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AMERICAN MORNING

Could Labor Pains Here Affect Jobs and Nest Eggs Everywhere?; Mystery at Sea; Operation Raw Deal

Aired September 25, 2007 - 07:00   ET

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


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Could labor pains here affect jobs and nest eggs everywhere?
Taking heat. Bill O'Reilly on race and his dinner in Harlem.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL O'REILLY: It was exactly the same. You know, it was run by blacks. There wasn't one person in Sylvia's who was screaming, "m" f'er, I want more iced tea.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: Plus, mystery at sea. Was this a getaway boat? And what happened to the crew? Tough new questions for survivors in a life raft, on this AMERICAN MORNING.

And welcome. It's Tuesday, September 25th. Thanks for being with us. I'm Kiran Chetry.

ROBERTS: And good morning to you. I'm John Roberts.

He has made fewer headlines this week than his counterpart from Iran, but in a few hours President Bush will address the United Nations General Assembly. He is expected to ask the world body to take up a mission of liberation from the same podium where he called for the removal of Saddam Hussein a number of years ago. The stage will also be set for a potential showdown with Iran, with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad scheduled to speak a little bit later on in the day. That will come probably about 4:30 or so. White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux is here in New York, and she joins us live.

Good morning to you.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning.

ROBERTS: So what is President Bush looking to accomplish with this speech today?

MALVEAUX: Well, you know, he is going to mention Iran, but very briefly, and then what he's going to do is he's also going to talk about this as a speech of liberation, a freedom agenda, but it's not going to be kind of thing we normally hear when he emphasizes the war on terror, necessarily. But what he is really trying to do here is show and go against the criticism that he is a warmonger, but rather a peacemaker. He's going to talk about Burma. He's going to talk about Darfur, and some of these other critical places where they're fighting for freedom and democracy.

CHETRY: Have you had a chance, though, to hear from the White House about what they thought about that speech? Because in some ways they may have enjoyed it?

(CROSSTALK)

MALVEAUX: Ahmadinejad yesterday, right, right. Well, you know, it's funny because they made a point of trying to say, ah, you know, we're ignoring him, we weren't paying any attention, but at the same time they absolutely were watching this, and they tried to downplay it, marginalize his role, but they also used it to criticize him, to say, essentially, look, we want you it do more. You're pursuing these, what they say, nuclear weapons, but they've got a really tough road here, because they're trying not for the first, not for the second, but this is for the third U.N. Security Council resolution for additional sanctions, and it's just not happening.

ROBERTS: The president in a speech a few years ago -- I remember I was in the audience watching it at the time, I was covering the White House -- was suggesting that the U.N. was on the brink of irrelevancy. With Ban Ki-Moon, who is the U.S.'s guy there now as the secretary-general of the U.N., has the president changed his thinking at all about the U.N.?

MALVEAUX: You know, he's trying to match the mission here. He's trying to say, OK, well, this is the United Nations mission, it's all about democracy and freedom, but at the same time, you know, he needs this world body, he needs friends here, and his stance has dramatically changed since we've seen him from additional speeches, previous speeches.

ROBERTS: Suzanne, it's good to see you. Thanks very much.

MALVEAUX: Thank you.

ROBERTS: We'll be talking with you throughout the day.

MALVEAUX: OK, thanks.

CHETRY: Our other big story this morning we're following this morning negotiators for GM as well as the United Automakers Union are expected to resume contract talks this morning, even though the first nationwide strike since 1976 in the auto world is happening.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've to do what we need to do to get where we need to get.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I figured they would have had it all worked out, would have had it settled by this time. I didn't think there was that many hangups.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: Seventy-three thousand UAW members at some 80 GM facilities are on the picket line for the second day today. A fight over job security, as well as retiree health benefits.

Ali Velshi live at GM's power plant in Warren, Michigan.

And if you can, explain for us, what are the broader implications, as well, as these 70,000-some workers take to the picket lines today, Ali?

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Two numbers to think about, 73,000 workers and 80 plants. Eighty plants means they're across the country. This is not a Midwest problem; this is not a Michigan problem. There are plants, auto plants, all across this country; 73,000 workers, that's all that's left. Back in 1994, there were a quarter-of-a-million unionized General Motors workers, and that picture duplicates itself for General Motors, for Ford, for Chrysler. So we've seen fewer jobs and we've seen more plants across the country.

Now here's how it affects you -- every time there are job losses at a place like General Motors or one of these plants, it has a massive ripple effect on the economy. There's 854 unionized workers at this plant. Within 50 miles of here there are plants with 2,000 and 3,000 workers. When they shutdown or when people get laid off from those jobs it affects the economies around them, it affects the stores, it affects the real estate prices, and that's why the job security of General Motors' workers affects everybody in America.

First of all, everybody is connected to general motors in one way or another, because you either own their stock, in your mutual funds, in your 401k, or you might have owned their cars, or you see their cars, or you know someone who worked for the company. But this is one of the biggest unions in the country and it's one of the biggest companies in the world, and it is the largest automaker in the world. So there are very big implications for job security for United Auto Workers and that's what they're going to get down to talking to today.

Hopefully with the pressure of the a strike, it may give more impetuous to settle this thing at some point, but who knows how long this is going to go. A lot of workers on these picket lines are saying they didn't know they were going to be striking this morning.

Kiran, we're on the story. We'll follow it and the negotiations.

CHETRY: All right, Ali, we'll check in with you throughout the morning. Thanks, live from Warren, Michigan for us.

We also want to know what you think. Do you think that you'll have enough money saved for retirement? Go to our Web page and cast your vote, CNN.com/am, right now. And this has changed dramatically from the last hour, 28 percent only believe they will have enough money at retirement; 72 percent of you who have voted say no. (NEWSBREAK)

CHETRY: Time to check in now with our AMERICAN MORNING team of correspondents for other stories new this morning. Is Facebook, the popular social networking site, safe for your kids? Well, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has been setting up a sting operation to find out, and Alina Cho has more details now from our national update desk.

Good morning, Alina.

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning to you, Kiran.

You know, it was exactly that, a sting operation. New York's Attorney General Andrew Cuomo had investigators pose as 12 to 14-year- old girls, and what his office found was that in many instances they were contacted by sexual predators.

Investigators also found there is widespread pornographic and obscene content on the site, and Facebook's response to complaints is slow, sporadic and inconsistent.

Now in one instance an investigator posing as a 14-year-old girl received a message from a 24-year-old man asking, quote, "Do you have any nude pics?" Well, the investigator filed a complaint as the student's mother, but to date the 24-year-old's profile is still on Facebook.

Now CNN has contacted Facebook. We have yet to hear back, but in a statement to "The New York Times," the company it is taking the allegation seriously and, quote, "as our service continues to grow, so does our responsibility to our users."

Now, remember, Facebook started as an online community for college students, but now, everyone can sign up, including those under age 18. Cuomo's office said the social networking site has not changed its security measures to reflect that growing presence of underage users.

Now New York is not the first state to do this. All 50 states have actually called in sites like Facebook and MySpace to improve safeguards.

Cuomo said Facebook has the right to operate any type of Web site it deems fit, but he went on to say it does not have the right to represent that it's sight is safe when such statements are not accurate.

Now regulation, as you well know, Kiran, is tough on sites just like this, and it all comes at a very interesting time. As you know, Microsoft and Google are considering investing in Facebook, and it has a current value, Kiran, of $10 billion.

CHETRY: You think unbelievable. A $900 million offer turned down, these are only growing in popularity and there has to be some way to make sure they're safe. Alina Cho, thanks so much.

Well, the FBI investigating a mystery -- what happened to the crew of a charter fishing boat under some very mysterious circumstances. They did rescue two people that were floating on a life raft.

Susan Candiotti live in Miami Beach with more on this puzzling case.

Hi, Susan.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Kiran.

Yes, everyone wants to know what happened to the charter boat, most especially four missing crew members. Their families, of course, are the one who are most concerned.

This whole thing started on Saturday when two people rented and chartered a boat from Miami Beach, a charter boat called the Joe Cool. They wanted to Bimini, in the Bahamas. Well, on Sunday night when no one heard anything, family members hadn't heard anything, they called the Coast Guard, the Coast Guard began a search, and yesterday, Monday, they found, first, two people, the two customers who had rented the charter boat, and they were in a life raft, but they didn't find a boat. Eventually they did. It was about 10 miles away.

So the mystery is what happened to the four crew members who were driving the boat. We don't know exactly what the two rescue people said, because the Coast Guard isn't saying, nor is the FBI, but the FBI is now involved to find out whether there could have been a high crime at seas.

Adding to the mystery is who is one of the two rescued people. Turns out, FBI says, that he may be the very same man who is an Arkansas fugitive who disappeared in January. His name is Kirby Archer, and this man allegedly stole $90,000 in cash from a Wal-Mart, where he was a customer service manager, and he's been on the run ever since.

Again, this man who rented the boat has the same name. They want to know if it's the same man.

What's also odd about this is what the boat looked like when the Coast Guard finally found it. Here's the Coast Guard.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES JUDGE, U.S. COAST GUARD: They found the boat as if someone had left in a hurry. And it was -- everything was kind of thrown around in complete disarray. So that was one of the first things that was a little bit suspicious, also the fact that this vessel was found 160 miles south unmanned. It's abandoned for no apparent reason.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CANDIOTTI: So now they have the Coast Guard out there, still looking for these four missing crew members. Seven assets -- boats and aircraft, are out there looking, and they don't know whether they'll be able to find these four missing crew members.

Back to you.

CHETRY: All right, Susan Candiotti, thank you -- John.

ROBERTS: Have a bad back? Who doesn't. A new study show that acupuncture may be better than traditional therapy at easing that back pain.

Our medical correspondent is at the CNN Center with more.

And, Elizabeth, anybody who's had good acupuncture treatment for back pain knows that this is just a no-brainer.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, many people say that acupuncture does wonders for their back, and some people have expressed frustration with what you call conventional treatments, with physical therapy, with drugs. So some researchers decided to put it to the test, compare them head-to-head. The numbers are really incredible, John. You've got to take a look at this.

What they found was that acupuncture worked 48 percent of the time to decrease that back pain. And then they tried a fake treatment. They just sort of put needles willy nilly, very superficially in, and that showed a decrease 44 percent of the time. So actually the placebo effect is quite efficient apparently in back pain. That conventional therapy, the physical therapy and the drugs, that only decreased pain 27 percent of the time.

So those numbers there are very clear. Now, we ran this study by some folks, and they were a little skeptical that acupuncture was really that much better than conventional treatment, but someone said something that really is quite wise, which is, gee, you don't have to make a choice, it's not one or the other -- if you have a bad back, try it all; try physical therapy, try things like Ibuprofen and try acupuncture, too; they might work well together -- John.

ROBERTS: So how does the acupuncture work? If so many people report that they get relief from it, what's it doing?

COHEN: Well, Chinese people have known for 2,000 years that acupuncture works, and how it works exactly, no one's completely sure. But the theory is that we all have energy in our body called chi, and that this chi is supposed to flow from the head to toe freely, but that sometimes things get stuck, and that's when you get a disease or a pain, and that putting that needle in can reignite the flow of the chi. That's the theory about how it works.

ROBERTS: I guess the only thing is you've got to find a reputable acupuncturist, and sometimes that can be a little bit difficult. But, you know, definitely something worth looking in it.

Elizabeth Cohen for us this morning in Atlanta. Elizabeth, thanks. We'll see you a little bit later on this morning -- Kiran.

COHEN: Thank.

CHETRY: I have a great one. I can give you her number. She helped my back pain. It does work.

Well, the largest steroid bust in U.S. history resulting in more than 100 arrests. We're going to talk to the man in charge of the investigation. A huge bust, and the links, once again, to China. All of that ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: And welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING. Some of the most compelling shots of the morning now. A huge fire in the Southern Philippines. Here are some shots of it. Hundreds of houses destroyed and thousands of people lost their homes in that inferno. You can see families trying to save their belongings with flames still burning in the background. They reportedly had to talk water from nearby canals and creeks. Firefighters doing their best to try to put out those flames ended up running out of water to fight it.

And at least nine people were hurt. Crews say that this fire may have started by a tipped over oil lamp. And there you see the charred remains, people walking around through the rubble, trying to find some of their belongings. Tragedy struck as many of the victims were celebrating the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

ROBERTS: Coming up now to 19 minutes after the hour. It is the largest steroid bust in U.S. history. Federal authorities made arrests in 27 states, also cooperating with nine countries worldwide, including China; 124 people arrested in total, 56 illegal labs shutdown, 500 pounds of raw powder seized, and 11.4 million individual doses seized.

Joining me now is John Gilbride. He's the special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Agency's New York field division. He oversaw Operation Raw Deal.

John, good to see you again.

JOHN GILBRIDE, OVERSAW STEROID INVESTIGATION: Good morning, John. Good to be here.

ROBERTS: So what is this going to do in terms of getting illegal steroids off the streets, and particularly out of the hands of young children in this country?

GILBRIDE: Operation Raw Deal was the largest steroid investigation every conducted by DEA, and it actually hits the illegal steroid market where it hurts. As you said, 124 individuals under arrest, 56 underground laboratories dismantled and removed from operations, as well as 11 million dosage units of steroids taken off. That is a significant impact in terms of the amount of steroids available to go to our youth. ROBERTS: Now, this isn't legally produced steroids by the drug companies, because many drug companies still do produce steroids, that are used in HIV patients and prescribed under certain conditions; this was real black market stuff, where you'd import raw powder. You'd get these conversion kits to make it into testosterone, other compounds like that, actually pack your own pills. How easy was this stuff to get?

GILBRIDE: Actually, unfortunately, it was fairly easy. The Internet opens up the illegal steroid market to anyone. And a youngster can sit in a bedroom, a living room with a computer terminal, go online and order up the conversion kits which are used to manufacture the illegal steroids.

ROBERTS: All you need is a credit card.

GILBRIDE: All you need is a credit card, a place to deliver the material to and you go online and you order it right up.

ROBERTS: So for people who may be online doing this, what risks do they run in terms of getting caught? Does the Internet make your job more difficult, or easier?

GILBRIDE: Well, the Internet makes our job challenging. It makes it challenging, but i also allows us in law enforcement to operate with anonymity, just like the individuals that are going online believe that they have anonymity.

ROBERTS: But it gives you an electronic trail as well.

GILBRIDE: It absolutely does. It absolutely does.

ROBERTS: Who was buying?

GILBRIDE: A lot of individuals across the country were buying. We have individuals who were involved in body building, some semi- professional body builders, personal trainers, but as well as just average Americans who are going to the gym and they want to get bigger, they want to get stronger and, unfortunately they really don't really realize that the use of these illegal steroids is not only shameful, if they get caught, but it's making them sick and can wind up putting them in jail.

ROBERTS: I was amazed. You had firefighters, law enforcement officers on the list, as well.

GILBRIDE: We did. Unfortunately, there were some firefighters, some law enforcement individuals, individuals from every walk of life.

ROBERTS: And what percentage of young people, teenagers, you know, amateur athletes might have been involved in this also?

GILBRIDE: Well, most of the individuals that would gravitate towards the use of illegal and anabolic steroids are of our younger generation, which is rather concerning to me in law enforcement, but also as a parent and an uncle of three teenage boys who play sports. It's very important that we get the message out in law enforcement that the use of steroids is like playing Russian roulette. You have no idea where these steroids are coming from.

As a matter of fact, in these underground labs, the steroids were manufactured in bathtubs, in sinks, in garages, no sanitary conditions whatsoever.

ROBERTS: And another big warning for parents, watch what your kids are doing on the Internet. John Gilbride, from the DEA, Thanks for being with us this morning. Congratulations on this operation.

GILBRIDE: Thank you, John.

(NEWSBREAK)

CHETRY: And also ahead, Bill O'Reilly in the hot seat this morning. What he has said that has created some outrage. That's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN, ANCHOR: You're walking in Memphis, walking with your feet and feet off of Beal there. We're looking at, what is it? Eighty-seven degrees and thunderstorms today; 75 there right now. You have to spend the afternoon inside; maybe B.B. King is listening to some good blues.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN, ANCHOR: Either that or walk between the raindrops.

ROBERTS: There you go. Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING. It's Tuesday the 25th of September. Thanks for being with us. I'm John Roberts.

CHETRY: And I'm Kiran Chetry. I'll get you caught up on something new this morning.

A navy helicopter crashes in Guam. Reportedly, one member of the crew was killed in that crash. Three other members injured, none seriously. That chopper was said to be on a training mission.

President Bush expected to announce new sanctions against Myanmar, also known as Burma, when he speaks at the U.N. this morning. He is trying to pressure the military run government to give in to a pro-democracy movement. Thousands of Buddhist monks are defying the government and marching against repression today, the eighth straight day they're doing so. The military put down a similar movement back in 1998 by firing into the crowd, killing thousands of people.

ROBERTS: Donald Trump never any shortage of opinions and offering some choice words in an interview with Wolf Blitzer like this on President Bush's impact on the next elections. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT, THE TRUMP ORGANIZATION: I think President Bush has to go into a corner and hide, if a republican is going to get elected. There's no way he's an asset. He's a huge liability.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: But Trump was less forthcoming when was asked who he would support if Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani both become the presidential nominees.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN, ANCHOR: If Hillary Clinton versus Rudy Giuliani for president of the United States --

TRUMP: Well, we won't get into that now.

BLITZER: Where does Donald Trump stand?

TRUMP: We won't get into that now, but I do have my opinions. We'll worry about that later.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: We look forward to later. You can catch part two of Wolf Blitzer's interview with Donald. That's coming up later on today on "THE SITUATION ROOM."

Kiran?

CHETRY: Well, negotiators for GM and the UAW trying to end the first nationwide auto strike since 1976. 73,000 union members are on strike at some 80 General Motors facilities across the country.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What do you think about it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I'm not really happy about it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nobody wants to do this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: Ali Velshi is live at GM's Powertrain Plant in Warren, Michigan, with details for us. Good morning, Ali.

ALI VELSHI: Good morning, Kiran. And that's exactly right. Those sentiments that you heard are the same sort of sentiments we're hearing. You can over my right shoulder here -- some of the picketers here. There are about 850 of them at this plant in Warren, Michigan, just out of Detroit. But there's this feeling that they didn't really want to be on strike. It's not lucrative to be on strike. These people get $200 a month but they are worried about their futures. Now, you mentioned 80 plants across the United States. Take a look at this map, this is where some of them are located. While there's a heavy concentration around Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, the fact of the matter is these plants are all over the United States and part of the concern of these workers is that they want to make sure GM is going to protect some of their jobs. They have dwindled in size, this workforce, the United Auto Workers at all the three major Detroit automakers have dwindled.

Look at the numbers from 1994 to now. Back in 1994, we had something around a quarter million employees, United Auto Workers employees just at General Motors. Look at how that dwindled down to the 73,000 who are on strike now. In fact if you add up the workers at General Motors that are on strike plus the ones at Ford and Chrysler who are not on strike, you still come out to about 180,000. And that is the concern that in all of these years, in all of the concessions, in all of the efforts to make them the Detroit automakers competitive, the workers have been laid off and have lost their jobs. That's one of the main concerns, we'll be following these negotiations and see where they're going as day two of the strike begins here in Detroit. Kiran.

CHETRY: All right. Ali Velshi live for us in Warren, Michigan. Thanks so much. Also, we want to know what you think. Do you think you that you will have enough money saved for retirement? Go to our web page, cast your vote at cnn.com/am. Right now, only 28% of people believe they'll have enough, 72% of you saying no. John.

ROBERTS: Trying to stop the showdown with Iran from becoming more than a war of words. President Bush and his counterpart are both speaking to the U.N. General Assembly in New York today. The showdown comes as the world considers the next step against Iran and its nuclear programs. State Department correspondent Zain Verjee here with more, of course, the United States and some other countries would like to see more sanctions against Iran but a split in the U.N. What's going to happen?

ZAIN VERJEE, STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well, they basically want Iran to suspend enriching uranium. Iran says look we have a right to a nuclear program so we're going to do what we want because it's the peaceful purposes. Well, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is going to be meeting with international leaders here at the United Nations in New York and, really, what they want to discuss on Friday is a new round of sanctions, a third round against Iran to get it to do what they want. The other strategy, John, that the U.S. has been pursuing is to try and get other countries around the world to just stop doing business with Iran, to stop dealing with Iranian bank because they want to exert that kind of financial pressure where they think it's going to hurt and they want to bring Iran to the table.

ROBERTS: What do you think if the U.S., Britain and France can't get it done at the U.N., might they initiate they their own new regime of sanctions?

VERJEE: They may but the U.S. really wants to present a unified position to Iran. Because maybe not so much, you know, the fact that what kind of sanctions they get but the fact that everybody including Russians are trying to get ...

ROBERTS: Yes, restricted numbers (ph). This last Iranian- American being held, Ali Shakeri, was released. Did you find the timing curious?

VERJEE: Yes. I mean, you know, well, is it a coincidence? You know, Iran's President Ahmadinejad is here at the United Nations. You know, maybe some analysts say what he's really trying to do is to defuse criticism of him and of the Iranian regime because it really had created a lot of tension. Ali Shakeri is the last Iranian- American to be released. Four of them had been held. He'd been held there for about four months.

ROBERTS: And what are you hearing in official circles about Ahmadinejad's speech yesterday at Columbia. Dana Milbank had a great line, he said -- Dana Milbank from the "Washington Post" had a great line saying everybody is talking about whether or not this guy should have spoken or not. He says, if you didn't hear him speak you wouldn't know how truly nutty he really was.

VERJEE: Well, the state department is not commenting specifically on the speech and, you know, their position in the administration --

ROBERTS: Didn't expect him to. What are you hearing in the halls?

VERJEE: Well, what they're saying is essentially that, you know, Iran got to suspend enriching uranium. They don't want to go further from that. The other interesting thing that we are hearing is that when Iran is criticized by the U.S., by Americans, Ahmadinejad, specifically, he goes back and he's a hero in his own country. So the harder we punch him here, you know, the more he goes home a star. From the state department though, John, just very briefly they say, look, you know, this is the United States, we have American values, anybody can come in here and say what they want, even if it's offensive. You know, this is what we are.

ROBERTS: When it's as loopy as some of the stuff he was saying yesterday. He seems to be sort of, you know, his own worst enemy. Zain Verjee, thanks very much.

VERJEE: Thank you.

ROBERTS: Good to see you.

VERJEE: You, too.

ROBERTS: Kiran.

CHETRY: All right. Thanks. Well, another new name to learn in the CNN Hurricane Center this morning, what you need to know about Karen forming in the Atlantic, just ahead. Also, some controversial comments Bill O'Reilly made after a visit to Harlem. We're going to break it down with Rowland Martin ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Forty minutes after the hour. Jerry's gone and now Karen a tropical storm. Our Jacqui Jeras has got the details from the CNN Weather Center, filling in for Rob Marciano today. Good morning, Jacqui.

JACQUI JERAS, CNN, METEOROLOGIST: Still pretty small. Winds around 40 miles per hour. Karen is heading towards the west, northwest and out in the open waters. It's more than 1,500 miles away from land and is expected to continue in this general direction so that would keep it away from everybody, but we'll continue to watch it very closely as it is expected to be strengthening.

Well, back here at home, we got some showers and thunderstorms. Some of which has been a little bit on the strong side across the nation's midsection. This is really where all the action is going to be today. Kansas City getting some good downpours on the east side of town, more than one inch per hour. So use a lot of caution traveling around today. Severe thunderstorms expected later on this afternoon from Peoria, through Chicago on up towards Detroit. Large hail and damaging winds will be the greatest threat.

We got a big contrast in temperatures and that's what's bringing in the severe weather. Highest today into the northeast. Look at this; we're already into the 60s. We're looking at middle to upper 80s and could be seeing a few records. Now, behind this some very cold air. Cold enough, we were seeing a little bit of snow yesterday. Let's go ahead and take a look at a couple pictures we have from Beaver Creek, Colorado. This was your second measurable snowfall of the season. Look at those ski lifts, just getting ready to operate. Most of the snow fell though above 9,000 feet. The west has cleared out but it certainly has cooled off. John.

ROBERTS: Could be an early start to the season and what would be wrong with that

JERAS: Not a lot.

ROBERTS: Jacqui Jeras for us this morning. Jacqui, thanks.

What killed Anna Nicole Smith's son? Tops your "Quick Hits" now. After more than a year the inquest into the death of Daniel Smith is said to start in the Bahamas. As many as 35 witnesses are expected to testify including Anna Nicole's lawyer and companion, Howard K. Stern. An autopsy found drugs in Daniel Smith's body when he died in the Bahamas in September of last year.

Mike Tyson pleading guilty to drug and DUI charges. The former heavyweight champ could wind up in a tent jail run by the sheriff of Arizona's Mericopa County, Joe Arpio, notorious for being just as tough as Iron Mike. Tyson was arrested in Scottsdale, Arizona, when he was pulled over for driving erratically and police found cocaine in his pocket.

How is George Clooney feeling after his motorcycle accident last week? Our Lola Ogunnaike asked him and we'll show you his answer. That ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Welcome back to the most news in the morning. Super germs in space topping your "Quick Hits." Scientists say that Salmonella bacteria got stronger after it made a trip inside the space shuttle. The experiment found that mice that were fed the space germs were three times more likely to get sick and die more quickly. The research could lead to new advances in fighting diseases here on earth.

Dentists are smiling at the impact of sugarless gum. Wrigley, the world's biggest chewing gum manufacturer says it has received the coveted seal of approval from the American Dental Association for Orbit extra and Eclipse sugarless gum. The company's clinical study found that consumers can chew gum and fight cavities at the same time. Didn't say anything about walking, though.

A new study suggests that men with good pipes have more offspring. Researchers up in Canada found that women are attracted to men with deeper voices, judging them to be older, healthier and more masculine than their higher-pitched counterparts. Men on the other hand go for women with higher-pitched voices, finding them to be more attractive, younger sounding and subordinate -- Kiran.

CHETRY: Well, the blogs are buzzing this morning over some comments made by Bill O'Reilly during last Wednesday's edition of his nationally syndicated radio program. O'Reilly was discussing race. He brought up a recent trip to have dinner with the Reverend Al Sharpton at Sylvia's, it's a famous restaurant in Harlem. Here's what he said.

BILL O'REILLY (voice-over): I think black Americans are starting to think more and more for themselves. There wasn't one person in Sylvia's who was screaming, M-Fer, I want more iced tea. They were ordering and having fun and it wasn't any kind of craziness at all.

CHETRY: Joining us now in New York is CNN contributor and the host of the "Roland Martin Show," Roland Martin joins us now. It's being simulcast on WVON.

Good morning, Roland.

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: How are you doing?

CHETRY: Did you have a chance to read the entire transcript as well the conversation he was having with NPR host and Fox contributor, One Williams.

MARTIN: Well, as it turns aside, it was interesting, obviously, they were having a conversation and talk about the context was, you know, how people get their views in terms of their criticism of hip- hop and rap music. But you know what, I still don't buy it. I just don't buy it because even if you may have a view of African-Americans based on particular rap artist from a song, you need to live in a different world as opposed to thinking somehow that that's just it.

CHETRY: Right. So he went on to say, I think that black Americans are starting to think more and more for themselves, getting away from the Sharptons and the Jacksons and people trying to lead them into a race-based culture. He says that all of this was taken out of context and that he didn't have a racial intent. Do you buy that?

MARTIN: Well, first of all, I mean, you can make a dumb comment and not have a racial intent. I mean, you can have a racial intent or ignorance intent. And so, my problem is this notion that somehow African-Americans are starting to think for themselves as if we haven't been thinking beforehand. I mean, last I checked I didn't hand over my brain to Reverend Sharpton, to Reverend Jackson.

So it's nuts. Its nuts. Not only that, here's what bothers me. This notion that education, they're looking at, we'll get educated and I can work hard. Condoleezza Rice -- her dad, in 1954 was saying that he wasn't involved in the civil rights movement. African-Americans always said work hard, get an education and so somehow it's just starting now, that's ridiculous. It's ridiculous. So maybe Bill ought to talk to some more African-Americans to get a better view than his hang up with Reverend Sharpton and Reverend Jackson.

CHETRY: But the interesting thing is that he said this after, the context was that he was at dinner with Reverend Al Sharpton who, by the way, is not weighing in on this. We talked to him this morning. He declined to come on our show. I believe he was over on Fox this morning, but he was not talking about this issue. Is this going to be one of those Don Imus moments or do you think that...?

MARTIN: No, I don't think it is going it be a Don Imus moment because the bottom line is Bill O'Reilly made comments that people have been found controversy before. But I think the broader issue, Kiran, and this is what is most important is that people need to understand that you should not get a view of a certain people based upon a stereotype and based upon thinking this is what it is.

I mean, you need to expand your view and talk to people. You know, look, I took exception to Glenn Beck when he said 'hey I don't have any black friends because I'm afraid I might say something that might offend them." That's nonsense to me as well. I think what people need to do is get out of their own little world and realize that there are other people out here and it's not all based on, just a couple of African-Americans who are very prominent, who are activists and think that's just it. That is ridiculous. And so, wake up Bill O'Reilly and wake up anybody else who thinks like that.

CHETRY: You see that was the interesting thing because he almost seems to, as he goes on in this discussion with (One) Williams seems to make that point that you're saying. He's saying that a lot of, this was his quote he said that I think a lot of white Americans, particularly people who don't have a lot of interactions with black Americans, think the culture is dominated by Ludacris, Snoop Dog and (One) Williams interrupted and said I know, it's awful, it's awful because it's literally the sewer come to the surface and now people take it the sewer is the whole story. Is he echoing your point?

MARTIN: Well, but here's the deal though. So, OK, first of all, is that true. All right. You look at, you talk about Ludacris, excuse me, I believe that Stanley O'Neil who runs Merrill Lynch, I believe Kenneth Chenault who runs American Express and a Dick Parsons who runs Time Warner have a heck of a lot more power and influence than Ludacris or some other rapper. So, I'm not going to give some hip-hopper that much credence. That makes no sense to me whatsoever, OK. Also use your platform Bill O'Reilly to talk about those individuals, as well. No, he's fixated on rappers somehow thinking that is actually what black culture is all about. That is what doesn't make any sense to me.

What bothered me was when he said that he was surprised that there was no difference between Sylvia's and someone else. Well, why would you be surprised? Have you not gone to a black restaurant before? I mean, I don't go to a Mexican restaurant, and somehow thinks that there is a band in the back stuffed with folks who just crossed the border. No, I don't operate on stereotypes. I see that as a business and I say people have napkins and forks and knives and they sit down and eat but he was surprised.

CHETRY: I think that's what some people are taking issue with. The comments though were made almost a week ago and now word is starting to spread. He actually spoke to our Rick Sanchez and he called it a hatchet job by the mediamatters.org. I think that was web site that sort of took his comments and put other comments there. So, is there going to be, is he going to have to address this publicly?

MARTIN: You know what, I think he should and, again, we talked about the teachable moments, Kiran. This is one of those moments why I think what Bill O'Reilly should do is knocks in here and go on a war path and say I'm being attacked, poor me. I mean, you have conservative web sites that attack as all the time with so called liberal bias. I think what Bill O'Reilly should do is say, hey, let's have a conversation. He has a great platform. He should use his radio show to say, hey, let's talk about this here. Do you actually believe that is the view of African-Americans? Have you gone to a black restaurant? Do you even understand African-American culture? Get beyond the nonsense and also talk to African-Americans who do believe in education and you don't walk around just somehow thinking that we're just starting to get it, we're starting to think for ourselves. No, I've been black 38 years and have been thinking for myself for a long time.

CHETRY: All right. Roland Martin, always great to get your take, WRL, WRLL in New York. Thanks for being with us this morning, Roland. Good to have you on the show.

MARTIN: Thanks a bunch, appreciate it.

ROBERTS: Seven minutes now to the top of the hour. How is George Clooney feeling after his motorcycle accident last week? Our Lola Ogunnaike asked him and we'll show you his answers. That's coming right up on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Last Friday, George Clooney and his girlfriend Sara Larsen were in a motorcycle accident. It didn't stop them though from attending the premier of his latest film, Michael Clayton, and nothing could stop our Lola Ogunnaike from catching up with him to see how he's feeling, of course. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LOLA OGUNNAIKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Glad to see the face wasn't hurt.

GEORGE CLOONEY, ACTOR, "MICHAEL CLAYTON": It's been hurt for years.

OGUNNAIKE: No, still looking good. So, you were just hit by a car, obviously, people think that you should be home recuperating and why did you decide it was important to be here this evening?

CLOONEY: You know, we're not, you know, invalids on this. We didn't get really, you know, broke a rib and she broke her toes. I still had to go to work today. If you go to work, you have to show up. And I'm proud of the film and I wanted to be here for it.

OGUNNAIKE: Tell me, describe the injuries, I know it's a rib, which rib, where?

CLOONEY: This rib here.

OGUNNAIKE: This rib there.

CLOONEY: And then this arm, there, where you just poked me.

OGUNNAIKE: No, I'm sorry.

CLOONEY: That's OK.

OGUNNAIKE: I got a little excited. Sorry, George.

CLOONEY: And then her toes.

OGUNNAIKE: And you're still wearing heels, I'm very impressed.

SARA LARSEN: I have good balance.

CLOONEY: Very good balance.

OGUNNAIKE: In this film you play a fixer, what is the biggest problem you had to fix recently? Your ribs withstanding.

CLOONEY: Not including body parts? I don't know, you know, I haven't really had too many legal woes lately. That will change. But you know, I haven't often had that. Certainly not the situation that these guys get themselves in. Yes, but it's fun. I like the film because it takes on corporate America every once in a while and get yourselves in a little trouble every once in a while which is always fun.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS: Lola Ogunnaike here with us now. I talked to George last year. He is a good guy to talk with. Very down to earth for the star power he commands. But did he say anything to you how he got into the accident and whose fault it really was?

OGUNNAIKE: It's interesting, you know, he said the other guy was signaling one way and moved the other way. So, he sort of blame it on him. The other guy who is driving the Mazda blamed it on him. George was very gracious and he said, you know what it was an accident. That's all that happened.

ROBERTS: George also passed him on the right, though.

OGUNNAIKE: He passed him on the right.

ROBERTS: You're not supposed to do that.

OGUNNAIKE: He was on his motorcycle with his gorgeous new girlfriend, Sarah Larsen.

ROBERTS: He seems to be doing all right. A real trooper, came out with the crutches and the bandage.

OGUNNAIKE: She was able to work a stiletto and crutches. The two usually don't mix, but she made it up and down the red carpet. She's a trooper, but this is also a girl who won "Fear Factor." She's eaten scorpions before so falling off a bike, that ain't nothing compared to what happened.

ROBERTS: And you interviewed two of the most handsome men in the world the last couple days, Brad Pitt and George Clooney. These guys are really are good friends.

OGUNNAIKE: They're great friends, you know. They're working on a new movie together, Burn After Read, directed by the Cohen brothers. They have a great rapport. You know, my job is really difficult and I don't know how I do it and just get up and look at these handsome men all day long, including you John Roberts, but somehow I make it.

ROBERTS: Lola, thanks.

The next hour of AMERICAN MORNING starts right now.

CHETRY: Breakdown. This morning picket lines around General Motors for the first time in a generation. What it could mean for your paycheck and retirement. Plus Bill O'Reilly in the news.

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