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CNN NEWSROOM

Body Found in Military Fatigues in Euphrates River; Helmet Boxing; Early Learning in Iraq

Aired May 23, 2007 - 08:59   ET

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


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning, everyone. You are in the CNN NEWSROOM.
I'm Tony Harris.

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, everybody. I'm Heidi Collins.

Watch events come in to the NEWSROOM live on Wednesday morning. It is May 23rd and here's what's on the rundown.

A body in military fatigues pulled from the Euphrates River in Iraq today. The U.S. military trying to figure out whether it's one of the three missing soldiers.

HARRIS: Record gas prices, record profits for big oil. Live this hour, we ask a key senator to explain the surge at the pump.

COLLINS: Helmet boxing a new craze with teen boys. They post videos of themselves fighting, but headgear doesn't mean it's safe.

Internet knockout in the CNN NEWSROOM.

HARRIS: And at the top this hour, the missing U.S. soldiers in Iraq. Twelve days of searching, and now hours of agonizing wait.

Right now, U.S. military officials are trying to identify a body that may be one of the missing Americans. It was pulled from the Euphrates River today.

CNN Baghdad Bureau Chief Cal Perry joins us from the capital.

Cal, what's the latest?

CAL PERRY, CNN BAGHDAD BUREAU CHIEF: Well, as you said, Tony -- good morning -- an exhaustive search. We're now in day 12, and perhaps a bit of a break. A body pulled from a river. And just, in fact, about two hours ago, Major General Caldwell, who's the spokesman here for multinational forces in Iraq, discussed the discovery.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAJ. GEN. WILLIAM CALDWELL, SPOKESMAN, MULTINATIONAL FORCE, IRAQ: We will work diligently to determine if he is, in fact, one of our missing soldiers. We have not made any identification yet.

If appropriate, we will first notify the families of the results of that identification process. We are making every effort we can to ensure that the families of our soldiers are the first to receive accurate information. We all would expect, I believe, nothing less.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PERRY: Now, of course that is standard operating military procedure, to notify the families first. They want to make absolutely sure that this is, in fact, one of the soldiers that went missing on May 12th.

Regardless of whether or not it is one of the missing soldiers, we do know that the search will continue. It is a massive search. Some 4,000 troops are involved in an area that's referred to as the Triangle of Death.

It's a very dangerous area, it's an area that is in many ways controlled by al Qaeda. Al Qaeda is known to have operated in that area.

So the search will continue through these canals. They will continue to look for clues as they do forensic tests on this body -- Tony.

HARRIS: Cal, was it a tip that led to this discovery?

PERRY: We don't know at this point, Tony. We do know that the U.S. military has been sifting through massive amounts of intelligence. We know that they have four individuals in custody that they believe were directly involved in the attack, but we also know they have received intelligence that has not panned out.

We know they drained a canal some two days ago. They did not find any items leading to these U.S. soldiers. So the effort here amongst U.S. soldiers really is to determine what is actionable, what they call actionable intelligence, and what is, in fact, non- actionable intelligence.

It's a very difficult thing to do. And again, it's a very difficult area. So the search will continue regardless of the results on this body -- Tony.

HARRIS: CNN Baghdad Bureau Chief Cal Perry for us this morning.

Cal, thank you.

The military reports nine -- nine more U.S. troops killed in roadside bombings and gun battles across Iraq. That raises this month's death toll for American forces in Iraq to 81. And the total number of U.S. service members killed so far in the war to 3,423.

COLLINS: Still in Iraq, a suicide bomber strikes. A government official says the killer targeted a cafe in Diyala province. That's northeast of Baghdad near the Iranian border. At least 22 people were killed, more than 40 wounded.

Also today, a firefight in central Baghdad. Iraqi soldiers and gunmen traded fire for half an hour. The result, four people killed, 18 others wounded. Most of the casualties civilians.

HARRIS: Osama bin Laden and Iraq. A White House spokesman says newly declassified intelligence links the two, showing bin Laden conspired to form a terror cell inside Iraq in 2005.

The bin Laden plan, according to the White House, to launch attacks against the U.S. and other countries. President Bush declassified the documents ahead of his commencement address at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy this morning. He will use the speech to defend his war strategy, making the case the U.S. cannot withdraw from Iraq because of al Qaeda's growing threat in the region.

Live coverage of the president's speech from New London, Connecticut, in the NEWSROOM 11:15 Eastern, 8:15 Pacific.

COLLINS: Breaking her silence. A former Justice Department official testifies next hour in the furor over the U.S. attorney firings.

Monica Goodling will be asked whether politics played a role in the dismissals and whether the White House played a role in deciding who to fire. Goodling is expected to receive immunity in exchange for her testimony before the House Judiciary Committee.

She was Attorney General Alberto Gonzales's White House liaison before resigning last month. Lawmakers from both parties say the controversy has weakened Gonzales and is a distraction for the Justice Department. The White House disagrees.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: While it is splashy here in Washington, it's a very tiny slice of the overall responsibilities and obligations of the U.S. Department of Justice. And the question is, has the Department of Justice been forced into a situation where it cannot function because people are calling former members of the Justice Department to the Hill, or they're trying to look for Karl Rove e-mails?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: Gonzales denies any of the attorneys were fired for improper reasons. Still, he has been under pressure from a growing number of lawmakers to step down.

HARRIS: Parts of the Great Plains and Mississippi Valley facing a threat of more severe weather.

Can you believe that? A powerful hailstorm on a Kansas highway. Similar scenes across much of northwest Kansas as a line of severe thunderstorms moved across that region. In some spots, the hail measured about an inch in diameter.

And where there's hail, you often see this as well -- a funnel cloud dropping from the sky. This scene in Graham County, Kansas. Those strong storms produced torrential rain and flash flooding in Texas. Two people pulled to safety.

Look at this -- man -- by rescue teams after they were stranded while trying to cross a flooded creek.

Man.

COLLINS: Wow. Incredibly scared, obviously.

(WEATHER REPORT)

HARRIS: Florida's Everglades, once a lush watershed for the state, now dangerously dry.

CNN's John Zarrella reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): In some spots, the water was more than a foot deep. Seven inches of rain fell on parts of Miami this past weekend, but rain needed to fall over Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades, primary sources of water for five million people. None did.

(on camera): This is bad, about as bad as you've seen it?

FRED SKLAR, SOUTH FLORIDA WATER MANAGEMENT DIST.: Just about, yes.

ZARRELLA (voice over): We flew over the Everglades water conservation areas with Fred Sklar, a chief scientist for the area.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It looks great, doesn't it?

ZARRELLA: In places, the river of grass is barely a trickle. The brown and white patches below are completely dried up.

SKLAR: This time of year, normally what I would find would be at least half a foot of water over this area, and we would be surrounded by wading birds.

ZARRELLA: There are no birds, no water. During most dry seasons, 600 million gallons of water a day would be pumped from this area eastward to coastal well fields. There, it would help keep fresh water flowing. This year, with no water to pump, the fields are being shut down to prevent saltwater intrusion.

An even bigger concern out here is fire.

SKLAR: This could go up at any minute.

ZARRELLA: The ground is not dirt, but organic material, 100 years of decomposed vegetation. A fire out here in this peat could last weeks. There are already fires burning along the fringes of the glades. You could see them as you drive along Alligator Alley, where forestry crews are setting backfires to keep the flames from reaching the road. (END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: Wow. Yes. You know, it's unbelievable when you go up above and take a look down at just how massive these fires have been.

HARRIS: It's interesting. We didn't get much of that. We didn't get many aerials of -- well, I understand in part, but we didn't get any aerials.

COLLINS: Yes. Well, you know, it's hard to do.

I had an opportunity -- and you saw John there in Florida, of course, the Everglades. But I had an opportunity to go up in a Black Hawk. This was with the Georgia Air National Guard now. They work in conjunction with the U.S. Forestry Department to go out and handle these fires.

HARRIS: Yes.

COLLINS: Especially when they get to be as massive as they have gotten. So this is -- we took off from Waycross, Georgia, after leaving Dobbins Air Force Base here in a Black Hawk.

What we did is flew sort of next to another Black Hawk. These are called Bambi Buckets. So you can see pretty well here what they do.

They dip down into some water, a pond. There's many, many ponds out there because we're talking about farmland mostly. They dip down into one of the ponds and pick up -- it's about 660 gallons of water that these things carry.

Go over the most volatile, if you will, areas where you see some flames here now. Dump that water on there, and you can't believe how quickly...

HARRIS: Yes?

COLLINS: And I don't want to make light of it, because it has taken a very long time. April 16th is when this fire started, and they have been dumping water, three million gallons of water they have been dumping on this fire ever since. And it is still going, as we talked about yesterday.

HARRIS: Right. Right.

COLLINS: You can still smell it when you walk into work in the morning when the winds change. So, these guys are doing a whole lot of work out there. It's been unbelievable. Sixty to 75 times a day they drop those big amounts of water.

HARRIS: Did you travel into Florida at all? I know there are about 1,000 fires. I'm sure they had their hands full right here in Georgia.

COLLINS: This is the Bugaboo brushfire. Yes, this is the Bugaboo brushfire.

HARRIS: Yes.

COLLINS: We got in -- we went about an hour and a half southeast, so we were right on that border there.

HARRIS: Amazing work.

COLLINS: It is unbelievable. Yes, we're going to put together a full story on that and try and air it tomorrow.

HARRIS: Oh, great. All right.

And still to come this morning in the CNN NEWSROOM, three bank robbers still on the loose in Georgia -- I'm sorry, in Chicago. A massive manhunt now under way. The latest on the deadly heist coming up for you in the NEWSROOM.

COLLINS: Helmet boxing. Heard of it? Extreme sport -- from your back yard to the emergency room. We're paging Dr. Gupta to discuss the risks coming up in the NEWSROOM.

HARRIS: Jerry Falwell's funeral, and a student allegedly with homemade bombs. A strange story out of Lynchburg, Virginia.

That story in the NEWSROOM.

COLLINS: And we take you to school in Iraq. But what are these kindergartners learning?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I'm going to bomb, bomb, bomb the school with everyone in it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: Children of war in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

COLLINS: It is disturbing video, teenagers, sometimes young children, mimicking extreme fighters. It's called helmet boxing. The video can be found on the popular site YouTube.

To kids, it may seem like fun and games, but these fights can have dire health consequences.

Our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, is here now to tell us a little bit more about this.

You know, I haven't seen this.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I hadn't seen it either. And I tell you, both as parents, it's pretty striking to watch. And I think at first blush you think, well, this is just a bunch of kids sort of goofing around.

COLLINS: Yes.

GUPTA: It's much more serious than that, for sure.

Several things happening certainly when these kids are getting hit. They're wearing their helmets, obviously, which probably does very little to actually provide much protection. But for bragging rights, look at that -- I mean, just for bragging rights, posting videos on YouTube, sometimes hitting each other until one is actually knocked out.

Several different things happening in the brain here, Heidi. You and I have talked about this. Look at some of the animation here of actually what's happening.

Think of the brain almost as Jell-O, sort of a fluid medium, sort of within the skull. You get hit by this gloved hand here, and the brain, this fluid medium, actually bouncing back and forth in the skull.

COLLINS: It bruises, doesn't it?

GUPTA: It causes -- yes, it causes bruising, it causes swelling, and can cause some long-term impact. Again, you know, you watch the video and you think, god, I mean, maybe they're just goofing around. But it is much more than that.

COLLINS: And you have to wonder if they have any idea of what is actually physically going on with their brains when you explain it that way.

Talk about those possible long-term consequences.

GUPTA: We know a lot more about these sorts of head injuries than ever before, and a lot of it is from actually studying data from athletes. I mean, designing football helmets, designing all sorts of different things.

One -- a couple of things we know is, one is that, while a concussion is bad, a second concussion is exponentially worse, which is why you have a lot of people staying off the field after they get knocked out or get a concussion during play. But also, we know that it's not just the actual hitting of the skull, but it's actually the rotational forces that actually take place on the brain, on the neck as well, that can be so devastating to kids and adults alike. It can cause unconsciousness, and it can cause some of those long-term effects.

They wear the gloves as well. It means you can hit a lot harder. You're protecting your hands, you don't feel the pain. They're really striking each other pretty hard.

COLLINS: And there's two things here that it makes me look at, maybe because I am a parent. You wonder what good the helmets really do when they are wearing them for their sports activities. And also, that false sense of security that the helmets and even the gloves, as you just mentioned, may offer. "Oh, I'm wearing the helmet, so I should be fine."

GUPTA: Right. I'm sure that's exactly the thinking that's probably going into their heads before they actually do this, is that, "Oh, we're going to be OK because we've got the helmets, we've got the -- we've got the gloves and everything."

We know that there's lots of long-term effects from exactly what you're seeing here, and this happens in children and, again, in adults alike. Memory problems, for example, that can be longer term. Headaches also. Concentration problems.

All these equilibrium problems. Dizziness. These are the sort of things that may seem vague later on, but you can attribute them back to exact incidents like this, being knocked out more than once.

COLLINS: Is there any way if parents don't know that this type of thing might be going on with their child, any warning signs that you can look for and say, hey, what have you been doing in your off time?

GUPTA: The obvious stuff, obviously, you know, scratches and cuts and things like that. But if a kid has some of these vague systems or is developing it -- you know, the headaches in particular, certainly, concentration problems, it seems more than the normal -- equilibrium problems. Kids may complain of dizziness, for example, have no inner ear problems, have no evidence of infection, or anything like that, where is this equilibrium business coming from?

That's something to look for. Obviously if you watch YouTube, you see your kid on there, that's another clue as well.

COLLINS: Gosh. Yes, boy. All right. Save it for the field, huh?

GUPTA: Exactly. Even then, be careful.

COLLINS: I know. Exactly.

All right.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thank you.

GUPTA: All right, Heidi. Thanks.

(NEWSBREAK)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: Palestinian refugees on the run in northern Lebanon, hurrying out of the line of fire by foot, car or van. This comes after three days of fierce fighting between Islamist militiamen and the Lebanese army. It is not clear how many civilians were killed or injured in this sprawling refugee camp.

A member of the Palestinian Fatah movement tells CNN the refugees are traumatized and do not have food, running water or electricity. The al Qaeda-inspired Sunni militia says it will abide by a unilateral cease-fire declared on Tuesday, but vows its militants will not turn themselves in.

HARRIS: In Iraq, violence is part of the lesson plan, even for the youngest students.

CNN's Hugh Riminton reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HUGH RIMINTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Graduation day at the May Salun (ph) kindergarten, a day worth dressing up for. Already, these 5-year-olds are survivors.

In Saddam's time, this kindergarten held up to 180 children. Today's graduating class is just 16.

Families have fled or parents keep their kids at home, fearful of bombs or kidnap gangs.

IBTISAM, MOTHER (through translator): They're scared, we're scared, too. But we can't have them miss their school years. We can't sacrifice that. They must learn.

RIMINTON (on camera): Right across Iraq, education is in retreat. It's not just parents keeping their kids away from kindergartens and schools, it goes all the way through to the kidnapping, intimidation and murder of college professors.

(voice-over): These kids are the lucky ones, comparatively well off and with at least a chance at literacy. But the violence permeates everything. Here, where explosions are as familiar as nursery rhymes.

"When I hear the bombs, I'm afraid," says Sharook (ph). "I close my ears."

"I'm going to bomb, bomb, bomb the school with everyone in it," says five-year-old Omer (ph). "When I hear explosions, I start shooting planes."

Iraqi Association of Psychologists says 92 percent of children in a country-wide study have impeded learning because of fear and insecurity.

SUHAILAH IBRAHIM, HEADMISTRESS (through translator): We always try to reduce their stress. When we hear shootings and explosions, we usually tell them the explosions are far away from us.

RIMINTON: The education itself, even at this secular middle class place, seems oddly twisted. They sing the national anthem, but their enthusiasm really rises for this. "I give a knife to my father to slaughter the chicken," she sings. "He gives me a machine gun and a rifle. Now, I'm a soldier in the liberation army."

The headmistress leaves no doubt from whom she thinks Iraq needs liberation.

IBRAHIM (through translator): Politically, we want to see Iraqis live like before. We want an end to the occupation.

RIMINTON: The children finish with a chant. "I swear, I swear on my parents, on the blood of the martyrs, I will defend my homeland."

Hugh Riminton, CNN, Baghdad.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: Well, if it ain't another eye-popping morning at the gas pumps. Are oil companies to blame? A senator talks about the surge at the pump live right here in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: Let's take you to the New York Stock Exchange. Seconds away from the bell. Ah, love it when it works out like that.

All right. So let's get the business day started.

(STOCK MARKET REPORT)

TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: The bottom of the hour.

Good morning, everyone.

Welcome back to the CNN NEWSROOM.

I'm Tony Harris.

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Heidi Collins.

Gas prices at another record high this morning, for an eleventh straight day, in fact. Many of us are left scratching our heads wondering just why.

CNN's Tom Foreman takes a look at that.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Americans burn 385 million gallons of gas just today. At current prices, that's $1.25 billion worth. But try to find one driver who can tell you why prices have risen so steeply.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know. It's confusing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't really have a good answer to that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Seems a little outrageous that the prices are that high.

FOREMAN: High crude oil prices alone are not at fault. A year ago, crude was close to the price it is now, and a gallon of gas was under $3. Now it's around $3.20.

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The cost of distribution has remained roughly the same. Taxes have remained roughly the same. So the culprit has got to be refining. We're paying more to refine gas from oil than we've ever paid before.

FOREMAN: Oil industry analysts say some spectacular refinery fires have knocked out a few facilities, and, more importantly, ever since hurricanes Katrina and Rita, maintenance crews have been struggling to keep refineries producing. So when the short supply from refineries hit the high demand of spring travelers, this is the result.

Some consumer advocates say the oil companies, with their record profits, should have seen this coming.

BRAD PROCTOR, GASPRICEWATCH.COM: Let's start taking some of those profits and pushing them into the refinery system so that we can be more efficient in terms of what we're able to convert, because that's their job.

FOREMAN: No new refinery has been built in America in 30 years. The oil companies have always said that's because it's costly, difficult work, and so many communities and politicians don't want the projects in their neighborhoods. The companies could probably overcome that.

PROCTOR: But you know what?

There is no incentive for them to do that because, again, the end result would just be cheaper product to the consumer out there.

FOREMAN (on camera): All of us, as consumers, bear some of the blame. We're still driving as much as we ever have and each time gas prices rise, we complain, but fill up just the same.

(voice-over): And as long as that goes on, consumer advocates say keeping oil companies honest about their responsibility for refinery capacity will be difficult, even way down the road.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

HARRIS: Gasoline prices up about a penny a gallon today, to an average of $3.22, according to AAA. That is another record.

Are oil companies to blame? Democratic Senator Ron Wyden is a member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. He's put the oil industry on the hot seat.

Senator, great to see you this morning.

Thanks for your time.

SEN. RON WYDEN (D), OREGON: Thanks for having me.

HARRIS: All right, a basic question -- are gas prices artificially high right now?

WYDEN: That's one factor. But the reality is worldwide demand is up. OPEC has reduced the production of oil. But, yes, American oil companies have contributed to those problems by under investing in refinery capacity.

Essentially, the American oil companies have created a situation where heads they win and tails the consumer loses, when they don't invest in refining capacity, and that's been the problem for a number of years. Supply is tight, prices go up. When they do invest in refining capacity, they make incredible profits.

The "Wall Street Journal," for example, last Friday said that for every barrel of oil they turn into gas, they're making $30 per barrel before profits and expenses.

HARRIS: Yes, but Senator, can you push big oil to push profits into refineries -- the refinery business?

WYDEN: Certainly, the United States Senate can take steps to boost refinery capacity. For example, right now the Senate is involved in looking at the billions of dollars of tax breaks that the oil companies get. I want to condition those tax breaks for the major oil companies for them up keeping their refinery capacity and building new refineries. That's something that could help the consumer change behavior. It wouldn't mean they'd make big profits, but the public would benefit.

HARRIS: Do you remember -- and, of course, you do -- it's rhetorical, of course do you remember the mid-1990s memos from the oil industry?

WYDEN: I have them on my Web site.

HARRIS: Yes. You uncovered them and you posted them on your Web site and you made them public in 2001.

What did those memos suggest?

WYDEN: Those oil industry memos -- and they are not documents from some, you know, left-wing group -- they were oil industry documents that made it clear that the companies were looking at a strategy to under invest in refining capacity to boost their profits. And that is why, it seems to me, that while worldwide demand is up, OPEC is playing games. You're seeing these big major integrated oil companies play games here in this country with respect to refining capacity.

HARRIS: All right, did you nail it down back in 2001 and the subsequent years?

Did you nail it down?

Could you prove -- can you prove now price manipulation?

WYDEN: What I can prove is that we are losing refineries today. The oil companies always complain that refinery capacity is a problem. What they don't tell the public is they created much of it. We have lost 15 refineries in the last 10 years. You look at the big one on the West Coast, they played a lot of games with the one in Bakersfield.

They said it wasn't profitable when I and others complained. It ended up getting sold. It stayed profitable.

The oil industry has been playing games on this refinery issue and we're not going to let them do it any longer.

HARRIS: And why have we lost refinery capacity? Is it -- could it be mergers in the oil business?

WYDEN: Certainly the oil industry's desire to merge and consolidate has been a big part of this. In the state of Oregon, my home state, we've got three companies that control 70 percent of the pump. They're also helped by the fact that the Federal Trade Commission, which is supposed to be the consumer watchdog, is essentially toothless. They're not willing to do anything. In fact, their chair, Deborah Majoras, has almost said that high prices are a good thing.

HARRIS: Senator, what can we do?

WYDEN: I think the first thing is the United States Senate ought to go after the tax breaks, say that if the oil companies, the big ones, are going to get any tax breaks at all, it ought to be used to boost refinery capacity.

Second, I think with refineries operating at only about 80 percent -- 88 percent now, we ought to force them to schedule their maintenance so not all of them go down at the same time.

HARRIS: Senator Wyden, thanks for your time this morning.

WYDEN: Thanks for having me.

HARRIS: Appreciate it.

COLLINS: It is a big week in New York, and a very famous one, too. For the 20th time, they are celebrating Fleet Week.

We are looking at live here some pictures of the very famous Parade of Ships. That's going on now, until about 11:00 or so.

The ships will be following one by one. They're going to go down the Hudson River, from the Verrazzano Bridge to the George Washington Bridge, in case you know the area pretty well. They're going to have a fireboat there on the Hudson.

This is, again, as I said, the 20th annual Fleet Week. About 3,000 sailors, Marines and Coast Guard will be hanging out in New York. It is quite a sea of white, if you can imagine. Really beautiful to see all of the men and women in their uniform running around.

Also, it's kind of the first year in a very long time that the Intrepid has not been part of this or hosting the midshipmen, because many of the events here are usually held on board. But as you well remember, we have seen the Intrepid move. And it's sitting right now at a dry dock for that major refurbishment at Bayonne, New Jersey. So the Intrepid will not be hosting any events this year.

Their annual Memorial Day ceremony will actually be held in Central Park on Monday instead of an the Intrepid.

Jacqui Jeras is here now, maybe to talk a little bit about -- if we're not getting ahead of ourselves -- that Memorial Day forecast.

JACQUI JERAS, ATS METEOROLOGIST: No.

I know, it's right around the corner. And, you know, the weather beautiful for Fleet Week -- really, today, tomorrow, the next day.

(WEATHER REPORT)

HARRIS: In the war funding debate, both sides declare victory this morning. Congress now pushing to pass a bill that provides billions of dollars but no deadlines.

Democrats dropped demand for a withdrawal timetable for U.S. troops in Iraq. They faced another presidential veto if they kept it in. Instead, we're told the measure includes political goals for Iraqi government.

The House is expected to vote tomorrow, the Senate on Friday.

COLLINS: Among our top stories this hour, the missing U.S. soldiers. Days of relentless searching now await and it seems insufferable. U.S. military officials trying to identify a body. It is believed to be one of the servicemen who disappeared 12 days ago.

CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr is at her post now with the very latest on this.

Hi there -- Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Heidi.

Word now circulating around the Pentagon about that body they are trying to identify so they can begin to notify the family members of the three families still waiting for word about their loved ones.

Earlier today, Major General William Caldwell, the chief military spokesman in Baghdad, talked about this very sad news.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAJ. GEN. WILLIAM CALDWELL, MULTI-NATIONAL FORCE, IRAQ: Our first response really is to the families. And if there's any possibility at all that this body that was given us to by the Iraqi police could be one of our missing soldiers, it -- they really need to hear from us first any of the details associated with that. And, obviously, we're proceeding along in a very cautious manner at this point.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STARR: And, so, Heidi, what we can tell you is, as always, the military has liaison officers with each of the three families that are waiting for word. And the hope of the Pentagon is that it will be those military officials that will be able to give the families word of what this is -- what has happened here and whether they've made positive identification. They want that word, of course, to come from the military to the families as quickly as possible -- Heidi.

COLLINS: It's such an awful job for them to have do, as well.

All right, Barbara Starr, thanks so much for the latest from the Pentagon today.

Meanwhile, the military reports nine more U.S. troops killed in roadside bombings and gun battles across Iraq. That raises this month's death toll for American forces in Iraq to 81, and the total number of U.S. service members killed so far in the war to 3,423.

HARRIS: And still to come this morning in the in THE CNN NEWSROOM, a Justice Department insider now an outsider with immunity. Her testimony next hour about the fired prosecutors. Monica Goodling live in THE NEWSROOM.

COLLINS: Venezuela goes Hollywood -- President Hugo Chavez getting into filmmaking. And he's got one high profile American star already on board, coming up in THE NEWSROOM.

COMMERCIAL

HARRIS: Allow me to gently just -- just gently -- ever so gently -- nudge you, remind you of our pod casts. We do different things on the pod cast, Heidi. Stories that don't make the 9:00 to 12:00 show we, oftentimes, get an opportunity to include in the pod cast.

You can take us with you anywhere right there on your iPod. The CNN NEWSROOM pod cast available 24/7 right there on your iPod.

COLLINS: And Venezuela's controversial president, Hugo Chavez, now moving into a new arena -- the movie business.

CNN's Carol Costello explains.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

(VIDEO CLIP OF VENEZUELAN PRESIDENT HUGO CHAVEZ)

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hugo Chavez does it again, using his country's money to add a little Hollywood razzle- dazzle to his insistent effort to influence American culture.

His lethal weapon?

Actor Danny Glover.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "LETHAL WEAPON," COURTESY WARNER BROTHERS)

DANNY GLOVER, ACTOR: And I will not make a stupid mistake.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: That's right. The star of "Lethal Weapon" and dozens of other films is taking $18 million from Chavez's Venezuela to make two movies. The first about Dominique Toussaint L'Ouverture. That's him. He led a slave uprising in Haiti in the 18th century.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GLOVER: This issue...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: And that's Danny Glover at the news conference in Washington, talking about debt relief for Africa.

We tried to ask him about his partnership with Chavez, but we got very little.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GLOVER: I have no comment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: We wanted to know why any American would take so much money from a country whose leader has called President Bush an ex- alcoholic, sick, dangerous, a menace, a threat against life on the planet and, oh yes...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HUGO CHAVEZ (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): I think he is a devil.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: But Glover wasn't talking.

Of course, this isn't the first time Chavez has tried to influence American culture. Former Representative Joe Kennedy's Citizens Energy gets oil from a subsidiary of Venezuela's national oil company and sells it at a discounted price to poor Americans. Kennedy says the benefits outweigh anything political, like Chavez's close relationship with communist Cuba's Fidel Castro.

Chavez has been keeping in touch with the ailing American foe.

As for Glover, he's long been a political activist. That's him being serenaded by admirers after he was arrested for disorderly conduct at a Darfur protest in Washington.

(on camera): Without, what do we make of an actor/activist, a Haitian slave and Hugo Chavez?

Well, as the British newspaper, "The Guardian," putt it: "It adds up to a movie that will mobilize world opinion against Western oppression."

Carol Costello, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

HARRIS: And making the case to stay in Iraq. President Bush goes public with an alleged plot by Osama bin Laden -- his commencement address to the Coast Guard Academy. See it live right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

COLLINS: And a reminder. This Memorial Day weekend, turn your frequent flyer miles into hero miles. Fisher House will use those miles to transport servicemen and women wounded in Iraq or Afghanistan, and their families, to treatment centers around the country. You can go to Fisherhouse.org. In fact, we're going to have Arnold Fisher on our program here in the CNN NEWSROOM, about 9:30 on Friday morning, to talk more about this, as well.

We'll be back in just a moment.

COMMERCIAL

COLLINS: Will he or won't he?

Supporters have been trying to draft Al Gore for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008.

The former vice president wasn't ruling anything out last night on CNN's "LARRY KING LIVE"

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "LARRY KING LIVE")

AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: I have not closed the door, at some point in the future, to consider being a candidate. But even saying that makes me want to immediately follow up with another disclaimer, because I don't expect it to happen. And I'm not jockeying to create an opportunity for it.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COLLINS: Hmm. For now Gore says he's focusing on his environmental work. He called climate change the most dangerous crisis civilization has ever faced.

HARRIS: Rudy Giuliani now aiming for the White House. but back in the '80s, he was aiming for convictions, not always with stellar results.

CNN's Allan Chernoff takes a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As U.S. attorney in New York in the '80s, Rudy Giuliani took down mobsters, politicians and Wall Street traders. His aggressive application of the law brought high profile indictments, but some mistakes, as well.

That's what happened to Richard Wigton, a mild mannered trading executive at the now defunct investment firm Kidder Peabody.

In February of 1987, Giuliani went after him.

(on camera): Officers arrested and handcuffed Richard Wigton at Kidder Peabody's Wall Street headquarters. Wigton recently told CNN he was in a state of utter shock and disbelief. With tears flowing down his face, Wigton was marched through the firm's trading floor in front of his colleagues, charged with insider trading.

(voice-over): Wigton's attorney insisted there was no basis for Giuliani's charges.

STANLEY ARKIN, RICHARD WIGTON'S ATTORNEY: He did not make any use of inside information. These charges, again, are without basis in fact.

CHERNOFF: Giuliani charged several other people that day. Among them, Tim Tabor, a Merrill Lynch trader and former colleague of Wigton.

Tabor's attorney also said Giuliani was off base.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Tabor will be fully vindicated.

CHERNOFF: Indeed, U.S. Attorney Giuliani dropped the charges against Wigton and Tabor three months later, promising to bring an expanded indictment.

RUDY GIULIANI (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're not going to go to trial. We're just the tip of the iceberg.

CHERNOFF: There was no iceberg.

For more than two years, Giuliani's threat hung over Richard Wigton and Tim Tabor. Yet new charges were never filed. Only after Giuliani stepped down as U.S. attorney in 1989 did his successor finally end the investigation. ARKIN: There was no reason for that arrest, no justification for it. There was nothing to it. They never were able to try that case. And that man went through torture and hell for a while.

CHERNOFF: Richard Wigton's career was destroyed. Unable to get his job back, at age 57, he was forced into retirement.

Wigton declined to speak on camera about Giuliani, but did tell CNN: "I was a victim. I was a victim of his ambition."

Tim Tabor, who never regained his job, also refused to speak on camera, saying simply: "I wouldn't count myself as a fan of Rudy Giuliani."

A third person arrested that day in 1987, Robert Freeman of Goldman Sachs, eventually did plead guilty to making an illegal stock trade and was sentenced to four months in prison.

When CNN asked Giuliani about Wigton and Tabor, he didn't answer directly, but conceded he had made some missteps among his many cases.

GIULIANI: Some of them were great successes, some of them were moderate successes and some of them were mistakes, which is what happens when you bring lots of cases.

CHERNOFF: Wigton's attorney, Stanley Arkin, says the case tells Americans a lot about Rudolph Giuliani.

ARKIN: It shows the quality of harshness and it demonstrated a quality of ruthlessness. I could not see a man such as he being president of this country. I don't think that would be something which would be good for our people.

CHERNOFF: Rudolph Giuliani never apologized to Wigton or Tabor.

Alan Chernoff, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

COLLINS: A body pulled from the Euphrates River in Iraq today.

Is it one of the three missing American soldiers?

We'll watch for developments, coming up in THE NEWSROOM.

HARRIS: Close call on a flooded creek. Look at these pictures. High water leads to a high rise. The story in THE NEWSROOM.

COMMERCIAL

COLLINS: Good morning, everybody.

I'm Heidi Collins.

HARRIS: And I'm Tony Harris.

Stay informed all day in the CNN NEWSROOM.

Here's what's on the rundown.

River discovery -- a body pulled from the Euphrates today.

Is it one of three missing American soldiers?

The military tries to figure it out.

COLLINS: Monica Goodling live this hour under oath with immunity. The one time Justice Department insider set to tell Congress what she knows about the fired federal prosecutors.

HARRIS: Record pump prices -- you want your tank to be good to the last drop.

Personal finance editor Gerri Willis tells you how.

It is Wednesday, May 23rd, and you are in the CNN NEWSROOM.

COLLINS: Caught up in the furor over the U.S. attorney firings -- this hour, a former Justice Department official tells her side of the story. Monica Goodling will be asked whether politics played a role in the firing.

Justice Department Kelli Arena joining us live now -- good morning to you, Kelli.

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

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