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CNN Sunday Morning

Three U.S. Soldiers Missing, Possibly Kidnapped in Iraq; Mitt Romney and the Politics of Religion

Aired May 13, 2007 - 07:00   ET


BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning from the CNN Center right here in Atlanta, Georgia. I'm Betty Nguyen; it is Sunday May 13. What day is it T.J.?
T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: It is Mothers Day.

NGUYEN: Is there something you would like to say?

HOLMES: I would, I would like to take this opportunity --

NGUYEN: Happy Mothers Day.

HOLMES: Mom, Happy Mothers Day. I'm sure you are out there drinking your coffee by now. I'm T.J. Holmes; glad you can all be here with us.

In Iraq where a massive search and rescue effort has been under way for three missing U.S. soldiers. We're going to take you like to Baghdad for that.


JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Where I am standing looks like it could be the aftermath of a volcanic eruption.


NGUYEN: But it is not, oh no. Hundreds of thousands of acres already burned in the southeast. Crews are battling two gigantic fires again this morning.


AL SHARPTON, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: As for the one Mormon running for office, those that really believe in God will defeat him anyway.


HOLMES: Politics of religion, presidential candidate Mitt Romney in the spot light for a lot of reasons. But certainly these days because he is Mormon, we are putting his faith in focus ahead on this CNN SUNDAY MORNING.

NGUYEN: First off we do have some breaking news out of Iraq to tell you about. A suicide truck bomber crashes into the offices of a Kurdish political party this morning. Lets take you straight now to Baghdad and to Nic Robertson. What information do you have Nic?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Betty, that attack took place about 200 miles north of Baghdad. The bomber targeted not only the offices of the Kurdish Democratic Party but also the mayor's office of that town. More than 30 people killed so far, 32 killed according to a local official, 115 people wounded, many of those people taken to a hospital in the town Masud (ph) not far away. But what they did say is that there were political meetings going on in those offices, local leaders from local towns had gathered there. The bomber appears to have been targeting that meeting.

Meanwhile, the search continues for those three missing U.S. soldiers. We do now know that of the five people killed in the attack yesterday, three of them have been identified as U.S. soldiers, one as an Iraqi army translator, a fifth person not yet identified. So the search now involves some 4,000 U.S. troops. Iraqi army troops also searching through this very rugged and hard to cover countryside in just southwest of Baghdad. But the search also involving aerial reconnaissance assets, also using conversations, discussions with local leaders to find out what they know.

Indeed, according to the U.S. Senior military spokesman here, no effort is being unused here. They're using as what he described all U.S. national assets possible to help find out exactly where these three missing soldiers are, Betty.

NGUYEN: This is a massive search, some 4,000 U.S. troops involved in this. Nic let me ask you, we were talking yesterday about how time is of the essence. It's been, what, 24 hours now? What information are you getting about any possible communication, any possible word that they're on the trail of these three soldiers?

ROBERTSON: The only information that we're getting beyond the statements coming from the U.S. military spokesman here is information that's coming from the mayor of the local town, Mahmudiyah, which is close to where the attack took place. He's told us that where the attack took place, it is farmland; it is remote and hard to get to because the roads are poor. But what he described the area as being an area where not very many farmers live. So it seems any sort of independent eyewitness information as to what actually took place is going to be very hard to come by.

The first search and rescue team took an hour to get on the scene. And from what we can tell from the information we've been given so far, the insurgents or whoever took part in the attack were able to get away in that hour with these three soldiers. And we just have no further information about where they might have been taken, how far away they might be at this stage. Of course, the army's effort here is to contain and corner off the area, which is what they've done. They've cornered off a large area to try and stop the soldiers from being taken further away.

NGUYEN: You did say something very important, how rugged this area is. Yesterday there were a lot of questions surrounding the fact that it took about an hour for that emergency response team to get to the attack site where they were starting in that search for the three missing soldiers. Of course, Nic, as soon as you get any information, please join us. We appreciate that report.

Also, we invite our viewers to join host Tom Foreman for "This Week at War." Today at 1:00 correspondents discuss the debate over troop timetables for the war in Iraq.

Plus, what does the alleged Ft. Dix plot say about homegrown terror? "This Week at War," that is at 1:00 p.m. Eastern.

HOLMES: Word this morning that a top Taliban commander has been killed. The Afghan government says Mullah Dadullah was killed in southern Afghanistan's Helmand Province. Reporters were shown the body, it appears to be Dadullah, and also a short time ago we got confirmation from NATO saying that in fact yes it is him.

Now he was the commander in charge of Taliban's day-to-day military operations. Afghan officials say he was killed during a joint police and army operation backed by NATO forces.

Coming up in a few minutes here, we'll take a look at the hunt for Osama Bin Laden and how dangerous he still is years after the attack on the World Trade Center.

NGUYEN: Dangerous wild fires still burning in the southeast. The Bugaboo fire now a week old has destroyed more than 210,000 acres in Georgia and Florida. It was started by a lightning strike on Bugaboo Island, which is South Georgia, it is a wildlife refuge.

HOLMES: Heavy smoke warnings have been issued. Residents need to be careful about breathing the hazy air and about driving. Major interstates in both states have been closed at times. People aren't the only one affected by the fires. In the Miami area hundreds of residents have reported finding dead birds. Experts say the birds are becoming disoriented in the smoky skies and they're crashing into windows. We have the latest now on fire fighting efforts in Northern Florida from our John Zarrella.


JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A break in the weather gave forestry teams time to move in more heavy equipment to widen firebreaks. Ashley Spillers got back nine months ago from Afghanistan. Now he's on another frontline working 12-hour shifts, driving a heavy dozer.

ASHLEY SPILLERS, FIREFIGHTER: It's looking good today. It's settled down a little bit last night, the humidity has come up and this area that we're working right now is looking pretty good. Hopefully we don't get any wind shifts.

ZARRELLA: So far, this fire has remained for the most part in thick stands of pine forest, away from heavily populated areas. Where I'm standing looks like it could be the aftermath of a volcanic eruption, but in fact, this entire area had been a tree farm and it had been cleared and the fire racing through the trees way in the background there actually sent some burning embers into what had already been a cleared area and set off these fires here.

These are the kinds of things that the firefighters are dealing with right now, hot spots like this. A thick blanket of smoke hung over Lake City and the surrounding area, the sun barely shown through. Interstate 10 east and westbound was shut down, as was Interstate 75 north and south into Florida and Georgia. Traffic was backed up for miles.

MAJ. RICK CARPENTER, FLORIDA HIGHWAY PATROL: Traveling is tough. With all the diversional routes that we've had to take to get people off the major arteries to avoid crashes and we're having to adapt to each one of those detours. We're opening a detour and we are shutting a detour down because it becomes inundated with smoke.

ZARRELLA: Forestry officials say they need to build 80 to 100 miles of firebreaks. It will take days, if the weather holds, and they have no idea how long it will be before they can say this wildfire is under control.

John Zarrella, CNN, Columbia County, Florida.


HOLMES: In California, crews are getting control of that wildfire on Catalina Island, just off the coast there. The fire is now about 70 percent contained. Many residents are now back home. Just one home was destroyed in this fire that burned more than 4,000 acres.

Now some more good news, the normal ferry service to the popular tourist island is set to resume on Monday.

NGUYEN: Well Bonnie Schneider is here this morning to keep an eye on the weather. Bonnie that thick smoke seems to be a problem for a lot of people now.

BONNIE SCHNEIDER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Absolutely. It's very difficult across Florida because you can see the smoke as far south as Miami. You can see it in Jacksonville, Florida, not far from where the fires are. Let's show you a live picture of Jacksonville at this time. I want to show you how overcast it is. Look at that, that's smoke in the sky right now, uncomfortable to be out there, for sure. This is courtesy of our affiliate WJXT.

Looking at Google Earth now, we can see where we had the road closures in effect. This is since yesterday all the way from I-75 in Florida northward to the Georgia border and then as you travel further off the to the east and west, a section of I-10 is also shut down due to zero visibility. That's what we're looking at right now. Because of the low visibility, the dangerous conditions, lots of accidents were reported yesterday. The dense smoke advisory continues straight until 10:00 a.m. this morning. It may even get extended further than that. That's what we saw yesterday. It was extended first until 10:00 a.m. and then 2:00 and then straight through the next day. So over cast skies certainly we do run the risk of showers and thunderstorms in the forecast. Mostly cloudy, a hot day once again but cooler than yesterday, 85 degrees. Winds will be out of the northeast, fairly light just like yesterday, which is good news.

The concern is, with the scattered storms is if we get lightning, that's not good because that could ignite the blaze further, but dousing of rain certainly could help masters. We'll be watching for the storms to roll through Valdosta all the way down through Lake City today.

Betty, T.J.

NGUYEN: Thank you, Bonnie.

HOLMES: One of the FBI's ten most wanted fugitives is now in custody. Richard Steve Goldberg was picked up in Canada. The FBI says it was tipped off by someone who saw Goldberg's picture on the FBI Website. He is wanted in California for allegedly having sexual contact with several girls under the age of ten. Also wanted for producing child pornography. He's been on the run since 2001. A Canadian judge could clear the way for extradition tomorrow.

NGUYEN: Middle East diplomacy taking place on two fronts. Vice President Dick Cheney visits Jordan and Egypt today; it is part of a Middle East tour focusing on helping Iraq and curbing Iran's rising influence. Now yesterday the vice president was in Saudi Arabia trying to put to rest Saudi's doubts over the new U.S. strategy to secure Baghdad.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice leaves for Russia today. She plans to visit Moscow this week with her Russian counterpart. The two countries face a series of disagreements ranging from U.S. missile defense to human rights. .

HOLMES: Well the most wanted man in the world, well Osama Bin Laden, still evades capture. We'll have a look at how the U.S. is on the hunt and Bin Laden's influence on other terrorists.

VERONICA DE LA CRUZ, .COM DESK: Good morning to you out there. I'm Veronica De La Cruz. May is Asian Pacific Heritage month and we want to hear your stories. I'll have the details next from the .COM desk.

NGUYEN: And a lot of people have been talking about the Mormon region lately, but many Americans admit that they don't know much about it. What are Mormon's and what do they stand for? That is today's "Phases of Faith."


HOLMES: Tension remains high in Karachi, Pakistan following Saturday's street battles. One person was killed today, more than 30 others were killed yesterday. Supporters of the president are fighting with opposition groups. Meanwhile anti-government protesters were trying to reach Karachi's airport. A deposed chief justice arrived there for a rally that was ultimately canceled. Anti government protesters had taken up the cause of that judge, President Musharraf removed him from his post two months ago over allegations of misuse of power.

The world's most wanted terrorist may remain in hiding.

NGUYEN: But he maintains a strong presence with al Qaeda and other groups. CNN's Anderson Cooper reports.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Osama Bin Laden turns 50 in March and the years have not been kind. A gaunt figure limping from cave to cave, cut off, isolated, al Qaeda reduced to making videos threatening what they no longer seem able to do. But in fact, the recent past, present and likely future suggests a much different story. We have only to look back to last year. London 2006, a plot that would have rivaled 9/11 in scope and impact to blow up U.S. airliners with liquid explosives, narrowly averted.

And through it all, hundreds of suicide attacks from Kabul to Jakarta, inspired if not coordinated by Osama Bin Laden. In fact, Mahoud Dadullah (ph), the Taliban's top commander in Afghanistan says Bin Laden played an active role in planning the February suicide attack on the airbase in Kabul during Vice President Cheney's visit there. Whether Bin Laden in fact had a hands on roll in that attack is questionable. U.S. intelligence officials say if he was that engaged, they would like have a better idea of where he is.

What is certain however is that he along with his top deputy continue to launch highly effective propaganda strikes. Together they've released more than 40 video and audiotapes since 9/11. Tapes that reach tens of millions of people through television, the Internet and newspapers.

BRUCE HOFFMAN, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: Whether he's involved or not in the actual terrorist attacks, he's about the best recruiting sergeant that al Qaeda could have in terms of drawing new recruits into the ranks in terms of sustaining the campaigns.

COOPER: Those messages are more than words. Some have carried specific instructions. October 18th, 2003, Bin Laden threatens America's coalition partners in Iraq, including Spain. Five months later bombers target Madrid's train system. Spring 2004, Bin Laden offers a truce to any European country that gets out of Iraq.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whoever rejects this truce and wants war, we are war's sons.

COOPER: Britain stays and a year later, this -- you get the point. So where is Bin Laden?

ART KELLER, FORMER CIA OFFICER: The working presumption was somewhere in the tribal areas of Pakistan.

COOPER: Art Keller is a former CIA officers who spent time last year hunting Bin Laden in the Afghanistan/Pakistan border region. The smart money says Bin Laden is still there along with his deputy Ayman Zawahiri, but it's just a guess.

KELLER: They are both very tough nuts to crack. They have very good operational security and they are cognizant that they are high value targets number one and two.

HOFFMAN: I think Bin Laden has created a kind of authorization that can function on its own without his direct involvement. Bin Laden has been very good at selecting talented people and giving them the authority to act independently.

COOPER: Because he's put ago an organization together that can put his directives into action that Bin Laden remains so dangerous. To put another way, his words can kill. It's been six years since Bin Laden brought the twin towers down, he is still talking.


HOLMES: You can catch Anderson Cooper weeknights on "AC 360," that is at 10:00 p.m. Eastern, 7:00 Pacific. Of course right here on CNN.

NGUYEN: And as Virginia Tech says good-bye to the class of 2007, we want to honor one of the heroes of that tragic day in April. Zach's story is next.

HOLMES: And we all heard the think you are what you eat. Some of us are eating way too much. A lot of what we eat is driven by farm subsidies. Is the government partly to blame for many Americans being overweight?


NGUYEN: Well, May is Asian Pacific American Heritage month and today we are focusing on what it's like growing up as an Asian in America. Veronica De La Cruz joins us now from the .com desk. This is a subject that we are both very familiar with Veronica.

DE LA CRUZ: Right Betty. Here at CNN, we are lucky to have such a diverse staff. And as you mentioned Betty May is Asian Pacific Heritage Month. A couple of us shared our stories of what it was like growing up.


DE LA CRUZ (voice over): I think one of the biggest challenges facing the next generation of Asian Americans would be maintaining our identity and hanging on to culture and tradition and customs.

RICHARD LUI, ANCHOR, CNN PIPELINE: For me as an Asian American, I think a lot of things were the same, but different. First, the foods I ate. I loved eating lasagna and Mexican foods.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think growing up was always more of a struggle for me to fit in. I remember wanting to be like my friends. I remember having them coming over for dinner and begging my mother to put down the wooden spoon for two seconds and make Mac and cheese. NGUYEN: I was a baby when we came to the U.S. from Vietnam, and growing up here in America, I was just like any other kid, except my mother didn't speak English very well and still doesn't speak English all that well. So I had to essentially be the family spokesperson. I had to take on a lot of responsibility in making decisions and doing other things that many kids probably wouldn't have to do at that age.

DE LA CRUZ: That is something I can definitely also relate to. These are our stories. May you also relate. We would like to hear yours. What is it like for you being Asian in America? The month of May marks Asian Pacific Heritage Month and CNN would like you to share your story. Log on to and tell us about your experiences or better yet, send in your pictures and your video.

Betty, back to you.

NGUYEN: Thank you for sharing. I appreciate it Veronica.


HOLMES: A Mother's Day tribute gets under way in just a couple of hours at the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial in Washington, D.C. They annual ceremonial honors mothers whose children served in Vietnam and other wars. Girl Scouts will be present to hand out handmade cards and roses to the mothers. We will have more on that ceremony when it begins.

We'll also have more on those fires burning out west and in the southeast.

But first, we wanted to share some Mother's Day photos with you.

NGUYEN: Yes. We want to wish a very happy Mother's Day to some of the CNN's SUNDAY MORNING staff. Look at those super moms. We'll be showing all of these pictures throughout the morning. Happy Mother's Day everybody. We will be right back.


NGUYEN: Good morning and Happy Mother's Day. Welcome back, everybody. I'm Betty Nguyen.

HOLMES: I'm T.J. Holmes.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Should we load our valuables? We really need to take pictures and those kinds of things. You never think that you're going to come back to this.


HOLMES: Come back to not much. It's a tough morning for homeowners now homeless. We're on the front lines of the wildfires.

NGUYEN: Check this out. Life is short, so wow, get a divorce, really? An all-female law firm is turning heads with this message and those pictures. We have that controversy ahead.

HOLMES: First, we're going to look at this. Wildfires burning on both ends of the country. The Bugaboo fire burning on both sides of the Georgia and Florida line. So far, more than 210,000 acres have been scorched, that's about 300 scare miles. Hundreds of homes in the fire lines have been evacuated. Smoke advisories are in place. Poor visibility pushing officials in both states to close down major highways causing massive backups. An official update on conditions is expected a little later this morning.

NGUYEN: All right, so lets take you now to the other end of the country, crews in California are getting that Catalina Island fire under control. A sign of their progress, normal ferry service resumes on Monday. CNN's Kara Finnstrom has more.

KARA FINNSTROM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The battle to save the west side of Catalina Island is being fought on very steep terrain. You're looking at firefighters trying to calm the containment lines through heavy brush about 30 feet above the main roads. The residents on the west side have been hit the hardest. This community of about 200 people has been cut off. They have no power, no working sewer system and no cell phone reception. The power company expects them to be on generators for about two weeks.

Firefighters say, in all, the fire has destroyed seven buildings on this island, one of them a private home whose owner watched the flames approach.

BRAD WILSON, LOST HIS HOME: We were evacuated at 2:30 yesterday afternoon. We could see the fire come, you know, back behind this ridge line. We knew at that point in time that, that you know, there was a chance but you don't -- you're sitting here, it's a beautiful day like it is today. You drive your car up and they say, well, you need to get out of here. OK, so we load what valuables we had, we really need to take, pictures and those kinds of things. You never think that year going to come back to this.

FINNSTROM: Another homeowner returning to the island tells us his friend's building business was also completely consumed.

JIM MCCONICA, CATALINA RESIDENT: I have a friend who lost a business here, which is a terrible thing. So it's really a tough overall situation. But the community is very strong and I'm sure we'll come back super.

FINNSTROM: The official cause of this fire is still under investigation. But fire department leaders tell us they suspect it began accidentally at a radio station tower where people were apparently working.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Am I allowed to go back to my housing?

FINNSTROM: Many residents are returning to the historic city of Avalon, which was saved from the flames. Firefighters will soon extinguish any remaining threats.

In Avalon, Kara Finnstrom for CNN.


HOLMES: Well Bonnie Schneider here now, has been keeping an eye on the fires. It's been all fires, all the time with you this weekend.

NGUYEN: It's her fault.


HOLMES: Well, 4,000 troops backed by jets and helicopters launch a massive search for three military soldiers in Iraq. The military says they went missing after insurgents ambushed their patrol yesterday in Mahmoudiya, south of Baghdad. The four U.S. troops and their Iraqi army interpreter were killed in that attack.


WILLIAM CALDWELL, SPOKESMAN, MULTINATIONAL FORCE IRAQ: Everybody is fully engaged. The commanders are intimately focused on this. Every asset we have from national assets to tactical assets. When I say national, I mean United States government assets that may not habitually be routinely used on a daily basis are being used all the way down to the 4,000 troops that, the tactical assets, to locate these three missing soldiers.


HOLMES: The military said this morning it has identified the bodies of three of the four U.S. soldiers killed in that ambush.

Also just into us this morning, a suicide bomber detonates a truck bomb at the offices of a Kurdish political party in northern Iraq. Officials say at least 32 people dead, more than 100 wounded. Witnesses say the explosion rocked the building. It was the second suicide attack in Kurdish areas of the north in four days. We'll keep you updated on this story.

NGUYEN: We also have some more breaking news out of Iraq to tell you about. A car bomb has exploded in central Baghdad. So far, here is what we know. Twelve people are dead. 41 wounded. At this point, we don't exactly what sparked this or where it happened except for the fact that it was in central Baghdad. Again, a car bomb exploded in central Baghdad, 12 are dead, 41 wounded. As soon as we get more information, we'll bring it straight to you.

We all want to hear from you. We want you to actually hear from somebody else, somebody who spent a lot of time in Iraq. CNN's Michael Holmes has prepared this Iraq special, it's called "A Month of Mayhem." Here's just a little taste of that.


MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I have my name and blood type in Arabic and English on my helmet and I have it also on a piece of tape. The soldiers still do dog tags. The interesting thing with soldiers, a lot of them will wear one dog tag in their neck and one in the laces of their boots. And the reason for that is because with all the bombs, you can have your head blown off or you can have your leg blown off and, well, you have got a tag at either end.


NGUYEN: It is a one-hour special called "Month of Mayhem." You don't want to miss it. It airs tonight at 8 Eastern.

HOLMES: Last month, he was the victim of a gunman's bullet. Now he's starting a new chapter in his life.

NGUYEN: A grinning Kevin Stern waved to the audience after accepting his degree from Virginia Tech's college of engineering. The commencement ceremony was one of several over the last few days at the university. Posthumous degrees were awarded to students killed in the April 16th attack at a classroom building and dormitory.

Now one of those who picked up his diploma was a math major whose quick thinking on the day of that massacre prevented 11 more deaths. Zach Petkewicz is today's CNN hero.


ZACH PETKEWICZ, CNN HERO: After the initial gunshots, I heard a scream. I didn't know if it was gunshots at first until I heard that scream and it all kind of sunk in.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Unbelievable pictures.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 9/11 emergency call.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's going on?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gunfire at Virginia Tech.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gunman loose on campus.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did we hear you correctly, 20 fatalities?

PETKEWICZ: Two of the girls in my class peeked out in the hall and saw a gunner come out of a classroom, just gun pointed down. They immediately slammed the door shut. Told us, everybody kind of went into a frenzy, a panic. I hid behind the podium and then just kind of looked up at the door. It was like there's nothing stopping this guy from just coming in.

And so I said we need to barricade this door. We had a long rectangular shaped table that me and another one of my classmates had on either side the door. The gunner tried the handle, couldn't get in because we were pushing up against it. Tried to force his way in, got the door to open up about six inches and then we just lunged at it and closed it back up. He backed up and shot twice into the middle of the door.

Thankfully we weren't in front of it when he did shoot through it. He just turned and kept firing down the hall and didn't try to get back in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The worst mass shooting in U.S. history ever.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Your quick thinking may have saved so many lives. What do you say when people are calling a hero today?

PETKEWICZ: I'm just glad I could be here.


NGUYEN: Zach is just one example of an everyday hero. People whose spontaneous acts of courage save lives. For more, visit

HOLMES: Well Al Sharpton stirred up controversy after he made comments about the Mormon Church.

NGUYEN: Yes and it has America talking and focusing on presidential contender Mitt Romney. What does the governor say about his Mormon faith?

HOLMES: Also, an eye-catching billboard is turning heads. Well why would this draw any attention, do you think?

NGUYEN: Oh, come on. You know exactly why.

HOLMES: But not everybody thinks that this message is a good one.

NGUYEN: What is it, life's short, get a divorce.

HOLMES: Yes. I am reading this slowly.

NGUYEN: So you can look at the pictures? Would you just move on?

HOLMES: We're going to explain this on CNN SUNDAY MORNING, stay here.



AL SHARPTON, NATIONAL ACTION NETWORK: And as for the one Mormon running for office, those that really believe in God will defeat him anyway, so don't worry about that. That's a temporary situation.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: His comment was a bigoted comment. It shows that bigotry still exists in some corners and I thought it was a most unfortunate comment to make.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HOLMES: God, politics and the race for the White House front and center after the Reverend Al Sharpton's remarks you just heard there about the religious beliefs of presidential hopeful Mitt Romney. Well Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, is one of the front runners for the GOP nomination, but it's his faith that's generating more headlines than his political platform these days.

Romney is trying to become the first Mormon president. And today we're talking about the myths and realities surrounding the Mormon religion.

And Terryl L. Givens is a professor of the University of Richmond and the author of "People of Paradox: A History of Mormon Culture." He joins us now live from Richmond. Sir, thank you from being here. We just heard those comments from the Reverend Al Sharpton. What do you make of them, and do you think that kind of adds and kind of perpetuates a lot of misconceptions about the Mormon faith?

TERRYL GIVENS, PROFESSOR: Well I think to some extent, it certainly does. Mormons of course have had a very long history going back into the 19th century of persecution and misrepresentation.

I think the sensitivities are very close to the surface. I understand that Mr. Sharpton apologized for the remarks and that he misspoke, or was quoted out of context, and I think it should be left to rest at that.

HOLMES: Well Mitt Romney is certainly having to answer some questions. He will - he has been, but certainly it will get more and more as he continues with maybe some of that front runner status he's trying to gain. Let's take a listen to what he had to say about his religion on a "60 Minutes" interview and I'll ask you about it, but let's take a listen now.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One out of three people would worry about you as you as president because you are a Mormon. Why?

ROMNEY: There is part of the church's history past that I understand is troubling to people. Polygamy, which was outlawed in our church in the 1800s, that's troubling to me. I have a great, great grandfather, they were trying to built a generation out there in the desert, so he took additional wives as he was told to do and I must admit, I can't imagine anything more awful than polygamy.


HOLMES: Now right there, a lot of folks would, they hear Mormon and they think polygamy. Well, we know it's a part of the church's past. Does it play any role in the church's present?

GIVENS: It doesn't play any role in the church's present except in the arena of public perception. I like to think of polygamy as Mormonism's horse and buddy problem, I guess I would call it. There probably aren't three people in America who know anything about what the Amish actually believe. We like to resort to stereotypes, it saves us the time of doing real intellectual work and trying to understand people and beliefs. People know that the Amish drive horses and buggies, and that's enough for most people. Similarly, a minority of Mormons practiced polygamy in the 19th century. It's now the 21st and yet most people persist in associating one with the other.

HOLMES: Well let's try to understand Mormons a little better then. We're going to take a look at a poll that was taken here. And a lot of folks just have no idea what it means to be a Mormon. These are some of the numbers. First, people don't even think that Mormons are Christians, a good chunk of them, anyway, 35 percent say not Christians.

Now let's just start right there. Mormons are Christians, tackle that for us and go ahead with some of the other major myths you think there are out there about Mormons.

GIVENS: Well, you know, the term Christian means different things to different people. The fundamental meaning of the word Christian means somebody who believes in Jesus Christ as the savior of the world.

And in that regard, there's absolutely no question whatsoever that Mormons are Christians in the full sense of the word, they believe that Jesus Christ was born of a virgin, came into the world to die to atone for sins of mankind and that he was resurrected on the third day. That's the core tenet of Mormon belief today, it always has been.

However, other people, when they think of Christianity, they think of a historically evolved set of creeds and beliefs. And judged by that standard, Mormons are a little bit outside the mainstream, certainly.

Mormons tend to be considered unorthodox, not so much because of what they don't believe, as much as what they believe in addition to the normal believes of Christians.

For example, Mormons believe in the bible of the world of god, like other Christians, but they also believe that god revealed additional scriptures, such as the book of Mormon. Mormons believe in the centrality of the family like other religions. However they also believe that the family is a unit that can persist into the eternity, that marriage bonds can survive death.

Other Christians believe in the prophets of the old testament, Mormons believe in the prophets of the old testament, but they also believe that God continues to speak to modern prophets today.

HOLMES: Well something else here, and I'm kind of running out of time, but I want to hit these last two things. First, there has been good growth in the Mormon church that maybe people don't realize. What do you attribute that to?

GIVENS: I think a couple of things. First of all, Mormonism requires a tremendous amount of adherence. I think this is a counterintuitive explanation, but I think that today people really want to believe in something that requires of them genuine commitment, that is worthy of their sacrifice and investment of time and energy and resources and Mormonism requires that its members contribute 10 percent of their income to the building of the church in God's work.

Young men have to serve two years on a mission. People who belong to the Mormon faith follow a strict code of health. So in many ways, Mormons require so much that it strikes people as something that must be worth an investment. And I think a second major reason is the emphasis on the family. Mormons hold out not just the promise of stronger families in this life through living righteous principles, but the belief, as I said before, that that family is a unit that can endure into the eternities. And that's a principle that has great appeal among very many people.

HOLMES: All right, well Terryl Givens, professor at University of Richmond. Thank you so much, you're absolutely right, a lot of people don't know enough and it's certainly going to be - as Mitt Romney's campaign gets more into the national spotlight, we'll be hearing a lot more about it. But thank you so much for your time this morning.

GIVENS: Good to be here, thank you.

NGUYEN: Some half a million pilgrims are expected to attend a papal mass today as Pope Benedict XVI wraps up his first trip to Brazil. The highlight of the pope's visit was his canonization of friar Antonio Galvao. The 18th century Franciscan monk becomes Brazil's first saint. The Catholic Church credits Galvao with 5,000 miracle cures. He is the 10th saint canonized by Benedict.

Life is short, so check this out, get a divorce? Are you serious? It's a controversial ad and it's sparking a lot of talk and a lot of eyeballs checking out those photos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Your slogan would be, life is short, stick together?


NGUYEN: Yes, wait until you hear what happened to that billboard. CNN SUNDAY MORNING continues.


NGUYEN: This is no laughing matter, T.J., because divorce is not what it used to be.

HOLMES: This is a good story.

NGUYEN: The U.S. divorce rate has actually been declining steadily since its peek in 1981. It's now at its lowest level since 1970. HOLMES: Dropped from 5.3 divorces per 1,000 people to 3.6. Why?

NGUYEN: Yes, why, T.J.?

HOLMES: Experts have a number of theories because I talk to these experts all the time.

NGUYEN: Got them on speed dial.

HOLMES: Most people are now living together actually without getting married and people are waiting longer to get married.

NGUYEN: I'm waiting, still waiting.

HOLMES: Take your time. We're all waiting, Betty, for you to -- no, just kidding.

NGUYEN: Oh, the poor soul who gets me.

HOLMES: My goodness. Well a law firm in Chicago thinks there just aren't enough divorces, actually, trying to bring that number back up.

NGUYEN: Because it has taken out the notion and a billboard on streets and its drawing a lot of attention. Do you know that billboard we showed you? Well, Jeanne Moos has a different take on it.


MOOS (voice-over): You know how they say ....

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You may now kiss the bride.

MOOS: Kiss her good-bye if you believe this billboard. Life's short, get a divorce. Bosoms galore and washboard abs await you. The all female Chicago law firm that put up the ad views it this way.

CORRI FETMAN, DIVORCE ATTORNEY: Gutsy, unique, outcome oriented.

MOOS: Passers-by chose somewhat different words.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's ludicrous.

MOOS: And no one seems more irritated than other attorneys.

RAOUL FELDER, DIVORCE ATTORNEY: This looks like they're advertising an escort service. It doesn't look like for a law firm.

MOOS: The eye-catching cleavage graces an area known as the Viagra triangle for its trendy upscale singles bars.

FETMAN: Typically law firm advertising is lawyers in suits. We wanted something that was going to provide hope and fantasy, hope gets you through the darkest times.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's saying give up on your marriage if you can find something a little more exciting.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's encouraging divorce?

FETMAN: We don't cause divorce. People cause divorce. Lawyers don't.

MOOS: Just as guns don't kill people. As for the killer abs ...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: These muscles I like, very handsome.

MOOS: The abs belong to the personal trainer of the lawyer behind the billboard.

(on camera): Life's short, get a divorce.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes! Life is too short to waste your time.

FELDER: It looks like it is a Victoria's Secret ad.

MOOS (voice-over): his from a divorce attorney who surrounds himself with slogans.

(on camera): Didn't you hand out pens -- you still hand out.


MOOS: Do you have them now?

FELDER: It's a joke. It says, "Sue someone you love." It's a joke. I don't have a pen with one of the things with a nude person on it where you turn it upside down and the clothes fall off.

MOOS: (voice-over) The billboard could be worse. A few years back a British divorce lawyer put up these ads in London rest rooms. They got tons of publicity, which is exactly what we're giving this.

These two aren't ditching anybody. They've been married going on 47 years.

(on camera): Your slogan would be, life's short, stick together?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Life's short. Fix it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Take this ring.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: With this ring, I thee wed.

MOOS: That's wed, not shed. But with all the controversy, the offending ad was shed Tuesday afternoon. Life really is short, especially the life of this billboard. Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


NGUYEN: Well not exactly, because we keep showing it. Height shots at all.

HOLMES: Just a better of it, actually.

We've got some -- my goodness. We've got some food for though here on this Sunday morning. You may say we're to blame for making poor dietary choices, but some say it's Congress's fault.

NGUYEN: Sure, blame them.


HOLMES: How many times have we heard this, Betty, that you are what you eat? Which would make you what?

NGUYEN: An egg sandwich because that's what I had this morning. You would be?

HOLMES: You call me fruity because I had some Froot Loops.

NGUYEN: OK, but now some people are asking, just how much of our diet is influenced by the government?

HOLMES: CNN's Lisa Goddard dishes out some food for your thought.


LISA GODDARD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What we eat determines how we're shaped. But now experts are questioning what shapes our food choices. Some are pointing here at congress.

MICHAEL POLLAN, AUTHOR, "THE OMNIVORE'S DILEMMA": If you're concerned about what you eat you need to be concerned about the farm bill.

GODDARD: Author Michael Pollan suggested in last month's "New York Times" magazine that what we eat is driven by the federal farm bill. It's enormous. Up for renewal now, farm bill subsidies last year were around $18 billion, according to the USDA. That's mainly for corn, soy and wheat. Some of the subsidies lead to overproduction and therefore lower prices.

POLLAN: With the result that there's tons of cheap sweeteners in the form of high fructose corn syrup.

GODDARD: And that means soda and snack cakes are also cheaper and more tempting.

(on camera): The idea is that high calories here start with overproduction here. But farmers say the issue is really on the other end with processing and what we choose to eat.

JAMIE JAMISON, MARYLAND FARMER: Somewhere we've got to take responsibility ourselves for our own actions.

GODDARD: Jamie Jamison farms 5,000 acres in Maryland. Today his tractors are planting soy. For decades this farm has depended on subsidies to get through the bad years.

JAMISON: This is the corn fodder from last year.

GODDARD: Some lawmakers argue the crops themselves aren't the problem.

SEN. BYRON DORGAN, (D) NORTH DAKOTA: The farmers produce the corn, that's healthy. It's good for you. Someone else puts the fat and the salt in it.

GODDARD: North Dakota Senator Byron Dorgan says he's more worried about the survival of small farms like Jamison's which can depend on subsidies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We look at it as a safety net.

GODDARD: Are farm bill subsidies a lifeline to family farms or as Michael Pollan and others say, do they push empty calories on to our tables? Either way, they are a massive force, dramatically affecting our food supply from the ground up. Lisa Goddard, CNN, Poolesville, Maryland.


HOLMES: Hello everybody. From the CNN Center in Atlanta, Georgia. I'm T.J. Holmes. We are all wishing our mothers Happy Mother's Day on this day.

NGUYEN: Happy Mother's Day out there. Good morning everybody. I'm Betty Nguyen. We want to thank you for being with us today.

Four thousand U.S. troops involved in a massive search and rescue mission for three American soldiers. We are live in Baghdad.

HOLMES: Also, we are live on the frontlines of a large wildfire. Hundreds of residents forced out of their homes and major interstates closed because of smoke.

NGUYEN: Plus how a person's race may affect their health and weight and even intelligence. Is it all in the genes? Our Dr. Sanjay Gupta separates fact from fiction, that is ahead on this CNN SUNDAY MORNING.

But we start with new developments out of Iraq this morning. Dozens of people killed in two bomb attacks. This as a massive search for missing U.S. troops is under way south of Baghdad. Let's take you straight to Baghdad and CNN's Nic Robertson for the latest. Let's start with the car bombings that took place.

ROBERTSON: Well the most recent car bombing Betty is in a market in central Baghdad, 12 people killed in that particular attack, 41 people injured. This bombing in a very crowded, busy area of the market where a lot of cars wait to pick up people who are now forced to shop on foot in areas that have been designed to protect them from exactly this sort of attack. Nevertheless, the bombers here in a parked car bomb managing to kill 12 people.

This very close to the site of another huge bomb, the biggest single bomb so far in Iraq that went off in a market killing 140 people. This was several weeks ago. The other very big bomb in Iraq today, though, that in the north of the country in a town of Mahmudiyah. That very close to the mayor's office, to a political office of a Kurdish party, 32 people killed there, 115 wounded. Many of those wounded taken to a hospital in Mosul in the north of the country.

Meanwhile, now in the second day of a massive hunt for those three missing U.S. soldiers, the checkpoint was attacked in the early hours of yesterday morning. Some 4,000 U.S. troops on the ground hunting for them along with Iraqi army soldiers, also, joining that hunt military officials here say they have now confirmed the identities of four of the five people killed in the initial attack, the identity of the fifth person still not clear. Military commanders say they will not rest, using all the assets to their availability, tactical, aerial reconnaissance, and intelligence assets to try to find out exactly where these soldiers are.


NGUYEN: Nic how volatile and rugged is this region that they are searching?

ROBERTSON: Farm area, it is off the beaten track, if you will. There are just only dirt tracks to get into this farm area. According to the mayor of the local town, this is an area that although a farming area has very few farmers in it. Thus, it seems unlikely that there will be many eyewitness accounts, which may help track down who killed the soldiers and where the abducted soldiers may have been taken, and indeed, who took them. This is an area, though, that's known to be a Sunni insurgent strong hold and known for al Qaeda to be in that area as well. Also, well known for sectarian violence, Betty.

NGUYEN: CNN's Nic Robertson joining us live from Baghdad. Nic we appreciate that.

Also, I want to tell you about a serious blow to the Taliban. Officials in Afghanistan say a top Taliban commander has been killed. The government spokesman says Mullah Dadullah was killed during a joint police and army operation backed by NATO forces. NATO has now confirmed his death as well. And journalists that were shown the body say it is Dadulla. He was the commander in charge of the Taliban day- to-day military operations.

HOLMES: Back to the U.S. now and wildfires still causing trouble in several areas. A look at the fire map, if you will. Fires in California, Minnesota and the southeast, the wildfire on Catalina Island now about 70 percent contained. Also, normal ferry service to the island expected to resume on Monday, those are all good things. Also high winds today could keep pushing the wildfires in northern Minnesota more than 130 homes and other buildings have been destroyed there. On to the southeast now, more than 210,000 acres burned in Florida and Georgia. Hundreds of people have been evacuated from their homes the fires also leading to a dangerous lack of visibility on major highways. CNN's John Zarrella live in Lake City, Florida dealing with some of that lack of visibility himself all weekend. Hello to you again John.

ZARRELLA: Hey T.J. well what a difference a day makes. You know you couldn't see any of these fire trucks yesterday morning when we were doing our live reports from here. But today the fog has lifted a lot of the conditions that existed yesterday. Weather conditions are changing and they expect some rainfall in here today. And that will certainly help in the effort to contain these fires.

Now, what we have been told this morning by forestry officials is that this fire is right now for the most part bottled up in the swamp and want to keep it that way. Once this rain moves in today and the front moves in behind it they expect they might get lower humidity and higher winds, which are not good for fighting the fire. So what they are trying to do now today is to really do some back burns and burnout so that they can make sure that when the winds do kick up, that they have enough protection out there, enough of a perimeter built around this fire that it will not spread any more and they can keep it bottled up inside that swamp. Now, yesterday late in the afternoon, we had the opportunity to go out with forestry officials to the front lines.

A break in the weather gave forestry teams to bring in heavy equipment to widen firebreaks. Ashley Spiller got back nine months ago from Afghanistan. Now he is on another frontline working 12-hour shifts, driving a heavy dozier.

ASHLEY SPILLERS, FIREFIGHTER: This area that we are working right now is looking pretty good today. Hopefully we don't get any wind shifts.

ZARRELLA: So far, this fire has remained for the most part in thick stands of pine forest, away from heavily populated areas. Where I'm standing looks like it could be the aftermath of a volcanic eruption, but in fact, this entire area had been a tree farm and it had been cleared and the fire racing through the trees way in the background there actually sent some burning embers into what had already been a cleared area and set off these fires here.

These are the kinds of things that the firefighters are dealing with right now, hot spots like this. A thick blanket of smoke hung over Lake City and the surrounding area, the sun barely shown through. Interstate 10 east and westbound was shut down, as was Interstate 75 north and south into Florida and Georgia. Traffic was backed up for miles.

MAJ. RICK CARPENTER, FLORIDA HIGHWAY PATROL: Traveling is tough. With all the diversion routes that we've had to take to get people off the major arteries to avoid crashes and we're having to adapt to each one of those detours. We're opening a detour and we are shutting a detour down because it becomes inundated with smoke.

ZARRELLA: Forestry officials say they need to build 80 to 100 miles of firebreaks. It will take days, if the weather holds, and they have no idea how long it will be before they can say this wildfire is under control.

Now we drove up on Interstate 75 this morning from Gainesville and it was open up to Lake City, don't know what it is up further than that, we will get anther briefing on the highway conditions this morning from the highway patrol in just about another couple of hours.


HOLMES: You care right Nic. What a difference a day makes. So good to see you there, we can actually make out John Zarrella today. John thanks so much.

NGUYEN: Well Bonnie Schneider joins us now from Severe Weather Center and Bonnie. All right, the pressure is on. Can you bring some rain?

SCHNEIDER: We do have a chance for thunderstorms in the forecast. But they are widely scattered. Hopefully we will get rain across Georgia and Florida. We certainly can use it. The problem is we don't want to get the lightning that goes along with those storms because that could ignite more fires.

We will show you Google Earth; you can see where John Zarrella was in Lake City if we zoom into the area the roads he was talking about, the ones that have been closing down are I-75 and I-10 into that region. Northward all the way to the Georgia border.

I want to show you a live picture now of Jacksonville, Florida. Look at that. We can barely make out anything. Overcast skies. It is a combination of fog and smoke. If you are in Jacksonville, and you are driving on I-10, once you get about 39 miles to the west, you hit Sanderson, that is when the road shuts down because that is when the smoke becomes just poorly, makes for poor visibility. Really, this region we will be watching for very smoky conditions, the dense smoke advisory goes until 10:00 a.m. today and it may be extended. We run mostly cloudy skies in the forecast, 85 degrees. Winds will be light out of the northeast. Like what we saw yesterday.

And as we head towards California, we are also looking at that moist air coming in. Winds not out of the northwest but out of the west. So a westerly flow will bring with more moisture in the air. Temperatures are nice and cool at 63 degrees. That's good news for firefighters there. We are looking at that.

Taking a quick look across the country for Mother's day. Scattered storms in the southeast, but very hot conditions. Planning a backyard barbecue, make sure you are dressed comfortably because we are looking at highs all the way up to the 80s as far north as Minneapolis for Mother's Day.

Betty, T.J. NGUYEN: Thank you, Bonnie.

The Missouri River reaches its high watermark, it crested six feet above flood stage but lower than predicted. Missouri's governor says the biggest concern now is agricultural losses. He says the flood damage is bad, but not as bad expected. Officials say levee breaks in western Missouri earlier this week allowed the river to spread out so that the water level was lower as it moved eastward.

HOLMES: First a visit from the queen, now the president. The first permanent English settlement continues to celebrate its 400th year.

NGUYEN: Postal prices going up. Why starting tomorrow? Sending mail is going to cost you more. Put it in the mailbox today.

DE LA CRUZ, .COM DESK: Gosh. Well, here is something that's not going to cost you a dime. A look at most popular stories at I will have that list next from the .com desk.

HOLMES: We will tell you about this family feud that gets going in court. We will show you more right here on CNN SUNDAY MORNING.


NGUYEN: We have some breaking news about those three missing soldiers in Iraq. Let's take you straight now to Baghdad and CNN's Nic Robertson. Nic what do you have?

ROBERTSON: Betty the very first claims of responsibility coming from the Islamic state of Iraq that is al Qaeda. Appearing on a number of Websites commonly used by the Islamic state of Iraq to make claims about attacks they are saying that they are responsible for the attack that took place in the early hours of yesterday morning. Responsible, it appears, for the abduction of those soldiers. They say they clashed with the -- their forces clashed with what they call crusader forces and they killed some and took others prisoner. This is the first claim of responsibility.

It is coming on a number of this Islamic state of Iraq Websites; these are Websites that appear to have some degree of credibility. There is nowhere CNN can prove that the accuracy and authenticity of these claims on the Websites, but in the past, this does seem to be the claims made on these Websites do seem to bear the test of time.

So now Al Qaeda and Iraq on the Islamic state of Iraq multiple Websites, saying that they are responsible for the deaths of those U.S. soldiers in the attack yesterday. And the abduction kidnapping of those three soldiers that are still missing, for which there is a massive manhunt still going on for.


NGUYEN: I want to you talk to us more about the credibility of these Websites. We see soldiers missing, is this something we see on the Websites, have they been proved wrong in the past? ROBERTSON: There are certainly Websites that are less than reliable. And before we broke the news about these Websites, we ignored the fog similar to this posted on another Website that's not familiar to us not credible. We waited for it to appear on Websites that are known to us, are known to our experts here that study these Websites. That does appear to be credibility. It is not something that we are in a position to here to independently verify. But they do have -- they have claims in the past have stood the test of time. It has to be said that we have been monitoring these Websites because it was largely anticipated that a claim of responsibility would be made for this attack.

It is known that al Qaeda was -- had pockets of strength in the particular area of the attack and it seemed only reasonable to expect that they would try to claim responsibility if they were. Again, we cannot prove it. But these Websites in the past have proven so far at least to be reasonably reliable in their claims and postings.

NGUYEN: What's the claim of responsibility entail? Does it speak to the fact that they are saying that these three soldiers are still alive?

ROBERTSON: It is absolutely not clear if the soldiers are alive. They don't speak of numbers here. What they do say is that their forces yesterday, close to the town to where the attack took place is the area where the attack took place. They say their forces clashed with when they described as the crusader forces, which is the term that the Islamic state of Iraq's spokesman al Qaeda here used to speak about U.S. forces. They clash with them and killing some, taking others prisoner.

They haven't said numbers here. It is just not clear from what they are saying, how many people they took or whether they were live or dead when they took them.

NGUYEN: All right. CNN's Nic Robertson bringing the latest information coming out of these Websites. Dealing with the Islamic state of Iraq where they are claiming that they do have some soldiers that were involved in that attack yesterday. Nic will be following this. As soon as we get more information we will continue to bring it to you.

HOLMES: We are going to be looking at this when we come back. Taking steps before a storm to save time and money. When that storm is over personal finance editor Gerri Willis coming up with some important tips for you. That is next on CNN SUNDAY MORNING.

Also, Dr. Sanjay Gupta has a look ahead to today's "House Call."

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Thanks T.J. We have an exciting show on tap this morning. Looking at weather race influences what diseases you are likely to get and should it influence how you are treated.

Plus, a popular cosmetic operation that some say is causing Asian women to lose their identity. We also have an interview with a cancer survivor about the myths that might interfere with cancer treatment. All that's coming up on "House Call" this morning at 8:30.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's what we are looking for.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): It is like cross-country skiing without the snow.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's up with the sticks?

COSTELLO: Those poles are the key to a joint friendly exercise called Nordic walking.

ALEXANDRA JURASIN, EXERCISE PHYSIOLOGIST: The poles allow you to thrust off the ground behind you.

COSTELLO: Nordic walking poles have rubber tips to grip the pavement. The length is adjustable. Instructor Alex Jurasin shows her class the proper technique.

JURASIN: You notice I'm not doing this. That's important. Right? So extend the arms out, long levers. And long legs.

COSTELLO: Jurasin says Nordic walking burns up to 400 calories an hour compared to 350 for regular walking. The poles give you the added benefit of an upper body workout.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The first round I took off my jacket. I was hot.

COSTELLO: Nordic walking got its start in Finland over a hundred years ago. When cross-country skiers tried to stay fit during the summer. It is new to the U.S. so don't be surprised if you get funny looks or teasing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where's the snow? The mountains are that way. What are you doing?

COSTELLO: Carol Costello, CNN.



HOLMES: It has been a week of extreme weather. Flooding, fires, and of course those deadly tornadoes. Now hurricane season. My goodness. CNN's personal finance editor Gerri Willis has tips for you on how to minimize damage to your home.

GERRI WILLIS, CNN PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR: There's plenty you can do. First off, you want to remove anything that could be a missile if it is launched by the wind. Debris in your yard, tree limbs, trim those back. You want to anchor kids' play sets. Play sets can turn into a missile that creams your house or somebody else's. You buy a $20 set that will anchor it in place in your yard so you don't have to worry about that.

Another thing, replace or strengthen your garage doors, 80 percent, I mean it, and 80 percent of the damage to houses from wind comes through that garage door. The garage door gets popped and then before you know it, your roof is popped, too.

HOLMES: That's an interesting tidbit. You are right. That's a good word for it missiles. Dome of these things getting whipped around, they turn into missiles that can do some damage.

Wild fires we have been watching coast to coast. This is something a lot of us think -- I have a wooded area behind my house. I stopped and thought about it the other day with the fires we have been covering. What do you need to do to protect that home?

WILLIS: Well you are looking for ignition factors in your yard. That means you are not going to pile mulch or firewood around your house. Here's something you probably never thought of. The gas for your lawn mower or your barbecue grill that could be a big, big problem. Imagine the tank for your barbecue grill is launched by the wind to your neighbor's house and hits it. It would explode on impact. We are talking about big dangerous stuff here.

Another thing, install an interior sprinkler system. Now, this is not only a good deal if you are having problems with wind or other kinds of weather at your house but it also adds 5 percent to the value of a new home and 7 percent to 9 percent to the value of an existing home. It is a good deal all the way around.

HOLMES: I have lighter fluid all over the place because I barbecue all the time at my house.

WILLIS: Me, too. I know what you mean.

HOLMES: I'm going to correct that as soon as I get home.

Also, we have been talking about flooding as well. The other big thing we have been watching this week. We have seen the video of people. Just over the years, you see it after floods. Wading through water in their house and their basement. How do we keep that from happening in the first place? How do you protect yourself?

WILLIS: Even a little bit of water is a problem. If you own a house you know how dangerous it is. Start with the basic stuff, recaulk, check for cracks, and fill them in. You may want to think about your landscaping. If your landscaping means that the land is tilted towards the base of your house you may be sending water right up against the foundation. That's a nightmare.

I have to tell you baseline here. If you live in a flood zone, buy flood insurance. Don't forget to do that. That's essential. It is not that expensive. If you live in a flood zone the price is $1,000. If you don't, it is only $200 to $300. If you really -- it can give you peace of mind and save you because I think you know that there are a lot of floods happening where people aren't ready for them and people aren't used to having them. Protect yourself with insurance, too.

HOLMES: You can catch that Gerri Willis and her financial tips weekdays right here on CNN at 9:00 Eastern. You can log on to tips for all of Gerri's advice.

NGUYEN: If you haven't sent out your Mother's Day care T.J. you are out of luck. For those of you that have other mail, you better send it today or you will pay more tomorrow. That's right. Monday is the first day of an increase that will require extra two-cent stamp for a first class letter. It seems to go up all the time. The bump to 41 cents is blamed, in part, on the spiraling gas costs.

HOLMES: Well breaking news out of Iraq. We have been talking about it this morning. Islamic state of Iraq, which includes al Qaeda. That group claimed responsibility for the killing and abduction of U.S. soldiers. Those new developments are straight ahead.


NGUYEN: Breaking news in to CNN, want to get you updated on that. The Islamic State of Iraq has a posting on its Web site today, where it is claiming that it is responsible for killing and capturing U.S. soldiers. Again, this is being posted on its Web site.

Now, the posting said that the Islamic State of Iraq forces clashed with, quote, "crusader forces," killing some U.S. soldiers and capturing others. CNN cannot independently verify this claim, but we will tell you that, as we've been reporting all weekend long, five U.S. soldiers or five coalition force soldiers have been killed; three U.S. soldiers are still missing. The search is one for them, and as soon as we get more information, we will bring it to you.

HOLMES: We will be going live to Baghdad for the very latest on this developing story. That's up at the top of the hour. Our Nic Robertson is there. He'll be live. Certainly working his sources right now, get the latest from him.

Meanwhile, "HOUSE CALL" with Dr. Sanjay Gupta begins right now. We'll see you again at the top of the hour.