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AMERICAN MORNING: WAKE UP CALL

Feds Bust Remote-Control Terror Plot; Jackson's Employees Take the Stand; Suspicious Truck Forces Evacuations; TSA: 800+ Guns Founds This Year; Hackers Target Goldman Sachs

Aired September 29, 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: New this morning: we're learning details about the young man charged in a plot to bomb the Pentagon with a model airplane.

Submarines loaded with cocaine. The U.S. Coast Guard thinks that it's caught on to a new trend in the Caribbean.

And --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: It's gone! And the Rays win it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: Oh, boy! What a roller coaster ride -- roller coaster night in baseball. The Rays were down. The Red Sox were up. And all of a sudden, everything changed. Unbelievable!

Good morning. It is Thursday, September 29th. This is your A.M. WAKE-UP CALL.

I'm Carol Costello, joining you live from New York.

An alleged terror plot to attack D.C. by air and on the ground busted by an elaborate FBI sting. The Fed say an American citizen planned to fill remote control airplanes like these with explosives and then fly them into the Pentagon and the Capitol. And then they say he wanted a ground crew to open fire on survivors.

The accused mastermind, 26-year-old Rezwan Ferdaus, he's from the Boston area. He has a degree in physics, and now, he's facing terrorism charges. He allegedly thought he was working with a terror network to wage jihad.

Here is more from Brian Todd.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He dealt with undercover FBI agents who were posing as al Qaeda operatives. He believed he was dealing with al Qaeda operatives. But according to a law enforcement official we spoke with, no indications at this time that he had any serious connections to foreign terrorist groups.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: Those FBI agents have been working on the case since January. Officials say Ferdaus never posted a danger to the public because the operatives kept such close contact.

U.S. military experts are weighing in on Iran's plan to send its Navy ships off the East Coast of the United States. One analyst in Washington says the announcement is just a bunch of, quote, "bombastic rhetoric." The White House and the Pentagon have both been pretty dismissive of Iran's plan.

We're just hours away from day three of the Michael Jackson death trial. Day two was filled with gripping testimony from Jackson employees and his inner circle. They talk about what they saw and heard the day the pop star died.

Here is what the jury heard from Jackson's security guard. He's describing a very nervous Dr. Conrad Murray.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you came around to the far side of the bed, what was Conrad Murray doing?

SECURITY GUARD: He appeared to be administering CPR. He appeared very nervous. He was on his side. He was sweating.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At that time, did you see Michael Jackson's face and his full body?

SECURITY GUARD: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And what did you observe about his face at that time?

SECURITY GUARD: That his eyes were open and his mouth was slightly open.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did he appear to be dead?

SECURITY GUARD: Yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: Two paramedics who responded to a delayed call for help at Michael Jackson's house are lined up to testify today. So is the singer's chef.

If everything goes according to plan, the House will pass a short-term spending bill this morning to keep the government running at least for the next eight days. They'll hold a more formal vote next week on a spending measure that will last through mid November. The vote comes after senators compromised on a potential deal breaker, extra money for disaster relief funding.

Alabama's governor says his state now has the toughest immigration law in the entire country. The Justice Department sued to block that law. But a federal judge in Birmingham upheld much of it, including the part that requires police to determine the immigration status of a person they think is in the country illegally. But the judge temporarily blocked other parts of the law including a ban on illegal immigrants looking for work.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. ROBERT BENTLEY (R), ALABAMA: I ask our legislature to pass strong effective legislation related to immigration, and they did this. And I signed it into law, and we intend to enforce it.

(PEOPLE CHANTING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: The law brought out protesters at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. Governor Robert Bentley is willing to take the blocked parts of the law all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Before you toss some ground beef in your morning omelet, check the label. Tyson fresh meat is recalling more than 130,000 pounds of it because it might be contaminated with E. coli. The USDA says a family in Ohio got sick after eating the meat. It tested positive for the bacteria.

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

Any flight issues this morning?

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. You know, we've got the same issues basically, Carol, that we've been dealing with for the past week and I don't have to tell you about it because you've been now living through them. But there are changes in the offing.

Here is a look at the expected delays that we see this afternoon and this morning actually. New York metros, all of them; D.C. metros, all of them; Boston; Philly -- interesting cities.

I'm a little out of sorts after last night. I missed some games. I'll tell you what? This shift, Carol, if you're a baseball fan, last night was one that we should have taken the day off today.

Couple of fronts that are passing through and finally going to shake up this weather pattern because it's been bringing a lot of rainfall to the East Coast. And with this change, we'll get rid of some of the flooding issues that we've had. Central New York, Sullivan County and off towards the Hudson Valley, near Hunter, we've got flash flood warnings out this morning. Watches are still posted in some cases through Saturday. You could see two to three inches of rainfall on top of what we've already seen.

Daytime highs will be on the toasty side -- 74 in New York, 66 in Minneapolis. Temperatures this weekend, Carol, in some cases will struggle to get into the 60s for daytime highs across the Northeast, and some spots in the South will see temperatures maybe dip down into the 40s.

I want to talk briefly about D.C. For two days now, they've been trying to rappel down the Washington Monument for engineers to check out the damage done by the earthquake back in August. And for two days, thunderstorms have not allowed them to do that. They're going to try again today. There's still a threat for seeing thunderstorms in the forecast, although not as numerous as we've seen the past couple of days. Maybe they'll be able to get that done.

Important work at an important spot after a rare event in August. Still hard to believe that there was an earthquake and that storm.

COSTELLO: I know. I know what you mean about baseball. Aren't you a Yankees fan?

MARCIANO: I am. It was neat to watch all that unfold. And --

COSTELLO: That Boston was kicked out of the play-offs?

MARCIANO: You know, probably the one time I didn't mind Tampa Bay coming back after a seven-run deficit to beat the Yankees.

COSTELLO: Although my Tigers play your Yankees.

MARCIANO: We're not scared, Carol. We're not scared.

COSTELLO: We're not either.

(LAUGHTER)

MARCIANO: This could be a good playoff season.

COSTELLO: It will be great. Justin Verlander again CC Sabathia? Are you kidding?

MARCIANO: Bring it on.

COSTELLO: Yes. Thank you, Rob.

Politics is the big headline for the late night comedians. Here is your punch line.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

CONAN O'BRIEN, COMEDIAN: The Obama administration decided that -- they were talking about this before, but they finally decided that the photos of Osama bin Laden taken after his death must be kept from public view. Yes. And then they said the same thing about Nancy Grace's nip slip on "Dancing with the Stars."

JAY LENO, COMEDIAN: He is not getting the same respect. You know, it seems weird. Here he is, show the plane. Here he is arriving on Monday. Look, pretty impressive. You see that pulling to LAX.

Now, here he is leaving yesterday morning. Show that. You see, it got tagged. Come on. How did they get to the plane?

(LAUGHTER AND CHEERS)

LENO: On the GOP side of things, Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain won the Florida straw poll on Saturday, soundly beating Rick Perry. This is big -- well, this is big news in the Bible belt because now you have Cain and someone who is not able.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

COSTELLO: Oh, God. That was bad.

We're finding out more about what's really going on inside the now bankrupt solar plant Solyndra. Two words: singing robots. That's according to one report. It's one of the stories making our tech headlines today.

Before we take a break, though, let's go to the "Quote of the Day." Here it is, quote, "African-Americans have been brainwashed into not being open minded," end quote. In 90 seconds we'll show you which presidential candidate said that.

It's eight minutes past the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Now, back to our "Quote of the Day." Quote, "African-Americans have been brainwashed into not being open minded," end quote. Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain said that to our own Wolf Blitzer on "THE SITUATION ROOM." Cain went on to say that African-Americans don't even consider that point of view. To see the entire interview, head to CNN.com and type Herman Cain into the search feature.

Time now for a check on what's making news, tech news, I should say. So, let's head to Hong Kong and Kristie Lu Stout.

And, Kristie Lu, so Solyndra, singing robots and Disney tunes. That's just weird.

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: I know. Let's put the links all together. It's an incredible story. Solyndra is a failed solar panel maker that filed for bankruptcy protection earlier this month. And now, "Bloomberg" has details about where some of the money went.

Now, the company had this massive 300,000 square foot facility in Fremont, California, with robots that whistle Disney tunes and spa- like showers. In fact, one former worker compared it to the Taj Mahal. Solyndra factor costs some $73 million. That includes proceeds from a half billion dollar U.S. loan guarantee.

So, Carol, there you have it. A multi-multimillion dollar elephant (ph) -- back to you.

COSTELLO: And taxpayers are even angrier this morning.

Let's talk about a new energy idea that's about to become reality in London. This sounds cool.

STOUT: It is, and it's pretty brilliant. It's all to do with these floor tiles created by a young British inventor. The Pavegen floor tiles that capture kinetic energy with footsteps and convert it to electricity. And they'll soon light up in new shopping center in London.

This is how they work. They flex just millimeters when stepped on. It captures kinetic energy which is either stored in batteries or converted into 2.1 watts of electricity. And the center of the style, it lights up when stepped upon.

So, it's kind of like Michael Jackson's "Billy Jean" video. But, of course, all in the name of eco awareness -- Carol.

COSTELLO: It's equally cool. Kristie Lu Stout joining us live from Hong Kong -- many thanks to you, as usual.

Florida is talking about moving up its presidential primary. I mean, way up they're thinking about moving it up. And that could mean chaos on the calendar this winter.

We will talk about that in our Political Ticker. That's coming up.

It's 12 minutes past the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: Welcome back.

Late night comedians poked fun at Governor Chris Christie's appetite last night. Wouldn't you know it?

Here's your punch line.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

JIMMY KIMMEL, COMEDIAN: Chris Christie as you'll see here is almost impossible to budge.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you run for president, I will give you this bucket of chicken, extra crispy.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: OK.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Really?

(APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I love you, Chris Christie.

CHRISTIE: Thank you.

DAVID LETTERMAN, COMEDIAN: He thought he could get away with something, this Governor Christie. Take a look at this, what happened.

CHRISTIE: It is defined by how we deal with our own problems. It is determined in large measure by how we set an example for the world. We tend to still understand foreign policy as something designed by officials in the State Department.

CONAN O'BRIEN, COMEDIAN: Recent studies show a typical voting machine -- a typical voting machine can be hacked by anyone with an eighth-grade science education. So, the good news is no one in America will be hacking our voting machines.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

COSTELLO: Poor Chris Christie. That's just mean.

Ahh. Well, let's talk more about politics. Yes, we must. Time for our Political Ticker with Tim Farley, he's host of "Morning Briefing" on Sirius POTUS live from Washington.

Good morning, Tim.

TIM FARLEY, SIRIUS POTUS: Good morning. A little tired this morning rappelling up and down the Washington Monument. It left over fatigue, but I'm ready to go.

COSTELLO: It's good, though. That took courage to do that in bad weather.

FARLEY: Never catch me up there.

COSTELLO: Me neither.

Florida could move its presidential primary to January 31st. Of course, that's several weeks earlier than usual. One Florida lawmaker explains why the state needs to be closer to the top of the primary chain. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN (R), FLORIDA: We have all these early primary dates that are really in small states and states that are not diverse in population. And it's time for a big state, populated state, and a minority-represented state to be represented in making up of who is going to be the nominee for the Republican Party.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: Tim, some people say this will cause absolute chaos.

FARLEY: Well, it could. All the states have until Saturday to submit to the Republican National Committee their proposals for their dates. Of course, Iowa and New Hampshire will be first and second regardless. Even in New Hampshire it's a law. We may be moving it up to January 2nd. In 2008, it was January 3rd.

The question of relevancy for Florida, though -- it will be interesting to see how it plays out. The penalty if they move it up is to lose half its delegates. If we have a nominee early on the process, it would be kind of irrelevant.

Let's note also that Florida is the place where Republicans will hold their convention in Tampa. So, Reince Priebus, who is the chair of the Republican National Committee, has a difficult path to navigate right now, because it's not just Florida. Several other states are itching to move of.

And, add to that the fact that this year, Republicans are toying or actually using the idea of proportional representation in the early primaries. So, the influence of early primary states is a little in question right now. Still, we have until Saturday. We'll see what kind of chaos may or may not rule.

COSTELLO: OK. Let's say it all happens. Who benefits if Florida goes early?

FARLEY: I think Mitt Romney. I mean, Mitt Romney is the one who's got the ground game and he's got the money. But people like, for example, Michele Bachmann whose numbers have been dropping, but she was somebody who hope for an early win or at least a good showing in Iowa, that would help make some money.

Well, if you have a good showing in Iowa and you have to turn around three or four days later to go to New Hampshire. And then, all of a sudden, you got South Carolina and Nevada and then you have to deal with Florida, which is a huge media market, it's going to be pretty tough.

So, the people with the ground game like Mitt Romney, he's got the best right now in both of those areas. He's the one, I think, that stands to benefit the most.

COSTELLO: Interesting. Let's talk about the House of Representatives. The House meets at 11:00 a.m. Eastern this morning to pass that resolution to fund the government only through October 4th though. Do you think there's any chance for more drama?

FARLEY: I think they will have it passed in the time it took you to introduce me for that story, because this is going to be simply unanimous consent vote. There could be some drama. I mean, let's look at what happened in baseball last night. I mean, God does have a sense of humor, does he not? So, I think what we're talking about is just basically walking in, making the vote and they'll wait until next week to act on the rest of the bill.

Still, one congressman could decide if he wanted to be the lone person to responsible for shutting down the government to show up and object. But I don't expect that's going to happen today, Carol.

COSTELLO: No, I think that our politicians have figured out that it's not really very smart to mess around with FEMA, right, or funds for people in need of disaster relief?

FARLEY: Well, FEMA has the money and nobody wants to see the government shut down right now, either.

COSTELLO: No, that's true. Tim Farley, thanks -- Tim Farley, host of "Morning Briefing" on Sirius POTUS.

A warning to Americans. It's Saudi Arabia: be on alert for kidnappers. What we're being told to look out for, that's just ahead.

But before we go, today is Poisoned Blackberries Day. The day allegedly stems from a legend in Scotland about the devil poisoning all the blackberries in the land. So, you might want to steer clear of throwing a handful in your bowl of cereal this morning. Just saying.

It's 19 minutes past the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Here are three things to put on your radar today:

The trial against Michael Jackson's doctor. Today, we expect to hear testimony from the first paramedics to arrive at Jackson's home. We'll also hear from his chef.

The CDC is warning consumers to throw out cantaloupes if they don't know where they came from and watch out for illnesses. So far, 13 people have died and more than 70 have become sick from consuming bacteria-tainted cantaloupes. The illnesses were traced to the consumption of Rocky Ford cantaloupes grown at Jensen Farms in Colorado.

The U.S. embassy in Saudi Arabia is issuing warnings to Americans: be aware of kidnappers. It says it has intel that a terror group might be planning to abduct Westerners.

So, let's head live to London and check in with Zain Verjee.

What more do we know about this threat?

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: I was just looking at the emergency message that was put out there for U.S. citizens in Saudi Arabia because of this possibility that terrorists could want to kidnap Westerners and Americans living in Riyadh or other parts of Saudi Arabia. And it says that you've got to exercise prudence and enhanced security awareness at all times.

In terms of specification information that we know, there really isn't that much. All we know from U.S. officials is that the information was credible and the threat was credible. But they're not being specific about any of the intelligence that has brought them to make this warning.

It's in a warning message that's often put out by U.S. embassy in any country in the world when it comes to something like this.

COSTELLO: Got you.

Speaking of Saudi Arabia -- recently, Saudi Arabia sentenced a woman driver to 10 lashings. But we hear the sentence has been revoked?

VERJEE: Yes, total U-turn here. Apparently, the Saudi king himself, King Abdullah, weighed in here and just reversed it. The woman who was out driving as a form of protest because women in Saudi Arabia are not allowed to drive was arrested, questioned and then sent back home in a taxi, but sentenced to getting these 10 lashes.

So, the top man in the country weighed in and that's been reversed. So, you know, there has been a campaign for quite a while for women who go out and drive, just to make the point that they should have the right to do that.

King Abdullah has been a pretty reformist guy since he's been there since 2005, really trying to push a reformist agenda that includes women's rights. But there's a whole Wahhabi puritanical Muslim establishment that he has to navigate himself around. But lucky for this woman, and there are more, that want to continue driving. We'll see what happens.

COSTELLO: Well, does this mean that these women who are out there protesting and driving regardless of the consequences are having some influence?

VERJEE: Yes. Well, they're making their point. They have them pushing for reforms over a number of years, and things have been in the pipeline. I mean, they got the vote just a short while ago, just a few days ago, and the right to stand in local government elections, too.

So, that was a really big deal. The driving part, it's not so much that it's the law in Saudi Arabia. But it's the Wahhabi interpretation of Islamic law. And they say this is what needs to happen from a religious point of view and they're trying to fight that.

COSTELLO: Interesting. Zain Verjee, live in London, thanks so much.

The TSA has found a whole lot of weapons at airports this year. You won't believe how many guns they've seized. We'll tell you about that after a break.

It's 26 minutes past.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: Good morning to you. It is Thursday, September 29th. This is your A.M. WAKE-UP CALL.

I'm Carol Costello, joining you live from New York this morning. It is just about 30 minutes past the hour.

Get ready for day three of the Conrad Murray trial. Two paramedics and Michael Jackson's chef will testify today. Yesterday, the jury heard from the singer's personal assistant. He said he was concerned about Dr. Murray's behavior after Jackson was pronounced dead at the hospital.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL AMIR WILLIAMS, JACKSON'S PERSONAL ASSISTANT: He said that there's some cream in Michael's room or house -- I believe room, that he wouldn't want the world to know about. And he requested I or someone give him a ride back to the house to get it so the world, you know, wouldn't know about the cream.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To get the cream so the world wouldn't know about it?

WILLIAMS: Yes, sir.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: The prosecution says Murray wanted to retrieve evidence of his medical misconduct, misconduct that led to Jackson's death.

CNN's Don Lemon live in Los Angeles. He's covering this trial. Don, again, a lot of emotional testimony about that day in 2009.

DON LEMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, absolutely. You know, the first day, most of the emotion came from really -- from the family and from the people in the courtroom. They were just shocked when they saw the images of Michael Jackson on a gurney and shocked to hear his slurred speech.

But then to hear the people who were closest to Michael Jackson when he died, his security, his chief of security who testified yesterday, to hear about the moments surrounding his death and also his personal assistant, to hear that the children were standing there. Paris was balled up watching and just doubled over crying.

And also Prince, the son was just red-faced watching this. And what people are not saying about this, what they didn't say in court is that some people testified, even Conrad Murray's own attorney said that Michael Jackson had a urine catheter on and was laying there. His eyes were open and his mouth was half open. So, imagine, Carol, his children seeing all of that during the moment of his death.

COSTELLO: And it appeared that Dr. Murray wasn't performing CPR the proper way? Wasn't he having trouble doing that? LEMON: Yes. There've been several people who have said and Fahim Muhammad (ph) who's head of security has said when he arrived, he had to get permission to go upstairs from Michael Jackson's assistant, Michael Amir Williams, by telephone. He said you have permission go up stairs. He said absolutely.

So, he goes up, and he said he observes Conrad Murray, I think he has a phone in one land, and then with one other hand, he's trying to administer CPR to Michael Jackson. And he said it appeared that he didn't really know how to do CPR. So, it's interesting that a cardiologist, a cardiologist, Carol, nonetheless, would not know how to do CPR.

You know, it's very challenging for the defense, of course, innocent until proven guilty. But by all accounts, from the expert witnesses who have been on this network and on HLN, our sister network, they have said it's going to be a tough battle for the defense. At this point, if we're marking a score card, it would appear that the prosecution is winning, and I think the family certainly feels that way by observing them in court.

COSTELLO: Well, the defense hasn't presented its case yet. So, we'll hold off on that for just a second. I'd like to talk to you about Dr. Murray's demeanor, because he was very emotional in court day before yesterday. I wondered if his demeanor had changed. Actually, the day before yesterday, I wonder if it changed.

LEMON: He was very emotional. Remember, I told you, I had sort of an encounter with him in the hallway where he just sort of stared. His attorneys were looking very sullen, and he'd walked through, and people would say murderer, murderer as he walked by. Yesterday, it was really a marked change. He would walk through the courtroom.

He'd smile. He'd look people in the eye. He would say how are you when he'd walk in and out of the courtroom and he'd walk in the hallway. So, I think someone said, hey, listen, you've got to change and you have to portray a more positive attitude. So, there was a marked difference in his behavior and his attitude yesterday.

COSTELLO: Interesting. Don Lemon reporting live from Los Angeles. Thanks.

A suspicious truck in Tucson, Arizona forces evacuations. So, it's less than a mile from the hearing of shooting suspect, Jared Lee Loughner. The area was under extra alert because of the Loughner case. Investigators found ammunitions but no bombs. Several buildings were evacuated, and streets were shut down. Officials say better safe than sorry.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARIA HAWKE, TUCSON POLICE: Even if it turns out to be nothing, the bottom line is, it's done for your protection.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: Police did find the driver who cooperated. He has not been charged with any crime.

Pistols, knives, and grenades all found in airport baggage in the past week alone, and the TSA says it has found more than 800 guns in carry-on, so far, this year. The number one excuse, "I forgot that was in my bag".

You know, those Reebok toning shoes to help you get fit and this commercials? Yes, those. It turns out the shoes don't work, and if you bought them, you could get a refund. We'll have details in 60 seconds. It's 34 minutes past the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: You know those Reeboks that claim to help shape and tone your back side? Well, the FTC says they don't, and that Reebok's advertising was deceptive. So, the government is making Reebok pay up big time, $25 million. If you bought the easy tone and run tone shoes, you can ask for a refund on the FTC Web site. That would be www.ftc.gov.

Hackers target Goldman Sachs. They blasted a tweet that leaked the data of more than 80 Goldman employees. CEO, Lloyd Blankfein's age, education, recent addresses, and even legal cases were all published. Goldman Sachs declined to comment on any of the leaks. The hackers say they sympathize with the "Occupy Wall Street" movement which calls for 20,000 people to flood Lower Manhattan to protest the power of financial firms.

Peanut butter and jelly, oh, it's getting more expensive. You can blame price to you PB and Js on a peanut shortage. Supplies this year dropped an estimated one billion pounds. Extreme weather has made peanuts harder to grow, and cotton prices went up, so farmers chose to plant cotton instead of peanuts to bring in more cash.

Herman Cain says he knows why African-Americans vote for Democrats. It's because they've been brainwashed. We'll talk more about that in our "Political Ticker."

But before we go, today's "Get Smart" question. According to a new survey by "Travel and Leisure" magazine, what is the top tourist attraction in the entire world? And we're talking about cultural or historical sites, our natural landmarks, and officially designated spaces. So, here are your choices. A. Times Square, B. Washington, D.C.'s Union Station or C. The Las Vegas Strip. It's 37 minutes past the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: It is 39 minutes past the hour. This is your A.M. WAKE-UP CALL.

Now, back to our "Get Smart" question. The question this morning, what is the top tourist attraction in the world? A. Times Square, B. Washington, D.C.'S Union Station, or C. The Las Vegas Strip. The answer is A. Times Square. Let's take a look at the rest of the top five from "Travel and Leisure" magazine. Number two is Central Park. Number three is Washington, D.C.'S Union Station. Number four is Las Vegas Strip there and number five, Niagara Falls.

Now, it's time for our "Political Ticker." Let's bring in CNN political reporter, Peter Hamby. Good morning, Peter.

PETER HAMBY, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER (on the phone): Hey, Carol. How are you?

COSTELLO: I'm doing pretty good this morning. We want to talk about this conversation between Herman Cain and Wolf Blitzer. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": Why is the Republican Party, basically, poison for so many African Americans?

HERMAN CAIN, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Because many African Americans have been brainwashed into not being open-minded, not even considering a conservative point of view. I have received some of that same vitriol simply because I am running for the Republican nomination as a conservative. So, it's just brainwashing and people not being open minded, pure and simple.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: Now, you can imagine many African Americans probably don't find Herman Cain's comments comforting. I mean, what does he think, Peter, that you can deprogram African American voters and get them to vote conservative?

HAMBY: Yes. He thinks that. The problem for him is that, you know, going back half a century, African American voters have been firmly Democratic. I think nine out of 10 African-American voters voted Democratic in the last election. Another problem for Herman Cain, though, he might not be the Republican nominee.

He's doing well in the polling right now. Thanks in part to some of the blunt talk like you just heard there. But, at the end of the day, do Republicans treat him as viable? Can he raise more money than Mitt Romney, Texas governor Rick Perry, the two frontrunners? So, yes, I mean, Herman Cain thinks that black people can vote for Republican in the general election, perhaps, Hispanic voters.

You know, you're going to hear somewhere arguments from Republicans that in a tough economy, you know, African Americans, Hispanic, college students, these traditionally Democratic constituents, you know, they care about taxes and jobs and these sort of things. But, at the end of the day, the Republican Party is going to be a hard sell for some of these folks who have been in the Democratic camp for such a long time, Carol.

COSTELLO: Although, I will say there is something to peer pressure when it comes to voting. I can remember doing stories during the 2008 election and talking to African American voters. Some of whom were for Hillary Clinton in the primary, but once their African American friends found out about that, they sort of pressured them into voting for Barack Obama.

HAMBY: Yes. That's an interesting point, actually. I do remember that in the early days of the campaign, actually, even latest days of the campaign. You're right. There were a lot of people who, you know, were loyal to the Clintons. It took a lot of hard work from the Obama campaign to swing a lot of those people into their camp.

But, again, that was inside a Democratic primary that seemed a little more reasonable than what Cain is saying, that African American voters would completely switch parties and vote for a Republican. Even if it's Herman Cain, I just don't see that happening in this election cycle -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Peter Hamby joining us live this morning. Thank you.

September can be a cruel month. Just ask the Atlanta Braves or the Boston Red Sox. Atlanta, they saw an 8 1/2 game lead of the national league wildcard race go down the drain. Their season officially ended last night when they blew a 3-2 lead against the Phillies. Atlanta lost 4-3 in 13 innings. So, instead of the Braves in the postseason, it'll be the St. Louis cardinals. They beat Houston 8-0.

September was even more cruel for the Boston Red Sox and their fans. They saw a nine-game wildcard lead go poof for the night. Their season ended when they gave up two runs in the ninth. They lost -- geez, look at the Orioles celebrating. The Orioles beat the Red Sox 4-3. The Red Sox don't go to the playoffs.

About the time Boston's hopes finished imploding, Tampa Bay's wildcard dreams came through big time. They were trailing the Yankees by seven, but battled back to win 8-7 in 12 innings. And in true what dreams are made of fashion, the winning run was a home run from Eva Longoria. That's awesome. I hate the Yankees.

Tens of thousands of pounds of ground beef yanked on E.coli fears. We'll tell you what to look for.

And before we go, on this day in history, back in 1986, the sitcom, "Designing Women," debuted on CBS. Let's wonder back now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're caught that baton, and 12,000 people jumped for their feet for 16 1/2 minutes of uninterrupted, thunderous ovation as flameless illuminated her tear-stained face. And that, Marjory, just so you will know and your children will some day know is the night the lights went out in Georgia.

(LAUGHTER)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COSTELLO: Good morning to you. It is Thursday, September 29th. This is your A.M. WAKE-UP CALL. I'm Carol Costello joining you live from New York this morning. It is 48 minutes past the hour.

A verdict could come as soon as Saturday in the Amanda Knox verdict appeal. She was convicted in 2009 of killing her roommate while studying abroad, in Italy. But before the court decides whether to free the 24-year-old American student or keep her locked up, Knox will speak.\

Let's head live to London and Zain Verjee. Knox has been painted, what, as a she devil, as Jessica Rabbit, as a fem fatale. What does she have to say today?

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is what's going to be interesting because Amanda Knox gets to address the court for one last time in defense of herself. Now, that either is going to happen on Friday or Saturday and also Raffaele Sollecito, her boyfriend at the time that this murder happened, is also going to be able to address the court.

But, you know, quite frankly, there's a lot of anticipation for this verdict. This was an appeals case as she was sentenced and convicted for the murder of Meredith Kercher, her former roommate. So, there is a total media circus around this whole situation.

It's not clear exactly what will happen, some people say, because of the questionable DNA evidence that her defense says was ultimately unreliable, that she could walk or get a reduced sentence, but the prosecution also coming out punching. Both sides today, Carol, have been making their closing arguments.

COSTELLO: So, when exactly will Amanda Knox speak?

VERJEE: Sorry. Where will she be?

COSTELLO: No. When. When will she speak?

VERJEE: Sorry.

COSTELLO: Yes.

VERJEE: It's expected either Friday or Saturday, after the closing arguments.

COSTELLO: Gotcha. Gotcha, gotcha. OK. Let's talk about the coast guard, the U.S. coast guard, that is. It's warning that Narco Subs could be the new hot trend in the drug smuggling world.

VERJEE: Yes. You know, this is another instance where Narco Sub like this has been found totally packed with cocaine. And basically, what happens is, they come from South America. They're going under water, and, basically, headed toward Mexico, and then, they go over land to the United States.

Now, this Narco Sub was intercepted, and there's a real fear that this is going to be a new route and also using a different route within the Caribbean Seas also to transport this kind of stuff. This is the second that has been found like this in the last few months.

COSTELLO: Fascinating. Zain Verjee live in London. Thanks so much.

An alleged terror plot who attacked D.C. by air and on the ground busted by an elaborate FB sting. The feds say an American citizen planned to fill remote controlled model airplanes like those with explosives and fly them into the Pentagon and the Capitol.

Then, they wanted a ground crew to open fire on the survivors. You know, as they ran on to the building. The accused mastermind, 26- year-old Rezwan Ferdaus, he's from the Boston area. He has a degree in physics and is now facing terrorism charges. He allegedly thought he was working with a terror network to wage jihad. Here's more from Brian Todd.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He dealt with undercover FBI agents who are posing as al Qaeda operatives. He believed he was dealing with al Qaeda operatives, but according to a law enforcement official we spoke with, no indications at this time that he had any serious connections to foreign terrorist groups.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: Those FBI agents have been working on this case since January. Officials say Ferdaus never posed a danger to the public because those FBI operatives kept in close contact with him.

U.S. military experts are weighing in on Iran's reported plan to send its navy ships off the coast of the United States. One analyst in Washington says the announcement is just a bunch of, quote, "bombastic rhetoric." The White House and the Pentagon have both been pretty dismissive of Iran's plan.

If everything goes according to plan, the House will pass a short-term spending bill this morning to keep the government running at least for the next eight days. They'll hold a more formal vote next week on a spending measure that will last until mid November. That vote comes after senators compromised on a potential deal breaker, extra money for FEMA.

If you've got ground beef in your refrigerator, check it out. Tyson Fresh Meat is recalling more than 130,000 pounds of ground beef because it might be contaminated with E.coli. The USDA says a family in Ohio got sick after eating the meat. It tested positive for the bacteria.

Let's head to Atlanta now to check in with Rob Marciano. So, the Washington Monument, they really want to like check that out and get it fixed, but the weather is hindering things.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, they've been, you know, dodging some weather. They got up there yesterday a little bit, but they've got three or four more days where they're going to scale down that magnificent structure, over 500 feet high, and the brave engineer has been repelling down the thing.

Here's one of the problems is that the rain and thunderstorms have been rotating in off this stubborn circulation and refused to break down. We'll have better luck of it as we go through the next couple days. Northern Jersey, upstate New York, we've seen flash flood warnings the past few hours. Heavy rain continues to fall in this area, and that's where we're going to see travel delays.

New York metro, we'll see them throughout the day today. D.C. to a lesser extent, so they'll probably have a chance to get up there again today. Boston and Philly as well. And gusty winds across Chicago and the Western Great Lakes as the next cold front kind of comes down to shake things up. Look at the rainfall across Jersey, Pennsylvania, upstate New York, and obviously, this comes on the heels of Irene and Lee.

So, the ground is saturated here, and we have flash flood warnings in Sullivan, Green, and Ulster Counties and upstate New York and flash flood watches for the next couple of days across Eastern Pennsylvania, almost all of New Jersey, lower New York, and even around the D.C. area as well.

All right. Front number one, that hasn't moved for a week. Front number two with all the cold and wind animations, that's going to shake things up over the weekend and finally break down this weather pattern. All right. Unusual event or unusual pictures. I've never seen this, never heard of it, but a two-faced cat, Carol.

Yes. And it's -- this one is the oldest one. Its owner is from Worcester Mass (ph). She has two names for it, Frankie and Louie. And this -- he' like two-faced cats. I guess, they're born fairly often and they don't live very long. This one has lived until 12 years old. He's out of one mouth. He has three eyes, the middle one doesn't work.

COSTELLO: Oh.

MARCIANO: But apparently, he walks on a leash like a dog. He or they give their owner a lots of love. So, Guinness Book of World Records has recorded this as the older two-faced cat. There you go.

COSTELLO: Great (ph) conversation starter.

MARCIANO: That is rare as the collapse that we saw from the Red Sox and the Braves.

(LAUGHTER)

COSTELLO: True. Thank you, Rob.

MARCIANO: See you, Carol.

COSTELLO: Let's take a look at the word of the day, shall we? It's pre-hypertension. Find out what it means and why you need to know about it this morning right after a break. It's five minutes until the top of the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: Two minutes until the top of the hour. This is your A.M. WAKE-UP CALL.

Now, back to our word of the day. That would be pre- hypertension. We pull this definition from the Mayo Clinic. Pre- hypertension is slightly elevated blood pressure that can likely turn into high blood pressure. You need to know this today because new research shows that your risk of stroke is higher even if your blood pressure is up just slightly. You can read more about this study in the journal "Neurology."

Now, let's head to the NASDAQ MarketSite and check in with Joya Das. She has a look at the numbers for us this morning. Good morning.

JOYA DAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Carol, good morning to you. The good news is that the futures markets are actually pointing to a higher open.

You can take a walk back to the board with me and see right here, and it's part of the reason is because we're awaiting word on a German parliamentary vote to raise the Euro zone debt ceiling, or sorry, at least the bailout fund ceiling. And it's looks like, at least the word is, that about eight of the 17 countries that (INAUDIBLE) have already ratified the plan.

COSTELLO: Let's look at what's making headlines on CNNMoney.com this morning.

DAS: You know what, the big thing is that the Kindle Fire, Amazon's worthy rival to the iPad is finally -- well, it hit the markets yesterday. They started taking orders yesterday and going to start shipping on November 15th. It's a little bit smaller than the iPad, as we know it, and it doesn't have a camera and microphone which is what most rival tablets have.

COSTELLO: Got you. Joya Das live at the NASDAQ MarketSite, thank you.

"AMERICAN MORNING" continues right now.