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Egyptian Billionaire Faces Murder Conviction; Presidential Candidates Campaign in Battleground States; Trying to Avoid Credit Card Debt

Aired October 17, 2008 - 10:00   ET


HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Roller coaster ride again, not so amusing on Wall Street. Back-to-back gains not back yet.
Plus, the real estate tycoon and the murdered pop star. A billionaire could face the death penalty if convicted.

It's Friday, October 17th. I'm Heidi Collins. You are in the CNN NEWSROOM.

President Bush speaks. Are nervous investors listening? Just over an hour ago, President Bush sought to reassure Americans about the nation's financial crisis. His message, the bailout plans are bitter medicine, but absolutely critical.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know many Americans have reservations about the government's approach, especially about allowing the government to hold shares in private banks.

As a strong believer in free markets, I would oppose such measures under ordinary circumstances. But these are not ordinary circumstances. We took this measure as a last resort.

Had the government not acted, the hole in our financial system would have grown larger. Families and firms would have had an even tougher time getting loans, and ultimately the government would have been forced to respond with even more drastic and costly measures later on.


COLLINS: So how is Wall Street reacting?

A live look at the big board for you now. Dow Jones Industrial Averages down about 25 points. But right out of the gate this morning, within like about 10 minutes or so, we did see those numbers significantly larger. I think the lowest point was about 261 points to the negative.

So again, a little bit of a wild ride.

Where, in fact, is your money headed today? There may be some hints if you look overseas. Stocks have been volatile overnight but right now are mostly up from Europe to Asia. The downside, that is pushing up oil prices. They are climbing a bit from an overnight low below $70. That was, in fact, the lowest settlement price in more than 13 months.

Today, on Wall Street, could it possibly be as wild as yesterday? We saw a swing of nearly 800 points. But it did close to the positive, up about 401 points.

Our CNN money team is, of course, all over it as they have been for the last, I don't know, Christine, a month or so we've been talking about all of this?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's impossible to even measure the time. You know?


ROMANS: I mean a week feels so long these days. And, you know, Heidi, you talk about that wild swing in the market yesterday, we made sort of a list for you of the point moves of the Dow this week. It has been incredible.

I mean it's been -- you know usually a month's worth of activities in one day. I mean, look, Monday was up -- 936 points. Then Tuesday, another wild day, we're closed just down just 76. Then Wednesday a humungous move again. And then yesterday that rally in an 800-point session.

I mean, with just the Dow now down 49 points, it's relative calm heading into the weekend.


ROMANS: One thing I want to talk about quickly is Warren Buffett. Warren Buffett wrote an op-ed in "The New York Times." He said "Buy American. I am." He said in his personal account in which usually is invested 100 percent in treasuries, he's been buying stocks.

And he said that one of the -- kind of the old adages that dictates how he invests is this -- "A simple rule dictates my buying, be fearful when others are greedy and be greedy when others are fearful."

He says there's a lot of fear out there right now and he can't predict what's going to happen in the very short term in the stock market. It could go down. It could be wild. It could really hurt people. But...


ROMANS: ... longer term, he said five years, ten years out, corporate profits are going to do better. And that's, you know, that's the backbone of stock prices and the stock market. So...

COLLINS: Absolutely.

ROMANS: He is saying that he is stepping in there. And it's written in such plain English...


ROMANS: You know, in the midst of all this crisis. I mean he just...

COLLINS: Well...

ROMANS: You know it might seem counterintuitive. But he's saying when there -- you know, when there's bad news, that is the opportunity for investors.

COLLINS: Yes. Certainly. And -- one of the main thing that we've been talking about through all of this is, of course, the credit freeze. And sometimes you look at housing starts to see if people are, you know, getting the loans they need, buying new houses, building new houses.


COLLINS: What's the news on that?

ROMANS: Housing starts were down sharply again in the most recent months. 17-year low. I mean in this kind of environment, is it any surprise, I think, that they're not starting construction on a lot of new homes? They're not.

I mean the housing market has really had a tough time here. And it's expected to have a tough time going forward.

Jobs are still going to be tough in the housing market. Construction, manufacturing, retail -- anything that's touching with the consumer you're probably going to see more jobs loss.

That's not a controversial statement. A lot of economists are expecting that heading into sometime into 2009. So Warren Buffett, yes, is saying, I'm -- you know, buy American, I'm buying American stocks. But he does say that in the short term he can't predict. And we know that the short term looks a little rough for the economy, at least for now.

COLLINS: Yes. Yes. All right. Well, we're all trying to hang in there.

ROMANS: I know.

COLLINS: We are glad when it's Friday.


COLLINS: Christine Romans, nice to see you. Thank you.

Eighteen days now to Election Day. And the major party presidential candidates are not taking any votes for granted. Both men are in battleground states today with CNN following their every move.

Senator Barack Obama is in Virginia. Republican John McCain in Florida. Expect to hear more of this from yesterday.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The national media, as they have several times before, has written us off. Senator Obama is measuring the drapes and planning with Speaker Pelosi and Senator Reed to raise taxes.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: For those who are getting a little cocky, I've got two words for you -- New Hampshire. I learned right here with the help of my great friend and supporter Hillary Clinton that you cannot let up. You can't pay too much attention to polls.


COLLINS: Their running mates also in the campaign mix. Governor Sarah Palin will be speaking in Ohio next hour. Later she takes the Republican message to Indiana. And the Democrat's number two, Senator Joe Biden in New Mexico this afternoon.

You can watch for all of this on CNN.

A big backing for Barack Obama from "The Washington Post." In today's edition, the editorial staff calls the Illinois senator, quote, "A man of supple intelligence with the potential to become a great president. But given the enormous problems he would confront from his first day in office, they will settle for very good."

The "Post's" staff chose Obama, in part, because of what they call Senator McCain's disappointing campaign, above all, his irresponsible selection of a running mate who is not ready to be president.

California firefighters gaining the upper hand now in their battle against wildfires scorching the southern part of that state. Two people dead in the blazes. The biggest fire now 90 percent contained. Three other fires are fully contained. The wildfires have destroyed more than 50 homes.

Rob Marciano standing by now. It's just like you said it was going to be. The weather would calm down and then, obviously, firefighters could really get in there and get a handle on all of this, Rob.


COLLINS: All right. Thanks so much, Rob. We'll check later on. Meanwhile, speaking of airline travel, possible problems with airplane engines to tell you about. The NTSB wants airlines to immediately ground and inspect planes with certain Pratt and Whitney engines.

The FAA would have to be the ones to order the airplanes -- airlines, that is, to comply. Pratt and Whitney says 362 planes are being investigated worldwide right now. Boeing says the engines are used on some of their 757s.

The investigation started after an engine failed on a Delta flight in August.

A nationwide search for a little boy kidnapped from a Las Vegas home. Police say 6-year-old Cole Puffenburger was snatched by two men who identified themselves as police officers.

The men allegedly demanded money, then tied up the boy's mother and her boyfriend and took off with the child.

Friends and family members are searching, putting up flyers, hoping someone may have seen him. And nationwide AMBER Alert also has been posted.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Time truly matters in something like this. He needs to come home safe, now.


COLLINS: Police say the kidnapping is probably linked to a drug deal involving the boy's family.

Riding the bus for your financial fix. It's your money bus, and it's hooking up regular folks with business experts. And coming to a city near you.


COLLINS: The nation's sinking economy, sometimes it feels like a run-away freight train, doesn't it? So maybe it's only fitting that a tour bus can take you and your money in a different direction.

CNN personal finance editor Gerri Willis is here now and she has just the ticket.

Hi there, Gerri.


You know there is so much uncertainty, as you say, in the economy these days. It seems like everybody is looking for some good financial advice. Well, it may just be rolling through a city near you soon.


WILLIS (voice over): This is not your average New York City bus tour. This bus is full of financial advisers offering free advice at 75 stops around the country, like this stop in Harlem.

LAURA MATTIA, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER: Well, we just really want to heighten awareness. We want to tell people that there are things they can do in this financial climate. There are people right now that are very scared about what's going on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just call them and make the change, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, they're going to give you choices. They're going to give you choices from...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right, they have a variety of...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... conservative to aggressive.

WILLIS: It's a bit like speed dating or, in this case, speed fixing your finances. From debt to savings to investment, volunteers from the National Association of Personal Financial Advisers offer up their services.

But what can be accomplished in an hour or less?

DAVE MUTI, REGISTERED MORTGAGE ADVISER: It may not be the type of advice we'd like to give over the long term. But I still want to see the quick of a snapshot. Are they doing some of the right things to have an expert look over their shoulder. And we are the do-it- yourself society. And that's how sometimes mistakes are made.

WILLIS: Mistakes from Wall Street.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Especially just by investing in one stock, that's what you're leaving yourself open to. You know?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm talking about diversifying the portfolio.

WILLIS: To main street.

ROBYN BOLDEN, HARLEM RESIDENT: I'm trying to work on it. Do my best to get out of the credit card debt.

WILLIS: And that's where your money bus tour comes in.

TOM BRADLEY, PRESIDENT TO AMERITRADE INSTITUTIONAL: We're trying to help Americans take that first step toward financial future.


WILLIS: Well, that -- your money bus tour is sponsored by Kiplinger Personal Finance, TD Ameritrade Institutional and the National Association of Personal Advisers.

The bus is there to educate. No fee. Advisers don't try to sell your services, just dispense advice.

To find out if the bus stops at a location near you, check out


WILLIS: Heidi?

COLLINS: It's a pretty cool idea. In fact, you're going to have more on this story, right, on "OPEN HOUSE" this weekend?

WILLIS: You bet we are, Heidi. And we're also talking about protecting your money, what you can do now to save your 401(k). The economy and undecided voters plus candidates and the economy, what they want to do or do to you. Heidi?

COLLINS: All right, we will certainly be watching.

Gerri Willis, thank you.

WILLIS: My pleasure.

COLLINS: Reality hits king's mountain. How Wall Street worries are impacting one Main Street.


COLLINS: Another check of the big board now, Dow Jones Industrial Averages is down about 82 points as we are looking at -- what are we? About 45 minutes into the trading day?

As you can imagine, by the time everything wraps up in the afternoon, it will probably look a whole lot different than that.

We are watching it for you, though, needless to say.

The credit crunch. It is squeezing big banks, big businesses and it is trickling down to your town.

CNN's Rusty Dornin now with a case in point.


RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): When Merrill Howell went into work recently he got the news no employee wants to hear.

After 36 years the textile plant where he works was shutting down that day.

MERRILL HOWELL, LAID-OFF WORKER: Surprise not only to me but to the whole plant.

DORNIN (on camera): So you're saying there was enough work coming in...

HOWELL: Yes, plenty.

DORNIN (voice over): Spectrum Yarn Incorporated's Web site is still online, pointing out they've dyed textile yarn since 1972. They owned two plants and both closed, putting 200 people out of work.

(on camera): We met with the owner of the company who declined comment. But he did notify the state of North Carolina that the credit crisis has made it impossible for him to borrow enough money to keep the doors open.

(voice over): Owner Doug Blanchard wrote, "In the midst of this national financial crisis, Spectrum has been unable to obtain sufficient financing to keep operations going."

The plant closure hits Kings Mountain, a city of 10,000, right in the pocket book. The city lost a car dealership to the lagging economy earlier this year and at another company 57 people have been laid off so far this year.

MAYOR RICK MURPHREY, KINGS MOUNTAIN, NORTH CAROLINA: We put the incentive in the bridge, right? That's the point.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Right there through the second entrance.

DORNIN: Rick Murphrey worked for Spectrum for 35 years. Now mayor of King's Mountain he says he's worked to bring in new industry.

Now the city will lose $2 million of revenue from Spectrum.

MURPHREY: Because of the credit industry, because of Wall Street which affected Main Street. And we're main street. So that's what -- that's what did it right there.


DORNIN: Down at the diner former Spectrum Yarn's employee Beverly Smith knows this closure is a kick in the town's gut.

SMITH: A lot of folks eat here, you know? It will affect us and affect them. They won't be able to come out and eat anymore.

DORNIN: This region already suffers from nearly 9 percent unemployment. It may be tough for Merrill Howell to find a job. But he doesn't blame his former employer for what happened.

HOWELL: Well, this is something he just couldn't do for us right here. He just got --they all just got caught up in the credit crunch. So he done his best.

DORNIN (on camera): You got caught up in the credit crunch.

DORNIN: Yes, we all did.

DORNIN (voice over): Rusty Dornin, Kings Mountain, North Carolina.


COLLINS: Race in the race. A Democratic congressman raising concerns Barack Obama can carry out -- can carry his district.

CNN's Brian Todd reports on that.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): A lot of folks in this hard-bitten town will tell you John Murtha has brought jobs and plenty of pride to western Pennsylvania in his 35 years in Congress.

He's also now brought controversy over remarks to the "Pittsburgh Port-Gazette" on why he thinks Barack Obama will have a tough time winning in his district.

REP. JOHN MURTHA (D), PENNSYLVANIA: There's no question western Pennsylvania is a racist area, and when I say racist area, I mean older people are hesitant, you know, they're slow in seeing change, real change.

TODD: Murtha wouldn't do an interview with us, but apologized in a statement saying, quote, "While we cannot deny that race is a factor in this election, I believe we've been able to look beyond race these past few months."

In Johnstown, at the heart of his district, we asked Murtha's constituents if they thought the area was racist.

In some cases it depended on who you spoke with.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The older generations, possibly, the way they were raised. The era they were raised in. The younger folks, no.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I do agree it's racist.

TODD (on camera): Why? How so?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I notice that just jobwise, me trying to get a job out here.

TODD (voice over): Pennsylvania's 12th district, decimated by the loss of steel and coal mining jobs, is predominantly white with a heavy senior citizen population.

It went overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton in the primaries.

(On camera): An aide to Murtha says his remarkets reflected the fact that some of those older white constituents had indicated to him they might vote along racial lines.

(Voice over): But Jim White, a Johnstown official, says he doesn't believe this area is more racist than any other. JIM WHITE, JOHNSTOWN CITY OFFICIAL: In my 30 years here, I've sensed that anymore than maybe three or four times where I can look at a person and know and feel from growing up in the south that that person is just racist.

TODD: The remarks even more sensitive after a Sarah Palin rally in Johnstown just days earlier, when someone held up a stuffed monkey labeled Obama.

Local newspaper editor Chip Minemyers says that upset many in the community.

CHIP MINEMYER, JOHNSTOWN TRIBUNE-DEMOCRAT: That's not what they want to be associated with. That's not the kind of a mentality we want people to think exists here in -- you know in a kind of predominant fashion.

TODD: Minemyer and others here still say Barack Obama will have a tough time beating McCain in this pro-gun, pro-life district.

But city official Jim White says in these tough economic times people here will vote more with their wall than anything else.

Brian Todd, CNN, Johnstown, Pennsylvania.


COLLINS: Two congressional opponents with different views on fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. They have one thing in common. They fought in those wars.


COLLINS: Your money, your nerves. The president's message in a speech just a couple hours ago. President Bush assured Americans the government's bailout plan will rein in the financial crisis, but it may take a while.

So what's Wall Street doing right now? You can see the big board there on your screen. Dow Jones Industrial Averages down about 52 points. Has been kind of all over the map, though.

So, again we are watching those numbers closely for you.

Another tough housing report to deal with as well. Home construction plunged last month to a fresh 17-year low.

Susan Lisovicz is on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange this morning with more details on this.

Hi there, Susan.


And you know, it's disturbing because we'd like to see some improvement there. We've become all too accustomed to these kind of steep declines. And unfortunately, we're not seeing any improvement.

We haven't seen home construction this low since 1991. And yes, the U.S. economy was in recession then. Many economists believe the same is true for now.

Housing starts -- fell more than 6 percent in September. That drop, Heidi, more than four times worse than the street consensus. It was led by double-digit declines here in the northeast.

Building permits plunged as well, and of course, that's an indication of future activities. So we're seeing shares of home builders like KB Homes, Hovnanian, Pulte, Lennar, down between 2 and 5 percent each.

Fortunately, we're not seeing those kind of declines for the Dow Industrials which right now are off the lows. Blue chips opened at their low about 250 after that late-session rally yesterday. The NASDAQ, meanwhile, is down 11. Oil meanwhile is up $1.50, but still real low, $71.50 a barrel right now, Heidi.

COLLINS: Yes. When we talk about the housing starts, though, I mean, we really need some improvement in that area in order to help the rest of the economy.

LISOVICZ: That's right. Because, if you remember a few years ago, it was the buying in the housing sector that helped improve the economy at that time in the wake of the dot com crash and after 9/11.

You know the drop in building actually has a silver lining in that we really need to reduce the inventories. There are such a glut of unsold homes, Heidi, on the market as you know. And we need to get that lower.

Right now the government is saying it takes about 11 months to really -- well, we have about 11-month backlog of homes on the market. So we want to see those come down.

The fact that foreclosures are still rising certainly contributes to the problem. So building permits not such a bad thing. We'd like to see more buying. And that's another reason why freeing up credit is so...


LISOVICZ: ... vitally important right now -- Heidi?

COLLINS: All right, thank you, Susan.

LISOVICZ: You're welcome.

COLLINS: Millions of Americans all wondering the same thing. When will the economy get better? And how do I make it through these really tough times?

Our CNN money team has some answers in an upcoming special "RECESSION-PROOF YOUR LIFE." Christine Romans and Ali Velshi are joining us with a little look ahead to that.

Hi there, guys.

ROMANS: Hi, Heidi. Yes, let's put the big board behind us for a second.

COLLINS: I like that idea.

ROMANS: The up 900, the down 700, the 40, wild interday swings.

Listen, there are some things out there that people can do right now to recession-proof your life to make sure that no matter what's happening on the big board, in the credit market, in the economy, in the jobs market, that you're the one who is sitting pretty and can get through it.

ALI VELSHI, CNN SENIOR BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Right. And you're the only one who really can control the things you can control. So what we're going to discuss in this special "RECESSION-PROOF YOUR LIFE" edition of "YOUR MONEY" is the things that you can absolutely do to take control.

You can't deal with the stuff that Washington is dealing with. You can't deal with the executive compensation on Wall Street. They are all things you should know about and you should probably vote on.

We'll talk about that, too.

But the bottom line is you can control your spending, you can control your credit. You can control your investments and you can try, at least, hopefully, to control your job or at least prepare for the next one if you become a victim of all these job cuts that we've seen.

ROMANS: That's absolutely right. We're going to tell you what jobs are the best in this economy, where there's good choices for retraining. If you've got a kid or a grandkid who's getting ready to get out of college, where they should be looking.

You can't afford to go to college, here are some trade schools that can give you some...


ROMANS: ... important tools to get jobs like Joe the plumber, for example, who makes -- the average plumber, about $47,000 a year, which is better than average in this country and has pretty good job security and a path to actually being a job -- a business owner. So a lot of different things we're going to explore in here.

And you know, Heidi, we're going to talk about some blame, too. Because a lot of people have been asking us, wait a second, how much blame do American consumers have for this entire mess? How many years have we as a country been living beyond our means, using credit to spend more money that we earn? We're going to talk about that. And we're also going to talk about just why in the world were all of those mortgages written in the first place to people who absolutely were never going to be able to pay them back. Some very simple stuff that -- some simple rules that were broken.

COLLINS: I have to tell you, I hate when I hear from some of the analysts out there, we should just stop worrying about who is to blame and move forward, move forward. But sometimes, the fact of the matter is you've got to find out what happened.

VELSHI: There's a lesson in there, yes. Sure.

And the thing is -- one of the questions we're getting a lot of, Heidi, is, as we get into the holiday shopping season, people are saying, I need to save money, I need to protect myself. But I'm told that by not spending it's bad for the economy. That's an interesting question. It is bad for the economy if you don't spend. But that doesn't -- it's not your job to hold up the economy. You've got to make sure that you can manage your own payments.

ROMANS: And that's what this hour is going to be -- it's take care of yourself, recession-proof you. And that's the most -- that's the only thing you can control over. And there's, frankly, a real lack of control right -- none of us can control what's happening around us. So this is putting a little bit of hope and control back in the situation.

COLLINS: Quickly tell us when the show airs again.

VELSHI: This will be Saturday at 1:00 p.m. Eastern and Sunday at 3:00 p.m. Eastern.

COLLINS: Perfect. I think a lot of people are going to be watching this one guys. Great job. We sure do appreciate it. Ali Velshi, Christine Romans. See you again soon.

The global economic crisis. The one silver lining for most of us may be the plunging price of oil. But that's awful news for some oil- rich countries like Iraq. Will those falling prices cost Americans in other ways?

CNN's Phil Black takes a look.


PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The drama, noise and frenzy of Iraq's stock exchange in Baghdad. Sentiment here is very positive. These Iraqi investors know about the global financial crisis, but they're not experiencing it.

ANAS ISMAEL KHALIL, IRAQI INVESTOR: Well I heard that from the news, but what I see (INAUDIBLE) from my exchange, everything is good. Everything is good.

BLACK: While the world's biggest markets were experiencing record falls, this exchange of 94 local companies jumped up a little and has held stable.

(on camera): That's great news for Iraqi's investors, but in terms of assessing the impact of the global economic crisis on this country, it's meaningless. This market is too small and isolated. There is only one true indicator of Iraq's economic strength, and that's the price of oil.

(voice-over): Oil is almost Iraq's only source of income. That was no problem just a few months ago when it was trading at a record price of almost $150. Iraq's budget is built around an oil price of $80. But since the economic turmoil kicked off, it dipped below that.

"The government fears the oil price could keep sliding so the budget is now being recalculated."

HAIDAR AL ABADI, IRAQI PARLIAMENT'S ECONOMIC INVESTMENT CMTE.: The original figure is $80 U.S. dollars per barrel of oil. I think we're looking now to reduce it to $70 or $65 to be on the safe side just in case the implication -- because we believe -- we don't think this economic problem will be over in few months, to be honest with you.

BLACK: But some in the government are more optimistic. Iraq's industry minister believes if the oil prices stabilize, then the credit crunch pain should be minimal because Iraq owns no shares or investments abroad.

FAWZI AL-HARIRI, IRAQI INDUSTRY MINISTER: I believe Iraq is the least vulnerable country, in my view, from this effect.

BLACK: Fawzi Al-Hariri also believes the long-term global slowdown could assist Iraq by reducing the prices of commodities and products it needs to rebuild the country.

AL-HARIRI: While the revenues that we're earning are -- will be going down due to the falling of the prices, the cost that we were spending will also be coming down.

BLACK: Iraq does expect private investment in the country to be affected. Unemployment was already a widespread problem, and basic services are nowhere near adequate. But while this is a country recovering from a state of almost total collapse, the economic mood here is not all gloomy.


BLACK: Phil Black, CNN, Baghdad.


COLLINS: In these tough economic times we're all looking for some economic help. Of all places, it could actually come at the gas pump where falling prices could mean a little more money in your pocket.'s Poppy Harlow has our "Energy Fix" now from New York.

Hi there, Poppy. This is lovely news.

POPPY HARLOW, CNNMONEY.COM: Yes, this is some great news. It's -- for all of those people out there that drive -- possibly it's more money in their pocket. Remember, just a few months ago, those $600 stimulus checks, that was about $170 billion stimulus from the federal government. But an even bigger stimulus may come from what you are not paying right now at the gas station.

Yesterday we saw oil prices fall below 70 bucks a barrel for the first time in 14 months. And the Energy Policy Research Foundation says the recent slide in oil prices could amount to, get this, at least a $275 billion stimulus. That's much more valuable than those checks that were sent out. The reason for this is that every time we fill our gas tanks, it's money we're not spending somewhere else. The average American buys 500 gallons of gas every year, that's -- at $4 a gallon -- that's about 2,000 bucks a year. We hit an average of $4.11 a gallon over the summer. That was the peek high. In some states it was a lot more than that.

Now we're around $3.00 a gallon. So you're paying about $1,500 a year on average. So you're saving 500 bucks right now, compared to what you were spending this summer.

Now the current AAA national average is $3.04 a gallon. And Heidi, here is some good news, gas prices down for 30 straight days.

COLLINS: Yes, that's really good news. We love it. That's just, in fact, one place, though, where we use oil, obviously.

HARLOW: Yes. It helps you in some other areas.

What that is not counting in is the savings on our home heating bills that we'll probably see this winter. It also doesn't count in the amount that it saves businesses every single day to ship their items. Let's say you go to Wal-Mart and you get an item that has likely been shipped from China or somewhere pretty far away. Part of that price you're paying is the oil it takes to ship that item from place to place. Now as oil prices fall, we could see the prices on a lot of day to day items falling, or at least not rising as quickly as we were seeing just a few months ago.

It is one energy fix. There's a lot more right there on our site, -- Heidi.

COLLINS: All right. Poppy Harlow, thank you.

HARLOW: You're welcome.

COLLINS: Two veterans with different views on fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan now taking those differences into a battle for a House seat.

Here is CNN's Chris Lawrence.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A Marine artillery officer and a Navy SEAL. Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, now fighting for a seat in Congress and a say in how to wage those wars.

(on camera): Do you support a timetable --


LAWRENCE: -- for withdrawing the troops?

HUNTER: No, no. I don't support any timeline whatsoever.

LAWRENCE (voice-over): Republican Duncan Hunter is a Marine running to succeed his father.

MIKE LUMPKIN (D), CALIFORNIA HOUSE CANDIDATE: I think you can have a blending of a timetable with conditions.

LAWRENCE: Democrat Mike Lumpkin commanded 2,000 special forces troops and advised Obama's foreign policy team.

(on camera): Do you think the surge has worked?

LUMPKIN: I don't think history will prove that it's succeeded. We're paying off the tribal Sheiks to not conduct acts of violence.

LAWRENCE (voice-over): And when the money is cut off --

LUMPKIN: I think what you're going to see is you're going to see a spike in violence.

HUNTER: No, that isn't true.

LAWRENCE: Hunter says U.S. troops are giving tribal leaders the ability to fight al Qaeda.

HUNTER: And they're going to keep working with us because they want to be free, not because America is paying them off.

LAWRENCE: Like Obama and McCain, they disagree on how long and how many troops to keep in Iraq.

LUMPKIN: I'd bring 50 percent of the troops home and then I would move the remainder of the troops out of the urban centers to station them along the borders to prevent them -- the surrounding nations from entering the conflict.

HUNTER: We're just so close to finishing. We don't stop our fire departments when the fire is 70 percent contained. We don't say, all right, stop fighting that fire now.

LAWRENCE: Republicans out number Democrats in this suburban San Diego district. But like Obama, Lumpkin is counting on voters' need for change.

LUMPKIN: And we have the incumbent, who has been there for 28 years, who is trying to will this seat to his son as if it were a birth right.

LAWRENCE: On the other hand, Hunter is distancing himself from the top of the ticket.

HUNTER: When you look at issues like illegal immigration for instance, John McCain and I don't see eye to eye at all.

LAWRENCE (on camera): One thing both candidates agree on, the winner should have a bigger role in overseeing defense spending and strategy than your average congressional newcomer.

Chris Lawrence, CNN, San Diego.


COLLINS: The gloves may be off in the presidential campaign, but that doesn't mean the candidates can't still have a little fun with each other. Barack Obama and John McCain, the keynote speakers at the Al Smith charity dinner. That gave them a chance to trade punchlines.


MCCAIN: This campaign needed the common touch of a working man. After all it began so long ago with the heralded arrival of a man known to Oprah Winfrey as "The One." Being a friend and colleague of Barack, I just called him "that one."

OBAMA: John McCain is on to something, there was a point in my life when I started palling around with a pretty ugly crowd, I've got to be honest. These guys were serious deadbeats, they were lowlifes, they were unrepentant, no-good punks. That's right, I've been a member of the United States Senate.

Come to think of it, John, I swear I saw you at one of our meetings.


COLLINS: This is the seventh time both presidential candidates served as keynote speakers at the event. The first time was in 1960 with Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy.

As you know, that clock is ticking as decision day draws near. In 18 days watch history unfold with the best political team on television and watch it on CNN world wide networks. It's all happening, as you know, on November 4th.

Their companies got hot, and they got perks.


ROBERT FRANK, AUTHOR, "RICHISTAN": These guys were spending more than $250 billion a year. They bought mansions in Greenwich and Palm Beach, they bought art for a $100 million a painting.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COLLINS: But many of the fat cats are going on a diet now.


COLLINS: Lifestyles of Wall Street's fat cats. A CNN special investigations unit's special takes a look at why -- the ways, in fact, these executives live and what may be in store for them now.

Let's take a look.



AARON SIGMOND, EDITOR, "CIGAR REPORT": Hey you're welcome. Thank you.


BOUDREAU: The cigar smoke is billowing, drinks are flowing.

SIGMOND: All the good things in life, caviar, we have a lot of caviar.

BOUDREAU: And if the guests at this party, hosted by a magazine called the "Cigar Report," are a little tone deaf about how this kind of event might be perceived, they don't seem to be especially concerned.

(on camera): It looks like you guys are just all having a good time. People are getting their haircut, manicures, smoking cigars.

ADAM MARSH, EMPIRE CAPITAL PARTNERS: Manicures, hair cuts -- it's a great time, I think, for at least a couple hours in an evening. We just kind of sit back, have a few drinks, forget that -- what's facing us out on the street tomorrow.

BOUDREAU (voice-over): These are among some of the faces of Wall Street, traders, mid-level executives, the men and women who rely on bonuses that can reach into the hundreds of thousands to keep their lifestyles afloat.

SIGMOND: You know, you play hard, you work hard. You work hard, you play hard.

BOUDREAU: And if they earn that much, the money their bosses took in before the crisis hit was, well stratospheric.

FRANK: These guys were spending more than $250 billion a year. They bought mansions in Greenwich and Palm Beach. They bought art for $100 million a painting. The waiting list for Ferraris is more than a year long.


COLLINS: Had to wait a whole year for one of those?

Special investigations unit correspondent, Abbie Boudreau, is joining me now with more on this.

So, OK, when we look at those pictures, everybody gets mad. You think about what has gone on over the past month or so, and clearly well before that. What was the party all about?

BOUDREAU: Well, on that particular day the market had dropped about 508 points. And this kind of party is really just their lifestyle. This is what they're used to. It wasn't that big of a deal for them. They knew we were coming to the party. They didn't feel like they had anything to hide. So that's really what it was all about.

They were having a good time. They feel, like I mentioned in this part that you had just seen, work hard, play hard. That is their motto. And that's the motto of a lot of people. This is just how they do it. This is a glimpse into a different type of lifestyle, something that many Americans just haven't had a chance to see yet.

COLLINS: Yes. And when you talk to them about the tone or the reaction to them from the general public, are they aware? Do they know?

BOUDREAU: I asked a lot of people that. I said, don't you realize when we do show this video that a lot of people might look at this and say, you guys just don't have a clue as to what's going on? They might be angry.

And they just said, well, this is my life, I'm not ashamed of my life, I'm not ashamed of how I'm going to live my life. This is how I'm going to continue to live it. And bad news is not going to slow -- it might slow the party down, but it's going to end the party for these guys.

COLLINS: Yes. All right, well, CNN's special investigations unit correspondent, Abbie Boudreau, thank you.

So, eat your veggies. Some kids are and they're not complaining about it. In fact, we'll tell you how that works in just a minute.


COLLINS: An update now on a story we told you about yesterday. Parents are speaking out about plans for an HIV testing to take place at one St. Louis high school. Health Department officials say several students at Normandy may have been exposed to HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. They someone, they're not saying who, has tested positive, and that possibly has led to students being exposed. Free and confidential HIV tests will be offered at the school in about two weeks, a timeline some parents are not happy about.


JOSIE FONDREN, PARENT: They're talking about starting this process in the next two weeks. If it's that serious, they should start it right now, right away.

SHARON MORTON, PARENT: I just hope somebody do something about it quickly.


COLLINS: Health officials are urging any student who has had unprotected sexual activity to get tested.

Today's "Daily Dose" now. Encouraging kids to eat healthy. If you're a parent, you know it's not easy. But some schools are actually helping now by turning vegetables into something students actually want to eat.

Here is CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Tofu dogs, black bean burgers, soy chicken patties -- not a typical diet for most teens, but at Berkmar Middle School in Lilburn, Georgia, the kids don't seem to care.

ALISHA ZARIWALLA, MIDDLE SCHOOL STUDENT: I like the vegetarian chicken nuggets and the vegetarian corn dogs here.

CHRISTOPHER HOLMES, MIDDLE SCHOOL STUDENT: I eat the grilled cheese sandwiches and apples. And sometimes I'll eat the veggie burger.

GUPTA: Berkmar is just one of Gwinnett County's schools that offers vegetarian options in the lunch line. And the kids are voting vegetarian at a surprising rate.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's estimated that about 3 percent of teens are vegetarians, which is around 5,000 students for us.

GUPTA: Now some of the kids eat vegetarian for religious reasons. But many of these 10 to 12-year-olds say they choose it for health reasons.

CINDY HERNANDEZ, MIDDLE SCHOOL STUDENT: I went to the doctor, I was 10 pounds overweight. The doctor said that that could be more -- a faster way for when I grow up I could die faster. So my mom didn't like that, so she started making more healthy food and it actually made me lose those 10 pounds.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because I want to stay healthy and have a healthy life.

GUPTA: All in all, Gwinnett County schools have served close to 500,000 vegetarian meals in this last year alone. And Karen Crawford hopes the habits they learn now will stay with them for a lifetime.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We know that nutrition profoundly affects how kids -- their ability to learn and grow and maintain a healthy lifestyle. And it's important to teach them these lessons when they're young.

GUPTA: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, reporting.


COLLINS: Sex, power and murder. Tomorrow this Egyptian billionaire goes on trial for the gruesome killing of a pop star. But more of it may be on trial than one man's innocence.


COLLINS: Sex, power and murder. The trial gets underway tomorrow for one of Egypt's most powerful men. The billionaire is accused of killing a pop star that he loved but couldn't have.

Details now from CNN's Alphonso Van Marsh.


ALPHONSO VAN MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Egyptian parliamentarian's Hisham Talaat Moustafa political and business connections run deep. But his alleged connection to the murder of Lebanese pop star, Suzanne Tamim, may cost him his life.

FARID EL-DIB, MOUSTAFA'S DEFENSE LAWYER (through translator): My client isn't at all interested in knowing who the killer is, but he is very much interested in denying the charges against him.

VAN MARSH: Moustafa is charged with paying an alleged hit man, a former police officer, $2 million to kill Tamim. The alleged hit man denies the charges.

Prosecutors say the murder was -- quote -- "means of taking revenge."

Moustafa's lawyer says his client loved the sexy singer, but could not take Tamim as a second wife because his family objected. Moustafa is already a married father of three, though having multiple wives isn't rare in Egypt. Attorney Farid El-Dib says Moustafa is innocent. But his client may face the death penalty if convicted.

EL-DIB (through translator): Some people are making the worst exploitation of this case, not only to attack Hisham, but to attack businessmen in general.

VAN MARSH: Hisham Talaat Moustafa sat in Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak's political inner circle. He is also one of Egypt's richest real estate moguls. But despite his wealth and connections, analysts believe Tamim's murder investigation left Egyptian authorities little choice but to strip him Moustafa of his parliamentary immunity, indict and jail him pending trial. The public was shocked.

HISHAM KASSEM, POLITICAL ANALYST: At a certain point, the regime has to draw a line. They cannot be associated with something like that. VAN MARSH: Authorities say Tamim was stabbed and nearly decapitated in this Dubai apartment block in July. As rumors of evidence linking Moustafa to the crime spread, he used his influence to plead his case on state-run TV.

(on camera): Hisham Talaat Moustafa's case is set to be held at this court later this month. But because Egypt has no jury system, his fate will be determined by a three-judge panel.

(voice-over): But there's a further twist. The man who says he's Tamim's widower fears Moustafa's influence could still taint court proceedings.

RIYADH ALAZZAWI, SAYS HE WAS TAMIM'S HUSBAND: For his background and his connection in Egypt, I'm worried about trial. I prefer if the trial moved to UAE. I (INAUDIBLE) much better.

VAN MARSH: Riyadh Alazzawi is a world-class kick boxer. He says he married Tamim after, he says, she refused to marry Moustafa. And soon after that, Alazzawi says, came the death threats that were investigated by British police. So the singer and her athlete planned for a new life in the UAE.

Tamim went to Dubai first. The powerful kick boxer says he regrets not being there to help Tamim fight off her killer.

ALAZZAWI: I couldn't believe it. I couldn't sleep all night -- until when I saw her in the morning on the news, saying that she had been murdered.

VAN MARSH: Alazzawi says he hopes there will be justice for his wife's murder in what's sure to be a legal drama and test of Egypt's resolve to ensure that no one, if found guilty, is above the law.

Alphonso Van Marsh, CNN, Cairo.


COLLINS: A CNN exclusive story. Of course we'll stay on top of it for you and bring you that verdict out of Egypt when it comes.

I'm Heidi Collins. Join us again Monday morning at 9:00 a.m. Eastern.

For now, CNN NEWSROOM begins with Tony Harris.