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Justice Department's Own Shock & Awe Plan Releases 3,000 Pages Of E-Mails, Papers To Public, All About Attorney Firing Flap; More Hangings of Saddam Hussein's Close Advisers; Flight Delays and Lost Baggage in Philadelphia; Arguments Over the New Grand Canyon Skywalk; Cheap Housing in Hawaii

Aired March 20, 2007 - 09:00   ET


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR, CNN NEWSROOM: Good morning, everyone. You're in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Tony Harris.
HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR, CNN NEWSROOM: Good morning to you. I'm Heidi Collins.

For the next three hours watch events coming into the NEWSROOM live on Tuesday, March 20th, the first day of spring.

Here's what's on the run down. Congressional staffers eyeballing thousands of Justice Department e-mails. Will they explain why eight federal prosecutors got their walking papers?

HARRIS: Combing North Carolina's wooded mountains for a missing Boy Scout. Searchers holding out hope they will find 12-year-old Michael Auberry alive.

'Tis the season for sneezing. Doctor Sanjay Gupta tells us why you might want to skip the antibiotics to soothe your sinuses. The nose knows, in the NEWSROOM.

HARRIS: Our top story this hour the sun is up and the search is back on; 25 rescue teams will be out looking for a missing 12-year-old Boy Scout in the mountains of North Carolina. Michael Auberry disappeared on Saturday. He was on a camping trip with his Scout Troop at a park near the Virginia state line. Live now National Correspondent Bob Franken in McGrady, North Carolina.

And, Bob, we got a bit of a briefing there. Clearly, what we heard there was an effort to keep the focus on Michael and to humanize him, to give us more information about this young man. Who he is as a kid, and the thing that he enjoys doing.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He's a Boy Scout, a basketball player, and A and B student. Confirming what we reported that he has attention deficit disorder but the parents who, who by the way, will coming and talking to us in a short while for the first time.

That his lack of the medication, Ritalin, should not have any influence on how he will be able to conduct himself as the effort intensifies here.

What we heard in this briefing from Tina White, who you see behind, who is the spokesperson for the National Park Service, she says what they did overnight was to go to computers and identify 35 separate specific areas that they are going to investigate in a very methodical way, using more teams on the ground than they have up until now.

She said and this, of course, is significant, quote, "We're are still calling this a search and rescue". Which, of course, means they have not given up hope at all. They figure there's still a very good chance they are going to have a happy outcome of this. As I said, they are going to really fan out and do their search today.

TINA WHITE, RANGER, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE: We have about 25 search and rescue teams going out today. We have multiple dog teams that will also be going out today.


Last night I did just receive a report that one dog did show an area of interest in one of the high probability areas near the primitive camp site. There was no -- there were no clues or no additional information found in that area. But as far as the dogs themselves, there was just one -- one area of interest to the dogs last night. But again, nothing was found to back that up and confirm it.


FRANKEN: Funny, this is really almost an inch-by-inch search. We're talking about very dense rugged area, very treacherous, lots of ravines, lots of difficult possibilities. They have really looked very hard at that, and thus far, the good news is they have not had any success with that.

In addition to that, they expanded the search beyond the park boundaries, in the hope that perhaps Michael left the park and is walking along some road. And consistent with that, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children has put out a flyer, treating that now as a possibility, which is still another course and hope for optimism.

They continue to say this is something that could go on for several days before the outlook became too bleak -- Tony.

HARRIS: OK, Bob Franken following this story for us. We appreciate it, Bob. Thanks.

COLLINS: Alberto Gonzales clinging to his job this morning as the nation's attorney general. The latest threat in the stacks of e- mails his Justice Department has turned over to Congress. They reveal White House concerns over firing of eight federal prosecutors. CNN's Justice Correspondent Kelli Arena, scouring those documents.

And Kelli, now that you had a chance to look through some of these, what concerns you the most? KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: You know, Heidi, you get 3,000 documents, you put five people in a room, and you are going to get five different answers, right?


ARENA: I can tell you that there is an exchange from February, after the prosecutors were fired. They focus on former U.S. Attorney Bud Cummins.

Justice officials discussed whether he should testify before Congress about his dismissal. And they lay out a series of troublesome questions, like well, how would he answer? Did you resign voluntarily? Who told you? What did they say? Cummins' dismissal comes up in other e-mails as well, Heidi.

A Justice official describes the attorney general as extremely upset at what his number two man told Congress about Cummins' dismissal. The Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty told senators that Cummins was pushed out to make room for an associate of Karl Rove's.

Now, Justice officials say that Gonzales thought the dismissal was only due to poor performance. So, there's at least one exchange, Heidi, that will get lawmakers going.

COLLINS: Well, where does all of this leave Gonzales at this point? Obviously there's been talk now for several days about should he stay, should he go. Where do you think he stands?

ARENA: Publicly the White House says that he still has the confidence of the president. That is the man who counts. I mean, the attorney general serves at the president's pleasure. And these two men go back a very long way. But that doesn't mean that the rumor mill isn't overloaded with names of possible replacements, everyone from Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff to former Solicitor General Ted Olson, former Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson.

So there's lots of yakking going on out there. The body isn't cold yet. He still has a job. And for now at least, the White House says that you know, he's their man.

COLLINS: OK, very good. Kelli Arena watching all this and reading the documents for us. Thanks so much, Kelli.

ARENA: You're welcome.

COLLINS: Speaking of talk of the town who would replace Alberto Gonzales as the nation's top prosecutor? We'll go inside the Beltway with a veteran Washington reporter to discuss that, coming up in the show.

HARRIS: A search for missing miners underway right now after what's being called Russia's deadliest mining disaster in a decade. A methane explosion tore through a coal mine in southwestern Siberia. More than 100 are dead, some of those killed were mine officials who were inspecting a new hazard alarm system. About 100 people were rescued; several miners still missing. Russian coal mines, we should tell you, are notoriously run down and outdated, though this mine was relatively modern. Still, mine disasters are common in the region.

COLLINS: Another high profile execution in Iraq as a U.S.-led war enters its fifth year. Saddam Hussein's former vice president hanged for his role in the killing of more than 140 Shiites. More from CNN's Kyra Phillips in Baghdad.

Kyra, how did this execution come about?

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN BAGHDAD CORRESPONDENT: It happened actually, Heidi, just before dawn. This is the fourth man, in addition to Saddam Hussein himself, in this inner circle of Saddam to be hanged so far.


COLLINS: Kyra, pardon me. I'm sorry to have to interrupt you. We have to get back to our story. I want to go back to the microphones. We're learning more about the situation with the missing Boy Scout. We wants to go straight to that, in just a few minutes. I believe we have some authorities coming to the microphone.

As you well know -- actually we believe it's the father coming to the microphone, the gentleman in the hat, next to the spokesperson that we just heard from a few minutes ago. Let's take a minute now to listen to the father of 12-year-old Michael Auberry.


KENT AUBERRY, MICHAEL'S FATHER: I didn't have a lot of sleep and we're a little raw emotionally. So, please bear with me.

My partner, law partner, Julie Thiel (ph), who my wife thought was the person least likely to let me say something dumb, she's here to help me.

I have -- I have no statement, but we did understand -- we're not seeing the media coverage so we don't know what's out there, but we understand that with nothing to say that there is a lot of speculation. If I can help tamp that down because what we got here is our son who is lost, lost somewhere out there. And we don't know where he is and we got great professionals looking for him. And we're just waiting for the news.


AUBERRY: We got a lot of support. We got a lot of people praying for us. We got friends and family. And we have our good moments and our bad moments.


AUBERRY: Well, that we feel -- we know about the prayer services, that word's getting to us. And we -- we feel the support. I know that if it were a situation where throwing numbers of amateurs at the situation would help, we'd flood all these hills. But we got professionals, and can't say enough about them.

QUESTION: Do you have any insight how this could happen? Was he a little homesick when he left for this camping trip?

AUBERRY: No. He was at -- I took a call for him right before he left. And he was little disappointed (AUDIO GAP) close friends were not on the trip. And we talked about, you know, there are some Scouts on this trip I don't think had been on another trip. And how easily he makes friends and that, you know, he's going to come out of this with new friends. And the last thing he said to me was, "Well, if I come back and I didn't have a good time, will you give me $5?" . And I said, "Michael, I won't do that for you, and if you come back and you tell me you didn't have a good time, I promise you we'll have a good time on Sunday."

So that's -- and he was . So and he was -- he was in good spirits. Michael sometimes -- we need to give him a word of encouragement, or two to do something he really likes to do. He likes to chill, so sometimes we need to say Michael, it's time for an adventure, or something.

QUESTION: If he comes back are you going to give him $5?

AUBERRY: He's going to get the $5. Yes. And we'll do something fun.

QUESTION: Does your son have a cell phone?


QUESTION: (OFF MIC) Quite a bit of attention being paid to the fact he had ADD. Could you give us an insight into what influence that might have?

AUBERRY: Well, that is part of Michael just like 1,000 other things are part of Michael. And the professionals asked us to tell them everything we could. And as part of that we explained to them what he -- what his, ADHD condition. You know, when they had that press information sheet -- I'm sorry, the sheet going out for the description, they described it as a medical problem. It's not a medical problem.

It's a different way of thinking. We shared it with the professionals because we wanted them to know. We wanted them to know everything there was. Michael has gone on camping trips without his medication. It's something he takes to help him primarily during school hours.

And when we were concerned about him not having his medication, it's just we wanted him to have every tool to help him deal with what he's facing, just like we'd like him to have his wool hat and his gloves. We'd like him to have medication that helps him focus a little better than he would otherwise. Michael is the same kid when he's off the medication as when he's on medication but it does help him with tasks. He's not a linear thinker. My wife and I are lawyers so we are. But there are many things about Michael's personality that may be connected with the ADHD, that are really wonderful, really positive. His imagination, his creativity; so he's not the kid with ADHD who is lost in the mountains. He is our son who is lost in the mountain. That's a fact we gave to the rescuers, so they'd know, to help fill in the puzzle as they try to find him.

QUESTION: The fact that he does not have his medication (OFF MIC)

AUBERRY: It's as worrisome to us as if he had left his coat. We want him to have 100 percent of what he needs. We want him to be 100 percent and we weren't able to give him that extra edge that might have helped him, might have noticed, whereas he's a very contemplative kid. I can see him being interested in something, looking around and not realizing where he is at that time, and at that moment. Not for the rest of the time but at that moment I would have felt better to know that he had everything that the medication would give him. But he does great without the medication, too.


AUBERRY: He's not a First Class Scout.


AUBERRY: He's officially a Tenderfoot. All he lacked for Second Class Scout is a board of review, which is when they question him. He's had one summer of -- one week of Boy Scout Camp with what they -- at Powattan (ph), which has what they call the Brown Sea Island Training which is special training for entering Scouts, then between Webelos (ph) and Boy Scouts he probably had -- we were trying to count -- maybe eight overnight camping trips.


AUBERRY: Well, they do a great job in the Scouts of educating the kids about what to be aware of and tip tips. And I'm hopeful that Michael has taken those to heart. One thing that's given me comfort is that one of his favorite books a few years ago was "Hatchet", which is about a kid on a plane that crashes in the wilderness, and the pilot dies, and the kid's all by himself. And it's about how he survives in the wilderness.

When Michael was at Joan Regina (ph) Elementary they spent a lot of time on that book. It was I don't know how long, but it was weeks taking apart chapter by chapter. I think he's got some of that book in his mind. So, in my fantasy when they find him he will be making beef jerky somewhere, or something like that. He's got a lot of resources, internal resources to draw from.

QUESTION: What's the name of the book?

AUBERRY: I think it's "Hatchet." Because that's the only thing the boy had in the -- .

QUESTION: We've been told that, you know, he stayed back, didn't go on the hike. The group came back, they all had lunch. Have you been able to find out anything from the leader who stayed back with him, his state of mind, did he appear out of the ordinary in any way for his regular behavior, that he would suddenly disappear after eating?

AUBERRY: Michael is a late and sound sleeper. I've heard -- I've talked to the Scout Leaders, I talked to the Scouts, and there was nothing, nothing was going on. He was in good spirits and he was -- I think he was -- he ate a good lunch. Chatting, laughing with the boys. And then was walking around with I think some Pringles in the mess kit. The next moment, so sounds like a blink of the eye, he was gone.

QUESTION: You decided to share with the world your feelings, and all that type of thing. Which I know must be hard. Can you take us inside the family a little bit, talk about what you and your wife, and daughter, are saying to each other as this is going on?

AUBERRY: I'll be honest with you, is that one reason I did not want to do this is we want the focus to be on Michael. I'm not particularly talkative about my emotions and my wife's emotions. We're on a roller coaster. We're up and down and up and down. We have good moments, we have bad moments. When we found out that -- it was a bad particularly bad moment when we knew they were dragging below the dam.

But that's not why I agreed to come out here, to talk about my emotions. I prefer -- that's my private -- that's my wife's private, you know.

QUESTION: Are you joining in the search itself? How are you spending your days?

AUBERRY: The first night, the first day, I got the call from the Scout master who was -- called me as soon as he heard. And I went up to the site. When I got there, there was one rescue squad vehicle down at the bottom. I hiked up calling to Michael. When I got to the campsite they wanted -- they wanted me to stay at the campsite. They wanted me to get me to Michael as soon as they found rather than wandering all over.

But I did search that morning, from 4 to 6 or something like that, when they found the mess kit we sent a team up there to do that. And but I'm not a professional. There are some -- I took a spill in a forge. And I realize that the guys up there were worried about me as well as Michael. I think they wanted me gone.

And I've also done -- participated and gone out with when they allowed us amateurs to go out. That helped me because I was very concerned, if any of you have been up to the trail to the camp, that there's a kind of a steep embankment down one side and a creek at the bottom. I was extremely -- one of my fears was Michael in the night stepped off and roll down into the creek.

But having crawled up, and down and up, and down that part, I know that there's no way anybody could fall and get all the way down. They are going to get snagged. So I probably set back the recovery efforts by trying to search, but it eased my mind one of the fears I had was not realistic.

QUESTION: (OFF MIC) Or do you feel like they finally have a target and they will be that much closer to finding your son?

AUBERRY: I have -- I've been in the command trailer a couple times. They are gracious to explain the search strategy to me. They are smart people, they are professional people. Our confidence is in them. And what they're doing -- when my wife and I talk about sounds like where our Michael would be.

QUESTION: (OFF MIC) ...find safe haven, wait for people to come to them when they get lost. Are you afraid he is too active to stay put, and wait for rescuers to come to him?

AUBERRY: I'm afraid of a lot of things. I'm not afraid that he's wandering around now. I think -- I think he's hunkered down somewhere. I hope he's found a warm place and is sitting still.

QUESTION: Has he ever run away before?


QUESTION: Sir, parents put a lot of trust in organizations like Boy Scouts and adults that have their kids at various times, over night, on trips like this. Talk about whether your trust in this group has been shaken at all by this?

AUBERRY: I trusted the Boy Scouts to take my son on this camping trip. When we find him I'm going to trust the same group to take him on his next camping trip. I know those guys well. They have been up there day and night searching for him.

I know that he got the highest level of supervision -- and you know, someone asked me yesterday if there is anyone to blame. There is no one to blame. In the blink of an eye this happened and I hope that soon we'll know the story.


QUESTION: Any parting words. You know, the whole world is watching this now.

AUBERRY: We feel the prayers and we feel the concern.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much. Best of luck.

QUESTION: What's your age.

AUBERRY: Me? I'm 50. Sorry.

QUESTION: Your law partner's name is?

AUBERRY: Julie Thiel (ph).


COLLINS: You have been listening to the father of 12-year-old Michael Auberry, this press conference coming to us from McGrady, North Carolina. The father talking quite a bit about the different bits of roller coaster ride, as we often hear in situations like this. You can see the pain on his face there.

But he does say that he has quite a bit of confidence in the rescue crews that are out there. We know that overnight they were using some heat sensing equipment that was used in some of these cold temperatures. We heard from the National Park Service, as well, saying that the worst thing that could happen is not really the cold or snow, but actually more so rain, as these search efforts for 12-year-old Michael Auberry go on.

Dog scent actually turned out to be a dead end. Unfortunately, we heard about that overnight. So that was unfortunate. Actually, no new leads here as we talk about this story. He's been missing for almost three days now.

Doughton Park, that's on the Blue Ridge Parkway there. We'll continue to follow this. And certainly, of course, keep our fingers crossed for a positive outcome here.

HARRIS: Picked up information on the book "Hatchet".

COLLINS: Yeah, it was interesting. How he said that it was a book about a plane crash, a little boy survived on his own, for quite a few days.

HARRIS: It is a book by Gary Paulson. It's a book that Michael's class read and studied recently. And you're absolutely right, it's about this boy named Brian, who survives a plane crash. The boy is on his way to visit his dad and spend the summer with his dad. Brian lands the plane and learns to survive in the wilderness. You heard Kent say there that he believes his son is thinking about the story right now.

COLLINS: So they are hoping he is hunkered down somewhere. That's what his dad said as well. We'll watch that for you.

HARRIS: Still to come in the NEWSROOM, sent to the gallows, Iraq executes another member of Saddam Hussein's regime. That's coming up in the NEWSROOM

COLLINS: Privacy versus security, the FBI accused of abusing its power. A hot topic on Capitol Hill this morning. And we're taking you there, coming up in the NEWSROOM.

HARRIS: Travelers nightmare: You're on the move, but your luggage is going nowhere fast. What you can do when your luggage is lost, in the NEWSROOM.

COLLINS: It's life on a ledge. A glass skywalk opens at the lip of the Grand Canyon.


CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Chris Lawrence high above the Grand Canyon. Coming up, we will show you your first look at the new Skywalk, tell you why some people never wanted it built.


COLLINS: See, Chris didn't think it was enough to walk on that, he had to go in a helicopter.



COLLINS: It's so high it actually takes a moon walker to christen it. One giant step, coming up, in the NEWSROOM.


HARRIS: Here is a question. How much confidence does the president really have in Attorney General Alberto Gonzales? To the White House now and White House Correspondent Ed Henry.

Ed, a pretty strong indication this morning, I'd say?

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, apparently a lot of confidence, Tony. The president still standing behind his man as he did last Wednesday in Mexico. CNN confirming that this morning 7:15 a.m., in the Oval Office, the president himself picked up the phone, called Alberto Gonzales and reaffirmed support.

Tony Snow, the White House spokesman, saying that the president gave, quote, "strong backing" of the attorney general. Snow adding that the president feels that after what they are calling an unprecedented document dump, some of 3,000 pages as you know, last night from the Justice Department, combined with the fact that Justice Department officials are now voluntarily offering to testify to clear up all the questions in this matter, the White House feels the controversy is dying down.

But on the other hand, clearly they are still not making clear whether or not White House officials, like Karl Rove will be voluntarily testifying. In fact, all indications are that the White House does not want Rove and others to be testifying publicly and under oath. They would rather that be done behind closed doors. Of course, there's been already been a threat of a subpoena from Democrats on Capitol Hill. That issue going to be dealt with early this afternoon on Capitol Hill. The chief White House lawyer Fred Fielding going up there to negotiate with Democrats on all this.

But what's really going on when you cut it all back, is that the White House is furious about this report last night on the Web site that basically reported that the White House had sanctioned outside Republican officials to start canvassing, looking for replacement candidates for attorney general, that even though publicly the White House was insisting they are behind Gonzales, privately they are looking for a plan B.

White House insisting nothing could be further from the truth and they want to get it from the man himself, the president calling the attorney general saying he is behind him. But of course, we've got to remember, presidents always behind his cabinet secretaries until the very last minute. He was behind Donald Rumsfeld right before he got fired as well.


HARRIS: Oh, Ed, is this unwavering, is this unqualified support? Is this, you know, I'm behind you, don't you even think about stepping down because I'm not firing you? How do we parse this?

HENRY: I think you have to take it at face value for now that clearly the president is saying with this phone call that he you know, is giving his strong backing to the attorney general. But the point as you well know, that political situations change very rapidly in this town. And the strong backing today can be sayonara tomorrow. And it all depends on where this thing heads.

And I think the thing to watch is one thing to release documents. It's who is going to testify. And this Karl Rove matter is really the crux of it. If the White House refuses to have Rove testify and then the Democrats go ahead and subpoena Rove and it becomes some sort of a showdown over executive privilege, the White House is going to protect Karl Rove before they protect Al Gonzales.

The fact is they can get another attorney general but Karl Rove is their lead guy here at the White House. They are going to protect him at all costs.


HARRIS: White House correspondent, Ed Henry for us this morning, Ed, thanks.

HENRY: Thank you.

COLLINS: Another high profile execution in Iraq as the U.S.-led war enters its fifth year. Saddam Hussein's former vice president hanged for his role in the killing of more than 140 Shiites.

More now from CNN's Kyra Phillips, she is in Baghdad this morning. Kyra, there have been a lot of contrasts and comparisons made already to this execution and that of Saddam Hussein.

PHILLIPS: That's right. Let me tell you more about this V.P., it happened just before dawn, Heidi. He was the fourth man in Saddam Hussein's inner circle to be hanged, that's in addition to Saddam Hussein himself. You remember the controversy over that and the cell phone coverage of that hanging.

So far nothing to surface about Taha Yassin Ramadan. He was a V.P. when Saddam Hussein's regime was ousted in 2003. He was sentenced to death actually last month by the High Tribunal for his role in the killing of 148 men and boys in Dujail, Iraq after a failed assassination attempt on Saddam Hussein.

However, Ramadan had originally been sentenced to life in prison for those murders. However, back in December, the tribunal's appeals chamber said the sentence was much too lenient and asked the court to resentence him. That's what happened today. He died by hanging.

The other two who were hanged, Awa Bonzar (ph), he was Saddam Hussein's chief judge and head of the former revolutionary court. Also Barzhan Hassan (ph), Saddam's half brother who was formerly the head of his secret intelligence.

Now, the next trial that we're going to be following will be the Onsell's (ph) trial. You remember, that was the horrendous gassing of up to 180,000 Kurds. We've seen the video, we've seen the mass graves. We've been talking about this since even before the war. We'll be following that trial, the infamous defendant, as you know, Chemical Ali.

COLLINS: That's right. And Kyra, we also know, certainly more reports of violence in Iraq today. What can you tell us about all of that?

PHILLIPS: It happens every day, as you know Heidi, I told you about it yesterday. Today, this morning already two car bombs in central Baghdad, killed seven people and wounded dozens of other Iraqis.

Those two I can tell you police said the first car bomb exploded near a police station, a common tactic with the insurgents. It killed five people there, wounded 17 Iraqis. The second car bomb also exploded in central Baghdad, this time in the district of Koradis (ph), the predominantly Shiite neighborhood. It killed two people and wounded at least seven others.

Then there were a number of other incidents that came across since this morning. Right now it's about 4:41 Baghdad time. In Baghdad, nine other people we were told were wounded in various attacks that included a bomb in a mini bus, also a car bomb outside of a mosque and a mortar attack on an outdoor market.

At the same time we're told from the U.S. military that coalition forces have detained at least nine insurgents today across the country during raids that they targeted on the al Qaeda in Iraq network.

That's what we have from here today, Heidi.

COLLINS: All right, Kyra Phillips reporting for us live from Baghdad this morning. Kyra, thanks.

HARRIS: Your personal business under scrutiny by the FBI. A Justice Department probe finds a law aimed at terrorists may have been used against ordinary citizens. And today, the house committee hears from the man who did the investigation. He says FBI agents routinely abused the Patriot Act to gather information on U.S. citizens. At issue, what's called the National Security Letters. The FBI can use them to get phone, e-mail and banking records without a warrant. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales calls the problem quote "serious" but he defends the use of national security letters as vital to fighting the war on terror. Congress is deciding whether that Patriot Act provision should be revised to limit the FBI's power.

COLLINS: Chad Myers joining us now to take a look at the weather all across the country. How do things look out there Chad?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: A little spring-like today. In fact, 8:07 tonight, you know, I was saying earlier that we can't say spring forward, fall back anymore because we went ahead in winter. And some very sharp e-mailer viewer said well, how about march forward and fall back.

HARRIS: March forward.

COLLINS: I like it.

MYERS: How about that. There you go. So, we have now a new little tune to sing.


COLLINS: All right, very good. Thanks, Chad.

MYERS: Your welcome.

COLLINS: Air travelers nightmare, you're on the move but your luggage is going nowhere fast. What you can do when your luggage is lost in the NEWSROOM.

HARRIS: Multi-million-dollar homes, Pacific view, Hawaiian luxury for practically nothing. The good life in the NEWSROOM.

COLLINS: New home construction, is the housing market climbing out of its slump? We've got new numbers for you, coming up right here in the NEWSROOM.


COLLINS: A new economic snapshot, housing numbers out just a short time ago and the results are mixed. The Commerce Department says construction of new homes rose by nine percent last month. That's a better than expected rebound. Construction though fell by more than 14 percent in January to a nine-year low. Now the flip side. Builders' applications for new permits continued to fall last month. And that suggests more problems may be ahead for the housing industry. That's could affect everything from mortgage rates to financial markets. Speaking of?

HARRIS: Yes, well, what's the reaction of Wall Street this morning? The good folks at Petrohawk Energy Corporation with the opening bell. The DOW begins today at 12,226. Where are we -- flat. The DOW just up two points. The NASDAQ, oh we'll find out about that much later this morning. Maybe in a couple minutes. But we of course are going to be keeping an eye on the housing sector this morning. Susan Lisovicz in the NEWSROOM and Ali Velshi coming here in just a couple minutes as well.

COLLINS: Stranded by snow. Now passengers are flying home but their luggage is landing in limbo. Our Greg Hunter is in Philadelphia now.

Greg, how are all those travelers dealing with all the delays and the lost luggage? People getting angry?

GREG HUNTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT, PHILADELPHIA: Well, they are doing much better but first, a little prestory. This is one of the worst airports according to the government, for mishandseling bags. And so much so that one of the airlines here, U.S. Airways, committed millions of dollars in personnel to make it better, fix the problem.

Of course, no amount of money can defeat the weather. So what happened is you had passengers separated from their flights, separated from their bags.

We shot this video last night. Take a look at this. They were literally hundreds of bags in piles in one terminal to another, couple hundred here, a hundred there, a couple hundred there.

And there were people actually digging through the piles. And hey listen, lo and behold, finding their bags. So there's some good news there.

So, you know, the weather's a powerful thing and it separated their bags. On top of that U.S. Airways admitted that they had some personnel and computer glitches. But all of those things, the weather, computer glitches, all out of your control.

But here's what is in your control, here's what you can do. Number one, mark your bag. Mark it on the outside and mark it on the inside in case that tag gets torn off. Because the airport people will open your bag to see if they can find an address or a phone number. They will deliver it to you.

The next thing you need to do, get there early. Domestic flights, about an hour and a half. And a curbside check-in is the same as inside check-in. But if you check at curb side, you may want to tip. It's customary to tip. It may help you out getting your bag to the right location, of you know what I mean.

Also, too, make sure you take direct flights. If you are worried about your bags getting lost, direct flights much better than any kind of a flight with a layover or double layover, right? Somewhere where you stop with the bag, has to change planes.

And finally, your valuables, your personal items, your digital camera, your jewelry. Maybe a tooth brush, you know, a few things to get you by an overnight stay, those are the things you want to take on your carry-on luggage. And that way you can protect yourself.

There's a lot that's out of your control. There's a few things you can do to help your flying a little safer, a little more predictable in terms of getting your luggage. Back to you, Heidi.

COLLINS: Yes, and that toothbrush becomes a valuable item doesn't it, when you're spending the night in the airport, possibly.

HUNTER: A little bottle of mouthwash.

COLLINS: Greg, any idea when passengers are expected to get their bags back though?

HUNTER: Well, we talked to U.S. Air. And U.S. Air of course, does about 800 of the 1200 flights here so they are the big player here in Philadelphia. And they are trying to get everybody's luggage to them today.

And listen, these airlines do not want to lose luggage. It costs them money, it costs them time, it makes people angry. But U.S. Air has assured us that they are working their tails off to get those bags to people. So, I think they will do it.

COLLINS: All right, Greg Hunter coming to us live from Philadelphia this morning. Greg, thank you.

LAWRENCE: I'm Chris Lawrence live on top of the Grand Canyon where some are calling this man-made sky walk sacrilege. Others just plain stunning. See for yourself and make your own decision coming up in the NEWSROOM.


HARRIS: If you build it will they come? That's what many are wondering at the rim of the Grand Canyon, a grand project and a grand opening today.

CNN's Chris Lawrence is there for us this morning. All right, Chris. When is the grand opening official time?

LAWRENCE: Just a few hours from now, Tony. There will be a ceremony to officially open the skywalk. Of course, the public will not be allowed until one week from now.

Let's give you a wider look. As the sun starts to come up over the canyon and give you a look at what the skywalk looks like. After that ceremony in a few hours, we'll actually be able to get a chance to take a few steps out on the skywalk which should be quite a view coming up a little bit later this afternoon.

The background to the skywalk is from the -- the tribe here is really a very small tribe and very poor. Some of the tribe members say that they don't have a grocery store within 50 miles, they don't have a gas station nearby. Unemployment here is at about 50 percent.

They're hoping that this stunning view will entice a lot of tourists to make a day trip out here. They're not going for those four million people who visit the Grand Canyon National Park. They are trying to attract the 40 million people who visit Las Vegas every year hoping that they will make the two to three-hour drive out here to visit.

Now, critics say that this is you know, it is an architectural wonder but at the same time so is the Eiffel Tower and they wouldn't want to see the Eiffel Tower built on top of the Grand Canyon. Some of the critics say that there is already massive land speculation going on which will lead to overdevelopment, in effect bringing Vegas out here to the Grand Canyon.

So, you've got right now this great divide between the tribe and some of its critics.


KIERAN SUCKLING, CTR. FOR BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY: The Grand Canyon has struck awe into humanity for the last 10,000 years. And no one seemed to need more than the canyon could offer by itself.

ROBERT BRAVO JR., HUALAPAI TRIBE: Look at Niagara Falls for an example, I guess, you know. I mean, did they desecrate that? And is that OK for them to do that?


LAWRENCE: Some of the tribal leaders say there is something in human nature that draws us to come right to the edge and want to look over. They say the skywalk is giving people a chance to take that one step further.

HARRIS: Chris, what do we know about the deal between the developer of this project and the tribe in question here?

LAWRENCE: It was a Las Vegas developer that actually paid $30 million to build the skywalk. The way that works out is they would have to get about 400,000 extra visitors in order to recoup that money. The tribe and the investor will split the earnings for a while but eventually the tribe will take ownership of the skywalk.

HARRIS: It looks fabulous. And have you talked to anyone who has been out there? Who's actually taken that walk?

LAWRENCE: Yes, the tribe members, the Hualapai tribe members were allowed to privately come out yesterday and take their first walk on it. Some of them were very excited. Even though some of them said they wanted to go out and see it but they didn't necessarily agree with it being built here. So, even within the tribe itself there's still somewhat of a schism.

HARRIS: Yes, Chris Lawrence for us. Chris, appreciate it this morning. Thank you.

COLLINS: An incredible opportunity. Huge, beautiful, multi- million-dollar homes on the Hawaiian coast. How does 150 bucks a month sound? Nice. Tell you the story coming up in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COLLINS: Here's a good thing. You already know to catch us weekday mornings from nine until noon Eastern. But did you know you can take us with you anywhere beyond those three hours on your iPod. CNN NEWSROOM podcasts available 24/7 at the gym, the grocery. Right on your iPod.

HARRIS: That is so much better than iTunes, good stuff, Heidi.

Imagine this. Low income housing in Martha's Vineyard. Or in Malibu. Well, you could find that one of Hawaii's most exclusive but expensive areas.

The story now from Ben Gutierrez, affiliate KITV.


BEN GUTIERREZ, KITV REPORTER (voice-over): Marble floors, granite countertops, brass faucets, bathtub jacuzzis. Thousands of square feet in living space all for $150 a month, courtesy of Genshiro Kawamoto, who opened up four of the houses he'll rent at that price.

GENSHIRO KAWAMOTO, REAL ESTATE MOGUL (through translator): Because the most are foreign people can help the most or least fortunate people.

GUTIERREZ: Kawamoto says he received 3,000 letters from people saying they were part of low income native Hawaiian families. He says he picked the families according to the children they have, with a family of 10 or more staying in one of the larger houses.

KAWAMOTO: It's a 40 to 50 children will be living in this area. Then I would like to watch them grow and I'm so looking forward to their future.

GUTIERREZ (on camera): This being a home on Kahala (ph) Avenue you would expect it to have a pool. Well, it has, well, had a swimming pool.

(voice-over): And if the families damaged the multi-million dollar properties?

KAWAMOTO: Then I don't care. It's OK.

GUTIERREZ: Kawamoto says he has chosen the first four families he wants to realize a dream of living on Kahala Avenue. They'll get a first look at their new homes Thursday and will move in Sunday.

In Kahala, Ben Gutierrez KITV for island television news.


COLLINS: Combat zone rescues, the front line stories of winged warriors. They swoop in to pick up troops in harm's way. A CNN exclusive coming up in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COLLINS: Good morning everybody, I'm Heidi Collins.

HARRIS: And I'm Tony Harris for the second hour in the NEWSROOM this morning, stay informed. Here's what's on the rundown. One phone call says it all. President Bush standing by his