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AMERICAN MORNING

Obama Strikes Back at Clinton; Delta-Northwest Airline Merger Set to Announce Deal; Clinton and Obama Spar on Comments; What Went Wrong on Airline Inspections?

Aired April 14, 2008 - 07:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It did seem so much in line with what often we are charged with. Someone goes to a closed door fund-raiser in San Francisco and makes comments that do seem elitist, out of touch and frankly patronizing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Obama said that his words may have been, "clumsy," and he accused Clinton of twisting them to her political advantage. Now at that forum itself, Clinton and Obama talked about their faith and how their faith plays into their lives. They were also both asked to define their position about when human life begins.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe that the potential for life begins at conception.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think it's very hard to know what that means. When life begins is it when a cell separates? Is it when the soul stirs? So I don't presume to know the answer to that question. What I know, as I have said before is that there is something extraordinary powerful about potential life and that that has a moral weight to it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: Presumptive Republican nominee John McCain was invited to take part in the "Compassion Forum," but he declined. Now, if you didn't get a chance to see it, you can watch it again today online, CNN.com/live, and the program will re-air today at 3:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. Eastern.

Democrats are suing today over how John McCain is paying for his campaign. They're complaining because McCain applied for federal matching funds but is now ignoring them to avoid the spending limits involved. Their suit is against the Federal Election Commission. The Republican National Committee calls the lawsuit "total nonsense."

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: The Iraqi government says it has fired roughly 1,300 soldiers and police officers for refusing to fight during last month's government crackdown on Shiite militias. A high ranking Iraqi official says more than 900 of those dismissed were stationed in Basra, the southern city which saw the most fighting. The government says the troops dismissed will now face a court-martial for "showing solidarity with the outlaws."

Former President Jimmy Carter is standing by his decision to meet with exile Hamas leader, Khaled Meshal (ph), in Syria later on this week. Carter is in Israel this morning where he is getting, let's say, a chilly reception. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and other members of the Israeli cabinet have so far refused to meet with the former president.

Washington, D.C., is gearing up this morning for Pope Benedict XVI's whirlwind visit. Tomorrow, in a rare gesture, the leader of the world's Roman Catholics will be greeted by President Bush at Andrews Air Force Base. On Wednesday, more than 12,000 of the faithful are expected for the official arrival ceremony at the White House. After spending three days at the nation's capital on Friday, the pope then heads to New York. Activists say that they are planning several vigils and rallies this week to protest the church's social policies -- Kiran.

CHETRY: Well, American Airlines back on schedule today after last week's nightmare that left hundreds of thousands of passengers stranded. Three hundred planes grounded for safety inspections and more than 3,000 flights canceled. This morning President Bush will be getting a cabinet level briefing on where the airline industry stands.

CNN's Brianna Keilar is live at the White House. You know, a lot of finger pointing and a lot of blaming. You know, people saying it's the FAA's fault. People saying it's the airline itself's fault. So what do we expect to hear today at this briefing?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's really preliminary, Kiran. But what we do know is that President Bush as he gets briefed on housing, the economy and foreign affairs, he's also going to be getting this briefing on the state of airline congestion and airline safety. Because just thinking about last week, thousands of flights canceled and even think about the last month, many more flights canceled. We're not just talking American Airlines. We're talking Delta, Southwest, United.

So if you're an air traveler and you haven't felt the sting of this already, no doubt, you're concerned that you're going to be feeling it in the near future. And the White House wants people to know that this is one of the major issues that President Bush is going to be talking about today and getting briefed on today in this cabinet meeting -- Kiran.

CHETRY: So do we expect the president to take any action to prevent this from happening again?

KEILAR: You know, we're actually not sure. I asked the spokesman for the White House that very question, and he just pointed me to an announcement by the FAA on April 2nd. You recall that was the FAA saying, yes, there have been these problems, but actually airlines are 99 percent compliant with these, what are called Airworthy Directives, the standards the airplanes must meet to fly. But also, the FAA saying that it's going to make some improvements. That includes allowing inspectors to make reports more quickly and to take those to a higher level. So the White House really pointing to those changes that the FAA is already putting in place --Kiran.

CHETRY: Brianna Keilar for us live at the White House. Thank you.

ROBERTS: Hearings this morning in Texas about the 416 children removed from a polygamous sect and whether they will be allowed to return to the compound. New video this morning from inside the compound taken by the "Deseret News" newspaper in Salt Lake City, showing bedrooms and other rooms, and for the first time we're hearing from the children's mothers. Some spoke to the newspaper over the weekend describing what it was like to see their children taken away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you imagine what it's like to come back to nothing? To empty, ransacked homes? Many things taken.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: Meantime, family members are asking Governor Rick Perry for help saying that the children have become sick in state custody. But a physician overseeing medical care at the shelter says the children are in great health. She says a dozen of them do have chickenpox but that was likely contracted while at the sect's compound.

An attorney for convicted polygamous religious leader, Warren Jeffs, meantime, is speaking out about the raid. He believes that authorities may have been duped by a fake crime report. The 16-year- old girl who allegedly called authorities to report being abused has not yet been found.

Also developing overnight, more than a dozen people hurt after two boats collided on the Mississippi River. Officials say 18 people were hurt when a boat carrying Louisiana prison employees collided with a barge upstream from Baton Rouge. The Coast Guard says everyone is accounted for and that no one went into the water. Two people were airlifted to the hospital. Investigators are trying to find out whether high water levels made it harder to navigate.

Another college closed this morning, the second in as many school days over graffiti threats. Oakland University in Michigan canceled classes and activities for two days after officials say they found threatening graffiti in three men's rooms. According to the "Detroit Free Press," they referred to possible campus attacks today on 4/14. This comes after Saint Xavier University in the Chicago area shut down indefinitely on Friday after officials found two graffiti threats mentioning the same day -- Kiran.

CHETRY: Talk of a major airline merger taking off this morning, a Delta-Northwest deal. It would create the world's largest carrier, but what would it mean for American travelers? We'll take a look ahead.

Also, breaking news this morning of a salmonella scare in cereal. News of a major recall and some rising fears of the safety of our food supply.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING. A number of large corporations being audited by the Internal Revenue Service is dwindling. However, more small and mid size companies are under the IRS microscope. That's according to the Transactional Records Clearinghouse. The IRS says that they're not going easy on big business, rather focusing on areas of noncompliance, like tax shelters, partnerships and businesses where the shareholders instead of the company reports income.

ROBERTS: A merger between Delta and Northwest Airlines would create the world's largest carrier. A deal now said to be very close, closer than it was when Ali Velshi reported on this. How many months ago now?

ALI VELSHI, CNN SENIOR BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: You know, seven or eight months ago, and it was imminent back then.

ROBERTS: Remember, we were talking about that.

VELSHI: Yes.

ROBERTS: Does this mean that Northwest might get some new planes?

VELSHI: That's right. That's exactly right. This has been a deal that's been in the works for a long time.

CHETRY: You say we're one step closer.

VELSHI: We're one step closer. This actually could be -- it's widely reported this could be done. I'll tell you what the story is.

We know that Northwest and Delta want to do a deal. Part of the problem is the pilots on both sides don't want to do a deal with each other necessarily, because pilots when they merge with another airline lose seniority to any pilot at the other airline who's had more years. So Delta and Northwest have had their pilots try and work these things out ahead of time. Regardless, they seem to now be ready to do a deal.

Here's what it would like. First of all, take a look at the map of the hubs that these two airlines use. The red hubs are Northwest hubs, Detroit, Minneapolis and Memphis. The blue dots are Delta hubs, Atlanta, Cincinnati, Dallas and Salt Lake City. Unclear whether, you know, you'll get a land (ph) on Memphis. Those are pretty close together whether those would continue to be hubs for both airlines, but pretty good route structure.

Northwest also has a lot of good flights to Europe. So both of these airlines would be the largest airline in the world. It would be called Delta. It would be based in Atlanta, so it would really be more of a Delta than a Northwest at this point. It would be the world's largest airline by traffic, so we are expecting to hear some announcement.

We know the pilots have been meeting all weekend. We are expecting the board to be meeting today and if they come to something, we'll hear of a deal probably within the next 24 hours. And then, you will probably hear about Continental and United who have been talking about a deal, and, of course, we've seen this bankruptcies. So I think 2008 is going to end very differently than it started from an airline and travel perspective.

ROBERTS: All right. How about that? Just a few minutes ago we had Jeffrey Sachs from Columbia University on. You have an ally.

(CROSSTALK)

VELSHI: I have an ally.

ROBERTS: Ethanol producers in this country.

VELSHI: I must say -- I mean, as he mentioned, it's complicated so I don't dislike ethanol. I certainly consume a great deal of corn- based products as you can see from the cheeks. So, you know, no offense to the corn people.

CHETRY: It's always nacho night at Ali's house.

VELSHI: That's right. It's always nacho night at my place.

CHETRY: Thank you.

ROBERTS: Winter still lingering across parts of the country. Reynolds Wolf in this morning for Rob tracking the extreme weather this morning. Hey, Reynolds.

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, you're absolutely right. You know, many people across the nation, especially in parts of the southeast are waking up with temperatures some 20 to 25 degrees cooler than what they would normally expect. I'll let you know how long that cold air is going to remain locked in place. Coming up in just a few moments right here on CNN AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOLF: Welcome back to CNN AMERICAN MORNING. Many people are waking up this morning and instead of it feeling like spring, it feels like winter outside. Take a look at these temperatures that we have across the map.

In places like Nashville and Birmingham and even in Mobile, your temperatures this morning into the low 40s; 37 degrees in Atlanta, 34 in Charlotte, 45 in Charleston and 54 in Orlando. Now, what we're dealing with is a big rush of cool air, thanks to a trough that we're seeing in the eastern half of the U.S., where temperatures are anywhere from 20 degrees cooler than what you normally expect. And then back into parts of Arkansas and even into Texas, anywhere from 15 to 10 to even five degrees below normal.

But on the other side of this big area of high pressure in the center of the country, we've got a large ridge where temperatures are really going to boom up in places like say Colorado, back into Wyoming, even into Montana where high temperatures are going to be about 20 degrees warmer than what you'd normally expect. Now, what we can anticipate is from this warmer air to surge its way into the northern plains, eventually into the Midwest as we make our way into the rest of the week.

This morning, throughout much of the northeast, you have not only the cold temperatures to deal with, but the winds also. So windchill factors in Cleveland this morning up by the lake, 30 degrees. Indianapolis, we've got 28, 28 also in Chicago. Thirty-three in Washington, D.C., out by the Washington Monument. Philadelphia with 33, New York 39, and Albany with 37. And out by Fenway Park in Boston, high temperatures right around 30 degrees.

That is the latest on your forecast. Let's send it back to you in New York.

CHETRY: Reynolds, thank you.

And you're watching the "Most News in the Morning."

Still ahead, Democrats engaged in a bitter debate heading into next week's all-important Pennsylvania primary. Of course, bitter being the operative word. Some fallout after some comments that Barack Obama made and whether or not Hillary Clinton tried to capitalize on them. We'll talk about that with John Dickerson coming up.

ROBERTS: And a major recall at the breakfast table. Listen up, Kiran. Fears of the food supply is not getting any safer. Our Elizabeth Cohen joins us with that story coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: We have some breaking news in the medical front this morning. More than 20 people in 14 states have now been sickened by the same strain of salmonella that was found in two breakfast cereal brands. Now, according to the Food and Drug Administration, Malt-O- Meal, the company, voluntarily recalled it's unsweetened puffed rice and puffed wheat cereals after finding contamination during routine testing. Now, this comes on the heels of a report from the CDC that says we're not doing enough to protect our food supply.

Elizabeth Cohen is at the medical update desk for us this morning. The salmonella scare -- now, you may sit at home and say, well, I don't have Malt-O-Meal cereals. But apparently, this is also the company that provides for a lot of the store brands of these puffed rice and puffed wheat as well, correct?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Kiran. We're talking about least a dozen different labels, so it would be very hard to know. You really need to look at that list that we just put on the screen or go to CNN.com. If you have been eating breakfast cereal and you've been having gastrointestinal kinds of symptoms like vomiting and feeling sick, go to CNN.com. Look at that list. See if your cereal was on it. And if it was, you need to call your doctor. You could be the victim of salmonella poisoning.

Now, this cereal outbreak is just the latest in what seems like a long list of food-borne illness outbreaks that have been happening in the United States, and people have been having this feeling of gee, the situation doesn't feel like it's getting any better and now a report from the CDC says, well, you would be right. Things aren't getting better. The number of people getting sick from food-borne illness is staying the same.

So if you take a look at this, out of every 100,000 Americans, 15 will get salmonella, according to these latest statistics, 13 will get campylobacter and six will get shigella. That's something that you find in raw oysters. These are nasty diseases. These are not to get. This along with let's say E. coli in meat.

These numbers just aren't going down, and a lot of people blame the industry for not doing enough and blame the government for not regulating them tough enough to make these numbers go down. And so, even the CDC says a lot more work needs to be done -- Kiran.

CHETRY: So this is interesting. They talk about people getting sick but at the same time they say this was found through a routine test. So which one is it?

COHEN: Well, it was probably a combination of the two. Probably people were getting sick and were calling in and then they found the routine testing. They looked and saw this. So, it's unclear exactly which came first. But often in these situations, the two things happen in parallel. You do a routine test, you find something. You also see increasing reports of food-borne illness.

CHETRY: Is there anything you can do at home? I mean, it seems like eating cereal, there's really not much you can do there.

COHEN: You know what, there really isn't much you can do and you're seeing that more and more. There was the outbreak of salmonella in pancake mix recently. They found salmonella in pancake mix. So the reality is that sometimes there isn't much you can do. But sometimes there is something you can do. So let's take a look at what you can do to help limit food poisoning in your own home.

Avoid raw or undercooked beef, eggs, poultry and oysters. A lot of people eat oysters raw. You don't want to do that, and rinse produce with water. Now, at the same time that I'm saying rinse produce with water. I'm also going to say that sometimes you cannot get bacteria out of produce. It's just not going to happen. The bacteria had made their way into the produce and all the washing in the world isn't going to help, and this is a real problem. Nobody quite knows what to do about it. CHETRY: I'm going to warn you now, Elizabeth. Do not watch us at about 7:30 when we're showing video from the oyster-eating contest...

COHEN: Oh, goodness.

CHETRY: ... where the winner ate three dozen raw oysters in just eight minutes.

COHEN: And hopefully didn't get sick.

CHETRY: We'll have to call and see how that person is doing this morning. Thank you, Elizabeth.

COHEN: Thanks.

CHETRY: Good to see you.

CNN.com/health for the latest recall information. Again, Elizabeth said a lot of brands involved so you may want to check it out this morning.

ROBERTS: Barack Obama says comments that he made about some small town voters being bitter may have been ill chosen, but he maintains that he's not out of touch with voters as his opponent Hillary Clinton claims he is. This latest war of words started when comments Obama made a week ago appeared online. He said that it wasn't surprising that some small town voters were bitter and cling to guns and religion as a result.

This morning, we want to know, are you offended by Barack Obama's comments? Cast your vote at CNN.com/am. We'll tally the votes throughout the morning.

Typically, we have results. At this point, we should tell you that there's a little bit of a glitch. Our Web site isn't adding everything together. But please keep on voting and we'll get those results out.

You can also e-mail us at CNN.com/am. What are your views about Obama's comments? We want to hear from you. Again, that's CNN.com/am.

Coming up on AMERICAN MORNING, locked and loaded. A year after Virginia Tech, college kids who say the answer to school violence is more guns on campus.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you rather just sit there and cower underneath the desk while someone executes you? Or would you rather have a chance to defend your life?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

Students with side arms, could they be coming to a classroom near you? Ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Coming up on 25 minutes after the hour. The talk at a "Compassion Forum" on CNN last evening ranged from evolution to abortion. But the really hot topic was Barack Obama's comment that small town people facing economic hard times become bitter and as a result cling to guns and religion.

Hillary Clinton is accusing him of talking down to Pennsylvania voters. Both she and Senator John McCain say Obama is out of touch. Obama claims that Clinton is twisting his words for her political advantage.

Our John Dickerson is CNN's political analyst, also chief political analyst for Slate.com, joins us now from Washington. John, good to see you.

JOHN DICKERSON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Good morning.

ROBERTS: So are these comments really going to hurt Barack Obama? Could this be kind of one of those moments that turns a campaign and everything is lost?

DICKERSON: Well, they're hurting him and the story goes on and on. So yes, it's a big problem. How big of a problem it will be, we don't know. He's really blessed by the fact that this isn't captured on any footage and that you can't replay a tape. You have to actually go through what he actually said.

But one of the things that's hurting him is his explanations are evolving. One of the ways he fixed the Jeremiah Wright problem was he was handed a hot potato and he dealt with it quickly and effectively. In this case, he has had several different explanations, his latest one that this was actually some kind of a compliment is a head scratcher. So, the fact that he hasn't been able to put this to bed is a problem that makes the story continue.

ROBERTS: We should mention that while there isn't a video tape that could be run over and over again, there is apparently an audio recording of it, an MP3 of that. The quality not very good though. It's difficult to make out what he says. Let's listen to what he said yesterday, not at the "Compassion Forum," but at an event just prior to that where he really took on Hillary Clinton on this issue. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Shame on her. She knows better. She is running around talking about how this is an insult to sportsmen, how she values the Second Amendment. She talking like she's Annie Oakley.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: So what he's pointing to there, John, is Hillary Clinton coming out and talking about him saying that people cling to guns and then she talked about going out and shooting with her father a long, long time ago. Can he effectively evade this issue by trying to put it back on her?

DICKERSON: Well, it's the best thing he's got and the fact that he's smiling is good there. You know, when you're on your heels you want to be smiling rather than frowning. But the reason this is a problem for him and why that may not be effective is that it's not that he was saying people were bitter, it's that he was saying people were clinging. He was speaking for these people in small towns, and nobody likes to spoken for and furthermore, nobody likes to be spoken for and told that their beliefs that they hold strongly are the result of bitterness or some other problem in their lives so. And so, that tends to get people right sort of in the gut and making fun of Hillary Clinton is his best shot at fixing this problem. But it may be a little deeper than that.

ROBERTS: Well, she's certainly trying to get as much mileage as she can out of this. Let's listen to what she said about it last night at the "Compassion Forum."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I do think it raises a lot of concerns because it did seem so much in line with what often we are charged with. Someone goes to a closed door fund- raiser in San Francisco and makes comments that do seem elitist, out of touch and frankly patronizing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: Elitist, out of touch and patronizing. She's trying to play there to any negatives that he might have among people who look at him and saying Harvard educated guy from a big city, I don't know if I trust him. How much mileage can she get out of this? I guess we won't know until the next Pennsylvania polls come in.

DICKERSON: Well, she's trying to get mileage in particular with superdelegates. And because the argument she's trying to make is that Barack Obama will be easily caricatured by the Republicans in the general election and that he won't be able to win. And that he's playing right into the stereotype that has lost the Democrats the last two elections and that, you know, Obama will fulfill that stereotype again and as a result people should pick or the superdelegates more precisely should pick her.

ROBERTS: All right. Well, he's going to come back this morning apparently at a speech and start taking on John McCain, and I imagine that he will Hillary Clinton over this. So we'll see where this goes. Definitely a hot topic.

John Dickerson for us this morning from Washington. John, it's always good to see you, thanks.

DICKERSON: Thanks, John.

ROBERTS: Kiran?

CHETRY: President Bush is going to be briefed today on airline safety, congestion and other matters affecting the industry at today's cabinet meeting.

American Airlines back on schedule today after a rough week last week, grounding 300 planes, canceling more than 3,000 flights, and leaving hundreds of thousands of passengers frustrated and stranded in the process. There may be more trouble though soon. The federal government recently ordered audits of maintenance records. Analysts say that means that older jets are more likely to be grounded for time consuming inspections. American, as well as United and Northwest, are flying the nation's oldest fleets on average.

Well, the mayor of Phoenix wants to know if a crackdown on illegal immigrants is violating civil rights. He's not calling on the FBI to investigate. The patrols have been ordered by controversial Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio sparking protest as you just saw on the sign there. Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon says it's discriminatory harassment and that improper stops, searches and arrests are being conducted. But Arpaio says the crackdown has been approved by U.S. immigration agents.

ROBERTS: Aid workers here that there could be more deadly riots in impoverished Haiti over rising food prices. Protest and looting have already left seven people dead. Haiti's prime minister was fired for not increasing food production over the weekend. The president of the World Bank is now asking countries to contribute $500 million in emergency aid for the United Nations world food program.

Earlier this morning, we spoke with Jeffrey Sachs from Columbia University who explained why food prices are skyrocketing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEFFREY SACHS, DIRECTOR, EARTH INSTITURE, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: We have been putting our food into the gas tank, this corn to ethanol subsidy which our government is doing really makes little sense. So we're taking this valuable food, we're putting it in the gas tank with a big subsidy. That's also driving up world food prices. Then climate shocks, for instance, the drought in Australia hit hard their exports.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: One United Nations official in Haiti says it is unclear whether people will wait for long-term solutions to fix the crisis. And it's 30 minutes after the hour, Alina is here with other stories making the headlines. Good morning to you.

ALINA CHO, CNN, CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning, guys. Happy Monday. Good mo morning, everybody. New this morning, the Dalai Lama says his representatives and the Chinese government are in discussions now. The Tibetan Buddhist leader is in Seattle right now for a conference, will not give details about the talks but Chinese officials maintain that they believe the Dalai Lama is behind the recent protests in Tibet. The Dalai Lama denies it and when asked if he would attend the opening ceremonies for the Olympic games in Beijing, he laughed and said he didn't think he would be invited.

This morning, Beijing is announcing it's taking more steps to improve air quality during the summer Olympic games in August. Officials say they plan to stop most construction in the weeks leading up to and during the games. Also 19 industries have been told to cut emissions by 30 percent. Beijing is one of the world's most polluted cities.

600 earthquakes in ten days, that's what scientists at Oregon State University say happened off the Oregon Coast. It's the biggest seismic swarm ever recorded there. Oregon is not typically known for this kind of seismic activity and researchers say at least three of the quakes registered a magnitude 5.0 or higher, but few if any could be felt on shore.

And they're the world's best known aphrodisiacs, but would you eat 35 dozen oysters in one city sitting? Could you? That's exactly what Patrick "Deep Dish" Bertoletti did this week. And it happened on Saturday, the 22-year-old Chicago resident took the top prize at the World Oyster eating contest in New Orleans, slumping down 35 dozen in just eight minutes. He also holds the endurance record by the way for oyster eating. That's 53 and a half dozen. And he broke that record last year. Kiran tells me personal raw oyster eating best is four dozen in one sitting.

My mom ate a dozen oyster everyday that she was pregnant with me. So, that may explain why I am the way I am.

ROBERTS: That's why you're so smart. Come on.

CHO: Anyway.

ROBERTS: Good stuff with oysters. A dozen is my limit.

CHO: A dozen.

ROBERTS: Clams, I could do a couple of dozen.

CHO: I could do a few dozen. Not a lot of calories, you know. Better than the hot dog eating contest.

ROBERTS: What I love is, I like shucking them. Call me crazy, but I do. Kiran, four dozen? That's not bad.

CHETRY: I got you. We're going to have an oyster eating contest when I get back from maternity. It would be great.

ROBERTS: A clam shucking contest.

CHETRY: Something like that.

ROBERTS: We're shucking some clams here.

CHETRY: All right, guys. How about the curse at Yankee Stadium, broken before it began. It's a huge sports conspiracy this morning. Take a look at this. How about that? The sounds of a jackhammer and what did they find buried two feet under the new stadium? Wow, that is a David Ortiz, a Red Sox jersey, well the construction worker who buried it happened to be a Red Sox fan. He told a local paper he buried it to curse the Yankees then he lied about just where he had buried it. But lucky for the Yankees, two other workers saw him. They were able to lead the team to the correct spot. And so there is it is, this weekend, the curse, the hex broken really before it could begin. Ryan Smith is a sports attorney. He joins us this morning. Can you find a more superstitious sport than baseball?

RYAN SMITH, SPORTS ATTORNEY: No. Baseball takes the cake. And these kinds of thing will ruin a franchise for decades. At least the fans think so.

CHETRY: Why the fans say - this apparently was a construction worker who was only at the site for a day. Die hard Red Sox fan said you know what? I'm going to do this.

SMITH: Well, they take it so seriously because fans need to have some sort of control over their destiny. When their teams lose year after year after year, they think, you know what, it's not because of the team, it's not because of the management, it's some larger thing that I can't control that makes us lose every year. So, this thing would worry them for decades.

CHETRY: This is interesting for viewers who might not know some significance to it being a David Ortiz jersey, right?

SMITH: Right. David Ortiz is "big Papi." Everybody in baseball knows this guys. One of the best hitters on the Red Sox. And the thing is, he was the one who was responsible for the Yankees collapse in the ALCS, the American League Championship Series in 2004. He had a game winning home run to win one game, a game winning single to win the next and the Sox went on to win the World Series.

CHETRY: So he's the one that turned it around for them?

SMITH: Exactly. The Yankees, hated by Yankee favorites.

CHETRY: And the funny thing is, it's not just fans who are getting fired up about this, but it's the Yankees chief operating officer who said that the Yankees were speaking with the Bronx district attorney over the weekend about whether or not the team could file charges against this construction worker, who actually, Gino Castignoli, by the way.

SMITH: Right.

CHETRY: About what could he possibly face criminally for burying a jersey?

SMITH: Well, there's a curse charge. No. But really what they can do is he's intentionally altered a construction site which can actually cause problems, safety concerns, things like that. They could do something on that. They could do something on that. There's the issue of actually causing charges to be incurred by having to dig this out. So they can file criminal charges against him. I don't think that would really happen here. I but I don't think they'll just let it go.

CHETRY: So, the Red Sox won one of the three games against the Yankees this weekend. Although David Ortiz didn't play, he was taking a mental day?

SMITH: Exactly, he took a mental day to get fitted for that jersey. So it could be buried. No.

CHETRY: So are the Yankees going to be able to find some way to try to, you know, get back at them now?

SMITH: Never underestimate the clever ability of Yankee fans. I will not be surprised if the Yankee fan comes and try to plant some (inaudible) colognes somewhere in the stadium, maybe in the ventilators. Whatever they can find to get back at the Sox, they're going to do it.

CHETRY: The rivalry continues and so does the superstition. Ryan, thanks for being with us this morning.

SMITH: Thank you.

CHETRY: John.

ROBERTS: Tax day fast approaching. It's tomorrow. When we come back, why more Americans are getting hit by the alternative minimum tax. That's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

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ROBERTS: 39 minutes after the hour. This just in to AMERICAN MORNING. "A CBS journalist kidnapped last month in Basra, has been freed this morning. That's according to Iraq's Defense Ministry. It says Richard Butler was freed in what's being called an Iraqi army operation. A group of kidnappers were also arrested. We'll get more on the story for you as it develops.

Ali Velshi joins us. In the meanwhile, "Minding your Business" this morning and talking about taxes since tomorrow's the deadline.

ALI VELSHI, CNN, SENIOR BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Tomorrow night, midnight, wherever you are is the deadline for taxes. And you know, a lot of people have their taxes deducted from their income and then expect a refund at the end of the year. Some of you will be surprised because of the AMT, Alternative Minimum Tax.

Now, the stated purpose of the Alternative Minimum Tax is to prevent high income taxpayers from taking advantages of loop holes in the tax code and to make sure that they pay some minimum tax amount. There's no instant way to know whether you are going to be subject to AMT but single filers who make over $44,350 or couples filing jointly who make over $66,250 have to calculate their taxes twice using two different sets of rules. The first calculation is your typical deduction. The second one is with AMT, Alternative Minimum Tax, which offers fewer deductions. Guess, which one you have to pay, it has to be whichever one's higher. Now, accountants and accounting software figure this out automatically, but you might be surprised to find out you're paying what was designed to be a tax on the rich. When AMT was invented 40 years ago, no one thought to peg the rates to inflation, so back then a few hundred Americans at the top end of the income scale had to pay it.

Today it's becoming a tax on the middle class. It's expected to hit 5.4 million taxpayers who are filing income tax for 2007 this year. That number could actually increase six fold in the next few years, if lawmakers don't do anything about it. So, unfortunately for some of you if you file those returns you won't get a refund and that's because of that.

ROBERTS: And they keep saying that they want to do something.

VELSHI: Yes. They keep saying that they are going to do something about it.

ROBERTS: It's because there's no offset.

VELSHI: A lot of money that the government gets from this, every year they get more. But you know what, it's a bit of a grab and we need to figure out some other way of doing it.

ROBERTS: Good idea. You want to get right on it?

VELSHI: I'm on it.

ROBERTS: For sure.

CHETRY: Thanks, Ali.

Boy, you ready for winter's last stand? Our Rob Marciano is in, is out. Reynolds Wolf is in and he's tracking extreme weather for us this morning. I wouldn't call it extreme but boy, up and down the northeast, it's really going to feel like spring is here?

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN, METEOROLOGIST: Yes, no question. Old man winter is still holding on and we got temperatures this morning that are some 20, 25 degrees cooler than what they should be this time of year, especially in parts of the southeast. We're going to let you know how long it's going to hold in place. Coming up right here on CNN AMERICAN MORNING.

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WOLF: Welcome back to CNN AMERICAN MORNING. And I'll tell you, many of your are getting the week started with fairly quiet weather conditions around the nation with some scattered showers and snow showers across parts of the Pacific northwest. We're seeing some rain also into the Ohio Valley just south of the Great Lakes and a little bit into parts of Tennessee and North Alabama. But the big story this morning has got to be the cool temperatures that we're having in parts of the southeast, like Atlanta, 36 degrees currently. Charlotte with one degree above freezing, in Birmingham 39 degrees and 40 in Mobile.

The reason for the big cool down is actually quite simple. We got a big trough in the eastern half of the U.S. and that cold air that's sinking into parts of the southeast is dropping temperatures some 20 degrees below normal for this time of year. On the other side of this high pressure, we got a big ridge that's building with temperatures in parts of Montana and even into the Dakotas. There are 20 degrees above normal. Now, just yesterday in parts of the L.A. basin, temperatures were just sweltering.

In fact, take a look at some of these numbers right behind me. In fact, out by Anaheim, we had 102, Fullerton, California, 99 degrees, L.A. about 95, Long Beach, 95. And even in Boise, we have temperatures into the 80s. We're going to see a lot of that warm air as I mentioned moving into parts of the northern Rockies and eventually into the central plains.

This morning across the northeast, you've got cold air disturbance, but you also have wind coming in from the north and northwest. In Albany, 30 degrees. 29 in Buffalo, 23 in Pittsburgh, 39 New York. Boston this morning with 30 degrees. That is a look at your forecast, let's send it over to Kiran and John.

ROBERTS: All right. Reynolds, thanks very much.

One year after the Virginia Tech shooting, searching for a solution to keep your kids safe at college. One option, allow concealed weapons on campus. But what do students and professors think about the idea? We'll have that for you.

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ROBERTS: 48 minutes after the hour. This week marks the one- year anniversary of the shootings in Virginia Tech where 32 people lost their lives when a student opened fire in two campus buildings. Some lawmakers are pushing new plans to let gun owners with permits carry concealed weapons onto public universities. CNN's Justice correspondent Kelli Arena talked with students about whether that would make them feel safer.

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KELLI ARENA, CNN, JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What will it take to stop the next campus gunman? The answer for a growing number of students is this.

MICHAEL FLITCRAFT, CONCEALED WEAPONS PROPONENT: Would you rather just sit there and cower underneath a desk while someone executes you? Or would you rather have a chance to defend your life? That's where it really boils down to.

ARENA: Michael Flitcraft is a student in Ohio. The state is one of at least eight currently considering allowing guns on campus. Flitcraft is licensed to carry a concealed weapon on the streets but can't bring it to school.

FLITCRAFT: To me, it makes no sense that I can defend myself legally over there, but I'm a felon if I step on the grass over here.

ARENA: Utah, Colorado and Virginia already allow guns on campus though it's up to school officials to set policy.

RON HOLT, WEBER ST. UNIV. PROF.: I see carrying a concealed firearm is a kind of life insurance policy.

ARENA: Still most students aren't convinced.

JACOB METZ, SENIOR: I think it's completely absurd.

LAUREAN REAMS, FRESHMAN: It shocks me, it kind of scares me a little bit.

ARENA: Since 1966, there had been about a dozen campus shootings. As tragic as they were, experts contend that campuses are still among the safest places for young adults.

GENE FERRARA, UNIV. OF CINCINNATI POLIC CHIEF: I don't think the answer to bullets flying is to send more bullets flying?

ARENA: University of Cincinnati security chief Ferrara thinks the idea is a recipe for disaster.

FERRARA: When someone is shooting, the officer responds to the scene. There's a person there with a gun in their hand. Now is that the bad guy? Or is that a citizen who's trying to help out?

ARENA: But Michael Flitcraft says he won't give up.

FLITCRAFT: I do see in the future, it might take 10 or 15 years for it to happen. But people being able to defend their lives on campus.

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ARENA: Flitcraft is a member of a group that's called Students for Concealed Carry-on Campus. Currently, it has about 25,000 members. Now, if you compare that to the 20 million or so college and university students, it's not really a big percentage, but this group is continuing to grow. John.

ROBERTS: Kelli Arena for us this morning from Washington. Kelli, thanks. Kiran.

CHETRY: Well, Barack Obama says the comments he made about small town voters being bitter may have been ill chosen. He maintains though that he's not out of touch with voters as his opponent Hillary Clinton claims. This latest war of words started when comments Obama made a week ago appeared online. He said it wasn't surprising that some small town voters were bitter and cling to their guns and religion. So, this morning we want to know are you offended by Barack Obama's comments? Cast your vote at cnn.com/am. Right now, 28 percent of you were saying yes. 72 percent say no. We'll continue to tally the votes and the results throughout the morning and also we have been reading through some of your e-mails on the subject as well.

And Ann Miller from Tampa sent this one to us. "Obama is absolutely correct to refute, deny, misinterpret or twist his comments may be seen as an effort to completely deny the desperation and anger, bitterness, if you please, of people who feel ignored and forgotten in this nation."

ROBERTS: And Nilou from Austin, e-mailed us this morning to say "we need to get over it and give Barack a break. Barack is not the most experienced politician like Mrs. Clinton and he is the least elitist candidate out there."

Keep those e-mails coming. You can send your thoughts to us to CNN.com/am.

Missing in action and now under fire, the Iraqi government comes down on its soldiers and police officers after they refuse to fight. Find out the punishment and just how many abandoned their posts?

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Roberts (voice-over): Inside the secret sect, mothers cry for help. And prosecutors weigh their options.

Church and state.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you believe god wants you to be president?

ROBERTS: The candidates talk faith, belief and the bitter race for president. The most politics in the morning.

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CHETRY: There are new developments this morning about the Texas polygamist sect. Beginning today, a judge is going to decide whether the 416 seized children will be able to go back to the compound. And there's also new video overnight, a look inside of the compound. "Desseretnews, a Salt Lake City newspaper was allowed inside where you can see some empty bedrooms and other living areas.

Over the weekend, authorities met in Utah with Dale Evans Barlow. Now, he is the 50-year-old man who's being accused of abuse by his teenaged wife. Now, he was not charged and the attorney for sect leader Warren Jeffs said that her call to police was actually a hoax. So, a lot going on this morning with this case.

Mark Shurtleff is the attorney general of Utah and his office was involved in the prosecution of Jeffs who is now in jail. He joins us from Salt Lake City, Utah this morning. Thanks for being with us. MARK SHURTLEFF, UTAH ATTORNEY GENERAL: Hi, Kiran.

CHETRY: And as we know you're very familiar with this situation and with this group as well. This is said to be the largest raid that's taken place in the west in more than half a century and a lot of people are asking the question of what becomes -- what happens to these 416 children, regardless of the legal outcome of some of the adults that may be facing charges here?

SHURTLEFF: Well, that's left to be seen. If they remove them, then they're going to have to find homes for them, foster care. Hopefully they'll be able to find some family members where they can do some family placement. But it's going to be very difficult.

CHETRY: You know, there was a letter that was sent out actually by some of the mothers of this group. They sent it out to the governor of Texas actually, Rick Perry, saying you got to help us out here. You know, our kids are being taken away from us and we didn't do anything wrong. You know, what is the difficulty and how do you try to be aware of these family ties and the fact that perhaps some people didn't ask for this to happen to them either and they could be losing their children?

SHURTLEFF: Let me tell you what we have done in Utah. We have been doing this for about eight years and we understood our duty to protect children and also we're required to make sure we didn't hurt them any further or we didn't distress families. We took it on a case-by-case basis and didn't make any wide sweeping kind of conclusions. Texas absolutely had to go in when they had the allegations, when they saw evidence of the crimes. They had to continue. And I'm not going to judge because I don't know what evidence they have on 416 children.

But what we have done here is the fact that we have gone after those who are hurting the children, primarily and have done a real effort to provide services and make women and children feel safe in those communities.

CHETRY: You also have the attorney for Warren Jeffs saying that this phone call that came from the 16-year-old inside the compound that touched off this raid could have been a fake. Is there any validity to that and if so, does that make the case more difficult?

SHURTLEFF: It definitely makes it more difficult. But we have heard those rumors as well. Obviously, goal number one has been, I think, from day one is to find that girl. Make sure she's safe, get her in protective custody and then follow up with the charges against the man who abused her.

CHETRY: You also talk about the difficulty in gaining the trust of a lot of these people. The people that were at this compound are described as the most loyal, the cream of the crop, if you will, to Warren Jeffs and to the movement. How do you get them to tell the truth or to even feel comfortable about opening up about what may or may not have happened to them inside the compound? SHURTLEFF: We have been telling them over and over again that this has never been about polygamy. That it's about crimes perpetrated against women and children, sometimes young boys in this communities. We're going to focus on those things and if they have an interest with us in protecting them. But they need to trust us. Since, they have been taught from the cradle not to trust government, that we're evil, that we're the devil, that we're trying to rip apart their families. And so the backlash here in Utah has been for all the sects here who were opening up and reaching out and saying we don't want abuse in our communities. We'll work with you to eradiate it are now once again pulling back and saying we can't trust you.

CHETRY: There's no accident that this compound is in El Dorado, Texas as well. Correct.

SHURTLEFF: Well, absolutely. They left Utah because we started cracking down on the worst of the worst and those who wanted to continue the practice, primarily child bride marriages went to Texas where they felt they could have more freedom to do that and would be left alone. So again, I'm glad that they have done this. If there is a victim in there, they need to find her, they need to protect her and others. And I guess we'll have to wait and see what evidence they have today on 416 children.

CHETRY: You refer to the child bride marriages as being what, the real crackdown has been on. Do you think if local authorities make it more and more difficult for this to happen that this practice will go away eventually?

SHURTLEFF: I do. In fact, one of the biggest things we have been trying to get them to do here in Utah and as matter of fact, almost all of the sects have said we will not allow child bride marriages. We understand the concern with that. We won't let somebody get married in our sects until they're 18.

Here in Utah, we changed the law a few years back to make it a more serious crime. Call it child bigamy that if you marry a minor, anybody under the age of 18, into a polygamous marriage, it is a second-degree felony for the man. And so, we haven't had any evidence that any of those crimes have been committed since that law went into effect four years ago.

CHETRY: Mark Shurtleff, Utah attorney general. Thanks for speaking with us this morning.

SHURTLEFF: You bet. Thanks.

ROBERTS: It's just a minute before the top of the hour. Turning to politics and the biggest contest remaining on the Democratic agenda. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton hitting the campaign trail in Pennsylvania today after courting the faith vote at last night's "Compassion Forum" here on CNN.

It's just over a week before the state's primary, things are really beginning to heat up. And Obama's controversial remarks about small town working class voters becoming bitter over economic conditions is taking center stage.

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ROBERTS (voice-over): It was a cordial handshake, a collegial exchange as they cross paths on stage. But not long before this moment, fresh evidence that the Democratic race is getting ugly again,

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Shame on her. She knows better. She is running around talking about how this is an insult to sportsmen. How she values the second amendment. She is talking like she's Annie Oakley. Hillary Clinton is out there, you know, like she's out in a duck blind every Sunday, She's packing the six shooter. Come on. She knows better.

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