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American Morning

U.K.'s Top Anti-Terror Officer Resigns; Pirates Continue Holding U.S. Captain; White House Reaching Out to Iran; Fighting Off Pirates; Obama's Must See TV

Aired April 09, 2009 - 08:00   ET


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Well, good morning, once again. It is 8:00 here in New York on this Thursday, April 9th. I'm Kiran Chetry.

T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: And hello to you all, I'm T.J. Holmes, sitting in today for John Roberts.

It's the top of the hour here. Here are the big story we all breaking down for you in the next 15 minutes.

The U.S. captain of a ship attacked by Somali pirates is still being held hostage. Navy warship is now on the scene. The president is following all of the developments. We are following them as well. We've got our correspondents all over the place on this story from Washington to the exclusive access to the Navy's headquarters in Bahrain.

Also, Britain's top antiterrorism officer resigning just hours ago after this big oops. He compromised a terror investigation. British police say he exposed sensitive documents in that picture you just saw. On those documents, top secret information that listed suspects linked to al Qaeda operatives. This was before they were arrested.

Also, the White House reaching out to Iran. The Obama administration says it will, in fact, participate in direct group talks with Tehran over its nuclear program. Iran insists the program is peaceful. U.S. officials suspect the Islamic state is developing nuclear weapons.

CHETRY: And returning to our breaking news right now.

We are waiting for word on the American captain being held hostage by Somali pirates. An American destroyer is now on the scene observing at this point. Also, of course, trying to ensure that the pirates in that lifeboat do not try to move. They are conducting surveillance, and they are keeping up the lines of communication as well.

Meantime, Captain Richard Phillips is pinned inside of a lifeboat surrounded by four armed pirates. Right now, Phillips' family is waiting for information. They do have reason to hope, though. Just last hour, a representative from the shipping company said that the captain remains hostage, but has not been harmed. With each passing hour, though, the situation becomes more critical. That lifeboat has ten days of emergency rations. And as I mentioned, a Navy destroyer, the USS Bainbridge is near the scene, and has that lifeboat in its sights. CNN's Barbara Starr is the only reporter live at the Navy's headquarters in Bahrain.

And Barbara, maybe you could talk a little bit more about what the mission is of this destroyer. We found it notable in this release from the company that they said that the U.S. Navy is taking the lead in working towards securing the captain's release.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is a very interesting statement, Kiran. The building behind me, the headquarters of the U.S. Navy here in Bahrain, which is responsible for this piece of territory out here. Vice Admiral William Gortney inside at this hour trying to monitor the situation and determine the next steps. By all accounts, as you say, the Bainbridge will conduct surveillance. Keep an eye on this whole situation.

The real problem for the U.S. Navy right now, this is a test for them. A test of whether or not they can maintain any kind of control over this vast piece of water. This is an area they estimate four times the size of Texas, which is basically now lawless waters. Pirates attacking every day, practically.

The Navy policy, the Maritime policy has been to patrol the waters, warn commercial shipping to stay as far offshore as they can. But right now, that's not working. This attack happened some 350 miles off the coast of Somalia. This demonstrates the pirates have a growing capability to move out into the open sea and launch their attacks. There aren't enough warships out there to possibly escort the hundreds of commercial cargo ships that move through these waters. So the bottom line this is a very serious humanitarian and hostage crisis.

At the moment, it is a deep security crisis for the United States, for the international shipping community, and an economic crisis, because this is one of the busiest shipping links in the world. Goods move in and out of the Persian Gulf. They move from here to Asia, from here to Africa, on to Europe, on to the United States, and these waters right now, Kiran, are lawless - Kiran.

CHETRY: Yes. You're right. In fact, one of our guests that we spoke to earlier whose own son is on that ship, and is one of - is actually the first mate on that ship. Captain Joe Murphy said this is a real wake-up call as well. I mean, we have seen just in the past week alone several of these pirates taking over ships, trying to get ransoms for them. But he did call it a wake-up call. This is the first time it's involved Americans.

STARR: Well, that's absolutely right. And it is worth reminding everyone it was just a few days ago here, the Fifth Fleet, the Coalition Maritime Forces, put out yet another warning to the international shipping community. Do what you can to defend your ships, stay as far away off the Coast of Somalia as you can. The pirates are here. You know, do everything you can to try and keep you and your crew safe. Right now, it seems like it's very problematic to make that happen. CHETRY: Barbara Starr for us this morning in Bahrain. Thank you - T.J.

HOLMES: All right, Kiran.

And to our viewers, you want to listen to this interesting turn of events we had. We sent CNN's Jason Carroll out to work on a story at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy. Then this whole hijacking happened. Well, the academy where he went, one of the instructors at the school also happens to be the father of Shane Murphy, who is the second-in-command aboard the Maersk Alabama.

Jason talked exclusively with Murphy's dad. Got an extinctive look at the one of a kind class he teaches, training sailors to do what, fight back against pirates. It's a story you'll see only here on CNN.

And Jason Carroll joins us now live in Cape Cod this morning at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy.

Jason, we know you're good, but sometimes better to be lucky than good. It's just interesting how you fell upon this story.

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, thank you very much, T.J. You know, Joe Murphy teaches a controversial course here at the academy. Not everyone agrees it's the best way to fight pirates, but here at the academy, they say it's a last resort and they say they want their cadets prepared for anything.


CARROLL (voice-over): Cadets at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy are taking aim at pirates thousands of miles away. Part of a pilot program, the only one of its kind at a U.S. Maritime Academy designed to train them how to use guns against pirates when all else fails.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Training and learning the safety of the weapons is certainly important.

CAPT. BRAD LIMA, ACADEMIC DEAN, MASSACHUSETTS MARITIME ACADEMY: Should the situation arise that they need to know more about firearms and they've had that training here.

CARROLL: Brad Lima taught the course on Wednesday, because Joe Murphy, the man who was supposed to teach learned his Shane, a 2001 graduate of the academy, had been taken hostage by pirates.

CAPT. JOE MURPHY, FATHER OF MAERSK CREWMAN: This is a classic example of Murphy's Law. I teach the course, my son goes to sea, and he gets captured.

CARROLL: Shane Murphy is the chief officer on board the Maersk Alabama, the second in command. He managed to call his wife saying he was alive and that the crew had managed to take down one of the pirates. SERENA MURPHY, HUSBAND ON HIJACKED SHIP: Not he personally, but they had taken down one of the pirates. I said have they tortured you or hurt you? He said they haven't had any water at all to drink since they've been captured and nothing to eat.

MURPHY: It was by sheer force, they had no weapons. So it must have been obviously just overpowered them.

CARROLL: Murphy says his son was well-trained at the academy. His vessel outmaneuvered the pirates for several hours before getting caught. Most maritime academies teach cadets how to escape from pirates so they don't have to engage them. Water hoses and sound devices are also used to fend them off. But as pirates become more aggressive and better armed, officials at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy want the cadets graduating knowing how to arm and defend themselves.

ADMIRAL RICHARD GURNON, PRESIDENT, MASSACHUSETTS MARITIME ACADEMY: Although many merchant ships are unarmed, we felt that it was a safety factor to have our graduates familiar with small arms.

CARROLL: One maritime expert says teaching cadets to arm themselves is not the solution.

MIKE LEE, ASSISTANT V.P., MCROBERTS MARITIME SECURITIES: I believe in man's inherent right to defend themselves, but I think in this case it's not the right course of action. I believe it will further escalate the violence.

CARROLL: But Joe Murphy could not disagree more. He still says it's an important training tool considering last year 165 vessels were attacked off the Coast of Somalia and 43 were seized by pirates.

MURPHY: This is a wake-up call for America. These people are organized - members of organized crime.


CARROLL: Well, the gun training program has been well-received by the administration and the cadets here at the academy. They plan on continuing it next semester - T.J.

HOLMES: All right. Jason Carroll for us live there in Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts. Thank you so much.

And you can keep it right here on CNN, on AMERICAN MORNING. We're monitoring all the developments on this fast-moving story, this breaking story. The global resources of CNN will be bringing you that breaking news as it happens.

Also, a couple of guests this morning coming up you do not want to miss. John Burnett, we will be speaking to him. He is a man who actually survived a pirate attack. Also, Charles Swift will be along with us, a former Naval defense attorney. He will be here to explain the laws of international waters and what can really be done. CHETRY: All right, T.J., thanks. Ten minutes after the hour. We fast forward now to the stories that will be making news later today.

At 8:30 a.m., just about 20 minutes from now, the Labor Department will release the latest numbers on unemployment with their weekly jobless reports. Will they go higher or those numbers stay the same, perhaps even drop? We'll bring you the numbers as soon as we get them.

Can the financial markets make a back-to-back win today? That's another big question. We're about 90 minutes away from the opening bell. The Dow, S&P, and Nasdaq all finished up yesterday. Right now, markets in Europe and Asia are in positive territory.

And some rough weather may be in store for south Florida today. There's a fire watch in effect right now as extremely dry conditions continue to affect the area. Our CNN Weather Team is monitoring that situation.

Also, the Masters Golf Tournament kicks off today in Augusta, Georgia, and it's all about Tiger Woods again. It's his first major tournament, nine months after having reconstructive knee surgery - T.J.

HOLMES: All right, Kiran.

The president, he is reportedly about to step into another political mine field. He is about to tackle another major issue. The next -- what's next on his plate? We'll tell you and why it has people talking already.

Plus, what it's like to be held captive by pirates? We're talking to one author who's been there, who's done that and survived to tell the story. Stay with us.


CHETRY: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning.

If you're just joining us, a tense situation is still playing out right now off the coast of Africa, where Somali pirates are still holding the captain of a U.S. cargo ship hostage. The rest of the crew managed to get away. The captain was taken in a lifeboat and, again, is being held by four armed Somalis. The Navy is on standby. A destroyer is in range - the USS Bainbridge. And the crew working and doing all they can to try to get their captain back.


COLIN WRIGHT, CREW MEMBER OF MAERSK ALABAMA (via telephone): This time, we are trying to recover a crew member from the lifeboat. Somali pirates have one of our crew members in our lifeboat. And we are trying to recover that crew member.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CHETRY: That was actually a call placed by satellite phone to somebody - to one of the crew members who was on that ship yesterday.

So right now, it's about 2:14 in the afternoon there, and almost no one can know the fear that the crew of the Maersk was feeling and the situation their captain is in right now being in a small lifeboat, being held by money-hungry pirates.

But one man who does know is John Burnett. He's the author of "Dangerous Waters: Modern Piracy and Terror on the High Seas." Burnett survived a pirate attack while sailing alone across the South China Sea to Singapore back in January of 1992, and he joins us now.

John, thanks for being with us.


CHETRY: Tell us what happened to you and how you ultimately were able to get away from pirates.

BURNETT: Well, I think a point needs to be made. First, if I had a gun, if I had fought back, I would not be alive today. And I found it quite interesting of your last reports about whether you should be armed or not or whether you should fight back or not.

I was sailing across the South China Sea to meet my wife in Singapore and I was alone, as you say, in my little boat. And I was in the bottom end of the Malacca Straits. And the ships in the shipping lanes had their halogen lights on and their fire hoses blasting outward which indicated that there were pirates in the area.

And I always thought that pirates were in terms of Blackbeard and Captain Kidd. And I never knew they existed until that night when, suddenly, I felt a bang against my hull. I ran up topside and there were three men standing there who were pointing guns at me, loaded guns at me. And I'd never faced a - never faced a loaded gun pointed at me before. And I can imagine these poor sailors on the Maersk Alabama had the same feeling.

CHETRY: Let me ask about that, though, because - well, first of all, please tell us, if you can, how you ultimately were able to get away.

BURNETT: Well, I could speak - they were Indonesians and I could speak some Indonesian, so I know that. I ran up to the companionway steps with my machete and I determined to throw them overboard. And some self-survival instinct forced me to put the machete down and go up topside and welcome them aboard.

And when I got up there, one of the lads, with the back end of his rifle, popped me over the head and knocked me out for a little while. I got up and brought them down below and I, to make a long story short, I gave them a couple of cartons of Marlboros and pair of binoculars. That's all I really had on board. I had no money, and then they left. And so when I reported this incident to the Singapore maritime authorities, they told me the next day that three pirates in a boat had attacked a Greek tanker, hijacked a Greek tanker that was carrying kerosene. So, these were apparently the same ones and I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

CHETRY: Let's get back to your point about guns. Because the question has been asked - would this serve as a deterrent? You were talking about being a one-man crew on a smaller ship, but in terms of these huge cargo ships, sometimes the length of six or seven football fields, they're big, they're hoping that they don't have any type of protection, in most cases, to be able to ward off, oftentimes, these small crews of people that come up in a 12-foot speedboat.

BURNETT: Yes, they don't have any armed protection usually. But it was interesting that the American sailors are being - seafarers are being taught how to defend themselves. But, generally, throughout the maritime community, most ships have no - are crewed by seafarers who have no experience with guns. And most of the - all of the shipping companies that I've ever dealt with tell their crew members, do not fight back, do not resist, give them what they want, and just get them the hell off the ship. Now, that was in piracy in the Malacca Straits in Southeast Asia, which was rife a number of years ago. This is a totally different ball game. The modus operandi for gulf of Somalia is, of course, that they're attacking ships not for the cargo they carry, but for the human cargo. And so, to fight back, you're asking for a lot of trouble. But I agree with one of your previous speakers, that it just ramps up the violence and the threat of injury.

CHETRY: Well, an interesting take this morning. And you certainly survived it yourself. John Burnett, author of "Dangerous Waters," thanks so much for joining us this morning - T.J.

BURNETT: Thank you, Kiran.

HOLMES: All right, Kiran.

New this morning, President Obama about to push a new immigration bill with the potential to impact millions. According to "The New York Times," the president's plan includes a path for illegal immigrants to become legal. The president will reportedly speak about the issue next month with the hopes of drafting possible legislation by the fall.

And, as we know, the president of the United States, President Obama, he travels with a huge entourage. Apparently, he likes watching one on TV, too. We'll explain just ahead.

Also, the rule of law on the high seas. We'll ask a former naval defense attorney what needs to be done to prevent this type of attack from happening again.


CHETRY: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. We're keeping a close watch on breaking news. An American held hostage by pirates off Somalia. First, though, we're going to get you caught up on some of the other big stories today.

Monday's devastating earthquake in Italy now 278 people killed, several bodies were pulled just hours ago from the rubble of a destroyed college dorm. Officials say that the search for the dead will continue until Sunday.

Great Britain's top anti-terrorism officer is resigning this morning over this picture. Bob Quick accidentally allowed himself to be photographed by the press holding the document on a terrorism case where the names of the suspects were clearly visible. Hundreds of officers were then forced to one of Britain's biggest terrorist -- to rush one of the biggest raids that they've had in decades. Police say that the 12 men have ties to al Qaeda and that they were arrested across northern London.

We've also some new video coming in to CNN that shows North Korea - well, North Korea saying it's the video of Kim Jong-Il in front of parliament, apparently appearing there in front of the Communist state's parliament, which appointed him to a third term in power. This comes just a day after North Korean TV showed what it called recent footage of the secretive leader. Kim Jong-il reportedly suffered a stroke this past August - T.J.

HOLMES: All right, Kiran, we know what the president listens to. We know what's on his iPod. He's got Stevie Wonder, Bob Dylan, Earth, Wind and Fire, some Jay-Z.

Sounds just like my iPod, except for the Earth, Wind and Fire, Bob Dylan and Stevie Wonder.

Well, now, we're learning more about what the president watches as well, including one show that he'll miss parts of a meeting to see. has a list of the president's favorite TV shows.

Alina Cho here with this, and I was amazed at the part he would actually miss part of a meeting to watch the end of this.

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it was a conference call, actually, during the campaign, T.J. We'll tell you more about that in just a second.

You know, we've heard about him watching sports. Well, there's more to the story. It seems President Obama can't live without his entourage. You know, we're not talking about David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel, but the hit HBO show "Entourage," of course, about a rising young actor chasing an improbable dream surrounded by his hometown buddies.

Sound familiar? Maybe the president can relate. The show also features a maniacal Hollywood agent, Ari Gold, the character based on real-life super agent Ari Emanuel, coincidentally, the - well, not so coincidentally, the younger brother of White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEREMY PIVEN, PLAYING ARI GOLD, "ENTOURAGE": Jay, is this a happy call or a sad one?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: I'm proud to say it's a happy one, Ari. Congratulations, I have decided to go with you.

PIVEN: Excellent news. Excellent news, Jay.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Yes, I certainly hope so, Ari.

PIVEN: You know what, I'm going to have Lloyd send over the papers ASAP.


CHO: Something you see T.J doing every Friday.

Politico reports the president is such a big fan of the show that during the campaign, as we talked about a bit earlier, when there was a Sunday night conference call that was scheduled to start 15 minutes before the end of the show, top aides told them, listen, just be late, we're going to start without you and that's what they did.

Now, as for other presidential must-see TV, sports, of course, including NBA and NCAA basketball games. The president even watch the game aboard Air Force One last month when he was traveling back from California.

Now, for years, the president has been a huge fan of ESPN "SportsCenter." When he has a couple of free moments - there weren't many, but when he does, that's where he goes there to watch the highlights.

Now, it seems Malia and Sasha also have an influence. SpongeBob SquarePants and Hannah Montana also on the tube.

One thing the president does not spend a lot of time watching - 24-hour cable news.

HOLMES: And why would you. Every time he turns it on, he sees somebody criticizing him, talking about him, something he doesn't...

CHO: And he doesn't - and he doesn't apparently spend a lot of time watching replays of his news conference and so forth. But one thing they're taking advantage of, less TV, more movies. They've got that great movie theater in the White House.

HOLMES: Yes. Use it.

CHO: And you know what? They've got some pull. They watch "Slumdog Millionaire," "The Wrestler."

So, you know, they get to watch the movies that are still in the theaters. Somehow, I don't get those movies sent to my house but at the White House, you can do a lot of things.

HOLMES: I've heard. All right. Alina Cho for us, thank you so much.

Kiran, it's all yours.

CHETRY: All right. Well, we are continuing to follow the hostage situation on the high seas off the Coast of Somalia. This is the sixth brazen attack this week. So, are the laws that govern the seas not working? It's 26 minutes after the hour.


CHETRY: Thank you, Britney Spears.

And this is from our "Wish We Were There" file. Check it out. A beautiful shot this morning coming to us from Bay News 9, southwest Florida. Tampa Bay. Sunshine state is living up to its name today, but they could use some rain right now actually. There's a fire watch in effect for parts of the state. Right now, it's 63 degrees. It's going up to a high of 81 and, you know, that sort of music to our ears because I feel like this is the longest, coldest spring we've had in a while, Rob.


HOLMES: All right. It's the bottom of the hour here now. I want to update you on our breaking story this morning.

Four, armed Somali pirates holding an American captain hostage at sea on a lifeboat. The rest of the crew now safe, we understand. A Navy warship is on the scene and pirates are in sight. We're watching the latest developments with a crew member's father and the only reporter at a Navy base in Bahrain. Stay here for the updates all morning long.

Also, in about an hour away from the opening bell. Asian markets are up as Japan unveiled its own $150 billion economic stimulus package. Japan's Nikkei up close to four percent and in Hong Kong stocks saw a three percent jump.

Wall Street also waiting for new jobless numbers. They are expected to show a dip in new unemployment claims. The CNN Money Team is here to put some potentially good news into perspective for us. But we do want to talk about our breaking story this morning. That intense pirate standoff in the dangerous waters off the coast of Somalia.

Just last hour, we learned the captain has remained a hostage. However, he has not been harmed. His capture is also drawing lots of callers to our show hotline, 877-MY-AMFIX. Many people wondering why militaries around the world aren't doing more to stop these pirates.

Take a quick listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I cannot see how pirates are taking over the coast of Somalia, taking our people. It's incredible. What is the air force, what is the Navy doing?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm calling about the pirates overtaking the ships. I think we should shoot them down. After we did that to a few of these pirate ships, it would stop.


HOLMES: Well, we'll go right into that question there. Joining me now with a look at the legal side of this developing story. Charles Swift, he is a former naval defense attorney.

Sir, thank you for being here.

So just who is policing these waters? Let's start with that question.

CHARLES SWIFT, FORMER NAVAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Under the U.N. Law of the Sea Convention, all Navies, all Navies of the world share a joint responsibility for policing international waters and that is why these things are taking place in international water.

HOLMES: Well, tell us what happens then. We've seen so many of these cases where the company seem be to be in charge, the private companies who own these ships, they just go ahead and pay these ransoms seemingly without any government intervening. So why is that happening?

SWIFT: Well, that generally happens - what the pirates do is they move the ships from international waters into the internal waters of Somalia and then the - they negotiate directly with the companies, with the navies being outside that 13 mile nautical range limit around Somalia itself, and the companies paid through intermediaries until they have their ships get back under way because of the loss of money.

HOLMES: So am I hearing that right that it makes all the difference that even if the ship was taken in international waters, once it goes into Somali waters that the government and the militaries can't pursue them?

SWIFT: You can gauge in hot pursuit but often the navies don't know until the ship is already into internal waters. But, yes, it makes a significant difference. You can think about it as the posse coming up to a county line or some part and having to stop because they no longer have jurisdiction.

HOLMES: All right. Let's talk about this particular case with this - these Americans here now. Who would be in charge? Right now - there is some conflicting information - at first, we were hearing that the private company was asking the Navy not to intervene. Well, does the Navy still have the right to intervene if they want to because that ship has an American flag on it?

SWIFT: It absolutely does. Under international law and U.S. law, because it is a U.S.-flagged carrier, we have the absolute right to intervene and the responsibility, the United States Navy does. So while the company might want to negotiate, ultimately, it will be the Navy's call.

HOLMES: All right. And even if the U.S. military or any other military, any other government did happen to intervene, to take some of these to - to arrest some of these pirates, what do you do with them? Where do you take them? Where can you take them?

SWIFT: Well, in the U.S. flag vessels case, in the Alabama's case, it's very clear they can be tried in U.S. courts for piracy both under international law and U.S. statute. The more difficult case is what do you do with pirates that you capture who aren't attacking a U.S. vessel. Remember only one out of the hundreds of attacks has been a U.S. vessel.

And that is a very difficult question and something that's been hampering all operations is what do you do, especially if you capture pirates, ideally, before they've started the act of piracy.

HOLMES: Is there enough, in your opinion, being done? I guess so much attention is being drawn to this particular case. You know? Because we're talking about Americans at least here. But is attention going to be drawn to it and maybe more be done? This is a vast area to try to police anyway but does more need to be done to clamp down on what's happening off the coast of Africa?

SWIFT: Absolutely. This is an unacceptable situation.

As Secretary Clinton said, we're going to need help. It is a vast area. Our Navy alone can't patrol it. We're also going to need help with the change in the law. The law certainly provides rules for, if an act of piracy has occurred, what to do. But as we're seeing, waiting for that moment, until the pirates actually attack, is not working. That's not an effective strategy. We need a strategy that allows us to go out and identify pirates, stop those vessels, and try and detain those persons before they've ever had a chance to get on board.

Because once the pirates - the act of piracy has occurred, we're generally playing from behind. We need to get on the offense instead of staying on the defense.

HOLMES: All right. Well, we seem to be on the defensive right now. As are a lot of other ships out there in the horn of Africa. Charles Swift, a former naval defense attorney. We appreciate you being here and helping us wade through some of these tough legal questions. Thank you so much.

SWIFT: You're very welcome.

CHETRY: We have some new news coming in right now about jobless claims. We're going to take a look at them and also some profits and earnings news from some banks. We're going to break all of that down for you in just a moment.



CHETRY: Thirty-nine minutes past the hour right now and just in to CNN, new numbers on jobless claims. We have Christine Romans and Gerri Willis here right now to break it all down for us.

We start with Christine. Could we be looking at a glimmer of hope here? CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: We know that the initial jobless claims is the number of people who filed for unemployment benefits for the first time was 654,000 last week. That was lower, slightly lower than the week before. So that shows at least some improvement, although keep in mind, it's still 654,000 people filing for unemployment benefits for the first time.

The record number here is the number of people who are continuing to get jobless claims. That number jumped again to 5.84 million people. That's a big number of folks still continuing to get their jobless checks. What that tells us is that when you lose your job, it's taking longer to find a new job. So that is the latest on the weekly jobless claims number.

HOLMES: On the job front, you always keep an eye on jobs, to help people figure out what they should do. Obviously, they're going to be needing that help for quite some time longer it appears.

GERRI WILLIS, CNN PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR: That's right. If you're looking for a job right now, the good news is that there are resources out there for you. Let's work through some of them. If you're going to apply for benefits, check out This is department of Labor's website. It is the front door into the state by state breakout about how you get benefits to it right away. It takes a couple of weeks to get them started. is a great place to go for real bricks and mortar help here. If you want to find an office where you can use a computer, find some counseling, maybe a copier, get some advice on what jobs are available out there. And is a website, they actually talk to folks, people submit information on employers out there so that they can figure out what do these employers pay? Is it a good place to work? That information is right at, if you're part-time and you want a new part-time job, maybe you're looking for a summer job, maybe you're a teen. That's a great website to go to., people who are really hit hard here guys are senior citizens. Most folks, it takes about five months to get a new job. For seniors, it can be double that. This is a great website. The AARP has put togethera website that tells your employers who like to hire people 50 and over. And this isn't just like Wal-Mart greeters. There's all kinds of jobs there. Although I'm not saying anything bad about Wal-Mart greeters but you might want to have a broader range of jobs. The website is great. CHETRY: All right. Sounds good. Gerri Willis, thanks so much.

Also Christine, quickly, we've been talking about all the bad news.

ROMANS: Right.

CHETRY: Thanks, today, we have some incredible news in light of everything that's gone wrong over the past several months.

ROMANS: Wells Fargo has released early outlines of what it's going to report in terms of its first quarter profit. It says its first quarter earnings were approximately $3 billion, it was a record. It says that it paid back $372 million in dividends to U.S. taxpayers for all that TARP money that bailout money that Wells Fargo accepted.

Here is what is incredible about this quarter. It was a really record quarter for its mortgage business. It refinanced or gave a new mortgage for 450,000 homeowners. That is a $100 billion worth of business.

In fact, saying that it has loaned money in the quarter, it loaned $225 billion of money, of credit to extended to taxpayers since - actually not the quarter, since last October. The company pointing out that is nine times the amount that it received from taxpayers through the U.S. treasuries capital purchase program, that is the bailout, the TARP. So it's painting a very bullish picture of what Wells Fargo, this big bank's first quarter looks like.

CHETRY: Yes, Wall Street likes its...


CHETRY: All right. Thanks a lot.

HOLMES: Thank you both, actually. Thank you for the good news as well. Christine.

Well, an expert is going to be taking on that standoff with pirates. But this expert has a bit of a twist to him. He is a crew member's father. He has been in contact with the ship and says the pirates may be running out of options. Must see interview straight ahead.

It's 43 past the hour.



CHETRY: As we said, we've been bringing you the latest developments as soon as we get them on this ongoing hostage crisis on the high seas off the coast of Somalia. We're just getting word now that the Navy has reportedly called in FBI hostage negotiators to help in the efforts to free the American captain who is held by the Somali pirates off the coast of Somalia in that lifeboat. The shipping company's spokesperson saying that the rest of the crew is now safe and Navy warship is on the scene as well and says that the pirates are in sight.

And earlier in our show we did speak to a former FBI hostage negotiator who shed light on how exactly this would be taking place. He seemed to think that perhaps the pirates feel that they are in a better position to negotiate even though their plan was foiled to take over the ship, because they have this captain now in that lifeboat ten days of ration is said to be on that lifeboat.

Meantime, we also talked to a crew member's father. He's been in contact with the ship. He's an expert in fighting off pirates. He talked about a phone with his son, Shane Murphy and also about the conditions that the crew and the captain could be facing right now.


CHETRY: Give us an update about the last time you had a chance to speak to your son, Shane.

MURPHY: Well, the last communication we had from the ship was actually yesterday. We haven't heard any word from Shane since yesterday afternoon. He did tell us that he was safe and that the crew was safe and, of course, the concern is now focused on Captain Phillips who is in a lifeboat with the four pirates.

CHETRY: Can you explain a little bit about - I understand as we had said just a few moments ago, the crew kept one of the pirates. They were going to try to have some sort of exchange take place and of course, the Somali pirates reneged on that. What is the situation? What is the situation in that lifeboat? How long can they stay and in what condition is the captain likely in?

MURPHY: I would suspect that the captain is in very good condition. The lifeboat is only a 28-foot boat. It's got emergency rations for about 10 days for its capacity. It's a very uncomfortable place. It's very small. There is no toilet facilities or anything like that. The captain has a VHF radio and I'm sure that he's in voice communication with the ship itself. The problem is, of course, that the radio is going to - the battery is going to die. And I'm not really sure how they'll continue communication after that.

CHETRY: How do you see this situation developing? What should we be looking for in terms of when they are going to release this captain?

MURPHY: Well, I think what is going to happen, and very quickly, they've been boxed in. They removed 19 other crew members to a safe environment. They're in a lifeboat. You know, that's be careful what you ask for, you just might get it. They have few options, they don't have enough fuel to go anywhere and they are not going to be allowed to move.

So they're going to sit in that lifeboat until they run out of water and food and they're going to have to make a decision. And if the weather should become bad, there's going to be a considerable amount of seasickness as well. So, we'll see what happens.


CHETRY: All right. And again, just to update you because we did get some new information in coming from the "Associated Press," our FBI spokesman saying hostage negotiators with the FBI are, "fully engaged in this standoff hoping to end it and hoping to secure the release of Captain Richard Phillips."

HOLMES: All right. And we will never be too far away from that developing story. Stay here for all those developments.

Meanwhile, the doctor is in. Our Sanjay Gupta, he's answering your questions this morning. He has real advice for people who want to stay healthy as they age.


HOLMES: All right. It's Thursday, so time to open up Dr. Gupta's mailbag. Sanjay, in Atlanta today.

Good morning. Good to see you here, as always.

We have a question here. The first one from Bill saying he is a pretty healthy 50-year-old guy, but he said he notices a lot of his friends and colleagues in the same age group are starting to get heart disease and prostate cancer. What is your advice for men wanting to stay a step ahead of potential health concerns?

Go, doc!

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, it's interesting.

First of all, compliment to you, Bill, for even thinking about this. Typically, the health care drivers in a lot of families are women, encouraging their husbands and brothers to go to the doctor and get checked out. The fact that you're thinking about this is a good idea. And a lot of times thinking about this, we kind of give the same advice, eat right, exercise.

So, I wanted to give you some specifics of what I've been thinking about when it comes to getting to be around 50 years old. That is a lot of time when a lot of health problems start to develop.

First of all, making fitness a priority. It's often the first thing that falls off the map. More so as you get older. You got to schedule it in every day. Make it a priority.

Also, get your regular checkups. There are some specific screenings you should get.

Talk to your doctor about that so you can prevent some of these disease in the first place. When it comes to diet, you're going to hear all kinds of different advice. One rule of thumb that I've used and I think works pretty well, eat seven different colored foods a day. You're getting most of the nutrients and the vitamins that you need and it also tends to limit your calories when you eat a variety of foods like that.

Also T.J., you'll be surprised, we talked about this but I do this every day. I meditate for about 15 minutes a day. You can do it in all sorts of different ways. I try to find a place that's quiet. I find a word that I like. The world that is use is gentle. Fifteen minutes calms your mind and lowers your blood pressure and good for your health - T.J.

HOLMES: Really? Let me try it.

GUPTA: Even for a young guy like yourself and get something out of this.

HOLMES: Well, I'm surprised you find 15 minutes to just stop and do nothing every day.

Let's go to another question here from Caley from Tucson, Arizona. And she is asking -- she says her roommate has been getting cold sores when she was a little girl, I have never had one until very recently? Is it true that once you get a cold sore, you'll get them for the rest of your life?

GUPTA: The short answer to this question is, yes. And I haven't seen what this culture specifically looks like, but most of them are caused by what is known as a herpes simplex virus variant one, for people who pay attention that sort of thing.

And this is a tricky virus. It kind of hangs out and hides in your body and can be reawakened by all sorts of different things, including stress. So sometimes difficult to predict when it's going to come out. There are certain anti-viral medications which can help.

Now, it's a nuisance and it can be something very visible because it's on your face, on your lips but besides being a nuisance there is really no harm to it. It's just something that you deal with and this is one of those viruses that just tends to hang out. So try to get it treated, that is the best advice.

HOLMES: All right. We appreciate you as always. On Thursday, checking in with the doctor and taking your question and the meditation.

I'm going to try that, doctor.

GUPTA: Good for you, T.J. My work here is done then.

HOLMES: All right. See you here soon. See you back in Atlanta.

And don't forget Dr. Sanjay Gupta again tonight on "AC 360." He has got a fascinating look at what happened to actress Natasha Richardson, her fall from the ski slopes and the crucial moment afterwards. That's tonight right here on CNN 10:00 Eastern. Kiran.

CHETRY: All right. There are new details now on the efforts to free the American hostage held by the pirates off the coast of Somalia. We'll bring them to you right here on AMERICAN MORNING. Taking a quick break and we'll be right back.



CHETRY: We have some new information now on the ongoing hostage situation in the water off Somalia. The Navy has now reportedly called in FBI hostage negotiators to help secure the freedom of American ship Captain Richard Phillips who is being held in a lifeboat by pirates off Somalia.

Let's bring in now our Homeland Security correspondent Jeanne Meserve.

Jeanne, what is the latest about what you're hearing?

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kiran, FBI spokesman Bill Carter does tell us that the FBI negotiators have been called in by the Navy to assist in the negotiations with the Somali pirates. And he says they are fully engaged in the matter. We do not know where they've been called in from. The FBI, of course, has resources all over the globe. We don't know where these negotiators might have come from, how long it would take them to get there.

Another question might be language. We presume that FBI negotiators are English speakers. It's unclear how they would communicate with the Somali pirates. Perhaps they speak English or perhaps there's some person who can act as an intermediator, intermediary and a translator for them to transmit to them what the FBI wants to say. The FBI, of course, very experienced in hostage negotiations and all kinds of crises but I suspect this may be the first time they've been involved in negotiations with pirates. Kiran?

CHETRY: All right. Jeanne Meserve for us, thanks so much. She's going to continue to follow developments today from Washington. As we said, we have a lot of resources spanned out across the globe, including our Barbara Starr in Bahrain right now where the Navy is operating and we'll keep you abreast of the situation all day on AMERICAN MORNING and of course here on CNN.

HOLMES: All right. CNN continues right now, we appreciate you being here with us. We'll be back tomorrow but right now, we want to hand it over to CNN NEWSROOM with Don Lemon.