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American Morning

Severe Cold; Call for Clemency; Air Marshal Shooting

Aired December 08, 2005 - 06:29   ET


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Air marshals kill a man over a bomb threat, but there was no bomb. Did they overstep their bounds? We have a live report ahead.
Plus, a developing story in Baghdad. A suicide bomber killing 30 on a crowded city bus.

And bitter cold takes hold across the Midwest, headed east. Your forecast is coming up. It's coming like a freight train there.

ANNOUNCER: You're watching AMERICAN MORNING with Soledad O'Brien and Miles O'Brien.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Oh, it's cold outside.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes.

COSTELLO: It's already cold outside here.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes. Well, it is winter, I should point out.

COSTELLO: I know. I always forget that.

M. O'BRIEN: You know, I hate to be a spoiled sport. I'm making a big deal out of this. It's December. It's cold outside.

COSTELLO: Hey, technically it is not winter yet, Mr. Smarty Pants.

M. O'BRIEN: If it were -- you're right. If this were after December 22 -- right, December 22? Isn't that it?

COSTELLO: I don't know.

M. O'BRIEN: Isn't that it?

COSTELLO: I don't know. Yes.

M. O'BRIEN: That is it. Then we could say that. All right? For now, this is a big news story, because it's pre-winter.

COSTELLO: So there you go, Kelly Wallace.

KELLY WALLACE, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, exactly. I was going to point out, it's not exactly winter, but then Miles brought that up.

M. O'BRIEN: No, no, Carol did. WALLACE: Carol, Carol. Excuse me.

Hello, everyone. Some other stories in the news right now.

It's a developing story in Iraq that we are following. Just about three hours ago, a suicide bomber attacked a bus in southern Baghdad. At least 30 people are dead. Some 25 others are wounded. Officials expect violence to rise in the upcoming days as Iraq gets closer to general elections.

Japan announcing it will remain in Iraq for another year. Earlier this morning, Japan's cabinet extended the military deploying of some 500 troops. Japanese forces do not take part in combat. Instead in Iraq, they're helping out with rebuilding efforts, such as repairing buildings and medical training.

A CNN security watch for you now. We are learning some more about the man killed yesterday by air marshals in Miami. He is 44- year-old Rigorberto Alpizar, a naturalized U.S. citizen. Neighbors say he was returning from a missionary trip in Ecuador. Officials say Alpizar claimed he had a bomb and then bolted down the aisle. Air marshals pursued, as did his wife, who witnesses say was trying to explain that he was bipolar. Moments later, marshals shot Alpizar when he appeared to reach for his bag. Much more on this story throughout the morning on AMERICAN MORNING.

And, of course, stay with CNN day and night for the most reliable news about your security.

In Washington now, FEMA is telling its side of the Katrina story. Regional officials from the agency are set to testify before the Senate this morning. It's all part of a congressional investigation into the federal response to Katrina. One of these officials apparently told superiors more than a year before the hurricane hit that the agency was not prepared for a catastrophe.

Meanwhile, Congress is working to give hurricane destroyed businesses billions of dollars in tax breaks. The measure overwhelmingly passed the House Wednesday. The tax breaks wouldn't apply, though, to things like casinos, liquor stores and country clubs.

In other money news, American beef may be heading back to Japanese markets. Japan's Food Safety Commission is giving the thumbs-up to resume sales of U.S. beef. Those sales were banned two years ago after the first confirmed case of mad cow in the country -- in this country. Japan's Ministry of Health still has to give final approval.

And San Francisco police could be suspending 20 officers after a video surfaced featuring racist, sexist and homophobic stereotypes. One of the scenes, which you're going to see right now, shows an officer running over a homeless man. The tape was apparently made as a parody of daily life on the force. Officials involved say it was all taken out of context. The video was discovered on an officer's Web site. The department's internal affairs division is now investigation.

And, Carol and Miles, lots of very angry people in San Francisco. The mayor and the police chief are talking about it. They are not happy at all.


M. O'BRIEN: Kelly, we were just talking. It's very weird. There must be something in the water in San Francisco, because the 49ers football team had a joke videotape that had similar themes. It got them in trouble about a year ago, is that right?

COSTELLO: Exactly.


COSTELLO: It was put together by the PR department of the San Francisco 49ers, yes.

M. O'BRIEN: That's what it was, yes. It was back in June. And so, you would think something in San Francisco here. You would think they would get the message this is not a good idea.

WALLACE: You would think. I was just going to say, you would think they would have gotten the message last year, but...

M. O'BRIEN: But now...

WALLACE: ... now.

M. O'BRIEN: All right.

WALLACE: All right, we'll follow that one.

M. O'BRIEN: Let's check the forecast now. Bonnie Schneider at the weather center where it's nice and warm.


M. O'BRIEN: So now we know the view from about 22,000 miles up. Let's get right down to the ground. Sean Callebs joins us now from the Windy City of Chicago this morning. And they don't call it windy for nothing. He's at O'Hare Airport.

Sean, how is it this morning?

SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Miles, I can confirm it's cold. It is early December here in Chicago. A fire truck is just pulling up behind us. We have no idea exactly why that is pulling up at this point. We have no reason to believe it's connected with the weather in any fashion.

But as you watch people here on the curb pull up and race inside to check in, there's a certain sense of urgency once they bail out of the car. They're moving at the kind of speed usually reserved for those guys who work in the pits at NASCAR. Really, it has been cold her for some time. If we look at some of the pictures from yesterday of people bundled up, walking through the downtown area of Chicago, a temperature of about 2 degrees then. Now, it's supposed to be about 8.

I landed here last night about midnight. It was negative 5, they told us when we landed then. So, extremely, extremely cold.

They are going to get some snow here, but it is Chicago. It's not going to be a blizzard or anything of that nature. A dusting they are going to prepare for.

Further to the east, however, look at what Syracuse is coping with. We talked about the weather, really, from one end of the country to the other. It's dipping down into the single-digit temperatures far to the west of Denver. And this deep freeze is moving down into Texas. We know snow is coming in Pittsburgh, Cleveland.

Miles, you've been railing against this weather story all morning. But think about it. This is really going to be the first big barometer, if you will, of how these bitterly cold temperatures are going to affect people and their heating bills, not just those who use heating oil, but natural gas. Remember how we get something like 80 percent of our natural gas from the Gulf area, and how that area was such adversely affected by the hurricanes this summer.

So, really, come January, people are going to know just how big the hit is going to be in the pocketbook -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: All right, you make your case. The first big barometer or, in this case, thermometer of what the situation is. Thank you, Sean Callebs.

Let's move a little bit to the west, go to Kansas City now. Our affiliate there is WDAF. Monica Evans up bright and early on our behalf.

Monica, how is it there?

MONICA EVANS, CNN AFFILIATE WDAF REPORTER: (AUDIO GAP) Kansas City. In fact, it looks a little like Christmas.

We are live in downtown Kansas City, near McGee and Truman. We are also overlooking I-70. Now, the traffic is a bit spotty, but it's flowing. The slick roads will make the Kansas City metropolitan commute a little slow-going. So, we're urging folks to take extra time.

Now, I live about 20 minutes from the television station, and it took me about an hour to get in this morning. The major roads and highways were pretty clear, but the secondary streets, it was a little tough going.

Now, the MoDOT -- that's the highway patrol that cleans up the streets -- they've been working all night to clear off the roads to make the commute easier.

Monica Evans reporting live in Kansas City, Missouri.

M. O'BRIEN: Monica Evans is with WDAF, and we thank she and the station for getting up early in the cold for us -- Carol.

COSTELLO: She did look cold, didn't she?

M. O'BRIEN: Yes, she did.

COSTELLO: Ronald Reagan was the last California governor to grant clemency for a man on death row. That was back in 1967. Supporters of Stanley "Tookie" Williams, including Jamie Foxx and Snoop Dog, are hoping that will happen again.

CNN's Chris Lawrence is in Sacramento this morning.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, later this morning in the building behind me, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger will meet with prosecutors and defense attorneys for Tookie Williams, basically hearing final arguments about why Williams should live or die.

Both sides will get about a half-an-hour to make their final case to the governor. And he won't have long to decide. Williams is scheduled to be executed just after midnight on Tuesday.

Now, Tookie Williams is a convicted killer of four people. He's also the co-founder of the Crypts street gang.

But he's got an incredible amount of support in the community. People have been taking out full-page ads in California papers urging his support. Actor Jamie Foxx, rapper Snoop Dog have all come out and supported him. They say Williams has redeemed himself in prison, writing children's books that have kept kids out of gangs.

But now, Williams' appeals have run out, and it's up to the governor to either allow the execution or reduce his sentence to life in prison.

I'm Chris Lawrence reporting outside the state Capitol in Sacramento, California.

Now back to you.

COSTELLO: The prosecutor's case for Governor Schwarzenegger includes stories from the victims' families. And we're going to talk to the stepmother of one victim. That's coming up a little later on AMERICAN MORNING.

Coming up right now, though, the fates of thousands of jobs are hanging in the balance at one U.S. automaker this morning. Andy is "Minding Your Business."

M. O'BRIEN: Of course, that picture is -- well, there we go. Now let's talk about that. Did air marshals act too quickly when they shot that passenger in Miami? We'll take a closer look ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


M. O'BRIEN: Forty-four-year-old Rigorberto Alpizar, apparently a manic depressant, was on a plane yesterday in Miami, as you know by now, and indicated to those on the plane that he had a bomb. There were two air marshals on the plane. They confronted him. He reached for his backpack, and he was shot and killed.

Security expert Rafi Ron was an air marshal for EL-Al, the Israel airline. He joins us from Washington to talk about this.

These are split-second decisions, which will be analyzed for on and on and on, and to a certain degree that is unfair on the face of it. But nevertheless, to the extent that this can perhaps modify procedures and training, it's an important thing to do.

Mr. Ron, what's your first take on this? Does it seem at least -- and we don't know every detail yet. Does it seem as if this was within inside the parameters of air marshal procedures?

RAFI RON, FORMER AIR MARSHAL FOR ISRAEL: Yes, it seems from the fact that they were made known to now that the air marshal responded as expected. Of course, this is just initial information, and an investigation has to take place just in any case -- in any other case where a person has been shot by a law enforcement officer. And I'm sure that we will learn more details that would help us perhaps prevent such tragedies in the future.

But yet I must say that the decision that has to be taken by the air marshal at that given moment at a spit of a second is justified on the basis of what we have learned until now.

M. O'BRIEN: Let's talk about some of the tools of the trade, if you will. The air marshals carry guns. The guns have special kind of frangible bullets that are designed not to pierce the skin of an airplane. For obvious reasons, you don't want to cause a decompression.

But why aren't the air marshals equipped with, say, tasers or other non-lethal means, which not only would have saved the life of this innocent person yesterday, but also might be safer at altitude?

RON: Well, tasers are limited, both in the effect that they create as well as their range, and many other issues. And the possibility...

M. O'BRIEN: Well, but wait a minute. On an airplane it's going to be close-range. And we certainly know they're effective at taking people down. That's been proven time and again.

RON: Yes. But yet, I don't think that you want to take the risk at that point that the weapon would not do what it is supposed to do, and that is to take the other side or the terrorist out of action immediately, specifically if the threat is a bomb.

M. O'BRIEN: Is it less effective, less useful in that context than a gun?

RON: The taser is less useful than a gun. Its effect is different. And the possibility of the person not being completely stunned by the taser is a possibility.

And I think that on this situation is you really don't want to take a chance. And the fact that the person on the other side would not be a terrorist is a relatively limited option. Certainly it was materialized yesterday.

But if you look at the history of air marshaling around the world since it started back in the '70s and late '60s, there are very few cases where innocent people were shot by air marshals.

M. O'BRIEN: All right. And in the case of Israel and EL-Al, you said there was one case of an air marshal actually shooting somebody on an airplane. Is that correct? And...

RON: That is correct. And that person was a terrorist. This was during an attack, a hijacking attempt on an El-Al airplane back in 1970. There were two terrorists on board. One was shot by the air marshal, and the other one was caught alive.

M. O'BRIEN: Rafi Ron, thanks for being with us this morning.

RON: Thank you.

M. O'BRIEN: Carol.

COSTELLO: Andy is "Minding Your Business" just ahead on AMERICAN MORNING. So, Andy, what's up?

ANDY SERWER, "FORTUNE" MAGAZINE: Carol, high drama at Ford, plus the ante is upped at Delta Airlines. Stay tuned for that.


M. O'BRIEN: Live pictures. That is part of Central Park they call Strawberry Fields, obviously in honor of John Lennon, who on this day 25 years ago was shot and killed outside of his apartment right along Central Park.

And today, people all around the world -- in New York and Liverpool and places in between -- are remembering the Beatles great and the songs he gave us and we treasure forever. "Strawberry Fields Forever."

COSTELLO: I can't believe it's been 25 years.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes.

COSTELLO: Twenty-five years, yes.

SERWER: Yes. It seems...

COSTELLO: And new information is coming out about not only the shooting, but about John Lennon himself. There's a new biography written. So lots of interesting things to read about the Beatles and John Lennon.


COSTELLO: Right now, though, we want to talk about Condoleezza Rice, because she's still on the defensive, I guess, Kelly.

WALLACE: She is, Carol. A good way to put it. She is in Brussels this morning, and she's been trying to convince NATO leaders that the United States does not support torture. Secretary Rice is on a four-country tour of Europe. And all through this tour, she's been dogged by complaints that the United States overstepped its bounds and may have condoned torture of terror suspects. We're expecting to hear from Secretary Rice later this morning. And, of course, we'll bring that to you here at CNN.

The U.S. Army is planning to boost its recruiting efforts. It has hired a new ad agency and plans to spend more than a billion dollars over the next five years. The Army, as you might know, has been struggling with recruiting lately, falling far short of meeting last year's numbers. But officials announced Wednesday that the Army met its active-duty recruiting goal for November.

After months of speculation, Jon Corzine is ready to announce his replacement to the United States Senate. Corzine is New Jersey's newly-elected Democratic governor. He had been a U.S. senator. Aides say Corzine has picked Congressman Robert Menendez to finish out the term. Menendez would become New Jersey's first Latino senator and one of three Latinos in the Senate. The official announcement could come today.

Some good news now. Margaret Thatcher is heading home after a night in the hospital. These pictures just in to CNN. The former British prime minister, nicknamed the "Iron Lady," was admitted overnight after feeling faint. Doctors ran some tests. She's expected to recover at home.

And Pope Benedict is playing his part in the Winter Olympic Games. The pontiff blessed the Olympic Torch about an hour ago. The flame will now take a two-month journey leading up to the games in Turin, Italy, this February. Love the Winter Olympics.

Bonnie Schneider now at the CNN center with a look at the forecast.


COSTELLO: It's very, very cold this morning, especially in the Midwest, and they have snow. It's terrible.

M. O'BRIEN: All right, let's talk about Ford Motor Company. This will take us down, unfortunately, because it's kind of bad news, isn't it, Andy Serwer?

SERWER: It is. It's not entirely unexpected. Here is what's going on. Yesterday, we told you that Ford may be axing as many as 30,000 employees, the nation's second-largest automaker.

The board of that company will be meeting today and concluding a two-day meeting, where they will probably decide how many workers will be pink-slipped and which plants will be closed. They say they're going to keep the results of the meeting secret for a month. I don't think they're going to be able to do that.

Ford sales are down 15 percent last month. Ford Explorer sales down 52 percent. It lost $284 million in the most recent quarter. So, you can see not a very good situation there.

Meanwhile over at Delta Airlines, the ninth day of negotiations yesterday between the pilots union and that troubled airline. An agreement doesn't seem to be much closer. The executive council of the pilots meets today. They may authorize a strike ballot. There's a December 16 deadline that will be a week from tomorrow. Otherwise, a strike may occur.

Now, I would look for this deadline to be extended or an agreement to reach before then, because as we've said several times if the pilots strike it's a very, very, very serious set of circumstances for that company.

COSTELLO: Not only that, but if you have a ticket on Delta to fly home, you know, during the Christmas holiday, you might be in trouble.

SERWER: The very worst time.


M. O'BRIEN: That is the leverage point, isn't it?


M. O'BRIEN: All right. Thank you very much, Andy. Back with you in a little bit.

Coming up, DNC Chairman Howard Dean will join us live. He is in the Bush administration's crosshairs, you might say, most every day, but in this case for controversial comments on Iraq. We'll get some reaction on that ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


M. O'BRIEN: OK. Dot-com stuff. What's popular today? Dogs. Dogs. Scientists have decoded the DNA of man's best friend. And the question is: Why...



M. O'BRIEN: I live this line from the researcher. Dr. Francis Collins (ph) is director of the National Human Genome Research Institute. And he's quoting Groucho Marx. "Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read."

COSTELLO: That's pretty good. I like that.


M. O'BRIEN: So the question is, I wonder if they found the gene that makes them want to drink from toilets. And can we get rid of that?

COSTELLO: I don't think that's exactly what they're looking for.

M. O'BRIEN: No, no, I think there's more serious stuff.

COSTELLO: I think they're trying to find disease genes in dogs.

M. O'BRIEN: Cure cancer, yes.

COSTELLO: And compare them to human genes. And that way maybe we can cure cancer down the line.

M. O'BRIEN: That's good. I'm all excited about the next story. It's Barbara Bush.

COSTELLO: Barbara Bush.

M. O'BRIEN: The younger Barbara Bush.

COSTELLO: Yes. Barbara Bush, Jr., Jr.

M. O'BRIEN: She has a ring. And this is the number one popular story on this morning, because of this picture. Look at it. Scroll up a little so we can see it. There you go. Is she engaged, was the question? She toured a hospital yesterday with her mom and saw some patients, and there was the ring. The White House says no engagement.


M. O'BRIEN: No...

COSTELLO: Why is she wearing that ring then? We want to know.

M. O'BRIEN: Inquiring minds.

COSTELLO: That's right. And they did not explain.

M. O'BRIEN: I noticed she has a dog there, too. Tying this together.

And finally, of course, our top story on, our top story this morning is what happened yesterday in Miami at the airport, and...

COSTELLO: It's really shocking. A man shot and killed after agents say he claimed he had a bomb in his backpack. He reached in the bag. Air marshals shot him to death. We're going to talk to two passengers who were on board that plane to find out what they heard from the passenger and also from this man's wife, who was very upset at this, who was actually chasing him down the aisle, screaming out that he was mentally ill.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes. I still want to know why they couldn't use a taser. I don't think I have a good answer on that.

But anyway, let's -- it's right near the bottom of the hour. We're about to reset and start over. And let's check in with Bonnie before we do that.

Bonnie, what's going on?



M. O'BRIEN: Thank you, Bonnie. I'm Miles O'Brien.