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American Morning

Sailor Rescued Off Coast of Chile; President Changes Generals in Iraq

Aired January 05, 2007 - 07:00   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR, AMERICAN MORNING: Breaking news this morning, that American sailor who's been stranded hundreds of miles off the coast of Chili is safe. We've got the incredible details of his overnight rescue. Live report straight ahead.
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR, AMERICAN MORNING: White House shakeup. President Bush changing up his war strategy, changing out the generals who have led the fight.

O'BRIEN: City of heroes, two more New Yorkers spring into action to save a life. This time it's a toddler who they caught, when he fell off a fire escape.

ROBERTS: And ghost riders, teens risking their lives ditching the wheel for cheap thrills on moving cars. The alarming video on this AMERICAN MORNING.

O'BRIEN: Welcome back everybody. It's Friday, January 5th. I'm Soledad O'Brien in New York this morning.

Hey, John.

ROBERTS: Hey, good morning, Soledad. I'm John Roberts in our Washington bureau in for Miles O'Brien. Thanks for joining us. And it's the rare Friday when we get a lot of good news coming our way, but we've got it here, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: So much good news. Where to begin -- almost is -- let's begin with the big story, this rescue at sea. Search teams have reached 47-year-old Ken Barnes. Happened just a couple of hours ago. He'd been stranded on his boat, which was completely torn apart. Boat is called the "Privateer."

Barnes was attempting sail around the world and he set off from Long Beach, California. But he ran into a storm as he got close to Cape Horn, which is 500 miles off the coast of Chile. AMERICAN MORNING's Chris Lawrence is in Newport Beach, California.

The family, who looked so, obviously, just devastated in the middle of the week, when it was really unclear what the ending would be. They've got to be just joyful this morning, Chris.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT, AMERICAN MORNING: Soledad, the family told me, when they first heard the news a couple hours ago, they almost didn't want to get their hopes up. Now that it's been confirmed, they are just ecstatic. And they just cannot wait to get him back on dry land.


LAWRENCE (voice over): When a surveillance plane spotted Ken Barnes' boat, he was stranded some 500 miles off the coast of Chile, the southern tip of South America in an area called, The Graveyard.

JUNE DEE LINN, KEN BARNES' MOTHER: It's no fun knowing your son is out there. There's nothing you can do.

LAWRENCE: The boat was taking on water, his food supply, soaked.

(On camera): Barnes had hoped to go down in the records books as the first sailor from the West Coast to navigate the world alone.

(Voice over): He set out for this Long Beach marina at the end of October. Barnes headed south, past Mexico and Peru. But on New Year's Eve, he sailed into a horrible storm that left him bleeding from a severe gouge.

CATHY CHAMBERS, KEN BARNES GIRLFRIEND: I don't know where it is on his leg, but it's down to the bone.

LAWRENCE: The engine blew and the storm destroyed his mast and steering wheel. The Chilean navy honed in on his emergency beacon. And with his satellite phone losing power, Barnes dialed home for quick calls.


LAWRENCE: For days, his family prayed he'd be rescued before another storm moved in.

KENNETH BARNES, SR., KEN BARNES FATHER: And we're going to do that. It's not time for this love affair to be over.

BRITTNEY BARNES, KEN BARNES DAUGHTER: And he's going to be happy that he tried for his goal, but kind of disappointed that he didn't get through with it.


LAWRENCE: Yes, this was a life long dream for Ken Barnes. To pay for the trip, he sold a swimming pool business that he had built from the ground up 20 years ago. But his family thinks, you know, once he takes one look at them again, and is back here at home, that disappointment is going to go away real fast, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: I bet. He's just lucky and happy to be alive this morning. Chris Lawrence live for us this morning in Newport Beach, in California. Thank you, Chris.

Coming up at the bottom of the hour, we're going to talk to Ken Barnes' twin daughters about all this good news. Their father rescued at sea. It's coming up in just about 30 minutes right here on AMERICAN MORNING -- John. ROBERTS: Nice when you get a news story once in a while.

Now to the fight for Iraq and some changes that President Bush is making to his military leadership. According to wire reports President Bush wants to replace CENTCOM General John Abizaid with Admiral William Fallon. He's currently the top U.S. commander in the Pacific. And Lieutenant General David Petraeus is expected to replace General George Casey as the chief general on the ground in Iraq.

Meanwhile, Bush administration officials tell CNN that the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad is the leading candidate to replace John Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations. And later on today, retired Admiral Mike McConnell is expected to replace John Negroponte as director of National Intelligence. Negroponte has gone over to the State Department to be Condoleezza Rice's number two.

The shakeup comes as President Bush readies his new plan for Iraq later on today. He's expected to meet with top lawmakers to go over the details. White House Correspondent Suzanne Malveaux is live from Washington and joins us now.

Suzanne, what's the president expected to tell them?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, AMERICAN MORNING: John, you're certainly right. The president wants his new team in place before he unveils his plan. What we expect from the president is that -- despite the fact the White House is not giving these details -- Pentagon sources saying expect him to announce a troop surge, U.S. troops, in the number of 20,000 to 40,000, perhaps leaning toward the lower number there, to be called to go into Baghdad and other parts of Iraq to try to secure the country.

The president is engaged in what he continues to call consultations. As you said, he has invited key Democrats in this debate, Senators Ben Nelson, Mary Landrieu and Blanche Lincoln, to come to the White House and discuss this.

Another very important development was yesterday when the president reached out to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in a video teleconference telephone call. IT lasted about two hours or so. The president saying that both of them came to the understanding, the same definition of victory, and the importance of security being the number one priority.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'll be ready to outline a strategy that will help the Iraqis achieve the objective of a country that can govern, sustain, and defend itself, some time next week. I've still got consultations to go through. Whatever decision I make, though, will be all aimed at achieving our objective.


MALVEAUX: And, John, here's what we're expecting next week. The president, White House officials, will reach out to members of Congress to conduct courtesy calls, to tell them about the president's plan, when he finally makes the decisions and actually signs those orders. And then it is expected, very likely, the president will address the nation prime time on Wednesday to lay out his plan to the American people, John.

ROBERTS: We'll keep watching. Suzanne Malveaux at the White House for us this morning. Thanks very much.


O'BRIEN: It was an historic first day in power. The new House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is now stressing partnership, not partisanship for the Democratically led House. CNN's Andrea Koppel live on Capitol Hill for us this morning.

Good morning, Andrea.


Well, it was a sight we hadn't seen for a dozen years. For the first time since 1994, Democrats gaveled both the House and the Senate to order. For one of those Democrats holding the gavel, California Democrat Nancy Pelosi, it was an historic moment.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To the first woman speaker in our history, the gentlelady from California, Nancy Pelosi.


KOPPEL (voice over): It was a day for history books.

REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D-CA) SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: For our daughters, and our granddaughters, today we have broken the marble ceiling.

KOPPEL: And surrounded by her grandchildren, with other political pioneers looking on, and a couple celebrities looking down, Speaker Nancy Pelosi became the highest-ranking elected woman in U.S. history; now just two heartbeats away from the presidency. And she wasted no time putting Mr. Bush on notice on Iraq.

PELOSI: The election of 2006 was a call to change. Nowhere were the American people more clear about the need for a new direction than in the war in Iraq.

KOPPEL: On the other side of the capitol, the new Senate majority leader made clear Democrats expected the president's new plan on Iraq to bring U.S. troops home, but he didn't say when.

SEN. HARRY REID, (D-NV) SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: Remove our troops from this civil war.

PELOSI: The House will come to order. KOPPEL: The images of power gained, and power lost, were hard to miss. The longest-serving Republican Speaker Dennis Hastert seemed almost hidden amidst a sea of members. With her 21 seat-majority Speaker Pelosi got down to business right away. Topping her to-do list, passing House rules as soon as this week, banning members from receiving gifts and free travel from lobbyists.

But first, a conference call with the president.

PELOSI: We're calling to give you the good news that this Congress is now fully sworn in and ready to work with you.

BUSH: Well, I'm ready to work with you all. I know it's a tremendous moment for you personally.


KOPPEL: But the real legislative business won't begin until early next week. That's when Democrats will launch their ambitious 100 hours agenda, in which they're going to try to pass everything from boosting the minimum wage to enacting all the remaining 9/11 Commission recommendations. And all of this, Soledad, before the president's State of the Union Address later this month.

O'BRIEN: And the true test of partnership, not partisanship, I guess, will come in the days to follow, as they say Thanks very much for the update, appreciate it.


ROBERTS: Everybody is making nice. I wonder how long that will last?

From subway super man to national superstar, the man behind an incredible rescue in New York City is fighting fame and a whole lot more. Wesley Autrey was given the Bronze Medallion on Thursday, by the New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg. That is the highest honor that a civilian in the city can receive. Autrey also talked to David Letterman last night, where he explained his decision to save a man who had fallen onto the subway tracks.

WESLEY AUTREY, HERO: I took a judgment, and my judgment was right.

DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, LATE NIGHT WITH DAVID LETTERMAN: So, you get on top of the guy, in the trough, and the train comes. And the guy, the conductor, the engineer, who is operating the train, he's braking -- he's sees that there's trouble, but can't stop.

AUTREY: He can't stop. He's tooting his horn. You can hear the brakes screeching.


AUTREY: By the time he came to a stop, five cars grazed over.

LETTERMAN: Five cars.

AUTREY: Five cars went, schook, schook -- then I've got this guy, -- he's steady, you know, I got him locked down. I'm, like, Yo, excuse me, sir, I don't know you, you don't know me.


LETTERMAN: Excuse me, sir. Excuse me, sir?



ROBERTS: So Wesley Autrey, you're a superstar. What are you going to do now? He's going to Disney world. He got a trip for himself and his two little girls bestowed upon him. Donald Trump has promised him ten grand in cash and the MTA is giving him free subway and bus fare for a whole year -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Good for him. Good for him. What a great story.

ROBERTS: I thought they would have given him a lifetime pass, at the very least.

O'BRIEN: Maybe they'll renew it at the end of the year.

ROBERTS: Let's hope.

O'BRIEN: Maybe he'll save another person. Who knows?

Straight ahead, Chad has a weather update for us. And then, continuing, speaking of heroes, New York is a city of heroes this week as two friends save a toddler who was falling from a fourth floor fire escape.

And you don't want to try this at home, seriously. It's a dangerous stunt called ghost riding. Have you heard about it? Coming up on AMERICAN MORNING.


O'BRIEN: Breaking news this morning, the American sailor stranded hundreds of miles off the coast of Chile is safe. Ken Barnes was rescued overnight. We're going to talk to his family in just a few moments.

And just coming in from Iraq this morning, an American citizen has been kidnapped outside the city of Basra. There are wire reports that say gunmen ambushed the man's car, abducted him and his two translators. At this point, it is unclear just the identity of who this American is.

Coming up at a quarter after the hour, it is time to get a look at the "Travelers' Forecast" from Chad at the CNN Weather Center.

(WEATHER REPORT) ROBERTS: It has been a heroic start to the New Year in New York City. Just as the subway savior was being honored Thursday at city hall for his heroism, two quick-thinking men in the Bronx caught a three-year-old boy who was falling from a fourth floor fire escape.


PEDRO JULIO NAVAREZ, SAVED 3-YEAR OLD BOY: I was just hoping and praying that I was going to be able to grab him. So, fortunately, that he was standing right next to me. Because actually he bounced off me, I couldn't get a grip, and he grabbed him.


ROBERTS: He is Julio Gonzalez. The toddler eventually landed in Julio's arms. And Julio joins us now from the scene of his life- saving catch, up in the East Tremont section of the Bronx.

Julio, how are you feeling today?

JULIO GONZALEZ, SAVED 3-YEAR OLD BOY: I'm feeling pretty good. I'm feeling real good. I think it was something nice that my friend did yesterday.

ROBERTS: Yes, I mean, it is just an amazing thing that you managed to catch this young fellow as he was falling.

Let me set the scene here. It was a little after noon. He had crawled out. This is Timothy Atta (ph), three years old, had crawled out of a fifth floor window his babysitter had left open while she was having a smoke. He sort of tumbled down to the fourth floor balcony and grabbed hold. Pick up the scene from there. Tell us what happened, what you saw, what was going on.

GONZALEZ: Well, I was across the street inside the gate, in the parking lot. So I heard a commotion, people screaming, pointing up. When I looked up, I thought it was a toy or something like that. The next thing I know it's a little baby, you know, a three-year-old baby, dangling from the fourth floor.

So, I just like ran across the street, I called to my friend, Yo, just run after me. Next thing we knew I'm under the baby. I told my friend just stay with me. We're going to catch him. He said, Julio, what? I said don't worry about it, we're going to catch him, we're not going to let this baby hit this floor.

Then I had him crazy, going back and forth. I had him running inside the building. Then I said, no come back. Come back, I can't do this by himself. You're going to have to help me, Julio. So, he ran back towards me, right then the baby couldn't hold on no more, so he just started falling down. So, he was falling down straight.

ROBERTS: Oh, my goodness. How long had the baby been holding on there and was he screaming for help as well?

GONZALES: No, he was just crying. He was just crying. He was holding for a minute, or a minute or two. Like I said, it gave me a chance to get under where he was holding. And like I said, when he started coming down, he hit the branches. He was coming straight and then he hit the branches and he started like turning around and stuff.

ROBERTS: Oh, my goodness!

GONZALES: I told my brother -- my friend, you know, this is crazy. We better grab this kid. So we both got in position under the fire escape. As the baby was coming down, he started turning, he went towards my friend, right there. We both tried to catch him, but he bounced off his chest, going toward the floor, and then he like bounced off of him and wound up in my hands. So, then the baby knocked me down.

ROBERTS: Wow, did the fellow that you were with was Pedro Navarez, who we heard from just before we introduced you.

I did a little physical calculation, here. He was 43 pounds, given that he fell probably a little more than 30 feet, he probably hit you guys with an impact of somewhere around 1,000 pounds. Were you surprised just how hard he hit you?

GONZALES: Not really. No, I was just thinking the baby was smaller, man. When he was coming down, my brother -- you know my friend say, Julio, this baby is not small. This is a big baby. You better grab that kid. You better help me grab that kid. Don't let that kid hit that floor. We're going to grab him, we're going to grab him.

ROBERTS: Julio, it's a great thing that you and your buddy Pedro Navarez did. We congratulate you. Our hats off to you, and everybody in New York City, I'm sure is very appreciative as well. Thanks very much for joining us. Appreciate it.

GONZALES: Thank you.

ROBERTS: Straight ahead, a disturbing trend across the country. It's called ghost riding, teens ditching the wheel and going for a dangerous ride. We'll explain here on AMERICAN MORNING


O'BRIEN: Young drivers aren't exactly known for being the most cautious people behind the wheel. now some are trying a new kind of dangerous thrill. It's called ghost riding.

AMERICAN MORNING's Dan Lothian is live in Boston for us this morning.

Good morning, Dan.


Well, the official name is ghost riding the whip. Whip, in case you're not hip, stands for cars. And these young people are doing these stunts in parking lots and out on neighborhood streets, and then they're taking and posting video trophies, if you will, on the Internet.


DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT, (voice over): Ghost riding. Some call it a thrill, an adrenalin rush, but police call it a dangerous stunt. Leaving a car in gear or in neutral while it's still moving, then dancing next to it, on the hood, the roof, or the trunk, before getting back behind the wheel. Sometimes things go wrong.

CAPT. GLEN REWELL, SAN DIEGO COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT: To leave a vehicle completely uncontrolled and to just trust it to nature, if you will, and the forces of nature and physics, is taking "foolish" to new heights.

LOTHIAN: Twenty-five-year-old Vip Patel, who lives in northern California, says he started ghost riding about six months ago.

VIP PATEL, GHOST RIDER: Just saw people doing it, thought it was funny and wanted to try it.

LOTHIAN: His buddies videotaped the ride, then he posted it on MySpace. Patel is hooked.

PATEL: The thrill. Just doing it and, you know, taking the risk, you know. It's dangerous, but, you know, it's fun at the same time.

LOTHIAN: Ghost riding home videos have exploded on Internet sites like YouTube. Some of them mixed with a popular hip hop tune that celebrates this risky ride. It's so widespread, police in places like Stockton, California, and San Diego say it's a disturbing trend.

SGT. JEFF FELLOWS, SAN DIEGO POLICE: Well, hopefully it's a short fad, but it's already proven to lead to injuries and death.

LOTHIAN: Like this video we showed earlier. The driver bails before his truck hits a fire hydrant and crashes into an electric poll. He was lucky. But in Stockton, police say 18-year-old Davender Gulley was killed while performing a stunt out the window of his SUV. Patel says he only pushes his luck so far.

PATEL: Make sure you do it in a controlled environment and keep it safe and don't do anything out of control.

LOTHIAN: But police warn that without anyone behind the wheel, everything is already out of control.


LOTHIAN: Now out in Stockton, they passed an ordinance specifically targeting these kinds of stunts. They've already, according to a police official, telling me they've already impounded some 400 or so vehicles and handed out more than 1,500 citations -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Is this new, Dan? Is this new? LOTHIAN: Yes, well, this level is relatively new. There's been some form of ghost riding -- didn't have a name -- going on for decades. The difference, though, now is that you have this technology, you have the Internet, so it can get out there, everyone sees it, and you know what they want to do? They want to copy it.

O'BRIEN: Of course, they want to copy it, because they saw it ion the Web.

All right, Dan Lothian for us. I hope you didn't have to try any of that for your reporting.

LOTHIAN: I did not try it.

O'BRIEN: Glad to hear that, because we like you safe or sound.


ROBERTS: Top stories ahead, including some breaking news off the coast of Chile, and it's good news, that American sailor injured, stranded and adrift at sea is now safe and sound. We'll talk live with his girls, his twin daughters and his girlfriend coming up.

Plus, disturbing results, new crash tests for infant car seats, information that could save your child's life, ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


O'BRIEN: Developing story, a sailor from California stranded hundreds of miles off the coast of Chile is rescued overnight. We're going to talk to his overjoyed family straight ahead this morning.

ROBERTS: Twister touchdown, a deadly storm roars through the south over night. Tornado warnings out right now.

O'BRIEN: And a failing grade for some of the top infant car seats on the market. We'll tell you what parents need to know, straight ahead on this AMERICAN MORNING.

Welcome back everybody. It's Friday, January 5th. I'm Soledad O'Brien.

ROBERTS: And I'm John Roberts in our Washington bureau, in for Miles O'Brien. Thanks very much for joining us. A lot happening this morning, beginning with President Bush making changes in his military team in Iraq. Top commander for U.S. troops will be General David Petraeus, replacing General George Casey. Admiral William Fallon is expected to replace General John Abizaid as head of the central command, the first time a Navy man has been tapped for that job.

Another winter storm heading for Colorado, up to seven inches of snow is forecast for Denver. They're going to get some in the mountains as well. The Denver area still not fully recovered from the back-to-back blizzards in the high plains that cut off ranchers from their livestock. Officials say tens of thousands of cattle died from hunger, but aerial hay drops did help avert a major crisis.

Indonesia expanding its sea search for the airliner carrying a businessman from Oregon and his two daughters. Scott Jackson and Stephanie and Lindsey Jackson were among the 102 passengers aboard that flight. Search teams are looking on foot on Sulawesi (ph) Island, where the flight was headed on Monday.

O'BRIEN: Let's get to that incredible news over night, that rescue at sea. Search teams finally reached 47 year old Ken Barnes, who was stranded on his battered boat, the Privateer. Barnes was attempting to sail around the world. In fact, he set off from long beach, California back in October, but he ran into a big storm as he approached Cape Horn, which is 500 miles off the coast of Chile.

AMERICAN MORNING's Chris Lawrence is in Newport Beach, California, which is where Ken's family got the great news.. Good morning to you, Chris.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad. The family is just ecstatic now that Ken Barnes is safely on board that Chilean fishing vessel and heading for shore. That vessel was the first to reach Barnes, just a few hours ago, and it had been guided to his location by a surveillance plane from the Chilean Navy.

You know, this rescue really came in the nick of time, because Barnes was running low on supplies, low on satellite phone power, and he was nursing a pretty serious leg injury. Barnes had hoped to go into the record books as the first sailor from the West Coast to circumnavigate the world alone.

This trip did not end the way he planned. He had wanted to be out there for between eight and nine months and complete his trip some time between April and June. It got cut short when he got down around off the coast of Chile, a vicious storm just really ripped into his boat, knocked out his mast and steering wheel, disabled his engine, knocked him around pretty good, and it wasn't until just a few hours ago that he was finally picked up by that private fishing vessel.

O'BRIEN: Excellent, excellent news. Chris Lawrence with the good news for us this morning. Thanks Chris.

Well Kathy Chambers is Ken's girlfriend. Karen and Brittany Barnes are Ken's twin girls. They're all in Newport Beach, California. You're wearing black, but I know you're celebrating in a very big way, ladies. Thanks for talking with us. First of all, has anybody talked to Ken yet?


O'BRIEN: I bet you are. I know that they're making their way in. He still has two days of coming back in this fishing vessel before he even gets to land. Kathy, let me ask you a question. We have a great shot, by the way, Kathy, of you walking by the TV as Chris Lawrence is doing a report, saying that Ken's been found. This is from the Associate Press. What was that moment like when you got the news that, yes, in fact, it's true, he's OK? CHAMBERS: I'm excited, relieved, thankful.

O'BRIEN: Are you just shocked? Because you sound so calm really, and you must be just utterly thrilled.

CHAMBERS: I think it's just because I'm tired and I haven't had much sleep at all, and I'm hungry and my stomach is still in knots. I won't feel totally good until I can actually see his picture and I can hear his voice.

O'BRIEN: I bet. How about you, girls, Karen and Brittany. It's got to be absolutely terrifying. You know, we saw pictures of you talking to your dad on his dying satellite phone, and the time was literally running out before help could get to him. And he was, kind of, really in the middle of nowhere. What was that like, you know, to have to have these conversations and really have no help on its way to him?

BRITTANY BARNES, DAUGHTER OF KEN: It was really scary. It was hard to hear him in pain and wanting to come home, because that's not like him at all. He's a very strong person. He wouldn't have done this trip if he wasn't certain that he could do it. So, with the weather, that's the only thing that stopped him.

O'BRIEN: Yes, the weather really was getting worse and that's really why time was of the essence in this. Karen, I'm interested, when you talked to your dad, did he sound desperate, did he sound hopeful? I mean, your sister says he's strong, but, gosh, you know, it just sounded so bad for a while.

KAREN BARNES, DAUGHTER OF KEN: Yes, when Kathy and everyone else talked to him, they said he was crying and he was panicked. But when I talked to him, he sounded calm. I don't know if he was just sounding like that for me, so that I would be calm, but thank god he did, because it was a relief to hear him so calm after they said he had been crying, because that's not like him.

O'BRIEN: I have to tell you, it's so nice to have a happy ending to the story. It sounded, while we were reporting on it in the middle of the week, that it could have such a disastrous ending. Now they have got this two-day boat trip back to land. I know he's getting medical attention, is what the Chilean officials have told us. He's getting medical attention for his leg already, which I guess he suffered a little bit of damage. You talked about this being his dream. I know he sold a business that he started 20 years ago to pay for this trip. Do you think he walks in the door and says, never again am I getting on a boat ever, or does he say, I'm going to rest up and I'm going to try this again one day, because it's my dream? What do you think?

CHAMBERS: I don't think he will.

B. BARNES: I don't think so.

K. BARNES: He better not.

CHAMBERS: I think that he'll sail around here possibly, but I don't think anything like what he's been through.

O'BRIEN: And Kathy will throw herself on top of him and stop him if he even thinks about doing that.

B. BARNES: The three of us will.

O'BRIEN: Yes, all three of you. Ladies, congratulations on this wonderful news. We're so glad to hear of a happy ending to this story and I know you're all exhausted, so get some rest and hopefully you will be able to talk to him soon. Thanks.

B. BARNES: Thank you.

CHAMBERS: Thank you.

K. BARNES: Thank you.

ROBERTS: Startling and disturbing news for many parents this morning, Consumer Reports testing child car seats, and the results are, quote, disastrous.

Up next, both the magazine and the maker of one of the car seats that failed its tests sound off.

And here they go again, Colorado prepares for yet another winter blast. Chad Myers has got your forecast when AMERICAN MORNING returns.


ROBERTS: Developing story on this AMERICAN MORNING, President Bush replacing his top generals in Iraq, George Casey and John Abizaid. Admiral William Fallon telling CNN moments ago that he has been picked for Abizaid's job.

And two people are dead after a tornado that slammed into a trailer park in southern Louisiana. Flash floods could hit parts of the state today.

O'BRIEN: This morning we're taking a closer look at a disturbing new report we've been telling you about, a report about infant car seats. "Consumer Reports" found that only two of twelve seats tested were able to pass their crash test. That was the only two that they would recommend, and that most of them failed disastrously in crashes as slow as 35 miles an hour.

Joining us this morning from Nisconsit (ph), New York is Kim Kleman. She's the deputy editorial director from "Consumer Reports." Nice to see you Kim. Thanks for talking with us.

Just to get everybody sort of set with the background of this test, let's run through the 12 seats that you actually tested. That was the Baby Trend Flex-Loc, the Graco Snug Ride, the Chicco Keyfit, the Peg Perego Primo Viaggio SIP, the Compass 1410, the Evenflo Embrace, the Britax Companion, the Graco SafeSeat, Safety 1st Designer, the Combi Center ST, the Eddie Bauer Comfort and the Evenflo Discovery.

Those are the 12 seats that were tested. What did you find in your tests?

KIM KLEMAN, "CONSUMER REPORTS": We found that only the Graco Snug Ride and the Baby Trend Flex-Loc passed our test. The other seats failed, as you said, disastrously. The bases became separated from the seat or they twisted violently. So the Baby Trend and the Graco are the only two we recommend.

O'BRIEN: You had two, in fact, that you found not acceptable. You said failed miserably, frankly. Those were the Eddie Bauer Comfort and the Evenflo Discovery. Let's show videotape first of the Eddie Bauer Comfort. What was the problem with that car seat?

KLEMAN: Well, the Eddie Bauer Comfort and the Evenflo -- the Eddie Bauer Comfort, we could not get it to fit in five different vehicles. So we had real problems with that. With the Evenflo Discovery, that rotated forward far too much. The Evenflo Discovery didn't even pass the government standards.

O'BRIEN: Kim, this is a videotape of the Evenflo Discovery, now, a dummy baby, obviously, strapped in. And you can see the car, the legs go up and then the car seat flips back up. So what else did you find in the test of this particular one?

KLEMAN: Well the Evenflo Discovery failed all of our tests. It didn't even meet the government 30-mile-per-hour crash test. And then in our crash test of 35-miles-per-hour for a frontal crash, and 38- mile-an-hour for a side crash, the base became separated from the car seat. I don't know if you can see that in the video, where it rotated far too much.


KLEMAN: The fact that it didn't even pass the federal standard, we did eight tests with this car seat, and seven of the tests the car seat failed. That's why we're asking specifically for a recall of this seat, and we're saying that it's not acceptable.

O'BRIEN: You did tests at 35 miles an hour for a frontal test and a side impact test of 38 miles an hour, which is much higher than the government mandates. I mean the government says it only has to pass a 30 mile an hour frontal test. Why more stringent?

KLEMAN: Here's why. We don't think the government crash standard is strict enough for car seats. Here's the situation in this country, cars themselves, new cars, have to be tested at 35 miles an hour for a frontal crash, and 38 miles an hour for a side crash, and they're routinely passing this test. So when your car can withstand a crash that's higher than the car seat, you're putting your baby in a car seat that -- you think the baby is the most protected passenger in your car, but when the car seat can't withstand the crash that the car can, then the baby is actually the least protected passenger in your car.

We think that's an outrage and we think the federal standard needs to be improved.

O'BRIEN: Kim Kleman with "Consumer Reports" this morning. Thanks, Kim, and a reminder, the ones that "Consumer Reports" found not acceptable, the Eddie Bauer Comfort and the Evenflo Discovery. Well, that brings us right to Evenflo and the CEO, Robert Matteucci, joins us. He's in Tucson, Arizona this morning. It's nice to talk to you sir. Thanks for being with us.

You've heard what Kim had to say. What do you make of their tests?

ROBERT MATTEUCCI, CEO, EVENFLO: We dispute the validity of their test and steadfastly stand behind the safety of all Evenflo car seats, including the Discovery. Soledad, we have conducted over 200 tests in the past 18 months on the Discovery car seat, in house, at independent laboratories, as well as with the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration, and all of those tests have demonstrated that it meets or exceeds the federal standards.

O'BRIEN: OK, but the highest that you've tested your Evenflo Discovery car seat for infants at is what, under 32 miles an hour. Some of that videotape is showing side impact at 38 miles an hour, frontal impact at 35 miles per hour. So it's perfectly conceivable that that videotape that we're showing of that infant's feet -- or the dummy infant's feet going up and then, of course, the whole car seat wobbling back and forth, that could be exactly what happens in crashes at this speed. I mean, you're not disputing this videotape that we're looking at, are you?

MATTEUCCI: We challenge the validity of their protocol. Despite our repeated requests, Soledad, "Consumer Reports" has not been willing to share the protocol or the results. And we know from decades of safety and crash test experience in the industry that any single variable that is not managed properly, to the requirements of the federal standards, will lead to inaccurate results, and we strongly believe that's what's happened here, and we challenge the protocol, and we don't understand why "Consumer Reports" is not willing to share the protocol.

If the genuine interest here is the safety of infants, which it is, it's hard to understand -- excuse me, it's hard to understand why they wouldn't want to share the data, and try to understand why their seven or eight tests sharply contrasts with our over 200, as well as the confirmation of NHTSA.

O'BRIEN: Well OK, let's bring Kim Kleman back. I think she's standing by. Do we still have her? Kim, are you there?

KLEMAN: Yes, absolutely. Yes, I am.

O'BRIEN: OK, terrific. I think you've been listening to what Mr. Matteucci has to say. So why not share the results? Why not -- how are your tests, even if you did a dozen tests, matched up to their 200 or so tests that, he says, show completely the opposite?

KLEMAN: Let me tell you that we are trying to share our test results with Evenflo, as is our standard practice. We sent them a letter before this story appeared, detailing our problems. Twice we have told them we really want to meet with you. We want to share our data, because it's in everybody's interests for this car seat to get better, but Evenflo has not responded to us. So, sir, I welcome --

MATTEUCCI: It's interesting, Soledad, that we've seen no letters. We have not gotten returns or phone calls. We didn't even learn about the research report until a reporter called us about 48 hours ago, and despite repeated requests. Aside from that, what we know is that the Discovery car seat is safe and effective in the marketplace, in the crash tests, and there's no validity to the "Consumer Reports" protocol.

O'BRIEN: Well, we'll have to leave it there, because we're running out of time. Although, I want to make one point. I've got an e-mail here sir, to Mr. Lindsey Harris, the vice president of product integrity of Evenflo, that actually lists all the assessing crash protection and it's from the folks from Consumers Union.

MATTEUCCI: Yes, it came after they went public with this report. And we have yet to see the protocol. We stand behind the safety of our car seats and we certainly appreciate the opportunity to share the facts.

O'BRIEN: All right, well I appreciate both of you talking with us this morning. Kim Kleman from "Consumer Reports" and the Evenflo CEO Robert Matteucci, thank you both for talking with us.

MATTEUCCI: Thank you, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: My pleasure.

ROBERTS: Coming up now to 49 minutes after the hour. If you're just heading out the door, let's get a quick check of the travelers' forecast. Chad Myers at the CNN Weather Center. Got some severe weather down south today.


ROBERTS: Coming up, a big shakeup is in the works for top military leaders in charge of the Iraq war. Stay with us on AMERICAN MORNING.


O'BRIEN: Let's get to Ali with an update as he Minds Your Business. Good morning.


O'BRIEN: Let's get back to John.

ROBERTS: All right, thanks very much, Soledad.

Coming up on this AMERICAN MORNING, President Bush shakes up his leadership team in Iraq. We'll take a look at who's in and who's out. And breaking news off the coast of Chile, that American sailor, alone and adrift at see, is finally found safe and sound. The incredible rescue, ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


O'BRIEN: Developing story, a California sailor, stranded off South America, is rescued overnight. His family is now celebrating the news. We're live.

ROBERTS: White House shakeup, President Bush changing up his war strategy, changing out the generals who have led the fight.

O'BRIEN: And ghost writers, how the Internet is motivating lots of young people to risk their lives on moving vehicles. We'll have more on this scary videotape straight ahead on this AMERICAN MORNING.

Welcome back, everybody. It's Friday, January 5th. I'm Soledad O'Brien in New York this morning. Good morning John.

ROBERTS: Good morning to you Soledad. I'm John Roberts in our Washington bureau, in for Miles O'Brien this week. Thanks for joining us. And it's nice, Soledad, to have some good news for a change.

O'BRIEN: We have lots of good news, lots of good news this morning. Actually, let's begin with incredible news overnight, that rescue at sea. Search teams reached 47-year-old Ken Barnes. He was stranded on his battered boat, the Privateer. You'll remember he was attempting to sail around the world. He set off from Long Beach, California back in October, but then he ran into a big storm as he got close to Cape Horn, which is 500 miles off the coast of Chile.

AMERICAN MORNING's Chris Lawrence was able to be part of the good news this morning. He's in Newport Beach, California. That's where, of course, the family got the good news. Hey, Chris, good morning.

LAWRENCE: Hey, good morning, Soledad. Just think about it. I mean, Ken Barnes had lost his engine, his steering wheel, his mast. His supplies were running low. His cell phone battery was running low, and he was bleeding from a leg injury. So this rescue came just in the nick of time, really. But his family isn't quite ready to celebrate just yet.