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American Morning

Heavy Snow Expected in Upstate New York; Flight Risk: U.S. Helicopters Down in Iraq; Dramatic Testimony in Scooter Libby Trial

Aired February 08, 2007 - 08:00   ET


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Snowbound. An unrelenting blast, dangerous arctic weather. Today some places are bracing for eight feet -- feet -- of snow.
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Armed in the air, packing pistols, not just here, but around the world. Will this response to 9/11 become a U.S. export?

M. O'BRIEN: On alert. Airports have a new plan this morning to try to save abducted children.

And then there's this...

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Alina Cho at New York's Fashion Week. Why would a car company, a shipping company and a phone company come to the fashion shows? I'll tell you when we go backstage on this AMERICAN MORNING.

M. O'BRIEN: You know it's about the Benjamins, don't you?

S. O'BRIEN: Yes.

M. O'BRIEN: Good morning, Thursday, February 8th.

I'm Miles O'Brien.

S. O'BRIEN: And I'm Soledad O'Brien.

Thanks for being with us.

Let's begin this morning with some of the deadly winter weather that we're experiencing. At least 16 people have died in the elements and on slippery road, too. More snow is coming. Eight feet, in fact, could pile up by Sunday in upstate New York.

More than six feet are on the ground already in some places. And all of it, of course, causing very big problems on the highways. There's accidents reported from Ohio, to the Mid-Atlantic and beyond.

Team coverage for you this morning. CNN's Rob Marciano in Oswego, New York. Chad Myers is at the CNN weather center watching it all for us.

Let's start with Rob. He is right off of Lake Ontario.

So I guess that's the lake-effect snow they talk about, Rob. ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It is. Boy, and it's a narrow band, but it's a heavy band. It's coming right off the lake over my -- over my left shoulder.

Winds are blowing a good 15, 20 miles an hour. Temperatures right now 15, 17 degrees. That brings the wind-chills down below zero. So it is bitterly cold.

And the snow, for that matter, is not only falling heavily, but it's blowing and swirling and coming down sideways. So drifting is becoming an issue.

They are trying to keep up with it. You know, if there's any place that they can keep up on keeping the roadways clear, it's in lake-effect snow country. But talking some guys who are working the roads this morning, they are even having a hard time.

When you have snowfall rates of three, four inches an hour -- I mean, this road was just cleared about an hour or so ago and it's already covered in snow. They keep coming through.

There are people on the roads. Don't get me wrong. So people are out and about.

Schools, though, are closed. So kids are happy about that.

So far, we have seen over 50 inches of snow. We will easily get to the five-foot mark today. Lake-effect snow warnings are up until 6:00 p.m. tomorrow afternoon, and we could easily see six or seven feet before all is said and done at this point.

They are plowing. They do use salt in this part of the country. But at this temperature, with this much snow piling up, salt doesn't really do any good. They try to throw down some sand to help with the traction, but then that gets covered up pretty much as well.

So it's kind of like cutting your sweater off at this end and sewing it on to the top. It's kind of fruitless at this point, but they're trying to make ways. And, you know, on a nice note, it's kind of pretty as long as you get yourself out of it.


S. O'BRIEN: Always looking for that silver lining, Rob is.

Thank you, Rob.

MARCIANO: Well, we try.

S. O'BRIEN: Oh, man. You do. You're trying for sure. Thank you.

M. O'BRIEN (SINGING): Always look on the bright side -- yes.

Anyway let's get right to Chad Myers. He's always looking on the bright side there. It's just a few minutes past the top of the hour. And what -- boy, Rob is optimistic. If you really start adding up the numbers here, though, this is very serious business.




S. O'BRIEN: New this morning in Iraq, a new round of deadly attacks to tell you about. At least 27 people have been killed in car bombings within the past few hours.

In Baghdad, a sedan that was packed with explosives blew up outside a mosque. A short time later another car bomb detonated outside a crowded market in Aziziyah. That's about 100 miles outside of Baghdad.

And just a few hours ago, U.S. troops raided the Iraqi Health Ministry. They arrested the deputy minister who has ties apparently to the anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. The U.S. is accusing him of corruption and helping the Mehdi army infiltrate that ministry.

And while we are watching this troubling story, too, for you this morning, a sixth chopper down in Iraq in just the last three weeks.

Barbara Starr is live for us at the Pentagon.

Barbara, of course there's got to be concern that was -- which was something that was once unusual is now becoming almost a trend.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: There is concern, Soledad, indeed.

This sixth incident just coming to light. Very few details available. Apparently a small civilian helicopter went down several days ago. The military investigating that.

A lot of concern, and perhaps it's because they don't see a trend. They don't believe that it is all the same group. All these incidents taking place in different parts of Iraq, different weapons.

And to answer the question that a lot of people may be wondering, no, they don't see any new types of weapons being used in these incidents. They don't see anything new, they just see more of it. They're struggling to figure out what's going on -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Barbara, you have obviously been in choppers like these a number of times. What exactly do they do when they come under fire? Have you ever been in one when it's been under fire? I mean, how do they avoid that?

STARR: Yes, and it's an unsettling experience, to say the least.

Now, over Baghdad, I think everyone knows helicopters fly low, fast, changing their angles, changing their patterns, zigzagging all the time to try and avoid any fire from the ground. It's an A-ticket ride when you fly over Baghdad.

Myself and my cameraman, we were on the Pakistani border about a year ago with the 82nd Airborne. Our position came under mortar attack. We were on Black Hawk helicopters, and they move very fast, very steep.

We were on the ground, we came under attack. Everybody piled on, and that helicopter went straight up, I would say, in less than two seconds to get out of the range of fire. It's tactics mainly that pilots use to try and stay out of the way of threats -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Oh my gosh. That's got to be absolutely terrifying.

Now, of these six choppers that we now have, how many of them do we know are shot down and how many of them are mechanical failure or pilot error or sort of other?

STARR: All right. Let's go through it.

The four instances in that two-week period all now are acknowledged to basically be shoot-downs, and all actually by small arms fire, to the best of the investigators' ability. They have been over the debris with a fine-tooth comb. They see things like -- here's the complication. Bear with me a minute.

The Black Hawk, in which tragically 12 were killed, they found an SA-7 missile tube at the site. So originally they thought it was a surface-to-air missile that brought it down. But now they have gone through the forensics and they actually think it was shot down by small arms fire, though these other weapons were being used in the area at the time.

So it's a very difficult investigative process. It's real detective work.

The one yesterday, so far indications are likely mechanical failure. That is still under investigation, as is this sixth one that has just come to light.

S. O'BRIEN: Barbara Starr for us at the Pentagon.

Thanks, Barbara -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Is your pilot packing heat? Well, in the U.S. you never know. It's just one of the security measures in place since 9/11.

And now there is word the U.S. government is urging other countries to follow suit, but a lot of them oppose the idea overseas. As a matter of fact, some of them block armed sky marshals.

A bioterror bungle to report to you this morning. According to a federal watchdog, mistakes were made by the Department of Homeland Security after an early warning system used to detect biological weapons was created in 2003. It's used in 30 cities. All classified, but New York and Washington are on the list. The problem stems from the mishandling of test sensors. Homeland security officials say they have taken action to resolve the issues. The BioWatch Program costs about $1 million per city, per year.

"Meet the Press" meets Perry Mason in Washington today with NBC's Tim Russert returning to the stand in the Scooter Libby trial. His dramatic testimony in direct conflict with what Libby told the grand jury about where Libby first heard the name "Valerie Plame".

AMERICAN MORNING'S Bob Franken knows the ins and outs of this case. He has more for us this morning.

Good morning, Bob.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's going to be out, Miles, probably for the prosecution shortly after Russert and the defense takes over. And there were grand jury tapes that were played during the prosecution's case. So Libby's defense will have to counter what he had to say in his words.


FRANKEN (voice over): Under oath before the grand jury, Scooter Libby quoted Tim Russert as the first person to tell him about Valerie Plame.

LEWIS "SCOOTER" LIBBY, FMR. CHENEY AIDE: "... Did you know that Ambassador Wilson's wife works at the CIA?" And I was a little taken aback by that. And I said, "No, I don't know that."

FRANKEN: Russert, who's the current witness, disputed Libby's claim. "No, that would be impossible," he said, "because I did not know who that person was until several days later."

That person is Valerie Plame. She was identified in subsequent news reports as a CIA operative and the wife of Joseph Wilson.

Wilson had publicly accused the Bush administration of distorting information about Iraq's intention to acquire nuclear weapons. Libby says he later found notes showing that he actually first heard about Plame from his boss, the vice president, who was upset about Wilson's claims and instructed Libby to talk with reporters.

But to identify Plame?

LIBBY: I don't recall specifically having a conversation with him about sharing with -- about Wilson's wife. But it's possible. I just don't recall it.

FRANK: Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald asked Libby about spreading the word about Plame's identification well before he says he did. Former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer testified Libby told him at lunch in June 2003, before the news accounts appeared in July. PATRICK FITZGERALD, SPECIAL PROSECUTOR: Isn't it a fact, sir, that you told Mr. Fleischer that it was 'hush-hush' or 'on the Q.T.' that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA?

LIBBY: I don't recall that.

FRANKEN: Several reporters who have been coerced to testify, as well as CIA and State Department witnesses, also say Libby knew about Plame and talked about her before the first news reports.


FRANKEN: And the question now is, as the defense begins, will Libby take the stand and will his former boss, the vice president? If not, the reason, Miles, might be summed up in two words -- cross- examination.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes, I think that would be very interesting. That would be a day to be in court, Bob.

FRANKEN: It would be. It would be.

M. O'BRIEN: I would get a seat for that one.


M. O'BRIEN: All right. Bob Franken, thank you.

Well, I suppose you could call it "Speaker One." There's a beltway tempest under way this morning over what kind of government plane House Speaker Nancy Pelosi should get to jet home to California.

Now, since 9/11, the House speaker has gotten a ride on Air Force jets in the same fleet as Air Force One. But Pelosi has a lot further to go than her predecessor, Dennis Hastert, of Illinois. So she's asking for a plane with longer range, which happens to be a lot bigger and more expensive to operate. Republicans are launching verbal grenades, and the speaker is returning fire.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: The sergeant-at-arms requested of the Air Force a continuation of the practice they had for Speaker Hastert. And that is what we -- that is what they have asked for, for security reasons. It has nothing do with family and friends and everything to do about security.


M. O'BRIEN: Here's the plane. Not bad, huh? It's a military version of the 757. Well, there you saw it briefly.

The plane, if you imagine the plane for a moment -- there it is. It has a private bed, an entertainment center, and a crew of 16. That's riding in style.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes, it is.

Still to come this morning, a new waiting list is out, just out this morning. It's a list of just how long you're going to wait for certain airlines. We'll tell you which airlines are consistently running late.

Plus, the new plan going into effect this morning at the nation's airports to catch a kidnapper and maybe save a child.

You're watching AMERICAN MORNING. The most news in the morning is right here on CNN.


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

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is back on Capitol Hill today. She's talking to a congressional committee about the president's proposed budget and his calls for more money in Iraq.

Plus, airport security screeners are about to start getting Amber Alert messages. The goal is to try to prevent kidnapped children from being transported on a plane.

We'll get a live look at the program in just a few minutes straight ahead -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Well, we all know flying is no fun, but if it seems like it's getting worse -- it is. A new government report released this morning says just about 25 percent of all flights arrived late to the gate in 2006. That is a six-year high of lateness.

Here's the solution. This is a solution to a lot of problems -- move to Hawaii. Hawaiian Airlines on time 94 percent of the time. I know, they've got a lot of advantages out there, but what the heck. They still win.

You might want to give yourself a little extra time, even more so, if you are flying Atlantic Southeast Airlines, at the bottom of the list. Among the laggards nearby, ATA and American Eagle.

Atlantic Southeast also taking another ignominious honor. They misplaced the most luggage last year, losing 17 of every 1,000 checked bags was lost.

Airlines as a whole not doing much better. A total of four million bags misplaced in 2006. That's about a million more than the year before.

Where are all those bags?

Happy flying to you.

Chad Myers, in the weather center, has his hands full with that heavy snow.


S. O'BRIEN: For years, Amber Alerts have helped communities find missing children. Now the Amber Alert is coming to the airport. The goal is to help kidnapped kids before they're transported by plane.

Ernie Allen is the president and CEO of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. He's at Reagan National Airport this morning.

Ernie, nice to see you, as always. Thanks for talking with us.


S. O'BRIEN: Give me a sense -- give me a sense of how this works. I know you're not targeting passengers. You're actually targeting TSA workers. How does it work?

ALLEN: Well, to -- it's an extraordinary concept. What's going to happen is, as soon as an Amber Alert is issued by local law enforcement, law enforcement will alert us. We provide that information immediately to the operation center at TSA. They then contact their federal security directors in each airport, and the Amber Alert information will be targeted regionally around the area from which the child has been taken.

We think it's going to bring more children home.

S. O'BRIEN: I'm looking at videotape of sort of these printouts with photos. Is that basically how it's going to happen, you'll do printouts, you'll make sure everybody gets a printout in all the areas where the TSA workers essentially would be coming to and fro?

ALLEN: Absolutely. And it will vary a little bit based upon the information available. But at a minimum, the 43,000 TSA workers will get this information, they will become the eyes and ears of the effort to identify these abductors and these children as they move.

Hopefully what we can do is block the exit, take away the fact that the airport will be a venue to get kids out of the town.

S. O'BRIEN: There are lots of people, Ernie, who might say, listen, they should actually be the eyes and the ears of making sure nobody is transporting anything through -- into the airport that would compromise our safety on a plane, not watching for kidnapped kids. They need to watch if, you know, you've got your three ounces of gel, they need to make sure everybody is taking their shoes off and their belts off. You know, all these other things that they're doing.

Aren't they -- isn't it a fair argument that maybe they're a little too busy to be doing this, too?

ALLEN: Soledad, we don't think it is. First of all, there are not going to be thousands of these Amber Alerts. There were a total of 260 last year in the United States. And 322 children have been saved already as a result of the Amber Alert. These are trained security officers who are watching for all kinds of things. We don't think it's a diversion at all for them to be on notice, to be on lookout for someone who's taken a child to recognize that child. It's a great use of the security resources that are in place in this country to protect the homeland.

S. O'BRIEN: How many kids do you believe, once they're kidnapped or abducted, are actually transported through the airport? I mean, often you hear about, you know, we've got a license plate number and we're looking for someone driving a certain colored vehicle.

ALLEN: Well, certainly we know that the automobile is the primary means of transporting a child away from a kidnap site. But we have had a number of cases using the airport, particularly with very young children, with infants and newborns, who can't tell that you they have been taken.

International transportation of children as a result of abductions is also a concern. So while we don't think it's a primary means of abductors getting away with kids, we certainly have had plenty of cases, and we think not only is this going to stop them, but it's going to serve as a deterrent for these people taking kids to begin with.

S. O'BRIEN: The plan goes into effect today. Ernie Allen, thanks for talking with us, as always.

He's the head of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Thanks, Ernie -- Miles.

ALLEN: Thanks.

M. O'BRIEN: You know what today is, right, crew?

S. O'BRIEN: MilesCam Day.


M. O'BRIEN: Thank you very much. It is MilesCam day. Yes.

We weren't sure we were going to have MilesCam today. I'm off to the airport on assignment today. But we managed to pull it together.

The MilesCam will be curbside at LaGuardia.


M. O'BRIEN: Yes, it will be. I'll be happy to check your bags there.

If you have any questions for me -- and you might have a few questions about the space program this week. What do you think?

S. O'BRIEN: Yes, just a few. M. O'BRIEN: There might be a few. I'd be happy to field those and anything else that's on your mind. is where you send the e-mails. The place to watch it all unfold, the first ever, LaGuardia airport. MilesCam will be at 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time at

Check out Pipeline anyway. It's a great product.

Coming up on AMERICAN MORNING, it is Fashion Week in New York City. And our own fashionista, Alina Cho, is live in the middle of it all. She couldn't be happier.

Look at that smile. It's her favorite assignment every year.

Hello, Alina.

CHO: Hi there, Miles.

Behind the scenes, though, the real big story is business. Big business. I'll have much more on this live from the tents when AMERICAN MORNING continues.


S. O'BRIEN: Welcome back to the most news in the morning.

Green is the new black, they say. At least during Fashion Week in New York City. Green, as in money.

Fashion Week makes more than $200 million for New York City.

Alina Cho goes behind the seams for us this morning. She's at the tents at Bryant Park in New York.

Hey. Good morning.

CHO: Hey. Good morning, Soledad.

First and foremost, Fashion Week is all about fashion. But, as you mentioned, it is also a huge moneymaker for the city of New York.

It's why major corporations come here. They road-test their products. And it's also made the careers of more than a few famous designers.


CHO (voice over): It's a spectacle and some might say superficial, but Fashion Week is big business. It's made Gilles Mendel's career.

GILLES MENDEL, DESIGNER: I think I'm, like, the best example, where, you know, my dream came true, and really a large part of my success is thanks to the shows. CHO: Before he started showing in the tents two years ago, Mendel was known as a furrier. He wanted the public to see he could make more than just coats.

MENDEL: Very nice.

CHO: So he crafted a collection for the runway. Each show costs him $400,000 -- and that's twice a year. What he gets back is priceless.

MENDEL: All the press all over the world take all those pictures and print them in every magazine, on the Internet, all over the world.

CHO: Those pictures sell clothes. In two years, Mendel's business has multiplied from $5 million a year to $30 million a year.

It's not just designers. Mercedes-Benz spends millions to be Fashion Week's title sponsor.

There are many others, including MAC Cosmetics, which supplies makeup and services to most of the shows. Why do they get involved? In a word, branding.

JOHN DEMSEY, PRESIDENT, ESTEE LAUDER: From runway to real (ph) way. I mean, really what you see is inspiration, looking forward to trends in the future, yet the reality of it is you're seeing makeup created right now.

CHO: In some ways, it's an easy sell. One hundred thousand people come to the tents during Fashion Week, and the fashion crowd is a captive audience.

FERN MALLIS, V.P., IMG FASHION: They stay in good hotels.

CHO (on camera): Fine restaurants.

MALLIS: They go to the best restaurants. They check out every new restaurant. They go shopping.

They know how to spend money. They like to spend money.

CHO (voice over): Fashion Week generates an estimated $235 million for New York City over just eight days. Good for the economy, good for business, and very good for Gilles Mendel.

MENDEL: The runway show has really transformed completely my company. And I really give thanks to those runway shows. You know, really living a dream.


CHO: Now, if you're still wondering why a car company like Mercedes-Benz or a shipping company like DHL would come here to Fashion Week to be a sponsor, it's pretty simple. Fern Mallis, who runs Fashion Week, told me that the idea is, Soledad, that a fashionista like yourself, you come here to the tents, you see a product you like -- like I know you liked those chocolate mints earlier this week -- you tell your friend about it, they tell their friends, and it's all really good for business -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes. You know I liked those chocolate mints because you were sitting next to me at the show. You got us both into eating those chocolate mints, Mrs. fashionista yourself.

CHO: Well, covering fashion week does have its perks.

S. O'BRIEN: Working, working, working. All right, Alina, thanks.

M. O'BRIEN: The other SOB, Sandy O'Brien is going to go down with Alina today.

S. O'BRIEN: Alina is hooked in.

M. O'BRIEN: She is wired in.

S. O'BRIEN: Big industry.

M. O'BRIEN: I should say.

M. O'BRIEN: Big money.

M. O'BRIEN: Just ahead on AMERICAN MORNING, flight risk. Reports of another U.S. helicopter downed in Iraq. That's No. 6 now in three weeks time. And the concerns just get greater over whether the skies in Iraq are becoming more dangerous for choppers, whether the insurgents have figured something out that could really unravel things there.

You're watching AMERICAN MORNING, the most news in the morning right here.



M. O'BRIEN: In Iraq, U.S. choppers are falling out of the sky. Six of them down in the past three weeks. Four of them confirmed shootdowns. Investigators still looking into the two others. So what's going on?

Here's what the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff had to say the other die.


GEN. PETER PACE, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: I do not know whether it's the law of averages that caught up with us or if there's been a change in tactics, techniques and procedures on the part of the enemy, which is what the investigation will do.

(END VIDEO CLIP) M. O'BRIEN: Now this is a big deal, because those choppers are a huge advantage for the U.S., and if they become an Achilles Heel things can unravel even more than they are in Iraq. Look at what happened to the U.S. in Somalia or the Soviets in Afghanistan.

Jim Daum is a former Blackhawk helicopter pilot in Iraq. He spent a year flying helicopters over that country, November 2004 to November 2005.

Jim, good to have you with us.

When you were there, flying at that time, did you get shot at much?

JIM DAUM, FMR. HELICOPTER PILOT IN IRAQ: No, sir. We were fortunate enough that we did not receive very much fire and the -- I think the tactics were kind of low when we were there.

M. O'BRIEN: Interesting. Were you surprised, given all that was going on in Iraq, that they weren't trying to take pot shots at you?

DAUM: Well, we did see some from time to time. Mainly at night, with improved optics we could see tracer fire or some things. But during the day, unless we saw somebody shooting at us or got hit, neither which I saw, we didn't see that.

M. O'BRIEN: Let's talk about tactics for a moment. One of the key things, especially when you're going over these populated areas, these cities, Fallujah or the like, is to go low, to go fast and fly at an unpredictable way. Explain what you do.

DAUM: Well, as you said, fly low and fast. And as a Blackhawk pilot, carrying mostly troops, we would try to stay away from populated areas and away from threat areas. We don't...

M. O'BRIEN: Of course that's a difficult thing to do, because in many occasions, where the very utility of a helicopter is to get people into those position safely, right?

DAUM: In some situations, yes. I mean, as a helicopter pilot we would try to keep the troops off the roads, which is a greater threat, even under this situation that we are in now. The -- with putting troops on the ground, you have to put a large number of vehicles, people, exposing troops, large number of troops, for a longer period of time. So I believe the helicopter flying is still safer.

M. O'BRIEN: It's probably still safer than being on the ground, safe to say, but we're still seeing an uptick for some reason. You talked to, I'm sure, you're involved in the rotor network, so to speak, the rotor-head network. What are they telling you? what is the best guess as to what is going on on the ground there?

DAUM: I haven't received a threat briefing for quite some time since I've left, so I really don't know what it is. If it's involved with the upsurge, I'm not certain. But obviously there is some change in there tactics that is working for them. M. O'BRIEN: Now you have countermeasures on these craft to avoid these heat-seeking missiles. The previous versions of these, you could defeat. But there are newer versions of these missiles out, and these are Russian or Soviet lineage weapons. We're talking, SA-16, SA-18, which have the ability, I'm told, to circumvent some of these measures. If those -- there's an SA-18. If those were on the ground there, perhaps funneled in from Iran, that would be very significant, wouldn't it?

DAUM: There's no evidence that I know of that those exist in the theater at this time. If they were there, yes, that would provide a great significant effect.

M. O'BRIEN: Is there -- are there ways, if they are there, are there ways that additional counter measures can be taken? Are there tactics or equipment that we can give to the helicopter pilots?

DAUM: The tactics that we would use would be to avoid known areas, and take all the intelligence we have into account, and try to avoid those areas is probably the most significant thing that we would do.

M. O'BRIEN: Final thought. If the helicopters become a target, that is a very significant change, right?

DAUM: Yes, if they become a target. I think they have always been a target. Helicopters are a valuable asset to us. And I don't think that it has changed in that much. We've always been a target, and, you know, they are fun to shoot at for the individuals or for the insurgents.

M. O'BRIEN: Sadly. And you don't see that in a flip way, I know. Jim Daum, thank you very much, Blackhawk helicopter pilot, now with the National Guard.

Thank you for being with us.


M. O'BRIEN: Still to come this morning, fallout from a chemical inferno. What's next for resident around a factory that goes up in flames and toxic smoke in Missouri.

And our favorite picture of the day. There he is. He gets the tip jar. Time to beat a hasty retreat. Ooh, wrong door. You're watching AMERICAN MORNING, the most news in the morning.

We'll always open the right doors for you.


S. O'BRIEN: We have some frightening new figures to tell you about if you're a parent. A new report out says that dating abuse, control and intimidation are all being made worse, much worse by cell phones, by social networking sites and by instant messaging.

CNN's Brianna Keilar is live in Washington D.C. with details of this report.

Brianna, good morning.


If you're a parent of a teenager, certainly this is no new sight to you, your teenager on a cell phone, your teenager text messaging all the time. But what parents don't realize is it could mean that your child is in danger.


SHAINA WEISBROT, VICTIM OF ABUSE: There's a lot of shaking. There's a lot of covering my mouth. He pulled my hair and pushing me.

KEILAR: Shaina Weisbrot started dating her high school boyfriend when she was 15. At first things were great. But over the next four- and-a-half years he became more and more controlling, and she felt forced to tell him her every move.

WEISBROT: Where I was at all times. I always had to answer my cell phone.

KEILAR: Eventually the relationship turned violent.

WEISBROT: He kept calling me over and over. He must have called me 100 times that night, and I would not answer the phone. And finally I answered the phone, and I said are you going to be nice to me now? And he said, I know where your classes are, and I'm going to kill you.

KEILAR: Her story is terrifying but it's not unique. In a new survey, one in four teens in a relationship say their boyfriend or girlfriend has text messaged them at least hourly between midnight and 5:00 a.m. Even more say a partner who has text messaged them 10, 20, up to 30 times per hour to find out where they are and who they're with. The scariest part, almost half say their cell phones or computers make abuse easier to hide from her parents.

WEISBROT I'd be in my room, I'd pretend to be sleeping, I'd shut the lights, and I'd be quiet, and no one would know the difference, because all you have to do is hide your cell phone.

M. O'BRIEN: Last year, Shaina severed all ties with her ex- boyfriend. She's now 20, and a sophomore at Rutgers University in New Jersey, and is a founding member of a non-profit organization called Teens Experiencing Abusive Relationships. Shaina tries to help other teens recognize the signs of teen-dating abuse so they, too, can escape it.


KEILAR: So how do you know if your teen is a victim? Experts say watch closely, because as you saw with Shaina there, she was an expert at hiding this from parents, and many teens do that. So look for things like the constant communication. Do they really have a hard time letting that phone call on their cell phone go? Also jealousy issues. Maybe before they were in this relationship, they really didn't have a problem with talking with members of the opposite sex, and now they're steering away from that, and also emotional changes. Maybe they were happy at the beginning of the relationship, and that has tapered off over time -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Brianna Keilar with a pretty disturbing story. Thanks, Brianna.



S. O'BRIEN: "CNN NEWSROOM" just a couple of minutes away. Heidi Collins is at the CNN Center with a look at what's ahead this morning.

Good morning.

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you. Soledad. And good morning to you, everybody.

That's right, we have these stories coming up in the "NEWSROOM" today. Good grief, first winter wouldn't start and now it won't stop. You've heard Chad talking about it, some spots in upstate New York buried under six feet of snow.

And the fight over Nigeria's oil riches. Our Africa correspondent Jeff Koinange face to face with masked rebels. A dangerous and amazing piece of reporting that you've got to see. We'll show you that.

And sign of the times -- a critically acclaimed play causing a little southern discomfort, so the producers have changed the name of "The Vagina Monologues."

Tony Harris is with me in the "NEWSROOM" of the hour right here on CNN.


S. O'BRIEN: Oh, my gosh.

M. O'BRIEN: "The Hoohaa Monologues?"

COLLINS: You got it. Some people were offended, you know.

S. O'BRIEN: Oh, my goodness. I can see why. That's very interesting.

M. O'BRIEN: "Hoohaa" kind of bothers me.

COLLINS: No, I mean, they were offended by the original name.

S. O'BRIEN: No, no I get you on all fronts.

M. O'BRIEN: But you know, some people might have a "Hoohaa" problem. Who knows.

COLLINS: I'm done.

S. O'BRIEN: As am I. We're done.

Hey, Heidi, have you seen this videotape? It's actually our favorite of the day. This is a criminal caught on tape in Limerick, Pennsylvania. Watch this -- throws a cement block through, grabs the tip jar, runs out. But, oops, hey, look, that's not the window you broke into. Wrong window guy. He slams his way in. We're going to run it for you again. I guess he's not so dumb, though, because he got away. Police are still looking for him. He got away with that tip jar that you can see him grabbing right there. I guess the restaurant owner, who saw the tape, even he -- even though he had been ripped off, he still thought it was kind of amazing.

M. O'BRIEN: Well, no, see, he didn't get ripped off. His employees got ripped off. It was the tip jar. So he's like, yes, that's pretty funny. Yes, no problem.

S. O'BRIEN: I'm sure he's going to make it up to them.

M. O'BRIEN: It's just the waiters.

Anyway, he's on the lam, as they say.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes, he is.

M. O'BRIEN: Hitting things on the way.

And now for something completely different. It's called the Pimped-Out John.

S. O'BRIEN: Oh, my.

M. O'BRIEN: A throne fit for a king or queen. Almost seems like a...

S. O'BRIEN: A waste of $5,000?

M. O'BRIEN: For $5,000 you can get this. It's equipped with a flat-screen TV, an XBox, an iPod, a refrigerator, and it's got a little exer-cycle thing there. Bad idea.

They say the average person -- this is Roto-Rooter that that says this, spends in his lifetime, or her lifetime, nearly 12,000 hours in the bathroom.

S. O'BRIEN: Well, hopefully not at one time.

M. O'BRIEN: No, that would be...

S. O'BRIEN: Yes, that would be a lot. That's more like prison.

M. O'BRIEN: That's about a year on the throne.

Of course that would be stainless steel, and no accoutrements, if it was a prison.

But anyway, it's -- you can win it online. There's a sweepstakes. That's what we're after here.

Back in a moment.


M. O'BRIEN: The human brain is a very powerful, sometimes very strange, little understood organ. Some people believe they are possessed by the devil. That's called cacodemono mania (ph), or they have ergotism (ph), a condition in which people believe they will soon burst into flames. I feel like that most mornings. Or imagine being convinced you have an identical twin when do you not. That's Capgras' Syndrome. Well, you know where we're headed? We're headed right to our staff brain surgeon, Sanjay Gupta joining us now from the CNN Center with the capper on his series Mysteries of the Brain.

Good morning, Sanjay.


You know, It has been an amazingly fun series to put together. There are so many things about the brain that we still don't know. And some of things are very mysterious and fun to sort of explore. It's sort of a huge jigsaw puzzle. There's 100 billion neurons. It's amazing that the brain comes together normal in anybody, but in some situations all the parts the puzzle don't not quite fight, and that can certainly enhance or be a detriment to some peoples lives.

As part of some of the research that we've doing, I met a young man about a few months ago. He's about 14 years old. His name is Matt Savage. You're listening to him play there. He loves to play jazz music. He's just a phenomenal musician. He can play Dave Brubeck, Kenny G, just by ear, just by memory. What's remarkable about, Matt, though, is that he's autistic, and up to the age of 6 1/2, he didn't like to be touched at all, and couldn't bear the sound of music, and suddenly he just started playing, and he played pitch perfect. It was remarkable. He is what is known as a prodigious savant. There's only a couple hundred of people like Matt anywhere in the world. And people don't know what's exactly happening inside Matt's brain. Some people believe that he's overcompensating for something else that's been more of a detriment, with the autism.

Other people believe he was just born with this ability. It is mysterious, but pretty remarkable, when it comes to autism and people like Matt, prodigious savants.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes, it's kind of -- you know, a lot of people, I'm sure, thinking of the movie "Rain Man," and that kind of amazing narrow intelligence. Tell me about this identical twin thing. That's fascinating.

GUPTA: Yes, it's called Capgras' Syndrome, and it's is one of the syndromes that I was most fascinated by in medical school. You actually believe that someone you know, a parent, a spouse, sibling, anybody has an impostor. You believe you actually see them, and it's not them, but it's actually an impostor. It can be so profound that you actually attack that person, accusing them of being an impostor. Even more profound is that you look at yourself in the mirror and think that the person you're seeing in the mirror is an impostor.

Now you're hearing this and you're saying, this has to be a psychotics sort of problem. And for a long time it was sort of put into the realm of psychological disease, but one of the stories we did this week, as, you know, Miles, was about face blindness, and this whole idea that you don't recognize things as well, and perhaps that might be true with this particular Capgras' Syndrome as well. So you see somebody and think they're impersonating him, and that might be part of the problem. So we're starting to be able to assign actual neurological problems to what was previously in the realm of psychiatric illness.

It just amazes, Sanjay -- you're a brain surgeon -- how little we know about the brain. I mean, it's -- I know we're learning a lot, but it's a tremendous amount that is unknown.

GUPTA: You know, it's one of the things that attracted me to the field, quite frankly. It is a very dynamic field. There are so many things we don't know, even in the, you know, two decades or so that I have been sort of very involved with this. We're starting to learn more about things like pain, which is such a subjective thing, obsessive compulsive disorder. We're starting to learn how to treat diseases like Parkinson's Disease, with brain operations. So there's a lot we don't know. It's a 100 billion neurons. We're not sure what all of them do, quite frankly, but it is a pretty remarkable fertile area to study -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Sanjay Gupta, our staff brain surgeon, what you don't have one, too? Any way, good to have you. Fascinating series, really enjoyed it.

GUPTA: Appreciate it.

M. O'BRIEN: Back with more in a moment.