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AMERICAN MORNING

Health Care Bill Narrowly Passes House; New Information Surfaces About Fort Hood Shooter; Wall Street Execs Receiving Large Bonuses Comparable to Prerecession Levels; Fort Hood Soldier Who Was Shot Ready to be Deployed to Afghanistan; A Look at Mitt Romney, GOP Candidate in Waiting

Aired November 9, 2009 - 07:00   ET

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


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Good Monday morning to you. Thanks for joining us on the Most News in the Morning. It is November the 9th. I'm John Roberts.

ALINA CHO, CNN ANCHOR: It's Monday. Good morning, John. Good morning, everybody. I'm Alina Cho. Kiran Chetry has the morning off. Here are the big stories we're going to be telling you about in the next 15 minutes.

The Gulf Coast bracing for the impact of hurricane Ida. The storm is already responsible for more than 120 deaths in El Salvador. Right now, warnings are up from Mississippi to Florida and a state of emergency is in effect in Louisiana. Our Reynolds Wolf is tracking the storm for us. He'll be live in just a minute.

ROBERTS: New developments this morning is investigators scour the record of the accused Fort Hood gunman. We're learning he has ties to the same mosque as two of the 9/11 hijackers. Also, questions continue to mount about warning signs that might have been missed. We're live in Fort Hood, Texas this morning.

CHO: Plus, after some pretty good returns at the polls in off- year election, there's new life in the GOP. So, who will take a run at the White House in 2012? It's never too early to look at it. We're looking at the short list in our brand-new in depth series, "GOP, The Next Chapter." Up first, Mitt Romney. That's straight ahead right here on "AMERICAN MORNING."

We begin this hour with a developing story, and the Gulf Coast on edge as Hurricane Ida pushes closer to the United States. The storm lost some of its punch overnight, downgraded to a category one with 80 mile an hour winds, but that's still a pretty strong storm.

Hurricane and tropical storm warnings are up from Mississippi to Florida. Louisiana taking no chances there, Governor Bobby Jindal already declaring a state of emergency.

Our Reynolds Wolf is live at the Weather Center in Atlanta. What is the latest Reynolds? When could this storm make landfall and where?

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It could make landfall about 24 hours from now along parts of the Alabama state coast. That spot would be right about here, and you'll notice it still has a way before this center of circulation reaches the coast.

I'll tell you a couple things working against the storm. One thing would be relatively cool water, water temperatures as we get closer to the coast are actually going to be in the 70s, not in the 80s. You could have some of that sheer that could really test the strength of this storm.

Right now, still winds at 80 gusting to 118 miles per hour. And the threshold, remember, right at 74 miles per hour, so once it drops to 73, it will be classified as a tropical storm. There's a good chance it could weaken to that.

As you were mentioning, we have at this time, all along the Gulf Coast enhanced surf, and not only that, this will be a big rain event for a lot of people.

Take a look at where the storm is expected to go according to the National Hurricane Center. As we get to 1:00 a.m. on Tuesday morning, about 80 mile per hour winds sustained. Then as it gets close to the coast, landfall around 6:00 a.m. just due west, Pensacola, could see it as a strong tropical storm and then making its way along parts of the I-10 corridor.

We have watches and warnings in effect of flood warnings all the way from say parts of the Gulf Coast clear up to the Atlanta, Georgia, area where you could see anywhere from three to six inches of rainfall.

We could see this go into a major flooding situation for parts of the east and places that just a month or so ago were inundated by extreme flood waters.

We'll keep an eye on it for you. Let's send it back to you.

CHO: In the short term, it's going to be a busy 24 hours for you, Reynolds. Thank you so much for that update. We appreciate it.

ROBERTS: Turning now to health care reform and a small victory for Democrats. Their version of health care reform complete with a government run public insurance option finally passed out of the House, barely.

But you won't see much celebrating this morning. The measure in its current form is all but doomed before it gets anywhere near the Senate.

Brianna Keilar is live in Washington for us this morning. What becomes of the House bill, Brianna, and the debate over health care reform now?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The next step, as you said, John, is the Senate. And Democratic leaders there are struggling to find support for that government-run insurance plan, even one that is significantly more watered down than the one that passed the House this weekend.

This is the reality that will quickly dampen Democrats' spirit after Saturday's historic and very narrow vote.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR: After a weekend of arm-twisting, it was praise from the president.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Moments like this are why they sent us here, to finally meet the challenges that Washington has put off for decades, to make their lives better and this nation stronger.

KEILAR: When the final vote was tallied, Democrats cheered. Across the aisle, silence. And after the vote, the leader of the Republican National Committee came out swinging against the bill's government-run insurance plan.

MICHAEL STEELE, RNC CHAIRMAN: This is a government takeover of our health care system and it is unnecessary.

KEILAR: The bill would extend insurance coverage to 36 million uninsured Americans. It would create a government-run insurance program and require every American to buy insurance or pay a fine.

Businesses with payrolls over $5,000 would be required to offer employees insurance or pay a fine. It would expand Medicaid and give federal subsidies to low-income or middle-class Americans to help them buy insurance.

The bill would also stop insurance companies from denying coverage because of a preexisting condition or dropping people when they get sick.

REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN, (D) MARYLAND: The message was clear -- it is time to begin to fix what has been a broken health care system for millions of Americans.

KEILAR: Nonpartisan Congressional number crunches estimate the House version would cost nearly $1.1 trillion over ten years. Cuts to Medicare and tax increases on wealthy Americans would pay for the provision.

Thirty-nine Democrats voted against the bill and only one Republican voted for it.

REP. MIKE PENCE, (R) INDIANA: Nancy Pelosi last night said that they were answering the call of history. I got to tell you, if Democrats keep ignoring the American people, their party's going to be history in about a year.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR: And those midterm elections are looming just around the corner, especially with that in mind, the government-run insurance plan, a really tough sell for moderate Democrats in the Senate just as in the House. And Senate leader Harry Reid is settled on a bill that includes a public option, John, but it would allow states to opt out of it, so a little weaker than the bill in the House.

ROBERTS: Brianna Keilar for us this morning from Washington. Brianna, thanks.

CHO: There are also new developments this morning in the shootings at Foot Hood -- 16 of the victims remain hospitalized at this hour, seven in intensive care.

The suspected shooter, meantime, Major Nidal Hasan, is off a ventilator and breathing on his oath.

Also this morning, the FBI is looking at whether Hasan attended the same suburban Washington mosque as two of the September 11th hijackers. And Senator Joseph Lieberman says he plans to launch hearings into the Foot Hood shootings to see if the army missed any critical warning signs.

Our David Mattingly is live in Foot Hood, Texas, for us this morning. Good morning, David. A lot to watch. What's the latest?

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alina.

Right now the army is trying to be very thorough in its investigation, making sure that every shot fired in that shooting rampage is accounted for.

In the meantime, they're making it very clear they have not yet determined the clear motive for these shootings.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATTINGLY: The intense investigation into the deadly Foot Hood shooting spree remains largely shrouded in silence. But it's clear this is a tragedy that hits too close to home.

JOHN ROSSI, FORT HOOD SPOKESMAN: The troubling part of it is it happened here in our own house. And that's the piece that most are troubled with right now is the location of where it happened and how could that happen.

MATTINGLY: The prime suspect, Major Nidal Hasan, removed from his ventilator, is breathing on his own and in critical condition. Outside Fort Hood, the FBI is seeking out Hasan's friends and fellow Muslims.

SAYED AHMED ALI, IMAM: On Wednesday night, there was a party dinner. I think six, seven people were invited. In that party, Nidal was also there. So he asked me who was there, can you give me the names? So I give the names to the FBI.

MATTINGLY: Osman Danquah, a co-founder of the mosque where Hasan prayed, tells the Associated Press that the army psychiatrist was deeply conflicted for months about his duty to the army and fighting against Muslims. Danquah says he told Hasan, "There's something wrong with you."

But did Hasan, a doctor working with post-traumatic stress patients, ever seek help from the army? His fellow officers are baffled.

COL. KIMBERLY KESLING, DARNALL MEDICAL CENTER: He cared for his patients and he cared for them well. And he was a valued member of our team.

MATTINGLY: Questions continue to mount about any warning signs that may have been missed.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Is there any record that he actually requested to be let go?

GEORGE CASEY, FORMER COMMANDING GENERAL, MULTI-NATIONAL FORCES IN IRAQ: John, again, I can't get into anything dealing with the motivations of the suspect. And that will all come out in the course of the investigation.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTINGLY: And the Army now concerned that any anger over these shootings might somehow translate into a backlash against Muslim soldiers. Top army officials being very vocal about that, trying to make sure that doesn't happen.

CHO: David Mattingly live in Foot Hood, Texas, for us. David, thank you.

ROBERTS: And here are some of the other top stories this morning.

Beltway sniper John Alan Muhammad scheduled to be executed tomorrow. He and a young accomplice killed ten people in a shooting spree that terrorized the nation's capital back in 2002. Ahead, an "A.M." original. Our Jeanne Meserve introduces us to a man who knew Muhammad and claims that those murders could have been prevented.

CHO: Well, it may not qualify as a trend, but we'll take it. I thought I noticed something at the gas pump yesterday. AAA is noting gas prices have dropped for a fourth straight day.

The national average for unleaded regular is now $2.66 a gallon. That's a penny less than yesterday and down three cents from last week.

Gas prices, though, are almost 20 cents higher than a month ago.

ROBERTS: And a lot of people took advantage of those cheap gas prices and drove out to the movie theater over the weekend. Christmas came early at the box office. Jim Carey's new move "A Christmas Carol" made $31 million in its debut weekend, number one at the box office. The Michael Jackson documentary "This is It" slipped to second place, followed by George Clooney in "The Men who Stare at Goats." CHO: That's an early debut for a Christmas movie. But, hey, $31 million is not bad.

ROBERTS: Every Christmas it's coming really early this year. They're trying to take advantage of every day they have.

CHO: As they probably should.

In the wake of the shootings at Foot Hood, that community, of course, along with the nation, really, is in mourning. There was a candlelight vigil over the weekend.

And we're also talking to one soldier who survived the brutal attack. We're going to have his story after the break.

It's ten minutes after the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHO: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. It's 12 minutes after the hour.

Despite the rough economic times for the rank and file, Wall Street set to hand out big bonuses, prerecession levels, right? Christine Romans is here.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: It's true. Be careful what you wish for. There was this populist outrage, right, about these cash bonuses, these performance bonuses that were based on who knows what, right? Just free money for all these rich people on Wall Street.

So then over the past year a lot of the big banks started changing things. They said we'll issue options or stock awards instead of just cash. That all happened when the market was in the tank.

Now it's been a decent year helped by your money, by your taxpayer money, the banks are coming back, and that means there is going to be a bonanza for bonuses. And this is just the way it is. You'll see huge bonuses from some of the big banks, banks that took your bailout money and then paid it back.

Among the biggest three banks that did that, including Goldman Sachs, there could be like $30 million in bonuses. Look at their stock performances.

So these banks executives say people are really mad about just giving cash to bankers, so we're going to give them stock. Well, this is what's happened in their stock performance so far this year -- up 50 percent for Goldman Sachs, up 28 percent for J.P. Morgan Chase.

Now Citi...

ROBERTS: Oops.

ROMANS: Yes.

ROBERTS: You want to be working for Sachs or J.P. Morgan. Bank of America's stock has gone up, too.

ROMANS: And Bank of America's stock has gone up, too.

Citi is kind of its own issue. This is the one we still own. We still own Citi. So they have to be careful.

But, I'm just sorry to say that be careful what you wish for, because Americans screamed and hollered and said we want these guys paid for performance. Well, performance has been pretty good this year with the help of your money, and so they're going to be paid pretty well.

ROBERTS: And a Romans' Numeral for us this morning?

ROMANS: Yes, $254,400.

ROBERTS: The average bonus at Goldman Sachs.

ROMANS: Yes. And the average median income in America is about $50,000. So put that in perspective.

I always get hate mail. It's not my fault. I'm just saying this is the way it's going to be. We pumped a lot of taxpayer money into these banks and saved them. Now they're going to reap the rewards.

ROBERTS: Christine Romans Minding your Business this morning. Christine, thanks so much.

Thursday afternoon Private Joe Foster was lining up to get medically certified to go to Afghanistan. Now there is a bullet wound in his hip. Joe and his wife, Mandy, join us coming up after right after the break to tell us more about that day and how they're doing now.

Stay with us. It's 14 minutes after the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Private Joe Foster is one of dozens of people who were wounded in the deadly shooting at Fort Hood last week. He was hit in the hip trying to save those around him, but he survived and he says that he is still ready for deployment to Afghanistan in January. Private Foster and his wife Mandy are here joining us live from Fort Hood this morning.

Private Foster, Mandy, it's great to see you this morning. First of all, Joe, let me say to you that we extend our most sincere condolences to you and the other -- your fellow members of your battalion and the entire Army family over what happened on Thursday, just such a terrible tragedy.

PVT. JOSEPH FOSTER, U.S. ARMY: Thank you. I appreciate that, sir.

ROBERTS: So how are you doing today, Joe? I saw you limping around over the weekend on a cane. How does the hip feel?

J. FOSTER: It's getting slowly but surely. My wife has been doing a real good job making sure I stay off of it.

ROBERTS: Right. And do you have to undergo any more operations or is that already been done?

J. FOSTER: I didn't actually have to undergo any operations. The bullet that hit me when it went in, it hit my femur and ricocheted and exited back out, not too far from the original wound.

ROBERTS: I had heard that you might have to have some bullet fragments removed. That you don't need to do that any more?

J. FOSTER: We're still pretty much I have to go back to the doctor and make sure there's no possibility that anything is caught in there or anything might have broken off the bullet be anywhere.

ROBERTS: Got you.

J. FOSTER: All right.

ROBERTS: So the first moments of Thursday afternoon, can you tell our viewers, you know, where you were, what happened, how it all unfolded?

J. FOSTER: I was sitting in what they call station 13, it's where we get, basically, our final outs of our RSP (ph) system and I was sitting in about the second row back when the assailant stood up, screamed and yelled Allah Akbar (ph) in Arabic and he opened fire.

ROBERTS: Really. So he did shout, Allah Akbar (ph) we heard reports of that, but nothing confirmed. But you were there, that's what you heard?

J. FOSTER: I believe so.

ROBERTS: Right.

J. FOSTER: I believe so, sir.

ROBERTS: So there was, there was absolutely just no warning about this? It just kind of happened out of the blue?

FOSTER: No warning, sir. If there was, you know, we're all trained. I'm pretty sure we would have taken care of it as soon as there was.

ROBERTS: I'm sure you were. Mandy, where were you when you first learned of the shooting and did you have any idea where Joe was at the time?

MANDY FOSTER, WIFE OF PVT. JOSEPH FOSTER: I was actually at home with our two children and, no, I did not know where he was at the time.

ROBERTS: Oh, my goodness. So how did you learn about it? M. FOSTER: I had a friend actually call and tell me there were shootings on Fort Hood.

ROBERTS: Oh, wow. And you didn't know that Joe was over at the processing center there. I mean, what was your reaction when you found out that he had actually been inside that melee?

M. FOSTER: Well, I didn't know he was there. I knew he was doing his paperwork and getting ready to deploy, but I didn't know that's where the shootings were happening at that time.

ROBERTS: Oh, my goodness. Joe, with you inside that building that we hear that call to revelry there at Fort Hood, you sprang into action when the shooter started firing off his rounds. What did you do?

J. FOSTER: Basic training protocols. Got down on the floor, moved to cover. One soldier had peeked his head around the cubicle I was hiding in, peeked his head around. I pulled him in.

Another soldier had come in as soon as the assailant had moved his way away from us. Those two got up. We then got out. I got out shortly behind him. After that, ran behind the (INAUDIBLE) and started doing what I was trained to do.

ROBERTS: Yes.

J. FOSTER: Started helping get people in to the next building, get them under cover.

ROBERTS: So you were acting like a soldier. You were acting heroically. We should point out that you're with the 20th Engineer Battalion and despite your best efforts and I guess the efforts of your comrades, as well, four members of the battalion were killed, 10 others were injured. And you were shot in the hip and you didn't realize it at the time?

J. FOSTER: I had realized it at first, but with that much adrenaline, you tend to forget things.

ROBERTS: Yes. I read over the weekend you said it was because of your tough nature. You say, I'm Irish, it hit the bone and it bounced out.

J. FOSTER: Pretty much. My mom said if it had been anywhere else, it would have just bounced off.

ROBERTS: Mandy, you know, I assume that you had concerns over his pending deployment, but did you ever think that anything like this could happen on post?

M. FOSTER: No, it was a real shock to find out that that happened.

ROBERTS: Wow.

M. FOSTER: It's terrifying.

ROBERTS: And, Joe, your thoughts on that, too. You know, Fort Hood is your home, it's where you train. It's supposed to be safe haven and, suddenly, what happened on Thursday just completely shatters the whole notion of that.

J. FOSTER: Well, sir, it's still home. I still consider myself pretty safe.

ROBERTS: Right.

J. FOSTER: This was something that couldn't be controlled. It was -- it was something that we couldn't predict was going to happen.

ROBERTS: And you're still scheduled for deployment in January?

J. FOSTER: Yes.

ROBERTS: And you're still scheduled for deployment in January, there, Joe. Has this affected at all your thoughts about going to Afghanistan?

J. FOSTER: I'm still a soldier day in and day out. I'll do my job.

ROBERTS: And, Mandy, how are you feeling about that?

M. FOSTER: At least he's safe there and he can fire back, right?

ROBERTS: At least he'll be able to do that if somebody comes after him.

Private Foster, Mandy Foster, it's so good to talk to you this morning. Again, our condolences. We're glad to hear that you're on the mend and take care of yourselves.

M. FOSTER: Thank you.

J. FOSTER: Thank you, sir.

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Just incredible. You know, I read in "The Times" over the weekend they were saying it was such a small room that when the shooter opened fire it was like shooting at fish in the barrel. So you talk to people like that who survived, it's just remarkable.

ROBERTS: Yes. And one of the weapons he was using was a really powerful weapon, as well.

CHO: Right.

You know last week, as you know, John, we looked at President Obama's brain trust, his inner circle. Well, this week we've got a brand new series kicking off. The Rising Stars of the GOP. Our Jessica Yellin is with us here in New York. She's going to talk about Mitt Romney. Remember him? And sort of built himself as the CEO candidate and he's on the short list for 2012. It's never too early.

We're going to have that story after the break. It's 24 minutes after the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. With a couple of off-year election wins under their belt, things are looking up for the Republican Party. GOP 2012 candidates are stepping up early, as well.

CHO: That's right. Never too early.

Last week, we looked at President Obama's brain trust, his inner circle. Well, this week we're checking up on the other side of the aisle. In part one of our A.M. original series, "GOP, the Next Chapter," our Jessica Yellin tells us about Mitt Romney still getting buzz for 2012.

And just before the break, Jessica, we were talking about how, you know, after McCain was named the Republican candidate and the economy tanked, there were some people in the GOP who were saying either he should VP or maybe he should have been the candidate.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Even the candidate.

CHO: Yes.

YELLIN: He is such a skilled businessman and he knows the economy. They call him "Mr. Fix it." They thought maybe he could have been the candidate for this party. But right now, Mitt Romney, he's living outside Boston. He is running his political action committee.

Get this, he's raised more than $2.5 million. Now that is a lot of fund-raising during a recession year. He is staying very high- profile in the Republican Party.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

YELLIN (voice-over): These days, former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is spending his time fund-raising, campaigning and generally building alliances with party leaders.

MITT ROMNEY (R), FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Seeing friends and leaders of the conservative movement from across the country is something that warms my heart.

YELLIN: For someone who won't say if he's running for president, again, he's acting an awful lot like a candidate in waiting.

(on camera): So you'll campaign going into 2010? ROMNEY: I pretty much plan that from now until November of 2010, I'm going to be working to help elect conservatives across the country.

YELLIN (voice-over): Once labeled inauthentic by critics for governing Massachusetts as a centrist then moving to the right, these days Romney says he believes conservatives are the heart of his party.

(on camera): You didn't say electing Republicans, you said conservatives. Is it important to you that you find people on the conservative edge of the Republican Party?

ROMNEY: I want to elect Republicans and Republicans are conservative. I will, by and large, be supporting those who are conservative Republicans.

(voice-over): And he's staking out ground as a fierce critic of President Obama on foreign policy...

ROMNEY: I think he's made America less safe in that our friends are more concerned about the reliability of the United States.

YELLIN: On governing philosophy.

ROMNEY: I think he fundamentally believes that America is in slow decline, that other parts of the world are becoming stronger and that we should manage ourselves to this decline.

YELLIN: And on economic solutions.

ROMNEY: The stimulus plan was crafted by Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. He abdicated his leadership on the most critical piece of economic legislation of his administration.

YELLIN: Romney has put on the defensive by fellow Republicans over Massachusetts universal health care plan, which he helped establish as governor. It's expanded coverage but has also cost the state more than projected.

MIKE HUCKABEE (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Seventy-five percent of the people in Massachusetts have said they don't think it's a success.

YELLIN: Romney's response?

ROMNEY: We found a way to get everybody insured in the state and we did that without a public option, no government insurance and without the need for raising taxes.

YELLIN: Big picture? Romney is optimistic about the future of the Republican Party and guess who he credits?

ROMNEY: Well, I think the Republican Party has been rejuvenated by the missteps taken by President Obama.

(END VIDEOTAPE) YELLIN: Now get this. Romney will not say if he's going to run for president. He insists, yes, he will not decide until after next year's midterm election. But until then, he is traveling the country raising that $2.5 million I mentioned earlier, raising it for other Republican candidates. He's giving them the money and guess what that means? If he does run in 2012, a lot of candidates around the country are going to owe him.

ROBERTS: There was an interesting answer that he gave pegging it that the GOP's good fortunes to President Obama as opposed to say oh no, there's some great leadership in the party here. He's holding fire, right? He just wants to make sure that he gets out there. But he was -- in 2008, during the primary season, one of the charges leveled at him. A little bit of a book on him was he was inauthentic. How is he going to address that next time?

YELLIN: When people called him (INAUDIBLE) it was fascinating because when I spoke to him, I interviewed him about three years ago when he was very, very stiff. He was relaxed. He was funny. He was very quippy, a lot of banter. It was sort of a very different person, but once the camera went on, he, again, became a little bit more formal. I do see him emerging and he seems more comfortable in this public persona now.

ROBERTS: We were joking off camera that it's much easier to be loose when you're not spending millions of your own dollars on the campaign.

YELLIN: ... on the campaign.

ROBERTS: Jessica Yellin for us this morning. Thanks. Great piece.

Tomorrow in part two of our series, GOP, the next chapter. Her book "Going Rogue" hits the store shelves in just over a week and she could be another name on the ballot in 2012. Our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley takes a look at Sarah Palin. That's tomorrow right here on the most news in the morning. It's great to see you, Jessica. And it's great to see you in person as opposed to a hologram in the middle of the set.

YELLIN: It's fun to be here.

ROBERTS: Thanks.

It's now 31 minutes after the hour and checking our top stories this morning. Philadelphia commuters have something to smile about this morning. The strike that shut down subways, buses, and trolleys for nearly a week is over. Governor Ed Rendell announcing the deal overnight between the transit authority and its largest union. Some 5,000 striking workers were back on the job in time for this morning's rush hour.

A state of emergency now in effect in Louisiana in preparation for Hurricane Ida. The storm is responsible for more than 120 deaths in El Salvador. It had weakened overnight to a category 1 storm with 80 mile an hour winds. It is expected to make landfall along the Gulf Coast as early as tomorrow morning.

And saber rattling in South America. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez ordering the country's military to prepare for a possible armed conflict with Columbia. Chavez says the U.S. may be trying to provoke a war between the two neighbors.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRES. HUGO CHAVEZ, VENEZUELA (through translator): The two governments have come together to lie to the world or try to lie to the world. So military comrades, we won't lose a day completing our primary mission, to prepare ourselves for war and to help the people prepare themselves for war because it is everybody's responsibility.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: Chavez says Washington's recent deal with Bogota giving U.S. troops more access to military bases is a threat to regional stability. Alina.

CHO: Thanks, John.

Experts say we are on the road to recovery. Or are we? You know, the economy stopped shrinking and started growing. The luxury market is back in the black, yet, at the same time, we have some 16 million people who can't find a job and an unemployment rate of 10.2 percent.

And if you count the people who have stopped looking for work or settled for a part-time job, that number bumped to a staggering 17.5 percent. And that's gotten many people asking, what recovery? So, joining me now to talk about this is the Lakshman Achuthan. He is managing director of the Economic Cycle Research Institute and Kate Benner. She is a reporter with "Fortune" magazine. Thanks so much for joining us, guys.

You know, Lakshman, I want to start with you, because I have to tell you, frankly, I'm pretty confused. Last week we got great GDP numbers and read an article in the paper last week about, you know, the luxury market showing signs of life and then we get socked with 10.2 percent unemployment. I mean, only the second time we've seen double-digit unemployment since World War II.

LAKSHMAN ACHUTHAN, MANAGING EDITOR, ECONOMIC CYCLE RESEARCH INSTIUTE FORECAST: Yes.

CHO: You know, a lot of the smart minds I've talked to have said until we see jobs come back, we are not going to see a sustainable recovery. So what is going on?

Well, you know, the business cycle is a confusing thing, as we've all been learning. And there are slight things that lead and slight things that lag. GDP is a coincident indicator. The unemployment rate is 10.2. It's a double digit number or when you take in people who are discouraged or not working as much, the 17 percent. These are somewhat lagging indicators. It's normal for them to rise in the early stage of recovery, as you rightly point out.

We saw this in the first Reagan administration. It was not a harbinger of a worsening economy, actually we started to grow there. We also saw this at the end of a very severe recession, the 1929-'33 recession, where unemployment -- that 10 percent number we're talking about today was 25 percent then and rising.

However, the economy took off like a bolt. Like a rocket. It grew at 10 percent annually and unemployment began to fall at a three percent annualized rate. So, the lesson is, right, that the rising unemployment rate as weird and, you know, it doesn't fit with the story, it happens at the beginning of the recoveries, often.

CHO: Well, and as we've heard many, many times before, it's all cyclical, right?

ACUTHAN: Yes.

CHO: It will get better because it simply can't get much worse. You know, having said that, you know, as reporters we always want to label things depression, recession, recovery. I mean, how do you even report on this because, particularly, a lot of people now are saying, 10.2, yes, that's nothing. We can get to 11 percent in six months.

KATE BENNER, WRITER & REPORTER, "FORTUNE" MAGAZINE: I mean, it's very difficult because there is a dichotomy. What will happen with the numbers and what Lakshman will happen cyclically versus the human story. And I think that that makes it very difficult both reporters and politicians.

CHO: Well, and the human story really, if you go out there and talk to people, is that people are hurting, clearly those who don't have jobs.

BENNER: Even though this is a cycle and even though this has to happen and people have to lose jobs and the economy has to contract to grow again, to speak about it in that way is so cold when you know that that means that there are faces and names behind all this.

CHO: So the people you're talking to, what are they telling you?

BENNER: You know, they're saying things like the layoffs are very, very difficult. It is painful to lay people off knowing that this is a difference between, you know, being able to provide for their families or struggling. For small business owners, it means that they can't hire. So they are working 12 to 14 hour days because they have to do all the work themselves. It's very, very tough times.

CHO: Or they're choosing part-time versus permanent workers, which is --

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CHO: That's right. You know, President Obama called the unemployment numbers a sobering number on Friday. That's for sure. You know, the government has extended unemployment benefits, extended first-time home buyer tax credits, you know, and, yet, in some ways, it doesn't seem to be enough.

I mean I talked to a Democratic strategist over the weekend who said, you can call it anything you want, but Congress is already talking about a second stimulus package. Is that the answer? Is that going to fly?

ACHUTHAN: Well, no. In terms of what we want, what we want is we want a recovery and we want more jobs.

CHO: But how we do get there?

ACHUTHAN: Actually, it's happening but the political pressure is so high that there will always be talk of more and more stimulus. Extending unemployment benefits, by the way, is not unusual. We always do it in every recession and the early stage of every recovery. It's not new so it shouldn't be treated as something unusual today. That is normal.

CHO: But does the administration then go one step further and, if so, what?

ACHUTHAN: You know, probably, the first-time home credits, these kind of things. These are really peripheral issues. All right. The recovery is happening. There is a big reason why we don't use fiscal policy to steer this country on a short term basis is because by the time you get it in, the economy, the business cycle has moved on.

That's why you're always using monetary policy to guide the economy. That's why it's so messy to use fiscal policy. These longer term fiscal lawmaker packages, they can, they can shape the economy over many years, not in the near term and the issue here is, we've lost a lot of jobs to the human part of this story. Half of the jobs, roughly, that we've lost, are never coming back.

CHO: And that's what's scary.

ACHUTHAN: People have to retool. And it sounds trite. It's much harder to do in real life than just saying the words.

CHO: Kate Benner, reporter with "Fortune" magazine and Lakshman Achuthan, he is the managing director of the Economic Cycle Research Institute, we thank you both. Kate, you get one more extra question next time around. Thanks so much for joining us. John --

ROBERTS: It was 20 years ago that the Berlin Wall came crashing down. How people in Germany are celebrating. Just ahead. Thirty- eight minutes after the hour.

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ROBERTS: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. Twenty years ago today, the Berlin Wall came down, symbolically freeing Eastern Europe from communist rule, marking the beginning and the end of the Cold War. And Germans were so happy tearing down the wall, piece by piece with their hands, with hammers, several crossing points were opened and tens of thousands of people were able to reunite families who had been apart for three decades.

Today, there's a new wall dividing Berlin. This one though made of dominoes and in tonight's celebration, they will be toppled, symbolizing how the walls collapsed created a domino effect on communism in Eastern Europe. Each domino is unique, carrying artist's messages from around the world.

Here's CNN's Frederick Pleitgen with more.

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FREDERICK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As Berlin gears up for the celebrations to commemorate 20 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, we are right at the Brandenburg Gate and what you see behind me is actually one of the main attractions, one of the main festivities that people are going to be see on the evening of November 9th.

What you see here are giant dominos. There's almost 1,000 of these giant dominoes. Now the interesting thing is that each of these dominos was especially custom painted somewhere in the world. There's a lot that were painted here in Germany. A lot were painted by schools, by artists. Some were however and this is very interesting were painted by artists in countries where walls still divide people.

Now one of those countries, of course, is South Korea. (INAUDIBLE) is one of the artists who painted one of the dominos.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Our wall looks totally different, but in the end, it's pretty much the same. The wall that divides people, divides family and it's still very much a factor in our country," he says.

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PLEITGEN: The role of giant dominos is several miles long and on the evening of November 9th as the commemoration celebration go on, all of these are going to be toppled in what should be a giant spectacle here in the German capital.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Berlin.

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ROBERTS: It's pretty interesting when I heard dominos at first, I thought, you --

CHO: Little ones.

ROBERTS: Big dominos, right. It's a great display.

CHO: Yes. You, hard to believe it was 2002 that the sniper attacks happened outside Washington, D.C.. I was there, I remember I covered it. ROBERTS: I remember going to Home Depot and sort of ducking between the cars.

CHO: That's right. And it was really scary. Because, you know, walking out of the hotel I remember in the middle of the night thinking, you know, this is a really scary time for the nation. Well, now, the D.C. sniper John Allen Muhammad is scheduled to die by lethal injection tomorrow. And all these years later there are some new questions were red flags about the sniper missed?

You're going to meet the man who said that terror didn't have to happen. It's 44 minutes after the hour.

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CHO: Forty-six minutes after the hour. Welcome back to the Most News in the morning.

Beltway sniper John Allen Muhammad is set to die by lethal injection tomorrow. He and a young accomplice, you'll recall, terrorized the nation's capital for more than a month back in 2002, randomly killing 10 people, some of them in broad daylight. Now, on the eve of the execution, a man who knew Muhammad says those murders didn't have to happen.

Our Jeanne Meserve is live in Washington with an "AM Original." Jeanne, good morning to you.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alina.

Before the sniper shootings, John Muhammad spent two weeks at a mission in Bellingham, Washington with his three children. He was well spoken, polite, a loving father -- almost too perfect, the mission director says. But when he lost custody of his children and returned to the mission with a young man named Lee Malvo, a young man who would eventually become his accomplice, suspicions about him grew -- suspicions that were ignored.

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MESERVE (voice-over): When terrorists flew planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, there was one person at the Lighthouse Mission who did not want to talk about it -- John Muhammad. That unnerved the mission director, Reverend Al Archer, who was also suspicious of Muhammad's frequent airplane trips.

REV. AL ARCHER, FORMER DIRECTOR, LIGHTHOUSE MISSION: This was a mission, and our people didn't travel by plane. Our people traveled by box cars.

MESERVE: Muhammad brought to the shelter a young man named Lee Malvo. Malvo rarely spoke and seemed totally subservient to Muhammad. Archer suspected Muhammad was training Malvo for some kind of mission.

ARCHER: I think that Lee was -- he was like a handful of molding clay and John could just mold him any way he wanted to.

MESERVE: Archer, convinced Muhammad was up to no good, called the FBI, though he found it difficult to articulate his suspicions.

ARCHER: That tickle inside or whatever makes you do something that you do, I felt that John was out to do harm to this country and that I had to try and stop it.

MESERVE: But when the sniping started around Washington, you didn't think of him?

ARCHER: No. And I'll always wonder why.

MESERVE: Archer testified at Muhammad's trial that when he found out Muhammad was the sniper, he was shocked, but not surprised and he was angry. He still is.

ARCHER: Because this whole thing didn't have to happen. This -- all of these people did not have to die. That's why I'm angry. John didn't have to die. Lee didn't have to spend his life in prison. All those families did not have to lose their loved ones, and now, he's got a death sentence. It never had to happen.

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MESERVE: Archer believes Muhammad is mentally ill and should not be executed, but barring any last minute delays, he will die by lethal injection tomorrow night.

Alina, back to you.

CHO: Incredible that he gets choked up about it even all these years later. Jeanne Meserve live in Washington for us. Jeanne, thank you for that report.

And be sure to tune in to CNN tonight. That's 9:00 PM Eastern for "LARRY KING LIVE." Larry's guest tonight, the ex-wife of DC Sniper John Muhammad. Find out why she will not be attending the execution of her former husband.

And right after "LARRY KING," a 360 special investigation. Anderson Cooper revisits the horror of the DC Sniper attacks and also talked to people who survived the ordeal. That's tonight at 10:00 on "AC 360."

ROBERTS: Well, the health care debate kicks into a whole new realm. The House passed the bill over the weekend and now the Senate's taking a look at it and a lot of people in the Senate are saying, no thanks. One of the people who tried to kill health care reform, former Congressman Dick Armey. He's going to be joining us, coming up in just a few minutes.

And the changing face of late-night talk, getting more diverse. We'll tell you what's going on.

Fifty-one minutes after the hour. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: The steel canyons of New York City this morning, where it's sunny and 49 degrees. Later on today, mostly sunny with a high of 66, going to be another beautiful day in the Big Apple.

Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning.

They are not the first hosts trying to break the mould in late- night television.

CHO: No. But this new group of TV talk show hosts has a more diverse look and gives the appearance of a rainbow coalition, some might say. Our Brooke Anderson has more in this "AM Original."

BROOKE ANDERSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John and Alina, the look of late-night is changing as comedians of color become members of what has long been known as an all-white club.

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ANDERSON (voice-over): They're bold...

GEORGE LOPEZ, HOST, "LOPEZ TONIGHT": If it was a real (INAUDIBLE) show, there would be plastic on the couch.

ANDERSON: ... they're brash...

WANDA SYKES, HOST, "THE WANDA SYKES SHOW": I'm happy to announce that I haven't slept with anyone on my staff yet.

ANDERSON: ... and, above all, they're diverse.

MO'NIQUE, HOST, "THE MONIQUE SHOW": Hey, baby! Hey, baby!

ANDERSON: George Lopez, Wanda Sykes, and Mo'Nique. Actor/comedians of color are joining the traditional late-night establishment of white, white, and more white men.

STUART LEVINE, ASSISTANT MANAGING EDITOR, VARIETY: I think there's an untapped minority audience that these other networks are trying to get into.

ANDERSON: Mo'Nique debuted on BET last month, Sykes' premiered over the weekend on FOX. And tonight, Lopez unveils his late-night show on CNN sister station, TBS.

LOPEZ: If we can change the White House, we can change late- night TV. I think it's time for a Latino to step in.

ANDERSON: Each hopes to put a different spin on late-night, Sykes with light-hearted roundtables. Lopez features a club-like atmosphere.

LOPEZ: You will see a show that does not have a desk, we do not have cards. It looks unscripted. It moves really fast. ANDERSON: Lopez aims for an edgier feel than traditional late- night shows, something he's worked on in test runs.

LOPEZ: The monologues every night have been incredibly political and pointed, you know? We name names.

ANDERSON: While Lopez is the first Hispanic to host a late-night talker on a major network, this isn't the first time late-night has sought younger, more ethnic audiences. Think Chris Rock, Magic Johnson, and Arsenio Hall.

"Variety's" Stuart Levine believes the recipe for success is simple.

LEVINE: I think they just have to be funny. You can be a minority host to try to get a minority audience, but if you're not funny, people aren't going to watch.

ANDERSON: And with a potential historic change in television hanging in the balance, you can bet these comedians are working overtime to bring on the laughs.

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ANDERSON: "Variety's" Stuart Levine also told me these late- night shows are a more financially viable option than, say, the dwindling supply of fresh syndicated shows and comedies -- John, Alina.

CHO: Brooke Anderson, thank you.

A state of emergency as Hurricane Ida closes in. Storm warnings up from Mississippi to Florida. We're back with your top stories in 90 seconds.

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