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American Morning

National Day of Mourning

Aired January 02, 2007 - 07:00   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR, AMERICAN MORNING: Washington's final salute, a sweeping memorial service for President Gerald Ford today. Dignitaries from far and wide coming to pay their respects on this National Day of Mourning.
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR, AMERICAN MORNING: Breaking news after that plane crash in Indonesia, hopes raised, then dashed with conflicting reports that both the wreckage and survivors have been found. Initial reports turned out to be wrong.

S. O'BRIEN: And new pictures of a promise kept, Oprah opens her Leadership School for Girls in South Africa. An exclusive look at the star-studded celebration is straight ahead on this AMERICAN MORNING.

Welcome back, everybody. Tuesday, January 2nd. I'm Soledad O'Brien.

ROBERTS: And I'm John Roberts in for Miles O'Brien this week. Thanks for joining. Happy New Year to you.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes, exactly, for those of you who missed us yesterday.

We're going to begin with that National Day of Mourning for President Gerald R. Ford. We have full team coverage of the state funeral. CNN's John King is at the National Cathedral this morning. Elaine Quijano is at the White House, Bob Franken on Capitol Hill, and our Senior Political Correspondent Candy Crowley is at our Washington bureau this morning.

In fact, in less than 90 minutes from now, the body of President Ford will begin its journey to the place where it's going to be memorialized this morning, the National Cathedral. And our Chief National Correspondent John King has that part of the story.

Good morning, John.


It is a majestic cathedral, the National Cathedral here in Washington. And it is here today that the nation will say farewell to the 38th president of the United States, Gerald R. Ford. He, of course, has been as you noted, lying in state at the capitol throughout the weekend. Thousands going by to pay their last respects to President Ford over the weekend. Later this morning there will be a cannon salute at the capitol, the procession will make it's way past the White House. And the president will come here, President Ford, for the final memorial service here in Washington. And 3,700 people will be on hand. This is an invitation-only event, members of the public cannot attend.

Among those on hand, though, dignitaries from around the world, dignitaries from the Ford administration; and, of course, present-day members of political Washington, friends of the family as well.

The president's son, jack, will speak. His daughter, Susan, will speak at the service here. Also speaking will be the 41st President of the United States George Herbert Walker Bush, who was ambassador to China and the CIA director back in the Ford administration; Henry Kissinger, the secretary of State, at the time, will speak at this service. And the current president, the 43rd president of the United States, George W. Bush, will also pay a final farewell to President Ford here.

President Bush visited the capitol yesterday and also took time to have a moment of private reflection with Betty Ford who, of course, will be on hand for the service here today, the former first lady in Washington for the weekend. Again, 3,700 people on hand for the ceremony.

And, Soledad, I just read through the prayers. A solemn service, but also quite a simple service, all the prayers chosen, of course, by the Ford family reflecting the character of the 38th president of the United States. And after the service here in Washington, later this morning, it will be one last procession here for Mr. Ford, out to Andrews Air Force Base and off to his final resting place in Grand Rapids, Michigan, back home -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: A simple service seems very fitting for the man, who everyone, from his biographers to his friends described him as a very simple sort of man.

John King of us this morning. Thanks, John.

Of course, you want to stay with CNN for complete coverage of the services for the former President Ford. Wolf Blitzer will join us at 8:30 a.m. Eastern Time, for the procession to the National Cathedral. Then at 9:00 a.m. Eastern, preparation for the state funeral for President Ford on a special edition of "The Situation Room".

ROBERTS: Breaking news that we continue to follow, there are now conflicting reports, just coming in, from Indonesia. Reuters says officials there now say reports that a missing jetliner was found are just plane wrong. The plane disappeared Monday during a storm; 102 people were on board. Earlier reports said that rescuers had found the aircraft and 12 people were actually alive.

And in Thailand, no claim of responsibility yet for the eight bomb blasts that killed three and wounded 38 others on New Year's Eve. The prime minister, who took over in September after a military coup in Thailand, is blaming politicians who lost power in that coup. In Iraq the execution of Saddam Hussein is fueling new fears about a deadly surge in sectarian violence. Here's what's new this morning.

Growing numbers of Sunni-Arabs are now protesting Hussein's execution. They are outraged by a newly released video of the executioners heard praising Shiite Cleric Muqtada al Sadr. Hussein's former Baath Party is now urging Iraqis to avenge the execution by attacking Shiites and American forces.

Also this morning, American troops raided a suspected insurgent safe house, killing six Sunnis. CNN's Ryan Chilcote is live in Baghdad for us and joins us with the very latest on all of this.

Good morning to you, Ryan.

RYAN CHILCOTE, CNN INT'L. CORRESPONDENT, AMERICAN MORNING: Good morning, John. The Iraqi police tell us they've already found 15 bodies today, all of these dumped in the Iraqi capital in a Sunni neighborhood.

All of them likely the victims of those sectarian death squads you hear so much about. That news coming in just as Iraqis fear that Saddam's execution, and how it was handled by the Iraqi government, may only deepen the sectarian divide in Iraq.


CHILCOTE (voice over): Sunni anger over Saddam's execution poured into the streets Monday.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We give our condolences to the Islamic nation, and the Prophet Mohammed's nation with the death of the mujahid (ph), Saddam Hussein. Mercy be upon him.

CHILCOTE: The protesters are not only angry about the execution, they're angry about the timing as Sunnis prepared for the most important Muslim holiday of the year, and they're angry about how it was carried out.

Iraqi Sunnis watched this leaked video in horror as Saddam was taunted by Shiite witnesses.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Muqtada, Muqtada, Muqtada!

CHILCOTE: Yelling the name of the radical Shiite cleric who the U.S. and Sunnis blame for running death squads that target Sunnis. An Iraqi official says the U.S. asked Iraq's Shiite-led government to delay the execution for two weeks, concerned it would look rushed and vengeful. But the hanging went on as scheduled, ending with some witnesses dancing around Saddam's body shouting more Shiite slogans.

Iraq's government now says it will investigate what happened in the execution chamber, but that is unlikely to placate Sunni anger that now spreads beyond Iraq. Saddam's eldest daughter, Rahad (ph), appeared at a demonstration in the neighboring country of Jordan, where she lives in exile. Some Sunnis vow they will now work to punish the Iraqi government.


CHILCOTE: John, the U.S. military is reporting the death of another U.S. soldier. They say he was killed yesterday, just south of Baghdad out on a out on patrol to talk to Iraqis about sectarian violence. That makes -- that fatality is the first fatality reported by the U.S. military for 2007, John.

ROBERTS: And somehow the pace of death among American service members just keeps accelerating this year. Ryan Chilcote, thanks very much.


S. O'BRIEN: In South Africa this morning, Oprah delivers a promise, opening her leadership academy for girls. Now, today is the first day of school for 152 girls at the academy, which is outside of Johannesburg. CNN's Jeff Koinange is on Henley-On-Klip with an exclusive look inside.

Good morning, Jeff.


The official opening ceremony is under way. Oprah on stage, along with her 152 hand-picked girls. A whole host of celebrities, including -- and dignitaries -- including former South Africa President Nelson Mandela, and Hollywood's finest. We'll get to that in a moment.

But we're sitting on about 52 acres of land, right here; 28 campus buildings to house 152 girls initially, going on to about 450, a dream Oprah has been having for more than half a decade.


KOINANGE (voice over): Oprah's been coming to South Africa for the past several years, determined to fulfill a promise she made to former President Nelson Mandela, of Madeba (ph) to most here.

OPRAH WINFREY, TALK SHOW HOST: So I said to Madeba (ph), I would like to build a school, and I would like to commit $10 million. This was five years ago. And he said "Yes?"

KOINANGE: And just like that, the two broke ground for a girls school just outside Johannesburg, in what began as a $10 million project. It's since grown to $40 million and counting.

WINFREY: The dream for me was to create a school that I would most want to attend. So from the very beginning, I sat down with architects and I said we have to have a library and a fireplace, so the girls can -- it can be a place of learning as well as living for them.

We have to have a theater because this is a school for leaders. In order to be a leader, you have to have a voice. To have a voice, you need oration (ph). So, the idea for the school came about by based on what I felt would be an honor for the African girls.

KOINANGE: And all this for free, free uniforms, free books, free meals. Everything is free at Oprah's school.



KOINANGE: Oprah insisted on personally interviewing all the prospective students from schools around the country. Her requirements were simple, the girls had to have better than average grades and they had to come from underprivileged homes, much like she did.

WINFREY: I look in their faces and I see my own. With girls who came from a background just like my own. I was raised by a grandmother, no running water, no electricity, but, yet, because of a sense of education and learning, I was able to become who I am. And I want to do the same for these girls.

So I think there's no better place than Africa. Because the sense of need, the sense of value for education and appreciation for it could not be greater.


KOINANGE: No better place than Africa, according to Oprah, Soledad. And a short while ago, the official ribbon-cutting ceremony. Oprah, walking out of a building, accompanied by a half a dozen of the girls in the school, wearing their green uniform that Oprah herself picked. They cut that ribbon, officially opening the school. After that, a flag-raising ceremony.

And in that ceremony, you could see a teardrop literally going down Oprah's cheek, as she was feeling the moment, as was everybody present.

In a press conference held earlier on, there was a whole bunch of questions asked by journalists, one of them in particular, journalists asking whether this school is open to one particular race alone?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There was a bit of people who were not happy that you were only choosing black girls. What are you saying to appease the white people of this country about their own white girls?

WINFREY: I don't think I have to appease the white people of this country, first of all. But this school is open to all girls who are disadvantaged, all girls, all races who are disadvantaged.


KOINANGE: No doubt about that. The celebrities who are available, on hand, for this mammoth event, if you will, everyone from Spike Lee to Chris Tucker, Sidney Poitier, Mariah Carey, a whole host of Hollywood's finest, here to celebrate with Oprah.

I actually asked her, what does this mean bringing all these people 10,000 miles away for this ceremony? What are you trying to tell them? She turned to me and she said I'm not trying to tell them anything. I just want them to join in the celebrations. If they want to contribute, that's up to them, but for now, I want them to join with me and be happy for the girls of the future, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Hey, Jeff, let me ask you a big question. Was that a big issue in South Africa, was it a big issue that there was a perception that white girls, even disadvantaged white girls, were not being allowed at this school?

KOINANGE: Well, look, you have to look at this country. It's only 12 years since independence. And it was such a racially divided country. And there is still a lot of racism in this country. So, yes, that question did come up. But you heard the answer. Oprah answered it really well, very clearly. She said that as long as they are disadvantaged, that's the core group that she's going for, people who have one-parent homes, people who have no parent, who are orphans. So long they're straight-A students, smart and the exhibit leadership qualities, that's what she's looking for, regardless of age, color, creed or background -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Jeff Koinange for us this morning. Tank you, Jeff. Looks like a pretty remarkable ceremony.

Well, here's a question for you. Were you digging out of the snow or were you basking in the warm sun over the New Year's weekend? Been kind of crazy weather, hasn't it. Bitter cold for some people. Unseasonably warm for other people. We'll take a closer look straight ahead when AMERICAN MORNING continues. Stay with us.


ROBERTS: It's 15 minutes now after the hour. Time to get a check of the forecast. Chad Myers at the CNN Weather Center.


S. O'BRIEN: As we have been reporting, today is a National Day of Mourning in honor of former President Gerald Ford. President Bush is going to deliver the eulogy. Senior Political Correspondent Candy Crowley has more on that, and also a little bit on President Bush's New Year's agenda as well.

Candy, nice to see you, as always.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, AMERICAN MORNING: Good to see you. O'BRIEN: You know, it was interesting, when I was talking to James Cannon, who was not only an advisor, as you well know, but a biographer, for President Ford. He said the biggest and most important thing Ford did was to help heal a nation. Would you agree with that assessment?

CROWLEY: Absolutely. Look at the just the decade before President Ford stepped into office. You had the assassination of Bobby Kennedy. You had the assassination of Martin Luther King. You had the Vietnam war. You had a president, really, that was forced to not run again, Lyndon Johnson. Then you had Watergate, so there was turbulence and all this sort of sense of the country kind of roiling all the time.

So, in steps this Midwesterner, this sort of calm presence. It wasn't just what he did, it was kind of what he was; which was this basic, average, common man in the best sense of the word. And just his very presence sort of turned the page on something that was new and different and calming.

O'BRIEN: In kind (ph), you have a guy, who was speaker of the House, but then was made vice president, then was made, you know, president. And he never seemed to lose that regular guy, as you put it, or humble -- there's been a sort of litany of words people have used to describe a guy who didn't seem to seek the limelight. Do you think his path is part of the reason why?

CROWLEY: Absolutely. I think he came from a place, Michigan, and before that, Nebraska, where, you know, they teach those, you know, common core values. He also sort of came after Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, these sort of outsized personalities, these people with some real problems, as we saw with Richard Nixon; so just the contrast itself was pretty amazing, and sort of reassuring to the nation.

O'BRIEN: The pardon, of course, was what many people look back on and now say it was the right thing to do. At the time, it didn't seem that way at all, in fact. And he was highly criticized, from both sides, really. Do you think it's just because time has passed? Is it because things have worked out well? Is it because Ford showed almost a genius in doing that, that the rest of the country didn't see?

CROWLEY: I think history is always a much better arbiter of what was good and what was bad for the nation. So, obviously, enough time has passed since 1974 to give people a perspective.

You had a previous guest who said, look, not only was this good for the nation, it was good for Gerald Ford. It would be hard for him to take command while there was a sideshow going on, of a former president involved in a trial. What this did was sort of clean the slate, which is what President Ford wanted to do; was sort of take it off the table and move on.

So, obviously, a lot of things look genius 30 years down the line, but he's received a number of awards, Profiling in Courage, as you know, came for that very act. So, in retrospect, what may have caused him the election certainly did save the nation from another three, four, five years, however long the judicial system would have looked at what President Nixon did or did not do.

O'BRIEN: Candy Crowley for us this morning. Thank you, Candy.


O'BRIEN: John.

ROBERTS: Coming up, a new year, but will it be the same story for the U.S. housing market? Ali Velshi has some answers. He's "Minding Your Business" for you today.

Plus, important news if you're expecting. A test once limited to older moms-to-be now recommended for all pregnant women. Doctor Sanjay Gupta has that, ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


ROBERTS: With the U.S. death toll in Iraq now above the 3,000 mark, CNN is looking a closer look at the people behind those numbers and the individual stories of "Valor & Sacrifice". CNN's Tom Foreman looks at some of them in a special report tonight, "Ambush at the River of Secrets". And Tom joins us now with a preview.

Morning to you, Tom.


This is really a fairly extraordinary story. It is something that we ran across a few months ago. It's a story of four young Marines who were caught up in a single incident in Iraq that took all of their lives. There's simply no way that we can tell the story of all 3,000 people out there, but we when we ran across this one, we thought it could be a fitting tribute to all these young people who have served, and are serving, as we speak right now, so bravely over there, in this war.

No matter what you think of the war, they're over there doing this job and it's very difficult.

These four young people, Jesse Strong, Chris Weaver, Jonathan Bowling, and as you'll see in this excerpt, one fairly late arrival, a young man named Karl Linn.


FOREMAN (voice over): When a slightly built quiet young man named Karl Linn transfers to the platoon, Weaver writes in his journal again, "I asked to have him in my fire team because I wanted some young lackey that would follow my orders without any complaining. But Linn is good at much more than grunt work. It is quickly apparent Linn knows more about one thing than anyone else."

STAFF SGT. BUTCH DREANY, CHARLIE COMPANY: Weapons. He became just infatuated with just weapons in general, especially foreign weapons, which became an asset being in Iraq because Karl already knew how to break down most weapons that we found. I would look at it and just go, "Hey, Linn, here you go."

FOREMAN (on camera): That's a pretty valuable guy to have.

DREANY: Oh, absolutely.

FOREMAN (voice over): Linn comes from near Richmond and was studying engineering at Virginia Commonwealth when he was activated.

DICK LINN, KARL LINN'S FATHER: He was always writing in the margins or doodling somehow.

FOREMAN: His father, Dick, has notebooks filled with his son's drawings and inventions.

D. LYNN: A random collection of things, haven't sorted through all the papers and all the good stuff.

FOREMAN: Karl had helped his school establish a robotics team and was fascinated with the idea of joining the rough-and-ready Marines, unusual for a young man from a Buddhist home.

D. LYNN: I think the idea appealed to him, you know, if you're going to do something, then do the toughest thing. Maybe it was for his own self-esteem or self-discipline. I know he wanted to pay society back for what he'd been given. He felt an obligation to help serve the country.

STAFF SGT. MIKE SPANO, CHARLIE COMPANY: He volunteered for everything. Within a week or two, you couldn't even tell that he was new.


FOREMAN: A little sense of the kind of young men we're talking about here, these four young men caught in this one terrible ambush. In the show we have video of the actual ambush that night, what happened to them, the whole terrible story.

But, more importantly, the inspiration that these young people have brought to this nation; it is well, well worth seeing for that alone, John.

ROBERTS: And Tom, you and I have talked about this in the past, and the way they died was just an incredible stroke of bad luck. We'll save that for this evening. Tom, thank you very much.

You can catch the rest of this report tonight at 10:00 a.m. Eastern on a special edition of "Anderson Cooper 360"; it is called "Ambush at the River of Secrets".


O'BRIEN: Time to update our business report. Ali Velshi is "Minding Your Business" at 25 minutes past the hour.

Good morning, Ali.


We're having a look at what 2007 is going to hold, and a lot of that has to do with the housing market. Numbers we have indicate that the housing -- average price of a house in the U.S. is going to be probably a little higher than it was a year ago.

Mortgage rates, just about 6 percent, put them around where they were a year ago, which indicates the housing market will probably perform well in 2007. Most people who have been forecasting, who have been asked to forecast about this say, probably will, some say the market hasn't bottomed out.

That plays a big role in how the economy generally is going to do and how your investments are going to do in 2007. It depends on interest rates, and interest rates depend on inflation. Now if inflation largely stays under control, the Fed doesn't keep increasing interest rates.

Now, take a look at what happened earlier this year. About mid year, the Fed gave up -- the red line is interest rates -- the Fed gave up on increasing interest rates, ending at $5.25 percent. And see what stock markets did, when the Fed stopped raising interest rates, the market shot up about 1500 points, closing at record levels, around 12,500 points.

So, we want to look at inflation, inflation depends on oil, wages, house prices, things like that. Those are the things to look at in this coming year. But most economists polled say that 2007 is going to be a strong year, Soledad. We'll, of course, be on top of that every morning.

O'BRIEN: We're all watching it. All right. Thank you, Ali.

Top stories straight ahead this morning. The latest on the search for the wreckage of the plane in Indonesia carrying 102 people. Three Americans are reported on board.

Out West, they're digging out of the snow. Back East, there are trees that are blooming. A study in climate contrasts and the reasons behind it when AMERICAN MORNING returns.



S. O'BRIEN: Thousands of Americans, some famous, some not famous, have filed past the body of former President Ford, lying in state at the Capitol Rotunda. And adding to that poignant scene is the Ford family taking time to personally thanks those who've been coming by.

AMERICAN MORNING's Bob Franken with more on this pretty extraordinary American family, and yet ordinary in so many ways.

Good morning to you, Bob.


And we saw the very touching scene last night of Betty Ford and members of her family paying final respects in the Capitol Rotunda. The contrast is what is so remarkable here between all the pomp and ceremony that goes with a state funeral and the common touch.


FRANKEN (voice-over): For the sons and daughters of a president, normal is still a family value, so it should come as no surprise that Gerald Ford's children spent time mingling with the average citizens who came to pay respects. Those who occupied the highest levels with Ford say the down-to-earth approach always set him apart.

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRES. OF THE UNITED STATES: The achievements added all his life, yet he was known to boast only about one. I heard it once or twice myself. He said he was never luckier than when he stepped out of Grace Episcopal church in Grand Rapids with a beautiful girl named Betty as his bride.

FRANKEN: Gerald and Betty Ford were married for 58 years, certainly a solid couple, even though both asserted their own individuality. Betty Ford, outspoken and candid, who turned her own problems into the Betty Ford Clinic, that have helped so many thousands with addictions. Only recently did she turn the day-to-day operations over to her daughter, Susan. is also a photographer. One son is a minister. Another a journalist. The other, an actor. This is a family of extraordinary achievement that doesn't put on airs. Just ask first lady Betty Ford's press secretary about her first job interview.

SHEILA WEIDENFIELD, BETTY FORD'S PRESS SECY.: She came down in her robe, and we talked and she said -- I said to her, well, what would you like me to do as a press secretary? Because I had no idea what she expected of me. So she said to me, well, how should I know? I don't know what I'm supposed to do.

FRANKEN: That informality overshadows these formal ceremonies for President Gerald Ford.

WEIDENFIELD: The Fords considered themselves simple folk, and there was no way they were going to change. The first thing Betty Ford said to me was, you can't teach an old dog new tricks.


FRANKEN: After the Nixon presidency, the Fords brought a new style to the White House. It was actually the old style, which was badly need at that time -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Bob Franken for us this morning. Thank you, Bob. And of course, you want to stay with CNN for complete coverage of the services for former President Ford. Wolf Blitzer is going to join us at 8:30 a.m. Eastern Time for the procession to the national cathedral. Then at 9:00 a.m., preparations for the state funeral for President Ford on a special edition of "THE SITUATION ROOM" -- John.

ROBERTS: All right. Turning to the severe winter weather out West, Colorado authorities say concerns about stranded travelers are diminishing, and rescue efforts now are focused on helping stranded cattle.

Major General Mason Whitney is the commander of the Colorado National Guard. He's at the Guard's joint operation center in Centennial (ph), Colorado, joins us this morning.

Major Whitney, Major General Whitney, how bad is it out there, and how does it compare to things that you've seen in the past?

MAJ. GEN. MASON WHITNEY, COLORADO NATL. GUARD: Well, John, compared to what I've seen in the past, this is probably the worst I've seen down in the southeastern section of Colorado in terms of impassable roads and in terms of drifting snow, that really creates a huge challenge for those rescuers, as well as for those folks trying to resupply either the shelters that we have set up throughout the area, or trying to get some food into those cattle that right now are having some pretty serious problems.

ROBERTS: How deep was the snow? How bad was the drifting?

WHITNEY: We had anywhere between five and 15-foot drifts across roads. You go out into the plains areas, and where the cattle are, you could have even higher drifts than that.

ROBERTS: How many motorists were stuck in the snow, and do you believe that you've gotten to them all now?

WHITNEY: Well, we think we've reached every motorist who was stranded. We have done ground searches, as well as airborne searches. And right now we think we've reached everyone who needed to be reached.

ROBERTS: Some of them didn't want to be rescued, I understand.

WHITNEY: Well, there were some truckers that had some pretty expensive cargo, and they were reluctant to leave that cargo, and so they had food and they had water, and they could survive with their trailers that they had in the trucks, so obviously, we made sure that they were well taken care of, and we would check back with them to make sure they were still there. But yes, as a matter, there were folks who didn't want to be rescued.

ROBERTS: And, General Whitney, you mentioned that your efforts are focusing now on stranded livestock. This big blizzard back in 1997 killed 30,000 head of cattle, a $28 million loss. What are you doing to try to help out the cattle who are stuck out there in the snow? WHITNEY: Well, of course, that's our big concern. We don't want that to happen again. And what we've done is have deployed several of our tactical vehicles, tactical trucks down to the Pueblo, La Junta And Lamar areas to haul hay down to the those areas that we can get to. and then for those areas that we can't get to, that have impassable roads, we have seven helicopters that will be used in that process.

Now we also have most of our helicopters here in Colorado, they're over in Iraq right now, so we've had to go to Oklahoma and ask for support from them. So Oklahoma is sending some of the large tactical helicopters, a large tactical helicopter from Oklahoma to help us out with that.

ROBERTS: Well, good that everybody's chipping in, and good luck to you in your efforts. Major General Jason Whitney, with the Colorado National Guard, I appreciate you being with us this morning.

WHITNEY: Thanks, John.

ROBERTS: So harsh weather in the west, mild in the east, extremes on both sides. Did the Farmer's Almanac see it coming? Sandy Duncan is the managing editor. She is with us now from Washington, New Jersey.

And, Sandy, this huge contrast between the west and the east, what's causing it?

SANDY DUNCAN, THE FARMER'S ALMANAC: Well, you know, the "2007 Farmers' Almanac," we had said that it would be shivery is not dead. We expected a lot of cold and rough conditions in the northern plains and the Central Rockies. But I think El Nino is the cause of the mild weather on the East Coast. It's kind of keeping it more mild on the east and wet, but it's bring not guilty a lot of storms for the Northern Plains and the Central Rockies.

ROBERTS: I want to talk a little bit more about El Nino in a second. But first of all, let's go to one of the maps that you published in the "2007 Farmers' Almanac" and take a look at how you've been scoring so far. It looks like you got the weather out west pretty well, cold and snowy in the northwest, chilly and wet in the southwest, frigidly cold across the Plain States, cold down in Texas. You get east of the Mississippi though, and it's whoops. Did you blow it?

DUNCAN: I don't think we blew it. You know, the Farmers' Almanac makes its long-range weather predictions two years in advance. So we can't predict that an El Nino would be coming. You know, we do our best. We base our predictions on a mathematical and astronomical formula. This El Nino -- I still don't think winter is over in the East. I think it hasn't arrived yet. I think hold on, we're predicting some snowier and colder conditions in February and March.

So you know, you've got to give us credit. We try to do it two years in advance, and so far, so good. I don't think winter is over in the east. I think it hasn't arrived yet. I think hold on, we're predicting snowier and colder conditions in February and March. You've got to give us credit. We try to do it two years in advance, and so far, so good.

ROBERTS: OK, we want to bring up a graphic of the current position of the El Nina. It's that pool of warm water off the coast of Peru that slides over from the Western Pacific. You can see it there. It's the lighter color of red. That seems to be subsiding somewhat, and the winds are beginning to blow offshore now. Could that potentially portend a weakening of the El Nino, and could that suddenly plunge the Northeast into a colder winter?

DUNCAN: Well, you know, like I said, the "2007 Farmers' Almanac" said shivery is not dead. In the North Plains and the Central Rockies will tell you that their winter is rougher than it was last year. And you know, Winter is still young; it's only 12 days old. So I would say hold tight. January, we didn't predict a lot of snow on the East Coast, but in February we have two storms predicted, and the beginning of March. So unfortunately sometime with El Nino winters, on the East Coast, it's a little more mild at the beginning of the winter, but towards the end, that's when the snow and the colder conditions hits.

ROBERTS: That's what I was telling my colleague, Soledad O'Brien here -- I said I think it's going to be mild through sort of the middle of February, and then an abnormally cold spring, and it's not going to warm up till May, so I'm kind of there with you on it.

Sandy Duncan of "The Farmer's Almanac," thanks very much. Appreciate you being with us -- Soledad.

DUNCAN: Thanks a lot, John.

O'BRIEN: You didn't tell her what I said back, which was you're not a meteorologist, but Chad is, and we'll check in with Chad in just a little bit.

Also ahead this morning, if you're pregnant, a test that used to just be for older moms is now being recommended to all moms.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta is going to stop by to talk to us about that.

And take a look at this videotape. They say lucky to be alive, sometimes too much. But no, I think this guy really lucky to be alive. Look at that. Not a drive-thru before that car came through. Kind of became one. Details on what happened in Massachusetts, straight ahead. Stay with us.




O'BRIEN: And then there's new news important for pregnant women, new guidelines actually if you're pregnant when it comes to testing for down syndrome.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta is going to pay a house call to us, coming up next.

And then Oprah in Africa. The queen of talk keeps her promise and brings a new school and likely a new chance for some young girls there. That's story and much more as AMERICAN MORNING continues.

Stay with us.



O'BRIEN: Also ahead with Sanjay, we're talking about new guidelines for mothers to be. Doctors are saying all pregnant women should be screened for down syndrome, not just women over the age of 35, which is what the recommendations are right now.

Chief correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta is at the CNN center in Atlanta.

Good morning, Sanjay.

Why the change?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SR. MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's interesting. You know, there've been some guidelines out for some time, as you point out, actually from the American college of obstetricians and gynecologists, saying that women over the age of 35 should be screened. What they have found, to answer your question, is that the screening tests now have become so good and noninvasive that they think that they should be offered to all women, regardless of age.

A couple of points, down syndrome, first of all, tricemy (ph) 21. That's the name for it. It actually means that you have too many copies of a single chromosome, the 21 chromosome. You've got three copies of it. A lot of times that can be associated with mental retardation in a child, also congenital heart defects, which can shorten a child's life. Oftentimes that extra chromosome incidentally comes from the dad. What they have found that women, as they advance in age, become more likely to have a child with down syndrome.

So you know, at age 25, you're one in 1250, but goes up to one in 100 by age 40. For a long time, the only test that you could really use to test for this was an amniocentesis, which is putting a needle actually into the amniotic sack and taking some fluid out. That in and of itself carried some risk, about one in 200 chance of having a miscarriage, and that's why at the age of 35, they say the risk of that tests, the risk of having a child with down syndrome started to approximate each other. That's why they came up with this arbitrary number of 35. Now they're saying, you know what, we can do this noninvasively; it's very effective, let's screen all women to find out if a woman has a child with down syndrome.

O'BRIEN: So it's -- the accuracy is really, really good with these? I remember they were doing trials on them actually when I was pregnant. I was part of one of those trials, where they would measure the back of the neck of the fetus, right? That's one of the ways.

GUPTA: You're looking at it right there, exactly what you said. That arrow was just pointing to what they call the nucal (ph) thickness. You're exactly right, Soledad, that's the thickness of the back of the neck muscles, which is a pretty good predictor of a fetus that might have down syndrome.

One thing to point out, this is still a screening test, as opposed to an amniocentesis, which is a diagnostic test. That's going to tell you for sure whether or not there was actually three of those 21 chromosomes. But what they say with the screening test is a combination of three blood tests raises the screening effectiveness to about 70 percent. You add that ultrasound you were just talking about, and it's over 90 percent, so it's very good. And again, you're doing this in the first trimester. So you know pretty early on in the pregnancy whether or not the child has down syndrome.

O'BRIEN: Let me ask you a really quick question, Sanjay, which is I thought there was a link to the age of the father. So why even -- why not do tests for the men?

GUPTA: This is an age-old debate. I remember talking about this with my professors when I was in medical school. Again, you're right. Typically that third copy of the chromosome often comes from men. And what they found was that the men over the age of 50 was much more likely to actually contribute an extra copy of the chromosome. It's -- with women, they have these set guidelines, they have the age in terms of when they find the babies actually will have down syndrome.

But you're right, people talk about the fact that if a man is over 50, they should probably do the guidelines as well, impose the guidelines and do the screening tests. It's going to happen with all people now, it sounds like, anyway.

O'BRIEN: It's good news that they're having better screening certainly for pregnant women.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, I wish I talked to you when I was pregnant more. You're so helpful. I'm not even having a baby, and I feel better.

Thanks Sanjay, as always -- John.

GUPTA: Thank you.

ROBERTS: There's always the future, the next time.



Coming up, Oprah delivers on a promise, and some famous friends show up to help her open up a leadership academy for girls in South Africa. We've got an exclusive look inside.

And protests spilling into the streets over Saddam Hussein's final moments, a live report from Baghdad ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.