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American Morning

Passenger Ship Vanishes With as Many as 1,400 People Onboard; Outrage Over Cartoons Muslims Consider Blasphemy

Aired February 03, 2006 - 07:00   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everybody. I'm Soledad O'Brien.
Breaking news this morning to tell you about. A passenger ship vanishes with as many as 1,400 people onboard. We're live with the very latest on this story.


A fire burning across the Islamic world. Outrage over cartoons Muslims consider blasphemy. What pictures could spark that kind of anger?

S. O'BRIEN: And then this:


MYR. PHIL CAPITANO, KENNER, LOUISIANA: When you're going through so much already, it's just another problem we didn't need.


S. O'BRIEN: Another natural disaster tears through New Orleans. We're going to take you there live. Those stories all ahead on this AMERICAN MORNING.

M. O'BRIEN: We've got a busy Friday.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes, lots going on this morning. Let's get started.

More on that breaking story out of Egypt this morning, the ship that is missing in the Red Sea. A little while ago we heard from the Egyptian minister of transport, and he told us the passenger ship has sunk. We're hearing reports of somewhere between 1,300 and 1,400 people onboard. That might be passengers and crew. The ship was traveling from Saudi Arabia, headed across the Red Sea to Safaga in Egypt.

Let's get right to CNN's Ben Wedeman. He joins us by phone from Cairo.

Ben, good morning again.


Well, we understand the Egyptian Coast Guard has deployed four frigates in the area where the ship was last sighted. This was the Salam Boccaccio 98, a ferry that has a capacity for about 1,400 passengers.

Now we're told by Egyptian port authorities that they understand there -- they are giving us a number of 1,310 passengers onboard, 96 crew members.

Now they've also deployed helicopters in the area. They are saying they have been able to see lifeboats with survivors onboard. Now the Egyptian transport minister is on his way to the scene. The ship left the Saudi port of Dubah at 7:00 p.m. last night local time, and just a few hours later simply disappeared off radar screen, and it was only about two, two-and-a-half hours ago that news finally got out that there was something, obviously, very wrong in the red sea -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Ben, we've heard reports of bad weather in the area.

WEDEMAN: This is a time of the year when the red sea tends to be very, very windy. And certainly in that stretch of it, winds are fairly strong. And this is basically the -- and this is really a theory at this point because there is no hard and fast information coming out about the cause, but it may have been the wind.

What is significant, this is what is called a roll-roll ferry, which means roll off, roll on, and they tend to have a low center of gravity and are vulnerable to high waves.

S. O'BRIEN: Ben Wedeman reporting to us this morning by phone from Cairo.

Ben, thanks.

Obviously we're going to continue to bring you details on this story. A complete puzzle really. We'll update you as we get information -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: A picture is worth a thousand protests. At issue, a series of political cartoons published in European newspapers depicting the Prophet Mohammed, marchers in Libya pouring into the streets. We're not showing the cartoons, but they show, among other things, Mohammed with a bomb in his turban.

In Indonesia, hardliners attacked a building where the Danish embassy is located. It began in Danish newspaper. It printed cartoons that are viewed as mocking the Prophet Mohammed.

In Tehran, more street protests. The cartoons have been reprinted in several other European countries as well. The papers are doing that, they say, as a way of expressing freedom of speech.

Muslim leaders are saying freedom of speech does not justify, as they put it, indignity toward religion.

In Basra, Iraq, they're stomping on the Danish flag. A depiction of the Prophet Mohammed of any kind is considered blasphemous in Islam. Some of the most violent protests are in the Palestinian territories, especially Gaza, already a tinder box.

John Vause live in Jerusalem with more on all this -- John.

JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Miles, more protests are expected in Gaza City today, especially as Friday prayers come to an end.

But already, gunmen in Gaza have issued a warning to all foreigners to get out. As for citizens of France, Denmark and Norway, they're being told that their blood is wanted. This warning is being taken seriously.

Overnight, news crews, diplomats and aide workers packed up their bags. They've headed for the border. They've crossed from Gaza back into Israel.

Meanwhile, in the West Bank city of Nablus, masked gunmen have gone from apartments to hotel rooms looking for citizens from France, Denmark and Norway. At one point, they kidnapped a school teacher from Germany. When they realized they made a mistake, he was released unharmed about an hour or so later.

All of this coming after masked gunmen briefly took over the European Union Commission offices in Gaza on Thursday. They were firing their guns into the air. They spray painted a warning on the gates. They demanded an apology within 48 hours. There is also being threats are made against the small Christian community which lives in Gaza -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: John, try and give us a sense, if you could. As we've said, we're not showing these pictures without them being distorted somewhat, these cartoons. How are they so offensive? Why are they causing such outrage?

VAUSE: Well, for Muslims any picture of Mohammed is considered blasphemous, even if that is shown in a positive light. So if you walk into a mosque, you will never see a image of Mohammed, unlike if you walk into a church, there's lot of Jesus' life, for example.

So these cartoons, some which show Mohammed with a bomb-shaped turban on his head -- Muslims are saying that links Mohammed directly with terrorism -- is completely disrespectful. And on scale of one to 10, it's probably way off the chart. It's approaching about a hundred in terms of insult.

So the Europeans commentators, though, point that for Arabs and the Islamic world to be carried on like this, there's a great deal of hypocrisy here, because in many Arab countries, Islamic countries, in government-owned newspaper, there are often anti-Semitic cartoons -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Exactly. John Vause, thank you very much.

Later on AMERICAN MORNING, we'll speak with a popular historian about what made these pictures such an explosive situation all throughout the Muslim world -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: President Bush is making more stops today on his post- State of the Union tour. He's in New Mexico. Later he'll head to Dallas, again, pressing the issue of American leadership in science and technology.

Let's get right to White House correspondent Dana Bash. She's in Albuquerque this morning.

Hey, Dana. Good morning.


Soledad, look at some of these statistics. They can give you a sense of why the president is here. America makes up five percent, only five percent of the world's population, yet this country employs one-third of the scientists and engineers around the world, and also it's responsible for a third of the spending on research and development around the world. That makes it seem like the U.S. is still quite a leader when it comes to innovation around the world.

But Republican pollsters and strategists say their biggest problem is most Americans don't simply think that that is the case. They have a lot of anxiety about the economy, especially because of competition from countries like India and China.

Now the president later today is going to try to speak to that anxiety, just like he did yesterday in Minnesota.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRES. OF THE UNITED STATES: I think the role of government is to shape the future, not fear the future. And I think the role of a president is to say to the American people, be bold, be confident, and if we do the right things, we'll remain the leader in the world.


BASH: Now the initiatives that the president are pushing are from the president's State of the Union Address, of course. That is point of this tour this week, and they are relatively modest and relatively noncontroversial -- Soledad. They are thins like more spending for R&D, and more teachers to help teach, especially high school students math and science -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Dana, what's the political significance of the visit to New Mexico?

BASH: Well, first of all, this visit here to Intel is to speak to innovation. Intel probably made the chip that's in the computer sitting right next to you. That is a key reason to show that America is still inventing, important things that people use around the world.

But politically, the president is here in a state with two senators, a Democrat and Republican, who actually are sponsors of the legislation for many of these initiatives.

And in fact, the Democratic leader in the House released a statement yesterday saying she would actually support these initiatives. That's not, as you know, something we see very often coming from the house Democrats. So that is the main part of the reason the president is pushing this, because they want to say this election year they can get some things done, especially to voters who are very disgruntled about the partisanship in Washington.

S. O'BRIEN: Dana Bash for us this morning. Dana, thank you -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Demolition crews are ready to start knocking down homes, or what's left of them, in New Orleans. Property owners got the messages on Thursday. The planned demolitions are not drawing a lot of fire since they are homes that pretty much already destroyed, probably not like the ones you're seeing there. Many knocked off their foundations. Some are blocking roads and sidewalks. The first- phase targets, only about 120 homes. It's the plans for about 1,900 others, some of those homes you saw there perhaps, that has residents a little bit upset. More than a little bit upset, I should say.

Mother Nature is taking another wicked shot at New Orleans, if you can believe it. Three tornadoes, including one F-2 -- that's the Fujita Scale -- that's a big one, blowing through the area, still devastated by Katrina.

Susan Roesgen live for us this morning in New Orleans.

Susan, it's fairly rare to have storms of this magnitude and power coming through in this time of year. And coming in the wake of Katrina, I can't imagine how people are feeling about that this morning.

SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, some people really got socked, Miles. You know, the damage was not widespread; it was confined to a limited area. But it was such a blow for some people who have been trying so hard to rebuild.


ROESGEN (voice-over): In the Lakeview section of New Orleans, it's almost as if the calendar has been turned back five months. Once again, streets filled with tree limbs and debris, while homes that had been shored up are, once again, battered and broken.

BILL HURLEY, HOMEOWNER: I was really discouraged when I got here, and realized how bad the inside of the house was and how wet it was upstairs.

ROESGEN: Just this week, Bill Swanson had finally finished repairing his roof after Hurricane Katrina, then a tornado tore off the new roof, letting the rain soak the few possessions he had left. Swanson plans to start over, but some of his neighbors have had enough.

JOYCE LAMBERT, HOMEOWNER: I think the Lord wants us to rebuild this house. Tear it down, that's what I'm thinking.

ROESGEN: Lakeview wasn't the only area that got hit. A second tornado struck in Kenner, Louisiana, about half an hour away.

CALVIN JONES, HOMEOWNER: See, it was trying to separate it, the top from the top from the bottom. You can see right here.

ROESGEN: Calvin Jones felt the second floor start to sway underneath him. And in just a few minutes, the damage was so great his house has now been condemned.

Nearby, the fierce winds toppled two FEMA trailers. Luckily, the people who live here had decided to spend the night someplace else because of the storm.

But the wind rattled nerves and tested the patience of Kenner Mayor Phil Capitano.

MYR. PHIL CAPITANO, KENNER, LOUISIANA: It's just another problem that you have to deal with, and you know, when you're going through so much already, it's just another problem we didn't need.


ROESGEN: The mayor says the city had no problem responding quickly, and both in Kenner and New Orleans. The cleanup crews were able to get out right away and start clearing the debris. And the power company had its workers up in the buckets trying to get the power restored as quickly as they could. But once again, Miles, as you mentioned, two tornadoes. And now we're learning actually three tornadoes in the New Orleans area, a real blow for a lot of folks who were just on the verge of trying to make a go of it again.

We don't know, though, Miles, how many homes were actually damaged, but it was in this case, apparently a geographic area of only about a couple of miles total.

M. O'BRIEN: All right, Susan Roesgen. I suspect it's probably difficult to assess the damage, given all of the damage that is there already. Thank you very much.


M. O'BRIEN: Coming up in program, that dreaded Kama Sutra Worm. It's set to erase computer files all around the world today. Careful what e-mail you open people. Don't be tempted. We've got the last- minute advice, so you don't get zapped.

S. O'BRIEN: Also ahead this morning, former NBA star Charles Barkley joins us in the studio. We're going to ask him about his bestselling book. It's called "Who's Afraid of a Large Black Man?" We've got his take on race and poverty in America.

M. O'BRIEN: He is such a nice guy, too. He really is.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes, great guy. M. O'BRIEN: All right, doctors work to save the lives of two tiny patients meanwhile. Their only hope, a rare kind of transplant that hasn't been done in the U.S. in 10 years. We'll explain ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.



M. O'BRIEN: Just two days until the big game, you know, the stupor bowl -- I mean Super Bowl. And as with most past Super Bowls, this is one is starting with a war of words. You know, there is that hype thing. You heard about that? The battle of the barn.

CNN sports correspondent Will Selva is in my old hometown, the Motor City, Detroit, this morning.

Are you ready for some football?

WILL SELVA, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: I'm ready for some trash talking. I was going to ask you something, Miles. Before today or the past couple of days, did you know who Jerramy Stevens or Joey Porter was?


SELVA: Did you know who they were?


SELVA: Well, then you must follow football very closely, because I'll tell you something, these two guys have become household names over the past couple of days because of the back and forth. The war of words has certainly escalated. And since the Seattle tight end Jerramy Stevens had said that Jerome Bettis would leave his hometown without a Super Bowl trophy, well, Joey Porter, the Steelers linebacker, has taken things up to another level. Let's just say he continued the verbal barrage against Stevens.


JOEY PORTER, PITTSBURGH STEELERS LINEBACKER: I don't think he's worthy enough to talk like that. Truthfully, I think he is soft, you know what I mean. That's just me.

I don't even think he has -- he should be talking about a guy of Jerome's status. Like I said, this is a guy who haven't did nothing yet, do you know what I mean. So I'm looking forward to it. I want to see how much he's going to back up his words, how he's going to make Jerome go home sad and all the stuff he is saying. I want to see how he is going to play a factor in that, because I don't think he'll have a factor how the game will be decided either way.

JERRAMY STEVENS, SEATTLE SEAHAWKS TIGHT END: I'm not going to repeat it. You know, I felt like I spoke, you know, my mind and I spoke the truth, so there;s no need to repeat it. I was sincere, and I meant it with no disrespect.


SELVA: I can't wait for kickoff. Of course there's no more media availability, so we will be milking this for the next couple of days. And my suggestion here, Miles, is that you have Porter and you have Stevens do the coin toss and let 'em go at it!

M. O'BRIEN: That would be more exciting than the game itself. You know how these Super Bowls tend to go.

SELVA: And you may be right there.

M. O'BRIEN: Jerome haven't did nothing yet? Isn't that what he said? Or they haven't did nothing yes? I love that stuff. I love that athlete talk.

All right, Will, listen, stay warm there. I hear it's going to be -- according to Chad, the weather is going to get bad there, but anyway, enjoy Detroit.

SELVA: All right, thank you very much, Miles. Appreciate it.

M. O'BRIEN: For many of you, like Soledad, the best part of the Super Bowl happens during the timeouts. That's when those million- dollar commercials play. We'll look at some of this year's crop in "AM Pop." That's in our 9:00 a.m. Eastern hour -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Ahead this morning, Miles, the Kama Sutra Worm. It's supposed to hit computer around the world today, wipe out critical files, we're told. How bad is it going to be? We'll take a look.

Plus, Charles Barkley is going to join us in the studio. We'll ask him about the new edition of his book. It's called "Who's Afraid of a Large Black Man?" We'll get his take on race and poverty in America. Those stories all ahead.

We're back in a moment.


M. O'BRIEN: All right, if you get an e-mail today and it says, you know, hot, salacious something or anothers, or best video you ever saw in your life, just click on this one little attachment. By all means, do not do that! Do not succumb to your worst temptations.

Daniel Sieberg is live at CNN Center to explain why. Kama Sutra are the words to avoid today, right?


The theme perhaps is practice safe computing. The Kama Sutra Worm has been spreading since about January 16th, infecting people's computers, promising pornography, sexual pictures and that kind of thing. And today is the day that it's going to start doing its thing, as it were, by overwriting, or essentially corrupting or removing a lot of files on your computer. So we're talking about pictures, and word documents and that kind of thing. The third of every month, so starting today. We know of about 300,000 infections worldwide.

Tough to know how many are suffering from this today, though, simply because it's a little bit embarrassing in nature. A lot of people not reporting it. Plus, a lot of people may not realize their data is gone until the end of the day.

The FBI, though, has jumped in on this. They are taking this very seriously. They came out with a statement yesterday to discuss the case, the Kama Sutra Worm. Here's what they said. They said, "By its design, the worm in intended to destroy various computer files on infected computers on the third day of each month beginning today, February 3, 2006. Immediately upon learning of the latest worm, the FBI acted swiftly and jointly with our partners in law enforcement and the antivirus companies to investigate its origin and author or authors. The investigation remains ongoing.

The very nature of worms and viruses on the Internet often makes it tricky to go after people. This could be a global problem. Tough to know exactly how many people are suffering, Miles, but certainly some people are going to have some headaches with their computers today.

M. O'BRIEN: All right, let's go through a couple of things. First of all, just having your computer on and attached either through DSL or cable modem, just having it on, does not necessarily make you susceptible, correct?

SIEBERG: If you're infected with the worm and you've got it on your computer, your computer does have to be turned on on the third of the month for it to do its thing, for it to start removing all these files. If you don't turn on your computer on the third of the month, like today, you don't do anything, by tomorrow, the window has passed.

M. O'BRIEN: Al right, so for today, though, if up to this point everything has been fine, to stay clear of the worm, don't just open any e-mails that you are suspicious of in any way, right?

SIEBERG: Right. Virus writers are known for their bait and switch move, where they promise you something and don't deliver. We have some tips for people on what to do, because you could still get in this the future and potentially have this problem again next month. So remember not to open any unexpected e-mail attachments. You can always send an e-mail back to the person and clarify if you've got it.

M. O'BRIEN: So it could from, you think, from somebody you know, right?

SIEBERG: It could come from somebody you know.

And the other problem with this, too, is it does try to disable your antivirus software, so keep it up to date. Be vigilant. M. O'BRIEN: OK, thank you very much, Daniel Sieberg. Hopefully people will listen up and save themselves an awful lot of aggravation -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Ahead this morning, more on that breaking news out of Egypt this morning. A passenger ship carrying up to 1,400 people sinks in the Red Sea. We're going to bring you the very latest on this story.

Plus, we're following a murder mystery in the Boston area. A mother and her baby shot and killed. Police want to talk to the husband, the father, but he's vanished. A look at that story ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.