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CNN SATURDAY MORNING NEWS

A look at the Latest Developments in the 2004 Presidential Election; Earthquakes Rock Japan Leaving Four Dead

Aired October 23, 2004 - 07:00   ET

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


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Oh, good morning from the CNN Center in Atlanta.
BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: Somebody's awake.

HARRIS: Oh, absolutely.

This is CNN SATURDAY MORNING.

It is October 23, 7:00 a.m. in the East and 4:00 a.m. out West.

Good morning, everyone.

I'm Tony Harris.

NGUYEN: And I'm Betty Nguyen.

Thanks so much for being with us today.

We've got a lot to tell you about.

Now in the news, some terrifying moments in Japan this morning. Within a span of just minutes, several strong earthquakes shook the northwestern part of the country, rocking buildings, toppling homes, derailing trains and causing a blackout. Now, this video is a building swaying in Tokyo, more than 160 miles away from the epicenter. Initial reports say at least one person is dead and more than 50 are injured.

Now, the strongest quake measured at 6.8 magnitude. We, of course, will have a live report from CNN's Atika Shubert, who is in Tokyo, and that will happen just minutes from now.

Meanwhile, another violent and deadly day across Iraq. The U.S. military says a suicide car bomber blew up his vehicle near a U.S. Marine camp about 120 miles west of Baghdad. The attack left 10 Iraqi police officers dead and at least five others wounded. There were no U.S. casualties.

About 15 minutes later, flames and smoke pour from a Bradley fighting vehicle after a roadside bomb attack in Baghdad. Six U.S. soldiers suffered non-life threatening injuries. Military officials say the attack happened on a stretch of road leading to Baghdad's airport.

U.S. and Iraqi forces say they have captured a senior member of terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's inner circle. It happened during a raid of a safe haven in the rebel held city of Fallujah. Now, the military says five other suspects were detained. The hunt continues for al-Zarqawi.

Back here at home, American Airlines says it plans to lay off about 1,100 workers in Kansas City and St. Louis. The company says up to 450 pilots will be furloughed, along with up to 650 maintenance workers. The airline cites rising fuel costs and competition from low fare carriers. American also plans to cut its domestic flight schedule by 5 percent in the first quarter of next year.

HARRIS: Other issues we will explore this morning, George Bush and John Kerry are locked in a dead heat inside the U.S., but outside the U.S., it's not even close. The London bureau chief of "Time" magazine will explain the keen interest abroad in the U.S. presidential election.

Also ahead, which candidates' supporters are better informed on global issues and events. A pop quiz reveals a surprisingly stark difference.

And later, major league baseball scores a ratings bonanza with the American League pennant race. Can the red series, the Red Sox, the red birds, keep the game in the black? CNN sports business analyst Rick Horrow checks the stats in "Beyond The Game."

NGUYEN: Ready or not, 10 days until the presidential election and the candidates are going all out. We'll get the campaign -- get to the group trail in just a moment.

But first, for a quick snapshot of where the race stands, we turn to CNN polls of polls. Now, President Bush holds about a 3 percentage point lead over Senator Kerry in the race. That is according to an average of all major national polls of likely voters. Now, as we mentioned, the race is tight. Time is running short and the candidates are in major campaigning mode.

The hotly contested race is our top story.

Democrat John Kerry is in Colorado today. It's traditionally a Republican state and George Bush won it back in 2000, but Kerry hopes to capture the state's nine electoral votes on Election Day.

CNN's Ed Henry joins us from Pueblo, where the senator is making a campaign appearance -- good morning, Ed.

ED HENRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Betty.

In these final 10 days, every trip counts. The resources are obviously critical for both candidates. Senator John Kerry focusing on only about 12 battleground states. It started out with the electoral map, had about 20 battlegrounds, down to about 12, including here in Colorado. Nine electoral votes at stake, as you mentioned.

George W. Bush carried this in 2000, but the polls are showing it's neck and neck right now. Kerry has high hopes of carrying it. Later this morning, John Kerry will then be heading over to Las Cruces, New Mexico. Like here in Pueblo, Colorado, there's a strong Hispanic population. John Kerry hoping to get strong turnout from the Hispanic community, both in Colorado and in New Mexico later this morning. Five electoral votes at stake in New Mexico. Al Gore carried New Mexico by only 366 votes in 2000. It's neck and neck once again this time.

Last night, John Kerry had a rally in Reno, Nevada. There he was hitting a lot of the themes we've been hearing in the final days, pushing -- saying he's going to support the middle class, hitting George W. Bush hard.

Here's what he said about the president on the issue of the budget deficit.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This little kid over here, this baby I held up, was wearing a sign. Some of you may not have been able to read it, but the sign on that little baby I held up said, "Please don't dump a big debt on me." What's a -- let me read that sign. "Please don't make me pay for the Bush deficit. Vote Kerry-Edwards."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENRY: And after this swing through the West, John Kerry will be heading to perhaps the biggest battleground of all, dating back to 2000, Florida. That's where President Bush is stumping today, as well. Kerry, after hitting Colorado and New Mexico, will spend the night tonight in Florida and have a series of events there, as well, tomorrow -- Betty.

NGUYEN: CNN's Ed Henry in Colorado this morning for us.

Thank you, Ed -- Tony.

HARRIS: George Bush is making another swing through Florida today. He's got rallies in four cities -- Fort Myers, Lakeland, Melbourne and Jacksonville. This is Mr. Bush's third trip to Florida in just over a week.

Meantime, he's also been hitting some other battleground states and launching fresh attacks on John Kerry.

Our senior White House correspondent John King is following the Bush campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: (voice-over): Pennsylvania was stop one on a day targeting three big prizes. The president's retooled stump speech designed to put his view of the race in sharper focus. GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The security and prosperity of our country, the health and education of our citizens, the retirement of our seniors and the direction of our culture are all at stake.

KING: Winning Pennsylvania requires support from conservative Democrats and Mr. Bush took note of Senator Kerry's vote against a law signed by President Clinton that defined marriage as between a man and a woman.

BUSH: Senator Kerry was a part of the far left bank, far left minority that voted against that piece of legislation.

KING: Health care was the major focus in Ohio and another issue on which Mr. Bush wants to label Senator Kerry a big government liberal.

BUSH: My opponent's plan would increase the scope and the size of the federal government.

KING: But at this and every other stop he leaves no doubt about what he considers most important.

BUSH: My opponent and I have a different vision about how to keep America secure.

KING: A dramatic new ad showing a pack of wolves reinforces a message the Bush campaign calls critical and Democrats call desperate fear mongering.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM BUSH CAMPAIGN AD)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And weakness attracts those who are waiting to do America harm.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: This week's travel underscores the shrinking battlefield in the search for 270 electoral votes. Mr. Bush campaigned in just seven states -- New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and Florida.

Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Florida also drew increased Bush TV ad spending in recent days, along with Colorado, Oregon and West Virginia. Florida was Friday's final stop and where Mr. Bush campaigns Saturday, all signs once again suggesting a fierce fight to the end.

(on camera): In framing what he considers to be the election's top choices, the president said progress on everything else depends first on safety from terrorism. If a majority of voters accepts that view, Bush campaign aides say the president's reelection will be a safe bet.

John King, CNN, St. Petersburg, Florida.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

HARRIS: Here's this. CNN's latest electoral college outlook shows George Bush with an edge. It shows Mr. Bush with 277 electoral votes and John Kerry getting 261. A candidate needs 270 electoral votes to win the White House. Now, please keep this in mind, this is not a prediction of the outcome, just a snapshot of where CNN believes the race stands right now.

NGUYEN: Meantime, people in Florida may be hearing echoes of the 2000 election. Officials across the state are looking into complaints of voter fraud. The complaints are wide ranging, involving voter registration, party affiliation forms and absentee ballots. And Florida isn't the only battleground state facing such complaints. Ohio is dealing with some troubling phone calls. We'll have more in our voter alert a little bit later this hour.

And that takes us to our e-mail Question of the Day. Is the U.S. election system broken? Well, former President Jimmy Carter thinks it is. Carter has helped to monitor troubled elections abroad, but he tells NPR if he were asked to oversee a U.S. election, he would say no. He say the U.S. election doesn't meet his standards for a fair vote.

But we want to know what you think. E-mail us your answers at wam@cnn.com. We'll read those on the air.

HARRIS: Just days after a devastating typhoon washed over Japan, now there's been a potentially crippling 6.8 magnitude earthquake. It sent skyscrapers swaying in Tokyo and reportedly tossed a bullet train off its tracks. Two other strong quakes soon followed.

CNN's Atika Shubert is on the phone with the latest details -- Atika, what can you tell us?

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Tony, Japan is pretty used to earthquakes. But having so many in one row is rare. The first one happened at around 5:50 in the evening, registering 6.8 on the Richter Scale. Then just 15 minutes later, another one registering 5.9, and then another 15 minutes later, another one at 6.3.

Now, they all happened in the northern prefecture called Nigata and aftershocks are still continuing. So authorities are warning residents to be on alert.

Now, local media are reporting the tremors did cause blackouts, ruptured water mains in several cities. And, as you mentioned, one train en route to Nygata Province was actually derailed. Fortunately, though, no one was hurt.

However, closer to the epicenter, several houses did collapse. Dozens of people were injured. The local broadcaster here, NHK, is reporting that one of those injured has died. Also, several buildings were reportedly damaged, with cracks running up the walls. Also, roads were damaged, with cracks also appearing along several roads -- Tony. HARRIS: Atika Shubert reporting for us live.

Atika, thank you.

Americans go to the polls in just 10 days and the entire world will be watching the outcome. We'll find out which candidate has more support across the globe.

NGUYEN: And a hard bitten conservative speaker gets more than she bargained for during a speech in Arizona. You have got to see this one. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NGUYEN: Scott Peterson's lawyers offer testimony they say proves the murder suspect is innocent. It's a question for our legal panel. That happens next hour right here on CNN SATURDAY MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: Other headlines this morning, two men who threw pies at conservative columnist Ann Coulter face charges. Watch closely. One of the custard pies glanced off -- jeez -- off Coulter's shoulder. The pie hurler suspects face felony and misdemeanor charges. It took place Thursday night at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

Police near here have no idea why a woman broke into a house and made it her own. Listen to this. The woman is accused of moving into the home in Douglasville, west of Atlanta, while the owner was on vacation. Now, the homeowner says the woman redecorated and even had the electricity bill switched to her name.

NGUYEN: She even put up pictures of her family and friends. Very interesting there.

Well, drink up, Red Sox fans. Boston Mayor Thomas Menino has backed down from his threat to ban alcohol sales around Fenway Park. There will be, however, a greater police presence for the World Series, which begins tonight, by the way. I know you'll be watching. Talk of a liquor ban followed Wednesday's Red Sox win over New York to get to that fall classic.

Now, one young woman was killed and 15 others hurt when fan celebrations turned rowdy and police fired darts into the crowd.

And New York Yankee fans are steamed, and not just because the Sox took the American League crown, but their cherished eatery, as well. Look at this. The owner of Mickey Mantle's Restaurant put up a temporary, just a temporary sign saying Ted Williams Restaurant, named for the Red Sox legend. Now, angry calls and visits came within a New York minute, as they say, and the temporary sign, well, it, of course, came down. The restaurant owner said that after the Red Sox win, Mantle's spirit came to him and said to make the name change.

HARRIS: Yes. OK. NGUYEN: Well, we do want to remind you that Red Sox-Yankees series becomes an instant classic. How could the World Series ever top that? Counting the dollars with CNN sports guru Rick Horrow when we take you "Beyond The Game" in about 30 minutes right here on CNN SATURDAY MORNING.

What a game that was.

HARRIS: That really was.

NGUYEN: And we've got another one tonight.

JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: I know. Where -- is it in New York tonight?

HARRIS: Where are they playing the game?

JERAS: I don't even know. Isn't that terrible? I'm sorry. I followed...

HARRIS: Well, someone should tell us. Someone should tell us.

JERAS: I really did.

HARRIS: Right. Right. Whether it's in Boston or St. Louis -- it's in Boston tonight.

JERAS: In Boston.

NGUYEN: Boston tonight.

And the weather?

JERAS: Cloudy, actually, and kind of cool. But the good news is the rain looks like it should be holding off for Boston, I think, until tomorrow.

HARRIS: Hi, Jacqui.

JERAS: Hello.

Good morning.

How are you?

HARRIS: Good. Good.

JERAS: First time on the set with you.

(CROSSTALK)

JERAS: Good to see you.

NGUYEN: What a (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

JERAS: I know. (WEATHER REPORT)

NGUYEN: Well, if the rest of the world could pick the next president, who would win? The answer may just surprise you. The world is watching, folks, and "Time" magazine's London bureau chief tells us what some people have to say, when we come back.

HARRIS: But first, can you answer this question -- do you believe that Iraq was directly involved in carrying out 9/11 attacks? The way you answer it may give away your political affiliation. We will explain next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NGUYEN: Take a look at this for just a moment. Here is a look at poll results showing the support the two presidential candidates have around the world. Now, citizens in 30 countries, including staunch ally Britain, are pulling for John Kerry to win the November 2 election. Only three countries support President George Bush.

And what else is on the minds of people overseas as they watch the presidential race? "Time" magazine is taking world opinion into account as it tracks what polls show is still a very tight race.

And joining us now is "Time's" London bureau chief, Jef McAllister.

Hello there.

JEF MCALLISTER, "TIME" LONDON BUREAU CHIEF: Good morning.

NGUYEN: Good morning. And let's take a look at these poll numbers. We want to put some of them up on the screen for us to look at. And basically, George Bush isn't favoring too well around the world.

Why is that?

MCALLISTER: Well, it's a complicated thing. I mean it didn't start just because of George Bush that there are differences between the world and the United States. The role the U.S. plays in the world, spending more than the next 25 countries put together on defense, its overwhelming power does cause resentment. But George Bush exacerbated these things, really. It was evident at the beginning of his administration, when he was against a lot of the international law conventions that are very popular in other countries -- the international criminal court, the comprehensive test ban, the biological weapons convention -- he was against all of those things. He also didn't pay much attention to the Middle East peace process.

September 11 gave him a big boost in world opinion. The world did sort of rally around America. But then the Iraq war really has been the decisive factor that has made people think that he's really not the person they want to lead them. It's been -- no weapons of mass destruction, no connection between Saddam and 9/11, although the U.S. administration has said that. He just hasn't brought world opinion with him.

NGUYEN: In looking at those numbers that we first put up there, Kerry obviously is in the lead.

Now, is that because the rest of the world likes Kerry or that they just dislike Bush, according to those poll numbers?

MCALLISTER: They don't really know very much about Kerry. I mean they, you know, I think there is a sense that they know he's sort of more like what they were expecting from an American president. He does speak foreign languages. He's traveled. He's been around the international circuit.

But fundamentally, it was a member of the French assembly, who supported Bush during the Iraq war, who said that if the Democrats nominated a horse, the world would be in favor of him over Bush.

Bush really is, in a kind of a brand sense, the Edsel of America's reputation as far as the world is concerned. He's really a busted flush. There's not much he can really do, I'm afraid, to improve his reputation.

NGUYEN: We have another graphic, another poll that we want to put up on the screen, which shows the overall world view of the U.S. It has dropped dramatically since the 2000 election.

What has caused this? Now, I know you had mentioned the war in Iraq. What are some of the other factors, as well, as we look at these numbers?

MCALLISTER: Well, it's -- the war in Iraq really is the fundamental one. But I think it's how Iraq represents to the world a kind of way of being, a unilateralist approach, not listening, not being interested in going to the U.N., a sense that they have to take what America is dishing out.

And I know this is -- I talk to a lot of people around, even in Britain, where America's closest ally. There was an interesting survey of members of parliament which said -- which found that all of Tony Blair's party, the members of parliament polled, would vote for Kerry; all of the members of the Liberal Democrats and half of the Conservatives. It's just really a going away from the notion that America is a beacon in a lot of people's minds.

NGUYEN: You know, that's very interesting, and we don't have much time left, but I do want to ask you about that, because if you poll a lot of the British, they are for Kerry. But if you look at the bets, because they are taking bets on this election, it appears Bush is in the lead to win.

MCALLISTER: Well, people in Britain look at the same polls that the Americans are looking at, too, and clearly George Bush is doing extremely well and may, indeed, well win. I think there's the sense that he's been ahead during the entire campaign here and when people bet, they vote their pocketbooks, not their hearts. NGUYEN: All right, Jef McAllister with "Time" magazine, the bureau chief there in London.

Thank you for your time and your insight today.

And as for U.S. voters, a poll taken this month highlights the deep divisions between Bush and Kerry supporters, especially when it comes to Iraq. The poll is from the Program On International Policy Attitudes and the Knowledge Networks. It says 47 percent of Bush supporters polled still think Iraq had weapons of mass destruction just before the war. Only 8 percent of Kerry supporters do. The poll says 63 percent of Bush supporters think Saddam Hussein was working closely with al Qaeda. Only 12 percent of Kerry voters agree. As for a link between Iraq and 9/11, 20 percent of Bush supporters polled still think Iraq was directly involved; 8 percent of Kerry supporters think so -- Tony.

HARRIS: Boy, those are amazing numbers.

You might be amazed at the creativity of some of the people involved in the presidential election. Tomorrow on "CNN SUNDAY MORNING" at 9:00 Eastern, political ads you can find on the Internet, like this anti-Bush spot featuring a toy called the Bush Global Dominator Action Figure. It invades sovereign nations, starts wars and misleads the media. There's also this one from a Bush supporter, the John Kerry Flip-Flop Olympics. The judges include caricatures of Senators Edward Kennedy and Hillary Clinton. Political ads in "The Best of the Web" tomorrow on "CNN SUNDAY MORNING" at 9:00 Eastern.

U.S. intelligence unveils new estimates of insurgency in Iraq and the cash machine behind it. That story next.

Later, Americans overseas aren't immune from ballot confusion and angst in this very close election.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TAMARA BENICASA, PARIS: A country as big and as great as America shouldn't be having these banana republic problems.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

HOLLY FIRFER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Moms heading to the grocery store, take note. You can help your children maintain a healthy weight by limiting the amount of sugary soft drinks and fruit drinks you allow them. Instead, nutritionists say grab a carton of milk.

A study in the "American Journal of Preventive Medicine" found that Americans are drinking more sugar sweetened drinks and less milk, and that children two to 18 years old have the largest drop in milk consumption. Researchers found as children drink more sodas and fruit drinks, they're adding on 275 calories a day. And with less milk in their diet, children gain weight and lose the benefits of calcium for healthy bones and teeth.

Holly Firfer, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NGUYEN: U.S. intelligence now believes insurgency in Iraq is expanding rapidly.

Welcome back.

I'm Betty Nguyen.

HARRIS: And I'm Tony Harris.

We're at the CNN Center.

That story in a minute.

First, today's headlines.

Tokyo all shook up early this morning. Several earthquakes, including one with a magnitude of 6.8, hit within minutes of each other. There were initial reports of several people injured by objects falling from shelves. The Associated Press reports at least one death. The first quake was felt hundreds of miles away. Tokyo buildings swayed for nearly a minute.

House-Senate conferees are working over the weekend on the intelligence reform bill. Law makers face a challenge to get a final bill to President Bush by Election Day. A major sticking point, who will hold the intelligence budget purse strings, a new national intelligence director or the defense secretary?

President Bush has four campaign stops in Florida today as he tries to secure the state he won narrowly four years ago. Meantime, Senator John Kerry appears at rallies in two other battleground states, Colorado and New Mexico. A new poll shows Kerry has made up ground on the president in Colorado.

Finally, above it all, Gennady Padalka and Michael Fincke, at the bottom of the picture here, return to Earth today after six months on the international space station. Their replacements came on board the orbital facility a week ago. Fink is looking forward to seeing his four month old daughter for the first time.

Keeping you informed, CNN, the most trusted name in news.

NGUYEN: Well, the Pentagon has updated an assessment of its enemy in Iraq. A U.S. military intelligence official says it concludes insurgent forces are growing and they're getting financial backing from an array of sources funneling through Syria.

More now from Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A new internal Pentagon analysis offers a sobering assessment of what the U.S. is up against in Iraq -- an insurgency that is growing fueled by an almost unlimited pool of money funneled through Syria.

A U.S. intelligence official tells CNN the insurgency, thought to number between 5,000 and 7,000 months ago, is now estimated to include 12,000 fighters from 50 different cells. The result has been a sharp increase in attacks, as many as 90 a day at times, and more high profile kidnappings, such as the director of CARE International's Iraq office.

MICHAEL O'HANLON, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: We are not winning the war right now. We may turn things around. We may be preparing the Iraqi security forces thoroughly so they can take up the war effort and allow us to gradually withdraw in a year or two. But right now we're not winning.

MCINTYRE: The Pentagon continues to insist the increase in violence is to be expected as Iraqi elections draw near and rejects any suggestion Iraq is becoming a quagmire.

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: And there are some very bad people who want to take that country back to a dark place and I don't call that a quagmire.

MCINTYRE: The Pentagon has said the insurgents were getting money from both Syria and Iran. But a new DIA report estimates that roughly half of the $1 billion Saddam Hussein stashed in Syrian banks before the war, some $500 million, is a prime funding source for the militants. And it believes millions more are coming from wealthy Saudis and Islamic charities, who also funnel money through Syria, a charge the Saudi government called irresponsible and factually incorrect, insisting it has tightened financial controls to ensure no money goes to terrorism.

There's also evidence that insurgents have had some success infiltrating the new Iraqi security forces. For example, Tuesday's mortar attack on an Iraqi National Guard base north of Baghdad seemed to be based on inside information about when the troops would be gathering for a ceremony.

(on camera): As little as six months ago, officials here were downplaying some of their own intelligence, suggesting the insurgents enjoyed wider support than the Pentagon acknowledged. These days, no one is disputing the insurgency has turned out to be bigger and better funded than anyone expected.

Jamie McIntyre, CNN, the Pentagon.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

HARRIS: Now the "Terror Watch."

A terror suspect is now a fugitive with a price on his head. The U.S. is offering $25 million for the capture of death of Abu Musab al- Zarqawi. One official says the Jordanian's capture would have a significant impact on stopping or slowing rising levels of insurgent violence in Iraq. Officials are also pondering a statement said to be from al-Zarqawi pledging allegiance to Osama bin Laden.

In the statement, posted on an Islamic Web site, the group headed by al-Zarqawi promised the al Qaeda leader it would "listen to your orders." U.S. officials have long claimed a link between al-Zarqawi and al Qaeda.

And the hard-line Muslim cleric, Abu Hamza al-Masri, is facing 16 charges, including 10 counts of soliciting to murder. British authorities filed the charges earlier this week. Al-Masri, who is being held at a prison in South London, also faces an extradition request from the United States for alleged links to al Qaeda.

NGUYEN: Well, we are just 10 days from the election. Voting has already started in dozens of tastes. And guess what? There are all sorts of problems. We'll let you know what's going wrong where and why.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: Martha Stewart is separated from the rest of the world. Her lawyers file an appeal hoping to change that. The chances for success -- it's a topic on the docket for our legal panel, live on CNN SATURDAY MORNING next hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: This just in to CNN.

We have reports from peacekeepers on the ground in Kabul, Afghanistan of three explosions on a commercial street in Afghanistan, in Kabul, Afghanistan. We have no reports of injuries or casualties at this point. But once again, peacekeepers on the ground in Kabul, Afghanistan are reporting three explosions. We will continue to follow this story.

NGUYEN: In the meantime, they're a crucial voting bloc in a very tight election. Four million Americans are living abroad, and many of them want their vote to count come November 2. But overseeing the votes from citizens overseas can complicate an already complex set of voting rules and laws.

Here's CNN's Jim Bittermann.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Alexandra Hughes is an opera singer who divides her time between Paris and New York. In 2000, when she tried to register for an absentee ballot, an election official told her there was no point since her vote wouldn't be counted anyway. So this election year, the performer is taking what might seem a fairly dramatic step. She is flying home just to vote. ALEXANDRA HUGHES, OPERA SINGER: Unfortunately, I don't trust the system. So I want to go back to protect the right that we have as Americans to vote.

BITTERMANN: While few Americans overseas may follow Hughes' lead on Election Day, they certainly share both her skepticism and her tenaciousness, essential given the kinds of challenges overseas voters face.

Take the case of the Ohio voter who discovered the address of his election board is incorrectly listed on the official federal Web site.

RON MOORE, LEGEN, GERMANY: I got my registration form, my request for an absentee ballot, back unopened, with a mark saying that the forwarding time had expired, that they couldn't forward this.

BITTERMANN: Take the case of the Pennsylvania voter whose ballot has candidate Ralph Nader's name on it while a fellow Pennsylvanian's does not.

NANCY HUSTON, FRANKFURT, WEST GERMANY: Official permission to print the ballots hadn't been given yet, and yet mine was printed and sent.

BITTERMANN: Take the case of the Colorado voter whose election supervisor was trying to mail her ballot to Thailand with a local stamp.

GARY SUWANNARAT, CHIANGMAI, THAILAND: I said, "Well, how much postage did you put on that?" "Oh, 60 cents, just like we put on all the ballots."

BITTERMANN: Take the case of the California voter who was instructed to fill in a sample ballot, mail it in an envelope which could identify her, and have faith that it would accurately be transferred to a punch card.

BENICASA: A country as great and as big and as great as America shouldn't be having these banana republic problems.

BITTERMANN (on camera): There are reports of thousands of other problems overseas, ranging from a Texas voter who was sent a torn ballot and told to vote it anyway, to two dozen Ohio voters who were sent ballots with John Kerry's name crossed off. In most cases, the problems can be resolved before Election Day, but if it's a close outcome, there are batteries of lawyers standing by on both sides ready to examine every case, looking for ways to influence the final result.

JOE SMALLHOOVER, DEMOCRATS ABROAD: Well, I think the potential for lawsuits is relatively high.

MARK WALLACE, BUSH-CHENEY 2004: The Republican side will absolutely be for the rule of law, but actually absolutely make certain that those that can lawfully vote will cast a vote, and that every vote is counted. BITTERMANN (voice-over): In the end, while few of the four million Americans abroad will be taking the kind of drastic action opera singer Alexandra Hughes is to exercise their right to vote, many are having to be equally determined.

Jim Bittermann, CNN, Paris.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

HARRIS: While Americans living abroad are looking out for voting fraud, so are we. In our "Election Fraud Watch" series, we'll keep tabs on some of the system.

Now to begin, all eyes, of course, are on Florida. Congressman Robert Wexler, a Democrat from there, is suing the state over its new paperless electronic voting machines. Wexler wants all counties to produce paper trails of peoples' votes in case a recall is needed.

Also, a probe is under way in Florida after an early test of its voting process exposed some problems. In Ohio, a court battle looms over provisional ballots. At issue? How to handle voters who show up at the wrong polling place. Also in the Buckeye State, election officials have found 1,000 suspicious voter registration applications that could lead to prosecution for fraud.

Here in Georgia, election officials in Fulton County, which includes Atlanta, say they may have received up to 3,000 fake voter registration applications that were collected in exchange for money. An investigation is continuing. And eBay is good for buying and selling a lot of things, but not your vote. A Missouri man is charged with posting an offer to sell his presidential vote on the Internet auction site. The opening bid was $25.

NGUYEN: You can't do that.

HARRIS: You can't do that.

NGUYEN: What is he thinking?

Well, some states are asking voters to report problems in the system. The number to call is 1-866-OUR-VOTE. That number is on the screen, 1-866-OUR-VOTE. And you should know this, as well. Provisional ballots will be given to voters whose names do not show up on voter records. But the ballot will count only if you're registered. And one last piece of advice. Be sure to take an I.D. to the polls with you on Election Day, even if you think that you're not going to need it.

HARRIS: Absolutely.

NGUYEN: Just be safe.

HARRIS: Better safe than sorry. Get that done.

All right, now, there are a number of big questions in Boston this morning. One of them is what curse? What curse? (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who's your daddy? Who's your daddy? Who's your daddy?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: Who's your daddy? All right, millions tune in for that classic game (UNINTELLIGIBLE) between the Red Sox and the New York Yankees. The big question now is can the World Series audience even come close? "Beyond The Game" with Rick Horrow next on CNN SATURDAY MORNING.

Hey, Rick.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JERAS (voice-over): I'm meteorologist Jacqui Jeras with today's "Cold and Flu Report."

This is the influenza summary update across the United States.

You can see in the yellow shaded areas, so far, no influenza reports for you in Alaska, Hawaii and much of the lower 48. But there are sporadic flu outbreaks being reported across California, Utah and Texas, across the West; Michigan, New York State and Pennsylvania in the Northeast; and the State of Florida in the Southeast.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NGUYEN: Well, good morning, Washington, D.C.

Here is a live look at the nation's capital. A sunny morning there.

Jacqui Jeras will have the complete weather forecast coming right up.

But in the meantime, let's get a quick check of this morning's top stories.

Several strong earthquakes rattled northwestern Japan. The first had a magnitude of 6.8, very powerful. It toppled homes, caused blackouts and derailed a bullet train. Local media reports say at least one person is dead and more than 50 others are injured.

Well, getting down to the wire in the presidential race. The CNN poll of polls shows President Bush with roughly a 3 point lead over Senator John Kerry. That survey is an average of national polls of likely voters.

And the Boston Red Sox are gearing up to face the St. Louis Cardinals in game one tonight of what's going to be a World Series worth watching. But have you had any good dreams lately? Believe it or not, there might be a way to achieve your perfect dream. We'll have those details a little bit later this hour.

HARRIS: Well, it was a huge controversy last year in college football, the BCS poll with no play-off system in place. It's BCS point system decided number one, and last year it was a tie between the USC Trojans and LSU Tigers. Well, folks, it's that time of year again, the first BCS poll is out this week. So let the bickering begin.

That bickering helps bring in $5 billion a year for college football. And that's one of the topics this morning as we take you "Beyond The Game."

But that's not all. Also, tonight, the first pitch of the World Series. But some say baseball's dream match up has already been played. That was the seven game series between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees.

So will the World Series ratings top the ALCS playoffs?

Two hot topics for the author of "When the Game Is On the Line" and our own sports guru, Rick Horrow.

He joins us live from West Palm Beach, Florida -- Rick, good morning.

Good to see you.

RICK HORROW, CNN SPORTS BUSINESS ANALYST: Guru? Is that a capital G or what?

HARRIS: Yes.

HORROW: Hey, that's cool.

Thanks.

HARRIS: It wasn't a small G. It was big G.

Good morning.

HORROW: All right, thanks.

Good morning, Big T.

How are you doing, man?

HARRIS: How are you?

Well, I've got to ask you a question. Reflect on this for a moment for me. How good was that Yankees-Red Sox series? We'll get to the money and the ratings and all of that in a moment. But for baseball and those two cities?

HORROW: Hey, darned good. You know, a couple of years ago, we were talking about labor Armageddon, the end of baseball, civilization as we knew it. A major lockout. It was going to be over. They resolved that. Revenue sharing now, moving the Expos to D.C., getting that behind them.

They just signed a new $650 million deal with X.M. Satellite Radio, the biggest deal in the history of that technology, more than the NFL. Now we've got this blockbuster series, 15 percent higher ratings than ever before.

Hey, remember when we were growing up? Well, maybe when I was growing up...

HARRIS: Oh, come on, now.

HORROW: ... when we would smuggle that radio into our third grade classes...

HARRIS: Absolutely.

HORROW: ... for the World Series? Now we've got it at night. Now we've got a whole generation of kids going back to the game. They're sleeping the next day in class because they saw a wonderful game. It's better for sports, better for baseball and it was a wonderful series.

HARRIS: OK, give me a sense of what you think about this. There's a debate going on out there as to whether the Red Sox have killed the curse by beating the Yankees or they won't kill the curse until they win it all.

What do you think? Where do you come down on this?

HORROW: Hey, man, I ain't Kreskin. We're going to decide that one and we'll talk about it next week and we'll see. But the bottom line for television is this -- the ratings for the Mets-Red Sox series in '86 were the best baseball ratings that decade. And the Red Sox, by the way, outrated the Patriots two Super Bowls in Boston. So we know who's going to be watching.

HARRIS: Wow!

HORROW: And, by the way, it's great for Fox. They won five straight prime time programming nights and now they're talking about how that's going to swing into prime time. It's also, Tony, really good for baseball because it's 2.5 million reasons -- billion reasons -- that's the TV contract that needs to be renegotiated on the heels of this wonderful couple of years for major league baseball.

HARRIS: Well, all right, let's turn to the -- well, before we turn to the BCS, do you think the ratings will hold up for the World Series?

HORROW: Yes, we do, and it's going to be really good and the Red Sox are going to carry the day and the Cardinals aren't chopped liver. It's going to be a great series and everybody is going to be watching it, including you and me, pal.

HARRIS: OK, Rick.

The BCS has been tweaked and tweaked and tweaked. Talk to us about the new changes in the system for this year.

HORROW: Hey, everybody is talking about how terrible it is, but we're tall talking about it.

HARRIS: Right.

HORROW: The BCS selection show, the ratings were up 108 percent as compared to the year before. They've tweaked it. They've brought more humans into this game, if you consider sports writers human. And the bottom line is now you've got two thirds of the ratings based on non-computers.

But nobody's going to be completely happy. You've got Southern Cal and Miami, which leave Oklahoma and Wisconsin and Auburn all saying the system is unfair. It'll be fair. It's going to work itself out and I guarantee you, every Monday between now and December, we're going to talk about the teams that have been hosed and the teams that haven't. And that's great, by the way, for college football.

HARRIS: Absolutely. We certainly will.

Let's get to your fair ball and foul ball of the week.

Let's start with your foul ball of the week.

HORROW: A foul ball ties into those college revenues. It's under age drinking. You know, the "Sports Business Journal" had a recent report that said 70 percent of the Division One college programs condone, in some way, ties between corporate sponsors, drinking, beer companies and college sports. The A.D.s, the directors, need the money, clearly. And they say it's key to stadium and television. But don't say that or tell that to Phi Beta Row Fraternity at Morgan State University, official beer sponsor, by who? Pabst Blue Ribbon. And the line between under age drinking and the need for college revenue is increasingly being blurred.

HARRIS: And, Rick, what's your fair ball of the week?

HORROW: Hey, the City of Boston, hosting the Democratic convention, then the Patriots winning those 20 straight. Now you've got the $100 million that's generated by the Red Sox after the World Series, the ALCS and their division championship. The only thing, Tony, is I'm sending my daughter, who's at B.C., to the World Series game on Sunday and after paying the cost of those tickets, I don't know you very well yet, but I need a small loan, pal. I do.

HARRIS: Whatever you...

HORROW: I need those dollars.

HARRIS: We'll cover you. We've got your back, all right?

HORROW: Wow!

HARRIS: Rick Horrow...

HORROW: Well...

HARRIS: Good to see you.

HORROW: Hey, it was good to talk to you.

HARRIS: That was easy, wasn't it?

HORROW: Yes, it sure was.

HARRIS: Have a great day, Rick.

HORROW: You, too.

HARRIS: Take care.

Thanks.

NGUYEN: Big bucks, Tony Harris. I'm going to have to remember that.

All right, let's talk about the game of all games when it comes to politics. Former President Jimmy Carter has said the impending presidential contest does not meet his center's standard for fair elections. What do you think? Is the American election system broken? We'll read your e-mails next on CNN SATURDAY MORNING. Send them to wam@cnn.com.

And we want to say a big good morning to lucky Las Vegas. You will find plenty of chili in the sin city today. Yes, that's right, chili. That's because the International Chili Society is holding its world championship cook-off there today. We'll have that forecast in just a little bit.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: OK, time now for the wows, the "Wows of the Week."

So, two guys walk into a bar in Italy and ask for a vodka on the rocks. The joke is, everything's already cold in there. This is Milan's Ice Bar, where the walls, the tables, Betty, the sofas, even the glasses are made of ice, some 50 tons worth. And, by the way, drink too much and the bar will kick you out, that is, to help you avoid getting frostbite.

NGUYEN: Giving you the cold shoulder there, aren't they?

HARRIS: Yes, that's it.

NGUYEN: Wow! Budabing (ph).

HARRIS: And hoping all your dreams come true, you might have the dreams of your dreams with this machine. It's from Japan. Before you go to bed -- here's how it works -- you tell it what you want to dream about. Then just before dawn, when most people have their most vivid dreams, it repeats your words back to you. One study says it can control about 22 percent of what dreamers will remember. Will it edit those dreams and will it make them better?

NGUYEN: Well, yes, that's all fine and dandy, but if it can make those dreams into a reality, now, I'll buy that one.

HARRIS: There you go. Now you're talking.

NGUYEN: Hey, Jacqui, is the weather going to be something to dream about today.

(WEATHER REPORT)

HARRIS: Jacqui, thank you.

Appreciate it.

NGUYEN: We want to talk about our e-mail Question of the Day -- is the U.S. election system broken?

We've got lots of interesting response.

Kellie from Canton, Georgia writes: "I am unsure if I would go so far as to say the U.S. election system is broken. But the integrity of our political entities certainly is."

HARRIS: "Absolutely! We need to do away with the electoral college and require some sort of voters qualification safeguards -- simple, fair and quick. I also think we need to give the two party system a serious look. Just too much power and money. How many of us are actually either Republican or Democrat anyway?" That comes from Rich in Florida.

Rich, thank you.

NGUYEN: And, of course, keep sending those responses in. We'll read them throughout the morning.

And in the meantime, the next hour of CNN SATURDAY MORNING, well, that begins right now.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com


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