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AMERICAN MORNING

Newly Released Agriculture Department Memos Shed Light on Decision-Making Process that Led to the Firing of Shirley Sherrod; Christine O'Donnell Gives 10 Minute Interview to CNN; Falcon Lakes Troubled Waters; Getting the Best Airfare on Holiday Travel; Jailed Dissident Wins Peace Prize; Awaiting New Job Numbers

Aired October 8, 2010 - 07:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Election exclusive -- Christine O'Donnell, the candidate who said she's done with the national media, speaks to CNN.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Is Sarah Palin qualified to be president?

CHETRY: Blinded by pink -- a leading breast cancer doctor who says raising awareness just isn't enough.

And buy now or pay later? Why flying home for the holidays may break the bank this year on "The Most News in the Morning."

Welcome. Glad you're with us. It's Friday, October 8th. I'm Kiran Chetry.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. I'm John Roberts. Thanks so much for joining us. We have got a lot to tell you about this morning, including an election year exclusive. The candidate that everyone is talking about is finally talking back. Isn't my voice so cute like this? Delaware Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell goes one-on-one with us.

CHETRY: Our Jim Acosta caught up with O'Donnell at her campaign headquarters in Delaware and asked her how she feels about the head mama grizzly. Here's a preview.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Is Sarah Palin qualified to be president?

CHRISTINE O'DONNELL, (R) DELAWARE SENATE CANDIDATE: Is she running for president?

ACOSTA: I don't know. You tell me.

O'DONNELL: Again, hypothetical.

ACOSTA: I've heard you talk with her on the phone with her. Does she advise your campaign?

O'DONNELL: She does not advise our campaign.

ACOSTA: Does she give you advice?

O'DONNELL: She gives me, you go girl advice --

ACOSTA: Did she rally tell you to speak through FOX News?

O'DONNELL: She didn't tell me personally, but I heard her say something like that on "O'Reilly." If anyone knows anything about the politics of personal destruction, it's women candidates, women politicians like Sarah Palin.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: It was a very thorough interview covering everything from health care to the witchcraft controversy, the new ad her campaign put out saying "I'm not a witch, I'm not anything you've heard. I'm you." And Jim's going to be joining us little bit with her reaction to all of it.

ROBERTS: First, though, other top stories to tell you about this morning. The mystery on Falcon Lake -- a Texas woman who claims her husband was shot in the head by Mexican pirates is denying she had anything to do with his disappearance. Tiffany Hartley telling CNN she might agree to take a lie detector test. We'll tell you what police think of her story ahead.

CHETRY: And the race to reach 33 trapped Chilean miners. Rescuers have been rehearsing how they're going to bring the men to surface, in what order, how long it may take. They also are looking at this list and determining who they're going to bring up first. We will show you what the plans are just ahead.

ROBERTS: And toxic red sludge spreading. The spill that has killed four people and hit at least seven towns in Hungary now making its way down Europe's second largest river, the Danube. Officials are calling it an ecological disaster.

CHETRY: First, though, this hour, we're learning more about the panic and misinformation that led to the rash decision to fire former USDA employee Shirley Sherrod. Sherrod, you remember, was pushed out the door back in July when a portion of a speech that she gave to the NAACP was posted on a blogger's website, a blogger who took her words out of context and made her look racist in the process.

Our Ed Henry is live at the White House. And we should just explain to people, this was a Freedom of Information request. You finally got a lot of those memos, the back and forth between the Department of Agriculture and in some cases up to the White House.

ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely, Kiran. This is fascinating. We got the documents late last night from the Agriculture Department. We'd been petitioning for them since July. And what's interesting is that for the first time we're getting this sort of fascinating look inside the Agriculture Department, what was really going on as this story first exploded on July 19th, that afternoon, the sort of panic inside the agriculture department what they thought was potentially be a major scandal, how they had to act.

But what's also fascinating is these e-mails between Agriculture Department employees show that initially a lot of them were actually trying to push back on firing or pushing out Shirley Sherrod and saying, look, we need to see the full context here.

Look at this e-mail from 3:06 p.m., that first afternoon, a USDA employee saying, quote, "We need to make sure someone has seen the video. I want to be certain it is what it is said to be before I tell the secretary," as in Secretary Tom Vilsack over at the Agriculture Department.

But amazingly, something turned rather quickly that afternoon from going and looking at the entire video, seeing the context, to just pushing her out as quickly as possible, John and Kiran.

CHETRY: Something happened over the course of the day, though. And the decision appeared, you know, to change rather quickly to she needs to resign now. What happened?

HENRY: Absolutely. And you know, there's still a bit of a mystery here, because even though we've gotten some of these documents, others are redacted, blacked out, maybe for privacy reasons, and they're still an incomplete picture about whether or not there was any pressure from the White House.

Because if you look shortly after that e-mail what I just mentioned, saying, look, let's be cautious, lets' not rush to judgment, another e-mail exchange between agriculture employees, one saying "We need to take immediate action," a second saying "The S," presumably the secretary, "is absolutely sick and mad over the Shirley Sherrod issue. He wants her immediately on administrative leave."

Another agricultural staffer tops that and says, "Concur, she should be fired."

Again, we don't know what turned the secretary to make him want to push her out so quickly. But there's another e-mail saying that Rahm, as in Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff, was speaking later that night by phone to Secretary Vilsack. Was there any pressure? We just don't know.

CHETRY: Ed Henry shining some new light on it though this morning, thanks so much.

ROBERTS: It's a moment that the families of 33 Chilean miners have been waiting a long time for, a drill expected to breakthrough to the trapped miners by tomorrow. And once that happens, a rescue capsule will be lowered down into the mine to bring the miners back up to the surface. The so-called Phoenix capsule has an onboard oxygen supply, communications equipment. It's about 21 inches across, not quite two feet. If steel casing is needed to support the shaft, it could be ten days before the miners make it back to the surface.

Officials have made a list of how the rescue should go. First up, the most able, those capable of problem solving. Second, people with illnesses. Third, the strongest physically or mentally. And then finally the rescue paramedics will make their way up.

The Most Politics now. And for the first time since the morning after the primary, Tea Party sensation Christine O'Donnell is talking to us. She swore off national media, but our Jim Acosta with his swab and debonair ways, caught up with her in Delaware yesterday and convinced her to say a few things to him. He joins us now live from Washington.

How did you get the interview, Jim?

(LAUGHTER)

ACOSTA: Well, it could have been more than my suave and debonair ways, John. We talked to Christine O'Donnell briefly the other night. She had an event, and we reminded her at that event when we briefly caught up with her that she had said after her primary victory she would come back on CNN and talk to us.

And so I said "Ms. O'Donnell, you made this promise to us. We want to hold you to that promise." And she said "Talk to Dave, and he'll set it up." And I said "You promise?" And she said "Yes, I promise." And she delivered. She ended up giving us this interview yesterday.

We covered a variety of topics from those tapes on the Bill Maher program that have been unearthed over the last few weeks, which has really forced her to take her campaign to underground, to other issues like health care reform, the Bush tax cuts, and Sarah Palin.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: Global warming, is it manmade? Does human activity contribute to global warming?

O'DONNELL: I don't have an opinion on that. I would have to look at a specific piece of legislation when it comes to cap and trade, the bill that has been pout there supposedly out there to combat climate change. I'm opposed to cap and trade because of the economic consequences.

What it will do to the individual household, skyrocketing our utility bills beyond what we can afford, and it doesn't address the real issue it was intended to address.

ACOSTA: Should creationism be taught in public schools?

O'DONNELL: That doesn't have anything to do with what I'll do in Congress.

ACOSTA: Do you think it should be taught in schools?

O'DONNELL: That has nothing to do with what I would do in Congress. My opinion on that is irrelevant.

ACOSTA: Let me ask you about Afghanistan. The president's timetable for withdrawal, a good idea or bad idea?

O'DONNELL: We need to make our foreign policy decisions based on effectiveness, not on time. So we need to take a serious look at what's going on over there. And before we make any decisions, we need to examine whether or not it's weakening our own security.

ACOSTA: Is Sarah Palin qualified to be president?

O'DONNELL: Is she running for president?

ACOSTA: I don't know. You tell me.

O'DONNELL: Well, again, a hypothetical.

ACOSTA: Does she advise your campaign?

O'DONNELL: She does not advise our campaign.

ACOSTA: Does she give you advice?

O'DONNELL: She gives me "you go girl" advice. If anyone knows --

ACOSTA: Did she tell you to speak through Fox News.

O'DONNELL: She didn't tell me personally, but I heard her say something like that on "O'Reilly," because, you know, if anyone knows about the politics of personal destruction, it's women candidates, women politicians like Sarah Palin.

ACOSTA: If the Republicans take the Senate, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell or Jim DeMint?

O'DONNELL: I don't know yet. Because what I would need to see -- is Jim DeMint running?

ACOSTA: You tell me.

O'DONNELL: I honestly don't know. I love Senator DeMint, I love what he does. He's a principled man. But what I've said when people ask me who I'll support in leadership, I don't know that as an outsider. Right now I'm a candidate, not a U.S. senator.

ACOSTA: Is the unemployment problem in this country Barack Obama's fault or George Bush's fault?

O'DONNELL: It's a combination of politicians in Washington losing their way. Like I said, whether it's Republicans or Democrats, our so-called leaders in Washington have lost their way and are no longer in touch with the needs of the Delaware -- any citizens, not just Delaware. So I think what we need to do to get our country back on track is to replace career politicians with citizen politicians.

ACOSTA: This is the last thing. Your staff was very reluctant to have us ask you about these past statements that you made in the past. I wanted to ask you, why is that? Because aren't they your statements?

O'DONNELL: This campaign is about the future and not the past. This campaign is about what each candidate is going to do to address the needs of the people in Delaware, how we're going to get private business jobs back in Delaware, how we're going to get our economy back on track, how we're going to empower the individual and the entrepreneur to open up those mom and pop businesses back on main street.

That's what's important to the Delawareans, and that's what should be important to both candidates in this race.

ACOSTA: So you're never going to talk about your time with Bill Maher?

O'DONNELL: Why? What I said or did on a comedy show, you know over a decade ago is not relevant to this election.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: There you go. Well, we should note that her campaign only gave us ten minutes for the interview. So we tried to cram as much as we could in that timeframe. And obviously there were a lot of questions we wanted to ask that we didn't get time to ask.

But one thing I did ask her after the interview was over, I asked her about some of these allegations as to whether or not she misused her campaign funds in the past to use them for her apartment in Delaware as it was alleged at one time, and those sorts of things.

And she denied steadfastly that she'd ever misused her campaign funds. And she said her campaign attorney is going to be preparing a response to the media within the next couple of weeks to address that issue. John and Kiran?

ROBERTS: On the substance, on the issues, the potential pitfalls that could have been inside some of those questions, she handled herself quite well.

ACOSTA: And that's what I told her campaign staff. They were extremely reluctant to give this interview. She feels and they feel that every time she does an interview with the national media it's going to be a gotcha interview.

And I told them, look, we have to ask these questions and she has to answer these questions. What's going to happen if she gets elected and gets to Washington? She's only going to do interview with the Delaware media. So I tried to make the case as strenuously as I could that, you know, there's nothing to be afraid of here. Just answer the questions and everything should be fine. And then she ended up doing it.

CHETRY: Yes. It was great we had a chance to hear her position on some of those things. Jim, good job. Thanks so much.

ACOSTA: Thank you, appreciate it.

ROBERTS: A quick programming note, by the way. Don't forget, next Wednesday, Delaware Senate Candidates Chris Coons and Christine O'Donnell will face off in a debate moderated by our own Wolf Blitzer. You can see it live right here on CNN, plus complete coverage live from Delaware right here on "AMERICAN MORNING."

CHETRY: Well, you've got to look at the calendar. If you're booking a flight for the holidays. Coming up, when you buy, you want the best price, of course. You should start peeling off those proverbial bills, you may not get a seat at all or break the bank.

ROBERTS: And she says her husband was shot and killed by Mexican pirates. Now Tiffany Hartley tells CNN she might be willing to take a lie detector test. What police are telling us about her story coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Sixteen minutes past the hour. Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning.

To the latest developments now in this mystery on Falcon Lake. A Texas sheriff is now calling on Mexican drug cartels to turn over the body of American David Hartley. His wife tiffany insisting, quote, "I know what I know" claiming that Mexican pirates shot her husband in the head last week while they were jet skiing near the border. Tiffany Hartley tells CNN's Anderson Cooper last night that she might be willing to take a lie detector test if doubts about her story persist.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: We heard a sheriff say that if you wanted to take a polygraph test to back up the story that he'd support that. Is that something you'd want to do?

TIFFANY HARTLEY, WIFE OF DAVID HARTLEY: Possibly. But I don't really think I need to because I know my story and I know what I -- you know, what the story is. But if, you know, that's what the authorities think I need to do, then that might be an option.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: Law enforcement officials are not demanding a polygraph test for Tiffany Hartley, but they say that it couldn't hurt. More now from Gary Tuchman on the dangerous waters of Falcon Lake. GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John and Kiran, it's a horrifying scenario. A woman and her husband go jet skiing on a lake between the United States and Mexico. The man is shot and killed by pirates. The woman escapes with her life. But other than her word, there's no solid evidence a crime occurred. There's also no solid evidence that a crime did not occur. So what's the status of this investigation? And just what kind of place is this lake?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TUCHMAN (voice-over): We have an armada of arms protectors as we head off for a short voyage on what maybe North America's most dangerous lake. This is the sheriff of Zapata County, Texas.

(on camera): Are you 100 percent convinced she's telling the truth?

SHERIFF SIGI GONZALES, ZAPATA COUNTY, TEXAS: Well, we can never be 100 percent convinced. 99.9 percent, yes.

TUCHMAN: So 99.9 percent?

GONZALES: Sure.

TUCHMAN: Would you be willing to have her take a polygraph test just to aid in the investigation, just to be 100 percent sure?

GONZALES: I cannot force her to do it.

TUCHMAN: Would you like it?

GONZALES: Well, if she wants to do it on her own, sure.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): This is what Tiffany Hartley said at a news conference about suggestions by some she's not telling the whole truth.

TIFFANY HARTLEY, WIFE OF VICTIM: I know what I know. I know what I saw. And I can just tell you what I know. Unfortunately, he's not here to, you know -- David's not here to verify we were chased and we were shot at. And so it is hard to be judged.

TUCHMAN (on camera): What's the main reason, you think, that the story's 100 percent true.

GONZALES: The story -- well, I look at it as what is there to indicate that it's not true?

TUCHMAN: There's no jet ski, there's no body, but you're saying that blood was found on the life preserver?

GONZALES: Yes, sir. Yes, sir.

TUCHMAN: And what do we know about the blood?

GONZALES: We're going to try and get it analyzed. TUCHMAN: The Sheriff's Department here does really want to believe Tiffany Hartley's story. But the fact is that public officials we've talked to in this county who don't want to go on camera are doubting it. Also the state's police commander in the Mexican state right across the border also publicly doubting it. It's a tragedy. It's also quite a puzzle.

GONZALES: We're really living yards away from actual war in a country, in a foreign country.

TUCHMAN: Is it your feeling that the Mexican half of this lake is not under any authority control? The cartels are controlling them.

GONZALES: It's just not about feelings, sir. It's reality. It's controlled by the Mexican drug cartels.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): The lake is huge. More than 80,000 acres. Some of the best bass fishing in North America. But on the other side of this border marker where Mexico begins is now a no man's land.

(on camera): Do the people know who come out in this water that this is the border marker? Do boaters generally know?

GONZALES: Yes.

TUCHMAN: Is there any chance --

GONZALES: I mean, boaters and fishermen (ph) they know this.

TUCHMAN: Is there any chance this woman didn't know she was in Mexico?

GONZALES: No, she has said that she knew they were in Mexico.

TUCHMAN: But why would she do that?

GONZALES: She is saying that the threats were in April and May. She's saying she thought the threats were over with.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): The Mexican waters were barren while we were there. The threat is certainly not over with.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TUCHMAN: Mexican authorities do say they are searching their side, but so far there is no sign of the body of Tiffany Hartley's husband or of his jet ski -- John, Kiran.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Gary Tuchman this morning. Gary, thanks.

If you plan to fly this holiday season, forget trying to snag a great deal at the last minute because the game has changed this year. Coming up, the trick to getting the best airfare. Yes, there are some and you want to know about them.

Twenty minutes after the hour. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: What's he delivering?

CHETRY: A pillow.

ROBERTS: That's Phil (ph) for you this morning. Twenty-four minutes after the hour.

If you haven't booked your flight for the holidays yet, don't wait. This year, there are fewer planes flying, which means more demand and that means -- cha ching -- higher prices. It also means procrastinators could get priced out or end up out of luck. You might want to hitchhike home.

Rick Seaney is the CEO of farecompare.com. He joins us this morning. Rick, great to see you.

First of all --

RICK SEANEY, CEO OF FARECOMPARE.COM: Good morning.

ROBERTS: I'm sorry, I don't buy this there are fewer planes. I fly from New York to Atlanta all the time. There are no fewer planes now than they were a year ago. What's up with that?

SEANEY: Actually, if you sort of look at the last two or three years, there's been a huge cutback in the number of seats. And in fact, the number of planes that we have in the air today will be about the same as it was in the year 2000. So we've lost almost a decade of domestic aviation growth.

ROBERTS: All right. Well, no question as we get closer and closer to the holidays, Thanksgiving and then going into Christmas, time is running out to get those fare deals.

SEANEY: Right. There's, you know, a lot of pent up travel demand from last year. People didn't take their trips worried about the economy and their jobs. Airlines don't have a lot of seats. So basically what you're seeing is, you know, where airlines like Southwest Airlines that used to be 70 percent full now are running their flights almost 90 percent full, which means there's really no empty seats. So you've got to be out there shopping right now. Don't procrastinate. If you wait until the last minute, you're going to be buying tickets in the $600, $700 range instead of the $400 to $300 range.

ROBERTS: All right. Let's take a look at where we are now and we're still what? About sick weeks away from the holiday? I just --

SEANEY: Right.

ROBERTS: I went on a couple of Web sites and I found -- because I'm going to be traveling to Atlanta for Thanksgiving, so we'll put up my fare here. I found on Delta Airlines, if I were to book today, the cost I could get -- there's one it was a little bit cheaper, but most of them were $400. Our executive producer, Jamie Kraft, says that he wants to fly to Dallas for Thanksgiving. Currently that's going to cost him $598. He's got a wife and four kids. So that's going to -- that's -- I just got one person, but he's got six. That's a huge chunk of change.

SEANEY: Right.

ROBERTS: And what's --

SEANEY: And not only that, with six kids you're probably going to be checking three or four bags, so you can add another $25 apiece each way.

ROBERTS: But how much of the fares is going to go up between now and as we get closer to the holiday?

SEANEY: You know, what happens is as planes start to fill up, the reservation systems for the airlines automatically start to kick up the prices even higher. So they could go up into the $700s and $800s. We've seen this happen only a few times with really high demand times. People are shopping a little bit earlier this year because they already realize they're looking at some of these prices.

You know, the bottom line is that you need to be out there. You've got to be flexible on the days you travel. Sunday and Monday after Thanksgiving are the busiest days and the most expensive days. So if you come back on Friday or Saturday or leave on a Thursday, those are the cheapest days.

ROBERTS: Are there any other tricks that you can employ? You know, I learned that Delta's fares were lowest at about 2:00 in the morning on Tuesday. Of course, they stopped doing that. Now, I'm going to try and find -- they're cheap on Saturday night now. So can you kind of, you know, go throughout the week on the Internet and try to figure out where the fares are lower?

SEANEY: Yes. We actually have done a study with this. And basically the best time to shop is about Tuesday at 3:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

ROBERTS: Really?

SEANEY: What happens typically is airlines file their airfare sales on Monday evening. All during the morning, the other airlines scramble to match because nobody's going to sell a ticket for $1 more or less than their competitor. So right around 3:00 p.m. Eastern Time on Tuesday is when those -- all the cheap seats hit the reservation system. And the other part of this is is that they're typically three-day sales. So they typically -- the window is Tuesday to Thursday, so you want to be shopping Tuesday through Thursday. If you're shopping on a weekend, be careful, because some of those cheap fares have been removed.

ROBERTS: All right. Great tips. So start shopping about 2:00 on Tuesday afternoon online.

SEANEY: Great. Yes. Absolutely. ROBERTS: Really appreciate it. Rick Seaney, great to see you this morning. Thanks so much.

SEANEY: Great. Thank you.

ROBERTS: Good luck to all of you folks out there who are trying to get through the woods and over to grandma's house -- Kiran.

CHETRY: If grandma lives in Cancun, you can get there for $773.

ROBERTS: That's a piece of change. I usually get to Cancun for 300 bucks.

CHETRY: I know but this is over Thanksgiving. So --

ROBERTS: Yes.

CHETRY: -- you know how it goes.

ROBERTS: I mean, I might go to Toronto and right now the fares are $300, which isn't bad. But --

CHETRY: Don't try to do it on Thanksgiving.

ROBERTS: We'll see. You know, I'm going to go see the sister (ph).

CHETRY: All right. Well, we're going to continue to follow this. Meanwhile, this ecological disaster that keeps growing in Hungary is this toxic red sludge. It's now flowing down to the Danube River, could potentially affect far more people. We're going to have much more on what's going on. Our Nic Robertson is there.

It's 28 minutes past the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Half past the hour. Your top stories now. Internal government e-mails providing new details about the hasty firing of agricultural official Shirley Sherrod. You'll recall that she was working for the USDA in Georgia when a conservative blogger posted a portion of a speech she gave painting her as a racist. Sherrod was quickly vindicated and the Obama administration apologized after the full video was released.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: The toxic red sludge is now spreading, the spill that burst out of a Hungarian factory reservoir is now making its way down the Danube. It's the second largest river in Europe. At least four people have died. Officials are calling it an ecological disaster.

ROBERTS: A jailed Chinese dissident, Liu Xiaobo, has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The Nobel committee in Oslo citing his long and nonviolent struggle for human rights in China. The Chinese government is not happy about it. The foreign ministry says the decision could harm China's relations with Norway. CHETRY: And Christine Romans joins us now. So this is very interesting. You've covered a lot about China and about their influence in the world economically. What does this do?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: It's no surprise that the Chinese are so upset about this. Because the Chinese find this man who is being awarded a peace prize as a threat to peace and stability in the country. And it raises a lot of questions for a lot of human rights activists and a lot of people who say the relationship between the United States and China is the United States' business relationship between the United States and China.

It's the United States' business relationship with China that has allowed the government to really solidify its power through the pocketbook. It is American consumers who have managed to put trillions of dollars into the hands of the Chinese and for years we were told that this business relationship between the U.S. and China, the trading relationship would be something that would bring democracy to China, but, in fact, others say perhaps it has just meant the Chinese have been able to keep a tighter grip on free speech and peace activists. Interesting.

ROBERTS: Big news for us here at home. About an hour from now we get the September unemployment numbers. What are we expecting?

ROMANS: We're expecting maybe the unemployment rate to tick up to 9.7 percent. We're expecting maybe 75,000 private sector jobs to be created. We won't know until we get the number in about an hour's time. We do know that some of the stimulus-related jobs have been rolling off. So you could see that affect this number.

It's an important number, it's the last big economic number before the midterm elections. And if you see a jobless rate ticking up, you could have people who are challenging incumbents say, look, what's going on here? We still have way too many people unemployed in this country. I'll be looking at a lot of different numbers, including how long people have been unemployed. 33.6 weeks was the last big reading on that one.

And we'll also be looking at -- I want to show you quickly where some of the jobs are. Computer systems and designers, biomedical engineers, nurses and home health aides. This is where we have been seeing jobs created. But for the people who don't have jobs, as I was just mentioning, it's well over half a year that they're out of work. The number 33.6 weeks. You can see what it looks like over the summer.

We made a graphic for you for that. That number is unsustainable. That's a number -- that graph that you're seeing there, that's something that's going to resonate in the ballot box and the voting booth next month. So last big read on this before --

ROBERTS: And coming up in our next hour, we're going to talk to the CEO of Panera Bread and the CEO of Green Leaf Books. One whom is hiring and the other is not. And figure out why is the economy working for some people but not for others. ROMANS: And ask them too if the president's initiatives and small business tax cuts and the like if that's going to make a difference for them in hiring. That's what we want to know if what the government's doing is enough and what it will take to turn the page.

CHETRY: All right. Christine Romans, we look forward to all of that.

ROMANS: Sure.

CHETRY: Thanks so much for being with us.

ROBERTS: Still to come this morning, Sarah Palin may be a Tea Party favorite, but may not have a lot of support if she decides to run for president. This morning's political ticker is straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: 38 minutes past the hour. Welcome back to the most politics in the morning. We're taking a look at what's crossing the political ticker. Sarah Palin, she may have the magic touch when it comes to endorsements, but nearly half of Americans don't seem to be impressed with the former vice presidential candidate.

ROBERTS: Our senior political editor Mark Preston, live at the cnnpolitics.como desk for us. Good Friday morning, Mark.

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL EDITOR: Hey, good morning, John. Good morning, Kiran. You know, we talk a lot about President Obama and how his approval rating is right around 45, 46 percent. And there's a lot of talk about Sarah Palin running for president.

Look at these two numbers out from CBS. It shows that her unfavorable rating is at 48 percent. A very high rating, certainly for somebody who might be considering running for president. You know, CBS also asked if she -- if people thought she'd be an effective president. Only 22 percent of Americans thought she'd be an effective president.

And of that, a very disturbing number for her certainly heading into the Republican primary should she run is that 45 percent of Republicans didn't think she'd be an effective president. So not very good numbers for Sarah Palin, certainly not now. Of course, a lot of ground to cover heading into the Iowa caucuses in those cold 2012 Januarys.

You know, moving on, talking about another rock star, so to speak, is the Republican Party, a woman rock star out in Nevada, Sharron Angle is in a very tough fight with Senate majority leader Harry Reid. Well, Angle is trying to knock off the Democratic leader. Things are turning very ugly out there. In fact, let's take a look at an ad or a bit of an ad that Sharron Angle's running right now against Harry Reid.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHARRON ANGLE, NEVADA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: Here's the kicker, Reid actually voted to use taxpayer dollars to pay for Viagra for convicted child molesters and sex offenders. What else could you ever need to know about Harry Reid?

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PRESTON: Wow! Wow! What a real right hook right there. In that ad, also, that Sharron Angle is running, she also slams Harry Reid for his support of the stimulus bill and also helping illegal immigrants. Again, a bare knuckle fight out in Nevada.

John, Kiran.

CHETRY: Is that unfair? Are they going to do that as pants on fire? A politi-fact or is it true?

PRESTON: Well, you know, here's the deal. He did vote against an amendment that would prohibit Viagra for sex offenders, but really what it was a poison pill that was offered by Senator Tom Coburn. He's a very conservative lawmaker from Oklahoma. The reason why Coburn had offered the amendment, this was last year, was to try to take down the health care bill. So, you know, it's probably going to get a bit of a pants on fire.

CHETRY: Got you. Mark.

ROBERTS: Mark Preston this morning, thanks.

CHETRY: For all the latest politics, by the way, go to cnnpolitics.com.

ROBERTS: The GOP says it has yanked the political ad aimed at West Virginia voters off the air. And here's why, it shows three regular- looking guys in a diner talking about Democratic Governor Joe Manchin who is running for the Senate. It turns out though that they're not regular guys from West Virginia. They're actors in Philadelphia. Reading a script.

A talent agency put in a casting call obtained by CNN asking for a "hickey blue collar look." Costume suggestions included trucker hats, preferably ones that were beat up, a down filled vest, a flannel shirt, jeans, and work boots. The Republican spokesman says they didn't know about the casting call language.

CHETRY: You know, it was interesting, Ed Rollins who is a buddy of ours. He's on the show all the time, yesterday said it's not that uncommon to hire, you know, actors to appear in these. And the other flip side is so you bring in regular people and you don't necessarily know their background or what and then you get yourself in trouble that way, as well. So --

ROBERTS: Philadelphians masquerading as West Virginians.

CHETRY: Well, it's 41 minutes past the hour. We're going to be talking to a doctor who has a very strong opinion about whether or not we're doing enough to actually cure breast cancer through the pink ribbons and bracelets that you see everywhere do enough? Or do we need to focus our efforts, our energies and money in a different direction? We're going to talk with here, coming up. 42 minutes past the hour.

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CHETRY: 44 minutes past the hour right now. Time for us to check in with Rob Marciano for a look at how things are shaping up across the country. The leaves are falling. Beautiful, beautiful. How's the weekend going to be?

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: You know, not too shabby, as a matter of fact. It's a great weekend for pumpkin picking with the exception of the Pacific northwest. I think most folks will enjoy some sunshine. Speaking of pumpkins, check her out. This one's gorgeous. Not quite a record, but they had, you know, the old pumpkin-weighing contest. It's that time of year, upstate New York. The winner weighed in at 1,531 pounds. I mean, that sucker's on some steroids, without a doubt. In the height of the growing season, they can grow at 35 pounds a day. Don't worry, the record wasn't broken.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: You know what, though? Those big ones are always lopsided and yucky looking. You need a perfect pumpkin. It doesn't matter if they weigh a lot, right?

MARCIANO: True.

CHETRY: Look at those things, you can't carve that.

MARCIANO: Just like larger people, they're not always symmetrical.

CHETRY: Rob. Rob, I said perfect pumpkin. Come on.

MARCIANO: I mean, you know. Pumpkins, if you grow them abnormally large, they're going to look abnormal and you know, the pumpkin doesn't look right.

CHETRY: What did you say they're putting on 30 pounds a day, 30 pounds a week?

MARCIANO: Yes, 30 to 35 pounds a day during the height of the season. Yikes.

Anyway, you and CK go up there and grab that 1500-pounder and bring it back to the neighborhood. It'll be a big hit for the kids.

It's 73 degrees for a high in New York. You know that's a little bit above average, but not -- it'll be a little bit cooler the next couple of days. It's 87 in Kansas City, that's not exactly getting you in the mood for Halloween or Thanksgiving or pumpkin picking.

Fifty seven was the record low yesterday in Orlando. It was 47 in Jackson. We did have some record-breaking cold temperatures and so that's certainly got folks in the mood.

Showers and some higher elevation snows across parts of the Rockies. We did have a couple of tornadoes touchdown. No damage in Idaho from that system that was hitting Phoenix and Arizona pretty hard. That is beginning to wind up.

Also winding up is Tropical Storm Otto, 70-mile-an-hour winds heading to the east northeast of 14 miles an hour. This thing is not going to be anything to worry about for us. If anything, Portugal will get it.

But still, heavy rain in Puerto Rico so they're dealing with some flooding down there. Come on down to Atlanta -- I heard you were saying you were coming to Atlanta. It's going to be a great weekend for pumpkin picking down here as well. But I don't think we grow them to 1,500 pounds.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Looking for a Jabba the Hutkin this week. Thanks, Rob.

It really does everything, but the dishes. In today's edge of discovery, the kitchen countertop of the future answers that question what's for dinner? Here's Gary Tuchman.

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GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Researchers at Intel Lab Seattle are cooking up something new, 3D technology that turns your kitchen counter into an interactive touch screen surface. It's called "Oasis."

RYDER ZIOLA, RESEARCH ASSISTANT, INTEL LABS: The "Oasis" system uses cameras to turn an everyday work space into an intelligent space where objects that come in get recognized and give you access to a whole world of digital information.

TUCHMAN: Just put an item on the counter, a camera and computer work together to identify it.

BEVERLY HARRISON, SENIOR SCIENTIST, INTEL LABS: There's nothing special about the objects we're using. There's no bar codes or special tags on these.

TUCHMAN: Then a projector creates a touch-screen display right at your fingertips. Put two items together like this steak and pepper and "Oasis" gives recipe suggestions, timers and cooking instructions all appearing right on the countertop.

When you're finished, you can store what you've learned in a virtual drawer. Researchers are also taking "Oasis" out of the kitchen to see what else it can do.

ZIOLA: It's exciting to take it and drop it down in a million other environments and see what happens.

TUCHMAN: Chess, anyone? Gary Tuchman, CNN.

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CHETRY: Cool.

ROBERTS: Very cool. CHETRY: Can you clean it? Can you spray it down with Windex or Lysol?

ROBERTS: You'd have to at some point.

CHETRY: It's like our magic wall only for cooking.

ROBERTS: Yes, unfortunately a magic wall you can't touch it with anything. Even with finger, it goes crazy.

CHETRY: We're still working out the kinks.

We have new information this morning about the scramble to get rid of former USDA employee Shirley Sherrod even though she warned her supervisors that she's been misrepresented. Our Ed Henry has the newly released e-mails about what happened over the course of that day.

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CHETRY: It's 52 minutes past the hour right now. Welcome back. It's time for an "A.M. House Call," stories about your health and come every year millions of Americans wear pink ribbons and bracelets.

They purchase products and they display them showing that they support Breast Cancer Awareness month. Our next guest though believes that perhaps this has outlived its usefulness that we need to move beyond awareness and focus on the causes.

Dr. Susan Love just published a new edition of "Dr. Susan Love's Breast Book" and she joins this morning. Thanks so much for being with us.

So you're sort of dipping your toe in controversial territory by saying, wait a minute. You know, the race for the cure, the pink ribbons that we have seen everywhere hasn't that done a great deal to advance breast cancer research and hopefully a cure?

DR. SUSAN LOVE, BREAST CANCER SURGEON, UCLA'S DAVID GEFFEN SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: Well, it certainly made a lot of -- made everybody aware of breast cancer and it's raised lot of money for breast cancer research.

But I think that we're aware now. For 25 years we've been doing Breast Cancer Awareness Month and in some ways that makes us complacent and instead of focusing on how can we stop this disease once and for all?

And I really would like to see us not stop doing research on the cure, but also go beyond the cure and find the cause and stop it.

CHETRY: So, where do you think we're falling short right now when it comes to understanding breast cancer and finding a cure for it?

LOVE: Well, we still don't know what causes it. You know, we still treat it, I've been in this business 30 years and we're still treating with surgery, radiation, chemo and now hormones and now we have a few targeted drugs, as well.

But we haven't changed things a whole lot and all of these treatments have side effects. Wouldn't it better if we could find out what the cause is and stop it?

We have a vaccine for cancer of the cervix. You know, cancer of the breast could be a virus. It wouldn't surprise me a bit. So let's focus on trying to figure that out as well while we're also working on the cure.

CHETRY: For example, Susan G. Komen Foundation, they raised $55 million a year through the cause marketing, through the pink items. That is a lot of money.

LOVE: It's a lot of money and I think in some ways we're victims of our own success. We've raised all these money, but haven't been so good at focusing where it's being spent.

So a lot of it is letting researchers work on whatever they think is interesting and will move things along instead of saying to them, we want you to find the answer and focusing the research on really a challenge that will stop the disease.

CHETRY: Susan G. Komen also, by the way, is the largest nonprofit funder of breast cancer research. They say they've put $450 million in nearly 2,000 different research projects. I mean, are they just missing the mark or is it misguided?

LOVE: No. They've done a great job in funding research, and I certainly wouldn't complain about that, but what the way we do research in this country generally is to allow researchers to come up with whatever ideas they have and submit them and get them funded.

So it's like having a field and hoping a few wild flowers pop up, but instead I think we need to have a garden where plant seeds and we say this is what we want you to work on.

In the same way, we want to get to the moon. That's what we'll focus on. We can say we want to find the cause of breast cancer and we want all of you to give us your best ideas on that. Let's fund one thing and really get it done.

CHETRY: Wat can women out there do then to help this?

LOVE: Well, one thing women can do is join the army of women, the Love Avon Army of Women and what we're trying to do is get enough women who are willing to participate in research to find the cause so that we move that on as fast as we can.

Women who don't have breast cancer, women who have breast cancer, we have over 340,000 women signed up right now and a lot of times we can get everybody that the researchers needs in a week, accelerating the research five or six years and really moving us faster.

I have a sense of urgency. I'm getting old and I want to see this solved. CHETRY: Absolutely. I know so many do. I mean, all of us have somebody in our lives who have been touched unfortunately by breast cancer. It will be interesting to see if we do move to a cure and a cause.

LOVE: A cause, prevention.

CHETRY: Well, I mean, you have to be able to figure out the cause before you get to the cure, right?

LOVE: Yes.

CHETRY: All right, well, thanks so much for being with us this morning, Dr. Susan Love. Her book is called "Dr. Susan Love's Breast Book." We'll also link people with web site for the army of women if they're interested in finding out more. Thanks so much for joining us.

LOVE: Thank you.

CHETRY: -- this morning, really appreciate it, John.

ROBERTS: Got about three minutes until the top of the hour and the top stories coming your way after a quick break. Stay with us

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