Return to Transcripts main page

American Morning

Gas Gauge; Immigration Poll; Moussaoui Deliberations; School Shooting Plot; Smart Lithium Car

Aired April 25, 2006 - 07:30   ET


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN CORRESPONDENT, (voice over): It's a revolution of sorts at the Rocket Express in Fallston, North Carolina. Unable to compete with chain distributors who pay less for gas, the owners shut down the pumps until prices drop. And guess what? Customers are behind them 100 percent.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I saw it in the paper this morning and I thought, well, I've got to stop and tell that fellow I support him.

ROBERTS: The outrage factor has spread. In the San Diego area, at least three independent stations also closed in protest after they were quoted 40 cents a gallon more than their name brand competitors.

DAVE WHITLOW, SPIRIT AUTO: I've never been told I can't get gas. I've never been told, oh I'm sorry, we don't have any gas available for you today. There's always gas available. I just have to pay 40 cents a gallon more for it than the guy down the street does.

ROBERTS: If high prices are taking such a toll on gas stations, what about consumers? A new CNN poll conducted by Opinion Research Corporation found gas prices are causing hardship for 69 percent of Americans.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: $3.09. What do we expect it tomorrow, $4.05, $4 something? You know? Where are we going? Where is all this going to? Who's getting all this money?

ROBERTS: The who is an increasingly concentrated group of companies, the five largest of which made more than $111 billion in profits last year. Outgoing Exxon Mobil CEO Lee Raymond became the poster child for big oil excess with a retirement package worth $400 million. Willie Psyches (ph), who dumped his SUV for a scooter, just can't get his head around that.

WILLIE PSYCHES: If he can get $400 million, golly, can we get a break? Like 2 or 3 cents off this? I mean, shoot, it's crazy.

ROBERTS: What's more, President Bush's recent energy bill gives the oil companies another $23 billion in subsidies and tax breaks over the next decade. The money was supposed to help keep prices down by encouraging research and domestic exploration. But why does an industry making record profits need a government handout? That's what Democrats facing re-election would like to know. SEN. BILL NELSON, (D) FLORIDA: We've got to stop the oil companies from having it all their way. In the energy bill passed last year, they have a billion and a half dollar tax giveaway purely for the oil companies' research purposes. That needs to be reversed and I'm going to try to do that this week.

ROBERTS: Republicans aren't talking about rolling back fat subsidies , but that are trying to stay on the right side of the issue. In a letter on Monday, the Republican congressional leadership urged President Bush to keep a close eye on price gouging. And be ready to pounce and prosecute.

In truth, there's very little Congress or the president can do to affect gas prices and success of investigation have always cleared the oil companies of any wrongdoing. But one thing you can say for certain, this is going to be one powerful election year issue.

John Roberts, CNN, Washington.


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: We have some new poll numbers for you this morning and they're telling us a lot about what you'd like to see done about illegal immigration. And you're taking it pretty moderate approach. As for that 700 mile fence along the border, statistical dead heat, but large number do not favor making it a felony to be an illegal in the U.S. as an U.S. House measure would do. CNN Political Analyst -- Senior Political Analyst Bill Schneider. Sorry, I didn't mean to demote you there.


M. O'BRIEN: Will walk through some figures with us on this latest CNN poll.

Let's talk about this first set of numbers here. This is an interesting one. It essentially offers up support to what the president is proposing, which is a guest worker program essentially. When asked the question, would you like to allow illegal immigrants in the U.S. more than five years to apply for U.S. citizenship, 77 percent favor that. What do you make of those numbers?

SCHNEIDER: Well, those may be a little surprising to a lot of people because that sounds like amnesty and members of Congress and critics have been saying, oh my God, we can't possibly have anything like amnesty. But the fact is, Americans do not take a harsh punitive view of illegal immigrants who have been in this country for a period of time, worked hard, paid taxes. They believe that they should have the opportunity to earn citizenship, which is what the bill that has been considered by the Senate proposes.

Earned citizenship. What does that mean? Pay their back taxes. Pay a fine because they broke the law to come into this country. Some laws require that they learn English, have a job. Once they do that, the public thinks they ought to become American citizens.

M. O'BRIEN: I think we should note that the term amnesty was not used in that question.


M. O'BRIEN: I bet if it was, it would be a different result.

SCHNEIDER: Absolutely.

M. O'BRIEN: It's all in how you ask the question, right?

SCHNEIDER: It melts to amnesty.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes.

Next one, temporary worker program for people not currently in the U.S. In other words, come up with a way for people to come and work and work their way towards citizenship essentially. Even numbers here certainly when you consider the sampling error. Is that a surprising one to you?

SCHNEIDER: Well, that's surprising, too, because that's supposed to be a more moderate proposal. Don't give citizenship because that's amnesty, but allow people to come into the United States temporarily and go back home. That's what the president's proposing. That's the guest worker proposal.

Americans are very suspicious of that. They favor citizenship, earned citizenship, but a guest worker program, people don't like the sound of it. Why? Because the view is, you're going to have a class of workers, many of them low wage, in this country for a period of years and then we expect them to go home.

They have no prospect of citizenship. How realistic is that? Are these people really going to go home after five or six years? Most Americans think very unlikely.

M. O'BRIEN: Interesting. All right.

Finally, when you ask people about the House legislation, which would essentially make it a felony to be an illegal in this country, a lot of opposition to that. Fifty-six percent of those we asked oppose that notion of making it a felony just to be an illegal in the U.S. That one seems to jive with some previous numbers I've seen, right?

SCHNEIDER: Yes, that does. It again reinforces the point that people don't take a harsh, punitive view of illegal immigrants who have been in this country for a period of time. They don't want them charged with a felony. That is in the House bill, although the Republican leadership tried to take it out of the House bill and that did not pass. And, you know, most people think that's far too harsh.

Yes, they should pay a fine, it could become a misdemeanor rather than a felony, but they don't take a punitive attitude towards those people working in the United States. What they do feel strongly about is stop the flood of illegal immigration coming in. We don't want more illegal immigrants. Do something about border security. There people do have very strong views. M. O'BRIEN: Our Senior Political Analyst Bill Schneider, thank you.

SCHNEIDER: Sure, Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Soledad.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: The second day of deliberations for admitted al Qaeda conspirator Zacarias Moussauoi. Let's get right to our Senior Legal Analyst Jeff Toobin with an update on what's happening there. Of course, they could come back at any time. When do you think they will decide life or death for him?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Death penalty deliberations they tend to be much shorter than guilty or innocence deliberations.

S. O'BRIEN: But this is a weird case.

TOOBIN: It's unusual because the judge has given the jury in a long list of aggravating factors and mitigating factors that they have to work their way through and be unanimous on if they're going to find for the death penalty. So I think it may take a few days, but I'd be shocked if it took till the end of the week.

S. O'BRIEN: Big issue, I think, for many of the -- certainly the witnesses has been, do you turn someone into a martyr by giving them death?

TOOBIN: Absolutely. And Moussaoui's role is also somewhat ambiguous. I mean what is so peculiar about this case is that the evidence put on by the government was actually fairly weak in showing that Moussaoui was much of a player in al Qaeda in the United States. However, when he made his stupid or perhaps intentionally stupid decision to take the witness stand where he embraced al Qaeda and said he was happy that people were dead . . .

S. O'BRIEN: Handed the prosecution the biggest gift they could ever hope for.

TOOBIN: Exactly. And you don't know exactly how the jury's going to sort that out. Are they going to just dismiss him as a crazy person or say, you know what, you want to kill more Americans, we're going to kill you first.

S. O'BRIEN: But it's kind of an interesting precedent. If indeed they give him death because he could have prevented something but did not essentially.

TOOBIN: I think this is a very difficult legal issue. If you look at the Supreme Court precedence on the death penalty, they almost always insist on a direct role. You know, firing the gun, wielding the knife. It's a pretty weak link between Moussaoui and 9/11. The theory of the case is that if he had told the truth to investigators when he was arrested the month before . . .

S. O'BRIEN: They would have picked up on the clues and been able to nab the culprits.

TOOBIN: In the same case where the FBI's own witnesses were saying, the senior people in the FBI were criminally incompetent. That they couldn't have found it.

S. O'BRIEN: Lots of contradictions.

TOOBIN: So the causation is difficult. It's so hard because the magnitude of the crime is so awful but the evidence is actually not that strong.

S. O'BRIEN: Let's talk about appeals. As you know, we talked about the judge warning, like, watch out, you know, you could be setting up appeal. Do you think that's likely that there will be appeals? And doesn't Moussaoui have to want appeal or can his lawyers go ahead with an appeal that he has said, you know, fine, do whatever you're going to do?

TOOBIN: At least initially an appeal is pretty much automatic. It could be down the road that he could drop his appeal if he's convicted. But certainly the appeals process will start and take years, in any case. But, you're right, at some point Moussaoui will have the ultimate call. And if he says, like Timothy McVeigh did, I'm dropping appeals, he will be executed. But that's -- he's got to be sentenced first.

S. O'BRIEN: What do you . . .

TOOBIN: Sorry?

S. O'BRIEN: Do you think he'll be executed?

TOOBIN: I think the odds very strongly favor a death sentence.

S. O'BRIEN: We'll find out soon, won't we?

TOOBIN: We'll see.

S. O'BRIEN: Jeff Toobin, thanks (INAUDIBLE).


M. O'BRIEN: Thank you, Soledad.

Police say they have foiled another alleged Columbine-style plot. Carol Costello now in the newsroom with that.

Hello, Carol.


Good morning to all of you.

We've seen three -- three in the past week. First in Kansas, five teenagers charged with planning an attack on their high school. Then in Alaska were six seventh graders plotted to kill teachers and students. This time it's Washington state. Police say they foiled a student's plan to kill more than a dozen classmates and then himself.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's kind of scary that actually somebody would actually think about doing that to us.

COSTELLO, (voice over): Students at Rogers High School in Puyallup, Washington, reacting to the news a 16-year-old boy at their own school is suspected of plotting to kill fellow students.

ED TROYER, PIERCE CO. SHERIFF'S SPOKESMAN: We recovered a couple rifles, ammunition. He made a homemade bomb which our bomb team went out and got. So he definitely had access to the tools to carry this out if he decided to do it.

COSTELLO: A search of the boy's home also netted a downloaded copy of a book with directions for making explosives. Investigators recovered computer messages the suspect allegedly sent to a fellow ROTC student outlining his plan to shoot people at the school this Wednesday. The graphic messages detail his desire the quote "finally to go out in a blaze of hatred and fury. To wrongly hurt others for my own sick pleasure before ending it for myself."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I walk through the halls. I see the people. You know, they all look like good people, but I guess they're really not. Not all of them.

COSTELLO: Police have charged the 16-year-old with felony harassment, first degree attempted assault and procession and manufacture of an incendiary device. News of the arrest shocked neighbors, especially those with children attending the same high school.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We live in the same neighborhood. It's kind of a scary thing. You know, so.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is kind of scary. You know, we've got kids that go to high school too and he's graduating this year. So, yes, it is scary.


COSTELLO: Police believe the boy planned a random attack. They say he was looking for 15 or 16 people who, "didn't deserve it."

M. O'BRIEN: Wow. Carol Costello, thank you very much.


S. O'BRIEN: Forty-one minutes past the hour. Time to take another look at the weather this morning. Chad with an update for us.

Hey, Chad. What are you looking at?

(WEATHER REPORT) S. O'BRIEN: That is just weird. And, you know, that's when you get sick, 90, 69.

M. O'BRIEN: Oh, do you believe that?

S. O'BRIEN: I do.

M. O'BRIEN: Do you really think temperatures have a lot to do it?

S. O'BRIEN: I do, actually.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes.

ANDY SERWER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You think it's germs, I bet?

M. O'BRIEN: I bet germs and viruses have something to do . . .

S. O'BRIEN: I did an interview about this. The guy said that you . . .

SERWER: It creates an environment . . .

S. O'BRIEN: You have the laden germs inside of you and your bodies stressed, that's when you get a virus, you get sick.

SERWER: So work is stressful?

M. O'BRIEN: So getting up at 3:00 in the morning, do that have anything to do with that? Is that . . .

S. O'BRIEN: Unless you like getting up at 3:00 in the morning, then it's not stressful, it's fun.

M. O'BRIEN: OK. All right.

S. O'BRIEN: It's fun for me, Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Oh, I'm glad you enjoy it.

S. O'BRIEN: Oh, Andy's "Minding Your Business."

What you got for us?

SERWER: Good morning you guys.

The ultimate money board game gets a thoroughly modern makeover. We'll explain coming up next on AMERICAN MORNING.


S. O'BRIEN: Monopoly's getting more modern. Andy Serwer's got that this morning.

Good morning.

SERWER: Good morning, Soledad.

The board game was created in 1935 we just heard from -- just learned from a gentlemen named John Scarny (ph) who sold the game. It's now owned by Hasbro. And, of course, there are dozens and dozens and dozens of versions besides the traditional version based on Atlantic City.

But now Hasbro is coming up with a new idea, a way to update the game and it's called a "Here & Now" version. And the way it works is, they are creating -- it's going to be a national game essentially. You're going to be able to go to and vote on which landmarks you think should be on the game. So the landmarks are going to include Time Square, Wrigley Field, Waikiki Beach, Rodeo Drive, the Golden Gate Bridge. And the city that gets the most votes will get its landmarks on the game and get the coveted Boardwalk slot. The railroads are going to be replaced by airports like JFK, O'Hare, LAX and Hartsfield. I hope they don't include the delays.

S. O'BRIEN: Right. I was going to say, are those a good investment?

SERWER: No. The property values will be up. There will be a lot of other updates as well. And here you can see what -- where should I show this? Over here. This is kind of the -- no? Over there. OK. That's what it looks like, the update. And . . .

S. O'BRIEN: Can I see?

SERWER: Yes. And the game, you know, Soledad, there are over a hundred different ones. Here are some of the special editions. There's a Dog Monopoly, Muppets Monopoly, Harley Davidson Monopoly, Garfield, State of Utah, John Deere. There's the doggy one. (INAUDIBLE) dogs (INAUDIBLE). And then this is my favorite, because I'm the money guy. This is the Warren Buffet version. Berkshire Hathaway for the super, super wealthy folks out there. And so pretty cool, huh?

S. O'BRIEN: Yes, this is kind of neat. This is kind of neat. This box has nothing in it but hotels.

SERWER: Right.

S. O'BRIEN: It's kind of a P.R. thing, I think.


S. O'BRIEN: I like that. All right, Andy, thank you.

SERWER: You're welcome.

S. O'BRIEN: Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Thank you very much.

Still to come on the program, we're going to kick some tires and checking under the hood. We'll ask a mega car dealer how high gas prices may be changing our automotive desires. But first, there's this.


M. O'BRIEN: Drive? We want to drive as opposed to what?

RICHARD GRIFFITHS, HYBRID TECHNOLOGIES: Well, as opposed to not driving.

M. O'BRIEN: As opposed to not driving, of course.


M. O'BRIEN: It's a smart car. A little smarter than the driver in this case. It's a car that runs on cell phone batteries. It isn't much bigger than a cell phone. An electrifying test drive coming up. We've got the power here on AMERICAN MORNING.


M. O'BRIEN: All right. Are you ready to chuck that gas-aholic vehicle you have? You know, the one big enough to have its own zip code? I sure am. What to buy? In 40 minutes, we're going to check in with a new car dealer. We'll see if you are thinking small.

But while you kick the tires on some hybrids -- those part electric, part gas vehicles -- there are some all electric alternatives out there using lithium batteries. The other day I took a couple of them out for a spin.


MILES O'BRIEN, (voice over): The gas-powered version of this offspring of a Yugo and roller skate gets about 60 miles to the gallon. But this one, well, it runs on a different kind of juice.

All right. Let's see the battery itself. That's the key here.


M. O'BRIEN: You could -- first of all, could you do this vehicle with lead acid batteries? Would they be too big?

GRIFFITHS: If you did it with lead acid batteries, you would need a trailer behind following it. So, yes, no, that wouldn't be possible.

M. O'BRIEN: It is possible with lithium batteries. The type that power cell phones and laptops.

GRIFFITHS: Lithium cells.

M. O'BRIEN: Fill it up, just plug it in for five hours or so. Richard Griffiths is the driving force behind a company determined to make practical, lithium powered electric vehicles. The other day he let me take a spin.

And then what about this red button here? Should I push the red button?

GRIFFITHS: I know you want to, but the red button will -- the red button shuts down everything.

M. O'BRIEN: Note to self, avoid red button.

OK, want to take it nice and slow.

GRIFFITHS: Yes, go ahead.

M. O'BRIEN: Think golf cart. Golf cart here.

And avoid using the g-word. It makes Richard crazy. He's working on putting lithium electric motors in several vehicles that carry more weight with car buyers.

GRIFFITHS: We can basically take any vehicle and we can adapt it to fit within a -- we can take any -- basically any model, put a lithium motor in it and so it really comes down to what the market is looking for.

M. O'BRIEN: Can you put it in my Yukon XL?

GRIFFITHS: Yes, you know, you would have one heck of a battery bag.

M. O'BRIEN: I don't think anything's scalable to that level yet, is it?

GRIFFITHS: No, it's not.

M. O'BRIEN: In the meantime, don't buy a car like this if you want to stay on the down low.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How many miles per gallon?

M. O'BRIEN: Absolutely unlimited. Unlimited. It's just a battery.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it a four cylinder?

M. O'BRIEN: There's no engine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, no engine. Oh, OK.

M. O'BRIEN: All electric. It's a golf cart.

Oh, there I go again. Price tag is sure a long way from golf carts. This car goes for $35,000, more than double what you'd pay for a gas powered model. Even at $3 a gallon, that's a lot of gas.

This is a statement vehicle for now.

GRIFFITHS: For now it's a statement vehicle. This is an early adapter vehicle, absolutely. M. O'BRIEN: Now let's say you want something sportier. Check out this model.

GRIFFITHS: This is a Chrysler Crossfire. We call it the R-car (ph).

M. O'BRIEN: The R-car, mean what?

GRIFFITHS: Everybody wants to have R-car. Meaning it's -- this is the ultimate chick mobile. It's sexy and, you know, it shows that you're environmentally conscious.

M. O'BRIEN: Wow, check that out.

GRIFFITHS: We have here. So this is the new engine. This is what the new engine looks like on a lithium vehicle.

M. O'BRIEN: Supposedly this one will do 160. And just as I was ready to test that claim on the west side highway, I was going nowhere fast.

What did I hit? Did I hit something?

GRIFFITHS: Yes, I think you hit the button there. I think this button.

M. O'BRIEN: I -- you know what, I hit it. That may not be the best place for that.

Home James.


M. O'BRIEN: Now conventional smart cars, that cute little one, have been available in Europe for a while now. They're very popular there. They're just beginning to trickle into the U.S. There are some regulatory issues, pollution control and so forth. According to Richard Griffiths, the lithium-powered smart car will do about 150 to 180 miles before needing a recharge. That R-car you saw there, the one I hit the kill switch on, has about a 100-mile range. I don't know if you go to 160 if you get 100 miles and it depends on how many battery packs are in it and all that.

S. O'BRIEN: That switch is in a bad place.

M. O'BRIEN: They've got to work on that.

S. O'BRIEN: I saw that. I was like, wow, that's a bad place to put that.

M. O'BRIEN: Right where I put my elbow. A bad place.

S. O'BRIEN: Of course.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes. I think that's part of their beta testing.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes.

M. O'BRIEN: Help them on their development.

We'll be back with more in a moment.


S. O'BRIEN: President Bush battling record low approval numbers and high gas prices. A major energy speech is coming this morning.

M. O'BRIEN: A street crowded with tourists, three synchronized bombings. Another terror attack on the Sinai Peninsula.

Anti-war protesters greet the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice. More ahead on growing demonstrations in Athens, Greece.

S. O'BRIEN: And Kenneth Lay on the stand. The Enron founder blames bad press, 9/11 and a greedy executive, but says the company's collapse is not his fault.

M. O'BRIEN: And strong storms sweeping through the Midwest yet again. This may seem like a spectacular image, but it's a bad sight for people in Oklahoma.