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Critics Call Obama's Classroom Speech "Propaganda"; White House to Open Visitor Logs; L.A. Wildfire Now Homicide Investigation; iPhone Network Hogs; "Educating America" Series; Cheating Among College Students via Internet Rampant; Football Coach Charged With Reckless Homicide; New Jobs Numbers Show Slowdown In Job Loss But Spike In Unemployment; Hurricane Season May Be Mild Due to Effects of El Nino

Aired September 4, 2009 - 08:00   ET


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: And welcome once again. We're coming up right to the top of the hour now on Friday, September 4th. Welcome to AMERICAN MORNING. I'm Kiran Chetry.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning. I'm John Roberts.

As we kick off the Labor Day weekend, here's what's on the agenda. The big stories that we'll be breaking down for you within the next 15 minutes.

Not my kids' classroom. That's what some parents and conservatives are saying about the president's plan to address students on Tuesday. Is it a lesson about the importance of education and working hard, or is it political propaganda?

CHETRY: The U.S. Forest Service now says the cause of the massive wildfire north of Los Angeles is arson. It makes it a homicide investigation now, since two firefighters died fighting the flames. It began more than a week ago and has burned 250 square miles.

ROBERTS: And if you've got an iPhone or you're simply an AT&T customer, you're probably dealing with the frustration of dropped calls. Is it a software problem? A network issue? We'll tell you why it's happening more and more.

We begin with a story that's got the White House on its heels this morning. Just days before President Obama hits the airwaves to pitch health care reform, he's got another headache, another distraction. The president wants to kick off the school year with a televised message to students next week, but some charge that the president's message is propaganda.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My rights as a parent are being circumvented.

ROBERTS (voice-over): From talk radio to political circles, there's a lot of anger over the president's upcoming speech. The Department of Education says the goal is to "challenge students to work hard, set educational goals, and take responsibility for their learning." But along with that came some suggestions for teachers. Lesson plans asking students to, quote, "write letters to themselves to what they can do to help the president."

That's where the trouble started, and the head of Florida's Republican Party didn't hold back.

JIM GREER, CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN PARTY OF FLORIDA: The parents across this country, and the uproar that occurred, the Department of Education withdraw all of that language last night.

ROBERTS: And Greer didn't stop there. In a letter, he charges, the president was going to use the speech to sell his policy, saying, quote, "President Obama has turned to America's children to spread his liberal lies, indoctrinating America's youngest children before they have a chance to decide for themselves."

The response from the left? It's not about the lesson plans or the speech, but politics.

(on camera): Was there a little bit of problem there with the additional materials that were provided to go along with the president's speech?

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: No. It's not a problem. What you have is you have some insane parents who want to bring their ideology into the table. Why is it? I mean, I didn't see people sitting here saying when President George W. Bush was to go and read to students, oh, I want to see what book he is reading? I want to pull my kid out of the class because I'm a Democrat. He's a Republican. This is absolute nonsense.

ROBERTS (voice-over): The Department of Education has changed those lesson plans now, instead suggesting students "write letters to themselves about how they can achieve their short-term and long-term education goals."

Some school districts in Texas, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Virginia, and Wisconsin have decided not to show the speech, and other schools will let parents keep their kids out of the classroom during the speech if they want. And many parents are even considering keeping their kids home from school altogether on Tuesday.

TAD MILLER, PARENT: I may have voted for McCain and Bush in the past. I wouldn't want them speaking to my student or your student or anybody else's student, for that matter, their child. Politics is totally up to the family.

ANDREA MILLER, PARENT: So, will I send my child? I don't know. Right now, I would say no. I'll keep them home.


ROBERTS: The White House says it is going to release the text of the speech on Monday, a day before the president delivers it, so parents and educators can see ahead of time that it's not -- according to the White House -- about politics, but education.

CHETRY: But yet again, the White House getting, you know, tripped up by something else in the way of talking about health care, which is, of course, what they want to talk about. It's interesting.

We're going to dig deeper now on that one with senior White House correspondent Ed Henry, live at the White House.

You know, when talking to the kids turns out to be, you know, a distraction, what does the White House do?


I mean, it's sort of like in the health care debate, the president wants to talk about helping people, covering more people with insurance, and yet, the conversation has largely been about death panels, other controversies the White House clearly did not want to talk about. Here again, they say there's misinformation out here.

White House aides are saying that this was never intended to be a political speech. The president is going to have a very simple, direct message to students around the country, saying basically, "Study hard, stay in school." Nothing really controversial.

And they also point out accurately, back in 1991, the first President Bush gave a very similar address, telling kids, stay in school, don't use drugs. And he did it from a school right here, a middle school -- junior high school rather, right here in Washington, D.C. And so, if it was good enough for the first President Bush, White House aides here are saying it's certainly good enough for President Obama, Kiran.

ROBERTS: Hey, Ed, on another topic here. You broke some news this morning, the White House kind of lifting the veil of opacity that traditionally surrounds the administration, giving us a glimpse of some of those up-until-now secretive logs of people going in and out of the White House every day?

HENRY: That's right, John. We're told, later today, the president himself is going to put out a statement -- we've been obtained that statement -- in which he'll say that they're going to release the visitor logs, put them online, basically so the public will know who's coming and going to visit the president, the vice president, and various staffers here. Who's trying to shape policy, who's lobbying.

You remember, this is a big controversy in the Bush years when the Bush White House would not release visitor logs, dealing with people who were visiting Vice President Cheney's energy task fore. It's important to note that the Obama White House in the early days followed the same policy as the Bush White House. They took a lot of flak for that from liberals.

So now, they are changing this policy, and the president says in his statement that this sort of follows through on the historic transparency he promised back in the campaign, John.

ROBERTS: So, what are they going to do? Put them on the White House Web site?

HENRY: They're going to put them on -- we don't know specifically which Web site. They have been putting things on various Web sites throughout the health care debate, for example. But likely the White House Web site itself. They just say they'll put it online, and basically you'll see not just who's coming and going, but sort of what was the purpose of the visit, who set up the meeting, et cetera.

In the case of lobbyists, that could really help us in the media. People around the country...


HENRY: ... understand who's trying to influence policy.

ROBERTS: No doubt it will certainly be food for thought for a lot of bloggers out there as well.

Ed Henry, thanks so much for that. Appreciate it.

HENRY: Thank you.

CHETRY: We have some dramatic new developments this morning in the deadly Los Angeles wildfire. Today, the U.S. Forest Service is now saying they know the cause was arson. The so-called station fire that left two firefighters dead, intentionally set -- they say -- and now, it's being treated as a homicide.

So, when a fire breaks out, what do investigators do to get to the bottom of how it started?

Our Rob Marciano is out with investigators on another fire, step-by-step, they're showing you, Rob, how they combed through the ashes and looked for answers. Very fascinating.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It is. It's almost like tagging along with a CSI crew, the way these guys look at every little inch of a piece of property that they are focusing on. They start out wide and then they zero in.

The space that we looked out is about a mile from here, from this community, that burned to the ground very, very quickly Sunday afternoon, over 60 homes taken down, and only a 385-acre fire. Remarkable when you compare that to the station fire. Like that was arson, the folks in this community -- well, they want to know how this fire got started.


RON HALL, FIRE ANALYST: I think every fire is different.

MARCIANO (voice-over): Days after a fire swept across Auburn, California, wiping out 63 homes, investigators still don't know how it started.

HALL: It starts from the area where the fire is furthest away and work your way back, following the various burn patterns to the area where we determine to be the area of origin.

MARCIANO: Fire analyst Ron Hall and his team of investigators are trying to figure it out.

HALL: It's a fire, and it has its own earmarks and it has its own character, and you work with it.

MARCIANO: They comb the torched landscape for clues, measuring...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How far you got?

MARCIANO: ... mapping. They are looking for the source.

HALL: We identify each and every potential ignition source.

MARCIANO: Nothing goes unnoticed.

HALL: You'll see the burn on this side. And we also look at ground litter. What I mean by that is debris that's laying on the ground.

Now, this looks like what remains of a plastic gas cap. Now, we just created the ultimate crime.


HALL: Fires can burn fingerprints off, yes. As you look at needles or leaves in this case, on this vegetation, you can see how they are all curled in this direction?

MARCIANO (on camera): So, now, what goes through your mind as you begin to zero in on what you presume to be ground zero?

HALL: Well, as you start to move into the area of origin, you've been all along the way looking at something inconsistent, fire moving in different direction or maybe multiple points of origin. In this area, we only have one area of origin, and that's in this corner.

MARCIANO (voice-over): It may have started in this corner, but they still don't know why.

HALL: It's all a challenge. It's trying to figure out the truth, what really did happen.


MARCIANO: Ron is one of several investigators on this and he actually works for insurance companies, trying to get a third party analysis. Cal Fire has its own investigative team out here as well. They still don't have the answers. They're obviously doing what he showed me yesterday, but also talking with people. That has a lot to do with it.

So, they're still early on in their investigation. Residents here obviously, completely torn upside down as far as their lives are concerns and they want answers, obviously, as to why this fire got started. But what I find remarkable in all of this, John and Kiran, is that about the same number of homes burned down in this community in a 385-acre fire.

Meanwhile, the station fire, over 100,000 acres with similar amounts of personal damage. And these are well-built, established neighborhoods where people live in an established town. Clearly, a remarkable amount of damage.

We'll let you know when they find out what the cause was. But it could be anything from somebody flicking a cigarette, to a spark off a power line, to some kids playing or it could very well be arson like the station fire. They just don't know yet.

CHETRY: Wow. And, you know, and you can get in trouble -- you will get in trouble for flicking a cigarette or leaving your campfire lit. I mean, they're very serious about that, especially in those areas, because of how easy it is to catch fire.

MARCIANO: And they showed me several cigarette butts. So, it's -- you know, they're all over the place. By the way, the people that described what they went through when their home was burning down during that time, they did reverse 911 calls. It was a firestorm coming through. It moved very, very quickly.

They could tell how fast it moved. He said it moved about 15 to 20 miles an hour. They had minutes to get out of here. Their house was on fire, black smoke everywhere. It was remarkable to me hearing the story from these residents that everybody got out safely.

So, if there's any silver lining in this, that's the one -- guys?

ROBERTS: Rob Marciano this morning -- Rob, thanks so much.

You know, when it comes to health care and the president's coming education speech, we're hearing a lot from partisans, but what about the vast middle of America? What do they think? We're hearing from the independents -- coming up next in the "Most News in the Morning."

Twelve minutes now after the hour.



ROBERTS: While President Obama is trying to frame the health care debate, he's now getting a huge backlash from some parents and conservatives. The president will be speaking to kids in schools across the nation on Tuesday, but one Republican leader claims he'll use the speech to indoctrinate kids with liberal lies and a socialist agenda.

So let's bring in our independent panel to talk about this. Jennifer Donahue is the political director at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics and John Avlon, columnist for the

Jennifer, let's get you to weigh in on this, first of all. This idea that the president will indoctrinate children to a socialist agenda with his speech on education on Tuesday -- what are independents thinking about this?

JENNIFER DONAHUE, POLITICAL DIRECTOR, NEW HAMPSHIRE INSTITUTE OF POLITICS: Well, independents don't think that he's a socialist and independents don't think that he's out on a limb. The problem is, this is an indication of how much political capital has been used up this summer, by Obama, but not leading the health care debate out of the White House, by Nancy Pelosi now basically infighting with the president on health care. Both sides are polarized.

We know that the majority of voters are actually in the middle. They don't really mind this.

But the timing is what's in question. And they think at the White House, there's been a slight delay in their realization of how much anger there is, on both sides -- on the far right, on the far left, and maybe even not that far out.

We're in a deep recession, people are worried. And this is the kind of thing that's making people uncomfortable right now. It may have been a misstep.

ROBERTS: Yes. So, it's the kind of idea that, you know, everything the president does is a misstep. And we apologize, by the way, Jennifer, for your audio. It sounds a little hollow this morning.

But, John, it's not just the fact that the president was going to give this speech, but the Department of Education also handed out some suggested study materials to prepare students for this speech. It didn't say to teachers, hey, maybe you want to develop a little bit of a curriculum around this, depending on your own school.

They actually handed out some suggestions -- the first one of which said that students should "write a letter to themselves about how they can help the president." They've since amended that to say, students should write themselves a letter about how they can set their long and short-term goals and achieve them in education.


ROBERTS: Was that clumsy language on the part of the Department of Education?

AVLON: It was clumsy language. But I think the Republicans wanted to make a mountain out of that mole hole. That's not the point of the speech. The point of the speech was never about policy. It was never about ideology. It was about saying pretty fundamental to the American ethos, which is advancing personal responsibility. That's the opposite of socialism.

What I think what the Republicans don't appreciate is that they are alienating the moderate majority of Americans when they embrace their far right base like this. They are losing credibility.

So, even though the Obama administration has made some missteps over the course of this summer, the president has seen his support plummet among independent voters. The support for Democratic Congress down -- 70 percent of independents disapproved of Democrats in Congress. Only 35 percent support the president's work to date.

They need to make the case that they understand the concern people are feeling about the need for fiscal responsibility, about the $9 trillion deficit.

But Republicans, when the jump the rails like this, all they do is ruin their own credibility with the vast majority of the American people.

ROBERTS: It sounds like a wing-nut essay there.


ROBERTS: I know you did that earlier with Jim Greer as well.

Jennifer, the day after the education speech, the president is going to go before a joint session of Congress to talk about health care. What are independents looking to the president to say? What are you looking for from the president? Certainly, Democrats are looking for him to take charge.

DONAHUE: Right. Democrats are looking for him to take charge. The country is looking for him to take charge. He ran on a platform of change, of leadership, of not listening to the partisan infighting that has actually controlled this health care debate so far all summer.

They got a litmus test. The White House went out, saw those town hall meetings, saw the anger. They're going to take the debate back. He's going to say, no public option. He's already said that.

He's got to play to the middle. He has absolutely no choice. That's who brought him to the party. He's going to dance with the people that brought him.

Pelosi and company will not be happy. The Senate Finance Committee has to champion the bill he likes, but the biggest task on Tuesday -- on Wednesday, when he speaks to that joint session, which is a very unusual thing.


DONAHUE: This is something that's only been done about four times in recent history where it wasn't the State of the Union, the test is: are Democrats sitting on their hands because there's no public option, or are they cheering and clapping? Can he bring the Democrats in? He doesn't have a choice. He's not (INAUDIBLE) if they won't come.

And are Republicans clapping? Will they come along? Do they see the writing on the wall?

ROBERTS: There would be a lot of people watching every move that's made.

But, John, on the point that Jennifer made about how this is rare, the last address to a joint session of Congress that wasn't State of the Union was back in September 20th, 2001...

AVLON: Exactly right.

ROBERTS: ... when George Bush addressed the nation.

How much political capital does the president risk here? If he addresses a joint session of Congress and doesn't get the health care reform that he wants, how much political capital does he (INAUDIBLE)?

ALVON: Look, it is a gutsy gamble in front of a tough crowd, but it shows the stakes here. I think what's happened this summer is that the American people are starting to say, and independents in particular, the change we voted for was a break from the hyper- partisan politics of the Bush era. So, he needs to restore his credibility as someone who can be a bridge builder, someone who can lead in a different way and depolarize this debate. That is the challenge of this president. And in part of that, he needs to reach out with things like medical malpractice reform. It could be an olive branch to Republicans.

ROBERTS: That's not going to happen.


DONAHUE: No, that's not going to happen.

AVLON: It's important because he discussed...


AVLON: ... and has been abandoned in the bill. Things like moving away from the public option are enormously important in order to address the concerns people have. Independents did not vote for an unprecedented growth in government spending.

DONAHUE: But John, John, John...


ROBERTS: One quick thought. One quick though, Jennifer, then we're going to go.

DONAHUE: OK. Independents don't even understand tort reform. What Obama has to do on Wednesday is go out there and say, the 47 million who are uninsured are going to get insured, the pre-existing conditions are not going to keep you from getting insurance, period.

AVLON: What the president needs to do is depolarize this debate, re-center this debate, and show that he understands...

DONAHUE: He can't do that in one day.

AVLON: ... the concerns about fiscal responsibility.


ROBERTS: And with that, we're going to call time here. We got to run. Jennifer and John, as always, thanks for joining us this morning. Good to see you both.


ROBERTS: Nice spirited look of things from both sides of the independent fence. Kiran?

CHETRY: All right. It sounds like we've got to auto tune the debate.

Still ahead: We're going to be talking about the iPhone weighing down the AT&T network. They have an exclusive deal.

Tons of people, though, are using this iPhone for much more than just making phone calls, of course. This is the computer that they take with them everywhere. They use it for everything.

And because of that, it's affecting how AT&T is able to get service out to its customers. Jason Carroll gets to the bottom of this for us.

It's 21 minutes past the hour.



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

The iPhone is the golden child of AT&T, but it's also creating quite a headache for the network.

CHETRY: Yes. Because the iPhone users are network hogs, I guess, you could say. They're using their iPhones to do everything that they would on their home computer on top of making a lot of calls, and the result -- well, it's not so pretty right now.

Jason Carroll has the story.

ROBERTS: There's a lot of "Can you hear me now?"


JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Millions of people across the country use Apple's iPhone. It has a seemingly cult-like following. Buyers are lining up for the latest version, the 3GS, billed as fastest at downloading everything from music to Internet games. But when it comes to the phone part...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It drops calls a lot.

CARROLL: That's where some customers have a hang up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have to turn it off most of the time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm happy with the iPhone. I'm not happy with AT&T.

CARROLL: AT&T is the exclusive carrier for iPhones in the United States. The problem, iPhones are so popular and users are downloading and streaming movies and music so much, they're overloading AT&T's network.

NICK THOMPSON, WIRED MAGAZINE: What's happening is, people are trying to use their cell phones the same way they use their computers. So, you have a lot of demand in a little space. It's like trying to put 100 cars on a two-lane highway.

CARROLL: The result? Dropped calls, snail-paced downloads, and questions from customers asking -- given the popularity of iPhone -- why wasn't AT&T prepared for demand?

PAUL REYNOLDS, CONSUMER REPORTS: IPhone 3GS, the latest version of the iPhone was sold in part on how quickly it connects to the 3G network. And, of course, the success is now coming back in some ways to haunt AT&T.

CARROLL: AT&T says, "No one could have known in advance just how much the use of our network would increase because of the iPhone and other smart-phones. But we are working hard to stay ahead of customer demand."

An estimated 9 million iPhone customers use AT&T. The company spokesman says they're spending more than $17 billion this year to improve their wireless networks. New cell towers are being added to cities like New York and San Francisco, where demand is high.

There's industry speculation AT&T's contract with Apple could end in a year and iPhone users could have a choice of carriers. Neither Apple nor AT&T would confirm that.

This AT&T customer says, he'll remain loyal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've been with Verizon before, and it wasn't that much different. I mean, I think the service is acceptable. It's not like -- I'm not complaining about it a lot. So, I'll probably stay with AT&T.


CARROLL: Well, we did speak to a representative at Apple about all the problems and asked if whether they were upset with AT&T. At first, Apple said they would provide us with a statement, and then called us back telling us they would have no comment.

And, you know, industry insiders -- you know, a lot of people are asking, "Well, when is this problem going to be fixed," and a lot of industry insiders say it could take up to a year, maybe even a little longer before AT&T is able to work it all out.

ROBERTS: Yes, because you've got to get licensing rights to put the transmitters...


ROBERTS: ... and receivers on buildings and, you know, leases and stuff like that. It takes a long time.

CHETRY: But meantime, you could technically allow, you know, a provider other than AT&T to carry iPhones, right? I mean, but they don't want to do that, that would cut into their businesses.

CARROLL: That's one of the options that may be out there, according to what some industry insiders are saying, but you heard what AT&T and Apple are saying, they're not commenting on whether or not that exclusive agreement is going to end.

ROBERTS: We could encourage people to watch another cable news network, but no, we're not going to do it.


CHETRY: But we don't have a problem. You can watch us all the time, but we'll never cut out on you -- except now, because we're taking a quick break. But then, we'll be right back.

CARROLL: Right after.


CHETRY: Jason, thanks.

CARROLL: All right.



CHETRY: Twenty-eight minutes past the hour. Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning.

So, there's copying your homework from the kid next to you. There's trying to get answers from your textbook during a pop quiz. Cheating comes in all forms, right? Writing on your hand...

ROBERTS: Writing on your hand as well. Then there's the Internet -- the Internet. Students learn fast that with the Web and a little bit of cash, they could take cheating to a whole new level.

Our Carol Costello live in Washington for us this morning with the final installments in our "Educating America" series.

Good morning, Carol.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This story is so surprising, because, you know, I never cheated in school, ever.

CHETRY: Well, you cheated for the story, though, you had to.


COSTELLO: Well, kind of, if you put it that way, OK! As you know, cheating is a widespread problem at universities across the country. I wondered how many of the nation's college students were cheating and who was helping them to do it. Here's a hint: Millions of them are outsourcing their brains.


COSTELLO (voice-over): Look at the word, "cheater." It's awful, but educators say many students would rather cheat than fail.

This young woman, who asked us not to use her name or university, was a cheater.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And a lot of students, they feel very stressed and pressured, and they kind of get cornered and they trap themselves -- or they mentally trap themselves and they feel like they have no other way out. So then they cheat.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Identify the underlying ethical...

COSTELLO: The University of California, San Diego actually has a mandatory seminar for students who cheat. Six hundred took part this year.

It used to be American students would pay Americans to cheat for them. Today, often unbeknownst to the American cheater, he or she is going online to outsource their brains to places as far away as Pakistan and India.

PROFESSOR TRICIA BETRAM-GALLENT, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, SAN DIEGO: Of course that's contributing to making America and other societies "dumber," quote-unquote, because they're not learning how to do the work themselves and how to communicate.

COSTELLO: One man from the Philippines who did not want to be identified says he's written dozens of term papers for American students.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (via telephone): It's unethical, but, you know, I come from a third-world country. It's good pay. The temptation was really great.

COSTELLO (via telephone): How much did they pay you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got as much as $15 a page. It was a topic on state of the U.S. economy in 1950.

COSTELLO (on camera): So, I'm on this site called BestEssays. And they say right on the site, "We work hard to achieve academic excellence."

(voice-over): And it says it's provided students with original papers since 1997.

So I requested a three-page paper on Jason Blair, the former reporter who was fired after making up stories for "The New York Times." Total cost for a three-page paper?

(on camera): It' going to cost me $80.97.

(voice-over): "Best Essay" is not the only so-called Internet paper mill. There are literally hundreds of them online. It's become such a problem more than a dozen states have made such services illegal. Yet, they thrive.

(on camera): What these companies are doing isn't legal here, yet they survive. Why do you think that is?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because they are not based in the United States. They are based in Ukraine. They try to make it appear that the company is based in the U.S., but no, it's now. They're only making it appear so that the students will sign up and place their order.

COSTELLO: Victor Guevara lives in this house in Virginia. For years his address was listed as the home of, a site that recruits writers to write term papers.

Virginia authorities tell us Guevara and his house have nothing to do with the site.

VICTOR GUEVARA, HOMEOWNER, HERNDON, VIRGINIA: I still receive mail for them, credit card statements or invoices for people who have written for them and have gotten ripped off. I have one here.

COSTELLO: Virginia authorities tell us there is little they can do since these paper mill sites can be headquartered in places like the Ukraine or anywhere in the world.

So as long as the word "cheater" continues to be OK with so many students, Internet paper mills will continue to thrive, and American brains will continue to get dumber.


COSTELLO: John and Kiran, I just got an e-mail from "Best Essay" because I wanted to ask them about their service. I actually asked them a few days ago. I got the e-mail right now, and "Best Essay" tells me, "All customers are informed that it is their responsibility to use the referenced material responsibly and never claim it as their own work."

But I must say, when I ordered my paper online, nobody informed me of that.

And yes, I did receive a paper from them. And I asked an American University professor, John Qatson, what grade he would give it. He said, an "F."

ROBERTS: An "F." all right. So buyer beware.

CHETRY: Don't cheat! It's not worth it. It doesn't help you.

ROBERTS: Carol, fascinating stuff. Thanks so much.

Crossing the bottom of the hour, and here are this morning's top stories.

An air strike on a pair of hijacked fuel trucked killed at least 81 people in northern Afghanistan according to a local official there. Officials say a mix of Taliban militants and local thieves were trying to steal fuel from the trucks.

CHETRY: Also, there's an uproar over the president's back-to- school speech he's set to deliver on Tuesday. Some parents and some conservatives say that they're angry over the president's plan to talk to students next week, saying that it's going to be propaganda. One state senator even compared the president to Saddam Hussein.

The Department of Education says the goal is just to challenge students to work hard and to set goals.

ROBERTS: The U.S. Forest Service says arson is the cause of the massive wildfire that's burning north of Los Angeles. That makes it a homicide investigation since two firefighters died while fighting those flames.

The station fire is about 38 percent contained this morning, and since the fire began more than one week ago, it has burned 147,000 acres.

CHETRY: All right, and with the high school football season about to kick off, a coach in Louisville, Kentucky, finds himself in a courtroom instead of on the sidelines.

Jason Stinson is on trial now for reckless homicide, accused of literally working one of his players to death in practice.

Now, friends are rallying to his defense, and we're going to be talking to one of them in a moment. First, though, Mary Snow takes a look at this landmark case and how this tragedy is changing the way other coaches go about their business.


MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: When New York's Baldwin Bruins practice, they now use this heat index monitor to gauge whether it's time to take a break.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's going up. SNOW: The school's athletic director says one reason it was added is because of 15-year-old Max Gilpin, who collapsed during football practice in Kentucky last summer and died three days later.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The high school coaches, it's a shock. that could be me, that could be one of my athletes.

SNOW: And there's keen interest in the fate of Gilpin's coach, Jason Stinson. He's now on trial facing charges of reckless homicide and wanton endangerment. A jury will decide whether Gilpin's death was an accident or a crime.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: They're going to want to know, did the coach behave in some reckless way that made this tragedy likely to happen?

SNOW: Prosecutors allege Stinson subjected Gilpin to what they call "barbaric conditioning."

DAVID STENGEL, PROSECUTOR: The best example I can give you is like someone shooting into a building, not knowing anyone's in there, but then killing somebody.

SNOW: Since Stinson was first indicted in January, he's pled not guilty, and his lawyers say he'll be vindicated once the full story is out.

ALEX DATHORNE, JASON STINSON'S ATTORNEY: It's easy to point a finger if that makes somebody feel better, but I think this was just an unfortunate circumstance.

SNOW: Some legal analysts say if Stinson is convicted, the impact could be far reaching.

MICHAEL MCCANN, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED LEGAL ANALYST: We could see a lot of other coaches react to this by saying, you know what, I'm only going to coach if players are willing to undergo invasive health tests, because the last one I want is one of my players to die and I could be sent off to prison too.

SNOW: And Baldwin coach Steven Carroll says he's more worried now than when he started 23 years ago when there was no drinking water on the field. He says he keeps close watch on his players, especially since three of them are now over 300 pounds.

STEPHEN CARROLL, BALDWIN HIGH SCHOOL COACH: You say, how you feeling? There's no kid out there right now that will tell you he's not feeling well.

SNOW: The charges brought against Stinson each carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

Mary Snow, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE) CHETRY: And joining us now is Rodney Daugherty. He's friends with coach Stinson. He has been friends with him for more than 20 years, and in fact he created a Web site to raise money to pay Stinson's legal fees. He joins us from Louisville, Kentucky this morning. Thanks so much for being with us.


CHETRY: This is a tragic story, no doubt, and a lot of passion on both sides. And you were in court yesterday when prosecutors described what coach Stinson did as a, quote, "barbaric practice." They say that he ignored the boy when he collapsed and that ultimately he put winning ahead of safety.

When you were sitting there in court, what was going through your mind?

DAUGHERTY: Oh, to sit and listen to their version of the events of that day, it's amazing that they could take what happened that day and come out with that chain of events. It's incredible.

CHETRY: So tell us what happened then, what coach Stinson says happened.

DAUGHERTY: Well, I can't tell you what coach Stinson said happened, but I can tell you what is in the statements and in the evidence that's going to be presented at the case.

And it's simply, it's a tragedy. A young man collapsed, died three days later, and his coach is now being indicted for it. There was a lot of sensationalism that went in it and a lot of false reports in the media, and that led us to where we're at today.

CHETRY: So one of the false statements that you took issue with when we had spoken to you, when our producers spoke with you is that water was denied to the players. You said that there was plenty of water there and that that wasn't really an issue, dehydration wasn't an issue.

But one thing everyone seems to agree on is that the heat index was very high. When you coupled the way it felt outside, the heat and humidity, it was about 94 degrees, and that they were doing these wind sprints, as they're known, right, running up and down the field, trying to get themselves conditioned, and that one player collapsed even before Gilpin himself collapsed about 15 minutes later.

And so there was definitely some exhaustion going on, and there was definitely a situation where the kids were suffering under what they were being asked to do, correct?

DAUGHERTY: Suffering, no. These kids were conditioned. They've been conditioning since the first of the year.

CHETRY: I just mean conditioning drills. That's why they run the wind sprints, right, to get in better condition for play? DAUGHERTY: Right.

As far as the heat that day, 94 degrees, the rules don't even kick in for restrictions until 95. And at that point, it just calls for water breaks every 30 minutes. It goes all the way up to 105, where it would cancel practice.

Honestly, 94 is really not that hot, and when you think about how hot it gets in places like Texas, Florida, Louisiana.

CHETRY: They say that the paramedics, though, arrived after they were realizing -- according to the 911 call, the assistant coach said, "He's kind of going in and out on us, he's breathing rapidly." They made an unsuccessful attempt, apparently, to put a tube down his throat, rushed him to the hospital, and then he died three days later, they say of septic shock, multiple organ failure, and heat stroke.

The teammate who also collapsed before he did was in the hospital and then released several days later. So there are a lot of questions about exactly what happened out there and whether or not the kids were pushed too far. Do you think they were pushed too far?

DAUGHERTY: Oh, absolutely not. And by the time this trial is over, everyone will see that they were not pushed too far.

CHETRY: Is there a danger, regardless of whether or not coach Stinson gets found guilty of negligent homicide in this case, is there a question about maybe rethinking what the kids are doing out there on the field and when, I mean, maybe even if the standards don't necessarily say stop heavy practices at 94 degrees or 94 as the heat index, maybe some changes to the way that these drills are conducted?

DAUGHERTY: Well, I'm sure that there's going to be more change to come. There was a lot of knee-jerk reaction after Max's death, and they made a lot of changes that were supposed to, I guess, fix things this year.

But unfortunately, we've already had nine kids die this year around the country, which is one more than last year. So all the changes that were made as a result of Max's death really, at this point, haven't helped yet.

CHETRY: All right, Rodney Daugherty, I know you're a friend of Jason Stinson and you've been accompanying him as he faces this difficult time, a very difficult time obviously for the parents of this child, for everybody in the community as well. So thank you for talking to us this morning.

DAUGHERTY: Yes, ma'am. Thank you.

ROBERTS: Good news, bad news on the jobs front. Christine Romans minding your business right after the break.


ROBERTS: Christine Romans minding your business this morning with the latest jobs report, and a little good news, a little bad news.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Let's start with the good news, such that that it is -- 216,000 jobs lost in the month of August. That is the fewest jobs lost in about a year.

We've put together a little graphic to show you how the job losses have been slowing. You can see in January, we lost 741,000 jobs. Now, you saw June and July, actually, upgraded a little bit. They lost a few more jobs than had been expected. But then August, 216,000 jobs lost.

Now, the unemployment rate spiked, however, to 9.7 percent. The jobless rate now for the duration of this recession has doubled. It started at 4.9 percent in the end of 2007. We are now up here at 9.7 percent. This is the highest jobless rate since June, 1983.

Why did the jobless rate spike so much? You've got new people coming into the labor market. You've got kids graduated from college now, they're officially in the labor market, there's no job for them.

You have self-employed people, people with small businesses who until now had considered themselves maybe employed, but now they've said, no, their businesses are so weak that they're not employed. This is the rate jumping to 9.7 percent.

A couple things, construction jobs still losing people, manufacturing jobs still losing people. Retail, however, was a little bit steady here. so you didn't see the big retail jobs loss. That might have been because of back-to-school buildup.

Also there were jobs created in health care and in education. We called this a "man-session" earlier in the program, a "he-session" that has been hitting men more than women. That is still the case -- 10.1 percent, 10.2 percent is the unemployment rate for men, it is much lower for women.

For other minorities, 13 percent unemployment for Hispanics, for blacks it is 15.1 percent. That is more than the average, but those are holding steady this time around.

So 216,000 jobs lost, the fewest in a year, but the jobless rate spiked.

ROBERTS: Christine Romans this morning. Christine, thanks so much.

So this hurricane season, has it been a little bit lighter than normal? There's only been one tropical storm to hit the United States. What's going on? Why is Erika fizzling out there in the Caribbean? Our Jacqui Jeras tells it might be our old friend El Nino, which is back. She' got a report on that coming up.

It's forty-six and a half minutes after the hour.


ROBERTS: Welcome back to the most news in the morning.

A big satellite shot of the Atlantic this morning, not a whole lot going on. And we can see over here, remnants of tropical storm Erika, pretty much just fizzled into some heavy rain for Puerto Rico.

And that's got us wondering today, halfway through this hurricane season, why haven't we seen the typical pattern of hurricanes going right through the Gulf of Mexico heading straight for the United States or Mexico or even really coming up and hitting the east coast of the United States? A couple have gone up there and re-curved back around.

Could it be the effects of the brewing El Nino? Our Jacqui Jeras joins us live from the Extreme Weather Center. What do you think, Jacqui? Is it El Nino, or what it is?

JACQUI JERAS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I think it very well could be, John. You heard the name before. I think you'll be hearing a lot more about El Nino in the upcoming months, and I do think it is already influencing our weather by making stronger winds in the Atlantic that tend to prevent hurricanes from developing.


JERAS: Katrina, Rita, Ike -- monster storms that have made dealing with major hurricanes a regular occurrence for residents on the gulf coast.

But this year seems oddly quiet. Our weather patterns are changing and it could mean good news for the storm weary.

El Nino, it's the warming of waters in the equatorial Pacific. When this happens, it changes the regular flow of the jet stream, bringing those strong winds through the southern U.S. and Atlantic. Jet stream winds can blow off the top of tropical systems and prevent them from developing or from getting stronger.

Here's what El Nino has done to tropical seasons in the past. 1982 to '83, a strong El Nino episode brought the quietest hurricane season in 50 years, but one of those storms was alicia, a brutal hurricane that killed 21 in Texas.

1997 to '98, only seven named storms for the entire season, well below the average of 11.

But it's not all good news. That season the jet stream helped support the deadliest tornado outbreak in Florida's history, one of them ripping roofs off of hundreds of homes and killing 25 people in Osceola County.

That '97 to '98 season was also devastating for the southwestern United States. The jet stream brought storm after storm into California. Torrential rains, mudslides, washed out roads, and destructive waves all pounded the state. It was one of the costliest winters on record for California, estimating $550 million in damages for February of '98 alone. El Nino is typically bad news for the eastern pacific hurricane season too, generating more frequent and stronger storms. In 2006, an El Nino year, there were 18 named storms in the eastern pacific, including hurricane John that killed five people in Baja, California, Mexico.

There's no telling what El Nino will do to the U.S. this time around, but climatologists are predicting it could strengthen and last through the winter of 2010.


JERAS: And we're now in what meteorologists call a moderate El Nino condition. Two more months of this, and we could be in a full- blown El Nino episode that could potentially bring similar impacts.

And as for the slow start for hurricanes, well, we're just now entering the peak of the Atlantic season. And when it comes down to it, John and Kiran, it just doesn't really matter how many storms get a name. What matters is which one hit the U.S. and whether or not you're prepared for it.

ROBERTS: And also adding to the potential misery in the southwest, that area that's burned and the station fire, a lot of bare ground now. If they get a lot of rain this winter, that could be a huge problem.

JERAS: It could really be devastating. There's no vegetation on there to help suck up any of that rain, so if they get the heavy rains, that's 250,000 square miles where that rain will run off and flood the valleys and probably cause mudslides as well.

ROBERTS: Jacqui Jeras for us this morning with that fascinating look at the effects of El Nino. Jacqui, thanks so much.



GRACE ONG, CNN HERO: There was riots, buildings being burned, people just trying to save their lives.

The children are supposed to have proper upbringing, and what they were having there was far from being normal. This is so devastating to me and my family. That's why we committed to go and to help.

My name is Grace Ong. I'm a pilot for Singapore Airlines. I created an orphanage to help the children in West Tego.

When we started, we only had four children, and we found even more that needed help badly. So we decided to build our own orphanage building.

Right from the beginning, we give them vaccinations, clothing, food. But we cannot give them anything more valuable than the proper education.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (via translator): When my parents die, I couldn't go to school. For me, he is an angel. I'm now in medical school.

ONG: We are able to provide and to teach them just be who you are, help others, and do it from your heart.



ROBERTS: That's going to wrap it up for us. Thanks very much for joining us. Have yourself a great Labor Day weekend. But in the spirit of Labor Day, we'll be working, and we'll see you back here bright and early again on Monday morning.

CHETRY: Get in all your fun on Sunday, because you'll be here Monday morning.

ROBERTS: Jam it in.

CHETRY: I hope you'll be with us as well regardless of whether you're off or not. Thanks so much for joining us.

And now the news continues, "CNN NEWSROOM" with Fredricka Whitfield.