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American Morning

Mortar Attacks in Green Zone: Three Americans Wounded; Democrat Divide: Can the Party Survive?; Mortgage Mess: What's McCain's Plan?; Experimental Therapy to Save Emilio Navaira

Aired March 26, 2008 - 07:00   ET


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: You know, we have some breaking news this morning coming out of Iraq, because we want to update you on right now. U.S. embassy saying that mortars had hit the heavily reinforced Green Zone. In fact, three Americans seriously injured. They're calling it a result of indirect fire attacks on the Green Zone. The three were U.S. government officials according to an embassy spokeswoman.
Also, there's a demand this morning from Iraq's prime minister as his forces battle militants in Basra and Baghdad. President Bush meets with his military men at the Pentagon as well. Nouri al-Maliki, the prime minister, warning militants they have 72 hours to surrender, fighting between Iraqi supporters, forces and supporters of Muqtada al-Sadr, a Shiite cleric, has raged now for a second day flaring up in the southern city of Basra as well as six neighborhoods in Baghdad.

CNN's Kyra Phillips is in Baghdad this morning. She joins us on the phone right now. This is turning out to be one of the biggest challenges faced in months, I think, in terms of violence, Kyra, for the Iraqi government. What's going on there that has stoked this?

ON THE PHONE: KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And that's true, Kiran, you laid out all the facts really well. And I'll just kind of try and piece it together now with what my sources are telling me and what I've been following up on telling up on placing the facts.

Right now, the big concern is that this fighting that started in Basra and is now moving into the Baghdad area is going to threaten the U.S. surge. What my forces are telling me, they believe these attacks into the international zone are a message to Nouri al-Maliki, because he has sent Iraqi troops into Basra to battle these forces there within this area.

Now, just to give you a little context and background, Basra is an oil rich area and everybody wants a piece of the pie. The Iranians want a piece of the pie. The splinter groups that are being funneled with refugees returning from Iran want a piece of this pie. There are other gangs and criminals that have formed their various groups. They want to get a piece of the action there in Basra with regard to the oil and the revenue. And then, you have the legitimate workers within Basra that wanted these, they wanted the oil revenue into the area.

Now, Muqtada al-Sadr, how does he play into all of this? Well, this is somebody there and he controls the Mahdi army. And it's the Mahdi army that's getting involved in this fighting here that even the Mahdi army is steadying (ph) and being influenced by Iran.

So while Muqtada al-Sadr may be able to say to his forces, hey, crease fire, I don't want you involved with this fighting. You have all these other factions that do not listen to Muqtada al-Sadr. They listen more to Iran. They listen more to these criminal gangs. They are taking on the Iraqi forces.

Bottom line, now these attacks that we're seeing in Baghdad, though actually one individual has been reported dead and these various attacks in the International Zone are being tied to this fighting in Basra. It's the message they're trying to send throughout Iraq that hey, everybody wants a piece of the oil, of the control, of the politics.

And Nouri al-Maliki says he's trying to put a stop to all of that and organize this and legitimize what he says is a government that wants to function through a democracy. And now, what you're seeing is everybody else fighting what he wants to do. Iraqi troops now battling late forces in Basra, and it's coming in all the way to the Baghdad area, Kiran.

CHETRY: We'll check in with you again a little later this morning. Kyra, thanks.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Three minutes after the hour. The presidential race returns to full strength this morning after a vacationing Barack Obama returns to the campaign trail. The three candidates are stumping in different states. Senator John McCain in California, Senator Obama in North Carolina, and Hillary Clinton teams up with her daughter Chelsea this afternoon in Washington.

On the campaign trail yesterday, Chelsea was asked if the Monica Lewinsky scandal hurt her mother's reputation. Here is how she responded.


CHELSEA CLINTON, FORMER FIRST DAUGHTER: You're the first person actually that's ever asked me that question. In the -- I don't know, maybe 70 college campuses that I have now been to, and I do not think that's any of your business.



ROBERTS: Cheery response there from Chelsea Clinton. And Senator Hillary Clinton entered the controversy over Obama's controversial pastor, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright. Clinton criticizing Obama for not cutting his ties to the pastor.


SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think given all we have heard and seen, he would not have been my pastor. We don't have a choice when it comes to our relatives. We have a choice when it comes to our pastors and the churches we attend.

Everyone will have to decide these matters for themselves. They are obviously very personal matters. But I was asked what I would do if he were my pastor and I said I think the choice would be clear for me.


ROBERTS: Well, a spokesman for the Obama campaign responded, "After originally refusing to play politics with this issue, it is disappointing to see Hillary Clinton's campaign sink to this low in a transparent effort to distract attention away from the story that she made up about dodging sniper fire in Bosnia."

Meanwhile, Reverend Wright is staying out of sight at least for now. He did not preach at a revival in Tampa last night. The pastor of the church that was hosting the revival hastily called off Wright's appearance citing security concerns.

So, is all of this fighting hurting the Democrats chances of winning the White House? Let's turn now to CNN political analyst John Dickerson. He's in Washington.

John, at the same time that John McCain is traveling the world, trying to make some inroads into California, giving speeches on the economy and national security today, we see this food fight on the democratic side. Do they run the risk of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory here?

JOHN DICKERSON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: They've run a couple of risks here. One is that they're talking about these issues that don't have to do with what people care about and what affects people in their daily lives. And the other thing is that the competition locks in. And even though the candidates occasionally say, well, we respect each other and we'll be all to be able to get together and, you know, raise our arms at the convention, the two sides keep battling each other.

We see Hillary Clinton bringing up these remarks about Obama's pastor from last week giving that a new kick into the news cycle. And so, the competition makes them keep beating each other up, which makes you wonder whether the other -- the losing side at the convention is going to come along with the winner.

ROBERTS: What do you make of the fact that his appearance at this Tampa church, he was supposed to speak there at least last night, maybe tonight and tomorrow night. What do you make of the fact that it was canceled for security concerns? Was the official reasons? Do you think it was out of -- do you think it was something else?

DICKERSON: Well, you never know, but certainly it would be a media circus. And, you know, Jeremiah Wright has been in the news in such a damaging way for Barack Obama that if he still has Obama's interest at heart, you can certainly see him being motivated to just stay out of the news cycle and stop giving this story some oxygen. So it could be. That could be the motivation as well. ROBERTS: We still have four weeks until the next primary, the big Pennsylvania primary, then there are contests after that. The whole thing wraps up on June the 10th. They're increasing calls for Hillary Clinton to give up her drive here. Other people saying why should she? She is ahead by double digits and Pennsylvania. And John, isn't it true that there are plenty of primary seasons that have gone on well beyond where we are here now.

DICKERSON: There are primary seasons that have gone on the argument for why she should stop is that Barack Obama holds an insurmountable lead among elected delegates. She has an alternative case. She says that she can win through the superdelegates.

The problem for democrats, they say, the problem is that the party will be so bruised and these constituencies backing the two candidates will be so angry that they won't want to join up. What the Clinton campaign says is, well, everybody will -- if Hillary Clinton wins, the Obama supporters will come together. Democrats do this as a part of their history.

This is true. They do come together for their conventions. But in 1968, 1980 and 1984, where there were bruising fights, the Democrats went on to lose the general election. So the history of Democrats coming back together is a mixed one.

ROBERTS: It's going to be a difficult year for them, though. If one of these candidates, whether it be Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama is forced to drop out, or this whole process goes to superdelegates deciding or if there is a floor fight at the convention, I mean, there really aren't any great outcomes, are there?

DICKERSON: There are no great outcomes. And as we've seen, it's gotten ugly. Before we even get to the ugly outcome, we're having all this ugly back and forth.


DICKERSON: The only thing Democrats can feel good about is that the polling -- the nation is still with them on the issues. There are still lots of money in the Democratic Party. There's lots of enthusiasm behind these candidates. So it's not all problems for the Democrats. But there is not a simple, clear road to an unvarnished nominee.

ROBERTS: John Dickerson for us this morning in Washington. John, thanks very much.

DICKERSON: Thank you.


CHETRY: Eight minutes past the hour now. Veronica De La Cruz is here with some other stories new this morning. You buying a Tata?

VERONICA DE LA CRUZ, CNN INTERNET CORRESPONDENT: You know, probably not just yet. See how much they are. We'll have to see if they stick to that $2,500 price tag, you know.

But we want to tell you more about the story. Ford is selling its Jaguar and Land Rover brands to an Indian company called Tata for $2 billion. The deal is expected to be announced later this morning. Ford is trying to streamline its operations because after losing $15 billion for the past two years, these Tatas, they're on the market right now for $2,500. It's a compact car, so it's going to be interesting to see whether or not they can stick to that kind of a price tag.

A Federal Appeals Court has struck down a New York law aimed at keeping you comfortable while stranded on a tarmac for more than three hours. Under the New York law, airlines faced fines if they fail to provide food, water, fresh air and rest rooms during lengthy delays. The court says the issue is one for federal regulators to decide.

So we want to know what you think about all of this. Do you agree with the court's decision to reject the New York law aimed at protecting delayed passengers? Go ahead and weigh in with your thoughts. You can send us an e-mail right now. Log on to Follow the links. We're going to be reading those e-mails coming up in the 8:00 Eastern hour.

Well, the pilot of a U.S. Airways plane may have been mishandling a firearm when it went off in flight. That's all according to a federal air marshal. The pilot who's been removed from duty says he accidentally fired the gun blasting a hole in the cockpit. There were no injuries, and the plane was able to land safely. The TSA says the pilot was authorized to carry a gun.

Well, the FBI may have a break in one of the most famous unsolved mysteries, the D.B. Cooper case. Some kids dug up a parachute in southwestern Washington State. Cooper hijacked a plane in 1971 and jumped out of it with $200,000 in ransom money. He was never found.

The kids found the chute right in the area where Cooper has thought to have landed, and it is the same type of chute he used. The FBI is trying to figure out whether or not it is the real thing.

Well, federal officers say an explosive device hidden in a pickup near the U.S. Capitol went undetected for three weeks. The truck's owner Michael Gorbey was arrested January 18th for carrying a loaded shotgun and a sword outside the Capitol. Police searched his truck at the time but found nothing suspicious. Police discovered the explosives several weeks later after they searched the truck again. Gorbey, who is a convicted felon, now faces multiple charges including manufacturing an explosive device.

All right. Time now for one of our most popular stories on The president of Honduras defending his melons. President Manuel Zelaya took a few moments in front of the camera yesterday to eat a cantaloupe. Zelaya wanted to prove his country's fruit is safe. Last week, the FDA linked 50 cases of salmonella in 16 U.S. states to a grower and packer in Honduras. But Zelaya insists that they made a mistake.

ROBERTS: Now, there's a demonstration if ever I saw one.

CHETRY: That's right.

DE LA CRUZ: You know, he turned to the camera and he said it's a delicious fruit and nothing happens to me. But I can't imagine that the symptoms of salmonella would kick in that quickly.

ROBERTS: No way. It would be 24 to 72 hours.

CHETRY: She started with Tatas and ended with melons. All right. There's a theme in Veronica's news this morning. Thank you.

DE LA CRUZ: She said it. She said it. Not me, John.

ROBERTS: Somebody had to say it.

A chunk of ice bigger than the entire state of Connecticut. It's ready to breakaway. It's happening right now in Antarctica. Just a tiny sliver of ice is holding it all together. More amazing pictures coming up next.

And Senator John McCain says it's not up to the federal government to fix the mortgage mess. So exactly what should be done? Senator McCain's economic adviser Carly Fiorina joins us live coming up next.


ROBERTS: Fifteen minutes now after the hour. Hanging by a thread, that's how scientists are describing a chunk of Antarctic ice that is ready to break away. It's one of the most popular stories right now on

The massive block just a shade bigger than the entire state of Connecticut. British scientists say a narrow strip of ice is all that's keeping the 5,500 square mile chunk connected. They're blaming it all on global warming.

Rob Marciano at our weather update desk this morning. Rob, some amazing pictures there. I remember, I think the last ice chunk to break off was about the size of Long Island or Delaware. So they're getting markedly bigger here.

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, hopefully they won't be starting to compare them to the state of Texas. But this one certainly is big and in an area of Antarctica, that is certainly very, very warm relative to the rest of the continent. Here it is, a little bit -- another view of it.

Antarctica right here, where that chunk broke off on the western tip. This area, by the way, we should mention that is an area of the continent that is actually cooling. Nonetheless, the area that's warming is where this ice shelf is, and it is disintegrating quite rapidly. And those pictures that you saw with the aerials, this is from satellite imagery. You can see. Amazing to me just how rigid and how square and rectangular those chunks are. Almost like someone were to break off, take an ice cube tray and just squeeze it and crunch it into the ocean. Amazing.

All right. Over to the upstate area of New York in the northeast, we have a little system that's rolling through. Just some showers this morning across the tri-state area. Getting into this afternoon, our temperatures will reach right around 60 degrees. So no worries. It shouldn't be that big of a deal. Maybe just a sprinkle or spritz on your way out the door this morning.

Got to go north of maybe I-90 to get into the snow across upstate New York in the Adirondacks and into the Green Mountains of Vermont. Watching the flood threat again across eastern parts of Arkansas. This is record flooding that is occurring as it tries to get downstream. We do have another system that will probably bring more moisture to that area that's already saturated.

But first, it will bring a winter threat in the form of snow anywhere from two to eight inches across the northern plains heading into Wisconsin and just south of Minneapolis. That's the latest on the weather check. John, we'll send it back up to you.

ROBERTS: Rob, thanks very much, and we'll turn it over to Kiran now.

CHETRY: Well, the candidates for president talking about issue number one, and that's the economy. The mortgage mess front and center. So far though, the candidates haven't said a lot about Social Security.

John McCain, though, blaming the housing crisis on both irresponsible lenders and also on homeowners who borrowed more than they could afford. Carly Fiorina is a McCain campaign adviser. She's also the former head, CEO of Hewlett-Packard. Carly, thanks for being with us this morning.

CARLY FIORINA, MCCAIN CAMPAIGN ADVISER: Good morning, Kiran. Great to be with you.

CHETRY: Senator McCain, you know, who gives you the straight talk, had a tough message yesterday that he was hitting home. Let's listen to what he said about the mortgage crisis.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I've always been committed to the principle that it's not the duty of government to bail out and reward those who act irresponsibly, whether they're big banks or small borrowers.


CHETRY: Carly, a different message from his Democratic rivals who are proposing billion dollar bailouts programs to help homeowners. Now, does McCain risk looking out of touch with voters who are really feeling the crunch from this housing crisis?

FIORINA: Well, I don't think so. If you listen to the entire speech, he took a great deal of time to explain the current crisis to the American people because he trusts their intelligence and their common sense. He also went out of his way to say that there are truly needy homeowners who through no fault of their own find themselves in a situation with a mortgage they can no longer afford. And he wanted to distinguish those homeowners who may be cash strapped but creditworthy from others, either speculators or irresponsible investors who don't deserve a handout.

And the problem with the Democratic proposals, a $30 billion slush fund is that it treats everyone the same. I think John McCain understands there is a role for government in helping the truly needy, in focusing on reforms that ensure transparency and accountability so this doesn't happen again in preventing systemic economic risk. But the role of government is not to bail out people who took a risk and now have to pay the piper.

CHETRY: Well, for the people that you just described, as you said, the smaller portion of people who truly are in need, does John McCain have a plan for them? I mean, because time is running out.

FIORINA: Well, first, I should say that there have been a whole series of actions taken by the Treasury Department, by the Federal Reserve, which have received broad bipartisan support, Democratic and Republican, and John McCain has been clear that he supports the efforts that have been taken thus far, and they are substantial. Secondly, he does believe that there is a role for government to provide reforms going forward that focus on transparency and accountability. He's called on the mortgage industry specifically to step up and drive a simpler mortgage process that would be one page that everybody could understand. But he also has said very clearly that there is a role for industry here.

Mortgage lenders are asking the government to help them. He called on the mortgage lenders yesterday to step to the plate and help their customers. Industry has a role to play here also.

CHETRY: Yes, and the question is, I mean, some of these banks like Bear Stearns, some of these investment banks that were able to sort of hide debt, they don't fall under the same regulations as big banks. What about a move toward regulating some of the ones that have been able to seemingly pull the wool over the eyes of investors?

FIORINA: Well, I think John McCain said something really important yesterday which was that he would not let political dogma override common sense. And in part, I think, that is because as he said over and over there was a lack of transparency here. There were a whole set of very complex financial transactions going on that escape the scrutiny of everybody. And we need to look at that in a very clear eyed way.

On the other hand, he's also said that government does have a role to prevent systemic economic risk and the run on the Bear Stearns bank represented a real risk to the economy. CHETRY: On the campaign trail in the past, John McCain had one notable quote about the economy, one of many, but he said one issue -- "The issue of economics is not something I've understood as well as I should. I've got Greenspan's book." He said it to the "Boston Globe" actually.

The economy, of course, the number one issue on the minds of voters as we've been talking about. So how will he convince Americans that he is the best guy, that he has a handle and a grasp on what needs to happen to bring us out of where we are right now in some tough economic times?

FIORINA: Well, first of all, I'm a businesswoman who has known John McCain since the year 2000, and I can tell you that he understands the economy. Secondly, he will continue to speak out on it on a regular basis and to speak about it in plain terms that Americans can understand. And third, you're right. He said that one time to the "Boston Globe," and it's been replayed and replayed. And I think frankly, it's more a reflection of John McCain's natural humility than it is a reflection of his real prowess about the economy.

CHETRY: And as we know, he's giving another speech a little bit later today. This one in California, where he's talking a little more about the economy as well as the war and the future for the United States when it comes to global allies. So we'll be listening for that.

Carly Fiorina, thanks so much for joining us this morning.

FIORINA: Thank you, Kiran.

CHETRY: Former Hewlett-Packard CEO and right now Senator John McCain economic adviser. Thanks.

ROBERTS: It's 22 minutes now after the hour. We are following breaking news out of Iraq this morning. Three Americans seriously injured after a mortar attack in Baghdad's Green Zone. It comes as a second day of fighting rages in the city. What's being done to stop it? That's coming up next.

And why are doctors deliberately inducing hypothermia to try to save singer, Tejano singer Emilio Navaira's life? Dr. Sanjay Gupta is paying us a house call right here on the studio. Hey, good morning, Sanjay.


One of the biggest goals for neurosurgeons is to try and put the brain to sleep. Sometimes it does involve a very controversial therapy, not proven. May work in this case. I'll have details on AMERICAN MORNING. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ROBERTS: Doctors are using an experimental therapy to try to save the life of Tejano singer Emilio Navaira. He was seriously injured when the band's tour bus crashed on Sunday. He went through the windshield apparently. Doctors put him into a state of hypothermia to try to save his life.

CNN's chief medical correspondent and neurosurgeon Dr. Sanjay Gupta is here with us now. This is something similar to what we saw with Kevin Everett, the Buffalo Bills...

GUPTA: Right.

ROBERTS: ... where they lower the temperature to try to prevent this injury. How does this particularly work with him, because we're not just talking about spine, we're talking about the entire brain?

GUPTA: You're talking about the brain here. One of the biggest goals is to try and put the brain to sleep, if you will a little bit. Brains try and recover. You want to make it metabolically less active, so it doesn't demand as much from the rest of the body. And that's where the hypothermia comes in.

Let me tell you a couple of concerns first of all. There's concern that it could actually cause clotting and in order to counteract that, you have to give blood thinners but you don't want to give that on someone who just had an injury. So you can see some of the caveats here.

There's a concern that it can cause cardiac arrhythmias. In some, there's also had a big injury. So this is something doctors walk into very carefully, lowering his body temperature to about 91.5 degrees, so seven degrees or so lower than what your normal body temperature is.

There are several things they sort of expect to happen when they do this. First of all, decreasing some of the pressure in the brain by reducing swelling. Again, just making the brain not have as much blood flow to it. Also, there all these cells that are at risk of dying. This is a crucial period, John, within the first couple of hours after the injury. If you can get the hypothermia set in, it may prevent some of those cells from dying and also restore some of the communication between cells.

What the brain tends to do, it tends to isolate itself. I got an active center over here. I got an active center over here, but they're not talking to each other any more. The hypothermia may help.

We did see this with Kevin Everett, and again, it was controversial then. It's unclear if it really had an impact. He's walking again, but it's unclear how much of that was due to the hypothermia. And this is still controversial, but they are doing this federally-funded trial now.

ROBERTS: We've also heard this many times when somebody falls through the ice of a pond, and they're under water, in very cold water for half an hour, and they could be revived because the brain processes has been slowed down. How long will they keep them in hypothermia? What are his chances for survival? I mean, what's the overall prognosis?

GUPTA: Well, if you had to assign a number to it, you'd say about 65 to 75 percent is what the doctor is saying the chance of survival is. What seems to be the biggest predictor, John, of someone recovering from a head injury is if you can keep those, what are called, intracranial pressures low. If they never spiral high and out of control, that seems to be the best predictor.

ROBERTS: This is bruising in the brain from being slammed against the inside of the skull?

GUPTA: Yes. I mean, you have bruising. The brain starts to swell and has nowhere to go, unlike in your abdomen or other places in your body, because you have this hard surface. So it just increases the pressure.

If you can keep those pressures down with draining some of the fluid, with taking away some of the bone, you've heard of that, of using hypothermia, that seems to be the best predictor. We don't know how he's going to do exactly, but doctors are saying around 65 to 75 percent chance of survival. He's also got lung injury. He's also got a spine injury, so he's got a long way to go.

ROBERTS: We certainly wish him well. Our thoughts and prayers are with him. Sanjay, thanks very much.

GUPTA: Thanks. No problem.

ROBERTS: We'll see you in a bit.

GUPTA: All right.

CHETRY: And Federal Appeals Court rejecting a New York State law that would have required the airlines to provide food, water, working bathrooms and fresh air to passengers during tarmac delays of three hours or more. The law was the only one of its kind in the country. The federal court said while the measure had good intentions, it was up to federal regulators not individual states to decide on such rules.

So this morning we're asking, do you agree with the court's decision? Cast your vote Right now, 30 percent of you say yes. Seventy percent saying no. Seventy percent of you out there that want fresh water after you've been sitting on the tarmac for more than three hours?

ROBERTS: People are so demanding.

CHETRY: Yes. It's an issue we've talked about a lot. And the woman who spearheaded this Passenger Bill of Rights in the first place is going to be joining us a little bit later. We're going to get her reaction to the fact this was struck down, as we said overruled.

ROBERTS: She's trying for a federal law. CHETRY: She wants -- yes, she wants a federal law for sure. So we're going to continue to follow that for you, read some of your e- mails about it as well. You can e-mail at with your thoughts on this Passenger Bill of Rights.

Breaking news this morning. China responding angrily to news that the United States accidentally sent ballistic missile parts to Taiwan. That's next on AMERICAN MORNING.


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN, ANCHOR: Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING. 7:30 here on the East Coast. I'm Kiran Chetry.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN, ANCHOR: I'm John Roberts. Good to have you with us. And brand new this morning, China's response to the missile mix-up with Taiwan. China is strongly protesting the mistaken delivery of U.S. nuclear missile parts to its rival, demanding an investigation and steps to, "eliminate the negative affects and disastrous consequences." Fuses for intercontinental ballistic missiles were accidentally delivered to the island nation nearly two years ago. The military thought they were batteries for helicopters. We spoke to a former United Nations weapons inspector minuets ago on AMERICAN MORNING about this.


TIM TREVAN, FMR. U.N. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: The worrying aspect of this is how many mistakes had to be made along the way for this not to be discovered until now. Obviously, there had to be an initial mistake in storing these items in an unclassified area. There had to be mistakes along the way in simple bookkeeping, of not realizing these things were not in the right place, and then there had to be further mistakes in sending the items to Taiwan and then not recognizing that they were being sent to Taiwan for two years.


ROBERTS: He later stated the mix-up was not clear until last week ago. China objects to all arms sales to Taiwan.

We're also following breaking news out of Iraq this morning. Three Americans are seriously injured after mortars hit the heavily fortified green zone today. The embassy is telling CNN that they are all U.S. government officials in the injured. Meanwhile, Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki is warning militants that they have 72 hours to surrender. It's the second straight day of fighting between Iraqi forces and supporters and militant Shiite cleric Muqtada Al Sadr. At least 18 people have been killed so far.

Just minutes ago, we heard from Major General Kevin Bergner on why Al Maliki gave the ultimatum.


MAJ. GEN. KEVIN BERGNER, MULTI-NATIONAL FORCES/IRAQ: Prime Minister Al Maliki specifically said that he took these actions because, "the lawlessness is going under religious or political cover along with smuggling of oil, weapons, and drugs.


ROBERTS: This all comes as President Bush makes his way to the Pentagon today for a meeting about Iraq with military brass. CNN's Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr joins us now with more on that meeting. Barbara, what does the fighting mean to the remaining troops from last year's buildup that the surge, can the Pentagon continue to reduce troops now?

BARBARA STARR, CNN, PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's going to be the question discussed just in a couple of hours here at the Pentagon when President Bush goes to the tank, the secured meeting room to talk to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. They have been on a track here to try and get additional troop reductions in Iraq later this year, sometime in the August-September timeframe after the surge troops are scheduled to return to the U.S., who else can they tag to come home and finish their tours of duty in Iraq. But with this latest outbreak in fighting, what it really underscores, John, is General Petraeus's view that he can't make any hasty decisions about withdrawals, the conditions on the ground constantly change and he needs to have the flexibility to deal with that.

So this fighting, which to some extent was anticipated that Maliki would go for this kind of crackdown against the militia members, this all may put somewhat of a crimp in anybody making any quick decisions about more troop withdrawals.

ROBERTS: There were so many -- this is so complicated here. The U.S. is saying on the one hand they are concerned about what this can mean. Ryan Crocker told our Michael Ware that if we were to pull out U.S. troops now, we could be seeing the leading edge of a proxy war that could spread to the entire region. The Pentagon is also saying though that this is a sign that the Iraqis can take over their own security. And haven't we been leaning on Al Maliki to crack down on these militias for a couple of years now?

STARR: Exactly right. I mean, this type of pressure on the militia members of Muqtada Al Sadr's Mahdi Army was expected. This we are seeing now is the reaction by those militia members to the growing pressure that the Iraqi forces and coalition forces have been putting on them. This was expected to some extent. But the crucial variable is exactly what you said, the Iraqi security forces, are they at a point now that they can actually deal with this? Can they execute this crackdown? Can they get control in Basra? Can they get control in the fighting that now is beginning to break out in Baghdad and some of the cities south of Baghdad, or are they going to have to again rely on U.S. troops?

What General Petraeus wants and what the President is going to hear from the Joint Chiefs is we want to bring the troops home as fast as we can but not just yet because we need the U.S. troops there, the top commanders say as a hedge against any uncertainty that the Iraqis can't handle it just yet. ROBERTS: Barbara Starr for us at the Pentagon this morning. Looking forward to see what you can dig out of that meeting a little bit later on today. Barbara, thanks. Kiran.

CHETRY: And in the meantime, there are some new home sales coming out a little bit later this morning. And we're seeing just what cities are suffering the most in the mortgage meltdown. Gerri Willis is in for Ali Velshi, "Minding your Business" this morning. Hi, Gerri.

GERRI WILLIS, CNN, PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR: Good to see you. Yes, we have more numbers about housing prices falling. I know you've heard this. But the new numbers from show that in 20 metro markets prices are down 10.7% for the 12 months ended in January. 16 of 20 cities saw record declines. Big number there. Let me get down to some details here. Miami, Vegas, Phoenix, big losers here. Miami down 19%, Vegas down 18 as was Phoenix. But I want to tell you, let's put this all in perspective. In the five years of the boom ending '06, Miami prices were up 154%. So, I have to say, if you thought you were going to hold onto all of that, it's not a good bet. Obviously, you know, some folks out there are starting to see reasons for optimism. The author of that study Mark Zandi had this to say.


MARK ZANDI, ECONOMY.COM: I think the fact that home sales have stabilized and I think they are is the beginning of the end of this downturn. You know, I think the downturn is going to be long. It's going to be tearful but at least we're at the beginning of that process. And that's because home sellers as you point out are now capitulating, lowering their prices and housing is now becoming more affordable.


WILLIS: Houses becoming more affordable, the numbers from the National Association of Realtors this week show home sales, home volume is up. And people took that as a very big positive for the market but you know, positive compared to what? You know, the market has been really struggling. So, as we see, maybe, maybe, maybe we're at a bottom here.

CHETRY: How are the futures looking today?

WILLIS: The stock market is going to open lower. That's what we're expecting. Credit worries again plaguing stocks. And we'll be keeping an eye on oil prices as well today. Lots of news out there. And as you know, you can't predict where the market is going to go. There's so much volatility in it right now.

CHETRY: Still happening. All right. We'll be watching you guys. Still on at noon today, "Issue number one."

WILLIS: That's right. "Issue number one," join us at noon.

CHETRY: All right. Thanks, Gerri. WILLIS: My pleasure.

ROBERTS: Thanks, Gerri.

39 minutes after the hour. Priscilla Presley the victim of a bogus plastic surgeon. A representative for "Dancing with the stars" contestant says that representatives that the 62-year-old Presley was once a patient of Dr. Daniel Serrano but she is fine now. On Monday, the Web site said Serrano injected auto mechanic grade silicone into her face at so-called injection party. Serrano pleaded guilty to using unapproved drugs back in 20006. He was sentenced to a year and a half in prison. Kiran.

CHETRY: Freeing your mind. There is a new study saying that monks may have the answer to becoming more compassionate people, whether meditation can actually train your brain to be compassionate.

Also, how did a flight safety video become so popular on YouTube? We'll we're going to ask the flight attendant who star in it, ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


ROBERTS: Coming up at 16 minutes now to the top of the hour. Our Rob Marciano in the CNN Weather Center tracking extreme weather. Nothing particularly extreme today here in the northeast, maybe a hint of spring and little pre-April shower.

ROB MARCIANO, CNN, METEOROLOGIST: That's right. Exactly. To give you a little bit of a spring fever there in the northeast. Got some sprinkles, a couple of light showers in Connecticut and tri-state area, the i-95 corridor over Manhattan. This shouldn't be too big of a deal, just barely enough to wet the streets. And then once we get that through, temperatures will rise to nearly 60 degrees in many spots. So, yes, maybe fertilize the lawn there just a little bit.

Upstate New York, northern New England, they will see snow showers. Still watching this green on the map, we have flood warnings that are still at record stages across eastern parts of Arkansas. And that water again needs to filter down all the way into the Mississippi. This area gets more flat the closer to the Gulf of Mexico so the water tends to slow down. The Mississippi not expected to crest in Baton Rouge for over another week. So still have a long way to go here. And then later this week, we've got more rains that are going to be drawn up over the areas that have already seen well the saturated ground, all the record, you know, foot plus rains that brought that flooding last week. So, not quite done with this story yet.

We're kind of setting up to the zonal flow where systems are rapidly moving in from west to east. And here is our next one. I-5 corridor from Seattle down to San Francisco. We're seeing rain in the valleys and snow up there in the mountains. These things are coming in quickly, and they are moving across the country rather quickly as well. And John, we expect to see a little bit more rain in an area that well obviously doesn't need anymore. But it doesn't look to be a foot plus like what we saw last week. So, that's the good news. Back to you.

ROBERTS: Rob, thanks very much. We'll talk to you soon.

MARCIANO: All right.


CHETRY: Well, you think compassion starts in the heart. But we're actually hearing that maybe it starts in the brain, in fact. We're paging Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN's chief medical correspondent and our in house brain surgeon. He joins us with more on how you can meditate your way to being a compassionate person.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN, CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you don't need any help with that.

CHETRY: Thank you.

GUPTA: John, on the other hand. Well, however --

CHETRY: He's over there, saying ommm as we speak.

GUPTA: That's right. But you know, this whole idea of assigning what are thought of as feelings to actual places in the brain is sort of an emerging science, a fascinating one as well. This idea that you can find where happiness is in the brain, and sadness, even compulsion. This has attracted the attention of a lot of neuroscientists. And they sort of looked at this idea of compassion or empathy towards other individuals, trying to figure out is there a place in the brain that is sort of the store for this.

Take a look at some of the images here, sort of fascinating. What they have found is this particular area over here called the insula. The name is not important. That's where it's located. They find that it lights up in people who are showing compassion or empathy toward other individuals. The idea now, now that you know what it is, is sort of what do you do with that? And that was sort of the next part of the study. And what they said was, I found this very intriguing. They said what they want people to do is sort of think about someone that they love, and think about those feelings of love, and then think of a total stranger and sort of assign some of those feelings of compassion to the stranger and do this over and over again until they can get these areas called the insula to reliably light up. It was essentially trying to, as you say, train your brain to be more compassionate.

Now, obviously that's...

CHETRY: That's fascinating.

GUPTA: It really is. I find this interesting. Typically, these things are thought of in the realm of psychology, of just feelings, almost a metaphysical quality but to quantify it like this, give it a physical property, I think is very interesting.

CHETRY: So how do you do this if you want to help your husband - I'm sorry, if you want to be able to do this.

GUPTA: You know, I don't know if there's a reliable way yet. But the idea first of all, they found where it's actually stored, I think, is the first step. What they did look at were monks, people who meditate regularly. And in order to do this, they actually look to people who meditated for 10,000 hours. So, this is a real commitment in terms of the overall meditation. But now that they know exactly where this is stored in the brain, is there a way to do it more efficiently, to actually train your brain to be more compassionate without having to meditate on the whole brain but just meditate on compassion instead.

CHETRY: All right. I find it fascinating, someone asked me, can you do the opposite? You know how a lot of - they tell women sometimes you have to learn how to say no, you have to learn not to take on everybody else's problems, will it do the opposite?

GUPTA: Well, you know, they are starting to learn like things regarding anxiety, for example, which is not exactly your question but what makes you not want to say no. I mean, because you're anxious you're going to offend somebody, or whatever.

CHETRY: Right.

GUPTA: They are finding areas like that are also stored in the brain. They're finding where areas like compulsion, whether it be obsessive compulsive disorder or just compulsions are also stored. So, as they find those areas and find what works in terms of making them light up, what makes them work in terms of sort of decreasing activity, you might. You might be able to train your brain to actually have psychological ramifications.

CHETRY: Could be a whole new field of mind over matter.

GUPTA: Yes. I'm going to keep tabs on this field. I just find it really interesting to look at these images. And we've never had images like this in the past.

CHETRY: It is fascinating. Great to see you. Thanks.

GUPTA: OK, thanks.

CHETRY: By the way, if you have a question for Sanjay, e-mail it to us, Sanjay answers your question tomorrow when he opens up the mail bag as he does every Thursday here on AMERICAN MORNING. John.

ROBERTS: Well, when you're on an aircraft, you probably ignore the safety demonstration. But a lot of people are actually checking out this new safety demonstration video on YouTube. And there's the reason why. We meet the star to find out why. There she is ahead on AMERICAN MORNING. Stay with us.


ROBERTS: 51 minutes after the hour. You probably pay little or no attention to the safety instructions after you board an airliner. That's why Delta Airlines has decided to spice things up a little.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You cannot smoke. I'm sorry.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Smoking is not allowed on any Delta flight. To fasten insert the metal tip into the buckle.

ROBERTS: This video has been seen more than 300,000 times on YouTube. I don't even think it's been seen on an airliner yet. Joining me is its star Delta Airline flight attendant Katherine Lee also known as Delta Lina to her on-line fans because of her resemblance to Angelina Jolie. And also with us is Chris Babb who produced the video. He is the global product development manager for Delta Airlines. So, obviously the whole scheme worked, Chris. You're getting people to pay attention.

CHRIS BABB, PRODUCER, DELTA SAFETY VIDEO: It's amazing. It's absolutely amazing. 300,000 hits on YouTube in about three days.

ROBERTS: Has this thing ever been seen on an airliner yet?

BABB: Not yet. It rolls in April.

ROBERTS: Right. So, how did it get on? How did it become a YouTube sensation?

BABB: Well, we have a blog, a blog at and we linked the video from YouTube and it just took off from there.

ROBERTS: Right. And what about you, Katherine? How did you get involved? I understand that it was a company wide contest.

KATHERINE LEE, DELTA AIRLINES FLIGHT ATTENDANT: Well, it was an audition. So, I auditioned for it. I read for the part, then I came back and did another audition. And they whittled down from I think 82 to 10. And then a couple of days from filming I found out I had the lead.

ROBERTS: What is your function typically with Delta Airlines?

LEE: Well, I'm a flight attendant and I'm also an instructor at the training center. So, right now, I'm actually training new flight attendants.

ROBERTS: So, you're not doing so much flying anymore.

LEE: I fly about once a month but yes, I'll be getting into that.

ROBERTS: You recently flew somewhere and somebody recognized you?

LEE: I did. I was on vacation. I landed in Munich and a passenger recognized me and asked if I was the girl from the safety video and kind of just took me by surprise. Yes. ROBERTS: Aren't you the woman from that safety video. It's obvious though that so many people ignore these demonstrations. And they are important things. Is that the message you were trying to get across...

LEE: Absolutely.

ROBERTS: A different kind of way to say, hey, wake up and pay attention.

LEE: It is. It's all about safety. And if this is getting this kind of attention, it will make passengers watch it, then it's a good thing because that's the most important part. Safety first on that airplane. And so.

ROBERTS: Now, if you look at the video, the entire video, and I've watched it a couple of times. It's pretty much a traditional safety demonstration but there are a couple of moments where it diverges from what you would consider to be your typical safety demonstration including the famous finger wag. Let's take a quick look at that.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can't smoke. I'm sorry.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Smoking is not allowed on any Delta flight. To fasten.

ROBERTS: So, there's an obvious little bit of cheek in that. How far did you want to go with this video?

BABB: We didn't want to go too far. We wanted to add a few really humorous bits to the video. That, a little tooth in Perry's smile and we think it added a lot to the video and got people to pay attention.

ROBERTS: Right. Obviously, people are paying attention, as you said, more than 300,000 hits on YouTube without it ever being seen on an airliner. And some people have been commenting on it as well. We've got some of the comments that came in. "Never has a flight demonstration been so captivating." Another person writes in, and says, "now they can they guarantee that I'll get this - can they guarantee that I get this flight attendant on all my Delta Airlines flights. Another one says, "see you later Southwest, it's Delta or nothing for me now. I hope they make more videos with her in them now."

A question for you, though, Katherine. Is this the career that you're going to stay in? Because you're getting a lot of attention here now. Some offers might come over the try for some other projects, television, film, whatever.

LEE: I love being a flight attendant. I love my Delta. So, I won't be leaving anytime soon.

ROBERTS: Right. So, if somebody comes up with an offer, you wouldn't entertain it?

LEE: I don't think so. I really love what I do. And it's, I think when aviation gets in your blood, you want to keep it in there.

ROBERTS: So, Chris, is this a beginning of a whole new generation of these safety videos?

BABB: I don't know, it really showcased what we can do, if you add a little humor to something as boring as safety usually is. So, we'll see.

ROBERTS: I want to see it one more time. Can you that?

LEE: Finger wag? There's no smoking over Delta Airlines.

ROBERTS: How long did you practice that?

LEE: Five or six days. Yes, which finger, which side, how quickly. You know.

ROBERTS: It's effective. Katherine Lee, Chris Babb, good to see you. Thanks for coming in.

LEE: Thank you so much.

BABB: Thank you.

ROBERTS: Good luck with everything. Kiran.

CHETRY: Right. Because of that finger wag, you're not even dreaming about lighting up on your next flight. Well, we've been talking about the demise of the passenger bill of rights that would have required airlines to provide food, water, working toilets and fresh air to passengers that were stuck on planes for more than three hours. Well, the court says the states don't really have the right to regulate the airlines, that is the job of the FAA.

So, this morning we're asking, do you agree with this court decision? Right now only 23% of you say yes. 77 say no. We also want to hear what you think about the situation. Go to You can cast your vote. We're going to check on the results a little bit later.

We're also following several breaking news stories out of Iraq this morning. Three Americans badly hurt after an attack in the green zone. We're going to get a live report after the break.

Also an apartment building crumbles, more than a dozen people inside. There's fear that many never made it out. The search for survivors ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.



ROBERTS (voice-over): Breaking news. Ford's billion dollar deal to dump another division.

All business.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It sounds remarkably like Herbert Hoover.

ROBERTS: McCain and Clinton go after each other on issue number one.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There's nothing that would be more expensive to the American people than free healthcare.

ROBERTS: The most politics in the morning.