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Astronaut Charged With Attempted Kidnapping, Murder Returning to Houston Today; North Korea Expected to Demand Access to Cash, Other Conditions At Six-Party Talks Tomorrow

Aired February 7, 2007 - 07:00:00   ET


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR, AMERICAN MORNING: Star-crossed lovers: Nowak leaving Florida fitted with a GPS ankle bracelet. Did the stress of space spark her alleged murder plot?
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR, AMERICAN MORNING: Money talks: The new attempt today to stop North Korea's nuclear ambitions with lots of cash for Kim Jong Il as a bargaining tool.

M. O'BRIEN: And sealed with a kiss. Snickers responding today to gay rights groups angry over that. The lip lock in the "Super Bowl" ad on this AMERICAN MORNING.

S. O'BRIEN: Good morning. Welcome back. It's Wednesday, February 7th. I'm Soledad O'Brien.

M. O'BRIEN: I'm Miles O'Brien.

We begin with the odd, tragic mission of astronaut Lisa Nowak, on her way home to Houston, as we speak, but grounded from her job. Pictures from the Orlando Airport there this morning. She's under the jacket, there. Accompanied by Chief Astronaut Steve Lindsey. She's grounded from her job. She's on 30-days paid leave while she fends off charges she had kidnapping and murder on her mind as she pursued the other woman in a love triangle.

Police say she targeted Air Force Captain Colleen Shipman, who shared with her a love interest in astronaut Bill Oefelein. Police say Nowak drove 950 miles from Houston to Orlando to meet Shipman as she arrived on a flight from Houston. Nowak wore diapers on that mission to avoid bathroom breaks. She confronted Shipman at the airport parking lot in Orlando.

Her attorney says she simply wanted to talk. But she was packing a BB gun, a buck knife, a steel mallet, rubber hoses, latex gloves, and garbage bags. And police say that is enough to charge her with attempted first degree murder. CNN's Susan Candiotti picks up the story for us live from Orlando.

Hello, Susan.


Well, long gone from here, the Orange County jail, Lisa Nowak is heading home to Houston. She spent the night at an airport hotel. Now, as she heads back to Houston, her family says that she is a caring and dedicated mother, but what will she tell her children and her family about her bizarre odyssey?


CANDIOTTI (voice over): Free on bond and covering her head with a jacket, Lisa Nowak's courthouse exit not the white-glove treatment astronauts are used to.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Murder was the plan, and it just was not able to be carried out.

CANDIOTTI: Nowak was stoic in court. Police say she was obsessed with her perceived love rival Colleen Shipman over fellow astronaut Bill Oefelein, and had murder on her mind. Her attorney says Nowak just wanted to talk with Shipman.

Nowak's family released a statement.

"Considering both her personal and professional life, these alleged events are completely out of character and have come as a tremendous shock to our family."

By all accounts, a loving family. Nowak was thrilled by Neil Armstrong's moon walk. In Rockville, Maryland, she was co- valedictorian in high school. Her former classmate showed off year book pictures of Nowak, active in student government, and sports.

DENNIS ALLOY, FORMER NOWAK CLASSMATE: She was a good student, a sweet person, a serious student, athletic. Just never -- didn't find her to be the one in trouble or doing something like this.

CANDIOTTI: She earned an aerospace engineering degree at the U.S. Naval Academy. Nowak finally made it into the Navy's test pilot school after six failed attempts. In the mid '80s she married. Her husband works at Mission Control. They separated a few weeks ago. They have a teenage son and young twin daughters.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Liftoff of the Space Shuttle Discovery.

CANDIOTTI: Last year she flew on the Shuttle Discovery, working the robotic arm.

BRIAN CLEAVES, FORMER NOWAK CLASSMATE: I think she's all about her career, and that's why I was just very surprised that she would do something outside of normal, you know, and get herself in a jam like this.

CANDIOTTI: Before the shuttle launch Nowak talked with CNN about the program's future.

LISA NOWAK, NASA SHUTTLE ASTRONAUT: Well, I'm glad we get to participate in the current program, even if it's retiring soon, but I'm also looking forward to the next things that are coming.


CANDIOTTI: Now, she may have been talking about the next generation of spaceships. Now Nowak begins a new fight, a fight against attempted murder and kidnapping charges, and a restraining ordinary that Colleen Shipman is seeking against her. Shipman says that Nowak has been stalking her for about two months.

Nowak is scheduled to arrive back in Houston at around 9:00 Eastern Time -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Of course, Susan, that restraining order is a bit of a moot issue now because it's very clear, on the bail arrangement, that Nowak is not supposed to go anywhere near where Shipman lives and works.

CANDIOTTI: That's right. It would seem to be a moot point, but that hearing is scheduled, nevertheless. In fact, the judge in court even said to Nowak, don't even think about sending flowers to this woman if you want to apologize. Stay away.

M. O'BRIEN: Susan Candiotti, in Orland. Thank you very much.

At the half hour I'll talk with a former NASA flight surgeon about how NASA prepares its astronauts psychologically, and how they take care of them as they deal with stress. He believes the agency needs to do more to help astronauts who are having tough some times. That's at 7:30 a.m. Eastern Time. Stay tuned for that -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Diplomats are arriving in Beijing today for renewed six-party negotiations to try to stop North Korea's nuclear program. This time, apparently, money is going to be doing some talking. CNN's John Vause is live from Beijing for us this morning.

Hey, John, good morning.


The U.S. Envoy says optimism is not a word he would be using here. Any progress will depend on what the North Koreans demand, and what the Americans are prepared to give.


VAUSE (voice over): Apart from his cognac, caviar, and plasma TVs, all banned under international sanctions, what else does Kim Jong Il want for giving up his nuclear program?

David Albright, a nuclear expert, who recently traveled to North Korea says the Dear Leader wants more than anything else for the U.S. to lift a freeze on his accounts at this Macao bank, accused of laundering counterfeit American bills.

DAVID ALBRIGHT, INST. FOR SCIENCE & INT'L. SECURITY: If they get that, then they're willing to enter negotiations.

VAUSE: The same demands made by the North last December at talks which failed after just five days.

TONY SNOW, PRESS SECY., WHITE HOUSE: The president's reaction is our conditions have always been the same for returning to the six- party talks, which we believe the North Koreans will do on Thursday, which is they do it without precondition.

VAUSE: But according to Albright if there is agreement on the Macao bank accounts then the North may be willing to freeze plutonium production in return for 500,000 tons of heavy fuel oil a year, improved relations with Washington, and removal from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism.

ALBRIGHT: A freeze doesn't get you nuclear disarmament, just gets you a cap on future plutonium production. It doesn't get rid of the -- whatever it is -- the half a dozen nuclear weapons that North Korea may already possess.

VAUSE: Despite those weapons, Albright says the North could be looking for light water nuclear reactor, but the White House has repeatedly ruled that out.


VAUSE: These negotiations have dragged on now for more than three years with nothing to show, and some analysts believe unless there is a breakthrough this time, then maybe the six-party talks have run their course -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: John Vause for us this morning in Beijing. Thank you, John.


M. O'BRIEN: Also happening this morning, more rain in Jakarta, Indonesia, slowing the clean from flooding that has killed 38 people so far, there. Almost a half a million people are out of their homes; the water filthy, and 13 feet deep in some areas right now.

A little less harsh outside this morning across the Upper Midwest and the Northeast of our country. Wind chills advisories still in effect in the Great Lakes. At least 11 have died in the cold, or just on the slippery roads. More from Chad in about 18 minutes.

Cancer researchers are hopeful about new breast cancer tests, just approved, called the mamo-print. It can help determine how likely the cancer is to return, which helps doctors choose the best treatment, and patients avoid unnecessary chemotherapy.

S. O'BRIEN: A little news for you in the race to '08 this morning. Former Massachusetts governor, Republican Mitt Romney is setting a date to formally announce that he is running for president. He is going to announce in his birth state of Michigan next Tuesday. Romney created an exploratory committee last month.

Is it political suicide or is it a good gamble? Democratic Presidential Candidate John Edwards admits if he is elected, he is going to raise taxes. Edwards believes that voters would support a tax increase to pay for quality health care for every American. A total cost of $120 billion a year. After just one visit, Senator Hillary Clinton is now in the lead in Iowa. The latest polls from the American Research Group shows she jumped over Edwards. She's now first at 35 percent. In New Hampshire Senator Clinton is at 35 percent there, too. Barack Obama has moved up to number two.

For the Republicans in Iowa, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani has a 5-point lead over John McCain; Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney round out the rest of the pack there. In New Hampshire McCain and Rudy Giuliani are neck and neck. Giuliani is gaining, though, but McCain has been in the lead in New Hampshire for the last two years -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Some encouraging numbers for folks in the Midwest. The bitter cold is lightening up just a tad. Don't worry about getting the sunscreen out just yet. Chad Myers will tell us about that.

Also, how thin is too thin for models? We'll see how the fashion world is taking on this troubling issue.

And the controversy over one of "Super Bowl" Sunday's commercials. I thought it was funny Didn't you?

S. O'BRIEN: I thought it was very funny.

M. O'BRIEN: Why this Snickers ad is getting pulled, and there's a controversy with it. We'll fill you in. Ahead on AMERICAN MORNING, the most news in the morning, right here.


O'BRIEN: Most news in the morning, right here on AMERICAN MORNING. We have a couple of live events we're tracking for you right now. There's one of them, live from Iraq. U.S. forces talking about plans to speed up the training of Iraq police forces. We're monitoring it. As soon as some news is committed, we'll bring it to you.

We're watching London as well. House of Commons, always fun to watch the House of Commons where the prime minister has an opportunity to have his question and answer sessions.

We're waiting to hear, though, if he responds specifically to that friendly fire video we showed you yesterday. It shows a U.S. pilot mistakenly killing a British soldier in Iraq in 2003. Big controversy and an inquest there -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: What would the "Super Bowl" be, what would the halftime show be without a little controversy? This time around it's about Prince, and his shadow. During his performance of "Purple Rain" on Sunday. Did you see this?


S. O'BRIEN: Take a look. That's the shadow.

M. O'BRIEN: Right?

S. O'BRIEN: Some people say it's a very suggestive shadow.

M. O'BRIEN: Oh! I'm just now noticing that.

S. O'BRIEN: For God's sake, it's a guitar.

M. O'BRIEN: Get out of the gutter people. Sometimes a guitar is just a guitar.

S. O'BRIEN: You can make up your own mind. CBS, which aired the game, says they've gotten very few complaints, unlike the firestorm that was unleashed when they had that Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction back in 2004.

M. O'BRIEN: So it's not a shadow malfunction, as far as we know.

S. O'BRIEN: It's the --

M. O'BRIEN: Yeah, I see it. We all see it now.

All right, people, whatever.

That ad in the "Super Bowl" that showed the two men eating a candy bar kind of "Lady and The Tramp" style, you know? Well, it caused a lot of snickers. I thought it was funny.

S. O'BRIEN: I thought it was funny.

M. O'BRIEN: You thought it was funny. A lot of people say it wasn't so sweet, though. CNN's Brook Anderson with more.


JOE SOLMONESE, PRES., HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGN: I feel like we're 20 years back from where we are in this fight.

BROOK ANDERSON, CNN HOLLYWOOD CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Outrage from gay rights groups across the country over a commercial that more than 90 million people saw during Sunday's "Super Bowl".


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think we just accidentally kissed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Quick! Do something manly.


SOLMONESE: It's kind of a haunting reminder, once again, that we've got a lot more work to do.

ANDERSON: Neither the Human Rights Campaign nor the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation found the campaign very funny. In fact, they found it homophobic. Both organizations called for Master Foods, the parent company of Mars, which makes Snickers, to pull the entire ad blitz.

The campaign included an elaborate on-line element that was quietly removed on Tuesday in response to the criticism.


Is there room for three in this love boat?


ANDERSON: Before the web campaign was taken down, the Snickers site featured three alternate endings to the commercial now shown on YouTube, including "Love Boat", and this version called "Wrench".

SOLMONESE: Hate crimes are as prevalent as ever in our country, and this sort of imagery does nothing to help a fight against that kind of condition that we have in our country. It only contributes to it.

ANDERSON: Also contributing to it, they say, is the appearance of NFL players responding to the ad on the Snickers web site.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did they actually have to kiss like that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, that's not right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Definitely blew my mind.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think this one is one of those that's going to be remembered.

ANDERSON: The blogosphere erupted, targeting Mars with posts like this one "The entire thing is absolutely sickening. They were gay- bashing for fun."

The ladies of "The View" tackled the topic. Rosy O'Donnell leading the charge with mixed feelings.

ROSIE O'DONNELL, HOST, "THE VIEW": Not every gay person was unfunny.

BARBARA WALTERS, HOST, "THE VIEW": And not every gay laughed.

O'DONNELL: And you know, not every gay person was offended.


O'DONNELL: When I first saw it I did have a little bit of a -- ah, but -- just -- ah. ANDERSON: The Colts, one of the teams whose players are featured on-line declined comment. And the Bears haven't returned CNN calls. Master Foods insists the ad was merely meant to be funny.

"We know that humor is highly subjective and understand that some people may have found the ad offensive. Clearly, that was not our intent."

No matter the intent, this controversy is proof that a Snickers doesn't always satisfy. Brook Anderson, CNN, Los Angeles.


M. O'BRIEN: Now GLAD and the Human Rights Campaign both say they want to meet with Mars to address their concerns to raise public awareness about the issue. Although I think public awareness has already been raised, wouldn't you say?

S. O'BRIEN: Yes, and they yanked the ad.

M. O'BRIEN: All right. It is now quarter past the hour. What time is that? That's time to check in with Chad.


S. O'BRIEN: Ahead this morning, how thin is too thin, as Fashion Week unfolds here in New York City? We're weighing in on the influence of those super-skinny runway models.

Plus, show me the money. That's what some lawmakers are saying after billions of dollars of our money goes unaccounted for in Iraq. Stay with us. You are watching AMERICAN MORNING.


M. O'BRIEN: Most news in the morning right here, naturally.

President Bush expected at Shenandoah National Park in Virginia today. He is touting the $250 million he is giving the Park Service in his proposed budget.

Another small victory in the war on terror. U.S. forces in Afghanistan saying they have two more suspected Al Qaeda militants in custody -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: It's a familiar sight during fashion week in New York, those rail-thin models on parade. Concerned about their health has designers taking some steps to make sure that their models are healthy enough to walk on the runway. AMERICAN MORNING's Alina Cho has got more on this story.

Good morning.


You know, usually we're talking about hemlines, Soledad. This year the big question is not what's hot and what's not. It's how thin is too thin? Many of those models you see on the runway are like human clothes hangers. In some cases they're literally dying to be thin. Now the industry is doing something about it.


CHO (voice over): They've always been thin, but some of the models on the catwalk these days are not just skinny, they're down right skeletal.

LINDA WELLS, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, "ALLURE": I see bones. I don't like the idea of a knee being the largest part of the body. I don't want to see and count people's rib bones.

CHO: When this Brazilian model, Anna Carolina Reston, died last year of complications related to anorexia, she weighed just 88 pounds. It was front-page news, and the fashion industry responded introducing health requirements for models in parts of Europe. New York responded, too. No models under 16 on the runway. Models with eating disorders are ordered to get help. Designers are encouraged to feed the models back stage.

The problem is these are guidelines, and designers are free to do as they please. At least one designer has resorted to weighing models.

BETSEY JONES, DESIGNER: What we're looking for here --

CHO: Betsy Johnson says that's not her style.

JONES: There is a healthier approach, and I think that's good, but treating the girls like jockeys, or sports figures, making them weigh in, oh, I think that's horrible.

CHO: Many in the industry believe the real issue is not weight, but age. With models as young as 13 on the runway, editors say, of course, they're thin. They're not fully grown.

Actress Rachel Welch, who at 66 is MAC cosmetics new beauty icon, says she doesn't fault the model. She blames designers for not making clothes big enough for the average woman.

RAQUEL WELCH, ACTRESS: Nothing fits. You can't get the zippers up. You say, well, are they just -- they just don't want me?

CHO: The models themselves? They say we should focus less on super skinny and more on obesity.

ANOUCK LEPERE, MODEL: The world, in general, has the opposite problem, I think.

WELLS: Models are never going to be average, they're models. And so, that alone, they're going to be thinner and taller and younger than the average American woman, but I still think they should be representatives of health.

(END VIDEOTAPE) CHO: There's been a lot of talk about exactly who is responsible for the models. And most of the people in the industry I talked to said they believe the agencies, and at a more basic level, parents are responsible. Some of the agents I spoke with say they are being pro active, and that when they do see a model who looks sick, they tell her she can't work, and get her to a doctor.

Now, one magazine editor I spoke with, Soledad, said we happen to be in a skinny model moment. It's unfortunate, but she said just like the fashions you see on the runway, this is a fad. And, of course, everyone hopes it will go away.

S. O'BRIEN: Sounds like a lot of finger-pointing. Well, the agents are responsible. No, the parents are responsible. No, the models themselves are responsible. No, it's the designers.

CHO: That's right. They play the blame game a little bit, yes.

S. O'BRIEN: If they didn't put -- I mean, if everybody is skinny, then the girls have to be skinny to work. If they sort of picked heavier girls --

CHO: Right. One thing I can say is, you know, the magazine editors say, listen -- you just heard from one of them -- Linda Wells, from "Allure". She said models are never going to be average. They are tall and beautiful and skinny. And people want to hate them.

A lot of people have said, you know, we believe the fashion industry is being unfairly targeted. All you have to do is pick up an "US Weekly" magazine and take a look at some of the celebrities. And you can see it's not just a problem in the fashion industry.

S. O'BRIEN: Fingers pointing every which way.

CHO: That's right.

S. O'BRIEN: Alina, thanks.

CHO: Sure.

S. O'BRIEN: Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Skinny fingers.

All right, this is something that drives me crazy. I have iTunes, and I want to move some music around from computer to computer. It's not easy. As a matter of fact, it's darn near impossible, because of this anti-piracy nonsense they have with it. Why shouldn't we be able to move our music we paid for to and from whatever platform we like? It's 25 minutes past the hour -- I'm fired up -- Stephanie Elam.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN FINANCIAL CORRESPONDENT: And a lot of people are. You are not alone.

Because, true, if you do have iTunes, you have five computers, I think you can go ahead and have your I tunes on. Well, here is the issue. Steve Jobs it taking aim at the music industry, saying the reason why, if you download music through iTunes that you have to listen to it on that format, is not because of Apple. It's actually because of the music companies that need you to add on the anti-copying software.

So he goes on to say that most music is sold on CDs, which does not have the software if you keep it in mine, and that hasn't increased piracy at all. So, he's saying this is only affecting a portion of the market, and it isn't stopping illegal downloading.

Now, he says without the software digital music would be to digital players, just as CDs are to CD players. And it wouldn't really stop anything. Then on top of it, Apple as well as other companies that have -- like Zune, Microsoft Zune -- you could use all those platforms interchangeably. Because think about it, if you lose your catalog of music --

M. O'BRIEN: You are up the creek.

ELAM: Completely.

M. O'BRIEN: Up the digital creek, as they say. And he's got an excellent point. I have often thought about this. If you buy it on a CD, it's free and unfettered. If it's bought on iTunes, it's tied up -- it's hogtied.

ELAM: Right.

M. O'BRIEN: So, I think there's an inconsistency there. And, you know, speaking of finger-pointing, he is pointing the finger in the right direction. The record companies have got to wake up on this one.

ELAM: They have to do something about it. It does show there that there should be a change. In case you want to change digital recorders, have you to rebuy everything.

M. O'BRIEN: New records, new computers, you want to -- you know, on and on it goes.

ELAM: Yes, it's awful. It's a good point. It's a really good point to look at.

M. O'BRIEN: OK, you hit a hot button.

ELAM: I see that. Got you going.

O'BRIEN: I like that. We'll see you in a bit.

ELAM: All right.

M. O'BRIEN: Top stories are coming up next, and the emotional and mental strain of coming back to earth is what we're going to be talking about. We'll talk with a former NASA flight surgeon, and friend, of the astronaut who is now accused of attempted murder. News for the millions of women on the pill. Why some are concerned about a new generation of birth control pills that are on the market right now.

Billions of dollars in cash given to Iraqis. Your money wasted by the ton. What happened to it? Who is responsible for this? You are watching AMERICAN MORNING, the most news in the morning, right here.


M. O'BRIEN: This just in. British Prime Minister Tony Blair responding to this: Chilling ...

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR, AMERICAN MORNING: This just in, British Prime Minister Tony Blair responding to this, chilling cockpit video comes from the early days of the war in Iraq. An American pilot shooting and killing a British soldier on the ground.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR, AMERICAN MORNING: Home ward bound. Astronaut Lisa Nowak covering her head right there with a jacket as she gets ready to board a plane to head back to Houston this morning. We're going to talk to a man who knows Nowak well. She's now accused of attempted murder.

M. O'BRIEN: The money pit. Congress demands answers after billions of dollars earmarked for Iraq vanishes.

S. O'BRIEN: Good morning. Welcome back everybody. It's Wednesday, February 7th. I'm Soledad O'Brien.

M. O'BRIEN: I'm Miles O'Brien. We're glad you are with us.

S. O'BRIEN: British Prime Minister Tony Blair just moments ago reacting to the friendly fire incident that we told you about yesterday. This cockpit videotape was first obtained by the British newspaper "The Sun." Let's show it to you, if we can, and it shows American pilots firing on a British convoy. Lance Corporal Matty Hull was killed. It all happened at the start of the Iraq war. Listen to what British Prime Minister Tony Blair had to say.


TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: We deeply regret the distress caused to Lance Corporal Matty Hull's family by the delay in concluding the inquest into how he died and I can assure the (INAUDIBLE) gentlemen that we will do everything we can to cooperate with the coroner and also make sure that the additional distress that's now been caused to the family is minimized.


S. O'BRIEN: That is Matty Hull right there. The cockpit video as you mentioned was first obtained by "The Sun" and this all happened right at the start of the Iraq war.

Also happening this morning, a little bit less harsh outside this morning across the upper Midwest and the northeast. Wind chill advisories are still in effect in the Great Lakes. At least 11 people have died in the cold or on slippery roads.

There's more rain in Jakarta, Indonesia, to tell you about. It's slowing the cleanup from the flooding. It's killed at least 38 people in the capital so far. Almost half a million people are out of their homes now and they're in filthy water, up to 13 feet deep in some cases.

The third rail bombing in three days in England. Police in south Wales say a woman was injured today when a parcel bomb exploded at a driver's license center. British police are investigating. There's no official word on whether they are connected. Many people think they are linked, though.

Astronaut Lisa Nowak is free on bail on her way home to Houston. Not on her way back to her job, though, at the Johnson Space Center. She's on paid leave for 30 days while she fends off those charges that she had kidnapping and murder on her mind as she pursued Air Force Captain Colleen Shipman. Shipman is the other woman in an alleged love triangle.

M. O'BRIEN: The Reverend Ted Haggard is telling friends he is ready to move on after a sex scandal with a male prostitute and three weeks of counseling. Haggard resigned in November as pastor from the 14,000 member New Life church in Colorado Springs and he was head of the National Association of Evangelicals representing 30 million Christians. He is one of the ministers who -- one of the ministers I should say who counseled Haggard tells the "Denver Post" that Haggard is now convinced he is completely heterosexual. Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Revisiting those floods in Jakarta, Indonesia now. CNN producer Kathy Quiano is on the phone with us. She is traveling with some relief workers. Cathy, thanks for talking with us by phone. What's the situation like where you are?

KATHY QUIANO, CNN PRODUCER: Well, Soledad, we were actually in an area about two hours away from Jakarta, in a village in (INAUDIBLE) which is one of the worst hit by the floods there. One of the dams broke Sunday evening after three days of torrential rains. Water was still as high as about six feet, about two meters there. We were actually on the raft of some rescue officials who were ferrying villagers from the flooded homes to and from a medical treatment area where they could get some (INAUDIBLE) clean water and some food. But some of the villagers refused to leave their homes. They say they're not getting enough help. Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Why are they refusing to leave their homes and what exactly is the medical situation? I know disease is a huge concern at this point.

QUIANO: That's right. Well, some of the patients we saw there were suffering from diarrhea, skin infections, some with respiratory problems. An old woman we saw, she was about 69 years old, still interested in going back to her home. She said because her family was there. She had to take care of her children and her grandchildren. And really there was nowhere to go for her. She is staying in a place that's a little dryer than their house, but she said that she would rather stay in her house. Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: On the disease front, what's their big concern? What are they really worried about? How likely is it that there's going to be some major disease coming right through that area?

QUIANO: Well, doctors we have spoken to said they are concerned that people continue to live under these conditions where it's very unsanitary and there is floodwater all around, where there's little access to clean water. People sometimes use floodwater to -- for drinking and for cooking and they said for as long as they do that, then the possibility of an outbreak of disease is very likely, although officials here are saying that they're doing all their best to prevent such an outbreak. Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: All right, Kathy Quiano for us this morning. Thank you, Kathy, for the update from there. Those pictures are quite amazing to see, 13 feet of water in some cases.

Turning to Washington DC now. This morning some lawmakers on Capitol Hill are absolutely perplexed as billions of dollars just disappear in Iraq. One Democrat says $12 billion was airlifted to Iraq and then sort of vanished into thin air. Here's congressional correspondent Andrea Koppel with our report.


ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Democrats wasted no time putting the former top U.S. official in Iraq on the spot.

REP. HENRY WAXMAN (D) CALIFORNIA: Who in their right mind would send 360 tons of cash into a war zone? That's exactly what our government did.

KOPPEL: Chairman Henry Waxman said during Paul Bremer's 13 months in charge, as these photographs released by the committee show, the U.S. Federal Reserve had flown in plane loads of cash totaling nearly $12 billion, money Waxman accused Bremer and his colleagues of then handing over to Iraqi ministries without proper oversight.

WAXMAN: It goes to pay off corrupt officials or, worst of all, did some of this money get in the hands of the insurgents and those who are fighting us today in Iraq? KOPPEL: Bremer responded his mandate (INAUDIBLE) on Iraq made strict accounting rules next to impossible. He said most of the money went to, among other things, paying civil service salaries and pensions.

PAUL BREMER, FMR. COALITION PROVISIONAL AUTHORITY DIRECTOR: As so often in Iraq, the ideal clashed with the reality we faced. We had to find a way to get the Iraqi people's money working quickly for them to rebuilding their country.

KOPPEL: And Republicans also pointed out that money came from sales of Iraqi oil and frozen Iraqi assets, not U.S. taxpayers. But Democrat Diane Watson wasn't buying it.

REP. DIANE WATSON (D) CALIFORNIA: We do not have a paper trail. I think that's absolutely unacceptable at a time we're asking for a surge of troops and we're asking for hundreds of billions of dollars to be sent down that gopher hole that apparently was not accounted for in the past.

KOPPEL: On Wednesday as part of a week's worth of oversight hearings in the House, Chairman Waxman's committee will delve into the murky world of private military contractors in Iraq. Andrea Koppel, CNN, Capitol Hill.


M. O'BRIEN: I tell you this morning about another helicopter down in Iraq, this one northwest of Baghdad, a Chinook helicopter. Barbara Starr at the Pentagon with some details for us. Hello, Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello to you, Miles. Reports are still coming in, very sketchy information. But a U.S. military spokesman has now confirmed to CNN a fifth helicopter is down in Iraq. Of course, four helicopters going down in a two-week period and now today a fifth helicopter down. The location is northwest of Baghdad somewhere between Baghdad and Fallujah, essentially. Reports are so sketchy that military officials say they're not sure at this point whether it's a CH-46 or CH-47. There are conflicting reports. These are two transport helicopters. Not clear how many troops are on board. It is believed at this time there are fatalities. There are troops making their way to the scene to secure the site and the obvious question, was it brought down by enemy fire or gunfire -- or some sort of mechanical failure? Military officials say it is just too soon to say. Of course, the first four helicopters were brought down by enemy fire, so if this now becomes the fifth, that will be a matter of great concern to the U.S. military. Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Barbara Starr at the Pentagon. Thank you very much.

We're going to take a break. When we come back, we're going to check in on the latest information on the astronaut. You heard that star-crossed lover's triangle. She's winging her way back to Houston right now and she'll be greeted by a tight-knit family of astronauts and friends who are there to support her. The question is, does NASA provide support for people under stress? We'll pose that question to a former flight surgeon in just a moment. Stay with us.


M. O'BRIEN: The astronaut who got her wings clipped after that wild lover's triangle pursuit and assault is winging her way back to Houston as we speak. Lisa Nowak will be on the ground in about an hour and 15 minutes. There she is in Orlando just a little while ago underneath a coat, chief astronaut Steve Lindsay (ph) beside her there along with the media (INAUDIBLE). She won't be returning to work for a while, but she will be surrounded by the tight-knit family that surrounds the Johnson Space Center. Her friends and family naturally most concerned about her state of mind and her well being right now. Jonathan Clark is one such friend. He joins us now. He is a former NASA flight surgeon who lost his wife Laurel on the space shuttle Columbia four years ago. Jon, good to have you with us this morning. Laurel and Lisa had a lot in common and, thus, you became friends. Tell us about your relationship with her.

JONATHAN CLARK, FORMER NASA FLIGHT SURGEON: Well, Miles, we started our first astronaut class with a lot of social functions and because Lisa and Laurel were both naval officers and flyers, they had a natural bond. They also were very much into their families. Both of them had young sons. They had a common interest in gardening and flowers and they actually were very similar in many ways. So we got a chance to know the Nowaks pretty well. We certainly would go to their house for parties and vice versa.

M. O'BRIEN: And you describe her as someone who loved her family, loved her kids, a working mom, I guess?

CLARK: Absolutely. She was a mother before she was an astronaut. I mean, she really was into family life and what's happened in the last few days has just been totally a shock. She is a really wonderful, good, caring person and I think that's important for people to remember that she, above all else, was -- and is a wonderful person. You have to find forgiveness and love in your heart to get her through this.

M. O'BRIEN: You know, there's a picture you shared with me yesterday of Lisa Nowak with her son, Ian and she was instrumental in helping you and him out after the Columbia tragedy. She sort of stepped in and helped serve the role of an absent mother, didn't she?

CLARK: Oh, absolutely. I think all of the female astronauts who are moms have a common bond there. This is a high-risk endeavor and they're almost torn between being a mom and being a career astronaut and Lisa just stepped right in there with us. Obviously, my son losing his mom has this tremendous void in his life and Lisa, who also looks a lot like Laurel, just was able to come in and be a part of that and it was just a wonderful thing. You could just see a smile on his face whenever she -- he was around her.

M. O'BRIEN: You know, we talked yesterday quite a bit about what NASA does on an ongoing basis to help astronauts out dealing with stress. Every year they go for a physical exam. That's mandatory. There's no proactive emotional care or emotional check-up. Do you think they should be a little more proactive because it is after all, very stressful, very risky job with a lot of separation from loved ones.

CLARK: Well, NASA has a behavioral health and performance team and they have civil service psychiatrists and psychologists that help out as best they can and they also contract out those pediatric or child psychiatrists as necessary. They also do a lot of support for the folks that are on the long duration missions like the space station, but for the shuttle crew, there really isn't any organized or functional behavioral health support program. They don't have to have any evaluation before or after a mission and it is only when something, you know, catastrophic happens does this ever even come to light and there clearly are harbingers of problems, close calls, marital discord, separation, things like that that I think bear that the whole astronaut core and their families need the kind of psychological and behavioral health support that would help alleviate or at least reduce this problem.

M. O'BRIEN: John, final thought here. You have been told not to talk to us this morning. Tell us about the circle the wagons mentality.

CLARK: Well, it's interesting. There's been a lot of email that came out of the family support office about basically referring all your media inquiries to the public affairs officer at NASA or if you need security to keep the media away that that will be arranged. Unfortunately, this is a story that is news worthy, and as such, something has to be said, and it's too bad that the side that's really more positive about Lisa and her accomplishments doesn't get out, and so that's one of the reasons I'm here is to just offer my ardent support for her during these troubled times. She is a really truly wonderful and good person.

M. O'BRIEN: Jonathan Clark, thank you for your time. Thank you for having the courage to speak with us this morning. Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Ahead this morning, paging Dr. Gupta. New concerns about a type of birth control pill used by millions of women and some of the risks those pills might pose. That's straight ahead on AMERICAN MORNING. We're back in just a moment.


M. O'BRIEN: Live pictures now coming to us via our affiliate, WATE, Knoxville, Tennessee. What are you seeing there, excellent timing as they pull back, flames from a warehouse fire in downtown Knoxville, very near the old city entertainment district of Knoxville. You can see this fire is just going. You can bet this is an old warehouse with some old dry wood. Who knows, maybe it was soaked with oil over the years by machinery. But it's burning like crazy. Raining fire is the term that the fire captain on the scene is using to describe it. First alarm was sounded at 1:11 a.m. Eastern time, several hours ago. At one point, one of the walls in the lower part of your screen fell down on top of a fire truck right nearby on top of an engine. Three firefighters had to run for their lives to escape. We have no reports of injuries, however. Several people who live in nearby apartments have been evacuated. We are tracking it for you. We'll keep you posted. Knoxville, Tennessee, is that location. Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Medical news this morning, the consumer group Public Citizen wants the FDA to pull some newer birth control pills off the market because of an increased health risk. Chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta is at the CNN center this morning. Good morning Sanjay.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad, really interesting. There have been three generations of birth control pills. The first pill came out in the 1960s, high doses of estrogen and progesteserone (ph). Then there was a second generation, lower doses of those hormones. And then a third generation which had a unique ingredient called dizogestrol (ph), dizogestrol and that's what Public Citizen is specifically taking issue with, saying dizogestrol as a substance increases the likelihood of a woman developing blood clots by two-fold.

Now, this has been something that's been known for some time. In fact, we did some research on this yesterday. There have been studies about this really since '95 talking about this increased risk. Now, there are about nine pills out there from three different manufacturers that actually contain dizogestrol. You can see the list there on the screen. I'm not going read that to you, but I will tell you this. If you look at the labeling on any of those, they'll say that there is an increased risk of blood clots. In fact, you'll see that sort of warning for all birth control pills.

The FDA says they're going to look at this petition. They say they've known about this higher blood clot risk and we talked to the manufacturers of -- two of the manufacturers of these companies, a third one didn't give us a comment. Barr Pharmaceutical says this. They said the labeling that accompanies the company's oral contraceptive products provides all the necessary warnings and precautions for the appropriate use. There was also a statement from Ortho women's and health, saying when used as labeled, Ortho-Cept (ph) is safe and effective birth control choice. Soledad, this has been an ongoing debate for some time, talking about this new substance, dizogestrol. We looked at the prescription audit program. They say about 7.5 million prescriptions were written last year containing that specific substance, dizogestrol.

S. O'BRIEN: So why would someone -- or a doctor prescribe for a patient something that has dizogestrol? Is there any upside to dizogestrol that would make it worth it for a doctor to, yeah, you double your risk of a clot, but it's worth it?

GUPTA: Well, a couple things to keep in mind. When dizogestrol first was being developed, the idea was that this would actually be a substance that would decrease one's risk of blood clots and this is one of those fascinating things in drug development where they believe one thing and as they mass market it and make it available to so many people, you see something else emerge. Obviously, it's going to be riskier that way. But for some women it's a better choice. It helps them regulate their cycles better. It's more effective than some of the other birth control pills. And also I think Soledad, as you know, it's important to keep in mind the statistics here, the relative numbers versus the absolute numbers. We're talking about a two in 10,000 risk to a four in 10,000 risk. It is a doubling, but still the numbers are very small.

S. O'BRIEN: So are there other third generation birth control pills is what they call them that don't have this dizogestrol where you can go back to your doctor and say, listen, you are giving me this pill that has it. I would like to switch to something that doesn't.

GUPTA: There's a lot of different choices out there. In fact, a lot of people have heard about not even eating pills at all and taking patches instead. Some of those substances contain dizogesterol, some don't and as dizogestrol is something that's of concern because of some sort of family history. If you are a smoker, if you have had a history of clots before, there's a family history of clots, you may want to stay away from the dizogestrol. Talk to your doctor about that. But there are other alternatives as well.

S. O'BRIEN: Great news. Thanks, appreciate it.

GUPTA: Thank you.

S. O'BRIEN: Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Coming up, the Bush administration's push for ethanol. We're minding your business on that.

And an update on the astronaut now charged with attempted murder. She's on her way home as we speak. You're watching AMERICAN MORNING, the most news in the morning right here.


S. O'BRIEN: The increased focus on ethanol is creating some big problems. It's 57 minutes past the hour. Stephanie Elam is minding your business this morning. Hey Stephanie.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Soledad. During President Bush's state of the union speech, he definitely supported a big push in ethanol production. Now the idea here is obviously to relieve America of its dependency on oil. But there is a down side. We always hear the positives, but right now the U.S. just does not produce enough ethanol to really make a difference. So to ramp up in his budget, Bush is calling for the halt to a land conservation program in order to free up about 35 million acres for corn production. Now corn prices are sharply higher, currently at more than $3 a barrel and this is due to strong demand, with those limited supplies that I was just talking about there because of ethanol.

Now some economists are saying that eventually we may look at the cost of bushels of corn as the same way as we look at the cost of barrels of oil, really tracking that and how that affects us. But the high cost of corn does have a ripple effect here. It is affecting other parts of the industry overall, such as meat, parts of -- large parts of beef or cattle, chicken and pork are used for that. Also Coca-Cola sees prices rising as well because of the high cost involved of high fructose corn syrup.

One other interesting point. As the cost of ethanol goes up and as we use more of it, the cost for oil will go down. It's interesting to see if we use more ethanol, will Americans eventually go back to their dependence on oil because the cost will be cheaper? It's something we'll be keeping our eyes on Miles and Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: So the cost of corn goes up, the costs of gas does down, the use of gas, maybe it doesn't all work out in the end. Stephanie, thanks.

M. O'BRIEN: Supply and demand there I think.

S. O'BRIEN: Developing story to tell you about this morning. U.S. military is confirming another U.S. helicopter crashes in Iraq this morning. It's the fifth in two weeks. We've got a live report straight ahead.

M. O'BRIEN: The star-crossed lover, astronaut Lisa Nowak returning home from her cross-country pursuit of the other woman. Now what for her and the other two members of the triangle and for that matter for NASA?

S. O'BRIEN: Developing story out of England, a letter bomb explodes, injures a woman, third time in three days. Those stories and much more ahead on this AMERICAN MORNING.

Welcome back, everybody. Wednesday, February 7th. I'm Soledad O'Brien.


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