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American Morning

Hollywood's Gold Rush; Tillman Investigation; Iran Nuke Debate; Search for Victims; Homeless Attack

Aired March 06, 2006 - 06:00   ET


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, I'm Miles O'Brien.
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Carol Costello in for Soledad.

O'BRIEN: All about the Oscars. Those guys from "Brokeback Mountain" were the favorites, but someone else crashed the party.

COSTELLO: Did they ever.

Iran issues a nuclear ultimatum. We're live in Vienna where international investigators are meeting.

The Pentagon looks into criminal charges in the friendly-fire death of Pat Tillman, but some of the key evidence may be missing.

O'BRIEN: An angry ex-student turned possible terrorist. A campus attack gets extra attention today.

And the expansion of America, some surprising numbers for young people on the battle of bulging waistlines.

A big upset last night at the Academy Awards. The inside favorite to win best picture, that gay cowboy tale, "Brokeback Mountain," derailed by "Crash," a story of race relations in Los Angeles. Either way, it was an unusual year for the Oscars. Message movies taking the marquee.

CNN's Sibila Vargas now with highlights from Hollywood's big night, the 78th Annual Academy Awards.


JACK NICHOLSON, ACTOR: And the Oscar goes to "Crash."

SIBILA VARGAS, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The big win and the big surprise of the night for best picture, "Crash."

CATHY SCHULMAN, PRODUCER, "CRASH": We are humbled by the other nominees in this category. You have made this year one of the most breathtaking and stunning maverick years in American cinema.

VARGAS: The maverick, small-budget film about race and class upset the much-buzzed frontrunner "Brokeback Mountain." But it wasn't a total shutout for the cowboy romance. "Brokeback Mountain's" Ang Lee used the film's signature line when accepting the award for best director.

ANG LEE, BEST DIRECTOR WINNER: I wish I knew how to quit you.

VARGAS: "The Daily Show's" Jon Stewart hosted the evening with a mix of his classic political humor.

JON STEWART, HOST: Bjork couldn't be here tonight, she was trying on her Oscar dress and Dick Cheney shot her.

VARGAS: And a few jokes at the expense of Hollywood.

STEWART: "Good Night and Good Luck," which is not just Edward R. Murrow's signoff, it's also how Mr. Clooney ends all his dates. Now...

VARGAS: George Clooney, nominated for three Academy Awards for two different films, took home the first Oscar of the night for best supporting actor in "Syriana." Clooney praised Oscar voters for their willingness to award out-of-the-mainstream films.

GEORGE CLOONEY, BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: I'm proud to be a part of this Academy, proud to be part of the community and proud to be out of touch.

VARGAS: "The Constant Gardener's" Rachel Weisz won the Oscar for best supporting actress. The best actor award, as most industry experts predicted, went to "Capote" and Philip Seymour Hoffman. And the man of the evening thanked his mom.

PHILIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN, BEST ACTOR WINNER: Be proud, mom, because I'm proud of you and we're here tonight and it's so good.

VARGAS: Reese Witherspoon won the best actress Oscar for her portrayal of June Carter Cash in "Walk the Line." She thanked her grandmother.

REESE WITHERSPOON, BEST ACTRESS WINNER: My grandmother was one of the biggest inspirations in my life. She taught me how to be a real woman.

VARGAS: And also honored the woman she played.

WITHERSPOON: And people used to ask June how she was doing. And she'd used to say I'm just trying to matter. And I know what she means, you know, I'm just trying to matter and live a good life and make work that means something.

VARGAS: A significant night for all the Oscar winners.

Sibila Vargas, CNN, Hollywood.


O'BRIEN: And one of the show's more interesting moments was the rap group, Three 6 Mafia, winning best song for "It's Hard Out There for a Pimp" from the film "Hustle & Flow." The lyrics had to be toned down a little bit for the TV audience -- Carol.

COSTELLO: They did say the B word that rhymes with witch, though. That was the big controversy about that song.

O'BRIEN: Very edgy.

COSTELLO: Very edgy.


COSTELLO: And the audience really didn't get the group either. They were like, what?


COSTELLO: Anyway, we'll talk more about this in "Morning Coffee."

O'BRIEN: We will.

COSTELLO: In other news this morning, the U.S. Army is opening a fifth investigation into the friendly-fire death of former NFL star Pat Tillman, but this one could have criminal implications.

CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr has more for you.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Two years after his death, the Army will open a criminal probe into the death of Corporal Pat Tillman, the NFL player turned Army Ranger. Tillman died in a firefight in the mountains of Afghanistan in April 2004 in what was eventually ruled to be friendly-fire, killed by his fellow Rangers in the confusion of battle.

Now the Pentagon's inspector general has ruled that while there were fact-finding reviews, the Army failed to ever conduct a criminal probe and did not consider the possibility of negligent homicide. Now the Army's criminal investigative division, the CID, will take over.

Tillman gained national attention when he walked away from a $3.6 million contract with the Arizona Cardinals to become an Army Ranger after the 9/11 attacks.

This highly unusual criminal investigation could be tough. Evidence, such as portions of Tillman's bloodied uniform were burned, some of the members of the unit have left the Army. And ultimately the confusion and fog of war could wind up being just that and not a criminal act.

Barbara Starr, CNN, Washington.


COSTELLO: And coming up in the next hour, we'll talk with a military law expert about this investigation and the possibility that some soldiers could face courts-martial in the case.

O'BRIEN: Iran's nuclear standoff with the rest of the world may be going critical. The country vowing to ramp up its nuclear program if the United Nations Security Council gets involved.

Senior international correspondent Matthew Chance joining us now via videophone from Vienna where all this is coming to a head.

Good morning -- Matthew.


In fact, the U.N. Security Council, according to diplomats here of course, has already become involved, because that was a decision taken by the emergency meeting of the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog here a month ago.

What's being discussed today, though, is the latest report by the director general of the U.N.'s nuclear agency, Mohammed Elbaradei, to discuss exactly what Iran's compliance has been over the past several weeks since that last meeting, the basis on which the United Nations Security Council may decide what action to take.

Here's what Mohammed Elbaradei had to say a few moments ago.


MOHAMMED ELBARADEI, IAEA DIRECTOR GENERAL: I think confrontation could be counterproductive. It would not provide us with a (INAUDIBLE) solution. So the earlier we bring the parties back to the negotiating table, I think the better for everyone.


CHANCE: Well Mohammed Elbaradei there urging calm on all sides in this very frantic period of diplomatic activity. His report setting out some of the shortcomings of Iran over the past several weeks, but mainly that it has stepped up its uranium enrichment program, despite international pressure for it to freeze it. And it is still, after three years, not providing IAEA inspectors with sufficient access to its nuclear program for the agency to say whether or not it is a strictly peaceful nuclear program or not -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: Matthew Chance in Vienna, thank you -- Carol.

COSTELLO: The rebuilt levees in New Orleans may not stop another storm. That's the assertion of two teams monitoring the rebuilding of the city's levee system. According to "The Washington Post," the teams say the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is using substandard materials. The Corps of Engineers disputes that. The group also says earth in levees that should take years to rebuild and settle are being put back together in just a few weeks.

There are still more than 1,900 people missing in the wake of those levee breaks. That number fell by one after new searches in the Lakeview district on Sunday.

CNN's Sean Callebs has more for you.


SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): After working for a number of days, cadaver dogs, working with trainers, located remains in a house in the decimated Lakeview area of New Orleans. It was a house that the police department had checked just a few days earlier.

Now later today, the work will really begin in earnest when the cadaver dogs, their trainers, as well as the New Orleans Fire Department and the Army Corps of Engineers go into the devastated Ninth Ward. They are going to be focusing on an area that is considered a high probability for finding human remains.

Now the work actually began back in October of last year but was forced to stop in December because the city simply ran out of money. FEMA only recently authorized the $400,000 necessary to resume that work.

Sean Callebs, CNN in New Orleans.


O'BRIEN: In Boston, the mayor is outraged by an attack on a homeless man. The man says he was asleep in a park in the north end early Sunday when two men kicked him, set him on fire. Mayor Thomas Menino is vowing to catch the attackers and make an example of them.

Steve Cooper of our affiliate WHDH live now from Boston.

Steve, what else can you tell us about these attacks?

STEVE COOPER, WHDH-TV REPORTER: Miles, they've been working this case overnight here in Langone Park. This is in Boston's north end section of the city. In fact, you look behind us here, the victim was found in that baseball field just beyond us here this morning. And again, this is one of those stories that has everyone talking around here today, just an unspeakable act. And so the search continues for the suspects. This morning, the mayor, of course, calling this an outrageous crime.

This happening early yesterday morning, the 30-year-old homeless man was sound asleep. Now according to police, the suspects actually kicked the man first and then they took off. So, a short time later, they apparently came back, dousing the man with lighter fluid or perhaps gasoline. That's what investigators are still trying to figure out this morning. They set him on fire, then they took off.

The victim was rushed to Mass General Hospital here in Boston suffering from second-degree burns. We're told that he may need some skin grafting to repair some of the damage to his legs.

In the meantime, the mayor basically telling us this morning that they are making this a top priority case. He says it's outrageous. He says he wants to find the two suspects. Police are all over the place questioning people, trying to find out where these two people are, but this is a sort of crime that, according to the mayor of Boston, simply won't be tolerated around here -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: Steve Cooper with WHDH in Boston's north end, thank you.

There will be an antiterrorism rally at the University of North Carolina today. It will be held in the same spot where a man drove an SUV into a crowd of students on Friday. Mohammed Reza Taheri-azar, a native of Iran, will make his first court appearance this morning. He told police he wanted to avenge the deaths or murders of Muslims around the world. No one seriously injured Friday, but students were, quite understandably, shaken up by the attack.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He just comes through, and he was going like 40 miles an hour, and then people are just jumping out of the way. And like I dove out of the way. And then the guy, like, that was standing right beside me just got hit by the car. And then, like, I saw a girl dive and hit a trashcan. Like she hit her face on the trashcan.

And then the car just didn't slow down at all and just completely caught a tire and went around the side of the -- of Lenore (ph) and went up by Davis (ph) and hit, like, two more people. And then apparently he, like, went up onto, like, by Old East (ph) or something and hit another girl there.

And I mean, basically, it was the craziest thing I've ever seen in my life. And I've never been scareder, to be honest with you.


O'BRIEN: Car plowed into a crowded student gathering in a spot known as The Pit. The driver has been charged with nine counts of assault with a deadly weapon.

COSTELLO: Well, hopefully let's talk about something good now, and that would be the weather.

So -- Chad.


COSTELLO: We're counting on you.

MYERS: All right, what do you need?

COSTELLO: We need some good weather and sunny skies.

MYERS: You need a city to go fly to?

COSTELLO: Yes. MYERS: Twenty-one Buffalo -- that's what I could do best. Twenty-one -- find out the best city in the country and tell you where to go, but then all the planes would be full.


Back to you guys.

COSTELLO: Rain, 30 inches of snow, rain in the south.

MYERS: You wanted good news. It's all relative.

COSTELLO: I guess so.

O'BRIEN: It's got to be. Just one city, but as Chad said, all the planes would be full, so, oh well.

MYERS: Right.

O'BRIEN: Thank you -- Chad.

MYERS: You're welcome.

O'BRIEN: So is Ma Bell back? We've got a huge phone company merger to tell you about. It could affect millions of customers.

COSTELLO: Yes, so much for deregulation.

Also, joy to the world, BlackBerry users may be able to breathe a sigh of relief this morning. We've got an update on that BlackBerry case.

O'BRIEN: And later, hip-hop and history. A cultural phenomenon earns a spot in one of America's most revered institutions.

Stay with us.


COSTELLO: Now there's some good music.

It's a beautiful sunrise here in New York City.

O'BRIEN: It's Elton John and Kiki?


O'BRIEN: Kiki Dee. Where did I pull that one out of?

COSTELLO: Me. Well I knew Kiki Dee.

O'BRIEN: Anyway. Well I knew it. I did know it. I just couldn't get it out there.

All right, Kelly Wallace, good morning to you, let's get some headlines in. KELLY WALLACE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Miles and Carol, and hello, everyone.

We're beginning with sentencing, which gets underway today, or a sentencing trial in the case of Zacarias Moussaoui. He is the only person charged in connection with the September 11 terror attacks. Jurors will be deciding if Moussaoui gets the death penalty or spends life in prison without parole.

New attacks in Baghdad to tell you about, Iraqi police say four car bombs exploded in different parts of the city, at least one of the attacks targeting police. There was also a bombing at a marketplace in Baquba, and that's north of Baghdad. At least six people are dead. Dozens are wounded.

New York City police are reportedly questioning a man in a brutal rape and murder of a graduate student from Boston. Police say the man is a potential suspect. Imette St. Guillen's body was found wrapped in a blanket in Brooklyn last week. More than $40,000 is being offered for information in that case.

Hundreds of passengers aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship are sick this morning. They came down with a stomach virus during a weeklong cruise. The ship, the "Explorer of the Seas," docked in Miami on Sunday. Royal Caribbean claims a sick passenger brought the virus aboard. The company will partially refund some of the tickets.

The number of overweight children expected to keep on going up. A new study predicts nearly half of all the children in North and South America will be overweight by the year 2010, and that's just four years from now. The study blames bad eating habits and lack of exercise. Details appear in the "International Journal of Pediatric Obesity."

And Baseball Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett is in an Arizona hospital after suffering a stroke. The Minnesota Twins issued a statement saying Puckett underwent surgery Sunday. The 44-year-old Puckett is said to be in critical condition. We certainly wish him a speedy, speedy recovery.


WALLACE: Chad Myers. Yes, Chad, of course.

MYERS: You know I've been to that, the Homerdome (ph), up in Minneapolis so many times and I've heard that Kirby Puckett. So good luck to him, and best wishes to his family as well. Get well soon, Kirby.


COSTELLO: Thank you -- Chad.

MYERS: You're welcome.

COSTELLO: A big phone company merger has a familiar ring. Sounds like Ma Bell is calling another one of her babies home.

O'BRIEN: That's so cute.

COSTELLO: That sounds so nice, doesn't it?

CARRIE LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It doesn't sound nice for a Monday morning. AT&T is buying BellSouth for $67 billion. This is just the latest sign of consolidation in the telecom industry. Remember back in November, AT&T merged with SBC Communications. Those companies kept the AT&T name and that company is still in the Dow.

Why is AT&T doing this? Well, to get bigger, to get stronger, more competitive. This will give them a more national presence across the country, will form the world's biggest telecom company with residential customers and businesses across the country. In fact, businesses comprising more than half of the Fortune 1,000 companies.

BellSouth shareholders today, good news, because the buyout price is a premium, so that stock is likely to go up today. And another reason they're trying to get bigger is because more people are using e-mail services, wireless, so it's becoming a really competitive space, so.

COSTELLO: But remember back in the '80s when you know you wanted to break up those huge giant communications company because it was supposed to help the consumer get a better deal?

LEE: I know, it's all coming full circle. In fact, this is the fourth of those baby bells from that breakup, BellSouth is, that have come back under the AT&T name, so.

O'BRIEN: But it's a whole different world now.

LEE: It is. It absolutely is.

O'BRIEN: A lot more competition out there.

LEE: Yes. Yes, so.

O'BRIEN: Most important.

LEE: Absolutely.

O'BRIEN: It's Black Monday. BlackBerrys are still working.

LEE: BlackBerrys of the world still running strong.

O'BRIEN: And will continue to work.

LEE: That's right.

O'BRIEN: They wrote the check. I knew they'd write the check.

LEE: They wrote a check for $612 million, this to settle that big patent dispute. We talked about this. We knew this was going to happen. Wall Street seems to be pretty happy, because early this morning BlackBerry shares up 20 percent, despite the fact that late Friday they warned on fourth quarter sales. So this clearly outweighing the sales...

COSTELLO: So, yeah, Americans can continue to work 24 hours a day.

LEE: Keep tooling away during your breaks and everything else that you do.

O'BRIEN: You have to wonder why they didn't do it sooner, though.

LEE: Do what, settle?

O'BRIEN: Settle, yes.

LEE: Well, yes, you know, maybe -- who knows, maybe there will be another patent dispute for them to fight before we're...

O'BRIEN: Maybe so, yes, all right.

COSTELLO: Something to look forward to.

LEE: Yes.

O'BRIEN: Thanks, Carrie.

COSTELLO: Hey, we're going to talk Oscars next. Yes, there was the fashion, but we'll dish on the new host, Jon Stewart. I don't think the Hollywood audience quite got him, do you? That's next in "Morning Coffee."


O'BRIEN: Good, good. I'm sorry, I'm kind of -- I'm looking at the fashions, Keira.

COSTELLO: Keira Knightley, you know "Pride & Prejudice," she was nominated for an Oscar?

O'BRIEN: Yes, that, yes, yes.

WALLACE: Best actress, yes.

O'BRIEN: That was past my bedtime.

COSTELLO: Yes, I know, I know, I know.

O'BRIEN: Don't you know these things...

COSTELLO: Did you watch the Oscars last night?



WALLACE: I watched the whole thing.

O'BRIEN: The whole thing.

WALLACE: Which is crazy.

O'BRIEN: Way past your bedtime.

WALLACE: I just couldn't sleep. I know.

COSTELLO: That is crazy. What did you think of Jon Stewart?

WALLACE: I thought just OK. You know we were saying he just didn't seem like himself. You know he didn't have that confidence, that sort of...


O'BRIEN: Out of his element.




COSTELLO: He seemed a little nervous to me, and it seemed like the Hollywood audience just wasn't getting his sense of humor. Let's listen to a bit of it now.


STEWART: It's a little shocking to see all these big names here, these huge stars. The Oscars is really, I guess, the one night of the year where you could see all your favorite stars without having to donate any money to the Democratic Party. And it's exciting for the stars as well. This is the first time many of you have ever voted for a winner.


COSTELLO: I thought that was pretty funny, but I like political humor. But you know, when they took shots of the audience, the stars were laughing like this.

WALLACE: I thought it was funny later in the show, he kind of seemed to be razzing the crowd. When the hip-hoppers won for best song for original score or something and then he's like now you see how excited. Why are they the most excited people here? That's how you accept an Oscar, because the crowd was sort of like that's very nice.


COSTELLO: I know. And it's like yo. You know the theme was a return to glamour. And you know the movie stars did look glamorous, so let's take a look at some of the fashions parading around last night.

There you can see Nicole Kidman in her gown.

WALLACE: She is gorgeous.

O'BRIEN: You know, but she'd look good in a burlap sack, don't you think?

COSTELLO: She would. And there's Charlize Theron with a big...

O'BRIEN: What is that thing on her shoulder there?

WALLACE: I know.

COSTELLO: Well you know it's a return to the '80s fashion, you know, big shoulder pad-like things and a lot of big jewelry. You see Meryl Streep's earrings there.

O'BRIEN: She'll have to go to a chiropractor today. She'll be out of alignment, you know.

COSTELLO: I thought they kind of looked homogenous, though, in a way. There wasn't anything that really stood out and said I'm unique.

O'BRIEN: Did you see J.Lo though?

COSTELLO: Yes, I mean...

O'BRIEN: She looked good.

COSTELLO: She can look good. But that's what I'm saying, I mean didn't you wish for someone like Cher? Didn't you wish for Bjork to come back?

WALLACE: You wanted...

O'BRIEN: Cher.

WALLACE: A big fashion mistake.

O'BRIEN: Wishing for Cher.

COSTELLO: No, it was like a big...

O'BRIEN: There's J.Lo.

WALLACE: Yes, she...

COSTELLO: I mean she looked beautiful. They all looked beautiful.

O'BRIEN: But that's another burlap sack kind of person there, I think.

COSTELLO: But they didn't really distinguish themselves as a personality unto themselves. It was just sort of like they went out to fashion designers. The fashion designers designed their gowns and dressed them. Some makeup people came in and put on their makeup. Some hair people came in and did their hair. I mean what about them is them?

O'BRIEN: My gosh, you are so on your soapbox this morning.



COSTELLO: But I yearn for Cher. Where are you, Cher?

O'BRIEN: What about you is you? I mean, really, that's tough.

COSTELLO: I picked out my outfit.

WALLACE: I think I would say -- but I will say this, though, the classic, I mean they all looked sort of this classic beauty style which was wonderful. You kind of want to see a few sort of some misses. You always like to see a few of those.

O'BRIEN: You've got to have the bow. You know somebody has got to do that.

WALLACE: Yes, and then you want to see some people take a big, big gamble and sometimes win. And you didn't really see that last night.


O'BRIEN: Who was the one that was dressed like a bird a couple of years ago?



O'BRIEN: Was that last year?

WALLACE: I don't know.

COSTELLO: That was a couple of years ago.


WALLACE: But you heard Jon Stewart make a crack about that.

O'BRIEN: Yes, that was Cheney shot her.

COSTELLO: Bjork couldn't be here.


O'BRIEN: That's good. That was actually one of the funnier moments. That was good.

WALLACE: Tell us that that was good. That was good.

COSTELLO: All right, we'll talk more about Oscars later.


O'BRIEN: Talk amongst yourselves, girls.

All right, the morning's top stories are straight ahead, including the latest round of crash -- car crash safety tests. We'll tell you which cars passed and which failed, which has nothing to do with that video which happens to be Michael Jackson.

Now, we're also talking about hip-hop. Thirty years after it exploded onto the music scene, hip-hop receives a special honor from one of America's oldest institutions. Hip-hop in the Smithsonian. We'll explain that coming up.