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CNN NEWSROOM

Top Brass Back on Capitol Hill Today Defending Iraq War Plan; Small Plane Crashes in Van Nuys California; Refugee Crisis Brewing On Somalia-Kenya Border; Man Wants CO Detectors Mandatory After Son's Death

Aired January 12, 2007 - 14:00   ET

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


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kyra Phillips, live at the CNN world headquarters in Atlanta.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Don Lemon.

Upheaval in Somalia puts the pressure on Kenya. Our Jeff Koinange is on a troubled border.

PHILLIPS: A million people without power? That's one prediction as another winter storm lays down a massive ice slick.

LEMON: And all the world's a stage for actor Jeremy Piven. That includes the NEWSROOM'S anchor desk. Wait until you see that. The "Entourage" star drops by to talk Golden Globes and do a few card tricks as well.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

Top brass back on Capitol Hill today. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs chairman Peter Pace defending the president's new Iraq war plan to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Our senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre, has been listening to it all -- Jamie.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Don, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs chairman Peter Pace up on the Hill today. And Gates told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee that should the president's new strategy in Iraq fail, he would not recommend the withdrawal of U.S. troops.

In his Senate testimony, Gates said that while the plan could fail if the Iraqi government doesn't fulfill the promises it has made, he would not recommend, as plan B the phased withdrawal called for by some Senate Democrats.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT GATES, DEFENSE SECRETARY: If we talk about the consequences of American failure and defeat in Iraq, then saying if you don't do this, we'll leave and we'll leave now does not strike me as being in the national interest of the United States. So the question would be, what different kind of strategy might we be able to come up with that would have some prospect of avoiding a failure or a defeat in Iraq?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MCINTYRE: Gates conceding there weren't a lot of good other alternatives, but again, he expressed confidence that this strategy would succeed. He said that while the first U.S. brigade of troops is already moving into Baghdad, the new strategy won't really get a test until early next month, when the first Iraqi brigade is scheduled to show up.

And Gates said that he'll be going down a checklist of benchmarks that he'll be watching very closely to see if the strategy is panning out. The first one being whether or not the three Iraqi brigades promised by the government, whether those Iraqi troops show up as promised.

In the past, the Iraqi government did not come forward with all the troops it had promised. It will also -- he'll also be looking to see if there is no political interference in the operation. That is to say, that nobody who is arrested is then immediately sprung because of interference from the government. And the last point that he is looking at is whether or not the troops will have access to all of Baghdad, that no parts of the city will be off limits.

Gates optimistically predicted that if this policy produced some results, he said there could actually be troop reductions in Iraq this year. And he even suggested that perhaps not all of the additional troops would have to go in. They are scheduled to go in essentially one brigade a month beginning in January for about five months.

General Peter Pace said that U.S. commanders initially said they would only need two U.S. brigades, but that the other brigades were lined up behind them in case they are needed to either build on the success or to take care of some unanticipated development in Iraq -- Don.

LEMON: Senior Pentagon Correspondent Jamie McIntyre.

Thank you so much for that.

We have some developing news into the CNN NEWSROOM. Let's head straight to the newsroom.

T.J. Holmes working on that story for us -- T.J.

T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Yes.

We're just getting word here. We just want to show you what we're looking at. Trying to get more information on it here.

But this is a plane crash at the Van Nuys airport in southern California. Understand that this is a small -- small plane, but at the same time, you can see the pictures here. We're -- as we're looking at, a decent size being described by -- by local affiliates there as a medium sized or possibly a corporate -- corporate jet.

We're trying to get more information on this but, again, we're looking at this information as we are getting it. We are also getting word that this was a crash that happened on takeoff there at the airport.

Again, this is southern California. We're kind of at the mercy of the photographer here at the local affiliate helicopter, KABC. Kind of giving us a view of the whole seen there.

But as you see, as he zooms back in or pans back over to it, you can see that smoke going -- that will take you all the way down to that wreckage. It looks like no flames, at least at this point. You can see some of the white powder. It looks like the retardant that some of the fire officials may have used to douse the fire.

But it looks like it is out. No word on how many may have been on this plane.

Again, local affiliates saying that this was possibly a corporate jet. We're keeping a close eye on this. We're going to get a lot more information on this, I'm sure, in the coming minutes or so. And we will certainly bring that back to you -- Don.

LEMON: Very sad. And unbelievable pictures there, T.J. All right. We'll check back with you in a little bit.

Thank you.

HOLMES: All right.

PHILLIPS: Well, we're following the headlines from today's White House press briefing.

Let's check in with our Elaine Quijano and find out what happened -- Elaine.

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hello to you, Kyra.

Well, you know, the Bush administration continues to face that sharp criticism Jamie talked about a moment ago from both Democrats, as well as Republicans, on the president's plan to send more than 21,000 additional U.S. troops to Iraq. Senior Bush aides, though, are saying that the skepticism that they are encountering now certainly is not a surprise.

As one official said privately, the president's advisers weren't deluded, in this official's words, that there was going to be some sort of huge shift because of the president's speech. They say that the president is going to continue to talk about this.

And just a short time ago, White House press secretary Tony Snow was asked about the harsh criticism from lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I don't think -- I don't think we're terribly surprised. I mean, you knew going in that there was going to be opposition and you knew that a lot of people had -- made public statements about the commitment of additional forces to Iraq. But on the other hand, what we now expect is people like to look at the plan.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

QUIJANO: Now, Snow says that those critics also have an obligation to come up with alternative ideas, rather than just opposing the president's plan for more U.S. troops in Iraq outright. Certainly, though, as the president's plan is debated, a senior aide says that the president is continuing to take the long view, in this official's words, and suggested that unlike lawmakers who have certain constituencies that the president has in mind, a larger constituency, a broader constituency, that certainly the White House understands that the enemy is listening as well, according to this official.

But also, at the same time, acknowledging that the climate in which the president is trying to build public support for this plan is very, very difficult now. As this official said, that until things change on the ground, all these things, meaning the criticism, is going to continue to swirl -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Elaine Quijano live from the White House.

Thank you.

LEMON: You can call this a winter wallop. Snow, sleet and ice from the Great Plains to the Great Lakes. Oklahoma could get the worst of it. Already one death reported from the icy roads in Oklahoma City.

Trees and power lines also getting caked in ice. By Monday morning, a million people could be without power.

And wouldn't you know it, it's snowing again in Colorado, too. The fourth time in a month. But this time, it's no blizzard.

Still, bundle up. It's likely to get icy cold where you live, too.

And Reynolds Wolf is in our severe weather center. He's keeping track of all of these warnings for us.

(WEATHER REPORT)

PHILLIPS: Home on the frozen range. Colorado cattle ranchers struggle to keep their livestock alive while keeping a weary eye on the weather. We're riding along next in the CNN NEWSROOM.

LEMON: Plus, more on this developing story out of California, specifically Van Nuys airport. A plane crash there. You're looking at live video.

Details just ahead.

You are watching the most trusted name in news. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: A plane crashed as it was taking off from Van Nuys airport.

Right, T.J.?

HOLMES: Yes. We're trying to get more clarity on that. Got conflicting reports of whether or not it was taking off or it was landing. But there is the scene you are seeing now at the Van Nuys airport in southern California just outside of Los Angeles.

What's being described by the local affiliate as a Cessna, a corporate jet. A Cessna Citation, more specifically, is what the -- is what the local affiliate there is being told by the FAA, which is a business or a corporate jet.

No idea at this point, or no word just yet on how many people may have been on board. No idea or word of injuries or fatalities in this. But, according to a local affiliate, they got there -- they arrived, the helicopter, just a short time after the crash. Described by the reporter there as being fully engulfed in flames when they arrived on the scene.

You see now that firefighters are walking through the wreckage, still smoldering wreckage, but certainly is out now. But no word on how many people might have been on board, any survivors. Again, any fatalities.

Also being reported there by the local affiliate that the airport right now is still open, and that the weather may be not a factor today. It had been windy there in that area reportedly over the past couple of days, but today really not -- not a bad windy day. And don't know if that would have had any factor in this crash at all.

But word we're getting that, again, it's a corporate jet that has crashed just outside of Los Angeles, the Van Nuys airport. Trying to get word on how many people might have been on board and if anybody was possibly able to survive that crash.

So details still trickling in to us. We're going to try to get as many as we can, and we will bring those to you -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: All right. Let us know when you have new information.

HOLMES: All right.

PHILLIPS: Thanks, T.J.

Let's go ahead and go over now to Reynolds Wolf in the severe weather center. He's tracking not only weather conditions there in southern California, but all across the region.

(WEATHER REPORT)

LEMON: At last report, U.S. Special Forces were tracking three suspected al Qaeda operatives somewhere in Somalia. Now, they are believed to have been involved in the bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania back in 1998. In Somalia's capital, gunfire erupted again today despite a purported agreement by the country's roving militias to disarm and join the armed forces.

CNN's Jeff Koinange is on Somalia's border with Kenya, where a refugee crisis is brewing.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEFF KOINANGE, CNN AFRICA CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On patrol with Kenyan security forces heading toward the banded-infested (ph) Somalia border, these are the men responsible for making sure fleeing Islamic Courts Union members don't escape into Kenya.

There's also a growing fear in Kenya retaliation after this week's air strikes by U.S. forces on suspected al Qaeda members in Somalia. Add to that the fact that Kenya has neither the resources nor the personnel to police the border it shares with Somalia, stretching for more than 1,000 kilometers.

Right now there's just a few troops visible on the Kenyan side, and about the same number on the Somalia side. Kenya recently shut down its borders with Somalia, but as we were about to find out, "shut down" is a very loose term here.

(on camera): To give you an idea of what people mean when they say that the Kenya-Somalia border is porous, I'm now standing on the Somalia side. A few paces to my right, and I'm in Kenya.

And those men behind me could easily cross over into Kenya because the security forces can only police so much, because, guess what? There's more than 1,000 kilometers between Kenya and Somalia, and a lot of it is as porous as this.

(voice-over): On the Somalia side, we find a group of refugees sitting obediently on the invisible dividing line. Many have been here for days. Some from as far away as Mogadishu. All claiming refugee status. But aid agencies don't have the authority to allow them into Kenya.

Thirty-six-year-old Ahmed Abdi is among the refugees. He fled with his wife and six children, but he's left them behind in a little village just beyond the Somali side.

AHMED ABDI, SOMALI REFUGEE: The situation at the border is actually very tense because there's a lot of displaced people who came from a very far distance, (INAUDIBLE) Mogadishu. And even (INAUDIBLE) the border. They want to cross because there's a lot of, you know, what you call disaster.

KOINANGE: Abdi says there are thousands like him just across the border, and many are in desperate need of humanitarian assistance.

ABDI: There's no (INAUDIBLE) these people, and these people -- actually, (INAUDIBLE). And in fact, these are people, the needy ones. Especially children with them who are supposed to actually (INAUDIBLE), supposed to cross. The U.S. actually are supposed to come and receive those people.

KOINANGE: Such help could take weeks. Maybe even months. But the lucky few who made it this far are willing to wait it out. And so they sit and wait and hope.

Jeff Koinange, CNN, on the Kenya-Somalia border.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PHILLIPS: Let's get back to T.J. Holmes in the newsroom. He's been following that plane crash. A corporate jet out of Van Nuys airport.

Right, T.J.?

HOLMES: Yes. We're still watching these pictures and still trying to get more information to exactly whether this plane even was taking off or landing. Got some conflicting reports right now.

But we're now being told that this is a Cessna 525 business jet there in Van Nuys. You are seeing right in the middle of your screen the wreckage there which was -- we've been watching this for the past few minutes or so.

The wreckage had been smoldering. Firefighters walking through there now. It appears they certainly do have -- have it out right now. But don't know exactly if anyone was on this -- or how many, excuse me, were on this flight, and if anybody was able to survive.

A local affiliate is reporting that certainly they -- they -- when they got to the scene, that this jet was fully engulfed in flames. Eyewitnesses telling local affiliates as well there that they certainly can't see -- didn't see anyone being taken out of that wreckage or see how anybody could have survived it.

But again, this is a Cessna 525, a Citation is what it is. A business jet that, again, not sure if it was taking off or landing.

We've been talking as well about the weather conditions there. A nice southern California day is what it appears to be. Again, this is right outside Los Angeles, the Van Nuys airport.

The wind had been windy the past couple of days. Not the case today, though.

Right now we do know a local affiliate reporting that certainly airport traffic there at the Van Nuys airport still up and running. Things are still -- still working at the airport. But we're working to find out right now exactly how many were on this plane, if it was taking off, if it was landing, or where it was going, where it was coming from.

So we are continuing to follow this story, Kyra. We're working it hard right now and trying to get as much as we can. And we will certainly keep bringing that to you.

PHILLIPS: OK. We'll keep tracking it.

And those live pictures coming from our affiliate KABC there out of L.A.

Thanks, T.J.

We're going to take a quick break.

More from the CNN NEWSROOM straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: House Democrats still on schedule to deliver a campaign promise: six new bills in their first 100 hours in charge.

Joining us now in Washington, CNN's Brianna Keilar -- Brianna.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And Don, the bill today passed very easily. But it's likely it won't get through the Senate without significant changes. And on top of that, President Bush has threatened to veto this bill in its current form.

Here's what this bill is about.

Right now, prescription drug prices for seniors covered by Medicare Part D are determined by competition between drug companies. This bill would instead require the government to negotiate drug prices.

Many Democrats say it will save seniors with Medicare prescription drug coverage money. But Wednesday, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office released information that challenges that argument. It said if this bill becomes law, seniors probably won't be paying anything less for their meds than they are now.

Many Republicans oppose the bill because they say forcing Medicare to negotiate prices would result in Medicare having to limit the drugs available to seniors -- Don.

LEMON: All right What changes might the Senate make in all of this?

KEILAR: Well, the Senate is looking at a bipartisan bill that would repeal the ban on Medicare negotiating drug prices, but it wouldn't force Medicare to negotiate those prices as this House bill does.

Now, a key Democrat, Senator Max Baucus, chairman of the Finance Committee, has not endorsed this legislation, but he has endorsed the idea of getting rid of this total ban on negotiating. A spokesperson for Senator Baucus told me the senator believes there are certain instances where negotiation could help. For instance, with certain cancer drugs that are very expensive but also very effective. And Baucus, he does not support price setting, though -- Don. LEMON: All right. Brianna Keilar, thank you so much for your report.

PHILLIPS: Well, Apple chief Steve Jobs is in the spotlight again today, but this time it isn't about the iPhone.

Susan Lisovicz at the New York Stock Exchange with that story.

(BUSINESS REPORT)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: Hi, everyone. I'm Kyra Phillips live at the CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta.

LEMON: And I'm Don Lemon. A small jet crashes shortly after takeoff near Los Angeles. We're working this developing story for you and we'll bring the latest details. You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

And we start with that developing story. Straight to the newsroom now and T.J. Holmes working it for us.

What do you know, T.J.?

HOLMES: Yes, we're still trying to get a word on injuries, how many people may have been on board, possible fatalities. But we'll take you back to the scene here. This is a live picture from our affiliate KABC, and you are looking at what's left of that plane.

This was a Cessna Citation aircraft. This was a business jet. Told by the FAA that it can hold up to about 10 people on that plane. What we have been able to see as well in there, just to the right of your screen, top right there, there is a vehicle that's been burned out as well.

What we understand is that this plane crashed about a half mile to three-quarter mile north of the airport on takeoff there at the Van Nuys Airport in Southern California, and that the crash actually did not happen on the airport property.

We're also are getting word that the pilot reportedly reported to the tower, quote, "some difficulties just before and just after takeoff" is how they were described. "Some difficulties." Don't exactly know what those may have been. This is information coming to us now from the Associated Press reporting this. We are certainly trying to get more information.

But the key here right now is trying to find out exactly how many people may have been on board, how many, if anybody, could have possibly survived this crash. And again, this is a plane that can hold up to about 10 people. We're not being told just yet. Authorities don't know if they exactly know. They probably do but not informing us just yet where this plane was headed, don't know where it was going at this point.

Something else to always keep an eye on in these situations is weather conditions. Well, weather conditions pretty good in Southern California right now. Wind not a factor, just another gorgeous Southern California day.

And unfortunately, a plane crash there, but it looks like maybe they're going to be looking at any kind of mechanical issues. And it looks like the pilot was reporting some kind of issue, some kind of difficulties just before and just after takeoff.

This crash happened, I guess, about -- we're looking at about 35 minutes ago. It was 11:00 a.m. local time there in Southern California, 2:00 p.m. here on the East Coast when this crash happened. Again, a Cessna Citation 525 aircraft, a twin engine plane that has gone down there.

We are also getting word now -- the local affiliate there, KTLA, is reporting that two people were on board this plane and that those two people did not survive. Again, this is coming to us from affiliate KTLA in California, in L.A. that's being told this by the Los Angeles Fire Department saying that now two people were on board this Cessna 525 Citation jet, business jet, and they did not survive this crash.

Firefighters now, as you can see, still looking at this wreckage. Certainly have it out now and have been making their way through and watching this wreckage and going through it. And eyewitnesses were telling local affiliates as well that they certainly didn't see anybody being taken out of this wreckage or being treated or anything like that.

So again, KTLA now, a local affiliate there reporting that two people were on board this plane and did not survive it. So, again, we are keeping an eye on this situation here.

No word, as well, at least from a local affiliate, of anyone on the ground possibly being injured. Right now just being reported by KTLA that two people were on board that plane and that those two were the two that did not survive, unfortunately. But, again, it's still a developing situation there at the Van Nuys Airport.

This is a very busy -- really one of the world's busiest general aviation airports there in Southern California, Van Nuys. But it appears that at least local affiliate reporting right now that just two people on board that Cessna plane and that they didn't survive.

Again, we're still keeping an eye on this and trying to get more details and more information about still where this plane might have been going as well, guys.

LEMON: Yes, and, T.J., you're right. Van Nuys Airport is the world's busiest general aviation airport and 22nd busiest airport in the world. Looking at those pictures there, we do see a car. There is a car there. Not sure exactly how that car is involved in that, T.J.

But again, as T.J. said, two people on board apparently, we're finding out were killed in this. We don't believe -- the airport is still open. I want to tell you that. And planes are taking off and landing as we look at these pictures.

And we're going to bring in our Reynolds Wolf to talk about the weather conditions in all of this. There was some wind this morning but nothing you believe, Reynolds, that might affect a plane here taking off and landing, a small aircraft like that.

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Absolutely. I don't think it was anything that would really cause this incident to occur. Southern California is a Mediterranean-style climate, something that you would see very similar to parts of Europe where you have, again, just the very dry, almost arid climate with the very cool ocean current.

So during many times of the day, especially into the afternoon, you have a little bit of a breeze that picks up, but certainly not strong enough to warrant this.

We're going to zoom into the crash site and, again, here's also, at the same time, Van Nuys Airport, which is home to actually about 756 aircraft, some of those including helicopters. Many of the news stations around the L.A. basin, their choppers consider this place home.

You got two landing strips. They're each about 8,000 feet. You've got a smaller runway that's about 4,000 feet. And, again, as T.J. mentioned, it was during takeoff that the Citation 525, we believe, augured in, right in this area, right near Hayvenhurst Avenue.

This plane is actually a wonderful aircraft. It has a cruising altitude around 40,000 feet, top speed around 400 miles per hour, usually has a crew of two, can seat about eight people.

But, again, if there are only two people on board, again, it doesn't sound like things are very good in terms of what we've heard from the local affiliates what they've been reporting. I believe it was -- I'm not sure which station it was reporting that they believe there were two fatalities from this.

But, again, not very far from the runway, you have your takeoff here. Then again, not far at all, maybe just a span of less than a mile, in fact, right just to the north. And, of course, usually your takeoffs and your landings are the two most dangerous times for aircrafts.

When they are up say 40,000 feet or so between there and the ground, if you ever have any problems you have got a lot of time really to try to do some troubleshooting. But when you are that low, well, it can be a bad thing. No question about it, and that's really putting it lightly.

Here's a live image that we have compliments of the ABC affiliate KABC, rather, in Van Nuys, California, the CNN affiliate there. You see some firefighters, you've got the strewn wreckage.

As Don noticed, just on the far right of the screen, you see just a small car which has just been obliterated by the jet fuel and the impending explosion from this. And it's going to be awhile to figure out exactly what did happen.

But again, the tower did report the pilot mentioned there were some problems with the plane and that's the latest we have. Let's send it back to the news desk.

LEMON: And Reynolds, you're right about that.

And just one more thing. The A.P. says, reporting that this plane was headed to Long Beach about 25 miles south of Los Angeles. We'll stay on top of this for you and bring you the very latest on this plane crash at Van Nuys Airport just outside of Los Angeles.

PHILLIPS: Snow again in Colorado, but no blizzard this time. Encouraging news for ranchers still struggling to keep their cattle alive through all these storms. CNN's Rob Marciano takes us to one home on the range. We'll go to that in just a second.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: Snow again in Colorado, but no blizzard this time. Encouraging news for ranchers still struggling to keep their cattle alive through all these storms. CNN's Rob Marciano takes us to one home on the range.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROB MARCIANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Rancher Tom Verquer and his son T.J. have finally reached their starving cattle after plowing through seven-foot snow drifts.

TOM VERQUER, RANCHER: Come on, girls.

MARCIANO: A life of ranching has taught him how quickly a blizzard can devastate his livelihood. But he says he has to stay focused.

T. VERQUER: We're more or less eternal optimists and gamblers at heart. We kind of -- it's a lifestyle that a lot of us have grown up with. We're kind of used to it. We like it. We endure it.

MARCIANO: This week, President Bush declared a state of emergency in 13 Colorado counties hit hardest by recent blizzards, making them eligible for federal aid. The National Guard has dropped 3,000 tons of hay to cattle in remote southeast Colorado. 5,000 head of cattle have already been lost and that number is expected to rise.

DON AMENT, COLORADO AGRICULTURE COMMISSION: We were appreciative of the air drop and all of that stuff. But that was one feeding for these animals. They got to be fed every day.

MARCIANO: At the National Western Stock Show in Denver, the recent blizzard is a hot topic.

RICHARD BIELLA, COLORADO RANCHER: The ranching business, we're all friends. We're buddies. It's devastating. I mean, the talk in the barn is what's happening to these guys down in Eastern Colorado? How are they doing?

MARCIANO: Fourth generation rancher Garrett Worth from Quinter, Kansas knows all too well. He still has no power back home.

GARRETT WERTH, KANSAS RANCHER: We've got a lot of generators and stuff and you just got to keep moving them around and get the cattle fed and everything. It's a pain. It's rough.

MARCIANO: More than 8,000 customers in Kansas and Nebraska are still without power. Colorado ranchers like Tom Verquer feel fortunate that their power has been restored. But with another storm on the way, preparation is his only hope.

T. VERQUER: There's one lady that's still the boss, and that's mother nature.

MARCIANO: Rob Marciano, CNN, Denver, Colorado.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: Tons of tips, but no solid leads in the search for a 13- year-old Missouri boy who disappeared from a school bus stop on Monday. Franklin County sheriff reports more than 500 calls and other contacts concerning Ben Ownby, but no sign of Ben nor the battered white pick-up seen speeding away from the place he was last seen. The FBI is on the case but icy weather may well hinder that search.

Coincidence or conspiracy? Investigators in Florida are trying to figure out whether two suspicious powder scares are connected. White powder turned up on two letters at the Palm Beach County Courthouse. Brown powder was discovered in the mailroom at the Broward County Courthouse in Ft. Lauderdale. Authorities don't believe any of it posed a serious threat.

PHILLIPS: The other stiletto drops: the first of what are expected to be many arrest warrants have gone out in the so-called Mansion Madam prostitution case. So far, two men are accused of patronizing an expensive call girl service that a former Penthouse Pet was allegedly running in suburban Atlanta. They say Ann Taylor says she's innocent.

Still, strip clubs are still using the Mansion Madam moniker to promote her upcoming appearances.

LEMON: Let's get back, now, to our developing news. T.J. Holmes working a story for us in THE NEWSROOM -- T.J.

HOLMES: Yes, John. We're keeping an eye on this plane crash in Van Nuys airport in Southern California. We have confirmed here at CNN that in fact there were two people on board this plane. We're waiting to get official word on what their fates might have been if there was any way they could have survived this crash.

We have confirmed two people on this Cessna Jet.

This is a Cessna 525 Citation jet. It's a business jet that can hold up to 10 people. But, again, confirmed now that two were on board.

You are looking at the wreckage now at Van Nuys. It crashed on takeoff from the airport at the top of last hour. So now about 45 or so minutes ago.

We watched the firefighters douse this plane and put some flames out and douse that wreckage. This was -- the plane crashed not on airport property, it crashed about a half mile north of the airport. Again on takeoff.

We're getting word from the AP, Associated Press, that it was on its way to Long Beach, which was just -- not a long trip. That's just about 25 miles south of Los Angeles.

And again, these are some of the pictures we were looking at a little earlier, not too long after that crash. Eyewitnesses reporting to local affiliates that they saw this thing fully engulfed when it did go down.

These are some of the earliest pictures we got, flames still happening at the crash site. You can see those firefighters working close by to the flames trying to get it out.

But again, no word exactly on the fate of the two people that we have confirmed were on board this crash -- this aircraft which can hold up to 10 people. I believe 8 passengers and 2 crew. But it appears that only two were on board.

Again, this was a business jet.

Keeping an eye on this crash, trying to get more information. Certainly trying to ascertain exactly what might have been the fate of the two people who were on board.

We also know that it was headed to Long Beach as we just said.

Also keeping an eye on what may have caused the crash. That's something that will happen in an investigation. It may take some time to determine what it was. At least right now it does not appear that weather in any way could have been a factor.

Don't know that for sure, but just looking at the conditions it was a nice, or it is a nice Southern California day. Even winds that have been a problem the last couple of days, not the issue, not the case today. Not that kind of a problem. Not that kind of weather.

So maybe be looking at some kind of a mechanical issue with this Cessna 525 Citation business jet.

So that's the latest we have for you now. Still getting information trickling in to us, trying to get it confirmed here at CNN. So, we will continue to follow that and bring you the latest.

LEMON: All right. T.J., you keep checking. And we'll check back with you. Thank you so much.

PHILLIPS: Straight ahead, battling a silent killer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would not wish this on anyone.

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PHILLIPS: A father suffering the loss of a son and vowing to help others avoid the same fate. We'll tell you the story straight ahead from THE NEWSROOM.

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LEMON: Smoke detectors are everywhere and rightly so. But carbon monoxide is every bit as deadly. Yet CO detectors, though readily available and cheap, are nowhere near as common. A grief- stricken father in Michigan wants to change all of that.

CNN's Susan Candiotti has his story.

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RICHARD LUEDERS, CARBON MONOXIDE VICTIM: I would not wish this on anyone.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Two days after Christmas at the Doubletree Grand Key Resort in Key West, Richard Lueders lost his only son, Thomas, to apparent carbon monoxide poisoning. The fire chief says he suspects a malfunctioning boiler next to their room was to blame. The state fire marshal says there's no record the boiler was ever inspected.

LUEDERS: We believe that some good needs to come of this incredibly tragic situation.

CANDIOTTI: 26-year-old Thomas Lueders was on a holiday trip with his dad to the Florida Keys.

LUEDERS: My last vision of Tom was on the bed in the room reading a book. I remember falling in the shower and then I think I tried to get up and that was pretty much when the lights went out.

CANDIOTTI: When Lueders came to the next day, he was in an oxygen chamber. No one told him about his son.

LUEDERS: A feeling came over me and, frankly, I felt Tom's presence. When that happened, I knew he was gone.

CANDIOTTI: Lueders later learned other hotel guests fell ill from CO poisoning in the same room five days earlier.

LUEDERS: It just leaves you just completely perplexed.

How could it be, you know?

CANDIOTTI: Citing an ongoing investigation, neither the hotel nor its management company would answer any questions about the incidents. The hotel does not now have CO detectors, but told CNN it plans to install them when it reopens.

LUEDERS: What happened to Tom should not have happened to anyone in this country, and for want of a $20 carbon monoxide detector.

CANDIOTTI: Eleven states require CO monitors in homes. Only seven of those states also require them in hotels. After five La Quinta guests suffered carbon monoxide poisoning near Denver in 2001, the hotel chain began installing detectors on some of its properties. Marriott requires them at all of its hotels. Hilton and Holiday Inn did not respond.

Richard Lueders vows to fight for laws making CO monitors mandatory in every state.

(on camera): What do you think Tom would think of this, your efforts?

LUEDERS: I think he would be happy to know that we would be doing the best we could to be sure that he was the last person to have this kind of experience.

CANDIOTTI (voice-over): Susan Candiotti, CNN, Detroit.

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LEMON: New details coming in on that breaking story in California. Let's head back to the newsroom and T.J. Holmes.

T.J., what do you know?

HOLMES: Well, now we're getting word, the Associated Press is reporting that, yes, in fact, two people on board that flight in Van Nuys that just crashed about an hour ago were, in fact, killed in this crash. Again, two people on board, according to the Associated Press, this Cessna 525 that was taking off from the Van Nuys Airport heading to Long Beach were, in fact, killed in this crash.

You are looking at the wreckage here. We've been following this story for the past hour here, after this crash, trying to find out how many people were on board. Got word that there were two and now again, A.P. reporting that, yes, in fact, those two did die in the crash. And the two were, according to the A.P., the two crew members.

We have -- I believe Jon Regas is on the phone with us.

Mr. Regas, do I have that name right for one? Are you with us? A pilot who is familiar with this route down there. Are you with me, sir?

JON REGAS, PILOT: Yes, sir.

HOLMES: Can you tell me about this plane, the Cessna 525 Citation, I believe, is its name? A good reputation here with this aircraft? REGAS: It's generally regarded as a very forgiving and relatively easy to fly jet. And it is sometimes owner operated and sometimes used for corporate flying or charter flying, and sometimes even training in jet operations.

Boy, my initial impression is if they were going to Long Beach, that's less than about 30 miles. And in a jet, that's a relatively quick flight except, of course, for the traffic in the Los Angeles area.

But I know the first question I have is, was this airplane just coming out of the maintenance hangar? Was any work done at the Van Nuys Airport and this plane was just going back on its initial flight after maintenance? I have no data to support whether this was the fact or not, but it's my first question.

HOLMES: Now, what makes that pop into your head and that be your first question? Does that happen a lot down there at the Van Nuys Airport, where, in fact, you make a stop there for maintenance? Is that what you are saying?

REGAS: It's very possible. There are a number of capable maintenance shops there. A plane might have just gone in for routine servicing and this may have been the first flight afterwards. I -- the airplane should be able to fly quite well on one engine, if one of its two engines had quit.

My initial thought, could there be a fuel problem, but there was so much fire there. It appears that there was plenty of fuel for the fire, so this is really a puzzler.

The weather is good. The airplane is a good plane. And the runway is plenty long for this plane. It's 8,001 feet long. The weather is good. I just can't imagine what happened. But the first thing that comes to mind is, was any maintenance done?

HOLMES: OK. Well, Jon Regas, a pilot familiar with this aircraft and familiar with that area there and with that flight. Stay with us if you can. You certainly hit on a couple of things that has you scratching your head and you are familiar with this flight and this plane.

So it certainly has us scratching our heads now. You bring up some good points. We certainly want to hit on those with you a little more, so please stay with us.

But, again, the word now that we are confirming -- are not confirming, however, but the A.P., at least, is reporting that two people have been killed in this crash in Van Nuys. We're going to keep an eye on this. Hope to talk to Jon Regas a little bit more, but I'll hand it back to you guys for now.

LEMON: All right. T.J., thank you.

PHILLIPS: Straight ahead, doing time on your dime. Congressional felons keep cashing their pension checks. Why reform failed before and will it succeed now. Drew Griffin joins us with his special, exclusive report straight ahead in the NEWSROOM.

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