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Presidential Candidates Campaign in Indiana and North Carolina

Aired May 5, 2008 - 07:00   ET


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Senator Clinton uses it against Obama to make this perception that somehow he doesn't relate to working class votes. Obama has turned this around and said look, this is more business as usual in Washington. And even McCain has kind of jumped into the fray, saying that Obama is a flip-flopper. In some ways it really allows each of them to define their opponents, but all the voters looking for something to hold on to. They don't want the controversies anymore. They don't really care about that. This is something that really resonates.
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR, AMERICAN MORNING: What are the candidates doing in the lead-up to tomorrow's all important primary? We have seen the way that they spend their time over the weekends, leading up to these contests before. Are they doing anything different this time around?

MALVEAUX: One thing that they're trying to do is really relate to people in a very basic way. On the ground we saw Senator Obama yesterday having this kind of family picnic. It was really unusual seeing, because you had Michele Obama, the two kids, Sasha, Malia (ph), they were out there, Sasha yelling vote for any daddy on the stage. So it was really kind of this warm feeling. You saw Barack Obama in a different light. You're reminded that he's a father, that he's a husband, that he can relate in some ways to some of the things people are talking about. Hillary Clinton was on a web site, this is She was talking about what it was like to raise a teenage daughter Chelsea, so both of them really trying to connect with the voters. That is something we've seen in the last 48, 24 hours, leading up to those critical primaries.

ROBERTS: Suzanne Malveaux for us in Ft. Wayne, Indiana this morning. Suzanne, thanks very much. As we said, we spoke with Senator Obama just a short while ago. I asked him about remarks that his rival Senator Clinton made this past week and she said if Iran attacked Israel, the United States would be able to quote totally obliterate them. I wanted to know if Senator Obama thinks that Senator Clinton's comments went too far.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: An attack on Israel, one of our most important allies in the world, would be considered as an attack on the United States. Using the word obliterate, however, is the kind of language that we have seen George Bush use over the last seven years and it's precisely that kind of provocative language that Senator Clinton criticized others for.

ROBERTS: If Iran attacked real with a nuclear weapon, would you use the United States' nuclear arsenal against Iran?

OBAMA: I'm not going to speculate. As I said before, Senator Clinton was the one to suggest we should never talk about the use of nuclear weapons and gave a lot of us a lengthy disposition on that. Look, here's the bottom line, Israel is our ally and we will protect Israel.

ROBERTS: What are you going to do if you become the nominee to fend off attacks that will come at you from the Republican side?

OBAMA John, I think as you said, we have probably taken as many hits as anybody has in this presidential campaign. Senator Clinton has not. John McCain certainly has not. And yet I'm still here and, you know, competitive in both North Carolina and Indiana. So we feel very confident about the fact that the American people are interested in who's going to be fighting for them, who's going to make sure that they're living out their American dream?


ROBERTS: And we will be hearing from Hillary Clinton live in just a few minutes time. Last night she used the Democratic party's Jefferson-Jackson day dinner in Indianapolis to push for a so-called gas tax holiday.


SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And when I say solutions, I mean immediate action on gas prices. If I hear one more time from someone here in this state how desperate they are because of the gas price increases, I will be totally committed even more than I am today to making sure that we do get relief and we get it as soon as possible.


ROBERTS: And again, Senator Hillary Clinton joins us live in just a few minutes time, 7:25 Eastern. That's just a little bit more than 20 minutes from now. Hang around.

ALINA CHO, CNN ANCHOR, AMERICAN MORNING: That's right. Get an extra cup of coffee and keep the TV on.

We're also following breaking news in Myanmar where a powerful cyclone killed more than 350 people. The country's military is pressing ahead however with a crucial referendum on a new constitution. The pro-democracy groups in the country want next week's elections postponed until aid can reach the region so that voters can get to the polls. The United Nations is sending food and water there today, it's badly needed. Several coasted villages were destroyed, state media is reporting close to 100,000 people are homeless and dozens of roads blocked by debris and downed power lines.

Iran says it will not stop its nuclear program despite new efforts by the United Nations to get Iran to stop enriching uranium. The Associated Press is reporting this morning that the country's top leader says he will not give in to international pressure and that quote, no threat can hinder the Iranian nation from its path. The U.N. has already imposed three sets of sanctions. John.

ROBERTS: The Federal courthouse in downtown San Diego will be closed today as workers repair damage to the front entrance caused by a suspected pipe bomb explosion. The FBI is reviewing footage from surveillance cameras outside the building. No injuries were reported in the incident. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack either.

A manhunt underway this morning in Philadelphia after a suspected cop killer escaped from a halfway house. Police Sgt. Stephen Licbinski was shot at least five times while responding to a call about a bank robbery last Saturday night. A second suspect has been charged with murder, robbery and related offenses. A third man was killed by police at the scene.

If you live in New York City, your Monday morning commute could be affected after two subway train cars derailed outside of a station near central park. Some 400 passengers were evacuated yesterday by a rescue train. No serious injuries reported. Transit officials say the train's operator and conductor will be given blood alcohol tests.

CHO: That's why there were so many delays on the subway yesterday.

A vote today on the deal for victims of that Minnesota bridge collapse. The $38 million plan is expected to pass quickly in the state house. It allows victims to get up to $400,000 apiece. There is also a supplemental $13 million fund for people who suffered the worst injuries. The collapse on August 1 killed 13 people and injured 145 others. Officials expect the rebuilt bridge to open in December.

President Bush honored high school graduates in Greensburg, Kansas one year after the town was devastated by a tornado. It was the president's first-ever high school commencement speech. He praised graduates and their families as models of American compassion and resiliency.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The tornado tore apart the beams and boards that held you're houses together. But it could not break the bonds of family and faith that hold your town together.


CHO: It was an active weekend in the Midwest and southeast for tornadoes. At least eight touched down in Arkansas on Friday. Eight people were killed, 400 homes were damaged.

Stick around, coming up maverick billionaire investor Warren Buffett, the oracle of Omaha, shares his thoughts with CNN on the down economy. There's a silver lining there. Stick around for that. And a consumer alert to tell you about this morning after a massive meat recall. We're going to tell you what you need to be looking for in your freezers ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


ROBERTS: Coming up on nine minutes after the hour and in just a few minutes' time Senator Hillary Clinton will be joining us here to talk about tomorrow's all important primaries in the states of Indiana and North Carolina.

Meanwhile we have got a real treat for you this morning, hairless prophet of doom meets the oracle of Omaha and it's now WWE wrestling.

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hairless profit of doom would be me. Jon Stewart on "The Daily Show" mentioned that last week because of all the bad news that I have had to give and it's been corresponding to some of the stuff that our own viewers have been saying, good me some good news finally. Oracle of Omaha is Warren Buffett, He's the guy who has made billions of dollars generally speaking with long-term investment. He doesn't take the immediate term into effect. Now Susan Lisovicz, one of my colleagues here at CNN, makes a habit of going out to the annual what they call Woodstock for capitalists. That's the annual Berkshire Hathaway investment meeting. Berkshire Hathaway is the company that's headed by Warren Buffett. It's his instrument for all of his investments. He says don't worry about the short-term. When he makes investments in companies, when he makes his long-term investments, he's not entirely worried about recessions and what's happening right now. Listen to what he told Susan.


WARREN BUFFETT, BERSHIRE HATHAWAY: I think it's going to be probably a longer and deeper than most people think. But I'm not an expert on that and I don't do one thing in business that reflects my view of the economy in the next year or two years. It just makes absolutely no difference to us. If I hear about a business today I can buy that makes sense, I'll buy it. I won't give a thought to whether it's going to do well in the next quarter or the next year. Recessions are just unimportant to us in terms of making investments.


VELSHI: Obviously recessions are important to people in terms of how it affects what they spend and how much money they have and whether or not they are a job. The economy generally, we call it issue number one here at CNN, not because we made that up, because you told us it's issue number one. We have a new CNN/Opinion Research poll. Take a look at the numbers. Overwhelmingly Americans are saying in this election the most important thing to their vote is the economy, 49 percent. That number's been going higher and higher since about September. Iraq is the second closest with 19 percent, but then we come into health care, 14 percent. For many people, health care is an economic issue. Terrorism comes in at 9 percent, immigration at 8 percent. Again depending on where you sit, when you're Warren Buffett, you can say recessions don't make a difference. But his view is long term. For those of you who are investors looking for retirement --

CHO: It makes sense. He's saying everything is cyclical.

VELSHI: That's right. They come and go. He said, you'll see many recessions in your lifetime. So it's interesting, it's always useful to keep that perspective as well.

CHO: Can't watch the Dow day by day.

VELSHI: Absolutely right, leave that to us.

ROBERTS: Not the first, won't be the last, but he would not say how deep and how long it will be.

VELSHI: No and he worried that it might be deeper or longer. So you have to have two ways of thinking about your money in this world, the one that's about this year and next year and the way that's about thinking about when you retire, your future.

CHO: So buy your blue chips and keep them? OK, Ali Velshi, thank you so much.

Keep it right here. Hillary Clinton is going to join us live in about 10 minutes time. Also watching some extreme weather affecting flights in the northeast this morning. Rob Marciano tracking it all for us. Hey Rob, good morning.



CHO: Well, this is the eve, of course, of the all-important Indiana and North Carolina primaries. North Carolina's governor says Hillary Clinton makes Rocky Balboa look like a pansy. We talked to Barack Obama a little while ago and Hillary Clinton, she supports the gas tax holiday. She said she'd quote obliterate Iran if it attacked Israel. Can Hillary Clinton pull out a pair of wings tomorrow in Indiana and North Carolina: She's going to be our guest live in the next couple of minutes.

ROBERTS: About nine minutes from now. New warnings meanwhile about contaminated food. Elizabeth Cohen with details about a major meat recall this morning. Good morning Elizabeth.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning John. John, this time the culprit is listeria and it's in food sold under three different brand names. We'll have more for you when AMERICAN MORNING returns.


CHO: A New York food producer is recalling close to 300,000 pounds of fresh and frozen beef, pork and poultry because of possible listeria contamination. It's the second recall in as many months for the company. Elizabeth Cohen joins us live from the medical update desk with more on this. So Elizabeth, just how widespread is this recall?

COHEN: Alina, these foods were shipped all over the country and the list is so long, I don't even have time to read it on air. People are going to have to go to to get the list. Let's look at a couple of the basic facts of this recall. These foods were sold under three different brand names. Most of them are Gourmet Boutique brands. Some are Jan's and there's also Archer Farms. As I said, the food was distributed nationwide and the culprit is listeria. Listeria is a bug, is a disease that can cause fever, headache, nausea and it can kill people who already have damaged immune systems. It can also cause miscarriages and stillbirths if a pregnant woman comes in contact with listeria. Now Gourmet Boutique, the company that's involved here, they say on their hot line that they are taking corrective procedures to correct this problem. Alina.

CHO: I think it's important to point out Elizabeth that nobody's actually been sick from this, luckily, Federal inspectors caught it before that happened. But is there any way to avoid listeria?

COHEN: There are ways to avoid listeria and the USDA has on their Web site some instructions for folks who have damaged immune systems or who for whatever reason want to make sure that they need to avoid listeria. Let's take a look at some of the things that you can do. First of all, you can decide that you're not going to eat soft cheeses unless they have been pasteurized. So things like brie and camembert and other things that are sold. You can just not eat those at all. Salads made in stores, that's another thing that the USDA says to avoid, like chicken salad or egg salad and also, don't drink raw or unpasteurized milk. That could very well have listeria in it.

CHO: Good advice, Elizabeth Cohen at our medical update desk. Elizabeth, thanks. And for a list of the food products that are being recalled, head to our Web site, that's John?

ROBERTS: It's 20 minutes after the hour now. Last week Senator Hillary Clinton remarked if Iran attacked Israel, the U.S. would be able to quote totally obliterate them. When we talked with Senator Barack Obama a few minutes ago on AMERICAN MORNING, here's what he had to say about that.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: An attack on Israel, one of our most important allies in the world, would be considered as an attack on the United States. Using the word obliterate however, is the kind of language that we have seen George Bush use over the last seven years and it's precisely that kind of provocative language that Senator Clinton criticized others for.


ROBERTS: And we want to hear from you, did Clinton's comments go too far? That's our quick vote question this morning. Right now 74 percent of you say yes, she did go too far, 26 percent of you say no she didn't. Keep those votes coming. You can also go to and send us an e-mail, expand on your thoughts a little bit, tell us why you feel the way you do. But coming up, we're going to ask Hillary Clinton is she stands by her comments on Iran. She joins us live next on AMERICAN MORNING.


CHO: Stick around because we are just moments away from a live interview with Senator Hillary Clinton in just a couple of minutes. We'll be bringing that to you. Meanwhile tempers flared during a heated debate on the construction of a border fence in Texas. Now both sides accusing the other of racism and disloyalty to the United States. CNN's Ed Lavandera with the battle over the border.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The anger sizzled. Brownsville, Texas residents fighting the construction of a border fence and its architect, Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo. As the booing intensified, Tancredo fired off an un-politician-like response.

REP. TOM TANCREDO (R) COLORADO: If you don't like a fence between Mexico - if you don't want a fence between the city and Mexico, I suggest then you build a fence around the northern part of your city.

LAVANDERA: Those words have becoming the boiling point to the border wall debate. For Brownsville Mayor Pat Ahumada, it made the fight personal, an insult he says that this predominantly Hispanic city isn't American enough.

PAT AHUMADA, BROWNSVILLE MAYOR: You have those people like the congressman there who are bigots. It's a racist thing to them. They're afraid of us Mexicans taking over politically, I think.

LAVANDERA: Tancredo stuck by his comments when we talked to him a few days after the meeting. He says the wall is crucial to protecting the United States.

TANCREDO: Loyalties are actually at stake here. When it's not just a celebration of diversity, it's a question of who you're loyal to, what country you are loyal too. In that case, multiculturalism becomes a danger to a nation like the United States.

LAVANDERA: The tension in this part of south Texas has actually been building for months. Wall construction could begin in a matter of weeks and while Federal officials insist they've been working closely with local officials, many people around here still say they don't know where exactly the wall will be built or what it will look like.

DIANA LUCIO, GOLF COURSE OWNER: I don't understand why they're trying to keep this so hush hush. Frankly I think that they're trying to shove this down our throat.

LAVANDERA: Diana Lucio and her husband run a golf course so close to Mexico that players are warned not to hit the balls across the border. But the wall is supposed to cut through the top edge of the course, essentially cutting it off from the rest of the city. Lucio wonders if the family business can survive.

LUCIO: We feel like we're being shoved over to the Mexican side of our border and it's not a very good feeling. We are United States citizens and don't appreciate being treated in this manner.

LAVANDERA: Building the wall in the winding river is too expensive, so instead it will follow a levee, leaving several thousands acres of U.S. land south of the border wall and leaving many people feeling like they're stuck between two countries. Ed Lavandera, CNN, Brownsville, Texas.


ROBERTS: And it's 26 minutes after the hour, joining us live this morning from Greenville, South Carolina - North Carolina rather on the eve of the all-important primary there and in Indiana is Senator Hillary Clinton of New York. Good morning, senator, good to see you again.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Good morning, John. It's great to talk to you. Thank you.

ROBERTS: I know you've got a busy day. We actually got you late. So I hope you don't mind if we hang onto you for just a little bit here. I want to talk to you about the gas tax and come at it from the perspective of it's one thing to propose these things as a candidate when you really don't have to follow through on them. So I want to ask you this question this morning. If you become president and if gasoline prices are still high this time next year, do you promise now that you will give us a gas tax holiday next year?

CLINTON: I'm sure going to try, John, because the way that I have proposed it is different from either of my opponents. Senator Obama doesn't want to give consumers a break. I do. I want the oil companies to pay the gas tax this summer out of their record profits. Senator McCain wants to lift the gas tax but doesn't want to pay for it. So I think I have the responsible position to give people immediate relief right now.

And here's why, John, we need to do two things simultaneously. We need to help people who live today trying to pay these incredibly high gas prices. There's been no preparation. There's been no real help for them to try to make a transition. I think we can do both a short-term relief program and begin to implement my longer term program which would give people tax credits to buy more gas efficient cars. It would move us toward these higher gas mileage cars and would help to pay for it by taking the subsidies away from the oil companies. There's really a comprehensive approach that I have proposed.

ROBERTS: Now you're certainly getting lots of opposition from this, particularly from the Obama campaign. Senator Obama earlier this morning was critical of it. Let's listen to what former Labor secretary under the Clinton administration Robert Reich had to say about this.


ROBERT REICH, FORMER LABOR SECRETARY: 1It's stupid and it's dumb and I don't know why Hillary Clinton kind of proposed it.


ROBERTS: Harsh words for you there, stupid and dumb and doesn't know why you proposed it. What do you say bout that? He was an official in your husband's administration.

CLINTON: Well, maybe I can educate him a little bit. We want the oil companies to pay the gas tax out of their record profits. I think it's important that people in public life, elected positions like mine begin to stand up for the hard working American consumer and the middle class. That's what I believe. I think that if you look at all of the issues that I have taken on, that is what I'm running for. I'm for helping people stay in their homes not being foreclosed on. I've been advocating this for months. My opponent opposes my moratorium on home foreclosures. I'm for getting health care for everyone at an affordable cost. My opponent wants to leave 50 million people out. I'm for trying to get the gas tax holiday for this summer because at least where I travel and maybe I talk to different people, I talk to people who are telling me they're literally sick at their stomach when they pull into the gas station trying to pay these gas bills, trying to go and then go to the grocery store where the price of fuel goes right into the cost of groceries. I guess I'm just feeling more of the concerns that people have and they want relief. And they want us to quit taking care of Wall Street like we did when we bailed out Bear Stearns and start taking care of Main Street.

ROBERTS: You also say if you were president, you would launch an immediate investigation into the Justice Department and the FTC on price manipulation on oil companies. Every time, almost every time the price of gas goes up, Democrats come out and they say, we got to investigate, there's collusion, there's price manipulation. The investigation takes place and nothing has ever been found. Why would you expect to find something this time around?

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, John, what I have said is that it's the energy traders who are manipulating the market. The people who are not in the oil business as a full-time job, but sit behind a computer somewhere and buy and sell and hoard supplies of oil. In fact an official of Exxon Mobil testified under oath in April before a house committee that it is not market fundamentals that is driving the price up, that in fact if it were just supply and demand, the price of oil would be $50, $55 a barrel, instead of $120.

ROBERTS: It's a commodity that is worth whatever people want -

CLINTON: Let me just finish. Because this is important, this is important for people to understand. The energy traders brought us higher electricity prices during the Enron scandal so that people along the West Coast were paying not what the market required, but what they were manipulated into having to pay. At the end of 2000, a huge bill was passed with thousands of pages in it and buried in it in the dead of night is what became known as the Enron loophole, lifting regulation off of energy traders.

I want to re-regulate energy traders. The best way to do that is to launch this investigation to demonstrate what people even in the oil company are saying that the price is being manipulated. People are paying more than they should have to.

ROBERTS: I want to move on to Iran if I could and Senator Obama earlier this morning was highly critical of your statement that we would be able to obliterate Iran if it attacked Israel. Did you go too far when you said that?

CLINTON: No, I didn't because I think it's very important that, number one, we try to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons. I've been saying that for sometime. Number two that we have a diplomatic process with Iran, something that I think I was the first person certainly in any of the campaigns to come out for several years ago. But number three, we need to make it very clear, like we did during the Cold War where thousands of missiles were pointed at us and we pointed it at the Soviet Union that there is a price to be paid. And when we look at Iran, we don't really know who's making a lot of these decisions.

There's a parallel government as you know, the elected leadership of Ahmadinejad, the clerical leadership up to the supreme leader. And so when the question was asked what would the United States do were Iran to launch a nuclear attack on Israel. I said very clearly there would be massive retaliation. I'm communicating with the leaders of Iran and the people of Iran.

ROBERTS: So, just to be clear here, if Iran were to use nuclear weapons against Israel in a Clinton presidency, that attack would be met with a nuclear response against Iran?

CLINTON: It would be massive retaliation, John, massive retaliation. I think -

ROBERTS: Does that mean a nuclear response?

CLINTON: Well, I think it speaks for itself. You know, there's a great deal of concern that the Iranian government might be taken over if it were to have nuclear weapons by people who have no institutional sense of what would happen to their country. And I worry about the proliferation of nuclear weapons and frankly them falling into the hands of those who might prefer to be martyrs instead of be responsible leaders. I think we have to start clearly and unequivocally saying to the Iranian people that there would be a very, very big price to pay.

ROBERTS: Another issue regarding Iran, the United States claims that Iran is supplying weapons and training fighters for Shiite militias to be using against American forces in Iraq. In fact, they are now saying that these Iraqi fighters are coming over. They are being trained by Hezbollah outside of Tehran and being shipped back. If indeed it is true that Iran is facilitating the killing of U.S. forces, as president, what would you do about it?

CLINTON: Well, this has been going on for some time. They have been training forces for militias. They have been providing the means to make these horrible explosive devices that have killed and maimed so many of our soldiers.

ROBERTS: But would you attack Iran? Is that a reason to go to war against Iran or at least some sort of attack against them? The killing of U.S. forces?

CLINTON: Well, I think you have to do everything possible within Iraq to try to prevent that from occurring. Nobody wants to go to war with Iran. That is not something that anybody in their right mind is advocating. I have been on record for some time saying that this government, namely our president and vice president need to be reigned in and I have even introduced legislation making it clear that there is no basis for such an action. But we also have to protect not only our own forces, but our Iraqi allies and we've got to get tougher on what they do inside of Iraq.

ROBERTS: One more question if I could, tomorrow the primaries, Indiana and North Carolina, how critical are they for you, and should you win both contests, would you make a case to say now it's time for declare me the nominee?

CLINTON: Well, this is going to be exciting tomorrow because I started very far behind, the Obama campaign has predicted consistently that he would win both Indiana and North Carolina by significant margins. I think we have closed the gap, but we're working hard, we want to get everybody we can to come out and vote tomorrow. Obviously I hope to do as well as possible. More people have voted for me in all of these contests during the course of the election.

ROBERTS: If you include Michigan and Florida?

CLINTON: That's right, those were real votes certified as legal and official.

ROBERTS: But not decided yet.

CLINTON: Well, the delegates haven't been decided. The people voted, that's a fact and more people have voted for me. We just have to figure out how those votes translate into delegates.

ROBERTS: One more time if I could, if you won both contests tomorrow, would you make the case to superdelegates that it's time to put your cards down on the table now, I'm on the nominee.

CLINTON: Well, I've been making the case that I would be the better president and the stronger nominee against John McCain. I happen to believe both of those are true but this is a process. We have to follow the rules. We're going to go until it's clear who the nominee will be.

ROBERTS: Senator Clinton, good to see you again. Good luck tomorrow. CLINTON: Thank, John. It's good to talk to you.

ROBERTS: Maybe we can catch up with you again on Wednesday after the primary and chat with you more.

CLINTON: OK. Good. I'd like that. Thank you. Come out on the trail again, John. It was fun when you were out here.

ROBERTS: I'd love to but I got so much work to do here. It's tough. Anyway, thanks again. And good luck tomorrow. We'll see you soon.

CLINTON: Thanks a lot. Take care.


ALINA CHO, CNN ANCHOR: Some disturbing news we are watching from overseas. Just in to us the Associated Press is reporting a dramatic increase in the death toll following that cyclone in Myanmar. The AP now reporting and quoting Myanmar state media that the death toll has now reached 4,000 people. 4,000 dead in a weekend cyclone there. Thousands of homes have been destroyed, more than 100,000 people are displaced. The United Nations is planning to send teams there today amid worries that the country's military is not doing enough to help its residents. Many roads are clogged with debris and downed power lines. Some parts of the country are without power forcing residents to use candles for lights. But reports say the price of candles has doubled.

And the price of gas on the black market is now $10 a gallon. Again, a dramatic increase in the death toll following that cyclone in Myanmar over the weekend. 4,000 people according to the Associated Press reported dead.

The World Health Organization is trying to calm fears that a deadly virus could threaten the Beijing Olympics. 25 children have died from that highly infectious virus and more than 5,000 have been infected. The W.H.O. says the virus affects mainly children and it doesn't see it as a threat to the games. China's health ministry has issued a nationwide alert to contain the spread.

Sign of the troubled economy, many states so short on cash they're letting tens of thousands of prisoners out early. That's what "The Washington Post" is reporting today. State lawmakers say they'll save billions of dollars by letting nonviolent, non-sexual offenders out of prison early. Critics are concerned obviously about so many convicts suddenly being turned loose on society.

Powerball players check your numbers. Someone is holding a ticket worth more than $180 million. The ticket was sold in Rice County. That's is southeastern Minnesota. The drawing was on Saturday but so far nobody has come forward. It's the biggest payout in Minnesota history, $180 million over 30 years or a lump sum of $60 million after taxes. And here are the winning numbers, check from there -- 2, 28, 36, 42, 46 and the power ball as you can see there in red and white is 40. The winner has year, by the way to claim the prize.

ROBERTS: And for the more than 300 million others of you who didn't win the lottery, Ali is here, "Minding your business" this morning.

ALI VELSHI, CNN, SENIOR BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: I wonder if I could give you a little break on other things. Listen, we know that the economy is the number one concern for Americans. Gas prices tops that list of concerns. Even though we've had a little bit of a break in the price of gasoline. We don't have a record again today, which is a nice thing. I'll come back and tell you more about where we think gas prices are headed. You're watching AMERICAN MORNING and we're coming right back after this break.


ROBERTS: 41 minutes after the hour. We're following breaking news out of Myanmar this morning. State radio there just dramatically increased the death toll from this weekend's cyclone. It's now at 4,000 people. Also, reports that another 3,000 are still missing. We have a correspondent in country and we'll get more reports, more updates on the situation there just as soon as we can. Alina.

CHO: Disturbing news. The economy meanwhile, issue number one on voter's minds, of course especially the out of control gas taxes and how to get them in check. Well, CNN's "Election Express" rolled through Indianapolis last night. We heard from voters ahead of tomorrow's primary and how the gas crisis is affecting them.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My wife for instance is a nurse, she quit her job because it's cheaper to stay at home with the kids than it is to pay for daycare and gas.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm driving downtown five days a week, filling up my car every five days and I just couldn't deal with it anymore and I switched jobs.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There is this new bus that picks up people kind of close to my house. I can park my car and now I could take my bus down to work and the bus home.


CHO: So where do we stand right now? Ali Velshi has been closely watching the price of gas this morning. He's "Minding your Business." So, it goes up, it goes down, it's kind of on a downward trend a little bit, right?

VELSHI: You know, in terms of us not having a record, that's a good trend. The second work day in a row, the fourth day without a record for gas prices. But I mean, it was -

ROBERTS: And I'm here. VELSHI: I sort of said that we won't have records, I'll take the day off. Apparently our boss, we have a new executive producer starting today. She wasn't sort of signed off on that memo. But we were, the record was just a little over $3.62 a gallon. Low and behold we have tumbled all the way down to $3.61 a gallon as a national average. So, that's a bit of a problem. the prices are still very high. And by the way, last week oil went down to about almost $110 a barrel. Back up to $117 this morning.

So, you know, according to one survey, the Lundberg survey which is very thorough, it says that even if the gas prices stay lowered than $120 almost that we had hit. We were seven cents from that. The Lundberg survey still estimates 10 to 15 cents of an increase over the next couple of weeks. AAA still says $3.90 for a gallon of gasoline as a national average by Memorial Day. Nobody is predicting that this is a trend that's going the other way.

Our CNN opinion research poll by the way took a look at American's views about the economy and while 49 percent say the economy is the biggest issue, when we looked at prices and what concerns them most. 68 percent said gas prices are the number one concern, food prices coming in again at 23 percent and that's because people are still starting to understand the connection between inflation and the economy at large and food prices, other prices, and I don't even know what's left after that coming in at about 5 percent.

I should tell you, John and I think you were on something when you're talking to Hillary Clinton about this view of traders and what's going into oil prices and commodity prices, one has to be very careful when discussing caps on those kinds of things. Because the bottom line is these are commodities markets. It's kind of like saying home prices are too high so lets put a cap on it or the Dow is moving too high, let's put a cap on it. America is built on a free enterprise capitalist system. While we do need to address the issue, that's kind of going down a dangerous road.

ROBERTS: She was likening it to the Enron scandal.


ROBERTS: These traders who were actually, you know, withholding -

VELSHI: That was manipulation in a very clear way.

ROBERTS: Is it possible that that's going on in the oil business?

VELSHI: Look, one would have to investigate, and it might be that that's a small part of it. But we happen to know what the biggest part of it is. There's supply and demand which is probably let's say $80 a barrel and the rest of it is trading. You can buy and sell a commodity for what it's worth. If it's not worth it, don't pay the money for it. So, I understand that this is a massive concern to Americans, our polling understands that too. We just have to make sure that we have real solutions as opposed to one that just sounds good.

ROBERTS: And if you want solutions, check in with Ali, Gerri and the rest of the CNN money team for "Issue #1," everyday at noon Eastern right here on CNN.

45 minutes after the hour. We continue to follow the breaking news out of Myanmar today. Moments ago, the death toll jumping to a reported 4,000 people after a powerful cyclone there. The latest straight ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Breaking news out of Myanmar, we told you about the cyclone that slammed into that area on Friday. Now the death toll rising rapidly. State radio stations there reporting 4,000 now dead, 3,000 unaccounted for as that nation continues to clean up after a weekend of awful, awful weather.

Good morning, again, everybody. Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING. This story is getting uglier by the minute, no doubt about it. It was a monster storm. Keep in mind that cyclones over there in the North Indian ocean are equivalent to our hurricanes and they typically are worse there in the spring and the fall. They kind of simmer down in the summer. So, it's a little bit of different scenario but the storm is still the same, it feeds off of warm waters, it can have winds in excess of 80, 100, 150 miles an hour at times. This one had maximum winds of 130 miles an hour which would be the equivalent of a category 3 or a category 4 storm.

We'll show you google earth map. And give you an idea where this came in. An early similar landscape and symmetry as far as what the ocean floor kind of looks like. And it doesn't bode well for a storm search. Myanmar, here's the bay of Bengal here. The Ottoman Sea here and the storm itself came right across this delta like. So with a circulation like that - you can better believe that we have a storm surging coming in from the south. So, all these water likely piled up and we had a combination of the wind. We had a combination of storm surge.

And Alina, you're seeing the pictures as well as I am. This happened Friday and now reports continue to get worse as we go along. This looks like it's been a catastrophic event to say the least.

CHO: Yes, 4,000 people were reported dead according to state media. And hard to get independent verification of that because it's difficult for journalists to get in. But we do have a journalist inside Myanmar, we hope to get a live report at the top of hour. Rob, thank you.

Meanwhile, more breaking news to tell you about. Trouble on the high seas. A cruise ship packed with passengers now stranded miles from shore. At the moment, a massive evacuation is under way. We're going to have the breaking details ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ROBERTS: Senator Hillary Clinton is standing by remarks that she made last week. The Democratic presidential candidate said that if Iran attacked Israel, the U.S. would be able to, "totally obliterate them." When I asked her about that a few moments ago, she did not back down.


CLINTON: We need to make it very clear, like we did during the Cold War when thousands of missiles were pointed at us and we pointed it at the Soviet Union that there is a price to be paid.


ROBERTS: We also spoke to Senator Obama this morning who said Clinton's comments were the kind of provocative language that Senator Clinton has criticized others for in the past. We're asking you, did Clinton's comments go too far, right now 73 percent of you say yes, Senator Clinton did go too far. 27 percent of you say, no she didn't keep those votes coming. And also send us an e-mail, we would like your thoughts on this.

Daisy from Winchester, Illinois writes, "yes, she went too far. The last thing this country needs is more of the Bush's cowboy politics, saying things like this only makes it harder for the U.S. to get along with other countries. Come on, let's make our country great again and use force only as the very last choice, not the first."

CHO: We also heard from E.P. from Houston, "a woman stands up for Israel's protection as has every past president of both parties to strike back with force but she is accused of using the wrong language with regards to the subject. How backward thinking is that? Thanks Hillary for speaking your heart."

ROBERTS: And Roger from Mansfield Center, Connecticut says "in the area of foreign policy, and particularly going to war, Senator Clinton has sounded an awful lot like George Bush. I'm not sure if this is her natural bent or simply an attempt to win over male voters. But I do think it promises four more years of disastrous foreign policy., You can send your own mail to us at We'll read some more coming up on our next hour.


ROBERTS (voice-over): Last word.

CLINTON: What Senator Obama doesn't want to give consumers a break, I do.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The American people are interested in who's going to be fighting for them.

ROBERTS: The candidates join us first, from Iraq, to Iran, to the price you pay for gas.

Plus, it's everyone's business, what if your boss told everyone how much you made, where it's happening and why the company says it helps the bottom line.



ROBERTS: Three minutes to the top of the hour. The former commander of coalition forces in Iraq is slamming the Bush administration for its handling of post invasion operations. Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez whose tenure saw the capture of Saddam Hussein as well as the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, now says billions of taxpayer dollars were wasted and previous lives lost because of what he calls the Bush administration's gross incompetence. He makes his criticisms clear in a new memoir "Wiser in Battle: A Soldier's Story." And Lieutenant General Sanchez joins us now. Welcome, sir. Thanks for being with us.


ROBERTS: Let me ask you something about the current situation in Iraq. April was the deadliest month for U.S. forces since September of last year. It comes at a time when the surge forces are beginning to draw down. Is that an indication that any security progress that was made could easily be reversed by bringing these troops up? What are your thoughts about it?

SANCHEZ: Absolutely. I think what we're seeing is what has been reflected over and over again over the course of this war, that the military is able to achieve windows of opportunity for the political and the economic elements of power to be applied to this country. We have failed in taking advantage of those windows of opportunity and then we revert back to periods of increased violence.

ROBERTS: So, how does that apply to the surge that we have seen going on over the last year. Was this a missed window of opportunity? Should those troops have stayed?

SANCHEZ: Well, I believe that in fact what we should have done was surge our political power in order to be able to improve the governing ability of the country. Also have surged our economic power to be able to build the jobs into businesses and give the Iraqis some economic hope for the future. And short of us doing that, there is no real solution to this war.

ROBERTS: In terms of these windows of missed opportunity, in your book you cite they happened in the first few months after the invasion, particularly on the issue of de-baathification. Here's what you said in the book, "De-baathification conceived in the halls of the Pentagon and the White House by neoconservative ideologues marked the beginning of an incremental dismantling of the original U.S. strategic plan for Iraq. That order assured that the United States would be tied up in Iraq for an indeterminate number of years."

If these mistakes have not been made in the early going, would we still be tied up in Iraq now? SANCHEZ: Well, it's kind of hard to say whether we'd still be there. I think if we had been able to take advantage of those windows of opportunity and specifically, we had implemented de-baathification effectively as envisioned, then we would have been able to achieve greater security and we probably would have been able to reduce the number of forces that we have there.

ROBERTS: It was Paul Bremer, the head of the CPA who instituted a lot of these policies. It's pretty clear in the book that you and he don't have a lot of love lost for each other. Was he solely responsible for a lot of these mistakes?

SANCHEZ: No, absolutely not. I think what is reflected in the book and the purpose of this memoir is to be able to capture the totality of the nation's mistakes both at the political and military level in order that future military leaders and political leaders will not go down this way again.

ROBERTS: You are there through 2003, 2004. Of course, that was right in the height of the re-election.