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CNN NEWSROOM

Mt. Hood Climbers Rescued; JetBlue Rebuilding Reputation; Anna Nicole Smith Hearings

Aired February 20, 2007 - 08:59   ET

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


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. You are in the CNN NEWSROOM.
I'm Tony Harris. Heidi Collins is off today.

For the next three hours, watch events come in to the NEWSROOM live on Fat Tuesday, February 20th.

Here's what's on the rundown.

Ready for takeoff. JetBlue says it's back to business. The budget carrier ready to unveil rights today for travelers it leaves in a lurch.

A third of American women fighting heart disease. Today, new guidelines to treat and prevent the life-taking illness.

Her time in the womb the shortest on record for humans. Baby Amelia (ph), survivor and thriver, heading home today.

Baby love in the NEWSROOM.

At the top this hour, they're warm, they're dry. Best of all, they're safe. Research teams -- or search teams braved a blizzard to reach three stranded climbers and their dog.

CNN's Chris Lawrence is braving the cold himself in Mt. Hood. He joins us live this morning.

And Chris, if you would, sort of recap that rescue yesterday afternoon for us.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Tony. It was great news for all involved.

Those three climbers had become separated. Their fellow climbers were rescued the day before. But the rescuers say there's two reasons why they got off the mountain under their own power, escorted down by rescue teams.

One was the fact that they had their dog, Velvet, and they huddled together for warmth. And that kept them warm. The second was that they had a small radio transmitter that let those rescuers know exactly where to find them.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) LAWRENCE (voice over): They fell off a ledge and slid hundreds of feet from the rest of the team. But rescue crews saved three climbers and their dog after a day and night in the bitter cold and biting wind. Attached by a rope, Trevor Liston says the lead climber's fall almost took out the whole team.

TREVOR LISTON, RESCUED CLIMBER: He went out first. And then, you know, as I was trying to stop him, you know, the momentum just kind of gets picked up with each person that gets pulled over right behind him. So it's kind of one, two, three, and then a climber behind me saw what was happening, caught up to me and tackled me and stopped me. And that's when the rope got pulled off.

LAWRENCE: The mixed Lab, Velvet, went over the side with them.

LISTON: She's got the whole husky kind of coat and she's -- she's a trooper.

LAWRENCE: The climbers had an electronic locator which allowed rescuers to quickly pinpoint their signal.

LT. NICK WATT, CLACKAMAS COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE: And that's why it is a rescue instead of a recovery.

LAWRENCE: Three climbers disappeared on this same mountain in December. One died of hypothermia, the other two bodies were never found. They didn't have an electronic locator, and no state requires them. But some Oregon legislators are threatening to make them mandatory, and climbers are promising to fight it.

MIKE OCHSNER, ASSISTED IN RESCUE: One of the reasons that people climb is to -- for the freedom that it allows. And we don't think there should be that many rules about it.

LAWRENCE (on camera): But isn't just taking a mountain locator a very small inconvenience when you weigh it against the costs and the risk of trying to rescue people on the mountain, not knowing where they are?

OCHSNER: It is. And I would recommend that people use them, but I don't think it should be required.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LAWRENCE: Yes. Climbers will say that -- they'll take a typical year, like 2005, when, of all the search and rescue operations that went on here on Mt. Hood, only about four percent of them had anything to do with the climbers. And, they say, a lot of these rescue efforts are manned by people who are volunteers. Their opponents will say, sometimes these rescue operations can soar into the millions of dollars, and ultimately its public agencies like the sheriff's department who end up footing the bill -- Tony.

HARRIS: CNN's Chris Lawrence for us. Boy, in a winter storm right now on Mt. Hood.

Chris, appreciate it. Thank you.

Well, those three climbers rescued from Mt. Hood, we will talk with a man who led rescuers up the mountain. That's still ahead in the NEWSROOM.

Winning back passengers. JetBlue taking steps today to rebuild its reputation. Its image stained after last week's storm paralyzed the budget airline. Hundreds of passengers stranded for hours and hours on planes. Today, JetBlue says it will be 100 percent up and running.

CNN consumer reporter Greg Hunter at JFK in New York.

Greg, what is JetBlue's CEO saying about the situation this morning?

GREG HUNTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, he was on "AMERICAN MORNING" just about 45 minutes ago. And I'll tell you, I was surprised at how candid he was.

Let's see what he has to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID NEELEMAN, CEO, JETBLUE: We've identified the problems that we had. We have solutions. Some of them have already been implemented, some will be implemented in the next coming days. And we have this laser beam result to make sure that that never happens again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HUNTER: Hey, Tony, they also have a passenger bill of rights, so they're putting their money where their mouths are. And just a few highlights here.

They're going to penalize themselves for ground delays, coming and going. Now, anywhere from $25, to a free round trip ticket. It has to be something JetBlue has caused. It can't be weather-related, it can't be tower-related.

And they're also going to have a refund policy and $1,000 if you get bumped off a flight for an overbooking. But they are putting their money where their mouths are. This morning things are going smooth, they don't have hardly any delays whatsoever here at JFK.

Back to you guys.

HARRIS: OK. Greg, what are passengers saying about JetBlue this morning?

HUNTER: You know, Tony, I thought I'd come out here and there would be irate people and angry people. And in reality, what happened, what I found were people who were loyal customers.

One lady told me she had been booked and rebooked three different times and today she was making it out. Another lady said she had been in New York City since Thursday, and she said, "Well, I want to fly home today, but, no, I'm a loyal customer."

So, overall, people were loyal. And they were full. The flights were full this morning, according to the company and according to what I saw. There were hundreds of people from 5:00 to 6:00 a.m. getting on JetBlue flights. And again, very few -- very few delays leaving JFK today.

HARRIS: OK. Good news for JetBlue.

Greg Hunter at JFK International Airport in New York.

Greg, good to see you. Thank you.

Chad Myers is in the weather center right now.

(WEATHER REPORT)

HARRIS: We're getting some crazy pictures of a scene in Fort Lauderdale we want to show folks. I just want to be sure of the setting here.

This is Fort Lauderdale. Look at this scene. I mentioned Fort Lauderdale. Does the rest of the story come together for you at home?

The court battle over Anna Nicole Smith's body resuming today. In the middle of that scrum, that is Howard K. Stern, the former companion to Anna Nicole Smith.

Look at that scene! He's trying to get into the court building right now for this hearing. And as you can see, the media -- well, we're not behaving ourselves right now.

Stern is involved, as you know, in this ongoing dispute with photographer Larry Birkhead. Both men claiming to be the father of Anna Nicole Smith's baby girl, Dannielynn.

There is a separate hearing over that question in California today. But right now this scene you're looking at now, thanks to our affiliate, WFOR, is the scene of Howard K. Stern trying to make his way into court today. He has been ordered to appear for today's hearing.

We will continue to follow this story throughout the course of the morning to you -- for you, and bring you new details in the NEWSROOM as we get them.

An explosion and then poisonous fumes fill the streets of an Iraqi city. The deadly attack one of several today across Iraq.

A government official says a bomb on board a tank carrying chlorine gas caused a tanker to explode. The incident outside a restaurant in Taji, just north of Baghdad. The official says at least six people were killed and more than 100 others were injured by the blast or sickened by the fumes. In Baghdad, more bloodshed. Two car bombings have killed around a dozen people, and police say they have found at least 20 bodies across the Iraqi capital today.

Too close for comfort. We're told Iran has been testing the waters in the Persian Gulf near Iraqi offshore oil terminals. The question is, why?

CNN Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice over): CNN has learned that in the past 10 days, Iranian boats have crossed into Iraqi waters at the northern end of the Persian Gulf, sailing near Iraq's offshore oil terminals, perhaps trying to gauge the military response.

The offshore complex is Iraq's economic lifeline. Every second, $18,000 worth of crude oil is pumped into waiting tankers. And that makes this a potential target, which is why the U.S. military is trying to figure out what Iran may be up to.

Officials say the Iranians are not being aggressive. After staying inside Iraqi waters for about 10 minutes, they turned back after being told to leave by Iraqi security forces.

Probes by Iran have occurred in the past, but one official says the encounters increased after the U.S. military accused Iran of shipping advanced weapons into Iraq. The U.S. military strategy? To ratchet down tensions.

ROBERT GATES, DEFENSE SECRETARY: For the umpteenth time, we are not looking for an excuse to go to war with Iran, we are not planning a war with Iran.

STARR: But there are worries. U.S. officials say Iran's navy has expanded its operating areas in the Gulf, raising questions. Is Iran's real intention to demonstrate it has the ability to shut off the flow of oil shipments through the Strait of Hormuz?

(on camera): Officials say shutting off the Strait of Hormuz would not be a one-sided situation. Iran needs that waterway open as well. It's one reason the major effort now is to keep things calm.

Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARRIS: Al Qaeda in Iraq. Is the security crackdown in Baghdad opening up new avenues for terror takeovers in other parts of Iraq?

That's ahead in the NEWSROOM.

Heart disease. A man's disease? The risks could be greater than you think, ladies. Our Dr. Sanjay Gupta is in the NEWSROOM with what women need to know this morning.

And Mardi Gras. Even with post-Katrina challenges, one thing's for sure -- New Orleans knows how to throw a party. Live to Mardi Gras in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: American women and heart disease. There are new guidelines that change the way women should look at their risks. And here's why.

Right now, one in three American women is likely to die of cardiovascular disease. It's this risk that is prompting the new guidelines.

CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta is here with us this morning.

Sanjay, we are all ears.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. You know, it's amazing. First of all, people don't really associate heart disease and women.

HARRIS: Right. Right.

GUPTA: You think about the Hollywood heart attacks, it's usually a middle-aged guy.

HARRIS: That's right.

GUPTA: It's a problem, and it's a problem for patients and for physicians alike, a lot of whom who don't realize that heart disease remains the biggest killer of women, as well as men. So that's what's sort of prompted some of these guidelines back in 2004 originally to say let's start focusing on this.

Forty percent of women who are going to have a heart attack, the first heart attack will be fatal for them. That's why a lot of women out there should pay attention.

You just mentioned that about 30 percent of women out there watching have some degree of heart disease. There is only about 10 percent of women who fully have no risk of heart disease. So, you know, this is something for everybody.

What's so interesting to me is there are some specific guidelines now as to what you can do about it.

First of all, there has been a lot of banter about aspirin. Is aspirin something that can actually prevent heart attacks or not? They say if you're a woman 65 or older and you have no history at all, no problems, you're healthy, you should still take an aspirin a day. So all women 65 and older, an aspirin a day. Sixty-five and younger, you should still -- if you have a concern about stroke, you should still consider taking an aspirin as well.

Exercise. We go back and forth on exercise.

HARRIS: We really do.

GUPTA: It is confusing. Here's the latest in terms of the science.

If you are someone who is trying to lose weight because you're overweight or trying to maintain a weight, 60 to 90 minutes a day, most days of the week. That's a lot. If you're optimal weight, 30 minutes a day most days of the week.

And then when it comes to supplements, again, something that a lot of people are sort of confused by, when it comes to omega-3 fatty acids, eat it at least twice a week, either in the form of supplements or in the form of fish, like the fatty fish, like tuna or salmon.

Also, you see the folic acid on your screen there. Folic acid and antioxidants. People spend billions of dollars a year taking these to try and ward off heart disease. The latest guidelines suggest they do not do that. So if you're taking it specifically to ward off heart disease, save your money.

If you're pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant, though, folic acid is still a good idea.

HARRIS: Wow.

GUPTA: So, Tony, some specific recommendations. I think the biggest takeaway, women, they need to think about this.

HARRIS: Yes. So it sounds like you've given us a list of things that we can do right now to get a handle on our heart health.

Anything more?

GUPTA: Well, you know, it's interesting. People will pay a lot of money for fancy tests looking at CT scans and cardiac stress tests.

HARRIS: Yes.

GUPTA: If you just take a tape measure and literally measure your waist, if it's over 35, you most likely have at least one of the risk factors for heart disease. So that's a quick way. So just sit there at home right now with a tape measure and actually measure that.

HARRIS: Really?

GUPTA: You might be able to figure out if you should talk to your doctor about one of these risk factors.

HARRIS: Is there a way that I can sort of assess myself, my own cardiovascular health? GUPTA: Yes. You know, there are things that put you at highest risk, versus sort of moderate risk, versus lower risk.

Like, you know, you think about the common things being common. Heart disease, diabetes are going to -- if you had some problem with your heart in the past, obviously you're at higher risk.

With regards to women, though, at least one of these risk factors, such as smoking, poor diet, obesity, family history. If your dad had a heart attack, you've got to think about the daughters, too. We always think about the sons.

HARRIS: Wow.

GUPTA: What about those daughters? They're at risk as well.

A lot of these things, Tony -- this is the good news -- are reversible.

HARRIS: Really?

GUPTA: Not your family history, but a lot of other things you can reverse. And that's why it's important for so many women to pay attention and get some of these things checked out.

HARRIS: Sanjay, what about hormone therapy?

GUPTA: At one time it was thought to be the panacea. You know, women's hormone levels drop off as they get older. Replace them, it made perfect sense.

What they found out is that it doesn't work that well. You don't want to be using hormone replacement therapy to try and ward off heart disease. It could actually increase your likelihood of developing heart disease.

So, again, stay away from that one. Stick to the basics, Tony -- exercise and good diet.

HARRIS: Significant findings. Wouldn't you say?

GUPTA: I would.

HARRIS: Yes.

GUPTA: The aspirin thing is a big deal. I think a lot of people need to be talking to their doctors about this.

HARRIS: That's right.

GUPTA: Cut down on those heart attacks.

HARRIS: Sanjay, great to see you.

GUPTA: Thanks.

HARRIS: CNN's Chief Medical Correspondent Sanjay Gupta with us this morning.

Still to come in the NEWSROOM this morning, oh, baby! Look at this. She was barely as big as a ballpoint pen when she was born. Chances of survival, near zero.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was so tiny. She was just all ribs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So I was prepared for the worst and prepared to break bad news to the mother.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But we weighed her and she was just 10 ounces.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: Oh man. Four months and three pounds later, baby Amelia (ph) prepares to go home a record setter. That story in the NEWSROOM.

And running on religion. Do Christian conservatives hold the key to the Republican presidential nomination? That story straight ahead.

You're in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: Iraq's government trying to get a handle on the violence in Baghdad with a new security plan. While the focus is on the Iraqi capital, al Qaeda is finding new openings in other areas. Among them, the city of Baquba.

CNN's Arwa Damon reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): As the sun sets on the streets of Baquba, disturbing forces lurk. Amid the ranks of the Shia and Sunni insurgency, that battle for power here, another shadowy force is gaining strength on the streets. Al Qaeda in Iraq, carrying the banner of the world's most infamous Sunni terrorist group.

TARIQ KAR'AN, IRAQI POLICE OFFICER (through translator): Baquba has become a terror den, and the government has no solution.

DAMON: Baquba is the capital of Diyala Province, a microcosm of Iraq with its ethnic breakdown of Sunni, Shia and Kurd. And while the Iraqi government and U.S. military focus is on securing Baghdad, Baquba is falling apart.

From the insurgency's infancy, this city has been plagued by violence. An ideal atmosphere for groups like al Qaeda to gain a foothold, robbing power from the local security forces.

(on camera): Most of the Iraqi policemen here at the Diyala police headquarters will not appear on camera for fear of their lives, but there is one recurring theme. Over the last four months, security here has deteriorated drastically, and they all blame one organization for that -- al Qaeda in Iraq.

(voice over): Late last December, al Qaeda claimed the neighborhood of Tarir (ph) in southeast Baquba as part of what it calls the Islamic State of Iraq. While U.S. and Iraqi troops still patrol, these images instill a fear stronger than any sense of security the troops can provide.

Also late last year, this footage documented al Qaeda efforts to stir up crowds after an attack that many here blamed on a U.S. air strike. An air strike the U.S. military says never happened.

True or false, blaming the Americans and the weak Iraqi government for the violence is one strategy the insurgency uses to increase its power. Another, according to this security official who won't show his face on camera, is purely through fear.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): First, terrorists are killing civilians in public and committing massacres. The other thing is they're taking advantage of the government's mistakes.

DAMON: Both the national and the local governments are perceived here as having a Shia agenda, leaving Sunnis feeling like they have no one to turn to other than al Qaeda.

COL. DAVID W. SUTHERLAND, U.S. ARMY: It's a fear and a perception of inequality. It's different Sunni extremist groups, it's different Shia extremist groups, it's Shia domination throughout the area. All that plays into the empowerment of the -- of the terrorists.

DAMON: And in Baquba right now, the most powerful group of all, al Qaeda.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARRIS: Just another example, Arwa, of just how complicated this Iraq story really is.

Arwa Damon, as you can see, joining us from Baghdad.

Arwa, are there any plans to move more forces into Baquba?

DAMON: Well, Tony, as of yet, no, there are not. All of the additional U.S. troops that are coming will be mainly in the capital, Baghdad, and some will be deployed to Al Anbar Province.

And that is actually one of the main concerns here, is that while this crackdown happens in Baghdad, and while there is a relative crackdown in Al Anbar, that leaves places like Baquba and Diyala Province, that are incredibly fertile land for violence and for al Qaeda to gain a foothold, as we have just seen, completely open to the insurgency -- Tony.

HARRIS: And Arwa, if we could, let's go back to yesterday for just a moment.

Is yesterday's killing of two U.S. soldiers at a coalition combat outpost that as north of Baghdad, is it likely to impact the new U.S. strategy of placing troops in these more exposed locations?

DAMON: Well, Tony, not so much impact. This new strategy, the U.S. military -- and we have spoken to them about the concern that their troops will be in more isolated and less secured locations. And they have said that this is a risk that they are willing to take given the impact that they believe that these joint security stations are going to have on the overall security situation.

But what yesterday's attack underscores and highlights is how much more vulnerable U.S. forces are going to be when they're out there. These outposts that are going to be established, these JSS's, are going to be fairly fortified, but nowhere near as fortified as the larger U.S. bases are. And there are concerns that the U.S. military might just be setting up its troops just to be perfect targets for the insurgency here -- Tony.

HARRIS: CNN's Arwa Damon for us in Baghdad.

As always, Arwa, thank you.

For a moment now, let's fill the frame with a bunch of pictures here for you. This is Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The court battle over Anna Nicole Smith's body resuming today.

A judge has actually ordered her former companion -- this is Howard K. Stern -- to appear at the hearing. In just a moment you're going to see an extraordinary scene of Howard K. Stern getting out of a vehicle and being mobbed by press, media behaving badly.

Stern claims he is executor of Smith's will and wants the former "Playboy" Playmate buried next to her son in the Bahamas.

Look at that scene on the right.

So the Stern arrival is on the right. Can you believe that scene? Howard K. Stern hand in hand, arm in arm with, I guess, lawyers in some kind of makeshift security battalion here. You see one security guard in the lead.

On the right now is Anna Nicole Smith's mom in court. That is Virgie Arthur, Anna Nicole Smith's mom. Certainly has standing in this discussion.

And that is a scene that you may be familiar with, but we haven't seen it before. That is Anna Nicole's mother hugging Larry Birkhead. Larry Birkhead, along with Howard K. Stern, claiming to be the father of Anna Nicole Smith's baby daughter. So there is that moment again.

Stern, as you know, is involved in that ongoing dispute with the man you just saw there, Larry Birkhead. Both claiming to be the little baby's father. And Stern is trying and claiming, as executor of Smith's will, his desire is to have Smith's body buried next to her son in the Bahamas. So this is this whole story that is unfolding right now. This is in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. We will keep an eye on proceedings for you and bring you updates throughout the morning here in the NEWSROOM.

And good morning again, everyone. Welcome to the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Tony Harris. How do you really feel, Senator John McCain?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN McCAIN (R) ARIZONA: I think that Donald Rumsfeld will go down in history as one of the worst secretaries of defense in history.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: Tough talk on mismanaging the war. We're on the campaign trail in the NEWSROOM.

Rescued from Mt. Hood. Those climbers owe an awful lot to a little creature comfort, Velvet in the NEWSROOM.

Jetblue now departing. The budget airline says it is back on track and it is throwing more than peanuts at passengers. You've got rights in the NEWSROOM.

And a city with a lot of work ahead pauses to party today. New Orleans celebrates Mardi Gras. It is fat Tuesday in the NEWSROOM.

Let's sound the bell. Let's get the business day started this morning.

The good folks at Gabelli Global Deal fund sounding the bell, getting (INAUDIBLE) today. After a day off for Presidents Day yesterday, so the day begins the way it ended on Friday. The Dow was down at 12,767 and we get the day started down just a tick. The Nasdaq starts the day at 2,496. We'll check all of the business headlines on the day with Susan Lisovicz right here in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: Making amends and winning back passengers. Jetblue Airlines says it will be operating a full flight schedule today and it is rolling out a customer bill of rights that outlines procedures for handling disruptions. This comes after a Valentine's Day storm forced the airline to cancel more than 1,000 flights leaving some fuming passengers stuck on snowy New York runways for up to 10 hours.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There was no power and it was hot. There was no air.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bases on my experience today, I'd never fly Jetblue again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If the CEO of Jetblue is watching, I'd like to say either your resignation should be tendered or you should implement a new dynamic within Jetblue.

DAVID NEELEMAN, CEO, JETBLUE AIRWAYS: That was defining moment in our company and things are going to be different. I mean it was a very, very difficult weekend for our customers and for our crew members and we failed them and we're going to fix it and we're going to be better than ever. If you're on an airplane and you arrive in a city and you can't get off that airplane, within 30 minutes you get compensation starting at 30 minutes. If you get to two hours you get the full credit on your trip back. If you're departing, there is obviously a little bit of a different situation if we're in line with a bunch of airplanes. You start getting compensation at three hours. Then at four hours, you get a free ticket, full credit and then we have to take you off that airplane within five hours.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: In five hours? The airline also plans to start delivering misplaced bags to passengers around the country.

Rescued from Mt. Hood. Three climbers much warmer this morning. Search and rescue teams were able to make their way through the treacherous weather yesterday reaching climbers and their dog Velvet.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It wasn't pleasant. There was certainly the high winds, visibility was really poor. We had to put in a line of wands to follow on the way back out. Yeah, it wasn't a nice day on the mountain. The dog was very well behaved, under control and I'm sure it was kind of nice to have its hot body to pass around.

It was not as difficult as many because we actually had an idea where they were because they had a mountain locator unit on and it was a matter of just following that signal in not a direct fashion but following the signal to their location.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: One of the climbers suffered a head injury but is expected to be OK.

Good times rolling again in New Orleans. Yes, it's Mardi Gras, Zulu on the move right now, warming up the streets for King Rex and his crew. CNN Gulf coast -- let's see a picture. Gulf coast correspondent, there she is, Susan Roesgen live in New Orleans this morning where she is a very big deal. Wasn't it a year ago that you were a grand marshal on one of those --

SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Something like that.

HARRIS: Good morning, Susan. Good to see you again.

ROESGEN: Good morning, Tony. Yes, last year I got to ride in the all-male carnival crew, Rex, the big granddaddy of them all, but it was only because it was the first year after Katrina and it was something very special to have CNN have the first female rider on that parade route. This year I am where all the locals are Tony. Look, I've got my own ladder. Everybody's got ladders out here so that you can get close to the floats and beg for those beads. Behind me you can see that the street is starting to fill up. St. Charles Avenue is starting to fill up with some people. Believe it or not, they brought couches out here, who brought sleeping bags out here and have spent the night out here so that they can get the very best view and be closest to the floats as they come down here because, Tony, even after hurricane Katrina, the parades must go on.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROESGEN (voice-over): Stacy Merritt is a rider on a float in one of the many New Orleans parades. 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.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That was the dining room.

ROESGEN: Stacy is still waiting to move back home, a common frustration in New Orleans even a year and a half after the hurricane.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If we can get away from all that -- I know it doesn't make any sense to people away from here, but locals understand. If you can just get away from that for a few seconds, it does a lot of good.

ROESGEN: While many neighborhoods are still struggling, the publisher of the local magazine on Mardi Gras says the carnival spirit is alive and well.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is amazing that Mardi Gras has recovered much more quickly than the general recovery of the area. I think it is because private industry, citizens run Mardi Gras. There is no government involved really. And people can do whatever they want to do without having to wait for any kind of outside help or interference.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROESGEN: And the end result is magic, a celebration for a city that refuses to surrender. And of course, Tony, this is what I'll be begging for today, these cheap plastic beads that are not worth anything tomorrow on Ash Wednesday. But today, they are as good as gold.

HARRIS: How about that! I have to ask you Susie, as we take a look at the scene behind you and everyone lining up getting ready for all of the festivities, is New Orleans still very much a tale of two cities? There is the parade and all the festivities and not far from your location you can certainly still see a lot of the work that lies ahead for that city.

ROESGEN: You know, I think it is a tale of four or five cities. You've got neighborhoods like this one that were high and dry in the flood, didn't get any water, came back right away. The French Quarter also was relatively unscathed. And you have other neighborhoods that got water, but people have been coming back and rebuilding. And then you have even neighborhoods beyond that where the rebuilding is almost non-existent, where you see nothing but slabs left. So this city really has a long way to go. But something to remember Tony that the city does not pay for Mardi Gras. The Mardi Gras crews pay for the carnival parades themselves. The city spends about $5 million on things like police protection, overtime for the police, the garbage pickup afterwards. But the city takes in $21 million in taxes. And in all the spending that people spend on hotel rooms and restaurant meals it can add up to a billion-dollar boost to the local economy, something we really need this year.

HARRIS: That's a very good point. Susan Roesgen for us, Susan, great to see you. Thank you.

Let's check in with Chad Myers now. Hey Chad, did you see all that sunshine down there?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Good weather.

HARRIS: Folks in t-shirts. It looked great in New Orleans!

MYERS: It looked all shined up.

HARRIS: It really did.

MYERS: Yeah, great weather today, although there could be some showers and storms late tonight and hopefully it will be over by then but I'm assuming that it probably won't get over until probably some time tomorrow when the sun comes up. But then another big batch of storms will roll through there on Saturday. Watertown, New York, yesterday at this hour it was 33 degrees below zero Fahrenheit. That is not a wind chill factor. That was the air temperature. It is now 71 degrees warmer. How do you dress for that? I don't know.

Back out to the west, we're seeing rain and snow in Portland and Seattle, rain obviously all the way down to the cities. You get above 5,000 feet and it is snow. Current temperature right now, 46 Cincinnati. We're going to try to push a bunch of warm air up into the plains for the weekend. We are going to get an extremely strong storm system, Tony. This low pressure system will be as strong as a category one or a small category two hurricane. Now it isn't a hurricane because it's, one, over land, it is cold in the middle, but it's not going to have as much wind as a category two hurricane because there is friction here on the surface of the earth, surface of the dirt, rather than trees, like the surface of the water doesn't have friction. So the water gets - the wind gets going a lot faster over the ocean. But it is going to be a storm that could produce winds to 70, 80 miles per hour in some of these thunderstorms here, some of them may rotate, some of them may have tornadoes.

Now is the day to go out there and buy that severe weather radio that you have been wanting to get now for so long anywhere from Chicago and by Sunday, it is east coast, too. Not just here for Saturday.

HARRIS: Please, never, ever -- please, continue to remind us to do that.

MYERS: I did.

HARRIS: Yeah. Because we just need to do it.

MYERS: My mom didn't have one. This lady lake tornado that they were in. So I programmed one for her this weekend.

HARRIS: Very nice. Good son. Good stuff. Chad, thanks.

Still to come, we've got to tell you just an incredible story of survival from the world's tiniest record holder.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was speechless. I really was. This is not supposed to happen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I'm in shock right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: A small girl beating big odds. Look at that! In the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: An amazing story for you now. It is about one of the world's tiniest fighters, a baby weighing just ounces at birth back in October but going home soon. Lori (ph) Jennings reports and she's with our Miami affiliate WPLG.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She's truly amazing. That's why I named her Queen Bee.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And how much do you weigh today?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 3 pounds 10 ounces.

Well, she is our little princess in the unit. Her lungs are a little premature (INAUDIBLE) but she's fine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She's truly a miracle.

LORI JENNINGS, WPLG: Sonia and Eddie Taylor's (ph) baby girl has earned a lot of nicknames over her four months in intensive care. Queen Bee, Princess, Miracle, but none more perfect than her given name, Amelia.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We were looking through the Internet and it meant fighter, resilient.

JENNINGS: Amelia had to be a fighter to beat some incredible odds. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Survival of babies that is less than 22 weeks of gestation is close to zero, if not zero.

JENNINGS: The medical standard is not to even resuscitate a 22- weeker. So when Sonia knew she was going into early labor last October at just 19 weeks, she fibbed a little about her baby's age. Doctors worked to hold off the birth, but nine days later they had no choice but an emergency C-section thinking they were delivering a 23- weeker.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was so tiny. She was just all ribs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So I was prepared for the worst and prepared to break bad news to the mother.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But we weighed her and she was just 10 ounces.

JENNINGS: Still in shock at her size, neonatalgist Dr. (INAUDIBLE) took a chance. He inserted a breathing tube and Amelia took to it on the first try, perked right up. He knew then this baby, just slightly bigger than a pen was something special.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was literally just a little -- a Coke can under sterile drapes.

JENNINGS: Pediatric surgeon Dr. Holly Neville was called in immediately to repair Amelia's left ear and much of her scalp that was torn during delivery and left hanging. Normally such young gel-like skin couldn't even accept stitches or being handled at all, but somehow Amelia's skin was mature beyond her young age and that's a big part of what protected her.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I had never seen such a small baby.

JENNINGS: It was months later when doctors verified Amelia's true age with her parent's fertility specialist and discovered this now perfectly healthy baby was born at exactly 21 weeks and 6 days, a world record.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was speechless. I really was. This is not supposed to even happen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I'm still shocked right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Science has proven us wrong. But when you look at such a small miracle, you almost have to believe there is something else -- there's a higher power that allows us to do what we do.

JENNINGS: What do you want to let the doctors and nurses know?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They did a super job. I owe them big thanks.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... a miracle. She's going to change medicine.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, she is. And I believe that I wanted her to have a chance. I just knew in my heart that she was going to make it.

JENNINGS: Lori Jennings, local 10 news.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARRIS: Still to come in the NEWSROOM this morning -- running on religion. Do Christian conservatives hold the key to the Republican presidential nomination? That story ahead in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: Courting Christian conservatives, Republican presidential hopefuls are looking ahead in an effort to secure political salvation. We get more from CNN's senior political correspondent Candy Crowley, part of the best political team on television.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Not doing the press today, but I'm just happy to see other folks who are people of faith.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If you want to be the Republican nominee for president, a convention of religious broadcasters is close to must-do politics.

SEN. JOHN McCAIN (R) ARIZONA: I respect the work of the religious broadcasters and I was glad to have the opportunity to meet with them.

CROWLEY: In the 2000 election season, 16 percent of New Hampshire Republican primary voters identified themselves as part of the Christian conservative political movement. A third of South Carolina's Republican primary vote was conservative Christian, and more than one-third of caucus goers in Iowa said they were part of the religious right.

SUZANNE TABOR, COFOUNDER, "REVIVAL": I think Christian conservatives are a force to be reckoned with and could put anyone in office they wanted if they would get out and vote.

CROWLEY: You hear the echo of their influence down the campaign trail. It is in the announcement speech of Mitt Romney.

ROMNEY: I believe in God and I believe that every person in this great country and every person on this great planet is a child of God.

CROWLEY: It is in John McCain's journey through the town halls of South Carolina.

MCCAIN: I do not support Roe v. Wade.

CROWLEY: It is even in the interviews of the pro-gay rights, pro- abortion rights Rudy Giuliani. RUDY GIULIANI, (R) FMR. NEW YORK MAYOR: Abortion is something I oppose, I don't like on a personal basis.

CROWLEY: It is not enough for Rudy Giuliani, this is a courtship over before it begins.

CHARLES CHRISMIER, RADIO HOST: I find it difficult to put him in the Republican camp.

REV. ROB SCHENCK, FAITH AND ACTION: You will never be able to connect with our core values. I think he's got to look elsewhere for his support.

CROWLEY: The ex-mayor of New York was looking elsewhere over the weekend. Any casual conversation reveals when it comes to other candidates polling in the top tier, conservative Christians are not happy campers. They are suspicious of Arizona Senator John McCain who once called the Reverends Falwell and Robertson agents of intolerance. Preparing for the '08 cycle he tried to make amends.

PATRICK MAHONEY, CHRISTIAN DEFENSE COALITION: I think Senator McCain has a long way to go in rebuilding a bridge to the faith community.

CROWLEY: And conservative Christians are questioning a former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney who has, since beginning to think about running for president, changed positions on abortion and gay rights.

BRAD MATTES, HOST, "FACING LIFE HEAD-ON": If that conversion is genuine, yes, then he would have our support.

CROWLEY: They have heard words before and they have been disappointed.

JIM WEST, PRESIDENT, FAITH TV: You have to look at their stand on the issues, not only today but yesterday and 10 years ago and whether they are pandering to the crowd.

CROWLEY: This is a necessary but uneasy courtship. Candy Crowley, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARRIS: They differ on the war, but share a challenge. Could Washington insiders prompt voters to think outside the box?

And Jetblue now departing. The budget airline says it is back on track and it is throwing more than peanuts at passengers. You've got rights. In the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: Good morning, everybody. I'm Betty Nguyen in today for Heidi Collins.

HARRIS: Morning, Betty.

NGUYEN: Good morning Tony.

HARRIS: I'm Tony Harris. The second hour in the NEWSROOM this morning and stay informed. Here's what's on the rundown. Jetblue vowing 100 percent operations today.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.voxant.com

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