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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Ariel Sharon's Medical Update; Judging Alito; Road to Recovery; 'Minding Your Business's; A.M. Pop

Aired January 9, 2006 - 09:30   ET

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


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: There it is, opening bell on Wall Street. The Dow starting the day at 10,959. Up 77 points on Friday. Perhaps this will be the week of 11,000. We will let you know.
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back, everybody.

I like the way that guy just waving to the audience. He wasn't really...

M. O'BRIEN: It's just kind of a royal wave.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes, saying how are you?

M. O'BRIEN: Yes, how are you?

S. O'BRIEN: Then he started clapping for everybody.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes. Yes.

S. O'BRIEN: Let's get right to some of our top stories this morning.

Carol has got that.

Good morning.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: I do, thanks. Good morning to all of you.

We have some new developments to tell you about out of Washington. We are now hearing that evacuation we told you about a short time ago, the one at the Justice Department, it's over.

The Justice Department was evacuated because of a suspicious package found on a bus parked near the building, kind of at Ninth and Constitution. Well it turns out the package on board the bus was a green parka. It is how tense the city still is after 9/11. I guess the moral of the story, don't leave your jacket on a bus anywhere near any government building.

We are expecting a medical update soon on Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Doctors have been bringing the Israeli leader out of a medically induced coma today. It's meant to relieve pressure on his brain, the induced coma that is. Doctors say his condition does remain critical, but a brain scan Sunday showed some progress. That medical update is at 10:00 Eastern. Of course we'll bring it to you live.

Randy McCloy Jr., the lone survivor of the coal mine accident in West Virginia, might open his eyes soon. Doctors say he's breathing on his own, which is a sign he's starting to come out of his medically induced coma. In the meantime, more funeral services are set today in honor of the 12 miners who died. Six of the men were buried on Sunday.

Vice President Dick Cheney back at home after a brief visit to the hospital this morning. He checked in for shortness of breath. Doctors say it was related to some medicine he's taking for a problem with his foot. The vice president joked about his ailment Friday before addressing troops at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Got a cane today and it's driving the press nuts. They keep asking my staff, what happened to the vice president, you know? Is it serious? And so I say, no, Secretary Rumsfeld bit me in the ankle.

(LAUGHTER)

CHENEY: Not to worry. But don't tell him I said that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: The vice president is believed to have a form of arthritis in his foot. He also has a long history of heart problems and a pacemaker.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has a busted lip. Schwarzenegger was riding his Hog, his Harley, with his 12-year-old son, Patrick, in the sidecar. Well, a car backed out in front of them and they collided with the car. Lucky they weren't going very fast. The governor had to have 15 stitches in his lip, though. His son was also treated for minor cuts and bruises. The driver of the car, as you might suspect, Chad, was not hurt.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: I'm glad you clarified that it was a Harley and not really riding a hog. Just a bad thought in my head right now.

COSTELLO: I know. The image is just funny, though, isn't it?

MYERS: Good morning, Carol, I'm sorry.

Good morning, everybody.

(WEATHER REPORT)

Back to you guys.

S. O'BRIEN: Kind of gloomy, but a beautiful shot there -- Chad.

MYERS: Yes, wasn't it? S. O'BRIEN: Nice work, thanks.

MYERS: You're welcome.

S. O'BRIEN: Confirmation hearings for Judge Samuel Alito get under way this morning. Could Democrats filibuster if they think that Judge Alito is not forthcoming with the answers?

Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont is the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee. He joins us from the Rotunda of the Capitol.

Nice to see you, senator. Thanks for talking with us.

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT: Good to be with you.

S. O'BRIEN: You will have an opportunity, I know, really starting tomorrow, technically, to grill Judge Alito. What would you like to know from him? What do you want to ask him?

LEAHY: I want to know to what extent he's willing to have a real check and balance with the court. I mean we have seen some of the scandals here in Washington where there hasn't been a check and balance, where nobody wants to say no. We have seen the lobbyist scandals, especially in the House of Representatives. We have seen the president involved in illegal spying on Americans because nobody will say no.

Is he willing when the court, a final place where all Americans, all 295 million Americans could expect somebody to make sure their rights are protected, is he willing to do it? He has a long history of siding with the government. I'm going to ask -- I know that he was vetted by Dick Cheney and Scooter Libby and everybody on that -- and that element of the party is saying wonderful things about him. They are very confident in what he will do. Can all of us be confident that he will respect all our rights or just a small number of us?

S. O'BRIEN: Ed Gillespie, as you well know, is the man who is advising Samuel Alito. Here's what he said when he was asked about the sort of past decisions the judge has made. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ED GILLESPIE, FMR. RNC CHAIRMAN: Sometimes the law is on the side of the corporation. Sometimes the law is on the side of the individual. And the role of a judge is to not say well I'm going to rule with the individual, I'm going to rule with the corporation. The role of the judge is to say I'm going to rule with the law based on the facts of this specific case, not on some predetermined decision.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

S. O'BRIEN: When he says predetermined decision -- go ahead, sir.

LEAHY: You know I -- that may well be so. And just a pure technical point, he's right. But what about the case, for example, where he allowed the strip search of a 10-year-old girl. He was very much in the minority on that. The rest of the court, other -- all past courts would say that wasn't allowed. There was no warrant. A strip search of a 10-year-old, come on, now that's putting the -- that's taking the side of the government a little bit too much.

S. O'BRIEN: Let's talk about abortion rights. It's certainly going to be another hot button issue that I would imagine there will be at least 1 or 500 questions coming to the judge on this one.

Here's what Senator Brownback, your colleague, had to say about this issue.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. SAM BROWNBACK (R), KANSAS: Things do change and positions change. He's advocating for a position in a conservative administration at that time in an administration. Now he's going on the Supreme Court of the United States if approved by the United States Senate. And these are different jobs altogether and they have different parameters with them altogether.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

S. O'BRIEN: The senator, I guess, is sort of closing the gap between this 1985 memo where we -- where Alito said that he believed the Constitution did not support a right to abortion and maybe his -- what he might rule now should he be on the Supreme Court. What do you make of that rationale?

LEAHY: Well I think, again, basically what Sam Brownback said is correct, except that we -- you still have to ask what is his position? Is Roe versus Wade really settled law? Is it something no matter what his personal feelings might be? And we have members of the Senate both in favor of abortion rights and those opposed to them.

What would be -- what would be his -- what would be his position as a judge is something that's been up there 30 times or more comes up again? We know how Clarence Thomas basically thought that it was settled law and then immediately voted to overturn Roe.

I think it's legitimate to ask him questions about it. I know Senator Specter will be the first person to ask questions. We'll ask that. But that's not the -- I would hope nobody would make a mistake of thinking that this whole debate is going to be just on abortion. There are a whole lot of other issues, not the least of which to what extent is the Supreme Court going to be a real check and balance, or to what extent are they going to accept the position of some that at certain times the president is above the law?

S. O'BRIEN: Will you agree to a filibuster if you feel that the judge is not being forthcoming with answers to you?

LEAHY: Well let's wait until we see what happens in these. I always make up my mind afterward. I mean I remember a lot of people that came on your show predicting how I would vote against John Roberts for chief justice. I voted for him based on the three hours I spent with him and the -- what I heard also in the hearings. I made up my mind after the hearings.

I'll do the same here. But certainly if Judge Alito won't answer legitimate questions, then he does run the risk of a filibuster. Everybody knows that. That's not breaking news.

S. O'BRIEN: Senator Patrick Leahy, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, thanks for talking with us -- sir.

LEAHY: So good to be with you. Thank you.

S. O'BRIEN: Thank you. Clarifying breaking news for us, too.

A reminder, CNN is going to have live coverage of the Supreme Court confirmation hearings. An extended "SITUATION ROOM" with Wolf Blitzer starts at noon Eastern -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Thanks, Soledad.

Another sign of recovery in New Orleans, universities starting to hold classes once again. Most had to cancel their fall semesters, as you know, because of damage from Hurricane Katrina.

AMERICAN MORNING's Alina Cho just got back from the Crescent City and she's here to tell us how the universities are doing.

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Miles. You know they are having to make a lot of changes. In some cases, drastic ones. Some universities have made some cuts, others have been forced to move and students are finding that Hurricane Katrina has changed everything.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Dillard University freshman Sunni Jones-Ford is back in New Orleans for her spring semester, but she is not on campus.

SUNNI JONES-FORD, DILLARD UNIVERSITY STUDENT: Actually, I think it might be a little bit better than dorms. It's -- I mean you're staying in a hotel. So it's exciting. It's different.

CHO: Dillard has effectively moved into the Hilton Hotel in downtown New Orleans.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There you go.

JONES-FORD: Thank you.

CHO: Classes are being held in the hotel ballroom. Students and faculty are living there, too.

MARVALENE HUGHES, DILLARD UNIVERSITY PRESIDENT: I never dreamed that I would be in the midst of a trauma like Katrina. But after we discovered how serious it was, it was very clear to me that we had to exercise a lot of creativity in order to keep our students on track.

CHO: About half of Dillard's student body has returned.

Over at Tulane University, nearly 9 in 10 students have come back. University President Scott Cowen calls that unbelievable.

SCOTT COWEN, TULANE UNIVERSITY PRESIDENT: There was a time period after that storm, and it was about three weeks, where, quite honestly, I did not think we would survivor as an institution.

CHO: Tulane's campus sustained about $200 million in damage following Katrina. Cowen says that forced him to make some tough decisions. He fired 233 faculty and eliminated nearly half of the doctoral programs. That means engineering student Will Clarkson won't be able to stay at Tulane for his graduate work.

WILL CLARKSON, TULANE UNIVERSITY STUDENT: I'm disappointed, but I feel like I have an opportunity to go somewhere else and -- but I really would like to have stayed here.

CHO: Post Katrina there are other changes at Tulane. Starting in the fall, all undergraduates will be required to perform community service.

COWEN: It's going to be like being in a small college town in a Peace Corps environment.

CHO: Next door to Tulane, Loyola University's campus suffered minimal damage. Eighty-seven percent of its undergrads are returning.

The University of New Orleans stayed open during the fall semester by holding classes at a sister campus in nearby Jefferson Parish. In the spring, UNO will be back on its main campus and will house some students and faculty in trailers.

Xavier University, which suffered some of the worst damage in the storm, will now cram a year's worth of curriculum into one longer semester.

WARREN BELL JR., XAVIER UNIVERSITY SPOKESMAN: They will not have a summer, nor will our faculty. But the end result is by next fall these students will be right on track.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHO: Now one other interesting point, Tulane University is actually hosting students from other schools around the nation this semester. The president, Scott Cowen, told me that students who might otherwise take a semester abroad, say in Europe, are coming to New Orleans instead. He says these students are so moved by what happened they want to help.

And one note about Dillard University students, Miles, it's not so bad being in a hotel this semester, they are actually getting free laundry and even free maid service twice a week, so not a bad deal.

M. O'BRIEN: No room service, though, right?

CHO: No room service.

M. O'BRIEN: All right.

CHO: It's not free.

M. O'BRIEN: Well, it's good if they can tap into the energy of those students to help rebuild the city. That would be a wonderful thing.

CHO: It certainly would be.

M. O'BRIEN: Alina Cho, thank you very much -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Business news is coming up next.

Andy is "Minding Your Business." What have you got?

ANDY SERWER, "FORTUNE" MAGAZINE: Soledad, are you an employee of one of America's best companies to work for?

Plus, the end of erectile dysfunction ads during the Super Bowl. Three cheers for that.

Stay tuned to AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

S. O'BRIEN: Are you happy with your job? I'm wildly, blissfully, unbelievably, overjoyably.

M. O'BRIEN: Depends on what -- blissfully happy.

SERWER: Now I am. Now I'm 45, I'm happy with my job.

S. O'BRIEN: That's right. We only got 14 minutes left, you can be happy for the last 14 minutes.

SERWER: Yes.

S. O'BRIEN: Andy has got a list of some of the best companies to work for.

SERWER: I do -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: And...

SERWER: We'll get to that in one second. Just a drumroll, keep it going.

We're going to go down to the big board and see how stocks are faring, up 12 points. So we are getting very close to that magical 11,000 mark. In fact, what is that?

M. O'BRIEN: Could be today. You never know.

SERWER: Could be. Today could be the day. M. O'BRIEN: Yes.

SERWER: "Fortune" magazine, where I work, comes out with an annual list of the best companies to work for in the United States. And let's check it out. Do you work there? Do you shop there? I'm glad it revealed, as they say, because we're...

M. O'BRIEN: We're tired. Tired (ph).

SERWER: OK, Genentech is a biotech concern. Wegmans is a supermarket chain out of Rochester. Valero, the gasoline company. Griffin Hospital in Connecticut. Gore they make Gore-Tex. Do you know they also make glide dental floss? I didn't know that.

M. O'BRIEN: I'm a big user, a big fan of that.

S. O'BRIEN: No. I love floss (ph).

SERWER: Good stuff.

M. O'BRIEN: It's good stuff. Yes.

SERWER: It is good stuff.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes.

SERWER: On to the Container Store and the Vision Service Plan, an insurance eye care company. Smuckers, you know what they make. REI makes outdoors stuff.

M. O'BRIEN: With a name like Smuckers, it's got to be good. Remember that one?

SERWER: Yes, jellies and jams.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes.

SERWER: Jellies and jams. And then finally, S.C. Johnson, that's Johnson wax, out of Racine, Wisconsin. So congratulations to all of them.

Now let's talk about the NFL and those E.D. drugs which are frankly...

S. O'BRIEN: E.D.

SERWER: Yes.

S. O'BRIEN: What does E.D. stand for?

SERWER: Erectile dysfunction.

Thank you, Soledad.

M. O'BRIEN: Not that there's anything wrong with that.

(CROSSTALK)

SERWER: She likes it when I say that, which is -- brings up other issues.

S. O'BRIEN: I like to...

(CROSSTALK)

S. O'BRIEN: ... a little bit.

SERWER: Yes. OK.

M. O'BRIEN: Does...

SERWER: You may remember...

(CROSSTALK)

SERWER: ... they have these ads during the games, and which is fine, because you know it's mostly a male audience, quite frankly, I guess. But during the Super Bowl it becomes a family affair and it becomes upsetting.

I had personal experience with this in 2004. That was the famous Janet Jackson Super Bowl when...

M. O'BRIEN: Right.

SERWER: ... we were watching with the whole family and some of the kids started twittering when these ads came on. And the younger kids said what's that? What is that an ad for? So you can see how it can kind of be a disturbing thing.

The NFL, according to the ad age, will be ending its partnership with Levitra. Cialis, made by Eli Lilly, is voluntarily pulling its ads from the Super Bowl. So it looks like this little partnership may be coming to an end, and I say here here.

S. O'BRIEN: Right, I'm happy, too.

M. O'BRIEN: All right.

SERWER: Yes.

M. O'BRIEN: Or you could -- well, no, it's...

SERWER: No, don't.

S. O'BRIEN: No.

SERWER: This is a time for you not to make a pun. OK.

S. O'BRIEN: Moving on. Moving on. Moving on.

SERWER: The gag order for Miles O'Brien.

S. O'BRIEN: I'm going to read the piece for Miles, because I don't trust him.

SERWER: Gag him. Gag him. Gag him.

S. O'BRIEN: Let's get right to Daryn Kagan.

Daryn, what are you working on this morning?

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: I will save the day for you.

Good morning.

S. O'BRIEN: Thank you.

SERWER: Thank you.

KAGAN: It is another busy morning ahead. Baby Noor, the little girl from Iraq with spina bifida, is undergoing potentially life- saving surgery right now, right here in Atlanta. We'll talk more about this birth defect, the causes, the possible preventions and what many other children living with spina bifida are doing.

Also, President Bush touts his No Child Left Behind program. He's visiting a school in Maryland, an academic success story. And we'll hear from him about a half-hour from now.

And alas, no cat stories today, but we do have a mouse story, so stay tuned for that.

M. O'BRIEN: Is it -- is this the burning mouse story?

KAGAN: Yes, it's kind of a weird twisted story, yes.

M. O'BRIEN: It's kind of a weird one, yes.

All right. Anyway, thank you. Thank you, Daryn.

And thank you, co-workers, for saving my job just a moment ago.

More to come on AMERICAN MORNING.

S. O'BRIEN: The least we could do.

M. O'BRIEN: Stay with us.

S. O'BRIEN: By saving you, we saved ourselves.

M. O'BRIEN: Thank you. Thank you.

Ahead on "A.M. Pop," what's hot and what's not in 2006?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Welcome back, brother.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

M. O'BRIEN: The big screen to the small screen and everything else in between.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HOWARD STERN, RADIO JOCK: I want to go with my fans to my own universe.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

M. O'BRIEN: We'll tell you what is in and what is out for the New Year. AMERICAN MORNING back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

M. O'BRIEN: "A.M. Pop" time. The New Year has begun. Are you up on what is hot?

S. O'BRIEN: Are you up on what is not, too? Last year it was the bohemian look, science fiction movies, reality TV. What's hot and what's not 2006?

Jessica Shaw from "Entertainment Weekly" joins us.

Nice to see you.

JESSICA SHAW, "ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY": You too.

S. O'BRIEN: Howard Stern made his debut this morning on Satellite Radio.

SHAW: He did.

S. O'BRIEN: Satellite Radio hot 2006?

SHAW: You know what, he's on Sirius. I would say both hot and not. I think that the verdict is kind of out. It's definitely a compelling concept, but we still don't know. You know it's definitely going to change the game. We still don't know how much it's going to change the game. He says he's going to have live sex on the air, but still only three million subscribers. So we'll see what it actually does for him.

M. O'BRIEN: Well he was quoted today as saying he was trying to discourage a lot of obscenities, which is interesting.

SHAW: And yet all morning he has been sort of letting them fly.

(CROSSTALK)

M. O'BRIEN: So, go figure.

S. O'BRIEN: So, go figure, really.

All right, let's move on and talk about movies. 2005 science fiction was hot, we just said. Now you're saying science fiction is... SHAW: Yes. It's kind of 2005. It's sort of last year. We had "Star Wars," we had "Narnia," "Harry Potter." 2006 we're not going to be seeing any of that, which is not to say science fiction is over, because in 2007 we'll be back with a new "Harry Potter" and likely the next "Narnia."

S. O'BRIEN: So it's just going to skip a year?

SHAW: Yes.

S. O'BRIEN: So in 2006, what's hot?

SHAW: What's hot, a lot of sequels, a lot of sequels we have been dying for, like "X Men 3," like "Mission Impossible 3." Finally Tom Cruise is back. "Pirates of the Caribbean 2" and of course...

M. O'BRIEN: We've been dying for these?

SHAW: I have, I don't know.

M. O'BRIEN: Really? You have.

(CROSSTALK)

SHAW: I've sort of been excited...

S. O'BRIEN: We have been dying for these.

SHAW: Right, OK, I have no life.

S. O'BRIEN: He goes a little heavy on the religion, but we like him in the movies. We understand that. You say that when it comes to TV you're loving "The Office." "The Office" is hot.

SHAW: Loving "The Office." And "Arrested Development," sadly, a great show is out. It's going off the air. But "The Office" will likely inherit a lot of those very sad "Arrested" fans.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes, that's true.

SHAW: And with a new time slot on Thursday night, so it's poised for -- to take off.

S. O'BRIEN: Also in TV you say HBO hot?

SHAW: Yes, HBO definitely hot. Young adult shows not so hot. More complex adult dramas on HBO coming on. "The Sopranos" is coming back, "Deadwood." And perhaps the most interesting take on the family drama this year, "Big Love" about a polygamist and his three wives.

M. O'BRIEN: Wow.

SHAW: Yes.

S. O'BRIEN: Well how about that?

M. O'BRIEN: That's risky TV.

SHAW: Yes.

S. O'BRIEN: And yet "The O.C." not going to be hot.

SHAW: "The O.C.," "One Tree Hill," young adult, not so hot anymore, not that interesting this year.

S. O'BRIEN: Let's talk fashion, because Miles has just been begging...

M. O'BRIEN: I'm dying to know.

SHAW: Yes.

S. O'BRIEN: ... fashion all day.

SHAW: It's a good look today.

M. O'BRIEN: The tie is in?

S. O'BRIEN: Last year -- you're in. You're fine.

Bohemian chic was in last year?

SHAW: Yes.

S. O'BRIEN: Not so much?

SHAW: I mean you know what, how sick are we of that whole street urchin look, the baggy clothes, the torn stockings, the, like, please, sir, may I have some more fashion? Let it go. Throw it out.

S. O'BRIEN: What is hot?

SHAW: Mod. Mod chic, kind of '60s. You know Sienna Miller (ph) is someone who is the poster child for all things cool and she was sort of the girl of bo-ho chic with her long hair and her peasant skirts and whatever. Now she has got this great new haircut. And you know, as you can see, a lot of fabulous fashion.

S. O'BRIEN: So she has moved away from bo-ho chic?

SHAW: She has.

S. O'BRIEN: She is in the Mod chic.

SHAW: Absolutely.

S. O'BRIEN: And she is essentially hot then?

SHAW: Yes, she is perma (ph) hot.

M. O'BRIEN: So what am I supposed to buy...

S. O'BRIEN: Perma hot until next year. M. O'BRIEN: ... platform shoes...

S. O'BRIEN: Mod chic.

(CROSSTALK)

S. O'BRIEN: And stay away from the bohemian chic.

(CROSSTALK)

SHAW: Embrace your inner Andy Warhol.

M. O'BRIEN: All right, I will.

S. O'BRIEN: No more flowing skirts. That's over. Too bad, I just bought a couple of those.

Thanks -- Jessica.

SHAW: Sure.

S. O'BRIEN: A little too late for me, but thanks a lot. Appreciate the update.

Short break, we're back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

S. O'BRIEN: Coming up tomorrow on AMERICAN MORNING, we'll get a follow-up with the first team from our "New You Resolution." Our Washington lobbyist and his assistant, they have two very different personalities, can they work together to get started on a healthy lifestyle for both of them? Dr. Sanjay Gupta has got a look at that tomorrow on AMERICAN MORNING.

M. O'BRIEN: No more ribs and candy for them. But, jeez, you know,...

S. O'BRIEN: That's too bad.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes, I know.

S. O'BRIEN: Kind of kills all the fun, doesn't it?

M. O'BRIEN: It's kind of a shame. It's kind of a shame.

S. O'BRIEN: But they will be healthy at the end, right?

M. O'BRIEN: Yes, I guess that's the idea, isn't it? But, I mean we just checked in with them this morning. They have actually started on their program right, already, so...

S. O'BRIEN: Yes, they should be assigning them a program...

M. O'BRIEN: This is more than 24 hours of progress that we're...

S. O'BRIEN: Yes, yes.

(CROSSTALK)

S. O'BRIEN: The way this works is we will really understand what their issues are, more in-depth.

M. O'BRIEN: OK.

S. O'BRIEN: And also find out what the plan that Sanjay is going to lay out for them.

M. O'BRIEN: There we go. OK, that will be tomorrow.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes.

M. O'BRIEN: Among many other things. That's all we have for this Monday edition of AMERICAN MORNING.

Daryn Kagan is in Atlanta at CNN Center with more for us. And no cat stories, but a mouse today.

KAGAN: A mouse story, yes. Speaking of issues, the mouse had issues. And we'll get to that in a little bit.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes.

S. O'BRIEN: Had.

KAGAN: Yes. Yes, that kind of gives away the ending of the story.

You guys have a great day in New York City.

We'll go ahead and get started.

We are standing by for several live events this hour. Doctors at a Jerusalem hospital will update us any minute now on Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's condition. And later this hour, President Bush visits an elementary school in Maryland on this the four year anniversary of the No Child Left Behind Law. More on both of those stories ahead. First, let's take a look at what's happening right "Now in the News."

Supreme Court Nominee Samuel Alito begin as huge week after having breakfast this morning with President Bush. Senate hearings into Alito's nomination kick off two hours from now. Today's session will be devoted to opening statements. Questioning starts tomorrow. CNN's "The Situation Room" with Wolf Blitzer will have live coverage of today's hearing beginning at noon Eastern.

In Iraq, two suicide bombings today killed at least 23 Iraqi police and wounded 21 others. The twin attacks took place outside the main entrance of the Iraqi interior ministry. The bombings came during Iraqi police day celebrations.

Turkish health officials today confirmed that at least 14 people across the country have tested positive for bird flu. The number includes three children from one family who died from the disease. The World Health Organization has so far confirmed four cases in Turkey, including the deaths. The human deaths from bird flu are the first outside of East Asia.

Here in the U.S., Andrea Yates returns to a Texas courtroom this hour. Yates has been in prison since 2002 for drowning her children in the bathtub. A state appeals court overturned her convictions last year. Yates now face a new trial. Her attorney says she again will plead not guilty by reason of insanity.

It is Monday morning. Good morning, everyone, I'm Daryn Kagan at CNN Center in Atlanta.

Supreme Court Nominee Samuel Alito takes center stage today. His confirmation hearings begin less than two hours from now on Capitol Hill. Among the key issues facing Alito, his stands on abortion and the powers of the president. CNN National Correspondent Bob Franken joins us now from Capitol Hill.

Bob, good morning.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning.

The stakes are high, of course. The confrontations are going to be many. Samuel Alito is nominated to replace Sandra Day O'Connor. She's considered middle of the road. The so called swing vote on the court. He considered somebody who is a conservative without apology, except that the Democrats are going to be really hammering at him issues like abortion, issues like war powers and the like. The man who did nominate him, President Bush, had him over for a little gnosh this morning and then keeping his promise to take him to the Rose Garden for a brief appearance before reporters.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's very important that members of the Senate conduct a dignified hearing. The Supreme Court's a dignified body. Sam is a dignified person. And my hope, of course, is that the Senate bring dignity to the process and give this man a fair hearing and an up or down vote on the Senate floor.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FRANKEN: It's a lot of dignifieds. And the senators will claim that while they intend to be dignified, they also intend, particularly the Democrats, to be confrontational. And abortion is the one that everybody talks about as an issue that will cause some of the confrontation. But as the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee points out, it's not the only issue.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY, (D) VERMONT: I would hope nobody would make a mistake of thinking that this whole debate is going to be just on abortion. There are a whole lot of other issues, not the least of which, to what extent is the Supreme Court going to be a real check and balance or to what extent are they going to accept the position of some that at certain times the president is above the law.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAGAN: And we go live now to Jerusalem. The latest on Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE, (through translator): Good day to everyone. We have here Professor Mor-Yosef, the director general, and Professor Omanski (ph), the chief surgeon. Professor Mor-Yosef we give you a report on the prime minister's condition. And after that, there will be time for questions.

DR. SHLOMO MOR-YOSEF, HADASSAH HOSPITAL: Good evening. We are once again reporting on the condition of the prime minister. The prime minister is still, of course, in the neurosurgical intensive care unit. As you know, since this morning, the prime minister began to breathe spontaneously. He is still connected to the ventilator but he is breathing on his own. During the morning, we gradually reduced the anesthesia that the prime minister is receiving. The prime minister is still under sedation at this time but at a lower dosage than in the morning hours.

As we reduced the dosage of the anesthesia, we did a number of examinations of the prime minister. We first checked to see that nothing changed in his vital signs. His blood pressure, pulse, the intracranial pressure and breathing rate.

Later, we did a number of pain stimuli tests and this involves pressure in a certain place which causes pain to a normal person and, as a result of this pain stimulus, we checked to see how the patient responds or we checked to see how Prime Minister Ariel Sharon responded. In the pain stimulus test we did today, a number of times we noted that the prime minister, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, slightly moved his right arm and right leg. This was a very slight movement but it is a significant one.

We are continuing, as I stated earlier, in the reduction of the dosage of the anesthesia. And the pain stimulus and the response of the prime minister were also accompanied by a rise in blood pressure, which in this case is also a positive response. So all in all I repeat and I emphasize, the prime minister is in serious condition.

This does not change the serious condition in which the prime minister is found. But after examining the brain functions of the prime minister, we can see signs starting with the spontaneous breathing by the prime minister and the slight movements of the prime minister's arm and leg. And we must note that these movements during the day changed. They were increasingly significant as we reduced the dosage of the anesthesia during the day.

That is our statement at this time. And I am proud to be standing here next to Professor Omanski. Professor Omanski is the director of the neurosurgical department of Hadassah. He is the head of the team that operated on the prime minister in all three surgeries. He is the chief of the team that is caring for the prime minister in the neurosurgical intensive care unit. I asked Professor Omanski to come down here despite the fact that he is very busy with his care of the prime minister, 24 hours a day since the prime minister has arrived, and he has agreed to answer your questions. Thank you very much.

QUESTION, (through translator): What was the most optimistic moment during all the examinations you conducted of the prime minister? And can we say that there has been improvement?

PROFESSOR OMANSKI, (through translator): Yes, definitely. We began, as Professor Mor-Yosef has explained. We began very gradually to reduce the level of the anesthesia. The first thing was that he began to breathe spontaneously. That was an important step.

And secondly, he also gradually began to respond to pain stimulus. And this is a very important thing in his condition.

QUESTION, (through translator): What are the coming tests you are planning to carry out on the prime minister?

OMANSKI: It is too early to speak about cognitive function. We are constantly testing the prime minister and examining and reducing the level of the anesthesia. In order to reach a state where we can examine cognitive functions, that will take a number of days. We will continue to care for him. We will give him the medications that he needs to receive. We will continue to reduce the levels of anesthesia and we'll continue to test him. That's what we have on schedule for today.

QUESTION, (through translator): What is the next stage you expect to see in the prime minister's -- in the progression of his condition?

OMANSKI: That the pain responses be more significant. That we see more significant movement of his limbs. That should be followed by opening the eyes, opening of the eyes. But as I said, a number of days can pass from one stage to the next and gradually that he reach an even better stage than that.

Why are you asking about the left lobe? He was operated on the right side.

QUESTION, (through translator): When will you stop giving the prime minister anesthesia intravenously? And when will it be possible to wake him up?

OMANSKI: These two things don't necessarily go together because the moment we stop the anesthesia completely, there are still traces of the substances in the bloodstream. So stopping the anesthesia will be carried out by the members of the team, the anesthesiologist on the team. And they will decide in accordance with the responses of the prime minister regarding the tempo and the rate at which the dosage will be reduced further. QUESTION, (through translator): What parameters need to be seen in the examination so that the prime minister can be defined as not being in serious condition any longer?

OMANSKI: It's difficult to say just now. Certainly the moment the prime minister can speak to us and sit up, or sit next to his bed in an armchair, then we'll be able to say that he is no longer in serious condition. The moment that he is conscious, as I have said, and speaks to us and all his systems work the way they should and there are no complications, then we can say that he is no longer in serious condition. I have explained, we need only to monitor the prime minister's movements and to understand that this is a very, very gradual process.

QUESTION, (through translator): Is there a chance that you may decide to sedate him once again?

OMANSKI: Yes, it's possible.

QUESTION, (through translator): Can you give us the results of his Glasgow (ph) tests? And has he opened his eyes? Did he look around?

OMANSKI: No, his glasgo -- this is a professional test. It's not important now. He has not yet opened his eyes. Thank you very much.

KAGAN: We've been listening into a news conference in Jerusalem. The doctors of Ariel Sharon giving the latest on the prime minister's status, saying that they are reducing the amount of sedation he has. And as they do that, they're finding he is able to breath on his own, although still on a ventilator, and that he is responding to pain stimuli. But they say it is way, way too early to talk about any potential brain damage or the prime minister's cognitive function at this time.

Our Fionnuala Sweeney is standing by in Jerusalem with more on the story.

Fionnuala.

FIONNUALA SWEENEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Daryn, certainly this is news that could not have been anticipated, five, maybe even four days ago when Ariel Sharon went in for that second round of surgery which lasted four hours. He is -- the prime minister now 77 years of age. Of rather portly stature. And he has managed to survive three major operations within the last five days.

And as you heard there, the professor, Shlomo Mor-Yosef of this hospital, saying that they were reducing the anesthesia. And as they reduced the dosage giving to him, they began to notice that he was responding to pain stimuli. He twitched or moved his right arm and his right leg. And those movements and responses grew as the day went by.

Now they're going to continue to monitor him, of course, 24 hours, around the clock. But they do still say that this news does not change his condition. The prime minister is still in very serious condition. But it has stabilized and it does seem to be improving. Even when his blood pressure rose during the day that, too, was a positive indication. So all his vital signs operating within the normal range.

Daryn.

KAGAN: Fionnuala Sweeney, live from Jerusalem, thank you for that.

Now back here in the United States. Let's give you the latest on Vice President Dick Cheney. Just a couple hours ago, the vice president was released from a Washington hospital. He was rushed there overnight suffering from shortness of breath. Doctors conclude the problem was not serious and likely tied to the medication he is taking for a foot ailment. He made light of that foot problem just a few days ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm using a cane today and it's driving the press nuts. They keep asking my staff, what happened to the vice president? You know, is it serious? And so I said, no, Secretary Rumsfeld bit me in the ankle. Not to worry. But don't tell him I said that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAGAN: Well, he might just know now. Mr. Cheney has had a history of serious health problems, including several heart attacks.

Doctors for the lone survivor of the West Virginia mine tragedy have updated his condition. We'll have that for you just ahead.

Also, President Bush is going to school. Just about 10 minutes from now, the commander in chief will be speaking at an elementary school in Maryland talking about the No Child Left Behind Act.

But first, baby Noor now in surgery. A little Iraqi girl in need of life saving surgery is getting it right here, right now, in Atlanta. We're live from the hospital when CNN LIVE TODAY returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KAGAN: And the markets have been open about 50 minutes. And you can see, just getting a little bit going in a positive direction on this Monday morning. The Dow up 12, almost 13 points. We're keeping an eye on the big number of 11,000. As you can see, it's just about 28, 27 points away from hitting that magic number. Also the Nasdaq is up. It is up just over three points.

Today could be the beginning of a new life for baby Noor, the Iraqi infant brought to the U.S. for life-saving surgery. That operation got underway this morning in Atlanta as doctors try to surgically repair the life threatening birth defect that inspired an international mission of goodwill. CNN's David Mattingly is outside Children's Health Care of Atlanta with the latest on the baby.

Hi, David.

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Daryn, surgery is underway right now. It got started about 7:30 this morning as scheduled. It's supposed to last three to three and a half hours. And we expect to have some preliminary word for you sometime after that.

It's a very delicate procedure, as you might guess. The doctors will be going in to remove a fluid filled sac that is on her back covering the opening that leads to her spine. This severe form of spina bifida that she was born with means that her spinal column did not develop completely. So once they remove the sac and locate her spinal cord, they will position the cord will it belongs. Then they will wrap it and seal it in muscle tissue. And as if that weren't difficult enough, then a plastic surgeon will step in to try and cover that rather large opening in her lower back. So a very special and very difficult day for a very special little girl.

Daryn.

KAGAN: So they're going to try to do everything in one surgery or does the baby face more surgery before she goes back to Iraq?

MATTINGLY: There will be other surgeries most likely in this case. But right now, just addressing the deformities from the spina bifida. They will be watching her very closely and evaluating her by the hour looking for any sort of fluid build-up on her brain. We're told by doctors that usually eight to nine out of 10 patients with this condition will require additional surgery, putting in a tube into the brain that will stay there permanently the rest of their lives to siphon off excess fluid that builds up in the brain after these sorts of procedures. So this is the first step in what's going to be a lifetime of specialized medical treatment for her.

KAGAN: David Mattingly live here in Atlanta. Thank you.

And in the next hour we'll be talking to a leading pediatrician on the topic of spina bifida. About the future for baby Noor. Also, what we can all learn in terms of creating healthy babies here in the U.S..

So if you're going to keep the new year's resolution to lose weight and stay in shape, you're going to need the right exercise equipment. Gerri Willis has some advice.

Ger.

GERRI WILLIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Daryn, good to see you.

We're going to show you how to lose weight, not your wallet. "Five Tips" is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KAGAN: With the new year, many of you are making resolutions about getting or staying in shape. Maybe considering buying exercise equipment to use in your home. Before you do, you'll want to listen to today's "Top Five Tips." Our Personal Finance Editor Gerri Willis has that from New York.

Hello.

WILLIS: Hi there, Daryn.

I saw you doing the treadmill there.

KAGAN: Yes.

WILLIS: That was very impressive.

KAGAN: That was actually my best elliptical.

WILLIS: I'm very impressed. Well, you know, and it goes to the first point we want to make here. You've got to try out that gym equipment before you actually buy. And the easiest way to do that really is to take up one of the local gyms on their free week-long pass that way you can try out that elliptical trainer or maybe that recumbent bike and see what really works for you.

Daryn.

KAGAN: Tip, Ger.

WILLIS: Well, bikes are great for starters. I think, look, you can get a recumbent bike. You can get the regular, old fashioned bike where you sort of hunch over. But stationary bikes are great for people who are just starting an exercise regime. Or if you've been injured in the past. You know, as you get older, your knees, they're not what they used to be and bikes can be a great way to get exercise without injuring your joints.

A recumbent bike, which is probably the easiest on your joints, is going to cost you about $500. That's what you're going to have to bank on. And a great place to go to get some real suggestions on brand names is ConsumerReports.org. They just did a huge story on this. They've tested all this equipment. They have great suggestions.

KAGAN: And onward.

WILLIS: And onward, let's talk about infomercials. Daryn, I know you see these late night, right? These infomercials are crazy and you think, is this stuff good or not? Fact is, the folks at "Consumer Reports" have seen some really great ones. They include it in their review. But for the most part, you've got to be skeptical about any offer that says, hey, look, it's easy to get in shape.

So be sure to start out buying something that doesn't cost that much. Start out with a jump rope, the hand weights, things that you can use on your own where you don't have to spend a ton of money. And, Daryn, want to talk a little, too, about treadmills because that's the number one choice for so many people out there. You want to think folding treadmill, not the old fashioned kind. Here's why. They're cheaper. About $2,000 versus $3,000. So they make a lot more sense.

And what is more, they're much more versatile. You can fold them up, put them away. They're easier to use. And, you know, if you're actually using your treadmill as a rack to put clothes on, you know you're in trouble there.

Be sure to get the right warranty when you're talking about equipment. And this is critical. Normally we say, hey, you know, the warranties aren't that important. Don't buy them or get a shorter period of time. I'm saying just the opposite today. If you're buying expensive gym equipment, make sure you get as much warranty as possible. Don't go 90 days. Go a year. You want to have not only the parts covered but also labor. And you can even buy the extended warranty. I know that sounds crazy, Daryn, but this gym equipment is really expensive to fix if it goes wrong, so you want to make sure you're covered.

And want to share with you, Daryn, I don't know if you've got any kind of exercise equipment at home but sometimes they just turn into really expensive clothes racks, right?

KAGAN: It can happen.

WILLIS: See what I'm talking about here?

KAGAN: Yes, I know. I know.

WILLIS: You don't want to go there.

KAGAN: No. Got an elliptical this year and I really do use it and I really like it.

WILLIS: You were just naturally svelte.

KAGAN: That's not true. That is not true. We'll talk, though.

WILLIS: OK. I want tips.

KAGAN: A different five tips.

Gerri, thank you.

WILLIS: You're welcome.

KAGAN: Let's go ahead and take a look at what's happening "Now in the News."

First of all, live pictures -- actually not live pictures, just pictures taken moments ago from Baltimore. President Bush is going to a suburban element school there. He is talking about the four-year anniversary of No Child Left Behind. Set to go to the North Glen Elementary in Glen Burnie. There you go. There's Mrs. Bush as well. Has a big interest in education. This particular school is being singled out because apparently it has eliminated the achievement gap between black and white pupils to mark this four-year anniversary of No Child Left Behind. Critics, of course, think that there's too much testing that takes place and that there's too much focus on that and not enough on learning.

Other news today. Vice President Dick Cheney returns home after being hospitalized about four hours this morning in Washington. A statement from his office says he went to the hospital experiencing shortness of breath and that it had nothing to do with his heart problem. It adds that doctors determined Mr. Cheney was retaining fluid because of medication he's taking for a foot ailment.

Doctors say Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has slightly moved his right arm and leg in response to pain stimuli and that he's still breathing on his own. They have been reducing sedation to bring him out of a medically induced coma. Mr. Sharon's condition remains critical but stable. He suffered a massive stroke last week and has had to have surgery to stop the bleeding and increased pressure on the brain.

Doctors at Children's Healthcare in Atlanta say baby Noor is undergoing the surgery she needs badly to correct a birth defect. The three-month-old Iraqi infant suffers from a severe case of spina bifida. Doctors have tentatively planned a second surgery on baby Noor later this week. Much more on spina bifida ahead on CNN LIVE TODAY.

Two suicide bombers struck outside of Iraq's interior ministry today during police day celebrations. At least 23 people were killed. According to Reuters, the bombers were dressed as senior police officer and had hard-to-get security passes.

The U.S. military says eight U.S. troops and four American civilians were killed when one of its helicopters crashed late Saturday in Northern Iraq near the Syrian boarder. The Blackhawk helicopter was similar to the one seen in this file video. The crash is still under investigation.

And in New York, the pilot who passed out at the helm of a Staten Island Ferry two years ago faces sentencing today. Both Assistant Captain Richard Smith and chief of ferry operations, Patrick Ryan, will likely get less than a year in prison for their guilty pleas. Families of the 11 people who died in the accident say the proposed punishment is far to lenient.

There is new information about the recovery of the lone West Virginia coal miner to survive last week's underground explosion. The latest when CNN LIVE TODAY returns.

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