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Historic meeting between Iran and the U.S. and allies to take place in Geneva; Second Earthquake Hits American Samoa; Obama Goes to Copenhagen to Lobby for Chicago 2016 Summer Olympics; Banking Fees at Record Highs; Truck Drivers Talking and Texting Too Much?; More Troops To Afghanistan; Gun Case Goes to Court; Drug Deaths Double; Custodial Dad Who Kidnapped Own Kids in Japan Talks from Jail

Aired October 1, 2009 - 07:00   ET


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: And that brings us to the top of the hour, 7:00 here in New York on this Thursday, October 1. Welcome to AMERICAN MORNING. I'm Kiran Chetry.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you. I'm John Roberts. Thanks for joining us. Here are the big stories we'll be bringing to you in the next 15 minutes.

Iran wants respect and the world wants answers. As historic nuclear talks gets under way in Geneva this morning, the White House now says Iran faces drastic international sanctions if negotiations collapse. Our foreign affairs correspondent Jill Dougherty will be live with the details of exactly what the White House is threatening to do.

CHETRY: And pitchman in chief -- President Obama will be joining the first lady in Denmark tomorrow to try to persuade the International Olympic Committee to hold the 2016 Olympics in his hometown of Chicago.

Rio de Janeiro, Madrid, and Tokyo also in the running. The president has been taking some heat over this trip. Our Ed Henry will be live in Copenhagen with the latest.

ROBERTS: The other bank charges you, then your bank charges you for having the audacity to swipe your card somewhere else. When is this madness going to end? A new survey says ATM fees have exploded even in this recession. It now costs an average more than $3.50 to use another bank's ATM. That is up 16 percent from 2004.

First, though, this morning, a history-making meeting happening right now -- the U.S. and other major world powers sitting down at the table with Iran to try to uncover the truth about that country's nuclear program.

The Obama administration has promised crippling international sanctions if this round of talks collapses. But what kind of sanctions are we really threatening? And does Iran even care? Our foreign affairs correspondent Jill Dougherty is live in Washington now. She's got that part of the story for us. Good morning, Jill.


No one here in Washington has any great expectations this morning about this meeting with Iran. A senior U.S. official predicts it's, quote, "going to be an extraordinarily difficult process."

And if in the end the U.S. and five other major countries at these talks decide to push for sanctions on Iran, the key will be making them leak proof.


DOUGHERTY (voice-over): How does President Barack Obama convince Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to give what the U.S. says are its nuclear weapons ambitions.

As Iran's negotiators depart Tehran for his stakes talks in Geneva, a skeptical U.S. and its allies demand Iran answer questions on its nuclear program. If it doesn't, Washington is threatening drastic international sanctions.

HILLARY CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We obviously are doing everything we can with others in the international community to make the choices to Iran very clear.

DOUGHERTY: But Iran has been under economic sanctions for 30 years, measures targeting things like banking, trade, and investment in Iran. So why hasn't it worked?


DOUGHERTY: The former lead negotiator for the U.S. on Iran tells CNN countries like Russia have been dragging their feet.

BURNS: They continue to sell arms. They didn't apply the same kind of tough-minded attitude that Britain and France and the United States did.

And so I think there's an open question. And I'm rather skeptical that Russia is going to be like-minded ultimately with the United States and Britain and France on this issue.

DOUGHERTY: Now, administration officials say they're preparing an arsenal of beefed up sanctions, including stopping foreign invested in Iran's aging oil and gas pipelines and its oil tankers, freezing assets of individual Iranians acted in weapons proliferation and terrorist activity, stopping illegal movements of sensitive dual technology to Iran, things like aircraft and computers, cracking down on exports of gasoline to Iran.

But some experts caution economic self-interest could torpedo even these tougher sanctions.

STEVEN WEISMAN, PETERSON INSTITUTE FOR INTERNATIONAL ECONOMICS: China is the fastest growing economy in the world. They desperately need these natural resources to sustain the growth, to sustain their employment, and keep China a stable place. That is the absolute priority of the Chinese leadership.


DOUGHERTY: Another means of exerting pressure on Iran is on the backburner, apparently, at this point, the threat that Israel might carry out a military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities. But for now, it's diplomacy with a short deadline - John.

ROBERTS: Jill, when he met with President Obama last week, Russian President Medvedev said that sometimes sanctions are inevitable. But it sounds like Nick Burns is suggesting that may be more talk than action.

DOUGHERTY: Absolutely. And there are a lot of people, John, that I've been speaking with who know the Russians and who analyze that and who feel they're getting mixed messages.

Yes, he did say that, but there's a big "but." They tried it before, they voted for sanctions before, but they're ultimately very interested in that economic and longer relationships with Iran.

ROBERTS: Jill Dougherty for us in Washington this morning for the latest on that. Jill, thank you so much.

And for more on Iran's secret nuclear program, we've got two experts coming up, author Robin Wright and Professor Shireen Hunter will be with us. See how effective they think harsher sanctions against the country could be and whether achieving the new sanction regime is even possible.

CHETRY: And to Indonesia, now, where the forces of nature are just piling on. A second powerful earthquake has rattled the country just a day after another quake killed more than 460 people. Emergency workers are going as they can, trying to find any survivors under the rubble of collapsed buildings.

Officials say that the number of dead could be in the thousands, calling it a high-scale disaster.

Meanwhile, our Ted Rowlands just flew in to American Samoa on a C-130. Officials say at least 150 people are dead after the devastating quake triggered a tsunami hit the island. Ted joins us now live with the latest by phone right now.

I know that you're also trying to get a live signal. It's proving to be a little bit difficult this morning. But tell us what you're seeing after you land there in America Samoa?

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Kiran, this is where a lot of the devastation took place as far as the eye could see. Homes and businesses were just completely leveled by this tsunami wave.

And locals here tell me it wasn't a 20-minute warning, a 10- minute warning. They said it's more like a five-minute warning. After the 8.0 quake, they said within five minutes this tsunami hit and this was it.

You could see very relative this Mississippi Gulf Coast after Katrina and the wave -- and they're blocking where nearly along the coastline here, it's every single home, every business, and it's -- the debris has been mixed up.

Also there's a very heavy smell of fish here because the water brought in so many fish. You can see it left the fish here to die. So there's a heavy scent of dead fish here mixed in with all of the debris here.

There's a heartbreak as well here because of the loss of lives. People are still missing, and there's little hope they'll find anybody missing because, quite frankly, the debris piles aren't very large. The likelihood of any lives being found down here is extremely low, and people know that.

There still are rescue operations going on and will pursue at least until tomorrow. But the reality here is that those that are missing are indeed most likely dead, and people do realize that. And I think the reality of what they're dealing with here in terms of a cleanup is starting to hit home as well.

That said, the federal government has sent in a lot through (inaudible) a couple of hours ago. Another one just landed. And the idea -- the marching orders from FEMA to get here, get on the ground and help people anyway they can.


CHETRY: Is his sound down?

Ted Rowlands, thanks. We're having a little bit of trouble hearing you on the telephone. And as we said again, we're going to try to establish a signal a little later so we can hear you better next time. But Ted Rowlands on the ground there in American Samoa surveying the devastation.

ROBERTS: Satellite communications are sometimes problematic, particularly after something like that happens, all the power problems and all that.

President Obama heading to Copenhagen, Denmark later on tonight. He's making a pitch in person to head the 2016 Summer Olympic Games come to Chicago.

It's another political gamble for a president who is playing with a lot of House money on January the 20th. And like any Olympic event, there's stiff competition. The other cities hoping to beat the president's hometown, Madrid, Tokyo, and Rio de Janeiro.

First lady Michelle Obama is already in the Danish capital ahead of tomorrow's announcement, and so is our senior White House Correspondent Ed Henry following all of the action as the IOC members go from committee to committee trying to figure out who's going to get the vote this year. Do we know who's got the inside track at this point, Ed? And how do we expect the president's presence there, along with the first lady, might change the equation?

ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, it's interesting. A lot of people on the ground believe that smart money is on Rio because South America has never hosted the Olympic Games before.

But there's a lot of excitement on the ground here about the American president coming, making the first direct pitch like this of any American president has ever made. And there are some wondering whether or not that will put Chicago over the top, or will the president go for the gold and wind up with the silver or even the bronze.


HENRY: If there was any doubt about whether President Obama will do anything to bring home the Olympics to Chicago in 2016, Mr. Obama pretty much put those doubts to rest last month when he played with a light saber on the south lawn.

MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: You should have seen the president in there fencing. It was pathetic.

HENRY: White House aides are hoping his diplomatic skills are better than his fencing as he and first lady Michelle Obama embark on an unprecedented joint diplomatic mission to beat out Madrid, Rio, and Tokyo.

VALERIE JARRETT, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: What a dynamic duo they will be. I think it will be high impact. I think their presentation will be both very personal given that they know and love Chicago so well.

HENRY: But what if they fly all the way to Denmark and enlist the help of Oprah Winfrey and still fail to collect the gold medal?

KENNETH VOGEL, SENIOR REPORTER, POLITICO: If he goes and does not bring home the Olympics, it will be kind of a blow for him on the international stage.

HENRY: Republican Party Chair Michael Steele questioned whether the president should take on yet another challenge amid debates on health reform and send more troops to Afghanistan.

MICHAEL STEELE, CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Who's he rooting for? Is he hoping to hop a plane to Brazil and catch the Olympics in Rio?

HENRY: White House officials privately say they had little choice but to raise the stakes. With competitors Brazil, Japan, and Spain all sending their heads of state in Copenhagen, leaving Mr. Obama the first U.S. president ever to make a direct pitch.

Though dating back to his days as Senator from Illinois, he has also made no bones about the personal interest too.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I only live two blocks away from -- from where the Olympics are going to kick off in 2016. And I also, in the interest of full disclosure, I have to let you know that in 2016, I'll be wrapping up my second term as president.


HENRY: Now, the president is only going to be on the ground for just a few hours tomorrow morning here in Copenhagen. Basically, he goes first with the Chicago presentation. Then the other cities follow. He's got a 45-minute presentation and then 15 minutes for questions and answers, a lot of lobbying, fast and furious behind closed doors -John.

ROBERTS: We'll see how much mojo he had on that front. But he has a secret weapon there too, not just Michelle, but Oprah?

HENRY: That's right. Actually, I was at a roundtable a couple of days ago with the first lady back at the White House with some other reporters. And someone asked about Oprah Winfrey, what role will she play? The first lady sort of blinked and said, "She's Oprah. What else do you need?"

And so I think they're think she may be a not so secret weapon, John.

ROBERTS: That's the thing that Oprah plays best is Oprah. Ed Henry for us from Copenhagen this morning watching all the action there at the IOC meeting. Thanks, Ed.

CHETRY: Still ahead, we're going to be talking about Iran. Again, the United States in high-level talks for the first time in 30 years, but will anything actually change? And will Iran bring the nuclear issue to the table? We're going to speaking with Robin Wright and Shireen Hunter, two experts on Iran coming up.

It's 14 minutes after the hour.


CHETRY: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. Meetings between Iran, the U.S., and other major world powers are getting under way in Geneva as we speak, and it could lead to the most substantial dialogue between the United States and Iran since relations were severed between the countries 30 years ago. Or the meetings could go nowhere as Iran once again tries to divert attention away from its nuclear program. So what could the next steps be?

Joining me right now to talk about it, Robin Wright, author of "Dreams and Shadows: The Future of the Middle East." And also Shireen Hunter, visiting professor at Georgetown University School of Foreign Service.

Thanks to both of you for being with us this morning. Robin, these talks were planned, this is the interesting thing -- before the world became aware of Iran's second secret nuclear facility and also these long and mid-range missile tests that Iran has been doing, some saber-rattling there. So it seems like a really hard starting point when all of that is going on.

ROBIN WRIGHT, FORMER DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, it's harder even because the two sides have such diverse positions, Iran is coming into this talking about trying to end proliferation around the world so that no country has a nuclear weapon including the United States. And the United States, of course, and its allies are focused specifically on Iran's program. So they're going to begin on very different sides of the table both physically and politically.

And then there are all the issues that go into confidence building that take such a long time, particularly after 30 years of no significant diplomatic contacts. So, this is going to be a long process. One should not expect any dramatic developments today. I think the best news out of it is that there will be another meeting.

CHETRY: But Shireen, it is dramatic in itself that there's the possibility of one-on-one talks, right, between the United States representative and Iran after years of not speaking at all. What impact, if any, will even that type of conversation have even if it's not necessarily about the nuclear facilities?

SHIREEN HUNTER, VISITING PROFESSOR, SCHOOL OF FOREIGN SERVICE, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: I think that it's really very important because I think that in a way it's an ice breaker. And also on the part of Iranians after years of saying that they will not talk to the United States, that they are now showing, in fact, some degree of eagerness to talk.

I think the important thing to watch for is what are the atmospherics of talks. I think that if the two sides kind of treat each other fairly civilly and at least they get to a good start and agree on future meetings, then I think in a sense that would be a positive -- a positive step.

CHETRY: You know, it's very interesting, Robin, to hear what a couple of the senior officials on this situation have been saying. They said they want practical steps that they need to see measurable results and they want them to start quickly. They said this can't be an open-ended process more talks for the sake of talks. So how do they get action?

WRIGHT: Well, I think the United States particularly is going to press Tehran to open up the facility and comb this secret nuclear plant that was revealed last week to the international inspectors to make sure that exactly what is going on there. And, so that Iran complies with its own promises as part of the nonproliferation treaty. That will be the first sign, I think, that these talks have any hope of being serious.

The Iranians may be reluctant because they have so argued for a long time that they are complying and that these are issues of sovereignty. They've not engaged in anything so far that is in violation of international law.

CHETRY: Has anything changed, though, Shireen, in terms of whether or not sanctions are a possibility? Meaning would Russia -- would Russia be more amenable to sanctions because of the discovery of the second facility and the fact that Iran was not forthcoming about what they were doing?

HUNTER: Well, I don't think that to be honest the discovery of the second facility is going to change that much. Particularly that at least the Iranians have indicated that they are willing to allow the IAEA inspectors to go there and technically, they are not in violation of NPT (ph) provisions because apparently you have to inform IAEA only sort of three months or six months before the injection of the fuel into the facility.

CHETRY: Yes. Let me just...

HUNTER: I think -- I understand.

CHETRY: Let me just say one thing that a senior official said about the situation. They were all quoted off the record right now because of the sensitivity of the talks.

HUNTER: Right. Right.

CHETRY: But they said that they believe that Russia feels "sandbagged by this." Very surprised and sandbagged by the Iranians and that they are under pressure not to shield Iran as they would have in the past.

HUNTER: Yes. When we say Russia in general, I don't think that has essentially shielded Iran. If you look at Russia's behavior, basically they have gone along with all the western positions, whether it was in IAEA sending it to the U.N. and they voted, you know, for sanctions.

The question is whether this really has changed the equation so much that Russia will go along with much harsher sanctions. I think that we have been hearing rather conflicting reports. You know, President Medvedev was saying certain things.

CHETRY: Right.

HUNTER: And then Lavrov was saying something. I think Russians will go along with sanctions. They will try again to water it down somehow. But, you know, they have to because they have a lot of much more important stake in relations not just the U.S. but also with E.U.

CHETRY: Right.

Last word, Robin, quickly. Do you think Russia is going to sign on to sanctions?

WRIGHT: It might sign on to mild sanctions if Iran really is seen as responsible for the breakdown of talks but I don't think they'll engage in tough sanctions. Nor will China.

CHETRY: All right. Robin Wright, Shireen Hunter, thanks for your input. Great to talk to both of you.

HUNTER: Thank you.

CHETRY: It's 22 minutes after the hour.


ROBERTS: Christine Romans...

CHETRY: Seeing changes. I didn't...

ROBERTS: That would have got you on "The Daily Show." No question about that.

Christine Romans here "Minding Your Business" this morning. If you're mad as hell and you're not going to take it anymore about bank fees, ATMs, overdraft charges, etc., etc., Christine is here to try to calm you down just a little bit.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, I'm going to try to calm you down but I might get riled up too because people get really get mad when I do these kinds of stories. Because 75 percent --

ROBERTS: Fired up.

ROMANS: Seventy-five percent of people don't pay these overdraft charges, don't pay these crazy fees that the banks are throwing on you. Because they don't -- they don't get overdrawn, they don't bounce checks, they don't spend money they don't have, so they don't have these.

So most of you out there are not paying these crazy fees. The rest of you, you're getting nickeled and dimed to death. And here's how...

ROBERTS: Nickeled and dime? How about $3.50 cents?

ROMANS: Yes. It's more than nickels and dimes.

OK. Bounced check fees now. According to a study about (ph), about $29...

ROBERTS: That's getting $30 to death.

ROMANS: Overdraft fees, up to $36. And you know what? Now, they're charging you more and raising these fees the more you're overdrawn. So if you're overdrawn five times in, like say, three months, they'll jack up, they charge even more every time you're --

ROBERTS: Really?

ROMANS: Yes. ATM surcharge now about on average $2.22. You know, you get charged by the bank you're going to, the ATM you're going to and your own bank. Service fee is about $12.55.

This is a lot of money, and your banks are making a boatload. The bailed out banks, by the way, are making a boatload of money, of your money because of these charges and the fees.

How to avoid them? Check out the difference between accounts. Don't bounce -- don't bounce checks. Don't bounce. You can't. You're going to get screwed.

ROBERTS: Hello (ph).

ROMANS: Do not bounce a check. I'm telling you, the banks are going to find a way to get the money.

Set up overdraft protection. Use your bank's ATM. Walk a couple of extra blocks. I mean, they're going to find a way to get the money out of you. You just can't let them have it. You can't.

Anyway, again, 75 percent of people are not paying these fees because they're not getting overdrawn.

ROBERTS: You're going to get the viewers riled up. We got you riled up.

ROMANS: No, I just mean -- a lot of people are like, it's horrible, it's horrible.

CHETRY: I'm almost afraid to ask what the numeral is.

ROMANS: The numeral is 3,520. It's a percentage rate.

ROBERTS: A percent?

ROMANS: It's how your bank is your loan shark, basically.

CHETRY: That's how part of the fees have gone up.

ROMANS: This is the annualized interest rate on a $20 overdraft. Say you're overdrawn 20 bucks on your debit card, you get slapped a $29 fee. You pay it in two weeks, the annual percentage rate on that is 3,520 percent.

ROBERTS: How did you calculate that?


ROBERTS: Really?

ROMANS: The FDIC did a survey and calculate that. I have to give the FDIC credit.

ROBERTS: My goodness.

ROMANS: That's a lot of money. So don't do it. Call your bank. I've said this before. Call your bank right now and tell them link my accounts and take me out of the overdraft protection. If I use my card and it's overdrawn, you just want to have them deny the transaction. You don't want to pay the fee because -- I'm sorry -- I don't -- you can say screwed on TV, right? Can we not? OK.

ROBERTS: I guess.

CHETRY: I hope the kids are watching "Barney."

ROMANS: 7:25, they should be getting ready for school.

ROBERTS: Well, you said it in such a sort of innocent way.

ROMANS: I just...

ROBERTS: I said I get in a lot of trouble.

CHETRY: Now you resort to hand gestures.

All right. It's 26 minutes past the hour. Jason Carroll is going to join us again.

Distracted drivers. How about the guys behind the big rigs? Those huge, huge rigs. They've got computers in there. Are they paying attention to the road, or are they tapping in directions? We're going to talk to Jason just ahead.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, we've got a question.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How come we're doing this?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, he said it couldn't be done.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, that's the reason, son.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's good with Fred. We're clear.


MUSIC: Westbound to town, 18 wheels are rolling. But we're going to do what they say can't be done.


CHETRY: A little "Smokey and the Bandit," they got us going this morning. And to bring us into our next story, it doesn't matter if you're in a car or a big rig, a lot of us are distracted out there on the road. In fact, State Farm found 65 percent of drivers 18 and up are using cell phones while driving without an earpiece and that nearly one in three are texting behind the wheel. So how do you do that and safely haul 40 tons at 55 miles per hour? Well, that's the speed limit. Some are going even faster as you know.

Well, today is the second day of a federal summit on distracted drivers. Our Jason Carroll has been looking into what is being done to keep truckers safe and then by extension keep other drivers safe on the highways.

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, yes. It's a big debate going on at this distracted driving summit taking place in Washington, D.C.

The trucking union says the electronic computer device in question helps to save precious minutes on the road. Safety groups point to studies which show using it while driving increases a trucker's chances of crashing. They say they want it bad.


CARROLL (voice-over): Traveling interstates, highways, freeways. These days it seems nearly impossible to avoid big rigs on the road. Last year, nearly three million registered semi-trucks on American highways, now concerned many of those truck drivers may be distracted putting you at risk.

JACKIE GILLAN, ADVOCATES FOR HIGHWAY SAFETY & AUTO SAFETY: If you're driving down the road and you have 80,000 pounds of freight, and you take your eyes off the road and your hands of the wheel for even a few seconds, that can have catastrophic consequences.

CARROLL: Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety is just one of many safety groups attending a summit this week on distracted driving in Washington, D.C.. The group says truckers' CB radios may be part of the problem and want the government to conduct research into whether they should be banned.


CARROLL: You may remember CBs, once popularized in the movie, "Smokey and the Bandit." But it's not just CBs the group is after. They say an onboard computer called Qualcomm which helps navigation and communication with dispatchers is also distracting truckers. But the truckers' union says using it is safer than the alternative.

TIM LYNCH, AMERICAN TRUCKERS ASSOCIATION: Rather than the driver fumbling say with a map to get directions, you know, they're getting a digital screen that will show them, you know, turn left, turn right and what have you. I don't think there will be a ban.

CARROLL: Truckers say a ban would slow deliveries and make what they call a tedious job worse.

TODD MALCOMSON, TRUCKER: You got have to have - you have to have - we're in the 21st century, we're not in the stone age.

JOHH GOTBERG, TRUCKER: It would affect it, you know, as far as being a pain in the butt. We get a lot of information on it.

CARROLL: But victims of distracted drivers speaking out at the summit, not convinced.

NAYHA DIXIT, SISTER KILLED BY DISTRACTED DRIVER: We need to think, are doing these tasks, or checking that text message more important than that life in that next car.


CARROLL: Well, safety groups want to be clear, they only want to ban the use of the computer device while a trucker is driving. They say if truckers insist on using Qualcomm, they should pull over and do it when they're at a complete stop. And when you speak to the truckers out there, they say and in fact, they do do that. Most of them say, you know, I pull over and use it. Not mandatory, of course, but many say they do - they do do that.

CHETRY: Right, and that brings in the whole other issue of enforcement. You know, how do you enforce even if all of these rules go into effect, how do you enforce it?

CARROLL: Well, you know, there is a good point on that. And during this safety summit, what they're basically saying is you know, a lot of people said that about seat belts. How are you going to enforce it? But we do find in this day and age that, you know, police officers out there do, in fact, enforce seat belt laws.

ROBERTS: It took a while for the states to adopt it. But it certainly did get done. I talked to Ray LaHood last night. He said that you know, this idea of distracted driving is sort of in its infancy. It's back where we were with seat belts in the 1970s.

CARROLL: Correct.

CHETRY: But you know what, the reason - I mean, I wear a seat belt all the time. But the reason I know some people who normally wouldn't is because of the annoying beeping that goes on constantly in your car.

CARROLL: There's a reason why it's beeping.

CHETRY: Right. Maybe if it beeps continuously, seatbelts on (INAUDIBLE) device, you'll hang up.

CARROLL: It's a good point.

ROBERTS: It's quite possible.


ROBERTS: Thanks, Jason.

CARROLL: All right.

CHETRY: Maybe I'm on to something. Well, it's 32 minutes after the hour. Crossing the bottom of the hour right now. And checking our top stories.

There's still a desperate search going on for survivors this morning in American Samoa and neighboring Samoa. Officials now put the number of dead in that region at 150 and they expect it to go even higher. The islands were run over when tsunami waves as high as 20 feet swept a mile inland, leveling homes and even washing out some people out to sea.

ROBERTS: Plus shocking new details about how our veterans are being treated. A new federal report shows that the documents crucial to getting care for America's heroes are stuffed into shredders by employees of the Veteran Affairs Department. The report also shows plenty of unnecessary delays in processing veterans' claims for care. The V.A. agreed to take steps to fix those problems.

CHETRY: Well, this is what marijuana advocates would call a buzz kill. "L.A. Times" reports that officials in Los Angeles are going after medical marijuana clinics. They say the sale of marijuana is still illegal under state law. The clinics are required by law to be non-profits and call the money that they take in donations.

ROBERTS: Turning to America's fight in Afghanistan now. The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal just spoke in London a day after President Obama held a strategy session with his national security team. Earlier this month, McChrystal reportedly warned that More troops are needed there or the mission could fail.

But the White House says any changes to military strategy are still weeks away. Let's bring in our international security correspondent, Paula Newton. She's been listening in to the general's comments this morning. Paula, what do you have to say?

PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, John. No less blunt here to an international audience in saying that, look, we have at times been under resourced in Afghanistan, we've under performed, and we've been under coordinated. And he's very clear, John, saying look time does matter and that this effort is not going to be winnable indefinitely.

Translation - in that situation meeting they had in the White House for three hours yesterday afternoon, General McChrystal appeared via video link. He certainly said he did not back away from anything that's in the assessment. He said that not only is debate in that room encouraged but, in fact, the president demanded it. He says as well this debate will go on forever.

But you know, John, you got to think about where this debate is going right now in terms of the extra troops. General McChrystal saying that first we have to take a look at strategy and then we'll decide what it takes. But every one admits that look, if you don't want half measures, it's going to take not just more American troops, more NATO troops.

John, how do you square that with what Senator Russ Feingold told you on the show last week. Democrat from Wisconsin said look he is not going to back the president. He doesn't want to back the president on more troops in Afghanistan. And you can see yet again the president's administration being backed into a corner here.

Still General McChrystal standing firm and saying, look, this effort is winnable. But it's going to take a lot of patience, a lot of resolve, and, unfortunately, John, the kind of posturing he's talking about is about soldiers getting out there in the communities, to do some good and that will mean most likely in the short term, more American coffins coming home. John.

ROBERTS: All right. Paula Newton for us this morning from London. Paula, thanks so much.

CHETRY: Well, it's one of the most divisive issues in the country today but the Supreme Court is ready to take on gun control in a new case challenging tough laws in Chicago. And the big question, whether state and local gun control laws go against the second amendment. Our Bill Tucker takes a look.


BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Second Amendment states simply, "A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." Yet despite that seemingly clear language, it is not a right guaranteed to all Americans. The famous Howeller (ph) case two years ago gave residents of Washington, D.C. the right to own guns. But it didn't apply to the states because Washington, D.C. isn't the state. It's a federal district.

Now, the Supreme Court is ready to say if the right applies to the states. The court has agreed to hear a case on appeal from the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals concerning very restrictive gun laws in Chicago and Oak Park, Illinois. The lower court upheld the laws, arguing that the rights of states and localities trump the federal government on the question of second amendment and gun ownership. The Supreme Court's decision would be historic.

PROF. JONATHAN TURLEY, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY LAW SCHOOL: There's a lot at stake if they lose this place, gun owners will be protected against the federal government, but not against 50 state governments that indeed have the greatest impact on their lives.

TUCKER: The lower court's use of the state's rights argument irritates the country's largest gun owner group.

WAYNE LAPIERRE, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION: Well, look, we're all for federalism, but not when it comes to core fundamental rights like speech, religion, the right to own a firearm. That's a bogus argument.

TUCKER: There are currently six states with no state constitutional guarantee of the right to keep and bear arms. The nation's largest gun control advocacy group downplays the potential ruling. PAUL HELMIKE, PRESIDENT, BRADY CAMPAIGN: It's a practical matter in terms of what's really happening in the states and what is happening in local communities in terms of trying to make it harder for dangerous people to get guns. I don't think it's going to have that much of an impact.

TUCKER: Bill Tucker, CNN, New York.


CHETRY: All right. So we want to know what you think. Should states and cities be allowed to pass gun control laws? Or is that stepping on a constitutional right? We want you to sound off at our blog at or you can call the show hotline, 877-my-amfix.

ROBERTS: Some shocking new statistics coming your way from the Centers for Disease Control. In 16 states across the nation, more people die from drug-related incidents than die in traffic accidents. So what could be done about it? We'll find out. 38 and a half minutes after the hour.


ROBERTS: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. Startling new statistics as we said from the Centers for Disease Control. In 16 states and counting, drugs now kill more people than car accidents. While traffic accidents remain the biggest injury- related cause of death across the country, drug overdoses are on the rise. Why is this happening?

Andrew Wainwright is the president and CEO of Assistance in Recovery Incorporated and kicked his own addiction a decade ago. He joins us from Minneapolis this morning.

So Andrew, according to the Centers for Disease Control, drug- related deaths in the United States have doubled from the late 1990s to 2006. Why the rise?

ANDREW WAINWRIGHT, PRESIDENT & CEO, ASSISTANCE IN RECOVERY, INC.: Well, I think two important factors, John. One, in the mid 1990s, a mandate came down from Jaco and others saying we were under prescribing for pain medically, across the board. And we needed to write more prescriptions for pain. So that began and docs began to do that. We saw a rise in the writing of prescriptions.

At the same time, we saw the big pharmaceutical companies begin the kickoff primarily in January of 1996. (INAUDIBLE) Pharma kicked off OxyContin. So we saw the rise of the selling of pharmaceutical drugs, heavy narcotics both to the consumers and to the docs. So I think the combination of those two factors - in the mid '90s, exactly where we are, the swing of the pendulum where we have unintended overdoses. And this is interesting, in hospital and on the street today.

ROBERTS: Is it just because of the availability of drugs? Or is it also a public perception issue? I ask you that because Margaret Warner, an epidemiologist for the Centers of Disease Control talked about this yesterday. And here's what she said. She said, "People see a car accident as something that might happen to them. But as far as drug overdoses go," she says, "maybe they see it as something that's not going to happen to them."

You know, you get in a car. You know you're going out there in the flow of traffic. You have a license, you have insurance. You know that it's possible that you could get into a car accident. When taking drugs, do people say, I might overdose? I better be careful here or better still, I'm not going to do it at all?

WAINWRIGHT: Well, I think we also have, let's say 40 good years of education without car accidents. If you remember back there was a time when nobody wore seat belts. And then we saw the rise of air bags and all kinds of other safety insurance to make sure that we got safer. We're raised with years of commercials and high school showings of drunk driving and all those things what happens to people.

I don't know if we've seen that piece of education for the general public around drug addiction from prescription drugs. We certainly see it in the DARE program and others for narcotics that you find in the street but prescription drugs, they sort of see it safe. They come from your doctor. They're prescribed. They come in a clean bottle. They're sold to you from a clean environment. You take them home to your house where you take them. And it doesn't seem there's a lot of danger there.

It's very far removed from what you see in the evening news, the drug wars in Mexico. It doesn't seem that it's the same thing as the narcotics that I'm taking at my house. So it shouldn't have the same result. And so the study comes out like the ones that we're seeing from the CDC and we're really surprised that people, us, our kids, our friends and neighbors are overdosing. We can't really put the two together.

So I think we're talking about a missing educational component that this is serious narcotics that's being probably today, over prescribed or made overly readily available or the ones that we have in our homes aren't being destroyed quickly enough as they are being diverted to the street. All of the things I think we're beginning to get educated about.

So I think we should be happy on some level that A, the CDC did the study; B, CNN wants to talk about it; and C, it's going out to America saying this is a real problem and we need to get more education and understand what's going on so that we can stop it.

ROBERTS: Well, we here at CNN always want to talk about the important topics. You know, Centers for Disease Control in terms of this idea for prescribing, its report said that one in five adults now is prescribed an opiate every year. And you talk about education, there is one new area where we seem to be getting it as a nation, and that is the danger of our children getting a hold of prescription drugs that were prescribed for adults. Let's take a look at this PSA, I think, that many are familiar with now.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The yellow one - this is for my postpartum depression. This one, sciatica - whatever that is. I got these after my hysterectomy - or my prostatectomy - some "ectomy."


ROBERTS: And are PSAs like that helping to illuminate the problem, at least, of young people getting drugs out of their parents' medicine cabinet?

WAINWRIGHT: I can only say I hope so. But I think that education is key at all areas of - of going to war against, you know, what's becoming an epidemic for us culturally. I think it's going to be a lot of education, needs to be a lot of time, because this has become, really, a cultural issue. I think it's -

Well, you can look at pharm parties for high school kids. I think it's culturally part of what we do is we have heavy narcotics in our home. We're not loathe to share them with our friends and family if they are in pain. It's sort of, you know, we carry these in our purse, we carry them on the plane, it's part of who we are culturally. I think a big piece of that needs to change, and so I think, yes, the PSA is going to help. It's going to take a lot of them, and I think it's going to take a lot more of you and I and folks like us talking about this, making it important for everybody.

ROBERTS: All right. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that the (ph) decline of road fatalities, which is one reason why drug deaths in some states have surpassed traffic fatalities is because of advances that were made in reducing traffic fatalities, but the safety administration says that it's - it's one of the great public health triumphs over the last few decades, to lower the number of deaths on the roadways. What can be done to make similar strides in drug abuse?

WAINWRIGHT: Well, you're talking - you know, I'm a "change the world" guy, so I would - you know, I think it's great that we lowered it 1 percent or 2 percent or whatever it was for traffic fatalities. You know, I'm all for making big changes. So I think that the pendulum began to swing in one direction in 1995 when we had these two major incidents happen around overprescribing of heavy narcotics. I think what - the CD (ph) study is great because it gets us talking about it, so we're hoping that the pendulum is going to swing as far as this can go in this direction and we're going to push it back the other way.

So let's pick a mean, let's say 1996, 1997, 1998 - that somewhere in there we're going to say that's the gold mean where we're prescribing enough to manage and treat the pain that America is presenting with but we're not overprescribing and allowing drugs to be (INAUDIBLE) in the street. And then we're going to culturally change how we understand and think about the use of these kinds of prescribed drugs.

ROBERTS: Andrew Wainwright - a "change the world" kind of guy. You managed to change your world. You changed many other people's. See if we can keep going from here. Thanks for being with us this morning. Appreciate it.

WAINWRIGHT: Thanks, John.

ROBERTS: Forty-seven and a half minutes now after the hour.


CHETRY: Fifty minutes past the hour right now, and we're about a week away from having the swine flu vaccine available, according to federal health officials. So the big question now is, do you want it? Some people are saying yes, other people are saying, no way, and many of them have questions that they want answered before they can actually decide.

ROBERTS: Our Senior Medical Correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, has been all over the story for months now. She's going to deal with some of the most common questions that we've been getting. And, Elizabeth, if you're ready to field one, here's one that we received on our viewer hotline.



CALLER: I've heard that 56 children have died since April from H1N1 and I was wondering if you could give me more detail about this figure.


ROBERTS: More detail, Elizabeth?

COHEN: Yes. That's a question that I think a lot of parents have. I'm sorry, John?

ROBERTS: You have more detail?

COHEN: Yes, more details. Fifty-six children have died from swine flu since April, and that's the reason why the Center for Disease Control is really pushing parents to get their children vaccinated.

Let's take a look at these 56 children. Of them, 31 had existing health problems. There were a lot of neurological issues like cerebral palsy and spina bifida. Seventeen of these children were healthy, as far as we know, and eight, there was no data available. So while some parents are saying, oh, man, do I - I mean, do I really want yet another vaccination for my child? You also want to consider, well, swine flu can kill children, and so far the vaccine has been safe when they've studied it in children -John.

CHETRY: All right. Let's get in another caller right now, Elizabeth, with another question on swine flu for you.


CALLER: I'm 12 weeks pregnant and getting some pressure from family members to get the H1N1 vaccine. I'm opposed to it mainly because it's so new. I was wondering, what possible side effects are they projecting at this point?


COHEN: That is - I've got to tell you, that's a concern that I've heard so much recently. I was at a birthday party this weekend for one of my daughters, and I was like a magnet for pregnant women. They were all coming to me saying, do really want this vaccine? It's so new.

So, first of all, in a way it's new and in a way it's not. This is a flu shot. Flu shots have been around. Pregnant women have been getting them for decades now. Yes, the virus in this flu shot is new, but the concept of a flu shot is not new. So what the important thing to keep in mind here is, so far, the National Institutes of Health has tested the swine flu vaccine in 60 pregnant women and they say there have been no serious side effects.

Now let's take a look at how many women have died - pregnant women have died from H1N1 since April. So far, 6 percent of the H1N1 deaths in this country have been pregnant women. Now, consider that pregnant women are only 1 percent of the population, you can see that this virus really affects pregnant women - John and Kiran.

ROBERTS: So it might be a good idea for them, then, to get that vaccine.

COHEN: That's right. That's what authorities are saying.

ROBERTS: Good advice for us this morning from Elizabeth Cohen. Good to see you. Thanks.

CHETRY: Also, to see the top ten H1N1 vaccine questions that we've gotten here at CNN, go to Questions and some information for you as well.

It's 53 minutes after the hour.


CHETRY: Fifty-six minutes past the hour right now. Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. It's a story that you'll see only on AMERICAN MORNING today - new details about a global custody battle that's landed an American father in a Japanese jail.

Christopher Savoie was arrested for trying to get his two children back from his ex-wife after she defied a court order here in the US and flee with them - taking them to her native Japan without telling him. Our Kyung Lah got an exclusive interview with Christopher from the jail in Japan. She joins us now. And Kyung, it's very interesting, you spoke to him. You guys had to speak Japanese throughout the entire back and forth between you, and it was closely monitored by the Japanese jail officials there. What was it like?

KYUNG LAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It was really strange, because the officer made sure that everything we asked was within the parameters. There are a number of rules that are there whenever you do anything like this. It's also extremely rare to get anything like this, because usually even family members aren't allowed to have this happen. But the officers decided to make an exception in this case, and Christopher Savoie said that he is very delighted to do that because he wants to share his story, especially with an American audience, saying that international laws must change.


LAH (voice-over): In a second-floor interrogation room, we waited for Christopher Savoie on our side of the glass. Police gave us 15 minutes, a stopwatch running in the corner. They took our electronic devices - no cameras, no tape recorders. And then, an emotional Christopher Savoie entered the room.

"I'm so scared," he said, carefully choosing his words and speaking in Japanese, as required by police during a jail visit. "I don't know how long I'll be in here. I want Americans to know what's happening to me. I didn't do anything wrong. Children have the right to see both parents. It's very important for my children to know both parents."

Police have charged him with kidnapping his two children as they walked to their school here in Yanagawa, Japan. Savoie drove eight- year-old Isaac and six-year-old Rebecca to the US Consulate, but Japanese police arrested him just steps from the front gate. Under US law, Savoie has sole custody, but in Japan, ex-wife Noriko, who abducted the children from the US, is the recognized guardian. "Japanese people think she's the victim here," Savoie told me, "In the states, my ex-wife is the one who's in the wrong."

In this rural town in southern Japan, those who've heard about the case side with the mother, even knowing the US courts awarded custody to the American father.


LAH: "They belong with their real mother," says this woman. That cultural divide is what Savoie's attorney says is difficult to fight. He says Japanese law clearly sees Savoie as the criminal.


LAH: "He technically may have committed a crime according to Japanese law," says his attorney, "but he shouldn't be indicted. He did it for the love of his children."

Savoie wanted us to get this message to his children: "I love you Isaac, Rebecca. Your daddy loves you forever. I'll be patient and strong until the day comes that I can see you both again. I am very sorry that I can't be with you."


LAH (on camera): Now, we have put in a request to try to reach Noriko to get her side of the story, but so far she has not responded to our request for an interview. As far as the two children, Kiran, they have been returned to her custody - Kiran.

CHETRY: Kyung Lah for us -- thanks so much.