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AMERICAN MORNING

New Attack; Gateway To Terror; Is It Child Abuse?; Lost Tomb Of Jesus?; Minding Your Business

Aired February 27, 2007 - 06:00   ET

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


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news. A deadly suicide bomb blast near Vice President Dick Cheney in Afghanistan this morning.
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Plan of attack. Senate Democrats try again today to upend the president's war plan.

S. O'BRIEN: Heavy price. The parents of an eight-year-old boy who weighs 200 pounds could lose custody today because of his weight.

M. O'BRIEN: And, is it an inconvenient truth? Al Gore firing back today on critics questioning his 10,000-square-foot home and the giant energy bills along with it.

Live from London, Baghdad and New York on this AMERICAN MORNING.

S. O'BRIEN: And good morning. Welcome, everybody. It's Tuesday, February 27th. I'm Soledad O'Brien.

M. O'BRIEN: I'm Miles O'Brien. Thanks for being with us.

S. O'BRIEN: Let's begin with that explosion that happened in Bagram. It happened just outside the U.S. military base there just a few hours ago. Vice President Dick Cheney inside the base. He was not hurt. But reports this morning say at least three people were killed, including two Americans. Vice President Cheney left about an hour after the attack to go meet with the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, in Kabul. Mark Silva with "The Chicago Tribune" and he's traveling with the vice president. Here's what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK SILVA, "THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE": The vice president was well inside the base. Very much removed from that front gate area where the attack occurred. He was preparing to leave this morning from Bagram to head to Kabul and his party was preparing his plane. When the attack occurred, the base went to a code red and sirens blared and trucks were moving and we did see a plume of smoke, but we saw it from such a distance that I couldn't tell you that it was the exact same thing.

The vice president's party started scrambling and preparing for a fast departure. And we moved out of Bagram just shortly after noon local time. It was about 12:01, I believe, when we lifted off. They moved out posthaste, making it clear that the vice president was safe.

But I've seen the statement from the Taliban leader who said that they were trying to get to Cheney. There were about 50 more obstacles between them and Cheney, I can tell you that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

S. O'BRIEN: That was Mark Silva with "The Chicago Tribune." He is traveling with the vice president.

Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Cheney's visit to Pakistan and Afghanistan comes as the Taliban digs in and gears up for a spring offensive. The focus, once again, the rugged lawless mountains along the border where the U.S. believes Osama bin Laden is hiding, as a matter of fact. In Islamabad yesterday, the vice president asked Pakistan's president to do more to hunt down al Qaeda and Taliban fighters. The Pakistanis insist they're doing all they can.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAHMUD DURRANI, PAKISTANI AMBASSADOR TO U.S.: The problem's in Pakistan. We are fighting it on multiple fronts. I think we need your sympathy, other than accusing us of not doing enough. I think we are doing that more than anybody else.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

M. O'BRIEN: Now the vice president said nothing publically, but there are reports he warned Musharraf Congress might cut off aid to Pakistan if he does not do more to fight al Qaeda. Coming up, a closer look at the billions the U.S. sends to Pakistan and a new move to make Pakistan more accountable.

Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: More political and financial pressure here at home. The Democrats on the Senate Appropriations Committee will question Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs Staff Chairman General Peter Pace at a hearing this afternoon. Now at issue is the president's request for $100 billion for the war in Iraq.

Two Democratic senators, in the meantime today, are trying to gain support for a new plan against the president's troop buildup. Here's congressional correspondent Andrea Koppel.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Later today, Democrats Joe Biden and Carl Levin will unveil their plan to repeal and rewrite the 2002 authorization for the Iraq War. Under their proposal, the role of the U.S. Military in Iraq would be limited to one of training and counterterrorism, with the stated goal of withdrawing all troops not involved in this mission by March of next year.

Now in a preview of the heated debate we may see as soon as this week on the Senate floor, Republicans are arguing if the Senate were to pass this resolution it would be, in their words, micro managing the war and tying the hands of commanders on the ground. And unlike the vote earlier this month on a non-binding resolution opposing the president's plan to send more troops to Iraq, which saw seven Republicans break with Mr. Bush, it already appears the Biden/Levin plan, as it now stands, would likely not get the support of at least two of those Republicans, Minnesota's Norm Coleman and Nebraska's Chuck Hagel. That doesn't bode well for the Democrats' latest anti- war measure which, if it goes to a vote any time soon, seems sure not to get the 60 votes needed to pass.

Andrea Koppel, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

M. O'BRIEN: In Iraq, the U.S. military claiming this morning it has smoking gun proof Iran is meddling in Iraq, supplying Shiite insurgents with weapons. U.S. troops showing off weapons seized in a raid over the weekend in the Diyala province. Weapons experts say the seized mortar shells, rockets and explosively formed projectiles could only come from Iran. But critics say it could just as easily be a home grown bomb factory. Or even if the weapons did come from Iran, it does not necessarily mean the leadership in Tehran is responsible. CNN's Michael Ware live in Baghdad with a look at that.

Michael, first of all, who had possession of the weapons?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we're talking about here, Miles, are two separate weapons dumps. One south of the capital of Baghdad, one north of the capital of Baghdad, exposed by U.S. forces over a period of days. Both of these weapons dumps were within the control or certainly within areas of control of Shia militia groups or Shia insurgent groups. The very groups that western intelligence has long claimed are backed by the Iranian special forces.

M. O'BRIEN: Based on the nature of the weapons seized, if they could, I mean, is this technology that would be unique to Iran in some way? Are there some markers on these components and on these weapons which link it directly back across the border?

WARE: Yes, there are. Now, unfortunately, this is yet another development in what's increasingly becoming a bungled American information operation or process to convince the public that Iran is involved here in Iraq. There is a considerable body of evidence to show that Iran is, indeed, involved in Iraq.

There are weapons with Iranian markings. There's C-4 explosives that can be traced back to Iran. And these deadliest of deadly roadside bombs have a distinctive bomb-making signature that's only been seen when used by Iranian-backed Shia militias, either in southern Lebanon or here in Iraq.

There's also troves of other materiel. There's been detained Iranian intelligence and special forces officers. There's documents. All source of materials, yet the military is just bungling this as they're laying out their body of evidence.

Miles. M. O'BRIEN: How are they bungling it?

WARE: It's just not being convincing. They're producing the material, at times, where it becomes suspicious. Why are they doing it now? Is it to deflect attention from other things? When much of this materiel has been available for at least a year, if not more. Also, they're filing (ph) to get their message across and they're giving mixed messages.

Fundamentally, what the military is saying is, here are these weapons. We found them. They're from Iran. They've come across the border. But we can't say whether the top levels of the government have ordained this.

Nonetheless, it's well and truly known by every player in Iraq that the Iranian government is so well-controlled, its military so disciplined, that nothing like this happens without official sanction. So America is wrapping itself up in word games just to avoid the pre- Iraq invasion embarrassment resurfacing.

M. O'BRIEN: Interesting. Michael Ware in Baghdad, thank you.

Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Another report of problems this morning at Walter Reed Medical Center. The Army is now looking into allegations about the former head of the Medical Family Assistance Center and whether he diverted donations for wounded troops and their families to other organizations. He has not been charged in any case yet.

And developing news out of The Hague this morning. The first two suspects accused of war crimes in the Darfur region of Sudan have been ordered to appear before the International Criminal Court. One of them is the former interior minister of Sudan.

Also happening this morning in eastern Sri Lanka, Tamil rebels are accused of firing on helicopters carrying the American and Italian ambassadors. Now both ambassadors were slightly injured.

Plus, today, President Bush is going to swear in John Negroponte as deputy secretary of state, serving directly under Condoleezza Rice. Negroponte is returning to state after serving as President Bush's first ever director of National Intelligence.

The jury goes back to work today in the Scooter Libby trial, one juror light (ph). She was dismissed on Monday after revealing that she had seen or read something over the weekend having to do with the trial. Eleven jurors will now decide Libby's fate. Libby is charged with lying to investigators who are looking into just who leaked the name of the CIA agent to the press.

And it takes a licking. The price of a first class stamp is going up two cents to 41 cents. The first time the postal services is also considering a forever stamp. That if you bought it now would be valid no matter how high the rates would go in the future. M. O'BRIEN: Well, he's eight years old, weighs in at more than 200 pounds. And now authorities are weighing whether to take him away from his family. At a hearing today, social workers will determine if Connor McCreaddie's mom is loving him to death. CNN's Alphonso van Marsh is live from London.

Alphonso.

ALPHONSO VAN MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Miles.

It may seem a story about one child's struggle with obesity, but there's a much bigger issue here. It's whether the British government has the right to possibly take away a child from his mother simply because of what she feeds him.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VAN MARSH, (voice over): Snack time at Conner McCreaddie's house and weighing in at around 200 pounds, Connor is relishing every bite. A chicken drum stick may seem typical for a young kid, but Connor is just eight years old. Almost four times the average weight for a kid his age.

CONNOR MCCREADDIE: Hey, where's my pork chop?

VAN MARSH: Conner's mother says she's obliged to answer her son's constant demands for more food, but British authorities say they're very concerned that the diet he's being fed could seriously damage his health. And now they're considering putting the child into care until he loses more weight. The implication, neglect.

NICOLA MCKEOWN, MOTHER OF 200 LB 8-YEAR-OLD: What if I had neglected Conner? He would be a skinny kid. A skinny little runt?

VAN MARSH: On a typical day, Conner starts with a bowl of chocolate cereal, followed by some toast with processed meat. Lunch time means a burger and fries and sausages or a pizza. A whole pizza. It's fast food takeaway for dinner and toss in four bags of potato chips. And Conner's family admits that, in addition to all of that, he scarfs down cookies and other snacks about every 20 minutes.

DR MICHAEL MARKIEWICZ, PEDIATRICIAN: If they love him, they actually love him to death. Literally. In fact, not saying they can't care for him, but what they're doing is, through the way they're treating him and feeding him, they're slowly killing him.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VON MARSH: Now, Miles, that meet is scheduled to take place today. It will include social workers, obesity nurses, police officers, even an official from Conner's school. The child's missed a lot of class, simply due to poor health and bullying.

Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Alfonso van Marsh, thank you very much. Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Oh, what a sad story.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes, it is.

S. O'BRIEN: To actually take him away from his parents?

M. O'BRIEN: That's the quandary.

S. O'BRIEN: Wow.

Al Gore is firing back this morning on critics who say that he's been talking the talk but not walking the walk after his best Oscar documentary "An Inconvenient Truth." A Tennessee watch dog group is reporting that Gore's posh Nashville area mansion devours over 20 times the national average in kilowatt hours in energy. The average electric bill is $1,200 a month, they say. $1,000 a month in gas. A spokeswoman for Al Gores is telling CNN that the Gores make up for that. "The Gores purchase all of their power through the local green powerswitch program. It is 100 percent renewable power." And, they say, they're in the midst of a renovation which includes installing solar power panels on their home, which will enable them to use less power.

M. O'BRIEN: But do they need 10,000 square feet?

S. O'BRIEN: That's a big house.

M. O'BRIEN: That's a lot of space.

S. O'BRIEN: That's a big bill every month.

M. O'BRIEN: I should say.

Coming up, a powerful storm is hitting the west right now. It's making a beeline for the rest of the country. Rob Marciano will tell you where you should be worried.

And a closer look at how Pakistan is spending your money to fight the war on terror. Some say it's money down the drain.

This is a story you'll want to see. Seeing is believing here. Out of the darkness, a 65-year-old blind woman able to see for the first time in her life. What's the one thing she wanted to see the most? We'll tell you ahead on AMERICAN MORNING. The most news in the morning right here.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

M. O'BRIEN: The most news in the morning right here on CNN.

A suicide bombing at a U.S. military base in Afghanistan this morning during a visited by Vice President Dick Cheney. Cheney was nowhere near the site of the blast. Also this morning, Iran's foreign minister saying his country will never suspend its nuclear program, even as the U.N. considers tough, new sanctions.

It's about quarter past the hour right now. Rob Marciano is in for Chad Myers once again this morning.

And just a little bit of a storm left in the Northeast, huh? It's hanging on.

(WEATHER REPORT)

S. O'BRIEN: A closer look now at the aid that the United States sends to Pakistan. A new report says there's little accountability into just how Pakistan is spending that aid. The report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies reveals that the U.S. has given Pakistan more than $10 billion in military, economic, and development assistance since September 11th. Pakistan's repeated failures at taming militants inside the tribal Pashtin (ph) border areas has prompted the Senate to consider cutting funding to Pakistan. That's according to CNN terror analyst Peter Bergen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: They've sent 70,000 troops in there. Pakistan took about 700 casualties. That military approach wasn't much of a success. Then they turned to basically appeasement. A series, a couple of peace agreements with the militants. That has not really been that successful either because after the peace agreements, one in September of last year, attacks from that area went up in Afghan according to U.S. military officials by 300 percent. So, unfortunately, there's sort of been two different policies, neither of which have really worked.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

S. O'BRIEN: The Pakistani army receives most of the U.S. aid. Even when a cease-fire along the border with Afghanistan was in place between June and September of last year, the Pakistan's sought and received $100 million in U.S. reimbursements for troop operations.

Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Just outside Buffalo, New York, this morning, a 65-year- old woman is able to see for the first time in her life. Pat Stanton was born with a disease that left her with a big black spot in the middle of her vision. As it turns out, one eye was repairable. Technology made this possible. A surgeon removed a cataract and replaced a cornea and voila! Suddenly Pat's world opened up in living color.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAT STANTON: It's amazing. It really is. For once in my life I can really see it. It's just remarkable. It's breath-taking, really. To me, like, you know, I've been in the dark now actually seeing what I've always wanted to see.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's great. That's great. Congratulations, huh?

STANTON: Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is this exciting for you?

STANTON: Very. I'm overwhelmed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

M. O'BRIEN: I can imagine. It's hard to imagine. Of course, she's become a lot more self-reliant. She's learning things like how to write her name, which she has never done. And what was the one thing she wanted to see the most? Take a guess. What do you think it would be?

S. O'BRIEN: I don't know. Her flowers?

M. O'BRIEN: Her children's faces.

S. O'BRIEN: Oh, of course, of course, gosh. That's so sweet. Good for her.

M. O'BRIEN: Great isn't it? Yes.

S. O'BRIEN: Ahead this morning, Ali Velshi is "Minding Your Business."

Plus, we'll tell you about this controversial new documentary about Jesus, the famed "Titanic" director, James Cameron, claims to have found the family tomb. We'll tell you what was inside of it when we take a look straight ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

S. O'BRIEN: Welcome back. You're watching the most news in the morning.

It is an unbelievable announcement and that might be why some people are having a hard time embracing it. Director James Cameron says this, if we could show it, is the burial place of Jesus and his family. And, of course, the findings would challenge the very fundamental beliefs of Christians. Joining us this morning is AMERICAN MORNING's faith and values correspondent Delia Gallagher.

It's a really shocking finding if, and it's a big if, it's true. Do you think it's likely, in fact, that in this tomb, which was found in the suburbs of Jerusalem 27 years ago, in fact, it's Jesus and his family buried there?

DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that is part of the claim that's presented by the documentary. And I think that in speaking to some Christians, their response is sort of, you know, if it were true, wouldn't we have known it in 1980 when it came out? Wouldn't we have known it in the 27 intervening years when scholars and archaeologists were examining these remains.

S. O'BRIEN: What's in the tombs?

GALLAGHER: And in the tomb are 10 sort of burial boxes with inscriptions of names on them. And they're names of Jesus, son of Joseph, Mary, two Marys, Judah, son of Jesus. So a couple of different family names of Jesus and family members. So this is the claim that the likelihood of those names being all together in this one burial site, statistically, according to the documentary, is very unlikely.

S. O'BRIEN: At the same time, those are common names, though, at the time. It's like Bob or Pete (ph).

GALLAGHER: So then historians will come back and say, well, you know, those were common names at the time and the location, some have suggested, is not the location where Jesus's family would have been. That Jesus's family was in the north. This is in the suburb of Jerusalem. Jesus's family was very poor. Why would they have had this kind of mausoleum type burial.

S. O'BRIEN: But more than all of that, I mean if you have a mausoleum type burial, that works completely against the idea of the resurrection.

GALLAGHER: Precisely. Right. So there are a number of different points, of course, that people will be arguing about. But the larger point is that the story itself sort of challenges what is the major Christian belief that, you know, Jesus, first of all, ascended, you know, into heaven and so that there shouldn't be any remains of his left.

S. O'BRIEN: Wouldn't need the casket.

GALLAGHER: Right. And that he wasn't married with a child. So those are, you know, kind of the central claims that this is going to challenge.

S. O'BRIEN: Of course, the timing's very interesting, because we're in Lent.

GALLAGHER: And that is another thing that you'll hear a lot from Christians. You know, sort of, here we go again. Why is it every year this rolls around?

S. O'BRIEN: Because it suddenly makes documentaries very interesting, if you put sort of salacious information out.

GALLAGHER: Well, and the information can be interesting. I mean, people are interested in this kind of archeological stuff.

S. O'BRIEN: Well, it can be fascinating, whether it's true or not.

GALLAGHER: And Christians will say, you know, bring it on. That's OK, too.

S. O'BRIEN: Delia Gallagher, our faith and values correspondent.

Thank you, Delia.

GALLAGHER: You're welcome.

S. O'BRIEN: Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: It's a huge day, Soledad, a huge day for consumers and for the companies that cater to them. It's about 25 minutes past the hour. Ali Velshi "Minding Your Business."

You've got a lot to keep track of today.

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. This is a -- you know, we have to remember, for all of the numbers and economic numbers and inflation, things like that, the consumer drives the U.S. economy and this is a week where we really get a measure of how the consumer's been acting. We started with earnings from Nordstrom. You've been in Nordstrom? I mean, this is a great shop.

M. O'BRIEN: Oh, it's great shop. Good service. Old fashioned.

VELSHI: This is a place that is still run by the family. They're old-fashioned. Numbers for the fourth quarter, the last three months of 2006, came in at 22 percent higher than the year before. And, in fact, that wasn't as good as some people expected, but it was pretty good. Sales were up.

There were fewer markdowns, which meant that Nordstrom's selection is better. It's the stuff that people actually are prepared to buy at full price. They launched a new strategy last year in women's wear. Don't know any details about it, but it seems to be working. They're opening three new stores Colorado, Massachusetts and Michigan.

We're going to get a lot -- we're going to have earnings today from Target and from Federated Department Stores, which owns Bloomingdale's and Macy's.

We're also going to hear a lot today about consumer confidence. In January, the measure of consumer confidence came in at the highest level in five years. People are expecting it to come in a little lower than that for February, but still pretty strong. And that's what markets are going to be looking for is the consumer continuing to trek ahead, even if housing prices are coming down a little bit.

M. O'BRIEN: So it's not so much how the retailers did fourth quarter, it's how consumers feel right now that they're most interested in.

VELSHI: Correct. If retailers do well, it probably means the consumer's strong. But consumers have to actually be strong on their own. And that's what we're going to spend this week talking about.

The stock markets were all down again for the fourth session. So we're going to be looking at how the markets react. Oil was up again as well, and that always worries people about inflation.

But lots to keep track of today. I'll be back in a half an hour.

M. O'BRIEN: All right, Ali, get back to it. Thank you very much.

Top stories of the morning coming up next.

Including a suicide bombing right near where Vice President Cheney was in Afghanistan. We'll tell you what happened.

Also, it looks like the price of a stamp is going up again. But there may be a way for you to save money in the long run. We'll call it stamp futures.

Ali, you ought to look into that.

VELSHI: Yes.

M. O'BRIEN: Al Gore has an Oscar for his mantle in his Nashville mansion. But some would say his power hungry digs prove all his talk about global warm it little more than hot air.

That's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING. The most news in the morning right here.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

S. O'BRIEN: Deadly attack. A suicide bombing close to Vice President Dick Cheney in Afghanistan this morning.

M. O'BRIEN: Money in the mail. A new plan to stick you with another price hike on stamps and a way you'll never have to pay another hike again. We'll tell you how to do that.

S. O'BRIEN: And it's not easy being green. Al Gore -- excuse me -- answering critics of his big house and his even bigger energy bills.

Those stories and much more on this AMERICAN MORNING.

Welcome back, everybody. It's Tuesday, February 27th.

I'm Soledad O'Brien.

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

Thanks for dropping by.

S. O'BRIEN: Let's begin with the breaking news overnight in Bagram, Afghanistan. A suicide bomb blast just outside the U.S. military base there. It happened just a few hours ago.

Now, the vice president, Dick Cheney, was inside the base. He was not hurt, but reports this morning say at least three people were killed, including two Americans.

Vice President Cheney left about an hour after the attack to meet with the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, in Kabul. That's according to The Associated Press. The Taliban is claiming responsibility for the attack and say apparently they were targeting the vice president.

More details are emerging this morning about the vice president's four-hour meeting with Pakistan's president. Here's White House Correspondent Ed Henry with an update for us.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In a surprise visit to Pakistan, Vice President Cheney put private pressure on President Pervez Musharraf to crack down on al Qaeda and Taliban militants. But in public, White House Spokesman Tony Snow struck a much more cautious tone.

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We have not been saying it's a tough message. What we're saying is we're having -- the vice president is meeting with President Musharraf because we do understand the importance of -- of making even greater progress against al Qaeda, against the Taliban.

HENRY: What's really going on here is a delicate diplomatic dance. While Musharraf has helped the U.S. capture hundreds of terrorists in urban areas of Pakistan, he has been much less helpful in remote areas, where Osama bin Laden is believed to be hiding.

JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: It is simultaneously one of our best partners against terrorism and at the same time, to a degree, a safe haven against -- a safe haven for terrorists.

HENRY: President Bush needs the cooperation of his Pakistani counterpart more than ever, after sending additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan in advance of an expected spring offensive by terrorists.

GEORGE BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We've got active fronts in this war on terror. One is Afghanistan. The other is Iraq.

HENRY: While Democrats charge the president has treated Musharraf with kid gloves, experts note the U.S. cannot push him too hard.

MCLAUGHLIN: Were there to be a cataclysmic event of some sort in Pakistan that brought extremists to power, we would face the nightmare scenario of an extremist government in charge of a country that has nuclear weapons.

HENRY (on camera): Part of Mr. Cheney's message to President Musharraf was a warning that if he does not crack down on more terrorists, the new Democratic Congress may cut U.S. aid to Pakistan. Democrats insist that's not true and that it's a straw man being created by the White House to bring Musharraf along.

Ed Henry, CNN, the White House.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

(NEWSBREAK)

S. O'BRIEN: The fifth day of deliberations today in the perjury trial of Lewis "Scooter" Libby, but now the jury is minus one person. A woman was dismissed by the judge.

CNN's Brian Todd has our story this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Showing obvious disappointment, Judge Reggie Walton declares about one juror, "... what she had exposure to obviously disqualifies her," a reference to information on the case the juror had received outside the courthouse. With that, a woman who had worked as a museum curator is thrown off the jury and not replaced, despite the concerns of prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, who worried out loud that the pool is getting dangerously low.

The judge's reason for not seating an alternate? He didn't want to start from scratch and waste more than two days of deliberations.

The fate of former vice president aide Lewis "Scooter" Libby, charged with lying to investigators about the leak of a CIA officer's covert identity, now in the hands of 11 people.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SR. LEGAL ANALYST: It's certainly unusual to have a verdict from 11 jurors, but it's not unprecedented, and it's certainly treated the same way as the verdict would be from 12.

TODD: It's unclear what kind of information the juror, who is now an arts researcher, was exposed to, but she has gone her own way before in this case. On Valentine's Day, when jurors came in wearing identical red T-shirts and one read a note of thanks to the judge, she was the only one who didn't play along.

JONATHAN TURLEY, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: She was self-assured. She was different from a lot of the other jurors. And she really stood out in refusing to wear a Valentine's shirt. All of those things made her a point of considerable interest.

TODD (on camera): When the judge first heard about this juror's exposure, he feared whatever information it was might have tainted other jurors. After interviewing them and speaking to the foreperson, he concluded it had not, but he emphatically warned the panel again not to have contact with any outside information.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

M. O'BRIEN: Al Gore is firing back this morning on critics who say he's not practicing what he preached in the documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" a day after Gore took home an Oscar for that movie. Critics charging Gore's posh mansion in Nashville devours over 20 times the national average in kilowatt hours. The average electric bill there, $1,200 a month. A $1,000 a month gas bill.

But a spokeswoman for Gore told CNN the Gores make up for that. Here's the quote. "The Gores purchase all of their power through the local green powerswitch program. It is 100 percent renewable power." And that the Gores are in the midst of a renovation which includes installing solar panels on their home which will enable them to use less power -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Coming up this morning, a big winter storm is pummeling the western U.S. this morning. Rob Marciano is watching it, going to tell us where it's headed next.

Plus, it looks like we're in for another price hike for your stamps, but there may be a new way to save in the long run. We'll tell you what it is.

And Africa's elephants. We'll show you how DNA evidence could help save them from extinction.

Those stories and much more ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

The most news in the morning is right here on CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

M. O'BRIEN: Welcome back to the most news in the morning.

The postal service is ready to raise the cost of a first class stamp again, but there is a spoonful of sugar with this dose of medicine. They're calling it the Forever Stamp.

AMERICAN MORNING'S Bob Franken in Washington this morning with word on that.

Hello, Bob.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, it's a good thing, Miles. You perhaps did not realize this, but back in 1885, the cost of first class postage was two cents. Well, it's a lot harder to get your two cents' worth these days. They keep on raising the price, and they're about to raise the price again.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FRANKEN (voice over): Get ready. The post office is on the way to another increase in the cost of the stamp. So make sure that you don't get rid of those two-centers quite yet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sometimes folks will say they don't have them in stock. I mean, we're stuck with a whole bunch of stamps that are just collecting dust in your drawer.

FRANKEN: It was just a year ago January that the price went up to 39 cents. Now, if all goes as planned, it could go up again to 41 cents by about May. But there's' new gimmick -- a forever stamp.

DAN Blair, CHAIRMAN, POSTAL REGULATORY COMMISSION: It will be good forever. It will be good despite subsequent rate increases, and that way you won't have to stand in line, you won't have to buy those makeup stamps. And it will be good for the postal business and it will be good for postal customers. FRANKEN: It will cost that same 41 cents. The whole idea is to break even.

So why sell stamps that would cost less after the next rate increase -- and there certainly will be one. Because the postal service can keep that up-front money for a while. As for the consumer, paying now, buys peace of mind later.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have a bunch of mystery stamps that don't have a value on them, and I have no idea how much they're worth. So a forever one would be great.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it would be great if I could get a ton of them.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FRANKEN: That's probably a good idea, because we all know, Miles, that this next postal increase will be followed by still another one, because we all know that when it comes to stamps, it's hard to make the price stick.

M. O'BRIEN: Oh, god, you go for the low-hanging...

(CROSSTALK)

FRANKEN: You knew I was going to say that, didn't you?

M. O'BRIEN: No, it's OK. Because if you didn't, I would have had to.

But I guess -- here's the thing. We should all get in the stamp futures business, because it's a lock on certainty it will go up. So why don't we buy, you know, as many stamps as we can, put them in a warehouse and sell them later?

FRANKEN: You know, why didn't I think of that?

M. O'BRIEN: Talk to you later. Thank you.

FRANKEN: Bye.

M. O'BRIEN: You can stick with us any time, Bob -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: That's a big warehouse you're thinking about.

M. O'BRIEN: That's a big warehouse, yes.

S. O'BRIEN: Forty-five minutes past the hour. Let's get right to Rob Marciano. He's in for Chad this morning, and he's watching this big storm on the West Coast.

(WEATHER REPORT)

S. O'BRIEN: There's hope this morning that DNA evidence could help save elephants from poachers using DNA samples from black market ivory. A scientist at the University of Washington has found poaching hot spots. Apparently, most of the killing happens in a small pocket of Southern Africa. Probably in Zambia.

Now, experts hope the news is going to help authorities hone in and catch these poachers more easily.

M. O'BRIEN: Coming up on our program, the former mayor of New York, Rudy Giuliani, explains what he has in common with Ronald Reagan. We'll tell you about that.

Plus, it makes your breath stink, but does it make your heart beat any better? The jury is in. And you might want to save money on those garlic pills.

We'll explain ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

M. O'BRIEN: Welcome back to the most news in the morning. Get you caught up on the presidential campaign trail.

A long-time Republican senator, a leading member of that chamber, is endorsing John McCain for the party's presidential nomination in 2008. John Warner of Virginia says McCain's military leadership and leadership are essential qualities for our next president. McCain is expected to formally announce his candidacy next month.

Not sure why we're seeing an empty podium there. I apologize for that.

Rudy Giuliani is addressing his political conversion. Giuliani was once a Democrat, then he became an Independent. Of course now he's a Republican.

He quoted Winston Churchill, who said, "If you're not a liberal when you're 20 you don't have a heart, but if you're not a conservative at 40 you don't have a brain." Giuliani says Republicans understand the economy better.

Mitt Romney hopes it's not some sort of political omen. The former Massachusetts governor saying in an online interview he prepared for a major campaign fund-raiser last month with a real run, competing against family members at a local track. But here's the kicker -- Romney finished last.

The two Democratic front-runners, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, both signing on to speak at Sunday's commemoration of the 1965 Selma, Montgomery, voting rights march. Democratic leaders in Alabama say it's the first time they can remember two leading presidential candidates attending the annual bridge-crossing jubilee.

And, of course, all the day's political news is available to you any time you need it. It's the CNN Political Ticker at cnn.com/ticker -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: With the number of people in the race, I'm surprised there's only two. I'm surprised it wasn't like eight.

M. O'BRIEN: Well, and historically, yes, you would think that would happen. Anyway...

S. O'BRIEN: Let's get to some health news now.

Regular strenuous exercise, it turns out, may cut the risk of some breast cancers in women. That's according to a new study in the Archives of Internal Medicine. The study says that running and swimming and aerobics can reduce the chances of early and invasive stage breast cancer.

Debunking a medical myth this morning. All that bad breath possibly for nothing. There's a new study out that says eating garlic does not lower bad cholesterol. This, despite widespread claims to the contrary. Researchers at Stanford claims that it just doesn't work, that only a complete healthy diet can help fight cholesterol.

Wisdom over youth when it comes to airline pilots, apparently. That's the report from the American Academy of Neurology.

Older pilots show less of a decline in their aviation skills over time than their younger peers. This comes as the FAA is considering raising the mandatory retirement age for pilots from 60 to 65.

And how is this for a simple solution? Stopping the spread of disease in a hospital could be just as easy as opening a window. That's coming from an international team of researchers. It sounds like a lot of mothers on that research team. A low-tech cure could stop the spread of airborne infections like tuberculosis -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: A massive recall affecting 800,000 cars. What's the danger? We'll have specifics for you.

Ali Velshi "Minding Your Business" next.

Also, we've given them billions, but where has it gone? Coming up, putting pressure on Pakistan to put their military where our money is.

And they're united against the war, but they are divided against one another, perhaps. Democrats in disarray, ahead.

You're watching AMERICAN MORNING. The most news in the morning right here.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

M. O'BRIEN: Toyota Is finding Tupelo is sweet. A honey of a place to build a big plant.

A little before the hour. Ali Velshi "Minding Your Business."

Hello, Ali.

VELSHI: Good morning, Miles.

We're expecting this announcement today from Toyota that Tupelo will be the site of its eighth assembly plant in North America. They're expecting to build about 150,000 vehicles a year. These will be the Toyota Highlander crossover vehicles, and they're expecting to start that in 2010.

The interesting thing here is that this announcement was supposed to be that they would start in 2009, and do about 200,000 vehicles a year. So I'm wondering whether Toyota knows something that we don't know about the North American auto market.

Now, Volkswagen has got something to be worried about. They've announced a recall of 790,000 vehicles in North America. They go from 1998 to 2007, across seven lines and configurations.

It's about the brake light, which could remain on and get stuck while it's on or fail to work. Last year, Volkswagen recalled about 360,000 vehicles for the same reason. Information will be going out to people who own those cars, but if you have one, you can take it to the dealer right now and get it replaced.

We'll keep you posted on that Toyota update and when that announcement is made -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: All right. Thank you very much, Ali. Appreciate that.

(NEWSBREAK)

(WEATHER REPORT)

S. O'BRIEN: A developing story this morning. A deadly suicide bomb blast near Vice President Dick Cheney in Afghanistan this morning.

M. O'BRIEN: Plan of attack. Senator Democrats try again today to upend the president's war plan.

S. O'BRIEN: And an inconvenience truth. Al Gore is firing back today as critics question his 10,000-square-foot home and his giant energy bills.

We're live this morning from Washington, D.C., from London, and from New York on this AMERICAN MORNING.

Good morning. Welcome, everybody, Tuesday, February 27th.

I'm Soledad O'Brien.

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

Thanks for being with us.

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