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AMERICAN MORNING

Obama's Olympic Gamble; Al Qaeda's New Hideout; Former President Carter's Museum: Top 5 Billionaires

Aired October 1, 2009 - 08:00   ET

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


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: And we're coming up to the top of the hour right now. Eight o'clock here in New York. Good morning and welcome to AMERICAN MORNING on this Thursday, October 1st. I'm Kiran Chetry.

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

Here are the big stories that we'll be covering for you in the next 15 minutes.

President Obama leaves for Denmark tonight, making a high-profile push for his hometown Chicago to host the 2016 Summer Olympics, and he's taking a big gamble as well. What happens politically if he fails? We're live in Copenhagen -- coming up.

CHETRY: Plus, U.S. covert operations infiltrating al Qaeda. But as they're moving in and taking out the terror group's top leaders, the bad guys are finding a new place to hide out. We're getting details from Barbara Starr, live from the Pentagon just ahead.

ROBERTS: And former President Jimmy Carter speaking out for the first time since saying he believes racism is the reasons for the harsh political criticism of President Obama. He'll join our Candy Crowley live coming up, to address his controversial comments. Plus, today is the president's 85th birthday.

We begin the hour with President Obama's Olympic gamble. He's heading to Copenhagen, Denmark later on today, and making a pitch in person to have the 2016 Summer Olympics to come to Chicago.

And just like any Olympic event, there's stiff competition. 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 White House correspondent, Ed Henry, now our official Olympic correspondent.

Ed, a couple of things to think about as the president prepares to head over to Denmark. The obvious thrill of victory, but then again, the possible agony of defeat.

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Oh, no doubt about it, John.

And I spoke to the first lady, Michelle Obama, a couple days ago, back at the White House about this. You know, you're worried that this could hurt the president politically if you fail in this big mission. She said, look, people -- you're darned if you do, darned if you don't. People would have criticized the president if he didn't get involved. They're going to criticize him if he gets too heavily involved.

Their bottom line is they want to give it their all and hope for their best, sort of like the Olympics.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HENRY (voice-over): If there was any doubt about whether President Obama would do anything to bring home the Olympics to Chicago in 2016, Mr. Obama pretty much put those doubts to rest l 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.

(LAUGHTER)

M. OBAMA: 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 would 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's going to 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 over health reform and whether to send more troops to Afghanistan.

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: 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 to Copenhagen, leaving Mr. Obama to become the first U.S. president to ever make such a direct pitch for an American city. Though dating back to his days as a senator from Illinois, he's also made no bones about his personal interest, too.

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

(CHEERING)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HENRY: Some wishful thinking, obviously, there from the president. The president's only going to be -- to give you an idea of how dramatic this -- on the ground Friday for about four hours. He's going to basically give a 45-minute presentation along with Mayor Daley of Chicago and other officials involved in this effort.

He goes first, this 45-minute presentation to the IOC officials, the International Olympic Committee. Then they have 15 minutes for questions and answers. Then the other three cities go. Then they start voting.

They go through a couple of rounds until somebody gets a majority of the 106 IOC members. This fast and furious lobbying may look like -- may look -- the health care battle back in the United States to look like child's play -- John.

ROBERTS: We'll be watching that vote very closely tomorrow. Ed Henry for us in Copenhagen. Ed, thanks so much.

CHETRY: Well, let's take a closer look now at each of the cities bidding to host the 2016 Olympics in an "A.M. Extra." It's interesting. We've got the oddsmakers in Vegas trying to figure this out. But Chicago says it will keep all Olympic venues within a five- mile radius, making it a safe choice. The games would be held in and around five historic parks and, of course, be surrounded by the beautiful Lake Michigan.

ROBERTS: Madrid is up for its second time in recent years after losing the 2012 Olympics to London. It says that it's ready to host because most of the venues are already built, plus the city says it has a solid transportation system now, thanks to a recent building boom.

CHETRY: Rio de Janeiro would be the first Olympic host from South America. And like President Obama, brazil's president is campaigning very hard for his country, saying the country and the continent need the games to establish their global standing.

ROBERTS: And Tokyo is pitching itself as the home of the green Olympics. Most of the buildings that would be used for the games are clustered together and the buildings would be recycled from the 1964 Olympics.

So why Chicago? Still ahead, we'll be talking to one of the city's basketball legends. Scottie Pippen joins us live at the half hour right here on the Most News in the Morning.

And keep it locked in to CNN tomorrow because we're going to have live coverage all morning as we wait to find out which city will host the 2016 games. Coverage on the air and online -- right here on CNN.

CHETRY: Looking forward to that. It's going to be exciting.

And we're following a developing story for you here in New York. We could see more arrests in the alleged bomb plot, possibly targeting a major New York transportation hub. The chief suspect in this case, Najibullah Zazi, is already in custody. He's being held without bond. The Afghan native pleaded not guilty in the case.

Officials are telling the Associated Press that a, quote, "handful of men could also be involved and are being watched right now."

Meanwhile, intelligence officials say that they are gaining ground on al Qaeda, slipping into their ranks, taking out some top terrorists, but there's still growing concern now that the terror network has found a new place to hide.

Our Barbara Starr is working her sources at the Pentagon this morning.

So, Barbara, where is al Qaeda going? Where is al Qaeda finding more safe havens?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Kiran, just as we have learned from our sources that spies have infiltrated al Qaeda in recent months, we are also learning that al Qaeda's making its own plans, moving into new places.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: Recent U.S. efforts to infiltrate al Qaeda have paid off. A top U.N. counterterrorism official says...

RICHARD BARRETT, UNITED NATIONS TALIBAN MONITORING: I think that there's still a big, big problem for al Qaeda and its loss of credibility, its loss of relevance, its loss of legitimacy, and indeed -- and its loss of operational capability.

STARR: But even with that success, the nation's top law enforcement officer says his priority is unchanged.

ROBERT MUELLER, FBI DIRECTOR: My greatest concern still is the ability of al Qaeda to use western Pakistan and Afghanistan as a sanctuary.

STARR: The U.S. landed a crucial blow here. Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud was assassinated in a missile strike after the U.S. was tipped off when and where to find him, an administration official tells CNN.

Thousands of miles away in Somalia, the U.S. also found operatives willing to help. Last month in a covert mission, U.S. commandos killed this high-ranking al Qaeda member wanted for attacks in East Africa. U.S. officials say locals told them where to find Nabhan.

For all that success, a disturbing development in neighboring Yemen where the government is not in full control. General David Petraeus says al Qaeda has reestablished operations here with little resistance.

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, COMMANDER, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: This is a concern. It's a country that faces a Houthi threat in the north, southern secessionists in the south.

STARR: The U.N.'s Richard Barrett says, "It's in Yemen that I think that everybody is most worried about the situation."

BARRETT: Most of the Saudi Arabian al Qaeda supporters, if they're active, have moved to Yemen. And it's in Yemen that I think everyone is most worried about the situation.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: Laser focus on Yemen in the Horn of Africa, now, Kiran. In fact, the attempted assassination of a Saudi government official this past summer was said to have been carried out by an al Qaeda operative who returned to Saudi Arabia from Yemen - Kiran.

CHETRY: Wow. Barbara Starr for us with the latest developments this morning -- thank you.

ROBERTS: New developments out of Indonesia to tell you about this morning. Another major earthquake is rocking the island early today. This one is 6.6. It comes hard on the heels of yesterday's 7.6 quake. More than 460 people were killed and hundreds more are feared dead. The government says thousands of people may be trapped under collapsed buildings and houses. Right now, there is no power and no phone service to that area.

CHETRY: And rescuers are combing beaches, swamps, and streets for victims of Tuesday's deadly tsunami in the Samoan Islands. Officials say at least 150 people were killed. They expect that number to climb as they are able to get to more regions that are right now completely cut off. Shipments of food, tents, and medical supplies are already on their way in.

The devastated region was hit with a second earthquake this morning. That was a 5.5 magnitude quake, but it did not, luckily, trigger a tsunami warning.

ROBERTS: And a risky rescue off the coast of Washington state. Check this out. This is the view from a Coast Guard helicopter hovering above a U.S. Navy submarine. Apparently, a sailor got sick and needed to get to a hospital quickly. The crew member was hoisted from the sub by basket and then taken to Portland, Oregon. The navy says, thankfully, he's doing fine.

CHETRY: Wow. Amazing rescue there.

Well, still ahead, we're going to be hearing from former President Jimmy Carter live. This will be the first time that we've had a chance to talk to him after the claims that he made that some of the rhetoric against the president and health care is related to racism. Candy Crowley is going to get a chance to talk to the former president on what happens to be his 85th birthday.

It's 11 minutes past the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MUSIC)

ROBERTS: Good morning, Atlanta, Georgia -- where it is going to be just downright gorgeous today. Sunny and 50 degrees right now. Later on today, sunny with a high of 77. Does not get much better than that. Early October in Atlanta, no better time of year.

CHETRY: No. And a little CCR this morning. My parents had the eight track. I'll never forget.

ROBERTS: I had the album, one of those vinyl things, you know? You say to your kids these days, you know what an L.P. is and they go, what?

CHETRY: Yes.

ROBERTS: Never seen a vinyl record.

Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning.

Today is the perfect day to talk to former President Jimmy Carter for three reasons. One, it's his 85th birthday. Two, we want to ask him firsthand about the controversial comments he made about President Obama and racism.

CHETRY: Yes. And number three, there is big news about his presidential library. And our Candy Crowley is there. She's handling all of that for us this morning.

Hey, Candy.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: How are you all? You're right. I am here with former President Carter and Mrs. Carter.

It's so good to be here. And they just said, 85th birthday, opening of the new, improved museum and library, which we've had a chance to go through. So thank you for joining us.

Let me tell you what fascinates me is that I've been to a lot of these presidential libraries and not nearly as much space and time is devoted to the post-life, the post-presidency. And it brings to mind to me that so many people have said, you know, President Carter had a far better post-presidency than presidency. How do you look at it?

JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think it's almost the same. You know, the issues with which I had to deal as president were momentous. We brought peace between Israel and its only major Arab challenger, Egypt. And that treaty has been in place for 30 years and not a word has been violated. We normalized diplomatic relations with China. We had the greatest expansion of national parks and wilderness areas in history. Brought a comprehensive energy policy.

And, so I think that the main thing that this museum shows is kind of a continuum of what you do before, during, and after the presidency. And you're right, this is the first presidential library that's really shown anything of substance after the white house years. So I think it's going to be a fascinating thing, just to see the history of one person, that is me, but also the history of our nation. Because I've identified about 30 things of importance that I had to address when I was president that are still on the desk of the oval office and President Obama has to address. Notably, the Mideast and Iran and energy and a comprehensive health program and many, many others.

CROWLEY: I want to ask you a little bit about the Mideast, because we have a couple things going on today about that. But I wanted to talk to Mrs. Carter, because this is, a lot of this is also your museum and your works, because I know you have traveled a lot with the president. You focused so much on mental health when you're, you know, in your first lady time and post-first lady. We now have parody in health care with mental health. What's next? I mean, what has to be done next as far as you're concerned?

ROSALYNN CARTER, FORMER FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, the first thing with parody is to implement the legislation, but also, it covers employees of employers who have more than 50 employees. And, of course, that's a big chunk. But there are others too that don't have parody, that won't have parody under this legislation. So we've got to extend that, so that everybody has parody. Another thing is that we must combine mental health and health. There should be no division. Mental illness is a biological disease now, a brain disorder, with all the research we had, that has been determined. So there should be no difference in physical and mental health. And the government, they're not together. And people with a mental health problem go to the doctor. And sometimes they don't look at their physical health. And people with mental illness, so many people now, die 25 years younger than people with -- who go for health problems.

CROWLEY: Still so much to be done.

R. CARTER: And so, a lot of work to be done.

CROWLEY: Mr. President, let me ask you first, domestically, you made some remarks recently about how you felt about the protesters that were protesting against President Obama. You said, overall, you thought the protesters, were upset that there was a black president, that there was racism involved. You said that many people...

J. CARTER: By the way, that's not what I said.

CROWLEY: OK.

J. CARTER: I said, those on the fringe element that had the (INAUDIBLE) personal attacks on president Obama, those were the ones that I included...

CROWLEY: Your first remarks were that overall... J. CARTER: No, it wasn't. If you read the remarks carefully, you'll see that's not what I said. I said those that had a personal (INAUDIBLE) attack on president Obama as a person, that was tinged with racism, but I recognize that people who disagree with him on health care or the environment, that the vast majority of those are not tinged by racism.

CROWLEY: So you think they were taken out of context. You didn't mean that most of those protesters out there were racist...

J. CARTER: I meant exactly what I said. What I actually said, if you look at the transcript, is just what I just repeated to you.

CROWLEY: Let me ask you about Iran, because we're having those talks today. This is a country that you had to deal with during your presidency, during the hostages, hostage taking. Do you see any hope at all that Iran is going to come to the community of nations and somehow say, sure, come look at our facility and we will certainly walk away from any nuclear ambitions. That's not going to happen, is it?

J. CARTER: Well, in this museum presentation, there's a lot about Iran. And as I said before, the things that affected me when I was president are quite often the same things that 30, 25 years later affect president Obama's decisions. I hope and pray that Iran will be induced to permit the international inspectors to come in and observe their entire nuclear program. Because what they're doing so far is entirely legal under the nonproliferation treaty. They have a right to purify uranium and even plutonium to be used to produce power. I think the worst thing that you could do is to continue to threaten Iran. Because if Iran is on the border line between going nuclear or not, on a weapons system, the constant threats that we or the Israelis are going to attack Iran is the best thing to force them, let's defend ourselves. So, I don't think that Iran has yet made up their mind about what to do. And I think the best thing we can do is engage them and stop making these idle threats that force them to take the most militaristic action.

CROWLEY: Unfortunately, Mr. President, Mrs. Carter, we have run out of time, its TV, but it's a gorgeous museum, good luck. Happy birthday, sir.

J. CARTER: Thank you very much.

CROWLEY: (INAUDIBLE) you all.

ROBERTS: Candy, please pass along our best wishes for a happy birthday to the president as well. It's 20 and half minutes after the hour.

Who made the list of the richest Americans and are they as rich as they were a year ago? You'll be surprised to find out just How much money some of them lost. The type of money that you wouldn't make in a thousand lifetimes.

CHETRY: That's right. There's less billionaires, fewer billionaires this year. We're gonna have it all broken down for us with Christine Romans in just a minute. 21 minutes past the hour.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, catch you coming and going around here.

ROBERTS: What's going on there?

CHETRY: I tried to do the shoe swap and I did it a little bit too late.

ROBERTS: At least you didn't have just one on?

CHETRY: Yes, I do have just one on.

ROBERTS: Oh, you did.

CHETRY: Wait, OK. Now we're good. Now we're good.

ROBERTS: Now that nobody's seeing your feet, you're perfect. Can we at least take a shot of her feet? She went through all that trouble.

CHETRY: I went through all that trouble to match my shoes to my purple blazer today. All right, this is the type of stuff that goes on around here, folks, besides all the news gathering, we have wardrobe concerns. I see you look nice today.

ROBERTS: Thank you. You too.

CHETRY: You're not going to get any hate mail for the tie. Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. Actor Dennis Hopper is being treated in a hospital for flu-like symptoms. His publicist says he complained of stomach pains, and so he was forced to cancel a series interviews promoting his new TV series, Crash.

ROBERTS: He served his prison time. Now, Michael Vick is getting a pardon in the marketing world. Vick has signed a new sponsorship deal with Nike. The company cut ties with the disgraced quarterback two years ago after he pleaded guilty to dogfighting charges. Vick's agent says he's excited to be part of the Nike team again.

CHETRY: And Sarah Palin may have the Midas touch. Her new book, a best seller six weeks before it hits bookstores. The pre-orders for the former Alaska governor's memoir, entitled Going Rogue, has made it number one on barnesandnoble.com and on amazon.com as well. The book's release was moved up from spring to November 17th. So, she basically wrote 400 pages in four months. That's terrific.

ROBERTS: Pre-order, she's number one. Can you imagine? But, you know, I can't figure out why it is that people have such a violent and visceral reaction to when I don't wear a tie.

CHETRY: They don't like it.

ROBERTS: I'm not being disrespectful or anything like that.

(CROSSTALK)

ROBERTS: Some people say, you look like you just dragged yourself in from a night at the clubs.

CHETRY: John, you're like the Cheerios in the morning. They want it the same every day. They don't want They get up, they're getting ready for work. They're having their cheerios. They don't want...

ROBERTS: You know, Rick Sanchez wears a polo shirt on TV in the afternoon and nobody calls him. Me, I ditch the tie and it's like bam!

(LAUGHTER)

CHETRY: Sure love it. Christine often wears jeans in the 6:00 hit. Have we caught you yet?

ROMANS: Haven't caught me, but now you've told my secret.

ROBERTS: So much goes on under the desk that you have no idea.

CHETRY: He's in boxer shots only until 6:56.

ROMANS: Oh, my gosh, we have to get back to business. This is why we're not on the billionaire's list, right?

ROBERTS: We're having fun here this morning, because we're going to cry when we find out how much money other people are making. And even though they've lost money, it's more than money we could make in 10,000 lifetimes.

ROMANS: You know what. I've actually figured it out. The average family would take 19,000 years of working to get on the list. 19,000 years, can you imagine? But that's why working isn't what gets you on the list. It's actually having a good idea or inventing something -- we're watching Tiger Woods. He's not on the list yet. But he's crossed the billion dollar mark in career earnings.

ROBERTS: Only 18, 970 years for me to go.

ROMANS: Tiger Woods could be -- I predict tiger Woods makes it on this list next year. He would be sports' first billion-dollar man. But the super rich last year had a tough year. Look, they've been hit pretty hard. There are only 391 billionaires on the fortune, sorry Forbes, the Forbes 400 list now. Their wealth dropped $300 billion. Let's take a look at the top five. Jim Walton, the Walton heirs have done very, very well. Sam Walton built an empire that is the gift that keeps on giving.

(CROSSTALK)

ROMANS: No, that's right. Christy Walton is number four. Larry Ellison of Oracle, he was one of the few guys who did not see his net worth decline, $27 billion. Warren Buffett is $40 billion. And the number one is, as always bill gates. $50 billion, I mean, think of that, that's 50,000 million dollars.

ROBERTS: And he lost $7 billion last year too.

ROMANS: the thing is, we always laugh, they lost a little bit of money, and they're still billionaires, but these are the people that hire us. I mean so we want them to be able to write and continue to grow their companies.

CHETRY: I want everybody to continue to make money. Well, last year just wasn't good just from top to bottom, it wasn't great.

ROBERTS: hoping for a better year coming up in 2010. Maybe in the latter part of 2009 too for everybody. So many people out of work and so many people hurting. Christine Romans minding your business this morning. Thanks, Christine.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

CHETRY: Well, still ahead, he was the star of the dream team, Scottie Pippen, Chicago Bulls. Well, he's sort of an unofficial ambassador for the 2016 push to get the Olympics in Chicago. He's going to join us live to talk about what he thinks about President Obama making the trip over there along with the first lady and Oprah to try to bring those summer games home to Chicago. Twenty-eight minutes after the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Half past the hour now.

And checking our top stories, the United States and other world powers have begun high-stakes, history-making talks with Iran to demand a freeze of its nuclear activities. The White House now says Iran faces drastic international sanctions if negotiations collapse.

CHETRY: And it's the 60th anniversary of modern China. The country's celebrating its rise to world power under communist rule with a massive parade of military hardware in Tiananmen Square.

And on a day when China's president praised socialism, an icon of capitalism, the Empire State building, turned red and yellow to mark the occasion. Critics not happy about that. They actually gathered outside to protest what they call the celebration of an oppressive regime.

ROBERTS: And wouldn't you feel safe on this flight? Captain "Sully" Sullenberger returns to the cockpit. Today's the pilot's first flight since he safely landed a plane in the Hudson River in January in what was widely called "The Miracle on the Hudson."

Sully returns to the skies, and we'll have a producer on that flight this afternoon to talk to folks who are putting their fate in the hands of a man who is known around the country as a hero.

CHETRY: Tomorrow there an all-star entourage, all from Chicago on hand in Copenhagen, Denmark. Why? The president, the first lady, Oprah Winfrey, among others, are trying to convince the International Olympic Committee to give the 2016 Olympic Games to Chicago.

Michelle Obama and Oprah are already there. The president will be leaving D.C. later tonight, flying there to be there for tomorrow morning.

So what could Chicago bring to the Olympics? How big of a deal is it? Joining us live to talk about is former Chicago Bull and member of the original Olympic dream team, Scottie Pippen. Scottie, great to have you with us this morning. Thanks for being here.

SCOTTIE PIPPEN, FORMER NBA PLAYER, CHICAGO BULLS: Thank you, it's my pleasure.

CHETRY: It's very tight competition, that's what they're saying. And it's down to the wire now, just a little more than 24 hours before the International Olympic Committee makes this vote. So how are you feeling about the chances of Chicago getting the games?

PIPPEN: Well, I feel really good. I think we've done an excellent job of really getting out and pushing for these games in the last few months.

And now that we have the first lady and President Barack Obama as well as Oprah Winfrey, a lot of athletes who have really gotten behind this push, I think the movement is going to be felt, especially when the voting comes.

CHETRY: Some are calling you sort of an unofficial ambassador. You're not there in any official capacity, but what's been your involvement in trying to get the Olympic Games to come to Chicago?

PIPPEN: Well, just really as much as I can. I was here a few weeks ago, I was part of the Olympic team which went into the hall of fame, which was also to help raise some funds for this event.

But really just trying to get out and really talk about Chicago and how important it is for us to have the Olympic Games to come to the city of Chicago.

Being an Olympian and being able to play in two Olympic Games, I really understand the importance of bringing the Olympics to the city and how much it will boost our economy here and create jobs and just really pick up a lot for the city of Chicago for tourism and things of that nature.

CHETRY: Chicago's struggling right now, Illinois, with 10 percent unemployment, I think, double digits there as well. And there seems to be actually a 50/50 split in terms of sentiment in Chicago, at least some of the polling from the "Chicago Tribune," about whether or not people in Chicago actually want the games.

Why do you think that it is a good move for the city to get the games to come there?

PIPPEN: Well, you look at the economy right now, and that says a lot, really, but I think Chicago has a lot to offer. You know, I think when you talk about bringing athletes from all over the world, this city can offer them a lot.

We have a lot of different cultures here, a lot of opportunities for athletes to come here and do well, great places for the venues here that are going to be set up where the athletes can get to, back and forth from their different places of residence.

And I just think this city is set up for the Olympic Games. And in the long run it will be something that will be a legacy here in Chicago. The fact that you can host the Olympic Games, that is huge. It is as important as winning a championship. I guess it is winning a championship when you can win the Olympic Games.

CHETRY: My friends and I certainly watched you take home the gold back in 1992. That was in Barcelona. Then in 1996, four years later, it was on your home turf, so to speak, it was in Atlanta. How is it different to win and how is the experience different having the Olympics in your home country?

PIPPEN: Well, you feel more safe, for one. You're comfortable. You're in a place where you feel very familiar and especially here in Chicago. I'm very comfortable here, although I won't be playing in the games. But I think it's great for the American athletes.

And I think every athlete around the world really wants the opportunity to come to America, come to the United States. And now we have an opportunity to bring them to Chicago, which is even better, which a lot of people know Chicago as being the home of the Chicago Bulls, the Cubs, you know, the White Sox and the Bears, but to be able to bring them to the city and show them what Chicagoans are really like, that will be even more special.

I think that, you know, we can definitely host the games. I think the mayor and his staff have shown that, and I'm just hoping tomorrow that we can get the votes.

CHETRY: One of the things, unfortunately, that Chicago's been in the news for recently is violence, that beating death, that horrible death of Albert Derrion, a 16-year-old that was caught on tape. It has some worried that it may hurt the bid.

Do you think it will hurt the bid or do you think it will actually help with some of the crime, especially among the juveniles in Chicago right now?

PIPPEN: Well, I don't think it's going to hurt the bid. I mean, there's always been violence going on in the city. But you have to look at the positive things that this city has to offer and not the negative. And I think that's why we really want to show the strength of Chicago, through the positive.

CHETRY: It was great talking to you this morning. I know you're going to be rooting them on tomorrow as they make their pitch to the IOC. It'd be a big deal if it comes to Chicago. Scotty Pippen, thanks so much for talking to us.

PIPPEN: Thank you. Thanks for having me. CHETRY: And stay with CNN, because tomorrow morning we are going to have live coverage as we wait to find out whether or not the city will get the 2016 games on the air and online. It will all be right here on CNN tomorrow morning.

ROBERTS: Coming right up, we've got a look at the weather across the country. We've got some severe weather in the Midwest to tell you about, winds, hail, tornadoes possible. You'll want to stay tuned if that's where you're living, and if you're heading into the area too, because look at what the radar's doing just outside of Chicago this morning.

It's 37 minutes after the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CONAN O'BRIEN, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW": Police in California broke up a fight between several people who were arguing over who sold the most albums, the Beatles or Dr. Dre. Yes.

Folks, I don't know for sure, but I'm going to guess the Dr. Dre fans were winning that fight.

(LAUGHTER)

Just a guess. Just a guess.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: And Conan's "Tonight Show" band, by the way, is one member short these days. Max Weinberg is on his other job touring with Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band.

The Boss hit the stage in his backyard across the river in New Jersey last night at Giants stadium. After a huge fan reaction from a gig in Chicago, as part of each set list for his five shows at Giants Stadium, he's playing one of his classic albums from beginning to end. "Darkness on the Edge of Town," once, "Born to Run," at two shows, and "Born in the USA" at the two other shows.

CHETRY: That's a perfect way to get people to not only come to one concert, but all five.

ROBERTS: I would take the "Born to Run" show. That was my favorite album.

(WEATHER BREAK)

CHETRY: It's 43 minutes past the hour right now. We have some amazing video. It looks disturbing at first, but we want to let you know that the little boy in this video is OK.

It was a story of incredible heroism. It's a video from a Bronx fire. And that is a little boy. This good Samaritan who didn't even know him wrapped him up in a curtain and ran him down the fire escape.

He says he was walking down the street, saw the smoke, heard the boy screaming, charged up the fire escape, and, again, he ran him to safety.

The little boy lost consciousness obviously because of the smoke. The good Samaritan said that he felt that he had a faint heartbeat and did everything he could to get him down there OK. You can hear the screams from people in the background as they're watching all of this take place.

But they said that he used his body to shield the boy from the smoke and the flames and then carried him down. Emergency crews then immediately started giving the boy oxygen, and everyone was looking on frightened and horrified, including members of his family.

But again, this good Samaritan was also taken to the hospital, treated for some smoke inhalation. But everybody is expected to be OK.

ROBERTS: Pretty incredible. Particularly when you look at the amount of smoke that was pouring out of that window that he took him out of. My goodness. Wow. He is a hero.

We've got another hero coming up a little bit later on this morning too that we'll introduce you to. Last year's hero of the year as we kick off the top ten heroes of 2009 just ahead, so stay with us.

It's 44 minutes now after the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Four months ago, we profiled a federal plan to help ease the housing crisis in this country.

Since then, it's come under heavy criticism. Hundreds of families are still waiting for help and patience is running out. But the money is still out there.

Our Ed Lavandera has today's "Money & Main Street" report.

ED LAVENDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John and Kiran, four months ago we profiled a federal plan to help ease the housing crisis in this country. It's called the Neighborhood Stabilization Program, but since then, it's come under heavy criticism.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LISA LOCASIO, NEW HOMEOWNER: Super duper. Thank you.

LAVENDERA (voice-over): Finally, Lisa Locasio has the key to a new home, the first she's ever owned.

LANCE CONNOLLY, REAL ESTATE AGENT: When's the house warming party?

LOCASIO: Right now.

LAVENDERA: But reaching this moment has been a test of endurance. She bought the house with the help of the federal government's Neighborhood Stabilization Program, or NSP, which has $6 billion to help people buy foreclosed or abandoned homes in 250 cities nationwide.

But most of the money hasn't been spent yet and how it's distributed vary from state to state. But in Phoenix, Arizona, the goal is to help 900 home buyers. But six months into the program, Lisa is just the third person to close on a home.

(on camera): So what's it been like?

LOCASIO: It's been rough.

LAVENDERA: Yes.

LOCASIO: It's been a long process.

LAVENDERA: Tired?

LOCASIO: No, I was more annoyed.

LAVENDERA (voice-over): Since June, we've tracked Lisa's progress through the Neighborhood Stabilization Program. One of the NSP programs offers prospective home buyers up to $15,000 to cover down payment and closing costs. The idea was also to help banks get foreclosed homes off their books and keep neighborhoods from deteriorating in value.

But Lisa's real estate agent, Lance Connolly, doesn't think banks got the memo.

(on camera): Did you find that banks were willing or eager to deal with you?

CONNOLLY: No. No, pretty much every bank except for Fannie Mae was pretty much unreceptive to the program whatsoever.

LAVENDERA (voice-over): The Housing Department official in charge of dishing out the money here in Phoenix, Maria Bears says people like Lisa Locasio are competing with real estate investors. They offer the banks cash, usually at a lower price. Locasio bid on nearly 30 homes before striking a deal.

(on camera): Do you still think this is money well spent?

MARIA BEARS, PHOENIX DEPUTY HOUSING DIRECTOR: I do. Anytime you stabilize a neighborhood, that's the fabric of our community, so ghost towns don't do anybody any good, at all.

LAVENDERA (voice-over): Maria Bears is trying to build momentum. She's helped organize this Spanish language telethon to get the word out.

City housing officials say there is reason to be optimistic about the plan. Another 72 families have been approved and are ready to start home shopping.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LAVANDERA: Everyone here agrees this program is off the to a slow start, but the Neighborhood Stabilization Program won't last forever. The clock is ticking. It is set to expire toward the end of next year -- John and Kiran.

KIRAN: Ed Lavandera for us thanks.

And for more details on Lisa's story and the housing loan program, head to CNN.com/MoneyAndMainStreet. And while you're there you can also test your own financial health. You plug in your age, your salary, how much you're saving, how much you're spending and then check out your score.

Also for more stories of people thriving in a tough economy, you can watch "Money & Main Street" reports right here on CNN.

ROBERTS: Starting this afternoon here on the most trusted name in news, we are going to be running down the top ten hero nominees of 2009. And here to sort to give us a little bit of a preview of what we can expect and what it means to be a hero, Liz McCartney; she was the 2008 "Hero of the Year." She's going to joining us in just a couple of minutes.

It's now nine minutes to the top of the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

All over the world, there are ordinary people doing truly extraordinary things. And all year, we have been asking you to let us know about somebody who has been doing those extraordinary things with the community, with people, really giving of themselves to give back.

And today beginning at 1:00 p.m. Eastern, CNN will begin revealing the top ten CNN heroes of 2009.

CHETRY: Yes, but before you meet these new heroes, we wanted to check in with last year's CNN Hero of the Year, Liz McCartney. She's been helping devastated hurricane victims rebuild their homes destroyed by Katrina. And Liz joins us from Seattle this morning.

Thanks for being with us Liz.

LIZ MCCARTNEY, CNN HERO OF THE YEAR FOR 2008: Thanks for having me on the show.

CHETRY: You won last year for your work, you were helping the Hurricane Katrina survivors in the St. Bernard Parish through your non-profit organization; it was called the St. Bernard Project.

Tell us what it was like when you were recognized, when people saw what a great thing you were doing and honored you for it.

MCCARNEY: You know, in some ways, it was kind of embarrassing, because I feel like me and Zack went down to New Orleans just to pitch in and help out and do what was right. I feel like there are so many heroes in the New Orleans area, people like Mr. Doris Voitier (ph) the superintendent of schools in St. Bernard who's done an extraordinary job rebuilding public education down there.

I appreciate the honor and the recognition, but in many ways, I feel like I was just a small part of the efforts.

ROBERTS: If memory serves me correctly, Liz, you went down there, I think you were going to help out for a couple of days and ended up staying for weeks, if not months. What happened after you became a CNN hero? What happened to your organization and to the work that you were doing down there?

MCCARTNEY: I think the CNN Heroes program has brought the best out of the American people. People watch CNN and they're inspired to act and get involved. You know, through the show, people learn that there are over 10,000 households in the New Orleans area that still need help rebuilding.

And I think the thing that's most shocking is about 70 percent of those households, they own a home; they just don't have the funds to fix it. So the program has been a great way to let people know what's going on down there. And it has really inspired people to act and get involved.

CHETRY: Yes. It is amazing, when you see what's going on, that there's the drive to do it, there's the willingness to do it and it just -- just the resources aren't there.

And since you received that award, by the way, you say you've really added to your ranks. Right? You have more than 5,000 new volunteers that signed up after that and ended up getting hundreds of thousands more dollars to put back into your cause.

MCCARTNEY: Yes, that's right. In February, we were able to open up a center for wellness and mental health which has been, fortunately or unfortunately, very, very busy since we opened our doors. We've had more volunteers in 2009 than we've had in any other year that we've been open.

So I think the Heroes program, like I said, really inspired people to get involved. Once they learned that there were still problems down there, they wanted to be a part of the solution.

ROBERTS: In terms of the problems, Liz, I've been to New Orleans a couple times this year, and there are certain parts of the city you go and you never know that something happened and then you go to other parts of the city, it's like the hurricane was yesterday. What's it like down there in St. Bernard Parish where you've been doing all your work?

MCCARTNEY: Well, you know, they've made tremendous progress in St. Bernard. Like I said, the public school system is back on its feet and thriving. We have about half the residents back in the community, but there are still a lot of people who are struggling.

In the greater New Orleans area, there are still 2,000 households that are living in FEMA trailers. It's interesting. We've made a lot of progress, but there's still work to be done.

The first couple years of recovery, I think, were really driven by sadness and loss, but now four years later, I think we're seeing a real kind of push towards hope and progress. And that's part of the reason that we started a campaign called For Nola. It's really to recognize and celebrate all the reasons to be for the New Orleans area. And people can check that out at fornola.org. It's a really cool program to focus on what's working and work still needs to be done.

CHETRY: You know one of the unique things about the CNN Heroes designation is that it's just everyday people -- and that's one of the things that we focus on -- who saw a need and tried to do what they could to fill it, no matter how big or small. And that's why you were recognized and you were so humble about it in the beginning, saying there were so many other people that deserve it as well.

And that also is what makes people heroes; they don't expect to get recognition for it. So as we head into 2009, we have ten other nominees that we're going to be highlighting and introducing tonight.

What's your advice to them? In some ways, you say you're embarrassed by the attention, but at the same time, can it help you?

MCCARTNEY: Absolutely. I think my advice would be for them is to speak from the heart, be available. And this might sound a little bit strange, but just be prepared to do it if a little bit uncomfortable. Because it will definitely help them do their work even more and better than they have already.

ROBERTS: Well, this is terrific work that you've been doing down there in Southern Louisiana and duly noted with the CNN Hero of the Year honor last year. We thank you for joining us this morning. It's great to talk to you.

MCCARTNEY: Thanks very much.

ROBERTS: And we want to remind you again, beginning at 1:00 p.m. Eastern today, CNN will begin revealing the top 10 CNN Heroes of 2009. You can also meet all 10 heroes tonight during a Special Edition of "ANDERSON COOPER 360" at 11:00 p.m. Eastern.

CHETRY: Meanwhile, that's going to do it for us. Thanks so much for being with us today on American Morning. We hope to see you back here tomorrow and we'd love for you to continue the conversation on all of today's stories on our blog, cnn.com/amfix.

ROBERTS: Meantime, the news continues with Heidi Collins in the "CNN NEWSROOM."

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