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Gas Tops New Record; Soldier Suicides on the Rise; Obama and McCain Vying for Voters out West

Aired May 29, 2008 - 10:00   ET


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Gas tops a new record today to ease your pump pain, remembering when cheap was chic today Thursday, May 29.
You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.

First up, we want to get you to Jacqui Jeras in the severe weather center.

And Jacqui, boy, conditions are setting up to make this a pretty tricky day for our friends in the midwest.

JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Absolutely. Unfortunately, dangerous conditions setting in by mid-afternoon at the latest and we have a very high risk of severe weather breaking out over some of the areas that have just been ravaged in the last few days. The bright purple, that's where I want you to focus in on because this is where we have the greatest potential.

In fact, at a minimum, you've got a one to 10 chance, one in 10 chance that a tornado is going come within 25 miles of your home. If you live in Sioux City, Iowa, if you live in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Yankstown, South Dakota, Omaha and Nebraska, Calsobles (ph), Iowa. This will be the area we're going to be watching real closely for those large, long-track tornadoes that have a possibility that they could wipe out a town today.

And that's how serious this is. What is the high risk really mean other than your probability is way up there? Well, we're anticipating that great concentration of severe storms with a high possibility of violent winds or tornadoes? How many tornadoes?

We could see more than 20 tornadoes and at least two of those being EF-3 or greater. Ef3 is what you would consider a severe tornado or we could have numerous damaging wind reports with winds over 80 miles per hour and a lot of damage reports of structures as well.

Now, we're looking at showers and thunder showers out there at this hour across northern Iowa over southern Minnesota. Nothing severe right now. We're going to watch that area move out and then destabilize the atmosphere a little more this afternoon and that's when things are going to pop. In addition to the severe weather, we're also keeping our eye on the tropics. Hurricane season in the Atlantic starts June 1, but the Pacific hurricane season begins June 15. So, we're already into that and we have our first tropical depression. This is TD1E and it is off the coast of Nicaragua.

We think it's going to bring torrential downpours in this area of 10 to 20 inches. And there's a potential that possibly we could see this move back into the Atlantic. Most of the models are doing that right now. We just want to let you know that it's out there, and it's something we're watching and kind of get your mind thinking not just tornadoes, but tropics at this time of the year as well.

HARRIS: I am overloaded. I am flat out. We've been talking tornado since January and February and now we got to change gears. We'll manage.

JERAS: Now, we got to juggle both.

HARRIS: Yes. Thanks, Jacqui.


Also new this morning and certainly a story that no one wants to report. Soldier suicides, the highest in decades. A disturbing report expected today from the U.S. Army.

Let's get right to CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Heidi, very sad business to report. The U.S. Army later this afternoon will make it official that the number of suicides by army soldiers in 2007 reached record levels since nearly 20 years ago since Operation Desert Storm, the first war in Iraq. The army will say it has now confirmed 108 suicides last year. You know, they investigated more than 120 cases of suspected suicides.

Right now, it stands at 108 confirmed, but you can see that is an increase since this latest war in Iraq and Afghanistan began. This is the entire U.S. Army, what they found is that the majority of these suicides were actually committed once the troops got home, out of the theater back to their home stations.

Predominantly, sad to report, they are young many men age 18 to 24. They commit these suicides with firearms in many cases. They find that these soldiers have had personal family issues, stress, depression. The Army has instituted a number of suicide awareness and prevention programs, but these are not the kind of statistics they want to see and it's something, obviously, they're very unhappy about -- Heidi.

COLLINS: That's what I was going ask, Barbara. What are they likely to do with these new numbers?

STARR: Yes, you know, I think that what we're going hear is the Army say they're continuing to work on this. They send mental health teams out into the war zones to talk to the troops to try and sample them, to see what they're thinking about and really, the emphasis now is to try and erase the stigma for these young soldiers, many of them, again, young men going and seeking mental health counseling when they feel they have problems or when their commanders or their sergeants noticed that maybe somebody in the unit is keeping to themselves, is depressed, isn't acting like they normally act.

The military obviously is an atmosphere of very much can-do kind of mentality. They want these young kids to reach out and get help and ask for help. They don't want them to feel the stigma of needing mental health assistance, but society being what it is, that's a really long road ahead and the Pentagon knows it, Heidi.

COLLINS: Yes, the culture is just not there yet.

All right. CNN's Barbara Starr from the Pentagon this morning.

Thanks, Barbara.

STARR: Sure.

HARRIS: The Bush administration taking on Scott McClellan, responding quickly to allegations in a new book by the former White House spokesman and today, more from McClellan. CNN White House correspondent, Ed Henry, is in Salt Lake City this morning.

The administration is firing back for sure, but I am still waiting for a kind of point-by-point rebuttal to the accusations in the book. Is that coming?


What's interesting is the White House is saying they don't want to go through this book point-by-point. They said that before with other books critical of this president. They essentially say we don't do book reviews and say that president is busy doing a lot of other things and there's obviously two wars going on, and he doesn't have time to go through all these things, but obviously, the administration's credibility is at stake here. Because you have one of their own stepping out and then basically laying out some of the cases we've heard from Democrats frankly in criticizing the war in Iraq, in particular.

Scott McClellan firing back today saying that his motive is basically to speak out now because he wants to try and change Washington. He believes there's too much partisanship. He thought the president was going to change that. He thinks the president failed and he became disillusioned over two particular things. The fact that Scott McClellan, he says that was put out to the White House podium to basically say that Karl Rove and Scooter Libby were not involved in the leak case even though, in fact, they were and also he was disillusioned about the fact that he believes the administration essentially manipulated intelligence in the run-up to the war in Iraq.

Take a listen.


SCOTT MCCLELLAN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMAN: Everything is centered on trying to shape and manipulate the narrative to one's advantage. Each party or each side is trying to do that. That's what Washington has become today. They're trying to manipulate the narrative to their advantage. And that's the way the game is played. It's a battle over power and influence and how can we - or how can we win those battles? How can we win over public opinion instead of you know, it should be more which is bipartisan deliberation and compromise.


HENRY: A White House official this morning told me this morning that Scott McClellan on that point is absolutely wrong. That the administration did not manipulate the intelligence on the run-up to the war, and again, the administration not wanting to go through this point by point as Scott McClellan did today. People are going to read into that obviously but they're saying obviously they don't have the time to go through this entire book. They're going to let McClellan say what he's saying but they think the thrust of his book is wrong, Tony.

HARRIS: You know, and I know the administration is saying that it's not in the book review business, but I have to ask you, what about the president, do you expect that we might hear something from him, know whether or not he's even read the book?

HENRY: Basically, we've been told that the President has been briefed on parts of the book, the thrust of the book. And back in November at Camp David, we're told he got an excerpt of this book, a little bit of a head's up about what might be in it, but he's not read the whole book. He has not said anything public about this and I suspect he will not until we have a chance to ask him questions. That's usually how it happens. He's not going talk about something that's this negative. Instead, when we get our next opportunity at a press conference or something like that, you can guarantee he'll be asked about it.

Finally, I'll make the point that Dana Perino said yesterday though on Air Force one a couple of days back when all this broke, the president said privately to his aides that he's very disappointed and sad about this because he liked Scott McClellan and had him on his staff and he's surprised frankly by the thrust of these allegations and what's interesting, you'll remember when Scott McClellan stepped down a couple of years back, the President said on the South Lawn, "one day we'll be Texas together on rocking chairs reflecting on old days".

Scott McClellan asked this morning whether he'll ever talk to the president any time soon. He said he's not even sure if he's ever going to talk to the president again, if he'll have that opportunity let alone sit in some rocking chairs and reminisce, Tony.

HARRIS: Boy, oh, boy.

All right. Ed Henry for us in Salt Lake City this morning.

Ed, appreciate it. Good seeing you.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice wouldn't discuss the book directly, but she did have something to say about McClellan's allegations that the Iraq war was promoted by propaganda.


CONDOLEEZZA RICE, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I'm not going to comment on a book that I haven't read, but I will say that the concerns about weapons of mass destruction in Saddam Hussein's Iraq were the fundamental reason for tens effort - for dozens of resolutions within the security council from the time that Saddam Hussein was expelled from Kuwait in 1991 up until 2003.


HARRIS: Well, Scott McClellan himself will be a guest on CNN's "The Situation Room" with Wolf Blitzer. You can catch that Friday. It kicks off at 4: 00 p.m. Eastern.

COLLINS: Heading into the homestretch in the Democratic primary season. Hillary Clinton campaigns today in South Dakota. South Dakota and Montana hold the last two primaries on Tuesday. Puerto Rico votes on Sunday. Barack Obama taking the day off. He says he's considering a trip to Iraq. John McCain had criticized Obama for not visiting the war zone since 2006.

John McCain campaigns in Wisconsin today and he's talking about that trip to Iraq that Barack Obama is considering. CNN's Mary Snow from Los Angeles now.

Hi there, Mary. Are they going to go together?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Heidi, good morning.

Not an idea that the Obama camp has been endorsing in terms of going together, but as you just mentioned, the Obama campaign did say that they're considering a possible trip to Iraq before November, but, you know, Senator McCain has really been hitting this theme pretty hard in the past couple of days. Here in Los Angeles last night he was asked about a proposed trip and he said in his words he felt that it was long overdue because he has really been harping on the fact that Senator Obama has not been to Iraq since 2006, and initially had suggested they go together which the Obama camp called a political stunt and then the McCain camp pounced on that.

The whole reasoning behind it, McCain is trying to say that he believes if they went together that perhaps Obama would see the progress being made on the ground. The Obama campaign, Senator Obama last night was saying that he doesn't believe the Bush administration, Republican's John McCain have a very strong argument to make on foreign policy and that these kinds of suggestions that are going back and forth these past couple of days he's calling distractions. Heidi.

COLLINS: All right. Well, we will watch and see what happens on that front.

CNN's Mary Snow for us this morning.

Thank you, Mary.

Scott McClellan's book is causing a little stir on the campaign trail. Find out what's being said as well as the rest of today's news about the presidential candidates at Your source for anything political.

HARRIS: A nail bitter to the end. Each and every delegate matters. Now word that Democrats are considering a deal, a way to divvy up disputed delegates from Florida and Michigan. Those states, you may recall, were punished for moving up their primaries. There are 368 delegates taken away. A deal would reportedly send half the delegates to the convention or seat all delegates with half a vote. We will hear more about this in a news conference this hour and the Democratic National Committee panel meets Saturday to hash all this up.

Right now, Clinton has 1,870 delegates and Obama has 1,972. 2,206 are needed for the nomination. A discussion about the Democratic dustup over Florida and Michigan is next in the NEWSROOM.


COLLINS: You are in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Heidi Collins. A community lines up for its favorite cashier.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We love him. He's the kind of person that makes your day.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bye-bye, buddy! Bye-bye!


COLLINS: A new phase for a friend in the NEWSROOM.


COLLINS: The Democrats may be willing to make a deal over hundreds of disputed delegates. Here for a closer look now Republican analyst, Amy Holmes. She was a speechwriter for Republican Bill Frist when he was majority leader. She is not currently associated with any politician or campaign. And Democratic strategist Jennifer Palmieri is with the Center for American Progress. She was John Edwards' press secretary in his 2004 campaign, but has not endorsed candidates this election. They join us from Washington.

Good morning to you, ladies. Thanks for being here.


COLLINS: Let's begin with this, the DNC meeting as you well know is on Saturday. What needs to happen to keep the Democratic Party united? Amy, let's start with you. HOLMES: Oh, I would actually have Jennifer answer that question there.

COLLINS: That's why I started with you. We're tricky here.

HOLMES: Being united is not really in Republican interest. I think the bottom line here is that Barack Obama's campaign is not going to allow any of the rules to come down that he is not the nominee, and I think that we also have to understand that these delegates, these are party activists and Florida and Michigan are key states come this fall. So Democrats will want to get those folks involved in the process fired up and ready to go for their nominee.

COLLINS: And certainly, if the Democrats are not united, the Republicans see a huge gain there.

HOLMES: Oh, certainly, yes. That would be ideal.

COLLINS: All right. Jennifer.


COLLINS: Yes. I'm going to give you a crack at it.

PALMIERI: It's the future of the Democratic Party. I think that the people, you know, that are part of that committee that's meeting on Saturday are really the party elders and that they have, I think that even there's a lot of Clinton supporters within that, their real goal is to have - is to figure out a solution for Florida and Michigan.

They feel like they've been represented, although slapped on the wrist a little bit for breaking the rules and that, you know, and that they come out of this with, I guess, both the Obama supporters and the Clinton supporters feeling like they maybe they don't love the outcomes. That it was at least a fair consideration, and I think that that's achievable and that's what's going on happen.

COLLINS: What happens if and as far as we know, she says she's certainly going to - Senator Clinton stays in this all the way up until the convention. Take us through that a little bit, Jennifer, about what happens to the Democratic Party.

PALMIERI: Well, I find it hard to - but find that unlikely. I think that, you know, it is - it seems quite possible, if not, probable that by, you know, as early as Wednesday morning or at least later in the week Barack Obama may, in fact, actually have not pledge delegates for the superdelegates that he needs to get to secure the nomination, and in which case, I think that you know, I mean, Senator Clinton is - for all intents and purposes done.

I think that, I understand why she wants to play this out so that all the states and Puerto Rico have the opportunity to vote. I think she owes that to herself, certainly and to her supporters and I think that it's made the party bigger and stronger to have gone through this process, but I do suspect that once the voting stops and it's, you know, Senator Obama does in fact get to what we think 2,026 is the number he's going need to get delegates to change over the weekend. I think, you know, I think we'll see Senator Clinton bow out.

COLLINS: All right. We will be watching obviously very closely because she says there's no way she's going to be doing that. Let's talk Iraq for a moment if we could. Senator McCain hitting Senator Obama pretty hard on that issue.

Let's listen to the sound for a moment.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Glad to hear that Senator Obama is now, "considering a trip to Iraq." It's long overdue. It's been 871 days since he was there. Senator Obama was driven to his position by ideology and not by the facts on the ground, and he does not have a knowledge or experience to make the judgments.


COLLINS: This seems to be the McCain strategy, doesn't it, Amy? Hit hard on Iraq.

HOLMES: It does, and I think he's actually leading with his strength. National polls show that while the voters are very frustrated and have turned against this war, that they actually trust John McCain over Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama by a wide margin to handle this war and also gallup found that 65 percent of the American public believes that we should leave Iraq a stable country. So John McCain, he's really hitting on his strength which is capability, competence and who do you trust to be commander in chief come January 2009 to handle Iraq.

COLLINS: Well that may be all well and good, but at least as of late, I think and you probably agree with me that people are now a little bit more centrist. I mean, they are focusing on their personal finances, the economy and so forth. How does McCain fair when we're talking about those issues?

HOLMES: Well, unfortunately, he came out saying that the economy is not his strength, but since then he's been trying to make up for that. He's been giving economic speeches and he's been traveling around the country to meet with constituents and really hear their concerns. But, you know, the Iraq war is going to be one of the top issues come this election and if John McCain can frame it that it's about competency, capability and who do you trust then that's the strength that he's going to lead with.

COLLINS: Jennifer, let's listen to some of the comments by Senator Obama regarding the Scott McClellan book that we've been talking for just a moment here.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't think that the subject is particularly surprising. I think any of us are troubled by the lack of straightforwardness out of this administration. It's -- what it does is someone within the administration is confirming what a lot of us have thought for some time.


COLLINS: Obviously, he is believing everything that he either has or has not read in that book. We should make sure that we point that out. So a lot of debate there. Yes, Jennifer, do you think this is going to affect the campaign? In any way, this book?

PALMIERI: I think that it sort of solidifies what people already think about the Bush White House. I think that you know, the people that are inclined to believe that this is an administration that, you know, led us into a war that we didn't need to be in, they're going to find in Scott's book, a lot, you know, more fuel for that fire. I don't - but, a lot of people already think that.

I mean, 82 percent of America thinks that either dramatic change in Washington. I mean, I don't know, I mean how much farther, frankly, with all due respect to the president, how much farther can his approval rating really fall? I don't think it will change anything.

COLLINS: Amy, I'm going to give you the last word here.

HOLMES: I agree with what Jennifer is saying and I think the title of Scott's book is "what happened to Scott McClellan?" This might be, you know, sort of short-term gossip worthy, but I think in the long-term historical perspective I'll let political scientists figure that out.

COLLINS: Amy Holmes, Jennifer Palmieri, we appreciate your insight, ladies.

Thanks so much.

HOLMES: Thank you.

PALMIERI: Thank you.

COLLINS: And we will be watching today for the Democrats. CNN's live coverage of the DNC meeting begins Saturday at 9:00 Eastern.

HARRIS: Your car may be essential, but it is also getting expensive. And gas is one of the reasons. How to cut costs in the NEWSROOM.


HARRIS: Car ownership, the cost is going up and it is not just rising gas prices, so how can you squeeze?

There's Gerri's smiling face this morning.

GERRI WILLS, CNN PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR: Hello. HARRIS: How do you squeeze the most value out of your vehicle, personal finance editor Gerri Willis is here with some tips for us. Good morning, Gerri.

WILLIS: Hey, good morning.

HARRIS: I hope you're posting these tips online because --

WILLIS: We are.

HARRIS: That's great because folks really need to pay attention and as we get started this morning, the basic question is how do we improve our cars' efficiency, Gerri.

WILLIS: Well, you bet. I mean, look, first thing, number one if you use conventional motor oil in your car, switch to synthetic. Your engine runs more efficiently with synthetic oil and that means you'll get more fuel efficiency, better performance. It costs a little more about five bucks more, but you can go longer between oil changes. For example, if you change your oil every 5,000 miles with synthetic oil, you can change it every 7,500 miles. Better performance. That's what we're looking for.

HARRIS: Absolutely. And maintenance. The proper maintenance is always important.

WILLIS: Critical.

HARRIS: What are some of the maintenance items that should not be overlooked, particularly right now.

WILLIS: Well, some of it is simple. Do you know about 17 percent of the cars on the road have gas caps that are damaged, or loose or missing altogether. Can you imagine? That causes 147 million gallons of gas to vaporize every year.


WILLIS: Yes. Make sure you hear those two clicks when you tighten your gas cap. You know what I'm talking about.

HARRIS: Absolutely. I can imagine you go, you fill it up and you think it's tight, but you don't listen for the clicks.

WILLIS: No, no. And there's more, pay attention to your car's fuel components. Just one misfiring spark plug costs you two or three miles per gallon. Of course, don't forget about tire pressure. You need to check it every month on all four tires and don't use the tire pressure number that's on the wheel. You know what I'm talking about.

HARRIS: Yes, absolutely. Yes.

WILLIS: You can't do that. You know, that's just for all different cars. Instead, get the right tire pressure from your car door. It should be a decal on the inside of your driver's door, inside the glove box or inside the gas door. HARRIS: What should you know before you take your car in and have that tune-up?

WILLIS: Well, you know what? This industry is not having a good time. Cars aren't moving off the lots and the fast margins are under pressure. So, more and more profits are getting squeezed out of what, car repairs. If you're going to encounter what's known as up sale. This means that you may be persuaded to buy a higher quality or more expensive part or you may be encouraged to have work done on the car that just isn't necessary. One upsell you really should know about is putting nitrogen in your tires. Now --


WILLIS: Yes. Some mechanics may tell you it makes your tires last longer and you get better fuel economy, but guess what? Nitrogen is used in race cars.


WILLIS: For the average person, it doesn't make any difference. Plus, it will cost more. It's a way for the station to get you to in back every month. Instead you just put regular air in your tire, it's free or nearly free. Finally, make sure you choose an auto repair shop that you trust. Don't get caught up in that laundry list of recommended -

HARRIS: Right, absolutely.

WILLIS: ... maintenance check list. Those are really, you know, compressed and make you do more than you need to do. Consult your car's manual, use the internet to find the best price.

HARRIS: Don't upsell me right now.

WILLIS: I don't like that. That makes me mad.

HARRIS: You want to give the e-mail address so folks can send you questions.

WILLIS: I do. Send it to us at We love hearing from you. We answer your questions right here every Friday.

HARRIS: And while we have just a second or so, will you give us a bit of a preview of what's ahead noon Eastern, "ISSUE #1."

WILLIS: Hurricane season is just days away. Why some folks are not prepared and we'll show you what you can do to prepare and we'll show you one movie, guess what, that's a big boost to one city's economy. You can't guess that, Tony.

HARRIS: No. No. I can't but that's a tease. Boy, I'm watching the show -- noon Eastern.

All right, Gerri. Good to see you.

WILLIS: Good to see you.

HARRIS: Thanks.

WILLIS: Bye-bye.


HARRIS: Welcome back, everyone to the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Tony Harris.

COLLINS: Hi there, everybody. I'm Heidi Collins.

Adding to China's problems this morning, new picture of Sichuan Province. The side of a mountain literally tearing away. Landslides are a constant threat causing the buildup of those quake lakes. has many as 28 of those lakes now near the breaking point.

Efforts to relieve the building pressure are being hampered this morning by bad weather. Already 158,000 people in the evacuated from downstream areas. The official death toll rose today to more than 68,500. There are at least 19,000 people still missing.

HARRIS: $3.95 for gas? Remember when?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If it gets up above $1.25 yes, up around a $.130 and so forth, yes, we'll curtail our travel, absolutely.


HARRIS: Man, are you kidding me? We can't afford to drive, so we will walk down memory lane, next in the NEWSROOM.


COLLINS: A taxi accident this morning in Chicago, and it's worse than it looks. This is near the city of Union Station. Firefighters say a taxi jumped the curb, hitting two pedestrians at a crosswalk before hitting a light pole. Remember, we told you about this story. We're just getting new information in now. The pedestrians and the cab driver all injured. The cab driver had to be cut out of his car. He is in serious to critical condition with a leg injury, and one of the pedestrians also in serious to critical condition. A passenger in the taxi refused medical treatment.

HARRIS: Gas prices have now climbed within a nickel of $4 a gallon nationally. The price, of course, is tied to crude oil, and even though crude prices are a bit lower today, the long-term prospect, not good.

Let's find out why from CNN Money's Poppy Harlow, who is at our new energy desk in New York.

Poppy, good morning.


Well, we kicked this off yesterday. We hope it's going to help all of you out there today. Today we're talking about oil. This is really all just about supply and demand. We know that OPEC and the other major producers of oil are near their output capacity. So there's not likely going to be a lot more oil to hit the market. That's why rising demand is such a big issue.

Now the problem is not so much here in the U.S., but the soaring economy and the soaring price of energy has really limited growth here, but that's not the story overseas. We reported on this many times before. We're seeing rising demand from China and India as their economies continue to boom.

And now the biggest producers of oil are also becoming the biggest consumers of it, too. That is what's key. "The Wall Street Journal" today reports that the top produces in the Mideast -- we're talking about Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Iran, Kuwait, Iraq and Qatar are significantly boosting their internal usage of oil and natural gas, leaving a lot less for export to us and, Tony, to the rest of the world.

HARRIS: Yes, well, I think you're right. Maybe you can drill down -- I'm sorry, pardon me, drill down on the significance of this development.

HARLOW: Yes, Obviously, this isn't something that happened overnight. You didn't open up the journal and find out about it for the first time this morning, but it has developed pretty quickly, and unlike the growth in China and India, it comes as a surprise.

Now "The Wall Street Journal" says that since 2004 the Saudis have increased their domestic consumption by 23 percent. Now the Energy Department says those six Mideast producers that I mentioned before are using an additional 318,000 barrels of oil per day, meaning that all of that and more is not available for them to export. So even though their production has remained about the same ore gone up, their export has fallen by about 2.5 percent. That's what we saw last year.

HARRIS: Yes. Poppy it sounds like the bottom line on this is it's not good news necessarily for us.

HARLOW: Yes, it's not great news for us, especially if you have a car and you're trying to fill up, gas, heat your home, those kinds of things. Petrol supplies are almost certainly going to lead to higher prices.

Now right now crude oil futures are trading just around $129 a barrel on the NYMEX. That's a little bit off that record we saw last week when we were near $135 a barrel, but it's more than double the price compared to just a year ago, and a lot of analysts out there really say we're not going see that price fall. Goldman Sachs recently forecast crude could climb to $200 a barrel by the end of next year, and that certainly will mean soaring gas prices for us.

HARRIS: Absolutely. Wow, it's working out, the new energy desk there and Poppy Harlow. Poppy, great to see you. Thanks.

HARLOW: Thanks.

COLLINS: Gas less than $1.25 a gallon, it seems quaintly nostalgic now, but that price seemed outrageous just several years ago. It may be hard to believe, but see for yourself.

That story from Molly Reuter of CNN's Texas affiliate KLTV.


MOLLY REUTER, KLTV REPORTER (voice-over): Signs like these are more than a thing of the past; it's a memory for some that's hard to even remember. Welcome to the summer of 1998 where, yes, gas was under a dollar.

Now fast forward one year, and at $1.17 your pain at the pump begins.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My money's short. The other car we're going to be driving takes about $30 almost to fill it up.

REUTER: Wouldn't that be nice now? Gas just went up from there, hitting $1.40 in 2000 and then $1.50 in 2001.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It looked like I was going to have a bank loan to fill up.

REUTER: But like the saying goes, what goes up must come down, right? In November of 2001, gas dropped back down to just 90 cents.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's about time. I think we've been robbed long enough.

REUTER: Well, the oil industry didn't think so. In 2002 gas was back to around $1.30, causing some of you to start thinking of ways to cut back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If it gets up above $1.25, up around $1.30 and so forth, yes, we'll curtail our traveling. Absolutely. We'll have to.

REUTER (on camera): What do you think gas was at?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ten cents a gallon. Who wouldn't wish that that?

REUTER (voice-over): In 2003 the term "gas war" became popular as gas stations competed for the lowest price, but that quickly disappeared as gas prices rose to the $2 mark a year later, and then in the summer of 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wonder how high it's going go, how the working man's going to be able to afford to even go to work. REUTER: Some of you did anything you could for a few extra bucks, like pawn your favorite pieces of jewelry.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's an item to me, and I've got to have the gas we need.

REUTER: Or downsize your vehicle, maybe even buy a hybrid.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was $70 to fill up my truck, and that kind of made me thing, you know, maybe I need to look around for something else.

REUTER: In the beginning of 2007, east Texas saw some relief at the pump with prices dropping to under $2 a gallon, but we all know that didn't last long.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's bad. I can't believe it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Gas isn't exactly what I want to be spending my money on all of the time.

REUTER: But for many of us, we are. With gas almost a dollar more now than a year ago, words like these.



REUTER: Will not be going away any time soon.


COLLINS: So how high will it go? Well, buckle up. Some economists say in the next couple of years gas prices in the U.S. could more than double. That would make it about $10 a gallon.

HARRIS: Well, in a way, it really is "ISSUE #1" and we're using all our platforms to try to get at this topic. "ISSUE #1," the economy, and all of the issues impacting you and your finances.

Ali Velshi and Gerri Willis, obviously leading our money team.

And Ali is on CNN Radio. Am I right about this? He's on CNN Radio right now with a special program, "It's Not Just the Gas."

Can we listen in for just a moment? Ali is taking calls.

ALI VELSHI, CNN SENIOR BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: ... is it practical in a city like Houston it is, in cities it's practical. Are plug-in hybrids going replace the long hauling that Americans like to do, who live 35 or 50 miles from their house? how effective is this for someone who isn't all that dedicated? Can we have the infrastructure and plug-in cars all over the place.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, that's the thing. We don't need the infrastructure. Plug-in hybrids plug in at your house. You should already have plugs at your house.

VELSHI: Right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, and you drive to downtown, use about half the energy, or to wherever you work. And then you come home and then you plug in again.

VELSHI: Do I need it at work, as well? Or I could just do this -- it'll go for a day?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It'll go for a day. You don't need to plug in at work. However, I do. I live 30 miles from downtown, and I plug in at work as well and I have a 30 mile range in my car. We're able to make ranges much further than that, in cars.

VELSHI: Does anybody sell these? Do you have to make your own? Because I can't make anything, I can't close an envelope.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I make them for people, but the first thing I tell them is plug-in cars are not for everyone.

VELSHI: Right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right now, the best guesstimate I can see about do it yourself, is that gas has to be --

HARRIS: There you go. Just wanted to give you a little bit of the flavor of the show that's on CNN Radio right now.

You just go to and you can find CNN Radio.

Ali Velshi, taking calls and talking about alternative energy sources right now. And you can phone in a question: 1-877-266-4189.

You need to hurry. The show goes for an hour from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. Eastern time and then he has to get ready for his big show, "ISSUE #1," the economy. Right here on CNN at noon Eastern.

Gas prices -- they reach into your wallet and rob your family's budget for bucks. "4 Bucks! What's Next." That's the question everyone is asking and it is the title of our weekend special, America's Fuel Nightmare. Saturday and Sunday nigh, 8 Eastern, here on CNN.

COLLINS: Quickly now, I want to take you to Miami and show you a shot of what is going on here.

Two hundred south Florida Democrats are holding a press conference. They are denouncing statements and likening the fight to seat Florida's delegates to the anti-slavery and civil rights movement. So what they want is a 50/50 delegate split. And also an end to racially divisive remarks.

So that is a shot coming to us out of Miami, right now.

If you would like to see and hear more of the comments you can certainly do that. Just go to

HARRIS: Boy, talk about a leap of faith.


ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: I'll give this gravity thing a try.


HARRIS: Yes, Rob Marciano, skydiving in the NEWSROOM.


COLLINS: Well, most people wouldn't put jumping out of a perfectly good airplane out of their personal to-do list.

But CNN's Rob Marciano, did it just for us.


MARCIANO (on camera): With all this excitement about that French sky diver that wants to jump from 130,000 feet, it kind of got me fired up to jump myself. Much lower, about 14,000.

I'm here in Freefall Adventures in Jersey, We're going to give it a go.

(voice-over): I get geared up with the safety instructor Range Luda (ph).

MARCIANO (on camera): I'm a little nervous.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You'll need your harness.

MARCIANO: All right. Is there at all a chance for this to come loose from you?


MARCIANO: Never happened.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Never happened.

MARCIANO: Not once?

(voice-over): Range and I will be hooked together in the jump. In tandem, a way for beginners to skydive.

(on camera): Like this. All name safety.

(voice-over): There's a lot to remember when you're falling at 120 miles an hour. Like when to pull the rip cord.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The last safe altitude to pull is 5000 feet.

MARCIANO: Pulling the cord later could make a sky diver land too fast and lose control of his chute.

MARCIANO (on camera): If you jump from 130,000 feet, you need a pressurized space suit, helmet, oxygen, the whole nine yards. From 14,000 feet, altimeter, some goggles and not even a helmet and for me not even a parachute because I don't even know what I'm doing.

That's what Range is for. You what you're doing?


MARCIANO: You've got the chute?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've got the chute.

MARCIANO: Let's do it.


(voice-over): Our group climbed to nearly 15,000 feet. I was getting light headed and antsy, others? Not so nervous.

(on camera): These things in my stomach, are they supposed to be there?

My turn to jump.

All right, let's give this gravity thing a try. Let's do it!

(voice-over): Gravity pulls me quickly downward while the plane's motion forces me sideways. Soon, our velocity is locked in. All I hear and feel is the wind.

MARCIANO (on camera): Yes! Oh, man that was crazy!


MARCIANO: That was fantastic!

Well, it was like being on a roller coast are ride. Your heart pounding, you're losing your breath. A little chilly, but it's just unbelievable.


COLLINS: Rob Marciano, joining us now live, still in one piece.

And you know what I liked the best about that? Is when they cut off your mic just as when you're jumping out, when you were screaming bloody murder.

HARRIS: That was a request of yours, wasn't it?

MARCIANO: No, it happened to happen that way, technically, guys.

You know, yesterday was one of those days guys. And you've had these, maybe sparingly where it's a I love my job type of day, so that was quite a thrill ride.

It took some measurement, that elevation, we're looking at about 600 millibars of atmosphere pressure. We're usually at about 1,000 at the ground and temperatures were you know, probably slightly below 40 degrees. But when the adrenaline takes over, you don't feel much of anything. That was about a 10th of what the altitude is of the French sky diver's going to attempt again, hopefully he'll get that done.


MARCIANO: Michel. Yes he's going to go possibly faster than the speed of sound.

We peaked at about 138 miles an hour and then you reach a constant velocity and kind of and enjoy the way down.

HARRIS: So, Rob, what's the guy's name who was shooting the pictures of you?

MARCIANO: Oh, yes. So we had Range Luda (ph), he was strapped to me. And the guy taking the pictures, phenomenal shots, by the way.

HARRIS: Absolutely.

COLLINS: Very good shot.

MARCIANO: His name, no joke, is David Pancake.

COLLINS: Of course, it is. Of course, it is.

But you're jump master. What was you jump master's name?

Please don't tell it was like -- I don't know, I can't even think of anything.

MARCIANO: No, it was Range Luda.

But all these guys have thousands of jumps. You know, it is dangerous, you know, for the guys who do tricks and go out for their own. But the tandem thing, what I did, is a pretty safe -- it's a pretty safe deal.

So I highly recommend it if you like to stick your head out the window of a car, maybe. You like that feeling of losing your stomach. It's pretty fun. Put it on your list of things to do.

COLLINS: Good for you.

HARRIS: All right, Rob.

COLLINS: Very impressive.

HARRIS: Good stuff man. Had to run it, had to talk to you about it, had to give you a little grief. Good to see you, man.

COLLINS: Thanks, Rob. MARCIANO: See you guys. See you guys tomorrow.

HARRIS: And still to come in the NEWSROOM, this morning.

Bull's-eye on the heartland. High risk for dangerous storms today. We're tracking it in the NEWSROOM.



HARRIS: Pill-popping seniors drugged up and acting stoned or mentally ill. We'll get to the bottom of it.

The problem with over medication, live with medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen.


HARRIS: And good morning again, everyone.

You're informed with CNN, I'm Tony Harris.

COLLINS: Hi everybody, I'm Heidi Collins.

Developments keep coming into the NEWSROOM on this Thursday, May 29.

Here's what's on the rundown now. Soldier suicides on the rise. The Army, putting the number at a two decade high today.

HARRIS: Barack Obama taking flack from John McCain on Iraq. Now the Democrat is considering a trip to the war zone.

COLLINS: It's not always dementia. Too many prescription drugs can make seniors seem out of the loop.