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Terror Plot May Have Targeted Transportation Hub; Baucus Plan Draws Bipartisan Critics; High School Coach Jason Stinson Cleared in Football Player Death; Reports Say Americans' Net Worth Went Up; New Program Revolutionizes Training for U.S. Soldiers

Aired September 18, 2009 - 06:00   ET


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome. Glad you're with us this morning. It's Friday. It's September 18th. Welcome to AMERICAN MORNING. I'm Kiran Chetry.

T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: It's Friday. That's why everybody around here has a smile on their faces today.

Hello to you all, I'm T.J.. I'm sitting in today for John Roberts.

Here are some of the big stories we're going to be breaking down in the next few minutes. First here, brand new developments about that alleged New York City terror plot. This was the thing that was developing over September 11th weekend.

Right now, though, we're getting new information about what officials say may have been a plan to bomb a major transportation center, possibly a large railroad or subway station. We are live with the latest.

CHETRY: The president pulling out all the stops for health care reform. He's going to be sitting down for five televised interviews, plus a late-night appearance on top of the speeches that he's been giving and holding rallies. This is the make-or-break push. It comes as criticism grows on both sides of the aisle over Senator Max Baucus' long-awaited compromise bill on health care reform.

HOLMES: Also, a not guilty verdict for a former Kentucky high school football coach on trial for the death of a player. Prosecutors had said that Jason Stinson ran a brutal practice session the day sophomore Max Gilpin collapsed. The sophomore died three days later. In just a moment, we will hear from the teen's parents.

CHETRY: We begin, though, with some stunning new details emerging of an alleged multi-state terror plot. The investigation triggered FBI raids in New York as well as Denver, Colorado this week, and sources are now telling CNN that authorities are taking this plot seriously because it involves "real deal terrorists."

An Afghan national at the center of this investigation is believed to have ties to Al Qaeda. The FBI has now been questioning him for days in Denver, and that's where Homeland Security correspondent Jeanne Meserve is live this morning following the developments for us. Good morning, Jeanne.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Kiran. This is still a very, very active investigation by law enforcement. Two sources tell us that investigators have turned up instructions on how to make a bomb. One law enforcement source is telling us that they were found on a computer that Najibullah Zazi, the 24-year-old at the center of this investigation had with him when he traveled to New York last weekend, but Zazi's lawyer is denying it.


ARTHUR FOLSOM, ATTORNEY FOR NAJIBULLAH ZAZI: I have no information confirming anything like that, and all I could possibly say is that my client has no comment at this time. If you have any questions, you can direct them to me. All I can say is that if they had found bomb-making materials in his car, on his computer, or one wild report I saw yesterday that there were something like there were enough explosives in the apartment to blow up two buildings, do you really think the FBI would have allowed us to walk out of here last night?


MESERVE: Zazi's lawyer continues to say that his client has no ties to terrorism, that he came under suspicion because he was staying with a friend who the FBI had under investigation. However, multiple sources tell CNN that backpacks were found during the raids in New York, and this is leading to a lot of theorizing by law enforcement about what the possible target of any terrorist action might have been.

It brought to mind the bombings in Madrid, the train bombings, and led to theorizing amongst law enforcement officials that perhaps what these people were considering doing was taking these backpacks filled with explosives into some sort of transportation hub where they would not have been airport-style screening, something like, let's say, a train or a rail station. However, let me emphasize, they do not know for certain exactly what the target of any plot might have been.

They are, law enforcement sources saying they're calling this an unprecedented investigation, saying unprecedented resources are being poured into it. But let me also remind you that the director of the FBI, Robert Mueller, told Congress the other day that he did not believe that any threat was imminent.

Kiran, back to you.

CHETRY: All right. It would be interesting as this investigation develops and they try to find more information and perhaps get some information out of this person as well. Jeanne Meserve for us this morning, thank you.

HOLMES: Also this morning, the White House is fine-tuning a media blitz to push for health care reform. It's going to be hard to miss this media blitz if you live anywhere on earth.

Political Joes this weekend, up to five of them, also David Letterman's late-night stage. The president will be pulling a page from his campaign playbook, hoping overexposure will help convince people that now is the time to act. But as our Dana Bash reports, behind all those cameras, the fight to pass health reform in Congress could be taking new stumbles.

DANA BASH, CNN SR. CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Kiran and T.J., there's no doubt what Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus is proposing is more centrist, less liberal than the House Democratic plan that drew so much anger over the summer, especially from Republicans. And because of that, the Baucus plan is at the center of the health care debate, and that means it's a new bull's eye, and it's drawing fire even from fellow Democrats.


BASH (voice-over): Forget about Republicans. Even Democrat Jeff Bingaman, who spent months negotiating with Max Baucus, isn't ready to support his health care proposal.

SEN. JEFF BINGAMAN (D), NEW MEXICO: I have favored having a public option available and voted for one in the health and education health committee bill, so I hope we can do that.

BASH: In fact, outside a closed meeting of the Senate Finance Committee, almost all the Democratic senators we talked to said they wanted to change what their Democratic chairman, Max Baucus, calls a consensus plan. One huge issue?



SEN. DEBBIE STABENOW (D), MICHIGAN: Affordability for middle class families.

BASH: Concern that Americans would not get enough financial help buying the health insurance they would be required to have.

STABENOW: This has to work for families, and I understand all of the trade-offs. But the trade-off can't be that a middle class family can't afford the insurance in this bill.

BASH: Are you prepared to vote against this?

SEN. Maria CANTWELL (D), WASHINGTON: Yes. I can't support a plan that doesn't have the affordability of health care and doesn't have the affordability for my constituents in it.

BASH: And many Democrats don't like one way Baucus helps pay for the health care overhaul, taxing insurance companies for high-cost plans. It was John Kerry's idea.

KERRY: Yes, it was my idea originally. BASH: But even he now opposes it, saying the way Baucus structured the tax, it could penalize the middle class, including union members.

KERRY: We need to make it fairer to working people so that working folks don't get dragged into this at a level where they just don't have the incomes that support it.

BASH: Meanwhile, Olympia Snowe is still the one Republican Democrats think they can still persuade.

SEN. OLYMPIA SNOWE (R), MAINE: It has to be practical, achievable and doable.

BASH: In fact, Baucus stood listening carefully as Snowe spoke to reporters and then told us --

SEN. MAX BAUCUS (D-MT), SENATE FINANCE CMTE CHAIRMAN: Whatever Senator Snowe wants us to do, I'm for her.

BASH: Whatever she wants?

BAUCUS: Whatever she wants.


BASH: In all seriousness, Senator Baucus told us he is willing to make changes to address concerns about affordability and potentially taxing the middle class. He knows he has to in order to get enough votes from fellow Democrats to pass his health care overhaul in his critically important committee -- Kiran and T.J..

HOLMES: And do not forget, this Sunday, President Obama will be sitting down with our John King on "STATE OF THE UNION." You can't miss this interview, Sunday, 9:00 a.m. Eastern, again right here on CNN.

CHETRY: Well, it was a trial that parents and high school football coaches across the country were following, but the verdict is in, and former high school coach Jason Stinson has been acquitted in the death of one of his players in Louisville, Kentucky. It happened yesterday. Alina Cho is following this story for us this morning. This is a story that we were following before because this would be the first time that a coach would be facing homicide charges in connection with a practice.

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And I think that surprised a lot of people, guys. You know, it took the jury actually less than two hours, and as you said, that trial is believed to be the first of its kind in the country. A coach charged in the death of one of his players. Huge implications for every high school coach in America.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We the jury find the defendant, David Jason Stinson, not guilty.

CHO (voice-over): With that, a huge sigh of relief from Jason Stinson and high school coaches everywhere. A jury cleared Stinson of reckless homicide and wanton endangerment in the death of Max Gilpin. The 15-year-old died of heat stroke after collapsing during football practice last August. His mother said the trial had still sent a message.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're disappointed, but you know, we said this going into it, my main objective was that Max's death not be in vain. People are standing up to those football coaches now and people are reaching out.

CHO: Gilpin had been running sprints called gassers on a day when temperatures hit 94. During the trial, players said Stinson ordered the gassers as punishment for the lack of effort they showed at practice. Prosecutors describe the sprints as barbaric. Stinson's attorney argued it was just football.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It did not create a hostile and dangerous environment for football practice.

CHO: Even without a guilty verdict, prosecutors say the trial has raised awareness.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every coach who steps on the football field now thinks about what he's doing a little bit more, maybe thinks about water a little bit more, watches his players a little bit more. We're all better off for having this case.


CHO: One witness testified that Gilpin could have been saved had he been immersed in ice water almost immediately after collapsing. Medical experts for the defense said it was actually a combination of heat and the use of the dietary supplement creatine, which can dehydrate you, along with the attention deficit disorder drug, Adderall, that were the main factors that contributed to Gilpin's death, which they called an accident. In fact, three of his classmates testified that Gilpin had been complaining that he wasn't feeling well all day long on the very day, Kiran that he collapsed.

CHETRY: Just makes you wonder, though, if it's going to lead to some changes in the way that, you know, these drills are conducted in heat. You know, we talked about it before.

CHO: Well, I mean, and, T.J., I'm sure you know -- I mean, this is, you know, to punish players for not working hard in practice. That's a common thing among coaches. The big question is how far do you go? And as you can see, there can be huge implications.

HOLMES: It's part of the culture, and maybe some coaches just aren't trained well enough sometimes, especially on the high school level to recognize. I mean, colleges, they have pros. They have people they hire to make sure they monitor these athletes, and they use all kinds of technology to do so. CHETRY: Right.

HOLMES: But in high school, it's not the same.

CHO: His temperature was 107 degrees when he collapsed.


CHO: So, clearly -- clearly, heat stroke played a role.

HOLMES: When it comes to the coach here, really a big-time legendary high school coach to see what he thinks about this. Is this going to change the culture or has this just put a lot of coaches on notice and make them nervous now about conditioning their athletes?

CHETRY: Right.

HOLMES: So, Alina, we appreciate you. We'll see you again later this morning.

CHETRY: Thanks, Alina.

HOLMES: We have some other stories that we are following, including the political fallout for ACORN. We've got more of it to tell you about.

The "Wall Street Journal" reporting that the community organizing group may now abandon its chief mission of registering low- income Americans to vote. ACORN has been under fire since hidden camera video showed workers apparently offering advice to fake pimps and prostitutes on how to skirt the law. Meantime, the House Thursday followed the Senate's lead and voted to cut all federal funding for ACORN.

CHETRY: Former Vice President Dick Cheney is recovering this morning at a Washington hospital. The 68-year-old had elective back surgery to deal with lumbar spinal stenosis. It's a narrowing of the spine that's a common cause of lower back pain, especially in older adults. Cheney's office said the procedure went well and he expects him to be released soon.

HOLMES: And Bernie Madoff's Long Island beach house is now sold for more than $8.75 million. That was the asking price, and it went for little more than that. The unnamed buyer snapped it up just days after feds put the seized property in New York on the market. The proceeds will help repay thousands of investors who lost, of course, billions of dollars in Madoff's massive Ponzi scheme.

CHETRY: All right. Well, we just talked about the acquittal there in that trial of Coach Jason Stinson. We're going to be speaking with Coach Rush Propst after the break, a legendary high school football coach, about the outcome here and whether or not it will lead to changes down the road in how practices are conducted at the high school football level.

Eleven minutes past the hour. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: A little Jay-Z this morning, "Empire State of Mind." Some people have it as a ringtone.

It's cloudy and 58 degrees right now. Certainly doesn't feel like summer. But a little later, it's going to get sunny, 78 degrees.

HOLMES: And just for clarity, the ringtone is hers. It might sound like she was suggesting that it was mine. It's on her phone.

CHETRY: New album's great.


CHETRY: Sorry. Fourteen minutes past the hour now.

New this morning, well, we already take our shoes off, our jackets off, right, every time we have to go to the airport. We put our liquids in the containers and use zip lock bags. Well, now there's another layer to airport security.

The Transportation Security Administration is equipping all airports now with kits to test for explosive powders. If you travel out at some big airports, this is already happening, but they say that the process should not really take that much longer. Travelers can still carry baby powder, they say, as well as makeup.

HOLMES: All right. And stop me if heard this one before. Iran's president refusing to stop its disputed nuclear program. Well, we've got a new interview that he did with NBC News, and he said that. He said some other stuff as well.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the enrichment of uranium for peaceful purposes will not be shut down, but he also would not rule out the development of a nuclear weapon. Also, he insisted that he won that disputed June 12th election fair and square.

CHETRY: And we're getting our first look inside the home of Phillip and Nancy Garrido. They're the couple charged with kidnapping and holding Jaycee Dugard captive for 18 years. These photos were taken by inspectors showing debris piled in every room. The house has now been condemned. Investigators are also revealing that they used ground-penetrating radar today after cadaver dogs picked up a scent that may indicate human remains on their property.

HOLMES: Well, as we reported, the verdict is in in a jury in Worthville (ph), Kentucky, acquitted former football high school coach Jason Stinson of reckless homicide in the death of a 15-year-old player.

Max Gilpin is the player's name. He collapsed after Stinson ordered players to run wind sprints in 90-degree heat last summer. This landmark trial was watched closely by coaches and parents across the country, certainly watched hopefully by Rush Propst. He's a longtime high school football coach, coaching Alabama, now coaching in Georgia. He was featured on the MTV program "Two-a-Days," and Coach Propst joins us now from his home in Moultrie, Georgia.

Sir, appreciate you being here this morning. Good morning to you. I guess, first, were you nervous about the precedent that a guilty plea -- or excuse me, a guilty verdict in this trial could have set?

RUSH PROPST, COLQUITT COUNTY H.S. FOOTBALL COACH: Well, I appreciate, T.J., you and Kiran having me on this morning. But yes, I was a little bit nervous about what precedent would be set if a guilty plea would have come down. But, you know, it does catch your attention day in and day out when you know a fellow colleague in a profession in which you do every day is on trial.

HOLMES: And we talked about the precedent a guilty verdict could have set, but also, talk to me about the precedent that it still sets, the fact that a high school football coach could be held and charged with a homicide in the case of a kid. That still sets a pretty scary precedent, at least from a lot of coaches' eyes, does it not?

PROPST: I think that it would. I think it makes you as a football coach, obviously, you check your organization of practice and make sure that you look up under every rock, every leaf and make sure that everything that you do is well documented and that you -- safety is a key to the health of your players. And if you keep that guideline and sort of add some common sense to it, then, hopefully, it won't happen to you or your community.

HOLMES: You spoke there about common sense, and we all know, we all came up in the culture of athletics and you get pushed and it's a motivating factor. Certainly, no coach is trying to hurt a kid. That's the last thing he wants to do.

But from what we at least know of this case, was some common sense missing in that you hear about it 90 degrees, you will, about "Two-a-Days," it's always hot, especially in the south where you're coaching. But it's hot, we go through "Two-a-Days." From what we know of him pushing these kids to run these sprints, saying that he's going to keep them going until somebody quit, did it sound like the coach had gone too far to you?

PROPST: No. I don't think so. I think that there's very few days if hardly any days that you ever go through from late spring practice through your summer, through, obviously, in south Georgia right now, that this is not in the 90s, and you do push your kids extremely hard.

I think that's not the issue of pushing them. You've got to obviously push your players. You've just got to make sure that you have enough water breaks and enough trainers and all the things you need to have for that child to take as much water as he can take.

And then -- and I made this statement last night. I think a lot of times in high school football, when the child leaves you after practice, you don't see that child again until the next day.

HOLMES: Yes. PROPST: So, you don't monitor his nutrition, his sleep habits. You don't know whether he's sick or not. They go home to their parents, like in college football, you know, you have pretty much total control over them 24/7. And obviously, it's that way in the NFL, but in high school, you do not.

So, I think communication is the e key, more education of what to do and how to do for us as high school coaches in making sure we have everything we need for us to be able to go out and monitor our kids over day in and day out basis. I think we here at Colquitt County do a great job with that. We weigh kids in and out before practice and we give them plenty of water and plenty of breaks.

HOLMES: Well, coach, the last thing here, I guess, what good do you see coming out of this? Unfortunately, this young man died, and maybe a precedent is set here. But what good could still come out of this precedent to possibly put more coaches on notice, possibly get more training to get them to identify -- you know, this was a young coach. A lot of these coaches don't have a lot of experience, don't have experience you have, but can that still change the game, if you will? This case, what good will we see come out of it?

PROPST: Well, I think you're right. I think you said it, T.J. The educational part in us as coaches making sure that we're doing everything possible that we can to be properly trained, and you know, to have the aids, all of us trained in first aid, having every school having a certified trainer there, a communication with the doctor in town and everything that we can possibly do I think will be, first and foremost, in any school system.

We'll have to take a look and not let your team go onto a field without a trainer and without proper trained people to take care of any incident that could happen on a high school football field.

HOLMES: Well, Coach Rush Propst, again, sir, I appreciate you taking the time out and getting up early this morning to talk about this. But yes, maybe you're right and something good will come out of this. If nothing else, just to get coaches to pay more close attention to their players.

Sir, thank you and good luck to you under the lights Friday night this weekend. I know you got a big day coming up, sir. We appreciate you being here.

PROPST: I appreciate you having me on this morning.

HOLMES: All right. And also, we'll be talking about this case a little more this morning.

Coming up at 7:30 Eastern Time, we're talking to that gentleman, Jon Heck. He's one of the Kentucky prosecutors in the case against Jason Stinson, and he says some of this that coaches do around the country could amount to child abuse. He's coming up a little bit later. But right now, it's 20 minutes past the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CHETRY: Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING. It's 23 minutes past the hour right now. Tonight is going to be a good night because Christine Romans is here "Minding Your Business." She tells us you got richer.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: You got a little bit richer in the latest quarter.

HOLMES: We did.

ROMANS: I can't believe I'm saying it. For the first time since the fall of 2007, Americans' net worth went up. It went up because of gains in the stock market and stabilization in the housing market, and I'm proud to be able to tell you that you gained about $2 trillion in net worth for the country, about $53.1 trillion overall.

Stocks were up 22 percent. Home prices went up two percent, and that's how you got richer very subtly, because you're still digging out of a very big hole. So before you all start e-mailing me saying we didn't get that much richer, we're still down some $12 trillion -- yes, you're right, but at least this is a number that is not continuing to fall, fall, fall. We have a long way to recovery. Household wealth still down 19 percent from the peak or $12.2 trillion. But...

CHETRY: When was the peak?

ROMANS: The peak was back in 2007. So, at least it's stopped falling and it has turned around here slightly.

Mutual funds values up 15 percent. Fifteen percent the gain in the country's holdings of mutual funds, but the jobless rate is still 9.7 percent. So, people are paying down their debt and they're still very, very cautious here. I don't think this is going to cause people to run out and start spending that $2 trillion in wealth.

CHETRY: It's a better trend to move in the right direction.

ROMANS: Yes, and -- yes, and I'm happy to be able to finally be showing things turning this direction, not always going down.

HOLMES: Is your numeral this morning in some way associated with the update for the $2 trillion -- $2 trillion we have?

ROMANS: It is. Well, I was telling you, the same report shows that you are all paying down your debt, but the government is not paying down its debt -- 21 percent. This is the surge in government borrowing.

CHETRY: So 28 percent...

ROMANS: Twenty-eight percent -- sorry. So even as...

CHETRY: That's the numeral, the surge in government...

ROMANS: Twenty-eight percent is the numeral, and that is, even as this report shows we're all paying down our debt, that's government load and they fund it for the fourth quarter in a row.

CHETRY: Well, then the government's paying for a lot of programs right now.

ROMANS: That's right.

CHETRY: For example, the $8,000 first-time home buyer credit.

ROMANS: That's right.

CHETRY: That ended up costing more than they expected, right?

ROMANS: That's right. And one of the reasons why you're seeing household net worth go up is because the government is spending so much money, so, tricky times.

HOLMES: Thanks, government. Better -- I don't know, is it better for us to be broke or for the government to be broke?

ROMANS: Everyone's broke.

HOLMES: Everybody's broke.

ROMANS: We're all in it together.

HOLMES: All right.

CHETRY: Good to see you, Christine.

HOLMES: Thank you, Christine.

CHETRY: We'll check in with you in the next hour. Thanks so much.

HOLMES: Coming up here, the type of war changes, the type of enemy changes. So some time, the army has to change as well, change the way it trains. Our Jason Carroll with the story after the break.


HOLMES: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. Right now, every minute of every day, American troops in Afghanistan facing some dangerous and advancing enemies. It's one of the reasons the Joint Chiefs -- the Joint Chiefs chairman says, rather, that more resource, including more U.S. troops, are needed. But how do we adapt and train our men and women for this rugged, mountainous terrain? Jason Carroll knows firsthand here exactly how this went down.


HOLMES: Good morning to you.

CARROLL: Good morning to you. Well, they've got a new program. I tried part of it myself. It is tough, but it is well worth doing.

Here's the reality. Soldiers in Afghanistan have been suffering many noncombat injuries as a result of the heavy loads they carry in Afghanistan's rough terrain. Now the Army is taking a tip from how professional athletes train to try and make a better soldier.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Left, right. Left.

CARROLL (voice-over): It's dawn, Fort Campbell, Kentucky, marching in formation. Traditional calisthenics. For decades, physical training for Army soldiers has changed very little, but now change has come.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How do you feel? You feel all right? Good.

CARROLL: It looks a lot different. The results unmistakable.

LT. COL BRIAN SMALLEY, U.S. ARMY: And the end result will be a stronger, faster soldier that will be less prone to injury.

CARROLL: The new program is called the Eagle Tactical Athlete Program, ETAP. These are the first wave of soldiers sweating under ETAP, which emphasizes endurance, balance, speed and preventing injuries.

ETAP's director, Dr. Scott Lephart, says 40 to 60 percent of new recruits actually get hurt during training.

DR. SCOTT LEPHART, UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA: If, indeed, we can mitigate the risk of injury to reduce the injuries and enhance their capacity to perform their duty, it's a significant contribution on our part.

CARROLL: Training is based on the methods Dr. Lephart developed at the University of Pittsburgh's Department of Sports Medicine and Nutrition. Professional sports teams like Steelers and Penguins pay top dollars for the training, but unlike ice or turf, these soldiers will be fighting in Afghanistan. No problem. The program is customized to environment.

LEPHART: They were observing a significant amount of ankle injuries due to the rough terrain in the elevation in Afghanistan. Therefore, we were able to integrate new exercises that would specifically work on the soldier's agility and balance.

CARROLL: Before training begins, the customized program uses computer technology to measure how a soldier lands, how much air they take in and strength.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Set and go to the right, close hand. Left. Great effort.

CARROLL: The tests are not easy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three, two, one, sprint as fast as you can get the pedals going.

CARROLL (on camera): Yes, it's tough.

(voice-over): Tough and easy to measure weakness, but will this new program break decades' old training methods?

SGT. BRAD OHLMAN, U.S. ARMY: I think if everybody gives it a chance, you know, and just tries it, they will come around to actually liking the program.


CARROLL: Well, the new training program is eight weeks. Ft. Campbell hopes to have all of the 25,000 soldiers in the 101st airborne division fully trained on the new program by early next summer. And, you know, some of the early results actually show that those who went to the training program were 30 percent more physically fit than those who went to the traditional training methods.

CHETRY: Wow, stepping it up.


CHETRY: How is it for you?

It looked tough.

CARROLL: It was really tough. It was really, really tough. And, you know, and it's so specific in terms of the sciences that they get out of it. They learn specifically how weak you are. So, for me, for example, I'm more weak on my right than on my left. So for me, they would design an exercise program that would help me build the right side of myself as opposed to the left.


HOLMES: You looked a little off-balance this morning.


CARROLL: That's the early hour.

CHETRY: He keeps his dumbbells on the left side of his desk, you know. He's always on the phone when he's doing bicep curls.

CARROLL: Kiran is the one always showing off her muscles.

CHETRY: Yes, you're right. I don't have any.

Thanks, Jason.

HOLMES: Very good.

CHETRY: Well, 32 minutes past the hour now.

A look at the top stories this morning.

A pro-Palestinian rally turns violent in the streets of Tehran overnight. Supporters of Iran's hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad battling with reformers. They were holding a simultaneous antigovernment march. Witnesses say former Iranian President Mahmoud Khatami was pushed to the ground during the confrontation. Khatami has sided with the opposition in this post-election crisis that has gripped Tehran.

HOLMES: Also this morning, Massachusetts lawmakers are a step closer to a bill that would allow Governor Duval Patrick to appoint an interim successor to the late Senator Ted Kennedy. The House approved the measure Thursday. Now it needs to pass the Senate. A special election to Bill Kennedy sit will be held January 19th, however, this is very important because they need someone in that seat to possibly cast the vote up on Capitol Hill on this heavily debated health care reform legislation.

CHETRY: And the major TV networks hope being that President Obama will be a ratings grabber this weekend. The president is going all out to push his health care reform plan. He's going to be appearing on five Sunday talk shows and then, to top all that off, he's going to visit David Letterman on Monday night.

Feature a special segment, "Wingnut of the Week," and my next guest says that a wingnut is a professional partisan or any unhinged activist who tries to divide rather than unite. And it's time for him to make what he calls his "Wingnut of the Week" picks.

Independent analyst John Avlon columnist for, and author of "Independent Nation" is here, and as you put it, the far right and the far left can be equally insane as times, so you like to call them both out.

So let's start with your pick for "Wingnut of the Week" on the right.

JOHN AVLON, INDEPENDENT POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. Well, this is the outburst heard around the world. Inevitably, Congressman Joe Wilson of South Carolina, who infamously shouted out during President Obama's joint session of congress "you lie."

Let's take a listen for those who forgot.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The reforms I'm proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally.


OBAMA: That's not true.


AVLON: Who knew that we could hit a low so soon after the congressional recess? Incivility on the rise already.

CHETRY: So, he makes that comment, he makes that outburst, but in some ways, he's become a folk hero for the far right. People are, you know, very -- some people are very happy with Joe Wilson and the fact that he did that.

AVLON: They sure are. You know, I attended the 9/12 tea party demonstrations in Washington, D.C., and one of the things you saw was signs all over the place praising Joe Wilson, saying "Joe Wilson speaks for me," "Joe Wilson told the truth," "Joe Wilson speaks for patriots," so he has really become a folk hero for the right, and that's the sign of the increasing polarization of partisan divides in our politics. That's a bad sign when it comes to trying to unite the country rather than divide it.

CHETRY: It's interesting, though, because when it comes to fundraising, his challenger got a lot of money donated to his campaign online, saying look, you've got to help this guy out, because look at Joe Wilson. And then subsequently, Joe Wilson raised money as well.

AVLON: That's right. In the ads, where Joe Wilson was saying, "Joe Wilson is under attack. Help him to stand up." So Wilson plays the victim card and the hot cycle of hyper-partisanship builds on itself.

CHETRY: All right. Well, let's go to the -- your choice for Wingnut on the Left this week.

Who got this distinction?

AVLON: This will be Representative Hank Johnson, again, tied to the Wilson outburst, and the official rebuke that Congress passed, the first in 220 years, Johnson made the argument that this was necessary because it raised the specter of a possible rise and return of the KKK.

Let's take a listen to what he said.


REP. HANK JOHNSON (D), GEORGIA: I guess we will probably have folks putting on white hoods and white uniforms again and riding through the countryside intimidating people.


AVLON: Yes, that's a bridge too far. You know, in "Wingnuts of the Week," we've had people against using metaphors, hate-filled metaphors whether its KKK or Adolf Hitler. The right reasons to rebuke Joe Wilson have nothing to do with logically lit it up versus logically leading to return of the KKK. That inject more race into this debate, I think unhelpfully. It also raises stakes in a way that doesn't cross the common sense barrier for the vast majority of Americans.

CHETRY: There have been people who are quite well-respected like former President Jimmy Carter who did say that there is a racial component to some of the opposition to President Obama. And so, race has been injected into this health care debate and in some cases it's been tied to Joe Wilson.

AVLON: And race may be part of this. If you look at the tea party protest, I don't think Joe Wilson's outburst had anything to do with race per se. If you look at the tea party protests, the vast majority of it is anger about the growth of government and unprecedented spending. But there is this fringe on the far right that has racial connotations, whether they're using hate-filled signs or things that disrespect the president.

The emotionalism of anger, the unhinged anger at this president so soon is influenced by a heck of a lot more -- excuse me.

CHETRY: You can say hell.

AVLON: OK, good, than simple policy disagreements. This rips off deeper divisions in American politics, and one of those divisions historically, no question about it, has been race.

CHETRY: All right. Well, once again, you can always check out who John has picked for his "Wingnuts of the Week" by heading to our Web site

John, great to see you, as always. Thanks.

AVLON: Thank you.

HOLMES: All right, coming up here in just a bit.

We'll be talking about an attitude problem that some co-workers of Raymond Clark said he had. But was that attitude enough to drive him to murder?

Tom Foreman coming our way in 20 minutes.

Right now, it's about 40 minutes past the hour.


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

Forty minutes past the hour now. It's an attraction in the Florida Keys unlike any other, really. It's a massive yacht that's stranded off the coast, and its multimillionaire owner has created a kind of tent city on board. It may seem like the tycoon himself has gone overboard, but as John Zarrella tells us, he's just defending his legacy.


JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The masts are gone, the paint is shot, windows in the wheelhouse smashed. Legacy, once a magnificent 158-foot sailing yacht, is literally a wreck off Key West.

(on camera): It's got to make you feel pretty sad, though, when you see it in that state. PETER HALMOS, OWNER, LEGACY YACHT: Oh, it's heartbreaking.

ZARRELLA (voice over): What's so bizarre is that Legacy's owner, Peter Halmos, has plenty of money to fix her up. He's a multimillionaire. And if you look closely at the bow of the boat, that's no mirage, those are tents.

HALMOS: Now you're entering Camp Legacy.

ZARRELLA: Camp Legacy.

HALMOS: This is where...

ZARRELLA: Tent City.

HALMOS: This is where I'm hanging out right now.

ZARRELLA: Halmos spends his nights and days right here on the deck.

(on camera): So, how does a man worth millions and millions of dollars end up living in a tent on a sailboat?

Well, the story started nearly four years ago.

(voice over): Legacy was torn from its anchors off Key West during Hurricane Wilma in 2005 and tossed into a federally-protected sanctuary where environmental laws prevented him from moving it.

A year later, when we caught up with Halmos, the boat was still there.

(on camera): At low tide, at times, Legacy sits in just a few inches of water.

(voice over): Halmos was living on Legacy then, too, carrying his rifle to ward off pirates he says tried to steal his boat.

HALMOS: Right there. I couldn't miss.

ZARRELLA: Finally, Halmos, the federal government and his insurance company agreed on a plan to move Legacy out of the sanctuary. It took the salvage company nine months.

(on camera): And how many feet a day were you able to move it?

HALMOS: At times, we would get ten foot. And at times, we would get 50 foot.

ZARRELLA (voice over): A year ago, Legacy was afloat, but hasn't moved since. The insurance company paid Halmos $60 million, but he's concerned once he fixes it, they or a subsidiary will try to claim it.

HALMOS: That, in effect, puts me in a hostage situation.

ZARRELLA: The company that paid out says it doesn't want Legacy, never did, never will. But until he's certain, Halmos says he'll just float right here.

(on camera): Why don't you just go buy a new one?

HALMOS: Because this is Legacy. She saved our life.

ZARRELLA: Periodically, supporters go by wearing Halmos-provided t-shirts...

CROWD: Free Legacy now! Free Legacy now!

ZARRELLA: ...while he serves up lunch on the deck. Even on a stuck boat, life is pretty good in Margaritaville.

John Zarrella, CNN, Key West.


CHETRY: All right. Pretty cool.

HOLMES: That's the life, isn't it?

CHETRY: Yes, absolutely.

HOLMES: All right. Well, we all know that Michael Jackson's mother is the one that's taking care of Michael Jackson's kids, but now we know exactly how much it's costing to take care of those kids. We've got the number, coming up.


HOLMES: OK. I hope that's just foggy, Atlanta, and it's not going to be too rainy, because I've got to get back in there today.

CHETRY: Yes. You can't even see the tops of the buildings. Uh- oh.

HOLMES: That's no good. But good morning, Atlanta. I'm coming home, hopefully. 68 degrees today -- right now, I should say. 77 going to be the high. Always a mess getting in and out of Hartsville Jackson International Airport.

CHETRY: Here, I have an offer for you. If it gets real bad, it gets canceled, you can hop in my minivan, my two kids in the back, and we'll drive you.

HOLMES: I'll stay at the airport. I'll just hang out at the airport. Thank you, though...


HOLMES: It's a generous offer.

CHETRY: I just thought I'd try.

HOLMES: Well, it's 6:45 here this morning, quarter to the top of the hour. Here's what we're working on.

Up first here, Michael Jackson's mother, Katherine, and his three children being taken care of financially, at least. Court documents show that they will get more than $86,000 a month from the late singer's estate.

And when you break these numbers down, $60,000 of that is for Jackson's three kids. Another $27,000, roughly, is for Katherine Jackson. Of that, $4,700 goes for her assistant -- to pay the assistant. Another $3,500 is for clothing for the kids.

CHETRY: Well, it could be the biggest overhaul in college financing that we've seen in some 35 years. The House approving a measure that allows students to borrow directly from the federal government. It saves taxpayers more than $47 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office. That money could then be used to boost Pell Grants to $6900 over the next decade. The measure now goes onto the Senate.

HOLMES: And there was a baby rex, we're told? This is a pint- sized precursor to t-rex. Fossil hunters discovering the predator. They nicknamed it Raptorex.

CHETRY: What? Part raptor, part t-rex?

HOLMES: I'll do with that. It stood about nine feet tall, weighed about 150 pounds. Not that big compared to the t-rex. Scientists say it roamed China some 125 million years ago and lived about 60 million years before the big dog came along, the big t-rex.

CHETRY: So, nine feet tall but 120...

HOLMES: Skinny dude.

CHETRY: Like a stick? All right. Maybe he played some dino basketball back in the day, right?

HOLMES: Oh, my goodness.

CHETRY: Anyway, always cool to find the fossils.

Rob Marciano keeping an eye on weather for us.

And what are you talking about -- some flooding in Tennessee, huh?


CHETRY: You go back in there, T.J. Put in another DVD.


HOLMES: All right, Rob, thanks.

CHETRY: Hopefully, the weather will clear up for you. HOLMES: But delays from the airport I'm leaving from and delays at the airport I'm trying to get into it. That doesn't bode well.

CHETRY: Hello, Amtrak?

HOLMES: Yes. All right. Thanks, Rob.

CHETRY: Forty-nine minutes past the hour.


HOLMES: And welcome back to the Most News in the Morning.

Raymond Clark, the man now charged in the murder of Yale graduate student Annie Le, has been moved to a maximum security prison. Clark is being held on $3 million bond in what police say is a case of, quote, "workplace violence."

They're looking into whether Clark's attitude may have led to a deadly confrontation. Co-workers tell police he was a control freak. He's also territorial when it came to the lab and the mice that he took care of.

Also, we're learning more this morning about the suspect himself and what may have triggered this brutal crime that he's accused of committing. Some of Clark's childhood friends are shocked that he's now facing a murder charge.

Our Tom Foreman with that part of the story.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Arrested and brought into court facing a murder charge at just 24, Ray Clark was not asked for a plea, just that he understood his rights. His answer, two words --


FOREMAN: Others, however, are saying much more. The police chief won't talk about reports of messages between Clark and the murder victim, Annie Le, but he makes it clear, the lab where they both worked is where the violence was borne.

CHIEF JAMES LEWIS, NEW HAVEN POLICE CHIEF: This is not about urban crime. It's not about university crime. It's not about domestic crime, but an issue of workplace violence, which has become a growing concern around the country.

FOREMAN: Twenty minutes away in Clark's hometown, the idea of some sort of workplace eruption is puzzling for old high school classmates.

MICHELLE CRISCUOLO, BRANFORD, CONNECTICUT: He was incredibly nice. He was sweet. He came off as very caring. FOREMAN: Michelle Criscuolo knew him as a fun-loving and athletically gifted boy with kind and giving parents. Even before a local paper reported it, she knew firsthand about a long-ago investigation into accusations that Clark forced his then girlfriend into having sex with him. No charges were filed, so Michelle never thought much of it.

CRISCUOLO: You know, he never was arrested or anything like that, but it just -- it just didn't -- it just seemed like there was a problem within the relationship, and you know, it was something between them two.

FOREMAN: Branford police will not talk about that incident now, saying only that they are sharing information with New Haven detectives.

It is all painful for Caitlin Mann. She, too, knew Ray Clark as a standout baseball player.

(on camera): And this is him right here.


FOREMAN (voice over): And a fellow member of a high school club to promote understanding of Asian culture. She does not believe he could have killed Annie Le.

FOREMAN (on camera): What kind of guy was Ray Clark in high school?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Friendly all the time, sweetheart, totally.

FOREMAN: So, what happened?

If police are correct, somehow, her job as a researcher and his job taking care of the animals that she worked with brought them into a collision in the basement of this building a little more than a week ago with tragic results.

(voice over): Bail for Clark was set at $3 million and his attorney is not talking. Many students of Yale are breathing easier with the arrest, but many friends of Annie Le and Ray Clark have just as many questions about how this murder came to pass.

Tom Foreman, CNN, New Haven, Connecticut.


HOLMES: Well, it is five to the top of the hour. We'll be right back.


HOLMES: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning and get set for OTV. Not talking about Oprah's new network here, but talking about the president, Obama. He's going to be taking the Sunday morning talk shows by storm. He's doing CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC. He's getting a little comic relief in. He's going to visit David Letterman. You see him there with Jay Leno from a previous appearance. But he's doing Letterman on Monday night.

It's a media blitz that you will not be able to miss if you have a television. The last time he hit the late night talk shows was back in March with Jay Leno at the height of the AIG bonus outrage.

So, what is the White House trying to achieve?

Suzanne Malveaux, the only White House correspondent that's live in D.C. right now.

I know you love having that title, don't you, Suzanne?


HOLMES: I know you do.

Tell us, they seem to, the White House at least, still playing on this president's popularity. They still, no matter what his policies seem to do, they still seem to think he's personally popular. Are they worried at all about at some point putting him out there too much?

MALVEAUX: You know, T.J., it's a very good point here, because on the one hand, it shows confidence on the president, but on the other hand, it shows that they really have not successfully gotten this message out on health care reform and they desperately need him to get out there and convey this.

There's a lot of buzz, T.J., this morning here at the White House. They're going to be having those five interviews this afternoon. It's going to be a round robin, 15 minutes apiece. They're setting it up in the Roosevelt Room.

And, obviously, the question about whether or not they're overexposing him, aides are saying, look, the media is so fragmented at this point that if you get a bunch here, a bunch there, then he'll capture many different audiences. Very interesting figure.

A colleague of mine here has been keeping track of this for 15 years -- the presidential TV appearances, Mark Miller. He says that the president has now had 117 media interviews and that is 66 on television. This is not someone who's shying away from this.

He wants and he enjoys this, T.J. He once joked -- this is back in 2004 -- he was accused back then of being overexposed, and he says, "I'm beginning to make Paris Hilton look like a recluse."

So, the president certainly embracing this, if you will. But it also does underscore the need for them to get that message out. They're far from completing what they need to do, and that is getting health care reform in a form that people will actually support it, so.

HOLMES: And you know, Suzanne, now that you mention it, where is Paris Hilton? I have not seen her in a while. So you make a good point there. Where has she been lately?

Also, well, when all else fails -- and this comes right out of the campaign playbook -- if all else fails, let's bring out Michelle Obama. The first lady now going to get into the mix.

MALVEAUX: She certainly is. She's jumping both feet forward in this. Yesterday, she was at a farmer's market. She was promoting healthy eating and exercise. Today, she's also going to be giving a speech. She's talking about women and families and how health care reform is important to them.

Clearly, she's very popular. She kind of has a soft side to this whole controversy, the health care reform debate. They are counting on her to talk about some of those issues and not to, really to downplay this, she has some expertise in this. She was a hospital administrator. So, she's going to come with this on both sides, as a mom and as someone who's really been involved in the health care profession.

HOLMES: All right. So, Suzanne Malveaux, again, the only reporter who is up and reporting live there in White House right now. Suzanne, always good to see you. Thank you so much.