Return to Transcripts main page

AMERICAN MORNING: WAKE UP CALL

GOP Candidates Take Aim at Perry; NBC: Iran to Free Hikers in 2 Days; Japan's Fukushima Reactors "Stable"; Cargill Ground Turkey Recall; FAA: Improper Work On Southwest Jets; Fighting & Explosions In Kabul

Aired September 13, 2011 - 05:00   ET

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


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you. It is Tuesday, September 13th. This is your A.M. WAKE-UP CALL.

I'm Carol Costello, joining you live this morning from New York. Thanks for waking up with us.

It's only always easy being the frontrunner, just ask Rick Perry. He was the prime target for the seven other Republican presidential candidates on stage at the CNN Tea Party debate, trading barbs about everything, from the economy, to HPV vaccinations, to immigration. Social Security set the tone right off the bat. You will hear from all eight contenders talking about your money, your job, your retirement.

But let's talk about with the two candidates sitting at the top of the polls, Rick Perry and Mitt Romney.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

GOV. RICK PERRY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Listen. This is a broken system. It's been called a Ponzi scheme by many people long before me, but no one's had the courage to stand up and say here is how we're going to reform it.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The term "Ponzi scheme" I think is over the top, unnecessary, and frightful to many people.

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm not particularly worried about Governor Perry and Governor Romney frightening the American people when President Obama scares them every single day.

REP. RON PAUL (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Social Security is broke, we spent all the money, and it's on its last legs unless we do something.

HERMAN CAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This economy is on life support. We need a bold solution. In not one that tinkers around the edges, not one that allows the politicians to continue to pick with winners and losers.

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Some people say that Barack Obama's economy is a disaster. My feeling is it would have to make a dramatic improvement just to be a disaster.

JON HUNTSMAN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have millions and millions of unemployed, millions beyond who are so dispirited they've completely given up trying to find a job. We've got moms and dads and families that have been economically shipwrecked and it's a great American tragedy that we're watching play out.

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: For years, politicians have run on the idea that government is going to buy more people more stuff and that the federal government would be taking care of people's prescription drugs, their retirement, their health care, their housing, their food. We're the everybody else that's paying for the freight for all of these things. That's the principle that has to change.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

COSTELLO: Entitlement programs like Social Security bound to be a hot button issue for voters in 2012. And a new CNN/ORC poll says most Americans think the program needs an overhaul, more than half think it needs major changes, while 12 percent want to see it thrown out entirely. Even so, more than seven in ten agree that the program is a monstrous lie and a failure.

That's how Rick Perry characterized Social Security a few weeks ago in Iowa. But last night, he seemed to soften that stance a bit.

North Carolina voters are one step closer to weighing in on a same-sex marriage ban. The state house of representatives voted to put a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot next spring. If it passes, the Senate gets the go-ahead from voters. North Carolina will become the file state in the Southeast to chisel the ban into their state constitutions.

President Obama is heading out on the road to sell his jobs plan. In two key swing states, he's heading to Ohio today, North Carolina tomorrow, to build a grassroots support. And he may need it.

Republican leaders don't like how the president plans to pay for his $447 billion jobs package. He wants to tax the rich more. That would mean closing loopholes and wiping out certain deductions for higher income families and some businesses.

Joran van der Sloot is willing to confess to a simple homicide in the death of a Peruvian woman. That's according to his lawyer. He's been behind bars since June of last year when he was accused of robbing and killing 21-year-old Stephany Flores. His lawyer is pushing for a simple homicide charge. It carries a 20-year maximum prison term. That's less than the family wants, though.

Van der Sloot was a long-time suspect in the 2005 disappearance of Alabama teenager Natalee Holloway in Aruba. That case remains unsolved.

A home health care provider with hundreds of offices across the country will pay a record $150 million to settle charges that it was ripping off Medicaid, the Veterans Administration and other government programs. Federal prosecutors say Maxim Healthcare was billing the government tens of millions of dollars for services it didn't perform or once that were not eligible for reimbursement. Maxim says it change its ways and fired the responsible executives.

Texas homeowners are returning to their fire-ravaged neighborhoods today as firefighters began to make progress against the wildfires burning in that state. The Texas Forest Service say the wildfire near Austin is now 60 percent contained, but it has destroyed more than 1,500 homes.

Texas is not the only state dealing with massive fires. Lightning is to blame for fires in California. These are pictures of the Comanche fire raging near Stallion Springs where residents are being told to evacuate. It's only about 30 percent contained.

Now, let's head to Atlanta and check in with Rob Marciano from Atlanta.

Ah, it's such a bad season for fires again.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: For California at least, we're just getting started. Texas hasn't really seen a season. It's been all year long. Over 225 days of fires going on there and it continues today.

Here's a look at the map, what we're looking as far as fires across Texas, obviously, the eastern parts seeing the most in that Comanche fire there in northern California -- southern California, I should say. That's our big concern now.

As we get through the end of September, through October, November, that's prime time for southern California fire season, the Santa Ana winds setting up. Not necessarily right now, but going forward, that will be an issue.

It's going to be hot across parts of Texas again today. My goodness, it's been rough for them, obviously, not helping the drought or the fire situation.

If you are traveling, thunderstorms and winds in Detroit, Cleveland, San Francisco, some morning fog typical for this time of year. And some Las Vegas thunderstorms, with a little bit of a monsoon flow there, that doesn't help the fire situation with dry lightning in spots.

One hundred seven is expected in Dallas, 97 in Memphis. My goodness. It feels like July or August, doesn't it? It's the middle of September, my friends, and we are due for a fall preview. We're going to get it.

Strong cold front is going to dip down across northern tier. And by Wednesday afternoon, by tomorrow afternoon, the 50s and 60s, and it will help alleviate some of the heat down across Texas eventually. But today, it's going to be a hot one.

All right. Listen, get a little science discovery as far as astronomy is concerned. Some astronomers discovered 50 new planets, believe it or not. One they would like to call super earth, which means a perfect distance from the star to possibly have water and maybe have some light. It's about 36 light years away from us. So, you know, it's going to take you a while to get there.

But nonetheless, another little crumb of hope, maybe knowledge that there's life outside of our solar system.

COSTELLO: That would be awesome. Very cool stuff. Thank you, Rob.

MARCIANO: Let's go visit.

COSTELLO: That would be great because I need to get out of this world right now. Thank you, Rob.

Do you want to hear comedian Jon Stewart's take on President Obama's jobs plan? Of course, you do. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

JON STEWART, COMEDIAN: It will triple guarantee that all children get to be the thing they wanted to be when they grow up, including astronaut, ballerina, lion tamer and most of all Batman.

It will guarantee that they can become -- Mr. President, what do you call this plan that does so much for so many?

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's called the American Jobs Act.

(LAUGHTER)

STEWART: Come on. Even your crappy bills have aspirational qualities to them. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act -- we didn't and it wasn't, but it was trying.

Give it some spin, a little humor, a little zing. The "Americans take this job and love it act," "the make it rain act," the "Remember me I killed bin Laden employment act in 2011." Something.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

COSTELLO: That's the best one. The last one was best.

Ever been curious about the food that the astronauts eat on those long space shuttle missions? Just ahead, how NASA plans to get rid of some of that food on the "first come, first serve" basis.

But, first, check out our quote of the day. Who said this? Quote, "We are likely to hear the Republican candidates for president continue to worship at the altar of the Tea Party," end quote.

It's eight minutes past the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: It is 10 minutes past the hour. This is your A.M. WAKE-UP CALL. Yes, it is time to get up already.

Now, let's get back to our quote of the day, shall we? This is the quote. "We are likely to hear the Republican candidates for president continue to worship at the altar of the Tea Party," end quote.

Who said that? Well, it was Democratic National Committee chairperson Debbie Wasserman Schultz. She said before last night's CNN Tea Party Republican debate.

Time now for a check on what's making the tech headlines news today. So, let's go to Hong Kong and check in with Kristie Lu Stout.

So, Kristie Lu, first off, let's talk a little Angry Birds.

KRSITIE LU STOUT, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: That's right. There have been -- and get a load of this -- 350 million Angry Birds downloads since the game launched in December 2009. That's according to Rovio, the maker of the game. And it's also saying that players are putting in 300 million minutes of gameplay a day.

The company is capitalizing on the Angry Birds phenomenon in every way possible. It's launching the game on multiple platforms -- iOS, Androids, core web, et cetera -- and the merchandise is just massive. I mean, as of last June, Rovio has sold 300 million-plus toys. They're selling 100 million t-shirts a month.

And here in Hong Kong, in time for the Mid-Autumn Festival, they have released these. These are Angry Birds-themed moon cakes. I don't know if you get a look at this. But just take a look at this.

And, Carol, I hate to say it, you probably don't want to taste them anyway. But they're only available here in China. My apologies. Back to you.

COSTELLO: Bummer. That would have been a great gift for my mother. She loves Angry Birds. Even my mother loves Angry Birds.

STOUT: You don't want to give a moon cake for Christmas. It would be pretty moldy by then. But the box, maybe, I'll see if I can send the box over to you if your mom is a fan. Here we go.

COSTELLO: That's good enough. She's that big a fan.

STOUT: All right.

COSTELLO: This other story you have to tell us about, it sounds pretty fascinating, about this Texas town that's found a quicker way to get to crime scenes.

STOUT: So, it's America's first police gyroplane. This type of aircraft is nothing new. It uses a rear-mounted propeller to gain speed and it travels at angle until there is lift. But this is definitely new in Tomball, Texas, where local police are looking at it to potentially fight crime.

It's considered safer than a helicopter. For example, if it loses power, you just glide down in it. It's also cheaper. A modern police helicopter can costs up to $4 million. The gyroplane, $75,000. But it does have its limits. There are no roofs or doors. So, trouble in bad weather, not a good idea.

So, for police there in Tomball, Texas, the gyroplane is in pilot mode for now. Carol, I guess you can say there's still kicking the tires.

COSTELLO: I guess so. What about bugs and birds? That would hurt.

STOUT: Yes, exactly. Yes, that's right, especially going at a speed, right?

COSTELLO: Exactly.

Kristie Lu Stout live in Hong Kong -- thanks so much.

Now that the space shuttle program has ended, NASA has some things they have to get rid of. So, the space agency is offering dehydrated astronaut food and space shuttle heat-shield tiles to eligible schools and universities. It's part of the agency's push to preserve the space shuttle program and inspire the next generation of space explorers and scientists. You can find out more how to register on NASA.gov.

Republicans pouncing on front-runner Rick Perry on everything from illegal immigration to his mandate ordering the vaccinations of young girls against HPV. A closer look at the last night's debate coming your way next.

It's 14 minutes past the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: It is 15 minutes past the hour. Good morning. This is your A.M. WAKE-UP CALL.

Did you catch the public debate last night?

Stephen Colbert relates it to blood, and tigers? Here's your punch line.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

STEPHEN COLBERT, COMEDIAN: The Republican candidates have their second presidential debate in less than a week and I was as excited as a kid in the candy store who spent three hours in that same candy store last Wednesday.

Now, we taped the show before the Tea Party face-off. So, let me give you a preview of my analysis tomorrow. Oh, God, so much blood. Where did that tiger come from? Folks, the real game-changer came before the debate when former candidate Tim Pawlenty stopped by to borrow a cup of air time from the "FOX and Friends."

TIM PAWLENTY (R), FORMER MINNESOTA GOVERNOR: There's one candidate in this race who is unmatched in his skills, and experience and talent when it comes to turning around this economy and growing jobs, and that's Mitt Romney.

COLBERT: This is huge for Romney. Just weeks ago, these two men were bitter rivals, opposite in every way, and look at them now. It's like Miracle Whip endorsing mayonnaise.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

COSTELLO: Ouch!

Time now for your Political Ticker with Tim Farley, host of "Morning Briefing" on Sirius POTUS live from Washington.

Good morning, Tim.

TIM FARLEY, SIRIUS XM POTUS: Good morning. Why did I even bother to watch the debate last night? Stephen Colbert summed it up for me. Thank you. Back to you, Carol.

COSTELLO: Yes. Goodbye. I'm leaving, too.

FARLEY: Yes.

COSTELLO: Seriously, though, Republicans were pouncing on the frontrunner, Rick Perry, again, at last night's CNN Tea Party debate. So, let's listen to a bit of it, shall we?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR/DEBATE MODERATOR: Does Governor Perry deserve any credit for all those jobs that were created in Texas?

ROMNEY: Oh, sure, oh, sure.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Tell him how much credit he deserves.

ROMNEY: Well, look. You know, I think Governor Perry would agree with me that if you're dealt four aces, that doesn't make you necessarily a great poker player.

BLITZER: Governor Perry, you were dealt four aces.

PERRY: Well, I was going to say, Mitt, you were doing pretty good until you got to talking poker.

BLITZER: Congressman Paul, you're from Texas, does your governor deserve all that credit?

PAUL: Not quite.

(LAUGHTER)

PAUL: I'm a taxpayer there. My taxes have gone up. Our taxes have doubled since he's been in office. I don't want to offend the governor because he might raise my taxes or something.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

COSTELLO: What's interesting, Tim, is, you know, I was reading some of the op-eds about it last night. The more mainstream papers said it was Mitt Romney. I was just reading Erick Erickson's RedState blog. He said it was Rick Perry.

Who do you think it was?

FARLEY: As far as winning? I think when you come out of it, you look at who was going in, what they had to accomplish and what hay had to come out with, and I think you still have no reason to believe that Rick Perry is not -- still the front-runner in the Republican Party.

And I think what we're seeing as we go through here, maybe a sharpening of possessions. Rick Perry did a little bit more, if not back off, as you said at the top of the show, Carol, softened his rhetoric on Social Security.

There is one issue that struck me that may be a problem for at least the more conservative part of the Republican Party and that is the governor's stance on immigration. He was attacked by both Mitt Romney and several others, including Michele Bachmann, who was a little bit more strident in her criticism of Rick Perry last night. But that may be an issue that comes back because it is a little more nuanced, and probably it's probably a little closer to a George Bush, I believe, when he pushed an immigration plan that never made it through Congress.

Of course, there was one other factor that Michele Bachmann had up her sleeve to beat up on Rick Perry, and that was these vaccinations against the HPV virus that Perry passed this legislation in Texas that, of course, young girls could be vaccinated. Listen to the exchange between Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BACHMANN: The question is it about life or was it about millions of dollars and potentially billions for a drug company?

BLITZER: You've got to respond to that.

PERRY: Yes, sir. The company was Merck, and it was a $5,000 contribution that I had received from them. I raise about $30 million. And if you're saying that that I can be bought for $5,000, I'm offended.

(CHEERS)

BACHMANN: Well, I'm offended for all the little girls and parents that didn't have a choice. That's what I'm offended for.

(CHEERS)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: And that one -- more than one political analyst said Rick Perry's answer was not so good. It didn't make him look good because she didn't really know what he was getting at. It just seemed like, yes, he took a donation from this drug company and then, you know, required these young girls to be vaccinated.

FARLEY: Ladies and gentlemen, we've established over what I'm (INAUDIBLE) over the price of what the governor seems to be saying in that particular comeback. I think we knew where he was trying to go. But you're also never going to win that kind of right to life vote, or that kind of discussion with Michele Bachmann. She's pretty much got a corner on that.

I think it was a clumsy answer. Again, I think -- he probably should have stuck to what he said at the beginning which was, I made a mistake, I apologize. Now, we move along.

But we'll see. They're not going to let him do that.

By the way, before we finish up, I just want to mention that Jon Huntsman, I just think with this Kurt Cobain reference somehow managed to get the suicidal grudge vote if anything else because it fell flat in the Tea Party crowd last night, Carol.

COSTELLO: Yes, I don't think the audience had any idea who Kurt Cobain was or that he wrote a book or anything else, like that. Jim Farley --

FARLEY: That's what he was referring to. Yes, exactly.

COSTELLO: Tim Farley, many thanks to you.

Japan's damaged nuclear reactors are now stable six months after the tsunami. We'll take a look at where the nuclear crisis stands now.

It's 21 minutes past the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: Breaking news from Iran this morning. NBC News is reporting that Iran's President Ahmadinejad said two American hikers will be released in two days. Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal were arrested while hiking along the Iraq-Iran border in 2009. Iran accused them of being spies.

Last month, they were sentenced to eight years in prison for espionage and illegally entering Iran. But now, Ahmadinejad said they'll be released in two days. That's according to NBC News. We'll keep you posted.

Al Qaeda has released a 9/11 anniversary video. It's an hour long ands it reportedly includes a message from al Qaeda's slain leader Osama bin Laden.

Let's head around the world with Monita Rajpal. She is live in London.

So, what do we know about this tape?

MONITA RAJPAL, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Yes. God morning to you, Carol.

It was an hour-long video as you were saying. In it, the man who is essentially now the most wanted man in the world, Ayman al- Zawahiri -- remember, he was Osama bin Laden's deputy -- issued a statement saying he was praising the Arab Spring, which is a revolution that is sweeping across the Middle East, saying that this will actually bring about or he hopes it would bridge about true Islam.

And also the video showed footage, as you were saying, of Osama bin Laden, and a message from bin Laden which was recorded obviously before he was killed by Navy SEALs in May. He was saying that he was warning Americans against falling as slaves to major corporations. That was what was included this hour-long message -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Interesting. Let's talk about Japan and the Fukushima reactors. They are now stable?

RAJPAL: Yes. The International Atomic Energy Agency, the IAEA, is saying that the reactor -- that the Fukushima nuclear power plant, I should say, is what they're calling essentially stable. Basically, they are at a point now where they are close to bringing it to being what they call a cold shutdown or achieving cold shutdown by January.

Now, cold shutdown means that the water that's being used to cool these reactors down, which you remember was the problem that these reactors were overheating and there was concern that there would be full meltdown on these reactors, what's happening right now, they are stable enough that they are at a temperature enough that they could achieve cold shutdown by January which essentially means that these reactors are not posing any threat at this point. But, of course, there's still -- you just never know what could happen -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Yes. We know that for sure. Thank you so much.

Later today, President Obama is set to head to a high school in Columbus, Ohio, to sell his jobs plan. But how does the president propose we collect $447 billion to pay for it? The answer next.

It's 26 minutes past.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COSTELLO: Good morning to you. It is Tuesday, September 13th. This is your A.M. WAKE-UP CALL. Good morning. I'm Carol Costello joining you live this morning from New York. It is 30 minutes past the hour.

Later today, President Obama is set to head to a high school in Columbus, Ohio, to sell his big jobs plan. American Jobs Act, that's what he calls it. It adds up to about $447 billion. That's how much it will cost to implement all the stuff in the bill. The question now is, how will he raise, the president, I mean, that $447 billion? Christine Romans joins me right now to explain it all.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, he will go to find money where there is money, and that's in the pockets of people who have money, Carol. Basically, upper income Americans. These are individuals who make $200,000 and more a year, families who make $250,000 or more a year, tax the rich is where he'll find the money. He would begin that effective January 1st, 2013, and he says, the White House says, they could raise some $400 billion this way.

So, let me break it down even further. He would do something called raising the carried interest tax. Unless, you're a hedge fund manager, you don't know what this is, but this is something allows hedge fund managers to keep an awful lot of money in their pockets. This would raise about $18 billion over 10 years. He would repeal oil subsidies, that, Carol, would find $40 billion in the pockets of oil and gas companies to help pay for the jobs plan.

And he would end the corporate jets tax breaks. You know, you hear the president talk about this a lot. In the end, it's about $3 billion or so. So, of all the things that you can reach into the pockets of rich people to get, that sort of -- it makes beautiful for some speeches, it's not a heck of a lot of money.

Although, I guess $3 billion no matter how you slice it in an era of fiscal austerity is a lot of money, but that's how it'd go. It would be mostly tax -- you know, tax increases for people who have an awful lot of money, Carol.

COSTELLO: Well, the bulk of it, about $400 billion, would be raised by limiting tax exemptions for people making over $200,000 a year and couples making over $250,000 a year, right?

ROMANS: Right. So, you would see the tax increases or you would see tax increases in the form of this. If you were going to write of, say, charitable deductions or itemized deductions, you would cap those itemized deductions at 28 percent. So what that means is that for every $100 in deductions, the people who make $200,000 a year or couples who make $250,000 a year, every $100 in deductions they would claim starting in 2013, it would only reduce their tax bill by $28. Right now, it's more like $36 or even higher. So, you know, that's real money, and that's where the president would find it.

COSTELLO: Christine Romans, I'll see you in a bit. Thanks so much.

ROMANS: Yes. See you soon.

COSTELLO: Fridge alert, fridge alert. Yes, there is another food recall to tell you about. I'll tell you when we come back. It's 32 minutes past the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: Another turkey recall from Cargill. That's the second one in six weeks. This recall is for 185,000 pounds of ground turkey products which could be contaminated with a strain of salmonella. The recalled meat was sold under the grands of honey Suckle White, Kroger, and H.E.B. and was packaged in late August. So, check your freezers.

The agriculture department wants to keep more strains of E.coli off your table. Right now, only one strain is considered a hazard and cannot be present in raw ground beef. The USDA wants to add six strains of E.coli to the list. Beef and meat producers say the move is not needed.

Ever find yourself losing faith in humanity? Well, take a look at this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO (voice-over): It happened in Logan, Utah. A motorcycle collides with a BMW. They go up in flames. And the motorcycle rider is thrown underneath that car, but look at those people. Those bystanders, they come rushing in and they're trying to lift the car. Remember, there are flames next to that car.

Look, they actually lift the car. And there's a guy underneath there, the motorcycle rider. Eventually, and I hope we get to see it, they pull the motorcycle rider out from under the car. There he is. See him lying on the ground there? Last we heard, the motorcycle rider was in stable condition. So, suffice it to say, those people saved his life.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO (on-camera): If you've been on a plane lately, maybe you can identify with this next story. Complaints against airlines are up, but they did a better job of getting you to your destination on time. Passengers filed 17 percent more complaints in July compared to a year ago, though, but flights were on time more. Doesn't make sense, right?

But there were also more cancelations. Just barely, but there were more. And mishandled baggage over the same time period remained about the same.

While we're on a subject of airlines, the FAA wants to fine an aviation repair facility $1 million that says Aviation Technical Services made improper repairs on 44 Southwest Boeing 737s. The company says it's cooperating and is confident the safety measures it has are now in place. We have a new Miss Universe this morning. She is Miss Angola, Leila Lopes. She won the crown last night in Sao Paolo, Brazil. The 25-year-old beauty beat out 88 other contestants. One big change this year, fans were able to vote on who made it to the semi-finals.

A former baseball all-star arrested at his home. See what landed Manny Ramirez behind bars in South Florida. That's just ahead. It's 36 minutes past the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: Thirty-eight minutes past the hour. Time for a "Political Ticker" with CNN senior political editor, Mark Preston. He's live with us from Tampa, the site of last night's CNN Tea Party Republican debate. Good morning, Mark.

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL EDITOR (on the phone): Hey, good morning, Carol.

COSTELLO: So, let's talk debate. Governor Perry hammered again about calling Social Security a Ponzi scheme. Let's listen to the exchange between Perry and Mitt Romney.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. RICK PERRY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It has been called a Ponzi scheme by many people long before me. But no one's had the courage to stand up and say, here is how we're going to reform it. We're going to transform it for those in those mid-career ages.

MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The term Ponzi scheme, I think, is over the top and unnecessary and frightful to many people. But the real issue is that in writing his book, Governor Perry pointed out that in his view, that Social Security is unconstitutional.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: It got more spirited from there. So Mark, in your mind, did Rick Perry sort of repair the damage from calling Social Security a Ponzi scheme?

PRESTON: Well, he certainly did a lot better than his -- what he did last week at the debate out at the Reagan Library, but, you know, we're going to continue to hear from Mitt Romney in the days and the weeks to come because he thinks that he sees an Achilles heel-type of issue right now for Rick Perry, but it wasn't just Social Security that Rick Perry was hit at.

He's also hit over the idea of mandates and the whole idea of the HPV vaccination that was mandated on young girls in his state. You know, and we also saw too -- saw that it wasn't just Rick Perry getting hit from Mitt Romney, we also saw Michele Bachmann actually step up and also take it. So, we knew the front runner in the race and that's what Rick Perry is right now. You're going to take it from all sides now, Carol. COSTELLO: You're not kidding. There was another interesting moment in the debate. Wolf Blitzer put a hypothetical question to Representative -- or Congressman Ron Paul about what should happen to a young man who chose not to buy health insurance and then suffered a terrible accident. Let's listen to that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. RON PAUL, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That's what freedom is all about, taking your own risks. This whole idea that you have to prepare and take care of everybody --

(APPLAUSE)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: But congressman, are you saying the society should just let him die?

PAUL: No --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: People were actually cheering at that from the audience, not many, but there were a few, Mark.

PRESTON: Yes. You know, a very distasteful, certainly, from the audience when we heard that reaction again. It was just a couple of folks in the audience. Interesting, his answer to that was it took him a few times to come out and actually answer the question directly. He said that it would be churches and other social organizations that would step up, but it shouldn't be the federal government that have to take care of it.

You know, a very interesting exchange that we saw between Wolf Blitzer and Ron Paul last night, but it shows -- goes to show you that Ron Paul is very much a strict constitutionalist when it comes to an issue such as that, Carol.

COSTELLO: Yes. He never varies. He's a true libertarian. He's into personal responsibility to the max. Mark Preston, many thanks to you.

The U.S. Open has a new champion. Serbian, Novak Djokovic, beats Rafael Nadal of Spain in the men's final. That final took four hours and 10 minutes. Djokovic has ranked number one in the world. Rafael Nadal ranked number two. Wow! He's had an amazing year.

Pro-football is gearing up with a bang. The New England Patriots wide receiver, Wes Welker, scored a record 99-yard touchdown. That's after a pass from Tom Brady. Ninety-nine yards. Look at him go. The patriots beat the Miami Dolphins 38-24.

Baseball all-star, Manny Ramirez, was arrested at his home in connection with a domestic dispute. Ramirez retired from pro-baseball this spring. He hit 555 homeruns in his career.

Joran Van Der Sloot reportedly ready to make a deal that would include a confession in the death of a Peruvian woman.

But first, on this day in history, back in 1996, rapper, Tupac Shakur, died at the age of 25 in a Las Vegas hospital. He was shot after leaving a boxing match. It's 42 minutes past the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: And good morning to you. It is Tuesday, September 13th. This is your A.M. WAKE-UP CALL. I'm Carol Costello joining you live this morning from New York. It's 45 minutes past the hour. I have a bit of breaking news to pass along to you.

There have been explosions in Kabul, Afghanistan. Of course, Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, and it's disturbing news. Sources within Kabul telling CNN suicide attackers have entered a building under construction a few blocks away from the U.S. embassy. There was an explosion in that building under construction. CNN later talked to a Taliban source over the phone.

The target of those suicide attackers was the U.S. embassy in Kabul. Suzanne Malveaux is in Afghanistan. She's trying to gather information for us, but the Afghani government has now told embassy workers inside the U.S. embassy to take cover. So, maybe, the attacks aren't over yet, but we do know there have already been explosions.

We don't know of anything substantial being hit except maybe for this building under construction. We just don't know, but the target of these bombers is the U.S. embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. Again, we Suzanne Malveaux there. She's trying to gather information. When we get her up and live, she'll have more information for you.

In the world of politics here in the United States, it's not always easy being the frontrunner. Just ask Rick Perry. He was the prime target for the seven other Republican presidential candidates onstage at the CNN Tea Party Express Debate, trading barbs about everything from the economy to entitlement programs to immigration. Mitt Romney came out swinging on Social Security, but Michele Bachmann showed some fire, going after Perry about HPV vaccines.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The question is, is it about life or was it about millions of dollars and potentially billions for drug companies?

BLITZER: You've got to respond to that.

PERRY: Yes, sir. The company was Merck. And it was a $5,000 contribution that I had received from them. I raise about $30 million. And if you're saying that I can be bought for $5,000, I'm offended.

(APPLAUSE)

BACHMANN: I'm offended for all the little girls and the parents that didn't have a choice. That's what I'm offended for. (APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: North Carolina voters are one step closer to weighing in on a same-sex marriage ban. The state House of Representatives voted to put a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot next spring. If it passes, the state Senate gets the go ahead from voters. North Carolina will become the final state in the southeast to chisel the ban into their state constitutions.

Joran Van Der Sloot is willing to confess a simple homicide of the death of a Peruvian woman, that's according to his lawyer. He's been behind bars since June of last year when he was accused of robbing and killing 21-year-old Stephany Flores. His lawyer is pushing for the simple homicide charge. It carries a 20-year maximum prison term.

That's less than the victim's family wants. Van Der Sloot was a long-time suspect in the 2005 disappearance of Natalee Holloway in Aruba. That case, as you know, remains unsolved.

A home health care provider with hundreds of offices across the country will pay a record $150 million to settle charges that it was ripping of Medicaid, the Veterans Administration, and other government programs. Federal prosecutors say Maxim Health Care was billing the government tens of millions of dollars for services it didn't perform or ones that weren't eligible for reimbursement. Maxim says that it's changed its ways and fired the responsible executives.

A sad story from Upstate New York. When flooding hit the region last week, one of the buildings devastated by the floodwaters, a pet store in Johnson City. Employees were able to rescue about 100 animals, but another 100 did not make it. The town's mayor ordered police to investigate.

OK. Let's head to Afghanistan now. We have Suzanne Malveaux live, and there's been explosions in Kabul, Afghanistan, the capital there. Supposedly, the target was the U.S. embassy. Suzanne Malveaux, what more can you give us?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Carol, we're just getting some details now. It happened about a half hour ago. We're getting information from the Afghan police, a criminal investigation chief. It happened right outside across from the U.S. embassy, and this is how eyewitnesses explain it. There were a group of gunmen that approached.

They went to an abandoned building that was across not far from the embassy, started using and firing light weapons, grenades, as well as rocket-propelled grenades. The embassy itself, one of the people, the spokesperson of the U.S. embassy talked with one of our producers, was not able to give much information, Carol. That is because they are in a duck and cover mode. They have taken cover inside of the building. But so far, what we have seen, what we've heard outside here, we're about a mile and a half away from the embassy. We were just there, Carol, a couple of days ago for the 9/11 anniversary. And apparently, there have been some small arms fire around us. there's also been a gentleman who came by with a bull horn, essentially, in English telling everybody to stay inside the buildings, not to come out onto the streets.

Essentially the streets, the roads are all on lock-down. This is right outside of the embassy as well as where we are. So, there's still a lot of confusion. There's still a standoff that is taking place. We don't have any information about injuries or casualties at this time. All we know is that there are insurgents who have been attacking and say that their intention is to attack the embassy.

We do have a statement from the Taliban, a spokesman who talked to our CNN producer off the phone, and he said that, we attacked Kabul City. Our target, the U.S. embassy, governmental organizations, and other foreign organizations. We are prepared with heavy and light weapons such as rocket-propelled grenades.

So, Carol, we are very much in a wait-and-see mode. And, certainly, at the U.S. embassy, a bit of anxiety, if you will, because they are in a duck and cover mode -- Carol.

COSTELLO: And you say they're in a duck and cover mode, but surely, that embassy is surrounded by heavy security. I mean, is anyone returning fire from the U.S. embassy? Or we just don't know yet?

MALVEAUX: We really can't -- we just don't know, Carol. We don't know what kind of firefight is ensuing. We know that there were light weapons fired. We know that there were grenades that were used. We do not know. We don't have information yet coming from the embassy. If we can get closer, if we can get police officials too give us more information about how they're being defended, then we'll certainly bring that to you.

It is all really just unfolding in the last 20 minutes or so, but I can tell you, we were at the embassy just a couple of days ago. It is a very fortified structure. There's all kinds of security. You're talking about international security, American security. It is certainly not far from the military and international bases that are here in Kabul City. So, there certainly is a lot of security presence, high security presence, American as well as international for these kinds of incidents.

And Carol, just in my short time that I've been here, I've learned that there are quite a number of suicide attacks and depending on how big they are and who they target depends on how much coverage they get. And so, as we get more information, we're starting to figure out, you know, just how significant this is.

We were packed to go to the airport and head to the airport in about an hour or so and started to get just bits and pieces of this information of this story. And at first, it sounded like it was something that was rather small and insignificant. As we've gotten more information and we've realized the U.S. embassy is the target, that there was a firefight that was ensuing. This has gotten a lot more significant. We still don't have a lot of information, but it certainly has taken on a bit of weight, if you will, because of the target and because of the seriousness of this.

COSTELLO: Absolutely. So, we'll let you go so you can gather more information. But for those of you just joining us, the U.S. embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, under attack supposedly by Taliban forces who are across the street at a building under construction, firing rounds of ammunition at the U.S. embassy and also RPGs.

U.S. embassy workers have been told to take cover. They're under a duck and cover order. There is security within the U.S. embassy, as you heard Suzanne say, but we're not sure if anybody from the U.S. embassy is returning fire. We're going to keep on top of the situation. We'll have more for you on "American Morning."

Bank of America announcing 30,000 layoffs, but it may not end there. Some predicting other Wall Street big banks will follow suit. Details and a live report out of the NASDAQ MarketSite when we come back. It's 54 minutes past the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: Two minutes until the top of the hour. More breaking news to tell you about. This out of Iran. We have now learned that two American hikers jailed in Iran will be released after a $500,000 bail is paid for each of them. That is according to their attorney. Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal were arrested while hiking along the Iraq/Iran border in 2009.

Iran accused them of being spies. Last month, they were sentenced to eight years in prison for espionage and illegally entering Iran, but now, we know those hikers should be released in two days.

Let's head to the NASDAQ MarketSite and Carter Evans for a look at your money this morning. Good morning, Carter.

CARTER EVANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Carol. We've got reports today on import and export prices as well as the treasury budget. When you take a look at the numbers, it doesn't look like it adds up to much, at least, right now.

Dow futures currently down triple digits. So, a loss of 139 points. NASDAQ down 20. S&P 500 down about 9. You know, I'm looking at numbers in Europe. They're mixed, too. It looks like it could be another rough day. Lots of concerns about banks for investors today.

COSTELLO: I can see why. Give us a glimpse of the headlines on CNNMoney right now.

EVANS: Yes. Well, it's not good for banks. You know, we're talking about 30,000 layoffs with Bank of America. Also, sources tell CNNMoney.com that Goldman Sachs and Credit Swiss are secretly cutting jobs as well, but what they're telling people is keep your salary and your title, but you'll have no job on October 1st. You see, it's easier to find a job with a job, and then, they won't have to report as many layoffs. That's one of the big stories on CNNMoney.com this morning -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Thanks very much, Carter.

EVANS: Sure.

COSTELLO: "AMERICAN MORNING" continues right now.