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U.N. Chief In Iraq; Mrs. Edwards' Health; Senate To Authorize Subpoenas; bartender Beating; Fleing Zimbabwe

Aired March 21, 2007 - 10:00   ET


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Announcement from Democratic Presidential Candidate John Edwards. It concerns the health of his wife, Elizabeth, who was diagnosed with breath cancer in 2004.
HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: A telling moment in Baghdad. An explosion gives the new U.N. secretary-general a jolt. But the Iraqi prime minister, standing right next to him, never really flinches.

HARRIS: A brutal beating in Chicago. A bartender attacked on camera. An off-duty police officer accused.

It is Thursday, March 22nd. You are in the NEWSROOM.

COLLINS: A big blast of reality in Baghdad for the new U.N. chief. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon visibly startled by an explosion that rattled the green zone. Live now to CNN's Kyra Phillips in the Iraqi capital.

Not surprising. I think that would shake anybody, Kyra.

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we felt it actually in our newsroom. We felt the walls shake, the windows shake. Immediately responded to try to figure out what it was. We're not far from the green zone. Take a look at the video right now.

And you can actually see Ban Ki-Moon, the new secretary-general, he's startled, Heidi. He isn't quite sure what to do. He doesn't know if he should hit the deck or if he should leave the room.

But what's interesting is the contrast. You can see the prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki. In arabic he saying, "makushi makushi (ph)." And we didn't know if he was talking to the secretary-general or his guards. He was actually saying to his guards, it's OK. I'm fine. I'm fine. Just stay here.

He didn't want to leave. And so he tried to sort of bring a sense of calm to the press conference there as Ban Ki-Moon was talking about reconstruction in Iraq. Quite a reality check for his first trip in country.

COLLINS: And, Kyra, quickly, did they finish the press conference? We saw Ban Ki-Moon put his notes in his pocket. Seemed to be clearing the stage, if you will. But when Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said everything's OK, everything's OK, did they finish?

PHILLIPS: They actually wrapped it up at that point. You're not quite sure when something like this happens if it could happen again. You know, mortars are pretty much a lucky shot. They look for a certain target. They launch them. Obviously these landed just outside the convention center where they were holding this press conference. But they needed to shuffle, they needed to get things in order to move the secretary-general to a safer location just in case.

And keep in mind, Heidi, this is typical Baghdad. This is typical Iraq. Every day there are these type of mortar attacks. And they happen at the green zone quite a bit.

COLLINS: Certainly evidence of that when Nuri al-Maliki really never even moved. All right. CNN's Kyra Phillips in Baghdad for us.

Kyra, thank you.

And three more U.S. troops killed in combat in Iraq. The military says a soldier and Marine died in the volatile Anbar province. And another was killed in a small arms attack on his army patrol in Baghdad.

HARRIS: Health matters and presidential politics. Candidate John Edwards and his wife, Elizabeth, will hold a news conference about two hours from now. Sources say they will discuss possible developments with her health and her battle against breast cancer. Senior political analyst Bill Schneider joins us now from Washington.

Bill, what do we know as of now and what do we expect to hear from this press conference?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we don't have any real information. There are sources close to the campaign who have told us that Mr. Edwards is not going before the press to say that everything is OK. But on the other hand, sources say don't assume the worst regarding the impact of the press conference today. So we simply don't know. We'll have to wait until noon when he goes before the press.

We do know that his wife had an examination with her doctors on Monday. Her doctor called her to come back on Tuesday and she -- her husband suspended his campaign and went back to North Carolina to be with his wife yesterday. And they're having this news conference today. So we simply don't know what's going to happen at this news conference.

HARRIS: Are the politics are (ph) the politics, but this is clearly a very personal, family matter for John Edwards. But as for his campaign, he has a couple of options, clearly. He could certainly, depending on the serious nature of this, he could bow out. But he could also suspend his campaign for a while, couldn't he?

SCHNEIDER: He could do that. It's very early, remember, and everything feels like it's a month before the election because there's so many things going on. Here's the latest poll that we have showing Edwards in fourth place. This poll includes Al Gore who, of course, has not said that he's running for president. But Edwards is usually counted as among the top three. Along with Senator Hillary Clinton, Senator Barack Obama and the former vice presidential nominee, John Edwards. And he has been the third candidate, if you don't include Al Gore, in that race for some time.

So he's an important factor in this race. He has very strong ties to a lot of labor unions and he has been pitching a lot of his campaign to the left more so than he did in 2004 when he was John Kerry's running mate. He's got a very ambitious healthcare plan and energy plan and is very outspoken in his criticism of the Iraq War, calling for American troops to begin withdrawal right away.

HARRIS: Well, we know you'll be watching this press conference at noon eastern time this afternoon. We'll be watching as well. Our senior political analyst Bill Schneider with us this morning.

Bill, thanks.

COLLINS: White House subpoenas, a showdown may be inching closer to the Supreme Court. This hour, round two gets underway. The Senate Judiciary Committee expected to authorize subpoenas for top aides in the administration. At issue, the firing of federal prosecutors. At stake, the power of the White House versus Congress and neither Democrats nor the White House ready to compromise. CNN congressional correspondent Dana Bash is on Capitol Hill now.

And, Dana, now that the White House has thrown down the gauntlet, what will this committee do exactly?

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Throw the gauntlet down right back, essentially. What you're seeing is -- there's the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Patrick Leahy, calling this meeting to order. What we expect is the same thing that happened in the House yesterday. We expect that man right there to get the authority to issue subpoenas to Karl Rove and other top White House officials to use at his discretion.

Now, in the past couple of days, the chairman of both of the Judiciary Committees in the House and the Senate there, have said they're not going to use these subpoenas right away, but they say that they need it because they just say that what the White House is offering is not acceptable. Listen to the way Senator Leahy described what the White House is saying about this earlier on "American Morning."


SEN. PATRICK LEAHY, (D) JUDICIARY CHAIRMAN: The one way you can have everything, let's be honest about it, not in a closed-door meeting where people aren't under oath, where there's no transcript of -- the few people that are in there come out saying, well I remember it this way, and somebody else saying, no, I remember it this way. Why not do it the way I suggested it. Have the people come in before our committee, under oath, in public and you would both Republicans and Democrats asking the questions.


BASH: Now there you heard Senator Leahy explaining why having just a private meeting with Karl Rove and others without a transcript, without anything under oath, not in public is not acceptable. There you see the ranking Republican of the Judiciary Committee. He is somebody who is trying to walk a middle ground here saying, you know, maybe a way to do this is to say, you know, we could have transcripts, for example. He's likely talking about that as we speak. We do expect this vote to authorize the chairman to issue these subpoenas, Heidi, momentarily.

COLLINS: And, Dana, you know, just a few moments ago we were speaking with Senator Dianne Feinstein, who is on that committee. And we had the opportunity to ask her, hey, is it important to have these transcripts and the oath because you are afraid that these White House representatives or Republicans would actually go into Congress and lie? And she said, yes.

BASH: Yes. And that's very interesting and telling, I think, about where this might be heading, Heidi. That was a really good question to her because, you know, while you have all of these public pronouncements and, you know, definitive, we're not going to budge on having public testimony from the White House. We don't need transcripts from the White House. And on the other hand the Democrats saying, you need it. You know, they understand that the political realities might outweigh the legal realities. The legal realities are that this could get caught in court for years.


COLLINS: All right, Dana, thanks so much for that.

We want to go straight to Arlen Specter there, you see in the Senate Judiciary Committee, talking about these subpoenas and the authorization -- possible authorization of them. Let's listen for a moment.

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER, (R) PENNSYLVANIA: Whether that was done properly or improperly. And the only way we're going to be able to make the determination of that is to take a look at the facts and the specific cases.

The situation with U.S. Attorney Lam in San Diego is illustrative (ph). If she was asked to resign because she was hot on the trail of people who were involved in corruption or connected with former Congressman Duke Cunningham, who's now serving an eight-year jail sentence, then that's improper. But to make that determination, we're going to have to know the facts.

There were issued raised as to whether she was pursuing the priorities of the administration. And if the president wants a priority on immigration enforcement matters, that's his call. And if that's the reason she was asked to resign, then nothing was done which was improper.

Similarly, in the celebrated case of U.S. Attorney Iglesias from New Mexico. If he was asked to resign because he appropriately declined to move on a vote fraud prosecution, then that's wrong. On the other hand, if Mr. Iglesias was asked to resign because he was not doing his job, then that's proper.

And Karl Rove was mentioned as a transmitter of information from people in New Mexico who thought he was not doing his job to the White House. Now, if Mr. Rove did that, it's entirely proper for him to do that.

So that -- and we have factual situations beyond that in every one of the cases, which I will not go into. But find that out, we're going to have to get deeply into the facts. We have had a proposal by the president and I would like to see us move, as I've talked to you, Mr. Chairman, on a number of occasions, to see if we can't make a counter proposal which will be acceptable.

Frankly, it looks difficult, with Tony Snow quoted in this morning's paper as saying that the offer is off the table since it hasn't been accepted. Can we talk afterwards? OK. I'll talk afterwards.

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY, (D) JUDICIARY CHAIRMAN: Those in favor of the authorizing the subpoenas . . .

SEN. JON KYL, (R) ARIZONA: Mr. Chairman.

LEAHY: Senator Kyl.

KYL: Before we vote, I think it's appropriate to have a debate. And I would ask, as a member of this committee, to be able to speak, hopefully to persuade some of my colleagues . . .

LEAHY: Go ahead and speak. You're recognized. Anybody can be recognized. The senator has been here long enough to know the rules.

KYL: I thought so.

LEAHY: If you'd like to speak, feel free. And if you would like a roll call, feel free to ask for one.

SPECTER: Well, may I ask my colleague from Arizona to yield to me so I can finish my statement if we're going to talk (INAUDIBLE)?

KYL: Be happy to do that. Absolutely.

SPECTER: They're going to have a roll?

LEAHY: (INAUDIBLE) you're done.

SPECTER: I was on the point of making a suggestion that we . . .

COLLINS: All right. We are listening into the Senate Judiciary Committee expected to authorize a similar batch of subpoenas that were authorized in the House committee yesterday regarding the dismissal of eight U.S. attorneys. This is Arlen Specter speaking now. Was trying to kick it back over to the chairman and then they said, you know what, maybe we should debate this first. So he went back to his statements. And that is what's happening. We're going to monitor this for you, of course, and give you any news should it come out of this meeting.

HARRIS: And still to come in the NEWSROOM this morning, cutting their way to freedom from a country in crisis. Desperate to feed their families. Extreme measures in the NEWSROOM.

COLLINS: You may get a tattoo for style, but in Iraq, it's a body art for a far more gruesome reason. Signs of the times ahead in the NEWSROOM.

KEITH OPPENHEIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're getting more details today about a Chicago police officer charged with beating a female bartender half his size. I'm Keith Oppenheim in Chicago. That's coming up.

HARRIS: A South Carolina mother should lose custody of her obese son. The state says he has got to lose weight. That's ahead in the "NEWSROOM.


HARRIS: And good morning again, everyone. You're in the NEWSROOM. I'm Tony Harris.

Coming up, wounded in war, now battling to find the best care.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you telling me that my 26-year-old husband is going into a nursing home? I can't do it. And that's not the reality of it and I'm not going to accept it.


HARRIS: So does that mean leaving the VA? Aa closer look in the NEWSROOM.

COLLINS: And I'm Heidi Collins.

An off-duty police officer accused of attacking a female bartender. See the video. It's pretty unbelievable, right here in the NEWSROOM.


COLLINS: And we do have a little bit of an interesting situation here. This is Miami Beach that you're looking at. That, a tug boat. We believe from the Coast Guard. Apparently they have been dispatched after a 180-foot boat named "Miss Rutha," (ph) you'll see in the shot here in just a minute, broke loose from its anchor and started drifting towards the beach.

Police are now on the beach monitoring this situation. The boat has not run aground. Hopefully we'll pull out here in just a moment so that you can see what we're talking about. But there were some questions as to whether or not there were people on board before. But during the break we were able to take a look at that shot. I saw two people on board. Not sure if they are with the Coast Guard and they've somehow gotten on the boat, which would be unlikely. I mean you can see the wake and how fast the "Miss Rutha" there in the back is moving.

But there are definitely two people at least on board that I saw. So we are really not sure of what type of situation this may be. But apparently, once again, that larger boat on the back broke loose from its anchor and started drifting away towards the beach. So now it's fastened to the tug boat in front and I believe they will be bringing it ashore.

HARRIS: This is the outrage story of the day. A bartender attacked by a customer. The brutal beating caught on tape. But the real shock came later. CNN's Keith Oppenheim reports.


KEITH OPPENHEIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT, (voice over): The regulars gathered at this neighborhood bar in Chicago while a security camera recorded tape. In this surveillance video, notice the man in the upper right corner of your screen. The bartender, Karolina, didn't know it at the time, but that customer was an off-duty Chicago police officer. Karolina would give her first name only, but agreed to review the tape with me.

KAROLINA: BEATING VICTIM: I think I've been telling him that I'm not going to serve him anymore.

OPPENHEIM: Because you're concerned that he's getting wasted?

KAROLINA: Yes. Exactly.

OPPENHEIM: He has since been identified as Officer Anthony Abbate. At one point, Abbate surprises Karolina and comes around to her side of the bar. But when Abbate bumps into the bar, he explodes. He punches her repeatedly. Keep in mind, according to prosecutors, Abbate is 6'1" and 250 pounds. Karolina says she's 5'4" and 130 pounds. As frightened bystanders keep a distance, Officers Abbate walks away. Karolina gets up, despite multiple hits to her head, back and ribs.

DAVID NAVARRO, ASST. COOK COUNTY STATES ATTORNEY: It is one of the most brutal and savage attacks that I've ever seen caught on tape.

OPPENHEIM: Prosecutors have charged Officer Abbate with aggravated assault, a felony. Abbate's attorneys did not return CNN's calls.

Karolina, what is your reaction that the person who beat you is a police officer?

KAROLINA: Actually, I couldn't believe. I was like, police are to serve and protect, not to beat up people. OPPENHEIM: Chicago police released a statement about Officer Abbate which said, "a recommendation for termination is expected pending the completion of the internal investigation." Karolina says she's left with bad headaches, and as you might imagine, bad memories from what happened in this bar.


HARRIS: Keith Oppenheim joins us now.

Keith, I understand it took almost a month before the officer was arrested. Why did it take so long?

OPPENHEIM: Well, Chicago police called me this morning to clarify why that took place. They said they first learned about this two days after the incident happened in February and then two days after that the state's attorney's office filed simple battery charges against Officer Abbate. Then Chicago police tried to arrest this police officer and they can't find him. It turns out he had checked into rehab and, by law, they can't pull him out of rehab. So it was not until March 14th, a little more than a week ago, that he turns himself in. And then, because of the tape, the state's attorney's office takes another look at it and ups the charges from a misdemeanor to a felony assault.

HARRIS: I was about to ask you about his status and now we know. Keith, you were reporting yesterday that authorities are investigating whether after the attack there were threats made against the bartender.

OPPENHEIM: Exactly. That's something that's still under investigation, mainly by the state's attorney's office now. What they're really trying to find out is whether or not somebody went into the bar after the attack and offered money to Karolina, as well as the bar owner, and basically told them not to pursue this case. So if that is proven to be correct, there could also be charges of intimidation and obstruction of justice in this case.

HARRIS: Keith Oppenheim for us from Chicago.

Keith, thank you.

COLLINS: A country in crisis. Desperate people on the run. Thousands have fled Zimbabwe seeking refuge in South Africa. They say it's a matter of survival for them. And, in many cases, their families who have been left behind. CNN's African correspondent Jeff Koinange reports from South Africa.


JEFF KOINANGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT, (voice over): Meet 30-year-old Nkululeo. His name means freedom in Napili (ph), one of Zimbabwe's dominant ethnic groups. Freedom, though, is probably the last thing on his mind.

NKULULEO, ZIMBABWEAN EXILE: No freedom. No freedom. There is no freedom here.

KOINANGE: These days life is a lesson in survival for Zimbabwe exiles like Nkululeo. Illegal immigrants forced to flee their country due to what they call the repressive regime of this man, Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe. Now they are forced to earn a living in neighboring South Africa.

MOELETSI MBEKI, POLITICAL ANALYST: What South Africa does is, we suck in a lot of illegal immigrants from Zimbabwe. They work in South Africa by whatever means. They send South African currency to Zimbabwe to support their relatives. And South African companies send goods to Zimbabwe for these relatives to buy. So that is what is keeping Zimbabwe alive.

KOINANGE: Today is shopping day. He picks up sugar, cooking oil, flour, baked beans, washing soap, item no longer available in Zimbabwe. And when they do become available, cost four times what he's paying in South Africa.

NKULULEO: Well, they are suffering. They are suffering too much. That's why you see, it's like maybe half of Zimbabweans, they are here now.

KOINANGE: Nkululeo is but one of thousands of exiled Zimbabweans sending boxes and bags of food daily to their starving families. And those not sending food send just about everything else -- computers, wheelbarrows, bathtubs, everything, including the kitchen sink. Zimbabweans say this is what Robert Mugabe has forced them to become. From what was once the breadbasket of southern Africa, to what experts call an African basket case.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know what to do except to do this, buying things and sending them home every now and than. Besides that they're not eating anything. What can we do?


COLLINS: And Jeff Koinange joining us now live.

Jeff, are we saying this could be the beginning of the end of Robert Mugabe?

KOINANGE: You know, Heidi, we've spoken to a lot of experts. And one analyst put it best when he said, do not rule out Robert Mugabe. He's been in power for 27 years. He's 83 years old. He's completely coward the opposition into submission. But this time he seems cornered. The same analyst said Robert Mugabe comes out swinging when he's cornered.

COLLINS: Well, what's the reaction, though, to all of this from other regional leaders? Do they have a say? Are they able to make their opinions known?

KOINANGE: It's been very luke warm for the most part, especially South Africa. The government here likes to conduct what it calls a quiet diplomacy, working behind the scenes. That's obviously not working. There's been one reaction. It actually happened in the last 24 hours from Zambia, no less, and the president there compared Zimbabwe to the Titanic. He said the ship is sinking, people are dying to get off this ship. And that's what's happening here at the border between South Africa and Zimbabwe, tens of thousands of Zimbabweans streaming across the border into South Africa.


COLLINS: All right, Jeff Koinange for us.

Jeff, thank you.

HARRIS: The new U.N. chief ducks. He ducks when that loud explosion rocked Baghdad during his visit. You're in the NEWSROOM.

GERRI WILLIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Gerri Willis in Washington covering the sub-prime mortgage meltdown hearings. I'll tell you what it means for you next in the NEWSROOM.


COLLINS: Something that we have been following today and monitoring for you, the Senate Judiciary Committee trying to figure out if they are going to authorize a batch of subpoenas that the House panel authorized yesterday for top White House and Justice Department aides. That would include Karl Rove, Harriet Miers, over the firings of those U.S. attorneys.

This now is an exchange we found interesting between Ranking Member Arlen Specter and Chairman Patrick Leahy. Let's listen for just a moment.


SPECTER: If we don't like what we get, we can always issue a subpoena and move with a subpoena if we don't like what we get.

LEAHY: That's not . . .

SPECTER: But why not take what we can get in the interest of (INAUDIBLE).

LEAHY: No. No, what -- no, what -- no, what we're told we can get is nothing, nothing, nothing. We're told that we can have a closed-door meeting with no transcript, not under oath, limited number of people and the White House will determine what the agenda is. That, to me, is nothing.

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: We will continue to follow the process that is going on here in the Senate Judiciary Committee. You see a live shot there now. Bring you any more information as it develops.

TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: Health concerns for a presidential candidate and his wife, John and Elizabeth Edwards are holding a news conference in just about an hour and a half from now. Sources say they'll discuss possible developments with her health. Elizabeth Edwards underwent treatment for breast cancer, you'll recall in 2004. Sources say she had a routine follow-up appointment on Monday and was asked to come in again yesterday. Edwards cut his campaign trip short to be with her. No word yet on exactly what the announcement will be or how it might impact his presidential campaign. And once again, you will see that news conference with John and Elizabeth Edwards live in the NEWSROOM. That's coming up at noon Eastern from Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

COLLINS: I want to take a second to look at the big board here. It's kind of interesting, down about 18 points for the Dow Jones Industrial Average resting at 12,429. Yesterday, though, if you remember, I'm sure a lot of people do, the Dow ended up 159 points. So you know, it's kind of an up and down roller coaster as always. We're going to continue to watch the numbers as always.

HARRIS: Sub-prime mortgages, their loans specifically designed for people with weaker credit, but they come with a price and it may be shared by all of us. CNN personal finance editor Gerri Willis is in Washington today. Wow, she is covering a Senate hearing on an emerging crisis in the lending industry. What are we expecting to hear? Who are some of the participants on hand Gerri? Big deal, you're there.

GERRI WILLIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning Tony, good to see you. Well, we've got about five sub-prime lenders. We've got regulators. We've got consumer advocates and a couple of victims who are going to testify at this hearing. There could be some big fireworks. Senator Chris Dodd, the fellow who called this hearing said he's going to hold regulators' feet to the fire, ask them what did they know and when did they know it.

HARRIS: OK, so Gerri, let's offer up some advice to folks who are watching this happen really unfold before their eyes. If you are a homeowner right now, as this sub-prime story unfolds, what should you be think something?

WILLIS: Well, if you're a homeowner, look, and you've got that 30-year fixed rate mortgage and you feel like, hey, nothing is going to hurt me. I'm sitting pretty in this whole mess. Guess what, you could still get hurt. The problem is is that people are filing foreclosure everywhere. They're defaulting on their mortgages. They're losing their homes. When that happens in your neighborhood, it hurts your home prices. As a matter of fact, just one foreclosure in your neighborhood can send all home prices down 1 percent. You know if you've got yet another house that goes into foreclosure, that means 2 percent. You can see there are effects for everybody.

HARRIS: What if you are in the market right now for a home, what should you be thinking about?

WILLIS: Well, you're sitting pretty because prices are coming down. As a matter of fact, forecast out there, price will be down 3 to 5 percent this year alone. So lots of problems out there on the other side of the equation which I know you want to ask me about, is if you are a seller, what the holy heck do you do? Prices are going down. We've got fewer buyers in the market. You're really going to have to work to make your house look really attractive in the market place, really put its best foot forward. You may well have to cut your price. I think there's going to be a lot of price adjustments coming this year as people get their arms around the fact that there are fewer buyers in the market.

HARRIS: So if you're in the market for a home, prices are coming down. That's a great thing. But you also need to be aware and be careful and do some shopping for your mortgage product.

WILLIS: Exactly. You know, you need to do your due diligence. Get three lenders to give you estimates. Work with as many as possible. Tony, I just want to say here, if you are in one of these mortgages right now. Maybe it's keeping you up nights. Maybe you're getting an ulcer because you're so worried that your mortgage and its adjustable resets are going to hurt you. You need to refinance. It's time to get a new loan. Interest rates are just a little above 6 percent. That is about a percentage point off of the all-time lows. Rates are not bad here if you can re-fi you may want to think about it. Let me tell you, some of these adjustable rate mortgages that are so called self primed (ph), there are no limits to where they're going. Their rates can reset higher, higher, higher, on and on and on. Some people are on the hook for some real pain here.

HARRIS: OK. We talked a bit about the Senate hearing today and what the senators will be focusing on. What should homeowners do if they're in a bad mortgage?

WILLIS: Like I was saying, if you're in a bad mortgage you definitely want to think about getting a new one. Look, refinancing is not free. I've got the tell you, Tony, it's going to cost you a ton of dough. At the end of the day wouldn't it be better to pay more money right now, get a new loan and stop staying up all night worrying about where you're mortgage rate is going to reset. Remember, too, those fees are high on those sub-prime mortgages. There's lots of trouble to avoid if you're out there in the marketplace right now.

HARRIS: Gerri Willis with us. And Gerri, maybe we'll get you back to New York tomorrow and we'll talk about some viewer e-mails.

WILLIS: I'll be here tomorrow but I'll still talk to you.

HARRIS: All right, Gerri. Have a great day.

WILLIS: You, too.

COLLINS: Tattoos, a western trend or marks of death? I'm Kyra Phillips live in Baghdad. I'll explain, coming right up.


COLLINS: A blast of reality for the new UN chief. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon (ph) ducks behind a podium. He is unhurt but visibly shaken by a mortar blast that hit the heavily-fortified green zone in Baghdad. It rocked the room where Moon and Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki were holding a televised news conference. Al Maliki didn't appear phased by the blast. This is the UN chief's first visit to Iraq since taking office in January.

HARRIS: Under Saddam Hussein, tattoos were forbidden. But now more and more Iraqis are getting them. Sometimes it is much more than a fashion statement. CNN's Kyra Phillips explains.


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Under Saddam Hussein, Husam (ph) could have been killed for this. It was considered too American and in conservative Islam, Husam, a desecration of God's creation. Iraqis were scared to have tattoos, he tells me. Now they have freedom and feel free to get tattoos. They're more open to western culture. Husam still operates underground and it's worth it. Business is booming. This body guard turned tattoo artist makes $25 to $150 per tattoo. I love this career, he tells me, because my art lasts forever.

Hussein, are you nervous? A little bit? Twenty year-old Hussein is getting his first tattoo, a "D" right over his heart. "D" is for Doha, his girlfriend. Does Doha know you're doing this?

He explains after we get married, I'll show her what I did for her. What if you don't marry Doha? Oh, I will, it's our destiny. Hussein's act of love is heartwarming, but it also has an extremely disturbing purpose. As the car bombs and kidnappings continue to haunt Iraqis, so do the number of unidentified dead bodies. Tattoos are also a form of ID. My friend was killed in an explosion. His face charred by the fire, Hussein tells me. The only way his family could recognize him was by his tattoo.

God forbid anything happens to you, but is this another way for your family to identify you if something were to go wrong? Yes, of course. I'll show to it my family so they'll know I have a mark on my body in case something bad happens to me. From bombs to body art, these Iraqis flip through all of Husam's tattoo designs. A butterfly, a snake, or a lover's initial. It's a small guilty pleasure for a country struggling to figure out its new found freedoms.


HARRIS: Boy, that's something, Kyra, another mark of identification for the family. But I'm wondering, any type of historical significance to these tattoos?

PHILLIPS: Yeah, it's pretty interesting. This is obviously a western tradition, these type of tattoos and how they do them, Tony. But as I've met and mingled with a lot of the older women, we have some video to show you. It's very much a sign of tribal pride. You'll see the women have dots on their faces, lines on their faces. They believe that these tattoos have therapeutic healings. They have magical powers. The men usually get them on their hands, on their wrists. It's supposed to be a sign of protection, also showing tribal pride. Here's what's interesting, too. Saddam Hussein actually had a tattoo on his hand close to his wrist, three blue dots that represented what he believed his humble origin. So it's interesting to see how this is something that used to be common here for cultural reasons and now it's turned into sort of a western phenomenon. But also the very sad reality, too, they're getting these as ways to identify their body if they turn up in a morgue.

HARRIS: Kyra, you are really finding some interesting stories on your trip there to Iraq. We appreciate it. Thank you.

PHILLIPS: Thanks, Tony.

COLLINS: I want to go ahead and check in now with Rob Marciano. He'll look at the weather picture for the country. Hey there Rob.

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Hi Heidi. The center part of the country is going to be the one that's under the gun this morning or this afternoon, as we go through time. Along this front is where we're seeing most of the action. St. Louis has seen some showers and thunderstorms. A tornado watch is shrinking and about to expire into this area south of St. Louis. We're seeing a line of thunderstorms down that way. Heading up northeast towards Evansville and just south of Indianapolis, Cincinnati, up towards Columbus, Ohio, this line of thunderstorms not really strengthening. It may be weakens just a hair. And then up through Detroit as well, we're looking at showers and storms that look like they are just moving across the Detroit River in through Canada.

We have a life picture of our affiliate out that way in Detroit. There is is for you, WDIV. That shot is from the east over in Windsor, Canada looking over the Detroit River towards the skyline of Detroit. Still cloudy, but you can see in the western horizon those clouds are beginning to brighten up just a little bit.

All right, back to the weather map we go. Talk about the rising temperatures from Dallas through Memphis up through Detroit and in through New York City where temperatures yesterday were held in the 40s. You'll skyrocket today into the lower 60s where it will feel a little bit more like spring, that's for sure. The weather map for tomorrow, we're watching an area of low pressure that will be slowly pulling out of the four corners in the southwest and in through Texas and Oklahoma. This will stick around probably for two or three days. It will pop severe thunderstorms at times and probably the bigger cause of concern accumulating will be the threat for seeing some flooding.

But the flip side of that as there always is in weather, is that Oklahoma and north Texas really is pretty dry. So any sort of rain they get will be beneficial unless it all comes at one time. 54 degrees tomorrow in Detroit, 59 degrees in New York City, 70 degrees in DC and 64, a good chance of rain in Albuquerque tomorrow. Heidi, back over to you.

COLLINS: All right Rob. Thank you.

SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Susan Lisovicz at the New York Stock Exchange. When NEWSROOM returns, we'll tell you about a coffee maker's grande expansion plan. Details next. You're watching CNN, the most trusted name in news.


HARRIS: Not changing your oil every 3,000 or even 5,000 miles? Yeah, I know what you mean. No worries if you're sporting a 2007 model. Ford is the latest car company to extend its oil change guidelines. Ford says its 2007 models need oil changes every 7500 miles. Well, that's up from a previous 5,000-mile recommendation. The company says higher oil quality and new engine designs are behind the change.

COLLINS: It may seem like there's a Starbucks on every corner but get ready, now there may be two. Susan Lisovicz is at the New York Stock Exchange with details. Hi Susan. I won't put my personal preferences out there or anything.

LISOVICZ: But some of us need something to start the day, right? For those of us who come in early, Heidi. Well, Starbucks is planning to open another 10,000 stores, bringing the coffee house total to nearly 25,000 worldwide. It's not just in the U.S. The first Starbucks in Russia and India will open later this year. This will help the coffee giant to achieve a goal of doubling its size within five years. At the company's annual meeting yesterday, Starbucks executives soothed shareholders' concerns about a drop in the company's stock. It's fallen nearly 10 percent so far this year. Starbucks chief says he expects 20 percent sales growth this year. Heidi?

COLLINS: Interesting. I wonder, I think I remember reading something about they were really worried about some of the competition biting into their profits. Other than expanding, how are they going to find success in all of that?

LISOVICZ: And of course, when you expand that much you can cannibalize from yourself. We've seen that with lots of retailers. One of the ways that the company is doing it is a big name on its side. Sir Paul McCartney, his soon to be ex-wife has gotten all the headlines the earlier part of the week for "Dancing with the Stars." Now the former Beatle, he's in the news. He's signed on to be the first artist on Starbucks new record label. Hear music. McCartney's new album available in Starbucks stores this June. The move the latest attempt by the company to ease its dependence on coffee by growing its entertainment business. Shares of Starbucks are down 1 percent.

The major averages are lower, but it has been an entertaining week here. No question about it. We had a great three-day run. Yesterday's 159 point gain on the Dow was the best rally since last July. The rally fuelled by a wind and a nod from the Fed that many observers say leaves the door open for a rate cut. Today higher oil prices and a profit warning from Motorola and the big board tells the story. The Dow is down. The Nasdaq is off half a percent. That's the latest from Wall Street. Heidi and Tony, back to you.

COLLINS: Here's the big question. Are they going to serve Starbucks backstage at "Dancing with the Stars." I wonder. Thank you, Susan.

LISOVICZ: I'll get back to you on that one.

COLLINS: Great. See you later.

HARRIS: He is only seven years old and he weighs a whopping -- no other way to describe it, whopping 254 pounds. And now his mother has some explaining to do.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I do the best I can to feed him healthy meals and everything. If I'm doing something wrong, somebody come show me.


HARRIS: Ultimatum from the state. The boy loses weight or she loses the boy. That story ahead in the NEWSROOM.


COLLINS: I want to take you straight to this area just south of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. You see some hazmat crews here and looks like a firemen as well, working on that yellow device, which is apparently some construction equipment that could contain a small amount of radioactive material. Apparently the deal is that this device was actually stolen from a truck bed of a construction vehicle on a high school replacement project. Apparently when that gauge is in the yellow plastic case that you see there, it doesn't pose any threat or harm. But if the container is opened, then the person near it or opening that box could actually be subject to some pretty dangerous radioactive exposure. So right now evacuations under way in this area and they are trying to most safely determine what the contents are and what that exact danger could be. Once again, as a precautionary measure, evacuations taking place in an area just south of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, because of this pretty bizarre situation.

HARRIS: Still to come in the NEWSROOM this morning, a Senate committee, live picture there, is expected to follow the House lead and authorize subpoenas today in the case of the fired prosecutors. We will keep you posted here in the NEWSROOM.

COLLINS: An off-duty police officer accused of attacking a female bartender. See the upsetting video, coming up right here in the NEWSROOM.


HARRIS: Good morning, everyone. You're with CNN. You're informed. I'm Tony Harris.

COLLINS: And I'm Heidi Collins. Developments keep coming into the NEWSROOM on Thursday, March 22 here's what's on the rundown.

New concern about the health of Elizabeth Edwards. Her husband, Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards plans an announcement today.


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