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CNN NEWSROOM

Southern Discomfort; Congress And The President; Biden's Apology; Gerri's Top Tips

Aired February 1, 2007 - 10:00   ET

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


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: February arrives with a vengeance in the deep south. And the worst could be yet to come. Snow began falling before daybreak in the Carolinas. Greenville became white. The snow is expected to change into freezing rain and sleet. This could bring down power lines and cause all kinds of problems on the roads. Ice and sleet moved in and out. Overnight in Atlanta, but not before Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport cancelled hundreds of flights. Charlotte, North Carolina, known for Nascar, a little less racing maybe on roads today. Let's check in with CNN meteorologist Reynolds Wolf.
Reynolds, good morning, sir.

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning, Tony.

It is a crazy mix here in Charlotte. We've seen snowflakes here. We've seen a bit of a break. Then we've had a mixture of ice, a little bit of sleet, a little bit of everything. A winter like potpourri, if you will, especially over the last hour or so.

Of what we have -- the latest from the National Weather Service said we still have that winter storm warning that will be in effect through the Charlotte metropolitan area until about 6:00 tomorrow morning. And until then, we can see all the different type of weather phenomena.

Take a look at this live camera shot that we have from downtown. A town cam, I believe, in Charlotte. That shows the main roadways, which, for the most part, are still in pretty decedent shape. The roads have been treated with some brine solution that was done yesterday afternoon. Just a combination of both salt and water that makes that brine. They put that down. Then today we've seen some of the 30 salt trucks that the city of Charlotte has pushed up and down these freeways to help treat the roads and conditions have been pretty good.

Now that isn't to say that we haven't had accidents. We have. There have been widespread reports of accidents. However, no fatalities to report yet, which is wonderful news.

Take a look at this video. The video that we have for you is also very interesting from what has been happening here in the queen city. You have to remember that about 12 to 24 hours ago we had plenty of sunshine here. Yes, granted, it was certainly cold, much colder than what we normally have this time of year, but it was very chilly, but at least it was dry. Now what a transformation it's been. People stepping through the slush, driving on the roadways. It's been quite a difference. We've seen some issues out at the airports. As you come back to me on camera, we have had reports of widespread delay. Some 20 percent of all flights out of Charlotte have been cancelled. And with this wintry weather continuing through the afternoon and evening, I would expect even more so.

And take a look at what you see behind me. This is one stretch of I- 77. One area that has been treated. The North Carolina Department of Transportation has been advising people that if you don't have to get out on the roadways, by all means don't do so. People driving in a hurry on wet or slick conditions is not a good combination. And that's what we've seen. Thankfully no accidents on this main stretch, but that's always a possibility, especially into the afternoon when we are expecting much of this precipitation to switch on over into freezing rain.

Now speaking about that precipitation itself. Early this year we've done plenty of shots out in Colorado where we have that beautiful powder. This has been a really wet, kind of slushy snow. Not really -- this doesn't really have that sand-like quality that you see up in the Rockies. And with that in mind, with very little wind, we're not expecting much in terms of drifts. So what you see that falls is just going to kind of stick.

And I'll tell you what's interesting more about that, Tony, is as we make our way into tomorrow, we're going to see a big swing with those temperatures, some 15 to 20 degrees warmer by tomorrow. So much of this snow, much of this ice by tomorrow will be long gone.

HARRIS: Oh, boy. That's good. That's good to hear. But I tell you what, the consistency of that snow, that's perfect for snowballs. And with so many kids getting a snow day, lots of fun in Charlotte.

WOLF: Absolutely.

HARRIS: Reynolds Wolf with us this morning from Charlotte.

Reynolds, thank you.

COLLINS: I don't know about your kids, but my kids are wishing they lived in Charlotte.

HARRIS: Yes.

COLLINS: Did I say kids. I only have one. So kid.

HARRIS: But they want -- yes, Riley man wants the snow. He wants to make . . .

COLLINS: He wants to stay home.

HARRIS: Yes. Absolutely.

COLLINS: Like everybody. Chad Myers, what happened? No, I'm kidding.

(WEATHER REPORT)

COLLINS: Well, it was supposed to be a promotion for an adult cartoon. But it is turning out to be no laughing matter. Two suspects went to court this morning to face charges in the publicity stunt that went bad. The two are charged with placing a hoax device and disorderly conduct. They're accused of setting up electronic signs promoting a program on Adult Swim on The Cartoon Network. That's part of Turner Broadcasting, parent company of CNN. The devices triggered a series of bomb scares that shot down highways, bridges and even a section of the Charles River in Boston. Police prosecutors and the mayor vented their anger at Turner Broadcasting.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR THOMAS MENINO, BOSTON: I just think that this is outrageous that they would have (ph) done that (ph). Now they send us a one paragraph press release out saying they apologize. But they never gave us the locations of any of these packages in the city of Boston.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: Turner Broadcasting issued a statement apologizing to the citizens of Boston for the hardships caused by the marketing campaign.

And we are learning more this morning about an alleged terror plot to torture and behead a British Muslim soldier. Police in Birmingham, England, are questioning nine suspects now. They say the plan, if carried out, would have stunned Great Britain, a grizzly killing posted on the Internet. The plan would mimic the fate of Ken Bigley in 2004. Bigley was beheaded by the former al Qaeda in Iraq leader there, Musab al-Zarqawi. We'll have a live report from England next hour in the NEWSROOM.

HARRIS: Targeting insurgents in Iraq. The U.S. military reports 29 suspects detained, one killed in a series of raids across the country today. And more bombings. Six passengers were killed and eight wounded when a bomb ripped a mini bus. The attack happened in a Shiite neighborhood in Baghdad. In a Sunni neighborhood north of the capital, a mortar attack there killed one person and wounded four.

An apparent congressional compromise in the political war over Iraq. Republican John Warner and Democrat Carl Levin joining forces opposing President Bush's plan to send more troops to Iraq. Levin backing a resolution chiefly sponsored by Warner. That happened after Warner agreed to a change or two. The compromise increases the chances the resolution will pass in the Senate. The first vote on the measure could come as early as Monday.

Now you've heard President Bush say it, he's the decider. But when it comes to Iraq, some members of the Senate say, hold on there. CNN's Dana Bash has that.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT, (voice over): A senior Republican senator says the president's tough talk about his power as commander in chief is both unhelpful and wrong.

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER, (R) PENNSYLVANIA: I would suggest respectfully to the president that he is not the sole decider. That the decider is a shared and joint responsibility.

BASH: At issue is this.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm the decision- maker.

BASH: The president's recent statement that he will determine strategy in Iraq regardless of whether Congress votes to oppose his plan to send more troops there.

SPECTER: Mr. President, reconsider and recognize the shared responsibility with the Congress and let's work it out.

BASH: Senator Arlen Specter has long been an opponent of robust executive power without the check of Congress. He carefully notes Congress can use the power of the purse when it comes to the war, but hopes it won't come to that, with so many in the president's own party speaking out.

SPECTER: When friendly voices urge a course of conduct in what is obviously not partisan positioning, partisan political posturing, I think that should give pause to where the president is heading.

BASH: Specter is one of many Republicans opposed to the president's plan to send more troops to Iraq. But that plan did get a qualified boost from the leaders of the Iraq Study Group.

JAMES BAKER, IRAQ STUDY GROUP: My bottom line on the surge is, look, the president's plan ought to be given a chance. Give it a chance. Because we heard all of this. The general you confirmed 81-0 the day before yesterday, this is his idea. He's the supporter of it. He's now the commander on the ground in Iraq. Give it a chance.

BASH: That came with a warning sign, a surge in U.S. troops will only work with a simultaneous push for diplomatic activity. And the administration must do more to publicly pressure Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

LEE HAMILTON, IRAQ STUDY GROUP: I've lost my patience with Maliki. He has known what he needs to do for a long time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If they don't perform and if they don't perform pretty quickly, then we will lose it. I don't care how many troops you put in there.

BASH: The chairman of the Iraq Study Group also said an increase in troops levels in Iraq or any other change in military strategy won't work if the White House continues to ignore what they consider one of their key recommendations, diplomatic engagement with Iran and Syria. Dana Bash, CNN, Capitol Hill.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARRIS: And let's stay there up on Capitol Hill now. The Senate Armed Services Committee holding a confirmation hearing right now for the nomination of General George Casey for reappointment to the grade of general and to be Army chief of staff. Now when you hear people saying we need a change in Iraq policy because what we're doing in Iraq isn't working, keep in mind, General Casey has been leading forces, coalition forces, in Iraq, American forces there, for the last two years. So expect some tough questioning today of the general. But, again, General Casey is the president's choice to become Army chief of staff. We'll keep an eye on the confirmation hearing for you.

COLLINS: It definitely was not part of the Biden 2008 campaign playbook.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOE BIDEN, (D) DELAWARE: I mean you got the first sort of mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. I mean, that's a storybook, man.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: Details of Senator Biden's blunder straight ahead in the NEWSROOM.

HARRIS: Challenged in his life, meeting the physical challenge to become a firefighter. Now he's challenging a department's decision. Details in the NEWSROOM.

COLLINS: Packed for battle.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I've survived a bunch of close calls and this has always been with me. So it won't be leaving me any time soon.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: Troops and the trinkets that mean so much. They take them with them to war. We'll tell you all about it in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: The Maytag repairman may need a little help. Actually, better make that a whole lot of help. The company is voluntarily recalling more than 2 million Maytag and Jenn-Air dishwashers. There is concern about a fire hazard. Maytag says it has had reports of 135 fires in the appliances. The machines were sold between July, 1997, and June of 2001.

HARRIS: Senator Joe Biden. His presidential campaign barely a day old. But instead of pushing politics, he's pulling his foot out of his mouth, apologizing for controversial comments. CNN's Mary Snow has details.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. JOE BIDEN, (D) DELAWARE: I'm running for president because . . .

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT, (voice over): On the very day Senator Joseph Biden launched his 2008 presidential campaign, controversy kicked in. In an interview with "The New York Observer," questions were raised when Democratic presidential candidate, Senator Joe Biden, used the word "clean" in describing Senator Barack Obama.

BIDEN: I mean, you got the first sort of mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. I mean, that's a storybook, man.

SNOW: And what did Senator Barack Obama think of that?

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) ILLINOIS: I mean you'd have to ask Senator Biden what he was thinking. I don't spend too much time worrying about what folks are talking about during the campaign season.

SNOW: But hours after he made these comments to CNN, Senator Obama released a statement saying, "I didn't take Senator Biden's comment personally, but obviously they were historically inaccurate. African- American presidential candidates, like Jesse Jackson, Shirley Chisholm and Carol Moseley Braun and Al Sharpton gave a voice to many important issues through their campaign, and no one would call them inarticulate."

The Reverend Jesse Jackson, who ran against Biden for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1988, said Biden's comments called for an explanation.

REV. JESSE JACKSON, RAINBOW PUSH COALITION: I do not think he meant to say anything intentional that was off-color, but it certainly is highly suggestive.

SNOW: In a conference call, Senator Biden said his comments were taken out of context

BIDEN: My mother has an expression, "clean as a whistle, sharp as a tack." That's the context. He's crisp and clear.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's classic Joe Biden. It's really history repeating itself.

SNOW: Biden dropped out of a 1988 presidential race following charges he plagiarized a speech of a British labor party leader. And just last year, he caused controversy with comments that some had to hear for themselves to believe. The comments are still posted on the Internet.

BIDEN: You cannot go to a 711 or a Duncan Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent. SNOW: Biden later explained the comment, saying he was referring to a vibrant, Indian American community in the state of Delaware.

SNOW: And on this most recent flap (ph), Senator Biden says he deeply regrets any offense his remark about Senator Obama may have caused. And he expressed that to Senator Obama in a phone call after the headlines hit.

Mary Snow, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARRIS: Well, Biden, making the rounds to make his mea culpa. He stopped by "The Daily Show."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BIDEN: I spoke to Barack today.

JON STEWART, "THE DAILY SHOW": I bet you did.

BIDEN: I also spoke to Jesse and Al Sharpton and I also spoke to . . .

STEWART: And Michael Jordan and anybody you could get your hands on. The Jackson Five. Who else?

BIDEN: Michael didn't call me. Michael didn't call me. Look, what I was attempting to be, but not very artfully, is complimentary. This is an incredible guy. This is a phenomenon. This guy is -- and, look, the other part of this thing is, the word that got me in trouble is using the word "clean." I should have said fresh. What I meant is, he's got new ideas. He's a new guy on the block.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: Lose weight, win votes? A weighty political topic. Ahead in the NEWSROOM.

HARRIS: And Gerri Willis is here this morning. She is going to help us avoid some pretty rotten scam artists.

Good morning, Gerri.

GERRI WILLIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Tony. Good to see you.

We're going to tell you why a guaranteed loan may be a guaranteed ripoff, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: Checking the numbers for you right now. The New York Stock Exchange. We're looking at the Dow Jones Industrial average up about 25 points there, resting at 12,646. And we're hearing that the Nasdaq is also up about nine. Yesterday up 98.38 points. So a big, big day. We also know that the Fed decided not to raise interest rates. So interesting and good for folks like you and me.

HARRIS: Hey now.

A merciless loans scam. Victims often people who can least afford it. Here with the details and her tips on avoiding it, CNN personal finance editor Gerri Willis. She joins us from New York.

Gerri, great to see you. Good morning to you.

WILLIS: Hey, Tony.

People need to know about this on, I've got to tell you.

HARRIS: Well, I think you -- I have never heard of this thing called an advance fee loan scam. What can you tell us about it?

WILLIS: Well, you know, people apply for what they call a guaranteed loan. They see an ad in the paper. There's usually a toll-free number. Now the person who answers the phone will take your credit application over the phone. Of course, you're approved for the loan. But first you're told you have to pay a processing fee. Now what's been happening is that people have been wiring in the money, the processing fee, and they never get the loan. The whole thing's a scam. There are no loan, they're just people taking your money.

HARRIS: See, and the other part of that, it plays into what we've been talking about, Gerri, over the last couple of weeks. Everyone is so accustomed to paying fees.

WILLIS: Yes.

HARRIS: And you see something that says, pay another fee and you think, OK.

WILLIS: Oh, I've got to get -- give me my checkbook. I'm writing my check for that fee. That's absolutely right, Tony.

HARRIS: So who's being targeted by this scam?

WILLIS: Well, basically we're talking about people who have money problems. Generally victims lose about $1,000 out-of-pocket. If somebody tells you the fee for a loan is $1,000, I don't think so, you know.

HARRIS: Yes. Yes. OK.

What should we do here? I mean we're figuring out who is most vulnerable, folks who don't necessarily have the money and can least afford to be scammed this way. Are there some red flags we can look out for?

WILLIS: You bet yah. Advance fee scammers are usually using a U.S. address, like a P.O. Box. But the U.S. address turns out to be phony or non-existent. And get this, bogus loan brokers are ripping off the names, addresses, even the logos of reputable companies. You're really going to have to watch out for that. Remember, fees that legitimate lenders will charge are typically deducted from the loan amount. You don't pay for it separately. You'll also want to be on the look-out for misspellings or grammatical errors on any written communication because, I've got to tell you, usually the scam artists, they can't spell worth a darn, you know?

HARRIS: Yes. Thankfully we get a couple of clues and some tip-offs here. But to the larger point, how do we sound the alarm bells here?

WILLIS: Well, if you have sent money before you had a loan offer confirmed in writing, file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau at bbb.org. If you are scammed, though it's really rare you'll ever recover the payment fee. But you can help the government crack down on these con-artists.

HARRIS: All right. You know what, coming up this weekend, I know you've got a lot of work in on the big "Open House" show. Give us a preview, Gerri.

WILLIS: Well, you'll have to tune in to find out why I'm going to throw coffee on a guest. Can you imagine? It's going to be fun.

HARRIS: What?

WILLIS: Yes, we're going to throw coffee on a guest and he wants us to do it. Very interesting. We're going to investigate a very serious problem, mortgage discrimination. And then something that everybody is interested in, how to get a good night's sleep.

HARRIS: Great. Can't wait. This weekend, "Open House," Gerri Willis, personal finance editor.

Great to see you, Gerri. Have a great weekend.

WILLIS: Good to see you, Tony.

COLLINS: Every now and then Molly Ivins liked to poke a little fun at the politicians. The syndicated columnist, remembered as a Texas original. She died yesterday of breast cancer at her home in Austin. Ivins' columns appeared in more than 400 newspapers and on cnn.com. She also wrote several books, including two about George W. Bush. Ivins was 62.

HARRIS: A publicity stunt for a cartoon character causes a major security scare. Aqua Teen sending two men to court this morning. The story in the NEWSROOM.

COLLINS: Before the sun came up, the snow came down. A rising temperature may only make things worse in some southern states. We'll tell you more about it in the NEWSROOM.

HARRIS: And packed for battle.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I've survived a bunch of close calls and this has always been with me. So it won't be leaving me any time soon. (END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: Troops and the trinkets they take to war in the NEWSROOM.

COLLINS: Hello once again and good morning, everybody. I'm Heidi Collins.

HARRIS: And I'm Tony Harris.

It seemed like a good idea at the time, huh, but what we have is a marketing campaign gone wrong and it has landed two men in court and triggered outrage in Boston. The men are charged with placing a hoax device and disorderly conduct. They're accused of setting up electronic signs promoting a program on "Adult Swim" on the Cartoon Network. That's part of Turner Broadcasting, parent company of CNN. The devices triggered a series of bomb scares that shut down highways, bridges and even a section of the Charles River in Boston. Police prosecutors and the mayor vented their anger at Turner Broadcasting.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

THOMAS MENINO, MAYOR, BOSTON: I just think that this is outrageous, what they have done. Now they send this one paragraph press release out saying they apologize, but they never gave us the locations of any of these packages in the city of Boston.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: The statement from Turner Broadcasting says, quote: "We apologize to the citizens of Boston, that part of a marketing campaign was mistaken for a public danger. We appreciate the gravity of this situation, and like any responsible company would, are putting all necessary resources toward understanding the facts surrounding it as quickly as possible."

COLLINS: Slip sliding away in the Sunbelt. Winter slams the Carolinas. Boy, look at that, you'd never guess it was the Carolinas, would you really?

HARRIS: No.

COLLINS: Snow in some areas for much of the morning, then a freezing rain that could topple trees and cause major power outages. In Atlanta, the sun came up and so did the temperatures. The few icy patches melted quickly. The metro area now dealing though with merely cold soaking rain.

That's little comfort though to travelers at the city's airport. Concerns over icing prompted airlines to cancel some 450 flights since last night. And if you were on your way to the beach, like one of my boy's teachers, you are not a happy camper. Chad Myers is standing by now at the Weather Center. Chad, what's the current condition, there?

(WEATHER REPORT)

HARRIS: Lucky charms: many troops don't leave home without them. Journalists, too, it turns out. CNN's Michael Holmes has that story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the heat of battle, soldiers rely on many things to stay alive: training, their comrades, their skills and for many, a trinket. A little something that many will never, ever go into a fight without.

PFC. SHAYNE HORNBECK, U.S. ARMY: On a routine patrol, we stopped (INAUDIBLE).

HOLMES: Private Hornbeck now wears that bullet around his neck. John Spielsinger has a tiny Indian figurine his wife gave him.

(on camera): Do you feel better with it?

SPEC. JOHN SPIELSINGER, U.S. ARMY: Yes, I survived a bunch of close calls and this has always been with me, so it won't be leaving me any time soon.

HOLMES (voice-over): There are tattoos and crosses, a half heart with the other half of you know who. Even a grandfather's dog tags from another time, another war. The problem with the charm, of course, is losing it.

PFC. SEVERIN MICHALSKI, U.S. ARMY: It was a chain bracelet with a cross on the end of it and it was on my vest, and it got ripped off like four or give days ago.

HOLMES (on camera): And how do you feel now?

MICHALSKI: I miss it, I want it back, it keeps me safe and my faith in god.

HOLMES: Now in the interest of full disclosure and admission now, journalists do sometimes share the soldier's habit of carrying lucky charms. For me, it's a koala my daughter insists I bring with me and for my son, I'm not quite sure what it is, but I bring it anyway.

(voice-over): On the base, Humvees with the scars of near misses, or maybe charms that worked. And here's a twist. We'll call it the reverse lucky charm. Sergeant Dwayne Coleman's fiance gave him a rosary for good luck, but it didn't seem to be working.

SGT. DWAYNE COLEMAN, U.S. ARMY: Rockets were busting through barriers like right in front of me. Mortars were landing pretty close. And we broke up and I took it off. And since then, nothing crazy has happened like that.

HOLMES: Sometimes you can query just how lucky a lucky charm is. Take private first class Matthew Yearwood). Blown up, as he puts it by IEDs three times. Today his first time back driving a Humvee, and he's my driver.

PFC. MATTHEW YEARWOOD, U.S. ARMY: I think the IEDs were there and I think -- I mean, if you believe in luck, I think this is what -- I'm here today. You know, I'm here today and I'm saying somebody is looking over me, you know.

HOLMES: They're a tough bunch not given to much emotion apart from when a comrade falls and there's respect for those who have gone before. For Dalton Silverthorne, his talisman is a combat infantry badge from a soldier who had been here before.

(on camera): Gives you a sense of security of sorts?

PFC. DALTON SILVERTHORNE, U.S. ARMY: Yes, it does.

HOLMES: Why?

SILVERTHORNE: I don't know. Everybody needs their own good luck charm. Everybody needs their own.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARRIS: Michael Holmes joins us now from Baghdad. Michael, great stuff. A couple questions. When the troops are back at the forward operating base, did they talk to you about what they attempt to do to get away, however temporarily, from it all from the war?

HOLMES: Yes. There's a lot, Tony, actually. At these bases, there's a lot of them here around Baghdad and right throughout the country. There's a lot put on for them because of course the military is conscious.

You don't want these guys sitting around getting bored, thinking about the next mission perhaps too early. There's the Internet, they write letters home, they get on the phone, there's phone cards for sale, video games huge, particularly among the younger guys, bunches of 19-year-olds on Xboxes and the like. And there's gyms and the DFACs, they call it in military jargon, the dining facilities are amazing actually, the food is pretty terrific.

We like to get out to the DFAC every now and then. And they have big screen TVs, there's going to be big coverage of the Super Bowl for example on huge plasma televisions. And it's fair to say the military looks after them in terms of trying to get them distracted, if you like, or give them something else and of course keep them in touch with home.

HARRIS: I'm trying to figure out when your children became old enough to realize that you actually needed some kind of lucky charm. We love the koala. We're still trying to figure out the ninja thing.

COLLINS: Super hero.

HARRIS: The super hero.

HOLMES: Yes, everyone's asking me that. So I actually did take a close look. I think it's a World Wide Wrestling guy. My little girl is nearly nine and she's old enough to say, don't go, daddy. My boy is seven and like a typical seven-year-old boy he says how cool it is you get to hang out with soldiers with guns. So it's a bit of a mixed bag there.

HARRIS: Well, keep them close to your heart. Do that for us Michael, we appreciate it.

HOLMES: Will do, good to see you.

COLLINS: Is this the way the U.S. is rebuilding Iraq?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The plumbing appears shoddy. The report describes the work as poor quality using non- standard construction methods, live electrical wires dangling from ceilings.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: CNN's Joe Johns is keeping them honest straight ahead in the NEWSROOM.

HARRIS: Wizard alert. Potter mania. The final chapter ahead in the NEWSROOM.

SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: I'm Susan Lisovicz at the New York Stock Exchange. It's the equivalent GDP of Congo but, no, it's ExxonMobil's annual profit. I'll have details when NEWSROOM returns. You're watching CNN, the most trusted name in news.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: I want to give you this information to us -- that has just come in to us here at CNN. Back to Boston now. We've been telling you about it since yesterday, all of those devices that were placed in Boston, about 38 of them in total. You're looking at two of the suspects who were in court this morning. Court starting about 10:15 or so. This is Sean Stevens and Peter Berdovsky. They were brought in and charges were read. We are understanding now that both have pled not guilty.

Our Dan Lothian is in the courtroom and has been following these proceedings for us. But as we just mentioned, some of the specific facts know we know after these proceedings. Those boxes were about 18 by 18-inches, placed in several different locations that really compromised transportation and people's comfort level, I would say, getting a little bit nervous living in Boston at the time. So we are going to continue to follow this one for you and bring you more information.

Once again, this was a promotion for Adult Swim. That is a show that has been placed on there, "Aqua Teen Hunger Force," and they're trying to draw some attention to that show. And there you have it. That's the very latest, pleading not guilty.

HARRIS: And Fredricka Whitfield is working on a couple stories out of New Orleans for us this morning. First, the story of four New Orleans police officers accused of murder in the aftermath and the chaos following Hurricane Katrina, but first findings in that same case, Fred, from the coroner's office?

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: That's right. Actually I didn't get to hear all of what you just said because we had some communication problems.

But I think we're going to begin with the case involving the Danziger bridge. Four New Orleans police officers and former officers are finding out today whether the first-degree murder charges imposed against them will be death penalty cases. The answer is now. We are learning from the district attorney that they will not be attaching the death penalty as an option for sentence if these officers and former officers are convicted. This taking place 16 months after the officer are accused of shooting to death two men on the Danziger Bridge in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

The Orleans Parrish district attorney Eddie Jordan made the announcement moments ago, no death penalty being attached to the murders of Ronald Madison, a 40-year-old mentally retarded man, and James Brisset, 19 years old, also shot on that bridge. Several others were injured.

HARRIS: OK, Fredricka following those developments for us. Fredricka, appreciate it. Thank you.

(BUSINESS HEADLINES)

COLLINS: Back to Boston now and the marketing campaign that went bad, if you will. About 35 different devices were placed in and around the city of Boston. Caused quite a scare and quite a bit of traffic delays and so forth.

I want to go ahead and get to our Dan Lothian, who is in Boston now. Two of the suspects were arraigned earlier today, just moments ago, I should say,

Dan, tell us the latest on what you noticed in the courtroom.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, the arraignment lasted for about a half hour, and those two suspects, Sean Stevens and Peter Berdovsky were arraigned, and not-guilty pleas were entered on their behalf.

They were being held overnight on $100,000 bail. But both the defense and the prosecution agreed to $2,500 bail each. Both of these men had family members and friends in court supporting them. When you talked to them, they said they believed that this was an overreaction on the part of law enforcement, on the part of the city. They said that these were just two starving artists who were doing their job of carrying out this ad campaign.

But the prosecution saying that, you know, yes, this did turn out to be a hoax, but these devices were placed in locations where you would typically find a bomb. For instance the first device found not just far away from this courthouse, was underneath an overpass or major highway. And he said when you look at it, with the wires, with the duct tape, with batteries, you can mistake it for a bomb. Both of the suspects appeared a bit nervous at times. They were snickering when then prosecution would give sort of a cursory description of where these items were found. For instance, one time they laughed when he said it was about 20 feet up underneath this overpass, they thought I guess that was funny. Perhaps they thought it was too high, so they snickered a little bit. Throughout this arraignment they would also make various sort of smiling expressions as the prosecution laid out that this was something that could have been a serious threat.

We did learn a little bit more as well about Mr. Berdovsky. He apparently came to this country in 1996, was an exchange student. And according to his lawyer, said that he really wanted to have political asylum in this country because he was fearful for the government, the situation in his country, in Europe, so he wanted to come here -- had a green card. They describe him as a starving artist, a very honest individual who was just out trying to make a living and putting these devices around town as part of his job -- Heidi.

COLLINS: Dan, clear something up for me. Do they work for the advertising agency who came up with this idea, this marketing campaign?

LOTHIAN: They did work for the advertising agency, Interference Incorporated, which is based out of New York and they of course were doing this contract for the Cartoon Network.

And one of the relatives told me that this was the first time that they had done it on sort of a contract basis. They had gotten this job to go out and put the devices around town. And had actually videotaped themselves doing it because they were told to have a video record of what they were doing.

COLLINS: I guess that just leads to the question, if this was not their original idea, is it possible there may be more charges higher up to the ad agency?

LOTHIAN: It's always possible. The mayor and of course attorney general last night said these are the two individuals they've arrested, but certainly they are looking much broader than this. The investigation is much larger and the mayor pointing out that he thinks that Turner Broadcasting, which by the way is the parent company for the Cartoon Network and also CNN, should be held accountable. Certainly, this investigation is ongoing. So far, though, just two people arrested.

COLLINS: All right, Dan Lothian bringing us the very latest on the situation in Boston. Dan, thanks.

HARRIS: And on the phone with us now is former federal prosecutor, now he's a criminal defense attorney, Kendall Coffey. Kendall, great to talk to you again.

KENDALL COFFEY, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY (on phone): Hey, good morning. HARRIS: Hey, let me first ask you. The two suspects in question here, in court snickering, probably not quite sure of how serious these charges are. Give us a sense of what kind of real jeopardy these two young men are in.

COFFEY: Well, I mean, these things are taken very seriously. Some of us recall that a couple people thought it was sort of cute to send white powder around during the Anthrax scare. And some of those folks went to jail.

This is serious stuff. We're obviously in a different world now. And I don't think it's a laughing matter and I think these guys are going to see some real consequences.

HARRIS: Kendall, who else is the hook here? Are we talking about the advertising company as Heidi just mentioned? Maybe Turner Broadcasting as well?

COFFEY: Well, the key thing is to work up the chain, as you would in any criminal investigation and see who really knew what the heck was going on.

Don't be surprised to see lot of hear no evil, see no evils as you explore executives in the ad company and elsewhere. But certainly, if these guys were off on a frolic and detour coming up with their own zany concepts and others can do the so-called plausible deniability, there may be a few others in the ladder that get nailed.

Otherwise, if there that were folks fully aware of what they were doing and went ahead and signed off on it, you could see a few more people added to the charges.

HARRIS: Criminal defense attorney and former federal prosecutor Kendall Coffey on the line with us. Kendall, thanks for your time.

COFFEY: Hey, thank you.

COLLINS: Stranded for a long cold night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Looking back on it, it's like -- it's just a miracle, how we survived.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: Two teens talk about how they stayed alive, coming up in the NEWSROOM.

HARRIS: Game over, fight on. A Wisconsin court melee leads to an unusual penalty, that story coming up in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: Here's one for you, high school wrestlers in Minnesota must stay off the map. A widespread herpes outbreak now causing the state to suspend the sport until at least next week. That's right, no matches and no close contact in practice. As many as 24 cases have been reported since late December, that's not the same strain of herpes that normally causes cold sores.

HARRIS: Joining forces, Senate Democrats and Republicans voicing opposition to the president's Iraq plan, details ahead in the NEWSROOM.

COLLINS: Police describe a gruesome plot, a new twist on terror ahead in the NEWSROOM.

HARRIS: A publicity stunt for a cartoon character causing a major security scare. The two men in court this morning. Live to Boston next in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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