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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

At Least 19 American Troops Killed in Single Attack in Iraq; Friends, Family Gather for Bobbie Jo Stinnett's Funeral

Aired December 21, 2004 - 19:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ANDERSON COOPER, HOST: Good evening from New York. I'm Anderson Cooper.
American soldiers sitting down to eat attacked in Iraq.

360 starts now.

A mess hall massacre. At least 19 Americans dead, 50 injured, mortared while sitting down for lunch. Tonight, who is responsible, and how did they get close enough to cause such carnage?

Saying good-bye to Bobbie Jo, murdered for the baby inside her womb. Friends and family gather for her funeral, mourning her death, trying to understand how this horror could happen.

A California shootout caught on tape. Police exchanging shots with a suspect. Tonight, what happened before the cameras rolled.

Taking Christ out of Christmas? The White House sends out holiday cards, but some conservatives are saying the president is bowing to the holiday pressure.

And 'tis the season to be jolly, but why are these middle-aged men posing nude? Tonight, the charity calendar that has some customers doing a double-take.

ANNOUNCER: Live from the CNN Broadcast Center in New York, this is ANDERSON COOPER 360.

COOPER: And good evening again.

Death came today in Iraq, not the way it generally does, to one or two or three at a time here and there around the country, but to 26 people all at once, 19 of them U.S. service men and women. All had their lives taken in the same place, a mess tent at an American base in Mosul. The event and the scene were awful.

CNN's Chris Lawrence reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the war against insurgents in Iraq, the battlefield has no boundaries, and attacks can occur anywhere.

BRIG. GEN. CARTER HAM, U.S. ARMY: It is, indeed, a very, very sad day.

LAWRENCE: A photographer took these pictures Tuesday at Camp Marez (ph), an American military base in Mosul. They show a chow hall covered in a cloud of smoke, a hole ripped in the tent's soft top, soldiers dragging away the wounded.

Witnesses say an explosion knocked soldiers out of their seats and sprayed shrapnel everywhere. Survivors slung their rifles and manned the stretchers, carrying soldiers and civilians, Americans and Iraqis alike.

HAM: They were all brothers in arms, taking care of one another.

LAWRENCE: The pictures show how soldiers can support one another without firing a shot. One minute, Corporal Nathan Almquist (ph) was alone, standing over the body of a fellow soldier. Then another member of his unit did the only thing she could think of.

HAM: Our hearts go out to the families, the friends, and the fellow soldiers who lost comrades in arms today...

LAWRENCE: Husbands, fathers, and brothers, Both American and Iraqi.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LAWRENCE: What the pictures don't show is that insurgents have targeted this dining hall before. And a few weeks ago, one soldier told us it was only a matter of time before they got hit, Anderson.

COOPER: Chris, who exactly has claimed responsibility for this, and how far away were the rockets or the mortars fired from?

LAWRENCE: They're still trying to figure out exactly where those mortars came from, but, as to who might be responsible, there's a group called Jayshun Saar al-Souna (ph), which posted a message on an Islamic Web site in which they claimed responsibility for the attacks, said that they witnessed helicopters airlifting some of the wounded, and saying that they had shot video of what happened, which they promised to release at a later date.

But right now, CNN has some of our experts looking at this Web site's claim. We have not been able to validate whether it is a valid claim yet.

COOPER: All right. Chris Lawrence, thanks very much, from Baghdad tonight.

At his press conference yesterday, President Bush said about Iraq that, quote, "No one can predict every turn in the months ahead," and that he didn't, quote, "expect the process to be trouble-free." An understatement based on today's events.

With reaction from the White House now, CNN senior White House correspondent John King.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The president offered his condolences after a holiday-season visit with wounded troops and their families at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This particular time of year is particularly sorrowful for the families as we head into the Christmas season. We pray for them. We send our heartfelt condolences to the loved ones who suffer today.

KING: As he has so many times before, Mr. Bush defended the mission, and vowed the deaths would not be in vein.

BUSH: Very important and vital mission. Confident democracy will prevail in Iraq. I know a free Iraq will lead to a more peaceful world. So we ask for God's blessings on all who are involved in that vital mission.

KING: The White House tied the attack to opponents of Iraqi democracy and said it is critical to press ahead with next month's planned elections.

SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The terrorists and Saddam loyalists want to turn back to the past of oppression and brutality. That will not happen.

KING: But the strike on a presumably on a secure military base in Mosul raised new questions about the ability of U.S. and Iraqi forces to provide security for election polling places.

KEN POLLACK, CNN ANALYST: We don't have the troops to make the country safe. That's hurting the chances for good elections. That also hurts us in every aspect, because it is killing Iraqis in a very literal sense. And the Iraqis see this, and they're deeply dismayed by the fact that they simply don't feel safe in their homes and their streets.

KING: Lawmakers just back from Iraq also question whether there are enough troops, and other complaints about administration policy include shortages of armored vehicles.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: Now, when it comes to the political debate over Iraq, the administration is hoping the situation on the ground is much improved by the time Congress returns to work full-time in February. But in the meantime, Anderson, the administration is predicting the violence will continue and perhaps intensify in the five weeks between now and those scheduled elections.

COOPER: John King, thanks very much, from the White House tonight.

The tragedy in Mosul has unfortunately earned a dubious distinction. It is the single deadliest attack against U.S. troops since the war began. It's also second-deadliest day of the war. March 23, 2003, is the day the most members of the U.S. military were killed. Thirty-one died in three separate incidents on that day.

From the sadness of death at midday in Mosul, to sadness of another kind altogether, sadness almost impossible to describe. A mother-to-be murdered so that the life she was keeping safe inside her could be removed and stolen.

Bobbie Jo Stinnett was buried today. Those who gathered in the very small town of Maryville, Missouri, mourned her. And there's this, photographs on the Web site that authorities say helped them track down the woman charged with her killing.

This is, perhaps, the most gripping in one. In it, Stinnett and her accused murderer together at a dog show in April.

CNN's Jonathan Freed has more on the heartbreaking story of Bobbie Jo Stinnett.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JONATHAN FREED, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There was no doubt the crowd at Bobbie Jo Stinnett's funeral would be a big one, and not just because of the horrific way she died. Those who knew Stinnett say she was the kind of person you'd like immediately, from her first hello. But Tuesday was a day to say good-bye.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's just been really hard on everybody. And the -- I guess everybody feels there's a better place, and Bobbie is there now. So we just feel for her family and her little girl.

FREED: The 23-year-old Stinnett was strangled last Thursday in her home in Skidmore, Missouri, a small town in the northwest part of the state. Her 8-month-old baby was cut from her womb and taken.

Lisa Montgomery is charged with kidnapping resulting in death.

People here in Nodaway County are anxious to see Montgomery back in court later this week, but, gripped by grief on a cold December day, they focused for now on burying Stinnett.

The local sheriff says it's been especially hard for him, since he knows the Stinnett family.

SHERIFF BEN ESPEY, NODAWAY COUNTY, MISSOURI: To lose a 23-year- old mother, that's just, that's the toughest thing in the world. And the only bright spot to this is, is to get that baby back and get the baby healthy.

FREED: The baby, Victoria Jo Stinnett, was released from a Kansas hospital Monday evening and is now with her father.

CAROL WHEELER, VICE PRESIDENT, STORMANT VAIL HEALTHCARE: Well, she was in remarkably good condition, given all that she's been through. We really don't feel that she's going to need any particular extra care at this point in time. FREED: The father, Kevin Stinnett, calls it a miracle that Victoria Jo survived.

The community of Skidmore isn't big, just has a few hundred people. And whether they knew Bobbie Jo or not, they joined to say a proper farewell, determined to support the family at this dark time.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FREED: And Lisa Montgomery is next scheduled to appear in court, Anderson, on Thursday morning.

COOPER: Jonathan Freed, thanks very much.

Among those shedding tears for a crime that defies explanation was Kevin Montgomery, the husband of the woman accused of taking Bobbie Jo Stinnett's life and then taking her baby. He spoke late yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KEVIN MONTGOMERY, HUSBAND OF LISA MONTGOMERY: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and Victoria Jo got a rough road to go. Just -- I know you all got a job, but please respect some of our privacy. It's tough for all of us right now. I know you all got a job, but it is mighty tough for all of us.

(UNINTELLIGIBLE) talk to some more people later, but right now that's all I can do, you know. My heart ain't broke just for me and Lisa and her kids, it's them too. That was a precious baby. I know.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, it's been a difficult day for Reverend Harold Hammond as well. He gave the eulogy for Bobbie Jo Stinnett today and had presided over her wedding just last year.

Thank you very much for taking the time to talk with us, reverend. I know it's been a tough day for you.

You saw her on her wedding day, and you said good-bye to her today. What did you talk about in your eulogy?

REV. HAROLD HAMMOND, SKIDMORE CHRISTIAN CHURCH: Well, we began with the 23rd Psalm, which is the shepherd's song of David, who had an immense amount of heartbreak in his life. "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want -- " And then I used some other Scriptures like John 14, where Jesus said, Let not your heart be troubled, you believe in God, believe also in me and my father's house and many mansions.

And then I just tried to talk a little bit about how God had created this beautiful world of ours and had designed the home, and how he created man in his own image, and, as such, he created a creature that was -- had the ability to choose, and he could choose for bad or choose for good.

And many times, people are the victims of somebody else's choices.

COOPER: As you try to come to grips with this, as you try to understand what happened, I mean, how, in your own mind, do you think about it? How do you explain it to parishioners? I mean, is that what it is, it's just about choice?

HAMMOND: Well, I told the people a lot of these terrible tragedies that happen, it's impossible for us to understand, because we're not big enough in our minds or our understanding. But there is One that sees the whole picture. And that whole picture is presented in his word, and he tries to convey to us the means whereby we can look to someone bigger than we are.

COOPER: And when you think of her, I know you probably think about her wedding day, which you presided over. What was that like?

HAMMOND: Well, it was a -- we had a full house in the church. They've got -- they had many, many friends. And the way I still remember is a beautiful bride coming down the aisle with the -- on the arm of her grandfather, and the groom waiting at the foot of the aisle. And I asked the question, Who gives this woman to be married to this man? And the grandfather said, I do. And the groom stepped over and took his bride by the arm, and they -- we had their vows.

They had their unity candle, and they had great hopes for a future. They wanted to build a home for themselves and plan a life and have children.

COOPER: It's hard to believe that was just a little less than a year ago. Impossible to imagine that this sort of thing would have happened. Appreciate you joining us today, Reverend Hammond. I know it's been a difficult day for you. It's mourning a loss and celebrating Bobbie Jo's life as well. We appreciate you spending some time with us this evening. Thanks very much.

HAMMOND: Well, thank you very much.

COOPER: Good luck to you, take care.

As disturbing as this case is, it is not unique. This has actually happened a number of times before. We're going to look at those cases coming up, and what the killers all seem to have in common. You might be surprised. That's later on 360.

Right now, however, we're following a number of other stories cross-country. Let's take a look.

In Whifsome (ph), Michigan, the family of a Marine killed in Iraq is pleading with Yahoo, the Internet provider, for access to his e- mail account. It's one of those stories you just kind of shake your head about. The Marine's father says he wants the e-mails to remember his son by, saying it is the last thing he has of his son. Now, the Internet giant Yahoo says it sympathizes with the grieving family and says the Marine's accounts is off limits under its privacy policy.

From Wall Street now, happy holidays to investors. The Dow hits its highest level in three and a half years, closing for the day at 10,759.

Nationwide, parents take note, teen smoking is on the decline. A federal report shows smoking among eighth- and tenth-graders is half what it was in the mid-1990s. That's remarkable, half what it was. But the study found that inhalants and oxycontin use is climbing in popularity.

And Chicago, Illinois, stuck duck. Take a look. This duck apparently fell asleep in a pond that then froze. Yes, I know, don't worry, police came to the rescue, took care of the frostbitten feathers. There they go. Could have been worse for the stuck duck. Could have been a cooked goose, but it's not, the duck is OK.

That's a look at stories right now cross-country.

360 next, the raw politics of the holiday season. Ho, ho, ho, a Bible verse on the president's Christmas card, but some still say that Christ is being taken out of the White House Christmas celebration. Some conservatives are upset. We'll tell you why.

Plus, just what are the rules for those security checks at airports? Can they really touch you all over? We do mean all over. A Grateful Dead lyricist and a fire-breathing conservative are teaming up, because they are steaming mad. We'll tell you why.

And a police shootout caught on video, unbelievable. You're going to see it for yourself just how difficult being a police officer really is.

All that ahead. First, your picks, the most popular stories right now on CNN.com.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Well, over the last year and a half, we've all gotten used to scenes of gun battles on the streets of Iraq. But when a major gun battle happens on the streets of a U.S. city in broad daylight, it's pretty shocking.

And that is just what happened yesterday when police were chasing a suspected killer in California. Now, the scene was chaotic, it was confusing, and it was all caught on tape.

Jeff Michaels from our affiliate KTTV in Los Angeles reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEFF MICHAELS, KTTV REPORTER: The plan to arrest Mendoza turned out into an all-out search. Deputies, their guns drawn, had lost sight of him, until a dog picked up his trail.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you're in this house, come out with your hands up, or I will be sending this police dog. We will find you, and he may bite you.

MICHAELS: These people got out of their houses as officers moved to their backyard, then spotted the suspect on the run. Within seconds, dozens of shots rang out. But even then, it wasn't over. Deputies run to the next block, gunshots still ringing past homes with residents inside. Then, as the police dog is thrown over a fence, the 26-year-old parolee is cornered.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At both instances, he brandished a weapon to these officers and deputies.

MICHAELS (on camera): But he didn't fire.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, we're still working on that exchange. Because as you can tell from your video, you know there was several shots fired.

MICHAELS (voice-over): But family at the scene say that's not how it went down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They shot him in cold blood, just when he was running, they shot him, around, I don't know how many police officers just unloaded their guns on him. And he's been laying there all day, and they have me here waiting all day long, and they never took me up there to see him.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Remarkable video. That was Jeff Michaels from our affiliate KTTV in Los Angeles.

360 next, more arrests in the arson case in Maryland. Investigators are following a potentially chilling lead. We'll give you the latest on that.

Also tonight, security watch, seeking the truth on airport searches. How far can pat-downs go? Find out.

And taking Christ out of Christmas, is it really happening, or is it just media hype?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Well, if you plan to fly this holiday season, you're no doubt already prepared to face some pretty tough security at the airport. But do you know just how tough it's going to be? You might be surprised where some security screeners are able to put their hands.

In tonight's security watch update, Jeanne Meserve investigates.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MESERVE, NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He was a lyricist for the Grateful Dead.

JOHN PERRY BARLOW, FORMER GRATEFUL DEAD LYRICIST: I've been a fairly pesky civil libertarian for a long time.

MESERVE: She was a firebreathing congressional conservative.

HELEN CHENOWETH-HAGE (R), FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: I think the only thing that I've ever terrorized are liberals.

MESERVE: Helen Chenoweth-Hage may be from Venus, John Perry Barlow from Mars, but they have found a common enemy -- secrecy at the Transportation Security Administration. Chenoweth-Hage is irate that TSA personnel at the Boise, Idaho, airport refused to reveal the regulations allowing them to pat her down.

CHENOWETH-HAGE: I was absolutely astounded at the fact that they thought that they could violate my Fourth Amendment rights, violate my privacy, violate my body because of some secret law.

MESERVE: John Perry Barlow believes his constitutional rights were violated too when a TSA screening for explosives allegedly turned up drugs in his checked bag.

BARLOW: If it is, in fact, the case that when you decide to travel in America, you have automatically consented to having an extremely thorough, warrantless, nonspecific search on you for any kind of criminality, then I think we need to know that.

MESERVE (on camera): Both Perry Barlow and Chenoweth-Hage asked to see the rules and regulations under which TSA was operating. Both were told it was designated sensitive security information, or SSI, to keep it out of the hands of terrorists.

MARK HATFIELD, TRANSPORTATION SECURITY ADMINISTRATION: So you can come see the stadium, and you can meet the players, but you can't photocopy the playbook.

MESERVE (voice-over): The problem, as some see it, is that too much information is being kept secret, limiting the capacity for oversight and masking abuses.

STEVEN AFTERGOOD, FEDERATION OF AMERICAN SCIENTISTS: It's self- evident that in an open, democratic society governed by the rule of law, we have to be able to know what the law is.

MESERVE: While TSA says SSI has been used inappropriately in the past, it believes it now has the appropriate balance between protecting freedoms and protecting us, though some of those being protected beg to disagree.

Jeanne Meserve, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, continue to stay tuned to CNN day and night for the most reliable news about your security.

Saying good-bye to Bobbie Jo, murdered for the baby inside her womb. Friends and family gather for her funeral, mourning her death, trying to understand how this horror could happen. And 'tis the season to be jolly, but why are these middle-aged men posing nude? Tonight, the charity calendar that has some customers doing a double-take.

360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Well, the woman murdered for the baby inside her was laid to rest today. Hundreds of mourners attended the funeral of Bobbie Jo Stinnett in Maryville, Missouri. Many unable to get into the packed chapel stood outside, crying.

Stinnett was just 23 years old when she was killed, allegedly at the hands of Lisa Montgomery. In a moment we'll talk with noted psychiatrist Park Dietz about what would drive someone to commit such a crime.

But first, when we heard the story of what happened, we had a hard time believing. It simply didn't make sense. But then we did some digging and found out that, as disturbing as it sounds, this kind of crime has happened before.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (voice-over): The crime is inconceivable, but if Lisa Montgomery is found guilty, she won't be the first woman whose desire to have a baby ran so deep it led her to kill.

In 1987 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Darcy Pierce (ph) was pretending to be pregnant. She went so far as to schedule an appointment with a doctor to induce labor. But to keep up her deception, she kidnapped Cindy Ray (ph), outside an obstetrics clinic. She drove her to a secluded spot strangled her, and used a key to cut out her 8 1/2-month-old fetus. Pierce is now serving life in prison.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The worst thing was not to have my wife and baby.

COOPER: In 2000, Ohio couple John and Theresa Andrews were expecting a baby, but neighbor Michelle Bika (ph), unable to have a child of her own, shot Theresa and cut out her fetus with a filleting knife. She passed the child off as her own for several days. But when police began to close in, Michelle took her own life.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing): You're Mama's little baby...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: And just last year in Holdenville, Oklahoma, Effie Goodson was charged with shooting 21-year-old Carolyn Simpson in the head and cutting out her 6-month-old fetus. Authorities there said Goodson just wanted a baby badly. She even had a baby shower. But when she brought the dead fetus to a hospital doctors determined she had never been pregnant and police placed her under arrest. Last month she was found incompetent to stand trial.

According to a Boston College study, cases like these are thankfully rare but remarkably similar. The lead author of the study described the killers as narcissist beyond belief, organized in identifying their victims and deciding when to kidnap them and kidnap the baby and focused on their mission. But according to the study, these killers are not psychotic. All of which may be important in a courtroom, but probably means very little to families where months of joyful anticipation end suddenly and tragically.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: We found it fascinating that this study claims that many of these women who've killed for a baby share certain traits in common, but it's still hard to comprehend how they could do this. Joining me now forensic psychiatrist Park Dietz in Irvine, California. Dr. Dietz, thank you for being with us. We just saw three women accused of fetal abduction, what do you think they all have in common?

DR. PARK DIETZ, FORENSIC PSYCHIATRIST: Like a large majority of women, they have in common both the maternal drive, that is, an instinctional drive for motherhood and also at least in our country in modern times, the cultural prescription to have a child. But they go about it in the most (UNINTELLIGIBLE) possible. Where other people will take fertility drugs or get married and try and try or adopt a child, these women, like those who abduct infants from hospitals have no concern for the effect they're causing on other people. That's the heart of the matter. It takes both normality in the desire to have a child and also complete sense of entitlement to do whatever one wishes to other people.

COOPER: When you look at these cases, I mean, it's fascinating because they're not spur of the moment decisions. These things are often planned out meticulously. There's a lot of lying that goes on and goes on for months at a time.

DIETZ: That's exactly right. This is scheming, manipulative, lying, evil. This is not really about mental illness.

COOPER: Are they sane?

DIETZ: Well, under the laws of most states they would certainly be found sane. It's possible for someone who is mentally ill to also do this crime, but that's not the pattern. The pattern is for women in their 20s and 30s who couldn't care less about the rights of others to selfishly do this just to have a baby. Sometimes the baby is only a prop.

COOPER: I was just going to say is it just about the baby? Would they be committing crimes or murder in a different way if the situation was different?

DIETZ: They'd be manipulating and taking advantage of people in a variety of ways their whole lives. This particular act gives them both the child that others tell them they should have and, for some of them, it's a prop to keep a man. COOPER: In a lot of cases it seems like their husbands were fooled into thinking their wives were pregnant. How is that possible?

DIETZ: Men are not particularly well attuned to being able to diagnose pregnancy, especially if the woman is purposely deceptive. If she's purposely gaining weight, if she is feigning unusual appetite or morning sickness and so on, it's easy to persuade the man she's pregnant.

COOPER: I had no idea until doing research on this that this had happened before. It's a disturbing but fascinating situation. Thank you for joining us.

DIETZ: Thank you.

COOPER: In Maryland the investigation into the worst case of arson in the state's history is taking another strange turn. This thing just gets weirder and weirder. Police say the torching dozens of luxury homes earlier this month may have been gang related with as many as 18 people involved. CNN justice correspondent Kelli Arena investigates.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): According to court documents, talk of setting the fires first took place at this Denny's Restaurant last summer, a frequent hangout for a group of men who called themselves the Unseen Cavaliers. There was allegedly a conversation about recruiting new members and making the local gang more famous by setting something on fire.

A friend of some of the suspects spoke on camera but did not want his face shown.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was like, you know, set stuff on fire in the country, set off fireworks, just stuff like that, but I wouldn't put it past them at all.

ARENA: Officials say they still have not nailed down an official motive. In court prosecutors suggested race may have been a factor, the homebuyers were mostly black, the accused all white.

SHERIFF FRED DAVIS, CHARLES COUNTY, MARYLAND: There's no motive yet that we can establish and it could be a multitude, a multitude of motives. That remains to be seen.

ARENA: Aaron Speed was the first arrested. He was a security guard at the housing development. Prosecutors say Speed told investigators he didn't like the way he was treated by his bosses after his infant son died. And Jeremy Periti (ph) who according to court papers helped hatch the scheme was rejected when he applied for a job with the property developer, making the case for the oldest of motives, revenge.

Even if they don't know why the men allegedly set the fires, residents are satisfied with how quickly things have progressed. CLAYTON THOMPSON, NEIGHBOR: I thought they won't have a problem catching them, but I didn't think it would be this soon.

ARENA: Law enforcement sources say they believe the major organizers are in custody. They say one other man who allegedly knew of the plan is being held on an immigration violation. Investigators plan to interview at least a dozen more individuals and say additional charges could be brought. Kelli Arena, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: 360 next, the season's greetings. Is Macy's being naughty when it comes to celebrating the holidays? What about the White House? Some conservatives are saying Bush is bowing to political correctness. We'll look at all the angles in a moment.

Also tonight, why a bunch of middle-aged men are showing off their bits and pieces. Looks kind of cool there. It's holiday calendar that may shock Mrs. Claus.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Back to Iraq for a moment, today's deadly blast in Mosul, the deadliest of the war was a stark reminder of the danger that U.S. forces are facing. Nineteen U.S. soldiers were killed when insurgents fired a rocket into a crowded mess tent during their lunchtime. Insurgents are not only attacking Mosul, of course, they seem to be striking everywhere these days including the dangerous road soldiers are taking from Kuwait. Their convoys are always under fire. Barbara Starr has this exclusive report on one convoy making a very dangerous journey.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just before sunrise, these soldiers quietly gather to pray for a safe journey.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Amen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Amen.

STARR: This is the 227th Transportation Company, an Army Reserve unit from North Carolina. They call themselves the Road Dogs. On this cold morning in the Kuwaiti desert, they are about to do one of the most dangerous jobs in the military, drive a supply convoy north into Iraq.

CNN had an exclusive look this morning at what is known here as the Iraqi express. It gets underway every morning at dawn, driving fast to avoid attacks. Today, the convoy has more than 30 military and civilian trucks with armor protection plates, and its own heavily armed humvee escorts with 50-caliber machine guns. It is just five minutes to the Iraqi border, and the shooting can start the minute they cross the line. Scores of U.S. troops have already been killed or injured driving convoys into Iraq. Many were in armored vehicles. These young soldiers, and they are very young, all have their own way of coping with the threat of insurgent attacks, the instant when a normal day can become a disaster.

Specialist Gabrielle Curtis is just 19 years old. Today, she is smiling.

(on camera): How many times have you driven convoys into Iraq so far?

SPEC. GABRIELLE CURTIS, U.S. ARMY: This will be the first time.

STARR (voice-over): She says she is ready.

CURTIS: Pray. Ask God for strength.

STARR: Specialist Anna Galbraith drives a supply truck. She is 20 years old.

SPEC. ANNA GALBRAITH, U.S. ARMY: You just kind of drive and hope nothing happens. That's really basically all I do. Just drive and hope nothing happens.

STARR: But she knows the worst is possible. One buddy was hurt recently.

GALBRAITH: Oh, I'm afraid every time I go out, every time. I mean, it's exciting, but it's scary, because you never know if you're going to come back.

STARR: Staff Sergeant Gregory Duncan says presenting a tough face to the Iraqis is essential, and his weapon is always ready.

STAFF SGT. GREGORY DUNCAN, U.S. ARMY: You're always afraid. Always afraid. It's a job, you've got to do it and you do it.

STARR: A final briefing, and then the convoy moves out as the sun begins to rise.

On this day, soldiers of the 227th include heavy weapons, armored vehicles, and prayers in their arsenal.

(on camera): The Iraqi express has now pulled out and is on its way north to its destination, Falluja. It will be a two-day drive. Already, another convoy is getting ready to go.

Barbara Starr, CNN, on the Kuwait/Iraqi border.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, keep your TV locked on CNN tonight. We're covering a lot of fascinating stories. Let's get a preview of what's coming up on "PAULA ZAHN NOW" and "NEWSNIGHT" with Aaron Brown. Paula is off tonight. So it's Bill Hemmer filling in. Aaron Brown joins me from New York. Let's begin with Bill.

BILL HEMMER, GUEST HOST, "PAULA ZAHN NOW": Hey, Anderson, good evening. You know, with all the confusion about the safety of Aleve and Celebrex and Vioxx, we'll check out tonight who is watching out for your safety. Among our guests tonight, a whistle-blower who works for the FDA. He points the finger of blame at the FDA. He says he knows what the problem is. We'll talk with him about it tonight. Also, not to be left out, the FDA is publicly defending itself tonight. Their view and a whole lot more on "PAULA ZAHN NOW," top of the hour. We'll see you then, about 18 minutes away -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Bill, thanks -- Aaron.

AARON BROWN, HOST, "NEWSNIGHT": Well, we're going to take a big chunk out of Mosul today. This is the second worst day since the war in Iraq began. A single worst incident. So we'll update you on what happened in Mosul. We'll also talk to a reporter just back from there about how this area has shifted since the battle over Falluja. We'll go to Fort Lewis, Washington and Richmond, Virginia where many of these troops came from. Mosul is our principal story tonight on "NEWSNIGHT."

COOPER: It's remarkable how much has changed in Mosul in the last year. Aaron, thanks very much.

360 next, well, a far lighter story. Bare naked men. The new calendar craze. Talking about like middle-aged guys, though, not the usual sort you see in this kind of calendars. We'll talk to a model who is not afraid to bare it all for a good cause. Yikes.

Plus, we'll check the 360 e-mail inbox. We got a lot of interesting e-mails from you. We'll look at some of it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Ah, the holiday season. The scents of pine and cinnamon. The smell of roast goose and hot-buttered rum.

But if you're in our nation's capital right now, you might smell another odor in the air. Can you smell it? Oh, yes, it's "Raw Politics."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (voice-over): Here's the Christmas card from president and Mrs. Bush, complete with Bible verse. The Bushes' Christmas cards always contain a verse from the Old Testament.

Previous presidents have tended to avoid Bible verses of any kind on their cards, preferring, as the Clintons, Carters and even Reagans did, to wish people a happy holiday season.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Tonight we begin a joyous season, and the city of Washington is never more beautiful than during the holidays.

COOPER: But President Bush's card with a Bible verse still hasn't kept him out of hot water with some Christians who think that Santa and Rudolph have pushed Christ right out of the White House's Christmas celebration.

ART MOORE, WORLDNETDAILY.COM: Basically what we see is an almost complete lack of attention to what the central purpose of Christmas is, and that is to celebrate the birth of Christ.

COOPER: An online poll at WorldNetDaily.com even found that nearly 16 percent of respondents thought the Bush's celebration of Christmas was what they would have expected from a Kerry White House.

BUSH: We're glad all of you are here to celebrate the holidays with us. Thanks for coming.

COOPER: So if, as most agree, support of conservative Christians helped Bush keep the White House and if the vast majority of all Americans celebrate Christmas, why is the president pulling his Christmas punches?

ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST, "CROSSFIRE": I think it's just an excess of caution. You might offend somebody who is not a Christian, who is not a believer. I think they are being too careful, and I was just kind of stunned at the end of his press conference, when President Bush, who is a believing Christian and a very sincere one, deeply religious man, said "happy holidays." Well, what's the happy holidays? Is it Fourth of July, or Memorial Day, or Veteran's Day? No, it's Christmas.

BUSH: All right, happy holidays.

COOPER: Just goes to show that in Washington, even during Christmas it's hard to avoid "Raw Politics."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, say what you will about the White House card, at least it didn't show a cat on fire. Here's a quick news note. Our vote for most unusual card of the season goes to Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez of California.

Take a look at this. First of all, those massive pine cones behind her. These are like the biggest pine cones I've ever seen. If they fell, they could probably crush her cat.

Her cat is another matter. That is her cat there, with her tail roasting on an open fire. Meoch! But before you sic PETA on the congresswoman, she has included this disclaimer, quote, "no cat was harmed in the making of this card."

You know, personally, I think when your card needs a disclaimer, it is probably not that effective in spreading the old holiday cheer. Ho-ho.

Now, time to tease something of our own. Our big New Year's Eve extravaganza. I'm going to be live from Times Square in New York for the big ball drop. I've been doing it the last two years. It's really become a holiday tradition, or a New Year's tradition, starting at 11:00 p.m. Eastern time, all the way through to about 12:30 Eastern time.

CNN is planning to bring you the best New Year's celebration from around the country. Forget Regis Philbin. And what would be New Year's without a party at your house? Now, that is right. It's our second annual invite CNN to a New Year's Eve party contest. Get your plans together and first thing in the morning go to cnn.com/360 -- it's only going to be open in the morning -- tell us why we should send a TV camera to your New Year's Eve party. Keep it clean now, folks. We here at 360, we can hardly contain ourselves. We're having our own little New Year's Eve party already. We're very excited.

So starting tomorrow, send us your New Year's Eve plans.

The photo on her card is almost as interesting -- on Sanchez's card -- almost as interesting as the photos in some calendars we've come across. Now, some of the hottest gifts this holiday season turns out are naked fund-raising calendars. I know, hard to believe. Across the country, local charities are getting men to bare it all -- we're not talking about spring chickens either. They're raising money, not to mention a few eyebrows. Our next guest will pose in the buff for the Pink Ribbon Men Calendar. All the models are try to raise money for breast cancer research in California.

And joining us now from San Francisco is Allen Miesner also known as Mr. February. Allen, thanks very much for being with us.

ALLEN MIESNER, "MR. FEBRUARY": Thank you.

COOPER: How is it to be objectified as a super model now?

MIESNER: Well, I've never been called Mr. February before, but I guess I could get used to it for at least a year or at least two months anyway.

COOPER: We're looking at you in the altogether right now, how did this photo come about? Did -- how did the inspiration strike you?

MIESNER: I have a very close friend, I'm a designer and Veronica Napoles is one of the organizers of pinkribbonmen.com, decided to do something for breast cancer. And she knew that my mother had passed away from breast cancer. And she asked me would I do it and I said, I'd be happy. I'd do anything for my mother.

COOPER: What do you think your mom would think about it?

MIESNER: Well, aunt, who's still alive, her sister who is 83 has the calendar. And she said my mother would be very proud.

COOPER: You know, Allen, you kind of lucked out in your calendar pose because I was looking at some of the other pictures. I mean, there were other guys. One guy was posing naked on his motorcycle, kind of sticky. This one is the one that's most painful in my mind, the guy on the bicycle. I think you lucked out, Allen.

MIESNER: I'm probably revealing more than what I'd like, but it was a very fun shoot and I enjoyed doing it, even though I got totally exhausted for holding my stomach in for about an hour and trying to stand straight.

COOPER: You had to hold your stomach in for a while?

MIESNER: You know, I'm a little out of shape and they didn't give us very much time for, you know, they had this idea in early September to do it. And when they asked me I think I had maybe two weeks, so, that's not enough time to go to the gym and get buff.

COOPER: Well, the stomach looks good there and it's certainly for a good cause. Would you do it again?

MIESNER: I would. The response has been fantastic. They've printed I think 10,000 calendars, they've sold over half of them already.

COOPER: Where do people find the calendars?

MIESNER: You can get it at pinkribbonmen.com and you get them on the Internet, some book stores have them. But primarily in California.

COOPER: How much are they selling for?

MIESNER: I think $20. And everything goes to breast cancer. There's no profit being taken, whatsoever.

COOPER: You have a lady in your life, I understand, what did she think about it?

MIESNER: Well, I asked her, you know, how she felt about me being --posing naked on a calendar. And she said as long as my phone number wasn't listed she thought it would be a great cause.

COOPER: Allen, I know you're thinking about doing calendars from different cities around the country. We actually rigged -- maybe do a calendar here in Manhattan. And I know, you told a producer, that maybe, you know, I would pose for it. I actually have posed for many nude calendars, that's my "Mr. December" picture. Also, unbeknownst to you probably, Larry King often poses nude for calendars, that's Larry there, "Mr. August." So, Lou Dobbs does it as well, but he didn't want us to show his photo. It needs a little bit more touch up. So, Alan, it was great having you on the program, and great job with the calendar, "Mr. February. " And it's a great cause. Thanks very much.

MIESNER: OK, thank you.

COOPER: All right.

We spent a lot of time over the last year or so reading your e- mails. Some of you need, well, maybe to get a life and some, well, are pretty darn good. So, we thought tonight we'd start sharing a few of our viewer e-mails with you.

This is from P. Serican (ph), in Ventura, California. P. wrote, "You blew the trumpet loudly enough over the, ooh, 22 percent of those who allegedly voted "moral values." Why not honestly report the results of the news Gallup poll that concludes: values tied for fourth place as the most important problem facing this country today. Obviously, you're initial glee over looming theocracy in America is misplaced or the very least is exaggerated."

First of all, P., I express no glee over looming theocracy, I know it's not in fashion these days on cable news. I know I won't get my own radio show or book deal by staying neutral, but I don't believe in wearing my opinion on my sleeve and lapel and I don't believe in shoving it down viewers' throats. That being said, I think we did probably focused too much on that initial exit poll. That 22 percent number, the question about moral values was too broad.

However, the Gallup poll that you write us about and a lot of people e-mailed us about this Gallup poll that was out there on the Internet, was actually a telephone survey. And there's no way to prove that any of the respondents in the survey actually even voted. So, use open-ended questions which are pretty subject to interpretation by those taking and conducting the surveys. Exit polls aren't perfect, certainly, but they're better a little bit better than open-ended surveys which CNN generally doesn't broadcast. That's the explanation on that one.

N. Smith, Terance Bay, Ontario writes, "Anderson, can you please slow down by about half a degree. You're running and talking about as fast as someone on crack." I haven't actually tried crack, so it's hard for me to judge. But I know I'm not in New York. I am in New York that's why talk pretty fast. And I promise I will try to slow down just a little bit. Thanks very much for the e-mail.

Catherine Keisor (ph) of San Diego, California wrote in, "I've become hooked on this show. I think it's one of the best news shows on any channel. Catherine, thanks very much.

Remember, admitting your hooked is the first step to recovery.

Now, I'm sure you have some feedback about our feedback, so please hit the 360 inbox at cnn.com/360 -- cnn. -- no, cnn./360. I think that's right. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Tonight, taking vulnerability to "The Nth Degree." It was lunchtime in Mosul, high noon, midday exactly. Hundreds of dusty people, of course, they were dusty, everyone is in that part of the world, were just sitting down to eat in the shade of the mess tent at the American military base there. Just sitting down. Just taking the weight off. Just beginning to relax in that special way we all do only at the table.

And then came a couple of blasts the midday meal, that little bit of time stolen away from the sun overhead and the tension all around stolen away for a bit of food, a cold glass of something, a weary joke or two was turned horribly inside out. It isn't really any worse than at any other time of day, of course, death is death. But it does seem worse because we're so vulnerable and so undefended when we all sit down together to eat. The table, after all, that center of life and the family is the last place on earth you'd expect to have to keep your guard up. And in Mosul today for too many people that is exactly what the table was, the last place on earth.

I'm Anderson Cooper, thanks for watching. CNN's prime time line up continues with PAULA ZAHN. Filling in tonight for Paula, is Bill Hemmer. Hey, Bill.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com


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