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AMERICAN MORNING

Secretary Clinton in Pakistan Pressing Leaders to Take on the Taliban; Northwest Pilots Lose Licenses for Total Dereliction of Duties; 70 Killed in Pakistan Blast; Lieberman to Block Health Insurance Bill; Foreclosures: New Hot Spots; Killer Wave, No Warning

Aired October 28, 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 Wednesday morning to you. Thanks for joining us on the Most News in the Morning. It's October the 28th. I'm John Roberts.

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

First up, there is breaking news this morning. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is now on the ground in Pakistan. She arrived overnight on an unannounced trip.

CNN is traveling with Secretary Clinton, and we're going to be live in Pakistan for the latest on what she hopes to accomplish in the country where anti-American sentiment is on the rise.

ROBERTS: Also breaking this morning, a deadly attack in Afghanistan overnight. Six U.N. workers including an American killed in an attack there. The Taliban now claiming responsibility. Our Chris Lawrence was actually woken up by the attack.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: We were sound asleep when we started hearing -- well, we started hearing that. Now, there's black smoke rising about -- no more than about two blocks away.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: All this creating huge new security concerns ahead out of that crucial runoff election next week. In a moment, we'll be joined live by Chris in Kabul.

CHETRY: And the Federal Aviation Administration revoking the licenses of the two Northwest Airline pilots who overshot their Minneapolis destination by 150 miles. And wait until you hear what the FAA is saying to them about the incident. We're live in Washington with details.

ROBERTS: But we begin this morning with breaking news in two very important countries, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The United States has a lot riding on each of those nations and is making that clear especially in Pakistan where Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is on the ground this morning. She flew in overnight on an unannounced trip, and her arrival comes at a time when anti-American sentiment is growing fast and a brand new attack overnight that killed dozens of people.

Meantime, next door in Afghanistan, the Taliban now claiming responsibility for a deadly overnight attack in the capital of Kabul. Gunmen killing at least six United Nations workers including one American, all of it just days before the country's runoff elections that could decide the next chapter for U.S. troops in the region.

We're tapping into the global resources of CNN. Our Jill Dougherty is traveling with Secretary Clinton in Pakistan. But let's start with Chris Lawrence. He is the capital of Kabul.

And, Chris, what's the latest that you've got for us on the ground there? We just, a couple moments ago, showed the early stages of that attack when you were woken up. You ran up to the roof there and were describing things as they were unfolding. What's the situation now?

LAWRENCE: Well, John, we did get down to the ground right to the scene of the compound where the attack took place. The police are still going through trying to put out the fires there that were going on. Also, trying to investigate exactly who may have been responsible for this attack.

We spoke with the spokesman for the United Nations who says right now they are in the process of reviewing all of their security and, in fact, this was only one isolated incident. Also today, in smaller attacks, two rockets hit the Serena Hotel less than a kilometer away from here and one rocket actually hit the perimeter of the presidential palace itself.

President Hamid Karzai has now asked all international organizations to have security beefed up around them in light of these attacks and the fact that the Taliban through a Web site is now claiming responsibility basically saying they have fulfilled a promise they made about three days ago to disrupt this election and stage violent attacks against anyone who participated -- John.

ROBERTS: So they're trying to send a signal, Chris, that they are -- they've got strength across the country even there in the capital of Kabul. Is there any indication that that message is getting through and that people may decide to stay home during that crucial runoff election on November the 7th?

LAWRENCE: Yes. There was always concern that there would be even less people that turned out for this runoff than there was the first time. A lot of people were intimidated, but Kabul was always thought to be immune.

You know, I stood up here just a couple days ago saying what people here have told me that they felt we're in the center of the city. You know, those Taliban threats, they will resonate out in the provinces but not here. We feel safe to vote. This was an area that had been relatively safe. A lot of government buildings, the center of the city. The Taliban really proving that they have reached throughout this country.

ROBERTS: That's a troubling new development. Chris Lawrence for us this morning in the capital of Kabul. Chris, thanks so much.

CHETRY: And again, we're going to be back following breaking news out of Pakistan in just a moment. But first, we're getting to new developments on a story that we've been telling you about all week. It's right now one of the most popular stories on our Web site as well.

The FAA has now yanked the licenses of the Northwest Airlines pilots who overshot the Minneapolis airport by 150 miles last week. The pilots are claiming that they were using their laptops and that they got distracted while air traffic controllers tried desperately to contact them. But that excuse didn't buy them any points. Instead, the FAA in a written statement saying the pilots' actions were a "total dereliction of duty."

Jeanne Meserve is working this story from Washington. And, Jeanne, that's not mincing words at all.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes.

CHETRY: Letting the pilots know exactly how they feel about this incident.

MESERVE: That's right. In Washington, you hear a lot of bland, neutral language, but not here. Northwest Captain Timothy Cheney and First Officer Richard Cole were raked over the coals by the Federal Aviation Administration, which accused them of operating their aircraft carelessly and recklessly and engaging in what the FAA called "a frolic of your own."

In the letters informing the pilots of the revocation of their licenses immediately, the FAA said, "You were disengaged and impervious to the serious threat to your own safety as well as the safety of the people for whom you are responsible. This is a total dereliction of your duties." The FAA never makes mention of those personal laptop computers the crew admitted using in the cockpit during that San Diego to Minneapolis flight. Instead, it highlights the crew's failure to comply with air traffic controller instructions and to monitor radios.

By the way, a revelation here, the FAA says the two were out of contact for a total of one and a half hours. That's about 13 minutes longer than federal investigators had originally estimated. "Your lack of awareness that Northwest 188 had overflown the airport to which it had been dispatched is completely unacceptable," said the FAA. The pilots do have ten days to appeal but if the language used in this communication is any clue, they don't have much of a chance -- Kiran.

CHETRY: The other question that some are still asking, do the feds and the FAA and others buy the story that it was laptops? I mean, is there actual excuse or explanation in question?

MESERVE: Well, we don't know if it's being viewed with credibility or not. The NTSB investigation is still continuing. Of course, they're talking to the flight attendants to get their rendition of what happened. They're also going to be looking at that flight data recorder to see if there were any instruments that were used during that time period that might in some way support the pilots' statements. We'll see.

CHETRY: And bottom line, will they be fired for this?

MESERVE: Well, right now Delta says they're still on suspension until the end of the NTSB investigation. But, you know, you have to ask, what use are pilots without licenses - Kiran.

CHETRY: All right. Jeanne Meserve for us following this story and the latest developments on it. Thank you.

ROBERTS: We're also following breaking news out of Pakistan this morning where Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived overnight unannounced. Her visit coincided with a brazen and deadly attack by militants. Just hours ago, a car bomb tore through a packed market in Peshawar killing at least 70 people. Authorities say more than 150 people are being treated for injuries.

Our Reza Sayah is live in the capital of Islamabad for us this morning and he's got the very latest.

Good morning, Reza.

REZA SAYAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. Yes, this is a bad one. Pakistan this year has seen a lot of deadly attacks. None of them has been as deadly as the one that took place in Peshawar, the capital of northwest frontier province about three hours ago.

The numbers are staggering. Officials telling CNN at least 70 people have been killed. At least 150 people were injured. They say this was a car bomb packed with about 150 kilograms of explosives and the numbers are high, they say, because where this explosion took place, the explosion taking place at a very busy, congested market area right near some shops that sold fabric and cotton and these details are horrible but officials say these fabrics caught on fire and many of the victims burned to death.

Pictures from the scene are just awful, showing chaos and destruction. Many civilians helping carry victims away from the drabble. Of course, this attack coming just about four hours after the arrival of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Islamabad. Of course, part of her agenda during her trip is going to be to press and pressure Pakistan to get tough and do more against militancy. But again today, in Peshawar, northwest Pakistan we see one of the challenges, difficulties, this administration in Islamabad facing when fighting militancy.

They can launch all the offenses they want. They're doing so in South Waziristan targeting the Taliban, but the Taliban continues to hit back with these types of attacks and the ones who are suffering here in Pakistan are the civilians again. Seventy people killed in the latest attack today. At least 150 people injured, John.

ROBERTS: Terrible scene there in Peshawar. We've got some pictures of the secretary of state. She is there in Islamabad speaking behind a podium there.

I guess it's safe to assume that one of the things she'll be talking about today is this aid package that the United States has offered to the Pakistani government, civilian aid package that is predicated on the civilian government showing that it is control of the military and the military showing gains in its fight against terrorism. That package initially received a lot of opposition there in Pakistan. What are people saying about it now?

SAYAH: Well, it still is. And that really illustrates the mistrust that exists here between these two countries. This is a package that according to the U.S. is offering social and economic aid to Pakistan that many here in Pakistan simply don't want it. The perception among many Pakistanis is this is another attempt by Washington to micromanage and interfere, and it shows you the difficult challenge that Secretary of State Clinton faces here in Pakistan.

Secretary of State Clinton, the Obama administration are convinced that this region, Pakistan and Afghanistan is the central front in the war against extremism. They believe that extremists at this moment are planning and plotting the next attack on U.S. soil. That's why they're pressuring Pakistan to do more against the militants but the pressure is really inflaming anti-Americanism here.

A recent survey shows that three out of five Pakistanis believe the U.S. is a greater threat than the Taliban. A tall order. A lot of work to do for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton here today, John.

ROBERTS: Reza Sayah for us live in Islamabad this morning. Reza, we should point out that the death toll in that blast in Peshawar now up to 90.

CHETRY: Just a terrible situation there. We're going to continue to cover the latest from both Afghanistan and Pakistan but now at ten minutes after the hour, some other stories new this morning here at home.

Congress one step closer to extending unemployment benefits. Many Republicans joining with Democrats yesterday to support the legislation that would extend the checks by 14 weeks. These are for people whose money was going run out at the end of the year. All that's needed now is a final vote in the Senate.

Meantime, people living in 27 states where the unemployment rate is above 8.5 percent will get another six weeks on top of the 14.

ROBERTS: Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin filing her final financial statement with the state of Alaska. Records show that she received at least $1.25 million in advance payments for her upcoming memoir "Going Rogue." Palin also listed gifts that she got while in office including more than $4,000 worth of Yankees tickets and woman's hunting gear. The book is already selling well online.

CHETRY: Well, sex in exchange for World Series tickets? Police say that a Phillies fan took her passion to a whole new level in an ad on Craigslist that read, "Die-hard Phillies fan, gorgeous, tall, buxom blonde in desperate need of two World Series tickets. Price negotiable. I'm the creative type."

So, police say they made contact with the woman and that she offered to perform various sex acts in exchange for the tickets. That Phillies fan has now been charged with prostitution.

ROBERTS: Sort of reinforces Sheriff Tom Dart's belief that there are some ads on that Web site that are fronts for things other than they're purported to be.

CHETRY: You know, you love the game of baseball, but man.

ROBERTS: How far are you going to go for a pair of tickets to the World Series? I don't know.

Apparently they're not going for as high a price in New York as they might be because of the weather. People thinking that they might not play the game tonight. So the price of tickets has actually gone down.

Senator Joe Lieberman says no to a public option. What's that going to do to the Senate's plan? Our Dana Bash's report is coming up.

It's 12 minutes after the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. And there's the Capitol building in the dark this morning. Some people say it's that way all day long.

Right now, it's 57 degrees going up to 68. Keep the umbrellas handy though because showers are in the forecast this morning.

No, we're just kidding. The light will eventually come up on the Capitol building.

CHETRY: Well, in the make or break debate over health care reform, the public option is in, that, means a key senator is out. The defection by Connecticut's Joe Lieberman could be a crushing blow to Democratic leaders who have really little wiggle room when it comes to getting a health care bill passed in the senate. They need every vote.

Our senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash is following developments from Capitol Hill. DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John and Kiran, the halls here in the Capitol have been buzzing with reporters like me talking to Democratic senators trying to nail down whether the senate Democratic leader has the votes for his health care plan and Democrat-turned-independent Joe Lieberman gave a surprisingly blunt answer.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH (voice-over): Anyone who thought Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's new health care bill with a public option could ultimately pass the Senate didn't talk to Joe Lieberman.

SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (I), CONNECTICUT: If, at the end, it - it's not what I think is good for our country and most people living in our country, then I'll vote against culture (ph) and I'll join a filibuster and I'll try to stop the bill from passing.

BASH: Lieberman says he'll try to block any kind of government- run health care option from passing the Senate, even if it allows states to opt out.

LIEBERMAN: It's still a government-run health insurance plan that puts the federal taxpayer on the line and I don't want to do that at this point of our nation's history.

BASH: But the Independent senator did give Democrats one piece of good news - he will vote yes to start the health care debate.

LIEBERMAN: We've got to begin a debate on health insurance reform and we've got to do something on health insurance reform this year. That's different from the merits of the bill.

BASH: Lieberman with his complicated calculus is Exhibit A of how uncertain a government-run health insurance option still is in the Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid needs 60 votes to do anything, and with 60 Democrats and Independents in the Senate, there are likely no votes to spare.

SEN. BEN NELSON (D), NEBRASKA: I'm not a fan of the government- run public option.

BASH: Democrat Ben Nelson is another wild card. He hasn't told party leaders whether they'll get his vote at all.

NELSON: No secret handshake, no wink, no indication whatsoever. But then, I haven't decided and I can't decide until I see the actual physical bill, get a chance to review it, and then I can make the decision.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: Several other Conservative Democrats are withholding their support too, especially Democratic senators facing tough reelection battles in states where voters are very wary of a government-run health care option. That's why senior Democratic sources say it is still unclear how they can muster enough votes even to start debate on the health care bill next month - John and Kiran.

ROBERTS: Dana Bash for us this morning. Dana, thanks so much.

Christine Romans, "Minding Your Business" this morning straight ahead. You know, there were some bright spots in the house and market home sales were up. It looks like high foreclosure rates are spreading to some new metro areas. She'll be telling us all about that.

Eighteen minutes after the hour now.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Christine Romans, "Minding Your Business" this morning at 21 minutes after the hour. And just when things were starting to look a little brighter in the housing market, maybe some dark clouds ahead.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: It's interesting because the housing market, there's the stabilization of prices. You're seeing home sales start to increase - existing home sales starting to increase, but on the other hand of it, on the foreclosure end of it, it's just this pipeline full of homes that are being foreclosed on, and that doesn't change.

You know, every quarter I gave you the realty track numbers. What's new this time? Well, what's new is that that the foreclosure problem is still intractable and - and devastating, and it's - it's spreading. It's spreading to secondary areas now.

Here are the worst hit cities, and some good news, believe it or not, in some of these cities is - Las Vegas for example, 1 in 20 homes in some stage of foreclosure. Merced, California - that's actually - it's actually improving a little bit in Merced. Stockton and Modesto also, the foreclosure rates year over year down just a bit but still, I mean, really, really high.

Then here are the new hot spots, as RealtyTrac calls them, for the third quarter of 2009. Boise City, Idaho and Provo, Utah, very high unemployment level's the problem there. Salt Lake City, Utah, Chico, California, Reno, Nevada, so the - the neighbor, if you will, of Las Vegas, Reno, that second city in Nevada now starting to see some of the problems as well.

The people over at RealtyTrac say these option arm resets, these adjust for rate mortgages that are going to be resetting over the next few months mean you're going to see more of these coming in, more coming into the pipeline and this is still - you know, at the top end you're starting to see people use their homebuyer credit, right, and buy a home, but here at the other end you're still seeing job less - job losses still a problem and still a very big stain of foreclosure spreading across the map.

ROBERTS: And with those tax breaks scheduled to end at the end of the year, too, could we then see another, second dip?

ROMANS: You might be able to, but there's two different kinds of a market, really. There's first-time homebuyers who are completely different from this other part of funky mortgages that are changing now and you've also got this - this job problem, this one here.

CHETRY: Right. It looks like Congress is trying to do something about both things, possibly extending the homebuyer credit and also extending moving through the Senate right now to extend credits for unemployment benefits.

ROMANS: Right. And you know that they're looking at things like the foreclosure crisis when they're talking about those things, actually.

ROBERTS: Christine Romans, "Minding Your Business" this morning. Thanks.

CHETRY: Thanks, Christine. Well, still ahead, the devastation of the tsunami that hit in American Samoa and Samoa last month. Well, you know, there were supposed to be warning. There were not. Drew Griffin is looking into what went wrong.

Twenty-three minutes after the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

This is what it looked like in the streets of American Samoa a month ago as the tiny island in the South Pacific was run over by a wall of water. Surveillance video showing cars and trucks being tossed around like toys.

CHETRY: And (INAUDIBLE) died in that killer wave, and they didn't have any warning, but they were supposed to. In fact, we paid for it.

Drew Griffin of our special investigations unit went all the way to the island looking for answers.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE UNIT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On a Saturday morning, villagers in Leone, American Samoa hold funeral mass for the 33rd victim of this tsunami. Outside the packed church, the village remains in ruins. A boy is still missing here.

One village over, flowers mark the spot where two more died.

GRIFFIN (on camera): Nobody sent out a warning?

FIDELIS LEOTA, LEONE VILLAGE CHIEF: No warning at all. That was just...

GRIFFIN: That's why people die. LEOTA: That's why people die.

GRIFFIN: We decide to investigate why the United States government has sent millions and millions of dollars to this island to prepare for an emergency that they weren't prepared for.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Records show U.S. taxpayers have shelled out nearly $13 million in disaster preparedness grants since 2003 and yet no sirens, no warning system and 34 dead. And, to our surprise, the highest ranking official here on this American territory, an island of 68,000 people, the governor, says there was a study but never a plan for a warning system.

GOV. TOGIOLA TULAFONO, AMERICAN SAMOA: I was trying to get verification of what happened to that application, but I wasn't able to get the definite information.

GRIFFIN: This man says he has all of the information the governor says he lacks. His name is Birdy (ph) Alailima, and he worked for the governor as Samoa's homeland security adviser. He was fired two years ago in 2007. Today, Birdy (ph) lives with son in the U.S., and he insist he was testing and preparing the very warning system the governor seems to know little about.

So what happened? Birdy (ph) says some of the money from U.S. taxpayers for Samoan homeland security went missing. He says the government of Samoa was using that money to pay salaries of what he calls extra personnel.

(on camera): You're speaking like a bureaucrat. When you say keeping personnel put on the payroll, me, being from Chicago, think, I'm rewarding my cronies with a job.

BIRDSALL ALAILIMA, FORMER SAMOAN HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISER: Well, in some ways, yes.

GRIFFIN: Not just new jobs. U.S. homeland security investigators reported emergency money instead was being spent on fancy extras like plasma TVs, expensive leather furniture and government SUVs not used for emergencies. So the U.S. stopped the free money train. It froze the Samoan preparedness accounts.

Gov. Togiola Tulafono claims ever since his hands have been tied.

TULAFONO: I say work with us. We're not bad people. We're not crooked people.

GRIFFIN: Since 1995, the U.S. has sent $2 billion to American Samoa. That, while the U.S. officially describes American Samoa as, quote, "high risk for receiving federal funds."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GRIFFIN: Truth show (ph) for it, and now we have learned the FBI is investigating just why that warning system was never installed and, John and Kiran, why a second system of radios was supposedly purchased, but, guess what? That didn't work either. Why the American Samoa is the only U.S. territory or island not considered tsunami-ready despite having millions of dollars in homeland security money just for that single purpose.

CHETRY: Yes. It is amazing. Great investigation. Such a tragedy that happened there last month. Drew Griffin, thank you.

Well, the president of Afghanistan's brother is reportedly on the CIA payroll. "The New York Times" is reporting that Ahmed Wali Karzai was receiving regular payments from the agency for much of the past eight years. The paper says he paid for a variety of services, including helping to recruit an Afghan paramilitary force that operates at the CIA's direction. The CIA is declining to comment to CNN about the report.

ROBERTS: More and more children and teens taking drugs for conditions like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and autism tend to put on a substantial amount of weight. According to a new study, some packed on nearly 20 pounds and a third became obese within just 11 weeks of taking the drugs. Researchers say the weight gain makes them more prone to heart problems as adults.

CHETRY: After a day of weather delays, NASA is going to give it a go one more time to launch the -- well, more than one more time, but they are going to try again to launch the Ares 1-X rocket at Kennedy Space Center. They're hoping for a liftoff around 8:45 Eastern.

The launch window stays open until noon but again, just like yesterday, weather could be a problem today. NASA says it's hoping the world's largest rocket will be able to replace the shuttle program and become the next generation of American space travel.

ROBERTS: And CNN equals politics, elections coming up. There are two high profile governor races next Tuesday in Virginia and New Jersey. And both could end up being a referendum on President Obama.

To Virginia first where President Obama won last year. The latest "Washington Post" poll has Republican Bob McConnell nine points ahead of Democrat Creigh Deeds.

And in New Jersey, President Obama also won there in last year's election. Three candidates in the governor's race there. The polls show it's a close fight between the incumbent, John Corzine and Republican challenger, Chris Christie.

Here to help us break down these races and what we can expect to see in a week's time, author and conservative columnist, Tony Blankley, along with Democratic strategist Kiki McLean.

So let's take a look first of all at Virginia. Bob McConnell out polling Creigh Deeds, at one point it was in double digits. It seems to have narrowed just a little bit, as we mentioned. President Obama the first Democrat to win that state in 40 years in the presidential side. Five out of the last seven Virginia governors have been Democrats. Tony Blakely, what's going on in that state? TONY BLANKLEY, AUTHOR, "AMERICAN GRIT": Well, first you have to know that in these situations, both parties will always say that if they lose it was because of local circumstances and a bad candidate. And if they win it's because of national trends. So that's sort of the lens through which to watch all of the commentary.

In fact, Deeds has been a pretty poor candidate, I think. I'm a Virginian. I follow the election a little bit more closely than out of state elections. And McConnell, I think, has run a good campaign.

I should disclose I've contributed a couple hundred bucks to the McConnell campaign. Not a lot but I am for McConnell.

I think the most interesting thing was what the White House started saying last week which was they sort of started disowning the campaign and even as the president was getting ready to campaign there yesterday, which is very undercutting. But we've seen this before when White Houses expect the loss and they're trying to cut the implications of the loss by undercutting the candidate they're supporting.

ROBERTS: Well, Kiki McLean, talk to us a little bit about that. You know, Tony said that Creigh Deeds did not run a terrific campaign. There would be some agreement from the White House on that. They think that he didn't follow their advice. President Obama's support for him has been, I guess you could say tepid probably.

Why didn't the White House get more firmly behind him because wouldn't it send a very big signal if the state that they carried in November and the one that's got two democratic senators in it suddenly had a Republican governor?

KIKI MCLEAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, you know, the biggest gift the White House can give a candidate is the time on the president's calendar, which they actually did give the Deeds campaign this week.

I think one of the things that's meant to do is to help trigger sort of some of those voters from the Obama surge last year into this game. You had a lot of new voters last year in the presidential campaign. One of the questions will be will they come back and perform again and again. Traditionally, voting in the off year, and remember this is unique, the way New Jersey and Virginia vote this year for their governor's races, will they come back in an off year. Traditionally, they don't necessarily do that. Hopefully, the Obama appearance will trigger some of that support for Deeds.

But, you know, Tony raises an interesting point -- pardon me, which is that it is -- you know, people have this debate constantly about national trends, local issues. Governors races in particular, it's not so much who won or lost as it is governors races are really about a job for a CEO locally. In a week, you could see it close because we don't really know how Virginia performs anymore. And I think what you're seeing in New Jersey with Governor Corzine where an incumbent governor in a really difficult economy is battling his way back. And I actually think that's good news. And I would say to you that folks over at the Republican National Committee are also saying why can't we make more inroads. There's been so much controversy this year. Why can't we get further? So each side will spin it their way but, you know, ultimately, you have to wait and see what happens on Tuesday.

BLANKLEY: Yes. You know, obviously in New Jersey the big story is it's a three-way race and the third candidate is drawing support. So basically, the Republican candidate, Christi, has been slipping pretty steadily.

The governor, the incumbent, has not been going up much if anything. But the votes have been going from Christi who was ahead by high single digits, to the third candidate. We'll see whether those votes stick at the end or whether they go back to one of the two primary candidates.

ROBERTS: All right, and talking about races where there are more than one person or two people in it, let's go to upstate New York to the 23rd congressional district, Tony, where you've two Republicans running, Dede Scozzafava and Doug Hoffman. Scott Fab (ph) is the moderate. Hoffman is the conservative. Sarah Palin and Tim Pawlenty have come out in favor of Hoffman, saying that "nothing less is at stake here than the future of the party."

And you've got a split in the Republican Party here and particularly in New York but really across the country on ideology and which way the party needs to go. Do you move more conservative or do you move to the moderate side of things?

BLANKLEY: It's less ideology, I think, than tactics. I did my column on that this week. My old boss, Newt, and I split views on this. The normal procedure if you're a party person is you support the nominee of your party. And that way you expect when your side wins, you know -- if the Conservatives win a nomination, you get the Moderates to support you. If the Moderates win the nomination, you get the Conservatives.

But what's happening now is this tremendous passion, this anti- Obama passion that's rising out of the town halls etc. and it's just getting stronger. The Republican Party is having a fight over whether to fully embrace that or keep their distance from it. And it hasn't been decided.

Now, if the third-party conservative candidate wins, I think that will probably decisively drive a lot of Republican establishment people to recognize this is a season to be very ideological and high in arching in your rhetoric. If either the Democrat wins or the standard Republican wins in New York 23, then I think the fight goes on for another round.

MCLEAN: You know, it's -- oh, go ahead.

ROBERTS: No, go ahead, Kiki. I beg your pardon.

MCLEAN: Well, what I was going to say is let's not forget there is a Democrat in the race there. This is a long held Republican seat. And I think what it's really a demonstration of is a lack of leadership in the Republican Party at all. And that's where you have a group of National Republicans who have their own self-interest at stake about their own presidential prospects. So Newt Gingrich in one place, Pawlenty in another, Romney staying out of it completely.

And so, I think what you see frankly is a lack of leadership. And it's clear that there's not somebody in the party saying, "Here's our vision. Here's where we're going. Let's get behind candidates who represent that move."

BLANKLEY: I mean that's the natural state when the president's party has a leader, it's called the president and the opposition party doesn't have a leader because they have 50 senators. And so, it's almost always the case.

MCLEAN: Tony, you may want to call leadership offices over there. The minority leaders may find that a little offensive.

BLANKLEY: Now, look, you know the history that no party other than I'd argue Newt in '94 and the Jayhawks before the War of 1812 where you ever had real coherence in a party that was not led by a president. That's not in the nature of American politics.

ROBERTS: I'll tell you one thing. It's great to be back in the political season, no question about it.

Tony Blankley and Kiki Mclean, great to talk to you. Thanks so much.

BLANKLEY: Thank you.

MCLEAN: Thank you.

ROBERTS: Isn't it good to be back, you know, the rough and tumble of the campaign?

CHETRY: Yes, of course, of course. You need something to liven things up a little bit there in Washington.

Well, still ahead, we're also talking about the swine flu vaccine. Here on AMERICAN MORNING, we've been tracking it, giving you the latest information about how many states it's spread to. And now, there are some who are still worried about the side effects while others are waiting in long lines afraid they're not going to be able to get the vaccine. Mary Snow looks into all of it.

Three and half minutes past the hour.

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CHETRY: Here at AMERICAN MORNING, we've been tracking the latest information on the swine flu for you. The CDC is saying that both H1N1 and the seasonal flu are now widespread across 46 states. The Education Department also saying that 114 schools were closed yesterday in 12 states. More than 40,000 kids missed classes due to illness. Health officials are promising more shipments of the swine flu vaccine are on their way, but as Mary Snow reports, a lot of people are worried about its safety.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John and Kiran, we've talked to doctors who say despite all of the public assurances, there's still a lot of anxiety among their patients about the H1N1 vaccine. So we took a look at some of the most common fears to try to get answers.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW (voice-over): It's clear many people do want the H1N1 vaccine, willing to stand in line for hours to get it. But there's still a significant number of people who don't want it. A recent CNN Opinion Research Corporation Poll finds 43 percent of those surveyed don't think the swine flu vaccine is safe. Count 24-year-old Chantal Boyd in that camp.

CHANTAL BOYD, CONCERNED ABOUT SWINE FLU VACCINE: My biggest problem with the vaccine is I don't know what the side effects of it are. So I don't want to take something I don't know what might happen to me.

SNOW: Health officials say they see no proof of any damaging side effects and have conducted clinical trials. They do say there may be a sore arm after the shot.

Columbia University's Dr. Irwin Redlener adds...

DR. IRWIN REDLENER, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: It's as safe as a vaccine can possibly be and the risk of getting ill far outweigh the risk of anything that might be seen with the vaccine itself.

SNOW: Some question how the vaccine was made, including Jennifer Litman.

JENNIFER LITMAN, CONCERNED ABOUT SWINE FLU VACCINE: I do because it was so hastily made and it hasn't been really tested yet.

SNOW: Not true say health officials who are repeatedly asked about the process.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: This is the way we made vaccine every year for seasonal flu. So it's a time honored process. So the vaccine that we're having this year in many ways is very similar in how you make it. In fact, identical to what we've been doing over decades and decades of seasonal flu.

SNOW: And among pregnant women, a concern is taking a vaccine with thimerosal, an additive containing mercury found in some but not all vaccines. Questions have been raised about possible links to autism although repeated studies have found no proof of that.

Dr. Jacques Moritz has had seasonal flu shots that don't contain thimerosal and is hoping to soon get the H1N1 vaccine made without it as well. DR. JACQUES MORITZ, DIRECTOR OF GYNECOLOGY, ROOSEVELT HOSPITAL: I don't think a lot of pregnant women are going to accept the thimerosal containing one even though there's no proof it does anything. They won't take any chance with their child.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: When Thimerosal is in a vaccine, it's usually in multi dose vials not single dose vials. And if you're concerned about it and you're not pregnant, the other alternative is a nasal spray -- John and Kiran.

CHETRY: All right, Mary Snow for us this morning.

By the way, the Obama girls did get their swine flu shots as well. And the president and the first lady saying they waited just like everybody else. Their school district received it.

ROBERTS: What about you? Have you been offered a swine flu shot yet?

CHETRY: No. Have you?

ROBERTS: No, but I think it may be too late.

CHETRY: You don't have swine flu. You have a cold that turns into bronchitis, I think.

ROBERTS: Yes, I got something. Thank you, Dr. Chetry.

CHETRY: I thought you were going to say thank you Typhoid Chetry since I'm the one that gave you a cold in the first place, right?

ROBERTS: Finally, you've admitted it.

CHETRY: I got it originally. I got it from Christine Romans. So, you know, it's like a round and round here.

ROBERTS: Certainly, in the Northeast, the weather isn't helping anybody to feel better particularly with game one of the world series tonight. What's the weather going to be like? Will they be able to play it at Yankee stadium? Our Rob Marciano coming up with the forecast, and snow in the Rocky Mountains as well. How good will the skiing be? Forty-five minutes after the hour.

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ROBERTS: Do not adjust your sets. There's nothing wrong with your picture. This is a shot of the top of the Time Warner Center here in New York looking out, and it's so foggy and so horrible here in New York City that you cannot see anything. Fifty-two degrees and light rain right now. Fifty-five with rain later on today which of course raises the speculation that game one of the World Series may have to be postponed.

CHETRY: Is it in question? And I saw that shot and said who turned out the lights this morning? All of the lights on all of those buildings in New York City and that's what we see.

ROBERTS: And that's what you see. Our Rob Marciano tracking the extreme weather forecast across the country. We got the crud in the Northeast, and you got some stuff across the Rocky Mountain States, too. Rob--

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yeah. It's a little bit wet but I wouldn't call it crud out there to go. You have a lot of snow, that's for sure. How much rain will you folks get in New York? It's not as bad as it could be, I supposed. There's already been a ton, and as you mentioned, a lot of moisture on the ground there. But, the back edge of the precip shield is starting to get in view of New York City. And I think we should be okay as far as getting this game on the air.

I'll tell you if you can hit the space bar for me on gustah (ph). We'll get this thing cranking just a little bit. In the meantime, let's show you what the big map is showing. So, there's your low. It's going to move off to the East, hopefully, fairly quickly. This one has brought dangerous winds to Southern California and Arizona yesterday, and today it's going to bring dangerous snows, I think, to parts of the Colorado Rockies. Just how much? Twelve to 36 inches of snow.

A major winter storm in late October, and Denver will get several inches, if not, up to a foot of snow and I think that is an area that will probably see some travel delays. So, Denver, yes. Snow and wind. Atlanta, Charlotte, some low clouds and fog right now. New York City, Metros, Boston, and Philly will also see a little bit clouds and fog, but I think we'll probably get the game in. How dry it will be? That's another factor as far as the launch is concerned.

Trying to get this puppy up in the air today again. 8:00 to noon is the launch window. Weather is not looking any better today. As a matter of fact, it looks a little worse. So, I'll keep you posted on whether we can launch the Ares 1-X rocket up into -- not so much space but pretty darn close to it. John and Kiran back up to you.

CHETRY: What do you have more riding on your mind, the Yankees or the future of space exploration in the United States?

MARCIANO: I think, you know, the more immediate concern would be that of the Yankees tonight.

ROBERTS: As long as they can launch the balls.

CHETRY: Rob, thanks so much. We're going to get a glimpse when we come back into what could be the hotel of the future. Voice commands, curved surfaces, soft mood lighting. You'll never want to leave, right? We'll show you. Fifty minutes past the hour.

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ROBERTS: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. You can check that any time you like but you really can never see it. For all of your road warriors, the hotel wet bar, the bathrobe, the spa tub may soon be create your comforts of the past.

CHETRY: That's right. A new hotel industry is looking to the future with some pretty far-out ideas. Our Jim Boulden is checking it out in this morning's "Edge of Discovery."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM BOULDEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is my hotel room today. Comfortable bed. Nice mini bar. Wide-screen television. But, fast forward a few years, and our hotel room could look like this.

Complete with voice commands, curved surfaces and soothing lights, this is what we travelers might find in our hotel rooms in 2020. It's part of a research project in Germany where hotel chains can test new ideas. The goal here is a room as soothing to the mind as it is pleasing to the eye. Like beds that gently rock you to sleep, and infrared lightning that could rejuvenate your skin. And if you're wondering about light switches, there aren't any.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the hotel room of the future, there will be no light switches. Instead, we will use sensors.

VANESSA BORKMANN, FUTUREHOTEL: We have this intelligent floor, the sense floor. There are sensors all over the floors.

BOULDEN: They don't expect any one hotel to have all of this, but there could be a floor or two in top hotels with some of these options.

Jim Boulden, CNN, Duisburg, Germany.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS: Something a little "2001: A Space Odyssey" about that.

CHETRY: I know.

ROBERTS: But it's interesting.

CHETRY: It looks a little bit medically, doesn't it. It's like all white. It looks like you're in a lab.

ROBERTS: Yeah. It's a very futuristic. No question about that.

Hillary Clinton, the secretary of state, touched down in Pakistan early today. A surprise visit. Her mission and what she hopes to accomplish coming right up. Fifty-five minutes after the hour.

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CHETRY: Just three and a half minutes before the top of the hour. And coming up on the Most News in the Morning, the FAA has now yanked to the licenses of those Northwest Airlines pilots who overshot their landing last week by 150 miles. In just five minutes, Jeanne Meserve with the government's claim that the crew on that plane put everyone's life at risk.

ROBERTS: That's three minutes to the top of the hour. We're back with "Most News in the Morning" and a warning first about our next story. The details of it are very disturbing. Police in Richmond, California, say that up to 20 people were involved in the brutal gang rape of a 15-year-old girl.

Two teens are behind bars and police say more will join them very soon. In fact, they are offering a $20,000 reward in the case. The horrible incident allegedly happened outside the school dance. Our Dan Simon went digging for answers and has some tough questions for police and school officials.

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: For two and a half hours, police say she was repeatedly raped and beaten. Two and a half hours. And it happened right under the noses of police officers, teachers, school administrators and other adults hired to make sure Richmond High School's homecoming dance went off without incident. What happened? How could everyone missed a gang rape happening on school grounds on their watch?

As far as you know, nobody walked around outside of the school to see if anything was happening?

CHARLES RAMSEY, WEST CONTRA COSTA SCHOOL BOARD MEMBER: Obviously, they didn't because the student was gang raped for two and a half hours from 9:30 to midnight. And so, I'm certain of that that there was no surveillance done.

SIMON: Charles Ramsey is a 16-year member of the district school board. He says procedures weren't followed. Procedures that require active surveillance during school events.

Why didn't anybody at the school bother to go outside and look around and see what may have been going on?

RAMSEY: I haven't been told that yet. I mean, this just happened over the weekend. I have to look into that and find out. I can't speak to what the motives and rationales, but I believe, from what I'm hearing that people felt the dance was going well. People were having fun. That everybody who was there was in the building and that they had closed the doors and so the situation will be contained, and this girl had left so they didn't know that she had returned or came back. Should we have anticipated it? Yes. I believe that you have to anticipate any potential problem.

SIMON: Here's what we know. The dance took place inside the high school gym and the victim left around 9:00 p.m. to be picked up by her father. Instead, a friend asked her to walk with him towards the back alley on the other side of school. And that's apparently where they were greeted by others with alcohol.

The area has no lights. No surveillance cameras either. They have been ordered but not installed yet. Another reason why Ramsey says it should have been searched. Not to mention the high school has a history of violence on campus. And Richmond itself is considered one of the most dangerous cities in California.

RAMSEY: The elected officials are going to share in the responsibility and say that we probably could have done better.

SIMON: And if what happened here couldn't get anymore troubling, listen to this. Police think as many as ten people might have been involved in the rape, and another ten just stood by and watched. Why didn't they help? Why didn't they call 911? Right now, police have no idea.

Police arrested the 15-year-old boy who led the victim to the alley. His name withheld because he's a minor, also in custody, 19- year-old Manual Ortega, a former Richmond high student. Neither has been formally charged.

What we also know is that during the two and a half hours that this crime was going on, several people came and saw what was going on and either left and didn't report it to the police or stayed and observed, and in some cases participated in her gang rape. The victim, found unconscious, was hospitalized with nonlife threatening injuries as a community wonders how a high school homecoming could turn into such madness.

Dan Simon, CNN, Richmond, California.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS: That is just an unbelievable story.

CHETRY: It sure is. We're going to have to see where the investigation goes. And also there's a law that says if you observe a crime and don't report it against a minor that you also can be arrested. However, the age is 14, and in this situation, the victim, they believe, is 15.

ROBERTS: So a very narrowly written law perhaps not playing in her favor.