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AMERICAN MORNING

Northwest Airlines Plane Overshoots Airport Raising Questions Whether Pilots Were Asleep at the Controls; Bailed Out Executives Lose Money Over Pay Cuts; Insurance Company Does About-Face After Report; Crew Asleep at the Controls?; Gays Get Hate Crimes Protection; Reality Kids

Aired October 23, 2009 - 06:00   ET

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


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. And thanks for being with us on this Friday. It is the 23rd of October. You're watching the Most News in the Morning. I'm John Roberts.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Kiran Chetry. Glad you're with us. We have a lot of stories we're going to be telling you about in the next 15 minutes.

First, a Northwest Airlines flight overshoots the airport. Air traffic controllers could not reach the pilots. They were worried they might have had a hijacking on their hands. In the end that plane landed safely, but now authorities have a lot of questions for the pilots. Were they asleep at the controls?

ROBERTS: New fallout as the government moves ahead with its plan to cut pay at seven corporations surviving on taxpayer money, but not everyone is happy with the government's new hands-on approach to bankers' salaries. Our CNN money team breaks it all down for you this morning.

CHETRY: Plus you met him right here on the show earlier in the week, Ian Pearl. He depends on 24-hour care to stay alive, and his health insurance company was trying to drop it after one employee at the company called him one of the "few dogs." Our report ended up changing everything. We're going to tell you how just ahead.

ROBERTS: But we begin this morning with a long, strange odyssey of Northwest Airlines Flight 188. It has people across the country wondering yet again just how safe are we when we fly.

The plane overshot its destination by 150 miles. And authorities now want to know if the pilots fell asleep at the controls. The flight path was supposed to be a relatively straight shot from San Diego to Minneapolis. It ended up being a zigzagging loop to loop that had some officials worried that the plane might have been hijacked.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS (voice-over): 5:41 p.m. Eastern Time, Northwest Airlines Flight 188 departs San Diego bound for Minneapolis. The takeoff is routine. As the Airbus A320 flies at an altitude of 3.700 feet over the Rockies, the crew makes radio contact with Denver Center Air Traffic Controllers. A short time later when Denver Center tries to re-establish contact, there's no response from the cockpit. Controllers tried texting the crew. Nothing.

7:56 p.m. Eastern, the FAA designates the flight "nordo" status, short for no radio communication. Denver Center hands off tracking responsibilities to Minneapolis Center. Controllers in Minneapolis can't make radio contact either. So fighter jets are mobilized in Madison, Wisconsin, fears mounting that Flight 188 might have been hijacked. CNN's Chad Myers, one of the first reporters on the story tracking the flight minute by minute.

CHAD MYERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This plane was supposed to start to descend. It never did. It never took the power off. It kept flying, flew over Minneapolis and kept right on going.

ROBERTS: Flight 188 overshoots Minneapolis airport by 150 miles. There has been no radio contact for more than an hour. Finally at 9:14 p.m., air traffic controllers are able to connect with the crew. By that time, the plane was already well past Minneapolis and over Wisconsin.

Controllers asked the pilot to make a 180-degree turn and then order him to perform a series of maneuvers to make sure he is in control of the aircraft, not hijackers. The pilot's explanation for overshooting Minneapolis? The NTSB says, "The crew stated they were in a heated discussion over airline policy and they lost situational awareness."

10:02 p.m., the plane finally lands safely in Minneapolis, one hour and 14 minutes late.

MYERS: This was a crazy little flight, and I think the NTSB will have a lot to say about this. They have the voice recorder and they also the flight data recorder. They have taken those out of the plane. They've taken them back to D.C. They will download all the data, and they'll know by tomorrow what actually happened in this cockpit.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS: Delta Airlines which owns Northwest issued a statement saying that it is cooperating with NTSB and FAA investigations while conducting one of its own. Until those investigations are complete, the pilots on Flight 188 have been grounded. Yes.

CHETRY: Scary situation because if they hadn't...

ROBERTS: Absolutely.

CHETRY: If that one air traffic control site hadn't had the awareness to try to get other pilots to try to contact them, what may have happened?

ROBERTS: It would have kept going. Well, extensively, if they were either so distracted that they weren't paying attention or some have suggested they fell asleep, the plane would have kept going until presumably it ran out of gas.

Now, the pilot said he had enough gas to turn around and return to Minneapolis but they still handled him with priority just to make sure that he got in.

Stick around because in ten minutes' time we're going to be joined by Peter Goelz. He's the former managing director of the National Transportation Safety Board. He has some very interesting insights about Flight 188 and what investigators might be looking for this morning.

CHETRY: Also new this morning, Wall Street learning some more details of the big pay cuts for big executives bailed out by you. The fine print shows the cuts do go into effect next month. The bloated paychecks, the bonuses, the perks for this year are not affected.

Meantime, though, some folks are not happy about the president's pay czar, Kenneth Feinberg, meddling in the compensation department.

Christine Romans joins us now. And, you know, he had a very, very vigorous defense of what he decided ultimately to do when it comes to these companies and compensation.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: These are seven average companies. These are seven companies that wouldn't survive without our taxpayer money. These are seven companies that are still on the government dime and companies that are trying very hard to get their -- to get their situation righted so they can get back to business as usual. But does that mean that the people who are at the top of these companies deserve tens of millions of dollars when these companies wouldn't exist without us?

Well, this is what Kenneth Feinberg, the pay czar, said about the criticism that you shouldn't have the government setting private pay.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KENNETH FEINBERG, TREASURY DEPARTMENT SPECIAL MASTER FOR COMPENSATION: It's not a good idea for the United States government to start micromanaging compensation practices at American businesses, but that's not this case. These are under the statute seven specific companies that are, in effect, owned by the taxpayers of the United States and that's a much different situation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: A much different situation. Another really important development to tell you guys about, too, the Federal Reserve yesterday also said that it is going to start reviewing pay practices at the 28 big systemically important banks. It could actually spill over to thousands of banks that the fed is going to take a look at and review where the people are paid for performance or paid for taking risk. So it sounds like Washington is serious about a new day coming for the pay culture on Wall Street.

CHETRY: And that's very interesting. When we talk about these seven banks, what do the actual changes in the recommendations mean in actual dollar amounts?

ROMANS: It still means that many of these people are going to get a lot of money, but they're going to get money, some of them paid out much more longer term. So the salary will be smaller and long- term compensation will be bigger.

Let's look at AIG. Average compensation now for these people at the top floor under the review of Ken Feinberg, $2.4 million. That's a 58 percent pay cut. GM, $1.1 million. That's a 25 percent pay cut. Bank of America, $6 million. That's a 65 percent pay cut. Citigroup, $5.6 million, about 70 percent pay cut.

But remember, the salaries we're told are going to be smaller. The pay, the take-home pay will be smaller. And then deferred compensation, we've been talking about this a lot, the idea that, if you pay for -- if you hold stock for three years or five years before you can cash it in, you're less likely to take wild near-term bets. You're more likely to make decisions based on a longer term prosperity of a company. That's the theory at least that the administration is working under. This idea of not just paying for quick right now returns.

CHETRY: So as we said, this goes into effect next month. So all of the retro -- the pay, this is not retroactive. They keep everything and all the millions that they made before this.

ROMANS: Some of these people have already agreed to take $1.00 a year. Remember?

CHETRY: Right.

ROMANS: Some of these people have already said this. It's going to be interesting to see. You might recall, too, that sometimes traders and salesmen make much more money than the person at the top of the company. It depends on what their performance was for the year.

But you're right. It starts in November, and then they're going to use this as the baseline for 2010 as well.

ROBERTS: Christine Romans this morning.

ROMANS: Sure.

ROBERTS: Christine, thanks.

Also new this morning, an optional public plan entered health care talks at the White House. Sources say Senate Democrats and White House officials may allow states to opt out of a government-run plan to compete with private insurance companies. Republicans in Congress do not want any public option and Democrats are still divided over it.

New York health workers will no longer have to get the swine flu vaccine to keep their jobs. The state suspended a ruling that forced health care workers to get the shot by the end of November saying the decision was based on a shortage, not because groups of nurses, teachers and other employees sued. The governor's office said New York will only be getting about a quarter of its anticipated supply of the vaccine by the end of the month and that should be reserved for those most at risk.

CHETRY: Also, the American League Championship series, it's going back to the Bronx. The L.A. Angels fought off elimination last night after blowing a fourth run lead with a come-from-behind 7-6 victory over the Yankees in Anaheim last night. It was exciting to the very, very end. The Yankees had the bases loaded in the ninth but Nick Swisher hopped out to end it.

The Yankees still lead the series three games to two. Game six now set for Saturday night in New York, but it's supposed to be rainy on Saturday. We'll see if the weather holds up for them.

ROBERTS: We can always play on Sunday if it rains on Saturday.

CHETRY: Right. They're dragging this thing out.

Well, to an A.M. follow-up now. He says that his medical bills basically amount to a million dollars a year, and he was on the verge of losing his health care coverage. But after a report aired on CNN, an about face now from his insurance company and also an apology.

Here's our Jim Acosta.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John and Kiran, earlier this week, we introduced you to Ian Pearl, a disabled man with muscular dystrophy who was just weeks away from losing his health insurance. One day after our story aired on AMERICAN MORNING, that insurance company, Guardian, announced it is reversing its decision.

In a statement to CNN, Guardian's president, Dennis Manning, said, "Insurance companies are comprised of human beings, and sometimes we make mistakes. This was one of them. But we also learn from those mistakes and we seek to correct them. This is the right action to take because it is consistent with our values as individuals and as a company."

Guardian also apologized to Ian for an internal company e-mail that referred to the Pearl family policy as a "dog" that the company could get rid of. As for the Pearl family, Ian's mother told me over the phone she is speechless, then she went on to say, "I am very encouraged that Guardian is releasing the statement and is acknowledging its misconduct."

Guardian's reversal means that Ian can keep his insurance policy, which pays for his in-home nursing care, The same care he credits with saving his life. And we understand from talking to state lawmakers in New York that right now they are drafting legislation they call Ian's law, something they hope will prevent insurance companies from dropping high-cost insurance policies -- John and Kiran.

ROBERTS: Jim Acosta for us this morning. Jim, thanks so much.

We were talking about Northwest Airlines Flight 188 going 150 miles past its destination before another plane finally got in touch with the pilots. And they said, fellows, I think you're a little past your destination. What happened? And what will the outcome of this be? And can you really be safe when you're in the skies?

Peter Goelz, who's the former managing director of the National Transportation Safety Board coming right up to try to answer some of those questions.

It's 10 1/2 minutes after the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. Thirteen minutes past the hour right now.

A massive coast-to-coast sweep against one of Mexico's most dangerous drug cartels. Nearly 1,200 people arrested in 19 states, million of dollars in cash, drugs and weapons seized in a four-year operation. Attorney General Eric Holder made the raids public during a news conference.

ROBERTS: First, it was called erotic services. Then, it was called adult services. Now, just call it a victory for Craigslist.

A judge throwing out a lawsuit against the site filed by a sheriff who calls the services nothing but havens for prostitution. The sheriff is going to be with us live this morning with reaction.

CHETRY: Michael Jackson's mother shaking up her legal team. Katherine Jackson firing the lawyers that are trying to help her fight for control of her son's estate. The decision comes at the same time that a judge granted the two men who have temporary control even more authority to make decisions on behalf of Michael Jackson's estate.

ROBERTS: Well, more now on Northwest Airlines Flight 188. Air safety investigators are studying voice and flight data recorders to find out whether the crew was asleep at the controls. A lot of people wondering this morning why the captain could not be contacted for more than an hour last night, triggering fears of a possible hijacking and why he overshot Minneapolis's airport which was his destination by 150 miles, zigzagging over two states before finally landing safely.

Joining us in the telephone right now from Washington is Peter Goelz. He's a former managing director for the National Transportation Safety Board.

And, Peter, I know there are a lot of details yet to come out about this. But what's your initial reaction to what happened? What are you thinking here?

PETER GOELZ, FORMER MANAGING DIRECTOR, NTSB (via telephone): Well, this is really disturbing. I mean, the pilots are saying that they were engaged in a heated discussion, and that that distracted them. And there are indications, also, that the NTSB is going to look at whether these guys were simply asleep. But in any case, they certainly were not doing their jobs. ROBERTS: They were, as the FAA says and air traffic controllers said, "nordo," which means no radio contact for one hour and 18 minutes at the least between 7:56 p.m. Eastern and 9:14 p.m. If they were involved in a -- even if it was a heated discussion but they were awake and alert in the cockpit, is it possible that they could have missed the notifications that air traffic controllers were trying to get to them on the radio, text messages, other aircraft trying to contact them?

GOELZ: It's highly unlikely because unless - unless they simply, you know, switched their radios to a different channel, there really is - is no explanation that's acceptable about how they missed these calls. You know, they should have been well into that 120-minute period, they should have been preparing to land at Minneapolis and going through procedures, being in contact with air traffic control and it's unacceptable that - that they were silent for that long.

ROBERTS: How dangerous is it, Peter, for - for a plane to be flying with both pilots asleep? Not saying that that happened in this case, but if that were the case, how dangerous is that situation?

GOELZ: Well, it's extraordinarily dangerous. You know, the plane itself is most likely on auto pilot and - and today's modern aircraft are perfectly capable for flying for, you know, hours on end without any, you know, human manipulation. But the - the idea that the front of the cockpit is - is asleep, not monitoring other air traffic, not monitoring what went on, is really quite frightening.

And, you know, the NTSB will go back, listen to the voice recorder. It's most likely a two-hour voice recorder. It could be a 30-second voice recorder, see what they see there. The is going to look at the flight data recorder to see if there was any monitoring, any manipulation of the controls during that period.

ROBERTS: OK. So, air traffic control was trying to get in touch with this plane, concerned it might have been hijacked. They even had jet fighters in Madison, Wisconsin on hot stand by to scramble in case they determined that this flight presented some sort of danger to the public or may have been hijacked. These guys say, oh, sorry. We were involved in a conversation - even if they weren't asleep, even if they were just distracted, Peter, how much trouble are they in?

GOELZ: You know, if - I think they're facing a real serious disciplinary situation. You cannot have these kinds of events on your record and keep flying at the same level that you were. So I think they're in - unless there's some reasonable explanation, and it's hard to imagine what that might be, I think they're in very serious difficulty.

ROBERTS: Peter Goelz for us this morning. Peter, it's always great to talk to you. Thanks for being with us this morning.

GOELZ: Thank you.

ROBERTS: Wow!

CHETRY: And either way you slice it, it doesn't look good.

ROBERTS: Yes. Remember, there was that Go! Airlines plane that overflew Hilo, Hawaii. That was about 26 miles or so, and those guys got into some serious trouble, so you can imagine what's coming down for these pilots.

CHETRY: Yes. And as we heard Chad Myers say, they're going to be able to, what, probably find out by today, based on listening to the data recorders.

ROBERTS: You know, as Peter said, if the flight data recorder is a two-hour one, they'll probably have exactly what happened in the cockpit, but if it's only 30 minutes, it might have been recorded over because it took them that much time to get back around to the airport after they were contacted.

CHETRY: All right. Well, we'll have to see how that plays out.

Meanwhile, still ahead - reality TV. I mean, look, if grownups decide that they want to be on TV and have their life recorded, it's fine. It's their choice. But what about the kids? Carol Costello, "Just Sayin'".

It's 19 minutes after the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

A bill more than 10 years in the making is heading to the president's desk today. It will make violence based on a person's sexual preference a federal hate crime. It's named for Matthew Shepard. He was a young gay man tied to a fence and beaten to death a decade ago.

Dana Bash is working on the story for us. We do want to warn you that some of the language in her report some might find offensive.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John and Kiran, the only way Democrats could achieve this long-fought victory for the gay community is attaching the hate crimes measure to a must- pass (ph) defense bill. That infuriated Republicans who called it legislative trickery. But we talked to a victim of hate crimes who said it's necessary.

BASH (voice-over): When Todd Metrokin came here for late-night pizza last summer, he offered a slice to some people sitting outside.

TODD METROKIN, HATE CRIME VICTIM: I thought it was a nice exchange, and as we were walking away, my friend mentioned, you know, that - he said - he called me a faggot under his breath.

BASH: As they walked through this Adams Morgan neighborhood in DC, Metrokin didn't realize they were being followed until they were suddenly attacked.

METROKIN: The attack occurred right about here. They were calling us names, faggot...

BASH: What's the last thing you remember?

METROKIN: I - the last thing I remember was the first hit.

BASH: He woke up in the hospital looking like this, bruises and broken bones, even a shoe mark on his face.

METROKIN: Somebody had to actually stomp on my face while I was on the ground to achieve that, and that's when it became just so crystal-clear to me the kind of hate that requires someone to do that.

BASH: Attacks like this will now be a federal offense under legislation expanding the hate crimes law which now covers race, color and religion to also include victims targeted because of their sexual orientation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Violence against members of any group because of who they are is not going to be tolerated in our country.

BASH: Many Republicans object, arguing violent crimes are already illegal, and this creates what they call "thought crimes."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The idea that we're going to pass a law that's going to - to add further charges to someone based on what they may have been thinking I think is - I think is wrong.

BASH: But supporters note this would punish acts, not beliefs, and point to government figures showing crimes against gays and lesbians are on the rise and say federal dollars, attention and penalties this new law would provide are needed.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I will sign it into law.

BASH: Politically, the White House hopes passing this long- fought priority in the gay community will ease frustration that President Obama is slow to act on their issues.

BASH (on camera): Gay rights groups praise Democrats for passing what they call the first piece of "civil rights legislation for lesbian, gay and transgender Americans." But, privately, gay rights activists say the president has a long way to go to tamp down on simmering anger that he's dragging his feet on other big priorities, like reversing the "don't ask, don't tell" policy and the Defense of Marriage Act - John and Kiran.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHETRY: Dana Bash for us this morning. Thanks.

ROBERTS: So the case of "Balloon Boy" raises a big issue. Remember what he said? You said that we did this for the show. The kid was in a reality show before, right?

It's fine for adults to be in a reality show, but can a kid, you know, understand those boundaries, the difference, the border between reality and fantasy? When you're in a reality show and you're a kid, does life become a TV show?

We'll try to get some answers to that question coming up.

Twenty-five minutes after the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Folks hard at work this morning.

CHETRY: They sure are, for a Friday. A lot going on. It's 27 minutes past the hour. Welcome back to the most news in the morning.

You know, all the talk about TV's "Jon & Kate Plus 8" drama, the real question may be what about the "Plus 8" - the kids?

ROBERTS: Yes. Children on reality television shows. Authorities say "Balloon Boy's" father went to great lengths to get his family on the air, but is it good for kids to walk around with cameras in their faces to begin with? Do they have enough knowledge to really separate fantasy from reality?

Our Carol Costello joins us now from Washington to try to answer that question. Good morning, Carol.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning!

There are plenty who say Falcon Heene will be forever known as "Balloon Boy." It sounds silly. It may be even funny to you unless you're Falcon Heene. "Just Sayin'" is it time we reevaluate how children are used on reality TV and figure out exactly why we're so interested in watching kids stumble and sometimes fall on shows that we see as Hollywood and they often see as real life.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO (voice-over): On the reality TV program "SuperNanny," children steal the show. Kids at their very worst on national television with parental consent.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you know how stupid you are?

COSTELLO: Also, mom and dad can get advice on how to parent, from supernanny Jo Frost. The show's a hit, as are so many others that feature children.

Some say Richard Heene used his adorable assets for a shot at adult fame. And remember Octomom? She and 14 kids are currently in production.

COSTELLO (on camera): "Just Sayin'," should kids be reality stars? SCOTT STERNBERG, REALITY TV PRODUCER: I don't use children in any of our reality programs.

COSTELLO (voice-over): Scott Sternberg produces reality TV shows like "The Academy."

STERNBERG: Once you put a child in any kind of a serious situation where there can be repercussions, then you're changing those children's lives forever.

COSTELLO: Children like the Gosselins of TLC's "Jon & Kate Plus 8." When the series began, mom and dad were bickering, but affectionate. Now they're in the midst of a bitter public divorce. Part of the fight? Whether those cute kids can remain reality TV stars.

JON GOSSELIN, "JON & KATE PLUS 8": I don't think it's healthy for them and I think my kids should be taken off the show.

COSTELLO: But both the kids' mom, Kate Gosselin, and TLC want the kids to remain on TV without dad even though Kate Gosselin was quoted in "Vanity Fair Online" that her kids have been acting out because they miss their dad.

LESLIE ABBOTT, "TRADING SPOUSES" MOM: I think people are blinded by fame and lose perspective - lose perspective of reality.

COSTELLO: Leslie and Carl Abbott, along with their teenage son, starred in "Trading Spouses," a reality show now on CMT. The Abbotts say they survived reality TV because of one thing - a strong, intact family.

LUKE ABBOTT, "TRADING SPOUSES" SON: Yes. I don't need to be on another one. Once is enough. But I don't have any regrets about going on the show at all.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO: We asked TLC to comment on why it wants "Jon & Kate Plus 8" to continue with mom and kids and not dad. They responded, "Pass." That's all they sent us on the e-mail was the word "Pass."

Sternberg, the man who produces reality TV shows, says there ought to be stronger rules when it comes to kids like requiring a therapist onset, and a neutral adviser who can tell producers when reality becomes too real for kids.

We want to know what you think this morning. Should we rethink how we use kids on reality TV? Should kids be used at all in reality television shows? Is it too much for them?

Write to me on my blog at CNN.com/AMFIX. That's CNN.com/AMFIX.

I'll be interested to know in what you think and will read some of your comments on the air later. CHETRY: Yes. It can't be that much difference in what a lot of the young child stars talk about. How difficult it was separating reality.

I mean, Drew Barrymore famously said she didn't know E.T. was not real when she was that little filming, and that Steven Spielberg used to sometimes - she used to talk to him off camera, and sometimes they used to just creep back there and, you know, make him move around. She didn't know E.T. was...

(CROSSTALK)

COSTELLO: I know. It's interesting you bring that up because I was discussing this last night with my husband actually, and we were talking about Michael Jackson. But Joe Jackson -- you know, Michael Jackson had enormous talent. And that's what Joe Jackson was selling to the world. But these kids, you know, we're using their bad behavior sometimes as a selling point for the show. So this is quite different, I think, from just movie stars and singers who happen to be children, and children who are displaying their worst behavior on television, and that worst behavior is real.

ROBERTS: Yes. It will be interesting to see what people have to say about it this morning. Carol, no doubt about that.

Carol Costello, "Just Sayin'" this morning.

Carol, thanks.

Crossing the half hour now. And here are this morning's top stories.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates is attending today's meeting of NATO defense ministers in Slovakia. Gates is pressing allies to deliver more economic and security aid to Afghanistan. NATO officials have signaled that they will not consider sending more troops until the Obama administration makes its decision. General Stanley McChrystal, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, has requested additional troops. He's going to make his own case to NATO ministers today.

Something went bang in the night at a gulf oil refinery outside of San Juan, Puerto Rico. Authorities say the explosion blew out windows and passing cars. Still not clear what cause the blast. People in communities nearby are being evacuated because of thick smoke rising from tanks at the gulf facility.

The United States has formerly asked Switzerland to hand over Roman Polanski. The Oscar winning director was arrested there a month ago. The Swiss Justice Ministry says the U.S. filed an extradition request late last night. He is wanted in California for having sex with a 13-year-old girl. He pleaded guilty and then ran back in 1977 - Kiran.

CHETRY: Thank you.

Well, 33 minutes past the hour.

His stand on interracial marriage has earned a Louisiana justice of the peace a place in John Avlon's hall of shame. It's one of this week's Wingnuts. Every Friday John calls out someone on the far left and the far right for taking politics to the extreme.

John is our independent analyst, and he joins me now.

Good to see you this Friday.

JOHN AVLON, INDEPENDENT POLITICAL ANALYST: Good to see you. Good morning.

CHETRY: All right. So who earned your wingnut on the right?

AVLON: Wingnut on the right, as you said Louisiana Justice of the Peace Keith Bardwell, who denied a marriage certificate within a racial couple saying he was doing it for the kids. Maybe he was concern they'd grow up to be president.

Here, let's take a look at what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KEITH BARDWELL, LOUISIANA JUSTICE OF THE PEACE: It's kind of hard to apologize for something that really and truly down in your heart you don't feel like you done wrong.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AVLON: Unbelievable. Blast from the past in the worst possible way.

CHETRY: Yes. And we actually had the McKays on, that's the couple he refused to marry. We had them on AMERICAN MORNING last week, they talked a little bit about the conversation she had with Bardwell's wife when she was trying to make arrangements for them to get married.

Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BETH MCKAY, JUDGE REFUSED TO MARRY HER AND FIANCE: At the end of the conversation, she said, you know, I have a question to ask of you. Is this an interracial marriage? And I was shock. And I said, excuse me? She said, you know, is this an interracial marriage. And I said, yes, ma'am. And she said, well, what's the deal. Is he black? Or are you black? So I answered her question. And then she just said, well, we don't do interracial marriages.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: There you go. So what's the fallout then from this refusal to marry this couple? AVLON: Well, Governor Bobby Jindal immediately condemned the action, calling for his resignation. Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu as well. But one interesting and disturbing thing, self-styled conservative Senator David Vitter initially refused to comment, and then after releasing a statement just yesterday noticeably refused to condemn.

Let's take a look at what his office said instead. He said, "Senator Vitter thinks all judges should follow the law as written, and not make it up as they go along."

Well, that's just conservative boilerplate. That's got nothing to do with this. That's a real passing of the buck. That's a real problem. You got to wonder, what's he trying to gain? Who is he trying to appeal to by refusing and then condemn this action? That's a real issue that people should be asking.

CHETRY: Yes, very interesting.

Well, let's switch to wingnut on the left this week.

Who got your nod?

AVLON: Well, we got Congressman Ed Towns on behalf of the Government Reform Subcommittee that he chairs in Congress. Now normally we talk a lot about extreme partisanship. Well, this week it's sort of extremely silly partisanship, really bizarre actions on the part of the congressman and his committee.

So what happened is -- and we're going to have some tape -- the Republicans on the committee decided they wanted to force a vote asking to subpoena the files of Countrywide Financial.

CHETRY: That's a mortgage lender.

AVLON: That's exactly right, which has been accused of giving sweetheart deals to congressmen and government officials of both parties. Democrats wanted to block it. They weren't ready so they snuck out of the committee room. Well, Republicans decided to film the empty chairs and got footage of the Democrats sneaking out the back chambers.

There's the footage right there.

CHETRY: There we see it.

So they actually put this to music as well, right?

AVLON: The immortal Ray Charles, "Hit the Road Jack."

(VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: All right. So there you see. Those are the Democrats leaving.

AVLON: Right. CHETRY: And then what happened after that?

AVLON: Well, Congressman Towns was not amused and he literally changed the locks on the Republican's door to the conference room.

And he said, when he was asked about it, he said, yeah, I did it because they don't know how to behave.

Well, to most Americans, that's exactly how the government reforms committee should behave. They should be requesting files and getting into any scandals that involve Countrywide financial or any other group that's accused of impropriety related to congressman. The larger issue here is, look, folks, what is this, some cross between, you know, a frat prank and a domestic dispute? This is not how people expect their congressman behave.

CHETRY: But the other interesting thing as well is that on both sides, it seems that partisanship sometimes gets in the way. So if you're looking into a very legitimate issue, but it has to do with making my party look bad, I don't want it to happen. If it's the other party that's going to look bad, I really want to push it through. And we've seen that, you know, through the ages in politics.

AVLON: Oh, yeah, but it's gotten worse. There's a sense of team-ism in politics today that does put the interest of party too often ahead of the interest of the country. Something should be clear-cut decisions. If there's a scandal, the government reform committee should always investigate. This isn't anything they invented, but it was just a bizarre look into a culture of congress that most Americans they say, shouldn't you guys be solving problems and not playing politics.

CHETRY: Yes. Exactly. Next thing you know they're going to bring out the cots again.

John Avlon, great to talk to you as always. And we'll look for John Avlon every week, and he has a new book that's soon to be published, "Attack of the Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe is Hijacking American Politics." That's going to be a great one.

And also you can check out all of John Avlon's picks for wingnut, CNN.com/AMFIX.

Thirty-seven minutes after the hour.

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

The secretary of education giving a lecture to the people who teach teachers. He's hoping changes to the administration has plan will trickle down to our children.

Our Kate Bolduan is following the story for us this morning.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John, Kiran, the secretary of education has told parents since day one teacher accountability is a top priority. He suggested linking student achievement to teacher evaluations, and now he's taking on the programs that train those teachers.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BOLDUAN (voice-over): The country's education chief delivering a harsh lecture to not students, but the colleges preparing the nation's teachers.

ARNE DUNCAN, U.S. SECRETARY OF EDUCATION: By almost any standard, many if not most of the nation's 1,450 schools, colleges and department of education are doing a mediocre job of preparing teachers for the realities of the 21st-century classroom.

BOLDUAN: Secretary Arne Duncan described the programs that train more than half the nation's teachers as cash cows. Most of which, he says, aren't delivering first-rate instructors.

DUNCAN: Teaching has never been more difficult. It has never been more important. And the desperate need for more student success has never been more urgent. Are we adequately preparing future teachers to win in this critical battle?

BOLDUAN: In Washington American university's dean of teaches says, yes, they are.

SARAH IRVINE BELSON, DEAN, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF EDUCATION: So when we throw everybody into one big bucket, this is what schools of education do, it's as much as saying, you know, here's what every engineering program is like and here's what every university is like. But if you look closely at those teacher ed programs and what they're doing, then you can actually find that there are actually great pockets of excellence.

BOLDUAN: At the same time Dean Sarah Irvine Belson agrees with one change Duncan is calling for - more firsthand training.

SARAH IRVINE BELSON, DEAN, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF EDUCATION: We try to spend as much time as we possibly can with these teachers in real classrooms and getting real education experience with.

BOLDUAN (on camera): You think that's the key - hands on?

BELSON: Absolutely. And any teacher will tell you that.

BOLDUAN: And senior Jenna Ward says she knows she's about to take on a tough job.

JENNA WARD, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY STUDENT: It's a challenge to be able to teach to the whole class, but also be able to teach to every student within that class. But I think I'm definitely ready to do it.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BOLDUAN: Secretary Duncan also talked about the need for hard numbers. Test scores, grades, attendance, to name a few. To better track student progress and train teachers how to use it to improve instruction. Why is this critical now? Well, for one, Duncan warns of a massive exodus of baby boomers from the teaching profession in the next decade - John, Kiran.

ROBERTS: Kate Bolduan for us this morning.

Kate, thanks so much.

And Education Secretary Arne Duncan is going to join us live this morning at 7:40 Eastern to talk about preparing our nation's children and preparing our children for the outbreak of swine flu that's going on in the country right now.

CHETRY: All right. Well, still ahead, there is a big, bad storm, in the words of Rob Marciano moving east just in time for the weekend, unfortunately. He's going to be tracking extreme weather for us just ahead.

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CHETRY: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. We're 26 1/2 minutes past the hour now. It's time to check in with our Rob Marciano. He is tracking extreme weather, and he called it a big bad storm heading East.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: You said that -- no, I did say that to Ed, our producer, just big and bad. It describes this fairly well, guys, but nothing too terrible. The size of this thing and the amount of wind that it's going to generate and the cool temperatures behind it, I think ,is the biggest part of the storm. Also, though, what happened yesterday down across parts of Louisiana, we had not one, not two, but three, four, five, six reports of tornado across Cameron and Jefferson Parish likely from the same, if not one or two cells.

So, they could have been just a couple of cells here. But, there was damage across the I-10 corridor. East of the storm we're looking for showers and thunderstorms to develop. Not quite as strong as they were yesterday. I think a lot of the energy has moved up towards the North. But, there is definitely some cold air behind this thing with temperatures staying in the 30s across Minneapolis, 40s into Kansas City, 55 degrees expected in Chicago.

One more day of -- well, not so bad weather across New York, although it will be on the decrease as far as your temperatures and also your amount of cloud cover. Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit will see some rain low clouds, wind today. Cincinnati, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh also, and Seattle will see a little bit of rain as well. Big bad storm heading towards New York in a theater near you, later on tonight. John and Kiran, back to you.

ROBERTS: Yeah. And the theater near you would be a good place to be for the next 24 hours. MARCIANO: Yeah. Why not?

ROBERTS: Thanks Rob. Jeanne Moos got the bloopers of the week. And there were some good ones coming up next. Stay with us. It's 48 minutes after the hour.

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ROBERTS: Nice that we almost have the weekend upon us, few more hours to go, a few more hours of hard work and we're there, across the finish line. Welcome back to the "Most News in the Morning".

An anchor's slipup -- which rarely happen -- a sea gull's close up and a bird soaring with the NFL's eagles.

CHETRY: Can't make some of this stuff up, but all of it, thank goodness was caught on tape in Jeanne Moos's blooper real.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What do a pigeon, a giant sea seagull a fan falling off a cab, an anchor making the gesture for crazy, and Al Jesse, Jesse Al, Al Jesse have to do with one another? It's the weekend bloopers. And what a week it was.

This Australian anchor got caught making the internationally known gesture for crazy coming out of a taped sound byte with a senator.

It was showed quick you might think you're crazy. The anchor later apologized to the senator who laughed it off saying maybe I am crazy. Now, here is what happens when you get your reverends mixed up.

UNKNOWN FEMALE: Joining me now to talk about this in the nation's real problem with joblessness, the reverend Al Sharpton. What's your reaction to hearing someone say, you know, when it comes to income inequality, all is well, the rising tide floats all boats?

REVEREND JESSE JACKSON: I'm Reverend Jesse Jackson.

UNKNOWN FEMALE: Right. You know, I'm sore so sorry. The script in front of me said Reverend Al Sharpton. I'm looking at your face. I know you are Reverend Jackson, we all do. I'm sorry.

MOOS: Good recovery. Blame it on the teleprompter. Here's a little refresher, Reverend Al Sharpton, Reverend Jesse Jackson.

This Australian Nine News anchor has a lot of gall. The sea gull sauntered past the camera shooting the skyline.

PETER HITCHENER, NINE NEWS: I knew that it had happened because I could see in the monitor in the back of the studio, I could see this gigantic thing walking behind me, and I thought, I think that's a bird. MOOS: It was this bird that took on the eagles at Sunday's televised game between Philadelphia and the Oakland Raiders. The pigeon hung out on the field and even joined the raiders kick-off coverage.

Talk about a wing formation: The raiders and the pigeon beat Philadelphia. But baseball fans celebrated the Phillies getting into the World Series like dropping the F-bomb and falling off a taxi.

This guy didn't over-tip, he tipped over. I'm Jeanne Moos.

JACKSON: I'm Reverend Jesse Jackson.

MOOS: CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS: We've all been in those situations before where it' like the brain and the mouth are somehow disconnected.

CHETRY: I know.

ROBERTS: I've never been on top of a taxi, though, when it's taken off.

CHETRY: Exactly. Or -- I love the pigeon. The pigeon wanted to be part of the game.

ROBERTS: Want to be part of the kickoff drive. There you go, what are you going to do?

Northwest Airlines Flight 188, a bit of a shocker yesterday when it overshot its destination by a little bit, 150 miles. What happened? Did the crew fall asleep at the controls or were they just distracted because they were having a heated conversation. We'll find out.

CHETRY: Yeah. The tale of the tape, right. That's when we'll find out. Maybe.

Meanwhile, swine flu, the outbreaks are growing around the country, and now, first there was concerned about the vaccine. Now, people are saying, "hey, where is it?" We're going to be talking with head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, Dr. Anthony Fauci joins us with some answers. It's 54 minutes past the hour.

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ROBERTS: Coming up on five minutes to the top of the hour, sorry, three minutes to the top of the hour. And ahead on the AM rundown, the swine flu vaccine controversy. Is it really safe? Who should get it, and why is it still so hard to come by? Answers from the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Tony Fauci coming up in 20 minutes time here on the "Most News in the Morning". CHETRY: There are also some new developments this morning in the war on drugs. Officials cracking down on meth. According to the drug enforcement agency, they've made a lot more seizures here in the United States. You take a look you can see the numbers, in 2007, more than 10,000 pounds of the drug were seized in the U.S. In 2008, that shot up to nearly 14,000 pounds. It means that the amount of meth confiscated went from five tons to close to seven tons in just one year.

And the drug battle that we used to say was on the border has increasingly become an American one. After the biggest drug busting history, Attorney General Eric Holder says, we need to "cut off the heads of the snakes in the Mexican drug cartels. Our Jeanne Meserve joins us now from Washington with more. Hi Jeanne.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Hi Kiran. The bust was a culmination of a four-year investigation. The target was an exceptionally violent drug cartels whose trademark is be heading its enemies and the specialty is trafficking methamphetamine.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MESERVE (voice-over): In this surveillance video, a man removes methamphetamine from the wheel well of an automobile and hands it to a woman who wraps it in a blanket before picking up her child. This is part of the smuggling and distribution network of the Mexican cartel known as "La Familia," a cartel that just took a body blow.

ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL: This unprecedented, coordinated United States law enforcement action is the largest ever undertaken against a Mexican drug cartel.

MESERVE: Three thousand law enforcement officers made 303 arrest in two days in 19 states including communities in Metro Atlanta.

BRITNEY MORRIS, NEIGHBOR: I'm actually kind of terrified. There's like three doors down. And I know that there's drugs, there's guns, right.

MESERVE: Guns, drugs, cash, and extraordinary violence. All part of La Familia's operations in Mexico and now the United States.

KENNETH MELSON, ATF: The problem is not just along the Southwest border, it is all over our country now.

MESERVE: La Familia is a major player in the methamphetamine trade, and officials think this week's raids will have an impact on supplies. But few believe this coordinated enforcement action, as successful as it was will do lasting damage.

HOLDER: We have to work with our Mexican counterparts to really cut off the heads of the snakes and get at the heads of the cartels, indict them, try them either in Mexico or expedite them to the United States.

MESERVE (on camera): Administration officials commended the Mexican government for progress in its fight against the cartels, but acknowledged, it is waging a battle of almost unimaginable dimensions against ruthless foes. Back to you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHETRY: Huge challenge for sure. Jeanne Meserve for us this morning. Thanks so much.