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Hurricane Bertha off in the Atlantic; California Wildfires Continuing to Wreck Havoc in Santa Barbara and Big Sur; President Bush Meets at G8 Summit; Suicide Car Bombing in Afghanistan is Deadly; Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton Campaigning Together

Aired July 7, 2008 - 09:00   ET


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: It's not Iraq, but Afghanistan.
HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Soaring grocery prices, $4 gas. Can you recession-proof your life? Our "ISSUE #1" focus today in the NEWSROOM.

HARRIS: Weather is grabbing our attention. Two different extremes to tell you about.

Rob Marciano is following the first hurricane of the season. Bertha is now moving across the Atlantic. Rob will tell us about the projected path of the storm.

Plus, lightning sparks hundreds of fires in California. But now, cooler temperatures are giving some firefighters a bit of a break.

Our Kara Finnstrom is watching the efforts there.

COLLINS: So first up this morning, let's go ahead and get over to Rob Marciano in the Weather Center talking now about hurricane Bertha.

So Rob, we do know this is the first hurricane of the season, but how bad is it?


COLLINS: We'll check back late.

Thank you, Rob.

HARRIS: A little more attention now on California. You know thousands of homes are in jeopardy. California wildfires lead to evacuation orders in seven counties today. And firefighters are doing what they can to slow the burn.

CNN's Kara Finnstrom has a look.


KARA FINNSTROM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): A small air force is in the skies above California, 140 tankers and helicopters dropping hundreds of thousands of pounds of water and flame retardant. Right now, crews in the air and on the ground are taking full advantage of a gift -- higher than expected humidity and cool temperatures.

RICK NEWTON, U.S. FOREST SERVICE: Today's a big day to get a lot of this work done before the weather changes on us.

FINNSTROM: Firefighters near Big Sur in northern California, where a stubborn wildfire has destroyed 22 homes, are intentionally lighting backfires to destroy fresh fuel around the blaze's edges.

Down south near Santa Barbara, volunteer firefighters in an isolated canyon community, use their own trucks and fire retardant to spray down their own homes.


FINNSTROM: Those firefighters working in the shadow of the state's swelling ground attack.

Across California, 24 major wildfires are raging, with more than 20,000 firefighters converging with trucks, shovels and hoses.

GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), CALIFORNIA: Our personnel and resources was stretched to the breaking point. Our firefighters are exhausted.

FINNSTROM: Over the weekend, hopeful sign they're gaining ground in both Big Sur and Santa Barbara. But with the fire season raging long before it usually starts, nobody expects much of a break.

UNIDENTIFIED FIREFIGHTER: It's going to be that kind of year.

FINNSTROM: Here near Santa Barbara firefighters are feeling confident enough that they've begun lifting some mandatory evacuations.

Kara Finnstrom, for CNN, Goleta, California.


HARRIS: The G8 Summit under way today in Japan but before the session started, President Bush sat down with new Russian president Dmitri Medvedev. It's their first face-to-face meeting since Medvedev succeeded Vladimir Putin in May.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now I'm not going to sit here and psycho-analyze the man. But I will tell you that he's very comfortable, he's confident, and that I believe that when he tells me something he means it.


HARRIS: Well, the first issue on the table for the G8 members is aid to Africa. They heard from several African leaders today, but that wasn't the only African issue discussed.


BUSH: Discussed a lot of issues with the African leaders here in the G8, but one, of course, was Zimbabwe. You know I care deeply about the people of Zimbabwe. I'm extremely disappointed in the elections, which I labeled a sham election. And we, of course, listened very carefully.


HARRIS: That's the head of the African Union standing next to President Bush there. He says his prefers a different course of action to the sanctions being pushed by President Bush and others in the G8.

COLLINS: It ripped through the wall of the Indian embassy -- a car bomb. It may be the deadliest attack in Kabul, Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban.

Our Nic Robertson is following the developments for us live from London.

Nic, good morning to you.


COLLINS: Sorry, Nic. Go ahead and tell us what you know about all of this. We know at least from here -- from the reporting that we have at least 40 people were killed, something like 139 injured.

Tell us a little bit more about this. Suicide car bombing?

ROBERTSON: Suicide car bombing, lone suicide bomber -- drives up to gates of the Indian embassy. There were many, many people waiting outside. It was early in the morning. They were waiting to get visas. There are big trade relations between India and Afghanistan.

When he detonated explosives, many, many civilians killed. And interestingly, we've already heard from the Taliban, who would be the most likely suspects for this type of suicide bombing attack that claimed plenty of others in the capital, Kabul.

The Taliban saying that they're not involved. Can we believe them? Well, the Taliban in the past have committed such attacks. There are many different Taliban groups. They're not homogeneous. So it's quite possible one group could carry out the attack, another group could deny it. It could just be obfuscation.

But for the Taliban, perhaps important that they're not associated with such a high civilian death toll.

Also amongst the dead, some Indian embassy officials, Heidi.

COLLINS: It does raise the question, certainly, you know, why the Indian embassy? Have they not contributed quite a bit to the development in reconstruction of Afghanistan?

ROBERTSON: That could be exactly one of the reasons. You know in the past when the Taliban were fighting to gain control of Afghanistan, India was a very close ally with the northern alliance who are opposed to the Taliban.

So there is a historic enmity there, and that the Taliban still claim that India has too much of an involvement in Afghanistan, some of it will perhaps find its roots in the sort of India/Pakistan enmity that exists because the Taliban are a force that's been created historically with the help of former Pakistani military members and former Pakistani government officials.

So there's a historic enmity there and perhaps that's why we're seeing an attack against the Indian embassy.

But it is the civilians of Kabul, who have been the predominant victims here...


ROBERTSON: ... and we've seen that many, many times recently.

COLLINS: Well, you've mentioned Taliban spokesmen denying responsibility for this bombing. What about that?

ROBERTSON: You know, I don't think it's something you can really sit back and take at face value. The Taliban have a lot to lose here. Civilian casualties means a loss of support for them. They don't have a lot of support in Kabul already. They are trying to be seen as a sort of an alternative to the Afghan government.

And that the Taliban have these different groups. You know, in the battlefield, you'll have several -- several Taliban groups fighting British-American forces on the battlefield but they'll be fighting a separate group. So sometimes won't even support each other on the battlefield.

So the fact you can get one attacking in Kabul and another one saying, no, it's not the Taliban, you just can't take it at face value -- Heidi.

COLLINS: Yes. We know you're following it very closely and sure do appreciate it here.

Nic Robertson for us live from London this morning.

Thanks, Nic.

"ISSUE #1," the number one topic for them today -- John McCain and Barack Obama, speaking about the economy on the campaign trail.

McCain is in Denver, laying out a plan to balance the budge in four years. Obama travels to Charlotte to talk about helping families hurt by the slowdown. More tag team events coming up, too. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton will make three joint appearances this week. Unlike the unity rally last month, these are planned as private fundraisers.

And John McCain has a new political director. Mike Duhaime ran Rudy Giuliani's short-lived presidential campaign.

So are you hearing what you want to hear from Barack Obama and John McCain on "ISSUE #1"? Our e-mail question of the day now: have the candidates been specific enough about their plans for the economy.

Let us know at

HARRIS: Oil at record levels as global demand shoots up and that is fueling a hunt for energy. That story ahead in the NEWSROOM.


COLLINS: Welcome back. I'm Heidi Collins. You are in the NEWSROOM.

Millions of girls and women got the vaccine today. Important questions about the cancer preventing vaccine Gardasil. Is it safe?


COLLINS: Your paycheck is shrinking, your costs climbing, as experts debate whether or not we are in a recession. We are answering an important question -- how can you recession proof your life?

Cleaned out on aisle six. Does your grocery list give you sticker shock? Probably. This hour, expert tips from the woman known as "Coupon Mom." Some great stuff there to share with you.

And pain at pump. Is relief in the pipeline? We'll have the latest on the surging prices of oil and gas.

Plus, a big week on Wall Street. Investors are on edge as new economic numbers shine a life on the road ahead.

HARRIS: Gas prices hit a new record, but oil comes down slightly from an all-time high. Now how worldwide demand is fueling a hunt for energy sources.

Ali Velshi, "Minding Your Business."

And Ali, look, as we try to recession proof our lives here, we can do everything we can in terms of saving, but we can use real help on the energy front.

ALI VELSHI, CNN SENIOR BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, we consume energy. It hits everybody equally if you have to heat your house or you have to fill your car. And you can do little things to conserve, but the bottom line is this is the kind of thing that we probably need more help on. So we're embarking on an energy hunt.

Let me just tell you, I mean, I was off last week and I was in an elevator watching the news and I saw that oil hit nearly $146...

HARRIS: That's right.

VELSHI: ... a barrel on Friday. On Thursday I think it got to $145.29 at the settle but it was actually higher than that through the course of the day.

It's pulled back a little bit mainly because the U.S. dollar has strengthened. But you know, those $4.11 for a gallon of gas, that was set at prices that were lower than what we're paying for oil now. So we can only expect that to increase.

So Tony, we decided we're going on an energy hunt.

HARRIS: That's good.

VELSHI: CNN is going to look for energy wherever it is, whether it's oil or it's alternatives. And our first stop was Ft. McMurray in northern Alberta, where the oil sands are. That's the largest known reserve of oil in the world. Take a quick look at this.


VELSHI (on camera): This is it. This is what we came here for. This is oil sand. It's sand that's encased in water and oil. In fact, this is about 10 percent real crude oil.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Taking advantage of this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to lose certain things, you know? Our traditional lifestyle will erode.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I come here and every teacher that ever told me you don't do good in school, you're never going to make it. I'm making triple what they make.


VELSHI: That's an oil sand worker, Tony. He's making over $100,000. That's pretty typical up there. In fact, in this little boom town in northern Alberta you can make $15 flipping hamburgers.

I'm going to bringing you that story -- the advantages -- the advantage to America of having that much oil close to home. More than 1.5 million barrels a day get pumped out of the sand...


VELSHI: ... and possible danger to the environment.

HARRIS: Boy. OK. There's the full screen for the special "ENERGY HUNT: OIL IN THE SANDS" this week, OK, on CNN.

How big are these oil sands reserves here, Ali?

VELSHI: They're bigger than any known reserves in the world. In fact, there's -- the number probably doesn't mean anything but there's probably 175 billion barrels of oil just at today's prices. But if these prices keep going up, there's more of it. And one of the advantages of oil in northern Alberta is that there are pipelines that go right into the United States.

So the U.S. gets most of the oil because Canada produces more oil than it actually needs so it generally all gets sent down this way. So useful to look into as an option.


VELSHI: But boy, I'll tell you, there's some real environmental impact to the...


VELSHI: ... work that has to be done to get that oil into our homes and cars.

HARRIS: Can't wait for the special.

All right, Ali. Good to see you. Thank you, sir.

COLLINS: Quickly want to give you this information. We are just learning here in the CNN NEWSROOM. It is official now -- and first I have to tell you a little about this on Friday, but Senator Barack Obama will give his acceptance speech of the presidential nomination in front of about 75,000 people there in Denver, Invesco Field at Mile High, instead of the Pepsi Center.

Of course, this is all going to happen during the Democratic National Convention. And according to the press release here that I'm looking at, the Democratic National convention committee press release, this will likely happen the closing night of the Democratic National Convention.

So we are following this story for you. Going to keep it out there. Again, we talked a little bit about it on Friday. Now it is official that Senator Barack Obama will accept that nomination at Invesco field at Mile High.

Well, he is convinced the day is coming and he plans to be ready.

CNN's Deborah Feyerick reports on a peak oil survivalist.


DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Iver Lofving is convinced the world is running out of oil. He spent the last 10 years getting ready for that day. A mainstream survivalist chopping his own wood, installing solar panels, growing vegetables, even driving a solar-powered car, all that geared to becoming self- sufficient.

IVER LOFVING, PEAK OIL SURVIVALIST: Call me crazy but I'm crazy like a FOX. This is the -- this household makes half of its own energy. I mean, you know, half of the -- you know, two-thirds of hot water, half of the heat right there, small part of the electricity, half the gasoline.

FEYERICK: Lofving is a high school teacher who lives in Skowhegan, Maine, roughly two hours north of Portland. He believes a world driven by cheap oil is coming to an end.

(On camera): How does peak oil play into the changes your making in your life?

LOFVING: Well, peak oil has everything to do with it.

FEYERICK (voice over): Peak oil is the point when global oil production peaks and then goes down. The remaining g oil supply is limited and will be harder to get at. And that means fewer barrels a day. Some oil experts say that day is here. Others predict it's 20 to 30 years away.

But as gas prices rise, Web sites like and Survivalblog are getting more visitors talking about the end of cheap oil and the possible threat of political and economic instability around the world.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's 4,000 gallons a year.

FEYERICK: And peak oil groups like Lofving have seen a spike in members.

LOFVING: I think that things can get -- have a potential to get very, very bad if we don't do anything. However, I really do.

FEYERICK: Unlike some survivalists Lofving has not started raising chickens or stockpiling a year's worth of food and ammunition but he is thinking of a bigger garden and maybe a small boat, just in case.

Deborah Feyerick, CNN, Skowhegan, Maine.


COLLINS: Does the rising cost of gas, food and housing have you seeing red? Well, all day long, you can watch CNN NEWSROOM to see how you can recession proof your life. We're going to have recommendations from our team of experts. A look at energy alternatives and pointers on how to make the most of what you've got.

But we also want to hear from you. What are you and your family doing to stretch your dollar? Send us your responses at, and click on "Beating the Recession." We're going to share some of your responses throughout the day right here.

HARRIS: How about this? Faster than a speeding wallet, able to leap tall grocery bills in a single bound to your rescue, it's Coupon Mom, a consumer expert on how to save some cash in the NEWSROOM.



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN, the most trusted name in news. Now back to the CNN NEWSROOM.

COLLINS: Gardasil. It's a vaccine for cervical cancer and it's now in focus of two lawsuits. And thousands of young women are complaining of side effects. They range from nausea to paralysis.

Medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is here now to talk a little bit more about this.

Obviously, people are wondering what the heck is go on with this drug.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. Well, there have been two -- these two lawsuits that you mentioned. So two families say that Gardasil made their children severely sick. I talked to the mother of one of the two girls.

She's 13-year-old Jesalee Parsons and her mother says Jesalee was perfectly healthy, got the Gardasil vaccine, within hours developed a fever and became very ill, quickly developed acute pancreatitis, which can be a very dangerous disease, had two surgeries, went in and out of the hospital for weeks and weeks, and missed many months of school. And her mother says still has not fully recovered.

Now, there are just two lawsuits but there have been thousands complaints to the Food and Drug Administration. In fact, as of April, there have been nearly 8,000 complaints. People saying that they became ill. And Merck & Company, which makes this vaccine - they say, look, just because someone says that they got sick after getting our product doesn't mean that Gardasil caused the illness. It could just be a coincidence.

COLLINS: Yes. Wow. That's a lot of people, though, when you look at that number. Has anyone died?

COHEN: There have been 10 confirmed deaths of girl whose got Gardasil and then died. However the CDC did an investigation and say that the deaths are not related to the shots. Again, they said it was basically a coincidence...


COHEN: ... that the girls who got the shots died.

COLLINS: Yes, and we've learned, especially from you and from Sanjay, that it's so hard to sort of trace these things back.

COHEN: And make that connection, sure.

COLLINS: Yes. Yes.

COHEN: It's very hard to do that.

COLLINS: But it certainly brings up the question now, if you're a parent and you hear this news what do you do? Do you get the vaccine or not?

COHEN: What you do is you talk to you pediatrician. If you're concerned, you can say to your pediatrician, look, the CDC says the vaccine schedule, as it's called, is flexible. Do I really need to do this now?

And one important thing to remember is that Gardasil is recommended for 11-year-old girls. You have to have sex to get this disease. And I know some parents who are saying, look, my 11-year- old's not having sex. Do they need to take the risk of getting a vaccine because all drugs have risks to them if there's no way they can get the disease because they're not having sex?

So that's a point to bring up with your pediatrician.

COLLINS: Yes. Wow.

COHEN: And we talk about this. We have an empowered patient column, actually, all about vaccines, all about questions you can ask. It's at and this is about babies but a lot of the principles apply for other vaccines as well.

COLLINS: All right. All right. We'll follow up with this story with you.


COLLINS: With you. Thanks so much, Elizabeth Cohen.

COHEN: OK. Thanks.

HARRIS: Relief for exhausted firefighters. The weather cooperating a bit in California, allowing for some progress on the fire lines.


ANNOUNCER: Live in the CNN NEWSROOM, Tony Harris and Heidi Collins.

HARRIS: Good Monday morning once again, everybody. It is 9:30 Eastern Time. I'm Heidi Collins.

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

Returning home in Southern California. Cooler temperatures helping firefighter gain ground on a fire in Santa Barbara County. But that break may not last long. Temperatures are expected to creep back up during the week. Some evacuation orders have been lifted. That fire is now about 30 percent contained.

In Northern California, the cooler temperatures have both helped and hindered. A buildup of fog is slowing the firefighting flights. The fire at Big Sur is now 11 percent contained. Officials says they won't have full containment until -- get this -- the end of the month.

COLLINS: Want to take a moment to head over to Rob Marciano. He is watching both weather fronts today on opposite ends of the...


COLLINS: ... country there. And I guess we want to talk about Hurricane -- Hurricane Katrina.


COLLINS: It's Hurricane Bertha first. We're still Category 1 here, right?


HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Wow, how about that timing? Or was that on tape? That must have been on tape. That never happens.


COLLINS: The opening bell just a couple of minutes ago. As you know, we were all closed up on Friday because it was the Fourth of July. But this morning we're hearing that the open is going to be what they're calling tepid. Tepid. All right. Fifty-five points to the positive. We'll be watching that and the Nasdaq. And gas prices, as usual, coming up here just a little later on.

HARRIS: Of the nation's slumping economy, believe it or not, there are a lot of things you can do to recession proof your own finances. The most basic tip, stock up on emergency funds. That's always a great idea. You can never have too wide a safety net here. Along those lines, slim down your debts. And for the long run, rebalance your investments. Now many experts suggest you venture carefully into international funds. And if you hate risks or if you're a worrier, maybe you should think about embracing bonds. They're typically lower risk.

COLLINS: From the stock market to the supermarket, it seems like that grocery list gets more expensive with every trip down the aisle, done it? Here's a look at the rising costs, just in case you haven't noticed. Since July of last year, the price of chicken up almost 7 percent, bread, 15 percent, eggs, more than 28 percent. To the rescue, coupon mom. Stephanie Nelson is an expert on how you can stretch your grocery budget. And Tony said earlier, no pressure here, but you can also leap tall buildings.


COLLINS: So we're very excited to have you.

NELSON: Thanks for having me.

COLLINS: So your web site. Let's talk about that first, at Have you seen a lot more people, a lot more traffic on your web site?

NELSON: You know, we have done this seven years, and since January 1st, we've seen three time as many people coming to the web site. So we've seen a dramatic difference in people wanting to find ways to save money.

COLLINS: Yes, I bet, because you do, you go to the grocery store and you just are amazed when you see that final total when you're checking out.

Let's talk specifically about some of the tips that you have when you go to the grocery store. And one of them is this grocery gift card. There's a 10 percent bonus program. Tell us about that.

NELSON: That's right. The major grocery retailers are working to get our attention by giving us special bonuses as a result of the tax stimulus checks. Now you don't actually have to buy the gift cards with the checks. You can use credit cards or cash.

COLLINS: Any money you have.

NELSON: But it will give you a 10 percent bonus. So, for example, if you buy a $300 gift card, you'll spend $300, but you'll get a gift card worth $330. And it's important to note that you don't have to spend the gift card all at once. You can use the gift card indefinitely. But you can only buy them until July 31st. So they're very timely.

COLLINS: Oh, I love this.

NELSON: And it's a great deal. And you can also use those along with coupons. So you're not giving up any of your other savings.

COLLINS: OK. All right. Very good. How about store loyalty cards? Because when I first heard about the first one, I thought, oh it's just my little, you know, Kroger card or my Publics card, but no, that's different -- that gift card program is different.

NELSON: Well, the gift card program is different. You're buying an actual gift card, like cash. Now I recommend, if your store has a loyalty card, and that's your grocery store or your drugstore, be sure to sign up for those. Not only sign up for those, but provide your complete mailing information and your e-mail address because the stores are sending very generous coupons for items you already buy. Last month I saved $25 just with store coupons mailed to my home absolutely free.

COLLINS: Wow. OK. Because I know people really don't like doing that. They don't like giving out their personal information. And lots of times, and we have one more tip to talk about here, bit I want to get to that about the web site, too, because it seems like when you're signing up for things, you have to give all of your personal information and then people sort of back away and say, I don't feel comfortable doing that.

NELSON: That's right. I think whenever you sign up for anything, the grocery loyalty card or a web site, you need to read the privacy policy quickly because if a web site or a program shares your address, they will blatantly say, we share your information with other parties. They have to. But if they don't, they will say they don't. Now the grocery loyalty . . .

COLLINS: And you can believe them?

NELSON: You can believe them. We're required to state that. So when people provide their information to the grocery retailer, they do not share your information. That's very tight.

COLLINS: I'm always skeptical.

NELSON: There are some coupon sites that I would be skeptical about. The ones that say get a free $500 gift card. Don't believe that.

COLLINS: Yes, that's not happening. That's to good to be true.

NELSON: Don't believe that. Don't provide your information. But there are very credible coupon sites that have very tight privacy policies. does, of course.

COLLINS: Of course.

NELSON:,, and are the four web sites that I recommend to get free coupons. You really don't want to miss those free coupons because you can get dozens and dozens of printable grocery coupons at no cost from those good sites.

COLLINS: OK. Also, as you're saying, remember to use electronic coupons. And these are ones that come in your e-mail?

NELSON: These -- well, actually better than that. These are new. These are available at and And the way they work is that you go to these web sites and you select the offers you like, you know, a dollar off cereal, and it's electronically loaded on your store loyalty card.

COLLINS: Oh, see, now that I would do.

NELSON: You could do that.

COLLINS: Yes. The other stuff, printing it out and bringing it with me to the grocery store, it's just way above my (INAUDIBLE). I can't do all that.

NELSON: And you don't keep anyone waiting in line behind you. You give your card and it's automatically deducted from your bill.

COLLINS: Oh, I like that a lot.

All right, quickly, before we let you go, do you think that grocery stores or maybe even manufacturers are going to be giving more deals while we're in this time of really, really expensive groceries?

NELSON: Absolutely. In fact, I believe we're going to see more coupons than we have in the past because consumers are responding to coupons. Redemption rates are going up, so manufacturers will give us more coupons. They want us use those.

COLLINS: All right. You got any gas coupons on you?

NELSON: You know, as soon as I do, you are going to be the first to know.

COLLINS: Oh, I like that. I'm glad I asked.

All right, Stephanie Nelson, Coupon Mom. Thank you so much, Stephanie.

NELSON: Thanks for having me.

HARRIS: I'd just like to be second if that's Stephanie, is that OK? We can share the wealth here, you know.

NELSON: The first two.

HARRIS: Thank you. Thank you. Save some for yourself.

NELSON: Right after jumping the building.

HARRIS: You know we put a question to you over the weekend asking for your tips and advice, how you are recession proofing your life. Maybe something that you're doing could be of benefit to the rest of us. Veronica De la Cruz has your I-Reports next in the NEWSROOM.

But first, it could help you qualify for a loan or even lower your interest rates. And the higher it is, the better off you are. It is your credit score. And Ali Velshi's got some tips to help you boost it on this week's "Right on Your Money."


ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT, (voice over): Falling home prices means more opportunities for buyers. But with lending standard tightening, improving your credit score is more important than ever.

JOHN ULZHEIMER, CREDIT.COM: If you want to guarantee yourself the best rates and the best terms that any lender has to offer, you really need to be boasting a 750 across the board. Now, of course, you can still get approved with a score lower than 750. You could even get credit in the mid 600s, but you should not expect the best rates and the best terms in the mid 600s. VELSHI: The easiest way to give your credit score a boost is to pay off high credit card balances and avoid opening new lines of credit.

ULZHEIMER: If you're in credit score improvement mode, you really need to kind of take a step back, no knee-jerk reactions and tackle the things that are costing you the most. Pay off the collections or settle them, pay down the credit card debt as much as possible and, by all means, do not exit the credit environment as a means for improving your credit score.

VELSHI: And be aware, closing credit cards just because you rarely use them will not help your credit score. Hold on to older credit cards. The longer you've manage credit, the better your score will be. And that's this week's "Right on Your Money."



COLLINS: In Kabul, Afghanistan, a suicide car bomb explodes outside the Indian embassy. It may be the deadliest attack since the fall of the Taliban. At least 41 people are dead. A government spokesman says some of those killed were women and children. More than 100 people were injured. This morning the Taliban are denying any responsibility for the blast.

HARRIS: Osama bin Laden is still considered dangerous, but some experts say he is losing supporters in the Middle East. CNN international security correspondent Paula Newton has more.


OSAMA BIN LADEN, (through translator): America is filled with fear.

PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT, (voice over): At his most menacing just after 9/11, Osama bin Laden's words and warnings were breaks news, the world sizing up every syllable looking for the next threat. But nearly seven years later, his statements are merely reported and cataloged, hardly major news.

And where bin Laden was once an iconic hero, his family's ancestral home of Yemen, in some quarters sentiment on the street is turning against him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE, (through translator): He kills innocent people who can't be blamed, like when he did with the twin towers. Maybe if he wanted to declare war against America and Israel, then he might find support. But he uses unacceptable methods like killing innocence people.

NEWTON: Bin Laden still commands respect for this young student and others here. Some causes do resonate, political ones, anti- American, anti-Israel. Yet bin Laden and al Qaeda's skill at tapping into that anger is slipping. So we've been here in Yemen, what seems to be unraveling for bin Laden and al Qaeda is that sense of a cause, the political movement. He's been unable to convince even people here that it's something's worth fighting for.

Paul Cruickshank has studied the evolution of bin Laden and al Qaeda.

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CENTER ON LAW AND SECURITY: Certainly al Qaeda remains a threat, but this new critique of al Qaeda coming, not just from mainstream Muslim critics, but also from Jihadists with real credibility amongst the radial leaning youngsters that might be recruited into the organization, it's starting to hit home. It's starting to hurt the organization. Al Qaeda has been thrown on the defensive.

NEWTON: Officials say recruiting and operations have taken a hit. The CIA saying al Qaeda is suffering significant setbacks globally. And even among those who support jihad or holy war, some are condemning bin Laden and his tactics. Abdullah Anas fought against the Soviets with bin Laden in Afghanistan. He believes America's war on terror actually helped keep al Qaeda in business.

ABDULLAH ANAS, FORMER MUJAHID: But this organization have got a very good gift after 9/11 and after the occupation of Iraq. So they are recruiting people as a freedom fighters. This school organization is not popular in the Arab world. It's not popular in the Islamic world.

NEWTON: Officials stress al Qaeda remains a threat. Its ability to launch attacks may be compromised by those it once turned to for support.

Paula Newton, CNN, Sana (ph), Yemen.


HARRIS: Taking a chill pill. That's the idea behind a new movement in Japan. The slow life.


COLLINS: Are you hearing what you want to hear from Barack Obama and John McCain on issue number one? Our e-mail question of the day, have the candidates been specific enough about their plans for the economy? Let us know what you think at

HARRIS: Recession-proof your life. Our I-Reporters have been up to the task. Veronica De la Cruz joins us now with a few of your solutions.

And, Veronica, real important stuff here because we put the question out to folks over the weekend. What are you doing? How are you doing in recession-proofing your life? And we've got a lot of submissions, don't we? VERONICA DE LA CRUZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we have. And you're right about that, Tony. Day in, day out, we hear about the number of foreclosures going up, the cost of gas going up, the price of food also going up. So, like you said, we've been asking you, how are you weathering these tough, economic times?

So first things first, Tony. Lots of people have been changing their mode of transportation. Take a look at this. This is a photo there from Angie Harod (ph) in Missouri. And she bought this Mini Cooper, Tony, that she lovingly has named Anderson. I'm sorry, I was hoping more for like Tony Harris.

HARRIS: Right. Right.

DE LA CRUZ: She named it Anderson. She also says she focuses on little things, like changing light bulbs to smart bulbs. Also mapped out her errands before she leaves the house to save gas.

So, I mean, Tony Harris Mini Cooper. I mean she calls it Anderson Mini Cooper. I think Tony Harris, we need to change it (INAUDIBLE).

HARRIS: Maybe a move to prime time would help. Anyone listening? Hello. Hello. Sorry, Veronica.

DE LA CRUZ: All right, Tony. Let's head over to New York City now. Tina Steels (ph) has decided to leave her car at home and go public. And she urges everyone to join the commuters club. Take a look. She's buying a metro card. The card used for the New York subway system. And she says that she also has cut back on luxury items. And here's the sad thing, Tony. Most of the time Tina just stays home now. So that's the way that she's cutting back. She stays home.

HARRIS: Well, I think that's -- I mean a lot of folks are doing that. You talk about folks taking vacations now and then we've got this new term of art, staycation.

DE LA CRUZ: Staycation, right.

HARRIS: Yes, with folks just deciding it's just too expensive to get anywhere and the transportation costs and costs once you get there. So folks are staying home. I get it. Totally get it.

DE LA CRUZ: Yes, that's right.

Also I want to take you now to Iowa, Tony. Mark Strauss (ph) there. He's sharing his way of cutting back. Take a look. This is his new company car. This is his company car. Tony, he used to drive a Yukon to make his sales visits. He would make a 700-mile trip in the Yukon. Tony, that would cost more than $200 one way. Guess how much it costs him now on this thing, on the Harley?

HARRIS: What is it?

DE LA CRUZ: $75. HARRIS: $75.

DE LA CRUZ: $75. And he looks so much cooler.

HARRIS: Well, the question is, could he get rid of the Yukon, though, I mean that's . . .

DE LA CRUZ: Probably not.

HARRIS: Yes. Who wants those things now.

DE LA CRUZ: Yes, it's probably taking a staycation in his garage right now.

HARRIS: Exactly.

DE LA CRUZ: All right, Tony, I want to let everybody know, don't forget, tell us how you are recession proofing your life. Just log on to


HARRIS: Yes, I think that's the key. I mean we put out the question. We just want your thoughts so maybe you can help the rest of us.

Veronica, great to see you. Thanks.

COLLINS: How about this, living the slow life. A growing movement in Japan. Trying to inject calm into the frantic pace of every day life. CNN's Kyung Lah takes a look.


KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT, (voice over): Everything moves so fast these days. In a 24/7 global economy, the scramble to be first, the richest never let's up. And then there is this place, The Slow Cafe, where the coffee comes with tranquility and customers slow down and think.

KEIBO OIWA, SLOW LIFE FOUNDER: We are to fast. So we have to slow down again.

LAH: Professor Keibo Oiwa calls this "slow life" and it's a movement now sweeping Japan. Slow life says the earth can't keep up with the speed of modern living. The environment losing ground to conveniences, like the power hungry vending machines found at every Tokyo street corner, gas guzzling cars and life's outright excesses. Slow life asks, does Japan really need a 20 million energy sucking electric toilets that warm and wash your rear end?

OIWA: People used to say, the poverty is the problem. But I disagree. The problem is wealth. Actually, it is wealth that has been producing poverty and that has been causing environmental crisis.

LAH: The solution doesn't lie with the government leaders attending this week's G-8 says slow life, but with the individual, willing to walk instead of drive, reuse instead of throwing away, conserve and adjust life to earth's natural pace. Electronics, like the Blackberry . . .

OIWA: What does this do?

LAH: They don't even know about here.

OIWA: You must be tired.

LAH: If you have to carry one just to keep up, slow life is easier said than done.

"I want to lead a slow life," says this women, one of Japan's millions of mid-level salary workers, "but I can't actually do it. Not in reality."

Even if you can't quit your corporate job and grow your own food, slow life says you can make small strides. Carrying your own utensils, like these portable chop sticks, can, over a lifetime, save dozens of trees. A small step toward repairing a seemingly insurmountable problem.

Kyung Lah, CNN, Hokkaido, Japan.


HARRIS: Boy, I can't believe this. Special needs kids kicked off a flight for boisterous behavior.


JENNIFER WOODWARD, SISTER: They have this symbol of a heart with wings. They have no heart. And I'm really mad about it, I mean, because, you know, it was horrible. It was one of the worst experiences of my life.


HARRIS: Yes, we need more on this. More information. A family grounded in the NEWSROOM.


COLLINS: Kids' first time on the plane becomes one to remembers but for the wrong reasons. Reporter Kyle Moore of affiliate KIRO has the story.


KYLE MOORE, CNN CORRESPONDENT, (voice over): Wendy Slaughter and her four kids are just happy to be in Seattle.

WENDY SLAUGHTER, MOTHER: I can't believe we finally made it.

MOORE: Last night they were left stranded at the Phoenix Airport.

SLAUGHTER: I am furious about it. I was -- I just couldn't believe they could do something like that and then leave us completely stranded with no money, no way to get anywhere.

MOORE: On Friday, Slaughter was traveling with her four children and her five-month pregnant sister on a Southwest flight from Detroit to Seattle. When the plane landed in Phoenix, the family was met at the gate by police officers, detained and told they were not allowed to take a connection to Seattle.

SLAUGHTER: I was horrified. I was OK up till that point and then I just lost control -- I started crying uncontrollably (ph).

JENNIFER WOODWARD, SISTER: And they have this symbol of a heart with wings. They have no heart. And I'm really mad about it. I mean, because, you know, it was horrible. It was one of the worst experiences of my life.

MOORE: Slaughter says this is the very first flight for the children. She admits the kids were loud and kept getting up and walking around the plane.

SLAUGHTER: The children were a little bit out of control on the flight. You know, they were restless and excited and worked up and they're kids.

MOORE: Her 10-year-old son, Henry, is autistic, with a short attention span. Her daughter, Gracie (ph), suffers from cerebral policy. The family says flight attendants asked them to quiet the children twice. They didn't expect to be booted off the flight.

BOBBY TUCKER, GRANDMOTHER: I think they should compensate us for what's happened. And I think they should make a public apology.

MOORE: Southwest spokesperson Christi Day told KIRO 7 they were being disruptive and unruly on the plane. And for the safety of our customer and the flight crew, we decided to not allow them to travel on to Seattle at that time. Typically, if it's a threatened behavior, it's not safe to travel 30,000 feet in the air in a contained environment.


COLLINS: The kids' grandmother says she had to pay $2,000 on another carrier's flight to get the family to Seattle.

HARRIS: How about this mystery in the air when a Northwest flight from Detroit to Tampa took off. The plane was fine, but when it landed, the nose was smashed in. Passenger wondering what happened.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know if they noticed anything was wrong until they got off, on to the gate and were walking past the windows and saw the plane and the commotion that was happening at the windows.