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American Morning

Green Light to Kill Iranian Agents Working for Insurgency in Iraq; Pet Marking Bombing in Baghdad; Student Protests in Beirut

Aired January 26, 2007 - 08:00   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Target Iran, inside Iraq. Reports this morning that U.S. troops now have the green light to kill Iranian agents who are working for the insurgency in Iraq.
RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Lebanon is divided again. Mass rioting tearing the nation apart. Rival factions at a standoff this morning.

O'BRIEN: Hillary Clinton taking her campaign on the road this weekend. Is the heartland ready for her?

Those stories, much more ahead on this AMERICAN MORNING.

Welcome back, everybody, Friday, January 26th.

I'm Soledad O'Brien.

SANCHEZ: And I'm Rick Sanchez, sitting in for Miles.

And we do thank you so much for being with us.

O'BRIEN: Let's begin with a developing story.

The Bush administration apparently changing tactics in Iraq, trying to get control of Iran's influence in the war.

Details now from CNN's Suzanne Malveaux. She's live at the White House for us.

Good morning, Suzanne.


I spoke with a national security official this morning who confirms that the Bush administration has now authorized for U.S. military to capture or kill Iranian agents inside of Iraq. That is if there is actionable intelligence that those agents are going after, plotting and planning to go after American forces, coalition forces, Iraqi forces. If those Iranian agents are in fact working with Iraqi militia.

Now, I'm told that this is a policy that was discussed, that was evolved since last fall between President Bush and his top advisers, but that it was only over the last couple of months that the president signed off on this new policy because of the deterioration, the conditions on the ground inside of Iraq. And, of course, an effort to get much, much tougher on Iran.

I also spoke with the National Security Council spokesman, Gordon Johndroe, this morning, and here's what he said about this. He said, "The president has made clear for some time that we will take the necessary steps to protect Americans on the ground in Iraq and disrupt activity that could lead to their harm. Our forces have standing authority consistent with the mandate of the U.N. Security council."

Now, who is he talking about? Who's responsible here? He points specifically to one group. That is, "The Iranian Revolutionary Guard's Quds force is a part of the Iranian state apparatus that supports and carries out these activities."

These activities, meaning terrorist activities. These activities with militia, going after, killing American forces and Iraqi forces.

Soledad, as you know, this is very significant. What this means is really a very get-tough approach with the Iranians, a very clear sign that the United States not only capturing and perhaps capturing and detaining Iranian agents inside of Iraq, but now also killing as well -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: A big development there. All right.

Suzanne Malveaux this morning.

Thanks, Suzanne.

She's at the White House -- Rick.

SANCHEZ: Let's turn to Baghdad now. Another market explosion this morning, and this one was at a pet fair, of all things.

CNN's Michael Holmes, he's live in Baghdad with more on this one.

How did this come about, Michael?


Yes, not the first time that this pet market has been hit. I remember going there a few years ago, quite a bizarre place. You can get anything from monkeys to snakes, to dogs to cats at this place.

Well, an official with the Interior Ministry tells us that this morning at least 15 people were killed, 39 others were wounded when a bomb hidden in a box exploded in this marketplace. As I say, birds, domestic animals, and other animals, more exotic, are sold there.

This market normally crowded on a Friday morning, and that market, as I said, has been hit three times in recent months. And this attack really the latest in several attacks that have taken place in, generally speaking, commercial centers around Baghdad in the last few days, couple of weeks. There's been half a dozen bombings like this striking at marketplaces or busy shopping areas -- Rick.

SANCHEZ: You know, I don't get it. Is there any significance to the animals being there? I mean, why a pet fair, of all places? Or is it just a matter of, well, Sunnis are there, so the Shias are going to hit them, or the other way around?

HOLMES: It's fair to say that this particular market, you get Shias and Sunnis in this area, Rick. I think that it's part of the general plan to paralyze society here, to show that no one is keeping Iraqis safe, show that the government is ineffective. It boils down really to a campaign of destabilization, although you're right in saying that a lot of the targets in the last couple of weeks have been targeting Shia areas and also Sunni areas, but mainly Shia areas.

A lot of people think that the Sunni insurgency trying to get in before this big push by the U.S. and Iraqi military. It's trying to get in and create as much instability around Shia areas before that all starts, and there's a clampdown with these extra troops -- Rick.

SANCHEZ: Fascinating. Fascinating stuff.

Thanks so much, Michael Holmes. We appreciate the information.

Now to another developing story. This is in Washington. The Senate now considering a second resolution about the war in Iraq.

This one from Republican Senator John Warner. His resolution opposes a big troop buildup into Iraq, but it leaves the door open for smaller deployments, a little different from what the Democrats are proposing. A competing resolution passed by the Senate Armed Services Committee called for President Bush's troop surge plan not to be in the national interest -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: A developing story to tell you about out of Pakistan this morning. A bomb blast outside the Marriott hotel in Islamabad. Lots of foreigners stay at the hotels. It's actually quite near the prime minister's house.

Apparently, a suicide bomber killed himself, two guards, too. Witnesses say he set off his explosives after those guards stopped him from entering the hotel through the laundry entrance.

In Beirut this morning, it's relatively quiet after deadly protests there on Thursday. It took an army and a curfew to quiet down a mob of angry students who were clashing with Hezbollah supporters. It resulted in four deaths, left more than 150 other people wounded.

CNN Senior International Correspondent Nic Robertson is in Beirut -- Nic.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Soledad, the streets are a little quieter than they would be normally, but the curfew does seem to have tamped down that violence that erupted. But it was a day just like this yesterday when the violence was sparked off around the Arab University here in Beirut.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ROBERTSON (voice over): Armed with rocks and intent on a fight, hundreds of ferocious and angry young men converged on Beirut's Arab University. The violence started late in the afternoon -- clashes inside the campus between students loyal to Lebanon's government and anti-government Hezbollah supporters.

As the situation escalated, vehicles were set on fire. Anyone who could scrambled to save them. Dense, black smoke billowed up from the university.

Lebanese army soldiers on foot and in armored personnel carriers pushed forward towards the rock-throwers. From the tops of vehicles in the midst of the chaos, appealing for calm.

(on camera): Right now the army is holding back here. The violence is there where the students are. There's a lot of gunfire going on. At the moment, the army holding back, measuring what they should do.

(voice over): At one point, the crowd of angry, young, pro- government men set fire to a Hezbollah flag, as inflammatory an insult as any here can be. From within the battle zone, both soldiers and civilians stretch it out as the confrontation continued to flair. Volley after volley of gunfire blasted into the air by soldiers in an effort to calm and separate the rock-throwing crowds.

In nearby side streets and on highways, the Lebanese army flooded the area with troops to contain the violence close to its epicenter at the university. Not long after, they called a curfew from 8:30 in the evening until 6:00 in the morning.

After several hours of clashes, the army was able to bring enough calm to get a fire truck into the university. And the burning vehicles, belching black smoke, signaling chaos across the city, extinguished.


ROBERTSON: The concern is, not knowing exactly what triggered and sparked this particular outbreak of violence, is that this is now slipping from a political confrontation to a sectarian confrontation, very reminiscent of the civil war here that lasted 15 years in the 1970s and '80s -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Nic Robertson is in Beirut this morning.

Thanks, Nic -- Rick.

SANCHEZ: Other stories that we're going to be following for you.

Senator Hillary Clinton is getting ready to face one of her first big tests on the road to the White House. We're going to take a closer look at what she needs to prove this weekend in Iowa.

Also, a small southern town at the center of a border battle. When immigration agents moved in, the town nearly closed down. We're going to explain, ahead on AMERICAN MORNING, the most news in the morning on CNN.


SANCHEZ: I'm Rick Sanchez.

We've got the most news in the morning, and we're going to be looking at a couple of stories, a couple of the headlines that we're following for you today.

First, a suicide bomber set off a blast this morning in Islamabad, Pakistan. Two people killed at the Marriott hotel. This was at the city center. You're looking at some of the pictures there of that right now.

And then the other story that we're following, it's Interstate 90 in Pennsylvania, open once again today after a dramatic 50-vehicle chain-reaction pileup. And we understand as we look at some of the pictures there. You can see how weather affected this thing. We understand that at least one person was killed.

Soledad, over back to you.

O'BRIEN: All right. Thank you very much.

It is the end of what was a very big political week in Washington, and of course the beginning of an important political weekend for Hillary Clinton in Iowa. It's going to be the former first lady's debut as a presidential contender in that critical state.

Our Candy Crowley is going to be with her every step of the way. She's traveling with her.

Good morning, Candy. Nice to see you.


O'BRIEN: Give me a sense of why...

CROWLEY: It's going to be an interesting...

O'BRIEN: Yes, why? Why is it so critical for Hillary Clinton?

CROWLEY: Well, you know, election-year history is kind of strewn with people whose candidacies stalled and failed in Iowa. It's the first contest, it's a caucus.

Think Howard Dean in recent history. Iowa pretty much killed his campaign.

Take that and look at some recent polls, albeit very early, and we see that Hillary Clinton trails in some of the polls in Iowa. So she has to get out there and begin to use that -- that term we overuse -- make a connection.

She's got to sort of show people in that retail sort of way that she is an approachable politician, that she wants to listen to the ideas of others, that sort of thing. So this is a very critical state and a very important state for her, as it is for all the candidates.

O'BRIEN: When you're talking about the retail connection, as you call it, does having $14 million, more or less, in your war chest help you, or does that kind of work against you in Iowa?

CROWLEY: No, it helps you, and here's why. You can hire a crackerjack staff, which she has, people who are on the ground in Iowa who know all the key players, who can say, you need to go to this person's house, you need to have this coffee over here, you need to have the town hall meeting in this state, or in this city.

So you can do that. You obviously later on can begin to buy ads. Early on you can buy ads if you want to, if you want to sort of make that big splash into the area. So money always helps in politics. There's just no getting around it.

O'BRIEN: You know, we've heard from lots of the people who have been throwing their hats into the ring, and we heard from John Kerry that he's not going to, which was sort of a, you know, strange announcement in and of itself. What's been the Democratic -- I'm not running. What's been the Democratic reaction to that?

CROWLEY: To John Kerry not running? I think there was sort of a sense of relief.

If you looked at the polls, a majority of Democrats didn't want him to run again. He was looking like yesterday's news to a lot of the party faithful.

On the other hand, he fought the good fight, you know. So they hated to -- a lot of his staff, a lot of the people who supported him had moved on. So it would have made for a very uncomfortable sort of entry into the race. In the end, I think he looked at those factors and at others and said, you know, not for me.

O'BRIEN: You're going to be traveling with Hillary Clinton. That's one big name in the race. And then, of course, you have Barack Obama. That's another big name. And other big names in there, too -- McCain, Giuliani, et cetera, et cetera.

Is there another shoe to drop? Is there another big name that we're waiting on to hear? I mean, Al Gore, are we waiting on him? Newt Gingrich, him?

CROWLEY: Absolutely. Those two I think are the sort of big names that we're still waiting on.

Now, Gore is kind of an exception to all the rules. He doesn't have to come out and announce that he's not running.

Basically, as far as we can tell, he's not perpetuating any of the buzz about maybe Al Gore can get in. And the fact of the matter is, we may be waiting a long time.

Even if he wants to do it, the people around him have said, listen, he could step in sort of really late in this game. He could wait until the fall if he really wanted to.

Now, mind you, they don't think he's going to run, but he's sort of the guy that doesn't have to get involved at this point. They believe that he could have a structure in place. He does have to be careful about the money, because that's a finite pool.

There are other sort of -- Chuck Hagel on the Republican side, who for a long time has been toying with the idea of getting in. Up there in New York, you have Governor Pataki, you have Mayor Bloomberg, both of whom have sort of gone to both of these early states, sort of looked like they're going to run.

To one degree or another, some of these people will sort of help shape the race. Some of them will make less of an impact than others.

O'BRIEN: I guess we'll see. Senior Political Correspondent Candy Crowley, she's in Chicago this morning, going to be traveling with Hillary Clinton this weekend.

Thanks, Candy -- Rick.

SANCHEZ: Fifteen minutes before the hour. If you're heading out the door, let's get a quick check of the weather so you will know what is -- what you're going to be facing out there. It's our traveler's forecast.

Chad Myers is following it for us. I almost called you Chuck.

O'BRIEN: You called him Chuck.

SANCHEZ: That's my little brother's name. So it's a good thing. It's endearing.



MYERS: That's' close.

SANCHEZ: Mine was nice.

MYERS: It's my realtor's name. I like him.

SANCHEZ: Yes, right.


SANCHEZ: Thanks, Myers.

No easy answers to the immigration battle, we know that. Just ask the residents of Stillmore, Georgia. Some say a raid on illegal immigrants there drove the town from a boom town to a bust.

And the Bears and Colts have yet to play the Super Bowl, but already some are coming out a winner. Find out who as we mind your business, ahead on AMERICAN MORNING. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: The most news in the morning is right here on CNN.

Happening this morning, an explosion in Islamabad, Pakistan, at a Marriott hotel in the center of the city. A suicide bomber to blame there.

And the president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, is threatening to kick the U.S. ambassador out of his country. Chavez claims the U.S. is meddling in his plan to nationalize one of Venezuela's biggest phone companies.

Global warming is a hot topic at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

CNN's Charles Hodson is live in Davos for us this morning.

Good morning, Charles.


Sometimes it's awfully hard to work out what is the key issue of these annual meetings of the World Economic Forum. Sometimes there are just so many sessions, you don't have a clue what people are really talking about. But this time, climate change, tackling the environment is something that people have really coalesced around.

There have been a whole bunch of sessions, a lot of big-name speakers. But you've got to get away from the idea that this is a parliament where everyone sits around, talks about the advancement of capitalism or how you're going to deal with climate change.

All the same, having said that, the World Economic Forum has announced just in the past hour or so a climate disclosure standards board. It doesn't sound like a big move forward, but it is in fact what they're calling a new international partnership of seven organizations to establish a generally-accepted framework for climate change risk reporting by corporations.

It sounds worthy. It is. And it is a big step forward, certainly in Davos terms -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: All right. So if climate change is number one on the agenda, are there other big issues that they're talking about?

HODSON: There certainly are. Coming up in the next 24 hours or so, world trade. We could actually have behind the scenes, unannounced, a rather major step forward.

World trade talks, the so-called Doha (ph) round, supposed to favor developing countries, are essentially deadlocked at the moment. And an awful lot of people were ready to regard them as dead and buried.

Now, senior trade officials, including U.S. trade representative Susan Schwab, and the head of the World Trade Organization, Pascal Lamy, are expected to come together in Davos in the next 24 hours or so, and there is a real hope that that deadlock will be broken, although we won't know, because what will happen is they'll take those agreements back to governments, back to Washington and to other capitals, and the real decisions will be made there. But again, huge new impetus from Davos -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: CNN's Charles Hodson joining us from Davos this morning.

Thanks, Charles -- Rick.

SANCHEZ: Twenty-three minutes after the hour. Carrie Lee is joining us to talk about business.

I was at the mall just yesterday, and I was there last week as well, and I noticed a lot of guys around those big-screen TVs.


SANCHEZ: They were all -- and I'm thinking Super Bowl.

LEE: Super Bowl.

SANCHEZ: right.

LEE: Exactly. Big game.

SANCHEZ: Everybody's thinking, I want to get that TV for the Super Bowl.

LEE: The game means big screen, absolutely, for a lot of folks. According to the National Retail Federation, 2.5 million people expect to buy a big-screen television before February 4th, which is, of course, the big game this year. That's well above the 1.7 million who bought last year. Part of the reason, of course, prices for the big screens continue to come down, although analysts say, don't expect the huge deals we saw from companies like Best Buy and Wal-Mart during the holiday season.

Also looking at this survey, more people expect to throw a Super Bowl party. They're going to spend more money. And here's something I thought was interesting. A third say that the game itself is the most important, but 18 percent say it's the commercials. That's why they watch.

It's a pretty big percentage.

O'BRIEN: I'm surprised the number is so low, actually.

LEE: Really? OK.

O'BRIEN: No, I'm kidding. That's the only reason I watch the game, too.

LEE: Me too. O'BRIEN: But only a third say they watch it for the game?

LEE: A third say the game. I don't know what the other ones are waiting for, maybe the halftime show.

O'BRIEN: Well, they're at the party.

LEE: They're just there for the beer.

SANCHEZ: It's one of those things -- that's one of those things that's really an event. It's not really a sporting event as much as it is an event, like the Academy Awards, that kind of thing.

LEE: It means a lot to different people.

Here's an interesting thing, going back to advertisers. Coca- Cola back in the big game ad scene for the first time since 1998. One new spot is going to be aired, and then two other spots that some of you may be familiar with. We've already seen them on "American Idol" and then FOX tonight.

Not sure how much money Coke is spending, but these spots for 30 seconds can cost as much as $2.6 million this year. That's $85,000 a second.

O'BRIEN: You get a bang for your buck, though, because the Super Bowl, you know...

LEE: Yes, exactly.

O'BRIEN: We haven't had the Super Bowl yet. We've seen that ad a bunch of times already.

SANCHEZ: Well, you know what's interesting? The commercials are always a hit, but the game is not always a hit.

A lot of times it's a blowout. In fact, more often than not it's been a blowout in the past.

LEE: That's right. And for advertisers now with the Internet, they're almost getting more bang for their buck, because then things are going on YouTube, all these Internet sites.


LEE: People are referring to it more than once. So...

SANCHEZ: Good stuff.

O'BRIEN: All right. Carrie, thank you very much.

LEE: Sure.

O'BRIEN: Here's a look at what's happening at CNN this weekend. Let's check in with T.J. and Betty at the CNN Center in Atlanta.

Good morning, guys.

BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi there, Soledad.

T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning.

NGUYEN: You know, as always, we have a busy weekend ahead for you.

HOLMES: Yes. Of course this week we're going to be focusing on that fierce fight in Baghdad.

NGUYEN: Yes, right there, it is the battle for Haifa Street. And you're going to get to see combat up close. You'll hear from the soldiers and find out why this could be a turning point in the Iraq war.

HOLMES: Also, taking faith to the extreme. We'll take you overseas to one of the most colorful and one of the largest gatherings of human beings on Earth.

That's coming up in our "Faces of Faith."

NGUYEN: Plus, are you an alternadad? Here's what it is.

Right there, you see him, Brad Pitt. So is soccer superstar David Beckham; Oscar nominee Will Smith; even skateboard mogul Tony Hawk. They're all part of a new hipster parenting culture. We'll explain.

HOLMES: They're all rich, too. Find out if you, too, are an alternadad. And we talk with the man who wrote the book on this phenomenon.

NGUYEN: You don't want to miss it. "CNN SATURDAY" and "SUNDAY MORNING" beginning tomorrow at 7:00 Eastern -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: An alternadad? What do they do? They're involved with their kids -- raising their kids?

NGUYEN: Yes, right. They're just being a dad like they're supposed to be. Alternadads.

O'BRIEN: Yes. But as T.J. said, with more money.

NGUYEN: A lot more money.

O'BRIEN: They're cool. If you're Tony Hawk, you're cool.

All right, guys. Thanks. We'll see you this weekend.

HOLMES: See you.


O'BRIEN: Top stories of the morning are coming up next, including a fresh look at what happens to a town when immigration agents make a dramatic raid.

Plus, the Senate is considering a second resolution over how to respond to the president's plan for Iraq. A live report from Capitol Hill is ahead.

You're watching AMERICAN MORNING.

The most news in the morning is right here on CNN.


O'BRIEN: The Senate is now considering a second Iraq resolution, this one from Republican Senator John Warner.

CNN's Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash live from Capitol Hill with more on that.

Hey, Dana, good morning.

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad.

And we expect the Senate debate to be probably the week after next now, and it will, for sure, be one of the most spirited and confrontational debates on Iraq, especially towards the White House, than we've seen in the four years since the war started, and it's not so much because Democrats now run Congress, it's because Republicans, so many of them now, oppose the president's plan to increase troop levels in Iraq.

Now, as you mentioned, one of the Republicans who feels that way is the influential senior senator from Virginia, John Warner, the former Armed Services chairman. He has cosponsored, with several other Republicans, a resolution. And last nights he rejected Democratic leaders who said they wanted to join forces and come up with one big resolution. He said that simply his language is a little bit less confrontational toward the White House, so he's going to keep his the way it is.

But the bottom line is we are going to see two major resolutions, bipartisan resolutions, opposing the president. That's why Senator John McCain, one of the most vocal supporters of a troop increase, he's working on an alternative. He said yesterday, though, that he understands that some of his Republican colleagues are frustrated with the White House because of what he calls their rosy scenarios about Iraq.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: We were assured that mission accomplished, last throes, stuff happens, you know, a few dead-enders, you know, the list goes on and on, and then they find out that the situation continues to deteriorate. We want -- I think it would be important for them to have some specific benchmarks as to whether those are being met or not met.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BASH: So what McCain is working on, McCain, who also is a presidential candidate, who has a lot at stake politically on this strategy working, he's working on a resolution that would establish benchmarks to make clear that this strategy is working, and that he hopes would appeal to some Republicans who don't want to actually condemn the president, but are still very skeptical of this new strategy.

The bottom line is, Soledad, that the White House has met with well over 100 lawmakers, trying to convince them that this is the way to go on Iraq. They didn't change many minds. So Bush officials and GOP leadership sources tell us that they simply understand there's not going to be a lot they can do to head off these resolutions.

O'BRIEN: Dana Bash on Capitol Hill for us this morning. Thanks, Dana.

BASH: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Rick?

SANCHEZ: The man charged in connection with the deaths of two black teenagers 43 years ago -- 43 years ago -- is in jail this morning; 71-year-old James Ford Seale pleaded not guilty to kidnapping and conspiracy charges and now he wants for his bond hearing on Monday to be dealt with.

CNN's Rusty Dornin is live in Jackson, Mississippi. She's been following the story, and she's joining us now with the very latest on this.

Bring us up to date, Rusty.

RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Rick, it's amazing when you think that 42 years ago this month murder and kidnapping charges were dropped against James Seale and Charles Edwards for the murders of those two teens, Charles Moore and Henry Deet. And really not much was done with the case over that period of time, until the older brother of Charles Moore, Thomas, took it upon himself with a documentary filmmaker from CBC, David Ridgen, and he took a quest back to his hometown, Meadville in Mississippi, to try and get justice for his brother.

One of the most amazing things he found was he thought -- and a lot of people thought -- James Seale had died a few years ago, but he discovered that he was alive. He ended up going to Seale's house and did everything but walk up to the front door.


THOMAS JAMES MOORE: Hey, sir! Hey, sir? I'm coming for James Ford Seale. My name is Thomas James Moore. I'm the brother Of Charles A. Moore.

(END VIDEO CLIP) DORNIN: Apparently, there was never a face-to-face confrontation between Thomas Moore and James Seale, but during that same month, in July of 2005, the U.S. attorneys office here in Jackson, Mississippi decided to take a fresh look at the case.


DAVID RIDGEN, CBC DOCUMENTARY PRODUCER: And right people, right place, right time, right U.S. attorney. I mean, we really rode the sort of wave of the post-Killen trial, Edward Ray Killen was convicted of manslaughter in June of 2005, and we were down there right after that. And there's clearly an appetite for prosecution, but I mean, we just pushed. We just -- Thomas kept pushing. I kept following. We kept looking. And you know, it's just the process of making the film made something happen.


DORNIN: And it's been interesting to see sort of the reaction of that town, Meadville, Mississippi, and the areas surrounding it. There are some mixed feelings. Of course, among the black community, a lot of people very happy that at least something has been done. Even if there is no conviction in the case, they feel that something has been done after all of this time. But others, even in the black community, have said too much water's gone under the bridge, and in the white community, there are people that are saying the same thing.

So James Seale is going to will be back in court here in Jackson, Mississippi on Monday for a bond hearing -- Rick.

SANCHEZ: Good stuff. Good reporting, Rusty, as usual. We appreciate it.

Well, the president rekindled the immigration debate this week with more talk of a guest worker program. And there seems to be some agreement on certainly the need to secure the border, but what do you do with the seven million to 20 million illegal immigrants already here, as they're often described? Well, if you think the answers to that are cut and dry, then you've never heard of a little town in Georgia called Stillmore, where I recently visited.


SANCHEZ (voice-over): Stillmore, Georgia is a small town at the center of a southern paradox. When it comes to immigration, it may be where the best and the worst of the South conflict. The worst, critics charge, because Georgia leads the nation in the growth of its undocumented worker population. But economically, and in large measure due to its immigrant work force, Georgia has thrived, in construction, in carpet manufacturing and in poultry. The numbers are staggering. It's been a veritable boom. But here in Stillmore, that boom turned into an overnight bust in early September. That's when federal agents swooped in to forcibly remove the illegal immigrant population.

MARY BAUER, SOUTHERN POVERTY LAW CT.: These plaintiffs are all United States citizens who were detained, harassed, and terrified solely because of their appearance.

SANCHEZ: The Southern Poverty Law Center says that federal agents, in their zeal to capture illegal immigrants, violated the rights of legal residents like Justin Moncha. She's a 15-year-old U.S. citizen who says immigration and customs agents entered her home without warning and without a warrant.

JUSTEEN MANCHA, U.S. CITIZEN: I say, why are you in my house? You know, I was very scared.

SANCHEZ (on camera): And what did they say?

MANCHA: They said we're looking for illegals.

SANCHEZ (voice-over): Immigration and customs enforcement officials would not answer CNN's questions on camera.

However, they did respond with this e-mail, saying "The raids were conducted in accordance with constitutional principles, and that race and ethnicity played no role."

As for using warrants, they say they "are permitted under the law to make arrests without warrants."

Stillmore now resembles a ghost town. Since the raid, its immigrant residents have all but disappeared. Storefronts are shuttered.

Though we did find one open. The clerk says she hadn't seen a customer in days.

(no camera): Business is bad.


SANCHEZ: Very bad.

(voice-over): Immediately after the raid, the town's chief employer, the Crider chicken plant, lost half its workforce, while others who benefited from the immigrant population, like landlord David Robinson, ended up with 20 empty rental properties. He says it left him barely scraping by.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I had to go and refinance. All I'm doing basically is paying interesting right now, just treading water.


SANCHEZ: So really what's interesting about this is that Stillmore may be just a microcosm of a much bigger problem in this country. What happened there may signal that there is no easy fix for the nation's immigration crisis, or at least not one that doesn't bring with it some unintended consequences, as we saw right there.

O'BRIEN: We're learning more about those 12 U.S. soldiers who were lost when their Blackhawk helicopter was shot down last weekend. Ten of them were members of the National Guard. One was the U.S.'s top surgeon, and all of them, of course, are missed by their family and friends.

Here's CNN's Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Colonel Brian Allgood (ph) was the Army's chief surgeon in Iraq. His troops saved hundreds of lives.

Colonel Paul Kelly was called "The Senator". He was always shaking hands with his soldiers.

Six foot five Staff Sergeant Daryl Booker (ph) was simply "Big Daddy" to his unit.

Twelve souls lost last weekend when their Black Hawk helicopter crashed in this empty patch of desert northeast of Baghdad. All indications are it was shot down by a shoulder-fired missile.

Now, for 12 families, the wrenching grief is just beginning.

Paul Kelly had a wife and two small children. His brother John knows how the colonel did not easily leave them behind.

JOHN KELLY, BROTHER OF FALLEN SOLDIER: You love your family so much. He says, "Yes, but I love my country. I love the soldiers." And that's it.

STARR: Reverend Ernest Hardy talked to his son, Daryl Booker (ph), at Christmas. The reverend says his son loved being a soldier.

REV. ERNEST HARDY, FATHER OF FALLEN SOLDIER: I think -- somebody asked me earlier, "Well, do you think we ought to still be here?" But my answer is, I think we should have never been there.

STARR: Brian Allgood (ph) was the Army's top doctor in Iraq. His mother Cleo got the phone call every military mother dreads.

CLEO ALLGOOD, MOTHER OF FALLEN SOLDIER: He's been killed, and all I could do was scream and cry.

STARR: For the Army, 30 years of medical expertise had just died. For his family...

ALLGOOD: Empty feeling for a long, long -- forever.

STARR (on camera): Ten of the 12 on board the Black Hawk were members of the Army National Guard from towns all across America. This is now the single largest combat loss for the Guard in more than half a century.

Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.

(END VIDEOTAPE) SANCHEZ: And coming up, more on this morning's deep freeze. Much of the country seeing the coldest weather of the season. Chad's going to have your weekend forecast.

Also, Miss Massachusetts is getting ready to compete in the Miss America Pageant, and she's taking something special to Vegas. There she is. As a matter of fact, you're looking at a live picture of miss Massachusetts.

How are you doing, Michaela, good?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm, doing great. Thank you.

SANCHEZ: Wonderful. She has a defibrillator in her chest, and we're going to talk to her about that ahead on AMERICAN MORNING, the most news in the morning here on CNN.


SANCHEZ: Welcome back. I'm Rick Sanchez. When Miss Massachusetts walks into the miss America pageant Monday, she's going to be taking something with her that no other contestant's going to have. I've got one right here, here it is. She'll have one of these. Can you shoot this? There it is. See that? That's a little defibrillator. Michaela Gagne has one of these actually in her chest after being diagnosed with a serious heart condition.

Michaela, Miss Massachusetts, is good enough to join us.

Hey, how are you?

MICHAELA GAGNE, MISS MASSACHUSETTS 2006: I'm great. How are you, Rick?

SANCHEZ: I'm doing great. And I was reading all the information that the producers provided me with so I could research this story, because it's not every day you get to talk to somebody who's a contestant like yourself, but also has such a great story behind it. Tell the viewers what you have. What is your condition?

GAGNE: Yes, I have Long QT Syndrome, and it's in the family of sudden arrhythmia death syndrome. And you know, when you hear about thee athletes randomly dropping dead on the field, it's that same kind of condition, and there's no symptoms usually, so it's a scary thing.

SANCHEZ: So what you're saying is you could suddenly have a heart attack and die?

GAGNE: Essentially, my heart could go into an arrhythmia and eventually stop, and it's a genetic predisposition for me, which is scary.

SANCHEZ: By the way, you're a really good athlete, aren't you? You played soccer on your high school team.

GAGNE: I try. SANCHEZ: Well, OK, you're being modest, but you're a pretty good athlete, right?

GAGNE: Yes, that was how I define myself. That was my passion.

SANCHEZ: But can you still do it?

GAGNE: I can. I have no restrictions anymore, because of my defibrillator, so life is great.

SANCHEZ: So they told you, you had to stop, but since you got this little gadget -- wait, let me put that back up -- this little gadget implanted, literally in you, right? Was it an operation?

GAGNE: It is. I had my first one put in when I was 17 years old, and it keeps me safe. So in case anything happens, it will save me.

SANCHEZ: OK. This is a beauty pageant, so there are times you guys have to wear like a swimsuit -- is there a swimsuit competition still?

GAGNE: There is a swimsuit competition. I'm doing it tonight, actually.

SANCHEZ: So you know where I'm going with this. I mean, you had the surgery. Is there a little scar?

GAGNE: I do. I have a scar. It's not -- you know, it's not that big. But I have to say, there is no shame there with it.

SANCHEZ: Oh, that's nothing.

GAGNE: I am proud to show it. It keeps me safe. It keeps me alive.

SANCHEZ: But you know what's even more important? It could keep other people alive.

GAGNE: That's true.

SANCHEZ: And you're getting out information that's vital and really important to a whole lot of people.

GAGNE: Yes, that's been the most wonderful part of being part of the Miss America program, is really getting to talk about heart disease, especially syndromes similar to mine and working with people to make a difference.

SANCHEZ: Michaela Gagne, you're great. I really enjoyed talking to you. Thanks so much telling us about something a lot of people didn't know about. This is something that a lot of people can now probably incorporate and maybe it can save some lives.

GAGNE: Absolutely, absolutely.

SANCHEZ: Appreciate it. Good luck, by the way. We'll be watching and we'll be pulling for you.

GAGNE: Thanks. Check it out Monday.

SANCHEZ: Take care. Bye-bye.

You've got to love her tiara, too.

O'BRIEN: Yes, I hope she wins now. Good for her.


O'BRIEN: "CNN NEWSROOM" is just a couple of minutes away. Tony Harris is at the CNN Center with a look at what they've got this morning .

Good morning.

TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Soledad, good morning. We have got these stories on the "NEWSROOM" rundown for you: President Bush seeking more troops, more cash for Afghanistan. He is sitting down with his new war team next hour. We expect to hear from the president live this morning.

New record for the airlines. "USA Today "reporting planes were delayed a total of 22 million minutes in 2006. Ouch!

And happy tails to you. Nothing like hoisting a cold one after a long day of fetch, right? No worries here about tipsy mutts. This dog beer is alcohol-free. So what's the point? Betty joins me in the "NEWSROOM" at the top of the hour here on CNN.

Sorry, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: A nice, cold drink is the point for little pooch, right?

HARRIS: There you go. Sorry. Yes.

O'BRIEN: You wouldn't want to hurt the dog. That'd be horrible.

HARRIS: Absolutely.

O'BRIEN: Tony, Tony, Tony, Tony!

HARRIS: I know.

O'BRIEN: Thanks. All right, we'll check that out in a little bit.

Coming up on AMERICAN MORNING, oops, big mistake -- there are 2,700 high schoolers out there were accepted to one university -- accidentally. We're going to tell you which school is taking back its offers this morning.

Plus, debit card danger. A new report details a new way in which your bank is taking advantage of you. Story up next on AMERICAN MORNING.


SANCHEZ: Ouch! Get this, the University of North Carolina is apologizing this morning for a big mistake. Granted, this is only one of the finest schools in the country. The university sent an e-mail to 2,700 prospective freshmen, telling them, hooray, you've been accepted! Oops. It was a mistake. Students actually have to wait until March to find out if they got in. The school says it used the wrong e-mail distribution list. There you go, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: That is bad news for a lot of students, isn't it? that's brutal. Those poor kids.

You know, what's in your wallet? That's the tag line for a very famous credit card commercial, but of course you probably have a debit card in your wallet, too. This morning there's a new report out that details just how your bank might be taking advantage of you with that debit card.

CNN's personal finance editor Gerri Willis has a look at that. Good morning.


We know people love their debit cards. In fact, almost 1/3 of all transactions are debit card purchases. It's fast, it's easy and you don't have to carry cash. But a new report from the Center for Responsible Lending says banks are taking advantage of their customers by automatically enrolling card users in what they call overdraft protection programs. This means the bank covers any charges if you spend more than is in the account, but you pay, and bigtime, for the privilege. You're charged an overdraft fee of about $30. So the bank is essentially giving you a short-term loan with an enormous interest rate.

Look at this example -- say you charged a $5 latte at Starbucks and didn't have $5 in your checking account to cover it. Your bank will cover the charge, but could also charge you $30, an overdraft fee, which translates into a 600 percent interest rate on a tiny loan. People think they're protected from overdrafts, so they don't worry about going over their balance.

In fact, nearly half of all overdrafts are for people using debit cards and ATMs, and, Soledad, banks have the technology not to do it this way, just to tell you that you're overdrawn, but they don't.

O'BRIEN: So you don't get any warning at all? You don't know how much money you have on your debit card, so where you could sort of take cash out of your wallet and say, oh, I don't have money on my debit card, I'll just pay with my $5 in cash. Now you're paying six times that.

WILLIS: Right, exactly. That's the terrible thing. So the question is of course, what can you Do? well, you can link your charge account to other accounts, like a savings account to cover the deficit. You can shop around for a bank without an overdraft program, and you can call your elected officials and get the law changed.

O'BRIEN: Oh, come on, really?

WILLIS: Yes, yes, absolutely. It's the only way to get these things changed and there are hearings every day in Congress.

O'BRIEN: How many of the banks do this? I mean, that sounds like...


O'BRIEN: Really?

WILLIS: It's in fact difficult to find a bank that doesn't.

O'BRIEN: Interesting. So your bank's probably doing it and you don't even realize it.

WILLIS: Exactly.

O'BRIEN: Gerri Willis, thank you very much.

WILLIS: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: You want to check out, of course, "OPEN HOUSE," this weekend.

WILLIS: That's right. We've got have a show 9:30 a.m. Saturday. We'll be on talking about many topics, including insurance controversy, the homeowners insurance controversy, mineral rights, and lies, lies, lies. We love that song.

O'BRIEN: Lies, lies, lies. I love it, too. Gerri Willis, thanks -- Rick?

SANCHEZ: Hey, thanks so much.

We have this Just into the CNN Newsroom -- confirming that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is in Iraq. She is apparently leading a delegation of Democratic leaders, meeting with Prime Minister Nuri al- Maliki. It's her first visit to Iraq since becoming speaker. And we're going to have more coming up in the "CNN NEWSROOM," along with these stories at the top of the hour.

HARRIS: See these stories in the "CNN NEWSROOM" -- a bomb explodes at a Baghdad pet market, killing more than a dozen people.

No mention of New Orleans in the State of the Union. We talked to a radio host about that.

Why some don't want the Bush Presidential Library on the SMU campus in Dallas. You're in the "NEWSROOM," 9:00 a.m. Eastern, 6:00 Pacific.