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California Orders State of Emergency for Wildfire; Video Game Obsession; Top Republican Criticizes War

Aired June 26, 2007 - 07:00   ET


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR (voice over): Strutting to freedom. Paris Hilton walks out of jail overnight, mobbed by the media, whisked away by her parents.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's nothing to really say. She's fulfilled her debt. It brings an end to this incarceration.

CHETRY: The next step for Paris and for celebrity justice on this AMERICAN MORNING.


CHETRY: And good morning once again. Great to see you. It is Tuesday, June 26th.

I'm Kiran Chetry, along with John Roberts this morning.

ROBERTS: Good morning to you.


ROBERTS: California has ordered a state of emergency to fight the destructive wildfire near Lake Tahoe, California. As of last night, the fire was only 40 percent contained. Hundreds of homes are threatened, hundreds of buildings have already burned. And the lake's famously clear waters are now being clouded with falling ash.

AMERICAN MORNING'S Chris Lawrence is live from Meyers, California.

Chris, you say that it might take them until Sunday to get this under control. They've got a lot of work ahead of them.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, if everything goes to plan. They've got it about 40 percent contained now. But the winds are going to kick up later in the week. So they need to get a handle on it, and if they can, they hope to get it fully contained by Sunday.

Let me give you an idea what it looks like around here.

You can tell, you know, just looking at these shovels, water holes, it looked like somebody made sort of a last stand trying to save their home. And unfortunately, if you take a look behind me, you can see this homeowner just -- he wasn't successful like so many. Modest houses, million-dollar homes, they all burned.

Now, there is a little bit of good news. The winds have died down compared to a couple of days ago, and so has the fire. Firefighters say it is not advancing right now. But again, they are racing the clock, so to speak, because those winds could kick up later in the week.

A thousand people have evacuated their homes in this area. And for a lot of them, when they do get back, they're not going to have a home to come back to. And for some of the residents here that is really starting to sink in, exactly what they've got laid out ahead of them.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now you have to start thinking about getting blankets, getting ready to find a house to live in, get contractors, try to rebuild. Rebuild your life.


LAWRENCE: Yes. The first call, obviously, for a lot of folks is going to be to their insurance companies. Another problem in the area right now is the smoke.

If we could pan over, try to show you this visually. The National Weather Service has issued a smoke advisory because of all this ash that is in the air. They are warning people that it is making it extremely hard to see and breathe. And I can tell you, our eyes are burning just being out here. The smoke is just this thick haze covering the entire area -- John.

ROBERTS: Hey, Chris, are investigators any closer to finding out how this whole thing started?

LAWRENCE: A lot closer. They've already pinpointed where it started -- on a ridge above a popular spot for runners and teenagers who are hanging out over the summer. They say there were no lightning strikes on Sunday, so they're almost positive it was a human that started the fire, although they haven't yet determined if it was intentional or more likely just an accident.

ROBERTS: Chris Lawrence for us this morning in Meyers, California.

Chris, we'll check back in with you.

It's coming up to four minutes after the hour now.

Firefighters have got a narrow weather window to make progress. Chad Myers with the fire forecast live in the CNN weather center.


CHETRY: The American Medical Association debating whether or not video game addiction is on par with drug and gambling addictions. They're trying to back away from that now, not ready to call it that, but they are looking into it.

And Dr. Sanjay Gupta is with us now from Atlanta with more on whether or not gaming is an addiction.

Hi, Sanjay.


It's amazing how much traction this story has received. A lot of parents very concerned about this. Trying to liken video game obsession, if you will, with a real adduction such as alcoholism or even being a shopaholic, for example.

There are a lot of similarities. And I think this is where the confusion arises.

I mean, kids will play for hours on end, very fixated on the game, become reclusive as a result. Their grades may suffer. Some children are even becoming violent or aggressive when their game is taken away.

But even more than that, some experts have suggested that actual chemical changes occur in the brain when someone is playing this very sort of intense video gaming. Those same sort of pleasure centers in the brain that are associated with alcohol or even other drugs also may be activated with the video gaming. So this is interesting here, and obviously it gets a lot of parents' attention.

But again, to your point, the mental health community is really split on whether or not to specifically call this addiction, but there is a lot of cause for concern.

CHETRY: Yes. So they said they delayed this. They're not making any calls on this, something about delaying it until 2012?

GUPTA: Yes. And, I mean, I'm not sure where that comes from exactly, 2012. But, you know, what they're also saying I think is a first step is that there are lots of links between the video gaming and other things.

Could this be a symptom, if you will, of some other underlying problems, such as substance abuse, such as depression, such as significant anxiety, even? Perhaps, it could be. And this video gaming could sort of be the medication or the drug to sort of treat those things.

CHETRY: Right. So the escapism, you know, in dealing with whatever problems you're having mentally could be in the form of alcoholism, it could be in the form of playing too many video games.

Very interesting.

GUPTA: Exactly.

CHETRY: Sanjay, thank you. GUPTA: Thank you.

ROBERTS: It has been nearly two years since Hurricane Katrina, and some homeowners may finally be getting money from their insurance companies.

Ali Velshi joins us now with more on the story.

Good morning, Ali.


We -- this is a story we continue to follow, the debate about whether damage to people's homes in the gulf region after the hurricanes was caused by wind or water or both.

As you'll recall, there are two issues. Some people felt that they were insured because they felt that their brokers had told them they were insured for a hurricane, and then discovered after the hurricanes blew in that their damage might have been more caused by water than by wind, and under the specific terms of their policies they weren't insured.

So there are some cases going forward where people are making that claim. They say, "I thought I was buying hurricane insurance." And then there's the case of people who weren't specifically covered for flood or water insurance.

Well, Allstate now joining a group that is making a deal to pay out more and more homeowners to settle some outstanding claims. This is a longstanding matter, it doesn't tend to be resolved all that easily because there are conditions to those claims. There are class action suits involved, there are specific suits, and it's dragging out for a long time.

What's happening now, a few years after these tragedies, is that people are getting tired, they're getting -- you know, they're kind of out of money, they need to rebuild. So there are some allegation that sometimes if you let people wait long enough they will take whatever you give them. But this is an ongoing story with Allstate, with State Farm, with a number of other insurers, many of whom are subject to litigation right now. But maybe for some people in the gulf region some money coming their way to get them -- allow them to move on with their lives.

ROBERTS: But can you imagine living below sea level without flood insurance?

VELSHI: Yes. I mean, the one lesson everybody has learned is, you have got to build your houses a certain way. And you should -- I mean, if that's -- if there's one thing we take away from this -- and it's not, as you know, just there. There are flood zones all over this country in places you might not think about.

Please, everybody, just check your insurance.

ROBERTS: All right. Ali, thanks.

CHETRY: Well, tragedy has now rocked the world of pro wrestling.

Wrestling champion Chris Benoit and his wife, as well as their 7- year-old son, all found dead in separate rooms of their Georgia home. Police are investigating the deaths now as a possible double murder- suicide.

They are saying there were no sign of gunshot wounds or stabbing initially. Benoit was scheduled to wrestle on a Pay Per View event on Sunday night.

According to the Web site's Phil Lowe, they've been inundated with e-mails relating to this story and they're looking into police reports that curious text messages were sent by Chris Benoit to several people in the wrestling company throughout the day on Sunday. And that is what eventually led police officers, according to this Web site, to check the home of Chris Benoit. And that is where they found him, as well as his wife and young son, all dead.

We're following this story, and we'll bring you new details as we get them as well -- John.

ROBERTS: We're waiting for reaction this morning from the White House after a top Republican called on the president to make some quick changes to his Iraq war policy. The calls came from Indiana senator Richard Lugar. He's the top Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee.

Here's what Lugar had to say last night.


SEN. RICHARD LUGAR (R), INDIANA: Persisting indefinitely with the surge strategy will delay policy adjustments that have a better chance of protecting our interest over the long term.


ROBERTS: Dana Bash is live on Capitol Hill for us this morning following this story.

And Dana, we've certainly heard from some Republicans speaking out against the war, but why are Lugar's comments so significant?

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They're so significant, John, because Richard Lugar is perhaps one of the most influential, respected Republican voices here on Capitol Hill when it comes to foreign policy. And until now his criticism of the president's Iraq strategy has been pretty muted.

But not only he is breaking ranks with the White House, saying that the strategy to send more troops to Iraq is not working and there should be a downsize of military presence there, he's saying that should happen now. Most Republicans here on the Hill at the behest of the White House, they've said they would wait until September to assess the current strategy. But what Lugar said last night in a lengthy speech is that waiting until September for the president is a mistake because his policy will get swallowed by politics by the 2008 presidential election -- John.

ROBERTS: So, Dana, what kind of impact do you think that this is going to have on the political debate surrounding the Iraq war?

BASH: It could have a big one, because until now, when you look at Republicans who have come out publicly in a forceful way against the White House, broken ranks with the president on Iraq, they've been mostly moderates or mavericks. This is not only a red state Republican, but also, as I said, somebody with a lot of stature when it comes to these issues. And some skittish Republicans here -- and there are a lot of skittish Republicans when it comes to the war -- may look at this and say, you know, this gives me political cover to actually come out in a more robust way and say we think the president's strategy is wrong and needs to be changed.

ROBERTS: Boy. Well, it was pretty stunning to see him come out and say that last night.

BASH: Sure.

ROBERTS: Dana Bash for us in the Russell rotunda up there on Capitol Hill.

Dana, thanks.

BASH: Thanks.



CHETRY: There it was. It looked like a walk on the red carpet, but, no, it was Paris Hilton being released from jail about a few hours ago. Walk (ph) up the tabloids now. Celeb mags will no doubt be glad to have her back.

Joining us to talk about it, Tom O'Neil, senior editor of "In Touch Weekly".

You guys were all atwitter over Paris Hilton. What was going on?

TOM O'NEIL, SR. EDITOR, "IN TOUCH WEEKLY": Well, she came out, they say, 10 pounds slimmer than when she went in.

CHETRY: What did she have to lose?

O'NEIL: I know.

CHETRY: You could already blow her over with a feather.

O'NEIL: She started out at 115 pounds. Somewhere Martha Stewart is writing her a hate later. Because remember, Martha dropped 20 pounds and put it back on. CHETRY: Yes, but the poncho made her look heavier than she really was.

What is she going to be doing now that she is out of prison?

O'NEIL: Well, that's a very good question. First of all, she's hired a P.R. crisis manager, a famous guy named Michael Sitrick (ph), who charges up to $700 per hour, by the way. And he's helped such famous people as Rush Limbaugh and Naomi Campbell and Halle Berry when they were in trouble. So she's going to try to solve her P.R. problems in that way.

And then in terms of what she'll actually do, she says that she wants to make the world a better place. And she wants to start by helping out those gals that she was in prison with.

Typically, they return to jail seven times, Paris was telling Ryan Seacrest the other day, because they have nowhere else to go so. So she wants to give them a place.

CHETRY: So they're going to move into her home in Beverly Hills? I mean, what do you mean?

O'NEIL: She wants to build a halfway house.

CHETRY: I got you. Well, that's very noble if she does actually follow through with that.

O'NEIL: Very noble.

CHETRY: There was also some talk of a big celebration possibly being planned by her family to celebrate her release. Is that still a go?

O'NEIL: We don't know. Her father was planning this just a few days ago in Vegas. And there's been so much public criticism of it.

You know, she has been in jail for charges related to drunk driving. To be out there planning a party where alcohol will be flowing is not the best P.R. move here. So I kind of doubt they will follow up on this. On the other hand, he has said it's in the works.

CHETRY: We'll see what the crisis manager says about that one.

O'NEIL: Exactly.

CHETRY: Hey, and what's the deal out in Los Angeles? I mean, there are drivers and taxicabs, correct? We hear about celebrities getting in trouble for driving their car after drinking pretty often lately.

O'NEIL: Oh, yes. We're having an epidemic of it lately, aren't we? It's remarkable.

But in Paris' case, by the way, Kiran, she is not out of the woods yet. She is still on probation for two and a half more years. And if she has another incident like this, she can go back to jail for up to a year.

So the terms of probation are still strict. She has to go do those alcohol education courses she didn't do last time. She has her driver's license back, so watch out people on the streets of Los Angeles. But her driving will be restricted.

CHETRY: All right. Hopefully, she's learned a lesson.

Tom O'Neil, senior editor of "In Touch Weekly," great to see you. Thanks.

O'NEIL: Same here. Thanks.



ROBERTS: Coming up to 22 minutes after the hour.

There are some new numbers out concerning the state of the housing market, and they're not looking good.

Our money saver, Gerri Willis, is here with more.

So what is it looking like?

GERRI WILLIS, CNN PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR: I've got to tell you, the National Association of Realtors came out with their May numbers. Not pretty.

Sales in the lowest level in four years, really not good. Median home prices, which is what everybody cares about, right? The 10th consecutive month they have fallen.

I've got to tell you, John, this is not good news for people out there who are trying to sell their house. And this, of course, is supposed to be the biggest time of year for sales.

ROBERTS: Like politics, all real estate is local. So that's the national picture. Can you break it down region by region? What's happening on the local markets?

WILLIS: Well, you know, the most interesting story is really in the South, this area right here. And we saw sales volumes down 3.4 percent. The South has been the engine for this boom that we've seen, and the real story here is in Florida.

Sales volumes there are down 30 to 40 percent. Really a sad story there, I've got to tell you. And the median price there is $184,000. So pretty interesting.

Another big story, of course, has been the West. California has been a driver of this market, Nevada a big driver of this market. Median price there the highest in the nation, over $340,000. This year, though, down 0.8 percent in May, and those prices down 16 percent still year over year. ROBERTS: Those single family homes? They're building an awful lot of condos out there in Las Vegas. And I've heard that they've really taken a hit.

WILLIS: They have really taken a hit. But what's interesting about this report is it's not entirely downbeat about condos, and that's spurring kind of a debate within the real estate community. Some people think even these numbers are too upbeat.

Let me show you the Midwest. The Midwest interesting, too.

You know, the (INAUDIBLE) has had all kinds of problems. And now we're seeing that sales volumes there have really gone up just a tiny bit -- 0.7 percent, still down from last year.

ROBERTS: Is that a sign of a recovery? I mean, how long is this going to last?

WILLIS: You know, the volumes are still down 6 percent from last year. So I wouldn't get too excited there. The economy is so bad, and that is really a fundamental indicator for the market.

Let's talk about the Northeast. We have some good news.

Up 5.8 percent in the Northeast here. Let me clear that screen. As you can see, volumes up pretty dramatically. And what's interesting here is, this is one of the areas that saw the declines first starting to come out quickly, and it didn't see the kinds of gains that other parts of the country did.

ROBERTS: These things are always cyclical. So as you said, recovery may take a while longer in the Midwest.

What about countrywide?

WILLIS: Countrywide, I talked to the folks at the NAR who put out these numbers to begin with. They believe sales volumes will start trending up in the third quarter, but they among the most optimistic.

I talked to the folks at, some of the most respected economists out there who watch these markets. They say you'll have to wait until 2009 to see a real recovery.


WILLIS: And that is not good news for homeowners out there -- John.

ROBERTS: All right. Gerri, thanks very much. Always good to see you.

WILLIS: Thank you.

CHETRY: Well, we're taking a closer look now at the latest Supreme Court decisions and what they may mean about the court's new but slight conservative majority.

Court TV's Savannah Guthrie joins us from Washington.

Savannah, good to see you this morning.


CHETRY: Well, the justices issued a ruling, first of all, on something that eases restrictions on political advertising, talking about campaign finance reform. Will this impact the ads that we see this campaign season?

GUTHRIE: Absolutely, because by the court's decision yesterday, they've really opened the floodgates for special interest groups and labor unions and corporations to pour money into what are called issue ads. They can't put money into ads that directly advocate for one candidate or another, but they can walk pretty close to that line now because of the court's decision.

They can put on these issue ads which present a controversial issue, and even mention a candidate by name. The court says that doesn't violate the law passed by Congress a few years back to reform the campaign finance laws.

CHETRY: This was the free speech issue that they were talking about, right? They said in the effort of free speech -- in the interest of free speech, they should be able to get their point across.

GUTHRIE: Exactly. The court said, when we're presented with a tough question like this and it's a close call, as between protecting free speech and stifling it, when you're talking about pure political speech, we want to protect free speech.

CHETRY: The court also did issue a ruling on free speech as it related to schools. Apparently, a student had a big sign that said something like "Bong Hits 4 Jesus."

GUTHRIE: That's memorable.

CHETRY: They ruled that that actually did -- was not allowed and didn't really fall under free speech. Explain that.

GUTHRIE: Right. This was a student who unfurled a 14-foot banner that said, "Bong Hits 4 Jesus." What the court called a school-sponsored event.

You know, students do have First Amendment rights, but they're not the same as yours and mine out in the world. They can be limited in school, because this was a school-sponsored event, because this sign could reasonably be interpreted as promoting drug use. The justices said the principal was well within her rights to tear down that sign and suspend the students.

CHETRY: Well, so, some have said because this was possibly religious-based and because of the reference to Jesus, that, are we seeing the conservative face of the court in these decisions?

What are your thought on that?

GUTHRIE: Well, it's interesting, because in that particular case, even though that the student in that case was holding a sign that said "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" and the court rejected that that was a religious connotation at all, you know, a lot of religious groups had sided with the student in this lawsuit thinking of the day sometime down the road when maybe students would want to hang a religious sign in school. So they were on the side of the student's free speech in this case. But the justices came out the other way.

CHETRY: And they said that this is a very narrow ruling and it has to do with the appearance of advocating drug use, nothing about religion in that instance.

GUTHRIE: Exactly.

CHETRY: Savannah, we're going to check in with you in the next hour. We're going to talk about something a little more interesting, not that this wasn't interesting, but a little crazy, and that was, of course, the $54 million ruling of the dry cleaner, the pants, the judge, and what is next in that. So we'll see coming up in just an hour.



CHETRY: In the meantime, a top Republican senator tells the president it's time to make some changes to his Iraq war policy. We're going to find out what he had to say and what it could mean when AMERICAN MORNING continues.


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR, AMERICAN MORNING: Looking at a shot this morning and, boy, is it foggy there. That is Charleston, South Carolina. Our thanks to our affiliate WSCS for bringing us that picture. It's going to be a hot day, 74 degrees right now and high of 83, not as hot as it's going to be though on July 23rd when CNN goes there for our presidential debate. CNN and youtube, together for what really is an incredibly new format for presidential debates.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR, AMERICAN MORNING: It's going to be very interesting to hear what the candidates have to say and what some of the viewers and also the posters that are blogging are going to add to that debate.

Meanwhile, welcome back. Thanks so much for being with us on June 26th. It's a Tuesday. I'm Kiran Chetry, along with John Roberts. And we woke up to the shocking news, a death in the world of professional wrestling, a very popular guy by the name of Chris Benoit, champion wrestler found dead along with his wife and son. All the blogs are buzzing about this morning. What happened in that home and what to make of reports that he may have sent text messages during the weekend to other staffers and people at the world wrestling enterprise and whether or not that prompted calls to authorities and eventually what they found was what they believed to be -- could be a double murder/suicide crime scene.

ROBERTS: All very mysterious.

Also remember the youtube cell phone guy posted numbers and said if you're lonely, you want to talk, give me a call. Thousands of people called him including one special caller. We'll have an update on that story for you coming up.

CHETRY: We begin now with the wild fire in Lake Tahoe, California. Overnight firefighters did report making some progress in stopping the fire. They're saying it's 40 percent contained, but that's no consolation for people like this couple who lost everything. They came back to see their home completely charred, ruined, burnt to the ground. There are other homes that are still threatened and the firefighters are doing everything they can to try to save those homes. AMERICAN MORNING's Chris Lawrence is live near the fire now in Meyers, California. It's devastating for the beautiful area there in Lake Tahoe, the lake itself, the people's homes. But if there is a bright spot, there have been no deaths in this and I believe no injuries, either Chris, correct?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You're absolutely right, Kiran. As harsh as it can sound at a time like this, homes can be rebuilt. Things can be replaced. Right now, firefighters are saying that if they can get a leg up on this fire in the next couple of days before that wind kicks up again, it could have it fully contained by Sunday. But even that is already too late for a lot of the families who are coming home to visions of this.


LAWRENCE (voice-over): South Lake Tahoe residents watch the roaring fire incinerate their homes like paper. Now they're wondering did anything survive? We follow this couple back to their neighborhood as they are seeing it for the first time. Andrea and Hector Hernandez lost everything.

HECTOR HERNANDEZ, FIRE VICTIM: The kitchen, the living room was here, the back bedroom.

LAWRENCE: Ten years of memories destroyed.

ANDREA HERNANDEZ, FIRE VICTIM: It's your safe zone, you know? We don't have a safe zone. We're kind of just in limbo. So that, I think, that's pretty hard right there, just not being able to come home.

LAWRENCE: Firefighters believe someone started the blaze Sunday, whether intentionally or by accident. Within a day, it had destroyed well over 200 homes and buildings.

A. HERNANDEZ: What's that right there? Is that -- that's the heater? LAWRENCE: Hector tried to save his home. But it got too hot too fast and rescuers were ordering him to leave.

H. HERNANDEZ: And, you know what? The thing was that the Red Cross guy, I yelled at him. I'm sorry. But I just want some help. And I couldn't get it.

LAWRENCE: They've got no home, no clothes, no money.

H. HERNANDEZ: The nightmare is just beginning, actually, just the rebuilding. Just dealing with insurance companies and taking care of everything else now.


LAWRENCE: For now, they're going to live with their friends and family and first thing this morning, call their insurance company to see, you know, what they are supposed to do about money. Kiran?

CHETRY: Chris Lawrence, it's going to be a tough road ahead for them, but as you said before, no lives lost and the firefighters are doing all they can to hopefully save more of the homes. We'll check in with you a little later. Thanks, Chris.

ROBERTS: The administration keep touting successes in the war on terror but a report by the government's accountability office slams U.S. efforts to combat terrorism abroad. CNN's homeland security correspondent Jeanne Meserve joins us now live from Washington. Jeanne, what did the report find?

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, the GAO visited four countries critical to the war on terror. They're unnamed for national security reasons. It found a lack of coordination and collaboration among U.S. law enforcement agencies or LEAs involved in anti-terrorism missions aboard and so much so that anti-terror efforts are being hurt. In one country the GAO says the lack of clear roles and responsibilities between two U.S. LEAs may have compromised several joint operations intended to identify and disrupt potential terrorist activities. In another instance, an FBI official told the GAO that the law enforcement working group had never been asked to try to identify or disrupt any of the terrorists on the most wanted list of the Department of State or Defense or of the foreign nation itself. This despite a series of directives from the White House after 9/11 instructing U.S. law enforcement to assist foreign nations' anti- terrorism efforts.

ROBERTS: Jeanne, the GAO not known for pulling punches. What did the report have to say about the State Department's role in all of this?

MESERVE: The report says that at one point the State Department was supposed to draw up a policy on coordinating all of this. It didn't. The National Counter Terrorism Center next was tasked with doing something that the NCTC says it has drawn something up, but it hasn't been implemented yet. As a result there is a lack of communication and coordination among these various law enforcement agencies. So much so that the report concludes that host governments are confused, don't know which one to turn to, when they're dealing with a specific terrorist threat. The conclusion of the report, LEAs a key element of national power are not being fully used abroad to protect U.S. citizens and interests from future terrorist attacks. John.

ROBERTS: All right, Jeanne Meserve for us live in Washington. Jeanne, thanks.

Rudy Giuliani has got a big day ahead of him. The presidential candidate is speaking at Pat Robertson's Regent University. Giuliani's got a real problem with conservatives. Can this speech fix it? And as Giuliani successor, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg a player in the presidential race. John Dickerson is the chief political correspondent for He joins us now from Washington. So the speech that Giuliani is making today at Pat Robertson's university obviously designed to try to get him more inside the conservative folds. Is it going to work for him?

JOHN DICKERSON, SLATE.COM: This is a speech that was scheduled sometime ago. It was postponed on the day of the Virginia Tech shooting. So it may not be a calculated effort here so much. I think what Giuliani will do, according to his aides what they're saying is he's basically going to give the speech he has been giving which means he will stay away from the social issues with which he conflicts with a majority of Republican voters and he'll talk about physical restraint, fighting terrorists, cutting taxes and try to build support as he is trying to do more broadly with conservatives on those set of issues and essentially make this case. We agree on these and let's not squabble, fight about those things that we don't agree on.

ROBERTS: Certainly, he's got a big problem with conservatives on the issues of gay rights, abortion. Overall here is what Pat Robertson said about Giuliani. This was back on May 1, 2005 speaking on ABC's "This Week." He said quote, Ridy is a very good friend of mine. I think he'd make a good president. I live him a lot, although he doesn't share all of my particular points of view on social issues. He's a very dedicated Catholic and he's a great guy. McCain I would put against him under any circumstance. Robertson hasn't officially thrown his support behind anybody yet John, but that's a pretty good endorsement, wouldn't you think?

DICKERSON: That's a great endorsement for Giuliani if you compare it to what other people in the religious community have said about him, which has been quite harsh. And so from somebody who some voters may look to for guidance on this kind of thing that's about as good as Giuliani is going to get.

ROBERTS: Let's take a look at his successor, Michael Bloomberg, recently switched his political affiliation to independent. A lot of people saw that as a signal thathe may take a run at the presidency. We did a poll just a couple of days ago John to find out how Bloomberg would fare. Here is what we found in this CNN Opinion Research Corporation poll. If the election were to be held today, Clinton would win with 41 percent against Giuliani with 38 and Bloomberg with 17 percent, a match up with Barack Obama and John McCain. Obama would get 40 percent, McCain 34 and Bloomberg 21. He is still polling third but for an undeclared independent candidate, those numbers look pretty good.

DICKERSON: They do look pretty good and he'll keep shaking up the race. I thought one other interesting finding in that poll is we've all been asking whether Bloomberg would take votes from Democrats or Republicans. His position is making more of a Democrat so people have said he'll take from the Democrat. But in your polling when you take him out of the race, it turns out that the person he hurts a little bit more, just a little bit, is Rudy Giuliani, the Republican and not Hillary Clinton in that three-way.

ROBERTS: He draws pretty evenly from both sides. And I'm wondering, can he do anything more than steal votes? Could he actually have a shot at winning?

DICKERSON: He has a couple of things in his favor. He has $5 billion of his own money that he can spend. He happens to live in a city that's near a lot of major media outlets that will listen to him and he's also selling something that people want which is kind of a third way. They are disappointed with the president. They don't like the Democratic-controlled Congress but there are many, many other obstacles including the fact on the signature issue of the day, Iraq, Bloomberg really hasn't said much. He is quite bold on other issues, but he's not talking about that meddlesome issue and that would lose him some support probably pretty quickly once he made up his mind about what he believed.

ROBERTS: And of course, Bloomberg is still insisting that he is not going to run but there doesn't seem to be a lot of people out there, there don't seem to be a lot of people out there that believe him. John Dickerson in Washington, John, thanks.

DICKERSON: Thank you.

CHETRY: A more powerful poison topping our quick hits now. "The Wall Street Journal" reporting this morning that the oil in poison ivy that produces the itching is growing even more potent. Increased carbon dioxide in the air is apparently to blame. It's created ideal conditions for poison ivy to thrive.

The emotional toll of hurricanes Katrina and Rita could be leading teenagers to begin smoking cigarettes. What they found in the study, a University of Texas survey finding that 38 percent of the teenagers who had a family member hurt or killed in the storms is now smoking. Only 13 percent of those who didn't have that experience say they're smoking.

And the debate over video games, are they as addictive as drugs and alcohol? We're going to find out what doctors are saying today when AMERICAN MORNING returns.


CHETRY: Earlier we talked about mental health researchers looking into whether video games could be classified as an addiction like alcoholism or gambling. Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins us from Atlanta. And Sanjay, they're not ready to call it an addiction yet, but how do we explain the kids who play these video games for six, seven, even eight hours a day?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's a difficult thing to explain for sure. There may be a lot of different issues here with regards to similarities to addiction. Alcoholics for example, we know about that, shopaholics. Could this be reflective of something else, parents pay attention to this. Could it be reflective of substance abuse and anxiety or depression? Certainly not saying kids who all play video games have any of these issues, but it's interesting to sort of think about video gaming at least in the same sort of context. As you mentioned, the mental health community is pretty split Kiran. They're not ready to call it an addiction in part because the new classification of all the psychiatric illness won't come out until 2012 and they want longer term data. But more than that, they're saying look, the terminology is probably not that important. What is more important is that parents should really pay attention to some of these clues Kiran.

CHETRY: Right, you can't let your kids sit in front of video games for eight hours a day. That seems like a no-brainer. But are there particular types of games that children can become fixated on? We've come a long way from Frogger and Pac-man.

GUPTA: We have. In fact I've learned some new terminology myself in researching this story, that there is something known as massive multiplayer online role playing games, if can you repeat that. But online role playing games are the biggest concern. These are the types of games where you actually take on some sort of character and what's most concerning about this, could be concerning, is that people will actually seek gratification through this online role. They'll seek rewards. They'll seek some sort of self-worth through them, again through a video game of some sort. But even as we research that a little bit more deeply, what a lot of the experts told us is that, look, the addiction is one thing, but a lot of these things are very violent and we need to focus as much on the violence as we do on the addiction. That could also be a concern.

CHETRY: It also seems like you may open a flood gate. You talked about these new classifications and 2012 (ph). I mean you say video games like you said shopping I'm sure that is not listed under a mental health concern to people who shop too much and then people who constantly are on their blackberries or constantly feeling the need to check their e-mails. All of that.

GUPTA: There are all sorts of different obsessions or fixations, if you will. And you're right. This is a tumultuous area Kiran I think in terms of actually assigning disease names, real disease names to some of these things and I think that is probably why. Again, as you alluded to, the mental health community is sort of backing off and calling this an addiction but to the extent that it might be reflective of something else. I check my blackberry all the time but I don't think I have some sort of anxiety problem although my wife might disagree. But I think there is something, some clues sometimes, especially for parents whose young children and I'm a parent now, I mean, I think about these things, but whose young children might be actually playing video games a lot. Is it reflective of something else? I think that's the important message here.

CHETRY: That's right. You got to set some limits on that for sure. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thanks.

GUPTA: Thank you.

ROBERTS: A cry for passport help tops your quick hits now. The State Department is sending an urgent cable to all foreign service personnel to come home and help process a backlog of three million passport applications. New travel rules to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean caused a crush of passport applications.

For the second time in a month, another security breach in Ohio. The state is reporting a laptop computer with information on workers' comp claims was stolen from a state worker. Earlier this month a computer backup device was stolen that contained Social Security numbers for over 200,000 people.

AMERICAN MORNING will be right back.


CHETRY: Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING, a real shock in the world of professional wrestling. We all woke up to the news that Chris Benoit, champion wrestler, as well as his wife and seven-year- old son were all found dead in their home. Police investigating this as a potential double murder/suicide. Our Jacki Schechner has been following this on the blogs because they are buzzing everywhere. In fact, a few of the wrestling sites Jacki are saying they've been inundated with e-mails of people wanting to know what happened as it relates to Chris Benoit and his family.

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly the problem right now Kiran is nobody has a tremendous amount of information with regard to the event. What is coming out online a lot of it speculation and assumption. What we're finding out is that Chris Benoit did not make an event in Beaumont, Texas on Saturday, did not show up for an event Sunday night in Houston, Texas. He had called in with a family emergency allegedly to the World Wrestling Entertainment organization, sent a series of curious text messages allegedly early Sunday morning which alerted people to give a call over to the VP of government relations at the WWE who then called the sheriff's office who went over to the Benoit home on Monday. They -- that according to the WWE that they had trouble getting into the home. There were a couple of German shepherds outside. When they finally did, they discovered the body of Chris Benoit and his wife and his seven-year- old son Daniel Kiran.

CHETRY: And then as you said, a lot of this being reported on some of these wrestling sites, including reporters on wrestling sites that are saying the possibility that, at least according to one of the people investigating the case, the instruments of death were located on the scene and that they're not searching for any suspects outside of the Benoit home. At the same time, there was some other reports this morning that we were talking about saying that they didn't really know the cause of death. They didn't see evidence of gunshot wounds or stabbing.

SCHECHNER: Exactly Kiran. The World Wrestling Entertainment organization is holding off on interviews at this point because they don't have any specific information that they're ready to impart but there is some speculation that what we do find out is going to be quite surprising and shocking and people of course want to know what exactly it was when they talk about those curious text messages that were sent early Sunday morning. There was some discussion that some of those messages were sent to his friend Chavo Guerrero (ph), another one of the wrestler in the WWE stable, if you will. So it's going to be interesting to find out as more details come about what exactly he was saying. There is some discussion that perhaps if it was a murder/suicide that did kill his wife and his son earlier in the weekend and then perhaps killed himself, Kiran.

CHETRY: Very troubling news to wake up to this morning, a tight- knit community, the people that participate in the world of wrestling. We will continue to follow it. Jacki Schechner, thank you.


ROBERTS: A Saddam Hussein mini series tops your quick hits now. HBO and the BBC are teaming up for a four-part mini series that will chronicle the 24-year reign of the executed Iraqi dictator. It will be called "Between Two Rivers."

An AMERICAN MORNING update for you now. The parents of a 15-year- old boy in India arrested after police say they talked their 15-year- old son through a C-section delivery. The parents who are both doctors recorded the boy performing the C-section in order to get him listed in the Guinness book of world records as the youngest surgeon.

Sanjay Gupta is coming up in just a couple of minutes, speaking of fully licensed surgeons. What are you going to be taking a look at Sanjay?

GUPTA: We're talking about super bugs John. These are the very worse kind of germs. We thought they were rare, but they're actually much more common than we thought. I'll tell you what you can do to protect yourself. It's coming up on AMERICAN MORNING at the top of the hour.


ROBERTS: Fifty seven minutes after the hour. When a dissatisfied customer sued his dry cleaner for an astounding $54 million, you got to ask the question what does satisfaction guaranteed really mean? Ali Velshi is here now to explain way in which retailers aim to please their customers, (INAUDIBLE).


CHETRY: Justice actually prevailed in this case. VELSHI: Justice did prevail because it was a ridiculous suit and the judge said the dry cleaner made its efforts to satisfy the customer. What, who really does make these efforts to satisfy the customer? You can pretty much ask a bunch of people on the street and you will get the name of the retailer which is known as the best of customer service. It is?

ROBERTS: Well, I don't want to promote it but I hear people often say Nordstrom's.

VELSHI: They get it right. This is one I have no difficulty in promoting. They have a book called "The Nordstrom Way." It's co- authored, somebody who's been there for 30 years. Nordstrom has some very simple policies. They have a simple return policy. You can return anything to them and on page seven here it's got a little card which they give to their employees. It's two sides of a card. The first one says we're glad you're with our company. Outstanding customer service is our number one goal. On the other side, it says our only rule, use good judgments in all situations. You all heard the legend about somebody who brought tires back to Nordstrom and they took them back except that they don't sell tires. Apparently they had a company that did sell tires they had bought. But that is a what Nordstrom does.

Also on the top of those lists, Amazon - some people do have problems with Amazon, but Amazon has a customer service system that actually works if you know how to use it because you can schedule a call back. They will call you back.

CHETRY: Instead of being on hold forever?

ROBERTS: I didn't even know they had a telephone number.

VELSHI: A lot of people don't know that they get there. Amazon allows you to pick the time the customer service person calls you back. The other place that is fantastic and there are many. I'm just picking a few. LL Bean has great policies. You can personalize things at LL Bean but their unconditional lifetime guarantee applies to things even if you personalize them.

CHETRY: I bought a coat for my dog from them.

VELSHI: They will take it back, unconditional lifetime guarantee. Little Snoopy, can you spend the thing back. LL Bean has a sign, take a look at this. It's been there forever from 19 something or other and it says I do not consider a sale complete until goods are worn out and the customer is still satisfied.

ROBERTS: Wouldn't it be nice if everybody felt that way?

VELSHI: They get a lot of return customers.

ROBERTS: The next hour of AMERICAN MORNING guaranteed to satisfy starts right now.

CHETRY: All smiles and home free. Paris Hilton out of jail overnight with waves to media and hugs for her parents.


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