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Blackwater Security Guards May Have Struck Deal; Beach House Inferno
Aired October 30, 2007 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Plus, rising up against the red storm. A mayor's plan to ban anything and everything made in China, on this AMERICAN MORNING. Is that even possible? Could you do it?
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Not everything is stamped made in China. You know, ingredients, as we saw in pet foods and other materials that go into things.
CHETRY: Very true.
ROBERTS: So how do you tell?
CHETRY: Very true. Very tricky undertaking. We'll talk more about that.
Welcome, by the way. It's Tuesday, October 30th. I'm Kiran Chetry.
ROBERTS: And good morning to you. I'm John Roberts.
The Iraqi government accuses them of killing civilians in cold blood, but now Blackwater security guards may have struck a deal. Sources say the State Department granted them immunity in a case surrounding the shooting deaths of 17 Iraqi civilians.
State Department correspondent Zain Verjee is in Washington now with breaking details.
Zain, these contractors are being offered what's called limited use immunity. What exactly does that mean?
ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPT. CORRESPONDENT: It basically means they were promised they wouldn't be criminally charged for anything they said as long as their statements were true, and State Department investigators from the Bureau of Diplomatic Security offered it to Blackwater guards, even though they don't have the power or the authority to make decisions like that. That's something that's usually done in consultation with federal prosecutors.
Now, officials familiar with the matter told CNN that what this does is really complicates efforts to bring criminal charges to the case. One U.S. government official said, though, that this doesn't mean that charges can never be brought against them.
An FBI team, as you know, has been investigating the September 16th shooting, where 17 Iraqis were killed. Blackwater says that it fired in self defense. It came under hostile fire. The Iraqi government says that it was premeditated murder.
And, John, one of the problems with this immunity deal is that the FBI is not going to be able to use any of the information or the statements that diplomatic security got from interviewing the guards. Blackwater guards and other civilian contractors are in a bit of a legal twilight zone, because they're immune from both Iraqi law, and they can't be tried in U.S. military courts.
ROBERTS: And adding, Zain, to the incredible nature of all of this is that apparently senior officials at the State Department had no idea what was going on. What do they have to say all of this today?
VERJEE: Well, officially, they've had no comment. But we spoke to a senior State Department official who says that it was something that was not sanctioned by the senior management in Washington, meaning Secretary of State Rice.
Now, she had sent a team over to Iraq to investigate sort of the overall security practices, and that team concluded that there was no legal basis to hold contractors accountable under U.S. law. And they recommended that that change. The House has already taken action, and the Senate may do the same.
ROBERTS: All right, obviously, we're going to hear a lot more about this today.
Zain Verjee for us in Washington. Zain, thanks -- Kiran.
CHETRY: Well, we're hearing some dramatic new survivor stories, John, and also 911 calls from the beach house inferno in North Carolina that took the lives of seven college students. Last night hundreds of people gathered for a candlelight memorial at the University of South Carolina. That's where six of the victims went to school. Another one went to Clemson University.
Well, now parents want to know why this home went up in flames so quickly with more than a dozen young people inside.
Our Alina Cho is at our national desk with new details this morning.
And, Alina, as they're finding out more and hearing more about it, is there any word on what caused that fire?
ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No definitive word just yet, Kiran, and actually it could be up to a month where we know for sure. There are several published reports this morning, though, that the fire may have started in the back of the house, possibly on the back deck. And fire officials do not suspect foul play. They do believe it was an accident.
Also, for the first time, we're hearing the frantic 911 calls, alerting authorities that house on North Carolina's coast was on fire.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) DISPATCHER: 911, where's your emergency?
CALLER: Yes, I'm out on the beach. A man is screaming and jumped out the window. The house is totally engulfed in flames.
DISPATCHER: OK. We've got people on the way. Thank you.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
CHO: The fire broke out early Sunday morning. The kids were there for a weekend getaway. It was supposed to be a weekend of fun. Seven students died, but six miraculously survived, and one of them talked about what he did when he saw the flames.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FREDERICK "TRIP" WYLIE, FIRE SURVIVOR: I pulled the blinds off the window and kicked in the window. I mean, it was the only option, you know, you really had is to, you know, to jump out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHO: The names of the victims still have not been officially released, but they're being described as an aspiring attorney, a high school homecoming queen, and members of popular fraternities and sororities. They were as young as 18 years old. Funerals are planned for this weekend.
And, Kiran, grief counselors are on hand to help the thousands of students at two universities deal with this tragedy. Just an awful, awful story.
CHETRY: It really is, Alina. All right, thank you.
ROBERTS: Oil prices hit a new high, settling above $93 a barrel. Our Stephanie Elam in for Ali Velshi at the business update desk this morning.
Stephanie, is there any end in sight?
STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Doesn't look like it. Seems like we have a new record, right. Every day we come back, and beef got a new all time high. This is the case again today. $93.53 is where we closed yesterday. That was up $1.67. So, again, we also have a new intraday high in oil as well.
Part of the reason, Mexico's decision to go ahead and cut one- fifth of its oil production because of the storm. That's basically cutting back 600,000 barrels of oil a day. That's factoring in.Also the tensions in Middle East playing a part as well, and the weakening dollar. That could continue because the Fed is beginning their two- day meeting today, and tomorrow they are widely expected to cut interest rates by a quarter percentage point. That will also probably slide the dollar down a bit more for weakness there. That could factor in as well. So we'll be looking to see what the Fed does. Obviously, before the Fed makes its decision, right now taking a look at our futures. Looks like we're off to a lackluster day. Everyone is waiting on the sidelines, John, to see what the Fed's going to do.
ROBERTS: All right. Well, we'll see how far they go tomorrow.
Stephanie, thanks very much for the update.
CHETRY: Well, health officials sounding the alarm now about flu season, which is rapidly approaching. Will there be enough vaccine for everyone who wants it, and who should get a flu shot?
CNN's Elizabeth Cohen is at the medical update desk this morning.
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Kiran.
Kiran, that's right. Flu season is upon us, and there's something everyone needs to know. There was a bad flu season recently in Australia. You might think, well, who cares what the flu season is in Australia? I live in the United States. Well, you know what, experts look to Australia to see what's going to happen to us. And if they had a bad season, that could mean we will have a bad season as well.
So we're going to go through the list of everyone who needs to have a flu shot and talk about basically people aren't following this advice. I'll go over that in a second. Anyone over 50 years old ought to have a flu shot. Children, ages 6 months to 5 years old, ought to have a flu shot and their siblings, even if they're older. That's important. Pregnant women, people with chronic disease, diabetes, asthma, et cetera, also ought to have flu shots.
And, Kiran, there is a really stunning new study out that says that a huge proportion of cancer patients who are over age 50, so these are people with cancer, a chronic disease, and they're over age 50, many of them are not getting the flu shot. And if anyone needs a flu shot, that group certainly does.
And is there any reason why? I mean, there's still that myth that seems to circulate around there that the flu shot can cause the flu.
COHEN: Right, exactly. And that probably is one of the reasons why a lot of people don't get flu shots, is they think they're going to get the flu. That is positively, absolutely incorrect according to the Centers for Disease Control. They say it's this old wives tale that's been out there and that persists, but they say you are not going to get the flu from a flu shot.
I think another reason sometimes why people don't get flu shots, ironically, is let's say for example that you are sick, or let's say for example that you're pregnant, people think, well, if I'm in a fragile state in some way, I shouldn't get a flu shot, because it might make me worse. Well, it's completely the opposite. If you have any kind of vulnerability -- if you're pregnant, if you have cancer, if you have diabetes, you're exactly the kind of person who should get a flu shot.
CHETRY: All right. And there will be enough this year to go around?
COHEN: That's what they say. That's what they say.
CHETRY: Elizabeth Cohen, thank you.
ROBERTS: Coming up now to 12 minutes after the hour, immunity for Blackwater. Could they really get off scot-free? A Closer look at the legal issues behind the controversial deal.
And the vice president goes on a hunting trip and stumbles into another controversy. Why the Reverend Al Sharpton chimed in on it. That's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.
CHETRY: Well, back to our top story now. It's an immunity deal that could let Blackwater guards off the hook in connection with the shootings of 17 Iraqi civilians back in September. There are a lot of questions this morning about how the deal could be made and what the implications are.
Eugene Fidell is the president of the National Institute of Military Justice. He joins me this morning from Washington. Thanks for being with us.
EUGENE FIDELL, MILITARY LAW ANALYST: Good morning, Kiran.
CHETRY: So, legally, does the State Department have the authority to offer immunity to Blackwater employees in the first place?
FIDELL: No, I don't think the State Department can grant immunity. Effectively, immunity is granted by prosecutors in the civilian federal courts, and the prosecutors apparently were caught by surprise by this one.
CHETRY: So if they don't have the immunity to do this -- first of all, how did immunity get approved?
FIDELL: Well, first of all, let me say you can have such a thing as de facto immunity. In some narrow circumstances, a person who can't -- who lacks the authority to grant the immunity may nonetheless have apparent authority. And if the recipient construes it as a grant of immunity, then a court could give it force. So there's a difference between de facto immunity and sort of the real thing. That's a threshold question.
CHETRY: All right. Well, bottom line is the FBI is still looking into this incident that took place on September 16th in Iraq. Will they have to get around being able to interview these Blackwater employees because of the State Department?
CHETRY: Why is that, I guess, still holding up if there are questions about whether or not the State Department can even offer that immunity?
FIDELL: They may be doing this out of a sense of, you know, trying to salvage something of a bad situation. Probably what the Justice Department and the FBI are trying to do at this point is get statements from the Blackwater individuals, who previously gave statements that are subject to question; get a different set of statements that's untainted. In other words, it's gone through a different set of interrogators, a different chain of command entirely. That way they would at least have a chance at trying to get a prosecution going, despite the prior interaction with the State Department personnel.
And the company is still insistent that this convoy was under attack before it opened fire in Baghdad, killing the 17 Iraqis. There was a follow-up investigation done by Iraqi government, who says that they were unprovoked at the time. They haven't got any witnesses to contradict that. And central command also said, quote, "No enemy activity involved."
So how will this case now play out, with both sides saying different things and questions now about whether any of those people have to give any more testimony?
FIDELL: Look, it's not going to happen in the Iraqi courts. That is perfectly clear. There's a question as to whether you could bring a prosecution under the uniform code of military justice with respect to the Blackwater individuals. There's a cloud over the federal investigation. So how there's ever going to be a serious investigation that anybody could have any confidence in is really the open question of the day. And I think that we'll learn more by the end of the day.
CHETRY: Is there a cloud over the State Department as well? The senior officials are saying they didn't sign of on anything. So who would have within the State Department?
FIDELL: Well, that's one question. How high up within the Bureau of Diplomatic Security did this process go? Obviously, it's another embarrassment for the bureau.
CHETRY: All right. Eugene Fidell, military law expert, thanks for being with us.
FIDELL: My privilege.
ROBERTS: And fighting the superbug -- reports of the drug- resistant bacteria keep on popping up. What one hospital is doing to stop if from spreading. That's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.
ROBERTS: What's your pet peeve at the office? Gossiping tops the list of a new market research poll followed by people who do nothing but surf the net and send out mass e-mails. Then messy colleagues. Those who wear too much perfume or cologne. And people whose speakerphones are too loud or talk too loudly on the phone.
So we want to know what you think. What's your biggest pet peeve at the office? cast your vote at CNN.com/am.
CHETRY: All right. Well, it looks like the morning viewers agree with the survey -- 40 percent saying it's gossiping that really gets under their skin, 26 percent saying people who talk on the phone too loud, 19 percent being messy. Then the too much perfume. And last, surfing the net, I guess doesn't bother them as much, because they're doing it too.
ROBERTS: I would imagine so. How many people surf the net in an office in a given day? Like everybody?
CHETRY: That's right. That's what you do now, go for information. Go right to the Internet.
ROBERTS: Go for the "information," yes, of course.
Story coming up in our next half hour here on AMERICAN MORNING that you just can't miss: "The made in China" label under fire for a while now. A while back on AMERICAN MORNING, you might remember, we spoke with a writer who did without Chinese imports for one year.
CHETRY: She talked about just how difficult it was, and how sometimes you have no idea because the ingredients don't say "made in China" and the label doesn't say "made in china."
So now one mayor, actually the mayor of Palm Bay, Florida, has had enough with all the recalls, and he is calling on a ban of all products made in China. So how would it work? can they really pull it off?
ROBERTS: Difficult. He can only do it for the city, too, obviously. He can't say to residents, don't buy things made in China. Of course he'd like to encourage them, too.
CHETRY: We'll see if it worked out, that story and all the headlines when AMERICAN MORNING comes right back.
KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: And a possible pass for Blackwater security. Sources tell us the state department granted immunity to bodyguards in the deaths of 17 Iraqis citizens. FBI agents just got back from Baghdad where they were investigating last month's shooting. The State Department would not confirm the deal. It only said that senior officials did not sign off on anything.
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Good news for home buyers, but bad news for drivers. The federal reserve begins a two-day meeting in which they're expected to cut interest rates that would make it easier to get a loan, but as oil prices are pegged to the American dollar, as the American dollar slides, it could drive the price of oil up even further.
Supporters of the state children's health insurance program are scrambling to save it. Senators are working to make changes to the bill before a possible vote today. The house passed it last week, but if no changes are made, it will likely get vetoed by President Bush. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says money should not be the problem.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), HOUSE SPEAKER: The annual cost of insuring 10 million children in America is 40 days spent in Iraq. 40 days in Iraq, 10 million children insured in America in one year. So we certainly can afford to do this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: The bill would expand the state children's health insurance program by $35 billion over five years. The president promising to veto it.
We're getting a look this morning inside an alleged sweatshop in India, where authorities say children as young as 10 were making clothes for the Gap. CNN has obtained these photos. The facility in New Delhi was raided and police say they found children working under grueling conditions for little or no pay. We talked to the president of the Gap on Monday on AMERICAN MORNING, and she told us that the Gap stopped ordering from the shop as soon as they found out about the allegations. The Gap says none of the products made at the alleged sweatshop will be sold in its stores.
CHETRY: Also happening this morning, calls from the United Nations to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay. The U.N. special investigator for human rights calling on the U.S. to either try the enemy combatants held there or let them go. His report citing issues with detention practices, military courts, and interrogation methods.
Electricity production in Iraq is at an all time high according to a report out today. The inspector general for iraq reconstruction cites successes like two road construction projects at a water treatment plant in Mosul but also says that violence and corruption are holding back reconstruction overall, including oil production and basic services.
A brigadier general hurt in a roadside bombing is the highest ranking American officer wounded in the Iraq war. Brigadier General Jeffrey Dorko is in stable condition and will be treated as a U.S. military hospital in Germany. He's the commanding general of the gulf region division.
There are new efforts this morning to stop the spread of the so- called Superbug. Loyola University Medical Center, near Chicago, will soon start screening all incoming patients for the drug-resistant bacteria. The results come back within hours. The infected patients would then be isolated and treated. Similar plans have been used effectively in Europe.
ROBERTS: This is one of those ones that make you scratch your head and say what were they thinking? The FEMA official behind a fake news conference is out of a job this morning. He was to move on to a new P.R. post with the director of national intelligence. FEMA Director David Paulison is now speaking out about the whole thing.
We go to the White House now and our correspondent Elaine Quijano for the very latest on this.
Elaine, David Paulison certainly didn't hold anything back when he was describing his feelings about this incident.
ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I know. Absolutely not, John. You're right. Good morning to you.
CNN has obtained an internal memo, in fact, by FEMA Director David Paulison to FEMA's staff in which he blasts those within the agency who are essentially responsible for what happened last week with that fake news conference, if you will. Paulison said that their actions represented a breach of ethical practice that tore at FEMA's credibility. And he said, "I do not condone their actions, no matter how well intended, and have conveyed my displeasure directly through formal reprimand and admonishment to those involved." This, of course, has been yet another FEMA blunder for the Bush White House, which has been trying to aggressively communicate the message last week that the federal government had changed since Katrina, that the federal government was on top of things and had improved.
So far from defending that fake news conference, Spokeswoman Dana Perino last week, when asked about this, essentially distanced herself, saying that's not something officials here at the White House would have done.
John, as you noted, the former director of external affairs at FEMA, Pat Philbin, he was slated to take a job at the Director of National Intelligence office, he was going to be public affairs director there, that's not happening anymore. We understand there was a meeting yesterday between Philbin and officials at the DNI's office, after which they issued a statement saying he's not scheduled to take that job anymore.
John. ROBERTS: You got to think the senior management it's pretty frustrating. Last week the story was all about the response to the fires wasn't Katrina. Now the story this week is all about rank incompetence at FEMA. What is Director Paulison doing to make sure this doesn't happen again?
QUIJANO: Well you know really, it's back to basics. He's obviously looking at this particular situation, but he also is pointing out in this internal memo that CNN obtained, some of the things that went wrong here, very basic things. A news conference, for instance, he says, it's not acceptable to not have media there and then to have FEMA staff pose these questions. He also goes on to say that, even though there were some reporters who were on the phone and allowed to listen in, the fact they weren't able to actually ask questions is not acceptable. And he also says the fact there was only about 15 minutes or so notice given to these reporters is not acceptable also. You can be sure he will, in fact, be looking at everything that went wrong to try and prevent this from happening again.
ROBERTS: I guess they're trying to do things right, but somebody's conspiring against them. Elaine Quijano for us at the White House this morning. Elaine, thanks.
A vice presidential hunting trip is making news again. Vice President Dick Cheney spent some time at the exclusive Clove Valley Rod and Gun Club north of New York City yesterday. That's where a "New York Daily News" photographer captured a photograph that shows the confederate flag hanging inside a club garage. You can see it in the upper right hand part of that picture. It's stuck on a door. The Reverend Al Sharpton is calling it an insult, asking the vice president to distance himself from the hunting grounds. The club had no comment. The vice president's office is telling news organizations that no one in the vice president's party saw a confederate flag or was aware there was one on the property.
CHETRY: Well, we've got pretty incredible new video just coming in. A cheerleader winds up in the wrong place at the wrong time during a football game. You can see what happens next. We're going to tell you how all of that turned out coming up on AMERICAN MORNING.
ANNOUNCER: Coming up on AMERICAN MORNING, drought and dairy prices.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're in trouble if the rain doesn't come.
ANNOUNCER: How a lack of rain could cause milk pains for Americans. Inside the drought and the dairy connection ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CHETRY: Tropical Storm Noel is on the move, and we're also talking about the extreme drought. Rob Marciano tracking both of these stories for us this morning.
ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Hey Kiran. Tropical Storm Noel now gaining a little bit more strength. It's just north of Cuba with winds of about 60 miles an hour. This latest forecast track of the National Hurricane Center brings it west for about 12 hours and then eventually recurving maybe skimming the coastline of Florida. They've got their own issues right now. We'll talk more about that in about a half hour.
Typically, we get help from hurricane season, help refill our reservoirs across the southeast. Not so this year. This map shows you that most of the hurricane tracks have been heading down to the south or recurving, much like Tropical Storm Noel is forecasted to do. And that has led to an extreme drought across the southeast. And what that has done, it's also created problems across the Tennessee River valley also.
Extreme drought, you bet. This drought monitor map actually goes a step beyond that to the next category, which is considered to be exceptional. That is rarely seen and engulfed a lot of the southeast, much of northern Alabama, eastern Tennessee, and the western parts of the Carolinas.
Now, there's a three-state fight for water of Lake Lanier in Georgia. The state's largest reservoir is about 15 feet below normal and they still pump 3 billion gallons of water. They release it downstream every day to industries downstream in Alabama and Florida. As you can imagine, the battle for that water is certainly heating up. And the pain from the drought will soon reach all of us who want things like milk in our cereal or even a burger for lunch. That part of the story now from AMERICAN MORNING's Ed Lavandera.
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Gary Mason is like a kid playing in the rain as we wide four-wheelers across his east Tennessee dairy farm. You don't mind doing this interview in the rain, do you?
GARY MASON, DAIRY FARMER: I'm loving it.
LAVANDERA: The wetter, the better.
MASON: I hope you all get wet.
LAVANDERA: It's been six months since he's seen significant rainfall, but this water is hardly a drop in the bone dry bucket that used to be this five-foot-deep pond.
MASON: My bed is 80 years of age, and it's never gone dry.
LAVANDERA: This is a main water source for his 143 cows. MASON: I wouldn't wish a hurricane on anyone, but it's going to take some kind of a front like that to come up through the Tennessee valley to help us get replenished.
LAVANDERA: The southeast drought is drying up milk production.
MASON: When it gets hot, the cows won't even come in here and stick their heads in and eat. They just -- they don't want to eat.
LAVANDERA: Less food means less milk. About 83 gallons a day less on Mason's farm. Which means, if the rain doesn't come soon, the price of milk could keep going up. Dairy producer Rob Mayfield says milk drinkers might see prices rise as high as $5 a gallon.
ROB MAYFIELD, MAYFIELD DAILY FARMS: We're hoping to see some slight decreases as we get into winter and more normal climate, more rain.
LAVANDERA: If the rain doesn't come?
MAYFIELD: We're in trouble if the rain doesn't come.
LAVANDERA: Back on the farm, Gary Mason's cattle herd comes in for milking. But each day without rain, that last drop of milk comes much faster.
MASON: We keep praying for rain, and we just need a lot of it. A lot of rain.
LAVANDERA: Ed Lavandera, CNN, McMinn County, Tennessee.
ROBERTS: As Rob Marciano said, Tropical Storm Noel not expected to get to Georgia, Tennessee, and the Carolinas.
Pope Benedict XVI has a message for Catholic pharmacists. Your "Quick Hits" now. The pope is urging them not to fill prescriptions that have what he calls immoral purposes. Several states already allow pharmacists to refuse health care for religious or moral reasons.
A new low versus the euro. The dollar sank to another record low against the euro, and a 47-year low against the Canadian loonie on Monday. The euro hit $1.44 for the first time against the American buck. Analysts anticipate an interest rate cut here at home. That'll happen tomorrow, and could send the dollar even lower.
Coming up on AMERICAN MORNING, a Florida mayor takes on China. He's fed up with tainted imports. Wait until you hear his plan to cut the communist nation out of city hall. We talk to the mayor ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.
CHETRY: 46 minutes after the hour now. If you're just joining us, here's your look at some of the stories making headlines this morning.
Investigators are focusing on the back of a North Carolina beach house. They're trying to narrow down where this deadly fire started that killed seven college students Sunday. They still don't know the cause. That's coming up at the top of the hour.
State Department investigators gave Blackwater guards immunity in exchange for their statements about the shooting that left 17 Iraqi civilians dead. Senior State Department official telling CNN the immunity deal was not sanctioned by senior management.
Financial markets are going to be watching for a rate cut. The fed begins a two-day meeting today, and many traders are hoping they will cut the short-term interest rate by a quarter point. Market futures are down so far this morning.
And the Supreme Court will hear arguments today on a child pornography law and whether or not it encroaches on free speech. Justices will consider Congress' latest attempt to curb porn on the Internet. The law makes advertising child pornography illegal even if the ads themselves are not pornographic. Critics say the law is so broad that it could classify ads for literature alike Romeo and Juliet or Lolita pornography.
Well another witness turning against O.J. Simpson. Michael McClinton now the third co-defendant to make a plea deal. Prosecutors say Simpson was involved in an armed robbery at a Las Vegas hotel casino. Simpson says he was just trying to get back memorabilia that was stolen from him.
ROBERTS: It's coming up to 11 minutes now to the top of the hour.
From lead painted toys to tainted food, Americans are becoming more and more skeptical about products that come from China.
Our next guest wants to take the extraordinary step of banning anything with the "Made in China" label from his city. John Mazziotti is the mayor of Palm Bay, Florida. He joins us now live.
Mayor, what prompted your idea for this ban?
MAYOR JOHN MAZZIOTTI, PALM BAY, FLORIDA: Well basically with all the recalls and the products that were banned, that made me do a little bit of research to find out what's happening really and in the process I found out there were a lot more products I didn't even know about, anywhere from the pet foods to the foods we eat to the toys. Then I did some research and also found out we were losing jobs, manufacturing jobs. So, you know, you live with those things and you accept those things, but when Mattel made an apology to the Chinese people for their products, I felt they apologized to the wrong person, and I decided it was time to do something.
ROBERTS: This applies only to city purchases. Obviously, you can't stop residents from buying things made in China. What are the criteria for something that would get caught up in this ban? MAZZIOTTI: OK. If it's basically -- if it's the only product of its kind out there that comes from China, we have to buy it. If it's an emergency, let's say a hurricane or something that we need product, we have to buy it. The exceptions come anything over $50 we look at. And if we can find a comparable product made in the United States or thereafter, we buy that. And also, there's a limit up to 150 percent of what the cost of the product is.
ROBERTS: How do you enforce this? Because not everything that comes from China is stamped made in China. There are components that go into certain things which aren't necessarily stamped made in China. There are ingredients that go into things, as we saw, like in pet food. We don't know where they're sourced from. How do you police this?
MAZZIOTTI: And that's how bad it's gotten now. It's gotten so bad we can't even tell what's from China anymore. The labeling on them is not always accurate. When it comes to the city and the things the city uses, it's generally type of machinery and mechanics type stuff, pipes and drainage equipment. Those are the things we have to look for. It's the major things we buy is where it's going to happen.
With all of the lead poisoning that's going on within the toys, I recommend to everybody check the labels on anything you buy in the store.
ROBERTS: Mayor, you mentioned just a moment ago there are some exceptions to the rule, such as if it's going to cost the city of Palm Bay more than 150 percent more to buy something that's not made in China. My question is if you have exceptions to this rule, I mean what good is a ban?
MAZZIOTTI: Well, it's not a total ban in the sense we can't control everything. If a Chinese product sells for $1 and the American product sells for $10, my constituents wouldn't stand for that. Somewhere along the line, I'm trying to find a compromise that's acceptable to the residents as well as acceptable to the city.
ROBERTS: What's the reaction been so far?
MAZZIOTTI: Well, I've gotten probably about 100 and some e- mails. I got maybe about 50 phone calls. And out of roughly 150 responses, I had 5 negatives. And there are a lot of people ...
ROBERTS: This isn't official yet. It comes to a vote, what, next month?
MAZZIOTTI: Yes. What we're going to do is, when I originally brought it up, I didn't have all the votes there. They suggested that we continue it. We're going to be having a workshop in a couple of weeks. At the workshop, I encourage counsel if they don't like some stuff, change it, do what you have to do. Let's see where we go from there. But it's something that needs to be done. If we don't do this, it's getting worse all the time.
ROBERTS: We'll keep following this story. Mayor John Mazziotti from Palm Bay, Florida, thanks for being with us this morning. We'll check back with you and see how this goes.
MAZZIOTTI: Thank you.
ROBERTS: All right. Kiran.
CHETRY: When you think of the pain of osteoarthritis, you usually think of the elderly. There's a new study showing that people under 40 might be at risk as well. We're going to show you why and if there's anything effective you can do about it coming up ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.
ROBERTS: Sometimes you can just tell things aren't going to work out right. Take a look at this. A cheerleader in Auburn, Washington, didn't stand much of a chance against her own team. The incredible video was shot last Friday. She was trying to fix something in the banner when the team came charging through it and literally stampeded her. They were just trying to get pumped for the game by ambushing the pre-game banner. She suffered a bruised jaw. Otherwise, she's doing OK.
CHETRY: Wow. She got really lucky. Imagine the huge linebackers rushing right towards you. They had helmets on as well. She was able to stand up right afterward.
ROBERTS: She's OK. She got hurt a little bit, but she actually came out of that better than many people thought she would have.
CHETRY: Yes, absolutely.
What about your pet peeve at the office? Gossiping topping the list of a new market research poll. It's followed by people who do nothing but surf the net and send out mass e-mails. Then there's messy colleagues; those who wear too much perfume or cologne, and people who use speakerphones, are too loud or they're just too loud in general on the phone.
ROBERTS: We want to know what you think about all of this. Cast your vote for biggest office pet peeve at CNN.com/am. Right now loud phones are beginning to creep up the list a little bit. Look at that. Gossiping still number one at 35 percent. Phones too loud not far behind at 30. Then we go to too much perfume, 16 percent. Being messy, 14 percent. Surfing the net, that was number two nationwide. Only 5 percent of our viewers. I guess there's a lot of net surfers out there. They don't mind people doing it.
CHETRY: Well, we already know what Stephanie Elam's pet peeve, which is messiness in the office. Let me straighten it up for you.
STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I guess I'm coming in on your office space, so I can't really complain.
CHETRY: It's a large desk.
ELAM: Let's take a look at here what's going on in Hollywood. We actually have business news coming out of Hollywood. Writers there are preparing to strike perhaps. Their contract expires Wednesday night, and it looks like Thursday they're giving the OK to strike if they don't get what they want. Here's the big issue here. They want a share of profits from DVD sales and from shows offered on the internet, cell phones, other devices. They're saying, hey, we wrote this stuff. Give us our cut of it. That's what they're looking for here. If this does happen, obviously, the networks have got to figure out a way to fill some space. Obviously shows like "Desperate Housewives" and "Heroes," they're written through the beginning of next year. Then after that, there's nothing else to put on the air. They're looking at game shows, reality TV shows, and even rerunning shows if they have to at networks. Obviously no one wants to see this happen but the two sides have not been able to come up with an agreement. Since July they've been talking about this. So that means if you're into one of these shows, you could be in trouble.
Here's another interesting tidbit. When you take a look at the Hollywood big awards shows, the Oscars, the Golden Globes, those are all written by writers, and they are striking. So they may not have anyone to write those shows for them too.
ROBERTS: Imagine the host having to ad lib.
ELAM: All by themselves.
CHETRY: And it's funny to watch the actresses and actors read the teleprompter because I guess you know shooting a movie is they really memorize their scripts and just get in the moment.
ELAM: I like it when the ones actually address it like wait, roll back. What does that say? Wait, I don't understand.
ROBERTS: It never happens here.
CHETRY: Never here. It's all so natural.
ROBERTS: Stephanie, thanks. See you next hour.
A look at a story coming up in our next half hour that you just can't miss. You remember this guy, he made the phrase don't taze me, bro, a phrase across the nation that everybody recognizes.
CHETRY: Yes well new word on the fate of that University of Florida student. He's the one that kicked up the international spectacle last month trying to ask a question of Senator John Kerry. We're going to tell you what he's up to now.
The next hour of AMERICAN MORNING starts right now.
Escaping an inferno, how survivors made it out of a burning beach house. Their dramatic stories and calls to 911.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A man is screaming-jumping out of the window. The house is engulfed in flames. (END VIDEO CLIP)
CHETRY: License to drive, New York Governor Eliot Spitzer on his plan to offer licenses to illegal immigrants and his response to his toughest critic.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This governor, this arrogant abuser of his office!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHETRY: The governor joins us live.
Plus, Britney's new beat. Her move to do today to go from the tabloids to the top of the charts on this AMERICAN MORNING.
ROBERTS: Mariah Carey did it, so why couldn't Britney Spears?
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