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Search for Former FBI Agent in Iran; Deadly Tsunami; Bush Strikes Back: Speaks on War Funding Today
Aired April 3, 2007 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Towns destroyed, lives ruined. Telling new pictures this morning of the tsunami that tore through the Solomon Islands.
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: The pet food recall expands this morning. New products, new warnings you need to know about.
M. O'BRIEN: Reigning the rails. France and its high-speed bullet train smashing a rail record, and CNN was there. We'll talk with our man on the TGV.
S. O'BRIEN: And in full bloom. Take a look at this. It's like a beautiful postcard in Washington, D.C.
We're live this morning from the White House, in Cleveland, in London, somewhere racing across France, and right here in New York, all on this AMERICAN MORNING.
And welcome back, everybody. It's Tuesday April 3rd.
I'm Soledad O'Brien.
M. O'BRIEN: And I'm Miles O'Brien.
We're glad you're with us this morning.
We begin with a developing story, the search for an American missing in Iran. He's a former FBI agent, retired, and his family lost contact with him several weeks ago.
Zain Verjee working this story from her post at the State Department with more.
Good morning, Zain.
What do we know about this man? His name is -- we're not releasing his name, the State Department is not releasing his name. "The Miami Herald" is releasing it. But what do we know about him?
ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPT. CORRESPONDENT: Well, the State Department says that he disappeared several weeks ago. Officials have told us that he was on an island just off the coast of southern Iran that's called Kish Island.
The State Department spokesman, Sean McCormack, had this to say about him... (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN MCCORMACK, STATE DEPT. SPOKESMAN: He is a private citizen. He was there on private business. And we don't see any linkage whatsoever between this case and any other ongoing cases that may have been in the news recently.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VERJEE: The State Department also insists that he is currently not working in any way for the U.S. government. Officials have told us that he was there, essentially, working for an author and a producer, trying to arrange an interview. But we really don't have any detail about that.
The FBI also confirmed that this man was a former FBI official, and that he was an agent that retired about 10 years ago and was involved in following organized crime in the United States. They insist, though, and are very careful to emphasize that he was not working in any intelligence capacity. And, Miles, at this point, no indication that this American missing in Iran is being held by Iranians.
M. O'BRIEN: OK. Obviously, there are no U.S. foreign service workers in Iran. So there aren't any foot soldiers on the ground to engage in any sort of search.
What is the State Department doing?
VERJEE: Well, the State Department is treating this essentially as a missing person's case. They're in touch with the family.
What they've already done, though, is to send a letter, a message to Iran via the Swiss. The Swiss send messages back and forth when necessary between Iran and the United States. So, the State Department is awaiting a response from the Iranians.
M. O'BRIEN: All right. So, let's talk about the State Department and trying to separate itself from, as we saw in that brief excerpt from the spokesman, separating from this seizure of the British marines and sailors. Were it not for the fact that that was happening, were it not for the fact that he was 10 years ago an FBI agent, would we even be talking about this story, do you think?
VERJEE: Right. Well, the State Department is being extremely careful here. What they're saying is, firstly, there are a lot of moving parts here, we really don't know a lot of things. So we just have to be careful. They're treating the case very sensitively.
But for what you're saying, the State Department is saying that there is really no link that you can make between recent events in the news and this case. And the reason that they're giving is because this man disappeared several weeks ago, and it was after his disappearance that the British marines were captured -- Miles.
M. O'BRIEN: Zain Verjee at the State Department. Thank you -- Soledad.
S. O'BRIEN: A little bit of a clearer picture this morning about the destruction that the tsunami left behind in the Solomon Islands. Dramatic aerial pictures came in overnight. You can take a look at them.
Rescuers are now going through mounds of mud and homes that were destroyed. Twenty-four people reported killed, 20 villages wiped off the map.
Reporter Sean Dorney is -- has got some late details for us this morning.
SEAN DORNEY, REPORTER, ABC NEWS (voice over): The fishing and diving center of Gizo has been smashed. Houses, shops and government buildings were shaken by the powerful earthquake, and then somewhat flattened by the wall of water it triggered.
Traditionally-built homes along the coast of several islands remain under water. Some people were swept out to sea with the force of the three-meter waves. Those who survived retreated to higher ground.
This woman managed to hold on to her children as the waves crashed through her house. Thousands who were left homeless and now living in makeshift shelters in the hills. They say they're in desperate need of aid. The Australian-led regional assistance mission is helping with Solomon Islands authority with aerial reconnaissance to study the damage and help get aid where it's needed most.
(on camera): The Solomon Islands National Disaster Council is still struggling to come to grips with how big a tragedy this is. One of their problems is that they haven't heard from perhaps dozens of villages that would have been hit by the tsunami.
(voice over): The official death toll has risen to at least 24, but it could go further. There are reports that villages along the south and west coasts Choiseul have been swept away. The remoteness of the region and virtually no modern communications are hampering relief efforts.
Australia and New Zealand have pledged extra support.
JOHN HOWARD, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: If the area needs further assistance that reasonably can be provided, we will be willing to do so. It's quite a strain on a small country. And the prime minister obviously welcomed our gesture and that of New Zealand, and I've agreed with him that we'll continue to work very closely.
DORNEY: Many locals are still worried their ordeal is not over. There have been almost 40 aftershocks since yesterday's quake, several measuring more than 6 on the Richter scale.
Sean Dorney, ABC News.
S. O'BRIEN: Oh, that's terrifying for them there.
Let's turn now to get the very latest on the war over the war in Iraq.
President Bush is getting ready to issue a new warning to Congress this morning. This comes after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid took the floor and threatened to cut off funding for the war altogether.
CNN's White House correspondent, Elaine Quijano, has the latest on this escalation and what is really a fight between the president and Congress.
Elaine, good morning.
ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It really is. Good morning to you, Soledad.
Well, both sides are certainly ratcheting up the rhetoric over the debate over Iraq war funding. President Bush is showing no signs of blinking in his opposition to any kind of timetables for U.S. troop withdrawals in Iraq. And essentially, Soledad, that's the message we expect to hear once more from the president today when he delivers remarks in the Rose Garden.
Now, a senior administration official says this morning the president is going to be meeting with Defense Secretary Robert Gates for an update on the situation in Iraq before coming out to the Rose Garden and making his remarks. Now, the White House has been keeping tally and reminding reporters on a regular basis of how many days it's been since President Bush submitted his war funding request. And, Soledad, as we approach the 60-day mark, you can expect the president will raise that again later this morning -- Soledad.
S. O'BRIEN: Now, the president could call Congress back to town. I mean, they're on recess. As it's been pointed out to me, they're working, just working at home. He could bring them back if there is a real sense of urgency.
Do you expect he's going to do that?
QUIJANO: Well, a senior administration official says not to expect President Bush to actually call members of Congress back. And you're absolutely right, what is so interesting about this is that even as the president is preparing to do this, to sort of increase the pressure on Democrats by making these remarks in the Rose Garden, he doesn't expect to go all -- to go that far, essentially, and actually have them come back or call for them to come back.
And asked about that last week, Deputy Press Secretary Dana Perino said that that was something she hadn't really heard discussed in her conversations in the West Wing. She said she wasn't going to rule it in or out, but we're not hearing that that's something the president will do today.
The bottom line here, Soledad, is that you have both sides accusing the other of not doing enough to support the troops, of not supporting the troops, and at the same time, neither side is changing plans or calling on the other side to change plans for their spring vacation.
President Bush, we should note, heading to Crawford tomorrow to begin his Easter weekend break -- Soledad.
S. O'BRIEN: Elaine Quijano is at the White House for us this morning.
Thank you, Elaine.
And President Bush will make those remarks from the White House, the Rose Garden. That's set for 10:10 a.m. Eastern Time. CNN is going to carry those remarks live when it happens.
M. O'BRIEN: What could be a break in that standoff between Iran and Great Britain over those captured sailors and marines. Word this morning from Tehran an Iranian diplomat who was seized in Iraq in February has been released. Now, that may be or may not be part of an effort to bring the 15 captives home.
CNN's Jim Boulden has been following the twists and turns. He joins us live from Number 10 Downing Street in London -- Jim.
JIM BOULDEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Miles, Prime Minister Tony Blair took time out from campaigning in Scotland today to say that the next 48 hours in this crisis are crucial.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: All the way through we've had, if you like, two very clear tracks on this. One is to try and settle this by way of a peaceful and calm negotiation to get our people back as quickly as possible. And the other is to make it clear that if that's not possible, then we have to take an increasingly tougher position.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOULDEN: Now, both Prime Minister Tony Blair and a leading figure in Iran have said that the diplomatic route seems to be the best way to go. However, neither side is backing down on their claims that the 15 sailors were either in Iraqi waters or Iranian waters, and the U.K. is simply still not going to apologize for what they say they did nothing wrong -- Miles.
M. O'BRIEN: Jim Boulden in London.
Thank you -- Soledad.
S. O'BRIEN: Still to come on AMERICAN MORNING, a new pet food recall to tell you about this morning. This time it's bacteria found in pet treats.
And we lost an hour of sleep, we gained some daylight, but what was the real savings? I mean, we're talking dollars by moving Daylight Saving Time.
And we're live from Washington, D.C., this morning with this beautiful sight, the Cherry Blossom Festival. Chad's there, too. He'll tell us all about it.
You're watching AMERICAN MORNING. The most news in the morning right here on CNN.
M. O'BRIEN: It is spring in Washington, and that means the hot air there is being put to good use for once, prompting the annual eye- popping cherry blossom blooming along the Tidal Basin. Live pictures there.
The trees, one of the best imports from Japan ever. A gift from the emperor in 1915, initially. Follow-on gifts in the '60s. It's now a huge tourist extravaganza when they bloom.
Here's what folks are saying this year.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It always looks spectacular. This year is great. It looks wonderful with the sun on it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
M. O'BRIEN: If you can't make it this week, don't worry. Officials say there will be plenty of blooms around until the middle of the month.
Perfect timing, quarter past the hour, Chad Myers.
You know, he didn't go to the hurricane last time, but he's at the cherry blossoms. He's right there.
Oh, excellent shot.
Good morning, Chad.
S. O'BRIEN: Oh, that's gorgeous.
M. O'BRIEN: That's pretty.
CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: I went to the -- I went to the good weather for a change, Miles. Yes.
What a beautiful shot here. And I've been talking to people who come every year, and they say this is absolutely the best weather they've had for this festival in a very long time.
Now, it's going to change by the weekend. So if you're coming on Friday or Saturday, you're not going to have the same opinion.
But I want -- you had a question earlier about, are there still some of the original trees? And yes, there are. In fact, the very first two trees that were planted by first lady Taft and the Japanese ambassador are still alive as well. But look at the size.
I mean, there's my hand. Look at the size of the base of this tree. One trunk on the way straight up, and then a lot like most of them, a branch comes over to the left here in the Tidal Basin, and then droops its way and drops its way all the way over.
And, in fact, they have to get in boats. And they go through here in boats and they trim the trees so they don't get into the Tidal Basin water.
It's just an absolutely phenomenal scene on a the national park land here -- 3,750 trees officially are still pruned and taken care of by the National Park Service. Now, one to three percent, depending on how the winter goes, will have a winter kill. So they have to be replaced. And many of them are replaced by the exact replicas, by the ancestors that are grafted on to root stock of the original trees that came here back in the 1912 to 1915 time period.
Soledad, back to you.
S. O'BRIEN: All right, Chad. It's absolutely beautiful. That is a gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous shot.
MYERS: It is.
S. O'BRIEN: Thank you, Chad.
MYERS: But if you come...
S. O'BRIEN: Yes?
MYERS: ... please don't touch one, because it's illegal.
S. O'BRIEN: Really? Burying the lead on that. Why?
MYERS: Because if you break it off, you have a good chance of getting an infection or a bug into the tree, and certainly they don't want that to happen. And they prune them very cautiously, and every time they do prune them they are sprayed, and the paint stops any kind of infection from any bugs getting in, as well.
S. O'BRIEN: Wow. I had no idea.
MYERS: So, they're a treasure, but treasure them.
S. O'BRIEN: So are there people walking around making sure that no one's touching the trees? Because I would imagine that people would love to come out there and just snap some of those branches off to bring home.
MYERS: Yes. No, they're actually -- they use quite a bit of restraint. People aren't touching them, and then all of a sudden you feel some petals falling on you, and you're thinking, who's touching the tree? And then there's a couple birds up there playing.
S. O'BRIEN: Oh.
MYERS: So, you know, you can't stop the birds.
M. O'BRIEN: Arrest those birds.
S. O'BRIEN: Well, Chad, it's gorgeous. It's gorgeous.
M. O'BRIEN: Step away from the blooms.
S. O'BRIEN: All right. Don't touch anything.
Thank you, Chad.
We're still awaiting word this morning, but "The New York Times" is reporting some very big numbers for Senator Barack Obama's fund- raising this year. Remember we told you about Hillary Clinton yesterday? Well, "The New York Times" says that Obama has raised at least $20 million.
Now, Mrs. Clinton raised $26 million. John Edwards, $14 million. Looking at the Republican field, Mitt Romney was a big winner with $21 million. Then, fairly far behind is Rudy Giuliani, with $14 million. John McCain has $12.5 million.
Candy Crowley is watching all of it for us this morning. She is CNN's senior political correspondent following the Obama campaign.
You know, he hasn't officially announced these numbers yet, but this is sort of like early word, I guess, leaked from some of his aides. When do we actually know? I mean, that's a ton of dough for him.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I mean, pretty soon -- this is a lot of money in this race, but you're right. And this will be an impressive number for a newcomer on to the scene, and they clearly want to sort of build this up so they can have a rollout.
When is he going to do this? My guess is in the next couple of days.
We tried to get him to say something about it last night, but, as you will see, we were pretty unsuccessful.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Oh, I can't tell you that.
CROWLEY: Oh, come on.
OBAMA: These are some reporters here. But you'll find out soon enough. (END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: So, soon enough.
We're led to believe it will be in the next couple of days, today or tomorrow. But, as you can see, they don't really want to tell us.
S. O'BRIEN: And soon enough means he must be feeling pretty good about it, because otherwise they would be working on the spin if it were not a good, impressive number.
Obviously, there is a value in delaying and, you know, separating his announcement from Hillary Clinton's announcement yesterday, right?
CROWLEY: Absolutely. There is a headline value to it.
We saw the first numbers out were Hillary Clinton, $26 million. I mean, that's a phenomenal amount of money.
On the other hand, she suffers from great expectations. Everyone thought, oh, $25 million, $26 million. So she comes out and they go, oh, yes, that's what she got. Nonetheless, she was the headliner then.
So, you wait a couple of days and you come out with a pretty impressive number yourself. You can take the headlines all by yourself.
S. O'BRIEN: Let's talk about the GOP. As I mentioned just a moment ago, Mitt Romney is leading with $21 million. That's quite a headline there, considering when you look at the polls he's not really considered the front-runner.
CROWLEY: It really is. We were -- we were led to believe early on that he was raising a lot of money. I'm not sure anybody thought he would raise this kind of money. I mean, competitive, really, with Hillary Clinton.
But if you look at Mitt Romney's background, he's been the governor of Massachusetts, he's been a very successful businessman. And he was the one who saved the Olympics, as you know, when they were in Salt Lake City.
So, there's a lot of contacts out there. He's been working them very hard, and the fact of the matter is, you can't take this away from him. This is an impressive amount of money.
S. O'BRIEN: I'll ask you about McCain, who is behind Giuliani. And we just showed those numbers a moment ago. Some people have said, you know, it's a late start, he's talked a little bit about the problems they've had fund-raising. You know, at the end of the day, does the first quarter really mean everything, or are we putting too much attention on it?
CROWLEY: It doesn't mean everything, because, as you know, we have many quarters to go here. But there's a limited amount of time to fund-raise, because pretty soon, come fall, you really are intensely out on the campaign trail looking for the free headlines and the free media, beginning to put your ads together, because push is coming to shove with those January caucuses and primaries here in New Hampshire.
So, it is very important for this reason: money begets more money. So, if you look at someone, you think, boy, if you're a donor, here's a successful person. This is where I want to place my bets.
So, the fact of the matter is that once you get money, you're a headliner, and once you're a headliner, you get more money. So it is important.
S. O'BRIEN: The virtuous circle, as they call it.
Candy Crowley for us this morning.
Thank you, Candy.
CROWLEY: Exactly. Sure.
S. O'BRIEN: Candy, of course, part of the best political team on TV. And, of course, all the day's political news is available any time day or night at cnn.com/ticker.
AMERICAN MORNING is back in just a moment with the very latest on a pet food scare. There are some new products now under recall. You'll know about those straight ahead.
Stay with us.
S. O'BRIEN: FOX may have found a way to keep TV viewers tuned in during the commercial breaks.
Twenty-three minutes past the hour, and Carrie Lee is "Minding Your Business".
And it is?
CARRIE LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the whole idea here, you know, people just zoom right on through commercials. We all do it. At least I do it.
So, FOX's idea here is to start running short animated clips with a taxi driver. His name is Oleg (ph), and he spouts out little bits of wisdom, even chats with cartoon versions of celebrities, like Tom Cruise or Donald Trump. They are splicing these within the -- or between the advertisements, and the idea is to keep viewers tuned in.
We all know what's happening. People are zooming through commercials. That's giving advertisers leverage in asking that they pay less money to advertise. And this is something that not just FOX is working on, but all of the major networks.
So, trying to be creative, trying to stay ahead of this DVR zooming curve, so to speak.
M. O'BRIEN: Are we doing that, too? No, not for us -- CNN?
LEE: Well, CW is apparently talking about this, too. So, yes.
M. O'BRIEN: Not us at CNN, though? We're sticking with our plan?
LEE: Not that I know of, but you never know what goes on.
M. O'BRIEN: You never know.
LEE: And also in the television advertising space, just at the top of the hour, Google announcing a big deal with EchoStar Communications. They're now going to sell television ad spots through an online auction system.
Basically, advertisers bid how much they're willing to pay. The winners the send -- are sent to EchoStar. Those ads are sent to EchoStar.
So, Google not just conquering the online world, but television advertising as well.
M. O'BRIEN: So the approach for their ads for Google, the same thing.
LEE: Exactly, but this is an auction process. A little different.
M. O'BRIEN: OK.
S. O'BRIEN: Thank you.
M. O'BRIEN: Well, they call it Daylight Saving Time, but that is a misnomer, more than ever. Springing forward three weeks earlier this year did nothing to save energy. It caused a lot of computer snafus, as we all know. The idea came from Congress, and they will now evaluate the effects of the early switch to see if it's worth doing again next year.
Yet another reason to stop and think about the food you feed your pet. This time it is salmonella, and it could make you sick, too. That's you.
We'll have the information you need to know.
And police say it started with an escape, turned into a crime spree, and ended as a hostage standoff. The wild ride coming up on AMERICAN MORNING. The most news in the morning right here.
S. O'BRIEN: Good morning. Welcome everybody. It's Tuesday, April 3rd.
I'm Soledad O'Brien.
M. O'BRIEN: And I'm Miles O'Brien.
We're glad you're with us this morning.
We've been watching dramatic new video coming in all morning long from the South Pacific. Parts of the Solomon Islands washed away by waves as high as 30 feet -- that tsunami yesterday.
S. O'BRIEN: And there was a story we were talking about yesterday that caught our eye affecting every mother -- or really mother to be in America. How much weight should you gain during your pregnancy? And what could those extra pound in mom mean for the baby?
We're paging Dr. Sanjay Gupta about that straight ahead.
Plus, we're live in Washington all morning, where it's the peak time to visit the cherry blossoms right along the Tidal Basin. We're going to hear from some of those thousands of tourists who have been stopping by the National Cherry Blossom Festival.
That's ahead this morning.
We're going to start, though, with this new recall over pet food. This morning, pet treats are being recalled for possible salmonella contamination.
Now, the other pet food recall is affecting wet food and now some dry food brands. Import inspectors are under orders from the United States to block shipments of wheat gluten from a Chinese company. The wheat gluten is used to thicken the gravy in the wet food that has been recalled. The Chinese company in question, though, is denying that they have shipped any tainted wheat gluten.
AMERICAN MORNING'S Greg Hunter is live in New York City in a pet shop with a little more information on what you need to know to keep your pets safe.
Greg, good morning.
GREG HUNTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning, Soledad.
We're at Petco at 92nd and Broadway. And they boast one of the biggest selections of dog and cat food, both wet and dry.
Now, this recall we're talking about is about dog and cat food, both wet and dry, and also dog and cat treats. And one of the things you've heard about, you've heard about how this is a big mystery. First, you heard about rat poison. Then you heard about plastic. And then you heard about wheat gluten.
But the one thing that Dr. Hohenhaus (ph), who is the head veterinarian at New York's Animal Center, she says, listen, if you don't want to look at all the Web sites, you don't want to go through the four different Web sites with dozens and dozens of products, you can think of one thing -- look at the labels on the pet food and look for the ingredients. And also, look for wheat gluten. She says that's the one thread that goes through the entire thread of pet food, whether it's treats, whether it's dog food, cat food, wet, dry, wheat gluten, look for that.
Now just because you find wheat gluten on the package doesn't mean that it's necessarily tainted, but she says, hey, listen, if you just want it be safe for the next few weeks, look for wheat gluten on the label, don't feed it to your dog or cat whether it's a treat, wet food or dry food.
There you go, Soledad.
S. O'BRIEN: All right. Some good advice (INAUDIBLE) for us this morning, thank you, Greg -- Miles.
M. O'BRIEN: We're getting a clearer picture this morning of the destruction left behind from the tsunami in the Solomon Islands. Dramatic aerials released to CNN overnight. Villages wiped out, rescuers searching for survivors. Sobering new numbers also coming in. The number of people killed in the tsunami reaching at least two dozen this morning. The waves that hit the Solomons were as high as 30 feet.
S. O'BRIEN: And new this morning, a high-speed train screaming right through France is trying to set a new world record. They're actually trying to top the old record which was 361 miles an hour. The French train traveled between Paris and Strasbourg. And CNN's Jim Bittermann was on board.
Jim, I guess, first and foremost, how did it go?
JIM BITTERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Soledad, it was quite a ride. I have got to tell you that. That is one fast train you see behind me here. This is a train they've especially outfitted for this test run and it did break the TGV's -- the high-speed train's old record of 550 kilometers an hour -- 515 kilometers an hour.
It hit today 574.8 kilometers an hour. That is about 553 (ph) miles an hour. It is not quite as fast as the Japanese maglev train. The Japanese maglev train goes -- hit a speed of 581, however, it is still -- the TGV remains still the fastest thing on rails. And I can assure you that it is quite a ride -- Soledad.
S. O'BRIEN: So, what do you see out the window? I mean, what does it feel like?
BITTERMANN: Well, one thing I was impressed by, it actually is quite stable, even at the high speeds. I mean, I use the lower speed high-speed trains which go at 320 -- the average goes around 320 kilometers an hour here, which is about 200 miles an hour. Those trains are quite stable and going at almost twice the speed today, it really didn't make that much difference.
But, of course, this train has been especially outfitted for this and there are a number of people onboard today who were quite pleased with what they saw and among them a delegation from the California state legislature who was here talking to the French about the possibility of perhaps one day talking about a high-speed train along the California coast, perhaps from San Diego to Sacramento -- Soledad.
S. O'BRIEN: That would be interesting to see. All right. Jim Bittermann for us this morning. Congratulations on your ride. That's pretty cool -- Miles.
M. O'BRIEN: An escaped prison inmate is back in custody this morning in Ohio. The arrest of 34-year-old Billy Jack Fitzmorris yesterday afternoon came after a wild, scary afternoon of kidnappings, bank robberies and carjackings. It began at a hospital in Youngstown, Ohio.
Authorities say Fitzmorris escaped using a prison-made knife, called a shank, got a guard's gun and a uniform, and then off to the carjackings. It all ended, as you see here, there he is, running through the streets of a suburb of Columbus, through an alley, onto the front porch, broke into a house, took three -- well, tried to take three people hostage.
Two of them managed to get out. And the hostage ordeal ended with the woman being released harmlessly and Fitzmorris was taken into custody. Wild scene, amazingly no one hurt. David Siler, deputy U.S. marshal of the Northern District of Ohio, joining us live now.
Mr. Siler, good to have you with us.
DAVID SILER, DEP. U.S. MARSHAL, NORTHERN DISTRICT OF OHIO: Good morning, Miles.
M. O'BRIEN: What do we know about how he got away in the first place?
SILER: Miles, we're looking into that right now. These type of situations do happen across the country. It's a rarity with the Marshals Service. However, they do happen. We're looking into how he got the shank, how he got out and we're following every lead up in reference to Mr. Fitzmorris as possible.
M. O'BRIEN: Well, I guess it's safe to say that part of the procedure would be -- if you're taking somebody and transferring a prisoner to prison, they would be thoroughly searched, right? So how could a shank have made it through that process?
SILER: Each and every prisoner that is transported is searched. You're correct, Miles. That is going to be investigated thoroughly. Now over an entire year, hundreds of thousands of prisoners are escorted, transported to hospitals and it's a rarity that this does occur.
Now, it does occur, Miles, is it alert -- is it scary for everyone? Of course, it is. But it was the quick efforts by the United States Marshals Service and its task force partners throughout the country in Ohio, Youngstown, Cleveland, as well as its partners in Columbus that helped work together to get this dangerous fugitive off the streets.
M. O'BRIEN: Now a fugitive like this -- typically, this particular case led to a wild attempt at a series of crimes and crimes that were, in fact, committed. Is that normal or would you have expected this to play out the way it did?
SILER: When someone is willing to take a gun, take a uniform from an armed prison guard, it's unpredictable what's going to happen, Miles. We had no idea what this guy was going to do. We didn't plan for an escape on this day.
Thank God for our local partners and the relationships that have been established throughout the country with the Marshals Service and its task forces. And to be able to predict what is going to happen with the unpredictability of this dangerous fugitive, he was looking at an extensive period of time in federal prison and he was looking for an escape, Miles. And we were not going to allow this to happen.
M. O'BRIEN: Will there be any changes in procedures as a result of this?
SILER: Miles, as we said, it is going to be looked into thoroughly. The last thing we want is for this to occur. Now, it does occur on occasion, but the last thing the Marshals Services is going to allow for this type of fugitive to be on the street and we're going to try to get these type of individuals fastly off the street as possible.
M. O'BRIEN: David Siler, deputy U.S. marshal, the Northern District of Ohio, thanks for being with us this morning.
SILER: Thanks, Miles.
M. O'BRIEN: Soledad.
S. O'BRIEN: How much weight should a woman gain during her pregnancy and when should a woman get her first mammogram? Some health questions focusing on women this morning. Get some answers right after this short break.
Plus, man and machine. We'll tell you how you can get a piece of one of the stars of "Knight Rider." And no, it's not David Hasselhoff. It does come at a price. We'll tell you what they're asking.
Plus, the face of Jesus popping up everywhere, we'll show you just ahead on AMERICAN MORNING. The most news in the morning is right here on CNN.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) M. O'BRIEN: Springtime in Washington, that means the hot air there being put to good use, for once. Prompting the annual eye- popping cherry blossom blooming along the Tidal Basin. The trees, one of the better imports from Japan ever. A gift from the emperor in 1915 and it's now, whenever they bloom, a huge tourist extravaganza. Upwards of 700,000 tourists there stroll along the Tidal Basin to see those blooms and here is what folks are saying this year.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Looks the same every year, but it's still surprising to see all this beauty.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
M. O'BRIEN: Well, if you can't make it this week, don't worry, officials say there will be plenty of blooms around through the middle of the month. Chad Myers is there this week -- this morning, as a matter of fact, enjoying the view.
Hey, Chad, I noticed one thing, there is no railing there on the tidal basin.
CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: There's no what?
M. O'BRIEN: There is no railing there. You know, I mean, people could just walk right into the water there as they're looking at those blooms. No, don't do it, don't do it, I'm just...
MYERS: Well, they thought I was walking in on the last live shot, because it all -- going to say, that was going to end up on YouTube. But no, see, I have a stage and so I know I know where my stage is, and that's the end of it. You just don't walk off of that.
We are here at Washington, D.C., Tidal Basin, obviously, Jefferson Memorial over there. Just great colors here. The Yoshino cherries completely in full bloom here, they expected full bloom to be tomorrow. But I really -- I don't have a professional opinion, but in my opinion, they're already in full bloom.
I want to take you to this tree here. This is one of the bigger trees that I could actually find. I mean, I'm going to stand next to it and give you an idea of how large the tree really is. And we just talked to Bill Line (ph) from the National Park Service, and I said, could this be one of the originals. And he looked up and he goes, this is tree L-133.
And I said, what does that mean? He goes, well, the only way we can tell whether it is an original one is to cut it down and count the rings. And I said, no, no, no, you don't have to do that just for us.
But there are some original trees here, but there is no direct lineage for them to know whether it was ever replanted in 1917 or not, if it actually died. So, every tree here, although some of them older than others, just so special to the National Park Service and to, obviously, people in the U.S. Just a great shot today and great weather this afternoon. Some good weather until tomorrow, storms come in. Try to get down here today, it will be the best of the season, I think -- Soledad.
S. O'BRIEN: Oh, what a gorgeous day. Really worth it. All right. Chad, thank you.
MYERS: It is, it's awesome.
S. O'BRIEN: Some health headlines to tell you about this morning. The biggest, about mammograms and whether every woman should get one as we turn 40. The American College of Physicians says women who have no risk factors for breast cancer should talk to their doctors first and that maybe you can postpone your mammogram until you're 50. The American Cancer Society says annual mammograms starting at age 40 still the way to go.
There is a new warning out about autism. Doctors say that older parents are at greater risk for having a child who is autistic. Parents who are 40 and older, woman have a 30 percent greater risk, men have a 50 percent greater risk compared to people who are younger, age 25 to 29.
And there is another reason to keep your weight under control. Obese and overweight people are 50 percent more likely to have asthma than people who are of normal weight. Now researchers don't say that obesity causes asthma. They do say that the strain of extra weight aggravates it.
When it comes to putting on weight during pregnancy, just how much is to much? There is a new study out says even the usual prescribed weight gain might be much more than a woman really needs. CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, joins us with more.
Sanjay, good morning to you.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad.
Talking about pregnancy and weight gain here, there is probably no way that I'm going to come out looking good on this. But I'm going to go ahead anyways. You have four kids, my wife has two kids. Sure she's watching, as well.
There has been a lot of guidelines, if you will, about how much weight a woman should gain during pregnancy. And what they typically say, between 25 and 35 pound for a normal weight woman. A normal weight for a woman who is 5'4" would be about 135 pounds.
The question has been for some time, is that still too much weight to gain? Specifically what is the impact on the baby as they grow up later on down the road? Now what they find is that based on the existing recommendations, about 51 percent of women actually gain too much weight, 35 percent are adequate and 14 percent have inadequate weight. And again, this is really putting a lot of generation of children who are born to these women at potentially high risk for obesity later on down the line. It's a little tricky here because no one has an absolute number in terms of what you should gain, but they do sort of break it down by weight.
So for example, if you're a very slim person, you have a BMI that is 19.8, which is a reflection of your height and weight, 28 to 40 pounds underweight that you're considered. Average weight person, again, a BMI of 19.8 to 26, not that everyone really knows what these numbers mean, but if you're about normal weight, then 25 to 35 pounds. And if you're someone who is already overweight, 15 to 25 pounds is the recommendation.
Again, kind of broad recommendations here and people are saying now, should we take a look and sort of re-look at how much weight someone should gain during pregnancy?
S. O'BRIEN: Let me ask you a question, what could they believe is the correlation between weight gain in a pregnant woman and the child three years down the road?
GUPTA: Well, you know, it's interesting because there has been a lot of concerns about things like insulin production, for example. Are you producing more insulin because you have more fat on your body and as a result does some of that insulin actually cross the womb, get into the baby as well and cause them to gain more weight, or be more predisposed to weight gain?
The right answer, and we talked to a lot of people about this, is we're not exactly sure why a woman who gains too much weight during pregnancy would have a toddler who is 2 or 3 years old who is also overweight. But there seems to be some correlation there as far as we can tell.
S. O'BRIEN: You know, I gained 50 pounds with each pregnancy, whether I was having twins or was having like a single baby. What are you supposed to do? Like I felt I had no control over how much weight I could gain...
S. O'BRIEN: ... what I gained.
S. O'BRIEN: So you are saying women should aggressively gain less weight?
GUPTA: Well, it depends. You know, I mean, what they're showing is that women who are gaining more than 35 pounds for a normal weight person, they're four times more likely to have a toddler who is overweight at 2 to 3 years of age.
Again, there could be lots of different reasons for that, lots of different risk factors for that, but that -- this is a correlation that they're making. I'm not going to say that. I am not going to say that women shouldn't gain a certain amount of weight.
I think it's important for a woman to be happy during their pregnancy and gain as much as they think is appropriate, but, you know, there are some studies out there actually drawing a correlation between a woman who gains more than 35 pounds for a normal weight person and their child two or three years later.
S. O'BRIEN: Happy? You're carrying a baby, you're tired, you're -- happy? Where are you getting happy?
GUPTA: I'm making sure, my wife is listening...
S. O'BRIEN: I know, I know, I know.
GUPTA: ... and then you had four children, and you...
S. O'BRIEN: I'm just giving you a hard time, man. All right, Sanjay, thanks.
GUPTA: Thanks, Soledad.
S. O'BRIEN: If you want to page Dr. Sanjay Gupta about this or any health story, you can log right on to our Web site at cnn.com/health -- Miles.
M. O'BRIEN: "CNN NEWSROOM" just moments away. Betty Nguyen is at the CNN Center with a look at what is ahead.
Good morning, Betty.
BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: Hey there, Miles.
We have these stories on the "NEWSROOM" rundown for you. President Bush live in the Rose Garden scolding Democrats. They're threatening to cut off money to pay for the Iraq War if the president rejects the withdrawal timetable.
Also Iran softening its tone on 15 British captives. British Prime Minister Tony Blair calling the next few days critical to ending the crisis.
And is this any way for the officer of the law to behave? Did you see that? Tony Harris joins me in the "NEWSROOM" at the top of the hour, Miles. I don't want to see you acting like that. Can you believe that?
S. O'BRIEN: Look at the arm on that lady, huh? When I saw that this morning, I could not believe it. You can't do -- and why would you do that when someone is clearly rolling videotape on you?
NGUYEN: Exactly. I mean, do you want to get caught? Apparently she did.
S. O'BRIEN: We should do a whole segment, do you want to get caught? We have that film every day. All right. Betty, thanks, looking forward to that at the top of the hour. You know, the expensive violins, the Stradivari violin rarely go on the market, but when they do, they'll cost you some seriously big bucks. Christie's auction house just sold a Stradivari for $2.7 million. It went to an anonymous bidder. It is known as the "Solomon, Ex-Lambert." Those are the names of the people who used to own that particular violin, made in 1729 by the Italian violin-maker Antonio Stradivari.
Isn't that beautiful?
M. O'BRIEN: Wow. You always hear about these guys who have these things and they leave them in cabs. How does that happen?
S. O'BRIEN: Yes. That one you don't want to do that to.
M. O'BRIEN: Yes. You don't do that.
S. O'BRIEN: You're busy, your hands are full.
M. O'BRIEN: If you like big hair, Duran Duran, and tricked-out Firebirds, have we got a car for you. Talking to your pals in Long Island on this one. It's KITT the car...
S. O'BRIEN: I love this show. I love this car.
M. O'BRIEN: ... for sale. I mean, this is Soledad in a nutshell. This is it. You were in love with this thing.
S. O'BRIEN: My life.
M. O'BRIEN: On sale in Dublin, California, that's East Bay we're told, Northern California. It was the star, of course, of the 1980 series "Knight Rider." A 1982 Pontiac Trams Am, restored, tricked out to its debut season glory. It has two working video screens in the dashboard. The cockpit features buttons that light up green, yellow and red.
S. O'BRIEN: Does it talk?
M. O'BRIEN: No, it doesn't talk, which is, of course -- what's the point? That was the whole point of KITT, to talk. So how much are we talking? What would you pay for it?
S. O'BRIEN: Oh, I'd pay $2 million for that, I love that car.
M. O'BRIEN: One hundred and forty-nine thousand nine hundred ninety-five dollars excluding taxes, title and dealer prep.
S. O'BRIEN: Oh, I'd buy this. Someone is definitely going to buy that. I love that car. My mother loved that show. Mommy, look, it's on sale.
Just ahead this morning on AMERICAN MORNING, holy Barack Obama, Batman, what's this? Jesus made out of chocolate? Oh, my goodness, is it art, is it blasphemy? We're going to hear from the people behind "Unusual Faces of Jesus." That's straight ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.
M. O'BRIEN: Most news in the morning right here on CNN. First pictures from the Solomon Islands now show the devastation from the tsunami. Twenty villages wiped out. At least two dozen are dead.
A record-breaking train ride in France. A bullet train goes 357.2 miles an hour, breaking a 17-year-old record set by the same train, same place.
S. O'BRIEN: Well, now there are two new ways to see Jesus. And for both of them, they're not exactly getting everybody's blessing. CNN's Jeanne Moos has a look.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There have been Jesus action figures, and wax Jesus, and Jesus bobbleheads. But look what's bobbling heads the weeks before this Easter, Obama Jesus.
And, in a separate controversy:
(on camera): It's Jesus made out of chocolate. Chocolate Jesus.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chocolate?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's not the way you want to see Jesus, naked, as a chocolate.
MOOS (voice-over): Brought to you by the same artist who once covered a hotel room in melted cheese.
For his latest artistic fling, Cosimo Cavallaro chose to make an anatomically correct Jesus out of chocolate.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, this is the first time I'm seeing him.
MOOS (on camera): In all his glory.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The problem is the chocolate, and the idea that you should eat something like that. I even have trouble eating chocolate bunnies.
MOOS (voice-over): Actually, this Jesus was meant to be displayed, not eaten. But the New York hotel that was supposed to display it in a gallery backed out after the president of the Catholic League went ballistic.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "ANDERSON COOPER 360") WILLIAM DONAHUE, PRESIDENT, CATHOLIC LEAGUE: I mean, we have a lot of these loser artists
COSIMO CAVALLARO, ARTIST: He's actually acting like a Nazi.
DONAHUE: You're accusing me of being like the Taliban; is that right?
CAVALLARO: You're not that intelligent. You're going to see statues from Michelangelo that are nude.
DONAHUE: First of all, Leonardo, you're not.
You put your middle finger at the Catholic Church, and we just broke it, didn't we, pal?
CAVALLARO: No. You're wrong.
You're acting like a 5-year-old.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MOOS: It sort of makes Obama Jesus seems tame. A student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago created this sculpture called "Blessed."
DAVID CORDERO, ART STUDENT: I think some people might see him as a savior.
MOOS: David Cordero is actually an agnostic, though, politically, he supports Obama.
The senator put out a statement saying: "While we respect First Amendment rights and don't think the artist was trying to be offensive, Senator Obama, as a rule, isn't a fan of art that offends religious sensibilities."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is offensive, but I'm not offended.
MOOS (voice-over): Do you see Rudy as Jesus or Hillary?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, no. Oh, no.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not even Mary Magdalene.
MOOS (voice-over): As for chocolate Jesus, he has been spending time in a refrigerated truck, and is now at an undisclosed storage space, while the artist decides where to display him, saying there have been plenty of offers.
Tom Waits has a song...
TOM WAITS, MUSICIAN: Kind of an immaculate confection.
MOOS: ... actually called "Chocolate Jesus."
WAITS (singing): A chocolate Jesus will never satisfy, satisfy my soul.
MOOS: But some aren't so satisfied with Cosimo the artist.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But he wouldn't do that about another religion, because, you know, he would get his head cut off.
MOOS: By the way, bite-sized chocolate Jesus already exists at a Web site called Chocolate Fantasies. But, when it comes to larger- than-life-size...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not going to eat any of it.
MOOS (on camera): All right.
(voice-over): Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
S. O'BRIEN: I kind of agree with people who are a little weirded out by it. It's kind of -- hmm.
M. O'BRIEN: It's art, you know, who's to say, right? Who's to say?
S. O'BRIEN: Ew. Anyway, here's a look at what "CNN NEWSROOM" is working on at the top of the hour.
TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: See these stories in the "CNN NEWSROOM." President Bush live this morning in the "NEWSROOM" pushing back against Democrats. They're threatening to cut off Iraq War money.
Little Rock, Memphis, Chicago, we watch for severe weather from the South to the Midwest.
New mammogram guidelines for women in their 40s.
Is this any way for an officer of the law to behave?
You're in the "NEWSROOM," 9:00 a.m. Eastern, 6:00 Pacific.
S. O'BRIEN: Paparazzi and the stars. The two go hand-in-hand. Lately young stars like Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan are the targets. Beyonce appeared on "LARRY KING LIVE" last night, the guest host was Star Jones and she talked about just that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "LARRY KING LIVE")
BEYONCE, SINGER/ACTRESS: You know, I feel really fortunate that the media does not attack me the way they attack them. Sometimes, you know, I see the way, you know, they can't go anywhere without paparazzi. And I feel like people just need to calm down sometimes.
I've been fortunate to still have a little bit of privacy and I think maybe it's because I don't really go to too many parties and when I'm working, I'm working, and when I'm off, I'm off. I'm usually at home, I'm with my nephews, I'm with friends, I'm with people that, if I have time, which is rare, because I work so much, I really don't have time to party.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
S. O'BRIEN: I love watching her.
M. O'BRIEN: You know, if I invited her over to a party, would she come?
S. O'BRIEN: No, she wouldn't. A reminder, you can catch "LARRY KING LIVE" every night, 9:00 p.m. Eastern. We are out of time on this AMERICAN MORNING.
M. O'BRIEN: Please come, Beyonce. "CNN NEWSROOM" with Tony Harris and Betty Nguyen begins right now.
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