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American Morning

Iraq & Terrorism; GITMO Visit; Pope & Islam

Aired September 25, 2006 - 06:00   ET


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you. It is Monday, September 25. I'm Miles O'Brien.

Here's a look at what's happening this morning.

Right outside of Rome, right now, Pope Benedict XVI is meeting with ambassadors from Muslim countries. It's the latest effort to patch up relations after the pope's controversial speech earlier in the month. Now in that speech he quoted a 14th century emperor who called Islam evil.

M. O'BRIEN: In Baghdad this morning, Saddam Hussein again thrown out of court. Hussein was tossed out for complaining to the judge. His lawyers are boycotting the trial, protesting the replacement of the chief judge.

S. O'BRIEN: Overnight in eastern Nepal, the wreckage of a missing helicopter was spotted. The helicopter, which has been missing since Saturday, was carrying 24 people, including several American conservationists, when it went down. Rescuers haven't been able to get to the scene yet.

M. O'BRIEN: Good news for drivers this morning, gas prices down 24 cents over the past two weeks. The Lundberg Survey average now $2.42 per gallon regular self-serve.

S. O'BRIEN: And folks in the south and the Midwest will be cleaning up today after a weekend of deadly storms. At least 12 people died when tornadoes and heavy rains swept through several states. Flood warnings are still in effect for parts of Arkansas and Kentucky and Missouri.

Brings us right to Chad Myers at the CNN Center with the forecast.

Hey, -- Chad.



Back to you.

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

MYERS: You're welcome.

S. O'BRIEN: A confidential leaked intelligence report seems to say that the war in Iraq is putting America at greater risk of a terror attack. Democrats are seizing on the political opportunity, saying the secret intelligence assessment report proves that new leadership is needed.

Got more now from CNN's Elaine Quijano.


ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The stories appeared on the front pages of "The New York Times" and "The Washington Post," outlining conclusions selectively leaked from a classified National Intelligence Estimate dealing partly with Iraq.

The estimate, completed in April, cites the Iraq war and insurgents as the main recruiting vehicle for new Islamic extremists. Yet former deputy CIA director John McLaughlin, who has not seen the estimate, says the information is sobering but not surprising.

JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Frankly, I didn't find a lot new in this press article. We've known for months that the movement is decentralizing. It's clear that Iraq is a major problem, and that the only real question is what do you about Iraq at this point?

QUIJANO: Six weeks away from congressional mid-term elections, Democrats are using the leaked report to argue that Republicans have mismanaged Iraq and the larger war on terror.

REP. JANE HARMAN (D), CALIFORNIA: Even capturing the remaining top al Qaeda leadership isn't going to prevent copycat cells and it isn't going to change a failed policy in Iraq.

QUIJANO: But Republican Senator John McCain, who just last week reached a compromise with the White House after a public rift over detainee legislation, says success in Iraq is still crucial.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), ARMED SVCS. CMTE.: They didn't need any encouragement to attack us on September 11. These people are after us anyway and we've got to win the war both psychologically, as well as militarily.

QUIJANO: And in a rare occurrence, Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte weighted in to the political debate, saying, -- quote -- "The estimate highlights the importance of the outcome in Iraq on the future of global jihadism, judging that should the Iraqi people prevail in establishing a stable political and security environment, the jihadists will be perceived to have failed."

(on camera): In a statement, a White House official reiterated the administration's policy of not commenting on classified documents. But in a sign of the high political stakes this official did go on to comment, saying that "The New York Times" characterization of the intelligence estimate was not representative of the complete document. Elaine Quijano, CNN, the White House.


S. O'BRIEN: If reports of what is in the intelligence estimate are right, the fighting, the growth of terrorism is directly related to stopping the daily violence in Iraq.

CNN's Michael Ware is live for us in Baghdad this morning.

Hey, Michael, good morning.


I mean the contents of this report are not surprising at all. In fact, this has been a process in trying here in the war since at least early 2004. And the U.S. Intelligence Committee has been aware -- community has been aware of this.

We saw with the arrival of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in 2003 with his bombings of the Jordanian Embassy and the U.N. headquarters, followed six months later by the interception of his letter to Osama bin Laden outlining his plan to internationalize the fight here in Iraq, to his video release in July '04 declaring his arrival showing you his suicide bombers. We have known that this war was being radicalized from way back then. And U.S. military intelligence here on the ground have seen the growth of al Qaeda and al Qaeda-inspired groups not their decrease.

So this strikes at the very core of the Bush administration's grand strategy fighting them over there rather than fight them here. We saw the London tube bombers cite the name of Iraq. We also saw that with Madrid. We are seeing the fulfillment of Osama bin Laden and Zarqawi's vision. And the U.S. intelligence community is now recognizing that -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Michael Ware for us this morning. He's reporting for us from Baghdad.

Thank, Michael.

Throughout the day, we're going to be taking an in-depth look at how the war in Iraq is affecting the war on terror. You want to stay tuned to CNN day and night for the most reliable news about your security -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: In Washington today more focus on a new bill spelling out how the U.S. treats its terror detainees and more dissension inside the Republican ranks. The Republican in charge of the Judiciary Committee, Arlen Specter, has said he has a big problem with the measure in its current form, it would allow the Pentagon to hold terror suspects indefinitely without a hearing. The Senate Judiciary Committee will meet at 10:30 Eastern Time.

The Red Cross is at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba today meeting with 14 terror suspects recently transferred out of those secret CIA jails. Among the 14, the suspected mastermind of the 9/11 attack, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and other former al Qaeda leaders.

AMERICAN MORNING's Bob Franken joining us from Washington with more.

Good morning, -- Bob.


The International Committee of the Red Cross goes down about every six weeks, stays about every two weeks. But of course now among the detainees at Guantanamo Bay some of the most significant in this war on terror, including the 14 that you mentioned. We are led to believe that in their first week down there they probably will not meet with the 14, but those 14 will be having their audience with the what they call the ICRC next week.

Now what does this mean? It means that for the first time these 14, who have been held incommunicado in secret CIA prisons we now know, these 14 will get to provide a letter to their family. A letter, by the way, that will be heavily censored by the military authorities who are now holding them at Guantanamo Bay.

What they are waiting for is a hearing before the Combatant Status Review Tribunal. That is the group that decides, Miles, whether they should be declared enemy combatants or not. And I think we could probably take bets that that will occur when they have their hearings in about three months. They're waiting, of course, to have their trials before the military commissions. Those rules are still being debated in Washington -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Bob Franken, thank you very much.

The CNN political ticker is debuting today on the daily news service on to give readers an insider's perspective on the day's political stories as we head into the crucial mid-term election and prepare for the presidential contest in 2008. You can find it at -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Happening in America this morning.

In East St. Louis, Illinois, police say a woman has confessed to drowning three children and then stuffing them into a washer and dryer. Tiffany Hall is already charged in the death of the children's mother. Her name is Jamella Tunstall (ph). She's also suspected of cutting a fetus from Tunstall's womb. Hall is going to be in court today to be advised of the charges that she faces.

Dozens of domestic violence shelters across North Carolina are on high alert today after a man walked, police say, into a shelter last week and killed his wife. Police in seven states now are now looking for John Woodring. Today more than 60 shelters are going to be discussing better ways to keep victims of domestic violence safe.

Seattle-based F.T. Produce (ph) now the third company in the nation to recall salads that might include E. coli-tainted spinach. The salads were distributed to stores in Washington State, in Oregon, Idaho and Montana. So far 173 people have been sickened and there is 1 confirmed death because of tainted spinach.

In southern California, firefighters are gaining ground on the so-called Day Fire along the Los Angeles-Ventura County line. Calmer winds have helped, allowing planes, like that DC-10 you see right there, to drop a fire retardant from the sky. But the fire, though, has burned more than 127,000 acres. It's only about 40 percent contained.

When the New Orleans Saints and the Atlanta Falcons kick off tonight for Monday Night Football, the Superdome will be back in business. Boy, what a difference a year makes. It's the first event since Hurricane Katrina ravaged that building a year ago. Performances by the Goo Goo Dolls and Green Day and U2 will help the city officially reopen the Superdome.


DAVID HOWELL EVANS, U2'S "THE EDGE": Music, it turns out, is one of the things that nobody will disagree about. Everybody understands how crucial it is to the area, how unique it is to this area. And I think it's the -- it has the potential, I feel, to be like the catalyst for regeneration.


S. O'BRIEN: That's U2's "The Edge" talking there.

We're going to have more on this story as we head into our next hour -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Still to come on the program, the pope meeting with Muslim leaders as we speak. We'll head to Rome for an update on that.

And Bill Clinton just blew a gasket over the weekend. What was behind that wild interview on FOX?

And Carrie Lee with business headlines.

Good morning, -- Carrie.


Gas prices falling once again over the past two weeks, oil moving lower as well. We'll have those stories and more coming up on AMERICAN MORNING.


S. O'BRIEN: Welcome back.

Happening this morning, Democrats and Republicans are fighting over a new intelligence report on Iraq. The leaked report says the war has increased the threat of terrorism and helped recruit Islamic radicals.

Just a few hours ago in Baghdad, Saddam Hussein thrown out of court again, this time he was tossed for complaining to the judge. His lawyers are boycotting the trial and protesting the replacement of the chief judge.

And in Manchester, England this morning, the man who's expected to succeed the British Prime Minister Tony Blair is speaking at a Labour Party conference. Gordon Brown, currently Britain's Finance Minister. Prime Minister Blair says he has plans to leave the office within the year.

M. O'BRIEN: The pope is meeting this morning with Muslim ambassadors at his summer residence. It's the Vatican's latest olive branch to Islam following the pope's comments in a speech two weeks ago that outraged Muslims all around the world.

AMERICAN MORNING's Delia Gallagher live in Rome with more, -- Delia.


The pope has just finished, moments ago, what was a relatively brief, very diplomatic speech to these ambassadors to the Vatican from Muslim countries, as well as other Islamic leaders. Let me give you a few of the highlights of what he has just said.

He says he expresses solidarity with all Muslims of the world, reiterated his total and profound respect for all Muslims, and he said with joy I recognize our common religious values, and with loyalty I also point out our differences. That was about as far as he went into talking about differences.

In fact, he mentioned at the beginning we all know the circumstances that brought us here, end of story. So he went on just to talk about the importance of inter-religious dialogue, made a few references to John Paul II's legacy and the importance that John Paul II placed on continuing this kind of dialogue. Four cultural historical values, such as religious liberty, human rights, human dignity and so on, calling on both communities to work towards a better understanding in favor of those kind of values.

So it was an extremely diplomatic, as I said, relatively brief speech to these ambassadors from Iran, from Iraq, from Morocco, who was an ambassador who had been called back briefly for a time, and also from Turkey, where the pope is hoping to go at the end of November -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Delia, the pope just give his speech or did the diplomats have an opportunity to engage in a dialogue with him?

GALLAGHER: Well, the pope gave his speech, the diplomats listened, and now they are having a moment of sort of meeting briefly in the hall there in Castel Gandolfo, the pope's summer residence. But there was no official speech or response from any of those Muslim ambassadors. So, in a sense, this was the pope setting out his agenda for what he thought was important. Certainly the dialogue, the real dialogue is going to have to come in meetings further on down the road -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Delia Gallagher in Rome, thank you very much.

In Beirut, a massive show of support for a Lebanese Christian leader who's dismissed Hezbollah's claims of victory in its war with Israel. Tens of thousands of Christians attended the rally Sunday highlighting the deep divisions within Lebanon. Just days earlier, hundreds of thousands gathered to hear Hezbollah's leader speak. The two sides have been at odds over Lebanon's future since this summer's Israeli-Hezbollah war.

S. O'BRIEN: It is 17 minutes past the hour that means it's time for a check of the forecast with Chad at the CNN Center.

Where do you want to begin, -- Chad?

MYERS: We will start with cool air in the northeast.


Back to you.

S. O'BRIEN: It's always something.

All right, Chad, thanks.

MYERS: You're welcome.

S. O'BRIEN: Still to come this morning, the government kicked them out, forced them out to make way for houses and condos. So far, though, nothing's been done. We'll tell you about the homeowners' battle and what the holdup is.

Also gas prices are falling fast. Will the trend continue? We'll take a look. Stay with us.


M. O'BRIEN: Well, it's Monday, we need some good news, gas prices going down.

Carrie Lee with that.

Good morning, -- Carrie.

LEE: Good morning, Miles.

That's right, summer driving season is over and so gas prices have been coming down quite a bit since their mid-August peak. National average for a gallon of self-serve regular now stands at $2.42 a gallon. That's down 24 cents in the last two weeks and well off of the high, the all-time high of $3.02 that we saw on August 11.

Oil prices keep falling, as well. Early this morning hitting below the $60-a-barrel mark for the first time in six months, so that an indication that perhaps we could see gas prices coming down even further as time goes on.

M. O'BRIEN: Well that's great.

LEE: So good news for drivers.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes.

LEE: Yahoo! reportedly giving workers some time off, whether they want it or not, between the week of Christmas and New Year.

M. O'BRIEN: Could make you nervous, couldn't it?

LEE: Well,...

M. O'BRIEN: Stay home, really, really.

LEE: ... especially since the company gave some lackluster guidance an Q3 last week. But "The Wall Street Journal" reporting that the Sunnyvale, California company is closing its offices across the board week between Christmas and New Year so people can either take vacation or unpaid time off. But, you can see financially how this would make sense for a company, closing the offices, maybe saving some money there. And also it gets them out of the problem with accrued vacation. If workers can carry it over into the next year, this can help them.

S. O'BRIEN: A couple other companies do that, too,...

LEE: Yes.

S. O'BRIEN: ... they force the vacations, lay every -- you know send everybody home.

LEE: Right. So that's what Yahoo! is doing.

M. O'BRIEN: We could take that week off. Anybody (ph)? I don't think so.

S. O'BRIEN: Maybe not in our position (ph).

LEE: We can't do it, but a lot of places may be considering that.

And finally, a quick market check. Stocks set to open on a strongly positive note early this morning after a little bit of selling last week. You can see the Dow down just half a percent. A lot of economic news this week on the housing market, economic situation overall, looking at the second quarter, gross domestic product. So a lot of economic news will drive the session this week.

M. O'BRIEN: So it could be a wild ride this week?

LEE: Could be. Could be a wild ride, and then we'll start to hear more about the third quarter since this is the last week of that quarter.

M. O'BRIEN: Thank you, -- Carrie.

LEE: OK. Sure.

M. O'BRIEN: See you later.

The morning's top stories are straight ahead, including an intelligence report that says the Iraq war has made the world a more dangerous place. A live report from the White House is coming up.

Also, former President Clinton lashing out at what he calls the right-wing hit job. We'll take a closer look at that volatile interview next.


S. O'BRIEN: Happening this morning, Pope Benedict XVI meeting just outside of Rome with ambassadors from Muslim countries. It's the latest effort to patch-up relations after the pope's controversial speech took place earlier this month. In that speech, he quoted a 14th century emperor who called Islam evil.

It turns out there are no survivors in that helicopter crash in eastern Nepal. The chopper was carrying 24 people when it went down over the mountains on Saturday. Many of the people on board were American conservationists.

And at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, Red Cross officials will meet with 14 terror detainees transferred out of secret CIA prisons. Among the detainees is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, suspected of masterminding the 9/11 attacks.

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

M. O'BRIEN: And I'm Miles O'Brien. Thanks for being with us.

Some new ammunition in the debate over the war in Iraq, Democrats making hay over a leaked government intelligence report that reportedly says the war in Iraq is making it harder to win the global war on terror and has made America less safe.

We get more from CNN's Elaine Quijano at the White House.


QUIJANO (on camera): Democrats are pouncing on published reports outlining conclusions selectively leaked from a classified National Intelligence Estimate dealing partly with Iraq. The NIE, completed back in April, cites the Iraq war and insurgents as the primary recruiting vehicle for new Islamic extremists. Yet intelligence sources and experts say while the information is sobering, it is not new.

Nevertheless, six weeks away from congressional mid-term elections, Democrats say the report shows that Republicans have mismanaged the Iraq war and the larger war on terror. As for the White House, an administration official took the rare step of commenting on the classified document, saying "The New York Times" characterization of the NIE wasn't representative of the whole document.

Elaine Quijano, CNN, the White House.


M. O'BRIEN: We'll be taking a close look all day long at how Iraq and the war there has affected the war on terror. Stay tuned to CNN day and night for the most reliable news about your security -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Former President Bill Clinton delivers a fiery rebuttal to critics who portray his administration as his administration as weak on terror. Clinton spoke to FOX News. He says he regrets not killing Osama bin Laden but insisted that he tried.


WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I worked hard to try to kill him. I authorized the CIA to kill him. We contracted with people to kill him.

I got closer to killing him than anybody's gotten since. And if I were still president, we'd have more than 20,000 troops there trying to kill him.

Now, I've never criticized President Bush, and I don't think this is useful. But you know we do have a government that thinks Afghanistan is only one-seventh as important as Iraq. And you ask me about terror and al Qaeda with that sort of -- sort of dismissive thing, when all you have to do is read Richard Clarke's book to look at what we did in a comprehensive, systematic way to try to protect the country against terror?

And you've got that little smirk on your face and you think you're so clever. But I had responsibility for trying to protect this country. I tried and I failed to get bin Laden. I regret it. But I did try.


S. O'BRIEN: Mr. Clinton accused of FOX's Chris Wallace of a "conservative hit job," and then he asked whether Wallace had challenged the Bush administration on its handling of the war on terror. We're going to have more on this and other political hot topics when "Hotline" senior editor John Mercurio joins us. That's just ahead in a couple of minutes -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: A horrible end to a search for three missing children in Illinois. It began with the murder of their pregnant mother in East St. Louis.

We get more from CNN's Fredricka Whitfield. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): At this East St. Louis, Illinois, public housing unit, the gruesome discoveries were made.

KOEHLER: I would also like to thank the public for all of their help in this, the volunteers who did searches, and individuals who called in and provided us leads and eventually led to the discovery of the children.

WHITFIELD: Inside apartment 28-J in the washer and dryer the lifeless bodies of 7-year-old DeMond, 2-year-old Ivan and 1-year-old Jamella Tunstall.

KOEHLER: I would not say that it was searched before.

WHITFIELD: Overlooked when police first entered the Tunstall family's apartment look for photographs, a tip suggested they go back.

KOEHLER: I have children of my own. All of these investigators have children of our own. So it's a very emotional time for all of our departments and the families involved in this case.

WHITFIELD: The extensive neighborhood search began after their 23-year-old mother, Jamella Tunstall, seven months pregnant, was murdered, her fetus cut from her womb, her body found in a weedy lot. Hours after the arrest of a suspect, 24-year-old Tiffany Hall, described as family friend and sometimes babysitter, the search for the missing children ended horribly.

Fredricka Whitfield, CNN, Atlanta.


M. O'BRIEN: Tiffany Hall is being held on a $5 million bond -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: What a horrifying story.

Also happening "In America" this morning, trial begins today in that terrible bus fire that killed 23 nursing home residents. Remember that? They were trying to escape from Hurricane Rita last year. Well, the owner of the bus company is accused of conspiring to falsify driver time records and failing to inspect his buses.

Residents in Lexington, Kentucky, are trying to get their lives back in order this morning after a major flooding over the weekend. Now, the waters are beginning to recede today. At least eight people were killed because of the flooding. And severe weather is being blamed for the deaths of four other people in Arkansas and Illinois.

Residents of New London, Connecticut, located between New York City and Boston, facing a big problem with squatters. Locals say there are about 300 homeless people in New London, which just has a population of about 25,000. Homeowners forced out of the neighborhood to make way for condos are upset because the squatters are now occupying their homes.

The $200 million winning Powerball ticket. No, you didn't win. It was sold in Fort Dodge, Iowa. It's about 70 miles from Des Moines.

So far the winners from Saturday's drawing -- or winner, maybe -- hasn't quite come forward yet. This is the 13th Powerball jackpot that's been worth at least $200 million. I bet that person's on the phone with his lawyers and his financial advisers right now.

Take a look at this near Portland, Oregon. A rare glimpse of a bald eagle being released back into its natural habitat. The 4-year- old bald eagle spent the last six months nursing a broken wing. It's a significant release because the eagle is a female, and, of course, that's essential to the recovery of the decimated species.

Thirty-four minutes past the hour. Let's check the forecast.

Nice picture of that eagle, huh, Chad?



M. O'BRIEN: Still to come, order in the court. Saddam Hussein says the magic words and the judge says, get out of here.

And the sun is setting on a Japanese leader with some unusual flair. For Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi it's all about the style.


S. O'BRIEN: Here's a look now at stories that CNN correspondents around the world are covering today.



The war in Iraq is making global terrorism stronger, not weaker. Disclosures from a secret government report reveal U.S. intelligence agencies believe a new generation of al Qaeda leadership is being blooded here in Iraq. With the growth of the terrorist organization evident since 2004, the real question remains, why is information about this report being released now?




Another interesting day in the trial of Saddam Hussein. His privately appointed defense team continuing their boycott of the court proceedings. And Iraq's former leader ejected from court yet again. This time an argument started when one of the defendants addressed another using his former title. The judge reprimanded them. Saddam Hussein stood up, another heated argument with the new chief judge, where Saddam Hussein said, "I don't want to be in this cage."



ROBIN OAKLEY, CNN EUROPEAN POLITICAL EDITOR: I'm Robin Oakley reporting from Manchester, England, where Tony Blair, who's promised to quit before next year's event, wants his Labour Party conference to focus on policies. Delegates would rather discuss who's going to take over for Mr. Blair.

And today, the favorite, Finance Minister Gordon Brown, gets the chance to showcase his ideas in a keynote speech. Aides say Mr. Brown will stick close to the center ground of politics like Mr. Blair, but with a sharper attack on poverty. Brown says that he'll keep Britain close to the United States and prove a tough negotiator in Europe.



ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Atika Shubert in Tokyo. And today is the last day of work for Japan's prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi, ending five and a half years in office. Koizumi is known for shaking up Japanese politics with his flamboyant style, including a love, of all things, Elvis.

Under his reforms, Japan's decade-long economic recession finally came to an end, but he was criticized for sending Japanese troops to Iraq and for making annual visits to a shrine that honors Japan's war dead, including several war criminals from World War II.

To mark the event, it is also the last day for customers to buy Koizumi cakes, a sweet bean bun with the famous mug of the prime minister posted on top. It's been baking for the last five years, but production stops tomorrow, the day Koizumi retires.


S. O'BRIEN: If you want more on these or any of our top stories go right to our Web site,

Still to come on AMERICAN MORNING, President Clinton was furious in his interview on FOX News. We'll give you John Mercurio's take on the confrontation and the political week ahead, all ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

We're back in a moment.


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): How do you make fitness a forever in your life? "Consumer Reports on Health" surveyed nearly 22,000 people who were committed to exercise. Here are some of their secrets for success.

Tip number one, fine your personality match.

NATASHA RICHARDSON, PERSONAL TRAINER: Some people are more extroverts, and they -- those people are probably best in, like, a group-type setting, maybe group fitness or dance class, kick boxing, cardio funk.

COSTELLO: For introverts, a circuit training workout might be a better personality fit.

Fit number two, squeeze it in. Work exercise into your busy schedule. Try to exercise at the same time of the day and be sure to schedule it on your calendar.

Tip number three, make it a habit. Keep a food accountability journal.

RICHARDSON: So, 60 percent of your results would be from nutrition and dieting, 40 percent would be from your cardio, your weight-lifting.

COSTELLO: Tip number four, take lapses in stride. If you skip a workout or eat something fattening, don't beat yourself up, just keep going forward.

Tip number five, consider a trainer. A trainer can motivate you and make it easier for you to make exercise a lasting part of your life.

Carol Costello, CNN.



M. O'BRIEN: Happening this morning, a state of emergency in southern California. The declaration comes as a huge wildfire rages across northern parts of Los Angeles. In the past three weeks the fire has burned more than 200 square miles in the Los Padres National Forest.

The E. coli outbreak growing bigger this morning. Health officials now say two more people have gotten sick from contaminated spinach. That makes 173 cases in 25 states.

And "Jackass 2" tops at the box office. The sequel pulled in more than $28 million over the weekend. Jet Li's "Fearless" came in second, $10.6 million.

S. O'BRIEN: Did you see President Clinton's interview with FOX News over the weekend? The former president was furious as he talked to Chris Wallace.



CLINTON: You've got that little smirk on your face and you think you're so clever. But I had responsibility for trying to protect this country. I tried and I failed to get bin Laden. I regret it. But I did try.


S. O'BRIEN: Wow, what was that all about? What does it mean as we head toward the midterm elections?

John Mercurio is the senior editor of the "National Journal's Hotline." He's in Washington this morning.

John, nice to see you.

JOHN MERCURIO, SR. EDITOR, "HOTLINE": Nice to see you, too.

S. O'BRIEN: You know, you so rarely see President Clinton, who is interviewed all the time, see him so furious. What was going on here? What do you think of the tone?

MERCURIO: I think the vast right-wing conspiracy lives on in the minds of the Clinton -- the Clinton family. Look, I think this was an intentional and very deliberate strategy on the part of the former president to use FOX News to help frame this debate about what role he may or may not have played in sort of trying to capture Saddam Hussein -- I'm sorry, Osama bin Laden, leading up to September 11th.

But what really struck me most about this interview if you look at it is how preoccupied he was, and how sort of obsessed in some ways, with the "criticism and ridicule" that he says that he received from neocons, from right-wingers, from Republicans, about things that he did and didn't do as part of the Bush -- or part of the Clinton administration strategy to try to capture Osama bin Laden. And you have to sort of ask yourself how focused he was on that criticism, and how much that distracted him from sort of -- sort of a broader strategy of trying to capture Osama bin Laden.

S. O'BRIEN: I've talked to people who say he was genuinely upset and angry after the interview, after the interview with Chris Wallace was over. He was genuinely very, very angry. So you're saying you think it's part of a bigger strategy?

MERCURIO: Oh, absolutely, because, I mean, I've heard the same thing, that there was a conversation that went on with Chris Wallace for about 10 minutes after that, but that it was still relatively icy in the room. You could cut the tension with a knife, was what one person told me.

But if you look at the actual question that really set him off, it was like the third question in the interview. It was relatively harmless, and it was one that I think President Clinton has faced and answered several times before. And actually, Chris Wallace isn't sort of part of that sort of FOX News commentary that a lot of Democrats try to -- try to rally against. I do think it helped motivate the Democratic base. And I think Clinton six weeks before an election was probably very smart to do exactly what he did.

S. O'BRIEN: Let's talk about the national intelligence estimate report. It's classified. It's the accumulation of the 16 intelligence agencies sort of weighing in.

The report's on the Iraq war, and they said that essentially, that it's making the war on terror, the broader war on terror, worse. This is not the first time we've heard this. Why is it significant?

MERCURIO: Well, it's significant in at least some small part in the fact that it's coming out just six weeks before an election. It couldn't come at a better time for Democrats. Any time we're talking about national security and the larger war on terror, you'll notice that the president's approval ratings increase and so do the Republicans' prospects of holding onto Congress.

Any time we're talking specifically about the war in Iraq and the impact that it's having on the larger war on terror, that's good news for Democrats. I think Democrats are going to be making a lot of hay out of this issue this week. They've already started yesterday on the Sunday talk shows.

Republicans saying, as you just did, that this is not particularly new, that we've heard similar things from the spy agencies. And the White House coming out yesterday saying -- yesterday saying that it's actually part of a much larger picture and shouldn't be taken out of context.

S. O'BRIEN: Gas prices are down, which is great news if you own a car. The president's numbers are up, which is great news if you live in the White House.

Forty-three days to go until the midterm elects. First of all, is that much time enough for all of that to change? And also, is that enough of an increase for the president that it could actually help Republicans in the midterm elections?

MERCURIO: Well, just look 43 days ago what we were talking about. We were talking about Democrats taking back the House, Democrats taking back the Senate, Republicans -- President Bush's approval ratings in the mid to low 30s. So absolutely, there's so much time between now and Election Day for anything to change.

Gas prices could go back up, depending on several different factors. It's really impossible at this point. I'm terrible at trying to crystal-ball what's going to happen tomorrow or the day after that. So I think it's at this point really anybody's game.

S. O'BRIEN: Well, I know, but I like to ask you anyway.

"Hotline" senior editor John Mercurio joining us with his crystal ball this morning.

Thanks, John.

MERCURIO: Thank you.

S. O'BRIEN: The CNN "Political Ticker" is going to debut at 8:30 this morning. It's an insider's perspective on the day's political stories each and every day as we head into the crucial midterm elections, prepare for the presidential contest as well in 2008. You can find it at -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Up next, Andy Serwer "Minding Your Business".

Hello, Andy.


GM is looking for growth in some strange places. Try St. Petersburg. And I'm not talking about the city near Tampa.

Also, an Ohio dealership declares a jihad on the auto market. Is that really good marketing or just really bad taste?

M. O'BRIEN: Bet your burka it is. All right.

Also ahead, Andy, the return to the Superdome. The Saints come marching in again. We'll show you what it took to bring the Superdome back from Katrina.

Stay with us.


S. O'BRIEN: A look now at some of the stories we're working on for you this morning.

A leaked intel report says the war in Iraq is increasing the threat of terrorism.

Is Osama bin Laden dead or alive? We're going to hear from the reporter who broke the story on a secret French memo.

We'll show you how some states are making money off the stuff that's confiscated during those airport security checks.

And the New Orleans Saints play their first game at the Superdome since Hurricane Katrina struck.

Plus, we'll take a look at a new way to help moms and dads become better parents: personal parenting coaches. Hmm.

That's all ahead this morning.

M. O'BRIEN: GM may be offsetting its troubles at home with growth in Russia, of all places. Andy Serwer with more on that.

I guess they're tired of those Volgas over there, right?

SERWER: Yes, and the Latas (ph) and all those -- those cars are not of high quality, shall we say.

M. O'BRIEN: No. You might say that.

SERWER: Here's what's going on, Miles.

In the United States, GM has sold 8.8 percent less cars now than it did in 2000. Meanwhile, abroad, 28 percent increase over the past six years. More than twice as fast as the overall car market.

For the first time, they sold more vehicles overseas than they did in North America. And you're right, they're counting on Russia as a big market there.

A plant is set to open up in St. Petersburg in 2008. Listen to this stat.

Two thousand autos for every 1,000 Russians. In the United States, 800 autos for every 1,000 Americans. So you can see there's a huge gap, obviously there's a tremendous difference in income levels, but the Russians love cars. They have lousy cars, as Miles indicated. I think that's fair to say.

There are also oil rich, and they like Hummers and they like Chevrolets. They're going to be building Chevrolets at this St. Petersburg facility. And sales there already up 58 percent this year. And when that factory opens up in two years, it's going to be even better, I guess.

Also, counting on some hydrogen cars. We talked about hydrogen cars and the difficulties there. In this case, GM has a new car it plans to roll out in a very small amount where there will be home fueling of the hydrogen fuel cells, which will be an interesting trick.

Hydrogen gas stations cost about $200,000 (ph) to make. There are only 23 of them, for instance, in California.

And finally, I want to tell you about this radio ad by Dennis Mitsubishi in Columbus, Ohio. The ad says they're declaring a jihad on the automotive market, drawing some sharp criticism. They say sales representatives will wear burkas and they'll sell vehicles that can comfortably seat 12 jihadists in the back.

"Our prices are lower than evildoers every day. Just ask the pope. Friday is fatwa day with three rubber swords for the kiddies."

M. O'BRIEN: Three rubber swords?

S. O'BRIEN: Oh my god.

SERWER: The Columbus Chapter on American-Islamic Relations said this is a very disrespectful ad.

I think it's just kind of stupid. What are they thinking? But they're going to continue to run the ad, and probably continue to draw some attention. S. O'BRIEN: So they're getting...

SERWER: But I'm not -- I don't know if I'm going to just go down there to get one just because of the ad, right?

M. O'BRIEN: No. No, I'm not going to be stepping in line there, even though the rubber sword would be nice to have.

SERWER: Well, yes. I guess so. Columbus, Ohio.

M. O'BRIEN: All right. What's next?

SERWER: Next we're going to be talking about Hewlett-Packard.

S. O'BRIEN: The story that keeps on giving.

SERWER: Keeps on giving.


SERWER: And we keep doing it because there's still real news happening almost every day there. And we're going to give you the update on that.

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

Also ahead this morning, let's take a look at the weather. Chad's got that.

Good morning to you, Chad.

MYERS: Good morning, Soledad.


MYERS: The next hour of AMERICAN MORNING starts right now.

M. O'BRIEN: Is the war in Iraq fueling terrorism? A leaked intelligence report making waves in Washington just 43 days before we all go to the polls.

DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN FAITH AND VALUES CORRESPONDENT: I'm Delia Gallagher in Rome, where the pope has just met with Muslim leaders. I'll tell you what he said coming up.

S. O'BRIEN: Twelve people killed in powerful storms across three states. Flooding is a big concern this morning. We'll update you on what's happening there.

SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN GULF COAST CORRESPONDENT: I'm Susan Roesgen, live in the Superdome, where the New Orleans Saints will come marching in for the first time since Hurricane Katrina.

M. O'BRIEN: And kids out of control? Why not hire a professional parent to teach you how to get your kids to behave? But would you -- will you behave? All this on AMERICAN MORNING.

S. O'BRIEN: And good morning. Welcome back, everybody.

I'm Soledad O'Brien.

M. O'BRIEN: And I'm Miles O'Brien.

Thanks for being with us on this Monday morning.

Six weeks to go before the elections and Democrats have some new ammunition in their debate against the war in Iraq.