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Clinton Strategist Out; Olympic Torch Under Fire: Officials Extinguish Flames; Reducing Tours of Duty in Iraq; Medicine Mix-ups Hurt Kids in Hospitals
Aired April 7, 2008 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Shake-up. Hillary Clinton's top strategist takes off. This late in the game, what next for her campaign?
Unholy vows. Bus loads of women and children, freed from a polygamist compound.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Fear. I was scared.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: But where's the teen who revealed their secret life?
And torch riot. The Olympic flame nearly gets extinguished en route to the U.S. This morning, the Olympic's message to China, on this AMERICAN MORNING.
And good morning, thanks very much for joining us on this Monday, the 7th of April. Good morning to you.
KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Nice to see you. And we're watching breaking news this morning. In fact right now, right where we're looking, you have a chance to see what's going on in Paris. The Olympic Torch is making its way through the city right now, and the security seems to be working better than it did in London when we saw actually at times protesters being able to make their way right up to the person carrying the torch. And there you see it, almost ripping it out of the hands of the person who was carrying it.
They had about 3,000 French police on the streets to make sure that that repeat does not happen today. But the protesters are still out there. They're protesting China's crackdown on Tibet, waving Tibetan flags, carrying signs that say "Save Tibet," and making their presence known for sure as the torch makes its way through the streets of Paris. One of the cities, the only U.S. city actually that we're going to see that in is San Francisco. So we'll certainly be keeping an eye on how security measures are planned for the appearance of the torch in that city.
But as you can see from these pictures taken just a few moments ago in Paris, even though there were protesters on the scene, things pretty calm as the torch makes its way through the City of Lights this morning. Well, President Bush is back home today, pressing on the top two issues for Americans, of course, the economy and Iraq. The president returned to Washington last night after a week-long trip to Europe and at the NATO Summit.
This week he turns his attention to issue number one, the economy. And as we said the war in Iraq, issue number two. He'll be addressing the nation Thursday after General David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, and the U.S. Ambassador to Iran, Ryan Crocker, deliver a report, a progress report to Congress.
And actually, just to update you really quickly, we just had this across on the "Associated Press" out of Paris, that officials actually made a call to disrupt the Olympic Torch Relay because of those protests. We showed you some video a couple of minutes ago. It was looking pretty smooth at that point.
This was video that we had just gotten within the last few minutes, but we're hearing word that the protests in Paris actually were able to extinguish the flame, if I'm reading there correctly.
ROBERTS: I think officials extinguished the flame because of the protest and then they put it aboard a bus and then they'll take it to a location away from the Eiffel Tower there where all those protesters were.
CHETRY: So as we said, a big police presence out there, 3,000, some French police out there.
CHETRY: A few hundred protesters but they did manage to disrupt the ceremony yet again.
ROBERTS: You know where it might have happened is after they came down the steps of the Eiffel Tower, and we saw those police on rollerblades sort of leading the flame away, they paused there and they seem to pause by a vehicle. So maybe they decided it was a better idea to put the flame away, take it away from the protesters and then continue the parade of the torch after that.
We'll find out. We'll stay on top of this, and we'll get you the latest information.
CHETRY: Meanwhile, in Iraq, U.S. and Iraqi troops battling Shiite militants in the Sadr City section of Baghdad. This is a stronghold for the Mahdi Army. It's the militia loyal to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is giving his rival an ultimatum. Get rid of your militia or get out of politics. He told CNN's Nic Robertson in an exclusive interview that it is a gamble the Iraqi government has to take.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRANSLATOR FOR NURI AL-MALIKI, IRAQ PRIME MINISTER: We have opened the door for confrontation, a real confrontation with these gangs and we will not stop until we are in full control of these areas. Politically, we have managed to gather a wide national front to politically confront these issues. The operation has started and we'll not stop until a decisive victory is achieved, a victory that will not enable these people to attack the Green Zone or other areas.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHETRY: Meantime, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, will deliver his Iraq progress report to Congress tomorrow and Wednesday.
Let's bring in now Barbara Starr from the Pentagon. And Barbara, this assessment that we're expecting to hear from General Petraeus on the battlefield in Iraq, all this is happening while the White House is calling for new tours of duty.
BARBARA STARR, PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Kiran. Indeed, we expect to hear from President Bush on Thursday that those tours of duty will be reduced from 15 months on the ground to 12. That is good news for the troops. General Petraeus arriving quietly in Washington over the weekend. His hearings will begin on Capitol Hill tomorrow morning, and he will run smack dab into presidential politics.
Senators McCain and Clinton on Senate Armed Services panel, his first stop on Capitol Hill. Senator Obama, of course, is a member of the Foreign Relations Panel where General Petraeus will testify later in the day.
What will we hear from him? General Petraeus will say that he wants to continue bringing the surge troops home, finish up the surge in July, but then he wants a pause to assess security conditions before more troops are brought out of Iraq -- Kiran.
CHETRY: How much will the situation in Basra and Sadr City complicate what the general is talking about?
STARR: It may wind up being issue number one at least for him at these hearings. Because, you know, the surge was supposed to provide enough U.S. troops and enough time for the Iraqis to get a better handle on their own security, improve their security forces. With this eruption in fighting, what it is showing is while they have made progress, perhaps not enough progress because U.S. troops are deeply involved in the fighting both in Sadr City and supporting the Iraqis down in Basra.
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki telling Nic Robertson that he will not stop until his forces are in full control of those areas. He can't do that at this point without a good deal of U.S. help. That's going to be something General Petraeus will have to address -- Kiran.
CHETRY: Absolutely. All right. Barbara Starr for us at the Pentagon this morning. Thank you.
ROBERTS: A major late season shake-up inside the Clinton campaign. Chief strategist Mark Penn is stepping down. It comes after Penn met with Colombian officials about a free trade deal that Hillary Clinton opposes. He has worked with the Clintons on successful campaigns from more than a decade now. The "New York Times" reported that Senator Clinton was furious and disappointed by the lobbying that happened just a week ago.
Mark Halperin is the senior political analyst at "Time" magazine. He's also the author of "The Page" at time.com and joins me now. Mark, on "The Page" regarding this, you wrote, "It's impossible to overstate how fundamental a change this represents in Clinton's campaign." Elaborate.
MARK HALPERIN, SR. POLITICAL ANALYST, "TIME": He has been the chief strategist on this campaign and in fact, he's faced a lot of criticism because he's had so much power and made so many of the decisions. It's late in the campaign obviously. So if there are changes now in how she goes forward, it may be too late to matter. But he has been, first among equals, even though he's alienated almost everyone else senior in the campaign, and even though again he's been criticized for making errors even before this firing offense about dealing/meeting with the Colombians.
ROBERTS: Well, on that point, is this a one-time firing offense, or was this based on things that you just said, you know, the divisive figure within that campaign the last straw?
HALPERIN: Well, the Clintons made the decision that he had to go. And the fact is you never know what goes on in their minds exactly. If you'd asked the other 10 senior people in the campaign over the last several months, would you like Mark Penn to go? The vote would have been overwhelming. They all would have said yes, he should.
What he did was such bad judgment, to meet with the Colombians to talk about trying to pass this trade agreement at a time when she's publicly opposed to it, not just risk, inciting people in Pennsylvania and elsewhere who say we're against this trade agreement, but it will risk making the Clintons look like hypocrites for saying, we're having as our chief strategist someone who's being paid to lobby for something we oppose. Incredibly bad judgment on his part. I don't think any adviser should do something like that or could survive that, even someone the Clintons relied on so much.
ROBERTS: It's widely believed that this meeting that an Obama campaign official had with Canadian authorities regarding the North American Free Trade Agreement hurt him in Ohio. Could this similarly hurt her in that very important Pennsylvania contest coming up in just two weeks?
HALPERIN: It certainly has the potential to do that, and I think the Clintons realize that. Now, because Penn has been removed as a senior strategist, then I think it will take away some of the potential danger. But again, two issues, one brings into question her support, her opposition to this agreement, for some people potentially. But also, again, raises the thing that makes her most vulnerable. Does she say one thing but actually do another? And in this case, Penn is such a top adviser, was such a top adviser, that there was no way to survive it with him there. With him gone, I think it's possible the story blows over. Because that's the way our politics works, you sacrifice a body, you tend to let the press at least move on to another story.
ROBERTS: Mark Halperin, good to see you. Thanks for coming in this morning.
HALPERIN: Thanks, John.
ROBERTS: Don't forget, read "The Page," Time.com -- Kiran.
CHETRY: Well, there's some other headlines this morning and word of another security breach at the UCLA Medical Center. California's first lady Maria Shriver, one of nearly three dozen high-profile patients, whose medical records were accessed against rules. Hospital officials say the person responsible is the same "rogue employee" who gained access to the files of actress Farrah Fawcett. The hospital fired the employee last year. California's Health and Human Services Agency is now investigating.
Drivers waking up this morning to high gas prices yet again, and these new numbers in from AAA show some of the highest gas prices we have seen. The national average for a gallon of regular unleaded, now $3.34.
Checking to CNN gas gauge, that would be up 14 cents in the past month, compared to last year's price of $2.76. That's an increase of 58 cents a gallon.
Also this week on Wall Street, corporate earnings for the first quarter start rolling in and investors will see now if the down economy actually hit companies and hit their bottom line. Not only will the company see, of course, we'll find out as well today.
ALI VELSHI, CNN SENIOR BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: That's why we care. I mean, corporate earnings can be very, very dry. This is not -- it's one of those things where we look at them. They're dense, chewy, four times a year, the company -- it's a report card for companies.
But the issue is that those of you who have investments for retirement probably have it in 401ks or IRAs in mutual funds. Those mutual funds invest in companies. So there is no way you can make money on your stocks if the companies that your mutual funds are invested in aren't making money.
Now, take a look. This is the first quarter of 2008. So it's January, February, March of 2008. Last year, this quarter, the increase over the year before was 8.2 percent. That's all right. It's not fantastic, but it's pretty good. This year the estimate it's going to be down 10 percent.
So first of all, look at the difference. And secondly, those are your stocks. So, you know, there are ways to invest in things so that everything is not going the same way and that's the kind of thing you have to do right now. I always think that quarterly earnings are an opportunity, Kiran, for people to take a look at their investments and make sure they're diversified, because what you don't want to do in any market, whether it's going up all the time, going down all the time, or moving sideways, is have everything you've got invested doing the same thing.
You will see over the course of the next two weeks as these earnings come in, that the markets will fluctuate. One company will report earnings that are much better than was expected or much worse, and you'll see the market fluctuate. We'll see the first of the big earnings, as always Alcoa, at the end of the business day today. And, you know, over the course of the next few weeks, I'll keep you posted when something unusual happens and, you know, keep you up-to-date. It's not something most investors need to concern themselves too much with, but it's the overall context of where our economy is.
CHETRY: That's right. And, you know, add it to the fold, a lot of other bad news, including high gas prices.
VELSHI: Right. This is -- right. You got gas prices. You got all the other stuff that's going on -- the mortgage stuff, the house prices. This is just one piece of the big economic puzzle. But for investors it's a big one.
ROBERTS: You know --
CHETRY: Adjusted --
ROBERTS: Go ahead.
CHETRY: Adjusted for inflation, are these gas prices the highest ever?
VELSHI: Oh, yes, yes. I think about $3.25 we hit the highest ever or something. Yes, we definitely hit the highest gas prices ever and the speed at which it's going up is remarkable, 58 cents in a year. You know, there's no sign is not going up. Oil is at over $107 this morning.
ROBERTS: I was totally going off topic to say still my favorite business story of the morning is the EU regulators are now allowing mobile phones on planes while you're in the air.
VELSHI: They're letting cell phones. That's the best part of the year, John.
ROBERTS: It's great. I guess they don't cause planes to crash after all.
CHETRY: Can I ask you guys a question?
ROBERTS: Yes. CHETRY: How long can you talk on them, though, until you lose a signal?
VELSHI: Oh, that's a good one.
CHETRY: Ten extra minutes?
ROBERTS: Here in the United States, Mark Halperin, you probably know about this as well because you're on these campaign planes where they actually do allow you to use your cell phones. In the United States, the cell signal goes out where there is a plane that make it go up in that way you can use your phone.
HALPERIN: Pretty soon you'll be connected all the time, e-mail and phone on the planes which will not be to all of our liking.
VELSHI: Right. I'm definitely one of those guys who are not going to like it.
ROBERTS: I remember in the 2004 campaign plane, we actually had satellite phones that were wired into the planes.
ROBERTS: So we're talking on the phone all the time.
HALPERIN: Well, on the campaigns, you know, you've got candidates making news on the planes a lot and you need to communicate that easily.
VELSHI: $10 a minute on the plane phone.
ROBERTS: When you're on Air Force One, they'll actually connect you via the communications pod upstairs to your news agency so that if the president commits news on Air Force One, you can actually get it out there.
CHETRY: Wow. So no one wants to take naps on planes anymore.
ROBERTS: They'll have to have a quiet section like they do on the Acela.
Hey, a severe danger to kids in hospitals. They're getting potentially lethal doses of medicine much more often than we thought. Groundbreaking research is out today. We'll speak to the leader of that study.
And right now, watching breaking news out of Paris, hundreds of angry human rights activists are on the streets. Officials extinguished the flame after they ran it down the steps of the Eiffel Tower, put it in a bus, probably to take it further along the route away from the protesters. Our own Christiane Amanpour joins us ahead on AMERICAN MORNING with whether or not these protests will actually impact Chinese policy. Stay with us.
CHETRY: Well, it's a scary enough experience when you have to take your child to the hospital. And now, there's even more upsetting news about just how common it can be to have a medication mix-up, an accidental overdose, or a severe drug reaction when your child is there. A study out today that developed new techniques for looking at this problem found one out of every 15, one out of every 15 kids in the hospital, over half a million every year are affected.
Dr. Charles Homer led the study, and he joins us this morning from Newton, Massachusetts. Thanks for being with us. We talked about this medication mix-ups. What are some of the highlights of what you found?
DR. CHARLES HOMER, NATL. INITIATIVE CHILDREN'S HEALTHCARE QUALITY: Well, thank you very much. First, just let me say I was not the lead author on this study, but just a colleague and somebody who's committed to working in this field. The study developed found a number of very important things, which was that the frequency of errors in medications in children is really quite high. As you said, one in every 15. This is much higher than the previous studies had shown but roughly what other studies using similar methods have shown in the care of adults.
CHETRY: So is it worse in children, or you guys just studied it in children.
HOMER: Well, we studied it in children. The study was done in children. We believe that the frequency of errors in children is about the same or maybe a little bit higher in children than it is in adults. The reason for that is children come in all different sizes and the issues around dosage, while that sounds very simple and straight forward, is actually complicated because you need to change the dose according to the size of the child. And most hospital systems don't use, for example, computers for performing these kinds of ordering medications and therefore don't adjust for the size of the child.
CHETRY: You know, you hear about this a lot, most recently Dennis Quaid's twins who were given the wrong dose of heparin, a blood thinner a thousand times higher than what they should have received, and a couple of children also suffering because of that same thing at the same time at this hospital. And there's a lot of talk about computerizing or taking the human error element out of a dosing and medication at hospitals. Is that the biggest solution in your eyes?
HOMER: That is one absolutely valuable solution is exactly to have the computer order entry and the automated dispensing and even the use of automated pumps is very important. They also should be linked to, for example, information system, so if a child has an allergy to a medication, that the order entry system can detect that that allergy takes place. Those are some of the kinds of errors that are there.
CHETRY: So, you know, while there --
HOMER: Computerizations -- I'm sorry, go ahead.
CHETRY: I was going to say, while there is a push for that to happen, because you don't see it obviously in a lot of hospitals, and it is expensive, that's what many say. How should parents best handle this? If you do have to take your child to the hospital or your child is in the hospital, what can you do if anything, a small part to make sure this doesn't happen?
HOMER: There are a lot of things that parents can do that are important. I mean, of course, it's very difficult. If you bring in your child to a hospital, you're worried about your child's health and well-being and to have this extra burden is definitely difficult. But there are a number of things you can do.
First, you should know what medication your child's already on and you should communicate that to the various clinicians at the hospital. You should also not believe that just because you told one doctor or nurse what your child's medications are, that all of them have that information because unfortunately, hospitals are complicated places and not everybody communicates well with each other.
You should know what they're prescribing to your child in the hospital. And again, if you are aware that your child has an allergy, you should point that out. And if you have somebody with your child and almost all hospitals allow a parent or other close family member to be with the child, you should find out every time what medication is being given. And if you have any concerns about it, you should stop and ask, ask them to clarify it. If the person giving the medication takes offense, you should say, I'm sorry, I'm only caring about my child's safety and ask.
CHETRY: All right. You got to --
HOMER: Don't just --
CHETRY: You got to be actively engaged in what your child's getting and also knowing what your child's already taking or allergic to. Some good advice. Dr. Charles Homer, the chief executive of the National Initiative Children's Healthcare Quality, thanks for being with us.
HOMER: You're welcome, thank you.
ROBERTS: It's 21 minutes after the hour. We're watching breaking news in Paris right now. The Olympic Torch Relay there has been interrupted. Officials extinguished the flame as hundreds of angry protesters gathered along the route.
Our Christiane Amanpour joins us to talk more about this whole Olympic protest and a potential boycott of the opening ceremonies by several world leaders. Will it had any effect on Chinese policy toward Tibet? Stay tuned. We'll be right back.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ROBERTS: Well, we're watching breaking news right now. Less than an hour after the Olympic flame arrived in Paris, officials have put it out. Here's a shot of the flame coming down from the Eiffel Tower. They ran it all the way down the steps there.
Didn't get too much further away. Police in jogging outfits here, also flanked by police on rollerblades, took the torch away. I don't know if there were going across the Pondolena (ph) over the Champs Elysees or not, but they were planning on bringing it down at least, one of the banks at the river Seine, but then they put out the torch. They put it aboard a bus, and they have taken it to places unknown.
The move was in response to growing protests there. There have already been some arrests. Apparently, four people taken away. Officials trying to prevent the chaos there in Paris that erupted yesterday in London, where thousands of angry human rights demonstrators disrupted the torch's symbolic relay. At least 37 people were arrested.
Joining us now to talk about what impact these protests may have on the upcoming Summer Olympics in Beijing is CNN's chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour. Good morning to you.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John.
ROBERTS: So how is this all being viewed in Beijing now?
AMANPOUR: Well, obviously with great panic. It's China's biggest nightmare. This was their coming out party to the world, having become such a big economic power, and now they want to be accepted in the kind of ways that Olympic cities are. But we were just reporting on this whole affair and we were in India where the exiled Tibetans are, where a lot of this is being planned. And we have been told almost chapter and verse about how they plan to disrupt the route of the torch from its inception right the way to Beijing.
This is their moments so groups such as Tibet which is upset as the continued heavy handed presence of China in Tibet, and as we have seen over the last two weeks, and this is their moment that they want to take charge of.
ROBERTS: I mean, absolutely expected that Tibetan supporters and anti-Chinese demonstrators would try to disrupt this, would certainly make commentary about this. But what's a little unusual was that the IOC president, Jacques Rogge, has come out and said that he's very concerned about the situation in Tibet, and said that he wants a rapid, peaceful resolution there. That's a pretty extraordinary statement because these IOC presidents like to stay completely apolitical.
AMANPOUR: That's true. I mean, of course, over the years, and you remember very well that the Olympics have been a center of politics for years. Remember in the '80s, the Olympics in Moscow were boycotted. ROBERTS: Yes.
AMANPOUR: The Russians retaliated by boycotting the Olympics in Los Angeles in '84. In 1972, I was in the Olympics in Munich as a spectator, which is where the Palestinians killed the Israeli athlete, and on and on. In Mexico, in '68, the Black Panthers stood on the podiums and raised their hands.
It has been politicized and groups such as Free Tibet, groups such as Save Darfur are going to use this moment. And to be frank, many, many politicians, many analysts believe there is a legitimate reason and that in some way, China does need to be pressured to come to resolutions in these areas. But not many people want to see a boycott.
ROBERTS: These protests have actually risen to the leader level as well. Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, had both said that they're not going to attend the opening games. France's Sarkozy says he's considering whether or not to do it, and Nancy Pelosi wants George Bush not to attend those opening ceremonies. If you had leaders, they're not saying boycott the games, but just the opening ceremonies. If you're having world leaders boycotting the opening ceremonies, what kind of signal does that send to China?
AMANPOUR: Massive -- it's a massive signal. Obviously, they want to protect the athletes because it ruins an athlete's career and it doesn't help really in terms of boycotting the whole games. But if they boycott the opening ceremonies, which is really the big party, where a host nation can say, look at this. I have the president of the United States. I have kings and queens and presidents and prime ministers from all over the world, particularly a post-Tiananmen China, and a massive military and economic superpower right now, wants to show that it is a member of the brotherhood of nation.
And if this kind of thing happens to the opening ceremony, it's the world saying no. You're not ready. We're not prepared to give you this particular pass. And as you know, already, Stephen Spielberg, the great film director who was meant to be doing the opening ceremonies, artistically designing it under pressure from the Darfur campaign has stepped down.
ROBERTS: Right. Now, as you mentioned, you were in India. You spoke with the Dalai Lama. What's his position on this?
AMANPOUR: Well, it's very interesting because the Dalai Lama said to us, I do not believe in boycotting the Olympics. I think it's a good thing that China has the Olympics. But on the other hand, we also need our political reality to be taken care of. The Dalai Lama, despite what the Chinese officials say is not demanding independence.
Thirty years ago, the Dalai Lama retreated from a demand for independence to one for autonomy. And the Chinese simply hasn't met him even halfway and that's what's frustrating the new generation of Tibetan exiles, and they're the ones who are going this route. ROBERTS: What's your expectation that China may change its policy to the better at the very least solve the current crisis before the Olympics?
AMANPOUR: Well, I think it's going to take some time. You've heard various different words coming out of the Chinese leadership. The prime minister having said something needs to be done to meliorate the situation. Other Chinese leaders like foreign ministry spokespeople and others getting very defensive and very angry about it, and continuing to call the Dalai Lama a splitist, a wolf in angels clothing. They don't realize that they actually have somebody reasonable to deal with.
AMANPOUR: And after he's gone, it might not be so easy because they're going so have a new generation of angry young Tibetans who had enough.
ROBERTS: Christiane Amanpour for us this morning. Hope to see a lot more of you now that you have moved stateside as well. Appreciate you coming in today.
By the way, our Jim Bittermann on the ground in Paris reports that the torch has been taken out of the bus in a different location away from the Eiffel Tower. Some live pictures there. It has been relighted and making its way down the parade route, again with the police in jogging uniforms and as well flanked by police on rollerblades. So we'll keep watching this for you. And you can follow the torch as it makes its way to the United States on Wednesday. It's going to be in San Francisco. A full interactive map on cnn.com/olympics.
You're watching the most news in the morning. A new focus on Iraq this week. President Bush will address the nation, his top commander in Iraq to brief Congress, coming up. There's also new fighting in Iraq. We're going to talk to CNN's Nic Robertson. He's right in the middle of the action. Next on AMERICAN MORNING.
KIRAN CHETRY, CNN, ANCHOR: Welcome back. You know all morning we have been following the trail of the Olympic torch. It's in Paris and there were a lot of protests surrounding it in London and in Paris they actually made a decision to change plans because of the protests there.
ROBERTS: Yes. They brought it down the Eiffel tower, took it just a little ways away, put it out, put it on board a bus and took it to another location in the city, took it out of the bus and lit the torch again and apparently the relay is continuing. So, we'll keep you updated on that this morning.
Meantime in Iraq, security forces report an explosion demolished a building in Basra. At least three militants were killed in that blast. A British military spokesman says it's not clear what caused the explosion but no British, U.S. or Iraqi forces were involved. An Iraqi police official says gunmen were using the abandoned building as a base and it was destroyed in an air strike.
Meanwhile U.S. and Iraqi forces continue to battle Shiite militants in the Sadr city section of Baghdad. The area a stronghold for Muqtada Al Sadr Mehdi army where military officials say they have fired rocket and mortars into the fortified green zone and forward U.S. operating bases. Attacks that had taken casualties. While covering the action, CNN's Nic Robertson found himself in the middle of a firefight. Have a look.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN, CORRESPONDENT: As gun fire erupts, American soldiers take cover.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is he on the ground?
ROBERTSON: Captain () must find the gunman and stop the attack.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've got one or two shooters located. They PID'd him, or positively identified where they're at. They're being signaled on the rooftops by a couple of guys with flags.
ROBERTSON: For the past 10 days, U.S. and Iraqi forces have been trying to take control of these neighborhoods, neighborhoods' militias have been using to fire rockets at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad's allegedly secure green zone. Militia turn the people against the U.S. troops.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They turn us into the guys that's moved forward and shot innocent women and children deliberately and that didn't happen.
ROBERTSON: U.S. forces can patrol barely 1/5 of Sadr city because of Iraqi government restrictions. About 800 yards, about half a mile up the road here is the vast majority of Sadr City where U.S. troops are only allowed to go on very rare occasions. It's become they say an effective safe haven for the militias from where they're able to plan and prepare their attacks. But there's one more problem here. U.S. troops must let Iraqi soldiers take the lead in fighting the militias. Captain (Beeth) must convince his Iraqi counterparts to go after the gunmen and it's not going well.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He tells me he has the little forces.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Little forces?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's got as many people on the ground as I do. There is no reason that you cannot do this. We are behind you 100%, but you need to move forward.
ROBERTSON: The gunmen are still shooting, the Iraqi captain reluctant to leave.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can provide support, but we need you to action.
ROBERTSON: Just when it's all agreed --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: now is not the time. It's time to move out.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I need you to get your forces over to the mosque and isolate it.
ROBERTSON: They discover the Iraqi troops are gone to lunch. Fortified with food, they head off around the corner to take on the gunmen. The shooting intensifies, the captain follows. Ready for backup. Breaking into a store for cover, he loses contact with the Iraqi captain.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're here with a lot of volume of fire. I got to figure out what's going on if they're taking it or if they're giving or receiving.
ROBERTSON: Ten minutes later, the Iraqi troops return, two soldiers are injured, they say they killed one of the gunmen.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm so proud of your men after what they have accomplished. I swear, you have my respect.
ROBERTSON: Well, even after we pulled out of that area, the gun battles were still going on, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki has thrown down the gauntlet to the militias. They told them they absolutely must disarmed. He says the fight there will continue and according to Iraq's ministry of Interior this morning, they say nine people have been killed and 65 wounded in the on-going fighting in Sadr City. John.
ROBERTS: Nic Robertson, going back a couple of years ago, Al Maliki was talking about the importance of disbanding these militias and then nothing happened. What's different this time.
ROBERTSON: I think he feels it's a political opportunity. Local elections are coming up in October. This is time for him to take political advantage of that. He said back then he gave Muqtada Al Sadr who helped get him the prime minister elect to this prime minister. He said he gave him a handoff politically, brought him along, even though he had a militia, gave him an opportunity to disband. Now Muqtada Al Sadr is living in Iran where he's supposed to be studying. The Prime Minister sees a political opportunity here at a time to crack down, when the militias are becoming a little less popular than they were before. That's what seems to be different right now. John.
ROBERTS: Nic Robertson for us in Baghdad this morning. Nic, thanks very much. Kiran.
CHETRY: Well, we have been following all morning the protests surrounding the Olympic torch as it's making its way through the city of Paris this morning. And we have another update for you right now apparently for the second time now, police and authorities have made the decision to extinguish the torch, bring it aboard a bus. And this is a video that you're looking at from not long ago. This is a tape of when the torch actually was still lit and it was making its way through the city. Since then two times since the course of our show this morning, we have gotten word according to the Associated Press that they made the decision extinguish the torch, to get it on a bus, get it further away from where some of these protesters are on the streets of Paris and then go ahead and resume that march through the city.
Again, this is the second time now that we have gotten word that in fact the flame has once again, the torch has once again been extinguished and put on a bus. So again they're trying to avoid some of the video that we saw out of London when a protester actually was able to grab the torch out of the hands of one of the people carrying it for a short time and, again, Paris trying to do the best job that they can with their police to avoid any type of troubles like that which is why for the second time this morning they have made the decision to go ahead and put the torch out and get it on a bus themselves. Again, some 3,000 police ringing the parade route, the route of this torch and here are some pictures right now as you can see them as well. And there you see it, it looks like this is video that came in to us a short while ago, It looks like they're running on to the bus and police are holding back some protesters, pulling a woman you just saw. She just left a --
ROBERTS: That's apparently the second time they put the flame out. No word on whether or not they're going to take it somewhere else and continue. But we'll keep watching this as they play duck and cover with the torch.
CHETRY: All right. Two weeks to go before the Pennsylvania primary. Barack Obama closing the gap on Hillary Clinton in this new CNN poll of polls out. They have 49% of Democrats in Pennsylvania saying they're voting for Clinton, 42% saying they're voting for Obama. Now, in our last poll of polls, Clinton was 11 points ahead of Obama. This is new poll of polls has an average of the American Research Group as well as the (Neilenburg) and Quinnipiac polls.
On the Republican side, the hot topic is who will John McCain pick as his running mate? On his plane Sunday, McCain was asked about reports that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is angling for the position.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I did not hear that. I missed those signals. I think she's a great American. I think there's very little that I can say that isn't anything but the utmost praise for a great American citizen who served as a role model to so many millions of people in this country and around the world. But as I mentioned, we're not talking about the process.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHETRY: McCain was then asked if Rice was to blame for what he called the failed policies in Iraq and he said along with the President and Donald Rumsfeld that she was responsible.
Rob Marciano is in the CNN Weather Center this morning. He is tracking extreme weather for us. Florida with some action taking place over the weekend and into today. Hey, Rob.
ROB MARCIANO, CNN, METEOROLOGIST: Hi, Kiran. Good morning. Yes, watching some heavy rain just moving off the Florida peninsula. This kind of getting some tropical characteristics. And we're nowhere near hurricane season, but these things can form somewhat and they get some of that as it heads over the gulf stream but it's going to go away. But in the meantime, we had some serious rainfall over the weekend in places like Miami north towards West Palm Beach, even south of Orlando.
Winter Haven, Florida, almost four inches, Floridana Beach, Florida, 3 1/4, Poinciana, Florida 2.36, Tampa and Tallahassee also getting into the mix. From the rain we go to the snow in the upper midwest, we saw several inches of snow in places like Fargo up to Michigan, you kind of see the swirl in the atmosphere. We have a number of systems that continue to barrel across the U.S..
Here's one, slightly out the west coast. Here's Seattle, Portland, Pacific Northwest, rain mix, snow, very cool. This is another system. In between these two, there's a third that's heading across the Wasatch of Utah and into the Colorado Rockies and we're getting some late season snow here. This is going to eject in the plains as will the next one across the Pacific Northwest. As it does so this time of year, we get some of that strong April sunshine, and we get threat for tornadoes.
So, a slight risk of seeing severe weather right in the heart of tornado alley today. Tornadoes and large hail, damaging winds all possible and then this will stretch eastward with severe weather tomorrow but also, Kiran, more concerning is the threat for more heavy rain over areas that have seen the heavy rain in the past three weeks. So, flooding remains to be a number one issue here in the severe weather center.
CHETRY: That's right. And we saw the video earlier, they're keeping an eye on the Mississippi River, right, making sure it doesn't crest too high and whether or not the levees are going to be able to hold that.
MARCIANO: Yes, and it's likely to crest for another week. So we still have a lot of time to wait and hope for that water not to get too high but right now we got more rain on the way.
CHETRY: Louisiana. All right. Rob, thanks.
ROBERTS: Coming up on 16 minutes now to the top of the hour. We are learning new information this morning about life inside a Texas polygamist compound that was linked to jailed leader Warren Jeffs. More than 200 women and children removed. Are police any closer to locating the teenaged girl who called to say she was being abused? A live report coming up.
And higher prices, lower quality, flyers fed up. A new report says passengers are hitting their breaking points. Got details coming right up on AMERICAN MORNING.
ROBERTS: Back now to our breaking news on the Olympic torch. Our Jim Bittermann is monitoring developments in Paris and he joins us now on the phone. So, Jim, we've heard that they put the flame out a couple of times and they keep sort of taking it around the city by bus. Any idea what the current status of the torch relay is?
VOICE OF JIM BITTERMANN, CNN, SENIOR EUROPEAN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we can say that once again the torch is back on the bus and it is being carried to parts unknown. They have already skipped one stop they were supposed to make. They just drove right by it with the bus and apparently they're going to continue with the rest of the route, but we're not real certain about what's going to happen. Basically, what happened right after the torch left the Eiffel Tower this morning, the torch being carried by Olympic runner, the cortege which was to include an airtight security bubble with police on roller blades and motorcycle policemen around and all that sort of thing apparently was stopped along the way by protesters who were able to get in front of it and police were not able to get through.
At one point then they brought the flame on board the bus with some Chinese Olympic officials and others on board and then they took it back off the bus, they brought it out, a young lady in a wheelchair was carrying it through the streets of Paris for a brief distance and then it went back on the bus again and that's where it is now. We have not seen it come out again, there are live pictures on French television here that we have been monitoring and so far as we know it has not come back out on the streets of Paris again.
But clearly the French police are having trouble with the kind of demonstration that we in London yesterday. The same kind of trouble today. Basically, the pro-Tibetan supporter who wanted to mark a protest by protesting the presence of the flame on the streets of Paris and there are, it should be said, some members of the Chinese community who are supporting the Olympics and there's been some punchups between the two groups. John.
ROBERTS: Jim, what is the route of the torch supposed to be? From the Eiffel Tower, it was supposed to go along the Seine. Was it then to go, you know, to the Plaza La Concorde the area of the Louvre? Do you know where it was supposed to go?
BITTERMANN: Yes, exactly. It was supposed to go to the southwestern part of Paris towards the point where the Seine leaves the Paris area and then come back up the Seine and go through the Arc de Triomphe, the Plaza Le (inaudible) and then come down the Avenue of Champs Elysee, the boulevard that the French like to think is the most beautiful boulevard in the world, come down that avenue and then around the Louvre Museum and down to the mayor's office and the mayor's office in front of the Parliament and from the Parliament down to the stadium on the southeastern side of Paris where it was supposed to finish at about 5:00 local time, it's about 2:00 local time now.
So, it's running a good deal behind schedule. It's hard to say what they'll do, exactly, they're probably making their decision right now. About whether they want to try to keep to the schedule, whether they want to keep to the route of schedule and I think will probably try to make that stop at the city hall which was supposed to be a big moment, they're supposed to spend a half hour there so they may exclude some of the other stops and some of the other parts of the route there in order to get there in time, given all the demonstrations that are in the street.
ROBERTS: So, at the moment, there's just a lot of the hide and seek going on with the Olympic torch to try to get away from these protesters?
BITTERMANN: Exactly. The protesters have been throughout the city and they have had a couple of key points where they could easily some stop the progress of the cortege with the flame on board. It's hard to say where it will go at this point but I'm sure they're making that decision right now and clearly we have seen exactly the same kind of protests that we saw in London yesterday and I think there's probably other stops along the way and there may be other sorts of things that are happening the same way.
ROBERTS: All right. We'll keep watching it this morning. Jim Bittermann for us from Paris. Jim, thanks very much. Is this the public relations, you know, exhibit that they wanted to put on there in Paris?
CHETRY: It's exactly what they were trying to avoid after all the video that came out of London with the troubles there. But as you can see, people are very insistent, very dogged in their pursuit of making their protests known.
ROBERTS: And according to Christian Amanpour who is in the program just a little while ago, a lot of protests planned for San Francisco as well when the torch finally gets here to the United States.
CHETRY: All right. We'll continue to keep an eye on what's going on in Paris this morning as it relates to the Olympic torch.
Meanwhile in other news, there is a hunt this morning for a 16- year-old girl. It was her initial cry for help that led authorities to remove more than 200 women and children who were living in a polygamist compound in El Dorado, Texas. Authorities moved in to this sprawling ranch, which was build by polygamist leader Warren Jeffs, on Thursday. 18 of those girls are now said to be in state custody. There are fears they were being abused.
CNN's Ed Lavandera is live nearby this El Dorado with more details on what's going on this morning.
ED LAVANDERA, CNN, CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Kiran. The plight of this 16-year-old girl has really brought an incredible amount of tension to what these children inside this polygamist sect have been enduring. When this group first started moving to west Texas four years ago, one local resident described it as an alien culture landing in their backyard. And for the first time over the last four days, these two very different cultures are getting to meet each other face to face for the first time.
LAVANDERA (voice-over): From a distance the dresses and hairstyles suggest these sect members are from another time. But the images don't fully capture the drama several hundred women and children have endured.
EVA JO SESSION, CHURCH VOLUNTEER: They just were so fearful and all they have learned is that we were of the devil, all the outside world was of the devil.
LAVANDERA: Helen Pfluger and dozens of El Dorado residents spent the last four days setting up a temporary shelter for the sect members at a local Baptist church. The experience was eye opening, how do you react when a child looks confused by a crayon.
HELEN PFLUGER, CHURCH VOLUNTEER: The mother, she was maybe 16, maybe 16, didn't know what to do with a crayola. She said what are we supposed to do with these?
LAVANDERA: Inside the compound, there are no televisions, no newspapers, no magazines. For the volunteers here El Dorado who have been taking care of these sect members, it's really the first chance they've ever had to come close to them. Almost, none of the women and children ever venture off the compound. In fact, only a few of the men have ever been seen around town.
Several volunteers say many of the women and children sat huddled together. Many were described as nonresponsive. And that they even wanted their beds to be touching. Pfluger said she heard one girl tell a child abuse investigator that it's an honor to be a teenaged mother.
PFLUGER: There was a little girl, probably eight years old and she had one of the babies and you thought that's her mother. She was learning at that age to be a mother, not with a doll, because they don't have dolls, their dolls are real.
JIMALLE DUTTON, CHURCH VOLUNTEER: The young pregnant girl was hard to watch or hard to see. Some of them, the way they would not look at you, would not give you eye contact, that was hard.
LAVANDERA: Investigators acknowledge the children are terrified of the world outside the compound. But people like Helen Pfluger and other volunteers are also terrified of what its like inside the compound.
LAVANDERA: Kiran, all these volunteers that we spoke with over the weekend say they have been dramatically affected by being so close to these people over the weekend and that they have a great deal of sympathy for them. Meanwhile, investigators are still on the ranch. They have spent the last four days, taking about 220 people, almost 160 of them are children. They say the goal here is to take every child out of that compound. So they continue to do interviews with them one-on-one. Kiran.
CHETRY: And you mentioned the 18 that are now in the custody of the state, what will become of the other 200 or more that are there?
LAVANDERA: Well, that's what is so complicated at this point. There are dozens and dozens of state child abuse investigators who are being flown into this area to do these interviews. They say it's incredibly complicated to sort out who is who, the names, the relationships. They need to do all of these interviews and figure out if more of these people, more of these children need to be put into state custody into foster homes but that will take a considerable amount of time to do.
CHETRY: Well, I can imagine how traumatic it must be. I mean, just getting that small slice of what it's like. It's also remarkable, Ed, that this 16-year-old that did make that phone call given what you were talking about how isolated they were and in a way brainwashed.
LAVANDERA: Well, you know, I should clarify too that this 16- year-old girl that is the basis of these raids. It is possible that she's already been taken out, that she's already in the custody. They just haven't been able to pinpoint exactly who it is. So, she could be in their custody already. She might still be in the compound. Investigators here at least publicly are saying that they don't know exactly who she is yet.
CHETRY: A lot to sort out, as you said. Ed Lavandera for us in Texas this morning. Thank you.
ROBERTS: You're frustrated, they're folding, big problems for the airlines and their customers. A new proof that people are fed up, next on AMERICAN MORNING.
ROBERTS: Campaign casualty. Hillary Clinton's game plan after her chief strategist goes down.
CNN's exclusive, Iraq's Prime Minister one on one as violence surges in Baghdad. And the top U.S. general comes home to brief Congress.
Blogging to death. Are bloggers risking their health to be first and best. We'll ask the queen of all media on this AMERICAN MORNING.
ROBERTS: Hey, good morning. Thanks very much for being with us on this Monday, it's the 7t of April. Good to have you along with us on this AMERICAN MORNING.
CHETRY: Nice to be with you this morning. And you know, a lot of troubles in Paris this morning because of the Olympic flame. I feel like every couple of minutes we have an update.
ROBERTS: This is becoming to become where is Waldo?
ROBERTS: With the Olympic torch.
CHETRY: It's meant to be part of the ceremonies to be able to run this torch through many cities across the world. It's on a 130 days.
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