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Obama Administration hits 200th Day; Schools Prepare for Swine Flu; Cash for Clunkers Program Extended; Emotional Homecoming for Freed Journalists; Health Care Fraud Getting Little Attention.

Aired August 7, 2009 - 07:00   ET


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: And we're coming up on 7:00 here in New York on this Friday, August 7. Glad you're with us on this AMERICAN MORNING. I'm Kiran Chetry.

JOE JOHNS, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Joe Johns in for John Roberts. Very glad it is Friday morning, in fact.

CHETRY: And glad to have you with us. We're following a lot of developing stories this morning. We're going to be breaking them down for you in the next 15 minutes.

President Obama starts this 200th day in office this morning with the same thorn that's been in his side since day one. That's the economy. In just an hour and a half, July's unemployment numbers come out. Those unemployment numbers could be in the double digits. We're live at the White House with the administration's response.

JOHNS: And Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in South Africa this morning, meeting with former president Nelson Mandela. It's part of her seven-nation tour of Africa. Clinton also sat down with CNN's Fareed Zakaria and talk about her husband's rescue mission to North Korea. A sneak peek of that exclusive interview is just moments away.

CHETRY: And believe it or not, it's almost back to school time. And children are the ones being hit harder by swine flu than any other group. We're going to be talking with the nation's education secretary about the White House plan for the fall. But we begin with a big day for President Obama. His 200th day in office. And he'll be marking the milestone with two major, major issues. First, health care, it's an issue that could make or break this president. He wants a plan in place by the end of the year. But as Congress head into recess today, reforms seem pretty far off.

The economy also plaguing the administration. And as we said, in 90 minutes, July's unemployment numbers come out. And some analysts say we could expect double digit unemployment.

Dan Lothian is at the White House this morning. And just last night, CNN viewers gave the president a C-minus for the handling of the economy. Is the White House bracing for another hit today when this jobless report comes out?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: They are. These are not the numbers that any administration really wants to see. But having said that, you know, over the past couple of weeks, even the past few months, even, the president and his spokesman have been saying that they fully expected that the unemployment numbers would hit the double digits.

But they believe that the stimulus plan is working. The stimulus money is keeping some jobs and creating additional jobs as well. And they believe that everything that their economic team has been able to do has pulled the economy back from the brink of total collapse from a total disaster, as they put it.

But, you know, what's interesting is when you hear Christina Romer, one of the top economic advisors here in the White House talk about it, she says you can look at the economy and the turnaround as a large supertanker or ship. You can turn the steering wheel, but it will take some time to actually move that ship around.

So the word from the White House is that Americans need to be patient.


ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think what is most important to the American people is not where the president is on the first 100 or the second 100 days. They're going to take the long view of this.

They understand particularly in the economy, we inherited an awful mess. It took a long time to get to this point, and it's going to take some time to dig out of it.

I think they're waiting to see what the final grade is, understanding that we've got a lot of work to do. But they didn't expect that we're going to turn everything around, wave our magic wand, and fix every problem in 200 days.


LOTHIAN: So the answer from the White House whenever they're asked if there was any frustration when these kinds of numbers come out is that the president will never be satisfied, will not be happy until everyone who is looking for a job can find a job -- Kiran.

CHETRY: And as we know, Dan, Congress on a recess officially today. Lawmakers are going to be going back home. They're going to try to shore up support for health care reform.

And we've been seeing scenes play out at town hall meetings all across the country. Let's take a look at this one from Tampa. This is the meeting, or at least the attempted one with Democratic Congresswoman Kathy Caster.





CHETRY: And there are some in the Democratic Party, some leadership claiming that these are manufactured, their manufactured by the GOP.

But is the White House worried that scenes like this will sink the possibility of passing health care reform, Dan?

LOTHIAN: It certainly is a distraction as the White House is really pushing for health care reform. But some are suggesting this is a bigger problem for lawmakers as they head home. They're getting an earful from constituents.

And the biggest problem for them is they don't have anything on paper that they can really push for or defend. There are a lot of plans out there, but nothing yet one single plan on health care reform.

So difficult for them as they hear from their constituents who are very concerned about the high cost of health care reform and how they're going to pay for it.

CHETRY: Dan Lothian for us this morning at the White House, thanks.

JOHNS: Right now, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in South Africa meeting with former president Nelson Mandela.

While there, she's talking about some of the biggest issues plaguing the entire continent -- AIDS, war, and rampant political construction.

Our foreign affairs correspondent Jill Dougherty is tracking things from her post at the State Department this morning. Hi, Jill.


Just take a look at that schedule by Secretary Clinton today. It's amazing. It begins with that meeting with Nelson Mandela. Then she goes on to a speech, to a business, an industrial group. Then she has events connected with health and women's issues.

It's a very good indication that the breadth of issues that Secretary Clinton is highlighting on this trip to Africa.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I see Africa as a fundamental part of our interconnected world, as partners with America on behalf of the future we want for all of our children.

DOUGHERTY: Three weeks after President Barack Obama's trip to Africa, his chief diplomat is back striking many of the same themes.

HILLARY CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Many parts of Africa are rising to 21st century challenges and following a road map that will turn African into a regional and global hub for progress and prosperity.

DOUGHERTY: Parts of the continent still are racked with violence. But Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's focus on Africa is not playing into long-held stereotypes of it as a basket case, but as a potential bread basket.

CLINTON: We believe in Africa's promise, we are committed to Africa's future, and we will be partners with Africa's people.

DOUGHERTY: And she's delivering some tough messages.

CLINTON: Government has to reform itself if Kenya will be all it can be. That is the message that President Obama and I have delivered. It is tough, but it's also lovingly presented.

DOUGHERTY: Tough love, David Lane, president of the global anti- poverty organization One calls it.

DAVID LANE, PRESIDENT, ONE CAMPAIGN: What we're hearing from Secretary Clinton is it's a two-way street and African leaders have to be responsive to their people, they have to govern justly and invest in their people. And that's an implicit bargain as the U.S. provides resources for development.

DOUGHERTY: Secretary Clinton is highlighting some of Africa's many problems too, meeting with the president of Somalia, a country besieged by extremist movements tied to Al Qaeda, visiting South Africa under severe economic pressure, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, meeting with victims of mass rapes used as a tool of repression.

Add to her travel agenda, Kenya, Nigeria, Angola, Liberia, Cape Verde -- seven countries, 11 days, her most ambitious trip yet.

And this trip also provides an opportunity to send a message to China, which has been very successful in gaining access to the natural resources of Africa. So translation -- the United States is making Africa a priority -- Joe?

JOHNS: Jill Dougherty at the State Department. Thanks for that.

Secretary Clinton has been busy. She's been talking to CNN about her husband's big adventure this week. She spoke to Fareed Zakaria about the former president's rescue mission to North Korea.


FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST, "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS": So President Clinton comes back. He spends three hours talking to the leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-il. What was his impression of him?

CLINTON: We're going to get a full debriefing which we haven't had the chance to get.

ZAKARIA: But you must have spoken to him on the phone. CLINTON: I have spoke to him on the phone. But I have this policy that I never talk about what I talk to my husband about, Fareed.

But what we're hoping is that maybe, without it being part of the mission in any way, the fact this was done will perhaps lead the North Koreans to recognize that they can have a positive relationship with us.

ZAKARIA: But the Bill Clinton mission -- it was unorthodox. Here you have a former president going on what appeared to be a state visit from the way in which he was greeted, being received by North Korea's top nuclear negotiator.

CLINTON: This, as you know, came from the families. This was a message that Laura and Euna were given by the North Koreans which their passed onto their families and former Vice President Gore --

ZAKARIA: Naming him specifically.

COLBY: Naming him specifically.


JOHNS: And you can see the entire interview with the secretary of state on "Fareed Zakaria GPS" Sunday at 1:00 p.m. eastern right here on CNN.

CHETRY: Well, who wouldn't want to turn their clutter to a little bit of cash? That's exactly what countless folks are doing. Others, of course, are looking for treasure. You never know.

JOHNS: I want to give away my BlackBerry. How much do you think they'd buy it for?


CHETRY: Or at least shut it off sometimes.

This is the world's longest yard sale. It stretches 654 miles, all the way from West Unity, Ohio all the way down to Gadsden, Alabama. Our Rob Marciano is right in the middle of all of it. He's in Dunlap, Tennessee, and that is the first stop on "Rob's Road Show" taking us to mystery locations every Friday.

Rob, you can look for collector's items, some of those old Yankee baseball cards.

JOHNS: That would be excellent.

ROB MARCIANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know what? I was just talking to a guy who pulled up in his trailer and he asked, hey, can I rent this spot? That's what they do? They come in -- I don't know if they pay $50, maybe $100 a day to rent a spot in someone's yard and sell their stuff.

And he had a truckload of sports memorabilia. He said I heard about it, just trying to find me a spot.

Kiran, I'm trying to find you some stuff, but I didn't have any idea. So I got you a hacksaw blade here and maybe grass trimmers. This is just some of the stuff that you'll find in the longest yard sale. It's 654 miles.

CHETRY: You must have heard the rumors about me there.


MARCIANO: Yes, I knew what you dressed up for Halloween.

Joe, I'm not sure if BlackBerry service is up and down this thing.

JOHNS: Right. A pager would be fine, one of those old telephone pagers, the really big ones that I can put right on my...

MARCIANO: Yes. Yes, a brick.

JOHNS: Right.

MARCIANO: We saw everything from run of the mill lawnmowers to appliances that didn't work to vintage Good Year and Coca-Cola signs that were going for hundreds of dollars.

And we chatted with a couple of vendors, we asked how much money do you usually make out of this? Here's what one of them said.


MARCIANO: What are your projected earnings based on last year and the years before?

BRENDA HUNTER, VENDOR: About $8,000 to $1,000.

MARCIANO: $8,000 to $10,000? I'm in the wrong business.

HUNTER: That's what I said. This is my whole year's work. I collect all year for this one sale.


MARCIANO: All right, $8,000 to $10,000, selling all sorts of stuff, including this old-fashioned dolly. Kiran, maybe I'll pick this up for you, $125. Maybe on Sunday, it will go down to about $50.

JOHNS: That looks like something an ox should be pulling.

MARCIANO: Yes, I can barely move it.

CHETRY: I did think of something, actually. You know what I thought of, Rob? My husband likes the old school dogs playing poker.


CHETRY: You guys like to have them in your man's room, right?


JOHNS: I want one on the dashboard of my car.

CHETRY: You see one...

It's picking up...

MARCIANO: I'm glad it's nothing specific. We'll look for that. See you guys in about a half hour.

CHETRY: Rob, thanks, have fun at the world's longest yard sale. There he is.

School is just around the corner. It's starting up again for the fall. And children actually get swine flu more than any other group. At least we've learned that this year.

So schools are bracing for what could be a brutal fall flu season, talking about what the best way to prevent that flu from spreading will be with the education secretary. She joins us live with a new plan in a couple of minutes.

It's 12 minutes right now after the hour.


JOHNS: The spotlight this morning back on swine flu and a brand new plan for schools to fight it for the fall.

More than 1 million Americans have been affected by the h1n1 virus, 353 of those have died according to the CDC. But the biggest group the flu has hit thus far is young people. So schools are bracing for a brutal flu outbreak this fall.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan joins us this morning to talk about it and the administration's new plan to tackle the pandemic. Mr. Secretary, good morning, good to see you again.

ARNE DUNCAN, SECRETARY OF EDUCATION: Good morning, Joe, how are you doing?

JOHNS: All right, so just how bad do you think this thing is going to get? There have been all kinds of rumors, all kinds of talk. And apparently you're prepared for the worst.

DUNCAN: We have to prepare for the worst. The honest answer is we don't know how bad this will be. We want to be absolutely prepared. Our team, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control have been working all summer, and we feel prepared going to the fall.

JOHNS: What are you telling the schools? Last time when we first started hearing about h1n1, a lot of schools seemed to close down at the first hint of it. I assume that's not going to be the plan this time?

DUNCAN: We really want schools to take a tiered response. I view this first and foremost, Joe, as a parent. I have two young children, a second-grader and kindergartener going back to school. And I think I what every parent wants. We want our children to be safe first and foremost and we want to keep them learning.

So, we're really asking schools to take a tiered response. If it's just a handful of children who are sick, we want those parents to keep those children home. If it starts to escalate, the schools can think about closing. But the first response would be to keep those individual children home.

And we want parents to really think about common sense approaches, have our children coughing into their sleeves, washing their hands frequently. If we're thorough in the preparation for this, we think we can get off to a great start to the school year and be very practical in our response.

JOHNS: What is the threshold, though. Give me a little bit more sense. Are we talking 10 people, 50 people sick with it?

DUNCAN: I think that will be really determined at the local level. Our job is to provide information so that the local health officials and school districts can make a good decision and going forward once vaccines becomes available in mid-October, we want our schools to be vaccination sites so that children can get vaccines if their parents choose to do that.

Mid- October, that's kind of a tricky situation, is it not, there? I assume you'd prefer to be able to get it to them before the school starts.

DUNCAN: Ideally that'd be the case. But it's not going to be available. The drug companies are working as hard and fast as they can. And the best case now is it would be available mid-October.

It will be a two-shot sequence. And so we want to be very thorough on this and make sure as many children who want to get vaccinated have an opportunity to do that right in their schools.

JOHNS: Do you know what the holdup was? A lot of people are saying last year at this time that it ought to be ready for school to start.

DUNCAN: I think we're working as hard as we can. I know our team is pushing there as hard as they can. And the fact of the matter is right now it will be available in mid-October.

JOHNS: How do you plan to monitor the situation? It sounds like quite a task with so many schools around the country.

DUNCAN: Absolutely. And constant communication is very, very important. So we're able to get in contact with every school, every school district on a daily basis. A big part of our job is going to be to share that information across country. We've set up great communication pipelines throughout the summer. And again, we feel we're going to be right on top of that going to the fall.

JOHNS: Great, thanks so much, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. And we'll be back in touch with you on this one.

DUNCAN: Thanks for having me.

JOHNS: Kiran?

CHETRY: We talked about the popularity of the Cash for Clunkers program, all the money used up in a week. They did approve an additional $2 billion for the Cash for Clunkers program.

Gerri Wills is going to join us with more on what you should watch out for if you're thinking about going into this program, and why you should act fast.

It's 18 minutes after the hour.


CHETRY: That's right. Gerri does have a ticket to ride. She's going to jump in to the Cash for Clunkers program.

We've just been talking about how Senate approval are funding it a little bit more, $2 billion more additional dollars because it ended up being so popular, all of the money was gone in a week.

GERRI WILLS, PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR: So we're going to double it up again, $2 billion that will be available.

I want to give you some tips though on what to do about this. Look, first of all, you have to consider, can I actually afford a new car. If you're buying the average new car costs about $26,000. If you're financing that over four years, you're probably paying $500 a month even with this incentive.

And, look, don't delay. The first tranche of money for clash for clunkers was gone in a week. It's not going to take long to get rid of this $2 billion, especially if you think about the fact there's 40 million clunkers on the road right now.

And remember, if you were a little bit upset about all that TARP money out there, you might want to take advantage of this program, because this is your direct incentive. This is your bailout money.

And, of course, don't forget to negotiate. I think a lot of people out there are saying, you know, oh, great, I get $4,500 off, I get $3,500 off. But the reality is that you really want to get a good price on that vehicle and not just give up when you hit the car dealership.

CHETRY: It's very interesting. You're getting some new -- new numbers and information about exactly what cars are being purchased after your clunker is traded in.

And there are some -- it's not just small cars and hybrids, there are some trucks getting sold.

WILLS: Exactly. The government said people are being really responsible buying these small compact cars. But the company called came out with their own list of what they think the cars are. And on this you find the Ford Escape crossover SUV number one, the Silverado, the Ford F-150.

CHETRY: These are trucks.

WILLS: These are pickup trucks.

So a little debate here now about just how many of these really low-mpg cars are being bought. And I guess the good news, the good takeaway here is that at least some of the American-made products are actually getting off of the showroom floor and in people's houses.

I have to tell you, I talked to Jack Kittery yesterday. He's one of the authors of the plan. He said there's going to be another one of the programs, and he expects there to be a tax on high-mpg cars. So if you want to buy you Escalade, do it today.

One other thing, I'm going to be back at 8:30, because we're going to be talking all about this unemployment number, a big deal for the economy, very important to us. So we'll be paying lots of attention to that, getting a lot of good analysis.

CHETRY: It's a mixed bag according to Edmond's. Three out of the top ten are hybrid. But then there are a couple of big trucks in there too.

WILLS: A little more complicated possibly, then we thought.

JOHNS: Let me get this right -- $3 billion so far for the cars, but how much did the banks get?

WILLS: How much do the banks get?



WILLS: I don't have zeros for that.

JOHNS: Exactly.

WILLS: You want to see more equity.

JOHNS: That's what I'm thinking. I don't think it will happen.

CHETRY: We'll see you in an hour, Gerry, thanks.

JOHNS: Here's a question for you -- why aren't some of our troops wearing uniforms made in America? Is it a matter of safety? A matter of money? The growing controversy live from the Pentagon next.

It's 24 minutes after the hour.


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

Protecting our troops at all costs, that's the American way, right? But there are new questions about the fireproof uniforms that save our soldiers' lives and why they're not made in America.

Pentagon correspondent Chris Lawrence join us now with more. Chris, good morning.


While the American troops are fighting over in Afghanistan, there's another battle going on right here over who gets to make the uniforms that can save their lives?


LAWRENCE: An IED explodes, and the only thing protecting American troops from the blazing heat is a special fiber in their uniforms.

SEN. JOHNNY ISAKSON, (R) GEORGIA: They have a three- to five- second delay before it is penetrated, which gives you time to put the fire out and reduce the burn to the soldiers.

LAWRENCE: But this fireproof rayon is not made in America. It may have to be removed from American uniforms in a few years.

There is a fight over who gets to make these uniforms, a job worth hundreds of millions of dollars to congressional districts and corporate board rooms.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some companies, like DuPont, for example, have already lost hundreds of jobs.

LAWRENCE: We traveled to North Carolina State University where the army commission tests on fabrics from two dozen companies.

ISAKSON: Whether or not it ignites, if it ignites, how long it continues to burn, the after-flame.

LAWRENCE: The heat and flame simulate fires on battlefield.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In ordinary clothing, a person would be burned in a fraction of a second.

LAWRENCE: And censors record how much of the heat hits the manikin's skin.

LAWRENCE (on camera): The fire is so intense you can feel it through the protective glass outside the chamber.

LAWRENCE (voice-over): The army says the best fabric was the one from Tinkada, quote, "They have consistently exceeded our expectations. This has proven to be a valuable fabric and well- received by our soldiers.

Tinkada makes the uniforms in Georgia but imports the fiber from Austria. For all kinds of environmental reasons, that special rayon is not made in America.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It breaths, it is fire resistant, and it is not matched by any American product.

LAWRENCE: So Congress passed a special waiver allowing the Pentagon to import outside materials for special uniforms. That waiver expires in a few years, and Congress is debating an amendment to extend it indefinitely. It was just defeated in the Senate with one opponent calling the amendment --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: An exception that favors foreign suppliers of rayon over our own American companies.

LAWRENCE: Some lawmakers believe American companies will develop a similar fabric by the time the waiver runs out in 2015.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: Efforts are being made in Virginia and South Carolina to produce this product here domestically.

SEN. JIM WEBB (D), VIRGINIA: This will allow American industry to come in with a whole spectrum of ideas and alternate materials.

LAWRENCE: An American uniform with all-American materials.

ISAKSON: And I understand that from a business standpoint. But for the safety of our troops, if you don't have a superior product -- our troops should have the very best.


LAWRENCE: Defeated in the Senate, now the amendment has to be worked out in the House.

Bottom line -- if the waiver goes away, other companies have three years to come up with the uniform that's just as good. It's a problem is if they can't, because at that point, you wouldn't be able to import any more of that special rayon - Joe.

JOHNS: And a big problem too. Thanks so much, Chris Lawrence at the Pentagon - Kiran.

CHETRY: All right, we check our top stories now at half past the hour.

It could be two more bloody years in Afghanistan. That's a prediction this morning from one counterinsurgency expert who will soon be advising our top general in that country. After that, he says the U.S. will either hand off to a better Afghan military or, quote, lose and go home.

JOHNS: The online panic is over. The world didn't end, and micro-bloggers can now get out of the fetal position under their desks. This morning, we're learning the cyberattack that temporarily shut down Twitter and brought Facebook to a crawl could be related to the political struggle between Russia and the former Soviet Republic of Georgia. A security analyst says the flood of spam e-mails on-line traffic can actually be traced back to one hacker.

CHETRY: Plus, octomom update. A California appeals court ruling that Nadya Sulaiman's octuplets do not need a court-appointed guardian to keep an eye on their money. It overturns a ruling made last month. The previous judge was worried the babies would be exploited by the tabloids. Another hearing is scheduled for August 20th.

All right. Well, it is 31 minutes past the hour right now. And all of us watched - teared up, got goosebumps as we witnessed the emotional tear-filled homecoming for Laura Ling and Euna Lee. It's still though a long road back. Laura's sister Lisa says that both girls after months of isolation won't be - don't want to be left alone. Lisa also says Laura and Euna admit that they did step into North Korean territory accidentally before their arrest. And Lisa joins us this morning on the phone from L.A. to talk more about it. Lisa, thanks so much for being with us this morning.

LISA LING, SISTER OF LAURA LING (via telephone): Hi, Kiran. Thanks.

CHETRY: I know you guys are so busy. Let me just say that all of our viewers watched this. There wasn't really a dry eye in the house here or to anyone who wrote in to us. A lot of people followed that plight of your sister and Euna, just seeing how difficult it was as they were just trying to do their jobs. So now that we know that they're home and OK, tell us a little bit about how the family is doing?

LING: Well, the families are beside ourselves. I mean, we've just really, really been basking in the wonderment and excitement of having Laura back. And actually Michael and Euna came over to Laura's house last night and the girls had pizza for the first time. And I have to say that the thing that was so wonderful to see was little Hannah, Euna's four-year-old daughter - I have never seen her so happy. And we all sort of remarked that it was just a beautiful thing to behold.

CHETRY: Yes, I mean all of us saw the look on her face. As a mom, I can understand exactly how that must have been - or I can only imagine how it must have been. But one of the first things that everybody was concerned about, their health. How are they doing? I mean, it was a long period of time that they were held there. How are they physically. Well, I mean, Euna is so, so skinny and my mom who is a typical mom, was trying to force feed her last night because she's just become so diminutive. My sister, she's doing well. They both went to doctors yesterday. And Laura, you know, she would spend periods in relative isolation. She would sometimes go weeks without really talking to anyone despite the fact that there were two guards posted in her room at all times. So even communicating is challenging because she - she sometimes, you know - yesterday was even having a hard time getting full sentences out. So it's - it's a slow adjustment and we're just trying to give them as much time as they need.

CHETRY: It's understandable. You want to ask them, you want them to sort of tell you how everything was. You want to know what they went through. You want to share their pain. But at the same time, you want to give some space because, you know, they've just been through quite an ordeal. And so does that involve, you know, eventually having to, you know, talk to professionals? I mean, is this - is there some sort of process that's recommended to sort of get back to your everyday life and to be able to leave some of those nightmarish memories behind?

LING: Well, in fact, that's something that I talked to both Laura and Euna about last night. You know, and they're open to it. You know, what they experienced in North Korea was very, very challenging. And even though we weren't able to - we haven't really talked too much about the details because, again, we're allowing Laura space, the few stories that I have heard are just jaw dropping. And I know she's eager to at some point talk about them. We just want to give her time to - to get sort of reacclimated before she does so.

CHETRY: Right. I understand a lot of people were surprised to hear that Laura and Euna were actually not together. I guess people assumed whether erroneously that they were being held together. And so as we learn a little bit about their isolation, what else did they tell you about whether they were treated well, about whether or not, you know, they were - they were ever mistreated while they were being held in North Korea?

LING: Well, my sister says that for the most part, they were treated fairly and humanely. And we were very surprised that she and Euna had not seen each other at all. They just found out when they were reunited that they were in the same facility but on opposite ends. And we were told by President Clinton that as soon as they got on the plane, they wanted them to rest because they could tell they were so tired but the two of them were just chatting away and comparing their experiences and a spent a lot of time talking to President Clinton as well.

CHETRY: Well, I mean, I can't imagine. You know, you're tired but you have the former president there. You know you're going home. You know you're going to be reunited with your family. I can't imagine all of the emotions going through their heads. We're going to take a quick break. When we come back, I do want to ask you a little bit more about that rescue mission, about how that all came to be. And a couple more thoughts on where they go from here. We're going to take a quick break. Lisa Ling is with us and she's going to join us again after the break. It's 36 minutes after the hour.


CHETRY: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. We're talking with Lisa Ling, Laura Ling's sister, about her sister and Euna Lee and how they're doing now that they're back home. Lisa is on the phone with us from L.A. this morning. Thanks again for joining us.

Lisa, I want to ask you about this. I know that, you know, you guys were trying to make things as easy as possible and not complicate things as they were in being held in North Korea. How did you determine that - that during the course of these phone calls that it would be in the best interest to come out to speak about it? And also, to try to get former President Clinton involved?

LING: Well, in the nearly five months of their captivity, they were only able to make four calls to us. And we know that the calls were very closely monitored. And, in fact, messages were being communicated through Laura to me specifically. I mean, it was really pretty extraordinary that there was this sort of channel between Laura and me. And on the last phone call, she said that in her opinion, "it would have to be President Clinton." It could only be President Clinton who could secure the release of herself and Euna. And so we immediately jumped into action and alerted Vice President Gore and the State Department and Vice President Gore called President Clinton immediately and he graciously agreed to go and we are just so, so grateful.

CHETRY: I imagine. And, so, it just turns out, I mean, you talk about, you know, a stroke of being unlucky by actually have them accidentally cross over the border and then being taken. But what about, what a stroke of luck that, you know, they were working for Current TV at the time. If anybody can get a message to, you know, President Clinton at the time, it would be Al Gore, right? I mean, how did you feel about knowing that that was sort of what they wanted to secure your sister's release?

LING: Well, she definitely communicated it to me. And it was confirmed by State Department sources. And I have to say that Vice President Gore also was tireless in this. He - like we jumped into action as well. I mean, he called President Clinton immediately. And they have a very close friendship. And as we all know, a longstanding relationship. And President Clinton didn't even hesitate. I mean, he was so, so happy to do it. And you know, there really is no - no figure as a sort of universally beloved in the world. And again, we were just thrilled and grateful that he agreed to do it.

CHETRY: You know, you've already -- you've come on to preview some of your "National Geographic" specials that you've done. You've done some very risky work yourself. In fact, you were in North Korea. You did an undercover documentary for National Geographic back in 2006. And you did expose some of the hardships of what it was like living there. What was going through your mind once you knew that that is the country and that is the government with which your sister was detained?

LING: Well, my piece that I did was years ago and I was with a medical delegation. And honestly, the entire time my sister was there, we maintained our hope. I mean, I truly believed in the fundamental goodness in people. And I just, in my heart I just knew that at some point, Laura and Euna would be returned back to us. I mean, I didn't know when it was going to happen. But I never lost that hope.

Laura on the phone was very, very concerned and very scared that they would be sent to a labor prison. And the only reason they hadn't been sent already is because both she and Euna had medical conditions. And that last phone call when she said it has to be President Clinton, our families would stop at nothing to do everything that we could to try and see if President Clinton would go.

CHETRY: Were you ever worried that your reporting there would have any impact either way on her detainment?

LING: I won't lie - certainly, I was concerned. But it was communicated to me through Laura and through other people that this situation had become political and it was going to require a humanitarian mission in order to have them released.

CHETRY: Right. I know you have done risky stories before. You were here with us when you took that boat ride in Nigeria with these, you know, just trusting these people and ended up shooting up the shoreline that you're standing there, calm and cool under pressure. Does this change how much risk you're willing to take as a journalist and perhaps for your sister, Laura, as well?

LING: You know, Kiran, it's a different - difficult question. Because every assignment that both of us do and that most journalists undertake, there is risk assessment. And when I went with CNN to Nigeria, we spent a considerable amount of time really assessing the situation and going through security measures and so on. We know for certain that Laura and Euna never intended to cross the border when they left U.S. soil.

CHETRY: Right.

LING: And Laura is actually very eager to tell the story about what actually happened. And I want to let her do so. But right now, she's really just getting reacclimated. The process had been slow. And you know, she's very, very weak. But she is very interested to tell the story.

CHETRY: Well, I want to thank you for sharing part of it because I know our viewers have simply been captivated by everything that's going on. Good luck to you and your family. We're so glad this ended the way that it did and we wish you guys all the luck in the world in the future. Lisa Ling, sister of released journalist, Laura Ling. Thanks for joining us this morning.

LING: Thanks, Kiran.

JOHNS: Here's what's on the AMERICAN MORNING rundown in the next 15 minutes. You know, his movies, John Hughes, the director for an entire generation, dies of a heart attack. We'll look at the classics that made him a legend. And it's billed as the world's largest yard sale. That's where our Rob Marciano is live this morning. He's got the weather and the wares. We're calling it Rob's Road Show.

And brand new unemployment numbers are coming. It could be 10 percent of Americans out of work? Maybe, maybe not. See why the White House is bracing for the news. It's 44 minutes after the hour.


JOHNS: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. He's the director and screenwriter who defined a decade. This morning, sad news that John Hughes died of a heart attack in New York yesterday.

CHETRY: Yes, just suddenly fell over while walking with his family. You remember the "Breakfast Club," "Uncle Buck," "Ferris Bueller's Day Off." Many of us can't go three hours without referencing or quoting one of his classics. Here's CNN's Thelma Gutierrez.

THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Joe, Kiran, to Americans with a certain age, the teen films John Hughes will always hold a special place. His work reflected the voice of a generation and launched the careers of some of the decade's biggest stars.



GUTIERREZ (voice-over): For young people, his films defined the '80s, in coming of age comedies like "Sixteen Candles," writer/director John Hughes showed American teenagers coping with real life social problems.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What in God's name is going on in here?

GUTIERREZ: Most of the teen stories were set in Shermer, Illinois, a fictional town that reflected his suburban Chicago upbringing. 1985's "The Breakfast Club" centered on a group of high- schoolers who bond over weekend detention. It fueled the careers of the Brat Pack, stars like Emilio Estevez, Judd Nelson, Anthony Michael Hall and Molly Ringwald.

Lighter fare like "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" and "Weird Science" followed as romantic teen dramas such as "Pretty in Pink" and "Some Kind of Wonderful." Like his young characters, Hughes eventually graduated to the adult world, writing and directing "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles" with Steve Martin and John Candy. He carved out a new niche as the creator of family films like "Beethoven" and the wildly successful "Home Alone," starring Macaulay Culkin.

In his later years, Hughes retreated from the Hollywood spotlight, occasionally contributing the odd story idea. But he'll be remembered best for the film in which a generation of teenagers saw themselves.


GUTIERREZ: Steve Martin reacted to Hughes' death saying, "He was such a great writer who created so many enduring characters, for film, both as a director and a writer. His real gift was in creating these identifiable characters." Joe, Kiran?

CHETRY: He'll certainly be missed. That's for sure.

JOHNS: Amazing movies. Got "Home Alone."

CHETRY: "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles," "Weird Science."

JOHNS: "Ferris Bueller."

CHETRY: He bond a generation.

JOHNS: That's for sure.

CHETRY: Well, our Rob Marciano is at the longest yard sale in the world right now, spanning several different states. Every time we check in with him, he's cooked up something else.

JOHNS: Fuzzy dice? Can you find fuzzy dice? Like the ones that you put over your rear-view mirror. Seen any?

MARCIANO: You know, put them on a list, Joe. We're getting a laundry list of items. Still my favorite, the cast iron skillet, seer a steak, make some corn bread. All yours for $6. Years of seasoning here. The longest yard sale in the world. All of this can be yours for cheap. We'll talk more about it when AMERICAN MORNING comes right back.


JOHNS: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. If you love to search for bargains, get this, we found a yard sale where you can shop for 654 miles. It's running from Ohio to Alabama, it's the world largest yard sale. It's also the first stop on Rob's Road Show. Our Rob Marciano is live in Dunlap, Tennessee this morning. Good morning, again, Rob, and we're very excited about this. Are the chairs and tables for sale, too or just the stuff on it?

MARCIANO: Absolutely.

JOHNS: Excellent.

MARCIANO: This white table with chairs is $149...

JOHNS: I kind of like that.

MARCIANO: This lovely tea and china set is $65. Of course, today's the second full day of this thing. So these prices will come down for sure. Let's see, we've got an old fashioned phone here. $20, that sounds like a pretty good deal. Not sure if that works here. You've got a laundry tub, painted glorifully (ph) with a nice country setting. A red barn there, that is $48. It seems a little bit pricey. To go with your laundry, the old-fashioned way, this is the way you would actually dry your laundry if it actually works. So not everything works here. At least we ran across a laundry machine. (INAUDIBLE)

Yes, I got you. I'm not buying that one. A laundry machine that had a sign that said $10, doesn't work. A lawn mower, $100, used to work. I'm not going to sit in this chair because I'm sure that's not going to work at the end of this thing. 654 miles from Alabama all the way to the Ohio-Michigan border and we spoke with one vendor who makes $9,000 to $10,000 every year. They come out to this thing. And people just come for the food, for the fun, to people watch, and to buy other people's junk. And we'll be here all day looking for stuff for you, Joe and for you, Kiran, to bring back.

CHETRY: I told him we need pictures of dogs playing poker. That's all we want.

JOHNS: Fill up a house with that stuff. Bring it on.

CHETRY: Rob, thanks so much.

MARCIANO: We'll work on it, guys. We'll work on it.

JOHNS: You bet.

CHETRY: All right. Sounds good.

Well, also coming up in just about, let's see, 30 minutes from now, the new unemployment numbers are going to be coming out for the month of July. Some economists are saying that it could be double digits. We could see unemployment hit 10 percent.

JOHNS: And this is one of those things that the White House has really been struggling with. Sort of a holdover from the last administration in a lot of ways. Very tough for them to explain, because the longer it goes, the more it feels like a problem for this president.

CHETRY: All right. So how is the White House responding this morning? We're going to check in. It's now 55 minutes after the hour.



CHETRY: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. This could be a make or break month for health care reform. The president's goal to cut costs and improve the quality of care. But there is a critical gap in Washington's plan that's really not getting a lot of attention. Allan Chernoff is following that for us. So what you're talking about is fraud.

ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is a huge, huge issue. You know, that tens of billions of dollars are lost to health care fraud every single year. This is a major reason that our healthcare premiums keep on rising, that Medicare and Medicaid are actually draining the Treasury. But for all of the talk in Washington of actually reducing health care costs, fraud's getting little attention.


CHERNOFF (voice-over): Theresa Langlois knew her podiatrist was cheating Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan when read her insurance statement. Dr. Jeffrey Cook had billed thousands of dollars to surgically remove dozens of warts but Theresa only had a discolored toenail.

THERESA LANGLOIS, FRAUD VICTIM: It was like robbery. They were overcharging for a procedure that wasn't done.

CHERNOFF: Theresa called Blue Cross, which investigated, ultimately leading to the arrest and imprisonment of podiatrist, Jeffrey Cook. Health care fraud perpetrated by doctors, pharmacists, even organized crime gangs is rampant. A Senate investigation found Medicaid in recent years paid nearly 500,000 claims to people posing as doctors who were dead. Such fraud costs every Americans. It drives up prices for medical insurance, treatment, and drugs.

DOUGLAS FALDUTO, HORIZON BLUE CROSS BLUE SHIELD: I think it's a domino effect that ends up with the consumer. Somebody's got to reimburse for it. Somebody's got to fund to that and ultimately it gets passed down.

CHERNOFF: That's why major health insurance companies have special investigation units to weed out fraudulent claims.

FALDUTO: We want to get that money back.

CHERNOFF: Falduto and other investigators estimate fraud accounts for a minimum of three percent of all health care spending. $72 billion a year. Other experts say the figure is more than three times that, topping $200 billion.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If we do not reform health care, your premiums and out of pocket costs will continue to skyrocket.

CHERNOFF: President Obama warns health care reform is needed to get medical costs under control, but one of the biggest culprits, fraud, gets little mention in the congressional reform effort.

PROFESSOR MALCOLM SPARROW, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: They are certainly aware of this problem. They don't seem to know the magnitude or the seriousness. They don't seem to be acting with the kind of urgency that I would like.

CHERNOFF: The health reform bill approved in the House, 1,018 pages long devotes only 40 pages to the issue of fraud. Even bills in the Senate would add $100 million a year to combat fraud, waste, and abuse. That's the amount of health care fraud occurring in this country every 12 hours, using the most conservative estimate.


CHERNOFF: That level of corruption is one of the big reasons our medical bills rise steadily every single year. Yet the big push in Washington has been to provide health coverage for more Americans. Experts warned if fraud isn't addressed more aggressively, American taxpayers will be paying billions more than necessary to provide health insurance for those who do not have it. Kiran.

CHETRY: Allan, thanks so much.

By the way, if you want to find out more about Allan's story, We've been getting some reaction on twitter and people say it's a good topic that we haven't been talking about enough. Thanks, Allan.

CHERNOFF: Thank you.

JOHNS: More spending, more fraud. That's always the way it works.

CHERNOFF: You bet.