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Tornadoes Causes Death, Destruction in Florida; Families Remember Soldiers Slain in Karbala; Reality Show Introduces Arabs to America

Aired February 2, 2007 - 07:00   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR, AMERICAN MORNING: Breaking news this morning: deadly storms rolling through central Florida. Hours later, we've got the very first pictures of the damage. At least one person has reportedly been killed.
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR, AMERICAN MORNING: Mercury rising, the best minds in the world telling us, overnight, the planet is heating up, seas are expanding and rising, and we only have ourselves to blame.

S. O'BRIEN: And are they felons or are they fall guys? The men who sparked panic in Boston stage another stunt outside the courthouse. We'll tell you why they just might have the last laugh on this AMERICAN MORNING.

Morning. Welcome back everybody. Friday, February 2. I'm Soledad O'Brien.

M. O'BRIEN: I'm Miles O'Brien. Thanks for being with us.

S. O'BRIEN: Let's begin with our top story this morning, which is the weather. We've been following it all morning, and through the night. In the middle of the night tornado ripped right through central Florida. Severe Weather Expert Chad Myers is watching it for us.

Hey, Chad.


Very similar to the tornado situation that occurred in 1998 across Florida, an El Nino year, 1998. This is an El Nino year. This is exactly what we expected from El Nino, tornadoes in Florida. It just happens because the active southern stream of the jet stream. And this is where it is. This is the southern stream.

This storm is literally now for Orlando, Titusville and the Cape are falling apart. There's a small little bit of rotation near Titusville, east of you, now moving over the cape. But nothing, actually, like what's now coming still on shore here, south of St. Petersburg, to almost Sarasota and moving into central Florida. Could be as far south and east of Seabring later on this morning.

We do know of extensive damage to villages, towns. To Summerfield, to Lady Lake, Deland, Volusia County, near New Smyrna (ph) Beach. We're getting as much details on it as we can. This happened about 3 o'clock in the morning. I'm gathering as much as I can because I'm very familiar with the area -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Thanks for watching it for us, Chad. Thank you.

Amanda Ober, who is with out affiliate WESH had a report, as well, just filed moments ago from Lady Lake in Florida. Listen.


AMANDA OBER, REPORTER, WEFH TV: This is Amanda Ober. I'm in Lady Lake. I'm sorry. We've been scrambling to get this live shot up.

The situation here in Lake County this morning is much more grave than we ever dreamed. We just came from the command post where the Lake County Sheriff's Department has informed us that they believe there are several fatalities as a result of the storm.

They've got two catastrophe scenes going. The first one is at Spencer's Loop, which is a mobile home park, and the second one is at the Sunshine Mobile Home Park off Griffin View Drive. Those are both right off highway 27.

Let me talk about the video you are seeing right now. This is some of the damage we taped when we first got into town. There is a church, the Lady Lake Assembly of God Church, that was completely destroyed. That right there is a Leesburg police cruiser. That officer was inside his home sleeping when a tree crashed down on top of it.

Now, fortunately, where we shot this damage there did not appear to be any injuries. But, again, as I said, we're being told by the Lake County sheriff's department that they believe there are several fatalities out there this morning as a result of this tornado.

Now, I pressed them to give us a number, and they said at this point they cannot, because they are still in search and rescue mode. Particularly in that Sunshine Mobile Home Park, which is off Griffin View Drive. They've had reports of residents missing in there, unaccounted for. They're still trying to get a handle on that situation.

Now, one fatality that we did hear reports of from neighbors, and this is in that mobile home park off Spencer's Loop, the neighbors told us that there was a mobile home where a family of five lived. It was hit and completely devastated. And they say that the 17 year old daughter, the oldest child, was killed. That she was asleep in her bed at the time this tornado hit, and that she died as a result.

We don't have that confirmed yet by the Lake County sheriff's office. But, again, we heard from several neighbors that they saw with their own eyes, and that was a very sad event. That had occurred on Spencer's Loop.

Right now there are widespread power outages throughout this part of Lake County. They said the damage is worse on the east side and the Lake County and the Lake Mac area. There are trees down, leave wires down. If you are having any thoughts of heading into this area, please don't do it now because, again, emergency responders are still in the search and rescue mode. And they don't need extra people trying to get in here.

The Lake County sheriff's office has called in every deputy, everyone on the force has been activated to come and respond here. And they're operating in dual catastrophe scenes, so it is a very grave situation here in Lady Lake in Lake County this morning.


S. O'BRIEN: That's Amanda Ober with our affiliate WESH, filing that report, just a moment ago. You can see they're scrambling to get their shot in from Lady Lake in Florida -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: In Washington, this morning, Congress to get a new picture of the dire situation in Iraq from the new national intelligence estimate. This morning's "Washington Post" reveals the estimate will say the U.S. has little control in Iraq, and it's quite likely to get worse. Elaine Quijano at the White House, and Andrea Koppel on Capitol Hill, with more on this story. We begin with Elaine.

Good morning.


Well, a senior administration official tells CNN that President Bush, yesterday, was briefed on this national intelligence estimate by his outgoing intelligence chief, John Negroponte.

The report itself, according to the senior official, is 90 pages long. The estimate is titled, "Prospects For Iraq's Stability: A Challenging Road Ahead." Now according to the senior official, the estimate identifies Iraqi-on-Iraqi violence as the primary source of the conflict in Iraq, surpassing Al Qaeda.

It also identifies sectarian violence as the most immediate threat to the Bush administration's goals. Now, those themes were essentially previewed earlier this week as the Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte testified on Capitol Hill.


JOHN NEGROPONTE, DIR., NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Iraq is in a precarious junction. That means the situation could deteriorate, but that there are prospects for increasing stability in Iraq. And achieving increased stability will depend on several factors. Among them, the extent to which the Iraqi government and political leaders can establish effective national institutions that transcend sectarian or ethnic interests.


QUIJANO: Now, amid criticisms that it was taking too long for this NIE to be put together, requested some six months ago by members of Congress, the administration says that the underlying intelligence contained in the NIE. Was certainly used as the president developed what the White has called the New Way Forward in Iraq, the president's new strategy that includes sending some 21,000-plus additional troops to Iraq.

Now, at this same time, the senior official conceding that the assessment itself paints a picture of a serious and complex situation on the ground, but this official also noting, Miles, that this NIE says that rapid withdrawal of U.S. forces would lead to further deterioration of the situation in Iraq -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Elaine Quijano at the White House. Thank you.


S. O'BRIEN: Members of Congress have been waiting for this report for months. Let's get right to CNN's Andrea Koppel. She's on Capitol Hill for us.

Good morning to you, Andrea.


That's right, waiting since July. That's when a group of senior Democratic senators wrote a letter to John Negroponte asking him to prepare this new assessment. In fact, leading up to the November elections some Democrats questioned whether or not it was being sat upon by the White House because they didn't want it to influence the election. Those claims were denied by the White House.

Nevertheless, according to a congressional staffer with the Senate Intelligence Committee, what we expect to happen is that this is not going to be flying around cyberspace. It's going to be delivered here on Capitol Hill, to the Intelligence Committee, the old-fashioned way. A hard copy is going to arrive at 10:00 a.m. It will stay in the Intelligence Committee in a secure room where lawmakers, senators, and their aides, can come behind closed doors, review it, take notes. But they have to leave those notes in that secure room.

Then we expect next week, next Tuesday, members of the intelligence community to come here to Capitol Hill to brief senators. Then on Wednesday, Soledad, we expect there to be a closed-door hearing by the Senate Intelligence Committee.

S. O'BRIEN: Do you expect that this report is going to have an impact on the debate over the Iraqi resolution next week, in fact?

KOPPEL: Well, according to both the Democratic and Republican aides I have spoken with, they said that certainly it is a wild card. Most Democrats have already made up their mind. The question is whether or not it could sway some Republican minds, and as you know, they're going to be all Republican senators will be at the White House later today to have a private meeting with President Bush. You can bet he will be doing some arm-twisting there, Soledad. S. O'BRIEN: You can bet they'll be talking about that. All right. Thank you very much, Andrea Koppel for us, on Capitol Hill -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Now to Paris and an urgent call to action from some of the smartest minds on the planet. This morning they're weighing in with unequivocal report on global warming. That it is real. The consequences are potentially catastrophic. And that our addiction to fossil fuels is to blame.


SUSAN SOLOMON, NOAA SENIOR SCIENTIST: When we look at this dramatic rise that is so different from the behavior in thousands of years, there can be no question that the increase in these greenhouse gases are dominated by human activity.


M. O'BRIEN: The report released just a few hours ago estimates global temperatures will rise somewhere between 3 and 7 degrees in this century, while sea levels are expected to rise somewhere between seven and 23 inches in the same time span.

S. O'BRIEN: In Boston this morning yet another strange twist in the case of those two men who are accused of plunging that city into panic. Peter Berdovsky and Sean Stevens are out of jail after they answered charges, hanging light boards, which were eventually mistaken for bombs. It was our top story yesterday. But as CNN's Dan Lothian tells us, the suspects, well, they really just weren't taking it very seriously. Listen.


DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Just released on $2,500 bail each, Sean Stevens and Peter Berdovsky hugged supporters, then launched into an odd rant about haircuts and hairstyles.

PETER BERDOVSKY, DEFENDANT: For example, the Afro comes kind of from the '70s, but then again, there are other styles like the greased up hair. When they actually use grease.

LOTHIAN: Despite repeated attempts by reporters to get serious comments, the two men did not stray from their unusual performance.

SEAN STEVENS, DEFENDANT: I'm getting sort of more due to getting a hair cut, because it's getting my bangs now.

LOTHIAN: Earlier not guilty pleas were entered on charges of placing a hoax device, and disorderly conduct. The two were conducting a marketing campaign for an ad agency hired by the Cartoon Network, which is owned by CNN's parent company Turner Broadcasting. It led to a massive bomb scare across the Boston area. Blinking electronic signs were found under bridges, highways, and other locations.

JOHN GROSSMAN, MASSACHUSETTS ASSIT. ATTORNY GENERAL: It's clear that by placing a bomb-like device where they did, the intent was to get that attention, at least initially, by causing fear, unrest, that there was a bomb located in this location.

MICHAEL RICH, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I don't think that anybody had any intent to raise fear, concern, nor alarm.

LOTHIAN: Outside the courthouse supporters said authorities overreacted.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They were just doing their jobs. This is part of an advertising campaign. They were getting paid to do this.

LOTHIAN (on camera): I asked the defense attorney about the odd behavior of his clients. He said they were, quote, "performing." He went on to say that they are still getting over the shock of what's happened to them over the past 24 hours. Dan Lothian, CNN, Boston.


M. O'BRIEN: We have an update this morning on a shocking story involving a pregnant woman and two Kansas City police officers. The incident, caught on tape. The driver pulled over pleading for help; 21 times saying, 21 times, I'm pregnant. I'm bleeding. I need to go to the hospital.

They arrested her. They put her in jail. She was not sent to the hospital until the next morning. She gave birth prematurely. The baby survived for only one minute. The officers are now suspended with pay. The woman is suing them, and the city. Yesterday we were saying hard to imagine the officers hadn't faced disciplinary action.

S. O'BRIEN: Well, you know, until that -- that happened about a year ago -- until that videotape was made public, you didn't really see any kind of reaction. They were working, still on the job, yesterday. Today suspended with pay.

Let's talk about our top story this morning. Severe weather, which has slammed central Florida, including a deadly tornado. Chad Myers is watching it all for us. We'll check in with him in just a moment.

Also, confessions of an affair with a married colleague. Now questions about the political future of this man, the mayor of San Francisco.

Plus, you know the saying. The enemy of my enemy, is my friend. We'll tell you how Iran is now making for some unlikely alliances in the Middle East. That is straight ahead on AMERICAN MORNING. The most news in the morning is right here on CNN.


M. O'BRIEN: Most news in the morning.

This just in to us, right now. We have been following some very serious weather in Florida. There you see the radar depiction, all across the state of Florida. Actually it's gotten a little bit better in recent moments, but just a few hours ago, some apparent tornadoes struck in many parts of the state.

Upwards of 100 homes destroyed. There are reports of fatalities and injuries. In Volusia County, people very hard hit there. We've often heard people say it sounds like a freight train? Once again, that was the sound. Listen to our affiliate tape from WKMG.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sounded like a train. I tried to make it to our walk-in closet. I did. My husband didn't. He ended up on the floor beside the bed, and the closet door caved in on me, and then the roof was gone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is your husband OK?




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Their ceiling is falling. We shouldn't probably be standing here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So your house is -- ?


M. O'BRIEN: That from WKMG, a victim who is lucky to be able to tell the tale. The initial indications are based on the damage pattern -- Chad was just talking about this a moment ago -- with the debris field and the amount of debris up in trees that it is a strong likelihood that what we're seeing there are tornadoes that touched down. It could have been straight-line high winds.

Chad, it takes a little while to sort this all out. I'm sure day break will help when they see the pattern of the wreckage here?

MYERS: Sure. The Weather Service team will be out there and officially classify it something -- F-1, F-2, F-3, whatever it might be. But I tell you what, you don't knock down a church with straight- line winds. OK, so you can roll over a mobile home, certainly, but the damage path -- the scene, and the scene that has been set by some of the emergency management people, how much damage has occurred and in what kind of a line it occurred. It just leads us all to believe it was a probable tornado.

The storm has really had pretty much stopped rotating now this morning, although there are still some fairly strong storms to the east of St. Pete, moving into south-central Florida like north of Lake Okeechobee. Here the storm is going to run across probably toward Seabring and eventually even off the East Coast of the U.S.

There's the storm, it rolled right across central Florida. We'll keep you up-to-date as we get more and more on it. Actually, I have my parents out with the cell phone. They're driving around trying to -- they're listening to CNN on their XM radio and they're out there going to be reporting for us as soon as they find something.

S. O'BRIEN: Whoa, whoa, whoa!

M. O'BRIEN: Tell them to be safe, will you?

MYERS: No, no, no, the storms are gone. The storms are way gone. I'm not going to second them out there if the storms are going. No.

S. O'BRIEN: OK, I'm just checking on the relationship you have with your mom and dad.

MYERS: You know, there are reports, and everyone knows about the villages because it's America, it's a retirement community. There are reports of some damages in the villages. And I want them to try to find out where it is, because it's such a large area. Covers over 100 square miles now, so they're out trying to look for it.

S. O'BRIEN: As long as they're safe and the storms are passed.

MYERS: They are. They're fine. And they're listening.

S. O'BRIEN: Good, all right. Thanks, Chad.

MYERS: Sure.

S. O'BRIEN: Let's talk about a new threat from Iran today. There are reports that work is underway on a plan to make nuclear fuel. In the Middle East governments are now so afraid of what Iran is up to, countries that rarely see eye-to-eye are suddenly getting very friendly. Zain Verjee is live for us at the State Department this morning.

Good morning, Zain.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPT. CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad. Well, it is the Middle East, and sometimes your friends have to come from some unlikely places.


VERJEE (voice over): Middle East leaders fearful Iran wants to build a nuclear bomb are flirting with an idea: team up to counter the threat.

TZIPI LIVNI, ISRAELI FOREIGN MINISTER: There are new threats in the region, and can I say -- as I already said -- that the situation now is more complicated. But part of our responsibilities are also to see not only the threats but to see whether there is also new opportunities.

VERJEE: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says such alliances are logical. CONDOLEEZZA RICE, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Historic change is unfolding in the region. Unleashing old grievances, new anxieties, and some violence. But it is also revealing a promising new strategic realignment in the Middle East.

VERJEE: The Bush administration says their Sunni-Arab allies are telling Washington they're worried Shia Iran is flexing its muscles, and could destabilize the region. Iraq, Lebanon, the Palestinian Territories, all places where Iran supports extremists. Experts say most Arabs care more about ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict even though Iran keeps their leaders up at night.

TRITA PARSI, IRAN/ISRAEL EXPERT: Arab regimes, however, particularly those that are very close to the United States, are more concerned about Iran, because Iran is a major problem for them.

VERJEE: And an even bigger problem for Israel. Iran's president says Israel should be wiped off the map. An Israeli-Arab alliance against Iran fits well with the Bush administration strategy in the region. Pit the axis of moderates against and axis of extremists, like Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas.


VERJEE: Soledad, analysts have told us, look, don't put too much in this alliance of strange bedfellows. It's not necessary long- term, and just tactical and that any cooperation by moderate Sunni- Arab governments with Israel is likely to be covert -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Zain Verjee for us this morning. Thanks, Zain.


M. O'BRIEN: Coming up, Congress moves a step closer to raising the minimum wage, but there may be one big obstacle in the way. Ali Velshi has that, "Minding Your Business". You're watching AMERICAN MORNING. Stay with us.


M. O'BRIEN: The most news in the morning right here on CNN.

Weather on the front burner today in all shapes and dimensions. Live pictures, WKMG, our affiliate, providing them. Volusia County, Florida, it is daybreak now. We'll get a sense --

Sorry, we lost the shot there, obviously.

We'll get a sense of the damage there as some terrible apparent tornadoes swept all across the Florida Peninsula just few hours ago. This is a developing story. We'll watch it for you. Chad is right on it.

A new report on global warming, meanwhile, released in Paris a few hours ago. Says scenes like this, increased storms, are more likely, and that humans are very likely to blame for the Earth's increased temperature. It also means rising sea levels.

At the other end of the weather forecasting spectrum, it is Groundhog Day. Live pictures now of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, is of course, your dateline.

Are they going to do it now? We're waiting for Phil. He is out. Is he out? Do we know? Do we have a report? No report on whether there is a shadow or not. We are monitoring this --

S. O'BRIEN: He has too many people around him. How can he even see his shadow?

M. O'BRIEN: Between the Cleege (ph) lights and the people around him with the hats and the flashes, how would Phil know? We don't know. Do you think it might be a stunt? Nah!

Anyway, the proposed minimum wage is about to take a step up. You can pretty much take it to the bank. Right, Ali Velshi? It's 25 minutes past the hour, by the way.


That's exactly right. The proposed minimum wage increase has actually passed the Senate. Kind of interesting because it didn't the last time it went around, but as you know, in the last midterm elections, the Democrats had made minimum wage a priority for them. It was one of their top six bills that they wanted to pass.

It passed the House on it's own, as a $2.10 increase, over the course of two years. It was unclear whether it was going to pass the Senate. It did. Look at that: 94 to 3, it passed the Senate. However, the increase is tied to $8.3 billion in tax cuts.

Largely, because a lot of small businesses have complained -- or businesses in general -- have complained that this much of an increase is really going to hurt the way they do business.

Now, folks agree or disagree about that. It might hurt business or not. Because when more people earn more money they have more money to spend. Plus, 29 or so states have a higher minimum wage than the federal government does. This is just the federal minimum wage.

Now, it's unclear whether this new bill, that's passed by the Senate, with the provisions of the tax increase, will actually pass muster when it goes to committee and goes to a final bill.

President Bush had said right after the midterm elections that he would support a minimum wage bill, if it were tied to some tax breaks for business. He has, again, said yesterday he thinks this is a good compromise. And that maybe the Democrats shouldn't tamper with this in committee. They should pass it, and everybody gets the minimum wage.

We'll keep on top of this one, as we have been doing for a long time.

M. O'BRIEN: Thank you, Ali.

VELSHI: All right.

S. O'BRIEN: Top stories of the morning coming up next. Severe storms in Florida remain on our radar. We're going to follow-up with Chad, get a live report as well on the damage there.

Plus, a sex scandal in San Francisco. The mayor there admits to an affair with a married woman. What's it mean for his political future?

And on the road in America. We'll talk with some young men and women in a reality show that tracks young Arab students who are traveling across the U.S. Stay with us on AMERICAN MORNING. The most news in the morning is right here.


S. O'BRIEN: Breaking news, an apparent tornado slams central Florida this morning. There are reports of several people dead. Dozens of homes destroyed. We've got the latest pictures coming in.

M. O'BRIEN: A political earthquake in San Francisco. The popular mayor apologizing for having an affair with a married colleague. Will it sink his rising star?

S. O'BRIEN: And on the road in America. Arab students looking to spread a message of tolerance on this AMERICAN MORNING.

Good morning. Welcome back. Friday, February 2nd. I'm Soledad O'Brien.

I'm Miles O'Brien. Thank you for being with us.

Happening this morning in Paris an unequivocal report on global warming, that it is real, the consequences are potentially catastrophic and that our addiction to fossil fuels to blame. The report released a few hours ago. Scientists from 113 nations offering it up. It estimates global temperatures will rise somewhere between 3 and 7 degrees this century, while sea levels are expected to rise seven inches to about two feet, same time frame.

Another cease-fire agreement breaking down between Hamas and Fattah. At least eight are dead this morning and more than 100 wounded in the Palestinian areas.

And you can take it to the bank. Minimum wage earners getting a raise. The Senate voted Thursday to raise the minimum wage to $7.25 an hour. Unlike the House version, the Senate bill does include tax breaks for small businesses. The president says he will sign the legislation, assuming the House and Senate can get together on this one -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Breaking news and new pictures, too, to show you out of Florida. A middle of the night tornado ripped right through the central part of that state. Severe weather expert Chad Myers has been following it for us.

Hey, Chad, good morning.


Over here looking at a couple of warnings now just coming off the map. I'll walk on the screen here just a second.

We do see a bunch of weather now still kind of working its way into the Lake Wales area here, and the snow in the northern part of the plains and the severe weather here in Florida, that is going to be the problem, and this is the problem overnight. Very typical of an El Nino year. This is not global warming. This is El Nino. Typical of what we'd expect and what we saw in 1998 when we had 43 fatalities in one night because of tornadoes associated with El Nino.

It is snowing across Nashville and Kentucky. It is snowing now in New York City. If you are driving through Northern New Jersey, you may want to take the train today. It is really coming down in spots.

Also, into Connecticut, as well, and some of the coldest air of the season now right in through and into the Northern Plains. Temperatures there 20 to 40 degrees below zero this morning.

We still have some rotation on the storms. We have some rotation south of Titusville and also now just to the south and east, and south and west of the Lake Wales area. But other than that, there are no tornado warnings going on right now, but we know of so much damage coming in this morning from central Florida.

S. O'BRIEN: So do we know, Chad, how many tornadoes would you imagine would cause that kind of damage? I know it's early, and I know we're just getting some of the pictures now in.

MYERS: Yes. We don't know that, because we do know that there was damage in Lake County. We also know there was damage in Deland. We know there was damage in New Smyrna. You can almost draw a straight line, but I doubt that it was one cell that created all of that damage.

And then as you put all those numbers together, the weather service is already on its way to Lake County because they know Lake County, which is north of here -- I'll zoom out. Lake County, they believe that that is the hardest hit area. Here's Lake County right here.

One more thing I can do is Google Earth. This is our Google Earth map. We can zoom right into the area that we know was damaged right by a couple of churches in Lady Lake. This is downtown Lady Lake. The Villages that maybe you know about, if you've ever watched any golf tournament, you've seen the commercials, that's up north about three or four miles. But this Lady Lake Assembly of God right there very heavily damaged. Right through Spencer's Loop and off toward the east of there.

And you can draw almost in straight line right over to Deland from there. But we'll have to see. It probably was a skipping storm. They typically don't last on the ground that long. They will in Oklahoma if it's an f-5 tornado, but we don't anticipate this being such a storm like that -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: All right. Thank you very much, Chad.

Shifting gears now, our focus now on the war in Iraq. The military reporting the deaths of three more U.S. soldiers in Iraq today; 3,089 Americans have been killed so far in the war. Often we hear the numbers but know nothing about the young men and women behind them.

Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr takes a look at, for us this morning, the lives of five soldiers killed in a sneak attack in Karbala.


BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Private First Class Jonathan Millican is finally back home in Alabama, one of five soldiers killed January 20 in a sneak attack on a Karbala compound. Millican was just 20 years old, just a teenager when the Twin Towers were struck on the morning of September 11. It changed the course of his life.

MITCHELL MILLICAN, FATHER OF SLAIN SOLDIER: He come home that day and said, you know, these people did something. He said it wasn't right. And he made his mind up that day to defend his country.

STARR: He and the others were killed when attackers wearing U.S.-style uniforms, carrying U.S.-style weapons got past security and shot their way into the compound. Millican was killed almost instantly. Four others were captured and later executed.

Captain Brian Freeman, who was found barely alive, died on the way to the hospital. It was his 3-year-old son, Gunner Freeman, who comforted his mother.

CHARLOTTE FREEMAN, WIFE OF SLAIN SOLDIER: He came up to me and put his arms around me and said, "It's OK, mommy. Daddy is coming home soon."

STARR: Twenty-five-year-old Private First Class Sean Falter also lost his life that day. He had three brothers and a sister. All are serving in the military. Andrew had advice for his little brother when he got to Iraq.

ANDREW FALTER, U.S. ARMY: When you get there, make sure you take care of your body. Watch your backside. Do what you got to do and come home safely.

STARR: Now they are all home, and five more families are saying good-bye.

Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.


S. O'BRIEN: Want to update you on a story that has become really not your average reality -- reality television show. This one is being spearheaded by some very big names: President Bush, for example, James Baker, for example. Executive producer of "60 Minutes", Don Hewitt, as well.

All of them joined forces to bring several Arab students on their first trip to the United States. The show is called "On the Road in America". It's airing throughout the Middle East.

Joining us this morning from Washington D.C., one of the show's producers, Leon Shahabian and also joining us, a cast member, translator and assistant director -- she had a lot of roles in this -- Lara Abou Saifan. She's in Beirut this morning.

It's nice to see you both. Thanks for talking with us.

Lara, let's begin with you, if I may. You came here for ten weeks. What overall would you say was the biggest surprise about your first trip to America?

LARA ABOU SAIFAN, ASSISTANT TO DIRECTOR/TRANSLATOR: The biggest surprise? I think what surprised me the most is the distances. I'm a bit nervous. I'm sorry.

S. O'BRIEN: That's OK. How about -- let me refine the question, as they say. And I know Montana made a big impression on everybody, who spoke about, wow, the distances when you cross the state in Montana. That's a really big state.

But what about the people you met? Did you come in with any preconceived notions of what an American would be like? And what did you discover?

SAIFAN: Actually, yes. We met so many Americans, and we -- I personally had the sense of what Americans are. And obviously, they're very, very nice people, and they were -- most of them were so open to talk to us, but, still, I don't know if it was because of the camera or because, I mean, they're like us. I'm pretty sure I'm going to go back and find out by myself again.

S. O'BRIEN: We would like to think we're genuinely nice people.

Let's turn to Leon now. And of course, Leon, the idea of finding out what Americans were really like was sort of the theory behind this. Were you trying to introduce Arabs to Americans or introduce Americans to Arabs in this reality TV show project?

LEON SHAHABIAN, PRODUCER: Good morning, Soledad. Actually, we are trying to do both. This is a cross-cultural series. It is airing currently in the Arab world on the leading satellite pan-Arab channel, and hopefully it will air here, as well, so that Americans can also learn about Arab aspirations and get to meet these fine young Arab people. S. O'BRIEN: Were there any moments where you felt hostility because, obviously, a lot of the question was to, I know going in, was to see how Americans would react to people, in many cases, who feel like they're, you know, on the outside of society here in the United States? So was there any sort of strange reactions that you had from Americans who were meeting, I would imagine, Arabs for the first time?

SHAHABIAN: Well, there were some Arabs who were meeting Americans for the first time, as well. It wasn't just Americans meeting Arabs.

This ended up working very well. It could be said that people behave generally better on camera, but I suspect that people everywhere, especially here in the United States, want to learn more about the Arab world, and this was a great opportunity.

People around the country had Arabs visiting them in their homes, in cafes, wherever, and just talking to them. And you know, who doesn't want to talk and learn more about something this salient, something that is always in the news?

S. O'BRIEN: Lara, I know all of this was going on, of course, when this was shot at the same time that there was a war going on between Israel and Hezbollah. And you live -- you live -- you're Palestinian, but you live in Lebanon now. What was that like to see -- and there are lots of shots in this video of you watching the war on TV in America, but it's happening in your homeland.

SAIFAN: It was very bad. Very, very bad, actually, to watch from that distance, especially from the USA, which obviously, for obvious reasons, we all know that they really back up the foreign policy. I mean, they back up the Israel policies.

It was bad for me, and to see -- to watch all this destruction, all this injustice, I mean, I felt that I wanted to, like, tell the people who don't know there in the USA what's really going on, you know? Some people really don't know. The media that is received there is not like the media -- it's not like what's really happening here. So I was trying to do that. I don't know if I succeeded, but I was trying.

S. O'BRIEN: Going to be a spokesperson for your country.

Leon, I'm going to give you the last question. There was a clip in the show that shows you driving everybody by the World Trade Center site, the excavated hole now. What was the reaction when they had a chance to see that?

SHAHABIAN: Well, the reaction is unanimously pain. Everybody is hurt to see what happened. This was an incredible tragedy. And we're hoping that shows like ours will get to further understanding between the United States and the Arab world to show that, at the end of the day, we are alike in more ways than we imagine, and that, you know, shows like this will help further understanding, because this is a time and -- this is a time that we need to talk more to each other. S. O'BRIEN: The show is called "On the Road in America". Leon Shahabian is the executive producer, and Lara Abou Saifan is the -- was in the cast. She's also the assistant to the director and the translator, as well. Wearing many hats in that. It's a really terrific show. Thanks for talking with us about it. We appreciate it.

SHAHABIAN: Thank you, Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: She's versatile.

S. O'BRIEN: Did it all.

M. O'BRIEN: The two performance artists who drew some horrible reviews in Boston for an ad campaign run amuck are out of jail this morning, pleading not guilty to inciting a panic after putting up several of these battery-operated light boards depicting a character in the Cartoon Network series "Aqua Teen Hunger Force".

Cartoon Network parent Turner Broadcasting, also ours, has apologized for the bomb scare that it triggered. Boston's mayor says the company should pay for the emergency response.

The pair who put up the signs staged a rather odd news conference yesterday, to say the least. They had reporters pulling their hair out, so to speak.


PETER BERDOVSKY, CHARGED WITH INCITING PUBLIC RIOT: What we really want to talk about today, it's kind of important to some people. It's -- it's kind of important to some people. It's haircuts in the 1970s. We really want to discuss the style of them.

SEAN STEVENS, CHARGED WITH INCITING PUBLIC RIOT: I really feel like we're not getting to the deeper meaning.

BERDOVSKY: We're not getting the feedback that we need from you guys. If you really want to talk to us, please talk to us about the topic...

STEVENS: I'm very disappointed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What was it like to spend the last night in jail?

BERDOVSKY: That's not a hair question. I'm sorry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are you disappointed about?

BERDOVSKY: That's also not a hair question.


BERDOVSKY: That's also not a hair question.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Richard, are you embarrassed by your client's behavior?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My client is a performance artist, and...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are being subject to a performance right now, Mr. Richards?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's your call.


M. O'BRIEN: And so it went.

In order to be convicted of the felony charges, the prosecution would have to prove they intended to cause the panic, and the judge has already said it appears they had no such intent. So stay tuned for the hair-raising details.

Coming up, melting point. Global warming is a clear and present danger, and we're all to blame. Details of the smoking tailpipe -- smoking tailpipe report...

S. O'BRIEN: Easy for you to say.

M. O'BRIEN: ... out this morning. Not so hot on that one.

And the mayor of San Francisco involved in a sex scandal. Is his political career over?

You're watching AMERICAN MORNING. The most news in the morning right here.


S. O'BRIEN: Most news in the morning is right here on AMERICAN MORNING. We continue to follow the news out of central Florida. An apparent tornado slamming right into the central part of the state this morning. Several people, according to reports, have been killed, and dozens of homes have been destroyed.

And a new report on global warming is being released in Paris this morning. It says that humans very likely are to blame for the earth's increased temperatures. That means rising sea levels and more powerful storms as well --Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: We've been watching those deadly storms as they whipped across the state of Florida, across the peninsula, all the way across from the Tampa Bay area up into the Titusville region, the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, on a diagonal.

Tremendously powerful convective activity, as the meteorologists would say. Lots of thunderstorms, strong winds and some suspected tornadoes. The reports from various counties of injuries, deaths. Perhaps as many as 100 houses have been severely damaged or even flattened. Take a look at some of the pictures that we've gotten in.

This is a developing story. Obviously, daybreak is fresh there, and we're still getting an assessment of the kind of damage which occurred.

Chad Myers has been looking at this from his vantage point in the weather office. Also, employing his parents, calling them and getting them out on the road to see what they can see. They live in that part of the world.

What have you heard from them, first of all?

MYERS: I heard that Virginia Trace and Sunset Point in the Villages were pretty hard hit. Now there are a number of little subdivisions in those Villages kind of area spread over more than 100 square miles, if you can believe that, a very large retirement home.

And what they're describing to me, not mobile homes damage, but real homes, real stick-built homes damaged and that roofs are off, cars are overturned.

And that line is a clear line all the way -- I'm going to take you to Google Earth here. That line all the way from where the tornado fatalities are across 71 and 441 has really taken its toll in a straight line right through and south of Lady Lake.

The Villages now extends all the way south and west of Lady Lake. And so this damage has occurred right across this line, right across the Assembly of God Church and then on up to the northeast from there.

Significant amount of damage. It just depends on where you are in the tornado and where you were in the storm. Here's 27, 441, just to Lady Lake. And it came right across here. Spencer Loop, one of the areas that was hard hit. Now that is a mobile home park.

We are expecting this to continue. There's cold air to the north. We're snowing now in places like Boston. Even had some snow in New York City. That's the cold air, part of the ingredient, part of the necessary product to make a storm.

It's 72 in Orlando right now, 34 in Orlando -- in Atlanta, and that's where the front is. Very bitterly cold air coming up for this weekend. I mean, we're talking here's Friday morning now, 7:30 in the morning. Temperatures are going to be very cold.

And by Friday afternoon, look at this big area of cold air mass rolling out of the Northern Plains. A dangerous situation. This is life-threatening cold for your weekend across all of the Midwest here as that front moves by and moves right back through Central Florida.

Eastern part of Central Florida now pretty much in the clear, but you can begin to see the new convection around Lake Wales, a little to the east there of that. And it is continuing this morning, although all watches and warnings, Soledad, right now are done. There are no more watches and warnings in effect down there.

A lot of damage, and I know the number that we've been reporting is 100 homes. That number could double, triple, or even then some as actually daybreak continues and they get some helicopters in the air.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes. I've got to imagine, that's a first number. That's probably going to be low.

All right. Chad, thanks.

MYERS: You're welcome.

S. O'BRIEN: And thanks to your parents who are helping us out this morning.

MYERS: Sure.

S. O'BRIEN: Coming up, a city soap opera. San Francisco's mayor confesses to an affair with his campaign manager's wife. And now there are new questions about the consequences to his once red hot political career.

Plus, it looks like a volcano on the Mississippi. A barge in flames drifting down the river for part of the night. We'll tell you what happened.

And ready for some football? Ready for some football commercials? A preview of Super Sunday, next on AMERICAN MORNING.


S. O'BRIEN: Welcome back everybody. Let's get right to Kevin Lenhart. He is with the Lake County emergency management group. He is a spokesperson for Lake County. And we want to get right there because, of course, that's what Chad has been talking about all morning. Joins us by phone.

Kevin, thanks for being with us. I know you're really busy, been fielding a lot of calls. First, what kind of damage can you confirm for me that you know about in Lake County?

KEVIN LENHART, LAKE COUNTY EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT: Well, we've got heavy damage along some of the roadways here, including heavy damage in one of our mobile home parks in northwest Lake County called Sunshine Mobile Home Park. We've got a complete -- a church completely demolished. The Lady Lake Church of God has been completely demolished. So we've got quite significant damage here in Lake County.

S. O'BRIEN: There are some reports coming, as well, about a 17- year-old girl who, I believe, was killed in her bed. Can you confirm that for us this morning, as well?

LENHART: We're not confirming any deaths. We're still doing search and rescue. It's just starting to get light here in Lake County, and so it's going to help our search and rescue, but we haven't -- we're not confirming any deaths right now.

S. O'BRIEN: I know you're right in the emergency operations center. You've been fielding calls all through the night and into the morning. What kind of calls are you fielding? What kind of people do you have out? How many people?

LENHART: Well, we've got -- we've got emergency crews on scene. They've been on scene for a while now. They're still doing search and rescue. We've got our citizens information line where residents of Lake County can call in and get information. We've gotten information on, you know -- of course everybody was concerned of whether schools are going to open or not, which they are, except for in that specific area. And, you know, just -- we're getting damage reports in and trying to get information in here as fast as we can.

S. O'BRIEN: Now, we're looking at some videotape that was shot a little bit earlier this morning that shows a pretty driving rain back and forth, depending on what we look at for the moment, and Chad has said that the storms have now moved on. Looks like I'm getting some daybreak pictures. This is coming to us from Central Florida, News 13.

So the sun is up, and I'm sure you can see much better. What's the weather like? Do you feel like the weather is helping you at this point in your search and rescue operation?

LENHART: Yes. As it clears up and gets light, it really does help the search and rescue and keeps our people out there safe. But this storm moved in, in the middle of the night so fast that it was the worst possible time, while people were sleeping, so, you know, we're -- we've been out there for several hours, but like you said, as the weather lifts up, as it gets light, it makes it easier for us to help people.

S. O'BRIEN: Well, Kevin, I've got to tell you, I'm looking at this videotape behind some people who are being interviewed for this affiliate that's helping us out. You can see behind them the damage is just unbelievable.

Give me a sense of the square mileage we're talking about. We've heard estimates of 100 homes damaged. Does that sound like an accurate number, too, this early out?

LENHART: You know, it very well could be. We don't have those numbers in, and it's, you know, across a couple of counties in Central Florida, here in Lake and Sumter County and over in Volusia County. There's reports of significant damage, too. And if you remember, we were hit also on Christmas day in an area not too far away from this with tornadoes, also.

S. O'BRIEN: Just doubly walloped. Well, Kevin Lenhart, he is with the Lake County Emergency Management Office.

Thank you for your time. I know you guys are really literally swamped out this morning, so we appreciate it. A short break. We're going to be back in just a moment. Most news in the morning is right here on AMERICAN MORNING. We continue to follow this storm heading right through Central Florida, update you when we get more information. Back in a moment.


M. O'BRIEN: Whether it comes to business news, Ali Velshi likes to hog the details. A little before 8 a.m. Eastern Time, he's here with word of what's going on at Harley-Davidson.

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I like motorcycles, Miles. I have one. I don't ride it all that often these days, but there's a strike at Harley-Davidson, the premier maker of American motorcycles.

The union -- unionized workers are on strike against Harley Davidson at their largest manufacturing plant in Pennsylvania. They walked out at midnight. They rejected the company's contract offer.

The company shut down production at the plant on Thursday, and that has put in jeopardy the production of the company's touring and soft tail motorcycles. This company sells a lot of bike. They're in great demand. They're expensive bikes, so a production cut means that those out there available for sale, if this lasts any length of time, could actually become more expensive. Harley-Davidson is a well-known name.

Another well-known brand, I told you about yesterday, this Coca- Cola trial. There's a trial in Atlanta. I'm going to give you an update on this.

A former Coke employee, secretary to the head of Global Brand, is on trial for conspiring to sell -- to steal secrets from Coke about new products, sell them to Pepsi through two other people. Two other people have not -- former Coke employees, have pleaded guilty to this thing. They're awaiting sentencing.

But the jury in that case is hung after nine and a half hours of deliberations over two days. They told the judge they can't come to a verdict.

The judge told them to take another crack at it, and it is unclear as to whether or not they are drinking Pepsi or Coke to stay alert during the negotiations, or deliberations.

I'll keep you updated on that one. But for now, the next hour of AMERICAN MORNING begins right now.

M. O'BRIEN: Thank you, Ali. Let's take a look at some breaking news. We have some pictures coming in just now from -- we believe this is Volusia County, Florida. With daybreak, a courtesy of the affiliate helicopter, WESH. First indications of the kind of damage we've been reporting to you. Upwards of 100 homes destroyed and reports of damage and reports of injuries, as well as fatalities.


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