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AMERICAN MORNING

Investigators Say Fort Hood Gunman Acted Alone; Iran Accuses U.S. Hikers of Spying

Aired November 10, 2009 - 08:00   ET

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


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Thanks for joining us on the Most News in the Morning on this Tuesday, the 10th of November. I'm John Roberts.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Kiran Chetry. Glad you're with us. Here are the top stories that we're going to be telling you about in the next 15 minutes.

First, tropical storm Ida, now over land, coming ashore near Mobile, Alabama in the past hour. Flooding rains are the big concern right now for the people in coastal areas, as well as inland. Some power outages already being reported.

Our Rob Marciano is on the ground in Pensacola, tracking the storm.

ROBERTS: On the day of a memorial for 13 people killed at Fort Hood, Texas, new information about the alleged gunman. It turns out US intelligence officials knew the suspect, Major Nidal Malik Hasan, had reached out to a radical Muslim cleric.

We're live at Fort Hood this morning.

CHETRY: Plus, all this week we're looking at the future of the Republican Party, and today, in an in-depth profile, we feature Sarah Palin. A huge number of Republicans love her and a lot on the Left loved to hate her.

Well, Palin's new book hits stores in just a week and if the past is any indication, she'll still have plenty to say.

(BEGIN VIDEOCLIP)

SARAH PALIN (R), FMR. ALASKA GOVERNOR: I think I'm going to have to cast my vote for the maverick. You betcha. It's drill, baby, drill. Only dead fish go with the flow.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: Well, we'll have more with our special series, "GOP: The Next Chapter."

We begin the hour, though, with Tropical Storm Ida now making landfall this morning in Alabama. Right now, gulf coast residents are getting lashed with winds and rain. Some power outages are already being reported right now. And our Rob Marciano is on the ground tracking the storm. He's live in Pensacola, Florida.

Have you felt the conditions get worse since we checked in with you last hour?

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Actually, they have, Kiran. Even though this storm has been in a weakening trend the last 12 hours, the fact that it's made landfall and gotten closer to us, have indeed picked up the -- picked up the winds, enough to close the ports from the Appalachicola area all the way to the Mississippi coastline. Coast Guard has shut down all those ports. All bridges and most roads are open, aside from some localized flooding and some road conditions.

And as you mentioned, there were some sporadic power outages around this area, about 2,000 at last check. That's about less than 1 percent. But we still have a (AUDIO GAP) makes its way onshore and slowly dissipates.

Check out the radar and you can kind of see where the bulk of the moisture is, mostly north of the coastline. All of the rain and a lot of the wind has been skewed to the east and north. It's already heading into central Alabama and northern parts of Georgia. That will be our focus -- focal point as far as the next flood threat is concerned.

As you mentioned, the landfall -- about an hour and 20 minutes ago. Its movement is about -- is northeast at about 9 miles an hour.

Here's the forecast track. Interestingly, it will continue its easterly turn and really hug (AUDIO GAP) well 24 hours before conditions start to wind down here in the Pensacola area and the Florida Panhandle. But, obviously, dissipating as it continues its trek off to the east.

Well, let's talk flood threat. All this moisture is combining with a -- well, very fall-like front, of all things, and it's going to squeeze some juice out of it across parts of northern Georgia, in through the Carolinas. Atlanta, cities like Raleigh, could see four, in some cases, five inches of rainfall with this particular storm system. Very rare, as you can imagine, for the month of (AUDIO BREAK) most of the rain has stopped for the most part.

But take a look behind me -- the storm surge, three to five feet above average and big, big-time waves. This, of course, for the Gulf of Mexico, looks nothing like it. Certainly, nothing like it for the month of November.

Last night when we got here, winds were north-northeasterly. It was cold. It was wet. It did not feel like a hurricane was coming. And then when winds turned southerly this morning when Ida made landfall, winds got a little bit more warm and it feels more like a tropical system.

But we keep forgetting, it's almost the middle of November (AUDIO GAP) comes two weeks after we had a major winter snowstorm across the high plains of the Midwest. Crazy weather.

Kiran, back to you.

CHETRY: Yes. Quite an unusual little turn of events we've seen over the past couple of weeks here.

All right, Rob Marciano for us in Pensacola -- thanks.

ROBERTS: A quick update this morning on our breaking news out of Pakistan. A car bomb has killed at least 20 people outside of Peshawar, near the border with Afghanistan. Another 55 people were wounded.

The blast happened at a congested intersection near a marketplace. It destroyed shops on both sides of the road, knocked down power lines. One hundred and twenty people have died in three other attacks in the region in just the past couple of weeks.

New developments in the fast-moving investigation at Fort Hood, Texas. The FBI now says the suspected gunman, Major Nidal Hasan, acted alone and was not part of a terror plot to attack U.S. troops. That word coming just hours after authorities confirmed that Hasan reached out to a radical Muslim cleric in recent years, the same cleric who preached to two of the 9/11 hijackers. The feds intercepted many of Hasan's conversations with that cleric, but were told, never picked up on anything threatening -- a revelation that's just a bit unsettling to some people.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SPEC. REFUGIO FIGUEROA, U.S. ARMY: I guess no one saw the signs on him. And if, you know, they missed the signs with him, I mean, can you imagine if they miss the signs with someone else? I mean, you know, it's ridiculous.

SHARI JULIAN, MENTAL HEALTH EXPERT: I think that there were probably a lot of connections that should have been made that weren't made. But we're at war and we're under a lot of pressure, and maybe that's, you know, that's what happened.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: Our David Mattingly is live at Fort Hood, Texas, this morning.

And, David, the FBI really knocking down any kind of idea that this attack was any kind of a coordinated plot.

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John. Five days into this investigation, investigators still aren't saying what the motive might have been for these shootings. The FBI releasing a statement yesterday saying, "At this time, there is no information to indicate Major Hasan had any co-conspirators or was part of a broader terrorist plot." That directly from the FBI.

As for the suspect, Major Hasan, he is still in a San Antonio hospital under guard. He is talking. He is conscious. But he's not talking to investigators. He is, however, he did speak briefly with attorneys -- one military defense attorney, one civilian defense attorney, who was hired by his family. That attorney is talking to the "Associated Press," already raising the question, could his client get a fair trial if it comes to that here at Fort Hood?

So, already, the posturing is beginning for a possible defense for the major as this investigation still in the very early stages -- John.

ROBERTS: All right, David Mattingly for us. And, David, what about the victims? What have you learned about today's memorial?

MATTINGLY: Well, this is all about them today. This is all about healing and this event is a very big component of that healing process that the Army is so committed to right now.

The president and Mrs. Obama, to arrive today. They are going to be meeting privately with the victims before the president speaks at this large memorial service.

They're making a great deal of effort to make sure this is a very traditional, by-the-book type of memorial service. Something they're used to seeing with tragedy -- with the tragedies on the battlefield.

But this is different. They're going to make sure that this is a traditional service, focusing on the people who were affected, who died here, here on the post from this shooting. They feel like it will be very comforting to have this traditional service and they are going to be reaching out to everyone, not just the people who were affected and their families, but to the people who live here as well, because it hit so close to home.

ROBERTS: All right. David, thanks so much for that.

And CNN's special live coverage of the memorial at Fort Hood begins today at 1:30 Eastern. You can see it live on CNN, CNN.com, or on your iPhone if you have the new CNN app.

CHETRY: Six-and-a-half minutes past the hour right now.

Also new this morning, a frightening mail delivery for three foreign consulates in Manhattan. New York City police say the envelopes containing a suspicious white powder were sent to the French, Austrian, and Uzbekistan consulates. One of the envelopes had a note inside with a reference to al Qaeda. Now, test samples on one of the powder samples have come back negative for anthrax or any other dangerous substance.

ROBERTS: A stunning close-call captured on video. A woman loses her balance and falls off of a Boston subway platform, and wouldn't you know it? There's a train coming along. Witnesses frantically waved down the train operator, trying to signal her to stop, she finally did, bringing the train to a stop just inches from the woman. In fact, it looks like the front part of the train just went over her there.

Police say that the woman was drunk. It was amazing she didn't get run over or touch the third rail, which, of course, carries some 600 volts of electricity.

CHETRY: Amazing the quick-thinking train operator was able to pull that emergency brake in time.

ROBERTS: Amazing she actually saw the people waving her down.

CHETRY: Yes.

Well, it is the week of the soccer brawl, it seems. Check out these high school girls. This was in Providence, Rhode Island. The final moments of a state championship game, pushing, shoving, actually fists being thrown there and then all piling on. The fight spilled out over to the stands.

The winning team's coach says she doesn't know how the fight got started, but she's not taking the fall for it.

ROBERTS: And let's give this one, one more run. With a punch between the shoulders, there it is, but she had been elbowed in the bread basket, and that nasty yank on the ponytail. Elizabeth Lambert has become YouTube famous. The University of New Mexico player has been suspended indefinitely, not for the rest of her chippy play or that sort of action there, but for the ponytail pull.

She has since apologized, saying, "I let my emotions get the best of me in a heated situation."

CHETRY: Well, still ahead, we're going to be talking with the family of one of the three American hikers detained in Iran after going on a hike in the Kurdistan region of Iraq. It's now been three months since the family's had any contact, and now, the news from Iran that they're going to push ahead with espionage charges. We're going to get reaction from the family and what hopes are out there that they can get their family members released.

It's nine minutes past the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

And there are renewed efforts this morning to secure the release of three American hikers jailed in Iran. An Iranian prosecutor has accused Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd, and Josh Fattal of espionage. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is strongly fighting for their release.

Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We believe strongly that there is no evidence to support any charge, whatsoever. And we would renew our request on behalf of these three young people and their families that the Iranian government exercise compassion and release them so they can return home.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: Joining me now from Philadelphia is Alex Fattal, brother of one of the hikers, Josh.

Thanks so much for joining us this morning, Alex.

ALEX FATTAL, BROTHER OF MISSING HIKER IN IRAN: Thank you.

CHETRY: So, your reaction to these reports that your brother and his two friends could be charged with spying. It's not yet been confirmed by American officials, but it looks like at least Iran is claiming they're going to go ahead with espionage charges. What was your reaction?

FATTAL: Well, first, it's important to highlight that this has not been confirmed yet. So, we, of course, are holding out hope there will not be any espionage charges and the only charge that my brother and his friend might face, and we hope they don't even face that, they're just promptly deported, is illegal entry.

CHETRY: Right. You know, it's been -- it seems, at least, that there's been a turnaround. I mean, it was back on September 22nd that president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said that he was going to be stepping in and pleading for maximum leniency, and then, you know, fast forward a month and a half later, we're hearing the possibility of espionage charges.

And I know that it's very difficult for you guys to get information, because you're really going through a third party anyway to find out anything -- but do you have any idea of what may have changed?

FATTAL: No. I mean, we -- we have been certainly waiting for news. We've been waiting for good news. Every time the phone rings, we are -- we pick it up, anxiously, and we're hoping that it's news that our loved ones are on a plane back home.

Certainly, Ahmadinejad's statements that they would be treated with maximum leniency and would get an expeditious review by the judiciary has had us hoping for over the last seven weeks, but we continue to be optimistic that the Iranian authorities will see this for what it is. And that is a minor mistake.

And us, as family, certainly, would like to extend our apologies to the Islamic Republic of Iran if, indeed, Josh, Shane, and Sarah did enter the country illegally and we hope that they're -- they're promptly returned to us.

CHETRY: Now, you guys have really tried to get out ahead in front of this, you have a website, FreeTheHikers.org. You've also just recently released a video on that Web site, which seems to show them just light heartedly laughing. It looks like they're making -- jokingly making a music video. They're talking about -- clearly talking about being in Iraq.

Here's some of the video right now.

What are you hoping to accomplish by trying to show that these were three kids that were hiking, they were certainly not trying to spy on Iran?

FATTAL: Yes. I mean, we feel like the reality is extremely clear. I mean, these videos show them for who they are, joking around, messing around, having a good time on a vacation trip. None of them speak Farsi. Sarah needed to be back in Damascus for her teaching job. There was absolutely no intention of even entering Iran.

So, we feel this is abundantly clear and we look forward to the Iranian authorities reaching the same conclusion and allowing -- allowing the families to reunite with their loved ones. I mean, it's extremely, extremely difficult for us. We're at 102 days and the time is going so slowly. It's really breaking our hearts. We need to wrap our arms around Josh, Sarah, and Shane.

CHETRY: I can't imagine what it's been like for you guys -- as you said, 102 days, no contact. How is the rest of your family dealing with this?

FATTAL: We're hanging in there. We're being strong. You know, we had a great show of support on Sunday, all throughout the country and throughout the world. We had vigils of hope to mark the 100th day of their detention on Sunday. And to see friends and supporters coming out, that was -- that what gave us great strength.

So we're hanging in there. But it is certainly wearing on us and we would like more than anything to embrace our loved ones.

CHETRY: All right. Well, we certainly wish you the best. We know that the White House has spoken out about this. We know that secretary of state Hillary Clinton is trying to do what she can. And it's a tough situation because of the diplomatic relations that we do not have with Iran. But, meantime, people can go to freethehikers.org. Also on twitter page, it's freethehikers on Twitter as well. Alex Fattal, thanks so much for joining us this morning.

FATTAL: Thank you.

ROBERTS: Sixteen minutes after the hour. A surprising announcement for basketball star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He's suffering from a rare form of leukemia and he's now coming out publicly about it to try to raise more attention and more awareness about the disease. He'll be joining us a little bit later on this hour. Stay with us on the Most News in the Morning.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CONAN O' BRIEN, TALK SHOW HOST: There's a dangerous new virus. Have you heard about this? That's infecting iPhones. It changes the phone's wallpaper to a picture of '80s singer Rick Astley. It's true. It's true. Yes. So far, police have narrowed the suspects down to '80s singer Rick Astley.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: How about it. Did it happen to your iPhone yet?

ROBERTS: Everybody needs a little bit of attention. That's all there is to that. Christine Romans "Minding Your Business" this morning. She joins us now. Dow up more than 200 points yesterday, unemployment going up. Somebody's got faith.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Exactly. Huge disconnect between what's happening on the street and what's happening in the markets. Yesterday, a big 204-point rally for the Dow, at a 13-month high now.

The reason on the books, at least, is that the G-20 finance ministers, the finance ministers of the 20 big countries, all decided that they would not withdraw their stimulus measures. They would keep doing everything they're doing to help the economy and the idea is, people think the economy is going to be on the mend. And all that money they're pushing into things is finding its way into stocks and into commodities. Look at the post-crisis surge here. Stocks up 16% this year. Gold up 24% this year. $1,100 an ounce. So, your 401(k) and your grandma's old necklaces are all worth a little bit more right now.

ROBERTS: So in terms of the stock market, these people are making a bet that things are going to get better?

ROMANS: People are making a bet that things are going to get better. And they're selling the dollar and they are buying commodities and they are buying stocks. The dollar has been weak. It's down about 16 percent since March, about 7 percent or so for the year. Here's a chart of the dollar I want to show you.

You know, usually when the dollar goes down, you get concerned, what does this mean about the direction of the country. But Washington is kind of stepping back and doesn't seem to be concerned. And here's a couple of reasons why. When the dollar is weak, that helps our exports. And you can see there are big multinational companies, are doing well in the stock market. One of the reasons is, there's a lot of hope that little improvements in the global economy and a weak dollar is going to help our exports.

(CROSSTALK)

CHETRY: That helped our GDP this time around.

ROMANS: Yes, it did. It did a little bit. That is right. So we're watching these big huge moves, post-crisis moves I'm calling them, in these major markets and seeing how they're going to last.

ROBERTS: So do you think the upswing in the Dow is going to continue?

ROMANS: Well, futures right now are flat, so there might be a little bit step back here, but I'm going to tell you, John and Kiran, bears for about six months have been saying -- these are people who are pessimistic on the direction of the market and the direction -- they have been saying that this rally is not justified and they've just been rolled over.

You know, every time I come and say, caution ahead, everybody, look at all these terrible things happening in the economy or things happening in the economy, this should give us pause, stock market just keeps going up.

ROBERTS: Always a good idea that if you play in the stock market to have a parachute.

ROMANS: Exactly.

ROBERTS: Because you can come down pretty quickly.

CHETRY: Rick Astley.

ROMANS: I would like some 20/20 hindsight vision, too. That would really help me out.

CHETRY: You know what we need, though? We need lessons learned for the future, right? I mean --

ROMANS: Yes.

CHETRY: There you go.

ROBERTS: We just need somebody to pay attention to those. Plenty of lessons learned I think, right?

CHETRY: That is true. Well, there are plenty of lessons. Are they learned?

ROMANS: Isn't it human nature not to learn them, though? I mean...

ROBERTS: When things are good, they're good. Speaking of when things are good, America, does it have the best health care system in the world? A lot of people say yes, but there are other people who say no and we've got one of them coming up, right next. 21 and a half minutes after the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. 24 minutes past the hour now. First we profiled the president's inner circle. Now all this week, we're taking a look at the future of the Republican Party in our in-depth series, "GOP: The Next Chapter."

ROBERTS: Today it's Sarah Palin. With her new book, "Going Rogue," hitting the shelves in exactly one week, will she be a contender in 2012? Our Candy Crowley is giving it her best educated guess.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Kiran and John. A little political trivia. Not since 1920 has there been a failed vice presidential nominee who would later go on to be elected president. Also true. Not since -- well, since forever has the political world seen a failed vice presidential candidate quite like this one.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY (voice-over): She was a high-voltage candidate.

SARAH PALIN, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT CANDIDATE: I think I'm going to have to cast my vote for the maverick.

CROWLEY: Lighting a fire in the grassroots of Republican land. Fresh, folksy, fierce.

PALIN: I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a community organizer, except that you have actual responsibilities.

CROWLEY: Sarah Palin remains a force, the most recognizable name in the Republican Party, a headline magnet.

Political ticker, Sarah Palin apparently is trying to relaunch a controversy she started over the so-called death panels.

CROWLEY: She has a loyal following in the GOP. Critics her supporters love to hate, and a way with words.

PALIN: You bet you. It's drill, baby drill.

CROWLEY: Just over a year after the defeat of the Republican ticket, the Republican number two is Amazon's number one in nonfiction presales. Writer of books, giver of speeches, muser of politics on an unusually active Facebook account, and robo caller on behalf of a conservative group in this year's Virginia governor's race.

PALIN: Virginia, hello, this is Sarah Palin calling to urge you to go to the polls Tuesday and vote to share our principles.

CROWLEY: A recent CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll found 85 percent of Republicans say Palin agrees with them on their most important issues. But here's the rub. Only 49 percent of independents feel that way. It's a telling measure of her political reach and its limits that the Republicans who won governor seats in Virginia and New Jersey this year politely rejected Palin's offers to campaign for them. Both Republican governors-elect owe their victories to huge majorities of independent votes.

Her clout is inside the party. In a New York congressional race, she helped push a Republican Party candidate out of the way for a more conservative candidate. That battle won, Palin lost the war, the split made way for a Democratic victory.

PALIN: Thank you very much.

CROWLEY: These days, Palin is doing selected interviews, Oprah et al, to promote her book. Look for news and a best seller from a GOP mover and shaker. A politician fueled by celebrity. Lucrative, but not necessarily good.

DAVID FRUM, FORMER SPEECHWRITER FOR PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Americans tend not to elect celebrities. Arnold Schwarzenegger is the exception, but more often than not, when people want something in their political leaders that is more steady, stable, and predictable.

CROWLEY: Fans and critics inevitably point to this moment as Palin's biggest political problem. The vice presidential candidate, criticized for her thin resume, quit as governor of Alaska with about a year and a half left in her first term.

PALIN: Only dead fish go with the flow.

CROWLEY: Is the kind of rogueness that made her a household name, but in the end, may make Palin a player who helped shape a party rather than lead it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: Of half a dozen Republican consultants I spoke with, including four who supported the Palin nomination, all see her as playing a part in rebuilding the party. None thought she would be the next presidential nominee and only two thought she would even run. Kiran and John.

CHETRY: Candy Crowley for us. Thanks so much. And tomorrow, we are going to look at South Dakota's junior senator, John Thune. He unseated Tom Daschle back in 2004 and is now the fourth most powerful Republican in the senate. That's tomorrow on our special series, "GOP: The Next Chapter," right here on the Most News in the Morning.

Meantime, it's 28 minutes past the hour right now. A developing story this morning. Details coming in after North and South Korean navies exchanged fire, each side blaming the other for violating their disputed Western sea border. There were no casualties on the South Korean side. It is not clear whether the North suffered any. This is the first clash, though, in 7 years between the two nations and comes a week before President Obama is set to visit Seoul.

AIDS is now the leading cause of death and disease among women between the ages of 15 and 44 in developing countries. It's the headline from the World Health Organization's first global study on women's health. One in five deaths among women now linked to unsafe sex. The head of the World Health Organization is calling the findings quote, "a preventable tragedy."

And Bill Clinton will be joining Senate Democrats at their weekly lunch meeting this afternoon. He'll be making a presentation on health care reform. Senate democrats are being urged not to miss it. The former president is expected to warn senators that their jobs could be in jeopardy if they don't get a health care bill passed. John.

ROBERTS: President Obama is stepping up pressure on the senate to get a health care reform bill on his desk by the end of the year. The bill is expected to provide coverage for millions of uninsured. A fundamental shift that presidents have fought for for decades. After a closed vote in the house, opponents of the bill are vowing to kill it in the senate, claiming it will destroy what they call a health care system that is the model for the world.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We know that we already have the finest quality health care in the world.

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: ... big government trillion- plus-dollar job-killing monstrosity.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's what the American people want, a step- by-step approach to making the best health care system in the world better. We can do that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It will be the first step in destroying the best health care system the world has ever known.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: "The best health care system in the world." But is the American health care system as good as opponents of the bill claim it is? Here with some thoughts this morning are Nicholas Kristof, the Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist with "The New York Times." He's with me in New York.

And in Washington this morning, Karen Tumulty, the national political correspondent for "Time" magazine. Good to have both of you back. Nick, let's start with you, because you wrote a column about this last week. Is the American health care system the best health care system in the world?

NICHOLAS KRISTOF, COLUMNIST, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": No. And we don't even make the top 30.

If you look at life expectancy, we're number 31. We're tied with Kuwait. If you look at infant mortality, we're number 37. A child in Singapore -- a child here is two-and-a-half times as likely to die by age five as a child in Singapore.

Look at maternal mortality. A woman here is 11 times more likely to die in childbirth than a woman in Ireland.

The only thing we really surpass the others on is expense. We're by far the most expensive health care in the world, but we're certainly not the best. ROBERTS: But we have all of this sophistication. We have all of these world-class hospitals. What's going on?

KRISTOF: We pioneer new surgical techniques. We're very good at them, and we're very good at developing new pharmaceuticals.

But because of the expense in part, we don't get as much of these services. For example, Americans actually take 10 percent fewer medications than people in other industrialized countries, but pay more than 100 percent more for them.

And you have an awful lot of people who are slipping through the cracks and not getting tested, not getting tested for cervical cancer, for example, so they die prematurely from cervical cancer.

ROBERTS: Let's put those numbers up one more time. And these were the numbers that were included in your column. They come from the World Health Organization, just to make the point again. The U.S., number 31 in life expectancy. The CIA World Fact Book actually has us at number 50.

Infant mortality, 37th in the world. Maternal mortality, we're ranked 34th in the world.

Karen, Nick was speaking to this idea that we do have top-quality medical delivery, but that not everybody is getting what they need. Is it really more a matter of access to care than anything else?

KAREN TUMULTY, "TIME" NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, when you hear people talk about the excellence of our health care system, they often talk in anecdotal terms, you know, "I heard of a guy who had to wait months in Canada to get a hip replacement so he came here to get it."

And you do -- I think that people confuse quality health care with quantity of health care. And one of the reasons that our costs are so much higher is that we do a lot more tests.

Another reason is that there are tens of millions of people walking around this country with no health coverage. And that means that when they do present themselves with chronic illnesses, which eat up an enormous amount of our budget, things like diabetes, they are much sicker.

And our system really reimburses doctors very handsomely for treating sick people, but often not so handsomely from keeping them from becoming sick in the first place.

ROBERTS: And Nick, there are huge regional disparities in this country as well. I saw one analysis that saw there was a 30-year split between life expectancy in the state of Mississippi and Connecticut.

KRISTOF: You know, the single data point that just blew me away was that an African-American in New Orleans has a lower life expectancy than a person in Vietnam or Honduras. I mean, that is shocking, and that really is a disgrace.

And the reason is that people are slipping through the cracks because we don't have the kind of universal coverage that people have in every other industrialized country.

ROBERTS: Do the health care bills now before Congress, do they have what it takes to turn this around?

KRISTOF: There's certainly a huge improvement in equity. I mean, we have two major problems in this country. One is equity in overall performance, and the other is cost. I would say they don't do very much on the cost front, but they do make real strides in equity and moving much, much closer to universality.

ROBERTS: Karen, you have been doing such a great examination of the health care system in this country in the series you've been doing for "Time" magazine.

So the health care bills making their way through Congress would bring millions new people into the ranks of the insured, give them health care. But the question that many people have, and I have it as well, is the system capable of taking on that many people and continue delivering the quality of care that America is famous for when you have insurance?

TUMULTY: That is really a very good question, because you see places like Massachusetts where they have expanded coverage.

What you need to have is the system that would take care of these people. You need to have enough primary care providers, primary care doctors, nurse practitioners.

One of the things, for instance, that I think is a real concern in the House bill is it would vastly expand Medicaid to cover people, which is on its face probably a good idea, an efficient way to do it, except for the fact that there are already a lot of places in this country where people are finding it difficult to find, say, for instance, a dentist who will take a Medicaid patient.

ROBERTS: Right.

And Nick, final point to you, Karen alluded to this a couple moments ago, that we're good at taking care of people when they're sick. We're not necessarily good at making sure they stay healthy. As much as this has to do with access to care, it has to do with lifestyle, poverty, economic position in this country.

KRISTOF: That's true. And we certainly need to move much more on public health issues like obesity, for example.

But I also think universality is key to it. We talked all about these various statistics where we do really poorly. There is one point actually in which Americans do pretty really well, and that is, if you reach 65, at that point, your life expectancy is greater than that in other industrialized countries.

And at that reason, at that point you do get universal health care through Medicare.

ROBERTS: Make it to 65 and you'll do pretty well.

KRISTOF: And you'll do pretty well.

ROBERTS: Nick Kristof, Karen Tumulty, it's always great to see you folks. Thanks so much for coming in today, guys. Really appreciate it -- Kiran?

TUMULTY: Thanks a lot, John.

CHETRY: Still ahead we'll be talking more about the D.C. area sniper, John Allen Muhammad. His execution is set for tonight. Many people saying that they're very happy he's going to be paying the ultimate price for his crimes. But there is one man that says he should be spared.

It's 36 minutes past the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: A developing story that we're following right now. The so-called beltway sniper or D.C. sniper John Allen Muhammad is scheduled to die by lethal injection tonight. The attacks in the Washington D.C. area back in 2002 killed ten people and terrified tens of thousands.

CHETRY: Muhammad's lawyer is claiming that his client is mentally ill and cannot be executed. But the Supreme Court did not step in. Now a man who knew Muhammad before he became a mass murderer is saying that his life should be spared.

Jeanne Meserve is live for us this morning in Jarrett, Virginia, just outside of the prison. Hello, Jeanne.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Kiran and John.

A lot of people think execution is exactly what John Allen Muhammad deserves, but there's at least one person who believes with all his heart that he should not be killed.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MESERVE (voice-over): John Muhammad is slated to die by lethal injection today at 9:00 p.m. eastern.

(on camera): What will you be doing Tuesday night?

REV. AL ARCHER, FORMER DIRECTOR, LIGHTHOUSE MISSION: I can tell you what I'll be thinking about, but I can't tell you what I'll be doing.

I'll be thinking about John. I'll be thinking about John's family, because I hurt for those children. It breaks my heart to think what they have to face not just immediately, but as life goes on. MESERVE: Reverend Al Archer got to know the children and John Muhammad in 2001 when they stayed at the mission for homeless people he ran in Bellingham, Washington. Muhammad was polite, hardworking, almost too perfect, says Archer.

Archer was disturbed by Muhammad's unexplained absences, and after he lost custody of his children, the peculiar relationship he had with a young man named Lee Malvo.

As Archer has learned more about Muhammad's troubled military career, his abusive marriage, his abduction of his children, his trading in fraudulent documents, the sniper killings, Archer has formed a strong opinion about his punishment.

MESERVE (on camera): How do you feel about this execution?

ARCHER: I think that John Muhammad is a typical case of untreated mental problems. And I am very opposed to mentally deficient people being executed.

MESERVE (voice-over): Archer believes the sniper shootings might never have happened if military, law enforcement, and mental health systems hadn't missed red light warning signs about John Muhammad.

Muhammad killed 10 people during the sniper spree. He has never admitted his crimes, he has never expressed remorse. But Reverend Archer has forgiven John Muhammad.

MESERVE (on camera): Is there anything you'd like to say to him?

ARCHER: I love you. I don't love the things you did.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MESERVE: Reverend Archer has recently written John Muhammad to say "I love you." He has not gotten a response.

But last night on "LARRY KING LIVE," Muhammad's first wife Carol says she's been getting about two letters a week from Muhammad. She and her son Lindbergh will be coming here to the prison today to visit John Muhammad. They will not witness the execution, but she says afterwards they will take his body back home to Baton Rouge for a private burial.

John and Kiran, back to you.

CHETRY: Jeanne Meserve for us this morning, thank you.

Well, earlier on "AMERICAN MORNING," I spoke to the man who was chief of the D.C. metro police during that shooting spree, Charles Ramsey. He's now Philadelphia's police commissioner. Well, he certainly doesn't feel the way we just talked about. He says he has no doubts about what should happen tonight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CHARLES RAMSEY, COMMISSIONER, PHILADELPHIA POLLICE: I think if anybody should receive the death penalty, it's John Allen Muhammad. So I feel absolutely no regrets about that whatsoever. In fact, if I was there, I would push the button.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: The Supreme Court rejected Muhammad's final appeal. The only chance his life could be spared now is if Virginia Governor Tim Kaine commutes his sentence on grounds of mental illness.

ROBERTS: The chief doesn't mince words there. I remember living in the area then and it was frightening. It was really terrifying.

John Allen Muhammad's execution is scheduled for 9:00 p.m. eastern tonight. Victims' families will join Larry King live from the prison where they will witness his final moments.

Then on "A.C. 360," Anderson Cooper is taking a look at those 23 days of terror around the beltway when many people were too afraid to even go outside.

CHETRY: Well, still ahead, we'll going to be speaking with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He's going to be joining us live. He has some very, very important information he wants to share. He's suffering with a very rare condition that he has just recently revealed. How his life has changed and what hope he's offering to others.

It's 44 minutes past the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Forty six and a half minutes after the hour.

Let's fast forward now to stories that will be making news later on today. This morning at 9:30 eastern, the DOW opens at its highest level in 52 weeks after soaring more than 200 points yesterday. But it looks like the rally may be short-lived; right now the DOW futures are down just a little bit.

At noon Eastern, the Letterman sex scandal heads back to court. "48 Hours" producer Joe Halderman is accused of trying to extort $2 million from Letterman to keep quiet about some of the late show host's affairs.

And tropical storm Ida coming ashore this morning near Mobile, Alabama, some parts of the Gulf Coast could get up to eight inches of rain. Flooding is a major concern along the coast and also well inland. You know, Atlanta, which got so much rain a few weeks ago is looking like it's going to get some more rain and the ground there all over Georgia and the southeast so saturated. The rain is not going to go anywhere except sit there on the ground.

CHETRY: Right. So from drought to the true meaning of "When it rains, it pours," right?

ROBERTS: Well, you never want drought, but be careful what you wish for, is what I guess.

CHETRY: Yes, exactly.

Well, NASA is giving us some amazing pictures this morning. It's our first look -- that -- I mean that is just so breathtaking and gorgeous. This is the newly discovered neutron star. It's what left behind when a massive star goes super nova and explodes. This one is 11,000 light years away. It's still -- it's so marvelous to see those pictures, you know, to know we can really get those shots.

ROBERTS: And the Hubble gets some great pictures. No question about that.

CHETRY: Well, the world, by the way, news flash will not end in 2012.

ROBERTS: Damn, that means I have to continue my recovery -- my retirement plan.

CHETRY: That's right, keep donating to your 401(k), because you're not going anywhere. It's the comforting message coming from NASA this morning. The space agency is on a mission to debunk the rumors that the earth will be destroyed in 37 months. The rumors sparked by the week's opening of the movie "2012," as well as many other things, but the film is based on Mayan prophesies that predicts a planet will collide with earth and destroy it three years from now.

ROBERTS: And you know what? Now the years are going to way outlast to money. That's no good.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, coming up next: telling us how to live with a chronic form of cancer. Stay with us, this is information you're going to want to hear.

Forty-eight and a half minutes after the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is a basketball legend, one of the greatest college and pro basketball players ever.

ROBERTS: Now, 20 years after he retired, Kareem faces the fight of his life. He has been diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia. And he's going public about it now to help save lives.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar joins us now. We also want to point out that Kareem is a paid spokesperson for Novartis Oncology, it's a company that makes leukemia drugs, but he approached the company to try to get the word out about the disease.

Great to see you again; I had a lovely afternoon in one of your skybox programs watching the Yankees game.

KAREEM ABDUL-JABBAR, FORMER BASKETBALL PLAYER: Yes, yes.

ROBERTS: Didn't know at the time. What did you find out about this and the form of chronic myelogenous leukemia that you have the Philadelphia positive? What is that?

ABDUL-JABBAR: CML is basically a variation on your blood production, where you start producing white blood cells that are useless, so they're cancerous. And it's considered a cancer of the blood or bone marrow.

ROBERTS: Right.

ABDUL-JABBAR: And the Philadelphia chromosome is just a mutation...

ROBERTS: Right.

CHETRY: Right.

ABDUL-JABBAR: ... that affect yours blood production at some point in your life.

ROBERTS: And you were diagnosed when?

ABDUL-JABBAR: December of 2008.

CHETRY: And the good news is, is that you said your doctors say you're basically in remission right now. But for other people out there who may be wondering whether or not they have this, what were some of the symptoms that you felt that made you think, I better go to the doctor and see what's going on here?

ABDUL-JABBAR: For me, I was having hot flashes and sweats. And, you know, I'm not -- I'm not having menopause, you know, so...

CHETRY: You can rule that one out, right?

ROBERTS: You know it anyway.

ABDUL-JABBAR: What was that all about, you know?

CHETRY: Right.

ABDUL-JABBAR: So I went and spoke to my doctor about it. He said, let's go to the lab and get some blood work done. And the next day, they said, your white blood cell count is sky high. You need to go see a specialist and find out what's going on.

ROBERTS: Wow.

ABDUL-JABBAR: And that was December of last year.

ROBERTS: So you were very private about this since December of last year. I had no inkling when we spent the afternoon together recently...

ABDUL-JABBAR: Right.

ROBERTS: ... that you had this. Why have you decided now to come out and make this public?

ABDUL-JABBAR: Well, I think someone in my position who gets public attention can do a lot of good because a lot of people are faced with this condition and they think it's a death sentence. I know, for myself, I had a very good friend who died just three or four years ago from a different type of leukemia. But when that happened, it was devastating, and I thought I had the same thing and that I had months or weeks to live.

CHETRY: And so your doctor told you it was not a death sentence...

ABDUL-JABBAR: Right.

CHETRY: ... but you had to, obviously, seek treatment, take medication. How are you doing right now and what has been that process for you?

ABDUL-JABBAR: Well, I'm doing very well. But it's something where you have to have some discipline. Fortunately, as an athlete, you have to go through that just to keep your job.

But you have to find a specialist that understands your condition. You have to get your blood checked regularly. And you have to take your medication. Now, if you do that, you can manage this particular form of leukemia and live a very productive life with minimal intrusion into the things that you love to do.

ROBERTS: I was reading some statistics that the five-year life expectancy has tripled in the last 40 years, so medical science is much better at taking care of this, treating it, as a chronic disease.

But you said that you had some symptoms. You were getting sort of hot flashes, a little bit of a fever. So many people that are diagnosed with CML, they don't have any symptoms at all. So what's your message for people out there who may have no idea that they have this disease?

ABDUL-JABBAR: The best thing to do is to see a doctor regularly, go for regular checkups, every year, every 18 months, every two years, whatever. You know, it works for you. Get regular blood work done so that you can have some benchmarks. I was very glad that that was my regimen, because when I did my blood work, they could compare it with the previous time, which I had gone, which was two years earlier than that. So I had a good idea of like when it started to occur.

CHETRY: This really highlights the need for care. You need to pay for all of this and you need health care to do it. I'm sure you've been paying attention to the ongoing debate about health care. Have you taken a stand on that? Do you have an opinion on what we need to do as a nation to make sure more people can get access to health care? ABDUL-JABBAR: I'm all for that. We have the best technology in the world. We're supposed to be the can-do nation. And our health care system really fails so many people, especially poor people, you know, people who don't have the means to go to private doctors.

I think we should change that. I think it's absolutely crucial and certainly, it's a just and noble cause to make health care available to everyone.

ROBERTS: Well, Kareem, it's just great to see you this morning. Thanks very much for updating us on your condition and we're glad that things are great with you, at least so far, and keep up the fight.

ABDUL-JABBAR: I'm feeling good and intend to keep living my life and doing the best I can with it. I have a, you know, positive things that I'm doing. I'm working on a documentary. I'm planning to spend a lot of time with my kids and continue writing, doing all the things that I love to do.

ROBERTS: Terrific. It's great to see you. Thanks so much for coming by.

ABDUL-JABBAR: It's nice to be here. Thank you.

CHETRY: And you look great.

ABDUL-JABBAR: Thank you so much.

CHETRY: Congratulations on all of that.

ABDUL-JABBAR: Thank you.

CHETRY: Thanks, Kareem.

Meanwhile, there's a new Facebook page, by the way, that can be found by searching Kareem Abdul-Jabbar patient advocate. You can go there on Facebook and get more information about the disease.

Meanwhile, it's 57 minutes after the hour. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: We've been showing you the incredible video: a woman's brush with death in the Boston subway system. She fell off a subway platform, a little tipsy there, just as a speeding train was approaching the station. Witnesses waved frantically to signal the operator of the oncoming train which made an emergency stop, coming to a screeching halt just inches before hitting the woman. The front part of the train actually went over her.

Charlice Lewis was the woman driving the train that stopped it, and tomorrow she'll be our guest here on AMERICAN MORNING.

CHETRY: It's an amazing video. We look forward to talking to her.

Meantime, continue the conversation on all of today's story by heading to our show page at cnn.com/amfix.

That's going to do it for us today. We'll see you back here tomorrow.

ROBERTS: Meantime, the news continues here on CNN with Heidi Collins in the "CNN NEWSROOM" -- hi, Heidi.