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Senator John McCain Speaks in Phoenix; Monster Cyclone Hits Mynamar; Meat and Pultry Recall

Aired May 05, 2008 - 11:00   ET


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And a plan of action that includes a broad range of proposals, so that this nation can be independent of foreign oil. And we all know our national security interests now lie in our dependence on Middle Eastern oil. I will make sure that that dependence is eliminated, so that it would never be the source or any reason for us to be in a conflict in the Middle East because of the Middle Eastern and world's oil supply. We will become energy independent. I'll have the plan of action, and we will do it.
But now on the very famous gas tax holiday, again, I find people who are the wealthiest, who are most dismissive of a plan to give low- income Americans a little bit of a holiday for three months and have something a little more to give to their children and enjoy their summer a little more. $30 some say, $30 means nothing to a lot of economists. I understand that. It means a lot to some low-income Americans. I've already talked to several of them.

So let's give them a little relief. Maybe not build the bridge to nowhere. Not build one of the pork barrel projects which seem to take priority over much-needed -- projects. And give them a break. And so I think the majority of Americans, certainly a lot of them I talked to at the baseball game yesterday, would like to have a little relief. And I want to give it to them. And we can take the fund out of general revenues, and meanwhile give the American people, and the people of Arizona, a little relaxation from an onerous tax that they're paying. 18 cents a gallon on a gallon of gasoline, 24 cents on a gallon of diesel.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You're unveiling a new Spanish language version of your Web site today. Revisiting the immigration debate, do you fear that in the Republican Party's outreach to the Hispanic voters, that the debate over immigration in the primaries has done significant damage to the way Hispanic voters perceive the Republican Party, and what do you need to do to fix that?

MCCAIN: I think the tenor of the debate, yes, we have, since Cinco De Mayo, we are opening our Spanish language Web site today and urge everyone to go to it. I think the tenor of the debate has harmed our image amongst Hispanics.

Most Hispanics want our borders secured. Many low-income Hispanics are the first to lose their job. Many low-income Hispanic citizens are the first to lose their job when someone comes here illegally, if they are holding a low-income job. So Hispanics want our borders secured also. And there's very little doubt about that. But they also worry about the people who are here illegally, their treatment, their conditions, the exploitation of people who don't have any other protections of our citizens.

In other words, I believe the majority of the Hispanics share our view that the border must be secured, and the border must be secured first. But they also want us to have an attitude, which I think most Americans do, that these are God's children, and they must be taken care of, and the issue must be addressed in a humane and compassionate fashion. And we will -- I will continue to carry that message, with the priority that we must secure or borders first.

And you want to follow it. Yes, we love follow-up, too. Go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: As you do that, as you do reach out, do you fear that the sort of same wing of the Republican Party that was frustrated with you during the primaries, will sort of flare up again?

MCCAIN: I don't know, but I can't worry about that. As I've said, I want the vote of every American. I've said throughout basically the same thing that I'm saying now. So I do believe that we must secure our borders. National security is our first priority. And there's two million people who have committed crimes in this country. They must be found out and they must be deported immediately.

Others who are here illegally, there has to be an orderly process based on the principle that someone came here illegally cannot take any priority over someone who came here legally, or waited legally. But that still means that we can address it in a humane and compassionate fashion, understanding families, understanding all the aspects of that -- that affect the lives of all human beings.

Yes, sir?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You talked about a bridge to nowhere and about the gas tax funding. Right now there's a bridge being built in Minneapolis and St. Paul, as you know. Is that kind of thing, something that's a bridge to nowhere? And where is funding going to come if there's no gas tax funding for the highway projects we need here in Arizona, as well as the numerous vital bridge projects and other transportation projects around the country?

MCCAIN: The money can be taken from general revenues, number one, for this brief holiday period. Second of all, I don't know specifically what caused the collapse of the bridge in Minneapolis. But I do know there are bridges and highways and vital transportation arteries which are deteriorating in America today, while we are building a bridge to nowhere, why we send $10 million down to a county in Florida that say they don't want the money.

We've been through this list of pork barrel unnecessary wasteful spending projects to the billions of dollars. It is a fact that if we had the priorities right, as judged in an objective fashion, as to what are most important projects, where we have crumbling bridges, highways, overpasses, tunnels, all across America, and they're not being taken care of because billions of those dollars are being siphoned off sometimes into projects that have nothing to do with highways. They are just pork barrel projects.

So it's disgraceful. It leads to corruption and it's wrong. And our highways and our bridges and our tunnels and our much-needed projects, infrastructure, would be far better off today if billions of dollars hadn't been siphoned off into pork barrel, wasteful, unnecessary projects. And anyone that disagrees with that, fine. Facts are facts.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Senator, just back on immigration for just one second because the day today. You've been a proponent of securing the border. You've talked about the multiple ways to build a border fence or at least provide some security.

Recently Tom Tancredo got into bit of a scuffle with some border residents in Texas, who had an issue with that border fence going through certain properties, private properties, certain towns, and he said that, "I suggest that you build the fence around the northern part of your city if you're against building a fence on the southern part of your city," essentially saying that if you're against the border fence on the southern border, that you're anti-American.

You should (INAUDIBLE) yourself off. Not to ask you to respond to specific comments, but how do you plan to deal with this sort of individual problems that come up while building a border fence? There's a lot of private property issues and a lot of individual rights issue that go on amongst American citizens.

MCCAIN: I have not and will not get into a debate with Mr. Tancredo on this issue. His views are well known and mine are well known. We can secure the borders, all of us working together, using the cooperation with the state and local authorities. They want their borders secured. They're the first ones who feel the impact of illegal immigration, and their emergency rooms, and destruction of wildlife refuges as we see in the southern part of this state.

All of that can be worked out, and adequately so, particularly when you get outside of populated areas where you can use vehicle barriers, camera sensors and many other ways. It is a -- it is an issue that, in my view, is not only not -- is not only not insurmountable, but it's -- but it can be worked out in cooperation between state and local and government agencies. We've done that here in the state of Arizona in a broad variety of ways. So I'm -- that's not one of my concerns.

Yes, sir?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Good morning, sir. Hispanics here in Arizona have accused the sheriff of racial profiling over his enforcement of the federal 287(g) program. A federal civil right lawsuit has been filed. The mayor of Phoenix is asking for the feds, the DoJ, to get involved as well.

Given all that, do you support local enforcement of federal immigration laws?

MCCAIN: I support the enforcement of every law that's on the books of the United States of America. Anyone who does not support enforcement of laws that are duly passed by Congress and signed by the president, obviously, is -- has a different view of the role of government than I do.

The problem here is one we all know. The federal government failed to act. We failed to act comprehensive immigration r reform. And when we did that, which is a federal responsibility, then we ended up all over America with these different constituencies with different priorities having these collisions and different approaches to the problem of illegal immigration.

If we had done what we were supposed to do, which is secure our borders, and prevent people from coming across our border illegally, and reimburse the local governments for the costs that they have incurred, and while enforcing those federal laws, we would not have the problems we have today. I tried to act before and we failed.

We will immediately, and when I'm president of the United States beginning in January of 2009, we will have a federal approach to what is a federal problem. And first of all, national security is our first priority. We must secure the borders and the border state governors will then certified that the borders are secured. Then we have a temporary worker program with tamper-proof biometric documents and re-address the issue of the people who have come here illegally.

Go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Would taking federal control mean an end to the 287(g) program?

MCCAIN: If the federal government had acted and passed the legislation for overall comprehensive immigration reform, we would not have the problems we have today.

Go ahead. Did you want to...

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Yes. My question was, to what extent will Reverend Wright's relationship with Barack Obama become an active issue, the centerpiece of your campaign this fall? And the evolution of his responses to Reverend Wright's situation?

MCCAIN: It won't. I have said that I will not discuss the issue further. And Senator Obama has said that it is a legitimate political issue in his campaign. He will respond to that, not me.

Do I believe that Reverend Wright's comments were outrageous? Of course. So do all Americans. But it will be a discussion that Senator Obama will have with the American people.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you get a call for other people in your party, other groups that support you, that are not directly a part of your campaign, to call off the dogs on attack commercials?

MCCAIN: I have said that I -- my own campaign, we will not be discussing it. I'm not a referee. There are many Democratic organizations that are attacking me in a broad variety of ways. I've not seen Senator Obama or Senator Clinton repudiate those attacks. And I will obviously ask all Republicans to run a high-level campaign, and respectful one. But I do not intend to referee as to what is a right -- a correct campaign and what's an incorrect one.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: On immigration real quick. Are you going -- to call Sheriff Joe and ask him to endorse you? Will you campaign with him?

MCCAIN: I have not had a conversation with Sheriff Arpaio.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Senator, getting back to your earlier comment about the kind of tenor of the debate. What impact does Sheriff Joe's enforcement actions here locally have on the debate? Does that hurt you and other Republicans with the Hispanic voters, do you think?

MCCAIN: I don't know, Dan, what the effect is. A lot of times it saddens me to see these conflicting approaches and -- towards the issue of illegal immigration, because it would not have this problem if the federal government had carried out its responsibilities. The Congress of the United States' approval rating is at an all-time low. Why? Because they didn't see us act to secure our borders. Why? Because we obviously have corruption, and -- in pork barrel and wasteful spending.

Former members of Congress are residing in federal prison. I led the Abramoff investigation. I saved the American people -- excuse me, not only American people, but native Americans, millions -- hundreds of millions -- millions and millions of dollars. The Boeing investigation, I saved the taxpayers $6.2 billion. That's why I'm entertained when some of the skeptics say, oh, you'll never be able to reduce spending in Washington. I've got a record of it.

My point is, that it's a federal responsibility, and all of these things are a result of the fact that we didn't carry out a federal responsibility, and all of these things are as a result of the fact that we didn't carry out federal responsibility. And I will carry out the federal responsibility. And I'm sorry that all of this kind of thing goes on.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Senator McCain, the Hispanic vote might prove crucial in such swing states, Colorado, Florida, California.

MCCAIN: And very much so.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What special efforts are you going to make to reach out to Hispanic voters over the next few months? MCCAIN: Well, I have a long record of working with Hispanic leaders and -- on Hispanic issues. In my last reelection I received over 70 percent of the Hispanic voters in my last reelection here in the state. I know the -- Hispanic leadership. I know the people. I know the patriotism. I know the loyalty. I know the respect for the family, the advocacy for pro-life.

I know the small business aspect of our Hispanic voters. Everything about our Hispanic voters is tailor-made to a Republican message. I'm confident that I will do very well. I'll have to work at it, too.

Any more?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: I understand your point you were saying about the locals are getting involved in immigration enforcement because the feds aren't doing their job. Let's assume that the feds do their job, is there any role for local police to be involved in immigration enforcement in that case?

MCCAIN: I'm sure that on -- as in every other issue that federal and local authorities will work closely together, one would hope so, once we have enacted comprehensive reform, which means we have secured our borders. We have temporary worker programs that are associated with tamper proof biometric documents so that it's easy enough for someone to ascertain whether that person is here legally as a temporary worker.

Then it's very clear that employers who employ someone who violates that federal statute, which calls for temporary worker programs with tamper proof biometric documents, of course, I would expect state and local authorities to work together. But they have to have a federal law and umbrella legislation because it's a federal responsibility before they can act, I think, in a cooperative fashion. And I'm confident we can fashion that.

NGUYEN: We've been listening to Senator John McCain speaking today in Phoenix as he continues to take questions. We're going to take a quick break. But we will be back with more live coverage of Senator McCain.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN, the most trusted name in news. Now back to the CNN NEWSROOM.

NGUYEN: Senator John McCain has wrapped up his question-and- answer session in Phoenix, Arizona and we are looking to this. Tomorrow's primaries, that big day, big stakes for Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

So let's crunch the numbers for you. Indiana, 72 delegates up for grabs. It is the second largest delegate prize left in the presidential race. And the biggest? Well, that's North Carolina. Clinton and Obama competing for 115 delegates there. HARRIS: Our latest CNN Poll of Polls, an average of three recent surveys shows Obama ahead of Clinton in North Carolina by eight points. Obama favored by 50 percent of likely Democratic voters, Clinton by 42 percent in Indiana. Clinton has pulled ahead. She's at 48 percent, Obama at 44 percent.

And our national poll of polls this morning, Obama now leading Clinton by four points, 47-43 percent. That is up two points from last week.

Hillary Clinton calls it the final push. Barack Obama issues a humbled plea. Together they look ahead to key votes tomorrow. Indiana and North Carolina, holding primaries and the stakes are huge. 187 pledged delegates up for grabs. In such a tight battle for the Democratic nomination, both candidates see the outcome as crucial.

CNN's Dan Lothian is with the Election Express in Indianapolis.

Dan, good morning.

LOTHIAN: Good morning, Tony. And as you point out, really, this is such a tight race. And they're both fighting really for every vote. Both of them campaigning not only here in Indiana but also in North Carolina, going back and forth today. And as you pointed out, this tight race, Senator Barack Obama telling his supporters that he's watching the numbers. And he realizes how close it is. And he told his supporters that he really needs every single (INAUDIBLE).


OBAMA: This is not about me, and, you know, certainly one of the things that I'm confident about is that during the course of this campaign, as long as I stay focused on what people are caring about every single day, then our campaign's going to be just fine. More importantly, I think we can mobilize the American people to start meeting some of the challenges that lie ahead.


LOTHIAN: And what Senator Obama and Senator Clinton say they're focusing on are the issues. Senator Clinton, though, also continued to hammering away at that theme that's been part of her campaign from the very beginning. And that is experience, saying that she has been tested, and that unlike Senator Barack Obama, she won't be learning on the job.


CLINTON: So I'm asking for your help tomorrow. I'm asking that you think about what you want in the next president. Somebody who is prepared to do the job, ready on day one to be your commander in chief, and to be the president who turns the country around. Somebody who has the plans and the understanding of what it's going to take, both to deal in the here and now to help people who are really being squeezed, and to put us on a much firmer foundation going forward.


LOTHIAN: And Tony, the one issue that we have been talking about now for quite some time are high gas prices, that's crucial for voters in these two states. Certainly because it folds into the entire negative economy out there and that's something the voters really care about. And Senator Clinton continue to push that gas tax holiday, saying it's obviously not a whole lot of money, but it will provide some relief for those working class families.

Senator Barack Obama saying that the economists out there have shown that this thing really won't amount to very much. And he really believes that this is nothing more than sort of a campaign gimmick -- Tony?

HARRIS: CNN's Dan Lothian for us with the CNN Election Express in Indianapolis.

Dan, great to see you.

We also want to remind you, CNN is your home for politics. And the place where extensive coverage of tomorrow's contest throughout the day. We will shadow the candidates and let them talk to you directly live and unfiltered. If you miss their events, we will replay large portions of their comments.

CNN is the place for the best political coverage on television.

Turned upside down by nature. Southeast Asia copes with the tremendous disaster left by a killer cyclone. That story in the NEWSROOM.

ANNOUNCER: CNN NEWSROOM brought to you by...


ANNOUNCER: Live breaking news, unfolding developments, see for yourself in the CNN NEWSROOM.

NGUYEN: Well, the numbers, they are staggering. Almost 4,000 people killed, 3,000 people still missing. This morning, state radio dramatically upped the numbers from a monster cyclone that hit Myanmar. And just a little while ago, our correspondent in Myanmar gave us the latest details about the situation there.


UNIDENTIFIED CNN CORRESPONDENT: Night has fallen, and much of the city is now completely dark. There is very little power throughout the city of Yangon because so many trees have come down and they have taken with them many, many power lines.

So many people this evening are spending a third night in the dark after this cyclone tore into the city. And it's difficult to find words to describe some of the devastation. But huge, big tropical hardwood trees are just being ripped up and thrown down. I mean quite incredible amount of force that was clearly present in this cyclone.

All of the main international aid agencies will be scrambling right now to get resources and people and assets in place. The problem is, is that this regime has an incredibly fractured relationship with the international community. And there are sanctions in place, both by the U.S. and the European Union.

This is a very hard line of military governments that has been in power for more than 40 years in one way or another. And that's the main stumbling block. I would think that many of the aid agencies are finding is getting through the red tape, getting the permission, and getting all the visas in place for them to get staff and get resources in quickly.


HARRIS: Boy, and you know, Betty, our correspondent on the ground there was describing a situation of the cyclone tearing into the city of Yangon.



NGUYEN: We are watching what you eat in our daily dose of health news today, because a New York-based company is recalling almost 300,000 pounds of meat and poultry, because it may be contaminated.

More now from medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen.


ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: This is a pretty big recall. These products were sold under the brand names Gourmet Boutique, Jan's and Archer. The food, as I said, was distributed nationwide. And the problem is that it may have contained listeria. Now, listeria is a nasty bug that can give you fever, headaches, chills, nausea. And if someone has a compromised immune system, in other words, they're not completely healthy, it can kill. It can also cause miscarriages and stillbirths if a pregnant woman injects listeria, so this is not something to be messed with. And Gourmet Boutique, they company we're talking about here, on their hotline, they say, they are making changes so this doesn't happen again. Because this is their second recall in two months.

NGUYEN: Goodness. OK, so they've got a hotline. I'm sure the Web site has information on the exact details of the meat and dates and all of that. But when it comes to this kind of meat, people say you've got to throw it away without a doubt. But aside from that, is there any way to avoid listeria?

COHEN: Right, in general there are. And folks who have compromised immune systems and often pregnant women will take steps to make sure that they can avoid listeria. So there are a couple of things that you definitely want to avoid if that's what you're trying to do. Don't eat soft cheeses, unless it says "pasteurized." Because soft cheeses often are not pasteurized. Salads made at stores. Like you go into a deli. You get a chicken salad, an egg salad, bad idea if you're trying to avoid listeria. That's according to the USDA.

NGUYEN: Not like a garden salad or anything like that?

COHEN: No, stuff that would have meat or eggs in it is what the issue would be. And raw or unpasteurized milk, also something to avoid.


NGUYEN: So, for a full list of recalled products and to get your daily dose of health news online, log onto our Web site. You'll find the latest medical news, a health library and information on diet and fitness. The address is at

HARRIS: So what's driving Indiana and North Carolina voters? How about gas prices, for one thing. An intraday trading for a barrel of oil at $120. No relief in sight apparently. Clinton painting her rival as an out-of-touch elitist. Obama charging Clinton with a Washington gimmick.

NGUYEN: Hey, so an unexpected inheritance, would you know how to handle the windfall?

Christine Romans has some tips that are right on your money.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Anita Outlaw's mother recently passed away leaving her daughter a hefty inheritance from a lifetime of savings.

ANITA OUTLAW, INHERITED MONEY: There is a guilt associated with spending it. I don't know how long it will last, but I am very aware of why I have the money that I have.

ROMANS: A few weeks after her mother's death, Anita quit her job.

OUTLAW: I am trying the figure out what to do with the rest of my life. That is a good feeling.

ROMANS: According to "Wall Street Journal" personal finance columnist Jonathan Clements, Anita should take it one step at a time.

JONATHAN CLEMENTS, "WALL STREET JOURNAL:" If you get an inheritance there are a couple of things you really want to do, one is to slow down for a minute.

ROMANS: And it is best to make a plan and review your finances.

CLEMENTS: Think about how much debt and savings you have and think about whether this is a time to be buying a home or paying off the mortgage.

ROMANS: Clements says that one of the smarter things to do is to pay off your debts and invest carefully.

CLEMENTS: You don't want your money around three stocks, because you want to own a diversified portfolio of mutual funds.

ROMANS: Anita is grieving and there are still many more difficult decisions ahead.

OUTLAW: My biggest thing is just making my mom proud of me in what I do with the money.

ROMANS: Christine Romans, CNN.



NGUYEN: You might just pause at the pump today, because gas prices, believe it or not, are down about a penny since Friday. AAA says you'll pay an average $3.61 for a gallon of regular this morning, $3.97 for premium, almost $4.24, though, for diesel.

But, the Lundburg Survey looks at the big picture and you are paying 55 cents more for that gallon of regular than you were at the beginning of the year, 15 cents more than just two weeks ago. And industry analyst, Trilby Lundberg, predicts more big increases when the summer driving season puts pressure on supplies. So get ready.

HARRIS: One hundred and twenty dollars a barrel.

NGUYEN: A barrel.

HARRIS: Intraday high, brand new, hot off the presses.

NGUYEN: New record.

HARRIS: Attacking those high gas prices, and each other, the Democratic candidates square off over the gas tax holiday.

Here's CNN's Carol Costello.


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For cash- strapped consumers, any reduction in gas prices would be, like, well, like Santa coming into town early. Or so it seemed on the stump.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would immediately lower gas prices by temporarily suspending the gas tax for consumers and businesses.

COSTELLO: Actually, it was John McCain who first proposed a suspension of federal taxes on gas for the summer travel season, from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Wouldn't it be nice if the next time that you went to fill up your gas tank, that 18 cents a gallon less you would pay at the gas pump?

COSTELLO: That sounds nice.

But Santa aside, there's no such thing as a free lunch. Those federal highway taxes pay for things like road construction and bridge repair. Something that was really important just last year when the I-35 bridge collapsed in Minneapolis, killing 13 people.

Politicians were singing a different tune then.

CLINTON: I want to make modernizing our nation's infrastructure as a backbone of our prosperity.

COSTELLO: Clinton now suggests taxing oil companies to make up for the money lost to her proposed holiday gas tax. But, would that make up the shortfall?

According to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, both Clinton and McCain's idea would drain the federal highway fund by $3 billion per month, creating a $12 billion shortfall. Not only that, but it would put at risk 310,750 highway construction jobs.

Many experts think -- all just politics.

STEVE BUCKSTEIN, CASCADE POLICY INST.: In this case, it's, I think, unfortunately more of a political gimmick. It won't really lower the cost to drivers significantly. It will increase the deficit in the highway trust fund, and just lead to more politicizing of highway funding.

COSTELLO: Buckstein agrees with the only presidential candidate not in favor of a gas tax holiday, Barack Obama.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's an idea that some economists think might actually raise gas prices, because folks will start using more gas and demand will go up.

COSTELLO: One more thing. To institute the holiday, a bill would have to pass through both House and Senate at lightning speed, something not likely to happen by Memorial Day.

(on-camera): And experts say there are a number of ways to save money on gas. An example? Change the traffic patterns to ease congestion. But that's not as sexy as a holiday gas tax.

Carol Costello, CNN, Washington.


NGUYEN: Well, a heart attack strikes a marathon runner. And somebody beats rescuers to their job.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I told a few of the people, hey, you have to step back, because I thought that they were civilians because they all had their back to me. And three or four heads snapped quickly and it was -- I realized they were all Cincinnati firefighters.


NGUYEN: Firefighter on the run, right place, at the right time.

And speaking of someone who is at the right place -- it is North Carolina, as that primary is tomorrow; Hillary Clinton is in the state. She will be speaking shortly. We will stay on top of all of this for you.


HARRIS: We suspected this story would just become more and more grim. We've been reporting a number of deaths from -- well, you see the lower portion of the screen there. And this is the updated information. How disturbing. That tremendous monster cyclone that has devastated Myanmar, and the capital Yangon.

We're getting numbers now from Myanmar's Foreign Ministry office that the death toll from the cyclone is more than 10,000 people. Not expected to reach 10,000, but is more than 10,000 people. It reminds us, particularly the two anchors with you this morning --

NGUYEN: Right.

HARRIS: -- because we were here in 2004 when the south Asia tsunami struck.

NGUYEN: Deadly tsunami.

HARRIS: Just how quickly these numbers just escalate. So once again, Myanmar's Foreign Ministry putting the number, the death toll from the cyclone that struck on Saturday and churned in that area for so many hours, ten hours, in fact, at more than 10,000 people dead. We will continue, obviously, to follow this number throughout the morning for you here in the NEWSROOM.

NGUYEN: Well, and just like the tsunami when we were reporting it that day, the numbers just really grew rapidly.

HARRIS: Exponentially.

NGUYEN: And this cyclone started out 350 dead, then moved to nearly 4,000. Now we're looking at more than 10,000. We'll stay on top of that story for you. A difficult one at that.

Well, millions of Americans are being pinched by the combination of rising food and energy prices, along with falling home values. And as a result, a growing number of people are breaking into their nest eggs a bit early.

Stephanie Elam is at the New York Stock Exchange with details on this.

Doesn't sound like good news, Stephanie.


People are a little freaked out right now. And when they're worried, they look to ways to resort to some desperate measures to make things a little bit easier, a little bit better. And it turns out now that a growing number of Americans are tapping their retirement accounts early.

A new survey shows that last year, 18 percent of workers took a loan from their retirement plan. That's up from 11 percent the year before.

So why are people borrowing from their 401(k) and other retirement plans?

Well, nearly half say they took the loan to pay off debt. That's nearly double from the year before. Of course, one big problem is that people are accumulating debt because of rising food and energy prices. And many just can't dig themselves out of the hole. And they can no longer borrow against the value of their homes for a lot of those people. It's much more difficult to borrow now.

Of course, the recent stock market volatility is also making many mom and pop investors nervous. And of course, as we have warned before, that is really a last resort -- to touch your retirement money. Because, think about it, you're going to need a lot more money when you're bringing in a lot less money at that time in your life -- Betty.

NGUYEN: Yes, but some people they really just don't have any choice. That leads to this, because many folks really do believe that we are in a recession. So it seems like they're responding to that.

ELAM: Yes, it's definitely something that people are taking into account.

And we had the chance to check in this weekend with Warren Buffett, one of the world's most famous investors and one of the world's richest men. He recognizes the problems, but still has an optimistic outlook, and says recessions, they're are just a part of life; they're normal.


WARREN BUFFETT, CEO, BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY: The world is going to be a lot better 20 years from now, or 40 years from now. It's going to be better for your children and grandchildren. This country will do wonderfully over time. But, we will have a number of recessions in your lifetime.


ELAM: That's just the normal part of procession.

So, today investors -- they may have heard that, but they're not feeling as confident. Wall Street is rattled by news that Microsoft pulled a sweetened $46 billion offer for Yahoo! off the table. Then there is this whole issue of a $3 jump in oil prices weighing on the markets. For the first time, crude topped $120 a barrel amid supply threats overseas. And a weakening dollar yet again.

So taking a look at the big board, the Dow off 84 points -- 12,974. NASDAQ off nine, at 2,467. So at this point, though, still fractional losses on the day -- Betty and Tony?

NGUYEN: Yes, but there is one gain and that is in the price of oil, $120. A new record. Just what we didn't need.

ELAM: Right. I know.

NGUYEN: All right. Stephanie Elam joining us live.

Thank you.

HARRIS: North Carolina, Indiana -- time to decide. Before you vote tomorrow, hear from both the Democrats live throughout the day. Hillary Clinton in High Point, North Carolina, we're back to hear some of her comments after a quick break.

You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.


HARRIS: Once again, happening now, the candidates live and unfiltered. Today, New York senator Hillary Clinton in High Point, North Carolina.


CLINTON: ... Everybody was doing better. More than two million new jobs, more (ph) people lifted out of poverty. That's the way America works best. Everybody gets a chance to really pursue the American dream. So let's go look at (INAUDIBLE).

For example, it is wrong that a Wall Street money manager making $60 (ph) million a year pays a lower percentage of his income in taxes than a teacher, a nurse or a truck driver living right here in High Point who make less than $50,000 a year.

And Governor Easley and I have talked about trade across this state. Because I know and you know that we've got to fix our trade agreement. I am the only candidate committed to renegotiating and fixing NAFTA so that it has core labor and environmental standards in the agreement with much stronger enforcement mechanisms.

And the governor is right, I will get tough on China. Because what they are doing is not right. Look at this. Here we are, competing against a country, because most of the companies are part of the government, in one way or another. So we're really competing against a country that manipulates its currency to their advantage, that subsidizes all kinds of costs for their businesses and workers, that engages and permits wholesale counterfeiting, theft of intellectual property and industrial espionage, and sends us back lead-laced toys, contaminated pet food and polluted pharmaceuticals. This is going to end when I am the president of the United States of America.

But you know, it's not enough just to play defense. Right? You've got to get on offense, too. So we're going to defend ourselves and we're going to repair the damage we will inherit. But we're also going to get on offense and start creating those new good jobs again.

And there are three sources of good jobs. No. 1, clean, renewable energy will be a tremendous boon to North Carolina and America. If we have a plan and leadership to execute that plan. I've advocated a strategic energy fund that would begin to invest working with the private sector, working with our great institutions of higher education, so that we can look for ways to make our vehicles more gas efficient, really increase their mileage. Where we can get more of our electricity from renewable sources.

And then we will put at least five million Americans to work. Because these jobs have to be done here. They can't be outsourced. If we make a big bet on solar, for example, somebody's got to climb up on the roofs and put in those solar panels. If we make a big bet on wind, we have to manufacture and install those turbines. If we get right about what we need to do with all kinds of biofuels, especially cellulosic and farm waste and other kinds of sources of plant material, then they can be grown right here in North Carolina, they can be processed and sold right here in North Carolina.

So I know -- I know we're fully capable of it because I see what other countries are doing. Does it make any sense to you that the little island country of Iceland is now energy independent because they were so poor and they were importing all of their oil and all of their coal and they said to themselves, we can't keep doing this, we've got to figure out what we have, what are our assets that can provide our energy.

So what did they do?

They tapped into all of the geothermal activity that goes on below the surface. We have a lot of places in America where we can do that.