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CNN Sunday Morning

Mass Kidnapping at Baghdad Aid Office; Rescuers Search for Missing Mt. Hood Climbers

Aired December 17, 2006 - 09:00   ET


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After a few hours, a hot spot. Had the men been located? Helicopters investigate, but it's not what the team's been hoping for.


T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: The search for the missing climbers goes high-tech on this Sunday, December 17th. It is 9:00 a.m. Eastern at the CNN Center in Atlanta, 6:00 a.m. at Mt. Hood, Oregon, where that search continues.

Hello to you all. I'm T.J. Holmes.

BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, it's high-tech, low-tech, whatever it takes just to find the men. We're going to be talking a lot about that today.

Good morning, everybody. I'm Betty Nguyen.

From the air, on the ground, the search for those three missing climbers is now in a 24-hour operation, round the clock. An update is straight ahead.

But first, here's a check of some other headlines this morning.

"Now in the News," fighting erupted around the presidential compound of Mahmoud Abbas in Gaza City. Look at this video. Mr. Abbas was not there, but Hamas is upset over the president's call for early elections and says it will not take part.

Another mass kidnapping to tell you about out of Iraq, this time at the office of a humanitarian aid group called the Iraqi Red Crescent that was in downtown Baghdad. Iraqi officials gunmen dressed in Iraqi army uniforms snatched 25 to 30 employees and visitors, all men. We have a live report from Baghdad. That straight ahead.

HOLMES: Discovery's mission has been extended. An extra spacewalk was added for tomorrow. Astronauts plan to stow the rest of a 115-foot solar panel that has been difficult to put away.

Also, a one-two punch in Oregon. Explosion and fire at a sub station near Portland knocked out power to some 50,000 customers overnight. This comes on the heels of last week's storm that caused massive power outages. Nearly 500,000 customers remain without power in Washington and Oregon.

And what do you think's going to come out of this? Probably some fines, some suspensions, and, yes, some bruises. This was an ugly incident last night at Madison Square Garden. A brawl broke out near the end of the game, following a hard foul by one of the Knick players. Ten players all together ejected, including the NBA scoring leader, Carmelo Anthony.

We do want to turn to Iraq now. There's been another mass kidnapping, this time in downtown Baghdad, at the offices of the Iraqi Red Crescent, an aid group. It becomes as British Prime Minister Tony Blair makes an unannounced visit to the war-ravaged country.

We go to live now to CNN's Nic Robertson, who's in Baghdad for us.

Hello to you, Nic.


Well, gunmen wearing uniforms belonging to the commando unit of the Iraqi police stormed into the offices of the Iraqi Red Crescent, separated the men from the women, and grabbed about 25 to 30 men, bundled them out of the building, put them in eight vehicles that they had waiting and drove them off.

Now, according to the interior ministry, there were police patrols and police checkpoints in the area, but they were unable to stop the kidnappers. Just as that was happening, British Prime Minister Tony Blair was touching down in Baghdad. He had a meeting with the prime minister here, Nouri al Maliki, promised to support the buildup of Iraqi security forces, said that the British forces would be able to leave once the Iraqis were ready to take over.

And now British Prime Minister Tony Blair has flown to the south of Iraq and is meeting right now with British troops there, evaluating their readiness. A lot of pressure on the British prime minister to pull his troops out of Iraq at this time -- T.J.

HOLMES: All right. Nic Robertson for us in Baghdad today. Nic, thank you so much.

And we're going to have much more in the situation in Iraq, coming up at 11:00 Eastern, when Iraqi vice president Tariq al-Hashimi joins Wolf Blitzer on "LATE EDITION." Again, that's coming up at 11:00 Eastern, 8:00 Pacific, only on CNN.

NGUYEN: Disheartened but not defeated. Rescue crews head back up Mt. Hood this morning to search for three experienced climbers last heard from a week ago. Search crews reached their highest point yet, but still have not made it all the way to the 11,000-foot summit. Search and rescue flights continue, though, around the clock.

C-130 crews using thermal imaging sensors are scanning the mountain for any sign of life. And a report in this morning's "Oregonian" newspaper says a Blackhawk helicopter crew searching near the top of a mountain spotted a piece of hiking equipment.

HOLMES: The weather, though, hampering the overall effort. But the weather and the ticking clock not dimming the spirits of the hopeful family members still hoping their members of their family are going to come down off that mountain alive.

CNN's Chris Lawrence has more now for us from Mt. Hood.


CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An all out assault on Mt. Hood fails to find the missing climbers.


LAWRENCE: And the mothers of the three men make a plea to Mother Nature.

MARIA KIM, JERRY COOKE'S MOTHER: I want to -- I want the mountain to release our sons. And the mountain has no right to keep our sons.

LAWRENCE: The cost of the rescue already well into the thousands. Two Black Hawk helicopters, a Chinook, and a C-130, and nearly 60 rescue climbers trudging through wildly blowing snow and freezing cold.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mt. Hood Meadows reported avalanche, slide activity, 7,200-foot level.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah, we've heard two releases up here in the last 15 minutes.

LAWRENCE: The weather was the best it's been all week, but it still wasn't very good.

SGT. SEAN COLLINSON, CLACKAMAS CO. SHERIFF DEPT.: The snow is really soft and it's really hard to get through. They can't go as fast as they'd like to.

LAWRENCE: The day had started with hope and even optimism.

LOU ANN CAMERON, MOTHER OF KELLY JAMES: And I know my son's coming down today. It's my birthday and he wouldn't miss my birthday, I know.

LAWRENCE: One team climbed past 10,000 feet before turning back. It's too dangerous for the Black Hawks to fly at night. But the C-130 has infrared sensors.

MIKE BRAIBISH, OREGON NATIONAL GUARD: The best signature we can get actually will be in the very early morning when those things that don't produce a heat signature have cooled down.

LAWRENCE (on camera): The C-130 will fly almost continuously over the next 24 hours, hoping to find something that gives it a ping. Saturday's results may have been disappointing, but it hasn't hurt the commitment to continuing through the weekend.

Chris Lawrence, CNN, Hood River, Oregon.



NGUYEN: So, what are the chances of lost climbers surviving on Mt. Hood for more than a week? It's been a week that these climbers went missing. Well, despite what you may think, it is possible, and it has happened before.


RANDY KNAPP, MT. HOOD SURVIVOR: Our plan was to be on the mountain for four days, three or four days, and maybe summit a couple of different routes. And it ended up the weather closed in on us and we were on the mountain 17 days.


NGUYEN: Did you hear that? Seventeen days, 13 of them in an ice cave. We're going to hear much more from Randy about his experience, and why he believes the three mountain climbers are still alive, when we talk to him a little bit later this hour.

Also, two of this country's most experienced climbers are missing in southwest China. The "New York Times" reporting this morning on the search for Charlie Fowler and Christine Boskoff. The two were last heard from in a remote village near Tibet more than a month ago. Now, an American-led search team is on the way, but no one is 100 percent sure which mountain they were trying to climb.

In other news, Iraqi troops, well, they have to stand up before U.S. troops can stand down, but when will that happen?


ROBERTSON: How many humvees do you have?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, in the brigade?



ROBERTSON: Fifty-five humvees?


ROBERTSON: That's good. Do you need more?


ROBERTSON: How many more?


ROBERTSON: You need 500? You have 55 and you need 500?


NGUYEN: Yes, that's a lot more. As CNN's Nic Robertson found out, probably not any time soon.

HOLMES: Also, have you seen this mess? You bought a ticket to the basketball game, it turns into a boxing match. This was a basket brawl...

NGUYEN: And a two for one.

HOLMES: Yes. I guess it's a pretty good deal, if you think about it. No. You don't want to see this.

NGUYEN: No, that's not what you came to see.

HOLMES: We'll have -- going to talk a little more about this, and asking you, do you think fighting in professional sports now just part of the game? We'll get into that.

And then later...


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It can happen to anybody. I mean, I'm a good example of that. I had a home, nice home. I mean, it wasn't...


NGUYEN: But, from homeowner to homeless, faster than she could ever imagine. We are going to take you in-depth with a look at the frightening reality for many Americans who live paycheck to paycheck.

CNN SUNDAY MORNING continues in just a moment.


HOLMES: Madison Square Garden has been the site of many fights over the years, but those were boxing matches. Now we've got another memorable fight happening in Madison Square Garden. This was last night after a hard foul. NBA fans were treated to this.

NGUYEN: Man, oh, man.

HOLMES: This ensued. This was the Knicks versus the Nuggets. It was actually a blowout game. This was not necessary. Brawl gets going, and I mean, you've got to keep an eye on something here. Things are calming down. Right in the middle of your screen, though, you can make out in the dark uniform Carmelo Anthony, NBA scoring leader. He gets in that right there.

NGUYEN: Boom, the right hook.

HOLMES: And then we get going a little more with this thing.

NGUYEN: Oh, it's all over after that.

HOLMES: Players, coaches, fans, everybody now waiting to hear what kind of punishment the league's going to hand out. No doubt going to be fines and some suspensions out of this. But another ugly scene in sports.

NGUYEN: Just one of those that you're amazed every time. I mean, these are grown men, professional players! So that leads to our question, that basket brawl the subject of what we want to hear from you. Has fighting become an accepted part of sports? Has it really? Have we gotten to that point? E-mail us, We'll read some of your responses on the air in just a few minutes.

News across America now.

In Massachusetts, UMass-Amherst, officials say there will be disciplinary actions against students who rioted after Friday's game. Amherst lost the NCAA division 1AA game to Appalachian State, and the situation spiraled downhill from there. Eleven people, including 10 students, were arrested.

HOLMES: Also, pounding the pavement in protest, thousands marched along New York City's Fifth Avenue in protest of that fatal police shooting of a groom on his wedding day. Sean Bell was killed, two of his friends wounded, as they left his bachelor party last month. Police said they believed someone in Bell's car had a gun. However, no weapons were found.

NGUYEN: Ah, the sound of it. Usually these demolition things are over within a flash, right? Just like what you saw, no, not this one. It took three hours to bring this baby down, and we thought you'd appreciate us pressing fast-forward for us like we did. Pittsburgh officials had been trying for three years to rid the city of this abandoned high-rise. So waiting a few hours, three to be exact, to get it to come down, no biggie.

HOLMES: Why do we love that video so much?

NGUYEN: It's always so fun to watch.


NGUYEN: Because it doesn't happen every day.

HOLMES: OK. Well, there we go.

NGUYEN: It beats the guy last week who had the jackhammer trying to tear down that one smoke stack.

HOLMES: I kind of liked that guy, though.

NGUYEN: Yes, that could have been dangerous. This one, you got the dynamite, it's all good. HOLMES: It's all good. Well, all of -- I hope you viewers -- you all join me, all the crew here, everybody, in saying congratulations to Betty, because you -- you have been named "Time"'s person of the year.

NGUYEN: I can put that on my business card now?

HOLMES: You absolutely can.

NGUYEN: Well, so can you, T.J.

HOLMES: Yes, we all can. Yes, you have been named the "Time" person of the year. Grab a bagel, settle in. We're going to explain what you need to claim that prize of yours. But first, this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, they rob Peter to pay Paul until they can't afford Peter or Paul anymore, and they end up in our shelter.


NGUYEN: Robbing Peter to pay Paul? Sounds familiar, doesn't it? But if you don't think you could end up as one of the new faces of the homeless, you better think again, because it is a story that will change the way you think. And it's straight ahead, right here on CNN SUNDAY MORNING.


HOLMES: Middle class and on the brink -- of homelessness, that is. Think that's a big stretch? Think again. About three and a half million people are likely to be homeless in any given year. That is according to the National Coalition for the Homeless. Many of them look a lot like you and me, working class people living paycheck to paycheck without a big nest egg in the bank. The breaking point could be as simple as the water heater quitting or the car breaking down, maybe an unexpected rent increase. Or it could be an injury on the job.

As CNN's Deborah Feyerick reports, the frightening reality is we could go from homeowner to homeless faster than we ever could imagine.


DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On a cold December afternoon, Julia Smith and her 12-year-old son Michael walk past the three bedroom home that used to be theirs.

JULIA SMITH, LIVING PAYCHECK TO PAYCHECK: I miss it. I do. I miss the people. I miss the neighborhood. I still have friends that live here. And I do miss it. You know, I'd be a fool not to.

FEYERICK: Smith and her son live in Jeffersonville, Indiana on the banks of Ohio River across from Louisville, Kentucky. The locals call it the crossroads of America. SMITH: It's not the big city, but it's not country bumpkin either. It's just down-home folks.

FEYERICK: There are close to 29,000 people living in Jeffersonville. More than four percent of them are homeless. Even some with jobs.

SMITH: Mom does not have it well.

FEYERICK: Smith, a high school graduate lost everything three years ago following an on the job welding accident that left her badly burned. She ultimately lost her job and her home.

SMITH: Every time I dropped that hood and started welding I just would shake from head to toe and I would break out into sweats. I ended up having a nervous breakdown. And that's why I was -- basically that's why I'm no longer employed there.

FEYERICK: Smith's situation is not uncommon. According to Barb Anderson who has devoted her life to fighting homelessness.

BARB ANDERSON, DIR. HAVEN HOUSE SERVICE: In our community we have a lot of working poor people. Fully employed, $6.50 an hour is their average wage. So they rob Peter to pay Paul until they can't afford Peter or Paul anymore and they end up in our shelter.

We will have two or three families sometimes in one room.

FEYERICK: Anderson runs Haven House, a shelter, she says, that's way over capacity. A common problem in rural areas.

ANDERSON: We're the only shelter in a two hour radius between Louisville and Indianapolis that accepts people for longer than three or four days. So we get people from all over the southern part of the state.

FEYERICK: After finding a new job as a security guard at a local hospital, Smith was able to move into a Haven House apartment which costs $450 a month. She pays 30 percent of her salary and works hard doing odd jobs in order to lower rent and build for the future.

SMITH: It can happen to anybody. I am a good example of that. I had a home. A nice home. I mean, it wasn't a big mansion on the hill, but it was nice. A place I could come home and hang my hat and say hey, I'm home. And things happen, it just didn't work out for me.

Where did he move the capital?

FEYERICK: Smith says everything she does is for one reason. The love of her son.

SMITH: He is the most important thing in my life. He is the reason that I do anything. He's my everything. He's -- he's why I get up in the morning.

FEYERICK: Her wish for the holidays? SMITH: I will have a home. It may not be next year. It will be soon. I will have my own home. You can mark your calendar on that. I just don't know what date yet. But I will. I will have my own home again. Something that I can leave to my son.

FEYERICK: Deborah Feyerick, CNN New York.


HOLMES: And Julia Smith there just one of the new faces of homelessness.

NGUYEN: So, could it happen to you? Well, tonight on "CNN NEWSROOM," Americans struggling to get ahead in life, after being forced out of the middle class. It's called "A Paycheck Away," and it airs at 10:00 p.m. Eastern, 7:00 Pacific.

For more stories from our special coverage, all you have to do it go to, where you can find the story of Chris Gardner. Remember him? He went from sleeping on the streets to earning millions on Wall Street. And his story is now being brought to life in a major Hollywood movie.

Let's talk about this now, because a lot of people have this on their minds. High above Mt. Hood, the search for those missing climbers. Well, it's going high-tech now. We'll show you how heat sensoring technology is being used to try to locate those climbers.

Plus, this...


ROBERTSON (voice-over): I asked General Nasir the multi-billion dollar question, when will the army be ready?

(on camera): And how long before you can stand up on your own?


HOLMES: Yes, that's something a lot of people want to know. And our Nic Robertson is asking that tough question when CNN SUNDAY MORNING continues.


NGUYEN: "Now in the News," another mass kidnapping to tell you about out of Iraq, this time at the office of a humanitarian aid group, the Iraqi Red Crescent, which is located in downtown Baghdad. Officials say -- it's should not say that, not Sunni gunmen -- but gunmen dressed up in Iraqi uniforms snatched 25 to 30 employees, as well as visitors, all men. Now, we don't know if this is part of sectarian violence, although a lot of it has occurred as of lately, according to CNN's Nic Robertson.

Now to another story. British Prime Minister Tony Blair just arrived in the southern Iraqi town of Basra to visit his troops. Blair made an unannounced visit to the war-ravaged country, and earlier he met with Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki and expressed his support for Iraq's attempt end the country's rampant violence.

Let's take you to Gaza City now. Gunmen, today, fired on a convoy carrying the Palestinian foreign minister. No one was hurt, but the also fired on the Palestinian president's office. One person reported killed. Tensions remain high between the President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas after Abbas called for early election. As you know, Hamas says it will not take part in those elections.

HOLMES: Discovery's mission has been extended. An extra spacewalk was added for tomorrow. Astronauts plan to stow the remainder of a 115-foot solar panel that has been difficult so far to put away.

Just a few hours, New Yorkers get a chance to put their names on the first steel beams of Freedom Tower. Freedom Tour is being built on the World Trade Center site. Victims' families will be the first to sign those beams.

And we take a check of the weather now. Reynolds Wolf has his eyes on it for us.



NGUYEN: We want to welcome you back on this Sunday morning. Good morning, everybody. I'm Betty Nguyen.

HOLMES: And I'm T.J. Holmes. This morning, search crews are heading up Oregon's Mt. Hood looking for any sign of life from three missing climbers. The climbers haven't been heard from in a week. Searchers yesterday were getting closer to the top of the mountain but weather has limited their work. The summit's north face is where climber Kelly James is believed holed up. Those search and rescue crews are getting plenty of air support, with helicopters keeping an eye on the snow covered peaks and a C-13 cargo plane flying overhead. We get more now from Joe Harrington of CNN affiliate KOLO in the air over Mt. Hood.


JOE HARRINGTON, KOLO REPORTER (voice-over): The C-130 circles Mt. Hood, the crew copiously searching the seemingly endless wilderness. By eye, the pilot says it's like finding a needle in a haystack. That's why the team's relying on a high-tech heat sensor to find the men.

SEAN MORRISON, SENSOR OPERATOR: It would look like a collection of gray scale tones, and the climbers should be the hottest thing on the screen.

HARRINGTON: On the ground from the outside, the sensor and its accompanying camera can be seen on the nose of the plane. In the air, operators are transfixed on the images it produces, panning it around at more than 12,000 feet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you all could offset about a mile to the north. That might help us look over that ridge a little bit.

HARRINGTON: Fair weather at Mt. Hood, better than Reno, in fact, means there's a good possibility of finding the missing men, and the team has supplies for them.

AL RENWICK, PILOT: And there's a couple of radios in there, some food, some water, and some signaling devices.

HARRINGTON (on camera): Now, this little orange survival kit could literally be the difference between life and death for the three climbers. If they're located, it has a parachute and can be thrown down to them.

(voice-over): After a few hours, a hot spot. Had the men been located? Helicopters investigate, but it's not what the team's been hoping for.

ROSS WILSON, 304TH RESCUE SQUADRON: Everything that we saw that we sent the helicopters to, they hadn't seen anything, you know, overt that was there.

HARRINGTON: eyes go back to the screens. The search continues. But in the end, the men aren't found.

REX BURTON, NEVADA AIR NATL GUARD: I was following the story all week long, coordinating this effort and the weather was horrible, and I figured today, of all days, we would have been able to find them.

HARRINGTON: Reporting near Mt. Hood, I'm Joe Harrington.


NGUYEN: Well, the families of those missing climbers say their loved ones are experienced climbers who know how to survive. They can also take some solace in the story of Randy Knapp, stranded on Mt. Hood for 17 days himself back in 1976. Randy Knapp joins us by phone from Medford, Oregon.

And Randy, hoping to get some good information from you since you have lived this. Based on your experience, do you believe that these climbers are still alive?

RANDY KNAPP, MT. HOOD SURVIVOR: Yes, I still do. On the tenth day in the snow up there on Mt. Hood, we experienced somewhat of a clearing, and I'm sure that on that day everybody hoped that we would find our way out. But the weather was not clear where we were. We could see higher up into the sky where there were blue spots, and we knew that it was clearer high up on the mountain, but we knew that we were secure where we were, and the weather wasn't good for us. And so we hoped during that day that we would get some clearing and be able to find our way down, but it didn't clear for us and so we dug back in for another week. I image... NGUYEN: So, that's what you do, right? You just dig back in and you wait it out. Tell us exactly what happened to you for folks who may not be familiar with your story.

KNAPP: We started out, you know, just three energetic hikers on a winter break. We wanted to spend about three, maybe four days on Mt. Hood, maybe try a couple of routes to the summit, just for fun. And on our third day, the weather turned on us. This was kind of back before we had dependable weather forecasts. When the weather turned, Visibility went to zero and we could see nothing at all.

NGUYEN: You actually spent 13 days in a snow cave. And I want you to walk us through what that's like, because we understand that Kelly James, one of the missing climbers, was holed up in a snow cave as of last Sunday, according to the phone call that he made to his family. So what is life like in that cave as you just have to wait day after day? What do you do? How do you survive?

KNAPP: When we were in our snow cave, the majority of the time we spent -- we spent time reading the bible to each other. It was -- we found a lot of courage in reading in the Psalms, how David would get himself into a predicament and he would pray out to god and god would pull him out somehow. And we thought we weren't a lot different from David, and we trusted that same god to pull us out.

NGUYEN: Well, you were lucky because you had others with you. If Kelly James is indeed alone, as he says he is, according to that phone call to family, he said the other guys had moved on, what do you think that that says about his condition? Does it say that he could perhaps be injured?

KNAPP: I don't know the situation. I just know sketchy details. If he is injured and if he is alone, you know, god is still there. God can still give him courage. I have great hopes that he's going to be found.

NGUYEN: But if you're up there with three people, total, and you let two others head down the mountain or at least move on, there has to be a reason for that, correct?

KNAPP: Yeah. I believe that his other partners knew the condition, and I think they secured him safely in a snow cave and their intention was to climb down and get some help. Evidently, they -- you know, taking him down was more than they could handle. I think they did the brave thing, the courageous thing, to hike down and get some help. But that even gives me more confidence that they knew the situation and if he is hurt, they securely dug him in to where he's safe.

NGUYEN: And we are all praying that all three of them are safe. But let me ask you this -- you were up there for 17 days. These guys have been up there for a week now. What sustains you? I know you talked about your faith. Is it family as well, just thinking about the fact that they are waiting for you to come off that mountain alive? KNAPP: Yeah. Family was an important thing. The funny thing is, we were more worried about them worrying about us. We knew that we were OK. We were safe, but we were worried that they didn't know and that they might be upset.

NGUYEN: And you believe that these men are still alive and there is a chance that they're going to be found safe sand sound?

KNAPP: I -- that is the only way that I can approach it. I am confident -- they're more experienced than we were. We were just young kids. I believe these guys were prepared for the elements.

NGUYEN: Well, I hope you are right, Randy. We appreciate you spending a little time with us and sharing your story.

KNAPP: No problem.

HOLMES: He certainly gives you hope. He did it. He survived it.

NGUYEN: Seventeen days. These guys have been up there for a week now. Chances are the fact they're so experienced, that it -- yes, it can be done.

HOLMES: Can be done. All right, well, now we're going to talk about Iraq. Ready for not, Iraqi forces training to take over from U.S. troops. But when is that going to happen? Our Nic Robertson gets a reality check in Iraq, that story in three minutes.

NGUYEN: Plus, the way forward, Iraq's vice president shares his thoughts with Wolf Blitzer, that's on LATE EDITION today at 11:00 a.m.


HOLMES: A changing of the guard in Iraq, a top U.S. military official says multinational forces will turn over control of security to Iraqi forces in Najaf province by next Thursday. And all Iraqi security forces will be under the Iraqi prime minister's control by next summer. Meanwhile, CNN's Nic Robertson got a reality check on what it will take for the Iraqi army to be ready.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He won't show his face, but the Iraqi army general, with his back to the camera, General Nasir is the epitome of success, according to the U.S. military. His brigade almost stands alone. In the west of Baghdad, he controls several square miles with a little over 2,000 Iraqi soldiers and no U.S. forces except 44 military trainers. But as I'm finding out, he's far from self-sufficient.

GENERAL NASIR, IRAQI ARMY (through translator): Anything that we need to make a change on it, to make American...

ROBERTSON: He needs American helicopter gunships for big shootouts and U.S. Army medics to fly in and treat his casualties. (on camera): Even at a relatively simple checkpoint like this, the Iraqi army still needs U.S. support to build the guard towers here, they need heavy lifting equipment, they don't have that.

(voice-over): Among General Nasir's military trainers, or MIT team, there is no doubt the Iraqi army needs more, not less, including more MIT Teams.

COL KENNETH STONE, MILITARY ADVISER: And after a while you're a walking zombie, so when you have more people, you can be with the Iraqis 24 hours a day and they run 24-hour ops, so that's just more training we can provide them.

ROBERTSON: As the General Nasir takes me on a tour of his base, he makes it clear, he's counting on more U.S. support.

(on camera): These are your Humvees here?

NASIR: Yes. This Iraqi Humvee. This American Humvee.

ROBERTSON: How many Humvees do you have?

NASIR: Now in the brigade?


NASIR: Um, 55.

ROBERTSON: Fifty-five Humvees. That's good. Do you need more?


ROBERTSON: How many more?

NASIR: Five hundred.

ROBERTSON: You need 500 and you have 55 and you need 500.


ROBERTSON (voice-over): He jokes about needing 500 Humvees. Truth is, it's not far short of that number. Without U.S. backing, Nasir says he'll be fighting a losing battle.

(on camera): What is it going to take to win the battle against your enemy?

NASIR (through translator): New equipment, training and intel services. That's all I need.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): It's a view shared by U.S. military advisers.

COL JIM GRIESE, MILITARY ADVISER: Well clearly, that's our ticket out of here. That is our -- in keeping with our national strategy. ROBERTSON: I asked the General Nasir, the multibillion dollar question. When will the army be ready?

(on camera): And how long before you can stand up on your own?

NASIR: I need the equipment and I need the training on the equipment. Then I can tell you we don't need you anymore.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Iraq's army is going to be a very expensive U.S. ticket back home.

Nic Robertson, CNN, Baghdad.


NGUYEN: As we go global, let's check some of the international headlines for you. Take a look at this, these pictures, wildfires in southern Australia. Hard to believe there's a break in the weather, there. Firefighters report cooler temperatures are bringing them some relief. The fires have been burning for more than a week now. Two weeks add that.

And a tragic ending to a wedding reception in Pakistan. The bride was among 27 women and children killed when the party tent caught fire, setting off a stampede.

Check this out, though. Have you ever heard of a killer elephant? Well, hunters in northeast India killed a rogue elephant -- yes, they killed the elephant -- blamed, though, for killing 14 people. Villagers had named the fearsome pachyderm, of all names they chose, Osama bin laden.

HOLMES: Oh, that's not even funny.

NGUYEN: Interesting, though.

HOLMES: A killer elephant, no you don't hear about that, that often.

Well, we going to take a look at D.C.'s most famous landmarks in a way you've probably never seen them before.


PAUL BUSSE, LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT: People look at the building sometimes and then they look real close and go like, that's plant material? It really is kind of a comment on the wonderful world of plants.


HOLMES: Yes, plants. That story about plants, straight ahead.

NGUYEN: Obviously T.J.'s very excited about that.

HOLMES: Yes, I am. NGUYEN: And later, better make some space in your trophy case because you, my friend, have just picked up another award. Yes, I'm talking to you, the viewer. Actually, you, me, T.J., all of us, we're all in there, we're all "Time" magazine's Person of the Year. Are you stumped? Well, don't be. You earned it and we're going to explain, straight ahead right here on CNN SUNDAY MORNING.


NGUYEN: Yes, believe it or not, those buildings likely have more than just a few chestnuts on them -- how about some acorns, some sticks, leaves, maybe even a gourd or two. If it grows it was game to be used in the Washington, D.C. Botanical Gardens. And CNN went to take a closer look at the original display that highlights the beauty and utility of our planet.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Wow, look at all the Alder cones, wow.

BUSSE: And all the buildings from the Washington Mall are totally made out of plant material. So what you're looking at is actually -- could be an acorn, it could be a stick, a seed pod. We're expressing everything through the whole world of plants. That's actually the biggest building I think we've ever done. It's 8-feet wide and almost 8-feet tall.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my goodness, they even have the little...

BUSSE: They almost done like a cornhusk doll. But then she has an acorn for a face and has a Honey Locust thorn for sword. You know, there's lots of oak trees and lots of different shapes of acorns. He's wearing you know, eucalyptus leaves for -- that's what makes his pants and -- I know of Jefferson, the little purfles, that's a lyken (ph) and he's actually wearing a robe of sycamore bark that, I know, came from a tree in the front yard.

That gourd was, gosh, I don't know, more than a foot across. So, the building actually got proportioned to the gourd. It almost looks so real that the stem sort of says, oh, this is actually a piece of the plant.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fall leaves, I guess.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah, that's what it looks like. Maybe they were green, but now they're brown.

BUSSE: People look at the buildings sometimes and then look real close and go like, "that's plant material?: It really is kind of a comment on the wonderful world of plants.


HOLMES: All right, the anticipation has been killing us all year. We want to know who the "Time" Person of the Year is. Have to say I'm a little disappointed here.

NICOLE LAPIN, CNN.COM: What, you're disappointed that it's yourself?

HOLMES: No, it's not me, really.

LAPIN: It's you and it's Betty and everybody.

HOLMES: I don't want to share it with everybody.

NGUYEN: We got to share our business cards now.

LAPIN: I know.

HOLMES: I don't want to share it.

LAPIN: I know, Anchor/Person of the Year.

Well, congratulations, T.J. even if you don't think you won, you, T.J., and you, the blogging and YouTubing generation won "Time" magazine's Person of the Year. The "Time" magazine's editors saw the year 2006 as a story of collaboration and community. The idea that people, Internet users, the broad-ranging you, wrestled influence from the few powerful and empowered yourself and others online by creating a MySpace account, by adding to Wikipedia, by writing that review on and that's what made you win. So, congratulations.

HOLMES: Right. Thank you.

LAPIN: And CNN is really on the forefront of this kind of user generated content, specifically, right there. That's where you can contribute to our news team by reading blogs, adding your commentary and sending in your content to our popular i-Report. And we've literally received thousands of pictures, thousands of video and audio clips like this one.

Check this out. This is from this week the weekend's nasty weather in the Pacific Northwest. And it's sent by you. We basically have this content at CNN because of you. So keep up the good work and keep sending us your i-Reports.

And it's very easy to do it. You look at it and say, "That's pretty hard." But no. All you need is a cell phone, all you need is a digital camera and then go online and send it in to Did you take notes?

He's nodding, like, whoa, that was a lot.

NGUYEN: We're still trying to get over the fact that we won. I don't have a speech prepared or anything.

LAPIN: You're glowing.

NGUYEN: But I would like to thank the academy, of course. And you.

HOLMES: When can I expect my prize in the mail?

LAPIN: Well, when you look at the cover, it's actually real interesting. You can pick it up and there's a mirror. That's a prize.

NGUYEN: Is there a cash prize involved?

LAPIN: No. No cash prize. You have to pay for it, actually.

NGUYEN: All right. All right. Some prize that is. Thank you. Thank you, Nicole.

LAPIN: Sure.

NGUYEN: Now time to check in with Howard Kurtz in Washington to see what's ahead on CNN's RELIABLE SOURCES.

Hey there, Howard.

HOWARD KURTZ, RELIABLE SOURCES: Good morning, Betty. Coming up, a special interview with Dan Rather. The former anchor will weigh in on the coverage of Iraq, his new cable show, Katie Couric's tenure at CBS, and some sharp criticism by Bill O'Reilly. Plus, will the media ever let go of the Princess Di saga? And why are so many journalists afflicted with Obama fever? That and a belated apology from Tony Snow, all ahead, on RELIABLE SOURCES.

NGUYEN: All right, we'll check it out coming up at the top of the hour at 10:00 Eastern, followed by Wolf Blitzer and LATE EDITION at 11:00, and THIS WEEK AT WAR, that is at 1:00 Easter, so you want to stay tuned. Don't go anywhere as we go in depth into the stories of the day.

HOLMES: All right, and we've been talking about this all morning long, the NBA brawl that is today's viewer e-mail question. Has fighting become an accepted part of sports? There it is again.

NGUYEN: Yeah, I was going to say, roll that footage.

HOLMES: If you haven't seen it. Roll that beautiful bean footage.

NGUYEN: There he goes down!

HOLMES: Yeah. Yeah, and it gets uglier. They actually look like they were about to get it under control. Guys were calming down a bit, and then a nasty punch, a sucker punch, you might even call it, was thrown in the middle.

NGUYEN: Well, they're all going to all be suckers when they get that fine. But in the meantime, here's what you have to say, Ron from Ashville, North Carolina says, "Sports involves the investment of emotion and raw competition. Add those elements together and adrenaline and the possibility for tempers to flare and punches to be thrown will always exist. Everyone has their breaking point, even the most respected and seasoned athletes..." HOLMES: All right, our next one here comes from Ron in North Carolina; it says that "Fighting in sports, no matter the level, has become as accepted as buying popcorn or yelling at a referee. The brawl shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone. Don't give me this 'emotions run high' junk, please. It's simply a case of over-charged egos run amuck."

NGUYEN: Oh, that was the response to the previous one, which was by Eddie, mind you. And the last one from John, he says, "Pack up all the spoiled brats, ship them off to Iraq where they can fight along side some real men..."

Apparently folks aren't too happy about the brawl. And again, the players won't be so happy when they get that fine. Better think twice next time. All right, RELIABLE SOURCES is next followed by LATE EDITION and THIS WEEK AT WAR, so don't go anywhere.

HOLMES: And of course, Fredricka Whitfield will be with you all morning with live news updates. We thank you so much for hanging out with me and Betty this morning.

HOLMES: Yeah, thanks for being "Time" person of the year, by the way. Congratulations. Have a great day.