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CNN NEWSROOM

MRSA Spread in Several States; Severe Weather Alerts; Bhutto Back in Pakistan

Aired October 18, 2007 - 09:00   ET

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


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: You're in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Tony Harris.
HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, everybody. I'm Heidi Collins.

Watch events coming to the NEWSROOM live on Thursday morning, October 18th. Here's what's on the rundown.

A wide stretch of the country, on alert today for severe storms and tornadoes. Do you live in the target zone?

HARRIS: And exiled prime minister returned. Benazir Bhutto hopes to restore democracy in Pakistan.

COLLINS: And a Maine middle school will offer birth control for children as young as 11. What do you think?

We're taking your e-mail, on campus contraception, in the NEWSROOM.

HARRIS: Boy, first up this hour: Dangerous storms plowing across the plains. And if you live in the eastern half of the country, take a look at this. This could be in store for you. Lightning lit the sky over much of the region last night, but this was the pretty part of the storm.

This was the ugly reality: Early this morning, a tornado killed at least two people in Missouri. Winds tore through their trailer and threw their bodies some 400 feet. In Oklahoma, more than two dozen buildings damaged, almost all them, mobile homes. Across the state, dozens of people were hurt -- many of the injuries, at an Oktoberfest celebration at Tulsa. Fierce winds suddenly tore into the massive tents.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL SANDERS, TULSA OKTOBERFEST ORGANIZER: It started raining. It was a very light rain, so I ran for cover, as other people did, into the beer garden. As soon as I got in there, within seconds, without warning, there was this huge gust of wind, possibly a microburst, not sure, and the tent started collapsing. And it was just one of those chaotic scenes here at Oktoberfest that we've never seen before.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HARRIS: In Kansas, no injuries reported, but lots of damage, high winds, heavy rains and hail the size of golf balls. Trees were uprooted and streets flooded. In Andover, two businesses and several homes were damaged. Man!

COLLINS: Yes. Rob Marciano, of course, is watching all of this for us.

Now, and Rob, as many times as we see that tornado video, and even video from any type of severe weather, you really get reminded each and every time of what Mother Nature can do.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It does have a tremendous amount of power.

We had over 200 reports of severe weather last night, 14 reports of tornadoes. A lot of those were probably the same storm, but nonetheless, you've seen the damage. And a lot of the reports that we had were from straight line wind damage. I mean these microburst downdrafts that come through a thunderstorm and can blow 60, 70, even 80 miles an hour at times. And that alone could do some damage. You don't need a twister to do that.

That said, we had tornado warnings out in New Orleans just a few minutes ago and just east of Biloxi and from (INAUDIBLE). They have since been allowed to expire, but this storm, it's from coast to coast or at least from Canada to the coastline of the Gulf of Mexico.

Starting to get some much-needed rain into the areas that need it, but this is not going to be a huge rain event. It's going to be more of a severe thunderstorm event and at times you'll get spotty downpours as what we've seen in places like, well, Indianapolis. Let's take a look at that. I think we have a live shot.

We had some rough weather move through just there and now some dark clouds in the skies beginning to brighten. But the more those skies brighten, the more instability we'll get this afternoon. You folks may get another round of thunderstorms.

Thanks, Wish.

Let's go up to Detroit. Another live shot for you, probably from the other side -- probably from Canada looking over the river there.

WDIV, thanks very much there. You are under the gun for some severe weather as well. Right now, though, it's probably an hour away from you.

The bigger story, by the way: There's still a tornado watch-out for parts of Southern Indiana. The big storm is in through here. Heavier, more moderate rainfall across the northern part of it. But, when we see clear skies before the main part of it or the upper level part of it gets through, we may very well see a second round of severe weather.

So here's the red highlighted areas: Indiana, Ohio, Michigan -- you folks are under the gun. But of course, the South as well. We've already seen some of that action across parts of New Orleans and the panhandle of Florida.

Meanwhile, near record-breaking high temperatures from D.C. to New York to Boston. Temperatures there will be in the 70s, in some cases, the lower 80s. Unreal stuff.

Heidi and Tony, back up to you.

COLLINS: Wow!

HARRIS: We're going to be riding your back today. That's a lot of weather on that map, Rob.

MARCIANO: Yes, sir.

HARRIS: OK, I appreciate it. Thank you.

And, of course, when the weather becomes the news, boy, you were really great at sending us I-Reports. And it looks like there's going to be plenty of severe weather for you to capture today. Here's what you do. You go to the cnn.com and click on I-Report or type I-Report at cnn.com into your cell phone, and please, by all means, be safe, but share your photos or your video with us.

COLLINS: Staph infections in schools. Reported cases spreading now in several states and concern growing today over a dangerous form of the bug that can stand up to antibiotics.

Schools in Virginia, where a student died of drug-resistant staph, are back open this morning. Brianna Keilar is in Moneta, Virginia now with more on the story.

Brianna, what are the students saying? Are any of them afraid to go back to school?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, some of them certainly feel much better because the school has been cleaned. The schools were shutdown yesterday to be cleaned. But the feeling that you get from these students, they're still in shock. They lost a classmate. They are still in morning.

So we're going to be talking with the principal of Staunton River High School here shortly, to see if maybe attendance has been affected today. But the student parking lot did fill up pretty good this morning. Meanwhile, schools all across the U.S. are watching and learning from what happened here this week.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR (voice-over): Health officials hope it won't be a recurring site. Cleaning crews at schools, disinfecting locker rooms, desks and more, all to prevent a deadly infection from spreading. In Virginia, the cleanup followed a 17-year-old student's death, after he was hospitalized with an antibiotic-resistant staph infection. RYAN EDWARDS, BEDFORD COUNTY SCHOOLS SPOKESMAN: We have been dealing with MRSA for the better part of the past month and we have had cases appear steadily since then.

KEILAR: It's called methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus or MRSA and it's not just in Virginia. Health officials in Connecticut are on guard.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This point is one confirmed case and one other possible case.

KEILAR: Cases are being reported in Ohio, Michigan and other states. Experts estimate about 90,000 people get the infection each year. Most infections occur in hospitals, but often, they spread in schools, among members of the same gym class or sports team.

DR. JULIE GERBERDING, CDC DIRECTOR: But there are some serious strains of staph out there. Some of them are very drug-resistant.

KEILAR: Maryland officials confirmed a case in Bethesda yesterday. New Hampshire officials blame the infection for the death of a 4-year-old girl last week. And last March, in Texas, a 14-year- old boy with MRSA died from pneumonia.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR: And just this morning, CNN has also learned that two high schools in Connecticut are each reporting one case of MRSA. So more and more cases that are coming to light. But, meanwhile, a couple of things that students can do to cut their risk of contracting MRSA. For instance, not sharing things like towels or soap or deodorant -- things that touch the skin -- and also washing their hands. That is the big thing that teachers here will be reminding kids to do. That's what it really comes down to -- Heidi.

COLLINS: Yes. We talked about that quite a bit yesterday. But, you know what? We just need to keep reminding people of that fact.

I do wonder, though, Brianna, as the schools are cleaning things up, so to speak, we heard yesterday from the principal of where the student died, the principal of that high school, he said they were sort of wiping down the knobs on the doors and, obviously, those mats that they talked about and the floors and so forth. Is that really enough?

KEILAR: Well, apparently it's not enough. They are establishing a cleaning regimen here. They're considering doing it monthly or maybe quarterly. But when you talk with school officials, one told us it really comes down to what the kids do. Because MRSA can be spread by skin-to-skin contact, they're really emphasizing to students the things they need to do. For instance, hand sanitizer, washing their hands. And hand sanitizer has been made available to the classrooms. Also, the students here have been given hygiene packets, but they're reminding students that a lot of this falls to them to make sure that they keep themselves safe -- Heidi.

COLLINS: Personal hygiene, we're talking about with a 6-year-old right now. It's a constant battle. That is true.

Thanks so much. Brianna Keilar for us from Virginia this morning.

A closer look now at staph infections and the drug-resistant form, known as MRSA. Staph is short for staphylococcus aureus. The bacteria commonly found on the skin and in the noses of healthy people. MRSA is a strain of staph bacteria that does not respond to penicillin or related antibiotics. It can be treated with some other drugs, though. The infection can spread from skin-to-skin contact or through sharing an item with an infected person. That could include items like towels or sports equipment found in gyms and in locker rooms.

HARRIS: Overseas, a hero's welcome in Pakistan. Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto is back in her homeland this morning. Her return, raising lots of questions about what's next for a key U.S. ally in the war on terror.

CNN's Dan Rivers, live from Karachi now.

And Dan, some amazing pictures this morning. Why such an outpouring for Bhutto's return?

DAN RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, her supporters have been bussed into Karachi by the thousands. And it's been eight years that she's been in exile. Her supporters think that she could lead Pakistan back to democracy -- to full democracy. They see her as a real hero of the moderate movement here, away from extremism and back to a secular moderate functioning democracy.

The scenes are incredible on the streets here. Thousands of people mobbing her motorcade, which has barely even moved, really, away from the airport. It's been four hours now and they've barely made any progress at all into the city here.

We caught up with her just as she landed and this is what she had to say about coming back home.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BENAZIR BHUTTO, FMR. PAKISTAN PRIME MINISTER: I've been very, very emotional coming back to my country. I dreamt of this day for so many months and years. I counted the hours. I counted the minutes and the seconds just to see this land, to see the grass, to see the sky. I feel so emotionally overwhelmed. I came down the stairs and the airline trade union was there to welcome me. And they waved their hands and I was just overwhelmed. And I hope that I can live up to the great expectations, which people here have.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RIVERS: We're waiting for her to address thousands of people, actually, a mausoleum to the founder of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah. That may be several hours away. But she's come back, really, as part of a power-sharing deal with General Musharraf. A deal that was controversial and it irritated a lot of her supporters, but that has been cut, hopefully, she thinks, so that it can mean that she can come back and serve Pakistan, a third time, as prime minister.

HARRIS: CNN's Dan Rivers for us. Dan, appreciate it. Thank you.

So, who is Benazir Bhutto? The 54-year-old entered the political scene in 1986. She led the party founded by her father, a prime minister who was executed. In 1988, she won her first of two terms as prime minister, becoming the first woman to lead a Muslim nation. Her administration dogged by allegations of corruption, Bhutto was thrown out of office in 1996. She was convicted of corruption in 1999, while she was out of the country. The conviction was overturned, but she didn't come back, until getting an amnesty deal with Pakistani president, General Pervez Musharraf. Like Mr. Musharraf, Bhutto supports the U.S.-led war on terror.

COLLINS: Showdown on Capitol Hill. Supporters of a bill to expand a children's health insurance program will try to override a presidential veto today. About two dozen lawmakers would have to change their vote to reach the two-thirds majority. That prospect dimmed. Even if the override fails, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she will keep fighting for the expansion. President Bush has appointed a team to try and work out a compromise with congress. And our Congressional Correspondent Jessica Yellin is closely watching developments on Capitol Hill this morning. She'll be joining us a little bit later with more live updates.

Meanwhile, you've heard so much about this. We wanted to give you an idea, a little bit more about what SCHIP is. SCHIP stands for State Children's Health Insurance Program. It was created 10 years ago, to help children from families with incomes too high to qualify for Medicaid, but too low to afford private insurance. That's typically people who earn about $41,000 for a family of four.

Right now, the program covers more than 6 million children for routine checkups, immunizations and the like. The bill would expand the program to about 10 million children at a cost of $35 billion over the next five years. The president has recommended a $5 billion increase to cover 500,000 children who are not covered now.

BARBARA STARR, PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: I'm Barbara Starr at the Pentagon. The air force is about ready to explain just how it lost track of six nuclear weapons.

I'll have that next in the NEWSROOM.

COLLINS: Also, passion over the pill.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You all better consider that down the line, because you all are going to be responsible for that, these devastating effects on young women when this goes through.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COLLINS: How young is too young, for a school to give out birth control?

HARRIS: Plus, he is accused of gunning down a judge and three other people, but his trial is on hold, again. Two legal experts discuss the court controversy. You are in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: You are in the CNN NEWSROOM.

I'm Heidi Collins. Good morning, everybody.

Sniffle season. People are reaching for cough and cold medicines, but are they safe for your kids?

We're going to talk about it with CNN Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen in just a moment.

HARRIS: And, I'm Tony Harris.

Ad's bad word, billboard owners says it's for a bad man.

Highway name calling in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: New developments this morning, in a story we told you about, here. It's a case of an air force bomber, like this one -- it will come up shortly. There you go. B52. The plane flew across the heartland, armed with nuclear warheads and no one knew it.

CNN Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr has been working her sources on the story.

Barbara, tell us a little bit more about what you've learned since this happened.

STARR: Well, Heidi, this has now been a matter of investigation for the air force at the highest levels since late August when this incident occurred. What we now know is the investigation is essentially done. Defense Secretary Robert Gates expected to be briefed as soon as tomorrow about how all of this happened. And after that briefing, it is expected that the air force will make public at least some of its findings.

Our understanding, from a source very close to this matter, a U.S. military official familiar with the investigation, is perhaps as many as five air force personnel will be fired, removed from their jobs. That will be the beginning of what may be additional disciplinary action that may take place. And the air force has not foreclosed the possibility that some personnel will face the possibility of criminal charges in all of this.

Basically, it appears to be a matter of massive negligence, failure to follow safety and security procedures regarding nuclear weapons -- of course, the weapons that the U.S. military guards the most closely -- Heidi.

COLLINS: Yes. Obviously, this is something that caused quite a bit of concern in the military community and citizens. But, let's remind everyone, Barbara, just in case they didn't see the story, to begin with, about the warheads themselves and the danger to the people on the ground at that time.

STARR: Well, what this was, was a case the air force was loading some missiles on to a B52 in North Dakota, flying it to Louisiana, and inadvertently, those missiles were carrying nuclear warheads -- six of them. That's not supposed to happen, because there are very significant security procedures, any time nuclear weapons are moved, transported, flown anywhere. None of those procedures were in place, because nobody realized they had nuclear weapons on board.

What the air force says is -- God forbid -- there was an accident, if the plane had crashed or anything had happened that the weapons would not have detonated, there would not have been a nuclear incident. They always wanted to assure people of that. And that is one of the reasons they're even talking about this at all.

They do feel very strongly. They have a need to inform the public that there would not have been a nuclear explosion, but it could have been a serious environmental disaster and something that, simply for the military, is not acceptable -- Heidi.

COLLINS: All right, CNN's Barbara Starr from the Pentagon this morning.

Barbara, thanks.

STARR: Sure.

HARRIS: Law and disorder? He is accused of gunning down a judge in court and murdering three other people, but his trial is on hold indefinitely. The problem? Paying for Brian Nichols defense. Huh?

Let's bring in some legal experts to discuss the case. Avery Friedman is a civil rights attorney and law professor. He is in Cleveland.

Avery, good to see you.

AVERY FRIEDMAN, LAW PROFESSOR/ATTORNEY: Hi, and Tony, nice to see you.

HARRIS: Good to see you, Doctor.

And here in Atlanta, Defense Attorney Ed Garland.

Ed, great to see you, as always.

ED GARLAND, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Good to be here.

HARRIS: Well, hang on a second here. There would appear to be, gentlemen, a mountain of evidence in this case against one Brian Nichols.

Let's see some of the surveillance video here, Sarah, if we could. There is all kinds of consciousness of guilt activity here. A legal parlance there for you. He's on surveillance tape in the CNN parking deck stairwell -- video right here -- where he is not supposed to be. We have eyewitnesses. We have Ashley Smith's testimony.

Avery, let me start with you. Why are we spending $1.8 million, so far, on this defense?

FRIEDMAN: Yes. It's actually more to come. Blame it on the founding fathers, Tony. Under our bill of rights, Brian Nichols is innocent. It's the burden on the government to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. So, under the Bill of Rights, under the Fifth Amendment, the due process laws and the sixth amendment, the right to counsel, Brian Nichols has the right to put on the best possible defense and there's no...

HARRIS: A taxpayer expense here!

FRIEDMAN: That's exactly right.

HARRIS: How much is too much? The best -- Ed, help me here. Help me here. What are we paying for, $1.8 million for this capital defense? Is he setting a new standard here?

GARLAND: What you're paying for is an effort to get justice for people who are poor and indigent. The real issue here is, is the state going to provide justice? What happens in our state is we spend money on fishing programs and funding investments, and not on justice. And you can't get justice without paying for it. You have a brilliant judge, a courageous judge and you're going to have a showdown between the executive branch and the judicial branch.

HARRIS: And, I don't think anybody has a problem with the fact that he should be provided a real defense. But the cost of this defense -- let me ask you something. What is -- what is so difficult about defending this case? What are we talking about, in terms of -- of the materials needed, the resources needed? What are we talking about -- a specialized test? What are we spending this money on?

GARLAND: You're spending this money, first, of a very important issue. Are they going to kill this man, or not? They have 54 different charges, so the state has lined up massive effort against him. Now...

HARRIS: So they don't overcharge?

GARLAND: And so...

HARRIS: That's part of it? Right?

GARLAND: So what you have is a defense lawyer trying to fight back, not as a (INAUDIBLE) not as somebody just gets on the execution train and rides it to the man's funeral, but who says we're going to get a fair jury. And we're going to select some jurors that will think before they will kill. The real trial here is in the selection of this jury.

HARRIS: All right. Avery, you want to jump in here?

FRIEDMAN: Yes, yes. Actually, from a prosecution's perspective, the truth is, Ed's absolutely right. But in order to achieve integrity -- so this verdict, one way or the other, is bulletproof on appeal -- you have to have those rights. And the fact is, there's going to be a constitutional smackdown in the Judge Fuller's courtroom on Monday...

HARRIS: What do you mean by that -- a constitutional smackdown?

FRIEDMAN: What it means is that Sonny Perdue, the governor has money in the public defender's budget. He doesn't want to let go of it. At least the head of it doesn't want to let go of it. And so, the Judge Fuller is going to require the public defender to explain, "Look, you got money, spend it on this case!" And it's not unprecedented. This is not unusual.

HARRIS: Ed, do you see this happening?

GARLAND: I see it happening. And this judge has the guts, the intellect and the constitutional prerogative to do it. He ought to put the governor in jail.

(CROSSTALK)

HARRIS: What? Wait a minute! What?

GARLAND: Put the governor in jail if he won't provide the defense.

HARRIS: All right. Isn't there a simple solution to this? Why can't this case be tried in the federal system? We have a federal agent, a nice agent, immigration agent that was killed. Avery, why not just take this case and try it in the federal system?

FRIEDMAN: Well, you know what? That might be a solution. It's not going to be particularly palatable, because you have a state court judge who is purportedly murdered -- I think he was. The federal court does have jurisdiction, because of the murder of this federal agent. That may be a way out, but it's unpalatable. The fact is that Ed is right. If justice is going to prevail, let's make the system work in the Georgia courts.

HARRIS: What do you think about that, Ed? Why not just transfer this to the federal system? The state can always take a bite at it once the federal prosecution is over.

GARLAND: The state system is really set up to handle these kinds of cases. This system in Georgia is not properly funded. This is a great moment, because it's going to determine...

HARRIS: It doesn't feel like a great moment. It feels like there is a chance down the road here. Look, the judge has said there is a chance this case may not go to court. GARLAND: Yes.

HARRIS: Do you know how outrageous that sounds on the face of it?

GARLAND: Yes. If the state wants to have a just trial, in which they attempt to kill another human being, they're going to have to fund the system. And it's symbolic of a greater problem. They're not funding it across the states. So everybody rights are at stake here.

FRIEDMAN: And Ed, they're not funding it across the nation. Georgia is really microcosmic of a much larger problem. But again, from a prosecution perspective, we want Brian Nichols to have an adequate defense. You know what...

GARLAND: Yes.

FRIEDMAN: There's not even enough money for the mental health experts that his counsel will need in this case.

HARRIS: Oh, boy.

Is this case -- Avery, last word, and then, Ed, to you -- is this case going to get tried in the state system or the federal system?

FRIEDMAN: I don't know.

HARRIS: You don't know?

FRIEDMAN: I don't know. That's the truth. I have no idea. We'll find out on Monday.

HARRIS: Will it be tried?

FRIEDMAN: It has to be tried, but whether or not Sonny Perdue winds up in the (INAUDIBLE), we're going to know on Monday. We're dealing with, as I said...

(CROSSTALK)

HARRIS: All right, all right, Avery, hang on a second, because I'm long in the segment.

Ed, last word to you.

GARLAND: This case will be tried in the state system. The State of Georgia will ultimately fund it and there will be a just trial. And the lawyers who are doing it are good lawyers. The judge is a great judge. And the state needs to get off the dime and pay for it and move on.

(CROSSTALK)

HARRIS: OK. Avery, great to see you. Great to see you, my friend.

FRIEDMAN: Nice to see you too.

HARRIS: And, Ed, as always. Always great to talk to you.

(CROSSTALK)

COLLINS: We have some news just in to us here in the CNN NEWSROOM. Bear with me, as I've just pulled it off of the printer here to give you what we know.

These pictures coming in, about a train derailment from our affiliate in Seattle, Washington, in KIRO.

What we understand is, according to the Associated Press, Burlington, Northern Santa Fe officials are saying that this derailment has now blocked both sets of tracks in an area south of Tacoma actually. They are a little bit concerned, I imagine, at this point, about what is inside that train, the cargo, as I continue to read on here about what that could be.

I can tell you or have you look at those pictures. You can see that the train is right across the tracks there, or off of the tracks, obviously. A 95-car freight train, four locomotives, is going, apparently, less than 45 miles an hour, when 13 of those cars -- 13 of the 95 -- jumped the tracks. It happened at about 3:00 a.m., local time.

At this moment, there are no reports of injuries. And the cause of why it all happened in the first place is, obviously, still under investigation.

So this is going to be something that people are going to have to be looking at, obviously, in this area, in Washington today, as they continue to try to make their way into work, as the morning continues on.

It says here that one of the derailed cars actually does contain a hazardous substance, but did not leak or pose any threat, right now, to that area. So, again, we will continue to watch these pictures, coming out of Washington, for you today, from our affiliate there, KIRO.

HARRIS: And still ahead this morning in the CNN NEWSROOM, he worried the Feds would deport him, so he deported himself.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I could face jail time, which I'm not willing to, you know, to do jail time, you know, I'd rather be free, you know?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: Illegal immigrant leaves legal family behind.

ALI VELSHI, CNN SENIOR BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: And, I'm Ali Velshi in New York, "Minding Your Business." While I've been worrying whether we're headed toward a recession, seems like half of you already think we're in one. Stay with us in the NEWSROOM, I'll tell you about that when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: And good morning again everyone. Bottom of the hour, you are in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Tony Harris.

COLLINS: Hi there everybody. I'm Heidi Collins.

We want to get directly to the weather situation for you at the top of this half hour I should say. The calendar does say October. The weather though packing the power of spring. Severe thunderstorms ripping through the plains and heading east.

This is a photo of one of the 14 tornadoes ripped through the night. One twister was a killer. Police say it tore apart a trailer in southeastern Missouri. A man and a woman were inside. Their bodies were found some 400 feet away.

In Oklahoma, dozens of people there were hurt, many of the injuries at an Oktoberfest celebration in Tulsa. Fierce winds suddenly tore into the massive tents and made them collapse. One of the people injured is in critical condition this morning.

HARRIS: Let's get another check of weather now.

Rob, you are the top story today. Maybe you can offer up a little hope or at least some warning signs and news for the folks in the Midwest staring down the barrel of this storm system.

MARCIANO: Well, a bit of a break right now. But then this is coming up. And do some more adding of fuel to the fire.

Want to show you, first off, the forecast high temperatures for today. That is really the first ingredient to trigger off the storms; 75 New York and 83 degrees D.C., 81 degrees Nashville and 79 degrees Chicago. These numbers are 10 and in some cases, 15 degrees above average. So you got some warm air. You got some cooler air. Where those two do battle in the spring and the fall, not so much in the fall but this is certainly our secondary severe weather season.

So we've got the severe storms ahead of the cool front and we've got a pretty potent dynamic upper level system that's really giving lots of energy to this system from the Canadian border all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico. Because of that, we've got fairly widespread severe weather outbreak, although for as big and as strong as this system is, it could have been a lot worse last night.

We still have today to get through. Showers and storms pushing ahead of the front but clearing skies behind this I don't want to say front but clearing skies behind the first band of showers that could trigger more in the way of showers.

Do you want some good news? There's some rain falling across parts of north Georgia and eastern Tennessee. Not a lot but at least some. They're in a severe drought as you know and the panhandle of Florida, some thunderstorms rolling through your area.

Here's the back end, the upper level part of the system, general rains but cooler air. This will drive to the east and that will bring in some more thunderstorms potentially.

Strong system across the Pacific Northwest, I wanted to touch on that. Live shot of Atlanta for you. Some showers just to the north of Atlanta. Again, not a whole lot. There shouldn't be a tremendous amount of severe weather here but anyway, it's a real boring shot. You don't want to see it, besides you guys live in Atlanta and see plenty of Atlanta as it is.

COLLINS: Thank you, Rob. Very good. All right. Thanks.

HARRIS: We've got a bit of breaking news we want to share with you right now. We're understanding reports coming in according to the Associated Press that Senator Sam Brownback is expected to drop out of the 2008 presidential campaign. We're expecting that we will get this announcement from the Brownback campaign tomorrow. Two people close to the campaign are telling us once again and telling the Associated Press that republican Senator Sam Brownback is expected to drop out of the 2008 presidential campaign tomorrow.

Our political unit is working this story and we will get you additional information shortly on this news just in to CNN. Republican Senator Sam Brownback expected to drop out of the 2008 presidential campaign tomorrow.

Let's take you to the New York Stock Exchange now. Get you started on this business day. The Dow starts the day at 13,892 after dropping 20 points yesterday on some shaky housing news but earnings reports are coming in. EBay and Nokia looking pretty good but possibly offset today by jobless claims, the biggest jump since February.

We are following the day's business news with Susan Lisovicz all morning long right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

COLLINS: One of those very big business stories, oil. It's breaking another record on the trading floor. Crude prices hit a whopping $89 a barrel so is there any relief in sight?

Ali Velshi is here "MINDING YOUR BUSINESS" this morning.

I'm looking for your barrel, Ali.

VELSHI: Well, here is the thing. Oil prices didn't settle at a record high which is why I don't have the barrel. I usually use that only when is there a record but it did trade up to a record high before coming down. It settled at $87.40 a barrel which is actually a little bit lower than the day before. Look at that trading high. $89 a barrel. That's got everybody concerned.

With all of those things Tony was talking about, we've got jobless claims, we've got earnings, we've got oil prices. What does it all mean? What it means is it's all got people worried about recession. It's got people worried about how much money they're going to have to spend. When you keep taking it out of their pockets in terms of gas, heating oil and things like that, we're heading into that holiday spending season, Heidi, and if people decide not to spend we're going to have a problem.

COLLINS: Yes. Absolutely. And, also, I think people are still waiting to hear more, aren't they, Ali, about the possible second interest rate cut?

VELSHI: October 31st, we've got another interest rate cut. But CNN and Opinion Research did a poll released this morning about Americans and about how they feel about the economy. You and I are talking about whether we're headed for a recession. Look at this. 46 percent of respondents said we're already in a recession.

And if you break it down by race, it becomes even more interesting. A smaller proportion of whites say we're in a recession, 42 percent. 69 percent of blacks think we are already in a recession.

This is very interesting. There are Americans already worried. Recession is one of those things where it doesn't officially matter if you are in one or not. If you think you're in one you might hold on to your wallet. We will bringing our viewers more and more information so that they can make good decisions about how to handle their money, their debt and how to spend more effectively.

COLLINS: What about the book we've been hearing about basically slower economic growth at least in some areas?

VELSHI: In between fed meetings they put out what is called a beige book which is sort of anecdotes from across the country about how things are looking in terms of the economic situation and it confirms what we already know that things are slowing down. Consumers are slowing down. Home prices continue to get a little bit lower so, again, this all works toward October 31st. If the fed cuts interest rates again and the betting is that they will, maybe we see another pop in the economy but it's all up in the air at the moment, Heidi.

COLLINS: All right. CNN's Ali Velshi "MINDING YOUR BUSINESS" this morning. Ali, thanks.

VELSHI: My pleasure.

HARRIS: A Superbug in schools, cases of staph infection recorded across the country and concern spreads over dangerous drug-resistant form.

COLLINS: A junior high in Maine will make contraception available to girls as young as 11.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A 13-year-old girl does not belong on the pill, in my opinion. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If kids are needing the service, then they should have access to it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: Birth control. Is it the business of the public schools?

HARRIS: Coming home and poised for a comeback. What did Benazir Bhutto's return to Pakistan mean for this key ally in the U.S. war on terror?

You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: Virginia schools closed because of a deadly staph infection. Back open today. The schools in Bedford County were closed yesterday for cleaning and disinfecting, this after a 17-year- old high school student died from a drug resistant staph infection. Schools across the country are reporting outbreaks of staph infection including the dangerous drug resistant form. MRSA is a strain of staph that does not respond to penicillin or related antibiotics but it can be treated with other drugs.

COLLINS: Pupils and the pill. A Maine school district approves a plan to give birth control pills and patches to students beginning in the sixth grade.

Jeff Peterson of affiliate WGME has the details.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEFF PETERSON, WGME: No matter what side of the debate you were on, there was emotion to say the least.

DIANNE MILLER, PARENT: There is the ramifications of what you are considering is mind boggling to me. I just can't believe we would be this irresponsible.

PETERSON: According to the directors of the health center, only a very small amount of girls would need the prescription. And the reasons for making them available are to protect, safety and learning in school.

RICHARD VEILLEUX, PARENT: But for those kids who are not getting that guidance, I think it's important for all of us to make sure that those kids have access to the resources they need.

PETERSON: Directors of the center add they have made condoms available for the past five years and birth control pills would fill a piece of health care at the school that has been missing.

CAROL SCHILLER, PARENT: We're not talking about a stampede of kids coming in asking for birth control. We're looking at a segment of the population that, for whatever reason, are being abandoned by adults in their lives.

PETE DOYLE, PARENT: You all better consider that down the line because you all are going to be responsible for that, the devastating effects on young women when this goes through.

PETERSON: In the meantime some parents felt the discussion and the OK to receive birth control pills belongs at home, not at school.

ILIA ADHAM, PARENT: If I knew my kid was going to King school and the first thing I was told she will get birth control, I wasn't going to register there.

RICHARD GILETTE, PARENT: I would say we're not educating our kids. We're actually avoiding our responsibilities. And that is sad.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: So we want to know what you think about this. Should contraceptives be offered to kids as young as 11? E-mail us your thoughts at the CNN NEWSROOM at cnnnewsroom@cnn.com and we will read some of your responses later on right here in the NEWSROOM.

HARRIS: Ahead still ahead, sniffle season. Folks are reaching for cough and cold medicines but are they safe for your kids? There's a question. CNN medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen will take a look.

COLLINS: Also ads, bad word. Billboard owner says it's for a bad man. Highway name calling ahead in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: Cold and cough medicines, are they safe for young children? Do they even work? The FDA taking a close look today and tomorrow.

CNN medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen taking a good look right now. She joins us from New York.

Elizabeth, good morning!

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

What they are going to be talking about at this FDA meeting today and tomorrow is this. Manufacturers have already said they will stop making over-the-counter cough and cold medicines for children under the age of 2. But the big question is health experts say that's not nearly enough.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

When Dimitria Alvarez's baby got a cold, she did what any good parent would do. She took him to the doctor.

DIMITRIA ALVAREZ, MOTHER: He just started coughing and it was in his chest. He had a little bit of a fever and so I took him to the doctor and the doctor told me to give him the medicine.

COHEN: The medicine was an over-the-counter cough syrup. What happened to Devin Melberg Alvarez when his mother gave it to him shook his family forever.

DR. JOSHUA SHARFSTEIN, BALTIMORE HEALTH COMMISSIONER: You're talking about millions of dollars spent convincing parents to buy these drugs, that they need these drugs when, in fact, they are not safe or effective.

COHEN: Dr. Joshua Sharfstein says the cough and cold medicines we see on the drugstore shelves are dangerous for children under the age of 6. Sharfstein, the health commissioner for the city of Baltimore, is scheduled to testify today at an FDA hearing. The irony, he says, is these drugs don't even work for kids under 6.

SHARFSTEIN: I don't think these products have any role in helping little kids get over colds.

COHEN: The Consumer Healthcare Product Associations, which represents manufacturers of these drugs, says they "are safe and effective when used as directed, and most parents are using them appropriately."

Dimitria Alvarez said she did exactly what her pediatrician recommended. She gave her son an over-the-counter cough medicine, put him down to sleep, and seven hours later, she found him dead.

ALVAREZ: He was just -- just beautiful and I just -- I miss him so much, and I loved him so much.

COHEN: On Devin's death certificate, dextromethorphan intoxication. Dextromethorphan is a key ingredient in cough medicines like the one his mother gave him before he died.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

In the past four decades or so, 123 children have died after taking over-the-counter cough medications and many more have ended up in emergency rooms -- Tony.

HARRIS: So Elizabeth, let's take a step back here. The doctor in your story said these medicines don't work for children under 6 but many parents swear by them. So how could this be?

COHEN: I know, that does seem confusing. When I asked doctors about that, they said, look, in these medicines is this ingredient, is often this ingredient called dextromethorphan and it's a derivative of an opiate. So it sedates the child. The child gets sleepy and parents are glad the kid is getting their rest but it doesn't actually help the kid feel better. The cough and cold doesn't go away. It just sedates them.

HARRIS: CNN's Elizabeth Cohen for us. Elizabeth, appreciate it. Thank you.

COHEN: Thanks.

COLLINS: Still ahead this morning, a noose hanging from a rearview mirror in a city worker's truck. Prank or a malicious act? Mad in Monsey, we will tell you all about it.

Also, rough weather could hit today. Live at the CNN severe weather center, meteorologist Rob Marciano has the watches and warnings. Stay tuned right here to CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: Thinning of the bones, also known as osteoporosis, 10 million Americans have it, Eighty percent of them are women but there are some things you can do in your 30s, 40s and 50s to prevent it.

Judy Fortin explains.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JUDY FORTIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Dr. Lisa Flowers works so hard now because she wants to avoid becoming a statistic in the future. Half of all women over 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis, losing bone mass due to estrogen loss.

DR. ETHEL SIRIS, PRES. NATL. OSTEOPOROSIS FND.: The more bone loss that you have, the greater probability that down the road you may fracture.

FORTIN: Up until you're 30, you're still building your skeleton but in your 30s natural bone loss starts. However, the estrogen women produce helps reduce the amount of bone loss. Now is the time to establish habits that will help maintain as much bone mass as possible.

SIRIS: You shouldn't smoke. You shouldn't drink too much. You should stay physically active.

FORTIN: Also, make sure you get enough calcium in your diet, about a thousand milligrams, which is the equivalent of three servings of dairy. And about 400 to 8800 units of vitamin D, which helps your bones absorb the calcium. Do weight-bearing exercises. Walking, jogging, tennis all are good exercises for you in your 30s.

In your 40s, you want to continue a healthy lifestyle. Get enough calcium and vitamin D and exercise. Something Dr. Flowers now, in her early 40s, knows is essential.

DR. LISA FLOWERS: I work out about five days a week, approximately one hour in the morning before I go to work just to kind of keep myself in reasonable amount of shape and strength.

FORTIN: When you hit your 50s, you're entering or in menopause. Which means you stop producing protective estrogen and you will start to lose bone mass.

SIRIS: You wind up with less bone, thinner bones are easier to break.

FORTIN: Some of the most common fractures among the elderly occur in the hip.

SIRIS: Hip fractures can kill you. There's a 20 percent increased risk of dying in the year after a hip fracture.

FORTIN: Something that may be avoided earlier in life.

FLOWERS: I'm really trying to be proactive! Now at this time and, hopefully, I'll reap the benefits when I get in my menopause era, which, hopefully, won't be as soon as I can imagine it to be!

FORTIN: Judy Fortin, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARRIS: And still to come in the NEWSROOM, a deadly storm pounds the plains and is now headed east. Are you in its path? Meteorologist Rob Marciano tracking the storms and is live ahead.

COLLINS: A Virginia school district washes down and opens up again today. Are all traces of a deadly bacteria gone? We'll have a live report just ahead.

HARRIS: He worried the feds would deport him, so he deported himself.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I could face jail time, which I'm not willing to, you know, do jail time. I'd rather be free, you know?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: Illegal immigrant leaves legal family behind.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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