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Breaking from the Ranks; Delays Lead to Disaster?; Warren's Financial Watchdog Role

Aired September 16, 2010 - 08:00   ET


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you. Thanks so much for being with us on this Thursday. It is the 16th of September. I'm Kiran Chetry.

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Drew Griffin. John has the day off.

A lot to talk about. Let's get to it, shall we?

The president's $42 billion aid plan for small business, it should finally pass the Senate today -- thanks to help from two Republicans. Now, the debate shifts to those tax cuts, the Bush tax cuts. The president wants them extended for everyone except wealthy people, and he's facing stiff opposition to the plan this morning from members of his own party.

CHETRY: Did delay lead to disaster? At least four people are dead and almost four dozen homes incinerated in San Bruno, California. Three people are still missing. And this morning, there's new evidence the gas company may have known the area was in need of repairs and put them off.

GRIFFIN: Craigslist, the Web site, promising to keep it clean. It is telling a House panel that the adult services section is gone for good after immense pressure from authorities and an investigation by our own Amber Lyon. She will join us with highlights of the hearing.

CHETRY: And, of course, the amFIX blog is up and running. Join the live conversation. Head to

GRIFFIN: We begin the hour with the president's tax cut plan, coming under fire from both sides of the aisle now. Thirty-one House Democrats have signed a letter to their leadership opposing the president's plan to extend the Bush tax cuts for the middle class only and not the wealthy.

CHETRY: Earlier on AMERICAN MORNING, one of those dissenting Democrats, Congressman Gary Peters of Michigan, he's also on the House Financial Services Committee, said that it's not the time to hike taxes on anyone.


REP. GARY PETERS (D), MICHIGAN: When we are in the still very fragile environment, it's best, in my belief and in other colleagues of mine, it's best not to raise any taxes until we start getting on a much sounder footing in the economy. That's going to help everybody in the economy.

But let me be perfectly clear: we definitely have to make sure we extend those tax cuts for folks making $250,000 or less.


CHETRY: Well, it's your take home pay that's on the line.

Dan Lothian is live at the White House this morning.

And, you know, just -- to make sure people understand, if no action is taken, that is effectively a tax hike for people in the middle class, right?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And that's a big concern for the White House here and a big challenge now that you're seeing this dissent within the president's own party.

This largely has been framed as Democrats on one side, trying to provide relief for middle class Americans, Republicans on the other side, trying to block this progress.

And now, of course, the president is dealing, as we pointed out, with some Democrats, moderate conservative Democrats, who are very concerned going into this election cycle, the midterm elections, that they have to deal with potential tax hikes here.

You heard Representative Jim Marshall of Georgia saying, quote, "We should not be raising taxes in the middle of a recession."

Representative Travis Childers saying, quote, "It is essential we keep things as they are in the short term."

The White House seems to be downplaying this entire issue. White House Spokesman Robert Gibbs saying that the Democratic Party is a very big party with a lot of differing views, much like you see among Republicans.

The bottom line, though, is that there appears to be no compromise on this issue from the White House. The president has been very clear that allowing an extension of tax cuts for the wealthier Americans, couples making more than $250,000 a year, is something that the country simply can't afford. The lawmakers need to push forward and providing relief for the people who need it most, and those people are middle class Americans.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Right now, we could decide to extend tax relief for the middle class. Right now, we could decide that every American household would receive a tax cut on a first $250,000 of their income. Once again, the leaders across the aisle are saying, no. They want to hold these middle class tax cuts hostage until they get an additional tax cut for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans.


LOTHIAN: So, you have these tax cuts, the jobs bill, $350 billion in proposals, including infrastructure jobs, that this White House is really pushing hard on the bottom line. Two key things: first of all, job creation to get Americans back to work with a high unemployment rate, bring it down. Secondly, the president wants to be able to show Americans that his administration is doing everything it can to get the economy back on track -- Drew, Kiran.

GRIFFIN: All right. Thanks, Dan.

CHETRY: Dan, thanks.

Also this morning, seeking federal help for San Bruno. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger sends a letter to President Obama. He's requesting a disaster declaration for the gas explosion and inferno that killed four people and destroyed close to 40 homes last week. The fire and heat so intense that at first, witnesses on the scene thought it was actually a plane that went down.

GRIFFIN: Yes. And now, we're learning there's evidence the disaster may have been extremely preventable.

Dan Simon has the latest on the investigation.


DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kiran and Drew, we've learned that a nearby portion of the pipeline that exploded last week was scheduled to be replaced a couple of years ago. PG&E, the utility, got $5 million to do the work but it never happened.

(voice-over): The line that exploded last week was lay down in 1948. It was so old that for safety reasons, Pacific Gas and Electric made plans to replace a section of it in South San Francisco just a couple miles away. In 2007, it got rate increases to do the work. According to a consumer watchdog group, PG&E got $5 million for the project, but the group called TURN, The Utility Reform Network, says it never happened.

MIKE FLORIO, SENIOR ATTORNEY, TURN: The money is spent on what they call higher-priority work.

SIMON (on camera): And what was that?

FLORIO: Well, you can't track the dollars one by one. But we do know that they spent $62 million more on management incentive bonuses than they had forecasted in 2009.

SIMON (voice-over): Mike Florio is a senior attorney for the watchdog. He says PG&E spent the money dedicated to replace the pipeline. So, it is now seeking rate increases again -- another $5 million to replace the same stretch of pipeline.

(on camera): And how do you know this? FLORIO: Because it's right in the documentation they file with the PUC to support the rate cases. You know, it's -- if you dig deep enough into these big, thick documents, this is what you find.

SIMON (voice-over): The California Public Utilities Commission or PUC is deciding whether to go with PG&E's request. Those documents provided by CNN by TURN say that section of pipe ranks in the top 100 for the highest risk of failure.

The PG&E documents also say if the replacement of the pipe does not occur, risks associated with this segment will not be reduced.

High-value natural gas lines snake through the San Bruno neighborhood. PG&E hasn't disclosed exactly where the problematic line is. But as we discovered, much of the line runs right through residential areas.

(on camera): This is another large section of pipeline. This one is about a mile away from where the explosion happened. It is also feet away from many homes.

The location of pipelines like this are generally kept secret to literally prevent terrorists from coming in and blowing them up. So, it's possible that people might be living next to them and not even know it.

(voice-over): The only way to tell may be from these yellow sidewalk markers that, for example, are used to alert construction crews of danger.

According to PG&E, it won't be until 2013 now until that section of pipe it identified a few years ago will be replaced.

FLORIO: If they would have fixed that section that they said they wanted to fix maybe they would have found something that would have led them to look a mile or two south of there. We don't know that. What we do know is: the project was slated for 2009. It didn't get done. And now, they're proposing to do it again in 2013.

SIMON (on camera): PG&E provided us with a statement and I'm going to read it in its entirety. It says, quote, "PG&E is committed to performing the work necessary to assure the safety of its gas transmission system. Accordingly, PG&E has constantly prioritizing its projects using the most recent up to date information available.

In this particular case, PG&E did identify this line section as being a high priority project in its 2008 gas transmission rate case filing. Subsequent to that filing, PG&E performed and External Corrosion Direct Assessment in 2009 and based on the updated assessment and the reassurance it provided us, we rescheduled the project accordingly. PG&E spent more on its gas transmission capital project than authorized for the period 2008 and 2009."

So PG&E not denying the basic facts of its story, it's just saying that it rescheduled things based upon its priorities.

Kiran and Drew, back to you. (END VIDEOTAPE)

GRIFFIN: All right. Dan Simon in San Bruno -- thanks.

Happening now: Pope Benedict is getting the royal treatment this morning on his arrival in Britain. It's a historic visit welcomed by Queen Elizabeth in Scotland. In his first speech, the Pope urged Britain to maintain its respect for religious traditions and warned against aggressive forms of secularism. He will celebrate a mass later this afternoon before heading to London.

CHETRY: Well, the imam behind the planned Ground Zero mosque and Islamic center is now accused of being a slumlord. A lawsuit alleges that Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf failed to maintain two apartment buildings that his company owns in Union City, New Jersey. Among the tenant complaints -- well, lack of heat, mold, garbage and bedbugs. The imam has until this afternoon to show the court what he's doing to fix the problems.

GRIFFIN: And New York City's mayor, Michael Bloomberg, wants to fine smokers for lighting up outdoors.

CHETRY: How much?

GRIFFIN: He's backing a new bill that would ban smoking at beaches, marinas, boardwalks, parks and pedestrian plazas. The fine would be --

CHETRY: Fifty dollars.

GRIFFIN: Fifty dollars.

The measure is expected to be introduced in New York City's council today and expected to pass.

CHETRY: Drew got a little excited last hour and said 50 grand a pop which -- you know?

GRIFFIN: It could help balance the budget around here.

CHETRY: Exactly.

GRIFFIN: I could pick up $1 million in about 10 minutes.

CHETRY: Rob Marciano's in the extreme weather center for us this morning.

Hello, Rob. You're following a bunch of different storms in the Atlantic.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. And, you know, we just got some new information in about Karl. Hurricane hunter aircraft had been in there and the reporting back, the winds have strengthened to 65 miles an hour, even though it's a graphic says 50. I will update that for you graphically. But 65-mile-an-hour winds now. So, it could become a hurricane very, very soon. And with that said, the folks who live in northern Mexico are going to be under the gun. Here's the forecast track for it, expected to become a category one storm, make landfall -- looks like they'll start to feel the affects, I think, tomorrow and they make landfall sometime tomorrow night into the early Saturday, and that's going to spell trouble for the folks who live in northern Mexico. Certainly with heavy rain, some pounding winds and potentially some mud slides.

Severe weather a threat across the Ohio River Valley. And the Great Lakes under the gun there with that red highlighted area.

We're also watching Igor, which continues to be a category four storm with 145-mile-an-hour winds and a lot of our computer models are lining it up right for Bermuda over the weekend. So, that could be a -- that could be a scary thought here if it holds together. We'll talk more about that in about 30 minutes.

Back to you in New York.

GRIFFIN: All right. Thanks, Rob.

MARCIANO: You bet.

GRIFFIN: Political storm a brewing, Rob, and that means money pouring into these midterm elections. Outside interest groups are now going straight to the Republicans' wallets. Who are these people? How much are they raising? Michael Crowley, "TIME" magazine -- next.


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

Potential trouble for Democrats. A new report in "TIME" magazine says the party might not have the kind of cash advantage we've been hearing about. That's because so-called shadow Republican groups are raising vast amounts of money.

Michael Crowley, senior correspondent for "Time" magazine, his new story, the new GOP stampede is out in this week's edition of "Time" magazine.

Micheal Crowley, thanks for joining us. Who are the shadowy figures giving money to Republicans?

MICHAEL CROWLEY, DEPUTY WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF , "TIME" MAGAZINE: Thank you so much for having me. Well I mean one the hand they're shadowy in that the Republican Party -- Republican Party operatives have set up a new infrastructure that is going to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into the midterm Congressional elections. And Democrats are very concerned about this. It's going to neutralize what democrats for a time thought might be a spending advantage they would have.

On the other hand, not so shadowy in that the figures that are behind this, very ironically, very much the usual suspect insiders of the Republican Party, the same establishment that the tea parties are really trying to turn over so it's Karl Rove, it's Ed Gillespie, it's Haley Barbour. It's guys who have been at the core of the Republican parties for years who are really filling in part a vacuum left by Michael Steele, the Republican Party chairman.

And also, just taking advantage of the energy on their side. Their donors want to give a lot of money and they're willing to give it to these groups that can raise unlimited amounts of money. So they are taking million dollar donations in some cases from people like Rupert Murdoch. Democrats don't have an equivalent apparatus right now. They have labor unions helping them. But they're really going to be outgunned on the front and they are very concerned about it.

GRIFFIN: Well in the last election, the Democrats seemed to have the kind of advantage. There was a lot of enthusiasm, there were lots and lots of money being raised. Are the Republicans learning from the Democrats?

CROWLEY: The Republicans kind of gleefully admit that they're sort of stealing the Democratic playbook. I spent some time with the executive director of a group called American Crossroads which was founded by Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie, who were very close advisors to President Bush. This group will be spending upwards of $50 million on midterm campaigns all across the country. They're already running ads in many states. And also helping to coordinate other groups.

The executive director of that group had on his desk a book about how billionaires had helped to fund groups just like this for the Democratic side in 2004 and 2006 and said that he was also reading a book by Barack Obama's campaign manager, David Cuafe (ph). Republicans are learning from the way Democrats did this in the last few cycles. Unfortunately for Democrats, they're not able to get these outside, unregulated groups running this season in part because their donors are not excited about giving money this time around.

GRIFFIN: Let me ask you about what we're going to see so we have all these Republican groups with all of this money. Are they going to go after strictly Obama? Are they going to make this about an unpopular president and taking away his power much like the Democrats did with Bush?

CROWLEY: Very much so. I mean, Obama is sort of the, you know, the final point of where all their advertising is leading. But it's not necessarily ad home Obama's a bad guy but it's the policy surrounding the administration. They're very much pushing on the debt, on spending on the stimulus. So all the senators and house members around the country targeting, it's support of the Obama agenda.

Now where it's does maybe get a little more personal, and what I think is interesting, is these groups very much intended by the admission of the people running them to continue on past this election into the next election cycle, ie, the presidential election. Republicans want to continue with this heavy financial firepower into the presidential election campaign and they're hoping that they will continue to outmatch democrats on this front and continue a big financial advantage that could be really quite decisive.

GRIFFIN: You mentioned Karl Rove as one of these power player in terms of money. Based on what's happened with the O'Donnell campaign and him kind of getting slapped back from the conservative friends, does he still hold enough money to demand power in his Republican Party?

CROWLEY: Well, that's one of the things that I think is so interesting about this story. Again, it's really these establishment insiders who have been around for so long. The people that the tea parties are rebelling against and incidentally taking money from places like corporations and Wall Street that the tea partiers are not happy with either right now. But they retain an enormous amount of power and directing hundreds of millions of dollars in the midterm elections. So Rove has fences to mend if he wants to with the tea parties. But ultimately I think he still commands a huge amount of power. He knows wealthy donors all over the country and can bring in a lot of money to groups like this. I don't think Karl Rove by any means is sort of yesterday's news when it comes to Republican politics.

GRIFFIN: They still need him and they need his cash.

CROWLEY: Yes. Absolutely.

GRIFFIN: All right. Michael Crowley, thanks for joining us. Interesting read. Thank you, sir.

CROWLEY: Thank you so much.

GRIFFIN: All right, Kiran.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: All right, still ahead, the more you pay for a flight, the better the ride will be right? Or at least that's what you are thinking. Well actually it's the low-cost airlines that are beating the big carriers for service and quality. We'll have a rundown of the top rankings.

Also still ahead, freed American hiker Sarah Shourd saying she is grateful and humbled by her release from the Iranian prison but what is she going through right now? U.S. Journalist Rox Anna Sabari knows firsthand. She spoke with me after she was released from Evin prison and joining us to talk more about what Sarah may be going through right now and also the fate of her two hiker friends still being held there.


CHETRY: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning, 24 minutes past the hour right now. It is time for "Minding Your Business." Americans like their discount airlines best. And it's not because of the lower fares. There's a new survey shows passengers consistently rank airlines like Jetblue higher than the bigger, traditional carriers in quality and service. "USA Today" did a ranking for best airlines for quality and service. Jetblue at the top, followed by Hawaiian Air, Southwest, Frontier Airlines and Air Tran. GRIFFIN: Hey did you ever wait four hours for that cable guy, only to get stood up?


GRIFFIN: Payback time. New York City's new contract with Time Warner Cable and Cable Vision calls for fines for every late service call. Customers now eligible for a credit equal to a full month's bill if a technician is late or fails to show up.

CHETRY: No but the other thing is, too, you say, hi there. My cable's out or something's going on. OK. We can pencil you in for next month.


CHETRY: Between 9:00 a.m. And 10:00 p.m. The next month.

GRIFFIN: Yes. But if they don't show up, free bill.


Well, the head of a largest retail chain in the world says socks and underwear are the hot ticket items for Christmas. The new president of CEO Walmart said they're focusing on practical every day gifts for adults this holiday season because unemployment is still high and the economy on shaky ground. He says that the kids can still hope for hot electronic gadgets.

GRIFFIN: Yes speaking of hot, check out this video, The Greenville drive and the liquid slugged it out last night. This is the South Atlantic lead champion series. Boom. Play at the plate. The then batter starts john with the pitcher. Well that starts a whole drawl. Look at this. You know you just can't get enough of this baseball brawl stuff. The ump's in there trying to push them off.

CHETRY: I love the last guys trickle in and they sort of just jump on the backs of other ones.

GRIFFIN: Yes they could care less. They got to come out there, you know, take one for the team. All right so they separate it all up. And the Blue Claws won, six to one.

CHETRY: Yes go Blue Claws.

GRIFFIN: But it looks like students and young adults will rock the vote for the midterm elections. Which way that are they leaning? A live report coming up to answer that.

CHETRY: Also critics call Walmart of online sex trafficking, Craigslist, that is. Opening up saying that the adult ads are gone for good. But does that really mean that we won't see sex trafficking? Our Amber Lyon is live with the latest developments.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) GRIFFIN: Twenty eight minutes after hour. Time for the morning's "Top Stories." The president's $42 billion aid bill for small business expected to pass the senate today. It is getting two yes votes from defecting Republicans. The big battle now switches to those tax cuts, the Bush era tax cuts as they're called for all Americans. Here's the bottom line, if they do nothing, everybody's taxes get raised. President Obama wants the wealthiest Americans to pay more next year but 31 fellow Democrats in the House, signing a letter opposing the plan. They're saying no American should see a tax hike this coming year.

CHETRY: There's some new evidence this morning that the gas company, PG&E, knew people may have been living on a ticking time bomb before the explosion in Bruno, San Bruno, California. A watchdog group saying PG&E raised rates to fix a section of the six decade old line but then never went through with the repairs. PG&E says it rescheduled the work based on its priorities.

GRIFFIN: A mystery off the Louisiana Coast. A stinky one, too. Thousands of dead fish, black mines, perish, didn't take long to point the fingers at BP. Well State Wildlife officials say it looks like low levels of oxygen during a low tide caused those fish to tide.

CHETRY: All right, an A.M. follow-up now and Craigslist coming clean about the epidemic of child sex trafficking on the web. Our Amber Lyon is the one who brought these concerns right to the highest level of Craigslist, Craig himself.

GRIFFIN: And she joins us live from Washington, Amber. An official with the site yesterday told the house panel its adult section is gone, won't come back and that's when things got a little lively, I guess.

AMBER LYON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes that's right, Drew. These Congress members wanted to make sure that Craigslist was staying true to the public in its new statement that they have no intentions to reopen these adult services sections. So House members drilled this representative about it. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No amount of money is going to cause Craigslist to reinstitute in another name this kind of site?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't answer that directly because I'm not directly involved with the decision making process for this.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have already given you compliments for being a standard bearer for change, but now I'm hearing that it might come back again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. No. What I'm saying that we do not have any intention to bring that category back and that money is not a consideration.

(END VIDEO CLIP) GRIFFIN: All right, Amber, they shut down Craigslist with the adult services section, plenty more sites available. Already are pimps kind of moving these girls to other sites?

LYON: Well, Drew, we have inside sources in the business, and shortly after Craigslist closed its "adult services" section we called all of our sources and they told us that they're not going to go to another section of Craigslist but leave the site altogether and go to other sites like,, sites that advocates and attorneys general have been criticizing, as well.

CHETRY: So it's almost like a game of whack-a-mole. You knock them down one place and they pop up some place other. Will these attorneys general that went after Craigslist, are they going to try to the same for the other sites?

LYON: Yes, they say they're now going to go after the other sites, shift their focus.

And another thing on this topic, Kiran, Ernie Allen, the president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children says that it's good to just get rid of -- kind of break this down like you said. And Craigslist was the central place where this was happening. So now that that's gone, it's pieced off on to other sites and they're hoping they can go after those.

CHETRY: Amber Lyon for us this morning, thanks so much.

Still ahead, will Sarah Shourd return home to the States after being held so long in an Iranian prison? What has she gone through? U.S. journalist Roxana Saberi knows what it's like to be held captive in Iran and we're going to speak to her, next.


GRIFFIN: This just in to CNN, not good news -- another big hit to the job market. FedEx saying it's cutting 1,700 jobs even though it does see the economy improving. It's closing 100 of its facilities. The company usually seen as a good measuring stick for the economy because of its size and its global reach.

CHETRY: Well, American hiker Sarah Shourd, we have been following this story of her being held in Iran accused of espionage. But her fiance -- she's free now, but her fiance Shane Bauer and friend Josh Fattal are still in an Iranian prison and could soon be tried on spying charges.

Our next guest knows all too well what the three Americans have been going through. Journalist Roxana Saberi spent 100 days in the same notorious prison before she was finally released last year. She joins us this morning from Knoxville, Tennessee. First of all, great to talk to you again. I talked to you shortly after your release. You have written a book about everything you went through. How are you holding up?

ROXANA SABERI, JAILED IN IRAN FOR 100 DAYS: I'm doing fine now. Thank you. It's great to be free.

CHETRY: Well, it's certainly -- you're the person to relate to this because you lived it. Sarah's back. Unfortunately, though, the two men are still being held there. And according to Iran, they're probably going to at least make them answer or prove that they were not spying.

If you could think about what she must be going through, what type of emotions when you're finally free but still so worried about people trapped or being held?

SABERI: Right. I'm sure she feels a lot of mixed emotions. She must be happy on one hand to be with her family and loved ones and out of prison but she did leave her fiance Shane behind and their good friend Josh. So I think she must feel kind of a contradiction in emotions. And she said she doesn't feel free and won't until those two are also freed.

CHETRY: You also spent some time in solitary confinement when you were in prison. As we understand it that was her situation except for short bursts of time seeing the other two men being held or have some sort of interaction with people in the prison.

What is it like? What does it do you to be in solitary confinement and no idea what's happening next?

SABERI: Well, it is very difficult, and I was in solitary confinement for two weeks, but Sarah was in solitary confinement for many months. except for those short visits with Shane and Josh as you said.

It's hard because people I think need human interaction. It's just natural. And when you're alone you feel helpless. You might feel hopeless. At first you might be in a state of denial. You ask or tell yourself I can't accept this. It's just a nightmare. It is going to end. Maybe you also feel anger, anger towards your captors, at yourself. I felt anger toward god, as well. I said, why are you? Why don't you save me, at first, anyway.

And also, I felt afraid because of uncertainty and I didn't know what would happen to me and how long I would be there. And you feel a sense of dependency upon others because you rely on the guards and captors to help you get in touch with the outside world. You feel helpless. You don't have the independence that you used to have.

It's not easy. You can't make a phone call whenever you want. Every phone call is so valuable. Things you took for granted. The freedoms you took for granted, you realize the value of them. You want to have a lawyer. It's difficult to see your lawyer. You want presumed innocent until guilty and sometimes it's the opposite there. You're presumed guilty until you try to prove yourself innocent. So it is very difficult.

CHETRY: It is proving to be difficult for her, as well. There's two people still being held that she loves and cares about deeply. Let's listen to a little bit of what Sarah said shortly after her release.


SHOURD: I just want to assure you that my commitment to truth will not change. You know, when I go back to my country and never say anything but the truth to media and I will not succumb to any pressure.


CHETRY: What do you think she's referring to there? I know that you also talked about the fear and intimidation you lived with and even after being free looking over your shoulder not knowing if you would ever really be left alone.

SABERI: Yes. I think Sarah must be in a very difficult situation because she knows her two friends are still in prison and what she says might have affects or consequences on her two friends who are still supposedly supposed to stand trial.

So it's very sensitive case for her, and I don't know if she was warned at all or told directly or indirectly or implied to her what she says can have an effect on her two friends.

For me, and I know it's not just me but there were other political prisoners there as well who have been threatened before I was released from prison. I was threatened by my captors saying if you talk about certain things, one of them said "I will personally sign your death warrant" and the other side "I think you've seen how capable we are. We have agents all over the world. And we can find you anywhere. You might be reporting on a trip in Afghanistan, and we can kill you and make it look like you died in a car accident."

I'm not the only one threatened like this. I don't know if they did anything similar to Sarah, but it seems like she is aware that what she says can have repercussions for her two friends.

CHETRY: And have you been threatened since your release?

SABERI: Since I've been released I've not been threatened, no. And, you know, I don't know if they would ever go to those lengths to try to find me. I know they have a lot of other things on their mind right now.

CHETRY: You know, speaking of that --

SABERI: At the same time --

CHETRY: Speaking of that --

SABERI: Go ahead.

CHETRY: -- what is the point of keeping these two still there and going through this long trial when, you know, most people pretty much agree they were hiking. Maybe they shouldn't have been where they were, but they were literally hiking in Iraqi-Kurdistan when they were picked up.

What is the point of going through this and making them prove somehow that they are not conducting, you know, spying activities?

SABERI: Well, you know, it's hard to say exactly what's going through the minds of the Iranian authorities because it's not very transparent system, but one guess might be they can't just in their eyes let these people go and say, oh, you know, we shouldn't have held them for 14 months. They're innocent.

They want to save face somehow, I think. And maybe that's one of the reasons they let Sarah go but on a high bail for the equivalent of $500,000. I mean, if they just let her go without a bail they would be basically saying we were wrong. She's free. But they want to say she hasn't proved yet that she is not guilty.

CHETRY: Right. So there is a fear and, you know, and a paranoia of sorts in Iran among the leaders that perhaps they really were up to no good and, of course -- go ahead.

SABERI: Well -- I'm sorry. I don't know if they really believe that accusation. And I know in some cases they knowingly falsely accuse people of crimes they didn't commit. And in my case they accused me of espionage, and later on told me later in private they knew from the beginning I wasn't a spy but they would never say that publicly, of course.

So I don't know how often it is that they knowingly falsely accuse others of espionage and in this case if they think that these three of spies.

CHETRY: So what is -- it goes back to my question about what is the point then? Is that they underestimate the amount of public pressure? There was a lot of pressure put on them because of your being held, and now as we know the three hikers' families have not given up. They have been on television. They have tried to get the state department involved. They have done everything possible to keep the case in the light. Is that something Iran wasn't expecting?

SABERI: I think that it does play a role when there's international attention given to certain cases in Iran, and it's very important that international outcry continues. And the mothers of the hikers have done a great job I think bringing attention to the plight of their children.

I think the Iranian authorities don't like attention on human rights violations in their country. Not -- maybe not all of them really care, but I think certain decision makers in power who care, and if not they wouldn't try to sensor the Iranian media or foreign media and images out of Iran and they wouldn't try to deny so strongly accusations of human rights violations against them. They wouldn't have their own satellite TV station like Press TV in English or Al- Alam in Arabic trying to share messages with the world.

So I think in many cases they do care about what the world says about their human rights violations, and in this case, too, I think they were trying to say we were justified this holding these kids for practically four months. And at the same time I want to stress that other than Shane and Josh, there are a lot of other Iranian prisoners, political prisoners and prisoner of conscience who are being punished for just standing up for basic human rights, and they don't have an American passport. They're not dual nationals like I was. So their stories are often ignored or they're not known on the outside.

CHETRY: Right.

SABERI: And the whole world needs to speak out for them, as well.

CHETRY: A lot of good points. Roxana Saberi, thanks so much for joining us this morning.

SABERI: Thanks for having me.

GRIFFIN: All right, coming up, we'll talk about thunderstorms moving into the northeast, tropical storm Karl and two hurricanes, Igor and Julia out in the Atlantic. Rob Marciano, next.


ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Who says you can only storm chase during the spring? Check out this video coming to you from Sumner County, Kansas. Storm chasers are out. Baseball and softball-sized hail coming down there and also ten reports of tornadoes, some light damage from this system that rolled through. Dramatic stuff.

Good morning, everybody. That same system although less intense will roll through the Ohio River Valley today and as it does so the threat for severe weather will be in place for the red highlighted area here. Slightly cooler air will be coming in behind this system.

Speaking of systems, here's hurricane Igor, 145 mile an hour winds. As far as where this thing is going, unfortunately for the folks who live in Bermuda, it is tracking right for there -- potentially as a Category 2 or higher storm during the day.

A figure on Sunday hopefully goes either side of Bermuda because if it goes right over Bermuda, it's going to be a whole world of hurt.

All right. Let's talk about tropical storm Karl, 65-mile-an hour winds right now and it's almost a hurricane and heading due west so it will be on the shores probably of northern Mexico by tomorrow night and potentially as a Category 1 hurricane.

Here's your forecast track from the National Hurricane Center. Most of it should stay south of Texas. Some of the moisture may stream up into Texas but it looks like another miss. Well, the U.S. has been missed quite a bit but Texas has been hit a couple of times so far this year.

You're up-to-date weather-wise. AMERICAN MORNING is coming right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CHETRY: Welcome back to The Most News in the Morning. A little shot of our control room there hard at work. Phil, he gets himself in every shot. Did you notice that yet?

GRIFFIN: I did notice that.

CHETRY: Well, it's time for your "A.M. House Calls" stories about your health. There is a new study out there about the dangers of tanning beds like we still need to hear the tanning but they're dangerous.

People under 30 who use them are 75 percent more likely to get skin cancer according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer. They say the use of tanning beds exploded in this country between 1973 and 2004. And during that period, the melanoma rate among young women nearly tripled.

GRIFFIN: Are new doctors making patients sick? According to a survey of doctors in training, more than half of them admit to coming to work ill, a third of them say they did it more than once. Misguided dedication and a fear of letting other doctors down were the most common reasons doctor showed up sick.

CHETRY: Well, if you want to live longer you might want to get a grip. Researchers in Britain say that a firm hand shake appears to be an indicator for a longer life expectancy. Scientists merged the results of 33 separate studies and found that elderly patients with firm handshakes are more likely to outlive those with weaker handshakes.

GRIFFIN: How do they study that?

Anyway so much for buy me some peanuts and cracker jacks. The Cleveland Indians planning to create a peanut free zone at Progressive Field so people with severe peanut allergies can enjoy the game.

CHETRY: Yes, they're going to try it out for the first time in September 26th to be exact by banning peanuts in two sections of the park.

GRIFFIN: Forty-seven days until election day we are now learning who could be the deciding factor in the polls.

Jim Acosta live in Washington -- Jim.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: President Obama throwing a bone to progressives with the midterms fast approaching. I'll run down some of the items on our political ticker coming up in just a few moments on the most politics in the morning.


GRIFFIN: Back to The Most News in the Morning and when we say CNN equals Politics we mean it.

CHETRY: Yes, we're breaking down the big stories in the political ticker this morning with our Jim Acosta who is live in Washington -- hey, Jim.

ACOSTA: Good morning.

The White House is looking to avoid a potentially bruising confirmation battle in the senate by not appointing Elizabeth Warren to lead the new Consumer Protection Agency. Warren, who, as you know, chairs the Congressional Oversight Panel of the bailout. She will serve as a special adviser to the president to help set up that agency that was created under the Wall Street Reform Bill.

And young adults could be the deciding factor in the midterm elections according to a poll by Rock the Vote; 77 percent of young adults say they're likely or somewhat likely to vote. You remember they were very big and instrumental in Barack Obama's victory for the presidency.

And out in California, former First Lady Nancy Reagan is getting behind Republicans Meg Whitman for governor and Carly Fiorina for Senate. Both Whitman and Fiorina have real shots at moving both of those crucial seats into the Republican column in November.

And of course, all of these items can be found on our CNN Political Ticker, just go to We always want folks to go there -- Drew and Kiran.

GRIFFIN: Absolutely.

On the hour, every hour. We're going to do it here on TV but you can always do it on the ticker. Thanks, Jim.

ACOSTA: You bet.

CHETRY: All right.

Well that's going to do it for us. Continue the conversation on today's stories by heading to our blog, as well. And we'll see you back here right nearly tomorrow.

GRIFFIN: Yes a lot of talk about the Rove stuff on that blog. So go check it out.

"CNN NEWSROOM" with Kyra Phillips is going to start right now. We hope. She is up in Atlanta -- down in Atlanta. There she is.

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR, "CNN NEWSROOM: Hey, you guys are early. We've got two more minutes.

GRIFFIN: Kyra we're not early.

PHILLIPS: Let's chitchat for a while.

GRIFFIN: We're not waiting for you to walk --

CHETRY: We technically started a minute early this morning. So we wanted to pass that on to you.

PHILLIPS: Ok. What can we do for 60 seconds? Soft shoes; Drew's a pretty good dancer.

GRIFFIN: All right, let's talk about politics, Kyra, and what you're going to do in the next hour. and let's go ahead and start now because I haven't eaten breakfast yet.

PHILLIPS: Ok. Go get you some breakfast. Great, Kiran knows all about the good biscuits. She'll hook you up. See you guys later.

CHETRY: Oh, yes. I'll show you where the cafeteria is.

PHILLIPS: Yes there she goes, she knows where she's going.