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4,000 Have Died From H1N1, Says CDC; Japanese Authorities Drop Charges Against Savoie; New Education Initiative Puts Stimulus Money Up for Schools Willing to Reform; Interview with Christopher Savoie; An In-Depth Look at Eric Cantor

Aired November 12, 2009 - 07:00   ET

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


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, and welcome to AMERICAN MORNING on this Thursday, November 12th. We're coming up on 7:00 here in New York. I'm Kiran Chetry.

T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you all. I'm T.J. Holmes filling in today for John Roberts. Here's a look now at some of our top stories.

Four options for a new strategy in Afghanistan, but the president might need a fifth or a sixth. He is sending the national security team back to work, ordered back to the drawing board with a new set of marching orders. We'll be live at the White House where the President may be looking for another couple of options, an exit strategy, possibly, for the war.

CHETRY: Plus, swine flu has killed four times as many people as previously reported. The CDC's uping the number of deaths from H1N1 to 4,000. The new figure includes deaths from complications of the virus. That's how they also list deaths from seasonal flu. The latest on the outbreak, the vaccine shortage and what you need to do to protect your family coming up.

HOLMES: Also, a developing story this morning.

Word that Japan is essentially dropping all charges against an American father accused of trying to kidnap his own children. You'll remember his ex-wife broke the law, fled to Japan with the kids.

Coming up, we'll speak exclusively with the father, Christopher Savoie.

CHETRY: We begin the hour with major developments in the war in Afghanistan. First, President Obama ordering his national security team essentially back to the drawing board. He's asking them to focus on how and also when we can hand off the war to the Afghan government.

His advisers had suggested that troop surge options ranging from 20,000 to 40,000 more soldiers deployed to key areas of Afghanistan where fighting with the Taliban is most intense. Those ideas did not fly.

The other big development, published reports that the U.S. ambassador in Afghanistan, that's former Army General Carl Eichenberry, is objecting to any kind of troop surge. He claims Afghanistan's government is simply too unstable and corrupt right now to make that kind of U.S. commitment.

Our Jill DOUGHERTY is live at the White House this morning. So as we talk about the president signaling that he's looking for a way out of the war as part of the strategy, which is understandable, these four other options didn't sort of elaborate on that enough?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: They don't go far enough. I think you'd have to, Kiran. What the president really is doing is shaking up the board here. He's saying, OK, we were looking at troop numbers, we were looking at how they would be used, et cetera.

But he's asking the ultimate question. When do they hand it off to the Afghans? When does the U.S. get out? When is Afghanistan ready enough to take it over?

So essentially the question are how and when, the sticking point, according to a senior U.S. official to CNN, saying it's not only the timeline, but it's the reliable and the credibility of the government of Hamid Karzai.

And we remember that there were a lot of allegations about corruption, et cetera. It's a very serious issue.

Now, the alarm may have been sounded by the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Carl Eichenberry, who has raised that issue, questioning whether there should be more U.S. troops sent to Afghanistan, and presumably for exactly that reason.

Now General Petraeus, who spoke to CNN just yesterday, said that, nevertheless, a decision is getting closer. Let's hear what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, COMMANDER, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: We are, indeed, nearing a decision on this very important topic. And I think it's very, very essential that we recall why it is we are in Afghanistan, and that is to ensure that that country does not once again become a sanctuary or safe haven for Al Qaeda and the kind of transnational extremists that carried out the 9/11 attacks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DOUGHERTY: OK, so from the White House, what they are saying, a good message and a strong message to the Karzai government, which is the U.S. commitment is not open-ended.

CHETRY: Jill, we talked about those reports about the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan objecting to any type of troop surge because of the instability of the Afghan government. Is the White House commenting publicly on that option?

DOUGHERTY: They are not. They are saying they don't comment on classified documents.

But listen exactly to what Tommy VitorE from the White House is saying. "We won't discuss classified documents publicly, but, as we have said for months, success, success in Afghanistan depends on having a true partner in the Afghan government."

So you can read very clearly what the message is.

CHETRY: Talking about needing a true partner. Jill Dougherty for us this morning, thanks.

HOLMES: Swine flu vaccine in short supply, and an outbreak on the move. Health officials tell us flu activity, which is a mix of both seasonal flu and the H1N1, is widespread everywhere in this country except Mississippi, Hawaii and in D.C.

And the CDC says 4,000 people are now dead because of swine flu. That number is four times higher than they previously thought.

So why the huge jump? Let's bring in senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen for some answers. Elizabeth, good morning to you. Are the numbers what they seem to be on the surface? They seem to be alarming.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, T.J., it's interesting. I just got off the phone with a federal official who confirmed numbers first reported in "The New York Times."

And those numbers say that around 4,000 people have died from H1N1 since the outbreak started in April. As you said, that's about four times more than what was thought.

Here's the reason why. This virus isn't any worse than it ever was. It's really an accounting issue. Most of us in the media have been reporting H1N1 deaths when their laboratory confirmed, when a test actually shows that someone had H1N1.

But there's another way of doing it, which is looking at people who look like they have H1N1 and then died, in other words, had all the symptoms. It was clear to all the doctors.

The CDC says if you took those two numbers and put them together, in other words the laboratory confirmed and the ones doctors know are H1N1 but there's no laboratory confirmation, that's how you get the 4,000 -- T.J.

HOLMES: It's amazing to think it's just a matter, like you said, of a different way to do the equation.

But still, people are hearing that, and people have been worried. Is this H1N1 any more deadly than just the seasonal flu? So are we going to see, do they expect to see more deaths from this H1N1 or swine flu than we usually get from seasonal flu, which is 36,000 a year?

COHEN: Right. Take a look at these numbers. And you just said one of them. Every year, there are about 36,000 deaths from seasonal flu. That's just the regular flu we have every year. H1n1 so far, which means since April, there have been, as we said, about 4,000 deaths. You can see H1N1 has a long way to go until it catches up to seasonal flu. It may happen, but so far it hasn't happened.

HOLMES: Elizabeth Cohen, we appreciate you actually giving some perspective and breaking down those numbers for us. Thank you so much this morning.

CHETRY: There are also some new developments this morning about the Tennessee father accused of trying to kidnap his own kids. You remember they were taken to Japan by his ex-wife after a bitter divorce battle.

Authorities in Japan have now essentially dropped all charges against Christopher Savoie, but the question now is will he ever see his children?

Here's our Kyung Lah.

KYUNG LAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning from Tokyo, Kiran and T.J.

Prosecutors here in Japan have decided to drop all of the criminal charges against American Christopher Savoie. Savoie is the Tennessee father who was embroiled in the bitter international custody dispute with his Japanese ex-wife over their two children.

His ex-wife, a Japanese national, abducted the two children out of the United States and brought them here to Japan. A U.S. court then awarded Savoie full custody.

Savoie came here to Japan and tried to whisk the two children out of Japan back to the United States. Well, Japanese authorities stopped him.

Now Japan does not recognize that U.S. custody order. So Savoie was arrested, and he was charged with kidnapping. He sat in the Japanese jail almost three weeks.

He was, though, eventually released. This move by the prosecutor's office now completely drops the charges against him as far as the criminal case.

As far as the custody battle, though, there is a long road ahead. The Savoie family telling CNN that Savoie remains a grief-stricken man. He is unsure if he will ever see his two children again -- T.J., Kiran.

CHETRY: It's a heartbreaking situation. We're going to be talking to them actually coming up in the next hour. We're going to be speaking exclusively -- actually not in the next hour. We're going to be talking to them in just in a couple of minutes, to Christopher Savoie and his wife Amy about whether they are back to square one in the fight for his children and how he's doing now. HOLMES: And if it isn't enough just trying to educate this country's children, you're also trying to keep them healthy. Swine flu fears at schools across the country. We'll be talking to the Education Secretary Arne Duncan here with us live, next, to talk about these challenges.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. It's ten minutes past the hour now.

The CDC is revising its swine flu estimates, now saying that 4,000 people have died from H1N1. The virus is hitting schools so hard in some cases they've been forced to shut down altogether. About 350 schools were forced to close because of swine flu last week alone.

Joining me is Arne Duncan, the Secretary for the Department of Education. Secretary Duncan, thanks for being with us this morning.

ARNE DUNCAN, U.S. EDUCATION SECRETARY: Good morning. Thanks so much for having me.

CHETRY: We're going to be talking in just a few minutes about a new initiative you guys are launching today, but first, swine flu on the minds of a lot of parents and a lot of teachers out there. How should schools be dealing with swine flu right now?

DUNCAN: I've actually been really proud. I think schools have done an extraordinary job of trying to stay open and keeping sick students at home. We're seeing declines in the number of schools closing.

We've been working hard on prevention, making sure students are washing their hands frequently and thoroughly, coughing into their sleeves, not in their hands.

But now we're really moving into the chance to get vaccinations. And we want schools to be open, and many schools around the country are opening the doors so that students can receive vaccines within those school buildings. We think that's very, very positive.

Obviously, parents have the option, the choice of whether or not their students will receive the vaccine. But I can tell you my wife and I are going to make sure when the vaccination is available for our children that they will receive it.

CHETRY: So you're saying you are still waiting for the vaccine to be available for your kids. And I know in our town swine flu is going around. There's been many cases of it. Yet our pediatricians don't have enough of the shots.

I have a girlfriend who is pregnant and she can't get it. And my daughter has asthma which is considered one of the high risk groups, and these are the people the government said needed the shot. And we've been told about a manufacturing shortage, but will this vaccine come too late for many? DUNCAN: Obviously, it can't come soon enough. We wish it was here yesterday. Obviously, we just want to make sure our school doors are open and that as it becomes available, schools are part of the solution.

CHETRY: You know, the American public doesn't have necessarily a lot of confidence right now in the government's ability to prevent an epidemic. We did a latest poll about it showing only 11 percent of people asked are, quote, "very confident that the government can prevent a nationwide epidemic."

Do you think that people are perhaps not understanding exactly how hard you guys are working to try to get swine flu vaccine out to people and prevent an outbreak, or is it a communication breakdown? Why do you think not many people have faith in our government when it comes to this issue?

DUNCAN: I don't know if government alone could ever prevent a vaccine. We all have to work together. So it takes government, it takes parents, it takes students, it takes schools, doctors, community health officials, all of us have to work together to make sure our students have a chance to be safe.

And obviously we're most worried about young children who are very much at risk of the H1N1 virus.

CHETRY: Let's put swine flu aside and talk a little bit about what's going on with the administration. You guys are rolling out a new program today. It's called "Race to the Top."

And in this program, school districts as well as states and schools themselves can actually vie for money, stimulus money to the tune of $4 billion, by adopting certain education reforms. Tell us how this is going to work.

DUNCAN: This is a huge, huge opportunity, unprecedented resources to invest in states and districts and non-profits that are willing to challenge the status quo and lead the country where we need to go educationally.

We want better results for students. We want more students not just graduating from high school but going on to college. We want to close the achievement gap. We want to create more learning opportunities for students.

And these grant resources give us the chance to invest in those states and districts that are willing to challenge the status quo and help us get dramatically better results for children.

So it's an extraordinary opportunity.

CHETRY: Does it involve in terms of gauging how the program is successful or what schools are doing well, does it -- is it mostly focused on test scores?

DUNCAN: That's a piece of it. At the end of the day I'm most interested in graduation rates. We have to educate our way to a better economy. There are no good jobs out there for high school dropouts, as you know, and we want to make sure many more of our high school graduates are actually prepared for either college or the world of work.

So we're trying to get dramatically better outcomes at the back end. That's what this is about -- higher graduation rates, more students ready for college, for higher education, and for the world of work.

CHETRY: It's a huge priority, certainly. The Race to the Top program rolling out today, $4 billion available in stimulus funds. So I'm sure a lot of schools and teachers and principals' ears are perking up over that.

Secretary Arne Duncan, always great to talk to you. Thanks for being with us.

DUNCAN: Thanks so much for the opportunity. Have a good morning.

CHETRY: You too.

HOLMES: The race will be on to get that cash. They're getting their plans together now.

CHETRY: The schools need it. A lot of schools need it.

HOLMES: They need it desperately.

But coming up, we have an interview you're going to be doing here shortly. A lot of people remember this story, a dad essentially in trouble with the law in Japan for trying to kidnap his own children. Well, he may be off the hook, at least for any charges, but what about his children? An exclusive interview.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HOLMES: Straight ahead on the Most News in the Morning, he says the Republican Party is making a comeback. And today in our A.M. original series "GOP: The Next Chapter," our in-depth look at the number two Republican in the House, Eric Cantor. That's coming up right here on AMERICAN MORNING -- Kiran.

CHETRY: And now there's a CNN exclusive.

Overnight, authorities in Japan dropping all charges against Christopher Savoie, an American dad accused of trying to kidnap his own children. Well, Savoie went to Japan after his ex-wife defied American courts and actually took their kids with her to Japan. So he was jailed in Japan but then released last month. And this has been a story we've been following very closely on AMERICAN MORNING.

Joining us now is Christopher Savoie and his wife, Amy. Thanks to both of you for being with us.

CHRISTOPHER SAVOIE, FATHER OF ABDUCTED CHILDREN: Good morning.

AMY SAVOIE, WIFE OF CHRISTOPHER SAVOIE: Good morning.

CHETRY: Christopher, I've talked to Amy a couple of times before this when your fate was really up in the air. She was terribly worried for you and now, of course, the great news that they've at least dropped the charges against you. What's the next step, Christopher?

C. SAVOIE: Well, it's, again, a bittersweet ending in some ways. I'm very happy to be completely exonerated of anything, but we're still dealing with the fact that my kids have been kidnapped. They have been taken halfway, you know, halfway across the planet and I basically have no rights to see them at this point.

And that's a very different situation from what they had here in Tennessee. They had access to both parents. And they had a good life here. And I'm very sad for my children that right now, if Japan doesn't change its ways, they're going to grow up without a father. I mean, that's just a devastating thing to think about.

CHETRY: It really is. And, Amy, you've been talking a little bit about some of the progress that's been made in terms of trying to get lawmakers on your side, trying to get senators to write letters to the president to address this issue because it's a larger issue. It's not just your family.

Japan has a very, very different set of rules when it comes to custody. And if a Japanese citizen takes their children, even if it's defying U.S. custody laws, Japan is not going to enforce that. And so it's very, very rare that anybody who's children were kidnapped from America and taken to Japan would ever get them back again.

What is the status of trying to work through the legal system here and through our laws to possibly convince Japan to change its ways?

A. SAVOIE: Well, Japan has been very non-cooperative in these cases where children have been taken from a series of other countries. The day Christopher was released from jail, I believe there were seven or eight ambassadors of other countries that issued a statement asking Japan to sign the Hague Treaty, and Christopher has some interesting information that he learned when he was in Japan in jail regarding Japan turning a blind eye to their own Japanese penal code, Article 3, which states basically that all these kidnappers they've been harboring for all these years actually are guilty of a crime, even under Japanese law. They just haven't been enforcing this and Christopher, do you want to talk about that?

C. SAVOIE: Well, I mean, they do not enforce Article 3, which says that Japanese citizens, when they kidnap overseas, they are guilty of a crime in Japan. And so my ex-wife actually is guilty.

CHETRY: Right. But there's a big cultural rift, right? I mean, in Japan they believe that when a couple divorces, one parent should get the sole custody and the other one should essentially cut their losses and move on as if they never had those kids.

C. SAVOIE: Right.

CHETRY: And so you're really up against a big cultural difference with how America and the U.S. handles divorces.

C. SAVOIE: Exactly. It's selective enforcement. I mean, until after World War II, it was the father who got complete custody and the mother got no custody. And now the rule is that mothers generally get all the custody, and the father is dead to the family.

I think that neither are good things, even for Japanese citizens living in Japan. I mean, there are so many Japanese fathers and mothers, who are not able to see their kids at all. I mean, they grow up without a father or a mother.

CHETRY: Christopher...

C. SAVOIE: It's very sad.

CHETRY: And, Christopher, the prosecutor's office said that the reason that they dropped the charges against you and I'll read their quote is because you were, quote, "deeply regretful and promised to solve the problem of custody through discussion."

Are there discussions? Are you in communication with your ex- wife and is there a chance that something can be worked out, a split custody agreement, despite what has happened?

C. SAVOIE: I think there could be, but I think that the main principle we have to have here is that we had a custody agreement. This is not a custody fight. There is a custody agreement that was agreed to in the United States that my ex-wife ignored completely and broke federal and state laws in order to ignore. And I think that we have to come back to that stance first and say, OK, this -- the jurisdiction can't be just moved by an individual to Japan or to whatever country just because they like it.

You know, I think we first have to expect that the United States -- in the United States that whoever it is, respects the laws of the United States first and just because you have a contract in the United States it'd be a terrible thing if, for example, companies in the U.S. could make contracts...

CHETRY: Right.

C. SAVOIE: ... and then one of the parties go back to their country and then completely ignore it. That would not be a good thing for the rule of law here in the United States. So I think we have to go back to that principle.

CHETRY: And, Christopher, let me just ask you what was it like, your time in prison there in the Japanese jail?

C. SAVOIE: It was terrible. I mean, Japanese pre-indictment prisons, those Daiyo Kangyo (ph) system as they call it in Japan, the Japanese bar association itself is vehemently against what they do. They have the longest pre-indictment detainment of any country that I'm aware of. Up to 23 days without a lawyer of interrogations before there's even a charge.

This is -- and the conditions, you know, lights on 24 hours, terrible sanitary conditions. I had dysentery for a week after I got back. I mean, it's just a really, really horrible situation.

A. SAVOIE: And there's definitely some post-traumatic stress for him right now.

CHETRY: Obviously, I can only imagine. Thank goodness at least the charges are dropped. I know that, you know, your battle continues.

I want to thank both of you for being with us this morning. We wish you the best of luck. I know that you're hoping that some of these letters can get to the president and perhaps he can raise the issue on his trip to Asia.

Christopher and Amy Savoie, good luck to you and thanks for being with us.

A. SAVOIE: Thank you.

C. SAVOIE: Thank you.

CHETRY: Twenty-four minutes past the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Are we seeing the beginning of a Republican resurgence? Well, if it's true, you can bet then that this man will help lead the way.

HOLMES: Yes. We're talking about House Minority Whip Eric Cantor. He's outspoken. He's got an eye on the future of his party.

Our Brianna Keilar joins us live this morning from D.C. with part four now of our A.M. original series, "GOP: The Next Chapter."

Brianna, good morning. What do you have for us this morning?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We're talking about Eric Cantor who, of course, looks much younger than his 46 years. He is a tireless politician. And when you spend time with Cantor, you really get the sense that not much happens to him by accident, including his steady rise within the Republican Party.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Eric Cantor.

KEILAR (voice-over): When Republicans swept the top three offices in Democratic leaning Virginia last week --

REP. ERIC CANTOR (R), MINORITY WHIP: The Republican resurgence begins again tonight.

KEILAR: We followed Congressman Eric Cantor to his hometown of Richmond. He rallied the Republican troops.

CANTOR: Thanks for what you're doing.

KEILAR: With an eye toward next year's congressional elections.

CANTOR: We're going to take the model that worked here in Virginia, so we can unite our party and then begin to appeal to independents with solutions that affect their everyday lives.

KEILAR: Jumping from one interview to the next, Cantor shows why as the number two House Republican, he's his party's most visible congressman. It's been 18 years since this lawyer left his family's real estate business to enter politics as a state legislator.

(on camera): This is where your political career started.

CANTOR: This is right here. We're right on the grounds of the capitol of Virginia.

KEILAR (voice-over): The future of his party, Cantor says, depends on returning to its roots of fiscal discipline and delivering a positive message.

CANTOR: And it really is about that optimism that the people are looking for again. And what they hear coming out of Washington is not that.

KEILAR: Back in Washington where he's nearing his tenth year in Congress, Cantor says he's trying to sell real world solutions to kitchen table issues.

CANTOR: Because people are afraid. They're afraid that their future won't be anywhere near what their past was. They're afraid that their kids are not going to have as good of a life as they have.

KEILAR: As a father of three, Cantor says those concerns hit home, where you may be surprised to learn, he keeps the enemy close.

(on camera): Your wife is a Democrat?

CANTOR: Yes. But I think I'm working her over. We've almost been married 20 years, and -- but again, she is very much on different sides of some issues than I am.

KEILAR (voice-over): As minority whip, Cantor's job is to keep Republicans in line on votes. One of the party's biggest fund- raisers, House Republicans repay him with loyalty, helping him deliver big results, including a unanimous House Republican vote against President Obama's stimulus package in February. Before this past weekend's big vote on health care reform, he strategized with one of his deputy vote counters.

CANTOR: You know, it's likely we could stop this bill from going forward.

KEILAR: But trying to overcome an 81-vote vote disadvantage, even for the disciplined Eric Cantor...

CANTOR: OK, bye-bye.

KEILAR: ... can be tough.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR: Now talking privately with sources around town here, T.J. and Kiran, the question that kind of comes up, including privately from Republicans is can Eric Cantor deliver? He really is this rise in profile, the product of very effective self-promotion machine that he surrounds himself with and the expectations are very high, as you can imagine.

HOLMES: You talk about expectations, a rise in profile. And of course, the GOP looking for a new crop, a next generation. So the natural question, is he running for president?

KEILAR: And I asked him this. I said, 2012? And he said I'm not running for president. And I said 2016? And he said I'm not running for president. I don't intend to run for president. You know, we'll see. But I think the loud whispers around the halls of Congress is that he has his eye eventually on that role of speaker, should Republicans be able to deliver on this promise of a resurgence.

HOLMES: I don't intend to run for president.

CHETRY: They always couch it a little bit.

HOLMES: They always. All right. Brianna Keilar, we appreciate you this morning. So good to see you. Thank you so much.

We're doing a check some of our top stories this morning. One of them, Virginia, under a state of emergency because of drenching rains from the remnants of tropical storm Ida and a coastal nor'easter. The Governor Tim Kaine putting agencies on alert telling them to be ready for heavy flooding.

Our Rob Marciano telling us up to eight inches of rain could fall before the storm moves north tomorrow.

CHETRY: Senate majority leader Harry Reid eyeing higher taxes on your paycheck to pay for health care legislation. According to Democratic officials, it would only go up if your taxes if you make more than $250,000 a year. One option would raise the payroll taxes going to Medicare, but no final decision has been made.

HOLMES: Of course, Mike Tyson retired from boxing a few years ago back but apparently he's still throwing punches. The former champ was arrested last night after a scuffle at the Los Angeles International Airport. Police say he punched a member of the paparazzi in the head, sending him to the floor. The photographer went to the hospital with a cut on his forehead. If you get hit in the head by Mike Tyson, all you have is a cut, you got off lucky. Both men have now been charged with misdemeanor battery.

CHETRY: He still has both of his ears?

HOLMES: Yes, he really got off lucky. A cut on the forehead? Oh, come on. Walk away.

All right. Coming up here now, a story we were keeping an eye on this morning. And this is a great one to hear. Because we all know in covering Afghanistan, Iraq as well, that IEDs are really the militants' weapon of choice. Certainly Afghanistan who has gotten more coverage lately. They kill, maim without warning. But now American troops on the front lines are getting some new vehicles that are being called life savers.

Our Barbara Starr at the Pentagon for us with an "A.M. Original." And Barbara, I assume they live up to the name and that would be a great thing.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, so far they do, T.J.. You know, Defense Secretary Robert Gates is headed out to Oshkosh, Wisconsin, later today to go to this factory and look at where these new vehicles are being made. But we went first to have a look before he got there.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STARR (voice-over): It's called the mine resistant ambush protected all-terrain vehicle. The MATV. A mouthful of words for this massive new armored truck with a life-saving mission.

(on camera): This both lets you go off road and into remote areas and be more survivable against IEDs?

KEN JUERGENS, SR. PROGRAM DIR., OSHKOSH DEFENSE: Exactly. That's what this is designed for.

STARR (voice-over): Improvised Roadside Explosives, IEDs, are now the number one killer of U.S. troops in Afghanistan. We came to Oshkosh defense who builds the trucks to see how the MATV can go off road, charging through rough terrain, away from where bombs may be lying in wait.

When a bomb hits this truck, the troops are protected. Unlike other armored vehicles, on the MATV, only the passenger cab is armored.

JUERGENS: We're finding that the tires blow away, the engine compartment blows away, but everything here in the crew capsule is protected.

STARR (on camera): This is pretty light weight. JUERGENS: Right. And during a blast you don't want a lot of heavy objects that's keeping the weight down. You want this stuff to fly away. So during an explosion, this stuff all goes away.

STARR (voice-over): The MATV is still massive. Six feet wide, 12 feet tall. The tires alone have a four-foot diameter. But light weight. Unlike its 40,000-pound predecessor, this is only 25,000 pounds. So it can maneuver steep, rough terrain.

(on camera): Here on the shop floor at Oshkosh Defense, an economic boom for the company and its workers. The Pentagon orders for 5,200 MATVs for Afghanistan has resulted in more than 1,000 additional jobs here. This shop floor now runs 20 hours a day.

(voice-over): 56-year-old Ron Shirkey was laid off from another job after 15 years on the assembly line.

RON SHIRKEY, OSHKOSH DEFENSE EMPLOYEE: I was really depressed. I didn't know what I was going to do.

STARR: And then he joined the MATV assembly line at Oshkosh.

SHIRKEY: If I could build those and help keep the people that are protecting us safer with these vehicles, that would be a very motivating job, and it has turned out to be just that.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: So T.J., this is really a very remarkable piece of engineering. Think of it this way. The front of the vehicle blows away in a blast. The back of the vehicle blows away in a blast but it's that armored cab right in the center that keeps the troops safe because all the waves of deadly blast energy have dissipated to the outside away from the troops. And that's the whole idea of this vehicle. That's what they say will keep troops safe in Afghanistan.

HOLMES: Well, you know, a lot of people, a lot of families would be happy to hear them and, please, keep them coming off the assembly lines. Barbara Starr, we appreciate you bringing that to us this morning. Thanks so much.

And of course, we do have big developments with the war in Afghanistan, including signs the president is looking for an exit strategy. Breaking that down for us in the next half hour, Daniel Markey, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and also Colonel Andrew J. Bacevich. He is a military historian. The two men see things quite differently.

CHETRY: All right. We look forward to that discussion.

And also with so many heartbreaking stories that come out of Afghanistan, we're happy that we have a heartwarming one to show you today. This is a "Sabi," a four-year-old black lab trained to detect bombs, found alive and well. She went missing 14 months ago. She was presumed killed in action. But a U.S. soldier found her wandering near a patrol base in northeast Afghanistan. Well, "Sabi" is now become with Australia's special forces unit.

HOLMES: Good to go home.

CHETRY: What a cute dog. I'm so glad they found her.

Well, still ahead, we're talking about the worst case scenario when it comes to H1N1 flu. A man, he actually goes into a coma. His organs shut down. They recommend that he gets last rites. What ended up saving his life? He talks about how he survived. It's 37 minutes past the hour.

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CHETRY: I love that song. Good morning, New York City. And we have a special treat this morning. You know what we're looking at? As we look at the Hudson River. That is the "USS New York," the newly commissioned naval ship. It was named in honor of the courage displayed by New York City residents during and after the September 11th terrorist attack.

It was officially commissioned earlier in the week and there it goes. It is heading off right now, leaving New York Harbor after a big ceremony. There were many people who came there. You know, as we talk about the bow, the front part of the ship was constructed with 7.5 tons of steel that was melted down from the wreckage of the twin towers.

They also have a motto on it that says "Strength forged through sacrifice. Never forget." And so there we see the amphibious assault ship. It's basically a transport dock ship. It's going to be headed off to do its work. But there we see the shot out of New York Harbor.

HOLMES: I think it will be based in Norfolk, Virginia. It don't think it's been home yet to its home base. Of course, it was in Louisiana where it was constructed up to New York. Been here for almost a better part of two weeks, I do believe, up here hanging out for Veterans Day. And now a great shot this morning to see it.

CHETRY: It's headed to Norfolk where it's raining and where there's a ton of trouble. But it will withstand that.

HOLMES: It will hold up just fine.

CHETRY: And welcome back to the most news in the morning. 41 minutes past the hour now.

We've seen a big up tick in the number of swine flu deaths coming from the CDC this morning. Health officials now say 4,000 people across the nation have died from the virus. That's four times more than previously thought. And they are now including deaths from swine flu complications, including pneumonia and bacterial infections. That's what they do when they count deaths for seasonal flu. And so they apply those same stats, work to the swine flu. They've come up with the number 4,000. So ten times what we originally thought so. HOLMES: A scary number there. Clearly, a lot of people dying. So people are wondering what exactly is that like? Nobody wants to find out. But still, when swine flu becomes so serious that it kills. What is that like?

Our Brooke Baldwin is here with us. Good morning. A pleasant surprise to hear you this morning.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You guys, good morning.

HOLMES: Interesting story here. You find out from a guy exactly who did find out exactly what it's like to go through it.

BALDWIN: Right. Exactly. He is a 50-year-old, active guy. Never really had any brush with major sickness. His name is John Boudrot. Imagine this, if you will, imagine not remembering an entire month? John Boudrot just can't remember the entire month of September. Why? Well, he was in a coma with the H1N1 virus.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN BOUDROT: Let me get some ice.

BALDWIN (voice-over): In his 51 years, John Boudreaux has never gotten a flu shot. In fact, he says he rarely gets sick. But eight weeks ago, what started out as a cough nearly killed him.

JOHN BOUDROT: 51 is much too young to go anywhere.

BALDWIN: It was late August and both John and his wife fell ill. But unlike Renee who bounced back after three days, John was hospitalized. The entire month of September spent in intensive care.

RENEE BOUDROT, HUSBAND NEARLY DIED FROM SWINE FLU: A little over four weeks. He was in the induced coma and paralyzed.

BALDWIN (on camera): For basically all of September.

RENEE BOUDROT: Yes.

JOHN BOUDROT: That's right.

RENEE BOUDROT: Gone. Yes.

BALDWIN (voice-over): John's organs shut down. His body paralyzed as part of his treatment. And according to doctors, John's chance of survival 10 percent.

DR. ROBIN DRETLER, INFECTIOUS DISEASE SPECIALIST: It had to be the swine flu. There really wasn't any question about what it was going to be.

BALDWIN: And infectious disease specialist, Dr. Robin Dretler knows John's situation was dire. The Tamiflu John was taking wasn't enough. So with permission from the Food and Drug Administration granted because this was an emergency Dr. Dretler tried an experimental anti-viral drug called Peramivir.

DRETLER: I was telling his wife he had a 10 percent chance. He'd been on two days of the drug. If the drug didn't give him some catch-up space in the next day or, two he was going to run out of time.

JOHN BOUDROT: It's worse at night than it is during the day.

BALDWIN: After five days of taking Peramivir intravenously, John was out of his coma and in physical therapy. Learning how to talk and walk all over again. John and Dr. Dretler credit the drug with saving his life. John's lesson is simple. Once it's readily available, get the H1N1 vaccine.

JOHN BOUDROT: I know how fortunate I am. And you know, especially getting back again to that darn Dr. Dretler. I mean, that's why I'm here because of him. I wasn't going to cry.

BALDWIN (voice-over): But you feel that grateful?

JOHN BOUDROT: Oh, absolutely. I think without that drug --

RENEE BOUDROT: We don't know.

JOHN BOUDROT: We don't know what would have happened.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BALDWIN: Can you imagine? According to Dr. Dretler, the CDC has now released the H1N1 IV drug called Peramivir for emergency cases. So if another patient show severe symptoms, the doctor can call the CDC and request it as well. But the best advice here that Dr. Dretler had may simply be the simplest. If you are sick with flu symptoms and they're not getting better, he says between three to four days, definitely see a doctor for treatment. They will probably give you either Tamiflu or Relenza.

You probably heard of Tamiflu. They say that should help you fight the virus before your case gets too bad. I mean, imagine having to learn how to walk again. It's something that we can't really wrap our heads around, but it happens. It happens.

CHETRY: And it's so confusing because some people say, oh, I was just, you know, I had bad fever for two days and I'm fine, and then you hear people dying from it. So it seems so arbitrary how swine flu affects people.

BALDWIN: It does. There is no rhyme or reason, I feel, in certain cases. But if there is a doubt, go to the doctor.

CHETRY: Good advice. Good to see you.

HOLMES: Wow! (INAUDIBLE) here every little thing now that we all just...

BALDWIN: Didn't mean to scare you. HOLMES: Yes, it's (INAUDIBLE), though, you -- you get concerned. Every little thing that happens to you, oh, my God, is it swine flu?

All right. Brooke, good to see you this morning. Thanks for that (ph).

BALDWIN: Yes. Sorry.

HOLMES: I'm feeling a little ill.

All right. We're going to be talking about some ill weather here in a second. Is it going to be causing problems for your travel plans? The Southeast, got some issues. Stay with us, Rob coming up next.

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HOLMES: That's a -- a nice day in Atlanta today. Right now, you can see it's sunny, about 45 degrees. A crisp morning in Atlanta, going to be a pretty nice one, up to 64 degrees today. But a gorgeous shot of downtown. I think that's going towards midtown there, the shot you're looking at.

Rob Marciano in Atlanta this morning. Looks like a good day there, Mr. Marciano, but a lot of other places not going to be so nice.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: No. You know, that storm that we once called Ida wasn't that big of a deal when it came onshore. Dumped a lot of rain, but now it's gotten even stronger. I mean, just remnants of it. It's down around here, but the big story is really the rain and intense wind and waves that are pounding the Carolina and Virginia coastline right now.

We'll get up into the Delmarva fully. Big waves and coastal flooding imminent, in some cases already happening, and this will be -- we'll see a storm surge here I think like -- like it was an actual hurricane. So that's the ongoing threat. And then the other threat is going to be rainfall.

Check out some of these numbers yesterday in Columbus, Georgia, 7.25. This is the storm total precip so about a day and a half's worth. 5.5 in Atlanta and of course we did see some flooding across the Chattahoochee, not quite as bad as it was a month and a half ago but certainly bad enough.

Check out these numbers forecast, storm totals across Virginia and -- and North Carolina, 3 to 8 inches, and that's just from the rain. That doesn't count or take into consideration the amount of water from the ocean that's going to be pushed onto the beaches. Already starting to see some roads overwashed some of these rainfall or sometimes storms these will get up into the -- into the Chesapeake much like it did during Hurricane Isabel back in 2003 because it's such a prolonged wind event, guys.

We're already seeing winds 40, 50 miles an hour but it's going to continue to happen over a 24 to 36-hour period, and that's a lot of water piling up on the coastline. And it's also around 45, 50 degrees, so kind of miserable down there, as you mentioned.

Back up to you in New York.

HOLMES: All right. Rob, we appreciate you with that miserable forecast. Thank you so much. We'll talk to you again soon, buddy.

MARCIANO: OK.

HOLMES: Well, this morning, you're going to have our top stories just minutes away, including what it was like during that Fort Hood massacre. We're going to hear about it in the words of a wounded soldier.

Our Sanjay Gupta has an exclusive.

CHETRY: Also joining us, tennis legend Andre Agassi. He gets brutally honest. He's opening up about using crystal meth, dealing with his very tough dad and bad hair days. It's all in his new autobiography. Andre Agassi live guest in our studio, coming up.

HOLMES: Also, we got more trivia coming up for you. Are you ready for the CNN Challenge? We did so well earlier. Kiran, I'm looking forward to this again. You can test your news knowledge along with us next, right here on AMERICAN MORNING.

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CHETRY: Little Pat Sajak and I are so happy to have you with us as we try the CNN Challenge. You go to CNNChallenge.com. It's for the news junkies out there who want to test their news knowledge, competing against yourself, competing against everyone in the world at the same time.

HOLMES: Yes. All right. Also, you see what's up here. You get three rounds, essentially, but you get to -- you get to pick among these -- some of your favorites. There are some that are missing as well. I noticed a few aren't there. But we had a got a good group here at least.

CHETRY: Yes. That's right. Let's pick John.

VOICE OF JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: You know, I used to be a deejay. I've got some sweet skills. Pick me as your host.

HOLMES: He's got sweet skills. What -- what do you have?

CHETRY: I have an advantage. I'm on the air earlier than most of these other anchors so I've been chugging Red Bull since 3:00 AM.

HOLMES: That is so true.

CHETRY: Pick me!

HOLMES: That is so true. CHETRY: All right. So let's pretend we want to pick Rick Sanchez. Let see what Rick says.

VOICE OF RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Pick me. (INAUDIBLE) hard questions. I'm your guy.

CHETRY: All right. If he's our guy, let's put him back, then let's get started, TJ. You want to answer the first question?

HOLMES: Sure, why not? What have we got?

CHETRY: We've got which US congressman crossed party lines to vote for the health care bill?

HOLMES: Oh, that's Cao of Louisiana.

CHETRY: You're right! There you go, the single -- only Republican who voted for it. Next question.

HOLMES: All right, Kiran. Let's see here, what did an FAA panel endorse as a possible remedy for pilot fatigue?

CHETRY: I would say increased time off between flights?

HOLMES: Napping.

CHETRY: Right. You wouldn't want them to have any time off between the flights. All right. Let's move on. (INAUDIBLE).

HOLMES: You need sleep.

CHETRY: All right. Oh, this one's for you. President Obama signed a bill extending jobless benefits for up to how many weeks? How many more weeks? This is a trick question.

HOLMES: Twenty.

CHETRY: Well, it's 20 for some states and it's -- OK. Let's see. There you go.

HOLMES: Oh, my goodness! This is great stuff.

CHETRY: You're good, you're good.

HOLMES: All right. Hopefully this is nothing about the FAA for you here. What country placed $10 billion in new low-cost loans to Africa over the next three years?

CHETRY: Which country in low-cost loans? Japan?

HOLMES: I think it's going well. I mean, I think it's going well myself, Kiran. Do we have another question?

CHETRY: You get all the easy questions.

HOLMES: Sure I do. CHETRY: All right, all right, all right, why did the New York Yankees Manager Joe Girardi (INAUDIBLE) on his way home after winning the World Series? Why did he stop?

HOLMES: Everybody knows, he stopped to help a woman who was in an accident.

CHETRY: How nice is this guy? I told you you get the easy ones. I mean, he wins the whole World Series and then is a good Samaritan on top of it.

HOLMES: He's a good guy.

CHETRY: It almost makes you not hate the Yankees so much. Just kidding.

HOLMES: You what?

CHETRY: All right. Just kidding.

All right. And then of course you can move on to the Lightning Round. This is a little -- you'll see a little commercial here and then the Lightning Round will happen, but hey, fun, right? Time flies when you're having fun.

HOLMES: And I was having fun. Well, I got three questions to your zero, is that right?

CHETRY: You're beating me. I owe you breakfast.

HOLMES: But -- yes, you can try it out for yourself. By all means do so, CNNChallenge.com. Check it out.

CHETRY: All right. Well, still ahead, we're going to be back in 90 seconds with our top stories.

It's 58 minutes past the hour.

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