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AMERICAN MORNING

Massive Wildfire Burning in Griffith Park, Los Angeles; Missouri Flooding; Tips on How to Save Fuel

Aired May 9, 2007 - 07:59   ET

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


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: First, to extreme weather coast to coast right now. A massive wildfire burning in Griffith Park, within the city of Los Angeles. Not just Los Angeles County, but within the city.
Also, there's flooding in the Midwest, a coastal storm pounding parts of the Eastern Seaboard, severe drought drying up lakes in Florida, fueling fires of their own.

We're all over this for you this morning.

Thelma Gutierrez in Los Angeles. Sean Callebs in the Missouri flood zone. And Rob Marciano just back from the tornado disaster in Kansas. He's with us here in New York City.

Let's begin with Thelma in Los Angeles.

Thelma, what is it looking like there now in Griffith Park?

THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, I can tell you, we have some good news to report. There are about 300 residents who were evacuated out of this area yesterday. We were told that they will be allowed to return home this morning. And that's because the wind have died down, and this fire is burning west, away from those homes right now.

Firefighters very relieved. They've been on the line, working a 24-hour shift. One of those people is fire Captain Brian Sandwick. He has been out here working on this fire.

You said this was going to be a very bad fire season and this is a bad sign.

CAPTAIN BRIAN SANDWICK, LOS ANGELES FIRE DEPT.: Yes, it's real early. Usually our fire season or our fires that are like this take place in August, September. We're in May and we're already having this kind of fire behavior.

GUTIERREZ: You said that this was also very extreme fire behavior.

SANDWICK: It is. We're having what we call torching trees are lighting up and burning like Roman candles. It's not daytime yet. That's usually not a good sign for us.

GUTIERREZ: All right, Captain. Thank you so much. They're working such a very long day. And one of the concerns out here, John, is to make sure that those flames that you see up there on the hillside don't go up into the trees, because then it could jump this road into the pine trees on the other side. That would be a problem, because it would go down into the 5 freeway that we see on that side.

And so firefighters are here, they're monitoring this situation here on the hillside. So far, 600 acres have burned. Again, 300 homes have been evacuated, but those people, we're told, will be allowed to return home this morning -- John.

ROBERTS: Thelma, any word about the Griffith Observatory? I also believe that the Hollywood sign is on those hills, is it not?

GUTIERREZ: Yes. You know, you have several landmarks out here. You also have a zoo, and you have the Greek amphitheater, where there are concerts all the time.

None of those landmarks are in danger right now. Firefighters are very relieved, and they say the big variable in all of this is, once the sun comes up, and those wind pick up, that could change the scenario.

We are expecting temperatures to hit nearly 100 today, and those winds are expected to blow at about 20 miles an hour. So, that could change things, but, for right now, John, those landmarks seem to be in good shape.

ROBERTS: Thelma, OK. Thanks for that. We'll keep getting back to you this morning. Appreciate it.

CHETRY: And to the East Coast now. More than 200 fires are burning right now in Florida. About 300 homes were evacuated on the Georgia border from two major fires there. High winds and record dry conditions are making this a very tough fight.

This is how dry it is. Lake Okeechobee shrinking by the day.

And a completely different problem in Missouri this morning. The entire town of Big Lake under water, washing out hundreds of homes.

AMERICAN MORNING'S Sean Callebs has been following the story for us. He's actually been in the water, just to give us a look at how devastating these rising waters have been.

Hi, Sean.

SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Kiran.

Indeed, you can just see some of the water in the Big Lake area. Normally, this is a very dry, fertile farm field.

You hear some noise in the background. Want to show you what that is. It's one of the major rail freight lines rolling through here right now. Luckily, we're coming to the end of it. And what we're told is a lot of these rail companies are running on a very limited schedule right now because the river, the Missouri River, its tributaries, are in the process of cresting, and there's only so much they can do when they come to areas that are simply flooded.

Want to show you what Big Lake looks like, because there are some 300 homes there. We have a pretty graphic view of what these houses are coping with right now.

Look at that one house up on an island. That builder, smart guy. But there are about 300 homes there 150 people use year round, and 150 are usually just kind of summertime homes.

But where we're standing right now, this is pretty interesting, Kiran. I want to show you this.

This -- the white line you can see right here, this -- earlier I told you was the middle of the road. Well, after we kicked away some debris, we now know this shows you the shoulder of Highway 159.

Walk down this way. This is the thoroughfare that cuts right through the heart of this area. It has been swamped because earthen levees that protect this area simply gave way.

The Missouri has been raging ever since seven and a half inches of floodwater poured into this area over the weekend, Kiran. We're told that there were about five breaks or so.

So, this is what's happening in this area. But people all along the this river system are worried that this could happen to them.

We saw people sandbagging yesterday. So they're fighting for their livelihoods, they're fighting for their homes, and they're fighting for their farmland -- Kiran.

CHETRY: Yes. And as for that situation, when are they -- when is this going to start to recede, and what have they been able to accomplish in terms of getting these levees up to par?

CALLEBS: Yes. That's a -- that's a good question, because people also talk about '93, the great Midwestern flood that did so much damage to the Plains states.

Well, this is a situation that came about very quickly. When that downpour happened over the weekend, the seven-plus inches of water, what happened back in '93, unrelenting rain for almost the whole summer.

I was here for weeks and saw it happen. So, these earthen levees back then were just returned to sloppy -- a muddy mess. They're much more stable right now.

So, if this river does recede -- you look at the sky, nice, blue sky -- if there is no more rain, this river system could start to come down really quickly. And who knows, maybe even fields like this could be saved. But it's going to depend on what kind of sediment is out there. And we know that they probably were planting corn out there. And we saw corn about that high in other parts of this area yesterday. So, it's going to be a total loss.

CHETRY: Unbelievable.

All right. Sean Callebs, thank you.

ROBERTS: Six minutes after the hour now, and checking the CNN gas gauge.

The national average price for a gallon of self-serve regular is $3.04. That's a record high in terms of the actual cost, but factoring in inflation was actually a little more expensive back in 1981.

The summer driving season isn't even here yet as well. Some experts are predicting one little hiccup, and we could easily see $4 a gallon.

With gas prices that high, you're going to need to conserve every last drop. So we sent our Greg Hunter to a gas station out in New Jersey for some tips on how to save fuel.

What did you come up with, Greg?

GREG HUNTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, earlier I gave you tips on buying gas. When it's cool, gas is denser. And also, only get regular octane. Ninety percent of cars only need that.

Here's another one for you.

When do you turn your car off? When do you save money? And the time is one minute.

After one minute of idling, that's the demarcation line where you should turn off the car to save money. Anything less than a minute, then you should just leave it run. Also, check your tire pressure.

I know you've heard this before, but tire pressure is huge. And the bigger the vehicle, the more critical it is.

For all you guys out there with vans and SUVs, check that tire pressure. Don't just look at it. Actually check it. You can save as much as 10 to 15 percent.

Also, roof racks and weight, junk in the trunk, roof racks can cause as much as 10 to 15 percent drag, and 10 to 15 percent worse fuel mileage. And, of course, the lighter the vehicle is, the better it is.

And one good place for you to take a look at gas prices in your area is gaspricewatch.com. They won't SPAM you, they won't cookie you. You don't have to sign up for anything. Put your zip code in, and it will give an immediate readout of where the cheapest gas prices are. And one thing -- I talked to the CEO yesterday. He said don't drive too far to get the cheapest price. It may be better to buy closer to your home and pay an extra cent or two -- gaspricewatch.com.

Back to you, John.

ROBERTS: You know, Greg, a lot of people seem to be resigned to the fact that gasoline prices are going to go up even more from here. We had a recent CNN-Opinion Research Corporation poll. People said $4 a gallon gasoline, 79 percent of them said it's likely.

And we talked to Phil Flynn from the Chicago Board of Trade last hour, who said more likely to see $4 a gallon gasoline in the future than $2 a gallon gasoline. You know, one of the things, too, I see people trying to do when they're driving around is they think they can save money on gas by turning the air-conditioner off and driving with the windows down, but that's actually worse, isn't it?

HUNTER: Well, actually, you could save -- it's about one mile per gallon difference if you have the air-conditioning on and the windows up. When you roll the windows down, you create a lot more drag.

ROBERTS: Right.

HUNTER: So, according to Consumer Reports, it's about one mile per gallon. So, you can help yourself a little bit by having the windows down and the air-conditioning off. But if you're on the highway, put the windows up. You know, you have less drag with the air-conditioning on -- about one mile per gallon, according to Consumer Reports.

ROBERTS: Yes. Of course, I guess the faster you go, the more drag there is.

Hey, Greg, great tips. Thanks very much. Appreciate.

CHETRY: That's Greg.

Well, you know, the other weird thing is, people are constantly switching lanes. You know, gunning it to switch lanes to come back. Just stay in your lane. You'd probably save gas.

ROBERTS: Do you think everybody drives like you?

CHETRY: That's not me, of course. That's just what I observe from others.

ROBERTS: They're being called the Fort Dix Six. Just who are these suspects, what was their plan, and how dangerous was it? The latest on the possible terror attack on Fort Dix, just ahead.

And a major coastal storm is moving on to the Eastern Seaboard. But the big question, will it become a tropical storm? And could it possibly alleviate some of south Florida's drought?

You're watching AMERICAN MORNING. The most news in the morning is on CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: Well, brace yourself. That's the word from some of the nation's weather forecasters. AccuWeather, as well as Colorado State University, say that there is going to be an above average chance that another major hurricane will hit the Gulf Coast during this year's upcoming season. They say that the conditions are ripe for a return to the busy and destructive hurricane seasons of 2004 and 2005, which, of course, gave us Hurricane Katrina.

They also warn it could badly hurt the economy, both in terms of oil refineries, which we already know we're having problems with, as well as produce.

Well, if fires and droughts were not enough for Florida, now in Florida, South Carolina and Georgia, they are getting ready to get hit with a storm. The storm has caused some problems with wind and coastal flooding. It also caught the eyes of the experts at the National Hurricane Center.

Some surfers in South Carolina did, though, try to take advantage of the high waves, as we always see. They're the ones that are thrilled when we get bad weather.

Rob Marciano following the storm for us.

(WEATHER REPORT)

ROBERTS: After leading the complaints against Don Imus for intemperate remarks, Reverend Al Sharpton himself being criticized today for remarks that he made during a debate with an atheist author about the religion of presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who's a Mormon.

AMERICAN MORNING'S faith and values correspondent, Delia Gallagher, here.

What was it that Sharpton said?

DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN FAITH AND VALUES CORRESPONDENT: Well, listen, this was during a debate, as you say, with Christopher Hitchens, the famous atheist author. And I want you to listen carefully to what he said, because this has really been debated, what exactly he meant. So let's take a listen .

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

REV. AL SHARPTON, NATIONAL ACTION NETWORK: As for the one Mormon running for office, those that really believe in god will defeat him anyway. So don't worry about that. That's a temporary -- that's a temporary situation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GALLAGHER: So, "those that really believe in god." Now, Sharpton says, hey, I was debating an atheist, so I was referring to atheists versus Christians, or anybody that believes in god. I wasn't trying to point out Mormons. However, the Romney camp didn't take it that way.

ROBERTS: Well, yes, they're not going to give him a pass on this one, are they?

GALLAGHER: Yes. Yes. And in fact, Mitt Romney has responded, and here's what he says.

"As I go around the country, the overwhelming majority of people I meet welcome a person of faith. They want a person of faith to lead the country. It's an extraordinary, bigoted kind of statement, and I find it really quite extraordinary."

ROBERTS: Yes. So Romney is jumping all over this saying, hey, you know, you can't have a double standard here if you're going to -- you know.

GALLAGHER: Yes, he took it -- because, you know, there is this, as you called it earlier, elephant in the room with Mormons that some Christians see them as a cult. And it's something that Mitt Romney will probably have to address time and time again during this campaign.

ROBERTS: What's the difference that would lead some evangelicals to say that?

GALLAGHER: Look. I brought you this, "Book of Mormon".

ROBERTS: "Book of Mormon".

GALLAGHER: This is really one of the sticking points for other Christian denominations, because the Mormons not only believe in the bible, as other Christians do, but they believe in this book, which is a kind of -- another revelation, they say, and it describes people that lived in ancient Americas, like in Central America, for example. And they believe that Jesus Christ visited these people.

And this book was dictated or was translated by the founder, Joseph Smith. It was apparently buried in upstate New York, according to the Mormon belief, and he discovered these tablets and translated it into what has become the "Book of Mormon". And this is a sort of bible for them. And this is a book that other Christians can't accept, because they believe that the story of Jesus' life and ministry is complete with the other bible.

ROBERTS: Now, for Al Sharpton he says, look, Mitt Romney believes in god, I believe he's a man of faith, this wasn't aimed toward him. But it does illuminate, I think, some of what Mitt Romney is going to be facing as he goes through the presidential campaign here.

GALLAGHER: Yes, absolutely. I mean, they will want to downplay any kind of difference between Mormons and other Christians. Mormons will say, we are Christians like anybody else. We believe in Jesus Christ, and that's the fundamental point about Christians. However, it's probably going to raise its head every so often during the campaign, because there are some differences between the Mormon denomination and other Christians.

ROBERTS: Well, Delia, thanks very much for that. And thanks for the explanation, too...

GALLAGHER: You're welcome.

ROBERTS: ... of some of the differences. Helped illuminate that.

Coming up, a new mortgage that sounds too good to be true. Is it? We'll ask our Gerri Willis.

And remember that cute, cuddly little polar bear Knut? Some say that he's looking some of his babyish charm, but others say, hey, he's just morphing into adolescent good looks.

Decide for yourself ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: Well, Bank of America says it's introducing a new mortgage that they say eliminates closing costs. It sounds like a pretty good deal. Is it too good to be true?

Well, CNN personal finance editor, Gerri Willis, is here to tell us more about it.

Do you buy it?

GERRI WILLIS, CNN PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR: Hey, Kiran, this is a great question.

You know, we talked to a ton of people this week about this mortgage. First of all, let's talk a little bit about what B of A is saying this mortgage is really about.

They say, look, you're not going to pay any loan application fees, appraisals, flood certifications. You pay for none of that. And interestingly, Kiran, you don't pay for private mortgage insurance.

You know, this is a premium you pay for you can't put 20 percent down on your loan. And it can be a very big deal.

However, it does not include some charges like inspection fees, taxes. You have to pay property taxes when you get a loan. So, there are some things they're obviously leaving out.

But, this is the new trend. Countrywide is advertising a no-fee refi as well right now.

But I've got to tell you, you might be asking about some of the savings out there that B of A is talking about.

The average closing cost, let's say, on a $200,000 loan is $3,000. And, you know, B of A is saying, we're going to save you this money.

I've talked to a number of people in the mortgage industry this week. They say we've seen it all before, what happens is that these fees get rolled into the interest rate. You pay a slightly higher interest rate.

The folks at B of A say, absolutely not, we're not doing that. So there is a debate today.

But my bottom line, if you're going out and getting a mortgage and you're interested in this Bank of America mortgage, you need to shop around and make comparisons.

CHETRY: And when you talk about shopping around, how can you, I guess, figure out the entire big picture for yourself? Because sometimes a rate may look good or a deal that a bank is offering. But then when it comes right down to it, at the end you're pretty much paying the same thing.

WILLIS: It's hard to make an apples-to-apples comparison. There is one way to do it, though.

Get an annual percentage rate from everybody you're applying for a loan from. This is going to help you make that apples-to-apples comparison. It rolls in fees. So you see at the end of the day whoever has got that lowest effective interest rate, lowest APR, that is the cheapest loan.

It's a real apples-to-apples comparison. You want to make sure you get those offers on the same day, though, because interest rates move all the time.

CHETRY: And then for this Bank of America loan, the no-fee loan, is that just for refinancing or is that...

WILLIS: No, no, no. It's new loans. It's new loans.

And I just want to give you one more piece of advice here, because people wonder not only, you know, who has the best deal, but what kind of interest rate am I going to pay? Because the advertised rate only goes to people with the best credit, right?

So, you have got to find out your credit score. You can do that at myfico.com. That's a great place to go. They'll give you -- for 15 bucks, they'll tell you what your credit score is, and then right on that home page -- you're looking at it right now -- there is a little tool you can use to find out what banks are offering in your area to people with your credit score.

So, you know the rate you should be getting.

CHETRY: OK. Can I ask you this one quick thing off topic, though? If you go to this Web site and you see, oh, my gosh, my Sears Roebuck bill from when I was in high school, how do you go about getting all that stuff off your credit?

WILLIS: Well, this is not going to give you your credit report, but you should look at your credit report, you're absolutely right.

You have got to right the people who are putting that report together. Do not go to the vender. Do not go to Sears Roebuck or somebody trying to collect from you.

CHETRY: Right.

WILLIS: Go to Experian or TransUnion, or any one of a number of credit report writers. Write them a letter, tell them you're disputing that information. And they only have 30 days to...

CHETRY: Oh, get back to you.

WILLIS: ... to get back to you. And often, you can get it right off of your credit report.

CHETRY: Good to know.

WILLIS: Yes.

CHETRY: Feel smarter after you stop buy.

Thanks, Gerri.

WILLIS: You're welcome, Kiran.

CHETRY: Also, Gerri will have more on some new loans happening this weekend. "OPEN HOUSE," it's her show, Saturday, 9:30 a.m. Eastern Time. You don't want to miss it right here on CNN.

And we're following breaking news out of Los Angeles. John's going to give us the update.

ROBERTS: Thank you.

Fire rages through the hills over Hollywood. Hundreds of people have been evacuated. Some of the city's biggest landmarks are in the fire's path.

Plus, one-on-one with President Clinton. Dr. Sanjay Gupta talks with him about his big plan to get affordable drugs to people who need them the most.

And is the love affair over? Some say that Knut just isn't so cute. Well, what do you think?

Coming up in about 20 minutes, we'll give you a chance.

You're watching AMERICAN MORNING. The most news in the morning is on CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Vice President Dick Cheney is in Iraq right now, landing for an unannounced visit in Baghdad this morning. The vice president is getting briefed by U.S. officials and meeting with leaders of Iraq's government, urging them not to take a two-month vacation this summer, but to stay around and work on healing Iraq's division.

Elsewhere in Iraq, more than a dozen people were killed today in a suicide truck bomb in Irbil. It's the latest in the recent wave of violence to hit the country. Irbil has been pretty safe up until now as well.

So, are more U.S. troops in the region the answer?

Joining us now is Major General William Caldwell. He's the spokesman for the multinational force in Iraq.

General Caldwell, always good to see you.

The vice president there in Iraq today, nearly two years after he said that the insurgency was in its last throes. What have you told him today about the situation on the ground there, not you personally, at least General Petraeus?

MAJ. GEN. WILLIAM CALDWELL, SPOKESMAN, MULTINATIONAL FORCE, IRAQ: Yes. Well, I think what General Petraeus has told him is that the troops are committed, we're focused on the mission here at hand. We know there are some political aspects going on back in Washington, but it's not going to deter us from what we're trying to achieve here.

ROBERTS: General Petraeus said that things in Iraq are likely to deteriorate even more before they improve. How do you think that is going to go over in Congress?

CALDWELL: Well, as long as people understand the context in which General Petraeus was saying that, his point is we're going to get into more areas we haven't been. We're going to have more troops out on the street that we haven't had before. And therefore, there is going to be more contact, there is going to be more engagement. But, in fact, overall, that is exactly what we need to do to bring greater security here.

ROBERTS: Right. I mean, you know all about the debate in Congress. The Democrats now are trying to fund the war through July and then take a second vote, depending on progress. And it seems that even some Republicans are getting a little skittish about how long you've got to try to turn things around there.

Listen to what the House minority leader, John Boehner, said just the other day.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), MINORITY LEADER: By the time we get to September, October, members are going to want to know how well this is working. And if it isn't, what's plan B?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: General Caldwell, is there a sense that timing is running out, that you've only got, at best, until the end of August to determine whether or not, or to make a difference there?

CALDWELL: Well, what we do know is that Ambassador Crocker and General Petraeus are going to come back in September and talk in Washington, and together they are going to make a joint statement as to what they see is the potential for what can be done here in Iraq.

ROBERTS: You know, I talked with Senator Susan Collins a couple of weeks ago about that, and I said to her, senator, if General Petraeus determines that this -- the so-called surge is not working, what then? And she said, well, I think we would have to look at a number of options, one of which would include pulling some of the troops out.

General Caldwell, if you come to that determination by September, that the surge, or the so-called surge, is not working, is there any reason to stay there and keep trying?

CALDWELL: Well, John, that's a real hypothetical at this point. Obviously not a decision I'm going to make.

But I can tell you our full energy and time is devoted right now to making this thing work, and working very diligently with the Iraqi government and the Iraqi people so that we can achieve the security we're trying to get to.

ROBERTS: Vice President Cheney is there in part to put more pressure on the Iraqi elected officials to make more strides towards this idea of national reconciliation.

General Caldwell, do you think it's time -- is it time now to really get tough with the Iraqi political leaders, and say you've to do something about this now; get with the program?

CALDWELL: The American people, those in uniform, are committed to the mission here, and we, obviously, have made great sacrifices and it needs to be a full team effort. We all need to be fully committed, just as the Iraqi security forces are, and so does the Iraqi government. And I think we all have a reasonable expectation to see that occur.

ROBERTS: All right. But it's been years. We've been waiting for this political reconciliation for some time. It just gets delayed, delayed, delayed. Is now the time for them to really move ahead on this, and if they don't could it all be lost?

CALDWELL: Well, John, there are some real promising signs. When you look at what's going on in Al Anbar, for the first time -- I've been here a year now. In the last three, four months there has been a dramatic shift on what is occurring out there, and the Iraqi people working out their differences, taking charge of their destiny and being more engaged than I've ever seen before. And if that kind of same attitude continues across Iraq, they can make a difference here.

ROBERTS: General Caldwell, you've got your weekly briefing coming up today. You going to make news of any sort today?

CALDWELL: No, not really. I think the vice president is the major news over here right now today. We continue with operations. We've got great young men and women with the commission here. You'd be really proud to see them out there doing what they do.

ROBERTS: Yes, I've been there, a couple of times. I was there recently in the fall, did a lot of riding with the 172nd Stryker Brigade, who are now back home. Their families very thankful about that.

I'm just thinking about these stories out yesterday about these EFPs and other improvised-explosive devices, where insurgents and terrorists and now coating them with animal excrement and other bits of awful to try to inflict, you know, greater casualties by, you know, creating these wounds that just will not heal and become resistant to antibiotics.

CALDWELL: John, we continue to see them use any kind of tactic that can -- will, you know, inflict more casualties and cause more fear and intimidation amongst the people and the security forces, just like they do with these chlorine tanks that they put on top of their bombs, so they have a chlorine fume that is caused. I mean, it just shows you the type of nature the enemy we're fighting against over here and what we're up -- having to deal with.

ROBERTS: All right. Well, General Caldwell, it's another troubling development there. And we thank you for your time. We know your busy. And good luck today at the briefing today and with the vice president's visit.

CALDWELL: Well, thank you very much, John.

CHETRY: The FBI says that the alleged Ft. Dix terrorism plot represents a new kind of terror threat. The cell is smaller, more loosely knit, not directly connected to al Qaeda, so harder to track. Today we're learning more about how they were brought down.

U.S. attorney Christopher Christie is heading up the case, and he joins me now this morning.

Thanks for being with us. It's great to have you here.

You were telling me some fascinating details about this in the break, including just how far they had gotten in terms of knowing the ins and outs of Ft. Dix. Explain that.

CHRISTOPER J. CHRISTIE, U.S. ATTY.: Sure. One of the defendants, Mr. Tatar, had delivered pizza there from a family pizzeria for a long period of time, and he drew incredibly detailed maps, including where the power plants were on the base, and one of the parts of the plan was to try to knock out the power plant and cause confusion and disruption, allow them to sneak out to the base and begin killing as many American soldiers as they could.

CHETRY: That's why it came unraveled, thanks to a video store clerk who was tipped off -- he tipped off authorities when he saw the contents of this tape that they wanted transferred to DVD, where they were yelling "Allah Akbar" and showing that they were firing off weapons. If it was not for that eagle-eyed clerk, could this attack have gone on?

CHRISTIE: Listen, I don't know what would have happened if it wasn't for the clerk. You would hope we would have been able to intervene at some point.

But the fact of the matter is, if this person had not come forward and alerted his police department, who alerted the FBI, we would not have been in the position to surveil these folks for 16 months and infiltrate the terrorist cell, as we did.

CHETRY: So it's is heartening knowing how vigilant the public is, but at the same time it's scary, given that it would have been so easy for these people to slip through the cracks here in the U.S.

CHRISTIE: There's no doubt that about. I think it's a good moment for all of us in this country to recommit to being vigilant, calling law enforcement when we see something unusual in our businesses or in our personal lives, and let them be the police, let them make the decisions, as it happened here.

CHETRY: Three of the men were illegal immigrants, and they certainly highlight the potential for disaster that we're still coping in this country because of our inability to stop illegal immigration.

CHRISTIE: Listen, there's no question that having those folks in here and also having them possess weapons illegally is a huge problem and something that we all have to come to grips with.

CHETRY: And they were not officially with al Qaeda. They inspired, as we said, by the ideology. They may have used the Internet not only for tactics, but for inspiration. How do you as a district attorney target -- as a U.S. attorney target these types of would-be terrorists?

CHRISTIE: Well, we continue to rely, as I said before, on tips. We're also working all the time with intelligence and trying to piece all that together.

But the fact of the matter is that it's a big, free country, and it's very difficult for us to get our arms around all this, and part of it is always about luck.

CHETRY: And in this case, you really did get lucky.

CHRISTIE: Lucky and a lot of hard work by the FBI and other law enforcement to stay silent for 16 months, not be detected, infiltrate the cell, and then take them down before they killed anyone.

CHETRY: And got it on video and you got it on audio, so you're building a strong case.

CHRISTIE: We feel very strong about the fact that we'll be able to prove this case beyond a reasonable doubt. They're entitled to the presumption of innocence, like anybody in our system, but it's our burden, and we feel confident we're going to prove it.

CHETRY: U.S. attorney Christopher Christie, thank's for joining us.

CHRISTIE: My pleasure.

ROBERTS: As some U.S. officials have they have to get lucky all the time; the terrorists only need to get lucky once.

Still to come, former President Clinton cuts a deal to get drugs to the people who need them most. He talked to Dr. Sanjay Gupta one- on-one. We'll get to that coming up.

You're watching AMERICAN MORNING. The most news in the morning is on CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(WEATHER REPORT)

CHETRY: Former President Bill Clinton says that he wants to turn the world's seven million AIDS victims into AIDS survivors. Mr. Clinton announcing a deal to get affordable AIDS drugs into the hands of the needy. And he sat down with Dr. Sanjay Gupta yesterday to talk more about the initiative. Sanjay joins us now with more on that interview.

Hi, Sanjay.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Kiran.

Two big announcements coming out of the meeting yesterday. First of all, this is his biggest post-presidency initiative, talking about AIDS, primarily in Sub-Saharan Africa, bringing the cost of these medications down to too less than $1 a day, which is pretty good. That's as cheap as it's ever been. And also taking second-line treatment and trying to make them cheaper as well.

Still trying to get people around the world engaged in this topic is difficult. Here's part of my interview with him from yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: When you talk to people in this country about AIDS, and you're talking about Africa and you're talking about other places around the world, do you tell them that this is an important thing to do or it's the right thing to do?

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Both. Because you know, we have -- for one thing, we have people in the United States from everywhere else. And they're all going back and forth all the time.

And so if the AIDS epidemic rage is unchecked in various countries, some of if it will find its way back to our borders, first of all.

Second and far more important, it will lead to broken economies, failed states and more conflict in other parts of the world, conflicts which we will be called upon to help with directly or indirectly through the United Nations.

It will cost the American taxpayers in the end far more money to deal with the consequences of broken societies from AIDS and other infectious diseases than to get in and pay our fair share of turning the health situation around.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GUPTA: He's talked about this a lot, Kiran, talking specifically about the fact that not taking care of people with HIV or AIDS in several countries around the world could become a national security problem later on down the line, causing these broken borders, these broken states. It's part of his impetus for getting involved, trying to make some concrete changes there -- Kiran.

CHETRY: As a doctor, of course, you know about the one-a-day pills, the second-line treatments and why they're so important. Can they be made more widely available?

GUPTA: Well, I think that they are starting to be made more widely available.

What's interesting, just having this whole system, trying to pressure some of these companies to make the drugs, causes them to become more efficient. And by any parameter by which you measure success, whether it's outcome, whether it's the overall cost, whether it's the reduced side effects or the fact that it's just easy to take, because it's three in one pill, it does appear to be a pretty successful thing.

People are living normal lifespans as a result of having these medications around.

CHETRY: Former president Clinton has also brokered deals in many countries for low and middle-income countries in Africa it get these medications and also in the Caribbean and Latin America. Why can't these deals apply to people here in the United States?

GUPTA: That's a great question, and I asked him the same question. I mean, look, the same medications we just about, around $350 a year. Some of those medications about $10,000 a year here in the United States. South Carolina, we reported this recently, they actually ran out of money to try and pay for drugs. About 300 people went without medications for some time. It's a difficult situation any way you cut it.

When I asked president Clinton about this he said, look, pharmaceutical companies are trying to recover some of their R&D costs; they got to try to get some money back where they can. It's not easy. I think it's still being -- it's unchartered territory, to some extent, about how to determine these price points.

CHETRY: And of course he'd have a lot more influence on types of global policy like this if his wife, Hillary Clinton, won the White House. Did he talk about that at all?

GUPTA: Yes, you know, you had to ask him about that. Interestingly he said he is getting ready to switch roles. Here's how he put it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: I'm trying to get in a position where, you know, I won't -- I'll be able to do what she did when I was president. That is, I don't want to spend any time making a living. I hope I will save enough by then, if she is elected, that we can just, you know, pay our bills and I'd like to keep our two homes, our home in Washington and our home in Chappaqua, and otherwise I'd devote whatever time she wants to whatever she wants me to do, and I should be able to have probably two to three days a week to do on the foundation. I certainly hope so.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GUPTA: That certainly about future plans, and so he wants to devote still two to three days to the foundation. They have a lot of things they're working on. They're doing AIDS, childhood obesity, climate change. Everyone's heard probably about the Clinton global initiative. Big projects, and a lot of that revolves around Bill Clinton the man. It'd be hard to know, frankly, how much he's going to be able to devote to that if Senator Clinton gets elected.

CHETRY: All right, Sanjay, thanks so much. And if you have any questions for Dr. Gupta, you go to CNN.com/Americanmorning. E-mail us. He'll be answering your questions tomorrow as well as every Thursday.

ROBERTS: "CNN NEWSROOM is just minutes away now. Tony Harris is at the CNN center with a look at what's ahead.

What do you got lined up, Tony?

TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, John. Good morning to you. Here's what we've got on the NEWSROOM rundown for you this morning. Crews scrambling and reporting progress this morning in Los Angeles. They are trying to beat back a 600-acre wildfire in Griffith Park. The tiny hamlet of Big Lake, Missouri living up to its name today. Levee breaks along the swollen Missouri River put the town under water.

A restaurateur calling it the first class O.J. Simpson has shown since the murders. Simpson leaves an upscale steak house hungry. No service because of his notoriety.

Heidi is with me in the NEWSROOM. We get started at the top of the hour right here on CNN.

John, back to you.

ROBERTS: All right, thanks very much. See you soon, Tony.

HARRIS: Sure thing.

CHETRY: And life is short, at least for one billboard. We told you about that controversial billboard up in Chicago, which some say was promoting divorce. It said, "Life's short, get a divorce," advertising a law firm. Well, we talked to the lawyer behind the billboard, and she responded to the criticism to the ad on AMERICAN MORNING yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CORRI FETMAN, ATTORNEY: What we are doing is we are promoting personal integrity. We are promoting happiness. We're telling people to take stock of their life. If you're in an unhappy marriage, then be honest with yourself. You're not doing anyone a favor. Your life is very short. It could be over with in an instant. There is nothing unethical about the ad.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: Well, just hours later that billboard was taken down. And according to "The Chicago Sun-Times" it was pulled because the sign company they didn't have the proper permit.

You but that?

ROBERTS: Oh, really? You think?

What's interesting is that even as she was talking to you the process was in the works to take it down.

CHETRY: Right, just an hour later, and it may have been being pulled down as she was speaking to us live on TV.

ROBERTS: Wouldn't that have been an interesting picture.

Coming up here on AMERICAN MORNING, how could you not love a face like that? Some say the famous polar bear Knut -- or Knut, whichever pronunciation you desire -- is going through a bit of an awkward stage, becoming a juvenile. You be the judge, when we return.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Fifty-two minutes past the hour now. Knut the polar bear has won over millions of fans, even landing the cover of "Vanity Fair" magazine, but as the cute little cub begins to grow up, can he still draw the big crowds?

CNN's Frederik Pleitgen live now with more on the Berlin's Zoos most famous resident.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): To his fans, Knut is as cute as ever.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, I think he's still quite cute.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just in this moment he looks very beautiful.

PLEITGEN: But there's no doubt Knut, the polar bear at the Berlin Zoo, who made headlines around the world after being abandoned by his mother, is changing. Since he was first introduced to the public a month and a half ago, his weight has doubled, and Knut has gone from being this to this to being just plain old this.

Even Berlin Zoo officials admit Knut's cuddly days are numbered.

GERALD UHLIG, BERLIN ZOO (through translator): That's why we are trying to separate the Knut brand that we've created from the animal itself. The animal was just the initial booster, and he stands for a climate in danger.

PLEITGEN: The zoo's marketing director says the now not-so- little fellow continues hauling in big bucks for the Berlin Zoo. The zoo copyrighted the Knut label, and says part of the money goes to wildlife preservation.

One consulting agency puts Knut's market at over $15,000,000 -- that is as long as Knut stays cute.

JUERGEN VOSSEN, MARKETING EXPERT: When he grows up, they'll have to spin the story more around the whole animal protection issue and how truly unique polar bears are, this marketing expert says.

(on camera): Knut is now five months old and his keepers have stopped giving him the bottle. He's even getting meat from the bone, another indicator this polar bear is steadily growing up.

Frederik Pleitgen, CNN, Berlin.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHETRY: Well, I think it's much ado about nothing.

ROBERTS: I think he's still a very cute polar bear.

CHETRY: He's very cute.

Do you remember the video from I think it was a few years back when one of the polar bears turned on its trainer. They were trying to feed it milk out of a bottle. I mean, It was right through that age where...

ROBERTS: They are wild animals. CHETRY: Yes, they're wild animals and then cute and cuddly for a while, and then deadly and dangerous, and you just have to accept it. But they're still beautiful, magnificent to look at.

ROBERTS: They are. They're spectacular creatures. And I've got to say, one of my favorite animals.

CHETRY: Yes, you're a softie for the polar bears.

Well, we told you about the billboard in Chicago -- well, some were saying it was promoting divorce. Corri Phetamine, the lawyer behind the billboard, talked to us yesterday about it. She joins us today on the phone now.

And Corri, I'm sure you haven't missed the news. They took it down. What's going on?

FETMAN: We're not exactly sure, but we were informed that the alderman with the city of Chicago removed the billboard for allegedly improper permits. We're going to be meeting with some lawyers this morning to determine what's really going on.

CHETRY: Are you going to fight to bring that billboard back?

FETMAN: That's to be determined. But, you know, we are fighters. So, stay tuned.

CHETRY: You know, there was a big public outcry about the billboard. A lot of people were unhappy with it. Some said that they felt it promoted divorce, or made light of a big decision that people sometimes make. And do you think it was all the hubbub over your billboard that ended up getting attention to it and eventually got it pulled down?

FETMAN: I also think that something is going on with respect to possibly -- this is just my opinion, and I don't have any facts to back this up -- but possibly that the Olympics are supposed to be in Chicago.

CHETRY: Oh, so you think that this billboard is going to hurt the city's chances?

FETMAN: Yes, I do. Just based on the controversy that has taken place and the fact that it's been on world news.

CHETRY: Right. Well, you know, this kind of gives you an easy out, though, at this point. You got a lot of attention for it. You got some backlash. It's down. Why not just quit while you're ahead?

FETMAN: Because that's not what I'm about and that's not what our firm is known for.

CHETRY: All right, well, keep us posted.

FETMAN: It's also called freedom of speech.

CHETRY: Right. OK, well, thanks for calling in, we appreciate it.

ROBERTS: Quick look now at what "CNN NEWSROOM" is working on for the top of the hour.

HARRIS: See these stories in the "CNN NEWSROOM": Crews struggling to hold back a wildfire in L.A.'s Griffith Park.

Levee breaks. The swollen Missouri River floods the tiny town of Big Lake.

Vice President Dick Cheney in Iraq today, pressing Sunnis and Shias to make progress on politics and security.

And the bear caught browsing in suburbia.

NEWSROOM, top of the hour on CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: That's going to do it for today. We'll see you again tomorrow. That's all from AMERICAN MORNING.

CHETRY: Right now, "CNN NEWSROOM," with Tony Harris and Heidi Collins starts right now.

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

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