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American Morning

Chopper Down; Iran Nuclear Showdown; MLK Day Celebration; Tragedy at Sago Mine; Too Real?

Aired January 16, 2006 - 06:00   ET


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you on this Martin Luther King Day. I'm Miles O'Brien.
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Carol Costello. Thank you for joining us. I'm in for Soledad today.

O'BRIEN: And happy Martin Luther King Day to you. It is the 20th anniversary of the holiday. Do you believe that? This morning we will look at the next battleground in the civil rights movement.

COSTELLO: Police in Florida say this video led to the arrest of two teenagers for three brutal beatings of homeless men, one of them fatal. But the pictures don't tell us why.

O'BRIEN: More fallout for the congressional scandal, another key committee member gives up his seat of power, for now.

COSTELLO: And it's hard to believe this guy is a political heavyweight in Britain. Yes, that's him on the ground kissing the floor. So why exactly does a Member of Parliament think he's a very large housecat? We'll try to figure out that one for you.

O'BRIEN: And pay dirt in space dust. The great excitement over grains of a comet captured in space and returned to Earth. Looks like a great B movie, doesn't it?

We begin with a developing story out of Iraq this morning. Another U.S. chopper is down north of Baghdad. Yet another in a series of recent helicopter crashes in Iraq, the third this month.

Let's go to Michael Holmes right away live in Baghdad with more.

Michael, what do we know?


That's right, the details still fairly sketchy. It happened about six hours ago, as you said, just north of the capital. According to a U.S. military official, he would not say what type of helicopter it was, but did say it was a two-man crew. That could mean a couple of helicopters, the Kiowas or even an Apache, but we don't know yet. Not clear, either, what caused it to go down. Now, and of course no word on injuries or death.

As you said, the 39 days, you'll remember the Black Hawk went down with 12 dead, 8 of them military, 4 civilians. And a two-man Kiowa also went down just a couple of days ago. Both crew members died in that accident. So, as you said, 39 days -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: All right, CNN's Michael Holmes in Baghdad, thank you very much.

Catching you up on a story that developed over the weekend, the chief judge in the Saddam Hussein trial would like to resign and become just a regular judge of the tribunal. Rizgar Amin, the white- haired person who we've seen so often at the bench there, cited personal reasons. But The Associated Press is reporting Amin wants to step down because he's fed up with criticism that he's let the trial spin out of control. The head of the tribunal is studying his request.

COSTELLO: In London today, the world's biggest nuclear powers are looking for a way out of a nuclear showdown with Iran. America, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China all talking about Iran restarting its nuclear program. Iran warns the price of oil will rise if it's sanctioned by the United Nations. Senators from both parties say this is one of the most serious threats we face.

Our chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour joins us by videophone from Tehran.

Christiane, will anything come out of these talks?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, hard to tell. It's clear that the Europeans and the Americans, the U.S. government, are trying to go step by step to build a consensus. They're doing it very differently than they did it around Iraq several years ago. This looks to be much more of a deliberate effort at building diplomacy.

The question is where will that diplomacy lead to and what in fact will it mean? Will there be punitive measures? Will there be any last chances given for Iran to come back to its agreement with Europe to start its nuclear power -- nuclear program? Iran says its right to research its right to have peaceful nuclear energy is nonnegotiable. But it also says it's still open to talks and negotiations with Europe and with the IAEA.

COSTELLO: Christiane, I know that Iran is counting on support from Russia and China. Will it get it?

AMANPOUR: Hard to tell. It looks like that that's where its hope lies in a split security council. Of course China is a huge client, because China needs so much oil to finance and to fuel its massive verging population and all its technology and all the other things you know more than a billion people need. And Iran is a huge client of China's in the oil field and in so many others. So it's hard to see exactly how these economic sanctions, if they are thought about, how they're going to be implemented here.

Also, there are certain Iranians who do believe that this country, in fact most, has the right to peaceful nuclear technology. But if you push a little deeper, there are many who don't believe that they need to go as far as confrontation with the West over this issue. So it's also causing some tension here inside Iran.

COSTELLO: Christiane Amanpour reporting live from Tehran, Iran this morning, thanks.

O'BRIEN: It is Martin Luther King Day today, the 20th anniversary of that holiday. A surprise over the weekend, Dr. King's widow, Coretta Scott King, with her first public appearance since last year's celebration. She is recovering from a stroke and cannot speak or walk. She was at the Salute to Greatness dinner in Atlanta.

Today in Washington, President Bush will pay special tribute to the struggle for civil rights.

Elaine Quijano covers the White House for us.


ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Today, President Bush will take part in events commemorating the life and the legacy of the slain civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

First, this morning, the president will head to the National Archives to view The Emancipation Proclamation. Then, this afternoon, the president visits the Kennedy Center. There he is scheduled to deliver remarks at Georgetown University's annual Let Freedom Ring concert honoring Dr. King.

In a statement, President Bush noted that "while progress has been made in achieving equality in the U.S., more work remains."

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the federal holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Elaine Quijano, CNN, the White House.


O'BRIEN: The president makes his remarks today, 3:30 Eastern Time, honoring the King holiday from the Kennedy Center. CNN will carry Mr. Bush's remarks live.

More fallout in the wake of lobbygate, if you will. The man known as the Mayor of Capitol Hill is out of a job. Ohio Congressman Bob Ney stepping down as Chairman of the House Administration Committee. He's linked to that bribery scandal surrounding the lobbyist Jack Abramoff, and House leaders wanted him to step down.

Leading the Administration Committee is an extremely powerful job. You may not have heard of it, though, but it is powerful. Ney's committee sets the budgets for every other committee in the House and thus he gets that term, the moniker, the Mayor of Capitol Hill. Ney says he expects to be cleared, eventually, and he wants his job back then.

COSTELLO: Sago Mine survivor Randy McCloy's heart and liver are getting stronger, but doctors say they are still concerned over his kidneys.

CNN's Christopher King has more from Buckhannon, West Virginia.


CHRISTOPHER KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Randal McCloy is now in serious conditions. Doctors say his health is improving slowly. He is the lone survivor of that Sago Mine disaster that took the lives of 12 miners. Today, work crews will continue drilling in the mine. They want to vent it to clear toxic gases so investigators can go down into the mine.

Yesterday in Buckhannon, a memorial service was held for the miners. Well-wishers and mourners packed the Wesley Chapel at West Virginia Wesleyan College in Buckhannon. Family members lit candles and remembered their loved ones as men of honor, dignity and courage.

Christopher King, CNN, Buckhannon, West Virginia.


COSTELLO: As for what went wrong in the Sago Mine and what caused that explosion, investigators still have not reentered the mine.

O'BRIEN: Here's some sweet words for NASA, we have touchdown. NASA's Stardust mission, to collect interstellar dust particles from the tail of a comet, and did Sunday when the capsule floated back to Earth in Utah. Everything working nominally as they say at NASA.

It's carrying, perhaps, about a thimble load of material from the beginnings of the solar system, about four-and-a-half billion years ago. Not a lot, but maybe enough to help scientists better understand how planets formed. The mission was launched back in '99, orbited the sun, and in January of 2004, flew right through the tail of the comet Vildt II. Scientists will open the capsule tomorrow for their first up close look at the stellar dust.

Chad Myers, wouldn't it be wild if they opened it up and there was somebody inside?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well that's probably not likely.

O'BRIEN: A little green man, hello. It's all right. It's all right.

MYERS: Do you get the frequent flier miles on that thing?

O'BRIEN: Three billion miles. Think about that.

MYERS: Three billion miles...

O'BRIEN: That's quadruple platinum I think. Yes.

MYERS: And the parachute worked this time. It didn't come crashing down. O'BRIEN: It did, unlike our Genesis. You remember Genesis?


O'BRIEN: It's that one that just went boom, augured right in.

MYERS: Made a crater.

Is it cold enough for you out there?

O'BRIEN: Boy, 14, man, this morning.

MYERS: It is. It is chilly in New York.

O'BRIEN: Without the wind.

MYERS: Without the wind.


MYERS: Wait until I add the wind chill factor in.



Back to you.

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

Coming up in the program, some tense moments over Philadelphia. Some relieved passengers deplane after their U.S. Airways twin engine makes an emergency landing. Pilots had to shut down one of its engines. We'll tell you why.

COSTELLO: Also, those homeless beatings in Florida, two suspects turn themselves in, but were others involved?

O'BRIEN: And later, angry protests in Pakistan after a failed U.S. airstrike on al Qaeda's number two man. Why was U.S. intelligence wrong? What are the implications? We'll go inside on the war on terror ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


O'BRIEN: We're back.

Time to check some headlines. Kelly Wallace in with that.

Good morning -- Kelly.


And we're beginning in Israel where we are hearing there has been some movement for Israeli leader Ariel Sharon. A hospital statement quoting Sharon's family today as saying "he moved his eyelids." Sharon, you'll recall, had a massive stroke nearly two weeks ago. He underwent a surgical procedure Sunday to help wean him off a respirator.

Also, in another development, Sharon's centrist Kadima Party named interim Prime Minister Ehud Olmert as its acting chairman. Olmert will lead the party into Israel's March 28 election.

Two Florida teenagers suspected of beating three homeless men are in custody and now facing murder charges. You probably remember this graphic surveillance video of one of the beatings. This took place in Fort Lauderdale. This man lived. Another man did not. The teens, one 18, the other 17, are also suspects in the beating of a third man. They turned themselves in on Sunday, and police are looking into whether the two suspects had any accomplices.

Some frightening moments for passengers aboard a U.S. Airways flight to Baltimore. The plane took off from Philadelphia on Sunday. But after about 20 minutes, the pilot declared an emergency and shut down one of the plane's two engines. The plane returned back to Philly and landed safely. Everyone, we are happy to say, was OK.

And pro football rolling on towards Super Bowl Sunday. But the big game won't include Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts because they lost 21 to 18 to the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Colts had a chance to tie the game with 17 seconds left, but a field goal attempt was way off. The Steelers face Denver Sunday for the AFC championship.

And also, the Carolina Panthers beat the Chicago Bears 29 to 21. And they face Seattle for the NFC championship next weekend.

Chad, some good games and some upsets over the weekend.

MYERS: Yes, they really were. When Jerome Bettis fumbled that ball on the one and they ran it back and had a chance to kick the field goal, it was the most amazing time in football, I think, this weekend.

Good morning.


COSTELLO: Thank you very much, Chad.

The markets are closed because, of course, it's Martin Luther King Day, but there is business news. Some DaimlerChrysler employees may be in hot water. And of course we have some news from the airlines.

And hopefully that's good -- Carrie Lee.

CARRIE LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well the airlines news not so good, nor is the news from DaimlerChrysler, actually.

COSTELLO: Great. LEE: Well Northwest news actually not too bad, but let me start with DaimlerChrysler. The company has suspended nine managers over allegations that they were involved in paying bribes in order to secure a business delivering trucks to the government of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Now this, according to a couple of different German media reports and also here. In total, about 2,000 companies and individuals are being investigated in this. This is part of the U.N. Oil-for-Food program. So that's the latest on Daimler.

Turning to Northwest, the company perhaps getting closer to working out a deal with its ground workers. The union representing the ground workers, about 14,000 people, have agreed to present the company's contract settlement proposal to its members. They will vote on it. Now if they cannot reach a deal by tomorrow, that's when Northwest's bankruptcy trial will start, Northwest does plan then to ask to have the contracts voided. So it looks like they are getting one step closer to an agreement here.

Then finally, UAL, of course parent to United Airlines. According to "The Wall Street Journal," the flight attendants here have lost a court case. A judge said it was legal for the company to terminate their pensions, so not such good news for United. They are planning to come out of bankruptcy soon.

COSTELLO: And that could have all sorts of wide affects.

LEE: Exactly.


LEE: Could set a precedent, so.

COSTELLO: Thank you -- Carrie.


COSTELLO: Coming up in "Morning Coffee," a hard to believe case of identity theft. Do these two guys look alike? Apparently some people thought so. Here's a hint, one of them is the NFL star Brett Favre. Stay with us for "Morning Coffee" on AMERICAN MORNING.


WALLACE: You know that one -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: That's Bruce. I can do that.

WALLACE: Yes. Right.

O'BRIEN: I can do that.

WALLACE: You could do Bruce.

O'BRIEN: Could.

COSTELLO: That would have been so pathetic.

O'BRIEN: I know. Karl (ph), the other day, said the Beatles, the Beatles.

WALLACE: I like that one.

O'BRIEN: Instead of the classic.

All right, time for "Morning Coffee."

COSTELLO: It certainly is, and let's call on Dr. Lee. In two hours it may be a cruise ship mystery will be solved. Hey, it happens in an hour on "CSI" on TV, right? Last summer, George Smith disappeared while on his honeymoon in the Mediterranean. You have heard this story, his blood found near the lifeboats, but there was no body.

Well, now noted CSI guy Henry Lee is taking a crack at the case. And you may best remember him as the forensic expert in the O.J. Simpson trial. He will be given two hours aboard the ship to investigate. But he says there is only a 50-50 chance that he will be able to solve the mystery.

You look skeptical -- Kelly.

WALLACE: He says only a 50-50 chance.

O'BRIEN: Why only two hours? Why only two hours?

COSTELLO: Only two hours, that's all the cruise ship people will allow him on board.

O'BRIEN: They're very busy. They got to...

COSTELLO: They're very busy.

WALLACE: I think he's been hired by the family, though, right, George Smith's family, because...


COSTELLO: Yes, and they gave him two hours.

WALLACE: ... they are trying to get some answers.

COSTELLO: So we'll be following it and...

WALLACE: We sure will.

COSTELLO: ... see if he's successful.

Better safe than sorry, you bet. A bit of a scare at San Francisco's airport on Sunday, about a thousand people were evacuated when a security screener saw something suspicious in a carry-on bag. So they blasted the bag with a water canon. "San Francisco Chronicle" reports that officials thought the items in the bag resembled components for a bomb.

O'BRIEN: So this is the new way, instead of blowing it up, you do the water canon?

WALLACE: You blast it with a water canon.

COSTELLO: Blast it with a water canon.


COSTELLO: And in the end there really wasn't anything of concern in the bag after all. So the poor guy who owned the bag was allowed to pick it up. It was very wet. They gave him a plastic bag. He put his luggage inside and then he boarded his un-delayed flight.

O'BRIEN: And all the passengers in line soaking wet.

WALLACE: Cleared out the upper...


COSTELLO: So there you have it.


O'BRIEN: There it is (ph).

COSTELLO: You would think it would not be an easy thing to pass yourself off as someone famous unless you bear a striking resemblance to that person. We'll get to that in just a minute.

Let's talk about the crime first. An Arizona man allegedly passed himself off as the Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre, stole his identity. Allegedly used his credit card to rack up 10,000 bucks in charges. Green Bay Packers security alerted the NFL after about 35 charges for pizza and beer showed up on Favre's credit card.

O'BRIEN: This guy was thinking small. He's got his card. He's got his digits. He's buying pizza. I mean...

COSTELLO: He's got -- 10,000 bucks, it's pizza and beer.

O'BRIEN: It's cars, weekends.

COSTELLO: And all of these purchases went down in Arizona and Brett Favre does not live in Arizona.


COSTELLO: Now, let's take a look at the pictures, because can you really see how someone could mistake the two men? One is a famous -- there's Brett Favre. Everybody knows Brett Favre.

O'BRIEN: It's Favre, right?

WALLACE: It is a hard name to say. COSTELLO: Just Favre.

O'BRIEN: Favre.

COSTELLO: Yes, it's Favre.

WALLACE: Favre, yes.

O'BRIEN: But here's the trick, get the impostor to try to spell it. Bet he couldn't do it.

COSTELLO: I bet he couldn't.

O'BRIEN: Bet he couldn't.

COSTELLO: Anyway, he's charged now...

WALLACE: Weren't they suspicious in Arizona and the guy lives in Green Bay and...

COSTELLO: You would think.

O'BRIEN: You would think.

COSTELLO: You would think. And you would think they'd ask him for identification, but they didn't.

WALLACE: And asked for an autograph, though.

COSTELLO: Maybe they did.

WALLACE: They did.

O'BRIEN: Poor, Brett, after this year on the field,...


O'BRIEN: ... that's all he needed.

WALLACE: No, it was not a good year for him.


O'BRIEN: All right. Well now imagine this one, think it, we've had "Morning Coffee," we're going to call this new segment "Morning Scone" now, because we have this scone now. Imagine Tom DeLay on "American Idol." What would his -- singing, yes. Anyway. Hillary Clinton on "Fear Factor." What do you think of that? That's pretty much what's happening in Britain where one Member of Parliament has decided to give reality TV a try while still in office.

CNN's Jim Boulden has the story for us.

Good morning -- Jim.

JIM BOULDEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Miles. Well George Galloway cannot blame this on an imposter. It is George Galloway inside the "Big Brother" house. He said he wanted to be one of the 11 celebrities to go into the house, because he wanted to get the younger audience to understand politics. But as we now know, George Galloway got just a little bit more than what he was bargaining for.


JIM BOULDEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): People in the United States may remember British Member of Parliament George Galloway as the fiery Scotsman who took on members of the U.S. Congress over his alleged role in the Iraq Oil-for-Food scandal.

GEORGE GALLOWAY, BRITISH MP: If you had anybody who ever paid me a penny, you would have produced them here today.

BOULDEN: But his latest act is a far cry from the roar that was heard round the world. He was seen by millions of Britons pretending to be a cat on the show celebrity "Big Brother" on Britain's Channel 4. Galloway was one of the more surprising B and C-list celebrities to enter the "Big Brother" house in London just over a week ago.

His fellow housemates include actress Rula Lenska, basketball star Dennis Rodman and the model, who was the first to be voted out over the weekend.

So how is his latest role being received by the people he represents in the East End of London?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's very inconsiderate of him of the people of (INAUDIBLE) being involved and just abandon them and just go for some -- from celebrity real life shows, something like that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, he's a bit of an idiot, really, isn't he? He should be back there doing his duty.

BOULDEN: When Galloway isn't pretending to lap up liquid from a bowl, his political views still can't be heard. The producers replaced some of his talking with chirping birds for fear of giving him free airtime to plug his new political party known as Respect. His office says he probably wouldn't have bothered going into the house if he knew his voice would be censored. To be sure, Galloway will have plenty to say when he is voted out or wins celebrity "Big Brother."


Now, Miles, of the 11 contestants in there, only one said they even knew who George Galloway was. And what she said to him -- I have to quote here -- she said "you work in that place with those green seats, don't you?" What she meant, of course, was the House of Commons.

O'BRIEN: Was he purring at the time when she mentioned it? What's the cat thing? We don't get that. BOULDEN: You had to act out an animal. And Rula Lenska was supposed to do something with connecting with animals. So George Galloway had pretended to be an animal. They also were spiders. They were mice. And so he said, look, I'll do it. And so he got down and she was petting him and he was licking this fake bowl of milk, you know. That's what he decided he was going to do to connect with the younger viewers.

O'BRIEN: All right, now he is doing any -- is this a high crime or a misdemeanor? Could he lose his seat in Parliament over this or is it just a matter of the voters to decide?

BOULDEN: There is some talk about a censure, but a censure is a slap on the wrist. And what we probably will see, look, George only won his seat by some 800 votes. But the election is not for another four years. And with George Galloway, who knows what he'll do in the next four years.

O'BRIEN: Yes. Yes. Maybe they'll forget this one. I don't know about this one. Now this is one that may stick with him.

Jim Boulden, thank you very much, in London.

That's quite a scene. Can you see his opponent? His opponent has a little grist for campaign commercials, you might say.

WALLACE: They keep playing that over and over and over again.

COSTELLO: I was trying to think of a more appropriate animal to mimic, but there really isn't any. I don't know.

This morning's top stories are straight ahead, including those huge wildfires in Oklahoma. They have been burning for weeks now. Is there any relief? Stay with us on AMERICAN MORNING.