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American Morning

Passenger Detained, Plane Diverted to New York City; Al Qaeda Comeback; Iraq Progress Report; Chinese Imports Questioned

Aired July 12, 2007 - 08:00   ET


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR (voice over): Terror threat. This morning, a chilling glimpse into a classified new report. Al Qaeda rising.
MICHAEL CHERTOFF, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: The enemy is continuing to change and adapt. And we cannot be static.

CHETRY: Plus, where do we stand in Iraq? Washington readies for a critical new progress report on the war on this AMERICAN MORNING.


CHETRY: And welcome. We're glad you're with us on this Thursday, July 12th.

I'm Kiran Chetry, along with John Roberts.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you.


ROBERTS: We begin with a story that broke first here on AMERICAN MORNING.

An American Airlines flight from LAX to London diverted to JFK airport here in New York City, and a passenger was detained. A flight attendant on board Flight 136 called for the landing after realizing that she saw the suspicious passenger riding an employee bus before the flight without an I.D.

Police in New York immediately detained the man. But now everything appears to be a misunderstanding.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff appeared on AMERICAN MORNING earlier today and told us the man might be an airline employee.

Now within the past five minutes some clarification from Homeland Security. The man detained was apparently a frequent flier who just spotted a loophole while checking in and hopped on the employee bus. In any case, the whole situation raises some big security questions.

AMERICAN MORNING Alina Cho is at JFK for us.

What's the latest from where you are there, Alina? ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, as you just alluded to, the Department of Homeland Security has said that American Airlines security officials say that the man in question is an executive platinum traveler with the airline, and purchased his round trip ticket from LAX to London's Heathrow Airport on April 19th. Now, what is unclear is whether that executive platinum traveler is also a flight attendant. That is still being worked out.

What I can tell you from here at JFK is those passengers, most, if not all of them -- and there are 188 passengers in all -- are already at gate A of terminal A here at JFK. They are scheduled to leave within 30 minutes at 8:30 a.m. on American Airlines Flight 142, bound for London's Heathrow Airport.

Now, had the flight, 136, not been diverted and stopped here at JFK around 4:00 a.m. Eastern Time, those passengers would already be in London. But as it stands now, they are approximately at least eight hours behind schedule.

Now, a couple more things that need to be worked out.

Number one, it is still unclear whether the man in question was actually on that employee bus. The flight attendant, that alert flight attendant that we've been talking about, according to the TSA, believed he or she saw the man in question on the employee bus. That still needs to be worked out.

Also, if the man in question was indeed a flight attendant, carried a badge through, that still is not proper procedure. If this person was flying in a private capacity, they would have had to have gone through screening just like a regular passenger.

So still a lot of questions that still need to be worked out from here, John, but, of course, this comes just a few days after Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff said that he had a gut feeling that we were in a period of increased vulnerability. So you can imagine how everyone is jittery about this.

ROBERTS: Right. And certainly Michael Chertoff was applauding the flight attendant who brought this to the attention of the pilot, saying it just shows that everyone has to be vigilant when it comes to the prevention of terror.

Alina Cho for us at JFK this morning.

Alina, thanks.

CHETRY: Well, all of this coming to light at the same time as a secret intelligence report is revealed, was leaked. It says al Qaeda has regrouped and is ready for new attacks.

We're also expecting President Bush to deliver a progress report on Iraq today as well. And we're covering it from all angles.

Justice Correspondent Kelli Arena is in our Washington bureau. We also have our Elaine Quijano for us at the White House. And we begin with Kelli and this leaked classified document on al Qaeda. The report is called "Al Qaeda Better Positioned to Strike the West".

What's been the reaction to that?

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, basically, the report says that al Qaeda has largely reconstituted itself stronger than it's been in years. That is according to officials that we spoke to who saw the summary of that report. But that very much echoes some comments that we've heard, Kiran, quite publicly about al Qaeda, how it's been training along the border areas between Pakistan and Afghanistan, how it is creating some new alliances, most notably one with a terrorist group in Algeria.

So there are very definite signs that this organization has regained quite a bit of strength.

CHETRY: All right. Kelli Arena for us in Washington.

Thank you.

ROBERTS: President Bush's progress on the war in Iraq could be sent to Congress today. Of the 18 goals the president set out for the Iraqi government, there are signs of both military gains and political setbacks.

Elaine Quijano is at the White House for us this morning.

How is this report expected to be received on Capitol Hill, Elaine?

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly there is already a great deal of pressure on this White House from Capitol Hill to change course on Iraq. This could, in fact, add to that growing pressure being felt.

Senior White House officials say as early as today, President Bush will unveil that interim Iraq progress report. One senior official says that the report will be mixed, about 50-50, they say. Roughly half of the 18 political, economic and security benchmarks get a satisfactory rating. Others get an unsatisfactory rating.

Now, yesterday, after meeting with President Bush here at the White House, Republican Senator John McCain said that the report will show some success on the military side, but on the political side, the senator did not mince words, John. He said, point blank, there is none -- John.

ROBERTS: Elaine, the White House is desperately trying to stop the defection of Republicans over the Iraq war. Stephen Hadley, the national security adviser, went up to Capitol Hill yesterday.

How did he do?

QUIJANO: Yes. You know, he got an earful, from what we understand, during that meeting.

Stephen Hadley has in fact been trying to ask lawmakers to wait until September, when General David Petraeus is set to deliver his report on how the so-called surge strategy is working.

Well, we understand that several Republican senators in that meeting with Stephen Hadley, the president's national security adviser, essentially said we don't want to wait. They want to see some sort of change now in what was described as a "vigorous discussion".

Behind closed doors, senators Lamar Alexander, Robert Bennett and Pete Domenici all told Stephen Hadley that they wanted to see that course change now. And again, this interim report due out today, we expect, likely only going to add to the criticisms being aimed at this White House -- John.

ROBERTS: It certainly will.

Elaine Quijano for us at the White House this morning.

Elaine, thanks.

Another security gap to investigate this morning. How easy is it to build a dirty bomb?

Congressional investigators found that they can get enough radioactive material to build one simply by setting up a bogus company and buying construction equipment. They did it all in space of 28 days. The results will be presented in a set of hearings later on today.



CHETRY: Well, "Fortune" magazine's list of the world's biggest companies is out, and retail giant Wal-Mart is coming out on top. At least coming out on top of this list.

Ali Velshi has more on that for us.

This is one they're talking about revenues, right?

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is the one that's talking about revenues. You're right. It's in "Fortune's" current issue, and it's the world's largest corporations, as you can see here, but it is based on how much money they take in.

Wal-Mart has been at the top of that list for many years. It wasn't last year. It was edged out by Exxon Mobil. It is back on the number one spot -- $351 billion in revenue last year.

Exxon Mobil is number two at $347 billion. Then Shell, BP and General Motors. In fact, six of the top 10 are oil companies. Three of the top 10 are car companies. When you do look at profitability, however, Exxon Mobil and the oil companies do come out way at the top. In fact, Exxon Mobil is number one. Wal-Mart is only number 24 when it comes to the most profitable.

So it's still a better business to be in, to be selling oil to folks, than it is to be selling everything Wal-Mart sells, but these are pretty big companies -- Kiran.

CHETRY: Sure are, Ali. All right. We'll check in with you as well a little bit later. Thank you.

Also, to Dr. Sanjay Gupta now with a shocking warning this morning about your iPod following the story about whether or not you actually are at risk of getting struck by lightning more if you're listening to your tunes.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, I don't think it actually increases your risk of getting hit my lightning, but it's sort of an amazing story coming out of Vancouver.

A 37-year-old man was jogging with his iPod outside, and there was a thunderstorm going on. Well, lightning hit this tree close to where the man was, and the lightning subsequently bounced off the tree and hit the man.

It sort of threw him through the air for a little bit, but also caused these burns. It sort of went right up his chest, along the side of his face, burned the outside of his ears, and ruptured his eardrums.

That's what happened. He had the earphones in. He had his iPod on. And it was a combination of sweat, metal and electricity.

Again, no one thinks that actually having the iPod increases your risk of getting hit by lightning, as he did. But it did seem to increase the severity of the injuries that he suffered as a result of wearing that iPod.

Typically what happens, you get hit by lightning and sometimes it can just wash right over you. But if you have sweat, or you have any kind of metal, not just an iPod, it can actually cause that current to go through you, as it did in his case.

He had some pretty severe injuries, Kiran. He actually had both of his jaws dislocated as well because his muscles contracted so hard when that lightning hit. Obviously his eardrums ruptured. So pretty severe injuries.

He's going to be OK, but that's what can happen in this sort of situation.

CHETRY: Oh, gosh, that's terrible to even think about, the poor guy.

Well, how do you protect yourself from having something like that happen? If you just want to be extra cautious, even though it's pretty rare.

GUPTA: Yes, it is pretty rare. I guess, you know, some of the old advice still applies. I mean, you probably don't want to be outside in a thunder, lightning storm if you can avoid that.

Also -- and again, I need to point out this isn't just iPods. Anything. You know, beepers, BlackBerrys. People -- anything electric like that can actually change the current from simply washing over you to passing through you.

So, if you have to be outside, certainly don't wear headphones. And try to keep that electricity in a bag or something, as opposed to on your person.

CHETRY: Yes, good advice.

All right, Sanjay. We'll see you a little bit later when we open up your mailbag and answer some questions.

GUPTA: Looking forward to that.

CHETRY: Thanks, Sanjay -- John.




CHETRY: Well, we've heard reports of tainted pet food, toothpaste, even dangerous tires and toys. And now most recently some concerns about seafood. All of it coming from China. So should Americans be worried about products from China?

Joining us now to talk about the safety of our food supply is Dr. David Acheson. He's the chief medical officer at the Center for Food Safety at the Food and Drug Administration.

Dr. Acheson, thanks for being with us this morning.

DR. DAVID ACHESON, CENTER FOR FOOD SAFETY, FDA: A great pleasure to be with you, thanks.

CHETRY: You know, China has made a lot of news lately in terms of seeing some questionable products coming from there. And a lot of people are asking, how do we know that our food supply is safe?

ACHESON: FDA spends a lot of time and resources testing food from a whole variety of countries. It's not just China. And for example, last month, through testing, based on risks, looking at the areas of greatest concern, we refused food from close to 80 different countries around the world.

So there's a constant check and balance going on where the agency is looking for problems, finding them, and preventing contaminated food from entering the U.S. and potentially harming consumers in America.

CHETRY: You guys are doing the best you can, but there have been questions about whether or not you have enough people. In fact, this was an op-ed from "The Miami Herald," if we could just put it up on the screen here, where what they talked about was the fact that clearly the FDA needs help.

"First, it needs more inspectors. At ports of entry, the present safety net is so full of holes" -- and it goes on to say that "... exporting countries rightly feel that they can send us whatever they want without fear of being caught."

What do you say to that statement?

ACHESON: Well, certainly with regard to the second statement, there's no way that's true. And we prove that over and over again.

When countries do that, we find the problems, especially if they cause illness. We react quickly and we shut those imports down.

As you pointed out earlier, we did that recently with seafood. We did it with the melamine-contaminated ingredients for pet food.

It's a regular situation for FDA to find the problems, shut those imports down. And then what we try to do is to work with the foreign countries to fix the problems in the first place so that essentially everybody is -- everybody is winning.

CHETRY: Yes, we're in this global marketplace, we're experiencing massive globalization when it comes to our food supply.


CHETRY: That's why a lot of stuff we get is not grown in the United States.

But if you are doing things like being able to stop produce from the Dominican Republic, 817 times just last year for illegal pesticide traces, and then candy from Denmark impounded 525 times, it does make the average person say, if all this food is coming that there are problems with, how much of that, how much may be slipping through the cracks that could end up on my kid's dinner table?

ACHESON: Sure. No, and I mean, that's a legitimate concern for consumers to have. But I think you've got to look at it from a consumer perspective and ask yourself the question, are more people getting sick from food-borne illness than they used to? Are we seeing more problems? And we're not.

I think that we're -- FDA, and along with its other federal colleagues, is keeping up with the global food supply. Sure, we would like to do better. And I think in the future what we really want to try to do is to push the whole initiative into preventing the problems in the first place, both domestically, as well as imported. And clearly, we've had issues with domestic foods as well.

CHETRY: Right.

ACHESON: So, the bottom line is, is food is no less safe now than it was 20 years ago or 10 years ago. I think it's safer.

CHETRY: OK. Well, what is specific research people can go to to find out where what they're eating comes from and whether or not they can trust it in their own grocery stores?

ACHESON: Well, there's a lot of information on the FDA Web site. There's also a lot of information in terms of what consumers can actually do themselves.

Clearly, when you buy a product from the supermarket, you're trusting that the person selling it to you is selling a safe product. But it's important that consumers can do further things to look out for their safety once they get that food home in terms of cooking it properly, making sure it's refrigerated, not cross-contaminating in the kitchen.

A lot of food-borne illness occurs because people at home make mistakes. And there's a lot of information on FDA's Web site and other government food safety Web sites that provide really useful stuff for consumers.

CHETRY: All right.

Dr. David Acheson, chief medical officer with the Center for Food Safety at the FDA.

Thank you.

ACHESON: A pleasure. Thank you.



ROBERTS: Twenty-five minutes after the hour now.

Chicago is now the pork belly capital of the world. Thanks to a merger between two rival exchanges, the Windy City is now the place for futures trading.

Kyung Lah joins us live with a first look from the new futures floor which has been in business for just a little more than five minutes now.

Good morning, Kyung.


I'm joining you from the belly of the beast. What you are looking at is one of the pits of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. And as you mentioned, it opened just a few minutes ago, futures trading here. You are looking at the epicenter of the futures exchange. Not just here in Chicago or the U.S., but globally. What it means, the bottom line, is that it doesn't mean just good news for the U.S. economy, but also good news for your dollar.


LAH (voice over): Welcome to Chicago's pits, where futures are king and the traders have their own language, literally -- buy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: $41.3 Slayer (ph) -- $41.3.

LAH: Done, and thousands instantly change hands.

Today, many, many more trades will take place here. That's because the Mercantile Exchange has merged with the Chicago Board of Trade. It's now the largest futures trading floor in the world, trading everything from gasoline to pork bellies.

PHILIP FLYNN, ALARON FUTURES AND OPTIONS: Everything that you buy or touch, eat or sleep in, or drive, at some point was traded on either the Merc or the Board of Trade. Just about everything.

LAH: Alan Matthew and his sequined jacket have been in the pit for 25 years.

(on camera): Could you have ever predicted this when you started 25 years ago?

ALAN MATTHEW, CBOT TRADER: Never, ever, ever.

LAH (voice over): The merger of these two exchanges is a very big deal. CBOT and Merc have been cross-town rivals for generations. As unthinkable as the Cubs and White Sox as one team.

The new exchange is also good for the economy, with thousands of high-tech financial jobs are on the line.

Analysts say because of the size of the new mega exchange, brokerages will stay here, attract more competition, employing more traders and staff. Plus, the prices of products you buy will still be set right here in the U.S.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is huge. I think it's going to be a big boom for the U.S. economy.


LAH: Now, officially, the votes still have to be tallied, but for all intents and purposes, this is a done deal.

Now, there was some concern that this might create a giant monopoly and end up hiking prices for investors. But at this point, everyone here in Chicago is looking at this as it is a good deal for investors, and also for a lot of people that you can see standing around me -- John. ROBERTS: And you know, Kyung, even if you didn't know a thing about futures, the pictures are irresistible.

Kyung Lah for us at the new futures exchange there in Chicago.

Kyung, thanks very much.

And AMERICAN MORNING is back in just a moment.


CHETRY (voice over): Coming up on AMERICAN MORNING, getting too close to a source.

HOWARD KURTZ, "THE WASHINGTON POST": You can't go to a pool party when you're covering the man, and his wife is missing and there's questions about what happened to her.

CHETRY: How it cost one longtime reporter her job.





CHETRY: Well, a TV reporter in Chicago lost her job because of the way she did her job. Amy Jacobson's visit to a source was caught on tape. It got her fired. And she's now speaking out in her own defense.

Here's CNN's Keith Oppenheim.


KEITH OPPENHEIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: For nearly 11 years, Amy Jacobson has been a star reporter for the local NBC station in Chicago.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Her reputation is do what it takes to get the story.

OPPENHEIM: Last Friday, Jacobson went to the home of Craig Stebic, the estranged husband of Lisa Stebic, a suburban mom who's been missing for more than two months.

AMY JACOBSON, FMR. WMAQ-TV REPORTER: And when I'm on a story, I don't want to get beat.

OPPENHEIM (on camera): Jacobson told WGN Radio she was invited to the home by Craig Stebic's sister. And while it might sound odd, she came there with her two children.

JACOBSON: We don't have a baby-sitter on Fridays, because that's my day off, and you know, it was a chance for me to work on a story and also be a mother, because another mother was there with her children.

OPPENHEIM: What Jacobson didn't know was there was a video camera nearby, which captured her in Stebic's home wearing a two-piece bathing suit and wrapped in a towel. The video was obtained and aired by the local CBS station. Jacobson was fired.

JACOBSON: I know that I made a horrible mistake. I understand that. But a fireable mistake? I don't think so. Nothing improper happened.

OPPENHEIM: Still, the story raised questions about the relationships between reporters and sources.

In Los Angeles, newscaster Mirthala Salinas is under scrutiny after having affair with a newsmaker on her beat -- L.A.'s mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa. Phil Rosenthal, media critic at "The Chicago Tribune," says the public is more aware reporters and sources get cozy.

PHIL ROSENTHAL, "CHICAGO TRIBUNE: If you get too cozy, your ability to do your job may also be compromised in some ways. And I think people are looking at that with a sort of a new set of open eyes.

OPPENHEIM: In the end, the tale of Amy Jacobson may make all reporters think about how close they get to their sources.

Keith Oppenheim, CNN, Chicago.


ROBERTS: Thirty-six minutes after the hour. In just two hours from now President Bush will be in the new Brady briefing room at the White House to hold his first press conference there. Elaine Quijano is at the White House.

Elaine, I expect that this is going to be to announce the findings of this interim report on progress, or lack thereof in Iraq.

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that certainly is what we expect. Good morning to you, John.

And very quickly now, CNN has confirmed that the report will include eight of those benchmarks, the 18 benchmarks for the Iraqi government to meet being rated as satisfactory. Eight of the benchmarks being rated as unsatisfactory. And two of them being rated mixed.

Now, this is certainly not a surprise. This is what we've been hearing from the White House all along, is that certainly there is progress in some areas, but not in others.

Now what will be interesting to watch here is how the president will, in fact, lay out this report. There is a great deal of pressure, as we've been talking about, from Capitol Hill for him to change his strategy on Iraq. The White House, in turn, has wanted lawmakers to be patient and let the president's strategy of more troops in Iraq to be given some time to work.

So the president will likely be pointing to, what he believes, are signs of progress and reasons why lawmakers should hold off and be patient until General Petraeus delivers his report in September.

ROBERTS: Elaine, when the White House reports that this is -- that benchmarks are satisfactory, do they mean that they've achieved these benchmarks, or made satisfactory progress toward achieving them?

QUIJANO: I think that is an open question, a very good question. Because part of even the ratings system here is designed by the White House to, essentially, make the argument that this is a work in progress. Instead of giving an a, b, c, d or f grade, what this does is leave the administration some opening to say, look, even though we are giving this interim report as it is mandated to us by Congress, we are still not saying this is the final conclusion.

So by saying satisfactory, unsatisfactory, mixed, that implies, and the White House has certainly been trying to cast this as a process, an ongoing process, one that is by no means complete at this point.

ROBERTS: Wiggle room always important in politics. Elaine Quijano With us from the White House. Thanks. CNN will carry the president's press conference live at 10:30 this morning from the White House briefing room.

It is Thursday, which means that it's time to open up Dr. Gupta's mailbag. Sanjay answers your questions coming up on AMERICAN MORNING, right after the break.


CHETRY: It' time now to open up the medical mailbag and answer some of the questions that you've sent in for Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

ROBERTS: Sanjay is standing by now in Atlanta.

Sanjay, our first question comes from Victoria in Florida. She writes, "My husband has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's, because he has great difficulty with his speech and expressing his thoughts. I don't think he has Alzheimer's, because his memory is not bad and he doesn't fit the profile. Is there another disease that would affect the frontal lobe in this way?" So what about it, Sanjay?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's interesting, we get a lot of questions like this. And first of all, as you might expect, it's hard to diagnose somebody over the airwaves here.

A couple of things, though, regarding Alzheimer's. Memory loss is one of the cardinal symptoms and one of the earliest symptoms of Alzheimer's. So that's something to consider here. But you can have certain situations where you can have one of the speech problems, something known as aphasia, present much earlier in the diagnose of Alzheimer's. So you get speech problems first, then some of the memory problems later on.

Earlier this week we talked about a couple of tests, fairly simple ones, a mild cognitive-impairment exam, or a mini mental status exam that you can actually have done in your doctor's office. They won't diagnose Alzheimer's for sure, but can you a much better impression of whether or not you have early dementia, which can lead to Alzheimer's, so that may be a direction, Victoria, you want to go.

CHETRY: All right, well, we have another question. This is from a new mother. She's actually down in your neck of the woods, Sanjay.

Her question, "During the last trimester of my pregnancy my psychiatrist guided me in weaning myself off Zoloft so that when the baby was born she would not experience withdrawal from the drug. Now I'm experiencing postpartum depression. I would like to go back onto Zoloft. What are the risks associated with nursing mothers and antidepressants?"

GUPTA: Well, it's Good question. First of all, about 10 to 20 percent of mothers do get postpartum depression of some sort, everything from the baby blues to a frank out depression.

And I think one of the things that we've been told over and over again, that it can be much more dangerous not to treat the depression than to treat it.

With regards to Zoloft, in particular, it's one of the better anti-depressants in terms of lower concentrations getting into breast milk. Some of it dies, but it seems to be one of the better ones overall. So the risks of not treating depression much greater. I think if you're having it, it's diagnosed, taking medication with some small risk might be OK.

ROBERTS: Sanjay, our last question comes from Katherine (ph) in Illinois. She's got a great question about weight gain. She writes, quote, "I'm just opposite of your patients. I am tall, and lanky and have a hard time gaining and maintaining my weight. I know I'm not alone, however it seems that there's only help for people who are overweight." Any suggestions?

GUPTA: Well, you are the opposite of most of my patients, and most of America, as it turns out now as well. There is a real obesity problem in this country.

With regards to you specifically, keep in mind that having some fat on your body is actually a good thing. It can make you healthier. It can actually make you feel better as well. Same advice for you really, Katherine, in terms of overall managing your weight. Keep a food diary, for example. Keep a food diary for example. You can get 3,500 calories from a pound of fat. So you know, keep track of what you're eating.

Also try to make your drinks really count. Beverages, try to do some high-calorie beverages there. Don't drink as much around meals, because then you won't eat as much. Try and drink throughout the day, get some of those high calories. And you know, you can eat fat. Remember, fat is not a bad thing necessarily. There are some good fats out there. Some nuts have some good fats in them. Peanut butter, for example, might be a good option for you as well.

CHETRY: And if all else fails, two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese. No I'm kidding.

GUPTA: Have Kiran's typical breakfast.

ROBERTS: I was going to say, yes, go out to lunch with her, because she eats like a football player.

Sanjay, thanks.

GUPTA: Thanks, guys.

CHETRY: All right, we'll see you soon. By the way, as we do every Thursday, if you have a question for Sanjay, go to, send us an e-mail. He looks at a lot of them, and then he's going to answer as many as he can.

GUPTA: Absolutely.

ROBERTS CNN NEWSROOM is just minutes away. Heidi Collins at the CNN Center now with a look at what's ahead.

Good morning, Heidi.

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you, John.

A disturbing intelligence find on the NEWSROOM rundown. Almost six years into the war on terror, a threat assessment says al Qaeda is as strong as it's been since 9/11. We'll talk to you about that.

And an L.A.-to-London Flight diverted to JFK in New York. A passenger causes a security scare.

And a toddler kicked off a flight because he would not stop talking. Hmm? All the day's breaking news when Tony Harris joins me in the NEWSROOM coming up top of the top of the hour right here on CNN -- John.

ROBERTS: See you then, Heidi, thanks.

If you mess with the bull, you get the horns. This video just into us at CNN. Seven people were gored today in Pamplona, Spain during the Running of the Bulls. Ouch! That's considered a particularly violent day at this event.

CHETRY: Remember when you were little and you thought how cool would it be if you could fly using helium balloons, like I'm doing right now. Actually, I'm not. My producers are holding me up.

But coming up after the break, we're going to meet the guy who went 193 miles on his lawn chair with just some helium



CHETRY: Our next guest is somebody that I think fulfilled every childhood dream, that if you just had enough helium balloons, you could somehow fly into the air. Well, he actually made it happen. Joining me right now is Kent Couch from Oregon.

Thanks for being with us.


CHETRY: So this was your second time. But just recently you were able to attach a bunch of balloons to your lawn chair. And how far did you get?

COUCH: I got 193 miles.

CHETRY: And how long did it take you?

COUCH: It took 8 hours, 45 minutes, 22 miles an hour was my speed.

But I was going to make my comment about that -- don't try that at home.

CHETRY: So a warning for people.

COUCH: Yes. I'm afraid some little guy might try it.

CHETRY: You know, and it wouldn't take much. But actually you had a lot of calculations that went into making this happen.


CHETRY: How did you figure out what you needed to be able to get up there.

Well, first of all, I'm kind of a fun, happy-go-lucky guy, and I had a friend that was more of a calculating guy. But what we did, is we figured out how much lift each balloon had, you know, and we figured out each balloon had about 4, 4 1/2 pounds of lift.

CHETRY: So your balloons were about the size of the ones we have here?

COUCH: No, they were about twice that size. There were about 4 1/2 feet wide. And so anyway, what we did is calculate how many balloons we got and how much lift and how much we needed.

CHETRY: You could control the up and down.


CHETRY: This took you nine hours. You ended up going 193 miles, which is pretty impressive in a lawn chair.

What did it feel like when you were up there?

COUCH: It's serene, because you're moving with the wind, no noise, just peace. It's the most peaceful thing you could experience. Just moving along. And you don't get the ups and downs and bumps of an airplane, for example.

CHETRY: How high up are you?

COUCH: Basically 9,000 to 15,000 feet.

CHETRY: What were your safety precautions, if you will? Were you just sitting in your lawn chair?

COUCH: Well, yes, I was sitting in it, but I had a parachute, which I had learned how to skydive the year before. And so if things didn't go well, I didn't like what I was experiencing, I would just jump out and have a nice little glide down.

CHETRY: And a couple of the other things that you would have to do when you got up too high, you would pop some of the balloons along the way, of course, eventually to get back down. You showed me, this is the device you used to pop your balloons.


CHETRY: Yes, it's a letter opener, but it came in handy.

How did you decide when you needed to start coming down, or how long you were going to stay up there?

COUCH: Well, I had an altimeter, my GPS that had an altimeter on it. And it gave me all my information, my ground speed, my glide ratios and all those things, longitude, latitude. And so if I got up to around 15,000 -- I didn't want to go any higher than 15,000. And so then I would just grab a balloon, pull it down and stick it. And they pop pretty well.

CHETRY: What do you do for nine hours? do you get bored?

COUCH: Yes, you could get bored. But this crazy friend of mine kept saying, Kent, I need your latitude, I need your longitude. Give me your elevation. Give me your temperature. And so he was typing all of this on a computer, a laptop, while we were going.

CHETRY: He did everyone's childhood dream. In fact, we wanted to recreate this, be we found out that it didn't jibe with the insurance policy of our...

COUCH: Yes, I can imagine. Mine neither.

CHETRY: So this is our makeshift one. And I'm just going to try it. I'm just going to re-create what it must have been like for you for just a couple of seconds here, Kent, with the help, of course, of our staff. There we go. There we go.

COUCH: See you later. Have fun.

CHETRY: Thanks, Kent.


ROBERTS: Not quite.

CHETRY: Not quite as exciting at 13,000 feet. But you know, it's funny, we asked, did he take a bunch of pictures, because how gorgeous would it be to be up there and get that shot.

When he landed he had it all tucked away, but the way he landed and he just went so far so fast, his camera's lost. He's offering a $500 reward if anybody picks it up and can give it back to him.

ROBERTS: He's either a great adventurer or a lunatic. I'm not sure which.

CHETRY: He's a sweetheart.

ROBERTS: We're back in just a moment.


ROBERTS: All year long, CNN is shining the spotlight on special people. We call them CNN Heroes. Today we introduce to you a man who went from fighting in Iraq to becoming a single father. Scott Southworth is today's CNN Hero.




No soldier goes to war with the expectation of coming home and adopting an orphan from the war zone. My name is Major Scott Harold Southworth. I'm a member of the Wisconsin Army National Guard and the proud father of an Iraqi orphan by the name of Ala'a Dem (ph).

Come on, Ala'a.

My soldiers and I volunteered at the Mother Theresa Orphanage in Baghdad, Iraq. I did not choose Ala'a, Ala' a chose me.

When the sisters informed me that they were going to have to move him to the government orphanage, I instantly told them that I would adopt them. There were a number of obstacles to bringing him to the United States. Not having enough money and not having a stable enough career, not having a wife.

But I could not, as a Christian man, walk away from that little boy. It really was a step of faith for me to just put that into action. He's a good little boy.


SOUTHWORTH: I know you are.

It's been what, 2 1/2 years since I picked Ala'a up in Baghdad. He's learning how to walk. He's doing addition and subtraction. He's learning to read the English language. He's just a brilliant little boy.

Come on, work those legs.

He's limited by some of the things he can do physically, but I never treat Ala'a as though he's disabled.


SOUTHWORTH: I love you too, my buddy.

Ala'a is so much more a blessing to me than I am to him. I felt a ton of sympathy for Ala'a when I was in Iraq. But Ala'a didn't mean my sympathy. What he needed was some action.


ROBERTS: For more about Scott or to nominate a hero of your own, go to

AMERICAN MORNING is back in a moment.