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AMERICAN MORNING

Minding Your Business; Rescue On Hold; Quake Or Collapse?; Dangerous Heat; Behind The Collapse

Aired August 8, 2007 - 07:00   ET

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


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Time that that clerk had been held up. So he was just about at the end of his rope there.
KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Well, he got lucky, though, because they don't always end well.

Right at the top of the hour right now and Ali Velshi is "Minding Your Business." And we're getting an early Christmas gift, if you will, when it comes to the price of gas.

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, by the way, I left my credit card at a bar the other day.

CHETRY: Yes.

VELSHI: I leave stuff around all the time. I would seriously, after watching that, make sure I don't become a criminal.

CHETRY: Yes, don't. You'd be caught instantly, Ali.

VELSHI: We've been hearing about the price of gas dropping for the last few weeks. About 20 cents in the last couple weeks. And then just this week alone, we've seen the price of oil drop by 7 percent. We're now near $72 a barrel after hitting an all-time high for the price of crude oil around $79 a barrel just over a week ago.

So it's -- now you have this whole debate again, which way is oil going? We've been talking about oil going up to $100 now after it breaks that $80 mark. Or going back down. We've had some people talking about $20 oil.

Now, you know, I think it becomes not very useful to discuss where oil is going by labor day, because you're not buying your car or selling your car or making long-term plans based on the next two months of gasoline prices. So let's look at what it's going to be in 2015, because most economists and people who have to study this and companies that have to hedge their bets on oil like to plan further out. And like I've said, we've got a range from $20 to $100 over the next many years.

Now here's the issue. That most people believe that we are going to conserve more oil and gasoline than we ever have before. Between that and new biofuels that we're finding. The estimates are from the U.S. government that by the year 2015 oil is going to be at $50 a barrel. Just so you know, though, that doesn't go down from 70 to 50 (ph) in a straight line. We could have a lot of jagged edges. But people are saying, in the long run, we're actually going to see the price of oil go down.

CHETRY: Good news.

VELSHI: Which means your gas prices, too.

CHETRY: Ali Velshi, thank you.

ROBERTS: You know, it is pouring!

CHETRY: We can hear it on the roof.

VELSHI: Is that the rain that I'm hearing?

ROBERTS: And you can actually smell the rain through the air- conditioning system as well.

CHETRY: We are tracking severe weather in the New York area, including tornado watches and warnings. Rob Marciano is going to update us. The next hour of AMERICAN MORNING starts right now.

ROBERTS: Shifting ground.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOB MURRAY, PRESIDENT/CEO, MURRAY ENERGY CORP.: We are back to square one under ground.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: New collapses force new strategy to reach six stranded miners.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MURRAY: There is absolutely no way we can reach the vicinity of the trapped miners for at least one week.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: Plus, what really caused the mine to cave in. Was it an earthquake ir the mining itself? Questions and answers on this AMERICAN MORNING.

Good morning and welcome back. Thanks for joining us. It is Wednesday, August the 8th. I'm John Roberts, as the rain comes down here in New York City.

CHETRY: Yes, we're tracking a lot of big stories this morning. One of them is a tornado warning taking place right at this very second for parts of New York City. Rob Marciano live in Atlanta's Centennial Park. He's been following the computers and the information coming in to the weather center.

Hi, Rob.

(WEATHER REPORT) And to the Crandall Canyon Mine in Utah now and a rescue on hold this morning. The mine's owner says they are back to square one and that shifting ground wiped out all the progress so far. They're going to keep drilling to drop down air, cameras and radios to the miners who haven't been heard from since the initial collapse early Monday morning. Dan Simon is monitoring all of the latest developments near Huntington, Utah.

This is just a stunning setback there, Dan.

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, John, it really is significant. We are now hearing that it is going to take at least one week to rescue these miners if, in fact, they are still alive. That announcement coming last night from the owner of the mining company, Robert Murray.

But there are actually two timetables here. Seven days to reach the miners by ground. But we are also told that it will take two or three days to determine if, in fact, they are dead or alive.

Mr. Murray saying that all of the progress that essentially had been made as of last night had been erased because of seismic activity. Remember, he's saying that the collapse was triggered by an earthquake. But when you hear from scientists, they say that the seismic activity was caused by the cave-in itself. Seems some more investigate is warranted on that end.

In any case, here is some of what Mr. Murray had to say. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOB MURRAY, PRESIDENT/CEO, MURRAY ENERGY CORP.: If the miners were killed at the time of the earthquake, that's in the Lord's hands and what is done is done. But it's my job to get to the miners if they're alive and maintain their lives until I can get them out. And that is all I'm focused on, as well as the welfare of the families.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SIMON: Let's talk a little bit about the methodologies that are being used. A large drill is being used to go down 1,500 feet into solid coal to determine if, in fact, the miners are still alive. It would be a two-inch hole. That's what will take two or three days.

In terms of the ground operation, we are told that they are essentially building what amounts to a tunnel. That is what is going to take a week, John.

And we are also hearing reports that some sonar equipment flown in by the U.S. military is going to be used at some point to determine if, in fact, the miners are still alive. That's one of the things that we hope to hear about when there's a press conference a bit later on this morning.

John. ROBERTS: Dan Simon for us this morning outside the Crandall Canyon Mine with the latest.

Dan, thanks.

CHETRY: You know, one of the biggest questions that people keep asking this morning, was it an earthquake that triggered the collapse or did the mine collapse cause the seismic activity that registered as an earthquake? Well, there is a lot of debate, even though there are some within the seismology community who say they definitely believe that this was not an earthquake but the seismic activity from the actual cave-in. Our next guest says that he has the answer and the scientific proof to back it up. Joining me now is Lee Siegel, a spokesman for the University of Utah Seismic Stations.

Thanks for being with us this morning, Lee.

LEE J. SIEGEL, UNIVERSITY OF UTAH: Good morning, Kiran.

CHETRY: So what is your theory?

SIEGEL: First of all, I just got to preface this by saying that I wish the focus of all of this would be on the miners and getting them out of there, despite the scientific debate that's going on. We're all hoping for the best outcome here.

That said, I have to say that the University of Utah seismograph stations network of seismometers around the state makes it pretty clear that the so-called earthquake, in fact, was the mine collapse. The form of the waves from the earthquake is recorded on the seismograph as such that what's called the first motions indicate downward motion consistent with collapse. Other things about the duration of certain parts of the waves are, again, consistent with a collapse, not with a natural or tectonic earthquake.

CHETRY: All right. Well, let's listen quickly to Mr. Murray, the CEO of that mine. Because he is insisting that this was an earthquake.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MURRAY: Mined coal for 50 years. There's absolutely no way that something in the coal mine could have resulted in a 4.0 on the Richter scale that lasted four minutes, followed up by an after-shock two hours and 30 minutes later, and a 2.0 on the Richter scale that measured 2.30.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: He seems insistent that this was an earthquake.

SIEGEL: I don't question his sincerity, but he is not a seismologist. I, yesterday, spoke with three of our seismologist and they cannot absolutely rule out the possibility of what Mr. Murray is saying. Science is uncertain. Scientists like to be caution. But all the evidence points the other way. And history, to me, is one of the strongest indicators. Our seismologists at the University of Utah told me there has never, ever been a recorded case in Utah of a natural earthquake triggering a mine collapse. On the other hand, there's a very long history of mining activity and cave-ins in Utah being registered on seismographs as earthquakes.

CHETRY: I got you.

Lee, before we let you go, quickly, it seems that it's the seismic activity that's hampering the rescue efforts. They say they're back at square one. What's going on with that? As they drill, does that, once again, set off there underground movements?

SIEGEL: I would think that the -- given the view of the scientists that the original collapse was recorded as an earthquake, that these after-shocks are further settling in the collapse area. Some of them have been located right into that area. I'm not sure how many.

However, on this question of after-shock activity stopping the rescue, this is the seismograph recording for the first -- here's the original event. The collapse. And roughly ten aftershocks on Monday. The time zone's an hour off because it shows standard time. If you go to yesterday, there was one very early in the morning and about a 1.7 magnitude one at about 3:00 something in the afternoon. There were virtually no after-shocks yesterday.

CHETRY: So what are you saying there? That that's not true? That that's not -- I mean they shut down the rescue effort saying -- they were contributing it to seismic activity.

SIEGEL: I understand that. I can just say that there's been a total of 11 aftershocks. The maximum 2.2, about 1:00 a.m. yesterday. And the last one, I haven't seen all of the data this morning, but the last one about 3:00 something yesterday afternoon was a 1.7.

Now I do have to offer an important caveat. Our nearest seismonitor is about 12 miles from the mine. It is supposed to pick up anything above a 1.5 magnitude quake at a greater distance. It's possible some very small after-shocks could be happening there that would not be detected by our seismonitor.

CHETRY: OK.

SIEGEL: And if you're close at hand underground and the ground shakes even a little, it's going to feel rather spooky. But there's -- all I can do is point to the record and show that for most of yesterday there were almost no aftershocks.

CHETRY: That is very interesting. Certainly raising some more questions this morning. Lee Siegal with the University of Utah, thank you.

SIEGEL: Thank you, Kiran. ROBERTS: Well, severe weather here in New York City and dangerous heat for at least half of the country. There are heat advisories in close to two dozen states. And in the big cities, the heat, humidity and pollution will make it hard for some people to breathe. For more we're turning to CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta. He's down there at Centennial Park in Atlanta.

Sanjay, what makes this combination of heat and humidity so deadly for people?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, one of the ways your body cools itself off is to sweat. And as you know, John, what happens is when you already have so much water in the air, because of the humidity, when the sweat gets on your skin, it can't evaporate. So you're losing one of your most effective cooling mechanisms.

And that's simply it. People talk about a dry heat versus a wet heat. That's why a wet heat's more problematic.

You know, up to 700 people died in Chicago in 1995. People talk about the heat. I mean this could be very serious if you can't get those cooling mechanisms in places. People with heart conditions, people with lung conditions more at risk. That leads to the heat illnesses.

But also just the air quality. I mean it's early in the morning here in Atlanta and you can already see it in the air. People who are trying to exercise outside, for example, are going to have significantly more problems. Later in the day is when those problems get even worse.

John.

ROBERTS: Sanjay, what are the signs of heat-related illness that people should look for?

GUPTA: Well, you know, people talk about heat stroke, they talk about heat exhaustion, they talk about heat cramps. When it comes to heat stroke in particular, some of the early symptoms can be kind of vague. You might feel tired. You might have a headache, for example, which can be a pretty significant headache.

One of the cardinal distinctions though, when you know it's become something as serious as heat stroke, is that you actually stop sweating. Instead of getting that sort of wet face or wet skin, you start to develop a cool, sort of -- I'm sorry, a red, hot, dry skin. You just stop sweating altogether. And that's one of the cardinal distinctions between heat stroke and heat exhaustion.

Heat cramping, incidentally, can be pretty severe. You actually get these significant cramps in your legs and your arms. People may think something else entirely is going on when, in fact, it can be all pretty easily attributable to the heat.

ROBERTS: All right. Dr. Sanjay Gupta for us this morning, thanks very much. And, of course, folks should be aware of cooling centers that their particular cities might have open. And if they do find that they're in a little bit of difficulty, make sure that you get down to those.

Sanjay, thanks very much.

CHETRY: Well new this morning.

Details emerging from state bridge inspectors in Minnesota who warned for nearly a decade that the Interstate 35W was so compromised by cracks and rust that it should be replaced. A Minnesota Department of Transportation camera captured these dramatic pictures of the bridge seconds after it collapsed. This morning's "Minneapolis Star Tribune," that's been doing a lot of reporting on this story and breaking new ground, saying that inspectors urged the state to replace bolts in one specific area of the bridge in nearly every report they made since the year 2000.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki arriving in Iran this morning. He's asking the Iranians to help stop the violence in Iraq. Iran's Shiite leaders are sympathetic to al-Maliki, though he's facing a crisis at home. Nearly all the Sunni members of his cabinet have quit or are boycotting and Washington is pressuring him to make political progress.

The U.S. is seeing another uptick in the number of American troops killed in Iraq. Nineteen soldiers and Marines have been killed so far this month, only eight days into August. Last month, 79 U.S. troops died in Iraq. That was the lowest number since November.

Police in Belgium this morning saying that DNA taken from a straw does not match that of missing four-year-old Madeleine McCann. They took the sample after a woman said she was "100 percent sure" that she saw Madeleine, who vanished from a hotel room in May. Police are also testing blood traces reportedly found inside the room. And they say that that DNA testing of the straw may not necessarily be conclusive since the woman also reported seeing the girl that looked like Madeleine with a man in his 40s as well as a 25-year-old looking woman.

ROBERTS: Coming up to 16 minutes after the hour.

Love him or hate him, Barry Bonds is one of baseball's kings this morning. Might be a record with an asterisk attached to it, but he did hit home run number 756 last night and here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Deals. And Bonds hits one hard! Hits it deep! It is out of here!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: Of course, he hit it off of my Washington Nationals. Now the majority of hometown fans in San Francisco cheered Bonds, but he couldn't escape the whispers long suspected of using performance- enhancing drugs. It all came to a head in 2003 when he reportedly told a grand jury that he "unknowingly used steroid creams." Last night Bonds insist his new home run record is not tainted.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARRY BONDS, NEW HOME RUN RECORD HOLDER: This record is not tainted at all. At all. Period. You guys can say whatever you want.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: Some people might disagree. There is one other guy sharing the spotlight with Barry Bonds this morning. The 22-year-old New Yorker who caught the record-break ball. He told Reuters that his name was Matt Murphy (ph). He's from Queens. And take a close look at his shirt. He's a Mets game. Murphy was at last night's game killing some time before he and his friends took off on a trip to Australia. The trip may be more than paid for. No word what he'll do with the ball, but it's already worth an estimated $500,000.

A warning about trouble on the collapsed Minneapolis bridge 10 years ago. Was it ignored? We'll talk with the reporters breaking that story today, next on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Coming up to 20 minutes after the hour.

New information is emerging this morning about inspections on the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis. The "Minneapolis Star Tribune" is reporting today that consultants repeatedly warned the Mn/DOT that the bridge need large-scale repairs, even recommending that the bridge be replaced. Pat Doyle and Dan Browning are two of the reporters that are breaking the story this morning. They join us from the site of that bridge collapse.

Gentlemen, for the past week we've been talking about recent inspection reports of the bridge and concerns that were raised. But you're reporting this morning that those concerns go well back beyond just the past few years.

Pat Doyle, how far back do they go and what are we talking about?

PAT DOYLE, "MINNEAPOLIS STAR TRIBUNE": Well, Dan, and I, and a couple of other reporters for the "Star Trib," went back to 1994 and began looking at inspection reports there. And we really started to find kind of a ramping up of concerns by state inspectors beginning about 1996 where they ended some reports with exclamation points.

In 1998 was the first time that state inspectors really went into a great deal of detail about fatigue cracking in the structure. In those reports, those 1998 reports, were referred to repeatedly year after year afterwards.

And then in 2000, something interesting occurred. And that's when inspectors recommended that the DOT, the state DOT, make a decision, either replace the bridge or redeck it. And they recommended that they replace it, but said that if replacing it encountered significant delays, then they should redeck it.

The bridge was not redecked. At the time it collapsed last week, there was a relatively minor resurfacing job going on. And replacing the bridge had not been scheduled for any time sooner than about 2015 to 2023.

ROBERTS: Yes, I remember talking with Governor Tim Pawlenty about that.

Dan Browning, what kind of position does this put Mn/DOT in, in terms of its diligence in making sure that this bridge was safe?

DAN BROWNING, "MINNEAPOLIS STAR TRIBUNE": Well Mn/DOT is defending their work. They're saying that they considered the items that we discovered in these reports and they continued inspections, close inspections, year after year and that many of the cracks weren't widening and, therefore, they believed it was safe to continue operating the bridge. Whether or not they will change that view in retrospect, it remains to be seen.

ROBERTS: Well, obviously, it was a huge miscalculation.

Pat, could all of the inspections possible have prevented this bridge? Because our understanding is from talking with another reporter from the "Star Trib" yesterday, that a lot of these areas that were most critical to the integrity of the bridge were difficult, if not possible, to inspect.

BROWNING: That's right. And no one can say whether they would have prevented a collapse like this with simply by doing more inspections. It is worth noting, though, that a consultant hired by Mn/DOT a couple years ago recommended steel plating to reinforce the bridge superstructure and Mn/DOT opted for what they referred to as a more efficient or most cost-efficient alternative to that, which is essentially inspecting the bridge.

ROBERTS: All right. Well, thanks very much for joining us.

Yes, go ahead. Sorry, Pat. Sorry, Dan. Go ahead.

BROWNING: That's OK. Just, Mn/DOT has raised concerns on bolting plates on the bridge as a reinforcement measure saying that it could have weaken the bridge. And we have noticed that they have done that very thing in the past on this bridge and on the Lafayette bridge in St. Paul to reinforce that structure.

ROBERTS: Right. Certainly a lot of worry there in Minnesota just to how safe are these bridges to cross when a bridge that, you know, nobody thought could possibly fall down suddenly did.

Pat Doyle and Dan Browning from the "Minneapolis Star Tribune." Thanks for being with us.

DOYLE: Thank you. BROWNING: Thank you.

CHETRY: Well, coming up, a major drug deal, if you want to call it that. A grocery chain now giving away certain prescription drugs for free. Which drugs? How do you get them? And is this good for you? We're going to talk to Dr. Sanjay Gupta ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: Well, what a morning if you live in the New York area. We have a radar picture right there. An extreme line of thunderstorms moving in, but the rotation within them has weakened to the point where the National Weather Service has allowed these tornado warnings to expire. They were for parts of Long Island. There was also some concern in the area of Queens, around JFK Airport, as well as Staten Island in Brooklyn. Again, those tornado warnings have expired this morning. However, the rain certainly having an effect today. Apparently our elevators are out because of some flooding in the area.

ROBERTS: That means we can't go to the cafeteria after this show.

And, obviously, air travel is going to be affected as well. So make sure you check with your travel agent or your airline before heading out the door this morning.

Hey, here's a look at some stories now coming up that you just can't miss in our next half hour.

Elizabeth Edwards, you know, very outspoken, wife of presidential candidate John Edwards. It seems that she's done it again. Made some controversial comments saying that her husband's not getting media attention and we'll tell you the reason why coming up in our next half hour here on AMERICAN MORNING. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(WEATHER REPORT)

CHETRY: We're talking about this extreme weather in New York City. And As rob mentioned JFK Airport now shutdown. There are sure to be delays throughout the Mid-Atlantic states today. Alina Cho joining us from our newsroom following these airport shutdowns and possible flight delays.

Hi, Alina.

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Kiran.

As you mentioned a bit earlier, it is really pouring here in New York City. And here's what we have from the FAA. At JFK Airport the FAA is reporting a ground stop for arriving flights, and extensive delays for outbound flights. No reported delays at New York's other major airport, LaGuardia, but that doesn't mean it isn't happening. There is generally a lag in the information. Some other airports you should know about on the East Coast if you are traveling today, Philadelphia, ground delay for up to an hour due to the bad weather there. Boston's Logan Airport, gate hold and taxi delays for up to an hour.

And we understand, just getting this information now, that there is a gate hold at Washington's Reagan National as well. We also have some scattered power outages in the New York metropolitan area and New Jersey, about 4,100 to be exact.

As you mentioned earlier, Kiran, the National Weather Service did issue a tornado warning for Brooklyn until about 7:00 a.m. Eastern Time. The weather and the thunderstorms really heavy here this morning, and that is having a major impact on flights outbound and incoming here in the New York metropolitan area, and really all along the east coast. We are watching this closely. We will have much more for you as more information comes in -- Kiran.

CHETRY: Alina Cho, thank you so much.

Yes, again, she talked about those two power outages, about 4,000 customers so far. They could be reporting more, but they say it's due to the wind and the rain.

ROBERTS: And let's not forget, it was a morning just like this one about three weeks ago that saw later in the day that huge steampipe explosion in New York City that may have been caused by that extra rain getting around the steampipes. So have to watch out for things like that today as well here in New York.

(NEWSBREAK)

ROBERTS: Seven of the eight Democrats vying for president hit the stage last night in Chicago for a debate that felt more like a rally at times. The AFL-CIO sponsored the debate at Soldiers Field Stadium. About 15,000 union activists filled the stands, and some of them got a chance to ask their own questions of the candidates.

Joining us to talk about the event is our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley.

Candy, this really was a debate fit for a football stadium, because the candidates were all over each other.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POL. CORRESPONDENT: They absolutely were. I mean, this was a time when not just Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama going back and forth, but Senator Dodd, Senator Biden, Senator Kucinich -- Congressman Kucinich, all sort of took out after the frontrunner. So this was one of those debates I think we'll look back and say, this is where it began, this is where it began to get intense.

ROBERTS: Obama should have had homefield advantage, but people were doing their best to -- using a football metaphor here -- try to sack him. Chris Dodd did it. Hillary Clinton as well. Let's take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRES. CANDIDATE: Look, I find it amusing that those who helped to authorize and engineer the biggest foreign policy disaster in our generation are now criticizing me for making sure that we are on the right battlefield and not the wrong battlefield.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRES. CANDIDATE: You can think big, but, remember, you shouldn't always say everything you think if you're running for president, because it can have consequences across the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: So, Candy, that dispute continued. Others joining in, as we said, Chris Dodd. Did they really see Barack Obama as being vulnerable here in terms of his foreign policy experience? He did -- it was probably just a slip of the tongue, suggest that Canada had a president, not a prime minister last night.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Absolutely. But this is certainly is seen now as a soft spot in Barack Obama. You saw just the second-tier candidates going after him. You hear words naive. This is sort of code for he's too young for this job at a very important time in American history. So yes, this has definitely been zeroed on as his weak spot, much as lobbying interests has become kind of the weak spot for Hillary Clinton.

ROBERTS: And John Edwards took on Hillary Clinton last night, suggesting she was the candidate of big business and that he was the one who best deserved the union label. Let's take a quick look at that exchange.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRES. CANDIDATE: The one thing you can count on is you will never see a picture of me on the front of "Fortune" magazine, saying I am the candidate that big corporate America is betting on.

CLINTON: I want a united Democratic Party that will stand against the Republicans, and I will say that for 15 years I have stood up against the right-wing machine, and I've come out stronger.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: John Edwards was really aggressive last night, Candy. Is he candidate that has the best chance of winning the most union support?

CROWLEY: Well, certainly, he is the one that has courted union more than anybody else. Lots of picket lines, lots of speeches about free trade a living wage, which fits very easily into his two Americas theme. So yes, he has been courting unions very heavily. But what we learned out here is we talked to a lot of AFL-CIO officials is that particular federation of unions is unlikely to go ahead and endorse a candidate this year in the pre-primary season, simply because the union vote at this point has so many candidates from which to choose that they believe are union friendly that there just isn't that two-thirds vote that they would need from their membership.

ROBERTS: They're just cutting all of the individual unions loose to support whoever they want, so like 2004, no unified union support.

CROWLEY: Absolutely.

ROBERTS: Candy Crowley, thanks very much. Candy, of course, part of the best political team on television -- Kiran.

CHETRY: Well, when we come back, we're going to talk more about a major announcement from a major grocery chain now giving away certain prescription drugs for free. Which drugs? How do you get them? Dr. Sanjay Gupta is going to be talking to us about this new push to make some prescription drugs more affordable and, in some cases, free, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: U.S. troop levels in Iraq are at their highest point since the start of the Iraq War; 162,000 troops are now there, 3,000 more than last week. The Pentagon says the spike in forces is due to the transitioning of military personnel into and out of Iraq, which causes some troop overlap.

After a minor drop in July, U.S. troop deaths are once again on the rise. So far there have been 19 Americans killed in just the first week of August. That increase could mean extremists and insurgent groups are regrouping -- Kiran.

CHETRY: Well, it sounds like a great deal for millions of Americans needing prescription medicine: A major supermarket chain now giving away certain antibiotics for free.

CNN's chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins us now to talk more about this. This is the Publix chain, grocery chain, announcing they are going to be giving away many different generic antibiotics free of charge if you have a prescription.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SR. MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you do need to have prescriptions still, and Wal-Mart is saying that they're going to give away up to hundreds of generic drugs for about $4 a prescription as well. So this is potentially very good news for lots of people out there, Kiran, certainly people who don't have health care insurance at all. They can still get that prescription. They can get these medications much cheaper. But also people who are underinsured, who have extremely high copays or high deductibles, could get a significant benefit here as well.

People would like to see even more. They like to say, you know what, there's about 300 or so generic drugs being offered at this cheap price; let's expand it to make people available to get these cheaper drugs. And also, remember, that there's a lot of drugs out there that still don't have a generic version yet, so they'[re not going to benefit from this.

CHETRY: Right.

The governor of Florida is calling it a great trend, saying that affordable health care is one of the biggest challenges facing many Americans. Is there -- are there some things people should keep in mind. Can you ask your doctor is there a generic when you get written a prescription? Because a lot of them, as you said, if they're not generic, they're very expensive.

GUPTA: Yes, absolutely, and that's an important thing to talk to your doctor about, whether or not certain generics are available. And there a lot of generics available, especially for some of the most popular drugs. And the savings can be pretty significant. We tried to crunch some numbers on a couple of these things. For example, some of the cholesterol-lowering drugs, there is a generic brand.

Pravastatin, I want to just show you some of the numbers there. Online Pharmacy, if you go there right now, it's about $215 for a year's supply. With the Wal-Mart or Target sort of discounts, $48 so that's pretty good. Plan D incidentally, which is the Medicare prescription plan, about $72. So it's even cheaper than that, as long as people are still getting their coverage from their Plan D. You can get a pretty significant savings there.

CHETRY: Is does like it. So is there anything people should be cautious of, a downside?

GUPTA: Well, I think most people could potentially benefit from this. I think sort of more globally speaking, again, there's not a lot of generics available for some drugs, and also you'd like to see this expanded even more fully. People who are concerned about this still need to get prescriptions from their doctors, so that's still a doctor's visit. They still need to go see the doctor. They may have a deductible or copay there, so there's will be costs involved, even for antibiotic prescriptions, if they're free.

It's an evolution. Things are changing, I think, certainly when it comes to some of these expensive drug costs. There's a lot more work to get done.

CHETRY: I'm interested to get your perspective about the overuse of antibiotics, and whether or not them being free will factor into that concern?

GUPTA: You know, we thought about that same thing. I don't think so. I think that you still need that prescription. So people who are concerned about an infection, they still just can't go to their pharmacy and say give me the antibiotic for free. You know, doctors are still going to need to be judicious about the antibiotics. And just because it's free doesn't mean it should be overused. Hopefully people as a result it of being free will take their entire course of antibiotics, so they don't just take a few pills and then stop.

That can also be a problem as far as antibiotic resistance. Maybe people will be more likely to take their entire dosing, which would be a very good thing.

CHETRY: Yes, hopefully it'll make a difference for a lot of people facing difficulty paying for health care.

Sanjay Gupta, always great to see you. Thanks.

GUPTA: Thank you. Sure.

CHETRY: By the way, if you have a question for Sanjay, e-mail us, CNN.com/americanmorning, and Sanjay will answer your questions tomorrow, as he does every Thursday.

ROBERTS: Still to come, Barry Bonds record-breaking home run ball. It's in the hands of a Mets fan from New York City right now, but how much is it worth? A look at the eye-popping numbers, coming up next on AMERICAN MORNING.

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CHETRY: Meanwhile, we're about nine minutes before the top of the hour. Ali Velshi is here "Minding Your Business." And today the big question, what is Barry Bonds' ball worth?

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, hit 756 last night. This is obviously the new world record, and there's some sense how much it's going to worth. When Mark McGwire back in 1998 hit his 70th home run of the season, by the way, that is the catch there.

CHETRY: Of course, a Mets fan catches it.

VELSHI: A Mets fan, a guy from Queens gets that. In fact you're going to see him being escorted out by police in a second. Matt Murphy, a 22-year-old guy from queens. Look at him, like he hit the thing himself. Mark McGwire's 70th home run ball in 1998 fetched $3 million. This one isn't come to anywhere close to that. The experts are saying somewhere between $350,000 and $500,000 for this ball. What does it depend on? Three main things. First of all, when it gets put on the market. The sooner, the better, because the memorabilia market has a very short-term memory.

Also, we saw on the weekend Alex Rodriguez 500th career run. So when it gets put on the market is important. Bonds's personality and the things that surround Barry Bonds, the steroid allegations, a lot of people saying that had those not been there, this ball could be worth $1 million. And whether Bonds hit another one. If this is the last home run he ever hits that's the record, but 757, and '59 and all that. A lot of people are saying the last home run that Barry Bonds hit is going to be the ball that's worth a lot of money, because that will be the number for everyone to beat.

So Matt Murphy of Queens, if you're listening to this, sell the ball fast.

ROBERTS: Find a buyer.

VELSHI: Yes, now.

CHETRY: Thanks, Ali.

ROBERTS: Thanks.

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ROBERTS: Little things that could keep lots of people alive. Our Dr. Sanjay Gupta is working that story this morning. Hey, Sanjay.

GUPTA: Good morning. We talk a lot about prevention, trying to prevent illness in the first place. Just how much of an impact could it make and how many lives could it save? Really staggering. We're going to have much more of that, coming up on AMERICAN MORNING.

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