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AMERICAN MORNING

Shortage of Food Around World Hitting Home; Gasoline Hits Another Record High; New Fight Brewing Between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama

Aired April 24, 2008 - 08:00   ET

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


JONATHAN CARPENTER, ASSISTANT CURATOR, COLUMBUS ZOO AND AQUARIUM: It would just really depend on the situation. You know, I don't really know a bunch about what happened with this particular incident a couple of days ago. So you know, I can't really speculate on what they should do with the bear.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Jeremy Carpenter, assistant curator at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. Thanks for your time today.

CARPENTER: Thank you. Appreciate it.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Just crossing the top of the hour now. The shortage of food around the world is hitting home this morning. Warehouse stores like Costco and Sam's Club are now limiting how much rice people can buy, right here in the United States.

And now at Sam's Club in Tampa is reportedly already out of basmati rice and isn't sure when it's going to get new shipments. The global food shortage is caused by a number of factors including higher prices to deliver it, drought and some people blame the push to turn food into fuel such as ethanol.

And that rice shortage may be caused by people stocking up before prices go up even more. Farmers and food executives are hoping for regulation that would prevent people from hording staples such as rice and flour. They say the speculative buying is leading to higher prices.

And some people are blaming ethanol saying that turning corn into fuel is making the food shortage worse. I spoke with the co-chairman of the Congressional Hunger Caucus, Massachusetts Congressman Jim McGovern earlier on AMERICAN MORNING.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JIM MCGOVERN, CO-CHAIRMAN, HUNGER CAUCUS: Corn grown is now being put to biofuel used to be put toward consumption. And so there is less corn, you know that's being used for food. And as a result, you know, you have, with the shrinking supply, you have higher food prices.

And look, you know, corn is used not just, you know, for regular meals that one has but corn is also used for corn feed, so the price of chicken goes up, the price of meat goes up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: Well, this is the price of gasoline hits another record high this morning. $3.56, the new national average for a gallon of self-serve regular. That's an increase of 31 cents from last month. And didn't we start out this week setting a new record at 350, so it's up like a nickel this week.

PHILLIPS: A penny a day.

ROBERTS: That's incredible. Gas and other price increase is generating plenty of heat from protesters in Iceland. This video was submitted today by I-reporter Aldor Sigerson (ph) from Rekivic (ph), Iceland. He says demonstrations have been ongoing, but today was especially violent day with at least ten people all the way in handcuffs.

And meantime, the U.S. inspector general for Iraq reconstruction says Iraq could take as much as $70 billion in oil revenues this year. His report is prompting Congress to consider laws that would force Iraq to shoulder more of the cost of rebuilding their country.

PHILLIPS: As Democrats are looking to add on to President Bush's war funding bill. They meet today to discuss a plan to include extended unemployment benefits and new education funding for veterans. Meantime, in Iraq overnight, the U.S. military says that two soldiers were killed when their vehicle rolled over in Tikrit.

And Iranian defense firms were ejected from a military trade show in Malaysia. The deputy prime minister says that they were ordered to leave after displaying equipment like missiles and missile systems. Officials say that the products were quote, "offensive," and violated a U.N. resolution banning Iranian arms exports.

And in just about 90 minutes, U.S. Intelligence officials will go to Capitol Hill to show some members of Congress a secret videotape and other evidence supporting a claim that Syria was building a nuclear reactor with help from North Korea. Israeli planes bombed the facility last year. Syria says that the site was unused military facility.

Former President Jimmy Carter firing back at the Bush administration after talking with leaders of Hamas, one day after returning from the Middle East. Carter says that no one including the Secretary of State urged him against traveling to Syria or meeting with the militant group.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There was never anyone, anywhere in the Bush administration in this country that asked me or even suggested that I not go or that I not meet with Hamas or Syria. Never. Nobody.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIPS: Now, on Tuesday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told a different story. She says that her agency warned Carter not to visit leaders of Hamas.

President Bush will meet with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas today, and on the agenda the Mid-East Peace Process. Abbas is pressing the U.S. to help kick start talks between the Israelis and Palestinian. He's calling for an agreement by January that would include a timetable with the creation of a Palestinian State. Abbas met with the Secretary of State Rice yesterday.

ROBERTS: And this just in to CNN. Hundreds of teachers striking outside of parliament. Then this is just a taste of what might lie ahead. The UK is bracing for one of the first nationwide walkouts ever. It could involve 400,000 teachers, college lectures, coast guard officers, and other civil servants all overpaid. The planned strikes could affect up to 8,000 schools.

Turning now to the race for the White House. Two of the three candidates are on the road this morning. Hillary Clinton is campaigning in Fayetteville, North Carolina, today. She'll be in Ashville tonight. Barack Obama taking a day off from the trail. But presumptive Republican nominee John McCain is visiting the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans.

Meantime, there is a new fight brewing between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Clinton says she has more popular votes. Counting Michigan and Florida, she's in the lead by more than 100,000 votes. However, results from both states were thrown out by the Democratic Committee and Barack Obama's name was not on the ballot in Michigan, so he gets none of the votes cast there.

Without them, Obama leads by 500,000 votes. Still Clinton says she has received more votes than any Democratic candidate in history.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's a very close race, but if you count as I count, the 2.3 million people who voted in Michigan and Florida, then we are going to build on that.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There have been a number of different formulations that the Clinton campaign has been trying to arrive at to suggest that somehow they are not behind. I'll leave that up to you, guys, if you want to count them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: Obama's campaign manager says he doesn't expect to lose their lead by the time that the voting ends. June 3rd is the date of the last contest.

Could John McCain stand to benefit from all of the fighting between the two Democratic contenders? Earlier this morning, I asked the Florida governor Charlie Crist if McCain is looking to pick up Democratic voters who might get upset if their candidate loses the Democratic nomination.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. CHARLIE CRIST (R), FLORIDA: Well, I don't think there's any question about it. I mean, you look at John McCain's record. I mean, this is a man who can work with people across the aisle. He's proven that in his great service in the United States Senate as well as the U.S. House of Representatives. And you talk about a guy who understands public service.

Somebody who served his country in the military is a true American hero, a prisoner for war for 5 1/2 years. I mean, this is a man who understands that a servant needs to serve with a servant's heart, a public servant does.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: McCain is asking the North Carolina GOP to keep a new anti-Obama television ad off of the air. Despite focuses on the controversial Reverend Jeremiah Wright, McCain says he doesn't agree with that kind of campaigning. State Republicans say the ad is going to air anyways.

PHILLIPS: Well, you can own a piece of history. The torn-up, filthy Red Sox jersey that was dug up from under the New York Yankee Stadium is up for bids. We're going to tell you how much it's going for while you still got a few more hours to bid.

Also straight ahead this morning, moving so fast, it's hard to keep up. Gas prices reaching new highs. Senior business correspondent Ali Velshi "Minding Your Business."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Nine minutes after the hour. Do you remember that Red Sox jersey that a construction worker buried under the New Yankee Stadium? Well, the Yankees dug up the jersey after finding out that a Red Sox fan and the construction crew buried it under the new stadium in an effort to curse the Yankees.

The jersey was given back to the Red Sox. It's on sale on eBay right now. The auction ends in just a few hours. A little more than four hours from now. The current high bid for it $87,600. And of course, the proceeds going to a good cause, by the way. It's going to the official charity of the Red Sox, the Jimmy Fund, which helps people with cancer. So being put to some good use.

PHILLIPS: I'm telling you the pope blessed it. That's why the dollar is rising on that bid. You didn't know that?

ALI VELSHI, CNN SENIOR BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: And that ties in to who was praying for --

PHILLIPS: A win?

VELSHI: No, no. What we were discussing somebody was praying for something?

ROBERTS: They pray for lower gas price. VELSHI: Praying for lower gas price, right.

PHILLIPS: Works perfectly. Maybe you should contact the pope, Ali Velshi about that June 8th date that you --

VELSHI: You're right. I said earlier that gas prices are going to stop rising on June 8th. I really like it if they stop rising by May 8th or even earlier because I was just saying to you guys that this is, you know, -- there so much going on in the world I want to talk about.

But unfortunately gas prices are so important that we do actually have to tell you about the affect of it. $3.56 for a gallon of self- serve unleaded. That is a national average. And again, you don't pay a national average. You pay whatever you pay in your neighborhood.

But the trend of being up, you know, last week we were rising at a rate of almost a penny a day. Now, we've surpassed that almost two pennies a day. So, you may be seeing that in your neighborhood. Hawaii, California having the highest prices in the United States. New Jersey having the lowest average prices.

Let's see what goes in to a barrel of oil. If you are paying roughly $3.50 for a gallon of gas, oil is the biggest component of that. $2.59 of that is oil, that's about 74 percent. Taxes, federal and state, about 40 cents. 18 cents are the federal taxes, the rest are state faxes. Refining is about 26 cents. And distribution and marketing and the profit for the gas station makes up about 25 cents of the $3.50 that you pay.

I don't know if that helps you at all, but at least it gives you a sense of why this oil price rise on a daily basis. It's so important because it really directly affects what you pay for gasoline.

ROBERTS: All right. Ali, thanks.

VELSHI: OK.

PHILLIPS: Well, with gas prices sprinting toward $4 a gallon now, how does the Prius sound? We're going to take a look over the hybrid market and whether it's in your budget, coming up.

ROBERTS: Rob Marciano, meantime, in the CNN Weather Center tracking extreme weather for us. Got some bad stuff on the move there.

Hey, Rob.

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: We do. Hey, John. Hey, guys.

Yesterday, we had a number of reports of not only tornadoes but damaging winds and hail. And we're probably going to see the same thing again today. We will highlight exactly where we think that's going to happen when AMERICAN MORNING comes right back. Stay there.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(WEATHER REPORT)

PHILLIPS: All right, Rob, thanks.

Well, you're watching the most news in the morning. Gas prices are getting ridiculous to say the least. But hybrids aren't exactly cheap either. So, will going green help you make up the difference. Gerri Willis has some advice coming up.

ROBERTS: And an undecided superdelegate wants to know who you think she should vote for -- Clinton or Obama, and why. We'll meet her. The woman who wants to be convinced, ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: That's a new environmentally friendly way to zip around parts of New York City. Not exactly cheap, though. People in the Bronx can now rent these hybrid Zipcars for $10.50 an hour or $73 a day. There's also a $50 annual fee and $25 application fee.

So, how much is gas again? Owning your own hybrid car will cost you a little extra too. So, is it worth it? Personal Finance Editor Gerri Willis joins us now with some of her advice.

What do you think?

GERRI WILLIS, CNN PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR: Well, first off, let's talk a little bit about how you find out how much these hybrids are really saving you. Great Web site called fueleconomy.gov will tell you exactly what the miles per gallon rating is for every car on the road. So, if you want to improve what you're getting or you want to shop around for a new car, it's a great place to go.

You should know, though, the EPA recently changed the way they're calculating MPG. And guess what? The car that you have now, it won't look as good as it did before. The numbers are actually changing. So, you want to keep an eye on that. The new numbers coming out for the 2008 vehicles.

But boy, I'm telling you, when it gets right down to is the Prius worth it? Are these really well-regarded hybrids worth it? You know, they cost about $3,000 extra when you get to buy them. So they're certainly more expensive. And the tax credits now are gone. You don't get those anymore.

And the Prius gets 50 miles per gallon, which is great, but you're paying more for the privilege. If your real issue is I want to save money, not I want to go green for the planet, you might be better off picking a Honda Fit, for example, which has great fuel economy but is a less expensive car.

PHILLIPS: OK. Top five hybrids.

WILLIS: Yes, let's talk about those. You know, we got these from the folks at Consumer Reports. They put together a really extensive list on their Web site -- consumerreports.com. Toyota Prius leads the pack. Honda Civic Hybrid, you can see here.

But down here Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris, these aren't hybrid cars. These are just small cars with great efficiency when it comes to miles per gallon. One extra thing here, though, there's new technology coming out even now.

For example, something called Extreme Hybrids made by a company called AFS Trinity, 150 miles per gallon, because they have such an efficient battery they can go 40 miles on a single battery charge. Great stuff.

PHILLIPS: (INAUDIBLE) hit and miss. I mean, they come out and the car, you know, is dead. Other people, oh, I've never had a problem. There's been a lot of troubleshooting with these cars.

WILLIS: You know what I think a great idea is particularly the Prius? If you don't like the price tag is to buy used. You can get a great deal. Now, the issue is, as you say, it is the battery. But you don't have to replace the entire battery with a used Prius. You can actually just replace the cells. It's much less expensive and it's a great deal. It's great way to save the planet.

PHILLIPS: Meanwhile, we have our tennis shoes and we walk.

WILLIS: There's that too. Public transportation.

PHILLIPS: That's right.

Well, the economy is issue no.1 for voters. Join Gerri, Ali and the rest of the CNN money team for "ISSUE #1" today at noon Eastern right here on CNN and online at cnnmoney.com.

ROBERTS: You are watching the most news in the morning. From the poorest of the poor areas of the world to stores where you can buy in bulk, they are signs of a growing food crisis around the world. What's causing it? How to fix it? What you think about it? Coming up on AMERICAN MORNING.

And she has gotten the hard sell from both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. But this superdelegate still isn't buying. So, why is she asking people online to help her decide? We'll talk with her, coming up next.

First, "Fortune" magazine is releasing its list of the top 500 companies. We decided to go beyond the numbers for a closer look at what makes these companies tick even if it's all about geography.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This small town is best known for its Hollywood connection and as the backdrop for movies and TV shows. But it's also full of companies that top the business box office. What small town has the most Fortune 500 companies? Find out after the break.

(END VIDEO CLIP) (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Which small town is home to the most Fortune 500 companies? With a population of about 16,000, the Los Angeles suburb of El Segundo, California tops that list. Mattel, Computer Sciences, DaVita and DIRECTV all call El Segundo home.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: 25 minutes after the hour now. A new twist in the battle between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Both now claim they have more of the popular vote. How?

Well, Clinton says that if Michigan and Florida are included, she leads by more than 100,000 votes. Michigan really is the key there because Barack Obama's wasn't even on the ballot. So, he gets none of those votes.

Both candidates have agreed to boycott the states because they held primaries earlier than the Democratic Party allowed. Obama leads Clinton by 500,000 votes if Michigan and Florida are not counted.

The debate over what to do about those two states prompted a heated exchange last night on CNN's "LARRY KING LIVE." Clinton supporter James Carville and New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson who is backing Obama disagreed about whether those delegates should count.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D), NEW MEXICO: We all decided we won't going to participate in those two. Then all of a sudden now when Senator Obama in one of the states hasn't even on the ballot, you want to count the delegates there. You can't change the rules.

JAMES CARVILLE, CLINTON SUPPORTER: You know, maybe the governor was on vacation and not taking phone calls when myself and Governor Rendell, and Governor Corzine offered to pay for a revote in Florida and Michigan. By the way, I will point out, of people actually voting, Senator Clinton leads the popular vote. People did go vote in Florida, but didn't go vote in Michigan. They didn't count the delegates after they voted. But we ...

RICHARDSON: That's false. Totally false. How can you say when they didn't participate, James? How can you say that? That is lunacy. That is lunacy.

CARVILLE: I have not interrupted you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: As we mentioned, Obama was not on the ballot in Michigan and neither campaigned in Florida.

There is increasing pressure on the Democratic superdelegates to decide between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Debra Kozikowski is one of the 10 sitting superdelegates. She has been asking for advice online to help her decide.

Debra joins us now from Springfield, Massachusetts.

Good to see you. We should mention too that you're the vice chairman of the Democratic Party there in Massachusetts. So you're quite a well-known superdelegate. You know, if you take a look at the latest cover of "Time" magazine, it really says it all there. There can only be one. So, my question to you is -- why are you still undecided? What are you waiting for?

DEBRA KOZIKOWSKI, UNDECIDED SUPERDELEGATE: Well, you know, this is a process issue. And there are a number of us, including folks as high profile as Donna Brazil, who are waiting until the primary season is actually over. We only have a few short weeks to go.

And there's been a lot of talk about which states matter and which states don't. You know, big state, small state, all states matter, all contests matter. And I think from my perspective, waiting until all the voters have had their say to have my say makes sense to me.

ROBERTS: We should mention that in the early going of this process, you were a John Edwards supporter. He has since dropped out and he has not made his preference known. But you've actually asked people online at the blog ruralvotes.com, hey, convince me, why do you think I should support your candidate. You've got some 1400 responses. Anybody come close to convincing you?

KOZIKOWSKI: They're still talking to me on other threads as well. And I tell you, there's a lot of well thought out, reasoned arguments on both sides. There's a little bit of cut and paste from folks who just go to their campaign blogs too. But folks have a lot to say and unfortunately in the Internet community, sometimes they get a little overheated. Emotions are running high.

ROBERTS: You think?

KOZIKOWSKI: Oh, yes, I think. And I felt it was a good opportunity to have people talk to each other as well as talk to me. There's a frustration that they can't reach superdelegates. The average voter feels as if they're cut off from the process.

And I thought this was a way it to make some people feel as if they were, in fact, part of my process. And I think that's an important thing to do to bring people together at the end of the day.

ROBERTS: It's interesting isn't it that some people will say things to you on a blog or an e-mail that they would never ever think to say to you in person?

KOZIKOWSKI: That's exactly what happens. And so in the interest of civility and an intelligent discourse, I asked people to tell me what they think and they are doing so.

ROBERTS: As we said, you were a John Edwards supporter. Are you waiting for him to endorse before you make up your mind?

KOZIKOWSKI: Oh, no. Senator Edwards brought a lot to the table. He chose after the votes came in and it appeared that he was not going to be able to pull this campaign up to the level that needed to be, to be in consideration to pull out. I absolutely feel no responsibility and/or desire to take advice from a candidate I once supported.

ROBERTS: A couple or three weeks back, the DNC chairman Howard Dean sent a message to all the superdelegates, saying, hey, it's time to make up your minds, we want to get this thing done. Barack Obama is suggesting, hey, it's time to make a choice. Let's listen to what the candidates were saying out the campaign trail yesterday.

KOZIKOWSKI: Sure.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We think that, if at the end, we end up having won twice as many states and having the most votes, then we should end up being the nominee.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm very proud that as of today, I have received more votes by the people who have voted than anybody else.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: They are all out there making their case to the superdelegates. Howard Dean doesn't want to go into the convention divided. Do you feel any rush to make up your mind here? What about this idea of going into the convention a party divided?

DEBRA KOZIKOWSKI, UNDECIDED SUPERDELEGATE: I think that once this primary process has completed, it is incumbent upon those of us who have remained uncommitted to state our choices and to move toward to the convention united behind a presumed nominee.

ROBERTS: You know, yesterday, we had David Parker who is an undecided superdelegate from North Carolina on who said, I don't feel any particular pressure to get this decided before the convention. Take a look back at Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt's nominating convention, he wasn't a shoe-in back then, that was a long, long time ago, mind you. But he said, you know, I could even see voting present on the first ballot and going to a second ballot. Do you think that would be wise or could that be detrimental?

KOZIKOWSKI: That would not be my choice. My choice would be to wait until this process completes itself, make that a decision, and make that decision known and let the delegate votes be counted before we go to convention.

ROBERTS: Debra Kozikowski, Massachusetts undecided superdelegate. Thanks for being with us this morning. We'll make a pledge to revisit you when you are either just about to make up your mind or about to declare it. Maybe you could even do it here on AMERICAN MORNING.

KOZIKOWSKI: That's fine with me. ROBERTS: All right. We'll stay in touch. Thanks.

KOZIKOWSKI: Bye-bye.

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: We are also following the worldwide food crisis this morning. A sudden rise in the price of rice has lead some people to stock up. That is why Costco and Sam's Club stores have put limits on the purchases of certain kinds of rice. Sam's Club is restricting members to four 20-lb bag but says there isn't a shortage yet. Some people are blaming the food shortage on ethanol saying that using food for fuel is only making things worse. Earlier, on AMERICAN MORNING we spoke to Congressman Jim McGovern, co- chairman of the House Hunger caucus.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JIM MCGOVERN, CO-CHAIRMAN, HUNGER CAUCUS: We kind of jumped the gun, we embraced corn ethanol. We all want energy independence, there's no doubt about that. But the bottom line is we need to pursue energy independence through another means. Our kind of reliance on corn ethanol has produced other problems. It is not good for the environment and it has resulted in higher food prices here in the United States and around the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIPS: And we have our team of reporters covering the crisis. Ed Lavandera at the Dallas Farmer's Market, Dr. Sanjay Gupta in Lima, Peru. Let's go ahead and start with Dr. Gupta.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Last night, we went to some of the poorest parts of Peru, of Lima. And we saw the government by night, in the middle of the night was actually secretly putting together these food bags and then going to the smallest villages, knocking on people's doors and handing them food. They recognize it has become very difficult for people to actually buy food here. They simply couldn't afford what was in that bag, some rice, some beans, some vegetable oil, six cans of anchovies. That is what they are getting and it's expected to sustain them for quite some time.

What is also interesting is there is a lot of suspicion of the army here as well. In the past, the Army used to go door-to-door in order to try and find people and take them to jail. Now when they come knocking on the doors, people sometimes would not answer. This is a small (banding) but this is something that is happening here in Lima to try and address the food shortage.

The potato is something else that they grow here a lot and that's something that they distribute often. There are small measures taking place. We're going to have much more on how it's working. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, Lima.

(END VIDEO CLIP) PHILLIPS: And some people who are tired of paying sky high supermarket prices for fruits and vegetables are finding a money saving solution but labor-intensive solution. AMERICAN MORNING's Ed Lavandera is live at a Dallas Farmers' market. Hi, Ed.

ED LAVANDERA, AMERICAN MORNING CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Kyra. Well, you know, those rising food prices are really forcing people to figure out how to save a dollar. And that's pushing a lot of people to really start looking locally. What can they do to save some money here at the Dallas Farmers' Market. The families like the Lemley's of Canton, Texas, which is nearby, just east of Dallas area, we're reporting a kind of a boom of how many fruits and vegetables they are selling. And if you are willing to pick your own, you can really save a lot more that way.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LYNN REMSING, OWNER, GNEISMER FARMS [corrected copy: GNISMER FARMS]: In a given day, everybody will come in and pick anywhere from one to two gallons.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Everything Lynn Remsing grows gets gobbled up.

REMSING: We have seen a tremendous increase in the number of people that are picking their own fruits now.

LAVANDERA: Thousands of people are flocking to Remsing's farm in this Ft. Worth, Texas suburb to pick their own fruits and vegetables. On this six-acre plot, sales have doubled in the last year.

REMSING: This year has been an extremely good year for us. Because the number of people that I think have found fresh vegetables because they're looking for a cheaper source of food out there in the marketplace.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's $4 for the onions.

LAVANDERA: Remsing says that organic fruits and vegetables he grows are consistently cheaper than the non-organic foods sold in nearby supermarkets. That's because he doesn't have transport and packaging costs. Here you pick strawberries right off of the bush.

Do you think this the wave of the future?

REMSING: I think it is. I think we're going to see this come. If you've ever been to, seen the European markets. They do a lot of green houses. They do a lot of local small farms.

LAVANDERA: Local farmers are reporting a boom in sales all over the country. In the last ten years, the number of farmer's markets has nearly doubled nationwide. And for the first time the Farm Bill before Congress will allocate nearly $2 billion to help specialty crop growers expand where they sell their food.

ROBERT GUENTHER, UNITED FRESH PRODUCE ASSOCIATION: Expanding the availability of produce, creating commodities that can -- those are the types of things that I think will help -- could help bring prices down. But it's a -- it's a global problem as you're aware.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LAVANDERA: Of course, when all of these small farms are battling is the expectations game across the country. For example, someone in Michigan come January, December who wants an orange, you know, those fruits don't grow in the snow. It has to be brought in some from somewhere else. Kyra.

PHILLIPS: All right. Ed Lavandera, live from Dallas. Thanks, Ed.

LAVANDERA: Sure.

ROBERTS: And that brings us to this morning's "Quick Vote" question. U.S. stores rationing rice. Right now, 66 percent say it's producing panic. 34 percent say it's a sensible solution though. Cast your vote at CNN.com/am and we want to hear from you via e-mail as well. If there are bigger problem that the U.S. is ignoring, what about using food as fuel, is that a problem?

We want to know what you think. Go to our Web site, CNN.com/am and follow the link that says contact us. We'll have some of those e- mails for you, coming up in just a few minutes.

Islam, it is one of the fastest growing religions in America.

PHILLIPS: And a voting block that is energized. Straight ahead, CNN sits down with a group of young Muslims. You want to hear the issues that are important to them. Straight ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: It's coming up now at 39 minutes after the hour. Islam, its presence is growing in America and as part of our series "The League of First Time Voters," CNN's Rick Sanchez talks to a group of young Muslims about the issues that concern them the most.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: When you hear the words war on terror, what do you think?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Many Muslims are confused about this war. Is it a war against terrorism or is it a war against Muslims and Islam?

SANCHEZ: Raise your hand if you think the war in Iraq is a mistake? Every single one of you thinks that the war in Iraq is a mistake? Why is it a mistake?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is miscommunication about weapons of mass destruction. There is miscommunication about what terrorism really is. There have been groups in Iraq that have been oppressed for decades. And those groups are fighting against those oppressors. And we are getting the wrong image and connecting the wrong people in thinking that terrorism from the 9/11 attacks is linked to Iraq.

UNIDENTIFIED FMEALE: I think if the U.S. was really concerned about fostering a stable democracy in Iraq it would look to the kind of indigenous forces that are really in favor of democracy. I don't think it is fair to assume that all Iraqis oppose democracy. But when it's framed as something like a foreign imposition and some people see it as almost like new imperialism or something like that, then I think it's just really counter productive at achieving that.

SANCHEZ: Do you think our policy in Iraq and our policy throughout the Middle East in the last six, seven years has actually helped Osama Bin Laden?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

SANCHEZ: We've given them what he wanted? Is that what you're saying?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I guess more people sympathized with his cause.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The image that we have overseas is because of this idea that we can bulldoze and not be aware of cultural differences, not be aware of sensitivities.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A key point that makes me want to vote for Obama, that he is open to dialogue, he is a man of action and is serious about peace.

SANCHEZ: Would you say it's the most impressive thing about his platform?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's really open and he's really accepting of others, and he would be willing to at least compromise if it's possible.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think he's a leader who will take this country to the next century, you know, as a global superpower.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are looking for a new leadership with a new direction. We need a leadership that will work to enhance and restore the American image abroad specially in the Muslim world.

SANCHEZ: Raise your hand if you are planning to vote for Barack Obama? Raise you hand if you are planning to vote right now for Hillary Clinton. Two in the back. Two in the back.

Raise your hand if you are planning to vote for John McCain. Nobody voting for John McCain.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS: And you can join "the league of first time voters" at cnn.com/league. Finding information about voting, express yourself and you can connect with other first time voters, it is a social networking site as well. That's at cnn.com/league. PHILLIPS: Rob Marciano at the CNN Weather Center, back in Atlanta tracking all the extreme weather across the country. Rob.

ROB MARCIANO, CNN, METEOROLOGIST: Hi, Kyra, a lot of action yesterday. We had a bunch of tornadoes, big time hail, winds, the whole thing and even snow as we head toward the end of April. We're going to run it down for you when AMERICAN MORNING comes right back. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MARCIANO: Look at this video. This out of Dawson County, Texas. Tornado on the ground, my friends. Storm chasers catching this yesterday afternoon. We had seven reports of tornadoes across west Texas, some damage to some homes, power lines down, no reports of injuries, that is the good news. Also, 70 mile an hour winds away from this thing and baseball size hail. My goodness. If that is not crazy enough, we go to California. Look at this snowfall. Late season snow across the high Sierra. Ski resorts some of them still open in a spotty fashion. They are trying to extend it. I mean, they've got plenty of snow up there, great news for as far as packing that water.

Here's the radar at the Pacific northwest. Good morning, everybody. Rain in the valleys and snows in the mountains, and this is where they store their water for the wintertime into the summertime. So, this is all great news as far as keeping that reservoir juiced. Salt Lake City, at least the mountains surrounding Salt Lake, snow advisories today. We could see several inches, up to a foot of snow in some of the higher elevations. So, you know, snow bird, Butte and Alta, you know, they're still open over the weekend. You may want to hit it. Eastern parts of Oklahoma, these are showers and thunderstorms not too terribly bad. We've got some rain, some of it heavy moving across parts of central Missouri, anywhere from two to three inches or more.

The past 12 hours, flash flood warnings are posted for that part of the world. East of Little Rock, pretty heavy thunderstorms about to roll into Memphis, Tennessee. Some of those could contain some gusty winds, definitely some lightning and certainly some heavy rain. Once that moves through, sun hits the back side of this thing. More energy coming out of the mountains and we will have the potential for more severe weather today. Moderate risk northern parts of Kansas, southern Nebraska. Tornadoes also a possibility later on this afternoon. Kyra, that's the latest from the weather department. Back up to you.

PHILLIPS: Terrific. And I'm going to go right over to your left, I think it is. CNN NEWSROOM just minutes away. Tony Harris, my favorite - I can see Rob in the background.

TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: There is Rob. You found him. There he is.

PHILLIPS: I know the dynamic.

MARCIANO: It's all part of the ATL.

HARRIS: We're going to keep you busy there, Rob. Good to see you, Kyra.

PHILLIPS: I miss you, guys. Good to see you. I miss you, Tony.

HARRIS: Yes. Come on back. We got a nice little welcome home plan for you. Rice on the run, on the NEWSROOM rundown for you this morning. Customers try to beat soaring rice prices. But big box retailers put limits on just how much you can buy. Gas prices pumped up to yet another record high today. We will show you how to shave your commuting costs.

Laura and Jenna Bush, tell us about their new children's book. May be a wedding detail or two live next hour.

You will stay on top of all the breaking news. That's all stock and trade here in the NEWSROOM. We get started 14 minutes away at the top of the hour on CNN in the NEWSROOM. John and Kyra, back to you.

ROBERTS: Looking forward to it. Tony, thanks very much.

PHILLIPS: Well, some of your favorite shows come back on TV tonight after the writers' strike shut down everything.

ROBERTS: I'm going to have a Tivofest this weekend. Our Lola Ogunnaike talks with writers who are scripting their own comebacks next on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: Some of your favorite shows come back online tonight. Fresh episodes roll out months after the writers' strike shut things down like "Ugly Betty" right here. our Lola Ogunnaike caught up with some writers who are hoping that viewers aren't lost forever.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know it's going to work out. Oh, I just know it.

LOLA OGUNNAIKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: For a while there, some television viewers weren't sure they would ever see their favorite characters again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But now I'm back and I want what's mine.

OGUNNAIKE: They won't have to wonder any longer because McDreamy, Betty and Sawyer have finally returned. The more than three month long writer strike cost viewers their shows and Los Angeles more than one billion in lost revenue. But for "Ugly Betty" creator and writer Silvio Horta, the strike was a beautiful thing.

SILVIO HORTA, "UGLY BETTY," EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: Having that time off gave me and gave a lot of people another perspective on the show on what we've done and what we've done well and what we hadn't done well.

OGUNNAIKE: Ratings were up and reviews strong when "The Office" and "30 Rock" returned earlier this month. "Gossip Girl" was greeted by air kisses on Monday. 16 million viewers flocked to Wisteria lane. But that is down 22% from "Desperate Housewives" last pre-strike episode. Whether fans are still captivated by lost invisible monster, Meredith rotating lovers or the caddy crew at Mode Magazine remains to be seen.

HORTA: I really hope that the audience comes back, and I hope that the time away has just made people hungrier to see it and people have had a chance to see the season one DVD and watch the show on i- Tunes and on abc.com and have been hungry for it. So, fingers crossed.

PHILLIPS: All right, we will tell everybody what we were talking about in a second here. But first "Ugly Betty" you've got some scoop, right?

OGUNNAIKE: Yes. I spoke with Silvio and he told me that Naomi Campbell will be appearing on the season finale. No cell phone throwing. No saliva spitting.

PHILLIPS: She's going to behave herself.

OGUNNAIKE: She's going to behave herself but she will have a bat on hand. Her team will face off against the team on Mode. It's a big softball competition. And she's going to be up to bat. So watch out for this. She was lovely actually. She wasn't a diva at all.

PHILLIPS: Oh, she's lovely at everything. But anyway, some shows not coming back.

OGUNNAIKE: Yes. John, You will be hurt to know, John, that "24" is actually not coming back until January.

PHILLIPS: No Keifer Sutherland.

OGUNNAIKE: No Keifer Sutherland. No improbable plot lines.

PHILLIPS: I've got a crush on him.

OGUNNAIKE: Yes, let's talk about that, John.

I've got a connection to him, I think I can hook that up.

PHILLIPS: Really, I can handle any mission Keifer Sutherland has.

OGUNNAIKE: I know you can. I saw you on Iraq, you can handle anything.

PHILLIPS: All right. John, are you going to be okay without a little "Lost?" I mean, without a little "24?"

ROBERTS: Yes. I mean, how many more terrorist need to slip through the perimeter before they finally decide it's not a great plot line to follow.

OGUNNAIKE: There you have it. End of story.

ROBERTS: Looking forward to "Lost" coming back. No question about that. Quick look now at what CNN NEWSROOM s working on at the top of the hour.

HARRIS: See these stories in the CNN NEWSROOM. Major retailers limit rice sales. Customers are stocking up to beat soaring prices.

Gas jumps to another record high.

Was North Korea helping Syria build a nuclear plant? The Bush administration shows Congress videotaped evidence today.

Delta and Northwest execs try to sell Congress on their merger plan today.

Severe weather on the central plains.

And authors Laura and Jenna Bush live in the NEWSROOM, top of the hour on CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN COLBERT, "THE COLBERT SHOW": Everyone is asking who would win. Would it be decisive? Well, when all is said and done, there was a clear winner.

Abercrombie and Fitch. That is the most successful product placement of this campaign since John McCain's plug for Chucky Cheese.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: Well, those three guys in the Abercrombie and Fitch t- shirts are famous now. We're learning a little bit more about them this morning. We made some calls, two are brothers and the other one works for A&F.

PHILLIPS: And we hope to learn more about them tomorrow. They've agreed to join us. So stay tuned for that. In the meantime, check out what CNN's Jeanne Moos found.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There was Barack Obama's message of hope. His message of change. His message of Fitch, as in Abercrombie and Fitch, the store.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's easy to get caught up in the distractions and the silliness.

MOOS: Distractions like the three guys behind you, Senator, each decked out in the Abercrombie and Fitch -shirts. They booed on cue. OBAMA: He's offering four more years with a war with no exit strategy.

MOOS: They cheer. Sure, Hillary may have had a guy with boxing guys behind here playing out the "Rocky" theme. But the Abercrombie and Fitch guys had the blogs buzzing about product placement. Barack Obama brought to you by Abercrombie & Fitch. A&F but he way, caters mostly to teens and college kids and is known for ads full of half naked body. Even their cologne bottles feature rock hard abs. Bare- chested models adorn their stores like this one in New York's Fifth Avenue where we went hunting for Obama's Abercrombie and Fitch guys. You are not one of those guys, are you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, no, I'm not.

MOOS: A group called Improv Anywhere organized an event in which over a hundred regular unchiselled guys descended on the store and took their shirts off. At least, the Obama boys kept their chests covered.

All campaigns try to some extent to arrange their backdrops. And Michelle Obama appeared at Carnegie Mellon University, a reporter for the student paper overheard an event coordinator saying "get me more white people." What campaign isn't looking for a nice racial mix but a nice retail mix?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That is very definitely strategic placement.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They went to the mall that day, picked out some nice shirts and said let's go onstage behind Barack Obama.

MOOS: So, you don't think it was intentional?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not intentional.

MOOS: The Obama campaign laughed off a question about the Abercrombie boys. And the company itself told the "New York Times" it had nothing to do with the trio. To us, they seemed like genuine Obama supporters waving at the Senator, even getting to shake his hand. If they are going to distract from a candidate, they could have at least altered their t-shirts to Aberobama and Fitch. Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

ROBERTS: And again, we hope to have the guys on here on AMERICAN MORNING tomorrow. They told us they just like A & F clothes and got lucky enough to be able to stand behind Obama during the speech.

PHILLIPS: Meanwhile, how is this for product placement for Jimmy Buffett, Gary brought in his parrot shirt today as he runs cameras. There you go, Gary. Tell everyone hello.

ROBERTS: There you go..

PHILLIPS: We will sing a little buffet on the way out. But before we leave you, just a final check of our "Quick Vote" question. U.S. stores rationing rice, 66 percent say it's producing a panic. 34% of you say, well it's a sensible solution. Some of you e- mailed us as well.

ROBERTS: Sam from Maryland sent in this, he says "we could solve the food crisis if we stop building scrawling developments on land that we used to grow our food on. Just think of all the farms in northern Virginia that are now condos. More farms, fewer developments.:

PHILLIPS: Kevin from McKenzie, Tennessee e-mailed saying "American farmers have never grown as much as possible. With millions of people starving around the world, American farmers are getting paid not to grow crops."

ROBERTS: And Brian in Mayo, Florida writes, "as a dairy farmer, I know what the impact of higher feed costs are doing to my bottomline. The idea to produce fuel from corn was not well researched. It takes a lot of fuel to produce corn and it involved plowing, planting, cultivating, fertilizing, harvesting, transporting and storage and processing, then more transporting. The industry that profits the most from this half baked idea is the oil industry. Go figure!"

PHILLIPS: There you go. Well, thanks for joining us here on this AMERICAN MORNING. As you call it, our Friday... what did you say?

ROBERTS: Friday eve.

PHILLIPS: Friday eve.

ROBERTS: Tomorrow will be Friday. See you then. CNN NEWSROOM with Tony Harris and Fredricka Whitfield begins right now.

HARRIS: Good morning, everyone. You are in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Tony Harris.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Fredricka Whitfield. Heidi continues on maternity leave.

HARRIS: See events come into the CNN NEWSROOM live on this Thursday, April 24th. Here is what's on the rundown.

WHITFIELD: Some big box retailers putting limits on rice sales. Is the global food crisis hitting home today?

HARRIS: Did North Korea helped Syria build a nuclear plant. The Bush administration says yes. It is showing Congress the evidence this morning.

WHITFIELD: And the central part of the capital.

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