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AMERICAN MORNING

Winter Storm in Midwest; Clinton and Obama Battle Over NAFTA; McCain Says War is Key to Campaign; Taking Precautions Before Flying; N.Y. Philharmonic Plays in North Korea; Interview With DNC Chairman Howard Dean

Aired February 26, 2008 - 07:00   ET

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


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Extreme weather. Snow, sleet and ice in a holding pattern over runways and roads right now.
Toxic turn. The photo inflaming the race for president today. Can the Democrats make peace? We'll ask Party Chair Howard Dean live.

Plus, crash and learn. The safest midsize SUVs on the road on this AMERICAN MORNING.

CHETRY: Greg Hunter was out there at the Institute for Highway Safety seeing how they fare. They're SUVs, but they are built on car chassis.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Right.

CHETRY: Out of cars.

ROBERTS: But some surprising information came from that, that size doesn't necessarily matter.

CHETRY: That's right in terms of safety.

ROBERTS: Yes.

CHETRY: Well, we're going to break it all down for you a little bit later in the hour.

First, welcome. It's Tuesday, February 26th. Glad you're with us this morning.

ROBERTS: John Roberts together with Kiran Chetry tracking extreme weather this morning. A big winter storm moving across the Midwestern part of the country. In Illinois, seven inches of snow is expected in some areas along with 40-mile-an-hour winds, and that is going to create an awfully messy commute this morning. In Iowa, they have got the salt train working this morning. A 100 tons of rock salt arrived in Davenport.

And the weather is already causing trouble for air travelers. Three hundred flights canceled at Chicago's O'Hare Airport. Our Rob Marciano is live on the streets of Chicago, and how does it look there this morning, Rob?

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, the snow lightening up just a little bit but the winds have picked up, John. Blowing snow is certainly going to be an issue. It's bitterly cold here. We are right along the Chicago River. Take a look at the shot with the snow blowing sideways, and the ice chunks forming on the river there. In a month or so, that's going to be green with St. Patrick's Day.

It has been one heck of a winter here in Chicago. They've seen almost twice as much snow as they typically would. This is Michigan Avenue, pretty much downtown Chicago, the so-called 5th Avenue of Chicago with all the streets lined up and down here. As you can see, the streets are pretty wet. About four to six inches of snow falling here. So with the warmth of the city street, that's not as big of an issue. But Chicago O'Hare, a busy, busy airport. It's a hub for United. It's a hub for American. And as you mentioned, they've already canceled flights there.

Ironically enough, they have a competition with the Atlanta Airport, which is also seeing some bad weather. They're clearing the streets here. They got the snowplows out and the snow blowers, and they're getting through it. So life does go on here in Chicago. But if you are traveling by air, it is just a big mess.

And, John, I got to tell you. There is some nasty, nasty storms going through the Atlanta area where there is a busy airport there, and Jacqui has more on that. We'll toss it back to you.

ROBERTS: All right. Thanks very much. We'll be getting to Jacqui just a couple of seconds, but you got O'Hare Airport, Rob, that's having problems. Atlanta, what's that going to mean for travelers today?

MARCIANO: Well, it's not good news. You've got two big hubs for United. You've got it for American and you've got them for Delta, not to mention Air Channel (ph), the other airlines that go into Atlanta. So you just got to give them a call ahead and pack your patience. Much like we saw last Friday with all the New York airports. We're now going to see it in two spots, Atlanta and Chicago today.

ROBERTS: All right. Not a good day for travelers. Rob Marciano for us on the streets of Chicago this morning. Rob, thanks.

CHETRY: Currently, they are forecasting. I think two-plus hour delays for some of the New York metro airports today as well.

ROBERTS: Yes. You got some weather moving in here as well. So --

CHETRY: Right. We're getting some rain. All right. Well --

ROBERTS: Go back to bed.

CHETRY: Yes. No. Stay up and watch us, but don't fly.

We're one week away from the critical primaries in Ohio. Texas as well as Rhode Island and Vermont. And there is some new poll numbers out this morning. The first one coming from Texas. It's the new CNN/Opinion Research poll showing that Barack Obama has gained some ground on Senator Clinton over the past few weeks. He now has a 50 percent to 46 percent lead.

A snapshot of Ohio now as Democrats head into their last debate there before the primary in that state next week. Our poll of polls, which is an average of three separate polls, showing Clinton still in the lead, 49 percent; Barack Obama at 39 percent. Twelve percent still say they have not made up their minds yet.

We're also learning the key endorsement coming out of Ohio today. "The Associated Press" is reporting that Senator Chris Dodd plans to endorse Barack Obama later today in Cleveland. Dodd, a former candidate and also one of the superdelegates. Both Clinton and Obama are campaigning today before their big debate tonight in Cleveland. Ohio's lost hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs this decade.

ROBERTS: We have been hearing both Obama and Clinton trading jabs about NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement. Many Midwest voters say their jobs are vanishing because of it. NAFTA was implemented during President Bill Clinton's administration, but last night his former adviser and CNN contributor, David Gergen, said Hillary Clinton was not an avid supporter.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID GERGEN, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I was actually there in the Clinton White House during the NAFTA fight. And I must tell you, Hillary Clinton was extremely unenthusiastic about NAFTA. She -- and I think that's putting it mildly. I'm not sure she objected to all the provisions of it. She just didn't see why her husband and why that White House had to go do that fight. She was very unhappy about it, wanted to move on to health care.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: Obama has picked up his attacks on Hillary Clinton as a long-time supporter of the trade deal, and she's resisting that notion, crying "shame on you" at some campaign events.

On the Republican side, Senator John McCain is defending comments that he made about defending the war in Iraq. According to "The Associated Press," McCain told reporters that if he can't convince the American people that the United States is succeeding in Iraq, "Then I lose."

CNN's Dana Bash caught up with the senator and asked him about that statement.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think that clearly my fortunes have a lot to do with what's happening in Iraq and I'm proud of that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: McCain also said that it's not like him to retract comments. The DNC chairman is calling John McCain a "hypocrite," and McCain is returning the favor. Why is Howard Dean so upset? We'll ask him when he joins us live later on AMERICAN MORNING.

CHETRY: Well, the death of an American Airline passenger last week underscores the value of taking extra precautions before liftoff. The family of the deceased woman is charging that flight attendants tried to save her, but the oxygen tanks they administered were empty. The airline right now is saying that they did administer oxygen, as well as apply a defibrillator, but they did not say in a statement they released whether or not the medical equipment actually worked. Statistics show each year nearly 100 people die in flight.

CNN's chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta is at the medical update desk. You know, this is a very popular story right now on CNN.com about what people should consider when it comes to their health before they get into the skies.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. You know, Kiran, we think about this all the time, no question. A couple of things to keep in mind. Things change as obviously the plane starts taxiing and take off. The pressure changes in the cabin once it takes off. Oxygenation changes in the cabin for a period of time as well. Those things are subsequently acclimated to what people are normally used to.

But if you have some sort of condition that may make it more predisposed to having a problem, with the low pressure or change in pressure or low oxygen, you know, flying is going to be a little bit more of a problem for you. People, for example, with sinusitis. You don't think of that as a huge problem, but the pressure changes can be a problem. Pneumonia as well, that can be something when the pressure changes, the low oxygenation can turn something that was otherwise not a huge problem into a bigger problem.

There's also certain people who probably just shouldn't fly for the time being. People who've had recent surgery, for example, specifically abdominal surgery, who've had ear surgery, face surgery, dental work as well. This is all because of the pressure changes. A concussion, colonoscopy, again, for the reasons that we talked about. If you broke a limb or something, like let's say you're out skiing in Colorado, you may want to tell the doctors to put a soft splint on as opposed to a hard cast for the time being because you're going to have swelling. Again, those are the major concerns typically, Kiran, with flying.

CHETRY: You know, it's also interesting because there are some other things that people who don't realize. I mean, you know that you suffer from chronic illness, but you don't expect that in your hour trip or even your four-hour trip that something is going to happen to you in the air. I mean, should you just avoid flying if you're somebody that suffers from chronic illness?

GUPTA: Well, you know, if you could talk to folks in the airline industry, they'll say, for the most part, you're really no more at risk in the airplane than you are on the ground. The problem is, as you highlighted with this particular case, is getting the emergency medical care. So, you know, lower oxygenation, for example, if you have a significant lung problem or if you've had a major episode, you have a heart problem, you have a recent major episode, that's going to put you more at risk.

But, you know, as long as you can -- if you're getting around OK on the ground, you are able to walk up stairs, get around, then you should be fine. But if you get in the air and you haven't been doing very well at sea level, it's probably going to be exacerbated a little bit more.

Let me just say as well, a couple more groups of people who should be a little bit concerned, people who are at risk of blood clots, Kiran. We've talked about this in the past, something known as DVT, deep venous thrombosis. About a million people a year developed blood clots as a result of airline travel. For the most part, they're not problematic at all but they're a little bit more at risk if you're in your last trimester of pregnancy, if you're a smoker, for example, taking certainly medications.

CHETRY: All right. Just, you know, be aware. Ultimately, you are responsible for your health. In this situation, that was just awful what happened to this lady. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thank you.

GUPTA: Thank you.

ROBERTS: Ten minutes after the hour. A commercial dive trip turns deadly near the Bahamas. The water is baited to attract sharks. Today questions why a tourist jumped in.

He's well known for a lot of using money in politics. Now the DNC is going after John McCain for the way he is funding his own run for the presidency. Howard Dean is here to tell us why ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: An Austrian tourist is dead this morning after he was bitten by a shark during a scuba diving excursion. There's some coast guard footage showing this tour boat Sunday as it came back from the Bahamas. Lawyer Markus Groh and others were diving off of a charter boat after its crew baited sharks in the area, meaning they threw chum into the water to bring those sharks closer to the divers. He was bitten on the leg and then died at a Miami hospital. The Florida- based charter company advertises cageless shark dives. They're banned in the U.S. Critics pleaded with the company to stop what it called dangerous dives.

ROBERTS: We've got new pictures in this morning of a monumental musical performance. The New York Philharmonic playing a historic concert in Pyongyang in North Korea. It is the first time that an American orchestra has ever played in that country. It was broadcast live on state-run television and radio. And music included "The Star Spangled Banner" and Gershwin's "An American in Paris."

A delegation of nearly 300 people made the trip to Pyongyang. It is the largest American presence there in more than 50 years since the end of hostilities during the Korean War. Our Alina Cho traveled with the orchestra and joins us live now from the hall where the concert just wrapped up. What was it like to be there, Alina?

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, really extraordinary. I think I speak for everybody here in this concert hall. We're here at the East Pyongyang Grand Theater where the concert by the New York Philharmonic, John, ended just about an hour ago. There were several standing ovations. There was loud cheering, even laughter. Really a remarkable 90-minute concert, during which there was great symbolism. Just think about it.

Both the North Korean national anthem and "The Star Spangled Banner" played before a crowd of 1,400 people, mostly North Koreans. Then think of this, Gershwin's "An American in Paris," really a tongue in cheek way of saying Americans are now in Pyongyang. And then the finale, "Arirang," a well-known Korean folk song, famous on both sides of the DMZ. This concert, as you mentioned, is really historic in so many different ways. The first time an American orchestra has been invited to play here. The largest American delegation to come to North Korea since the end of the Korean War.

North Koreans we spoke to after the concert said they were especially moved by the playing of the North Korean national anthem and, of course, the finale, "Arirang." Those were the comments inside the concert hall. We should mention one person who was not in the audience, the man known as the dear leader, the general, Kim Jong-Il, but he almost surely watched it on television. The concert was shown live around the world, including right here in Pyongyang. And, John, that is unprecedented.

ROBERTS: It certainly is. We should also mention, Alina, too, that it's highly unusual to even get a satellite broadcast such as the one that you're giving us now out of North Korea. I mean, they've been extremely lenient here.

CHO: They have. It's been an extraordinary effort. In fact, I was looking at the program, John, that they handed out here just before the concert. And they actually thanked CNN and some other networks. It really has been an extraordinary joint effort. And remember, the Philharmonic didn't just come here to Pyongyang for this concert yesterday on this 48-hour tour. There have been two trips here, both in October and in January, and what you're seeing tonight is really the culmination of all of that work.

ROBERTS: Alino Cho for us live from Pyongyang today. Alina, thanks very much.

While New York's Philharmonic was making history in North Korea, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice discussed the country's nuclear program with officials in neighboring China. Rice told reporters in Beijing this morning that she expects China to push North Korea to make good on its promises. Last year, Pyongyang agreed to dismantle its nuclear program in return for aid and diplomatic benefits.

We're going to have more live coverage of today's historic events in Pyongyang. Our chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour will be joining us from the North Korean capital in about a half an hour's time -- Kiran.

CHETRY: Well, have you changed your religion or dropped out of your faith all together? There is a Pew study out showing that nearly half of Americans, 44 percent, have changed their religious affiliation, leaving the religion they were raised in. Fifty-one percent of people say they're Protestant. That number is lower than it has been. Seventy-eight percent of Americans call themselves Christians with Evangelicals as the largest denomination, and Catholics the next largest.

It brings to us this morning's "Quick Vote" question, America's leap of faith. Here's what you're saying. Right now, 17 percent of you say that you have made a change in your religion. Thirty percent saying you've kept the same faith, and 53 percent say you have left religion all together.

Cast your vote CNN.com/am. We'll continue to tally all of your votes throughout the morning.

Still ahead, the Democratic National Committee chair taking aim at John McCain. Howard Dean joins us live about how he is going after the competition and why.

Also, it's the crash tests. Popular midsized SUVs all put to the test. Which ones came up with high marks, and which ones failed? Our Greg Hunter is looking out for you. He has the answers coming up.

Plus, our own Ali Velshi still in Texas with the CNN Election Express. Ali is in Laredo for us this morning.

ALI VELSHI, CNN SENIOR BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: I am in Laredo. This is one of the biggest border crossings between Mexico and the United States. More than 10,000 trucks cross this border every day. The truckers are feeling the pinch of high gas prices. And when truckers hurt, so do you. I'll be back in a minute to tell you the story about trucking and the border.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING. Ali Velshi "Minding Your Business". He's in Laredo, Texas, touring the state of Texas on CNN's Election Express. He's been meeting with some of the voters on the ground, asking them what matters most when it comes to our nation's economy. And truckers make a living moving freight across the border with Mexico. You talked about the importance of NAFTA, or at least the impact the town that NAFTA built, as you refer to Laredo, Texas. It's a big border state. What's going on there?

VELSHI: Absolutely right, Kiran. Laredo is one of four major Texas cities that have border crossings with the United States, big cities. In fact, the population of Laredo is about 217,000 people. Just to give you some picture of this though, right across the river in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, the population is about 650,000. The Mexican side is really growing in places like Laredo, really benefit from the weakness of the U.S. dollar. Mexicans coming up here. There is great shopping in a place like Laredo, but that's not the big story around here.

The fact is that anybody who's driven on any highway in the United States knows that trucking is huge in the United States. By some estimates, 80 percent of the goods that you'll buy at a store get there by truck. Railing is big but trucking is bigger in the United States. So truckers have to deal with the issue of rising gas prices, and that really hurts them. They're really, really feeling it. We stopped and talked to some truckers to get some perspective of what they go through.

Now, just to give you a sense of how many truckers there really are, there are 9 million people employed in the trucking industry in the United States. That's the truckers, plus the administrations, the logistics and things like that. More than 15 million trucks in the United States, more than 3.3 million drivers here in the United States. Here's what they told me about gas prices in trucking.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GARY MUTHE, TRUCK DRIVER: With fuel at $3.50 a gallon, on average it takes everybody out here 70 cents a mile just in diesel fuel. When freight's only paying $1.30 or $1.40 a mile, we can't make a living at that. It's too cheap. There's not a lack of freight. It's cheap freight.

JOE, TRUCK DIVER: Forty years ago, I got 50 cents a mile. I made a better living than I am today.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: So, not only are people saying that their wages or the amount of money that they make, a lot of them are owner-operators, is not increasing. There are many truckers who are saying they're actually making less money than they were a year ago or five years ago. Some of that is fuel. Some of that, a lot of truckers say, is NAFTA. The idea that they are now in competition with more drivers, they don't have sort of the exclusivity over carrying the freight that they've carried.

So truckers are very concerned that Americans because of the amount of stuff that we depend on, that we get off of those trucks should also be concerned. Part of the fact that you are paying more for things is the gas prices, the oil prices, that it takes to get those trucks to the warehouses and to the stores where we buy things. That's one of the issues we're talking to people here in south Texas about. We're going to be talking to a lot more people about a lot of the other issues that concern them as we lead into the Texas primaries one week from today -- Kiran.

CHETRY: Sounds good. Ali Velshi in Laredo for us this morning, thanks.

ROBERTS: Twenty-five minutes after the hour now. John McCain is in a battle with the Federal Election Commission over public financing for his campaign. McCain had initially asked for matching funds when it looked like money was drying up, but after wins in New Hampshire and South Carolina, the money came flooding in and he opted out of public financing. But the chairman of the FEC is saying not so fast.

And Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean is accusing Republican presidential candidate McCain of skirting election laws, and he wants an investigation. McCain says it's not much different than what Dean did back in 2004.

Joining me now to talk more about that and the battle between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama is DNC Chairman Howard Dean. Chairman Dean, good to see you. Why do you want to get involved in this issue of McCain financing? The FEC is already looking into it.

HOWARD DEAN, DNC CHAIRMAN: John McCain is posing as a reformer, and it turns out reformers as far as he's concerned are good for everybody but him. I have a letter from the FEC, which excused me from public financing. We would just want him to get the same thing. He has benefited unlike our campaign from the material -- materially from getting public financing. One, he used the possibility of public financing as a bank loan. Two, he got on the ballot free of charge in a lot of states and we had to pay for it. Thirdly, the thing that's most disturbing about all this is when you're running for president of the United States, to defend yourself by saying, "but he did it, too" is not a defense. We want John McCain to obey the law, otherwise you might as well call it the Feingold Act, not the McCain/Feingold Act.

ROBERTS: Let me come back in the side of this federal financing, public financing being used as collateral for this $4 million loan. The McCain campaign denies that they ever used it as collateral. There's an article in the AP today that talks about it. Quotes attorneys for Fidelity and Trust Bank is saying, "The bank does not now have nor did it ever receive from McCain's campaign committee, a security interest in any certification of matching funds." They're saying it didn't happen. Not good enough for you?

DEAN: That's not the same thing as saying he didn't use it as collateral. All you have to do is promise to get the public financing in order to use it as collateral. That's not the same thing as a security interest. Look, niggling around the edges is exactly what John McCain does. He says one thing and does something else. He's done it on earmarks. He's fought earmarks, then had two very expensive ones for Arizona, one of which was not even asked for. On and on it goes.

I don't -- you know, he poses as a politician who is not like that and, in fact, he is like that. The issue is we have a signed letter four years ago that got us out. We just want him to get the same thing. That's what the law says, and he needs to obey the law particularly since he's posed as a reformer for all these years.

ROBERTS: Well, we'll see where this goes. The FEC says that he's got to make clear what happened with that loan. The FEC also contending that he needs four out of six votes from commissioners to allow him to get out, and there are only two commissioners right now, four vacancies still there. So it may take a while to get this whole thing resolved.

But let me turn to what's happening on the Democratic campaign trail. Things are getting pretty nasty there between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton after they made nice in the last two debates. Listen to what Hillary Clinton said about an attack mailer that Barack Obama put out over the weekend regarding her position on NAFTA.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So shame on you, Barack Obama. It is time you ran a campaign consistent with your messages in public. That's what I expect from you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: You counseled both campaigns to keep it positive not too long ago. Are you concerned that they are now, you know, deteriorating again into this name calling and bickering back and forth and that's not too good for the party?

(CROSSTALK)

DEAN: It's not about this. No, I'm not concerned about this particular exchange. The only concerns I've had are when people make personal attacks. This is not a personal attack. This is a discussion about whether some of these flyers are accurate or not.

ROBERTS: Yes.

DEAN: That kind of stuff goes on in campaigns all the time. Look, we've got 20 million people, John, voting. We've been in 40 states. We think this is -- I think this is a great -- have been a great primary campaign. I really do. We want to make sure that the voters pick the right person. I'm sure they will. I have no idea who that's going to be. But I'm not worried about this yet at all. Yes, it's tough, but you got to be tough if you're going to run for president.

ROBERTS: Are you worried, though, about the idea of a brokered convention?

DEAN: A little. Not a lot because it hasn't happened since 1952.

ROBERTS: Yes.

DEAN: But there are -- you know, the convention is very late, and we don't want to go into that convention divided because if you go into the convention divided, you're going to come out of the convention divided. So -- but I do think -- I do think the voters are going to pick a candidate in the next few weeks, and I think that's great. And then, we'll go into the convention united and we'll come out and we'll elect the next president of the United States in November.

ROBERTS: All right. Howard Dean, chairman of the DNC, thanks for joining us this morning. Good to see you.

DEAN: Thanks for having me on.

ROBERTS: Kiran?

CHETRY: It dazzled kings and queens for centuries, described as a life-sized golden jewelry box. For more than 50 years ago that treasure was taken. Now, word that the hunt for the Amber Room may be over.

ROBERTS: Coming up on AMERICAN MORNING, SUVs built like cars. How safe are they? We're putting some of the most popular models to the test.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GREG HUNTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So this is the way I would end up after a side collision.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: Greg Hunter is looking out for you ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Well, the weather is just getting worse in Atlanta. A picture there from WSB. You know, we talked about the bad weather in Chicago affecting flight operations at O'Hare apparently at ground stop now and it affected Hartsfield Airport. O'Hare and Hartsfield, two of the busiest airports in the country. So, you know, that is really going to mess up traffic. And some bad thunderstorms expected to continue throughout much of the day today. So, if you can avoid traveling through Atlanta and Chicago, do it.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN, ANCHOR: Yes, unfortunately, it is a big hub for a lot of people. Both of them. Boy, as Rob says, pack your patience. I don't know if that phrase is getting old if you're stuck at the airport. Right?

ROBERTS: Completely.

CHETRY: Well, welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING this morning. New this morning, police in Tinley Park, Illinois releasing 37 seconds of a 911 call. It was made from a suburban Chicago Lane Bryant store earlier in the month. Investigators say they're hoping that someone will recognize the voice of the man on this tape. They say he is the man who shot and killed five women in what's being called a botched robbery. You have to listen closely, the audio is not that great.

(INAUDIBLE AUDIO)

CHETRY: A sixth woman was injured in that shooting. She is expected to be OK. The suspect still on the loose. Police have placed electronic billboards in the Chicago area with a sketch of the gunman. 15 years ago today a group of terrorists detonated a homemade bomb in the garage of the former World Trade Center. That explosion created a giant crater. Six people were killed. More than a thousand others injured. A Palestinian man was sentenced to 114 years in prison for that bombing and is trying to sue federal court members and prison officials saying that they blocked him from appealing to the Supreme Court which has declined at least twice to hear the case.

Treasure hunters believe they are just yards away from uncovering parts of the lost Russian Amber Room, a gold room, a gold-filled chamber was looted by the Nazis back in the 1940s. Using high-tech equipment, treasure hunter say they discover what appears to be an underground cavern. This would be southeast Germany. They think it contains "precious metals." They're going to continue drilling for the treasure today. They were forced to stop digging a week ago amid fears the underground area would collapse.

There is a hearing today on Capitol Hill focusing on food safety. The heads of several major food companies are expected to appear. Steve Mendel, the CEO of Westland-Hallmark Meat Company refused to appear voluntarily, might be subpoenaed. 143 million pounds of meat produced by Westland-Hallmark was recalled earlier this month after disturbing video surfaced showing sick cows unable to walk being dragged, or in some cases pushed by a forklift into the slaughter house.

Well, we told you about it a month ago. Today it is happening, Starbucks shutting down all of its stores in the U.S. tonight for three whole hours. All 7,100 Starbucks are closing from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. local time. They're going to be retraining the baristas. Starbucks says they'll be trained in creating the perfect shot, steaming the milk and all the pieces that come together in a drink.

ROBERTS: Also new this morning, musical history. In a country where people are forced to listen to pre-tuned radio stations, the New York Philharmonic performed in North Korea's capital playing both the United States and North Korean national anthems, along with tunes by Gershwin and Dvorak. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: It is the largest cultural group to ever perform in the country from the United States and our chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour was there. She joins us now live from Pyongyang. Just how amazing an experience was it to be there to witness this unfold?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN, CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it really was. And you just played the U.S. national anthem there. They obviously started with both countries' national anthems. But imagine this, for countries that are still technically at war, for countries that have not seen this many Americans since the Korean War 60 years ago, who would have thought even a year ago that "The Star Spangled Banner" and that the Stars and Stripes would be hoisted, aloft, in public in Pyongyang. It truly was an amazing moment. At least for a few hours, the people here were able to see a different message from the United States, a message of friendship, they said, and of peace. And after the incredible music of Dvorsak, Gershwin, where they played "Americans in Paris," the conductor Lorin Maazel said and he joked to the audience that one day perhaps the piece would be written called "Americans in Pyongyang," and the audience got it, they laughed, they applauded loudly.

Of course, they were the elite. There was a minister there in the audience but at home even North Korea has kept a promise to the Philharmonic and broadcast it live on television here. So that those who were not able to come to the concert were able to see it at home. And so that again unprecedented in a country where people have been raised and only see a diet of official propaganda. At the end after several encores, there were several standing ovations. The cheers just got louder and louder. In fact, there were some bravos. I mean, there was emotion from North Koreans that one frankly is not used to seeing. In the end you saw the North Koreans in the audience waving good-bye to their American guests and members of the audience, the Americans, waving back. It was a pretty amazing moment. And afterwards, I ran into former Secretary of Defense William Perry who himself has had a lot to do with U.S.-North Korea relations.

And remember there was a time back in 1994 when the two nations nearly went to war. He says this was a sublime moment, a historic moment, and he said he hoped that this pushed them over the top, meaning cultural exchanges and of course meaning the nuclear diplomacy that is still under way despite some hiccup. He believes it is still a process that's still continuing and he hopes it will bear fruit. John.

ROBERTS: So that's what the former secretary of defense hopes. But practically, what, if anything, may come of this?

AMANPOUR: Well, practically it is a window. Practically, it means that North Koreans who have had nothing from the Americans, at least as far as they can see but hostility, and of course here they're told that America is the enemy, America is the aggressor, America started the Korean War. That's the history they've been told. These people here saw something that they had never seen before, and never heard before. So just for a few hours they in the concert hall and around the country were able to see a different message from the United States, and the State Department which supports this, the administration which encouraged this trip, said that they were doing so because they did hope that this cultural exchange could, you know, knock a chink in that wall of hostility. John.

ROBERTS: Pretty remarkable event there in Pyongyang and even rare for you to be even coming to us live from North Korea. Christiane Amanpour for us. Christiane, thanks very much. Kiran.

CHETRY: Well, winter weather in the Midwest causing some travel troubles on the roads and at the airports. We're going to get an update for you on where. We just heard within the last couple of minutes, a ground stop in Atlanta due to the rainy weather there. We are keeping track of it all for you.

Also, this. There it is, a popular mid size SUVs put to the crash test. Which ones came up with high marks and which ones failed? Our Greg Hunter is looking out for you.

He's given his all to advertising. It's the Geico gecko. But the real-life gecko is making a contribution to science and possibly surgery. We're paging Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Hey, Sanjay.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN, CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning, Kiran. They say that necessity is the mother of all inventions. You'd be surprised to hear what this small to medium size lizard has taught us about medicine. Amazing stuff I have for you, straight ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: Let's get a live look now. This is downtown Chicago. They've certainly gotten their share of messy winter weather right now. We have Rob Marciano who is there checking things out for us. A lot of delays at the airport today as well. So, call ahead if you are flying out of Chicago. Meanwhile, they are expecting a messy winter storm to be causing some trouble this morning. Up to seven inches of snow expected in parts of Illinois and hundreds of flights already canceled at Chicago's O'Hare. Jacqui Jeras is tracking all of the travel delays for us from the weather update desk this morning. Hi, Jacqui.

JACQUI JERAS, CNN, METEOROLOGIST: Hi, Kiran. We'll start with the severe weather across parts of the south, nasty storms just ripped through the Atlanta area and caused quite a bit of damage, a lot of trees down being reported with wind gusts between 50 and 65 miles per hour. Very difficult commute. A severe thunderstorm watch still remains in effect but the ground stop at the airport has been lifted. We also have some tornado warnings here into parts of Alabama, Montgomery county. Doppler radar indicating a tornado moving to the east there and some damage, and even a fatality north of there into the Birmingham area due to some straight-line winds. A tree fell down on a mobile home.

Even when the storms pass, we'll still see gusty conditions behind the front. So be aware that travel is going to be difficult with winds gusting up to 40 miles per hour. Even though Atlanta has lifted their ground stop, we anticipate delays today up to two hours. Houston, some wind delays of 30 to 60 minutes and about an hour in San Francisco. Now, the northern tier of the storm system is looking at a lot of snow. Chicago starting to taper down but we've got delays about 15 minutes that's arriving into O'Hare. And the winds will be strong here even as the storm winds down. Cleveland, were the worst locations of the nation today, four to eight inches of snowfall expected there.

In the northeast, just getting started now with some light snow and sleet, a mix moving into New York City. But the big city really will just be looking at predominantly a rain event. But rain still messing things up at the airport, so pack your patience. We're looking at a good one to two hours likely in many of the big cities. Kiran.

CHETRY: All right. Jacqui Jeras, for us this morning. Thanks. ROBERTS: Well, the gecko from Geico, Geico gecko as he is known, has made car insurance commercials something to talk about. But real- life geckos are going the extra mile. They're actually helping doctors heal their patients. We're paging Dr. Gupta, CNN's chief medical correspondent. He's in Atlanta. What can we learn about medicine from the lowly gecko, Sanjay?

GUPTA: Well, it's amazing. We're always looking for new ways to try and improve science and medicine. One thing they noticed about the gecko and lizards in general but the gecko most specifically, is that it can scale just about anything. What allows its paws to actually scale things from slippery surfaces to harder surfaces, if you watch a gecko actually moving around, those paws are very sticky. So, what they want to determine is whether they can actually develop a perfect sort of Band-aid by attributing some of those qualities of the paws to the Band-aid.

Now, it's not easy to do. Researchers at MIT have been studying these animals for some time. Let me show you what it looks like, specifically. It is a small, very clear piece of band-aid. That's it, right there. It has the colors behind it because it is clear. But that's what this looks like, grossly, if you zoom in though and look at it under the microscope, you see something very interesting, there's all these little hairs on this thing, shorter hairs, longer hairs. And as a result you have these valleys. You have these hills and together when you put something like that on a wound or something that is bleeding, for example, it sort of cinches the wound together, much in the way that sutures might or staplers might.

That's what they are trying to achieve here. It's obviously much more quickly. Again, John, only having been tested in animals so far but they think that one day it can be used in heart surgery. It could be used in lung surgery, maybe even gastric bypass surgery to just sort of wrap this Band-aid around the wound at the end and allow the tissue to sort of seal together. John.

ROBERTS: It's fascinating. I remember the guy that invented deck shoes, took a look at his dog's paws and said I can do that with a shoe so people can walk around boats without slipping. Hey, there was a lead article in "USA Today" newspaper today. It talked about this extreme shortage of surgeons and people entering medical schools to become surgeons. What do you know about that?

GUPTA: It's interesting, John. We've done a lot of stories on this, specifically when you try to anticipate how many doctors are going to be necessary 10, 20, 30 years from now. You have to make some guesses. So, in the 80s, 90s, they made guesses about this time period. And what we are now learning is that some of those guesses were just off. They assumed that because of managed care and because of the change in the health care system that there would be a gluttony of doctors and a gluttony of surgeons and primary care doctors. What they have found now is that the answer is no, there is not enough surgeons or primary care doctors and specifically in rural areas, areas that are underserved as it is are particularly hurting when it comes to having enough surgeons or primary care doctors. Another population of people that are suffering are the people who are older. Baby boomers who are just now accessing the medical care system more than ever before are finding shortages of doctors specifically in those two fields. So, you have a change in demographics, you have a sort of misjudging how many doctors would be necessary and you have fewer doctors going to rural areas. John.

That's a real problem. They're trying to correct the situation by actually enrolling more medical students than ever last year, but it is obviously going to be a few years before those doctors actually start practicing.

ROBERTS: Well, I'll give my son another shove toward medical school. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thanks.

GUPTA: Good idea. All right. Thanks, John.

ROBERTS: Kiran.

CHETRY: It is a good idea.

Well, if you changed your religion, dropped out of your faith all together or are you still practicing the religion of your childhood? There's a pew study out showing that nearly half of Americans, 44%, have changed their religious affiliation leaving the one they were raised in. It is interesting to note though that religion is much more important to Americans than to people living in other wealthy nations. 6 in 10 people in the U.S. say religion plays a very important role in their lives, according to a previous Pew survey.

It brings us to this morning's "Quick Vote" question, America's leap of faith. Here's what you are saying. Right now, 15% of you said you did make a change in your religion. 28% of you keeping the same religion you grew up with. And 57 percent saying you called it quits all together. Cast your vote, cnn.com/am. We'll continue to tally your votes throughout the morning.

And still ahead, popular mid side SUVs put to the test. AMERICAN MORNING's Greg Hunter has the results of the crash test rating. Greg.

GREG HUNTER, CNN, CORRESPONDENT: No question, Kiran. The collision damage on this vehicle is severe. The big question is how well does it protect you in a crash and we're putting mid size SUVs to the test as AMERICAN MORNING continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: Well, they look like SUVs. Often though, they're built like cars. And this morning some popular mid size SUVs are being put to the test. Our Greg Hunter is at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. It's in Ruckersville, Virginia. He took a look and watched as they put these cars to the test. The mid size SUVs to see which ones are safest. Let's look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HUNTER (voice-over): A high-impact crash at 40 miles an hour and the dummy inside this Nissan Murano survived intact.

JOE NOLAN, INSURANCE INST. FOR HIGHWAY SAFETY: There's a good likelihood the people in this crash would have had no injury or little injury.

HUNTER: They'd have walked away.

NOLAN: Right.

HUNTER: The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tested eight other mid size SUVs. Those without side torso air bags like the Jeep Liberty didn't fare as well.

Look at that holes behind the seat. Does that make a difference?

NOLAN: The intrusion is a little bit more than we would like. In this case, what's really driving the downgrades of this vehicle is the lack of torso protection for the driver.

HUNTER: The Jeep Wrangler's door even came off in its four-door version without optional side air bags. Both the Liberty and the Wrangler received a marginal rating in a slide collision. In a statement the company said, "Chrysler looks at safety from a holistic approach and our priority continues to be designing vehicles that perform safely for our customers and their families in every day driving conditions."

The Kia Sorrento got a poor rating in the side crash test.

You wouldn't have fared well in this vehicle likely.

NOLAN: No. Very likely there would be injuries to either the pelvis or the torso.

HUNTER: Kia told us, "Kia has a strong safety record and its vehicles meet or exceed all federal motor vehicle safety standards." Models like the Mazda CX7 and Mitsubishi Endeavor with head and chest protecting air bags, got top marks in the side crash test. All the SUVs received the Institute's highest rating in the front crash test with one surprising exception -- the Hummer H3. The institute says the driver of the H3 would likely suffer severe leg injuries in a front crash. GM said, "the Hummer H3 meets or exceeds all federal crash safety standards."

So, when it comes to crashes, it all comes down to the frame and the air bags. Look at the frame here. This is this Kia Sorrento that tested poorly. It's pushed in so far, here's the back tire and you can see the frame pushing this way, way back. It only has a head air bag, no air bag down here to protect the torso. As opposed to this top pick, the Nissan Murano, as the head curtain, the frame is not pushed in as much. They say the real difference is this bag that protects your torso and pelvic area. That's the real difference that's a life and death difference in a side collision. Now, for more information on these mid size SUVs, you can log on to cnn.com/am for more information. Back to you guys in the studio. CHETRY: All right. Sounds good. And some great information this morning if you're thinking about buying one of them. Thanks a lot, Greg.

ROBERTS: Coming up now to three minutes to the top of the hour. The heat is on in Ohio. A new key endorsement is coming out today. What are voters looking to hear tonight?

New signs of trouble in the housing market. Our Gerri Willis has your financial security watch and the solutions being debated in Washington today, that's just ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

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