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Nearly One in Six Americans in Poverty; Taliban Siege of U.S. Embassy Ends; Warning Issued About Cantaloupes; Banning Hands-Free Devic

Aired September 14, 2011 - 05:00   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you. It is Wednesday -- only two more days until Friday. It is September 14th. 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.

Nearly one in six Americans are now living in poverty. That's according to a new report from the Census Bureau. It's a gut check on where we stand in the wake of the recession.

Here are the raw numbers from the government: 46.2 million lived in poverty in 2010. That's over 15 percent of the population, the highest level since 1993. For a family of four, the poverty line is just over $22,000 a year. Some advocates for the poor say that bar is way too low, but the conservative Heritage Foundation is pushing back, again.


MARK BERGEL, ADVOCATE FOR THE POOR: If you qualify as being in poverty today, then you're really in deep poverty because that number is so low. That's based on an outdated formula from the '60s.

ROBERT RECTOR, THE HERITAGE FOUNDATION: I think that these numbers are designed to exaggerate the extent of poverty in the United States in order to build a larger welfare state, and it does make it more difficult for us to target the assistance to those who truly need it.


COSTELLO: The income for a typical American family also took a hit last year, falling slightly to about $49,500 per year. Those numbers come as President Obama pushes his jobs bill today. He heads to North Carolina to build support for that $447 billion jobs plan.

But a lot of Americans still don't know what to make of it. According to a new CNN/ORC poll: 43 percent support it, 35 percent oppose and 22 percent are unsure. Even so, they trust the president more than Republicans in Congress to handle the economy.

Speaking of congressional Republicans, they had a good night, winning a pair of special House elections. Let's start in New York with a seat left empty by ex-Congressman and TwitPic fan Anthony Weiner. Newcomer Bob Turner pulled off an offset win, riding an anti- Washington wave.


BOB TURNER (R), NEW YORK CONG-ELECT: This is an historic race. We've been asked by the people of this district to send a message to Washington, and I hope they hear it loud and clear.



COSTELLO: Same message in northern Nevada from GOP candidate Mark Amodei, who crushed his Democratic contender, keeping that seat in Republican hands.

So, after he and Turner officially start work in Congress, there will be 242 Republicans in the House, 192 Democrats.

A suspected kidnapper wanted for taking a 3-year-old Canadian boy has finally been caught. This is Randall Hopley. Officers say he snatched the little boy from his home last week and kept him for four days before returning him unharmed over the weekend. And then Hopley took off. Police tracked him to the Alberta border where he was detained. It is not clear if he's yet been charged.

The lawyer who defended Casey Anthony in her murder trial has lined up a new job. He's been hired to represent Gary Giordano -- the man being held in the disappearance of his travel companion in Aruba. Law enforcement officials tell CNN Jose Baez has traveled to Aruba to meet his new client who has been in jail since early august when Robyn Gardner vanished.

In the meantime, Casey Anthony's parents say she suffers from a string of medical problems that may explain what happened to their granddaughter. Cindy and George Anthony appeared on "The Dr. Phil Show," suggesting that Casey may have been suffering from seizures around the time that 2-year-old Caylee went missing.


CINDY ANTHONY, CASEY ANTHONY'S MOTHER: I don't know why she's having a seizure. Does she have a brain tumor? Were they caused by stress?

I don't know if she had a seizure that day and blacked out? I don't know what's happened. And that's what I want to find out down the road. And I'm not making justifications for that, but there's a cause for those. You don't just have a grand mal seizure.


COSTELLO: Another portion of Dr. Phil's interview takes place today.

A wildfire in northeast Minnesota grew nearly tenfold in just one day. It now covers roughly 100,000 acres, and it's prompted the evacuation of several homes as a precaution. This adds to the long list of active wildfires across the country. Let's head to Atlanta now and check in with Jacqui Jeras.

Wow. I guess we're paying for that -- it's been what, the hottest summer on record?

JACQUI JERAS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. It has in many locations. Minnesota is a little bit on the dry side, Carol, and they also have some strong winds that have been moving in there. It's a very dense forested year, the National Superior Forest. In fact, they spent a lot of time up there in the boundary waters canoe area if you're familiar at all.

It's very chilly this morning. Actually, temperature is about 34 degrees in Eli, which is near there. And the winds will be a little on the gusty side today. Maybe 15, pushing 20 miles per hour. There's a very strong cold front that's moving through. And tomorrow morning even colder than this morning in the upper Midwest. Take a look at that freeze threat.

We've got frost and freeze advisories where temperatures will be in the upper 20s to lower 30s. You don't mind that cool air, but you don't want the breezes that are coming in along with that cold front. And that's really the big weather story across the country today as that cold front that's going to be bringing temperatures cool all the way down to the Gulf Coast by the end of the week.

So, this is going to be a nice big break for a whole lot of people. It is going to be impacting your travel, looking for thunderstorms for major delays in St. Louis, Las Vegas, a few thunderstorms as well as Denver, looking for that cool-down there, too, and San Francisco looking for some fog and some wind this morning.

All right, Carol. Check out these pictures. It's just amazing. This is out of Alaska. About 20,000 walruses or so have been forced further to the South.

You know, the sea ice has been shrinking. It was a record year for that as well. And so, they were forced to move into areas that they don't normally move into -- so kind of sad pictures but just amazing to see so many of them in one place.

COSTELLO: I hope they're getting the food they need.

JERAS: I know. They're worried about that.

COSTELLO: You do. Jacqui Jeras, many thanks.

Comedian Stephen Colbert tried to read President Obama's entire 199- page jobs plan. What happened instead? Hint, you may se a flying car. Check it out.


STEPHEN COLBERT, COMEDIAN: Last night, I'll tell you, I sat down to read this 199-page boondoggle. But luckily the TV was on -- Jim.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: More than half of that is tax cuts plus new spending on schools, roads and bridges.

COLBERT: OK. Tax cuts, I understand. But we don't need the government building bridges and roads. That was proven by Reagan's secretary of transportation, Bo Duke. He did not use paved roads, and he sure as hell did not need bridges.


COSTELLO: No, he did not.

Target officials tell us they've never seen anything like this before. We're talking about Target, the store. It's been nearly 24 hours since the launch of the new Missoni clothing line. And Target's Web site is still down. It crashed.

Let's check out the quote of the day before we get into that, though. Here is the quote. Quote, "If she walked in here right now, I wouldn't be surprised," end quote.

Hmm. Find out who said this about Amy Winehouse. It's coming your way in 90 seconds.

It's seven minutes past the hour.


COSTELLO: It is nine minutes after the hour. This is your A.M. WAKE- UP CALL.

Now back to our quote of the day about Amy Winehouse. This is the quote. Quote, "If she walked in here right now, I wouldn't be surprised," end quote. That came from Amy's father, Mitch Winehouse. He said this to Piers Morgan last night.



MITCH WINEHOUSE, AMY WINEHOUSE'S FATHER: If she walked in here right now, I wouldn't be surprised. It's just incredible that a force, her force, her nature, has gone, but it hasn't really gone because, you know, I'm a firm -- as all my family are, we're firm believers in life after death, and she's right here with us all the time.


COSTELLO: Let's talk about Google and Target. They're leading the tech headlines this morning.

Let's head to Hong Kong and Kristie Lu Stout.

And Google may be providing more flight bargains for people?

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: That's right. On Tuesday, they launched flight search. It's a new online tool to plan economy air travel in the U.S. just go to and you will see flight options from a variety of airlines which you can sort by departure or arrival time, route, airline or price. Once you're ready to book your flight, you just click on the booking link, and it will take you directly to the airline's Web site. Now, Google flight search also has a calendar to find low-price fares and an interactive map to explore nations.

And I tried it just now, and the results, they seem to appear instantly. But, Carol, I won't be using it any time soon. Again, U.S. flights only for the time being.

COSTELLO: So, I'll use it, then.

Let's talk about Target because this is amazing.

STOUT: That's right. It's all about this collaboration between Missoni and Target. And it is so popular, it has crashed, the retailer's Web site. A wide array of consumers, they clamored to buy the cut rate Target versions of Missoni zigzag designs. And that prompted Target to issue a statement.

It reads this, quote, " is seeing greater item demand than we do on a typical black Friday. And it goes on to say we are slowly bringing the site back online to ensure that we can provide a positive shopping experience." Now, the Missoni mania wasn't only online. Items ranging from scarves to coats sold out at Target stores across the country.

And Missoni for Target items are yes, appearing on eBay. And that has prompted the designer Margarita Missoni to tweet this. And she tweets, "You guys, very silly to buy on eBay for three times the price. For that money, go out and get M Missoni."

So, Carol, you know, a huge coup for Target but also a big branding bonanza for Missoni, the Italian fashion house.

Back to you.

COSTELLO: That's true. The point is for Missoni to sell Missoni products at bargain prices at Target and then people put them on eBay. It doesn't make sense. Thanks very much.

STOUT: Yes, there's no logic here. Social psychology. Anyway.

COSTELLO: Anyway. Kristie Lu Stout, many thanks to you.

You may remember him, you may remember him best actually as the host of "Love Connection." But Chuck Woolery isn't showing much love for the super-rich who complain about not getting taxed enough. You'll hear from him just ahead.

But, first, splurge on your calorie count today because it is national cream-filled doughnut day. The most popular cream-filled doughnuts are: chocolate cream and vanilla cream.

It's 12 minutes past the hour.


COSTELLO: It is 14 minutes past the hour. This is your A.M. WAKE-UP CALL.

At Monday night's CNN Tea Party debate, you saw a sea of red, white and blue. The stage, the lapel flag pins, even candidates' ties and sweaters red, white and blue.

But comedian Jon Stewart says most of the candidates saw another color, green. Here's your punch line.


JON STEWART, COMEDIAN: I believe there was a point to last night's Ameri-gasm, which was for seven ambitious Republicans to give a jealousy-fueled beat-down to this one other Republican.

JON HUNTSMAN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: For Rick to say that you can't secure the border I think is pretty much a treasonous comment.

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What Governor Perry's done is provided in-state tuition for illegal immigrants. Maybe that was an attempt to attract the illegal vote.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Governor Perry pointed out that in his view, that Social Security is unconstitutional.

REP. RON PAUL (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't want to offend the governor because he might raise my taxes or something.

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The drug company gave thousands of dollars in political donations to the governor, and this is just flat out wrong.

STEWART: And through it all, Perry just kept grinning and scribbling away on his pad. What's he writing, anyway? Let's take a look at that. Oh!


COSTELLO: That's really funny. Rick Perry in his own words, I feel like a human pinata.

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

Good morning, Tim.

TIM FARLEY, SIRIUS XM POTUS: Good to be the frontrunner, isn't it, Carol?

COSTELLO: It certainly is. He was joking again last night, but we'll get into that later.

Let's talk about something fun, first off, Chuck Woolery. Now, I remember him from "Love Connection," but he's actually -- I guess he's sharing his thoughts on the super-rich, taxes and the state of politics in America. Please share.


CHUCK WOOLERY: To those suffering with the unbearable pain of obnoxiously high bank balances or low back pain from sitting on overstuffed wallets, I say forget waiting for Congress to do something. Let's act now. My crack team of researchers has found a provision in the U.S. tax code that allows you to pay more in taxes. On page 88 of the IRS tax preparation manual, you'll find directions on how to do just that.


COSTELLO: I don't even know what to say about that, frankly.

FARLEY: Can I just admit that Chuck Woolery was not my cultural touchstone of the 1980s? I mean, I do remember the big hair and the jelly shoes and Rainbow Brite. The "Love Connection," we all know -- it just goes to this whole thing whether or not people feel like there's something going on with the rich. And I guess you can pick on Hollywood, too.

The president right now trying to say let's get some tax rates up for the rich, and the rich are saying yes, we're going to pay more. We'll hear what the American people say. It's always fun to hear a fireside chat from a TV host.

COSTELLO: Yes. At least some among the rich want to pay higher taxes.


COSTELLO: Let's talk about this interesting race that's going to take place in Massachusetts. Elizabeth Warren, who is a progressive liberal -- I don't know, they absolutely love her. She has decided to take on Scott Brown.

Here's a clip from her just released campaign video.


ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS SENATE CANDIDATE: I'm going to do this. I'm going to run for the United States Senate. And the reason is straightforward. Middle-class families have been chipped at, hacked at, squeezed and hammered for a generation now, and I don't think Washington gets it.


COSTELLO: So do you think, Tim, she can beat Scott Brown, who used to be a Tea Party favorite, but I'm not so sure he is right now, because he's trying to, of course, appear, I guess, a little more liberal to Massachusetts voters.

FARLEY: Yes. This is the big question, of course. And Massachusetts is a fascinating kaleidoscopic political story for 2010, 2012 and 2014. And the reason I say that is because you remember, Scott Brown won that seat surprisingly -- the seat that was held for so long by Edward Kennedy.

What we got now is Elizabeth Warren, Harvard, Scott Brown drives a truck, and he's very popular. Tom Menino, the mayor of Boston, says he's a great campaigner. And Tom Menino is a Democrat.

What is at work here also is that Elizabeth Warren can get a lot of money. She really pushes the buttons of a lot of people on the left. Massachusetts is going to lose two congressional seats. And there is still some question about whether or not someone else might get into the race.

There are six announced candidates so far. So, she's got to get through the Democratic primary first. And there are some Democrats waiting around, those who are in Congress, to see if they want to run for John Kerry's seat in 2014 just in case he decides to do something else like become secretary of state, if that indeed happens, although he's said, look, he's happy in the Senate.

So, all of these are questions, and to the point of will she win or could she win? She's polling about nine points behind, but that's very early. And this is going to be a fascinating race to watch, especially because Scott Brown won in 2009, but he didn't have to go against Barack Obama who is also on the ballot in 2012. This is going to be a real barn burner.

COSTELLO: Yes. It will be interesting. It will be interesting, too, because Elizabeth Warren has never run for public office. So, we'll see how she fits into that scene.

Tim Farley, thanks so much for joining us once again this morning. We appreciate it.

New developments to tell you about on those American hikers held in Iran. We got word that they were getting out of jail. Now we're getting a different story, the details on that coming up after a quick break.

It's 19 minutes past the hour.


COSTELLO: It's 22 minutes past the hour. This is your A.M. WAKE-UP CALL.

A developing news out of Iran this morning about the release of those two American hikers jailed as spies. "Reuters" now reporting that an Iranian judicial official says there is no decision on whether Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal will be let go. Of course, that's a mixed message because just yesterday, the hikers' attorney said they'd be free as soon as each paid half a million dollars bail. And Iran's president echoed that on NBC news.

The men were arrested back in 2009 while hiking along the Iraq/Iran border, accused of espionage and illegally entering Iran. A siege of the U.S. embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, is over this morning nearly a full day after it began. Security forces killed six Taliban attackers who targeted one of the most secure areas in Afghanistan's capital. Let's head around the world now with Monita Rajpal. She's live in London.

So what's the aftermath on this?

MONITA RAJPAL, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Yes, Carol, it was described as a carefully planned attack. As you were saying, Taliban militants launched a strike Tuesday against the U.S. embassy and NATO command, headquarters in the Afghan capital, Kabul. It ended just hours ago. And today, this Wednesday, it is a tense calm there in the Afghan capital. The militants stormed a building just blocks from the U.S. embassy and attacked the vicinity of the embassy and the ISAF headquarters. They used small arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades.

Six militants, three Afghan police officers and a civilian were killed in this. While there were no American or ISAF casualties, authorities say it was a carefully planned attack despite the highly secured area of the capital. This incident underscores just how vulnerable the capital still is to militant strikes, Carol.

COSTELLO: Absolutely.

Let's talk about this deadly crash in Argentina. Two trains and a bus involved?

RAJPA: Yes. It's quite a strange story in terms of just how all of this happened. What we do know is that at least 11 people were killed and more than 200 injured after two trains and a bus collided in Buenos Aires. It happened just after 6:00 a.m. local time on Tuesday. So you can imagine people heading into work and going in to go about their day.

A train crashed into a bus at a street-level rail crossing. The train derails and is then struck by an oncoming train from the opposite direction. Dozens of police, fire and rescue workers were at the scene trying to find passengers, many of whom were transported to local hospitals. Right now, as you can understand, an investigation is under way as to what caused this collision. There's still many, many questions, Carol.

COSTELLO: Monita, thanks so much, live from London this morning.

Good news for all of you parents out there. You may no longer have to worry about your child getting patted down at the airport. Find out what the TSA is going to do instead.

It's 25 minutes past the hour.


COSTELLO: Good morning to you. It is Wednesday, September 14th. This is your A.M. WAKE-UP CALL. Good morning. I'm Carol Costello, joining you live this morning from New York. It is just about half past the hour.

The White House is coming under fire for loaning half a billion dollars to a company that has since tanked. Solar panel manufacturer Solyndra collapsed two weeks ago. According to "The Washington Post," 2009 e-mails show officials urging the budget office to approve the loans so that Vice President Biden could announce it at the Silicon Valley's company's groundbreaking. The White House insists it did not pressure anyone. It all boils down to taxpayers being liable for $535 million.

Oil may be leaking again into the Gulf of Mexico. A pro-wildlife nonprofit says it shot this video over the weekend. The group says it shows sheens of oil in the area. Neither BP nor the Coast Guard has confirmed this.

In the meantime, a major government report on last year's spill could be released today. "The Wall Street Journal" reporting the blame will be laid on BP and its contractors.

Federal health officials have issued a warning about cantaloupe after a multistate listeria outbreak. At least 15 people have become sick in Colorado, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas. Investigators say most of them ate cantaloupes produced in the Rocky Ford region of Colorado. They're now trying to determine where in the supply chain the contamination most likely occurred.

Did you see this? The good Samaritans who picked up a burning car to rescue a trapped motorcyclist? They were at even bigger risk than you might think. The first police officer to the scene said this on CNN.


VOICE OF SGT. JASON OLSEN, LOGAN POLICE DEPT.: The people when they think of a car blown up, they're thinking about the gas tank, but there's other thing that blow on cars that are on fire. The first thing that's going to go is probably the tire. And with all that compressed air and everything, melting rubber, it's not going to take much to burn through it. When that blows, it blows debris and everything all over the place.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get them out of the car.


COSTELLO: It's amazing. The cyclist, 21-year-old Brandon Wright (ph) underwent surgery. He is reportedly in stable condition despite his appearance in that video.

The National Safety Board, National Transportation Safety Board, I should say, wants all commercial truckers to put away cell phones while driving. They can't text while driving, and soon, they will be banned from using hand-held phones. But the board says that's not enough. They want hands-free devices included in that ban. This comes after an accident last year when a truck driver, distracted by his phone, crossed the median and smashed into a van, killing 11 people.

And don't like the idea of kids getting patted down at airport security? Well, you and a lot of people. So, the TSA is rolling out a new program to cut down on child pat-downs at security check points. The plan, kids under 12 get hands swabbed and go through detectors multiple times as alternative screenings. They can also keep their shoes on. This requires training screeners so the new rules will take a few weeks to a few months to be put into place.

Still ahead on WAKE-UP CALL, a check on the markets. Just a short time ago, we learned the credit agency, Moody's, downgraded French banks. We'll tell you what that means for the U.S. markets set to open in just a few hours.

But first, check out our "Get Smart" question today. What percentage of our time online do we spend on social networks and blogs? Is it A. 23 percent, B. 43 percent, or C. 63 percent? We'll have the answer for you in 90 seconds. It's 32 minutes past the hour.


COSTELLO: It's 33 minutes past the hour. This is your A.M. WAKE-UP CALL. Now, back to our "Get Smart" question today. What percentage of our time online do we spend on social networks and blogs? Is it A. 23 percent, B. 43 percent, or C. 63 percent? The answer is -- that would be A. 23 percent.

That's according to a brand-new report from Nielsen. Facebook is, of course, at the top of the list followed by the website, Blogger. Tumblr came in third. Twitter and LinkedIn rounded out the list.

Developing this morning, the credit agency, Moody's, downgrades French banks. Wow! Let's go to Christine Romans live here in New York. So, what does that mean for U.S. markets?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, it means that futures are looking lower here. There's real concern, Carol, that after three years of debt problems in Europe, that the exposure to some of these French banks is still too significant and that, quite frankly, there's concern about European leadership not being able to solve this quite yet.

So, a couple of these big French banks have been downgraded. They've already seen big hits to their stocks this week. And the whole financial system, as we've said a million times, is completely interconnected. So, when you have a couple of very big (INAUDIBLE) associated generality of the two banks, when you have two huge banks like this downgraded by Moody's, it makes the whole world take notice. See, the futures down this morning, Carol.

COSTELLO: OK. Let's talk about something even more depressing than that. The state of poverty in America. I mean, these are staggering statistics.

ROMANS: These number -- the poverty numbers in America, I'm going to be really honest with you for the past ten years, have been staggering, disappointing, concerning for the biggest economy in the world. No question that the great recession knocked the stuffing out of the middle class and made life even harder for America's poor. When you look at poor children, in particular, minors, 22 percent are now in poverty, more than one in five kids, that is. Highest level since 1993.

Another big concern here, though, is people -- income for people is continuing to decline. When you look since the 1980s, you know, average income is down -- is just up about 11 percent. You look at the top five percent, income is up 42 percent over that same period. It shows you the divide widening between the haves and have-nots in this country. It shows you a middle class that feels sidelined, feels like it's shrinking, that it's under assault.

So, kind of two different angles of this story that are incredibly political as well because you have conservatives who will say, this is going to be an excuse for the Obama administration to continue to redistribute America's wealth, and they'll say that we should be focusing on pro-growth policies only, and that will rise the tide for everyone.

These numbers show you that the great recession was incredibly, incredibly dangerous to America's middle class, to America's poor, and that that situation continues.

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

President Obama's disapproval rating hits a new high, so what does he need to do to turn things around? I think we can all answer that question. It's 36 minutes past.


COSTELLO: It is 38 minutes past the hour. This is your A.M. WAKE-UP CALL. It is time for our "Political Ticker." So, let's bring in contributor, John Avlon, who joins us live from New York. Good morning, John.


COSTELLO: Just making sure that you're awake.


AVLON: I am.

COSTELLO: Good. I'm glad to hear that. Rick Perry, he might have been a human pinata at the Tea Party debate, but he was still joking. He spoke before an audience in Mitt Romney's backyard last night, which -- let's listen to Rick Perry as he jokingly compares Washington to addicts in treatment.


GOV. RICK PERRY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There ought to be a 12- step program in Washington, D.C. And the first step should be, admit you are powerless over your spending addiction.


PERRY: And that your budget has become unmanageable.


COSTELLO: He took it on the chin in the Tea Party debate for his views on immigration and, of course, the HPV vaccination, but, he still seems to have a lot of support out there. Am I right, John?

AVLON: He does. And I don't know what Dr. Drew would say about the addict comparison. But, nonetheless, I think it's important to remember that this sort of language may ruffle some feathers, you know, among the center left, but it's exactly what appeals to the base. I mean, this is not, at the end of the day, an indefensible statement along the lines of Social Security being a monstrous fraud.

This is simply saying that Washington is addicted to spending. This is the kind of language that helps you in a Republican primary. And the fact that it's done with humor makes it doubly so.

COSTELLO: Is there anything that can hurt him now? I mean, is he so far ahead in the field that it's going to be smooth sailing for him?

AVLON: Oh, no, no, no.


AVLON: No, there's a lot that can hurt him between now and Election Day. Look, the primaries are still a long way away. And while he does have a significant lead even over his closest competitor, Mitt Romney, and has the advantage of having key primary constituencies as his functional base, the Tea Party and evangelicals with the added benefit of an executive record saying Michele Bachmann did not have -- does not have, it is still a long way till primary day.

And, of course, you know, one person who can certainly defeat Rick Perry is Rick Perry. You know, at some point, if you keep shooting yourself in the foot, it starts to take away from your leadership status, but at the moment, these things that are considered gasps by some folks are complete rallying cries to members of the base, and that's what he needs in the near term to win the nomination.

COSTELLO: OK. So, let's talk about President Obama because his disapproval rating hit a new high. I think it's 55 percent in the latest CNN/ORC Poll. Wow! What does that -- and plus, you know, there was a race here in New York, and a Republican took Anthony Weiner's seat. I mean, what does this say for President Obama in 2012?

AVLON: The trend is not his friend when it comes to his approval rating. The one thing to remember as a reality check is that while his approval rating is in the mid to high 40s, Congress' approval rating is at 15 percent, an all-time low. So, there's definitely a broad pox on both your Houses anger going on in America right now. And President Obama being president gets a lot of the brunt of that.

But members of Congress, particularly, Republicans in congress, are even less popular. Losing a special election in Anthony Weiner's seat is a reflection of dissatisfaction at the status quo, at Democrats, and also the way Anthony Weiner treated his seat, let's say.

And -- but it is a slightly more -- it is while it is a Democratic- leaning seat, it has a more conservative and culturally conservative bent than folks might appreciate outside of New York. So, while it is a major upset and a victory for Republicans, it's more nuanced than just being a referendum on President Obama.

COSTELLO: All right. Thanks for waking up early with us, john Avlon. We appreciate it.

AVLON: Anytime, Carol, for you.

COSTELLO: You can go back to sleep now.


COSTELLO: A milestone for a Yankees' pitcher last night. Mariano Rivera nailed his 600th save last night. That's the second reliever to do so ever in the major leagues. The Yankees were playing the Seattle Mariners in Washington State. Yankees won, 3-2. Congrats to Mariano Rivera. A classy guy.

If you were hoping the NBA and its players would reach a deal and get back to the court, well, keep on waiting. Still no labor deal after both sides met yesterday. Players offered to take a pay cut, but they didn't want a hard cap, a maximum they're allowed to make. A hard cap like the NFL has is what the NBA owners want. So, basketball season, still a big question mark.

And former baseball world series MVP, he's out of jail this morning. Manny Ramirez is accused of slapping his wife during an argument. He could get up to a year in jail if he is convicted. Ramirez retired from the Tampa Bay Rays this spring amid drug allegations.

It took more than 20 hours, but an attack on the U.S. embassy and NATO headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan, is finally over. Our Suzanne Malveaux is at the building where the attackers were holed up. We'll check in with her after a break.

But first, on this day in history back in 1959, the first manmade object landed on the moon. The Luna 2, well, it actually crash landed, but it's there. It's 44 minutes past the hour.


COSTELLO: Good morning to you. It is Wednesday, September 14th. This is your A.M. WAKE-UP CALL. I'm Carol Costello joining you live from New York. It is 47 minutes past the hour.

A siege of the U.S. embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan is over this morning nearly a full day after it began. Security forces killed six Taliban attackers who targeted one of the most secure areas in Afghanistan's capital. Let's go around the world with Suzanne Malveaux. She's on the phone from Kabul. And Suzanne, are you in front of the building where these insurgents were holed up?

Voice of SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Carol, good morning. I'm actually inside of the building where they were holed up. The police officer did (ph) open up the building to us to take a look and get a sense of how this whole thing unfolded. And we're on the 12th floor. So, you can actually get a pretty good vantage point of where the terrorists were located and how you can see the U.S. embassy, which is about a half mile away from this abandoned building.

It's a construction building. It's been under construction for three years. It's abandoned, and there were six police officers who were stationed here to watch this building. But there were six terrorists who came in and, basically, commandeered this building. And Carol, we're learning all kinds of new details this morning. We know that there was a driver, and then, the five other terrorists were all dressed in burqas in that traditional garb.

And so, they hid their weapons underneath these burqas and pulled up to this building, took off the burqas, brandished these weapons and went inside and floor by floor started to take out the police who were actually stationed to protect this building. They killed the first police officer on the first floor, and then, they went floor by floor. Now, there was only one police officer in this building who was killed.

But they take us around and they show us how this firefight ensued. And we're on the 12th floor. This is where the final battle was. They killed two terrorists fairly soon in the operation and showdown. And you can see on the walls, there's hundreds and hundreds of holes in the walls, pocks, holes showing the bullets that went into these walls. You see the spent shell casings that are on the ground from floor to floor, some other evidence of grenades, this kind of percussion grenades that were also used.

But on the 12th floor here, it's open. I mean, you can see all around in all directions the U.S. embassy and the NATO compound. And we are really standing right at the place where the final terrorist was killed. There were four terrorists that were taken out relatively late in the evening, early into the morning, because you know, Carol, this lasted for about 19 hours or so. So, it was dark by this time.

They stormed the building, the police. They had the grenades that were flying into the fourth floor. And we are actually looking at some remnants of what was left of these terrorists. There's an old scarf with holes, bullet holes (ph) in this scarf. You've got these empty water bottles that are everywhere from the timing (INAUDIBLE). They had food and drink. And then, you literally see, Carol, and I know it's pretty gruesome for first thing in the morning, but, you know, blood on the walls.

We are seeing some brain matter on the floor. It really is quite a sight, but this is where it all took place. And there are police that are here who are picking up things and moving things around, showing people just how all of this unfolded. It was a very dramatic scene, and it lasted for hours.

COSTELLO: Oh, my goodness. Suzanne Malveaux, thanks so much, reporting live from Kabul, Afghanistan. And just to update you about, no American was killed in that U.S. embassy. No American injuries, just so you know, and the Taliban taking credit for that attack.

More than 200 people have died in South Pakistan in a month of heavy rains and flooding. On top of that, the U.N. says nearly one million homes have been destroyed or damaged. People in Karachi are wading through water up to their knees, and it isn't over yet. The government is warning people to brace for widespread heavy rain over the weekend.

Congressional Republicans had a good night winning a pair of special House elections. Let's start in New York with the seat left empty by Anthony Weiner. Newcomer, Bob Turner, pulled off an upset win, riding an anti-Washington wave.


BOB TURNER, (R) NEW YORK CONG. ELECT: This is an historic race. We've been asked by the people of this district to send a message to Washington, and I hope they hear it loud and clear.



COSTELLO: Same message in Northern Nevada from GOP candidate, Mark Amodei, who crushed his Democratic contender, keeping that seat in Republican hands. So, after he and Turner officially start work in Congress, there will be 242 Republicans in the House, 192 Democrats.

Three TSA officers and two cops arrested for allegedly taking part in a prescription drug smuggling ring. They're among the 20 people accused of conspiring to sell tens of thousands of oxycodone painkillers up and down the east coast. Court documents say the officers were taking cash and gift cards on the side to let the pills and money pass between airports in Florida and New York.

A wildfire in Northeast Minnesota grew nearly tenfold in just one day now covers roughly 100,000 acres, and it's prompted the evacuation of several homes as a precaution. This adds to the long list of active wildfires across the country. Let's head to Atlanta and Jacqui Jeras. Minnesota? Are wildfires normal there?

JACQUI JERAS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It happens. In fact, there was a very large wildfire there about five years ago. So, it certainly happens. This is mostly in the north woods. This is in the national superior forest. So, it's very densely wooded. So, there's a lot of timber there to burn, and it's been very dry. The winds have been very strong. This fire actually started a couple of weeks ago, Carol, by lightning, but those winds now is what caused it to behave so aggressively in the last couple of days.

We also have fires burning, of course, in Texas, New Mexico and a new one started yesterday in Los Angeles County. So, those winds are going to continue to be an issue, but no critical fire areas today. There you can see on the map the big cold front, and that's the big weather story across the country, ushering in that cooler air.

It's also going to bring some nice heat relief to parts of the south. You've got to get through one more triple-digit day in Dallas, but very chilly, much cooler than normal in Minnesota, Carol, 58 degrees in Minneapolis today. And up there in Ely near where that fire is, the temperature is only 34. Very cool this time of the year, even off Minnesota.

COSTELLO: Wow! Thank you, Jacqui. We appreciate it.

Good morning, Detroit, or should we say, congratulations. The Motor City has a new reason to brag. It will soon be the site where the Maserati SUV is built. We'll have details for you ahead.

But first, let's take a look at the "Word of the Day." It's neuroticism. Neuroticism. That's how you pronounce neuroticism. Find out what it means and why you need to know after this break. It's 54 minutes past.


COSTELLO: Just about two minutes till the top of the hour. This is your A.M. WAKE-UP CALL. Now, back to our "Word of the day." Neuroticism. It causes you to act emotionally negative and anxious most of the time. You need to know this today because a new study shows if you quit smoking, you're going to have a better personality.

University of Missouri researchers found that people who smoked had higher levels of not only neuroticism but were also impulsive. And if you quit smoking, you'll reportedly be more responsible, positive, and less anxious. Just one of the million reasons to quit smoking.

Now, let's head to the NASDAQ MarketSite and Carter Evans. Good morning, Carter.

CARTER EVANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi. Good morning, Carol. We've got a couple of important reports coming out today, one on retail sales for August, the other on producer prices which is a measure of inflation at the wholesale level. You know, we had some gains yesterday. Not big gains, but gains, nonetheless. Europe's looking pretty good. Our futures right now to the down side. Dow futures down 21. NASDAQ off eight. S&P 500 futures off about six points right now.

COSTELLO: OK. So, give us a good headline from

EVANS: OK. How about this? An American-made Maserati. Check this thing out. This is the kabang (ph). I don't think that's an Italian word, but I think that's how you pronounce it. Kabang. OK. So, this is an SUV Maserati that, apparently, is going to be made in Detroit. Sergio Marconi, he's the CEO of Chrysler and Fiat, he made this announcement last year, that there might be something in the works. Well, this got unveiled yesterday in Germany, and it looks like it will be built right alongside the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Durango. It will have a V-8 Ferrari engine made in America. Back to you.

COSTELLO: Wow! What's that puppy cost? Do you know?

EVANS: No. They have not released a price yet, but I imagine it's out of my range.


COSTELLO: Me, too. Thanks so much. Carter Evans live from the NASDAQ MarketSite.

"AMERICAN MORNING" continues right now.