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Alito Filibuster Fight; Hamas Victory

Aired January 27, 2006 - 06:30   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: A filibuster fight is threatened on the Senate floor could stall Samuel Alito's confirmation to the Supreme Court.
And it's been weeks since the militants' deadline has passed for Jill Carroll. Will recent moves by the U.S., though, lead to her eventual release?

And Oprah, ooh, she's angry, and she expressed it over an author's made-up memoirs. What else did she say in their confrontation since the lies were revealed? We'll tell you that this morning as well.

ANNOUNCER: You're watching AMERICAN MORNING with Soledad O'Brien and Miles O'Brien.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: You know, it was one of those moments, and those are rare, when people sort of gather around television sets in the newsroom. When Oprah speaks, people listen in that case, don't they?

S. O'BRIEN: The Gawker Web site,, has just a line that says, "Do not miss off Oprah."

M. O'BRIEN: There you have it.

S. O'BRIEN: And it sort of sums it all up, because, wow, is she mad. It was riveting television news.

M. O'BRIEN: It really was. It really was. We'll get more on that in just a little bit.

But let's begin with this. Senator John Kerry has another campaign on his hands. This time, he is trying to drum up support for a filibuster fight against Judge Samuel Alito's Supreme Court confirmation.

Here is Ed Henry.


ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Former Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry has decided to launch a filibuster of the nomination of Judge Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court, even though all signs point to that filibuster being snuffed out and Judge Alito being confirmed by the Senate next Tuesday. White House aide Steve Schmidt told CNN the Republicans are confident they have at least 60 votes they need to cut off that filibuster. Schmidt charging this is more about Kerry positioning himself for the 2008 presidential nomination than it is about Judge Alito.

Kerry allies believe this is a golden opportunity for Kerry to whip up support among the left. Liberals are very concerned that the high court is now tilting far to the right. But the potential problem for Kerry is that this could turn off middle-of-the-road voters who help decide those presidential elections.

Ed Henry, CNN, Washington.


S. O'BRIEN: Other stories making news as well. Let's get right to Carol for that.

Carol, good morning again.

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

The first images of two men kidnapped in Iraq. The Arabic network, al-Jazeera, aired these pictures earlier this morning. It shows two German engineers abducted earlier this week. German officials are not releasing the men's names just yet.

In the meantime, we're awaiting any news at all on Jill Carroll. The U.S. reporter was seized in Baghdad January 7. More than 400 Iraqi detainees, including five women, were freed on Thursday. It's hoped the move will help secure Carroll's release.

A senior Hamas leader is saying the newly-elected Palestinian government will not escalate violence. Palestinians are still celebrating the overwhelming victory by Hamas over Fatah, the party founded by the late Yasser Arafat. The Fatah cabinet has now resigned, clearing the way for the new government. President Bush says the United States will not deal with a party that -- quote -- "articulates the destruction of Israel."

President Bush is also repeating U.S. support for Lebanon. He meets this morning with the son of slain Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. He's also huddling with Senate Republican leaders in preparation for his State of the Union address next Tuesday.

In the meantime, many Americans are giving the president's job a thumbs-down. A new CNN/"USA Today" Gallup poll shows 58 percent of people surveyed consider his second term a failure so far. And when asked about Bush's entire presidency, 52 percent rated it a failure compared to 46 percent who say it's been a success.

A creative solution to helping the homeless. In Honolulu, where housing prices are very high, a church is planning to convert old buses into housing. The buses already have bathrooms and they'll be outfitted with special bunks for sleeping. One additional benefit, the housing goes where the homeless are, you know, the bus. Eventually there are plans to serve meals on board as well.

He played Johnny Cash in last year's blockbuster. Now you can call him "Johnny Crash." Actor Joaquin Phoenix is doing fine, but his car isn't. It seems the brakes went out, and he rolled into another car. No one was hurt. Earlier this month Phoenix won a Golden Globe for best actor in musical or comedy for his portrayal of Johnny Cash in "Walk the Line." He's up for a Screen Actors Guild Award this weekend.

And did you watch it? It was painful at times but interesting. Oprah Winfrey confronts author James Frey. She had him on the show and told him she felt duped. A report on her Web site challenged the accuracy of his memoir, "A Million Little Pieces."

And two weeks ago Winfrey called CNN's Larry King while Frey a guest. She defended him. But since then, she has had a big change of heart.


OPRAH WINFREY, TALK SHOW HOST: This has been very embarrassing to me, and I deeply regret leaving the impression that I did from the Larry King show that the truth doesn't matter, because it does.


COSTELLO: Frey told Winfrey he made a mistake, and that's not all he said. We're going to have much more for you in the next hour.

S. O'BRIEN: Well, he also said -- she said, you know, do you think you lied to people? And he sort of like, well, I don't think I con people. But as he would sort of admit that he lied. It was riveting television no matter what he said.

COSTELLO: It was. But after a while, I must admit, it just started to be painful for me to watch, because he just looked so bad and he was doing so poorly. And it was just like flogging him for an hour.

M. O'BRIEN: But it...

S. O'BRIEN: I enjoyed every minute of it.


M. O'BRIEN: That flogging, in the end his career will actually benefit.

S. O'BRIEN: Oh, the book is never going to do better.

M. O'BRIEN: Don't you think? I mean, think about it.

COSTELLO: You know, I don't know.

M. O'BRIEN: Truthfully.

COSTELLO: I don't know. I really don't know, because I think this might do it, because she stood up for him before, and I think that's when the book continued to sell. Now...

S. O'BRIEN: People who didn't buy the book are now running out to buy this book...

M. O'BRIEN: Yes.

S. O'BRIEN: ... to just find out what the heck Oprah was talking about. And he's got a second book, which is doing amazingly well already. And any other book he writes is going to do very, very well. Now, emotionally, you know, what could be worse than Oprah hating you? I mean, really.


COSTELLO: Well, it's not just that, but he was publicly embarrassed. And this guy is a recovering alcoholic and was a drug addict. So, you have to wonder what may happen next.

S. O'BRIEN: Will he relapse, yes.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes.

S. O'BRIEN: I think that's a valid question. We'll see. All right, thanks, Carol.


M. O'BRIEN: Thanks, Carol.

S. O'BRIEN: Weather now. Bonnie has got that.


M. O'BRIEN: Coming up, could washing your clothes or walking on carpet expose you to cancer-causing chemicals? Ahead, some worries about a popular stain-resisting chemical.

S. O'BRIEN: And next this morning, more on the kidnapped American journalist, Jill Carroll. It's been a week since the deadline to save her -- to have her released, rather, has passed. What will it take to win her release? We're going to talk to a journalist who was once a hostage herself. Stay with us. You're watching AMERICAN MORNING.


S. O'BRIEN: No word now on the fate of Jill Carroll in Iraq. The American hostage faced a deadline a week ago today. Nothing has been heard, though, from her captors.

Also, an update on the fallout after that Hamas victory in the Palestinian elections. Let's get right to journalist Orly Halpern. She's in Jerusalem this morning. She works with "The Jerusalem Post."

Orly, thank you for talking with us this morning. We certainly appreciate it.

I want to start, if we can, with the follow-up, really, to the stunning, stunning results in the Palestinian elections. What's been going on in Nablus, where you really watch those elections?

ORLY HALPERN, "THE JERUSALEM POST": Well, it's been amazing. People are completely shocked, both -- everyone, whether they were voting for Fatah or whether they were voting for Hamas. And what's most interesting is that the Hamas people are so shocked. The leaders are totally unprepared for this new reality.

S. O'BRIEN: Really? What kinds of things are they...

HALPERN: They thought they were going to be a strong opposition...

S. O'BRIEN: Forgive me for jumping in there. So when you say they are totally unprepared, what kinds of things have they been telling you now that they've won?

HALPERN: Well, they're saying that they just didn't expect this, that it would have been better if they had been in the opposition, because then they could have -- well, they didn't say exactly why. But clearly the reason that if they were in the opposition, then they could have taken a back seat if there were any bills that they didn't feel -- that they felt compromised, their ideology, they could have vetoed them down.

They could have played a stronger role in a back seat position and giving Fatah, the Fatah party, the strength and the face to the world, and they would be in the back making sure that Fatah is not stealing money, things are working the way they want them to work. And if they're not then they could veto something.

But what happens now is instead of taking -- being a part of the P.A., the Palestinian Authority, they are the P.A. And they -- when I was walking around the streets of Nablus last night, yesterday afternoon, when there was a big victory rally, people were coming up to all of the Hamas leaders, shaking their hands. And they just looked somewhat dazed. They weren't like people that you would be expecting to be like, thank you so much. They were more like, thank you, thank you. They were really, really shocked. Like what are we going to do with this responsibility that we have now on our shoulders?


S. O'BRIEN: It's really an excellent question, isn't it? What's going to be done with all of that responsibility? And I guess it remains to be seen. I want to ask you a couple of questions before I let you go about Jill Carroll. No word yet. Obviously we've all been following this story very, very closely. You were taken hostage as well. Tell me about your experience and what you learned in your experience that you think might relate to Jill's experience.

HALPERN: Well, specifically in my own experience, when I was kidnapped, it was just when things went awry with the U.S. occupation. It was in the beginning of April. The Shiites led by Moqtada al-Sadr (ph), started fighting the American forces. And at the same time, the American forces led an attack on Falluja after four security contractors had been burned and cut into pieces.

So, the Americans had two fronts that they were fighting. And I was driving from Jordan into Iraq on the main road to go and cover this issue when we were -- I was with another colleague, and we were kidnapped. Our car was shot at. The wheels were blown out. We had to stop. They took us.

We got -- the first people that got us were bandits, and they were crazed. They had no control. And likely what would have happened to us would not have been good.

But luckily, we were kidnapped from them by more rational people in hierarchy who had more principles, who were actually fighting the U.S. forces at Falluja. And those people kidnapped us, and they interrogated us.

And what I think in the case of Jill, first of all, being a woman was very helpful. In the Arab culture and Muslim culture, women have a certain status, which is they're not involved in war. Women are outsider of these issues. So, that gave me a sense of safety.

There was one particular issue which happened when we were still with the bandits, where one of the bandits who was sitting next to me in the back of this car that they were taking us in, he grabbed for my waist. I think he knew that I probably had a money belt there. He grabbed for my waist. And what I did was I covered by chest with my hands, knowing that if I react as if how dare you touch me, then he would react as a Muslim and as an Arab to that better than, like, don't steal my money. So, he did.

And he moved back and he refrained. He said, no, we are Muslims. We won't hurt you. You're a woman.

And so, I think that being a woman, in Jill's case, is very helpful. And just as the Iraqis are so sensitive as to what they are asking for, what they are demanding, is not money and not the end of the U.S. occupation. They're demanding that women in Iraqi prisons be released.

S. O'BRIEN: Well, we certainly hope that the development...

HALPERN: And that's really the point.

S. O'BRIEN: But we hope that that development from yesterday, the five women among the many detainees who were being held, five women included released, that maybe that is helpful to Jill's situation.

Orly, we could talk for hours. Your story is just fascinating. Thank you so much on both fronts for reporting for us today. We certainly appreciate. Orly Halpern is of "The Jerusalem Post." Wow!

M. O'BRIEN: Fascinating.

S. O'BRIEN: Isn't it?

M. O'BRIEN: Wow!

S. O'BRIEN: On both fronts.

M. O'BRIEN: What a story.

S. O'BRIEN: I mean, Hamas saying, oh, my god, we won.


M. O'BRIEN: Yes.

SERWER: I was surprised to hear that.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes.

SERWER: They were surprised.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes. You were surprised, and they were really surprised.

SERWER: Right.

S. O'BRIEN: Business is ahead this morning. What you got?

SERWER: Yes. Switching over to some stories here in the U.S. First of all, your favorite theme park may be for sale. And plus, the Marlboro man rides away from the Internet. We'll explain coming up on AMERICAN MORNING. Stay tuned.


BONNIE SCHNEIDER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, everyone. I'm meteorologist Bonnie Schneider in the CNN weather center with a look at your "Cold and Flu Report" for Friday.

As we take a look at the map, we can show you areas of the country that have been reporting outbreaks of the flu so far this season. You'll find widespread activity across much of the Southwest, including New Mexico, Arizona and Texas. No activity reported so far in South Carolina with sporadic flu outbreaks across parts of the Midwest and local activity in the northern tier of the country.

That's a look at your "Cold and Flu Report." Stay tuned. We'll have more of AMERICAN MORNING coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SERWER: Now that's some morning music.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes.

SERWER: Right?

M. O'BRIEN: On a Friday it seems appropriate. We're celebrating today.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes, it is.

SERWER: Yes, indeed.

M. O'BRIEN: Andy is here. But first, let's get some headlines in.

Carol, good morning.

COSTELLO: Thanks, Miles.

Some developing news to tell you about. We're hearing reports of fighting in Gaza. It's apparently between gunmen from the Islamic militant group Hamas and Fatah group. The fighting broke out in Gaza after Friday prayers. We know at least three people are hurt. This is the first report of serious violence since the results of the vote were announced yesterday.

In the meantime here in the United States, President Bush is walking a fine line after the Hamas victory in those Palestinian council elections. While celebrations go on in Gaza and the West Bank, back in Washington the president is expressing concern.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't see how you can be a partner in peace if you advocate the destruction of a country as part of your platform. And I know you can't be a partner in peace if you have a -- if you party has got an armed wing.


COSTELLO: In the past, Hamas has called for the destruction of Israel.

Federal officials say they found a tunnel spanning nearly a half- mile underneath the U.S.-Mexican border. Take a look. The tunnel stretches from a warehouse in Tijuana to another warehouse in San Diego. Officials say the tunnel contained two tons of marijuana -- two tons of marijuana stacked in bales. It's the largest and most sophisticated they've found in the last few years. I'm talking about the tunnel. It contains a cement floor, lights and it even has a ventilation system.

And this day marks an anniversary. Sixty-one years ago today, the Auschwitz concentration camp was liberated. The Holocaust Memorial Day honors the six million Jews killed during the Nazi rule. In Warsaw, Poland, a tram with the star of David is traveling the streets, but it will remain empty. Warsaw was home to the largest Jewish community outside of New York before the war.

Bonnie Schneider has the forecast for you. She's at the CNN center.


M. O'BRIEN: CBS is getting rid of some its entertainment. But don't check the TV listings. There's a little twist. This is -- we're talking theme parks here, right?

SERWER: Theme parks, yes. A couple of businesses in transition we want to talk about this morning.

Let's start off with the media business. CBS spun off from Viacom. Now, apparently they're going to getting rid of their theme parks, five of them, 12 million. It's a pretty good business, a billion dollars in sales. Kings Dominion in Virginia, ever been there?


SERWER: Great America, Santa Claire. Carowinds in Charlotte, North Carolina. And Kings Island in Cincinnati.

And, of course, all of these big media companies are scrambling to figure out which businesses go together and which ones work. Disney, of course, is the king of the theme park business.

Les Moonves, the new CEO of CBS, is very active. Just the other day, combined UPN with the WB to form CW. So a busy guy there.

Another business we're talking about this morning is cigarettes and selling cigarettes online. This has been a boon to some consumers, but troublesome to some consumer advocates and some governors, for two reasons. One, minors have been buying cigarettes online, and also it's a good way not to pay taxes.

M. O'BRIEN: No tax money there.

SERWER: So some state attorney generals are going after Philip Morris. Philip Morris says it will no longer provide cigarettes to these Web sites it considers illegal.

And it's interesting. The AGs, the attorney generals, first went after DHL and UPS, which were delivering cigarettes. Then they went after the credit card companies. Now they're going after the cigarette makers themselves to shut down these Web sites.

S. O'BRIEN: You knew that was going to happen. I mean, that's one of the -- you know, they're doing online, the taxes...

(CROSSTALK) SERWER: Right, the taxes are a huge amount of business.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes. All right, Andy, thank you.

SERWER: You're welcome.

S. O'BRIEN: I think we've all learned one lesson. Don't lie to Oprah.



S. O'BRIEN: James Frey learned kind of the hard way.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes.

S. O'BRIEN: He got an earful yesterday on Oprah's show. We'll tell you what he said and what she said just ahead.

And then later, one high school student says his school discriminates against boys. We'll tell you what he wants done about it. That's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING. We're back in just a moment.


S. O'BRIEN: Be sure to check out our Web site,, for the very latest on this morning's top stories, including this one: Reaction to the Hamas victory in the Palestinian elections. A stunning victory. It took a lot of people by surprise. You can catch that story on our Web site.

Also at, one of the most popular stories, really a terrible story that we were reporting yesterday as well, the grandfather who dies when he learns that all seven of his grandchildren have been killed in a horrific accident involving a tractor-trailer and a school bus and a car driven by his underage granddaughter. Horrible, horrible story. We told you that out of Florida yesterday. You can get more information on our Web site.

If you're about to head out of the door or head to work or school, you can stay in touch with us here on AMERICAN MORNING or CNN by logging on to and our pipeline video service. You can catch live commercial-free news updates all day right there at

M. O'BRIEN: All right, let's touch base with Bonnie quickly before the top of the hour.


SCHNEIDER: The next hour of AMERICAN MORNING starts right now.

S. O'BRIEN: Thanks, Bonnie. Good morning, everybody. I'm Soledad O'Brien.


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