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American Morning

Allegations of Abuse at Another Iraqi Prison; President Bush Back on the Road

Aired December 12, 2005 - 07:00   ET


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Miles O'Brien. Allegations of abuse at another Iraqi prison. The Iraqi government being blamed. We'll go live to Baghdad.
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Soledad O'Brien. President Bush back on the road. He's trying to sell his Iraq strategy. We've got a live report from Washington on part three of his policy push.

M. O'BRIEN: And only a last-minute reprieve can save Tookie Williams, but will Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger step in? We'll look into that, ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

S. O'BRIEN: Good morning. Welcome, everybody. Lots to talk about overseas, of then of course in this country as well. The Tookie Williams case really nearing its end, so to speak.

M. O'BRIEN: An important vote in Iraq this week. And as they get ready for that vote, there is talk this morning of more abuse of prisoners there. In Iraq today, reports of another case of Iraqis abusing Iraqis. We're hearing some gruesome stories from a Baghdad prison.

Aneesh Raman live in Baghdad. What are Iraqi officials saying there, Aneesh?


In the past hour, we heard from the Iraq Prime Minister Ibrahim Al Jaafari commenting on this, the second instance of apparent prisoner abuse by Iraqi security forces. We first learned of it from Iraq's human rights ministry. They say last week, they found a detention center they were investigating here in Baghdad, some 600 detainees cramped into a small space, many of them malnutritioned. Thirteen of them had to be taken to the hospital. The ministry of human rights not saying why, but U.S. officials speaking in anonymity to "The New York Times" and "Washington Post," saying those 13 detainees were, quote, "severely abused."

Now as I said, just moments ago, we heard from Iraq's prime minister. Here's what he had to say.


IBRAHIM AL-JAAFARI, IRAQI PRIME MINISTER: And we don't tolerate any violations of the human rights for detainees, whether it is related to food or any other rights. If they have committed any crimes, this is something different, because we have to separate the humanitarian issues from the legal issues.


RAMAN: Now, Miles, I've been on the phone for the past hour trying to clarify that statement, what does separate humanitarian issues from legal ones. Yet to get an answer. The discovery, though, comes as part of an overall investigation launched by the prime minister after the discovery in mid November of a secret bunker in Baghdad, where Iraqi security forces were abusing prisoners, some 160- plus detainees there, a number of them with signs of severe torture.

So again, Iraq's government trying to weed out areas where this torture is taking place, saying they will further investigate, but for many Iraqis this will be too little, too late -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Aneesh, let's factor this into the election this week, important parliamentary elections, to say the least. Does this play into the vote in some way?

RAMAN: It will. Undoubtedly, it will spark further participation perhaps from the Sunni community. Sunni politicians have long alleged that Shia militias have essentially infiltrated Iraq police, and are, in these instances especially, abusing Sunni prisoners, so Sunni politicians immediately after that discovery in mid November calling for that investigation.

This will likely hurt the ruling Shia coalition who are in power now, set to get the lion's share of the 235 seats up for grabs. It could mean that people vote for Ayad Allawi or for Ahmad Chalabi, but we'll wait to see -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Aneesh Raman in Baghdad, thank you very much -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Well, president Bush is trying to get Americans excited about the Iraqi elections. He is set to deliver the third of four major speeches, all of them aimed at boosting support for the war in Iraq.

Suzanne Malveaux is live for us at the White House this morning.

Suzanne, good morning to you. What's the focus of today's speech?


Well, Soledad, as you know, of course, President Bush is going to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. That is the birthplace of U.S. democracy. What you're going to hear from the president, of course, in about an hour, because he's setting the tone for not only this week, but also for next week, saying this is a transition period for the Iraqi people. He's going to be talking about political progress, saying the more political progress they make, they undercut the bloody insurgency, allowing U.S. troops to come home sooner, as opposed to later. This is the third in a series of four speeches the president to deliver leading up to Iraq's elections. Already the polls are showing some signs of this PR strategy seems to be working for the president. The AP poll showing the president's job approval rating has gone up recently by six percent from November until about now.

Also when you take a look at the question of handling of Iraq, he has gained some points, from 37 percent to -- approved in November to now 41 percent. It's also expected the president is going to talk about the messiness of democracy, U.S. missteps, the missteps they expect in Iraq as well.

The big question here, Soledad, is how are Iraqi, as well as, of course, war critics going to be dealing with this, reacting to this? Already Congressman John Murtha, his hometown is Pennsylvania. He's going to be on-site there to respond to the president's remarks after in a news conference.


REP. JOHN MURTHA (D), PENNSYLVANIA: There's a civil war right now. There's a civil war in Iraq right now, and we're caught in between that civil war, and we're the targets. Our United States service people are the targets of that civil war. And we have inadequate forces for -- to control that.


MALVEAUX: So, Soledad, we expect to hear from him as well, the Congressman, as well as the president. We'll see whether or not this continues with the poll numbers shooting up with the president, helps him at all when it comes to those Thursday elections -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Audience -- the first time he gave a speech it was a military audience. That changed for the second speech. What about this time around?

MALVEAUX: This is going to be political experts. And really everything is highly orchestrated for each one of these speeches. We're talking about Philadelphia. He's going to be not too far away from the Liberty Bell. He's going to talk about this is the place where Americans met to form their own Constitution, that the Iraqis as well are going to take charge of their own lives. We'll see how all of this, of course, plays out -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes, we will, and we'll talk about it, too.

Suzanne Malveaux at the White House this morning. Thanks, Suzanne.


S. O'BRIEN: CNN is going to have live coverage of the president's speech. It's this morning, and it starts at 11:15 a.m. Eastern Time. CNN has special coverage of this turning point in Iraq from "ANDERSON COOPER 360." That's live all week, and that begins tonight at 10:00 p.m. Eastern Time -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Time is running out for Stanley "Tookie" Williams. His options are drying up as well. Late last night the California supreme court denied an emergency request to delay tonight's execution. And now Williams attorneys are taking their plea to federal courts. They're also hoping that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger will step in.

CNN's Kareen Wynter has that.


KAREEN WYNTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera):: Today could be the day California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger weighs in on the fate of Stanley "Tookie" Williams, whose life hangs in the balance behind these prison gates.

Williams is scheduled to die on Tuesday, unless a governor grants his request for clemency.

Williams' friend and closest adviser called the weight cruel. She, along with the ACLU, told reporters yesterday in a conference call that they just handed over what they call evidence to the governor that could prove Williams' innocence. This involves testimony a key prosecution witness allegedly gave during the trial that helped put Williams away. Testimony that now claimed was tainted. We placed calls into prosecutors as well as the governor's office for comments on these allegations, but have not yet heard back from them.

At San Quentin Prison, I'm Kareen Wynter.


S. O'BRIEN: To Lebanon now. Massive car bombings this morning to tell you about. It killed a member, anti-Syrian member of parliament. The attack strikingly similar to the assassination of the former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri last February. CNN's Ben Wedeman is at the scene of the blast in Beirut.

Ben, good morning. We had trouble with your audio before. Give us an update on what's happening now.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, as you can see, Soledad, behind me, the Lebanese police and security forces are combing through the scene. This is where -- this is the road where Gebran Tuenig, the assassinated Lebanese member of parliament normally went down on the heart to Beirut. Now as you can see, on the right-hand side, that where those soldiers are congregated, that apparently is where the bomb was. We're reading in some reports it was 100 kilograms of explosives. Now they've been digging in that area for quite some time. Now the blast took place about five hours ago, 9:00 a.m. local time, a huge blast. It blew out many of the windows in this area, and these cars that were by the side of the road.

Now Gebran Tuenig's car itself was blown over the railing, down into this valley below. You can still see some of the smoke burning down there.

Now, Mr. Tuenig, I've known him for many years, he was an outspoken critic of Syrian involvement in Lebanon. He was somebody who even while the Syrians were here, was unsparing in his criticism about Syrian involvement and what he called interference in Lebanon. And, Soledad, he is just the latest prominent Lebanese critic of Syria to be assassinated here in Beirut -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: An investigation, obviously, getting under way. Ben Wedeman for us this morning in Beirut. Ben, thank you -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: A massive fire is still burning in great Britain this morning. Forty-three people were hurt in a string of explosions at a fuel depot in Hemel Hempstead, England. That is about 25 miles north of London.

Fionnuala Sweeney live at the sight of the explosion.

Fionnuala, I understand firefighters right now are using a certain kind of foam to try to stop this blaze?

FIONNUALA SWEENEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They are, indeed, Miles. They are using 32,000 liters of foam-concentrate permanent to try to extinguish this huge fire which began after a series of explosions yesterday morning.

It's now just after 12:00 in the afternoon here midday, and for the last four hours, the fire authorities have been attacking this fire to try to bring it under control in several phases. There are 20 containers of kerosene, unleaded petrol and diesel. Three million gallons of that in each container here at this site, and seven have been extinguished, and now they authorities say there are just three more to put out. They spent the morning attacking this blaze in several phases, and they have ensured now that phase one is over, and they're now on to phase two, and what they're telling us is that it is absolutely critical what happens in the next hour in order to bring this blaze under control -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Fionnuala, ARE authorities looking into the terrorist possibility here. Al Qaeda had called for attacks on fuel depots?

SWEENEY: Yes. Authorities here have been ruling out from the get-go, though, that this was a terrorist attack. They still don't know the cause of the blaze, but they say that all fingers are pointing to it being merely an accident. Their fear now is that the blaze is so destructive that once it's distinguished hopefully later today -- that's assuming they get this under control in the next hour -- that they will be unable to find out any traces of what caused this, because the fire will have caused so much damage, but antiterrorist branch was indeed on the ground as a matter of course, but they are ruling that out at present -- Miles. M. O'BRIEN: Fionnuala Sweeney, north of London, thank you very much.


S. O'BRIEN: Still ahead this morning, after months of bad news, the president's approval ratings are finally up. We're going to take what's behind that boost in the polls.

Also, some new recommendations for treating breast cancer. Will fewer women have to suffer through chemotherapy? An update on that ahead.

M. O'BRIEN: And worry not if you're flying Delta over the holidays. Andy has news for you on a key development. The pilots there decide not to do an Eastern. That's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


M. O'BRIEN: Delta Airlines on the ropes, but the pilots are helping out. Andy Serwer is here with that.

ANDY SERWER, "FORTUNE" MAGAZINE: Good morning, you guys.

Not completely resolved, but the pressure is off. Delta Airlines and its embattled pilots union have agreed to settle their differences, at least for the time being. The two sides have agreed to a tentative-interim agreement. That's good enough for now. That means 6,000 pilots will be flying for the holidays. A 14 percent pay cut, though, and another one percent cut in benefits, 15 percent in overall compensation hit the pilots are taking. They're going to be looking to strike a comprehensive deal by March 1st. Of course Delta is in bankruptcy and is losing a ton of money, but barring any unforeseen hiccup, it means that they will be flying over Christmas.

Meanwhile, American Airlines, have you noticed? This company is doing OK, while Delta and United are in bankruptcy. Check this out, this is only one of the big three that are not in chapter 11, and the stock has gone from single digits to nearly $20. Not being bankrupt helps. Also the price of oil going down. If you had a price of oil chart, it would be the inverse of this chart, very much having everything to do with the fortunes of being in airlines is the price of oil.

S. O'BRIEN: Interesting. Interesting chart.

All right, Andy, thank you very much.

Ahead this morning, a new approach to treating breast cancer could be that chemotherapy is on the way out. We'll explain just ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


S. O'BRIEN: Chemotherapy, it's often the very first thing you think of when you think about treatments for breast cancer. Now researchers are saying not so fast. To talk about that this morning is Dr. Larry Norton. He is the deputy physician-in-chief for breast cancer programs at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center right here in New York City.

It's nice to see you, Dr. Norton. Thanks for talking with us.


S. O'BRIEN: All this comes out of really new guidelines that I guess they've been looking at in Europe first. Is the theory that too many women were getting chemotherapy and it wasn't working for everybody?

NORTON: No, not really. It actually comes out of a international meeting we had in St. Gowan (ph), Switzerland, and it really represents a lot of our thinking, and the change of thinking. The changes in thinking were really revolutionary, because it's focusing on the biology of the disease. Breast cancer is not one disease. It may be five to seven different diseases. They have different biology, and we have to plan our therapy differently.

S. O'BRIEN: Some degree of patients would come in, and often they would get chemotherapy right away?

NORTON: Well, I mean, chemotherapy works. Chemotherapy actually saves lives. You want to give it to the right person. There are some people who are getting chemotherapy where it's not right for them. There's other treatments. There are other people who are now not getting chemotherapy who should get it. The important thing is allocating the right person to the right treatment.

S. O'BRIEN: You can do that now, because of the test that can really determine what kind of breast cancer specifically each woman has, right?

NORTON: That's exactly right. The tests are improving enormously. We're learning that some cancers benefit more from hormone treatments. Others benefit more from chemotherapy, and there are new treatments that are coming along, drugs like Obastin (ph), that attack the blood supply, drugs like Herceptin that her, too. And we've made real improvements in the hormone therapy also.

S. O'BRIEN: So in a nutshell, can you say that the cancers that are sort of estrogen-based, which would be cancers that seem to attack post-menopausal women, don't necessarily do better with chemotherapy?

NORTON: There are certain categories where indeed the hormone therapy alone is so effective that it's efficient, and we can identify many of these patients now, and we can avoid chemotherapy.

There are other cases, however, where we've seen little tiny cancers that in the past we would of used just hormone therapy, but now we can identify that chemotherapy and some of these advanced treatments can help them as well. So it's finding the right treatment for the person. Chemotherapy used to be really, really awful when I started getting involved in this. It's gotten a whole lot better. Nausea, low-blood counts with infections, all those used to be big problems, and we've really handled that very well.

You still may lose your hair temporarily, but we always emphasize that losing your hair temporarily is better than losing your life permanently.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes.

NORTON: So we really have made big improvements in the chemotherapy, and it's shorter now. We can give it over 14 weeks from beginning to end. So there are is a lot of changes in the positive direction for everybody.

And the really good news out of all of this is the death rate is dropping, with screening, with early diagnosis, with better therapy, everyplace that's monotherapy, the death rate is dropping, and that's really the most important news that comes out of our recent work.

S. O'BRIEN: Talk about the other options which you mentioned a little bit. You have the AIs, the armomatase inhibitors, and then herceptin inovastin (ph). Walk me through what those options are.

NORTON: Well, these are different treatments. It's not for everybody. The aromatase inhibitors are drugs that lower the amount of estrogen in the tissues in post-menopausal women. A lot of people don't realize that your tissues make estrogen, as well as your ovaries. And even when your ovaries stop functioning when you get older, you're still making estrogen in your tissues. The AIs drop that level of estrogen, and that can have a profound influence.

S. O'BRIEN: Especially for an estrogen-based cancer obviously?

NORTON: Yes, and that's why matching the cancer with the disease is important. If you have a cancer that is not responsive to estrogen, then those drugs are going to work. When they do work, they work extremely well, and they lower the chance of the cancer coming back, and they also seem to lower the chance of you getting a new cancer, so that there is evidence that they have some preventive aspect as well.

S. O'BRIEN: What does herceptin attack?

NORTON: Herceptin attacks a molecule called hirtu (ph), that's found in a quarter or a third of breast cancers. It's a very important molecule for stimulating the cancer cell to grow. Herceptin is an antibody that we give intravenously that attacks that, and stops it from functioning. We've been using it for several years to treat advanced breast cancer, and the news of this year is that's if given early on, right after diagnosis, it has a profound impact on preventing the cancer from coming back.

S. O'BRIEN: Huge news for women, avastin, finally. NORTON: Avastin is a drug that affects the blood supply. It effects the signal that the cancer sends out to make blood cells grow into it. And by affecting the blood supply, it starves the cancer of blood supply, so the cancer can't grow. And that adds to other drugs, like Taxol, in killing the cancer cells, and we think that's a bid advance.

S. O'BRIEN: Do you ever see a day where there will be no chemotherapy?

NORTON: Oh, absolutely. I see a day where there will be no more cancer. That's the most important thing.

S. O'BRIEN: A day soon?

NORTON: Chemotherapy is getting us there, and hormone therapy, and gene-based therapies, and gene-based tests, it's all getting us there. The important thing is eradicate breast cancer entirely and forever. And there's no question we're going to do that. It's only a question of when, and so we're working as hard as we can to make that day occur as soon as possible.

S. O'BRIEN: Dr. Larry Norton of Memorial Sloan-Kettering, nice to see you.

NORTON: Thank you.

S. O'BRIEN: Thanks for coming in to talk with us.

NORTON: Thank you. Great Pleasure. Thank you. Thank you.

S. O'BRIEN: We appreciate it -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Coming up in the program, President Bush's approval rating getting a boost. What's behind the turnaround? A closer look ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.