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Snowed In; Bush & Iraq; London Fogged In; Major Delays; Marine Murder Charges
Aired December 22, 2006 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Stranded. Denver's airport is still shut down this morning. It's frustrating holiday passengers. Not just there, but across the country too.
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Charges filed. The U.S. military comes down hard on four Marines accused of murdering Iraqi civilians.
O'BRIEN: Security risk. A critical commuter link between New York and New Jersey is venerable to attack.
ROBERTS: And round two. Just when you thought it couldn't get any nastier, Donald Trump fires a new shot at Rosie O'Donnell. Those stories and more ahead on this AMERICAN MORNING.
O'BRIEN: And good morning. Welcome, everybody. It is Friday, December 22nd. I'm Soledad O'Brien.
ROBERTS: And I'm John Roberts in Washington this morning in for Miles O'Brien. I figured, Soledad, that my work there in New York was done. I made as many people ill as possible. Now it's time to start working on folks down here.
O'BRIEN: Yes. Me included. Good work. Good luck. No, actually you're working there today . . .
ROBERTS: Hey, good for you for hanging in there though.
O'BRIEN: Oh, I'm just joking. It's always been nice to have you. We appreciate today as well.
And, of course, it's beginning to look a lot like a Christmas nightmare for travelers. Here's what's new this morning.
More than 2,500 flights cancelled at Denver International Airport because of the snowstorm. Stranded passengers sleeping in the terminals. Some of them for two nights. The airport is planning to reopen with limited service at noon local time today. Dubbed the all- weather airport when it was built, it's actually not so much. It's been closed since Wednesday afternoon.
The travel nightmare extends well beyond Denver. The ripple effect grounded and rerouted planes. It's really expected to take several days to straighten out.
Overseas, travel is not much better. Heavy fog for the third day at London's Heathrow airport. Only some international flights have been coming and going.
We begin with Anastasya Bolton of our affiliate KUSA. She's got the very latest from the Denver airport this morning.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a serendipitous sort of, I guess, phenom. I mean pretty much there to increase the endorphin levels of individuals.
ANASTASYA BOLTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT, (voice over): Whether it's the music, something seems to be working.
CATHIE MCCALLUM, TRAVELER: It just feels good.
BOLTON: To keep people's spirits up.
MCCALLUM: I've gotten a lot of work done.
BOLTON: Listening to Cathie McCallum.
MCCALLUM: I work long days and multiple jobs.
BOLTON: You may start to wonder.
MCCALLUM: Maybe these little yellow puffs are snow balls that came from the storm.
BOLTON: If being at the airport for nearly two days is all that bad.
MCCALLUM I'm warm. I'm dry. I have food and water.
BOLTON: Yes. After two days at DIA, this teacher from Fort Collins can still laugh about the adventure.
MCCALLUM: So here we sit, two strangers under blankets. He said, oh my gosh, what am I going to tell my daughters. Sleeping with another woman.
BOLTON: And after two days at the airport, you sort of have to get comfortable and, well, feel like home.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Obviously you wonder, are they doing everything they can.
BOLTON: "They" being DIA. And they would tell you, yes, they are. Sky Nine captured the plows and snow blowers clearing the runway, something the airport has been doing all along, we're told. Mayor John Hickenlooper watched the cleanup Thursday.
MAYOR JOHN HICKENLOOPER, DENVER: It is almost like seeing an army going to war. It generally takes 20, 24 hours. We've got to get the airport open. But, you know, you go out there and you see the enormity of what the situation that they're dealing with. BOLTON: Nearly 600 travelers got to leave Thursday, temporarily, bussed to Denver hotels. But those who stayed decided to be productive, getting in line for the check-in counter a day ahead, keep their spirits up, hoping to get out of here Friday.
O'BRIEN: That was Anastasya Bolton of our affiliate KUSA with that report. The Denver airport expects to reopen with limited service at noon today. That's local time. In just a few minutes we're going to take you live to Chicago O'Hare's Airport, showing you how the Denver closing is affecting other airports across the country.
ROBERTS: Yes, they're only going to have two of their six runways open, so I bet things are still going to be going slow this afternoon.
S. O'BRIEN: No question, yes.
ROBERTS: Eight Marines, including four officers, facing charges this morning in the killings of 24 Iraqi civilians. The killings 13 months ago in the western Iraqi town of Haditha. Four Marines are charged with murder. Their battalion commander and three others officers are accused of failing to properly investigate and report the deaths.
The murder charges carry possible life sentences. The officers face punishment, ranging from loss of rank and pay to five years in prison. We're going to take a closer look at these Haditha charges coming up in just a few minutes here on AMERICAN MORNING.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says the war in Iraq is, "worth the investment in American lives and dollars." Rice says she believes America can win the war, but that it's been more difficult than she expected. Her comments came in an interview with the Associated Press. The war in Iraq has claimed the lives of 2,962 American troops and cost more than $350 billion. Rice says victory in Iraq will help transform the Middle East.
The Iraq War has been dragging down President Bush's approval ratings all year. Just look at the results of the November election. The latest CNN poll conducted for us by Opinion Research Corporation is out. Senior political analyst Bill Schneider takes a look at whether there are any signs of hope for the president.
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What kind of year has it been for President Bush? Don't ask. OK, we asked.
His party lot Congress. He acknowledged Iraq is not going well. And his image has taken a tumble.
For his first five years in office, most Americans regarded President Bush as honest and trustworthy. Now, most don't. Remember the values issue that got Bush reelected in 2004? Gone. Most Americans no longer believe President Bush shares their values. What looked like resolve after 9/11, came to look like stubbornness in Iraq. Most Americans no longer regard President Bush as a strong and decisive leader.
Most damaging? Only 37 percent of Americans say President Bush inspires confidence. Twice that many felt that way after 9/11. The president has lost the confidence of the American people.
Can he regain it? Sure. President Clinton did after 1994, his anishorivilous (ph), or terrible year. It takes hard work, good luck, and the ability to change direction without worrying about being called a flip-flopper.
Bill Schneider, CNN, Los Angeles.
O'BRIEN: Underwater train tunnels between New York and New Jersey may be even more vulnerable to terrorist attacks than officials first believed. A preliminary report that was done for the government by outside experts was leaked to "The New York Times" and the analysis of the path train system, which it was called, shows that any of the four cast iron train tunnels would flood within six minutes if a large bomb went off. A 50-foot hole from a blast would let in more than a million gallons of water each minute. And, of course, about 230,000 people rid the path trains every weekday.
Travel situation, as we have been mentioning, is a big mess here in the U.S. But, of course, the situation no better across the Atlantic. For the third day now, fog has grounded thousands of folks at Heathrow Airport. And, of course, the impact that's all connected being felt back here in the U.S. as well. CNN's Alphonso van Marsh is live for us at Heathrow this morning.
Good morning, Alphonso. How's it going?
ALPHONSO VAN MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, if you talk to a lot of people here this morning, it is not necessarily as good as you might think. As you mentioned, hundreds of flights cancelled. You can see behind me, hundreds of people waiting in line. Actually thousands of people have been stranded at this airport over the last three days.
The main reason being fog. Air traffic controllers significantly reducing the number of takeoff and landings for the planes simply because they want pilots to be able to see in front of them, to see other planes, so that it's safe. Now Matt (ph) mentioned hundreds of flights have been cancelled mostly within the United Kingdom. Also to other European destinations.
One upside is if perhaps people here are trying to get to New York, take advantage of the exchange rate between Britain and United States, those long hall flights are flying well. They're flying normally. In fact, there's one woman here with us, Isabelle Bather (ph). You're actually a Canadian who's been traveling in Europe and now you're trying to head back to Chicago I understand How has your experience this morning been?
ISABELLE BATHER, TRAVELER: Fine. We came up early because we weren't sure whether there would be fog on the south coast. We made very good time and were here in about 15 minutes. Normally we would have been 15 minutes later. And there were great crowds when we came here. The person who drove us up went in and got carts and he said it's chaos in there. But they've soon cleared it out and everybody is now very nicely queuing and we're getting along just fine.
VAN MARSH: Were you surprised by the number of people just kind of waiting, trying to get in and out through this airport?
BATHER: No, I don't think so. Because at this time of year anywhere there are always masses of people. And the people who are doing -- who would have been doing domestic flights are traveling some other way.
VAN MARSH: Great. Thank you so much.
BATHER: So I'm out here.
VAN MARSH: Thank you, Isabelle.
And that's the news from here. You realize folks that are going on these long-hall flights to the United States, they seem to be all right. Perhaps some delays, but they are getting home in time for Christmas.
O'BRIEN: So a little bit of good news there. Alphonso van Marsh for us this morning.
We're going to see how the ripple effect is affecting folks here, especially at one of the biggest airports in the country, Chicago's O'Hare Airport. We've got a live report coming up on that straight ahead.
ROBERTS: More like a rouge wave than a ripple effected, I'll tell you. Denver closed for two and a half days.
Coming up, Chad Myers is going to have your complete holiday travel forecast.
And the outcome of a daring rescue as bystanders and police leap into a river to save a man trapped in a sinking car.
Plus, witnesses give a detailed account of what happened in Haditha, including what may have triggered the violent killings of Iraqi civilians. Stay with us.
S. O'BRIEN: Happening this morning.
The big blizzard still causing big travel delays across the country. Denver's airport planning to reopen with limited operations at around 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time or noon local time. Of course it's all connected and that closing has had a rippling effect across the country for holiday travel this weekend. That means 90 minute delays at Chicago's O'Hare Airport. Kellie Craft (ph) is with our affiliate WFLD and she's live for us this morning.
Good morning, Kellie. How's it going?
KELLIE CRAFT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Soledad.
Well, it's busy here at O'Hare. And it always is busy. But many passengers have been stranded here overnight. Many of them are just waking up. Some of them, though, just got here. This is William.
William, tell me -- describe the scene here at O'Hare for me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would say that it's hectic. It's busy. We're hopeful. We're optimistic. We hope we can get out of here. That's all I can say.
CRAFT: All right, William, thank you so much. Hopefully you can.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:: Happy holidays and Merry Christmas.
CRAFT: Happy holidays.
Let's take a look at the security line. The security line just opened up about a half hour ago. Nearly 3 million travelers are expected to make their way through O'Hare and Midway this holiday weekend. Today, of course, expected to be the busiest day -- 240,000 passengers expected at O'Hare. It's the busy travel rush. Many people just waking up after spending the night here because their flights were canceled. More than 200 flights were canceled yesterday at O'Hare. Delays average one to two hours. Most of the delays are because of the dense fog here and, of course, all the troubles in Denver with the blizzard that hit here. But travelers, they did make the best of it at the airport. Many of them had to sleep on cots. Others took the time to play some cards. About 60 sailors from the Great Lakes Naval Base, they're here. We were talking with them. And they said that they just want to make it home this morning. But as I said, not too bad right now because the security lines just opened up. About a half-hour wait for all of the passengers to make it through. And they're all hoping they're going to make it home in time for Christmas.
That's the latest from O'Hare International Airport.
Kellie Craft. Soledad, we'll send it back to you.
S. O'BRIEN: All right, Kellie, thank you. And everybody looks kind of calm. There's no fighting in line. People maybe this early are tired.
CRAFT: No, which is good.
S. O'BRIEN: Maybe that's what it's about.
CRAFT: People are in the Christmas spirit.
S. O'BRIEN: Oh, maybe it's that.
Kellie Craft for us this morning.
Thanks, Kellie, for the update.
Twelve minutes past the hour. Chad Myers is at the CNN Weather Center with a look on how it's going to go today.
Chad, good morning.
ROBERTS: A closer look now at the murder charges leveled against four Marines. They are accused of killing 24 innocent Iraqi civilians. The Marines say they were under fire and responded according to the rules of engage. Here's what we know about what happened in Haditha in 2005.
ROBERTS, (voice over): 7:00 a.m. November 19th, Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, was rolling through Haditha in four Humvees. Corporal James Crossnan in the last vehicle.
CORPORAL JAMES CROSSNAN, U.S. MARINES: And it just happened like the last thing I knew we were driving back and we were -- me and T.J. were just talking crap to one another and the next thing I knew, I was down on the ground. And then passing out again.
ROBERTS: T.J. was Lance Corporate Miguel Terrazas, killed when a roadside bomb tore through the Humvee. Corporal James Crossnan was badly injured, knocked unconscious. What happened next depends on who you hear it from. The Marines' initial version of events said 15 Iraqi civilians were also killed in the bomb blast. Another eight described as insurgence were killed when they fired on the convoy.
But local witnesses tell a different story. Of Marines on a murderous rampage after the blast. Among the victims, they allege, four unarmed students ordered out of a taxi and onto the ground. Witnesses say they tried to run and were cut down by Marine bullets. Witnesses and survivors say a group of Marines walked from their parked Humvees to the closest house.
KALID SALMAN ANSIVE (ph), (through translator): The U.S. raided the house.
ROBERTS: Kalid Salman Ansive's sister and nephew were killed in the attacks. He claims they were murdered, along with the family patriarch. He says seven Iraqis died in that house. These pictures, taken by an Iraqi human rights group, show a trail of blood.
EMAN, SURVIVOR, (through translator): My name is Eman. I'm nine years old. I'm in fourth grade.
ROBERTS: Children were among the only survivors. Eman and her eight-year-old brother told their story to a Iraqi human right's group at CNN's request.
EMAN: First they shot my father inside the room and set the room on fire. My father's name is Walid (ph). And they killed my grandmother. She was sitting in the living room. Her name is Kumasa (ph).
ROBERTS: Attorneys representing Marines have given other scenarios, possible sniper fire, fighting for three or more hours. Marines may have been ordered to clear the houses of insurgents. There is little doubt, though, that the Marines went to a second house, one owned by a family named Yunis.
SAFFA YUNIS SALEM RASIF, SURVIVOR, (through translator): My name is Saffa Yunis Salem Rasif. I am the only one who survived from the Yunis family.
ROBERTS: Iraqi witnesses claim eight people were shot to death here, including six women. Next, witnesses allege, the Marines moved to houses across the road, gathered several families, separated the women and children, and killed four men, all brothers, inside. More than 15 hours after the Humvee was hit by a roadside bomb, the bodies of 24 Iraqis were take to a local hospital. And according to workers there, dumped in front of them.
ROBERTS: Now this is the most serious case of alleged abuse by American troops in the Iraq War. Four officers are also accused of failing to investigate the case. The charges are the first step in the military legal process. Next there will be what's call an Article 32 hearing. It's equivalent to a grand jury investigation.
O'BRIEN: John, thanks.
Happening in America this morning.
In Louisiana, Hurricane Katrina is blamed for the exodus of nearly 220,000 people from that state. That's about 5 percent of the population. The biggest drop in any state in 60 years. Now the loss could cost Louisiana a congressional seat.
In Georgia, authorities are awaiting for the return of Julian Dale Pipkins. He is the man who authorities say faked death in order to avoid child molestation charges. Pipkins was arrested in Miami. He's been missing every since he failed to show up at his trial last month.
In Florida, talk a look at this. A small plane crashed into the shallow waters near Merritt Island, which is east of Orlando. Authorities say the pilot was trying to land at an airport only about 150 yards away. Fortunately, the pilot wasn't seriously injured.
In Massachusetts, Kevin Im (ph) can thank some very good Samaritans for saving his life. Im's SUV plunged into the very cold Charles River right new Boston and Cambridge, after it collided with another car. Now three people, including two Cambridge police officers, jumped into the water and pulled Kevin out of his car. Nobody was seriously injured.
ROBERTS: Wow. Lucky fellow.
S. O'BRIEN: Yes.
ROBERTS: A quick look at the stories that we're watching right now.
November wasn't a great month for thousand of workers. We'll explain what's behind the economic slowdown.
And it's round two. The Donald calls in to Larry King and slaps a few more words at Rosie. You're watching AMERICAN MORNING.
ROBERTS: We're back on AMERICAN MORNING.
And happened now, the ripple effect from the blizzard still being felt by travelers across the country. But Denver's airport could resume limited operations at 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time today.
And whether also affecting Defense Secretary Gates' travel plans. Dense fog in Baghdad forced him to cancel a planned trip to Mosul. He's now on his way back to the United States.
O'BRIEN: Yet another Miss USA pageant scandal to tell you about with another beauty queen who was, in this case, stripped of her title. Miss Nevada USA, Katie Rees, had to give up her tiara after some very racy photos apparently surfaced of her, on the Internet. They showed her kissing other women, revealing her breasts, showing off her thong underwear at a party. Her attorney says those pictures are five years old when she was just 17. Anyway, runner-up Helen Salas will take her place and is the one who gets to compete in the 2007 Miss USA pageant, which is in March.
OK. The other beauty queen -- it's like I'm on the beauty pageant scandal beat this morning -- a little bit of a new life in that back and forth between Rosie O'Donnell and Donald Trump. Last night The Donald wouldn't let it go. He called into "Larry King Live" while he was flying on his private plane and here's what he told Larry.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LARRY KING, "LARRY KING LIVE": Why do you fight back so hard? In other words, you could have just say, ahh, forget it.
DONALD TRUMP: Because when people lie, Larry, I like to go after them. And I think, frankly, more people should be like that. I mean you look at this country. Look at the problems we have. Loss of lives got us into the war in Iraq and now we're mired in that. And now I hear they want to send more soldiers over. It's like disgusting. People should tell the truth.
KING: Would you want Rosie to be fired?
TRUMP: Oh, I think Barbara's going to end up doing it. Look, Barbara doesn't like Rosie. Let's not kid ourself. You know that. I know that. Anybody that knows Barbara knows that. Barbara's embarrassed by Rosie. Rosie is a total disaster.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
S. O'BRIEN: Well, Barbara Walters did weigh in on the feud. She was on vacation and said, "Both Rosie and Donald are high-spirited, opinionated people." That's kind of a euphonism, isn't it. "High- spirited, opinionated people. We cherish them both and hope the new year brings calm and peace." Which I doubt.
ROBERTS: Could this get any better than it is? I mean it could only get better if at 10:00 this morning Rosie decides to pick up the gloves and let him have a few.
S. O'BRIEN: Not going to happen.
ROBERTS: You don't think so?
S. O'BRIEN: I don't think so. She had opportunity yesterday and she didn't.
ROBERTS: I do. Well, maybe she's just keeping her powder dry for today. I don't know how you let stuff like that go. I just don't understand it. Am I trying to egg them on or what?
S. O'BRIEN: Uh-huh.
ROBERTS: Thanks, Soledad.
The slowdowns in home building and the auto industry are hurting the economy. Coming at you now at 25 minutes after the hour, Stephanie Elam is "Minding Your Business."
Good morning, Stephanie. STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John.
Yes, we're talking a look at some info coming out from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And it seems that there is a lot of jobs that were lost in November, specifically we're looking at construction and manufacturing and 136,000 jobs that were actually gone during that period. Now we're talking about motor vehicles, as well as food and machinery. And as far as regions are concerned, the Midwest saw the large number of first time jobless claims due to those mass layoffs as well. Overall, the national unemployment rate is at about 4.5 percent in November and that's down from 5 percent the year before. So still lower there.
Now, let's take a look at how this affected the markets. The Dow was down yesterday. Down about 43 points. Fell down to 12,421. That's thanks to this economic data, which weighed on investors, made them feel a little uncomfortable about what's going on here in the overall progress of the economy. So that affected that.
Now there's one stock I do want to tell you about, and that would be Research in Motion. You may not know their name, but you definitely have heard of their product. They're the makers of Blackberry. And the Blackberry device, obviously, has been really increasing its usage across the country. So the third quarter earnings were up 47 percent. Revenues were up 49 percent as well. They added 875,000 users during the period. So now, over all, their subscriber base is to 7 million users. So good news there.
Back to you, Soledad.
S. O'BRIEN: Thank you very much.
Coming up this morning, it's not how they wanted to spend the holidays. Stranded travelers sleeping in airports as snow, and fog in some cases, kind of playing the role of the Grinch. An update on what's happening there.
And some new concerns that a key commute rail (ph) between New York and New Jersey is vulnerable to attack. We'll explain it all when AMERICAN MORNING continues right after this short break.
S. O'BRIEN: Stranded. That big blizzard in Denver grounding flights and trapping holiday travelers across the country.
ROBERTS: Charges filed. The U.S. military comes down hard on four Marines accused of murdering Iraqi civilians.
S. O'BRIEN: And the weakest link. A new report says New York's train tunnels are venerable targets for terrorists.
Those stories are ahead on this AMERICAN MORNING.
Welcome back, everybody. It's Friday, December 22nd. I'm Soledad O'Brien. Hi, John.
ROBERTS: Hey, I'm John Roberts in Washington this morning, in for Miles O'Brien.
Good morning to you, Soledad.
This is one of the biggest travel days of the year, though not the biggest. And probably some problems ahead for people.
S. O'BRIEN: Yes, definitely the ugliest travel day of the year, maybe. Our top story, in fact, this morning, is this travel nightmare that's been caused by the blizzard in Denver. Now here's what's new this morning. More than 2,500 flights were cancelled at Denver International Airport. Stranded passengers have been sleeping in the terminal, some of them for two nights. The airport's planning to reopen with limited service at noon today local time. You know that airport is the one that was called the all-weather airport. Not. When it was built. It's been closed since Wednesday afternoon now. The travel nightmare extends well beyond Denver because of the ripple effect of grounded and then rerouted planes. It's all expected to take several days to straighten out. Now, overseas, the travel's not much better. Heavy fog the third day at London's Heathrow Airport today. And only some international flights have been coming and going. So Colorado is still under a state of emergency while the plows are trying to push nearly two feet of snow out of the way. Pattie Logan is there for us again live this morning. How's it going there this morning Pattie, good morning?
PATTIE LOGAN: Good morning. Well it's a very cold morning. The clouds have moved out. The snow has stopped so it's a very different picture. The roads are plowed. They're getting things moving here in Denver, although they still have a lot of work to do. The governor has asked people to stay home again today to help get the roads more clear so the plows can operate better. As you were saying earlier, it's been a very tough time for holiday travelers out at Denver International Airport.
LOGAN (voice-over): Stuck, grounded, trapped. Call it what you will. But thousands are spending the final days before Christmas, the last place they expected to, Denver.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I'd say the younger people are fairly positive. The older people, I'm seeing like old ladies crying.
LOGAN: Of the nearly 5,000 still stranded in the city, about 1500 spent a second night at the airport, the longest closure in its history. While it may open Friday, this stuck hub is causing delays all over the country. For many folks Denver is where you change flights on the way to grandma's house.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We pretty much just found some boxes and just put them on the ground and kind of made a fort area and found blankets and just used our clothes to make it a little more comfortable and a little more homey, I guess.
LOGAN: Thousands were stuck on the roads all over the front rage, were there were 12-foot high drifts in some places. But folks here are resourceful, one group using the snow to help put out a fire. The rest did their best to dig out or just made the most of it. Friday promises relief, high around 40 and sun. City and state agencies should reopen by midmorning. The interstates in and out of Colorado are clearing one by one. But the governor is asking everyone to stay off the roads for at least another day, just three shopping days before Christmas.
(END OF VIDEOTAPE)
LOGAN: So the economic impact here has been pretty severe, the malls being shut for a couple of days. They are planning to open this morning, some of them as early as 8 in the morning. They're going to have extended holiday hours so people can still get in their shopping before Christmas if they've been procrastinating. The other economic impact though is perhaps a good one. The hotels have all filled up here in downtown Denver as well as out by the airport and all over the city. So, that is some good economic news for the city. It's going to be a little bit tough though as we get people going.
O'BRIEN: Yeah, and I bet those hotels full of really annoyed, angry, hostile people who have come from the airport. Pattie Logan for us this morning. Thank you Pattie for the update.
LOGAN: You're welcome.
ROBERTS: Soledad, eight marines including four officers facing charges this morning in the killings of 24 Iraqi civilians. The killings which happened 13 months ago in the western Iraqi town of Haditha shocked the nation. Four marines are charged with murder. Their battalion commander and three other officers are accused of failing to properly investigate and report the deaths. The murder charges carry with them possible life sentences. The officers face punishment ranging from loss of rank and pay to five years in prison.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says the war in Iraq is quote, "Worth the investment in American lives in dollars." Rice says she believes America can win the war, but that it's been more difficult than she expected. Her comments came in an interview with the "Associated Press." The war in Iraq has claimed the lives of 2,962 troops and cost more than $350 billion. Rice does insist though that victory in Iraq will help transform the Middle East.
Underwater train tunnels between New York and New Jersey are even more vulnerable to terrorist attack than officials first believed. A preliminary report was leaked to "The New York Times." The outside analysis of the PATH Train system shows that any of the four cast iron train tunnels would flood within six minutes if even a medium-sized bomb went off. A 50-foot hole from a blast would let in more than a million gallons of water each minute. About 230,000 people ride the PATH trains every weekday. Soledad? O'BRIEN: All right John thanks. Also happening this morning, a 48-year-old man is charged as a suspected killer of five prostitutes near Ipswich in England. Steve Wright, a forklift operator was arrested at his Ipswich home Tuesday after a massive manhunt for the killer of the five women who were found dead earlier in the month. Another man who was arrested in the case was released.
Britain and France are pushing for a U.N. vote today on sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program. Russia wants to hold off on the vote, citing some unresolved issues. The United States favors the sanctions. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says sanctions will not stop his nation's nuclear program.
In Beijing, six nation talks have ended this morning with little progress toward disarming North Korea. The party's deadlocked on sanctions with North Korea intent on getting them lifted before proceeding with the discussion. Now no further talks are scheduled. Here in the U.S. the government dusting off its military draft equipment for a test run. The selective service system is calling it a readiness exercise. Now that exercise won't happen till 2009 but it will be the first test in 11 years. The system randomly selects draftees by birth date. Yesterday the White House said it has not changed its stance against the draft.
The weather has the sight of today's homecoming for the shuttle "Discovery" up in the air again. Rain and clouds make landing at Florida's Kennedy Space Center doubtful. Crosswinds are forecast at the backup which is Edwards Air Force base in California. But the forecast is looking good at NASA's third choice which is White Sands, New Mexico. The shuttle doesn't have enough fuel to stay in orbit past Saturday. John?
ROBERTS: More to come on the stories that we're following this morning. It looks like many people aren't going to make it to their destinations in time for Christmas. Severe delays for air travelers, fog limiting service for people traveling overseas. London's Heathrow Airport hit the hardest. And air delays across the United States, the ripple effect of the massive storm that closed down Denver International Airport for two and a half days. We'll have the latest here on AMERICAN MORNING.
PAUL SAFFO, TECHNOLOGY FORECASTER: We have had this vision of personal aircraft for decades, personal helicopters, tiny airplanes, jet packs and the like. Take a look on the highway, most people can barely handle the horizontal dimension a car moves in. Add a vertical dimension, the problem isn't engines it's we need robots to fly these things for us.
DOUGLAS RUSHKOFF, CULTURAL THEORIST: I think the biggest change we're going to see in transportation is private commuters' willingness to give up the dream of independent transportation for the convenience of collective transportation, and that means light rail and monorails and all sorts of public collective transportation systems. RAY KURZWEIL, CEO, KURZWEIL TECHNOLOGIES: We will see less reliance in human drivers over the next 20 years. We'll have NANO technology devices that can basically get us off the ground.
SAFFO: There are huge changes afoot in air travel. First of all we're all going to fly more than ever. We will have the start of personal aircraft. You won't own an airplane, but we're going to have an air taxi service. Little five-person jets, a pilot and four passengers that are run almost like a limousine service.
RUSHKOFF: I believe that the fuel issue has already been solved. We already have enough good technology that we could easily transport ourselves even in private vehicles without using oil.
KURZWEIL: If you really looked to the ultimate solution, it's going to be using renewable energy. If we captured one percent of one percent of the sunlight that falls on the earth, we could meet 100 percent of our energy needs.
ROBERTS: We're monitoring the airport delaying across the country for you this morning. Right now no delays at New York's LaGuardia, but it's early yet. And Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson, delays are anticipated. None right now though. Chicago's O'Hare has delays of a full hour already. And ground zero for a lot of this mess, Denver. Denver International still closed, not expected to reopen until 2:00 eastern time and even then only limited operations.
O'BRIEN: And, in fact passengers who are stranded at Denver International Airport certainly putting the old holiday spirit to the test. Anastasia Bolton of our affiliate KUSA has our report this morning.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a serendipitous sort of I guess phenom. I mean pretty much there to increase the endorphin levels of individuals.
ANASTASIA BOLTON, KUSA (voice-over): Whether it's the music, something seems to be working.
CATHIE MCCALLUM, STRANDED PASSENGER: It just feels good.
BOLTON: To keep people's spirits up.
MCCALLUM: I've gotten a lot of work done.
BOLTON: Listening to Cathie McCallum --
MCCALLUM: I work long days and multiple jobs.
BOLTON: You may start to wonder --
MCCALLUM: Maybe these little yellow puffs are snow balls that came from the storm.
BOLTON: If being at the airport for nearly two days is all that bad.
MCCALLUM: I'm warm. I'm dry. I have food and water.
BOLTON: Yes, after two days at DIA this teacher from Ft. Collins can still laugh about the adventure.
MCCALLUM: So here we sit two strangers under blankets. He said oh my gosh, what am I going to tell my daughters. Sleeping with another woman.
BOLTON: And after two days at the airport, you sort of have to get comfortable. And well, feel like home.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Obviously you wonder are they doing everything they can.
BOLTON: "They" being DIA and they would tell you, yes, they are. Sky 9 captured the plows and snow blowers clearing the runway, something the airport has been doing all along we're told. Mayor John Hickenlooper watched the cleanup Thursday.
MAYOR JOHN HICKENLOOPER, DENVER: It is almost like seeing an army going to war. Because it generally takes 20, 24 hours. We've got to get that airport open but you go out there and you see the enormity of what the situation that they're dealing with.
BOLTON: Nearly 600 travelers got to leave Thursday, temporarily bussed to Denver hotels. But those who stayed decided to be productive, getting in line for the check-in counter a day ahead. Keeping their spirits up, hoping to get out of here Friday.
(END OF VIDEOTAPE)
O'BRIEN: That was Anastasia Bolton of our affiliate KUSA with that report. Coming up on 45 minutes past the hour.
ROBERTS: Ahead on this AMERICAN MORNING the fog isn't lifting and neither are the spirits of holiday travelers in London. We'll update you on the flight mess at Heathrow. And a town still reeling from a tragedy more than 35 years ago. Now their story is being told on the big screen. You'll hear their take on the movie "We are Marshall." Stay with us on AMERICAN MORNING.
O'BRIEN: Here's a look now at stories that CNN correspondents around the world are covering today.
ALPHONSO VAN MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Alphonso Van Marsh at London Heathrow Airport where thousands of travelers are stranded due to heavy fog. Under normal circumstances this would be one of the busiest travel days at one of the world's busiest airports. But due to weather conditions, all flights operating within Britain have been cancelled. Most flights operating from London to other European destinations, cancelled. But there is an upside, all long-haul flights, say from London to the United States, they're operating as normal.
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Matthew Chance in Gaza. More violence gripping the Palestinian territories as these areas experience some of their tensest moments in recent decades. Last night another ferocious gun battle on the streets here of Gaza City, at least one person shot dead in clashes between rival Palestinian factions, bringing to 11 the number of people who have been killed in the past week of a very bitter power struggle that has broken out since the Palestinian president declared he wanted to call for fresh elections in the Palestinian territories. Many ordinary Palestinians now deeply concerned that they are slipping into some kind of terrible civil war.
ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Aneesh Raman in Tehran. Nearly five months after mandating Iran to stop its nuclear program, the U.N. is set any day now to vote on possible penalties and that could prove the biggest test for how far Iran's regime is willing to go when it comes to nuclear defiance. We've heard from Iranian officials before that if sanctions of any kind are imposed upon the Islamic Republic that Iran could kick out IAEA inspectors and pursue its nuclear ambitions in secret. That would immediately ratchet up tensions that are already high between Iran and the west. In the most recent comments from Iran's president he not only refused to back down on the nuclear front but also had some unsolicited advice for President Bush saying that he resides in a glass palace and that he lacks the support of the majority of Americans.
(END OF VIDEOTAPE)
O'BRIEN: For more on these or any of our top stories, log on to our website at cnn.com.
ROBERTS: Coming up now to 53 minutes after the hour. We continue to keep an eye on the travel delays across the country. We're your best source of information on that this morning. Plus a popular doll that you might want to give your kids. Now there's an accusation that it's being made under sweat shop conditions.
And Rosie versus Donald, round two. He hurls a few more choice insults and talks again about suing. Stay with us on AMERICAN MORNING.
ROBERTS: We're back on AMERICAN MORNING and happening this morning, Denver's airport scheduled to resume limited operations at 2:00 p.m. eastern time. Hopes that it might help relieve delays both there as well as across the country. O'BRIEN: A popular toy could be made under very hard-working conditions. Its 55 minutes past the hour that means it's time for Stephanie Elam who's "Minding your Business" this morning. Good morning Stephanie. This is a very disturbing story.
STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is indeed Soledad and it's also interesting too because these dolls that we're talking about, the Bratz dolls, they tend to offend a lot of people's sensibilities. And now a labor group says that their work conditions that they're made in, in southern China are also offending their overall sensibilities. They're saying that these workers are overworked so much so by working 94 hours a week, even more sometimes if it's during peak delivery months as well. Now the (INAUDIBLE) violations also come in there, injury and health insurance and just by comparison, if you take a look at it, each worker makes about 17 cents off of every doll that's made while the dolls actually retail for $16 or more in the U.S. So if you look at it that way, you could see why there's a huge discrepancy there. And if you take a look at the overall bigger picture out of China, the overall numbers that are coming out of China, about 75 percent of the world's toys are coming out of China, this is according to the China Chamber of Commerce. And they said that $15.2 billion in sales were generated from toys just last year. So obviously they're making a lot of money here, and many are saying that they can take some of that money back to make for better conditions for their overall workers there. When I come back, we're going to take a look at GM. Right now they're the world's largest automaker, but they may be challenged and I'll tell you all about who that's going to be that's challenging them when I come back. Back to you Soledad.
O'BRIEN: All right, we'll look forward to that. Thanks Stephanie.
O'BRIEN: And coming up at the top of the hour, some of the other stories we're working on for you this morning, from the New Orleans "Times-Picayune", the state shrinks by 5%, report shows, that's the headline. Government says Louisiana lost nearly 220,000 residents after hurricane Katrina. If a lot of those people don't come back, the state could lose a congressional seat.
From "The New York Times", the U.S. to require more security at high-risk chemical plants. Bush administration is now mandating security improvements at high-risk chemical plants to try to guard against terror attacks. Officials say the new rules will be effective when they're paired with those tighter rail security measures for highly toxic materials. John?
ROBERTS: From the "Associated Press" this morning, for the first time ever, a live giant squid was successfully caught on tape. A Japanese research team videotaped the elusive creature as they were capturing it earlier this month. There you can see it hanging on to the pick that they're trying to pull it out with. Unfortunately the 24-foot-long squid wasn't alive for long. It died while being caught.
And most popular right now on cnn.com, another Miss USA contestant in trouble, Ms. Nevada USA, Katie Rees was stripped of her title yesterday after racy photos of her appeared on the internet. Her attorney called it a quote, "lapse in judgment." Soledad, I've seen those pictures and as lapses in judgment goes, this one was pretty stellar. Amazing.
O'BRIEN: Oh, well. All right, thanks John.
O'BRIEN: Stranded, Denver's airport is still shut down this morning. It's frustrating holiday passengers not just there, but as Chad pointed out, across the country today.
ROBERTS: Charges filed. The U.S. military comes down hard on four marines accused of murdering Iraqi civilians.
O'BRIEN: Security risk, a critical commuter link between New York and New Jersey is vulnerable to attack.
ROBERTS: And round two, just when you thought it couldn't get any nastier or better, Donald Trump fires a new shot at Rosie O'Donnell. Those stories and more ahead on this AMERICAN MORNING.
O'BRIEN: And good morning, welcome back everybody. Friday, December 22nd, I'm Soledad O'Brien in New York. Good morning, John.
ROBERTS: Hey, good morning to you Soledad. I'm John Roberts in for Miles O'Brien. I Washington this morning where it looks like this biggest travel -- sort of the last big travel day before Christmas is going to be a nightmare.
O'BRIEN: It's going to be a long one. It's going to be a Christmas nightmare in fact for many travelers. We'll tell you what's new this morning. Twenty-five hundred plus flights cancelled at Denver International Airport because of the snow storm, stranded passengers sleeping in some cases in that terminal for two nights. Now the airport is planning to reopen with limited service today at 2:00 p.m. eastern time, which of course, is 12:00 noon local time. You'll remember this particular airport was dubbed the all-weather airport when it was built. It's been closed since Wednesday. And the travel nightmare extends well beyond Denver, of course there's the ripple affect of the grounded and rerouted planes and that could take several days to straighten out.
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