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American Morning

Katrina Six Months Later; Gaza Attack; Storm Over Ports

Aired March 01, 2006 - 06:30   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Israel attacks a top militant commander in Gaza. Now there's a promise of revenge. We'll tell you about that.

President Bush makes a surprise stop in Afghanistan overnight and vows to stop the flow of terrorists into that country.

Then the president is off to India. Already thousands of protestors are waiting. More on that story ahead.

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

S. O'BRIEN: In the circle in New York there is that shot.

Good morning, welcome to a split edition of AMERICAN MORNING. I'm Soledad O'Brien reporting from New York.

Good morning to you -- Miles.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Soledad. I guess I better get to New York before that snow falls.

In the meantime, we're here in Pass Christian, Mississippi, a place that was just decimated by Hurricane Katrina, a pretty little beach town. A lot of people with weekend homes here from the city of New Orleans, as a matter of fact.

People here wish that there was more attention paid to them, as a matter of fact. They feel like they have been overshadowed by the problems of New Orleans. And we're here this morning to tell you a little bit about that.

Sixty-five hundred people lived here before Hurricane Katrina and no more than about 1,200 to 1,500 have come back. And in many cases, they have come back to trailers, and, as you can see behind me, tents, as well.

This is a tent city that's known as The Village right in the center of Pass Christian built by the Navy Seabees. And people here are living here with no real certainty as to what's next. FEMA and the federal government, in general, has told them March 15 they are going to fold up their tents and move on. And in some cases that will mean people will move back to where they were before, which may be their car, as they wait for trailers. About half the trailers required in the state of Mississippi are here so far.

Obviously there are still a lot of needs here in Pass Christian and all along the 70 miles of Mississippi coastline that was battered by Hurricane Katrina.

In just a little while, we're going to check in with CNN's Randi Kaye who spent a little bit of time inside The Village and got a sense of what it is like to live here. It's quite an interesting story -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: I bet. I bet it's a very tough story.

All right, Miles, we'll look forward to that, thank you.

We're just getting word of an airstrike in the heart of Gaza City. Palestinian security sources say the attack killed a commander for Islamic Jihad.

Let's get right to CNN's John Vause. He's live for us in Gaza City. He joins us by phone.

Hey, John, good morning to you. What exactly happened?

JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Soledad, well no official confirmation yet from the Israelis. But what we have been told by Palestinian security forces, a senior commander with Islamic Jihad, Khaled Dahdoh, was driving his vehicle not far from the Islamic University in the heart of Gaza City, where, according to witnesses, he was hit by an Israeli airstrike.

I was out there a short time ago. I saw what was left of the vehicle, a small four-door sedan. Essentially just burnt, twisted metal was all that remains. It is believed that he was traveling alone at the time -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: All right. Well, obviously, as soon as we get confirmation from the Israeli side, we'll bring that to you as well.

CNN's John Vause joining us by phone.

John, thank you for the update.

Lots of other news to get to as well. Carol has got that. She's in the newsroom.

Hey, Carol, good morning again.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Good morning to all of you.

No let up in the violence in Baghdad either, nearly 30 are dead after attacks there today. The biggest attack in eastern Baghdad where a car bomb went off.

In the meantime, Saddam Hussein back in court today. Prosecutors are presenting more documents they claim link the former dictator to the killings of more than 140 Shiites. We'll keep an eye on things for you and bring you the latest.

A first for President Bush, he is in Afghanistan for the first time meeting with President Hamid Karzai. It was a surprise stop. President Bush next heads to India where tens of thousands of protestors have turned out ahead of his visit there, some chanting death to Bush. The president also travels to Pakistan before heading home.

Don't call it a comeback. That's what tennis star Pete Sampras is saying about his latest move. Sampras has signed on to play for the World Tennis Team. It's been more than three years since his last match. An official announcement is expected later today.

And a 2-year-old has sold for $16 million at auction. We're talking about a horse, of course. This colt has yet to run a race, but it set a record for sale price at this Miami auction. The old record sale price was $13.1 million in 1985. So, is he worth it? Well, as they say in cliche land, only time will tell. But the colt ran an eighth of a mile in less than 10 seconds.

And you've got to admit, Soledad, that's pretty darn good.

S. O'BRIEN: Pretty darn good, and pretty darn expensive, too. We'll see if it is worth it.

All right, Carol, thanks.

Let's get to a CNN "Security Watch" this morning. We're talking about port security. A bill that would kill the deal, that deal that would put a United Arab Emirates company in charge of six major American ports, could go to the House floor today. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff is just one of the administration officials who is going to be pressed to defend the deal today.

Let's get right to Ed Henry for more.


ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): The full- court press from the White House continues this morning as Bush officials try to sell a skeptical Congress on this controversial port deal. Bush officials continue to fan out all across Capitol Hill insisting the deal is sound and swatting aside questions about security raised in this Coast Guard document. Questions about so- called intelligence gaps in the port deal.

All of this pushed back from the White House has sparked a split in the Republican Party. In one camp, you have people like Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a skeptic of the deal last week, now saying that in fact he is believing more and more that it is a good deal. But other Republicans, like moderate Olympia Snowe of Maine saying she is deeply concerned about this deal, that the process may have been flawed. She's not ready to rubberstamp it.

This also coming as there is a new development with Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer, saying he has anonymous sources telling him that other Bush officials were privately concerned about security but that those concerns were pushed aside before the deal was okayed the first time. Officials within the Bush administration insisting they found no such memo or no such officials to corroborate Schumer's account.

Ed Henry, CNN, Capitol Hill.


S. O'BRIEN: And you want to stay tuned to CNN day and night for the most reliable news about your security.

At 36 minutes past the hour, let's get a look at the forecast for the day. And we should say days ahead, because of course getting a little snowier in the days ahead.


S. O'BRIEN: Hey, Chad, good morning.

MYERS: Good morning, Soledad.


M. O'BRIEN: Well, thank you, Chad. We look forward to that, I guess. We'll take the winter wonderland for as long as it lasts.

Coming up on the program, we are going to be talking to the head of FEMA. You know it's not too far away to start thinking about the next hurricane season. Can you believe that? And it's supposed to be another bad one. We're going to ask him how FEMA is getting prepared this go around.

And the tent city they call The Village right in the center of Pass Christian, Mississippi, we'll tell you what daily life is like here. You know there really is no place like home. You'll see why coming up.


M. O'BRIEN: Welcome back. I'm Miles O'Brien live this morning from Pass Christian, Mississippi. If the scene behind me looks like a MASH unit or some sort of military compound, that's no coincidence, those tents were built by Navy Seabees a couple of months after Katrina blew through here. About 70 or so tents and it's still housing about 80 people from this general area who have no other place to go.

What's life like inside? Well it's not so easy.

CNN's Randi Kaye has our story.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Like the dozens of tents here, Tent F9 is a temporary, simple shelter. But what to do with the mother and daughter who live in it is anything but simple.

(on camera): Hi.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Step inside, ma'am.

KAYE: How are you? May I come in?


KAYE: I'm Randi Kaye with CNN.

(voice-over): For months, Doloris King, who is 76, her daughter, Deborah, who is 50, their three Chihuahuas and a cockatiel named Tweety Bird, have lived in this tent city called The Village. The Navy built it, the city runs it and FEMA pays the bills, at least for now.

(on camera): The Village is made up of 74 tents. At one point there were more than 200 people living here. These days, it's down to 83.

Now the tents are actually bigger than FEMA trailers. They measure 16 by 32 feet. Up to four people can live inside each one.

Compare your house, if you would, before the storm to life in this tent.

DOLORIS KING, HURRICANE SURVIVOR: Lord, have mercy! I had a bedroom. I had a living room. I had a kitchen. I had a washroom.

KAYE: Pretty different?

KING: Yes. I had a ramp to go up and down to my mailbox, you know.

KAYE (voice-over): It was far better than life in The Village.



KAYE: Here there is a daycare tent, a laundry tent, a medical clinic, a meal tent, even a school bus stop for The Village. But the tents have no windows or kitchens or bathrooms. There are only outdoor sinks and shared restrooms.

(on camera): What is it like for you to have to share restrooms and showers with people you've never even met?

DEBORAH LEWIS, HURRICANE SURVIVOR: Like I go to the restroom and somebody will try to get in. And like the showers over there, you know, you never know if somebody's coming in. You try to hurry up. And at home, it's a lot different, you feel more safe.

KAYE (voice-over): Randi Kaye, CNN, Pass Christian, Mississippi.


M. O'BRIEN: Now a little footnote for you, just this past week, good news Debbie (ph) and Doloris, FEMA finally came through, two trailers side by side so they can help take care of each other.

Big picture here, about 70,000 housing units in the state of Mississippi gone in the wake of Katrina and so far about 35,000 trailers. There is a big shortfall here. There is still a need. And as we're told, FEMA is going to shut down this tent March 15, tent city, on March 15. And a lot of folks here are not certain where they are going to go.

Coming up, we're going to talk to a mother and daughter who are still inside The Village. We'll ask them what their situation might be. And a little bit later, we'll talk to the volunteer who is running the show here and running it well. We'll ask her how important it is to have volunteers make this whole operation work well. Back with more in a moment. Back with more in a moment.

But first, to -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: All right, Miles, thanks a lot.

And of course you're right, I think in a lot of situations you see the volunteers really are running the bulk of a show, so to speak.

Let's talk business news. Andy is coming up in just a moment.

What have you got?

ANDY SERWER, "FORTUNE" MAGAZINE: Good morning, Soledad.

We're talking about Steve Jobs and how he's bringing the PC closer to TV and stereo. Plus, new movies on cable the day they come out in theaters. We'll tell you all about that coming up next on AMERICAN MORNING.


S. O'BRIEN: Harry looks good at 79 and Tim looks very good at 50.

SERWER: Yes, that will happen, right. And Harry of course in the political arena lately, speaking out.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes. Well you know he's been political, actually, I think, all his life.


S. O'BRIEN: But of late...

SERWER: Making headlines.

S. O'BRIEN: ... really making a lot more headlines for sure.


S. O'BRIEN: Andy is "Minding Your Business" in just a moment.

First though, let's get right to Carol Costello for an update from the newsroom.

Good morning.

COSTELLO: Good morning. Good morning to all of you.

President Bush says capturing Osama bin Laden is not a matter of if, but when. The president making that comment just about an hour ago in Kabul. Held a news conference with the Afghan President Hamid Karzai during a surprise visit to that country. President next heads to India. He is expected to be met by protestors. Tens of thousands have already been taking to the streets shouting things like death to Bush.

The Saddam Hussein trial appears to be in a new phase, a quiet one. Hussein and his co-defendants calmly entered the courtroom today. For a second day in a row they listened to the proceedings and they cut back on outbursts. Prosecutors are planning to call several former regime officials to the stand.

The big beach on the Maui Island on Hawaii is closed this morning. A 15-year-old girl was bitten on the calf by an eight-foot shark. Her mom says she may need a nerve graft. The teen says it hurt so much she didn't think she would make it.

Anna Nicole Smith has left the Supreme Court, but her case could have a more lasting impression. It pits federal courts versus state power and could affect federal tax issues. But more directly, Smith wants half a billion dollars from her late husband's estate. A ruling is expected in the next few months.

Barry Bonds gets all dolled -- that's Barry Bonds. Does he remind you of anyone? Lordy! How about Paula Abdul on "American Idol." The San Francisco Giants are having a mock contest before the start of spring training. Bonds says he'll never again tell his wife to hurry up because it took him 30 minutes to get ready because he couldn't get his hair right. This is Barry Bonds, the man who doesn't bond with his teammates, who really doesn't have a sense of humor and there he is, Chad, in drag.

MYERS: Is that a wig?

COSTELLO: Yes, it's a wig, and he still couldn't get his hair right.

MYERS: What do you mean you can't get your wig right, isn't that what you get a wig for? No, and he does not look like Paula Abdul. Paula Abdul is a wonderful young lady, by the way. I love her. I love her. I love the "Idol."

Good morning, everybody.


Back to you guys.

S. O'BRIEN: All right. Thank you very much, Chad.

We told you on Tuesday about Apple's latest coming out party. So what did they unveil?

Andy has got a little peek at that.

Good morning.

SERWER: Good morning, Soledad.

Lately when Steve Jobs builds it, they will come and buy it. Yesterday, he rolled out a couple of new products in Cupertino, California, where the company is headquartered.

First up, here are the iPod Hi-Fi, $349. This is to compete with those Bose players that have been selling so well.

S. O'BRIEN: Right.

SERWER: Apple saying why should we leave this money on the table? We're going to go after this business, too. Forty-two million iPods sold to date.

Now, another...

S. O'BRIEN: Forty-two million...

SERWER: Forty-two million of those little babies.

S. O'BRIEN: ...of these little machines could make your iPod sound really good.


Now, another product, the mini Mac. The Mac mini, a new device that will actually control TVs, music, video, photos, putting it all together. It has a remote. So he really is trying to you know have convergence actually come. You know we've talked about this for years and years and years and finally, I think, it is starting to come together.

S. O'BRIEN: Well, yes, if it's intuitive.

SERWER: Right.

S. O'BRIEN: You know what happens...

SERWER: Right.

S. O'BRIEN: ... is you have a million of those remotes and they are really hard to work. I mean I think Mac actually does a pretty good job making you know products that are really intuitive you know that makes sense to you.

SERWER: That's -- yes.

S. O'BRIEN: So maybe everyone (ph) wants to do it.

SERWER: You are so right. And you see kids today of course listening to music on their computers. They plug their iPods in. So I think that that stuff is...

S. O'BRIEN: Kids! Hey, I listen to music on my computer.

SERWER: Yes, well, you're a kid, too, then, right?

Another story about technology and entertainment, Soledad, to tell you about. Comcast, the nation's largest cable company, rolling out a service where you can see independent movies come out on cable the day they arrive in the movie theaters. How about that?

They are doing a deal with a company called IFC, which is the production company that's behind "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," "Boys Don't Cry," "Fahrenheit 9/11." So a lot of movies that you might want to see.

A couple that they are going to be coming out with very soon, listen to this one, one called "American Gun." And how about this one, "CSA," not to be confused with "CSI." That stands for Confederate State of America. It's a documentary, a faux documentary on what would have happened if the South had won the Civil War. So kind of interesting there, but...

S. O'BRIEN: Yes, but don't you risk keeping people from the theaters if you go ahead and show it on cable the first day they're out?

SERWER: You do. You know, but the thing about this and the strategy is that independent films play in theaters mostly in big cities. This would give people a chance in rural areas to see these kinds of films.

S. O'BRIEN: And very interesting. All right.

SERWER: I think so.

S. O'BRIEN: Andy, thank you.

SERWER: Thank you.

S. O'BRIEN: Ahead this morning, a look at our top stories. President Bush making a surprise visit to Afghanistan as thousands of people protest the president's upcoming visit to India.

Bombings kill at least 26 people in Iraq.

Saddam Hussein is back in court.

Plus, FEMA's acting director is going to join us live after FEMA's failures in Hurricane Katrina.

We'll take a look at whether the Aegean Sea is ready for the next upcoming hurricane season.

A look at those stories just ahead. Stay with us.



MIKE: We had to train overnight and hunted Iraqis in combat. But we like to do this work with 200 (ph) American lives at risk.

Pretty much you have to drive everywhere in Iraq. We did probably several hundred convoys in these thin-skin pickup trucks. In the time I was there, we had a half dozen killed and 43 wounded. Unmanned convoys would reduce casualties entirely, but we still have a long ways to go completely when it comes to convoys and IED defense.

M. O'BRIEN (on camera): IEDs, or improvised explosive devices, have been blamed for more than 700 U.S. military deaths in Iraq. But what if we could put robots in harm's way instead?

(voice-over): Scott Myers is an executive with General Dynamics, a company that specializes in unmanned warfare.

SCOTT MYERS, GENERAL DYNAMICS: I believe that the way we operate right now, for the military, it will be completely different 15 years from now due to robotic technology.

M. O'BRIEN: Right now, the unmanned vehicle is not entirely autonomous. It uses sensors, as well as commands from a manned lead vehicle, to avoid obstacles and navigate rugged terrain. But if all goes well, Myers says this could one day lead to completely unmanned convoys. But don't look for robotic soldiers any time soon.

MYERS: We consider these robots as really co-combatants and not that we replace it with soldiers, but they can be more effective and do their job safely.



S. O'BRIEN: Be sure to check out our Web site,, for the latest on this morning's top stories, including this one, Bush's surprise trip to Afghanistan. The president heading to Afghanistan. He's moving on to Texas -- Texas, excuse me, India next, and already we've seen a number of protests there.

Also a look this morning at some of the most popular stories, Anna Nicole Smith, the ex-playmate, is getting the ear of the Supreme Court. As you well know, she was married to a multi-billionaire who died one year into the marriage, then was sort of in a bitter battle with his family over the dough. It's been an 11-year battle. We'll see how it ends. That's all ahead this morning if you go to Let's get right back to weather. Chad has got a look at that.


MYERS: Back to you guys in New York.

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

Good morning. Welcome, everybody, I'm Soledad O'Brien.