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AMERICAN MORNING

Captured Sailors; Iraq Funding Standoff; Minding Your Business; Mystery Nun Revealed; Tears of Joy

Aired March 30, 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: Good morning. New developments. Iran with a reported new videotape of those captured British sailors. The standoff puts a new squeeze on oil prices too.
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Entrenched. Congress and President Bush square off over the war spending bill. Where is there room for compromise?

O'BRIEN: IT's a hack job. Warnings overseas now about one of the largest, personal security breaches ever.

ROBERTS: And a secret revealed. We finally meet the nun with a miracle story that could fast-track Pope John Paul II to sainthood ahead on this AMERICAN MORNING.

O'BRIEN: And good morning, everybody. It's Friday, March 30th. I'm Soledad O'Brien in New York.

Hi, John.

ROBERTS: Hey, good morning to you, Soledad. I'm John Roberts up on Capitol Hill, in for Miles O'Brien today.

Of course, a lot happened on The Hill yesterday. That new spending bill was passed. It's got the deadline for troop withdrawal. And Kyle Sampson, the attorney general's former chief of staff testifying. And instead of falling on his sword, some people said, Soledad, he was swinging it away why that committee meeting.

O'BRIEN: Yes, there's a lot to watch yesterday from where you are. We're going to get to all that in just a moment.

First, though, some very fast-moving developments to tell you about this morning over those British sailors being held by Iran. Iranian TV is just about to release new videotape of what it says is a sailor's confession. Right now the British are considering a note that was sent by the Iranians that could help break the impasse. The United Nation's Security Council expressed "grave concerns," but they are yet to get involved any further at this point. Richard Roth is CNN's U.N. correspondent.

Richard, good morning to you.

There was a debate over the language. The British wanted much stronger language. They didn't get their way at the end. Why not? RICHARD ROTH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, they didn't get it because Russia and others thought it was too strong, too soon to use the word "immediate release of the prisoners," though that would seem obvious to some. Russia told me last night, in fact, the ambassador, that it would be counterproductive, that it would be to labor -- to put the heavy weight of the Security Council on it. The U.S. was exasperated. They said this statement could have been adopted in 30 minutes rather than four hours.

O'BRIEN: Why did it take so long? I mean, why four hours of debate?

ROTH: Well, you know, at the U.N., one word could mean almost a war. And the Security Council does not want to get involved, according to some members, in a two-nation dispute at this point. They say it's to early. They also don't know who's right. They say, we don't have the maps. Those waterways are disputed.

O'BRIEN: Let me ask you a question about what's going to happen here with this letter and this note and the back and forth. It seems like things are ratcheting up. And my sense is that Iran is somehow trying to pull out -- they didn't want the U.N. involved at all.

ROTH: No, they don't. They sent a letter to the United Nations and to Britain saying, it was not helpful to go to a Security Council, to a third party. This is the same council that last Saturday imposed even more sanctions on the Iran government. The U.N. Security Council, in this case, at this point, may not be the way to settle the dispute.

O'BRIEN: We're watching Iranian TV and we're expecting to get some new videotape of some of these sailors. Iranian TV is pitching it as some kind of a confession. As soon as we get that, we're going to bring it to everybody.

Richard Roth, our U.N. correspondent.

Thanks, Richard, as always.

John.

ROBERTS: Thanks, Soledad.

A reality check from Iraq this morning. Proof that insurgents are still a match for the military's efforts to ramp up security. Since Sunday, not even a full week, a reported 449 people have been killed in attacks across Iraq. And 124 of those people died yesterday when suicide bombers attacked Shiite marketplaces in and around Baghdad where they're saying security is getting better.

An Iraq War spending bill may soon land on the president's desk, but he has said he has no intention of signing it. He promises to veto any bill that includes a deadline for troop withdraw.

Amy Walter, senior editor The Cook Political Report, and a CNN political analyst, got up early for us this morning. She joins me now.

Good morning, Amy. Thanks for being with us. Appreciate it.

AMY WALTER, THE COOK POLITICAL REPORT: Good morning, John.

ROBERTS: So who do you think is ultimately going to win this battle? Is President Bush going to be forced to accept a spending bill that includes deadlines or are the Democrats going to have to back off on this idea of deadlines and just fund the troops?

WALTER: Well, isn't that the question that everybody's waiting to get the answer to right now. I mean, obviously, we're in a very different position than we were just a year or so ago when the president really had the upper hand here, both in overall public approval rating, plus the ability to have a Congress that was controlled by his party, and finally, to make Democrats look as if they were pushing the envelop to far and not supporting the troops.

We're in a very different place today and it looks as if Democrats are the ones who at least start with the upper hand. Both the fact that they're that they're with a very weakened president, that polling continuing to show that Americans do like the idea of some sort of troop withdraw deadline and they, obviously, control Congress now. The question is, just how disciplined do Republicans in Congress stay once it continues to go back and forth.

ROBERTS: Well, regardless of whether you've got the upper hand or the lower hand, all of those hands have fingers and those fingers are pointing in a number of different directions. Everybody's trying to make everybody else the bad guy. Let's take a quick listen to just a couple of statements from President Bush and Democratic Representative John Murtha, pointing those fingers back and forth. Take a listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If Congress fails to pass a bill to fund our troops on the front lines, the American people will know who to hold responsible.

REP. JOHN MURTHA, (D) PENNSYLVANIA: I say to President Bush, if he vetoes this bill, he's the one that's cutting off the money to the troops.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: There you go, those fingers pointing in all directions.

WALTER: There you go. Right. One's pointing back to (INAUDIBLE), yes. There's some rule about that.

ROBERTS: Who are the American people going to hold responsible?

WALTER: Well, at this point, the president is the commander and chief. So usually he's the person who is able to ultimately say, look, it's up to me and you should look to me to be the one setting these sorts of deadlines and making military decisions. At the same time, we had, obviously, an election where voters were saying, we're really frustrated with the direction that Iraq is going in, very frustrated with how the war is being handled and they do want to see Congress do something. I mean we're starting to see that bubble of more and more members of Congress hearing from constituents that their job is to do something in order to make some change over there.

ROBERTS: It's certainly the Democrats not backing down at all. You listen to Nancy Pelosi saying, take a breath, Mr. President. You know, we appreciate your power, but you've got to respect us as well.

Hey, listen, come back again in a couple of hours. We'll want to talk to you more about this.

WALTER: Absolutely.

ROBERTS: All right. Thanks. Grab a coffee or something. Wake up.

Soledad.

O'BRIEN: All right. Thank you, John.

We've got this just in to CNN. We want to show it to you right now. It turns out the Iranian TV, Al-Alam, is releasing now what they calling exclusive footage of "a confession." I'll use that words in quotes, "a confession," by one of the British sailors that's been held captive now in Iran for a week.

Remember on Wednesday, they released that videotape of a female sailor, one of 15 who were captured off the water. Iran had said they were in Iranian territory. Great Britain has said, no, in fact, they were in Iraqi territory doing their job. It has now, as you heard moments ago from Richard Roth, gone straight to the U.N., which has released a document. Some language disputes. Not strong enough according to Great Britain.

In any case, this is new videotape and you can, on this tape, listen to this "confession." Obviously, they're being held against their will, the 15 sailors, so unclear exactly the value of what they're saying at this point. Apparently, too, you can see on here 14 other British detainees at some point.

The videotape we saw the other day of the British detainees, including that female sailor, caused outrage in London, in Britain. The ambassador to Iran visited the foreign ministry to protest its broadcast. And Tony Blair called it "completely wrong." One has to imagine the same reaction as they see this videotape. One of the sailors making a "confession," but clearly under duress. They're all held against their will.

John, back to you.

ROBERTS: Thanks, Soledad.

The White House saying today that Alberto Gonzales is now going to have to speak for himself. This after a day of tough testimony on Capitol Hill from the attorney general's former chief of staff. Kyle Sampson appearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, challenging his former boss's story about how involved he was in the firing of eight U.S. attorneys.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KYLE SAMPSON, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF FOR ATTORNEY GENERA: I don't think the attorney general's statement that he was not involved in any discussions about U.S. attorney removal is accurate. And . . .

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER, (R) JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Is what? Is accurate?

SAMPSON: I don't think it's accurate.

SPECTER: So he was involved in discussions, contrary to the statement he made in his news conference on March 13th?

SAMPSON: I believe, yes, sir.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: The White House responded by saying that "the president is confident the attorney general can overcome these challenges." Gonzales is scheduled to testify on April the 17th.

Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Thank you, John.

Part of Rudolph Giuliani's tenure as New York City mayor may be coming back to haunt him on the road to the White House. According to "The New York Times," Giuliani told a grand jury last year he may have been briefed on Bernard Kerik's relationship with a company suspected of mob ties even before he appointed Kerik police commissioner. Now in the past, Giuliani has said he was never told about Kerik's involvement with Interstate Industrial Corporation. Kerik pleaded guilty last summer to illegally accepting a gift from the company while it was trying to land city contracts. The company denies the accusations, disputes any alleged ties to organized crime too.

Today the FDA is releasing preliminary results of its investigation into a massive pet food recall. The FDA has received more than 7,000 complaints from pet owners. Nearly 100 brands of cuts and gravy style food were recalled this month. Rat poison was found, actually, in some of the food samples.

Now PETA claims the recall doesn't go far enough. Today they're going to ask the FDA to expand it to include dry food varieties as well. Menu Foods, which ordered the recall, is now the target of class action lawsuits in several states, including California. AMERICAN MORNING has made repeated attempts to invite both Menu Foods and the FDA to come talk with us about all of this on our program and so far they've denied our requests. Attention T.J. Maxx and Marshalls shoppers, oh, some bad news. The company that owns both stores, and many others too, says nearly 46 million credit card numbers were stolen from computers over an 18- month period. Plus, 455,000 T.J. Maxx customers who returned merchandise without receipts had data stolen, including drivers license numbers.

Now customers in Great Britain are being warned, too. Check your statements. Oh, it is ugly for them. And they also, Stephanie, have said, that may not be the end of it. Stephanie Elam, "Minding Your Business" at nine minutes past the hour.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's one of those scary stories that we first talked about yesterday. When you think about the magnitude of the numbers here, it makes it one of the largest cases that we've seen in the world. It's really that big.

So when you look at these numbers and you look at TJX, which is the parent company, they're saying at this point, they don't know if they'll ever know how far and wide the amount of numbers that were stolen really actually adds up to. They're say here that over the 18 month period between July 2005 and January 2007, data was stolen up until December 18th of last year when they realized there were some odd and suspicious software on their computers there.

Now, they also operate, as we were saying, in North America and throughout the U.K. So the chain there, T.K. Maxx, well now they're telling their customers to go ahead and check their credit statements to see if anything has come up odd there. But they do not believe that pin numbers were stolen in Britain because those were not stores on TJX's computers there. So they're saying those numbers are also safe.

One other thing to note here, the company is saying that as far as the numbers here are concerned, most of them had already expired, 75 percent of them, they're saying had already expired or had their data masked so they wouldn't be able to access those numbers. But that still doesn't take away the fact of how scary it is and how it did affected so many people and not knowing if it affected you or not makes it scary.

O'BRIEN: And it takes a really long time for them to get a clue about the number of people affected.

ELAM: Completely. And we first heard about this in December, but they didn't really tell us until yesterday exactly what was going on.

O'BRIEN: None of these companies are ever forthcoming about it. You always have to uncover it, investigate it, dig and dig and dig and then eventually they come up with a number, which probably is a little on the low side.

ELAM: On the low side. And we'll probably see this number continue to drop (ph).

O'BRIEN: All right, Stephanie Elam, thank you.

ELAM: Sure.

O'BRIEN: Let's get right back to John in Washington, D.C.

John.

ROBERTS: All right. Thanks very much, Soledad. Coming up on this AMERICAN MORNING, we're going to continue to take a look at that videotape coming out of Iran today of those 15 captured British sailors and marines. We'll tell you what they're saying.

And then also coming up, Texas and Oklahoma still getting pounded by heavy rains and tornados. Chad's going to tell us what to expect today.

Also, Pope John Paul II, one step closer to sainthood. A French nun claiming that John Paul performed a miracle and saved her life after his death. We'll explain that.

Plus, tears of joy in Washington state. The surprises reunion between a sailor and his little son that will warm your heart. It's all ahead on AMERICAN MORNING. The most news in the morning is on CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody.

We continue to follow some breaking news out of Iran this morning. There's new videotape that's just been released of at least one of those captured British sailors. There he is right there.

The audio quality on the tape is not so great, but essentially we can kind of hear him saying, we confess that we were in Iran's waters. Saying, I want to apologize, in fact, for being in Iran's waters. We're trying to confirm the identity of this particular sailor. He's one of 15 who were captured. They've been now in Iranian custody for a week.

And this is appearing on Iran's Arabic language network Al-Alam. They're calling it exclusive videotape of a "confession." This follows, of course, the "confession," -- I'll use that word in quotes -- from the female sailor, Faye Turney. She "admitted" that she and her crew were trespassing in Iranian waters.

It was a tape, most experts would say, made under duress. They're being held against their will. Big dispute following now as a week has passed that those British sailors have now been in the custody of the Iranian authorities.

Guys, can you repeat that for me? We're getting -- Nighten Summers (ph), we're told, is the name of that British sailor. He has now been identified, he -- just now appearing on Iranian TV.

Let's go back to John in Washington, D.C. John.

ROBERTS: Hey, thanks, Soledad.

And no question that that new videotape is going to prompt another stern reaction from Britain as the morning progresses. We'll bring you that.

Some cameras rolling as another tornado hit oklahoma, meanwhile. This twister touched down near Oklahoma City yesterday after injuring five people and damaging several homes. A separate tornado killed an Oklahoma couple on Wednesday. In Holly, Colorado, near the Kansas border, the family of a young mother killed in a twister there says that she had no time to run. The tornado ripped Rosemary Rosales' (ph) home off of its foundation and threw the 29-year-old against a tree.

It's about 17 minutes after the hour now. Chad Myers has got his eye on the current storm warnings.

Calm right now, Chad, but could heat up a little bit later on today the?

(WEATHER REPORT)

O'BRIEN: A mystery revealed this morning and it could be another step to sainthood for Pope John Paul II. An nun from France, her name is Sister Marie Simone Pierre (ph), emerged this morning. Her identity has been kept a secret till now. She says she was praying to the pope after he died and then she was cured of Parkinson's. Delia Gallagher is CNN's faith and values correspondent. She joins us this morning.

She never even met the pope.

DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No.

O'BRIEN: What's the story here?

GALLAGHER: But she didn't have to, because that's the point about a miracle. It has to happen after the candidate dies.

O'BRIEN: Ah.

GALLAGHER: No good if it happens during his lifetime. Many people said they were cured during his lifetime. But for an official Vatican miracle, it has to be after he died. And so she says that two months after he died, she and her entire convent were praying for a cure for her from this Parkinson's disease from which she'd been suffering for several years. And you'll remember that's the same disease that the pope himself suffered from. And she says two months after, she woke up one day and she was completely cured. A spontaneous feeling.

O'BRIEN: Do they aggressively go after to try to confirm both medically and in every other way this story? GALLAGHER: They have doctors that they consider independent investigators into the medical facts. And what they have to do and what they've been doing for the past two years since his death is collecting evidence. And so she has been examined physically, psychologically, et cetera, and there are doctors reports which are now, on Monday, they will have this ceremony and give it to the cardinals at the Vatican who will then decide, is this a miracle or is it not? So the doctors will just say, this was a spontaneous healing without a medical explanation.

O'BRIEN: It usually takes five years. Pope John Paul II has literally been fast-tracked. He only needs two miracles. Let's assume this one is one. How close is he to being a saint?

GALLAGHER: Well, if you're to go by what the cardinals told me last year, they already think he is one, essentially. I mean, there is this process . . .

O'BRIEN: They're just doing the paperwork.

GALLAGHER: There's a process they have to go through. But everybody that I talk to said, I already pray to him, I already think he's a very saintly man. But, yes, there is a whole sainthood process that they will go through. And that can take a couple months. First there will be a beatification, of course, and then another miracle they have to find and confirm and then he'll be a saint.

O'BRIEN: Absolutely no surprise on this one, is what you're saying?

GALLAGHER: Yes.

O'BRIEN: All right, Delia Gallagher. A fascinating story.

Thanks, Delia.

Let's throw it right back to John in Washington, D.C.

John.

ROBERTS: Thanks, Soledad.

Coming up, a homecoming that's going to warm your heart. A sailor's big surprise for his six-year-old son. That's just ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING.

You know, with all the tragedy surrounding the Iraq War, it's nice to have a good story to tell once in a while. We've got a wonderful homecoming to share with you. A sailor home from Iraq with a big surprise for his six-year-old son. Elisa Hahn of our Seattle affiliate KING has their story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ELISA HAHN, CNN CORRESPONDENT, (voice over): For the last seven months, Ensign Bill Hawes has been in Iraq, an eternity for his family, especially his six-year-old son, who had no idea his dad was coming home and was surprising him in class.

ENSIGN BILL HAWES, U.S. NAVY: I missed you, too, kido.

JOHN HAWES, SAILOR'S SON: I missed you, too, daddy.

HAHN: All year, the (INAUDIBLE) six-year-old had written letters to his dad and his kindergarten class at Central Elementary joined in, sending the sailor care packages. A tearful John got to introduce his father to all his pen pals.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's his name?

J. HAWES: Bill.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is Bill.

B. HAWES: Oh, it's great to be home. Seven months over there, it's nice to see my kids and all again. See my wife.

JULIE HAWES, SAILOR'S WIFE: I am so ecstatic because my husband's home. I'm so proud of him.

HAHN: The Hawes family was happy to share their joy with the whole class, who all took part in the welcome home party. The sweetest homecoming for a sailor who had been gone to long, and for a little boy who dreamed of this day with his dad.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS: What a terrific story. That's Elisa Hahn of our affiliate KING. And, you know what's so great about that, Soledad, is we have heard from so many soldiers and marines who say that they have been deployed so long in Iraq that they're afraid that their young children aren't going to recognize them when they come back.

O'BRIEN: Oh, they always recognize them. Oh, my God, that run to his dad. That breaks your heart, huh?

ROBERTS: Pretty amazing stuff.

O'BRIEN: Yes. All right. That's a great story.

Let's turn and talk about business now. The stock market's staging a bit of on comeback on news that the economy's grow was better than expected.

Good morning.

ELAM: Good morning. That's true.

Well, it's not necessarily as heart warming as the story we just saw, but it's still some good news here coming out about the Gross Domestic Product, coming in stronger than expected for all of 2006. And this means it's the third straight year where GDP has expanded at a rate above 3 percent. So that 2.5 percent for the fourth quarter and that's up from 2 percent in the third quarter.

Now GDP measures total goods and service output in the U.S. And so what helped here was business inventories being add during the period, and that was stronger that what was estimated a month ago and mainly it came in the form of larger stocks in motor vehicles. And the reason why we look at inventories is, businesses are holding on and bringing in more inventory, that means they plan on selling more. So it gives us an idea of what's going to happen as we move forward. One little thing here, investment in new home building did fall close to 20 percent.

One other thing I want to tell you about. The blue chips. The markets closed higher yesterday because of the stronger economic news. The Dow up about 48 points yesterday. And this is also despite a 3 percent spike in oil prices, continued worries about what's going on in Iran and Nigeria giving oil sort of a running high there. But, obviously, it was still enough to get the markets higher. All of them closed higher yesterday.

O'BRIEN: A second heart warming story in a row.

ELAM: Yes, I try.

O'BRIEN: Stephanie Elam for us this morning. She's "Minding Your Business."

John, back to you.

ROBERTS: All right. Thanks very much.

The top stories of the morning are coming up next.

Fast-moving developments in Iran. New video just released of those captured British sailors.

And a new call to recall even more pet food while angry pet owners take action.

You're watching AMERICAN MORNING. The most news in the morning is on CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Good morning. Welcome back, everybody. It's Friday, March 30th. I'm Soledad O'Brien.

Hi, John.

ROBERTS: Hey, good morning to you, Soledad.

I'm John Robert, up on Capitol Hill, in for Miles O'Brien.

The sun just beginning to peek up here on Capitol Hill. It's going to be a beautiful day today here, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Yes, we're going to check in with Chad for an update across the country this morning.

Also, some developing news for you this morning. Iranian TV just releasing some new videotape of those captured British sailors. One apologizing for entering Iranian waters.

ROBERTS: New developments in that pet food recall. The FDA set to release a new report today. There's a call from PETA to expand the recall to include dry food, not just wet food. We'll find out why.

O'BRIEN: Plus, what's the biggest threat facing American travelers overseas. Lots of people might think terrorism, but you actually might be surprised by a new study just out from the State Department.

ROBERTS: New developments just moments ago in that international standoff between Iran and Great Britain over the capture of 15 British sailors and marines. Iranian TV releasing new video of what it says are a sailor's confession. The video shows three of the captured sailors. Right now the British are considering a note sent by the Iranians that could help break the impasse.

The United Nations Security Council, meanwhile, is expressing grave concern over the capture, but not getting involved any further, at least for the moment.

That letter from Iran providing what may be a glimmer of hope that this whole situation can be brought to an end, but this new video could change things very quickly. Three of those captured sailors are seen in the video, and one reportedly confessing to entering Iranian waters.

CNN's Jim Boulden joins us now live from London with more.

And Jim, we saw the reaction to the first videotape by the Brits. How are they expected to react to this latest videotape?

JIM BOULDEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John, no doubt they will be very upset with this video that was just released a few moments ago. They will certainly say, as they said last time, that it was a coerced confession.

Let's hear a little bit of this tape. We understand that the sailor's name is Nathan Summers (ph). Here's a very short part of his so-called confession.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And it happened back in 2004, and our government promised that it wouldn't happen again. And, again, I deeply apologize for entering the waters.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BOULDEN: What he's talking about there was back in 2004, when they said that the British had actually strayed into Iranian waters. And they're talking again about how the British government should confess and fess up and say they won't do it again. But, of course, the last time we saw the video a few days ago, the foreign secretary here said it was outrageous that these people were being paraded on television. And we do expect to hear similar words in just a few minutes -- John.

ROBERTS: Jim, what do you know about this letter that we were talking about? And how could it resolve this impasse?

BOULDEN: Well, there really hadn't been any kind of official discussions between the two governments in the letter form (ph). There had been some meetings, but this was a letter given to the British Embassy yesterday in Tehran.

The British government will not tell us the details of that letter, but it is obviously a step in one direction if the Iranians are asking something specific for the British to do. It just comes down to them wanting the British to say we're sorry. The British are nowhere near ready to say they're sorry -- John.

ROBERTS: All right. Jim Boulden, outside Number 10 Downing Street for us this morning.

Jim, thanks -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Some new developments to tell you about in the pet food recall. The FDA is holding a news conference in just a couple of hours. They're going to release preliminary results of the investigation.

Nearly 100 brands of cuts and gravy-style food were recalled this month after rat poison was found. Animal rights group PETA claims the recall does not go far enough. Today they're going to ask the FDA to expand it to include dry food varieties as well.

Menu Foods, which ordered the recall, is now the target of class action lawsuits in several states, including California.

Chris Lawrence has more on this story for us.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Two months ago, Butch was a happy, healthy dog. Now Butch's owner holds his cremated remains and blames his death on Menu Foods.

(on camera): Have you called the company?

JULIE MITCHELL, BUTCH'S OWNER: Yes, I have, and it is so hard to get through.

LAWRENCE (voice over): Julie Mitchell says she's called a dozen times, and not once has she been able to speak with the company that made Butch's dog food.

MITCHELL: You know, Eukanuba is supposed to be healthy for your animals, good for your pets. And unfortunately, it killed mine.

LAWRENCE: When scientists discovered rat poison in the same brand Butch was eating, Mitchell hired a lawyer.

(on camera): We know hundreds of pets have already been affected, but is that all?

TIMOTHY PRINCE, ATTORNEY: That's the tip of the iceberg.

LAWRENCE (voice over): Attorney Timothy Prince represents several pet owners in southern California, but he believes there are thousands more victims out there.

PRINCE: The courts are kind of choosey about which cases are appropriate for a class action, but I think this has all the makings.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The issue of the litigation will have to -- will follow up in due course. Our principal concern is pet safety.

LAWRENCE: Menu Foods says it will pay the medical bills for owners who can prove their pets got sick from the tainted food.

Some owners can't forgive themselves for feeding their pets the food that may have killed them.

MITCHELL: I know it's not my fault, but still, I gave it to him.

LAWRENCE: Julie Mitchell adopted Butch when he was three months old, raised him for seven years.

MITCHELL: There's not one day that doesn't go by where I don't sit here and tell him that I miss him.

LAWRENCE: She wants the company to compensate pet owners for emotion distress, as well. And a class action suit means she won't have to wage that fight alone.

Chris Lawrence, CNN, San Bernardino, California.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: Now, we have made repeated attempts to invite both Menu Foods and the FDA to sit down and talk with us about tainted pet food. And so far, those requests have all been turned down. We're going to keep asking, of course -- John.

(NEWSBREAK)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: A British jury now deciding the fate of seven alleged al Qaeda terrorists. It's a trial that has lasted a full year. And prosecutors says it's revealing new insight into how al Qaeda is transforming itself as a terror network.

CNN's international security correspondent, Paula Newton, is outside the court in London for us.

Good morning to you, Paula.

PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: And good morning, John.

You know, the jury here has been deliberating for more than two weeks already in what has become known as Crevice. And this is a case that, according to prosecutors, is shedding light on how a whole new breed of terrorists operate.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NEWTON (voice over): Under cover surveillance video, a crucial piece of evidence prosecutors say in the alleged fertilizer bomb plot like the one that brought down the federal building in Oklahoma City. The man seen here on tape, the alleged ring leader of an al Qaeda cell in Britain.

The tape is just some of the evidence mined from Operation Crevice, one of the most elaborate terror investigations in history revealing, investigators say, plans to blow up a shopping mall, utility plants, and a nightclub called the Ministry of Sound. The jury heard these surveillance tapes secretly recorded by police.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you get a job in a bar, yeah, or club, say the Ministry of Sound, what are you planning to do there?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Blow the whole thing up.

NEWTON: The men on the tape, Omar Khyam and Jawad Akbar, two of seven defendants on trial for plotting explosions. All deny the charges.

The prosecution case has laid bear what it says is a web of al Qaeda connections spanning three continents and five countries, including the U.S. and Pakistan, where it's alleged some of the defendants received training at terror camps like this one. The defendants acknowledge visits to Pakistan, some even their support for jihad and Afghanistan and Kashmir, but they deny they were an conspiratorial cell and deny they planned to use the fertilizer to launch attacks in Britain. One of the seven accused saying the load was intended for Kashmiri militants.

As the jury deliberates its verdict, investigators insist this alleged plot is at the forefront of a trend intelligence authorities fear most -- homegrown radicals, Muslims born in Britain, trained in Pakistan and dispatched back to the West to unleash terror.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

NEWTON: And, you know, John, the head of Britain's secret service has already warned that this new generation of jihadists can't all be stopped. Just as they foil one plot, one new cell, a whole new cell is triggered.

You know, John, we're following a lot of terror investigations here. A lot of trials already under way. And what is unfolding here is a new pattern of al Qaeda's new potential both here in Europe and in the United States -- John.

ROBERTS: And a lot of terrorism officials, too, Paula, are worried about that shift in the center of gravity to Pakistan now, with many people being trained there.

Paula Newton in London.

Thanks very much for that -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: You know, if you're traveling overseas, you want to worry more about bad drivers than terrorists. The State Department is out with a new list of travel dangers this morning, and it turns out that a third of the 2,000 Americans who were killed overseas since 2004 died in car crashes. Today's report also warns Americans to watch out for corrupt police officers, especially in Mexico.

It's coming up on 45 minutes past the hour. Chad Myers is watching it all for us from the CNN weather center.

(WEATHER REPORT)

O'BRIEN: Let's talk a little bit of health news this morning.

The FDA advisers are endorsing an experimental vaccine for prostate cancer. It's called Provenge. It's designed for therapeutic use in advance cases that no longer are responding to hormone treatment. FDA approval could come in May. Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in American men after skin cancer.

An oral vaccine for Alzheimer's is showing some promise. Japanese scientists who developed it have now completed tests on mice. They're moving ahead with plans for small-scale trials in human beings.

Breastfeeding cuts a risk of a mother transmitting the AIDS virus to her baby. A study of more than 1,300 HIV-infected African women found that when they breast fed exclusively, no formula, no animal milk, no solid food, they ran just a four percent risk of transmitting the virus to their baby.

It's sort of counterintuitive, isn't it? Just breast milk. Babies fed solid food in addition to breast milk were nearly 11 times more likely to become infected.

That study was found in the "Lancet Medical Journal".

An MIT brain study could help in the treatment of attention disorders. Researchers writing the "Journal Science" discovered the brain pays attention in two distinct ways. And they say knowing that there are different degrees of attention disorders raises the possibility of fixing them independently. And watch out for those baby chicks or ducklings you might want to pick up for a child for Easter. Three 2006 salmonella outbreaks have now been traced to the baby poultry. That's according to the CDC, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The first year, more than one outbreak was traced back to baby poultry.

John, back to you.

ROBERTS: Yes. Make sure to cook them thoroughly before you give them to your child.

O'BRIEN: Oh, oh, oh. You know, he's joking, folks.

ROBERTS: Sorry. I am.

O'BRIEN: I'm going to help you help yourself.

He's joking.

ROBERTS: Thank you, Soledad.

Coming up on AMERICAN MORNING, allegations that Rudy Giuliani while he was mayor may have known his police commissioner, Bernard Kerik, had a shady past.

And Albuquerque using the runaway bride saga to recruit police officers.

Stay with us on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: The sun just coming up now on what is expected to be a fabulous day here in the nation's capital. The cherry blossoms are out there. You can see a tree just in the shadow of the Capitol dome. It makes you wonder sometimes how a town with so much beauty can sometimes be so politically ugly, but that is Washington, as Congress gets prepared to go away for the Easter recess.

On today's Political Ticker, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney drops some hints about whom he might consider as his running mate in 2008. Among the names, South Carolina governor Mark Sanford, former House speaker Newt Gingrich, and former Florida governor Jeb Bush. Romney says they would likely be on the list for any Republican candidate.

Don't ever let it be said that George Clooney isn't shrewd. He's backing Barack Obama, but he's doing it very quietly. Clooney says that he realizes that a big push from Hollywood could hurt Obama in the heartland.

Part of Rudy Giuliani's tenure as New York city mayor may be coming back to haunt him. According to "The New York Times" today, Giuliani told a grand jury last year that he may have been briefed on Bernard Kerik's relationship with a company suspected of mob ties before he appointed Kerik police commissioner. In the past, Giuliani has said that he was never told of Kerik's involvement with Interstate Industrial Corporation. Kerik pleaded guilty last summer to illegally accepting a gift from that company while it was trying to land city contracts. The company, however, denies those accusations and disputes the alleged ties to organized crime.

Between Bill Clinton and Elizabeth Edwards, spouses are playing a big role in this campaign, and Rudy Giuliani evidently wants his wife to expand her role, as well. Giuliani tells Barbara Walters in an interview that will air tonight that if elected president, he would allow his wife, Judith Nathan, to attend cabinet meetings.

Ease over Emeril, and make room for Mike. Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee making an appearance on the Food Network. He'll be talking about the dangers of childhood obesity. Huckabee made headlines when he lost 110 pounds.

And, of course, all the day's political news is available any time, day or night, at cnn.com/ticker -- Soledad.

(NEWSBREAK)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back. Some entertainment news for you this morning.

Paris Hilton could be headed from her penthouse to a jail cell. Prosecutors in Los Angeles say Hilton drove a car last month after her license was suspended for drunk driving. Now, why would she do that when she's surrounded by paparazzi? She could spend 90 days in jail.

And it's over. It is officially over. Britney Spears and Kevin Federline have reached an agreement in their divorce case. That's according to his attorney. No details being released. That means somebody will soon be holding a press conference about it.

The deal, though, apparently covers financial pay-outs and just who gets custody of the couple's two young sons.

And there she goes. The Miss America Pageant getting dumped by Country Music Television after next year. That show has struggled to find a home on TV in recent years. ABC dropped it back in 2004 after 50 years on network television.

It will land somewhere, I'm sure.

Corn farmers are cashing in on the newfound demand for ethanol. But as the price of corn goes up, so do prices on hamburgers and steaks.

Fifty-seven minutes past the hour. Stephanie Elam is "Minding Your Business".

Good morning. STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's all connected, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: It's all connected.

ELAM: Everything goes together.

Well, if you think about it, ethanol is a budding $40 billion a year industry as we all look for ways to find alternative fuels so we can take away our dependence on foreign oil. So, ethanol here is a key part of it, and its key component would be corn. So this is affecting even how we spend at the grocery store.

Some see price increases outpacing the general inflation rate in '07 and '08 because it will affect also everything from your corn cereal, to your corn syrup. It's in so many things. You just can't -- you can't get around it.

And it's also affecting land prices in the heartland of America. Farmers are now getting about double the price for a bushel of corn from two years ago, so, therefore, most farmers want to have corn as their main crop. And so less crops are getting farmed out.

This is also costing -- affecting the cost of beef, because they eat corn and now beef is coming in -- or the cattle is coming in about 10 to 20 pounds lighter this year. Also a harsh winter. But it all affects it. So, therefore, look for higher prices for beef, as well.

O'BRIEN: Interesting.

ELAM: Yes.

O'BRIEN: Prices up everywhere is what you're saying.

ELAM: Everywhere, basically. Sorry.

O'BRIEN: Stephanie, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

John, back to you.

ROBERTS: Thanks, Soledad.

(NEWSBREAK)

(WEATHER REPORT)

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