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AMERICAN MORNING

Benazir Bhutto Laid To Rest In Her Family's Mausoleum; Financial Markets Taking A Hit Overseas; New Questions After That Deadly Tiger Attack On Christmas Day

Aired December 28, 2007 - 08:00   ET

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


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Kiran Chetry.
And we've been following the latest developments breaking out of Pakistan right. Benazir Bhutto, the former prime minister and opposition leader, laid to rest in her family's mausoleum. This taking place in southern Pakistan within the hour. The burial now complete. We're going to catch you up on everything that happened overnight. What's going on right now, and also how things are shaping up for the rest of the day.

There, you're seeing video rioting from furious supporters of Benazir Bhutto taking place throughout the country. In fact, the military police given the order to shoot on-site in some of the provinces because of the violence that was taking place there and its trying to prevent more of the rioting. Ten people lost their lives overnight and 20 others killed yesterday, taking to the streets and clashing with military police. Over the word of the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.

Others, though, hundreds of thousands did turn out for that funeral procession saying their emotional good-byes to the first female leader of the Muslim world. President Pervez Musharraf, again, has declared three days of mourning and today, the prime minister is also saying that they are going to go forward with parliamentary elections set for January 8th, that there will be no postponing those elections.

At the same time, the leader of one of the parties running against Musharraf, Nawaz Shariff, has called for Musharraf to step down and is saying, his party will boycott the elections. The question also remains this morning who killed Benazir Bhutto? The U.S. is investigating an alleged claim of responsibility by al Qaeda. As we heard from our Jeanne Meserve, also looking at other options as well. The people that could have been involved, their organizations, in the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.

Meanwhile, as we said, forces in the southern city of Karachi have been ordered to shoot on-site to try to prevent more rioting. Our senior international correspondent Nic Robertson spent considerable time in Pakistan. And he joins us live now with more on the situation that's unfolding and still trying to, to try to make some headway in the uncertainty and the volatility that's taking place in that country.

It was just 24 hours that the news came out, Nic, of the assassination of Bhutto.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Now, she has been buried as with Islamic tradition, buried within 24 hours. And now, the pressure is very much on her party. The Pakistan Peoples Party to select a new leader. I talked to a senior party official earlier today. He said that they needed to elect somebody, select somebody who was strong, who was charismatic, and who could fill the very big shoes left behind by Benazir Bhutto.

She had been the head of this political dynasty since her father was hanged by the military government, 28 years ago. And it's going to be very difficult for the party to find somebody of that stature and capability, but they say, they're able to do it. And they will do it very, very swiftly -- Kiran?

CHETRY: Nic Robertson, reporting for us on the developing situation. Thank you. By the way, be sure to catch a special CNN investigation, "Pakistan Terror Central." Nic Robertson is hosting that. It will re-air tonight at 8:00 Eastern on CNN.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Financial markets taking a hit overseas this morning, on the news of Bhutto's assassination and the turmoil in Pakistan. Europe is trading lower today. Hong Kong key stock index, the Hang Seng closed down nearly 2 percent today, in the end of the year trading there. Tokyo finished down 257 points, 11 percent, lower for the year. It is the first time in five years that the Nikkei is closing lower than the year before. New York markets are showing a bit of a rebound right now. Market futures are up ahead of the opening bell after a substantial drop yesterday.

The FBI and Homeland Security are investigating an alleged claim of responsibility in Bhutto's assassination by al Qaeda. The feds using a bulletin citing, an Italian news agency that says, an al Qaeda commander in Afghanistan phoned the station to say that the terror organization's number two man and most visible leader, Ayman al- Zawahiri, reportedly set the wheels in motion for the assassination. Al-Zawahiri called for attacks upon Bhutto's return to Pakistan after years in self-imposed exile in the fall. Bhutto repeatedly called for the need to step up the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban.

Here in the United States, security is being step up in New York City, which is the home to the nation's largest Pakistani Community. Mayor Mike Bloomberg says there will be police officers surrounding the Pakistani consulate, Pakistani airlines, offices, and Pakistani banks -- Kiran?

CHETRY: All right. Well, as we heard just moments ago from CNN's Wolf Blitzer, Benazir Bhutto may have predicted her own death in an e-mail to a friend. She wrote that she feared for her life and that if anything happened to her, Pakistani President Musharraf should share the blame. She sent this shortly, after the attack on her homecoming motorcade in October where 136 people were killed.

She sent it to her longtime friend and her U.S. spokesman Mark Siegel who then, shared the e-mail with Wolf Blitzer saying not to disclose it, until and in the event of Bhutto's death. Well, Siegel says that Bhutto was extremely concerned about her lack of security.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK SIEGEL, FRIEND OF BENAZIR BHUTTO: She had asked for special tinted cars. She had asked for four police vehicles to surround her at all times. She basically asked for all that was required for someone standing of a former prime minister. All of that was denied to her.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: As you saw moments ago on AMERICAN MORNING, Wolf Blitzer told us that she believed colleagues of Pervez Musharraf were coming after her.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I don't think, you know, she was saying that Musharraf personally ordered her assassination. But I do think, she believed that he was complicit in not giving her the security. The Pakistani government, we spoke with the ambassador yesterday. He insists they did give her extraordinary security, but there is no such thing. Especially in the dangerous part of the world like that, where there is 100 percent security.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: Bhutto also wrote an article for cnn.com in which she said, that her return threatened, quote, "Forces of extremism that have thrived under a dictatorship." CNN by the way, will have full coverage of all the day's news as it breaks out of Pakistan. There's also a special edition of "Anderson Cooper 360." Anderson is live from Pakistan tonight, beginning at 10:00 p.m. eastern.

ROBERTS: In other news this morning, new questions after that deadly tiger attack on Christmas Day. The director of the San Francisco Zoo admits that the wall around the tiger's pen does not meet the recommended height. Does this mean that the tiger could have jumped out? It killed one person and seriously injured two others.

Our Dan Simon is following the latest developments in the investigation. He joins us live from San Francisco. And quite a change in the story in 24 hours, Dan. We had been hearing yesterday that this wall was 20 feet high and now, it doesn't seem to come anywhere near that.

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, John. It's only 12-1/2 feet high. The industry standards call for it to be 16 feet high. So, zoo official had some explaining to do yesterday. They had to issue a significant correction. The zoo remains closed today, John, and not because of the weather.

Of course, they're still continuing to look into this mauling and looking into it as a criminal investigation. But as far as this wall goes, what this means is that the tiger would have had a much easier time scaling the wall and breaking free of the enclosure. Now, in terms of what the zoo official said yesterday, take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MANUEL MOLLINEDO, DIRECTOR, SAN FRANCISCO ZOO: I think the tiger, well, if she grabbed on to something, it could have been a ledge. She had to have jumped. How she was able to jump that high is amazing to me, but it's an exotic animal.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SIMON: Now, we should point out that this zoo, all zoos across the country get periodic check ups from the AZA, that's the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. They were here three years ago. They looked at this tiger exhibit and they found really no problem. So, that's why things remain the same. That's why this wall, really, was only 12-1/2 feet. They didn't make it any higher.

In terms of where we are now, again, this is still a criminal investigation. Police still looking into whether or not, the victims may have played a role in this. Police did say, they found a shoe print on top of a fence. That is a fence that separates the general public from this tiger area. But in terms of concrete evidence, nothing firm yet in terms of whether or not these three victims may have taunted this tiger, John.

ROBERTS: And Dan, that's a long way from a story that was carried in "The San Francisco Chronicle" yesterday.

SIMON: Exactly. You know, "The Chronicle" reported that a shoe and some blood were actually found in the outer perimeter of the enclosure. Well, during a press conference yesterday, the police chief of San Francisco said there was no shoe, no blood found. They have talked to the two victims. The two victims who survived at the hospital and getting their statements. They're continuing to talk to them.

But, you know, police really had to dial back and sort of tone down the rhetoric, because a lot has been made about this so-called evidence, suggesting that, perhaps, these three victims may have taunted the tiger. But really haven't heard anything more about that -- John?

ROBERTS: A lot of speculation on what happened. But we do know now, that the height of that wall is a lot different than we had originally been led to believe. Dan Simon, for us this morning in San Francisco. Dan, thanks -- Kiran?

CHETRY: And a lot of stories are making headlines overnight as well. And Alina Cho is here with the very latest developments this morning. Hi, Alina.

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Kiran, John, Rob. Good morning, everybody.

New this morning, there's a word that as early as today, Osama Bin Laden may release a new Internet message. According to a terrorism monitoring group, Bin Laden will talk about Iraq and the insurgent group, the Islamist State of Iraq, which is a front organization for al Qaeda. Bin laden was last heard from at the end of November. This latest message is said to last about 56 minutes. No word on exactly, when it will be released or if it will be a video or audio message.

New details on that horrific shooting that took the lives of six family members on Christmas Eve. It happened near Seattle, Washington. Prosecutors are expected to file first-degree murder charges today against Michelle Anderson and her boyfriend, Joseph McEnroe. Police say the couple confessed to killing Anderson's parents and then, dragging their bodies to a backyard shed. Then, according to court papers, four other family members including two young children were killed about an hour later, because the couple feared they would be witnesses. Friends and relatives believe the shootings may have been the result of a fight over money.

There's incredible video this morning that shows the force of that Jacksonville, Florida, chemical plant explosion. You may remember, it happened about a week ago. This surveillance video of a business next door, take a look. It shows a man sitting at his desk when the blast occurs. Can you imagine that? Another camera shows an office being shaken. You can see all the books coming down and computers flying too. Then, a third camera shows a woman sitting at her desk when the blast hit. Four people at the plant died in the explosion and 14 others were injured.

And one of the most famously flawed stamps in U.S. history has fetched a pretty penny at auction. The mint condition "Inverted Jenny" as it's called, sold for $825,000. The 1918 24-cent stamp is famous for the fact that, as you can see there, the plane known as "The Jenny" was printed upside down. The buyer is said to be a Wall Street executive. They are buying up everything these days, aren't they? One expert called it the "Rolls-Royce of Stamps." Apparently, were 700 printed like that originally, only about a hundred slipped by inspectors and they've been sold off, one by one. The last one went for $977,500 by the way. Nearly a million bucks for that little thing.

CHETRY: How about it? And then you buy it, and don't tell your friends and, oh, I needed this stamp. Oops! There went nearly a million dollars.

CHO: Million bucks, down the drain.

CHETRY: Thanks, Alina.

CHO: You bet.

CHETRY: Well, we have a big storm moving in right now, in the Midwest. In fact, here's a live picture from Chicago. A lot of Northern Illinois now under a snow advisory from the National Weather Service. Forecasters say, the storm will likely drop six inches of snow in Chicago by tonight. Right now, its 34 degrees there, but it feels like 26 because of the wind temperatures. Although, if you look at that flag, it doesn't look like it's blowing right this second. ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Are you going to give me something to talk about here?

CHETRY: Hold on. Let me get to this next one. Colorado, trying to dig out from the second winter blast that hit in nearly two days. Stepping into the snow. I think the guy in the back, that was, Rob, skiing.

MARCIANO: I wish.

CHETRY: About a month ago. The city set the record for its snowiest Christmas Day, by the way, by getting eight inches of snow on Tuesday and has not been good news for travelers. United Airlines alone had to cancel 145 flights out of Denver, earlier this week.

ROBERTS: All right. So now, let's pitch you over to Rob Marciano. He's watching all the extreme weather across the country. What do you got left?

(WEATHER REPORT)

ROBERTS: Less than a week now, before the Iowa caucuses and foreign policy now taking center stage, as candidates react to the assassination of former Pakistani leader Benazir Bhutto. Coming up, Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson, on what he would do, if he were in charge. And he says the money that Pakistan needs to stop at the wake of Benazir Bhutto's assassination.

Democratic presidential candidate Bill Richardson will be joining us coming up next, making some very strong statements about what he thinks should happen. You'll hear them when AMERICAN MORNING returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Its 17-1/2 minutes after the hour. Some incredible images coming in from Pakistan that we have been watching this morning. What you saw in the bottom of your screen, was the coffin of Benazir Bhutto draped in the Pakistani flag. Hundreds of thousands of followers coming out to what's called her "Ancestral Home of Garhi Khuda Baksh." It's about 200 miles northeast of Karachi. There you can see them, filling the inside of the mausoleum. It's an enormous structure. Almost on the scale of the Taj Mahal in India.

There you can see them, throwing rose petals on top of her coffin. Her body had dirt placed over it. She was then, in turn in the ground, next to her father, Former Pakistani President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who was hanged in 1977 by the military dictatorship. So, these images coming in from us. This was probably about 90 minutes ago or so. And will continue to follow this important story throughout the day here on CNN -- Kiran?

CHETRY: In the meantime, the assassination of Benazir Bhutto has put terrorism back front and center in the 2008 battle for the White House. One candidate, pulling no punches right now, is Democrat Bill Richardson. He says aid to Pakistan should end until Pervez Musharraf steps down. The New Mexico governor joins us now live from Des Moines on the campaign trail with more on his plan, and also some poll numbers out of Iowa and New Hampshire.

Governor Richardson, great to see you this morning.

BILL RICHARDSON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you, Kiran.

CHETRY: And we hear about terrorists attacks. In fact, we hear almost on a daily or weekly basis, out of the region, including Pakistan. Yet, rarely do we hear for calls for the leaders of those countries to step down. Why do you believe, after this attack, that Pervez Musharraf needs to go?

RICHARDSON: Well, first of all, he has done very little to fight terrorism. We've given him $11 billion. He has no support from the Pakistani people. 65 percent of them want him out. There is turmoil there. This affects our interests. Pakistan is very important to us. What I would ask him to do, if I were president. I know the region. I've been there many times, would be to step aside, to form a caretaker technocratic government. This is in the Pakistani constitution.

An interim government until free and fair elections can be held and all of the opposition parties can participate. What is in U.S. interests is for there to be a stable Democratic Pakistan that is fighting terrorists. Right now, we've got the worst of all worlds. We've got President Musharraf deeply unpopular. You've got Pakistan in turmoil. You've got a very important popular leader assassinated. And we have nobody strong going after terrorists on the Pakistani border, Bin Laden. So, this is a time for a shift. This is the time for a shift in policy.

CHETRY: How does a caretaker government though, I mean, what we're seeing happen there, is that Pervez Musharraf is keeping a hold perhaps, I mean, it's arguably how effective it's been. But on terrorist elements, say the al Qaeda and Taliban elements, there at least to some extent. What is the backing of a caretaker government, military speaking, to make sure that that tenuous hold on some semblance of control is maintained?

RICHARDSON: Well, first of all, it looks like al Qaeda is responsible for this assassination, so I don't believe that Musharraf is doing a good job of containing terrorists. What I am proposing is something that happened after Benazir Bhutto's father was assassinated many years ago. In the Pakistani constitution, that's a provision for a caretaker government of technocrats until an election can be held.

Now, the election is tentatively for January 8th. Probably, it should be postponed until Nawaz Shariff, who is now the head opposition leader, former prime minister, decides to participate. He has refused to participate.

This is why U.S. diplomatic leadership is needed to bring the parties of broadly based government together and have the military and the intelligence services still in command. We still need internal stability in Pakistan, but right now, Musharraf is very unpopular. There's no Democracy in Pakistan. There is turmoil. Popular leader has been assassinated. We've got the worst of all worlds and if we continue our policy of the status quo of doing nothing, not pushing for Democratic elections and a process of going after terrorists. This is the worst part. Al Qaeda, the Taliban have gotten stronger in that region and we've given Musharraf $11 billion.

CHETRY: Right, $11 million and of course, the reporting has been, that much of that is unaccounted for, or at least, a large part of that is unaccounted for. So then, how does the U.S. take on a front and center role without actually being there? Are you talking about the possibility that we need to actually get military involvement in some way and shape and form in that region?

RICHARDSON: Well, we provide $11 billion in terrorism assistance, F-16s. It's substantial. We are already there. But what Musharraf has not done is go after the terrorists and their safe havens on the border, in the tribal areas with Afghanistan. He has just sat back, because feels that that has hurt him internally with the Islamic parties in Pakistan.

Yet, the Islamic parties are only about 10 percent of the vote of the political support. So, he has been demonizing Democracy. But he is unwilling to go after terrorists. So, we get the worst of all worlds. So, I am proposing a vigorous American policy shift that underscores the need for Democratic Pakistan, but also an all-out effort to go after terrorists, which he is supposed to do, which he has not done.

CHETRY: I want to ask you about the politics now in Iowa right now. Caucuses less than a week away. Well, there's a brand new L.A. Times/Bloomberg Poll that's out that we are going to pop up real quick. It has you, pulling at 7 percent in Iowa. 4 percent in New Hampshire. Fourth and fifth place respectively. How long will you stay in the race, if you don't finish in the top three, in either of those two early states, governor?

RICHARDSON: Well, I'm going to stay in the race for a long time. I feel I've got momentum in both Iowa and New Hampshire. We've got big crowds coming out. You know, in Iowa and New Hampshire, they don't listen to those polls that you have nationally. They have their own polls. They make their own decisions and I feel that we've got momentum. We're either third, fourth, but moving up. Crowds are big. These are voters that make up their minds the last five days.

CHETRY: Well, but...

RICHARDSON: So, I'm not worried about those national polls. You know, February 5th, is a date that a lot of western primaries, including my own state, New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, California, you know, I'm in there all the way, but those are the days that I'm looking at for strong performance.

CHETRY: I'm saying with all due respect, though, in most of the polls that have taken place, including the polls within those states, you're not in the top three, right now. Would you continue on to some of the other states if you don't finish in the top three in Iowa or New Hampshire?

RICHARDSON: Well, sure, of course, I will. You know, this is a 50-state marathon. It's not going to be something decided totally early. And Iowa and New Hampshire are critically important. I have to get a good bump there, but you watch. I mean, nobody here is watching those national polls. 50 percent of the voters in Iowa and New Hampshire haven't even made up their minds or are ready to switch. So, I am very confident that we're going to do well. I'm trying to end up in the top three and top two states. I think that's very doable.

CHETRY: All right. Well, we wish you a lot of luck and we thank you for coming on the show this morning. Thanks for getting up and being with us this morning. Governor Bill Richardson from the campaign trail in Des Moines, Iowa.

ROBERTS: Hey, coming up, in just a little while, we're going to hear from a Republican in the race. What would Fred Thompson do about the crisis in Pakistan, if he was in charge? We'll ask him just ahead.

And U.S. company is rushing to help China with the Olympics, but are they building a tool that can be use to harm the Chinese people? That's story when AMERICAN MORNING returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING. It's Friday, December 28th. I'm Kiran Chetry.

ROBERTS: And good morning to you. I'm John Roberts.

Thousands of people crowding in to say goodbye to Benazir Bhutto this morning. She has now been laid to rest next to her father. Final blessings were performed over her coffin earlier this morning. At least, 10 people died in overnight protest marking her murder.

And in Karachi, Pakistan, where troops have shoot on-site order. 200 cars were burned. Now, there is concern in the United States about keeping a terror-ridden nation with nuclear weapons stable. We've got the story covered from every angle today. Our John Vause is live from nearby Karachi and Ed Henry, live in Crawford, Texas.

But first to John Vause, for the latest there from Pakistan. And John, quite an emotional scene this morning, as hundreds of thousands people turned out for the funeral and burial of Benazir Bhutto.

JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Very much so, John. And before Benazir Bhutto was laid to rest, inside the family mausoleum, mourners simply tried to get close enough to her coffin as it passed by to reach out to touch it. Well, hundreds of thousands of others had gathered outside to pay their respect. This is the same place where Benazir Bhutto's father is buried and also her two brothers. All of them, victims of violent deaths.

Now, the government has called for three days of mourning, as well as ordering a massive security crackdown across the country after the violence of last night was, which as you say, left at least ten people dead and dozens and dozens of cars burnt out. We had a sporadic outbreak of violence here in Karachi a few hours ago, just after afternoon prayers. But at this stage, that security crackdown appears to be holding here in Karachi as night falls -- John.

ROBERTS: John, you interviewed Benazir Bhutto shortly after the attack on her convoy back in October. Obviously, she had a lot of concerns that her life could be in danger and, yet, she still continued on with her campaign.

VAUSE: Well, absolutely, she was determined to reach out to the people, as she said. She needed that connection with the people of Pakistan. And I asked her point blank, when do you think they will try to kill you again? And she said she knew that there were plots by her enemies to try and kill her.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: A number of threats have already been made, some involving women commandos. What else can you tell us?

BENAZIR BHUTTO, FMR. PRIME MINISTER OF PAKISTAN: Well about several threats, one of the threats is the one pertaining to the attack in Larkana. The second I was told, by some friends, that there would be a sniper attack when I went to Islamabad and in and about the Islamabad airport. The third, they said they're going to butcher you the way animals are butchered.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: And Benazir Bhutto told me that she felt very insecure and she said, quite simply, it was because the government did not provide the kind of security which she wanted -- John?

ROBERTS: Real example of her commitment to the cause there.

John Vause for us this morning in Karachi. John, thanks --Kiran?

CHETRY: The White House condemning the attack that killed an ally in the War on Terror and now its posing a major dilemma in dealing with Pakistan. Ed Henry is live with us at the Western White House in Crawford, Texas with more on the reaction, this morning, from the White House.

Good morning, Ed.

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Kiran.

That's right. Grave concern within the U.S. government, specifically the Bush administration. Obviously concerned about the fact that instability in Pakistan will make it even harder to reach the U.S. goal of having a stable democracy there in Pakistan. But also, the stakes enormous for U.S. security as well. All the chaos on the streets of Pakistan, these dramatic pictures we've been seeing, it's going to make it that much harder for Pakistan to focus in on the War on Terror and the hunt for Osama bin Laden in the short-term.

The Bush administration concerned that anger on the streets could spark more violence, and in the long-term, obviously, they're concerned about extremists taking over the government in Pakistan eventually, and getting their hands on Pakistan's nuclear weapons, Kiran.

CHETRY: Weighing in on whether or not they think these January 8th Parliamentary elections are realistic to go forward at this point?

HENRY: They are trying to stay out of that so it doesn't look like the U.S. is meddling in the Pakistani elections. That's the last thing Pakistan needs right now. But certainly the Bush administration is saying that whether it's on January 8th or some other date, they do want to see free and fair elections move forward as quickly as possible. And basically, Bhutto had been their plan B, that maybe there would be some sort of power-sharing agreement. Now they are looking for a plan C -- Kiran.

CHETRY: Ed Henry live in Crawford at the Western White House for us this morning. Thank you, Ed.

And by the way, we're just getting in some new information on the possible exact cause of the death of Benazir Bhutto. According to the Pakistani government, it was flying shrapnel that stemmed from that suicide bombing that ultimately cost her her life. The bomber also shot at her with a pistol as has been reported, but according to the Pakistani interior ministry in a report that was aired on the state- run news agency, she had no bullet injury. Rather, it was shrapnel -- flying shrapnel from that suicide explosion that took her life.

We have a lot of other stories making news this morning. Alina Cho is following the very latest developments for us.

Good morning, Alina.

CHO: Good morning. And we have more on how people are remembering Benazir Bhutto. Good morning John and Kiran, good morning everybody.

We're remembering Benazir Bhutto in our nation's capital. A condolence book is set up at the Pakistani embassy in Washington today through Monday. It is open to the public for signing between 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. each day. Keep in mind, CNN, of course, will have full coverage all day long as news breaks out of Pakistan. Be sure to catch a special edition of "ANDERSON COOPER 360" tonight. Anderson is heading to the region right now. He's going to be live from Pakistan starting at 10:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.

New video is just out showing the incredible force of a Florida chemical plant explosion. It happened a week ago in Jacksonville. Surveillance video of a business next door, as you can see there, shows a man who was sitting at his desk, was until the blast hit. Another camera showed an office being shaken. All the books and computers falling down. Another camera shows a woman sitting at her desk as she ducks for cover there. Four people at the plant died in the explosion, 14 others were injured.

A man who insisted on his innocence for 17 years, nearly half of his life, is finally free this morning. His name is Martin Tankleff. He's from New York. He was convicted of killing his parents when he was just 17 years old, and spent the last 17 years in prison. That conviction was thrown out yesterday. It has been a closely watched case, especially here in the New York area, as Tankleff supporters questioned police tactics used to put him behind bars. A private detective produced some sort of evidence, they're not saying what, that a business partner may have committed the murders of Tankleff's parents. It's not over yet though, he's out on a million dollars bail and he could still be retried for the crime.

Harsh criticism for U.S. companies helping to build a state of the art surveillance system for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Human rights advocates say, the Chinese government could use the equipment to crack down on its own people. But the U.S. Commerce Department says the sophisticated systems do not violate the ban on providing China crime control or detection instruments.

And most of the competition venues for the Beijing Olympics are completed with one big exception, take a look. The 91,000-seat national stadium, that's what we're talking about there. Take a look at those pictures. It's been nicknamed "the bird's nest" because of all the exterior work, the twisted beams there. The big stadium is expected to be finished by March. Of course, that is well ahead of the Olympic games in Beijing, which start on August 8th. Isn't that incredible?

CHETRY: It is, you were right. You needed to see the video.

CHO: Yes, last hour we had just a small picture. But yes, really incredible to see the construction. It's hard to make it out, except for the different colors between the cranes and the actual beams. But 80,000 people will be able to sit there. The opening and the closing ceremonies will be held there. It's not going to be like Athens, where they were rushing to finish all of the venues. In Beijing they are right on schedule in Beijing.

CHETRY: Now the have to rush to fix their pollution problem.

CHO: Yes.

ROBERTS: They're pretty used to construction there, though. In recent years, there's been a lot of it.

Alina, thanks very much.

CHO: You bet.

ROBERTS: Starting 37 minutes after the hour. The assassination of Benazir Bhutto comes just a week before the Iowa caucuses and is pushing terrorism and foreign policy to the forefront of the race. This morning, former Senator Fred Thompson of Tennessee is with us from the campaign trail. He joins us this morning from Pella (ah), Iowa. Senator, good to see you, good to have you on the program for the first time.

SEN. FRED THOMPSON, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you. Good to be with you.

ROBERTS: We had Governor Richardson on just a few minutes ago, who said that he is calling for President Musharraf in Pakistan to step down. What do you think of that idea? And if you were president today, how would you handle this crisis?

THOMPSON: No, I don't think that it would be a good idea to call for him to step down. I hope that we, as candidates, out here don't start lobbying these ideas that get plenty of attention, but are not very sound. This is a serious matter, it's going to be with us for sometime. And we need to be deliberate in our approach to it, because we have several interests involved there.

First and foremost, is the security interest with regard to those nuclear weapons that they have. We need the help of the Pakistani government with regard to what is happening in Western Pakistan and the fact that the Taliban is still there, probably Osama bin Laden is still there. We're going to have to get their help in confronting them. And lastly, of course, we have an interest in progress toward a true democracy in Pakistan. All of those things are on the table now, while we're waiting to see what happens in the street. So, he has been an ally. He has done some good things with us. We would be worse off had he not been there in many respects.

ROBERTS: Do you believe that ...

THOMPSON: We just have to face up to a balancing of those interests.

ROBERTS: Do you believe, Senator, that this White House has been pursuing a sound policy on Pakistan? Would you pursue a different policy?

THOMPSON: No, I think it's basically sound. I know Condoleezza Rice and others have been supportive of Bhutto going back and doing what she did. She would of undoubtedly been the next prime minister, had they carried out the elections on January 8th. It probably would have resulted in a power-sharing arrangement.

It looked like that Musharraf was content toward that path. He had taken off the uniform, he had put on civilian clothes. He had lifted martial law a couple of weeks ago. He had gone along with the ideas of elections in January, so things were moving in the right direction. So I can't be very critical of them when it was all upset because of an, undoubtedly, al Qaeda-related assassination.

ROBERTS: Senator, give us some insight into what a Thompson administration would be like. Who are the people that you would surround yourself with to aid you in handling a foreign policy crisis like this? Can you give us some names?

THOMPSON: Well, I'm not going to give you a list of names who I might have in my cabinet right now. A little premature for that.

ROBERTS: But who would you like to have close to you in a case like this?

THOMPSON: I sir, I would -- well, lets talk about me for a second, first. I mean, I'm the guy running for president. I served on the Intelligence Committee. I was chairman of the Governmental Affairs Committee that has jurisdiction over nuclear proliferation issues and things of that nature. I was the Republican floor manager for the Homeland Security Bill, I've traveled the world and met with many of these leaders, including Mr. Musharraf.

So, I have a grounding and a background. Condoleezza Rice called on me to chair an advisory board of distinguished Americans dealing with international security issues. So, I personally have a background in my service in the government and out of the government with regard to these areas and know most of the players who have been involved in these issues for a long time.

ROBERTS: All right, I was just -- I didn't mean to suggest that you weren't. Of course, you have broad experience but a sign of a good president as well, the people that he or she surround themselves with.

Let me ...

THOMPSON: It may not be a sign of a good president in an Iowa caucus to start naming his cabinet.

ROBERTS: Well, some have done that, though. Let me ...

THOMPSON: Well, I guess so.

ROBERTS: Let me switch to the campaign, if I could, Senator. Since September, looking at a poll of polls that we recently did, you've lost about half of your support nationally. You were 15 percent September/October, seven percent now. In the Iowa polls, you're polling third, fourth in some.

You present yourself as the true Reagan conservative here, which should go over well in a state like Iowa. So, what's the disconnect?

THOMPSON: Well, No. 1, of course, you're cherry-picking the polling data. This conglomeration of polls includes outliers that nobody knows who they are that shows me like minuscule percent. Obviously erroneous and that goes into the mix.

Here in Iowa, all the polls I've seen recently has me third. The Strategic Vision Poll, I guess was the last one came out, showed me in the teens, a respectable third. I would not be satisfied with third, quite frankly. I think we can do better than that.

ROBERTS: Really?

THOMPSON: But that's why they play the game. The pollsters and the experts were wrong in Iowa in 1980 and they were wrong in 1988, they were wrong in 1994 and the numbers show that a large number of folks in Iowa have not made up their mind. That's all you can ask for.

ROBERTS: So, Senator -- I'm curious about what you just said there. You said you're not -- you wouldn't be satisfied with third. Is that an indication that if you don't finish at least third in Iowa that you're not going to be happy with your position going forward?

THOMPSON: Well, I think that you have restated it just about the way I did. I would not be happy with that. I'm not banking on that, although that's where it shows me right now. I think that we can do better than that. And it shows in an upsurge. I mean, if you read what's -- the "Des Moines Register" and what Yepsen has to say there, I think universally respected ...

ROBERTS: Yes, David ...

THOMPSON: ...he points out that I'm in a position to make -- to make a good surge and that I'm the x-factor in the race and all that kind of thing, so there are a lot of good things happening here.

ROBERTS: David Yepsen ...

THOMPSON: We're in the process of ...

ROBERTS: I was just going to say David ...

THOMPSON: Yes, I'm sorry, David Yepsen.

ROBERTS: I was just going to say David Yepsen, well known as the guru of Iowa politics and you're currently on that bus tour, you're in Cala (ph), Iowa this morning, perhaps ...

THOMPSON: Yes, we're in the middle of it and we're hitting about 50 towns and communities around Iowa and having good crowds, good turnouts and so forth. So, you never know what's going to happen in Iowa. All you can do is what you can do. But I'm not going to change my message and I'm not going to try to change me, I'm not going to try to figure it out.

Seems like my opponents are doing a pretty good job of beating each other up. And I'm just doing what's worked for me my entire career. We'll see if it works this time.

ROBERTS: Well, we'll see if we get a Thompson surge in the next few days.

Senator Fred Thompson ...

THOMPSON: All right.

ROBERTS: ...joining us this morning from Cala, Iowa. Hope you get a chance to sample some of those Dutch letters that they're so famous for there. Thanks for joining us.

THOMPSON: Thanks a lot. ROBERTS: Kiran.

CHETRY: Well, what's the thing that they say about the early bird? It should be that, you know, if you file early, you get rewarded early, right? But your tax refund could actually be late even if you file way ahead of time. But in the long run, it may save you money. We'll explain coming up.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY (voice-over): Coming up on AMERICAN MORNING, the extreme weather of 2007. From the raging wildfires in California to the devastating tornadoes that shredded the Midwest. A look back at the wicked weather that dominated the year, ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: 2007's turning into 2008 not far away from now, just a couple of days away actually. We've been taking a look back at some of the top stories of 2007 and how they'll affect our lives in 2008.

ROBERTS: We sent our Rob Marciano coast-to-coast for the biggest weather stories of the year. And he's here now with a look back.

So, what'd you find?

MARCIANO: Well, some of them you both were on as a matter of fact. And obviously, the bigger weather stories, we throw more resources into them, and some of the weather stories this year were just absolutely phenomenal and, unfortunately, a lot of damage was done.

First off, John, you were at this one. May 4th, Greensburg, Kansas, EF-5 tornado. You know, when we talk about wiping a town off the map, this couldn't be more literal. The path of this tornado was over a mile wide which pretty much encompasses the entire town, winds over 200 miles an hour.

I suppose the greatest thing with this is that only 11 people died. When you look at this sort of destruction, you think gosh, tens of maybe hundreds of people should have died. But great warning given by the National Weather Service.

Both of you were at the San Diego fires, this -- a weather- related story as well. A lack of rain, big-time winds. I mean, when we label this a fire storm, it's like nothing I've ever seen before as far as fires go. When you've got winds kicking up over 100 miles an hour -- you guys saw it -- how things were just literally melted: windshields, aluminum off of cars, things -- people trying to come back and pick up the pieces, there was absolutely nothing left.

I mean, talk about hundreds of thousands of acres and thousands of structures burned and tens of thousands of people evacuated, that was certainly an extraordinary story. CHETRY: We still have the pictures in our mind of when we were flying over the scene and just how widespread the flames were.

MARCIANO: Tremendous -- and another attribution to the emergency call back system that they had. A lot more ...

CHETRY: A reverse 911

MARCIANO: The reverse 911. So many more people who could have died from this situation as well. So, you know, try to put a positive spin on this.

Also want to point out, an environmental story that we did in LaGrange, Georgia, a little town that had a landfill. And you know, landfill creates methane. It's a greenhouse gas, it's 20 times more potent than CO2. So, what this town does is they cap the landfill and then they tap into that methane, which is pretty much natural gas. They pipe the methane to a local factory and sell it to that factory. Burns a cleaner gas and these guys make money. The town makes money. And everybody wins, including the environment.

And I'm hoping we're going to start to see more stories like this going forward.

ROBERTS: Well, more and more people are learning to do smart things with trash, glad to say.

MARCIANO: So in 2008, we look forward to more of these green stories as the green movement continues to push on forward. We will see more severe weather no doubt about that and hopefully the warnings continue to get better.

CHETRY: In 2008, even the Times Square ball is going to have LED lights.

MARCIANO: So, we can see Kiran Chetry even brighter.

CHETRY: Thanks, Rob.

ROBERTS: Thanks, 10 minutes to the top of the hour, CNN NEWSROOM just minutes away now. Heidi Collins at the CNN center with a look at what is ahead.

Hi, Heidi.

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Hi there, John.

That's right, we have these stories coming up in the NEWSROOM rundown this morning. A country on the edge of chaos. Despair and anger gripping Pakistan as Benazir Bhutto is laid to rest. Washington asking, what now? Live reports coming up.

Also, caucus countdown. Iowa just around the corner. The impact of the Bhutto assassination on the U.S. presidential race.

Close call for a two-year-old. A screwdriver stuck in her eye socket. Mom and dad talking about miracles now.

Join me in the NEWSROOM, we get started at the top of the hour. Right here on CNN -- John?

ROBERTS: Wow, that will be a hard one to look at. Heidi, thank you.

COLLINS: We have the x-rays, too.

ROBERTS: Unbelievable. Heidi, thanks so much. We'll see you soon -- Kiran?

CHETRY: Well, they are believed to be of the last photos of Benazir Bhutto before she was assassinated. Seconds later, the same lens captured the a suicide bomber in mid blast. We're going to hear from the man who was there to capture these shocking photos ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: Some brand new images this morning of massive protests that have been taking place in Pakistan after Benazir Bhutto was laid to rest this morning. 23 people now reported dead in violent protests that have taken place less than two weeks before crucial elections.

There is some new information that just came in minutes ago about how Benazir Bhutto may have died. Pakistani government says it was flying shrapnel from the suicide bombing that killed her, not a bullet to the neck, as was first reported.

ROBERTS: It is believed to be the last known photograph of Benazir Bhutto. The former prime minister standing through the sunroof of her car just seconds before a bomber takes her life. A move that probably was responsible for her death.

John Moore, the photographer who took the picture, describes what he saw in his own words.

(BEGIN AUDIOTAPE)

VOICE OF JOHN MOORE, GETTY IMAGES: The vehicle was moving very slowly because the crowd was all around and it was pushing through. She clearly wanted to get close to her people, and I was very surprised that she was coming out of the sunroof of this car, considering what happened in Karachi a while back.

And I had been photographing her pushing through the crowd and the vehicle sort of surged forward and I got out of the way and moved a little bit ahead of it. And, suddenly, well, I turned around and heard three shots go off and saw her go down, fall down through the sunroof down into the car.

And just at that moment, I raised my camera and started photographing with the high-speed motor drive and that is how I was able to capture some of the explosion when it went off and then the aftermath. As you can see the photo's a little bit blurry because I was being shoved around. The crowd was pushing.

They were very emotional. And it was a big chaotic, even before the blast went off. Of course, people were scattered all about. People were in different states of medical crisis. Some could still walk. Others moaned a bit. Others were maimed and just crying out for help. It was just a horrible scene. The carnage was just everywhere.

(END AUDIOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: A final check for you now of this mornings quick vote question. We asked, does the United States need to take a greater role in fighting extremism in Pakistan as a result of the Bhutto assassination? 25 percent of you said yes, 75 percent said no. To everyone who voted, thanks very much.

CHETRY: And, of course our coverage continues here on CNN all morning of the latest developments out of Pakistan. We want to say, thanks so much for joining us on AMERICAN MORNING. See you back here on Monday.

ROBERTS: All right, have a great weekend.

CHETRY: You too.

ROBERTS: CNN NEWSROOM with Heidi Collins and Don Lemon begins right now.

COLLINS: Good morning, everybody, you are in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Heidi Collins.

Watch events coming into the NEWSROOM live on this Friday morning. It is December 28th. Here is what is on the rundown. Despair and anger in Pakistan as Benazir Bhutto is laid to rest. Live reports and analysis this hour.

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