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American Morning

FEMA Refused Help After Hurricane Katrina; State of The Union Address; Preparations For The Winter Olympics; "Alpha Dog" Controversy

Aired January 30, 2006 - 07:30   ET


ANNOUNCER: With Soledad O'Brien and Miles O'Brien.
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome everybody.

The Olympics.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: It's good to be here on a Monday.

The Olympics. The Olympics.

S. O'BRIEN: Can you say Torino (ph)? Which sounds fabulous. Or Turin, which is accurate.

M. O'BRIEN: Well, what do they say here in New York? That would be my question.

S. O'BRIEN: In New York they say Torino. But we're in New York.

M. O'BRIEN: It's a big -- you know if you anglicize the word, it would be Turin. If you say it in Italian, it would be Torino. So if you say Roma, you would say Torino. If you say Rome, you'd say Turin. But be consistent.

S. O'BRIEN: But I say Rome. I don't say Paree (ph), I say Paris.

M. O'BRIEN: Is therefore (INAUDIBLE).

Did you know that the term actually has Celtic origins?

S. O'BRIEN: No, I didn't not know, but that sounds really boring.

M. O'BRIEN: We may have (ph) to move on now. The minute I said that, Celtic origins, they said, please, Miles, stop talking.

S. O'BRIEN: My inner thoughts just came out.

M. O'BRIEN: Stop! Stop!

S. O'BRIEN: We're going to have more on the Olympics preparations in Torino or Turin, however you say it, ahead.

Let's get a look at some of the top stories this morning. And, of course, we're following one very closely, this update on the condition of two ABC news employees.

Good morning, Carol.


Good morning to all of you.

Doctors at a German hospital may now be meeting with the families of ABC News Anchor Bob Woodruff and cameraman Dan Vogt. The two are undergoing more medical treatment this morning. We understand they're in serious but stable condition. Woodruff and Vogt were transferred to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center earlier today. Both men suffered very serious injuries in a roadside bombing in Iraq over the weekend.

Crews in Southern Poland say it's unlikely they'll find anyone else alive. The roof of an exhibition hall caved in over the weekend, killing at least 67 and wounding some 160 others. These are the latest pictures we have for you. Police initially said snow caused the roof to collapse, but they're still investigating this morning.

A filibuster effort over U.S. Supreme Court Nominee Samuel Alito could be a bust according to Republicans and even some Democrats. A Senate vote to confirm Alito is scheduled for tomorrow, but some Democratic lawmakers say they'll try to continue debate. Alito supporters, however, say they have enough votes to block a filibuster.

They were at the top of Enron and now they're getting ready to have their day in court. Jury selection begins today in the trial of Enron founder Kenneth Lay and former CEO Jeffrey Skilling. Together they face nearly 40 charges of fraud and conspiracy from Enron's collapse four years ago.

That's a look at the headlines this morning.

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

Another bad day for FEMA to tell you about. New information out showing that in the days after Hurricane Katrina, FEMA was offered hundreds of trucks, and boats, and planes, even federal officers and, for some reason, turned them down. That's going to be the focus today in hearings on Capitol Hill. Jeanne Meserve has our story.


JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT, (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 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. An 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 of occurred if these assets have 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.

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.

Jeanne Meserve, CNN, Washington.


S. O'BRIEN: These new documents are among (ph) 800,000 pages of memos and e-mails and other papers gathered by Senate investigators. Senators plan to release a full report on what they're learning in March.

M. O'BRIEN: Two hundred and sixty years ago this month here in New York City, George Washington delivered the first State of the Union speech. He was first to fulfill a constitutional mandate to, from time to time, give to Congress information of the state of the union and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient. That was a quote from the Constitution for you. A little Civics this morning. So what will George W. Bush deem necessary and expedient in the 217th State of the Union Address?

Joining us now with some answers, great to see her, Judy Woodruff.

How are you?

JUDY WOODRUFF, FORMER CNN ANCHOR: Hello. Hi, Miles. And I was not there to cover Washington's State of the Union. Thank you.

M. O'BRIEN: I was not going to go there. I wasn't going to do that. I promise.

WOODRUFF: I was afraid you were going to say that.

M. O'BRIEN: No, no, no. Of course George Washington had the advantage of no, you know, opinion polls to deal with in those days.


M. O'BRIEN: If they did, he probably had pretty good ratings. Let's look at the numbers that the president faces as he goes into this speech and let's factor that in. Not a good picture there. Everywhere from 43 percent on the CNN/"USA Today" Poll, down to 41 percent on that -- that other network poll there.

Judy, how much is on the line for the president now? It's such a difference. What a difference a year makes.

WOODRUFF: Well, you can use any metaphor you want, Miles, but, yes, a lot is on the line. This president is in the greatest political peril yet of his presidency. Compared to a year ago, you're right, he was coming off reelection riding high. Today, as you saw, the public is at 43 percent.

By any historical standard, this is low. At this point in Ronald Reagan's presidency going into the sixth year, Ronald Reagan had a 65 percent approval rating. Bill Clinton, going into the sixth year of his presidency, had a 68 percent approval rating. So compared to the past, this president's in trouble.

And, Miles, it's across the board. It's not just general approval. It's when you ask about the president's handling of the economy, 39 percent. All the way to Iraq, 39 percent.

And when you get to something like healthcare, which we're told the president is going to make a big deal out of tonight. That's what we are being told, there is another poll I have to mention, the Bloomberg/"L.A. Times" Poll, shows the public by two to one disapproves of the president's healthcare policy. So it's across the board. He's got his work cut out for him.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes, and it's hard when you don't have, I guess, a year ago he was talking about how you have political capital and he was prepared to spend it. I guess it was spent without much in the way of payback for voters. Social Security was a mainstay of that speech last year and those Social Security reforms went nowhere.

WOODRUFF: That's right. But, you know, having said all of this, he's got at least two aces in his hand. One of them is that he's the president. He's got the presidency, he's got the bully pulpit. He has a chance when he stands before the Congress tomorrow night to set the agenda, to lay out a new plan. He will have the attention of every American who's watching television, because it will be on every -- virtually every channel.

The second thing he's got going for him, Miles, is the Democrats. I mean, for all the problems that the Republican Party has had on issues, on Jack Abramoff and, you name it, the Democrats still are not seen as having a coherent agenda or a coherent message. Remarkably, again, I'm going to quickly cite this "L.A. Times"/Bloomberg Poll, right now the Democrats are doing worse than the Republicans when people ask what they think by about six or seven points. So the Democrats, unless they can turn something around, that is an advantage for the president.

M. O'BRIEN: All right. One more batch of numbers. I hope we haven't thrown to many numbers at people this morning, but this is interesting, too. As we head toward the midterm elections, this is our own poll, CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup. And the question is, are you most likely to vote for a candidate for Congress who either supports the president or opposes the president? And there you see 51 percent of those who were questioned said they would support a candidate who opposes the president. Now people say those things but then they tend to reelect the incumbent, right?

WOODRUFF: Well, that's true. And, you know, what we really want to look for I think tomorrow night is, is the president going to continue to appeal to the base? Is he going to pitch to the Republican Party? Because Republicans are being told he's going to stress terrorism, which is the one thing his handling of terrorism that's holding his approval ratings up even at 43 percent. Or is he going to reach out across the aisle and make an appeal to bipartisanship. I think we'll learn a lot about his governing intentions and also, frankly, about whether he has the potential to be a asset or a drag on the Republican ticket this fall.

M. O'BRIEN: The timeless Judy Woodruff, tanned and rested and always ready to help us understand politics, thank you.

WOODRUFF: It's great to see you and Soledad.

M. O'BRIEN: All right.

S. O'BRIEN: Thanks, Judy.

M. O'BRIEN: All right. Note, we'll be coming to you Wednesday morning from Washington. Actually, I won't, Soledad will. Reaction to the State of the Union. That will begin at 6:00 a.m. Eastern. It will be a show that will, if you missed the speech, just tune into us at 6:00 a.m. the next morning.


S. O'BRIEN: Opening ceremonies for the Winter Olympic games are just 11 days away and host city Torino, Italy -- I should do this with the Italian accent -- busy putting on the finishing touches. CNN's Alessio Vinci takes a look for us this morning.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In 2006 is Torino.

ALESSIO VINCI, CNN CORRESPONDENT, (voce over): The clock started ticking in 1999. Since then, the city has gone through a transformation worth more than $3.5 billion to prepare stadiums and create infrastructure for 2,500 athletes, 1,400 Olympic officials, 10,000 journalists and a million visitors.

VALENTINO CASTELLANI, PRESIDENT, ORGANIZING COMMITTEE: We know the responsibility that we have. We are completely aware of the fact that the quality of the games depends, as I said, on many, many details.

VINCI: As officials readily admit, the devil is in the details. All around Torino and up in the mountains, workers are still carrying out what they say are just last-minute finishing touches. What the mayor of Torino calls the dressing.

SERGIO CHIAMPARINO, MAYOR OF TORINO: Now there is the rush to find the right (ph) for the dressing. As usual, the dressing will finish one hour before the Olympics to start.

VINCI: That said, the main venues are ready. The Olympic stadium, a brand new ice hockey arena and a state-of-the-art ice palace for speed and figure skating.

City officials acknowledge some of the projects will not be ready by the time the games begin. But these are non-Olympic works, such as, for example, this new subway system. And the plan, they say, is to cover this area with large, colorful banners and to project an image of a city in transformation.

Of the one million tickets, about a third have yet to be sold. Officials, though, insist they are not worried, saying Italians notoriously buy tickets at the last minute.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But we will be selling tickets even at game time, so we'll not close the selling before the game. So we are very confident in selling even more than that, same as 80 percent, which is corresponding to our budget forecast.

VINCI: And speaking of forecasts, the weather is finally playing along with plenty of snow adding its own finishing touch, at long last.

Alessio Vinci, CNN, Torino, Italy.


S. O'BRIEN: Two feet of snow has fallen in Turin.

M. O'BRIEN: Torino. What do you mean, Torino. It's Torino.

S. O'BRIEN: I don't know if we should say Torino or Turin.

M. O'BRIEN: And you have to use your hands when you say it.

S. O'BRIEN: But it's -- I mean, we pronounce it Turin.

ANDY SERWER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Say it Turin. I would say it the way he would say it.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes.

SERWER: Because otherwise you could say Peree (ph), right, and we say Paris.

S. O'BRIEN: And I can do that.

M. O'BRIEN: Can we get Philly (ph) in here. Philly Cheesesteak. Get him in here. What would he say? He'd say Torino, right?

S. O'BRIEN: Lots of snow. Lots of snow. Do you have to be Italian to say it Torino?

Anyway . . .


S. O'BRIEN: Earlier this month . . .

M. O'BRIEN: Phil says Torino.

S. O'BRIEN: Thank you, Phil.

There were concerns -- this is going to take a long time to get through this. Concerns that they're going to have to rely on inferior man-made snow.

SERWER: Oh, yes.

S. O'BRIEN: Opening ceremonies are on February 10th. I'm done.

M. O'BRIEN: The snorino is inferionay (ph) in Torino. All righty.

S. O'BRIEN: Well, you know, I mean Torino and Turin.

SERWER: Turin.

M. O'BRIEN: All right. Thank you, Soledino.

Let's get to -- we've got to get serious here for a moment. Saskatchewan. We have some new pictures. This is a good story. We've been telling you so many bad mine stories here in the U.S. In Saskatchewan, there you see some of the miners who were trapped briefly underground in a potash mine there after a fire. Thirty-two out of 70 trapped beneath are already out of the mine. There is every reason to believe that the remaining 38 are just fine and dandy.

They have a series of so-called safe rooms in this mine. Boy, that would be a nice thing to have, wouldn't it? Safe rooms with air and food and places to sleep where they can last for several days. These miners had gone to one of those safe rooms. And, slowly but surely, the rescue teams are bringing them out. And we're happy to tell you about a mine incident that is leading to what appears to be a happy conclusion in Saskatchewan. Let's get a check of the weather. Chad with that.

Hello, Chad.



M. O'BRIEN: Boy, it is the end of an era. And we've been talking about this now for . . .

S. O'BRIEN: A long time.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes, we've had a whole era of time to look at the end of the era.

SERWER: A little drum roll, OK. It's happening. It's finally here.

M. O'BRIEN: So out he will go and he'll offer his, you know, green speak for the last time officially.

SERWER: Yes. And we won't understand what he's saying for the very last time, Miles.

We are talking about Alan Greenspan. His days winding down at the Federal Reserve. There is a two-day Federal Open Market Committee meeting beginning today and he is presiding for the last time. That is the group that sets interest rates. They're expected to raise the Fed Funds Rate by another quarter point. That will be announced tomorrow afternoon, to 4.5 percent. Interest rates have been going up for the past two years.

Now, then the procedure takes place and that is the Senate will vote tomorrow whether or not to confirm Ben Bernanke as Alan Greenspan's successor. They will confirm him. There will be very little concern about him not being . . .

M. O'BRIEN: Why did they wait till the last minute? That's kind of weird, isn't it?

SERWER: I don't know why they waited until the last minute. It's kind of interesting.

And then -- there's Mr. Bernanke. And then he will take the post of Federal Reserve chairman on February 1st, Wednesday. Bernanke's a White House economic advisor and a former academic at Princeton University.

And he does have some challenges, obviously. Mostly when to stop this interest rate hike campaign. That will be determined by him if he concedes that the economy is still growing, but not overheating. So interesting stuff there.

And one thing that's different about him, is he is interested in setting interest rate targets, something that Alan Greenspan hasn't wanted to do and hasn't done. And I think there's some danger in that. In other words you say, we're going to raise interest rates to 5 percent. Well, what if the situation changes and you decide you need to change them to 6 percent? So that's why Alan Greenspan was always very mum and you could never really understand what he was talking about. But there was some wisdom to that.

S. O'BRIEN: Right. Right.

M. O'BRIEN: The term I saw today was Delfic (ph).

SERWER: Oh, yes. Yes.

M. O'BRIEN: Delfic. Oracles (ph).


M. O'BRIEN: That kind of thing.

S. O'BRIEN: They always use that (INAUDIBLE) can really understand what people are talking about.

SERWER: Regarding Greenspan, yes.

M. O'BRIEN: What did he say?

SERWER: Sometimes they say that about us.

M. O'BRIEN: Often about me.

S. O'BRIEN: For a whole other host of reasons.


SERWER: Yes. But that's -- yes, we're not going to start that again. Please.

S. O'BRIEN: Moving on.

Andy, thank you.

SERWER: You're welcome.

S. O'BRIEN: Still to come this morning, you guys heard about this new movie, it's called "Alpha Dog." It's based on a real life crime story. It turns out the guy who directed the move might know more about the crime than he should. We'll have a look at that story just ahead.

Then later, singer/songwriter Barry Manilow is going to join us live. We're going to ask . . .


S. O'BRIEN: He's got a new CD . . .

M. O'BRIEN: We've been singing "Lola" all morning. But that's not what we're hearing now.

S. O'BRIEN: No, no, no, he's got this new CD and it's fantastic. Hits from the '50s.

M. O'BRIEN: It's great. It's great. That's right.

S. O'BRIEN: Through a union with legendary producer Clive Davis. We're going to talk to him.

Look at those couples snuggling in the front row.

M. O'BRIEN: Oh, this gets warm fuzzy.

S. O'BRIEN: With this CD we'll -- it's a great CD. We're going to talk about that ahead. We're back in a moment.


S. O'BRIEN: A little controversy to tell you about over the movie "Alpha Dog." The film takes an up-close look at some real life crime and it's definitely grabbing the attention of attorneys in the case. Now Brooke Anderson is at the Sundance Film Festival for us. She's got the story this morning.


BROOKE ANDERSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT, (voice over): Sundance filmmakers are used to receiving applause for their work, not subpoenas. But that's what happened to Nick Cassavetes, director of the closing film at Sundance, "Alpha Dog."

The film is closely based on the true story of Jesse James Hollywood, an alleged drug dealer accused of masterminding the kidnaping and murder of a San Fernando Valley teenager. Several of his alleged cohorts were tried and convicted but Hollywood fled the country, becoming one of the youngest people ever to hit the FBI's most wanted list. In the film, the names are changed, but the scenario is much the same.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know what to do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you mean?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: About the kid. They could be in a lot of trouble.

ANDERSON: It was Cassavetes' daughter who got him interested in the case.

NICK CASSAVETES, DIRECTOR, "ALPHA DOG": Well, she went to the same school as these people.

ANDERSON: He did his research, even meeting with the prosecutor investigating Hollywood. That's the move that would later earn him a subpoena.

CASSAVETES: I mean, it's kind of been documented that I had a lot of materials on this case.

ANDERSON: Documents that weren't public.

CASSAVETES: Some of them, yes. My researcher and I went and talked with the prosecuting attorney. We had materials from the prosecuting attorney.

ANDERSON: At this point, Hollywood was still on the lamb (ph). But last year, well after the film had wrapped, the young outlaw was captured in Brazil and extradited. Cassavetes called his actors back to work and they re-shot the ending. But Hollywood's attorney began to cry foul over the film and how Cassavetes had researched it. He tried to get the prosecutor removed from the case for talking to Cassavetes, but that motion failed. Now the defense attorney is threatening to seek an injunction to keep the movie out of theaters, claiming it could taint the jury pool.

CASSAVETES: I don't think that the movie gets in the way of Mr. Hollywood getting a fair trial.

ANDERSON: If you have to testify in the trial, is that going to be OK?

CASSAVETES: I'm cooperating and friendly with both sides of the trial. I do not want to get in the way of due process.

ANDERSON: "Alpha Dog" is scheduled for release in April, but Cassavetes says, barring an injunction, it may be moved up.

CASSAVETES: Everybody's so excited that they want to get it out sooner.

ANDERSON: Brooke Anderson, CNN, Park City, Utah.


S. O'BRIEN: Ahead this morning, he writes the songs the whole world sings. That's right, singer Barry Manilow will join us live, reunited with legendary hit maker Clive Davis. They've got a new album of greatest hits from the '50s. We'll talk with him all about that just ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

M. O'BRIEN: I don't think he wrote that song, by the way, "I Write the Songs."

S. O'BRIEN: He did not.

M. O'BRIEN: No, he did not.

S. O'BRIEN: But he was singing the song (INAUDIBLE) ago.

M. O'BRIEN: It was just kind of a little twist of irony there because, you know, anyway. All right. Onward.