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Sexual Harassment Scandal Forces Florida Representative Mark Foley To Resign; Thwarted Plot To Attack Inside Green Zone; 1st Cavalry Division Deployed to Iraq; Life-Size Pictures of Soldiers Help Families Back Home; Tips on Easing Pain Of Parent Sent To War; Destructive Squirrel on Texas Campus

Aired September 30, 2006 - 11:00   ET


BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: Here's what's in the news right now.
The House of Representatives has asked its Ethics Committee to look into allegations against Florida Congressman Mark Foley. Foley abruptly resigned yesterday after questions about some e-mail messages he sent to a former page.

We will have a full report just ahead.

The U.S. military says it has uncovered a suspected al Qaeda plot to attack Baghdad's fortified green zone. The guard for the leader of Iraq's largest Sunni party is in custody.

Well, the streets of Baghdad are unusually empty today. Citing military intelligence, the Iraqi government has imposed a vehicle and pedestrian ban that began last night and will run-through 6:00 a.m. Baghdad time tomorrow.

We have a live report on those Iraqi stories in just a minute.


RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Tragic news for families gathered at a Brazilian airport. Officials say they have found the wreckage of a Brazilian airliner that was carrying 155 people. Some reports say it may have collided with a smaller plane, although Brazilian officials and the FAA are now downplaying that report. At this point, they're saying there are no reports of any survivors.

Israeli troops are going to completely withdraw from Southern Lebanon by tomorrow. That's what Lebanese officials are saying they've been told by U.N. peacekeepers. The Israeli Army is not confirming that. The U.N. cease-fire resolution that ended the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah calls on Israel to withdraw from Lebanon.

NGUYEN: Well, you are in the CNN NEWSROOM, where all the news unfolds live right here on CNN.

Good morning, everybody.

I'm Betty Nguyen.

SANCHEZ: And I'm Rick Sanchez.

It has been described by many as a political bombshell. And it just keeps reverberating. New revelations about why a popular congressman suddenly resigned.

NGUYEN: A homecoming weekend turns deadly and students are in mourning as their principal is shot by the student.

SANCHEZ: And if your daddy is in Iraq, here's a new way that you can hug and hold him.

You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.

This was not how Congress planned to adjourn before the elections. Yesterday's shocking resignation of Representative Mark Foley has members returning to their home districts with this scandal that is dominating the news.

CNN Congressional correspondent Dana Bash has our first story.


REP. MARK FOLEY (R), FLORIDA: ... living in the United States today...

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Congressman Mark Foley's resignation was abrupt: "I am deeply sorry and I apologize for letting down my family and the people of Florida I have had the privilege to represent," said Foley in a short written statement.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For what purpose does the gentleman from Florida rise?

BASH: The six term Republican and member of the GOP leadership made no mention of his e-mails with a former male Congressional page or concerns, according to GOP sources close to Foley, that devastating information was about to become public.

Hours later, it did. ABC News reported a number of sexually graphic instant messages between Foley and male Congressional pages using his personal screen name, Maf54.

"What are you wearing?" he asked in one.

"T-shirts and shorts," the teen replied.

"Love to slip them off you," Foley allegedly said.

And, in another, Foley asked, "Do I make you a little horny?"

"A little," said the teen.

"Cool," replied Foley.

A GOP leadership aide tells CNN, as soon as ABC confronted Foley's office with the explicit messages, he knew he had to quit. There was no immediate response from Foley's office to those alleged messages. But a spokesman confirmed to CNN that Foley did have five e-mail exchanges last year with a 16-year-old page, asking him: "How old are you?" in one. And in another he asks the young man to "Send me a pic of you, as well."

The young man forwarded that e-mail, according a government watchdog group that posted it online, to a Congressional staffer, writing the word "sick" 13 times.

The group's director sent it to the House Ethics Committee and the FBI.

MELANIE SLOAN, ETHICS WATCHDOG: Because Representative Foley was using a personal e-mail account to send the page e-mails, the former page e-mails, and the -- and the young man was clearly made very uncomfortable by the e-mails, we thought it was a matter appropriate for the House Ethics Committee to investigate.

BASH: Law enforcement sources won't comment, but there is no indication at this point of any criminal probe. And it is unclear how the House Ethics Committee proceeded.

Foley's resignation sent shockwaves through the Capitol. House Speaker Dennis Hastert was visibly angry.

HASTERT: I have asked John Shimkus, who is the head of the Page Board, to look into this issue regarding Congressman Foley. We want to make sure that all our pages are safe and the page system is safe -- safe.

QUESTION: How -- how disturbing is this?

HASTERT: Well, none of us are very happy about it.

BASH: Yet, at least one member of the GOP leadership and the Congressional Page Board knew almost a year ago about Foley's e-mail asking the teenager for his picture. According to Congressman John Shimkus, the head of the Board, they confronted Foley, who insisted that nothing inappropriate had occurred. The Board ordered Foley to cease all contact with the former page then dropped the matter.

(on camera): What makes this all the more troubling is that Congressman Foley was co-chair of the Missing & Exploited Children Caucus and was responsible for writing the most recent legislation to crack down on Internet predators.

Dana Bash, CNN, Capitol Hill.


NGUYEN: Now, last July, Foley introduced legislation designed to protect children from exploitation by adults over the Internet. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children issued a statement calling his resignation "a great loss to Florida and the nation." The statement went on to say: "He has been a hardworking, dedicated and effective Congressman. He will be missed."

Now more details about who Mark Foley is. The former Republican congressman represented Florida's 16th Congressional District, which includes West Palm Beach. He was first elected back in 1994 and he was co-chairman of the House Missing & Exploited Children Caucus.

His professional biography says he is Roman Catholic and single. Foley was seeking his seventh term in Congress.

His Democratic challenger, now facing better odds in November, is Tim Mahoney.

SANCHEZ: CNN has just been able to reach Shimkus. That is the congressman, John Shimkus. He's the chairman of the page program. And what we need to tell you is the information that we've received about Shimkus is the following.

Pardon me.

Did my microphone just fall off?

Well, if it did, we'll see if we can get it on.

NGUYEN: There we go.

I can hear you now.

SANCHEZ: All right, perfect.

Let's try and catch you up now on exactly what it is that the congressman is saying.

He said: "It appears that there has been some dishonesty on the part of Foley." He said he was not honest about his conduct. And we'll share with you one of the things that he writes.

He says when asked why -- when he asked Foley why it is that Foley had asked this young man for a picture of himself, Foley said that the page's well being was a concern to him, that he had been concerned about Hurricane Katrina and wanted to see a picture of the young man just to make sure that he was doing OK.

The chairman of the Page Board goes on to say: "I'm working with the clerk to now fully review this incident and determine what actions need to be taken. The house page program has been a very important part of the House of Representatives for many decades, preserving the integrity of the house page program is of utmost importance to me and to the House of Representatives."

Again, this is a statement released just moments ago from the congressman who is in charge of the page program. And he seems to be indicating that when he questioned Representative Foley about his actions that Foley was, in his words, less than honest with him.

A story that we will no doubt stay on top of, the very latest on that story as we get it for you. By the way, you can find more of the Foley resignation, including that information that we've got just moments ago and wanted to share with you, you can get it all on the Web at

Well, before it adjourned early this morning, Congress did complete several other work on security bills.

Here's now a CNN Security Watch summary.

The Senate joined the House in approving plans to build a 700- mile fence along the U.S.-Mexican border. It also approved plans to hire 1,500 more Border Patrol agents and build more jails to detain illegal immigrants.

It also passed legislation aimed at stepping up security against biological, chemical or nuclear attacks at the nation's 361 seaports.

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

NGUYEN: The U.S. military says al Qaeda in Iraq may have been in the final stages of a plot to bomb Baghdad's fortified green zone, the headquarters of the U.S.-led coalition and Iraq's government. This as a tight curfew is in place across the capital city.

CNN's Arwa Damon joins us from Baghdad with the latest on this -- first of all, talk to us about this bomb plot.

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is what we heard from a U.S. military press release that came out earlier this morning. They said that they detained a man who is suspected of being part of a cell that is suspected of having or being in the final stages of launching an attack against Baghdad's international zone, that fortified zone at the center of the city.

According to the U.S. military, this terror cell was planning on setting off multiple suicide car bombs, possibly even suicide vests, inside this international zone.

Now, the raid was conducted late last night. It was actually at the home of Adnan al-Dulaimi. He is a leading Sunni politician here, as well as a very influential member amongst Baghdad political circles and the Sunni community. However, the U.S. military has specified that Mr. Dulaimi himself was not linked to this plot in any way. They say that they arrived at his home. He says that when they arrived, he greeted them. They asked him -- gave him the name of this suspect. He said he did not know who he was.

The U.S. military did not enter his home. They searched the premises, searched the guardhouse and detained one of his security guards -- Betty.

NGUYEN: All right, Arwa, now let's move on to the curfew.

We've heard of curfews before.

Why is this one any different?

DAMON: Well, for one main reason in that it is a vehicle and pedestrian curfew. Most of the curfews that we see here -- and they are fairly frequent, whenever there is an increase in attacks the government does impose a vehicle curfew, sometimes at the last minute.

What happened in this case was that the announcement came very late last night. It was broadcast on state-owned al-Iraqiya Television, banning both vehicle and pedestrian traffic beginning at 11:00 p.m. on Friday, lasting until 6:00 a.m. tomorrow morning, Sunday morning.

Now, the last time we saw a vehicle and pedestrian curfew was back on June 23rd, and that was after clashes erupted between the Mahdi militia, that Shia militia loyal to radical cleric Muqtada al- Sadr and insurgent groups and the Iraqi Army.

However, this time the U.S. military says that, in fact, it was multinational forces that advised the security government to implement a curfew, that it was then the Iraqi government's decision to implement that.

They say that it is because of this increase in attacks that we have seen over the last two weeks, in particular, an increase in suicide bombings after the last week.

All of this, of course, Betty, is part of this ongoing effort that we're seeing to secure the capital.

NGUYEN: All right, CNN's Arwa Damon joining us from Baghdad with that.

Thank you, Arwa.

Well, the type of insurgent tactics we see in Iraq are now being used in Afghanistan. A suicide bomber at a crowded shopping area in Kabul killed at least 13 people this morning. It was the capital's fifth suicide bombing this month.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If it wasn't for Mr. Clinton, we don't know how many people would be shot.


SANCHEZ: Students speaking out about the shooting death of their principal.

And this...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wouldn't miss my -- my first kid being born for the world. There's no way. Not for the world. And definitely not for Iraq. (END VIDEO CLIP)

NGUYEN: Two soldiers preparing for their first child and a deployment. We'll look at how war affects troops and their families.

SANCHEZ: Also, vandalism bites the University of Texas. The culprit is going to surprise you in this one.

That's all ahead right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.


NGUYEN: Here's a look at some other stories making headlines Across America.

Fresh spinach is on its way back to your dinner plate. The ban on most fresh spinach is now lifted. The ban only applies to packaged spinach that had been recalled because of E. coli contamination. The FDA says it is safe to eat spinach grown anywhere outside three counties in California's Salinas Valley.

Well, what goes up must come down, right?

Well, check this out. In Atlanta, a 12-story building comes crashing down in a cloud of smoke. There it is, if you can see past that banner there. There you go. You see the smoke. Of course, it was done on purpose to make way for a new development. The building near Atlanta's historic Fox Theater had stood since 1959. It is the first building implosion in Georgia's capital city in six years.

Well, Alabama authorities hope to have the suspect in the shooting of a police officer in their custody soon. An extradition hearing for Mario Woodward is being held today in Georgia. A Montgomery police officer was gunned down Thursday during a traffic stop. Right now, he's in critical condition with a severed spine. Woodward was arrested yesterday just south of Atlanta. Authorities say he is fighting extradition to Alabama.

Last night, a vigil in Colorado to tell you about for a girl killed at her high school. Later this morning, a memorial service is scheduled for Emily Keyes. She is the 16-year-old student killed Wednesday by a gunman who took six high school girls hostage.

SANCHEZ: Also, somber services in a tiny community in Wisconsin after a fatal shooting at a local high school there. A 15-year-old student is accused of gunning down the school's principal. Instead of celebrating homecoming weekend, the school and the town are in mourning.

Details from CNN's John Roberts.


JOHN ROBERTS, SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was supposed to be the start of homecoming weekend for the students of Weston High School in Cazenovia, Wisconsin. But the annual celebration in this rural town 70 miles northwest of Madison was over before it even began.

CAPTAIN RICHARD MEISTER, SAUK COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT: A Weston High School custodian observed a 15-year-old student enter the high school carrying a shotgun.

ROBERTS: It was doing homeroom, just after 8:00 in the morning, that police say ninth grader Eric Hainstock came down the main corridor.

The custodian saw him, grabbed the shotgun, and, all on his own, wrestled Hainstock to the ground. The custodian got the gun, but Hainstock got away with a concealed pistol. That's when the principal, John Klang, a popular 20-year veteran, confronted him.

UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT: I heard about three gun-firings happening.

ROBERTS: Hainstock allegedly shot Klang in the head, chest and leg.

SUPT. TERRY MILFRED, WESTON SCHOOL DISTRICT: He was injured because he was trying to maintain -- maintain control and protect the students and staff at Weston, all of whom are -- who are grateful and safe as a result of his efforts.

ROBERTS: Hainstock was facing probable suspension for having tobacco-at school, according to the criminal complaint filed against him.

But he also told police after the shooting that other students had been bullying and ridiculing him, and said teachers did nothing about it. So, he told police he decided to confront the students and teachers and principals with the guns, and make them listen to him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But he went there to get their attention.

ROBERTS: It was the second tragedy of the day at this tiny rural school with just about 100 students. Earlier, another student had been killed in a car wreck on the way to school. That was upsetting enough. But the shooting, well, that was something students in this quiet community couldn't even conceive of.

UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT: We just can't believe some kid would do that to a teacher or the principal. It was a troubled kid, and he just didn't have a right to do that.

UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT: If it wasn't for Mr. Klang, we don't how many people would have been shot.

ROBERTS: Klang gave his life for protecting the students, and for that, he is being hailed as a hero.

John Roberts, CNN, Washington.


SANCHEZ: That story first aired on "ANDERSON COOPER 360." Join "A.C. 360" weeknights at 10:00 Eastern.

NGUYEN: Well, a clever little idea that allows soldiers to be two places at one -- well, kind of.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a very simple idea. It's just -- but it means a lot to him.


NGUYEN: A visual aid that eases emotional pain. We'll tell you about it.

SANCHEZ: Also, a revealing look at Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's fight for a leaner, meaner military in Iraq.

NGUYEN: Plus, is the stubborn fire any closer to being under control?

We're talking about that Day Fire. We'll tell you.

You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.

Stay with us.


SANCHEZ: From the CNN Center, we take you to southern California. Firefighters finally have a stubborn blaze under control there. It could be fully contained by Monday. The fire in the Los Padres National Forest broke out on Labor Day. Since then, the flames have scorched more than 250 square miles. It's one of the biggest wildfires ever in the State of California. It started Labor Day.


SANCHEZ: I wonder if that answers that question you've been asking.

NGUYEN: Why is it called the Day Fire?

I believe so. But, you know, the bigger thing here is the fact that it's been burning for nearly a month now.

Reynolds Wolf joins us -- any relief in sight? Is any rain in the forecast for the folks there?


You know, this is the time of year in Southern California where things are really dry. They really don't get any rainfall until you get into the winter months of January and February, sometimes as late as March.

(WEATHER REPORT) NGUYEN: Well, speaking of under fire, we're going to talking about under fire for the Iraq war. Critics say Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld did not send enough troops to battle. But he makes no apologies.

Special correspondent Frank Sesno has a revealing documentary this weekend for "CNN PRESENTS."

Here's a preview.


FRANK SESNO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Even before Tora Bora, President Bush told Rumsfeld to have his generals start looking at Iraq. Rumsfeld had a long history with the place. As Reagan's envoy, he went there, shook Saddam's hand when Saddam was at war with Iran, America's arch enemy.

But after Saddam's invasion of Kuwait and the first Gulf War, Rumsfeld signed on to a new line of neo-conservative thought, that America should actively promote democracy in Iraq and oust Saddam Hussein.

At the end of 2001, Rumsfeld ordered Tommy Franks to throw out the existing Iraq war plan, which called for more than 400,000 troops.


DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: It didn't reflect any of the lessons from Afghanistan, that it didn't reflect the current state of affairs in Iraq.


SESNO: Rumsfeld was adamant, leaning hard on General Tommy Franks, who was putting together the war plan.

THOMAS RICKS, "WASHINGTON POST": There was quite a lot of friction, a fairly harsh tone. Franks would fly up to Washington and show it to him and Rumsfeld would say, fewer troops, faster, cut it down, pare it down.

SESNO: Rumsfeld was thinking transformation and asking tough questions.

GEN. JACK KEANE, U.S. ARMY (RET.): The question sort of goes like this: listen, Saddam Hussein's army today is half the size it used to be.

Why do we have to attack the same size force we did back then? Isn't it reasonable to do it with less?

Well, that's a very good question and it deserves to be asked.

SESNO: The U.S. would attack with fewer than 150,000 troops, though more were available, if needed. Rumsfeld's vision had prevailed. It was about to be tested again, but on a very different battlefield.


NGUYEN: Watch the special on the U.S. secretary of defense and his role in Iraq, the war there, "DONALD RUMSFELD: MAN OF WAR." That airs tonight and tomorrow at 8:00 Eastern right here on CNN.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wouldn't miss my -- my first kid being born for the world. There's no way. Not for the world and definitely not for Iraq.


NGUYEN: Preparing for war and a newborn. We'll talk about that.

Plus, it's hard enough leaving your child to go to war, but imagine telling them you are leaving for war.

SANCHEZ: Also, what you're reporting for CNN. The best of I- Report, where you get to tell us what's important in your backyard. We're bringing it to you in the CNN NEWSROOM next.


SANCHEZ: It's half past the hour now and time for a check of the headlines. Troubling matter for Congress is now before the House ethics committee. The House has voted to ask the panel to investigate former Congressman Mark Foley and some e-mails that he allegedly sent to former male teenage page.

It's a big problem for Republicans. Foley is a prominent Republican legislator, abruptly resigned last night as a result of this scandal. The U.S. military says it's uncovered a suspected al Qaeda plot to bomb Baghdad's fortified green zone. A suspected al Qaeda member who worked as a guard for the leader of Iraq's largest Sunni party is apparently in custody there.

In this morning in Afghanistan, a suicide bomber in a crowded shopping area in Kabul killed at least 13 people. It was the capital's fifth suicide bombing just this month.

NGUYEN: Here in the CNN newsroom, we are always bringing you reports about American troops on the front lines. Today we're taking a special look at what they and their loved ones go through before they're deployed and emotions they feel once they're separated.

At a military base in Texas, anxious times for a husband and wife who are expecting a baby any time now. Trouble is, they both got their marching orders and they're being sent to Iraq. But a change in deployment plans has thrown some unexpected problems into this mix. Their story now from CNN's Ed Lavandera.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Imagine the stress Yesenyia and Charlie Scoggins feeling. They're married and soldiers in the fourth brigade 1st Cavalry Division. She's eight months pregnant and they just learned their unit will ship out to Iraq a month earlier than expected.

SPC. YESENYIA SCOGGINS, FIRST CAVALRY DIVISION: When I first found out I was pregnant, we didn't think we were going to be deploying this soon. We thought we were going to be deploying later on.

LAVANDERA: Yesenyia will stay behind and deliver the baby. Charlie is waiting for final approval from the army to let him stay behind too. In the months ahead, they would rejoin their comrades.

SPEC. CHARLIE SCOGGINS, FIRST CAVALRY DIVISION: I wouldn't miss my first kid being born for the world. There's no way, not for the world and definitely not for Iraq.

LAVANDERA: Meantime Specialist Scoggins prepares the unit's weaponry, putting grenade launchers on rifles. And the 4200 soldiers in this unit are packing gear into hundreds of containers. They leave Fort Bliss for Iraq next month.

(on-camera): These soldiers were brought together a year ago to create a brand new unit. It's part of the army's transformation process, the idea being that they would work on a three-year cycle, where they could be deployed for a year. Then they'd rest for a year. Then they retrain for a year and then the cycle repeats itself. This deployment is considered an early test of that.

(voice-over): Some military analysts say that these new combat units could help, but that the army is still too small for what's needed in Iraq. That's why some units are being sent in early and some units are being kept there longer.

DAN GOURE, LEXINGTON INSTITUTE: There simply aren't enough soldiers. There aren't enough units to allow for the kind of rotation policy that the Pentagon created a couple of years ago.

LAVANDERA: The fourth brigade's commander, Colonel Stephen Twitty led the charge into Baghdad at the beginning of the war. He's going back and says his unit can handle the early call to duty.

COL. STEPHEN TWITTY, BRIGADE COMM., 1ST CAVALRY DIVISION: There's a lot of brigades that have stood up in the army, and you got a lot of brigades that haven't been over yet and I command one of them, so I don't see us stretched thin here. We're ready to go.

LAVANDERA: Sergeant Kenneth Warburton is preparing for a second tour in Iraq. He would like to spend more time at home but he's happy with the training he's received.

SGT. KENNETH WARBURTON,, 1ST CAVALRY DIVISION: Getting ready in a year is a time crunch but I feel my company, I feel hopefully the brigade as a whole is ready to go. I know my company is ready to go. LAVANDERA: The early call came as a surprise to the Scoggins. They're focused though on welcoming a baby boy into the world before both head to the battlefield. Ed Lavandera, CNN, El Paso.


NGUYEN: No doubt when a parent goes off to war children back home face fear and anxiety but now there's a program that helps them cope in a fun way. Dan Lothian introduces us to flat daddy.


DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's a long way from rural Maine to the dangerous streets of Iraq where Staff Sergeant Arthur Whitaker and Sergeant First class Lee Vanadestine are serving with the 172 mountain company, Maine's Army National Guard. For their loved ones, the separation is painful.

DEB WHITAKER, WIFE OF SOLDIER: I want to say it gets easier everyday but at the same time it doesn't.

ROXANA VANADESTINE, WIFE OF SOLDIER: It's hard to say, to tell other people what it would feel like unless you're put into that situation.

LOTHIAN: Strangers before their husbands were deployed, Roxana Vanadestine and her four-year-old son Stephen (ph) have bonded with Deb Whitaker and her two children, seven-month old Colby and five- year-old Mikhaela (ph). They have a lot in common, right down to the way they try to ease the pain of separation. They find some comfort in their flat daddy, a life-size cutout of the guardsman in uniform.

WHITAKER: He's kind of like our little bit of sense of security. It's just nice to know that he really is still there, just have a visual picture of him so you can look at him everyday.

LOTHIAN: A picture, a moment frozen in time but now always on the move. Mikhaela has taken flat daddy to school.

VANADESTINE: Stephen took him everywhere. When he had to go to the bathroom, daddy had to go with him.

WHITAKER: We went to the fair and his two girls took him on every ride.

VANADESTINE: Daddy had to go with him and lay in bed with him.

WHITAKER: There's no place he doesn't go.

LOTHIAN (on-camera): But flat daddies can only do so much. They can't talk. They can't do chores around the house. Obviously these families would much rather have the real thing but for now, this is the only way these two fathers and husbands can be in two places at once, well, sort of.

(voice-over): With flat daddy at their sides, somehow their real daddy doesn't feel so far away.

VANADESTINE: I never would have thought that a piece of cardboard and a big picture would mean the world to myself and my son.

LOTHIAN: The young children get a daily dose of dad in one dimension. Sergeant First Class Barbara Claudel with Maine's National Guard family support program, came up with the idea after seeing something similar at a national convention eight months ago.

SGT. BARBARA CLAUDEL, MAINE NATIONAL GUARD: It's very easy, it's very simple idea but it means a lot to them. It becomes you know something that they, you know that they're so proud of them.

LOTHIAN: Claudel takes the picture, enlarges it, glues it onto a foam board and gives it away to the family, so far producing more than 200. Did you ever think that it would be this popular?

CLAUDEL: No, definitely not.

LOTHIAN: The families do stay in touch with their soldiers in more conventional ways like snail mail, e-mail or Internet web cams, but in an e-mail from Iraq, Staff Sergeant Whitaker tells us his life- size cutout offers something more.

WHITAKER: He says I still get to go everywhere with the family. It's very cool.

LOTHIAN: And he gets to see where they take him. The family snap plenty of pictures of flat daddy about town, then send them to the battlefield.

VANADESTINE: I tell him, you're still here, even though you're not here.

LOTHIAN: They take so many trips and get so much attention that often the flat daddies get worn out, literally. Whitaker is cutting out a new picture just in from the National Guard program after the old one just fell apart.

Dan Lothian, CNN, Litchfield, Maine.


NGUYEN: That's a great story and it comes to us from "American Morning." Join Soledad and Miles weekday mornings. I do have to tell you though, it's not easy for a kid to have a parent in a war zone. The flat daddy program can help, but what else can be done to help them cope? Susan Bartell is a child psychologist and she joins us from New York. Thanks for being with us today.

SUSAN BARTELL, CHILD PSYCHOLOGIST: Thank you very much for having me. It's great to be here with you.

NGUYEN: I'm looking at the list of some of the things that parents can do especially those at home who aren't deployed. And really, it's very hard for them because they're shouldering a lot of this burden. But some of the suggestions you have are allowing kids to ask questions. I know that's important, but another one is making new memories before that parent is deployed. What do you mean by that?

BARTELL: That's a very, very important thing. Before a parent goes away, do as many things as you possibly can. Go on trips, do great things that you love to do as a family. Go on hikes, go to the movies, go bowling, take a short vacation.

That way your children have lots of things to think about while you're gone. Also when you're away, they can talk to you about it while you're on the phone with them. They can write to you about it. It really keeps you connected to them when you have those really recent memories to really think about and talk about with your kids.

NGUYEN: That's a great idea. Also talk about a discussion point with teachers and insure a child's routine isn't disrupted. But I find this very interesting, having a deployed parent, before that parent goes away to write letters to the children. Now, are you talking about one every day so their child will hear from them in some sort of way?

BARTELL: What you want to you want to really have them make little index cards and on the index cards write little thoughts, little notes, little ideas that you're thinking about them and put them in a big bottle that the kids can pull out of the bottle whenever they want to, to think about the child.

And also make addressed stamped cards that the children can write to the parent whenever they want to and then mail to the parent while they're away and if they want to write letters for the parents that the parent can mail before they leave, they can do that as well, as much communication as possible. And also as much prepare child to really be in contact with the parents with e-mails, with high speed Internet, to be able to be in contact with the parents while they're away.

NGUYEN: You also suggest recording a parent's voice. That is so important. I guess the key here though is preparing your child for this deployment before it happens. When should you start talking about it?

BARTELL: You should start talking about it really as far in advance as you hear about it because the children need as much time to think about it, to you about it, to ask their questions and if you don't do it -- if you do it too soon before you leave, the children don't have enough time to do that for you. So that you really want to do it just really as far in advance as you can.

NGUYEN: Well, the serious part of this is that a child at some point has to be prepared for the possible death or injury of their parent. That's so hard to talk about. How do you even begin to talk about that with children?

BARTELL: You need do it gently. You need to reassure them that you're going to do everything that you can that you have been trained to take care of yourself. Really emphasize the safety measures that you are taking, but don't make promises that you can't keep. Don't tell them that you promise you'll come home safely, but really emphasize that you are going to do everything you can to be safe.

NGUYEN: And very quickly, you're talking about promise that you can't keep, but we're seeing a lot of these deployments being extended. So what do you tell your children then?

BARTELL: It's very, very difficult and you have to make sure that they understand that this is not something that you want, that it wasn't something that you chose. You don't want them to think that you want to be away from them, that this is something that you're doing because it's your job and that you're not doing it because you want it and that you wish you could be home with them as much as they want you to be home with them.

NGUYEN: Susan Bartell, child psychologist, thanks for those tips today.

BARTELL: Thank you. Thank you very much.

SANCHEZ: Thanks Betty. We're checking the most popular stories online this morning here in the newsroom. Also this ...


JENNIFER ADAMS, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS STUDENT: I kind of walked over here and like it was not even hesitating.


SANCHEZ: Can a squirrel take down a longhorn? Apparently.


SANCHEZ: Brief look now at some of the most popular videos on Number one, this is a report from CNN's Ryan Chilcote on the impressions of the first female space tourist now that she's returned from the international space station.

Number two, a report from Jeanne Moos on the unusual comedian and why the Republic of Kazakhstan isn't laughing. Jeanne Moos' story. Now Jeanne's always funny.

Also draw hits, an investigation into whether the recent lower gas prices are tied to politics. You can check those stories out for yourself by the way at

NGUYEN: As you know, the newsroom continues at the top of the hour. We're not going anywhere. Fredricka Whitfield is in the hot seat. What's coming up, Fred?

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Here's a little trivia question for you. What is faster than the speed of light, travels about 18 inches from an aircraft and is breaking ground in so many other ways? NGUYEN: You got me. I don't know.

SANCHEZ: Sound like an aerial ...


WHITFIELD: Not even close. OK. It's a U.S. Air Force Thunderbird fighter jet piloted by a woman.

NGUYEN: That was my number two answer.

WHITFIELD: Oh, yes, I thought it would be, tricky question this morning. Major Michouski (ph) is a woman who is piloting this Thunderbird jet. She's the only one doing it. She is a real hotshot and our Alex Quade spent the day with her and goes along for the ride and she takes us for a ride as well. We'll find out all about her, what makes her such a special top gun besides the fact that she is a woman.

And then here's another question for you. How many excuses do you make on saving money or how you spend it?

NGUYEN: I would say ...

WHITFIELD: Excuses like I'm not good with numbers, oh, I got to have those shoes. You only live once.

NGUYEN: In a day, in an hour?

SANCHEZ: I never once said I've got to have those shoes, by the way.

WHITFIELD: Oh, come on. Maybe your wife or your kids. Anyway, another woman who has made those kinds of excuses, we all have. Jean Chatzky, she's a household name, right, money guru. She's Oprah's money guru. She's got Oprah's ear. She's got my ear too, right. She joins us in the noon hour to tell us just how we should be spending our money better or perhaps saving more.

NGUYEN: That's key.

WHITFIELD: Advice all of us could use.

SANCHEZ: By the way, that's some nice shoes. Where did you get those?

NGUYEN: Yes, nice shoes, Fred. Splurge on those, Fred?

WHITFIELD: I was budgeting. I budgeted for the shoes.

NGUYEN: Sure you did. All right.

At the University of Texas at Austin, my alma mater, a four- legged nuisance of a different sort, a furry vandal is on the loose and reporter James Irby with KTBC has the story.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, he was mean looking. He was pretty scruffy.

JAMES IRBY, KTBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The vandal has been roaming the U.T. campus picking its targets. There doesn't seem to be much of a method to the way the culprit operates, but from the one incident that's been caught on camera, it appears the softer the target the better.

ADAMS: I kind of walked over here and like it was not even hesitating.

IRBY: Jennifer Adams witnessed the crazed vandal at work outside Kinsolving dorm on Sunday, says he jumped onto a bicycle seat and sprang into action.

ADAMS: There's this squirrel going crazy on the bike. And he's ripping it up and chewing it to death, right, and he's throwing all the stuffing on the ground.

IRBY: One bystander grabbed a camera and fired off a snapshot. Others tried to stop the determined squirrel with water.

ADAMS: There were some people around and they were trying to get it scared away but he was pretty persistent and he just stayed there.

KORIE DAVENPORT, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS STUDENT: We have just stupid squirrels over here. And it didn't surprise me at all that another stupid squirrel happened upon my bike.

IRBY: Korie Davenport says she has no idea why the squirrel laid into her seat like it did. She once thought the main threat to her bike would be a thief. Now she's got her eyes open for squirrels with their beady little eyes on her seat.

DAVENPORT: We just need to keep them confined to another area so this doesn't happen again because no one else wants to be a victim. That's what happened. Look, there's nothing left.


NGUYEN: See, stupid squirrel. That report comes from James Irving with our affiliate KTBC.

Veronica de la Cruz has a little bit about animals to tell us about.

VERONICA DE LA CRUZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Betty. I'm going to take your animal story and raise you one. I have even more animal stories coming up next from the dot com desk. Question, what do you do when you get attacked by a dog? A woman in Tampa has a tale of her own, how she escaped a vicious dog attack. That's coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) SANCHEZ: Time now to try to find a way to get comfortable on this set. Time now to try and find out what people are watching for us. And we're going to try ...

NGUYEN: Yes. Veronica de la Cruz joins us with a few popular videos and the best of I-Report all available for us on there.

DE LA CRUZ: Of course. We're looking at the best of the best on our Web site right now. We're going to start one of with a couple of I-reports that we have received from our viewers in the Philippines. This picture sent to us by Hendrik Lindroff (ph) of trees that were literally pushed over flat, laying on their side. It happened on Thursday during that typhoon that rocked Manila. If you listen closely, Betty, you can hear the force of this wind in the video from Toby Wallenburg.

SANCHEZ: I heard it the first time.

DE LA CRUZ: Did you?

NGUYEN: Second time was a little sketchy, but we hear it now.

SANCHEZ: She was just being contrary.

NGUYEN: I was not, I was being honest.

DE LA CRUZ: Well, Toby was able to capture this from his window at home during that typhoon. If you're out and you see news as it happens, log on to our Web site,, click on I-report. You'll see the logo right there. You can also log on to From some of our best I-reports to the best video at, the most popular, people are clicking on this story.

Iranian American business woman Anousheh Ansari is back on terra firma after taking a trip to the international space station. Look at all those roses. She had this to say about her trip. She said that space smells like burnt cookies.

SANCHEZ: That's exactly what I thought a trained scientist would say.

DE LA CRUZ: But she's not.

NGUYEN: We all get it; we understand what she's saying.

DE LA CRUZ: You're right about that. And Betty...

SANCHEZ: Did you hear those winds yet?

DE LA CRUZ: Have you guys ever wondered what to do if you get attacked by a dog. This woman in Tampa, she turned around and she bit the dog back.

NGUYEN: No, she did not.

DE LA CRUZ: She did. She bit the dog back. She was actually able to save her own life by biting a vicious 100 pound Rottweiler as it attacked her.

NGUYEN: Goodness, good for her then.

DE LA CRUZ: Coming up at the 1:00 p.m. on CNN, pipeline, we're getting our CNN military humvees revamped. You guys might have heard about this. The folks from TLC have seven days to overhaul the vehicle.

NGUYEN: Like pimp my humvee or something?

SANCHEZ: You mean the one that we have downstairs on display for everyone, the one that was in Iraq war.

DE LA CRUZ: They're going to remodel it. And that's all coming up on pipe two (ph) in the 1:00 hour. So a lot to look for at

SANCHEZ: Which camera is it now?

NGUYEN: The one with the light on it. Now we go here.

SANCHEZ: Reynolds Wolf standing by to let us know what's going on.

NGUYEN: Bail him out, would you, Reynolds.


SANCHEZ: For those of you who don't know what we're talking, if you've ever visited CNN here at the headquarters in Atlanta, you go down there, you look at it. People marvel at these trucks that are down there, set up with all the wiring and everything. Anyway, CNN newsroom continues now with Fredricka Whitfield. Certainly has been an interesting morning and it's been a pleasure to bring you the latest news.

NGUYEN: It has. Stay with us for that and have a great day.



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