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American Morning

Death of Pat Tillman; U.K. Flood Damage: Record Rainfall; Exxon Earnings; Housing Market; Gonzales Questioned; Raw Politics; CNN Hero

Aired July 26, 2007 - 08:00   ET


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: And welcome back. Thanks so much for joining us on this Thursday, July 26th.
I'm Kiran Chetry.


We have breaking news to report to you this morning. Exclusive new details that CNN has learned in the investigation into the death of Army sergeant Pat Tillman.

The former NFL start was killed by friendly fire, you'll remember, while fighting in Afghanistan in April of 2004. The military has been accused of covering up the incident.

Our senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre, has been looking into this case for quite a while now, has uncovered new information this morning. He's at the Pentagon.

Jamie, what have you got?

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, Pentagon sources tell CNN that the three-star general who came under the sharpest criticism from the Pentagon inspector general may also get the harshest punishment. CNN has learned that Army Secretary Pete Geren is strongly considering a letter of censure against Lieutenant General Philip Kensinger for his failure to disclose to the Tillman family the reports that it was a suspected friendly fire death and for misleading investigators who were trying to figure out who said what, when.

Now, Secretary Geren has not made a final decision. But if he goes ahead with that letter of censure, it would mean that General Kensinger, who retired last year, would lose a star and about $1,000 a month from his retirement benefit -- John.

ROBERTS: Jamie, everyone who was in the area at the time knew exactly what happened. How did this false story get going in the first place?

MCINTYRE: Well, you know, that's one of the questions that's never been satisfactorily answered. Because the account that was put in his Silver Star citation that was read at his memorial service is largely inaccurate.

And as you said, virtually everybody knew it at the time. But they've never been able to put their finger on exactly who came up with that story.

The citation was written by about five different people who all claim that everybody else was responsible for the inaccurate part. But they do know that virtually everybody knew right from the start that this -- that Pat Tillman had been killed by his own troops by mistake.

ROBERTS: And so Kensinger is a lieutenant general, one star away from being one of the top people in the military.

Is there any evidence, though, that higher-ups perhaps on the civilian side knew anything about this?

MCINTYRE: Well, you know, a lot of people knew that the initial account wasn't correct, or they suspected it wasn't going to be correct. But there's no evidence that the very top leadership at the Pentagon knew what was going on until the Army revealed it almost four weeks after Tillman's death.

ROBERTS: All right. Jamie McIntyre for us with that exclusive information from the Pentagon.

Jamie, thanks.

CHETRY: Well, the latest reports from Britain say that flood levels are stabilizing but that it will be several more days before the water recedes. And actually, today, they're getting inundated, at least in the south, with even more heavy rain.

This, as they were hoping that they would get a break in the weather to help the floodwaters recede. Well, officials this morning also declared this the wettest summer on record for the U.K., and people who have been flooded out are just beginning to total up the damage.

CNN's Alphonso Van Marsh is live in the hardest-hit area, Tewkesbury, about 50 miles south of Birmingham this morning.

Good to see you, Alphonso.

ALPHONSO VAN MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thank you. Thank you very much.

Unfortunately, some sad news confirmed by fire and rescue officials here. They have found two bodies, two people in the basement of a rugby center.

The understanding and warning from officials is that it is possible they were overcome by fumes by using a petrol or gasoline-based generator. That is what many people here are doing, using generators to try to dry out their flood-ravaged homes to try to restart their lives.

I spent time with another family doing just that. This is their story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) VAN MARSH (voice over): It's cleanup time for Vernon Smith. Raging floodwaters drove this Tewkesbury city counselor, his partner Kate and 12-year-old David out ofheir bungalow home in the middle of the night.

VERNON SMITH, FLOOD VICTIM: You see on television all the time other people -- and from America. We see in England, tornadoes and say, oh, that's terrible. You know, and poor people. And you see flooding like in New Orleans. But you never think it's going to happen to yourself.

VAN MARSH: But it did happen to the Smiths and hundreds of thousands of other people in southern and western England. Now that Britain's worst flooding in 60 years is starting to recede, the reality is setting in.

(on camera): So tell me, what's it like when you come back here for the first time since the beginning of the flood and you come into this room.

KATE MURRAY, FLOOD VICTIM: I will be completely honest. It was incredibly emotional, because this was my favorite room. I had some nice things in here that I did like. And I have to admit, I did cry. That was a photo of my grandparents' wedding that I was keeping flat under the bed.

VAN MARSH: The Smith family's possessions have been reduced pretty much to this pile of sewage-tainted rubble. They did have insurance. Many of these items will be replaced.

The claim just one of tens of thousands that insurers say will cost upwards of $6 billion.

(voice over): Vernon Smith says he's seen lots of camaraderie. Total strangers helping them clean up their home. But he warns that there's also been looting.

SMITH: Just protecting the things we've got. So I actually stay here at night.

VAN MARSH: Staying here at night, but also, he says, staying here for good.


VAN MARSH: Now, the Smiths are putting that rubble in their back yard. As you can see here, amongst some occasional drizzle, officials say that will slow down the recovery process. The irony is, all of this water, as you can see behind me, water everywhere, none of it good enough to drink.

Officials urging people to try to conserve water and putting out an appeal for people to give water. Not enough tanks for the some 350,000 people without fresh water today.

Back to you.

CHETRY: All right. Alphonso Van Marsh live for us in the hard-hit Tewkesbury region.

Thank you so much.

Also, in China, a dramatic water rescue caught on tape. Two children got stuck in the middle of this raging river. About 100 rescue workers showed up to help.

They were able to cling on to rocks and keep themselves from drifting even farther. And then rescuers eventually ran a line across the river and were able to pull them out one at a time. They are both doing OK after being rescued.

It's been a deadly and record-breaking rainy season for China as well. More than 500 people have been killed since it started in May.

ROBERTS: New this morning, a huge explosion in northern Syria. An ammunition dump exploded early today, killing at least 15 soldiers and wounding 50. Syria says that it was not terror-related. Syrian TV says the temperature went up to 113 degrees there, and it was the extreme heat that set off the high explosives in the dump.

Despite a deadline passing, the Taliban say the remaining South Korean hostages are alive this morning. One hostage was killed yesterday. He was a 42-year-old pastor, the leader of the church group that was kidnapped. That leaves 22 hostages still being held.

The group was doing volunteer medical work in Afghanistan when they were kidnapped last Thursday. The Taliban had been threatening to kill more hostages if Taliban prisoners are not released.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales could be facing a perjury investigation. He testified this week that a White House meeting in 2004 was not about the controversial warrantless wiretapping program. But senators say his testimony is contradicted by a letter sent to the Judiciary Committee last year by former national intelligence director John Negroponte.

That meeting involved eight congressional leaders, including four Democrats. Committee chairman Patrick Leahy says Gonzales has until next week to revise his testimony or face a perjury investigation. The Justice Department says Gonzales stands by his testimony.

Democratic senator Chuck Schumer is going to join us later on this hour for more on this particular case.

Three incoming freshmen at Villanova University will not be starting school. They have been kicked off the football team and out of school after a woman accused them of raping her two weeks ago.

The university says after a thorough investigation, it has decided to rescind its offer of admission. School officials say that the female student has not gone to the police and there are no criminal charges pending.

CHETRY: Some other big stories we're following for you this morning with our AMERICAN MORNING team of correspondents. We have an update on the Connecticut home invasion, that tragic story. But for the first time, we're hearing from a relative involved.

Hi, Alina.

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Kiran. Good morning.

You know, the father of the wife and mother who died in that home invasion is speaking out. Richard Hawke is his name. He spoke to CNN affiliate WTNH about the sudden loss of his daughter and two granddaughters.


RICHARD HAWKE, FATHER OF JENNIFER HAWKE-PETIT: We were just shocked to hear that there could be such a tragic, evil thing that could be done to human beings. I think god is crying with us today over this disaster.


CHO: It is just heartbreaking to listen to that that. It is a crime that has shocked the entire community of Cheshire, a quiet suburban town in Connecticut. It really shocked the nation.

Early Monday morning, around 3:00 a.m., authorities say two men broke into the home of prominent doctor William Petit, his wife and two young daughters. Police say the men tied them up and then reportedly drove Petit's wife Jennifer to a nearby bank to withdraw money.

Authorities say Jennifer Hawke-Petit was somehow able to get a message to the bank teller that her family was being held captive. But by the time police arrived, the house was on fire and she and her two daughters, 11-year-old Michaela and 17-year-old Hayley, were dead.

William Petit, the father, was severely injured but incredibly survived. He's said to be in stable condition. The suspects, who have long criminal records, are expected to face murder charges. The two men are each being held, Kiran, on $15 million bond.

CHETRY: Alina, thanks for the update.



ROBERTS: Fourteen minutes after the hour. Veterans Affairs secretary Jim Nicholson coming up, but we've got some breaking news to tell you about this morning. Exxon earnings just in to us.

Here's Ali Velshi with that.

How is it looking, Ali?

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Topped $10 billion again -- $10.26 billion in three months. That's the profit number. It is not the highest it's been.

In fact, a year ago in this quarter, Exxon made $10.3 billion. So, it's a little bit shy of that. We're still trying to confirm the revenue number, but I understand that it did not hit $100 billion.

So we are not looking at a record quarter for the world's biggest publicly traded company. Exxon Mobil is reporting earnings on a day where the price of crude oil is less than $2 off its all-time high.

Overnight trading in oil has been very. And between the oil price concerns and the housing price concerns that we've been talking about over the last few days, we're looking at a rough opening on the market today.

Right now, Dow Jones futures, which indicate the trend of the market, are down 101 points. That's fairly significant.

Things can change in the course of the next hour until markets open. But right now we're looking at a rough start to the day.

Exxon Mobil reporting quarterly earnings of $10.26 billion a share.

John, we're on this, and we're going to continue to find out whether that money is being made and what you should look for if you're an investor today and you're worried about your portfolio.

ROBERTS: Maybe not a record, but nobody is crying poverty.

VELSHI: Not at Exxon.

ROBERTS: And the Dow futures, they're a little better than they were about 20 minutes ago.

VELSHI: Yes. They're about 20 points better than they were about 20 minutes ago, but that was before the Exxon Mobil stuff had been calculated in. Some -- some information I'm getting is that this is a bit of a disappointment, but I'm still looking to see what this all means. Right now we're still looking at a lower opening for the Dow.

ROBERTS: All right. Ali, get back to us when you get that.


ROBERTS: Thanks -- Kiran.

CHETRY: Well, this morning, for the first time in 50 years, President Bush is considering recommendations from a blue ribbon panel to completely overhaul the entire veterans health care system. Those recommendations on the president's desk include restructuring disability and compensation programs, also strengthening family support, and creating comprehensive recovery plans.

So, how long until those recommendations become reality?

Joining me now to talk about it, the secretary of the Veterans Affairs Administration, Jim Nicholson. Thanks so much for being with us this morning.


CHETRY: Donna Shalala, who was one of the co-chairs of this blue ribbon panel, said that all but six of these recommendations could be implemented without any legislation. I mean, they wouldn't require a long travel through the walls of Congress to happen.

So, for families at home, how long until we start to see some of these changes actually happening?

NICHOLSON: Well, but, see, some of them immediately -- some we've already seen, actually. We have for several months now been screening all the returnees who come to us for any form of mental damage from blasts or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. So that is already under way.

CHETRY: Some of the other ones, though, also, there are people who say, we just hope this isn't going to sit on the president's desk and get dusty, that they'll actually try and move forward with some of them. You talked about a few things that are happening. What about a time frame for when all of these recommendations will likely happen?

NICHOLSON: Well, I was there yesterday when they briefed the president. And I commend the president for putting this panel together, and Senator Dole and Secretary Shalala and that team. They were very thorough, comprehensive.

Traveled all over the country and visited with a lot of veterans and injured service members. So they have a good foundation for what they're recommending. And it's really good commonsense stuff.

And most of it can be implemented very, very quickly. And I'll guarantee you the president will see that that happens.

The big change I think is going to be in the way we handle people coming out of the military. They're going to simplify that greatly, which is overdue.

If they're fit for duty, the military hangs on to them. If they're unfit, they come immediately to the V.A., and then we make the determination of what the amount of disability they have and the compensation that they're entitled to. And we take over their health care.

And so you won't have those hundreds of people hanging around like they did at Walter Reed, which was the real problem at Walter Reed. It wasn't the health care, it was the administration of these people in medical hold.

CHETRY: Now, you announced that you were leaving, actually. You're due to leave office by October. Was any of your decision to leave, did it have to do with the stories that "The Washington Post" broke about the deplorable conditions at Walter Reed, that ended up eventually leading to this panel?

NICHOLSON: No, not at all. This is a personal decision of mine that I want to -- after 10 and a half years, I want to get back into private life.

And Walter Reed was an Army facility. It wasn't a V.A. facility. And I will say that the Dole-Shalala commission did a survey, and a vast majority of the service members and the veterans said their health care they were getting was very satisfactory. So a lot of the details...

CHETRY: Yes. In fact, you're right. No, you're right, they do actually talk about the health care. And when I talk to people who have been treated at Walter Reed, they say the same thing.

It's the bureaucracy. They have to explain their medical records to person after person after person because there wasn't a comprehensive system where people knew their case just by looking at it. So hopefully, is that one of the things that's going to change?

NICHOLSON: Exactly. One of the things we're calling for is more compatibility between the military records and the V.A.

I will brag a little bit and say that the V.A. has eight million enrolled patients, and every one of them has an electronic medical record. But when they come to us from the Department of Defense -- and you have to be a military member before you can be a veteran -- they come to us with paper medical records.

So, the sooner we can get everybody on the 21st century technology, the better they're all going to be, most importantly the veterans. I mean, that's what this is all about.

CHETRY: Right.

NICHOLSON: And as the president said yesterday, for those that have been seriously injured, we, you know, the United States and this system, cannot do enough for these people and their families. And that's exactly our attitude at the V.A.

CHETRY: Well, Secretary Jim Nicholson, thanks for coming on with us.

NICHOLSON: Thanks for having me.


ROBERTS: It is a Web site that kids know well, It's also a popular destination for sex offenders. A new investigation just turned up 29,000 of them on the site.

So what can we do to keep our kids safe? We'll take a look next and give you some tips next on AMERICAN MORNING.


ROBERTS: It's 23 minutes now after the hour. Millions of kids use MySpace. Many of them seem to be addicted to it, that social networking Web site. But unfortunately this morning there is more reason to be worried about the dangers and dangerous people that are lurking on the site.

MySpace now says it has discovered 29,000 profiles put up by convicted sex offenders.

Joining me for more on this is Kevin Poulsen. He's the senior editor of "Wired" magazine.

Kevin, MySpace security is proud of itself, saying that it identified these 29,000 sex offenders. What do you say to that?

KEVIN POULSEN, SR. EDITOR, "WIRED": Well, this all kicked off with a story that I did for "Wired" news last year, where MySpace had been saying they didn't have the ability to police the sex offenders on its site. I wrote a computer program that helped me find over 700 of them, and then MySpace announced that it would do the same thing.

And now the results are really mind-blowing -- 29,000 sex offenders. But my story left me unconvinced that that was really the right approach to take, that looking at registered sex offenders instead of trying to find people that are actively abusing MySpace now is the way to go.

ROBERTS: Well, tell me, how easy is it for a registered sex offender to set up their own little profile on this Web site?

POULSEN: Well, anybody can register for a MySpace profile. And it's a free service. And so it's very easy.

What MySpace is doing is looking for registered sex offenders who have registered under their own names and have enough identifying information in their profile that they can make a match. So, if a sex offender uses a different name, then they're not going to be caught by MySpace or anybody else.

ROBERTS: And it's very easy for them to sign up under an assumed name, right? There's no identity check when you sign up?

POULSEN: Exactly. And there's some evidence that the method MySpace is using would prevent a sex offender from signing up after they've been detected and kicked off, so they probably can't just go right back on MySpace after they're booted and register under an alias. But if they were under an alias already, then they're not going to get caught.

ROBERTS: Well, how would they prevent somebody from signing back up under an alias if they've been kicked off?

POULSEN: They can see if a person is coming from the same Internet IP address, we call it.

ROBERTS: Right. But if they used a different one, then they could, right? POULSEN: Yes, that would mean -- that would mean canceling their Internet service and getting new service with a different provider or going to other computers.

ROBERTS: And how difficult is that? And how difficult is that?

POULSEN: Well, it's not -- it's not -- it's not super difficult, but it's -- you know, I guess my point is that it's -- if a sex offender is going to -- going to lengths to circumvent what MySpace is doing, then there's nothing anybody can do about it.

ROBERTS: Well, isn't that what sexual predators do?

POULSEN: I think the argument could be made that sex offenders who are on MySpace using their own names to begin with are the least likely among registered sex offenders to be up to no good.


POULSEN: What I found when I looked at hundreds of sex offenders on MySpace is that the majority of them had old convictions and were using MySpace, at least from what I could tell, were using MySpace the same way everybody else does, to keep in touch with friends and relatives.

ROBERTS: So, Kevin, what can parents do? What tangible advice can we give parents this morning?

POULSEN: You know, there's nothing new there. Ideally, the parents are going to be in a position where they're comfortable knowing -- communicating with their kids about their MySpace profis, and their kids are educated about the existence and the activities of pedophiles online and elsewhere.

If you don't have the kind of relationship where your kid is going to be open about their MySpace use, MySpace is testing some software now called Parent Care...


POULSEN: ... that parents can download and install, and it lets them sort of spy on their kids a little bit and see what they're up to.

ROBERTS: Basically, what you're saying is take some responsibility as a parent, make sure you know what you're kids are doing online.

Kevin Poulsen, from "Wired" magazine.

Thanks for being with us this morning.

POULSEN: Thanks for having me.

CHETRY: We want to draw your attention to a story we're going to bringing you more details on in just a couple of minutes. It's "On Our Radar" this morning. Take a look at this cat. This is Oscar. No ordinary cat. In fact, Oscar has turned into a scientific phenomenon of sorts because of a remarkable ability to predict something.

ROBERTS: Is this a psychic ability? Is it some sort of inherent physical ability that the cat has?

Let's put it this way. It is serious enough that an essay has been written about Oscar in "The New England Journal of Medicine," which is the most prestigious medical journal in the world. So people are taking this very seriously.

What is it that the cat can do? Lips are sealed for now, but stay with us. We'll tell you.

That and more when AMERICAN MORNING continues.


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: A shot of Midtown Manhattan for you this morning on what looks like it's going to be another hot, muggy day in the big city.

Good morning. And welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING. It is Thursday, the 26th of July. Thanks very much for joining us today. I'm John Roberts.

And there's a shot of Air Force One landing at Philadelphia International Airport. President Bush speaking to the American Legislative Exchange Council, 9:00 this morning at the Marriott down there before he returns back to Washington.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: That's right. The last time he spoke, he also talked about -- to this particular group, he also talked about the war on terror. So perhaps we could anticipate maybe a few words about that as well.

ROBERTS: It's a theme that he's been on for the last few days. So expect that to continue.

CHETRY: Well, meanwhile, welcome back. We begin this morning with a blockbuster earnings report by Exxon. We were waiting for this to come out. And now it's out. And you're still paying high prices for gas. That's no secret there. The oil company, though, making billions of dollars in profits. Ali Velshi joins us with details on this.

Hi, Ali.

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ten billions, Kiran. In the last quarter, the three months that they're reporting on, $10.26 billion in profit for Exxon Mobil, which is the world's biggest publicly traded company. And, obviously, the biggest oil company in the world. This isn't, in fact, as much money as they made in the same quarter a year ago. It was $10.3 billion. So just a little bit shy of that.

How much money did they bring in, in the quarter? $98.35 billion. Wondering where all your gas money goes? It goes to them.

Right now oil is still trading at its highest level in a year. In fact, we're wondering what's going to happen when the market opens. And between the concerns about high oil prices and the housing slump we've been talking about and credit concerns, this is all spooking the stock market just a little bit right now and we are looking at an opening right now that is probably going to be around 100 points lower on the Dow.

Now we've seen see-saw days every day, one up, one down. We were sort of thinking that a strong profit report from Exxon Mobil might boost the market today. This is not what the market was looking for. So right now, more than $10 billion in profitability in one quarter, in three months, for Exxon Mobil is not going to be enough to set this Dow to a positive open today. For those of you investors who have been riding this roller coaster, the Dow is probably going to open lower, possibly in triple digits.


CHETRY: Oh, wow. All right, Ali, you're following that for us. Thanks.

ROBERTS: The Dow goes down, the Dow goes up.

Also new this morning, a battle raging overnight in Afghanistan. U.S.-led forces killed 50 suspected Taliban fighters in Helman Province. Helman is a Taliban stronghold in southern Afghanistan. The military says that more than 160 insurgents have been killed there this week.

A top commander in Iraq is taking aim at Iran again this morning. Lieutenant General Ray Odierno says militants trained by Iran are launching more successful attacks in the heavily fortified Green Zone.


LT. GEN. RAY ODIERNO, MULTI-NATIONAL CORPS: We've seen, in the last three months, a significant improvement and the capability of mortarmen and rocketeers to provide accurate fires into the Green Zone and other places. We think this is directly related to training that was conducted in Iran.


ROBERTS: The general's remarks come just two days after the U.S. and Iran sat down for talks in Baghdad. The two sides agreed to set up a security committee to help ease violence in Iraq.

An overnight tsunami warning in Indonesia after a powerful earthquake there. The magnitude 7.4 quake struck 130 miles off of Indonesia's eastern coast. People living in coastal villages raced to higher ground. Fortunately, though, no sizable waves came ashore. Right now the country's still on alert for aftershocks. You'll recall 160,000 people died in Indonesia after a massive quake and tsunami back in Christmas week 2004. CHETRY: Well, it's good news, bad news in the housing market and CNN's money saver, Gerri Willis, has been following the ups and downs for us. She joins us now.

What did we hear yesterday about the housing market?

GERRI WILLIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm telling you, it's some bad news for people out there, especially if you're trying to sell your home. Home sales for June, supposed to be the biggest month of the year, Kiran, bad, down 3.8 (ph) percent, as you can see right here. That's for May. Down 11 percent over last year. That's the bad news.

There was some good news. Inventories are down. So that means there will be less competition if you have your house on the market out there. And sales prices were marginally higher, up 0.3 percent to $230,100. So a little bit of good news out there, Kiran, for people out in the market right now.

CHETRY: Which one's it better for, if you're trying to sell your home or if you're looking to buy at this point?

WILLIS: Well, I mean, everybody has opportunity. But the people who want to buy have the most opportunity. Let me tell you just a little bit about those median prices. It may be a little smoke and mirrors going on there. You know, the median -- half of the prices are higher, half of the prices are lower. So if more expensive houses are selling, well then that price goes up. And that's exactly what the economists are saying right now.

The good news, of course, is that there may be a window of opportunity coming this fall. Economists tell me the Federal Reserve may actually cut rates. Interest rates would be lower. That means the housing market would do better. That could be some good news for people out there.


CHETRY: Also, we're dealing with a high number of foreclosures that have been taking place. We've seen that. As well as the news that some people, even with good credit, are unable to make these monthly mortgage payments. How is that effecting the economy?

WILLIS: Well, lots of worries out there that it's really going to hit the economy hard. You know, foreclosures are not good news for the economy. In fact, some states now are setting up funds to help people who are delinquent on their mortgages. Massachusetts has a $250 million fund. New York state, $100 million. You might want to check your state attorney general's office if you're concerned.

And, of course, banks out there, and we've talked about this before, Kiran, are offering short sales. If you're having trouble selling, if you find your own buyer, even if they can't pay off your total debt to the bank, the bank may be willing to accept less money to get the deal done.

CHETRY: All right. People need to check on that if they're looking for an option because it's been a difficult time for many.

Gerri Willis, thanks so much.

And be sure to catch Gerri on "Open House." It's this weekend. She'll have more on the housing market. She'll also have more on keeping your kids safe online, going green, saving money, finding hidden treasures as well. You'll going to fit all that in?

WILLIS: Twenty-two minutes. You'd be surprised.

CHETRY: Well, I'll be watching. That's Saturday, 9:30 Eastern right here on CNN.

Thanks, Gerri.

ROBERTS: Sounds like a marathon "Open House."

A "Quick Hit" for you now.

More than just trees in one Illinois forest. Cook County officials have cut down and torched an elaborate pot farm that was found on forest preserve land. More than 20,000 plants were discovered.

Well sure he looks cute, but this cat appears to be the angel of death. Think we're kidding? See for yourself when AMERICAN MORNING returns.



This story is really bizarre, but we wanted to bring it to you. This is a cute, fluffy kitty cat, Oscar. He was a two-year-old that was adopted by a hospice. Well, when Oscar the cat appears at your bedside, it might be time to make your final arrangements because this is an incredible story. It turned up in "The New England Journal of Medicine." In fact, they wrote an essay on it about a unique gift Oscar seems to have for predicting death.

ROBERTS: You see, Oscar lives at this Providence, Rhode Island, nursing home. The staff has noticed that when he curs up next to a patient, that patient soon dies. And we're not talking about days here, we're talking about hours. He has managed to predict 25 deaths so far, to the point where nurses will now call a patient's family if Oscar chooses to curl up with their loved one. The staff says that Oscar somehow senses when someone is ready to die and then comforts them in their final hours. And this is so scientifically fascinating. It was written about in "The New England Journal of Medicine."

CHETRY: Yes. And what the staff are saying is, that it actually is turning out to be a source of comfort, one that he curls up and comforts the patients in their last hours, but also that they're actually being able to have enough time to call so that the family can come and say their last good-byes.

ROBERTS: And at the same time, some families are a little freaked out by the idea of the death cat being in the room at the time, so they throw the cat out and they close the door and he paces back and forth meowing at the top of his lungs.

CHETRY: Isn't Oscar amazing.

ROBERTS: Pretty incredible.

CHETRY: Forty-one minutes past the hour now and Rob Marciano has been keeping an eye on Texas. Flooding concerns in that state. It's been a problem all season for them.

Hi, Rob.


ROBERTS: Attorney General Alberto Gonzales could be facing a perjury investigation. Gonzales testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee this week about a meeting with congressional leaders and a visit to then Attorney General John Ashcroft's hospital bed. He said those meetings were to discuss the continuation of a "intelligence activity." On Tuesday when asked specifically if that intelligence activity was the warrantless wiretapping, known as the Terror Surveillance Program, or TSP, Gonzales responded this way.


ALBERTO GONZALES, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Disagreement on the 10th was about other intelligence activities.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER, (D) NEW YORK: Not about the TSP? Yes or no?

GONZALES: The disagreement and the reason we had to go to the hospital had to do with other intelligence activity.


ROBERTS: The problem is that his testimony contradicts a letter that was sent to the Judiciary Committee last year by former National Intelligence Director John Negroponte, who says that meeting was about the TSP. Yesterday a spokesman for Gonzales said the attorney general stands by his testimony. Joining me this morning from the capitol is New York Senator Chuck Schumer.

Chuck Schumer, thanks very much for being with us. Appreciate seeing you.


ROBERTS: So did Gonzales lie to you?

SCHUMER: Well, it's looking pretty -- it's looking like that. It sure is. And, unfortunately, this isn't the only time that this has happened. In his testimony, there are so many instances where he doesn't tell the truth to the committee and then says, well, he sends in a correction later or tries to parse it in a different way. But he is just not being straight with this committee in terms of telling the truth. And we are frustrated as could be. John, I have been in Washington 27 years and I have never seen anything like this.

ROBERTS: Let's take a little bit more of that testimony from Tuesday where you're trying to push him on this idea of whether that meeting was, in fact, about the surveillance program. Take a quick look here.


SCHUMER: Was it about the TSP, yes or no, please. That's vital to whether you're telling the truth to this committee.

GONZALES: It was about other intelligence activities.


ROBERTS: You're shaking your head there, Senator Schumer. Why?

SCHUMER: Because it was about the TSP. And everyone who was at the meeting, or many of the people who were at the meeting, said that. Now John Negroponte says it in a letter. And that's not the only thing.

Why did Gonzales get in a pickle here? Because I had asked him much earlier, before John Komey (ph) had testified when we brought him before the Judiciary Committee, I said was there any dissension about the wiretap program in the administration? And he said, no. And then he comes back and says, well, there was dissension about other things.

But that is just not true. Anyone who was involved knows that this man is just not telling the truth. And it's just unbelievable to me that either he doesn't step down or that the president, seeing what's going on and seeing that there's more at stake than just loyalty to an old friend, doesn't ask him to resign.

ROBERTS: At that meeting were four members of the Democratic leadership, Tom Daschle, Nancy Pelosi, Jane Harman and Jay Rockefeller. What's their recollection of that meeting? And why would Gonzales tell untruths about a meeting at which Democrats were present?

SCHUMER: You know, first question is their recollection is it was about the TSP. People could say, well, they're Democrats. So was John Negroponte. He said that was what it was about, too, in his letter. That was what it was going to -- that's what they were discussing.

The second question is beyond belief. How this man thinks he can just keep getting away with not telling the truth. And as I said, if this were the only instance, you might say, OK, give him a chance to clarify. But this is just the straw that is breaking the camel's back. He's done this over and over and over again.

ROBERTS: So on that point, Senator Leahy, the chairman of the committee, is giving him till next week to change his testimony or he could face a perjury investigation. Do you think that a perjury investigation should start today?

SCHUMER: Well, the bottom line is, he's had so many chances to correct himself. In another exchange I had with him, he said, well, we corrected the record about something. I said really, who did you correct it to? He said, well, it wasn't me, my spokesperson.

ROBERTS: Right. So should . . .

SCHUMER: I said how did you correct it.

ROBERTS: So should that investigation start today?

SCHUMER: So -- yes, for me, I don't have any doubt that he has -- and not just me. Arlen Specter said he came right up to the line, too. I would like to see an investigation occur right away. I respect Chairman Leahy. And he's a very careful man. He always gives the other side the benefit of the doubt, and that's good. But for me at least, telling you my opinion, he's put down so many, so many things that an investigation should start right away.

ROBERTS: Well, there's your newsy sound bite this morning.

Senator Schumer, thanks very much. Good to see you.

SCHUMER: Thank you.

CHETRY: And CNN "Newsroom" just minutes away. Heidi Collins is at the CNN Center with a look at what's ahead.

Good morning, Heidi.


That's right, we have these stories coming down on the "Newsroom" rundown this morning.

New friendly fire fallout. CNN has learned a retired general could be punished in the Pat Tillman death. We'll be talking about that.

And this very daring rescue. Look at this, two boys trapped in the middle of a raging river. Police hand them a life line.

And truck overturned. Eggs over easy, thank you. Motorists scramble to avoid an accident. What a mess.

Join me in the "Newsroom." We get started at the top of the hour right here on CNN.


CHETRY: Heidi, thanks so much.

Well, the gloves are coming off in Congress over fired federal prosecutors. Democrats lobbing a new shot at the White House, as Lance Armstrong jumps into the presidential campaign trail. It's all coming up next in "Raw Politics" on AMERICAN MORNING. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


Is Lance Armstrong biking his way into presidential politics? We're going to talk more about that and all of the interesting political stories with CNN's Tom Foreman in this morning's edition of "Raw Politics."


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Democrats are furious at folks at the White House, accusing them of attempting to stonewall their investigation into the attorney general firings. So the Democrats are firing some shots of their own.

Former White House Counsel Harriet Miers and White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten ignored congressional subpoenas about the firings. But now the House Judiciary Committee has them in its sights, saying the two should be held for contempt of Congress before others get the same idea.

REP. JOHN CONYERS, (D) JUDICIARY COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: We won't be able to get anybody in front of this committee or any other.

FOREMAN: Tony, a response?

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: In our view, this is pathetic.

FOREMAN: The Tour de France is reeling under a barrage of new doping allegations, but the great tour champion and cancer survivor Lance Armstrong is wheeling across Iowa with John Edwards. Armstrong invited all of the candidates on the ride. He's holding a cancer forum next month in the Hawkeye state. Many of the White House hopefuls are expected to show up.

New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg says he's not in the race!


FOREMAN: Not in the race!

BLOOMBERG: And let me make it clear, I am not a candidate for president of the United States.

FOREMAN: Are you in the race?

BLOOMBERG: That's the kind of Shermanesque question . . .

FOREMAN: OK. So she's not Sherman either. But now he does have a new website, highlights his accomplishments. Not in the race, but he's certainly strapping on his Nikes.

And to the record books. Guinness says this woman in Chicago has the poppiest eyeballs. This man in L.A., the stretchiest skin, but this man in the White House may soon hold the title for most disliked president. George Bush's disapproval rating is now at 66 percent. Only one point away from the worst rating ever since modern polling began.

So who holds the title now? Well, you have to go all the way back to 1952 when George Bush was just six years old. And it was Harry Truman. Go figure that.

The Obama-rama is stirring the political soup pot. We'll be there with our spoons later on tonight on "Anderson Cooper 360," "Raw Politics."


CHETRY: Tom, thank you.

All the day's political news is available any time day or night,

ROBERTS: So Harry Truman was the most disliked president. But everybody talks about wanting to be like Harry Truman.

CHETRY: See that.

ROBERTS: Go figure.

CHETRY: History.

ROBERTS: Here's a quick look now at what CNN "Newsroom" is working on at the top of the hour.

COLLINS: See these stories in the CNN "Newsroom." NFL star in court. Michael Vick answers to dogfighting charges.

Fallout from the Pat Tillman death. A retired general could lose rank and cash.

Catching fat. A new report says, if you hang with the obese, you become obese.

And kitties's the grim reaper. Oscar the cat calls 25 deaths.

"Newsroom" at the top of the hour on CNN.


ROBERTS: Time now for another "CNN Hero." People working to better the lives of others. Today we introduce you to a former gang member who's helping others build futures after gang life. Luis Ernesto Romero is today's "CNN Hero."


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. Look right into the camera.

LUIS ERNESTO ROMERO: I thought I going to die at the age of 20 because somebody's going to shoot me. I was living as a gang member. And I saw other kids get into the gangs because they don't have no other opportunities.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE, (through translator): When you're on the street, every moment you live, you live as if it were your last because you never know how that day will end.

ROMERO: Something powerful came up when my daughter born. So I started like checking, hey, what am I doing? What I'm going to offer to my daughter? But then I find Homics Unidos in 1997. So I started like educating myself.

And now, you know, I help others. We teach them how to empower themselves not to smoke weed, not doing violence, not doing what they do. In El Salvador, the kids are much discriminated. If you have tattoos, if he bald headed. But when he started looking for a job, they don't give opportunity for him. We teach them how to do things in other ways. They never thought they were going to have a bakery of their own. Now they have a bakery and they're doing their own business.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we think different. I mean, we don't think going doing violence, doing killings, do other things. Homics is saving a lot of lives.

ROMERO: We come from gangs and now we are a part of the solution. So it doesn't matter how much I got to spend, how much time I got to be on it, I need to do it for my kids and for the other kids of San Salvador.



CHETRY: Well, that's going to do it for us. Thanks so much for joining us on this AMERICAN MORNING.

ROBERTS: Hope to see you again tomorrow. CNN NEWSROOM with Heidi Collins begins right now.

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everybody. You are in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Heidi Collins. Tony Harris is off today. Watch events