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More Snow Predicated in Parts of U.S.; Army Reserve Officers Accused of Misspending Iraq Funds; Tim Russert Pokes Holes in Libby Defense; Cupcakes Under Fire in Schools
Aired February 8, 2007 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR, AMERICAN MORNING: Coming up at the top of the hour, Chad Myers is at the CNN Weather Center.
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR, AMERICAN MORNING: Flight risk: Reports of U.S. helicopter downed in Iraq; it's the sixth in three weeks. Concerns now, insurgents are trying to get control of the sky and ground.
S. O'BRIEN: Fat fighter for sale without a prescription. We're going to weigh the benefits and the risks for you this morning.
M. O'BRIEN: And Russert, on the hot seat. Talk about the tables turning. NBC News Anchor Tim Russert back on the stand for another dramatic day at the Libby trial, on this AMERICAN MORNING.
S. O'BRIEN: Good morning. Welcome back. Thursday, February 8th. I'm Soledad O'Brien.
M. O'BRIEN: I'm Miles O'Brien. We're glad you dropped by.
S. O'BRIEN: Let's begin with the weather. It is deadly winter weather. At least 16 people have died in the elements, and on slippery roads, and more snow is coming. Eight feet could pile up by Sunday in Upstate New York; six feet on the ground already in some places.
All of that, of course, causing big problems on the highway. There have been accidents from Ohio to the Mid-Atlantic, and beyond. We have team coverage. Rob Marciano is in Oswego, New York. Chad Myers is at the CNN Weather Center. Let's begin with Rob.
Look at that weather there, Rob. Good morning.
ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, Soledad.
It just keeps coming down, even harder now. I think we're up to two to three inches per hour as far as snowfall rates. That is a tremendous amount. It can get up to four and five in some of these intense lake-effect snow events.
We are in Oswego, New York, which is just on the eastern shores of Lake Ontario. Which has temperatures around 4 degrees. This is a pretty intense lake-effect snow event. They haven't had much this year. It's been so warm. That's one of the reasons, because it's been so warm that lake out there is still very warm for this time of year.
Look at this snow behind me. This is unbelievable. As of midnight last night, they had about 46 inches of snow here. We woke up to another eight inches. I'm sure we will be closing in on the five foot mark before the day is done, if not close to six and seven feet before this is all done.
A couple of criteria you need for lake-effect snow. At 5,000 feet it's got to be 20 degrees colder than the lake temperature. Right now we have a difference of about 50 degrees so that's one reason this snowfall is so intense. With that lake, that wind direction the way it is now, it ain't going to stop. So we'll bring it to you live all day long and probably tomorrow as well. Back to you.
S. O'BRIEN: All right, Rob. Thanks for watching it. Thanks for being knee deep in it for us. We appreciate it -- Miles.
M. O'BRIEN: Let's see we have Rob knee deep in snow and Chad in the warm Weather Center. How did that work out? Seniority? I don't know.
CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: He likes going out there. When I had my first baby, I said that's enough hurricane stuff for me. I'll stay in here.
The reason why we are seeing so much snow in Oswego and in Syracuse is because Lake Ontario does not freeze. If you live around Buffalo, Dunkirk, Catarog (ph), Shitakwa (ph) County, somewhere between January and February the lake freezes up. You can't get that steam that Rob was talking about off the lake. You can't get the lake to give up moisture because the lake is frozen solid.
North and East of Oswego, very heavy purple snow, that is the heaviest snow, really, that is blinding snowfall there. And some of the areas just to the north and east of where Rob is now, 72 inches of literal snow on the ground.
Now you look at what could have been here across Lake Erie had there not be so much ice in Lake Erie, this area would be filled in with a lake-snow event, but those lake chunks cut off the surface area of the water, so you don't get as much surface area of the water, you don't get as much steam in the air, you don't get as much snow. That's why it can keep going all season long here, on the east coast of Lake Ontario, Soledad.
S. O'BRIEN: All right, Chad. Thank you for watching it for us.
For the first time, you can buy a prescription weight-loss drug over the counter. The government is giving approval to a new pill called Alli, as in an ally against weight gain. You might know the prescription version as Xenecal. It will be in stores this summer.
Our Chief Medical Correspondent Doctor Sanjay Gupta has more on the risks and benefits of getting a diet pill without a prescription.
Hey, Sanjay, good morning. DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad.
Yes, it is sort of a clever name there, Alli in your fight against weight loss. The first diet pill approved by the FDA for over the counter, not even behind the counter, but over-the-counter. So you can go in an buy this.
That's the pill. It's called Alli, again, the over-the-counter version of Xenecal. That's the packaging you are going to see it in, by the way, as well. Part of why that is interesting, you see the little package across the top, it is designed to put your pills in, so you remember to take them three times a day, but also to add a multi- vitamin in there as well. Because that is one of the recommendations, you take this pill with a multi- vitamin.
Now, it's interesting thing, Xenecal. First of all it's been around since '99. It was actually approved for adolescents, 12 and older, in 2003. This is one of the most widely studied diet pills of all time. About 25-million-patient treatments have been studied.
A couple of things about it. There's a prescription dose and there's an over-the-counter dose. The over-the-counter dose will be half the dose, 60 milligrams, as opposed to 120 milligrams.
What we found so interesting, though, as we researched this, you still get about 25 percent fat blocked absorption with the half dose, and 30 percent with the full dose. That's the way this pill works is by actually stopping the absorption of fat into the body.
As I mentioned, it was approved for 12 and older as a prescription form. And 18 and older. It is expensive. It's about $600 a year for the over-the-counter version, as well. So, it's not going to be cheap.
What everyone that we talked to is emphasizing, this has to be part of an overall program. This works by blocking the absorption of fat. The more fat you eat in your diet, the more side effects will you have from this pill, which can be significant. You can have diarrhea, gastrointestinal complains, and it could be quite profound. So profound that people would rather not take the pill. So it has to be part of an overall diet program.
But again, Soledad, big news because it is the first approved over-the-counter diet pill ever.
S. O'BRIEN: If it works that $600 is going to seem like a drop in the bucket. I mean, if it really, really works for people. Let me ask you about this group, the advocacy group, Public Citizen, which says that -- they in fact wanted Xenecal pulled because of links, they say, to colon cancer. Are there really risks with this drug on that front?
GUPTA: Yes, we saw that same petition. We decided to go ahead and call GSK, and see what they say about it. They say, first of all, that these are invalid claims. That is the first line of their statement. They say that Xenecal, and now Alli, is the most studied weight loss drug ever.
Two separate FDA advisory committees have reviewed the data. And 25 million patient treatments have not found an association between this pill and precancerous lesions of the colon. Which is what Public Citizen was worried about. There are some people who probably should not take this medication, though.
It's not certainly for everyone. But for example, if you have been an organ transplant recipient, this is not a good drug for you. People who take blood-thinning medication, such as Cumadin (ph), that is not going to be good as well. Diabetics, treated for thyroid conditions, you should talk to your doctor first before starting a medication like this.
S. O'BRIEN: All right, Sanjay Gupta for us. Thank you, Sanjay.
GUPTA: Thank you.
S. O'BRIEN: Sanjay is going to be back at 7:30 a.m. Eastern.
We're talking about cupcakes. Birthday cupcakes banned in schools. This is ridiculous. Is it the best thing for kids health, or is it really schools just going overboard?
You know where I stand now.
M. O'BRIEN: I think we know where you stand on that -- my cupcake. I think you give them the cupcakes and the Alli pills at the same time. What do you think?
S. O'BRIEN: Oh, it's not for little children, in school.
M. O'BRIEN: NASA is promising a new look at the way it screens and evaluates it's astronauts, in the wake of that wild lover's triangle pursuit by Lisa Nowak. She is back home in Houston facing attempted first degree murder charges for now, but maybe not for long.
"The Orlando Sentinel" is reporting prosecutors are unsure if they will proceed on that charge. Now, Nowak is here walking down the steps. You will see her in a moment; she's underneath a coat. Chief Astronaut Steve Lindsey there, right behind him is Nowak, covering her face, a la the runaway bride.
Some of her friends and colleagues spoke on her behalf yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHANA DALE, NASA DEPUTY ADMINISTRATOR: We expect astronauts as we expect any NASA employee to conduct themselves in a way that does not bring any dishonor to the space program.
DOUG PETERSON, NASA SPOKESMAN: She operated the robotic arm from both the space station and shuttle. Her commander said, even today, that she did an exemplary job at that. We didn't certainly expect anything like this to come up. HOMER HICKAM, FORMER NASA TRAINER: They never let the astronauts know how and why that they're chosen to be on a flight. They're always on a slippery slope. If they're not crazy when they enter that office, well, you know, reach your own conclusion.
JONATHAN CLARK, WIDOWER OF ASTRONAUT LAUREL CLARK: She was a mother before she was an astronaut. She really was into family life. And what's happened in the last few days has just been totally a shock.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
M. O'BRIEN: Nowak is on leave for 30 days. She has been replaced as the capsule communicator for the next mission -- Soledad.
S. O'BRIEN: Today NBC's Tim Russert will return to the stand and will be questioned by the defense in the perjury trial of Lewis "Scooter" Libby. Russert has already given some of the most dramatic testimony so far. AMERICAN MORNING's Bob Franken has been watching it all.
Hey, Bob, good morning.
BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning.
Listening to it, audio tapes played of Scooter Libby's grand jury testimony. Russert is expected to wrap up the prosecution case and then the defense will begin and try to make a case that part will be to try and counter the words of Scooter Libby on those tapes.
FRANKEN (voice over): Under oath before the grand jury Scooter Libby quoted Tim Russert as the first person to tell him about Valerie Plame.
LEWIS LIBBY, DEFENDANT: Did you know that Ambassador Wilson's wife works at the CIA? I was a little taken aback by that. And I said, no, I don't know that.
FRANKEN: Russert, who is the current witness, disputed Libby's claim.
"No that would be impossible," he said, "because I did not know who that person was until several days later."
That person is Valerie Plame. She was identified in subsequent news reports as a CIA operative and the wife of Joseph Wilson. Wilson had publicly accused the Bush administration of distorting information about Iraq's intention to acquire nuclear weapons.
Libby says he later found notes showing that he actually first heard about Plame from his boss, the vice president, who was upset about Wilson's claims and instructed Libby to talk with reporters.
But to identify Plame? LIBBY: I don't recall specifically having a conversation with him about sharing with -- about Wilson's wife. But it's possible, I just don't recall.
FRANKEN: Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald asked Libby about spreading the word about Plame's identification well before he says he did. Former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer testified that Libby told him at lunch in June 2003, before the news accounts appeared in July.
PATRICK FITZGERALD, SPECIAL PROSECUTOR: Isn't it a fact, sir, that you told Mr. Fleischer over lunch that this was "hush-hush" or on the "QT" that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA?
LIBBY: I don't recall that.
FRANKEN: Several reporters, who have been coerced to testify, as well as CUA and State Department witnesses also say that Libby knew about Plame and talked about her before the first news reports.
FRANKEN: As for the phone call in question, Russert, it says, it came from a very agitated Scooter Libby, who was upset about the program "Hardball" saying what the hell is going on with "Hardball":? Damn, it, I'm tired of hearing my name over and over again. We get those kinds of calls all the time.
S. O'BRIEN: Yes, and you'll keep hearing those names over and over again, too. Bob Franken for us this morning. Thanks, Bob.
M. O'BRIEN: Coming up, talk about a snow day, or two, or three, or four. Look at the lake-effect snow, as they call it. That puts it mildly when you call it that.
Oh, there's a brave intrepid soul out this morning. That's about the only other person we have seen beside Rob Marciano there in Oswego, New York. That is upstate. We'll tell you why they are measuring it by the foot there. Chad will get into it. Rob will be there, too.
A closer look at this story, a developing one. Six choppers now down in Iraq in the last three weeks. What's going on? What can the U.S. do about it? You are watching AMERICAN MORNING. The most news in the morning, right here.
S. O'BRIEN: Most news in the morning is right here on CNN.
Officials from the United States, and five other countries, are meeting in China this morning. They're trying, once again, to get North Korea to end its nuclear weapons program.
There's something new for airport security screeners to look for. They will be getting Amber Alert messages as of this morning. The goal is to try to prevent children who have been kidnapped from being transported on a plane.
Quarter past the hour. Chad Myers at the CNN Weather Center -- is what I'm trying to say. Chad, is watching the severe snow.
MYERS: It is severe snow. A brand new report now from Parish, New York. Get to that in a second.
But the snow just pouring off of Lake Ontario. Lake Ontario still unfrozen. About 42 to 45 degrees, depending on where you are. Even at Oswego, some reports of 49 degrees. That's where the snow is coming down so hard.
The air coming across Lake Ontario, pouring itself as lake-effect snow just to the east and southeast of the lake. Mexico, New York, you were the winner, or the loser, last hour, 72 inches.
Now Parish, New York -- I didn't even have time to stack them vertically here. I put it on the bottom just to get it on, Parish, New York, this only 20 miles from where Rob Marciano is, 20 miles to the east there. Parish, New York, 77 inches of snow on the ground in the past five days. I don't know how you get out.
I remember a blizzard back in Buffalo, back in 1977, literally the fire department had to come dig people out because they couldn't get out of their houses. People who had screen doors couldn't open the screen doors. No way to get out of the house because you couldn't get out to shovel. When you opened up the garage it was a wall of snow.
Three below in Toronto, 8 below in Detroit, 20 below in Chicago, and it is colder out in Minneapolis. It is just so frigidly cold out there to the west.
A bunch more snow still to come. Depends on where you are. You will either get a bunch, or maybe Syracuse, very little. In Buffalo now, because of Lake Erie, not really setting up in the right wind direction, not picking up too much snow there for the southbounds -- Miles.
M. O'BRIEN: Thank you very much.
Let's go to Iraq where there's a lot of tension and a lot of violence, as that U.S. security crackdown begins. Here's what's new this morning.
Just a few hours ago, U.S. troops raided the Iraqi health ministry and arrested the deputy minister, who is a leading aide to the anti-American Cleric Muqtada al Sadr.
New questions about the use of contractors in Iraq. Some emotional testimony from families on Capitol Hill.
And we've learned this morning of a sixth chopper down in the last three weeks, leading to more questions. Are insurgents changing tactics, weapons, or perhaps both? Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr takes a closer look at the sudden string of helicopter losses in Iraq.
GEN. PETER PACE, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS: At this point in time, I do not know whether or not it is the law of averages that caught up with us, or if there have been a change in tactics and procedures.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice over): With Iraq's roads becoming IED killing zones, transport helicopters are increasingly relied on to move troops. Apaches provide vital airborne defense for troops in combat on the ground.
U.S. military helicopters often are large, slow-moving targets, vulnerable to attacks by shoulder-fired missiles, rocket-propelled grenades, and small arms. The threat is readily seen in Baghdad. Helicopters fly low and fast, zigzagging across the city to avoid some threats.
BRIG. GEN. DAVID GRANGE, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: High altitude is more susceptible of surface-to-air missiles taking them down. Low altitude, it's better for small arms fire to take on helicopters.
STARR (on camera): There's no magic solution to keeping helicopters safe. They do carry highly classified electronics to help them avoid being hit, but privately, U.S. commanders say the insurgents simply might be getting better. Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.
S. O'BRIEN: A huge Internet child pornography ring has been busted in Austria. More than 2300 suspects across 77 countries, including the U.S. Now the details of this bust, truly horrifying. Some of the seized videotapes depict children who are under the age of 14 being abused, and screaming, on the tape. CNN's Frederik Pleitgen has our report from Vienna this morning.
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN INT'L. CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Investigators here in Austria say they are absolutely shocked by what they found from that international porn ring, and that they have now been able to crack down on it.
They said that what appalled them most was that within a period of 24 hours, 8,000 people clicked on this website. Now this is not the kind of website that you find on Google. This is the kind of web site that is an underground website that you really have to take a lot of time searching for. They say the people that downloaded content from the website came from all over the world; 77 countries in all, 2300 IP addresses that they are now checking out. And this is really a worldwide operation. What they're saying is that there are 600 suspects from the United States alone; 400 from Germany.
It's clear this is very much a global operation. You had a website that was being operated from Austria, under a Russian Internet address. A lot of the content was generated in Eastern Europe, and then uploaded from London and England. So really this was very, very much a global operation. Frederik Pleitgen, CNN, Vienna.
S. O'BRIEN: Ahead this morning, we'll tell you why hybrid cars -- which were once hotter than hot -- suddenly have become a tough sell.
Plus, the "Video of the Day": A bumbling crook caught on tape. Here's a tip for you -- keep your eyes open when you're running for it. We'll explain what happened straight ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.
M. O'BRIEN: Welcome back to the most news in the morning. Happening in America, tragic news just in from that New York City fire we have been telling you about in Brooklyn. Word is, one person was killed. Dozens of firefighters are still on the ground trying to get it completely under control.
Kansas City firefighters working this morning at a chemical plant still smoldering there. Residents out of their homes as a precaution, as much as a mile away. Toxic smoke there. Two workers were hurt in that explosion that lit the fire.
Take a look at this from South Carolina. Runaway train car full of grain runs right into a convenience store in Lancaster, South Carolina. A man in the store was seriously hurt. The impact throwing him out of the store's front door, and it knocked the building off its foundation. Unclear how that happened.
California, a big pot bust in Oakland. Three homes, nobody home but the weeds. About 1,000 marijuana plants seized. Another house in Sacramento, also targeted. Six arrested. And the street value of all that? 4 million bucks.
Another eBay first to tell you about. How about a year of college up for the bidding. Oklahoma Wesleyan University auctioning off a year of tuition, room and board, on eBay. Retail value, excluding taxes, title and dealer prep, about $23,000. The school hopes the auction will allow someone to attend for a little less. Good stuff.
Take a look at this. A not so smooth criminal, he's not going to college any time soon. Or maybe he should go, I don't know. If he could get in. This is Limmerick, Pennsylvania.
There once was a crook from Limerick. I'm sure there is a limerick in there.
S. O'BRIEN: Let's just let that stand, shall we?
M. O'BRIEN: He crashes through one door, crabs the tip jar at the restaurant. And, oh, quick. I gotta get the tip jar. Great, OK, I've got about 50 bucks. Let's get the hell outta here. Come on! Come on! Wait a minute. What is this slow motion? Come on, let's get him outta there, will we?
There he goes. There he goes. And --
The wrong door, boy. Police are still looking for him. He still got away, despite all that.
S. O'BRIEN: I know. He's not that stupid.
M. O'BRIEN: He's not that stupid. The restaurant owner says it's pretty funny. Of course, it's the tip money for the waiter and waitress so the restaurant owner doesn't care much, right?
S. O'BRIEN: Still.
You know, Americans seem to have short memories. High gas prices are a thing of the pass so hybrids have suddenly gone from hot to -- not. It's 25 minutes past the hour. That means it's time to "Minding Your Business".
S. O'BRIEN: Top stories are coming up next. Was money meant for Iraq spent on a deck and a hot tub in Jersey? We'll tell you that story straight ahead.
Plus Tim Russert's testimony in the CIA leak trial. We will hear from a reporter who was in that courtroom. Let's look at why it has been the most dramatic testimony yet.
Plus, a ban on birthday cupcakes. We'll tell you why more and more schools want to keep treats out of the classroom. Those stories, and more, ahead on AMERICAN MORNING. The most news in the morning is right here on CNN.
MILES O'BRIEN, CO-HOST: Arctic blast. Frigid temperatures back in the forecast today, plus a new surprise. As much as eight feet of snow -- eight feet -- expected in some spots in the next few days.
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CO-HOST: Spending your money. Did taxpayer cash that was meant to rebuild Iraq instead pay for a new deck and hot tub in New Jersey? We'll tell you what happened. M. O'BRIEN: All right. First it was dodge ball. Now they're going after cupcakes in school. They want to kick them out. Happy birthday, here's your celery and carrot sticks. Oh, thanks. Well, there's some that are fighting back, including Soledad on this AMERICAN MORNING.
S. O'BRIEN: I think it's misguided.
Welcome back, everybody. It's Thursday, February 8. I'm Soledad O'Brien.
M. O'BRIEN: And I'm Miles O'Brien. Thanks for being with us.
S. O'BRIEN: Let's begin with what's happening this morning. There is a new round of deadly attacks in Iraq to tell you about. At least 27 people killed in car bombings just within the past few hours.
In Baghdad, a sedan that was packed with explosives blew up outside a mosque. And then a short time later another car bomb detonated outside a crowded marketplace in Edesia (ph). That's about 100 miles outside of Baghdad.
The fight over the Senate Iraq resolution took another turn late last night. The senators behind it are now saying until their resolution gets a fair debate, they're going to stop all other legislation from moving forward.
Senator John Warner, in his letter to Senate leaders, wrote that Iraq is the, quote, "most pressing issue of our time." And that he's going to do everything in his power to, quote, "ensure a full and open debate." Warner's resolution says the Senate disagrees with the president's plan to increase the number of troops in Iraq.
NBC's Tim Russert was on the stand for the prosecution in the perjury trial of Lewis "Scooter" Libby. He's had the most dramatic testimony so far. Russert testified he didn't tell Libby about the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame, which is what Libby has claimed. Grand jury tapes also have Libby saying he first heard of Plame's identity from Vice President Dick Cheney, his former boss. Tim Russert is back on the stand today.
Lisa Nowak, that astronaut in big trouble for allegedly trying to kidnap a romantic rival, might not face attempted murder charges after all. That's according to the "Orlando Sentinel" this morning. Prosecutors have decided -- not decided, rather, whether to proceed with that charge. It's reportedly a decision that could take the state's attorneys office weeks to decide.
For the first time ever, you're going to be able to buy an FDA- approved weight loss drug, and you're not going to need a prescription. It's just been approved. It's called Alli, and it's a lower dose version of the prescription diet drug Xenical. It works by blocking fat. There can be some very nasty gastrointestinal side effects, and there have been critics who say it raises the colon cancer risk, too -- Miles. M. O'BRIEN: Let's turn now to the deadly winter weather. At least 16 have died in the elements and on the slippery roads so far, the weather causing accidents from Ohio into the mid-Atlantic and beyond.
And more snow is coming. Eight feet could pile up by Sunday. Keep shoveling there. Keep shoveling. More than six feet is already on the ground right now in some areas.
Let's go right now to CNN's Rob Marciano, who's in Oswego, New York. There's somebody else out there. But it's a snowplow. Other than the snowplows, is anybody else out, Rob, this morning?
ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, good morning, Miles.
You know, folks who live in upstate New York, they're a hearty bunch. And especially in the lake effect snow country, Oswego and Oswego County line (ph), they get glorified bobcats out here to grade up the snow and plow the snow. And then they get regular old snowplows out here as well.
So there are people out and about. And they do a pretty good job of keeping the roads clear. The problem is it's snowing so hard, when you've got snowfall rates at two, three, four, five inches an hour, you know, you can never possibly clear that much snow.
We've got temperatures right now at about 15 degrees. With the wind chill that brings it down below zero, what it feels like. So it is dangerously cold out here for sure. And then the blinding snow that we're getting off Lake Ontario is adding to the misery.
Spoke with state highway officials last night, and they said at times they had to shut down some of the major highways but very briefly. They're doing a pretty good job of keeping those open with the -- with the snowplows.
They do use a little bit of salt, but at some point when it snows this much this quickly and when temperatures are this low, you know, snow becomes -- or salt is not so effective.
You may remember, about an hour and a half ago we had a snowplow come through right during our live shot and cleared this area. And we've already have four or five inches in the last hour and a half. So that gives you a good indication of just how hard it's snowing.
And kind of like a hose, this cold air comes off Lake Ontario and just points right at this area. Maybe wavers a little bit, but it's probably going to stick around for a good couple days. Lake effect snow warnings are in effect until 6 p.m. tomorrow night -- Miles.
M. O'BRIEN: Rob Marciano, things are moving there in Oswego. They're not letting the snow slow them down too much, apparently. All right. Thank you very much. Stay -- stay warm as long as you can -- Soledad.
S. O'BRIEN: More this morning in the case of that Army lieutenant who refused to deploy to Iraq. It is a mistrial in that trial against Lieutenant Aaron Watada. It was declared on Wednesday after a judge found that Watada did not fully understand a document he signed before the trial.
Now Watada's defense attorney says the Army can't retry him because that would be double jeopardy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIC SEITZ, CIVILIAN DEFENSE ATTORNEY: My professional opinion, that Lieutenant Watada cannot be tried again because of the effect of double jeopardy. As you all know, we did not consent to a mistrial. We did not ask for a mistrial. We did nothing to warrant a mistrial.
CAROLYN HO, LT. WATADA'S MOTHER: I continue to remain very hopeful that my son will be exonerated. He has committed no crime.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
S. O'BRIEN: The Army says they want a new trial, and they'd like to see it start in March.
More allegations of your money lost in Iraq this morning. This time officials say they know where it went, allegedly into the pockets of some high-ranking Army Reserve members who were working in Iraq.
CNN's Lisa Sylvester has some of the details for us.
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A federal grand jury indicted a former U.S. Army Reserve colonel, who was the second highest ranking official in the U.S.-run Coalition Provisional Authority in the south central region.
According to federal investigators, U.S. Army Colonel Curtis Whiteford, Lieutenant Colonel Debra Harrison, former comptroller, and Lieutenant Colonel Michael Wheeler, an advisor on Iraqi reconstruction projects, helped funnel $8 million in contracts to a U.S. reconstruction company. In exchange, they received over $1 million in kickbacks.
Two civilians, Michael Morris and William Driver, face similar fraud charges. The Iraq reconstruction work was never completed.
PAUL MCNULTY, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: These individuals used the CPA funds as their own personal ATM machines. They allegedly stole millions of dollars from the CPA and rigged valuable reconstruction projects, all while helping themselves to cash, SUVs and luxury cars.
SYLVESTER: Harrison allegedly also swiped $300,000 from CPA funds and used part of it to build a deck and a hot tub on her New Jersey home.
Congress has been scrutinizing the rampant fraud and abuse after the fall of Baghdad; $12 billion, money from Iraqi oil revenue cannot be accounted for.
REP. HENRY WAXMAN (D), CALIFORNIA: Was it spent responsibly? Was it misspent? Was it wasted? Did it go off to pay -- go 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?
SYLVESTER: At the same time, billions were missing or stolen, a Department of Defense inspector general report found U.S. troops went without basic needs.
REP. LOUISE SLAUGHTER (D), NEW YORK: From the outset, they have been sent into battle without the proper equipment, without proper communication, without proper weapons, certainly without the proper armor. It is a scandal and of major proportions.
SYLVESTER: Lisa Sylvester, CNN, Washington.
M. O'BRIEN: Coming up on AMERICAN MORNING, Perry Mason meets the press. NBC's Tim Russert contradicts Scooter Libby's story, undermining his defense. A view inside a dramatic day in court next.
And you're not -- your doctor may not be telling you all your options. Why he or she may be giving you the silent treatment.
You're watching AMERICAN MORNING. The most news in the morning right here.
S. O'BRIEN: Most news in the morning is right here on CNN. Some of the top stories we're watching for you right now. At least 27 people killed in car bombings in and around Baghdad this morning.
And they are back at the table in Beijing. Six countries, including the U.S., are taking another shot at getting North Korea to end its nuclear weapons program -- Miles.
M. O'BRIEN: He is an inside the beltway rock star. And when he appears in the courtroom again this morning, all eyes will once again be on him. We're talking about the tenacious inquisitor of the high and mighty, Tim Russert. He didn't buckle under some withering questioning yesterday, sticking to his guns and perhaps turning the tide in the case against former Dick Cheney chief of staff, Scooter Libby.
Savannah Guthrie is covering the Libby trial for Court TV. She joins us from Washington. She was there in the courtroom.
What was it like?
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, COURT TV: Well, it was really high drama inside the courtroom, Miles, when Russert walked in. I mean, first of all, he's the last prosecution witness. He's the key prosecution witness who's supposed to poke a big hole in the story that Libby had told over and over again to the grand jury, a story that the prosecutors say was a lie.
And then of course, he's this very well-known face. And add to that that he's on crutches right now. So when the prosecutor called him to the witness stand, it took what seemed like forever for him to kind of hobble up to the stand. And all eyes were following him.
And I noticed some of the jurors kind of looked at each other. For lack of a better word, they seemed a little excited that he was coming into the courtroom. So definitely some pretty dramatic moments there
M. O'BRIEN: I'm told he tripped over his dog. I assume he has a pit bull.
What's next for this trial? We have a little more Russert today. Are we going to see the vice president called to testify, and will Scooter Libby testify, as well? Do you know?
GUTHRIE: Well, those are the two big questions left. This is the last prosecution witness. And next the defense goes.
I can tell you Cheney is not going to be the first witness and nor is Libby. And if you ask the defense lawyers, it seems they're still trying to make up their mind whether to call Libby to the stand. And that makes sense. I mean, this is probably the critical decision any defense lawyer makes in a case. It can be the make or break moment in a case. And they haven't decided yet, although they said over and over again at pretrial hearings that it was very likely they would call Libby to the stand.
As for the vice president, it seems that they plan to call him. They have said as much in many pretrial hearings: we are calling the vice president. But we haven't seen the Secret Service sniffing around just yet. So I guess we'll believe it when we see it.
M. O'BRIEN: That will be the indication. Savannah Guthrie with Court TV, thank you -- Soledad.
S. O'BRIEN: Much more to talk about this morning. Let's get right to Chad, because it's 43 minutes past the hour. And he is watching the snow. Some eight feet coming into Oswego. But the big story is actually in London where they're not getting eight feet -- Chad.
CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: In five days, parish, New York, 77 inches. Mexico, New York, six feet and they're still shoveling.
S. O'BRIEN: That's a lot of snow, even for upstate, which is used to a lot of snow. That is a lot of snow.
MYERS: Yes, it is.
S. O'BRIEN: All right, Chad. Thanks for watching it for us.
MYERS: The record for Oswego has been about 102 inches in ten days. We'll see if they make that.
M. O'BRIEN: Whoa, whoa.
S. O'BRIEN: They really could. All right, Chad. Thanks.
Want to tell about a special project we're working off. We're kicking it off tomorrow on AMERICAN MORNING. It's called "Children of the Storm". Those are the kid right there.
We handed out video cameras to 11 young Katrina survivors from in and around New Orleans. Got a little help from that guy right there. That's director Spike Lee. And that's me, trying to figure out how to use my video camera.
They're going to take these cameras home and shoot everything. Spike says shoot, shoot, and shoot some more. They're going to take a look at their lives through their own eyes. What's happening in their city, in their schools, in their homes. They've got pretty remarkable stories. Our series, which begins tomorrow, is called "Children of the Storm".
M. O'BRIEN: Great. Looking forward to that. So we'll track them.
S. O'BRIEN: We're going to track them over the next several months, really, a year, even, to see the stories that they tell. And hopefully, it will be a story of recovery and where they're seeing improvements in their lives.
M. O'BRIEN: All right, kids. Don't use too much zoom. OK? Don't zoom.
S. O'BRIEN: We gave them a one-on-one on how to use their video cameras. We brought in photographers to teach them.
M. O'BRIEN: Just disable the zoom. Yes. All right. We're looking forward to that.
Coming up, a fat fighter for sale without a prescription. We'll weigh the risks.
And good news for gamers. There may be an added health benefit for you. We'll explain that one ahead. I know a lot of teenage boys are cheering that one on. Stay with us.
M. O'BRIEN: Health news for you this morning. A new way to battle the bulge. You'll soon be able to buy a government-approved weight loss drug, and you won't need a prescription.
It's called Alli. It's a lower dose version of the prescription diet drug Xenical, and it works by somehow defeating your body's ability to produce fat. Not a silver bullet, though. Morning programs will just say this: get nasty gastrointestinal side effects -- Soledad.
S. O'BRIEN: Eww. Is that my eww cue?
M. O'BRIEN: That's your eww cue?
S. O'BRIEN: We have a lot of those stories.
M. O'BRIEN: There are critics who say it raises colon cancer risks, as well. So just beware.
When you go to the doctor, you expect to get the full story, right? Maybe not. Some new numbers out in the "New England Journal of Medicine" show 14 percent of doctors surveyed think it is fine, just fine to withhold information about treatments they don't agree with, like birth control, abortion, and sedating dying patients. Once again, beware. Ask questions.
Another bonus for breast feeding. It's good for a child's eyesight? A British study of a group of children aged 4 to 6 found those who were breast fed instead of getting formula had significantly better vision. Doctors credit higher levels of the fatty acid DHA, which is in breast milk.
And more good news for your vision and for your teenager. Playing video games may actually be good for your eyes. University of Rochester study found playing video games a few hours a day -- a few hours a day? Don't let your kids do this, parents. Anyway, a few hours a day...
S. O'BRIEN: Of course, they were all failing out of school, but they had good vision.
M. O'BRIEN: They had excellent vision. They could see those "F's" on their report cards perfectly, right? Don't let them do it, all right -- Soledad?
S. O'BRIEN: Here's another ridiculous health report. Schools, of course, have gotten very lousy grades on student nutrition in the past. Now one way of fixing it is causing a little bit of controversy. No more cupcakes. No, no, no. Not to celebrate your child's birthday. No, not for Valentine's Day at school.
Chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta is at the CNN center with more on this.
Sanjay, good morning.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad.
Cupcakes under fire. It's kind of crazy. Cupcakes with that sticky frosting and the rainbow sprinkles. I mean, you just saw the pictures of them there.
Look, America's schools have a lot of pressure on them to try and provide healthier options for students that are going school there. And so there's been some -- some -- a lot of pressure to actually try and reduce what are called non-nutritious foods.
But as some of this legislation is starting to get passed, a lot of parents are saying not so fast.
GUPTA (voice-over): Timmy Albo (ph) is celebrating his 7th birthday with his classmates. But this year the traditional cupcake is nowhere to be found.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, yogurt with crunchies.
GUPTA: Timmy's mom is cooperating with the school's new food guidelines.
LELANDA ANDRIA, TIMMY'S TEACHER: No more cupcakes, no more cookies.
GUPTA: Timmy's teacher applauds the change, saying her students behave better without the sweets.
ANDRIA: I noticed they weren't quite as hyper. The candy really does do that.
GUPTA: Avalon Elementary School in Pittsburgh is one of many schools across the country interpreting new laws requiring that schools meet certain nutritional standards. It's all part of an effort to halt the surging obesity rate in children, now hovering at 20 percent.
As for negative reaction?
RICHARD STUEMPGES, PRINCIPAL: I did not hear anything negative at all, and it kind of surprised me a little bit. They kind of appreciated and they saw the need for it.
JIM DUNHAM, TEXAS HOUSE MINORITY LEADER/FATHER: One cupcake a year is not going to decide whether or not some child is obese or not.
GUPTA: Others disagree. Texas house minority leader Jim Dunham introduced Lauren's Law, named for his daughter, after learning her school banned any food brought in by parents. The law, which passed unanimously, guarantees parents' right to send any type of food they want to school for special occasions.
DUNHAM: Anything that a parent wants to do to be more involved in their child's education and do something special for their child at school on their birthday, we shouldn't get in the way of that.
GUPTA: Instead Dunham favors better lunches and more activity for students.
Obesity expert Dr. Nancy Krebs warns that banning certain foods can have a negative effect. DR. NANCY KREBS, CHILD OBESITY EXPERT: I think banning always carries some risks. Because to take away those special foods makes them even more desired.
GUPTA: Even at Timmy's school.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I like cupcakes better.
GUPTA: It's kind of amazing. I mean, who would have known that cupcakes could cause such a controversy.
A couple things to keep in mind. Just as restaurant portions have gotten bigger, so have cupcakes. They used to be golf ball size. Now a lot of cupcakes actually are softball size.
Also, if you have 25 kids in your classroom, you have 25 birthdays, and then you add in other special events. That's a lot of calories on a lot of different days, Soledad.
S. O'BRIEN: All right. But all 25 of them aren't born during the school year, necessarily. I think this is ridiculous, honestly, Sanjay.
GUPTA: I couldn't tell that you...
S. O'BRIEN: Well, you know, I guess it's because you sort of feel like, well, isn't really the job is to teach them moderation? You know, the job is to teach one cupcake is how you celebrate. Not scarfing down the entire box of cupcakes, not munching through a bag of Doritos before breakfast and not drinking a soda in the afternoon.
I mean, isn't that a better message? I'm sorry. It seems silly.
GUPTA: No, no. You know, and look, there's a lot of things that are happening in schools. I mean, they talk about actually eliminating junk food machines, for example, vending machines.
S. O'BRIEN: Good start.
GUPTA: Actually trying to eliminate soda, as well, trying to improve exercise. I mean, it's amazing. If you look at schools, some of them get 30 minutes of P.E. a week nowadays. And those programs have been cut.
I think in some ways you have a point, that maybe some of the attention should be focused on some of the things that have been lost, as opposed to cupcakes, which are such a staple of birthdays and other special events.
S. O'BRIEN: One cupcake is not going to kill you. All right, Sanjay. Thank you.
GUPTA: Thank you.
S. O'BRIEN: Miles.
M. O'BRIEN: All right. You're really frosted up over that, aren't you? Yes.
The latest headlines coming up in a moment.
Plus, already been to Disneyland and Disney World? Disney is working on a new attraction for you.
And pistol-packing pilots. That's old news here in the U.S., but maybe soon a U.S. export to airlines in other countries. You're watching AMERICAN MORNING. The most news in the morning right here.
M. O'BRIEN: We're near the top of the hour. And it's a small world after all. Stephanie Elam is here with a look at your business.
STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi. Well, so not going to Disney World? Not going to make it to Disneyland? That's OK, because Disney is planning on bringing their attractions to you.
After several tries of trying to open up some large-scale parks to lackluster results, they're going to try a different type of park expansion, looking at niche resorts and attractions worldwide.
They're looking at Disney themed hotels in cities and beach resorts, and also expanding their downtown Disney idea, which is basically branded retail and dining experiences. They're also looking at some smaller, specialized parks, as well.
Now, another part of this, as well, is venturing out a little bit into their Adventures by Disney, which are guided tours to international destinations. So they're looking to do that and it's broad -- over into Asia, as well.
That's your business update. And now the next hour of AMERICAN MORNING starts right now.
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