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AMERICAN MORNING

Southeast Twisters; Bush Asian Mission; McCain Explores Bid; Changing Iraq Strategy; Freeing the Intrepid

Aired November 16, 2006 - 06:00   ET

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


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Natures furry. Tornadoes roar across the south, hitting some homes and a preschool for children. We're live with some amazing survival stories.
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Back on the world stage. President Bush is in Singapore this morning talking about everything from trade to nuclear weapons.

M. O'BRIEN: A father's outrage. Fred Goldman slams O.J. Simpson and the new book that Simpson's publisher says is O.J.'s confession.

S. O'BRIEN: And disorder in court. A murder victim's family strikes back literally at the accused killer.

Those stories and much more on this AMERICAN MORNING.

M. O'BRIEN: Good morning to you. Thursday, November 16. I'm Miles O'Brien.

S. O'BRIEN: And I'm Soledad O'Brien. Thanks for being with us.

We begin this morning with that round of deadly late-season storms in the south, through Louisiana and the Carolinas. Tornadoes, heavy rain, high winds and the storm front still on the move today. CNN's David Mattingly is in Montgomery, Alabama, for us this morning.

Good morning to you, David.

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad.

This was truly a powerful storm. A late fall, winter system, leaving destruction for hundreds of miles.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATTINGLY, (voice over): All across the south, skies blackened and warnings urged people to take cover. A sweeping storm front brought deadly winds and dropped torrential rain from Louisiana to the Carolinas. In south Louisiana, one man was killed when a tornado hit his home early Wednesday morning. In Mississippi, eight were injured, six of them when a tornado struck the community of Rocky Branch. And in Alabama, severe winds and tornadoes ripped up roofs, trees and power line. In Montgomery, a recreation and daycare center with 31 children inside was smashed to the ground.

LIBERTY DUKE, DAY-CARE OWNER: It's not what everyone talks about, the freight train sounds. It wasn't that for us. It was just devastation and it was just that quick.

MATTINGLY: Liberty Duke lead the frantic staff as they climbed through rubble to reach the huddled children. The young a mere eight weeks old. Duke's own five-year-old was among the injured with a cut on his head.

DUKE: There was some gentlemen that came up -- I don't know who they were -- that were there as fast as we were and were helping us get the babies out and over a lot of debris and metal and rebar and just a lot of sharp glass.

MATTINGLY: The cement block and metal frame building was no match for the violent blast of wind. Owners credit the four supervising adults for reacting quickly and taking the children to a safe part of the building before it came crashing down.

DUKE: They did it the way they're trained to, but above and beyond they did it because they love their class and their kids and it was very clear today they would have died for them.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTINGLY: And because of that dedication, of the 31 children who were inside that building that you see behind me right now, only two needed to be admitted to the hospital. Otherwise, there were just a lot of scrapes and bruising.

Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Dave Mattingly for us this morning.

Thank you, David.

Let's get right to Chad Myers at the CNN Weather Center with more on these storms and where they're heading now.

Good morning to you, Chad.

(WEATHER REPORT)

M. O'BRIEN: President Bush in Singapore with a call to his political foes in the U.S. Just this last hour, the president saying America must reject the path toward isolationism and protectionism. The president arrives there weakened by election losses but determined to flex U.S. muscle in the region and to diffuse the nuclear standoff with North Korea. CNN's Elaine Quijano live in Singapore with more.

Elaine.

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello to you, Miles.

Well, President Bush here in Asia wants to strike a confident tone. A tone of resoluteness here in Asia. During that speech last hour here in Singapore, the president stressing the need for cooperation between the United States and Asian countries, talking about issues, of course, dealing with the economy and dealing with trade.

But also stressing security matters. As you mentioned, the issues that is first and foremost here in this region, North Korea and its nuclear weapons ambitions.

But the president's visit here to Asia comes at a time, of course, when his own Republican Party have suffered losses in bought houses of Congress. So the president's message here in Singapore today was also aimed squarely at Democrats.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Terrorism, the proliferation of disease that had the potential to undermine our prosperity.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

QUIJANO: The president essentially saying what you noted at the very beginning, Miles, that the United States should not drift toward isolationism, protectionism. This, of course, is an opportunity for leaders here in the region to see firsthand whether or not President Bush has been weakened at all, whether or not there is a change in his posture, in his stance, and whether or not he remains committed to the issue of free trade particularly.

Now, we should note, of course, from here in Singapore, the president will be going on to the APEC Summit. That summit of 21 Pacific Rim nation leaders. That's set to take place in Ha Noi, Vietnam, this weekend.

And on the sidelines of that, Miles, North Korea will be a big issue as well. The president sitting down with the leaders of Japan, China, Russia to discuss what the way forward should be to get North Korea back to the negotiating table. They have said they will do so. Of course, no date has been set yet.

Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Elaine Quijano in Singapore. Sorry about the audio difficulties on that.

Here in the U.S., the race to succeed George Bush getting more crowded and interesting every day. Today Arizona Senator John McCain takes an expected step, creating his presidential exploratory committee. McCain is a frontrunner in the latest CNN/Opinion Research poll. More than half of those questioned, 52 percent, like him. Candy Crowley with more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The '06 elections, so yesterday. All the cool kids are into '08. Bringing us to John McCain, who has a new zippy website and will file papers today to form a presidential exploratory committee. Think of it as a non- announcement announcement. Of course, McCain's been exploring for a couple of years now. Just this year, in this order, McCain made up with conservative Christians he insulted during his 2000 presidential bid, wooed George Bush's old donors and campaigned like the Energizer bunny. McCain's own tally shows he attended 346 events, flew 138,000 miles and raced over $10.5 million for Republican candidates.

But really, who's counting? He hopes all those candidates he helped. That's who.

An exploratory committee is really paperwork and a little hype. McCain will put some words and muscle behind it today when he delivers what his office calls two major speeches, both about the future of the Republican Party, which McCain hopes includes him.

Candy Crowley, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

M. O'BRIEN: And former Wisconsin governor Tommy Thompson also thinking about tossing his hat in the ring. Thompson served as Health and Human Services secretary during President Bush's first term. Thompson tells CNN radio he thinks healthcare will be a big issue in the 2008 election. CNN sources say Thompson will create a presidential exploratory committee after the first of year.

Of course, all the day's political new is available on the CNN Political Ticker anytime, day or night. It there's for you. Click on cnn.com/ticker.

S. O'BRIEN: American's top general for the Middle East is talking about a "major change" in strategy in the fight in Iraq. General John Abizaid revealing his plan and playing defense too before a highly critical Senate Armed Services Committee. Here's CNN's Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT, (voice over): The general in charge of the war in Iraq outright rejected Democratic calls for a timetable for troop withdrawal.

GEN. JOHN ABIZAID, COMMANDER, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: At this stage in the campaign, we'll need flexibility to manage our force and to help manage the Iraqi force. Force caps and specific timetables limit that flexibility.

STARR: And then he rejected the call from the Republicans for sending additional ground combat forces.

ABIZAID: I do not believe that more American troops right now is the solution to the problem.

STARR: But Abizaid admitted changes are need and he recommended a new focus -- on training Iraqis. ABIZAID: I am saying we must significantly increase our ability to help the Iraqi army by putting more American troops with Iraqi units and military transition teams to speed the amount of training.

STARR: Abizaid was accompanied by the State Department's top diplomat on Iraq, who opened the door to another current idea, getting Iran to stop influencing Iraqi Shia militias.

DAVID SATTERFIELD, U.S. COORDINATOR FOR IRAQ: With respect to Iran, we are prepared, in principle, to discuss Iranian activities in Iraq.

STARR: But the CIA director made it clear Iran is far from helpful.

GENERAL MICHAEL HAYDEN, DIRECTOR, CIA: The Iranian hand appears to be powerful and I would offer the view it appears to be growing. And Iranian ambitions in Iraq seem to be expanding.

STARR: General Abizaid warned that time could be running out before Iraq reaching the tipping point where the violence spins out of control.

Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

S. O'BRIEN: In America this morning, families of six miners who were killed in that Sago Mine disaster now suing the mine owners. They claim the International Coal Group did not maintain safe working conditions and the lawsuit also accusing the company of causing emotional distress by waiting too long to correct early, wrong reports that the miners had survived.

In Houston, a teenager who was beaten and sexually assaulted in at a party last spring testified that he doesn't remember the attack that nearly killed him. Prosecutors accuse David Henry Tuck, an alleged white supremacist, of attacking the victim because the victim is Hispanic. Closing arguments are expected today.

Travelers will have one less thing to worry about this holiday season. Two companies, Hefty and Glad, are now offering free plastic baggies. That is such a good idea. New regulations, of course, say if you're, you know, flying, you've got to pull your gels and lotions, three ounces, no more, into a clear plastic bag. Lots of times I get tot he airport, no plastic bag, got to throw everything out.

Former Dallas Cowboy. Ooh, I love it. I love the outfit.

M. O'BRIEN: Kind of takes your breath away, doesn't it?

S. O'BRIEN: I love the outfit. I love the dancing.

M. O'BRIEN: Look at those shoes. Look at those shoes.

S. O'BRIEN: He's the winner. Light on his feet man, Emmitt Smith. That's his partner, Cheryl Burke, too. They are the winners of "Dancing with the Stars." Smith, of course, won out over the very acclaimed Mario Lopez. The judges had given them equal scores, but the viewers rang in and Emmett was the favorite and won. He looks all right. That's kind of a -- you should wear that.

M. O'BRIEN: You know right at the end, when he won, he spiked her.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes, that was cute.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes, it was kind of ugly. No.

I tell you, I will not be the one to make fun of his green shoes to his face, that's for sure.

S. O'BRIEN: No, he . . .

M. O'BRIEN: Yes.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes, he could take you.

M. O'BRIEN: Fresh reaction this morning to O.J. Simpson's latest move.

S. O'BRIEN: Oh, what a disturbing story this is, huh?

M. O'BRIEN: Yes, it really is. The father of Ron Goldman has harsh words for Simpson and the publishers of a startling new book. We'll tell you about that next.

And the latest battle for a battle-hardened ship stuck in the mud. The effort to free the USS Intrepid when AMERICAN MORNING returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

M. O'BRIEN: Some of the top stories we're following.

President Bush meeting with leaders in Singapore right now. The president travels through Asia this week, talking about trade and North Korea's nuclear threat.

Here at home, wild weather battering states from Texas to North Carolina. Two children hurt after a tornado tore apart their preschool in Alabama.

O.J. Simpson is out with a book and a TV interview that is supposed to be hypothetical but is sparking some genuine outrage. The premise, if he had killed his ex-wife, Nicole Brown, and her friend, Ron Goldman, this is how he would have done it. The title is "If I did it." It's due out in two weeks. The Fox interview airs about the same time. Ron Goldman's father Fred spoke out on "Larry King Live" last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) FRED GOLDMAN, RON GOLDMAN'S FATHER: Appalled. I don't know other -- there were a lot of other words but none of them we want to use on TV. It was amazing to me that this whole thing has gotten as far as it's gotten. Nothing would surprise me that this SOB would do. But the fact that someone is willing to publish this garbage, that Fox is willing to put it on air is just morally despicable to me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

M. O'BRIEN: You can catch "Larry King Live" every night, 9:00 Eastern, right here on CNN.

Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Hudson River mud still has a pretty tight hold on the USS Intrepid. The aircraft character turned museum was supposed to be moved to Bayone (ph), New Jersey, for some sprucing up. But it couldn't be budged because of all the years of built up silt and mud. CNN's Rob Marciano caught up with the Navy and the Army Corp of Engineers who are now coming to the rescue.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROB MARCIANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT, (voice over): This majestic ship served heroically in World War II, launching air offences and surviving fiery kamikaze attacks. Then it serves in Vietnam. It even was used to recover space ships for NASA. But last week, the mighty USS Intrepid met its match -- a big pile of mud.

BILL WHITE, PRESIDENT OF THE INTREPID: As you can see behind us, you've got a big barge that's undergoing dredging operations right now to remove the silt underneath the Intrepid.

MARCIANO: After 24 years as a dock side museum, the Intrepid was due for renovations and was to be towed five miles down the Hudson River. But more than two decades of accumulating river silt put a snag in the plan.

WHITE: We need to plow the driveway to get her out into the federal channel.

MARCIANO: And that might take a while considering the size of the ship. Tip to tail it measures 906 feet. That's almost as long as the Eifle Tower is tall. From the bottom of the keel to the top of the mast, it's 17 stories high. It drafts 28 feet, meaning it needs 30 feet of water to float.

Right here, the stern of the boat, how deep is the water?

MICHAEL HERB, U.S. NAVY: Right now, based on some of the sound, it varies. But it varies anywhere from 35. There are some spots that are 15, 12 feet.

MARCIANO: So not deep enough.

HERB: Not right now. But that's why we're digging. MARCIANO: Michael Herb is in charge of freeing the stuck ship. His Navy salvage team is dredging round the clock and he says it could take as long as five weeks. I asked a member of the Army Corps of Engineers how the ship got stuck in the first place.

MAJ. LEONARD LAW, ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS: The problem that they ran into is with the propellers, which, you know, caught into a little bit of the mud at the bottom. And as they tried to pull it out, pushed up a large enough clump of mud to stop the ship from moving further.

MARCIANO: Although the Intrepid is stuck for now, there is no doubt with its history that this will be a battle it will eventually win.

Rob Marciano, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

S. O'BRIEN: And we hope it wins it soon.

Seventeen minutes past the hour. If you're heading out the door, let's check in with Chad. He's at the CNN Weather Center.

Good morning to you, Chad.

(WEATHER REPORT)

S. O'BRIEN: Thank you for not smoking, even in your own home. A Colorado couple wants their neighbors to butt out of their business. We'll tell you about a surprising court ruling straight ahead.

And a comb, a cat, a Katie. We'll give you all the details of the upcoming Tom Cruise/Katie Holmes wedding. Can't wait. That's when AMERICAN MORNING returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Arizona Republican Senator John McCain is forming a presidential exploratory committee today. Of course, that is the first step that's needed to run for a presidential race in 2008.

Well, relatives of the six men who were killed in the Sago Mine disaster in West Virginia are suing. They say the mine's owners and supply company didn't pay enough attention to safety.

M. O'BRIEN: In America this morning, a second U.S. Marine scheduled to be sentenced today for his role in the kidnap and murder of an Iraqi civilian. Private First Class John Jodka sentenced Wednesday on reduced charges to 18 months in custody in a plea deal. He apologized for his role in the killing.

Elkhart, Indiana. Four children found dead, suffocated in their home while their mother clings to life in a hospital. Investigators don't know who did it or why, but they're looking into custody dispute between the woman and her ex-husband.

In Colorado, a judge makes a new golden rule. A couple no longer allowed to smoke in their townhouse in Golden. The condo association recently voted to ban smoking there. The couple sued for the right to light up at home but the judge snuffed out their effort.

Blue Grass singer Alison Krauss playing Santa this year for thousands of children in Kentucky, Virginia and Tennessee. Krauss is helping deliver 15 tons of gifts, candy and clothes to kids in need. It's the 64th Annual Santa Train Charity Express. A 110-mile course to 13 small towns. I wonder if she'll stop at Union Station?

And the end of the line is near for serious gamers spending days in line to buy Sony's new PlayStation 3. You've probably seen them outside your local Best Buy or whatever. This is a location in New York City. The PlayStation 3 . . .

S. O'BRIEN: It's my neighborhood.

M. O'BRIEN: It's in your hood? That's in your hood.

S. O'BRIEN: Downtown, yes. I've seen these people.

M. O'BRIEN: Well, why don't you, you know, send them out a blanket and some food, you know.

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They're going to be waiting for 24 hours.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes.

M. O'BRIEN: Well, it goes on -- it's midnight today, actually.

VELSHI: Tonight, yes.

M. O'BRIEN: Local time. Do your own math on that.

There are only 400,000 units available right now. And I think in that line they'd like to buy all 400,000.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes.

VELSHI: They're not going to play all of the previous games.

M. O'BRIEN: Well, they say it will be backwards compatible, but there's issues.

VELSHI: There's some issues with it. Yes.

M. O'BRIEN: There's some issues. Like it plays parts of it.

VELSHI: Sometimes it doesn't have all the features, yes.

M. O'BRIEN: Like no music. It freezes up. VELSHI: Yes.

M. O'BRIEN: They've got to work out this particular issues because a lot of people really want to play the old games as well.

VELSHI: It's a tough year for Sony.

S. O'BRIEN: And the old games are expensive. They'd better play the old games.

VELSHI: Yes.

M. O'BRIEN: Exactly.

VELSHI: It's all about the games.

M. O'BRIEN: I did see it yesterday. It is spectacular. The graphics are unbelievable.

All right, let's move on. Let's talk about Wal-Mart.

Ali Velshi, good morning to you.

VELSHI: Good morning.

M. O'BRIEN: Wal-Mart and politics, huh?

VELSHI: Well, surprise, surprise. And it's just about Christmastime, so the country's biggest retailer, which also happens to be the country's biggest private employer, is the target of yet another campaign to get them to pay higher wages and to improve health benefits. Now you're going to find a couple of prominent Democrats in the anti-Wal-Mart aisle.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VELSHI, (voice over): Just in time for Christmas, the union supported group Wake-up Wal-Mart is renewing its attacks on the giant retailer and they're bringing out the heavy artillery.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) ILLINOIS: You've got to pay your workers enough that they can actually not only shop at Wal-Mart but hopefully send their kids to college and save for retirement.

VELSHI: Illinois Senator Barack Obama and former Senator John Edwards, two of the Democrat Party's brightest stars, took part in a national conference call Wednesday in support of a holiday campaign targeting Wal-Mart for its treatment of workers.

JOHN EDWARDS, (D) FORMER NORTH CAROLINA SENATOR: Being able to earn a living wage, being able to have the health care coverage that they need, that's what's at stake in this Wake-up Wal-Mart campaign.

VELSHI: The nation's largest retailer is no stranger to criticism. Of Wal-Mart's 1.3 millions U.S. employees, critics say fewer than half are covered by health insurance and that the average Wal-Mart worker earns less than $20,000 a year. Wal-Mart disputes that.

OBAMA: Wal-Mart is making a large profit and they don't have foreign competition. What that are doing, though, is driving wages down significantly for not only workers at Wal-Mart, but they're also driving down wages for competitors.

VELSHI: Wal-Mart issued a statement saying, "we are disappointed that Senator Obama and former Senator Edwards chose to participate in this politically-motivated event that is clearly attacking the wrong company. Americans know that Wal-Mart creates jobs, reduces the cost of health care through $4 generic drugs and is a leader on the environment."

EAMON JAVERS, "BUSINESSWEEK": This is not an attempt really to damage the sales floor of Wal-Mart. This is an attempt politically to force Wal-Mart to allow its workforce, which is the largest in the nation, to unionize. That's what this fight is about and that is gaining some momentum. And clearly with Democrats in power, we're going to see only more heat on Wal-Mart going forward.

VELSHI: And Eamon Javers says the Wake-up Wal-Mart campaign is a political building block for the Obama in '08 campaign.

JAVERS: If we needed it, we just got our first piece of evidence that Barack Obama is running for president as a Democrat. He's already out there sucking up to the unions. And they're going to be a key demographic that he's going to need if he wants to win the Democratic nomination in 2008. So this is politics, local, early, and often.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VELSHI: Now, while Wal-Mart does have the effect of probably keeping wages lower, one of the interesting things in Wal-Mart's corner is it has been one of the biggest proponent of the increase in the minimum wage across this country. Wal-Mart is a direct benefit when low wage earners earn a little bit more money because they'll spend it at Wal-Mart.

M. O'BRIEN: Well, that's interesting. And, what, the bargain that the U.S. and people we've all been willing to deal with here is that Wal-Mart provides low prices and people are there buying their things.

VELSHI: Right. And that has done a lot for the economy and the United States. They can buy things for less money. But the effects are that they don't pay as well as they could.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes, Ali Velshi, thank you.

VELSHI: OK.

S. O'BRIEN: Do you guys want to hear some of the new details about the Tomkat wedding.

VELSHI: Total. M. O'BRIEN: I need detail. I need to know every.

S. O'BRIEN: I know. Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, often called Tomkat.

M. O'BRIEN: What's he wearing? Tell me about the cake. I want to know it all. Is he coming in on a horse?

S. O'BRIEN: Well, I don't know any of that.

M. O'BRIEN: Oh. Sorry. Never mind.

S. O'BRIEN: Some people are going to say that it might happen in this castle. Let's show a picture of the castle please. There it is. Lovely, isn't it. It's Bracciano in Italy, just outside of Rome.

M. O'BRIEN: Nicely done.

S. O'BRIEN: Thank you.

The couple -- it's so close to Spanish, it's not to hard for me.

The couple has not been seen yet but the locals say you could do it by coming in by boat from the other side of Lake Bracciano and then driving. See, that would get you away from the paparazzi.

M. O'BRIEN: What, you mean, giving out the secrets?

S. O'BRIEN: Yes. Probably not much of a secret.

M. O'BRIEN: Poor Tomkat.

S. O'BRIEN: Here's a little bit about the ceremony. Scientologists say weddings in their religion are like Christians weddings, more or less, with a flower girl, a ring, the music, big party afterward. During the ceremony, though, the groom is reminded that girls need frilly things and they also need a pan, a comb, and perhaps a cat. That's actually the phrase that so many . . .

M. O'BRIEN: Huh?

S. O'BRIEN: Perhaps a cat. You will provider her with a pan, a comb and perhaps a cat.

M. O'BRIEN: That's a Scientology thing?

VELSHI: I've got some spare combs to donate.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes, you've got them, all right. Yes, you don't need them.

S. O'BRIEN: I could probably kick in a pan or two. God knows I don't cook at all.

M. O'BRIEN: They tried to put a no-fly zone over that castle.

S. O'BRIEN: Did they?

M. O'BRIEN: They wouldn't do it. They wouldn't do it. The Italian authorities said no. It's going to be for, you know, something . . .

S. O'BRIEN: Really big?

M. O'BRIEN: Big. Well, security.

S. O'BRIEN: What's bigger?

VELSHI: And as soon as they get married, they're going have a baby.

M. O'BRIEN: Oh, I think they already did.

VELSHI: They did that out of order.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes, that's all right. That's all right.

S. O'BRIEN: Isn't that exciting.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes.

S. O'BRIEN: Now you know.

M. O'BRIEN: I'm beside myself.

S. O'BRIEN: And also he hoped it would kick off his big comeback. But is the thriller gone? Take a look at these pictures. Michael Jackson -- do we have any video of this? Yes, there he is. Look. He is skinny. He returns to the stage. We'll tell you about this performance straight ahead this morning.

Also, China's issuing a new decree to control the population. They're now trying to limit the number of pets, not just the number of children.

And President Bush speaks in Singapore after a warm, but a little bit weary welcome. We'll bring you the latest from there as well when AMERICAN MORNING continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

S. O'BRIEN: Terror from the sky. Tornadoes tear across the southern U.S. One slams right into a preschool full of children.

M. O'BRIEN: Mixing business and pleasure. President Bush in Singapore this morning, making a little music, and coming up for some tough words for North Korea as well.

S. O'BRIEN: Could he be a contender? Arizona senator John McCain is taking the first step toward a 2008 presidential run. We'll tell you who else is eying the White House.

M. O'BRIEN: And a one-dog town. China is posing a tough crackdown on pets in Beijing.

All that and more on this AMERICAN MORNING.

S. O'BRIEN: Good morning. Welcome back, everybody. It's Thursday, November 16th.

I'm Soledad O'Brien.

M. O'BRIEN: I'm miles O'Brien.

Thanks for being with us.

President Bush in Singapore with a call to his political foes in the U.S. In that speech just in the last hour, the president saying America must reject the path toward isolation and protectionism. The president arrived there weakened by election losses but determined to flex U.S. muscle in the region.

CNN's Brianna Keilar watching things from Washington for us.

Brianna, good morning.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Miles, good morning to you.

And that's right, this is the president's first test on the international stage since his party received what he called a thumping in last week's midterm elections. And demonstrators in at least one of the president's Asian destinations are making it clear they don't like him.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR (voice over): President Bush won't visit Indonesia until Monday, after the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, but already protesters are out in droves. In Jakarta, groups ranging from radical Muslims to leftist students are staging rallies, ridiculing President Bush and Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

In Singapore, President Bush received a warmer welcome from Singapore's prime minister.

LEE HSIEN LOONG, SINGAPORE PRIME MINISTER: Singapore is very happy that America has a stake in the region and is growing the stake in the region. And we would like to help this to happen and to ensure that this continues for a long time to come.

KEILAR: Mr. Bush is reassuring nervous Asian allies of global trade policies following the shakeup of the midterm elections.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: America will remain engaged in Asia because our interests depend on the expansion of freedom and opportunity in this region. In this new century our trade across the Pacific is greater than our trade across the Atlantic.

(END VIDEOTAPE) KEILAR: Organizers of the APEC summit are concerned that talk of a nuclear North Korea could eclipse their goals for moving forward with issues of global trade, but it's clearly an issue for the United States. The president just saying that morning that if North Korea chooses a peaceful path, the U.S. is prepared to provide security assurances, economic assistance, and also other benefits for the North Korean people -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Brianna Keilar in Washington.

Thanks -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: John McCain makes his move. Tommy Thompson wants in. Rudy Giuliani might be warming up. There is no shortage of potential runners in the race for the White House in 2008.

CNN Senior Political Analyst Bill Schneider has the very latest for us this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Today John McCain is expected to announce he's forming an exploratory committee for a possible 2008 presidential bid. Rudy Giuliani did that already. Two other Republicans, Tommy Thompson and Duncan Hunter, have said they intend to form exploratory committees.

Now, why don't they just say, "I'm running for president. Vote for me"? They're testing the waters, gauging whether there's enough interest and support for them to launch a full-fledged campaign.

Call it the "show me the money" stage. While they're just exploring, candidates can raise money and spend it, but they don't have to disclose where the money comes from or what they're doing with it until they actually declare for president, when they have to show us the money and tell us where it came from.

One Democrat, Tom Vilsack, skipped the exploratory committee altogether and said, the heck with it, I'm running for president.

Now, why so many candidate dates so early? Two reasons. 2008 will be the most wide-open race in more than 50 years. It's the first race since 1952 when we expect neither the incumbent president nor the vice president will be on the ballot. Anybody can run, and it looks like everybody is.

Another incentive, this year's midterm revealed a powerful market for change. Voters are looking for something entirely different from either party.

Something different all those contenders are saying? "You know, that could be me."

Bill Schneider, CNN, Los Angeles.

(END VIDEOTAPE) S. O'BRIEN: And there are some other possible Republicans contenders not officially in quite yet -- Tennessee senator and Senate majority leader Bill Frist, who's retiring from the Senate after his term. Also, New York's outgoing governor, George Pataki, Kansas senator Sam Brownback, who's got lots of religious right support.

Among the Democrats, take a look at this list -- New York senator Hillary Clinton, who hasn't yet said if she's running; freshman senator Barack Obama of Illinois is getting a lot of attention after his latest book tour; and Senator Joe Biden of Delaware, he could try again. He's currently in the lead -- line, rather, to lead the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

All those folks could be in the race.

M. O'BRIEN: And it's still early.

Happening this morning, House Democrats vote their leadership team, while Republicans have their Senate leadership in place. It is now highlighted by the comeback of Trent Lott.

The Mississippi senator is the new minority whip, the number two leadership post. The current Senate majority whip, Kentucky's Mitch McConnell, becomes the new minority leader.

The mighty and fabled USS Intrepid still stuck in the mud in the Hudson River. The Navy and the Army Corps of Engineers working to free the aircraft carrier-turned-floating museum. The Intrepid should be on the other side of the river by now in Bayonne, New Jersey, for a big facelift, but the ship's props got stuck in 24 years of built-up mud. Salvage workers say it may take as long as five weeks to free the Intrepid.

Details are out now about a Thanksgiving eve spacewalk from the International Space Station. Commander Mike Lopez-Alegria and flight engineer Mikhail Tyurin will retrieve equipment and photograph the station. Tyurin will also hit a golf ball from a specially designed tee. It's part of a commercial thing, and I've got -- I've got all the gadgets.

S. O'BRIEN: That's got to be a good commercial.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes. We've done an interview with him already, and we've got the stuff. We'll give you a demonstration later on that.

And today is the 30th anniversary of the Great American Smokeout. The American Cancer Society started the event to challenge smokers to kick the habit for just one day as a start to quitting tobacco for good. It's been a popular promotional effort over the years -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Disorder in the court this morning. A family comes face to face with an accused killer, and their rage does, too. Not waiting for justice to take its course.

Take a look at these pictures. And some shocking revelations and angry reactions, too. O.J. Simpson's got a new book out, a TV special, also. And it is reopening some old wounds.

We'll take a look at that straight ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

S. O'BRIEN: Here's a look now at stories that CNN correspondents around the world are covering today.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Jim Bittermann in Paris, where we'll be covering late today the first political primary in French history as the socialist party chooses its candidate for president. And if the frontrunner's poll numbers hold up until the elections next April, she could become the first female president in French history.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALPHONSO VAN MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Alphonso Van Marsh in South Africa, a country set to be the first in the continent and one of just a handful in the world to recognize same-sex marriages. South Africa's president is looking to sign a civil union bill into law by December, and just like the in United States, this sort of legislation is not without controversy.

I'll have the story of a young gay South African couple who says all they want is the right to marry someday.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JAIME FLORCRUZ, CNN BEIJING BUREAU CHIEF: I'm Jaime FlorCruz in Beijing, where the police are now checking dog licenses to implement a so-called one-dog-per-family policy. All in the name of checking (ph) the spread of rabies. This has forced many families to walk their dogs in their basement or their garage.

They're also looking out for big dogs, saying they're too dangerous. And that's why these Golden Retrievers, Molly and Hippy (ph), are now virtual prisoners in their own homes.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MALLIKA KAPUR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Mallika Kapur in London.

Michael Jackson was in town last night for a supposed comeback of sorts, and to receive the Diamond Award given to musicians who sell more than 100 million records. His performance, though, at the event was no thriller. Fans had been expecting him to sing "Thriller," but he disappointed, singing just a few lines of "We are the World" instead.

Now, it's the first time Michael Jackson has performed in public since being acquitted of child molestation charges last year. By most accounts, it was a letdown.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

S. O'BRIEN: For more on these or any of our top stories, log on to our Web site at CNN.com.

S. O'BRIEN: Well, you could call these guys daredevils. A little bit of a death wish, a group of extreme divers in Mexico. I'm having a hard time speaking today.

Take a look at this videotape. It's pretty amazing.

It is the World Cliff Diving Championship near Acapulco. Sixteen competitors. Look at this. Wow.

M. O'BRIEN: Whoa.

S. O'BRIEN: They throw themselves off a ledge. The water's 110 feet below.

M. O'BRIEN: I think one of the keys is, as I recall, you have to time it right so that the swell is at the -- the apex of the swell. Otherwise it's too shallow.

S. O'BRIEN: Well, when I was doing this last year in Acapulco, Miles...

M. O'BRIEN: Oh, look at that! What a great shot!

S. O'BRIEN: Isn't that a great shot?

M. O'BRIEN: Wow!

S. O'BRIEN: Obviously outfitted him a little camera.

M. O'BRIEN: Wow! That's speedo cam.

S. O'BRIEN: Orlando...

M. O'BRIEN: Where did we stick that thing? I don't want that camera back. You can keep it. You know with what I mean?

S. O'BRIEN: Yes, really. It's like, huh, where did they put that camera?

M. O'BRIEN: Yes.

S. O'BRIEN: Diving sensation Orlando Duque from Colombia won this year.

M. O'BRIEN: Look at the judges there.

S. O'BRIEN: Isn't that neat?

M. O'BRIEN: Even being a judge there is precarious, right?

All right. It's a quarter to the hour. Let's get Chad in the mix here.

Chad, where did they put that camera?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: I have no idea.

M. O'BRIEN: Don't ask. Don't ask. Yes.

MYERS: That was strapped to him somehow.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes.

MYERS: Hey, good morning, everybody.

(WEATHER REPORT)

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

MYERS: Sure.

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

O.J. Simpson in the headlines again. This time it's over a book called "If I Did I," the hypothetical topic of how he would have killed his wife and her friend.

And tragedy at a fireworks factory in Wisconsin. An explosion and then a fire sends three people to the burn unit. We'll update you on their conditions as well.

Stay with us. You're watching AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

M. O'BRIEN: Welcome back to the program. Let's go to the grid, check some of the feeds we are watching for you this morning.

Take a look down there -- Brad -- incoming 20. That's David Mattingly's live location. We're following some terrible storms that whipped through Alabama, Georgia, and parts of the Florida panhandle.

In one case a daycare center filled with kids collapsed. We're going to talk to the woman who ran that daycare center a little later on the program. A harrowing tale, to say the least.

Look at incoming 16, NASA television. That's some videotape feeds of the next crew to fly on the space shuttle Discovery. A little later in the day, though, they'll have a briefing on that very feed on this spacewalk which is coming up Wednesday of next week, Thanksgiving eve our time, where the cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin will hit a golf shot which probably will be the longest golf shot ever in the history of this planet or beyond.

And the Intrepid, we've got three versions of that -- 571, 85 ad 551. Still there. They're now saying five to six weeks before the Intrepid could be unstuck from the mud -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Miles, thanks.

Well, it is disgusting and bizarre. O.J. Simpson's got a new book out, and it's a book in which he describes killing his wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and Ron Goldman, her friend hypothetically. He claims it is not a confession.

Ted Rowlands has details for us this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Either O.J. Simpson is trying to tell us he's guilty or he's just making some cash from the 1994 murders of his ex-wife and her acquaintance, Ron Goldman.

His new book "If I Did It" is described by the publisher as "a bone-chilling account of the night of the murders, in which Simpson pictures himself at the center of the action... a terrifying eye- opening portrait of a deeply conflicted man."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You wrote, "I have never seen so much blood in my life."

ROWLANDS: There's also a two-part television show featuring Simpson airing on the FOX Entertainment Network, which they've already started to promote. According to this FOX promo, at one point Simpson apparently talks about the amount of blood at the crime scene.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The interview that will shock the nation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You wrote, "I had never seen so much blood in my life."

O.J. SIMPSON, AUTHOR: I don't think any two people could be murdered without everybody being covered in blood.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: O.J. Simpson: "If I Did It, Here's How it Happened."

ROWLANDS: The idea that someone may actually be paying O.J. to offer a morbid analysis of the gruesome murders has outraged the victims' families. Nicole Brown's sister Denise, in a statement, says, "It's unfortunate that Simpson has decided to awaken a nightmare that we have painfully endured and worked so hard to move beyond. We regret that Nicole's children Sydney and Justin will be exposed to Simpson's 'inexplicable behavior."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We the jury in the above entitled action find the defendant, Orenthal James Simpson, not guilty of the crime of murder. ROWLANDS: Because Simpson was found not guilty 11 years ago in the criminal trial, nothing he says in the show or in the book could lead to a new trial for the murders. But because he lost the civil case, he owes the Goldman and Brown family millions.

Whether they'll get any of the money he stands to make from this deal remains to be seen. The producers of the special and the publishing company, Regan Books, refused to talk to CNN about the project, and they aren't releasing any financial details.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

S. O'BRIEN: That was Ted Rowlands reporting for us.

Now, Ron Goldman's father Fred was talking to "LARRY KING LIVE" last night. Listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FRED GOLDMAN, RON GOLDMAN'S FATHER: Appalled. I don't know other -- there were a lot of other words, but none of them we want to use on TV.

It was amazing to me that this whole thing has gotten as far as it's gotten. Nothing would surprise me that this SOB would do, but the fact that someone is willing to publish this garbage, that FOX is willing to put it on air is just morally despicable to me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

S. O'BRIEN: You can catch Larry King every night, 9:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.

M. O'BRIEN: Happening "In America," Wisconsin, an explosion at a fireworks factory injures three and guts a building at the factory. Investigators still trying to determine the cause.

And a brawl broke out in an Ohio courtroom between a murder suspect and the family of the victims. The suspect, Jason Howard, is accused of killing his girlfriend and her three children. The cousin and brother of the girlfriend lunged at Howard when they faced him in court for the first time, punched him repeatedly. The judge had to cancel the hearing.

Yeah. Go, twinkle toes.

Former Dallas Cowboy Emmitt Smith just -- wow. He can -- he can -- what do you call it, cut a rug, bust a move? Whatever they call that.

Emmitt Smith and hiss partner Cheryl Burke are the winners of "Dancing with the Stars." Smith won out over actor Mario Lopez, even though the judges gave them equal scores. The viewers voted in Smith's touchdown dance victory.

Check out... S. O'BRIEN: I like her outfit.

M. O'BRIEN: Her outfit? Look at those green shoes. Come on.

S. O'BRIEN: I like that too.

M. O'BRIEN: You know, only a guy like Emmitt can get away with that. You know what I mean?

S. O'BRIEN: He looks all right. He can move.

M. O'BRIEN: Because he would knock my block off if I said -- he can move. There's no question. Go Emmitt.

S. O'BRIEN: He was pretty good.

M. O'BRIEN: Congratulations.

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

Deadly storms that cut a swathe right across South -- tornadoes, strong winds, soaking rain. There's more severe weather in the forecast today. We'll tell you about that.

And then we're going to talk about male menopause.

Listen up, Miles.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta explains that men go through the change, too.

M. O'BRIEN: I'm getting hot here. Why is that?

S. O'BRIEN: Is it hot in here?

We're back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

S. O'BRIEN: Folks at the Federal Reserve once again helping to send stocks higher.

Ali Velshi is "Minding Your Business" this morning.

Good morning.

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you.

Yesterday another record on the Dow. I don't know, 16, 17 out of the last 30 trading sessions. I don't even know what it is now. It just keeps on moving higher because investors think that inflation's under control. And, of course, yesterday morning we had that report of US Airways offering to buy Delta. Generally speaking -- unclear whether that deal is going to go through.

Airline mergers are tough, but the industry, the market, likes mergers. It says that there's confidence. If one company's buying another company, it means there's a future in the whole deal.

M. O'BRIEN: And how about the stocks of those two airlines? How did they do?

VELSHI: Surprisingly very well. Delta, of course, is in bankruptcy, so it doesn't have the same effect. But US Airways' stock gained 8 percent or something. It was quite remarkable.

M. O'BRIEN: Interesting. Interesting.

VELSHI: So that's a good deal.

Now, we've got a couple of IPOs to look at. Yesterday Hertz -- Hertz used to be part of Ford, it was sold last year. It went private yesterday. It went public yesterday in an IPO.

Love that Neverlost in Hertz, the navigation system.

M. O'BRIEN: Sit back (INAUDIBLE).

(CROSSTALK)

VELSHI: Yes, so that's -- that's going to help that company out.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes.

VELSHI: And today KBR, Kellogg, Brown & Root -- it's a division of Halliburton, it makes a lot of money in Iraq -- it is expected to go public today. There's been a delay on this, but we'll see how that works out.

M. O'BRIEN: What else you got going?

VELSHI: I'm going to be looking at more stocks, more Wal-Mart in the next hour.

And Merck lost -- won another case yesterday in New Orleans. It's one of -- there are now about 40,000 cases filed against Merck having to do with Vioxx.

M. O'BRIEN: Are we keeping score? Do we know where we stand on this? It's about even, right?

VELSHI: Merck has won six, lost four, had one overturned, 3,000 dismissed, and about 40,000 pending.

M. O'BRIEN: And they're sticking with that strategy?

VELSHI: They're sticking with that one at a time because they think they can win it.

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

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