About the only thing he and Giffords agree on, there's a problem when more illegal immigrants try to cross into Arizona than New Mexico, Texas and California combined -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Chris Lawrence for us this morning.

Chris, thanks.

This story and the day's political news is all available at the CNN.com news ticker. Any day -- or time of the day or night, just go to cnn.com/ticker -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Thank you very much, Soledad.

A man spends a week in his car, records the whole thing for the sake of air. Out of desperation? No. It's advertising.

Andy Serwer is here with that.

Hello, Andy.

ANDY SERWER, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, "FORTUNE": Hello, Miles.

Actually, he did it for the money.

M. O'BRIEN: Oh, he did it for the money.

SERWER: I mean, he's going to get paid to do this.

M. O'BRIEN: In the final analysis, that's what it's all about.

SERWER: That's what it's about, the Benjamins. And, you know, when the makers of Nissan, the marketers of that brand were trying to figure out, you know, how do we sell this new car? They realized that young people today, well, they practically live in their cars.

And they said, why don't we do a whole ad campaign based on living in your car? So they hired this guy, Mark Horowitz (ph), a 30- year-old performance artist, comedian, L.A. dude, to live in his car for 160 -- ah! That's cold -- 168 -- that's him taking showers.

M. O'BRIEN: Showers with sprinklers, yes.

SERWER: A hundred and sixty-eight straight hours in his car. He could cook outside. He had to spend the night in the car.

And, you know, it's going to be on TV. It's already on TV. It's a (INAUDIBLE) marketing campaign Web site.

Let's check out some of his rules, though.

M. O'BRIEN: Where did he -- where did he keep the film crew, though? In the trunk?

SERWER: They were outside the car.

M. O'BRIEN: Oh, OK. All right.

SERWER: Listen to some of these rules, though.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes.

SERWER: He must not return to his apartment during this week. Maintain personal hygiene, that's important. Day-to-day responsibilities, he went to his job.

Different location. He was sleeping in the car, but the car was parked in different locations, I should say. And he had to go out on one date.

We didn't get any VO or footage, as they say.

M. O'BRIEN: Or BO. If you know what I mean.

SERWER: I know what you mean.

Another story from the department of marketing I want to get to this morning, Miles, and that is from the land of Budweiser. Anheuser-Busch has hired a new pitchman familiar to millions, Shawn Carter -- who's -- Jay-Z.

M. O'BRIEN: No more...

(CROSSTALK)

SERWER: That's right. Yes, he's gone down market, I guess.

And it's for Budweiser Select. And obviously, a lot of sway with the younger generation and the older generation, too, I guess. (INAUDIBLE) Mr. Def Jam now selling some beer.

M. O'BRIEN: Fast cars, nice-looking women. No more Cristal.

Well, you know, it all works.

SERWER: It's altogether. M. O'BRIEN: All about the Benjamins, as they say.

SERWER: Yes, that's right.

M. O'BRIEN: Andy Serwer, thank you very much, sir.

SERWER: You're welcome.

M. O'BRIEN: Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Nice car, nice looking women. What's not to love, right, guys?

Thank you.

Let's get to T.J. Holmes. He's got a look at what's coming up this weekend on "CNN SATURDAY and SUNDAY MORNING".

Hey, T.J. Good morning.

T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, good morning. You go from the good-looking women to here. So I'll try...

S. O'BRIEN: Yes, I missed the segue. And to the good-looking man. Here he is.

HOLMES: Ah, yes.

S. O'BRIEN: My bad.

HOLMES: Such an opportunity there, Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: I know. I know. I know. Oh, man!

HOLMES: Well, we're going to talk about what's coming up this weekend.

Of course we're talking about the crucial midterm elections. Now of course we're less than three weeks away. We're going to take a closer look at electronic voting.

Some people call it political progress. Other people, including our own Lou Dobbs, say, whoa, not so fast, it's putting democracy at risk.

So exactly how safe is your vote? We're going to ask an expert about that.

Also, it's advertised as weight loss in a bottle. Doesn't that sound fantastic? But are you getting ripped or just ripped off?

Our fitness guru, Jerry Anderson, who is as ripped as they get, really, he's going to expose the naked truth about fat burners.

Plus...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's why men don't come to church. I don't want to come to church and do this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOLMES: Well, my goodness. Does your pastor do that? Well, you've probably never quite seen a church service like this one. We'll take you on a tour of the Soul Factory in our "Faces of Faith".

All that, plus the morning's top stories beginning at 7:00 Eastern Saturday and Sunday morning.

Soledad, we'll try it again next week.

S. O'BRIEN: I would pay money to see my pastor do that, frankly. I've got to tell you.

(LAUGHTER)

S. O'BRIEN: T.J. Holmes, nice to see you. Thanks for the preview.

HOLMES: Good to see you. All right.

S. O'BRIEN: Also ahead this morning, CNN's exclusive interview with the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice. She's in China. She's going to talk about the North Korean nuclear situation this morning.

And violence on the rise in Baghdad. How can it be stopped? We've got an expert panel that will take a look.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Women run our households. I think they really run our world.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the military won't respect a woman giving them orders.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She would definitely have to have a strong personality.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think anybody's ready for a woman as a president yet.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's, you know, taken this long for men to kind of realize that women can do the job.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would I vote for a female president? Of course, absolutely. M. O'BRIEN: Our system of free enterprise and democracy is supposed to be a meritocracy. If that's the case, why have so few women risen to the top in politics? Is there a glass ceiling keeping them from the Oval Office?

(voice over): Stephen Hess is a senior fellow of the nonprofit think tank the Brookings Institution. He says the time is right for a woman president.

STEPHEN HESS, SENIOR FELLOW, BROOKINGS INST.: I think it's very likely that we're going to get a woman president relatively soon. There are enough women now in the on-deck circle ready to contend for that office.

M. O'BRIEN: Senator Hillary Clinton is in that circle, but Hess says her husband Bill is unlikely to take a back seat like the spouses of other international leaders.

Republican Condoleezza Rice is also on deck. However, Hess says her chances are slim because she's never run for office.

Either way, Hess believes the long-term impact will be minimal.

HESS: After we get our first woman president, that people will be shocked about many things for about 30 seconds, and then they'll just go about their business until there's another election, in which they'll either return them to office or throw the rascal out.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

M. O'BRIEN: Senator Hillary Clinton is in that circle, but Hess says her husband Bill is unlikely to take a back seat like the spouses of other international leaders.

Republican Condoleezza Rice is also on deck. However, Hess says her chances are slim because she's never run for office. Either way, Hess believes the long-term impact will be minimal.

HESS: After we get our first female president, that people will be shocked about many things for about 30 seconds. And then they'll just go about their business until there's another election, sin which they'll either return them to office or throw the rascal out.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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

M. O'BRIEN: And I'm Miles O'Brien.

(NEWSBREAK)

(WEATHER REPORT)

S. O'BRIEN: The secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, is in Beijing this morning, continuing her push for a strong response to North Korea's nuclear test.

Zain Verjee is the only television correspondent on the trip with the secretary. Has an exclusive interview with her.

Zain, good morning.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Soledad.

We spoke to her just a few minutes ago. The secretary of state Condoleezza Rice gave me a little more information about the talks that occurred between a top-level Chinese delegation that went over to North Korea and met with Kim Jong-il. She said the message was this: come back to six-party talks. She also added that there was no message, no proposal that came from the North Koreans through the Chinese to the United States.

I also asked her if China was willing to cut off fuel aid and to cut off financing to North Korea. Here's some of what she said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: The Chinese said they will fully implement this resolution. Now, if there was some misunderstanding, I think, about what the requirements of 1718 really are, including talk about it as if it was somehow the Cuban missile crisis all over again, the quarantine of ships or the -- a full-scale blockade somehow of North Korea. And, of course, that's not what is going on here.

I'm quite sure that the Chinese will do what needs to be done, because China didn't come to this resolution to please the United States. It came to this resolution because China, too, is worried about the North Koreans trafficking in very dangerous materials.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VERJEE: I also asked her, Soledad, that if North Korea tests a nuclear device again, what exactly is the U.S. going to do more than they've already done? She said it would deepen North Korea's isolation, and she said, look, there are other things that can be done. There are other ways, other broader trade restrictions that can be done to squeeze North Korea. I asked her, too, if she would be willing to go to Pyongyang ever down the road, and she said no.

Soledad?

S. O'BRIEN: Zain, couple quick questions for you. There was word this morning that -- out of a South Korean press that said Kim Jong-il had actually apologized to the Chinese envoy. Did the secretary of state have any knowledge of that? He said he was sorry, in fact, for the nuclear test. Can you confirm that?

VERJEE: I asked her exactly what happened in that conversation, and she really didn't give too much detail. It was a very limited response. She just said that they want them to come back to the six- party talks and there was no message coming back from the U.S. I can't confirm that. I asked, but she didn't give up.

S. O'BRIEN: Interesting. All right, Zain Verjee, the only television journalist who is traveling with the secretary of state. Zain, thanks. ` Miles?

M. O'BRIEN: Now to Iraq. No end in sight to the carnage. Perhaps a change in strategy. And now a startling admission by a top general in Baghdad.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAJ. GEN. WILLIAM CALDWELL, SPOKESMAN, MULTINATIONAL FORCE IRAQ: The violence is, indeed, disheartening. In Baghdad, Operation Together Forward has made a difference in the focus areas, but has not met our overall expectations of sustaining a reduction in the levels of violence.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

M. O'BRIEN: So how dire is the situation there? We're joined now by an impressive panel from Baghdad, Nancy Youssef with the McClatchy Newspapers, our own Barbara Starr at the Pentagon and right beside me here in New York, CNN military analyst, Major General Don Shepperd. Good to have you all with us.

Nancy, let's begin with you. The military has focused so much on Baghdad in recent months. Has the military -- is there a presumption there that the military has actually made matters worse there?

NANCY YOUSSEF, MCCLATCHY NEWSPAPERS: Well, remember when they announced this plan that they said that in order for Iraq to succeed, Baghdad had to be safe. And Major General Caldwell's comments yesterday suggested that their efforts didn't work. And I think there was -- I don't know that if it made matters worse, but it certainly raised a level of frustration that, even after U.S. and Iraqi troops did house-by-house sweeps of Iraq's most troubled neighborhoods and promised sort of economic renewal afterwards and stability that, in fact, the rogue factions were able to move back into those neighborhoods and that the violence continued and in some areas, increased.

M. O'BRIEN: Let's move over to Barbara Starr. Barbara, if somebody like General Caldwell is saying things like that publicly, you have to wonder what is being said behind closed doors at the Pentagon.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Miles, General Caldwell's comments yesterday, especially the disheartening -- and his basic announcement that the entire Baghdad security plan was under review -- caught the Pentagon clearly by surprise, the White House.

There was a lot of pushback, saying don't overinterpret General Caldwell's remarks. There's just a routine review going on. But make no mistake, behind closed doors in the hallways of this building, there is a lot of concern. It comes from the very top levels. You don't hear anybody talking in a very positive mood about the military situation in Iraq these days. General Caldwell said, in fact, publicly what an awful lot of people are saying in this building behind those closed doors -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: All right, Barbara. Thank you.

General Shepperd, let's talk about this. There's only three options. Maintain the status quo -- it seems like that's being discounted right now. Escalate. Or pull out. Which camp would you suggest?

MAJ. GEN. DON SHEPPERD, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I'll tell you, you've got to take all these militias, one way or the other. You've got to take them on politically, which Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is trying to do. Or you've got to take them on militarily, which the military is trying to do. You've got to make a decision, but you've got to work both sides of this.

One solution is to put in more troops. That's probably not going to happen. It's going to mean more American deaths, it's going to be more Iraqi deaths. So we're really caught in a really tough problem here. And I know disheartening is a word that General Caldwell wished he probably hadn't uttered the other day.

M. O'BRIEN: So if more troops are not an option, that implies fewer troops are?

SHEPPERD: Yes, I think what you're going to see is this -- the overall strategy is probably sound, which is train the Iraqi forces and then gradually turn the country back over to them. And they're going to make out of Iraq whatever they're going to make out of it, rather than getting deeper and deeper involved with more troops. I think that's probably the direction this going.

M. O'BRIEN: Nancy, I guess you could call it declaring victory and retreating. Do you -- is there an assumption there that if that would occur, that if there were fewer U.S. military troops on the streets, the violence would, in fact, go down?

YOUSSEF: Yes, there are mixed reactions to it. You know, this week's developments suggest that that may not be an option in Balad and now in Amada (ph) when communities are handed over to the Iraqi forces as soon as things escalate. It takes intervention by either the British or American troops to stop the violence.

And so I don't think that there's a sense that if American troops things would -- or, excuse me, if American troops left, that things would get better. I think most fear that it would turn into a full- fledged civil war because the Iraqi forces aren't really taking control of communities or at least haven't shown the capability to do so on their own. And the Iraqi government hasn't really shown the capability to take control of the country.

If you ask most members -- or most Iraqis here, they'll tell you that the government represents not Iraq, but whatever sect they come from. That the Shia parliament members represent the Shia and the Sunni parliament members represent the Sunnis and so on. And so if neither one, neither the political or the military side, is working, I think the general feeling is that if American forces left, it could lead to a full-fledged civil war and potentially a regional war.

M. O'BRIEN: Well, of course, some would say maybe they're in the midst of a civil war right now.

Barbara Starr, let's move forward here and look at the options here. There's plenty of political reasons why there wouldn't be a decision to escalate. Don Shepperd referred to those. Logistically, though, just by sheer head count, if the Pentagon, the military leaders there, decided that was the course of action, could they even do it?

STARR: Well, sure. There's -- you know, there's always more troops in line to be able to go into combat. But, you know, have those troops had the right rest and recuperation and refitting time at home? Have they just come out of Iraq? Very tough business.

And what you find, Miles, is while local commanders, U.S. commanders in certain areas of Iraq say, hey, I need more troops in my area -- and there's every reason to believe that they do -- you don't find the military saying, give us another 50,000 troops and we can solve this problem. Nobody has been saying that. That's very interesting.

General Casey hasn't ruled out more troops, but nobody at this point is really talking about that as an option, as a way to solve the problem.

M. O'BRIEN: Let's talk, for a moment, Don Shepperd, about the historical analogies here. Tom Friedman, "The New York Times" op-ed writer, came out and made it -- basically equated what's going on in Iraq now to the Tet Offensive of 1968. When asked about it, the president didn't discount the analogy. He said that could be the case. You are a Vietnam veteran, forward air controller, served heroically over there. Obviously we're talking about orders of magnitude difference on the numbers of troops and casualties. But nevertheless, do you see those parallels?

SHEPPERD: There are parallels. A discouraging war. You think things are improving, and then all of a sudden you have these huge attacks across the country that takes you a step backwards. I was there Tet and observed it. And then the big difference, of course, at that time was the American public abandoned the war. So there are some parallels. But this was a nationalist war for reunification of the country in Vietnam. This was sectarian violence between sects. There was a big difference. This is one faction fighting for the country, one fighting. It's sections fighting to take apart the country for their own reasons.

M. O'BRIEN: Does that make it harder or easier?

SHEPPARD: I think it makes it much, much harder. This is a much more complex situation in Iraq...

M. O'BRIEN: And it is disheartening.

SHEPPARD: Than Vietnam, I'm sorry. And it is disheartening.

S. O'BRIEN: All right. Major General Don Shepperd, Barbara Starr, Nancy Youssef, great panel.

Thank you for your insights. We appreciate it -- Soledad.

(NEWSBREAK)

S. O'BRIEN: That's ahead. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

(WEATHER REPORT)

S. O'BRIEN: CNN NEWSROOM just a couple minutes away. Tony Harris at the CNN Center with a look at what they've got for you this morning.

Good morning, Tony.

TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Soledad, good morning to you. We've got these stories on the NEWSROOM rundown this Friday. Washington's top diplomat in Beijing -- the secretary of state urging a hard line on nuclear North Korea. Condoleezza Rice talks exclusively to CNN's Zain Verjee.

American troops mired in the muck of Iraq. Today reports a major change in war strategy may be on the way.

And a priest speaking out about former Congressman Mark Foley. Today a Roman Catholic diocese in Malta opens an inquiry into sex abuse allegations.

Join Heidi Collins and me in the NEWSROOM. We get started at the top of the hour right here on CNN. Have a good weekend, Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: All right, thank you. And you, too. And we will see you then.

Ahead on AMERICAN MORNING this morning, a simple step that you can take to protect yourself from scam when you apply for a mortgage. Details ahead. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

M. O'BRIEN: Some of the day's top stories we are following for you.

Eight Afghan civilians working for the U.S. military gunned down near the U.S. base where they worked. Centers for Disease Control spells out new guidelines to help hospitals reduce infections.

Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Buying a house is usually the biggest investment most people will ever make. Gerri Willis, CNN's personal finance editor, she joins us with a big ole warning before you go shopping for your dream home.

Good morning, Gerri.

GERRI WILLIS, CNN PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR: Good morning, Soledad. Good to see you.

That's right. As if buying a house wasn't stressful enough, now it turns out that just applying for the loan can cause headaches or worse.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WILLIS (voice-over): When you apply for a mortgage loan, you expect to share intimate financial details with your lender. But what you don't know is that some of the information will likely be sold to other lenders behind your back.

The credit bureaus are selling a new product called a trigger list, and you land on one the minute a lender pulls your credit report. It works like this. When you apply for a loan, your lender pulls your credit report from a credit bureau. Then the credit bureau turns around and sells some of that private data to competing lenders.

The sheer fact that you're in the market for a mortgage is valuable information. It means you're a hot lead. Now lenders of all sorts swoop in with low-ball offers, filling your mailbox and answering machine within hours. Getting a bunch of competing offers isn't always a bad thing, but you could become the target of a bait and switch.

KEN HARNEY, "WASHINGTON POST": Having received the information that you're in the market -- you know, in a 6.5. percent mortgage market, I just call you up and I'll say, well, we'll give you 6 percent. But will that actually ever occur? You know, will they come through and deliver that loan? I doubt it.

WILLIS: A bait and switch can cost you time and money, but being on a trigger list opens you up to a more dangerous scam: identity theft.

ED MIERZWINSKI, CONSUMER ADVOCATE: Someone working at a company that has a list of names could easily take the information in that list and convert it into identity theft.

WILLIS: Fortunately, there's a quick and easy way to protect yourself. The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires the big three reporting agencies -- Equifax, Experion and TransUnion -- provide a toll-free opt-out number. One call to the credit bureaus, and your name is off the list forever.

Call 1-888-5-OPT-OUT, and they'll walk you through it. You can also do it online. So do yourself a favor and opt out. A five-minute phone call could save you time and money.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WILLIS: And more good news. It also cuts down on the overall junk mail that you receive, because you'll get taken off the list for credit card solicitations, too. So less junk mail, Soledad, fewer headaches.

S. O'BRIEN: You say five minutes. Is it really a five-minute phone call?

WILLIS: It's really a five-minute phone call. It's very simple. We went through it over the phone. You do it in less than five minutes. One thing to keep in mind is they do ask for your Social Security number, which makes people nervous.

S. O'BRIEN: Right. Don't give out your Social Security number.

WILLIS: To anybody, right? But in this case, you want to do it, absolutely. Also, there are two opt-out options. One is for two years. The other is for a lifetime. I think go for the lifetime.

S. O'BRIEN: Really, there's no benefit in getting competing offers sent to you by people who really want your business?

WILLIS: The better thing to do, particularly for credit cards -- because that's most of the offers that you'll be opting out of -- is to go do the research yourself. Most of the offers that you get through the mail, probably not the ones you want to pick out anyway.

S. O'BRIEN: All right, Gerri, good advice, as always. Thank you.

WILLIS: You're welcome.

S. O'BRIEN: Miles?

M. O'BRIEN: Coming up at the top of the hour, more Gerri Willis. Wait a minute, Gerri, we just had you here. We got more! She's multi-talented, multi-dimensional, and has many more things to tell you about. She's going to answer your e-mail questions, everything from real estate commissions to foreclosure, because she does the real estate thing, you know?

But first, here's CNN's Valerie Morris with today's "Life After Work."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VALERIE MORRIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As an antique dealer for 30 years, Martha Rollins worked at revitalizing used items, making them new and beautiful. Today her work is similar, only now she's helping restore people who were previously incarcerated.

MARTHA FRANCK ROLLINS, FOUNDER, BOAZ & RUTH: We believe the prison and jails are filled with gifted people and that we're helping to release these gifts back to society.

MORRIS: Rollins founded Boaz and Ruth in Richmond, Virginia. It's a nonprofit offering jobs, career training and life lessons, like anger management and public speaking. Trainees work at one of Boaz and Ruth's six businesses. They are all located in an area desperate for an economic boost.

ROLLINS: It had been empty blocks, dealers on the corner selling drugs. High, high crime. And by locating the businesses where no sane retailer would ever go, we're bringing hope back to the neighborhood, people are getting meaningful jobs and paying taxes and becoming productive citizens. So it's making a difference. And the most important part of my job is living in the miracle of transformation of people, and realizing that I'm transformed daily, too.

MORRIS: Valerie Morris, CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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