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American Morning

Astronauts Making Their Way to Launch Pad; New Developments in London Terror Investigation

Aired July 26, 2005 - 07:00   ET


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Live at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, special coverage of this morning's shuttle launch. Hope for a launch at least. The Discovery astronauts, they're up, they're ready, and they're making their way to the launch pad as we speak. As a matter of fact, they're passing by me right now. They'll be strapping in within the next 20 minutes or so. Big questions this morning. Is it safe to fly? We'll try to answer those, as our live coverage comes up straight ahead.
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Soledad O'Brien. I'm coming to you live from Paddington Station in London. Of course it's a major transit hub. This morning, we are talking about new developments in the London terror investigation. Police announce two more arrests. Five people in total are now in custody. We're going to have the latest on that situation as it develops ahead -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: And tragic story at a large Boy Scout gathering in Virginia: four Scout leaders electrocuted and killed. A closer look at how this could have happened, on this AMERICAN MORNING.

Good morning. A beautiful day here at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

So far, all systems are go for the launch of the Space Shuttle Discovery. That's scheduled about three hours from now. That buggy fuel sensor, so far, seems to be working. But if it fails again, NASA may launch anyway. We'll have much more on that.

Right now, let's head to London. Good morning, Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: All right, Miles. Good morning to you.

Not such a beautiful day here in London, although it probably is, fair to say, a typical day.

Also ahead here this morning or afternoon here in London, we're going to talk a little bit more about the Brazilian national who was killed on Friday by plainclothes police. They've now said they're very sorry. But there are some new developments in this case to talk about as well.

Let's get back, though, to Miles who is at the Kennedy Space Center.

Miles, good morning again.

M. O'BRIEN: Good morning, Soledad.

The astronauts are making their way to the launch pad. It's about a seven mile journey in the so-called astro-van. We can show you some pictures as they make their way there. They've gone through what appears to be a flawless launch countdown in the overnight hours here at the Kennedy Space Center. There you see the Huey helicopter escorting the convoy out toward launch pad 39-B. The seven astronauts aboard a silver camper, and suited up and ready.

During the overnight hours, NASA was very closely watching a series of fuel sensors, both oxygen and hydrogen, to see if they would operate properly and would give any problems to them. You'll recall two weeks ago the first attempt to launch Discovery, which is, of course the first launch after the loss of Columbia two-and-a-half years ago, a fuel sensor that gave engineers fits forced a scrub. In the interim, engineers have been looking very carefully at the problem, still fully do not understand the problem, quite frankly, have set up a series of tests in the course of this countdown to try to isolate the problem, but so far, everything seems to be working fine. The truth is, engineers probably would like the problem to appear so they could try to better understand it. But for now, they're going to take what they're getting, which is a beautiful morning and a vehicle that is posing them no problems whatsoever.

In just a little bit of time, that crew will be out there getting strapped in and ready, and they will continue those tests of those fuel sensors all throughout the process. We saw the crew walk out just a little while ago. Continuing that ritual, as we say, waving to the crowd as they made their way to that astro-van and got on board for the ride to the launch pad. 10:39 Eastern Time is the point in time for the launch today. It's a narrow five-minute window, which is the specific window required in order for them to rendezvous at the International Space Station. That's where they're headed. Along the way, they'll do a comprehensive survey of the shuttle. They'll test out some ideas for repairing tiles and thermal heat shields in space, and they'll deliver some supplies to that space station.

We're watching it very closely of course. Stay with us for AMERICAN MORNING special live coverage of the shuttle launch, and that will begin at 10:00 a.m. Eastern -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: All right, Miles, thanks. We'll be watching that, too.

The British Prime Minister Tony Blair held his monthly press conference. It's really the first since the terror attacks happened the first week of July. And earlier in the day, he met with some opposition leaders on the table. What they were talking about, was some new anti-terror laws that they're interested -- that he's interested in pushing through. Meanwhile, as far as the investigation goes, the manhunt is under way still for the four suspects, maybe five suspects involved in the attempted bombings two weeks after the first. The focus is on a plastic container.

Let's get right to Nic Robertson. He's at Scotland Yard this morning -- afternoon here in London -- with the very latest on that and the focus.

Nic, good afternoon to you.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, good afternoon, Soledad.

What we have learned this morning from a local counsel in North London is that a man renting a property from them who was named by the police yesterday as Yasin Hassan Omar, was rending a property in North London on state benefits, about $120 a week he was receiving from the government. The police are now raiding that property. They have been raiding it and going through it, searching through it the last day or so.

Another man who was named by the police yesterday, Muktar Said Ibrahim, also believed to have lived at that property. Omar lived at that property since 1999. It's not clear that police haven't found anything yet to link him to these two men, but that very much the focus of one part of the police investigation. Of course the other part focusing on these plastic tubs that were found in the backpacks containing the explosives.


ROBERTSON (voice-over): The failed bombings last week and a discarded bomb discovered in a North London park Saturday near where one of the suspects had been seen running away, providing police an important new lead.

PETER CLARKE, METROPOLITAN POLICE: All five of these bombs have been put inside dark-colored rucksacks or sports bags. All of them were made using the same type of plastic food-storage container.

ROBERTSON (on camera): Made in India, sold at 100 outlets in this country, a tub exactly like this was used in all five bombs last week. It could provide a vital link in tracking down the bomb maker.

(voice-over): In South London, not far from the Stockwell Tube Station, the tubs are on sale. Minesh Patel of the Brixton Pound Express has them on special offer, one for $2.50 or three for $5. They've been selling well, making it hard to track the buyers.

MINESH PATEL, SHOPKEEPER: We can never remember who we sell them to. There's so many people that come into that shop, so many people walking through the doors. You can never really tell.

ROBERTSON: It's not what the police are hoping to hear. This briefing, like the others, intended to get help.

CLARKE: My appeal is to any shopkeepers or shop workers who may have sold five or more of these identical food containers in recent months, perhaps to the same customer.

ROBERTSON: It might be a longshot, but it's exactly the sort of break they need.

(END VIDEOTAPE) ROBERTSON: And the other thing the police are trying to figure out is, are they looking for a fifth bomber at this time? Five bombs found. Only four suspects that the police have released pictures for. Was there a fifth bomber with that fifth bomb?


S. O'BRIEN: It sort of seems that everyday brings some new questions. Nic Robertson for us at Scotland Yard.

Nic, thank you.

Let's get right back to Miles, who's in Florida this morning.

Hey, Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Thank you, Soledad.

Tragedy hangs over the opening of the Boy Scouts National Jamboree this morning. Four Scout leaders killed setting up for the event in Virginia on Monday.

Kathleen Koch is live at Fort A.P. Hill. That's about 60 miles south of Washington.

Kathleen, what do we know about the circumstances of this tragedy?

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This happened yesterday as a Boy Scout troop from Anchorage, Alaska, troop 711, was setting up camp for the leaders. Right now the Boy Scouts say that a thorough investigation is under way, but from what we have heard, what's been related to us by the county sheriff, Caroline County Sheriff Tony Lippa, he says that the four men were electrocuted when they were trying to erect a very large dining tent, and the central pole struck an existing overhead power line.


SHERIFF TONY LIPPA, CAROLINE COUNTY, VIRGINIA: I understand none of the Scouts have been injured, and you've got to realize when this situation transpired, there's a lot of onlookers that are there. It's a traumatic situation.


KOCH: Now, the men killed were 42, 47, and 58 years old. The police have not released the age of the fourth man who was killed. We're also told that there were some three people injured, another Boy Scout leader, also from Anchorage, Alaska, and then two contract workers here at Fort A.P. Hill. They're all hospitalized right now in stable condition.

And very tragically, this does take place own the very opening day of the 2005 National Jamboree, normally a very fun-filled event that draws Boy Scouts from across the country and around the world. This year, some 35,000 Scouts are here in attendance. Some 7,000 leaders.

What we are hearing from spokesman Greg Shields, Boy Scout spokesman Greg Shields is that right now the jamboree will go on as planned, though he did say, quote, "Our prayers and sympathies are with the families."

President Bush is scheduled to make an appearance here tomorrow. From what we know, that is still going on. And there is going to be a press conference at 10:00 a.m. this morning by the Boy Scouts on the base where we hear more details about what happened -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: All right, thank you, Kathleen. Keep us posted on that.

There's also a heat advisory in Virginia, where those Scouts are camping. It stretches west all the way to Nebraska, as far north as Illinois and south to Louisiana.

CNN's Kimberly Osias live in Washington this morning.

Kimberly, welcome to Washington in the summer. I know this is a new place for you to be in the summertime, but this is a particularly bad summer, isn't it?

KIMBERLY OSIAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Indeed it is, Miles. And I'll tell you, it is hot. What you have here is that humidity factor. Of course, Washington is on a swamp, so that adds and complicates thing. It gets pretty nasty. Right now, it's probably, oh, the high 80s. You know, have a little bit of a breeze, but ha, ha, ha, it is still young in the day. The temperatures are expected to soar actually to 105 or 110 later with the heat index. There are heat advisories and warnings out for the District, for Maryland, for Virginia as well. They extend to the north, to Philadelphia and New Jersey, and down to the south lands through the Carolinas, South Carolina and North Carolina.

Of course, the key really is to try and stay cool, seek relief when you can, avoid the sun in the peak hours and hydrate, hydrate, hydrate often. If you wait until you're thirsty, it's simply too late. Of course you want to drink a lot of water, and sports fluids, really avoid caffeine and alcohol, because they deplete your body of critical fluid.


STEVE O'BRIEN, AMERICAN RED CROSS: Well, it's just like any other time of year. This could be winter, and we could be talking about extreme cold. People have to prepare. You have to think ahead, you have to plan ahead your day and what the weather is going to -- how that's going to affect what you do.


OSIAS: And speaking of planning, a lot of folks are changing those plans. This is the height of the tourist season. And instead of touring the outside monuments, they are going to the mall. And I'm not speaking of the outside Mall, the inside one with A/C -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: All right, Kimberly Osias. While you were speaking, I took your advice, I'm drinking some water here. Although it appears the weather is going to be a little bit better this time than it was two weeks ago.


M. O'BRIEN: Take a look at some live pictures right now as you look at Eileen Collins, the commander of the Space Shuttle Discovery in the place they call the white room. This is 195 feet above the deck there. And she's getting some assistance from the close-out crew there, so-called caped crusaders with her parachute and all the other things that you need to have attached to you before you go flying the space shuttle. She gets to go in first. She'll get seated in the front left seat and begin the process of going through the checklist, which would lead down to that launch about three hours, 20 minutes from now if all goes well.

In a little bit, I'll talk to a NASA flight surgeon, John Clark, who lost his wife, Laurel, in the Columbia disaster two-and-a-half years ago. We'll ask him for his thoughts on this day as NASA prepares to return to flight -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Hey, Miles, did you know that there's an American who's in charge of the London Underground? We're going to talk to him this morning about what he's doing to reassure his riders, not only here at Paddington Station, but elsewhere. That's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

Stay with us.


M. O'BRIEN: Launch pad 39-B. The Space Shuttle Discovery fueled and ready. No technical problems reported so far. We are in countdown mode here at the Kennedy Space Center, as you look at live pictures of Eileen Collins, the commander of this mission, preparing with her communications gear, so-called beanie cap she's putting on there, before she makes her way into the Space Shuttle Discovery. launch expected 10:39 a.m. Eastern Time.

It'll be the first shuttle flight since February 2003. That, of course, when Columbia disintegrated on re-entry, killing the crew of seven. Dr. Jonathan Clark, a NASA flight surgeon, lost his wife, Laurel, in the Columbia disaster. He joins us now from Washington, where he is on a trip to visit some family members. A couple weeks ago, he was actually here along with some members of the Columbia families.

John, you're not here today. Do you wish you were?

DR. JONATHAN CLARK, NASA FLIGHT SURGEON: Well, I'm there in spirit, Miles. I really wish it could have worked out schedule-wise, but you know, life goes on, and we had planned a trip to come up and see my sister, and my son wanted to visit his cousins and see his friends and see some of the sights in D.C. and get out of the Houston humidity.

M. O'BRIEN: Of course that didn't work out so well, did it?

CLARK: I should know better.

M. O'BRIEN: I would imagine some people watching right now would wonder why a member of the Columbia -- the survivors of the Columbia crew would want to come back here and see a launch. It seems to me it would be awfully painful.

CLARK: Well, on the one hand, it is a little painful, because of its reminder to our loved ones leaving the planet. But by the same token, it's a reaffirmation of the tremendous effort that's followed in the wake of the Columbia disaster to improve the shuttle safety. So we're there for support.

M. O'BRIEN: Well, you know, we've been talking about shuttle safety an awful lot, of course. And I'm holding in my hands this tiny little hydrogen fuel sensor that we've been talking so much about, which so far this morning seems to be working fine. But as you well know, NASA has been talking about whether it could fly with three of these operative instead of four. In other words, changing the rules. Does that in any way trouble you?

CLARK: Well, I'm speaking only as a Columbia family member, not as a NASA employee, but they've obviously looked at this issue in the technical complexity of it. They've looked at the way the power supply redundancy could be improved. And basically they know the scrutiny that's being laid upon them, and so I don't have any doubt whatsoever that they're taking any shortcuts to go ahead with the launch.

M. O'BRIEN: We're looking right now, John, at a live picture of Eileen Collins as she does the contortionist act that is required to get in that seat as it is in the vertical position there. She'll begin her whole process of going through the checklist. It is a very tense and nervous time.

Take us through launch day, through the eyes of a family member. What is that like? I know you were with your young son at that time, and I know it was a very emotional time for you and all the other families.

CLARK: Well, you know, the eerie thing is that the Shuttle Columbia launched at about the same time that Discovery is due to launch today. So the timeframe was very similar for us. You know, we got up early, say 7:00-ish, got a very expedited ride with security to the Cape. We were on the -- in the launch-control center. There's a nice visitors room, meeting some various dignitaries, and then we went upstairs on the roof about, oh, maybe 15 minutes before the launch.

So it was a nice sunny day, just like it is today. I'm sure the family members are up on the roof of the launch-control center with just themselves and maybe a few of the family escorts. I'm sure their thoughts are of their loved ones getting strapped into the vehicle and feeling that anticipation and excitement that their families, their loved ones are getting ready to do. So it's a time of really, I think, very intense excitement.

M. O'BRIEN: Intense excitement. Jonathan Clark, thank you very much for joining us, as we countdown toward the launch of Discovery. We appreciate your thoughts.

For more information on the Space Shuttle Discovery's mission, we invite you to log onto

We'll continue our split edition of AMERICAN MORNING, live in London and also here at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, in just a moment. Please stay with us.


S. O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. We're coming to you live from London. We're at Paddington Station this afternoon in London, morning in New York.

At its height, did you know the London Underground hosts about a billion people, one billion people, each and every year? Well, in the wake of the terror attacks, though, that number is down, and somewhat significantly. This afternoon, we talked to the man who's in charge of the London Underground. He is, surprisingly, an American.

Tim O'Toole joins us, an interview you're only going to see here on CNN. Nice to see you. Thanks for talking with us.

We did a story yesterday. We talked to folks who have opted to ride their bikes, and folks who say, forget it, I'm going to walk; I don't want to go into the tube anymore. How off is the ridership on the tube?

TIM O'TOOLE, DIR., LONDON UNDERGROUND: It's definitely down. Some 15 percent of our network isn't operating. So you expect it to be down by at least that much. We've also gone into the vacation period, which has also taken the ridership down, as it does every year.

It's a little hard to tell right now. We're going to have to study the ridership numbers for the next few weeks to make a solid projection of where it will be.

S. O'BRIEN: But it's down.

Do you think if the police had a better grip on the four suspects, maybe five suspects who are now at large, that number would automatically bump back up, maybe?

O'TOOLE: Well, certainly the fact that these gentlemen are still out there has people worried and concerned. However, we have police all over this network, and I'm convinced that we're doing everything we can to keep this area as safe as possible.

S. O'BRIEN: What can you do? I mean, certainly, for those of us who ride the equivalent, the subway in New York and elsewhere, what kinds of things can you put in place to really make riders safe? O'TOOLE: Well, it's two things. One is employing different security services that you can. So we have a record number of police out on the network. We have sniffer dogs at the major stations, can detect explosives in bags. We have a lot of undercover police throughout the network. But then it's also about collective behavior of all the riders, people just being a little bit more aware of their surroundings, asking questions if they see something suspicious, bringing things to the attention of station staff.

S. O'BRIEN: When we talked to the head of the union that is in charge of all the folks who work here, he was very angry. He said that he's had very disturbing conversations with the mayor of London. He says that he feels that sometimes there are 400 people who are basically under the auspices of one driver, and that his drivers are afraid. What do you do for the drivers and the workers here?

O'TOOLE: Well, you know, the drivers have performed just magnificently. If you look during these incidents, it's really the drivers took control of the situation and were able to get these trains organized so that there wasn't panic. So I'm a big fan of the drivers, so I want to do everything I can to help them.

But it's largely about the dispelling fears and getting people to concentrate on actually the risk management. And one of the things we do is to have a lot of station staff nearby trains that can respond immediately if there's a problem, and that's what you saw during these incidents. We had some rushing into those tunnels, into those trains within two minutes. So it's about training your staff and getting them to work as a team.

S. O'BRIEN: Before the bombings, you had an anti-terror training drill. What did you learn from it? Did it go well?

O'TOOLE: Well, we're constantly drilling. We're constantly drilling, on every line. I mean, and we even participated in a major exercise, Atlantic Blue, with people over in the states this past summer. But prior to that, we did a large-scale drill with the emergency services at a major station in town, and just three weeks prior to this incident, we did a drill at Tower Hill, which is on the Circle Line itself. It's about constantly taking people through routines so that, so when something happens, they just act automatically. They follow their training.

S. O'BRIEN: Tim O'Toole, the man who's in charge of the London Underground. It's nice to see you. Thanks for talking with us.

Let's head it back to New York and Carol. Hey, Carol.


Let's talk business right now. Why the big split in the organized labor movement? And a preview of the markets, of course. Andy Serwer is "Minding Your Business" this morning.

ANDY SERWER, "FORTUNE" MAGAZINE: Good morning, Carol. I want to give you the very latest on this dramatic AFL-CIO story. As expected yesterday, two of that federation's largest unions, the Teamsters and the Service Employees International Union, have splintered off from the AFL-CIO to form their own labor federation called Change to Win. Two other unions, at the very least, unite here, and the United Food and Commercial Workers are also expected to leave the AFL-CIO.

And the big issue here, Carol, is over the past several decades, as we've transitioned from a manufacturing economy to a service economy, the unions really have not kept pace. They've failed to organize the Japanese and German automakers. They failed to organize Wal-Mart.

And as far as tech industries go like Cisco, they are nonexistent. So I think that these unions may go after a lot of these businesses and really try to organize. And of course there's the illegal aliens and new immigrants, also very much unorganized.

COSTELLO: Which can be very powerful politically as well, and perhaps unions become more relevant, as they once were.

SERWER: I think that's right, and it's a really great unknown, and it's obviously a situation we're going to continue to monitor.

Let's talk about the markets. Yesterday a bit of a downer on wall street. The Dow Jones Industrials down about 54 points. Nasdaq down about 13 points. This morning, though, futures are up a little bit, because Texas Instruments after the bell reported some pretty good numbers last night down in Dallas. So we will watch trading early this morning.

COSTELLO: You know what else we're watching?

SERWER: What else?

COSTELLO: The space shuttle.

SERWER: Miles O'Brien.


COSTELLO: He's doing a great job out there, I know. Actually Miles is there and he's watching, 10:39 Eastern Time is when the shuttle takes off. Miles will have another update for you, right after this.