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American Morning

Police Capture Hijacker of Canada-Bound Plane in Jamaica; Obama to Order $100M in Cuts; Obama Takes Diplomatic Leap at Summit; Charging Overweight Fliers Double

Aired April 20, 2009 - 07:57   ET


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. It's Monday, the 20th of April. I'm John Roberts in Atlanta this morning.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Kiran Chetry here in New York.

Well, coming up on just a minute before the hour, here are some of the stories we're going to be breaking down for you in the next 15 minutes.

Breaking news and still a tense hostage situation is unfolding on board a hijacked Canadian charter plane in Montego Bay, Jamaica. Last night, government officials say that a mentally-challenged man armed with a gun was somehow able to slip on to this flight late last night. He's been holding six crewmembers hostage for hours. There were originally 174 passengers and eight crew. That hostage released everybody but the six.

And we're going to be getting more information from the information minister out of Montego Bay in a couple of minutes.

In just a few hours, for the first time, President Obama will gather his full cabinet together and challenge them to trim from their budgets, a combined $100 million in the next 90 days. Administration officials tell CNN the move is part of the president's commitment to cutting government spending. Our White House team is working that story.

And a stunning quarterly earnings report from Bank of America. The company says it earned $4.2 billion in the first quarter of this year. It's well above what analysts had expected. Bank of America more than tripled its profits from the same period last year.

But the economy is still on the skids, although there are signs the recession may be easing. There is a survey by the National Association of Business Economists finding more firms are reporting a greater demand for their products, fatter profit margins, and they're also scaling back plans for layoffs.

ROBERTS: Well, turning now to our breaking news. A dangerous hostage situation is unfolding at Jamaican's resort city of Montego Bay. Officials say a gunman hijacked a charter plane and is holding six crewmembers at gunpoint. The Boeing 737 has been on the tarmac since about 10:00 o'clock last night. It's now surrounded by police. Negotiations with the gunmen are under way. Earlier this morning, the vice president and general manager of CanJet Airline spoke.


KENT WOODSIDE, VICE PRESIDENT & GENERAL MANAGER, CANJET AIRLINES: At approximately 23:30 Atlantic Standard Time, an armed man boarded CanJet Flight 918 which had landed at Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay.

Flight 918 had departed from Halifax at 7:15 last evening. The flight was due to travel from Montego Bay to Santa Clara, Cuba. The flight was operated on behalf of Transat Tours of Canada. There were 174 passengers and eight crew scheduled to leave Montego Bay on Flight 918.

All those passengers and two of our crew members have safely left the aircraft. Six crew are still on board. The gunman also remains on board.

The security and safety of passengers and crew on all CanJet flights is paramount. We are relieved that all the passengers involved in this incident are safe as well as two crew members and our top priority is the safe release of the remaining crew members. We are providing full cooperation to security officials and the local authorities are doing everything possible to bring this matter to a peaceful end.

As you will appreciate, this an ongoing incident and so we don't have all the details at this stage. What we can tell you, the Jamaican authorities have secured the area and the aircraft. Efforts are continuing to secure the release of the remaining crew. None of the passengers or crew have been injured, and there has been no damage to the aircraft.

All passengers under the direction -- all passengers are under the direction of the Jamaican authorities at the airport and once the security and investigation is complete, those passengers will be moved to hotel accommodations.


CHETRY: All right. And right now, we want to bring in Jamaica's information minister, Daryl Vaz, who's joining us by the phone this morning from Montego Bay. Thanks for being with us. Are you able to hear me, Daryl?

DARYL VAZ, INFORMATION MINISTER, JAMAICA (via telephone): Yes. Thank you. I can hear you.

CHETRY: Daryl, let me ask you about this. There is a report right now out of Canada that according to police, they say that the hijacker is now in custody. What can you tell us about that?

VAZ: That's correct. The ordeal finished about five or six minutes ago. The police military was able to capture the gunman without anybody being harmed. The six crew members have actually come off the plane, disembarked the plane, and the gunman is in police custody as we speak.

CHETRY: Wonderful news, by the way, that these tense hours ended peacefully, it appears, with no one harmed. Could you elaborate a little more? Did police, or the military, as you were saying, enter the plane? Did they go on the plane?

VAZ: That's correct. They did go on the plane, and they were able to capture the gunman without any injuries or harm to anyone.

CHETRY: And do we know -- at the time earlier reports saying that perhaps some of the crew members had locked themselves in the cockpit. Do you know anything on the location, where the gunman was in the plane and where the six that were being held?

VAZ: No. Actually, I don't. I'm still going through a debrief now, but I can just say that the ordeal has ended in the best way possible, and I really want to thank everybody who has been monitoring this situation.

CHETRY: Yes. I'm sure that you're feeling relief, as well as anybody who was on that plane or had family and loved ones on that plane. A quick question for you regarding how this was able to happen in the first place. Are there going to be some investigations into how he was able to get on that plane and perhaps changes in security in the future?

VAZ: Absolutely. That already has started, that investigation, and now that the ordeal is over, that will then now take priority in terms of finding how and what happened and make sure that it doesn't happen again.

CHETRY: All right. And what are plans for these passengers? As we understand it, some of them were staying at hotels. Do you know when that flight is going to take off again for its intended destination of Canada?

VAZ: I would say that once the debriefings are done, I would think that the passengers that are at the hotel, along with the crew who accepts arrangements, will then leave (ph) at the earliest possible time for them to continue on their journey. And we will cooperate in whatever way we need to for that.

CHETRY: All right. And so, for people that are just joining us this morning, we are on the phone right now with the information minister in Jamaica, Montego Bay. He had some great news for us. Just five to six minutes ago, he says police were able to get on to that hijacked plane, and they were able to disarm the gunman.

He is now in police custody, and the six crew members that were there have been taken off the plane. Everyone in this situation is safe. And again, I understand you're heading to another debrief. If you could tell us, do you know where the suspect is now and what the plans are right now in the immediate future? VAZ: No. No. He is in police custody, and the investigation will start in terms of that criminal case.

CHETRY: All right. Daryl Vaz for us, Jamaica's information minister. Thanks so much for bringing us this news. I know anyone that is listening that may have known somebody on that flight certainly relieved to find out just within the past five minutes, everyone who was on that hijacked plane is safe. Thanks for joining us this morning.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Terrific that this has come to what appears to be a peaceful resolution this morning. That, indeed, is good news.

We've got more breaking news this morning. CNN has learned in just a few hours, President Obama will convene his full Cabinet for the very first time and challenge them to slash a combined $100 million from their budgets.

CNN's Elaine Quijano is following this story for us.

Elaine, what have you discovered about President Obama's plan today?

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, basically, this is about President Obama trying to show that he is serious about cutting back on government spending. As you know, critics have really blasted the Obama administration for its spending plan saying it is going to be putting a tremendous financial burden on future generations.

So, today, as you mentioned, President Obama is going to be convening his full cabinet for the very first time. They will be meeting in the cabinet room later today. And two senior administration officials tell my colleague, Suzanne Malveaux, that he is going to challenge them to cut $100 million over 90 days, and that after the end of that 90-day period, they are going to basically have to report back on how they were able to cut back on those expenses.

Now, at the same time, President Obama is also expected to give some examples of how departments are already working to trim the budget fat, if you will.

For example, the Department of Homeland Security working to save an estimated $52 million over five years. How? By buying bulk office supplies. Also, the Department of Agriculture saving an estimated $62 million over 15 years by consolidating seven offices into a single facility. And, also, the Department of Veterans Affairs saving an estimated $17.8 million by either cancelling or delaying various conferences, in addition to using video conferences as a cost-saving measures. So all of this, John, really intended to show fiscal responsibility.


ROBERTS: A hundred million dollars looking at a $3.5 trillion budget is just a drop in the bucket, but Elaine, I guess every little bit helps.

Elaine Quijano for us this morning. Thanks so much.



CHETRY: All right. Well, topping our "Political Ticker" right now. The daughter of former presidential candidate John McCain says the Republican Party needs to change. Meghan McCain made her remarks this weekend to the Log Cabin Republicans, a group representing gay and lesbian members of the GOP. She says there's a real struggle among Republicans and the party needs to become more accepting and less divisive.


MEGHAN MCCAIN, DAUGHTER OF SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: Number one, most of our nation wants our nation to succeed. Number two, most people are ready to move on to the future, not live in the past. And number three, most of the old school Republicans are scared (BLEEP) of that future.


CHETRY: Meghan McCain says that she took a lot of heat from the GOP recently after publicly stating that she hoped President Obama succeeded.

Well, a book given to President Obama this weekend by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has rocketed to best-seller status on It's called "Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent."

It was number 60,000, I believe, when this whole thing started. And after the much publicized situation that took place at the Summit of the Americas, it is now at number two.

ROBERTS: She was Miss North Carolina, now she is Miss U.S.A.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The new Miss U.S.A. 2009 is North Carolina Kristen Dalton.


ROBERTS: Kristen Dalton was crowned Miss U.S.A. last night at the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino on the Vegas Strip. The 22- year-old aspiring motivational speaker and entertainer edged out the competition from both California and Arizona to take the top prize.

What do you think, Kiran?

CHETRY: I watched just to see if there are any more of those special YouTube moments that turned up at last year's. But, no, everybody -- everybody was wonderfully well-spoken. It was very interesting.

You know the other interesting thing, John, we just said that the book that was given to Barack Obama by Hugo Chavez, "Open Veins," is number two? Number one, though, is "Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto" by Mark Levin.

Very avid.

ROBERTS: Something for everyone out there.

CHETRY: Some for everyone -- exactly.

Well, we are following breaking news this morning. CNN has just confirmed that the hijacking off of the Canadian plane in Jamaica is over. The gunman now in police custody. You heard it first right here on our air. And we're going to continue to follow the story as it unfolds by the moment.

And the president pouring more soldiers and more money into the war in Afghanistan, but will the strategy work? We're talking to one journalist who spent four months on the ground there. It's 10 minutes after the hour.


CHETRY: Twelve minutes after the hour right now. Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. We're following breaking news. You just heard it on CNN moments ago.

The hijacker of a Canadian flight is now in police custody. All six crew members that were still being held have been taken off of that plane. They are unharmed. Officials tell CNN that the gunman believed to be a man in his 20. He was demanding to go to Cuba, and that's where that flight was headed before going back on to Canada.

Well, we fast forward now to some of the other stories that will be making news later today.

This afternoon, 3:30 Eastern, President Obama travels to CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, where he's going to be holding private meetings with CIA employees and then speak publicly about the agency's importance to national security.

Throughout the day in Colorado, vigils will be held for the victims of the columbine shootings. It was ten years ago, today, that 13 people were killed when two students went on a shooting rampage at their high school before killing themselves.

CHETRY: In less than an hour from now, at 9:00 a.m. Eastern, a suit brought by Hurricane Katrina flooding victims is going to be going to trial. A federal court judge is going to decide whether the Army Corps of Engineers should be held liable for failed levees that caused catastrophic floodings in New Orleans and in St. Bernard Parish. Billions of dollars in damages are at stake.

John? ROBERTS: All right. Speaking of damage. There were some of it in the south yesterday from extreme weather. We had some pretty heavy thunderstorms roll through Atlanta last night. Now all that weather is on its way north. Rob Marciano here at the weather center, tracking it all for us.

Good morning, Rob.


ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: All right. Before we leave, a little shot of what happened this weekend in Oklahoma. A family of geese were trying to stroll down Broadway, John. And they were rescued by animal control, especially the three little ones. And we did this in honor of you in your visit to the ATL here, because of course those are Canada geese. And you being from our friends up north, thought you might take that to heart.

ROBERTS: I mean, there's nothing more American than Canada geese. There are more Canada geese -- Canadian geese in Central Park than there is in all of Canada. So, I don't know about that.

MARCIANO: Welcome to Atlanta.

ROBERTS: Thanks, Rob.


CHETRY: So cute, though. I love it.

All right. Well, President Obama and Cuban leader Raul Castro speaking the same language -- diplomacy. Could a U.S.-Cuba summit be in the card? We're going to take a look at what Havana must do to make that happen.

And United Airlines slapping overweight passengers with extra fee. Some passengers are saying, hey, it sounds fair, but others are saying this is outrageous. We're going to hear from one of them. It's 15 1/2 minutes after the hour.


CHETRY: Well, the end of the Summit of the Americas could mark a new beginning of sorts of relations with two of America's harshest critics -- Cuba and Venezuela.

President Obama is defending his outreach to the two countries' leaders and dismissing criticism of his handshake with Hugo Chavez.


OBAMA: It's unlikely that as a consequence of me shaking hands or having a polite conversation with Mr. Chavez, that we are endangering the strategic interest of the United States. I don't think anybody can find any evidence that that would do so.


CHETRY: Now as for Cuba, the president is giving Havana a road map for normalizing relations.

CNN's Jim Acosta joins us now in Washington.

It was interesting. He said the ball is in their court. You know, we'll see how they respond. And then you heard Raul Castro coming out saying, everything is on the table. We'll talk about human rights issues. We'll talk about everything, you know. So it will be interesting to see what happen.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Exactly. That was stunning when Raul Castro said that last week. And it's interesting to note that here on Washington, there's more squawking about what Hugo Chavez did over the weekend with President Obama than these overtures that had been going back and forth between the White House and Havana. You're right.

President Obama and Cuban leader Raul Castro are speaking the language of diplomacy on a all host of issues. First came the White House change on Cuban-American travel, then came Castro surprising offer to talk about human rights in Cuba. Now the president has said what he has in mind.


OBAMA: A test for all of us is not simply words, but also deeds.

ACOSTA: Frozen in cold war politics for decades, U.S.-Cuban relations could be moving faster than a Havana hurricane. Just days after Cuban President Raul Castro seized the world's attention, offering to talk about human rights, freedom of the press and political prisoners...

RAUL CASTRO, CUBAN PRESIDENT (through translator): We could be wrong. We admit it. We're human beings.

OBAMA: That's a sign of progress.

ACOSTA: President Obama cautiously laid out some steps for the island to take.

OBAMA: There are some things that the Cuban government could do. They could release political prisoners.

ACOSTA: Mr. Obama said he's nowhere near calling for an end to the embargo on Cuba, a move that would require congressional approval and something he supported in his run for the Senate in 2004.

OBAMA: I think it's time for us to end the embargo with Cuba.

ACOSTA: Still, analysts who have followed U.S.-Cuban tensions sense a breakthrough.

Do you think we're heading towards a U.S.-Cuba summit of some sort?

MARCO VINCENZINO, GLOBAL STRATEGY PROJECT: There has to be concrete move, I would say, first on the part of the Cuban government, and maybe releasing of all political prisoners would be a major positive first step.

ACOSTA: Easing restrictions on Cuba could also gain Mr. Obama allies in Latin America, a region where leftist leaders condemned the embargo as Yankee imperialism. Even some conservatives back in Washington are considering the upside of embracing Cuba.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think we should go about this step by step. We shouldn't jump into the deep end of the pool right away. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Conservatives are thinking this, liberals are thinking this. Go for it.

ACOSTA: Washington has considered the inconsistencies before -- China and Vietnam, but not Cuba. At the Summit of the Americas, President Obama shook hands with Hugo Chavez and even received a book from the Venezuelan leader.

OBAMA: President Chavez is better at positioning the cameras.

ACOSTA: Question remains -- why not the Castros?


ACOSTA: President Obama acknowledges he is getting plenty of pressure from across the Western hemisphere at this summit. Latin American leaders all but said, Mr. Obama, tear down that embargo. But for now, the president's response, not yet.

And, Kiran, after watching that Summit of the Americas, it's interesting to see President Obama in an exchange with Hugo Chavez, having to listen to that 50-minute speech by Daniel Ortega, which made a lot of eyes roll here in Washington. Cuba not invited and yet there is much talk happening between what's happening at the White House and down in Havana.

So, it's interesting to see who's not invited and the exchanges going on there and who is invited, and some of the headlines that are being made down at the summit.

CHETRY: And it was also funny when President Obama was asked about the Hugo Chavez moment. And he said, well, I guess he's good at, you know, bringing the cameras over...

ACOSTA: Exactly.

CHETRY: ...and getting in front of the cameras. It was a -- it was a little bit of a swipe, but not too nasty.

ACOSTA: That's right.

CHETRY: Jim Acosta, thanks so much.

ACOSTA: You bet.

ROBERTS: Well, breaking news. And you heard it right here on AMERICAN MORNING first. Jamaica's information minister telling CNN the hijacking of an airplane in Montego Bay is over. We've got the latest developments as police now have the gunman in custody.

And airlines getting their money any way they can with all kinds of extra fees. And now, United Airlines is charging you for your extra weight. One activist for the obese speaks out, just ahead. We'll have that. Twenty-three minutes after the hour.


ROBERTS: Well, here's a dose of good news to start off the week for you. A new economic survey shows evidence that the recession is abating. Gerri Willing, "Minding Your Business" this morning. She joins us now with more.

Well, Gerri, just how good is this news?

GERRI WILLIS, CNN PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR: Well, let's not get too excited here. What the survey says is that economic conditions, their deterioration, slowed in the first quarter. So that's good news. It comes from the National Association of Business Economics. And this is from 109 businesses that were surveyed. Here are the findings. Give you some details on exactly what they found.

The number of businesses reporting rising demand for their products increased to 27 percent in the first quarter from an all-time low of 20 percent in January. And the number of firms that increased capital spending -- what is that? Spending, investments and business buying new equipment. That rose as well to 15 percent from to 12 percent.

Now, John, I bet you want to know about jobs, because that's something we always talk about. Critically important thing for Americans out there. In the survey, 33 percent said they will cut jobs over the next six months. 39 percent reduced payrolls in the first quarter. However, 16 percent plan to hire more workers. 14 percent added workers in the first quarter. And 6 percent of firms expected to raise capital spending by more than 10 percent over the next 12 months.

In January, no companies had these plans. So you can see that we feel like we're maybe bottoming out on some of this bad news and starting to make that turn where businesses are actually investing in their business, thinking about hiring more. They're not exactly there yet, but it seems like we could be coming to a bottom here.


ROBERTS: And that is very good news, knowing that maybe there's a light at the end of the tunnel. It's not an oncoming train.

Gerri Willis for us this morning. Gerri, thanks so much.

WILLIS: My pleasure.


CHETRY: Twenty-seven minutes past the hour now. A look at what's on the agenda this morning, stories we'll be breaking down for you in the next 15 minutes.

Breaking news now. Police in Jamaica confirming that the man who hijacked a Canadian plane and its crew is now in custody.


VAZ (via telephone): Military was able to capture the gunman without anybody being harmed. The six crew members have actually come off of the plane, disembarked the plane. And the gunman is in police custody as we speak.


CHETRY: Jamaica's information minister also telling me the hijacker was in his 20s and had, quote, "mental challenges." Also saying that he was commanding to be taken to Cuba. It's where the plane was heading before eventually going to Canada.

Well, a dramatic video of Somali pirates' attempt to hijack a Norwegian tanker in the Gulf of Aden. NATO forces saw the ship under attack, firing warning shots, chasing the pirates for seven hours. They were eventually caught, then later released. It's because NATO officials tell CNN they're there to deter the pirates, not arrest them.

Well, Madonna is recovering from minor bumps and bruises this morning after falling off of a horse in the Hampton's. Her spokeswoman blaming photographers, claiming they jumped out of the bushes and startled the horse. A photographer at the scene denies that that happened.

And United Airlines is now the latest carrier to charge overweight passengers, in some cases, forcing them to buy an extra seat if one is not enough and there's no available empty seat adjacent. The story has been getting a lot of reaction on our show hotline, 877-MY-AMFIX. There are many of you who say the policy is fair. Let's listen.


CALLER: I've been the fat person. I've been the skinny person. And it's unfair for us to be expected to sit next to somebody and pay the same price as them when we don't have the same amount of room and they take up our space, too.

CALLER: They definitely should charge more. I'm claustrophobic and to have someone take over part of my seat is not acceptable. CALLER: I have a child who is less than 25 pounds and when I ride with my child on an airplane, I have to pay for an extra seat. If I have to pay for an extra seat for my child, I think it's only fair that they have to pay for the extra 25-plus pounds that they carry on the plane as well.


CHETRY: The United's policy shift has angered many activists for the obese. So, is the policy fair or should the airlines have to keep up with America's growing waistline? Joining me now is Kate Harding. She's the author of "Lessons from the Fat-O-Sphere: Quit Dieting and Declare a Truce With Your Body." She joins me now.

Kate, thanks for being with us this morning.


CHETRY: What was your reaction when you heard about United Airlines' new policy?

HARDING: Mostly, it was just, oh, no, not another one. You know, this is hardly the first airline to do it. Southwest has done it very aggressively. Continental has done it. Several others. So, it's -- you know, this one is making big news for some reasons, but it's been happening for a long time. And basically, I think -- I absolutely acknowledge that there is a problem if people are essentially having to share seats. And that's a terrible situation. Nobody likes it. Least of all, fat people. But why are we holding individuals responsible for the size of their bodies instead of holding the airline responsible for not providing adequate seating for its customers?

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHRO: Let me just read this statistic to you. According to this article that we had, between 1960 and 2002 the average American male has gained 25 pounds or is 25 pounds larger on average. The average woman, 24 pounds larger. Yet the size of the seats have basically remained the same since the 1960s. A lot of people would say if you're a tall guy, if you're six feet tall and you have long legs, you're cramped in those situations but there are others who say, look, it's just not fair that I'm made uncomfortable because the person next to me doesn't fit in their seat.

HARDING: Well, no. It's not fair. But it doesn't mean that I'm responsible for that because of the size of my butt. It means that the seats are too small. And it's the airlines that we should be holding accountable for making flights such a miserable experience in so many ways. Not individuals who are just trying to get from point a to point b and just have as much need to get to business meetings or to funerals or to go on vacation or see their families. Do fat people not deserve to do that because we can't do anything about the size of the seats?

CHETRY: Airlines, this is what they said. They said, if possible, that if it the guests wouldn't fit into the seat and if there was an adjacent seat available that they would actually just allow that person to sit in both of the seats comfortably for free. The only time they would charge is if there were no empty seats on these flights. Do you think that's fair?

HARDING: No, I don't. I mean, first of all, it sounds great in theory but the reality is anyone who has flown coach recently and I have flown coach eight times in the last four months, knows that there is no such thing as a seat -- as a flight with two seats adjacent available anymore. They are all overbooked to the max. There is no way it's going to happen. Basically you're gambling oh maybe I'll get the one flight that's not overbooked but the reality is you don't know until you get to the airport if you are going to get on a flight today, tomorrow, or whenever they can get you. You don't know if you're going to pay the coach fare you already paid or if you're going to have to pay twice that. It's ridiculous.

CHETRY: Just quickly before we leave. The airlines are saying it's going to cost us too much money to go back and retrofit all the planes. What do you think the compromise here is, if there is any to be had?

HARDING: The compromise is a one person, one fare policy as they have in Canada where if you have documentation that you can't comfortably and safely fit in the seat then they guarantee you that extra seat at no extra charge.

CHETRY: Katy Harding for us, co-author "Lessons from the Fat- Osphere." You believe that this is a discriminatory policy that United Airlines has adopted. Thank you this morning for coming on and sharing your point of view.

HARDING: Thank you.


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: The president pledging more boots on the ground in Afghanistan. But is that the best strategy to fight al Qaeda and the Taliban? We're talking to one journalist who has just seen the war up close. We'll hear from him.

And the finger-pointing following Madonna's fall from a horse this weekend. Two very different stories being told ahead on AMERICAN MORNING. It's coming up on 34 minutes after the hour.


ROBERTS: Breaking news now from Montego Bay, Jamaica where a hijacker described as quote, mentally challenged has been taken into custody after holding a Canadian plane and six of its crew members hostage. It happened just moments ago that he was taken in custody. The hijacker released 174 passengers earlier this morning along with two crew members. Among the passengers was Christian Gosselin. We have his father Alphonse on the phone for us now from New Brunswick in Atlantic Canada. Mr. Gosselin, thanks for being with us this morning. When did you talk to your son, what did he tell you about this incident? ALPHONSE GOSSELIN, SON WAS ON HIJACKED PLANE (via telephone): First of all, my son was going to a wedding, my brother-in-law's wedding in Cuba and was supposed to stop over on their way to Santa Clara. So I got a call from the father, what do you call it? The bride's father? He told me that the plane had been hijacked but everybody was ok.

ROBERTS: Oh, my goodness.

GOSSELIN: Two minutes after, my son called me and told me the same thing basically, that the plane had been hijacked and they were all safe because there is about 20 of my relatives that was going up there for that wedding.

ROBERTS: Right. Did he describe any demands that the gunman made? Did he have any idea how the gunman got on board the aircraft in the first place?

GOSSELIN: No, the only thing he told me was that he heard a gunshot. He doesn't know if it's outside or in terminal or whatever. It could've been inside, he was not sure. But basically I guess one of the stewardess told them very briefly that they might have to open the emergency doors so he knew there was something wrong. So after that, I guess somebody, I think maybe they thought the hijacker wanted some money so I guess they offered him some money. So I guess everybody, my son told his girlfriend, listen, be discreet and take your passport and put it in your back pocket with your credit card and we'll give him the money.

ROBERTS: So you don't know if the gunman was actually making any demands. It might have been the passengers who were offering him money thinking that's what he wanted?

GOSSELIN: Either that or maybe -- maybe the flight crew, maybe for them? Maybe that is their way of dealing with that stuff.

ROBERTS: Did he describe for you the process of the release when all of the passengers and two of those crew members were let go?

GOSSELIN: I guess they all put their money in a bag or whatever and when they put their money in the bag they could go out, something like that.

ROBERTS: Really? Interesting.


ROBERTS: So what is his status now? I heard from talking to Jamaican officials that they had all been taken to hotels off of the airport site and will they continue on their flight? Will he make it to Cuba or will he be returned to Canada, do you know?

GOSSELIN: Well, see, I don't know because the prime minister, I believe, is down there somewhere, the Canadian prime minister, Steven Harper. I believe he offered them the jet to take them back to Canada, if need be. So I don't know if he's going to come back to Canada or just keep on going on their vacation.

ROBERTS: All right. Well I guess you'll probably et that information in the coming hours. Alphonse Gosselin, who is the father of Christian Gosselin, one of the passengers on board Can Jet flight 918, joining us from New Brunswick this morning. Mr. Gosselin, thanks so much for your time and for describing the situation, we really appreciate it. Kiran?

GOSSELIN: No problem.

CHETRY: The president sending more soldiers and pouring more money into the war in Afghanistan but will the strategy work? We're talking to one journalist who spent four months on the ground in that nation. It's 39 minutes after the hour.


CHETRY: 42 minutes past the hour. We fast forward through the stories that will be making news later today.

The U.S. senate expected to vote at 2:00 this afternoon on the nomination of Christopher Hill to be ambassador to Iraq. Senators will also consider sending more money to the justice department to tackle financial fraud.

At 10:00 this morning Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell will be urging President Obama to declassify government files about UFOs. Mitchell and others who just attended a three day extraterrestrial conference in Washington wants these documents that have been kept from the public for six decades to be unsealed.

At 3:00 this afternoon, the 2009 Pulitzer Prize winners will be announced in New York. Among the favorites, Lynn Notages "Ruined" for best drama and the musical "In the Heights". Also it's patriots day in Boston. More than 20,000 runners are in town for the 113 annual Boston marathon, it's the oldest in the world. It will be on the chilly side though. Clouds and sun, a high of 50. That's actually perfect running weather, right? They don't want it to be too warm.

ROBERTS: As long as it doesn't rain, 50 degrees is just about what you want. And I know that they showed the picture of me earlier when you were talking about the marathon, I'm not among the runners so get that out of your head. Kiran thanks.

President Obama is shifting America's military focus from Iraq to Afghanistan. More boots on the ground there, more cash, more diplomacy. Will the strategy work or should the pentagon turn to quick intense strikes? Michael Hastings is a contributor for GQ Magazine, he's just back from the Afghanistan/Pakistan border where he was embedded with American forces, among them the 101st airborne.

Michael, some of the soldiers and commanders that you spoke with are, according to your article, are skeptical of whether or not this surge strategy is going to work. Based on your reporting, what do you think? MICHAEL HASTINGS, GQ MAGAZINE CONTRIBUTOR: I think I found there was a significant amount of skepticism among U.S. officials and soldiers on the ground there that a long term 10, 25 year multibillion dollar commitment to Afghanistan had a very low chance of success. And essentially the question these officials asked were what are we winning? Even if we win in Afghanistan, what it is exactly that we're winning? Maybe the answer is maybe we're winning security gains, but that's not even for sure and there's certainly no guarantee of that.

ROBERTS: In the president's plan, 17,000 new combat troops to go into the southwestern area of the country, predominantly in the Hellman Province and 4,000 other soldiers to go in as trainers, based upon what you've seen and what you've heard, how is the training program going? Is it paying off?

HASTINGS: Well, the training has been slow, painful, and very disorganized. The Afghan police are notoriously corrupt. At least 15 percent of their new recruits tested positive for drugs and I guess that's probably a low number. The Afghan army is just getting into shape after the Americans sort of took over the program from our European allies who haven't really picked up the ball there. But then the larger question is, though, you know, it sort of flashbacked to the 1980s when we armed another group of Afghans to fight the Soviets, which became the blow-back that became al Qaeda. And now we're saying oh, we're going to arm this group of Afghans and this time we're going to get it right. So I think there is a lot of skepticism about whether or not this is a good thing to do in the long run.

ROBERTS: We're seeing that the training at the Mujahadin was actually quite effective because they turned themselves into quite a fighting force, on the wrong side, unfortunately.

HASTINGS: And their fighting us now, some of the mujahadin we trained are the ones we are actually engaged in on a daily basis there.

ROBERTS: You talk also in this article about Pakistan's role in stabilizing Afghanistan. The Obama administration really is counting on a lot of help from Pakistan to get the job done. But you talked to an Afghan captain who told you, quote, Pakistan doesn't want Afghanistan to have peace. Pakistan wants to keep Afghanistan unstable and destroy it. Did you see any evidence to back that up?

HASTINGS: Sure. I was out on the border with Americans and Afghan border patrol. And literally you could see the Pakistani border outpost about a mile or so away. And in the morning, we were attacked by Taliban that had literally walked past the Pakistan border outpost to attack us with the soldiers I was with. So it's certainly a common view held among Afghan officials that Pakistan wants to destroy them. I think this -- the Obama administration's goal to sort of reshape or reform the Pakistani military intelligence service is also one that I would think would have a very low chance of success. If it is going to have success, we're talking billions of dollars and as advisers -- military advisers will tell you, 10, 25 years.

ROBERTS: Michael Hastings from GQ Magazine with a fresh on the ground perspective from Afghanistan, Michael thanks for coming in this morning. Good to see you.

HASTINGS: Thanks for having me.


CHETRY: 47 minutes past the hour.

Breaking news you heard it here first on AMERICAN MORNING. A hijacking in Jamaica is over. After a long tense situation that stretched into the overnight hours, the gunman now in police custody. We're following all of the breaking developments.

And Madonna falls off a horse again. She's blaming the paparazzi but a photographer is telling a different story. It's 47 minutes after the hour.


ROBERTS: Most popular videos right now on, number one she is still on top of the list, Susan Boyle, the voice that took the world by storm last week keeps dazzling on the web. A new interview shows the singer letting her hair down at home, opening up and getting used to her sudden global stardom.

Also, could this be the tomb of Mark Anthony and Cleopatra? Archaeologists near Alexandria, Egypt think it could be the two mummies buried together and apparently covered in gold could be the bodies of the star crossed lovers.

And the race of the eco cars, the new Honda Insight is hoping to give the reigning king the Toyota Prius a run for its money. Honda says it's the perfect recession car. Those are the most popular videos right now on

CHETRY: It's been a real bumpy ride lately for Madonna. Material girl recovering from major injuries this morning, as she fell off of a horse. Actually minor injuries. Minor injuries, thank goodness! She was majorly injured when she fell off a horse a few years ago. But any way, it's a big topic of debate today because her people are blaming the paparazzi saying they leapt out of the bushes, startled the horse and that's why the material girl or mom fell. Alina Cho is here with the story now.

ALINA CHO: Yeah, we remember when she was a material girl. She is a material mom now. But thankfully you're right, they were minor injuries, Kiran. But as you mentioned, a lot of he said/she said going on here and this of course is just the latest setback for Madonna. One paparazzi photographer is telling "News Day" that the only photographer present at the time of her fall was Steven Klein, the famed photographer who owns the farm where that accident happened. Now Madonna's rep of course disputes that account saying the paparazzi is at fault jumping from the bushes, startling the horse and that was what caused the fall.

Now it all happened on Saturday in Bridgehampton, New York. The 50-year-old singer suffered minor injuries and bruises. She is reportedly recovering at the home of her good friend Gwyneth Paltrow which is nearby. As she recovers she is also battling a court ruling in Malawi. You may remember that earlier this month, a judge there denied her request to adopt a 3-year-old girl. Now Madonna already has an adopted son David from Malawi and she says she will appeal this ruling.

Then, of course there was that high profile divorce with Guy Ritchie. That reportedly cost her as much as $92 million. Now there are reports, interestingly enough, and some people may remember this, that it was another fall from a horse that may have actually been the beginning of all of her marital problems. Back in 2005 during celebrations for her 47th birthday, Madonna was thrown from a horse in Britain. Now after that fall, she suffered much more serious injuries. She actually cracked three ribs, also broke her hand and her collar bone. At the time there were widespread reports that Guy Ritchie showed a quote, complete lack of love and sympathy following that accident. And that was the beginning of the end if you will. But having said that, Kiran, you know we all of course hope she recovers very fast. She's kicking off a big European tour in July and you and I are both Madonna fans.

CHETRY: Yes, of course. I was also amazed at how she, after her serious fall before she recovered

CHO: That's right.

CHETRY: She must work out like crazy.

CHO: She does.

CHETRY: -- biceps and so, obviously she's ok.

CHO: She's in good condition I think by all accounts and so hopefully this won't set her back too much.

CHETRY: All right, Alina thanks.

CHO: You bet.

CHETRY: Breaking news and you heard it here first on CNN, the hijacking in Jamaica is finally over. The gunman is in police custody. In just a moment we'll play for you our interview with Jamaican's information minister. He had learned just minutes before coming on our air that in fact police had entered that plane and were able to take that man into custody and get the crew out safely. Details in just a moment.


ROBERTS: Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING. Calling all nerds, Uncle Sam wants you. The government placing ads looking for computer geeks who can think like the bad guy. Its looking to hire and train about 250 computer experts to protect the nation's networks against criminal hijackers.

ExxonMobil bumping Wal-Mart from the top of the 2009 Fortune 500 list. Exxon took in more than $440 billion last year with help from the record summer spike in gas prices. Wal-Mart finished second, the retail chain had held the top spot for six of the past seven years.

CHETRY: Breaking news. You heard it right here on AMERICAN MORNING first. The hijacking of an airplane in Montego Bay, Jamaica, is over. The hijacker was taken into custody less than an hour ago. Here is what Jamaica's information minister Daryl Vaz told us.


CHETRY: There is a report right now out of Canada, that according to police, they say that the hijacker is now in custody. What can you tell us about that?

DARYL VAZ, JAMAICAN INFORMATION MINISTER (via telephone): That's correct. The ordeal finished about five or sis minutes ago. The police military was able to capture the gunman without anybody being harmed. The six crew members have actually come off the plane, disembarked the plane and the gunman is in police custody as we speak.

CHETRY: Wonderful news, by the way, that these tense hours ended peacefully, it appears, with no one harmed. Could you elaborate a little more? Did the police or the military, as you were saying, enter the plane? Did they go on the plane?

VAZ: That's correct. They did go on the plane and they were able to capture the gunman without -- without any injuries or harm to anyone.

CHETRY: And do we know -- at the time, there were earlier reports saying that perhaps some of the crew members had locked themselves in the cockpit. Do you know anything on the location, where the gunman was in the plane and where the six that were being held?

VAZ: No, actually, I don't. I am still going through a debrief now, but I can just say that the ordeal has handed in the best way possible and I really want to thank everybody who has been monitoring this situation.

CHETRY: Yes. I'm sure that you're feeling relief, as well as anybody who was on that plane or had family and loved ones on that plane. A quick question for you regarding how this was able to happen in the first place. Are there going to be some investigations into how he was able to get on that plane and perhaps changes in security in the future?

VAZ: Absolutely. That already has started, that investigation, and now that the ordeal is over, that will then now take priority in terms of finding out how and what happened and make sure that it doesn't happen again.

CHETRY: All right. What are the plans for these passengers? As we understand it, some of them were staying at hotels. Do you know when that flight is going to then take off again for its intended destination of Canada? VAZ: I would say once the debriefings are done, I would think that the passengers that are at the hotel, along with the crew, arrangements will be made at the earliest possible time for them to continue on their journey.


CHETRY: All right, so again, that was just moments after the news finally came out that this hijacker was indeed in police custody and that the crew is safe. Again, he was in his 20s had, quote, mental challenges, according to reports out of Jamaica. They say that he was demanding to be taken to Cuba. That's where that plane was headed before then making its way back to Canada. John?

ROBERTS: Great that it all came to an apparent peaceful end this morning Kiran.

That's going to wrap it up for us. Thanks so much for joining us on this AMERICAN MORNING. We will see you back here again bright and early tomorrow morning.

CHETRY: And right now here is CNN NEWSROOM with T.J. Holmes.