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Hostage Standoff in the Philippines

Aired March 28, 2007 - 07:00   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR, AMERICAN MORNING: Welcome back everybody. It's Wednesday March 28. I'm Soledad O'Brien.
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR, AMERICAN MORNING: I'm John Roberts in for Miles O'Brien. Thanks very much for joining us. We're going to be speaking with a couple of those famous faces in just a few minutes here.

O'BRIEN: Absolutely. Sheryl Crow and of course, Senator John McCain, who cannot only talk about cancer, but can talk about politics, as well.

ROBERTS: Also want to talk to him about fundraising. His campaign is sending out a warning, you know, that the fund-raising deadline is on Saturday, and maybe they're not going to do as well as they had hoped.

O'BRIEN: We've got a lot to cover with him.

We'll begin, though, first, with this hostage situation gunman armed with assault weapons, grenades holding a bus load of children, little children hostage. It is happening right now in Manila in the Philippines. CNN's Anjali Rao is live for us at the scene. There is word that the gunman is really on the verge of letting these children off the bus.

Anjali, bring us up to speed on this story. Good morning.

ANJALI RAO, CNN INT'L. CORRESPONDENT: Hi, there. Morning, Soledad.

Yes, it would seem that the gunmen are willing to let the children go, as you say, any minute now. I'm not sure if you can hear the voice just behind me, but it is the main gunman, Jun Ducat, he's holding the kids hostage.

He's making an appeal against government corruption. He's a man with many grievances -- and you can hear people chanting just beside me.

One of the things that Jun Ducat has asked is that people all over the country light white candles if they support his cause, which is for greater education for the poor children of Manila.

On the bus behind me, there, some 32 children, we believe. The numbers are still actually really fuzzy, which is odd all these hours into it. We have 10 hours on now, we still don't know the exact number of children or adults, for that matter, on the bus.

We are expecting those kids to be released very shortly. It has been an incredibly long day for them. When we first got up here and set up our position, Soledad, the curtains were closed on the bus, and the kids weren't peeking through. And gradually they seemed to get more and more and more restless. And now some of them are standing up with their backpacks on. Though, as far as Jun Ducat is concerned, they support him wholeheartedly. He says that they don't even want to get off the bus.

O'BRIEN: Wow, we're looking now at the crowd of people behind you. And a lot of them have candles, which would signify to me. If they've all been told, light a candle if you support the mission of the hostage taker. That they're saying the message, yes, they do, for the most part, is that fair to say?

RAO: Yeah, I mean, honestly, this case just goes from, you know, from curious to curiouser, I suppose. Anywhere else, I guess, Soledad, you would expect someone that takes little children captive will be public enemy number one. That certainly doesn't seem to be the case here.

Jun Ducat does certainly seem to have his supporters. And, as you say, the candles are lighting up all around me in the background. The crowd of people is just increasing every minute that goes past. There are thousands of people here at the moment, bystanders, members of the media. It really is incredibly crowded and people just waiting to see what's going to happen next in this hostage standoff.

Though, you might be able to hear Jun Ducat still speaking behind me on the PA system, which he had delivered to the bus so that he could make his final address, and sort of a prayer, if you will, for the children of this country. Many of whom are languishing in desperate poverty, and will never get a chance at an education.

O'BRIEN: Anjali, last quick question for you. When I look inside this bus, it looks like the curtains now been drawn back a little bit. And you can kind of see, it's not clear, but you can kind of see the kids moving around and getting a little bit restless at the very least. I know they're little, four and six, that's a tough age to have on a bus as a hostage all day, even under -- if there is a good hostage situation on a bus. What have you heard about the condition of these kids and do you have any information on them?

RAO: The kids are said to be in perfect health, I suppose, for all intents and purposes, Soledad. It is hard to imagine that any of them will forget this episode in their lives. And certainly that must be true for the teachers on board. I believe there are four female teachers on board, tending to their young charges.

But we know that the bus has a full tank of gas and it can keep going, keep the air con going for the next three days, we're hearing. That's is a good thing at the moment because the heat in Manila is really searing, something around the 91 degrees Fahrenheit.

People clapping behind me for what Jun Ducat had to say. An absolutely amazing situation, but all they brought food on the bus, they were handed out ice cream, during the day. And now when they go home it appears the government has met the demands of Mr. Ducat (ph), in that they and some 100 others of they're fellow students will getting free education, all the way through college, thanks to what he's demanded. It's just a very, very strange situation, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: It certainly is. Anjali Rao is watching this for us. Anjali, obviously, we'll monitor this because, as you say, we're seeing lots of movement on that bus and maybe that's not signifying that anything is about to happen immediately, but we'll keep monitoring this story. And we'll get right back to you as soon as there is some kind of movement. Anjali Rao, in Manila for us.

She's right. It's a weird one. You have to wonder what is going to happen to this guy. OK, maybe --

ROBERTS: Oh, wait, the door is opening now.

O'BRIEN: Oh, oh, look at that. She was right. She said, momentarily. The door opened and now it's --

ROBERTS: And now the door is closing again. Oh, now it's opening again.

O'BRIEN: Let's keep watching this for a moment and see, in fact, it's estimated -- that Anjali was just saying it is unclear exactly how many children are on this bus. It was on a field trip.

ROBERTS: Here they come.

O'BRIEN: There they go. They start bringing the little kids out. They are age four to six, estimates we got were that 31 of these children were onboard. But as Anjali just told us that's kind of a guesstimate at this point.

ROBERTS: What happens to this guy after this is over? I wonder?

O'BRIEN: Who knows?

ROBERTS: He has done this before, apparently. He has been known to take hostages to have the government meet his demands. He's done it again. He has got the government to concede on this issue of free education, but does he go to jail, or does he cut some sort of a deal? What happens with him, I wonder.

O'BRIEN: They are letting them off, slowly grabbing the kids, and then picking them out of the bus. This is a hostage situation that has gone on throughout the day. His goal was to highlight corruption. Clearly he has support, but as Anjali pointed out, I mean, the scene that you can't see are the thousands of people, thousands that are surrounding this bus, who seem to be in full support of a man who's taken --

ROBERTS: Taken children hostages. Yes, and as she was pointing out, they have been white candles in support of him. You saw somebody in the foreground of the picture there, lighting a candle and holding it up. And the children continue to come off the bus here.

O'BRIEN: Back in the 1980s, as you were mentioning, he took two priests hostage, same thing. He was having a dispute over a church, and he took them hostage with weapons that turned out to be fake.

ROBERTS: Did he go to jail for that? Do you know?

O'BRIEN: I don't know if he did or not. Nobody was harmed. And then he ran for congress after that. So -- I --

ROBERTS: Kind of like a weird sort of Filipino Robin hood type of guy.

O'BRIEN: Well, let's bring Anjali back because, of course, she is right at the scene of this bus.

Anjali, we are seeing some of the small children kind of being handed -- well, I think we lost her, but we'll get her back in just a moment.

You can see, for those of you who may just be joining us, this is, I guess, the end of a hostage situation that we've been monitoring all morning coming to us from Manila in the Philippines, of 31 children, more or less. That's kind of a guesstimate on the exact number. But were held by the owner of the day care center where they spend every day.

They thought they were going on a field trip, instead the owner got on board the bus, and took the bus right into the town center, and then held them hostage with the goal of highlighting corruption in the city.

It sounds that people are starting to press against the bus --

ROBERTS: Do children continue to come out, or has he sort of released a few?

O'BRIEN: No, it looks like they continue to come out, but at the same time, people kind of rushing the bus a little bit, and I think that seems to be clogging things.

ROBERTS: It looks like somebody is signaling I'm going to let five more off the bus here. I think they're releasing them slowly.

And that, you know, I'm going to hazard to guess, I've never seen his face, but I am going to assume that is the guy that took them all hostage. He seems to be shaking hands with some supporters here, people who understand this bizarre situation.

super jumbo His name is Jun Ducat . They believe he is accompanied by another man, who they think is armed with several grenades, an Uzi, a revolver.

ROBERTS: This man is definitely armed there. You can certainly see a gun. O'BRIEN: At one point they let one of the kids off the bus. That was a child who wasn't feeling well at the first part of four hours of the standoff. But of course the standoff dragged on.

You can note -- look at the children, they look pretty calm at this point. Some female teachers onboard, too. Unclear, Anjali was telling us about their role. Although, they are believed to be hostages, as well.

Air conditioning on the bus. It's somewhere 91, 95 degrees in Manila right now.

ROBERTS: I'm sure the children just have no concept whatsoever of what is going on, except they know this fellow, because he owns and funds the day care center. They probably trust him. And other than that, they just spent an awfully long day on the bus. But apparently they had toilet facilities. They had food, and, as you said, air conditioning.

Somebody putting something in his hands, or taking something out of his hands? Oh, those are the grenades.

O'BRIEN: Oh, those are the grenades. There they go. They have now --

ROBERTS: It looks like he is about to give himself up. I guess, the police wanted to make sure that he didn't present any threat before they take him off the bus. And I would expect, arrest him, for doing this. Certainly, what he did today was a crime. There's, obviously, some political ramifications to it, as well.

O'BRIEN: You can say they're patting him down, searching him. Here he comes. Let's listen to see, if he will get a hero's welcome as he steps out of this bus. They're hustling off of the bus.

And being taken away there by, obviously, the police officer, the man in the bulletproof vest, putting him into a vehicle. He'll obviously be going downtown to be talked to about this whole thing.

O'BRIEN: He had said earlier that he was sorry he took the children in this violent action and now you can see the crowd moving.

Let's get right to Anjali Rao, who has been covering the story for us all morning.

OK, so tell me what you see, Anjali, because we've had a tight shot on the bus, we've seen some of the kids handed out. We've seen actually grenades come off the bus, handed off to police officers. And we see a lot movement among the crowd. What's going on?

RAO: Yeah, Soledad, it's absolute chaos now at the moment. Behind me, people running around all over the place. We just saw some, what looked like some crack team experts running onto the bus. I've just been told that some of Jun Ducat -- he is the main hostage taker, here -- some of his supporters are down the road and holding a mass protest I suppose against him facing any kind of punishment for what he's done over the last 10 hours.

As you saw, just before in the faces of the newly released little kids, sitting in the bus, that had been used to house the crises team, over the last 10 hours. They don't seem to be in any sort of way flustered or stressed and they do look extremely tired.

So, as far as Jun Ducat, himself, is concerned, I believe he is still on the school bus behind me, which had been hired earlier today for that school excursion to the Manila city hall. I believe he is on the bus. He has, though, been disarmed.

Excuse me, he's been holding a grenade, almost since this standoff started and with him is the governor of one of the northern provinces of the Philippines, who has been sitting with him for the last hour, or so, presumably trying to counsel him through this.

I mean, it really must be sad that Jun Ducat certainly does have his supporters in this country, people who want to see education here, being made a priority. They don't feel that the government is living up to it's promises. Jun Ducat believing that he had to take the matter into his own hands, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Let me ask you a couple of questions then. Jun Ducat, you think is still on the bus. We saw a man being disarmed, with two grenades, and then being hustled it looked like, from our vantage point, off that bus. You think that, in fact, that was not Jun Ducat . That was either one of the people he's working with or, or somebody else altogether?

RAO: As far as I'm hearing -- and I've got to say I'm not hearing a lot here, it's incredibly noisy. We do think that there were four hostage takers on that bus. So, it could well have been one of the other three, one of Jun Ducat's companions in this hostage taking.

What I'm hearing from Philippine radio is that Jun Ducat, himself, is still on that bus. He said that he doesn't want to give himself up, that he won't be giving himself up even, until 8 o'clock, which is still in about 45 minutes from now.

He was saying, that he is perfectly willing, once he does give himself up to be taken into custody and authorities can do with him what they will. The guy that you saw getting off the bus, Soledad, he may well be one of the other alleged hostage takers in this 10-hour long incidence.

O'BRIEN: Let me ask you another question. We're seeing lots of people surrounding you, moving around. Does the crowd seem violent? So they seem -- I mean, is it a kind of a scary situation for you now? Or is this sort of what you've been --

RAO: Sorry, Soledad. Let me jump in there. Let me just jump in there, Soledad. Sorry to interrupt you.

O'BRIEN: Just want to bring your attention to the bus, which is now leaving the city hall premises, which is where it has been stationed for the last 10 hours today. That means that Jun Ducat is off the bus, and with the police, and winging his way to the nearest police station.

(COUGH) Excuse me.

To face whatever punishment is coming to him. The bus, obviously, having a difficult time there, trying to maneuver its way through the crowd. There are just thousands of people here swarming this area. The whole city has really been taken up with this standoff today, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: A truly bizarre end.

RAO: A really dramatic --

O'BRIEN: Let me stop you there, Anjali.


RAO: --incredible scene that we're watching.

O'BRIEN: A truly bizarre end to a very, very bizarre hostage situation in the first place. But, as you can see, right there, after a 10-hour standoff that approximately 31 preschoolers were on. It is now moving out of the town center, in Manila, in the Philippines.

The indications there, the hostage takers must be off that bus. The bus must be disarmed of the grenades and Uzi and some of the other weaponry that was believed to be on. They're moving that bus out of the town square, surrounded by thousands of people.

Really the end -- is what you're seeing here -- of a 10-hour hostage situation and now what happens next, of course, is an incredibly interesting question. What is going to happen to this hostage taker who clearly has the support of thousands of people, because his message was these poor children need education, they need housing, they need help.

ROBERTS: Apparently he got some concessions from the Filipino government, but he did commit quite a serious crime. So I would expect he's in a little bit of trouble.

We're going to leave that scene for now. We're going to be focusing on cancer for the next little while, here on AMERICAN MORNING. In the wake of Tony Snow and Elizabeth Edwards now, both having a recurrence of their cancer. We'll talk with Senator John McCain and Sheryl Crow, both of them cancer survivors.

Up next after the break, a whole new side of Soledad, the inside. Stay with us.


ROBERTS: It's 17 minutes after the hour. Apologies, it will be after the next break that we'll get into our cancer segment.

Right now, developing news out of London this morning. British officials say 15 of their sailors were no where near Iranian waters when the Iranian military captured them last week. A top British admiral using satellite coordinates as proof, just a short time ago. Take a listen.


VICE ADMIRAL CHARLEY STYLE, BRITISH NAVY: The merchant vessel was 7.5 nautical miles southeast of the Alfor (ph) Peninsula. And, clearly, in Iraqi territorial waters. The master has confirmed his vessel was anchored within Iraqi waters at the time of the arrest.


ROBERTS: In fact, British officials saying that when those commandos, in the smaller boats, were on the Iranian boat, the bow (ph) that they searching, they were 1.7 miles inside Iraqi territorial waters.

You're going to recall that the Iranians say they seized the sailors because they were in Iranian waters. Those sailors are still in custody this morning. Overnight we learned that Turkish diplomats might be allowed to visit them some time in the near future.

After yesterday's Democratic legislative victory, a deadline for withdrawing troops from Iraq is coming up in the Senate again today. Democrats are trying to force President Bush to accept the deadline. The president has promised to veto the measure and may have more reaction when he speaks later on this morning on Iraq. Dana Bash live now on Capitol Hill. She joins us.

Dana, how significant was this action in the Senate yesterday?

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is significant, John, in that it is the first time since Democrats took control of the Senate that they've been able to get a majority vote for a timeline to withdraw troops from Iraq.

Republicans failed in their bid to take that timeline out of this bill. That timeline, essentially, says that U.S. combat troops will come home by about this time next year. And what this means is that when this finally passes, the Senate at the end of this week, both chambers, the House and the Senate will have said to the president, yes, we're going to approve the $100 billion plus to fund the war, but not without a deadline to bring troops home, John.

ROBERTS: Dana, last week we saw -- or a couple weeks ago, actually, we saw a similar measure fail in the Senate. And House leaders were accused of vote buying to get the votes that they needed to pass their measure. How did this one manage to succeed?

BASH: It was actually, it's remarkable, just 12 days ago, pretty much the same exact timeline for withdrawal failed in the Senate.

What happened is that two senators switched their votes. Ben Nelson, Democrat from Nebraska, Republican from Nebraska Chuck Hagel. They changed and they voted this time with the Democrats for a timeline, and that's what the Democrat strategy is here, to keep taking these votes, to keep picking off senators. After the vote they said they really believe the public is behind them. And that the president should sit down and negotiate some kind of timeline for withdrawing troops from Iraq. But, John, they know full well that is not likely to happen. The president immediately said, once again, that he will veto this bill. They expect that to happen in the near future. And they do not have the votes to override that here in the Senate.

ROBERTS: The president may reiterate that threat a little later on this morning. We should also point out, Dana, that a second Republican voted with the Democrats, Gordon Smith of Oregon. Thanks very much. Appreciate it, Dana. See you soon.


O'BRIEN: Well, it was a 10-hour hostage situation involving young children, ages four and five and six, preschoolers. You can see them there. They are now, some of them, off the bus. The bus is moving out of the Manila town center. We'll tell you what has happened to the hostage taker, who is also the guy who owned the preschool.

Also, our special report on cancer in America. I underwent a full-body scan to detect cancer, and anything else. We'll show you what it was like. And see if it was a good choice for anybody. That is straight ahead.

ROBERTS: They find any coins or anything?

O'BRIEN: No coins. No coins. That's straight ahead. Stay with us.


ROBERTS: There you're looking at a moment of truth in Manila, in the Philippines, just a few minutes ago. Children freed after a 10- hour hostage stand off. The children all attended a preschool, the owner of that preschool, an activist by the name of Jun Ducat, had taken them hostage. He was armed with grenades and an Uzi. He had been railing against government corruption.

There is the moment where they disarmed him, taking away those two grenades. He pulled the pin on one of them. Also armed with some sort of weapon, can't tell exactly what it was.

He had been railing against government corruption, seeking better education for impoverished children. Apparently got some concessions from the Filipino government, but was later hauled away to jail. He says he understands that what he did was he committed a serious crime and he's willing to do jail time for it.

We'll keep following the story for you as the day progresses. There is Jun Ducat, right there, you see him being taken off by apparently one of the provincial governors, who wanted to bring a peaceful end to this. And then taken away by police. We'll keep watching the story all day and bring you the latest on it -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Quite an amazing shot, when they were handing the grenades off of that bus.

ROBERTS: Yes. As I say, he pulled pin one of them. So, he put the pin back in, when he agreed to end the stand off.

O'BRIEN: Right.

ROBERTS: Then handed them over to the provincial governor.

O'BRIEN: Big relief there to get those off the bus with small children.

ROBERTS: Tell ya.

O'BRIEN: Let's talk about health now. New recommendations to prevent breast cancer. The American Cancer Society urging annual MRI scans, in addition to mammograms, for women who have a family history of breast cancer.

If you had cancer in one breast, you should get an MRI of the other breast, as well. This morning we're taking an in-depth look at cancer in America with two prominent Americans, Tony Snow and Elizabeth Edwards announcing, for both, that their cancer has returned.

Now, Tony Snow found out because of a mass in his abdomen. When they went in they found the cancer was in other places in his body. Elizabeth Edwards, as we know now, injured her rib. And it turned out that that helped clue doctors in to another problem in her body. Both of them young, in their 50s. So we wanted to learn more about ways to detect cancer.

Yesterday I went in for a full-body, head-to-toe MRI. Is it recommended to find cancer? Take a look.


O'BRIEN (on camera): Hi, Dr. Lee, Soledad.

DR. JUN LEE, : Hi, I'm Jun Lee. Nice to meet you.

O'BRIEN: Nice it meet you. OK. So where do we start?

LEE: First, I'll show you the machine.


LEE: Before we have you get dressed. This is where you'll have the whole body MRI. We need you to change into the gown and remove anything that is magnetic.


LEE: And then we'll bring you in and get you set up.

O'BRIEN: All the money spent on R&D and still the hospital gowns are really unattractive. LEE: You look great.

O'BRIEN: You lie, but that's OK.

LEE: So, you're going to feel like you're kind of gradually getting wrapped up.



O'BRIEN (through speaker): I'm doing great.

LEE: Here you can see on these images the whole body scale (ph), so you're already getting a feel for what we can see on the MRI machine. You can get a feeling for the kind of images we can see in Soledad's brain, her cerebellum. If there were a tumor it would tend to be bright on these images.

OK, I think we're done.

O'BRIEN: Wow, the is pretty cool, huh? When you look at this, is there anything that sticks out to you, as, hey, I'd like to check this out?

LEE: From these images, for example, we can see your pelvis, we can see your ovaries. They look fine. Your kidneys look good. Your liver looks good, we don't see anything.

The problem with a whole body MR screening exam, is it can't be all things to everybody. If you just asked us to focus on the brain and make sure you don't have any brain tumors or aneurysms, or any other vascular diseases, we can do a good job. If you ask us to do that and image the whole body, and make sure you don't have breast cancer or lung cancer, or liver cancer, it's really not possible right now.

O'BRIEN: Is there going to be a day, though, when someone really could come in and say, listen I want to do a scan head to toe and see if I have cancer, or any kind of tumor, or growth that I should be concerned about. You can scan them high resolution and really say, yes, I see this early stage. We can catch it, we can fix it, we can give you surgery, I could save your life with a full-body scan. How far away is that?

LEE: I hope so, I really hope so. It's just a matter of time and a matter of research money.


O'BRIEN: Comes down to money, and also comes down to technology. One of the interesting things she said that they're working on, is while the technology is here kind of here, what they need is the chemistry to improve the markers. They'd like to have a day --

ROBERTS: The type of dye they put in. O'BRIEN: Exactly. Where the markers, we want to test someone for cancer. You give them, I guess they ingest it, or whatever, and you can pick out. The markers would go through the body and actually just land and highlight spots where you have some kind of cancer, and then you go through the scan.

ROBERTS: Looked like you had really nice, clean lungs.

O'BRIEN: From what they could tell at this relatively fast scan, everything is OK. But her point is, what you really want to do is continue to monitor your health. Scans aren't that valuable for information in the big scale. I wanted to do this since I turned 40. I was glad to get a clean bill of health.

ROBERTS: It's interesting. Now, get the spiral CT scan for your heart and really figure out if you're OK.

In just a few minutes, we'll talk with cancer survivor John McCain. He'll be joining us live. In fact, there he is right now.

Hey, Senator.

Sheryl Crow is also with us next on AMERICAN MORNING. Stay with us.


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR, AMERICAN MORNING: Good morning, welcome back, everybody. It's Wednesday, March 28th. I'm Soledad O'Brien.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR, AMERICAN MORNING: I'm John Roberts in today for Miles O'Brien. Thanks very much for joining us. We're following a breaking story this morning. More than 30 schoolchildren and two teachers just set free after being held hostage for almost 10 hours. Also caught on tape --

O'BRIEN: An Arizona police officer, yeah, take a look at this. He discovers a whole lot of marijuana in bales in the back of that truck. But what he does with it next will surprise you and it's all caught on tape, as they say.

ROBERTS: Let me take a guess. Forgetting the camera is on.

And a day at the beach turns into a nightmare as rip currents kill a swimmer in Florida.

The latest now on a breaking story, an almost unbelievable scene in the Philippines. Some 32 children who were taken hostage on board a bus have now been freed. Most of the men behind it taken away by police, but not before the government caved into their demands. CNN's Anjali Rao is live in Manila. She's been there all morning for us, all day Manila time, joins us now live. What is the latest Anjali?

ANJALI RAO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John as you say, the last half an hour has been incredibly dramatic. The children were taken off the bus that they had been on for 10 hours. It was just after 9:00 in the morning local time that they were taken hostage by Jun Ducat (ph). He is the man who was funding their day care center. They were removed from the bus that they'd been sitting on all day and taken to another bus, which had been used to house and transport the crisis management team, which was attempting to negotiate a settlement to this standoff.

So, they are now on their way to the Manila hospital. Just for a routine checkup, it would seem. Because when they got off the bus, they didn't look like they had been physically harmed or they didn't even look particularly traumatized by it. So what seemed to get them was all the flash bulbs going off in their faces and everybody cheering and clapping and clamoring for them. That seemed to register some confusion with them. Jun Ducat himself, the main hostage taker, is also on his way to the police headquarters and the car transporting him to police headquarters is very close to that building now. Once inside, he will be questioned at length, no doubt, by police. And we're also hearing that there may be one other hostage taker who is also with him. We still, though, John, after 10 hours of this --

ROBERTS: Well, we seem to have lost Anjali there, but suffice it to say, she was about to say that after 10 hours, a peaceful end to this. Everyone thankful for that and we'll find out a little bit later on as the day progresses what happens to Jun Ducat., the man who took all those children hostage. Soledad?

O'BRIEN: British officials say 15 of their sailors were no where near Iranian waters when the Iranian military captured them last week. Earlier this morning, a British admiral referenced satellite coordinates as proof the sailors were in Iraqi waters when they were seized. The sailors are still in custody in Iran this morning. An overnight we also learned that Turkish diplomats might be allowed to visit those sailors and Marines in the near future.

Also this morning, we're focusing on an important issue that hits almost all of us. It's a huge impact on people in the prime of their lives, in their 40s and their 50s. Of course it's cancer. As many as 10 million Americans are living with cancer and millions more of course, spouses and children, are coping with it. White House press secretary Tony Snow learned that his colon cancer spread to his liver. Dr. Sanjay Gupta now takes a looks at the treatments and prognosis.

And singer and breast cancer survivor Sheryl Crow is going to join us live. She is on Capitol Hill today pushing for the passage of the breast cancer environmental research act. We'll tell you why she's putting her focus there this morning. John.

ROBERTS: Senator John McCain is just one of the presidential candidates who has personal experience with cancer. In 2000 he had two malignant melanomas removed. This morning he joins us from Orlando. Good morning to you, senator.

SEN. JOHN McCAIN (R) ARIZONA: Good morning, John, I think it was one but it was a serious one and I'm glad --

ROBERTS: I'm sorry -- McCAIN: It's no problem. But it was a classic case of having a place on my face that I let go without going to a dermatologist or a doctor and having it checked. The moral of the story about skin cancer is if you've got any discoloration, stop by and see your doctor and, also, if you got kids, put sunscreen on them.

ROBERTS: You know, I had a basil cell carcinoma removed from my nose last year. Thankfully, it wasn't a melanoma, but still, they took half my nose off when they got it.

McCAIN: I've had several of those, two.

ROBERTS: Again this year in the next budget, President Bush has proposed to cut funding for the National Cancer Institute. I was on their website this morning. I noticed, for all the major cancer groups, spending on research has gone down for the past two years. Your party was in charge during that time, how did you let it happen?

McCAIN: I don't know the answer to that. I'm sure that there may be some rationale for it. I was not aware that we had cut it. There's many areas where we have increased cancer research. I'd have to get back to you. I was not aware that we made cuts in the funding. We've had steady increases over the past 10 to 15 years.

ROBERTS: The funding did go up for a while and then President Bush, in order to try to keep the budget in line, did apparently take the knife to it. I want to move on, Senator, and talk to you about the situation --

McCAIN: Unfortunately, we didn't take the knife to anything else.

ROBERTS: There you go, all things in time. I want to talk to you about the situation in Iraq. Yesterday in an interview with Wolf Blitzer on "The Situation Room," I want to play this back for you. You had this to say about the situation there.


McCAIN: General Petraeus goes out there almost every day in an unarmed Humvee. I think you ought to catch up. You are giving the old line of three months ago, I understand it. You certainly don't get it through the filter of some of the media.


ROBERTS: Senator, did you really mean to say that, that General Petraeus goes out every day in an unarmed Humvee?

McCAIN: I mean that there are neighborhoods that are safe in Iraq and he does go out into Baghdad and the fact is there has been significant progress and people are stuck in a time warp of three months ago. There's been, of course, it's still dangerous. Of course it's still very dangerous. We've only had two of the five brigades there and we are already seeing significant progress.

ROBERTS: Because I checked with General Petraeus' people overnight and they said that he never goes out in anything less than an armored Humvee. You also told Bill Bennett on his radio program on Monday, you said there are neighborhoods in Baghdad where you and I could walk through those neighborhoods today. Yet retired General Barry McCaffrey who just returned from Iraq, in a new report that he's going to brief the White House on, said no Iraqi government official, coalition soldier, diplomat, reporter, foreign NGO, no contractor can walk the streets of Baghdad without heavily armed protection. Two different stories here. Who's right?

McCAIN: Well, I'm not saying that they could go without protection. The president goes around America with protection. So, certainly I didn't say that. The fact is that the neighborhoods are safer and every indicator of that, the number of bodies found, the number of deaths, the fact is we're making progress. It's still dangerous, it's still a long way to go, but the fact is that things have improved and much of that you do not get to the American people and that's just a fact.

And the Anbar province, the sheiks are cooperating. There is significant progress in Maliki government legislating things that need to be done. I watched you on I think Sunday where you said you didn't know whether there was progress or not. I think there's progress and I get briefed all the time as to what's going on there. I believe this new strategy is succeeding and I think it deserves a chance to do so.

ROBERTS: Senator, I want to talk to you about the campaign for a second here. The first quarter deadline for fund-raising is coming up on Saturday. What are your totals going to say about the viability of your campaign?

McCAIN: We have fallen somewhat short and that's probably my fault. We're making adjustments. We're doing fine and we, we're still in spring training. I'm very happy where we are, particularly in the early states and I'm glad of the political and financial base we have and we're doing just fine. We're happy.

ROBERTS: Spring training, Senator McCain, thanks very much for joining us this morning, appreciate it.

McCAIN: Thanks, John.

ROBERTS: Soledad?

O'BRIEN: As you well know and you certainly heard from Senator McCain, cancer doesn't discriminate. It can hit anybody at any time. Coming up next, fighting cancer in your 40s and your 50s. We're going to talk to Sheryl Crow. There she is live. She's taking her fight against breast cancer right to Capitol Hill. We'll talk about what she plans to tell them.

Then this story and it's a weird one caught on camera. Yes, that's a border patrol agent and that's a lot of marijuana. And, well, it's caught on tape, I'll tell you that. You're watching AMERICAN MORNING. The most news in the morning is right here on CNN.


O'BRIEN: Welcome back. Happening in America this morning, pretty incredible video to show you. This is just into CNN out of Arizona. This is dashcam video. Shows border patrol agent Michael Gonzalez making off with a big old bail of marijuana he picked up from a smuggler's pickup truck. The dashcam is on another officer's vehicle. You can see Gonzalez. His car is parked in front. Look, he puts it in the back seat, changes his mind. In a minute you'll see he's going to move it to the trunk. Takes it out and puts it in the trunk of his vehicle. Gonzalez doesn't realize that this dash cam is running. The other officer is chasing the guys who own the truck. They run off into the desert. Later when they showed Gonzalez this tape he said, oh, I brought it to show other people in my department. Yeah, the judge didn't buy it either. He was found guilty on drug trafficking charges. He faces 10 years in prison now. That is a crazy story.

ROBERTS: He's almost a candidate for the Darwin awards.

O'BRIEN: Connecticut now, lawsuit filed against pet food maker Menu foods. Laurie Ozbourne's (ph) cat Gizmo died of kidney failure right before Menu foods announced their recall. She is convinced that Gizmo was killed by the food he was eating. Now so far, Menu Foods has confirmed 16 pet deaths, but as we were telling you about yesterday, nationwide organization of vets put that number over 100.

Cocoa Beach, Florida, rip tides proving just deadly for swimmers there. Lifeguards had to pull nine people out of the water on Tuesday. There was one man, though, who drowned, 69-year-old Edward Hooker. He was pulled to shore by some other swimmers. He died, though, after he was taken to the hospital. Sad new there.

ROBERTS: Got to watch out for that. I always swim across the current, not try to fight it.

Forty four minutes after the hour now. Chad Myers at the CNN weather center. Chad, always something interesting happening in your world.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yeah, you know, exactly. You have to watch out for those east winds, John or even any onshore wind for that matter when you have a small little reef or a sand bar just out to the off shore. The winds have been blowing onshore. That takes a little column of water. It's a big wave. It brings it over the reef, over the sand bar and on the land. Then it has to go back out and it goes back out in these little funnel areas and some of those water speeds can be, I don't know, 15 miles per hour. No one can swim that fast, that's why you have to get away from it. I know you say it, but when you're out there, you got to think about it, as well. It's like not using your brakes when it's icy outside. You want to stop, so you put your brakes on. That's normal. You have to think about not using them.

62 in Cincinnati, 62 right now in St. Louis and 67 in Memphis. It is going to be a severe weather day today, the first big severe weather outbreak of the year. Oklahoma, Nebraska, Kansas and parts of Texas. There could easily be 20 to 50 tornadoes on the ground today in this region. If you're flying, driving or doing anything in the Midwest, you need to keep a radio on, especially a NOAA weather radio, as well. John.

ROBERTS: Chad, we know that you folks down there are going to keep a close eye on that.

Still to come this morning, the singer and the survivor. Sheryl Crow joins us to talk about her fight with cancer and what she's doing today to try to find a cure. Stay with us on AMERICAN MORNING.


O'BRIEN: The numbers are really staggering. It is really scary, in fact, if you're a women. It's estimated that one in every eight women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. It's been over a year since nine-time Grammy winner Sheryl Crow was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was caught early. She had a lumpectomy. She had radiation and today she's cancer free. Sheryl Crow is going to Capitol Hill today. She's going to lobby for the breast cancer and environmental research act and we're catching up with her in DC. this morning before she goes. Nice to see you, thanks for talking with us. How are you doing, how are you feeling?

SHERYL CROW, MUSICIAN: I'm great, I'm really, really great.

O'BRIEN: We're so glad to hear that. It has been over a year since your diagnosis. Do you think of yourself is cured? Is the right word cancer-free? Is it something that you feel that every day you're going to have that momentary, what was that twinge, what was I feeling? Is that a pulled muscle or is my cancer back, how do you feel about that?

CROW: I call myself a cancer survivor, I say that I'm cured, but even this week when Elizabeth Edwards came out and talked about her cancer recurring, you immediately have that moment of -- am I cured? Am I cancer free? Is it coming back? And there's just so much that we don't know about breast cancer. There's so many different kinds of breast cancer. And the more that I learn about it, the more I feel driven to get the message out to women to be diligent about getting their mammograms and about knowing your family history. This week, this bill that has been around for eight years has had a lot of support, the majority in the Senate and the majority in the House. It's really time for people to address the environment, I believe. Because as we all know, it's changing and it's certainly I believe scientists even believe that it has an effect on our bodies.

O'BRIEN: What is the problem then? As you say, the bill has been around for eight years. You know, sometimes, I know so many people and I'm sure you feel the same way, the women who are our age who have been diagnosed with cancer who don't necessarily have a risk factor. And I wonder, well, is that good news? Is just more thorough screening, people are more diligent. That's sort of good news or is it bad news that there are things in our environment that are killing us. Which is it? CROW: I think our means of detection is much more advanced than it used to be. So is that one of the reasons that the statistic is higher? We don't really know. We don't know that more women are getting it or the fatality rate is higher. All we know is that we don't have a cure for it. We don't know what causes it. We don't know what kind of play the environment has on it and, yet, we're not doing any research to find out about that aspect. What this bill is asking is that instead of taking money away from research scientists in the lab, let's create more monies, find more monies to put towards research in the environmental area, to create a model that, say we start out with breast cancer, the model becomes used for every other disease and that's really what we're trying to do.

We're trying to figure out, what are the right questions to ask? How do we answer these questions and we start off with competitive grants, peer reviewed grants and to move forward in this area. We are a great country and clearly, a lot of our attention and a lot of our money is going towards the war and we're, we're forgetting that this still exists and the funding has just got to be there. It is, really, I think a lack of leadership and now is the time. When you hear about Tony Snow and you hear about Elizabeth Edwards, it's happening everywhere.

O'BRIEN: It seems to affect everyone.

CROW: Families.

O'BRIEN: And I was watching the Elizabeth Edwards press conference and every single person in our news room was just glued to it because so many people know someone, have a relative, a mother, a sister, a friend who are in the exact same boat. You've talked a lot about getting women to really take it into their own hands to get themselves screened and take care of their own health, but I'm always puzzled when I hear about women who are almost afraid to find out. They don't go for the screening because they're afraid to find out. Explain that to me, it seems kind of baffling to me.

CROW: You know, it's a complicated situation in that there are large areas of underserved women in this country. We're a very wealthy country and yet we don't have health care. So you have several factors there. You have a factor of women not wanting to find out because they know that they're not going to be covered with their health insurance. I think sometimes in some situations it's just a matter of being educated as to what that means. Why it's important after the age of 35. I think most people think that it couldn't happen to them. I was one of those people that really felt, look, I'm healthy, I'm on the go, I treat myself pretty healthy and yet, here I have breast cancer. I know there is a lot of fear out there. But I think in most situations, you have pockets of women who are in underserved areas who just don't, it's not on their list. They don't really want to know and I think the bottom line is until we have a cure, early detection is really the best means of prevention.

O'BRIEN: It's been a real surprise to see just how many people you know you'd never think of as being people who have any kind of cancer. Sheryl Crow, we're glad to see you're looking fabulous, as always, and feeling well, too. Thanks for talking with us this morning. Good luck on the Hill this morning as you deal with those senators. We appreciate your time.

CROW: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: If you want more information about breast cancer, you can go right to, one word there. We're back in just a moment. Stay with us.


ROBERTS: Who is going to blink first here, news just in to CNN. We heard from British foreign Secretary Margaret Becket (ph) that Britain is going to the next phase in its dispute with Iran over those 15 British soldiers, sailors rather, who were taken hostage on Friday, saying that they're going to freeze all bilateral business ties with Iran and Iran now saying, hey, maybe we can work this out. We're watching that story for you. We'll keep an eye on it.

New innovations in mobile phone technology will be bringing banking to your handset very soon, transfer funds, pay bills all using your cell phone.

Fifteen minutes after the hour, Stephanie Elam here "minding your business."

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So that means no excuse for not paying your bills. You can do it from anywhere right.

ROBERTS: Another reason it turn your cell phone off, as far as I can tell.

ELAM: Stay continually in flight mode. This is according to AT&T. Actually, Cingular was working on the deal, but now they've been purchased by AT&T so this will be a part of their new mobile banking capabilities. It's the biggest such plan in the U.S. and the four banks that are involved, Wachovia, Regions Financial, Suntrust and Bancorp South. AT&T customers will be able to use their cell phones to check balances, transfer funds and pay bills. It will be available to Bancorp South users immediately and then later on this year for the other three banks. Now, AT&T, get this, is not going to charge extra service for using this banking capability. They're just saying that this will just actually go ahead and work for them as far as normal data storage usage. It's not going to cost you any more if you use this.

O'BRIEN: Isn't that a little risky, doing these transactions over your cell phone. If you lose your cell phone, access, it's just like if you lost your laptop.

ROBERTS: And what about encryption as well?

ELAM: Well, part of the issue here that they're saying, if you do lose your phone, we can go ahead and actually get rid of everything off of it even if you don't have a handset in your hand. So you could still have it erased, but anyway, something to think about. The next hour of AMERICAN MORNING starts right now.

O'BRIEN: Good luck Stephanie. Answered prayers, dozens of preschoolers taken hostage on a bus overnight are freed just within the last hour. We're live on the scene for you straight ahead.

ROBERTS: New problems this morning for a Chicago police officer caught on tape allegedly beating a female bartender. Plus we hear from the police top brass for the first time.

O'BRIEN: Storm zones, destructive winds out west, high water in the south. Tornado and a blizzard predicted today. We'll update you across the country.

ROBERTS: Oh and check this out, tale of the tape. A border agent makes off with a bundle of seized marijuana, but doesn't realize the dashcam is rolling.