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Beef Recall: Largest in the U.S.; Pakistan Election; Race for Endorsements: Obama Courts Edwards; Tornado Terror in Alabama; NIU Shooting: Online Connection with Virginia Tech

Aired February 18, 2008 - 06:00   ET


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: The Agriculture Department recalling 143 million pounds of ground beef, frozen beef, from a California meat packing company. Now the company, Westland Hallmark, sold about 37 million pounds of meat to school lunch programs and had been under investigation for mistreating cattle after a very disturbing video surfaced and made its way around the Internet. Officials say that some cattle had been slaughtered without being properly examined first, something that violates federal regulations.
Our medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen joins us now from Atlanta with more on this. I guess the bright spot, when we talk about this huge amount of beef being recalled, but officials say that no one, at least from what they've heard, has been sickened from this meat.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Kiran. But you know what? You want to think about that carefully because the disease that they're concerned about is BSE or mad cow disease. And God forbid, if someone did eat this meat and possibly got mad cow disease, that wouldn't manifest for years and years. So let's talk a little bit about what's going on here.

The USDA says there is a remote probability, those are their words, that anyone could get sick from this meat. But once they saw the video, and here's the video that's been circulating. We are showing you some of the tamer shots, I am sorry to tell you. Some of this is really quite awful, but of these animals being mistreated. And the video shows that these animals, some of them were what's called downer cows. They were unable to walk. When a cow is unable to walk, that is a sign that it could possibly have mad cow disease, and those animals are not supposed to be brought to slaughter. Instead, they're supposed to be brought to a USDA inspector, but the USDA says that didn't happen.

They're concerned about practices that range over two years, and that's why they're doing this huge recall. Now, let's hear what the company has to say about this. The company in a statement from its president said, I want to reassure our customers and consumers that our company has met the highest standards for harvesting and processing meat under the Federal Meat Inspection Act. That is the president of Westland Meat -- Hallmark Meat Packaging. And so, they say that they have done everything the USDA has asked them to do, and they say that many third-party audits have also shown that everything has been fine. They say that the employees that were seen in that video were treated with very quickly -- Kiran. CHETRY: Elizabeth Cohen, thank you for putting that in perspective for us today. Also, if people want to find a complete list of all of the products that were affected by this recall, go to Coming up in our next hour, we're actually going to talk to someone from the USDA about exactly what is going on here with this recall.

Meanwhile, extreme weather to tell you about this morning. First, to Alabama where a tornado touched down in Prattville, just northwest of Montgomery. About 30 people injured, two of them critically and about 200 homes and businesses were damaged. Roughly, a third of the town is without power after that tornado. A tornado also touching down in the Florida panhandle. Four homes destroyed in Escambia County. No injuries reported. The storm is expected to move through Florida today. There are also several counties under tornado watch in the state of Florida.

And also in the Midwest, snow causing problems. Snow and freezing rain fell in Wisconsin and Iowa where blizzard warnings are in effect. Also in Missouri, heavy snow and slush forced officials to close the Kansas City International Airport. Yesterday, it was closed for about six hours. That is the longest shutdown in its history.

So we have extreme weather. It's on the move, and Rob Marciano tracking it all for us. And we are way above normal in terms of tornadoes for February, aren't we?

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: We are, but if there's any sort of solace is that this outbreak is kind of where it should be for the month of February as opposed to the last one, which is a little bit farther north. We still have tornado warnings and watches that are in effect, Kiran. Most of them have moved into parts of North Carolina and even almost up through the Delmarva Peninsula. Elizabeth City south towards Pamekasan, this is a pretty intense line that's about to move off towards Cape Hatteras. I should point that right now, there are no tornado warnings out but these watches are in effect for the next several hours.

Valdosta, Georgia, you're getting hit hard with a couple of thunderstorms, and then this line which is moving eastward. And these are moving pretty quickly about east at about 50 miles an hour, at least some of the cells embedded with them. This is probably the area that we're most concerned about here in the next couple of hours especially this line that continues to move across the southern Florida panhandle. This could very well produce some tornadoes as we go through time.

If you are traveling this morning, obviously, there's going to be some issues. We have rain moving across Boston and New York with gusty winds. An hour-plus delays there. D.C., same sort of thing except you're a little bit closer to the severe weather and then gusty winds at the big hubs there in Atlanta with an hour-plus delays there. And we've got colder air, of course, moving in behind this system. So once we push everything out, things will begin to quiet down as we get towards the middle part of this week. But certainly, we're starting the first part off with a bang, unfortunately. CHETRY: All right. Rob, thanks so much.

MARCIANO: You got it.

CHETRY: Well, in just a few minutes, we're also going to be joined by a tornado survivor in Alabama. He hid in the laundry room. It was the only place in his store where the roof did not collapse around him. He also rescued a couple other people that were there. We're going to have his story coming up in a couple of minutes.

Also happening right now, Pakistan's national election. Polls are expected to close in a short while, and we have video just in within the last couple of hours. There's President Pervez Musharraf casting his vote. He has vowed to accept the results of the election which was delayed after the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

CNN's Michael Ware is live for us in Islamabad. And Michael, how much of this election seen as a referendum against President Musharraf?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kiran, in many ways, that's, in fact, what they are. The president is deeply unpopular according to all the polls. But, of course, President Musharraf dismisses those results. Now, that's a direct result largely of economic factors and day-to-day life. The price of bread and flour had gone up six times in the past year because what people say is government mismanagement.

People are also worried about security and the rule of law. What we saw at the end of last year is essentially what most people believe is President Musharraf securing his third unconstitutional term in parliament, by and large through a coup d'etat, coup d'etat, calling the troops out onto the streets and gutting the Supreme Court that may have challenged that power.

Now in this election, though, the president is not running. This is a parliamentary election. He's still fighting for his life because the opposition parties, if they win and form a majority, if they get two-thirds of the parliament, they could remove him. So, yes, this is very much a referendum on the president and he is in this for his life -- Kiran.

CHETRY: You know, of course, there were concerns about violence. What did you see when you went out to the polls today?

WARE: Well, we've been out and about in the twin cities of Rawalpindi, the heartland of the Pakistani military and one of the largest cities in the country, and here in the capital itself, Islamabad. Now, we personally witnessed no violence but already today, we've had reports of five different bombing attacks. Now, one of them was not near a polling station. The rest were. One of those attacks was a double attack.

First, an early morning explosion out on the frontier at a polling station, drawing in the police whose convoy was then hit by yet another blast. Now, fortunately, no one was hurt in any of those incidents. Yet overnight, we had the assassination of a candidate in the city of Lahore, suspending voting in that particular constituency. And today, a firefight broke out between two rival parties, resulting in the death of yet another person.

Meanwhile, we've had reports and allegations from various parties that they're being denied access to the polling booths or that their voters are being harassed. But so far, nothing has been confirmed. By and large, it's been relatively peaceful, and perhaps like Iraq, we're seeing the militants hold off during Election Day because that would be so deeply unpopular. Yet, we're now into the last hour of polling, and let's see what unfolds -- Kiran.

CHETRY: Well, we'll check in with you again in the next hour. Thank you.

Meanwhile, Veronica de la Cruz is here with some other stories that developed overnight. Hi, Veronica.

VERONICA DE LA CRUZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, it's nice to see you, and nice to see all of you out there this morning.

New relations to tell you about now, about the gunman who opened fire at Northern Illinois University. His girlfriend, Jessica Baty, spoke exclusively with CNN's Abbie Boudreau. Baty revealed that Steven Kazmierczak had been taking Prozac and stopped days before the shooting, but she denies police reports that he was acting erratically. Baty and Kazmierczak lived together for two years and says she never saw signs he was capable of such violence.


JESSICA BATY, NIU SHOOTER'S GIRLFRIEND: The person that I knew was not the one that wants him to go home and did that. I mean, that wasn't the Steve I knew. He was anything but a monster. He was probably the nicest, most caring person ever.


DE LA CRUZ: And we'll have much more of Abbie Boudreau's exclusive conversation with Jessica Baty. That's coming up at our next hour of AMERICAN MORNING.

Also new this morning, former first lady Nancy Reagan in the hospital in Santa Monica, California. She was admitted Sunday after falling at home. Doctors say she did not break her hip as they initially feared. Mrs. Reagan is said to be doing well and is in good spirits.

And some amazing video to show you now in East Texas. A convenience store clerk amazingly ducks a bullet and then fights back. Take a look at this. Watch as the gunman fires at close range. Robin Adams, the clerk, dodges the bullet. Next, he reaches under the desk. She grabs a pistol and fires at the gunman who takes off. After seeing the gunman's bullet hole, Adams says that she realized how close she was to dying. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBIN ADAMS, STORE CLERK: And I looked at that glass and all I could think of was that would have been the back of my skull. My children would have had their mother in a closed casket.


DE LA CRUZ: Police are now looking for that gunman. And get this, Kiran, Adams had only been working at the store for just a few months. She started back in October. So it was really that split- second decision where she decided to duck to the right that saved her life.

CHETRY: Wow. And it wasn't something out of a movie. She's shooting, he's shooting. They're right there. And, boy, she did get lucky.


CHETRY: She wasn't kidding. Thanks, Veronica for it.

Endorsements making news again today in the race for president. Both Senators Barack Obama as well as Hillary Clinton have been courting their Democratic rival, the former one at least, John Edwards. Obama visited Edwards in North Carolina yesterday while Republican front-runner John McCain is expected to get an endorsement today.

So a lot going on in the campaigns. They're campaigning hard in Wisconsin heading into tomorrow's primary, and CNN's Mary Snow is in Milwaukee for us this morning. And they expect that big endorsement which is former President Bush to endorse Senator John McCain today. Hi, Mary.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Kiran. Yes, that endorsement is expected to happen later this morning, Houston, Texas, and then Senator John McCain is scheduled to then campaign here in Wisconsin. All the presidential candidates will be campaigning in this state. On the Democratic side, Senator Hillary Clinton is trying to slow the momentum of Barack Obama. However, bad weather yesterday slowed campaign plans.


SNOW (voice-over): Senator Barack Obama slipped off to North Carolina without the press to meet privately with former rival John Edwards, more than a week after Edwards had a similar sit-down with Senator Hillary Clinton. The fight for his support and his endorsement is about as heated as the fight for Wisconsin on Tuesday.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're not taking anything for granted. We want every single voter out there to come out and, by the way, not just Democrats, but also independents and maybe some disenchanted Republicans. We want your votes as well. SNOW: Obama took to the local airwaves after bad weather derailed campaign stops in Wisconsin. Clinton, too, had to change gears canceling some appearances, but making an impromptu stop at a grocery store in Milwaukee. She's been looking ahead to Ohio and Texas but has been criticizing her rival for not debating her in Wisconsin.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think the fact that he won't debate me says a lot about his campaign.

SNOW: Obama camp says they debated enough. On the Republican side, front-runner Senator John McCain took a break from the campaign trail but made a promise on ABC's "This Week" not to raise taxes if he's elected.


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC ANCHOR: So on taxes, are you a read my lips candidate? No new taxes no matter what?



SNOW: It's a promise his Republican rival says is old news. Mike Huckabee claims he made the same pledge last year. He's advocating abolishing the IRS altogether. Huckabee campaigned in Milwaukee last night and said he's staying in the race to try to rally the traditional base of the GOP.


SNOW: And on the Republican side, despite the fact that John McCain is picking up a big endorsement today from former President George H.W. Bush, Mike Huckabee says he's still vowing to go on and if he's feeling pressure, he isn't showing it. He spent Saturday in the Cayman Islands delivering a speech and then came here to Milwaukee last night where he held a campaign event at a bowling alley -- Kiran.

CHETRY: All right. Mary Snow for us in Milwaukee this morning. Thanks.

Well, tomorrow, Hawaii is holding its Democratic caucuses. Also, Washington State and Wisconsin hold the primaries there. We'll be bringing you full coverage day and night. And you can also see Clinton and Obama go head-to-head once again, because the Democrats are debating. It's the presidential debate live from Austin, Texas, taking place Thursday, 8:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

And you're watching the "Most News in the Morning." An eerie connection online between the Northern Illinois University shooter and the Virginia Tech shooting. We're going to tell what you that connection is coming up.

Also, hiding from extreme weather. A survivor escapes when a tornado -- when a tornado makes everything around him collapse. He'll describe his terrifying afternoon when we talk with him next on AMERICAN MORNING.


CHETRY: Hundreds of homes and businesses in Prattville, Alabama, were destroyed after a major tornado struck. Among the things damaged, a local tanning salon. When the store's roof suddenly collapsed, the employees took cover in the laundry room. David Shoupe, the store's manager, joins me now. You were at work, and what did you guys get? You got a 30-second warning, David?

DAVID SHOUPE, TORNADO SURVIVOR: Yes. As soon as we were standing there, like we saw cars going across the parking lot and then we saw things start flying, and one of our customers, Ken Hargrove (ph), says you all run. And as soon as he said, we all took off down the hallway. And as soon as we got around the back corner, my hat blew off because the back door had opened and the wind was blowing through and we opened the back door. I mean, we opened the door into the laundry room and dove in.

And as soon as we dove in, Kate (ph) was on the ground. I got on top of Kate (ph) and was covering her up and then Melanie (ph) was behind me. Ken did the same for her and then everything just started falling through at that time.

CHETRY: Some quick thinking on your part because you guys ran right to the laundry room, ended up being the only part of your store that didn't collapse. How did you know that was probably the safest place?

SHOUPE: I remember because we were -- it was pretty instinctive really, but I don't know how we went in there. But I remember my brother told me, he used to be my manager, and he told us that was the safest place to go. And luckily, we got there quick enough.

CHETRY: We also have pictures of your car which we're going to show in a second. It was severely damaged. So when you walked out of the laundry room, what did you see around you outside?

SHOUPE: When I got out front, one of our doors made it and the other door had blown open and then all the cars were just totally smashed. All the windows were gone. Kate's car had actually moved parking spots by about 10, 15 feet.


SHOUPE: And then our sign had fallen off the building and signs were all over the place.

CHETRY: Right. I mean, if we can just show the shot of you right there over your left shoulder, that's what's left of your -- of the place of business? I mean, it just looks like a bunch of rubble back there.

SHOUPE: Yes, that's about 40 yards to the right.

CHETRY: Wow. At any point were you afraid for your life? SHOUPE: When I was laying back in the back, it was pretty scary.

CHETRY: Yes, we heard the tragedies that took place where several people earlier this month were killed in Tennessee as well as some other states because of the tornado. What were you thinking after it passed and you guys knew you were OK?

SHOUPE: I was really glad that we were OK. I was pretty happy about that and then kind of sunk in about my car and then, I just realized I was OK and that's all that mattered.

CHETRY: Wow. Well, some quick thinking and you possibly helped prevent any of your coworkers from getting hurt as well by being in the laundry room. That was the right thing to do. David, thanks for joining us this morning.

SHOUPE: You're welcome.

CHETRY: Still ahead, it's being called the largest meat recall in U.S. history; 143 million pounds of beef recalled from a California meat packing plant. Some 37 million pounds of it went into school lunch programs. The government health officials say that most of the recalled meat has already been eaten. So far, no illnesses have been linked to the meat.

But it does bring us to our "Quick Vote" question this morning. Do you trust that the U.S. food supply is safe? Are the people that are supposed to be doing their jobs doing it right? Cast your vote, We're going to get a tally of votes coming up a little bit later in the hour.

Also, thousands rushed out of an airport in Washington State when grenades were found in luggage. The owner was let go hours later, but what was he thinking? We have that story coming up.

And also, it's a final good-bye before a Valentine's Day killing spree.


JESSICA BATY, NIU SHOOTER'S GIRLFRIEND: Because you were the best, you've done so much for me and I truly do love you.


CHETRY: The campus killer's girlfriend speaks out for the first time. It's a conversation you'll hear only on CNN ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


CHETRY: Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING. Twenty-two minutes past 6:00. You're on the East Coast, and this is a look at your "Hot Shot."

It's a baby North Island brown Kiwi, an endangered species just breaking out of its shell. There you see it hatching and then you see it a second later standing up. It's part of the Kiwi rescue program. Eggs are collected. They're hatched, and they're nursed until they're ready to be put back into the wild. The Kiwi is considered a national symbol in New Zealand, and again, an endangered specie. This is the 1,000th Kiwi born under that program.

Well, if you've got a "Hot Shot," send it to us. Head to our Web site, and then follow the link to the "Hot Shots." Be sure to include your name, where you're from and a little bit about the picture or video, and please be sure the image is yours.

We have more now from a CNN exclusive. It's one-on-one with the girlfriend of the Northern Illinois University gunman Steven Kazmierczak. His live-in girlfriend says that he stopped taking the antidepressant Prozac about three weeks ago. She spoke exclusively with CNN special investigations correspondent Abbie Boudreau and also read his final good-bye.


JESSICA BATY, NIU SHOOTER'S GIRLFRIEND: It's because you were re the best. You've done so much for me, and I truly do love you.

ABBIE BOUDREAU, CNN INVESTIGATIONS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Looking back, are there any warning signs?

BATY: The person that I knew was not the one that walked into Cole Hall and did that. I mean, that wasn't -- that wasn't the Steve I knew. He was anything but a monster.


CHETRY: We're going to be talking with CNN's Abbie Boudreau and hear more from her exclusive conversation with the girlfriend of the Northern Illinois gunman, university gunman, coming up in our next hour.

There's also disturbing online connection that's been revealed between the NIU shooter and the Virginia Tech shooter. Veronica de la Cruz joins us now with more about something that she's found out online. Hey, Veronica.

DE LA CRUZ: Hey, good morning to you. We found out that they both bought accessories and guns online from the same store. So pretty shocking as we figure this out this morning. -- this is where Steve Kazmierczak bought accessories. He did not buy a gun. He bought two nine millimeter magazines and a holster. And looking at the Web site, Kiran, it seems as though they obviously have acknowledged what's happened. A banner here for the shootings at NIU. So that's, and this is where Steve Kazmierczak bought his accessories.

Now, Seung-Hui Cho also bought a gun, a handgun online, and he bought his from the Again, the same owner, and you see that with the banner that acknowledges the NIU shooting. If you click on these banners, it does take you back to the NIU Web site. I just want to show you the strange juxtaposition if you move down the page. Here's the NIU shooting and then Save Big on Rifles and Handguns right underneath. So, you know, that's something that kind of turns your stomach, if you will.

Now, these two Web sites are owned by tgscom. And if you go to their Web site right now, you'll see pretty much the same thing. There's the banner once again, and we wanted to look into the legalities of buying a gun online, Kiran. If you click on this link right here, buying a gun online, it shows that absolutely it is legal to buy a gun on the Internet and here's the four-step process.

You want to basically find a gun store in your area, a licensed federal firearm dealer, and they're going to arrange the transfer of sales. They're going to go ahead and fax their license to tgscom. You're going to look for the gun that you want on the Web site, place your order, and then sit back and relax while we do the rest. So it shows that it is a pretty simple four-step process. You can buy a gun online. It is legal to do so.

CHETRY: Yes, but you're right. It is an eerie connection that both of the worst school massacres we've seen in some time have a connection to this Web site.

DE LA CRUZ: The same owner owning the same two websites.

CHETRY: Thanks, Veronica.

You're watching the "Most News in the Morning." President Bush is in Africa right now. We're going to see where he's visiting and also what he's promising.

Plus, it was a scare at the airport. The army was called in after grenades were found in a passenger's carry-on bag.

Also, things get heated on the campaign trail. Former President Clinton and a heckler face-to-face. We're going to find out what happens next. Today's headlines when AMERICAN MORNING comes right back.


CHETRY: Welcome back this morning. It is 63 degrees as we take a shot at the nation's capital this morning, and that's the high for today's forecast for Washington, D.C. Some showers in the morning and predicting possibly some delays at the airport. So if you are flying out of the nation's capital today, you might want to call ahead.

And welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING. We do have extreme weather to tell you about today. A tornado ripping through Prattville, Alabama. This is a town just northwest of Montgomery. About 30 people were injured. Some 200 homes destroyed or damaged, and there are reports of roofs collapsing, cars flipping over.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's the scariest thing I've ever been through in my entire life and I just finally got in touch with my parents and I walked up to our neighborhood and it's destroyed.


CHETRY: Shocking for people that just say they got as little as 30 seconds notice in some cases and then just went outside and saw the destruction afterward. About 9,000 people lost power. It has since been restored.

It's exactly 6:30 right now here on the east coast. Rob Marciano tracking all this for us. I feel we've been talking a lot about tornadoes. We are above average for February.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. And certainly Alabama has taken the brunt of it. It was just a couple weeks ago just north of there is where they got hit, the northern part of that state, now it's the southern half around Montgomery. That is more likely where we would see tornadoes this time of year right along the gulf coast and the pattern that shaped up the past couple days is pretty much what we would expect. That doesn't mean that the folks in Alabama are not suffering this morning.

All right. The line has moved eastward now into parts of the panhandle of Florida and for southeast parts of Georgia. We still have tornado watches that are in effect there until 10:00 or 11:00; a number of watches, as a matter of fact. That's the red outline you're seeing on the screen there and as that red line shifts to the east, those counties begin to expire from that watch but still nasty weather from Newport News to Virginia Beach.

The Hampton Roads area, you're in for the next hour to hour and a half, some rough weather. Certainly some severe thunderstorms embedded within those lines but at the moment we have no tornado warnings that are in effect. That was not the case yesterday afternoon. It was very, very busy.

It will be busy at the airports as well. Boston, New York, D.C., you'll all probably see some delays today because of rain that's exiting and gusty winds that are entering and that would include Atlanta, Georgia, and this front we're waiting for to push out. It will be a mild day. Once a secondary front comes through tonight, tomorrow will be a colder day across the east coast. But still some strong thunderstorms this morning. Kiran?

CHETRY: All right. Rob, thank you.

Well, in less than half an hour the polls are set to close in Pakistan's parliamentary elections. That vote was supposed to take place six weeks ago. It was postponed after the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Critics of President Pervez Musharraf say this election could be rigged. Musharraf's officials deny the charges. We have a live report from Pakistan. Our Michael Ware is in Islamabad. That's coming up in just about 30 minutes. Meanwhile celebrations but also violence today in Kosovo, hours after it declares independence from Serbia. Thousands flocked to the capital holding signs, waving flags before the parliamentary vote. Protesters clash with police when asked if the United States would recognize the move. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice saying, "Stay tuned." The U.S. and most European Union members are expected to recognize the new state. Serbia and Russia are fiercely opposed.

And President Bush is in the middle of his six-day, five-nation tour of Africa where he visited hospitals in rural northern Tanzania today and announced a new U.S. program to help fight the spread of malaria throughout the continent. While handing out mosquito nets, the president said the suffering caused by malaria is needless and that every death is unacceptable.

Veronica de la Cruz joins us right now with other stories making news this morning. Hi, Veronica.

VERONICA DE LA CRUZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi. Good morning to you and good morning to you out there.

We begin now in New York. New York police and U.S. security officers investigating the death of a woman who fell from a 19th floor of the U.N. secretariat building. They say the U.N. staff member, a woman in her 40s, showed up to work early Sunday morning and plunged to her death. U.N. officials say there's no suspicion of foul play. The medical examiner has yet to determine an official cause of death.

And some tense moments to tell but now at the airport in Yakima, Washington, after two training grenades were found in a man's luggage. Thousands were rushed out of the Yakima air terminal after the grenades were uncovered in the man's carry-on bag. They had live fuses but no explosives inside. The man is a 20-year-old member of the military. A passenger describes the evacuation.


GREG WOLTER, PASSENGER: And then the woman next to me said police are here because somebody had a problem with their package. Then they said there was a security breach. Move away from security and sit down and we'll let you know.


DE LA CRUZ: The army was called in to destroy those grenades. The man was released. State and federal authorities will now decide whether to file charges.

A somber anniversary being remembered this week in Rhode Island. Five years ago this Wednesday 100 people were kill in a nightclub fire. Hundreds gathered to remember the victims yesterday at the site in West Warwick. The fire was blamed on pyrotechnics used during a show by the rock band Great White. $100,000 has been raised for a memorial. One proposal, a 100-string harp that would be played by the wind. A missing 8-year-old boy feared lost at sea in frigid waters this morning. Police say William Pilkenton of Bellingham, Washington, disappeared near the Canadian border in Washington State. Rescue teams and divers joined Canadian choppers off frigid waters near Vancouver Island but haven't found any sign of him. The boy had been vacationing with his family.

And check this out, it is a conspiracy theorist's dream, boxes of John F. Kennedy assassination evidence all uncovered. The Dallas County district attorney's office is expected to hold a news conference this morning to talk about memorabilia it found in an old safe. It all included a gun holster and clothes that belonged to Jack Ruby and Lee Harvey Oswald. It also includes a transcript of supposed conversation between Ruby and Oswald plotting to kill the president because the Mafia wanted to get rid of his brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy. There is speculation, however, that it is just part of an old movie script. I guess Kiran we'll find out this morning at 10:00 a.m. local in Dallas. Going to hold a press conference.

CHETRY: That's right. Everyone is weighing in on it because they say real criminals don't talk like that. This is obviously part of a movie script. But I wonder where it's going to go after this. It is part of our national history.

MARCIANO: Well, the story is going to live on.

CHETRY: Yes, it is.

MARCIANO: Kind of like Elvis, who may very well still be alive.

CHETRY: Conspiracy theory for sure.

Well toy makers from around the world are in New York this morning. They're showing off what's new and also what's being done to make improvements for kids to be safer. Remember all the toy recalls from last year? Well, what have they done to make sure we don't see the same thing this time around? Our Greg Hunter is looking out for you and he joins us next.

Also, a campaign confrontation. Bill Clinton face-to-face with a heckler. What was that all about? And did it really get physical? That's next on AMERICAN MORNING.


CHETRY: News from the presidential race including word of a confrontation that took place on the campaign trail. An Obama supporter showed up at a Bill Clinton event. It was Sunday in Canton, Ohio, repeatedly chanting "Obama," doing some heckling throughout the speech. What happened next is less clear. The Obama supporter claims President Clinton became "irate" and may have even touched his face during a confrontation afterwards. The Clinton campaign says there was no physical contact. The Obama campaign is also weighing in saying this person, Robert Hollman, was not a plant.

Joining me now to talk more about this and some of the other political stories of the day, "New York Daily News" columnist and CNN contributor, Errol Louis. Thanks for being with us this morning, Errol.


CHETRY: The Clintons, especially Bill, got a lot of bad publicity after South Carolina, possible talk of being a little bit aggressive out there and then he engages apparently in a big back and forth with a heckler. What's going on with that?

LOUIS: Well, it's unfortunate in a way because the president, you know, he's damned if he does and damned if he doesn't. He's supposed to help his wife. You have to step down off your pedestal and get into it with him and Bill Clinton is a political animal who is inclined to do exactly that. At the same time now you're stealing headlines from the main candidate. We are sitting here talking about Bill Clinton and not his wife who desperately needs both press attention and some political support.

CHETRY: And is it the wrong story in terms of the script they would like to write?

LOUIS: Exactly.

CHETRY: It makes them look desperate or cracking at this point?

LOUIS: I don't know about desperate but I think it does underscore something that has been problematic for the Clinton campaign which is the sense they're part of the old politics, the old 50 percent plus one politics, that it's going to be partisan, it's going to be hard fought and it's going to be something that divides the country.

And to the extent Hillary Clinton says I'm the one to take on the republicans. I'm the one who can fight hard. There's some evidence that voters are being turned off by that. It's the moderate in both parties who have surprised us this season. It's Barack Obama who's always reaching out to independents and republicans. It's John McCain who is by no means a hard-charging conservative who is often reaching across the aisle as well. The Clinton campaign may be a little bit out of step to the extent they might be something like this doesn't help that image.

CHETRY: Also, something that might not help the Clinton campaign is that Senator Edwards and Barack Obama met in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, yesterday. There was a photo taken of the two of them after I believe Barack Obama looked like he was leaving the home of John Edwards. She's already met with Edwards as well. Is he getting closer to an endorsement? Does this picture mean anything or did this just happen to be caught on camera?

LOUIS: It happened to be caught on camera. I think Obama wanted to go on his own. He didn't take the traveling press at all. Those 26 delegates pledged to John Edwards are really what both candidates are after as well as some sense of support from a faction that didn't want to be with them. There were strong John Edwards supporters who are up for grabs at this point. So I'd be surprised if it you don't see more of this. John Edwards, of course, has to make a decision. It won't make much difference if he endorses, say, after April when this may all be wrapped up.

CHETRY: Also interesting today, we're expected to hear from George H.W. Bush, the 41st president endorsing formally John McCain. What impact will that have on McCain's campaign?

LOUIS: Well, in a very formal sense, it will sort of signal that the Bush operation, the Bush dynasty is, in fact, onboard and that has some important implications because George W. Bush, the son, raised over a quarter of a billion dollars just four years ago for his re- election and those donor lists and that -- all of those contacts now sort of are transferred over to John McCain. That's really important. Having George H.W. Bush, it's a connection to the old Reagan years. So John McCain trying to recast himself as a Reagan republican. Has a little bit more credibility after this endorsement.

CHETRY: All right. Errol Louis, great to see you as always. Thank you.

LOUIS: Thank you.

CHETRY: Be sure to join CNN, by the way, for the next face-to- face debate. It's Clinton and Obama Thursday night in Austin Texas, 8:00 p.m. right here on CNN.

Well, as we know he's denied it over and over again. Now there's a sign not many people believe him. Find out what's happening to Roger Clemens' jersey at one museum just ahead.

Coming up on AMERICAN MORNING, testing the toy makers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The toy industry got complacent, stopped checking on its own laboratories and factories in China.

CHETRY: Our Greg Hunter is at the toy fair looking out for you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So there's no way.

CHETRY: What's being done to reduce recalls and keep your kids safe ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


CHETRY: Welcome back to the most news in the morning.

A Roger Clemens' jersey removed from an exhibit at the Yogi Berra Museum in New Jersey. Though he has participated in several events that helped raise money for the museum, the museum's director said that the decision was made due to the allegations of steroid use by Clemens. Clemens has denied the allegations that he was injected with steroids and human growth hormones. Well, toy makers from around the world are in New York for the annual toy fair and last year 25 million toys were recalled so what is the industry doing to keep children safe? Our Greg Hunter is looking out for you.

You had a chance to go this year. Have they made significant improvements?

GREG HUNTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think they almost have to after the bad publicity there. Lead paints, dangerous magnets and choking hazards are all parts of the problems that ended up in recalled toys last year. Concerned parents have only one question, are my kids' toys going to be safe this year? The government and the industry say yes.


HUNTER: A good time maybe but toy companies are serious about child safety. Under a new plan by the Toy Industry Association, an independent third party, not the toy companies themselves, will certify safety standards are being met starting with the toy's design, all the way through the manufacturing and importing process.

JOAN LAWRENCE, TOY INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION: If we have stricter testing, consistent testing and checking of factories to be sure they have process controls in place to be sure we never see recalls like in '07.

HUNTER: Toy makers also adopted safety standards for toys with magnets to prevent them from being swallowed by children.

HAROLD CHIZICK, MEGA BRANDS: So there's no way we're swallowing this. There's no way we're swallowing it.

HUNTER: Magnex, the new magnet toy, encases the magnet inside plastic so it can't fall out and be ingested.

Toy retailers are also taking safety steps. Wal-Mart and Toys 'R' Us just announced mandatory safety checks for their toy makers.

Necessary changes say consumer advocates who blame the Consumer Product Safety Commission for the huge jump in recalls; 25 million last year, five times the previous year.

ED MIERZWINSKI, U.S. PUBLIC INTEREST RESEARCH GROUP: They were asleep at the switch for so long that the toy industry got complacent, stopped checking on its own laboratories and factories in China.

NANCY NORD, CPSC ACTING CHAIRMAN: Recalls show that the CPSC was on the job. The recall is the mechanism that Congress gave us to police the marketplace, and make sure things on shelves are safe.

HUNTER: Nancy Nord, the acting head of the CPSC, is asking Congress to grant tougher action against companies which produce unsafe toys. The toy industry hopes the safety initiatives will get the monkey off its back. Did the toy industry lose some credibility last year?

LAWRENCE: I think our consumer confidence was shaken in the wake of the recalls, understandably. I'm a mom myself but what we are doing is putting a program in place to address that and to restore confidence.


HUNTER: The CPSC got more funding from Congress and is going to use part of that money to beef up inspections at the ports. They say it's one more way to keep dangerous toys out of the hands of children.

And speaking of toys, here's that Magnex toy replacing magnetics. If you take a look, they got the pieces to where the magnet is embedded in there. You may wonder the balls could be magnetized. They're not. Take a look here. The balls themselves aren't magnetized.

CHETRY: They don't stick to one another.

HUNTER: So the company says that in the event if any kid swallows that, you know, they won't stay and lodge in their stomach. The pieces are and the magnets -- I'm telling you, they're in there. You'd have to take a hammer.

CHETRY: Last year you plucked one out on set quite easily.

HUNTER: In a different toy. That was a big problem because they stick together, big problems.

CHETRY: So this one they've embedded into the plastic. One of the hopefully many improvements they've made so we can avoid all the recalls.

HUNTER: Yes. My guess is you won't see the lead paint. That was just a PR debacle last year for toys.

CHETRY: Shouldn't have been there in the first place.

All right. Greg Hunter, thank you.

HUNTER: Thank you.

CHETRY: You're watching the most news in the morning. News about the largest beef recall ever. Some of it ended up in school lunches, also at fast food restaurants. Could inspectors have done more sooner? We're talking to the USDA coming up in our next hour.

Also, you may have heard about this mysterious bee shortage. Now it's making its way all the way to your grocery store. Find out why Haagen-Dazs says it's in trouble.

The moose is loose hanging out in the back yard, getting too close for comfort. How the cops reeled this guy in coming up on AMERICAN MORNING. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: One final good-bye before a Valentine's Day killing spree. The campus killer's girlfriend speaks out for the first time. You'll hear that only on CNN.

The next hour of AMERICAN MORNING starts right now. Actually not right now. 55 minutes past the hour.

What do bees and ice cream have in common? Well, a lot according to ice cream maker Haagen-Dazs. I'm so glad the next hour hasn't started so you can tell me about this situation. For a pregnant lady, you have to be on alert when they talk about ice cream.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And it's a bigger issue to think about. If you were concerned about ice cream and you love it and you need it in your life, then you need to know that the bee colony issue does affect you and here is why. Haagen-Dazs has bees responsible for 40 percent of its 60 flavors including strawberry, toasted pecan and banana splits, some of consumers' favorite flavors and they're saying a third of the nation's food supply relies on pollination of bees including fruits, vegetables and a variety of nuts as well. Obviously that's a big issue here. So they are possibly going to have to re-examine their flavoring, the flavors that they offer because it may get too expensive. The prices will have to go up because so many of their components for their ice cream comes from California where the bee colony disorder is really taking effect.

CHETRY: Meanwhile, a lot of these businesses are starting to say, hold on, what's going on with this mysterious problem with the bees.

ELAM: No one knows yet. Haagen-Dazs is donating $250,000 to Penn State, the University of California at Davis to do some research and figure this out because it's a bigger crisis than just some dying bees here and they're going to have vanilla honeybee to get consumers aware of what the situation is, too.

CHETRY: All right. We need our ice cream.

ELAM: We do and we need the bees for so of more than that.

CHETRY: Thanks, Stephanie. See you again in a couple of minutes. Meanwhile, Stephanie just got engaged, by the way. Congratulations. I'm so happy for you. The ring is beautiful.

ELAM: Thank you. We're happy.

CHETRY: And good for you.

Well, at the box office this weekend the science fiction movie "Jumper" teleported its way to the number one spot pulling in $27 million in its opening weekend. Coming in second "Step Up 2" pulling in nearly $20 million. Sony's Blu-ray is emerging as the likely winner in a format battle for the next generation DVD players. Toshiba appears ready to ditch its HD-DVD format after Wal-Mart, Netflix and other U.S. retailers decided to carry only the competing Blu-ray disks. The "Wall Street Journal" reports Toshiba is expected to pull out this week. The company says, though, no decision has been made yet.

And it's being called the largest meat recall in U.S. history. 143 million pounds of beef being recalled from a California meat packing plant. Some 37 million pounds of it went to school lunch programs. Government health officials say most of the recalled meat has already been eaten and so far no illnesses have been linked to the meat.

That brings us to this morning's Quick Vote question. Do you trust that the U.S. food supply is safe and, wow, a whopping 92 percent of you are saying, no, you don't trust it. Only 8 percent saying yes. We're going to be talking to someone responsible for this. A representative from the USDA is going to be joining us to talk more about what they're doing to make sure this type of stuff does not happen again in the future.

By the way, if you'd like to weigh in, and we'll continue to tally your votes throughout the morning.

You're watching the most news in the morning. Lots of extreme weather today including a major snowstorm hitting several Midwestern states. We're going to tell you what the problem -- about the problems that are causing that weather coming up.

And a college campus on edge, a serial rapist on the loose. That story ahead.

The next hour of AMERICAN MORNING starts right now.

Record recall, millions and millions of pounds of beef; a home video exposing a sick slaughterhouse. How worried should you be? We'll ask the USDA.

CNN exclusive --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was anything but a monster.


CHETRY: One-on-one with the campus killer's girlfriend. His last days and final words.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can't believe he's gone. I can't believe he took other people with him.


CHETRY: Plus, Election Day. Pakistan finally votes. What today means for the war on terror and the hunt for Bin Laden on this AMERICAN MORNING.

And thanks for joining us on this Monday. It's February 18th. I'm Kiran Chetry. John Roberts is off.

At this hour polls should be closing in Pakistan. The country's holding national elections. They were delayed, but they are now going on. New video this morning of President Pervez Musharraf casting his own vote. The election delayed after the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.