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AMERICAN MORNING

New Study: Cancer Deaths Down; Blackwater Talks: Company Defends Shooting; Lights Out Campaign

Aired October 15, 2007 - 07:58   ET

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


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING. It's Monday, the 15th of October.
I'm John Roberts.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Kiran Chetry.

Thanks for being with us.

We start with extreme weather in the Midwest and a storm front that stretches from the Gulf Coast to Minnesota. Pictures coming in from Wichita, Kansas, and you can hear the hail pounding down on the roadways. Hail and heavy winds pounded the area last night into the overnight hours. As much as three inches of rain also coming down across parts of Kansas.

Also, the system pummeling Oklahoma. These pictures from Oklahoma City late last night. Heavy rain soaking the area for several hours as this storm slowly moved east. But before the rain came, strong winds hitting the area as well.

These are some pictures coming from Warren, Oklahoma. A dust storm in the far southwest corner of the state. A camera crew in the middle of a huge dust cloud, headed right for them. No one was hurt.

Also, in Colorado, several inches of snow fell in the Rockies. At least an inch of rain fell in Denver. The snow caused some fender- benders along Interstate 70 through the mountains. They reported though no serious accidents, and, of course, a lot of fun with the first big snowfall. The kiddies, of course, headed out there.

Rob Marciano tracking extreme weather for us.

(WEATHER REPORT)

ROBERTS: All lanes of Interstate 5 north of Los Angeles have reopened this morning. Two dozen big rigs were caught in a giant pileup on Friday that, as you can see in the picture here, turned the tunnel underneath the freeway into a raging inferno.

It was so hot, up to 1,200 degrees, it actually caused concrete inside the tunnel to explode. There people were killed, including a baby. The tunnel itself remains closed. The cause of the crash still under investigation -- Kiran.

CHETRY: Russian president Vladimir Putin says he will travel to Iran today despite reports about a possible assassination attempt. Putin says that if he paid attention to all the threats against him, "I would never leave home."

Russia's Interfax news agency, citing an intelligence source, said Sunday that suicide terrorists had been trained to carry out the assassination in Iran. Meanwhile, Iran's foreign minister calls the word of the plot baseless.

Senator Larry Craig scheduled to file an appeal today stemming form his arrest in an airport bathroom sting. He pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct in August after he was accused of soliciting sex in a bathroom at the Minneapolis airport in June. Well, earlier this month, a Minnesota judge told Craig he could not withdraw his guilty plea to disorderly conduct. And again, he is planning to appeal that ruling.

In the House, a 12th Republican deciding to retire after this term is over. David Hobson of Ohio leaving after nine terms in Congress. He was expected to be reelected without any strong challenge. He turned 71 this week. He's in good health, but he says he wants to go out on top.

One of O.J. Simpson's friends involved in the hotel confrontation in Vegas last month heads to court today, and he has a different story than the one that O.J. Simpson has been telling. Charles Cashmore expected to plead guilty to being an accessory to robbery. Cashmore's attorney says he will testify that two of the men who entered the room with Simpson were armed. Simpson claims no guns were used when they went to the room to get his personal stuff back.

Three University of Texas students are rescued and doing well after spending more than 30 hours trapped in a cave. The group made up of two women and a man went into Airman's Cave, as it's called, in Austin Saturday morning. They told friends to call 911 if they were not back by midnight Saturday.

They did the right thing, because they weren't. And so their friends did that.

Searchers then were able to find them Saturday afternoon. They were in a 500-foot crawlspace. They did something else smart as well. They dropped leaves so that the rescuers could see the path and get to them -- John.

ROBERTS: Almost like leaving a trail of popcorn.

Leading Republicans are responding to sharp criticism of the war from a former top U.S. commander in Iraq. Retired General Ricardo Sanchez delivered on Friday some comments. He says political leaders have cost American lives in Iraq with "their lust for power." He described the war as a nightmare with no end in sight, but says the United States had no choice but to stay in Iraq.

GOP senators are now wondering why Sanchez didn't express his view when they met with him in Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: The surge is a direct result from having to make up for mistakes early on. And as far as I'm concerned, he was part of that mistake by being a commander who did not express now -- then what he's saying now.

JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He was in charge. He was supporting of a failed strategy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: Democrats, meanwhile, are praising Sanchez's candor.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: General Sanchez, who was our commander on the ground in Iraq starting in June 2003, made clear that George Bush's war policies have not worked and will not work.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: Sanchez commanded the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq from June of 2003 until July of 2004. He retired in 2006 and blamed the Abu Ghraib prison review scandal for "wrecking" his career -- Kiran.

CHETRY: Well, there is some encouraging news this morning about the fight against cancer. Overall, cancer death rates are falling. And some of the biggest gains are being made against colon cancer.

CNN's Elizabeth Cohen is in Atlanta with full details about that study.

Good morning, Elizabeth.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Kiran.

Kiran, the American Cancer Society tells us that Americans can give themselves a bit of a pat on the back, because cancer death rates are down. They say that people have gotten the message not to smoke and also to get the right screening tests, which is so crucial. So those death rates have gone down 2.1 percent between 2002 and 2004.

Most striking, colon cancer death rates have gone down even more significantly. For men, they've gone down 4.9 percent, and for women, down 4.5 percent.

Early screening is so crucial in colon cancer. If it's caught early, 90 percent of the people can survive. So American Cancer Society tells us, kudos to Katie Couric and others for getting that message out -- you must get colonoscopies -- Kiran.

CHETRY: Yes, and the same for breast cancer, as well, right? Highly treatable if it's caught early, if you get screened?

COHEN: Right. But colon cancer, I think it's especially striking how much easier it is to treat when it's caught earlier and how devastating it is when it's caught later.

CHETRY: You know, there was a little bit of bad news in this study as well. Cancers where the rates are not improving. Which ones are those?

COHEN: Right. There are some cancers where the rates are not decreasing.

One of those is liver cancer. And the American Cancer Society has put a certain spotlight on that. They say that one of the reasons why liver cancer death rates are not going down as they are for many other cancers is because of obesity.

Obesity is a contributing factor towards liver cancer, as is Hepatitis C. So, in order to keep your chances of getting liver cancer down, you have to keep your weight down. And that's -- that's a message Americans are finding tougher to hear.

CHETRY: Of course. And you say there are three things we can do every day to improve our chances. What are those?

COHEN: Yes. One of them I just mentioned, which is keep yourself at a healthy weight. That is so crucial.

People think of that as being important for heart disease, as it is. But it's also important for cancer. Keep your weight down.

And also, you need to stop smoking. That's a no-brainer at this point.

And also, get those screening tests that are recommended. You can go to the American Cancer Society Web site to see what screening tests are recommended for people at different ages.

CHETRY: A lot of promising news.

Elizabeth Cohen, thank you.

COHEN: Thanks.

CHETRY: John.

ROBERTS: Eight minutes now after the hour.

The U.S. and Iraq are negotiating over how to deal with Blackwater. Iraq demands that the U.S. stop doing business with the private security company within six months. Now the founder of Blackwater is refuting Iraq's claims.

Alessio Vinci has got a "Fact Check" for us from Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALESSIO VINCI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): It took Haithem some time to gather enough strength to take video of the car his son and wife died in. They were on their way to pick him up from the hospital where he works as a hematologist. When they didn't show up, he called family members for help.

"When we arrived at the morgue," he says, as he agreed to talk to us in condition we protect his identity, "I identified my son from his physique, tall and slim. My wife, honestly, I could only see her head. The rest was covered by a body bag."

Witnesses say his son, Ahmed, was shot in the head. Iraqi investigators say by Blackwater guards. He lost control of the car, which lurched forward.

"My wife held him and hugged him," he says. They told me she was screaming, "My son! My son! Help me! Help me!"

Ahmed and his mother Mohassan (ph) were part of an educated Iraqi middle class family of five. College sweethearts, both parents physicians. They chose to remain in Iraq, a country in need of skilled doctors.

Ahmed also dreamed of becoming a doctor. He loved Italian football, spoke fluent English, and enjoyed singing in Spanish.

"They destroyed my family," he says. "They planted pain and misery in the hearts of my two younger kids, Maryam and Haidar (ph), who now are afraid of losing me."

Ahmed's sister Maryam remembers her mother's lost morning as she came to her room. "She woke me up, hugged me and kissed me," she says. "I had a biology exam and she wanted me to review," she said, wiping away her tears. "When they both died, I'm sure they went to heaven."

It doesn't matter to the families of those killed September 16th in Baghdad that Blackwater says its employees were responding to an attack and acted properly. Iraqi officials call it premeditated murder and want Blackwater to pay $8 million to each family of the 17 victims.

"No one can put a price on the lives of those killed," Haithem says. "I do not know who came up with the $8 million figure, but that person did not consult with us on the price of the souls we lost."

(on camera): Haithem also has a message for President Bush, the U.S. Congress, and the American people. "Feel our pain and suffering," he said, "because this is not just the pain of a single family, but that of an entire nation."

Alessio Vinci, CNN, Baghdad.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHETRY: A boost for Mazda topping your "Quick Hits,"

"Motor Trend" magazine picking the 2008 CX-9 as the sport utility vehicle of the year, saying that it injects some Mazda sports car excitement into the SUV. There's a new analysis this morning saying the current presidential race could lead to record spending on advertising to the tune of $3 billion. The wide open race, plus the willingness of special interest groups, unions and corporations to open up their wallets, all of it behind the spending spree.

Well, he wants to tax commuters and push so-called green initiatives in the city, but a newspaper this morning taking Mayor Mike Bloomberg to task for his own enormous carbon footprint.

We're going to take a closer look ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: A mock terror drill on the high seas. A Japanese bioterrorism unit getting hosed down here during the Pacific Shield exercises near Tokyo. Ships and planes from seven countries are taking part on the drills aimed at intercepting dangerous weapon technology.

Extreme flooding in Central America after six days of heavy rains. Check out this tractor-trailer stuck in the mud on its side in what's left of the Pan-American Highway in Nicaragua. Now looking more like a river. More than 4,000 people have been forced out of their homes there. A banana growing region has been put on red alert -- Kiran.

CHETRY: Well, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg finding out this morning that it's not so easy being green. Bloomberg has pushed hybrid cars, energy-efficient light bulbs, and even a tax on commuters for driving into the busiest parts of the city. But "The New York Post" found some surprises when it looked into the billionaire's own energy use based on his travel habits and various homes. He has five of them, by the way.

Bloomberg produces 364 tons of carbon dioxide a year. That's equivalent to what 18 average Americans would produce. It could also fuel 69 cars for a year and light the Empire State Building for four and a half days.

A spokesman for the city said Bloomberg chooses to focus on advocating broader change and donating to worthy causes, saying, "His personal philanthropy has contributed hundreds of millions of dollars to better society."

Well, across the country, to San Francisco, where that city is urging people to think about their own carbon footprint, asking them to turn their lights off for one hour. It could actually significantly cut energy and electric consumption in the city.

It's also part of a grassroots effort that's spreading across the country. As part of the effort, they're also handing out energy- efficient light bulbs. And this is really an interesting stat. If every home used just one of these energy efficient light bulbs, we could help light more than three million homes a year, save more than $600 million in energy costs a year, and prevent the equivalent of nearly 800,000 cars worth of greenhouse gas emissions. That's if you just switch to one light bulb.

AMERICAN MORNING contributor Polly LaBarre is shining a light on this cause, and she joins us now.

Thanks for being with us.

POLLY LABARRE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Absolutely.

CHETRY: So, you know, a lot of people are paying attention, I guess, to the mindless things we do, like you don't turn off your computer or you don't shut your office light when you leave for the day. So San Francisco wants everyone to try it for an hour.

How is this going to work?

LABARRE: Right. Well, the organization is called Lights out San Francisco. It does what it says it does.

They're aiming to turn out the lights for one hour, one night, this Saturday, October 20th, at 8:00. It's a citywide effort to turn San Francisco dark. All the major monuments from the Golden Gate Bridge, to the Bay Bridge, to Alcatraz, to City Hall, to the big buildings downtown, to even restaurants holding candlelight dinners, are getting involved to flip the switch to save some energy.

CHETRY: Imagine how eerie that's going to look. And if New York did it as well. Because you're used to seeing the sky lit up, but you don't really need the lights to be on at 3:00 in the morning.

LABARRE: Well, it might actually -- it's actually 8:00 p.m. And you might actually get to see the stars in the city, which is a new one I think for those of us who live in an urban area.

It's the brain child of this guy Nate Tyler, who is a San Francisco entrepreneur and former Google spokesperson. And that was exactly what he felt when he was in Sydney, Australia, this spring when the lights went out in a restaurant that he was in the city in a similar attempt called Earth Hour that they do every year there. And it was so striking and so emotionally engaging, that he said, why can't we do this in San Francisco?

CHETRY: And it also does draw attention to the mindless energy consumption we do, which is unnecessarily leaving lights on, unnecessarily leaving things plugged in when we don't need to. Is that also part of this campaign?

LABARRE: I think it's a big deal. I mean, it's a very simple, very tangible thing.

You know, Al Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize for raising awareness around climate change. We can't all win a Nobel, but we all want to do something. And we can do something by flipping a switch, by turning off our TVs, by powering down our computer.

And this is an attempt to raise awareness around us and also sort of engage people and say, look how good this feels, and kind of how much fun it is. It's a nighttime activity, candlelight. One of their slogans is "Good things happen in the dark." So they might have a little bit of fun there.

CHETRY: Yes, we'll see what happens nine months later.

LABARRE: Exactly.

(CROSSTALK)

CHETRY: So it could catch on, right? Fifteen other cities are planning on doing this next...

LABARRE: Well, the remarkable thing is L.A. is actually going to participate this Saturday. They're going to turn off the lights on the Hollywood sign and City Hall. Then in March, March 29, 2008, they're unleashing lightsoutamerica.org. Already a dozen cities have signed up. And I think they hope that globally maybe they can make the planet go dark in March 2008.

CHETRY: So they're handing out these light bulbs as well. One incentive is you don't have to change these things as much. I've noticed that. The squiggly bulb, I feel like I've had it in forever in the bedroom.

LABARRE: They use 75 percent less energy and last 10 times as long. And so in addition to the savings that one hour, that one night, they're handing out 100,000 compact flourescents, and the ongoing energy savings associated with that are huge, not to mention just getting individuals participating on the path to doing something in their everyday behavior to help climate change, to reverse climate change.

CHETRY: Very interesting.

Polly LaBarre, great to see you, as usual. Thanks.

LABARRE: Thanks.

CHETRY: Also a reminder. CNN is also exploring the Earth's environmental issues. It's a special documentary. It's called "Planet in Peril," hosted by Anderson Cooper. It premiers a week from tomorrow, October 23rd, right here on CNN -- John.

ROBERTS: Twenty minutes after the hour.

A deadly tasering incident at the Vancouver airport in British Columbia tops your "Quick Hits" now.

An autopsy is planned today on a man in his 40s who died after being tasered by police. That happened Sunday morning. Officers shocked him after he started throwing luggage, chairs and a computer around. They don't know yet if the taser was the cause of his death.

A program to beef up security in America's shipping ports kicks off tomorrow in Wilmington, Delaware, after six months of delays. The feds will begin issuing biometric identification cards to port workers. The cards will include personal information and fingerprint scans. They'll eventually be needed to get into the country's busiest ports.

Help for kids around the world every day of the year. Supermodel Petra Nemcova joins us with her new campaign. That's coming up.

And at last. I know you've been waiting for this. Led-Zeppelin jumps on the digital bandwagon. Could the Beatles be next in line?

Ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: Well, ever wanted to show off just how much you're Googled? Well, this is a sign of the times, isn't it? You may soon have a chance, thanks to a professor at the University of Berlin, because he's invented this vanity ring, I guess, that displays on it how many times you're Googled. It's front and center on the ring.

Then, to make sure your Google stays up to date, you plug it into its own loading dock, or, you know, docking station, much like your iPod. And then, of course, it updates, based on how many more hits you get.

The only problem with it is that Google shows the most common results. So you automatically win if your last name is John Roberts. Britney Spears, by the way, you said she's the most Googled? Thirty million?

ROBERTS: Yes, something like that.

CHETRY: You're catching up. You have 1.7 million hits under "John Roberts, anchor". I have 130 -- I had 135,000 when the show started. It went down to 133,000.

ROBERTS: Really?

(CROSSTALK)

CHETRY: And Ali Velshi, because he has a very unusual name, 61,200. But, you know, I figure you have time to catch up by Christmas.

ALI VELSHI, CNN SR. BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: That's nothing.

CHETRY: You can't beat John. He's on top of the world.

(CROSSTALK)

ROBERTS: We'll get you the ring as well.

Ali is here, "Minding Your Business" this morning.

I thought I had a cool ring tone with the (INAUDIBLE) ring.

VELSHI: Right. ROBERTS: But now I can get the lead solo from "Stairway to Heaven".

VELSHI: That is exactly right.

ROBERTS: Wow.

VELSHI: You can actually start downloading Led-Zeppelin tunes. They are one of the last holdout bands that was not on the Internet.

He's kidding. He's going to get it.

CHETRY: Yes. You know why we're laughing though, Ali? He showed my number on air.

VELSHI: I know. I recall.

CHETRY: I have a new number now.

VELSHI: That's why we have no props today. We have actual pictures of Led-Zeppelin.

So one of the last holdouts. They're announcing a series of deals today. And guess what? The first thing you're going to be able to download from Led-Zeppelin is in a deal with Verizon, ring tones.

You'll actually not going to be able to get the songs for another month. Verizon and iTunes are both going to offer Led-Zeppelin tunes. You're going to see the remaining members of Led-Zeppelin getting together for a concert for the first time next month.

And you know who the biggest holdouts are right now? The Beatles, and Garth Brooks. Those two have been outselling Led- Zeppelin in the non-digital world, but everybody is coming to the party and saying, you know what? There's just a lot of money.

ROBERTS: I can hardly wait.

VELSHI: Yes, it's going to be...

ROBERTS: The possibility for ring tones is endless.

CHETRY: Yes. What song will you choose?

ROBERTS: Oh, I like that.

VELSHI: My phone just rings with the stuff it comes with from the company.

CHETRY: The same. Exactly.

VELSHI: But clearly I'm not the future.

ROBERTS: There's a big "L" here.

VELSHI: Yes. I know. I know. ROBERTS: It's not for loser. It's for Luddite. So...

VELSHI: If I had more -- if I had more hits, then I'd probably have more of you people looking me up on Google.

CHETRY: Right. And Ali, who's the loser here? Who has time to download new songs?

ROBERTS: No, no, no. I didn't call him a loser. I said Luddite, that the "L" for Luddite.

CHETRY: OK.

VELSHI: Well, we have the battle of the ring tones her eon AMERICAN MORNING.

ROBERTS: All right.

CHETRY: Meanwhile, a story coming up that you can't miss. It's our ballot jackpot. We have a lot of really interesting topics stuffed in here today, including where is Fred? Fred Thompson. Of course...

ROBERTS: Goes to the debate and then -- where is he after that?

CHETRY: Yes. Where did he go? Canceled a couple of campaign events. So we'll talk about that.

And also a very interesting person jumping into the ring and saying that Hillary Clinton will probably be our next president.

ROBERTS: Yes. A Republican as well.

All of that and the headlines, when AMERICAN MORNING returns.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: A beautiful shot this morning of Central Park, New York City. It is 52 degrees right now and it's shaping up to be 67. So it's getting a little warmer. The sun is going to be out. Also, some clouds in the sky today.

A nice day for this October 15th, Monday.

I'm Kiran Chetry.

ROBERTS: Good morning to you. I'm John Roberts.

New this morning, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is expected to hold a news conference with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah in the West Bank at any moment now. Rice is in the region, hoping to salvage a U.S.-planned Middle East peace conference next month. Yesterday she met with Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert. An encouraging sign of reconciliation between Iraq's Shiites and Sunnis. Amar al-Hakim (ph), from Iraq's largest Shiite party, traveled to the Sunni city of Ramadi, where he praised Sunni leaders for fighting against al Qaeda.

Thirty suspected Islamic terrorists are on trial in Madrid this morning in the very same courthouse that they are charged with plotting to blow up. Prosecutors say the suspects plotted an attack in 2004, using a truck bomb to kill judges, prosecutors and staff at the national court, as well as destroy files of other suspected terrorists, including those charged in the Madrid train bombings.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN, ANCHOR: The first sentence comes down today in the Alaska political corruption scandal. Former state representative, Tom Anderson, convicted of bribery, extortion, conspiracy and money laundering. Federal investigators are looking into the oil industry's influence in Alaska. Ted Stevens, senator and congressman Don Young, both under scrutiny, but deny any wrongdoing. Neither have been charged with a crime.

And some serious concerns this morning about certain implants for heart patients. Medtronic, it's the nation's largest maker of heart devices, pulling what it's called a defibrillation lead from a market. On one certain model, the company said they can fracture and send a deadly electrical jolt or even fail completely. Five deaths are already being blamed on the problem. Patients who already have the implant are being asked to check with their doctor.

And all lanes of interstate 5 near Santa Clarita, California, re- opened this morning following Friday's chain reaction pile-up that led to this inferno. Two dozen big rigs caught in the crash that turned the tunnel into an inferno. Three people killed, including a baby. The tunnel itself is still closed. The cause of the crash is still being investigated.

Well, millions of Americans use tunnels every day. How would you know how to get out if disaster strikes? AMERICAN MORNING's Chris Lawrence takes us inside.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A massive firestorm erupts inside this California tunnel. 18 wheelers are incinerated. Metal melts. Dozens of people are trapped inside. Caltrans engineer Doug Bailey took us right up to the opening where temperatures soared well past 1,000 degrees. Did this tunnel have any sort of escape route?

DOUGH BAILEY, CALTRANS ENGINEERS: Both ends. This is a relatively short tunnel. So, really the escape route is either end of the tunnel.

LAWRENCE: Bailey says they even considered installing ventilation systems, tunnels have to be at least 1,000 feet long. So when a tunnel half that size, like this one...

BAILEY: I would prefer to be in the lane farthest from the left, so I'm the farthest away from the larger trucks.

LAWRENCE: If you were trapped in this kind of fire, Bailey says get out of your car as fast as you can and stay low.

BAILEY: If you feel breeze on you, walk towards the breeze. Because the breeze is pushing the smoke, the heat and the fire away from you.

LAWRENCE: But what about places like New York, with tunnels that run for more than a mile underground?

If there's not time to run out one end or the other, is there anywhere you can go in the middle?

BAILEY: New tunnel designs have been developed since accidents have happened in Europe. Actually, to put in a series of escape passages along the tunnel at various spots.

LAWRENCE: Two years before this fire, state and federal transportation officials visited five European countries to study their tunnels. They found side passages built every 500 feet. Some are like an insulated escape pod with doors that shut, a place to hide from the fire until help comes.

BAILEY: And the other one actually, when have you twin tunnels, it will take you from tunnel to tunnel. You can use the other tunnel then to evacuate.

LAWRENCE: Even the paint used in tunnels is being reevaluated, to make sure it doesn't produce toxic fumes or accelerate fire. But it's unclear if any existing tunnels in the United States have been redesigned with these new safety passages in mind. Chris Lawrence, CNN, Santa Clarita, California.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS: All right. It's 33 minutes after the hour. Time now to take a look at today's political hot topics. We call it "Ballot Jackpot." Because who knows what subject we're going to pull out of our...

CHETRY: Out of our trusty box. That's right. We take one hot topic on each ballot, stuff them in the box, draw them out and we have our guests weigh in on some of the hot political topics of the day.

ROBERTS: And joining us now from Washington, Republican strategist and former Republican National Committee spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt and democratic strategist Doug Hattaway, also a former spokesman for Al Gore. Live in Boston. By the way, I haven't seen you for a long time. How are you, man?

DOUG HATTAWAY, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Good. How are you?

ROBERTS: Excellent. You all set to go, both of you?

HATTAWAY: Absolutely. SCHMIDT: Right.

ROBERTS: Here we go. Ladies first. Kiran.

CHETRY: All right, let's grab one here. We have President Hillary. You know, it's interesting you know. I'll ask you about it first, Tracy. This seeming inevitability of Hillary Clinton winning the nomination and possibly even becoming president. You know, we even have former house majority Dick Army saying I think she's going to win.

TRACEY SCHMITT, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I don't think any republican would dispute the fact that Hillary, if she were to get the nomination would certainly be a really formidable candidate and someone that would be really strong election candidate for the democrats. But it's really too early for democrats to be measuring the race. We got 12 months to go. Hillary is someone that will certainly rally the Republican base. She continues to propose billions of dollars in spending, something that really does particularly rally republicans and she has yet to get the nomination. Where Hillary really runs into trouble, and we saw this last week, is she's trying to be all things to all people in her party. Just as she said now she said she's willing to engage directly in Iran and primary voters are really looking for someone that isn't trying to cruise on their laurels and they want to know where she stands on the issues and she's kind of skirting some of those issues.

CHETRY: In the polling, she's been doing well, actually doubling her lead over Barack Obama. Doug, what do candidates like Barack Obama and John Edwards have to do to break out?

DOUG HATTAWAY, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: That's tough. First of all, nothing is inevitable until people actually start voting. I think Senator Clinton knows that better than anybody. She's not going to take anything for granted here. I think it's tough for the other candidates. If you start attacking Hillary Clinton every day, you start sounding like a Republican. As you heard the other side there, that's all they seem to talk about is Hillary Clinton. I think John Edwards already been going after her and that doesn't seemed to have helped him very much. Barack Obama started to, and I think, we we're sort of undermining his appeal. He has really come out there with a positive message, and talking about being a different kind of candidate. And when the going gets tough, if he goes on the attack, I think that undermines his appeal. So, I think it's a tough spot for the other candidates.

ROBERTS: Yes. I tell you that it's interesting that Dick Army comes out and says that he thinks that Hillary is going to be not just a democratic nominee, but the president. Next topic. Where's Fred? Tracey, let's ask you this. Fred Thompson goes to the debate Thursday and then like literally disappears. What's going on there?

SCHMITT: Well, let's give Fred a little credit. He is someone that announced late and given that, he has done a respectable job. He's been out there on the stump. Clearly, he has to pick up his pace. If he wants to have a realistic opportunity to get the nomination but I think what has been the biggest issue for him is the high bar that has been set for him. This is someone that everyone has had this aura that would ride in on a white horse and be the sort of the republican definite nominee. And that's not the case. He has been up here compared to Reagan. You have to remember when Reagan announced his candidacy, he is someone that had a very high name I.D. and a lot of voters already knew a lot about. So, it will be a bit of an uphill struggle for Senator Thompson. Good point.

ROBERTS: But Doug, I was going to say, Doug, you start canceling events in New Hampshire. I mean, isn't that going to start to backfire? People in New Hampshire aren't exactly thrilled with Fred for ducking the debate there in the first place.

HATTAWAY: Right. Well, his whole entry into this race has been the political equivalent of a box office flop. You had all of this hype. Then he shows up. His performance is shall we say underwhelming, to be kind about it. And frankly, some candidates are better in the abstract than they are in the reality. That might be the case for Fred Thompson. It may actually be a good strategy to keep him off the campaign trail until he actually has something to say.

ROBERTS: That was harsh. All right. Well, Doug Hattaway, Tracey Schmitt, thanks for being with us this morning. And thanks for playing. We'll see you again soon.

HATTAWAY: Good to see you.

SCHMITT: Glad to be here.

ROBERTS: All right.

And more Nobel prizes going to the Americans. The Nobel for economics went to Leonid Hurwicz, Eric Maskin and Roger Myerson. They worked on financial markets and economic transactions, which led to what's called mechanism design theory. The theory, in case you didn't know, allows economists to distinguish situations where markets work well from those where they do not.

She's gorgeous in both body and mind. Supermodel Petra Nemcova's new campaign to help the orphans of the tsunami and other children around the world. That's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

And Anna Nicole Smith back in the news. Police raiding the homes and offices of her doctors. We'll tell you what they're looking for. That's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: The southeast wilting under one of the most severe droughts in its history. Lakes, rivers shrinking. Many states issuing bans on all outdoor watering. And it may be several months before things get better. Meteorologists say they're expecting a mild winter, and that means drier than normal condition across the region. Rob Marciano has been tracking this for us. He joins us from the CNN weather center. Not what they want to hear of course as they're dealing with this severe drought, that they might not make up for it as we head into the winter months as well, Rob.

ROB MARCIANO, CNN, METEOROLOGIST: No. We were hoping to get tropical moisture, that typically comes during the hurricane season but haven't seen a whole lot of that that. 61 counties in north Georgia under water restrictions. The situation in Tennessee is even worse. Now, look at this map behind me. The droughts are monitored, highlighted in deeper reds. Really, that is beyond extreme as far as drought is concerned. North Georgia, parts of Alabama, the Carolinas, almost all of Tennessee under this. And it looks like it's going to persist. Here's one of the reasons why. The pattern that has been ongoing for the past several months is such that most of our tropical action has been staying to our south, has been turning out to sea. Any storm that's been coming across the northern latitudes have been heading north.

So, because of that the drought has persisted and is expected to continue. We got La Nina situations setting up, which means we'll probably see not a whole lot of rain. These are dramatic. So far for Atlanta, we are 16" below average for rainfall. Huntsville, Alabama, almost two feet below average for rainfall. So, this is setting up to be what could be a record-setting year here. And as far as the forecast, a quick look ahead, we're looking for drier than normal conditions across the southeast again with most of the rain staying up towards the north. So, you know, places like Lanier, John, 120 days left of water that serves millions of people. About a third of the state of Georgia relies on that reservoir and it could be dried up in four months' time. So, hopefully, we'll get some rain. Hopefully, this forecast is wrong. Right now, long-term forecasters are saying we'll likely see a dry winter here in the southeast.

ROBERTS: Bad news for them. Rob Marciano, thanks.

MARCIANO: You bet.

ROBERTS: Police have raided the homes and offices of two of Anna Nicole Smith's doctors, questioning the treatment that she received before her sudden death in February. (inaudible) to talk about this now and the legal ramifications. AMERICAN MORNING legal contributor, Sunny.

SUNNY HOSTIN, AMERICAN MORNING LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: Good morning.

ROBERTS: Apparently eight search warrants have been issued and executed so far. The attorney general of California, Jerry Brown, former governor, says he won't speculate on who will go to jail and who won't. But you can be sure if a judge issues a search warrant to go into someone's home, there is some serious evidence. I mean, sounds like people are going to go to jail here. What are they looking for?

HOSTIN: Any evidence to support criminal activity. It's very difficult to go into someone's home. The fourth amendment of the constitution ensures our safety and our privacy in our homes, in our business, in our personal affects. So, in order to go into someone's home, in order to go into these doctors' businesses, you have to go to a judge with an affidavit from a law enforcement officer, attesting that there is probable cause that criminal activity is afoot. So the fact that a judge issued, not one, not two, but eight search warrants, means they're looking for a lot.

ROBERTS: How high is the bar for that probable cause?

HOSTIN: It's very, very high. And the judge has to read an affidavit and a law enforcement officer has to take an oath, saying these are the results of my investigation. This is what I've found that there is criminal activity here.

ROBERTS: If it's found, the drugs that she was prescribed and the way that they were prescribed played a direct role in her death, what are the possible ramifications for the doctors involved?

HOSTIN: You know, it's hard to tell. These doctors have DEA licenses. They're governed by the drug enforcement agency. They could lose their licenses, which means they can't practice. They'll lose their livelihood. But some doctors have been found guilty of manslaughter in cases like this. So, it can range but it's pretty significant.

ROBERTS: We also got some news over the weekend, rapper T.I. was supposed to be performing at the B.E.T. Awards and was arrested just before his performance, accused with possession of machine guns and silencers. Police say that he had asked his bodyguard to procure these weapons for him. He is a convicted felon. Does he face serious jail time here?

HOSTIN: He is in a lot of trouble. This is very serious. He's in federal custody right now. I read the complaint. The complaint indicates he has been charged with possession of unregistered machine guns and silencers. Under the National Firearms Act, the silencers themselves are considered firearms. He has also been charged with possession of firearms by a convicted felon. Apparently he had a drug conviction and felons are not supposed to have guns. He used his bodyguard as the store purchaser. We've seen this before. And usually these guns end up in the hands of the convicted felons or also juveniles, as we've seen in the news in the past couple of weeks. Right now, it looks like he had six guns in his bedroom, three guns in his car when he was arrested and apparently his body guard bought him about 25 guns. He's looking at a lot of time, at least 10 years per count.

ROBERTS: Good for the reputation, if he's in that particular part of the business, but not good for the freedom.

HOSTIN: No, no. Not good at all. Sunny, thanks. Good to see you. Thanks.

ROBERTS: Good to see you. Thanks.

HOSTIN: Good to see you. Kiran.

CHETRY: Well, CNN NEWSROOM just minutes away. Heidi Collins in the CNN center with a look at what's ahead. Good morning, Heidi. HEIDI COLLINS, CNN, and ANCHOR: Good morning to you. That's right we're watching L.A. traffic too all morning. Log in the NEWSROOM as spectacular pile-up and fire shut down interstate 5, north of Los Angeles, over the weekend. Morning rush hour now gearing up in earnest next hour. Yikes.

Idaho senator Larry Craig planning to file an appeal today. He is fighting to withdraw his guilty plea in a men's room sex sting.

And October is celiac disease awareness month. We are launching a week long focus on this diet, limiting, disease, auto-immune disease and how it attacks the digestive system. We'll tell you all about that as well. You're in the NEWSROOM, top of the hour right here on CNN. Kiran.

CHETRY: Heidi, thanks.

Also still ahead a supermodel's all-star lineup. Petra Nemcova shows us her plan to help children all around the world. She's going to join us live in the studio coming up next on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: Prince William's girlfriend ready to take a shot at being part of the royal family? Britain's "Sunday Telegraph" published pictures of Kate Middleton. She's on a hunting trip with Prince Charles. According to the paper, it's the first time that Middleton and the prince, Charles, that is, have been photographed together. It's fuelling speculation that a royal wedding may be in the works.

ROBERTS: And remember that line from the film "Jaws"-- "you're going to need a bigger boat?" That's exactly what happened to six friends in Florida. They went to a fishing tournament hoping to land some grouper but instead landed this massive Maco shark. It weighs 845 lbs. It's 11 feet long. It took them more than an hour to reel it in. And then they couldn't get it into the boat. They had to tie it to the stern for the four-hour trip home. It turned out to be a winner for them. They broke the tournament's previous record by 338 pounds.

Well, you remember back in December of 2004, Petra Nemcova was "Sports Illustrated" cover model on vacation in Thailand with her boyfriend, British fashion photographer, Simon Atley. Then the tsunami hit. Atley died and Nemcova was stuck in a tree for eight hours, with a broken pelvis, just hanging on for dear life.

CHETRY: Her recovery was remarkable and also what she decided to do with her life afterward equally as remarkable. Three years later and the supermodel is now spearheading a campaign to help hundreds of thousands of orphans, not only of the tsunami, but other disasters taking place around the world. And she's getting a little bit of help from her friends. Petra Nemcova joins us now. Great to see you.

PETRA NEMCOVA, SUPERMODEL: Good morning. CHETRY: You have a beautiful calendar out with other Czechoslovakian models. By the way, you're on the cover looking fabulous. This has really taken over your life. This has become a cause that you've really really been a huge part of it and made a big difference.

NEMCOVA: Well, it's something, it's the least I can do. And I have many opportunities in my life. I cannot just sit on my butt and do nothing. When there's opportunity, I have to take it and make the best out of it for children. It's been quite an amazing journey. And had many wonderful people helping with the cause with Happy Hearts Fund and the calendars are just one of the ways how we can raise funds for the little ones. The beautiful thing about this calendar is all the Czech girls got together, not just beautiful on the outside, but also inside. Many of them have their own charities or they support charities heavily and if people want to get a present for Christmas, they can get -- make someone happy of their friends and they can make happy the children. So, it's two in one. You can go to supermodelcalendar.net to order it or on our website, happyheartsfund.org.

ROBERTS: Let me just make clear. Folks know about this is the Happy Hearts' Fund. This is something that you started after the tsunami in 2004. And, as you said, you haven't been sitting around on your tush.

NEMCOVA: No.

ROBERTS: You've also been traveling the world to not just raising money. You went to Cambodia and then you went to Thailand as well. Did you go back to (inaudible) which is were you were when the tsunami hits.

NEMCOVA: I went back there many times.

ROBERTS: How were you struck by what you saw?

NEMCOVA: I went there a couple of times already. The last time was really nice because we went to open up a school and computer center. So, it was really nice. But still, there are still a lot of needs, not just in the tsunami-affected areas, but in places like Cambodia and Haiti. And that is our next trip is to Haiti with (inaudible). So I'm really looking forward to that.

ROBERTS: Have you been before?

NEMCOVA: I've been, yes.

ROBERTS: So, that will open your eyes.

NEMCOVA: Definitely.

ROBERTS: (inaudible) port-au-prince, terrible place.

NEMCOVA: I know, there is, so I've worked with a dozen incredible workers. So, we just have to work together and that's the power, I think. If you, individuals or charities or companies come together, you can do much more and much faster.

CHETRY: Well, you're doing a lot of great things. A lot of people really cared so much about your story and wanted to know that you're doing OK emotionally too. Because you lost, you know, Simon, who is the love of your life. How are you getting past that personally as well?

NEMCOVA: Thank you for asking. It's very sweet. You know, it's been hard, but I know that he wanted to, that everyone around him is happy. So, I know he wouldn't want me to be sad and he would want me to continue in my life and don't be stuck in the past. So, that's why I know that would be his wish. That's what I'm doing. I've learned from the past. I look forward to the future, but living in the moment.

ROBERTS: You know the Happy Hearts Fund not only helps victims of the tsunami but other children around the world as well, regardless of whether it's a national disaster, if it's humanitarian need because of famine relief, if it's a health emergency, something like that. But do you find three years after the tsunami that it's difficult to get people focused back on that? That they've moved on?

NEMCOVA: Definitely. It's sad but when the cameras go away, the help goes away as well. And we have seen it in many cases, maybe the tsunamis in Sri Lanka, and Pakistan. It's always has been a problem. And there is a gap after the first aid between the time the first aid finishes and the time the government takes over. There's a huge gap. That's what we're focusing on with happy hearts fund.

CHETRY: And you also stressed the long-term help, I mean, seeing people through, not just being there for the immediate need and then moving on.

NEMCOVA: Yes.

CHETRY: Do you have the money to be able to do that?

NEMCOVA: Yes, we, of course, there's always need for more funds, because there is so much suffering happening for children all over the world. But we had the event last week where we raised a lot of funds so we can help more children. So, we're happy about that. But definitely to be there for the long run is very important. Because it, for both, the children receiving the help, for the local NGOs and for us because we can build much more stable and better and happier future.

ROBERTS: Well, it's great work you're doing. Great to see a person such as yourself so involved. Happy hearts fund. And the supermodelcalendar.net.

CHETRY: Because John is too embarrassed to ask, but, of course, he wants you to sign this. Petra Nemcova, always great to see you. Thanks so much for being with us.

ROBERTS: Very nice to see you.

NEMCOVA: Good to be here.

ROBERTS: Good luck with your work.

CHETRY: And here's a quick look now at what CNN NEWSROOM is working on for the top of the hour.

COLLINS: See these stories in the CNN NEWSROOM.

How do rush hour commute on interstate 5, north of Los Angeles, interstate 5, a tunnel fire shut down the road over the weekend.

Three cave explorers in Texas wiggle out of a tight jam.

Reports of an assassination attempt in the works, but Russian president, Vladimir Putin, goes ahead with a trip to Iran today.

And a Muslim soccer player booted for wearing a head scarf. Top of the hour on CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Just before we go, here we got the results of our quick vote this morning.

We had asked whether or not President Bush's veto of the SCIP bill in Congress should stand.

CHETRY: That's right. And here we're going to find out what the final tally was. We asked you to weigh in on what you think. And let's take a look at the final results. 26 percent saying yes. 74 percent saying no. And maybe they're listening to you. Because it looks like the president is going to try to work out some sort of compromise with the democrats or, they say, they'll reintroduce a new version of the bill.

ROBERTS: Democrats scheduling an override vote on the veto for Thursday. But if there's a compromise, they could always change that schedule a little bit.

CHETRY: Well, thanks so much for being with us on this Monday morning. We'll see you back here tomorrow.

ROBERTS: CNN NEWSROOM with Heidi Collins begins, right now.

COLLINS: Good morning everybody. You are in the CNN Newsroom. I'm Heidi Collins.

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