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AMERICAN MORNING

New Government Task Force Advises Against Mammograms Before Age 50; President Obama Visits China; Holiday Shopping May be Indicator of Recovery; Signs the Recession is Ending; Women Focus Group Score Palin Interview on Substance and Style; Growing Up in a Militia Household

Aired November 17, 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. It is coming up on the top of the hour, 7:00 here in New York on this Tuesday, November 17th. I'm Kiran Chetry.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Christine Romans in for John Roberts this morning. Let's get you right to the top stories this morning.

A stunning new guidelines for mammograms from a government task force. Women in their 40s now being told they don't need to get screened for breast cancer. It's a total about face, and it has many people wondering if the recommendations place a premium on saving money instead of lives.

CHETRY: President Obama is in the midst of a high stakes visit to China, arguably the most important nation to the U.S. He's pressing Chinese leaders to act on a number of very delicate issues, from its impact on the American job market to containing Iran and North Korea's nuclear ambitions in a moment. We'll take you live to Beijing.

ROMANS: And Sarah Palin's new book is out today. It's already a best seller, and she got the golden ticket for any author yesterday, a spot on Oprah. Close to a third of the country thinks she's qualified to be president. Did she win over anyone else? We watched with some undecided women. Did they hear what they needed to hear?

CHETRY: First, this morning, though, there are some guidelines that are throwing people for a loop this morning in the fight against breast cancer. It's a headline and -- that is to wait until you're 50 to start getting mammograms. It really breaks a decade's old recommendation that you should start getting mammograms at 40.

The guidelines come from a government task force of doctors and scientists, but what they say makes news. Their stance influences coverage of screening tests by Medicare as well as other insurance companies, and also in the report, that breast self-exams do no good and women should not be taught by their doctors to do them, so obviously, there is some controversy surrounding these new guidelines.

And here to help us break it down this morning is chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

So, first of all, Sanjay, an important distinction and this is something that you talked about as well as another oncology expert we had earlier in the show, that this does not apply to everyone. If you are somebody who has a family history of breast cancer, what should you do?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right, and I think that's part of the issue here as well. It's fair to say that, you know, we use sort of a gunshot approach when it comes to screening. All women of a certain age treated the same way. Now, most people in the medical establishment feel that one day we may get to the point where we can individualize risks and as a result individualize tests and when those tests should be done.

The problem is we're really not there yet, which is why I think what you're talking about this morning has created such shock waves, this idea that there's been a turnabout on the recommendations overall for who should get screened and when.

This task force, which is, as you mentioned, a government organization, not made up of oncologists, incidentally. They looked at this same data several years ago and came to a different conclusion, same data a few years ago they said women should get the mammograms starting at age 40.

Now they're saying women between the ages of 40 and 49 should not get routine mammograms. And what they're really saying when we talk to them about this, Kiran, is that they're recommending women talk to their doctor first, they learn about the benefits of mammography but also the potential risks, which include maybe anxiety, worry about the tests, and also possibly a biopsy that ultimately is not needed.

And that's really how they're balancing these risks and benefits. They're saying talk to your doctor ahead of time. But Kiran, I'm a doctor, I talked to a lot of doctors about this. I think most doctors are still going to recommend mammography starting at age 40. So that's where the confusion is here.

CHETRY: And so why did they make these changes now, and also, what are cancer organizations saying about it?

GUPTA: It's a little bit unclear as to why they made these recommendations now. I think that there's always been, you know, this concern, are we doing too much screening in the country? Does that cause too much in the way of cost? And does it also lead to, again, this concern about anxiety and worry in people who ultimately are not found to have breast cancer, false positives, so to speak?

We've talked to lots of organizations, and they've come out pretty strongly in terms of how they're reacting to these quote/unquote "new guidelines." The American Cancer Society, for example, saying with its new recommendations, the task force is essentially telling women mammography at age 40-49 saves lives, just not enough of them.

Think about that, Kiran. That's a pretty strong statement. And keeping in mind that 15 percent of all women out there with breast cancer found their cancer through a routine mammogram. Also the American College of Radiology breast imaging commission which oversees a lot of these exams, mammography and MRIs and things, say these recommendations seem to reflect a conscious decision to ration care. Again, Kiran, very, very strong statements, very strong reaction to these task force recommendations.

CHETRY: And, you know, the big question is, even if your doctor says, listen, I'm going to go with what I did before, I'm going to go with you having a mammogram in your 40s, will insurance companies pay for these claims now?

GUPTA: Yes. I mean, I think that's a real concern. And that was brought up immediately when these guidelines come out. We talk to the trade organization, the lobbying organization involved in the insurance organization. It's called AHIP, the American Health Insurance Programs.

They say for the time being, they're probably not going to change their policies or recommendations to insurance companies in terms of how they cover this.

But Kiran, you're absolutely right. In the past they have taken guidance from this task force, and who knows what a year from now or several years from now is going to look like in terms of how this is all covered.

So, you know, this is -- you touched on the exact concern that a lot of oncologists that we talked to are concerned about as well. They're going to recommend the test because in their hearts and minds they still think that 40 is the right age. But if the insurance company is not paying for it, it causes a new battle.

CHETRY: And anecdotally, so many people tell me that they found their breast cancer from self-exams. Now they're telling doctors don't tell patients about self-exams. What do you make of that?

GUPTA: This is one of those frictions between public and individual health. What they said when I read the entire paper, it does require a certain amount of time and resources to teach women how to do a breast exam the right way.

Overall, if you look at benefit of self-exams in terms of catching cancer it appears to be small. So they're saying the time required to teach appropriate self-exams and the benefit, it just doesn't seem to add up.

But I can tell you, Kiran, you know, medicine is different in this way. If you catch a breast cancer early in a woman who otherwise would have gone on to develop later stage breast cancer, it would be a real problem.

In my own family, I've had this, where a routine mammogram caught breast cancer. So it's very hard to tell those women that look, don't do these things anymore because we don't think one case makes a difference. CHETRY: Unbelievable. All right, well, there's going to be a lot more opinions about this, of course, and more from the medical experts, and also what insurance companies will be saying. So we're going to be breaking this down throughout the morning and people can get more information on this at CNN.com/health.

Sanjay, thank you.

ROMANS: OK, some other stories new this morning.

In a new report the man in charge of the government's bailout is blasting the multibillion dollar help that Uncle Sam gave to insurance giant AIG last year. Neil Borovski says the feds gave AIG a bailout and then AIG turned around and paid billions to other banks to settle its insurance contracts, and the government failed to stop that like it should have.

CHETRY: Also, today is the day that Sarah Palin's memoir "Going Rouge" finally hits bookstore shelves. And to promote it Sarah Palin say down with the queen of talk Oprah Winfrey. The two covered a lot of ground, including what Palin thinks of Katie Couric after her infamous CBS interview.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OPRAH WINFREY, TALK SHOW HOST: You say in the book that you thought that Katie Couric had a partisan agenda. Did you think she was, you know, had a partisan political agenda or some other agenda?

SARAH PALIN, (R) FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: Well, I think that her agenda was to not necessarily show me in the best light and not allow my mistakes, my gaffes to go uncaught.

WINFREY: What about this moment when Katie asks you about the books and magazines that you read. Obviously you read books and magazines. Why didn't you just name some books or magazines?

PALIN: Obviously, I have, of course, all my life. I'm a lover of books and magazines and newspapers. By the time she asked me that question, even though it was kind of early on in the interview, I was already so annoyed, and it was very unprofessional of me to wear that annoyance on my sleeve.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: So, will this interview change minds about the former VP candidate? Coming up our Carol Costello sat down with four women of different political stripes to get their take.

ROMANS: President Obama in China this morning, and in a sign of just how important this trip is, the president put it bluntly -- without China the world's biggest problems cannot be solved. Our Ed Henry is traveling with the president and joins us live this morning from Beijing. Ed, good morning.

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christine. You're absolutely right. The president was fed in a state dinner by his Chinese counterpart after a day of intense conversations.

The president clearly sending the signal that he believes the two nations can work together to battle a global recession and other big issues like climate change and trying to stop the nuclear programs of Iran and North Korea.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HENRY: In Beijing's bitter cold, President Obama was all about showcasing a new warmth with China as he toured the historic Forbidden City and its hall of supreme harmony.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: It's beautiful. What a magnificent place to visit.

HENRY: By the end of this week, Mr. Obama will have visited 20 nations, the most in the first year of any American president, though he told Chinese President Hu Jintao in the ornate Great Hall of the people, their relationship may be most pivotal of all.

OBAMA: In this young century, the jobs we do, the prosperity we build, the environment we protect, the security that we seek, all these things are shared.

HENRY: It was not, however, all sweetness and light. While Mr. Obama avoided a meeting with the Dalai Lama in Washington last month to not ruffle feathers for this visit, here in Beijing he gently but publically pushed the Chinese to cool tensions with the Tibetan spiritual leader.

OBAMA: While we recognize that Tibet is part of the people's republic of China, the United States supports the early resumption of dialog between the Chinese government and representatives of the Dalai Lama to resolve any concerns and differences that the two sides may have.

HENRY: And while they spoke of broad economic cooperation, Hu slapped at the U.S. for recently hitting Chinese tires and steel with new levies.

PRESIDENT HU JINTAO, CHINA (via translator): Our two countries need to oppose and reject protectionism and all its manifestations in an even strong stand.

HENRY: But the world's two biggest emitters of great house gases vowed to work together to get concrete action on climate change at a summit next month in Copenhagen.

OBAMA: An accord to covers all the issues in negotiations and one that has immediate operational affect. This kind of comprehensive agreement would be an important step forward in the effort to rally the world around a solution to our climate challenge.

HENRY: Now, the Chinese President signaling that he's not on board with sanctions against Iran to try to stop its nuclear program, but the White House cheered a bit more by the fact there seems to be cooperation in trying to stop North Korea's nuclear program. That's big for the president just a couple days before he heads to South Korea, the final stop on this long Asian journey.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HENRY: And tomorrow, I will be interviewing President Obama here in Beijing. We're going to be bringing you that and talk about all these subjects, the economy, health care as well as Afghanistan and North Korea. We'll have that first thing on "AMERICAN MORNING" tomorrow at 6:00 a.m. eastern time -- Christine?

ROMANS: All right. Ed Henry, thanks so much, Ed.

And Kiran, the end of the recession. Diane Brady from "Business Week" will tell us what we need to see around us at the mall, at the restaurants, in your own pocketbook, to know that maybe the recession is over and things are getting better. She's going to give us the concrete signs to watch, that's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

It's just 37 shopping days until Christmas, in case you're not keeping track. And there are some encouraging signs for retailers with holiday shopping about to begin in earnest.

We're going to take a look at some real world economic indicators that the recession might finally be ending. Here to help us do that, "Business Week" senior editor Diane Brady.

One of the things we wanted to do was take a look at the things that are going to be out there around us that we can see that will give us an indication we're starting to feel better about things.

DIANE BRADY, SENIOR EDITOR, "BUSINESS WEEK": Right.

ROMANS: One of those things, with unemployment at, you know, 10 percent, 10.2 percent, how are we going to know the economy is starting to feel better? What's a good big sign? What are we going to be buying that that's going to show things are turning around?

BRADY: Well, I think one area people look at, for example, is furniture. Obviously if your dishwasher breaks, you have to replace it, but things like your dining room set, and that's one area where people really are willing to put up with less, obviously, and that's been something that's been really dinged this recession. People are not buying sofas, couches, et cetera.

So I think that basically that's one area clearly that we have to look at, because that will be a sign people are investing in their homes.

ROMANS: And also children's clothes, it's an area -- I mean, women are cutting back, men are cutting back. We've seen all the surveys, the consumers surveys that say people are finding ways to save money and be more frugal, but not necessarily on children?

BRADY: People don't tend to cut back as much on children's clothes, in part because, obviously, kids grow faster, so you know you have to constantly replace their clothes.

ROMANS: They can't wear the same shoes for three years.

BRADY: Companies like Old Navy are doing well, the $5 T-shirts. The high-end ones are not. Children's clothing has held up. I think once we see adult clothing pick up, that's going to be a sign that people are willing to spend more money on themselves.

ROMANS: We're eating out less at some of these chains, these casual chains that just exploded over the '90s and early 2000s. We're eating more at home, buying more value food. Are these the kind of trends that will continue?

BRADY: It's mixed, and it's quite interesting. The casual chains you mentioned, TGIFs, Applebee's, obviously they have suffered because for a lot of people that's a $40 meal, and so they've been eating at home.

But what's interesting is McDonald's, for example, is suffering, not because people can't afford $1. It's because they basically when they're driving to work, et cetera, that's when they buy their Egg McMuffin and their hamburger. A lot of people in the recession are men who have lost their jobs. They tend to stop at McDonald's.

So the fact that we've seen sales drop there, I think once you see McDonald's pick up, it could be a sign that employment is picking up, too.

ROMANS: We know around the holidays we'll see very crowded -- we'll see very crowded airports. People always travel around the holidays. But the real trick is do we see crowds or do we see a crowded airports three weeks later, four weeks later, right?

BRADY: That's definitely an indication. A lot of airlines have cut back, so you'll notice you're on crowded flights. There are just fewer of them.

One thing to look at in leisure travel is resorts, hotels, et cetera, because business travel, sometimes that has to take place. But people will travel home for the holidays. The question is, are they going to spend money on a resort or are they going to take the kids to a theme park? That's really --

ROMANS: When your neighbor says yes, we're going to Disney World, check that box. That means maybe things are turning around.

BRADY: That's right, but it's very mixed right.

ROMANS: A big point to make, though, and you and I have made this point many, many times, the American family is in the process of repairing a very bad balance sheet. That means we're cutting our debt, we're getting back to normal, and that's still going to take a long time.

People need to cut their debt, and that means they're going to be more restrained with their money.

BRADY: And they can't tap their homes for equity and credit card companies are getting tougher. So, there's not going to be as much money to spend.

ROMANS: All right, Diane Brady, "Business Week. Thanks, Diane.

BRADY: Thank you.

CHETRY: All right. Well, still ahead, Oprah's Palin interview. Sarah Palin sitting down on the eve of her book making its release, and our Carol Costello also sat down with women of varying political stripes to see what they thought.

Our own mini-focus group. Fifteen minutes past the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIMMY FALLON, HOST, "LATE NIGHT WITH JIMMY FALLON": Hey, last week an 11-year-old boy shot and killed a black bear that wouldn't leave his family's front porch. A Jehovah's Witness at the end of the driveway was like, "Yes, OK, I'll just go to the next house."

A boy just shot a black bear. OK. Boy shot and killed a black bear. Right after that, Sarah Palin asked if he wanted to be her running mate in 2012.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CONAN O'BRIEN, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH CONAN O'BRIEN: The other day Sarah Palin said she'd like to have coffee with Hillary Clinton. Now Hillary is saying, she looks forward to it. Well, the two have agreed to meet at the Never Will Be President Cafe.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: There you go. Late-night comedians having a field day with Sarah Palin, of course, and the book stores as well. Sarah Palin's new book "Going Rogue" is out today and already it's a best seller as we know.

Well, now, she's a member of the ultimate book club. She was on Oprah.

ROMANS: Yes. But did the interview deliver? Is she trying to sell books? Is she settling scores, set herself up, maybe for a spot at the top of the ticket? Our Carol Costello watched the big show with a group of women who Palin will have to win over if she decides to run.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know what? I sat down with this four very sharp women and you know what they thought of the interview? They said it was boring.

It was boring.

CHETRY: Really?

COSTELLO: It's like everybody was expecting so much and they got just more of the same.

I know, I wish I could say something more exciting but I can't. I sat down with these four women, one Republican, one libertarian, one conservative and one independent to watch Palin versus Oprah. We chose not to talk to a Democrat because Sarah Palin doesn't seem to be trying to win over Democrats and let's face it, we all know what Democrats think of Sarah Palin.

So, our panel sans Democrat didn't know what to expect. And when the Oprah show was over, everybody wanted way more than what they got.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: Today, all new -- the world exclusive, Oprah and former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

COSTELLO (voice-over): Maybe Oprah laid it on a little thick. World exclusive info?

(on camera): What was the strongest part of the interview? I mean, what really stood out? Anything?

MARIANNA PICCIOCCHI, "CONSERVATIVE," ATTORNEY: It was boring.

COSTELLO: You said it was boring.

PICCIOCCHI: It wasn't compelling.

JAMIE MAARTEN, "LIBERTARIAN," PRES. COLUMBIA UNIV. LIBERTARIANS: I have to agree. I mean she was well spoken and she did look nice, but I feel it stops there.

COSTELLO (voice-over): Meet Jamie, a libertarian, Marianna, a conservative, Joyce, a Republican, and Leighann, an independent.

OPRAH WINFREY, TV TALK SHOW HOST: Please welcome, Sarah Palin.

COSTELLO: They already see the value in Sarah Palin's personal story. They don't much care about Levi Johnston posing for "Playgirl" or Katie Couric's interview. They want substance.

MAARTEN: I don't feel like there's a lot of political substance and I don't know if you girls feel like that. But --

JOYCE GIUFFRA, REPUBLICAN, FMR. PRESS SECY., SENATOR BOB DOLE: No. Supposedly, in a 432-page book, only 13 pages were dedicated to policy issues, which I think is a little bit telling of even, you know, her interview or her dedication to really looking --

MAARTEN: I find that troubling.

COSTELLO: It's troubling for some because of Palin's exalted position within the Republican Party.

PICCIOCCHI: When I ask my friends who, of course, are all liberal, and I'm like, oh, you know, what do you think of Palin? Oh, I don't like her. She's dumb. They don't have any substantive basis for that opinion.

COSTELLO: There were a few substantive matters that resonated, like Palin's decision to have a baby with Down Syndrome.

SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: It was easy to understand why a woman would feel that it's easier to just do away with some less than ideal circumstances, to do away with the problem.

LEIGHANN LORD, "INDEPENDENT," STANDUP COMEDIAN BLOGGER: "In a way she almost trivialized the serious decision of abortion that some women make. You know --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The opposite.

LORD: No, no.

COSTELLO: Again, these women wanted debate and didn't get it. And no, they probably won't.

COSTELLO (on camera): So are any of you going to buy her book?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm being a fiscal conservative right now and I'm going to take it out from the library.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, exactly.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can't afford that right now.

GIUFFRA: Why should we buy it when we have all the excerpts on the Internet?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO: I told you they were sharp women. All of these women like some aspect of Sarah Palin, but they feared the longer she sells her celebrity instead of substantive politics, people will eventually stop listening. And that would be a shame because the Republican Party needs a strong woman with a strong voice, and they feel Sarah Palin is that woman.

But she's got to step out and talk about politics and talk about what she stands for and what direction she'll lead the country and they also know what do you want to do? Do you want to run for political office or do you want to be a media personality? CHETRY: No one would miss that. But, you know, it is interesting, Carol, that even in the GOP opinion split, our latest Opinion Research poll shows 52 percent think she's presidential material, 47 percent think she's not. So, I mean, even within the ranks there is a lot of dissension about her future role.

COSTELLO: It's because people are unsure of really what she has in there that's waiting to come out. Maybe nothing, maybe it's something, but they want to know.

ROMANS: Yet, we keep saying, so, 2012, 2012, 2012, 2012. You know, I mean we keep putting it out there and Oprah put it out there and people who interview her keep putting. And we're just going to keep hearing --

COSTELLO: And Barbara Walters put it out there.

ROMANS: Right.

COSTELLO: Because we have the excerpts already from her interview which is going to take place this morning.

ROMANS: I do like that Sarah Palin said, Oprah said, would you tell me if you were considering running for office in 2012 and she said no. I wouldn't tell you. She's very honest about that. People keep hammering her on it. And she's like, why would I tell? Why would I sit here and tell you?

COSTELLO: And that's probably smart. But at the very least, her supporters want to know like are you seriously considering a political office so I can start really listening to you. I want to know where you're going with this. Quit toying with me.

CHETRY: And maybe she doesn't know yet. You know, winds of change, the political winds of change.

COSTELLO: I think she changed. Exactly.

CHETRY: Well, we'll see.

Carol, thank you so much. And meanwhile, we want to know what you think about it? How did you score it? Too much style, not enough substance? Weigh in, CNN.com/amFIX.

Twenty-four minutes after the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: Straight ahead on the Most News in the Morning, is the drug industry playing us for fools? They're supposed to be working with lawmakers and the president to slash prescription drug costs. So, why are prices right now going through the proverbial roof? Alina Cho with some answers in an A.M. original.

ROMANS: Militias and extremist groups are on the rise in this country, Kiran, but who's joining these groups? CNN's Jim Acosta has part two of our a.m. series "Patriots and Extremists." Jim went home with the leader of one militia to get to know him and his family.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And I lived to tell the tale. That's right.

Christine and Kiran, you know, one thing that we mentioned yesterday in part one is how difficult it is to talk to these groups. They don't want to necessarily talk to you. They don't do interviews very often but one thing is certain, the militia movement in America is growing and most of these groups are highly secretive. Their members rarely talk to reporters.

But the leader of one is trying to change that, so he invited us into his home to get to know him and his family giving us an up-close look of what it's like to grow up in a militia.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LEE MIRACLE, LEADER, SE MICHIGAN VOLUNTEER MILITIA: And we only fight over the important things, baby. Spinach pie.

ACOSTA (voice-over): It's dinner time, and Lee and Katrina Miracle have their hands full.

KATRINA MIRACLE, WIFE OF LEE MIRACLE: Do you want a lot of meat or a little bit?

ACOSTA: For starters, they have eight kids, ages 6 to 18.

(on camera): With eight kids, you had combat experience.

L. MIRACLE: Oh. We've got more than combat experience with eight kids.

We're practicing target acquisition.

ACOSTA: Then there's Lee's weekend hobby, leading training exercises once a month for the Southeast Michigan Volunteer Militia.

L. MIRACLE: You know, the Lee and Kate Plus Eight plus the gun rack, I guess, I don't know.

Thank you, Emily (ph).

ACOSTA: Are you normal guys?

L. MIRACLE: Yes, absolutely. I mean, we don't have barb wire or barricades or gun placements around the house. I mean, we're normal people. I love that sound.

ACOSTA: For the Miracle family, normal includes keeping more than 20 guns in the house. Not all of them under lock and key.

(on camera): And this is one of how many in the house?

L. MIRACLE: Twenty-two I think.

ACOSTA (voice-over): And they bring their children, like 13- year-old Megan on militia outings.

And they use the weapons, they use the firearms?

L. MIRACLE: Yes. Yes.

K. MIRACLE: They have -- sure. They have all shot from the youngest to the oldest.

ACOSTA: And the youngest is how old?

K. MIRACLE: Six.

ACOSTA: Six-year-old.

L. MIRACLE: Yes.

ACOSTA: Even 6-year-old Morgana (ph).

K. MIRACLE: I do want to point out, though, that she's not using it by herself. She's being highly supervised.

ACOSTA: Are you raising them to be in the militia?

L. MIRACLE: No, that's their choice.

Megan, of course, is already in as far as I'm concerned.

ACOSTA: The Miracle family is out to show there's more to the militia than what critics see, gun toting extremists venting their frustrations at the government. From Lee's YouTube page...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

L. MIRACLE: When you hear a story about the militia in the media, this is probably the image that you get. A crazy guy with camouflage on and a wacky helmet holding a rifle. I'm here to show you a different picture.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: To his job as a postal worker.

(on camera): Is there a little irony in that being in the militia and working for the federal government?

L. MIRACLE: Not at all.

ACOSTA (voice-over): But this self-described happy warrior admits he's angry at the government, suspicious of the Obama administration's stance on gun rights, and even opposed to health care reform, which he deems unconstitutional.

L. MIRACLE: But I'm really angry when 300 million other people are not as angry as I am. So I blame -- a lot of my anger is directed at America as a whole because they are letting this happen.

ACOSTA: Lee Miracle believes a well-armed population is the best defense against government excess.

L. MIRACLE: What's one big thing about today?

ACOSTA: Growing up in a militia may not be everybody's idea of the all-American family. But it is to them.

K. MIRACLE: So what do you want for dinner tomorrow?

MIRACLE: Can we do some taco salad or something?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: They even have taco salad.

Now, the Miracle family is not alone in its militia outings. Every year in the fall, the Michigan militia welcomes other families to its exercises on the first weekend after Halloween. Why after Halloween? They use the leftover pumpkins for target practice -- Christine.

ROMANS: Just getting together for some target practice.

ACOSTA: Exactly.

ROMANS: All right, can't wait to see some more tomorrow.

Jim Acosta, the series "Patriots and Extremists" continues tomorrow with a look at the Oath Keepers. This is a new group that just had its first conference last month, made up of military personnel and law enforcement officials, basically say their oath is to uphold the constitution, not follow one specific leader. They have a list of 10 specific orders they will not obey; one is to confiscate weapons. Jim Acosta will be back to tell us the rest about that tomorrow.

It is 31 minutes past the hour.

Here are the morning's top stories. Reports say the Army is forming a panel to see if it missed signs of alleged Ft. Hood gunman Nadal Hasan could be a threat to his fellow soldiers. The Army's chief of staff will look at the psychiatrist's military career, including his six years at Washington's Walter Reed Medical Center.

The Obama administration wants you to buckle up on the bus. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has proposed mandatory seat belts on commercial motor coaches as well as stronger floors, windows and roofs. Also in the plan a device to record when a bus is in operation to better track driver activity and fight driver fatigue. About 19 people die a year in commercial bus crashes.

Costco and Coca-Cola are parting ways. America's largest wholesale club operator will no longer do business with America's largest soft drink maker. At issue a pricing dispute. Costco says Coca-Cola failed to offer competitive pricing. Coke has been mum, other than to say they were committed to working in the spirit of fairness. Costco reportedly operates more than 400 stores in America and Puerto Rico -- Kiran.

CHETRY: Christine, thanks. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed the self- professed mastermind of 9/11 as well as four suspected co-conspirators will soon face justice, just blocks from ground zero. Set off a political firestorm, the decision by the Obama administration to try these terror suspects in civilian Federal court, just here in New York, also controversy around the U.S.

In fact, there's a new CNN Opinion Research poll showing that two-thirds of Americans disagree with the White House decision. Sixty four percent say that 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed should be tried in military court, just 34 percent believe that he should be tried in civilian court. David Kelly is a former U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York. This is where this trial will be taking place. He joins me now in studio.

Thanks for being with us.

DAVID KELLY, FMR U.S. ATTORNEY: Good morning.

CHETRY: You also prosecuted Ramzi Yousef in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center and probably the closest example that we have to what is going to be happening. What is your take on what is about to happen?

KELLY: I think it was a good decision because we've been going eight years now with nothing happening and I think the Obama administration has made a decision. I think they've carefully gone through the evidence, parsed out the evidence and the information they have, and determined that they do, in fact, have admissible evidence that will work in a criminal court and they've gone forward. I think what's going to happen is, when they get the defendants here, when they indict them, we're talking about a series of pretrial and ultimately trial proceedings that will take about two years.

CHETRY: This is what I hear from a lot of people. When I first heard this decision, it just didn't feel right to me, thinking that we're going to bring the person who claims he was the person who masterminded 9/11 to a courthouse just blocks where you can still see an empty hole where the twin towers used to be. What do you say to people who say it's just not right?

KELLY: It's been done before. It was done in '93. The courthouse was only blocks away from the first attack. It was done in '95 when Sheikh Rachman was tried and all the landmarks in the city surrounded the courthouse that he was tried in. So it's been done before. Don't forget that Congress long ago enacted legislation that say the use of conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction such as planes into a building is a Federal offense that should be tried in a Federal court.

CHETRY: Let me ask you a couple of the other questions and criticisms that people who are against this decision have brought up and you can sort of tell me what you think in terms of whether or not they have a point. One is the concern that this case could just get thrown out, depending on what judge they get to oversee this case, based on the allegations of terror -- of rather torture, water boarding, et cetera at Guantanamo Bay.

KELLY: There's an application that's been known to be made in very rare cases about dismissal of the indictment for outrageous government misconduct. I don't believe it's ever been granted. It's extraordinarily rare. And I think that under the circumstances here, I think it's unlikely that a judge will grant that, but certainly an application that defendants will make. If they lose that, then there's no saying that they couldn't be brought back into a military tribunal, but that remains to be seen. I think subsequent applications will be made by the defendants, for example, not to use any sort of statements or evidence that were the product of any sort of coercion or misconduct, and frankly I think the Justice Department has already worked that into their calculus because it's an obvious argument.

CHETRY: So you think there's no way they would have said we're going to go forward if they thought that that was likely to happen.

KELLY: I think that's right.

CHETRY: Another question that people have, does this compromise future terror investigations and national security in that a lot of the information and evidence is obviously going to be needed to be disclosed to the defense.

KELLY: Again, I think that the Justice Department has looked and parsed through the information they have, which information can we make to be admissible in a criminal court and which of that is going to compromise national security? Lots of times you can clean up classified information so that in the form that it is seen in public, does not compromise national security.

CHETRY: They're going to redact parts of it that could...

KELLY: They can redact parts of it and classified information procedures act that deals with lots of these issues. I think a lot of people are jumping on this, saying you're going to let out sort of battlefield secrets. First of all, I don't know that battlefield secrets really have a place in a courtroom and I don't think they're going to get there. And secondly, I think that we don't yet know what evidence the Justice Department has carefully calculated will be part of this trial, so people are I think jumping the gun in their criticism of this.

CHETRY: What about the concerns this is -- that this provides a forum for people like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to spew hate, to spew rhetoric and in some cases perhaps incite other radicals to take up the cause?

KELLY: Remember, it wasn't too long ago that we saw on the front page of the New York papers and I think papers across the country, statements made by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and others up when they were in the military tribunals and trying to plead guilty and make other statements, so either way you can't have it both ways. I don't really buy that argument. CHETRY: And what about finally the possibility that there's a not guilty verdict in this case? What happens? Does Khalid Sheikh Mohammed then just walk away a free man on the streets of New York?

KELLY: I don't think that will happen. The southern district in New York has an extremely successful track record in prosecuting these cases. No one has ever walked out of that courtroom and I think that given the compelling evidence that they're likely to put together in this case that that's not going to happen here.

CHETRY: If so, can they kick it back to a military tribunal or not?

KELLY: I don't know the answer to that, but my guess is that they've already kind of anticipated that and likely they could.

CHETRY: Very interesting to talk to you because you were there firsthand and you know what it's like back in 1993.

David Kelly, thanks so much. Appreciate it -- Christine.

ROMANS: Kiran, why are drug prices going up at a time we're talking about trying to control spiraling costs in health care? The White House and the drug industry did agree that there would be a multi-billions in savings, so where are those savings? Why are drug prices rising ahead of health care reform? Alina Cho has that story.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: Welcome back to The Most News in the Morning.

Coming up, status updates, tweets, picture posts, blogs, is your online life killing your privacy? If you ask me the answer is yes. Some shocking answers from our Jeanne Meserve about what you may think is private is no longer. At 8:30 we'll be talking about that.

ROMANS: Let's talk about the pharmaceutical industry. Signed on to health care reform unlike the last time, signed on to health care reform promising to save Americans billions in prescription drug costs but it turns out prices for many brand name drugs have been rising at the fastest rate in years. So what gives? Alina Cho is here with an AM original.

Good morning, Alina.

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning.

We were surprised by this. There's been a lot of talk about this and you may have heard that drug makers have actually struck a deal with the White House and with Congress on health care reform. They've agreed to cut $80 billion over 10 years from the nation's drug bill. That amounts to $8 billion a year. Now all of that sounds really good. But while everyone is talking about lowering costs, prescription drug prices are actually skyrocketing.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) CHO (voice-over): At this pharmacy in New York City, the rising costs of prescription drugs is forcing some folks to make tough choices.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When you have the choice between paying your rent or getting your medications, the choice is obvious. You're going to pay for your shelter first.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have to make choices. I have to pick and choose things that I have to do without to get this medication.

CHO: The nation is in the worst recession in decades, but as Americans have less money to spend, brand name drug prices are up, way up.

DR. SIDNEY WOLFE, PUBLIC CITIZEN: There's no question that the public has been bamboozled. The White House has been bamboozled and the U.S. Congress has been bamboozled by this ever successful industry.

CHO: According to a new study for the AARP, the cost of brand name prescription drugs is up more than 9 percent, adding on average $200 a year to the price of a once daily pill and the jump comes just as the drug industry is promising to shave $80 billion in drug costs over 10 years.

PROF. STEPHEN SCHONDELMEYER, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA: Just a 10 percent increase this year may amount to $20 to $25 billion increase in drug spend. That kind of overwhelms an $8 billion a year savings.

CHO: Consumer advocates say they've seen it all before, higher prices every time the government is about to initiate major change.

WOLFE: We see how ghoulish this industry is and it's almost taunting everyone, as long as you're not going to control our prices, we're going to raise them as much as we want.

CHO: Pharma, the leading drug industry lobby would not go on camera, but issued a statement calling the argument tying drug price increases to health care reform a flawed assumption and adding, price increases are the natural result of market forces and unfortunately medicines are always looked at as a cost and never seen as a savings.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHO: Some patients are able to take generic drugs so we should tell you that the price of generics has actually gone down almost 9 percent according to the study. Also, important to note however that not every patient can take generics. In fact, brand name drugs account for nearly 80 percent of all prescription drug spending, 78 percent to be exact and that means most Americans, guys, who are buying prescription drugs these days are paying more for them.

ROMANS: They're so incredibly important for treating so many kinds of chronic diseases, diseases that we couldn't even treat a generation ago, now we do have this way to treat them but if you can't afford it...

CHO: That's right. You heard the people. They're having to make choices between rent and their prescription medication. I mean we are in the worst recession in decades, Christine, as you talk about almost every day on this program.

ROMANS: Unfortunately.

CHO: Now the drug industry is quick to point out that, you know, they say these price increases are sort of built in, that it's a regular thing that happens once a year. Pfizer for one says it even has a program for Americans who have lost their jobs, whereby they will provide Pfizer meds for free. So, you know, there is an effort...

CHETRY: Some grocery chains, stores like Wal-Mart.

ROMANS: That's right. The other interesting thing is, you have to sometimes be your own best advocate. There are doctors that will give you samples sometime. I know that it's hard to sort of cobble together your health care. It seems like it's not fair, but in some certain instances if you're desperate and you're out of work, there is some help out there if you can be savvy.

CHO: People are doing that. They're doing everything they can because they are having to make those choices unfortunately. You know, one woman we talked to said, I'm $50 a month for my prescription meds. It doesn't sound like a lot but I'm choosing my rent over paying for my medication.

ROMANS: And we have done this so many times. A lot of elderly people are taking just part of a pill or they're trying to triage which pills they can take to try to make them last longer, and that's incredibly dangerous. It's incredibly dangerous. So that's - that's part of that problem, too.

CHO: Yes, it is.

CHETRY: Alina, thanks so much.

All right. Well, still ahead, we have Rob's travel forecast. He's going to show us some Extreme Weather around the country, coming up in just a few minutes.

We'll be right back. Forty-five minutes past the hour.

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CHETRY: So warm! Feel that fire this morning.

ROMANS: Only 37 days left.

CHETRY: Do you guys have any marshmallows? Only 37 days left?

ROMANS: That's right. We could (INAUDIBLE) for 37 more days and then it's gone for another year. CHETRY: I need to get shopping. All right. Well, thank you.

Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning.

You know, if you're going to do some online holiday shopping, you'll find that there are more and more sites that are offering free shipping. In fact, the National Retail Federation found that more than half of the internet retailers will offer some kind of no fee delivery this holiday season. Great news if you're doing a lot of online shopping, and it's up 25 percent from five years ago.

ROMANS: Yes. I think don't pay for shipping. If you can, don't pay for shipping. Because of all those gifts, UPS says December 21st will be the busiest day this year with 22 million packages being delivered. That's a lot of brown trucks. The Atlanta based company says that's about a 40 percent increase from an average day.

Meanwhile, FedEx says December 14th will likely be the busiest day of the year.

CHETRY: All right. Well, if you still have a gift card from last year's stocking, it may not be good anymore. There is a new rule proposed by the Federal Reserve that would stop those cards from expiring, though, at the end of five years. Another of those Fed's proposals would mean the companies had to be clear and clearly explain any fees on the card like monthly maintenance charges.

ROMANS: You know, I have a beef about those cards because 27 percent of people don't even cash them in. So think, you're buying somebody a gift and they're not even going to get a gift.

CHETRY: That's right.

ROMANS: You just paid money for nothing. So keep that in mind when you're giving a card this year, if you are.

Rob Marciano, do you give gift cards or do you just get gift cards?

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Cash. Cold hard cash. Because, I mean - you know, if you're going to be lazy, just be - you know, by getting a gift card because you don't want to think about it I just think that (ph)...

ROMANS: Now he's saying that lazy.

CHETRY: Right. No, I mean, I - I was laughing. I was reading this book that was - and this guy said, if - if you want to be truthful, all you're doing is sending me on an errand I wasn't planning on going on, so thanks. Thanks for that.

MARCIANO: Exactly.

CHETRY: Now (INAUDIBLE). I like gift cards.

ROMANS: I don't like gift cards. CHETRY: You don't?

ROMANS: I don't like them. I mean, what's the point? It's just moving money around. If you want a gift, give a gift.

All right. Weather. Enough of our shopping history. What about the weather?

MARCIANO: And they're so difficult to wrap. It's just not as fun.

(WEATHER REPORT)

ROMANS: All right. Rob Marciano. Thanks, Rob.

CHETRY: We know what to get you - cash.

MARCIANO: Cash, baby.

CHETRY: Barnes and Noble gift card - just kidding! All right, thanks, Rob.

It's 51 minutes past the hour.

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CHETRY: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. It's 55 minutes past the hour right now.

It is a weapon the Pentagon hopes never to have to use. It's a bomb that can literally move mountains. But thanks to intelligence that suggests Iran's nuclear program has gone underground, this bomb has gone from the drawing board to the production line in record time.

Our Barbara Starr has a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Iran's once-secret underground nuclear fuel enrichment plant. The Pentagon is worried Iran is now burying weapons factories so deep that the current arsenal of bombs can't reach them, leaving the US with no viable military option if a strike was ever ordered.

This new Air Force 15-ton bomb may change that calculation.

This is the Massive Ordnance Penetrator or MOP, now being rushed into development to be carried on B-2 and B-52 bombers. The most likely targets? Iran and North Korea, which are believed to have buried weapons facilities hundreds of feet underground or into the sides of mountains.

JOHN PIKE, GLOBALSECURITY.ORG: Some of those would probably require this Massive Ordnance Penetrator simply because they're buried so deep and no other bomb would be able to certainly destroy them. STARR: At 30,000 pounds, the MOP, some experts say, will be able to penetrate 60 feet of concrete, a significant boost over current bunker busting bombs, like 2,000 pound BLU-109 which can penetrate just six feet of concrete, and the 5,000 pound GBU-28 which can go through about 20 feet of concrete.

GEOFF MORRELL, PENTAGON SPOKESMAN: This has been a capability that we have long believed was been missing from our - our quiver, our arsenal, and we wanted to make sure we - we filled in that gap.

STARR: No air strikes against North Korea or Iran appear to be in the works, but Iran says it could start enriching uranium here in the next two years and both the US and Israel want to ensure that Iran cannot manufacture and assemble a nuclear weapon.

All of this has now led to more funding for the MOP. The Pentagon plans to have the first bombs available by December 2010, two years earlier than planned.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: Now, you know, the military likes to say it's not helpful to speculate on future military operations or targets, but this weapon, Kiran, for the first time, really gives the Pentagon a military option to go after these deep underground weapons facilities if it wants to do so - Kiran.

CHETRY: Hopefully they don't have to, as you said, but it's amazing how quickly they're trying, making that turn like that and - and take it from the drawing board to possibly implementing it.

Barbara Starr for us this morning. Thanks so much.

We'll take a quick break. Our top stories coming up in 90 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: It's 8:00 right on the nose here in New York on this Tuesday, November 17th. Welcome to AMERICAN MORNING.

Glad you're with us today. I'm Kiran Chetry.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans, in for John Roberts. Here are some of the morning's top stories.

A major about-face on mammograms. An influential government task force now recommending most women under 50 should not be screened for breast cancer. And those self-examinations women have been taught to do for years? Forget about them. The new recommendations leaving millions of women wondering where to turn now.

CHETRY: Also, President Obama attending to one of America's most complicated yet critical relationships, and that is our one with China. This morning, he's in Beijing, but amid all the meetings, can the president count on the Chinese to help with Iran?