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American Morning

Search for Climbers; Arrest in Murders of Five Women

Aired December 18, 2006 - 07:00   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back, everybody. It's Monday, December 18th. I'm Soledad O'Brien.
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you. I'm John Roberts, in for Miles O'Brien. Do you like the sound this morning?

O'BRIEN: You know, you're feeling better.

ROBERTS: I've been working on that. I've been listening to Kiefer Sutherland, you know, and thinking, hey, he's got that voice thing going on there.

O'BRIEN: But you're sick.

ROBERTS: Yes, exactly.

O'BRIEN: That's right. We love you anyway. Thank you for helping us out.

ROBERTS: Thanks. Good to be here.

O'BRIEN: We appreciate it.

Let's begin with what's new this morning in that terrible search for those climbers who've been missing in Oregon.

A body, which was found on Sunday on Mt. Hood, it's believed to be one of the three missing men. The search for the other two climbers is going to begin at dawn today.

And rescuers will go back up the mountain, bring down that body off the mountain so it can be officially identified.

The weather, as you heard from Chad, is expected to remain clear, and that'll certainly help the crews search from the air and on the ground, too. So, let's begin at Hood River in Oregon. That's where AMERICAN MORNING's Chris Lawrence is for the very latest on this search.

Good morning, Chris.


Yes, they're expecting not only another clear day, but one with low winds, as well. That's very encouraging for some of the rescue climbers, who still have high hopes of finding at least two climbers alive.


LAWRENCE: An all-out assault on Mt. Hood continues this morning. But the mission to find three missing climbers is now a search for two.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) base (UNINTELLIGIBLE), we have found one climber in a snow cave, one climber in a snow cave.

LAWRENCE: That missing climber has not been identified.

CAPT. MIKE BRAIBISH, OREGON NATIONAL GUARD: Our hearts are going out to the families right now.

LAWRENCE: Still a mystery is what happened at the other snow cave, where rescuers discovered a rope and sleeping bag, but no climbers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're trying to figure out how there could be two (UNINTELLIGIBLE) there without two people.

LAWRENCE: There were two sets of footprints and a Y-shaped signal to mark their location.

SGT. NICK PRZYBCEL, U.S. AIR FORCE: It's a Y of hope. It gives us something to go on. It's something to keep us going.

LAWRENCE: Nearly 60 rescue climbers trudged through swirling snow and freezing cold. The cost of the attempted rescue climbed, as two Black Hawks, a Chinook and a C-130, circled the summit.

DWIGHT HALL, FATHER OF BRIAN HALL: A lot of the debts cannot be repaid, but everything's appreciated that can't be repaid.

LAWRENCE: As the bad weather broke for the first time in a week, the mothers of the three men made a plea to Mother Nature.

MARIA KIM, MOTHER OF JERRY COOKE: I want the mountain to release our sons, and mountain has no right to keep our sons.

LAWRENCE: Mt. Hood has claimed at least one climber, but search teams aren't losing hope of saving the other two.


LAWRENCE (on camera): Some of the rescue climbers have called this one of the most frustrating searches they have ever been a part of, in that they have known for a week now that at least one climber was hunkered down near the summit on the north side of the mountain.

His cell phone ping gave them a general location, but the extremely bad weather kept them from coming anywhere near him until this weekend - Soledad.

O'BRIEN: That's got to be incredibly frustrating. Chris Lawrence with an update for us. Thank you, Chris.

And, of course, you want to stay with us as we're going to bring you a live update from the National Guard as they prepare to launch today's search and rescue mission. That's at 7:15 a.m. Eastern time, just about 10 minutes or so - John.

ROBERTS: Thanks, Soledad.

Now to some breaking news overseas. An arrest this morning in the murders of five women in the English town of Ipswich. CNN's Paula Hancocks is live now from London with the very latest.

Paula, it sounds like a fairly large break in the case.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT, LONDON: That's right, John. This is certainly what the police and the residents of Ipswich are hoping, that this is the major breakthrough that they have been hoping for for so long.

Now, the chief superintendent who's in charge of that case says they do have a 37-year-old man in custody. He is in custody on suspicion of the murder of all five of these women.

And now we know from British media that he lives very close to where some of the bodies were found. All of these five bodies were found within about 20 miles of each other, within 11 days of each other. So, one of the biggest serial killer cases we've had in recent history here in Britain.

And certainly, we've also heard from the British media that this was a local man. He worked in a supermarket just nearby. And also, we understand that he had been questioned by police a little bit in the past, over the past few days and weeks, during this investigation. And he was also telling British media - he did an interview, saying that he was worried that he was going to be a suspect.

So, what we know now is that this man could be held up to four days, 96 hours. And at that point, the police have to decide whether or not to charge him with the murder of these women, one of the women - all (ph) five of the women. And otherwise, they have to free him or release him on bail.

But certainly, police at this point are hoping this is the major breakthrough that they have been trying to achieve for almost three weeks now. Hundreds of police officers have been involved in this large-scale investigation.

They made public calls for - public appeals for the public to come forward and give information. Ten thousand phone calls they've had up to this date - John.

ROBERTS: All right. Paula Hancocks, live for us in London, and that big break in the case in Ipswich. Paula, thanks very much - Soledad.

O'BRIEN: An historic day to tell you about at the Pentagon. Robert Gates is going to be sworn in as defense secretary. It's going to happen this afternoon.

Gates takes the oath of office as President Bush is reportedly considering sending a large number of new troops into Iraq.

CNN's Ed Henry is live for us at the White House. Good morning, Ed.


Donald Rumsfeld today handing off an increasingly unpopular war in Iraq to Robert Gates, who immediately finds himself in an intense situation. The challenge facing the new defense secretary put rather starkly yesterday by the former secretary of state, Colin Powell.

He said the U.S. is losing what he called a civil war in Iraq. And Powell added that he's not even certain that a surge of up to 30,000 U.S. troops to Iraq will really turn it around.

Other than that, Mr. Gates, welcome to the Pentagon. Obviously, not a good way for him to start.

What Gates, though, has going for him is the fact that he won confirmation with wide bipartisan support on Capitol Hill. Lawmakers in both parties saying they believe he'll a breath of fresh air from the Rumsfeld era.

But Gates will also have to deal with Democrats taking power on Capitol Hill. Incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid yesterday signaling he will only support the president's new strategy in Iraq so far.


SEN. HARRY REID, D-NEVADA: If there were some plan to send in some more troops for a very, very short period of time in an effort to get us out of there by the beginning of 2008, as the Iraq Study Group suggested, then I would go along with it.

But 30,000, 40,000 more troops there is not going to help.


HENRY: Now, the president has given no signal of going along with the Iraq Study Group's call for combat troops coming out by 2008. Colin Powell went a step further yesterday, saying he believes the start of the drawdown should begin in mid-2007, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Ed Henry at the White House for us this morning. Thank you, Ed - John.

ROBERTS: In Beijing this morning, six party talks on North Korea's nuclear program are underway for the first time in more than a year, and already North Korea is showing defiance.

CNN's John Vause is live from Beijing. And, John, we understand that U.S. envoy Chris Hill is very frustrated with these talks so far.


Christopher Hill today saying that the United States is running out of patience, especially after listening to the opening address from the North Korean delegates, who made it very obvious today that they consider themselves to be a nuclear power on a par with the United States, and so, made a list of sweeping demands, including an end to all U.S. and U.N. sanctions before they would even consider giving up their nuclear program.


VAUSE: As far as the North Koreans are concerned, after their successful test of a nuclear device in October, they are now a nuclear power. And they want all the respect and deference that comes with it.

"We have no reason to give up nuclear weapons," a North Korean envoy said this weekend, claiming his country needs deterrence against an aggressive United States.

Today in Beijing, an emboldened North Korea returned to the negotiating table more than a year since walking out. Five nations, led by the U.S., are pressing the North to abandon its nuclear program in return for economic aid and security guarantees.

If it all sounds familiar, that's because it is. Just over a year ago, North Korea did agree to just that. But the deal fell apart within days when the U.S. slapped sanctions on a Macao bank accused of laundering counterfeit U.S. money on behalf of the North Koreans.

Many suspect Kim Jong-il was just looking for an excuse, and never intended to keep his side of the bargain. Even so, those financial sanctions are now up for discussion, apparently a precondition set by the North to return to the so-called six party talks.

CHRISTOPHER HILL, SPECIAL ENVOY, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT: The North Korean government has played this very, very savvy way, and has essentially ended up exactly where it hoped to be.

VAUSE: There's no deadline here, but U.S. officials have made it clear they're looking for quick results.

HILL: We should be a little less patient and pick up the pace and work a little faster.

VAUSE: But North Korea's Kim Jong-il could be playing for time, assuming the longer he stalls, the more the world will become used to his country's nuclear status, the more likely he'll get to keep it.


VAUSE (on camera): There were expectations that the North may take this tough stance during these six party talks. And even so, among some envoys there is now disappointment that there will, in fact, be any quick breakthrough in all of these diplomatic negotiations, John.

ROBERTS: John, do you know anything about the Chinese side? They weren't very happy with that nuclear test that North Korea engaged in earlier this year.

Is there a sense that the Chinese really are going to really try to get tough with the North Koreans this time around?

VAUSE: Not really. There is a sense that the Chinese have moved closer to Washington's position when it comes to North Korea, especially after that nuclear test on October 9. The Chinese were embarrassed, to say the least. And they were the ones who brought the North Koreans back to the table.

But there isn't a real perception that the Chinese are ready yet to lean on the North Koreans to make them give up that nuclear program, simply because, in many ways, the Chinese hands are tied in all of this, John.

ROBERTS: John Vause for us in Beijing. John, thanks very much - Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Happening this morning in the West Bank, British Prime Minister Tony Blair is meeting with the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, praising Abbas' controversial calls for new elections.

Meanwhile, gunfire this morning outside of Abbas' home in Gaza City. Listen.

Abbas' Fatah forces have been clashing with Hamas forces. It intensified over the weekend when Abbas called for those elections.

Eighteen former detainees at Guantanamo Bay, including the ones seen here in this videotape in Afghanistan, are going to be home this morning. Some will be freed outright, others will face detention in their home countries.

The men, most of whom were captured in Afghanistan during the U.S.-led invasion in 2001, were considered enemy combatants by the Bush administration.

About 380 detainees have been released from Guantanamo; 395 are still held at Gitmo.

A couple of earthquakes early this morning off the coast of Indonesia. The biggest registered 5.8. At least four people killed, 100 hurt on Sumatra island. No tsunami warning was issued.

And another spacewalk for the Discovery shuttle crew today. It's their fourth of this trip. The walk was added over the weekend. They're trying to fix the solar panel on the International Space Station.

It's going to mean that Discovery will spend an additional day in space, and now return on Friday - John.

ROBERTS: A split in the Episcopal Church, fueled by disagreement over the church's views on gays. At least seven of 111 Episcopal parishes are breaking away, including two in Virginia. Truro Church in Fairfax, and the Falls Church in Falls Church.

Members voted to join a rival denomination led by Anglican Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria. He has called acceptance of gay relationships a "Satanic attack on the Church." About 20 parishes could join that splinter group in the U.S. Episcopal Church.

O'BRIEN: Ahead this morning, going to take a closer look at the search for those missing climbers in Oregon. Hope remains for two of the climbers after the body of one was discovered.

We've got the very latest on the rescue mission from the Oregon National Guard. That's straight ahead.

And a U.S. delegation goes to Cuba over the weekend. Get some update on Fidel Castro's condition. He's not dying. He doesn't have cancer, they're told. But there's no sign of Fidel Castro. And there are lots of questions.

That news ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


O'BRIEN: As soon as the sun comes up in Oregon this morning, search and rescue teams are going to head back up Mt. Hood. They're going to continue to look for those two missing climbers, other crews that were going to be sent to bring down the body that's believed to be that of the third missing climber.

The climbers and the rescuers have had to endure days of freezing temperatures and blizzard conditions, and even hurricane force winds.

Let's get right to Captain Mike Braibish. He's with the National Guard - the Oregon National Guard - in Hood River, Oregon. Nice to see you, sir. Thank you for talking with us. Appreciate it.


O'BRIEN: We know that one body was discovered in Sunday, and yet there's been no official identification. Do you know whose body was discovered on Sunday? Are you identifying him at this point?

BRAIBISH: Well, the sheriff will make official confirmation of that this morning.

One of the things that we need to make sure we do is get this right. We can't afford to make a mistake in a situation like this.

But we anticipate that in a few hours here the sheriff will be making the official announcement.

O'BRIEN: OK. I completely understand that.

The searchers, we're told, left the body in the snow cave where it was found originally instead of bringing that body down. Why would they do that?

BRAIBISH: The safety is an absolute concern. When they found the missing climber yesterday, it was late in the day. The sun was going down, and they made the decision.

They're on a mountain to do the safe thing and postpone the recovery until today.

O'BRIEN: So, when they had better light is really what it comes down to. They'll bring that body down.

BRAIBISH: That's correct.

You know, these crews that fly these missions and take these highly experienced climbers up there, they are - they're very skilled. They know what they're doing. And that enables them to make the right decisions when it comes to risk assessment. They absolutely have to be very careful up there under very treacherous conditions.

O'BRIEN: Any indications, anything that was discovered at those two snow caves that would give some sense of where the other two missing climbers might be now?

BRAIBISH: Well, the mountain is still giving us clues. Whether we see a series of footprints over a stretch of a number of feet or a number of meters there in the snow, the equipment that we're finding.

We continue to put all of these pieces of information together with what we've collected over the past several days, and that helps us to narrow and focus our search. And that gives us cause for optimism still.

O'BRIEN: It does? Do those clues that the mountain is giving you, as you put it, giving any indication that the two missing climbers might still be alive? And do you have any sense of where they - you know, kind of general direction of where they might be?

BRAIBISH: Well, you know, we don't know what their status is, quite frankly. But the fact of the matter is, we know that they're experienced climbers. We know that they have equipment that can help them survive.

And we are getting those clues that are pointing us what we believe is in the right direction.

As we get these clues in, it's like we're looking at a bull's eye. And every clue kind of brings us in closer and closer to the center of that bull's eye. As we eliminate information, that takes us out a little farther, and that refines our search again.

But as we saw yesterday, we got very close. We narrowed down a great deal of information, and we're going to continue to do that until we can find these missing climbers.

O'BRIEN: All right. And we'll continue to hope and pray that, in fact, you do find them and that they're still alive.

Captain Mike Braibish is with the Oregon National Guard. Thank you for talking with us. We certainly appreciate it.

BRAIBISH: My pleasure.

O'BRIEN: John?

ROBERTS: Such a tough situation for everybody involved there.

Coming up, a house divided. Is there room in the church for gay Christians? A closer look this morning at the Episcopal and evangelical churches and gay church members.

And on this Monday before Christmas, we'll follow some of the millions of packages heading out today. Ali Velshi is minding your business, next on AMERICAN MORNING.


ROBERTS: Top stories we're following for you.

Will Smith finding happiness at the box office. His new film, "The Pursuit of Happiness," took in $27 million over the weekend. That puts the movie at number one.

And gas prices up slightly, about two cents a gallon over the past two weeks, the national average now at $2.29 a gallon.

O'BRIEN: If it absolutely, positively has to be there by Christmas Day, then today is the day to ship it. The crunch is now on, as 900 pieces of mail head out.

It's just about 25 minutes past the hour. Ali Velshi is live from FedEx's largest hub, which is in Memphis, Tennessee. He's minding your business.

Good morning, Ali.

ALI VELSHI, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT, MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE: Soledad, I'm playing with the scanner. And I don't know how many people's deliveries aren't going to get to them because of me. But I'm here at FedEx. This is their main sorting facility, just outside of Memphis, Tennessee.

And, you know, the moment that most of us have with packages is, we can address them, send them, maybe drop them in a box and get them delivered to us on the other end.

So, we decided that we would take a closer look at what really goes into sending these packages.

(BEGIN VIDEO) VELSHI: How complicated can it be to get a package from New York to Houston? Not complicated for me. I sent two identical envelopes from New York to the same address in Houston. I shipped one using FedEx, the other UPS, and asked that they both be delivered the next day by 10:30 a.m.

Both packages arrived ahead of schedule and within a few minutes of each other. The UPS package went from New York to a UPS hub in Rockford, Illinois, and then to Houston. The FedEx package went to that company's Newark, New Jersey hub, then to its biggest hub, Memphis, and then to Houston.

Paul Tronsor probably had something to do with that. Paul runs FedEx's global operations control center in Memphis, with military efficiency.

PAUL TRONSOR, HEAD OF GLOBAL OPERATIONS, FEDEX: We've got 670 aircraft that operate in the FedEx fleet, and we're responsible for the tactical daily operations of those aircraft all over the world.

VELSHI: FedEx has a fleet second only in size to American Airlines. But unlike the airlines, if your package arrives late you get a refund.

That nearly happened to customers in Lafayette, Louisiana, recently. But Paul and his team had another plan.

TRONSOR: Nobody could get in in that particular airport, and so we go to an alternate site, an alternate airport in Baton Rouge, and we truck the freight back over to Lafayette, and make sure our customers are satisfied.

VELSHI: But being able to divert shipments means having extra trucks, five extra aircraft that fly around the country empty just in case, and a team of experienced meteorologists.

Harry Woolford (ph) is one of them. He says, keeping the FedEx planes flying is part science, part art and a little bit of intuition.

HARRY WOOLFORD (ph), METEOROLOGIST, FEDEX: Aviation forecasting is a lot different than "mostly cloudy and a chance of rain." At some point, at times you do rely on, "oh, I saw that before, so this is what's going to happen."


VELSHI (on camera): Now, neither UPS nor FedEx, despite all this technology, were able to tell us how many of those packages don't make it by the deadline. But unlike the airlines, if your package doesn't make it by the deadline, you actually get your money back.

This is the busiest day for FedEx. Wednesday is the busiest day for UPS and for DHL. And most retailers online are saying that you've got until Friday to order something and get it delivered by Christmas Day - Soledad. O'BRIEN: What do you mean, they couldn't tell you how many of the packages don't make it? Or you mean, they couldn't or they wouldn't?

VELSHI: We asked. They seemed pretty puzzled that we would ask. They said they've never been asked that information.


I mean, the bottom line is, they are in business. So, I assume if they're not making these deadlines, they'd be losing some business.

But, yes, I mean, they can tell you to the last second when the plane lands and when it scans by me. But who knows?

O'BRIEN: For some reason, those figures are not immediately available. Ali Velshi. Thanks, Ali.

VELSHI: Correct. That's kind of the response. Do you work for them?

O'BRIEN: Thank you, Ali - John.

ROBERTS: A friend of mine is still looking for his ski boots, 10 months later.

Coming up, a house divided. The Episcopal Church and the evangelical church struggling with what to do over gay members.

Plus, the heated debate about sending more troops to Iraq. Would it really stop the violence? We'll talk to a former Bush administration official - ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


O'BRIEN: Tragedy on Mt. Hood. Rescuers return to the mountain today. They're going to bring down the body of one missing climber, resume the search for two others.

ROBERTS: A show of force -- debating a possible massive troop increase in Iraq as the new secretary of defense is about to be sworn in.

O'BRIEN: And gay evangelicals. More Christians are coming out, more pastors, too. Is there room in the pew or in the pulpit for gay members of the congregation? We'll take a closer look ahead on this AMERICAN MORNING.

Welcome back, everybody. It's Monday, December 18th. I'm Soledad O'Brien.

ROBERTS: And I'm John Roberts, in today for Miles O'Brien. Thanks very much for being with us.

O'BRIEN: Thank you very much for being with us.

ROBERTS: I'm always happy to come up here and spend some time with you, particularly in your lovely new digs.

O'BRIEN: Yes, you like it? Much bigger and nicer.

Thank you. Thank you on all fronts.

ROBERTS: Where is the balcony?

O'BRIEN: No balcony.

Let's begin this morning with a developing story coming to us from England. Police arresting a man suspected of five murders, a string of attacks that have truly terrorized the town of Ipswich.

CNN's Paula Hancocks is in London for us this morning.

Good morning, Paula.


Well, there is a man in custody, a 37-year-old man, and police are really hoping that this is the breakthrough that they were hoping for. Now five prostitutes have been killed. Their bodies were found just over 11 days, and all found within the same year, within about 20 miles from each other. Very little details coming from the police themselves. Obviously, they're being very careful with this investigation. This is what we know so far.


STEWART GULL, SUFFOLK POLICE CHIEF: The 37-year-old man was arrested at his home address in Trimly (ph), near Felixdough (ph) at approximately 7:20 a.m. this morning. He has been arrested on the suspicion of murdering all five women, Gemma Adams (ph), Tania Nichol (ph), Anneli Alderton (ph), Paula Clennel (ph), and Annette Nicholl (ph)s.


HANCOCKS: Now, that address is just very close, just minutes away from where some of those bodies were found. Now British media say that he was a local man, he works in a supermarket, and he'd also given an interview to a British newspaper on Sunday saying that he had been questioned so far about four times by the police, and he was also worried that he was going to be a suspect.

Now, we also know there have been hundreds of police officers working on this particular case, 10,000 calls from the public have come into the police stations as there have been public appeals for any information from anybody who had seen any of these five girls who have been murdered. At this point, there's a man in custody. He could be held for about four days now until police decide whether to charge him, release him or just release him on bail. Now we know that there are forensic teams at his house. They are going through painstakingly detail, the -- every single within his house and car to find any evidence whatsoever that he is linked to these murders -- Soledad. O'BRIEN: Any more information or any more details about what brought them to him as a suspect at this point?

HANCOCKS: The police are really giving very little away. They want to make sure that everything is done by the book on this particular indication. And of course the British reporting laws are very strict. And when this man is charged, if he is charged, then there will be very little that will be allowed to be reported on him. So they're making sure they just give the bare minimum of details. But certainly over the last few days they've been calling for the public to get involved, so maybe something came up from there -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Paula Hancocks for us this morning. Thank you, Paula -- John.

ROBERTS: Thanks, Soledad.

Robert Gates will be sworn in as the nation's 22nd secretary of defense today, while President Bush considers sending a troop surge, up to 30,000 more troops to Iraq. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell spoke out about this over the weekend. He agrees with the Iraq Study Group and Gates when asked about his assessment of the war.


GEN. COLIN POWELL, FMR. SECY. OF STATE: So if it's grave and deteriorating and we're not winning, we are losing.


ROBERTS: Joining me now is Richard Haass. He was once a principle adviser to Colin Powell, now president of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Do you agree with Secretary Powell in terms of whether or not the U.S. is winning or losing in Iraq? And how do you define winning or losing?

RICHARD HAASS, PRES., COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: I think it's a pretty broad consensus now, John, that we're either not winning or losing. How stark you want to make it is up for grabs. The situation is that the study group said grave and deteriorating.

I thin, you raised, though, a fundamental point. Winning, or success, very much depends upon how high you pitch your ambitions. If your ambitions say you want to make Iraq to be a functioning democracy, we are clearly failing bigtime. If even you are more modest and say, we simply want it to be a functioning country, we're still failing.

So I think almost invariably now, even the biggest advocates of the war can't make a strong case that things are going well.

ROBERTS: About a week and a half ago, President Bush said that he expected that he would be able to tell the country about his new plans for Iraq this week. Now it looks like that's been delayed until the first week of January. Some political analysts have said, you know, an issue this big, you're making this pronouncement, and then suddenly you're delaying it, doesn't look like he's got a firm hand on the wheel when it comes to these issues.

HAASS: Well, partially it's awfully hard. There are no good options. And I think the administration is struggling with that reality. Also the president wants to be consulting, with his administration, with the Study Group, with the group of Iraqis who have recently come to visit. But you know, he'll come out, I would expect, some time in early January, and people will have more than enough time to react.

ROBERTS: One of the plans seem to be the this temporary surge in troops. Let's take a quick listen to what General Powell had to say about the surge in troops.


POWELL: I am not persuaded that another surge of troops into Baghdad for the purpose of suppressing this communitarian violence, this civil war, will work.


ROBERTS: Richard Haass, what do you think about the idea of a surge? Would it work, and are there enough troops to draw on for a meaningful surge?

HAAS: Well, that depends upon what they do. If they're there to do more training, hopefully that would have a little bit of difference over time. If they're there, though, to do more war fighting, to essentially do more combat operations in Baghdad, there's no evidence to date so far, John, that suggests that this would have a difference.

Also, we're only talking about a temporary surge, perhaps several months. So either -- I think there's a small chance, a very small chance this could make a positive difference, or think of this somewhat more as a step. First you do this. You do a surge. You say we've done everything we can do. We have gone the extra mile to make this work, then if there's still no progress, I actually think, ironically enough, it sets the stage for the United States to do less. You basically say we tried everything. It didn't work. Clearly the Iraqis are not capable of being a successful country at this point. There we need to reconsider our strategy.

ROBERTS: So very quickly, how long would you give it before you make that determination?

HAAS: I think we're looking at a matter of month. Some time this spring I believe the president and this administration are going to make a fundamental decision, either continue doing pretty much what we're doing or start dialing back, start doing less, not so much a full withdrawal, but clearly a gradual set of reductions.

ROBERTS: Richard Haass, thanks very much for your expertise -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Thanks guys. Stories we're following for you this morning, gay evangelicals. We're going to hear from. Some say it's no longer impossible to be both gay and evangelical.

And Washington learning more about Fidel Castro's health for the firsthand visit. We'll take you live to Havana, straight ahead.

Plus, Saturday night's not alright for fighting. The NBA gets ready to deliver the punishment for all those personal fouls made at Madison Square Garden.

We're back in just a moment.



ROBERTS: Well, the Episcopalian split over acceptance of the gays is just the latest flare-up in an issue being faced by many denominations. While being gay and Christian may be controversial, some say it's not all that uncommon.

Joining us now with more on the story is CNN's Sean Callebs.

Good evening, Sean.

SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John, Soledad.

If you think about it, gay and a member of an evangelical church. A lot of people say it simply doesn't mix, like oil and water. But there are legions of people across the country with that distinction, and they say they are struggling to find their place in the church.


SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Young, studious, deeply religious. Justin Lee could be a posterboy for the evangelical movement, except for one factor -- he's gay.

JUSTIN LEE, FOUNDER, GAY CHRISTIAN NETWORK: I kept thinking, well, you know, it's going to go away. You know, I've just got to keep focusing on God, and study my scriptures and keep praying, and eventually it's going to change. I'm just going to just grow out of it. God's going to change my feelings.

CALLEBS: But God didn't. Lee went through years of torment and depression before making peace with himself and deciding there is a place in church for gay evangelicals.

He started the Gay Christian Network, which now has more than 5,000 members.

LEE: We're just trying to get people together who experience attraction to the same sex, however they've handled that, and who love Jesus and say, OK, you're welcome here, and then let's pray together and figure out where God wants us to take it.

CALLEBS: Lee's sexual orientation puts him squarely at odds with conservative evangelicals, who say there is no room for compromise.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Bible is crystal clear -- homosexuality is a sin, and anybody who lives that kind of lifestyle will not enter the kingdom of God.

CALLEBS: Since evangelical minister Ted Haggard announced he was guilty of sexual immorality, and leading Denver evangelical Pastor Paul Barnes resigned after telling his congregation he was gay, conservatives have been forced to talk about the issue.

TONY CAMPOLO, "LETTERS TO A YOUNG EVANGELICAL: I would say there's a significant portion of the evangelical community that, for lack of a better word, is homophobic, that is nasty and mean.

CALLEBS: Tony Campolo, author and prominent evangelical minister, and his wife, Peggy, encourage the faithful to support gay rights, but even they have sharp differences. He believes gay sex is a sin.

CAMPOLO: I can't tell you how many times people have said, I love your attitude, you've got tears in your eyes when you speak to me, you have compassion in your heart, but you're breaking my heart when you tell me that I am called to celibacy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't see anything in the bible that supports what Tony says, and I feel that marriage is very important to intimacy and being fulfilled as a person for a lot of people.

CALLEBS: People like Justin Lee.

LEE: What it boils down to is a lot of people, as soon as they hear gay Christian, they have a whole bunch of assumptions about what we believe, what we're trying to accomplish. I wish that people would come and listen to what we have to say before they just jump to a conclusion.


CALLEBS: I want to get back to something Tony Campolo said. He said there are evangelicals across the county, saying, wait, of course we would allow gays in the church. He says that is the point, they would allow them in the church, not to be members, and certainly have roles of leadership, and (INAUDIBLE) says that is simply wrong.

ROBERTS: So where's your sense of where this whole thing is going. The gay community, within the evangelical church, is it enough of a force that it could drive changes? Or does it basically have to live with the way things are?

CALLEBS: Good question. What we're hearing is there are a whole army of young evangelicals out there. And to them, the gay marriage issue is not that big of a deal. And as the years progress, they say expect to hear less about that and more about issues like poverty and the environment. So they do expect you're going to hear more about gay evangelicals.

ROBERTS: Somehow I think we'll be hearing a lot more about this as the next election year approaches.

CALLEBS: You got that right.

ROBERTS: Sean, thanks. Appreciate it.


O'BRIEN: U.S. lawmakers visited Havana over the weekend return with news about Fidel Castro. Morgan Neil is live in Havana for us.

Morgan, good morning.


That's right, they've just wrapped up a three-day trip here. While they didn't learn what President Fidel Castro is suffering from, they did hear what it isn't. More on that after the break.

O'BRIEN: Seven people found dead in Missouri in the home over the weekend. Police say they're not looking for suspects yet. We'll tell you why.

Those stories and much more straight ahead. AMERICAN MORNING's back in a moment.



O'BRIEN: A U.S. delegation is back home this morning after a three-day trip to Cuba. Ten lawmakers got an update on Fidel Castro's health. Also had a chance to meet with some ordinary Cubans over the weekend. Lots of questions, though, about Cuba's future.

Morgan Neil is live for us from Havana with a little bit of a delay where he is.

Morgan, good morning.

NEIL: Good morning, Soledad.

That 10-member bipartisan delegation came here in hopes of improving relations between Washington and Havana. But it wasn't just the chances for dialogue that they heard about.


MORGAN NEIL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The U.S. lawmakers say they weren't told much about Fidel Castro's health. They were told what he's not suffering from.

SEN. JANE HARMAN (D), CALIFORNIA: They deny that Fidel isn't coming back. They say he doesn't have cancer. He'll be back. But I think many Cuban people, and certainly many of us, wonder if the transition isn't already started.

NEIL: Just two weeks ago acting President Raul Castro said Cuba was willing to begin a dialogue with Washington, as long as the United States respected the island's independence. And the bipartisan group feels that may present an opportunity to change Washington's relations with Cuba.

REP. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: The time has long passed to enter a new chapter in relations, but this certainly does seem to be a good time to move ahead, and I think there's more momentum now to move ahead than we have had in a while.

NEIL: The delegation was disappointed not to meet the acting president. He's been running Cuba for nearly five months since his brother's surgery.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need to deal with each other.

NEIL: And say they didn't hear any hints that Cuban policies were likely to change. All the same, they felt the mood back home was changing.

REP. JIM MCGOVERN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I think there's a majority in the United States Congress, and I think there's a majority in the United States of America that want a better relationship with Cuba. I think those of us who are advocating normalizing relations are in the mainstream. I think those who are, you know, saying that we need to maintain the sanctions and have travel restrictions, that's a relic from the Cold War.

NEIL: The group met with business and government officials, including the president of the national assembly and the country's foreign minister.

They also spoke with ordinary Cubans, if not dissidents, and heard an impromptu concert from musician Carlos Barerra (ph).


NEIL: Now the group says they didn't hear any indications of new policies from Cuba, but they say the ball is firmly in Washington's court if that dialogue is to move forward. Now as far as the president's health, no new details on just what it is he may be suffering from. But Cuban officials do deny that it's cancer or any terminal illness, and they're vowing he will return -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: A lot of saying what it's not, not much information on what it is. Morgan Neil in Havana for us this morning. Thanks a lot, Morgan.