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Deadly Twisters; One-on-One Interview with Angelina Jolie; New Campaign Push: Money Trouble for Clinton? Economic Stimulus Plan in Limbo
Aired February 07, 2008 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Total destruction.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was like about a split second of hell.
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ROBERTS: Tornadoes peel off roofs, ripped steeples from churches.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The only thing we could do was pray and lay on top of our boys.
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ROBERTS: The devastating scope for five states and thousands of families.
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MAYOR SHELVY LINVILLE, MACON COUNTY, TENNESSEE: You can follow the path of this one. It's total destruction.
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ROBERTS: We're live across the disaster zone. State for state, dollar for dollar, Clinton versus Obama. The new debate this morning. Who has the money and momentum?
Plus, the CNN exclusive interview.
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ANGELINA JOLIE, ACTRESS: So, you know, I don't have the answers but I know that this is one thing that needs to be addressed and solved.
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ROBERTS: Angelina Jolie in Baghdad on this AMERICAN MORNING.
And good morning. Thanks very much for being with us on this Thursday, the 7th of February, a special edition of AMERICAN MORNING. I'm John Roberts in Lafayette, Tennessee. Good morning, Alina.
ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning to you, John. I'm Alina Cho in New York. Kiran has the morning off. And, John, I know they're assessing the damage. They're searching for survivors. Really, just a painstakingly long process.
ROBERTS: Yes. You know, here in Lafayette, they're actually still searching for survivors. They haven't even begun to assess the damage. And this is a scene that's repeated across five states this week as that super storm system came through on Super Tuesday, when everybody was getting out to vote, continued through Wednesday morning. Here's a look at some of the destruction in the location where we are in Lafayette.
This is a house that has been rendered, I'm sure, uninhabitable. All the windows are blown out. Most of the roofing is stripped off. One of the walls, its parkway gone. And this is one of the fortunate structures that was actually left standing. You know, not far from here, just a few yards to the other side, homes are completely destroyed. There's not even enough light to really fully see them this morning. Thirty people killed in Tennessee, 13 here in Macon County, which is where Lafayette is. Thirteen people died in Arkansas, seven in Kentucky, four in Alabama.
We are live from those states this morning. Full coverage on the aftermath of this storm system. But right now, back to Alina in New York.
CHO: I know you'll be talking to survivors and city officials. John, thank you. We'll check back with you later.
New this morning, a CNN exclusive.
Actress and U.N. Ambassador Angelina Jolie is in Baghdad right now on a humanitarian mission. She spoke with CNN's Arwa Damon earlier this morning. Arwa joins us live from Baghdad with more on that exclusive interview. Arwa, what did Jolie say and what is she trying to accomplish while she's there?
ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, actually, she told us that the decision to come out here was quite an easy one to make because she was very frustrated at not being able to get real answers about the refugee crisis here.
ANGELINA JOLIE, ACTRESS: I came to the region about six months ago. I first went to Syria because I work with UNHCR, and there are 1.5 million refugees in Syria alone from Iraq. And while I was there, I also went inside and met with some internally displaced people. And this trip is to get a better picture of the internally displaced people and to discuss with the local government, with our government, with NGOs, and with local people this situation and try to understand what is happening, because there are over two million internally displaced people. And there doesn't seem to be a real coherent plan to help them and there's lots of, you know, goodwill and lots of discussion but there seem to be a lot of -- you know, just a lot of talk at the moment. And then there are a lot of pieces that need to be put together so -- trying to figure out what they are.
DAMON (voice-over): And what kind of a sense have you been able to get so far, in terms of how severe the crisis is, and what actually does need to be done to help out?
JOLIE: Well, in my research before I came here, I looked at, you know, the numbers, and there are -- there are over four million people displaced. And of the two million internally displaced, it's estimated that 58 percent are under 12 years old. So it's a very high number of people and a very, very vulnerable situation in a lot of young kids. And, so far, the different U.S. officials I've met with and different local people I've met with, all have shared concerns -- very, very, you know, strongly -- they have spoken out about the humanitarian crisis, but there seems to be a block in --
I'm not good at policy and fixing all this and saying what's wrong, but I do know that, for example, UNHCR needs to be more active inside Iraq. In order for that to happen, they need -- they feel strongly about having some better protection, better security. In talking with the U.S. officials, they're willing to give that security to the extent that they can give it.
And so, you know, I don't have the answers, but I know that this is one thing that needs to be addressed and solved because it does need to be a real presence here to help count the people and register the people. Also, even just the government here needs to empower -- the prime minister here needs to empower the government that deals with migration and displacement, to be able to address the concerns for these people and that hasn't happened in a significant way yet.
DAMON: She is going to be meeting directly with the minister of migration and displaced people here, as well as with the Iraqi prime minister himself. Earlier this morning, she did meet with General Petraeus. And Angelina also underscored the fact that this not only needs to be dealt with because it is a humanitarian crisis, but because the situation in Iraq will impact security not only in the Middle East but throughout the entire world.
CHO: Arwa Damon live for us in Baghdad. Arwa, thank you.
Other headlines new this morning. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is in Afghanistan right now. She and the British foreign secretary made a rare trip outside the capitol of Kabul to the frontlines in Kandahar. The U.S. is calling on NATO allies to send more forces, anticipating the Taliban's resurgence in the spring.
Breaking news this morning in the Benazir Bhutto assassination. Pakistani police have arrested two more people in connection with her murder. Four people have now been detained, including a 15-year-old boy, since the attack in December that killed Bhutto. Police have not said how the two arrested today are connected to the assassination. Pakistan's detailed elections are set to take place a week from Monday -- John.
ROBERTS: Alina, nearly 70 reports of tornadoes were logged through Tuesday and Wednesday. Some of those were probably multiple sightings of the same storms so the final tally is expected to be about half that number. Still, an incredible number of tornadoes. Fifty-five people were killed. That number could rise. Thirty-one people were killed here in Tennessee. That's an additional one from last hour as the body count keeps going up here.
The one thing that we keep hearing from people here is just how fast the storm blew through. Up to 25 tractor-trailer trucks were overturned. In Arkansas, 13 people were killed. A tornado cut a six- mile path near Atkins. That's a small farm town of about 3,300 people. Four were killed in that town alone. Seven people were killed in Kentucky. Four of those came from Allen County, just north here along the Tennessee border.
Emergency officials estimate that the path of destruction there was a half mile wide and four miles long. And in Alabama, four people were killed, three in the hard hit area around the towns of Moulton and Aldridge Grove.
We have reporters across the Tornado Disaster Zone this morning. We are here in Lafayette, Tennessee. Rob Marciano is in Alabama. Let's begin, though, with Ed Lavandera, who's live about 150 miles southwest of where I am, which will give you an idea of just how widespread this destruction was. He's in Jackson, Tennessee. Good morning, Ed.
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. And we also hope to give you a sense of just how intense this storm was. We're in the student parking lot which is essentially adjacent to the dorms that were demolished by here on the campus of Union University. Just look at this car in particular here -- flipped over on top of the others, windows all smashed out. You can imagine the force and the intensity and the fear that many people had just as this storm was hitting.
LAVANDERA (voice-over): When the tornadoes winds started whipping, the hands of Union University's clock tower stopped spinning, a terrifying moment frozen in time at just past 7:00 p.m. It's when Matt Taylor found himself trapped in the rubble of his dorm room.
MATT TAYLOR, UNION UNIVERSITY STUDENT: The last thing I remember seeing as I looked up on my way -- because I was on my stomach holding a gumball machine being dragged across the floor and I saw couches and tables going over my head and I'm not going to make it to that room. And the next thing I knew, I mean, I was under all this rubble.
PASTOR DONALD LANCE, LIGHTHOUSE UNITED PENTECOSTAL CHURCH: And this storage closet here, we had four families in here, lined up in this closet. We had to move everything out and barely got in here just in time. LAVANDERA: Pastor Donald Lance was supposed to have been in the middle of a Tuesday night church service when the tornado struck in front of a packed congregation. But just hours before the twister came, he looked to the ominous skies and decided to cancel. So instead of 150 people in harm's way, only a few families were inside when the rumbling started.
LANCE: The lightning for some reason flashed all of a sudden, and you know how it lights up the whole sky. And when it did, we've seen the tornado and it was coming basically straight for us. And by the time we got in the storage room and got everybody in, that roar was on us. And when I shut the door, it was on us that quick.
LAVANDERA: In minutes, the roof was peeled off. The Lighthouse United Pentecostal Church, the steeple toppled over. Donald Lance is grateful he canceled services. His congregation lives to pray another day.
LANCE: I'm not depressed, worried nor down. It's not a tragedy. It's a testimony. It's great that all these lives were spared. It's a great day, a great day.
LAVANDERA: And, of course, that church not very far away from the campus here in Jackson, Tennessee. And you know there were 1,100 cars that were damaged, university officials tell us. And many of these students who have been told, to take a couple of weeks off, that classes wouldn't resume for another couple of weeks, this is the conditions that many of them are finding their cars in. So getting away from here is actually very difficult -- John.
ROBERTS: That pile of vehicles behind you there, Ed, have they even started the cleanup process there yet?
LAVANDERA: They haven't. You know, we've heard that there might be an opportunity for some students to get back into their dorm rooms today so they can gather some of their belongings and try to make it to that mess. But, yes, it's a heck of a cleanup process. This is just one parking lot in the campus. It goes back over this way, so there is a lot that needs to be done and cleaned up. And, of course, that process hasn't begun yet. We imagine it will begin rather soon, but it hasn't started yet.
ROBERTS: All right. Ed Lavandera for us this morning in Jackson, Tennessee. President Bush himself will get an up close look at the destruction there later on today when he visits the storm zone.
Now, from a 150 miles southwest of where we are to 200 miles south of where we are now, Rob Marciano in Aldridge Grove, Alabama -- that's a very, very hard hit area -- tracking more extreme weather for us this morning. Good morning, Rob.
ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, John. Just over 24 hours ago, two immense twisters tore through northern Alabama. One fatality in Jackson County, three right here in Lawrence County, three right across the street, where a couple and their teenage son were living or sleeping when the storm ripped through their home pretty much gone. Their home, a lot of it on this side of the street now. All this debris from their house. Up there is the roof of their home, plywood and roofing material embedded in those branches, pinned to that tree, giving you an idea just how powerful this storm was. Brick house there -- pretty much damaged and destroyed. An elderly woman in there. She's OK, broken bones, some cuts and bruises.
Eighty to 90 homes in this county damaged or completely destroyed. Tens of people were hospitalized during the day yesterday. I talked to the meteorologist in charge of the National Weather Service. He said preliminary survey is that this was an EF3, at least 136 mile-an-hour winds. The ones who are north and east, that was an EF4. They'll come back out here today, take a closer look. They may very well upgrade this one.
Storms these strong this far north are pretty rare and unusual for this time of year, but it does happen. It happened back in 1971 where over 120 people died. El Nino, which is what we had last year, typically brings -- and judging a little father south -- that's why we had those tornadoes likely in the cross central and northern Florida. This year, La Nina. That kind of agitates the atmosphere, and there are some studies from the Storm Prediction Center that says La Nina can sometimes make for more intense or more tornadoes a little bit farther north as we agitate that jet stream. So that could very well be a reason why we had this.
But I'll tell you what? With that record heat that we had built up across the southeast and really the eastern two-thirds of the country, that certainly didn't help this situation. Now, the cold air has moved in. The weather pattern has shifted somewhat, and the storm system is off to Georgia, the north and east, and heading out to sea. But there is yet another one heading into the Pacific Northwest.
Interesting note, John, I talked to one of our affiliate reporters here, Wade (ph), when we arrived in the scene. He was one of the first people on the scene. He said that there was a couple and their 2-year-old daughter in an SUV, trying to outrun this tornado, coming right up this road. The SUV was picked up and thrown at least 100 yards and came to place just to my right, on all four tires, upright. They were miraculously OK.
You should never try to outrun a twister. But they got out of the car, the gentleman had a cell phone. He heard cries of help from both sides of the streets around this neighborhood. He was able to call 911 and get first responders here in just a matter of minutes. So in all of this, John, happening at the same time, it must have been quite an ordeal to say the least -- John.
ROBERTS: Unbelievable. And, Rob, in just a little while, we're going to be talking to a fellow who is inside his mobile home when the tornado hit, and it literally turned it upside down and tried to shake him out of it like that. And we're seeing just, you know, the extremes in the weather here. We got snow in the air this morning, Rob. What was it, the day that the tornadoes hit? Somewhere around 70 degrees or so? MARCIANO: At least. And just yesterday, it was in the upper 60s across D.C. and New York City. So a tremendous amount of heat buildup. And as you know, now we're feeling the cold. You get those two air masses, that's just one of the ingredients that can fire up these storms and unfortunately, that's what triggered this atmosphere to get awfully turbulent just yesterday and the day before -- John.
ROBERTS: Just an extraordinarily powerful line of storms. Rob Marciano for us this morning. Rob, thanks. We'll check back in within a little while. Right now, back to New York, and here's Alina.
CHO: John, thank you.
Just north of you, we're following new weather concerns this morning. Winter storm watches and flood warnings are up from the Great Lakes to New England. At least 500 flights have already been canceled at Chicago's O'Hare Airport. They've had a mix of snow, sleet and rain. Just a mess there. Delays on the remaining flights are running up to an hour. We're going to have a live report coming up in our next half hour.
Also ahead, a CNN exclusive. The Halloween party pictures the Feds didn't want you to see. The costume that caused all the trouble and the immigrations chief whose job is on the line. That's coming up.
New word from the campaign this morning. Who has the money to go all the way? You may be surprised. And the storms that ravaged the south. This morning, assessing the damage.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's pretty scary being in there and the top comes off of it, and you watch your whole house fly above your head.
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CHO: Their stories of survival ahead. We're live in four of the devastated states, and John's live from Lafayette, Tennessee. That's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING. We're back in a moment.
CHO: Welcome back to the "Most News in the Morning." New word this morning from the Clinton camp about how much money they've raised since Super Tuesday. This comes after the Clinton campaign revealed that Hillary Clinton had to loan her own campaign $5 million. Both Clinton and Barack Obama are setting their sights on the next round of primaries this weekend, if you can believe it.
CNN's Suzanne Malveaux is in Chicago following all the action. So, Suzanne, Super Tuesday may seem like a distant memory to you. You know, Obama and Clinton basically got the same amount of votes, 7 million apiece. They had almost the same number of delegates. So who's got the momentum going forward? SUSAN MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, if you look at the races that are coming up, Louisiana is a primary, but the others are caucuses -- Nebraska, Washington State and the Virgin Islands. And that really works -- it tends to work in Obama's favor. They're open processes and what it allows to do is independents, Republicans to participate and that really helps Obama in the sense that he has the kind of crossover appeal. He also has very strong grassroots organization.
What hurts him and perhaps benefits Clinton is the fact that they don't have very much time left. Obama tends to gain support, build support as time goes on with those big rallies. And as people get to know him, people already know Senator Clinton, and so she has somewhat of an advantage there.
CHO: Hillary Clinton has been quick to say that they've furiously raised money, 3 million or so, on the Internet in recent days. But the truth is Obama's campaign outraised Clinton 32 million to $14 million in January. Hillary Clinton had to loan her campaign $5 million. Some of the senior staffers are voluntarily working without pay. So what does that say about Obama and his ability to rally his supporters? I mean, we're talking about momentum here, and this is what's important going forward, right?
MALVEAUX: Alina, you're absolutely right here. I mean, $32 million in January, really quite an amazing feat compared to the $13.5 million from the Clinton camp. And what this allows you to do is pay for advertising where you cannot travel. It also allows those ads to target particular markets, to target particular groups, to tailor your message and it really just runs the campaign. It allows these candidates to crisscross the country. I believe we have a bit of sound from Senator Clinton talking about the fact that she actually dipped into her own pocket to finance her campaign.
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SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I did. I loaned the campaign $5 million from my money. That's where I got the money. I loaned it because I believe very strongly in this campaign. We had a great month fund-raising in January, broke all records but my opponent was able to raise more money, and we intended to be competitive, and we were. And I think the results last night proved the wisdom of my investment.
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MALVEAUX: And she certainly seems to be right in that sense because she has been paid back. That loan has been paid back within 48 hours. They raised within 24 hours of Super Tuesday, they say $3 million. They're now going for 6 million in 72 hours. This is all happening, Alina, over the Internet, online. They're getting thousands of donors. So you can see the power of the message, power of momentum and obviously, the power of the buck as well.
CHO: It's so exciting to watch this horse race, and it is a horse race, as you well know. Suzanne Malveaux watching it all for us in Chicago. Suzanne, good to see you. We'll check back with you later.
Coming up, we're covering the devastating tornadoes that hit the southeast. We're going to talk to some survivors coming up. What did they do while the tornado was hitting?
Twelve days in the snow, a missing Utah couple finally found. We'll tell you about the creative ways they managed to stay alive.
Airlines merger talks are once again picking up steam. The airlines involved and how it could affect you. All of that just ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.
CHO: Welcome back. Some business headlines this morning. The economic stimulus package is in limbo. Senate Republicans are blocking Democrats from adding more than 40 billion dollars to the plan for the unemployed, senior citizens and disabled veterans. The vote was just too short of the 60 needed to break a Republican filibuster.
More trouble for Macy's. The department store is cutting about 2,300 jobs in an effort to reduce cost and boost sales, and will add 250 new management positions at its stores to better tailor to specific regions. Macy's says it's been struggling with disappointing sales.
The news in the airline industry this morning. There's renewed interest in a possible merger between Delta and Northwest. That's coming from people close to the talks and that in turn has brought some new merger discussions between United and Continental. Any deal would face scrutiny from not only regulators but labor unions, too. There's always concern that fewer choices may mean higher prices for travelers or fewer flights to get you where you want to go. Over to you, John.
ROBERTS: Alina, it's 26 minutes after the hour. You're watching the "Most News in the Morning" here on CNN. And coming up live from the Disaster Zone here in Tennessee, the scope of the devastation just now coming to light as the sun begins to come up.
Also ahead, the pilot of a small plane has had better landings. We'll tell you what happened when he tried to touch down in Florida.
A CNN exclusive this morning. Actress Angelina Jolie makes a surprise visit to Iraq, and our cameras are there. Why is she making the trip? More of our one-on-one interview. That's straight ahead.
And Halloween pictures come back to haunt Homeland Security. Why they're raising accusations of racism for immigrations' chief?
And what did residents of this town do when the tornado was hitting. We'll be joined by tornado survivors and get their stories. Live from Lafayette, Tennessee, we are back in just a moment.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It just hit us. It just blew all the glass out and scooped us up in the air. And the next I know, we were flipping and flying and it went over here, across the intersection. But we're alive. You know, we're alive.
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JOHN ROBERTS, CNN, ANCHOR: James Baskin of Jackson, Tennessee, recalling what it was like when that tornado came through on Tuesday, about 7:00 in the evening. Of course, some most memorable pictures are from Union University there in Jackson. Those dorm rooms that just got completely crushed by the tornado. Welcome back to a special edition of AMERICAN MORNING. I'm John Roberts. We are in Lafayette, Tennessee this morning. Good morning, Alina.
ALINA CHO, CNN, CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning, John. Just incredible to see those pictures from the air. And now, with first light, you can really see the damage behind you. I'm going to send it back over to you.
ROBERTS: Now, the sun is just beginning to come up. It's a cloudy day. I don't know how much sun we're going to see. Just to give you a little bit of the lay of the land here, not far away from the position we were at just a couple moments ago, this is one of the houses that has been completely destroyed. And this was a brick structure. The tornado hit this one full on. You can see, this is where we were just a couple minutes ago in front of this home which is still mostly intact though a large chunk of the upper section of the wall there has been torn down and much of the roof torn off as well and all of the windows blown out.
You can see this area of the neighborhood, this house again completely leveled. And then other houses in the neighborhood over here as well. Some of them still standing. Others have had their roofs completely ripped off. And its like this all the way through this neighborhood for about another half mile that way over into the through the country club. Many of the buildings in the country club were still intact. Some of the barns were destroyed there and there are golf carts literally piled on top of each other.
So, that's sort of an idea what we're seeing as the sun begins to come up this morning. And they haven't even begun the cleanup. They haven't even begun to assess how many of these structures were damaged. At first light this morning, the rescue crews will be back out there, just making sure that all of these areas have been cleared and to make sure there are no more victims trapped in the rubble.
Our Ed Lavandera is in Jackson, Mississippi, we're telling you about that just a minute ago. It's about 150 miles to the southwest of where we are. It gives you an idea just how widespread this destruction was. Ed, what's the scene on the ground there where you are?
ED LAVANDERA, CNN, CORRESPONDENT: John, not only do university officials have to figure out how to clean up the dorm rooms and all the buildings that had been damaged but they also have a mess in the parking lot. This is the student parking lot next to the dorms. You can see here in the distance, these were the dorms that were demolished. Look here, the first wave of the storm hit this parking lot. Cars flipped over. And what I really find fascinating is this, look over here, these cars were all parked in these space, you can see them right here on the ground. The force of the wind didn't lift up these cars, it actually just kind of shifted. It almost looks like the cars were part of a dancing line like in unison. They just kind shifted of shifted over to the left. But all these cars demolished, more than 1,000 cars damaged in this storm. So, that is part of a major cleanup process at this university and that these students have to endure right now as well. John.
ROBERTS: It's like 200 miles long and 200 miles wide, just this path of destruction from this storm system. You wonder how they will ever going to begin to get things back to normal here. We will continue to bring you stories here from the storm zone and Rob Marciano, of course, has got the weather coming up today, big change in the weather here in this area. It's a lot colder than it was, more storms moving into the northwest as well that you want to hear about. But for the moment, let's send it back to New York. And here's Alina Cho. Good morning, Alina.
CHO: Hey, good morning, John. Thank you. Rescue crews and some national guard troops are going door-to-door, looking for victims of those deadly tornadoes in the south. At least 55 people were killed. Today, residents are trying to salvage belongings in their destroyed homes, like you see here in Tennessee.
Meanwhile, parts of Ohio are bracing for more flooding today. Two days of rain and melting snow causing rivers to spill over their banks, roads are covered in water and boats were on standby for people trapped by the rising waters. Forecasters say there's a chance of snow later today.
And the snowstorms in the Midwest shutting down hundreds of schools and businesses and grounding hundreds of flights. Up to 18- inches of snow expected to hit the area, one person killed in Wisconsin in a traffic accident, blamed on the slippery roads and that storm is making a big mess of travel throughout the Midwest.
New pictures just in to us in the last hour showed the effort to get Chicago's O'Hare Airport up and running, stranded travelers spending the night on cots in the terminal. At least 500 flights have already been canceled. Regina Waldrop of affiliate CLT-TV live at O'Hare for us this morning. Regina, thank you. What it's like -- Good morning rather. What's it like where you are this morning?
REGINA WALDROP, CLTV, CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alina, things are picking up the pace here. It's getting really busy, lines are forming. You know, hundreds of stranded passengers who were in those cots yesterday. Now, they're forming lines and they're hoping to get out of Chicago and get on to their destinations. We've spoken to several passengers this morning who say they're being told that their flights are on schedule today and they will be able to leave Chicago. Now, again, at 9:00 last night, around 900 flights were canceled out of this airport and that means it became a cot city for stranded passengers looking to get to their destinations. This was all due to this major snowstorm that hit our area. The fourth one that we had this year and devastated the area and caused the airport almost to shut down here and at Midway Airport too. Now, again, we spoke to a young woman who came here from Milwaukee, hoping to get a flight out of here to get on to Belize, but she had to change her plans because her flight, along with many others were canceled last night and again, she is one of the passengers this morning hoping to get out of Chicago and get away from all this snow.
And you know, the good news is out of all of this is that airline workers worked all night feverishly to reroute and reschedule passengers and hopefully again all will be able to fly out today. But the good news also is for people leaving Chicago is there is no snow in the forecast for today. Alina, back to you.
CHO: That is good news. Say hello to all my friends at CLTV. I used to work there many years ago. Regina Waldrop, thank you so much for joining us.
Remember the tainted pet food scare that claimed the lives of thousands of cats and dogs last year. Now, the federal government has indicted three companies, one in the United States and two in China, charging them with 13 felonies and misdemeanors. Prosecutors alleged that companies added the tainted ingredient melamine to the food. If convicted, the heads of the companies face several years in prison and more than $1 million in fine.
Former Miss Nevada-USA Katie Rees is in trouble again. This time with the law. She was arrested early yesterday morning in Las Vegas. There's her mug shot there. Police stopped her for speeding, then found that she had a suspended license, suspended plates and no insurance. She was also charged with resisting a police officer. Rees was stripped of her crown last year after some provocative photos of her appeared on the internet.
And some trouble on touchdown for this small plane in Ft. Lauderdale Executive Airport. The nose gear of the aircraft apparently collapsed after the plane landed. You can see it. The pilot was the only person on board, thankfully, he was not injured. That is good news and a close call.
CNN exclusive. The Halloween party pictures the Feds didn't want you to see, the controversial costume, why it could cost the immigrations chief her job and many on the rider saying John McCain is not right for them. We're going to tell you what McCain is doing to try to convince them he is. That's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.
And coming up a CNN exclusive, Angelina Jolie makes a surprise visit to Baghdad and she's only talking to us. Our Arwa Damon joins us live with her one-on-one interview in the next few minutes. Stay with us.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ROBERTS: 20 minutes now to the top of the hour. We're back live in Lafayette, Tennessee. We've been sharing with you some stories of people who went through this incredible series of storms and the survivors have got some amazing stories to tell. Troy (Graigs), deputy sheriff in town here. He joins me now along with his daughter, Lauren. Good to see you, folks, this morning.
So, take me back Troy to Tuesday night as the storm system was moving in. Where were you? Where was your daughter? Were was the rest of your family?
TROY: My daughter was with her mother in town at the in-laws. Myself, I was working a basketball game at the Macon County High School.
ROBERTS: You had a ballgame even though you knew this weather was coming?
TROY: I didn't know it was getting this bad. As soon as the ballgame was over, the principal announced for everyone to be safe on the way home, we had a bad storm coming in. At that time, everybody left the gym. I didn't get in a hurry and didn't think really nothing about it.
ROBERTS: So, another thunderstorm.
TROY: You know just another thunderstorm coming through. I went home, changed clothes, went back out to my in-laws -- mother-in-law, father-in-law, to pick up my wife and son. To go back home.
ROBERTS: And how was the situation then?
TROY: It was raining, the wind was blowing. By the time I got there, the wind was really blowing, raining real hard. So, we stayed there to wait out, you know, see what it was going to do. I looked out the window and could see something flaming.
ROBERTS: It was the gas pump.
TROY: I guess that was the gas pump.
ROBERTS: In flames, 3, 400 foot flames shooting up into the air.
TROY: It was glowing. After the storm passed, calmed down, told my wife, I said I will go home. She said I will stay here, go home and check on things because we heard it got bad.
ROBERTS: So, you I got home.
TROY: So, when I got home, I had to walk a pretty good ways to get there because I couldn't drive all the way there. When I got there, shined my lights where the home was at, it's gone.
ROBERTS: Nothing there anymore?
TROY: Don't have nothing. ROBERTS: And you had relatives, too, that were living nearby? Beside you?
TROY: My mother lives in front of me in a brick house, it's pretty much leveled, gone. They were able to get some furniture and stuff out of it. My sister, her boyfriend, two kids, or three kids. She's got a newborn seven days old.
ROBERTS: Oh, my goodness.
TROY: Everything they got was gone.
ROBERTS: Everything, your whole family lost their homes?
ROBERTS: What are you doing now?
TROY: Hoping and praying. Got lots of good family. Staying with family. My mom and dad are going to stay a couple night and move in with their family.
ROBERTS: What about Lauren? Has she been back to see?
TROY: No, she hadn't got to go yet. We'll take her in today and let her see it.
ROBERTS: I mean it's so hard for so many people across this region, the damage started more than 150 miles west of here, it's 200 miles south of here. You lived in this area for what you're telling me, 34 years?
TROY: I lived here 34 years, lived here all my life, have no plans of going nowhere else.
ROBERTS: And you know, storms do come through here. Anything ever like this?
TROY: I've never seen anything like this. I've heard about it in other places but I've never seen anything or experienced anything like this.
ROBERTS: I mean, to get a sense out of it. I know you're getting emotional about it. I totally understand it as well. You get a sense of, have you even begun to think of how do I put one foot in front of the other here and get going again?
TROY: My wife and I sat down last night and kind of talking about it, you know, what do we do now? We don't really know. I mean, the only thing we know is salvage what we can, try to rebuild or buy, that's the only thing I know to do.
ROBERTS: We talked to people who go through this whether it's tornadoes or hurricanes or fires, sometimes they say, hey, it's just material things, we're still alive, we're OK, you hanging on to that thought? TROY: Yes. My family is OK. We can make it. No life was lost in our family, praying for the ones that did lose loved ones and family. We're glad.
ROBERTS: Well, I hope things go well for you. It's going to be tough. Troy, thanks very much.
TROY: Thank you, appreciate it.
ROBERTS: Wish you all the best. I know it's tough. Thanks for being with us this morning. Troy Graigs and his daughter, Lauren. Alina.
CHO: Just heart breaking but the most important thing was that they all made it out alive. All right. We'll check back with you later, John. They went out to take pictures of the beauty of the southwest and ended up getting stuck in the snow for 12 long days. Tom and Tamitha Garner were talking about their ordeal after being rescued. They were out in a remote area in southwestern Utah to photograph wild horses when their truck got stuck in the snow. They survived by rationing their food and eventually they resorted to eating dog food. How they stay warm night?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What were the nights like? How did you stay warm?
TAMITHA GARNER, STRANDED FOR 10 DAYS: We took his deodorant and we used to smoke and we just got a bunch of wood together, put the deodorant on fire and we just stayed awake and just kept feeding fires the last two night. There was a couple times, yes, in my heart, I didn't think I would, but I just kept thinking positive, closed my eyes and there was my daughter. So, yes, there was.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you ever discuss --
TAMITHA GREEN: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And what was that like?
TAMITHA GREEN: Never want to do it again. Never want to do it again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHO: Good attitude probably helped them. The snow plow driver found them just by chance. He wasn't even part of the official search team. The Garners are being treated for dehydration and frostbite. They're going to be OK, and so will their dog, Medusa. Good for them.
New this morning, something you won't see anywhere else, CNN sits down exclusively with Angelina Jolie in Baghdad. She's there right now. And these are new pictures just coming in to AMERICAN MORNING. Jolie is in Iraq on a humanitarian mission seeking help for refugees there. She sat down exclusively with our Arwa Damon just a short time ago. Arwa joins us now, live from Baghdad. So, Arwa, what made her decide to take this trip and why now?
ARWA DAMON, CNN, CORRESPONDENT: Well, interestingly, she said that it was actually an easy decision to take because quite simply, she wasn't getting the answers that she needed. What she wants to do is try to push forward what she describes as a lagging effort to deal with millions and millions of very vulnerable people.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAMON: What was the message that you would want to carry out of here back to the states or even the message that you would want to get out internationally, in terms of what's happening here, the refugee crisis, how serious it is and the consequences that could happen in the future if it's not properly addressed?
ANGELINA JOLIE, ACTRESS: I always hate speculation on the news so I don't want to be somebody who speculates. But I think it's clear, I think - I think, you know, a displaced unstable population is, you know, a very -- what happens in Iraq and how Iraq settles in the years to come is going to affect the entire Middle East and a big part of what is going to affect how it's settled is how these people are returned and settled into their homes, into their community and brought back together, and whether they can live together, and what their communities look like. So it does have broad implications.
DAMON: On a personal level, why is this so important to you? You're willing to come here and risk your life.
JOLIE: What about you? Why are you here?
It was an easy choice to make. I felt I had to come here because it is very difficult to get answers about especially the internally displaced people. As I said, even UNHCR who I traditionally work with, they're not able to be inside at the moment. And so I was very frustrated and just getting a bunch of ideas and papers, but not knowing what's really going on. So, today, I'm able to talk to all different people from our government and their government and really get some answers as to what is holding up the processed to really, really assist these people properly.
DAMON: Do you think you, and your position can try to push this process forward, put pressure on the U.S. government to let more refugees into the U.S. to address the situation within Iraq and, of course, the situations in Syria and Jordan?
JOLIE: I spoke to the State Department today about meeting our goal of, you know, the U.S.'s goal of 12,000 people. And they still intend to reach that goal. They have -- you know, there are many different people who can be cynical or say, how are they going to do it, I will ask them, how are you going to do it? Is there some way we can help to, is there something we all need to understand more? Is there ways we can help to process different people in different countries better? Because we do need to get those people and we do need to, in eight months, to get as close to 12,000 as possible, we should. I have to believe that there are people working towards that goal. DAMON: Why is Iraq important?
JOLIE: Well, as I said, if it is not stable, it can affect the entire Middle East and that will affect our entire world. If you don't want to simply look at it as, of course, it's important because there's human beings living here. And I don't see borders and I see lives and I see children and this is, you know, an environment and where there's a war but there's also a humanitarian crisis. And they have to be addressed simultaneously. We can't wait for one to end for them to finally take the time to address the other, it has to start right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DAMON: And in looking for those answers, Angelina met with the top U.S. commander here, General David Petraeus and other senior U.S. leadership and also IS set to meet with the Iraqi leadership, the Minister of Migration of Displaced people as well as the Prime Minister himself. She also took out some time for lunch with the troops and with other civilian contractors working on the ground here.
CHO: CNN's Arwa Damon live for us in Baghdad on the CNN exclusive with Angelina Jolie. Arwa, thank you so much.
Coming up, another CNN exclusive, but pictures look at the pictures the Fed didn't want you to see, how it got Homeland Security in hot water and now Congress is demanding answers. More on that story after the break.
CHO: Welcome back, a CNN exclusive now. A first look at pictures from a controversial costume party. You may have remembered when this story first came out. This picture showed the then acting chief of immigration and customs enforcement judging a costume contest. Myers ordered them to be deleted but technicians brought them back. Now, Congress wants answers. Homeland Security Correspondent Jeanne Meserve is with us with the very latest. Hey, Jeanne, good morning.
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN, HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Alina. When controversy erupted last November about a potentially racist costume at an immigration and customs enforcement Halloween party, members of Congress and reporters wanted to see pictures but were told all relevant photographs taken by an I.C.E. photographer had been destroyed. Now, in response to a freedom of information act request from CNN, the deleted photos had been restored. And some members of Congress are furious.
REP. BENNIE THOMPSON, CHAIRMAN, HOMELAND SECURITY COMM.: They are absolutely shocking.
MESERVE (voice-over): The photos have been heavily redacted. The face of the man in a dreadlock wig and prison uniform is covered but his skin appears to have been darkened. The head of the host Homeland Security committee has seen the photos uncensored.
THOMPSON: It stereotypically portrays a person of color as a criminal.
MESERVE: Is it clear to you, looking at the unredacted photos that this person is wearing makeup?
THOMPSON: No question.
MESERVE: But Julie Myers told Congress last fall, she was not aware the man was wearing makeup at the party. Myers at the time was acting head of immigration and customs enforcement. She helped judge this costume most original and was photographed alongside the winner. Myers, we're told, realized immediately after the party, the costume was inappropriate. She ordered all photos of her and the costumed man destroyed. And according to her spokeswoman, Myers believed they were destroyed. That certainly is what Myers told members of Congress, who at the time had no idea the photos could be forensically restored.
SEN. CLAIRE MACCASKILL(D) MISSOURI: They were not being honest with the senators who asked very specific questions about the existence of these photos and a desire to see the photos before Miss Myers' nomination went forward. It is too bad that these photos surfaced too late to have dealt with her nomination perhaps in a different way.
MESERVE: Do you think it would have had an impact on her confirmation?
MCCASKILL: I think it would.
MESERVE: The Senate confirmed Myers in December.
MESERVE: Myers is declining to comment but an I.C.E. spokeswoman denies the photos were suppressed until after Myers' job was secured, saying I.C.E. did a great job, responding in an efficient time frame to CNN on their request. She also says Myers was forth right and honest in her dealings with Congress. We have asked when exactly Myers' learned the pictures could be restored, that they weren't gone forever. We haven't gotten an answer to that question. Alina.
CHO: Oh, boy. Homeland Security correspondent Jeanne Meserve live for us in Washington. Jeanne, thank you for that and that report.
Let's send it back to Lafayette, Tennessee now, where, John, the sun has come up, and you can really see how damaged that home is. I know it's still standing but you said the windows were all blown out, right?
ROBERTS: The windows were blown out, the roof was ripped out, part of the wall was ripped down, and everywhere you look in this neighborhood, as far as the eye can see, it's just a tale of destruction. We'll be back to talk more with people who survived the storm, including one woman who went through it in the middle of her house. Her daughters thought that she was dead. They found her the next morning in the middle of the house under a piece of wood. We'll have her incredible story of survival coming up when AMERICAN MORNING returns.
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