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Tornado Touches Down Outside of New Orleans; Wicked Winter Blast; Growing Threat to U.S. Choppers in Iraq
Aired February 13, 2007 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news. A tornado crashes into New Orleans overnight. Blizzard warnings right now in the Midwest. Travel headaches from the heartland to New England. Plus, terror at the mall.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He had an angry look on his face. He had a big, thick coat on and he had a shot gun.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Witnesses describe the chaos when a gunmen opened fire on shoppers. Six people are now dead.
M. O'BRIEN: And it's a deal. Agreement overnight to end North Korea's nuclear weapons program. Is it a diplomatic victory or is it a deal with the devil, on this AMERICAN MORNING.
S. O'BRIEN: Welcome, everybody. It's Tuesday, February 13th. I'm Soledad O'Brien.
M. O'BRIEN: And I'm Miles O'Brien. We're glad you're with us this morning.
S. O'BRIEN: We begin with that blast of dangerous winter weather. It's bearing down on the heartland right now. Tornado watches right now in Louisiana as well. There's snow and ice that's stretching from Omaha to Pittsburgh and all of it is headed eastward. CNN's Keith Oppenheim is in the thick of it all. He's in Peoria, Illinois, this morning. Severe weather expert Chad Myers is in Atlanta for us.
Chad, let's start with you and the report of a tornado right outside of New Orleans.
S. O'BRIEN: For more on all the snow that's coming or is already coming, let's get right to Keith Oppenheim. He's in Peoria, Illinois, for us this morning.
Hey, Keith, how is it?
KEITH OPPENHEIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's already coming, as you said, Soledad. Behind me you can see there's a bit of a snow bank. And this is pretty powdery stuff. We already have a couple of inches and i's starting to blow around a little bit. We might get as much as eight inches here in downtown Peoria.
And you have to keep in mind that folks here have the jitters because on December 1st, there was a big ice storm that caused a lot of damage and had numerous counties where there was a disaster area. So as a result, there are a lot of people who are going to grocery stores and hardware stores, stocking up on food and rock salt and shovels.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm concerned about the 40 mile an hour winds. That's the biggest thing. But I'm just looking forward to a day at home with the kids.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shovel and ice. My shovel bent last time it snowed. So getting ready for the morning.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OPPENHEIM: In the background you can see a light behind me. There is a crew that's trying to shovel the sidewalk. And some of the challenges that folks who will be outside today may not be just because of the snow, but also because of the wind.
And I'm just going to step over here as you see this truck trying to make its way through traffic. The winds today, Soledad, are expected to get up to a good 30 miles per hour. So driving in this stuff could be a big challenge.
Back to you.
S. O'BRIEN: Oh, it could be quite a mess. All right, Keith Oppenheim for us this morning.
Thanks for watching it for us, Keith.
M. O'BRIEN: They came, they saw, they measured. The National Weather Service toting up an official 141 inches of snow in Redfield, New York, this morning. Another foot or so could be on the ground by tomorrow. CNN's Gary Tuchman is king of the hill in Redfield.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT, (voice over): This is the town in New York state that's gotten the most lake effect snow over the last 10 days than any other town, Redfield, New York, 141 inches. I am literally on a roof of a house right now, 17 feet above the ground. And this snow permits me to do a demonstration about how much snow there is. I can safely walk down from the roof to the ground. There are many towns here in New York state north to northeast of Syracuse that have gotten a lot of snow, but this town has gotten the most. No tremendous problem in this area so far because they're used to having this now.
But they do have a problem getting rid of all these plies. There's really nowhere to put this. They just continue to pile up. They pile up against peoples doors and windows. They can't get out of their houses unless they dig a hole, which most of them have to do.
The fact is, here in Redfield, not only have they gotten this amazing amount of snow over the past 10 days, but they have more snow on the way. The all-time record for snow in this town for a year is 420 inches. They're already at 287 inches with more snow on the way. There are predictions they'll break the yearly record this year, as well as just an incredible amount over this nine-day period of 11 feet nine inches.
This is Gary Tuchman, CNN, in Redfield, New York.
M. O'BRIEN: Just amazing pictures. And now some dramatic developments overnight in downtown Salt Lake City to tell you about. Police and witnesses say a young man with a shotgun stormed the Trolley Square Mall and started firing. Reports this morning an off- duty officer in the mall returned fire. Six people, including the gunman himself, are dead. Dozens of shoppers diving for cover, hiding in store closets and bathrooms, describing their night of terror to John Hollenhorst of our affiliate KSL.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And we heard the gunshots. They were pretty loud. And then one of my employees came back and said that there were gunshot there's.
JOHN HOLLENHORST, CNN CORRESPONDENT, (voice over): The terror seemed to begin in the parking lot near the Williams-Sonoma store. Two brothers leaving the mall saw a wounded youth taking shelter in a car.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We pulled the boy out and so I said, well let's praying for him. So we started praying for him. Suddenly all these laws started pulling up and this guy's still in there shooting. So they said, well throw a coat on this boy because we've got a kid -- we've got to stop this killing.
HOLLENHORST: The gunman entered the mall and started blasting away with a shotgun.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was just working and all of a sudden I heard a lout shot and I saw security run by. And I didn't really know what was going on and I just saw everyone start running.
HOLLENHORST: Fear and confusion spread. Police arrived within a few minutes. Hundreds of shoppers and workers took cover, hiding wherever they could. Some heard the final confrontation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I heard the policeman yell, "drop your weapon. Police, drop your weapon." And then we heard a lot of gunshots.
HOLLENHORST: Witnesses reported dozens of shots, perhaps 40 or 50, and then silence. As some were cleared to leave by police, they saw the gunman's shotgun shells scattered around in front of shops.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As we were running towards the north side of the building, we looked to our left and there was glass shattered all over the floor next to the escalators. And maybe, gees, it was so quick buy maybe 10 bodies laying on the ground.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We were rushed out pretty quickly. We saw a bunch of bodies like heaped on the floor. And there was like glass everywhere. And a pretty gory sight.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was really just scary. I wanted to get out of there.
M. O'BRIEN: That was John Hollenhorst of our affiliate KSL. Police have not yet identified the gunman who was killed. Four people also hurt in that shootout in Salt Lake City.
In another shootout last night in Philadelphia. It happened during a business meeting at an office complex at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. Three killed there. A forth in critical condition. Police think it started with a fight over money.
S. O'BRIEN: Overseas this morning in Lebanon, more violence as that country teeters on the edge of a civil war. At least three people are dead, seven people wounded after a pair of explosions on two buses just northeast of Beirut. The state-run Lebanese broadcasting corporation reported at least 10 people dead, 12 wounded. It happened in a Christian province. The second bus exploded as it stopped at the scene of the first bomb blast.
M. O'BRIEN: The U.S. is grappling with the nuclear threats posed by Iran and North Korea in different ways this morning. New developments on both fronts to tell you about. First, North Korea.
What could be a big breakthrough overnight to get North Korea to lay down its nuclear weapons. The deal would send fuel and other aid to the North, so long as Pyongyang begins shutting down its nuclear operation. CNN's John Vause is in Beijing. He's been watching those six-party talks. Big developments, John.
JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Miles. This agreement could end North Korea's nuclear program, but there's still no specific time frame on just what to do with the existing stockpile of nuclear weapons.
VAUSE, (voice over): Finally they did it. More than three years since these on again/off again talks began, a deal which should see North Korea's Kim Jong-il give up his nuclear program. Much to the relief of America's top negotiator.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, we've approved it. To the best of my knowledge we've approved it.
VAUSE: Under the plan, North Korea has 60 days to shut down its main plutonium production facility in return for desperately needed energy. Initially, 50,000 tons of heavy fuel oil, another 950,000 tons will be delivered when the reactor is completely disabled. The North has also agreed to allow the return of international inspectors.
GOV. BILL RICHARDSON, (D) NEW MEXICO: The reality is that North Korea will not be able to harvest any new plutonium. The next step has to be, get them to dismantle all their nuclear weapons. But this is an important step.
VAUSE: There is also a commitment to work towards improving relations between Washington and Pyongyang and removing North Korea from the U.S. list of state-sponsors of terrorism.
The North Koreans announced a successful test of a nuclear device last October. Since then, some reports put their stockpile of nuclear weapons as high as 12. And in this deal, no word when Kim Jong-il will be forced to give up the nuclear weapons he already has.
JOHN BOLTON, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: It sends exactly the wrong signal to would-be proliferators around the world. If you hold out long enough and wear down the State Department negotiators, eventually you get rewarded.
M. O'BRIEN: That was CNN's John Vause reporting from Beijing. We'll check in with him a little bit later. And we'll also talk with the chief U.S. negotiator of that deal, Christopher Hill, about this apparent breakthrough. It's coming up at 7:15 Eastern.
S. O'BRIEN: Right. That's news from North Korea. Let's move on now to Iran. President Bush now downplaying suggestions of a possible military strike there, calling such talk "noise" in this interview with C-Span that ran on Monday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: All major problems should be solved diplomatically. In other words, the military is the last resort to solve problems. And I believe we still have the capacity to solve this issue diplomatically because a lot of the world now understands the dangers of Iran having a nuclear weapon. And so we're working toward that end. And we're pressuring the regime through diplomatic channels.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
S. O'BRIEN: President Bush also says Iran's insistence on a nuclear weapon is leading that country into isolation. The president says he thinks the Iranian people are good and honest, but says the government is belligerent and threatening.
Still to come this morning, Chad Myers is tracking the severe weather for us. Looks like a tornado may have touched down just a little while ago outside of New Orleans. We'll update you on that.
And caught on tape. At least one secret confirmed at the Scooter Libby trial and more than one leaker revealed. We'll update you there as well.
Plus, Mitt Romney's faith (ph) and his race for the White House. Will it make a difference that he's a Mormon?
You're watching AMERICAN MORNING. The most news in the morning is right here on CNN.
S. O'BRIEN: Most news in the mourning is right here on CNN.
Breaking news out of Louisiana this morning. A tornado crashing into the town of Westwego overnight. That's just west of New Orleans. Homes and businesses are reported damaged. No reports yet of any injuries.
And Congress turns its sights toward the Iraq War today. The House is going to debate a resolution opposing President Bush's troop build-up.
M. O'BRIEN: A lot of sources spilled on the stand at the Scooter Libby trial. His lawyer calling journalist after journalist. Who named names? People who told them the name of CIA agent Valerie Plame. Possible leakers, Karl Rove, Richard Armitage, Ari Fleischer. None of them are on trial. AMERICAN MORNING's Bob Franken now with the latest from Washington.
Bob, after you're done with this report, destroy your notes, OK?
BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I don't take notes.
M. O'BRIEN: OK. Good. That's a good idea.
FRANKLIN: You know, being a Pulitzer Prize winner at the courthouse yesterday was like being a general at the Pentagon, no big deal. There were a lot of them. And they were all talking about who their source was not. It was not the defendant, Scooter Libby. Ari Fleischer's name came up, the former White House press secretary. Karl Rove, as you mentioned. And one other name. The witnesses include the guy who started all this.
FRANKEN, (voice over): Robert Novak confirmed under oath that the prime source for his now infamous July 2003 column was Richard Armitage, then deputy secretary of state, who first told him that Valerie Plame worked for the CIA and that she was the wife of Joseph Wilson. That conversation took place after Wilson returned from a government inspection trip to Africa and later accused the administration of misrepresenting Iraq's weapons program. Novak said confirmation about Plame came from the president's political guru, Karl Rove.
BOB NOVAK, COLUMNIST: It's pretty much the same story I wrote in the column some time ago.
FRANKEN: Not only did Novak identify Armitage, but "Washington Post" eminence Bob Woodward also testified that Armitage was his leaker. Woodward provided audio tape of Armitage explaining more than a month before the Novak column appeared why he felt that Wilson was selected to go to Africa in the first place.
RICHARD ARMITAGE, FORMER DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATE: His wife works in the agency.
BOB WOODWARD, JOURNALIST: Why doesn't that come out? Why does . . .
ARMITAGE: Everyone knows it.
WOODWARD: That have to be a big secret. Everyone knows.
FRANKEN: A knowledgeable source tells CNN that he has not yet been called as a witness but he acknowledges leaking the information.
ARMITAGE: I had no idea that she was covert. I don't think anybody in my department did.
FRANKEN: Sources tell CNN, Rove will not be called to testify. Still unknown is whether the defense will call the most central figures, Libby himself, and his boss, the vice president.
FRANKEN: On the one hand, the testimony by those two would raise the curtain on the inner workings of the White House and the vice president's office. And on the other hand, Miles, their testimony would raise the curtain on the inner workings of the White House and the vice president's office.
M. O'BRIEN: Well, but it also raises the curtain on how they deal with the media. And it's not a pretty sight. I guess it's like, you know, you don't want to see sausage being made either, right?
FRANKEN: You don't want to see sausage. It's a real grind, which you often times have in this town, is favorites. People who become favorites sometimes by being friendly to their sources. It's not a pretty picture that we'll see.
M. O'BRIEN: No. Bob Franken in Washington. Thank you.
S. O'BRIEN: Sixteen past the hour. Let's get right to Chad Myers at the CNN Weather Center. He's watching what we believe is a tornado that touched down just west of New Orleans, right, Chad?
S. O'BRIEN: Well, this morning, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is going to officially announce that he's running for president. He faces an uphill battle for the Republican nomination, but the biggest political hurdle could be his religion. He's a Mormon. AMERICAN MORNING's faith and values correspondent Delia Gallagher joins us this morning.
Good morning. Nice to see you.
DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning.
S. O'BRIEN: He's been pitching himself very hard to the conservative wing of the Republican Party. How do some evangelicals view Mormons?
GALLAGHER: Well, there are similarities. I mean especially on things like same-sex marriage, on abortion, on some of those value issues. There are similarities. They both use the Bible and accept the Bible, the Christian Bible.
But there are differences. And one of the main differences, of course, is that the Mormons use the Book of Mormon. They add to the Bible. They believe that there was another bible, as it were, which is a book that was written, they say, in the Americas at the same time as the other Bible was being written in the Middle East in the Mediterranean. And they think that Joseph Smith, their founder, discovered this Book of Mormon around the 1830s. And that was really the sort of start of their religion.
S. O'BRIEN: So that's in addition to the Bible.
GALLAGHER: So it's in addition. And so it brings in other teachings that they follow that other Christian denominations don't. So you have this whole argument within certain Christian denominations about how far are Mormons sort of in this history of the rest of Christian religion?
S. O'BRIEN: So it seems like you're saying it won't necessarily, on that front, be a big problem. But I was reading a poll in the "L.A. Times" from last year that said 37 percent of Americans who were polled said they would not vote for a Mormon for president. But there are some Mormons who are in high-ranking political office.
GALLAGHER: Well, absolutely. Harry Reid is a Democrat. Orrin Hatch, a Republican. I mean they run the spectrum in terms of political leaders. And I think, you know, a lot of Americans don't know a whole lot about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
S. O'BRIEN: Is that the biggest obstacle, maybe?
GALLAGHER: I think they don't know a lot. There are two obstacles. A, they don't know a lot about what it is. And, b, some Christian denominations are slightly suspicious of what exactly is this all about and what do they believe.
S. O'BRIEN: All right. Well, we'll see, I'm sure, as he's going to announce officially today, but as his candidacy goes on there will be many more questions.
GALLAGHER: It will be interesting to see. And I think that some of the conservative will go and sort of have a look at him and the other candidates. You know, they'll be deciding according to who else is running really.
S. O'BRIEN: Delia Gallagher.
She's our faith and values correspondent.
M. O'BRIEN: After an E. Coli scare a few months ago, can Taco Bell make a comeback? Ali Velshi "Minding Your Business."
And clues inside your refrigerator. What that scene might show and say about the state of your health.
AMERICAN MORNING is coming right up.
S. O'BRIEN: Welcome back. You're watching the most news in the morning.
How much did the E. Coli scare hurt Taco Bell? It's 25 minutes past the hour. Ali Velshi's "Minding Your Business."
ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to both of you.
In fact, it wasn't as much as folks expected. Taco Bell -- the parent company of Taco Bell is Yum Brands. Yum also owns Pizza Hut and KFC. And they came out with their earnings late last night. Well, it looks like the effect of the E. Coli scare late last year on Taco Bell was about a 5 percent drop in sales. That's compared to the year earlier where there had been a gain.
So, in effect, that wasn't as bad as most people thought. And the rest of the Yum Brand units around the world and the KFCs and the Pizza Huts made up for it. So the parent company of Taco Bell actually ended up making money and there's a feeling that this will completely be solved because people have short memories.
Markets were a bit lower. The S&P starts off at 1,433 today. Yesterday was Monday and there were no major mergers, which is a bit of an exception to the last several weeks. This week we see Ben Bernanke testifying before Congress on Wednesday and Thursday, telling Congress people how he feels about the economy, where the economy is going and answering some tough questions. We'll also get some economic reports. And in the wake of all that, markets are taking it easy right now.
And another story we've been following for a long time, that of Northwest Airline. That company is in bankruptcy. And as is the case when a company, an airline is in bankruptcy, they ask for concessions from their workers. The flight attendants were one of those groups that gave up some pay as a result.
Now Northwest has filed its plan to come out of bankruptcy and the flight attendants are saying something you often hear, wait a second, your picture looks a lot better financially than it did, we don't think we should have to give up everything we've given up. They've asked the bankruptcy court to consider not giving them as steep a pay cut as they agreed to take. But Northwest says they do not expect the bankruptcy court to go along with that. But that's what the flight attendants are asking for right now.
M. O'BRIEN: All right. Thank you, Ali.
Top stories of the morning are coming your way next.
A busy weather day already. A possible tornado overnight in the New Orleans area.
And a busy news day as well. Overnight developments from North Korea. Nuclear talks there. It could be a big breakthrough. And we'll tell you what happens next.
A chaotic scene in Salt Lake City. A gunman opens fire in a shopping mall. Witnesses diving for cover. Why?
And open the door. What your fridge can tell you about your overall health. Ahead on AMERICAN MORNING. The most news in the morning right here.
M. O'BRIEN: Nature's fury. A tornado crashes into New Orleans overnight as snow and ice cause big problems for travelers from the Midwest into New England today.
S. O'BRIEN: Terror in a mall. A gunman opens fire on shoppers. Six people are killed. This morning, the survivors tell their chilling stories.
M. O'BRIEN: And defensive flying. We talk to American helicopter pilots about the growing threat of being shot down in Iraq, on this AMERICAN MORNING.
S. O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. It's Tuesday, February 13th. I'm Soledad O'Brien.
M. O'BRIEN: I'm Miles O'Brien.
S. O'BRIEN: Let's begin with a breaking story out of Louisiana this morning. A tornado touching down just outside of New Orleans. Let's show the live look at the radar this morning. Ken Jones is with our affiliate WDSU. He's in Westwego, Louisiana, this morning. A tornado touching down just outside of New Orleans. Let's show the live look at the radar this morning.
Ken Jones is with our affiliate WDSU. He's in Westwego, Louisiana, his morning.
KEN JONES, REPORTER, WDSU: Well, first of all, those people in the motel, a lot of those were hurricane evacuees who lost their homes the first time. A lot of them have no place to go now. They can't believe this has happened to them twice.
They've got their children and what they were wearing and ran out. You think they lost stuff before, now they've lost everything.
As far as for people, what they heard, unfortunately that same old description, it sounded like a freight train. And, of course, people saw transformers blowing, lightning and rain coming in. It was just -- the whole place was blowing up, if you will, out here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And so at this point, they are doing, as you say, the secondary search. In other words, they kind of scour the area the first time and here they go for round two.
JONES: Right. They went out the first time searching homes, searching under debris to see if anyone was trapped. At this point they are doing a secondary search.
They didn't find anyone the first time. No fatalities, no one trapped. But again, you never can be sure. So they're doing it one more time to make sure no one is under some of that debris out there.
S. O'BRIEN: Ken Jones is a reporter with our affiliate WDSU. You heard him talking about that motel, the Bon Soir Motel in the West Bank Expressway, and the damage there pretty remarkable. A roof torn off. Apparently, the whole roof is lying in the middle of the West Bank Expressway right now.
Let's turn now to that blast of dangerous winter weather that's bearing down on the heartland. CNN's Allan Chernoff is in Indianapolis, where it's starting to come down a little bit there.
Hey, Allan. Good morning.
ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN SR. CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Soledad.
Yes, we've got some beautiful snow coming down. It's been falling since midnight. So far, we have about four inches, and this is the really good stuff.
If you're a skier, nice and dry. You can barely make a snow ball with it. So it's really just beautiful snow.
The problem is -- well, first of all, no ski slopes right here. And also, it's going to be getting very, very messy.
There's a line that's going to cross pretty much right across Indianapolis. To the north, it's going to be more snow, probably a little more than a foot they're forecasting. But to the south of that line, it's going to be maybe half a foot of snow, but pile in some sleet, freezing rain. It's going to get very, very messy later today.
A tree like this, well, it will just be covered with ice. It will get real bad. And the roads, well, so far, if you can see behind me, the highway I-70, traffic moving along just fine. We've had a few accidents in the area, but later today certainly its' going to get very, very icy, as I mentioned, especially south of the city.
The schools are out. So at least the kids this morning can come on out and enjoy this snow -- Soledad.
S. O'BRIEN: Yes, everybody hates it, but the kids love it.
All right. Allan Chernoff for us this morning.
Thank you, Allan.
Turning to the snow and the ice and the thunderstorms and the tornadoes, severe weather -- there I am -- severe weather expert Chad Myers. Going to be talking to him in just about 15 minutes. He'll give us a closer look on the storm and also update us on that tornado activity as well -- Miles.
M. O'BRIEN: Also happening this morning, six people dead after a wild shootout at a mall in downtown Salt Lake City. Witnesses say the man walked through the mall, firing a shotgun as shoppers dove for cover.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just very scary. You're trying to protect your kids from physical harm and emotional harm. And it's just very scary.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
S. O'BRIEN: In the wake of a half-dozen crashes of U.S. helicopters down in just three weeks, chopper pilots are now changing their tactics.
Arwa Damon went up with some of the pilots for a story you're going to see only on CNN.
ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Against an increasingly sophisticated insurgency on the ground, the U.S. military's biggest advantage is in the air. From troop transport to dropping bombs, America's aircraft keep its troops safe. But since January 20th, six choppers crashed, most of them brought down by enemy gunfire.
This insurgent video shows what U.S. military intelligence increasingly believes was most likely a missile knocking a marine Chinook out of the sky on February 7th. A group called the Islamic State of Iraq claimed responsibility.
Regardless, the possibility of new tactics and techniques is not lost on the troops that fly these birds.
C.W.O. WILLIAM WILLIAMS, U.S. ARMY: The enemy is ever evolving and changing, and we are evolving and changing to meet that threat on a daily basis. I assure you, we look at it very seriously, and we look at it in great detail.
DAMON: Chief Warrant Officer Williams and his crew are part of the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade. They operate in central Iraq. Often their missions take them through the Sunni insurgent heartland.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thirty seconds. Go! Go! Go!
DAMON: Here, doing some last-minute training before they drop Iraqi and U.S. forces just outside of Buhritz, an insurgent stronghold.
STAFF. SGT. DANIEL PINA, U.S. ARMY: In terms of the choppers going down, I mean, I'm not going to lie and say that, you know, it doesn't make things a little bit more comfortable.
DAMON: The crews not only take care of themselves, but they carry the responsibility of the lives in the back of the aircraft.
(on camera): The troops here are gearing up for an air assault mission, but the U.S. military uses its Black Hawk helicopters for a number of purposes -- to transport passengers, it can take up to 11, plus four crew members, and equipment, and also transport casualties off the battlefield.
LT. DUSTIN HEALEY, U.S. ARMY: Every day we go out there and we take it very seriously. And we just want to keep those guys out of harm's way as much as we can. So, anything we can do to help moving them from one place to another and keeping them off the roads.
DAMON (voice over): Because on the roads the playing field are more level.
There are thousands of flights today. Despite the recent attacks, America still retains air supremacy. But if the insurgents have obtained the technology to more easily shoot down choppers, that would drastically alter the battlefield.
DAMON: There has been an ongoing effort by the insurgents to continuously try to target American helicopters ever since they got here. These attacks in the last few weeks now have the U.S. military acknowledging that the insurgents techniques are just becoming more effective -- Soledad.
S. O'BRIEN: So, Arwa, I know you have been up in choppers many, many times. Is your sense that things are much more tense in these choppers now? Do you feel the difference in the chopper pilots change in tactics?
DAMON: You know, Soledad, here's what's interesting about just being in Iraq, whether it's on the ground or in the air. There's this constant awareness of the dangers. And it's not just the way we operate, but it's pretty much the same for the U.S. troops that are here.
So, while there is, when you're flying in these birds, an increased sense of awareness of the potential danger out there, being able to operate out here is really all about controlling your fear. And that's how the troops cope with it. They know that they have no other alternative.
The mission has to go on. And as they said to us, these days when they're up there, their eyes are just scanning left and right a little more often -- Soledad.
S. O'BRIEN: Arwa Damon for us this morning in Baghdad.
Thank you, Arwa -- Miles.
M. O'BRIEN: A little closer to home, severe weather already this morning. A possible tornado touching down outside New Orleans. And a major winter storm churning east. Chad has us covered up next.
Plus, go ahead, make a run to the fridge. But come right back and see what's inside your fridge. It might effect how you are feeling this morning. We'll explain that.
And buried secrets unearthed, what they can tell us about ancient Rome, ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.
The most news in the morning right here.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) M. O'BRIEN: The most news in the morning right here on CNN.
Another audiotape to tell you about this morning coming from Osama bin Laden's number two man, Ayman al-Zawahiri, blasting President Bush and urging Muslims to unite under former Taliban leader Mullah Omar.
And at least three are dead after a pair of bus bombings in Lebanon overnight -- Soledad.
S. O'BRIEN: There certainly has been plenty of talk in recent days about that final sad image of Anna Nicole Smith's refrigerator, mostly empty but filled with methadone, diet drinks and, you know, almost any -- nothing else.
Did you know that your own refrigerator can reveal clues about you?
AMERICAN MORNING'S Alina Cho is in our pantry this morning.
Hey, Alina. Good morning. What's in the fridge?
ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Soledad. You don't want to know.
To my right here is the famous, or should I say infamous, refrigerator, and you do not want to know what's inside. Trust me. But we did take a look inside my fridge, and I now know what my fridge says about me.
CHO (voice over): What does your fridge say about you? Is it full or empty? Messy or clean? Some shows have taken fridge voyeurism to a new level.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A little bit of Coor's Light, a couple condiments here.
CHO: We decided to analyze my fridge.
ELISA ZEID, AMERICAN DIETETIC ASSN.: I'm here to raid your refrigerator.
CHO (on camera): Oh, boy. I'm just afraid, very afraid.
(voice over): Nutritionist Elisa Zeid peered inside. Her first impression?
ZEID: Pretty sparse. Not too bad. My eye is going to the water, which is terrific. That's terrific. That's great. You drink a lot of bottled water?
CHO (on camera): I do, but it's pretty much all I have.
(voice over): I do have some food. Just not a lot. (on camera): I'm a big hummus, carrot person. So I do that.
ZEID: That's terrific.
CHO (voice over): The consensus?
ZEID: This is definitely a fridge of somebody who doesn't really prepare a lot of her own foods, who is on the go, doesn't have a lot of time to cook.
CHO: Or doesn't know how.
ZEID: I saw syrup over here. That's another source of added sugar, but you don't use it, do you?
CHO (on camera): I don't. I have no idea how that got there.
CHO (voice over): Thirteen blocks north and a world away, Elisa is now at producer Adam Reese's (ph) apartment. Family of four.
ZEID: It is stacked to capacity with lots of kid-friendly packaging.
CHO: Chocolate pudding, yogurt, juices, and lots and lots of takeout.
ZEID: You do eat a lot at home, which is good. And family means lower heart disease risk.
CHO: As for my situation...
ZEID: The fact that you don't cook upsets me a little bit, because I wish you would take the time to nourish your body.
CHO: Good luck.
CHO: Good luck is right. So let's take a look inside the CNN break room fridge. And I say this with hesitation. But here we go.
We have got some condiments. Lots of milk for all the coffee we drink. Definitely some leftovers down on the bottom shelf there.
JELL-O, sugar-free JELL-O. And look what we have here, a little Slim-Fast. We did not plant that.
It's not exactly the kind of stuff that our nutritionist likes to see. But I can tell you, Soledad and Miles, that she did want to see more of -- in both my fridge and in Adam's fridge, more fruits and vegetables. And I'm guessing that would make us more well-rounded people.
M. O'BRIEN: Or slimmer, or one of them. Good thing there wasn't any methadone in that refrigerator. We would have been in trouble, huh?
CHO: We would have been.
S. O'BRIEN: I think someone cleaned up that refrigerator. That refrigerator is usually pretty nasty.
Alina, your refrigerator -- all that stuff looks brand new in your fridge, Sweetie.
You know, I did just make a trip to the grocery store.
M. O'BRIEN: Ah. Yes.
CHO: What I didn't show you -- what I didn't show you guys was that three boxes of water that I had just to -- just outside my fridge. But that's the back side I keep.
I have lots of water. Lots of water. I'm always hydrated.
M. O'BRIEN: Good. Water's good for you.
S. O'BRIEN: Good for you. Now learn to cook.
All right, Alina. Thanks -- Miles.
M. O'BRIEN: Thanks, Alina.
It's about quarter of the hour. Chad Myers has his hands full once again in the weather center.
M. O'BRIEN: Coming up, a sigh of relief about North Korea. It vows to lay down its nuclear arms after a compromise. We'll tell you about the deal.
And a modern mode of transportation versus ancient Roman history. A modern-day battle over the subway system in Rome.
Stay with us for more AMERICAN MORNING.
M. O'BRIEN: Here's a look at what CNN correspondents all around the world are covering today.
JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm John Vause in Beijing, where there's agreement for North Korea to give up its nuclear program. The six-party talks were on the brink of collapse over the weekend. But after a marathon 16 hours at the negotiating table on Monday, U.S. envoy Christopher Hill announced they had a deal which would see North Korea freeze plutonium production in return for energy and other assistance. Disarming Kim Jong-il, though, would be left for a later stage.
ALESSIO VINCI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Alessio Vinci in Rome.
The struggle between preserving ancient treasures and developing a modern transportation system this city desperately needs moves underground as Rome officials plans to build a third subway line for its 750,000 commuters. The problem, of course, is this city is perched on top of one of the world's largest collection of antiquities. Anywhere you dig, you'll find something interesting. And so archaeologists are digging anywhere around town to make sure that a new construction will not damage artifacts thousands of years old.
M. O'BRIEN: For more on these or any of our top stories, log on to our Web site, CNN.com.
S. O'BRIEN: Ahead this morning, we'll tell you how one bank is tapping into an unlikely market, illegal immigrants.
We're "Minding Your Business" straight ahead.
Plus, a deadly shooting spree at a shopping mall in Utah. Six people are dead. What was the gunman's motive?
You are watching AMERICAN MORNING. The most news in the morning is right here on CNN.
M. O'BRIEN: No citizenship, no Social Security number, no problem.
A few minutes before the top of the hour. Ali Velshi telling us about the latest marketing efforts to give credit cards to illegal immigrants.
ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Miles.
This is an interesting story in the whole issue of illegal immigration. Reports in this morning's paper say that the Bank of America, the nation's largest credit card issuer, has been piloting a program to issue credit cards to people without Social Security numbers.
Now, critics say that means illegal immigrants, and what a lot of businesses in America know is that targeting that large growing Hispanic community in particular has been very lucrative. So here you may have people who make money in this country, spend money in this country, and have not been able to get major credit cards.
What people without Social Security numbers in America have been able to get in many cases is bank accounts and, in some cases, mortgages. Because when you take a mortgage, the house acts as security. The bank owns the house. But a credit card is basically an unsecured loan, and people haven't been able to get that without a Social Security number, which means you can't establish a credit history and the whole thing doesn't sort of get going.
So what's happening is Bank of America is piloting this program. It looks like it's available in about 50 Los Angeles County area banks. And what critics are saying is that it is illegally aiding people who are abusing U.S. immigration laws. Bank of America is saying they are simply tapping an untapped group of customers which could be particularly lucrative -- Miles.
M. O'BRIEN: All right. Thank you very much, Ali.
M. O'BRIEN: Breaking news. A tornado crashes into New Orleans overnight. Blizzard warnings right now in the Midwest. Travel headaches from the heartland to New England.
S. O'BRIEN: Murder at the mall. Witnesses describe the panic as the gunman opens fire on shoppers. Six people are dead this morning.
M. O'BRIEN: And it's a deal. An agreement overnight to end North Korea's nuclear weapons program. Is it a diplomatic victory or is it a deal with the devil on this AMERICAN MORNING?
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