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Last-Minute Compromise; Stem Cell Debate

Aired May 24, 2005 - 5:00   ET


SEN. ROBERT BYRD (D), WEST VIRGINIA: We have kept it. We have kept the republic.


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: "We have kept the republic." You heard what he said. They're sounding more like soldiers than politicians these days. Straight ahead on DAYBREAK, senators talk peace after averting a political war.

Plus, Iraqi insurgents go into business for themselves in a deadly way. Their bargaining chip? Human lives.

And is this man guilty of treason? Oh, Bill Maher's in trouble again. One critic says he might be guilty of treason.

It is Tuesday, May 24. This is Daybreak.

And good morning to you. From the Time Warner Center in New York, I'm Carol Costello, along with Chad Myers.

"Now in the News," a Senate vote could come as early as today on one of President Bush's judicial nominees. This after senators reached a last-minute compromise on some of the stalled nominations. We'll bring you details straight ahead.

The Army restarts its case today against Private Lynndie England, known as the poster child of the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal. England also has a new legal team. A judge threw out her guilty plea earlier this month.

Jay Leno finds himself on a very different stage today. Sources tell CNN "The Tonight Show" host will testify for Michael Jackson's defense. Jackson's lawyers plan to rest their case this week in the child molestation trial.

And bracing for a flood. That's what people in Salt Lake City are doing this morning. Flood watches being extended in the area as runoff from melting mountain snow pours into creeks and rivers.

And that, of course, brings us to Chad.

Good morning.


COSTELLO: Back to our top story this morning, Chad.

A Senate battle over President Bush's court nominees seemed all but inevitable. Senators braced for -- for an historic fight, not just over the nominees themselves, but over the very way the Senate does its business. Now that showdown has been averted.

CNN Congressional Correspondent Joe Johns has the latest for you.


JOE JOHNS, CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: After days of intense negotiation and soul-searching, a bipartisan group of senators emerged from a final meeting Monday night, with a solution to the impasse over judicial nominations.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: The first question most of the media are going to ask is who won and who lost? The Senate won and the country won.

SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT: The bipartisan center held.

JOHNS: The deal was reached less than day before a showdown vote to keep Democrats from blocking judicial nominations. It allows votes on all but two of the president's judicial nominees, including three of the most controversial, Janice Rogers Brown, William Pryor, and Priscilla Owen. No vote is promised for nominees William Myers and Henry Saad.

Under the agreement signed by 14 senators, Democrats can only block future nominees under extraordinary circumstances. In exchange, Republicans would not change Senate rules barring filibusters. Some senior senators had expressed concern that changing the rules would forever damage the Senate's tradition of unlimited debate.

SEN. JOHN WARNER (R), VIRGINIA: And the one unanswered question that guided me all the way through is -- it was unanswered -- what would happen to the Senate if the nuclear option were done? And no one was able to answer that to my satisfaction. JOHNS: One Republican who came under extreme pressure from conservatives not to go for any deals said he expects to take some heat.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: People at home are going to be very upset at me for a while.

JOHNS: Some of the greatest pressure on Bill Frist, who may run for president. He had been warned by conservative groups that nothing less than up or down votes for all judges would be acceptable. Frist asserted he can still force a showdown.

SEN. BILL FRIST (R-TN), MAJORITY LEADER: But with this agreement, all options remain on the table, including the Constitutional option. If it had been necessary to deploy the Constitutional option it would have been successful. JOHNS: Frist's counterpart, Democratic Leader Harry Reid, seemed delighted with the deal.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MINORITY LEADER: It's over with, and I feel so good. This will be the first night in at least six weeks that I will sleep peacefully.

JOHNS (on camera): Reid essentially declared victory because the filibuster was preserved for judicial nominations, even though Democrats will allow votes on some nominees they fiercely opposed.

Joe Johns, CNN, Capitol Hill.


COSTELLO: Now for our CNN "Security Watch." Guess what? Another scare in Washington, D.C., after a plane wanders into restricted airspace.

A small Cessna entered into an area called the Air Defense Identification Zone. That's the outermost ring of the no-fly zone. Two Air Force F-16s were scrambled to intercept the plane. This video shows them dropping a flare -- you see it there -- to alert the Cessna's pilot.

The Secret Service interviewed him after he landed in Maryland. It is the second time in less than two weeks that a plane entered restricted airspace over Washington, but this time there were no evacuations.

The pilot from that other incident received his punishment. Hayden Sheaffer had his license revoked and will not be allowed to pilot a plane for at least a year. Sheaffer and a student pilot flew within three miles of the White House before they were turned away. That incident prompted the evacuation of the White House, the Capitol building and the Supreme Court.

That incident apparently has the Department of Homeland Security considering other options. Their new laser warning system went into effect this past weekend. It's intended to alert pilots who wander into restricted airspace, but an internal memo leaked to The Associated Press says the department may now seek the authority to shoot down errant planes.

Be sure to stay tuned to CNN day and night for the most reliable news about your security.

The debate over stem cell research heats up today in Washington. Two very different bills will be considered on the floor of the House. The White House has threatened to stop the one it doesn't like. A new CNN-"USA Today"-Gallup poll shows that most of you want action on the stem cell issue, and 53 percent of you want more money for research.

CNN Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen takes a look at the science and the controversy behind stem cells.


ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They're perhaps the most controversial frontier in modern medicine. Many scientists believe these tiny cells hold the potential to treat diseases such as diabetes, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, and even spinal cord injuries. Celebrity sufferers have beaten the drum for exploiting stem cells.

MICHAEL J. FOX, ACTOR: I'm one of a million involuntary experts on Parkinson's Disease in the United States, battling its destructive nature as we wait for a cure.

CHRISTOPHER REEVE, ACTOR: It's a miracle. It's something that has unlimited potential for curing people.

COHEN: The search for a cure became the life work of actor Christopher Reeve before he died in 2004. Embryonic stem cells are unspecified or blank cells. Scientists hope they can manipulate these cells into becoming any type of cell.

For example, with some spinal cord injuries, broken vertebrae cut the bundle of nerves behind them. Many researchers believe stem cells could be grown into tissue to close the gap in the damaged nerves.

DR. BARTH GREEN, NEUROSURGEON: Stem cells not only can replace damaged cells, but they can help repair.

COHEN: There's been some progress with animals. These rats were given a severe spinal cord injury and then injected with stem cells. Six weeks later, their hind legs were functioning again.

DR. JOHN GEARHART, JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY: We're well on our way in some of these areas, but we still have work to do.

COHEN: But there's a bitter ethical dispute about the use of embryonic stem cells, which many believe are the most promising for research. The embryos usually come from fertility clinics. They belong to parents who've decided not to use them to start a pregnancy. Using embryos for scientific research angers some groups.

JUDIE BROWN, AMERICAN LIFE LEAGUE: Human embryos, who are people, are being reduced to property and products, and they are literally being marketed to the scientific community so that their spare parts, so-called, can be used in research.

COHEN: Others say why not use the embryos for research that may be life-saving? The other option? Adult stem cells. They don't come from embryos. Instead, they're derived from a variety of sources, such as bone marrow or the umbilical cords of newborn babies. But some scientists say they're not as easy to manipulate as embryonic cells.

Three years ago, President George W. Bush limited federal funding of embryonic stem cell research to a specified group of existing stem cell lines. Researchers say this limited funding, coupled with possible contamination of the selected lines, has slowed progress in the U.S., while other countries have moved ahead with research.

In an effort to speed the progress, states like California are taking matters into their hands. They're devoting millions of taxpayer dollars to embryonic stem cell research. No one can predict what, if any, dividend will come from that research.


COSTELLO: One of the bills under consideration calls for a repeal of President Bush's ban on federal research money for new embryonic cells. A vote on the bill could come as early as this afternoon. We'll keep you posted.

Police in Idaho are hoping reward money will help end the search for two missing children. $100,000 being offered for information that leads to the safe return of 9-year-old Dylan Groene and his 8-year-old sister Shasta. Authorities say their father is not considered a suspect in the disappearance. In fact, police say they have no suspects right now.

In other news "Across America," the mayor of Spokane, Washington, says he will not resign. Mayor James West has come under fire after allegations surfaced that he molested two young boys more than 20 years ago, solicited sex online, and offered jobs to men he'd met on the Web. West denies those allegations but admits to using poor judgment in his personal life. Local business leaders say he should step down for the good of the city.

The Coast Guard successfully pulls three fishermen out of rough waters off the California coast. They became stranded after their boat sank. The fishermen clung to the rocks for about 45 minutes before the Coast Guard arrived. Wow. One person was treated for hypothermia.

Legendary record producer Phil -- this picture's just like, I don't know. Phil Spector, that's who this is. He may hear some hair- raising accusations in court. A judge ruled that past allegations of pulling guns on women can be introduced in his trial. Spector is accused of murder and the shooting of actress Lana Clarkson at his southern California mansion.


MYERS: Yes, Carol?

COSTELLO: I'm still recovering from that picture of Phil Spector, but I'm going to be all right.

MYERS: That was a little tease, so to speak.

COSTELLO: Well, what was he thinking? He's on trial for murder. Should he be doing his hair like that?

MYERS: Maybe that's the only way it would go.

COSTELLO: I don't know. Let's talk about comedian Bill Maher. Shall we?


COSTELLO: He's in trouble again.

MYERS: He is. Being accused of treason by some.

COSTELLO: By some. Specifically, one lawmaker who says, man, it is no joke.

On his HBO show, Maher poked fun at the military for missing its recruiting goal. He said, "We've done picked all the low-lying Lynndie England fruit, and now we need warm bodies." That's what he said on his show.

England, of course, as you know, is accused of abusing Iraqi prisoners. Well, Alabama Congressman Spencer Bachus says, "I think it borders on treason. In treason, one definition is to undermine the effort or national security of our country."

For his part, Maher says, "Anyone who knows anything about my views and has watched my show knows that I have nothing but the highest regard for the men and women serving this country around the world."

And you remember back right after the 9/11 attacks he had an ABC show, right?


COSTELLO: Remember what he said then?

MYERS: You know, he got kicked out of that for something though, didn't he?

COSTELLO: Well, he said that the terrorists were courageous.

MYERS: Yes, they were not cowards, what his quote was, right.

COSTELLO: They were not cowards. That made ABC very angry because it made many viewers angry. And, of course, they canceled his show.

Now he has a show on another network, a cable network. And now he's being accused of treason. So...

MYERS: So, the "Question of the Day" is, should Bill Maher be taken off the air, taken off HBO, which is pay cable station? Anyway, e-mail us at

Where does the -- where does the first amendment come in here?

COSTELLO: I'll be interested to hear what people have to say, because, you know, it is a free country.

MYERS: Well, it sure is. COSTELLO: We can say anything we want. Of course, treason is something different. But do those remarks add up to treason?

MYERS: Can't yell "Fire!" in a movie theater, Carol.

COSTELLO: All right then.

Coming up on DAYBREAK, they buy, sell and trade. But instead of property, it's people. In 30 minutes, the business behind those kidnappings in Iraq.

Also, a group of researchers are challenging the safety of another prescription drug. This time a pill that lowers cholesterol. Details on that in six minutes.

And just before the top of the hour, the summer concert festivals are firing up. We'll take you to one hot ticket.

But first, here's a look at what else is making news this Tuesday morning.


COSTELLO: The international markets in negative territory this morning. Tokyo's Nikkei down 25 points. The London FTSE down more than 5.5. The German DAX down just over eight points.

Your news, money, weather and sports. It's 5:17 Eastern. Here's what's all new this morning.

A last-minute deal on Capitol Hill. Senators have reached a compromise of -- on some of President Bush's stalled judicial nominees, and that averts a showdown. A vote on one of those nominees could happen today.

Lionel Tate is in trouble with the law again. Florida authorities have arrested the 18-year-old for allegedly robbing a pizza deliveryman at gunpoint. Tate pleaded guilty in the 1999 beating death of a 6-year-old playmate. He has been on probation.

In money news, more bank customers are learning that their identities may be in jeopardy. Bank of America and Wachovia are notifying more than 670,000 customers that their information was illegally sold by bank employees. Originally, the banks thought only half a million people were affected.

In culture, actress Gwyneth Paltrow is one of the new faces of Estee Lauder. She'll make her return to public life. And as for the company's fragrance line, Paltrow has been virtually unseen since the birth of her daughter Apple more than a year ago.

In sports, Shaquille O'Neal shook off his injuries to take on the Detroit Pistons in game one of the Eastern Conference Finals. But Shaq and the Miami Heat were unable to overcome the defending champions. The Pistons' 90-81 win gives them the early lead in the series. I think Detroit's just going to take it, Chad.

MYERS: Yes. That was really -- that was a spanking there, 11, 9 points at home. That was -- Detroit's got a lot of momentum going in there right now, Carol.


COSTELLO: I'm telling you, it's been the most horrible spring, Chad. It's depressing.

MYERS: Yes, it doesn't look amazing for the weekend in New England, but, you know, it's better than what you're seeing right now.

COSTELLO: We'll just take good.


COSTELLO: Who cares about amazing anymore. Thank you, Chad.


COSTELLO: Now a DAYBREAK follow-up on a story we brought you about sex offenders getting free Viagra courtesy of your tax dollars. Well, the government is moving fast on this one.

Medicaid has begun notifying states that they do not have to pay for Viagra for convicted sex offenders. This comes just one day after the New York Comptroller's Office announced it had uncovered the practice.

And more reason for concern about the cholesterol-lowering drug Crestor. A new study shows it has higher risks than other statins. Consumer advocates were trying to get Crestor off the market earlier this year, but the FDA decided the drug's risks were no greater than its competitors.

Still to come on DAYBREAK, it's not often we can laugh about world leaders. But when tidy-whiteys are involved, well, it is custom made for "Late Night Laughs." You will hear from Jay Leno after a break.

And later, most of us morning risers could not make it, so we will take a look at the star-studded Zootopia concert.


COSTELLO: You know, it's something we should not laugh about, Chad. But this is our "Late Night Laughs."

What are you doing?

MYERS: Well, you said that you wanted to do the late night -- the DAYBREAK dance.

COSTELLO: Yes. MYERS: Well, I've got a DAYBREAK dancer.

COSTELLO: Oh, that's scary. What is that? And where did you get it?

MYERS: A company called Swimways sent it to me. It's a bunch of new stuff that's going to be out this year for swim season. Guess when swim season starts? Memorial Day, Carol.

COSTELLO: And somehow that doll in a little ballerina outfit fits into swimsuit season.

MYERS: Well, whatever.

COSTELLO: Anyway, it is time to dig into our "Late Night Laughs" segment. And Jay Leno, of course, is making fun of those pictures of Saddam Hussein in his underpants. Let's listen.

MYERS: OK. I'm listening.


JAY LENO, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO": A tabloid newspaper in England published a picture of Saddam Hussein in his underwear. And today, the same tabloid newspaper issued an apology. They said, Saddam? We thought it was Camilla. We had no idea.

A lot of people in the Middle East feel pretty angry about the picture. They said how would we like it if our leader was caught without his pants on. Been there, done that. Hello? Duh.

And this was very disturbing. Did you see those -- all those people in Jerusalem chanting anti-American slogans and yelling at first lady Laura Bush about how evil her husband is? God, it was awful. It looked like Oscar night here in Hollywood. I couldn't believe it.



COSTELLO: I didn't think that was very funny.

MYERS: You didn't see Conan, though, huh?


MYERS: Conan O'Brien?

COSTELLO: Yes, what about him?

MYERS: He had the picture of Saddam in his underwear and pasted on the front said, "Weapons of mass destruction."

COSTELLO: We should have shown that clip.

MYERS: That's so weird. Anyway...

COSTELLO: All right. We want to get to our e-mail segment, because our viewers are sleeping this morning and are very slow to send us e-mail.


COSTELLO: Did you hear about what Bill Maher said, the latest thing?

MYERS: You have the quote. Go ahead, Carol.

COSTELLO: I have the quote. Let's see. Actually, a congressman says comedian Bill Maher's comment that the U.S. military has already recruited all the low-lying fruit is possible treasonous and at least grounds to cancel the show. I'm trying to find the direct quote, but of course I can't right now.

MYERS: So, should Bill Maher be taken off the air for these quotes. I mean, obviously, maybe a little anti-American and probably not making our soldiers abroad feel very good about it. Are they even watching this stuff anyway? It's on cable, it's on HBO.

If we weren't talking about it, would he even be getting any press? But is it treason, Carol?

COSTELLO: Tell us what you think. We'd appreciate it. We'll be right back.


COSTELLO: Good morning. Welcome to the second half-hour of DAYBREAK. From the Time Warner Center in New York, I'm Carol Costello, along with Chad Myers.

"Now in the News," a vote could come as early as today on some of President Bush's judicial nominees. A bipartisan group of senators reached a compromise last night that averted that filibuster showdown.

Later this morning, the Army will try again to court-martial Private Lynndie England. Three weeks ago, England pled guilty to her role in the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal, but the judge declared a mistrial and threw out her plea.


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