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CNN SUNDAY MORNING

Florida Tornado Survivors Survey Damage; Military Blames Hostile Fire for Downing of Four Helicopters

Aired February 4, 2007 - 09:00   ET

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


T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Florida tornado survivors survey the damage and are adding up the terrible toll on this day, on this Sunday, February 4th. Good morning to you all from the CNN Center in Atlanta. I'm T.J. Holmes.
MELISSA LONG, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning I'm Melissa Long in for Betty today. We have a live report coming up from Lady Lake, Florida, an area particularly hard hit early on Friday morning. But first a check of the headlines this morning.

HOLMES: Up first here, hostile fire apparently was to blame for the downing of four U.S. helicopters in Iraq over the past two weeks. That word coming from the military just a short time ago. We will go live to Baghdad for the latest in about 12 minutes.

From Afghanistan this morning, reports that a key Taliban commander is dead, killed by a NATO air strike. According to NATO a precision attack was launched on the Taliban leader in an area that had been overrun by the Taliban on Friday.

LONG: Health officials in Britain hope this mass slaughter will end an outbreak of bird flu at a turkey farm in eastern England. The question now is how the H5N1 virus infected the flock inside a sealed building. Authorities have cordoned off the property, but say the public is not at risk.

An amber alert this morning for a Pennsylvania toddler. Police are searching for 23 month old Inya Page, reported missing from her bed in Braddock, Pennsylvania yesterday morning. Now adding urgency to this search, the below-freezing temperatures.

And a unique perspective in a moment. We're going to see pictures from Houston, from outer space as two astronauts are heading outside the international space station again today, the second of three planned spacewalks. The astronauts are trying to upgrade the station's cooling and power systems. Now, the first walk Wednesday, that lasted almost eight hours.

HOLMES: Help is on the way. President Bush has designated four Florida counties federal disaster areas. That means they're eligible for federal aid. FEMA also moving in with food, water and ice, that as many homeowners dig through the rubble. CNN'S Susan Roesgen is live in Lady Lake, Florida for us this morning. Good morning Susan?

SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning we have all seen outdoor church services, but the one here is going to be especially poignant. This is the rubble of Lady of the Lake Church of God where they're going to hold Sunday services here today. And looking through the rubble, you find all kinds of interesting things. This is a plastic carnation, I've seen about six or seven of these so far. It says, happy valentine's day to my church family, calling on heaven's souls from Pastor Larry Lynne. He told me that his church group sells these to raise money for Valentine's Day, he bought about 150 of these, and they're scattered all over the rubble. This is the church where the tornado came through early Friday morning. Over here, believe it or not, is actually the church steeple. It's torn off. This is the back of the steeple, the front there. Beyond that, they've put up some flags. They've put up a new sound system. They're testing the system this morning. I heard the first few bars of "Amazing Grace." They're going to need some amazing grace out here this morning. Pastor Larry Lynn says, don't blame God for what's happened here, God is here in the good times and the bad times. He's expecting about 200 people from his congregation to come hear him give his church service, right behind me, right in the rubble of the church. And also here today is going to be Florida Governor Charlie Crist. T.J.?

HOLMES: All right Susan. Thank you so much for us in Lady Lake, Florida.

And we will be going back to Lady Lake in about 15 minutes. Got a very special interview there, the reverend Larry Lynn from the Lady Lake Church of God. We'll talk about challenges to a person's faith in the wake of such a catastrophe. We'll also ask him about this morning's special church service.

LONG: There are so many stories , some of survival, some of tragic loss. Here's CNN's Rusty Dornin.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When Roger Gantner last saw his grandmother Doris, she was reading the newspaper at the kitchen table. His grandparents lived at the family's plant nursery. All was lined up and ready for spring planting. Then the storm hit. He got a call his grandparents were missing.

ROGER GANTNER, JR., TORNADO VICTIM: He says, Roger, don't come down here. I said, I have to find my grandparents, they're here somewhere out here.

DORNIN: When Gantner arrived, he was stunned. His grandparents' mobile home was scattered like match sticks. He found his grandfather Albert alive.

GANTNER: It's in front of this porch here, was where the house was. He got thrown from here, and the bed wasn't even here. It was right beside the couch.

DORNIN: His 89-year-old grandfather had been thrown 200 feet. He was still in his medical bed and barely conscious. GANTNER: When we found him there he was responding to me. I told him I was here. I said, hold on, pop. I'm going to get you out of Here, hold on just a second. I said, can you hear me? He said, yeah.

DORNIN: The ambulance came for his grandfather. Then Gantner was desperate to find his grandmother. Not far from where her husband of 59 years was found was the lifeless body of Doris Gantner.

GANTNER: She was found where those trees coming out right here, those trusses as they make the turn, she was inside of the trusses.

ROESGEN: Hs grandmother worried a lot, he said. Gantner said she was probably awake during the storm and nervous about the lightning. Now her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren pick out what few sentimental pieces are salvageable.

GANTNER: You can see all our stock here, all the way around, all the way up.

ROESGEN: 50,000 plants, $260,000 worth of crops destroyed.

GANTNER: I don't know if you went through here with a bomb it would make any difference than this. I honestly don't know. I've not seen nothing like this before. If it would make it worse, tell me how.

ROESGEN: The only thing insured was the grandparents' mobile home. It took Roger Gantner Sr. 23 years to build his nursery business and in less than 30 seconds it was ready for the trash heap.

GANTNER: That's everything we've worked for, it's gone. And not worst of all, we can replace this, you know. But you can't replace your Grandmother or your mother. That's not the way she should have went. But God has other plans sometimes, you know.

ROESGEN: Hopes, dreams and love of a lifetime gone in a flash. Rusty Dornin, CNN, Lady Lake, Florida.

(END OF VIDEO TAPE)

LONG: A lot of brutal wintry weather to tell you about this morning. Want to show you a picture now from Lansing, Michigan, this was yesterday. Total whiteout, as you can see at times, visibility so bad apparently the drivers were just running into things before they could even see them. Now the wind and the now led to a massive traffic pileup on I-75 in Ohio. Two people were killed when a semi slammed into their car from behind. Police eventually had to untangle 18 cars and three tractor trailers from that mess.

More than twice that many vehicles got jammed up in New Hampshire. One person was killed in a 100-vehicle chain reaction accident. Today we have the frigid temperatures to go right after this nasty weather on Saturday.

(WEATHER REPORT) LONG: Lady Lake, we've heard a lot about that community, the devastation there and also the Lady Lake Church of God, it was leveled by a tornado. But already there's talk of the church rising from the rubble. As parishioners are gathering to give thanks among the ruins, we will hear their stories in our FACES OF FAITH segment. HOLMES: Also, four U.S. helicopters shot down over Iraq in the past two weeks. Coincidence or evidence of Iran's growing involvement in Iraq? We will take a look at that.

JOSHUA LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: President Bush tomorrow will ask Congress for more than $200,000 billion more dollars for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, mostly in Iraq. Meanwhile, how much is being spent on some major domestic issues. I'm Joshua Levs, I'll have that coming up in the reality check here when CNN SUNDAY MORNING CONTNIUES.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HOLMES: Four U.S. helicopters lost in Iraq since January 20th. We have new information from the military this morning that all four were apparently brought down by ground fire. Could this signal a growing threat for U.S. forces? CNN's Arwa Damon is live for us in Baghdad with more on this. Hello, Arwa.

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello T.J. And that is what the U.S. military right now is investigating, but they have confirmed, this coming from a recent press conference held by Major General William Caldwell, the spokesman for multinational forces here, saying that those four helicopters that crashed over the last few weeks were brought down by some sort of ground fire. They do however, still continue with their investigation, but this does raise a number of concerns. There has also been a fair amount of violence in the capital. This morning, in just the span of a few hours, over a dozen Iraqis lost their lives from a number of different types of attacks, ranging from small arms fire to those ever-deadly roadside bombs, to mortar fire. This comes on the heels of the single deadliest attack to take place in Iraq this year where yesterday a suicide truck bomber drove into a crowded marketplace with 2,200 pounds of explosives in his vehicle. Today we are seeing the aftermath, the utter devastation caused by that attack, entire building facades are gone and residents are desperately sifting through the rubble, still trying to pull out bodies of those trapped underneath and looking for any sort of their belongings that might have survived the attack. Iraq's Ministry of Interior saying that in the last week alone around 1,000 Iraqis have lost their lives. That number does include civilians, Iraqi security forces, and gunmen that were killed in any number of attacks to take place in this country. All of this, T.J., coming as U.S. and Iraqi security forces are still trying to push forward with the Iraqi government's and the U.S. administration's new Baghdad security plan. T.J.?

HOLMES: Arwa, with four helicopters going down like this in such a short period of time, is the U.S. now looking at different ways to possibly protect these helicopters as they have to fly around the area and certainly around the area of Baghdad?

DAMON: Well, TJ, the U.S. military is constantly reevaluating its methods of operation, be it via air or ground. This has, of course, raised a number of alarm bells amongst senior U.S. military officials. Just the fact that four helicopters were shot down in such a short span of time. And they do say that they are constantly modifying the way that they are operating and that will be probably one of the leading conclusions coming out of this investigation. Once they determine specifically how and why these helicopters were brought down. They were all four brought down in different parts of the country, T.J.?.

HOLMES: All right Arwa Damon for us live in Baghdad. Arwa thank you so much, as always.

DAMON: Thanks.

LONG: On Monday, President Bush will ask Congress for another $245 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, most of it for Iraq. That's on top of hundreds of billions already spent as the costs keep rising, CNN decided to look at other ways all that money could have been spent. Joshua Levs is here with a CNN reality check.

LEVS: Yeah, and we were just talking about the idea of unfathomable numbers that applies to the deaths and the toll that we're hearing and everything that's happening with the bombings. And it also applies to the money. As Melissa was telling you, hundreds of billions already spent and, yes, tomorrow President Bush will ask for an extra 100 billion for this year, plus an extra 145 billion in the budget for the following year. We wanted to try to put that into context for you. We could tell you its 245 followed by nine zeros. We could tell you David Beckham would have to strike a thousand deals to get that much. Here's what will really put it in context for you. We want to show you how that amount of money could potentially affect some major domestic issues.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LEVS (voice-over): Fighting, responding to terrorism, rebuilding. It's added up to about $400 billion so far. Some studies say the price tag could ultimately top a trillion.

SEN. JIM WEBB, (D) VIRGINIA: The war costs to our nations have been staggering.

LEVS: The costs aren't just financial, but let's look at the money and where it's not being spent. Every year the president vows to push alternative energy sources.

BUSH: To make our air significantly cleaner and our country much less dependent on foreign sources of energy.

LEVS: But funding requests for renewable energy programs have remained the same, at about $1.2 billion each year. How about --

BUSH: Reforming our health care system.

LEVS: Forty-four million Americans are uninsured. A major study found covering them would take $48 billion in additional medical spending each year. Let's hit one more topic, the nation's public schools. The administration gives grants to help improve them. The total in 2006, about $30 billion. President Bush says all of these domestic priorities are well-funded and that progress is being made. As for Iraq, he says imagine the costs if Saddam Hussein had let terrorists use Iraq as a base to plot attacks on U.S. soil. He says the funds he's requesting are needed.

BUSH: And my number one priority is to protect this country. We're going to make sure our troops have all the equipment they need to do the job we sent them to do.

(END OF VIDEOTAPE)

LEVS: Now, it's also important to keep in mind that the money doesn't exactly not all of it just stop in Iraq. For example, some of the money goes to war machinery, which pays people who make it who then spend it here in the United States and pay taxes. That is a fact. However, no one is putting a smiley face on all the money that's been spent in Iraq. And now things are worse. Last week, a report from the government's inspector general for Iraq found that tens of millions of dollars have been wasted in Iraq. And on top of that Melissa, tens of millions of dollars in equipment has disappeared. No one can find it, unaccounted for.

LONG: Josh Levs with that reality check, thank you. We're going to continue to talk about this topic.

Still to come on CNN this morning, money is the number one topic, money for Iraq, that's the number one topic on "LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER." The White House Budget Director Rob Portman will discuss the budget with Wolf. That program comes your way 11:00 a.m. eastern.

HOLMES: Also, there's certainly a lot of talk about Iran right now while the U.S. forces battle in Iraq. Later this hour, we'll take a closer look at what the U.S. needs to do to secure what some consider a potential new front in the war on terrorism.

But first, this --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LARRY LYNN: The church is the people. The building is where we met. We appreciated it, but we'll build again and we'll be better and stronger.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

LONG: True faces of faith as a Florida congregation comes together and proves a building alone does not make a church. CNN's SUNDAY MORNING continues in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON COOPER: Do you think you'll be able to rebuild the church?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh yeah, absolutely. We know, without a shadow of a doubt.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: God's going to turn this --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're going to have church here Sunday.

COOPER: You're going to have church here this Sunday?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're having church on these grounds Sunday. You know, the building is gone, but the church is still here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's right.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Amen.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is the church.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

LONG: You've been listening to CNN's Anderson Cooper speaking to members of Lady Lake Church of God as they walk through the splintered remains of their church. And as promised, they will have that service about an hour from now. There are no walls, no pews, there's no pulpit, but plenty of faith this Sunday morning. Earlier I spoke with the pastor of Lady Lake Church of God.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REV. LARRY LYNN, PASTOR, LADY LAKE CHURCH OF GOD: Our initial thoughts when we first saw it was, you know this is the reality we're in. We believe that faith is now and even though we have some faith for the future and we've had faith in what happened in the past, faith is also good for the here and now. And the Lord's God right now, and we're just trusting him and believing him to lead us through all this.

LONG: So this morning you may not have the physical church, but you still have your church, you still have a good congregant. And everybody's gathering this morning at 10:45?

LYNN: That's right. We expect many members of the community. We've already got several members of the media, and our requirements for them was that they each bring 10 people, so there should be a pretty good crowd here this morning. And the church is the people, the building is where we met. We're -- we appreciated it, but we'll build again, and we'll be better and stronger.

LONG: What have you been able to salvage from the rubble?

LYNN: Well, nothing of any value. We've got a bible that belonged to me and a few mementos that are not really of -- in very good condition. Everything got rained on for four hours after the building was gone so nothing that we're going to be able to salvage in any way. But we pulled a few things out, a cross and some other things that were of value as far as memorabilia and precious to this church.

LONG: Now the building itself was built to withstand strong storms.

LYNN: Yes. One thing we're thankful for, that this storm was not announced, because, had it been announced, usually people who live in mobile homes that are members of the church come and stay in the church during hurricanes and those sort of things. It was at one time designated a hurricane shelter and now we just let our people come here because of liability and so on and so forth. But it's built to withstand 150-mile-an-hour winds. We had something far in excess of that.

LONG: Let's talk about today's sermon again at 10:45 this morning, you've likely been preparing all week for today's sermon. Then, of course, you had the storms on Friday. Will you still include parts of your original sermon in today? What will be your main message today?

LYNN: Well, for 35 years people have been trying to find out what I'm going to preach, and I made a deal with the Lord long ago that nobody but me and him would know until I open my mouth on Sunday morning.

LONG: I understand.

LYNN: My wife doesn't know. My children don't know and nobody knows. But the message was actually prepared several weeks ago. But it certainly fits today.

LONG: Well, it's certainly my job to ask the question so I'm glad I asked but I understand that you don't want to give me the answer to that question.

LYNN: Right.

LONG: Lastly, how important is this sermon for you this morning and for the congregants?

LYNN: Well, we just wanted everybody to know that we're not going anywhere. We're here. We've been here. We'll be here. Our foundation, our faith is in Jesus Christ, not in this building. We hope to be able to minister to this community. There's going to be a lot of people that need a lot of help for a long time to come. When all of the frenzy is over and all of you folks are gone, there will still be work to do. We hope to be a part of that.

LONG: Pastor Lynn, thanks so much for your time this morning on this difficult morning for you. We appreciate it.

LYNN: Thank you.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP) LONG: We have live pictures now from Lady Lake Church of God. Again, they're holding services about 10:45 local time this morning amidst the rubble.

HOLMES: After that, certainly curious to know what he will be preaching about this morning, said he prepared it weeks --

LONG: Piqued my interest, that's for sure.

HOLMES: Yes, it was prepared weeks ago but it fits today, so curious to hear about that. I'm sure we'll be hearing about that.

We will turn now to Iran, the tough talk on Iran. When it comes to accusations of helping the Iraq insurgency, why is the White House ratcheting up the rhetoric now? Details on that coming up in about eight minutes.

When people in Houston talk about going green, this is not what they have in mind. We're going to tell you about this mystery ooze ahead in the "water cooler."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Picked as one of the 50 women to watch by "The Wall Street Journal", Susan Lyne is at the top of her game.

SUSAN LYNE, CEO, MARTHA STEWART LIVNG OMNIMEDIA, INC.: I think far too few people really do celebrate success. I think it makes it really difficult to run a company well unless you are reminding your employees constantly about what's been accomplished. So to allow people to celebrate the success when it comes I think it's critically important.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: After 25 years in the television and publishing business, Lyne became CEO of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia in 2004. She oversees everything from merchandising to broadcasting. Up next, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia plans to launch a line of food products, including complete dinners and partially prepared foods.

(END OF VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HOLMES: Now in the news, hostile fire apparently was to blame for the downing of four U.S. helicopters in Iraq over the past two weeks. That word from the military this morning. The helicopters included three from the military and one civilian chopper, 21 Americans were killed in those crashes.

Well, from Afghanistan this morning, reports that a key Taliban commander is dead killed by a NATO airstrike. According to NATO, a precision attack was launched on the Taliban leader in the area that had been overrun by the Taliban on Friday. LONG: Health officials in Britain hope this mass slaughter of turkeys will end an outbreak of bird flu at a farm in Eastern England. The question is how did that dreaded H5N1 virus infect the flock inside a sealed building? Authorities have cordoned off the property, but say the public is not at risk.

HOLMES: An Amber Alert continues for a Pennsylvania toddler. Police are searching for this 23-month-old Inya Page reported missing from her bed in Braddock, Pennsylvania, yesterday morning. The below- freezing temperatures adding urgency is to this search.

Meanwhile, a good morning to take a walk -- two astronauts doing just that this morning. You're looking at a live video feed here of two astronauts who are back outside of the International Space Station. This happening right now, they're working on upgrades to the station's cooling and power systems. This spacewalk is the second of three planned over a nine-day span. The first walk, which was on Wednesday, lasted about eight hours.

LONG: Technology is amazing; we got the ability to see that.

HOLMES: We can get a live shot from space. Can you believe that? What else can we do around here? Bonnie, I know you're supposed to be checking on the weather for us.

BONNIE SCHNEIDER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: That's right.

HOLMES: So tell us - I know you can't make those numbers magically change, though, can you?

SCHNEIDER: I wish I could. But look at these current numbers, they're all pretty cold across the country -- the Arctic air gripping the country. These are the actual temperatures, but this is what it feels like outside. You don't want to be outside in these dangerous conditions. Well below zero across much of the Midwest and all the way towards Chicago, that's the way it feels. But what about Florida? We have rain moving into Miami. It's been rating for much of the morning and there's more to come. What does this mean for the Super Bowl forecast? I'll tell you in just a bit -- T.J.

LONG: President Bush is heading for a showdown with the Senate this week over his Iraq plan. Senators are expected to take up a resolution opposing a troop buildup, but the president is standing firm. White House correspondent Elaine Quijano now joins us live from Washington.

Good morning, Elaine.

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you Melissa. That's right. You know, at a time when the president has been asking lawmakers to essentially give his Iraq plan some time to work, this really was a political blow last week when a prominent republican senator, Senator John Warner, joined with Democrats on this resolution, outright opposing the president's plan for a troop increase. Now, Senator Warner is, of course, the former chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. This bi-partisan resolution would be nonbinding, but it would be intended to send the president a clear message expressing opposition to his idea for sending thousands more U.S. forces into Baghdad and the rest of al Anbar Province.

Now, despite that opposition, President Bush has remained firm in his decision. He argues more troops are needed in Iraq to bolster Iraqi forces and give the Iraqi government a chance to assert greater control.

Now, yesterday in a rare appearance at the House Democrats' annual retreat, the president made only a brief mention in his public comments of a troop increase and he acknowledged the skepticism that exists over whether Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki can reach a political solution.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's benchmarks that they have got to achieve, and I have made it clear to the Iraqi government, just like I made it clear to the American people, our commitment is not open-ended.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

QUIJANO: Now, tomorrow the president will be submitting his budget to Congress, and CNN has learned that the White House will be requesting some $240 billion over the next couple of years in order to pay for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Already Democrats are vowing to closely scrutinize any war budget requests. Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in fact, yesterday just minutes after the president left that retreat, reiterated her comments that the president will not have a blank check, in her words, on Iraq.

Now, meantime, as for that Iraq resolution in the Senate, unclear if it's actually going to reach the floor for debate tomorrow, Melissa. Republicans, essentially, have been threatening to block debate over this. They want to offer up some competing resolutions and the idea here, Melissa, is really to try to muddy the waters a bit and take some of the focus off that one resolution authored, chiefly, by John Warner -- Melissa.

LONG: Elaine Quijano, live from the capital. Elaine, thank you.

HOLMES: Prudent strategy or diversion from the war in Iraq? The Bush administration's tough talk about Iran takes a turn. CNN's chief national correspondent John King looks at what's behind this latest rhetoric.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The war is in Iraq, yet Iran is more and more the target of the president's tough talk.

BUSH: Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops. We will disrupt the attacks on our forces.

If we were to fail in Iraq, Iran would be emboldened in its pursuit of nuclear weapons.

KING: So, why all this focus on Iran now?

SHIBLEY TELHAMI, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND: Part of it is strategic, but part of it is undoubtedly political. And the two come together.

KING: Strategic in that Pentagon officials say they have solid evidence that Iran is supplying rocket-propelled grenades, Katyusha rockets, and parts for powerful roadside bombs, known as explosively formed projectiles. And military sources tell CNN the Pentagon is investigating a possible Iranian role in the January 20 raid in Karbala that left five American soldiers dead. The State Department, Wednesday, was more cautious.

SEAN MCCORMACK, STATE DEPT SPOKESMAN: I don't think the Department of Defense has come to any conclusions as to who exactly is responsible for the attack.

KING: Beyond Iraq, Iran's nuclear program and its support of Hamas and Hezbollah make it a growing strategic headache for the United States. In addition to the administration's stronger words, two carrier groups have been sent to the Persian Gulf, part of a clear message to Iran.

ADMIRAL WILLIAM FALLON, U.S. NAVY: And it seems to me that in the region, as they grow their military capabilities, we're going to have to pay close attention to what they do and what they may bring to the table.

KING: Administration critics say diplomacy would work better than more tough talk.

LEE HAMILTON, CO-CHMN, IRAQ STUDY GROUP: What's happened? Iran has become the most powerful country in the region. It continues to support terrorist organizations. It's continuing to develop its nuclear potential. How can anyone say today that our policy towards Iran is working? It is not.

KING: Politically, the goal is to help sell an unpopular plan to increase U.S. troop levels in Iraq, an idea many of the president's fellow Republicans oppose.

PETER HART, DEMOCRAT POLLSTER: The president now has a circle that is equivalent to the circle that Richard Nixon had at the very end of his presidency. Republicans are leaving him, they're sending a message.

TELHAMI: You have people asking for withdrawal, and the president, in highlighting the Iranian threat inside Iraq, is driving the point home that an American withdrawal will create a vacuum that will benefit Iran. KING: the verbal sparring with Iran is also contributing to an already-troubled U.S. image in the Arab world. Professor Telhami conducts an annual poll of Arab public opinion.

TELHAMI: Every leader they like is a leader who is standing up to the United States of America. For the very first time this year, the president of the United States is more disliked than the prime minister of Israel. That is quite telling.

KING: John King, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES: We want to talk more about Iran's influence and for that, we turn to "Washington Post" correspondent Anthony Shadid who's joining us now from Cairo, Egypt.

Anthony, thank you so much for being here. Iran's growing influence, their growing power -- is there a feeling out there that it's more a result of the jockeying that Iran is doing into the moves that they're making, or is it more a result of what the U.S. is doing and the stance that it's taking on certain issues that is bolstering Iran in that region?

ANTHONY SHADID, "WASHINGTON POST": Well, I think you can look at it a couple of different levels. I think there's a sense in the region that since 2003, since the U.S. invasion of Iraq and since the Taliban were overthrown in Afghanistan there's been a certain vacuum in the Arab world, in the Middle East, and Iran has filled that in some respects.

I think there's also, though, a certain sense, and you often hear this pronounced that, while we're hearing on this escalation and the rhetoric this increase in the level of the crisis, that there's -- I think there's a certain cynicism, here in the Middle East, about what the aims of that are -- the objectives of that are, that the United States, in some ways, maybe looking for another enemy to explain why the situation is as it is in Iraq today.

HOLMES: Now, would that really help? You just talked about that. I was going to ask you about that next, but people are starting to believe, a growing sentiment out there, that the U.S. needs to pick another fight to get attention away from Iraq and the mess that many certainly believe that's in. Who does that end up helping or hurting if the U.S. actually -- if that is the motivation?

SHADID: Well, you know, it's hard to say. And I think there's a lot of anxiety in the region, right now, in the Middle East over where this crisis is headed. There is a sense, I think, that this crisis is escalating. There's a lot of talk, you often hear about the possibility of an attack on Iran. And I think the anxiety and this apprehension that you have in the Middle East is over the repercussions of an attack like that. Iran obviously has a lot of tools at its disposal in the region right now. It's very close to the Persian Gulf, the oil reserve states on the Persian Gulf, it has allies in Palestine and Lebanon. You know, an arena of repercussions could stretch from Afghanistan all the way to the Mediterranean and Lebanon.

So, I think what we're seeing, when there's a certain -- there's a certain confusion, maybe, you might even put it, in the Middle East right now, why this crisis is escalating right now. There's also a deep unease and deep apprehension over where this crisis would head if it comes to that, if it comes to armed conflict, given that the repercussions could be so great.

HOLMES: You talk about crisis there. We see what so many are calling a crisis in Iraq with the sectarian divide. But that sectarian divide with Sunnis and Shias there, how is that beginning to maybe even and what could happen down the road if sectarian divide in Iraq fuels sectarian tensions elsewhere in the region?

SHADID: You know, I think that's a good point. I think what we're seeing, you know, when you look at the Middle East today, compared to 2003, for instance, when the United States invaded Iraq, it's a region that bares, in some ways, little resemblance to what that region was back then.

You know, we've traditionally had in the Middle East, you know, you've always had the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and perhaps one other conflict going on at the same time. What we're dealing with now with is conflicts in not only Israel and Palestine, but also with -- among Palestinians themselves, a deadlock and a deepening deadlock in Lebanon, a disintegrating Iraq and then on the periphery of the region, you have other crisis going on in Somalia and Afghanistan.

So, the region is very precarious right now, I think one of the things that troubles people the most, and what you hear spoken most often about, is the sectarian divide that you point out, that is in some ways coloring Iraq to a very fundamental degree, but is also spilling out across the region right now. It's -- in some places like Egypt, where I'm at right now, this idea of a Sunni-Shia divide was kind of alien. It's obviously Egypt's a predominantly Sunni country, but even the notion of it, this idea of identifying yourself as first and foremost as Sunni was somewhat alien.

What we're seeing though in newspaper columns and speeches and the talk, even, you know, kind of everyday talking, you hear, is this idea of sectarian divide of a Sunni-Shia divide becoming much more, in some ways, urgent, much more topical, much more talked about and that's a very new development. I think it's making people very uneasy about where that's headed, that it is becoming so sharp and that there is a certain suspicion that this is being encouraged in some ways as a way to blunt Iran's ascendance in the region.

HOLMES: All right, Anthony, certainly a lot to talk about. A great article that you wrote, good reading there, certainly some more I wanted to get to and talk to you about. But thank you so much for taking some time out here with us and sharing your thoughts on that region that you know so well. Thank you so much, Anthony Shadid, "Washington Post" correspondent. And we will be continuing this discussion of what role Iran is playing in Iraq, that's coming later this morning on LATE EDITION with Wolf Blitzer. They're going to have a former CIA officer going to be weighing in on it. That's coming up at 11:00 Eastern.

LONG: Now, as you know, today is Super Bowl Sunday and...

HOMES: It is?

LONG: Yeah I know, surprise, surprise. It is a Midwest match up in Miami.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh yeah, I'm a big Colts fan if they don't play the Bears.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My total allegiance is totally Colts and my family's -- everybody's -- everybody I know is for the Colts.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LONG: So, the burning question this morning -- where does Bear country end and Colt country begin? We're going to hit the road to find out.

HOLMES: Then later in the ""WaterCooler," what we have been waiting for years -- can beer help you lose weight? Well, a lot of Super Bowl fans certainly might hope so. We got details of that coming up in today's "WaterCooler."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is Specialist Isaac Dodds (ph) from Indianapolis, Indiana, with the 82nd Airborne Division, here at Camp Taji, Iraq. I want to say, let's go Colts! It's our time! Yeah! Yeah!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm Specialist Charles Cisco (ph), 82nd Airborne Division, Camp Taji, Iraq, from Long Island, New York, Gordon (ph) Heights. Just want to say, go Bears! Everybody back home, Lexi Kalia (ph), daddy loves you. See you soon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi. This is Josh Fulaller (ph) -- First Lieutenant Josh Fulaller (ph), from the 82nd Airborne Division here in Camp Taji, Iraq. I'm from Indianapolis, Indiana. I want to make a little prediction -- Colts 34, Bears 10. Go, Colts!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My name is (INAUDIBLE) with the 82nd Airborne Division out here in Camp Taji, Iraq. I'm from Chicago, Illinois. Glad to give a shout out to my family in Chicago. I'd like to say, go Bears!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOLMES: Well, I think the Colt fan at the beginning was certainly more enthused than the rest.

LONG: Put a smile on my face. HOLMES: Yes, he was excited about his team. Of course they're routing in Iraq, as well. Fans of both teams are going to be tuning in for the 6:25 kickoff. However, for them, it will be 2:25 in the morning. But hey, it's the Super Bowl, it's still worth watching.

LONG: Now, I think you know this by now, the Indianapolis Colts and then Chicago Bears, right? Well, the first all-Midwest Super Bowl since Kansas City played Minnesota in -- do you know? Super Bowl IV. So, who are you routing for this morning?

HOLMES: Well, as CNN's Ray D'Alessio explains, it's not always an easy answer.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RAY D'ALESSIO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Chicago. It's often referred to as the Second City, the Windy City, but the Indy City is? Probably not.

(voice-over): You see, for more than 60 years, the Bears had neighboring Indiana's full support. But when the Colts moved to Indianapolis in 1984, the I-65 fight for fans began. Now no one's sure where the battle line is drawn. First stop? Maryville, Indiana, just 10 miles from the Illinois border.

(on camera): You got the Bear, the jersey, and the Bear hat, obviously you are a die-hard Bears fan?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Definitely, 100 percent.

D'ALESSIO: No chance on ever jumping on the Colts' bandwagon?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Never. No way.

D'ALESSIO: Even if they go out there and they beat the Bears 35- 0.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That would make me hate them more.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think when you get further down then those are the Colts fans -- the die-hard Colts fans.

D'ALESSIO (on camera): So, south it is, to Roselawn with roughly 4,000 residents, most with an allegiance to orange and blue.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My dad and all my brothers, everybody's always been a Bears' fan, so I was kind of raised to be a Bears fan, too.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's always going to be Colts fans around here, but basically, this is Bears country and everybody's always been that way.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know where the dividing line is. I'd say close to Purdue, maybe.

D'ALESSIO: So we went to Lafayette, home of Purdue University.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh yeah, I'm a big Colts fan if they don't play the Bears.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Love the Colts. Bears are old school. You know, a couple of these older guys over here, Bears fans.

D'ALESSIO (on camera): Who's going to win the Super Bowl?

(SCREAMING)

D'ALESSIO: Forty-five minutes outside Indianapolis, and there's still that even split, is that surprising to you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's because the Colts didn't have a team for so long -- or the Indiana didn't have a team for so long that there was a lot of Bears fans.

D'ALESSIO (voice-over): Finally, in Lebanon, just 25 miles from downtown Indy, we find the true Colts fan.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My allegiance is totally Colts and my family's -- everybody's -- everybody I know is for the Colts.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It better be all Colts around here. As close as we are to Indianapolis, it should -- as far as I'm concerned -- be all Colts.

D'ALESSIO (on camera): So, after driving through Indiana and not being able to figure out if there are more Bears fans or Colts fans, we at least now know why it's called the Hoosier state. It's because everyone keeps asking, "Who's your favorite football team?"

Ray D'Alessio, CNN, Indianapolis.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES: Well, we do want to check in now with Howard Kurtz, he's in Washington, to see what's ahead on CNN's RELIABLE SOURCES.

Howard, Bears or Colts, first?

HOWARD KURTZ, RELIABLE SOURCES: Thanks very much, T.J. Coming up, the media turn on the money honey, is CNBC's Maria Bartiromo she being unfairly maligned with the coverage about her friendship with ousted City Group executive?

Judith Miller stumbles on the stand at the Scooter Libby trial. How journalists are being forced to talk about their coziness with White House officials.

NBC's Brian Williams checks in. Why is he taking his broadcast back to New Orleans again? That and what else -- Super Bowl hype ahead on RELIABLE SOURCES. LONG: Thank you.

HOLMES: All right, thanks, Howie. He's going to keep his prediction to himself, there. All right, thank you. Thank you.

LONG: And still to come after the break -- we're going to dive into a painting unlike anything you've ever seen before. More on this water wonder, ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HOLMES: Uh-oh, it's news time.

LONG: It is news time. Some of the more intriguing stories that we haven't been able to include yet?

HOLMES: You know, a lot of hard news, a lot of that stuff going on. But always a few stories that jump out as, you know, they're just odd. So we've got strange stuff brewing this morning on the "WaterCooler."

LONG: Super Bowl Sunday, so we had to mention what is the beverage of choice -- the adult beverage of choice on Super Bowl Sunday?

HOLMES: I'm serving Kool-Aid at my place..

LONG: Soda? Kool-Aid? Lemonade?

HOLMES: It's beer. I'm sorry. It's beer.

Well, it may defy conventional wisdom here, but the author of this book says that he lost 90 pounds drinking beer. Well, how do you do that? With moderation and exercise?

LONG: Well, that's not really a diet. It seems to be what most people always say, everything in moderation. Right? And that's what the author is saying. He was a yo-yo dieter. And as long as you splurge but not binge...

HOLMES: You're going to be OK.

LONG: Exactly.

HOLMES: I'll try it out. I'll see what happens. But, this is just more of a way, maybe, just say you're on a beer diet, if that's something you're proud to say.

LONG: Well, and so many people will be consuming so much junk food today, so today's kind of a wash, I think.

HOLMES: So throw the beer in there. What the heck?

LONG: Well, one of the other stories we found that was pretty intriguing is unique video out of Houston and it looks like ooze, just green ooze. You can't explain what it is, though, can you? HOLMES: Yeah, this mysterious green stuff made lots of folks pretty nervous, especially at a child care center that was close by.

LONG: Well, what is it? It's actually green dye. It was put in there in order to search for a leak.

HOLMES: Well, that's what they say. We'll figure it out later. We got one more thing to show you, here. You might not believe this next picture we got to show you, here. Melissa, it's of a painting, I believe.

LONG: Yes, it's a portrait of a president, a tribute to the nation, the president of India.

HOLMES: OK, it might not seem like a big deal, for the most part, but if you look closely, it's actually a pool of water where this thing is.

LONG: The canvas is in the pool of water and I was reading that rubber locks were used to prevent all the colors from mixing. It's really remarkable.

HOLMES: And It took nine artists about 14 hours to make the liquid masterpiece. Just don't jump off the diving board into the water. They wouldn't appreciate it.

And we do appreciate Melissa hanging out with us this weekend, being there, sitting in for Betty. Thank you. Always a pleasure.

LONG: Yes I'm up from "Pipeline." "Pipeline" -- CNN.com/pipeline. If you've ever needed to know about a story but you're not near a television, go to your laptop, download "Pipeline." It's essentially an opportunity to take everything you've ever seen on CNN television and put it on your desktop.

HOLMES: Well, we sure will check it out. But thank you for being here. And also, we need to tell you about the Scooter Libby trial, putting a lot of high-profile journalists in an unusual spot. RELIABLE SOURCES is up next, looking at the impact that.

LONG: And tomorrow, President Bush is expected to ask Congress for billions of dollars to fund the war in Iraq. Will he have to play let's make a deal with lawmakers? Wolf Blitzer talks with the White House budget director on today's LATE EDITION starting at 11:00 Eastern.

HOLMES: And then among Wolf's guests also, former presidential candidate, Ralph Nader. That is coming your way at Noon Eastern. Stick around.

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