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CNN NEWSROOM

Pakistanis Still Protesting; Illinois Cop Now a Suspect in Wife's Disappearance; Norman Mailer Dies; Stagehand Union Strike

Aired November 10, 2007 - 12:00   ET

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


BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, CNN NEWSROOM continues with Fredricka Whitfield.
Hi there, Fred.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: Hello to you. You all have a great day. That was such an inspiration. What a nice way to kick off our day.

NGUYEN: You have a good one, too.

WHITFIELD: All right.

Well, that fast-moving situation in Pakistan is what leads our broadcast here. The attorney general's office tells CNN emergency rule will end in a month, but there are few signs of such a move today.

Within the last few hours, former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has been released from house arrest, but she's still being barred from visiting a prominent critic of the president, General Pervez Musharraf, and government sources tell CNN that three British reporters have been ordered to leave the country. CNN's Dan Rivers is tracking developments in Pakistan. He joins us now from Islamabad -- Dan.

DAN RIVERS, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, we're hearing that three journalists from the "Daily Telegraph," which is a prominent British newspaper, have been asked to leave. One of them's already gone, actually, so two of them being asked to leave after an editorial was published which basically used language that could be deemed offensive if taken out of context.

A letter of complaints was sent to the newspaper by the high commission in London. They said that the language in the editorial was offensive and flounced (ph) the norms of journalism. They said it was regrettable and deserved an apology.

Now, we understand that the "Daily Telegraph" are holding an editorial meeting right now to decide what to do, but those journalists have been told to leave within 27 hours. And of course, all this comes against the broader context of journalists here being the subject of a media clampdown as well as lawyers and critics of General Musharraf and PTP supporters, supporters of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, also all being rounded up and arrested. Benazir Bhutto herself tried to leave her house today, she tried to go and see the Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, former chief justice. She wasn't allowed to get to see him. She was turned back by police with barbed wire across the road. But before she left, CNN talked to her. This is what she had to say about her talks or lack of talks with General Musharraf.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BENAZAR BHUTTO, FMR PAKISTAN PRIME MINISTER: I have not spoken to him since we decided to part the way for this public protest, but before we parted ways, I did speak to him. I did say the next election should be...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When did you speak, directly on the phone or in person...

BHUTTO: It was several days ago, not recently. Not recently. Not since we had decided as a party not to have anymore contact because the public mood is against any contact with General Musharraf.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RIVERS: We understand there will be protests in Karachi in the south, the biggest city here in Pakistan, and then further protests are planned by Benazir Bhutto on Tuesday in Lahore. She's threatening to have this so-called long march where she's threatening to get tens of thousands of her supporters to march all the way from Lahore right here to Islamabad.

WHITFIELD: And Dan, since many of Bhutto's supporters have been arrested, we've been seeing that over the course of days, does she express any fear or concern that she is next?

RIVERS: Well, she's already been placed under house arrest for a time.

WHITFIELD: Right.

RIVERS: I mean, going back in history, she's been in prisons for years before, but she's already been placed under house arrest, this time for about 24 hours or so. They let her out today, but there is a lot of speculation that if she tries to go ahead with this march in Lahore, she may well be prevented from doing so, may well be put under house arrest again, so that's a real possibility for her.

WHITFIELD: Right, or arrested in some other capacity. All right, Dan Rivers, thanks so much, from Islamabad.

Well, a deadly milestone reached in the war in Afghanistan. Six American troops were killed yesterday in an ambush in eastern Afghanistan, making this year the deadliest since the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in 2001. The death toll for the year now stands at 100.

And a literary giant, who craved the public spotlight, could drink like a fish, and fought with friends and foes alike, author Norman Mailer died earlier today in a New York hospital of kidney failure. He was 84. His debut novel, "The Naked and the Dead" is considered a classic. Mailer was a pioneer of literary non-fiction, winning Pulitzer prizes for "The Armies of the Night" and "The Executioner's Song."

Mailer's personal life, well it often overshadowed his writing career. He nearly killed his second of six wives when he stabbed her during a drunken party and she never pressed charges.

From missing person to possible homicide victim, the search for Stacy Peterson taking an ominous turn today. Investigators now suspect her husband, a Chicago area police officer, might have killed her, and they're taking another look at the death of Drew Peterson's third wife. Aaron Baskerville with affiliate CLTV, is in Bolingbrook, Illinois.

Aaron, what's the latest on this investigation?

AARON BASKERVILLE, CLTV REPORTER: Well, first of all, 23-year- old Stacy Peterson has been missing for nearly two weeks, about 13 days, and she's the missing Bolingbrook mother of two. And the latest developments happened yesterday and overnight, and they pertain to her husband, 53-year-old Drew Peterson. He is a Bolingbrook police officer, and he is now considered a suspect, no longer just a person of interest.

And this comes on the heels of an investigation with the Will County state's attorney. And he was looking into his third marriage with Kathleen Savio. She is 40 years old, and she was found dead in a dry bathtub in 2004. That was ruled an accidental drowning then, but with this investigation, now they don't think it was an accident anymore. They believe it was possibly staged, and they're actually looking to exhume her body real soon to further this investigation.

Meanwhile, searchers continue to look for any clues to the whereabouts of Stacy Peterson. Right now they are concentrating on a forest preserve in suburban Naperville, right now. And Texas-based EquuSearch is leading this search, looking for any clues. They are the mounted and search and recovery team based out of Texas, and they've been a part of many, many missions, here -- hundreds and hundreds of missions, most notably, the search for Alabama teenager Natalee Holloway.

Now, Drew Peterson says Stacy Peterson called him about two weeks ago on that Sunday and said she was leaving him. Her family says she would have never left her two children, and Drew Peterson tons tell everybody out here that they're wasting their time and that there is no need to search. But, for right now, he is now a suspect. No longer just a person of interest, and they are looking to exhume the body of his third wife. He was married four times, but now looking to exhume the body of his third wife, 40-year-old Kathleen Savio. Back to you.

WHITFIELD: Wow, so Aaron, now what about any eyewitnesses, anyone who remembers seeing Stacy Peterson recently? Any details like that that are coming forward? BASKERVILLE: You know, a lot of people are now just talking about their last conversations, and the main thing was this last conversation she supposedly had with Drew Peterson, which he says she had called saying she was going to leave him. Her family kept on saying that Stacy Peterson wanted a divorce from Drew and that she was fearing for her life. So, that was a point of contention here, but the last conversation was about two weeks ago. People said that on that Sunday she was supposed to go to a friend's house to do some painting and she never showed up at all, and that's what led to this massive search so far.

WHITFIELD: All right. Aaron Baskerville of CLTV out of Bolingbrook, Illinois, thanks so much for the update.

Well, another case that's been getting a lot of attention this week and over the recent months, O.J. Simpson. Well, right now he's cooling his heels for about three days. His Vegas court hearing won't resume until Tuesday because of the holiday weekend. So far, though, no witness has actually put a gun in Simpson's hand, but they have testified that two men with Simpson were armed. Whether Simpson knew the men had weapons could be critical for the judge. He's trying to decide whether there is enough evidence to put Simpson on trial.

Simpson is charged with armed robbery and kidnapping. Prosecutors say he and his buddies held up a memorabilia dealer. Simpson insists he was retrieving stuff stolen from him.

Well, some pretty candid comments from a candidate's mom. In an interview on MSNBC, John McCain's 95-year-old mother took a swipe at one of his Republican rivals, Mitt Romney. Roberta McCain criticized Romney's Mormon faith and linked Mormons to the scandal surrounding the Salt Lake City Olympics.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTA MCCAIN, JOHN MCCAIN'S MOTHER: As far as this Salt Lake City thing, he's a Mormon, and the Mormons of Salt Lake City had caused that scandal, and to clean that up, it's not even -- again, it's not a subject.

SEN JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The viewers of my mother are not necessarily viewers of mine.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: All right. Well, McCain later told the "Associated Press" that his mother actually misspoke. He says Romney's religion should not play a role in people's decisions.

Well, all aboard this CNN "Election Express." The best political team on television is on its way to Las Vegas for next week's Democratic debate. Democrats hoping to tame the West in 2008. Right now our senior political analyst Bill Schneider is in Mile High City of Denver, Colorado, with quite the topper, there -- Bill. The West is important for these candidates.

BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN SR POLITICAL ANALYST: Thank you. Yeah, the West, the interior West has become very important for Democrats. They are meeting here in Denver next August for their convention. Why? Because Democrats have been doing very well in Colorado and throughout the mountain West. Big gains, a lot of people have moved into these states, like Colorado, from the East and West coast. It's a fast- growing area. A lot of new Latino voters have moved here. And Democrats had made big gains in Congress. The governor and state legislature here in Ohio is Democratic. They're both Democratic controlled for the first time in 40 years, so you might say that the Democrats are prospecting for gold in the Rocky Mountains.

WHITFIELD: Wow. So, that's the focus for the candidates. Meantime, the man who actually has the position, who has the residence at the White House, isn't doing so good in the polls. In fact, this is probably his worst, right, ever?

SCHNEIDER: Well, it's close to his worst ever. He's got a 34 percent job approval rating, which is very bad. In fact, he's been about 2-1/2 years without support from a majority of Americans. That's longer than any president has been without majority support. Richard Nixon quit, of course, early before he could break that record.

Twenty-three percent of Americans say that George Bush is the worst president ever. Now, it would be interesting to compare that with how they felt about say, Richard Nixon or previous presidents. I'm sure a lot of Americans may have felt that way about Bill Clinton, who had a lot of critics. But, that question hasn't been asked before. Still, a quarter of the country is saying the worst president ever. That's got to be pretty bad.

WHITFIELD: Wow. That is pretty bad. He's not to feel pretty depressed about that. I know I would.

Meantime, all right, from Denver, then where? Where are you off to next?

SCHNEIDER: Oh, we're going from here to Las Vegas, of course, where the debate will be held on Thursday. So, we have a little motoring trip. You'll notice I'm wearing my motoring costume.

WHITFIELD: I like it, I like it.

SCHNEIDER: We will be crossing the Rockies. We're going to be crossing the Utah desert, and soon we'll be in Las Vegas waiting for the Democrats to show up for their next debate, where, of course, Hillary Clinton, once again, will be on the spot. All eyes will be on her. And of course, she'll be the target still of a lot of criticism from her fellow Democrats. Is it because she's a woman? Well, she says no, it's because she's a winner. She's winning and she's the frontrunner, and therefore, that she's the target in this debate.

WHITFIELD: Right. All right. Well, and you know, actually, she actually got some agreement from some of the other candidates who said exactly that, you know, picking on her because she is kind of the frontrunner.

Meantime, enjoy the drive. And you know what? I've been on that drive across Utah. It's so pretty, so have your camera handy.

SCHNEIDER: OK.

WHITFIELD: Just my little advice. All right, enjoy, Bill.

All right, well, coming up, Thursday night the Democratic candidates hit the Vegas strip. All bets are off as they clash again with CNN's Wolf Blitzer and the best political team on television. Watch Thursday, November 15, 8:00 p.m. Eastern only on CNN.

And you, of course, can be part of history when the Republicans debate on November 28. Go to cnn.com/youtubedebates, and post your questions for the Republican presidential candidates. That is Wednesday, November 28, only on CNN, your home for politics. Mark your calendar this month.

Well, another strike in the entertainment world, and this one means it is lights out on, of all places, Broadway. We're going to take you to New York to let you know what is happening.

And meantime, a dry southern town, we're not talking about alcohol. This place has actually run out of water. What they're doing now to survive.

And we've all faced this dilemma, right? You need a day off, but what do you tell your boss when you call in? Well, why not buy an excuse? Just about everything's for sale these days. You're in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: All right, if you're looking for live entertainment in New York, you just might be out of luck. No matinee on Broadway today. A few hours ago, members of the Stagehand Union went on strike, shutting down dozens of plays and musicals, and CNN's Jim Acosta joins us live from the Great White Way.

Hey, it's really crowded there, but not because folks have tickets and are entering theaters. They're all standing outside.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Instead of a production of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," we're witnessing a production of "How the Stagehands Stole Broadway," I think.

Right now picketers are standing outside of this matinee show that was canceled because of the strike that started this morning. As you said, about 20 other shows, here in New York City, have also been canceled tentatively. I guess we could say it's possible something could be resolved today, but it's not likely.

And I'm standing with one of the stars of the show of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," Patrick Page.

You also play the grinch. And this is potentially devastating. This is not good news this time of year, is it?

PATRICK PAGE, BROADWAY ACTOR: No, it's not good news at all. Right now I should be up on stage in a big, furry, green suit with grease paint on my face, and I'm standing here in the street. The guys are behind me with their picket signs. All those guys want to be working and I want to be working.

ACOSTA: And you and I saw the same thing this morning, there were families showing up with their kids, and you know, those kids were not happy when they showed up here. They were hoping to see one of their favorite storybooks brought to life, thanks to you and others, and it's not going to happen. How serious could this be for Broadway, if folks out there all across the country are watching the news and seeing that shows like yours aren't on?

PAGE: Yeah. Well, the strike's been looming for a while, and there's no question that it's hurt Broadway. People have put off making their plans because they haven't known whether there would be a show going on. So now we're finally having the strike. Hopefully, it will be resolved quickly, and people can make their plans and come to the city or Thanksgiving, Christmas, and see "How the Grinch Stole Christmas."

ACOSTA: And you were just saying this affects you, too, it's not just the stagehands and theater owners.

PAGE: Oh sure. If I'm not up there on the stage, I don't get paid. So, I'm very anxious for them to resolve it.

ACOSTA: And we hear every year that this industry generates, you know, close to $1 billion and, you know, there are lots of jobs that are affected by this. You have various restaurants in this area. Certainly, it's in nobody's interests to see this go on. Do you have any insight into the negotiations here, how far apart these two sides are? Is there any chance that we could see some kind of agreement?

PAGE: I don't know much about the negotiations. Those have been very closed. What I do know is that, you know, what they're talking about is how people are going to be paid, how they're going to put food on the table for their families, and how Broadway is going to remain viable for those people who put the money behind the shows and who put up the shows.

ACOSTA: And how would the Grinch respond to a situation like this, would you say?

PAGE: Well, the Grinch usually says he hates Christmas, but today he hates the strike.

ACOSTA: All right, very good. Patrick Page, thank you very much.

Fredricka, you know, I don't think the Grinch could have put it any better. This is not a good situation down here, a lot of people are going to be showing up and finding a lot of big-time shows here on Broadway canceled. And this is potentially devastating for the city of New York. Not only do we have a stagehands strike going on, we have a writers strike. This is not a good time of year for all of this, you know, labor disagreements going on here in the city.

WHITFIELD: Right. There isn't a good time of year to have such a thing, but this?

ACOSTA: No.

WHITFIELD: This particular season, really critical, really painful for so many folks. All right, Jim, thanks so much from New York.

ACOSTA: You bet.

WHITFIELD: Well, not only lights out on Broadway, but now you may also have to do without new episodes of a lot of your favorite TV shows, and this is why. See, they're striking there, too. The entertainment writers strike is now in its sixth day, and there is no sign of it ending any time soon. No new negotiations are planned, and so for now, writers and some stars are walking the picket lines. Many shows have already started showing reruns. And some are close to stopping production altogether.

Striking writers are mad at comedian Ellen DeGeneres, saying she could cry on TV for a week over a dog that she gave away, but couldn't stand up for striking writers for more than a day. DeGeneres honored the picket line the first day of the strike, but then later resumed production of her show. The producers of "Ellen" released a statement saying entertainers who write their own material are allowed to cross the picket line and work.

All right, well, in the southeast, the drought has left one small town pretty high and dry. Their water source is gone, nil, caput. So, what do they do now that there is no water? That's next in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: All right, there is Reynolds Wolf. He's ready, poised, ready for action.

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Absolutely. Right here.

WHITFIELD: OK, are we going to start in the southeast, where it is still, you know, the problem of dry. It just hasn't rained in a while?

WOLF: I know.

WHITFIELD: Only because I'm looking at the map behind you.

(WEATHER REPORT)

WHITFIELD: OK, I like snow.

WOLF: Yeah, not bad, not bad.

WHITFIELD: You know. This is the time of year. So, I'm OK with that.

WOLF: No question. We have those...

WHITFIELD: Of course, it doesn't snow much here in Atlanta, so that's why I'm OK with it.

WOLF: Very, very true, which is probably why we enjoy it so much.

WHITFIELD: I know, people hate us for that. All right, thanks a lot, Reynolds.

All right, well, talking about dry, drought and all that -- when the well runs dry, well, a Tennessee town learns to live with limited water. CNN's Rusty Dornin explores.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RUSTY DORNIN, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Dinner is on the stove, but Debbie Cash (ph) has much more urgent matters on her mind.

(on camera): How many buckets do you fill?

DEBBIE CASH, RESIDENT OF ORME, TENNESSEE: About six a day.

DORNIN (voice-over): : It's evening rush in Orme, Tennessee. Taps are on for just three hours. After that, they're dry until the same time tomorrow.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fill a 55-gallon drum.

DORNIN (on camera): Since last night.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah.

DORNIN (voice-over): The town's only water source, a sad reminder of days gone by.

BILL RICHARDSON, WATER DELIVERY DRIVER: Years ago we'd run -- it would run off these bluffs here, water would. I mean...

(CROSSTALK)

DORNIN (on camera): Like a big waterfall, right?

RICHARDSON: Like a big waterfall.

DORNIN (voice over): Now the only way to get water is to fire up the 1961 fire engine and head two miles to a fire hydrant in Alabama for water donated by another town. They hook up the hose, fill her up, and it's back to the town's tank to unload.

(on camera): So how many times do you have to make a round trip a day?

RICHARDSON: About seven times. About seven loads.

DORNIN (voice over): Back and forth err Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and the moment parched residents are waiting for.

Mayor Tony Reames cranks open the water valve. Down below, Debbie Cash waits.

(on camera): So nothing. You have nothing coming out.

CASH: Nothing. Nothing.

DORNIN: OK. And then how long does it take after he turns the water on for the water to come out of the faucets?

CASH: Just a few minutes.

DORNIN (voice over): Luckily there is help on the way. By Thanksgiving Orme should have water piped in. But Reames says his town's predicament is a warning to others.

MAYOR TONY REAMES, ORME, TENNESSEE: All these people that's on the river systems better take note, because once your mountain streams, your tributaries to the river starts drying up, the river ain't far behind.

DORNIN: Debbie Cash says never take the natural resources for granted.

CASH: Cherish the water you've got and be kind of careful with it because you never know if you're going to be out of water.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: Water low and gas up. In most places, the gas is up, but it may not be a case of high demand and low supplies that's driving prices so high. We'll look at what's really to blame.

And here's a way to turn your weekend into a mini vacation. How about taking Monday off? Well, maybe not this Monday, because it's a federal holiday, so a lot of people are already off, some other Monday. Well, if you need an excuse, we've got a few ideas for you.

And from actress, comedian, to activist, Jenny McCarthy starts by the NEWSROOM to talk to me about her fight to find a cure for autism.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: He was a literary giant who craved the public spotlight. Norman Mailer died today of kidney failure. He was 84, prolific writer and social critic. His debut novel, "The Naked and the Dead" is considered a classic. He won Pulitzer Prizes for "Armies of the Night" and "The Executioner's Song," but it was Mailer's driving personality and private life that kept him in the public eye.

On the phone with us now is Will Blythe, a former literary editor of "Esquire" magazine. He knows a lot about that side of Mailer. People feel like, will, they might know the writer just simply through their writings, what they love to talk about, but this is a very complex man.

VOICE OF WILL BLYTHE, AUTHOR: Yes, he was. I actually found him -- I didn't really know him in his wild years, so, he was -- you know, he came to "Esquire," where I worked with him as an editor, you know, and he had this reputation as this fire-breathing guy who would punch you out over a sentence, but he turned out to be the most charming and gracious of gentlemen. And -- but as a writer, you know, I think his greatest creation really was himself.

WHITFIELD: Really?

BLYTHE: You know, he turned himself into a character in books like "Armies of the Night," and he was able to examine, you know, celebrity and politics using himself as a kind of, you know, a test probe. And he was just a fantastic writer.

WHITFIELD: That really is an interesting point, because he wasn't just a writer. Beyond the fact that he helped, you know, found "The Village Voice," he did a lot of things, even, you know, running for mayor of New York. He produced five, I guess some would say, pretty forgettable films. He did dibble and dabble a bit in journalism. And he kind of became a celebrity, as well. So you know, I guess he really maximized his life. He did a lot of things, he wore a lot of hats, didn't he?

BLYTHE: Yes, he was a very industrious guy. I think he sort of had to be, because he had about five alimonies to pay. So, that he -- he was incredibly prolific, and yes, he was interested in just a great, wide range of subjects, and as you say, he was a filmmaker, he ran for mayor.

WHITFIELD: And he had children, lots of them.

BLYTHE: Yes.

WHITFIELD: And wives, lots of them.

BLYTHE: Yes.

WHITFIELD: What did that -- what was that part of Mr. Mailer? I mean, was he a real family man or does it say something else about, you know, his life, his connections with people?

BLYTHE: Well, I always had the impression, without knowing extremely well, that he was a great family man, that he really venerated family and was a great sort of pater familias. And despite, again, his reputation as a wild man -- I think that reputation was derived mainly from his younger days. I think he was a tremendous family man.

WHITFIELD: Will Blythe, thanks so much, helping us remember Norman Mailer ...

BLYTHE: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: ...who died at the age of 84 early this morning.

Well, perhaps you also followed Wall Street all this week and you saw a market pretty anxious over the price of oil, the price of nearly $100 a barrel. And if you didn't fill up already, well, you'll most likely face higher prices today. So what is going on?

CNN's Allan Chernoff has some answers that just might surprise you.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALLAN CHERNOFF, SENIOR CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Prices at the pump are soaring yet again. The national average for regular gas now approaching $3 a gallon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's getting outrageous.

CHERNOFF: Is there a shortage of gas? Not at all. It's crude oil's rapid climb to nearly $100 a barrel, say energy experts, that's driving the price of gasoline, as well as home heating oil. Yet, there's no shortage of crude oil, either, say fuel distributors, like David Shildwakin (ph).

DAVID SHILDWAKIN, FUEL DISTRIBUTOR: We have more than enough oil.

CHERNOFF: In fact, the Department of Energy reports oil supplies are above average for this time of year. And demand, it's actually declined in the past couple of weeks.

(on camera): Energy analysts say crude is rising because of fear there might be a disruption in the flow of imported oil. The last time there was a significant cut in foreign supply was when the U.S. invaded Iraq. Back then, the price of oil hit $35 a barrel, a fraction of today's price.

(voice-over): Andrew Lebow has been an energy trader for nearly three decades. Never, he says, have about there been so many investors bidding up oil.

(on camera): Is there any way that the supply and demand situation justifies oil at this level?

ANDREW LEBOW, SR. V.P., MF GLOBAL: No, I don't think so. And I think we've seen a tremendous inflow of speculative money coming into not only the oil markets, but commodities in general.

CHERNOFF (voice-over): Investors are putting hundreds of millions of dollars into the energy market.

SAM GREER, EXEC. V.P., MERCANTILE EXCHANGE: So now, it's as acceptable to invest in let's say, crude oil or gasoline, as it is to invest in IBM.

CHERNOFF: And many traders are embracing the old Wall Street rule, the trend is your friend. The friend for oil has been up, and it's been paying handsome dividends.

FADEL GHEIT, ENERGY ANALYST: The largest financial institutions control oil price or dictate the direction of oil price much more than any oil company.

CHERNOFF: Of course, the trend could strictly change, leading traders to bail out of oil. But for now, a major reason we're paying more at the pump is that big investors have been striking black gold in the oil trade.

Allan Chernoff, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: So, whether it's at the pump or at your thermostat, you are facing higher and higher oil and gas prices. So, what is Washington doing about it? We look into that in a special program called "The Trouble With Oil." Watch it tomorrow night here on CNN, beginning at 10:30 Eastern, 7:30 Pacific.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: So, cold weather may be on its way and many of you will be sailing off into warmer climates. But before you hit the open seas on a cruise ship, here are some safety tips in this week's On the Go.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARK ORWOLL, SR. CONSULTING EDITOR, TRAVEL + LEISURE: Ten million Americans take cruises each year. Most of them get exactly what they expect: fun in the sun, exotic ports of call, and all you can eat buffets. What most of them don't expect on their cruise is crime.

While statistics seem to support the cruise industry's claim that there is less crime on their ships than in the U.S. population at large, some lines are already making changes, including installing peep holes in cabin doors, increasing the number of security cameras and security guards and doing background checks on employees. And the industry's largest trade organization recently announced an agreement with the FBI and U.S. Coast Guard that requires cruiselines to immediately report any violations of U.S. law, no matter where they occur. That's an important change, because most cruise ships are foreign flag vessels.

But there are some basic steps passengers can take to avoid becoming a victim on the high seas. Don't leave valuables lying around, lock the door to your cabin. If you're traveling with children, know where they'll be and set a curfew. Use caution when going ashore, which is where most cruise-related crime occurs. Most of all, be aware of your surroundings and use common sense.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: A quick look at what's happening right now in Pakistan. Former prime minister Benazir Bhutto has been released from house arrest, and now the government says a state of emergency there will be lifted within a month.

And it could be the night the lights go out on Broadway. Stagehands are now picketing outside the James Theater, where "The Grinch" was due to steal Christmas this afternoon.

And Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel, spending the weekend at President Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas. Iran and Afghanistan on the menu. Merkel is the first German leader to get an invite to the ranch.

Well, it may not look like it, but this really is video of a shuttle on the move, the shuttle "Atlantis." I know it looks like it's standing still, but it moves really slow. Early this morning, the massive space shuttle made the slow move to the launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center, where it is scheduled to launch December 6th. It took about seven hours for the shuttle to move just three miles to the launch pad, because it has to move ever so slowly.

Well, next in the CNN NEWSROOM, actress turned mom turned activist Jenny McCarthy sheds light on what she thinks could be behind a spike in autism cases among American children.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: So, it seems every week there's a new toy that's being recalled or something. Well, this time, a quick response to tell you about from China. The export of Aqua Dots has been stopped. Reports from China say the popular but dangerous toys are no longer being shipped overseas. U.S. safety officials voluntarily recalled millions of the toys this week, and you're going to want to take a close look here.

Make sure you don't have this in your toy chest, because some of the kids who actually ate the dots became ill and one even fell into a coma. So, you don't want your kids anywhere near the Aqua Dots. Researchers found that chemicals in the dots can break down into a form of the so-called date rape drug.

Well, Jenny McCarthy, you know her as a kind of well-rounded entertainer. She has played lots of roles over the years, actress, comedian, model. And then, there are the ones that define her: mom, activist, and author. "Louder Than Words" is McCarthy's fourth book. The best-selling memoir is about raising her son, Evan, a child with autism, and it's drawn a lot of praise and also, a lot of criticism.

I sat down with McCarthy and asked which is the greater challenge, getting the diagnosis or finding the best treatment? (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JENNY MCCARTHY, ACTRESS, AUTHOR, ACTIVIST: There is no easy one- two-three steps that are given by the pediatricians. It's taking the moms to dive in and do their own research. Remember the movie "Lorenzo's Oil"? That's what this generation has turned into, moms digging in to try to find the right treatment for their kids -- which I have, and talked about diets, detox, undoing vaccine damage.

WHITFIELD: Evan is two-and-a-half. You were thinking all along, he's exhibiting all the things that all the other kids are exhibiting.

MCCARTHY: Yes.

WHITFIELD: Everything's fine.

MCCARTHY: Right.

WHITFIELD: But then, something happened where you said, something's not right here.

MCCARTHY: Right.

WHITFIELD: What was that thing?

MCCARTHY: You know, it was soon after Evan's MMR shot, something happened, and I know I had heard a lot of controversy about the connection between that and autism, and I wasn't sure, and then, he started having seizures, and it wasn't until he then got diagnosed with autism that I started looking at his symptoms and realized that there was a connection between what just happened with his vaccines and autism, and then started to find this whole new world.

And you know what, can I just say that ...

WHITFIELD: Yes.

MCCARTHY: ...a lot of people think that I'm anti-vaccine because I talk about there being a connection. I'm anti-toxins. What I would love for the CDC to do is to clean out what's in the shots, and then, maybe moms wouldn't be so worried about vaccinating their kids.

WHITFIELD: Because these shots that all moms and dads are learning that their kids have to get, 36, 30, 20 shots ...

MCCARTHY: Yes! That's right, 36 shots now.

WHITFIELD: They don't know what these shots are, but they're trusting the medical authorities that all this stuff's been tested, it's OK.

MCCARTHY: Yes. Now, people do not know that there's still mercury in flu shots and other vaccines, ether, anti-freeze, monkey kidney. All these things are in shots.

WHITFIELD: And you think there's a direct connection between that and autism?

MCCARTHY: There absolutely, I believe there is a link. I don't think it's the sole cause. I do believe like obesity, it can trigger, you know, diabetes. Autism can be triggered by getting vaccinated, in some kids that have maybe a weaker immune system. And you know, people can go, well, we've done these studies, there's no correlation between mercury -- whatever! Mercury is the second worst neurotoxin on the planet, and that's a fact. Get it out of our shots!

WHITFIELD: Yet, we know while you're carrying your child, you're not supposed to consume mercury, at least you're supposed to ...

MCCARTHY: Fish, right?

WHITFIELD: ...stay away from certain fish because of their high mercury content.

MCCARTHY: But why do they tell pregnant women to get flu shots when they're loaded with mercury? You know, get rid of the toxins in these shots and maybe moms will stop worrying about vaccinating their kids. People are like, you know, oh, there's a big higher percentage of people claiming religious exemption. People think that they have to get these shots. Remember, we were talking earlier ...

WHITFIELD: Yes.

MCCARTHY: ...it is not a federal requirement.

WHITFIELD: Yes. So, a couple things now. As a spokesperson, you're help -- you're trying to get Congress to listen, to say wait a minute ...

MCCARTHY: Yes.

WHITFIELD: ...we want you to pay a little bit more attention to the contents in a lot of these shots ...

MCCARTHY: Yes.

WHITFIELD: ...and then, b, your approach to help Evan is pretty unorthodox. It's not just -- it's not medicine alone. It's a little bit of medicine, it's some diet, and it's also a real connection parent between child.

MCCARTHY: Right.

WHITFIELD: But a formula that doesn't work for everybody.

MCCARTHY: You know, it does -- like chemotherapy doesn't work for every cancer patient, these methods don't work for every autistic kid, but every pediatrician in the AAP, by the way, needs to get on it that there is a community that have been doing research for 12 years on recovering kids with autism through diet, and why the medical community makes such a big deal about diet, you know -- well, it hasn't proven, it's freaking food ...

WHITFIELD: Yes.

MCCARTHY: It's food! Change what the kid is eating and he feels better? What is so wrong with trying that? And it drives me crazy when pediatricians are looking at moms in the face going, that's a celebrity diet. Really? Well, let me show you the thousands of celebrities that are 5-years-old and are recovered from autism.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: Jenny McCarthy, the book is "Louder than Words."

All right, well, perhaps you're looking for an extra day off. Well, there is a new way to buy an excuse! But will the boss buy it as well? That's straight ahead in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: Well, perhaps you want to play hooky from work. You need just one more day. Well, a Web site is offering a get out of work free card. Well, it's not exactly free. It will cost you $20.

And it probably won't work if your boss is watching this report from our Ed Lavandera.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Dear CNN management, Dr. Al A. Bye regrets to inform you that your normally intrepid reporter, Ed Lavandera, won't be able to fulfill his Correspondent duties this week.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, nice to meet you. Sorry our reporter couldn't make it today.

LAVANDERA: Ed has recently suffered a severe back injury.

JOHN LIDDELL, EXCUSED ABSENCE NETWORK: My name is John Liddell and our company's Myexcusedabsence.com. We have three similar doctor's note templates, and one jury duty template and one funeral note template. It's $19.95 one time, that's it.

LAVANDERA: Ed has been evaluated today, and Dr. Bye has instructed this employee to stay off his feet and remain indoors for at least a week.

LIDDELL: Ed can call in sick if he desires, if he thinks he can get one over on his boss, and he can just easily go through and just type in whatever customizes his excuse.

LAVANDERA: Please allow Ed time to heal. He needs several stress-free days to help alleviate the wicked back pain that has left him unable to move or do heavy lifting. In a week, he can return to light duty. Sitting work only, no walking or prolonged standing. No lifting whatsoever.

LIDDELL: Well, I would consider it acceptable. I think it's a great service.

LAVANDERA (on camera): Oh, man, what a great lie!

BRUCE WEINSTEIN, THEETHICSGUY.COM: Every time I think our culture has sunk to a new low, something comes along to suggest that we have sunk even lower, and this is that story. It is unbelievable to me that a bald-faced lie could be considered acceptable.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): The patient will be re-evaluated in a few days and will return to full-time work duty in the very near future.

Ed Lavandera, CNN, Dallas -- I mean, Dr. Al A. Bye, CNN, Dallas.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: Oh, yes? Well, what do you suppose this dude's excuse was? Those darn police dash cams. So, another one of those stories that makes you say, what? Well, look closely and you'll see the person wearing a black leather jacket. Well, that person is a he dressed as a she. Police say he was even wearing fishnet stockings and fake breasts.

Well, maybe you don't think that's a big deal. Well, guess what? That he turns out to be a principal from a Catholic school in Bardstown, Kentucky. He was arrested and charged with prostitution. The principal denies the charges.

What? Mr. Principal!

All right, a look at the top stories and "YOUR MONEY," a preview right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALI VELSHI, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks.

Coming up on "YOUR MONEY," the money issues that could make or break your support for a presidential candidate.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Plus, building a bear-proof investment portfolio.

VELSHI: And how to have a great trip abroad, even if you're paying in U.S. dollars.

ROMANS: All that, and a whole lot more after a quick check of the headlines.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: And here are the headlines. More protests in Pakistan despite a government promise to end the state of emergency within a month. Police today barred former prime minister Benazir Bhutto from meeting with another prominent government critic, the ousted chief justice of Pakistan Supreme Court. TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.voxant.com

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