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AMERICAN MORNING

U.S. Military Sends More Food Aid to Georgian Refugees; Senator Obama Soon to Name Running Mate?; Tropical Storm Fay Bears Down on Florida

Aired August 19, 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: We're following breaking news this hour as well. Tropical Storm Fay making landfall in Southwestern Florida a little more than three hours ago. Some power outages, but no major damage so far. This, by the way, is Fay's third landfall. The storm struck Cuba Sunday and the Florida Keys yesterday.
Nearly 800 homes are flooded this morning in South Texas after more than a foot of rain fell there. Rescuers used boats to evacuate about 60 people from their homes in town of Roma. About 210 miles south of San Antonio. Up to four feet of water still standing in some parts of that town.

Also this morning, the U.S. military sending more food aid to refugees in Georgia. Overnight, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and NATO foreign ministers held an emergency meeting in Belgium on the issue with Georgia. Moscow continues to drag its feet on troop withdrawal after signing a truce last week to end the war and to pull troops back. Secretary Rice is heading to Poland later today to sign a new missile defense deal.

And we're also on the VP watch. Senator Barack Obama could name his running mate as early as tomorrow. Virginia Governor Tim Kaine is on the short list. Obama will be in his state tomorrow. And Delaware Senator Joe Biden, as well as Indiana Senator Evan Bayh also top contenders. Meantime, GOP sources say that Senator John McCain will be naming his running mate during a rally in Ohio, August 29th. His 72nd birthday. And also the day after the Democratic convention wraps up.

Back now to our top story. Tropical Storm Fay bearing down on Florida, making its third landfall at Cape Romano this morning. Nearly 6,000 homes on Marco Island have no power. And Fay is drenching the area spreading debris and causing some street flooding. No major damage though has been reported. Rob Marciano is watching Fay's wrath live from Fort Myers Beach, Florida.

What's it feel like out there right now, Rob?

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: This stuff has picked up, Kiran. This is really the worst it's been all morning long. Now, the storm is pretty much parallel to us. Winds have changed and squally weather has certainly increased. We've seen more rain and more wind. Now, we're seeing the Gulf of Mexico behind me and it's good that we can see it out there and not so much creeped up as it would be if we had a significant storm surge. So, the tide is going out now. As the sun comes up, we'll see high tide later on this afternoon which could bring its own set of problems.

But we really shouldn't see a storm surge for more than a couple of three feet. Winds at my back, point to the left, that's where the storm is. It's about 30 miles east of us -- east of Fort Myers and Fort Myers Beach. And it's heading to the north-northeast at about nine miles an hour.

Here it is on the satellite imagery. Pretty decent structure to it. Still, the latest advisory from the National Hurricane Center has still has it at winds at 60 miles an hour. Actually, if anything, the millibars, the barometric pressure has decreased just a little bit. So I wouldn't say it's strengthening but it's definitely not weakening just yet.

But it is forecast week and just a little bit as it continues to head over land. But in the meantime, it will pick up moisture from the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic, and some of those rain bands which we're seeing right now will certainly dump a fair amount of rain anywhere from four to eight inches, and fresh water flooding. We're seeing some of that in the eastern parts of Collier and Lee counties and we'll see that throughout the central part of the peninsula throughout the morning and afternoon.

But some of the state could use the rain. The problem is as it gets offshore on the Atlantic side, which is expected to happen by tomorrow morning, it could very well re-strengthen and make a second landfall, and that's the official forecast track, believe it or not Kiran, from the National Hurricane Center.

So, it's been quite a ride from Fay. The good news is that she never made it to hurricane strength and likely won't happen at least this go around. We'll see what happens when she re-emerges in the Atlantic Ocean early tomorrow morning. That's from here. Back up to you.

CHETRY: So how rare is that that it would then be able to make a fourth landfall?

MARCIANO: You know, that's a good question. I have to do some leg work on that. Three is pretty intense. To have a fourth one, that may very well be touching on some records. That's something we'll have to dig around for. And you know, we set a number of records in 2005. 2006 and 2007 were fairly quite. If that's the worst we do in '08, I'll be all right with that.

Back to you.

CHETRY: All right. Rob, thanks so much. See you later.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Well, one man tried to take on Tropical Storm Fay and is now in critical condition in the hospital this morning. Strong winds, violently slammed the kite border into the sand and then into the side of a building. Oh, my goodness.

The photographer who watched this happen said that a water spout was forming at the time. The victim's friend say he was strapped into a harness which was attached to the kite, but the gusting came too fast for him to pull the emergency release.

As you can see there as he hits the ground, he doesn't even have a tenth of a second to figure out what's going on and pull that release, and then bang into that concrete wall.

John McCain wants more offshore oil drilling. And today, he gets a picture perfect opportunity to deliver that message when he tours an oil platform in New Orleans.

Speaking to a veterans group on Monday, McCain blasting Barack Obama on the war, accusing him of distorting his position on the GI bill. Here's John McCain now in his own words.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I suppose from my opponent's vantage point, veterans concerns are just one more issue to be spun or worked to advantage. This would explain why he also has taken liberties with my position on the GI bill. In its initial version, the bill failed to address the number one education request that I've heard from career service members and their families. The freedom to transfer their benefits to a spouse or a child.

The bill also did nothing to retain the young officer and enlisted leaders who formed the backbone of our all volunteer force. As a political proposition, it would have been much easier for me to have just signed on to what I considered flawed legislation. But the people of Arizona and all of America expect more from their representatives than that. And instead, I sought a better bill.

And I'm proud to say that the result is a law that better serves our military, better serves military families and better serves the interests of our country. With less than three months to go before the election, a lot of people are just still trying to square Senator Obama's varying positions on the surge in Iraq.

First, he opposed the surge and confidently predicted that it would fail. Then he tried to prevent funding for the troops who carried out the surge. Not content to merely predict failure in Iraq, my opponent tried to legislate failure. This was back when supporting America's efforts in Iraq entailed serious political risk. It was a clarifying moment. It was a moment when political self-interest and the national interest parted ways.

For my part, with so much in the balance, my friends, it was an easy call. As I said at the time, I would rather lose an election than lose a war.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ROBERTS: And of course CNN will have live gabble to gabble coverage of the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota. It kicks off on September the 1st. And at 8:20, we're going to hear from Barack Obama on issue number one, racing taxes and the economy.

Veep week. We may know Barack Obama's running mate as early as tomorrow and we hear that John McCain's is not far behind. The plans for text messages, tours and all out blow outs to introduce them to the nation.

CHETRY: And Playboy dishes up the girls of Olive Garden. The restaurant, though, says no thanks. How an (INAUDIBLE) girls sparked a big controversy.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: Gerri Willis joins us now. She's in for Ali Velshi, "Minding Your Business" today. You know, we're talking about Tropical Storm Fay, but it's not a hurricane, but it's certainly is leaving a lot of destruction in its path. What if you lived down there, you're a homeowner and you have to do some repairs?

GERRI WILLIS, CNN PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR: Ten inches of rain. If you're a homeowner, you know just how upsetting that can be. Look, flooding and flash flooding can happen anywhere. You don't have to be in a high risk flood area. As a matter of fact, fully a third of the claims made to the National Flood Insurance Program were from people who were not in high risk areas. So you want to think about this. Go to nfip.org, that's the Web site for the National Flood Insurance Program to find out -- am I at risk, should I be worried.

But keep in mind, those flash floods happen everywhere. If you buy this insurance, it's not all that expensive compared to homeowners. It's about $600 a year. That gives you $250,000 of coverage for the structure, $100,000 for the contents. That's going to get you started if you're worried about some kind of flood problems.

CHETRY: And what about homeowners insurance in Florida?

WILLIS: Big problem. As you know, a lot of insurers have -- it's not walked away from Florida, but they're not writing new coverages. The state has set up its own program to help people get insured. The problem is they're trying to get people out of that program now. They've attracted a lot of newer, smaller insurers to pick up the slack.

If you want information, shopandcomparerates.com is the place to go. There you can find who might be offering coverage in your area and how much it would cost you to have that coverage.

ROBERTS: Great tip.

WILLIS: Keep in mind, though, I just want to add one quick thing. If you want flood insurance, you got to set it up 30 days before the policy goes into effect. So do it early. ROBERTS: And that's federal insurance, too, right? So you can't be denied.

WILLIS: It is federal insurance, correct.

ROBERTS: Gerri, thanks so much for that.

WILLIS: My pleasure.

ROBERTS: Filling out a historic ticket. Barack Obama's vice presidential choice could be as early as a day away. He plans to make a splash before the DNC convention. You're watching the "Most News in the Morning."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Welcome back to the "Most News in the Morning." You just heard from America's Olympic champion Michael Phelps here on the program, but if you want to hear more, you can on CNN.com. At 8:30 this morning, Phelps is answering your questions live on our Web site. Head to CNN.com/live to see it all -- Kiran?

CHETRY: Well, the "Most Politics" now. Barack Obama on the verge of picking his running mate and the question today is, well first, when will he make the announcement and also who will take the number two spot on the ticket. Senior political correspondent Candy Crowley is live in Washington for us.

Are you hearing anything, Candy?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kiran, as a matter of fact, I said to John in the last hour that I was told by a source it could come as late as Saturday. And I had another source call me after seeing that thing, well you might as well say as early as tomorrow. So, you know, take your pick -- Wednesday, Thursday, Friday or Saturday.

What we do know is that it has basically seemed to have boiled down to three names that we hear the most. And that is Senator Bayh from Indiana, Senator Biden from Delaware and Tim Kaine, the Governor of Virginia. Beyond that, we're just looking at the clues.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY (voice-over): Barack Obama is within days of announcing his vice presidential choice. It will begin with a text message to supporters and sources say it will be followed by a series of events designed to roll into next week's convention with maximum excitement. Who he has picked is another matter.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you, New Mexico.

CROWLEY: During Veep week, a campaign stop is less about what's said than where it is. In Veep week, geography and choreography are clues. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The next president of the United States!

CROWLEY: Obama would love to put New Mexico in the Democratic column this fall and Bill Richardson, the governor, standing there with Obama, might be able to deliver it. As it happens, Richardson also appeared on television over the weekend on behalf of Obama.

During Veep season, Sunday talk shows are widely viewed as tryouts. So, along with Richardson last Sunday, Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana and Virginia Governor Tim Kaine. Just a couple weeks ago, Bayh was all the talk when he campaigned with Obama.

But later this week, Obama is scheduled to campaign in Virginia. And much has been made of a counter clue, as well. Joe Biden, currently gaining currency in the Veepstakes, has been uncharacteristically quiet.

Republican and campaign sources close to John McCain say there are plans in the works for McCain to have a big blowout of his own, naming his V.P. pick a week from Friday, the day after the Democratic convention. Sources envision a series of events starting in Ohio. However, they caution those plans are not in cement now and they could change.

MCCAIN: Well, I'm pleased to be here today at Cocoa Beach.

CROWLEY: McCain was talking to veterans in Florida, a state with 27 electoral votes where the governor is Republican Charlie Crist. Other clues, talking the talk last Sunday, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.

GOV. MITT ROMNEY (R), FMR. MASSACHUSETTS GOVERNOR: I've got nothing for you on the V.P. sweepstakes. Anything in that regard ought to be directed to the McCain campaign.

CROWLEY: Also on the Sunday roster for McCain, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge, and the frequently-mentioned Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty.

GOV. TIM PAWLENTY (R), MINNESOTA: I don't talk about the vice presidential stuff because I think it's mostly speculation and I just have stopped talking about it.

CROWLEY: He may be the only one.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: And while we are talking about clues, Kiran, I will point out that Bill Richardson, the governor of New Mexico, has a beard. I think if he shaves that beard off, we'll pretty much know who the next V.P. is.

CHETRY: You know, you got to read the tea leaves. Sometimes you've got to read the facial hair. Now, Candy, can you absolutely rule out Hillary Clinton at this point for Barack Obama's V.P.? CROWLEY: Well, no. Barack Obama is the only one that can absolutely rule out. But, listen, I think you would hear all the thuds -- you would hear would be people falling over if he picks Hillary Clinton. This does not seem to be in the cards. There is no sign this is in the cards. And it really hasn't been anything that people have speculated about, except for on the Hillary Clinton side.

Her supporters very much want her on that ticket, very much believe that she earned her way on to that ticket. But in terms of official signals out of the Obama campaign or out of the Clinton campaign, we see nothing that points to a Hillary Clinton as number two.

CHETRY: Candy Crowley for us in Washington. Thanks.

ROBERTS: Breaking this morning, Tropical Storm Fay hitting the coast of Florida with near 60-mile-an-hour winds. You're watching the "Most News in the Morning."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: It's 19.5 -- $19.5 million -- where did I get that? It's 19--and-a-half minutes after the hour. He says it's the American dream. The son of an illegal immigrant went on to win Olympic gold in freestyle wrestling this morning. CNN's Larry Smith is in Beijing with the story of Henry Cejudo.

LARRY SMITH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the latest gold medalist here in Beijing for the U.S.A. is in wrestling. Henry Cejudo getting gold in the 50-kilogram class and what a story for him. It was a long way for Mr. Cejudo to get to Beijing and win his gold.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SMITH (voice-over): He's been called the future of wrestling, but its memories of his past that drive Henry Cejudo.

HENRY CEJUDO, OLYMPIC GOLD WINNER: It was just a journey. That's the way I looked at it, you know. It was just -- we kept moving and I won like ten in elementary school.

SMITH: We, was Henry, his brother, Angel -- also a world class wrestler and five other siblings. With a father they barely knew in and out of prison, Henry's mother, Nelly, found herself struggling financially and often holding down multiple jobs. Her work ethic didn't go unnoticed.

CEJUDO: She was never about excuses. That's something about here. There's time that she was sick at work, and you know she would go to work sick because knowing she has seven kids that she's got to take care of, and then right there just always motivated me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We never saw the negativity on everything that was wrong. We always made it positive side, you know. Like I said, it was tough, you know, seven kids in a household, and actually sometimes it was more, you know. We had uncles coming from Mexico, cousins, people, you know. It was tough. But, I mean, my mom always made it a lot better for us.

SMITH: It was Angel who inspired Henry to begin wrestling in junior high. In the years that followed, Henry won four state championships and two national titles.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When he first started, he was an animal. From the beginning, I'm not even going to lie, I'm not going to say he wasn't any good. He was -- right away, you knew he was going to be tough because he was the kind of kid that, you know, once you got on the mat, it didn't matter what sport he was. He went in there to fight. They now looked at that as people are fighting and they're getting trophies, so I was like I want to do that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, you've take that scrappiness where it used to be on the street, you know, throwing hay makers at people you don't know and put it into an organized sport and let him, you know, build and materialize and get better from doing it that way, and it's just a natural for him.

SMITH: Some believe a gold medal in Beijing will be just the start of a long and successful Olympic career.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SMITH: Well, you would think there was a bright Olympic future for Cejudo, but he won't yet commit to 2012. Possibly, mixed martial arts may be in his future. We'll just have to wait and see.

Let's go back to you.

ROBERTS: Larry Smith for us in Beijing. Larry, thanks so much.

And here's a look at the latest medal count for you. The United States leads in total medals with 77, China in second place with 72. Russia's got 39. But China still dominates the race for gold medals with 41. The U.S. has got 25 of those.

CHETRY: Well, it's an unwanted endorsement you could say. A Playboy bunny gives free praise to the Olive Garden. Find out why the restaurant is trying to distance itself from that free publicity.

Also, heavy rain and high winds hitting Florida, as Tropical Storm Fay slams ashore. Could have been much worse, but it was, and still could be quite difficult to track. We're keeping an eye on it for you. You're watching the "Most News in the Morning."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: Senator Hillary Clinton still deep in campaign debt and selling donors on winning a trip to the Democratic convention with her. A day after Clinton announced she would award one contributor with a trip to Denver, Bill Clinton made another fundraising appeal. In an e-mail to potential donors, the former president promised that they would have a, quote, "memorable week with his wife."

Barack Obama on the verge of picking a running mate, and John McCain expected to announce his choice at a big rally in Ohio, August 29th. That would be McCain's 72nd birthday. And also the day after Obama accepts the nomination at the Democratic convention in Denver.

In Colorado, typically votes Republican in presidential elections, but there's a new poll suggesting the red state is shaping up as a battleground in the November election.

The Rocky Mountain News CBS 4 Poll has John McCain leading Barack Obama by just three percentage point, 44 percent to 41 percent, 15 percent still say they're unsure.

Barack Obama campaigns in Florida and North Carolina today. He addressed a town hall meeting in Albuquerque yesterday where he attacked John McCain's plan to fix the economy. Here's Obama in his own words.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: This is a fundamental difference in this election. What I've said is we're going to give 95 percent of working families a tax break. But it's going to be ordinary folks getting $1,000 for family to offset their payroll tax, getting $700 in additional homeowner interest relief so that we can start preventing some of these foreclosures, making sure that we're expanding the child tax credit, dealing with the bread-and-butter issues that people are facing day to day. That's short term. Long term, we have got to create jobs.

John McCain, you know, he's been talking about how he puts country first. But I have to say that it's not an example of putting country first when you say that George Bush's economic policies have shown great progress. He said that just a few months ago. He said, you know, we made great economic progress under George Bush.

Then he started running ads, saying, oh, Obama's just going to raise your taxes and he'll lead to an economic disaster. Mr. McCain, let me explain to you, the economic disaster is happening right now. Maybe you haven't noticed. He's got his major economic advisers calling you whiners.

He said, oh, the American people are whining. This is what one of McCain's top advisers said. "A nation of whiners," he said. "They have a mental depression. They're just imaging that things are bad."

This guy obviously does not pump his own gas. He obviously doesn't do his own shopping. He's obviously not paying his own bills.

The economic disaster is here right now. And the question we have, the choice we have in this election, is are we going to keep on doing the same things as John McCain is promoting, or are we going to bring about a fundamental change in this country?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: And a programming reminder, live coverage of the Democratic National Convention in Denver begins Monday right here on the "Most News in the Morning." ROBERTS: It's coming up to 30 minutes after the hour, and here are some of the top stories that we're following right now. Tropical Storm Fay slamming Florida again. The deadly storm made landfall in Southwest Florida earlier this morning and there's a risk of major flooding and tornadoes. In fact, if this storm fall stalls out, the state of the Florida could see as much as two feet of rain.

The search is intensifying for almost a dozen people still unaccounted for after a freak flash flood in the Grand Canyon. Officials are not sure whether these people were swept away, they are trapped somewhere or they just left the area and don't know that anyone's looking for them. Almost 300 people have been rescued already. Heavy rains breach a dam over the weekend sending floodwaters surging through the national park.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is in Belgium this morning for an emergency NATO meeting on the Russian invasion. Rice told reporters the alliance is discussing ways to support Georgia and deny Russia's strategic initiatives.

A new report out this morning says Mexican peppers and chilies were tainted with Salmonella months before this recent outbreak. An "Associated Press" review of Food and Drug Administration records show 88 shipments of diseased peppers were stopped at the border. Of those, 10 percent were contaminated with Salmonella. Critics say that should have prompted the government to increase screening sooner like it shouldn't have been a surprise.

Back to Tropical Storm Fay. At this hour, we have reports of some power outages and street flooding, but no major damage as the storm inundates the area with rain. Our Rob Marciano is watching the skies over Fort Myers Beach, Florida and, Rob, the area where this went in is able to absorb an awful lot of water as far as storm surge goes, but what about further inland with all the rain that's expected?

MARCIANO: Well, the rain is already a problem as far as fresh water flooding is concern. You're right about if this came inland. It came inland pretty much where Hurricane Wilma came ashore back in 2005 where the southern part of it or the right flank of the storm, which has the strongest storm such, pretty much went into the Everglades and Everglades City felt some of the brunt of that, but just by the order of three or four or five feet.

The Gulf of Mexico behind me, we had offshore winds so that was not a problem. When high tide came and when high tides comes again, we might have on shore winds, but two or three feet of storm surge is about all we'll see. We'll see heavy rain, four to eight inches of it, across parts of the Florida peninsula. A lot of it will dump right over Lake Okeechobee, which is about three feet below normal. So some of the rainfall, if it's not too much, will be a good thing. When we show you the track, you'll see some interesting things with that.

Here's the satellite photograph, the loop, 60-mile-an-hour winds, still sustained there. Actually we have a little bit of a drop in the barometric pressure which indicates it's not really weakening. At least not right now. It will weaken though as it continues its trek over the peninsula and then reemerges in to the Gulf of Mexico into the Atlantic Ocean.

We will see heavy rain. We are seeing squalls right now. The storm itself is parallel to Fort Myers by about 30 miles to the east of us. It's moving north northeasterly at about nine miles an hour and again it will reemerge into the Atlantic probably early tomorrow morning and then it might very well restrengthen.

Conditions there will be conducive for it to become better organized and it may make a fourth landfall across northern Florida, possibly southern Georgia, possibly South Carolina later in the week. So Fay, we're not done with her yet. There will still be some power outages, John, and we'll have that threat of flooding on going throughout the day today. Back up to you.

ROBERTS: This has been a weird one, no question, Rob. There's plenty of weird ones that have hit Florida before. Some do 360s or even 520s and then come back and hit land.

MARCIANO: Yes, it's definitely rare, but it's not unheard of. So hurricane pretty much do what they want to do and this one's been tough to call from the beginning. Thankfully it has never been a hurricane and hopefully when it makes it's second or when it reemerges into the Atlantic, it won't have a chance to do that. We'll just have to wait and see.

ROBERTS: All right. Rob Marciano watching the weather for us from Fort Myers Beach this morning.

Rob, thanks so much.

CHETRY: And we have some more breaking news right now. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice just wrapped up an emergency meeting of NATO allies over the Russian invasion of Georgia. State department correspondent Zain Verjee is live in Brussels, Belgium with more of what came out of that meeting.

Hi, Zain.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Kiran.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice really wants to isolate and punish Russia for its invasion of Georgia and really doesn't want this to make it to be about the U.S. versus Russia. She wants to get the Europeans on board, but many European countries are just not willing because they have strong ties with Russia in peace keeping, counter terrorism, counter-narcotics. They have very heavily dependence also on Russian oil and gas.

Now, this press conference is still under way. A short while ago, the Europeans came out with a joint statement basically saying that it's not going to be business as usual with Russia under the present circumstances. They're saying that Russia has to stick to the cease fire and only then will they move forward with their relations with Russia. They said that they're going to suspend aspects of a NATO-Russia council that they have. There are many forms of cooperation within that council.

But the bottom line is that in the big picture, it's a pretty weak response to Russia who feels it's in a pretty strong position right now. And on the scheme of the punishment poll, this is pretty low price for the Russians to pay. So clearly some tough talk behind the scenes and some compromises the Secretary of State has likely made. Kiran.

CHETRY: All right. Zain Verjee with an update for us from Brussels, Belgium today. Thank you.

ROBERTS: A Playboy bunny's love of pasta, got your attention? Find out why the Olive Garden is distancing itself from free publicity.

CHETRY: High in the sky.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It lands right over the field.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: Jeanne Moos looks at what's cropping up around the political convention. You're watching the "Most News in the Morning."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: One of Hugh Hefner's girls says she loves the Olive Garden so much, that she even eats it when she is in Italy, but the chain is saying no thanks to her endorsement and all of that free and sexy publicity. CNN's Kareen Wynter is here to tell us why.

KAREEN WYNTER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: John, Kiran, the phrase any publicity is good publicity does not always hold.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WYNTER (voice-over): She's a Playboy playmate. Reality TV star, and one of Hugh Hefner's main squeezes. But the pint size model Kendra Wilkinson has another love affair.

KENDRA WILKINSON, PLAYBOY PLAYMATE: I have to go to the Olive Garden.

WYNTER: Wilkinson even listed the Olive Garden owner as people she'd like to meet on her MySpace page. And in an episode of her show recruited Olive Garden employees for a Playboy pictorial.

WILKINSON: I'm searching for the sexist girls from my favorite restaurant, the Olive Garden.

WYNTER: She says she's no company spokes bunny, she just loves the food. But the family friendly Italian food chain hasn't exactly embraced her.

WILKINSON: Well, I want to meet them but I don't think they want to meet me.

WYNTER: A company spokesperson says "all of our guests are important and valued to us," but as for the girls of Olive Garden "Playboy" spread, the company says "Olive Garden did not partner with "Playboy" on this. What individuals choose to do in their private life is a personal decision."

LASH FARY, OWNER, DISTINCTIVE ASSETS: The Olive Garden is for sure between a rock and a hard place in which they have that unwanted celebrity endorsement of their product, but they have a fear that their customer base doesn't approve of Kendra and so they're distancing themselves.

WYNTER: Entertainment marketing experts Lash Fary say it's about maintaining a clean image. The people who like Kendra is going to flock to the restaurant and those who don't approve well, they've got clause with deniability that they haven't embraced the endorsement.

WILKINSON: If they want to pay me to not say I love Olive Garden, then where's the money? Bring me the money because I'm going to keep saying it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WYNTER: Wilkinson says if Olive Garden did approach her with a possible business deal, well, she'd give the money to charity. John, Kiran.

ROBERTS: Kareen Wynter for us this morning. Kareen, thanks.

And this is far from the first company that "Playboy" has targeted. Here's a look at a few more in "AM Extra." The women of concept first appeared in the magazine back in the 1970s.

Since then, the online version of the magazine has done photo sets, featuring employees from Enron, Starbucks, Home Depot, McDonald's, and Wal-Mart. Not to mention the famous college issues, as well.

CHETRY: That's right. All right, go Olive Garden.

Well, "Harry Potter" had one and so did the Romulans. We're talking about an invincibility cloak. A look at a scientific break through that could some day be real.

And the right foot and the left brain could make all the difference on the track in the Olympics this year. There's a new study that could save precious split seconds for world class athletes.

ROBERTS: And we're keeping a close eye on Tropical Storm Fay bearing down on Florida once again. Power outages and streets flooded at this hour. We've got the latest forecast for you and the rain totals, what's projected for the sunshine state? (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: And the ability to suddenly disappear. Hey, we've all wanted to do that from time to time. Well, it's long been the stuff of magic and Hollywood special effects, but scientists say they're one step closer to making science fiction a reality.

Here's CNN's Dan Simon.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAN SIMONS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hollywood is quite good at making stuff disappear. From "Harry Potter" to "James Bond."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We call it the vanish.

SIMON: The effects keep getting more advanced.

PIERCE BROSNAN, ACTOR: OK, good.

JASON VALENTINE, BERKELEY: You should really think anything is possible.

SIMONS: But Jason Valentine isn't talking about the movies. He's a 26-year-old scientist at Berkeley working to make invisibility cloaks possible.

VALENTINE: I mean, it's cool. It makes it fun to come to work.

SIMON: He and his colleagues have engineered a microscopic material that can bend light. The stuff called meta material is no bigger than a speck of dust. This is what it looks like magnified about 50,000 times.

VALENTINE: So it's a cloak something, you have to bend light around it. It's like a stone sitting in a stream of water. And so to bend light around the object, you have to make it bend in a way that it doesn't exist in normal materials.

SIMON: The material, of course, would have to be a lot bigger. And configured in a way where it could be a cloaking device, say a blanket like in "Harry Potter."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some kind of cloak.

VALENTINE: You see the stuff in the movies and a lot of it you think well it's never really going to be possible.

SIMON: If you're not an engineer, what they say probably will make very little sense, but their breakthrough has the scientific community quite excited.

(on-camera): Part of their funding comes from the U.S. military. Making people or things disappear could be quite useful in combat. Let's not get ahead of ourselves. We're not going to find invisibility cloaks at your local mall anytime soon.

VALENTINE: You won't see anything certainly within 10 years. However, maybe in our lifetime, something will be made that resembles maybe something in science fiction movies.

SIMON: If you're a nonbeliever, consider this -- 50 years ago go, do you think anyone conceived of things like iPhones or robots on Mars? "Harry Potter" special effects? Well, maybe one day they won't be so special.

Dan Simon, CNN, Berkeley, California.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHETRY: And now just into CNN, some tough new economic numbers. Construction of new homes dropping, inflation surges. The information is just coming in and our Gerri Willis has been following all of it for us. She's here to break it down now for us.

Hi, Gerri.

WILLIS: Hey, guys.

Listen, big news here now on home construction numbers, now, the biggest amount since 1991. Construction levels for new homes, the lowest level in 17 years, down dramatically since 1991. And also big information on wholesale prices. We've been keeping an eye on inflation as you know. This is inflation at the producer level. At the industrial level, not for consumers, it jumped and jumped dramatically in July, up 9.8 percent on the year. This is year over year, not month to month. That is the highest level since 1981.

And a pretty dramatic number. I'm sure we'll be keeping an eye on those inflation numbers going forward. Again, producer price index up 9.8 percent year over year and again as we've been reporting for some time now, construction of new homes down and down dramatically also in July. Back to you.

CHETRY: And those inflation numbers, apparently it's twice what economists had thought it would be. Much like Wall Street when companies either go below expectations or above, is this going to change anything?

WILLIS: I think we're going to see the markets trade lower at the start here. We're already seeing the futures take a dive on this news. So you can bet there's going to be some reaction in the markets today. The question is, how long will it last, will the market finish lower today, we don't know yet, but we'll be keeping an eye on it.

CHETRY: Yes, that's coming up a rough day yesterday, down 180 points. All right. Gerri Willis, thanks.

WILLIS: My pleasure.

ROBERTS: It could mean the difference between silver and gold, how athletes who train their brains can save split seconds. We're paging our resident in-house marathoner, Dr. Gupta, he'll know all about this. You're watching the "Most News in the Morning."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Welcome back to the most news in the morning. Breaking right now. Tropical Storm Fay churning over southwestern Florida, 60- mile-an-hour wind, shredding palm trees, sending debris into the streets. However, no major damage has been reported yet. After crossing the state, Fay could double back and make a fourth landfall with some models targeting Saint Augustine on Thursday.

Almost a dozen people still missing right now after flooding in the Grand Canyon. Crews have already rescued hundreds of others.

Our Chris Lawrence has their harrowing story.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, Kiran, at one point over the rescue, a boat operators saw five rafts just floating down the river with no one on board.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LAWRENCE (voice-over): Of the hundreds of people rescued from the Grand Canyon, this story may be the most frightening.

CEDAR HENNINGS, SURVIVOR: We thought the river would come down, we'd be fine. But then middle of the night, --

LAWRENCE: Cedar Hennings was one of 16 people on the rafting trip down the canyon. They had tied down their rafts to go hiking Saturday afternoon when the rain suddenly came pouring down.

HENNINGS: Then 15 minutes, the first flash happened and we knew the boats were gone.

LAWRENCE: A flash flood, so intense it flushed all five rafts down the river.

HENNINGS: That's verifying.

LAWRENCE: No food, no supplies, and then no light. Right then and there, the group decides not to try climb out of the Canyon.

HENNINGS: It's dark, we have limited, you know, light. The safest place for us it to be at the river.

LAWRENCE: So the group scrambles up to a small alcove just above the rushing water.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We huddled up together in the dirt and, you know, slept the best we could.

LAWRENCE: It's pitch black. They're on a rocky ledge. And then the Redman's Dam breaks.

HENNINGS: You're laying there, half asleep in the rocks, and you hear this huge freight train wall of water moving towards you in the dark. You have no idea how big it is.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LAWRENCE: Or how long it would last. It wasn't until Sunday afternoon that helicopters found all 16 and air lifted them out. The group says it stayed alive by staying calm, believing the ledge was high enough to stay above water, but still close to where the rescue teams would be searching -- John, Kiran.

CHETRY: Well, starting off on the right foot as the spotlight turns to track and field at the Olympic Games. There's a new stud day that offers the tip that could make all the difference. We're "Paging Dr. Gupta," Sanjay, headed to the track for some answers.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: A shot of adrenalin for any competitive runner. Months and months of training, all for this moment. Sure, they run, they do drills, strength train, but should they be training their brain, as well?

DR. AMADEUS MASON, SPORTS MEDICINE EMORY: Just as bodies are designed better to run or to swim, their brains being better, more reactive and having a better reaction time, would be definitely.

GUPTA: Consider this. According to a small study, starting with the right foot back may make a difference. A small one, but in the world of competitive running, perhaps enough to be the difference between winning and losing. It's all about how your brain works. The left side of your brain controls the right side of your body, but it's also slightly better at executing the movement in the first place.

Getting someone off the blocks just a little bit faster. But Emory sports medicine expert Dr. Amadeus Mason says that's only part of the equation.

MASON: Being comfortable in the blocks is probably more important and getting power out of the blocks more important to your overall start.

GUPTA: I'm right-handed. I'm not a competitive runner but I like to run. What would you tell me?

MASON: I would say, first off, be comfortable. If you're comfortable in a start with your left foot forward, great. If you're more comfortable with the right foot forward, do that. Because I think comfort trumps that millimeter of a second that you get because you'll get it back with your stability and how fast you're going to be transitioning into full sprint.

He's carrying himself very well, he's standing straight up. That conserves his energy. He's carrying his arms close to his body and bent. That also is conserving energy. But his stride as not as long or even as it should be.

GUPTA: The bottom line says Dr. Mason, good form, good strength, and a sharply tuned brain.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, reporting.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: Sanjay, thanks.

Well, a slice of life in Denver. We show what you they're doing to whet the appetites of Democrats arriving for next week's convention.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Democrats arriving in Denver for their party's convention may get a sudden craving for pizza before touching down in the Mile High City.

CHETRY: That's because crops go in the shape of a big pepperonis pizza has appeared in a nearby wheat field and as Jeanne Moos tells us there's nothing alien about it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You know how everyone's always trying to decipher those allegedly real crop circles?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And here's the inexplicable.

MOOS: And here's the inedible -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 22 foot wide pepperoni.

MOOS: A pizza the size of six football fields designed to make the mouths of Democratic delegate water as they touch down at Denver's Airport.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These plane lands right over the field.

MOOS: That's Kansas crop artist Stan Herd. You may have heard of his Indian portrait or his sunflower or his Absolut Vodka bottle, and now he's done his Papa John's pizza crop ad.

(on-camera): By the way, Papa John's pizza no relation to that other John, the one who's not the guest of honor at the Democratic convention.

(voice-over): You can't just toss some dough to make this pizza. It took a team of a dozen or so, a month and a half to create this out of a wheat field. Pepperonis consist of red mulch. Lots of fiber for health conscious Democrats. So one blogger complaining about advertising sprawl called it this the "mutant cousin of billboards." We've seen crop art featuring Larry King.

LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": I always wanted to be a crop circle.

MOOS: We've seen Elvis. We've seen Einstein.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've got Einstein's hair.

MOOS: We've seen Homer Simpson. Sorry, but you can't see the really giant part of a figure sometimes called the rude giant, made out of trenches dug at least 400 years ago in England. And now we see a giant pizza. And just like when you order a regular pizza, you never seem to get all the toppings you ask for.

VOICE OF STAN HERD, PIZZA CROP CIRCLE ARTIST: I wanted anchovies on that, I just couldn't figure out the anchovy angle.

MOOS: Maybe it would have been more fitting to have this piece greeting the Democratic delegates. Stan is a big Obama supporter and used rocky materials to make this in Dallas, back in the times of the Texas primary.

MOOS: Did you include the mole?

HERD: Included the what?

MOOS: The mole. He's got a mole. There it is just to his nose but on the rock art, you see a couple of white Labradors, but no mole. As for the missing slice of pizza, that's crushed limestone.

Who ate that slice?

HERD: Yes, the jolly green giant.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS: He's got some talent. Does he not?

CHETRY: He does. Pretty amazing. And I was wondering how they made the pepperoni slices. Mulch. Pretty cool.

ROBERTS: Red mulch. I wonder if it's that rubber mulch, which is kind of a red color.

CHETRY: Pretty cool, though.

ROBERTS: Shredded red wood or something. Thanks so much for joining us on this AMERICAN MORNING. We'll see you back here again bright and early tomorrow.

CHETRY: "CNN NEWSROOM" with Heidi Collins starts now.