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Secretary of State Rice Makes Unexpected Visit to Iraq; Iraq War Debate

Aired February 17, 2007 - 07:00   ET


BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: Now in the news, a surprise visit to Baghdad today by Condoleezza Rice. The secretary of state is meeting with U.S. And Iraqi officials about the latest security measures. Rice is also visiting the Middle East for talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders.
At least 14 people are dead following a suicide attack inside a Pakistani courtroom. A judge is among the dead and it is unknown what case was being heard at the time. At least 25 others were injured in the blasts, some critically.

Two dozen former hostages in Nigeria are due back home in the Philippines today. Now the sailors were taken captive by rebels in the Niger Delta about a month ago. You may recall that the hostages were first seen in an exclusive report last week by CNN's Jeff Koinange. Days later, they were freed.

The Nigerian government claims CNN's report was staged. CNN denies that allegation.

T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Britain's Prince Harry reportedly will be sent to southern Iraq within days. That is according to "The Daily Mirror." The prince is an officer in the British Army. The newspaper says he'll likely command 12 soldiers in Basra. Britain's Defense Ministry calls the report "speculative."

Laissez le baton roullet.

NGUYEN: Right.


Speaking French this morning here, as we're talking about letting the good times roll in New Orleans. This year's Mardis Gras parade is already in full swing. And this, as we're seeing here, is the greasing of the poles in the French Quarter, hoping to keep those climbers at bay. Five more parades are scheduled for today.

Let's head over to Reynolds Wolf, who has done his share of partying in New Orleans.


Those look like Captain Morgan there, just moments ago.

NGUYEN: It did. HOLMES: Yes.

WOLF: Not that I would know him or anything...


WOLF: ... like, you know, that's just my imagination.


WOLF: We'll have more coming up this morning, right here on CNN.

HOLMES: And from the CNN Center, this is CNN SATURDAY MORNING.

It is February 17th.

Good morning to you all.

I'm T.J. Holmes.

NGUYEN: Yes, good morning, everybody.

I'm Betty Nguyen.

We want to thank you for starting your day with us.

HOLMES: A brief lull in violence shattered this morning in Iraq. Back to back explosions in the country's northern oil hub. It happened in Kirkuk. Two car bombs killed at least six people and injured 45 more.

Also this morning, Iraq reopened its borders with Syria and Iran. The borders were closed Wednesday during a crack down. Iraqi officials say the borders will be open for a limited time each day.

New violence and a surprise visit from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

We want to head now to Iraq this morning and CNN's Arwa Damon -- Arwa, what can you tell us is the reason behind this surprise visit by the secretary of state? Who is she -- who does she plan on meeting?


Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is here meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki, as well as a number of senior U.S. and Iraqi commanders. The main aim of her visit is to try to get an assessment as to how this new security plan is going, this new crackdown on the Iraqi capital, bearing in mind that this is not really a new crackdown, but a morphing of an old plan that has been ongoing since September.

But what we have seen over the last few months is this new plan being put forward in the sense that Iraqi and U.S. Troops are now going through neighborhoods, trying to clear them out yet again of insurgents. But this time what they're doing that's different is they're leaving behind these JSSes, these joint security stations that are kind of these localized security stations in neighborhoods. The thought behind that is that the presence is s deterrence for attacks.

So the secretary of state is here right now trying to asses just how that plan is going -- T.J.

HOLMES: And, Arwa, can you tell us, as well, we understand that the secretary of state, that actually her landing there was delaying because of happenings on the ground.

What do you know about that?

DAMON: Well, T.J. we have heard reports that her flight had to circle for about half an hour over Baghdad International Airport because of ongoing operations on the ground here. And we can say that that is not something that is unusual at all. There are a number of times when commercial flights do come into Iraq and we do end up circling over the airport because of either the threat of an attack or because of some sort of operation that is going on on the ground.

It is, perhaps, though, an indication of even though there might be some signs that things are calming down, really, the insurgency here has a vote. They do have a decision to make. They can choose to lay down their weapons or they can choose to fight. They can choose to fade into the shadows or they can choose to confront U.S. And Iraqi forces.

And what we do see as a trend is that oftentimes when these new operations begin, we see the insurgency melt away. They blend into the local population. They lay down their weapons, they wave at soldiers as they are walking by and the minute the troops leave, they are back out doing as they will -- T.J.

HOLMES: All right, our Arwa Damon for us in Baghdad.

Arwa, thank you so much.

NGUYEN: I want to take you to a political showdown over Iraq. The setting today is the Senate. Democrats are pushing a resolution passed by the House condemning President Bush's troop build-up. But they may not have enough votes to get past a Republican roadblock.

On the House side, 17 Republicans did join Democrats in voting for the resolution.

Details now from senior political analyst, Bill Schneider.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The motion to reconsider is laid upon the table.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): The resolution passed by the House of Representatives is straightforward. PELOSI: We set the stage for a new direction on Iraq by passing a resolution with fewer than 100 words.

SCHNEIDER: They've got public opinion behind them. Americans side with the Democrats in Congress over President Bush on Iraq.

But the resolution doesn't really do much to stop the president.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My hope, however, is that this non-binding resolution doesn't try to turn into a binding policy that prevents our troops from doing that which I have asked them to do.

SCHNEIDER: House Democrats insist they will not cut off funding for the troops, but they are talking about imposing tougher standards for training and equipping the troops. The idea is give the troops more support in order to stop the buildup.

REP. JOHN MURTHA (D), PENNSYLVANIA: What we're saying, it would be very hard to find fault with. We're supporting troops. We're protecting the troops. But, on the other hand, we're going to stop this surge.

SCHNEIDER: That sets up a challenge to the president's powers as commander-in-chief.

STEPHEN HESS, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: This starts to sound as if they're really trying to micromanage a war. And then the Republican argument will be, hey, we have -- we've got troops on the ground. Are you really telling us that we can't replace them?

SCHNEIDER: Well, yes, if that will change U.S. Policy in Iraq. But it could also provoke a constitutional showdown.

Will it come to that?

HESS: The Senate knows how to put sand in the gears. And, of course, they've got the filibuster. If, by some strange way, they could get over that hurdle, then the president has his veto power.

SCHNEIDER (on camera): Democrats argue they're not undermining the troops, they're undermining the president's war power, because they believe that's what Americans voted to do back in November.

Bill Schneider, CNN, Washington.


HOLMES: This now just in to CNN.

A deadly fire outside Pittsburgh. Live pictures here now from our affiliate, WTAE-TV. They tell us that seven children and one adult in the house fire have died this morning. This happened early this morning. Another adult was injured in that fire. We're showing you the live pictures of where this happened. Again, WTAE, our affiliate there, tells us the adults actually were rushing from bedroom to bedroom inside that house, trying to save the children. But the flames were just too intense.

Fire crews and police still on the scene say the fire started around 3:30 a.m. This is in Rainsbury outside of Pittsburgh. No -- no word just yet on what started that fire. We don't know yet about the ages of the children, as well.

But this is certainly a tragic story and one we're keeping an eye on.

We'll bring you the details as we get more.

NGUYEN: In other news, the battle over Anna Nicole Smith is far from over. And it seems that every time one issue is resolved, two more pop up. Now it's about the late models outdated will and where she'll finally be buried.

CNN's Randi Kaye sheds some light on this story.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In a case already filled with more questions than answers, here are two more: Where did Anna Nicole Smith want to be buried? And how much of her estate is new baby Dannielynn entitled to?

The answers, you might think, rest inside the former "Playboy" Playmate's will. They don't. The 16-page document is signed Vickie Lynn Marshall, Smith's legal name, dated July 30, 2001.

A lot has changed since then. Smith had a daughter. There were stories of a wedding planned, and she lost her only son. Daniel, who was set to inherit everything, died suddenly last September.

LISA BLOOM, COURT TV ANCHOR: When someone wants to leave their entire estate to one person, as Anna did to her son, Daniel, usually, there's a follow-up paragraph that says, in the event he predeceases me, then all of my assets will go to somebody else. This will does not say that.

KAYE: So where does that leave Dannielynn and companion Howard K. Stern, one of four men still playing a game of who's your daddy?

The will specifically excludes any spouse or future children from inheritance.

BLOOM: I think she will be treated as an intestate person, in other words, somebody who died without a will. All the money will go to her only surviving heir. That will be Dannielynn. So I think Dannielynn is going to take anyway.

KAYE: That could leave Stern, named as executor of the will, with no money from his honey.

Smith's estranged mother, Virgie, also gets nothing, though her lawyer called the will a phantom will and questioned its validity because it wasn't filed in court.

Virgie and Stern are still arm wrestling over Smith's body and where to bury it.

JUDGE LARRY SEIDLIN, BROWARD COUNTY FAMILY COURT: The court's signing an order and this is the title of it: "Order Authorizing Embalmment of Decedent," decedent being Anna Nicole Smith. We're beginning to give her peace.

KAYE: But even as the embalming got underway, more questions about drugs. posted this prescription for methadone written for a "Michelle Chase," one of Smith's aliases, and this receipt from Key Pharmacy, which shipped the methadone to Vickie Marshall, Smith's legal name, in the Bahamas. Notice the date, August 25 last year. Smith was eight months pregnant. The California Medical Board is investigating.

Dr. Sandeep Kapoor's lawyer sent us this statement: "Dr. Kapoor's treatment program for Anna Nicole Smith was at all times medically sound and appropriate. Medical research and protocols confirm that methadone is approved for use by pregnant patients."

(on camera): And come Tuesday, Howard K. Stern will appear in a Florida courtroom to try and convince the judge Smith should be buried next to her son in the Bahamas. Until now, Stern has been taking part in the proceedings by speaker phone. His lawyer said he needed to stay in the Bahamas with the baby. But the lawyer for Smith's mother made a compelling argument, saying Stern and Smith had left the baby before, once to see a boxing match in Florida, again to buy a boat. It was during that trip that Anna Nicole Smith died.

Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.


HOLMES: Well, we've got a bit more entertainment news for you now. And this has to do with a haircut. Britney Spears -- that's the before picture -- she is bald today. Again, the final pictures you're looking at are the pop princess. But Spears was seen last night in Sherman Oaks, California sporting a shaved head while she was getting a tiny tattoo on her wrist.

Now, we do not have access to the pictures just yet, but we will show them to you a soon as we get them.

Meanwhile, a rocky welcome to Australia for actor Sylvester Stallone. He was detained for several hours on arrival at Sydney's airport. Local media report officials found prohibited items in luggage belonging to Stallone and his entourage. Australian media reports the items were believed to included body building drugs.

The actor was eventually allowed to enter the country. He's there to promote his sixth "Rocky" movie. Wow!

NGUYEN: And there you have it.

HOLMES: There you have it now.

NGUYEN: Plus, there's more, though. Brace yourself. There's still more.


Well, next we're going to tell you about a gripping courtroom drama.


SHELLEY FERRILL: What have you done to me, your wife? What have you done to your children? To our family? To yourself?


HOLMES: A tearful and angry wife confronts her husband, who admits he tried to have her killed. That full story coming up in about 10 minutes.

NGUYEN: Plus, she had a hell of a ride, literally, at about 30,000 feet. A paraglider's nightmare and a miraculous survival. You don't want to miss this story. That's coming up in 35 minutes.

WOLF: OK, on that happy note, let's show you what we have in parts of the Midwest.


WOLF: Coming up, I'll let you know what you can expect in your neighborhood in just a few moments, right here on CNN.


NGUYEN: Now for some stories Making News Across America this morning.

Jimmy Dorser's (ph) family finally gets to say a proper good-bye. Dorser's body was returned home to Southern California more than 56 years after he was killed during the Korean War. A North Korean farmer discovered Dorser's remains back in 2002, but it was only just recently identified. The funeral is today.

Well, some quick words by a couple of bystanders probably saved this man's life. His kayak overturned in a lake in northwest Washington State, dumping him into the frigid waters. But rescuers were able to reach him quickly enough to pull him out.

And in New Mexico, yuck! Look at this. It'll make your stomach turn. Someone is stealing urinal cakes. Yes, urinal cakes. And they're -- these talking disks are actually part of an anti-drunk driving campaign. But apparently some people think they make better souvenirs. Really, though, how much do you have to drink to want to put your hand in a urinal and take that home with you?


HOLMES: Is that serious?

NGUYEN: It's just disgusting.

HOLMES: OK, well, we've got a juggling act with some presidential hopefuls this weekend to tell you about. Senators eyeing the White House face a dilemma -- whether to cancel campaign appearances so they can go back to D.C. and do their job -- vote on Iraq.

Democratic Senator Joe Biden will return to Washington for that vote. Then it's back to the campaign trail in Iowa. Republican Senator Sam Brownback planned to attend the National Religious Broadcasters Convention in Orlando. He'll be in D.C. for the vote and hopes to head to Florida after that.

Two Senate Democrats will be back in Washington today after campaigning in New Hampshire. Senators Hillary Clinton and Chris Dodd may miss some campaign stops to be there in D.C. for the vote.

And Republican Senator John McCain, well, he is not going back to D.C. for that vote. He will skip it to campaign in Iowa.

And Democrat Barack Obama, he heads to Washington for that vote. Then it's off to Richmond, Virginia for a Democratic Party dinner.

NGUYEN: All right, we're starting to sound like a broken record, but too much snow is still the story across much of the Northeast, along with the constant digging out, of course. At least 24 deaths have been blamed on this storm system stretching from Louisiana all the way to New Hampshire.

Now, this video that you're about to see right here is Syracuse, New York, hit by yet another blast of lake effect snow late yesterday. It's been 10 days of relentless snowfall along the eastern shores of Lake Ontario.

And in Pennsylvania, motorists are no longer stuck on Interstate 78. That's the good news. But several highways are still shut down as crews struggle to clear away all of that ice and snow. And at one point, there was a 50 mile backup.


NGUYEN: I mean that just tells you how bad the situation is out there.

HOLMES: That was not fun. Some folks were stuck about 24 hours, some of them.

NGUYEN: Can you imagine that, stuck?

You can't go anywhere and then you're running out of gas. Maybe you've got a baby in the back. HOLMES: Oh.

NGUYEN: Oh, what a -- just a difficult situation. But we haven't heard of any injuries because of that, thank goodness.

HOLMES: Yes, and Reynolds Wolf here now keeping an eye on the weather. And Betty was saying to me the first thing this morning, I'm getting tired of it, tired of talking about it. We sound like the same thing for weeks on up.


WOLF: OK, guys. See you later.

HOLMES: All right.


WOLF: You don't want to talk about it?

OK, we're going to talk about it.

HOLMES: Let's talk about it, Reynolds.

NGUYEN: We have to.

WOLF: All right, yes -- that's part of the job, isn't it?


WOLF: Now let's send it back to you at the news desk.

NGUYEN: All right, Reynolds, we thank you.

WOLF: You bet.


FERRILL: Tell me it wasn't greed, lust and sheer laziness. The truth is there is nothing worth the suffering of your children.


HOLMES: Confrontation in the courtroom -- a wife still in shock and disbelief. And why wouldn't she be, because her husband actually attempted to have her murdered. Those details in about five minutes.

NGUYEN: Plus, Mardi Gras in New Orleans like in the old days -- or is it?

Hotels full, planes packed, partying is in full swing despite the city's rocky road of recovery. We're going to show you this year's Mardi Gras in 12 minutes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) NGUYEN: All right, first the together of a murder for hire scheme, now the wronged wife gets her day in court. And she had plenty to say to the father of her children.

Kym Alvarado-Booth of CNN affiliate KPRC reports now from Houston.


FERRILL: How could you not imagine the hell you were planning for your children?

KYM ALVARADO-BOOTH, KPRC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Dr. Shelley Ferrill lived to tell her husband off in court after he plead guilty to a plot to have her killed. John Sheroke was caught on tape by police asking a hit man to make his wife's murder look like a carjacking last October.

FERRILL: What need, what desire would -- could possibly influence Katelynn (ph) and Garrett's (ph) need for a mother?

ALVARADO-BOOTH: In her victim's impact statement, Ferrill says her 8 and 6-year-old children are scarred for life.

FERRILL: Katelynn refuses to put words to all her pain. She bears the weight of your sudden departure so (UNINTELLIGIBLE). And I'm trying to help Garrett deal with his emotions. He is acting out his frustrations at losing a father.

ALVARADO-BOOTH: Without a trial, we don't know John Sheroke's true motive for murder, but prosecutors say he was having an affair and he would have collected millions in insurance money. Dr. Ferrill hinted to Sheroke's shortcomings.

FERRILL: You coveted everything I worked for and yet resented my success. You expected a profession from me that you could never have lived up to. You refused to put in the work to create the life you wanted.


NGUYEN: And that was Kim Alvarado-Booth reporting from Houston.

HOLMES: Well, was it rape or not?

It certainly depends on who you ask in this case.


RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: The fact of the matter is, though, you have a 17-year-old with a 15-year-old. You stand yesterday, in front of the Senate, and you say it was a rape. It wasn't a rape.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It -- what they did to a semi-conscious girl I would classify as a rape...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... even if a prosecutor wouldn't. As an individual, I would.


HOLMES: One young man's future rests in the hands of elected officials.

But do they have all the facts?

Tonight at 10:00 Eastern, Rick Sanchez confronts the Georgia state senator who took on the controversial case.

JOSHUA LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Walking to New Orleans for the Mardi Gras celebration. And organizers are saying it's going to be huge this year.

At the same time, though, what are things like for residents these days, 18 months after Katrina?

Hey, everybody, I'm Joshua Levs.

I'll have that reality check coming up.


What's clicking at the Dot-Com Desk?

We'll have details on the most popular stories.

I'm Veronica de la Cruz.

That is coming up next.

Good morning -- Betty.

NGUYEN: Good morning, Veronica.

I want to tell you about this -- a woman miraculously survives when a paraglider is engulfed in a massive storm, sending her to unbelievable heights. You need to stay tuned for this. It's coming your way in 20 minutes.

Also, explosives in the mail.

But who's the together and who is the sender?

It is a troubling case and we're going to tell you all about it in 10 minutes.


HOLMES: "Now in the News," a surprise visit to Baghdad today by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. She's meeting with U.S. and Iraqi officials about the latest security measures. She's also visiting the Middle East for talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

Two explosions in quick succession shatter a lull of violence in Iraq. This morning, back-to-back car bombs in the country's northern oil hub of Kirkuk. Again, the blasts hit a crowded marketplace. At least six are dead, 45 others wounded.

Also this morning a deadly house fire near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. CNN affiliate WTAE says seven children and one adult died in the early morning fire. Another adult was injured. The adults in the home reportedly rushed from room to room trying to save the children.

Thousands of tourists have come back to New Orleans for Mardi Gras. But still not quite a full house. But that hasn't stopped the parties or the parades. Five more are scheduled for today.

NGUYEN: Welcome back, everybody, on this Saturday. Good morning, I'm Betty Nguyen.

HOLMES: And I'm T.J. Holmes. We thank you so much for starting your day here with us. We're going to head back to New Orleans now, tell you about a welcome distraction. The Mardi Gras festivities. Giving many New Orleans residents a chance to step away from the reality of a slow recovery, just let loose. We get more now from CNN Gulf Coast correspondent Susan Roesgen.


SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN GULF COAST CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Stacie Merritt is a rider on a float in one of the many New Orleans parades leading up to Mardi Gras. Each rider buys boxes of things to throw to the crowds and spends hours getting ready. And if you don't live here, the effort may seem strange in a city where so much serious work still needs to be done.

STACIE MERRITT, FLOAT RIDER: That was the dining room.

ROESGEN: Stacy is still waiting to move back home. She's living in an apartment while she tries to get a contractor to start doing some work. It's a common frustration in New Orleans, even a year-and- a-half after the hurricane. But for many people, stepping away from the unfinished part of their lives is what Stacie calls therapy.

MERRITT: But when you're here and you see construction and you see trailers and you see school zones but they're not on because the schools are not open anymore, that kind of depresses you. And you want to get out of that.

ROESGEN: On the eve of this year's Mardi Gras, entire neighborhoods are still struggling. Bureaucratic snafus have tied up money to rebuild, and a new wave of crime frightens many people who have come back. But the publisher of the local magazine on Mardi Gras, Arthur Hardy, says the carnival spirit is alive and well. ARTHUR HARDY, MARDI GRAS HISTORIAN: It's amazing that Mardi Gras has recovered much more quickly than the general recovery of the area, and I think it's because private industry, citizens run Mardi Gras. There's no government involved, really, and you know, people can do whatever they want to do without having to wait for any kind of outside help or interference.

ROESGEN: And so, for the next few days until Fat Tuesday, thousands of New Orleanians will drag around bags of beads instead of lumber and sheet rock. But the end result is magic: a glittering fantasy for people who choose to celebrate life and not surrender.

Susan Roesgen, CNN, New Orleans.


NGUYEN: And as Susan reported, many residents of the city are still struggling, complaining they're not getting the help that they need from the government. Joshua Levs joins us now with a CNN "Reality Check."

Is this true? What's happening down there, Josh?

LEVS: Yes, exactly. You know, as we're hearing from Susan as well, this is the dichotomy of what's going on in New Orleans right now. You've got the big celebrations on one side and then you've got the flip side of that reality, the struggle underneath.

What I'm going to do here is try to explain to you why things are still that way. So, why are people in New Orleans not getting the help they need? Well, it depends who you ask.


LEVS (voice-over): Yes, they're gearing up for Mardi Gras, with events like this more family-oriented parade. But throughout much of the city you still see Katrina's ruins. New Orleans once had more than 400,000 people. About half of them have returned. And many of them struggle without basics. Thousands of uninsured recently lined up for services at a temporary health clinic.

The director told CNN...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There seems to be a different country here. It really does.

LEVS: What's going on? The mayor says the federal government isn't pulling through.

MAYOR RAY NAGIN, NEW ORLEANS: I just want the money that you've already allocated to go to my citizens to make their lives better.

LEVS: The federal government says local authorities need to work out plans for the funds.

MICHAEL CHERTOFF, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: We want to get the money out to the state as quickly as we can. But the decisions about how to build a community are local decisions.

LEVS: Both sides say the state should be doing more. Governor Kathleen Blanco says it's just not that easy. All of this spins into political gridlock. The federal government has promised $110 billion to the Gulf Coast for rebuilding. About half has been received. City services are severely limited and crime is at a higher rate than it was before Katrina, 161 murders last year.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stop the violence now.

LEVS: But New Orleans was grappling with this before the storm. Here's what the city council president told CNN's "AC 360."

OLIVER THOMAS, PRES., NEW ORLEANS CITY COUNCIL: New Orleans has been too violent for too long.


LEVS: But of course, it's not all bad news. And I don't want to be the bearer of all bad news this early on a weekend morning or ever, obviously. But let me tell you a few things that you don't know, might make you happy, 90 percent of the hotels filled right now. Not bad. Also the airport had to add more than 60 flights to bring people back in for Mardi Gras, which means signs of economic growth, all good news for New Orleans. But that, Betty, still as we're looking at the celebrations over the coming days, it's just important to keep in mind, as I said, the flip side of that reality.

NGUYEN: In the meantime they're trying to celebrate while they can. Thank you, Josh, appreciate it.

LEVS: Thanks a lot.

HOLMES: Well, he's no Unabomber. Not yet. But the feds say it's just a matter of time, maybe. Somebody's playing a cat and mouse game with menacing letters and mail bombs that so far have not exploded.

CNN justice correspondent Kelli Arena is on the case.


KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Investigators are looking for a would-be bomber, a shadowy suspect known only as "The Bishop."

PAUL TRIMBUR, U.S. POSTAL INSPECTION SERVICE: We are working day and night on this investigation to solve it as quickly as possible, for everybody's safety and security.

ARENA: In 2005 The Bishop sent threatening letters to financial services firms, demanding they manipulate stock prices. The letters had a religious overtone. Stocks were to be priced at 666. The Bishop claimed it was better to reign in hell than to serve in heaven. Last month The Bishop upped the ante by sending actual explosive devices through the mail. One with the message, "Bang! Your (sic) dead."

Security expert Fred Burton has seen the letters.

FRED BURTON, STRATFOR.COM: You could tell in his tone that he's getting very belligerent, and that he appears to be more agitated.

ARENA: The devices were put together properly but were missing one final element, a trigger to set them off. The targets, once again, financial companies. But as the threat increases, so does the hope The Bishop will be caught.

TRIMBUR: Whenever there's something that contains a lot of physical evidence, more so than just fingerprints or handwriting analysis, you have all these parts of the bomb that we can then trace back to where they were sold.

ARENA: Investigators thought they had enough information from one witness to release a sketch of a possible suspect. But decided it wasn't solid enough. Law enforcement officials say they have a good deal of forensic evidence, including fingerprints from earlier letters, but so far, no match.

Not unusual in cases like this.

GEORGE BAURIES, FORMER FBI OFFICIAL: So we're dealing with people that are very bright and meticulous and they cover their trail. And they're not going to be sloppy.

ARENA: The Bishop has made references to the Unabomber, the D.C. sniper Lee Boyd Malvo, writing: "It is so easy to kill somebody it is almost scary." Investigators are hoping to catch him before it ever gets to that.

Kelli Arena, CNN, Washington.


HOLMES: Now the government is also now offering a $100,000 reward for information leading to The Bishop's arrest.

NGUYEN: Well, we want to take a critical look now at homeland security. Part of the problem may be the agency itself, with allegations of mismanagement and faltering morale.

CNN's Lisa Sylvester has the story.

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Government Accountability Office has placed the Department of Homeland Security on a high-risk list because of mismanagement. In four years, the department has never had a clean financial statement.

REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D) HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE: That the second-largest government agency in Washington can't balance the check book is an indictment on the department in itself.

SYLVESTER: The chair of the House Homeland Security Committee bluntly says DHS is wandering aimlessly toward an uncertain destination. The DHS inspector general blasted the agency for lousy oversight of contractors. And a recent survey on morale found the department's employees scored at the bottom of the list of all government workers.

JOHN GAGE, AMERICAN FED. OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES: There is just a lack of communications between management and -- and employees. Plus, in certain instances like our Border Patrol, they don't feel that management backs them up.

SYLVESTER: Part of the dysfunction can be blamed on growing pains. The department is a relatively new agency. Secretary Michael Chertoff acknowledged the shortcomings.

CHERTOFF: Physical constraints, shortages of money for training and the fact that we are working people very hard does have an impact on morale.

SYLVESTER: But critics also point to a lack of focus. For example, Chertoff on Friday was promoting economic prosperity in Mexico while problems dogged the agency at home.

CHERTOFF: The future of all of the neighbors of North America rests in promoting mutual security, but also in promoting mutual economic prosperity.

SYLVESTER: The Department of Homeland Security has prioritized other issues, including creating a guest-worker program for Mexican citizens, while many U.S. security needs remain unaddressed.

(on camera): Lawmakers in a series of hearings have pointed out DHS agencies are having trouble rolling out current programs like US- VISIT, a 9/11 reform initiative. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has a crushing workload. Still, the Bush administration wants a program to legalize millions of illegal aliens, and that conceivably could drown that DHS agency.

Lisa Sylvester, CNN, Washington.



DE LA CRUZ: And good morning to you, I'm Veronica De La Cruz at the dot-com desk. What is making the most popular list at this morning? I will have that answer next when CNN SATURDAY MORNING continues.


NGUYEN: All right. Have you heard? Or better yet, have you seen? Yes. She's done it again. Britney Spears is bald. Yes, we've got a picture now. This is from And the pop princess was seen last night in Sherman Oaks sporting a shaved head completely. This was just part of the transformation. It is eventually shaved off, completely bald and she was doing that as she was getting a tiny tattoo on her wrist. So I guess you could say, oops, she did it again.

HOLMES: She has been trying to tell us for years, I'm not that innocent, oops, I did it again, the whole thing. Hey, we just haven't been listening. But do you think Britney...

NGUYEN: That's loud and clear.

HOLMES: Not the best look for you, dear, but do your thing, all right? Well, this brings us now to our e-mail question, from the bald Britney we're just seeing now to Anna Nicole Smith's whatever you want to call that thing, what is America's obsession with celebrity? A lot of people don't want to admit sometimes that they love this stuff. But, they do.

NGUYEN: Yes, they do. People are obsessed with it. But why?

HOLMES: Obsessed, and why is the question. We want to hear from you. E-mail us at We'll read some of your responses a little later in this newscast. But again a lot of folks saying, why are you doing that stuff, why are you doing -- that's not news. Well...

NGUYEN: That's what people are talking about.

HOLMES: But that's what people are talking about. That's what they like. So please be honest with us this morning. Send us those responses. We're going to head over to another celebrity-obsessed person...


HOLMES: ... Veronica, Veronica De La Cruz.

DE LA CRUZ: It's a guilty pleasure, OK?

NGUYEN: See? Everybody's obsessed.

HOLMES: Everybody is. Well, good morning to you, Veronica.

DE LA CRUZ: Good morning, T.J. As you well know, you can check out any news story you like any time at Let's take a look at the most popular list this morning. From God's house to the big house. A pastor admits fleecing his flock but gets released early in a surprise twist. And number two right now is the fetal kidnapping story. CNN's Deborah Feyerick reports on a woman who survived a fetal abduction.

And here's one, you guys, you can watch over and over again. Take a look at this video, an elephant in a polo match destroys the vehicle of the rival team. Go, go big guy, go. Yes, unbelievable.

And then rounding out the top four, race and self-image. CNN's Don Lemon talks to a young filmmaker about her recreation of an old social experiment. And that is what is popular at right now -- T.J.

NGUYEN: You know, Veronica, that elephant, female. That just shows that you don't mess with women, right?

DE LA CRUZ: Absolutely. Absolutely.

NGUYEN: Thank you. See you later.

HOLMES: Had a woman do that to my car one time.

NGUYEN: Uh-oh!

HOLMES: No. I am just kidding.

NGUYEN: The bigger question is what did you do to her?

HOLMES: Just kidding here. We will move on to a story about cheating death. This is a pretty fascinating story here. A champion paraglider got sucked up in a thunderstorm that lifted her more than 32,000 feet. That's higher than Mount Everest. She lived to talk about it.

Reporter Joe O'Brien reports on what some in Australia are calling a miracle. >>


JOE O'BRIEN, ABC NEWS REPORTER, AUSTRALIA (voice-over): Ewa Wisnierska is one incredibly lucky woman. And she knows it. Apart from some frostbite, she has escaped unhurt from being shot up 10 kilometers into the sky, about the cruising height of a jumbo.

EWA WISNIERSKA, PARAGLIDER: And then I was only praying, please, please throw me somewhere from this cloud.

O'BRIEN: The 35-year-old, who is part of a group of 200 paragliders practicing for next week's world championships near Tamworth. She got caught in between two rain clouds, which merged into a storm.

WISNIERSKA: Then I could hear the lightning surround me, first in front. And I said, oh, no, please not there. But then I heard one behind me. So I realized, I'm middle in the thunderstorm.

O'BRIEN: Within minutes she was sucked up from an altitude of 2,500 meters to 6,900 meters, about where it's thought she lost consciousness, and then recording equipment shows she went as high as 9,940 meters, where the temperature was minus 40. She came to freezing but determined to survive and find somewhere to land.

WISNIERSKA: So be it. I was like, wow, maybe, maybe, probably I will survive.

O'BRIEN: Another pilot from China wasn't so lucky. He was sucked into the same storm cell. His body was found about 70 kilometers away. Experts are astounded Ewa Wisnierska survived.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is kind of medical miracle in that her body was able to cope with that. O'BRIEN: The world number one ranked female paraglider is still eager to compete next week.

WISNIERSKA: And I'm sure I don't want to stop flying. So I want to start to enjoy it as fast as possible.

O'BRIEN: At least she knows her glider is very reliable.

WISNIERSKA: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Joe O'Brien, ABC News, Manila.


NGUYEN: Well, as you just saw in our segment, a piece of video not to be missed.

HOLMES: Yes, this is an upset elephant, and we hear it's a female, right?



NGUYEN: And she apparently didn't forget whatever was done to her.

HOLMES: I'm not saying anything about that. Draw your own conclusions. But we're going to have more on this angry lady coming up...

NGUYEN: Pachyderm.

HOLMES: ... in "The WaterCooler."


NGUYEN: All right, you get a chance to see this elephant take out a minivan during a polo match. Got to see the video.

HOLMES: That story tops this morning's very interesting "WaterCooler." Take a look here.

NGUYEN: Apparently somebody is having a very bad day. The four- ton trained, trained elephant, mind you, was supposed to be playing polo in Sri Lanka.

HOLMES: That trainer is horrible. The elephant obviously did not feel like playing. Nobody was injured in this, but I don't know who owned the van, but I know I have on my vehicle the elephant attack insurance. I assume they have that same policy.

NGUYEN: Let's hope so. Here's another story for you. In fact it's the perfect place to meet a blind date. Customers at this new restaurant in Beijing dine in total darkness. Waiters, they, use night vision goggles to navigate among the tables. Although you may not be able actually able to see what your blind date looks like. That could be a problem.

HOLMES: Or it could be a good thing.


NGUYEN: This is true.

HOLMES: Adding to the mystique is the menu, you do not know what is on your plate until you actually taste it. The blackout, however, ends, as you might imagine, with the check. Cashier station, they've got lights all over the place to make sure.

NGUYEN: Oh, spotlight on it. All right. Look at this, though. Going to show this cake to you. Oh, what a beautiful cake.

HOLMES: It's gorgeous.




NGUYEN: It didn't stand a chance. Check out the -- you thought the elephant was bad. Check out these women. They are not holding anything back. Ninety-seven women destroyed this cake in just seconds. And here's what they were hungry for, to find a diamond ring. Yes, I don't know if I'd dive into a cake. It depends on how big the ring is. Moments later, one woman emerged from the sticky heap to claim the $8,200 ring.

HOLMES: She doesn't even have a boyfriend. Doesn't even need the ring.

NGUYEN: Well, she can keep it for when she does find one.

HOLMES: Well, when she does. OK. And we don't know that. But ma'am, I'm sorry. I have no idea.


NGUYEN: She's watching right now, she's calling you up.

HOLMES: Actually the other women kept clawing their way through that mess to find 20 other hidden prizes. The Valentine's Day stunt It was staged by a radio station in Salt Lake City.

NGUYEN: OK. We're going to get back to our serious stories -- our top stories in just a moment, including more on that Britney Spears haircut, or lack of hair, shall we say? She's bald now. And we'll talk to Bradley Jacobs of Us Magazine in one hour about Britney's new bald look.

HOLMES: Plus, how much is your home really worth? The emphasis here on "really." Whether you own or whether you're in the market, we have two words for you, "zillow" and "zestimate." NGUYEN: What does that mean?

HOLMES: We will try to explain that, a little later on CNN SATURDAY MORNING.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just remember she was saying that she was going to be cured, that everything was going to be taken care of, that the lord (INAUDIBLE).


NGUYEN: So did a cancer patient pay with her life for her faith? Coming up in 30 minutes, a doctor under investigation for claiming to use prayer and herbs to heal the sick.

HOLMES: From the CNN Center in Atlanta, this is CNN SATURDAY MORNING.

Hello to you all. I'm T.J. Holmes.

NGUYEN: Yes, good morning, everybody. I'm Betty Nguyen.

It is 8:00 a.m. in the nation's capital, you see on the left-hand side of your screen, where a showdown in the Senate is brewing this morning. We're going to tell you all about that.

HOLMES: Also looking at a live picture from Orlando, Florida, on the right there on your screen, where Florida, Orlando, it's 37 degrees.


HOLMES: Yes. We'll hear more about the weather in a bit. But thank you so much for starting your day right here with us.

Back-to-back explosions shatter a lull in violence in Iraq. It happened this morning in a busy market in Kirkuk, which is an oil hub in the northern part of the country. At least six people are dead, 45 others wounded.

This new violence comes as U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice makes a surprise visit to Baghdad. She arrived in the capital city this morning. Her visit comes as a new death toll was released.

A U.S. soldier killed by a roadside bomb Wednesday brings American deaths since the war began to 3,131.

A lot happening in Iraq today, and CNN's Arwa Damon joins us now live with more for us -- Arwa.

DAMON: T.J., good morning. Now, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is here. The main point of her meetings with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. various Iraqi and U.S. officials, is to try to assess just how this security plan is going.

What we have seen is we have seen this plan intensifying, dubbed Operation Law and Order by the Iraqi government. We've seen it intensifying throughout the capital with the addition of this new U.S. brigade that arrived in country at the end of last month. We are seeing certain parts of the capital being swept, searched, and then these JSS's being set up, these joint security stations.

Now, Rice is trying to make a preliminary assessment as to how this is going, whether or not the Iraqi government is meeting certain benchmarks that they have laid out for themselves, although it is rather premature right now to be able to say that this operation is or is not going to be a success. Some Iraqi officials are pointing to the fact that sectarian violence appears to have decreased over the last few days.

However, this is perhaps a misleading trend that we have seen in the past. When you increase U.S. and Iraqi presence in a neighborhood, sectarian violence does go down. What we have seen over the last few weeks is a number of spectacular attacks, bombings in marketplaces that have had a devastating toll -- T.J.

HOLMES: All right. Arwa Damon for us live from Baghdad.

Arwa, thank you so much.

NGUYEN: Well, a Senate showdown today over President Bush's Iraq plan. Democrats are pushing for a vote on a resolution passed by the House. What it does is it rebukes the president's plan for a troop buildup in Iraq.

Now, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has vowed to bring up the resolution in the Senate today, but Republicans are blocking a vote on the issue through a procedural move. It's not clear whether Reid and his allies will get the 60 votes needed to cut off debate and vote on the resolution.

We'll stay on top of that story for you.

And a little bit more about it, though. This resolution that the Senate is going to be taking up is non-binding and mostly symbolic, but Democrats say the Iraq resolution passed by the House sends a clear message that the U.S. needs a new direction in the Iraq war.

The resolution says, "Congress and the American people will continue to support and protect the members of the United States armed forces." But, it says, "Congress disapproves of the decision of President Bush to deploy more than 20,000 additional United States combat troops to Iraq."

Some Republicans call it a sign of weakness in the war on terror. Now, Democrats say it puts the president on notice. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: What this is about is saying to the president, you've had four surges, they have not worked. And they haven't worked, but you've sent our military in with their hands tied behind their back because you haven't done the diplomatic or the political initiatives necessary.



REP. GREG WALDEN (R), OREGON: In short, we broke it, we need to fix it before we leave it. But fixing Iraq does not mean ending all religious differences, differences that have ripped apart that region for 1,300 years or more. Fixing Iraq does not mean installing our form of democracy. Fixing Iraq means ensuring a new terrorist haven is not created or allowed to be created from which they can train and plan safely to carry out attacks against the West.


NGUYEN: Now, President Bush is forging ahead with his Iraq strategy despite the House resolution disapproving of his plans, but he is urging lawmakers not to go further and limit funding for the troops.

White House Correspondent Elaine Quijano joins us now with the latest on the president's reaction to this.

It seems like a battle is just brewing on this one.

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You're absolutely right. Good morning to you, Betty.

That vote in the House was certainly not a surprise to the Bush administration. For days, in fact, the White House had been talking about downplaying -- essentially trying to downplay the significance of this resolution, talking about how it was non-binding. At the same time, the Bush administration clearly gearing up for a fight with lawmakers over funding of U.S. troops.

In a written statement, in fact, White House Press Secretary Tony Snow again essentially challenged Congress to approve the president's request for some $100 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan, saying, "The president believes that the Congress should provide the full funding and flexibility our armed forces need to succeed in their mission to protect our country."

Now, President Bush himself did not comment on this House vote after a meeting Friday with a man that he's chosen -- whom he's chosen to be the new U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Ambassador Ryan Crocker. Instead, the president said that he's spoken with Iraqi prime minister Nuri al- Maliki on Friday, saying that he was pleased the prime minister was meeting benchmarks, including delivery Iraqi troops to the fight, as promised, also moving ahead on a deal to share oil revenue. That's considered critical, of course, for political reconciliation in that country.

The president's saying that that should not only be good news for the Iraqis themselves, but also for U.S. lawmakers who have persistent doubts about his strategy.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It should give people here in the United States confidence that this government knows its responsibilities and is following through on those responsibilities.


QUIJANO: So at a time when the White House is facing outright opposition, rooted really in skepticism over whether or not his plan for more troops in Iraq can actually work, the president again trying to make the case that lawmakers need to give his strategy some time, trying to appeal to them, in part by saying that already there are some signs of success, some signs that the plan itself is working. At the same time, the president, Betty, as you said, showing no indication of backing down from his strategy of sending some 21,000 additional U.S. troops to Iraq -- Betty.

NGUYEN: And speaking of Iraq, Elaine, we understand Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is actually in Baghdad today?

QUIJANO: Yes. That was a surprise visit, something that was not announced.

Certainly the secretary has a lot of business in the region, not only in Iraq and meeting with top Iraqi officials, but also, of course, this is coming on the heels of a deal that was brokered by Saudi Arabia to try and come to some resolution as far as the Palestinian situation is concerned. A deal brokered by Saudi Arabia recently that would bring disparate factions Hamas and Fatah together.

So a lot on the agenda. Secretary Rice, though, as you noted, making that surprise trip to Baghdad this weekend -- Betty.

NGUYEN: Elaine Quijano at the White House.

Elaine, we thank you, as always.

So what will the White House be saying after today's action? For that, be sure to tune into "LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER." His guest, White House Press Secretary Tony Snow. "LATE EDITION" comes your way tomorrow morning at 11:00 a.m. Eastern.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And here in upstate New York, they have a special hazard to look out for, trying to stay on the roof while they're shoveling off feet of snow.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HOLMES: All that snow not only could damage your house, but it could damage that body of yours as well. Coming up in about 20 minutes, "HOUSE CALL" shows you how to dig out but avoid landing in the hospital.

NGUYEN: Winter pays a visit to the Sunshine State. Oh, yes. But how low did the temperatures go? We got a look at Orlando earlier. It was in the 30s.

Can you believe it? A check on the nation's weather, that is coming up next.

HOLMES: And this is the way we're used to seeing Britney Spears. You know, that's how we used to, like a couple days ago, maybe even yesterday.

NGUYEN: Yesterday.

HOLMES: When I say used to, I mean...

NGUYEN: It's different now.

HOLMES: ... there's hair. You might be shocked by her latest style change. We will explain and show it to you.

Stay here.


HOLMES: A doctor charges up to $4,200 a bottle for her cancer treatment. What its patients allegedly get in return.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice over): A Food and Drug Administration analysis of the mixture showed one to be merely Vitamin C and caffeine. Another formula contained beef extract. And get this, sunscreen.


HOLMES: Forty-two hundred dollars, huh? Well, "HOUSE CALL" investigates. That's coming up in 15 minutes.


JEANNIE JEWELL, LOWER GWYNEDD, PENNSYLVANIA: And a large sheet of ice about the length of a car flew off the top of the tractor-trailer and headed right into my windshield.


NGUYEN: Jeannie Jewell says she thought she was going to die, and her windshield didn't stand a chance against that flying ice. Many motorists in the Northeast face this driving hazard because some people haven't cleared the ice and snow from their vehicles following a big winter storm.

And I could see how that happens. All that starts to blow off as you're driving down the roadway, and it's got to hit someone. And unfortunately, Jeannie Jewell got the brunt of that.

Let's talk to Reynolds Wolf right now to see if this weather is going to change anytime soon.


HOLMES: And of course the winter weather could take a toll on your health. Here now, our man for all things medical, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, with a preview of today's "HOUSE CALL."


You know, we're lucky to be here in Atlanta and not be dealing with all that snow. But for folks who are, beware, there are some nasty injuries you can get dealing with the snow. What you need to know to stay healthy in this weather.

Plus, we'll tell you a story of a doctor accused of playing on people's faith and taking thousands of dollars.

All that and the medical headlines as well coming up on "HOUSE CALL" at 8:30.

NGUYEN: And up next, take a look at the screen. Yes, Britney Spears. She's done it again. And a new look.

I don't know. You might look it.

Why in the world, though, would she shave her head? We have got those details three minutes away.



CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): How do you make fitness a forever in your life? "Consumer Reports on Health" surveyed nearly 22,000 people who were committed to exercise. Here are some of their secrets for success.

Tip number one, fine your personality match.

NATASHA RICHARDSON, PERSONAL TRAINER: Some people are more extroverts, and they -- those people are probably best in, like, a group-type setting, maybe group fitness or dance class, kick boxing, cardio funk.

COSTELLO: For introverts, a circuit training workout might be a better personality fit.

Fit number two, squeeze it in. Work exercise into your busy schedule. Try to exercise at the same time of the day and be sure to schedule it on your calendar.

Tip number three, make it a habit. Keep a food accountability journal.

RICHARDSON: So, 60 percent of your results would be from nutrition and dieting, 40 percent would be from your cardio, your weight- lifting.

COSTELLO: Tip number four, take lapses in stride. If you skip a workout or eat something fattening, don't beat yourself up, just keep going forward.

Tip number five, consider a trainer. A trainer can motivate you and make it easier for you to make exercise a lasting part of your life.

Carol Costello, CNN.



NGUYEN: He was a high school star athlete, but after one wild night of sex, drinking, and partying, he now sits in prison. The jury didn't call it rape, but one Georgia state senator begs to differ.


RICK SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Do you feel bad about the fact that you characterized this as a rape when you were talking yesterday in the Senate?


SANCHEZ: No? You don't have any problem with that? Because it wasn't a rape.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's rape in my mind.

SANCHEZ: But the jury didn't make it a rape.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, you know, they couldn't make it a rape, with being consensual.


NGUYEN: The debate after the verdict. Everyone's got their own opinions. And Rick Sanchez puts the tough question to the state senator who wants Wilson to stay in prison. That's tonight at 10:00 Eastern.

HOLMES: We will turn now to a story that is burning up the Internet, burning up water cooler talk.

NGUYEN: Everybody's talking about it.

HOLMES: It's just burning this morning, yes. Britney Spears, she's bald.


HOLMES: We've got this photo now from, and it appears to show the pop star shaving her own head.

NGUYEN: Witnesses also report seeing a tiny tattoo on her wrist, and the entertainer recently filed for divorce. She's also being featured in several supermarket tabloids partying with friends. I'm sure you've seen those pictures as well.

HOLMES: Yes, those are always there.

NGUYEN: All over the place.

HOLMES: No matter if she's bald or got a full head of hair, she's on the tabloids. Well, we're going to talk more about her new look with Bradley Jacobs of "US" magazine.

He joins us now on the phone from New York.

Bradley, thank you for giving us a minute. And what are the chances that, you know, she just wanted a new do and it's much ado about nothing? She just wanted a new hair cut?


NGUYEN: He laughs.

BRADLEY JACOBS, "US" MAGAZINE: Yes. Well, you know, she's been a blonde, she's been a brunette. Why not try the bald look?


JACOBS: And no female pop star has ever had it, I don't think. Maybe Melissa Etheridge last year.

But "US" magazine's reporting on our Web site this morning that we actually talked to a couple of different people who were at the hair salon with her in Tarzana, California, last night when -- when somebody -- she came in and said she wanted her head shaved. The hairdresser refused. So she literally grabbed the hair clipper and started doing it herself.

NGUYEN: Bradley, did she say why? I mean, did she offer any information?

JACOBS: Yes. They asked why she wanted to shave her head, and she said, "I don't want anyone touching me. I'm tired of everybody touching me."

Another employee there told "US" magazine she wasn't making sense at all and you could tell she's not in a good place at all and that she's totally freaking out. She was a nightmare to deal with, and they said she was screaming -- sorry, yes, she was a nightmare to deal with. NGUYEN: Well, you know, this is really kind of interesting, to say the least, because there was some talk that she was in rehab, then she was out of rehab. And I have to ask -- I don't know, there are some eastern traditions and cultures that a lot of times when a situation is just so bad, you can't control it, sometimes the best thing to do is to shave your head. I wonder if this is some kind of way to really just get rid of all the bad that's going on in her life and start anew.

JACOBS: Well, that was my first thought, too. But...

NGUYEN: Uh-oh. You're laughing again.

JACOBS: Well, there are unconfirmed reports that she checked in and out of rehab within one day this week. What we do know is that her former assistant of 10 years, Felicia Colatta (ph), wrote a letter, an open letter to Britney on her fan site, saying that she's "crushed, saddened and heartsick" about the way Britney's life is unfolding.

And this is what she wrote to fans -- "I want you to know that we" -- as in her family and nearest and dearest, all of whom are not on the payroll anymore -- "are doing everything in our power to get help for Britney."

But now this incident yesterday with shaving her head and getting the two tattoos that followed, followed a cross-country flight. She got on to an airplane, domestic -- she got on to a domestic flight. She sat in the very back in Miami yesterday.

NGUYEN: So she went coach?

JACOBS: She went coach. She sat in the back in Miami, flew all the way to L.A., got -- went to her house for less than 20 minutes, then got back in her car, went out, got her head shaved, then went from there and got two tattoos.

And I have the details on the tattoos as well. One of them is on her lower hip. It's a black, white, and pink cross. The other one is on her wrist, and it's a red and pink set of lips.

And is reporting that we spoke to one of the people there when she was getting the tattoos, and she said she was a nightmare to deal with. She was screaming and flipping out from all the pain and wiggling her body all around. These tattoos, by the way, cost $80.

NGUYEN: It almost, Bradley, sounds like a cry for help. We'll see how it all turns out. But the news today, Britney Spears is bald, a new look for the pop star.

And Bradley, we appreciate your information. And thank you for your time today.

And from a bald Britney to the battle over Anna Nicole Smith's estate, what is America's obsession with celebrities? You can't deny that there's not an obsession, because there is. A lot of America is just really obsessed over every little thing that celebrities do.

So we want to hear from you. What is with this obsession?

E-mail us, We're going to read some of your responses a little bit later in the show.

In other news, because there is a lot of other news to tell you about, a top U.S. official makes an unannounced visit to Baghdad. We have details when we run down the morning's top stories in just three minutes.

HOLMES: And then, claiming to use prayer and herbs to heal cancer and charging thousands of dollars to do it. Why one California doctor is now under investigation.

NGUYEN: And coming up at the top of the hour, check out what happens when a water main breaks in the dead of winter. Not a pretty sight. We have those details in 40 minutes.

HOLMES: And then at 10:00 Eastern, can this Web site give you a better deal when buying a house? We'll talk with the creators of about its advantages and disadvantages.



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