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Growing Disaster in Southern Taiwan This Morning; Oil Price Tag Dropping Now; Senator Barack Obama Heading to Europe and the Middle East This Month; Wachovia Bank Under Investigation Over Auction Rate Security Sales

Aired July 18, 2008 - 08:00   ET


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: It's getting a lot of media coverage, of course.
DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And they're saying a lot. It's interesting, though, Kiran, when Barack Obama is abroad. John McCain will spend his time talking about the economy. The issue that is most on voters' minds here at home. But until then, McCain is trying very hard to influence what he and his campaign know will be heavy focus on Obama's trip.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESUMPTIVE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I know that Senator Obama is going to Iraq. I was very interested that he articulated and announced his policies and approach to Iraq before he went.

BASH (voice-over): Aides to John McCain may not like it, but they know full well Barack Obama's overseas trip will get a lot of coverage. And the reality is McCain himself goaded Obama into it.

MCCAIN: Just now coming up on 900 days since he last visited Iraq, since before the surge. I hope that he goes as quickly as possible with or without me.

BASH: The Republican National Committee still has a running clock on its Web site. Now that Obama is going, it's up-o-time (ph) inside camp McCain. Their central theme -- by announcing his war policies before leaving, Obama is embarking on a campaign swing, not a fact-finding mission.

MCCAIN: I've been on a lot of trips around the world, usually at your expense, but I usually issue my policy statements when I get back.

BASH: And McCain aides are stepping up their push to highlight Obama's apparent shift in rhetoric on Iraq.

Earlier this week, McCain declared Obama a flip-flopper for changing statements on the success of the surge. Now, McCain's campaign made this eight-minute video aimed at illustrating Obama's contradictory statements on Iraq.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESUMPTIVE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: What I said is that we've got to make sure that we secure and execute the rebuilding and reconstruction process effectively and properly and I don't think we should have an artificial deadline when to do that.

BASH: That was 2004. Obama now calls for all combat troops out in 16 months.


BASH: Now another area where McCain has been hitting Obama hard is on the fact that he is the Senate subcommittee chairman of the subcommittee that oversees NATO. And Obama has not held any hearings about Afghanistan, which he would do in that subcommittee.

Now, we've confirmed that McCain, himself, has missed six Senate hearings on the same subject -- Afghanistan -- over the last two years. Now, a McCain spokesman insisted the point they're trying to make, however, is not about attendance, but about leadership.

The spokesman saying, quote, "Obama claims to be a leader in Afghanistan but had the power to hold hearings on NATO and the operation there" and he, quote, "failed to do so."


CHETRY: Dana Bash for us in Washington. Thanks.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Dramatic new pictures and growing disaster in southern Taiwan to show you this morning. At least four people are dead after a typhoon slammed into the island. In the past 24 hours, the storm dumped up to 44 inches of rain, overwhelming sewers, flooding homes and washing away cars, trucks, even people. The deadly storm system is now moving toward southern China.

A group of teens recovering this morning after their tour bus rolled over and burst into flames. It happened yesterday along a treacherous mountain road in Utah. Amazingly, everyone on board survived. At least five people were treated for minor injuries. State troopers said the driver lost control after the bus slid on soft dirt.

And Massachusetts taxpayers will be paying for the big dig until 2038 for the final price tag of $22 billion, making it the most expensive highway project ever.

When the project started back in the 1980s, the Berry Highways 93 and 90, the estimated cost was $2.6 billion. The "Boston Globe" says the state is not spending enough on road and bridge repairs because of it.

One price tag that is dropping now, though, oil. And our senior business correspondent Ali Velshi here now with more on that.


ROBERTS: This is great. VELSHI: I'm going to be off after today.

ROBERTS: You're going to leave us with a great taste on the mouth.

VELSHI: This is like when I was in college and they give you a lot of good food before Thanksgiving. I have news for you that is light, that is sweet, and I'm not even going to be crude.

Yesterday, the price of a barrel of oil dropped below $130. What is wrong with us when we are celebrating this? Below $130 for the first time since the beginning of June. Popped up a little bit. Right now, it's a smidge above $130.

But guess what? Investors love this news and as a result, the DOW had its third positive day, up more than 200 points. In fact, markets across the board were higher, 1.8 percent higher on the DOW, 1.2 percent on the NASDAQ and the S&P.

Guess what? We had bad earnings, earnings that disappointed industry from Google, from Microsoft, from Merrill Lynch. But even that didn't hurt the markets this morning. We had less than bad news from Citigroup and that has the market higher again. Market futures have turned around in the last couple hours.

ROBERTS: Can I get an Amen?

VELSHI: I'm telling you, I'll just stop talking right now. But you know why I'm going away? Two reasons. One is I thought I was complaining about the U.S. dollar and you told me I was being a sissy. So, I'm going to go on my vacation to Europe.

But I'm going to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, ANWAR, over the weekend and we're going to come in on Monday with an energy hunt. I'll be live one way or the other from Alaska, and I'll be telling you the story about what is going on up there, why do we care, what is the big concern, what's the big controversy about ANWAR. I'll talk to you about that on Monday.

ROBERTS: You'll go up there and commune with the elk and the moose and the caribou.

VELSHI: The Porcupine caribou are the animal that I want to see when I'm up there.

ROBERTS: Take some good mosquito repellent this time.

VELSHI: I absolutely will. I'm going to do -- I'm going to buy my own this time. So, I will talk to you from there on Monday and then I will see you -- I'll send you postcard.

ROBERTS: Looking forward to it.

VELSHI: Keep the price of oil low, keep the markets going up.

ROBERTS: Have a great trip. We'll see you back here soon. Thanks, Ali.


CHETRY: Ten years, that's the goal that Al Gore is setting to switch the entire country's energy production to wind, solar and other pollution-free sources. So, if the Herculean task can be completed, Gore says it would solve global warming as well as security concerns due to foreign oil dependence.

Gore suggested a new policy shift that would tax carbon dioxide pollution. The former Vice President says switching now would also have another benefit of less outsourcing of jobs.


AL GORE, FMR. VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When we send money to foreign countries to buy nearly 70 percent of the oil we use everyday, they build new skyscrapers and we lose jobs. When we spend that money building solar rays and windmills here, we build competitive industries and gain jobs here at home.


CHETRY: According to the environmental group led by Gore, his renewable energy plan would cost up to $3 trillion over 30 years.

And the nation's largest wind power project, the state known for big oil is now spending big bucks in the clean and renewable energy business.

ROBERTS: And we're following the extreme weather for you. A storm brewing off the southeastern coast and it's going to be a hot one here in the northeast today.

CHETRY: And Senator Barack Obama heading to Europe and the Middle East this month. But will the media frenzy backfire? We're going to examine that with some pundits on both sides of the aisle. You're watching the "Most News in the Morning."


ROBERTS: Welcome back to the "Most News in the Morning." We are following issue number one for you today.

In the state of Texas, known for its big oil companies, is ready to spend almost $5 billion on wind power. The plan would build power lines to carry wind-generated electricity from gusty west Texas to cities like Dallas. Billionaire oilman T. Boone Pickens is planning to build the world's largest wind farm in Texas and he'll be investing billions, as well.

One small town in Missouri is already leading the nation in wind- generated electricity. Our Ed Lavandera visited Rock Port, Missouri. It's the very first city in America to be fully wind-powered. And he's here with this report. ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John and Kiran, most people think of Chicago as the windy city, but this little town of Rock Port, Missouri is trying to change all that. Those wind turbines you see are capable of providing all of the energy this town needs.


LAVANDERA (voice-over): Follow Steve Scamman down this gravel road and you'll notice spinning shadows over his corn field, then you'll see the blades that make Rock Port, Missouri run.

Did you ever think that Rock Port would be kind of on the cutting edge of energy technology like this?

STEVE SCAMMAN, ROCK PORT, MISSOURI RESIDENT: No, no. Rock Port's just a good old farming community.

LAVANDERA: Rock Port population 1,400 is the first city in the United States that can be fully powered by wind. The wind turns on, the only traffic light, the bank's clock, the computers, and the tools of a hair salon. The Rock Port wind farm was Eric Chamberlain's idea. He manages it out of his family's funeral home. The idea came to him after seeing a wind farm while driving in a funeral procession through Iowa. Now, he's known as the wind czar.

ERIC CHAMBERLAIN, WIND CAPITAL GROUP: I was born and raised here and began to think it's windy a lot of the time.

LAVANDERA: Rock Port flipped the switch to wind energy in April. But when the wind isn't blowing, the town must buy traditional energy. So the city hasn't totally done away with the old power system.

But since the turbines were turned on three months ago, they've produced 7 percent more energy than the town needs. The excess is sold off to other communities.

CHAMBERLAIN: Those turbines produce electricity without any emissions, without any other fuel source other than the wind, and they produce a lot of power.

LAVANDERA: Back in the fields, farmers here like to say they don't stare at the corn anymore.

SCAMMAN: It's the way to go with electricity as far as I can see.

LAVANDERA: They're mesmerized by the spinning blades.


LAVANDERA: Now, Rock Port residents haven't seen any relief in their electrical bill, at least, not yet. The hope is wind power will help keep energy prices from skyrocketing in the years ahead.

John and Kiran, back to you.

ROBERTS: Ed Lavandera for us there.

And here's more in an "AM Extra." If you want to harness the wind to power your home, turbines typically cost about $6,000 to $22,000. They'll be substantially smaller than the ones that you saw in Ed's report, though.

And they usually lower electricity bills by 60 percent to 90 percent, depending on your location and the strength of the wind at your home, and the consistency with which it blows. Wind system has earned back the cost of equipment in anywhere from six to 15 years.


CHETRY: Wachovia Bank under investigation over auction rate security sales. Find out if you're money is involved. Our CNN personal finance editor Gerri Willis will come on to explain.

Also, it's Rob Marciano. He is in the weather center for us this morning.

Hey, did you see the office guy who is like taking your spot yesterday?


CHETRY: We're all expecting Rob Marciano to pop up, and next thing we know, there he is from the office, Rain Wilson.

MARCIANO: Listen, the guy has many talents and those are the kind that scares me. Our job is always in jeopardy. You got to look over your shoulder for sure.

We're looking at this off of the southeast coast of Georgia and the Carolinas. If you live in that area, you're going to want to stick around. AMERICAN MORNING will be right back.


CHETRY: Well, the only time it's fun to see fat guys in bathing suits is during a belly flop contest. I wouldn't call that guy fat. The 12th Annual Water World Belly Flop contest took place in Denver yesterday.

Diver slaps (INAUDIBLE) belly first -- ouch -- in the pursuit of the biggest splash. The event raised money for the Firefighter Cancer Foundation and certainly generated a good time for a lot of people out there watching. Maybe not as much fun for the guys actually doing it. You know, ouch.

That was a good one, huh, Rob?


CHETRY: Down the belly flop contest. The only time I ever belly flopped was terrified to dive off the high dive so I belly flopped on accident. MARCIANO: That would be good video. I'd like to see that.

CHETRY: That was from years ago, Rob. Years ago, you don't want to see that old stuff.

ROBERTS: Sometimes you just got to take the plunge. Don't try to stop it. Thanks, Rob. We'll see you again soon.

A huge bank on the hot seat. Investigators from six states showed up at Wachovia's headquarters and seized documents. Could your funds be frozen? You're watching the "Most News in the Morning."

And Barack Obama heading overseas to Europe in the Middle East this month. After months of prodding his rival to make the trip, John McCain now has a problem. We will tell you what it is. You're watching the "Most News in the Morning."


ROBERTS: Everybody's working for the weekend. And of course, CNN works right through the weekend for you.

Big banking news this morning. Investigators from six states showed up unannounced to Wachovia's headquarters because of what they call questionable business practices. They hold off internal documents and now some funds are frozen. What's it all about? And are your investments at risk?

Our personal finance editor Gerri Willis joins us now to unravel it all.

So, why do they go there?

GERRI WILLIS, CNN PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR: Complicated story. Here's what's going on. Essentially Wachovia is just one of many players in what they call this auction rate market. It's a $330 billion market. And what's going on here? You've heard about the credit crunch. Well, this is what's happening.

The credit crunch is freezing markets like this auction rate market. And this you hear worthy securities as safe as brokerages said they were. Wachovia as I said was just one of many in this business, but there are big questions about whether they were correctly sold or not.

Now, the investigators came in, they asked for interviews, they wanted documents particularly marketing documents to find out just how these things were sold. Were they sold as equivalent to money market funds or as good as cash? That would imply -- hey, there's no risk here and, in fact, the market isn't even working right now.

ROBERTS: You know, my knowledge of the financial securities industry would fit into a space about that big. So, what are these auction rates securities and why are they being scrutinize?

WILLIS: Well, you know, Wall Street is always coming up with new investments, right? And this is one of those quasi new investments. Basically, it works this way.

People want to raise debt, especially municipalities, your city, your town, even people who lend money for college students went out and issued these auction rate securities. The interest rate return on these was reset every week, every month. That's what made them different. That's why they were so interesting. The rates were set in an auction environment.

But guess what? The credit crunch came along and the entire market seized up. These people were unable to get their money out. People are very upset. And now, you've got lots of complaints to regulators and regulators are acting, doing the kind of thing they did at Wachovia.

Now, the bank for its part has this to say about what's going on. I want to share that with you now. They say many securities firms including Wachovia are responding to inquires from regulators about the auction rate securities industry.

They're saying it's not just us, hey, there are lots of other folks out there who are being impacted. And I want to say here, what's interesting, I think is that these securities are being issued by maybe your town, your city. Somebody who's loaning to your child for a college loan. If they can't do business, that creates problems.

ROBERTS: Yes, all right. So, how long is this going to take to shake out?

WILLIS: Well, this is actually been ongoing for sometime. There have been other banks in the news. I think we're going to have to wait and see just how this all shakes out. If the credit crunch were to ease, I think this market too would return to normal. But we're seeing lots of problems in lots of markets. Mortgage back securities all come grinding to a halt because of this credit crunch.

ROBERTS: And one more reason to wake up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night. Gerri, thanks so much for that.

And don't forget to join Gerri tomorrow for "Open House," tomorrow, 9:30 Eastern, right here on CNN. Of course, "ISSUE #1" today at noon.

CHETRY: And you're watching the "Most News in the Morning." A rough landing for one sky diver. But this time, the guy with the parachute wasn't the one walking away injured after he barreled into a military band performing. We're going to show you what happened, next.

Also, Barack Obama making a hop across the pond. He'll be in Europe and the Middle East next week facing some challenges as well as new criticism from John McCain's camp. We'll tell you what's being said.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CONAN O'BRIEN, HOST, "LATE NIGHT WITH CONAN O'BRIEN": Barack Obama taking a huge trip. Media talking about this. Barack Obama is planning a trip to visit Iraq and several other Middle East countries. Yes, Obama said he's excited about the trip mainly because he's looking forward to meeting other people named Barack Obama. Yes.


CHETRY: Laughs there from Conan O'Brien regarding Barack Obama's Europe and Mid-East tour next week. Barack Obama facing some challenges, though, on his upcoming trip to Iraq and Afghanistan. At the same time, he is getting some criticism from the John McCain camp.

Joining me now from New York's "Air America" liberal radio talk show host, Mike Papantionio. Good to see you this morning.

Also with us from Los Angeles, Larry Elder, a conservative host on "KABC Talk" radio. Larry, great to have you with us, as well.


CHETRY: So, Mike, let me start with you. The McCain campaign is criticizing Barack Obama for not making any recent trips to Iraq. Then he announces he is making a trip, and McCain is also criticizing him for saying -- well, you're coming out with policy before you've actually been there.

So, should Barack Obama have waited until this trip is over to talk Iraq policy?

MIKE PAPANTIONIO, LIBERAL RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Not at all. One thing for sure when he goes to Iraq, if you remember when McCain went to the Middle East, he didn't know the difference between a Sunni, a Shiite, and a Snickers bar. He had Lieberman talking to in his ear. Every time, he made a mistake, it almost looked like they were filming the movie Mr. Bean Goes to Iraq.

And so, I think you're going to see a different kind of candidate here. You know, when McCain talks about the Middle East, he talks about the 100-year war. He talks about the need to invade Iran. He talks about the need to invade Syria. It's old dinosaur Republican talk. It's the same stuff we've lived with for eight years under this GOP.

So, McCain looks exactly like George Bush. Obama is going to look very different. And that should scare McCain to be quite frankly.

CHETRY: Well, let me ask, Larry. Should just a slip of the tongue by McCain throw into question everything he may or may not know about foreign policy?

ELDER: Well, I don't know how to start with what he just now said. Your question now is -- should Barack Obama be going and of course he should be going. The one area where John McCain out polls him is in the area of national security. And so, Barack Obama needs to shore that up. But if you want to talk about gaffe, Barack Obama has made a number of them. He did not realize that Arabic is not the primary language spoke in Afghanistan and said that our translators from Iraq should be moved there.

He said that Iran was not a threat and the next day he said that it was a threat. He changed his position on the disposition of Israel. He has changed his position on whether or not all options in dealing with Iran should remain on the table including the military option. At one time, he said, it shouldn't. Then he said it should.

He criticized Senator Clinton for saying that the Iranian Republican Guard was not a terror organization, then he said it was a terror organization. So, there's been lots of mistakes that Barack Obama has made.

CHETRY: All right. On both sides, you're right. You guys can point out those different things. But let's talk about some of the bigger issues.

Larry, one of them is the fact that McCain made much of the fact that Barack Obama didn't go overseas. Now he is and he's going to be really dominating the news cycle, if you will. The three evening anchors are all going -- from the networks are going over there.

ELDER: That's right.

CHETRY: So, was this a miscalculation on McCain camp's part?

ELDER: Well, no. The media is absolutely in love with Barack Obama. And you're right. John McCain goes over there and the heavy weights don't go. In this case, you have Katie Couric going over there. You got Brian Williams going over there. You have Charles Gibson going over there. And they are treating Barack Obama like he is a rock star. And that this is a major media event.

Life isn't fair, politics aren't fair, and Barack Obama is a phenomenon right now.

PAPANTIONIO: Yes. Well, the difference -- Kiran, the difference is Obama has charisma. He works well in front of a camera. People want to listen to Obama because he has progressive ideas. He's not living in the turn of the century.

Look, every time McCain gets in front of a camera, he's talking about cold war policy, old war hawk ideas that Bush embraced. So, look, can I tell you something, if I were a newsman following a candidate, I would want to be in front of Obama, not in McCain. It's just more interesting.

McCain has no charisma. And so, that's part of the problem that elder can't get his hands around. But, the truth is that's just the reality of the news. ELDER: Well, look, the news job is not to follow somebody because they have charisma. Presumably is to give us information so that we can decide for whom to vote. The "New York Times" published a study and from June, 114 minutes from the three major networks were devoted to Barack Obama. Less than half of that was devoted to John McCain. I agree with you.

PAPANTIONIO: You know, what, Larry -- Larry --

ELDER: May I finish, please? May I finish, please? Obama has a lot more charisma, you are absolutely right. But the issue is whether or not it is fair to cover Barack Obama to a much greater degree than John McCain when voters are trying to make a very important decision. And I would argue that a journalist's job is to cover the news and not to report based on popularity.

PAPANTIONIO: The American public is tired of rehashed George Bush. That's all McCain is. So, now you're complaining that they're covering a candidate that actually knows the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite. A candidate that can actually pronounce the names of the people he's talking to when he goes to the Middle East.

Look, here's the problem. Soccer moms are terrified of John McCain. It gives the impression of Dr. Strange Love in front of the A-bomb ready to push the button any time somebody says something that he doesn't want to hear. The media doesn't want to talk about that. The media wants to talk about something uplifting. And I got to tell you something, that's what Obama offers.

CHETRY: Well, here at CNN, we're covering both of the candidates, of course. And I think both of you for your view points this morning. A lot of good discussion going on today with Mike Papantionio and Larry Elder.

Always great to see you, two -- John.

ROBERTS: A lot of good discussions this morning. Just about half past the hour now. And some of the stories we're following for you.

A South African spreader who's a double amputee has failed in his bid to make the country's Olympic team for the Beijing games. Oscar Pastorias who's also known as the Blade Runner, failed to qualify in the 400 meters and was left off the 1,600 relay team. He had spent months battling Olympic officials for the right to compete with able- bodied athletes. Ultimately winning that appeal, but failing at his ultimate quest there.

The Food and Drug Administration lifting its Salmonella warning on all kinds of fresh tomatoes. But consumers are still being warned to avoid hot peppers like jalapenos and serranos. Investigators say they still did not know what caused the nationwide Salmonella outbreak but it does appear to be slowing. Since April, more than 1,200 people in 42 states have gotten sick.

A New Orleans levee is leaking and an engineer says the Army Corps of engineers is not doing enough about it. Water has been seeping through the levee on the 17th Street Canal apparently for months despite $22 million in repairs. The Army Corps says it's not a threat and the walls are still sturdy, but a local civil engineer says the Corps never really completed the investigation.

U.S. soldiers' lives on the line in Iraq. But this time it's not insurgents to blame. The "New York Times" is reporting shoddy electrical work by private contractors in Iraq is widespread and causing more deaths and injuries at U.S. bases than the government has previously acknowledged. CNN's Barbara Starr is live at the Pentagon with details on this for us this morning. Barbara, people are wondering, how many people have been affected and how did this happen in the first place?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, CNN has been reporting this for some months now. Now according to Army statistics, 15 troops have been electrocuted in Iraq. And there have been a number of other incidents. A lot of it they say is due to shoddy contractor work on these facilities. Many of which are very old. They date back to the era of Saddam Hussein. And the contractors are supposed to, of course, be upgrading it. But in some cases absolute tragedy has struck. One case Staff Sergeant Ryan (Mesa), he stepped into a shower to take a shower at his housing quarters in Baghdad and was electrocuted. Shoddy workmanship and old equipment was found to blame in that case.

Now the D.O.D. inspector general and the Army's criminal investigation division are looking into all of this. And there's growing pressure from Capitol Hill to get these contractors and the Army to make a full inventory of what's going wrong and to fix it. John.

ROBERTS: A lot of people looking for answers on that. Barbara Starr for us this morning from the Pentagon. Barbara, thanks.

CHETRY: Alina Cho joins us now with some other stories new this morning. Good morning, Alina.

ALINA CHO, CNN, CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning again. Good morning, everybody. New this morning a critic of this terror watch list is now on it himself. And he's our own Special Investigation Unit correspondent Drew Griffin. Now, Drew aired a series of reports that were critical of the TSA, and then he started getting stopped at airports across the country. The agency says there's no way the two things are linked. But it got the attention of democrat Sheila Jackson Lee during a House hearing. She had this to say to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.


REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D), TEXAS: We understand that a new member is on the watch list, Drew Griffin of CNN. And my question is why would Drew Griffin's name come on the watch list post his investigation of TSA? What a curious and interesting and troubling phenomena. What is the basis of this sudden recognition that Drew Griffin is a terrorist? Are we targeting people because of their critique or criticism?

MICHAEL CHERTOFF, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: Actually, the data base that you're talking about is really maintained by the Department of Justice. It is not my understanding that the reporter was put on. He may share the name with someone who was put on. And if he has a complaint about it, he ought to refer it over to the I.G.


CHO: Well, Jackson Lee is calling for an investigation into the matter. Drew's name, by the way is one of an estimated one million on the terror watch list.

A dramatic video of a sky diver after he loses control of his parachute and slams feet first into a military band at a reported 50 miles per hour.

Can you imagine? It happened during an opening ceremony in Ft. Riley in Kansas. Three band members were injured. One of them was knocked unconscious and suffered a fractured jaw. The sky diver said he veered off course after his parachute lines got tangled.

And Americans reaching an unwelcome milestone. One out of every four adults is obese. According to the Center for Disease Control, Mississippi tips the scales as the fattest state for fourth year in a row, weighing in close behind, Alabama, Tennessee, West Virginia and Louisiana all with more than 30 percent rates. Colorado is still the fittest state. New York ranks 19th, and Georgia home to our world headquarters is 14th.

All this talk makes me sit on the couch and watch a little TV, doesn't it? Actually get on the bike and exercise. That's what we should all be doing.

CHETRY: That's right. Of course.

ROBERTS: Watch that little TV in front of the treadmill. That's a good thing.

CHO: Between 6:00 and 9:00 a.m. Eastern.

CHETRY: Yes. Exactly on this channel.

Well, he made it around the world. Now, one man has a new challenge. The pilot who's pushing kids to build their grades while helping them build a new airplane. You're watching the most news in the morning.


CHETRY: Some of the stories we're following for you right now in the CNN news grid. John McCain talking about the need for electric cars today. In a little less than three weeks, he's going to be holding a town hall meeting where General Motors is designing a new plug-in car. McCain will also present his plan to help the struggling auto industry. And a fund raising Friday for President Bush. He's in Tucson, Arizona. He is raising money for the Republican National Committee. And also state Senator Tim (Bee), who is running for a House seat against a democratic incumbent.

Then it's on to Houston for another GOP fundraiser and then on to his ranch in Crawford, Texas.

And it's going to be a big weekend for Batman, the latest film "The Dark Knight" opens tonight and already it's getting huge buzz. There have been more than 3,000 early morning showings. Many say this film, which stars Christian Bale and the late Heath Ledger could surpass "Spiderman 3's" opening weekend record. That was $151 million. John.

ROBERTS: So the economy is bad and you lost your job, that's the bad news. Now, the good news, this could be a thrilling new beginning to the next phase of your life. Here's CNN's Ted Rowlands.


TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John and Kiran, getting laid off can be a very traumatic experience, but some people say it's the best thing that ever happened to them.

ROWLANDS (voice-over): Kitty Wiemelt says she wouldn't be fly fishing on a weekday morning with her husband Jerry if she hadn't been laid off, not once, not twice, but three separate times.

KITTY WIEMELT, AUTHOR "LAID OFF? DON'T STRESS": It's an awesome life because I have been able to have some control.

ROWLANDS: Wiemelt said she gained that control by reinventing herself after losing her job. Instead of looking for another marketing job in the medical field, she started her own consulting firm. She always wanted to be a public speaker. So she joined Toastmasters. And now she gets paid to speak on a number of subjects, including getting laid off. And she authored a book. "Laid off, don't stress. How to get from mad to glad." A compilation of success stories after job loss. Lynne Behringer's story is in the book. She was laid off after working for the phone company for 23 years. Her first job out of school.

LYNNE BEHRINGER, OWNER, TEETER HOUSE: It was the best thing that ever happened to me.

ROWLANDS: Behringer said she always wanted to be a chef, so she went to culinary school, and now nine years later, Behringer owns the "Teeter house," a quaint authentic Phoenix tea house.

BEHRINGER: It's hard. No doubt about it. It's very hard. But it's very rewarding.

ROWLANDS: Both women say getting laid off changed their lives for the better. And both have similar advice for people who lose a job. BEHRINGER:: This is not your fault, first of all. And don't despair, think about what you really like to do in your life. And maybe you can make a career out of it.

WIEMELT: If you wouldn't have been pushed out of that job, maybe you would have never looked at anything else. But here you have an opportunity to think what do I really, really want to do?


ROWLANDS: Both women say if you get laid off, tell as many people as you can about it. Don't be embarrassed because the more people that know you need a job, the better chance is you'll get one. Kiran, John.

ROBERTS: Ted Rowlands for us this morning. Ted, thanks.

A new report says one in four of us consider ourselves to be overweight. But there is an easy way to drop the pounds if you keep an eye on those nutrition labels. We'll show you what to look for that's ahead.


CHETRY (voice-over): Talk about an awkward moment.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you have an opinion on that?

CHETRY: Our Jeanne Moos has her own unique take on Senator John McCain's uncomfortable moment on the campaign trail. You're watching the most news in the morning.


CHETRY: A great shot of our studio this morning over some Tom Petty. Welcome back to the most news in the morning. You know, some special students in Florida have been given a high flying challenge. They built up their grades and then they get a chance to build their own airplane. And as CNN's John Zarrella shows us, they're certainly up to the task. John.

JOHN ZARRELLA, CORRESPONDENT: John, Kiran, this airplane behind me is being built by teenagers who in some cases never touched an airplane before. The program is the brain child of a young man who himself made history when he flew solo around the world.


ZARRELLA (voice-over): You can usually find high school student Julio Belizaire working under the fuselage at Miami Executive Aviation. A few months ago, Julio wasn't sure what he wanted to do with his life. Now he's thinking about a degree in Avionics.

JULIO BELIZAIRE, HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT: God has made miracle happened and just opened big doors for me. ZARRELLA: Julio is one of 60 students, many had never been around an airplane before. Now, they are building one. Today, the wings are going on.

BELIZAIRE: Are you sure it's on properly? You sure?

ZARRELLA: It better been, when the plane is finished, Barrington Irving is going to fly it.

BELIZAIRE: So this landing gear is held by a bungee cord.

ZARRELLA: Last year, Irving made history as the first black pilot and the youngest person at 23 to fly solo around the world in his plane Inspiration. It took three months. Irving says he came up with what he named the Building Soar Program during the long hours flying. By bringing up and keeping up their grades, students from Miami-Dade schools were chosen to build Barrington's plane.

RAYSHAWN JONES, HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT: Challenges like this is something that a lot of people don't believe that we can't do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can pushing them and pushing them to see what they have inside of them.

ZARRELLA: Instructors skeptical at first say the teens proved them wrong.

NILDA NIJBORG-GARCIA: All you have to do is guide them, show them and they're ready to start.

ZARRELLA: The plane should be ready to fly October 1st. Irving has named it Inspiration II.

In only its first year, the program has been so successful that Barrington Irving needs more space to accommodate more students. Because right now he's turning kids away.

John, Kiran.


ROBERTS: John Zarrella, this morning with a great story. John, thanks so much.

CNN NEWSROOM just minutes away now. Tony Harris at the CNN Center with a look at what's ahead. Good morning to you, Tony. You've got wings this morning.

TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Absolutely, Good Friday to you, John. We got a lot going on in the NEWSROOM for you today. Politician performs on the world stage, the possible risks and rewards of Barack Obama's overseas trip.

How she got the story, our Betty Nguyen gets around government check points to report on the devastation in Myanmar. And granny teaches a lesson. Thieves learn the hard way. Wow. Brianna Keilar is with me. We get started at the top of the hour on CNN. John, have a great weekend.

ROBERTS: I will, thank you very much. Same to you, sir. Looking forward to your show coming up.

A new study says one in four Americans is obese. But there's hope, you can shed the weight by doing the math. We're "Paging Dr. Gupta" this morning. Good morning, Sanjay.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: John, we're not asking people to change the world here. People still look at the show all the time and say diets don't work. So what does? We're traveling around the country to figure it out. We're going to have it for you, coming up on AMERICAN MORNING.


CHETRY: Top videos right now on, the most popular right now is jumping the shark. Photographer snapping. He was actually taking photos of surfers and saw something in the background. Looking a little closer, yes, it really was a shark that leapt out of the water right near one of the surfers. This was off the coast of ((inaudible)), Florida. The shark didn't bite anyone. In fact, the surfers say they didn't even know he was there. Our John Zarrella checked it out and the picture is legit.

ROBERTS: Yes. Unlike the great white shark attack with a guy coming off the helicopter, that's fake.

CHETRY: That's photoshopped.

ROBERTS: Also, Dwight Shrute does the weather. The guy from the show "The Office" rain Wilson stopped by the CNN Weather Center in Atlanta and did the forecast during NEWSROOM. He says he's always wanted to do the weather forecast for CNN.

CHETRY: There he is. He did a pretty good job, as well.

Well, tracking speeders with a toy. One 11-year-old getting drivers in his neighborhood to slow down. He's using a toy radar gun he bought at a yard sale. Landon Wilburn says he hopes to be a cop one day. In the meantime, I'm sure his neighbors are just thrilled. We'll be right back.


ROBERTS: 51 minutes after the hour, obesity on the rise again. New numbers out this week from the Centers for Disease Control show more than one in four adults are obese. Are all those diets just not working? We're paging our Dr. Sanjay Gupta, our chief medical correspondent. He's live in Los Angeles for us this morning. Good early morning to you, Sanjay.

GUPTA: Good morning to you, as well, John. We are so committed to this issue about obesity and childhood obesity because we believe this is a fixable problem, 66 percent of the adults in this nation either overweight or obese. It didn't use to be this way? So, how did we get here? And more importantly what can be done about it? Our goal is to pair you up with successful partners. Take a look at one guy we met in Dallas.


GUPTA (voice-over): Sujit Bhattacharya was always thin. But a busy job and eating unhealthy on the run eventually caught up with him.

I was living happily and blissfully ignorant about the fact that I was becoming overweight and unhealthy.

GUPTA: Bhattacharya feared he wouldn't be around to watch his daughters grow up. So he decided to make a change. He began counting calories. And it paid off.

BHATTACHARYA: I have a budget for how many calories I have. I can spend it on Hershey bars, I can have few Hershey bars and eat an intelligent lunch. I was able to lose a pound every three days. It's quite gradually eating smart and then the weight would come just right off.

GUPTA: And he no longer uses a busy lifestyle as an excuse.

BHATTACHARYA: We all get busy in our day-to-day lives and we forget simple things about eating right and exercising. But I'm still just as busy as I was back before I was heavy.

GUPTA: Sujit says it's all about making small changes.

BHATTACHARYA: I went from a two percent glass of milk to a one percent glass of milk. If you look at the calorie difference, that's 20 calories. But is you do that once a day over a year that's 7,000 calories. That's two pounds you've lost in a year by doing almost nothing to your lifestyle.

My name is Sujit Bhattacharya and I lost 40 pounds.


GUPTA: You know, it goes back to that same concept, John. Not asking people to change the world, just some simple changes and he lost so much weight there as you can see.

ROBERTS: These are just great inspirational stories that you're bringing us, Sanjay. Where else is this "Fit Nation" tour headed?

GUPTA: Well, tonight in a few hours I'm flying to Seattle. We're going to be in Minneapolis, we're going to Columbus, Ohio. We're going to be close to you in New York, as well. We started in Dallas. We're in New Orleans the week before that. So we're really trying to crisscross the country here. Again, trying to get off the television, get into these communities, and figure out what works. ROBERTS: All right. There's no question as to why you stay so slim. You're always on the move. Sanjay, thanks so much.

GUPTA: Thanks, John.

ROBERTS: And don't forget for more "Fit Nation" in the week's medical headlines tune into "House Call with Dr. Sanjay Gupta" at 8:30 a.m. Eastern Saturdays and Sundays.


CHETRY (voice-over): Talk about an awkward moment.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you have any take on that?

CHETRY: Our Jeanne Moos has her own unique take on Senator John McCain's uncomfortable moment on the campaign trail. You're watching the most news in the morning.


CHETRY: Well, as campaign moments go, it was one of the most awkward for John McCain. He was struggling to respond to a question about whether insurance -- why insurance covers Viagra, but not birth control.

ROBERTS: Well, maybe the cat got his tongue, but apparently didn't get his hand. Here's CNN Jeanne Moss with that.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is what they call glad handing. And this is what we call bad handing.


MOOS: Q & A so bad you have to hand behind your hand. So bad, your mood is imitative.

JONATHAN CAPEHART, "WASHINGTON POST": You've got to have an answer, you can't do this.

MOOS: So bad that Planned Parenthood has now turned the exchange into an anti-McCain commercial.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ever use birth control? Then you'll want to hear this.

It's unfair health insurance companies cover Viagra, but not birth control. Do you have an opinion on that?

MOOS: For eight seconds Senator McCain said nothing. Critics dubbed it his Viagra moment. A politician rendered speechless. Squirms and winces, froze, agonized, and a week after it happened, still haunted by impotent performance, haunted by the new commercial which the Republican National Committee called a misleading partisan attack.

MOOS (on-camera): Allow me to introduce you to the latest character in the '08 campaign. John McCain's hand. A hand mocked on "The Daily Show."

JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART": John McCain's face is being attacked by the hand of a prehistoric monster. I'm being told that is, in fact, John McCain's own hand. I thought of this.

MOOS: Hand, we asked body language expert and author Dan Hill to analyze.

VOICE OF DAN HILL, BODY LANGUAGE EXPERT: He puts his hand across his mouth as if to protect himself from telling a lie. Because normally, you know, a child says did I steal the cookie? No, mom, I did not. They put their hand over their mouth.

MOOS: It's almost as if McCain had a mind of its own. A little like that ever so handy hand from the Adams family. Do you remember "Thing"?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thing, you're a handful.

MOOS: A handful is what you'd call the question that combines both birth control and Viagra. We won't even attempt any Viagra jokes about Senator McCain. We'll let Arianna Huffington do that.

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON, "THE HUFFINGTON POST": Because he has such a passion for Iraq. That's his Viagra. Yes.

MOOS: Likewise getting laughs were Jon Stewart's imitations of McCain's most awkward moments. Check out Senator McCain's hand-eye coordination.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you have an opinion on that?

MOOS: The Senator's eyes look like he's just seen "Thing" run across the floor. Jeannie Moos, CNN, New York.


ROBERTS: That's the great thing about these election campaigns, they provide so all sorts of moments that you can sort of chew on. Remember Barack Obama bowling?

CHETRY: That's right.

ROBERTS: That didn't work out so well.

CHETRY: No, it didn't. Ad Jeanne Moos is always there to capture it. If you're a candidate, watch out. Well, thanks so much for being with us. We hope you have a wonderful weekend but keep watching CNN.

ROBERTS: Yes. Absolutely. Yes. We'll see you back here again on Monday morning. Right now, here's CNN NEWSROOM with Tony Harris and Brianna Keilar.

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

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Brianna Keilar, in for Heidi Collins. You'll see events come into the news room live on this Friday morning, July 18th.

Here's what's on the rundown.

Mom goes for a jog and never comes back. This hour police reveal the latest in a murder investigation.

HARRIS: Rescue on the street by lifeboat. This is not your normal flood. 44 inches of rain in one day.

KEILAR: And overseas campaign swing, Barack Obama pushing off, John McCain pushing back in the NEWSROOM.

HARRIS: This hour, a mother of two murdered. Police searching for answers, we expect an update any minute now from authorities in North Carolina about the Nancy Cooper case.