Return to Transcripts main page

AMERICAN MORNING

Sudan Killing; Pakistan Turmoil; Iowa Countdown Continues

Aired January 1, 2008 - 08:00   ET

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


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: -- I wonder what kind of shape a lot of people are in as they're watching this morning.
VERONICA DE LA CRUZ, CNN ANCHOR: Probably not too good. We're getting in some pretty funny hangover remedies this morning.

ROBERTS: I would expect a lot of people are still just on their way to bed this morning. I'm John Roberts, thanks for being with us.

DE LA CRUZ: I'm Veronica de la Cruz in this morning for Kiran Chetry. Happy New Year, thanks for waking up with us.

ROBERTS: A high stakes election is in limbo this morning with a nuclear arsenal and the hunt for al Qaeda hanging in the balance. We're waiting to hear if parliamentary elections will be delayed in Pakistan. The government says a final decision could come tomorrow. The assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto could push them back from January the 8th according to some reports, to some time next month. And today the U.S. is denying accusations that it ignored security threats to the former prime minister before the terror attack that killed her. Pakistan's president Pervez Musharraf is expected to speak today. The government has also offered a reward to anyone who may be able to identify the two terrorists suspected in Bhutto's assassination. Our state department correspondent Zain Verjee is live in Islamabad for us this morning. Zain, first of all, what can you tell us about this reward that has been offered for these two suspects, both of whom were killed in that attack?

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: The government has put out an ad in the newspapers here. I'd like to show it to you. And what this ad shows is a picture of the suspected shooter, as well as the suspected suicide bomber and they've also put a picture of what appears to be the head that they have stitched back together of the suspected shooter. What they are asking is for any information that can lead to finding out anything about who these men are and what possible links they could have had to al Qaeda or any other extremist group. They are asking for about $83,000. They say that they will give for any information. Right now, though, they have not got any tips. That's what we're learning from the ministry of interior. John?

ROBERTS: Pretty gruesome photo in the newspaper there today Zain. What about the elections? Is there any word on when they may be postponed till, if they are postponed at all?

VERJEE: Well, the government is telling us they're going to make a final decision tomorrow. They were supposed to make it today, but they've delayed it by a day. This is what everyone here has been holding their breath for. That's what they really want to know. The government is saying we need to have a few more consultations with the political parties here. Both the major parties here, the Pakistan Peoples Party as well as the opposition leader Sharif is saying we want to have it as scheduled on the 8th of January. But the real problem here is one of logistics. You have something like 13 election offices that have been burned down. There's a law and order problem in the country. So it's very likely that they will be delayed for practical reasons. The U.S., we spoke here to a U.S. embassy official who said that this is a Pakistani process, but from the U.S. point of view, they understand if they delay it, but they want to see a date. John?

ROBERTS: Zain, controversy continues to swirl there in Pakistan over exactly how Benazir Bhutto died. There are accusations that the police chief in Rawalpindi prevented doctors from doing an autopsy. There is a medical report which describes a single injury to Benazir Bhutto what they call a depressed open fracture just above her right ear. Is there any way there that people in Pakistan are ever going to know what really happened?

VERJEE: Well, right now, it seems unlikely. The government is saying that they've got to conduct the investigation before they draw any definitive conclusion. But the bottom line is for us to get facts. You need to do an autopsy and that's not going to happen because Benazir Bhutto's husband has said there is no way that he is going to let the government do that because he doesn't trust the government. There are also religious reasons for them not wanting to do an autopsy. So what you have here in Pakistan is a lot of confusion, a lot of uncertainty and a lot of conspiracy theories. And people just don't know and that is fueling some of the anger against the government where a lot of people here are leveling accusations against Pervez Musharraf saying that not enough security was given to Benazir Bhutto. But officials here, both in the government and elsewhere, have said that President Musharraf did offer adequate security. John?

ROBERTS: Our Zain Verjee for us in Islamabad where night has just fallen. And some startling new charges out of Pakistan this morning. The associated press is reporting that Benazir Bhutto had a report that accused Pakistan's intelligence service of rigging the upcoming elections. She planned to present the report to Senator Arlen Specter and Representative Patrick Kennedy on Thursday night, just a few hours after the rally where she was killed. The report is apparently 160 pages long and includes charges of fake ballots and pre poll rigging. Veronica?

DE LA CRUZ: Back in the states, we have new poll numbers on the presidential race just out this morning. Iowa is too close to call, that's according to our CNN Opinion Research Corporation poll. Among Republican caucus goers Mitt Romney has regained the lead from Mike Huckabee. But they're still in a statistical dead heat. Fred Thompson well behind, 13 percent. John McCain standing at 10 percent. On the democratic side, Hillary Clinton is clinging to a two-point lead over Barack Obama, also a statistical dead heat. John Edwards has lost ground and stands at 22 percent. Staying in politics for a second. Will Mike Huckabee take a hit from his unusual news conference on New Year's Eve? Huckabee said he was taking the high road and wouldn't run a negative attack ad he'd prepared against Mitt Romney. But then he showed it to a room full of reporters. Here is CNN's Dana Bash.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Enough is enough. It was a brand new theme. New placards around the room hitting Mitt Romney's record and a new TV ad to be unveiled attacking him. Instead, Mike Huckabee said, never mind.

MIKE HUCKABEE, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If I were to continue this strategy, which is really not what I personally deep in my heart feel like is the right thing to do. It's not what I really want to do. If you gain the whole world and lose your own whole soul, what does it profit you? And ultimately that became just for me the issue, that it's not worth it.

BASH: Huckabee announced to the 50-plus reporters and dozen cameras packed in to see his first negative TV ad that he had a change of heart and decided to pull the ad from Iowa TV stations already planning to run it. But this was the kicker.

HUCKABEE: I know that some of you are saying that, well, did you really have an ad. I want to show you the ad. You'll get a chance to find out exactly what we're doing.

BASH: To that, an eruption of laughter from the press, all likely thinking the same thing. Huckabee wanted credit for staying positive but still make sure the message against Romney got out.

HUCKABEE: I want you to see it. This is what we planned to do. And I think, once you see it, you'll realize this is why we're not going to run it.

BASH: But when he tried to play the ad, technical problems.

Romney's government-mandated health plan provided a $50 co-pay for abortion.

BASH: Huckabee admitted he's been going after Romney aggressively because Romney's attacks on him have hurt, and he's been taking advice from new hardball veteran advisers like Ed Rollins.

HUCKABEE: There's certain conflicts between all the advice that you get from people who tell you, you just have to answer this stuff back. You've got to push back hard and then ultimately deciding, is it really worth it?

BASH (on camera): Huckabee spent all day Sunday, valuable pre- caucus campaigning time, filming and cutting an ad that will now apparently never air. He insists that he made the decision to pull the ad at the last minute, told some of his aides just moments before this press conference. Now, Huckabee is somebody who has been priding himself on positive campaigning. So going after Mitt Romney on the stump the way he has been in the last several days has been very risky, but he also knows not defending himself and going after Mitt Romney may be just as risky. Dana Bash, CNN, Des Moines, Iowa.

(END OF VIDEOTAPE)

DE LA CRUZ: We want to take a second right here to remind you to stay with CNN all day today for "Ballot Bowl 08." It is your chance to get to know all the candidates in their own words. Join the best political team on television for ballot bowl starting this morning at 9:00 a.m. right here on CNN. John?

ROBERTS: Also new this morning, a big N-O from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Last night during the Times Square madness he spoke with CNN and tried to put an end to the talk that he may make a run for the presidency.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, (R) NEW YORK CITY: Look, I'm not running for president. What I am trying to do is to speak out and push what I think we need, and that's an independent approach. Where we get rid of partisanship and special interests and we stop this gridlock that you see in Washington where nobody is willing to do anything unless it's in their selfish interests.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: Speculation gained momentum last summer when Mayor Bloomberg left the Republican Party to become an independent.

Also new this morning, an attack on a U.S. embassy official in Khartoum, Sudan today. According to the embassy, an American was wounded and an embassy driver killed during a gun attack. The official who works for the United States Agency for International Development is undergoing treatment. It's not clear yet if the attack was random or targeted but the embassy is working with local authorities to investigate the shooting. This comes a day after a joint African union united nation's force took over peacekeeping duties in the Darfur region of Sudan.

A huge fire at a Boston condo complex hours before the New Year was rung in. A 47-year-old man suffered a heart attack and died after getting pulled from the seven-alarm fire. The fire was so intense that crews were forced to back off before they could determine if anyone was trapped inside. Investigators say the fire started in a kitchen on the first floor and within minutes had spread to all five floors.

DE LA CRUZ: Interstate 70 through the Colorado Rockies now back to normal this morning. Wind-whipped snow and a threat of avalanches caused a 60-mile stretch of I-70 west of Denver to be closed. Thousands of travelers heading to New Year's celebrations ended up in Red Cross shelters instead.

A second winter storm could bring another nine inches of snow today to the northeast. Parts of upstate New York and New England already digging out from about a foot of snow that fell over the weekend.

(WEATHER REPORT)

ROBERTS: A handful of new laws take effect today and if you have a teen driver in the house you want to stick around to hear about one of them. Our legal analyst Sunny Hostin has a closer look.

Within hours they're stepping off in the 119th year, there it is, the tournament of roses parade in Pasadena, California this morning. All of the floats are prepped and ready to go on one of those floats will be our good friend Jack Hanna. We will talk with him about the rain bird float and some of the furry creatures that he's brought with him on this New Year's Day, coming up on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: 14 minutes after the hour. New polls just out today, are giving us only a hint what's to come in Iowa. Two days and counting until the first votes are cast in the historic race for president. CNN's senior political correspondent Candy Crowley joins us now live from Des Moines where we have to mention again, she's outside. The wind chill is minus 6 degrees Fahrenheit this morning. Oh, Candy, good on you for braving that cold first thing New Year's morning as we start 2008. Hey, Mitt Romney said yesterday he is confident of a win and we've got a new CNN poll that shows him back out in front. What is driving the numbers there? Even though we say that this is a statistical dead heat because it is within the margin of error.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is a statistical dead heat now but as you know, Mike Huckabee was leading outside that margin of error not that long ago. What's the difference? Mitt Romney is up in the air just pounding him on the TV with these advertisements hitting Huckabee on everything from immigration to taxes which, as you know, are bedrock issues for conservatives which make up, obviously, the bulk of the Republican Party here, so it's very clear that those ads have worked. Now, as for Mitt Romney saying that he's confident, they kind of all have to say that at this point. This isn't a time to say well I may place second or third. So, obviously, you know, he says publicly they are confident. But none of these candidates really trust these polls to the extent they want to sit back. They are all out all over the state today. I talked to somebody yesterday who said, listen, our target right now is those undecided voters one by one by one, it's that close.

ROBERTS: Candy, you were talking there about the withering attacks that Mitt Romney has leveled at Mike Huckabee over the last couple of weeks and potentially having an effect. Huckabee in recent days has come out swinging. He was going to take a really big swing yesterday by putting an attack ad on the air. He had second thoughts and at the last minute said no I'm not going to put it out there but he called a press conference to tell people that and show them the ad. Here is what he said. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE HUCKABEE, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We will run only the ads that talk about why I should be president and not why Mitt Romney should not. I know that some of you are saying, well, did you really have an ad? I want to show you the ad. You'll get a chance to find out exactly what we're doing. No. I want you to see it.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: So, Candy, what did you make of that whole thing?

CROWLEY: I made of that that this was a half-punch. Obviously, when you show that ad, we then show it. So he keeps that nice guy, go along, get along Mike Huckabee image in saying I'm above this negative advertising, I'm not going to do it and, yet, showing it. He says that's a cynical approach and we have to ad that but the fact of the matter is that ad got all over the place.

ROBERTS: It did and he didn't spend a penny getting it out either. What's happening on the democratic side here, we show again at the very top tier between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama statistical dead heat but a significant slip there for John Edwards.

CROWLEY: Well, it's interesting and I have to tell you the Edwards people are pushing back very hard on that poll, questioning the methodology, questioning, you know, all sorts of things about it. They say that on the trail, it's not what they are seeing that in the phone calling and the door knocking. They are not seeing. They still insist there is a surge out there but, you know, that just sort of tells you how difficult it is to gauge things here in Iowa. Do you gauge things by crowds? I'm not one of those that thinks you do. It just shows that you have very good advance people. Do you gauge things by the door knocking and the phone calling? I'm reminded of the Howard Dean campaign here four years ago. When, in fact, all of these Dean people would go to doors and they'd welcome them in and they'd say, oh yes, we'll certainly think about your guy, he seems so wonderful. And then they went and caucused for somebody else. So, really, really hard to gauge.

ROBERTS: We'll see, a couple of days left and we will find out what the answer is.

CROWLEY: Absolutely.

ROBERTS: Candy Crowley for us this morning. By the way Candy, Jacqui Jeras just emailed me and said it's actually gone down, the wind chill to minus 8 there. So, I give you credit this morning for just being able to string a thought or two together.

CROWLEY: Hand warmers, foot warmers, you know all of that.

ROBERTS: See you out there soon. Thanks.

Remember, all day long today you're going to have an extraordinary opportunity to hear the candidates talk about what they would do as president in their own words at length. CNN, the best political team on television, bring you ballot bowl 08. Forget those football bowls, you want to see this. Whether you're a democrat, republican or an independent, don't miss the chance to really get to know the candidates. Ballot Bowl 08 all day long starting today at 9:00 eastern right here on CNN.

DE LA CRUZ: She's not even wearing a hat, ear muffs, nothing. She's a trooper!

ROBERTS: She is stout hearted, there is no question about that. I hope I can do the same because we will be out there as of later on today.

DE LA CRUZ: We will be watching you.

Here's what's coming up. They are new for '08. New analyst Sunny Hostin looks at one of the toughest new immigration laws and some other laws that take effect today.

Also, roads are open again in Colorado this morning but are the avalanche worries over? We'll have a live report from Colorado, it is all ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DE LA CRUZ: Welcome back to the most news in the morning.

New Year, new unions. That tops your "quick hits" right now. New Hampshire now joins Vermont, New Jersey and Connecticut in legalizing same sex civil unions. Dozens of couples got hitched in midnight ceremonies on the steps of the state house in Concord. Under the new law, they will be able to share medical insurance and file joint for their city taxes. But they're federal taxes still won't be recognized by the government.

A new law extending the freedom of information act will let journalists and the public know more about what the government is up to. President Bush signed the bill Monday in one of his final acts of 2007. The new legislation requires government agencies to respond to information requests within 20 days. It also creates a system for the news media and public to track those requests.

ROBERTS: Some new laws are in effect now as of the stroke of midnight. What are they and what do they mean for you? AMERICAN MORNING's legal analyst Sunny Hostin here to explain some of the new laws of 2008. Happy New Year to you, good morning.

SUNNY HOSTIN: Happy New Year John.

ROBERTS: The first law that you're going to take a look at is in the state of Arizona dealing with immigration which is a very big issue for a lot of people in this country.

HOSTIN: It is a huge issue, it's going to be a huge election issue I think. What Arizona has done is passed a legal Arizona workers act, and that's considered the most aggressive legislation aimed at preventing employers from hiring illegal immigrants. And now Arizona employers will be required to use the federal government's e- verify program to verify the legal status of new employees and make sure that they are not illegal immigrants. Interestingly enough, employers who violate the law and hire illegal immigrants face mandatory suspension of their business licenses and for a first time offense. If they do it again, permanent revocation of their business licenses. So you think about it's going to hit their bottom line. This is extremely aggressive and something that we really need to watch in 2008.

ROBERTS: This next law is something that hits home for me. My daughter gets her license in eight days.

HOSTIN: Huge!

ROBERTS: And I will not let her when I'm driving with her talk on the cell phone while she's driving and some states are trying to enact laws to prevent that.

HOSTIN: And they are. We know in New York that's a law and certain people are big offenders. It's interesting because adults are huge offenders, but these laws are trying to make roads a safer place by restricting cell phone use and even outlawing them altogether for teen drivers. This year, we're talking about six states having laws going into effect that relate specifically to minors. Cell phone use, text messaging by drivers. They cannot do it. Four states will make it illegal for teen drivers to use a cell phone at all including using hands-free devices. So, no ear pieces teens. Anyone under 18 will not be allowed to use a cell phone in California, a big commuter area, Oregon, Nebraska and in Illinois any one under 19 cannot use a cell phone. What's also interesting, my son takes the bus. What I love is that in Illinois, bus drivers now can't use cell phones either.

ROBERTS: A new law in California aimed to protect children but not in the way you might initially think.

HOSTIN: Exactly. You know, it's interesting. It just seems to be such common sense but in California, the new law is no smoking in cars with children, people. California has outlawed smoking in a car when anyone under the age of 18 is present. Violators are going to be punished by fine of up to $100. So no smoking in cars. We know about the effects of second-hand smoke. You can't do it.

ROBERTS: Sunny Hostin, thanks for joining us, again, Happy New Year to you.

HOSTIN: Thank you, John. Happy New Year.

DE LA CRUZ: We've been asking for your e-mails this morning how to cure your new year's hangover. Doctors always said to stay hydrated but we've been looking through some of your e-mails and here is what you have been saying. This is from Claudine in South Carolina and she says, "In a cup of boiling water John, you put three cloves, two teaspoons of cinnamon, you let it sit before you drink it." She's talking about this potion and this is my question. This is pretty involved so if you're hung over how do you get this remedy together? ROBERTS: You know Michelle Murtaugh who usually puts this program on television but is on a vacation in Florida writes us this morning to say, dude, Gatorade and McDonald's value meal number 2 or number 4 and a couple of blockbuster rentals. Happy New Year.

DE LA CRUZ: I love it. Here's another one, you get a hangover usually the next morning after you quit drinking, so my cure is, don't stop drinking.

ROBERTS: I've heard that one. But here is my favorite so far of this batch. My dad used to put two raw eggs in a class, add about a half of cup of vinegar, salt and pepper and drink it down without breaking the yokes. He did this for years! That e-mail in from North Carolina where obviously, their stomachs are a little stronger than they are here in New York City. Unbelievable. Thanks very much for e-mailing in your creative hangover cures in this first day of 2008.

Extreme weather moving into the northeast. We'll show you that just ahead.

And it's back to work for David Letterman. After nearly two months off he is coming back on the air tomorrow night. We'll tell you who will be joining him. That story and today's headlines when AMERICAN MORNING returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING. Breaking news just in to CNN, the U.S. embassy official who was shot in an attack in Khartoum in Sudan has died. The official worked for the United States' agency for international development. His Sudanese driver was also killed in the attack.

The embassy in Khartoum is cooperating with local officials on the investigation into the shooting. So, far, according to a spokesman there, no word on whether it was a terrorist attack or a crime but an embassy spokesman says they are investigating all possibilities today. Again, that diplomat, a member of the U.S. agency for international development shot in a gun attack today, has died of his injuries.

A snowstorm is moving into the northeast right now. A second storm could add up to nine inches of new snow to the foot that is already on the ground in upstate New York and northern New England. Great ski conditions there. Ski areas in Maine say they have gotten six feet of snow in the last month and it's been snowing in Vermont almost nonstop since Thanksgiving.

Across the country in Utah, there are avalanche warnings out today. Thousands of people are expected to take to the back country on skis, snow shoes and snow mobiles. Three snow mobilers were swept away by an avalanche in Wasatch County yesterday. Two of them were able to get themselves out of danger but one man was overcome and taken to the hospital.

A major stretch of highways is open again this morning in Colorado. A 60 mile section of interstate 70, west of Denver, was closed late Sunday. There were fears that high winds could cause an avalanche. Thousands of travelers were stranded in Colorado's high country. They had to spend the night in Red Cross shelters. Rhonda Scholting in Silverthorne, Colorado, this morning. Is everything moving again there, Rhonda?

RHONDA SCHOLTING, CNN, CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it is, John. It is not very heavy in the way of traffic so far this morning because the ski lifts have not yet opened, but we've noticed a little bit more in the way of traffic as the hours have passed here. Now, it is very cold but thankfully the snow has stopped. The winds have died down but there still is the potential for avalanche danger. In fact, right now, officials are telling us the avalanche danger in a good part of the state is high. And within the past 24 hours, a snow mobiler near Grand Lake was swept away by a slide. He was buried in about three feet of snow but he had people with him at the time and rescuers were able to get to him quickly. He suffered only minor injuries.

Now, what was not minor, though, yesterday was the miserable state in which many people found themselves trying to get into the high country. There were mile-long lines of cars stopped on i-70. People hoping to get up here to ski but they were turned away as officials closed down that 60-mile stretch because of the very bad blowing snow. There was little or no visibility for a great deal of the time within that 24-hour period, but, again, as I said, the winds have died down and now the road is reopened.

2,000 people at one point were stranded up here in the Silverthorne Frisco and Dillon area. They stayed at Red Cross shelters. They packed all the hotels and most have been able to go home but we do understand there are quite a few people in some of the hotels here and that is why there are few vacancies if any that you can find here at this period of time. Now, what is good, John, is that there is plenty of new snow up here. So, as we have a holiday today, the first day of 2008, lots of skiers and snowboarders are going to be heading up to the resorts in this area. They will be happy to see the snow and, of course, the resorts will be very happy to see them.

ROBERTS: Obviously. So for folks in the Denver area just waking up today, i-70 open back up again. I guess the pictures we were seeing, most of them were up near the Eisenhower Tunnel area there in fairly high elevation. That's all cleared out and traveling is fairly easy today?

SCHOLTING: Yes, it is. We came up here last night and it was good till the tunnel and after the tunnel coming down here into the hill here in the Silverthorne. It was a little icy, snow pack and spots but basically people were just slowing down and taking it easy and lots of people getting on the road right now.

ROBERTS: All right. So just leave a little bit early, be careful, drive safely and you'll get there just fine.

SCHOLTING: You will.

ROBERTS: Rhonda Scholting for us this morning. Thanks very much, Rhonda. Good to talk to you. Veronica.

VERONICA DE LA CRUZ, CNN, ANCHOR: I have some good news. And now more snow to tell you about now. This time in Detroit. Check it out with our Jacqui Jeras who is standing by in the CNN weather center. Good morning, Jacqui.

JACQUI JERAS, CNN, METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, Veronica. Yes, real rough start across parts of Michigan. Some extremely heavy snow fell, especially just to the northwest of downtown Detroit, as snowfall accumulations pushing near a foot. And that was just since yesterday evening. So that means rough travel for you. Things are still looking good at the airport, however. And here you can see that the snow is beginning to pull out. Our low pressure storm system is leaving the Midwest and it's going to be moving now across parts of the northeast.

Here is some of those totals I was talking about. Brighton, Michigan, 11 inches. White Lake had 11 inches as well but that asterisk right there, they received one inch in just 15 minutes. That is incredible snow. We also had a little thundersnow going on as well. Real heavy stuff right now across upstate New York between i-81 and i-87. Here it's pushing towards Albany at this time. Most of New England is going to hold off on this storm I think until after the noon hour. There, the warning are in place. We could see very significant accumulations, again, maybe between 8 and 12 inches.

On the south side of this system, we need more rain but unfortunately it's just going to be a wind maker as that front pulls through. Winds would be gusting between 20 and 40 miles per hour. Veronica.

DE LA CRUZ: All right. Jacqui Jeras in the CNN weather center. Jacqui, thanks so much.

New poll numbers to tell you about now in the presidential race. These just out this morning. Iowa too close to call, that's according to our CNN opinion research corporation poll. Among republican caucus goers, Mitt Romney has regained the lead from Mike Huckabee but they are in a statistical dead heat. Fred Thompson is well behind at 13%. John McCain at 10%.

On the democratic side, Hillary Clinton has a two-point lead over Barack Obama. Also a statistical dead heat. John Edwards has lost ground and stands at 22%.

And we're getting more insight on Iowa from the "Des Moines Register" today out with its brand new poll this morning. Mike Huckabee in the lead 32% to Mitt Romney's 26%. John McCain in at 13% in the "Register" poll. And for the democrats, Barack Obama expands his lead over Hillary Clinton 32 to 25. John Edwards at 24%. Want to take a moment to remind you right here. Stay with CNN all day today for "Ballot Bowl '08." It is your chance to get to know all the candidates in their own words. Join the best political team on television for "Ballot Bowl." That's starting this morning at 9:00 a.m. Eastern, right here on CNN. John. ROBERTS: It's coming up to 37 minutes after the hour.

New this morning in Pakistan. The search for two suspects in the attack on Benazir Bhutto. The government says that it stitched back together the head of one of the suspects. There you see it right on the right in the newspaper. He was blown up in the suicide attack. The government is offering a reward of several thousand dollars to anyone who can identify him and another man seen in the crowd during the attack. Pakistan is expected to announce tomorrow whether parliamentary elections scheduled for next Tuesday will in fact have to be postponed.

A new year's message from North Korea signals a standoff in nuclear disarmament. North Korea say the U.S. should end it's "hostile policy" toward them. That comes as Pyongyang misses a deadline in its disarmament agreement. North Korea was supposed to declare all of its nuclear programs by the end of the year. The State Department says that it is disappointed by the missed deadline.

The San Francisco Zoo will reopen to the public on Thursday. It has been closed since Christmas day when a tiger escaped its enclosure killing a teenage and injuring two of his friends. Zoo officials says they are working with the city on plans for a new security barrier to protect visitors and the tigers.

And after nearly two months off the air due to the writers' strike, David Letterman is coming back tomorrow night. His first guest will be Robin Williams. Letterman's production company reached a deal with the writers' guild so that his show will be fully staffed with writers. And Jay Leno will also be doing a new show tomorrow but without his writing staff. Leno was expected to have presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee on as his guest. Also coming back tomorrow, the late shows hosted by Jimmy Kimmel and Conan O'Brien as well.

DE LA CRUZ: Well, you can call them both Dorothy. Meet the twister sisters. Storm seekers who put it all on the line in a new television show and they are coming up next on AMERICAN MORNING.

Plus, we'll show you the preparations this morning for the Tournament of Roses Parade. It's all straight ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DE LA CRUZ: 40 minutes after the hour. Welcome back now to the most news in the morning.

It is one of the hottest items this Christmas but the Nintendo Wii isn't just for kids. In fact, it can be therapy for people who need it. CNN's chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta shows us how.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HEIDI MCKENZIE, PATIENT: I just got to hit you one more time. DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Heidi McKenzie may look like she's just having a bit of competitive fun. But she and her boxing partner are engaged in a serious form of rehab. Both are patients at Ohio State University Medical Center.

MCKENZIE: It's just exciting and it actually helps with my balance in my chair which I kind of have problems with.

GUPTA: Last summer, Heidi was in a car accident that left her paralyzed from the waist down. She broke her arm and could barely move it but after sessions with Wii she has regained strength in her shoulder.

MCKENZIE: And therapy like full stretch it and get it to where it needs to be, but to actually move my arm on my own is really, it's helped it a lot.

GUPTA: Why Wii? Well, doctors say it brings activities like bowling and boxing and golf right inside the rehab center. Patients with spinal cord or brain injuries even stroke could benefit. Helping patients work on balance, coordination and muscle strength without making it seem tedious.

DR. SHARON MCDOWELL, STROKE REHABILITATION, O.S.U. MEDICAL CENTER: And it's boring to go to the gym and just do something over and over again. The Wii makes it fun and is able to provide that long intensity high repetition duration therapy session.

GUPTA: A typical session runs 30 minutes a day, three times a week. Therapists say Wii will not take the place of conventional therapy but adds that it's another tool to aid recovery.

ROBBIE WINGET, OCCUPATIONAL THERAPIST, O.S.U. MEDICAL CENTER: It's to complement the other therapy that they are receiving, so, you know, in the course of receiving their traditional therapy and doing the Wii therapy, we are seeing progress with a lot of our patients.

MCKENZIE: Oh, it's on now.

GUPTA: The use of video games in medicine is so new that no studies have been done on its efficacy so far but O.S.U. Medical Center hopes it's setting a trend. Using video games like Wii to get injured patients moving again. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, reporting.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DE LA CRUZ: As of right now, there is very little research that says Wii does make a difference when it comes to rehab but studies are under way. Studies that O.S.U. hopes to participate in. John.

ROBERTS: "Quick hits" now. And write these down and forget about them. They are words and phrases that are banned for 2008. Why? Because we destroyed them in 2007. Lake Superior State University makes up the list every year. It says perfect storm is overused by pundits talking about any coincidence. It also says waterboarding should go back to the beach where it belongs and then there's double x is the new double x like 40 is the new 30. Enough said. So ban those from the vocabulary.

The government is helping people make the transition to digital TV offering $40 coupons to help people buy digital converter boxes for their old analog TVs. If you still use rabbit ears you're certainly going to need one. Starting in February of 2009, the analog signal will be going away. The fed has set up a website and a toll-free number to apply for the coupons. You can find all the links that you need at cnn.com/am.

And it's a New Year's tradition for Jack Hanna, the renowned animal expert, a fixture in the Tournaments of Roses parade. There he is along with a couple of his buddies. He is going to join us from the parade route ahead in the Tournament of Roses in Pasadena ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DE LA CRUZ: A new year's day tradition sets off in just hours and it's the 119th Tournament of Roses parade. It could be windy and rainy as the floats make their way along Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena unfortunately.

ROBERTS: That's terrible. Spectators have been lining up since yesterday to grab a choice spot. There will be 20 marching bands and of course, all the famous floats, 46 of them in all.

DE LA CRUZ: And riding in his familiar spot on board the Rainbird float will be Jack Hanna, director emeritus of Columbus Zoo. He joins us now from along the parade route with fellow float rider Walter Crawford from the World Bird Sanctuary. Good morning to both of you.

JACK HANNA, DIRECTOR EMERITUS, COLUMBUS ZOO: Good morning.

ROBERTS: hey, jack. We want to ask you and Walter about the furry friends you brought along with you there, as well as the Rainbird float that I know you're participating in for the 10th year. But let me ask you quickly about the San Francisco Zoo because you rang in on this with us last week. It's reopening on Thursday. The big cats are going to be moved out of their grotto to a different area and apparently within 30 days, there will be some new construction there on an enclosure. The same company that did a grizzly gulch there at the San Francisco Zoo will be involved. Do you believe they are taking the right approach there?

HANNA: Yes, they're taking the right approach. I think it's important, obviously, the tiger got out but until those two young men tell you what happened you can do whatever you want to. You can build walls 30 feet tall. You can do all sorts of things but it's never going to be 100% proof no matter what zoo you do to. In other words, we do the best we can with what we have and as I've said before we've only have one death in 48 years with 2.6 billion people going to zoos. So even as tragic as it is, you know, let's hope this all works.

ROBERTS: So, you don't think the full story has been told on this yet? HANNA: I apologize nationally. I said it since the very first minute I heard those story. Those two young men know what happened and for the parents' sake and for the zoo's sake, somebody should make them come forward and tell us what happened.

ROBERTS: All right.

DE LA CRUZ: All right. We want to switch gears for a second because we see that you have some friends with you today. Who are we going to meet first?

HANNA: Well, this is a Thai monkey. This monkey is 46 years old. Imagine that. So, this might be his last parade. I shouldn't say that. Maybe his first parade. But these monkeys love to swim in the water and the Rainbird float being about the beautiful Bengal tiger behind me there. Only 3,500 left in the world. The tigers gone from 10,000 just a few years ago. So, we're excited, we got like five waterfalls, 1,500 gallons of water, 50,000 roses. It's going to be fun two-hour ride.

ROBERTS: I'm sure.

HANNA: This one over here...

ROBERTS: Go ahead. Go ahead.

HANNA: That is an Egyptian vulture right there. That's a rare bird that Walter Crawford had. It looked like he didn't do his haircut this morning. He didn't comb his hair or something. I don't know what's wrong with that bird.

ROBERTS: He looks a little punked out to be there, Jack.

HANNA: He is punked up. He is with Walter Crawford in a bird sanctuary. He rides the float every year with us. And over here on my left, this is why I get all wrapped up in work. See? You can imagine me holding a bird, a monkey and a snake? This should be something. This is an monkey python.

ROBERTS: It's an albino python, is it?

HANNA: It's a monkey python. Yes.

DE LA CRUZ: Monkey python.

HANNA: Monkey, yes. It has about (inaudible) also from Asia. And they are beautiful animal. The python, even though he lives near water, only there to get its prey so water is very, very important as Rainbird always tells us.

Now, look at this animal here. That is a slow loris. That's a slow loris, right? Come in here. You've never seen one of these probably. This is form Asia. Look at that. Isn't that neat? It's a nocturnal animal and one of the few poisonous mammals in the world. They got poison glands on their teeth there. They are in the monkey family. They're like next to the lemur. They're very, very old animal on earth the slow loris. They love insects as well. And you can see the little hands there. They always got little stickers on their hands like little suction cups. The slow loris.

ROBERTS: He looks like he is living up to his name there, Jack. He is moving awfully slow this morning.

HANNA: Well, he is slow. Trust me. This right here is a Chinese water monitor. The Chinese water monitor right here. This animal uses its tail a lot to strike its prey as it comes up to it. It's almost like, isn't that neat? The tail has real sharp ridges on the back there.

ROBERTS: Wow, great animal.

HANNA: We have a lot of Asian animals here today.

ROBERTS: And speaking of water, water and conservation is the theme of your float today, is it not?

HANNA: Yes, it really is. Folks don't realize even when I film our show around the world we pay more for water than we do for fuel or anything and even food in some places. Of course, Rainbird being the largest irrigation company in the world. They believe in water conservation. Without water you know, people talk about global warming and all of that, that obviously is a problem but water really, I think, is one of the major problems in the world. And it's something to be on that float with five waterfalls. You know, water sliding all over you.

ROBERTS: I'm sure it is.

HANNA: It's interesting.

ROBERTS: Jack, as always, thanks very much.

HANNA: As a matter of fact, oh, yes.

ROBERTS: Go ahead.

HANNA: Two years ago last year when it was raining, the koala's head fell off and hit me in the head. The koala fell out and hit me in the head and knocked me out.

ROBERTS: At least it wasn't a real koala. Jack, as always, thanks very much for joining us. We'll see you a little bit later on the parade.

DE LA CRUZ: Happy New Year.

ROBERTS: Happy New Year to you and to all you furry friends.

HANNA: Happy New Year to you all.

ROBERTS: There's something special today on CNN following AMERICAN MORNING. Our Suzanne Malveaux has a preview of that. Hey, Suzanne. SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN, CORRESPONDENT: Well, hey, John. CNN's NEWSROOM is taking the day off. Something different for New Year's day. It is called "Ballot Bowl 2008." It is live all day from Iowa. CNN's political version of, I guess you can say, the college bowl games, for you, the informed voter. Now, this is two days before the first voters votes for president. It is your chance, your chance to become an Iowan and hear from the major candidates. There will be live, raw and unfiltered plus go inside a sports pub. It is called Buzzard Billy's and the candidates are calling the plays. The fans are going to be there a little bit later to share some of their thoughts on the political strategy and perhaps well perhaps the beer as well. "Ballot Bowl 2008" live from Iowa from the best political team on television. Top of the hour on CNN. Back to John in New York.

ROBERTS: In the closing days of 2007, we are asking our AMERICAN MORNING team of correspondents to give us the most important and the most interesting stories on their respective beats from last year. Gerri Willis of course has covered the mortgage meltdown since it started more than a year ago. This is a pretty important story.

GERRI WILLIS, CNN, FINANCIAL CORRESPONDENT: It really is. So many folks suffering through this. As many as 2 million foreclosures this year alone and people really suffering with this debt. You know, we talked to Alice Mills, a woman you wouldn't be expecting to be impacted by this. She is a renter, not an owner. But her landlord went into foreclosure. She was kicked out. A very sad story. We caught up with her recently and she told you us that she has found an apartment. I'd like to tell you though that she doesn't feel safe in the neighborhood she is renting in but she's like so many people out there experiencing the domino effect of this.

ROBERTS: As we did every year, we saw a number of disasters in 2007 as well. You went out there trying to help folks deal with the disaster and prevent themselves from being caught up in the red tape and the difficulty in coming back should a disaster ever befall them. What was the worst to you?

WILLIS: Well, you know, mud slides. We were at wildfires. We were all of the floods. You name it. Probably the worst was the mudslide that we went to. Just devastating for that family there. Their entire house, the Parlingtons, their home demolished by a huge mudslide they never expected. Now, I'm going to tell you. You see their house right there? You know your average homeowners insurance policy does not cover that at all, period. They have not gotten any money. We caught up with them recently. They got no money for that except a loan from FEMA and they bought a condo and they've moved out. She doesn't want to go back to the area at all and it's still unsafe because you can still have mudslides there. Of course, now, it's very difficult to get coverage.

ROBERTS: If homeowners doesn't cover that, does flood insurance cover that?

WILLIS: You have to buy special coverage. And that's something I want to say here. Look 58% of Americans do not have enough homeowners' insurance to cover them in the event something happens. A mudslide, you got to buy special coverage. A flood you have to have special coverage. You really have to go out and research and find out what are the kinds of things that could hit you, what are you prone for? And make sure that you've got the coverage you need at the end of the day. It's up to you. You can always go on the website of the Insurance Information Institute, iii.gov, great web site to get basic information on what does my insurance policy cover? What might I be on the hook for myself?

ROBERTS: Great tips. Looking forward to hearing more from you as we transition into 2008.

WILLIS: My pleasure.

ROBERTS: Gerri Willis, thanks.

DE LA CRUZ: And a quick reminder right here. Stay with CNN for "Ballot Bowl '08." You can get to know the candidates in their own words. AMERICAN MORNING will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DE LA CRUZ: And that's all the time we've got for this AMERICAN MORNING. Thank you so much for joining us.

ROBERTS: And I'll see you again tomorrow morning from Iowa City. Before we go though, thanks to you for filling in today.

DE LA CRUZ: Well, thank you.

ROBERTS: We want to thank everyone who helps put this program on every morning. A Happy New Year to you all. See you again tomorrow.

DE LA CRUZ: Happy New Year.

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