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CNN NEWSROOM

Democrats Pass Stem Cell Bill; U.S. Troops React to President Bush's New Iraq War Strategy; Bindi Irwin Building On Her Father's Legacy

Aired January 11, 2007 - 15:00   ET

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


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: The next hour of the CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Hello again. I'm Kyra Phillips, live at the CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta.

LEMON: And I'm Don Lemon.

The president's foot soldiers pitch his new plan on Capitol Hill. We will put you in the front row.

PHILLIPS: We're also getting reaction from U.S. troops in Iraq. What do they have to say?

LEMON: And the stem cell showdown -- we're waiting for a vote that could prompt a veto.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

PHILLIPS: Third order of business in the first 100 hours, a measure that passed Republican-led Congress in 2005 and drew the one and only veto of the Bush presidency: more money for research on embryonic stem cells. Despite their newfound majority, House Democrats still face very long odds. And the clock, you will note, is ticking.

CNN's Brianna Keilar is watching from our D.C. bureau -- Brianna.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kyra, this bill has bipartisan support. It's expected to cruise through the House here in a few minutes.

And, then, the Senate has said it will take it up in short order. And it's expected to make its way through the Senate as well. But, as you said, President Bush vetoed basically the same bill this summer. He's expected to veto it again.

Now, this bill would allow federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. And it would also increase the lines, the stem cell lines, that researchers now are able to use now. Experts say stem cells could help treat diseases like Alzheimer's, Lou Gehrig's disease, even spinal cord injuries.

But extracting stem cells from embryos destroys the embryos. And many conservatives say it's morally unethical. Here is part of the emotionally charged debate that went down on the House floor today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. DIANA DEGETTE (D), COLORADO: Some suggest that it's Congress' role to tell researchers what kind of cells to use, adult stem cells, cord blood, so-called ANT, amniotic, or others. I suggest we are not the arbiters of research. Instead, we should foster all of these methods, and we should adequately fund and have ethical oversight over all ethical stem cell research.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: Now, the Bush administration released a statement this morning, saying they don't agree with this bill, saying that it's tantamount to destroying life.

Of course, if it did go to President Bush, and he vetoes this, Congress could override his veto with a two-thirds-majority vote. Congress wasn't able to muster that in either house this summer. But observers say, it's possible the Senate could have the votes. But, at this point, Kyra, the House is more questionable.

PHILLIPS: Brianna Keilar, thanks.

LEMON: The president's proposal for Iraq, the numbers, a timeline, the terms keeping Congress busy, though it's still not clear what lawmakers can or will do about it.

Let's check in now with our congressional correspondent, Dana Bash. She's keeping an ear on those hearings for us.

Hey, Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Don.

Well, the secretary of state is still on Capitol Hill. So is the secretary of defense. But it was what we saw this morning, when the secretary of state appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, that was perhaps the most striking and telling, in terms of the reception that the president's revised Iraq plan is getting, because she was trying to pitch it to the new Democratic-controlled Congress.

But it was the Republicans who, really in an unprecedented way, expressed skepticism by some, concern by others, opposition, and, at times, outright hostility towards the president's plan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK HAGEL (R), NEBRASKA: I think this speech, given last night by this president, represents the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam, if it's carried out.

SEN. GEORGE VOINOVICH (R), OHIO: I am skeptical that a surge of troops will bring an end to the escalation, violence, and the insurgency in Iraq.

SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI (R), ALASKA: I'm not convinced, as I look to the plan that the president presented yesterday, that what we're seeing is that much different than what we have been doing in the past.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Now, as you just heard, what we heard, in terms of questions, over and over from Republicans and Democrats were things like, how is this plan different from what the president has tried in the past? How much can the administration really rely on Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to carry out this plan? And, also, how much do they really think that this additional 20,000, 21,000 troops -- what kind of difference are they going to make in this sectarian violence that has been going on so strongly in Iraq?

Now, it is -- the Democrats also had some tough questions for the secretary of state. They, pretty much, almost unanimously, disagree, opposed with the idea of sending more troops to Iraq.

One senator, one Democrat, a liberal, Russ Feingold from Wisconsin, he made clear that he is trying -- going to try to use the one power that Democrats really do have now, as they have control of the House. And that is the power of the purse.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD (D), WISCONSIN: And now Congress must use its main power, the power of the purse, to put an end to our involvement in this disastrous war.

And I'm not talking here only about the surge or escalation. It is time to use the power of the purse to bring our troops out of Iraq.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Now, Democratic leadership, members of the Democratic leadership in the Senate and the House, they have made clear they are not going to go that far, at least not initially. They're keeping the door open to that.

But, right now, what they are planning are votes in the House and in the Senate, test votes to gauge the president's plan on the floor of the House and the Senate.

The Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, he is somebody who actually supports the president's plan. He said that he thinks that he is -- he said he probably will filibuster in the Senate that plan. The Democratic leader, the majority leader, Harry Reid, says that he probably has enough votes to override that.

And, given what we heard in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, given what we're hearing elsewhere among the rank-and-file Republicans, Don, it is possible that there might be enough votes to override a filibuster on a resolution opposing the president's plan. But we certainly will have to wait and see. And that might not happen for a couple of weeks.

LEMON: All right, we will be watching. Thank you, Dana Bash, reporting from Capitol Hill.

PHILLIPS: Live to the House floor right now, where a vote is under way under way on stem cell research, third piece of legislation Democrats have taken up on its first -- in their first 100 years -- or first 100 hours, rather...

(LAUGHTER)

PHILLIPS: ... of being in this position right now.

What is at stake is whether this research on stem cells taken from human embryos should be underwritten with taxpayer funds. As you know, we have talked about this as this debate has been going on for years now.

Scientists say, look, this type of research can help cure diseases like Parkinson's disease. Critics have said, it's not ethical, that there is the issue of life, and that these cells should not be taken from human embryos. We will go back to the floor once the vote is final.

Now, as we mentioned, President Bush is in Georgia this hour, visiting some of the soldiers who will carry out his new war plan.

CNN national correspondent Bob Franken joins us live once again from Fort Benning -- Bob.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, he, the president, leaves the budding uprising that is going on in Washington right now, and comes to the relatively not unfriendly confines of a military base here at Fort Benning, where some of the troops are preparing for their third deployment to Iraq.

Nevertheless, the president had lunch with the troops today, with a large group of the troops, right after he arrived, and members of their family. Then, he looked at the training sessions, and is going to be meeting, and is meeting with 25 family members of people who have lost their loved ones in Iraq.

But the president came here because these are the people who are going to bear the brunt of his new policies.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Some units are going to have to deploy earlier than scheduled as a result of the decision I made. Some will remain deployed longer than originally anticipated.

I will work with you and the Congress to provide all the resources you need in this war on terror.

(END VIDEO CLIP) FRANKEN: Family members, of course, are going to be very interested to find out which of these deployments is going to be extended, which of them is going to mean a shorter turnaround at home. And will the president's policy, the new policy, mean that they won't have to go through this again and again? -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Bob Franken live at Fort Benning, Georgia.

LEMON: Well, we want to hear from you. What do you think of the president's plan for Iraq? E-mail us. That e-mail address is newsroom@CNN.com.

But, first, we want to go to the newsroom.

OK. We won't go to the newsroom. We are going to have more coming up. Don't go anywhere. NEWSROOM will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: Just getting word from the floor that it has passed -- we're talking about the host -- the House that was voting on the stem cell research bill, basically research on cells taken from human embryos. Should that research be underwritten with taxpayer funds? The president was not in support of that -- the House now overriding that, passing it. Of course, it has to go to the Senate, and then the president has to sign off.

Brianna Keilar has been following this for us. She has got all the numbers and tells us what it could mean -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Well, Kyra, for those who support this bill, which would increase or allow federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, this is some good news and also some bad news -- good news, obviously, because this did cruise through the House, and it's expected to cruise through the Senate as well.

But, when it goes to President Bush's desk, it's very possible, and he has indicated that he is going to veto it. He vetoed it in July. And the administration released a statement this morning, saying they don't agree with this bill.

The reason it's bad news is because, when you do the math, you realize, if he's going to veto this, the House, or Congress, would need a two-thirds majority to override his veto. Now, observers say it's possible the Senate could muster those numbers. But, right now, this vote, 254-174, is not going to give supporters of this bill the two-thirds majority they would need to override any presidential veto -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: And, just to put this in perspective, the ongoing controversy, Brianna, has been an ethical one: Is this considered life? Should this happen on an ethical level?

Meanwhile, scientists say, look, this could be a breakthrough to cure diseases like Parkinson's disease.

KEILAR: No, that's exactly right. Those who support this bill say, look, this could be the key to juvenile diabetes.

In fact, one of the representatives we heard from on the House floor today, his son has juvenile diabetes -- pardon me. And he gave, you know, a very heart -- very heartfelt comments this morning.

But, then, as you said, it is a moral issue, because, in order to take stem cells from embryos, you need to destroy those embryos. And, for people, mainly conservatives, who believe that conception begins -- that life begins with conception, they are morally opposed to this, and they say it's tantamount to taking human life.

PHILLIPS: Brianna Keilar, there in D.C., monitoring the vote, appreciate it.

LEMON: Another developing story here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

Let's go to the newsroom with Fredricka Whitfield to see what she has for us.

What do you have, Fred?

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Don, a follow-up on a story that we're following out of West Palm Beach, where the courthouse there, which houses a sizable building in downtown West Palm Beach, which houses both the circuit and county courts, well, that entire judicial facility has been evacuated, according to our sources there.

The reason? Because white powder was found, apparently in the library. I don't know if it's one of many libraries. But we know that this white powder was found in a library there in the judicial center, which is located on North Dixie Highway in downtown West Palm Beach. You see a number of emergency vehicles that are there responding to the scene.

And many people have been evacuated from that building while they get a closer look at examining this white powder found in one of the libraries there in that building -- Don.

LEMON: And, Fred, I'm just getting some new information that is coming over the wires here. Five people, we're hearing, at that courthouse have been contaminated.

So, again, did you say we're not exactly sure -- decontaminated -- sorry -- decontaminated. We're not exactly...

WHITFIELD: Yes.

LEMON: ... sure what the substance is? Is that what you're saying?

WHITFIELD: Right. I mean, they still have to go through a few tests to determine exactly what that white powder is.

But, as a precaution, when responding to situations like this, they set up -- and if we're able to see the wide shot -- actually, see at the bottom, the left corner?

LEMON: Yes.

WHITFIELD: That is a decontamination kind of tent...

LEMON: Yes.

WHITFIELD: ... that they have put into place.

LEMON: Yes.

WHITFIELD: So, anyone who may have been exposed to what may be a suspicious powder, such as this white powder, they go through that tent. And, you know, they are showered. And there are other measures that take place to try to offer some assurances that, if, indeed, this is a white powder that is dangerous, that perhaps they have taken the first level of measures in place to try and help that person...

LEMON: Yes. And it's...

WHITFIELD: ... who may have exposed.

LEMON: Just because, as you were alluding to, they have been decontaminated doesn't mean that it's, in fact, serious or anything that is life-threatening.

WHITFIELD: Right.

LEMON: It's just a precaution at this point.

But we will certainly check in, Fredricka. Try to get more information for us. And we will check in with you. Thank you.

WHITFIELD: OK.

PHILLIPS: More troops? That much, we get. But when are we -- when are they going to go? And what will be the mission? We are breaking it down -- next in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: Well, the nation's new defense secretary was quick to defend the new Iraq war plan. Robert Gates appeared before the House Armed Services Committee today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT GATES, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: I'm directing that all commands and units review how they administer the hardship waiver program, to ensure that they are properly taking into account exceptional circumstances facing our military families of deployed service members.

It is important to note that these policy changes have been under discussion for some time within the Department of Defense, and would be needed regardless of the president's announcement on Iraq last night.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIPS: Gates was sworn in less an month ago, replacing Donald Rumsfeld. He was also a member of the Iraq Study Group, the bipartisan panel that recommended a gradual U.S. troop pullout, not buildup.

LEMON: Well, how do U.S. troops in Iraq feel about the plan to send 21,500 more?

CNN's Arwa Damon has been looking into that.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have got to put eyes on the far side. You have got to put eyes on, on the other side.

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): During a brief pause in the battle for Haifa Street in central Baghdad, this young sergeant was willing to talk about what the president's plan would mean, to increase U.S. troops here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's a double-edged sword.

In one way, bringing more troops could show a lot more force. It could either incite insurgents or maybe (INAUDIBLE) them to back off. You never really know, because they -- they do what they want to do. And that's what is so hard about fighting here.

DAMON: Hard on these men, the stateside debate about the war they are fighting, at times feeling that they are the pawns of politics.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just saw a lot more of the responses to the presidential address than I actually saw of the presidential address. And it's just -- it's really aggravating, just listening to all these people that have never been over here.

And half of them really don't even know what's going on over here, just either not supporting the war because they don't like the president, or not supporting the war just because they're Democrats, or supporting the war just because they're Republicans.

And none of them are taking the time and energy to, you know, find out what is actually going on over here.

DAMON: And what is going on over here is complex, factions of hard-core extremists, nationalist fighters and militias, combined with a weak government and struggling Iraqi security forces. The result is ugly.

A change in tactics, most U.S. soldiers agree, is needed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're trying out something new, another strategy. I mean, if it works, it works. If not, we will just have to figure something else out.

DAMON: From their experiences fighting in Baghdad, the men say extra troops will best be used to help train the Iraqi forces.

Even in areas that have already been handed over to Iraqi control, the Americans find themselves still coaching and mentoring the Iraqis, at times down to the very last detail -- here, trying to get Iraqis to make their shots count. The U.S. soldiers also say, when they are around, there is less sectarian violence.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can only be in so many places at -- you know, at one time. So, if we move from here to another area, the people that we just prevented from attacking a family are going to notice that we're gone and do that. So, if we have more soldiers here, we can be more places at one time.

DAMON: And, among some, relief their commander in chief finally appreciates what they face on the ground.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think he did a pretty good job of owning up to what is going on over here. And he's obviously getting a better grasp of what is happening.

DAMON: Most of these soldiers are on their second tour of duty in Iraq. And they have heard plans being laid out at the senior government levels before. And, as many of them said, the plans sound great on paper.

(on camera): But, as these soldiers know from experience, the plan translates differently in the streets of Baghdad. And they also know that military power alone is not going to win this battle, despite their best efforts.

Arwa Damon, CNN, Baghdad.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: Well, we want to hear from you. What do you think of the president's plan for Iraq? E-mail us. The address is newsroom@CNN.com.

PHILLIPS: Just two days after unveiling its long-awaited iPhone, Apple seems to be in a bit of a legal scuffle.

Didn't expect that to happen so quickly, Susan Lisovicz.

(LAUGHTER)

SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, in a way -- you know, actually, we knew that this might happen, actually, as Steve jobs was making the announcement.

And when Steve Jobs decided to call it iPhone, well, that's what we went with. But, you know, Apple has had these kind of scuffles over trademark disputes before. I mean, it still has one going on with the Beatles record label over the rights to the name Apple. Now Apple has another trademark fight on its hands. Cisco Systems is suing Apple over the iPhone name. The networking gear- maker says it holds the trademark on iPhone, and wants to prevent Apple from using the name for its much anticipated new product. Cisco, in fact, has held the trademark on the iPhone name since 2000.

It officially launched Internet-enabled phones that go by that name three weeks ago.

Steve Jobs, of course, unveiled Apple's iPhone Tuesday at Macworld. After the announcement, Cisco told us that the two tech giants had been negotiating for weeks over use -- over the use of the name. Cisco said it planned to take Jobs' announcement as an indication that Apple would agree to its final terms. But Cisco says Apple never followed up. And, so, it's taking the next step. It's going to court -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: So, what does Apple have to say about all this?

LISOVICZ: Well, Apple has something to say about it.

Its publicist, spokeswoman, says it's a silly little dispute. But, on record, in a statement, the quote is: "We believe Cisco's U.S. trademark registration is tenuous at best. If Cisco wants to challenge us on it, we are confident we will win." And that's the end of that quote.

Apple's iPhone isn't slated to launch until June. And it's -- well, it's likely, and perhaps hopeful, that the companies will resolve this, one way or another, before then. Of course, we will be on top of it, too.

(MARKET REPORT)

And that's the latest from Wall Street. I will be back in about 30 minutes with a wrap-up of the trading day -- more NEWSROOM in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: Hello, everyone. I'm Kyra Phillips, live at the CNN world headquarters in Atlanta.

LEMON: I'm Don Lemon.

Hard sell on the Hill -- the president's plan for Iraq is getting grilled by Democrats and Republicans, but how is it going over with those who may be called to serve? The answers in the CNN NEWSROOM.

PHILLIPS: Let's get back to Fredricka Whitfield, still working that suspicious substance.

Where exactly is it, Fred?

WHITFIELD: Right.

This is at the West Palm Beach Courthouse, which houses both circuit court and county court chambers and offices.

And what we understand is, we've got some new information and we want to bring you some clarification. What we understand is a white powdery substance was found in two envelopes in the mail room of this building. Five people who were believed to have been exposed to this powdery substance in the mail room have been decontaminated.

It's a process, see in the upper right hand of your screen, you see that tent outside -- they pass through that tent and a number of things take place to make sure that they fully examine the people, if, indeed, they have been exposed to anything dangerous.

They have closed off the primary entrance of the building, but I understand that any trials that were ongoing while this discovery was made, they are allowed to continue. So those people are still inside the building.

In the meantime, a number of other people have been evacuated from the building. I understand we have a public information officer with the Palm Beach sheriff's office who is joining us now on the phone -- Teri Barbera.

Teri, if you can clarify any of the information that I've just given or perhaps you have any added information? What's the latest?

TERI BARBERA, PALM BEACH SHERIFF OFFICE: At this time, I understand that mail came into our mail room this morning either at 8:00 a.m. or 11:00 a.m.

A member of the mail room was getting ready to deliver mail. She left from the mail room area, walked into the library area, and then up to two different judge chambers on the ninth floor of the courthouse.

At that time is when the white powdery substance was discovered. I understand in her package of mail, it was between a few other packages and it wasn't determined at the very beginning that there was a white powdery substance in her hand.

So, at that point, she discovered it. Authorities were notified. The West Palm Beach fire rescue is here, along with our hazmat. Hazmat tested the white powdery substance and it appeared it's called tellurium, which is a silvery, white in color and it has a metallic type luster.

We have five individuals that came in contact with this white powdery substance and they are being decontaminated right now as we speak. The FBI is here as well and they are in the process of reading the contents of the envelope to determine if there has been any threat.

WHITFIELD: All right. A couple of things then Teri. A) What is tellurium? And B) did this substance seep from the envelopes thereby exposing people or is the exposure based on those who have handled the envelopes. BARBERA: It was secreting from the envelope, however she was now aware this was occurring as she went on delivering. So, when we checked back we realized that she had been in the area of the law library as well as two separate judge chambers on the ninth floor of the courthouse.

WHITFIELD: What is your understanding of what tellurium is?

BARBERA: Excuse me?

WHITFIELD: What is tellurium?

BARBERA: I'm being told it's a white, silvery white substance. It has metallic luster to it. It's in the sulfur family. I don't know much more about that, about it at this time.

WHITFIELD: But as a precaution, people are being decontaminated because exposure something like tellurium could be potentially dangerous or is ...

BARBERA: Yes, I understand that it's a poison of some sort, I just don't know that much about it at this point, but they are being decontaminated, yes, definitely.

WHITFIELD: OK, so we know that five people are being decontaminated. Who knows if there might be others? Can you give us clarification about how many people had to be evacuated?

BARBERA: We did not evacuate the courthouse. However, we did shut it down to anybody coming in. We have the perimeter secured so no one can walk into the courthouse. We are allowing people out. Court is still in session.

WHITFIELD: Great. All right. Well that coincides with information we got earlier that those cases that are already underway in court right now were allowed to resume.

Bottom line, five people who have been exposed to this substance called tellurium as you explained to us Teri, have gone through the decontamination process or are continuing to go through the decontamination process. The FBI now involved along with various jurisdictions there on the ground. We appreciate your time from the Palm Beach sheriff's office.

BARBERA: No problem.

WHITFIELD: All right, so Kyra there you have it. Of course, when we get any more information we will be able to bring that to you, namely, what is tellurium. I know I'm curious.

PHILLIPS: All right. We'll follow up. Thanks Fred.

LEMON: It was predicted, renounced, argued over, and used by some to launch new comparisons to Vietnam. We're talking about President Bush's latest plan for Iraq. What even a Republican senator calls a hail Mary pass. Here is a bit of the president's prime time address to the nation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The situation in Iraq is unacceptable to the American people and it is unacceptable to me. Our troops in Iraq have fought bravely. They have done everything we have asked them to do. Where mistakes have been made, the responsibility rests with me.

In our discussions, we all agreed that there is no magic formula for success in Iraq. And one message came through loud and clear -- failure in Iraq would be a disaster for the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Now, here in broad strokes, some key figures: 21,500 -- the size of the so-called troop surge to Iraq, mostly to Baghdad and the violent, lawless Anbar Province.

November, that's when the president wants the Iraqi government to assume control of all provinces and he said without elaborating, that he expects Iraqi leaders to adhere to his plan and timetable.

We asked you what you think of the president's plan for Iraq and here is what some of you are saying today.

PHILLIPS: Fran from South Carolina is pretty fired up. She writes, "I'm 100 percent opposed to Bush's speech" -- I think that's what supposed to say Bush's speech. "I think that his great big ego is wrapped up in this war and he refuses to face the facts.

Then again facts never did mean much to him. WMDs, mission accomplished, no body bags will be needed. Like many others I have totally lost all trust in him or in anything that he proposes after all his lies have been unearthed. Perhaps it's time to consider impeachment for the healing of this country, no, for the whole world."

LEMON: All right. Colin, a retired Air Force fighter pilot wrote this, "What I had hoped to hear the president say (I did not hold my breath), 'Since I missed the Vietnam Conflict, I will join the U.S. troops on the ground, rifle in hand, and stay with them until I decided to bring them home."

PHILLIPS: Carol in New Jersey wants the president to put down his shovel. She writes, "I am shocked and disappointed in President Bush's announcement of sending more troops to Iraq. It will not win the war. Military leaders have labeled this war as a civil war and one we cannot win. Mr. Bush -- you are in a hole -- just stop digging!"

LEMON: Let's hear from Judy now. Judy is from Nebraska and she says, "All of America should get behind President Bush in this critical hour. More troops are needed now. There absolutely should be bipartisan support in giving the money needed to win this war. Our men and women should come home in victory, not defeat." Well, his last trial ended in murder. A manhunt and a major city terrorized. Now Brian Nichols is headed back to court right here in Atlanta. Details straight ahead in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: Picking a jury at the scene of the crime -- across the street, actually, from the Fulton County Courthouse here in Atlanta. A jury pool is being screened in the trial of Brian Nichols. Potential jurors number in the hundreds, and it could take months to choose 12. Nichols is accuses of a murderous rampage that started in the courtroom where he was on trial for rape in 2005.

CNN's Thomas Roberts takes us back.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

THOMAS ROBERTS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On the morning of March 11, 2005, Brian Nichols was in custody in Atlanta for retrial on rape charges. But on his way to the courtroom, he broke free and allegedly went on a killing spree that lasted for 26 traumatic hours.

Nichols was being moved from a holding room when police say he overpowered a sheriff's deputy and took her gun. Police say Nichols then burst into a crowded courtroom and opened fire, killing a judge and a court reporter. While trying to get away, police say Nichols shot and killed a sheriff's deputy Hoyt Teasley.

Later that day, a U.S. Immigration and Customs agent was shot and killed and his truck stolen. That night, Nichols managed to hide out in an apartment belonging to Ashley Smith. Police say that Nichols approached her in her parking lot and took her hostage. During the next several hours, the pair formed an unlikely bond. Smith said she was able to gain the trust of Nichols by talking about religion and family.

ASHLEY SMITH, HELD HOSTAGE: He said he thought that I was an angel sent from God, and that I was his sister, and he was my brother in Christ, and that he was lost and God led him right to me.

ROBERTS: The next morning, Nichols allowed Smith to leave the apartment and she called 911. Authorities arrived at the apartment a short time later and Nichols surrendered by waving a white towel.

(on camera): And the long process begins today at the courthouse behind me to seat the 12 jurors and the six alternates. However, in this city, it may be hard to find people who are not familiar with the story of Brian Nichols. And it's also very to important to remember that this is a death penalty case with over 50 counts for jurors to consider.

Thomas Roberts, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: Let's talk baseball now. Baseball slugger Barry Bonds likes to say he has never positive for anything. A new report raises new doubts. The "New York Daily News" quotes unnamed sources who say Bonds failed a test last season for amphetamines. The paper says Bonds blamed a substance he took from a teammate's locker.

Neither Bonds' agent nor Major League Baseball will comment on this, but the teammate denies it. Bonds has long faced suspicions that he used illegal steroids. He is also being investigated for what he said or didn't say to a grand jury.

PHILLIPS: Perverts, shootings, sex and violence of every size and shape just the other night on primetime TV, at least in the view of a media watchdog group that says 2006 will go down as the most violent ever. The Parents Television Council has been tracking this for eight years.

It found an average of 13 unsavory incidents per hour of primetime programs with a trend toward rapists and sexual predators. It says the violence on weeknight TV has risen 75 percent since 1998. The research covers six networks but doesn't include cable.

LEMON: Still to come here in the NEWSROOM, she is the pride of Australia -- Bindi Irwin, the 8-year-old daughter of the late Crocodile Hunter and she is coming to America. You don't want to miss that straight ahead in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Let's head back now to the newsroom and Fredricka Whitfield. We have five people decontaminated. What is going on now?

WHITFIELD: Right. Now, we understand the West Palm Beach Judicial Center, where those five people were decontaminated because of exposure to a suspicious white powder, the building now has been given an all-clear.

So while, for awhile, they had closed the front entrances, yet allowed trials to continue inside, now those entrances have been opened and apparently they have done some preliminary testing of that white powder which is believed to be tellurium which is a byproduct of refining leaded copper.

And, presumably, because they've given an all-clear, they believe that anyone else is out of danger. We don't anything more about the five people who were believed to have been exposed and taken through the decontamination process.

We are still waiting for some information on that but we were told by various officials, including a sheriff's department PIO that the contamination began in the mail room and then these two letters, which had this powdery substance in them, were taken to a law library within the building, and hence, at least five people exposed along the way.

So bottom line is the building has been given an all-clear. So good news that they don't believe anyone has been exposed to dangerous levels of this substance. LEMON: Whatever tellurium. You kind of explained what tellurium is so...

WHITFIELD: Yes, I didn't give you a great explanation but that's what I know right now.

LEMON: Yes, but the good news, you said it's all clear.

WHITFIELD: Right.

LEMON: All right, Fredricka Whitfield, thank you.

PHILLIPS: Bindi Irwin, definitely her father's daughter. At the tender age of 8, the eldest child of Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin is building on her late father's legacy.

This week, she's touring the U.S. to promote her new TV show, and CNN's Chris Lawrence reports on it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The daughter of Australia's Crocodile Hunter is taking her first steps in her father's shoes. Eight-year-old Bindi Irwin became instantly recognizable after delivering a brave eulogy at her father Steve Irwin's memorial service, televised around the world.

BINDI IRWIN, DAUGHTER OF CROCODILE HUNTER STEVE IRWIN: I don't want Daddy's passion to ever end. I want to help endangered wildlife just like he did.

LAWRENCE: Now Bindi and her mother, Terry, are launching a 10- day tour of America. They will be appearing on television talk shows and give speeches all over the country.

KAREN STERNHEIMER, SOCIOLOGIST: It's a lot of pressure, I think, especially coming off the death of her father, very sudden and tragic. It's a lot of expectations for someone very young.

LAWRENCE: Steve Irwin took great risk to get close to and learn more about animals.

STEVE IRWIN, LATE CROCODILE HUNTER: It's an alligator, Larry.

LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR: What's the difference?

IRWIN: Big difference, mate. You know what, but you're in no danger because he's not in the S position.

LAWRENCE: Bindi's tour coincides with the release of the ocean documentary her father was filming in September, when a stingray barb pierced his heart and killed him. Bindi wants to pick up where her father left off.

(on camera): But experts say it will be important for the adults around her to let Bindi develop her own style, not try to bring Steve Irwin back to life.

B. IRWIN: This is Humphrey. He's a bison. Did you know that bison are one of the biggest land animals in America?

LAWRENCE: By informing and entertaining others, Bindi Irwin may be healing from her father's death while carrying on his life's work.

Chris Lawrence, CNN, Los Angeles.

PHILLIPS: Bindi and Terri Irwin join our Larry King tonight for an exclusive interview. That's at 9:00 Eastern, only on CNN.

LEMON: Well, Barbaro is back in a sling but still, his doctors say, on the road to recover. Yesterday we learned the Kentucky Derby winner had suffered a setback with serious pain in his left hind foot which developed liminitis (ph) -- lemonitis (ph) last summer.

Today vets say Barbaro is stable and acceptably comfortable after damaged tissue was removed from his hoof. The thoroughbred's problems began at the outset of last year's Preakness when he shattered three bones in his right hind leg.

Now let's check in with CNN's Wolf Blitzer.

PHILLIPS: He's standing by in the sit room to tell us what's coming up at the top of the hour.

Hey, Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, guys.

Thanks very much.

The Bush administration, very busy trying to sell a plan that many Americans are simply not buying, a strategy that one Republican senator is calling -- and I'm quoting now -- "the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam if it's carried out."

We'll have much more reaction to the president's Iraq approach. And our own John King will report on how much isolation it might be earning the president.

Also, it's a very high honor: Democrats pick the city to host its 2008 presidential convention. We're going to tell you where it will be and the strategy behind the choice.

And he hopes to be the star of that convention. That would be Democratic Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut. He's skipping a presidential exploratory committee and going straight for a presidential run. I'll speak with Senator Dodd about Iraq and his presidential ambitions.

All that, coming up right here in the "SITUATION ROOM".

Back to you guys. LEMON: All right.

Thank you, Wolf.

Everybody wants to be a star.

PHILLIPS: Well, one small step for a woman and one giant leap for a womankind. Centuries of tradition thrown out the tower window in London. Keep a stiff upper lip. The NEWSROOM will be right back.

LEMON: The closing bell and a wrap of the action on Wall Street straight ahead. Don't go anywhere.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Well, they protect the crown jewels and guard the Tower of London. The Beefeaters have done the same job the same way since Henry VII. But the times and the guards are a-changing.

CNN's Alphonso Van Marsh is in London.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALPHONSO VAN MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For more than 500 years, the Tower of London's iconic Yeoman Warder, better known as the Beefeater, has been an elite guard unit of men. Now, Military Officer Moira Cameron is first female to join the Beefeater ranks since King Henry VIII created the Yeoman Warders in the 15th century.

MOIRA CAMERON, BEEFEATER: I didn't think that they were doing for the sake of just doing it, to look good for the P.R. side of things. No, I didn't think that because I actually wasn't the first woman to be interviewed.

VAN MARSH: Before taking up her position, guarding the crown jewels at the tower, Cameron must receive the blessing of the queen, but that's a formality. Officials at the tower say they favored Cameron over five other male candidates because she was the best person for the job.

Like other Beefeaters, she is a soldier meeting the minimum 22 years of military service required. Her future boss says she'll be treated like other male Beefeaters, to the last stitch.

JOHN KEOHANE, CHIEF YEOMAN WARDER: The traditional red and black uniform, the blue undress that we wear, it will made to measure to fit her profile, but it's not going to be any different.

VAN MARSH: King Henry VIII initially had Beefeaters guard the tower's famous captives, including his second wife, Anne Boleyn, who was held in the tower and executed here too.

Today there are no more prisoners within these walls, but plenty of tourists. Cameron's Beefeater responsibilities include showing them around the tower. Historians say, that's nothing new. GEOFFREY PARNELL, SR. HISTORIAN, TOWER OF LONDON: By the 17th century that was one of their key duties. They were tour guides of the Tower of London.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on. Come on then.

VAN MARSH: Their colorful uniforms long a tourist draw, soon the popular changing of the guard at London Tower will look a little different.

(on camera): She is the center of press attention to day, but tourists wanting to get a picture of Moira Cameron may have to wait a little while longer. She doesn't officially don the Beefeater uniform until September...

(voice-over): ... when one of the current Yeoman retires.

Alphonso Van Marsh, CNN, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PHILLIPS: Resolve to swap fat for fit for 2007? Check out Seahook (ph). This is really frightening. A whale of a walrus is the new star attraction at Seaworld in San Diego. Seahook gets in a workout every day with his own personal trainer. He's not the only animal staying in shape.

Staying in shape, hello! That's not my idea of staying in shape, pal!

Anyway, one staff member's colleague can be spotted skipping rope with his owner as well.

All right. Closing bell about to ring on Wall Street. That's what Susan Lisovicz does. That's how she stays so hot. She does her sit-ups.

SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, this is a not so subtle message...

LEMON: Push-ups...

LISOVICZ: ... You know that I have some new resolutions for the New Year.

LEMON: Come on, Susan. Look at you, you don't need anything.

LISOVICZ: And I'm not going to do those girly push-ups, either.

LEMON: You doing the one arm behind your back?

LISOVICZ: Yes.

LEMON: All right. Let's...

LISOVICZ: No, no. I'm not there yet. LEMON: OK.

LISOVICZ: I'm not at the Jack Palance (ph) stage.

PHILLIPS: At least you didn't say Jack LeLaine (ph). Then that would of really taken us back.

LEMON: No, it's Jack LeLaine, right?

LISOVICZ: All right, listen. I want to tell you about something. We love going to Seaworld, right? But we don't like going through security at airports, right? It takes a long time. It's a drag.

But there are new developments on that front. According to published reports, guys -- listen up -- that there is going to be advertising. See those bins there where you show throw your shoes and your backpack? There's actually going to be advertisements that the TSA is expected to approve today after a six-month experiment at LAX.

Airports, well, some of them like the idea because they get millions of dollars in revenue that can offset all the security fees. And the TSA may like it as well because they get free equipment. Those bins, you know, they add up. They get a workout, too.

LEMON: Talk about a captive audience, huh? You're standing there in the security line?

LISOVICZ: But then that can make those lines longer. What if there's actually an interesting ad? You want to write down a phone number and you're distracted and then -- kind of makes that line longer, doesn't it?

PHILLIPS: Susan, we never have that kind of time to stall when we're going through security. Come on.

OK, whatever, let's move on. You just don't want your stuff to get stolen out of those things.

LISOVICZ: Exactly right. We'll see you guys tomorrow. Closing bell on a nice rally on Wall Street.

(MARKET REPORT)

LISOVICZ: And now it's time for the "SITUATION ROOM" and Wolf Blitzer.

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