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CNN Sunday Morning

U.S. Troops Attacked in Karbala

Aired January 28, 2007 - 09:00   ET


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three times the gunmen stop at Iraqi checkpoints. Three times they apparently pass themselves off as Americans and are waved through. When they reach the compound where U.S. troops are working, they unleash gunfire and explosives.


T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR, CNN SUNDAY MORNING: The enemy posing as friends. We'll take you inside the brazen attack on U.S. troops working in Karbala.

It is Sunday, January 28th. Good morning to you from the CNN Center in Atlanta, I'm T.J. Holmes.

BETTY NGUYEN, CNN CO-ANCHOR, CNN SUNDAY MORNING: Good morning, everybody, I'm Betty Nguyen. We want to thank you for starting your day with us. That story is straight ahead.

But first, here's a check of the other top stories today.

No safe haven from the violence in Iraq. Two mortars slammed into a girls' school in Baghdad this morning. Residents say at least one student was killed. Other reports say as many as five are dead.

The navy has abandoned its search for three crewmembers missing from a helicopter crash. The Seahawk helicopter went down Friday evening near San Clemente Island about 50 miles off the southern California coast. One sailor was found alive but later died.

House speaker Nancy Pelosi is getting a firsthand look at the war zone in Afghanistan today. Pelosi and her delegation met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. She also had breakfast with U.S. troops. This on the heels of her visit last week to Iraq.

HOLMES: It looks like there may be another setback in the recovery of Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro. The racehorse is again nursing the right hind leg he broke last year. Just yesterday, Barbaro had a custom-made cast removed and underwent a procedure on that leg.

We do want to turn now to weather and Reynolds Wolf keeping an eye on it all for us. Good morning to you, Reynolds.

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Good morning to you. We got this slow moving storm system that is just crawling it's way towards the east right now. Seeing some scattered showers on the Carolina coast from Washington, D.C., combination of light rainfall, maybe some snowfall there later on in the day. Same can be said for New York. Coming up we're going to tell you how long this snow is going to last and give you a sneak peek at what you can expect for the start of the workweek, only moments away.

NGUYEN: Bloodshed in Baghdad. A new wave of violence is sweeping across the Iraqi capital today. Mortars, bombs hit a school and a market taking a deadly toll. We get details on this now from CNN's Arwa Damon.

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: At least 19 Iraqis were killed in violence in the capital alone. One of the more disturbing attacks, when two mortar rounds impacted on a girls high school in a western Baghdad neighborhood, it is an area that is controlled by the Iraqi army. They're not releasing casualty figures, however, residents in the area did tell the Iraqi police that at least one student was killed in that attack. Dozens more were wounded.

According to a Sunni politician who lives in that neighborhood, in fact mortars have been impacting there since Friday, believed to have been fired from a nearby Shia neighborhood. According to this official, one of Friday's targets was a mosque that is located right in front of that high school.

Separately, in Sadr City, at least eight Iraqis killed, another 35 wounded when a bomb planted next to a vehicle exploded in a busy marketplace. Very close to the southern city of Najaf, clashes erupted between gunmen and Iraqi security forces, an official with the provincial governor's office saying that the clashes lasted for six hours. According to an official, at least five gunmen were killed, three Iraqi police officers wounded and another ten gunmen detained. All of this comes being as the Iraqi government, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki is trying to launch his new Baghdad security plan.

Arwa Damon, CNN, Baghdad.

NGUYEN: We are just getting word, within the past hour, of another U.S. troop death in Iraq. The military reporting today that a marine injured in fighting in Anbar Province has died. Also, military officials say seven members have been killed by roadside bombs in Baghdad and Diyala Province since Thursday, 3,074 U.S. troops have died since the start of the war.

HOLMES: A milestone in the war on terror, the first suspect facing U.S. charges of aiding the insurgency in Iraq. The 33-year-old man was born in Iraq but naturalized as a Dutch citizen. He's accused of conspiring to kill U.S. citizens in Iraq. He must be tried in a federal court not by a military commission. If convicted, he'll serve his sentence in the Netherlands and he will not face the death penalty.

NGUYEN: Well a brazen attack by insurgents passing themselves off as American soldiers. That attack in Karbala left five Americans dead. The story as first told was shocking enough, but CNN's Tom Foreman reports there is so much more to know. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): New details suggest the attack in Karbala was precise, well rehearsed and very different from the assault the Pentagon first described, 5:00 in the afternoon, a dozen American troops are reviewing security plans for an upcoming Shiite pilgrimage to two important shrines. And a dozen gunmen wearing uniforms like the Americans are heading straight toward them. They travel in a convoy of at least five American-made SUVs. Such as those used by high-level military brass.

Three times the gunmen stop at Iraqi checkpoints. Three times they apparently pass themselves off as Americans and are waved through. When they reach the compound where U.S. troops are working, they unleash gunfire and explosives. Five U.S. soldiers were killed. The governor of the town first reports. But the defense department now says only one American soldier is killed on the spot. Four others are abducted.

The convoy speeds away. Outside town, the kidnappers hit another checkpoint. Iraqi police let them through again but, suspicious, start following them. The convoy heads east, then north, and finally the insurgents abandon their vehicles. The Pentagon said two Americans soldiers are found handcuffed together, dead in the back of one SUV, each shot through the head. A third is dead on the ground nearby and a fourth found alive dies on the way to a hospital. It is a much more complex story than the first version from the military.

ROBERT GATES, DEFENSE SECRETARY: I've just been made aware of the discrepancy, and I've asked for the specifics about it.

FOREMAN: This tactic of enemies posing as friends is not new. Two years ago, a suicide bomber dressed as an Iraqi soldier struck a mess tent. In Saudi Arabia, when terrorists hit a U.S. compound, they even made a training tape showing how they painted an SUV to look like a police car. A military analyst says this attack was exceedingly well planned. Pat Lang is retired from military intelligence.

COL. PAT LANG, U.S. ARMY (RET): Whoever was involved in this is a professional who really knew how to do this.

FOREMAN: But investigators still want to know if the kidnappers had help from someone the Americans trusted, someone on the inside.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.


NGUYEN: Well there is much more on the fight for Iraq, both on the front lines and on Capitol Hill. That's coming up at 11:00 Eastern on "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer." Then at 1:00 on "This Week at War," CNN correspondents discuss the U.S. troops surge plan for Iraq and a change of command at the top.

CINDY SHEEHAN, SON DIED IN IRAQ: The voices are spreading across the country. It's not just me anymore. It's so many other people saying it. I don't feel so lonely anymore. I feel in good company.

HOLMES: Anti-war protestor Cindy Sheehan joined by thousands of others in a march in Los Angeles. Sheehan spoke to the crowd during a demonstration; it was one of several demonstrations around the country yesterday calling for an end to the war in Iraq.

More than 1,000 people as well in San Francisco on the streets there to protest the war. Many demonstrators say they were eager to see Democrats challenging the presidents Iraq policy. The crowd also estimated more than a 1,000 held a similar protest in Seattle. Police say one woman was arrested on a misdemeanor charge for hitting an officer on the arm. The protest was otherwise peaceful.

NGUYEN: Well a huge anti-war demonstration in Washington attracted ordinary citizens, celebrities, even politicians, but only one presidential hopeful attended, Ohio Congressmen Dennis Kucinich. CNN's Gary Nurenberg has more on this protest.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Here's the way that George explains our mission in Iraq; they tried to kill my daddy so I had to hit them back.

GARY NURENBERG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The singers call themselves The Raging Grannies, they were among tens of thousands of demonstrators who rallied on the National Mall demanding an end to the war and protesting President Bush's plan to send additional American troops to Iraq.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, hey Uncle Sam we remember Vietnam.

NURENBERG: The comparison to peace rallies to end another war nearly 40 years ago was a constant theme among demonstrators who want to end the war in Iraq.

REP. JOHN CONYERS, (D) MICHIGAN: We stopped the war in Vietnam, didn't we?

NURENBERG: One notable opponent of the Vietnam War said her appearance today was the first at an anti-war rally in 34 years.

JANE FONDA, ACTRESS: I'm so sad that we still have to do this. That we did not learn the lessons from the Vietnam War.

NURENBERG: Fonda's presence brought a couple of dozen counter demonstrators to an event at the Navy Memorial. Supporters of the president's policy sees the demonstration as counterproductive.

CLIFFORD MAY, FON. FOR DEFENSE OF DEMOCRACIES: There is something they don't understand, hunching men at his worst. Never thought he was going to send suicide bombers to America to kill American children. The people were fighting in Iraq they intend to do that. NURENBERG: The march on the Capitol is just the first stop for many of the demonstrator who plan to stay in town to lobby congressional representatives Monday before what could be the first test vote on an anti-war resolution. The White House issued a statement saying of Mr. Bush he understands that Americans want to see a conclusion to the war in Iraq and the new strategy is designed to do just that.

Gary Nurenberg, CNN, Washington.


NGUYEN: That brings us to our e-mail question today, here it is. We got such a huge response yesterday that we're asking it again. We want to know, does criticism of the war hurt U.S. troops on the battlefield?

HOLMES: By all means, e-mail us at We will read some of your responses on the air a little later in this newscast. So by all means keep them coming.

NGUYEN: Well the manhunt is over, and the bus? Well, we're going to see it. It's a mess. You want to stay tuned for the bizarre conclusion of what was a very strange story from the beginning.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right over here. You see the corner of a building, sunlight. They run between that and that blue door. There they go.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The insurgents are so close the Americans can see them without binoculars.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's a moneymaker right there.


HOLMES: The battle for Haifa Street, our Arwa Damon takes you inside the urban warfare.

NGUYEN: And the cyberspace campaign trail. We are looking at that today,'s Nicole Lapin has fired up the computer and she is going to take us inside this political Web world. That is straight ahead on CNN SUNDAY MORNING.


CHRISTOPHER GAY: It's all a mistake. I was paid to drive it up here for someone.

HOLMES: That's the defense right now. Some might call it an excuse from the man accused of stealing Crystal Gayle's tour bus. His name is Christopher Gay. He now faces grand theft auto charges after being arrested in Daytona Beach, Florida. Police say they approached the bus and saw a prostitute come out. Gay was then arrested. Crystal Gayle's, bus was taken from a garage in Nashville. She says she's not upset about it and says it's kind of a sad story. Christopher Gay escaped from a prison transport last week and was supposedly trying to get to his dying mother's house in Tennessee.

NGUYEN: Well a Catholic priest on the run. Los Vegas police are calling Rev. George Chaanine a person of interest in the sexual assault of a church employee. They say someone heard a woman call for help inside the church near the Vegas strip. They say the woman told them the Catholic priest assaulted her and then hit her in the head.

HOLMES: Well the prince and the duchess are still in the U.S. Britain's Prince Charles and his wife Camille are due to attend church services this morning in Philadelphia and then they will head to New York so the prince can collect an environmental award. The royal couple spent the whirlwind day in Philadelphia yesterday.

NGUYEN: Think about this for a moment. Do you remember where you were 21 years ago today? That's when the space shuttle Challenger exploded just seconds after takeoff. All seven people aboard were killed. Now the cause of that explosion was blamed on a faulty design compounded by freezing temperatures.

HOLMES: We all do here. We were talking about it earlier. We can all remember where we were 21 years ago watching that in elementary school.

WOLF: Absolutely. That was a frigid day. Very, very cold day in parts of the southeast. Certainly just the opposite for today. Certainly not warm but not as cold as it was back then. Right now we're dealing with the combination of kind of mild conditions on parts of the Carolinas. The result has been scattered showers, even a few imbedded thunderstorms. Nothing severe at this hour as we make our way up the eastern seaboard. Some of this precipitation is changing over to ice, nothing heavy but still we can expect a little bit of glaze in a few spots. Be careful if you're on the Jersey Turnpike.

Meanwhile through farther back from New York and into parts of Buffalo and Rochester, we are seeing that lake-effect action begin to pick up. Also from Pittsburgh some scattered snow shower there. Detroit, you can see 1 to 3 inches of snowfall. We have an area of low pressure that is just over Lake Erie with the wind spinning around in clock wise fashion, well they have a decent chance of snow not just for today but for tomorrow as well with temperatures that will below the freezing point in Detroit as well as Chicago, 45 for Dallas, 54 in Houston, 52 in New Orleans.

Now for tomorrow as you kick off the workweek, you can still expect those scattered snow showers into the Great Lakes as well as the northern Plains, maybe some rainfall will continue along the Carolinas. Then early in the day for the rest of day, partly cloudy skies.

That's your forecast lets send it right back to you at the news desk.

NGUYEN: Thank you Reynolds. HOLMES: Thanks Reynolds.

Well coming up, you've got to check this story out. These are your options you fight back or you die.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Got to fend off the claws or keep him from clawing you. So he just wants to pin me down and start eating. He doesn't care.

HOLMES: Straight ahead we're going to hear from that guy, the man who faced down a mountain lion and lived to tell the tale.

NGUYEN: You have to hear that story.

Also this from a slacker dude to dad. What does that really mean? Sippy cups instead of skateboards? Well we're going to find out when we talk to the alternadad later this hour.


NGUYEN: This just in from Iraq video in to CNN of battling insurgents. This is in the northeast holy city of Najaf there in Iraq where we have learned from government officials that government forces have attacked insurgents in the area after hearing of plans to assassinate Shiite clerics and pilgrims during the festival, a holy Muslim holiday. That festival reaches its climax on Tuesday. This is something ongoing. Again the new video just in to CNN. Do want to let you know as well there are unconfirmed reports at this hour from the Associated Press and some other news sources that a U.S. helicopter went down during this fighting northeast of the Shiite holy city of Najaf.

Again CNN is working its sources and trying to determine if that is the case. But unconfirmed reports of a U.S. helicopter going down during a battle with insurgents near the holy city of Najaf today. As we get more information, we'll bring that to you right here on CNN.


JIM HAMM, SURVIVED MOUNTAIN LION ATTACK: I told her to got my pen from my pocket and jam it in his eye. So she jammed it in his eye and it crumbled so it wouldn't work. So she got the club and started to club it again. She did that, and it backed off and laid its ears back. She was yelling and screaming at it. And it just turned around and went off into the ferns and left.


HOLMES: He's talking about his experience after he was mauled by a mountain lion. Still alive, thanks to quick thinking by his wife. Game wardens in the northern California Park where the attack happened now say they have killed two mountain lions and one of them had human flesh in its claws. What a heck of a survival story for that man and his wife to tell.

NGUYEN: She is the reason he is alive today. Very lucky to survive, partly because she listened to warnings and they learned how to fight off a mountain lion. How do you exactly do that? Well, lion attacks may be very rare but they are still pretty scary. CNN's Dan Simon takes a closer look.


DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The mountain lion, native to North America, can weigh up to 150 pound, majestic and ferocious. Few people know what it's like to be attacked by one. One of the few, Ann Yellow. In 2004 she and a friend were biking in California's Santa Monica Mountains when a 110-pound mountain lion leapt from the brush and knocked her off her bike and tore into her face.

ANN YELLOW: He moved from the back of my neck to the side just over my ear. When he bit down there, he punctured the ear canal and then a fang broke my nose and another fang went into my upper lip.

SIMON: Her friend Debbie Nichols challenged the big cat and saved Ann's life.

DEBBIE NICHOLS: He was starting to pull her down a hillside. I thought, she's going to be out of my sight. It was just a tug of war from that point.

SIMON: The mountain lion eventually let go but turned out it had killed another biker, his body found in a deep ravine. Mountain lion attacks are extremely rare. In fact far more people die from dog attacks each year than from mountain lions. But because they're such powerful wild animals, their encounters with humans draw global attention.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hope you got a shotgun.

SIMON: Mountain lions sometimes turn up in backyards or garages. This cat in suburban northern California was tranquilized and returned to the wild. This one near Los Angeles got stuck in a backyard fence and was shot and killed.

JOAN EMBERY, CONSERVATIONIST: We're sharing resources with wildlife and with nature, and it's going to be a balancing act.

SIMON: Conservationist Joan Embery says mountain lions occasionally wander into human terrain looking for food.

EMBERY: Most of the incidents of cats moving into urban environments tend to be younger cats as they're forced out of ranges that are defended by mature males.

SIMON: Mountain lions can cover 40 feet in a single leap, capturing prey four times their size. California law requires killing wild animals that have attacked a human. That's what happened in Ann's case. She as undergone several surgeries to reconstruct her nose, eye, and cheek, and she's come a long way.

YELLOW: The voice box, esophagus, everything was OK. This animal was totally capable of taking me out, and I was scared to tell the tale.

SIMON: And get back on her bike. Even returning to the spot where she was attack.

Dan Simon, CNN, San Francisco.


NGUYEN: That is just amazing. She looks fantastic.

HOLMES: She does.

NGUYEN: Everything she's been through.

HOLMES: Lucky folks. >

NGUYEN: Speaking of battles --

HOLMES: We have one to tell you about Iraq. This one, a battle for Haifa Street. This is that busy Baghdad Street that's pretty much become a ghost town as fear takes up residence.

NGUYEN: In another story kissing babies and glad-handing? That is so 20th century, don't you think, Nicole?

NICOLE: Oh, yes. The 21st century is all about getting as many Myspace friends as possible.

NGUYEN: The Internet.

NICOLE: We're finding a lot of great stuff online. We'll show you some of that to you when CNN SUNDAY MORNING continues.


HOLMES: This just into CNN new video here now of battle between Iraqi government forces and insurgents in the Shiite holy city of Najaf. The Iraq forces were backed by U.S. helicopters and they provincial governor said a U.S. helicopter went down during the fighting, but military officials have not confirmed that report. We are working to bring you more details there.

Also today, two mortars slammed into a girls' school in Baghdad this morning. Residents say at least one student was killed. Other reports say as many as five are dead.

Also, we're just getting word within the past hour of another U.S. service member death in Iraq. The military reporting today that a Marine injured in fighting in Anbar province has died. Roadside bombs also taking a deadly toll on U.S. force. The military officials say seven service members have been killed in Baghdad and Diyala Province since Thursday.

NGUYEN: Went to show you this new video just in from Afghanistan where House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is getting a firsthand look at the war zone. Pelosi her delegation met with Afghan president Hamid Karzai. Plus, she had breakfast with U.S. troops. Now, this is on the heels of her visit, last week, to Iraq.

Know what that is, gunfire echoing through the streets of Gaza City today. Rival Hamas and Fattah factions have been battling each other for several days now. About two dozen people have been killed since Friday.

You know, once it was one of Baghdad's most fashionable thoroughfares. Today, it is a bloody battleground. Haifa Street is located just outside the Green Zone, once home to Saddam Hussein's government, later a base of operations to well-armed insurgents. Dozens of insurgents died in a major battle there this week. And CNN's Arwa Damon is one of the CNN correspondents covering the battle for Haifa Street. She shows us the incredible dangers faced by the U.S. and Iraqi troops in this urban warfare.


ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is where the battle for Baghdad was fought, out of apartments and high-rise buildings that line this major Baghdad thoroughfare. Listen carefully as the U.S. troops spot an Iraqi insurgent in a nearby building.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right over here. See the corner of a building. Sunlight. They're running between and that blue door. See there they go.

DAMON: The insurgents are so close, the Americans can see them without binoculars.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There you go, there you go. That's a money maker right there.

DAMON: That material was shot by a Pentagon camera crew. At another building nearby, we had a different vantage point.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, coming up!

DAMON: We arrived on this rooftop near Baghdad's Haifa Street seven hours into the battle. The American troops side-by-side with their Iraqi counterparts are being fired at from one of those high rises in the foreground.

American Apache helicopters circle the building repeatedly to try to get a clear shot at the insurgents inside, but they can't. So the target building's coordinates are radioed to a site far from Haifa Street and that's when it happened.

A precision-guided U.S. missile fired from a site unseen, levels the building where the insurgent insurgents were holed up. As soon as the building falls, the insurgent guns go virtually silent, just the occasional shot here and there. It's a reminder that the Iraqi army still needs the United States military. Colonel Hassan Fallah (ph) served in Saddam Hussein's army.

"The terrorists are better armed than we are," the brigade commander says, "so we want the Americans to support us, especially for the tougher targets."

On this day, Iraqi troops who had been fighting below bring in two insurgents wounded in a gun battle. "One of these men threw a grenade off a rooftop at us, he says," the soldier, "the other was firing with a machinegun."

The wounded insurgents are put into an Iraqi ambulance and driven away.

(on camera): Across the river from Haifa Street, another striker battalion is also fighting alongside Iraqi forces in yet another Sunni stronghold. The aim there, as it is here, to disrupt the insurgency so that eventually other troops can come in to clear, hold, and rebuild.

(voice-over): Some of the striker armored vehicles leave, some of them stay to help Iraqi troops hold the ground for another day. Only moments after this day's gun battle ends, the civilians who remain in the area begin emerging just before the sunset. That is life on Haifa Street.

Arwa Damon, CNN on Haifa Street in Baghdad.


NGUYEN: We're going to give you more on this bloody battle tonight on CNN. You can join Rick Sanchez for an up-close look at the combat, hear more from the soldiers, it's THE BATTLE FOR HAIFA STREET, Sunday, 7:30, only on CNN.

HOLMES: Today is apparently the day for Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor, revealed this morning that, yes, he is filing papers tomorrow to form a presidential exploratory committee. The 51-year-old Huckabee is the tenth, count them, 10 now, Republicans who are heading towards a run in 2008.

And the political action certainly heating up in Iowa with the arrival of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. Clinton sent ripples through the Democratic field with last week's "I'm in" announcement. And now those ripples now look like a big old wave. More now from CNN's senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Anybody looking for a different kind of campaign from a woman should have been at Democratic Party headquarters in Des Moines.

SEN HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: When you are attacked, you have to deck your opponent.

CROWLEY: She is woman. Hear them roar. Senator Hillary Clinton may be the last of the big-name players to arrive in Iowa. But when she got here, it was, at every level, a tour de force.

(MUSIC) This was not your standard have a cup of coffee with a dozen people in the living room kind of campaigning one generally sees in Iowa. Rarely, if ever, have so many shown up so early with so much enthusiasm.

CLINTON: I stopped at the overflow room in another gym, and the principal told me there was 1,000 people there. I was so sorry they couldn't get in here, but we would have had to layer people on top of you. I didn't think that was a good idea.

CROWLEY: She packed them into a high school gym to converse on subjects ranging from foster care, she favors nationalized regulations to healthcare, she wants universal coverage. She talked about being a woman in politics, a woman in anything.

CLINTON: I don't think I'm the only woman here who feels that sometimes you have to work even harder.

CROWLEY: She talked about being a woman running for president.

CLINTON: I don't think we'll know until we try. And I'm going to try. And with your help, I think we can do it!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was very impressed with her presentation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The way that she is running this, "let the conversation begin," is just very good.

CROWLEY: Her celebrity status serves her well, drawing in the crowds, pumping up the volume. But she has work to do. Just because they show up to see you doesn't mean they'll vote for you.

(on camera): State polls in recent months shows Clinton running behind John Edwards. Clinton aides say that's because Edwards was in the state early and often and she has not been. But they promise she will and there is time yet. The Iowa caucuses are about a year from now.

Candy Crowley, CNN, Des Moines.


NGUYEN: We're going to get more presidential politics now from the dot com desk. And we've seen Senator Hillary Clinton announce from the couch. New Mexico governor, Bill Richardson, also threw his hat in the ring via webcast. So, what's going on with the web and all of these presidential hopefuls?

CNN's Nicole Lapin is tracking that for us online. It seems like the Internet is the place to announce things, especially when it comes to running for president.

NICOLE LAPIN, CNN.COM DESK: Right, it's the place to be. You'd think this is how it's always been, but really from their personal websites to their Facebook pages to MySpace sites, candidates, this time around, are really using the web to their advantage like never before.

And going on to our website,, this is where you're going to link up with all the candidates' campaign web pages.

And when you think about reaching out via the web, you might think Howard Dean. Well, look at this. This is an archived copy of his web page. We pulled it up from online, where he, of course, jumped from relative obscurity to front runner status in '04, generated in large part by his online buzz. So that got us thinking -- is this online push just a Democratic thing?

Well, no. Both sides of the aisle are really jumping on the web on their way to '08. And even in those three years since the Dean days, so much has changed. On the Republican side, take a look at this. Mitt Romney's website, he has what he calls, really, "Mitt TV" where he has different channels and clips of himself, on the campaign trail, news shows and even a humor channel.

And then at Democratic side, look at Tom Vilsack page. He links to his Facebook site and other social networking sites, and also his MySpace site where we checked it out and he has almost 1,200 friends. Good for him.

Sure, candidates have been using the web since its inception, but never like this. The site is a perfect example of this. Take look at this old 1998 page where Bill Clinton had just a little thumbnail picture of himself on that page. And then jump back to 2001, the site was redesigned and now it has a 360-degree tour of the Oval Office, it has web videos and web chats and of course, it has that Barney cam that we love so much.

Now, if the site is any example of what we're looking forward to in the campaign season this year, we are looking for a lot. We were watching Mike Huckabee's site until this morning, now we're watching some of the other people's sites -- Newt Gingrich, for example, Al Gore, (INAUDIBLE), we're watching those websites, along with some other people, as this campaign is really taking shape right now, Betty, online.

NGUYEN: That's the place to make announcements. Nicole, we appreciate it.

LAPIN: And control the announcement, too.

NGUYEN: That's very true. That's key part of it.

So what is the alternative to becoming a button-down Ozzie Nelson sort of father? We'll get to that story in just a moment, but first we have some breaking news?

HOLMES: Yeah, we do want to tell you about this -- show you this video. Let's go ahead and take it and tell you what's going on here. We've been telling you about this battle in Najaf between Iraqi government forces and insurgents. Again, it's in the Shiite holy city of Najaf. This is new video we're getting, on here. Along with this report we were hearing earlier that the provincial governor was saying a U.S. helicopter had gone down. This is cell phone video brought to us by the A.P. and the crew there is saying that that plume of smoke we're seeing in this video is possibly from that U.S. helicopter that the provincial governor is saying went down.

Listening to this video for a second, we're seeing this kind of as you are. You can certainly make out some of the gunfire, again this is a battle between Iraqi government forces and insurgents, this is in the Iraqi holy city of Najaf.

But again, a key we've been trying to certainly get more information on, and that plume of smoke there, which the crew there, the A.P. crew, this video taking on a cell phone -- that plume of smoke, according to the crew there with these Iraqi forces, saying that that plume of smoke possibly from a U.S. helicopter that reportedly has gone down in Najaf in this fierce battle.

So, we're trying to get as much information we can on this. The report unconfirmed right now, but this is some of the latest video we're getting. Stay with uses for this breaking story and much more. We'll be back with you right after the break.


HOLMES: Again, continuing to follow this breaking story of fighting in Najaf between Iraqi government forces and insurgents in the Shiite holy city. But a key to this battle, we're trying to confirm, a provincial governor there in Iraq saying that a U.S. military helicopter has gone down. What you're seeing here is cell phone video from the A.P. and you see a plume of smoke in the background, now you're hearing the gunfire, but you see a huge black plume of smoke you can make out in certain shots of this video, that according to the A.P. crew there, that is of the U.S. military helicopter that has gone down.

We have, here at CNN, on our international desk, several Arab speakers trying to go through the video and make out what some of these Iraqi forces are saying to each other, the discussion, conversation happening on this video, and trying to make out if we can get any more information about possibly if that is a U.S. military helicopter. Again, this battle -- you're seeing the pictures there again of that plume of smoke. But this battle between Iraqi forces are insurgents, that is happening. The Iraqi forces were aided, were being helped, by U.S. military helicopters in the area, helping the Iraqi forces on the ground, helping them from the air. So, again, trying to confirm reports that possibly a U.S. military helicopter has gone down and this may be some of the first video, cell phone video, we're getting from the A.P. and that black plume of smoke may be -- may be from that U.S. military helicopter.

We are staying all over this story and we'll certainly continue to bring you updates as we get them.

NGUYEN: As soon as we get that information we'll bring it straight to you, but in the meantime, on a much lighter note, move over, soccer moms, there is a new label for hipster parents -- "alternadads." Yeah, you see them everywhere these days from Brad Pitt hoisting the little ones on yet another exotic getaway to baby coddling with jet-set soccer king, David Beckham to skateboard mogul, Tony Hawk, all living proof you don't have to give up hip just to be a dad. And Neal Pollack is an "Alternadad" himself. He, in fact, coined the phrase and turned this into his latest book. He joins us from San Francisco. An "Alternadad" himself, there in person. That's what one looks like, folks.

Good morning to you.

NEAL POLLACK, "ALTERNADAD": Very impressive.

NGUYEN: Hey, let me ask you this, just so folks are extremely clear on what exactly this term is that you coined. What is an "Alternadad?"

POLLACK: Well, you've got a generation of parents who are unwilling or in some cases unable to give up their pre-parenthood selves after they have their kid. And there's also -- as a corollary, there's a great desire to, you know, impart to their kids or to teach their kids or expose their kids to what they enjoyed before they became parents. And so it's really a state of mind instead of a state of being.

NGUYEN: Yeah. You've called it, saying, "I think the psychology behind the 'Alternadad' is an unwillingness to give up every last bit of youth in order to become a parent." Makes a lot of sense, there, I mean we're all human, even though many of us are parents as well. So that in mind, though, I have to ask you -- is this a gen-xer thing, I mean, is this economics? What's sparking this?

POLLACK: I think that this is it something that I think all parents of every generation feel. I know I've talked to my parents about it since the book came out. I mean, it's not as though this is a new feeling, but I think there's a generational push, sort of an overarching awareness of this and there is a whole movement afoot of record labels and clothing lines and boutiques and websites that's sort of getting this idea across and you know, it's been a lot of fun for me and it's more fun for parents to be able to take their kids to an afternoon dance party where they can have a cocktail and kids can, you know, play with games, and you know, eat snacks and the whole family can enjoy music together. And this is something that's new. This is not -- this was not going on 10 or 15 years ago.

NGUYEN: Well, you call it a lot of fun and indeed it is, staying true to your passion. You love music, rock and roll, but it can get a little dangerous, shall we say, because tell us the story of the time that you took your son to a concert in Austin in 100-degree heat.

POLLACK: Yeah, I was living in Austin, Texas, at the time and I thought it would be a great idea to have a family outing to the Austin City Limits Music Festival. But, you know, it was September, and it was more than 100 degrees, and it was very hot and dusty. I spent the entire time we were there squirting my kid with a water bottle trying to keep him from passing out. So we didn't return for the second and third days of the festival. I kind of learned...

NGUYEN: Lesson on striking a balance between your passions and what you need to do as a dad.

POLLACK: Yeah. I learned a lesson there. There were a lot of parents with kids there, but we had less fun than we wanted to.

NGUYEN: You know, I have to ask you this -- do you find it odd that you, a pop culture writer, self-styled party guy, is the author of a book called "Alternadad," a book you, in fact, at one point, wanted to call it "Daddy was a Sinner?"

POLLACK: That's true. I mean, I guess it's ironic to some extent that I've written a sincere first-person memoir, since that's what I've spent my career making fun of. But it's the book I've got, it's the kid I've got and I love him, and I'm proud of the book and I think that it is, in some ways, representative of the way a generation of parents think.

NGUYEN: Absolutely. A lot of people have agreed with you. There's a blog where people are going on and sharing a lot of the same feelings. Neal Pollack, author of "Alternadad" -- it's a movement, it's a reality. We appreciate your time today.

POLLACK: My pleasure. Thanks for having me.


HOLMES: And once again, we want to remind you of the story we're keeping an eye on. The cell phone video you're looking at is fighting in Najaf between Iraqi forces and insurgents. The black plume of smoke, certainly key here. Trying to get information, but reports that that plume of smoke is from a U.S. military helicopter that has gone down. Stay here with CNN. We are all over this story. We'll have much more for you right after this break.


HOLMES: We want to continue to update you about this story we're following out of Najaf, a fight between Iraqi forces and insurgents. The black plume of smoke you're seeing in this video is really what we're keying on right now because the reports are that that smoke, that plume of smoke, according to the A.P. crew, is taking this video on a cell phone, is from a U.S. military helicopter that has gone down.

That report is not confirmed yet, that it was a U.S. military helicopter, but we do know that the U.S. military was aiding the Iraqi forces from the air while the Iraqi forces were engaged in this battle with insurgents, there, on the ground in Najaf. Again, we are working this story, trying to get this information confirmed, whether or not, again, the reports that, yes, a U.S. military helicopter has gone down. We're all over this one, stay with CNN for the latest.

NGUYEN: In the meantime, we want to check in now with Howard Kurtz in Washington to see what's ahead on CNN'S RELIABLE SOURCES. Hi there, Howard.


Coming up, Hillary Clinton faces off against top network anchors. Are journalists holding her to a tougher standard?

The press pans George Bush's State of the Union and the president's father accuses journalists of personal animosity toward his son.

Plus a star of "Grey's Anatomy" keeps using anti-gay slurs. Why hasn't ABC taken action? It's all ahead on RELIABLE SOURCES.

NGUYEN: We appreciate it, we'll be looking forward to it. Thank you.

NGUYEN: And this weekend, we've been asking for your thoughts on our e-mail question -- has criticism of the war hurt American troops on the battlefield? We asked this question yesterday, got such a response we wanted to continue to ask this today and here are some responses that we did get.

NGUYEN: Yes, Geoffrey in Bagram, Afghanistan says, "If we've got tens of thousands of U.S. protesters demanding peace lets hook them up with a couple of cargo planes, cases of water, and some MRE's and they can come over here and resolve this peacefully so I can come home. We're not here for revenge, we're here to help reestablish a country."

HOLMES: OK, and that was from Geoffrey. Got another one here form Carl in Texas, it says, "As a Vietnam veteran, I can tell you that anti-war protests do have an impact on the troops in the field. These protests are a double-edged sword in that they can have a negative impact on the troops in the field and the mission in general; however, dissent is an integral part of American democracy. What has taken place is only the beginning if American involvement in Iraq continues."

Again, thank you, Carl, from Texas. We got several more, wish we could get to them all, but thank you all so much for your responses to the e-mail question. Got a lot of thoughtful responses.

NGUYEN: We really did on all sides. And of course, we'll have another e-mail question for you next weekend.

Do want to remind you though that RELIABLE SOURCE" is coming your way in just three minutes. At 11:00 Eastern it is LATE EDITION with Wolf Blitzer. Among Wolf's guests, Senators Jay Rockefeller and Jon Kyl.

HOLMES: You certainly don't want to miss Wolf's exclusive interviews with Vice President Dick Cheney. Wolf asks him point blank if Iraq is a terrible situation. You'll hear the vice president's answer. That's coming up two hour from now.

NGUYEN: And at 1:00 Eastern, CNN correspondents discuss the Iraq troop surge plans and a change of American command in Iraq. What will it mean for soldiers on the ground? Tom Foreman hosts THIS WEEK AT WAR, don't miss it.