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When Your Airline Cancels on You; Terrorist Comeback?; Mt. Hood Rescue
Aired February 20, 2007 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were very excited. It was a collective sigh of relief. Lots of hugs in the group.
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SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Three stranded climbers are alive this morning, thanks to their rescuers and a black lab named Velvet and a pile of tax dollars.
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Rebooting JetBlue. New promises today to lift the airline's image after those disastrous flight delays. We'll talk with the CEO later this morning.
O'BRIEN: And Mardi Gras today through the eyes of young hurricane survivors. We're live from New Orleans, from New York and in Oregon on this AMERICAN MORNING.
Good morning. Welcome, everybody. It's Tuesday, February 20th. I'm Soledad O'Brien.
ROBERTS: I'm John Roberts in for Miles O'Brien on this Tuesday morning. Thanks very much for joining us.
It was great to see that rescue yesterday and with much better news than what happened in December.
O'BRIEN: Oh, such good news, wasn't it. And the dog, kind of a strange angle. They actually had gone hiking with their dog.
ROBERTS: We've got to figure out what the dog was doing on the mountain. A question we'll ask later today.
O'BRIEN: Yes, absolutely. Yes, we'll be talking about that.
First, though, let's begin with the relaunch today for the bruised image of JetBlue Airlines. They're planning to resume a full flight schedule. That will be the first time since the Valentine's Day meltdown. They're also coming out with a PR campaign to try to win some of those angry passengers back. Greg Hunter is live for us at JetBlue's terminal, which is at Kennedy Airport in New York.
Greg, good morning.
GREG HUNTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Soledad. I have some good news to report, for a change, for JetBlue. I'm at their terminal, terminal six. And if you take a look down here, you got almost every single window filled by staff personnel. And they are moving people through. they are -- 200, 300, 400 people have come through just in the half hour I've been here while they're setting up the live shot.
I talked to a company director earlier and she told me that, well, there's a reason why we're moving people through. We have all hands on deck. We have our "a" game. And we have people from the main officer here at the JetBlue terminal.
When I asked her -- I said, hey, how many people are flying? Are people really soaring (ph)? She says, well, you know, the planes are pretty full. And by the looks of the terminal, they are pretty full. So it looks like if they lost some customers, they didn't lose that many because they're showing up today and their flights are full and they don't expect any delays. No delays right now, JetBlue, JFK.
Back to you, Soledad.
O'BRIEN: All right. It's been awhile since we've heard that.
Thank you very much, Greg.
We're going to be talking to JetBlue's CEO. His name is David Neeleman. That's coming up at 8:15 a.m. Eastern Time. We're going to ask him what exactly went wrong. We'll talk about that new passenger bill of rights that JetBlue is pushing. And ask the big question, of course, is it going to be enough to get all those angry travelers back on board JetBlue?
Plus, Greg will be back with us at a half hour, take a look at how consumers can protect themselves when you're booking discount air travel.
ROBERTS: Now to the dramatic rescue on Mt. Hood. Three climbers, two women a man and their dog, a black lab named Velvet, all checking out OK this morning. We're learning just how they all survived on the frozen mountain. AMERICAN MORNING's Chris Lawrence is live from Mt. Hood.
And, Chris, this one turned out a lot better than the last one that you covered back in December there.
CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you can tell the difference here, John. Everybody was so excited to see them come off the mountain.
All three are doing well. The dog, actually, made out a little bit better than the people did. But they're all OK, which is amazing considering everything they went through in this kind of weather.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) LAWRENCE, (voice over): They fell off a ledge and slid hundreds of feet from the rest of the team. But rescue crews saved three climbers and their dog, after a day and night in the bitter cold and biting wind. Attached by a rope, Trevor Liston says the lead climber's fall almost took out the whole team.
TREVOR LISTON, RESCUED CLIMBER: He went off first and then, you know, as I was trying to stop him, you know, the momentum just kind of gets picked up with each person that gets pulled over right behind him. So it's kind of one, two, three, and then a climber behind me saw what was happening, caught up to me and tackled me and stopped me and that's when the rope got pulled off.
LAWRENCE: The mixed lab, Velvet, went over the side with them.
LISTON: She's got the whole husky kind of coat and she's a trooper.
LAWRENCE: The climbers had an electronic locator, which allowed rescuers to quickly pin point their signal.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And that's why it's a rescue instead of a recovery.
LAWRENCE: Three climbers disappeared on this same mountain in December. One died of hypothermia, the other two bodies were never found. They didn't have an electronic locator and no state requires them. But some Oregon legislators are threatening to make them mandatory and climbers are promising to fight it.
MIKE OCHSNER, ASSISTED IN RESCUE: One of the reasons that people climb is to -- for the freedom it allows and we don't think there should be that many rules about it.
LAWRENCE: But isn't just taking a mountain locator a very small inconvenience when you weigh it against the cost and the risk of trying to rescue people on the mountain, not knowing where they are?
OCHSNER: It is and I would recommend that people use them, but I don't think it should be required.
LAWRENCE: Yes, the climbers will say, look at a typical year like 2005, where less than 4 percent of the search and rescue operations here on Mt. Hood involved missing climbers. And, they say, a lot of those rescuers are actually volunteers. But opponents will say, some of these rescue efforts can go into the millions of dollars and ultimately it's agencies like the sheriff's department that end up footing the bill.
ROBERTS: You know, Chris, when you take a look back at the situation in December that you covered for a number of days, if they had of had a mountain locator, there's a chance that they could have been found alive, as opposed to the one being found dead and the other two still going missing. I don't quite understand this resistance here to the idea of a mandatory mountain locating unit. It just seems like a no-brainer.
LAWRENCE: Well, look at the kind of people who are going to go climbing a mountain in the winter. These are risk-takers, adrenalin junkies. People who want to push the envelope. Mountain climbing is an extreme sport. And part of the lure of it is the adrenalin, the risk of it all and the inherent danger in it. And they say if you start trying to police that, it's going to take away from that. Obviously a lot of people after some of these rescues do not agree with that feeling.
ROBERTS: Yes, you can just imagine the adrenalin rush again if you fall off the mountain into a crevice.
Chris, thanks very much. We'll talk to you soon.
Next hour we're going to talk to a member of Portland Mountain Rescue that helped bring those three climbers down from Mt. Hood.
In suburban Moscow this morning, health workers in biohazard suits are arriving to test more dead poultry for bird flu. Another 95 dead birds have turned up outside of Moscow in just the past 10 days. One hundred and ninety found dead so far.
And bird flu is forcing Pakistani authorities to temporarily close the only zoo in Islamabad. Four peacocks and a goose were killed. The zoo will reopen once the tests are complete.
Also happening this morning.
As if citizens of Baghdad don't deal with enough dangers day-to- day, more than 100 hospitalized complaining of breathing problems. It happened after a fuel tanker exploded just north of the city. One person was killed in the blast. Many of the hospitalized are children.
A remote area of western Afghanistan is now back in the hands of Afghan security forces. The town of Bakwa is near the hub of Afghanistan's opium and heroin industry. It had fallen under Taliban control. It took about 200 African police and NATO forces to get it back.
And until we meet again. Talks between U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas wrapped up in Jerusalem with no new agreement, but with a promise to talk more in the future.
And Vice President Dick Cheney is in Japan right now to talk security with Emperor Akihito and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Cheney also set to address U.S. troops on the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk, but he will not be meeting with Japan's defense minister who recently called the U.S. invasion of Iraq "a mistake."
And closing arguments begin in the next few hours in the perjury trial of Lewis "Scooter" Libby. The vice president's former aide is accused of lying to investigators looking into who leaked the CIA agent's name to the press.
O'BRIEN: Police in India are now looking for two men who may have jumped off a passenger train in India just before that train blew up. At least 68 people were killed, dozens more were hurt in that bombing and fire that followed. It happened early Monday morning north of New Delhi. CNN's Satinder Bindra is with us by phone from New Delhi this morning.
Satinder, good morning to you.
What do we know about these suspects?
SATINDER BINDRA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Soledad, we know that one suspect was in his 30s, the other in his 20s. And according to police, they got on to the train in Delhi. They rode the train for awhile and then engineered an argument with railway police on board the train. They said that they had got on to the wrong train and then they convinced the railway police to let them jump off the train.
So as soon as the train slowed down, they jumped off. And about 15 minutes later, there were two blasts. Police said these blasts were sophisticated and they were caused by digital timers.
Shortly after the blasts, Soledad, there were two large fires in two rail coaches and 68 people were killed. The Indian police are today also offering a $2,300 reward for any information that leads to possible arrests.
Now several people were also injured and most of the injured have horrific burn injuries. Police have been talking to the survivors. In particular, they've been talking to one Pakistani man, Rona Shalkit Ali (ph). Soledad, he lost five of his children in the blaze. And according to his relatives, he's now providing police vital clues.
In the meantime today, Soledad, the Pakistani foreign minister, Mr. Kasuri, is arriving for talks in Delhi. Both India and Pakistan say they will not let this incident derail the ongoing peace process between these nuclear neighbors.
Back to you.
O'BRIEN: Oh my goodness, lost five of his children. Those pictures, the smoldering remains, just horrible.
Satinder Bindra for us this morning.
ROBERTS: Tragic. In the race for '08, the hot Hollywood ticket in Los Angeles today is a fundraiser for Senator Barack Obama. He's to attend a star-studded fundraiser at the Beverly Hills Hilton tonight, hosted by the cofounders of Dreamworks, which includes Steven Spielberg. At $,2300 a ticket, it's expected to raise at least $1 million for Obama's campaign.
And a little bit of mud slinging to tell you about this morning. Arizona senator and Republican candidate for president, John McCain, had this to say about the war in Iraq. Take a listen.
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SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) ARIZONA: I think that Donald Rumsfeld will go down in history as one of the worst secretaries of defense in history.
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ROBERTS: McCain slammed Rumsfeld at a campaign event in South Carolina on Monday. He says the former defense secretary never put enough troops on the ground in Iraq. But McCain says the U.S. can succeed in Iraq with plans to send more troops in. And what's really interesting about that is when Rumsfeld resigned, McCain praised him back at the end of last year.
O'BRIEN: You mean politicians flip-flopping on some issues?
ROBERTS: Never heard of that (ph).
O'BRIEN: Absolutely shocking.
Mardi Gras today is bringing bigger crowds and more business to New Orleans this year. It's a day of revere on the city's very, very long road to recovery. And AMERICAN MORNING's Sean Callebs is live for us in New Orleans.
SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Bourbon Street is once again packed, and that means that Mardi Gras has come to the big easy. And it's a big celebration and a big economic windfall at a time when the city could use both. The city's 30,000 hotel rooms are filled to about a 90 percent occupancy rate, according to the tourism board here.
And while it's all about the beads and boas for the tourists, it's all about money for the city. The big parades that wind their way through the city, characterized by the outlandish floats and the various celebrities. It's been a 10-day or so party here.
But there's also been a very sobering aspect to Mardi Gras this year. The recent state of violence in (INAUDIBLE) city. The killings, the violent crime. Police are out in force doing everything they can to keep that under control. And for the 700,000 or so people expected to attend Mardi Gras, it doesn't seem to bother them at this point.
Sean Callebs, CNN in New Orleans.
O'BRIEN: We're also going to catch up with some of the young people who are taking part in our very special series called "Children of the Storm." Remember, we sent them out with their video cameras, try to capture bits and pieces of their lives. Well, their first videotape is in. We'll tell you their stories of Mardi Gras straight again.
Also ahead this morning, the Northeast is warming up. There may be another major winter storm on the horizon, though. We're going to talk to Chad about that.
Plus, the growing problems for the catholic church. And it's not pedophilia. More priests being accused of stealing money. We'll tell you what's going on there.
Well, Sirius and XM Satellite Radio want to merge. There is some very big obstacles to conquer first. We'll take a look straight ahead on AMERICAN MORNING. The most news in the morning is right here on CNN.
ROBERT: The most news in the morning is here on CNN.
In Iraq, at least five people killed in a fuel truck explosion north of Baghdad this morning. The blast spewing toxic fumes into the air.
And a tsunami warning in northeast Indonesia right now after a magnitude 6.5 earthquake out at sea overnight.
Sixteen minutes after the hour now. Chad Myers at the CNN Weather Center watching some incoming severe weather.
O'BRIEN: Crisis of faith and cash too for the catholic church. The San Diego diocese might be the latest to look for bankruptcy protection, buried under the weight of priest sex scandal lawsuits. A man who's representing many of the plaintiffs says those who have been victimized by the church should have their day in court. Listen.
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IRWIN ZALKIN, REPRESENTS VICTIMS OF PRIESTS: I think their tactic is to stop the trial, number one. First and foremost, they do not want the public to know what happened here.
(END VIDEO CLIP) O'BRIEN: Well now the church might be looking into its own finances. Faith and values correspondent Delia Gallagher with us this morning.
DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you.
O'BRIEN: Some of these financial stories are really out of control. First, you have this, Father Rodney Rodis. He was indicted in Virginia. They allege that he stole something like $600,000. And there was this woman, according to investigators, who he was supporting with this money. Kind of passing off as his wife. Then you have these two priests in Delray Beach who apparently took $8 million over 42 years. $8 million.
GALLAGHER: Yes, that's an interesting cause because it was over 40 years. I mean one of the main priests there, the pastor, was pastor there for some four decades. And this is what's interesting, the sort of amount of time that he allegedly had to embezzle this money. And as you say, the amounts are great.
And another interesting thing is that there does seem to be, in many of these cases, a woman involved, and sometimes even children. So, for example, in Florida, this pastor sent some $134,000 allegedly on a girlfriend.
O'BRIEN: Ah, you're a priest. You can't do that.
GALLAGHER: Right. So the corruption goes kind of through and through. Some $275,000, for example, on a rare coin collection. Also bought a kind of half a million-dollar pad -- beachfront property.
O'BRIEN: He was living very well for a person who took a vow of poverty.
O'BRIEN: Now the two names, let's just get them out there, is, there's Reverend John Skahan and Reverend Francis Guinan. Both of them in these parishes. Were they working together or are they in separate parishes?
GALLAGHER: No, they came one after the another. So the first pastor was there for some 40 years, and then the other one for a few years after that.
O'BRIEN: So 40 plus years. How did they discover the embezzlement?
GALLAGHER: Well, you know, we're living in the post sex abuse scandal culture, post Enron culture. The catholic church representatives have said to me that they are more aware now of the need for its (ph) transparence. But the catholic church has always been a culture which is behind the secular culture in a lot of those things and for certain verses they think that that's just fine. But certainly when it comes to financial transparency it's something that the church representatives have said they're continually working on.
But imagine this, if you are a bishop coming in, the structure of the church is such that the pastor and his church is very much independent. And if you have a pastor who's been there for 40 years, you try coming in and telling that pastor, listen, now you're going to start doing this computerized accounting system.
O'BRIEN: After the $8 million mistake.
Now let me ask you a quick, final question. So a lot of these sex abuse scandals kind of led to the closer look, which led to uncovering, it seems like, some of the money discrepancies. But the bankruptcy would come about because of the sex abuse claims?
GALLAGHER: Right. The bankruptcy is mainly because of the sex abuse -- I mean the amount of money isn't even comparable to the embezzlement cases. There's some $1.5 billion for some of these diocese that have gone into bankruptcy.
Now the interesting thing about the bankruptcy and these diocese, I think there are four diocese that have declared bankruptcy. And then San Diego, perhaps, will be doing so. But in those four diocese, in Portland, Oregon, Spokane, Washington, Davenport, Indiana, and so on, they, for the first time in the history of the United States and the catholic church, you will have a civil judge who will be in charge of church property. And for many people this makes them -- while it may clear up some bankruptcy issues, it's a question of the church/state relations and freedom of religion and so on. So both the church and a democratic government have always tried to main that kind of separation. So, for the first time, that's what's significant, aside from all of the other issues, of course, about the bankruptcy issue.
O'BRIEN: A crazy story on a lot of fronts is what you're saying. Delia Gallagher for us this morning, our faith and values correspondent.
Thank you, Delia.
GALLAGHER: Thank you.
ROBERTS: Thanks, Soledad.
Coming up, a meltdown at JetBlue leads to new promises this morning from the airline. Ali Velshi is back. He's "Minding Your Business."
And Mardi Gras through the eyes of young people. The pictures are in from our special series "Children of the Storm." You're watching AMERICAN MORNING.
O'BRIEN: Welcome back. You're watching the most news in the morning.
Now to our special series, "Children of the Storm." Eleven students from around New Orleans documenting their lives. And what better time to do it than Mardi Gras. Here are three of our young correspondents in their own words this morning.
CORNELL CARNEY: Hi. My name is Cornell Carney (ph). I'm 16 years old. I live in New Orleans. I'm from Sharment, Louisiana. I went to a school in New Orleans called Old Par (ph) Walker High School.
BRITNEY ROAS: Hi. My name is Britney Roas (ph). I am a tenth grader at Summit High School. Before the hurricane, just went to the parades just to have fun. Now, you go to parades to actually meet with family, meet with long friends you haven't seen in a while, and to show that we are here and we're standing strong to a place that love and live.
JERELL EDISON: I am Jerell Edison (ph). I'm 15 years old. I live in New Orleans, Louisiana. And attend (INAUDIBLE) Senior High School. (INAUDIBLE).
O'BRIEN: (INAUDIBLE) a little bit of a tripod there, but all three of our students say the crowds, the parade, interestingly enough, have been larger than they were before Hurricane Katrina struck. Cornell says that might be because of out of towners coming to show some of their support and, of course, spending that much needed money, too.
Director Spike Lee, as you may know, is helping us without with this project. We want to congratulate him this morning. His documentary, "When The Levees Broke," has won the George Polk Award. It's one of the very top prizes in journalism. He showed the government's failed response to Hurricane Katrina. We did a couple of stories with him about that documentary right here on AMERICAN MORNING. So a big congratulations to Spike Lee this morning for that award. Good work, Spike.
ROBERTS: Good work.
Coming up now to 25 minutes after the hour. Oprah meet Howard Stern. Satellite radio collides. Ali Velshi "Minding Your Business" this morning.
Good morning to you, Ali.
ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to both of you.
Up till now, if you bought satellite radio, you had to make some choices because you had to subscribe and you had to buy equipment. And, in many cases, those choices were governed by what programming either XM or Sirius had. Well, now the companies are announcing they want to merge. They're calling it a merger of equals. Sirius is financially the bigger company. XM has more subscribers.
Now the reason people subscribe to one or the other is because, for instance, you'll go to Sirius because of Howard Stern. You'll go to XM because some of the sports things that they have. Now, theoretically, you'll be able to get both.
It's unclear what the pricing is going to be. Is being a combined company going to be cheaper for consumers or is it going to be more expensive. And that's something that regulators are going to look at. So it's not a given that this deal goes through.
We're also going to be talking about JetBlue this morning. We've been talking about that over the last few days. The mess up out of being a lean company. This is a company that doesn't keep extra staff and pilots and flight crews around. So when those delays hit last Wednesday, this company couldn't recover. We'll be speaking to the CEO and founder of that company in about two hours to find out what it is going to do to make sure passengers don't get stranded on jets again.
And this is a short week for markets because of the holiday today. Later in the week we'll be getting a key reading on inflation. Plus, we'll get earnings from Home Depot. People will be interested in knowing what's happening with that company under new leadership.
And from Wal-Mart, we'll have news on Wal-Mart today. It's announcing some inner city plans and some plans to try and help out businesses in areas where the company moves in. I'll tell you about that in a little while.
ROBERTS: Great. See you then. Thanks.
O'BRIEN: Thank you, Ali.
Top stories of the morning are coming up next.
A happy ending to tell you about on Mt. Hood. But here's a question for you. Is it time to put a stop to all those risky climbs. We'll take a look at that.
Plus, JetBlue trying to adjust (ph) that image. You just heard Ali talking about that. We'll tell you how you can protect yourself on your next trip on a discount airline.
Plus, one of the tiniest babies ever born is now on her way home. She weighed just 10 ounces at birth. We'll tell you how she's doing today.
You're watching AMERICAN MORNING. The most news in the morning is right here on CNN.
O'BRIEN: Flight plan. A new attempt by JetBlue today to relaunch its image after a disastrous six days of grounded flights.
ROBERTS: Alive and well. Three stranded climbers rescued from Mt. Hood thanks to a dog named Miss Velvet and taxpayer cash. New calls, though, to put an end to these risky climbs.
O'BRIEN: And homeward bound, finally. A little baby who could fit in the palm of your hand when she was born. Look at that picture.
ROBERTS: Look at those tiny feet.
O'BRIEN: Well, she's leaving the hospital today. The incredible pictures and her story too ahead on this AMERICAN MORNING.
Welcome back, everybody. It's Tuesday, February 20th. I'm Soledad O'Brien.
ROBERTS: I'm John Roberts in for Miles O'Brien. Thanks for joining us this morning.
Those pictures of the baby. The baby's skin is almost translucent.
O'BRIEN: I know. And she was born, I think, at 21 weeks, which is actually, doctors tell you it's not survivable.
ROBERTS: Seventy percent mortality rate at that age.
O'BRIEN: Oh, yes. And now she's going home with great news.
O'BRIEN: Ten ounces -- that's a -- that's a great story.
We'll talk about that straight ahead this morning.
First, though, we want to start with JetBlue, which is trying to clean up after a big black eye this morning. The company says they're planning to resume a full flight schedule today.
Let' show you some new pictures from the ticket counter at JFK.
Do we have those?
Imagine if you will a full ticket counter at JFK, because actually people are -- there you go -- re-enacting it for me, John Roberts.
ROBERTS: Sorry, there's no seat for you and no space.
O'BRIEN: Actually, they're very crowded this morning. So it's very good -- very good news for the airline today. They're also rolling out this public relations campaign, as you may know. They're trying to win back all these passengers.
So here's a question you might have: What should you know ahead of time when you book that cheap flight on a discount airline? Let's get right to Greg Hunter. He's live for us this morning at JFK.
Hey, Greg. Good morning.
GREG HUNTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey. Good morning to you.
Well, you know, once that airline door closes, you pretty much are stuck on the plane. So what happens and what should you know?
The first thing you should know about is about the return policy. It depends on the airline, it depends on the ticket. Yet, some airline return policies are very simple, they're very streamlined. Other ones are very complicated, depends if you have a Y flight, a K flight, you know, a full-fare flight, a business flight, you know, coach, whatever.
So you should know the return policy. And sometimes you get a full cash refund. Other times it may cost you $50 or $100 to change your flight.
Now, when weather happens, you know, that's all out the window. The airlines usually book you on the next flight, or if you demand it and, you know, say you're in New York, you're flying to somewhere else, you live here, you could demand your money back. But you don't have to -- they don't have to compensate you for any kind of loss, they don't have to give you meal vouchers, they don't have to give you a free flight. They don't have to do any of that for you.
The only time they have to really compensate you is if you get bumped off a flight. Then they have to give you some sort of compensation, a free flight, meal vouchers, maybe telephone calls, things like that. Ground transportation, hotel rooms -- that's only if you get bumped off.
But if weather throws you off the flight, all they're really responsible for by law is to give you another flight or your money back. That's about it.
Back to you, Soledad.
O'BRIEN: All right, Greg. You know, one other thing I learned, too, is I would never get on a plane, especially with kids, without a thing of bottled water and some snacks in my bag. Because a lot of those people, you know, no food available when that plane -- when they all decided they weren't going to take off.
Greg Hunter for us this morning.
Thanks, Greg. We'll check back in with you again.
Plus, we'll be talking to JetBlue's CEO, David Neeleman. He's going to join us at 8:15 a.m. Eastern Time. We'll talk about just what went wrong and also what he's doing now to try to prevent future meltdowns. He's got his own passenger bill of rights. We'll talk about that ahead as well. ROBERTS: Also happening this morning, police in India releasing sketches of two men this morning who may have been involved in a deadly train bombing yesterday. Sixty-eight people were killed when suitcase bombs detonated on a passenger train on its way from New Delhi to Pakistan.
A fuel tanker blast kills one person outside of Baghdad, and the fumes may be causing even more damage. More than 100 people hospitalized today complaining of breathing problems. Chemical experts are now doing tests in the area. Among those being treated, dozens of children.
Talks between U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas wrapped up in Jerusalem with no new agreement, but with a promise to talk more in the future.
Vice President Dick Cheney is in Japan to talk security with Emperor Akihito and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Cheney will also speak with troops aboard the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk, but he won't be meeting with Japan's outspoken defense minister, Fumio Kyuma, who recently said the U.S. invasion of Iraq was a mistake. Kyuma later said he was misinterpreted, lost in translation.
Closing arguments begin today in the perjury trial of Lewis "Scooter" Libby. Vice President Cheney's former aide is accused of lying in the investigation of who leaked the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame to the press.
And just across the Afghan border in Pakistan, more unsettling signs that al Qaeda's threat to the world is rising. We first told you yesterday about reports of Osama bin Laden ramping up terrorist training camps for his recruits. Today, chilling insight into the carnage that that training could trigger in cities around the world.
CNN's Brian Todd has the story.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Is Osama bin Laden rebuilding his network inside Pakistan? U.S. officials tell CNN of more al Qaeda training compounds there, that Pakistan's tribal region near the Afghan border has become a safe haven for senior al Qaeda leaders. I asked CNN terrorism analyst Peter Bergen if bin Laden and his top lieutenant are directing operations there.
PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well. clearly, Ayman al- Zawahiri is in this area. According to other intelligence officials I've spoken to, bin Laden is in an area further north, right in this area of Waziristan, where kind of a lot of the central al Qaeda operation is going on.
TODD: What goes on there? Bergen says bomb-making instruction, more tactical operation with the Taliban, evidence he says by more cross border raids and suicide bombings inside Afghanistan. But Bergen and a U.S. official tell CNN al Qaeda operations in Pakistan have reached even further, training plotters involved in the July 2005 London bombings and the thwarted attempt to bring down U.S. airliners over the Atlantic last summer.
What could they do in the future?
BERGEN: One is do a radiological bomb in a major European city. This is quite within their capabilities. That's not a chicken little scenario. Also, they could bring down a commercial jet with a rocket- propelled grenade or surface-to-air missile.
TODD: We asked Pakistan's ambassador to the United States are there al Qaeda training camps inside his country's borders?
MAHMUD DURRANI, PAKISTANI AMBASSADOR TO U.S.: There may be in odd place, and when we have found them, we take it out. We have done that recently, but saying that they have reestablished themselves and there are a lot of compounds and they have rejuvenated, that is incorrect.
The ambassador disputes U.S. officials who says a recent agreement when the Pakistani government and tribal elders, some of them Taliban sympathizers led Pakistan's army to withdraw from there and al Qaeda to regroup. He says the army is still conducting operations there.
(on camera): And the ambassador rejects any notion of American forces crossing into Pakistan to go after al Qaeda, even though U.S. forces have targeted al Qaeda militants there from the air.
Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.
O'BRIEN: This morning they're celebrating on Oregon's Mt. Hood. Three climbers, two women and a man, are off the mountain, and they're crediting their black lab named Velvet for helping keep them alive.
AMERICAN MORNING'S Chris Lawrence is live for us from Mt. Hood this morning.
Hey, Chris. Good morning.
CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad.
Yes, all three climbers and Velvet are all safely down from the mountain, and they're doing well, considering everything they went through, and this incredibly bad weather out here. I mean, bitter cold, biting winds. But again, what happened to these climbers was they were part of a larger group, but they were attached by a rope. They were trying to come down the mountain in bad weather, when one climber fell over a ledge and that dragged a second and then the third, and Velvet, who was also attached to that rope.
Now, the climbers say that at times during their climb, they would let Velvet kind of just run up ahead of them, and she'd look back every now and then and check on them, but she was fine on the hike. And then as the weather got bad and they were trying to come down, that's when they attached her to the rope, trying to hopefully keep her safe.
Of course, she did go over with those three. But rescuers say these hikers had -- these climbers had two main things going for them that saved their life.
One of them was Velvet, because she's got a big, thick, husky coat, and laying on top of them really provided a lot of warmth in that day and that night that they had to huddle there to stay warm. Also, they had this very small remote electronic tracking device that sent out an electronic signal, and it allowed rescuers to pinpoint exactly where they were.
So they weren't stuck up on there for two, three, four days. The rescuers were able to get to them quickly before they had to stay out in this weather any longer -- Soledad.
O'BRIEN: Chris Lawrence for us this morning, experiencing some of that weather they were hoping to avoid by getting to this rescue as soon as they could.
In the next hour we're going to be talking with Bob Alexander. He's with the Portland Mountain Rescue. He was part of that team that rescued those three climbers, plus one dog, off of Mt. Hood.
Plus, one -- this is a nice story this morning. One of the tiniest babies that was ever born is home from the hospital today.
This is the little girl. Her name is Amelia Sonja Taylor (ph). The first baby known to survive a pregnancy that was less than 23 weeks.
She was born at 21 weeks. She's just 9.5 inches long. She weighed less than 10 ounces when she was born.
Doctors say she had digestive and breathing problems, but they think actually she's not going to have any of those risks as she develops. Wow.
Now, this is her before, this is at birth. Look at those tiny feet. I mean, think of that. That's like one little...
ROBERTS: Aren't they amazing? And look at that, you can almost see right through them.
O'BRIEN: Oh my goodness.
ROBERTS: They're almost -- like they're made out of glass.
O'BRIEN: And now she's -- she's back home. I think she's over four pounds now. ROBERTS: Well, she'll be very lucky if she doesn't have breathing problems, because that can be a huge lingering problem.
O'BRIEN: Well, you know, they've been asking -- yes, any preemie, that's a big problem. But doctors say they really feel like she's -- she's going to do very well. What a -- what a testament to the state of medicine for premature babies.
ROBERTS: Good for her.
O'BRIEN: Now, when this child is 10 yeas old and rolling her eyes and sassing her mother...
ROBERTS: Well, she'll probably do very well in life, because she was obviously pretty anxious to get into the world. So...
O'BRIEN: Yes, she's an aggressive baby.
ROBERTS: We wish her well.
O'BRIEN: It will serve her well.
ROBERTS: Coming up, much of the Northeast is expected to thaw out today, but there could be another big winter storm on the horizon. Chad Myers is going to join us with that.
And the late "Godfather of Soul," James Brown, his final resting place still hasn't been decided, but that could change today.
We'll explain ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.
The most news in the morning is on CNN.
O'BRIEN: The most news in the morning is right here on CNN.
Fat Tuesday celebrations are revving up in New Orleans right now for Mardi Gras today.
And a tsunami warning happening in northeastern Indonesia. A magnitude 6.5 earthquake hit overnight out to sea.
James Brown's family is meeting in Aiken, South Carolina, today. They're trying to work out details finally of his burial.
Now, family squabbles have been keeping James Brown without a final resting place since his death on Christmas morning. Brown's widow, Tomi Rae, told Larry King she wants the "Godfather of Soul" buried just as he wished.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOMI RAE BROWN, JAMES BROWN'S WIDOW: I know what James wanted. And that's what I'm fighting for.
LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": What did he want?
BROWN: James wants to be buried on the property, and he wants to be buried in the ground.
KING: Now, where the house is?
BROWN: Our home. We had always planned to turn it into a museum. That was never -- it was something James and I talked about.
KING: He wants something like Presley?
BROWN: Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. And James and I talked about this day for many years, and we knew everything that was going to happen, even down to the horrible things that have happened.
He knew it was going to happen, but he wants to be in the ground. He wants 37 songs up on top of the biggest rock you can find, "Fret not thyself of evildoers." He said it in any interview he ever did. And that's what he wants on top of his grave.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: Well, there's a little controversy over that mausoleum. So the family and the widow are sort of fighting over that.
Plus at stake, control of James Brown's estate. It's worth approximately $200 million.
Of course you can always watch "LARRY KING LIVE." It happens every night 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time -- John.
ROBERTS: Forty-five minutes after the hour now. Chad Myers at the CNN weather center. He's watching some incoming severe weather, also has the cold and flu report for us.
ROBERTS: Coming up, wait until you hear who Arizona senator and Republican candidate for president John McCain is blaming for the situation in Iraq.
Plus, we have a great choice for any teen out there who spends all their time playing video games. Find out what it is ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.
ROBERTS: Welcome back to the most news in the morning here on CNN.
O'BRIEN: Oh, it was a profitable holiday shopping season for Wal-Mart. Fifty-six minutes past the hour. Time for Ali Velshi, who is ""Minding Your Business."
ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad.
Wal-Mart came out with its earnings. It brought in about $98 billion in the last three months of 2006, and on that, it earned -- it made about $4 billion. But, you know, the company's been struggling with slowing sales growth and the fact that it comes under constant criticism. So it's making an announcement today about nine stores across the United States, where it is going to try and use its presence to revitalize the local economy.
It wants to help local businesses by helping them take advantage of the things that happen when Wal-Mart comes into a neighborhood. And Wal-Mart says it creates jobs and it draws shoppers in.
So it's going to work with local chambers of commerce and local business groups and minority-owned businesses to pick five businesses each quarter in each of these nine areas and help them take advantage of either being a supplier to Wal-Mart, or they used the example of a coffee shop or a home improvement store, ways in which they can take advantage of new people coming into an area because of Wal-Mart.
This is all part of an effort that Wal-Mart has made to try and improve its reputation and be seen as being good for the community. Last year, Wal-Mart said it's going to open 50 stores in high crime, low employment areas to try and get more business into those areas.
So we'll see how that turns out. It is -- Wal-Mart is getting support from community organizations on this.
We'll follow it with interest -- Soledad.
O'BRIEN: All right, Ali. Thank you very much.
Some other stories we're following this morning as well.
O'BRIEN: Battling back from the blues. There are new promises today from JetBlue to lift the airline's image after those disastrous flight delays.
ROBERTS: Survival story. Three stranded crime climbers alive this morning thanks to a black Lab named velvet and a pile of tax dollars.
O'BRIEN: And let the good times roll. Today is Mardi Gras, day of parties -- on the long road back.
We're live from New Orleans and New York and Oregon on this AMERICAN MORNING.
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