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American Morning

Torture In Iraq; Bird Flu Strategy; Tornadoes Hit Five States; Minding Your Business

Aired November 16, 2005 - 07:30   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Oh, take a look at these live pictures from Clarksville, Tennessee. As the sun comes up, you can really get a good sense of just how bad the damage is there. As you saw, a little mobile home or vehicle being, you know, just easily tossed over in the wake of the storm. And then you get a pretty clear sense of half the home just torn off. That home right there. What a mess. And the cleanup, obviously, underway today as they confront just how bad things are. Major, major damage there.
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Five states in all. No less than 200 tornado warnings. Now, one of us on this panel grew up on a farm in the Midwest. So you know what that's like and it's not easy.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I do. It's really scary. I mean it's really scary.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: And you've been through tornadoes?

COSTELLO: Of course. Sure.

MILES O'BRIEN: Big time where you go into the seller kind of things and pray, right?

COSTELLO: You do. You do. It's really scary. And then, you know, for a lot of people in the Midwest, they do live in those trailer homes and that -- really what we saw was a trailer home covered with aluminum siding to make it look more like a house. And, you know, they're still very weak and tornadoes cause a great deal of damage. Even high winds do.


COSTELLO: So it was a very rough day in the middle part of this country.

MILES O'BRIEN: And in many respects, no place to go. It's not like, you know, when you have a modular home . . .

COSTELLO: Well, it's very flat too.

MILES O'BRIEN: You don't necessarily dig out a basement or a shelter or any sort of shelter. So you really need -- and with the thing, you know, with hurricanes, we know their path pretty well, right? Tornadoes are pretty capricious.

COSTELLO: Yes, they jump around. MILES O'BRIEN: They're capricious and you just don't know. Anyway.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: And day to day as we (INAUDIBLE).

In fact, let's get into some of the facts about this tornado.

As you mentioned, Miles, people in five states checking the damage now from that powerful storm system. It tore right through the middle of the country. You can look at the map there. Thirty- five tornado touchdowns reported in Missouri, in Illinois, in Indiana, in Tennessee, in Kentucky too.

And the very worse in Kentucky near the town of Madisonville where homes were destroyed and trees were brought down and power outages are reported and gas leaks, too. And flooding is also, we are told, a problem there. Twenty-two people at least injured. Three of them critically. And now the National Guard is trying to help out with rescue and recovery.

Now if you turn to Tennessee, much the same story there. Homes and property just in ruins. Look at those pictures there. Ten injuries reported out of there at least. And there are reports that two people died in tornado-related fatalities. These dangerous storms are now creeping eastward. That brings us right to Bonnie Schneider. She's at the CNN Center with the latest.

Hey, Bonnie. Good morning.


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: We've got this news just in to CNN. This is coming to us from China's official news agency. They're reporting three new human cases of bird flu reported in China. We're going to have more on this story this morning in just a little bit.

Also, this is clearly an issue that the president is going to have to deal with as he makes his way through Asia for various meetings. Carol has a little bit more on the president's trip this morning. Good morning.

COSTELLO: Good morning. I do.

President Bush is actually in South Korea this morning for the second leg of his whirlwind trip to Asia. Early this morning, the president delivered an address on democracy. It was given in Japan but it was aimed at China. The president urging Chinese leaders to embrace more freedoms. Bush also met with Japan's prime minister. He wants Japan to extend its mission in Iraq that is set to expire at the end of next month. Japan has 500 troops in Iraq right now.

U.S. lawmakers are calling for a progress report on Iraq. The Senate approving legislation that will require an update every 90 days. But a provision requiring a time line for a U.S. withdrawal was rejected. The bill puts pressure on the administration to show it has a strategy to turn control over to the Iraqis and eventually bring our troops home.

December 1st, that's where the government says it will stop paying for hotel rooms for most Hurricane Katrina and Rita evacuees. About 5,300 families are believed to be still living in hotels. The disaster agency, FEMA, says there will be some exceptions because of housing shortages in Louisiana and in Mississippi. Evacuees from those states have until early January to find homes. I'll have much more on this later on on AMERICAN MORNING.

It's a whole new ball game for Major League Baseball steroids' policy. After months of hearings, the penalties are now going to be much tougher. Under the new deal, a player would face a 50-game suspension for a first offense. A 100-game suspension for a second. And a lifetime ban for a third. Though the player can apply for reinstatement after two years. The agreement also calls for new testing and penalties for amphetamine use. Both sides could seal this deal by Thursday. And some lawmakers say they hope other sports leagues will follow baseball's leads on this one.

And New York kicking up its cowboy boots. They're very fashionable this year, actually.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Look at Lee Ann Womack.

COSTELLO: She looks beautiful.


COSTELLO: She was a big winner.


COSTELLO: This year's Country Music Awards were actually held last night right here in New York. Lee Ann Womack . . .

MILES O'BRIEN: Why? Why in New York?

COSTELLO: Well, that's a question a lot of people are asking. They want to like open it up to more fans, so they decided not to hold it in Nashville as usual and hold it in New York. But many country music fans are going, what up with that? They had . . .

MILES O'BRIEN: New York City? What up with that?

COSTELLO: Well, you know. Really, if you think about it, it's just kind of strange. Because there's not even a country music station here in New York. Jon Bon Jovi was singing at last night's CMA Awards. He was singing with a country music star. Elton John was singing with Dolly Parton.

MILES O'BRIEN: Great country stars themselves.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: That's kind of nice. I think it brings . . .

MILES O'BRIEN: No, I've got no problem but it, I just think it's kind of an odd marketing move. You know, I would think that would, you know . . .

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: New York City getting back to its country roots?

COSTELLO: I don't know. It doesn't have any country roots.

MILES O'BRIEN: It's country root? Nice try!

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: I'm spinning it. I'm spinning it.

COSTELLO: I didn't get to linger on the picture of Keith Urban, though. He was also another big winner.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Isn't he dating . . .

COSTELLO: Oh, he's a darling. Nicole Kidman.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Yes, that's right. (INAUDIBLE).

COSTELLO: She wasn't there last night though. His mom was!

MILES O'BRIEN: We've got to shift gears.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Very much so, actually. We want to talk about Iraq and some pretty shocking images of prisoners beaten and bruised. Iraqi officials are now investigating stories of torture at the hands of Iraqi forces. Senior International Correspondent Nic Robertson is live for us in Baghdad this morning.


Well, these latest abuses were discovered over the weekend by U.S. troops. But it seems possibly this was just the tip of the iceberg.


ROBERTSON, (voice over): CNN was recently given these shocking images of brutalized Iraqi prisoners. The video came from the deputy governor of Diola (ph) Province just north of Baghdad. He got a tip about police torture and took a cameraman to record what he found. Victims showed welts, apparently from beatings. The date on the tape indicated the video was shot back in August.

And now, in Baghdad, an apparently similar case of torture has been discovered by the minister of interior facility by the U.S. military. Went out searching for a 15-year-old boy, they entered a building containing many detainees. Some of whom they said required medical attention. According to an Iraqi police officer at the scene, many had suffered torture.

While the police and U.S. military won't say where the building is in Baghdad, Iraq's deputy minister of interior confirms the abuse of prisoners, saying he is shocked, but says it's the worst torture he's seen. HUSSEIN KAMAL, IRAQI INTERIOR MINISTER, (through translator): I saw signs of physical abuse by brutal beating. One or two detainees were paralyzed. And some had their skin peeled off various parts of their body.

ROBERTSON: U.S. troops have taken control of the premises, detaining several non-prisoners found at the facility. The U.S. is also providing medical care for some of the apparent torture victims. The Iraqi government says many of the prisoners appear not to have been fed. The deputy interior minister blames a lack of resources for the abuses.

KAMAL, (through translator): A major problem we face is that there are not enough places to contain these detainees after the preliminary Investigation is through with them.


ROBERTSON: Now Iraq's prime minister has formed a committee, called for an immediate investigation into this but it's already fueling sectarian tensions. One Sunni political party is now saying the victims were Sunnis and are blaming the Shia dominated police force.


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Nic Robertson. What a terrible story. Oh, my gosh, that videotape is hard to look at.

Nic, thank you for that update.

We want to get to a developing story we've been telling you about this morning. China now announcing the first three cases in humans of bird flu. Apparently these three cases took place across two provinces in China and this word is coming to us now from China's official news agency. We're going to continue to update this story this morning as well.

But here's a question for you. What to do if, in fact, as predicted, bird flu spreads not only across China, but across the world? Dr. Anne Moscona is an infectious disease specialist and she joins us this morning with more on the drug Tamiflu.

How effective has Tamiflu been shown in humans to fight bird flu?

DR. ANNE MOSCONA, INFECTIOUS DISEASE SPECIALIST: Well, we know most about Tamiflu in terms of its abilities to prevent and to cure regular seasonal flu. We are just beginning to learn about how it works against bird flu because there have been so few human cases and we haven't had a chance to really investigate what treatment does, what doses are really most effective, and how to best to go about using Tamiflu in the cases of bird flu. We do have reason to believe that it will be effective. However, but it may need to be used at higher doses and for longer periods of time than we use it for seasonal flu. SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: One thing we know for certain is that there is not enough Tamiflu to go around if there should be some kind of outbreak among humans of bird flu?

MOSCONA: That's absolutely true and that's one of the reasons why our government and other governments are working very hard to increase the supply of influenza drugs.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Why shouldn't people run out and stock up as much Tamiflu as they possibly can?

MOSCONA: Well, it's understandable that people would really want to do that, but there are a few problems with doing that. First of all, people would need to recognize, when what they have is influenza and when it's something else and only take Tamiflu in a case of influenza. People would need to know the correct dose, the correct timing, because if people start to use this drug prematurely, too early, inappropriately, at the wrong dose or share it with family members, we could get into a situation where we're encouraging the influenza virus to become resistant to Tamiflu.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: But isn't there an argument that says, well, you know, a little bit of Tamiflu is better than none at all?

MOSCONA: Actually, a little bit could be a lot worse than none at all. Because what we could do is encourage that influenza to learn how to resist this drug and then we'll be left with absolutely no weapons against it.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Suppose there is an outbreak. How would you advise that it be handled? And how would they meet out the Tamiflu?

MOSCONA: These are plans that are being worked on really urgently now by our government and other governments. The best hope that we have and the most effective use of Tamiflu would be to identify outbreaks and quickly surround those outbreaks with rings of quarantine, with rings of Tamiflu, to prevent the outbreak from spreading and turning into a pandemic. So that would be the most effective use of Tamiflu. And we need to mobilize our Tamiflu supply so that we could do that.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: You've got some advice for what people can do. And I want to kind of run through some of your tips. The first thing you say is, it's back to hygiene. Use good hygiene always. Do you really thinking that watching your hands and, you know, and just having general good hygiene is going to help prevent bird flu?

MOSCONA: Absolutely. Hand washing is the number one most important way to prevent the spread of respiratory viruses. The things that people know, for example, staying out of crowded places, staying away from sneezing, sneezing into your arm. But, honestly, hand washing is number one.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: That's interesting. You're right, people sort of forget that one.


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: But then your other advice is, have a plan if there's a crisis. Have a crisis plan. Well, OK, what's my crisis plan? What should it be?

MOSCONA: Well, you need to know who you're going to contact if you feel that you have symptoms. If you want to know whether bird flu is out there, if you want to know what to do, you have to have a plan for yourself and your family. Who are you going to contact? Where are you going to get medical advice? Identify a source. And then be prepared to go to that source when you have your questions.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: You give the advice, don't smoke. Why not?

MOSCONA: Well, this is very important. Every respiratory infection is worse in somebody who smokes or in somebody who's exposed to second-hand smoke. Second-hand smoke or smoking just makes you more vulnerable to worse disease in your lungs. So if you're worried about bird flu, this would be a great time to either stop smoking or make sure that you're not exposed and your loved ones are not exposed to second-hand smoke.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Well, some really good advice. Dr. Anne Moscona, thank you very much. MOSCONA: Thank you.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: She's an infectious disease specialist with New York Presbyterian Hospital and Weill Cornell Medical College right here in New York.


MOSCONA: Thanks.


MILES O'BRIEN: Another reason not to smoke, folks.

Coming up, we're "Minding Your Business." Are you looking to sell your house? Don't do it because you're going to burst the bubble and then I'm going to be in trouble. Don't do it. No. Andy will tell you why you better do it soon, actually, if you want to get a good price. Kind of a related issue. The whole thing appears to be cooling off. Stay with us for more AMERICAN MORNING.


MILES O'BRIEN: It's cleanup day in parts of the nation's mid section. Five states in all affected. Tennessee, in particular, Kentucky, as tornadoes swept through afternoon hours. Odd time for it. We think of spring as a time for tornadoes but any time, as the experts just told Soledad a little while ago, any time cold weather meets warm weather, you're apt to get severe twisters as we have seen here. And let's give you a sense of where this all happened. As we say, five states affected. And as we zoom in, we'll take you down to Henry County, Tennessee, which is located about 50 miles or so west of Nashville. And in that part of the world, lots of problems this morning with trees down, power out, 31,000 residents at all there. Many of them affected today. And we're joined now by the county mayor, Mayor Brent Greer.

Mr. Mayor, good to have you with us.

Just give us an update on the damage. I assume you've had a chance to assess it. You've got first light there and, of course, you' had an opportunity yesterday as well.

MAYOR BRENT GREER, HENRY COUNTY, TENNESSEE: That's correct. We have our preliminary assessment. We've had 51 structures that have been damaged. Twenty-one were totally damaged. We'll be doing a flyover later this morning to see some areas that we were not able to get to last night. But as it is now, we know we have 21 homes that have been 100 percent destroyed and the remainder have been destroyed somewhere between 10 and 75 percent.

MILES O'BRIEN: That's a fair amount of damage. What about injuries, Mayor?

GREER: We've had 13 people that we have treated at Henry County Medical Center. One person had been transported to Memphis for further treatment. We've had no life-threatening injuries at this time. We're very thankful for that.

MILES O'BRIEN: Even the patient transferred is not considered a life-threatening injury?

GREER: At this time, we feel that he has some chest trauma, but we do not feel that it's life-threatening at this time.

MILES O'BRIEN: I know it's difficult to count at times and one tornado can seem like many, depending on how they touch down. Do you know how many tornadoes might have affected your county?

GREER: We have confirmation that two tornadoes did go through the county yesterday. We have footage of one of the tornadoes by one of our emergency management personnel that does have footage that he got yesterday.

MILES O'BRIEN: Now, as I understand it, the emergency management center itself was damaged. Were you inside? And what was that like?

GREER: No, I was not there. I was on my way back into the community yesterday. But our highway department and our emergency management center took a direct hit. The highway garage is 100 percent destroyed. And the EOC was damaged without power. So we moved the EOC to my office at the courthouse.

MILES O'BRIEN: So the EOC stood up but didn't have power as a result. That must have been difficult when you lose your command and control in a situation like this.

GREER: Well, it was a little bit difficult, but we got a great EMA director. He immediately took our resources and moved them to another location. We have some great volunteers that assisted him. And we've been able to work through this problem.

MILES O'BRIEN: Let's talk about warning. Do you think it was satisfactory? Did the sirens blare when they should have? Do you think enough people used those weather radios there?

GREER: The NOAA weather radios, I think, were very good. And also the media coverage that we had from TV was excellent, because there's no question with the damage we had, had we not got some advanced warning out, there would have been many more injuries than we had. Once again, we're very fortunate.

MILES O'BRIEN: Well, the timing is fortunate, isn't it? If you're going to have a tornado when people are up and listening to the radio and so forth, it kind of helps, doesn't it?

GREER: That's correct. Our children were in school. We had a lockdown at our school. Did not allow them to leave school during the time that the tornado came through. We were very fortunate that the buses were not on the road. Also, many of our larger businesses kept the customers inside the businesses and I think the community as a whole worked very well together to try to prevent it.

MILES O'BRIEN: And final thought. How many people without power this morning, Mayor?

GREER: It's widespread outage. Last night, we were estimating between 1,500 to 3,000 people. Last night 10 percent of our community was probably without power. It could even be worse than that. We're in a rural part of the community as we speak now and all the power in this area has been out for some time.

MILES O'BRIEN: Brent Greer is the mayor of Henry County. Good luck with the cleanup there, sir.

GREER: Thank you very much.


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Still to come this morning, Andy's "Minding Your Business." He's got important news for homeowners and for those who are looking to buy a home. More AMERICAN MORNING is straight ahead. Stay with us.


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody.

You know, we keep hearing about the bubble bursting in the housing market. So, is it bursting or not? Andy Serwer's "Minding Your Business."

Good morning.


SERWER: It ain't so. Not quite yet.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: A new homeowner begs.

SERWER: And, of course, it always depends on where you live, because the housing market is a very regional thing (INAUDIBLE).

MILES O'BRIEN: I live at home. Everybody lives at home.

SERWER: There you go. That's great. No, that was a good one. I appreciated that, sort of.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: As a give-away.


New numbers out on the housing market regionally and nationally. Let's talk about nationally first of all. This from the National Association of Realtors. Median home price up 3.8 percent in the third quarter to $215,000. The important point here is that the rate of increase is slowing. Previously, it had increased 10 percent in the quarter before that. So that's a big thing when the rate of increase is slowing, it could mean that things are cooling off a little bit. But again, this is a very regional biz.

Let's talk about some of the hottest markets, first of all. Some familiar cities here. You can see Phoenix still on fire. Orlando way up. Median home price in Orlando, $268,000. Now El Paso a bit of a surprise perhaps but, of course, it is in the sun belt. And then we talk about some more tepid regions of the country. We'll get to places like Memphis and Detroit, just barely up at all. And then Topeka, Kansas, down a little bit. Maybe it's some of the bad weather.

MILES O'BRIEN: A buying opportunity, wouldn't you say?



SERWER: And you know what, this is a really amazing one here. The median home price in San Francisco over $700,000. The median home price in Danville, Illinois, $70,000. So a ten-fold difference between red hot and not so hot.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: San Francisco's out of control. It's out of control.

SERWER: Yes, so move to Danville.


MILES O'BRIEN: If you could live in Danville and commute to San Francisco, you got a perfect setup. SERWER: Danville, Illinois.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Telecommuting. You can do it.

MILES O'BRIEN: Yes, that's right. (INAUDIBLE) to San Francisco during the day.

SERWER: Pay cash in Danville, right?

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: And buy 10 homes. Why not.

SERWER: Right. Yes.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Thanks, Andy.

SERWER: You're welcome.

MILES O'BRIEN: Cheaper by the dozen, as they say.

Coming up, more on that severe storm system sweeping across the U.S.

Plus, we'll talk to a professional storm chaser. What's it like to get tape like this?

SERWER: Scary.

MILES O'BRIEN: Yes, scary. In a word, scary. It will be a short segment, scary, thanks for joining us. Anyway, back with more -- no, we'll ask him a few more questions. Back with more in a moment.