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Iraq Study Group's Suggestion That U.S. Engage Iran And Syria In Talks About Iraq Leads To More Debate Than Resolve, In Washington And Iraq

Aired December 11, 2006 - 09:00   ET


BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everybody.
T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, hello there, guys.


I am T.J. Holmes.

NGUYEN: And good morning.

I'm Betty Nguyen. We are in for Tony and Heidi today.

And, for the next three hours, you can watch events happen live on this Monday, the 11th day of December.

Here's what's in the rundown.

HOLMES: President Bush and his Iraq War strategy -- he's getting advice today from diplomats and retired generals.

Also, politics by the book -- Barack Obama hits New Hampshire. The Illinois senator building a buzz as he weighs a White House bid.

NGUYEN: And the death of the princess -- a new report on Diana's car crash leaks to British papers. The reported findings this hour, right here in THE NEWSROOM.

HOLMES: A familiar and troubling issue dominating President Bush's agenda this week -- what's the best way forward in Iraq?

Today, the president is holding strategy sessions at the State Department and in the Oval Office.

And CNN's Elaine Quijano is with us now live from the White House -- good morning to you, Elaine.


That's right, starting today, President Bush is embarking on a kind of inside the beltway listening tour as he weighs the options for Iraq. This coming, of course, on the heels of that sobering report by the Iraq Study Group calling the situation in Iraq "grave and deteriorating."

Now, first, the president this morning will head to the State Department to hear from senior officials there. He's expected to make a brief statement afterward. And then this afternoon, he is going to meet with a group of historians and former generals, we're told, in the Oval Office.

Now, the consultations will continue tomorrow and Wednesday. And amid speculation about what the president might do, those close to the White House, including his former chief of staff, insist that the administration is open to change.


ANDREW CARD, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: I agree, there's an awful lot that can be done. The president will take a look at the efforts in Iraq with fresh eyes. That's why he's bringing in a new secretary of defense. He'll -- I'm sure that he's asked Secretary Rice and the other members of the cabinet to take a look at the situation in Iraq. But clearly we have to do things differently. But we have to be careful that we don't leave Iraq as a place where the terrorists can fine safe haven to attack us and that we don't leave Iraq as a cesspool of hatred that will boil over and complicate our life in that part of the region for a long time to come.


QUIJANO: Now, as for those other consultations, the president tomorrow is set to hold a video-conference with top military commanders on the ground in Iraq, as well as the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Zalman Khalilzad.

Also tomorrow, we're expecting him to sit down with an Iraqi vice president, a Sunni, Tareq al-Hashimi. And then he'll be heading to the Pentagon later on to hear from top officials there, as well.

Now, all of this is coming as the president is waiting on the results of three internal administration reviews, one from the State Department, one from the Pentagon, as well as one from the National Security Council.

As for a time frame on when he might make announcements to his changes to his Iraq policy. Senior Bush aides say it will likely happen before Christmas -- T.J.

HOLMES: All right, our Elaine Quijano from the White House today.

Elaine, thank you so much.

NGUYEN: Divided country -- Iraq split along sectarian and political lines.

CNN's Nic Robertson has an update.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the north of Baghdad, spiraling sectarian violence -- Sunnis forced from their homes in apparent retaliation for a mortar attack on a nearby Shia neighborhood. The newly homeless Sunnis blame the Shia-dominated government for not coming to their aid.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): We asked the Iraqi Army to come, but the Army didn't interfere and it seemed that there was a collusion between the Iraqi Army and the militia.

ROBERTSON: Fears that are heightening divisions, politicizing political debate just a week before a national reconciliation conference called by the prime minister.

OMAR ABDUL-SATTAR, SPOKESMAN, SUNNI ISLAMIC PARTY (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): We will not participate in any future government unless we have a real share in security and political decisions.

ROBERTSON: Into this poisoned political atmosphere, a new shock -- robust rejection of the Iraq Study Group's report by the country's Kurdish president.

PRES. JALAL TALABANI, IRAQ (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): The Baker- Hamilton is not fair. It is not just. And it contains some very dangerous articles which are undermining the sovereignty of Iraq.

ROBERTSON: At issue, the Study Group's proposal to ratchet up the number of U.S. military trainers embedded with the Iraqi Army. The Kurds' other top leader, Massoud Barzani, also blasted the report, saying it's not compatible with national reconciliation, criticizing recommendations that would put Kurdish oil fields under central government control.

Away from the political turmoil and sectarian violence, ongoing U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld slipped into the country under a veil of secrecy, a farewell tour of U.S. bases in the north, west and center of Iraq, thanking soldiers and Marines. His message for the troops very personal, at times as much prophetic as reflective.

(on camera): Rumsfeld leaves at a time when Iraq has never looked so divided. A top Sunni leader, Tareq al-Hashimi, is due to meet with President Bush early this week. Inevitably, the plight of Iraq's Sunnis will likely dominate conversations at a time when the U.S. is pressuring Iraqis to overcome their differences and unite against extremists.

Nic Robertson, CNN, Baghdad.


NGUYEN: U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan is delivering his farewell address today. Annan's decade-long tenure marked by a strained relationship with the U.S.

CNN's Richard Roth reports.


KOFI ANNAN, U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL: I, Kofi Annan, solemnly swear...

RICHARD ROTH, SENIOR UNITED NATIONS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Kofi Annan was America's candidate to become secretary-general of the United Nations. Ten years later, some in the Bush administration can't wait until he leaves office. The U.S. ambassador, himself on his way out, was asked his sense of the Annan-America years.


ROTH: There were quarrels during the Clinton years over finances, with veteran Senator Jesse Helms. But Annan's relationship with Washington became downright frosty during the Bush years, as the more conservative wing of the Republican Party roared to power.

ADAM LEBOR, "TIMES OF LONDON": You know, dealing with America is the most difficult thing, I think, for Kofi Annan because, firstly, within the administration, and especially within the Republican Party, there's a lot of visceral anti-U.N. feeling. People really don't like the U.N. They don't quite understand what it is.

ROTH: Much of the strain is due to Iraq. The secretary-general sharply opposed the United States invasion and was described as "depressed" after U.N. efforts to head off the conflict were ignored. Annan called it an illegal war.

DAVID MALONE, FORMER U.N. CANADIAN AMBASSADOR: I think Kofi Annan felt very strongly this division amongst the great powers and when after the deadlock in the Security Council on the Iraq in 2003, the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad was blown up and a number of people he knew and valued were killed, I think he did take it very personally.

ROTH: Then there was another Iraq related debacle -- the oil for food scandal. The program's director was accused of misconduct and Annan's son was implicated.

SEN. NORM COLEMAN (R), MINNESOTA: I've called for Annan's resignation. I called for it early on.

ROTH: But the Bush administration didn't lower the boom on Annan, since U.N. countries themselves, including the U.S. had looked the other way as Saddam Hussein reaped millions of dollars in kickbacks. There were at least six different U.S. Congressional investigations of Oil For Food. Annan stressed cooperation.

ANNAN: The U.S. needs the U.N. and the U.N. needs the U.S. and we need to find a way of working together.

JAMES TRAUB, AUTHOR, "THE BEST INTENTIONS": There's going to be the temptation to not do that. There's going to be the temptation to basically get up on your hind legs and tell Washington or whomever to come off it. It turns out that that you can't do that in this job.

ROTH: So Annan's deputy secretary-general did it for both of them, criticizing U.S. foreign policy and select U.S. media outlets that they felt targeted the U.N. MARK MALLOCH BROWN, DEPUTY U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL: Much of the public discourse that reaches the U.S. outland has been largely abandoned to its loudest detractors, such as Rush Limbaugh and Fox News.

BOLTON: Secretary-General Kofi Annan, we think, has to personally and publicly repudiate this speech at the earliest possible opportunity.


ROTH: The rancor continued until the end, though the Annans, the Boltons and the Bushes gathered for dinner last week at the White House.

BOLTON: Nobody sang "Kumbayah."


NGUYEN: A bit of a rocky road, apparently.

Well, we understand, Richard, that Kofi Annan is going to be speaking today at the Truman Museum and Library there in Independence, Missouri.

Talk to me about what he's going to say? Any idea?

ROTH: This is supposed to be a very fierce speech against the United States. Some will say too little too late for those who might agree with the secretary-general. He's going to charge that the United States has to not try to dominate and that governments must be accountable for their actions in the international arena, as well as the domestic one, against such threats as global terrorism. No nation can make itself secure, Annan will say, by seeking supremacy above all others.

NGUYEN: OK. So that's Annan's view.

What about the incoming secretary-general? Do you expect the same tough talk?

ROTH: I think it may be years from now before we hear such tough talk, barring a change in world circumstances. The United States backed Ban Ki Moon, the incoming new secretary-general, effective January 1st. And the U.S. has made it clear they see this post now as the chief administrative officer of the U.N. not someone making major diplomatic speeches.

But this has been said before other newcomers get into that office and things tend to change as the moral authority of the office tends to take over these political figures.

NGUYEN: All right, CNN's Richard Roth.

We appreciate it. HOLMES: All right, we're going to turn to a little bit of weather now. And it hasn't really felt like it here the past couple of days, getting up early in the morning, going out. It felt a little cool. But some areas actually experiencing a warming trend right now in December.



MYERS: Yes. We were 14 degrees, T.J. in the morning Saturday morning. Then on up to almost 50 in the afternoon.


HOLMES: Well, up next here, of course, the Princess Di tragedy still a hot topic. Of course, she died in that crumpled Mercedes there. Now it's about a decade later and conspiracy theories may finally be dismantled. The Diana Report.

That's coming up next in THE NEWSROOM.

NGUYEN: Also, the radioactivity -- it is spread as the plot thickens and the poison spy's widow, well, she is leveling accusations. The Litvinenko investigation and a live report. That is from London.

HOLMES: And is there something missing in a soldier's basic training?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're taught to go into combat and when the tears come, they're not taught how to survive that.


HOLMES: Parents seek answers after a family tragedy. That is ahead in THE NEWSROOM.


HOLMES: It's been nearly a decade now since Princess Diana's death, a time span filled with constant questions and conspiracy theories. Now, a new report could provide answers.

There's word a British inquiry has concluded Diana's death was, indeed, an accident. According to the BBC, tests confirm Diana's driver was drunk when the car crashed in a Paris tunnel back in 1997. The government report is due out this week.

A surprising twist here. The British newspaper, "The Observer," says U.S. intelligence was eavesdropping on Diana's phone calls hours before her fatal crash. CNN is working to verify that report.

NGUYEN: The widow of poisoned ex-spy Alexander Litvinenko is speaking out and the investigation into his death now spans three countries. The latest developments in Germany now. Hamburg police are following a trail of Polonium 210 radiation left behind by another former spy.

Our Paula Hancocks picks up the story from there.


PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): German police say this man, Dmitry Kovtun, is being treated as a suspect in the international hunt for the killers of former KGB agent, Alexander Litvinenko.

Kovtun is a former soldier in the Soviet Army and one of the men who British police say met Litvinenko in this London hotel on the day he was given a fatal dose of radiation.

German police say they have found traces of Polonium 210, the material used in the poisoning, at a appreciate that of Kovtun's ex- wife. They say Kovtun stayed there the night before flying to London and meeting Litvinenko.

German police say there is a reasonable basis for suspicion that Dmitry Kovtun may not just be a victim, but could also be a perpetrator. Their investigation now focuses on whether Kovtun illegally handled radioactive material. The Russian news service, Interfax, says Kovtun is being treated for radiation poisoning in Moscow.

Litvinenko's wife, Marina, broke her silence Sunday, telling "The Sunday Times" how her husband came to the realization he had been deliberately poisoned.

MARINA LITVINENKO, FORMER SPY'S WIDOW: And he said Marina, "I feel like people who was poisoned chemical weapon, you know? Because when these targets, they've got some symptoms. But, of course I told him, Sasha, it's unbelievable. I can't -- I can't see -- I can't believe what happened.

NEWTON: British police are continuing their murder inquiry in Moscow Monday. Two police officers involved in the case have also tested positive for Polonium 210.

London police say both men are well.


NGUYEN: And Paula joins us now live.

I have to ask you this, Paula, as we watch this, the mystery just continues to widen day by day. And the question is, why haven't there been any arrests made as of yet?

It's been almost six weeks.

NEWTON: That's right, Betty, yes. Since Litvinenko himself was actually poisoned on November the 1st a lot of time has passed. And almost every single day, more questions have been raised, more rumors, more conspiracy theories.

The fact is, for the first couple of weeks, at least, doctors did not even know what was wrong with Litvinenko. It took them a while to realize it was this radioactive substance, Polonium 210, which is very unusual.

Then they had to find out where this came from. And there are three ongoing investigations. In London, there is an investigation by Scotland Yard. This is where the murder took place. And Moscow, also, because that's where Litvinenko and Kovtun themselves come from. But, of course, Germany is now involved, as well. And we're expecting momentarily to hear from prosecutors there, as they are finding traces of Polonium 210 in Hamburg, in the ex-wife's flat of Kovtun and also in the car that he drove in.

So it really is a very intriguing and very complex case. And it's really uncertain how much cooperation there is between the three investigations.

But we are expecting, according to the Russian news agency, Interfax, that Russian detectives will be here in London by the end of the week to carry out their own into the murder -- Betty.

NGUYEN: Intriguing and complex, indeed. I mean just connecting the dots alone is a bit confusing.

Paula Hancocks, we thank you, though, for sorting it out for us.

HOLMES: Next, on the road.

But is he ready to run?

We catch up with Senator Barack Obama in the first presidential primary states. The buzz over Obama -- that's coming up in THE NEWSROOM.

NGUYEN: Also, Minding Your Business. Ali Velshi is here with a preview -- hi there, Ali.

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Betty, good to see you. For a lot of people around America who thought they were in good hands with Allstate, well, Allstate is about to drop them. I'll have that when we come back in THE NEWSROOM.


NGUYEN: You know when they say you're in good hands?

Well, depending on where you live, Ali Velshi is Minding Your Business -- good morning, Ali.

VELSHI: Good morning, Betty.

We've been looking at Allstate Insurance for the last several months, really, over the last year. And the number of states where they have decided they are not writing new home insurance policies or not renewing insurance policies of people who have them in those states.

Now, over the last year, we've seen Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida and New York fall off their map. Now, Allstate announcing it is not going to be writing new policies in Connecticut, where it's the largest home insurer; New Jersey, where it's the second largest; and Delaware, where it's the third largest.

We spoke to somebody in Brooklyn, New York a few months ago who had said that his existing Allstate policy wasn't going to be renewed. Allstate had stated that it wanted to manage its risks and that those are areas that are statistically places that could flood and that Allstate can't charge enough to recover the risk that it takes on those places.

So these people are just getting left with -- they're usually getting a letter to say we can't renew your insurance, you'll have to get insurance somewhere. In some cases, Allstate is helping them get insurance through other insurers who continue to do business.

But typically, Betty, it means less competition and probably higher rates.

NGUYEN: Well, does this have anything to do with the money that Allstate had to pay out after the hurricanes back in 2005?

VELSHI: Yes. Well, they do state that that was, you know, the hurricanes were one of the biggest insurable events, in fact, they were the biggest insurable events in American history. Although that year was very profitable for the major insurance companies because fundamentally that's how they do their business. They get you to pay premiums to protect them against those payouts, and they had to pay them out.

So it seems that they're moving away from those areas that could end up costing them and they continue to insure those places where their risk of payout is going to be statistically lower.

NGUYEN: So you keep using that word risk. They don't want to take that big of a risk. But isn't that what insurance companies do? Aren't they supposed to take risks? Aren't they -- isn't that why they're paid to do what they do?

VELSHI: It's funny you should ask that. I mean that is exactly the thing, that there's supposed to be good reward for being in a business where you take risk. People can't go into certain ventures because they can't risk losing everything they've got -- their homes or their businesses.

So these insurance companies come in, they look at it statistically and say your risk of getting into trouble through a catastrophe or through lawsuits is X, and this is what it's going to cost us to ensure you. And you pay that premium and they are -- they have been traditionally very, very profitable. There are some insurance companies that have been put out of business because of catastrophes, but the big ones -- Allstate and State Farm -- continue to be very profitable along the different lines that they do business, because they offer different types of insurance.

And this is exactly what's happening. They have, over the last few years, slowly pushed away those things that are bigger risks for them, told people to get their insurance elsewhere, and they're getting -- they're keeping for themselves those parts of the business that are most profitable. That leaves a lot of people in the lurch.

NGUYEN: Oh, yes.

VELSHI: But, yes, you're right, Betty, they're in the risk business.

NGUYEN: Well, it's all about the almightily dollar, apparently.


NGUYEN: Ali Velshi, thank you.


HOLMES: Ending the violence in Iraq -- is Iran the answer?

A closer look at that ahead in THE NEWSROOM.

And is there something missing in a soldier's basic training?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're taught to go into combat and when the tears come, they're not taught how to survive that.


HOLMES: Parents seek answers for a family tragedy.

And, it's not even Christmas yet, but the Christmas trees have come down at one busy airport.

NGUYEN: Come down?


HOLMES: What in the world is going on?

We're going to try to explain that ahead in THE NEWSROOM.


NGUYEN: President Bush getting input as he plots the way forward in Iraq. The issue dominates the president's agenda this week. Today, two strategy sessions. Next hour, the president met with State Department diplomats to review options. And later in the Oval Office, he is meeting with historians and former generals.

These strategy sessions come just days after the bipartisan Iraq Study Group recommended major changes in the Iraq strategy.

HOLMES: And wait for -- ah, there it is.

There's that all too familiar sound, the bell ringing at the New York Stock Exchange.

You're looking at executives from Biovail. They are meeting to celebrate their birthday, of sorts, I guess. Ten years now that they've been listed down there. So they're celebrating that with some of their execs.


HOLMES: A rare student protest in Iran. The country's semi- official news agency reports a group of students, from a banned group, briefly interrupted a speech from the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, booing and chanting "Death to the Dictator."

It is reporting the president kept his cool and finished his speech. Iran's state-run newspaper picked up the story but gave the impression that the students were not referring to Mr. Ahmadinejad as a dictator.

Bombs, bullets, beheadings -- unrelenting violence in Iraq. Can Iran help solve the problem as the Iraq Study Group suggests? CNN's Elaine Quijano has a closer look.


ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, CNN NEWSROOM (voice over): The Iraq Study Group believes talking to Iran without preconditions is worth a shot to try to improve the situation in Iraq.

LEE HAMILTON, CO-CHAIR, IRAQ STUDY GROUP: Syria and Iran have very, very great influence over events within Iraq, particularly Iran, but also Syria. And I just don't think you can avoid that.

QUIJANO: That recommendation has unleashed a wave of blistering criticism from those who would argue it would weaken what has been the U.S.'s non-negotiable position that Iraq should not have nuclear weapons.

ELIOT COHEN, JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY: One of the things profoundly unrealistic about the report is the idea you're in negotiation with Iran, where somehow the nuclear issue is put to one side and off the table, and we're not going to deal with that. Well, I'm sure that's not the way the Iranians are going to approach it.

QUIJANO: Just this weekend, Iran's president said his country had begun installing 3,000 centrifuges in an expansion of it's uranium enrichment program. All along, Iran has insisted they are developing nuclear technology for peaceful energy purposes. But with the country awash in oil, the Bush administration and some lawmakers remain skeptical.

SEN. TRENT LOTT, INCOMING SENATE REPUBLICAN WHIP: I think Iran is a serious problem. They continue to thumb their nose at the world and go forward in developing the nuclear weapon capability.

QUIJANO: Yet the co-chair of the Iraq Study Group insists the panel isn't recommending the U.S. give Iran a pass.

JAMES BAKER, CO-CHAIR, IRAQ STUDY GROUP: We are not suggesting broad-based, one-on-one discussions with Iran about every subject we have between us. In fact, we say that the nuclear problem should be left in the United Nations Security Council.

QUIJANO: Still, even the incoming head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee concedes Iran isn't the answer.

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN, (D-DE) FOREIGN RELATIONS CMTE.: Iran cannot solve our problem for us in Iraq. If we worked it out, they could stop doing bad things, but they're not likely to be able to do good things that will fundamentally alter the circumstances in Iraq.

(on camera): President Bush has shown no signs of backing away from his insistence that Iran must verifiably suspend its uranium enrichment program before coming to the negotiating table.

As for his Iraq policy, this week the president will take part in briefings from officials at the State Department, the Pentagon, and via video-conference from military commanders in Iraq. Elaine Quijano, CNN, the White House.


NGUYEN: Well, dictator Augusto Pinochet, he was divisive in life and now in death. He died over the weekend after suffering heart failure. Demonstrators took to the streets on Sunday. Check this out. Pinochet was accused of torturing and killing thousands during his 17 years as a leader in Chile.

Still, he had his supporters. Some did gather for candlelight vigil vigils. Pinochet, who was 91, will be given a military funeral tomorrow, but he will not get the traditional state funeral usually reserved for former presidents.

HOLMES: Massive brushfires blackening the skies in southeastern Australia today. Several blazes are burning near Melbourne. Right now lightening, arson, and blistering heat are blamed. Parts of the country recorded their highest temperatures in more than 50 years.

So far more than half a million acres have burned along with some homes as well. My goodness. The fires are so big and spread so far out, state officials say it may take until next March to get them under control.

NGUYEN: Well, it is that time of the year when everything is dry out there. Although, Chad, that big snowstorm that comes by -- it seems like the people that don't need the rain and the snow, get it. The people who need some humidity can't get it for anything.


NGUYEN: Well, not a candidate, but Senator Barack Obama sure is looking and sounding like one. And a lot of people, well, they are listening. CNN's John King reports.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D-IL): Sorry, guys, I didn't mean to cause this fuss.

JOHN KING, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Of course, he did. First impressions are important in politics. The more fuss, the better. Barack Obama, meet New Hampshire.

OBAMA: How are you? Good see you?

KING: New Hampshire, meet Barack Obama. A crowd of 1,500 at a sold out state Democratic Party fundraiser, on a Sunday afternoon.

OBAMA: I am telling you, New Hampshire, America is ready to turn the page. America is ready for a new set of challenges. This is our time, a new generation, that is preparing to lead.

KING: Earlier, 900 people at a book signing that had to be moved to a big conference room. He is, without a doubt, the hottest commodity in American politics. Never mind that he's just 45 years old, and was elected to the Senate only two years ago.

AL BORQUE, NEW HAMPSHIRE VOTER: We're so tired of the standard- type politicians that we've been used to for so long. It was very exciting, as far as I was concerned. Hope he runs.

KING: Whatever his decision, Democrats here and across the country are buzzing about the Obama effect.

Senator Hillary Clinton is accelerating her campaign planning. Other hopefuls, like Indiana Senator Evan Bayh, also in New Hampshire this weekend --

SEN. EVAN BAYH, (D-IN): Good to see you again. How have you been?

KING: -- can only hope experience matters as much as star power when it really counts a year from now.

BAYH: Would it be nice to be a celebrity and have untold millions? Of course it would. But I think we'll have enough. You know, it's a lot like the story of David and Goliath, David did OK.

KING: New Hampshire holds the first presidential primary. Senator Obama's first visit came after three trips to the kickoff caucus state, Iowa. Top aids are quietly building a campaign team. And there's encouragement galore.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have I mentioned getting active for Obama?


KING: A final decision, due early next year.

OBAMA: I am suspicious of hype. I'm still running things through the trips.


NGUYEN: And here is a look at where Senator Barack Obama stands on the issues. He opposes the war in Iraq and support the phased redeployment of U.S. troops. He previously called for a U.S. troop withdrawal by the end of this year. Now he says he'd meet with U.S. commanders to establish a timetable.

Obama is against same-sex marriage, but supports civil unions. And on taxes he supports eliminating the so-called marriage penalty, and extending the child tax credit.

HOLMES: Annan and America. The departing U.N. secretary-general says good-bye. Some critics say good riddance. That story in the NEWSROOM.

NGUYEN: And look at this. It is not even Christmas yet, but the Christmas trees, they're coming down. Yes, coming down at one busy airport. What is going on? Well, we're going to explain ahead, right here, in the NEWSROOM.


HOLMES: The Shuttle Discovery looks good to go for its rendezvous with the International Space Station this afternoon. The astronauts got a pretty good look at the shuttle, looking for any damage that might have happened during the launch. This is a view of those heat tiles you hear so much about.

The Discovery, as you know, took off to the skies beautifully Saturday night. The crew docks with the space station this afternoon, they'll drop off American astronaut Sunita Williams and will bring a two-ton addition to the space station.

NGUYEN: Olympic Park Bomber Eric Rudolph says the government is trying to drive him crazy in prison. Yes, in letters, to a Colorado newspaper Rudolph complains about his solitary confinement. Rudolph says he spends 23 hours a day in a 7 x 12 foot cell and gets little exercise. Rudolph writes, "It's designed to cause mental illness" and leave him with health ailments such as diabetes and heart disease.

As you know, Rudolph is serving a life sentence at a super max prison in Colorado, for three separate bombings that killed one person in Atlanta, and one at a women's clinic in Birmingham, Alabama.

HOLMES: It is the holiday season so can't we all -- can't we just all --

NGUYEN: Can't we just get along?

HOLMES: Well, maybe not, actually.

NGUYEN: Yeah. In Seattle airport Christmas trees no longer on display. Nope. The man whose complaint got the whole thing started, he says, I'm not a Grinch. Here's CNN's Joshua Levs.


JOSHUA LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT, CNN NEWSROOM (voice over): Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, Christmas time imagery, but the trees have been taken down. It started with this rabbi's complaint, but this is not what he wanted.

RABBI ELAZAR BOGOMILSKY, HOST, "SHMOOZE RADIO": The Jewish community at-large is offended by the removal of the Christmas trees.

LEVS: What he wanted was for something to be placed alongside one of the trees, a Menorah. He says the Hanukkah symbol, as seen in other public displays, represents triumph of freedom over oppression.

BOGOMILSKY: It's not just a message for Judaism, it's a message of hope for everyone.

LEVS: But he didn't just ask, he threatened a lawsuit. And the commission that oversees the airport says there was not time to reach a resolution.

PATTI DAVIS: Frankly, we are faced with the choice of either spending unknown amounts of the public's dollars and countless hours of litigation, or trying to figure out how to accommodate all these cultures all at once, when we were underway trying to bring half a million people through the SEA-TAC airport, in the busiest possible season.

LEVS: So the trees came down and tempers went up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's kind of sad that we have to do that now, it seems to try to please everybody.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To take away the Christmas tree, to me, is just saying Christmas doesn't count, when it's an aspect of Christmas.

LEVS: Airport employees are angry, too.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody has been outraged enough they're going to bring in their own solution tomorrow and to demonstrate, I suppose, and bring their own Christmas trees and we're going to display them at the ticket counters.

LEVS (on camera): And the rabbi says he wants the Christmas trees back up, too. So why doesn't the airport just put the trees back up, add a Menorah, and everybody goes home happy?

Well, the commission that runs the airport says the concern is that if they represent Hanukkah, they will have to be concerned about representing all cultures that may have holidays this time of year. And they say that at this point there just isn't enough time to take care of everybody. Joshua Levs, CNN, Atlanta.


NGUYEN: Boy, it is a predicament. In fact, we spoke with a rabbi and an airport spokesperson yesterday.

HOLMES: Talked to him.

NGUYEN: The rabbi even said, look, we will give you the Menorah to put up there. But the airport officials said, of course, there are a lot of other religious aspects of this, too. And we'd have to represent all of them. But what I found so interesting, T.J..

HOLMES: Yes. I know what you're going to say.

NGUYEN: When you asked the rabbi, OK, so no Menorah, no Christmas tree, because mind you, he said he was very shocked about it all. He said, yes, no Menorah, no Christmas tree. So there you have it. They're both still on their opposite sides of this.

HOLMES: Too bad.

NGUYEN: We'll see how it turns out next year.

HOLMES: Doesn't look like they're going to get the trees back this year.

Well, moving on here, we'll talk about being stuck in port. Dozens of passengers sickened, just the latest flaw in one cruise line's shining jewel. So what are they doing to prevent another outbreak? We'll hopefully have an answer ahead in the NEWSROOM.

NGUYEN: And is there something missing in a soldier's basic training?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They are taught to go into combat, and when the tears come, they're not taught how to survive that.


NGUYEN: Parents are seeking answers after a family tragedy. That's ahead right here in the NEWSROOM.


HOLMES: Well, have a holiday package for a loved one serving the military overseas? The Postal Service says you'll have to get it in the mail today, if you want it to get to them by Christmas. However, the deadline for U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan passed last week.

NGUYEN: Changed by war -- a young soldier returns home, but he is unable to leave Iraq behind. CNN's Elizabeth Cohen has this story.


JASON COOPER, U.S. SOLDIER: How are you doing? It's your brother coming to you from Ft. Knox, Kentucky.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN NEWSROOM (voice over): Twenty-one year old Jason Cooper, fresh off boot camp, ready to leave for Iraq with the Iowa National Reserve, and full of life.

TERRI JONES, JASON COOPER'S MOTHER: He had a fast car. He loved to do tricks off the diving board.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He always made you smile. He made you laugh. He was my best friend.

COHEN: But when Jason came home in March 2005, he wasn't the Jason his family remembered.

JONES: You could tell he was lost in his thoughts, and you could be talking to him, and you'd have to kind of -- Jas, hey?

COHEN: And at night the nightmares set in. Jason couldn't sleep.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just knock on my door and wake me up. Tell him to come in, sit there and talk.

COHEN: It seemed as if the terror of Iraq consumed him. The family hoped he would get help. He said, next week. But three months after Jason returned home from Iraq, Ed got a call from the police on his way home from work.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He told me I needed to get to my residence immediately, and they wouldn't tell me why.

COHEN: Ed wasn't allowed inside his home. Shielded from his son, who had had hanged himself in the basement.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was hard to believe what they told me. I just needed to see if I could help him.

JONES: I had failed. A lot of people failed him at that point.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is Jason's room. It's pretty much the way it was when he was here last.

COHEN: Ed won't change Jason's bedroom and he's just now able to go back down in the basement.

A year and a half after his suicide, Jason's parents believe their son suffered from post traumatic stress disorder or PTSD brought on by his time in Iraq. Still, Jason's father doesn't blame the military for his death.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think they're all doing a wonderful job over there. We didn't ask for this, it's just unfortunate wars have to come up. And unfortunately people lose lives.

COHEN: But Terri has made a public statement of her own -- flying the flag upside-down.

JONES: Soldiers are in distress, are taught to be tough, taught to go into combat, and when the tears come, they're not taught how to survive that.

COHEN: Ed wants his son to know he finally put the pool in the backyard, the one Jason always wanted.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wait to see him go off the diving board. Sometimes at night, I'm just waiting to hear a splash. Hoping it'll be him.

COHEN: Elizabeth Cohen, CNN reporting.


HOLMES: And options on Iraq, on the table. President Bush, another week, focused on the war and where to go next. The strategy ahead at the top of the hour in the NEWSROOM.

NGUYEN: And three brothers shot dead on their way to school. Was it a political message for their father? We'll take a look, right here in the NEWSROOM.


NGUYEN: Well, you already know where to watch the NEWSROOM weekday mornings, from 9 a.m. to noon, but did you know you can take the show with you anywhere on your iPod? The CNN NEWSROOM podcast is available 24/7 right on your iPod.

HOLMES: Dream vacation or a health nightmare? Nearly 200 cruise passengers returned from their trips with more than just memories. All suspected victims of a nasty norovirus. We get the story from Charles Billi of CNN affiliate WSVN in Miami.


CHARLES BILLI, REPORTER, WSVN, MIAMI (voice over): Two ships, two cities, same problem -- sick people.

We start at the port of Miami and the world's largest cruise ship, the Freedom of the Seas, returning sick for a third time; 97 passengers and 11 crew members infected with norovirus, an intestinal viral infection, with flu like symptoms.

The event didn't sit well with some of the passengers and those who weren't sick were angry. Royal Caribbean immediately sanitized the ship, and despite this, it isn't going to be sailing anytime soon. The CDC has informed Royal Caribbean the ship cannot sail for two days, during which time it will be sanitized completely.

Royal Caribbean releasing this statement, quote, "Because Royal Caribbean wants to maintain its high health standards onboard its ships, while providing its guests with the best cruise experience possible, the company is following the CDC's recommendation", end quote. Passengers were informed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They told us the government has basically quarantined until Tuesday.

BILLI: At Port Everglades, the Sun Princess returned after 119 cases of norovirus on the 2,875 passenger ship. The CDC did not issue a no sail recommendation and it sailed again in the afternoon. The same viral invader, same passenger frustration, but people were gracious in their praise of the crew's reaction.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They came in and sanitized the room twice a day and they really did everything that they could.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You think overall they did an excellent job?



NGUYEN: Well, good morning everybody. I'm Betty Nguyen.

HOLMES: And I'm T.J. Holmes.

Tony Harris and Heidi Collins have the day off. You can spend the second hour in the NEWSROOM with us this morning and stay informed. Here is what is on the run down.

NGUYEN: Iraq's prime minister may be shown the door. Reports of a behind the scenes power play to tell you about.

Also, a long-awaited report on Princess Diana's death. Newspapers outline the findings, as well as, this tidbit. Did the Secret Service but Diana's phone?

HOLMES: And if you're search for the hot holiday toy has you looking like Elmo there, remember, you can probably buy what you need but it's going to cost you to find what you need.

It's Monday December 11. You are in the NEWSROOM.