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Dead Hiker Identified; Suspect Arrested in Ipswich Killings; Robert Gates Sworn in as New Defense Secretary

Aired December 18, 2006 - 13:00   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kyra Phillips at the CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta.
T.J. HOLMES, CO-ANCHOR: And I'm T.J. Holmes, sitting in today for Don Lemon.

PHILLIPS: A desperate search for two climbers still missing on Mt. Hood. Rescue workers return to the mountain. Live reports throughout the hour.

HOLMES: Also, serial killer caught. A man under arrest in Great Britain, and he's talking. Do police have the right guy?

PHILLIPS: Space walk number four. It's a record for shuttle astronauts. Can they fix that stubborn space panel? Our space guru, Miles O'Brien, is all over it.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

One family in mourning two, others clinging to hope. Oregon's Mt. Hood yields a body and a life or death mystery. One climber is dead. Rescuers are searching for his two comrades. They're battling the cold and racing against time. We heard from them just minutes ago.

And our Chris Lawrence is at the base of the mountain with more -- Chris.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kyra, these men obviously shared a very big passion for climbing, and all these families are sharing in the grief for Kelly James and also in the concern for his two climbing partners, Brian Hall and Jerry Cooke.

We heard from -- from James' brother, who talked about how the family was able to finally learn that it was his brother who the rescue teams found in the snow cave yesterday.


FRANK JAMES, BROTHER OF KELLY JAMES: They identified a ring with my brother's initials on it, which has led me and our family to conclude that the climber found in the cave yesterday was my brother, my brother, Kelly.

(END VIDEO CLIP) LAWRENCE: Frank James went on to say his brother, Kelly, felt closest to God when he was up on that mountain and that he was doing something that he obviously loved very much -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Chris Lawrence, we'll be talking more throughout the next couple of hours and we'll be following those rescue efforts live. Thanks.

HOLMES: No doubt been a tough day at Mt. Hood. Some good news at least, one thing clear and bright there. The weather has finally cleared up a bit after a week of nearly white-out conditions.

Rob Marciano at the CNN Weather Center, keeping an eye on the weather condition there.

Still cooperating with them for right now, Rob?

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It is. It doesn't look that way on the ground and the valleys at Hood River, where there's been freezing fog pretty much this morning. But they launch a weather balloon out of Salem every day, twice a day and that -- those weather instruments from that weather balloon show that above about the 2,000- foot mark, there are clear skies.

But some of the observations at about 6,600 feet indicate relative humidity of 92 percent. So there's probably areas and layers of cloud cover in certain spots on the mountain. So it's not going to be as clear today as it was yesterday, but winds are relatively light.

Give you a quick tour of the mountain and some of the specifics that we gathered from this latest press conference, which really gave us a pretty good idea as to where these guys were climbing, where they started to come down and what happened after that.

They started around Cloud Cap. And this the Elliot Glacier, which they began to make their way up during the day on Friday. A lot of ice croppings here, a lot of ice towers. This is a popular place for ice climbers to just pretty much go and play. And this is the time of year to do it. Snow or ice, I should say, is very stable and that's one of the things these guys look for.

So up the Elliot Glacier and the gullies. They went and summitted somewhere around there. The question is, you know, what happened as they made their descent?

They said through the note that they were going to come down this Cooper Spur route if they got into trouble, which you can kind of see, there's some serious drop-offs off that route. So that is one of the most dangerous descents you can take. People have died as recently as 1999 trying to come down that way in May. Can you imagine doing it in December? So, that certainly complicates things.

What we got from the sheriff, though, was he says they, for some reason, bailed out to the east, and this is the area where the snow cave was, just to the west of the Cooper Spur area. So that is the area, one of the many areas that they're starting to search. But they're -- so from Elliot Glacier over through Cooper Spur and in through this glacier, which is the Coleman, Newton and Clark glaciers. Those are the areas they're -- they're going to be searching.

Quick check of the satellite picture, and we'll show you where that next storm system is. It is a very weak one. It is going to approach at a very weak angle. And that's good news, because it's not going to have a whole lot of wind, not going to have a whole lot of precipitation.

Most importantly, it is going to come very slowly. So even though the clouds are beginning to encroach the northwest coastline of Oregon, they won't get to the cascades in earnest, really, until tomorrow night. And then Wednesday we're going to start to see some worse weather come in, in the way of some winds, not 100 plus mile an hour winds, but there will be some winds and some precipitation.

There is some good news, T.J., with this weather coming in, in that the freezing level will come up to about 7,000 feet, and that warming will help stabilize what is a considerable avalanche risk right now above the 6,000 foot mark. So avalanche danger will become less of an issue tomorrow as we get slightly warmer air coming in here.

HOLMES: They could use all of the good news you got there, Rob. Thank you so much.

MARCIANO: You bet.

HOLMES: We head now to England and a break, maybe, a breakthrough, even, in the search for the Ipswich Ripper, also known as the Sussex Strangler. Police have arrested a man on suspicion of killing five prostitutes in the past couple of weeks.

CNN's Alphonso Van Marsh joins us now with the latest.

Hello to you, Alphonso.


Yes, as you mentioned, an arrest and news that many in this community have been waiting for. As the local press is reporting, a man held, as you mentioned, about 12 hours ago, Suffolk police confirming that they have arrested a 37-year-old suspect, suspected of killing those five Ipswich area women, all of them known prostitutes.

Now, it's important to mention that the police are not confirming the name of that suspect. But we do understand it is a 37-year-old gentleman named Tom Stephens who worked at a supermarket. He even had a profile on the Internet at

Now what I can't tell you about is what's going on behind me here, a brown brick home where investigators, forensic investigators, have their white jumpsuits on, collecting evidence, bringing it out of the house, trying to see if they can draw a link with the suspect, a suspect who they have been talking to prior to his arrest, a suspect who had been talking to the other media, including the BBC.

On BBC Radio he admitted that the suspect had a relationship with the murder victims.


TOM STEPHENS, IPSWICH MURDER SUSPECT: I also wanted to text, because I was paying for it. But I know that I also -- I wanted to chat with the girls before and after, which is partly why I was always happy to give them a lift. They'd quite often want a lift to get their drugs, and I'd give them a lift. And it was better for me like that, and that's how it developed into a friendship with a number of the girls.


VAN MARSH: Now, T.J., it's important to note, again, that police are not confirming the name of this suspect. But again, it is understood that police, that the person that they do have in custody, they say they believe may be responsible for the murders of those five women -- T.J.

HOLMES: Alphonso, you said police aren't doing -- as far as confirming everything just yet, but still they have a person in custody. So at least is the community feeling a little better and receiving this news pretty well that there at least has been an arrest?

VAN MARSH: That's a good question, because these mysterious string of murders has truly put this community in shock.

Just a few moments ago, I spoke with the mayor of this area. She says that she's telling residents not necessarily to feel at ease, as it were, because it is entirely possible -- again, this is only a suspect. This is not a conviction, this is not a confession, at least not that we know of. So it's important to note, the mayor says, that this may or may not be the right person.

So people still need to keep their guard up, especially during the holiday season here. People want to go out to parties. People want to have fun. People want to celebrate. But there's definitely this overshadow here that something that many people in this community figured happened somewhere else in big cities has come very close to home.

HOLMES: All right. Alphonso Van Marsh for us, live. Thank you so much, Alphonso.

PHILLIPS: Now the changing of the guard at Pentagon. The tumultuous rein of Donald Rumsfeld is over. Successor Robert Gate is being greeted this hour by the Pentagon brass, which is awaiting new orders for the difficult war in Iraq.

As Gates takes over at the Pentagon, President Bush's handling of the war in Iraq is under attack like never before.

We've got correspondents at the Pentagon and the White House. Let's begin there with CNN's Ed Henry.

Hi, Ed.

ED HENRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Kyra. That's right.

I mean, obviously, a lot of challenges facing Robert Gates, Donald Rumsfeld now handing off what has become an increasingly unpopular war in Iraq. And I think that basically, the challenges were laid out pretty starkly yesterday on CBS's "Face the Nation" by the former secretary of state, Colin Powell, who flat out said he believes it's a civil war in Iraq, something that this White House has not said.

He also said that he believes not only is the U.S. not winning but he believes the U.S. right now is losing, though it has not lost, that it can still be turned around.

But he also raised questions about whether or not a surge of U.S. troops into Iraq can really turn the situation around. And when you look at that, you almost say, you know, other than that, Mr. Gates, how it's going? I mean, he is entering this job with enormous challenges.

But what he has going for him, No. 1, is credibility on Capitol Hill. In his confirmation hearing, it really, rather than a confirmation, became a coronation almost, wide, wide bipartisan support. He seemed to gain a lot of credibility that, frankly, Donald Rumsfeld was lacking on Capitol Hill. He had not done a lot of outreach to Republicans or Democrats, who are now taking over.

A lot of Democratic lawmakers like Carl Levin were saying they felt there was some candor coming from Robert Gates and saying he believes the U.S. is not currently winning in Iraq.

And finally, Robert Gates, what he has going for him as a former CIA director, he has the confidence of this president. In fact, President Bush said last week one of the reasons why he delayed his speech in unveiling a new strategy and dealing with Iraq is he wanted Robert Gates to be brought in. He wanted him to basically have a voice in these discussions.

But changing just one person, obviously, is not necessarily going to completely change the policy. We have to wait and see exactly what the president's speech is going to be in early January. This is just one person coming in, and there are enormous challenges, Kyra.

PHILLIPS: To say the least. Ed Henry at the White House. Thanks, Ed.

HOLMES: We now want to head over to the Pentagon. CNN's Barbara Starr standing by there for Gates' ceremonial swearing in.

Good afternoon to you, Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good afternoon to you, T.J. That's right. The official swearing in took place early this morning at the White House, but there will be a public ceremony here in the Pentagon in just about 10 minutes beginning from now. Both Mr. Gates and the president are expected to speak.

And to follow on what my colleague, Ed Henry, is saying, a lot of people here are saying, "OK, fine, let's see how long this honeymoon lasts with this new secretary of defense."

Because the ultimate challenge is this: is there a magic silver bullet solution, if you will, to the situation in Iraq? And top military commanders that we continue to speak to privately every day say they don't see a magic solution at this point. That is the ultimate frustration.

Of course, what's on the table now is consideration about sending up to another 30,000 U.S. troops into the combat zone, basically letting the troop levels increase by keeping some units there, by sending some units early, trying to see if you can bring those troop levels up and if they can address the security situation, especially in Baghdad.

But top commanders say that still will not solve the problem. You could put 30,000 more U.S. troops on the street. And if the violence continues, then what do you do?

A really tough problem for them. They believe that, still, the ultimate solution in Iraq is to get those Iraqi security forces to take over the front line security issues. That's what the top commanders are working towards. But of course, everyone watching in the new year to see what the president has to say, to see what Mr. Gates' recommendations will be and how they might carry them out -- T.J.

HOLMES: All right. Barbara, thank you. And again, we're expecting that ceremonial swearing in here in just a few minutes, less than 10 minutes. And we'll bring that to you when we see it. Thank you, Barbara.

PHILLIPS: Let's go straight to the NEWSROOM. Betty Nguyen working details on a developing story -- Betty.

BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, Kyra, remember last week when nearly 400 people got sick after eating at an Olive Garden in Indianapolis? Well, today we're learning exactly what caused that illness.

The Marion County Health Department spokesman says it is the result of norovirus, which is typically something that you find maybe on a cruise ship or restaurants where people have been eating food prepared by others.

Seventy-three more cases were reported over the weekend, bringing the total to 373. Now that Olive Garden in particular -- we're looking at video of it right now, they closed on Friday to the public. But it was scrubbed and has since been given the clearance to reopen. But let me give you an idea of what the symptoms are for the norovirus. It causes nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, in some cases a fever. Three people, Kyra, remain hospitalized as of today. Again, 373 became ill because of this virus.

And to give us a bigger picture as to exactly what is the norovirus, well, it belongs to a family of viruses that causes the stomach flu and usually spreads through contaminated water and foods.

And although it can pass from person to person, you can be infected by eating or drinking liquids that not only are contaminated but shellfish and salad ingredients are most often infected by viruses. Food other than shellfish contaminated by food handlers.

But it is very contagious. So if someone was sharing a utensil at that restaurant at the time these people got sick, sharing some foods or handling the same things, they could have infected others.

Again, 373 people total so far. Three of them remain hospitalized at this hour.

PHILLIPS: All right, Betty. We'll track it. Thanks.


PHILLIPS: Technically, he's on the job but just in a few minutes, new Defense Secretary Robert Gates gets a swearing in at the Pentagon. We're going to take you there live when we come back.

HOLMES: Also, we know one climber did not make it. But where are the other two? Rescue teams renew the attack on Mt. Hood by air and by foot in a furious effort to save the missing climbers. We're following the search from the CNN NEWSROOM.


HOLMES: Want to get more now on our top story, that tragic recovery and hopeful rescue efforts on Oregon's Mt. Hood, where one climber is dead, his two comrades now still missing. Here is the latest.

His family identifies the dead climber as Kelly James, the oldest and most experienced of the three climbers. Authorities say the climbers apparently reached the summit but got lost on their way down, even though they were near the path back to camp.

Right now, air and ground searches go on for the missing Meantime, Kelly James' body is to be brought down today.

Here is what his brother Frank told reporters just a short time ago.


JAMES: This is a difficult day for all three families. Our hope was that Kelly, Brian, and Jerry would all be rescued safely, and that has led these families to become very, very close.

We're persuaded that Kelly has been found. But I feel that I have two other brothers still on the mountain and the James family is deeply, deeply grateful for the rescue efforts to date. And we wish -- we wish the rescue workers Godspeed in their ongoing efforts to bring Brian and Jerry down that mountain safely.

We are also profoundly grateful for all of those who have prayed for our families. We find strength in your support, and we join all of you in your prayers for the safe return of Brian and Jerry.

As Christians, we find peace that Kelly is with God. Kelly always told us that he felt closest to God when he was on the mountain. That is what drove him to climb. And we find enormous comfort in knowing that he lifted off that mountain from a place that he loved in doing something that he loved very, very much.


HOLMES: Look here now at the life of fallen climber, Kelly James. He was 48 years old, a landscape architect from Dallas. He had 25 years of climbing experience. He had climbed Alaska's Mt. McKinley, the highest peak in North America, more than a dozen times.

PHILLIPS: We're standing by for a live event at the Pentagon in just a few minutes. New Defense Secretary Robert Gates gets a ceremonial swearing in at the Pentagon. We're going to take you there live when we come back.


HOLMES: We take you live now to President Bush, speaking at the ceremonial swearing in for the new defense secretary, Robert Gates.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... for joining us. I thank Dr. Harvey, Dr. Winter, Michael Nguyen (ph), secretaries of the Army, Navy and Air Force for joining us here today. Appreciate so very much General Pete Pace, the chairman of the joint chiefs, and his wife, Lynne, as well as the other members of the joint chiefs of staff.

I thank our distinguished guests. Most importantly, I thank those who wear a uniform.

I -- this has got to be an exciting time for Bob Gates. I can't tell you what an honor it is to be the commander in chief of unbelievably fine people. And I suspect he will share that same sense of enthusiasm as the secretary of the defense.

The job of the secretary of defense is one of the most important positions in our government. The secretary must understand the challenges of the present and see the threats of the future and find the best ways to prepare our armed forces to meet them.

We are a nation at war. And I rely on our secretary of defense to provide me with the best possible advice and to help direct our nation's armed forces as they engage the enemies of freedom around the world.

Bob Gates is the right man to take on these challenges. He'll be an outstanding leader for our men and women in uniform, and he's going to make our nation proud.

Bob is a man of vision, integrity and extensive experience. In 1966, Bob began his rise from entry level division at the Central Intelligence Agency to become its director.

During his years of public service, Bob Gates has worked under six presidents, from both parties. He spent nine years at White House working on the National Security Council staff. He's amassed nearly 30 years of experience in national security matters. Bob Gates' lifetime of preparation will serve him well as the secretary of defense.

Bob follows a superb leader at the Department of Defense. For nearly six years, Don Rumsfeld has served with exceptional strength and energy at a time of challenge and change, and he produced impressive results.

During his tenure he developed a new defense strategy, established -- established a new command structure of our armed forces, helped transform the NATO alliance, took ballistic missile defense from theory to reality, and undertook the most sweeping transformation of America's global defense posture since the start of the Cold War.

He led our armed forces with determination and distinction. And on Friday at the Pentagon, the men and women he led showed their admiration and devotion to him. I want to thank Don Rumsfeld for his service, and I wish him and his family all the very best.

As Bob Gates raises his hand and takes the oath of office he does so at a time of great consequence for our nation. He knows the stakes in the war on terror. He recognizes this is a long struggle against an enemy unlike any our nation has fought before. He understands that defeating the terrorists and the radicals and the extremists in Iraq and Middle East is essential to leading toward peace.

As secretary of defense, he will help our country forge a new way forward in Iraq so that we can help the Iraqis achieve our shared goal of a unified democratic Iraq that can govern itself, sustain itself and defend itself and be an ally in our struggle against extremists and radicals.

Bob Gates is a talented and innovative leader who brings a fresh perspective to the Department of Defense. I'm pleased that he's answered the call to serve our nation again. He has my trust and my confidence, and he has the gratitude and the prayers of the American people.

So I look forward to working with Bob Gates. I congratulate you, sir. I appreciate you taking on this job.

And now I'm going to ask the vice president to administer the oath of office to our nation's 22nd secretary of defense.

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I, Robert Gates, do solemnly swear...

ROBERT GATES, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: I, Robert Gates, do solemnly swear...

CHENEY: ... that I will support and defend...

GATES: ... that I will support and defend...

CHENEY: ... the Constitution of the United States...

GATES: ... the Constitution of the United States...

CHENEY: ... against all enemies, foreign and domestic...

GATES: ... against all enemies, foreign and domestic...

CHENEY: ... that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the Senate...

GATES: ... that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the Senate...

CHENEY: ... that I take this obligation freely...

GATES: ... that I take this obligation freely...

CHENEY: ... without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion...

GATES: ... without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion...

CHENEY: ... and that I will well and faithfully discharge...

GATES: ... and that I will well and faithfully discharge...

CHENEY: ... the duties of the office...

GATES: ... the duties of the office...

CHENEY: ... on which I'm about to enter...

GATES: ... on which I'm about to enter...

CHENEY: ... so help me, God.

GATES: ... so help me God.

CHENEY: Congratulations.

HOLMES: And there you have it. That's the new guy, the 22nd secretary of defense for the U.S., Robert Gates. Looked like he's about to make some comments. We may want to listen in. But this was his ceremonial swearing in. He was sworn in earlier, actually, at a private ceremony at the White House.

Actually, do we want to take a listen here to what he's saying?

All right, here we go. We'll take a listen.

GATES: Mr. President, I am deeply honored by the trust you have placed in me. You have asked for my candor and my honest council at this critical moment in our nation's history, and you will get both.

Mr. Vice President, thank you for administering the oath of office. I first worked closely with the vice president when he was a very successful secretary of defense, and I hope some of that may rub off.

My sincere thanks to the members of the United States Congress who are here today. I appreciate the prompt and fair hearing that I received in the Senate and the confidence that senators have placed in me.

Chairman Pace, thank you. I look forward to working with you and the joint staff.

To the service chiefs and service staffs to all of the uniformed military here today, I value your professionalism and your experience. And I will rely on your clear-eyed advice in the weeks and months ahead.

Finally I want to thank Becky, my wife of 40 years and children, Eleanor and Brad, for their infinite patience.

I want thanks other family and friends who are here, but single out one especially, my 93-year-old mother. She told me that if can make it from Kansas to Texas A&M football games, she certainly could be in Washington for this ceremony.


I, too, want to say a few words about my predecessor. Donald Rumsfeld has devoted decades of his life to public service. He cares deeply about men and women in uniform and the future of our country. I thank him for his long and distinguished service, and I wish him, and Joyce and their family all of the best. It is an honor to have the opportunity to work with the people in this department, dedicated professionals whose overriding priority is the defense of our nation.

Long ago I learned something about leading large institutions. Leaders are come and go, but the professionals endure long after the appointees are gone. The key to successful leadership in my view is to involve in the decision making process early and often those who ultimately must carry out the decisions. I will do my best to do just that. This department, as always, is carrying on may many different activities all at the same tile. All are valuable, all are important. However, as I said in my confirmation hearings Iraq is at the top of the list. In the days since my Senate confirming I have participated in most of the National Security Council meetings on Iraq, I received a number of briefings at the Department of Defense, and I discussed the situation and way forward in Iraq in depth with the president. I intend to travel quite soon to Iraq and meet with our military leaders and other personnel there.

I look forward to hearing their honest assessments of the situation on the ground and having the benefit of their advice, unvarnished and straight from the shoulder on how to proceed in the weeks and month as head. Another pressing concern is Afghanistan. The progress made by the Afghan people over the past five years is at risk. The United States and its NATO allies have made a commitment to the Afghan people and we intend to keep it. Afghanistan cannot be allowed to become a sanctuary for extremists again.

How we face these and other challenges in the region over the next two years will determine whether Iraq, Afghanistan and nations eight crossroads will pursue paths of gradual progress toward sustainable governments, which are allies in the global war on terrorism, or whether the forces of extremism and chaos will become ascendant.

All of us want to find a way to bring America's sons and daughters home again. But as the president has made clear, we simply cannot afford to fail in the Middle East. Failure in Iraq at this juncture would be a calamity that would haunt our nation, impair our credibility and endanger Americans for decades to come.

Finally, there is the matter of what is referred to as defense transformation. As I mentioned in my Senate testimony, I was impressed by how deployable our military has become since I last served in government. Before he came to office the president said that one of his top priority was to help our military become more agile, more lethal and more expeditionary. Much has been accomplished in this; much remains to be done. This remain a necessity and a priority.

I return to public service in the hope that I can make a difference at a time when our nation is facing daunting challenges and difficult choices.

Mr. President, I thank you again for the opportunity to do that, and thank all of you for being here.


HOLMES: There is the president with his new Defense Secretary Robert Gates, taking the ceremonial oath, and that ceremony this afternoon. He took it officially earlier at the White House this morning.

We're going to bring in our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr, who's standing by with us here.

And I guess, Barbara, he doesn't have much time for a honeymoon period on this job, does he?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, not at all, T.J. This was a speech that was full of very discrete, but very specific messages to several different audiences, starting right at the top. The new secretary of defense is making it very clear Iraq, Iraq, Iraq remains his top priority. He said that he would be traveling there, quote, "very soon."

Now, of course, for security reasons, a secretary's travel schedule is never publicly revealed. But take him at this word, he will be going very soon to Iraq, talking to top commanders there. Mr. Gates saying that he had been involved in in-depth discussions with the president about Iraq and with key military leaders. Now he wants to go on the ground in Iraq, talk to them face to face, get their views about what needs to be done next and then report back to the president.

I thought it was also very interesting that Mr. Gates took this opportunity to say the situation in Afghanistan is, quote, "at risk." That is clearly a message that he wants to get out there, that while his priority must be Iraq, he is also paying a good deal of attention to Afghanistan and the unsettled situation there with the rise of Taliban attacks in the last several months.

Mr. Gates also took pains at several points in these very brief remarks to reach out a bit of an olive branch to the military leadership, saying that he valued their counsel, that he would be involving them in the decision-making process, and that they would be part of his effort here at the Pentagon. Perhaps a bit of an olive branch acknowledging the somewhat prickly relations that Secretary Rumsfeld often had with the senior military leadership.

And Mr. Gates also saying that the president wanted his candor and counsel, and that is what he vowed to give President Bush, always giving him his counsel about what he thought was best.

But, T.J., having said all of this, what will happen next in Iraq, nobody knows. The president is said to be considering a number of options, including a very significant rise in the troop levels on the ground in Iraq. But whether that becomes the option that is decided seems to be some ways off now. Mr. Gates making it very clear he will go to Iraq in the near future, he will talk to commanders on the ground and get their direct views.

HOLMES: Oh, man, got a job on his hands. Barbara Starr for us at the Pentagon. Thank you so much, Barbara.

STARR: Sure.

PHILLIPS: The new defense secretary inherits a war that's less popular than ever. For a closer reading of our new poll numbers, we turn to our senior political analyst Bill Schneider. He's in Los Angeles.

Bill, what about this new poll? WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, SR. POL. ANALYST: The new poll shows support for the Iraq war, at least approval of President bush's handling of the war, has really deteriorated badly, even since the midterm election.

At the moment when asked do you approve or disapprove of President Bush's handling of the situation in Iraq, the number of who approve has fallen to 28 percent. Fully 70 percent, 7-0, 70 percent of Americans, the highest number we've ever seen in the response to this question over many years, 70 percent say they disapprove of the handling of the situation in Iraq.

PHILLIPS: So what does Gates have to do to start turning this around, at least in the eyes of the American people?

SCHNEIDER: In the eyes of the American people, Gates represent one thing, and it's a key word here -- the word is "change." It's a change from Donald Rumsfeld, presumably signifying a change in the Iraq policy. The message of the voters in November last month in the midterm election was simply that the status quo in Iraq is unacceptable. The voters voted for change. The president responded immediately; the very day after the midterm election he got rid of Secretary Rumsfeld, replaced him with Bob Gates, who has taken office today. And in his very first sentence after becoming defense secretary, he said that he promised the president candor and honest council, and, he added, the president is going to get it. What people most remember from his confirmation hearings was when he was asked, are we winning the war in Iraq? He said to the senator who asked him, no, sir. Later he qualified and said, we're neither winning, nor losing. Well, most Americans agree with that, so they're waiting to see what he and the president will do. But what Americans clearly want is change.

PHILLIPS: So would there be any hope of getting support for a troop increase in Iraq?

SCHNEIDER: Well, he hasn't committed himself to that, though he hasn't ruled it out either. The president says he is considering -- he hasn't said anything actually. But he is considering a troop increase, as well as other options. Remember that Bob Gates was a member of the Iraq Study Group until the day he was nominated by the president, when he had to withdraw from that, and their recommendation was not for a troop increase, but for a withdrawal over the next year. So he has identified with that particular option.

Nevertheless, the president hired him. The president is still the president. If he recommends a troop increase, all I can say is that will be a tough sell to the American public, and to the Democrats, who now control Congress, because that is a very unpopular option.

PHILLIPS: Our political analyst Bill Schneider. Thanks, Bill.


HOLMES: Blackhawks up -- a break in the weather has Mt. Hood rescuers pulling out all the stops in a search for those two missing climbers. It looks beautiful there, a live picture of Mt. Hood. But some treacherous terrain and some treacherous weather they've been dealing with the past few days. We've got more ahead in the CNN NEWSROOM.


PHILLIPS: Live pictures out of Oregon. We're following the rescue efforts there taking place. Blackhawks getting ready to go out and look for those remaining two climbers that everyone is hoping they'll be able to find.

As you know, this morning we were able to tell you that that missing climber, the one of three, was identified as that Dallas man who had placed a distress call to relatives just a little more than a week ago. Of course we're talking about Kelly James. His father Frank James coming to the podium along with Michaela, the wife of Jerry Cooke and also Angela, the brother of Brian Hall, those other two remaining climbers.

They've all become extremely close through all of this and had a chance to update us for the live mic. So we're following those rescue efforts and we'll let you know how they're doing throughout the next couple of hours.

HOLMES: And as you can see there from that live picture it is beautiful but man, it's dangerous. And for some it is absolutely irresistible. A closer look now at Mt. Hood.


ANNOUNCER: Mt. Hood dramatically soars to an elevation of 11,235 feet. A British Navy officer and his expedition were the first Europeans to see the mountain in 1792.

They named it after a British Admiral, Lord Samuel Hood. Mt. Hood is the second most climbed mountain in the world, after Japan's Mt. Fuji. The most popular time to climb is from May to mid-July, but climbing is permitted year round.

The first assent was in 1845. Since then, more than 130 people have died trying. One of the nation's worst climbing disasters occurred on Mt. Hood in 1986 -- seven teenagers and two adults leaders froze to death while trapped in a storm.

In 1976, three high school friends were rescued after surviving nearly two weeks in a snow cave on Mt. Hood. A dramatic rescue attempt occurred four years ago when a helicopter crashed on Mt. Hood while trying to retrieve the bodies of three climbers. The crew amazingly survived.

Mt. Hood also has had its share of unusual successful climbs. The first wedding was held on the summit in 1915. 411 people became the largest single group to climb to the top of Mt. Hood in 1936. And the famed climbing dog Ranger is said to have climbed Mt. Hood more than 50 times. (END VIDEOTAPE)

PHILLIPS: Why would someone climb a mountain -- because it's there. Well, you remember where that quote came from. But there has to be more than just that. We're asking deeper questions as we revisit our top story today. One climber found dead on Oregon's Mt. Hood. His two comrades still missing. Their families spoke to reporters just a short time ago.


MICHAELA COOKE, JERRY COOKE'S WIFE: Kelly, Brian, and Nikko shared a passion and reverence for climbing and the bond forged between them will last throughout eternity. We hold out hope today for Brian and Nikko's safe return.


PHILLIPS: Passion and reverence. Let's talk to a man who knows about both. On the phone, Jim Whittaker, the first American to climb Mt. Everest. Jim, appreciate you being with us especially within the past 24 hours.

I want to step back though, if you don't mind, and just kind of tell your story and get inside your head to the lure of the climb and what takes people into these type of conditions and this type of beauty even and what it does for you professionally, mentally, spiritually. For you, it started a young boy.

JIM WHITTAKER, FIRST AMERICAN TO CLIMB MT. EVEREST: Yes. Well, basically, there are a lot of reasons people climb mountains, some the challenge, some to get good photographs, some for scientific research and so-forth. But basically, you climb mountains because it's fun.

There's a great joy in going out in nature and going up, you know, he who climbs the highest sees the furthest. So, you get up there and you look around and you see what incredible planet we live on and how wonderful nature is until it's -- that's I think the biggest reason to climb is the joy of it, the fun.

But there's the challenge is there, too. People have to test themselves and one great way to test themselves throughout history is to see if they can get to the top of the peaks.

PHILLIPS: And I want to talk about that in a minute. But I want to go back to when you were a young Boy Scout. That's when your hikes began, right?

WHITTAKER: Yes. I started as s Scout here in the Northwest. The trails here are in the Cascades and the Olympics and lead up to Mt. Rainier, Mt. Acre, Mt. Hood, and so it's sort of a natural thing to climb high and see what's up on the other side.

PHILLIPS: And then you became a Mt. Rainier guide as you got into your teens, right? And what was it? Did you have some sort of special moment or experience that wanted you just to keep coming back and keep taking on that challenge?

WHITTAKER: It was just something about being in nature and taking people, I guided Rainier, climbed Rainier 80 times, and getting the people up. Anyone considered themselves a life long experience to get out and be able to do that.

So, for me it was just a natural thing. I just grew to love it more and more. I guided through college and then was drafted into the Mountain Cold Weather Command, during the Korean War where I taught climbing and skiing with troops. And then I came back, full-time, first full-time employee at REI, the outdoor equipment store. And then I had a chance to climb McKinley and then Everest in '63.

PHILLIPS: And I want to talk about Everest in a second. But before we do that, I just want to lay out dangers. I've been looking through a number of your pictures and just, tell me if I'm saying this right -- is it the Combu Icefall?

WHITTAKER: Right. The Combu.

PHILLIPS: The Combu Icefall. You look at this picture and you think, oh my gosh this looks quite frightening and quite dangerous. But for you, my guess is you take a look and say, this is beautiful. This going to be incredible for my mind and for my soul?

WHITTAKER: (INAUDIBLE). I looked at the base camp it's 18,000 feet. We took a month to walk 185 miles (INAUDIBLE) to get to base camp. Coming around the corner standing at a base camp I look up, anybody that is going to climb this thing is crazy because you saw the ice and so forth. It's terrifying. You wouldn't ordinarily do that on a mountain just for a pleasure climb.

PHILLIPS: And you've had the frostbite. I've seen the frostbite on your face, I've seen it on your feet. This never stopped you.

WHITTAKER: No. You look at it and say well again -- challenge is the core and mainstream of all human activity. If there's disease, we cure it. If there's a wrong, we right it. If there's a record, we break it. If there's an ocean, we cross it. If there's a mountain, we climb it.

PHILLIPS: And you say, it's objective danger. Define to me objective danger.

WHITTAKER: Yes, objective danger is something you have no control over, like these two guys that are going for help for their buddy might have been causing an avalanche. That's an objective danger you really can't control.

The only thing you do is you think that slope might not be stable. And so you still think the only way down is on the slope, and you start and it might go with you. Or so you're climbing up that ice fall, like I did the first day and it was stable and I put a rope up on that one wall. The next day my teammate went up on the same wall when it came over and it fell and crushed him under tons of ice. So that's an objective danger, something you really don't have any control over.

PHILLIPS: Now I know you believe in the mantra, if you're not living on the edge, then you're not taking up too much space, which I think is a fabulous quote. But I -- to take it just one step further, my final question -- you know Frank James, the brother of Kelly James said, "You know, Kelly felt the closest to God when he climbed the mountain."

And I was looking at some of your pictures. You took pictures when you were heading to Mt. Everest of the Buddhist prayer flags on that trail and it just makes me think of how so many of these individuals, we may not understand it, those that don't climb, but there is a spiritual awakening for you and you destroy your comfort zone and you made it to Mt. Everest. You're the first American to do it. That must have been an incredible spiritual experience for you.

WHITTAKER: Exactly. It is an incredibly rewarding experience and let me tell you what the greatest cathedrals in the world are not the humans if you build in Cologne or all these different places that are the cathedrals built by the supreme being.

And there are no finer, more beautiful cathedrals in the world. You have to look at them and think, my god what incredible beauty. We've been programmed for centuries to walk and climb mountains, it's a natural thing for us do. And it's really brings you close to the supreme power.

PHILLIPS: Jim Whittaker, always a pleasure to talk to you. Thanks for sharing your story?

WHITTAKER: Thank you.

HOLMES: Well ever try your hand at origami? Ever try your hand at origami at zero gravity? Coming up, shuttle astronauts and solar arrays, they know how to hold them. But can they figure out how to fold them? They might need to space walk away. Miles O'Brien joins us live for the attempt. That's coming up.


HOLMES: Minutes from now, astronaut Robert Curbeam will step out into outer space and into history. Of course now our space guru Miles O'Brien right on top of it, hastily at its space walk. Miles, like they didn't have enough to do, they're adding duties for them. Another space walk.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Adding duties. They had a problem crop up last week, as you know but now, T.J. Wednesday they tried to close up a solar array. The solar array did not cooperate so well.

Take a look at the International Space Station now and you'll see to the right there, this right here is the radiator system. And up here are the solar arrays where they'll be focusing on today.

They want to fold them back in their box so they can move those solar arrays. Next mission -- or not the next mission, the mission in September, but so far it hasn't gone well automatically.

So they're going to out there and do some jiggling and shaking and they have some tools on hand to try to fold that thing back as it should be. They're in the air lock. The depressurization is going on, that is Christer Fugelsang putting on what they call snoopy cap. That's a communications cap that they wear there. He's the first astronaut from Sweden. He and Robert Curbeam will go on out and Curbeam will become the first shuttle astronaut ever to do four space walks on one shuttle mission. Busy guy up there, but you've got to be adaptable in space, T.J.

HOLMES: I guess you do, Miles. And we're going to be checking in with you a little bit for more on what's happening up there in space. So we'll see you soon.

O'BRIEN: We'll see you soon, bye.

PHILLIPS: Well they're not pretty, they're not fun, but hangovers aren't the worst thing that can happen to your body if you drink too much. You're also damaging brain cells, but here's some news worth toasting. Researchers in Germany say the brain can undo some of that damage caused by overindulgence. The key word there is some and the researchers warn the longer one drinks to excess, well the less resilient the cells become.

Hope and tragedy, a break in the weather, has Mt. Hood rescuers pulling out all of the stops in the search for two missing climbers. A live report straight ahead from the NEWSROOM.



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