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A Sign of What Many Believe is Continuing Struggles For Giuliani Campaign; Strange New Twist in Case of Pregnant Marine Missing From Camp Lejeune; Republicans Gear Up for the Primaries in South Carolina and Michigan; Economy Becomes Center of Presidential Candidates' debate

Aired January 11, 2008 - 09:00   ET

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


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Oh, OK. All right. Good morning, everyone. You are in the CNN NEWSROOM.
I'm Tony Harris.

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

No dancing here. Watch events come into the NEWSROOM live on Friday morning. Here's what's on the rundown for January 11th. Sub- prime shakeout, Bank of America buying mortgage giant Countrywide. What it means for Countrywide customers.

HARRIS: Startling new details about a missing marine -- did the pregnant woman leave on her own? We will talk live this hour with a lead investigator.

COLLINS: Powerful thunderstorms rough up the south in the Midwest. Floodwaters start to fall. Weekend cleanup duty, in the NEWSROOM.

Strange new twist this morning in the disappearance of a pregnant marine from Camp Lejeune. We have just learned Onslow County Sheriff Ed Brown has called a news conference for later today for what he calls a major update. We are going to be talking live with him in just a few minutes. First, we want to get to Ed Lavandera -- he's joining us from Jacksonville, North Carolina, now.

Ed, what's happening with this case this morning? Any indication?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Heidi, what's interesting is that the sheriff is making that announcement even before he has interviewed what he is calling a key witness in this case and that is the missing marine's roommate, who has been training in California with the marines and has been making his way back here. We understand at some point this morning, sheriff's deputies here will be questioning him and the sheriff says after that they expect to have much clearer answers as to what's going on.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): The details of Maria Lauterbach's disappearance are especially troubling. She's eight months pregnant, missing since mid-December. Lauterbach, according to court documents is also in the middle of a sexual assault case against a superior officer at Camp Lejeune. The missing marine's mother anxiously awaits news of where she might be.

MARY LAUTERBACH, MOTHER OF THE MISSING MARINE: We have no idea what's happened but, the one thing we do know, it's extremely out of character for her not to call.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But there are pieces of this mystery that suggest Lauterbach is struggling with personal problems and disappeared willingly. In court documents, Lauterbach's mother alleges the marine is a compulsive liar who suffers from Bi-polar disorder. The documents also say the military investigation had gone sour. Military officials say she is facing a possible discharge from the marine corps because of that stress. Police will not say if they suspect foul play or if they think Lauterbach just walked off on her own but they are hopeful she's still alive.

ED BROWN, SHERIFF, ONSLOW COUNTY, NORTH CAROLINA: I want her to know that, sometimes, people do things, if they can turn the clock back they wouldn't do them the way they've done them. Regardless of issues, if she's listening to this, regardless of the circumstances, this has got to stop.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For now, investigators are hoping to learn more from Lauterbach's roommate, a fellow marine who has been training in California. He's returning to North Carolina to speak to investigators. He's believed to be the last person to see Maria Lauterbach alive.

MRS. LAUTERBACH: I hope the baby's healthy. I'm very concerned for both of them. It's not just one person. It's two. They're very much at risk here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LAVANDERA: Even though the sheriff won't be specific what questions they will be asking this roommate, he did say there has been new evidence that has been turned up in the last few days that they want to present to him and after that, as I mentioned, they suspect that this roommate will be able to provide clearer answers as to what's going on here, Heidi.

COLLINS: Oh, boy, we sure are all hoping for that. All right, CNN's Ed Lavandera. Ed, thank you. And, just a reminder, later this hour, Onslow County Sheriff Ed Brown will be live right here in the NEWSROOM to answer some questions about the search for pregnant marine, Maria Lauterbach.

HARRIS: Also this morning, breaking news: a blockbuster deal that could save the nation's largest mortgage lender. Bank of America will buy Countrywide Financial. Ali Velshi -- he's in New York with more on the deal. Ali, this is interesting because, earlier, there were reports that the two sides were talking. Now it sounds like they're moving forward ALI VELSHI, CNN SENIOR BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes.

HARRIS: And a deal is going to happen here.

VELSHI: As you know, Bank of America is the nation's biggest consumer bank. Countrywide is the biggest mortgage lender. There have been a lot of rumors now about Countrywide getting into more and more trouble. The shares had really gone down. Bank of America, a couple months ago, invested $2 billion in Countrywide and they're going to see this investment disappear if Countrywide disappeared.

This saves a lot of people a lot of trouble, including people who have their mortgages with Countrywide because now, they'll be somewhere for those mortgages to be as opposed to their company going bankrupt and having to find some that would assume these mortgages some of which, you know, are very risky.

Here's a thing, if you have a mortgage with Countrywide, nothing's going to happen to you right now. Any mortgage, you can't change the terms of a mortgage within that period of the mortgage. So, you're safe. If you were going to have refinance, you still are going to have to refinance. Probably for all of 2008, nothing will change at all. They're expecting the integration of the company to take place in 2009. For some people, that will mean their statements go to somewhere else.

As for anybody with a mortgage with any bank, your bank can change where that payment goes. You just have to make sure you keep paying your bills on time. Nothing changes for you. You don't skip a payment, nothing happens. Generally thought of as good news because, with Countrywide not going bankrupt that means the government doesn't have to talk about stepping in, we don't have to find a place for all of these mortgages to live. Right now, they will live with Countrywide and Bank of America.

HARRIS: Yes, sounds like and -- maybe, you can talk about what this means for Bank of America because, as you've mentioned, they've been in business essentially since August of last year and in that deal they've essentially bought a first right to refusal that if Countrywide was eventually going to look to sell they would be the first ones to play. Correct?

VELSHI: Yes, look, you know, in the end, I think, this will work out as a very good deal for Bank of America and for Bank of America customers. I don't think they would have chosen to buy Countrywide -- I don't think Countrywide, even at these levels, is a good buy for anyone at the moment but, it's probably good for the whole situation that we're in right now with mortgages. If you had to have the biggest mortgage lender in the country disappear, that would mean there would be more demand for mortgages...

HARRIS: Yes.

VELSHI: ... Rates would go up, credit would be a little tighter. So, I think, we're OK.

HARRIS: Very good, Ali Velshi, "Minding Your Business" a little early this morning. Good to see you. I appreciate it. Thanks.

VELSHI: See you.

COLLINS: A severe weather shocker, suspected tornadoes rip through several southern states, including Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana. Trees and power lines knocked over in an instant. In Mississippi, at least 125 homes and buildings are damaged or destroyed. Heavy rain also creating deadly conditions -- at least two people were killed on slick roads. Residents said they were terrified.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AUDREY DUCKWORTH, STORM VICTIM: We're in the mobile home and the wind started picking up real bad and we were going to stay in there and get in the hallway and we decided, me and my children, just to go jump in the ditch. I didn't actually hear the tornado. We were down, you know, hovered down, and we got up, and this is what we saw.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: Several people were hurt and in an extremely close call, high winds tossed a bus on top of a Mississippi school. The children hid in a hallway, and, thankfully, were not hurt.

HARRIS: Boy, you know, in some respects, you wouldn't expect this kind of a story now, but, maybe in the spring, in the fall. But, Bonnie, we're talking about January here.

BONNIE SCHNEIDER, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, it is unusual to see tornadoes and so many incidents of damage and destruction with tornadoes this time of year. Normally, we see it in the spring and in the fall. But, we are seeing still some severe thunderstorm activity in the southeast. The tornado watch that we have in effect just expired about seven minutes ago but we can still see a line of thunderstorms working their way across south Georgia at this hour.

This will be an area we're watching for extreme weather this morning but, as we go into the afternoon hours, we have a brand new hotspot that we will be watching for the potential of damaging wind and some tornadoes. Possibly, some isolated tornadoes popping up here in the coastal sections of the Carolinas and the tide water area and lower Virginia.

We still have that colder air mass coming in on warm and unstable conditions and, really, we do run the risk this afternoon of seeing some wind damage with the system. Right now, we're only getting light to moderate rain across Columbia and South Carolina up towards Raleigh-Durham area and really much of the western Piedmont is staying dry. For Winston-Salem and Greensborough, as we go through the day, you'll see more storms develop here in the coastal sections of the Carolinas and into the north as well. What's happening here, though, we are getting snow. Now, this is typical January weather -- to get that combination of snow, sleet, and freezing rain in northern New England. We're seeing that here in parts of Vermont at this time and also seeing heavy rain in Syracuse. Here's what we're facing today if you're traveling north to New England. It looks like Boston will stay more in a rain event but once you get into the colder air, two to four inches of snow expected into Maine, rain, sleet, and snow in northern Vermont and into upstate New York, we could see two inches of snow. Now, with all this weather that we've been speaking of, we do have numerous travel delays.

And, it's still early in the morning. But, check out a long list of airport delays, starting with Boston -- increasing with rain there, an hour and 15 minutes. New York airport also seeing an hour delay. La Guardia seeing over the night, an hour and 20 minutes. And, in Philadelphia, we have ground delays that would swell. So, it's going to be a tough Friday for travel because of the airport delays in the northeast, which, as you know, Tony and Heidi, they certainly do affect the rest of country when you have airport delays in this region. Those planes have to go out west and everybody's trying to get somewhere.

HARRIS: Sure.

COLLINS: Maybe, we should start tracking when they don't have delays. That would be good. Might be good for our airports. All right, Bonnie, we'll check back with you a little later on. Thank you.

On an international, bridge along the U. S.-Mexico border is set to reopen this morning after a deadly chain reaction crash. At least four people were killed, six others injured. This happened last night on Reynosa International Bridge. Authorities say, two tractor- trailers crashed and burst into flames. That triggered a chain reaction accident with three other vehicles, including a pickup that plunged off the bridge. The bridge connects Texas and Mexico and handles more than 17,000 cars and trucks a day.

HARRIS: So, get ready for stiff new regulations on your driver's license. New details coming out today about the Fed's controversial plan. It's called real I.D. Most of you will need a real I.D. by 2014 to board an airplane or enter a federal building. The exception is people over 50. They'll get more time to meet the new requirement. The government says they're less likely to be terrorists or criminals, OK. To obtain the real I.D.-driver's license, you have to submit a digital photo, birth certificate, proof of social security number, and proof of residence. Critics call it a national I.D. system that threatens privacy and smacks of big brother.

COLLINS: President Bush has wrapped up his three-day visit to Israel on the west bank and is already planning on his return trip. The president says he'll come back in May to continue working on an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. He's calling for an end to Israel's occupation of the territory and, in return, wants an end to violence against Israel. He highlighted dangers of blind hatred with a visit to the Holocaust Museum.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I would hope as many people in the world would come to this place. It would be a sobering reminder that evil exists, and a call that when we find evil, we must resist it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: Right now, the president is in Kuwait. We are told the rest of his Mid-east trip will likely focus on Iraq and his concerns over Iran.

HARRIS: A common treatment for cholesterol. Could it be a wonder drug for diabetics? Dr. Gupta right here, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: You're in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Heidi Collins.

Southern showdown, Republican presidential candidates clash in South Carolina, touting their plans to protect your pocketbooks.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: Your money and your vote. Economy -- a major focus on the campaign trail today and, at the Republican debate last night in South Carolina. Dana Bash, live from Myrtle Beach. Dana, great to see you. So, what kind of, economic fixes are the candidates talking about?

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're talking about several economic fixes, but what's fascinating is the fact they're talking so extensively about the economy and there's a pretty good reason for it. It's because the next contest dates for Republican, South Carolina, where I am, and before that, Michigan. They are places where job loss is a huge, issue.

Economic anxiety because of that is just palpable in both of those states. Mitt Romney, when asked about whether or not there is a recession in this country, he turned it against his chief rival in the contest state of Michigan, John McCain, accusing him of being pessimistic about job loss.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's time for us not to just talk about improving our economy. We're going to have to do the hard work of rebuilding our economy, strengthening it, and I know that there are some people, like Senator McCain said, some jobs have left Michigan they're never coming back. I disagree. I'm going to fight for every single job -- Michigan, South Carolina, every state in this country -- we're going to fight for jobs and make sure that our future is bright. We're going to protect the jobs of Americans and grow this economy again.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Sometimes, you have to tell people things they don't want to hear along with things that they do want to hear. There are jobs. It's time for straight talk. There are some jobs that aren't coming back to Michigan. There are some jobs that won't come back here to South Carolina.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Now, when John McCain says his prescription for job loss is to have job training and to have the government be more involved in that, perhaps at community colleges and elsewhere, particularly, for older workers who lost their jobs and need help with job training. If this kind of talk, in last night's debate, certainly on the campaign trail, is evidence of what we've been seeing in the polls, Tony.

That is, that as much as national security issues have mattered in the past, those, the issues on the campaign trail for voters are definitely coming home and these candidates, the Republicans, are certainly getting that. That's why they're talking a lot about the economy. Obviously, they have different prescriptions on the Republican side -- tax cuts, cutting spending, but certainly, they're talking about it a lot.

HARRIS: Yes. Dana Bash for us in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Great to see you. Thank you. And, for more on the presidential candidates and their next stops, go to cnnpolitics.com. It is your one-stop shop for all things political.

COLLINS: Millions of Americans take cholesterol-lowering drugs. And now, new, exciting research suggests statins could be lifesavers for diabetics, as well. Chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, is here this morning.

So, Sanjay, what does this mean for diabetics?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: There's a well-known link between diabetes and heart disease and stroke -- that has been pretty well established and people know you can take statin medications and try to ward off, you know, a heart disease later on by lowering cholesterol. The question is: should you give these statin medications to diabetics earlier in the disease, even if they don't necessarily have high cholesterol? That was the sort of question that was being posed. They looked at 14 different large studies on this and tried to make a conclusion. All they concluded was yes, for a lot of situations it can actually be a good thing.

Take a look at some of the numbers here. What they found was, overall, within five years, there was 10 percent reduction in mortality. That's obviously a good thing. Even more quickly, within a year, there was about a 21 percent reduction in heart attacks and strokes. And that was again from taking statin medications. Caveats do exist, as you might imagine, Heidi. Potential side effects, they can cause muscle pain, they can potentially cause liver problems. So, they certainly are not for everyone. But, we talked to folks and they say, women, men, old, young, could potentially benefit in terms of those two measurables.

COLLINS: I imagine the answer to this question is no but, should all diabetics start taking these statins?

HARRIS: Yes, but I was surprised by the answer that we got back as we started reporting this yesterday. We talked to folks in the American Heart Association, the American Diabetic Association, and they say for the most part, yes. Obviously, be wary of the side effects. And, if you're a young person who has diabetes, who has absolutely no other cardiac risk factors, you know, you run, you're healthy, you eat well, statins might not be a good medication for you. But, for a lot of people who have risk factors for heart decease and are diabetic, even if their cholesterol numbers aren't that bad, statins may be a good option.

COLLINS: Wow, yes, that is kind of surprising. What about diabetics, I mean, I don't know that everybody understands why they're at such a high risk for heart attacks and strokes?

GUPTA: I'm not sure there's an absolute answer to that but people do know you have too much glucose, too much sugar, if you will, in your blood stream and that sugar can sometimes be irritating to the blood vessel itself. It causes you more likely to develop blood clots within the vessels. It can irritate a lining of the blood vessels and all of that can potentially be a problem in causing heart attacks because the blood vessels go to the hearts or strokes and the blood vessels that go to the brain can be affected by that. So, that's a sort of simplistic answer. But, there's a pretty well-defined relationship between diabetes and heart attacks and strokes.

COLLINS: All right. Very interesting. Appreciate that. Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

GUPTA: Talk to your doctor about it before starting.

COLLINS: Yes, as always, with anything. Thank you.

HARRIS: A fiery inferno caught on a dashboard cam, an interstate mess in Detroit. Boy. This story straight ahead in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: Missouri, the show me state, but what you say and where you dance -- well, could land you in trouble. Outlawing bar behavior. See it first in the NEWSROOM. It is coming up in just a couple minutes.

COLLINS: First, a disgraced athlete facing possible prison time. Later today, former Olympic track star Marion Jones goes to court for sentencing. She's already confessed to lying about steroids and a check fraud scheme. She's been stripped of the five Olympic medals she won as a runner and a long jumper. Her attorneys say the woman who was once the most celebrated female athlete in the world, has been punished enough. She has lost her career as a motivational speaker and has suffered a series of financial hardships.

HARRIS: You know, he was a skating champion whose moves absolutely thrilled the crowd, but Christopher Bowman apparently died alone yesterday in a budget hotel room. Authorities in California are investigating his death as possible drug overdose. An autopsy is scheduled for this weekend. Bowman won a silver medal at the 1989 world championships and was a two-time national champion but the skater known as "Bowman the Showman" battled addiction problems off the ice. Christopher Bowman was 40 years old.

COLLINS: Updating a story we were telling you about around this time yesterday. Parts of northbound Interstate 75 in Detroit are still closed at this hour. Fiery tanker explosion created a traffic nightmare. A new package from affiliate WXYZ has the video.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): Take a look at this fiery crash counter by state trooper's in-car-camera. A tanker truck burst into flames along northbound I-75 on Dearborn Avenue. Moments before the crash, that trooper was making a traffic stop, his in-car-camera captured this image of the tanker truck driving by. You can see it there to the right. It doesn't appear to show any signs of trouble. But, in less than two minutes, there's an explosion. Look in the upper right corner of the screen and you can see the ball of fire. Investigators say the tanker truck was carrying butane liquid gas, but, for some reason, driver Ronald Martinez lost control.

LT. MONICA YESH: It could be that he fell asleep. It could be that he had a medical condition. Maybe, he had a heart attack or maybe, he just looked away for just a second and went over the guard and, at that point, he was in trouble.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The tanker truck veered into a cement barrier. The tanker trailer separated and plunged about 40 feet over I-75 and exploded. The tanker's cab continued on about 200 yards. The 60-year-old driver from Albian was killed. He's a father of three who worked for Aerobulk Carrier. Police say he was on his way to Sarnia from Ohio to pick up propane. He'd only been on the road for about an hour and 15 minutes when something went terribly wrong.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: Investigators say it could have been worse. The tanker was carrying just 7,200 pounds of butane but can haul as much as 80,000 pounds.

HARRIS: In one Missouri town, you can belly up to the bar, no problem there. But be careful what do you or say after that. A city councilman in St. Charles wants to ban cussing, cursing. Cussing? OK, cussing in the local watering holes. If passed, the measure would also outlaw dancing on tables. What's the point? And any kind of drinking game.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD VEIT, CITY COUNCILMAN, ST. CHARLES, MISSOURI: It's not necessarily that anything is really out of control, but if we have these rules and everybody knows what they are, that we won't ever get to that point.

MARC ROUSSEAU, R. T. WEILERS: We're dealing with adults here once again and I don't think that it's the city's or the government's job to determine what we can and cannot play in our restaurant. (END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: Yes, but bar owners say the proposal is too vague and doesn't define what is obscene. They will meet with city officials next week to air those complaints and, maybe, find a compromise.

COLLINS: Freed after six years in captivity.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED LADY REPORTER: We, being reborn, we don't even imagine our emotion when we saw the helicopter.

COLLINS (voice-over): Two Colombian politicians now home after a long and trying hostage ordeal.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: An orchestra where, just carrying your instruments to rehearsal can be dangerous.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Instruments -- it's difficult, because it has a strange shape.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do people think when they see the shape?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know. They think, it's a weapon, maybe.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: An orchestra that drowns out the sound of war. An amazing story coming up for you, in the NEWSROOM.

COLLINS: Good morning once again, everybody -- 9:30 Eastern time now.

I'm Heidi Collins.

HARRIS: And I'm Tony Harris.

Welcome back everyone to the CNN NEWSROOM. Very quickly here, we want to get to our chief national correspondent John King who has some news for us this morning from the Giuliani Campaign.

John?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Tony, a sign of what many believe is continuing struggles for the Giuliani campaign, although the campaign is just not the case. CNN has learned that a number of the top senior staffers in the campaign have been asked is the term the campaign is using on voluntary basis, to work without pay for the month of January and possibly longer so that the campaign can floor all of its resources into the Florida Republican presidential primary, that primary coming up January 29th.

And Giuliani, as you know, had said all along that he can afford to lose the early states as long as he can win in Florida and jump start himself into Super Tuesday. But this is a step that campaigns take when they are struggling for money. And again the Giuliani campaign is insisting to us, they are not out of money and that they are not in desperate straits, but the senior staff, they do confirm has been asked, although one official told me, they were more or less told, that they would have to work on a voluntary basis for the month of January, so all that money can go to television advertising and other campaign events down in Florida.

So a sign of some trouble, the degree of which we're not quite sure yet, Tony. They won't tell us exactly how much cash is on hand and they won't even tell us exactly how many senior staffers have been asked to take this step, but campaigns don't ask the staff to work for free when things are going well.

HARRIS: Well, I think, that's it, John. King for us this morning. And John, thanks for that update and that breaking development. Thanks.

COLLINS: Strange new twist this morning in the case of a pregnant marine missing from Camp Lejeune since mid-December. There is evidence of mental illness, personal problems and a military investigation gone sour. Also, hints she might have just walked away. Investigators are expected to talk to Maria Lauterbach's roommate this morning, and the lead investigator, Onslow County Sheriff Ed Brown joins us in just a few minutes, live at 9:45 Eastern to answer question about the investigation. He is also scheduled to hold a news conference at noon today. Of course, you will see that live here right here on CNN.

HARRIS: We have certainly been following this story throughout the week. Entire neighborhoods in Illinois under water. Torrential downpours and melting snow have triggered major flooding and sent water pouring into more than 430 homes. Can you imagine it? In several towns, flooded rivers and creeks making matters even worse. Thousands of people have evacuated. Hundreds had to be rescued by boat. The governor has declared two counties state disaster areas.

Touchdown in a place where tornadoes are extremely rare. A twister tore through Vancouver, Washington, yesterday. Homes were destroyed, power lines, and trees toppled and shopping carts were sent flying into cars.

COLLINS: Yikes!

HARRIS: Wow. Amazing piece of this and no one injured. Man.

COLLINS: Yes, that's very good news.

Bonnie Schneider is joining us now. Hey Bonnie, we had storms here last night in the Southeast, obviously. And now everything is moving even further East, right?

(WEATHER REPORT)

COLLINS: We want to get back to the story that we first told you about yesterday from Colombia now. Two former Colombian politicians are tasting freedom this morning. A rebel group took them hostage six years ago. They're released broker by the Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. CNN's Karl Penhaul has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The final seconds of captivity, the first moments of freedom. Free to smile again. Free to head home to their loved ones. In a clearing deep in the Colombian jungle, gun- toting rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbian known as FARC turn over former vice presidential candidate Clara Rojas and former congresswoman Consuelo Gonzalez to a Venezuelan-led delegation. Rojas puts in a call to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, the man who brokered the handover deal.

CLARA ROJAS, FREED HOSTAGE (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Mr. President, I'm so grateful in my heart for this. 1,000 thank you. We are being reborn. You don't even imagine our emotion when we saw the helicopters.

PENHAUL: Rescue helicopters airlift them across the border to Venezuela. From there, they jet off to Caracas. For Rojas, the first embrace from her mother since she was kidnapped six years ago.

ROJAS (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): We are on the move for over 20 days without stopping for a minute. We are truly exhausted. We have gone without proper sleep for many days.

PENHAUL: For Gonzalez, it's been almost 6 1/2 years. Her husband died a year after she was taken hostage. Tearful hugs from her daughters and the very first cuddle with her new granddaughter. FARC had promised to liberate three hostages, the third was Rojas' son born in captivity to a guerrilla father. But the rebels no longer had the boy in their custody. They took him from Rojas at just eight months and handed him over to a surrogate civilian family.

On New Year's Eve, the Colombian government announced that the child called Emmanuel had ended up in the care of Colombian Social Services. On her release, Rojas was wearing a photo of her son around her neck and comments to a Colombian radio, Rojas said she was desperate to be reunited.

ROJAS (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): He was the smallest and sweetest thing. What touched me the most was his smile and of course his crying.

PENHAUL: In Caracas, a personal thank you and political photo of President Chavez. Chavez' bid to win the liberation over Christmas floundered when the gorillas failed to reveal the coordinates where they were holding the hostages. A week ago, political analyst was suggesting the rebels have duped Chavez. But Thursday's liberation was a chance for Chavez to play regional peacemaker rather than troublemaker as he's been portrayed by the U.S. administration. Freedom is sweet for these two hostages. But the Colombian government estimates, FARC has 750 other captives.

Among the comments and anecdotes we've heard from Rojas and Gonzales, there's one message Colombia cannot afford to overlook. And that's their plea not to forget the other rebel-held hostages still waiting for their freedom.

Karl Penhaul, CNN, San Jose Del Guaviare, Colombia.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARRIS: We have a terrific story coming up for you just a couple of minutes. An orchestra where just carrying your instrument to rehearsal can be dangerous.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's not difficult because of the instrument. It's difficult because it has a strange shape.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do people think when they see the shape?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know. They think it's a weapon, maybe.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: An orchestra that drowns out the sounds of war.

COLLINS: So let's take you to the opening bell, just a couple minutes ago. The New York Stock Exchange. Boy, we hoped it would be a little bit different. But want you to get straight to that big board now, because look at this. Just about what are we? Nine minutes in to the trading day here on this Friday? The Dow Jones Industrial averages are down 133 points. It seems resting right now at 12,719. Yesterday, ended up to the positive side of things and gain of 117 points by the time the trading day was finished. So we're going to be talking with Susan Lisovicz about this. But you know, certainly, a down day right out of the box.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: It just may be the world's bravest orchestra. Just listen to their music and their words.

CNN's Morgan Neill reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MORGAN NEILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In Baghdad, music can be a welcome escape. But the Director of the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra says he hopes his music offers more than just the way to run away from the country's day-to-day chaos.

KARIM WASFI, DIRECTOR IRAQ SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA: It's going to be able to affect the whole country for peace, a couple of hours a month, to send something normal, to send something beautiful, to feel something beautiful.

NEILL: Judging by reaction to the orchestra's latest performance, it seems to be working.

(APPLAUSE)

NEILL: Small audience at this club in Baghdad's once wealthy Mansur District is enthralled. Elgar's cello concerto was chosen for its relevance to today's Iraq.

WASFI: The Elgar is related to a certain situation where it was composed back in 1919 and it was resembling the aftermath of the First World War and how, Sir Edward Elgar, back then conceptualized the whole developing effects of the aftermath of the war. For me it was leaving the aftermath of endless wars in Iraq.

NEILL: Maybe the orchestra's greatest achievement is simply that it continues to exist and to perform. Rehearsals have moved several times, as one spot and then another became simply too dangerous.

WASFI: We had a concert where we used to rehearse and was allocated where the orchestra to be the rehearsing premises as well as the administrator building, et cetera, but that's such a troublesome area of factor that we can't actually use the road.

NEILL: For now, members practice at this school for dance and music behind reinforced walls. Just over that way, armed men stand guard at the gates. For many members, just getting to rehearsal is a constant challenge.

ZUHAL SULTAN, PIANIST: Everyone here is just in parts of Baghdad. So getting to the school is, you know, it is a trip, actually. I live 12 miles from here. So it takes one hour, an hour and half to get here.

NEILL: In the midst of war, that's just a start of the difficulties for these musicians. Zuhal, for example, doesn't tell anyone she plays in the orchestra.

SULTAN: I can't say here that I play with the orchestra.

NEILL: Why? Why not? Why can't you say that?

SULTAN: Because I don't, you know -- you can't tell so many people.

NEILL: Another of the orchestra's youngest members is 15-year- old French Horn player Ranya. Though talented beyond her years, her youth is impossible to ignore and we asked why she wanted to join the orchestra. RANYA NASHAT, FRENCH HORN PLAYER: My friend plains the oboe. Her father plays here too. So she tells me she's going to play in this symphony. So I was jealous in things like that so I joined them.

NEILL: Ranya points out another difficulties these musicians face. Simply carrying their instruments back and forth from rehearsal.

NASHAT: It's not difficult because it's an instrument, its difficulty because it has a strange shape.

NEILL: What do people think when they see the shape?

NASHAT: I don't know. They think it's a weapon, maybe.

NEILL: For violinists, Mohammed Qassim, the war hit home in a literal sense when he says U.S. troops entered his apartment building while fighting insurgents on Baghdad's Haifa Street.

MOHAMMED QASSIM, PIANIST: They entered into the building and probably took a position there on the rooftop, which was understandable of course. But what's not understandable that you have to break into every single apartment that's locked. And that's what happened.

NEILL: 40 days passed before the house-to-house fighting had died down. And he was able to go home again. The 19th century violin he bought 25 years ago in Czechoslovakia was destroyed.

QASSIM: When I came back, I was shock to find the apartment in a big, big mess. My musical instrument was broken to pieces.

NEILL: Hearing of his plight, a group in Australia replaced the violin with one from the same period. Remembering the gift, Mohammed gives a rare smile.

SULTAN: When there are meetings there are Kurdish, there are Arabs, there are Christian, Muslims and we get along really well. I mean, we all just forget our differences. We never talk about because it's music, what we are thinking about all the day.

WASFI: It's a true symbol of what Iraq can be, what Iraq has been.

NEILL: In the final minutes before the concert begins, the musicians tune their instruments looking to bring harmony from the discord. Ranya, dressed for the occasion admits to a case of the butterflies.

NASHAT: Yes, of course, I'm nervous now. We are getting to the big part of the show. So, yes, I am nervous.

NEILL: But soon nerves are calmed and sounds that seemed impossible in these surroundings take over. Karim's hopes at least for a few hours are fulfilled. He's brought his audience something they rarely hear in today's Iraq. Something normal, something beautiful. Morgan Neill, CNN, Baghdad.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARRIS: Told you it would be special.

Next in the NEWSROOM, Onslow County Sheriff Ed Brown will join us. We're asking questions about the search for pregnant marine Maria Lauterbach.

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HARRIS: OK. We are going deeper now into the disappearance of a pregnant marine from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Lance Corporal Maria Lauterbach has been missing since mid-December, and the investigation is taking startling turns this morning. Onslow County Sheriff Ed Brown is leading that investigation. He is holding a news conference today at noon Eastern, and he joins us now from Jacksonville, North Carolina. And sheriff, great to see you. Thanks for your time this morning.

SHERIFF ED BROWN, ONSLOW COUNTY: You're welcome, sir.

HARRIS: Well leading up to this -- I've got ask the question, so forgive me. I just -- can you give us any kind of a heads up as to what might be the new development in this case, that we will learn more about, certainly, at noon? What is going on with the investigation right now?

BROWN: No, sir, I can't give you any idea what's happening. The wheels are spinning fast. We've got the sergeant back in California. We're getting calls. I'm just telling you the frustration of an investigation is probably as hard for the investigators as anyone. You deal with positive information. You deal with negative information and the two of them pulling you from one side to the other. The wheels are just turning, and we still believe by noon today we will have a major break.

HARRIS: That's interesting. So you're calling the news conference for today at noon Eastern time. And you're anticipating having a major break. And I'm left to assume that it's going to come from the information you're able to get from Sergeant Durham. Am I correct in at least assuming that?

BROWN: Not totally, no. It's coming, from what I understand, from two or three different directions. Understanding in an investigation, you just have to deal with every bit of information that you get, whether it's which -- regardless of which direction it points in, and eventually, when you come to the conclusion of your investigation, you'll have enough facts then, and then you probably -- you'll have your case solved. That I believe may be the situation at 12:00 noon today.

HARRIS: OK and the reason I'm pressing on this is, you don't -- unless this is just a daily update on the investigation...

BROWN: This is not a daily update. HARRIS: Exactly. So that's why I'm trying to press you a little bit on this.

BROWN: And I won't go any further than that. So don't try to take me any further.

HARRIS: Sheriff I...

BROWN: Please, I want to be nice.

HARRIS: OK. I appreciate that. Probably going to try anyway, but here we go. The next question for you, do you have -- I'm not asking you what you know, what you can prove right now, but do you believe that Maria Lauterbach is still alive? Do you believe it? I'm not asking if you can prove it.

BROWN: Sir, I only believe what I can prove when it comes to an investigation. I have a belief about some things I can't prove, in an investigation, if I can't prove it, then I'm not going to comment on it.

HARRIS: OK and the only reason I asked that question is that there have been other statements from you that seemed to indicate that you appeared to be trying to reach out to Maria Lauterbach that if, in fact, this is some kind of misunderstanding, now would be the time to bring this to an end?

BROWN: That is was thinking coming out of context, sure, if she were listening what would you say? If change the whole message, what I had to say. Not that I was speaking to her, but if, and somebody set this matter up, if she was there, this is what I would say. Not that I'm saying she is there, but if she there, that's what I would say it. But I've always contended from day one that this investigation, I am not resolve that it could go either way. I was standing in the middle of the road right on. You'll get information that wants to make you lean one way and get information that wants to make you lean the other way, but you got stay in the middle of the road.

HARRIS: Got you. I'm just sort of curious and I'm not sure that this question's been asked and I'm not sure why if it hasn't, but if we go back over some of the details of the story that we're aware of, Maria was at least eight months pregnant a due date coming soon. I'm wondering, have you or anyone in your department questioned the man who would be the father of this child?

BROWN: We have not. As I have mentioned in the beginning, we were looking for folks who could provide us information and the fact -- who the father -- I don't know that it plays a relevant part, if there is no negative factors involved in it.

HARRIS: But that person would certainly be someone you would want to talk to, it seems to me.

BROWN: Possibly, yes. But the key person that we wanted to talk to is here from California. However, as we stand here and talk, wheels are turning, and they're turning faster than you're anticipating. Therefore, I feel comfortable to tell you that a major news release may come out at 12:00.

HARRIS: Well, we will wait for that and we will certainly bring it to everyone watching us in the CNN NEWSROOM. Sheriff Ed Brown, thanks for your time this morning.

BROWN: I do want to clear up, I'm still in the middle of the road.

HARRIS: OK. Understand. Sheriff, thanks for your time.

BROWN: Yes, sir, have a good day.

COLLINS: Subprime cleanup. The nation's biggest bank rescuing the nation's biggest mortgage company. What it means for you if you're a customer.

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