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AMERICAN MORNING

U.S. Military Confirms Pilot of Downed F-16 is Missing, Search Continues

Aired November 28, 2006 - 07:00:00   ET

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


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR, AMERICAN MORNING: Snow bound: Storms make a mess from the Pacific Northwest to the Rockies on this AMERICAN MORNING.
And welcome back everybody. It is Tuesday, November 28. I'm Soledad O'Brien.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR, AMERICAN MORNING: And I'm Miles O'Brien. Thanks for being with us.

S. O'BRIEN: We begin with breaking news out of Iraq and the fate of the pilot missing now in that F-16 crash that happened outside of Baghdad on Monday. Let's get right to CNN's Arwa Damon. She's in Baghdad for us.

Arwa, good morning. What do you know?

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT, AMERICAN MORNING: Good morning, Soledad.

Some information coming out from the U.S. military. They are conducting an investigation into the cause of that crash that happened while the F-16 fighter jet was conducting a strafing operation in support of ground combat operations.

Now, when U.S forces were finally able to arrive to the site, the did not find the pilot at the crash site. They have collected DNA samples and are conducting testing. Saying that they will release those results when they do have them.

Now, the incident occurred about 20 miles northwest of Baghdad. That is where this crash happened. Those are pretty much the only details that we have right now. We are still waiting for more information, Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Arwa Damon with an update on this story that happened on the air, here, live yesterday. Thanks, Arwa, taking place in Al Anbar Province. We'll check in with Arwa throughout the morning.

Major General William Caldwell is giving an operational briefing. That's a live picture right there. That's happening in Baghdad as well. We're going to continue to monitor this briefing for you, update you as soon as he wraps up -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Now to the pope. He is in Turkey this morning. Landing just about an hour ago. We're getting reports of protests already in the capital. Many in that Muslim nation still angry about the pope's remarks on Islam a few months ago. We're following that, and the pope's movements through Turkey this morning, our special day- long coverage looking at religious tolerance and differences, called "When Faiths Collide". CNN's Faith and Values Correspondent Delia Gallagher joining us on the line from Istanbul with more -- Delia.

DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN FAITH & VALUES CORRESPONDENT, AMERICAN MORNING: Good morning to you, Miles.

As you mentioned, the pope has landed for the much-anticipated four-day visit here in Turkey, coming on the heels of his remarks in Regensburg, which elicited lots of outrage around the world. Turkey has a particular situation, because of course, he's also coming to visit the Orthodox patriarch here, who has had some tensions with the government, and is the head of a small Christian community here in a country, which is 99 percent Muslim.

There are lots of different factors to this papal trip. Today is an important day because he's meeting with the politicians and he will have a chance, later this afternoon, to give a couple of live speeches, which we'll be following. It will be interesting to see exactly what sort of approach he takes. Will he go back over his comments in Regensburg and the whole problem for the apology for that, or will he just try to move on, and put it into the new light? That's something we'll be looking for today -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: So, Delia, we should not expect the pope to issue some sort of apology in the course of this trip?

GALLAGHER: I don't think that he will issue an apology. I do think that he will try to reframe the argument. He'll try to, in some sense, go back over it because he is a person who likes to make his point understood. And I think that he essentially believes what he was saying at Regensburg, but I don't think that this is really the forum for him to sort of go back into kind of academic discussion on Islam and any potential connection between Islam and violence.

I think this is time for him to put it into a more positive light. And keep in mind there are many things that this pope things are admirable about Islam. In particular, the fact that they believe, versus people who don't believe. I mean, that was the whole point of his Regensburg address as well, faith versus non-faith. So I think he thinks that, you know, Christianity also has an ally in Islam. They have a high birth rate, they have a strong morality, and these kinds of things. So he can put it in a much more positive light, which I think maybe some way to easing the tension.

M. O'BRIEN: Delia Gallagher in Istanbul. Thank you very much.

Stay with AMERICAN MORNING and CNN throughout the day for continued coverage of the pope's trip, when "When Faiths Collide".

President Bush, also on the road already this morning. He has spoken out about his upcoming meeting with Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The president heading for Latvia for the two-day NATO summit. From there, he'll head to Jordan to meet the prime minister, al-Maliki. Earlier this morning the president outlined what he hoped to get out of that meeting.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My questions to him will be what do we need to do to succeed? What is your strategy in dealing with the sectarian violence?

I will assure him that we'll continue to pursue Al Qaeda to make sure they're unable to establish a safe haven in Iraq. I will ask him, what is required? And what is your strategy to be a country which can govern itself, and sustain itself. And it's going to be an important meeting. And I'm looking forward to it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

M. O'BRIEN: We'll be monitoring the president's trip and we'll be checking in with CNN correspondents on the road with him, all throughout the morning -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Here at home, New York's Mayor is calling it unacceptable. Michael Bloomberg joining the chorus of concern over the shooting of that young groom-to-be. The young man died in a hail of bullets which were fired by five NYPD officers. Deborah Feyerick brings us the very latest on the case.

Good morning.

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT, AMERICAN MORNING: Good morning, Soledad.

This morning the mayor will continue meeting with community leaders throughout New York City. While he has not condemned the officers, he has not backed them, either. And CNN just learned this morning that at least two security cameras that could have captured the events didn't work.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FEYERICK (voice over): It happened in less than a minute; 50 shots fired by five cops and three unarmed men wrapping up a bachelor party.

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, NEW YORK CITY: It is, to me, unacceptable or inexplicable how you can have 50 odd shots fired.

FEYERICK: It's unclear when all the shooting started, whether it was before or after the car, driven by the men, hit an undercover cop and an unmarked police van. But of the 50 shots fired, 31 were by a single officer.

BLOOMBERG: It sounds to me like excessive force was used.

FEYERICK: Also unclear whether the undercover cop, dressed in street gear, identified himself as a police officer when he pulled his 9 millimeter semi-automatic.

The relative of one victim, shot three times, says the men in the car thought they were under attack.

SHAMEL O'NEAL, SHOOTING VICTIM BENEFIELD'S COUSIN: They feared for their lives. They didn't know that they was cops.

FEYERICK: No gun was found and the shell casings at the scene all matched the officers' weapons. So why, then, did five officers, who never before fired their weapons on duty, all start shooting? One theory, a phenomenon some experts call "contagious shooting", in which one officer opens fire, and it quickly spreads among fellow officers.

EDWARD MAMET, FMR. NYPD CAPTAIN: It has to do usually when a person feels threatened and shoots. And the people around them feel threatened as well, and in defense of that person, whether it's a police officer or a soldier, will fire also. It's sort of like a Pavlovian response. It's automatic. It's not intentional.

FEYERICK: New York City's Police Commissioner Ray Kelly admitted contagious shooting does happen, which is why officers are trained to fire three times, stop, and assess the situation.

RAY KELLY, COMMISSIONER, NYPD: It is a phenomenon that does happen in policing. There is no question about and we try to guard against it with training, actually, on the range.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FEYERICK: Now, prosecutors will also look at whether alcohol played a role. Undercover cops are allowed two drinks to protect their cover while on duty. The medical examiner will see if the groom, who was in the car, may have also been impaired. The officers did turn in their guns and are on paid leave while prosecutors sort through evidence to see if criminal charges will be fired, Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: So is there any sense that this is -- that all the police officers didn't realize that they were all police officers? You have the one who is undercover, you have an officer who is in the mini van, you have the officer who is in the Toyota Camry. Did they all know they were sort of working the case together? Or did they not realize that they were all together?

FEYERICK: They did know they were working the case together. But what happened is, when one person started firing, nobody knew where the shots were coming from. So, it appears that the men who were in the car, while the officers may have thought the shots were coming from the inside of the car. It could have been that the police on the outside was shooting through the car. And that's what triggered it.

Also the people in the car may not have realized that, in fact, they were being fired upon by police. They may have just thought it was just these bad guys who they had had a confrontation with inside the club.

S. O'BRIEN: Because nobody was marked. Nobody was wearing any kind of -- something that they could see --

FEYERICK: Nobody was wearing -- it's not clear whether the badges were actually visible. Again, it's dark. It's 4 o'clock in the morning. They've been in a club all night. So, to spot that one badge, you'd have to have pretty good eyes.

S. O'BRIEN: Thanks very much. Deb Feyerick with an update on this story. Big story here in New York City.

Coming up in the next half hour, we'll be talking to a former New York police commander who trained officers in the use of firearms. We'll talk about those very rules of engagement, and more on that contagious shooting theory.

Also ahead, more coverage of "When Faith Collides." We are going to take a closer look at how President Bush's faith has been shaping his foreign policy.

And then, look at this, snow day, we're on this storm front that is burying parts of the Northwest, all the way to the Rockies. "Traveler's Forecast" is straight ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

M. O'BRIEN: Some wild weather out West to tell you about. Big snow, rain and floods. A virtual snow bowl in Seattle of all places. The Seahawks and Packers looking more like the Bills and Patriots. They're approaching a record for wet weather for the month of November. Chad Myers watching it for us.

(WEATHER REPORT)

S. O'BRIEN: President Bush just arrived in Latvia just minutes ago. He's meeting with Latvia's president and is in the region for the NATO summit. Then from there, he's going to head to Jordan to meet with the Iraqi prime minister. Zain Verjee is CNN's State Department correspondent, joins us with a look at just how the president's faith affects the president's policy.

Zain, good morning.

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

When it comes to foreign policy, the president says he answers to a higher power.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I believe that God wants everybody to be free, and that's part of my foreign policy.

VERJEE (voice over): A president anchored by his faith, and driven by a higher purpose, especially after 9/11.

DAVID GERGEN, FMR. PRESIDENTIAL ADVISOR: It's given him something of a messianic view of what America's role is in the world.

VERJEE: Presidential historians say it's the most religious White House in memory.

RALPH REED, FMR. CHRISTIAN COALITION LEADER: The president's faith brings moral clarity to his beliefs and conclusions.

VERJEE: A strong, clear belief of good and evil, and of what he views as a God-given duty to promote democracy worldwide.

BUSH: The liberty we prize is not America's gift to the world, it is God's gift to humanity.

VERJEE: He says he wants to give that gift to Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, but the U.S.-led war on terror is viewed by many in the region as pitting East against West, Christianity against Islam.

BUSH: This crusade, this war on terrorism, is going to take a while.

This nation is at war with Islamic fascists.

VERJEE: Those words have inflamed the Muslim world.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He (UNINTELLIGIBLE) about terrorists, than about my faith.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He created this problem between the West and the East.

VERJEE: Previous presidents have believed in spreading democracy, but not as fervently as President Bush.

GERGEN: I think it is very unusual. And I do think to a partial degree springs from his religious devotion.

VERJEE: Faith also appears to have guided this president on humanitarian issues evangelicals care about. Aid to Africa has nearly tripled under the Bush administration, with a focus on fighting HIV AIDS. The president also took decisive steps to end the war in southern Sudan, where millions of Christians were killed, and he remains engaged in the Darfur crisis.

Like other evangelicals the president also shares a strong sympathy for Israel.

TIM SHAH, THE PEW FORUM ON RELIGION: A lot of evangelicals believe that Israel will play an important role in the end-time, when Christ returns again.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VERJEE: Experts say that the president's dedication to religion and his faith really makes him a decisive leader. Once he's made a decision, it's very, very difficult to sway him. He becomes inflexible and unwilling to change course on any policy, such as Iraq, that he's taken on the ground -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Zain Verjee for us this morning. Thank you, Zain.

Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Coming up, Cuba gets ready for a big bash, celebrating Fidel Castro's 80th birthday. But will the guest of honor be a no-show?

Plus, how much is that partridge in a pear tree, anyway? The 12 days of Christmas, are getting more expensive every year. Ali Velshi with the annual tally on what it would cost to deliver the five golden rings, four calling birds, three turtle doves, you know -- all that. Coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT, AMERICAN MORNING: There are about 1800 U.S. troops here in the Horn of Africa. They are mainly conducting humanitarian relief efforts. Projects such as digging wells, and offering medical care, but all of this comes at a time of rising tensions here in the region.

To the south in Somalia, the Islamic Courts Union, the Islamic militia that controls much of that country, is threatening Al Qaeda- type attacks in the region. And there are rising tensions between Somalia and Ethiopia. Both countries are said to be amassing troops on their borders. So, if war does come to this part of Africa, the U.S. troops here will not get involved, but may have to end some of their efforts to help some of Africa's neediest.

DAN RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT, AMERICAN MORNING: I'm Dan Rivers in Bangkok, where the military junta is announcing it will partially lift martial law across some parts of the country, some two months after the military coup ousted former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. The protesters outside government house here, say they don't care, they will continue to protest against military rule.

MORGAN NEILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT, AMERICAN MORNING: I'm Morgan Neill in Havana, where the question on everyone's lips is, will he show? Events to honor President Fidel Castro's birthday get under way today, ahead of Saturday's main event. That's when tens of thousands of troops will file through Havana's Plaza de Revolution in a belated 80th birthday party.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

M. O'BRIEN: Doing some Christmas shopping? How much will it cost you to fulfill the 12 days of Christmas wish list? Ali Velshi is here to give us the partridge in a pear tree price list.

ALI VELSHI, CNN FINANCIAL CORRESPONDENT, AMERICAN MORNING: I'm beginning to think I'm the resident "true love" here. I did a love --

M. O'BRIEN: Feeling the love.

VELSHI: Yeah, if you're a true love, like me, we need to look at the inflation. Every year a wealth management firm, a bank, in Pennsylvania issues the cost of the 12 Days of Christmas.

Inflation this year, generally speaking, is much lower than people think because of the drop in energy prices. So, in fact, we're running at about 2.3 percent CPI. That's what you're paying in inflation. But the 12 Days of Christmas will cost you 3.5 percent more than it did last year. Part of that is the increase in skilled labor, so you're looking at the 12 drummers drumming, 11 pipers piping, 10 lords a leaping, nine ladies dancing --

S. O'BRIEN: More, more, more!

VELSHI: Those are all more. And they price these out. They go to different places and say, if we needed to get nine ladies dancing, where would you --

M. O'BRIEN: You could outsource it.

VELSHI: You could outsource it, so you might see a drop in that. Now, I noticed eight maids a milking are not on there, they're actually lower because they're still working at minimum wage.

M. O'BRIEN: And it hasn't gone up yet?

VELSHI: Hasn't gone up yet.

M. O'BRIEN: So next year we'll --

(CROSS TALK)

VELSHI: You're going to see that. But we might outsource the other jobs.

The birds, have remained the same, in price. Seven swans a swimming, six geese a laying, three French hens, two turtledoves and, of course, a partridge in a pair tree, are all the same price. The exception to that is the four calling birds, no explanation in the study as to why they are higher than they were last year.

M. O'BRIEN: The rare calling bird.

S. O'BRIEN: What's a calling bird?

VELSHI: I don't know.

S. O'BRIEN: OK.

VELSHI: I'm just reading the stuff. (LAUGHTER)

And golden rings are lower. The demand for gold has been a little lower, so your golden rings are lower than they were last year. So, all in all, 3.5 percent more. It's going to cost you, by the way, $75,000 bucks to buy all -- it's 364 items on the list.

M. O'BRIEN: $75,000?

VELSHI: Yeah. Get yourself a Hummer instead.

M. O'BRIEN: And you'll only have one day of Christmas for that.

VELSHI: And you only have -- but you get to drive it all year.

M. O'BRIEN: There you go.

VELSHI: This is an unwieldy basket of goods to be buying the 12 Days of Christmas. So, we'll just keep it to the little song.

S. O'BRIEN: What would you do with all those people in your house, anyway?

VELSHI: That's right.

M. O'BRIEN: Those lords a leaping -- get off the carpet.

VELSHI: We haven't even priced in the catering.

(LAUGHTER)

M. O'BRIEN: All right, thank you, Ali.

VELSHI: Bye.

S. O'BRIEN: Ahead this morning, much more on the fatal shooting outside a New York City nightclub. Cops fired 50 shots at a group of young men. One was killed just hours before his wedding. Did police follow the rules of engagement? We'll take a look at that.

And a drug that is linked to heart problems could bring relief to thousands of kids who are suffering from arthritis. Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins us straight ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

S. O'BRIEN: Breaking news out of Iraq this morning, violent attacks are rocking that country, and concerns are growing about the fate of a missing U.S. pilot. We're live in Baghdad this morning.

M. O'BRIEN: Shooting fallout: New information about the police shooting that killed a man on his wedding day in New York. Plus, insight from a former training officer.

S. O'BRIEN: And it's not just for adults, an arthritis drug linked to heart problems could soon be prescribed to hundreds of thousands of children. Dr. Sanjay Gupta explains straight ahead on this AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

S. O'BRIEN: Here in the U.S., investigators are calling that fire that killed ten people in a group home suspicious. It happened early on Monday in the small town of Anderson, Missouri.

CNN's Jonathan Freed is live in Anderson for us this morning. Jonathan, good morning.

Jonathan, good morning.

JONATHAN FREED, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad.

We were just talking to the highway patrol here, who was telling us that the investigation is set to resume this morning, this time with the help of outside some experts.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FREED (voice-over): The fire broke out around 1:00 a.m. on Monday, shocking neighbors and passersby with its intensity. The building was the Anderson Guest House, a group home for the elderly and mentally ill. Thirty-four people were inside when it started, including two staff members on the overnight shift.

Steven Spears lives next door, and says he saw flames erupt from the building.

STEVEN SPEARS, NEIGHBOR: It was just a big rush of fire, enough to either blow out the door or open the door in front.

FREED (on camera): Did you hear an explosion at any time?

SPEARS: No, no sound whatsoever.

FREED (voice-over): State police say firefighters pulled people more than a dozen people out of the burning building. Eighteen were taken to area hospitals. Six were treated at the scene.

GOV. MATT BLUNT (R), MISSOURI: We're not ruling out a criminal investigation. And indeed we're treating this as if it were a crime scene. We're not saying it's definitely a crime scene, but we're treating it as if it is and trying to determine if the fire was set by someone that had a nefarious motive.

FREED: Anderson, Missouri is about half an hour south of Joplin. And in a town of 1,800 people, a fire this big and this deadly will stay with you for a while.

Betty Wood lives across the street.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I could see the building, this half of it, totally engulfed in flames. And you could hear screaming. It was horrible.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FREED: Now, Soledad, there was another fire in this same building on Saturday, a smaller fire in a resident's room, and we just checked with the spokesperson for the investigators here just a few minutes ago, and he told us that as of now, there is still nothing to suggest that that small fire on Saturday, small fire that was contained, has anything to do with this one -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Jonathan Freed with an update for us. Thanks, Jonathan -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: In New York this morning, there's still a lot of outrage over a police shooting that left a groom-to-be dead hours before he was supposed to marry the mother of his two young children. It happened in the early morning hours of Saturday, at a trip to a strip joint called the Club Kalua in Queens. Want to walk through and just briefly before we get to our guest here and give you a sense of what happened there.

This is a diagram of what happened. This is the Club Kalua. About 1:00 in the morning inside there, two undercover cops inside. There was apparently some illusions to the possibility of someone having a gun in there, and then ultimately an altercation. Altercation later that morning, at about 4:00 in the morning, spilled out into the street. There was indication from the undercover people inside to other police officers in the area that there might be a gun in the crowd, although no one had seen such a weapon. The group, including Sean Bell, the bridegroom who was killed, started walking this way to their vehicle, which was parked right in this area over here. And it was at that time, as they were getting into the car and left, that another undercover police officer was struck by that vehicle a couple of times. At that point, shots were fired, initially by an undercover cop. And then other shots were fired from other vehicles, backup vehicles, in the area.

As it turns out, Sean Bell and his party, his two friends, were not armed. There was no gun on the scene. And it appears what happened was the shots began with the police officers, other police officers interpreted those shots as coming from Sean Bell and his party, and that's when 50 shots were fired, killing Bell and seriously injured his two friends.

John Cerar is a former NYPD training officer.

That's the basic sketch of what happened there. And I think a key point, John, is if a vehicle is striking an officer, does the officer have the duty, the right to fire at that vehicle?

JOHN CERAR, FMR. NYPD TRAINING OFFICER: Certainly under the law in New York State, he does have the right to do so. There are department guidelines which deal with a police officer of firing at or from a moving vehicle, and there is a prohibition against that unless the occupant of the vehicle is using something other than a vehicle as a form of deadly physical force against a police officer. M. O'BRIEN: The interesting point here though is these were all plainclothes officers, and Sean Bell and his party had just been involved in an altercation in the parking lot. They would not necessarily have known that that was a police officer that was approaching them as they drove away.

CERAR: Depending on whether there was a shield shown and whether words were said of who they were, identifying themselves. But citizens have the right to defend themselves, so being a police officer, certainly identifying yourself as a police officer is always a good idea to do, but it is not by law something that has to be done.

M. O'BRIEN: Much has been said about the number of shots fired here, 50 shots in all, more than 30 from one officer's gun, actually put two clips into his semiautomatic weapon. Would this -- if the outcome had been the same and, say, five or six shots had been fired, would this story be any different in your mind?

CERAR: Absolutely. I don't think you would have a story.

M. O'BRIEN: Really? why Not.

CERAR: Because I believe that the amount of shots has caused a lot of people concern about what really happened. I mean, you have a lot of people on the right, you have a lot of people on the left, but it's the people in the middle who don't understand it, trying to say 50 shots, this is just too much. Why did they fire 50 times?

There's a term called "contagious shooting" that happens. I've studied thousands of police-involved shootings, and interviewed a lot of police officers who were involved in shootings. And basically what happens is during the situation, there is so much stress and fear that during this incident that maybe one police officer might start firing, and depending on how many are with him, that just might start the ball rolling as far as the rest of the police officers.

M. O'BRIEN: These are split-second decisions, adrenaline. There's the presumption that you're in danger for your life. Let's listen, though, to what Mayor Bloomberg had to say about this yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MYR. MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, NEW YORK: To me, unacceptable or inexplicable how you can have 50-odd shots fired, but that's up for the investigation to find out what really happened.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

M. O'BRIEN: Unacceptable, inexplicable, he says, but up to the investigation. Is that appropriate for the mayor to say that?

CERAR: He's the mayor, he can say what he wants to.

But again, it's an ongoing investigation, that just to indict these police officers because they fired 50 rounds is not right and not just. What should be looked at is, were their actions reasonable? Were they supposed to be using deadly physical force during the situation, whether it took one round or it takes 50 rounds, that's the determination that has to be made as to the reasonableness of it.

M. O'BRIEN: Do you at this point have enough information to make any sort of preliminary judgment on this?

CERAR: No, I don't. There's a lot of things going on, a lot of things being said that we really don't know yet.

M. O'BRIEN: John Cerar, thanks for coming in. John is a former NYPD training officer. He's looked at thousands of these cases over the years. Thanks for your insight -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Straight ahead this morning, the very latest twist in the poisoning death of that former Russian spy. Now the autopsy is on hold. We'll tell you why.

Plus, the painkiller Celebrex has been linked to heart problems, so why is it now being considered to treat children? Dr. Sanjay Gupta takes a look at the risks, straight ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

We're back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

S. O'BRIEN: Five different sites are now being investigated for radiation as Scotland Yard traces the final steps of that former Russian spy who was believed to be poisoned at a London sushi bar.

CNN's Matthew Chance is live for us in London with the very latest twist and turn in this case.

Hey, Matthew, good morning.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you as well, Soledad. That's right, five sites at least are now being investigated by the British authorities where traces of that highly toxic radioactive substance that poisoned the former Russian agent Alexander Litvinenko have been located. The police, as you mentioned, are also trying to retrace his steps, trying to talk to and test any individuals that may have come into contact with the former Russian agent on the day in early November when he fell ill. Already a number of people have been taken in for radiological tests on suspicion they may also have become contaminated by this substance -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: To what degree, Matthew, has all of this caused a big rift between London and Moscow?

CHANCE: Well, I think the diplomatic consequences of this are incredibly serious, especially if it's found by the police investigation that Kremlin agents may well have been behind not just this assassination of a former agent on British soil, but the fact that that may have happened with the use of a very toxic radiological substance that basically puts the public health of this vast city at risk as well. But certainly the government at this stage, the British government, has downplayed any accusations, pointing the blame at the Kremlin itself. There has been a request for assistance from Moscow to any information that may help get to the bottom of this. The Kremlin, from their part, we should say, has denied any involvement in this killing -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Matthew Chance for us this morning. Thank you, Matthew.

(WEATHER REPORT)

(NEWSBREAK)

M. O'BRIEN: Coming up, a painkiller linked to heart problems. For kids, the government may allow it. Dr. Sanjay Gupta will look at the risks.

Plus more of our special coverage, when faiths collide. We'll go live to Istanbul, as the pope tries to bridge the divide between Christians and Muslims. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

M. O'BRIEN: The arthritis drug Celebrex may be making a comeback of sorts. In fact, the government is considering expanding its use for children as young as two.

Our senior medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta at CNN Center with details.

Good morning, Sanjay.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SR. MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Miles.

Pretty interesting study here. Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis can be notoriously difficult to treat, so possibly new hope for those suffers as well, in the form of Celebrex. This was a study that was actually conducted by the company that makes it, Pfizer, actually looking at the effectiveness of Celebrex, as well as its safety, and finding that it is just as effective and as safe as some of the most commonly prescribed medications out there already for juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, which is Naprosyn or Aleve.

Now they released a statement. They're not planning on necessarily marketing it this time specifically for children. But in the statement they specially said this: They want to make these data available to physicians and patients. They're not limiting their ongoing discussions with the FDA to a formal indication open to any label changes. The agency thinks best benefit the patient population.

Couple things to point out, Miles, as you already alluded to. One is that the trial was actually conducted form with a form of liquid Celebrex that is not available to the mass public as of right now. It would become available if this gets approved. Also, there have been some serious concerns about Celebrex, as you know, and it's been around since 1998, but as more people have taken it, they have found some side effects to be concerned about, specifically cardiovascular side effects. That's something they talked about a lot. GI side effects, GI bleeding, as well as liver damage and kidney problems as well. So those are some of the concerns. But it is out there, some ongoing discussions right now, Miles, with the FDA.

M. O'BRIEN: Now correct me if I'm wrong, Sanjay, Celebrex and Vioxx, which was pulled from the market, are chemical cousins, correct?

GUPTA: They are. They are both what are called Cox-2 inhibitors.

M. O'BRIEN: OK. So as a parent, it would be awful to have a child with rheumatoid arthritis, and you want to give the child some relief, but it seems like it would be risky to give this kind of medicine to a child.

GUPTA: It's a good point. There are several different things here. One is that all of the anti-inflammatories, including Naprosyn or Aleve, do carry the same warnings now. So they found that this class of drugs, the anti-inflammatory drugs, do have some concerns about cardiovascular side effects. There are things that -- those side effects were mostly known in adults. Will children somehow be different because they don't have underlying heart disease? That may be so.

And also, Miles, like I said, this is a notoriously difficult thing to treat, rheumatoid arthritis in kids. Adding another medication here to the class of drugs that parents and physicians can choose from could be a significant benefit.

M. O'BRIEN: I mean, those kids certainly need some relief. How common is rheumatoid arthritis in young children?

GUPTA: It is not that common. About 300,000 children in the United States have arthritis of some sort. About 50,000 of those have juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.

What's interesting, Miles, typically adults you think of that sort of degenerative arthritis where you get the big knuckles, and that's sort of a wear-and-tear phenomenon. In children, it's much more likely to be genetic, as well as sort of an immune system that allows inflammation to run wild. This is something that can be present in very young children, so it's obviously more genetically based and also very difficult to treat sometimes.

M. O'BRIEN: All right, thank you, Sanjay. You're coming back next hour. What are you going to be talking about?

GUPTA: Really exciting story. You know, talking about breast cancer next hour. So a woman goes in, and she gets an ultrasound, and they see a mass. A lot of times doctors don't know is that mass malignant or benign without doing some sort of invasive test, a biopsy. Is there a new test out there that could potentially answer that question earlier? Looks like there might be. I'll have that for you in about an hour.

M. O'BRIEN: You'll want to stay tuned for that. All right, Sanjay, thank you very much.

GUPTA: Thank you.

M. O'BRIEN: Sanjay Gupta covers medicine for us.

Coming up, President Bush arrives in Latvia for an important NATO summit. He's also looking ahead to his next meeting, a very important meeting with Iraq's prime minister.

Plus, more on that nasty winter storm that has buried folks in northwest. We'll tell you where it's headed next.

Stay with us.

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