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AMERICAN MORNING

Clinton Supporters Push for a Spot on Obama's Ticket; President Bush Condemns Bombings in Georgia; Trouble Down on the Farm; John Edwards' Political Career in Shambles

Aired August 11, 2008 - 08:00   ET

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


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Well, the "Most Politics in the Morning."
Now, John McCain kicks off two days of campaigning through Pennsylvania today. This morning, he'll hold a town hall meeting with employees of the GE plant in Erie. McCain will tour with former Pennsylvania governor, Tom Ridge. He's one of the names believe to be on McCain's VP short list.

Meantime, Senator Barack Obama says he will announce his VP candidate by text message and email. That announcement came via Twitter. It's a Web-based social messaging tool. Obama has embraced the quick and easy communication, even building a database of supporters by asking them to send text messages to the campaign.

And the Democratic National Committee has announced its line-up for its convention speakers confirming what CNN first reported last month that Hillary Clinton will speak Tuesday, August 26th, while Michelle Obama will speak the night before, Monday, August 25th. And Wednesday night will feature the still undecided vice presidential candidate.

Meantime, several of Hillary Clinton's supporters are sticking with the New York senator. In fact, pushing to get her named as Barack Obama's vice president. And CNN's Jim Acosta tells us they say it could be Obama's only chance to win a key battleground state -- Jim.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John and Kiran, here in Pennsylvania there are doubts Barack Obama can win this critical state without Hillary Clinton on the ticket. Much of that concern is coming from Clinton supporters who refused to give up their dream of the so- called dream team.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): She's gone from front-runner to underdog to now --

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you all!

ACOSTA: An apparent long shot to become Barack Obama's running mate. But one of Hillary Clinton's top national surrogates, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, still making the case. GOV. ED RENDELL (D), PENNSYLVANIA: I don't know any other talked about contender who would have an impact in anything more than one state. Senator Clinton would have an impact in 10 or 15 states and could make the difference in those states.

ACOSTA: With Clinton on the ticket, Rendell insists Obama would have an ace in the hole when it comes to those crucial blue collar workers.

And if she's not on the ticket here in Pennsylvania, not a sure thing for Barack Obama?

RENDELL: Not a sure thing, but we'll fight to make it so. If you lose all the great ideas, all the wonderful rhetoric doesn't amount to a hill of beans. You've got to win.

CLINTON: What will happen at the convention --

ACOSTA: As that recent YouTube video of Clinton revealed, many of her supporters are not just holding out hope for vice president.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Vice president.

CLINTON: Well, you know, we're trying to work that out.

ACOSTA: They're demanding a chance to cast their vote for the New York senator at the convention. A key Clinton delegate in Pennsylvania says it's the least she deserves.

CONNIE WILLIAMS, PA CLINTON DELEGATE: I'd like to be able to cast my vote on the floor in the roll call, and I really hope there's going to be a roll call. I think it would be --

ACOSTA: At the convention?

WILLIAMS: Yes, I'm a delegate. That would go a long way to some of the frustration that many of her supporters have.

ACOSTA: Feminist blogger Gloria Felt says Obama needs to find a way, some way to honor Clinton's historic run.

GLORIA FELT, HEARTFELDT POLITICS BLOG: He cannot win unless he attracts all of those 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling that Hillary Clinton talked about.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: If Clinton doesn't get the nod, her supporters will be keeping a close eye on how she's treated at the upcoming convention. Their message to Obama, this at your own risk -- John and Kiran.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Jim Acosta for us this morning. Jim, thanks.

And back to the breaking news out of Georgia this morning. President Bush this morning says that Russia's response has been, quote, "disproportionate." And he is strongly condemning the bombings there.

CNN's Frederik Pleitgen is live this morning in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi.

Fred, we heard just a little while ago that Georgia's foreign minister who is hosting France's foreign minister Bernard Kouchner, the two of them together had to take cover. Do we know what's going on with that?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. And there was also another incident when the President Saakashvili and Kouchner also were taking coverage. Not actually clear what was happening there. We do know that that incident happened in a town called Gori which is only a few miles away from Southern Ossetia.

That of course, that breakaway province where a lot of this fighting has been going on. Now, we're not exactly sure why Saakashvili and why the others were taking cover. Maybe that there might have been an air attack on that city.

Certainly, we have been hearing from the authorities here in Georgia that there have been several attacks on Gori in the past couple of hour. Air raids on Gori, but also artillery and tank attacks on that city.

In fact, the Georgian troops here and the Georgian authorities here are telling us, and were telling us, that the Russian military had tried to start an offensive against Gori trying to take that city, but that Georgian forces had repelled that attack.

Now, the Russians for their part denied that. They said they did not try to take Gori, but certainly the Georgian said that they have seen substantial bombing in that city. And that could be an explanation for why those officials were rushed into their cars and forced to take cover -- John.

ROBERTS: And Fred, what's the situation there now in the capital of Tbilisi? We know that a couple of hours ago the Georgian President Saakashvili had to cut short a conference call with reporters because he said his palace was being bust by Russian bombers?

PLEITGEN: Absolutely. I was on that conference call with the Georgian president. He was saying, he had to go now because his country is under attack. Later they clarified that apparently Georgian radar had picked up Russian fighter planes moving towards the city of Tbilisi, and he had just felt that he had to leave that location and take cover immediately.

Now, what I can tell you is that there had been air attacks here on Tbilisi in the past couple of days, in the past couple of hours. Yesterday in the late afternoon hours, I was actually at one site that was bombed while we were there. We were about 500 yards away from where a bomb that was thrown from a Russian fighter bomber hit a site there.

The Georgians say that bombing is ongoing. The Russians say they are only bombing strategically important military sites. Certainly, the Georgians are telling us that there are civilian site being bombed as well -- John.

ROBERTS: All right. Fred Pleitgen for us this morning in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi. Fred, stay safe.

We should also mention, too, that our correspondent Matthew Chance is in that city of Gori where Fred was saying all of that violence has been taking place. We'll check in with him a little bit later on -- Kiran.

CHETRY: All right. Thanks.

Well, a shortage of doctors, actually a specific type of doctor. Find out why it's harder and harder to find a vet.

Plus, going for gold and big bucks at the Olympics. Look at the advertising frenzy that's waiting for the winner.

ROBERTS: The fuel that grows on trees.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These are chunk full of oil.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: It's not fantasy land. It's Florida. Susan Candiotti introduces us to Jatropha.

You're watching the "Most News in the Morning."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Well, welcome back to the "Most News in the Morning."

Scientists are one step closer to turning a Harry Potter fantasy into reality. Researchers at UCal-Berkeley are working on a cloak of invisibility. This is for real.

They were able to hide a three-dimensional object by redirecting light around it.

We'll show you pictures but you couldn't see it. It's invisible. The breakthrough could have brought applications apparently including military ones.

It's hide a tank. Let's just get Criss Angel out there in the battlefield. We'll make everything disappear.

CHETRY: I know. You know, how many times you say if I could be a fly on the wall in that situation. How about that?

ALI VELSHI, CNN SENIOR BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, right.

(CROSSTALK) VELSHI: This is what they use in Star Trek.

(CROSSTALK)

VELSHI: Right, the shrouding thing.

ROBERTS: Oh, that's what the Klingon.

VELSHI: Yes, yes. I like that. All right.

ROBERTS: Or was it the Romulans? Was it the Romulans or the Klingons that had the cloaking device?

CHETRY: You know what? I'm the wrong person to ask. I don't even know the hand signal.

ROBERTS: I could check this.

(CROSSTALK)

VELSHI: Yes. Well, there are days I'd like to cloak this barrel. But this isn't one of them. In fact, $115.20 is where oil settled on Friday evening. I should tell you, it's higher than that now. It's around $116. But that's actually substantially lower than it's been for a while.

And I think markets after a few days of seeing oil prices lower decided that they are really into this. They think if people aren't spending as much on gas, they're spending it elsewhere, which is why stocks have been doing fairly well.

Take a look at where the markets were on Friday. They ended up 2.7 percent higher on the Dow. 2.5 percent on the NASDAQ. And little less than that on the S&P 500. And right now, futures are looking very strong. Looking like a good day to today's markets.

The other thing is when oil goes down, we've discussed this, sometimes the U.S. dollar strengthens. And the U.S. dollar has been strengthening. We talked about it last week, but it's strengthening further.

You need $1.51 to buy a Euro, $1.92 to buy a British pound, $0.94 to buy a Canadian dollar. So, these are all relatively positive indicators right now. Again, it's been going on for a few days. Not yet a trend but useful to think about. Useful to think about your own plans with respect to gas, with respect to your 401(k)s and, of course, with respect to travel. I, of course, have blown that already on my trip.

I really thought I was being very smart not going to a Euro place, but for those of you who want to go to Europe, it's getting cheaper.

ROBERTS: More information on the cloaking device. Apparently, it was invented by the Romulans although common to Klingon Ship as well since the short-lived alliance with Romulus in the 2260s. Federation vessels agreed to forego use of cloaks under the Treaty of Algeron.

VELSHI: That's a good information.

CHETRY: He got that bookmark on a startrek.com, by the way.

VELSHI: That's good information for those of you who want to know about cloaking devices.

Hey, Rob.

CHETRY: Thanks, Ali.

Rob Marciano joins us at the weather center right now. Huge Star Trek fan, himself, and barely contain himself this morning.

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: No. I'm just soaking it all. It's very useful information. Fantastic stuff. I always learn something new working on AMERICAN MORNING. It's one of the joys of CNN.

Hey, we had some rough weather yesterday across parts of the northeast. We'll show you video of that, plus what's happening right now and the tropics are heating up as well. AMERICAN MORNING will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Just now turning 14 minutes after the hour. And our Rob Marciano is somewhere there in the big wall, there he is, with the weather forecast this morning.

And lots to talk about today, Rob?

(WEATHER REPORT)

ROBERTS: Again, Rob, as long as it's not too long. Because up here in the northeast, you know, summer is short enough as it is.

MARCIANO: You will be sweating before you know it.

ROBERTS: Appreciate it. All right, thanks, Rob.

CHETRY: This morning, John Edwards political career in shambles after denying the rumors. The former presidential candidate admits that he did have an affair. A look at the impact on the campaign trail.

ROBERTS: Help wanted --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A dirty, physical job.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: A shortage of veterinarians has farmers worried about their future.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're our lifeline.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: What it can mean for the food supply and you. You're watching the "Most News in the Morning."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: Some trouble down on the farm. The veterinary profession facing a huge shortfall that could put America's livestock in danger. And now, Congress is trying to help.

Here's Brianna Keilar.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John and Kiran, by 2025 the American Veterinary Medical Association expects the vet shortage to grow to 15,000, most of them large animal doctors.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR (voice-over): This is the classroom for Suzanne Gregory, a fourth year veterinary medicine student at Virginia Tech. She's helping Dr. John Curran (ph) do ultrasound on dairy cows.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right there is the baby.

SUZANNE GREGORY, VETERINARY MEDICINE STUDENT: Practicing as a veterinarian is a dirty, physical job, and it takes dedication because you have clients that are relying on you to be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

KEILAR: It was a natural choice for Suzanne. She comes from a family of farmers in Southern Virginia. But her fellow students are increasingly choosing to care for household pets instead, deterred by long hours, the rural location of jobs and modest pay.

A vet shortage could leave farmers like Marion Phillips without a central care for their livestock.

MARION PHILLIPS, FARMER: In most cases, they're our lifeline. If we do not have these vets out here, we would lose a lot of money to death of cows for different problems.

KEILAR: Congress has taken note as experts warn a vet shortage could also weaken the security of the nation's food supply against threats like foot and mouth disease or even cripple the nation's defenses against bioterrorism.

SEN. WAYNE ALLARD (R), COLORADO: Anthrax has been a long time disease that's been around for a long time and veterinarians are the ones that primarily had to deal with it. So, veterinarians are very familiar with these types of diseases. (END VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR: Colorado Senator Wayne Allard, a vet himself, sponsored legislation that gives grants to schools preparing large animal vet students for jobs in the public health sector.

It passed recently and so did the farm bill, which includes legislation that kick starts the program to forgive school loan debt for new vets who go to work in underserved rural areas. Many in the profession tell me these are steps in the right direction, but they say much more needs to be done -- John and Kiran?

CHETRY: Brianna, thanks.

And here's some more information now on veterinarians in an "AM Extra." There are about to 58,000 of them in private practice, but 77 percent work mostly with pets. Only about 9 percent work with farm animals. The median pay for both is about $80,000 to $90,000 -- John.

ROBERTS: Well, questions swirling this morning about John McCain, and whether he will make a one and done pledge at the party convention. Is it a good idea to seek just a single term, and should a candidate ever talk about serving just one?

And impeachment battle heats up in Pakistan. The government wants the president out, but he says he won't leave.

And Russia goes to war with a key U.S. ally. Shades of the cold war and a potential to impact everything from oil prices to the war in Iraq. A closer look at how the Pentagon is responding to the conflict.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: John Edwards and his affair with a woman who worked as a video producer for his campaign. It's the center of conversation in Washington. And joining me now to talk about the political aftershocks and much more political news, liberal radio talk show host Mike Papantonio and conservative radio talk show host Martha Zoller.

Good to see both of you this morning.

Mike, let me start with you. This Edwards story, does it have any coattails? He had endorsed Barack Obama. He maybe was going to appear at the Democratic convention. He's now not going to. And there are suggestions put out there today by some Republican writers that with all the opposition research that they've done on their opponents, that the Barack Obama campaign had to know that something was up with John Edwards?

MIKE PAPANTONIO, LIBERAL RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Well, you know, that may be true, but I really believe that this scandal could have a bigger effect on McCain. Here's why, John.

The press has given McCain a free pass on his affair during his first marriage. I mean, there has been no discussion about that. McCain has his biggest problem with women. Stories about him having an affair while his wife is recovering from horrible injuries in an accident, that doesn't play well with female voters.

ROBERTS: All right. But that was kind of forever ago, though. Wasn't it?

PAPANTONIO: Well, but you know what? That's the problem here, John. This kind of story makes those resurface. Again, the Vicky Iceman issue. McCain had a free pass on that. It resurfaces when you start talking about scandal.

ROBERTS: Martha --

PAPANTONIO: But look, let me just tell you this.

MARTHA ZOLLER, CONSERVATIVE RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: No, wait a minute. Let's not go back to ancient history. John McCain has dealt with it. His first wife came out and talked about it extensively. It's been talked about extensively. In books, he's taken responsibility. It's not anything new. It's been vetted.

As far as John Edwards goes, my biggest concern is the fact that this woman is coming along in the digital age. There's going to be e- mails, there's going to be pictures, and this story will have legs because of that.

ROBERTS: Right. But, you know,

PAPANTONIO: Well, I got --

ROBERTS: Go ahead, Mike.

PAPANTONIO: Yes, I've got to tell you something. There to be suggestion that the conduct of a man who's running for president having an affair with -- on his wife, who is in the hospital, injured with -- if you don't think females are going to react. But here's the point, Martha.

(CROSSTALK)

ZOLLER: I'm a female and I'm not reacting.

(CROSSTALK)

PAPANTONIO: Well, because you are a Republican right-wing talker.

(CROSSTALK)

ZOLLER: I respect how he handled it.

PAPANTONIO: Well, OK, but I do have to tell you this. It is going to resurface, whether you want it to resurface or not. It's already resurfacing on the Internet. Go on the Internet today and look at how these stories are coming back up.

(CROSSTALK)

ZOLLER: Well, we can't believe everything we read on the Internet.

ROBERTS: Well, let me ask you this question, Martha. Is there any reason for Republicans to try to exploit in some way what happened with John Edwards?

ZOLLER: No. I think the media is going to do a great job of doing it. I mean, they're going to be talking about it with no offense. I mean, it's a big 24-hour news cycle story. It's going to have great pictures that go along with it. The media is going to do it. Republicans aren't going to have to.

ROBERTS: Let me switch topics here.

PAPANTONIO: You know what?

ROBERTS: Let me switch topics here, if I could, Mike. I think we have probably spent enough time on that.

PAPANTONIO: OK.

ROBERTS: Big article coming out in the "Atlantic" magazine later on this week. Josh Green has got leaked campaign, e-mails and memos from the Hillary Clinton campaign. Our good colleague, Mike Allen, in the politico had a bit of a preview of it.

And here's what Mike wrote about that. Quote, he say, "Mark Penn, the top campaign strategist for Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign advised her to portray Barack Obama as having a "limited" connection to basic American values and culture."

Appears, Mike, that there was an awful lot of friction there, and perhaps more than we had first believed?

PAPANTONIO: Yes. Well, John, let's look at the source. First of all, Mark Penn almost single-handedly destroyed Hillary's victory chances in the way that he managed her campaign. Hillary wasted $20 million on this guy. Hillary needs to be very careful in the way she handles this. Unless she wants to end her political career for good.

If she thinks the Monica Lewinsky scandal hurt the Clinton name. If she goes and takes this information, tries to make it into something, and try to dismantle Obama's chances for presidency, her career is over.

But let's look at the substance. First of all, the substance is to say that Obama is disconnected from the American public. Here's a man -- how do you get a more American story than a story of a boy from a biracial marriage, a family so poor that on some days they have to decide whether they can buy food or get medical care? Whether they can buy food or pay for clothes?

Now, compare that to McCain who was born on third base. And tells everybody he hit a triple. So, which story has most appeal to the American public?

ROBERTS: Martha, let me ask you this question about this. Hillary Clinton is going to be the keynote speaker on Tuesday night at the Democratic National Convention.

The fact that this story is coming out just a couple of weeks before that convention takes place, will it have, you know, some carryover quality to it and, also, if Hillary Clinton's campaign was thinking about playing this card against Barack Obama, could we logically assume that John McCain's campaign may be, too?

ZOLLER: Well, the McCain campaign has been reluctant on these kinds of things. However, having the Clintons on Tuesday night and Wednesday night makes this more like a Clinton convention than an Obama convention. I don't think the Clintons have to come out and make these charges, but I think the Clintons may walk the walk as far as supporting Obama. May talk the talk but they won't walk the walk.

I think Hillary Clinton wants to run in 2012. So they have a vested interest in Barack Obama not being successful.

ROBERTS: All right. And what about this idea, too, Martha, that John McCain -- Rick Davis would not commit to this idea of serving one term? Some people have thought, hey, might be a good idea. Would be A-political type of White House. It would also satisfy concerns about his age.

But then, do you ever want to run for president and saying I'm only going to run for one term?

ZOLLER: Well, you know, we've had people say those things before and then decide to run for a second term. But I will say that as a person, I like that idea. I would love to see John McCain go out and say he would do one term, and then he would be this A-political kind of president.

However, you know, because -- it helps him in the middle, where he is strongest. It helps him with independents. You know, there's going to be 80 million people going to the polls in November that haven't voted yet. I mean, only 55 million people voted in the primaries.

So, I think it could be an appealing idea. Now, I don't think it's likely he's going to come out and say that. But as a person who watches politics, I think it would be an appealing idea.

ROBERTS: Mike, final quick word here.

PAPANTONIO: It looks like he's groveling. It looks like he's pleading. They know they have problems with his age. Here's the question. The truth is, no company in the world would hire a 72-year- old CEO with health problem whose says he's only going to be there a short period of time. Why should Americans hire this guy?

ROBERTS: All right. Folks, we got to go. Thanks very much.

ZOLLER: Thank you.

ROBERTS: And Mike, just back to what you were saying earlier. John McCain has acknowledged that there were problems in his first marriage, but there has been nothing talk about beyond that. So, we just want to make that absolutely clear. Thanks, folks, both.

ZOLLER: Thank you.

CHETRY: Breaking this morning, Russia expanding its bombing campaign in neighboring Georgia including targets near the presidential palace. Moscow is also blasting the United States for transporting Georgian troops from Iraq back to the region.

Meanwhile, Georgia's president Mikheil Saakashvili has signed off on a cease-fire agreement and is now urging Russia now to do the same.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRES. MIKHEIL SAAKASHVILI, GEORGIA: ... French government about immediate cease-fire. I agreed with every point. Moscow trying to commit the Russians to take the offer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: President bush heading back to the U.S. after his visit to the Olympic Games. While in China, President Bush spoke with the Chinese President Hu Jintao about the need to allow religious freedom.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In the long run, American better remain engaged with China and understand that we can have a cooperative and constructive and yet candid relationship. It's really important for future presidents to understand the relationship between China and the region and it's important to make sure that America is engaged with China. Even though we may have some disagreements.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: At least one protester killed and three dozen people hurt in clashes between Indian security forces and protesters over Kashmir. Tens of thousands of Muslims will march towards the north part of Kashmir to protest a blockade. Indian forces fired shots and tear gas shells into the crowd. Four officers were hurt when protesters hurled rocks at them.

And Pervez Musharraf will not resign despite the threat of impeachment, his spokesman says. This comes as Pakistan's coalition government starts the impeachment process today. Pakistan's ruling party is preparing a list of charges against President Musharraf including claims that he violated the country's constitution. State Department correspondent Zain Verjee joins us live now.

And how soon could we see an impeachment vote happen, Zain? ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well, it could take a while. The whole process could just be dragged out for weeks. Now, the sense we're getting from people in the region, Kiran, here is that this could basically be it for Musharraf. The pressure on him to go, is really rising. He does have a few options. The first thing he could do is try and block a two-thirds majority needed in parliament to get rid of him. But that momentum is really against him. The second thing he could do is just resign and avoid humiliation. He said that he's going to fight. The other thing he could do is use his powers as president and just dismiss the government. Fire the prime minister, hold new elections. But that's unlikely.

He, is also, it's also that the U.S. is not going to support that, and most importantly, Kiran, the Pakistani army, that's the real powerhouse in the country is not likely to back it.

CHETRY: Well, Zain, what about U.S. officials? What are they saying about the political turmoil in Pakistan and how it could affect U.S. relations?

VERJEE: Well, officials that we've spoke to are really worried that any kind of political chaos is really a distraction in fighting the war on terror. That's the number one priority. Fighting the Taliban and Al Qaeda and they are worried that those militants will take advantage. Now, the U.S. plan is basically just to let this process play out. They're saying this is an internal Pakistani process, but the U.S. is hoping that with or without Musharraf, that the new leaders can really focus on U.S. priorities.

If there is chaos, the Pakistani Army could step in, Kiran. And that would be a really dangerous development for the U.S., because what that would mean, would be that the army's eye would be off the frontier and off the battle against militants. And that's not good for the U.S.. Kiran.

CHETRY: Zain Verjee for us in Washington. Thanks.

ROBERTS: Breaking right now. World leaders trying to stop a war from expanding between Russia and a strong U.S. ally, Georgia. Georgia's pro-U.S. president signed a cease-fire offer this morning. He said that Russia had 500 tanks, and 25,000 troops inside his country and there are reports of new Russian bombing raids that are under way.

Georgian troops are leaving Iraq to join the Russian conflicts. Some 2,000 troops are heading home in American planes. The small nation is the third largest contributor to the coalition behind the U.S. and Great Britain. Our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr joins us with more on this.

I've seen these Georgian troops. They operate a lot inside the green zone, particularly around the media operation center. What kind of a potential thorn in the side of Russia is it that the U.S. is ferrying Georgian troops back to fight for their country?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: This morning, John, the Russians are firing a lot of diplomatic barbs, if you will, at the Pentagon and at the United States for those U.S. military C17 flights out of Iraq into the capital of Georgia. The police say the flights began yesterday bringing home the 2,000 Georgian troops from the war in Iraq to deal with the situation in their country. Those flights expected to wrap up perhaps today or tomorrow as all of the troops are returned. U.S. military officials say they have been notifying the Russians of those U.S. military flights, each and every one of them. So there is no possibility, god forbid, as they say, of some mistake one of those U.S. flights coming under attack. That's a real concern.

But right now, it's diplomatic barbs with the Russians protesting these flights. The U.S. still has about 130 military and civilian personnel in Georgia working on the program to train and equip Georgian forces. There are no plans to pull those people out. The U.S. is really focusing right now on diplomacy and very much trying to get everybody to step back. John.

ROBERTS: Barbara Starr for us at the Pentagon this morning. Barbara, thanks very much.

And a little more about Georgia in our "A.M. Extra" now. It's about the size of South Carolina. Home to fewer than five million people. It's also home to a crucial pipeline that carries oil from the Caspian sea region, much of it headed to Western Europe. The United States has sent more than a billion dollars in aid since Georgia gained independence. That was back in 1991 and the current president Mikheil Saakashvili is a western ally and has been pushing actively to join NATO -- Kiran.

CHETRY: All right. Well, the search for swimming gold. See how close American Olympian Michael Phelps came to seeing his bid for a record eight gold medals disappear.

It's a fruit, but it could soon be the fuel for your car. We're going to take a closer look at nature's green gold.

You're watching the "Most News in the Morning."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: Two down, six to go for American swimmer Michael Phelps and his quest for eight gold medals at the Beijing Olympic. Phelps second gold came in the 400-freestyle relay. With a great team effort, Jason Lee has had incredible anchor leg helped the U.S. team beat France 0.08 second.

CNN's Larry Smith is in Beijing with more on Michael Phelps gold medal quest.

LARRY SMITH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, this is incredible. You're right. And the Michael Phelps has set for himself to try to get these eight gold medals is near impossible. 17 races in eight days. He'll race three times today alone Monday in the water cube. None better though than that relay race that took place last night, east coast time. This morning here in Beijing. The top five teams all broke the world record set that was set just Sunday night by the U.S. without Michael Phelps, with a great celebration afterwards.

In fact, Colin Jones, remember that relay team, almost fell into the pool. He had done so, the team would have been disqualified. Imagine Michael Phelps failing to get the eight gold because of a disqualification? So, but anyway. They got the gold. Michael Phelps rolls on, They got the gold, I should say. Michael Phelps, as you said, has two, vying for the record eight golds. We're closing on the third day of competition here in Beijing. But here's how we got here. Some highlights from the weekend.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SMITH (voice-over): American powerhouse swimmer Michael Phelps lived up to his hype as the games got underway winning gold in the 400-meter individual medley and shattering his own world record in four minutes 3.84 seconds. Fencer Mariel Zagunis got the winning starter for the U.S. over the weekend, taking gold in the individual sabre. A sport that saw the Americans sweep all three.

The redeem team had a strong start in its quest to bring back the gold. the U.S. men's basketball squad hit the road to Olympic redemption with a 101-70 win over host China. The match-up saw some of the NBA's best go against a familiar opponent Chinese icon and NBA star Yao Ming.

And proving age isn't everything, 41-year-old Dara Torres has anchored the United States 4x100 meter relay team to the silver medal. Her 10th career Olympic medal and she becomes the oldest swimmer in Olympic history. The games also featured a moment of solidarity with their country on the brink of war, sharp shooters and medal winners Paderina Natalia from Russia and Georgia's Nino Salukvadeze shared a podium and an embrace.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SMITH: Well, Georgia and Russia will meet again in women's beach volleyball on Wednesday. Meanwhile, John, you know China already has eight gold in these games. That is twice more than any other country. Let's go back to you.

ROBERTS: Larry Smith reporting for us this morning from Beijing.

And here is a current look at the medal standings in "A.M. Extra." Host China leading now with 13 total medals followed by the United States with 12, South Korea with 7, Italy and Russia each with 6 medals. The home team is also winning the race for gold. China has eight gold medals, South Korea has four and the U.S. has three.

CHETRY: Well, some prescription drug prices rising 1,000 percent. How companies are getting away with it. And what you can do if you can't afford to get your medicine anymore.

ROBERTS: The fuel that grows on trees.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These are chock full of oil.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: It's not Fantasyland, it's Florida. Susan Candiotti introduces us to Jatropha.

You're watching the "Most News in the Morning."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Welcome back to the "Most News in the Morning."

Gasoline prices down to $3.81 a gallon this morning, according to AAA. Prices fell almost a penny overnight. It's the 25th decline in a row and oil prices have also been trending lower, but the prices up slightly in early trading this morning near $116 a barrel.

There is oil in Namnar (ph) tree. It comes from the fruit of the jatropha tree and some say that it could be a cure for our dependence from crude oil.

CNN's Susan Candiotti says Florida farmers used to growing oranges are now seeing green.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on-camera): John, Kiran, as a matter of fact, in the shadow of this citrus grove, there are trees whose fruit could power a 747.

The fruits the size of golf balls and grows on trees some 25 feet tall. But the prize is what's inside the shell, and you don't want to eat it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These are chock full of oil.

CANDIOTTI: Black seeds the size of garlic cloves contain oil that could run diesel engines, without any refining. Jatropha can power diesel cars and trucks and tractors. Either straight or 20 percent blend stretching regular diesel. University of Florida researcher Roy Bedford is looking for the best strain of jatropha. On average a tree yields only a gallon of oil each year.

ROY BEDFORD, UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA: Next four or five years, I think we're get to the point where we're not only going to increase the number of fruits per jatropha tree but we'll also increase the amount of oil in each of those seeds.

CANDIOTTI: China and parts of Africa all are heavily investing in jatropha as an alternative biodiesel fuel. In the United States, researchers and farmers have only just begun testing. In Florida, jatropha stands up to insect attacks, drought, frost and lousy soil.

BRYAN BEER, CITRUS FARMER: We were always so dependent on oil.

CANDIOTTI: Citrus farmer Bryan Beer also wants in, driven by exploding diesel prices, Beer's growing 75,000 plants on 30 acres. The oil could help power his tractors that each inhale 120 gallons a day during peak orange harvest.

BEER: Any kind of relief or help we can get from a cheaper source of oil could impact the agriculture industry tremendously throughout the country. Throughout the world.

CANDIOTTI: Planes could be next. Air New Zealand is planning a test flight this fall powering one of 747 engines on jatropha. The question is, will jatropha be the alternative biodiesel fuel that will help the U.S. back off its dependence on old-fashioned crude -- John, Kiran.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHETRY: Susan Candiotti for us. Thanks.

Well, CNN NEWSROOM is just a couple of minutes away now. Tony Harris at the CNN Center with a look at what's ahead.

Hi, Tony.

TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, Kiran. Good morning to you. Good morning, everyone.

Fighting in the caucuses region. All the NEWSROOM rundown for you this morning. Russian troops expanding into a second breakaway province in Georgia, and ignoring demands from President Bush for a cease-fire.

Concerns about Gardasil. Is the vaccine that helps prevent certain types of cervical cancer making teenagers sick? A CNN special investigation unit report.

And how weird is this? Ice in August. A big hail storm makes it look like wintertime. Trouble brewing in the tropics. We are watching it in the CNN Hurricane Center. Top of the hour, on CNN.

Kiran, back to you.

CHETRY: All right. Thanks, Tony. See you then.

Meanwhile, Olympic athletes aren't just competing for gold in Beijing, they're going after the green. Millions of dollars at stake for the next big star.

ROBERTS: A prescription price explosion. Some getting too expensive for people to treat potentially deadly conditions. Our medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is standing by in Atlanta for us this morning.

Good morning, Elizabeth.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. John, some drug prices really are doubling overnight and we'll help you save money on your medicine when AMERICAN MORNING returns. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: Being priced out of your medication. There's a new study that says the cost of many drugs could double this year and some drugs used exclusively to help babies and children with cancer are saying increases of 1,000 percent. We're joined now in Atlanta by medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen.

So, is it true that the costs of these medications are just going up overnight?

COHEN: Oh, absolutely, literally overnight. People are going to bed with their drugs at one price, and are getting up in the morning and they're at a completely different price, sometimes more than double.

Let's take a look at this list from the University of Minnesota. They recently testified to Congress about this issue. Take Acthar, which is a drug that babies take sometimes when they have seizures. It went up 1310 percent all at one time. Indocin, a drug taken for inflammation up nearly 1300 percent, all at one time, and HIV drug called Norvir, those folks saw a 400 percent literally in one day and Cognex a drug for Alzheimer's, double in one day.

Now, we asked the pharmaceutical researches, the pharmaceutical companies rather, what they have to say about all this. And here's their response. They have also seen this report. They say medicines that help treat rare diseases are sometimes the exception, because they're often more costly and risky to develop and manufacture. These types of increases are rare exceptions and not the norm. They say the norm is that drug prices really don't go up very much in a given year, let alone all at one time. Kiran.

CHETRY: You guys did some research about that. What about prescription drugs that are more commonly used?

COHEN: Prescription drugs that are more commonly used have also seen increases, not the kinds of increases that I just read. So let me talk about those a little bit. For example, Ambien which is a sleep medication. A lot of people have heard of that. Over a five- year period, from 2002 to 2007, it went up 160 percent. Advair went up 53 percent, and Lipitor went up 30 percent, and Nexium also went up 30 percent.

Now, when you see these numbers, you know, many of you, I'm sure looking at these drugs, saying, I take those or my mother or whoever, CNN.com/tips. We have some tips for how to save money on prescription drugs.

CHETRY: All right. Elizabeth Cohen, thank you.

COHEN: Thanks.

And again, as Elizabeth just said, if you want to find out more on how to deal with the rising costs of prescription drugs checkout CNN.com/tips. ROBERTS: The big business of the Olympics. Millions of dollars of endorsement deals are up for grabs, as companies try to sign up America's Olympic heroes. A look at the U.S. star whose can strike gold if they win gold.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Well, Olympic athletes don't get paid to compete, but that doesn't mean they can't strike it rich.

CHETRY: Right. As Brooke Anderson tells us, it's not only pressure to take home the gold, but to land that endorsement deal as well.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BROOKE ANDERSON, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT (on-camera): John and Kiran, Olympic athletes are competing in Beijing, not just for gold but for green.

(voice-over): By the time Janet Evans was 20 she had won four gold medals in swimming at two Olympic Games capturing the hearts of Americans and corporate sponsors.

JANET EVANS, OLYMPIC GOLD MEDALIST: There's something very pure and innocent and good about the Olympics that we might not see in other professional sports. I think that's very appealing to companies.

ANDERSON: The advertising frenzy surrounding Olympians has only escalated since Evans last won gold in 1992, and sponsors are eager for marketing opportunities are closely monitoring Beijing.

PABLO TORRE, WRITER, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED: There's a formula sort of that they use, I guess, to gauge who might be good for endorsements and stuff like that. It's a smile. It's the skill. And it's the story line.

ANDERSON: Compelling stories, including those of swimmers Eric Shaunteau.

TORRE: To qualify for Beijing after learning he had testicular cancer.

ANDERSON: And Dara Torres.

TORRE: She's 41 years old, qualified for the Olympics 15 months after pregnancy, has warded off steroid rumors.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Michael Phelps isn't part dolphin -

ANDERSON: Some like standout Michael Phelps who won six gold medals in the '04 Olympics, were waiting in lucrative deals before Beijing. Visa, Speedo, AT&T.

TORRE: Every contract he has, and he has at least five standing today, he makes about $1 million on each of those.

Tyson Gay's agent says he made almost $2 million or around that number before the games even started.

ANDERSON: Gymnastics favorite, Shawn Johnson, already has ties to 10 companies.

TORRE: They're looking for the heiress Mary Lou Retton and you have that candidate this year in Shawn Johnson, 16 year old. An all- around world champion and national champion.

ANDERSON: And the deals can outlast retirement. Janet Evans has given up competitive swimming and is the mother of a 21-month-old daughter, but continues to endorse products including canola oil. And she knows what the athletes in Beijing are going through with so many endorsement opportunities at stake.

EVANS: There's so much pressure now for athletes who know that their marketability depends on their performance. Because unlike the pro football players or the baseball players, we don't have the next, you know, World Series. We don't have the next NBA playoffs. We have once every four years.

ANDERSON: Some of the endorsement contracts athletes signed include incentives. The better the Olympic performance, the richer the deal becomes. John, Kiran.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS: So do as well as you can.

CHETRY: That's right. Like they need anymore pressure, besides the fact that there's billions of people watching them?

ROBERTS: Yes, speaking of pressure. Two down, six more to go for American swimmer Michael Phelps in his quest for a record eight gold medals at the Beijing Olympics. Phelps second gold came in the 400-meter freestyle relay. It had to be a team effort. Jason Lezak incredible anchor leg helped the U.S. team beat France by 0.08 second. An unbelievable race that is.

Let's look. See Jason pulling up, pulling up on Bernard there and touches, --

CHETRY: It is amazing.

ROBERTS: Right there, amazing.

CHETRY: The green line is the former world record. Those are being shattered right and left. Very exciting.

ROBERTS: It was just an incredible night.

Thanks so much for joining us on this AMERICAN MORNING. We will see you back here again bright and early tomorrow.

CHETRY: That's right. Right now, here's "CNN NEWSROOM" with Tony Harris.

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