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American Morning

Search Continues for Missing Soldiers in Baghdad; North Korea Wants to Perform Long Range Missile Test; Pregnant Woman Files Discrimination Lawsuit Against Carroll College; Cost of Ethanol Rising

Aired June 19, 2006 - 07:30   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, welcome everybody. I'm Soledad O'Brien.
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm John Roberts in for Miles O'Brien. Good Monday morning to you. An urgent search is under way in Iraq for two missing American soldiers. There are eye witness reports that the soldiers were captured after a fire fight, but that is not confirmed by the military.

"New York Times" Baghdad bureau chief John Burns joins us live now. Good morning to you, John. What's the latest on these missing soldiers?


We've just had a release from the American command which gives us more details of the operation that is under way to try and find these soldiers, it's one of the largest search operations, probably the largest search operation of this kind conducted so far in this war. They have, as you know, named the two missing soldiers Kristian Menchaca, PFC, age 23, from Houston in Texas and Thomas Tucker, another PFC from Madras in Oregon. They confirmed the death of a third soldier, PFC Specialist David Babineau of Springfield, Massachusetts.

They say they've got 8,000 American and Iraqi troops out there. We're talking about a search area that began only about 12 miles from where I'm standing right now in the town of Yusafiya in the so-called triangle of death southwest of Baghdad. They've widened that search, they're using every available asset in the air, on the ground, they have divers, they have fighter bombers overhead, they have reconnaissance aircraft.

They're doing absolutely everything possible and they're vowing, as this statement says, that they will not give up the search, we are using every means at our disposal and they remind us, the U.S. military commander reminds us that the U.S. military never gives up in its search for its missing men.

ROBERTS: John, they're still officially listed as missing by the U.S. military. Is there any doubt in your mind though from information you gathered from witnesses on the ground that this was a kidnapping and if in fact it was a kidnapping, what would be the reasons for it? BURNS: Well, the information that we've got at the "New York Times" from people who claim to have witnessed what happened there was that this was a highly coordinated effort by the insurgents. They attacked an American traffic checkpoint, some of the vehicles that were assigned to that checkpoint appeared, humvees appeared to have gone forward into an orchard area in pursuit of the attackers, and that the checkpoint. And I stress we have eyewitnesses to this -- we cannot verify what they're telling us is absolutely correct, that the traffic checkpoint was then attacked from behind.

Encouraging, if you will, is the fact that we have so far had no video of these men from the insurgents. That could suggest several things. Usually they don't waste any time or any opportunity to put captured people, journalists, Iraqi civilians, aid workers, and on one previous case an American soldier who disappeared in 2004, and has never been found. They never miss an opportunity to put them on video. The fact that they haven't put them on video might suggest that they can't get the video out, which might suggest in turn that they're hemmed in by these American searches.

ROBERTS: John, this was in a town or outside the town of Yusafiya, which is a stronghold for Al Qaeda in Iraq. From what you've gathered from people on the ground, is there a suggestion that this might have been an al Qaeda operation? Might it have been in retaliation for the death of Zarqawi, might they be trying to say to people that yes, we're still alive, we're still viable, we can still operate in Iraq?

BURNS: The village where this happened, at Caragol (ph), has been identified to us over several months as being in effect an al Qaeda stronghold. That suggests strongly that it is related in some way to what happened to Zarqawi. It may simply be their way of saying OK, you've got one of ours, we'll take two of yours.

ROBERTS: Any leads in this so far, and how much cooperation is the U.S. military getting from the Iraqi military and ministry of the interior in trying to find these two soldiers?

BURNS: Well, I think they're getting a lot of help from the Iraqis. There are 61,000 Iraqi and U.S. troops and police available in the Baghdad area. 8,000 of those and I think we can guess that most of those would be Iraqis, have been deployed to this effort. It's a huge, it's a huge, huge effort. Encouraging the fact that there's no video, discouraging the fact that they've widened their search beyond Yusafiya. That suggests they're maybe looking, we hear, up in the area of Fallujah and Ramadi, 20, 30, 40, 50 miles to the north and west up the Euphrates. If that's happened, then of course, the chances of finding these men any time soon diminishes.

As usually is the case, no matter how much high technology, no matter how many boots you put on the ground, the best hope of finding these men will be an intelligence break, that's a walk-in, some Iraqi who simply tips off American forces or Iraqi forces as to the whereabouts of these men and the involvement of Iraqi forces, which wouldn't have been possible two years ago, when Specialist Keith Maupin disappeared, the last American to be kidnapped in this way, still missing although the insurgents claimed to have killed him. At that time you would not have had these Iraqi forces available.

And we are told by the American command over and over again, that whatever intelligence the Americans are able to develop on their own with all of their sophisticated high technology, is nothing compared with the intelligence that they can get from Iraqi force who know the terrain, know the villages, can speak to the people and that's probably where the best hope lies.

ROBERTS: Alright John Burns, bureau chief of the "New York Times" in Baghdad, thanks very much. Appreciate your time, sir. Soledad?

O'BRIEN: International pressure now coming down on North Korea. The U.S., Japan and others warning against a possible long range missile test, a missile that could reach the U.S.

CNN's Atika Shubert has more from Tokyo.


ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wel, all eyes are watching North Korea for this possible missile test. There's been a flurry of diplomatic activity here. Japan's Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has said that his country would take stern measures if the tests were conducted. Japan is threatening to impose sanctions and take its case to the U.N. Security Council. In fact, Japan's foreign minister has said that if any part of the missile falls into Japan, it would consider it as an attack.

And the nervousness doesn't end there. It goes further in the region, China and South Korea have both pressed North Korea to reconsider going through with this test. But so far, there's been no response from Pyongyang, which is especially worrying with reports that the missile may have already completed fueling, the final stage before a launch. Atika Shubert, CNN, Tokyo.


ROBERTS: Happening in America this morning, in Washington, firefighters quickly put out a fire near the White House. In fact, it was actually in part of the White House. The fire started on the fourth floor of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. There was no real damage to the building though.

Some 13,000 people in the Washington area may be at risk for identity theft. Last week the home of an ING Financial Services agent was broken into, a laptop containing social security numbers and other personal data was taken.

A marine stationed in Iraq is the proud papa of a new daughter this morning, even though Corporal Terrence Lambert is a half a world away he witnessed Katherine Anna Lee's birth in Alabama on father's day through a satellite hookup. Corporal Lambert returns home this fall.

In Oklahoma one person or a group of people hold a ticket that's worth a fortune, that ticket hit the powerball jackpot on Saturday. So far no one has come forward. The jackpot is worth nearly $102 million or the winner could take a lump sum payment of $46 million. Which would you take?

O'BRIEN: I would take the lump sum.

ROBERTS: Always take the lump sum.

O'BRIEN: I'm preparing for the day I win.

ROBERTS: Five show dogs, including a finalist at Westminster, are back with their owners today. The golden retrievers were in the back of a van that was stolen from a hotel in Renton, Washington. All five dogs were found in their crates in an apartment complex parking lot.

And the odds going up for Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro. It's been one month since Barbaro shattered his back right leg. New photographs show the colt in his intensive care stall at the New Bolton Center in Pennsylvania. He has been fitted with a new fiberglass cast on his back right leg and a special shoe on the left to help district his weight evenly. He's going to have a great life when he gets out.

Australian golfer Geoff Ogilvy is celebrating his U.S. Open win worth $1,225,000. Speaking of the good life, not. The big shocker is the collapse, the utter collapse, the falling down, the choking of Master's champion Phil Mickelson. He held a one-shot lead in the final hole but made mistake after mistake until he double bogeyed, ending up in a three-way tie for second place. You got to wonder, did he stand on the 18th tee and say all I've got to do is shoot par on this hole and I've won the U.S. Open, because that would be the kiss of death.

O'BRIEN: He probably did.

ROBERTS: Poor guy. You got to feel bad for him though.

O'BRIEN: Yes. That's brutal to watch.


ROBERTS: Still to come, a college professor's tearful allegations of sexual discrimination.


You expect that you're going to be treated fairly, that if you work hard, you do a good job that you're going to be treated fairly, and I wasn't.


ROBERTS: We'll look at why she says her bosses discriminated against her just because she was pregnant. O'BRIEN: Also ahead this morning. School's out for the summer, doesn't mean your kids' brain has to go on vacation. We've got tips on how to keep their minds sharp.

Are you kidding?

ROBERTS: And did Pixar's "Cars" start to sputter in its second weekend at the box office, that's coming up on AMERICAN MORNING.


O'BRIEN: Women who believe they have been passed over for a promotion because they are pregnant now make up the most number of workplace discrimination cases. CNN's Randi Kaye has one woman's story.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At Carroll College near Milwaukee, two men and one woman applied for tenure. The woman, many suggested, was better qualified, but in the end, the two men got the job.

(on camera): So you think that your pregnancy and the fact you're a woman definitely played a major role, a key role in the fact you didn't get tenure?

CHARLENE MCMAHON, FILED DISCRIMINATION LAWSUIT: The only role. I believe that if I wasn't a married woman with children, I believe that I would have been tenured.

KAYE (voice-over): Three years ago, Charlene McMahon was a chemistry professor at Carroll College. She was also pregnant with her second child. McMahon and her husband, also a chemistry professor at the school, applied for tenure. What do you remember about the day that it all ended?

MCMAHON: I remember saying I can't believe they did this to me.

KAYE: What Carroll College did was deny McMahon a piece of her dream, tenure. Why the school denied her tenure is the subject of a lawsuit.

MCMAHON: I want my little office back, I want my classes back, I want that chalk in my hand and I want to teach my students.

KAYE: In fact, the college's entire review committee agreed. They recommended her for tenure and when she didn't get it, they resigned in protest. Did McMahon's pregnancy have anything to do with what happened? That's still unclear.

But this is clear. She was looking to join an elite group of women professors. While more women are entering the profession, according to the American Association of University Professors, the number receiving tenure has actually declined in recent years. As for Charlene McMahon's field, only 10 percent of fully tenured professors in science and engineering are female.

The school tenured McMahon's husband Kevin and another male professor. Then decided to make a third position non-tenure. Court records show McMahon had received glowing student evaluations, solid reviews and was teaching more students than her male colleagues.

MCMAHON: I fulfilled those criteria for tenure, yet I wasn't granted tenure.

KAYE: In the end it seems, this man, Carroll College President Frank Falcone, had the final vote on McMahon and he said no. This is his taped court deposition obtained by CNN.

(on camera): And what facts was the denial of tenure for Charlene McMahon based?

FRANK FALCONE, CARROLL COLLEGE PRESIDENT: It was made on a determination that we did not want to grant tenure to all of the people in the chemistry department.

KAYE: Is it your position that tenure can be denied arbitrarily?

FALCONE: I don't know what you mean by arbitrarily. Can someone make a judgment? Absolutely, someone can make a judgment.

KAYE (voice-over): Here's one more piece of the puzzle. Just days before the tenure decision, McMahon says she told this woman, college vice president Lynn Bernier she was pregnant. According to McMahon, Bernier responded with a suggestion that perhaps she should instead consider a non-tenure position. This is how Bernier remembers it in her taped deposition.

(on camera): Did you ever say to Dr. McMahon, "You can have a non-tenured tract position if you want it?"


KAYE (voice-over): The school turned down our repeated requests for an interview but issued this statement. "The college vigorously denies that it discriminated against Dr. McMahon or otherwise violated her legal rights." The statement went on to point out that of 33 faculty given recent tenure, 20 are women.

MCMAHON: You expect that you're going to be treated fairly, that if you work hard, you do a good job that you're going to be treated fairly and I wasn't. I was treated in a way different from my male colleagues.

KAYE: Today, McMahon is teaching chemistry at a technical college in Milwaukee. It is a non-tenured position.

Randi Kaye, CNN, Milwaukee.


O'BRIEN: A sad story there, isn't it?

Andy Serwer is "Minding your Business" coming up next. Hey Andy?

ANDY SERWER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello you guys. Ethanol of course is often described as a panacea but it comes with problems of its own. We'll tell you what they are, coming up ahead.

ROBERTS: Look forward to that, thank you, sir.

O'BRIEN: Thank you, Andy.

Also ahead this morning, tips on keeping your kids brains from turning to mush. Will you stop laughing, John. I think this is important for parents to know. Some people want to, you know, keep their kids going while school's out. Much more you can do than just have them sit down and read a book, like strategies, just ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

ROBERTS: Good luck!


ROBERTS: Animated film "Cars" drove off with the top spot at the box office this weekend, that's the second week in a row. "Cars" sold more than $31 million worth of tickets, that was followed by the new Jack Black comedy "Nacho Libre" which tallied $27.5 million. Rounding out the top five, "The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift", "The Lake House" starring Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock, and "The Break-Up", of course all of those going to be eclipsed when "Pirates of the Caribbean: Deadman's Chest" comes out on the 7th of July.

It used to be called moonshine, now you probably call it white gold because the price of ethanol is going up, but causing some problems, too.

ANDY SERWER, CNN ANCHOR: It is, John. Good morning to you. And the interesting thing and the perverse thing here is that ethanol was added to gasoline in part to keep prices down. Now, that's not happening at all because ethanol prices have soared. In fact, ethanol used to be about a buck and change about a year ago, and now a "Wall Street Journal" story here today shows it's up to $4.50 a gallon.

Experts say that's adding between eight cents and 70 cents a gallon to gasoline, so doing exactly the opposite of what it was intended to do. Two reasons, demand is very strong and there are also speculators in the market, which is driving the prices up.

ROBERTS: There's a lot of new ethanol plants being built though in the Midwest. Should we expect that in the long-term the price will actually mitigate some?

SERWER: Probably so. Thirty plants under construction right now John, in the Midwest and across the United States. They figure that by 2008, at the very latest, prices will come down. A couple problems there, though. Ethanol plans to use a tremendous amount of water, one municipality in Illinois saying 2 million gallons a day out of their system for a new ethanol plant. Another thing being looked at, interestingly enough, is making ethanol out of sugar, which is done in Brazil. We always hear about Brazil being an ethanol giant. It's not made from corn primarily, primarily it's made from sugar cane there.

ROBERTS: Right. Because you avoid that step of converting the corn into sugar so you go more directly to the process.

SERWER: That's right. We have sugar cane in Florida and actually sugar beets in Minnesota. That could be done. All of these different things are in the mix right now, it would be interesting to see of course how it impacts prices. Because that's what we really care about is prices at the pump going up.

ROBERTS: Right and then they have that cellulosic ethanol as well that they're looking at, that's made from grass isn't it?

SERWER: That's right. And then you can make bio-diesel from French fry oil. I mean, there's all manner of things to create these new-age fuels and we are experimenting and trying them. One thing I want to get at though quickly here is, in a report on Friday, we talked about Hebrew National Hot Dogs and we mentioned that they had a new slogan and thought they were getting rid of their old slogan. Apparently the old slogan "We answer to a higher authority" remains in place.

ROBERTS: It's a great slogan.

SERWER: It is a great slogan.

ROBERTS: And to (INAUDIBLE) Hebrew National but great franks as well.

SERWER: They're not bad.

ROBERTS: What do you have coming up next, something on the gold coin?

SERWER: Yes. The U.S. Mint is bringing the gold coin back and here's a hint. Ted Turner will be very happy to see what's on the coin.

ROBERTS: I'm biting my tongue. I am biting my tongue.

O'BRIEN: Ted Turner is on the gold coin?

SERWER: Not Ted himself, something that Ted likes. We'll leave it at that.

O'BRIEN: Alright Andy, thanks.

SERWER: Thanks you guys.

ROBERTS: I'll continue to bite my tongue.

O'BRIEN: In a moment, a look at the top stories including the military's search for two U.S. soldiers who have been missing since an attack on their checkpoint.

A new book details a planned Al Qaeda attack on the New York City subway system.

And Australia joins the U.S. and other countries warning North Korea against a long range missile test.

The Episcopalian Church elects its first ever female presiding bishop.

And hundreds of people are forced to evacuate their homes, as a quick-moving wildfire spreads near Sedona, Arizona.


O'BRIEN: Two U.S. soldiers still missing in Iraq. The search is intensifying and the military has released their names.

ROBERTS: Serious threat or political posturing? North Korea warned about a possible long range missile test, a test that has the United States in range.

O'BRIEN: New York City's subways targeted by al Qaeda. A new book claims that a deadly gas attack may have just been days away.

ROBERTS: Also a first for American Episcopalians, they have chosen a woman as their head bishop. But it could cause a serious split in the worldwide religious community.

O'BRIEN: And firefighters are holding the line this morning in Arizona as a fast moving wildfire forces hundreds of people out of their homes. Those stories all ahead on this AMERICAN MORNING. Good morning, welcome back everybody. I'm Soledad O'Brien.

ROBERTS: And I'm John Roberts, in for Miles O'Brien this week. Good Monday morning to you. I'm kicking off another week.