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Piracy on the Rise; GMAC Lines up for TARP Money; Hillary Clinton's Future: Secretary of State or New Role in the Senate; Special Interest Groups Hit Up Obama; Inaugural Economics: Skipping the Glitz in Bad Financial Times; New Runways in Chicago, Seattle, & D.C.
Aired November 20, 2008 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: It's a minute after the hour and here are this morning's top stories. Breaking right now, the battered financial sector taking another beating. As we speak, overseas investors are abandoning the market in droves. Most of the European indexes are down. Japan's Nikkei slumped almost seven percent. Hong Kong down four percent. The downturn following yesterday's 427-point plunge on Wall Street.
There is one bright spot in all of this, though. It's the price of oil and gasoline. The cost of crude has fallen below $53 a barrel now. That's almost a two-year low. And the price of gas is down three cents overnight to $2.02 a gallon.
For the possibility of a lifeline for America's ailing automakers beginning to look good just a little bit thin today. Late yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid canceled the test vote on the proposed $25 billion bailout. The decision was made after the CEOs of GM, Chrysler and Ford spent a second day on Capitol Hill facing increasing criticism not over the way they're running their companies, but over the fact that they flew there on private jets and they collect enormous salaries and bonuses.
And even before the possibility that an auto bailout might not happen hit the wires, investors hit by a flood of grim economic news, pulled their money and they pulled it fast, sinking the battered Dow below 8,000 for the first time in five years. Things might be a bit better today, though. Market futures are just slightly down.
Christine Romans now "Minding Your Business," and she joins us.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: One of the charges this morning calling it the Zoloft Market. You know, this is a market that has just been depressed. And there's no reason for it to move up here. And he's looking for, you mentioned a little pill, looking for some kind of pill they can take to make things better and they haven't found it yet.
CHETRY: (INAUDIBLE) some airborne.
ROMANS: Well, maybe. You know, maybe. We'll see. Maybe Zoloft. Who knows? I mean, I'm not advocating any particular kind of medication or any brand name here, but the people on the markets are just very concerned about what we've seen. The Dow this year down some 40 percent. And it just doesn't let up.
A lot of folks had hope that October would be the end of it, but not so much. Look at that. The Dow this year has just kept going down. GM and Ford yesterday, those stocks showing that these are two companies that investors at least think are on the brink. Both of those stocks down very sharply this year. GM down 10 percent yesterday. Ford down 25 percent yesterday.
And let's talk about the bailout in terms of your money. Where has your money gone and where is it still going? GMAC is the first to consumer finance company to line up for money from TARP, the bailout -- the $700 billion bailout, the Treasury -- The Troubled Asset Relief Program.
GMAC has asked the Fed to make it a bank holding company and has announced this morning that it has asked, it has asked particularly for that TARP money and has filed the application for it. So, we're hearing about more companies that are asking for help even as the market really grapples, John and Kiran, with just how long any kind of recession is going to be. How many people are going to be out of business or out of jobs, how many companies are going to go out of business, and just how long it's going to last and how painful it will get.
ROBERTS: We'll see what happens. Christine, thanks.
CHETRY: Meanwhile, the Obama administration this morning coming into focus. CNN sources giving us breaking details on key cabinet selections. The president-elect is looking to Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano to head the Department of Homeland Security. And Chicago business mogul Penny Pritzker, who ran Obama's record-breaking fund- raising effort, is being vetted to head the Department of Commerce. As well, former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle chosen to head the Department of Health and Human Services. And we also know Eric Holder is Obama's pick for Attorney General.
Well, our Ed Henry is with team Obama in Chicago. So, what are your sources telling you behind the scenes now on how the selection process is moving forward?
ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's interesting because all the buzz obviously is still about Hillary Clinton and whether she will be secretary of state. And there's a new wrinkle this morning that's adding some more drama which is that we're hearing about how Senate Democratic leaders are privately thinking about creating some sort of new special role for Hillary Clinton if she comes back to the United States Senate. Maybe be a point person on health care issues is one possible example.
And what we're trying to ascertain is whether that means, you know -- is she genuinely conflicted about whether or not she wants to stay in the Senate or potentially become secretary of state, or is this maneuvering maybe some way to have a kind of a fall-back plan to cushion the blow if she ends up either not getting picked as secretary of state or if the vetting process does not go well. Now, we heard yesterday from former President Bill Clinton, he indicated he is going to do anything and everything he can to make sure the vetting process goes smoothly in terms of with his charitable foundation, his presidential library, his future speaking appearances. So, he's saying that essentially will not be a hurdle.
But if this does not get resolved soon, it's going to really put to the test the fact that backdoor in the campaign, the candidate was known as "no drama Obama" privately. Certainly a lot of drama to this part of the process right now.
CHETRY: All right. Ed Henry for us this morning in Chicago. Thanks.
ROBERTS: The excess factor and the inaugural ball. In an economy like this, when it comes to celebrating, how much is too much?
CHETRY: Campaign debt.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's kind of saying, hey, guys, we expect something in return here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely. Absolutely. As Latinos, we certainly expect policies that will be good for our families.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHETRY: Special interest groups step up the pressure on the future president. A look at what they want. You're watching the "Most News in the Morning."
ROBERTS: Ten minutes after the hour now. The holiday season almost upon us. And one group of people is making a list and checking it twice, lobbyists and special interest groups are lining up with their requests for the president-elect.
Our Jim Acosta has been taking a look at what they want. He's live for us in Washington.
So, what's on the list, Jim?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN GENERAL ASSIGNMENT CORRESPONDENT: John, there's a lot on the list. It sounds a little bit like kids lining up to see Santa Claus. But special interest groups are looking for a seat at Barack Obama's table. And they all want in on the new Democratic agenda. Their message, give me some change.
ACOSTA (voice-over): Barack Obama didn't get there all by himself. He had help from a slew of Democratic-leaning special interest groups that now want some changes of their own.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: There has been a sleeping giant in America that has been dormant for far too long.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: A group called America's Voice which wants immigration reform is running a Web video touting Latino power. They're not losing sight of Mr. Obama's whopping 67 percent of the Hispanic vote.
PACO FABIAN, AMERICA'S VOICE: We've seen, you know, Latinos voting in record numbers and turning some states blue that were previously red.
ACOSTA: When you put out a video that says a sleeping giant is now awake, it's kind of saying hey guys, we expect something in return here.
FABIAN: Absolutely. Absolutely. As Latinos, we certainly expect policies that will be good for our families.
ACOSTA: A seat at the Obama table is getting harder to come by with organizations representing big business, unions and the young. Just to name a few all squeezing in with their hands out.
BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENT-ELECT: In order to fix our economic crisis and rebuild our middle class, we need to fix our health care system too.
ACOSTA: Leading groups seeking universal health care is running an ad featuring the president-elect himself.
Is it really politically possible? Harry Truman tried this.
RICHARD KIRSCH, HEALTH CARE FOR AMERICA NOW: Here's what I believe and I tell myself this every day. If you told me that a black guy named Barack Obama could be elected president, I would have said no, that's not possible. I think it's possible we're going to get health care for everybody in this country with the new president.
ACOSTA: Mr. Obama's new chief of staff says they are listening. He just told a "Wall Street Journal" forum a big push on health care is in the works.
RAHM EMANUEL, CHIEF OF STAFF TO PRESIDENT-ELECT OBAMA: Things that we had postponed for too long that were long term are now immediate and must be dealt with.
ACOSTA: But with the enormous challenges facing the next president, not every special interest will be so lucky.
STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGY: I don't think Senator Obama owes anything to anyone except the people who voted for him. And not everyone is going to get everything they want, certainly not right away. (END VIDEOTAPE)
ACOSTA: But not for a lack of trying. A number of groups pushing for a new fight on immigration reform plan to march on the Capital, one day after Barack Obama's inaugural.
ROBERTS: There's going to be a lot of people looking for a lot of things come January 21st. Jim Acosta for us this morning. Jim, thanks.
ACOSTA: You got it.
CHETRY: Well, celebrating while many are suffering. In this tough economy, how much glitz and glamour is acceptable at the inaugural? We're going to talk about it, coming up. 13 minutes after the hour.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So what are some of your "recessionista" tricks?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: First of all, you can get a lot of great stuff online. And I call it my "chiconomic," you know, Google search.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHETRY: In this economy, shopping secrets including quick ways to get a bargain and stretch your designer dollars. You're watching the "Most News in the Morning."
CHETRY: Americans are losing their jobs left and right. And so on inauguration day, glitzy and glamorous inaugural balls could make a lot of Americans mad. But if Obama opts out of the famous parties, he won't be the first president to do so, actually. Carol Costello is live in Washington for us this morning.
Carol, so, you know, you take a look at it and it's like, you know, would you cut back and people are willing to spend big bucks to still go to these things or even help them pay for it. What's being debated right now about that?
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, it is weird, Kiran, but you know, if you have 30,000 bucks to buy a ticket to the inaugural parade, you're not hurting. President-elect Obama has to be mindful of the whole country. And some say that means less is more.
COSTELLO (voice-over): Inaugural bashes are glitzy, glamorous, and expensive. President Bush raised $42.8 million for his bash balls and parade. And according to Taxpayers for Common Sense, $16 million more was paid for by taxpayers. If President-elect Barack Obama follows suit, some say it would be unseemly.
RYAN ALEXANDER, TAXPAYERS FOR COMMON SENSE: A lot of it is about tone and making sure that, you know, the celebrations that do take place are not over the top, that don't appear to be, you know, insensitive to the pain that people have right now.
COSTELLO: It just might not look good to throw yourself a multimillion dollar party when crash, bailout and foreclosure are synonymous with America's economy. Bloggers are already harping, wouldn't it just be plain common sense to not be seen spending millions on canopies and liquor, when people are struggling with heating bills? Conspicuous consumption is out.
One world leaders met last week to discuss the worldwide economic crisis, they were widely criticized for sitting down to a beefy menu, a fruit with smoked quail, with quince gastrique and eggplant fondue.
JON STEWART, THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART: This image of the full 20 of them at a long banquet table toasting over wine that sells, this is true, for $500 a bottle. Yes, I know.
COSTELLO: Another good reason to cut back? Obama's promise.
OBAMA: I will take power away from the corporate lobbyists.
COSTELLO: It means Obama will be harshly criticized if corporate donors or lobbyists pick up the tab.
ALEXANDER: If he can pay for these parties with small donations, I think there would be a lot more acceptance of that. But those small donors may not have it anymore.
COSTELLO: Maybe Obama should follow the example of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This great nation will endure --
COSTELLO: He gave voters that now famous pep talk about the failing economy and then he skipped the fancy balls because they sent the wrong message. Will Obama follow suit? Most analysts say, not likely.
COSTELLO: And CNN analyst, like Republican Ed Rollins, say Obama won't skip the parties because too many voters want to celebrate his historic win. Washington is expecting record crowds. Still, watchdog groups say there are things Obama can do like make donations to charity. Michelle Obama can wear a dress that doesn't cost a mint. And the tone of the celebrations could be somewhat subdued.
And Kiran, I did just hear from the Obama camp, they haven't even started planning really yet, so they don't really have an answer for us quite yet. CHETRY: Yes. They are working on the transition and filling up the cabinet, and now they've got to worry about this as well. So, what are some of their other ideas for, you know, appearing to have a little bit of frugality in this tough time.
COSTELLO: Well, I think Michelle Obama's dress could be a good symbol. At least that's what many watch dog groups say. You know, don't buy this fancy designer dress that costs, you know, thousands and thousands of dollars. Maybe go the Sharon Stone route and wear your husband's white shirt and maybe a nice, expensive black skirt.
CHETRY: Wasn't she the one that also wear a J. Crew turtleneck to the Oscars or something?
COSTELLO: Oh, it was. It was. It was J. -- that, too.
CHETRY: I think -- I think that's what she did. Gap, something along those lines. All right.
CHETRY: No more product shout-outs from companies. Carol, thanks so much.
ROBERTS: Didn't she also wear a skirt with -- no, I don't want to --
CHETRY: Right. She saved money by not buying other articles of clothing as well. I got you, John.
ROBERTS: I didn't get the red memo today, though.
CHETRY: How about it?
ROBERTS: Sorry about that.
Big change is coming to three major airports. What they've done to get you home for the holidays faster than ever before.
And you can't be a history-making American president with a cigarette hanging out of your mouth, can you? So, how is our president-elect doing with his fight to kick the habit? It's the great American smoke out today. So, we'll check and see. 20 minutes now after the hour.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You represent the direct opposite of honorable black Americans like Malik al-Shabazz or Malcolm X.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: Welcome back to the "Most News in the Morning." Silent since Election Day, al Qaeda is now showing its disdain for President- elect Barack Obama. On top of that, Congress is dealing with an economic crisis, how to spend the bailout and the possibility of losing Senator Hillary Clinton to the State Department.
Joining me now from Capitol Hill to talk about all of this, Democratic Congressman Charlie Rangel.
Congressman Rangel, it's good to see you. Let me ask you, first of all, what did you think of that statement by Ayman al-Zawahiri yesterday when he used that epitaph to describe Barack Obama?
REP. CHARLIE RANGEL (D), NEW YORK: It didn't surprise me. Al Qaeda is enemy of the United States. They hate us. And they certainly didn't have any African-Americans set aside when they destroyed 9/11. So, whether the President was black or white, Jew or Gentile or even a Muslim, I assume they'd find some reason to be critical of the leader of our great country.
ROBERTS: You know, I think a lot of people are scratching their heads yesterday and again today over exactly why, if he was trying to curry favor in the Muslim world, he would say something like that because Barack Obama is seen by many Muslim countries as, perhaps, being the beginning of a new dawn in relations between America and that part of the globe.
Obviously, Ayman al-Zawahiri probably tried to maintain his presence there by saying something against America. But it would seem like this, this could have the potential to really backfire for him.
RANGEL: I don't think so. I think no matter who the president would be that they feel, in order to continue or build up the hatred they have for democracy in America, that they would have to be critical. But the truth of the matter is that we've got a great president. And his color doesn't really affect the leadership that I know is going to impact favorably for the United States.
And so, fortunately for the free world, al Qaeda is a minority type of thinking of all people, especially Muslims.
ROBERTS: The epitaph that he used, he was actually referring to that now famous statement that Malcolm X made when he was describing the difference between slaves who both accepted and supported the status quo and those who didn't. Let's just replay that moment in history.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MALCOLM X: Two kinds of Negros. There's the house Negro and the field Negro. And the house Negro always looked after his master. When the field Negro got too much out of line, they held them back in check. They put them back on the plantation. The house Negro could afford to do that because he lived better than the field Negro.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: So, Ayman al-Zawahiri who was trying to say that Malcolm X was an honorable African-American whereas Barack Obama is not. Congressman, how do you think Malcolm X would have felt about Barack Obama's election to the presidency? RANGEL: Malcolm X wanted to prove that in this country we had such great faults, especially in the beginning, the enslavement of human beings is something that I think Barack Obama is a classic example that in America, we can overcome the sins that we've committed as a nation.
So, I think Malcolm was successful in pointing out, we've got problems in the United States of America, but no African-Americans expect that foreigners to help us with our problem. We fought the democratic system, the constitution, and the election of Barack Obama is evidence that we can say, only in America.
ROBERTS: And how do you think Malcolm X would have felt about his election?
RANGEL: Malcolm X reversed himself. Malcolm would have been ecstatic. Malcolm would hope that this is the beginning of the elimination of racism and sexism in this country. You know, this is early Malcolm X. After Malcolm went to Mecca and got a true religious understanding of the Muslim world, he became a great American and a great citizen.
So, there's no inconsistency. Let me make it clear, I've gone abroad and people have criticized me as a member of Congress and talking about the racism that exists in my country. And I didn't dispute it but I told them that at least I know in my country we can overcome it. And they have a big problem in their country.
You know, you can go to any country in the world. Let's say go to our embassies, there's long lines of people trying to get to the United States of America. We don't have that feeling about people leaving this great country. So we've got problems, but, fortunately, Barack Obama is a classic example of the ability of this great country to overcome some of those problems.
ROBERTS: Surely has lifted up a whole lot of people. Congressman Charlie Rangel, it's good to see you this morning. Thanks for being with us.
RANGEL: Good to be back.
CHETRY: 29 minutes after the hour. A look at the top stories this morning. Stocks are sliding worldwide. All of it in response to the Dow meltdown yesterday when the Dow dropped 427 points. It actually closed below 8,000 for the first time since the start of the Iraq war.
Markets in Asia also down on concerns of deteriorating global economics. Also in Tokyo, the Nikkei down almost 7 percent and Hong Kong's Hang Seng down around 4 percent. Dow futures right now down about 50.
Iran could now have enough nuclear fuel to make an atomic bomb. That according to nuclear experts in this morning's "New York Times." But they say that Iran would have to take more steps to actually make a warhead and may not even have the technology to do that yet. And the Shuttle Endeavor crew gets a wake-up call less than a half hour from now. Today, a second spacewalk to continue cleaning and lubricating several critical joints. They allow many of the international space station's solar panels to track the sun's light.
Well, it's a concrete move to help airport delays. New runways opening at some of the nation's busiest airports. Our Jeanne Meserve is live at Washington's Dulles Airport where one of its runways is set to open.
Is it operational yet, Jeanne?
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: It is. Just a few minutes ago, American Airlines Flight 149 taxied down the brand- new runway and took off for Los Angeles. It's the first new runway here in 46 years. It's one of three opening today. The idea is to ease air traffic congestion, not just this next holiday week but well beyond.
MESERVE (voice-over): Concrete and lots of it. New runways at three of the nation's busier airports. Seattle, Tacoma; Chicago, O'Hare; and Washington Dulles. Mary Peters, the Secretary of Transportation, says travelers will benefit.
MARY PETERS, SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION: It's going to make a difference. It will allow us to conduct more operations, make more takeoffs and landings per hour at these airports and will help move passengers efficiently.
MESERVE: Want proof? The Hartsfield Airport in Atlanta where a new runway opened in 2006. Airport officials say capacity has increased, wait times have decreased, saving airlines $10 million each week.
A similar payoff is expected in Seattle, although saving (INAUDIBLE) spawning grounds increased the price tag of the new runway.
At O'Hare, the nation's second busiest airport, the new runway is also expected to be a big plus.
But air traffic controllers at Dulles doubt the new runway there will increase capacity. There is only one taxi way between the terminal and the runway. Controllers say it's a bottleneck.
KIERON HEFLIN, NATIONAL AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLERS ASSN.: You're left with kind of a white elephant in the interim until the taxi ways can be completed.
MESERVE: Is that what you are calling this, a white elephant?
HEFLIN: In the short term, yes. I don't believe it will be as useful as it could have been.
MESERVE: One aviation expert says runways are not being built where they're needed most. DARRYL JENKINS, AVIATION CONSULTANT: We've had the nation's most congested airports, if we had even one new runway at each of them, it would do an enormous amount to relieve congestion throughout the entire nation.
MESERVE: And those airports would be?
JENKINS: La Guardia, Newark and JFK.
MESERVE: And is that going to happen?
JENKINS: I doubt it.
MESERVE: The problem? Little land and a lot of community opposition.
MESERVE: So three new runways, what will the impact be on Thanksgiving travel? Sadly the experts say this, if the weather is bad, air travel is going to be bad. Kiran, back to you.
KIRAN CHETRY, CNN, ANCHOR: Do what you can do. All right. Jeanne Meserve, thanks so much.
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN, ANCHOR: If they are going to build a new runway at La Guardia they would have to put it in Westchester county.
CHETRY: That's right.
ROBERTS: La Guardia, that's for sure.
Well today is the day to quit smoking. It's the great American smokeout. And millions of Americans are expected to try to kick the habit at least for the day. The American Cancer Society started marking this day back in 1977. President-elect Barack Obama may be one of those Americans trying to quit smoking once and for all. He says that his wife made him promise to quit. But our Carol Costello wants to make sure that there are no buts about it and she joins us now. Hey, Carol.
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, I don't want anything to do with it. What Michael Kingsley does, I mean it is National Smokeout Day and one man Michael Kingsley is clamoring for the President-elect to come clean. He wrote an op-ed piece on the "Washington Post" headlined "let the guy smoke." Obama is already fibbing about giving up cigarettes and that's OK. Say what? Kingsley goes on to say, smokers are the one group of Americans, it's OK to discriminate against. You know you see them huddling outside of your offices, freezing and smoking. And now Kingsley says Obama may be one of those pariahs. He wants Obama to come clean and he thinks the reporters should cut out the Obama-foreia and dig deeply into this issue. He doesn't believe anything Obama said on the campaign trail about quitting smoking. Remember this?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENT-ELECT: This was a deal breaker for Michelle. And I had been sneaking three cigarettes, four cigarettes a day for a while. And she said, if you're going to do this, you've got to stop because - precisely because the stress is going to increase and it will just get worse. So that's an example of my wife making me a better man once again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COSTELLO: Try and supposedly he chewed Nicorette gum and he kicked the habit. Why is this important, you ask? Well as Kingsley wraps up his op-ed piece, if Obama needs an occasional cigarette to preserve his calm, cool demeanor, let's give him an ashtray, offer him a light and look the other way. No word from the Obama camp, John.
ROBERTS: There are other ways to relax. Speaking is like, you know, I was there in the past and -
CHETRY: You're a former smoker?
CHETRY: I quit as well.
COSTELLO: You both were former smokers and quit?
COSTELLO: How long did it take you? I mean, Kingsley says it's -
ROBERTS: 20 years. Seriously. I mean there's a tremendous rate of recidivism with it.
ROBERTS: But I think what finally it was just realizing just and sorry for all you smokers out there, how stupid I looked and how bad I really smelled.
CHETRY: See I thought it was cool. That was my problem, Carol. No, I think that, you know what finally got me to smoking is I want to have kids. So you know, you may not worry about yourself but you're worried about your little kids. So that's what ultimately did it.
COSTELLO: I think the best thing that can actually happen to you is I smoked a cigarette when I was 14 and I became violently ill. And I haven't touched one sense. So I was lucky in a sense.
ROBERTS: You were fortunate. I mean it takes a long time to come back to build your capacity back up. I'm still probably not where I should be. Working hard at it though. But seriously, I think for me, it came down to just straight out vanity. Now when a smoker goes by, wow.
CHETRY: Once you're an ex-smoker you just can't stand the smell of smoke. Probably even worse than people who never started.
COSTELLO: OK, so do you guys, knowing how hard it is to quit smoking, do you guys believe that President-elect Obama managed to kick the habit while also dealing with the pressure on the campaign trail?
ROBERTS: I don't know. I mean I can't speculate. But all I can tell him is you look so much better not smoking. And you know, what really drives it home for me is when you're at an airport and it's an airport that has one of those smoking cocoons and you look at the people in there, and they just look like they're trying to die. Seriously. It's terrible. Can you imagine walking in there?
CHETRY: Tell him to call John, he'll quit after listening to this for a couple of minutes. He'll never touch one again, Carol.
ROBERTS: President-elect, it just doesn't look good on you, period.
CHETRY: Carol, thank you.
COSTELLO: I don't think we'll see him smoking. So there you have it. Leave the op-ed because people are going to be mad at Michael Kingsley.
ROBERTS: For his health and the future of the country, let's hope that he stops smoking.
CHETRY: Carol, thanks.
With the onslaught of pirate attacks and with Russia now sending in ships to battle them, how do the pirates pull it off? A reporter who actually sailed with them will tell us what these renegades are all about.
CHETRY: We're following breaking news this morning. Russia beefing up its present in the waters off of the horn of Africa. Moscow says that the heavily armed warships will be used to keep pirates from preying on merchant ships and their valuable cargo. Joining me now to talk about this string of hijackings that we've seen lately is a Kaj Larsen. He's a Vanguard correspondent for Current TV. You're also a former Navy S.E.A.L. and you had a chance to ride along or at least talk to some of these pirates. We've seen an increase Kaj in these attacks. 264 around the world in 2007. And the latest one is a attack on a huge Saudi super tanker called "The Serious Star." It seems when you look at the size at least of the ships you know your first question is, how is this happening?
KAJ LARSEN, VANGUARD CORRESPONDENT, CURRENT TV: Well it's actually extraordinarily easy. Piracy is on the rise around the world. I was recently on the straits of Malacca, another strategic choke point where piracy is on the uptick. And it's not very difficult for a small group of pirates in a boat without board motors and AK-47s and rocket grenades to take down one of these huge containerships. And it's happening a lot.
CHETRY: First of all, tell us a little bit about who they are. Who are these modern day pirates? We all have an image in our mind of who they are but it's very different.
LARSEN: Yes. The cliche of a guy with an eye patch is not exactly accurate. These are mariners and fishermen who are out of work or they've turned to piracy because of the lucrative shipping industry that's close to their borders, whether it's been the straits of Malacca or as we've seen recently in Somalia, off the coast of Somalia. So these are pirates armed to the teeth and taking down $100 million containerships and scoring quite a bounty off of them.
CHETRY: Is this more, you know, rogue groups deciding to carrying this out, ragtag bunches of people or is this part of a larger ring if you will?
LARSEN: It's a great question. There's a full spectrum. There are certainly pirates of opportunity but increasingly more and more, especially in places like Somalia where the military would refer to as ungoverned spaces. What we're seeing are crime syndicates controlling these pirate groups.
CHETRY: It has obviously gotten a lot of worldwide attention now especially with the Saudi owners of this "Sirius Star." Apparently, it's being reported that they are negotiating with them with the pirates who hijacked this ship There were reportedly 19 other ships, possibly as many as 300 crew members still being held by pirates around the world. What is the international response? What should it be at this point to try to rescue some of the people already being held but also prevent this in the future?
LARSEN: Well, that is the question on the table right now, what is the responsibility and the role of multi-national forces in protecting the ocean's waters. What we do know is that it is an extraordinarily difficult problem to combat. In some ways this is the little ship-big ocean theory. And even in Somalia you see there's over 2.5 million square miles of water. So despite the fact that the international community is trying to prevent the problem or is trying to step up its response to the problem, it's still an extraordinarily entrenched issue. And it is difficult to combat. I think what you're going to see now in the future is a lot more demonstrations of force and a lot more security initiatives taken by the international community on the government side, but you're also seeing the private sector get involved. So a lot of these shipping companies are now hiring companies to protect their ships, which is something they haven't had to do in the past.
CHETRY: Right. And in some cases I think Norway, one of the countries they're telling - they're telling to avoid that route and actually go a longer way that costs thousands more but they don't want them having to go by that area because of what's been happening. So yes it certainly is changing the way that shipping is done. We may feel it at home in our pocket books eventually. Kaj Larsen, great tuff. Thanks so much for joining us.
LARSEN: Thank you.
ROBERTS: It's 41 minutes after the hour. OK. Times are tough, but just because they are doesn't mean you have to dress like it. We'll show you how to look chic in a bad economy. Tips for dressing like a - let's say recessionista.
ROBERTS: We are always on top of the latest medical news here on AMERICAN MORNING, and as a result you often have questions. Every Thursday we dig into Dr. Sanjay Gupta's mail back. Our chief medical correspondent joins us now from Atlanta with some answers. Are you ready to go Sanjay? Tie tied tight? Are you ready to go?
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. The tie is tied. Yes. I wonder where's yours was. We'll talk about that later.
ROBERTS: The tie is on the desk behind me. All right. Let's dive right in. Our first question comes from John in Texas writes, "My LDL, my low-density cholesterol, is under control but my HDL is always low, under 40. What can I do to raise my HDL, my good cholesterol levels?"
GUPTA: That's right and a lot of people - keep in mind that you have a total cholesterol level and it's broken down in these good and bad levels. Good levels, what are the good cholesterol levels? First of all, less than 40 is considered too low, as this viewer pointed out. 40 to 60 is average. 60 or higher is best. Here's the thing. Medications, even the statin medications that people talk so much about, are not very good at raising good cholesterol levels. They're good at lowering bad cholesterol levels. The way to really raise the good cholesterol levels primarily is through exercise, omega-3 fatty acids can help as well. That's the stuff found in fish oil, typically and just eating a diet that's relatively low in trans fat. But there is no medication specifically about HDL. So it's a good thing to pay attention to. Try to get out there and exercise is your best bet.
ROBERTS: You missed the big one. A couple of alcoholic drinks a day.
GUPTA: Oh. The no tie guy here of course had to point that out. Yes, a drink every now and then in moderation can help.
ROBERTS: There you go. In moderation, mind you. All right. Next question is from Maulik in New Jersey writes "my wife is seven months pregnant. I keep hearing differing opinion on whether she should get a flu shot. What do you think?
GUPTA: There's a lot of - for some reason, a lot of misconceptions about the flu shots specifically in pregnant women. A couple of things to point out. Pregnant women are considered one of the high risk groups they talked about when these flu shots were in shortage. They want pregnant women to get the flu shot in any trimester. Women sometimes have a weakened immune system when they're pregnant. A couple of caveats. One is you can ask for the flu shot without the marisol or the mercury preservative if that's something you want. And also the nasal flu vaccine is not a good option for pregnant women because that contains the live virus as opposed to what's called the attenuated or killed virus in the flu shot.
ROBERTS: A lot of question this morning, Sanjay. From Archie in Indiana, he writes, "I have seriously given consideration to becoming a vegetarian. What are the pros and cons associated with making such a drastic transition in diet plans?
GUPTA: Well, there are pros and cons on both sides as you might imagine. You know red meat and too much of it has been a leading culprit and cause an increase in heart disease and colon cancer overall. So that's something that people should certainly limit. If you're going to transition to vegetarianism, there's probably three things that you need to talk about, protein sources overall, vitamin B-12 and iron. These are the things that might start to lag in your diet if you transition to vegetarianism. So make sure you're still getting plenty of protein, whole grains can help with that. Tofu can help. As far as vitamin B-12, leafy green vegetables and iron as well. Lots of nuts. Those are some food groups that you got to make sure you incorporate. You may also want to take a multi-vitamin in case you have any gaps in your diet.
ROBERTS: Sanjay Gupta for us this morning, good to talk to you, Doc. Thanks for answering the questions.
GUPTA: Thank you. You got it.
ROBERTS: Next Thursday, by the way. So see you then.
CHETRY: We wouldn't have been born with these. We need meat.
ROBERTS: Well, canines? Those are awfully small. Boston terriers.
CHETRY: That is true. Small teeth.
All right. Well CNN NEWSROOM is just minutes away. Heidi Collins at the CNN Center with a look at what's ahead. You were just about to break into a steak.
HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: I was. How did you know that? I have steak and eggs right over here next to me. All right. Here's a check of what we are working on in the NEWSROOM today.
A big ouch on Wall Street. The Dow tumbling below 8,000. The bears are gathering and we've got our eyes on the market yet again.
Also, choosing a new cabinet. We're talking about two more names now that may be on the president-elect's radar. And what do you really know about politics? How about foreign relations? It's time for a civics test. You might be surprised what you learn. We get started at the top of the hour right here on CNN. Kiran.
CHETRY: All right. Heidi, enjoy the steak and eggs. Thanks so much. It's 49 minutes after the hour.
CHETRY (voice-over): Dressing up.
LOLA OGUNNAIKE, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: So what are some of your recessionista tricks?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: First of all you can get a lot of great stuff online. And I call it my chic-conomics. You know, google search.
CHETRY: In this economy, shopping secrets including quick ways to get a bargain and stretch your designer dollars. You're watching the most news in the morning.
CHETRY: Well you know the saying when the times are tough, the tough go shopping? Well that might not be the wisest choice right now but you can look good in a bad economy. Our Lola Ogunnaike hit the stores to show you how.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A recessionista is someone who wants style and takes pride in finding style at a low price. And right now we're all recessionistas.
OGUNNAIKE: You call yourself a true recessionista, why?
KAREN ROBINOVITZ, "RECESSIONISTA": I am personally on like double secret shopping probation, severe lock down. Credit cards are completely off limits. I don't really want to sacrifice glamour and the joy I have from shopping.
OGUNNAIKE: So what are some of your recessionista tricks?
ROBINOVITZ: OK. Well, first of all you can get a lot of great stuff online. I call it my chic-conomics, you know, google search. I got these at smartbargains.com. I know it's - the name smart bargains, you wouldn't think you can find great things, you can find great things. Feel this. It's like delicious, even though it's cheap. You want to make sure you're getting value. This is a Target scarf. Like I run my ring over it, and I'm like OK , it's not pulling, it's not catching. This looks good. This is Gap. This is Target.
OGUNNAIKE: Target. Oohh. These wraps, only 27.99.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Only $27.99.
OGUNNAIKE: Oh, two of them. Oh, my gosh, with the ruffle. I'm dying. This is killing me.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: $29.99. Shopping on a budget. OGUNNAIKE: So it can be really tight?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Or you can use a little room in it so when you move it sways with you.
OGUNNAIKE: Sways with you, I like that. It can be tight before dinner and a little looser after.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's right. You've got to find room for the turkey.
OGUNNAIKE: Does it look like too '70s?
I like it over here.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They look at the merchandise. And in their mind you think I'm going to pay a lot of money for this. When they pick it up and they look at the price, it's like, it's a done deal.
CHETRY: How about that? Target. Lola's back from her shopping expedition. And you have some other tips. Because these were some good tips about finding these types of bargains. What do you suggest?
OGUNNAIKE: Well one is the clothing time share. If you and your friend are the exact same size, chip in and buy one dress and wear it to an event on different evenings. Two skimp on things like denim, go can go to Old Navy and get great denim. You don't have to spend $250 on a pair of jeans. Also white stark shirts, go to the Gap. You don't need the Dolce top. Also, another thing if you are going to spend money, spend money on timeless pieces, don't spend money on the trends. Spend money on the pieces that you know are going to last forever. A great boot, a great handbag, a great black turtleneck.
CHETRY: All right. Like somebody I know whose timeless piece was a beautiful animal print jacket that you just had to have your hands on, right? You were looking for it for five years and you found it.
OGUNNAIKE: I borrowed it from our resident fashionista, recessionista Sunny Hostin and our legal correspondent and I love it and I still wear it and I'll wear it forever.
CHETRY: See that and find your buddy with the same shoe size, especially if you're going to these holiday parties, you're not going to wear the dress again next year.
OGUNNAIKE: If you and I wear the same size. So let's trade.
CHETRY: How about it, I was eyeing yours up right in this second. And I like yours, too.
Thanks, Lola . Great job. And you know I have to just show you guys something because this is what happens to us ladies. I don't know what happened. But somehow red day here on AMERICAN MORNING. Every single correspondent, everybody that we talked to today happens to be wearing red. Did we send out a memo, guys?
COSTELLO: I think it's more fabulous women think alike.
CHETRY: How about it? Well, you guys all look gorgeous.
VERJEE: It throws light on my face.
CHETRY: You're right. Exactly. When in doubt, wear red. Exactly, Zain. All right. John, what do you think about the lovely ladies here?
ROBERTS: Said it all with lady in red sign, we've got four of them today. Pretty good. Excellent. Looking wonderful this morning.
It's coming up now at 56 minutes after the hour. First lady on tour. No, not that one. The wife of French President Nicolas Sarkozy stole the spotlight again and she's stealing hearts at the same time.
There's one right there.
ROBERTS: The First Lady of France is on an American tour. And our Jeanne Moos found when Carla Bruni comes strumming, it seems that everyone goes gaga.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It takes a flashy First Lady to make David Letterman speak French.
DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, "LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": Romantique. Abiento. Merci beaucoup.
MOOS: We're used to seeing a prince kissing her hand, a queen receiving here curtsy. Here's the wife of President Nicolas Sarkozy during a late night comedy show being promoed on morning TV.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Then France's First Lady Carla Bruni has a special performance for us. We're going to get rid of that tape.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I think so.
MOOS (on-camera): Just imagine any other First Lady out there hawking a CD. Laura Bush, Michelle Obama.
MOOS (voice-over): But Carla Bruni is a former model and now a singer.
MOOS: And her web performance after she appeared on Letterman, she didn't seem to mind his jokes.
LETTERMAN: The guy with the guitar, Secret Service.
MOOS: Dave was about as flirtatious as you can get with France's First Lady. Italian born.
LETTERMAN: If I was Italy, I would try to get you back.
MOOS: Dave even implied the Pope was charmed by her.
LETTERMAN: I know he's the Pope but he's also a guy, so he must --
MOOS: And on the "Today" show, the First Lady was asked about her famous quote, "love lasts a long time but passion, maybe two or three weeks."
CARLA BRUNI SARKOZY, FIRST LADY, FRANCE: Did I really say that? Maybe. Maybe I tried to be funny.
MOOS: So did a pair of French-Canadian radio hosts. Remember when one of them pretended to be President Sarkozy? And actually got through to Governor Sarah Palin. Carla came up.
GOV. SARAH PALIN (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And your beautiful wife, oh, my goodness.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know my wife would love to meet you. You know even though she was a bit jealous that I was supposed to speak to you today.
PALIN: Well, give her a big hug for me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She even wrote a song for you.
PALIN: Oh, my goodness. I didn't know that.
MOOS: Carla the songwriter told Letterman it was love at first sight when she met President Sarkozy at a dinner.
BRUNI-SARKOZY: You know it's not so comfortable to sort of be dating when you're like the president of France.
LETTERMAN: Right. We had a president who dated, that didn't work out either.
MOOS: The celebrity blogs dissed her for looking ghostly pale, but that pales in comparison's to Letterman's warmth, not to mention David's French dressing.
Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
CHETRY: That's a good look for Letterman. Not as good as the no-tie look on you but getting there.
ROBERTS: Well, you know, some people like it and some people look like I just came in from a late night.
CHETRY: Well, every day is a late night on this show.
ROBERTS: I know. It's interesting, as I did come in from a late night. I woke up at about 11:30 and came into work real early, so I have been up all night.
CHETRY: All right. Well, thanks for joining us on AMERICAN MORNING. We will see you back here tomorrow.
ROBERTS: Right now here's "CNN NEWSROOM" with Heidi Collins.