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AMERICAN MORNING

Drew Peterson Arrested and Charged in the Murder of Third Wife; Santa Barbara Fire Forces More Evacuation; General Motors Spa Getaway Questioned; Dodgers Slugger Manny Ramirez Suspended on Steroid Use; Troop Surge Starts in Afghanistan; Dry City Votes on Allowing Sale of Alcohol; Star Trek Prequel

Aired May 8, 2009 - 06:00   ET

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


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Hello. Thanks so much for being with us. It's Friday, it's May 8th. I'm Kiran Chetry. And we have Carol Costello with us this morning in for John Roberts.

Hey, Carol, good to see you.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, on my favorite day of the week, Friday.

CHETRY: Exactly.

COSTELLO: Happy Friday to you. We have a lot to cover this morning. Here are the big stories we'll be breaking down for you in the next 15 minutes.

We begin with breaking news. Former Illinois police Sergeant Drew Peterson arrested and formally charged with the murder of his third wife. He is still a suspect in the disappearance of his fourth wife, Stacy Peterson.

Wildfires raging again this morning in Santa Barbara, California with no letup in sight. It's estimated some 4,700 people are out of their homes. More than 2,700 acres have been blackened and 75 homes now destroyed.

Plus, in a little more than two hours, a key jobs report will be released and it's expected to show job losses slowed in April. So could this mean the worst of the job cuts is over? Our CNN Money Team standing by with what you need to know.

So I guess there's a big jobs report due out this morning at 8:30 Eastern Time.

CHETRY: That's right.

COSTELLO: So in a couple of hours from now and I'm looking over at Christine Romans hoping for good news and hoping she says something great about it.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, now - we talked about this yesterday. Now, the good news is the one the news isn't so bad. And that's what we're looking for for this jobs report. We're expecting this to show the employment rate, you guys, climbed to 8.9 percent. That would be the worst in 25 years, the worst unemployment rate in 25 years. But here are the glimmers of hope to use a phrase coined by the president or used by the president.

There have been these little signs that the mass layoffs are slowing. Private sector job losses in reports this week were dramatically left. Layoff announcements have declined, and first-time jobless claims were the lowest in 14 weeks.

So we have seen these small little signs that the mass layoffs are slowing. But it doesn't mean that employers are necessarily going out there and hiring a bunch of people. It just means that the situation is less bad than it was before. And that's what we need, frankly, to start feeling a little bit better. But, remember, the jobs are the last thing that are going to recover in all this.

CHETRY: As you remind people the stock market is the leading indicator and the jobs market is the lagging indicator and so somewhere in between we are reading on where we really are.

ROMANS: That's absolutely right. And the stock market frankly has been doing very well. The bank stocks this morning again are doing well. They've got that stress test behind them.

And ironically, I can't believe that they did such a good job of getting out news that you need $75 billion more for banks after they got all of this taxpayer money and that's being perceived as good news on Wall Street, and by investors. That's simply because it could have been worse again.

COSTELLO: Right, which is a tribute to Timothy Geithner, because he leaked out the good information slowly and then he...

ROMANS: I don't know how they leaked it and who did it or if it was the banks that are coming to what, but it was a very - it was, you know, Wall Street is pleased that that's behind them and that the banking situation is not as bad as they have feared. And so, now, they're moving forward. So that's happening too.

And something really important for people, starting today, $250 checks are going to millions of seniors, people getting Social Security, disability benefits and the like. It's part of the stimulus, folks, this $250 payment that you'll see in your account, how you get your Social Security. So that's a little bit of money for people from the stimulus that will be going to an awful lot of folks starting this week.

COSTELLO: So happy Friday.

CHETRY: Yes, exactly.

Thanks, Christine.

Well, also, we have some breaking news this morning. Former Illinois police sergeant turned high-profile murder suspect Drew Peterson in jail this morning, formally charged with killing his third wife, Kathleen Savio.

Now, Peterson is still a suspect in the disappearance of his fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, but that is not why he was arrested yesterday.

Peterson's third wife was found dead in a bathtub back in 2004. It was originally ruled an accidental drowning even though there was no water in the tub and that her hair was soaked with blood from a head wound. The case was then reopened after his fourth wife vanished.

CNN's Susan Roesgen is live outside of the detention facility in Joliet, Illinois.

And just a couple of questions for you, Susan, on the timing of this because they understand they did an autopsy in 2008. They changed the ruling to murder in Kathleen Savio's death. So why the arrest of Drew Peterson now?

SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, because this investigation has gone on, Kiran, for about a year and a half now. It was when Stacy Peterson disappeared in October of '07, wife number four, as you mentioned, that detectives said, wait a minute, let's go ahead now and look at what happened to wife number three, Kathleen Savio.

So it was November of 2007 when they exhumed her body and did an autopsy in that case because Drew Peterson, Kiran, has been named their number one suspect in Stacy's disappearance. So he's not been charged with anything in that particular case. The grand jury came back with an indictment yesterday that gave him this murder count in the death of Kathleen Savio, Kiran.

CHETRY: All right. And the picture we're looking at right now is Kathleen Savio. But going back to Stacy Peterson now, what is the latest on the investigation and into her disappearance that many think is a murder?

ROESGEN: Well, the latest is that the tip hotline is still open. It's been open for a year and a half. Drew Peterson himself infuriated a lot of her family and friends because he didn't participate in any of the searches for her.

There has been no body found. Just simply no trace of this woman who disappeared October 30th of 2007. And even so, Kiran, the state police in this case are pleased that at least they have gotten the grand jury indictment in the murder case of Kathleen Savio, wife number three.

CHETRY: And how is this going to hold up in court? We're going to be talking to a defense attorney a little bit later in the show.

Susan Roesgen for us, thanks.

CHETRY: So who exactly is Drew Peterson? We have more now in an "AM Extra." Drew Peterson, 55-years-old, is a former Illinois police sergeant. He was with the Bolingbrook Police Department for 29 years. He retired in 2007, collects over $6,000 a month from his police pension.

He's been married four times. He has four children. All of those children were living with him in his home during this - when he was arrested. Two with his third wife, Kathleen Savio, and then two with Stacy Peterson.

COSTELLO: And the suspect in a Connecticut university shooting is in police custody this morning after a nationwide manhunt. Stephen Morgan charged with first degree murder on the death of a Wesleyan University student.

Police say Morgan might have been targeting Wesleyan University and the town's Jewish residents. Sources telling our affiliate WFSB the journal seized by police revealed Morgan wrote about turning Wesleyan into a Jewish Columbine. Morgan is being held on $10 million bond and he'll be arraigned later this morning.

Also developing now, a wind-driven wildfire still raging out of control in Santa Barbara, California forcing more evacuations overnight. Residents of 7,800 additional homes were ordered to leave the fire zone.

CNN's Kara Finnstrom is live at the fire command center in Santa Barbara.

Kara, what are fire officials saying this morning?

KARA FINNSTROM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, they are concerned because exactly what they feared might happen overnight did. Those winds whipped up and they forced already destructive fire into some new neighborhoods, forcing those additional evacuations.

As of right now, a total of 30,000 people have been evacuated and we're told that 75 homes have been either destroyed or damaged. So that toll at least. Also, what they're able to really ascertain or to get a feel for has really gone up overnight.

Now, we did drive into some of these neighborhoods early this morning and we saw folks getting into already-packed-up cars, taking out their pets as there were flames literally in their back yards.

We also spoke with a man named Chris Lane who said he already lost one house. Now, he's staying to fight for his mother's house.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS LANE, TRYING TO SAVE HIS MOM'S HOUSE: We lost our house up in Edgemont (ph). We're not going to lose this one, dude. 1199, that's the greatest place we ever lived in. We're fighting for this one.

(END VIDEO CLIP) FINNSTROM: Now, there is a very thick smoke and ash in the air here this morning. But there's also some good news because the forecast does call for the winds to die down and for those temperatures to cool. And that's exactly what firefighters say they need.

COSTELLO: Kara Finnstrom live from Santa Barbara, California this morning. Thanks.

CHETRY: The so-far mild swine flu outbreak raising in the U.S. raising some questions about whether public health officials went overboard sounding the alarm. The CDC says that the H1N1 virus is less severe than first feared, but it is still spreading and the potential for danger isn't clearly understood.

Meantime, the World Health Organization issued another scary sounding warning yesterday, predicting as many as two billion people could catch the new flu if it turns into a global pandemic. But right now, only 2,300 people worldwide have been diagnosed.

Alaska Governor Sarah Palin cancelling a scheduled appearance at tomorrow night's White House Correspondence dinner. Palin's staying home this weekend to monitor the flooding situation in Eagle, Alaska. She declared a state of emergency this week because of record flooding that officials say basically wiped out this town.

And General Motors bailed out and on the brink of bankruptcy, so why was GM holding a sales meeting at a luxury resort this week? The story and whether or not there's taxpayer outrage just ahead.

It's eight minutes past the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: It is a beautiful day in Fort Lauderdale, Florida this morning. Look at the clouds out there, WFOR, the courtesy picture from them this morning. It's 80 degrees right now, fair, going up to a high of 86. And nice and sunny there this morning and later today.

It's 11 minutes past the hour. Time to fast forward through the stories that will be making news later today.

Job creation and job training. The focus at the White House today that Labor Department is going to be getting such a release, some big numbers on jobs this morning. And president Obama will deliver remarks at 11:30 a.m. Eastern. We'll have that for you live here on CNN.

Also, the countdown to the launch at 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time, astronauts are set to go on a mission to upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope. They'll arrive at the Kennedy Space Center. The shuttle "Atlantis" is scheduled to blast off Monday, 2:01 Eastern in the afternoon.

Well, President Obama's car czar is in Flint, Michigan today at Montgomery, will tour GM factory there and then speak to the press at 10:30 a.m. Eastern. After that, he and Michigan's governor will meet with autoworkers at a local community college.

And that's what we're following this morning - Carol.

COSTELLO: Despite getting billions in taxpayer bailout money, General Motors is moving ever closer to bankruptcy. The struggling automaker lost $6 million in the first quarter of this year. So how did GM foot the bill for hundreds of clients at a luxury resort and spa this week?

CNN's Mary Snow is following the story for us - Mary.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Carol and Kiran, we've seen companies spark fury for the way they've spent money while getting taxpayer bailout money. Take the public anger at AIG after it held an executive retreat last fall.

General Motors didn't hold a retreat, but critics are questioning a sales event that wrapped up Thursday in Arizona.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW (voice-over): It bills itself as a destination resort outside Phoenix. The resort's Web site touts two 18-hole golf courses, four pools, and a 17,500-square-foot spa. And it's where General Motors hosted about 500 of its biggest customers this week, flying them in, paying nearly $250 a night for their hotel rooms.

The GM spokesman says the two-day sales event shows off its new line of cars and trucks to fleet buyers who make up about 25 percent of GM sales. And, he says, the event was scaled back - no free golf, no spa services.

But it didn't convince public spending watchdogs who questioned why GM held it at all when it's on the brink of bankruptcy and taxpayers have footed $15 billion in bailout money.

TOM SCHATZ, CITIZENS AGAINST GOVERNMENT WASTE: It just doesn't look good and certainly it would outrage any shareholder of any company, and especially when the shareholders are being forced to hold part of that company.

SNOW: A spokesman for GM says it needs to keep customers from going to competitors.

TERRY RHADIGAN, GMA SPOKESMAN: We don't do this. And we don't tell our folks, our customers what to do for 2010. It's like an invitation to go buy a Toyota, and we can't - we can't tolerate that.

SNOW: One business professor specializing in branding says while GM has an image issue, there's a difference between auto executives flying corporate jets to Washington asking for bailout money and the company trying to sway customers.

DAVID ROGERS, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY BUSINESS SCHOOL: Nobody wants to see any of the companies that are on the government dole right now using their money for themselves. But obviously, they're trying to stay in business. They're trying to make money. You've got to spend money on the customers.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: And as far as how much money General Motors spent on its customers this week, the company declined to provide an overall cost - Carol and Kiran.

COSTELLO: Thanks, Mary.

This morning there's no joy in Mannywood, no joy at all. L.A. Dodger slugger Manny Ramirez suspended for taking a banned substance. We're breaking down baseball's latest scandal.

And this morning, the first wave of troops to be sent to Afghanistan are on the ground. So what's the best strategy moving forward? We'll tall to retired Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt who has been to the front lines in Afghanistan.

And conservative talk show host Michael Savage banned from Britain. We played an exclusive interview with him yesterday and it continues to be a big topic of conversation on our show hotline, 877- MY-AMFIX.

Here's what some of you are saying.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CALLER (via telephone): He's the most divisive, racist crumb (ph) out there. He has done more to divide the country than any other radio talk show host. He doesn't even deserve to be on the air.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: Top videos right now on CNN.com.

A shopping center explosion in Forestville, Maryland. Firefighters say they were responding to reports of a gas leak. And boy, was there ever one. Just as they arrived, the building exploded in this huge fireball. Eight firefighters and a gas company employee suffered second-degree burns and cuts from flying glass. Six businesses including a pregnancy center were completely destroyed.

Also, this video out of Montgomery, Alabama, an SUV gets caught up in raging floodwaters. The fast-moving water swept the car down the river and underneath a bridge. No one was inside the car at the time, thank goodness.

And this woman in Charleston, West Virginia has the winning touch. Brenda Bailey has hit the lottery a whopping five times since last September. Her winnings add up to more than $160,000. She says she plans to use her winnings to fix up her house and take care of her pets.

I've got to go touch her to get some of that luck. CHETRY: I know. Exactly.

All right. Well, it's yet another black eye for baseball. Few saw this one coming though.

Superstar slugger Manny Ramirez of the Los Angeles Dodgers is now suspended for 50 games after he tested positive for a performance- enhancing drug.

CNN's Casey Wian has the story for us.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There's a baseball saying: Manny being Manny, way to explain the often odd behavior of one of the greatest hitters in history.

But the news that Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Manny Ramirez has been suspended for 50 games after testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug seems to defy explanation.

In a statement released by the Players Association, Ramirez said, "Recently I saw a physician for a personal health issue. He gave me a medication, not a steroid, which he thought was OK to give me. Unfortunately, the medication was banned under our drug policy. I'm sorry about this whole situation."

Ramirez helped revitalize a struggling baseball franchise, leading the Dodgers to a division championship last year and to a major league record 13 straight home wins to start this season. Ramirez was one of the few sluggers in recent baseball history not tainted by steroids or other banned substances. Now he joins a long list of players with hall of fame statistics who have scarred the national pastime and used ignorance as an excuse.

ALEX RODRIGUEZ, NEW YORK YANKEES: I didn't think there were steroids. I mean, that's again part of being young and stupid.

DAVID CARTER, SPORTS BUSINESS GROUP: I think the fans are rather complacent in the entire situation. They talk a big game about how they don't like to see performance-enhancing drugs but they still buy tickets. They still tune in.

WIAN: Even the White House weighed in.

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It's a shame. My sense is it's a great embarrassment on Major League Baseball.

WIAN: Major League Baseball lists 88 substances as banned performance-enhancing drugs. Neither the union nor Major League Baseball disclosed which banned substance Ramirez.

ESPN citing two sources reports Ramirez tested positive for a female fertility drug commonly taken as part of a steroid-using cycle. The Dodger's left fielder says he's been advised not to anything more for now. During his suspension, Ramirez will lose $7.7 million of his $25 million salary.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHETRY: All right. That was Casey Wian reporting. And late- night host Jimmy Fallon delivered his take on Manny's suspension in his monologue last night. Check it out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIMMY FALLON, HOST, "LATE NIGHT WITH JIMMY FALLON": Hey, this just happened. Manny Ramirez of the Dodgers was suspended for 50 games for violating baseball's drug policy. Suspicions were raised last Saturday when Manny came in third at the Kentucky Derby.

Gentlemen, come on. That's a jockey riding Manny Ramirez. That's....

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: That was a bad joke. Sorry, Jimmy.

But you know getting back to the serious side of this story, I mean, what he did does so much damage to the game of baseball which...

CHETRY: Does it or are we just jaded right now? I mean, I don't know. When I heard it yesterday, I thought it's not shocking and that's a sad commentary about how people view baseball right now.

COSTELLO: That's right.

CHETRY: A lot of good guys out there, but you know, we keep hearing this with these star players.

COSTELLO: Right. And anytime someone gets on a streak, people are going to suspect them of taking steroids.

CHETRY: But I think when their shoe size grows three, by, you know, three sizes. Yes.

Suddenly they're shopping at Victoria's Secret but not for their wives. Sorry.

COSTELLO: He deserves that.

Michelle Obama's advice for working women in her own words. Hear the life lessons she's learned when it comes to juggling work and family.

And we're following developing news about the killings of men, women and children during U.S. air strikes in Afghanistan. Who's being blamed this morning? And what was Taliban's role in the killings? We're live in Afghanistan.

It's 22 minutes past.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The sound of the ocean haunts Hasaki Hataya (ph) who watches the waves go year after year. What was solid ice just a decade ago is now water.

Hataya (ph) is an ice guide, walking visitors through a spectacular landscape of Arctic ice that every winter flows down in northern Japan. But it's a landscape that is progressively losing ground and there's more and more warm water underneath.

Captain Chikara Wata (ph) echoes those concerns. Wata (ph) operates this boat that takes tourists into the heart of the Arctic ice strip.

LAH (on camera): What they're seeing more and more in this part of Hokkaido is water, not ice. Or having to go further out just to catch a glimpse of something they could usually see from the shore.

Two degrees.

(voice-over): Locals hope to turn back time by turning down the thermometer and reducing carbon emissions. Hotel owner Shigeyuki Kawajima organized nearly every single business in the area to turn down heaters, use hot water bottles for heat filled with natural hot spring water and save the cooking oil in these giant bins that will run city buses in the summer.

"Small stubs," says Kawajima. The scientists say we save the equivalent of 21 tennis courts (ph) of ice last year. But our experience the next morning was different. The temperatures warmer, the ice had drifted further away.

Hasaki Hataya (ph) says like the ice, his future as an ice guide is unstable.

Kyung Lah, CNN, Hokkaido, Japan.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: Well, most people don't like the weather in D.C. likely anywhere. It's cloudy, 61 degrees, but it's going to be stormy later. Yes, more rain and people are starting to suffer from seasonal defective disorder. I'm telling you.

CHETRY: No effect in the summer.

COSTELLO: I know. I'm sad. It's crazy.

CHETRY: Exactly. Well, you called it sunshine - what did you call it?

COSTELLO: Defective. Like a seasonal defective. But it's seasonal affective disorder or SAD.

CHETRY: Or sad. Yes. COSTELLO: We'll get on Rob later about the sunshine on the East Coast.

Mom-in-chief Michelle Obama speaking about the ongoing struggle to find a balance between work and family. She told executives at a Corporate Voices for Working Families conference that she knows the challenges of being a working mother and feeling that one is never doing enough. The first lady also joking that she now has more resources than most.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: I personally, as Donna described, know the challenges of leading a busy life at work and at home, trying to do a good job at both and always feeling like you're not quite living up to it either. And even though my current life, trust me, is very different than it was, and for most people - and I do know that. I know that right now, I am living, as challenging as it may seem, in a very blessed situation. Because I have what most families don't have, is tons of support all around. Not just my mother, but staff and administration. I have a chief of staff and a personal assistant and - everyone needs that. That's what we need. Yes, everyone should have a chief of staff and a set of personal assistants.

But one thing I know from meeting women and men across the country is that the work life challenges that I face aren't different from the challenges facing other families and undoubtedly many of you. And even when I had sick leave, I found myself, you know, hoping that the kids would stay well just because I couldn't afford to take the day off because there was a meeting or something was going on.

So your whole life is just contingent upon everything working perfectly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: Very true.

COSTELLO: Well, she's right, isn't she.

CHETRY: Yes.

COSTELLO: She hit the nail on the head. She also urged companies to give parents access to flexible work hours and paid leave and child care.

CHETRY: It's very true. And she says, I mean, it doesn't matter whether - if you have kids, you feel it. If you don't have kids, you feel it also.

I mean, I always joke around, I was very, very busy and felt like I was juggling three balls in the air when I didn't have kids. But, you know, even if they do offer those types of things, you know, in an environment where you're feeling like they're probably going to lay people off because of the recession, you just don't want to take advantage of that type of stuff because you feel it may make you look bad in the workplace.

COSTELLO: Exactly. That's tough. It's tougher. And I admire - I don't have children, so I admire you. I think it's amazing.

CHETRY: Whether you do or you don't, I mean, it's still a struggle, right? I mean, just trying to keep it all together.

Coffee.

COSTELLO: Coffee. Cheers.

CHETRY: Well, it's 30 minutes after the hour. We're going to check our top stories right now.

Former Illinois police sergeant Drew Peterson. He's been arrested now in the drowning death of his third wife, Kathleen Savio. She was found dead in a bathtub in 2004. This was originally ruled an accidental drowning. The cause of death then changed to homicide after her body was exhumed in 2008. Peterson is also the prime suspect in the disappearance of his fourth wife, Stacy. He's now in jail this morning on $20 million bond. Peterson has repeatedly denied he harmed either of his last two wives.

Tensions right now on the rise as North Korea announces that it is planning to bolster its nuclear efforts. The move coming as the U.S. special envoy on North Korea visits the region to try to start disarmament talks again. Pyongyang said there's nothing to be gain by sitting down with a quote, "Party that continues to view us with hostility."

Also this morning, the Pakistani military escalating its offensive against Taliban fighters in what's known as the Swat Valley region of the country. Right now 15,000 fighters are on the ground. Fighter jets are also pounding the area. It has stepped up offensive just the day after Pakistan's prime minister formally renounced a peace agreement with Taliban militants. As many as half a million civilians are expected to flee that region.

We're also following developing news in neighboring Afghanistan. CNN is learning that the Taliban may have been using women, children and men as human shields during U.S. air strikes earlier this week. A preliminary investigation shows that an unknown number of civilians were killed when the U.S. bombed more than half a dozen targets in western Afghanistan.

CNN Stan Grant is live in Kabul this morning.

And what are you learning about this situation?

STAN GRANT, CNN UNITED ARAB EMIRATES CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Kiran.

We're still waiting for a formal statement, a formal report to come down from the U.S. military here in Kabul. But U.S. sources within the U.S. military confirming that, yes, the civilians, an unknown number of civilians were killed by a U.S. air strike. Now this air strike was called in during tense fighting in the fire province in western Afghanistan, fighting between the U.S. forces, Afghan forces, and the Taliban. We don't know exactly how many people had been killed. We may never know.

The Red Cross says they have seen dozens of bodies. According to local estimates, the number could be 100 or more. Now this investigation, of course, is continuing. There were earlier suggestions that the Taliban themselves may have been responsible by grenading the civilians and then carrying them through the village to make it look as though they were attacked by U.S. air strike.

That, of course, an investigation is ongoing. And also investigation into whether the Taliban used the civilians as human shields, placing them in the houses. The air strikes targeted houses where they believe insurgents were actually holed up, of course, killing these men, women, and children.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was also in Afghanistan. He says, look, this is a ground war. It is fought block by block. And it is regrettable that they are going to be civilian casualties. This does, though, make it very difficult for the U.S. on the ground as they continue to win over - try to win over support from local Afghanis - Kiran.

CHETRY: All right. Stan, thanks so much.

We'll check in with you throughout the morning on this developing situation.

COSTELLO: A peace offering by Democrats after their newest member Senator Arlen Specter was stripped of his seniority. Illinois's Dick Durbin is offering to give Specter his post as chairman of a key subcommittee that yields power over the Justice Department. Durbin saying the move would, quote, "Best utilize Senator Specter's talent and experience in our caucus.

And Senator Specter getting another political boost in his bid to get re-elected. Popular former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge who has been flirting with the idea of running for Specter's Republican seat announced he will not. Poll show Ridge would have given Specter quite a run.

And this morning, the first phase of President Obama's plan to send 21,000 more troops to Afghanistan now under way. Dozens of Marines now on the ground. Retired Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt will join us with the challenges of securing this - securing more troops. We'll get to him after the break.

It's 34 minutes past.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning.

The first wave of troops to be sent to Afghanistan are right now on the ground. They are part of the 21,000 troops heading to the region to take back a country slipping into terrorists' hands.

Joining me now is retired Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, the former assistant secretary of state for political military affairs who has dealt with Afghanistan in a number of previous positions in the military and the government.

Good morning, general.

BRIGADIER GENERAL MARK KIMMITT (RET)., FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE FOR POLITICAL-MILITARY AFFAIRS: Good morning, Carol. How are you?

COSTELLO: I'm fine. Thanks for being with us this morning.

Let's start with those - those U.S. air strikes in western Afghanistan. U.S. now admitting some civilians may have been killed in those air strikes. But there is - there is some suspicion that the Taliban were using people as human shields and even planting people in houses where the United States thought that Taliban terrorists were residing in.

I guess the biggest problem this may present for you as troops on the ground is getting people to trust them and to help them fight Taliban forces. How will this affect the relationship between the military - the U.S. military and the people of Afghanistan?

KIMMITT: Well, I think you have it exactly right. This is being done intentionally by the Taliban. We've seen this in counterinsurgency not only in Afghanistan previously, but also in Iraq. They are trying to break the trust between a coalition forces, the Afghan forces and the people. They are targeting that trust, trying to take away that environment of consent that we need to operate in as we work side-by-side to help the Afghan people.

COSTELLO: You know, this is sounding so similar to what happened in Iraq. I know the president had sent 21,000 more troops. Some people think that that's kind of a surge strategy. And we also heard that the Defense secretary is sending another general to Afghanistan, to help the general already on the ground.

What does this tell you about the United States strategy moving forward in Afghanistan?

KIMMITT: Well, I think the president has been very clear with the new strategy that was announced earlier this year. There needs to be more military capacity put on the ground until the Afghan forces themselves can handle the job. But it's also part of a larger comprehensive strategy that involves diplomacy, support from the State Department, support from the Treasury Department. All of the elements of a national power. To win this, it can't simply be done by the military. We must use all of our capabilities within the government.

COSTELLO: OK. You said "win this," but I think many Americans are confused about what the United States' goal is in Afghanistan. I mean, what does winning means? KIMMITT: Sure. Winning means you've got a self-sufficient country, not a threat to its neighbors, no longer a safe haven and sanctuary for terrorism. The terrorism that attack America on 9/11.

COSTELLO: OK. Let's talk about the terrorists, namely the Taliban. I know that the Pakistani military is now targeting Taliban terrorists in that country in a big way. And the United States is targeting the Taliban and Afghanistan.

Is what Pakistan is doing going to help the United States with its goal in Afghanistan?

Is it doing enough?

KIMMITT: Well, certainly, Pakistan needs to be considered. You often hear the term in Washington, D.C., the half-pack strategy. You can't see Afghanistan in isolation. You can't handle Pakistan in isolation. It needs to be part of a larger strategy for that sub- region. Because what happens in Pakistan affects what happens in Afghanistan. Many of the fighters, they're coming in to Afghanistan come from Pakistan. We could take care of the Taliban in Afghanistan tomorrow and within a couple of weeks, those numbers could be completely refitted, and rearmed, and re-sent in from the Taliban areas of Pakistan.

So it must be a coordinated effort. And I believe that's what General Petraeus, Ambassador Holbrooke and the government's strategies are trying to do - help both sides, both the Pakistani government and the Afghan government.

COSTELLO: It's a tall order.

General Kimmitt, thank you for joining us this morning.

KIMMITT: Thank you.

CHETRY: All right. Well, we've heard outlandish comments from both sides of the political aisle. Today, we're starting a new segment called "Wingnut of the Week." It's the comment that really takes the cake, and the one who put it out there in the first place.

Also, firefighters say that a massive wildfire in California is out of control. Thousands of acres up in flames and 30,000 people being told to get out. We're live in Santa Barbara, ahead.

It's 41 minutes past the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: Building just appearing in the clouds this morning in Atlanta. Right now, it's 67 degrees, a little bit stormy later on. A high of 86.

Right now, it's 43 minutes past the hour. Time to fast forward through the stories that will be making news later today. At 9:00 a.m. Eastern, the University of Tennessee honors country legend Dolly Parton with an honorary doctorate degree. That ceremony will be taking place in Knoxville at the university's spring graduation ceremonies.

2:00 p.m. Eastern, a memorial service will be held for former Congressman Jack Kemp. Kemp was a 1996 Republican vice presidential nominee. He also played professional football as quarterback for the Buffalo Bills. The service will be held at the National Cathedral in Washington.

And all day long we're keeping a close eye on severe weather moving through the Midwest. Strong thunderstorms affecting parts of Missouri and the Ohio Valley with heavy rains and hail and in some cases even tornadoes. Rob Marciano will be watching that for us.

And that's what we're following this morning.

Of course, you want to ask Rob, when is the sun going to shine again? Any time soon? Any time before June?

COSTELLO: I'm telling you, all along the East Coast of America is - it's been raining for weeks. People are going to start getting to be sad.

(CROSSTALK)

COSTELLO: Lubbock, Texas, population 210,000. It's a teetotalers' dream there. It has long prohibited the sale of alcohol in stores, but this dry city may be about to get wet. The hawkers will decide this weekend whether beer, wine and liquor should flow freely in the streets.

As CNN's Ed Lavandera tells us, the issue of alcohol is a hard one for the people of Lubbock.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kiran and Carol, Lubbock is the largest dry city in Texas, but that could change this weekend. And whether or not Lubbock goes wet is the talk of the town.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Drive past the Texas Tech campus, a statue of Buddy Holly, and outside of Lubbock, Texas, you can watch the sun setting on the strip.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Looks like old Vegas. It's not - I mean, it's not becoming.

LAVANDERA: A sparkling drive-through block of beer, wine and liquor, making the drive to the strip is a uniquely Lubbock ritual. It's just about the only place where the 265,000 residents of this county can buy packaged alcohol.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, everybody else is wet, why can't we be, you know? Why we're the only city around that's dry? I don't understand that.

LAVANDERA: Stay-at-home mother Melissa Pierce is leading the charge to end what she calls archaic alcohol laws.

MELISSA PIERCE, COMMITTEE CHAIR, LUBBOCK COUNTY WINS: We're obviously, like I said, the last dry city in Texas. And none of the other cities that have gone wet had fallen off of the face of the earth. And I don't think Lubbock will either.

LAVANDERA: But it's not that simple. Brant O'Hair has organized opposition from churchgoers all across town, but he's also tapped into worries that outsiders are threatening the city.

BRANT O'HAIR, SPOKESPERSON, TRUTH ABOUT ALCOHOL SALES: Here's this outside business interest that are spending a lot of money for the opportunity to exploit the most vulnerable people in our community. And I think that's diabolical.

LAVANDERA: According to public records, Wal-Mart has donated $100,000 to pro-alcohol sales groups. Other lobbying groups have chipped in another $77,000.

O'HAIR: Not good for the community. Well, it's been a really good place to raise a family.

LAVANDERA: This vote has divided the town. Some told us they've lost friends over the issue. Almost everyone tells the story of their yard sign being vandalized or stolen. Opinions are intense.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's just a backward town.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We don't have trash. We don't have wild parties at 3:00 in the morning. We have a very different culture.

LAVANDERA: But after Saturday, the only part of this west Texas town that might be left dry is the landscape.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LAVANDERA: There is so much interest in this election that more than 40,000 people turned out to vote early. And both sides agree on one thing - they predict the vote will be close - Kiran and Carol?

CHETRY: Ed Lavandera for us. Thanks.

Breaking news this morning, a major turning point in a case that's dominated the headlines for months. Drew Peterson indicted in the death of his third wife as the search continues in the disappearance of his fourth.

Also, firefighters say that a massive wildfire in California still out of control. Thousands of acres up in flames, 30,000 people being forced to flee. We're live in Santa Barbara, ahead.

It's 47 minutes past the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: We're living long and prospering this morning. Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning.

A new "Star Trek" movie is boldly going into theaters this weekend. It's expected to be a box office bonanza. And we are beaming in our Jason Carroll for this story, because you're a trekkie.

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes.

CHETRY: I did not know this about you. You would never - I mean, you're suave. CARROLL: Oh, well, thank you.

COSTELLO: You're fashionable.

CHETRY: Right.

CARROLL: You know what? Trekkies can be suave.

(CROSSTALK)

CARROLL: You know, trekkies can be suave.

COSTELLO: Metrosexual aren't trekkies, actually.

CARROLL: Well, you know, look, let me just say this.

CHETRY: You're a metro-trekkie sexual.

CARROLL: Yes, I am a trekkie, and - but, you know, I think this movie is going to appeal to non-trekkies as well. I've seen it. It's fantastic, you know.

You know, this original series definitely broke barriers. The new movie is hoping to break some box office records. Why has this franchise been loved by so many for so long? Well, you're about to find out why.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STAR TREK ANNOUNCER: Space, the final frontier.

CARROLL (voice-over): Final? Not when it comes to the USS Enterprise. An action-packed "Star Trek" prequel warping into theaters.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: I wasn't really prepared for how physical, how intense it was going to be.

CARROLL: A new Captain Kirk. Spock, too, almost a dead ringer for the original.

ZACHARY QUINTO, ACTOR, AS SPOCK: I'm infusing it with my own perspective and own point of view.

CARROLL: Scotty, Chekov, Uhurah and McCoy all onboard.

A sword- wielding Sulu feeling nervous about stepping into the space shoes of the original.

JOHN CHO, ACTOR, AS HIKARU SULU: In order to function, you have to put that aside and go forward. And for me, that involves some nice words from George Takei.

GEORGE TAKEI, ACTOR, ORIGINAL SULU: And I told him, don't worry, you're a fine actor, you're going to do a good job. I think Sulu is in good hands with you.

CARROLL: But what is the fascination with "Star Trek"? Director J. J. Abrams.

J.J. ABRAMS, DIRECTOR, "STAR TREK": A sense of discovery is intrinsic to "Star Trek" and I think a unique and kind of refreshing idea.

CARROLL: In 40 years, six series, 11 movies, books, conventions, the cover of "Newsweek"? The power to turn a renowned astrophysicist into a philosopher.

NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON, ASTROPHYSICIST, AMER. MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY: Practically every episode reached back into some aspect of modern life, modern mores and had us think another way about ourselves.

CARROLL: Why has it endured? Look back to the 1966 original - a multicultural crew working together.

TAKEI: That was a very hopeful thing. But it wasn't very real at that time. So that hope was one of the components that made "Star Trek" so relevant.

CARROLL: And a new movie with more to come.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We know you want to be...

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would love to do another one.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The movie has to find an audience first. So buckle up, "Star Trek" is ballistic, it's sexy, and it's back.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CARROLL: Well, they're having a good time there. The new cast tells me that many of them have already signed on for two more pictures after this one.

CHETRY: Wow.

CARROLL: So they say they will be around as long as a new generation wants them to be.

CHETRY: So they'll be living long...

CARROLL: And we do.

CHETRY: ...prospering as well.

CARROLL: Yes, I know you can't do this. I know they're trying to do this a little early, but...

(CROSSTALK)

CHETRY: I guess I have a genetic - inability. I can't keep these two together.

(CROSSTALK)

COSTELLO: I know that there's something really bad about people but I don't know what it is.

CHETRY: You weren't doing yours right.

COSTELLO: Jason, can you show us.

CARROLL: Like this. See, a true trekkie can do it. No problem.

CHETRY: And I cannot because I can't get these - I got my fingers slammed in a car door.

CARROLL: We love you anyway.

COSTELLO: All righty, then.

When the far right and the far left get a little farfetched, we're going to call them on it. We call this new segment, "WingNut of the Week." See who wins the title today.

And a former police sergeant now accused of killing his third wife and the woman he's married next is still missing. New details of Drew Peterson's indictment.

It's 54 minutes past the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning.

Today, we're introducing a new segment my next guest calls "Wingnut of the Week," and because people on the far left and the far right can be equally farfetched, we thought we'd bring in an independent to tell us more about it.

Joining us is John Avalon. He's a columnist for TheDailyBeast.com and author of "Independent Nation."

Thanks for being with us this morning. You came up with this idea in the first place. Exactly what is a "wingnut" in your definition?

JOHN AVALON, COLUMNIST, DAILYBEAST.COM: Well, wingnut is someone on the far left wing or the far right wing of the American spectrum. These are the folks who are the professional partisans. They're the unhinged activists. The people who always try to divide us instead of unite us. And you know, in our polarized two-party system, they have a disproportioned influence on our politics.

So I thought it was time to take the debate back. Take the power back. We know the center's under attack. So with this segment, we're going to try to restore some balance.

CHETRY: All right. Well, let's get right to it. This is - one of the - OK, well, first of all, how do you decide who to select each week?

AVALON: Well, we want to be equal opportunity offenders here. So, we're carefully selecting one person on the left and one person on the right each week based on who's making the most news and who's making the - yes, getting the folks in crazy town chattering the most.

Well, this week...

COSTELLO: I like how he said it. He carefully chooses.

CHETRY: Right.

AVALON: It's very precise - it's a precise thing. And, you know, this week, we really went with two charter all-time Hall of Fame members of the Wingnut hall of fame.

CHETRY: We sure did and let's do it. Minnesota Republican Congressman Michelle Bachmann.

We're going to show a picture of her right now.

She gets it for you on the right this week making these comments.

Let's listen to what she said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: I find it interesting that it was back in the 70's that the swine flu broke out then under another Democratic President Jimmy Carter.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: She went on to say, I'm not blaming them, but, you know...

COSTELLO: But I am.

CHETRY: It kind of makes you think. AVALON: What I love about that is it's such a great illustration of the way the wingnuts have this impulse to blame everything bad on the world on the opposition party.

And, you know, she's been - she's made a name in American politics since the late innings of the '08 campaign when she said that she was concerned that candidate Obama then had un-American, anti- American views, then called for an investigation of Congress. So she's got a long history of this sort of hollers.

CHETRY: I remember when you did that story.

All right. Let's go to the next one.

This is the wingnut on the left and we're talking about former Georgia representative. She's with the 2008 Green Party presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney. And you've called her out on a radio interview she did recently. She called Washington D.C., by the way, the Zionist-occupied government among other things.

But in this interview, she also talked about some 9/11 conspiracy theories and compared herself, you say, to Rosa Parks. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CYNTHIA MCKINNEY, FORMER REPRESENTATIVE OF GEORGIA: She couldn't find employment from any of the black institutions in Montgomery who shunned her because of the heat that came down on her because she took a stand. Well it's no different what happened to them and what happens to me on a daily basis.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AVALON: Well, I just love this impulse on the part of some folks on the far left to always compare themselves to Rosa Parks and other civil rights leaders. There's just no sense of historic perspective. And in this interview really was a greatest hit of Cynthia McKinney. I mean, she went 9/11 conspiracy theories, spies that derailed her campaign.

And one of my personal favorites, she talked about the influence of the Israeli lobby. She said it could be seen in the anti-Sudan votes that flew to Congress, by which I think she meant the votes against genocide in Darfur. So this is really someone who is staking out the ground on the far left.

COSTELLO: We miss her in Congress, don't we?

CHETRY: Well, keep us posted.

AVALON: We will.

CHETRY: And next week, we're going to hopefully get another two good ones that you can add.

AVALON: Absolutely. We want people's comments. We want this segment to be an advocate for those folks who feel angered and frustrated by the influence of the extremists on the right and the left.

CHETRY: Yes, good point actually. And if you like to join the discussion with John about this, he posted a blog. He's going to be twittering about it. If you have any ideas, if you hear anything that's been said that made you scratched your head twice, e-mail to us as well as at CNN.com/AMFix.

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