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American Morning

Iraq Strategy Change; Rumsfeld's Last Days; Port Cargo Screening

Aired December 08, 2006 - 08:00   ET


BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: Strategy session. President Bush to meet with congressional leaders this hour, discussing the Iraq study report and possible changes on the front lines.
We are live.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Beginning of the end. Outgoing defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld holding his final meeting with Pentagon troops today. Will he express any regret over the Iraq war?

NGUYEN: Port security questions. A new plan to check cargo before it's shipped to the U.S., and it involves that Dubai company at the center of a previous security debate.

M. O'BRIEN: Plus, a grinch at the gas pumps. Prices going back up just as Americans pack up for more holiday travel. Why can't gas companies plan better for the inevitable demand without making you pay?

NGUYEN: Yes, why can't they do that?

M. O'BRIEN: Just some of the questions we have on this AMERICAN MORNING.

Good morning to you. It's Friday, December 8th.

I'm Miles O'Brien.

NGUYEN: I must say, Miles, you look awfully pretty in pink today.

M. O'BRIEN: Well, thank you.

NGUYEN: I see you got the memo, right?

NGUYEN: Yes, we did. We're synched up here.

NGUYEN: Good morning, everybody. I'm Betty Nguyen, sitting in for Soledad today.

Thanks for joining us.

M. O'BRIEN: We begin in Iraq, with U.S. forces on the offensive today. Twenty insurgents killed in a U.S. security sweep. Gunfire opened up on coalition troops in an al Qaeda-controlled area about 50 miles northwest of Baghdad. The U.S. troops called in an airstrike. Now, meanwhile, in Basra, a lightning-quick raid by British and Danish troops may have netted some of the leaders of a Shiite militia linked to sectarian violence there.

President Bush meeting with White House -- with House and Senate leaders from both parties at the White House in about a half hour. He'll talk about the war in Iraq, of course.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld holding his final town hall meeting at the Pentagon today. We'll watch that, too.

We have two live reports for you this morning. CNN's Suzanne Malveaux at the White House, Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon.

The president met with his biggest wartime ally, Tony Blair, yesterday. And the question is, what portion of the Iraq Study Group's recommendations will he embrace?

For more on that, lets go to the White House and Suzanne Malveaux -- Suzanne.


President Bush indicated once again yesterday that he is not willing to have one-on-one unconditional talks with Iran or Syria, but he did not rule out the possibility of a regional conference involving those two regimes, as well as the Bush administration. He also seemed to indicate a willingness, if you will, for a more active role within the Bush administration in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. That is something that also the Iraq Study Group called for, but there is no indication again, Miles, that the Bush administration would pull out U.S. troops based on any kind of timetable, that it would certainly be based on conditions on the ground.

That is something that the Iraq Study Group talked about, but they wanted at least to pursue the goal of mid-2008. So those are the things that are out on the table.

But I have to tell you, the president says he's not going to make up his mind until he gets internal reviews from the Pentagon, the State Department, the National Security Council. Once he has all that information together, we are told that he's going to address the nation with his plan, the Iraq plan, perhaps in the next couple of weeks -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Suzanne Malveaux at the White House.

Thank you very much.

One person definitely supporting the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, former president Bill Clinton. Mr. Clinton says he endorses the idea of talks with Syria and Iran, insisting diplomacy is the answer. He also supports the gradual withdrawal of U.S. troops but believes that taking the troops out quickly and completely would result in chaos. A report this morning about just who might be funding insurgents in Iraq. The Associated Press reporting private citizens from Saudi Arabia are funneling cash to their fellow Sunnis in the Iraqi insurgency. That money, often trucked across the border, is used to buy guns and explosives that target Shiites and U.S. troops. The report says the Saudis are trying to stem the influence of Iran, which is accused of supporting Shiite militias in Iraq.

Will Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld have anything to say about the war in Iraq and his role in it in his final meeting with Pentagon employees today? He's getting ready to say a personal good-bye at this town hall meeting.

Pentagon Correspondent Jamie McIntyre has the latest for us and a preview live from the Pentagon.

Jamie, good morning.


You know, covering Donald Rumsfeld these last six years has been a lot of things, but has never been boring. Rumsfeld, in these kinds of forums, can at time be introspective, sometimes combative, sometimes even funny.

This will be, as you said, his last town hall meeting. The setting will be the Pentagon auditorium, where he meets with some of the 24,000 workers who work here at the Pentagon every day. No reporters are allowed to ask questions, but sometimes the employees here have some poignant questions as well.

Don't look for Rumsfeld, though, for any big mea culpas or apologies for what's going on in Iraq. He remains convinced that he made the right decisions at the time, but it will be very interesting to see what he says, if he makes any reference to the Iraq Study Group.

Rumsfeld's formal good-bye will be a week from today, when he'll have all the pomp and circumstance. He will leave just two weeks shy, by the way, of being the longest-serving defense secretary ever. That honor still goes to Robert McNamara who, like Rumsfeld, has also -- also presided over a war that was increasingly unpopular -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon.

Thank you -- Betty.

NGUYEN: Happening this morning, two men close to the poisoned former spy are sick themselves. One of them is a Russian businessman. He now has symptoms similar to Alexander Litvinenko's before he died. Seven workers at the hotel where the men met also test positive for low levels of the poison.

A new study says those high-protein diets might increase the risk of cancer. Tests show that people on low-protein diets who regularly exercise have lower levels of certain hormones proven to raise the risk of pre-menopausal breast cancer, prostate cancer and colon cancer. That study in this month's "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition."

That E. coli outbreak, well, it is widening, and so is the investigation. More than 80 people sick in at least five states.

Taco Bell has ordered the removal of all green onions from its restaurants nationwide after some samples were found to be positive for E. coli. And the first E. coli lawsuit. Parents of a sick boy from Long Island, New York, they are now suing.

Let's take to you California. Firefighters there are working to control a spreading wildfire sparked by a broken down pickup truck. Lock at these flames.

The fire, in Grapevine, which is about 75 miles north of Los Angeles, is moving quickly, helped by low humidity and 30-mile-per- hour wind gusts. It's already charred at least 1,000 acres.

"Security Watch" this morning for you.

The government considering a plan to loosen security at the country's airports. Now, according to "USA Today," it would let unticketed passengers pass through security checkpoints, something banned since 9/11. And that allows people to meet family and friends at the arrival gate.

The idea is being tested with the hotel guests staying at the Dallas-Fort Worth and Detroit airports.

And it's a start. Six overseas ports will begin screening cargo for nuclear and radiological material before it heads to America. That's the important part. But it's not happening without controversy.

CNN's homeland security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve, joins us now live in Washington.

So talk to us about this controversy -- Jeanne.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Betty, a company that raised port security concerns last February is now playing a part in a port security program.


MESERVE (voice over): It was a preemptive strike by the secretary of Homeland Security.

MICHAEL CHERTOFF, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: We will not outsource our security.

MESERVE: It was an effort to squelch congressional criticism before it erupted over the fact that Dubai-owned DP World operates three ports involved in the new cargo security program that will screen containers for radiation overseas before they're shipped to the U.S.

CHERTOFF: The bottom line is this: If you want to do security overseas, you've got to work with foreign governments and foreign companies, because they own the ports.

MESERVE: Last February, there were high-decibel protests on Capitol Hill when DP World purchased six port facilities in the U.S.

REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: I would urge the president to freeze this contract.

MESERVE: As for the new cargo program, King says he will be watching closely, but has been assured DP World will not have access to sensitive information or software. However, some found it ironic that a company that raised security concerns a few months ago was now a partner in a security program.

In the pilot program, containers in six foreign ports will go through radiation detectors. Because those machines cannot detect shielded radioactive material, the containers will also be x-rayed.

If Customs and Border Protection personnel on site or at the National Targeting Center see a potential threat, the container will be pulled for further inspection by foreign authorities.

CHERTOFF: In the end, the go, no-go decision rests with our guys sitting in a CBP office, and if they have any doubt about how this has been resolved, they're going to say time out, it doesn't come in.

MESERVE: When the pilot is fully operational, just seven percent of the cargo coming into the U.S. will be screened. DHS plans to expand the program over time, but some say 100 percent screening of cargo shouldn't wait.

REP. BENNIE THOMPSON, RANKING MEMBER, HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE: Unless we give a date certain, we'll limp along. It's been five years since 9/11. It's time to finish the job.

MESERVE: Others think the entire approach is misguided.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are asking the wrong question. Most people ask the question, how do we prevent al Qaeda or other terrorist organizations from bringing a nuke through a seaport? The right question is, how do we prevent al Qaeda from becoming a nuclear power?


MESERVE: DHS says money is being spent on that, but critics say it just isn't enough -- Betty.

NGUYEN: Well, Jeanne, you did mention that this program may be expanded over time. Any idea when that could happen, when more ports will do these screenings?

MESERVE: No. The secretary was asked about that yesterday. He said this is a test program. They want to see how it works. And it has to be customized to each port, because they are laid out differently. So they are just going to wait, and they will make the expansion plans public later.

NGUYEN: Customization, that can take a lot of time.

Jeanne, thank you for that.

And make sure to stay tuned to CNN day and night for the most reliable news about your security.

Coming up, we'll talk to Gary LaGrange, the president and CEO of the Port of New Orleans, to get his take on all of this -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Coming up, it will cost you a little bit more to fill up your sleigh just in time for Christmas. Why gas prices go up when more people start hitting the road.

And it's Friday. You've put in a full week. Pretty soon Congress is going to feel your pain. Yes, imagine that, a five-day week for our members of Congress.

NGUYEN: So tough.

M. O'BRIEN: It's tough, it's tough, but somehow they'll get by. It's a revolutionary idea though ahead.


NGUYEN: Some top stories we're following for you.

President Bush gathers congressional leaders at the White House this hour. They will discuss the Iraq study report, among other things.

And over at the Pentagon, outgoing defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld holding his final town hall meeting before leaving office next week.

The time right now is 8:13 Eastern. And if you're heading out the door, let's get a quick check of the traveler's' forecast.

Chad Myers is in the CNN weather center.

Boy, if you're heading out the door, too bad. It's cold out there.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It is crazy cold out there.


NGUYEN: Well, what goes down must come up. Gas prices are on the rise once again, and motorists are trying to figure out why.

AMERICAN MORNING'S Dan Lothian is live in Brookline, Massachusetts, for us.

Hi there, Dan.


It really has been kind of like that seesaw. You were talking about going up and down. Now we're in that up mode.

At this gas station, $2.35 for the regular. The super at $2.65.

We're not talking about shattering any records here, but people are concerned. They are asking a lot of questions, trying to figure out what is going on, especially because this time of the year gas prices are relatively stable. But not this year.


LOTHIAN (voice over): Just when you thought it was safe to fill up your tank without breaking the bank, higher gas prices are making a comeback.

CHUCK SALVADO, MOTORIST: But it hurts, you know. It takes away from doing some other things.

ALEX KAZARIAN, MOTORIST: It's not all that, you know, relief on the budget, especially during the holiday times.

LOTHIAN: The current national average for a gallon of regular unleaded is $2.30. That's up 11 cents from one month ago and 17 cents compared to a year ago.

PATTY GALLUCCI, MOTORIST: I'm wondering why, basically. I'm just looking at the price. I'm paying more every week.

LOTHIAN: Energy analyst Phil Flynn says blame it on the law of supply and demand.

PHIL FLYNN, ALARON TRADING CORPORATION: The demand for gasoline has been incredible. And, in fact, you know, the latest numbers, you know, if you look at it, I mean, we burn about 9.3 million barrels of gasoline a day. We're producing about 9.2.

LOTHIAN: What makes this trend unusual is the fact that gas prices rarely go up so sharply after the busy summer travel season, and just as people are making their holiday plans to visit grandma.

FLYNN: Normally we get a little bit of break at this time of year.

LOTHIAN: But this holiday season is different because it comes on the heels of record summer prices at the pump, followed by steep declines.

FLYNN: When it comes to $3 gasoline, I was hearing everybody, "You know what? I'm going to carpool. I'm going to buy a hybrid. I'm going to stop driving." And all of a sudden, gas prices come down about 75 cents.

Invariably, we go back to our old habits. And we're using more gasoline once again.


LOTHIAN: Gas prices are expected to go up another five to 10 cents before Christmas, and the experts believe that upward trend will continue, unless there is a mild winter which, of course, would ease some of the friction and the tension on that energy market -- Betty.

NGUYEN: Yes. No mild winter today. Thank you, Dan. Stay warm.

M. O'BRIEN: Well, from Robert Gates to the Iraq Study Group, it's been a big week in Washington. So coming up we'll take a look at how it could help shape the presidential primaries.

You'll want to stay with us on AMERICAN MORNING.


M. O'BRIEN: Top stories we're following for you.

E. coli detected in at least five states, perhaps seven, actually. Taco Bell now closing more restaurants and facing a lawsuit from the parents of a boy infected with the bacteria.

And a new study suggests high-protein diets can increase the risk of breast and prostate cancer. The study published in the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition."

Not everyone is so happy with the movie "Happy Feet."

Ali Velshi "Minding Your Business" with more.

Hello, Ali.


M. O'BRIEN: Either have I.

VELSHI: All right.

M. O'BRIEN: But, you know, I wouldn't mind seeing it.

VELSHI: Well, what I hear about the movie is that these little six-pack things play a role in it. Now...

M. O'BRIEN: I thought they got rid of those things.

VELSHI: I've got to tell you, I've not followed this story for a long time. I remember hearing these, you know, animals get stuck in them and stuff like that. And in the movie "Happy Feet," one of the penguins named Lovelace -- I've not seen the movie, I'm getting this information from people around me.


VELSHI: Right. First they tell me Lovelace wears one of these things sort of like as a -- you know, as a collar, a characteristic thing. Now, the makers of this, or one of the lead makers of this, an Ithaca, New York-based company, says we've all missed the point that since the late '90s -- since 1989, it's been mandated that these are photodegradable, that they -- the degrade in the sun over a period of several days or weeks.

M. O'BRIEN: Oh. So that's why we're still seeing them.

VELSHI: And that's why they're allowed. And they have to.

Even the Sierra Club, which often is at the forefront of these, says these are just not as big an issue because they are easy to break and a animal can generally break out of them, and the do photodegrade. So the company is annoyed with the movie for putting this...

NGUYEN: Yes, because you see it around his neck and you want the poor penguin to get it off of him.

VELSHI: Right, yes, poor Lovelace.

NGUYEN: But I wonder, photodegrade, how long does that take, though?

VELSHI: Well, that's the thing. If this thing is stopping me from doing something, the fact that it's....

NGUYEN: I want it off now.

VELSHI: Yes. I don't -- the weeks and days thing doesn't work so well for me.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes.

VELSHI: But yes, I mean, who knew? So they're a little upset. They said they don't want this to get a bad reputation. They're called yolks (ph).

NGUYEN: Yolks (ph)?


M. O'BRIEN: That's a yolk (ph). No yolk (ph).

VELSHI: This is a yolk (ph).

I could tell you more about movie, but if you haven't seen it.

M. O'BRIEN: No, we don't want to go there.

VELSHI: Can I just tell you that Lovelace...

M. O'BRIEN: No, no, no.


M. O'BRIEN: No, no, no. You're going to ruin it. VELSHI: You've got to see the movie then.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes, OK.

What else you got?

VELSHI: I've got to...


NGUYEN: He's done.

VELSHI: I've got to go outside and sit in the sun and see how long this takes to breaks down.

M. O'BRIEN: OK. You get back to us, will you?

VELSHI: Yes, thanks.

M. O'BRIEN: And don't eat while you're doing it.

NGUYEN: Yes. Just go put it around your neck, yes.

M. O'BRIEN: Do a simulation.

All right. Thank you, Ali.

VELSHI: All right.

NGUYEN: Well, culture shock coming to Capitol Hill. Not just the Democrats taking over. How about working a full five days a week? Could you even imagine?

We do. We do it all the time.

What members of Congress are saying about that. That's just ahead.

And duck and cover. That could be the consumer alert going out for owners of the new Nintendo Wii game system.

We'll explain when AMERICAN MORNING returns.


M. O'BRIEN: War and politics. President Bush meeting with congressional leaders any minute now to discuss the Iraq study report. Will it make any difference for American troops?

NGUYEN: Washington politicians soon to do what they're constituents do, and that is work a five-day week. The hammer coming down on the do-nothing Congress. That's today.

M. O'BRIEN: Making your holiday donations count. Tips for putting your money in honest hands so it helps people who need it most. NGUYEN: And Wii have a problem. Nintendo Wii is issuing a warning about the new video game, on top of many holiday wish lists, including Miles' children.

We'll have details on that coming up.

M. O'BRIEN: Good morning. It is Friday, December 8th.

I'm Miles O'Brien.

NGUYEN: Good morning, everybody. I'm Betty Nguyen, sitting in for Soledad today.

Thanks for joining us.

Happening this morning, crews in New York will start tearing down the Deutsche Bank building damaged in the 9/11 attacks five years ago. The 41-floor building was filled with toxic dust. Workers also found bone fragments from 9/11 victims. The building will be taken down in stages over the next year.

CNN has learned that lightning may have sparked the deadly explosion at the Sago Mine. West Virginia investigators coming out with their report next week about what happened at the mine that trapped and killed 12 men.

A new prison is ready in Guantanamo Bay, replacing the older detention center seen here. The new facility costing $37 million. Forty detainees have already been transferred. Right now about 430 men are held at Guantanamo, suspected of links to al Qaeda or the Taliban.

Now NASA is looking towards tomorrow night to launch the space shuttle Discovery, but even that is looking dubious. The forecast is not looking so great for tomorrow. Low, thick clouds scrubbed the first launch attempt last night.

And the gavel comes down today on the 109th Congress. Democrats will take control next month, and leaders are promising to crack down -- get this -- by making lawmakers put in a full five-day week. Can you believe it?

CNN's Andrea Koppel has more.


ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Democrats call it the do-nothing Congress.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER-ELECT: What we see is a drive-by Congress, Tuesday night to Thursday morning.

KOPPEL (on camera): In fact, under Republican leadership in the House, the legislative week of the 109th Congress did begin late Tuesdays but didn't wrap up until late Thursdays. That's two full days a week, for a total of 103 days this year. (voice over): That's the shortest legislative calendar in almost 60 years. Once they are in charge, Democrats promise, that will change.

REP. STENY HOYER (D-MD), MAJORITY LEADER-ELECT: You cannot do the people's business essentially working two days a week, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

KOPPEL: So does that mean Democrats plan to work five days a week? Not exactly.

HOYER: In order to have oversight, you've got to have sufficient time for committees to meet, which means full Tuesdays, full Wednesdays and full Thursdays.

KOPPEL: That's three days a week. If Monday is a travel day, what about Fridays?

HOYER: We're going to meet every Friday in June.

REP. JACK KINGSTON (R), GEORGIA: I don't think anybody is debating the work week.

KOPPEL: For Georgia Republican Jack Kingston, spending time out of Washington and back in his district doesn't mean he's not working.

KINGSTON: I think that members do a lot better when they can go out and see the real world, and I think part of that is being connected to your families back home, your constituents.

DONALD RITCHIE, ASSOCIATE SENATE HISTORIAN: This is in 1910, let's say. When they got here, there were no paved roads.

KOPPEL: Senate historian Don Ritchie says lawmakers have always struggled with splitting their time between home and Washington, but often back then the biggest challenge was traveling back and forth.

RITCHIE: In the 1840s, when Jefferson Davis was elected to the House of Representatives from Mississippi, it took him about a month to get to Washington. He had to go up the Mississippi River by boat, and then he had to go down the Ohio River.

KOPPEL: And once he finally got to Washington, Ritchie says, Davis and his colleagues wouldn't leave until Congress adjourned at the end of the year.

Andrea Koppel, CNN, Capitol Hill.


NGUYEN: And in the remaining hours of the 109th Congress members will vote on a multibillion-dollar tax and trade bill, giving some $38 billion in tax breaks for businesses, higher education costs and school teachers. That vote needs to be taken before Congress can adjourn. Well, December is usually a quiet political month, but not this year. From the Iraq Study Group report, to the new defense secretary, Washington was full of news. And here to tell us what it all means is CNN's Candy Crowley. She joins us live from Washington.

Good morning to you.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Betty. It certainly was one of those weeks, wasn't it?

NGUYEN: It was. The president, you know, made it known that after looking at this Iraq Study Group report, there's some things in it that he's not too happy with. But can he afford to dismiss it? Can he afford to go forth and not look at it fully and implement that into his plan?

CROWLEY: Well, looking at it fully, I'm sure he will say that he did. The White House has said repeatedly, we're going to give this serious study. Taking it hook, line and sinker, I'm not really sure.

As you say, the president has already pointed out a number of things which we knew already. He is not for direct talks with Iran and Syria, though there might be some regional talks, he says, that they could -- the could be a part of.

But what's interesting to me is the politics of this probably will play out on the Republican side. One would expect that the Democrats would embrace most of the Iraq study group, particularly the conclusions that the situation is dire, if not all of the 79 recommendations.

What we saw yesterday, I thought, was really significant. Senator Gordon Smith, a moderate Republican, got up on the floor, longtime supporter of the war, and said, I can't support it anymore, whether we cut and run or cut and walk, you know, there's just no way I can just stand watching all these roadside bombs taking all these young American lives. If Republicans begin to leave the president on the issue of the war, it's going to be very, very difficult for him not to embrace most, if not all, of those recommendations, along with those that he hears from the military commanders on the ground.

NGUYEN: On the political front as a whole, we're what, a little over a year from the presidential primaries, any chance that Iraq won't be a part of this election for a third time?

Hard to think that it will not be, and particularly when you remember that the Iraq Study Group said withdrawal by 2008, well, guess what, that's a presidential election year. It strikes me if this is still a major, if not the major issue in 2008, it obviously comes into play. You have on the one hand 9/11 Mayor Rudy Giuliani on the Republican side versus Senator John McCain, who currently leads in all the polls. Senator McCain has long been for more troops in Iraq. On the Democratic side you have, at least in the current top front- runners, are Senator Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Barack Obama who didn't have to vote on a resolution for or against the war says he's been against this war from the beginning. Senator Hillary Clinton sort of trying to push back on the idea that Democrats are weak on defense has been pretty muscular in her approach to Iraq. She voted for it. She was a strong supporter of it. Obviously when it came down to the execution of it, she has been increasingly critical, but that could hurt her in 2008, particularly if those troops are still on the ground in Iraq and still America is losing lives.

NGUYEN: A lot of people pushing their plan for the way forward, which is the new catch term, Candy.

But let me ask you this, this has been a big week. You had the ISG report, you had the new defense secretary, you had Tony Blair coming here -- when we look back at this week, and of course hindsight is always 20/20, but when we look back, are we going to see this as a turning point?

CROWLEY: Boy, that is -- I can always tell turning points about six weeks after they have happened. I'm not -- I don't know, because I think that's up to the president, and I think if he embraces much of this, then we will look back and say, boy, the pressure was on.

I can tell you this, probably one of the worst policy weeks of the Bush administration, there is no doubt about that. He first had his incoming defense secretary say no, we are not winning the war in Iraq, just several weeks after the president said we were, and then you had this Iraq Study Commission which set aside the recommendations and said, you know, it's dire, we don't know if we can fix this, but we've to the to try one last time, very, very tough, and I think you saw that on president's face and in his demeanor when he met with the Iraq Study Group that this has been one whale of a week on the bad side for the president.

No doubt. CNN's Candy Crowley. Thank you, Candy, we appreciate it -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: It was a story that captured national attention, a family lost in the woods, the situation looking bleak and then some of the members of the family were found. It let all of us hope for an amazing success story. Unfortunately, we didn't get it, but we are learning more about James Kim's heroic last efforts.

Here Thelma Gutierrez.


THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): James Kim died trying to save his family. The pilots who tried to save him say, he's a hero. Now...


O'BRIEN: OK. Obviously having some problems with that.

We're going to -- before you're head out to the mall to do holiday shopping we have some words for you. Find out some new ways to give the 411 on charitable giving. Gerri Willis will take a look at that, and get into the game. Just be careful. A wee bit of trouble for Nintendo's Wii gaming system. Duck.

NGUYEN: Literally.

O'BRIEN: Ahead.


O'BRIEN: That heroic and tragic story of James Kim who sought help for his family had was stranded in the snow in the Oregon wilderness has captured all of our attention.

Here's Thelma Gutierrez with more.


THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): James Kim died trying to save his family. The pilots who tried to save him say, he's a hero. Now they're in mourning.

LIEUTENANT GREGG HASTINGS, PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICER, OREGON STATE POLICE: He was spotted lying on his back, fully clothed, in a shallow depth of Big Windy Creek.

GUTIERREZ: The coroner says the 35-year-old father of two died of exposure and hypothermia. It is not clear how long he survived in this harsh wilderness, all alone, without food.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have hope. You put somebody in there, you don't give up on it. You go, we're at the bitter end with it.

GUTIERREZ: Last Friday, these local pilots were hired by the Kim family to help find James, Kati and their two kids.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is no open areas in this range. It's very narrow canyon, a lot of trees.

GUTIERREZ: As the choppers began searching for them, the Kims were burning their last tire to stay warm. They had been stranded in their station wagon on a desolate logging road for seven days in the freezing cold. The parents ate berries and drank melted snow. Kati Kim breast-fed her two children to keep them alive.

JOHN RACHOR, PILOT: The car was just down in a well, it looked like, in the trees.

GUTIERREZ: The Kims could hear the choppers flying above, but they were running out of food for their children. James Kim decided he could no longer wait.

HASTINGS: On Saturday, December 2, at about 7:46 a.m., she said that James left on foot to reach help.

GUTIERREZ: So, James lit a fire for his wife and children. He took some clothes, a flashlight, and two lighters, then walked down the road. He walked several miles, then headed into the forest, toward a river. HASTINGS: If he could get to the river, he could make it to the town.

GUTIERREZ: He walked 10 miles, most of it down treacherous, steep, wet terrain, in tennis shoes, jeans, and a jacket.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know exactly why he did it, because he had a wife and two children that were stranded for eight or nine days. That's why he did it. He was a father who was trying to save his family.

GUTIERREZ: On Monday, his second day out, John Rachor, a volunteer pilot, spotted car tracks in the snow.

RACHOR: There was an SOS stomped in the snow.

GUTIERREZ: He knew it was Kati Kim.

RACHOR: I couldn't have landed right where the car was.

GUTIERREZ: He called for help. That's when Scott Dunn (ph) and Daniel Townsend (ph) made a harrowing landing in the dense woods, with only a five-foot clearance on either side of the helicopter.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She just had a big smile on her face. She was jumping up and down, you know, just saying thank you for finding us, for getting us.

GUTIERREZ: With Kati and the kids safe, the search for James intensified. Rescuers found clothing and pieces of an Oregon map. And finally...


GUTIERREZ: Two medics were lowered to the ground. It was too late.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was pretty (inaudible).

GUTIERREZ: One rescuer said the wicked 10-mile trek through this stretch of woods had never been attempted by anyone before, but James Kim almost succeeded, for the love of his family.

Thelma Gutierrez, CNN, Central Point, Oregon.



NGUYEN: It IS nearing Christmastime, and you might be thinking about giving to charity, but before you do, you want to make sure you pick a charity that will make good use of your donations. So Gerri Willis, CNN's personal finance editor and host of CNN's "OPEN HOUSE" is here with some tips on charitable giving. This is really good information, because a lot of people sit down right before the end of the year and they're not really sure who to give to. GERRI WILLIS, CNN PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR: Or they give to the wrong people.


WILLIS: Betty, great to see you.

NGUYEN: Good to see you.

WILLIS: I want to tell you a little bit about the way to choose these charities, but do that, let's look at some individual charities, as you get ready set to give some money this year. Let's check out the American Red Cross first. They've got a great rating. Four stars from Charity Navigator out of four stars, so they do very well. And here's why, they're spending almost 92 cents out of every dollar you give on programming.

NGUYEN: And people want to know that, how much out of every dollar are you giving to the programs?

WILLIS: It's an important number people pay attention to. Now look at five percent spending on administrative expenses, almost four percent on fund-raising. That's pretty good. Now you make look at the CEO's salary and say $416,000, what's up with that, but the reality is that it's a tiny fraction of their total expenses.

Now to make some comparisons we want to show you Habitat for Humanity, and how they line up on exactly the same numbers. They are spending 78 cents out of every dollar on programming, not as good obviously as American Red Cross, and you've got the most important line, fund-raising expenses, 17 cents out of every dollar. You've got to start wondering how well money is being spent at that charity. It's not as efficient as some others, of course. One thing that makes the difference for Habitat is that they don't take grants. All their money comes from individuals, so they spend a lot of money fund- raising, because that's where they get all their dollars.

NGUYEN: That makes sense.

WILLIS: And I want to show you the American Cancer Society. Again, totally different scenario here. They only earn two stars, and I'll show you why. Only 70 cents out of every dollar goes to program expenses. The rest, eight percent, goes to administrative, 23 percent is going to fund-raising expenses, and that's a pretty high proportion, so you can see all of these different charities. They spend your money differently, and you need to know the details.

NGUYEN: Now if your charity, the one that you want to give to, isn't a large one like the ones we saw on this site, and you want to know if they're spending your money wisely, if they're doing a good job at it, or if they're not, how do you find out that information?

WILLIS: Well, there's a couple of great Web sites to go to. We talked about two of them, There's also another one,, which is a -- they're both great Web sites, but a great rule of thumb when you're looking on the web sites, we were talking about how much money goes to programming. It should be at least 75 percent. That's the number you're looking for. Three-quarters of all the dough goes to the people that you really want to help. That's what you want to see out there.

NGUYEN: All right, and speaking of the dough that we're doling out, what kind of mistakes are donors making when they sit down about who they want to give their money to in.

WILLIS: You know how this is. People come to you all the time, all year long, and they ask for money for different causes, and so you dole out a little bit everywhere, right? Well, what you want to do is pick out one, two, three charities that you really want to give to.

NGUYEN: So you can really make a difference there.

WILLIS: You can really make a difference. And what's more, you may not think about this when you're doing this, you'll get less junk mail when you do that, when you really concentrate your dollars and you're not putting them everywhere.

NGUYEN: That's a good point. That's true, because we get them all the time.

NGUYEN: Good stuff, Gerri, thank you for that -- Miles.

WILLIS: Thank you, Betty.

M. O'BRIEN: "CNN NEWSROOM" just minutes ahead. Tony Harris is at CNN Center next with a look at what's ahead.

Hello, Tony.

TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Good Friday to you, Miles.

We have got these stories on the "NEWSROOM" rundown for you this morning. Security crackdown, coalition troops carrying out raids in Iraq. The U.S. says 20 insurgents are killed at a suspected al Qaeda safehouse, others are captured, an E. coli outbreak spreading now to five northeastern states. The case is believed linked to green onions served at Taco Bell restaurants.

And a veteran basketball story, we love this story, back on the court after a lifesaving surgery. A former player making the play of the day, a kidney donation. "CNN NEWSROOM" for Friday coming up at the top of the hour -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: All right, sounds like a slam dunk to me. Tony Harris, thank you very much.

Coming up, a police scandal that's not about sex, drugs or money; it's all about video games. We'll explain.

And speaking of video games, Nintendo is out with a safety warning for its new Wii system. What parents need to know, ahead on this AMERICAN MORNING.


NGUYEN: Listen to this, two police officers in Rhode Island are under investigation, accused of playing games to get their own Playstation. The officers are accused of using their badges to skip past a long line of people waiting to buy the coveted new Playstation 3 when it went on sale last month. Remember those lines? Well, it happened at a Sony store in Providence and investigators are looking into it. If true, there will be some kind of disciplinary action -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Well, if you're among the thousands of people doing all you can to get your hands on a Nintendo Wii, there's something you need to ponder as you wait in the line. Once you have the Wii in your grasp, you better hang on tight. Those magical Wii controllers are turning into missiles, and you, your kids or your TV could become targets.


M. O'BRIEN: I can't do the safety strap. That's a problem right there.

(voice over): Veteran gamers James Ransom Wiley (ph) and Chris Grant (ph) strapped me in for a Wii bit of fun.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So what do you want to start with, tennis?

M. O'BRIEN (on camera): Tennis.

(voice over): The Wii controller is more like a magic wand. Wave it and your onscreen avatar mimics your motion. The problem is, it's easy to get caught up in the action.

Look what happens when we start boxing.

(on camera): Am I hitting you or are you hitting me?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's hitting you.

M. O'BRIEN (voice over): The same thing happened to James' mom, and this controller bears the scar.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And my little cousin kind of bounced forward as my mom stepped forward.

M. O'BRIEN (on camera): And he goes forward?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. And just, crack. You know?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And then the battery cover flips off and the batteries go flying.

M. O'BRIEN (voice over): In fact, Wii users are bombarded with a series of warnings to be careful. This one reminds players to tightly secure the wrist straps. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nintendo maybe underestimated how much people were going to enjoy moving their arms, getting off the couch and really swinging their arms. And they may be doing it a little too much, a little too hard, and the engineering isn't holding up.

M. O'BRIEN: Which is to say, the straps are breaking and the controllers are flying through windows, into ceiling fans, stereos, laptops, and even some expensive flat-screen TVs. The gory details documented on the Web site

Chris (ph) and James say the real trick is to tone down the body language. You see, the controllers are more sensitive than you think.

(on camera): Is this less fun?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The game doesn't have a lot of strategy in it. It's really about getting up and swinging your arms and stuff.

M. O'BRIEN (voice over): Besides, the experts disagree. We caught up with chiropractor Karen Erikson (ph) at the Toys 'R' Us store in Times Square.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is my advise. Use -- the game is intended to do standing up. Stand up and play the game standing up. Try to use your whole body when you do it rather than just your wrist.

M. O'BRIEN: She says the Wii is a winner because it will uproot some couch potatoes and get them moving.

Just take it easy, take frequent breaks, and stretch between rounds.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh! You took me out.

M. O'BRIEN (on camera): A knockout.


M. O'BRIEN: We repeatedly asked the folks at Nintendo to talk with us about the allegations of faulty straps. They have been unavailable all week, but their president held a news conference in Japan yesterday, and he said the company is investigating some of the problems, but has not made any decisions about design changes.

But if you look here, if you can get a closeup on one of these, here's the real catch here. You've got to get a thick strap but, look, it's like a little piece of thread here, which attaches it, and you know, if you're really having a great old time, and, boom, apparently, that is the weak point, so who knows, maybe Nintendo will have to beef those up.

NGUYEN: What you were when you were doing this? What was that all about?

M. O'BRIEN: It's a game where it makes it run, makes a little thing run, and then you kick the soccer ball, and then you aim it, and I was a little into it, I've got to say.

NGUYEN: Step away from the Wii, just for a little while.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes, probably a good idea.

NGUYEN: Now here's a quick look at what is coming up on CNN's NEWSROOM at the top of the hour.

ANNOUNCER: Stories you'll see at the CNN NEWSROOM, coalition raids in two Iraqi towns. The U.S. military says 20 insurgents are killed in a security sweep. Donald Rumsfeld's goodbye. His farewell town hall meeting with Pentagon workers. A fire in California. A new blaze quickly overruns hundreds of acres near Bakersfield. You're in the NEWSROOM, 9:00 Eastern, 6:00 on the West Coast.


M. O'BRIEN: Well, Betty, it was nice to have you drop by.

NGUYEN: It's been fun for a day.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes, Soledad's off, and it's good to have you come in.

But of course this is just kind of the beginning of your workweek, isn't it?

NGUYEN: It's just one stop. Because I'm working this weekend.

Let me tell you what's coming up. As you reported here, Miles, and we know you love these, the donuts, those pastries, all those wonderful goodies that we all joy.

M. O'BRIEN: Transfats.

NGUYEN: Yes, transfats going the way of the dinosaur. Yes, they are being banned, and we will tell you about that, because the New York City council voted, as I mentioned, to ban all restaurants from cooking with transfats, the big move with even bigger ramifications. So all day tomorrow, CNN will take an in-depth look at those transfats, what they do to your body and why it's so hard to avoid them. That begins at 7:00 Eastern.

And in our water cooler, a surprising secret weapon against booby traps in Iraq. We'll explain silly string's mission in this war on terrorism. We hope you'll watch.

M. O'BRIEN: We will definitely watch. Those are two good stories.

That's all the time we have for CNN AMERICAN MORNING.

NGUYEN: "CNN NEWSROOM" with Tony Harris and Heidi Collins begins right now.