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American Morning

What Went Wrong?; 'What's in It for Me?'

Aired January 30, 2006 - 09:32   ET


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Just when you thought you heard it all about FEMA's mishandling of Hurricane Katrina, there's more newly released documents that show FEMA turned down an offer of rescue personnel and equipment from another federal agency.
CNN's Jeanne Meserve live in Washington with the latest in the FEMA follies. Good morning, Jeanne.


The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee starting a week of hearings today. Search and rescue, the subject today. One of the questions, did the federal government use all the resources available?


MESERVE (voice over): In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, there was an urgent need for shallow-bottom boats and experienced personnel to do water rescues, for helicopters, heavy equipment and rooms. The Department of Interior had all of that and more and offered it to the Federal Emergency Management Agency immediately after the storm. But FEMA never took Interior up on the offer, according to documents obtained by CNN.

"Although we attempted to provide these assets, we were unable to efficiently integrate and deploy these resources," an Interior official wrote.

The Senate committee investigating the Katrina response...

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: It makes no sense to me. You might be able to understand it if it came from outside government, but this is another federal agency, and the agency that was offering trained personnel and exactly the assets that the federal government needed.

MESERVE: One example, e-mails document FEMA's decision to ground its search and rescue teams three days after Katrina because of security concerns. But the Interior Department had already offered FEMA hundreds of law enforcement officers trained in search and rescue, emergency medical services and evacuation. "The Department of the Interior was not called upon to assist until late September," the Interior official writes.

COLLINS: It is indeed possible that there was additional suffering and maybe even the loss of life that might not have occurred if these assets had been deployed.

MESERVE: A FEMA document also provided to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee indicates many of Interior's resources, which included transportation, communications and engineering, were never integrated into FEMA's planning for a catastrophic hurricane, planning which was still incomplete when Katrina roared ashore.


MESERVE: A spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security, which includes FEMA, says the administration is currently examining how to better utilize the resources in the federal government and elsewhere in the next catastrophe. But, he says, were there federal assets that were not used in Katrina? Of course.

Miles, back to you.

M. O'BRIEN: All right, I sure hope they learned a few lessons.

Jeanne Meserve in Washington, thank you -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Tomorrow President Bush delivers the second State of the Union Address of his second term. So what do Americans want to hear?

AMERICAN MORNING's Kelly Wallace has more on that, revisiting a successful series.

Good morning.

KELLY WALLACE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, because last year we had this series, "What's In It For Me?" And we brought together five fascinating people, people from all different walks of life. We Sat down with them before and after the president's State of the Union Address to hear what they think. So we decided to bring them together again, a very feisty bunch as you will see. And we learned, especially when it comes to Iraq, their concerns this year are a whole lot different than they were one year ago.


WALLACE (voice-over): Our panelists with the biggest change of heart, John Pollinger, a retired police chief who said he supported President Bush last year, but not any more.

JOHN POLLINGER, BUSH CRITIC: Too much bravado. I said it last year. I was hoping he'd get away from it.

WALLACE: He's also disappointed in the president's handling of Iraq. You're not going to win a war over there. It will be going on forever, and so many more people will die. You can still walk out of there honorably.

WALLACE: Bob Agnes, a Bush supporter, disagrees. BOB AGNES, BUSH SUPPORTER: He has said the Iraqis need to be able to have a government established that functions and protects basic rights and provides basic services in Iraq. So I don't think he can be any clearer about that.

POLLINGER: Robert, it's two years, and he...


AGNES: Well, it may take five years.

POLLINGER: People still don't have electricity and water.

WALLACE: Last year, when we talked to Dawn Jimenez, a mother of three small children, her Army Reservist husband was just about to return from Iraq.

(on camera): Do you feel better where we are at a country when it comes to Iraq?

DAWN JIMENEZ, HUSBAND SERVED IN IRAQ: I know there's progress there. I know a lot of what's portrayed in the media doesn't look good. We're only seeing bits and pieces of it.

Right now, we have to stay there. We can't pull out like a lot of people are saying.

AGNES: Agreed.

JIMENEZ: Just jump ship, you can't do that.

WALLACE: I mean, if all of you think we shouldn't pull the troops out, then are we all in agreement about what we're doing in Iraq.

ILANA REICH, BUSH CRITIC: I think we need a better operational definition of what the setting up of a government over there is.

WALLACE (voice-over): Roseann Salanitri, a Bush supporter, says she feel as little bit better about the war than last year, but thinks the president could be doing more at the bully pulpit.

ROSEANN SALANITRI, BUSH SUPPORTER: I think there's room for improvement there.

WALLACE (on camera): What do you mean by that?

SALANITRI: He really should be -- have more soundbytes. We need to see him more. We need to hear what he has to say. We need to hear him reporting on the progress.

AGNES: I would also agree with you, Roseann, that he did not, the president did not, for a period of months, perhaps as much as eight months, say much about Iraq at all, and that allowed a lot of negative comments to come out unchallenged. And I think that he made a mistake there. And I think he's acknowledged that. (END VIDEOTAPE)

WALLACE: And our panel had lots more to say on the handling of Hurricane Katrina, domestic wiretaps, Supreme Court nominations and the Congress. Are they optimistic or pessimistic, Soledad, anything will get done this year? The answer coming up tomorrow.

S. O'BRIEN: It will be interesting to see, because of course, we've heard from Suzanne Malveaux at the White House that the president is planning to be upbeat and very optimistic. We'll see if the electorate is going to match that same feeling.

WALLACE: I don't think our viewers will be surprised to hear that people are a little pessimistic. They think it's an election year. People are thinking about '06 and '08, so they don't have the biggest expectations about the year.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes, David Gergen said matching the tone, optimism that matches the electorate is going to be really important in this speech for the president.

Kelly, thanks. Appreciate it.

We'll see you back here tomorrow for that -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Mexican police believe they've caught a serial killer who's been strangling elderly women. In a totally bizarre twist for two years, they've been looking for a man dressed as a woman. But when officers chased the suspect down, they discovered the suspect was actually really a woman.

S. O'BRIEN: People had described the suspect as a man who they thought was like...

M. O'BRIEN: But it was a woman.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes, that kind of looked like a man. It' a weird story.

M. O'BRIEN: Hence you have what we call a tease in television. "PAULA ZAHN NOW" is the program . Ed Lavandera will have a SPECIAL REPORT on this.

And he joins us live from Mexico City with a preview.

What a story, Ed.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You bring me in to help straighten this out for you.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes, please do. Please do.

LAVANDERA: Give you a little bit after sense of what's been going on. It's actually -- it's been a very disturbing last three years when these murders of elderly women started. We're talking 70-year-old, 80-year-old women, home alone, up to as many as many as 30 cases police have been trying to nail down. And they've been very timid. It was only a few months ago where they finally admitted that they had a serial killer on their hands.

Last Wednesday, they were ale by chance to catch a woman who had, they say, just finished killing an 81-year-old woman, and they say they now have evidence to link her to 11 of those murders. It is a bizarre strange road that we spent the last several days trying to track down as much information as we can.

In fact, one of the last victims daughter lives in New Jersey. Her name is Analilia Musada. We spoke with her over the weekend. And she describes what a gruesome and horrifying ordeal the last couple of days has been for her family.


ANALILIA MUSADA, VICTIM'S DAUGHTER: I wanted to throw up practically. I wanted to throw up. I was able to see my mother before she was put in the casket, and she didn't deserve to die the way she did absolutely, because she never did any harm to anybody.


LAVANDERA: You know, Miles, Mexico is a country that has seen its fair share of violence, but they take a lot of solace from the fact that a lot of that violence is isolated with drug crimes, organized crime and that sort of thing. Serial killers is not something the people of this country are used to.

M. O'BRIEN: All right, So, Ed, why were they so convinced it was a man and not a woman.

LAVANDERA: Well, let me show you a little bit what we've come across. A few months ago police released a video, or a mannequin, and they said this is what the person we're looking for looks like. But at the time they were saying, this is what we believe the man is dressing up as. So you can see a little bit of the confusion.

And when this woman was arrested, who police say is guilty of killing at least 11 of these elderly women, they say she is strong and robust, and coming up tonight on "PAULA ZAHN," we'll kind of give you an idea of why that is. There's an interesting background to this woman's history that will help explain all of that -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: All right. Another reason to tune in tonight. Watch for Ed's full report, "PAULA ZAHN NOW," 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, right here on CNN.




M. O'BRIEN: "CNN LIVE TODAY" is coming up next. Daryn, what you working on this morning? DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: As always, a lot to start off this Monday. Hello, Miles.

In our next hour, you're going to meet several women of the storm. More than 100 of them are in Washington today. They're asking government leaders to visit New Orleans and see firsthand the devastation left behind by Hurricane Katrina.

Also, it is a tough time of the year financially for a lot of families. Holiday bills are due, tax season is here and college costs are going up. But help is on the way in the morning's "Top Five Tips." And we'll get to that in just a bit.

S. O'BRIEN: All right, Daryn.

M. O'BRIEN: We'll be listening. Thank you, Daryn.

S. O'BRIEN: Thank you.

M. O'BRIEN: Appreciate that.

S. O'BRIEN: Ahead this morning, seemed like everybody thought "Brokeback Mountain" was a lock for the Oscars, but after last night's snub at the SAG Awards, there might be a new favorite in Tinseltown. "A.M. Pop" is up next on AMERICAN MORNING.

We're back in a moment.



S. EPATHA MERKERSON, "LACKAWANNA BLUES": There's nothing in my bra. There's nothing in my head. It's all in my heart. To Roger Haber (ph), Bernadette Jacobs (ph), Barry Kaplan (ph) at Artist Financial (ph). And I have to say a public thank you to my divorce lawyer.


S. O'BRIEN: That was funny. That was S. Epatha Merkerson, who won the SAG Award for best actress in a TV movie or miniseries. She also walked away with a Golden Globe in that category earlier this month for "Lackawanna Blues."

On a night for actors honoring their own, one Hollywood film crashed the SAG Awards party. CNN's Sibila Vargas has this morning's "A.M. Pop."



SIBILA VARGAS, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The ensemble cast of "Crash" was the big winner of the night for best performances in a motion picture. DON CHEADLE, ACTOR: We believe that it really celebrates the definition of what an ensemble is all about. I mean, there's 74 of us.

VARGAS: "Crash," a film about racial tension, pulled off a surprise upset over the much-hyped film "Brokeback Mountain."

HEATH LEDGER, ACTOR: It ain't gonna be that way.

VARGAS: Individual actors honored for their film roles included the recent Golden Globe winners Philip Seymour Hoffman for "Capote"...


VARGAS: And Reese Witherspoon for her portrayal of June Carter Cash in "Walk the Line."

REESE WITHERSPOON, ACTRESS (singing): Let's go. Time's a- wastin'.

(speaking): I wanted to be a country western singer when I was little, and I went to a camp -- I sang there and they told me no matter what I did, please don't ever sing, ever again.

VARGAS: In supporting film roles, Rachel Weiss won top honors once again for her performance in "The Constant Gardener." And Paul Giamatti thanked his fellow actors for honoring his work in "Cinderella Man."

PAUL GIAMATTI, ACTOR: There are weird, interesting people in our business, and I'm proud to be numbered among them.

VARGAS: Television ensembles receiving awards included ABC's "Lost" in a dramatic series and "Desperate Housewives" for best TV comedy cast. "Housewives" star Felicity Huffman was also honored for her individual work on the show.

FELICITY HUFFMAN, ACTRESS: I'm such an old broad. I've had so many times where I haven't worked for a long time.

VARGAS: Sean Hayes, star of the sitcom "Will and Grace," received his third SAG Award for best performance in a TV comedy.

SEAN HAYES, ACTOR: I know everyone in Hollywood, you know, knows that it's such a risk to play a gay character.

VARGAS: Keither Sutherland picked up the best dramatic award for "24." Golden globe winner Sandra Oh picked up another prize for acting in in "Grey's Anatomy."

And the Emmy and Golden Globe winner S. Epatha Merkerson picked up her third award for the TV movie "Lackawanna Blues."

MERKERSON: I'm not 37, and I'm not a size two. You know what I'm saying? And a lot of women are like me.

VARGAS: Shirley Temple Black received a standing ovation when she was honored with her lifetime achievement award.

SHIRLEY TEMPLE BLACK, ACTRESS: For those of you who want to receive the lifetime achievement award, start early.

VARGAS: Sibila Vargas, CNN, Los Angeles.


S. O'BRIEN: "Brokeback Mountain," which has been get so much Oscar buzz, was shut out at the SAG Awards.

And by the way, Academy Award nominations will be announced tomorrow morning. Quick break. We'll be right back in just a moment.