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American Morning

Judging Alito; Pope Gunman Freed; Road to Recovery

Aired January 12, 2006 - 06:00   ET


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, I'm Miles O'Brien.

Tough questions and even tears at the Samuel Alito hearings. Have the confirmation questions gone too far? We're live on Capitol Hill this morning.


OPRAH WINFREY, TALK SHOW HOST: The underlying message of redemption in James Frey's memoir still resonates with me.


M. O'BRIEN: Oprah comes to his defense. A show of support for a beleaguered author as Oprah stands by her guest in a Larry King exclusive.

S. O'BRIEN: Outrage in New Orleans over a controversial new plan for rebuilding the city. We've got more on that plan just ahead.

M. O'BRIEN: And a story breaking overnight, the man who shot the pope is now free and he'd like to sell his story. We'll have a live report from Turkey.

And another one bites the dust. Yet another would-be bandit gets the long end of the stick.

S. O'BRIEN: We start with what happened in the Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito's hearings yesterday. Today he's going to face more tough questions. His final hearing just three hours away. You might say that on Thursday it got pretty ugly. So ugly, in fact, that Mrs. Alito left the Senate floor and she was in tears.

AMERICAN MORNING's Bob Franken is live for us on Capitol Hill.

Hey, Bob, good morning.


Ironically, when she left, it was in response to questions from a friendly Republican who was, in effect, sarcastically asking Judge Alito about questions that have come up about his association of the group called the Concerned Alumni of Princeton, a group that resisted diversity on the campus of Princeton in the '70s and '80s. So Republican Lindsey Graham said to him are you a closet bigot? And he emphatically said, no, I am not. And it was shortly after that that Mrs. Alito left the room in tears.

Of course there's been a lot of stress. The judge has been parrying back and forth, refusing oftentimes to be pinned down to specifics on questions like presidential power and abortion. And it's gotten quite heated -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Well, you know as much as it's gotten heated, you actually see that Judge Alito has stayed very, very calm during the entire hearing. Heated, though, is really the word to describe some of the senators.

FRANKEN: You know it's -- the Senate is an institution that prides itself on what it calls comity, to be distinguished from comedy, but comity, which means intense politeness no matter what, no matter how insincere. But every once in a while true feelings come out. And Senator Kennedy and the chairman of the committee, Republican Arlen Specter, got into it just a tiny bit yesterday.


SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D-MA), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: We're going to have votes of this committee again and again and again until we have a resolution. I think at least...

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R-PA), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Well, Senator Kennedy, I'm not concerned about your threats to have votes again, again and again. And I'm the chairman of this committee.


FRANKEN: Kennedy was trying to get some material subpoenaed. Specter said he didn't want to deal with it. I should point out, Soledad, that they kissed and made up later, which, when you think about it, it's a pretty repulsive thought.

S. O'BRIEN: But it's all under that umbrella of comity,...

FRANKEN: Comity.

O'BRIEN: ... not comedy, as you point out. Let's talk about some of the answers on some of the hot button questions. Pushed again on abortion, Alito was. Did he give any ground?

FRANKEN: Well, no, he didn't really. And the non-answers in the minds of many are really answers. The question, Roe versus Wade, it's a precedent. It's one that's been on the books for 33 years, exactly 33 years as a matter of fact. He was asked repeatedly, has been asked repeatedly, does the precedent mean, in effect, it's cast in concrete? He has repeatedly refused to say that is the case. At one point early in the hearings saying that a precedent is not -- quote -- "an inexorable command."

S. O'BRIEN: Bob Franken for us this morning.

Bob, thank you. A reminder to everybody out there, live coverage of the hearings comes up at 9:00 a.m. Eastern. That's with Wolf Blitzer in a special edition in "THE SITUATION ROOM."

Also, CNN Pipeline subscribers can view live gavel-to-gavel coverage of the hearings, as well as replays of the highlights or lowlights, I guess Bob would say in some cases. That's at

M. O'BRIEN: It's all about the comity.

Outrage in Istanbul today. Twenty-five years after he horrified the world by shooting the pope, Mehmet Ali Agca is free. And while the pope forgave him and even pushed for the amnesty law that set him free, there are others who cannot, especially now that he's trying to sell his story.

Paula Newton live from Istanbul with more.

Good morning -- Paula.


Quite a chaotic morning here in Istanbul. We -- basically the media mob has been chasing him all over the city. He was released a few hours ago after serving really less than five years in a prison here outside of Istanbul.

He was in the military hospital behind me. We just learned that he has left through a backdoor and has given everyone the slip.

Highly controversial here in Turkey. They don't believe that he should have been released today. He was actually in prison here on a separate murder case. He was convicted of murdering a journalist here. And because they included the time served in Italy for his attempted assassination on the pope, it means he was out very, very quickly by Turkish standards. A lot of Turkish people are saying, look, this is another day of shame for our country -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Paula, tell us a little bit more about this attempt to make money off of this crime and his story.

NEWTON: It was more than an attempt, it's quite a calculated way of him trying to really profit from what he has to say about the attempted assassination. He has an agent. Through his lawyer, as well, he's put out the word I'll talk to the highest bidder. We hear that the Italian media, in particular, are very interested, upwards of a million dollars U.S. for one interview.

And of course that has people here in Turkey again very upset, saying there is no reason why this guy should be out, free and having to make a million dollars off an interview. I will say he's here, because he does have to serve some military time and that may keep him under wraps for several more months or weeks to come -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: All right, Paula Newton in Istanbul, thank you very much -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: President Bush wants New Orleans and the Gulf Coast to know we have not forgotten you. This morning he's talking recovery with small business owners in New Orleans. Later in Mississippi, he's going to talk about rebuilding all along the coast.

Suzanne Malveaux has more on his trip.


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (on camera): President Bush is traveling to the Gulf Coast region today. This is his ninth visit to the region. Of course the highlight, reconstruction efforts after the devastation from Hurricanes Rita and Katrina. The president's first stop will be New Orleans. That is where he is meeting with a small group of business leaders to talk about tax and economic incentives.

His second stop will be at Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. That is where he will be making live remarks at a private all-boy's high school. We expect that he will talk about the government's flood insurance program, also highlight the importance of the Gulf Coast as a gateway for the Mississippi River. He will talk about the significance of the fishing and oil industries as well.

All of this, of course, part of the president's efforts to convince the American people that he will hold dearly to his pledge that he made in New Orleans' Jackson Square that he is making reconstruction of this area a priority.

Suzanne Malveaux, CNN, the White House.


S. O'BRIEN: The president could be headed into a kind of hornet's nest. Protests are planned for his visit.

Also, New Orleans residents are furious about the city's master plan to rebuild. The Bring Back New Orleans Commission released its first recommendations on Wednesday. They include a moratorium on new building permits in heavily flooded areas, a phased-in approach for rebuilding and calls for neighborhoods to submit rebuilding plans by May 20.

The bottom line for residents in those hardest hit areas, in order to rebuild, they are going to have to prove that their neighborhood is strong enough to survive. And reaction on Wednesday was fast and furious.


CAROLINE PARKER, NEW ORLEANS RESIDENT: And I don't think it's right that you try to take our property because, like I say, over my dead body.


HARVEY BENDER, NEW ORLEANS RESIDENT: You don't live in my yard. How are you going to tell me to rebuild? What's a rebuild?


S. O'BRIEN: Much more ahead this morning on this story. We're going to talk to two former mayors in our 7:00 hour Eastern Time. We're going to hear from several New Orleans homeowners in the 8:00 hour as well -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Well certainly nothing like a hurricane, but in Oregon, all that rain making a huge mess along the historic Columbia River Highway. Check that out. You don't see a mudslide every day. There it was. Good thing nobody hurt. It was near Troutdale where this happened. The highway is now closed until that shaky ground can be stabilized. Good idea.

Chad Myers at the CNN Center.

We're glad nobody was hurt in that, but boy, that's a lot of rain. What's the outlook -- Chad?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Not good. I have the next 10 days in my hand, Miles. Here's every day the chance of rain. For today 60 percent, tomorrow 90, Friday 90, 70, 70, 40 through the weekend. Twenty, finally, maybe a break Sunday night. And then for Monday, 60 Monday, 70 Tuesday, 60 -- it's just going to be raining for days, obviously. Now 26 days in a row for Seattle, a couple of showers there right now, but not too much. Today, today is kind of a drier day, but tonight it really gets wet again.


S. O'BRIEN: I know I shouldn't like it because it's winter, but I like it.

MYERS: Right.

S. O'BRIEN: Sixty degrees in January, why not -- Chad?

MYERS: Exactly.

S. O'BRIEN: That's what I say.

MYERS: All right.

S. O'BRIEN: Thanks -- Chad.

MYERS: You're welcome.

S. O'BRIEN: Oprah Winfrey breaks her silence on the controversy surrounding the best selling book she endorsed. Critics say parts of James Frey's memoir, which is called "The Million Little Pieces," are exaggerated or just made up. Now Frey defended his book last night in an exclusive interview on CNN's "LARRY KING LIVE." He called it -- quote -- "a subjective recollection of my life." It's become a best seller, in part, because of Oprah Winfrey's Book Club. Then, in a surprise phone call to the show, Oprah defended her recommendation.


WINFREY: I am disappointed by this controversy surrounding "A Million Little Pieces," because I rely on the publishers to define the category that a book falls within and also the authenticity of the work.

So, I'm just like everybody else. I go to the bookstore. I pick out a book that I love. If it says memoir, I know that maybe the names and the dates and the times have been compressed, because that's what a memoir is.

And I feel about "A Million Little Pieces" that although some of the facts have been questioned -- and people have a right to question, because we live in a country that lets you do that, that the underlying message of redemption in James Frey's memoir still resonates with me. And I know that it resonates with millions of other people who have read this book and will continue to read this book.


S. O'BRIEN: Just about an hour, Larry King is going to join us with more. We're going to talk about that exclusive interview with James Frey.

"LARRY KING LIVE," of course, airs weeknights at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

M. O'BRIEN: So when we get him on the line, are you going to say hello, Los Angeles, right? Are you going to do that?

S. O'BRIEN: Absolutely -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: All right.

Coming up, a convenience store clerk has a Buford Pusser moment. Out comes the bat and out goes the would-be bandit, the latest chapter in our surveillance camera all-star week.

S. O'BRIEN: And we've been doing a lot of these...

M. O'BRIEN: We have.

S. O'BRIEN: ... haven't we?

M. O'BRIEN: We have.

S. O'BRIEN: Also this morning, Howard Stern has been on satellite radio for less than a week. Already it looks like stock in Sirius Radio may not be the best investment. We'll talk about that ahead.

M. O'BRIEN: And Starbucks sets to conquer Hollywood. Would you like a little movie in your latte or a latte in your movie or something like that? That's coming up on AMERICAN MORNING.


M. O'BRIEN: All right, I think we're going to start the surveillance camera channel and just kind of compile all of these. But this one is worth watching. Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, check out Jimmy Sing (ph). He owns the convenience store. Buford Pusser style, just goes after him with the bat. And the suspect says, you know, I don't need the money no more, his words.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes.

M. O'BRIEN: And off he goes. One more time. There he goes. I want your money, give me the money, open the cash draw. Jimmy Sing says, sure, I'll give you the money. Yes, there it is. The money is Louisville slugger currency. Police were already staked out at his house, apparently. And he was arrested, based on another tip, when he got home. Jimmy Sing surveillance camera all-star of the day. Wow!

You know...

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: I can't believe the guy was still standing to run out. He was waling on him.

S. O'BRIEN: He -- I think because he never really connected with him. He injured him slightly. But if he had hit him the way he was swinging at him with that bat...

M. O'BRIEN: You think he was just flailing? He was just flailing? Yes.


S. O'BRIEN: No, no, no, I think he did pretty well. But the guy...

M. O'BRIEN: Let me see.

S. O'BRIEN: There was such a distance over the counter.

COSTELLO: Well watch.

M. O'BRIEN: All right, that first one.

S. O'BRIEN: Look, he never connects.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes, but then...

COSTELLO: But look, he goes and hits some more now.

M. O'BRIEN: Then I think he's -- I think he's getting some -- yes, yes, now, now. COSTELLO: Bam. Bam.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes, he got -- clocked him one.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes. Now that was -- you know, like Ted Williams used to say, he'd see the baseball like a watermelon. I think he saw the watermelon there, you know what I mean,...

S. O'BRIEN: Yes, I mean the guy had to go to the hospital.

M. O'BRIEN: ... just smacking that thing.

S. O'BRIEN: He was treated...

M. O'BRIEN: Yes.

S. O'BRIEN: ... for some injuries. But you know, if he had knocked him cold with that bat, he could have killed him.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes.

S. O'BRIEN: The way he was swinging, he could have killed him.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes.

COSTELLO: Most definitely.

M. O'BRIEN: You know where's he running there? Right now he's running for the Aleve. All right.

COSTELLO: That's so wrong.

M. O'BRIEN: Let's get Carol Costello in for some headlines, right?

S. O'BRIEN: Quickly, Carol, help us.

COSTELLO: I know, that was so wrong.

Good morning, everyone.

President Bush heading into a possible storm this morning. The president will be in New Orleans where some residents are very angry about plans to rebuild the city. He also plans a stop in Mississippi.

During a trip on Kentucky on Wednesday, the president talked about Iraq, telling the audience he is not backing down.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well things are good. I'm confident we'll succeed. And it's tough, though. The enemy has got one weapon, I repeat to you, and that's to shake our will. And I just want to tell you, whether you agree with me or not, they're not going to shake my will. We're doing the right thing.


COSTELLO: President Bush may not be backing off, but that doesn't mean the majority of Americans are on the same page. New CNN- "USA Today"-Gallup Poll numbers for you now. Three years after the invasion, 53 percent of Americans believe it was not worth going to war. Forty-six percent say it was. And when asked do you believe Iraq can establish a democratic government and maintain order without U.S. troops, only 19 percent said yes, while a whopping 75 percent said no.

Searchers in northwestern Georgia have found the wreckage of a missing Navy plane. There are no survivors. The twin engine jet was found about 30 miles south of Chattanooga, Tennessee in Walker County, Georgia. It had taken off from Chattanooga on Tuesday on a training mission. Communication with the plane was lost 20 minutes later. All four people onboard were killed in the crash.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon will have a brain scan later today. Doctors at the Jerusalem hospital where he is being treated say he remains in serious but stable condition. Sharon was hospitalized last week after a major stroke. One of his doctors say the 77-year-old Israeli leader's recovery will take months.

Former President Bill Clinton is doing more to help stop spread the -- to stop the spread of AIDS. Word is that his foundation has cut a deal to provide cheaper AIDS tests and drugs in developing countries. The initiative is expected to save those countries millions of dollars. A formal announcement is expected later today.

And those Toyota Priuses, they are so environmentally friendly they attract the environment, or creatures from the environment. Take a look at that sea lion. It decided the nearby beach just wasn't so comfortable as the roof of this Toyota. This is a parking lot at the restaurant. We don't know why he chose this car specifically. But a worker at the restaurant later managed to coax the sea lion off the roof of the car and back into the water.

M. O'BRIEN: Well it's...

COSTELLO: It was probably warm on the roof, Chad.

M. O'BRIEN: It's a Prius. He's an environmentally...

S. O'BRIEN: I would say. The gas mileage.

M. O'BRIEN: ... engaged. He's making a statement about global warming I think.

S. O'BRIEN: And sea lions.

COSTELLO: I'm sure that's...

M. O'BRIEN: Yes. Yes.

COSTELLO: Gosh, I just think it was warm up there -- Chad. MYERS: I think it was just high ground, because it's been raining there for so long. I think he was just looking for some place to go.


Back to you guys.

S. O'BRIEN: All right, Chad, thank you very much.

More legal trouble to talk about for Wal-Mart. And again it's with some of its workers.

Carrie Lee has the story in our "Financial News Update."

Good morning.

CARRIE LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Soledad. Good morning -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Good morning -- Carrie.

LEE: As many as 150,000 workers could be taking place -- taking part, rather, in a new class-action suit in Pennsylvania. Workers are alleging that the retailing giant forced them to work off of the clock to meet the retailer's demands. So the judge has okayed this suit in Pennsylvania. The lead claimant says she worked 8 to 12 unpaid hours a month on average.

And this is similar to other suits Wal-Mart has faced. A California jury last month awarded Wal-Mart workers $172 million. And Colorado, similar case there, for $50 million for illegally denied lunch breaks. So we'll see how this all shakes out. But you know Wal-Mart has faced a lot of suits like this in recent years.

S. O'BRIEN: And if they keep having these numbers in the settlements, or in the judgements, I tell you, more employees are going to start coming together for these class-action suits, one would imagine.

LEE: Exactly. And Wal-Mart says you know the company's policy is to not do things like this. But who knows what happens at individual locations, I mean there are different managers there, obviously.

Now yesterday Wal-Mart came out, a report saying, look, we've increased pay by 4.5 percent. Average pay above $10 an hour. So it's always this constant battle. You know Wal-Mart saying, look, we're a good company, we treat people well. And then you hear stories like this. It's always a back and forth with things.

S. O'BRIEN: And they're the biggest employer, so I guess...

LEE: Absolutely.

S. O'BRIEN: ... everybody is going to watch every single move they make all the time.

LEE: Right.

M. O'BRIEN: It seems no matter what they say they draw criticism at this point...

LEE: There are a lot of critics.

M. O'BRIEN: ... when you're that big. Yes.

LEE: Wal-Mart watch a lot of critical organizations, you bet. Everything they do very closely watched.

S. O'BRIEN: OK, Carrie.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes. That's great.

S. O'BRIEN: Thanks.


S. O'BRIEN: Carol has got a look at what's coming up in "Morning Coffee."

Good morning.

COSTELLO: Good morning.

Talk about thinking outside of the box, we've got one politician's idea for stopping unwanted pregnancies, the condom police. No joke.

Stay with us. AMERICAN MORNING will be right back.


S. O'BRIEN: My husband's birthday, too, today.

M. O'BRIEN: Is it really?

S. O'BRIEN: Yes.

M. O'BRIEN: Well happy birthday, Brad. And...

S. O'BRIEN: I just remembered, honestly, when I saw the date.

M. O'BRIEN: That is -- you've got some work to do.

COSTELLO: Why did you just admit that?

S. O'BRIEN: Because he's traveling, he doesn't know.


M. O'BRIEN: He has no idea. What, he doesn't have TV in his room wherever he is? COSTELLO: He's sleeping.

M. O'BRIEN: He's beyond the reach of CNN.

S. O'BRIEN: He's not getting up right now. My bad.

COSTELLO: Let's get to "Morning Coffee" now, for Brad's sake.

M. O'BRIEN: Let's do it.

S. O'BRIEN: Let's.

Good morning.

COSTELLO: The heck with thin is in, rubenesque rocks, kind of. Yes, there's a qualifier there. I say that because there's a new study out that offers good news and bad news for those of us who are rubenesque. This new report says attitudes about...

M. O'BRIEN: And that means kind of...

COSTELLO: Shapely.

M. O'BRIEN: ... shapely.

COSTELLO: Voluptuous.

S. O'BRIEN: Curvy.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes, OK.


M. O'BRIEN: All right, thank you. Does that count for me or is that just for women? I'm not allowed to be rubenesque, right?

COSTELLO: Yes, you are, actually.

M. O'BRIEN: All right. OK. I am, OK, good. Onward.

COSTELLO: That's like your biggest nightmare to be in video like this, the heaviest overweight people. I don't know.

Anyway, let's...

M. O'BRIEN: Yes, but maybe, hey, that's my gut. What's it doing there?

COSTELLO: That's my worst nightmare.

S. O'BRIEN: What's this down here?

M. O'BRIEN: Hey, hey.

S. O'BRIEN: What's the study? COSTELLO: Let's get back to this new study, though, because it says attitudes about fat are changing. It says just 24 percent of people find overweight people less attractive. That's down from 55 percent in the 1980s.

Keep two things in mind, though, two-thirds of us are overweight. And two, the study found that overweight boys and girls are only about half as likely to find dates as skinny people. So decide for yourself what that study really means.

M. O'BRIEN: So there are limits to the rubenesqueness -- Carol?

COSTELLO: Well I don't think everybody is telling the truth about...

S. O'BRIEN: People who are accepting but more people are heavy.

COSTELLO: Well people may not be more accepting, they might just be saying they are more accepting...

M. O'BRIEN: I see.

COSTELLO: ... because two-thirds of us are actually overweight.

M. O'BRIEN: Got you.


Let's talk about Howard Stern, though, on his birthday. Howard Stern has been given the go ahead to start selling his Sirius stock, but it is not worth what it once was, and that's just from two days ago.

Take a look at the chart. Since Stern took the air on Monday, the stock has dropped 45 cents. That equates to around 15 million bucks out of Stern's pocket. Sirius gave Stern more than 34 million shares of its stock on the first day on the job. And just for a little perspective, since Monday, XM Satellite Radio, Sirius's competitor, it's gained $2, while Sirius has lost. It's wacky, isn't it?

M. O'BRIEN: So the Stern honeymoon lasted about one morning.


M. O'BRIEN: Pretty much, yes.

COSTELLO: So far it's not looking good.

M. O'BRIEN: All right.

COSTELLO: We'll see.

M. O'BRIEN: He's still having a pretty good birthday though, I think.

COSTELLO: Well, yes, he's rich as all get out.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes. Yes. Yes.

COSTELLO: If you ever visit Colombia, be ware the condom police. Yes. A city councilmen in Tulua thinks he has a way to fight unwanted pregnancies and stop the spread of AIDS. He wants to force every boy and girl to carry a condom, because -- and I quote -- "sexual relations are going on constantly. Chances are if you carry a condom, you'll use it."

S. O'BRIEN: Constantly.

COSTELLO: Constantly.

S. O'BRIEN: That's kind of an odd word.

M. O'BRIEN: Makes me want to move there...

COSTELLO: Well that's what they're doing in Colombia.

M. O'BRIEN: ... just to see what's going on.


COSTELLO: Anyway, if you are caught without a condom, you would face a fine of like $180. And believe me, the condom police will be checking. The proposal could go into effect in March.

And speaking of -- well I don't even want to do that segue, so I won't.

M. O'BRIEN: No, don't do that segue. Don't do it.

S. O'BRIEN: Don't go there. Don't go there.

COSTELLO: We're talking about...

S. O'BRIEN: Don't. Just don't.

COSTELLO: ... Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie having a baby. You know papers always do those creepy composites of what their kid would look like.

S. O'BRIEN: Right.

M. O'BRIEN: My gosh.

COSTELLO: Well "The New York Post" did this composite. That's what the Pitt-Jolie baby would look like.

M. O'BRIEN: It's the Pittlet (ph).

S. O'BRIEN: Still a cute baby.

M. O'BRIEN: A little Pittlet right there. Yes.

COSTELLO: As "The Post" said, it's their little bundle of Jolie.

M. O'BRIEN: All right.

COSTELLO: Well there you have it.

M. O'BRIEN: All right.

S. O'BRIEN: All right, Carol, thank you.

Ahead this morning, author James Frey breaks his silence on the controversy over his memoirs, and Larry King gets a surprise caller to chime in.


LARRY KING, CNN HOST: We're going to hold the show a little longer, because I understand we have Oprah on the phone. So let's see what she has to say.

Are you there, my friend?

WINFREY: Hello, Larry. How are you?

KING: Hello, dear one. How you doing?

WINFREY: Good. I'm watching James and Lynne.

Hi, James.


S. O'BRIEN: We're going to tell you what Oprah said about the controversial book that she recommended to millions of her viewers. That story is ahead on AMERICAN MORNING. We're back in just a moment.