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New Head of the U.S. Central Command Getting First Look at Situation on Ground in Iraq; Top Justice Department Official Taking the Fifth
Aired March 27, 2007 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR, AMERICAN MORNING: There's a developing story we're watching for you. New concerns overnight that the number of cats and dogs poisoned by toxic pet food, much worse than first thought.
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR, AMERICAN MORNING: View from the top. America's top military commander in the Middle East whether it's civil war in Iraq and how long American troops could stay.
O'BRIEN: There have been just too many close calls on the runways. Why isn't a plan to keep your flight safe taking flight?
ROBERTS: And change of heart: What now for millions of patients who may not need angioplasty after all.
We're live from Baghdad, Washington, D.C., and New York on this AMERICAN MORNING.
O'BRIEN: Good morning, everybody. Welcome back. It is Tuesday, March 27th. I'm Soledad O'Brien.
ROBERTS: I'm John Roberts, in for Miles O'Brien. Thanks for joining us -- no pun zone, here, anymore. OK? Promise.
O'BRIEN: Said with love, but -- no.
We begin with a blockbuster new study that could change the way doctors treat heart disease. It looked at more than 2,200 patients and found that drugs alone worked just as well as angioplasty and stents, when it comes to treating clogged arteries. Even more surprising doctors found angioplasties had no lasting impact.
They say it is still the top treatment for high-risk patients. Right now more than a million Americans get angioplasties every year. Earlier, I asked the head of American College of Cardiology about the study's impact.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. STEVEN NISSEN, PRES., AMER. COLLEGE OF CARDIOLOGY: It's a blockbuster because more than a million Americans, as you point out, have a stent every year. And the question is, could we treat some of those patients with just medicines? Medicines have gotten so much better in recent years. No one has been able to test, head to head, optimal medicines versus stenting. And the result was really surprising. People did about equally well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: There's a cost impact, as well. Each angioplasty procedure costs about $25,000. This study will have lasting effects on business, too. We'll explain that coming up at 25 after the hour -- Soledad.
O'BRIEN: To Baghdad now where the new head of the U.S. Central Command is getting his first look at the situation on the ground in Iraq. Admiral William Fallon talked with CNN's Kyra Phillips overnight, about what Iraqis are telling him, and whether he is seeing a civil war on the ground. Kyra is in Baghdad for us this morning.
Hey, Kyra, good morning.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN BAGHDAD CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Soledad.
Yeah, he spent a lot of times on the streets talking with Iraqis, not only here in Baghdad, but also on the outskirts of this country. But it was just yesterday when he was walking through the streets here in central Baghdad, he said he was flocked by a group of Iraqis. And they wanted him to sit down, have tea, and talk about security. That's all they wanted to know. When are you going to give us more security?
I asked the admiral, could you do it in three months, six months, a year? Can you give them a timetable? He said, I just can't make promises that I can't keep. But he did tell them, they have to take responsibility for this, as well.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ADM. WILLIAM FALLON, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: They have to do everything they can to help us to identify those who are not likely -- or just definitely not willing to go -- abide by the rules of justice. There are some killers that are still loose in this country.
I think it's a very small percentage of the population. The idea that the whole country is at war with one another, I think, is absolutely not true. But there are some zealots here that will stop at nothing. They don't care how many men, women -- or children they'll kill or maim.
PHILLIPS (on camera): You don't think there is civil war?
FALLON: No, I don't think it's a civil war. They're factions that are fighting one another, small factions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIPS: And when the Admiral talks about those killers, and talks about those zealots, he's talking about the individuals wreaking havoc on this country, Soledad. And that it's very important for the people of Iraq to take it seriously enough to let the U.S. troops know, and let the Iraqi troops know, where they're hiding, where they're operating out of; and it's that local intelligence that is helping bring down the terrorists.
O'BRIEN: Yeah, but, does he give any sense of how long the troops are going to be there? I mean, that's what everybody back here wants to know.
PHILLIPS: Of course, everybody wants to know. And if you are here on the streets and you see what you have to go through just to go a mile with this -- a mile within this city, you see how dangerous it is.
I mean, people aren't out at the cafes. They're not going to a movie. They're not leading normal lives. So, even the Admiral was saying, it's going to take a while. I know we've been hearing that for the past four years, but even the former Iraqi ambassador, who just left a couple days ago; He said, look, democracy could take generations.
I asked the admiral, could we see U.S. Troops here for generations? He said with the amount of troops here right now he can't imagine that in Iraq, but keep in mind there are U.S. troops in other parts of the world that have been in country for generations, keeping peace and trying to move forward with regard to security, in other nations, as well.
O'BRIEN: Kyra Phillips in Baghdad. Remains in Baghdad for us this morning, thank you, Kyra.
ROBERTS: There's word that the Marine Corps is sending 1,800 Reservists back to Iraq. They are Marines who left active duty, but still have time left on their eight-year commitment. They are expected to report for duty in October and be deployed to Iraq early next year.
We also heard overnight from the family of former Army Ranger Pat Tillman. In a blistering response to the Pentagon report about his death by friendly fire in Afghanistan. Accusing the Army of criminal negligence, malfeasance, evidence tampering and more.
Tillman quit the NFL after 9/11 and joined up with the Army and was killed in Afghanistan. But it was more than a month before his family was told he was killed by friendly and not enemy fire. The Pentagon report was released yesterday. It says three Army investigations into Tillman's death were deficient, nine officers, including four generals could face discipline, but there is no suggestion of criminal charges.
The Tillman family is pushing for a congressional investigation, though. They released a statement late last night. Here's part of it, it says, quote, "There is an overpowering suggestion of violations of law, regulation and policy, that reaches from the vehicle that fired on Pat and took his life to the office of the secretary of Defense." O'BRIEN: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is heading home from the Middle East right now with an agreement in hand. Early this morning after three days of shuttling between Mid East capitols, Secretary Rice announced that Israeli and Palestinian leaders are agreeing that they are going to meet every two weeks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CONDOLEEZZA RICE, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: The most important thing is they've agreed to talk together. Now, occasionally, I'll show up, and I'll talk with them. But, nothing can substitute for the importance of the parties sitting down together, regularly, talking about the issues before them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: Looks like they'll discuss day-to-day issues first, and then focus on what the secretary called the political horizon in the Middle East.
ROBERTS: A top Justice Department official is taking the Fifth rather than answer questions from the Senate Judiciary Committee and the White House is standing behind her. It's the latest in the firing of those eight U.S. attorneys. CNN's Elaine Quijano is live at the White House this morning.
And, Elaine, just another fire for the White House to try to control again this week.
ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. And more fodder for critics as well.
Good morning to you, John.
The White House has said repeatedly that it would make officials that Justice Department and officials within the administration available to answer questions from lawmakers, even though there has been a battle, the White House opposes the idea of having key Bush aides testify under oath.
Well, now, we're hearing that Monica Goodling, who is the Justice Department liaison to the White House, as well as the counsel to the embattled Alberto Gonzales, will in fact plead the Fifth, according to her own attorney.
John Dowd says, quote, "The potential for legal jeopardy from for Ms. Goodling from even her most truthful and accurate testimony under these circumstances is very real." Now, Dowd goes on to cite the case of the former chief of staff to the vice president, Lewis Scooter Libby, who was convicted on several counts, including perjury.
Well, in response to the news from Goodling's attorney, White House Deputy Press Secretary Dana Perino said, quote, "It is unfortunate that a public servant no longer feels comfortable that they will be treated fairly in testimony in front of Congress. We must respect the constitutional rights of the people involved, and the decision of those individuals and their counsel to protect those rights."
But the bottom line here, John, as you know, at a time when the White House is already under tremendous pressure from lawmakers who want to, in fact, see key Bush aides -- past and present -- Karl Rove, and Harriet Miers, among them testify under oath, this development simply adds to the pressure. Lawmakers continue to say this is the reason why they say these key Bush aides need to be placed under oath, so lawmakers can, in fact, get the full picture of what happened surrounding the dismissals of those eight U.S. attorneys -- John.
ROBERTS: Oh, yeah, Democrats are just jumping all over this. Does the White House have any explanation as to why Monica Goodling doesn't want to testify, yet Kyle Sampson, the attorney general's chief of staff, who has now since resigned his job, is going to testify on Thursday?
QUIJANO: Well, therein lies the rub for the White House, as you point out. The dilemma certainly is that you do now have the former chief of staff to the attorney general, who, of course, is having trouble finding support, really among lawmakers, now just Democrats and but even some Republicans, as well. And now this is a difficult situation for the White House.
They essentially, we heard from her lawyer in that statement, I think that atmosphere on Capitol Hill certainly will not lend her testimony to be viewed fairly. And, so that is certainly something we have heard from her attorney, but it is quite a dilemma when you have one former aide saying, look, I will go ahead and testify. And you have a current aide saying, no, I won't.
ROBERTS: Yes, unusual stuff. Elaine Quijano at the White House, thanks very much.
In just a few hours, by the way, Congress is going to take a close look at safety on cruise ships. A House panel will hear from several people with real horror stories, including a passenger who claims she was raped by a crew member, and a father who says his daughter's disappearance was ignored. Congress is debating whether to ramp up laws protecting cruise ship passengers.
Also on the Hill today, FBI Director Robert Mueller will be on the hot seat taking questions from senators about the FBI's abuse of the Patriot Act. Earlier this month a report by the inspector general found the FBI improperly used the Patriot Act to collect personal information on Americans -- Soledad.
O'BRIEN: Some disturbing developments to tell you about this morning in that poisoned pet food scare.
First, the New York lab that I.D.ed the rat poison is now testing individual ingredients in the food; they are trying to see exactly what has been contaminated. The recall affected 95 brands of cuts and gravy style wet food. They think poison may have been used as -- that poison may be in the thickening agent, which is used as gravy.
Can you believe that? So many animals affected. In fact, the report of numbers of pets who have died from eating the food, far worse than we heard officially. The FDA confirms 14 deaths of dogs and cats. Vets across the country are saying, though, no, it's much higher. They said they found 471 cases of kidney failure caused by eating poisoned food. They have confirmed at least 104 fatal cases.
ROBERTS: There's a network of veterinary clinics, right?
ROBERTS: Which serves almost as an early warning sign.
O'BRIEN: A lot of it online, yes.
ROBERTS: I think the CDC looks for it, too, from this network. They're sort of like the first indication that something is really wrong. Can't believe that.
Coming up, we've been telling you about that big shakeup in the way that doctors fight heart disease. New questions about angioplasty. A leading cardiologist tells us what we need to know.
Plus, danger on the runway, a technology to keep planes from colliding on the ground has never taken flight.
You're watching AMERICAN MORNING. The most news in the morning is on CNN.
O'BRIEN: Close calls on the runway. They actually happen more than you might think. Already this year the FAA is reporting nine runway close calls. They call those incursions. In 2005 there were 29 serious incursions, there were 31 last year. And now 30 years of the world's deadliest plane accident, two jumbo jets collided on a runway in the Canary Islands and killed 583 people, officials are still trying to do something about incursions. Kathleen Koch is at Washington's Reagan National Airport for us.
Kathleen, good morning.
KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad.
Officials have been wrestling with this problem for decades. As a matter of fact, today the National Transportation Safety Board is bringing together the best minds in the business to try to figure out just how to keep runways safe.
The NTSB released to CNN an exclusive look at one of the most recent serious close calls, just two months ago.
KOCH (voice over): A Frontier Airbus A319 is about to land in Denver, but as this just released National Transportation Safety Board animation of the January incident shows, it doesn't know a small plane has strayed on to the runway.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Frontier 297, go around.
KOCH: The planes missed colliding by just 50 feet.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, 4216, where you at again?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come back, 4216, yeah, we made a wrong turn there.
KOCH: Nearly every day on the nation's runways a plane gets too close to another aircraft, building, or vehicle on the ground. One in 10 runway incursions is serious, like this one in Los Angeles in 2004 when a controller cleared two planes to use the same runway.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Southwest 440 cancel take off clearance, hold in position.
KOCH: But federal safety officials are at odds over how to fix the problem. The Federal Aviation Administration Friday announced what most see as an interim step; quick approval of technology to give pilots a moving map display in the cockpit, similar to GPS used by drivers.
MARION BLAKEY, FAA ADMINISTRATION: Which run way am I on, is the basic question. Where am I going? This is very valuable information that the device would provide.
KOCH: But it has drawbacks. The unit won't show where other planes are or alert pilots if a collision is imminent. The NTSB has been pushing for that system for more than a decade.
MARK ROSENKER, NTSB CHAIRMAN: Runway incursions are serious threats to aviation safety. We believe the FAA must do something, and do something quickly.
KOCH: The FAA says such technology is years away and that any improvement is just that.
BLAKEY: Well, following the NTSB's recommendation assumes the technology exists, which it does not, at this point.
KOCH: Pilots agree the moving map system, while not perfect, will increase safety. They also say it shouldn't have taken so long.
CAPT. MITCHELL SERBER, AIR LINE PILOTS ASSN.: It's very frustrating. The fact is that the technology has existed for many years.
KOCH: Now, it's going to be up to the airlines as to whether or not to invest in this new moving map technology. The FAA is not going to require it. They believe the added safety margin that it offers will encourage the airlines to invest roughly $20,000 per unit that they will cost -- Soledad. O'BRIEN: Is that likely, Kathleen, realistically. I mean, with the airlines really struggling financially, that sounds like a lot of money, especially if it's not mandated.
KOCH: The airlines reacted to the FAA announcement saying this does look like a good system, but they, too, called it an interim fix. But, again, everyone does agree it will improve safety to a certain extent. Though it's not the best possible solution because, again, the technology for that won't be ready until 2014, where you can see not only your plane on the runway, but all the other planes. And get a warning if you come close to them.
O'BRIEN: That's kind of a long wait I think. All right, Kathleen Koch, for us this morning. Thanks, Kathleen.
KOCH: You bet.
S. O'BRIEN: John.
ROBERTS: Back to our top story now. A blockbuster study about angioplasty. It found that in many cases drugs alone kept arteries clear just as well as the procedure. Angioplasties are used on more than a million patients a year to clear block arteries, and prevent heart attacks.
Earlier on AMERICAN MORNING we talked with Doctor Steven Nissen. He is the president of the American College of Cardiology. I asked him what the study found in terms of stents versus drugs.
NISSEN: Everybody in the study got very aggressive medical therapy. Cholesterol lowering drugs, blood pressure lowering drugs, aspirin, but half of the patients got a stent, and half of them didn't. They were following for almost five years. And at the end of five years, almost exactly the same number of patients, in each group, were still alive, hadn't had a heart attack, and were doing very well.
ROBERTS: Here's the thing that I don't understand. The study found that people who -- patients who had stents and cholesterol- lowering therapy with the staten drugs, had better blood flow to the heart than people who were treated simply with drugs, and there was no difference in the heart attack range. How do you explain that?
NISSEN: We understand it quite well, that most heart attacks do not occur at the site of the most blocked area in the coronary. There are many, many other plaques on the coronary and one of those plaques will rupture, a blood clot occurs, that is what causes the heart attack. The stent is only covering perhaps 1 or 2 percent of all the plaque in the coronary. And that is not enough to prevent the next heart attack.
ROBERTS: We should also point out, Doctor Nissen, that this was for patients that have what are called stable chest pain. It's not somebody who is having a heart attack who needs an emergency procedure. What is the take away from this study for those patients? NISSEN: I think if you're a patient that has very stable chest pain. You have choices now. You can elect to have medical therapy, allowing drug therapy, and if you do well, you may actually become completely free of symptoms in the first year. There's no need for you to get a stent.
But if you ever get to the point where your quality of life is impaired, you can always have a stent later, deferring the procedure isn't going to compromise your long-term health.
ROBERTS: That was Dr. Steven Nissen; he is the president of the American College of Cardiology.
Angioplasty, by the way, can cost $25,000. With this news that angioplasties may be unnecessary for many patients, what could it mean for the business of stents? Stephanie Elam as the that coming up for you next.
O'BRIEN: Also coming up this morning, sounds kind of like a corporate scandal, but it happened, this time, at the Smithsonian, and guess what, it involved our tax dollars. Can you believe that 2,500 bucks to clean a chandelier? That's a lot of dough. We'll update you on that story straight ahead.
ROBERTS: Lavish spending by the head of an organization, it sounds like a corporate scandal, but it actually happened at the Smithsonian Institution with your tax dollars. Lawrence Small resigned as head of the Smithsonian after details of his compensation were made public by "The Washington Post." '
"The Post" reported that Small's base salary nearly doubled from $330,000 in 2000, when he took the job, to more than $617,000 this year. So, he got a lot of increases. But what is the problem with that? Well, it gets better. Small's spending habits were also questioned; $300,000 to redecorate, including $13,000 for a conference table, and $2,000 each for arm chairs -- and Soledad's favorite -- $1,500 for a wall sconce.
O'BRIEN: Isn't that just the thing you screw in the wall, right?
ROBERTS: You don't exactly screw it.
O'BRIEN: The sconce, with the light thing? Yeah, you screw it into the back of -- yes you do.
ROBERTS: I mean, it can be nice.
O'BRIEN: Stephanie is nodding her head, yes.
STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN FINANCIAL CORRESPONDENT: That is exactly what it is, it casts beautiful light upwards, or something.
O'BRIEN: Yes, I thought so; $1,500, that sounds expensive.
ROBERTS: Maybe it was gold leaf, who knows.
ROBERTS: And because Small used his own home for Smithsonian functions -- this is where it gets really good -- he received more than $1 million in housing allowances during his tenure. That includes $273,000 on housekeeping, $12,000 on swimming pool maintenance, and $2,500 just for cleaning his chandelier.
O'BRIEN: That's a nice chandelier.
ROBERTS: Well, it's a clean chandelier, let's put it that way.
The Smithsonian operates 18 museums and the National Zoo. It's a non-profit organization that receives federal funding, $650 million last year.
By the way, Christian Samper, who is the director of the Museum of Natural History is going to serve as acting secretary while the Smithsonian searches for a permanent replacement for Small.
O'BRIEN: You know, it's such a -- it's so sad when these people do this. You know, they take -- the basically overspend money that's really not theirs. You know? Because it just gives a bad taste -- the Smithsonian needs the money, certainly.
ELAM: Think about how much money he could have used to buy new houses with all that money, put it in just one place -- across the country?
O'BRIEN: Right, right. That's a lot of house. Outrage.
Let's talk about this top story this morning on angioplasty shows maybe surgery to implant those stents isn't necessary. They're calling it a blockbuster study. What is the financial fallout for the companies that make those stents? It's 25 minutes past the hour, Stephanie is "Minding Your Business".
Bad news, I'm going to guess.
ELAM: It can be. It depends. It is not as bad as you may think. And here's the main reason, why. It is because as we're seeing study, it is saying that stents are no better, right, at propping open unclogged arteries. But here's the thing, that is in patients that have stable heart disease. For patients who are further along in the progression, they still need to get stents. It is not like this technology is just going to go away.
If you take a look at that, the mesh devices will still stick around. Abbot Laboratories actually came out with a drug coated stent. And at this meeting of the American College of Cardiology, they presented data that showed that their stent was better than the market leading stent, which is made by Boston Scientific, in reducing reclogging, as well as the number of adverse cardiac effects. That means that news was enough to give Abbot Labs a nice push yesterday; it was up 5 percent. But, obviously, it did slam Boston Scientific, which actually saw its shares hit a four and a half year low. Down 7 percent yesterday on this news. Now it is not surprise that Abbot Labs, which actually that sells most stents overseas is not going to try to sell them here and are using this data to try to get U.S. approval.
O'BRIEN: We reported yesterday on those dissolving stents, so they would stay for two years.
ROBERTS: My question with the dissolving stent was, when it dissolves, where does the stuff that dissolved go?
O'BRIEN: It's like dissolving stitches?
ELAM: Stitches, it must be like stitches.
O'BRIEN: I don't know. I'm not a doctor.
ROBERTS: Let's hope it really goes away because those capillaries in the heart get pretty tiny.
O'BRIEN: Where is Doctor Gupta?
ELAM: Right, paging Doctor Gupta. We need you.
O'BRIEN: That's right. Where is Sanjay when you need him.
ROBERTS: Paging Doctor Gupta.
O'BRIEN: Thank you, Stephanie.
Top stories of the morning are coming up next. Including a Court TV exclusive one juror against all the rest. The one who voted to give Zacarias Moussaoui a life sentence, instead of death. Why did he do it? That's ahead.
Plus, under fire, is a high school play based on soldiers' letters home from Iraq a matter of taste or is it a test of free speech?
And spring is in the air along with pollen, says Chad. We've got some tips on how you make it through what is expected to be a tougher than usual allergy season. Those stories all ahead on AMERICAN MORNING. The most news in the morning right here on CNN.
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR, AMERICAN MORNING: Good morning. Welcome back, everybody. It's Tuesday, March 27th. I'm Soledad O'Brien. JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR, AMERICAN MORNING: And I'm John Roberts in today for Miles O'Brien. Thanks very much for joining us today. Happy Tuesday to you.
O'BRIEN: This morning, saving a terrorist. The only man who was convicted in the U.S. in the 9/11 attacks avoided the death penalty. We've got an exclusive interview with the lone juror who voted to spare Moussaoui's life.
ROBERTS: Also, the best news we have heard in a long time. Pizza could be the newest cancer fighter. The secret's in the crust.
And a school that is launching a new fight against the website myspace.com. It's hugely popular among kids, but one principal is now saying logoff or you're suspended.
O'BRIEN: And remember this young man? Swimmer Michael Phelps made a big splash at the Athens Olympics. Well, he's made history again in a big way overnight. We'll tell you how just ahead.
ROBERTS: We begin with the developing story overnight over just how many dogs and cats may have been killed by the toxic pet food scare. The FDA has reported 14 dogs and cats have died, but reporting from individual veterinarian offices around the country is still coming in. They say the death toll is much higher, perhaps well over 100 pets lost. Dr. Steven Hansen is with the Veterinarians Information Network and the ASPCA animal poison control center. He joins us now on the phone from Champaign, Illinois. Dr. Hansen, what is your count of how many pets probably died as a result of this tainted food?
VOICE OF DR. STEVEN HANSEN, VETERINARIANS INFO NETWORK: John, I don't think at this point we really know how many deaths have occurred. We do know that it is significantly higher than 14. We do know that in a feeding trial conducted by menu foods that there were significant deaths. The majority of those reported by FDA are probably the cats that died in the feeding trial.
ROBERTS: So, we have read wire stories that 104 deaths are being attributed by the veterinarian's information network and 471 cases of kidney failure in pets. Are you expecting that these numbers are going to go even higher before this is over?
HANSEN: We really do expect that the number will probably go higher. Again, we really do not know, but given the fact that there are 60 million cans of food out there and we know that significant pets did die during a feeding trial, which is really unfortunate that that study was actually done, we do expect that to go higher. Petconnection.com is a place where consumers are leaving numbers and those numbers are very high. It is going to be somewhere in between.
ROBERTS: What should a pet owner do if they suspect that their dog or cat or other pet has ingested some of this tainted food?
HANSEN: Well, John, what we do recommend, first of all, is the pet owner call their veterinarian. We do want to make sure that if the pet is showing any signs such as vomiting, increased water consumption, increased urination, signs that suggest kidney failure, that they speak with their veterinarian immediately and then we do recommend that they go ahead and report that directly to FDA.
ROBERTS: Is this still limited to rat poison or could there be other contaminants in the food, Dr. Hansen?
HANSEN: John, that is a great question because right now the veterinarian toxicology, veterinarian pathologist community is working very hard along with many diagnostic labs to try and determine whether there are other contaminants we don't know or whether this is strictly the reason that this has occurred. The veterinary pathologists are looking at tissues trying to identify ways that we can confirm whether a pet has died from this particular ingestion, whether it is (INAUDIBLE) or whether it is something else and that's going to be critical in determining in the end what has really happened and how many pets we lost.
ROBERTS: All right, well, good luck to you, Dr. Steven Hansen of the Veterinarians Information Network. Appreciate your time sir. Thanks. Soledad?
O'BRIEN: An exclusive interview this morning about the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui. He was the only person charged in the United States in connection with the 9/11 attacks. He was convicted last year, but spared a death sentence by the decision of one holdout juror. Court TV's Savannah Guthrie got an exclusive interview with that juror. Savannah is with us this morning. Nice to see you.
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, COURT TV: Good morning.
O'BRIEN: Juror X, I guess. He does not want his name released. Why did he want to talk to the press in the first place?
GUTHRIE: For one thing, he has an interesting story to tell. He's the one person who saved Moussaoui's life. Secondly, he feels there is a message here that terrorists, avowed terrorists can get a fair trial in an open courtroom, even with classified evidence in a public place and that is, obviously, interesting now because of the trials that are being conducted are going to be conducted down at Guantanamo, military trials with different rules of evidence. He wants to remind the world that, hey, even the worst of the worst terrorists can get a fair trial and a fair process.
O'BRIEN: Did he talk about pressure in the jury room? He's the lone hold out. He was the guy when everybody else, all 11 wanted to go one direction and he said no. What did he say about pressure in the jury room?
GUTHRIE: He didn't say it was pressure, but he said it was very emotional, very intense. I've actually talked to other jurors, some of the 11 who wanted death, who said it was very frustrating in there. It got very fiery. One juror said she left in tears one day. He talked to us about the moment he realized that he was the only one. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I thought to myself, wow, that's quite a position to be in and it made me feel like, well, maybe that's why I'm here. Maybe that's why I'm on this jury. Somebody needed to be that person and I was it. Just by some happenstance or fate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GUTHRIE: So, he looks at it as fate and he says it changed his mind about some important things and we'll talk about that tonight on Court TV.
O'BRIEN: The death penalty I got to imagine, is one of those important things. Why did he think Moussaoui did not deserve the death penalty because the other 11 clearly thought the evidence pointed to death.
GUTHRIE: Of course and Moussaoui testified and did not make too many friends on that jury laughing at 9/11 family members calling the World Trade Center wreckage gorgeous. I was there. It was awful to hear it and of course you wonder how did he decide to spare him? For him, he said he had to shove aside all of that emotional weight, look at the evidence and determine what did Moussaoui actually do and in the end he felt he was a bit player in all of this conspiracy of 9/11. So, here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He knew there was a plan. He may not have known the specifics of that and, so, to me, that role was actually a pretty minor one in the enormity of what happened on 9/11. So, that was really the basis for my decision.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GUTHRIE: Needless to say, other jurors feel very differently. We'll talk about their perspective tonight and we'll also ask him what he has to say to 9/11 family members. Many people watched this trial and wanted death for Zacarias Moussaoui. For them, that was justice. What does he have to say to them?
O'BRIEN: He was the lone voice against it. It's going to be fascinating, looking forward to that. That is tonight on Court TV. Savannah Guthrie from Court TV joining us. Nice to see you as always, especially in person. John?
ROBERTS: Thanks, Soledad.
Happening in America today outside of Los Angeles, a $1.5 million Ferrari Enzo is missing its front end now. Take a look at this. Ouch, ouch. Comedian Eddie Griffin was at the wheel promoting his new movie called "Red Line." He hit the barricade there and totaled the front end of the car. The movie's executive producer was the owner of the car. Only 400 of them were ever produced.
And in Oregon City, Oregon outside of Portland, 42-year-old Brian Perry is charged with theft and burglary this morning. Perry is accused of stealing a painting from the Clackamas County public service building. There's Perry walking into the public service building and a few minutes later there he is allegedly walking back out again with what looks like the painting stuffed under his left arm, his sport coat off and partly covering it. A camera from the top of the building shows him running to his car. He was driving a rare aqua blue 911 Porsche which police tracked down pretty easily. Perry says he left behind a check to pay for the $375 painting but police said they never saw that check. Soledad.
O'BRIEN: Way, way ahead to the summer Olympics in Beijing next summer. We have your first line on the favorites to watch, an old favorite in this case, the Olympian gold medalist swimmer, Michael Phelps broke a six-year world record at the world championships overnight in Australia. He beat the record of Australian Ian Thorps, an old record by .2 of a second in the 200 meter freestyle. Now, Mr. Phelps is the man to watch when it comes to Beijing.
ROBERTS: (INAUDIBLE) That's hard to do. Also ahead, what was your high play? "Our Town," "The Sound of Music"? One group of teens decided to write their own play based on letters that soldiers sent home. So why would the principal have a big problem with that?
Plus, a stubborn brush fire in Florida, 100 homes threatened, but there may be some good news. And believe it or not, scientists may have come up with a pizza that helps fight cancer. You're watching AMERICAN MORNING, the most news in the morning.
ROBERTS: A Connecticut high school has become an unlikely battleground in the fight over free speech and the war in Iraq. Students there preparing to put on an original play based on soldiers' own experiences when it was suddenly canceled by the school's principal. CNN's Kiran Chetry joins us now with more on this controversy. What is that all about?
KIRAN CHETRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was little Wilton, in Connecticut about an hour outside of New York and now it has turned into really a national controversy and the blogs online are lighting up about it as well. It was the theater department and for the spring semester, they decided they wanted to perform an original play that could feature the voices of soldiers serving in Iraq. Well it became a tangled controversy, a question, concerns rewrites and ultimately the curtain was closed before opening night.
CHETRY (voice-over): It was supposed to be a high school play about the Iraq war, instead, it's become a battle of a different kind.
DEVON FONTAINE, WILTON HS JUNIOR: I believe we were censored, yes. We want to do a piece of theater that was challenging and educational to us and we were -- it ended up we weren't allowed to do it. CHETRY: Devon Fontaine is one of 15 advanced theater students at Wilton High School. In January, they decided to create a play to honor Nicholas Maderas (ph), a graduate who died in Iraq.
BONNIE DICKINSON, THEATER TEACHER, WILSON HS: Before I did it, I ran it by our principal and I said I'm thinking about doing a project of - about the Iraqi veterans. This is a book that has their exact words, it might be a little controversial. He said, no, I think that sounds great. I think it sounds like a good human interest story.
CHETRY: The book is called "In Conflict." Teacher Bonnie Dickinson had the students read it and other sources to find troop monologues they wanted to act.
SETH KOPROSKI, WILTON HS SENIOR: That night I prayed to God that I could go to Iraq.
AFTON FLEMING, WILTON HS SENIOR: The enemy could be anyone that you see. You don't know where to focus your attention.
ALLIE RIZZO, WILTON HS FRESHMAN: We went under a bridge and a roadside bomb went off.
CHETRY: Barbara Alessi has a son Zack (ph) in Iraq.
BARBARA ALESSI, MOTHER OF STUDENT: It was a very proud day.
CHETRY: and a daughter Gabriella at Wilton High. She says that she was assured the piece would be balanced, but then she saw a script.
ALESSI: It was at that point that I realized that there would be no balance, that there would be no academic exercises in broadening their base of understanding.
CHETRY: She claims the monologues were mostly picked from an anti-war documentary, the ground truth. The teacher and students say that was an early draft.
KOPROSKI: We were very willing to remove parts. They just told us what parts the found controversial and what parts that found were too biased.
CHETRY: Principal Canty canceled the performance.
TIMOTHY CANTY, WILTON HS PRINCIPAL: I was concerned based on the last draft I saw that we would run the risk, if this performance were to go forward this semester where students, families and community members would be hurt.
CHETRY: So, he says that he's encouraging students, though, to continue developing the idea and that it might be performed, he says, it might be performed some day down the road, John.
ROBERTS: It seems like a terrific idea for these kids. How likely was it that it might be performed sometime down the road?
CHETRY: Well, apparently they've gotten a lot of offers, including one of the local churches, saying come do it here. There's a lot of different venues that are interested in the kids putting on this play. So now they're tweaking it and they are looking into it and maybe it will be way bigger than if it was just in their school auditorium.
ROBERTS: That would be great, if the school is not going to put it on, somebody else will go for it. Good story. Thanks Kiran. Soledad.
O'BRIEN: Let's get you guys an update now on that brush fire that's happening in southwestern Florida. We've been following it for a while in fact. Firefighters now say it's fully contained. They're worried though that strong winds could start it back up today. The fire has been threatening about 100 homes in Lehigh (ph) Acres, which is near Ft. Myers. Officials aren't quite sure what started it. So far no signs of arson.
Forty five minutes past the hour, Chad Myers. Chad, you could have taken the day off today. It is an easy day.
CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Really?
O'BRIEN: Looking at that good news. Good morning.
MYERS: Good morning. Great weather across the northeast today. Still, no rain for Florida and no rain for Florida for the next five days. The rain is going to be out here across the Midwest and also through the western states with the next storm that's coming down with a bunch of wind for San Francisco, LA, Vegas and Phoenix today, slowing down those airports for sure. Look at New York 77, DC 82, Atlanta all the way to 81 today. There will be some severe weather across parts of the Midwest for today, but the bigger story is tomorrow. Tomorrow is going to be a big-time severe weather outbreak with, in fact, severe snow on one side and severe weather on the other. Large hail, damaging winds and tornadoes there all the way from Nebraska right on down into parts of Texas. But it's spring and you'd expect that to happen. John, back to you.
ROBERTS: So, it's a beautiful day along the mid-Atlantic, Chad. What about the pollen? Isn't it going to ruin everybody's day?
MYERS: The pollen in some spots, yeah. If you come down to Atlanta, all the cars are the same color. They're all yellow from the pollen that falls off the pine trees, a high pollen number in Atlanta is about 120, today 2,900.
ROBERTS: Thanks, Chad.
MYERS: You're welcome.
ROBERTS: Spring is on the way, as Chad said and you may already be sneezing because of that pollen but you don't have to sniffle in silence. We've got advice to help with springtime allergies, including the best home remedy.
Plus, one school's sweeping plan to keep kids safe online. We'll tell you why it is likely to spark controversy ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.
ROBERT: Health headlines now. There definitely is a God. We've discovered that this morning because, would you believe that pizza can be a cancer fighter? Chemists at the University of Maryland baked whole grain, whole wheat dough at higher temperatures for a longer time and found that it increased antioxidants in the crust. Here's the catch and you knew there was a catch. Piling it high with cheese, sausage, pepperoni and all that tends to counter the healthy benefits of pizza. So just eat the crust.
Toss some more blueberries in your yogurt or cereal this morning. A new study confirms blueberries benefit in fighting colon cancer. They have a natural antioxidant, flavonoid, grapes and red wine also have it. Antioxidants can help fight cancer. The study reported by the American Chemical Society today.
Drugs used to treat acid reflux disease in adults are also safe and effective for children. They word from the Canadian researchers who say drugs like Prilosec and Prevacid have revolutionized their treatments for kids, but they should be watched for iron, calcium and B 12 deficiencies. There's always a tradeoff with this stuff.
Speaking of tradeoffs, love the warm weather, hate the pollen? Here's Soledad. She's got help for you.
O'BRIEN: We're paging this morning Dr. Sanjay Gupta talking about spring allergies and how to deal with them. Forty million Americans suffer from seasonal allergies. Sanjay tells us, it might be a rough season this time around.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He had a headache and the runny nose, the itchy eyes. You just swell up.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Spring is in the air, quite literally. That means pollen winds up in our sinuses.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a scratchy throat, cough a little bit, runny eyes.
GUPTA: Allergy experts say this could be a particularly rough year.
DR. ALPEN PATEL, ENT ALLERGIST: The trend is with global warming and shorter winters that our allergy season is becoming longer.
GUPTA: So how do you know if it's allergies or just a spring cold? A good rule of thumb, colds produce a runny nose that is yellowish along with a low-grade fever. Allergies are usually colorless. There's no accompanied fever and itchy eyes, nose and throat. If it's allergies, how do you treat them?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I take Nasacord (ph), actually I have to take Allegra, Sudafed, you name it.
GUPTA: Sorting out the various prescription and over the counter antihistamines, decongestants and nose sprays can be overwhelming.
PATEL: The best home remedy is using salt water spray and just irrigating and cleaning out the nose.
GUPTA: Prescription and over-the-counter medications can help relieve symptoms, but they are no cure. Regardless of where you live, some people are simply predisposed to have bad allergies because of heredity.
PATEL: If you have one parent who suffers from allergies, the chance of an offspring suffering from allergies is nearly 33 to 50 percent. If you have two parents that suffer from allergies, it can be 50 to 65 percent.
GUPTA: Of course, living in a high pollen area can make your allergies worse. To check out the local pollen count, go to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology's website at aaai.org and don't forget the tissues. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, reporting.
O'BRIEN: Ahead this morning, remember this guy right here? He's the man we dubbed the subway super hero. Well, now, he's making headlines again. We'll tell you why.
And caught on tape, a 77-year-old man brutally beaten in a store. Now, police need your help. You're watching AMERICAN MORNING. The most news in the morning is right here on CNN.
O'BRIEN: Catholic school in Detroit is banning students from having their pages on myspace.com. Today is the deadline the administration of St. Hugo of the Hills School says any student who is caught with a page on myspace is going to face suspension. St. Hugo is K through 8. Letter went home to the parent informing of the new rules and school officials say, for the most part parents agree.
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DAWN ZINK, PARENT: My husband and I fully support it.
KATE LYNCH, PARENT: I think it's a great start. I think we've got a long way to go because it's a very difficult situation to sort of grasp in its entirety. There are so many things going on on the Internet and there's so much vulnerability for children.
(END VIDEO CLIP) O'BRIEN: The school says they're going to monitor the site to make sure students are staying off. Administrators insist the ban is to keep kids safe from online predators. You are supposed to be 14 on myspace anyway. St. Hugo is K through 8, which means you're about 13, 14, so the bulk of those students probably, technically shouldn't be on myspace anyway.
ROBERT: You're are probably right. What about things like facebook as well?
O'BRIEN: I think they have a problem with all those networking sites, not just myspace.
ROBERTS: All things in time.
O'BRIEN: Some very tech savvy nuns at St. Hugo --
STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Then, again, little kids probably are probably not that clever.
O'BRIEN: They know a lot of passwords.
ELAM: They're probably really obvious things.
ROBERTS: It's a case of you first, no, you first. President Bush wants the big three auto makers to make more flex fuel cars. The auto makers in turn want the president to do more to make alternative fuels available for car drivers, 58 minutes after the hour, Stephanie Elam "minding your business."
ELAM: That's right. There's a parking lot on the south lawn of the White House yesterday as the CEOs from GM, Ford, DaimlerChrysler. It's really early. They were all there to talk about how they really do want to find alternative fuels for more cars out there. Now, the idea here is President Bush and Congress hope to boost the standards by 4 percent a year. Bush wants to overhaul the standards to cut gas usage by as much as 8.5 billion gallons by 2017. But overall the auto makers avoided the debate on fuel economy standards. This is their second meeting in five months and instead focusing on alternative fuels, mainly a blend of either gasoline and ethanol, which you could just have a car that runs on gasoline or a combination of the two and that would be called E-85. The problem is, less than 1 percent of gas stations across America actually offer that blend called E-85, so, therefore, they're saying give us some more resources and we can do better with our cars.
ROBERTS: Can you say cellulosic ethanol?
ELAM: Cellulosic ethanol.
O'BRIEN: Thank you, Stephanie.
Coming up at the top of the hour, Chad Myers at the CNN weather center for us this morning for us. Good morning, Chad.
MYERS: Good morning, Soledad, beautiful weather for you today, 77, a little cooler tomorrow and back down into the 50s by Thursday. Look at DC, scattered showers and storms though for you later on this afternoon in that heat of the day, Atlanta 81, 82 and I did misspeak about the Atlanta pollen count. 2900 is only the pine pollen for today. The total pollen in Atlanta is 5,200 with 120 being high, we're almost 50 times that. The next hour of AMERICAN MORNING starts right now.
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