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American Morning

Missing Cruise Ship; Cartoon Outrage; Man of the House

Aired February 03, 2006 - 06:00   ET


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

We're following a breaking story right now. A passenger ship with more than 1,400 people onboard is missing. It disappeared from radar screens. We're live with the very latest.

M. O'BRIEN: A cartoon ignites protest and outrage in the Muslim world. We're live in Jerusalem with more on the growing controversy.

New Orleans takes another hit. Now the cleanup from another natural disaster is under way.

S. O'BRIEN: And Detroit might be the safest place in the world this Sunday. We'll take a closer look at the Super Bowl off the field in our "CNN Security Watch."

Plus a rare operation for two tiny patients, take a look at them. Were doctors able to save these lives? We'll tell you just ahead.

First, though, more on this top story this morning. And we want to welcome our international viewers as well.

We begin this morning with breaking news. A mysterious disappearance in the Red Sea to tell you about, 1,400 lives are on the line this morning. Authorities say an Egyptian passenger ship has vanished from radar overnight.

Here's a picture of the ship. The shipping line is based out of Cairo, Egypt. The ship was sailing from Dubai in western Saudi Arabia to Egypt's southern port of Safaga. Well reports are coming in right now saying that lifeboats have been spotted in the area, bodies have been seen floating on the water.

Let's get right to Ben Wedeman. He's in Cairo. Joins us by phone this morning.

Ben, what more do we know?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CAIRO BUREAU CHIEF: Yes, Soledad, we know that just a few hours ago this ship apparently disappeared from radar screens. It was going from a port of Dubah, not Dubai, in the western Saudi Arabian coast, to Safaga, a major Egyptian port on the Red Sea.

Now we're told by people at this company that the ship has a capacity of as many as 1,400 passengers. We don't know at this point how many passengers were onboard the ship.

Now this comes at a time at the end of the Hajj season, the pilgrimage of Muslims to the holy city of Mecca. There aren't -- many people are on their way back. They are taking boats from western Saudi Arabia to the Egyptian coast. So it's a very fairly busy time.

Now, as you said, there are reports that lifeboats and bodies have been seen in the Red Sea not far from where the ship apparently disappeared from radar. We don't, at this point, have any more details as to how this could have happened and how many people survived whatever did happen -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: A couple of questions for you. And I know it's early on, so I'm not sure if you're going to be able to answer this. What were the weather conditions out in this region where you're talking about the ship believed to have been when it was last known -- this last known sighting as I should say? And also, the passengers onboard, do we know who they are?

WEDEMAN: Well, first of all, the passengers are I'm -- it's a fairly good assumption to say that they are probably people returning from the Hajj. Because they are on boats, they're probably not the richest of those who are coming back. The boats are cheaper than some of the flights out of Saudi Arabia back to Egypt.

As far as the weather goes, this is a time of year when the Red Sea is fairly windy. But, by and large, it's not known -- it's not an area known for difficult weather conditions. It's probably fairly cool for this time of year, but still much warmer than say the northern Atlantic. So weather conditions probably not too bad. And that, therefore, if there's a -- there is a rescue effort going on, it should be going on without too much difficulty -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Ben Wedeman by phone for us this morning out of Cairo.

Ben, thank you, we'll check in with you again. Obviously we're going to be on top of this story. Thanks for updating us -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Muslim anger is spilling out around the world today. Huge protests over a series of cartoons considered by many Muslims offensive. Marchers in Libya pouring into the streets. The cartoons show things like the prophet Muhammad with a bomb as a turban.

In Indonesia, hard liners attacked a building where the Danish Embassy is located. The problem began in Denmark when a newspaper there printed cartoons perceived by some as mocking the prophet Muhammad.

In Tehran, more street protests. The cartoons reprinted in several other European countries. The papers making a statement about freedom of speech in doing so. Muslim leaders say it doesn't justify indignity toward religion, that freedom.

In Basra, Iraq they are stomping the Danish flag. Any depiction of Muhammad is considered blasphemous in Islam. Some of the violent protests are in the Palestinian territories, especially Gaza.

John Vause live in Jerusalem.

John, what's going on there?

JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Miles, gunmen in Gaza had issued this warning, it was faxed to a number of news organizations, ordering all foreigners to get out. If they stayed, this warning says they will be considered -- quote -- "targets." And for citizens from France, Norway and also Denmark, this message reads their blood is wanted.

This warning is being taken seriously. Overnight, journalists and diplomats and aide workers packed up their bags and headed for the border with Israel.

Now these cartoons are considered highly offensive in the Muslim world. CNN has chosen not to display these cartoons. We have obscured what the images are so as to not cause offense.

But across the West Bank in Gaza, they have caused outrage. In Nablis, mass gunmen have been going from apartments to hotels looking for Danish, French and Norwegian citizens. At one point, they kidnapped a schoolteacher from Germany. When they had realized they had made a mistake, they released him after he was held for about an hour. The Danish and Norwegian offices in the West Bank city of Ramallah have also been closed.

All of this coming after gunmen yesterday briefly took over the European Union offices in Gaza City. They were firing their guns in the air. They spray painted a warning on the gates. And they have also demanded an apology within 48 hours -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Well, John, as you say, we're not showing them, so try to give us some kind of sense of how offensive they are to Muslims.

VAUSE: Well, for Muslims, even showing any picture of Muhammad is considered blasphemous, even if that picture is in a positive light. If you walk into a mosque, you will never see an image or a representation of Muhammad, unlike churches where there are often representations of Jesus' life.

So these cartoons which show Muhammad with a bomb on his head, Muslims are saying that is a representation that Muhammad is responsible for terrorism. Another cartoon where Muhammad is standing at the gates of heaven telling a suicide bomber stop, you can't come in, we have no more virgins. On a scale of 1 to 10, this is probably about 110 when it comes to insults.

But many commentators in Europe point out that there is a great deal of hypocrisy here in the Arab world where quite often government- owned newspapers will publish blatantly anti-Semitic cartoons -- Miles. M. O'BRIEN: John Vause in Jerusalem, thank you very much -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: More damage to tell you about in New Orleans. At least three tornadoes touched down there on Thursday. Dozens of homes and businesses across the area were literally torn apart. And one of the tornadoes was a force two. That's the biggest tornado to hit New Orleans or the New Orleans area in more than two decades.

Let's get right to Chad.

Chad, you know, look at these pictures. I'm not showing you damage from Hurricane Katrina, this is new damage from the tornadoes.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Right, and it's difficult on some of this, although not on the concourse. You can see this concourse was rebuilt. This concourse was actually operating. That's where the one injury actually did take place, a little bit of flying glass, a minor injury there.

But the F2 tornado that did hit the Lake View (ph) area, up around Veterans (ph) and Flur de Lee (ph), that was F2, which means 113 to 157 miles per hour. I looked through all these pictures. We don't have any of the Lake View damage there.

But the big story was that the three tornadoes, may actually have only been two, one that skipped from around the hospital at River Road and then jumped into the Lake View neighborhood and then skipped on up toward into Lake Pontchartrain itself.

The tornadoes would be either F1 or F2 all by the National Weather Service storm survey crews. And here you see all of the numbers from a 0, which it was bigger than that. The two that we know about, around near River Road, in the 70 to 80-mile-per-hour category. And then the Lake View probably somewhere up around 120 to 130. We will get you those Lake View pictures later on in the newscast.


Back to you.

S. O'BRIEN: Interesting.

M. O'BRIEN: Snowy Super Bowl. All right.

Thank you very much, Chad Myers.

Coming up, the Super Bowl means super security, but this year it's even tighter than usual. We'll tell you why Detroit makes an inviting target for terrorists.

S. O'BRIEN: Also, the Kama Sutra Worm that's supposed to do its dirty work today wiping out critical files on computers around the world, just how bad could it be? We'll take a look.

M. O'BRIEN: And later, remember that cell phone film festival story. After seeing it, we tried to make some cell phone movies of our own. Remember that? Well let's just say one of them came out a little bit better than the other.

S. O'BRIEN: One of them came out and one did not.

M. O'BRIEN: That's ahead.


S. O'BRIEN: It looks like it's raining there.

M. O'BRIEN: It's good Friday music, isn't it?

S. O'BRIEN: Yes.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes. Let's kind of groove our way into the weekend, baby.

All right, we've got some breaking news to cover, so let's get to that.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes, let's get right to that.

M. O'BRIEN: Let's not...

S. O'BRIEN: Kelly Wallace is in the newsroom for us. She's got much more on the story.

It's a really bizarre story, isn't it -- Kelly?

KELLY WALLACE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It sure is, Soledad. And we're continuing to follow the developing story coming out of Egypt this morning, a passenger ship disappearing from radar in the Red Sea off the Saudi coast. And here's a picture of the ship that we are talking about.

We are hearing that some passengers have been spotted in lifeboats. There are also reports of bodies in the water. Just in the past half-hour, we were told the ship had left a port in western Saudi Arabia. It disappeared from radar screens en route to Egypt's southern port. It is believed more than 1,400 passengers were aboard the ship. Obviously we are following this story very, very closely. More information as we have it here on AMERICAN MORNING.

Back here in the United States, emergency crews in Alaska trying to get a massive oil tanker floating again. It broke loose from a loading dock on Thursday and ran aground in the south central part of the state. The problem, the tanker is carrying nearly five million gallons of fuel. Some has already spilled, but we don't know exactly how much.

Police in Massachusetts are still looking for a man who attacked patrons at a gay bar with a hatchet and a gun. Three people were wounded. One is in critical condition. And a candlelight vigil was held last night for those victims outside the bar. Police are looking for 18-year-old Jacob Robida in connection with those attacks, and they are describing him as armed and dangerous. We'll have a live report from our Dan Lothian just ahead.

In Washington, it looks like House Republicans are running away from Tom DeLay. They bypassed his handpicked replacement to elect Ohio Congressman John Boehner as the new majority leader. But are they really going in a new direction?

Congressional correspondent Ed Henry is on Capitol Hill.


ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): John Boehner kicks off his first full day as House majority leader later this morning with an event here on Capitol Hill. Republicans eager to showcase their new leadership team and get their political house in order in time for the midterm elections.

In a dramatic upset yesterday, Boehner beat the frontrunner, Roy Blunt of Missouri. Boehner's victory a clear sign that Republicans felt that Blunt was just too close to Tom DeLay who had pushed aside amid the Republican lobbying scandals.

But Democrats are already charging that Boehner himself is too close to lobbyists and is hardly an outsider because he used to be a member of the Republican leadership team. Democrats also note that Blunt isn't going anywhere. He's sticking around as the number three in the Republican leadership team, a sign Democrats say that Republicans are pushing more of the same at a time when voters want change.

Ed Henry, CNN, Capitol Hill.


WALLACE: And time now to get another check of the forecast. Chad Myers at the CNN Center with an update.

And, Chad, it's looking very, very wet all along that East Coast, isn't it?

MYERS: It sure is.


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

That's too bad. Yes, I saw some of that rain. It wasn't raining when we came in this morning. It's really picked up now.

M. O'BRIEN: Drizzling at least.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes.

Let's talk to Carrie Lee about some key numbers coming out on the job front. What are we looking at?

CARRIE LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The big January jobs report. Are you excited? We get this once every month.

M. O'BRIEN: We are all atwitter. Yes.

LEE: Wall Street should be pretty excited, because the number of jobs added during January expected to increase quite a bit to 250,000. This, versus 108,000 in December. I will say, though, estimates have been all over the map in recent months, but there's where it stands at this point.

The unemployment rates, meanwhile, expected to hold steady at 4.9 percent. We'll get the numbers at 8:30 Eastern, so an hour before trading starts. Right now it's looking like a pretty flat open. And we see that quite often on jobs report Friday, people waiting to see what the numbers actually are.

Now, the story behind the numbers, bigger paychecks for people. And this is good news. We like to hear things like this. Wage, salary increases are starting to come about in some areas of the country. And also we're seeing signs of job growth. So as far as the workers of America, the news here is pretty good.

What does that mean for investors? Well, bigger wages means more money and that could be a sign of inflation. So if you're a worker, good news here. If you're an investor, well, two different sides of the same coin. But anyway, the numbers coming out at 8:30.

S. O'BRIEN: If you're a worker and an investor, you stand confused, as always, on what to do.

M. O'BRIEN: You're torn.

LEE: Exactly.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes.

LEE: One stock to watch today,, disappointing profits last night. Profits down year over year. The stock was down 8 percent. So we saw Google take a hit earlier in the week. taking a hit possibly today. Interesting, because the Dow components have done pretty well on profits so far. Some of these tech names, though, seem to be missing the boat.

M. O'BRIEN: Well Amazon, historically, has not made a lot of money, right, I mean...

LEE: They haven't made a lot of money, but they have seen a lot of growth. You know they've been building up their business.


LEE: Exactly. Exactly.

S. O'BRIEN: It's only when you miss your predictions that's the big problem.

LEE: And expectations for these companies so high. M. O'BRIEN: Yes.

LEE: So even a little bit of a miss on sales, well, that's going to send the stock lower.

M. O'BRIEN: So they're losing money, but they make it up on volume...

LEE: Exactly. Exactly.

M. O'BRIEN: ... somehow.

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

M. O'BRIEN: I don't know how that works, but somehow.

LEE: Yes.

M. O'BRIEN: Anyway. Trying that in my home budget, it doesn't work so well.

Coming up, there are always plenty of security worries surrounding the Super Bowl, but this year they might be even bigger. We'll look at why Detroit is such an inviting target. That's next on AMERICAN MORNING.


M. O'BRIEN: Imagine being trapped inside a body that won't move, sounds awful doesn't it, even though your mind is perfectly fine. That's what people with ALS, or Lou Gehrig's Disease, must live with. But what if there was a way to control your surroundings, even your body, just by thinking about it? "Welcome to the Future."


ROSEMARIE, ALS PATIENT: When I first was diagnosed, I thought I would start keeping a journal. I like to blog because I'm able to write my feelings down. And I like for people to see that life can be still lived with a disease such as mine.

M. O'BRIEN (on camera): Rosemarie was diagnosed with ALS, Lou Gehrig's Disease, about two years ago. Rapidly she is losing the ability to move or even speak. But there's nothing wrong with her mind. What if she had the ability to write her blog, to control her computer, simply by thinking about it?

(voice-over): This man believes the future is now. Dr. Leigh Hochberg of Massachusetts General Hospital is one of the nation's top neurologists. His focus, a mind-boggling clinical study called BrainGate.

DR. LEIGH HOCHBERG, MASSACHUSETTS GENERAL HOSPITAL: The goal of the BrainGate neural interface system is to determine whether someone with paralysis is able to use their own thought or their own intention to move to, at first, control a computer cursor on a screen. M. O'BRIEN: It all begins with this tiny chip. Attached to the part of the brain that controls movement, it detects electrical activity and sends those signals to an external device, a process which then interprets those brainwaves and feeds them into a computer, literally turning thought into action.


M. O'BRIEN: Twenty-six-year-old Matthew Nagel was the first patient to participate in the BrainGate clinical trial. Paralyzed from the neck down, watch what he accomplished purely through the power of his mind.

NAGEL: Next I'm going to turn on my television.

HOCHBERG: He was able to use that computer cursor to change the channel on his television set.

NAGEL: See that's channel down. Now I'm going to channel up.

HOCHBERG: To open and close simulated e-mail.

NAGEL: It says you are doing a great job.

HOCHBERG: He was also successful in opening and closing a prosthetic hand just by thinking about it.

NAGEL: Open. Close. Not bad there, not bad at all.

HOCHBERG: I'm very hopeful that these technologies will be able to help people with paralysis in the future, control their environment more directly, and I hope one day it'll be able to move again.

ROSEMARIE: The great majority of people live three to five years after diagnosis. Some people live 10 years, so, some that live 20 years, which I plan on being one of those people.


M. O'BRIEN: Patients with severe paralysis are being tested in phase one of the BrainGate trials. But phase two, which will get under way soon, will involve patients with Lou Gehrig's Disease to see if they can use their minds to maneuver objects. It's a very exciting technology -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Pretty amazing.

M. O'BRIEN: It is.

S. O'BRIEN: We're going to take a look at the top stories just ahead this morning. More on this breaking news out of Egypt, the ship carrying 1,300 to 1,400 people vanishing off radar screens. We're going to have the very latest on that.

Stay with us, you're watching AMERICAN MORNING.


S. O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody.

We are following a breaking story this morning. A couple of breaking stories coming to us from the Middle East. As you can see, there are protests happening after a cartoon deemed to be absolutely offensive to Muslims and Islam have set up a rage of protests. We're going to tell you about this story this morning.

Also, we're following this story about this missing cruise ship, 1,400 people could be missing. We're going to bring that story to you just ahead.

And look at this, cameras, security cameras. Expect to see lots of that at the Super Bowl, which is just two days away. Security forces are on full alert and have been for weeks. We'll tell you what's happening there.

And La Nina, she's back. And does that mean that the hurricane season this year is going to be even worse?

All those stories on this AMERICAN MORNING.

ANNOUNCER: You're watching AMERICAN MORNING with Soledad O'Brien and Miles O'Brien.

S. O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody.

Got breaking news to tell you about. A really disturbing report, a cruise ship that was traveling from Saudi Arabia to Egypt apparently disappeared overnight in the Red Sea. We're being told about 1,400 passengers are onboard. There are some reports, some wire reports, that say some people have been spotted in lifeboats, some bodies spotted by helicopters floating in the water. In a few moments, we're going to get to Egypt's Minister of Transport to update us on the situation there.

But of course it's a very complicated and confusing story. What we know is that the ship disappeared just after sailing from the western Saudi port of Dubah at 7:00 p.m. local time there. And it is unclear exactly what time the ship was supposed to arrive, sometime around 3:00 in the morning local time as well. Never showed up. They lost contact with the ship just after it left the Saudi port.