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AMERICAN MORNING

Quake Kills 337 in Peru; Asian Markets Tumble; Tropical Storm Erin Downgraded to Tropical Depression, Makes Landfall

Aired August 16, 2007 - 08:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR (voice over): Breaking news. Aftershocks and the number of dead in the hundreds when a powerful earthquake rocks Peru.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The whole room just started going -- swaying back and forth. And it looked like the glass was going to pop out of the windows.

CHETRY: Storm zones. Dean roars to hurricane strength in the Atlantic overnight. And Tropical Storm Erin makes landfall, swamping the Texas Gulf Coast.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've had an unusually large amount of rain. We don't need anymore.

CHETRY: Plus, stock drop. Asian markets plunge to a dramatic new low overnight. New housing numbers coming in at this hour and the impact on your money and your home on this AMERICAN MORNING.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHETRY: And welcome. Thanks for being with us once again. It's Thursday, August 16th.

I'm Kiran Chetry.

ROB MARCIANO, CNN ANCHOR: John Roberts is off. I'm Rob Marciano. And we're watching a whole bunch of breaking news around the world -- the hurricane that just developed, markets are tumbling again, and this earthquake just a big one, 7.9.

CHETRY: And the number of dead keeps going up throughout the day.

It's 8:00 a.m. on the East Coast, 7:00 a.m. in Peru. This happened yesterday, a 7.9 earthquake. It hit last night about 90 miles from the capital city of Lima. And there are several large aftershocks that are still being felt and were felt throughout the night.

The sun is just coming up and there are now new pictures in. Three hundred thirty-seven people at least killed in this. Rescuers are still trying to find survivors in the rubble. More than a thousand other people hurt. The quake also knocked down buildings, crushed homes. It also generated a minor tsunami.

AMERICAN MORNING'S Alina Cho is following this breaking story from our newsroom today -- Alina.

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Kiran.

You know, people who live in Peru say they've been feeling tremors or aftershocks all night long and into the morning. The situation is still very fluid right now, but the latest information we have is that civil defense officials in Peru are reporting at least 337 dead and more than 1,300 injured in last night's 7.9 magnitude quake.

Now, it happened along the coast. And that has made the search for survivors very difficult. Part of the reason for that, a major highway was damaged. And some roads have been blocked by fallen boulders. So rescuers have not been able to gain access to some of the hardest-hit areas, at least just not yet.

Now, the earthquake happened at about 6:40 p.m. local time. We are just getting our first daylight pictures of the damage.

The quake was followed by several strong aftershocks. It also triggered a brief, but, nonetheless, terrifying tsunami warning for parts of South and Central America. And for a Californian living in Peru, last night's earthquake reminded her of tremors she experienced back home.

All right. We're getting -- having some trouble getting that sound, but she had talked about how she had experienced six earthquakes and she didn't quite know what it was.

She actually shook her husband and said, "Why are you kicking me?" And then realized it was an earthquake.

But we should mention that earthquakes in Peru are not that uncommon. The Andes Mountains cut right through the country, and there are many fault lines.

This morning there is a state of emergency in effect in Peru. Of course the search for survivors and victims continues.

And a doctors' strike that started just yesterday has been called off. And Kiran, as you mentioned a bit earlier, people are being urged to donate blood this morning. And as you heard a bit earlier, the biggest problems or one of the biggest problems this morning is a lack of communication, lack of information because many of the phones there are down this morning.

CHETRY: Yes, that is a real problem. And with more than 1,300 people injured in the aftermath of this and rescuers trying to find others, medical personnel are finding themselves in a tough spot.

Alina, thank you, by the way. We're going to join Sanjay Gupta right now. He has covered some of these types of rescue efforts in other parts of the world and can shed some light on exactly how difficult it is to get to people that are trapped under mud and debris.

One of the rescuers said the biggest thing we're suffering from at this point is lack of information -- Sanjay.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. You know, absolutely.

We give these numbers in term of actual death tolls, but the numbers are expected to change as night becomes day and the rescue efforts continue. There's a lot of priorities, and the priorities tend to change as well. It's sort of a dynamic situation. But right now there's a lot of people out there who might still be in a situation where they might be bleeding or have a significant injury, but are in a situation of what's called a preventable death.

They can still be triaged, treated in some way, and saved. And those people are obviously the priority.

In addition to that, you've got to get clean water and clean sanitation and some sort of shelter for people who may be now homeless and without any kind of resources. And then to set up temporary medical clinics to try and take care of people over the next days and weeks.

You know, Kiran, you mentioned I was in Pakistan after the earthquake there. It was October of 2005 when that earthquake hit. Eighty thousand people died very quickly after that earthquake, and many more still affected by it even today, almost two years later. You can really see the magnitude and how long this might last for these people.

CHETRY: Yes, and when you think 80,000 people, just the devastation and how many people were affected in Pakistan, this is certainly a tragedy as well with at least 337. And that number, as we know, unfortunately, could grow.

Sanjay, thank you.

GUPTA: Thank you.

MARCIANO: Now to breaking news in the markets. Asia, Europe, the Dow all heading down. Some Asian stocks are having their worst days since the attacks of September 11th.

Now U.S. stock futures are sliding again. It follows another triple-digit plunge on Wall Street that sent the Dow down below the 13,000 mark.

Ali Velshi is here.

We've been watching the markets. About an hour and a half until the trading bell rings. Ali, how are we looking now? ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's not looking good. Right now, Dow futures are pointing 160 points lower, the lowest it has been all morning.

We've got these problems developing. As we know overnight in Asia, we had markets way down. We had Hong Kong down 3.75 percent. South Korea down 6.9 percent.

Markets we don't talk about too much, but in the Philippines and Indonesia, down six percent. It trickled over to Europe.

We're looking at Paris down three percent. Germany down 2.4. And London now has dropped further, 3.33 percent. That is going to work its way into U.S. markets.

And we have a new problem, or at least a continuing problem, Rob. Yesterday morning, I told you Merrill Lynch had told its clients that Countrywide Financial, the nation's biggest mortgage lender, is a sell. Well, Countrywide dropped about 13 percent yesterday after already losing half its value since February.

It is now down. Hard to keep track of right now. But what we're looking at in pre-market trading is down about 18 percent. Again, in pre-market trading. So, it looks like it's going to be another rough day for countrywide.

Why? Because the nation's biggest mortgage lender says it has had to borrow money. It has borrowed $11.5 billion against its line of credit in order to keep funding its business.

This is the problem. When your mortgage lender is borrowing money and your mortgage lender is borrowing money for more money than it's lending you the mortgage, well, that math just doesn't add up, Rob. So we'll have to see how this plays out through the course of the morning.

MARCIANO: Ali, is this the equivalent of, say, Microsoft going bankrupt? You know, in the software business? Countrywide is kind of a gold standard, isn't it?

VELSHI: Yes, well this is the problem. This is the problem -- they loan money, they borrow money from other people. That's sort of how the circle of life in the mortgage business works.

The problem is, they can't seem to be -- they can't -- their lenders can't rely on the fact that Countrywide is lending to people who can pay their mortgages. So Countrywide is saying it is going to tighten its mortgage standards.

Well, what does that mean? That means it's going to make it harder for Americans to get loans even with good credit. And certainly those with less than good credit are going to have problems.

And that's if Countrywide stays afloat. There's a lot of talk that with this kind of problem, it might not. So this problem isn't close to over yet -- Rob. MARCIANO: Ali Velshi watching the markets.

We're also watching turbulent weather. Here's Kiran.

CHETRY: That's right. CNN, your headquarters for hurricanes. And we're watching two big storms right now as we talk about Hurricane Dean, as well as Tropical Storm Erin.

Tropical Storm Dean, as it was last night, then grew to hurricane strength overnight, within the last couple of hours, in fact, in the Atlantic Ocean. And also, Tropical Storm Erin making landfall in a part of Texas that certainly could do without the rain. The National Hurricane Center just reporting that Erin has weakened to a tropical depression.

Sean Callebs is in corpus Christi, Texas. Bonnie Schneider in the severe weather center in Atlanta. And we begin with Sean Callebs.

Even if it has been downgraded to a depression, you're still talking about a large amount of rain for an area that's already been swamped.

SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Exactly. And you really lit the nail on the head.

The teeth of Erin have already made shore a couple of hours to the north of where we are. The storm jogged (ph) a little bit up to the north at the very end. And Texas is one of a handful of states in the south-southwest simply punished by rain so far this year. And we know that some areas are already getting about four inches of rain to the north of us.

Here in Corpus Christi, a hint of good news. What you're seeing, this low cloud cover, really characterizing the weather conditions in this area, the way they've been over the last several hours now that Erin is a tropical depression.

People were geared up here. We know we had National Guard troops moving into the area, emergency crews. Expected flash flooding. So far, it has not materialized.

We did hear from the command center of emergency operations a short while ago, and they believe that they're not out of the woods yet. Some of these outer bands, some of the significant activity on the tail end of the storm, could blow through here as well. But really, Kiran, to the north of us.

South of Houston, that area right now simply getting pummeled. And this is an area of the state that has flooded a number of times since March. And this is an area that really doesn't need this rainfall. So their hope is that Erin moves through very quickly and Dean doesn't come anywhere near this area -- Kiran.

CHETRY: All right. Sean Callebs, thanks so much.

Now to Bonnie Schneider in the weather center for us right now with more on the hurricane that developed in the last few hours.

(WEATHER REPORT)

MARCIANO: Other headlines new this morning, the first hint of hope for the six trapped miners in Utah. Rescuers with sophisticated listening equipment say they heard noise lasting five minutes. And the mine's CEO got emotional last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOB MURRAY, PRESIDENT & CEO, MURRAY ENERGY CORP.: They actually give me hope. And I just wish I could tell you that we've had them out by now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARCIANO: Hearing the noise from the mine was also enough to convince crews to drill a fourth hole in a different location.

And the passport gridlock now has a price tag, nearly $1 billion. New rules requiring passports for flights to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean cause a surge in passport applications. There's extra staff working overtime to clear it up at a cost that's three times what the State Department expected.

Well, they say all real estate is local, local, local. And nearly every single state seems to be having the same problems.

Gerri Willis has new information on the housing slump and how the markets are affecting it. That's coming up next on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MARCIANO: We continue to follow breaking news this morning out of Peru. New pictures coming in now as the sun comes up.

A 7.9 magnitude earthquake hit last night, about 90 miles from the capital city of Lima. At least 337 people were killed and more than 1,300 others were injured.

And we're also watching Tropical Storm Erin. It's coming ashore on the Gulf Coast of Texas right now. Nearly four inches of rain has already fallen in places that have already suffered from extensive flooding this past summer.

And there's also tornado warnings out there for that system. And there's another system in the Atlantic. Here it is.

The first Atlantic hurricane of the season, Hurricane Dean, is now building strength. Hurricane warnings and watches are up in the Caribbean. And the island should feel the storm's wind and rain by tomorrow.

CHETRY: Well, if you haven't had any luck reselling your home, join the club. The housing market has been rocked lately, and especially this morning. Home sales down in nearly every state in the country.

MARCIANO: It doesn't sound good. Are there any sign of a turnaround? We're looking for some string of hope.

Here is Gerri Willis with...

GERRI WILLIS, CNN PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR: Well, let me tell you, this is not a good news day for me at all. We've got some bad news out of the housing market.

First, I want to tell you a little bit more about Countrywide Financial, the nation's biggest mortgage lender. Ali Velshi just gave you a report on them. There's a report out from Reuters as well.

The company is accessing an $11.5 billion credit line. What does that mean? They're having trouble getting money like the rest of us right now.

The country having trouble, you know. It was downgraded by Merrill Lynch yesterday. Big concerns about their financial situation.

But, to get to the story about home sales and home prices out from the National Association of Realtors, 41 states sales are down. Let's take a look at some of these -- Tennessee, Maryland, Arizona, California.

Across the country you're seeing very big downturns. And let me tell you, Nevada, down 37.5 percent. Florida down 41.3.

You know, you saw such a big run-up in places like Vegas, Reno, Miami, Orlando. You name it.

And, of course, we're seeing something interesting though with prices. Prices are mixed. In fact, home prices are up in about two- thirds of the metro areas...

MARCIANO: They are?

WILLIS: ... according to the NAR. They're highly controversial numbers.

And across the U.S., though, if you take all the houses in the country into consideration, all the sales, sales prices are down 1.5 percent. But there are some bright spots.

MARCIANO: Let's go back to the bad spots, unfortunately. People are trying to sell their homes, they're slashing prices, and they still can't sell them at any price in some markets. I mean, what does that mean for the market as a whole, even in the good spots?

WILLIS: Well, I've got to tell you, the outlook is not good. I talked to one of the best economists on housing this the country yesterday. He is saying that he is revising down his numbers.

He says that sales will continue lower next year. Just not good news for folks out there who are trying to sell. If you're trying to buy, though, you're in better shape. There's still cities doing better, Binghamton; Salt Lake City, Utah; Salem, Oregon; but they're few and far between -- Rob.

MARCIANO: Come back with a little better news.

WILLIS: I'll try. I'll go find something for you.

MARCIANO: It's nice to see you. Thanks, Gerri.

WILLIS: Good to see you.

MARCIANO: Well, be sure to catch Gerri on "OPEN HOUSE" this weekend. That's the premiere show for your home and mortgages and all that stuff.

She'll talk more about the mortgage meltdown, plus how to choose a home contractor. A lot of sketchy ones out there. And new rules in the workplace etiquette.

That's Saturday morning at 9:30 a.m. right here on CNN.

CHETRY: All right. Thanks a lot, Gerri.

Well, an arrest at the aquarium, it tops your "Quick Hits" right now.

A deranged man arrested at the Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut after he threw chemicals into a tank with the three whales. He said he wanted to protect them from Agent Orange. The whales were not hurt and the tests show that the water is fine.

How about Reggie the alligator? He's back now.

He was trying to make a break for it. He disappeared just before the L.A. Zoo was scheduled to open yesterday. Apparently, he was able to scale a wall in his exhibit and make his way to freedom.

They ended up finding him near a loading dock. Maybe he thought he was, like, on a ramp to get back into the water. Anyway, now he's back.

MARCIANO: Maybe. Poor guy.

CHETRY: And a quest to find the spirit of Elvis in America. On the 30th anniversary of his death, the devoted still come. And our Richard Quest is one of them, live from Graceland.

Hi, Richard.

RICHARD QUEST, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Kiran.

Absolutely, as the last stragglers of fans make their way to the grave site to pay their respect, it is time to get in the mood, get into the spirit and wiggle and shake.

When we come back on AMERICAN MORNING, I'll have the essential guide to surviving Graceland.

CNN's AMERICAN MORNING is at Graceland.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MARCIANO: It's Elvis time, and they're lining up in Graceland even more than usual. Memphis, Tennessee, where temperatures today are expected to get up to over 100 degrees. Visitors there will definitely be sweltering, and CNN is live.

CHETRY: It looks so pleasant. You would never know it was 100 degrees.

MARCIANO: Not yet.

CHETRY: Well, it was 30 years ago today that Elvis Presley died. For the past 24 hours, thousands of his fans have made it known that their devotion never will die.

They're braving nearly 100-degree heat, as Rob said, waiting in line outside of Graceland in Memphis, all so that they can file past Elvis' grave and pay their respects only for a couple of seconds before they're shuffled along.

Well, last night, CNN's Larry King took you inside of Graceland with Elvis' widow, Priscilla Presley. And they reminisced about "The King".

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": What do you miss most about Elvis?

PRISCILLA PRESLEY: Oh, my gosh. What is there not to miss?

Elvis epitomized charm, charisma, but I think his laughter. Elvis had the most contagious laughter.

He just -- once he started laughing, that was it. Everyone would start laughing. And sometimes it was uncontrollable. He couldn't -- he couldn't stop. And he laughed over the silliest things. You know, he just -- he just had a great sense of humor.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: Well, the faithful at Graceland all this week, despite the intense heat. And among them is CNN's own Richard Quest. He's -- let's check him out. All right.

MARCIANO: He's looking like Elvis.

You know, you always find characters there at Graceland, but none bigger than Richard Quest.

What do you got there, Richard?

QUEST: Good morning to you.

It's going to be 105, 106 degrees here. And that's 40 degrees Celsius here at Graceland today. So it's going to be an extremely hot day.

And perhaps just as well. The crowd of people who are now waiting to pay their respects is now starting to dwindle. In fact, I can see the end of the crowd. The people who are joining have probably got an hour, two hours as they make their way up to the mansion and then file past the grave site.

This morning, of course, many more people than is usual arrived here at Graceland. It being the 30th anniversary.

But Rob and Kiran, the atmosphere, I think everyone would have to agree, has been absolutely extraordinary. It has been friendly, it has been familiar. I would say it has been an atmosphere of family.

MARCIANO: Are you a big Elvis fan? And did you take a peek inside Graceland?

QUEST: I have had a look inside Graceland. Yes, I was an Elvis fan. I can honestly say I probably wasn't -- you're putting me on the spot here.

I wasn't in the league of some of these fans here, all right? Shoot me down if you will.

I come from Liverpool. I'm a Beatles fan. You've got to accept that. Beatles, Elvis, one or the other.

But listen, if you have come to Graceland, well, really, you've got to know about the importance of the survival kit. So, the first thing you've got to have is your little sign.

The Heartbreak Hotel is actually just over the road. That's the important one, the Heartbreak Hotel. And this also doubles up rather nicely as a musical instrument if you want to sing along to Elvis.

Other things that you might want to have if you are with Elvis -- how about that?

CHETRY: That is a good look for you.

QUEST: You think it...

CHETRY: Those are actually the sunglasses of the season.

MARCIANO: Yes, they are in style. You're looking very fashionable.

QUEST: Well, for today's temperature, a certain Je ne sais quoi. And bear in mind...

CHETRY: OK. So now you're a Briton speaking in French at Graceland. I think there are rules against this, Richard. QUEST: Well, hey, hey, hey, listen -- what about this?

MARCIANO: No, no, there we go.

QUEST: I'll tell you something, I'm not sure this isn't something you should be using to mop thing up with, but I promise you, it will take a lot more than your encouragement to get this up there.

CHETRY: Do it, Richard.

MARCIANO: Come on. You sang a song earlier. At least put the wig on.

Here we go. Ladies and gentlemen, Elvis Presley.

Oh, that's beautiful.

CHETRY: You just catapulted to a new level of attractiveness. I really like that.

QUEST: Hey, but the real problem is, which way round does it go? I mean...

MARCIANO: I think you had it right.

CHETRY: Sideburns in front, Richard. Sideburns in front.

QUEST: Sideburns in front. Yes, but I think this is probably best left, as I say, to mopping up a nasty mess later on in the day.

MARCIANO: Well, show your respect even though you're a Beatles fan. You know, you're at Graceland, you're in America. And, you know, check it out. And give a hello to Elvis, who 30 years ago unfortunately passed away.

CHETRY: That's the beauty of America, we welcome everyone with open arms. Even a non-Elvis fan...

MARCIANO: Yes.

CHETRY: ... from Britain who's praising a different rock 'n' roll band.

MARCIANO: Well, he's pretty good TV.

Thanks again, Richard.

All right. AMERICAN MORNING will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MARCIANO: You are looking at daylight pictures of the aftermath of the earthquake that, so far, has killed 337 people in Peru. Damages by buildings, infrastructure there, people running in the streets last night in fear of their lives, chaos to an extent. And now the aftermath begins. Good morning. It is Thursday, August 16th. John Roberts is off. I'm Rob Marciano.

CHETRY: I'm Kiran Chetry. The breaking news continues this morning especially out of Peru, where this massive earthquake, 7.9 in magnitude, kills 337 people and more than 1300 more are injured. The quake hit the coastal area the hardest, about 90 miles from the capital city of Lima.

Several strong aftershocks were felt after the quake briefly, causing a tsunami -- not a tsunami itself, a tsunami warning. That warning has now been removed.

On the phone, Electra Anderson, she's an American living in Peru; she felt the shaking caused by that earthquake.

What have you seen outside of your home right now? You were telling us about being on the 10th floor in a building, in the area. What do you see outside your window now?

ELECTRA ANDERSON, EARTHQUAKE SURVIVOR, PERU: Actually, I just looked outside in the back of my house, is town. There's nothing. There's nobody in the streets. There's no cars. In the front of my building is the ocean and the Pan-American Highway. And there's no cars on the highway. Very unusual. It's really spooky.

CHETRY: All right. So you were not injured, but you said that you were there with your daughter, who had recently undergone surgery. There was no way for you guys to do but stay in the bed. What did it feel like?

ANDERSON: At first, I thought she was moving the bed with her feet or something. She thought I was moving the bed. I said, stop moving the bed, and she said, no, you stop moving the bed. And I said, no. Then we both looked at each other and went, "Earthquake!" Because we're from California. We're used to earthquakes.

But it just didn't stop. It kept going and going. And it kept getting stronger and stronger. And things were falling and flying, and it looked like -- my apartment is all glass, and real tall ceilings that are all glass. It looked like the glass was bending in. It was, you know -- at first we were just like oh, being nonchalant, it's an earthquake. No big deal.

But then it was not a normal earthquake at all. It was the worst one I've ever, ever, ever been in. It was horrible.

The people here haven't had an earthquake for over 30 years. So most people haven't even -- they don't have any idea of what an earthquake is. So I think a lot of what happened is that people were fainting, and they were praying and crying, and screaming, because they had no idea what it was and what it felt like to be in an earthquake.

So, and it was a bad one. I'm not going to say it wasn't a bad one. It was horrible. But I mean, the reaction of the people was to me from, you know, knowing earthquakes, it was -- I don't know. Like people thought -- people really thought they were going to die. My housekeeper thought she was going to die. That it was the end of them, end of the world. That was it for her. She was crying and hysterical. She'd never been in an earthquake.

My daughter was at a cheerleader practice at school. And it took her two and a half hours to come home in the car from school, because everybody was out in the street, where it should have taken 15 minutes. People just ran out, they ran out of our building also into the street. Everybody was out in the street.

Then they came back in for a little while, but then we've been having so many aftershocks that were -- they've been big. I mean, we probably had 70, and I'm not kidding. And some of them are bigger than others. Some of them I felt like they were like a 4.0, just the aftershock. And they've been going on all night long. We had one about a half hour ago.

CHETRY: Right.

ANDERSON: And it's just been nonstop.

CHETRY: Yeah. A devastating situation there in Peru; 337 people dead. Electra Anderson, an American in Peru, describing the situation as she sees it this morning.

MARCIANO: To the markets now. A growing credit crisis in the U.S. is having a ripple effect worldwide. As more homeowners get in over their heads and the mortgage market melts down, some Asian stocks are having their worst day since the attacks of September 11th. It follows another triple-digit plunge on Wall Street that sent the Dow below the 13,000 mark, for the first time in five months. Ali Velshi is here now with that and a look at where the market may be heading today.

I assume it is at least going to start, heading south, Ali.

ALI VELSHI, CNN FINANCIAL CORRESPONDENT: It's a busy morning. I'll tell you what's going on right now.

First of all, we have more news ahead of the open. Countrywide Financial has said it has had to borrow or reach into it's own credit line to $11.5 billion. Now, what we know is that Countrywide is probably paying more for that money, to borrow it, than it gets on a lot of its mortgages. So that's a big of a problem.

Yesterday Merrill Lynch told its clients that it should sell Countrywide, the nation's biggest mortgage lender. This is a bit of a problem, there has been some talk about Countrywide maybe even facing bankruptcy because of the number of bad loans it has.

The effect on all of you out there is it will affect your investments and affect your ability to get a mortgage, or refinance, because Countrywide says it will tighten up its loan requirements.

That's just one thing, then we've had overnight markets in Asia, much lower markets in Europe, right now still trading, much lower, In London, the last check showed a market that 3.4 percent lower. Frankfurt, Paris, all of them are lower as well.

We had numbers from the Commerce Department on housing starts and housing permits in July. Housing starts in July reached their lowest level in 10 years. Housing permits, building permits for houses that are going to be built hitting their lowest level in 11 years. We've got that bad news.

In pre-market trading now, we're seeing all the investment banks, which have been leading this market lower for a while, trading lower, Bear Stearns, Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers. And Countrywide Financial, at last check, was trading 18 percent lower in pre-market trading.

What does that all add up to? It means you need to look at your portfolio today, see where you are. If you invested broadly in something like the S&P 500, you've lost all your gains for the entire year. We're looking at futures on the Dow now down 120 points. We'll probably see a triple-digit loss when we start trading at 9:30 this morning, Rob.

MARCIANO: Less than an hour away. Thank you, Ali.

VELSHI: Yep. OK.

CHETRY: We're also following extreme weather, CNN is your hurricane headquarters. We're watching two storms right now. Dean became the first Atlantic hurricane of the season within the last couple of hours, packing strength and picking up strength as it passes through the Caribbean. Also, right now Tropical Depression Erin downgraded, just making landfall in Texas.

It was a tropical storm in the last half hour, it was downgraded again, bringing heavy rain exactly in a place where they don't need it. Swamping areas that have suffered flooding all season long. Our Bonnie Schneider is following the latest with all of this, including the now, Tropical Depression Erin.

Hi, Bonnie.

BONNIE SCHNEIDER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Hi, Kiran.

The tropical depression will continue to bring heavy rain to a good portion of Texas. Now we're starting to see that rain work its way all the way north to Austin, Texas and into Victoria, as well. This is an area that's been inundated in with rain over the past months.

Any rain more rain is coming in heavy and hard, and it will cause flooding because the ground is saturated. Already, almost four inches of rain on the ground in the past 12 hours in parts of Texas. But you can see the rain is continuing to stream on in. Maximum winds, with this depression, 35 miles per hour, so you can see the storm has weakened a great deal. By contrast, we are tracking a hurricane out in the Atlantic that's intensifying moment by moment. This is Hurricane Dean. Maybe doesn't look that impressive, here on our satellite perspective. But it is bearing down on the Windward and Leeward Islands, right now. And it should make a direct hit with those islands.

Take a look at the track. Some brand new developments for you. Right now winds have intensified, as strong as 80 miles an hour. With gusts as high as 90. Still a Category 1 hurricane, but watch the progression as we work our way towards the western Caribbean, that comes over deep warm water. Once it gets close to the Yucatan, we'll be very concerned, it could get as strong as a Category 4 by Tuesday. Right now the U.S. mainland is not in this cone of uncertainty. But any waiver to the north and it could be. So, we'll be tracking this very closely. Especially, this weekend we'll have a better idea of which way Dean is headed, Kiran.

CHETRY: All right, Bonnie Schneider, thanks so much.

Rob.

MARCIANO: "Quick Hits" now, a driver crashes into the front window of a 7-Eleven in Portland, Oregon. Police say he put his car in drive instead of reverse while trying to get out of the parking lot. He was cited for driving with a suspended license.

And police in Spokane, Washington, busted five people for going on a late-night car smashing spree. They say the suspects were armed with aluminum baseball bats. They're accused of vandalism. They did it to about 40 cars. Now they're facing criminal mischief charges.

And we're taking your medical questions after the break. Dr. Sanjay Gupta opens the mailbag and answers your questions. That's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: Welcome back to the most news in the morning.

I guess he drinks a lot of milk because he must have extremely strong teeth. This guy's a computer engineer from India. He's trying to set a world record by pulling a three ton plane 15 feet with his teeth.

MARCIANO: And why?

CHETRY: He's trying to set a world record!

MARCIANO: Oh, OK.

CHETRY: He's already pulled a train, a truck and cars. He says he's doing it to make his country proud.

MARCIANO: And that they are, no doubt about it.

CHETRY: How about that? Pretty impressive. CHETRY: How about this one? Ninety-eight-years old, and Ruth Frit (ph) is still going strong. She's a great-grandmother from Australia who still participates in the hammer throw, the shot-put, and the long jump. The only problem is she says she can't find enough people her age to compete against. There she goes.

MARCIANO: I would not want to mess with her. A strong lady.

CHETRY: Congratulations, 98, in great shape.

And an American first for soccer star David Beckham. The $250- million man scoring his first goal for his new team, the Los Angeles Galaxy. They were playing against D.C. United last night.

MARCIANO: Oh, he let him score. He was just standing there.

CHETRY: He scored on a free kick.

MARCIANO: That's almost like cheating.

CHETRY: That's not just standing there.

MARCIANO: No, I think the goalie can run around during a free kick. It's the guys in front, they cover their -- their, special stuff.

CHETRY: All right. You want to rip on him, too. He set up another team member's goal, too. And they won, 2, nothing.

MARCIANO: I don't want to rip on him. He's very talented. I'm just jealous. OK? I'm totally jealous.

CHETRY: You're mad he didn't take his shirt off. It's all right.

Every Thursday we reach into Doctor Sanjay Gupta's mailbag to answer some of your medical questions.

MARCIANO: And Doctor Gupta, he' joins us now, live from Washington, D.C.

Good morning, Sanjay. You ready for this?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm ready.

MARCIANO: Let's start with Cynthia from Illinois. She writes, "Is lead exposure or poisoning linked to ADHD?

GUPTA: You know, we talked a lot about this, did a lot of homework on this over the past week. I think it is fair to say there's a strong body of research that says that it is linked. Since you asked the question, let me give you some specific numbers.

If the lead levels in someone's body, child's body, goes above two, they're four times more likely to develop ADHD as compared to having very low lead levels in the body. So, strong body of research there. It is also linked to hearing impairments. It's linked to neural behavioral disorders later on. There's lots of things to be concerned about. But, yeah, as far as ADHD goes, there is good research to support that.

CHETRY: We have another question, also on the topic of lead poisoning. Because a lot of parents are concerned.

Catherine in Jenison, Michigan, writes, "How would lead in toys impact a pregnant mom or unborn child? Could it result in a stillborn or mentally challenged baby?"

GUPTA: Again, there's concern here. Expecting mothers could have problems with something known as pregnancy hypertension or eclampsia, where some of the blood vessels around the uterus become a little too constricted, that could lead to spontaneous abortion. It could also lead to neurological problems in the child after they're born. Keep in mind, you know, lead is not something that's normally found in the body. So having any concentration of it is considered abnormal. And you can have some of these problems that we're talking about.

MARCIANO: All right, Sanjay, Nick from Henderson, Nevada, writes, "With the CDC approval of Gardasil for preteen females, would you also recommend preteen males to get that vaccine?"

GUPTA: Well, you know, the vaccine that you're talking about, Nick, there, is currently approved by the FDA only for women or girls between the ages of nine and 26. There's an advisory committee for immunization practices, which specifically recommends now that girls around the age of nine, 10 or 11 get the vaccine before they start having sex. It is not approved, or as a result, recommended for boys or men at this point.

It is being studied. Keep in mind when you talk about HPV, which is human papilloma virus, it is a sexually transmitted disease. There is a lot of interest in seeing if boys, men, could be vaccinated as well. But you first have to make sure it's safe for them, you have to make sure it's effective, and then this committee will decide if it's actually going to be recommended.

CHETRY: The reason they're recommending this is because certain types of HPV can lead to cervical cancer if not treated.

GUPTA: Exactly.

CHETRY: So that's what Gardasil is for.

Thanks so much for answering our questions this morning, as always. Every Thursday, by the way, Sanjay reaches into his mailbag.

MARCIANO: One of my favorite segments. Thank you. Take care of your cold, you're getting worked too hard, there, Sanjay.

GUPTA: If you know a good doctor, let me know.

MARCIANO: If I see one, I'll let you know for sure.

All right the CNN "Newsroom" is just minutes away. Heidi Collins is at the CNN Center with a look at what's ahead.

Hi, Heidi.

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR, CNN NEWSROOM: Hi, there, Rob. That's right, the earthquake is on the "Newsroom" rundown. Hundreds of people killed and injured in Peru. The powerful quake and strong aftershocks leave a lot of damage. We'll tell you all about that.

And Erin soaking Texas. A state saturated by spring rains in the Atlantic. Dean grows into a hurricane; it's certainly one to watch.

Plus, stocks sell off today. Does it mean another turbulent day on Wall Street? We'll have the numbers whether you want them or not.

Breaking news, too, when it happens. You're in the "Newsroom", top of the hour on CNN. Rob.

MARCIANO: Looking forward to that, Heidi, in about 12 minutes. See you then.

Throwing the brake on smoking drivers. Your "Quick Hits" now. A new law being proposed in New York City would make it illegal to smoke in cars when anyone under the age of 18 is inside.

And a new study about major league umpires shows they're more likely to call strikes for pitchers who share their race or ethnicity. University of Texas did the research on umpire calls.

No balls and strikes but we let the chips fly here. We take to you the Iowa State Fair, coming up on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MARCIANO: As rescuers continue to search for the six missing miners in Utah, there are new concerns about the safety of what is called in retreat mining. It was what was going on in the Utah mine at the time of the collapse. Some say there's a different more efficient way of coal mining called mountaintop mining, but it also comes with a cost.

Today we want you to meet a West Virginia man who has a very personal reason to care about it. Larry Gibson is our "CNN Hero".

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is the verse?

LARRY GIBSON: "In his hands are the depths of the earth and the mountain peaks belong to him." But you won't find no mountain peaks around here. They've been taken.

Instead of extracting the coal out of the mountain, they're extracting the mountain off the coal.

My name is Larry Gibson. I am the keeper of the mountain. The land right here was 300 feet higher than this. Now this cemetery is the tallest point.

Around 1993, one vice president of Coal Field Production told me that my 50 acres was worth $1 million an acre. I said you can have my right arm but you'll never get my mountain. I've locked the land into a land trust, never to be sold. Never.

I've been shot at numerous amount of times. I've had my cabins burned. I've had my dog shot. I'm just trying to make people in West Virginia stand up and be counted instead of being a part of something that's destroying it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Larry is such an inspiration. Trying to get communities to put pressure on their elected officials and stop mountaintop removal. He's not doing it for himself. He's making a point. Don't let this happen to your communities.

GIBSON: That's why I put myself in the positions I put myself in. Sometimes you have to stand up in harm's way whether you know what's coming or not.

The young people should be crying and screaming because they're going to pay for what these people are doing.

I'm here. My feet are planted. I'm not giving up, nothing. I'm not backing up nowhere. I can't imagine not fighting.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARCIANO: For more information about Larry Gibson and his campaign, or to nominate a hero of your own, visit our web site at cnn.com/heroes.

CHETRY: Here is a quick look at what CNN "Newsroom" is working on for the top of the hour.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM (voice over): See these stories in the CNN "Newsroom." Rescuers looking for people trapped after a strong earthquake shakes Peru. Hundreds killed and injured.

Sounds detected in the Utah mine. But searchers aren't sure it's the six trapped miners.

Tropical Storm Erin soaking already saturated Texas today. And Dean, now a hurricane, and aiming at Caribbean islands. "Newsroom" just minutes away, at the top of the hour, on CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(AUCTIONEER, CALLING BIDS)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: That sounds like you before the show, reading through your scripts.

MARCIANO: He's a producer's dream, isn't he?

CHETRY: Yeah, right. Speed it up! Speed it up! Speed it up! If you can't understand what they're saying, that's the idea. You're listening to this year's Illinois Auctioneer Bid Calling Contest. It really is a talent.

MARCIANO: You bet. They have it down for talking fast, and selling stuff. They make a lot of money doing it. But this apparently is a big-time contest. First round was held on Tuesday. Winner gets $600 bucks, and a belt buckle. You have to get a belt buckle.

CHETRY: Yes.

MARCIANO: And entry into the international competition.

Now, here's a story that's (UNINTELLIGIBLE) can be.

CHETRY: Yes, how about this? Letting the chips fall where they may. These are cow chips. They were flying in Des Mines, Iowa. Iowa State Fair Annual Cow Chip Throwing Contest. Last year's champ defended his title. 130 feet!

MARCIANO: That's a strong arm. Maybe it was shaped more like a Frisbee and he used the aerodynamic effect. Got to love summer state fairs. There's all sorts of interesting competitions to share with the world.

CHETRY: That's right. Last week they were carving cheese and this week throwing cow chips.

MARCIANO: Don't forget to wash your hands before you eat, kids.

This guy owed some money on this tax bill. He got a little bit of revenge in Muncie, Indiana.

CHETRY: I love this one. His name was Carrie Malchow (ph) and he was bent on making a statement about the exorbitant property taxes he pays. So he went to the town hall and paid his tax bill in cash, $12,656.07, in change and $1 bills.

MARCIANO: Well, that will give it to'em. That'll stick it to'em. Somehow I think after a little bit of time they weren't too concerned.

CHETRY: I feel bad, because it's like the poor workers have to count it all. They're not the ones that taxed him in the first place.

MARCIANO: That's true.

All right, thanks for joining us. That'll do it for AMERICAN MORNING.

CHETRY: We'll be back here tomorrow. Meantime, CNN "Newsroom" with Tony Harris and Heidi Collins begins right now. HARRIS: And good morning, everyone. You are in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Tony Harris.

COLLINS: Hi there, everybody.

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