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CNN Live Today

Deadly Plane Skid in Chicago; New Jersey Snow Storm; Hostages In Iraq; Holiday Shipping Tips

Aired December 09, 2005 - 10:00   ET


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: There she is, Katie Baritone (ph). It is her last day as associate producer in Atlanta for us. She did a really excellent job and so much so, so good, that she's going to be producing the weekend mornings on CNN, which we want you to watch because, well, she's one of the many people that prop our sorry, you know what's, up. And so we thank you, Katie, for your good efforts on AMERICAN MORNING.
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Bonn voyage, Katie, and we're glad you're still with the CNN family.

We have to get right to the . . .

MILES O'BRIEN: She looks good there, does she?

COSTELLO: She does. She looks terrific.

MILES O'BRIEN: Yes, put her on the air. Get that woman a contract.

COSTELLO: Now a woman who has a contract. Daryn Kagan is standing by to take you through the rest of the morning.

Good morning, Daryn.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: I want Miles to represent me. Agent Miles.

MILES O'BRIEN: We could do that for you.


MILES O'BRIEN: Ten percent? Ten percent, give or take, (INAUDIBLE).

KAGAN: Much appreciated agent (ph), how about that?

MILES O'BRIEN: We'll do lunch.

KAGAN: Yes, we'll do lunch.

OK, you guys have a great weekend in snowy New York.

MILES O'BRIEN: All right.

KAGAN: And we are talking about the snow. A lot of parts of the country digging out today. Others are getting ready. Heavy snow is the big story today.

Live pictures right now from Chicago. That's where a plane skidded off a runway and into a street. We have new information about the victims.

And in the Northeastern U.S., the flakes started falling early this morning. It may be a while before they stop. The latest from the CNN Weather Center as our meteorologists track the storm. That's ahead on CNN LIVE TODAY.

First, though, let's go ahead and check what else is happening "New in the News."

A Black Hawk helicopter is down north of Baghdad. The military says nobody was injured when that medical evacuation helicopter made a hard landing. No word yet on the cause. Elsewhere in Iraq, sporadic violence today left two people dead.

Here in the U.S., today is Valerie Plame's last day at the CIA. Friends say she wants to spend more time with her family. But one former co-worker said she didn't have much of a career left after her identity became part of a CIA leak investigation. Her husband, Joe Wilson, claims the administration outed Plame in retaliation for his criticism of the war.

And right now President Bush is leaving Washington area for Minneapolis to participate in a fund-raising for Minnesota Senate Candidate Mark Kennedy. His remarks today could include something on the war on Iraq. That's coming up at the 1:00 hour Eastern. The president plans a major speech on the war this coming Monday as the U.S. military marks 1,000 days in Iraq. We'll have more on that later this hour.

Good morning to you on this Friday morning. I'm Daryn Kagan at CNN Center in Atlanta.

Let's start with the snow and the problems it could have caused. Chicago's Midway Airport has reopened this morning. Investigators piecing together last night's deadly accident. Southwest Flight 1248 from Baltimore was landing in the middle of heavy snowfall. It skid across the runway, plowed through a fence and slammed into two vehicles on a city street. A six-year-old boy in one of those cars was killed. His parents and two siblings were injured. Four people in the second car were also hurt, as were three people on the plane.

Our Sean Callebs is at Midway with the latest.

Sean, hello.


You can see behind me the Southwest aircraft right smack-dab in the middle of Central Avenue after, as you mentioned, running off the runway, through the fence and slamming into those two vehicles.

Now we had a chance just a short while ago to talk with one of the passengers who was on that aircraft. They said that even from the beginning it was delayed a couple of hours heading out of Baltimore, then told to circle a few times, delayed about 30 minutes landing.

Now this runway is only about 6,500 feet and that is important because an aircraft this size really needs, at minimum, 4,900 feet to land safely. Now it's very cold, clear out right now. Conditions much different last night when that airplane was coming in. There was a tremendous amount of snow coming down. Snow on the runway. Snow on the ground. And passenger Michael Abate (ph) describes exactly what it was like as the aircraft landed and then made contact with a fence at the end of the runway.


MICHAEL ABATE: It felt like a normal landing. I mean, we landed hard on all three wheels but didn't realize that something was going awry until we were not able to decelerate like normal. And, you know, the terminal to my right, because I was at the exit window, went by pretty quickly and we were still at a pretty good clip. That's when I realized something wasn't going well.


CALLEBS: I had a chance to talk with Michael and he said that really the, oh my God moment, in his words, as the aircraft went through that fence and about that time the front landing gear came off and the aircraft dug down into the ground. He said he felt his body to make sure he was still all there in one piece. And secondly, all 98 passengers able to get out of that aircraft. He said in just a matter of minutes, perhaps three minutes. Three of those passengers suffering minor injuries, taken to the hospital.

But as Michael said, he got out of the aircraft, he realized he was standing in about eight inches of snow and his first thought is, why did we attempt a landing in weather like this? Visibility was somewhat limited. A lot of snow on the ground.

The CEO of Southwest Airlines said that the landing was done all within proper restraints and also said that it was up to the pilot to make that final call. However, Southwest's CEO says he does not know the condition of the runway at the time of this accident. We know that authority had been grooming the runway, plowing the runway throughout the even.

But last night, Daryn, it was snowing. It was coming down very thick, very hard over a number of hours. So certainly an uphill battle for the maintenance crews here at Midway.

KAGAN: And, Sean, I want to add this. CNN has learned the identity of this six-year-old boy who died in that crash. He is Joshua Woods. He and his family from Leroy, Indiana. And he was pronounced dead yesterday at 7:45 p.m. So sad for this family.

In fact, could this have even been worse? The area around Midway Airport very built up with homes and businesses. An airport that a long time ago was originally designed to handle much smaller planes. CALLEBS: Yes, exactly. And really a couple of things stand out. First, you're exactly right. There are so many homes, businesses, a few taverns in this area. We talked to a number of eyewitnesses and people who last night said that they always feared that something like this could possibly happen.

Secondly, because the weather was so bad, so much snow on the road, so much snow coming down, virtually bumper to bumper traffic. So you can only think that on a road this big, as that aircraft came through the fence, these people were simply sitting ducks.

And I was at O'Hare Airport ready to take off to fly back home last night, watching the weather get worse as day turned to dusk and then night wondering, do I even want to get on the plane at this hour because, despite the de-icing, despite efforts to clear O'Hare, the crews there were simply overwhelmed, overburdened trying to keep up with that. So certainly people here at Midway, even with their best efforts.

FAA, NTSB, National Transportation Safety Board, are on the ground here. As they say, the investigation continues.


KAGAN: Sean Callebs live from Midway Airport in Chicago. Thank you.

Here are some fast facts on Chicago's Midway Airport. It's the second largest air facility in the city after the more famous, and more traveled, O'Hare International Airport that Sean was just talking about. Nonetheless, Midway serves more than 17 million travelers a year. It's closely bordered by streets lined with homes and businesses, which that satellite image gives you a good picture of. And it was just over two years ago another airline skidded off that same runway. So you can see from these pictures this ATA 757 stopped short of the fence and it did not reach the roadway.

Well, last night's accident came to the 33rd anniversary of a horrific crash at Midway. A plane that was descending for landing clipped several homes before finally crashing into a house. Two people inside that home were killed, along with 43 people aboard the plane. Among the victims, Chicago area Congressman George Collins and the wife of Watergate figure Howard Hunt. In fact, when Dorothy Hunt's purse was found, it was stuffed with more than $10,000 in cash. Conspiracy theorists whispered of possible sabotage. Investigators later disproved that theory.

Well, what about the weather today, both in the Midwest and Chicago and across the country. Bonnie Schneider is here looking at that.

Hi, Bonnie.


KAGAN: More on the storm now. That same storm dumped snow over the nation's mid section. Now, as Bonnie was pointing out, it's moving eastward. Indiana is digging out from as much as eight inches of snow. Strong, gusty winds and frigid temperatures moved in as the snow moved out. Next stop, the state line in western Ohio. The first major snowstorm of the season left about 5 « inches covering Dayton. This is what the afternoon commute looked like in Cincinnati. Slow for the nati (ph). Slow going in the commute. The so-called queen city wore a snowy crown up about five inches.

And the snow's easterly track also left a white trail across Pennsylvania. Some areas have seen several inches of snow. And welcome to December in Connecticut. Public schools are closed and roads are becoming treacherous. The fast-moving storm could dump ten inches or more.

That snow is also mixed with rain and freezing rain in much of the northeast and that combination has made for a slow going morning commute. CNN's Chris Huntington is posted along the New Jersey Turnpike and has the view from Secaucus.

Good morning.


And as Bonnie was mentioning, and indeed as you just mentioned, warmer temperatures coming in at the tail end of this storm. And, indeed, right now we are experiencing what I would describe as sort of a mix of freezing and regular drizzle. Very light, but the sky is lighting up. It's pretty clear that we have seen the bulk of this weather system pass through here. Just an hour ago it was snowing very, very heavily.

I'd say total accumulation here, we're in Secaucus, New Jersey, which is near Newark Airport. Across the Hudson River from New York City. We got maybe four to five inches here. We're hearing about eight to 10 inches as you go further west inland into New Jersey and into higher elevations.

All in all, I would say the traffic that we've been able to gauge here along the New Jersey Turnpike, which is a major, major artery in this part of the northeast and right here a major feeder into New York City, the traffic's been moving pretty well. You can see it behind me here. It's trucking along. For a while there was a 35 miles per hour speed limit imposed up and down the entire length of the Jersey Turnpike. As conditions improve, folks will no doubt, as they often do on the Jersey Turnpike, take matters into their own hand and go as fast as they feel they safely can.

Frankly, Daryn, it's probably a good thing that this hit on a Friday. It gives all of the communities around here the weekend to clear it from the streets. It probably won't really be even much of an issue in the rush hour this afternoon. So all in all, at least here in this area of New Jersey and in the New York Metropolitan area, something that the folks here are pretty much shrugging off.

Daryn. KAGAN: I understand the CNN crew has been industrious this morning and doing a little construction there at your live shot location.

HUNTINGTON: Well, Daryn, you know, you can never do these reports alone. We've got quite a crew out here. Of course I'd like to introduce you to our -- the newest member of our team, Bob the intern. We rolled him out here for this shot. He's been good at getting some coffee. He's holding our spot for us very well and he's learning the ropes of just how we get these important reports out to folks at home.


KAGAN: Very good. I wasn't sure if that was an intern or management. Are you sure?

HUNTINGTON: Well, there's a short bridge between the two.

KAGAN: Oh, you and I will be looking for a job.

HUNTINGTON: Oh, that's always the case, Daryn.

KAGAN: You try to stay warm and dry out there in Secaucus. Thank you.

HUNTINGTON: Thanks a lot. You stay warm in the bureau there.

KAGAN: Oh, yes. Well, not quite as much of a challenge. Got the good end of that stick there.

The latest weather for you at home is as close as your computer. Be sure to stick to our continually updated Web site for severe weather. The latest images and forecast for your area. The address is

Much more on last night's deadly plane accident in Chicago is ahead on CNN LIVE TODAY. We'll head back there for a live report to get a better idea of the neighborhood where it happened.

But first, a deadline draws near that could mean death for western hostages in Iraq and appeals to spare their lives are coming from some very interesting places.

Plus, in medical news, Vioxx, the popular painkiller, under the microscope again this morning. Did authors of a study funded by Vioxx's maker leave out important information about the safety of the drug? Those stories and much more ahead when CNN LIVE TODAY returns.


KAGAN: The U.S. military in Iraq confirms that the body of an American contractor has been recovered near the city of Kirkuk. The unidentified victim was killed sometime Wednesday night. The discovery follows several Internet postings that claimed an American security consultant has been killed. Positive identification of the victim is still pending.

The family of American hostage Ronald Schulz say they presume he is still alive. Schulz worked as an electrician in Iraq and was abducted late last month. Video of him as a hostage surfaced earlier this week. Schulz's sister made a public plea to his captors in Iraq to communicate with them directly to discuss his safe release. I guess we'll have that sound.


JULIE SCHULZ, HOSTAGE'S SISTER: Where did the Iraqi people have concerns regarding the U.S. government presence in their country. However, murdering Ron will not solve these issues.


KAGAN: The fate of four other western hostages in Iraq hangs in the balance today. They've been threatened with death if Iraqi prisoners are not released. CNN's Bob Franken has the latest on that.


BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT, (voice over): They are seen on newly released video, Tom Fox of Virginia and one of the three other hostages, appearing as their kidnappers extended their execution deadline until Saturday. In addition to Fox, the three include a Canadian and two British citizens. In an earlier tape, an American accent is heard.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As a representative of Christian peacemaker teams, we feel that continued American and British occupation is not in the best interest of the Iraqi people.

FRANKEN: While members of Fox's Quaker group back home demonstrate their support, family members wait and desperately hope.

KATHERINE FOX, DAUGHTER OF HOSTAGE: I want to be able to communicate just how loved my father is. But more than that, I just want to hug him. I want to find a way to give back the strength he has given to me.

FRANKEN: The pleas for the safety of the hostages have been heard around the world. Public statements by Islamic leaders. Even an al Qaeda leader, Abu Qatada, held in Britain, who said, release the four prisoners. In London, Home Secretary Jack Straw spoke out.

JACK STRAW, BRITISH FOREIGN SECRETARY: If the kidnappers want to get in touch with us, we want to hear what they have to say.

FRANKEN: President Bush has taken a harder line. No deals with terrorists.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We, of course, don't pay ransom for any hostages. What we will do, of course, is use our intelligence gathering to see if we can't help locate them.

FRANKEN: The ransom in this case, the release of all prisoners in Iraq in return for the release of these four.

We can't tell, of course, if there are secret negotiations going on. Trying to beat the new deadline before the kidnapers say they will kill all four hostages.

Bob Franken, CNN, Washington.


KAGAN: Iraq is preparing for a parliamentary elections scheduled for next Thursday. And, as in the past, the association of Muslim scholars says it will not participate. However, the Sunni group says it won't ask other Sunnis to join its boycott. The association says voting would legitimize the American presence in Iraq.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says as many as 20,000 U.S. troops could be coming home after the December 15th elections there. Rumsfeld telling CBS "NewsHour" Anchor Jim Lehrer that he expects the insurgency to intensify this week. He says opponents have a lot to lose.


DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: You think about what they're losing. The terrorists, the opponents. This is an enormous thing for them. If they fail to stop a democratic government with Iraq, with their own constitution, their own election, their own officials, a sovereign nation. If they don't stop that, they've lost something enormous. If they could have Iraq as a base for terrorism and an established caliphate that they could then expand and threaten moderate Muslim regimes in the region. So they have a lot at stake and I expect them to be putting a lot of cards on the table.


KAGAN: Rumsfeld pointed out that American troop levels, once as high as 160,000, already have been reduced to 155,000.

A couple of programming notes for you. All next week, Anderson Cooper reports live from Baghdad as Iraqis go to the polls in yet another historic election and the U.S. marks day 1,000 in the war. "Anderson Cooper 360" live from 10:00 until midnight Eastern Time.

Also coming on Sunday night at 8:00, CNN presents "1,000 Days In Iraq." We'll have the firsthand accounts of the battles in the field and the skirmishes in Washington. Hear the stories and witness the sacrifice Sunday night at 8:00 Eastern right here on CNN.

Counting down until Christmas. About this time every year comes the warning. If you're planning to ship those gifts, you better get started.


GERRI WILLIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, if you don't want to break the bank sending the gifts, not buying them, but sending them, you'll want to get started soon. "Five Tips" is next.


KAGAN: The calendar shows there are still 16 days until Christmas, but shippers are already impatiently tapping their feet. Time is quickly running out for some of your shipping options, including the least expensive ones. Our Personal Finance Editor Gerri Willis joins with us with her "Top Five Tips" on holiday shipping.

Gerri, good morning.

WILLIS: Hey, Daryn, good to see you.

You're absolutely right about these deadlines. They're right on top of us. If you want to send your gifts through the postal service and have them arrive in time by ground, that's the cheapest way to go, the best way to go, guess what, you've got to do it by tomorrow.

And if you want to send it UPS or FedEx, you've got until December 16th to send it by ground. If you're the procrastinator, however, and you like to send it overnight, you like to send it in a couple of days, you have until the 22nd via FedEx and UPS to get it there by the 23rd.

And, of course, as you know, Daryn, the United States Postal Service delivers on the 24th. That means you'd have to do your express shipping on the 23rd. But right there you can see all the deadlines if you're sending your parcels far away to loved ones who don't live in town.

KAGAN: Yes, I've been one of those who ends up spending more on the shipping than you do on the actual gift.


KAGAN: And I don't recommend it.

WILLIS: That's the worst.

KAGAN: Let's talk about actually packing the things on the boxes.

WILLIS: Well, don't use the old boxes if you can help it because, guess what, you're probably going to have an old address or something there that's only going to confuse the postal people. They won't know what to do with it. Do not use duct tape because it comes off of the packages really easily. Get that bubble, styrofoam, peanuts, all of that stuff out and use it because you really want to make sure the stuff is secure. One good idea, put your return address inside the package. That way if it breaks open, then they know where it's supposed to go to or where it could be returned to.

KAGAN: What if you're sending international?

WILLIS: International is really tricky. There are all kinds of complicated rules. For example, in Canada, sometimes you can have the recipients get charged duty if you send your gifts via one of the big retailers online. So you've got to be really careful about it. But if you want some details, go to the FedEx Web site. They've got great information on customs forms, taxes, fees and really complicated stuff, but they really help you navigate that.

KAGAN: You know, you get up there to the counter and you're already paying all this money and then they ask you, do you want to buy the insurance?

WILLIS: You know, look, FedEx, they ensure up to $100 just on every routine piece that you send through them. I only think you should do that if it's really extra special. And if it is really extra special, why are you sending it through the mail anyway is my question.


WILLIS: But if you really feel like you should have it ensured and you want to make sure that you'll have value if it, in fact, gets broken, it's not a bad idea. You can easily ensure up to $500 on USPS. The fees will vary and you can actually ensure up to $70,000 if you're going to send something really expensive.

KAGAN: Oh, send that to me. That works.

What if the special thing you're sending is breakable or perishable?

WILLIS: Well, if you're sending the fruit cake this year, Daryn.

KAGAN: No, I'm not doing that to you, Ger.

WILLIS: You're not? Oh, thank you.

KAGAN: I promise.

WILLIS: I didn't like the last one, so.

KAGAN: Yes, because it's my cooking, but that's a different segment.

WILLIS: If you're sending food, you should be sure that you wrap it very carefully. Send it overnight. Yes, overnight. And then make sure somebody's going to be home to receive it because you don't want it sitting outside in the snow or the rain or the slush, obviously.


WILLIS: You've got to take real care with that kind of thing, with the food in particular, because it is very difficult to send.

KAGAN: Very good.

You got your shopping done?

WILLIS: I do not have my shopping done. I've got to tell you about one extra special thing, though.


WILLIS: For mom and dad out there. If the kids are writing Santa Claus, the postal service has an address to send to Santa Claus. It's called the North Pole Christmas Cancellation. Look at this. Post Master, Fairbanks, Alaska. Deadline for letters is December 15th.

KAGAN: Oh, let's get that in.

WILLIS: You want to get that in quickly, Daryn.

KAGAN: Yes. And, you know what, we're going to hang on to that address and a little bit later we'll put that up again for folks to get that information.

WILLIS: Great idea.

KAGAN: Because, you know, you got to get Santa the letter.

WILLIS: That's right.

KAGAN: Otherwise, how's he going to know?

WILLIS: He won't.

KAGAN: Oh, he knows. He's been watching.

Gerri, thank you.

WILLIS: You're welcome.

KAGAN: Let's go ahead and take a look at what's happening "Now in the News."

Energy analysts blame the cold weather for lighting a fire under fossil fuel prices. Natural gas and crude oil both have posted new gains on the commodity markets. Natural gas is now trading at an all- time high, more than double of one year ago and oil is back above $60 a barrel.

To Spain. A Balkans war crime suspect, look at this, will be transferred soon to The Hague to stand trial. The former general in the Croatian military was arrested while dining at a four star restaurant in the Canary Islands. He's accused of being behind the massacre of 150 Serbs and the forced expulsion of thousands of others during