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American Morning

Security Grants: Are Cities Getting Enough Money?; Toxicology Results in on Benoit Murder-Suicide Case; Sniper Manhunt Over

Aired July 18, 2007 - 07:59   ET


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR (voice over): Breaking news. A plane crashes and burns on a recently repaired runway. Hundreds killed. Was enough done to keep people safe?

A former military sniper accused of killing his wife found dead with a note. Were there clues he left behind?



ROBERTS: And welcome back and thanks for joining us on this Wednesday, the 18th of July.

I'm John Roberts.


We begin this hour with a look at your security and money that may be coming to your city. The announcement today coming from the government about security grants.

Joining us with more details now, Kelli Arena from Washington.

Hi, Kelli.


You know, each year the Department of Homeland Security doles out grant money to cities to help them deal with the terror threat. The nation's two top targets, New York and Washington, are getting more money than last year, but leaders in both those places say it's just not enough, especially in light of the new information about the terror threat.

I spoke with Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff about those complaints.


MICHAEL CHERTOFF, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: But it is not an annuity. It's not an entitlement. It doesn't mean that having once received an amount of money, let's say, to build a camera system or to build a certain ring of defenses, that you're now entitled to get the same amount of money every single year.


ARENA: You know, this grant money and the whole program has been very much a work in progress, and Homeland continues to fine-tune the application process, the rules on how this money can be spent. And since it started, Homeland has doled out $18 billion in grant money -- Kiran.

CHETRY: You know, it's a lot of money. And then you hear the criticisms from some states. I know we've heard it from our lawmakers here in New York City, who are saying, hold on a minute, how are we deciding who gets the money and where? And is it a political move in some ways, as opposed to where the need is greatest? So there of course is still a lot of debate even though we are talking about a huge amount of money.

ARENA: That's right. That's right. And, I mean, this is every year we see the same thing, and it doesn't matter because, of course, a lot of critics point out and they say, hey, wait a minute, before 9/11, the place that suffered the worst terror attack was Oklahoma City. So, you know, how do you make those decisions about where the terrorists will strike, you know, who is vulnerable and what needs to be done?

CHETRY: Very true.

Kelli Arena in Washington for us.


ARENA: You're welcome.

ROBERTS: New this morning, U.S. forces announcing that they have arrested the most senior Iraqi member of Al Qaeda in Iraq. Khalid al- Mashadani (ph), also known as Abu Shahed (ph), was arrested on July the 4th in Mosul. U.S. forces say Mashadani was a go-between for Al Qaeda in Iraq and Osama bin Laden.

From Iraq to the Iraq debate in the Senate right now, the all- night marathon session still going on. Some of the cots that were brought in apparently slept in overnight. Senators will finally hold a vote this morning at 11:00 to see if the Democrats have enough votes to move ahead with the plan to withdraw troops from Iraq, but it's certainly not looking like they do.

A shift in the polls in the fight for the White House. Here is the latest CNN-WMUR-University of New Hampshire primary poll.

For the first time, there are no white males among the top three Democrats. Hillary Clinton has got a solid lead, followed by Barack Obama, and then Bill Richardson. Richardson moving ahead of John Edwards since the last poll.

We're going to be talking with former Senator Edwards coming up in this half hour. On the Republican side, John McCain has slipped from second to fourth place in New Hampshire. Mitt Romney leads the pack there. Rudy Giuliani second, and Fred Thompson now running third.

A tragedy of catastrophic proportions is still unfolding in Sao Paulo, Brazil, right now. These are the latest pictures of the crash of a TAM Airlines jet carrying 176 people.

It slammed into a building at the end of the runway at Sao Paulo's airport. Families of those on board the plane and on the ground have gathered, desperate for any information on their loved ones. Fire crews say as many as 200 people may be dead.

CHETRY: Well, it's time now to get a check from our AMERICAN MORNING team of correspondents about what's new this morning.

One thing, the toxicology results are in on wrestler Chris Benoit.

Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen joins us from Atlanta on Chris Benoit, as well as his wife and his young son.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Oh, these results, Kiran, they are just heartbreaking. Let's first look at Chris Benoit.

He had extremely high levels of testosterone. Testosterone is usually expressed as a ratio between testosterone and epitestosterone. A man his age and size, it would be about 6 to 1. He was 59 to 1. That is an extremely high number. He also had in his body Xanax, the prescription drug, and hydrocondone, the prescription painkiller.

His son, also Xanax in his body. His wife, also hydrocodone, hydromorphone, another prescription drug, and Xanax.

All of these -- I think everyone knew to some extent that they were going to find something like this, but these numbers were just higher than so many people expected -- Kiran.

CHETRY: Yes, and raising a lot of questions about whether or not they're going to find out what really happened.

Elizabeth Cohen, thank you.

Well, now to Chad Myers.


CHETRY: Well, the Dow keeps going with its record run, four straight sessions now.


ROBERTS: The hunt for an ex-Army sniper suspected of shooting and killing his wife is now over. It ended as police moved in to capture 36-year-old David Munis and he shot himself in the chest. Still a lot of questions in this case now. Joining us to help answer some of them is Sheriff Jim Pond of Albany County, Wyoming. He is now live in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and joins us.

Sheriff Pond, we understand that there was a note that was left behind, perhaps written on cardboard.

What can you tell us about that?


Basically, our investigators discovered it at the shooting scene last night. He had scribbled a note on a cardboard box that basically was his last will and testament and how he wanted his personal property and his remains taken care of.

ROBERTS: Was there a confession in that note? Did he -- did he admit to killing his wife?

POND: No, not indicated in the writings that we found last night.

ROBERTS: Is there anything more to indicate why he took that shot early on Sunday morning?

POND: No. There's nothing there that we can determine at this time.

ROBERTS: You haven't heard anything more about the history and troubles between them? I mean, we know that she had received a harassing phone call from him about six hours before the incident took place.

POND: Yes. That's being taken care of by investigators and the Cheyenne Police Department.


POND: We're here in Laramie and Albany County, which are separate jurisdictions.

ROBERTS: Right. Well, can you tell us then -- can you tell us then about the end of David Munis' life?

POND: Basically, a ranch hand had discovered him in a real small trailer house in a remote area of a ranch north of Laramie, called the sheriff's office. Officers responding to meet with him and arrest him, to get to him. Before they could get to him, he had shot himself.

ROBERTS: Right. And he was in a camper somewhere?

POND: That is correct. He was about eight miles from where his vehicle was last located within our search area.

ROBERTS: All right. Sheriff Jim Pond from Albany County in Wyoming.

Sheriff, thanks very much. Appreciate you coming on this morning.

POND: Absolutely.




CHETRY: Well, the cost of bad driving in Virginia may be going up. Way up. There is a new plan that could stick drivers with fines of up to $3,000 for serious offenses.

Virginia Delegate David Albo is a co-sponsor of the bill. He's heard some of these complaints, but he wants to go ahead with it anyway, and he's joining us from Herndon, Virginia. That's along the Fairfax County Parkway.

Thanks for being with us this morning.

DAVID ALBO (R), VIRGINIA STATE DELEGATE: Thanks for having me this morning.

CHETRY: All right. So let's just get to the bottom of this bill.

What are we talking about when we talk about fines? It says here that you could end up paying up to $3,000. What would you have to do to end up having to pay a $3,000 fine?

ALBO: If it's a $3,000 fine, you would have to kill someone. There's a lot of misinformation about this bill.

You have to kill somebody for the $3,000 fine. In fact, if you got one traffic ticket, two traffic tickets or three traffic tickets in one year, you pay zero. What this bill is meant to do is address the most serious traffic offenses, those things which are considered crimes.

CHETRY: All right. Well, in one, it says you have to go up to 20 miles an hour over the speed limit and you could get a thousand- dollar speeding ticket.

Is that true?

ALBO: In Virginia, that's reckless driving. That's punishable by up to year in jail, a $2,500 fine and one year loss of license. It's a very serious offense in Virginia already. What we've done is added a mandatory $350-a-year fee for three years.

CHETRY: You know, it's one of those things -- I mean, it's against the law. You're not supposed to speed. People do it every single day. There are some critics, though, who say that this would unfairly target poor and lower middle class drivers who, if they get -- have to incur these types of fines, they may not be able to drive.

ALBO: Well, I never understand that criticism, because that is kind of saying that poor people break the law more than rich people. I just don't agree with that.

CHETRY: No, not that they break the law more, but if you make a ton of money and you get pulled over, you pay it. If you don't make a lot of money and you get pulled over, it hurts more.

ALBO: Well, I mean, that's the same with every fine that exists in the entire United States. I mean, this is a totally voluntary charge. You pay zero as long as you don't commit a crime while driving.

CHETRY: You know, there's also this petition that's going around asking that this legislation be repealed. It says you would personally make money from this law because of some of your interests with your -- with your law firm.

Is that a conflict of interest?

ALBO: Well, that's the most ludicrous statement I've ever seen on the Web. First of all, people, as a national broadcast, have to understand that we are only part-time legislators. We make about $900 a month doing this job. So we all have regular jobs.

My regular job, the way I make my house payments, is that of a lawyer. There is not a rational person in the entire world who would hire me for $1,200 for the unguaranteed possibility that I may be able to have them avoid a thousand-dollar reckless driving fee.

That's just all politics from people who don't like the idea that people who break the law should have to pay more to drive on the roads of Virginia.

CHETRY: Yes. Well, this petition did get -- had 100,000 signatures as of Monday.

You know, but the bottom line is you're doing this because you say you want to be able to prevent more driving deaths that take place on the roadway.

How big of a factor is speeding?

ALBO: Well, look, 9,600 Virginians have died in the last 10 years. That's more than -- about three times the amount of U.S. soldiers who have died in Iraq. This is a very serious problem.

In the other states where this has been done, New Jersey, New York, Texas, and I think maybe Michigan -- I'm not quite sure -- they have experienced a really great decrease in traffic-related accidents, a decrease in bad traffic behavior. That's the one main benefit I think we'll get from this.

CHETRY: Have you ever gotten a speeding ticket yourself in Virginia?

ALBO: Oh, sure. Like I said, a person who gets a ticket now and then pays zero. You have to do something that is considered a crime, such as DWI, reckless driving.

This petition going around is making people think that if they get a traffic ticket, they pay a thousand dollars. That is totally false. If they get a traffic ticket, they pay zero. That is why the petition, in my opinion, has gotten about 100,000 signatures, because the petition not telling people the truth.

CHETRY: All right. Well, at least you had a chance to come on and tell your side and hopefully clear it up for people. They can find out more if they want to.

State Delegate David Albo out of Virginia.


ALBO: Thanks for having me.



ROBERTS: It's 21 minutes now after the hour.

We have been taking a closer look at the presidential candidates in both parties, asking them about defining moments of their political careers. This morning, the spotlight is on Democrat John Edwards.

He is on his road tour calling attention to poverty in the United States, and John Edwards joins us now from Wise, Virginia.

Good morning, Senator. Good to see you again.

JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Good morning, John. Thanks for having me.

ROBERTS: You've been on this eight-state poverty tour. Still a couple of more days to go.

Can you turn the nation's attention toward this issue when so many people are worried about the war in Iraq, terrorism, education, health care?

EDWARDS: Well, we've got a lot going on. You're right about that. But -- and certainly the war is dominant. But I think one of the reasons I'm doing this is to bring attention to an issue I think Americans care about.

I think it's deep inside them. I think they want to do something about poverty in America.

No one has asked them to. And I think trying to shine a bright light on it and talk about some of the things we can do and showing not only the depth of the poverty that still exists in this country, but the breadth of it, all across America.

ROBERTS: Now, you have publicized the modest beginnings from whence you came, but can you now, given your personal situation, be an effective advocate for poverty? The fact that you're building yourself a 28,000 square foot house in North Carolina? And there was this quote from Democratic pollster Mark Mellman, who said, "Voters vote mainly on who the person is. He's trying to communicate a message about who he is... a person who does not forget where he comes from" -- talking about you. But then he adds -- he says, "The haircut issue is significant in that context, because it cuts against the story."

So, are there conflicting signals here? And therefore, can you be that effective advocate for poverty?

EDWARDS: Well, I'm not sure I'm the person to ask, but obviously I believe I can. I mean, this is the cause of my life, John, and will be as long as I'm alive and breathing.

And I think I've demonstrated my commitment to it. I started a poverty center at the University of North Carolina. I've been all over the country organizing workers into unions and meeting with low- income workers and community action centers, helped raise the minimum wage in a bunch of states and started a college program for low-income kids.

I mean, this -- and I've taken days off the campaign trail to be out here showing America what's going on with low-income Americans and people who are living in poverty. So I could tell you, I'm going to speak out, and I'm going to do it as long as I'm capable of doing it.

And others have done this in the past. I'm not the first. And I do come from fairly modest beginnings, but I've lived the American dream, I'll be the first to say it.


EDWARDS: And I want the kind of people that we've been spending time with in the last few days to have the same chance that I've had.

ROBERTS: Senator, what was the defining moment that drove you to seek the presidency?

EDWARDS: Well, I think that when the hurricane hit New Orleans. And I went there after some months after the hurricane hit and with several hundred college kids to help do some volunteer rebuilding, and seeing the struggles that people were going through, the very little help they were getting from the government. The government was an incredible mess in response.

ROBERTS: But wait a second. I mean, you've been looking at the presidency since -- we had dinner I think in 2002 when you said, "John, I wouldn't be doing this if I didn't want to run for president." So, I mean, this goes way back before Katrina.

EDWARDS: Yes, but that -- you asked me about why I'm running now, I assume.

I think that for me, when I saw what was going on in New Orleans, saw the struggles that people were still going through, not just in New Orleans -- I mean, this is something -- this is what I'm showing right now is something I've been working on for several years since the last election. I felt like this is something that America needed to hear and something I wanted to do something about. But no, you're right, it's not the first time I thought about it.


EDWARDS: But it was a very important defining moment.

ROBERTS: Of course, you know, we've got this YouTube debate coming up on Monday that you're participating in where people from across the nation have been asked to submit questions. And there are some pretty interesting ones.

We didn't want to give you one of those questions just in the off chance that it did actually get into the debate, but we went out with our interns, polling people from the public to see what they wanted to ask you.

Take a listen to this question and then we'll get you to respond to it.



ROGER FORTUNA, MODERATE REPUBLICAN: Quite simply, I'd ask John if he could distinguish himself from the other two leading candidates. At this point in time, the three seem to me at least to be blending. How is he distinctive and different from the two other leading candidates?


ROBERTS: So there you go, Senator. There is the question. Answer it for us.

EDWARDS: Well, it's a very fair question. I think I have the most specific, boldest plans to deal with the biggest issues that face this country.

I mean, I'm the one of three who has a completely universal health care plan required by law that every man, woman and child in America be covered. I think I'm the only one among the three that has a comprehensive plan to end poverty in America. I have a very aggressive plan to get America out of Iraq, and I think I have the most aggressive plan to combat global warming.

I think on substance and depth, I think those are the differences.

ROBERTS: Well, Senator, thanks very much for joining us this morning from Wise, Virginia.

We've been pointing out today that in New Hampshire, your poll numbers have dropped a little bit, but you still remain strong in Iowa, and it's still a long way out. So the contest still somewhat wide open.

Thanks for joining us, though, Senator. Good to see you again.

EDWARDS: Thank you, John, so much for having me.

CHETRY: Good job with the interview.



CHETRY: Oh what a pretty shot this morning. That's coming to us from KING, our affiliate in Seattle, Washington. How pretty is that, the Space Needle?

You know, I at one point thought maybe that was a ride when I was younger.

ROBERTS: Well, it does look -- it does sort of look like the tower in Coney Island just a little bit.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: It does a little bit. But beautiful this morning as the sun is just about to come up there.

And welcome, once again. It's Wednesday, July 18th. I'm Kiran Chetry.

ROBERTS: And good morning to you. I'm John Roberts. Thanks very much for joining us.

New this morning. U.S. forces announcing that they have arrested the most senior Iraqi member of al Qaeda in Iraq. Khalid al Mashidani (ph), also known as Abu Shahead (ph), was arrested on July the Fourth in Mosul. U.S. forces say Mashidani was a conduit between al Qaeda leaders in Iraq and top al Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden.

The marathon debate over the war is still going this morning. Here's a live look at the Senate floor where they have been at it all night. They're going to hold a vote this morning at 11:00. It's not looking like the Democrats will have enough votes to move ahead with pulling the troops out of Iraq, though. Earlier on AMERICAN MORNING, I asked a pair of senators what they thought was accomplished or not accomplished overnight.


SEN. BARBARA BOXER, (D) CALIFORNIA: We wanted to show the people who sent us and really gave us the reins of power in the Senate that we are willing to stay up through the night, work through the night to start bringing this war to a close. SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISS, (R) GEORGIA: The sad part about this, John, is that we've got a bill that gives those troops in Iraq a pay increase, it provides better quality of life for them and their families, provides more and better and safer equipment for them. All of that has been lost and delayed by the Democrats with this procedure.


ROBERTS: And in case you were wondering about all of those cots that were brought in yesterday. Well, we checked in earlier this morning and it appeared that at least one of them had been slept in.

A tragedy of unbelievable proportions is unfolding in Sao Paulo, Brazil, right now. Take a look at the latest pictures this morning of the crash of a TAM Airlines jet carrying 176 people. It slammed into a building at the end of the runway at Sao Paulo's airport. Families of those on the plane and on the ground have gathered, desperate for any information on their loved ones. Fire crews say as many as 200 people may be dead.

A deadly storm unleashed more than 40,000 lightning strikes in China. At least 15 people were killed, more than a hundred others were hurt. Emergency crews say some 10,000 homes collapsed. Major roads were also shut down by intense flooding.

CHETRY: Well, the latest U.S. intelligence estimate confirms that al Qaeda is stronger than it's been in years and is ready to attack the U.S. again. This report suggests that al Qaeda will try to use its Iraqi terror network to mount an attack on American soil. So just how serious is the threat? Homeland Security Advisor Fran Townsend joins me right now.

Thanks for being with us this morning.


CHETRY: You know, we talk about this National Intelligence Estimate, which is this compilation of all of the intelligence from the various federal agencies. But what should the average American take away from this assessment when it comes to fearing a threat on our homeland?

TOWNSEND: I think they shouldn't fear it. What they should understand is just how much better prepared we are to deal with the terrorist threat, but that it's going to be a long and persistent threat. The NIE, the National Intelligence Estimate, tells us that our worldwide counter terrorism operations have restrained al Qaeda's ability to act and persuaded al Qaeda that we are a more difficult target to hit.

That said, they've begun to get some regeneration of their capability because they found a safe haven in the tribal areas of Pakistan. President Musharraf, we know, tried to deny them that safe haven by entering into an agreement with the tribal leaders of that area about a year ago. That agreement has failed. President Musharraf came out after the seizure of the red mosque and said he now has to rout out extremism anywhere it's found in Pakistan.

So we are working with our Pakistani allies to make sure that that tribal area is denied to al Qaeda as a safe haven. As long as they have it, we know what they do with it. When they had a safe haven in Afghanistan, they planned an attack against us. And that's exactly the sort of thing we worry about now.

CHETRY: So has the war in Iraq diverted resources, like the American troops needed, to be able to contain and fight al Qaeda in places like Pakistan and Afghanistan?

TOWNSEND: Well, there's no question. Iraq's not a diversion. Bin Laden himself has said it's a central front in the war on terror.

And the capture that you're reporting this morning of the senior Iraq al Qaeda official itself confirms the direct links between them. The president gave a speech in May and talked about -- we declassified intelligence. He talked about the connections between al Qaeda's corps, those in the tribal areas, and al Qaeda in Iraq.

Bin Laden had tasked them to plan for external attacks, including the homeland. Bin Laden tried to send Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi, who's now in custody in Guantanamo, to Iraq to help them. We know that al Qaeda in Iraq has had external operations.

CHETRY: There are those who take issue with that, though, and say that al Qaeda in Iraq did not exist before the U.S. forces went in there. And the argument of critics is that if we could contain or would have contained al Qaeda in Pakistan and Iraq before we got to the point where we are in Iraq now, we would have had much better luck in terms of getting the organization -- decapitating the organization, if you will.

TOWNSEND: Well, there's no question that al Qaeda will look for safe haven wherever they can find it. A base from which they can plan. They've now affiliated themselves with al Qaeda in what they call the Islamic magrab (ph) in northern Africa.

Al Qaeda tries to extend its region, look for these safe havens, whether it's in northern Mali, Somalia, Iraq. The idea is, we have to challenge them. You've heard the president say, we're on offense. Well, we want to challenge them so that we deny them that ability to be at rest where they can plan and train.

CHETRY: You know, is the Iraq War the reason, though, when we saw this National Intelligence Estimate in 2006, they talked about al Qaeda as suffering and this year they talk about a resurgence. Why has that changed in one year?

TOWNSEND: Sure. Well, al Qaeda has suffered. You know, the al Qaeda that existed on 9/11, two-thirds of them have been captured or killed. Working with our allies around the world, we've captured people like Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and Ramzi Bin al-Shibh. So there's no question they're suffering. The difference is, this tribal agreement that was entered into about a year ago, we've seen that fail and provide safe haven now for al Qaeda. CHETRY: Is the $750 million of aid that the U.S. is considering pouring into these tribal areas going to help that or will it end up in the wrong hands?

TOWNSEND: No. In fact, what we need to do is stand by our allies. What we can't do is just abandon that to the tribal leaders who have given safe haven to al Qaeda. Oftentimes we have allies who don't do a hundred percent what we want when we want it. The answer is, we can't walk away from them because we need them to be successful.

CHETRY: Fran Townsend, the homeland security adviser with the White House.

Thanks so much for being with us and talking to us today.

TOWNSEND: Thank you.


ROBERTS: Thirty-six minutes after the hour.

Congress could put the FDA in charge of cigarettes. Your "Quick Hits" now. Lawmakers are considering a bill today that would have the FDA try to create a safer, though not totally safe cigarette by regulating the levels of harmful components in tobacco products.

A cutback on ads for kids. Eleven big food and beverage companies are agreeing to do advertisements. Companies like Campbell's Soup and General Mills say licensed character won't be used in ads aimed at children under the age of 12 unless the ads promote healthier products.

A troubling toxicology report from the death of wrestler Chris Benoit, his wife and their son. Will it change how pro wrestling does business? We'll talk with a former wrestler next on AMERICAN MORNING.


CHETRY: The all-clear now topping your "Quick Hits." The evacuation order has been canceled following multiple explosions in a 200-foot tall fire at a chemical plant near Wichita, Kansas. Firefighters say that 660,000 pounds of chemicals went up in flames. They had an evacuation order in place. That has now been cancel.

Well, the man responsible for the worst mass transit disaster ever in New York is now out of jail. Richard Smith was piloting the Staten Island ferry when he blacked out from fatigue and painkillers it was learned. That ferry crashed and 11 people were killed. Others were severely hurt. Smith served 15 months in prison.

And a volunteer firefighter in Barron County, Kentucky, is under arrest, charged with making false calls to 911. Police say he made as many as nine calls from untraceable cell phones so that he could then be called out on fire runs. ROBERTS: The toxicology reports are in, but questions remain about the deaths of wrestler Chris Benoit and his family. Did 'roid rage, as it's called, drive him to kill his wife, his son and then himself. Del Wilkes is a former pro wrestler who used steroids from 1983 to the year 2000 and insist they are a huge problem in professional wrestling. He joins us now from Columbia, South Carolina.

Del, you know the results of this toxicology report. What do you make of it?

DEL WILKES, FORMER PRO WRESTLER: Well, I don't think there were really any major surprises, other than the fact that with Daniel, the little boy, they found Xanax in his system. But as far as Chris is concerned, there were no major surprises there. Painkillers, pain medication and steroids. As a matter of fact, over 10 times the level that a normal man would have in his system were found in his body. So I don't think there's any surprises there at all.

ROBERTS: But the coroner suggests that the testosterone was injected shortly before the murders and his death took place and that he did not show any evidence of steroid use in the past.

WILKES: Well, you know, that's ridiculous. It really is. It's crazy. I was listening to another show last night and some of the folks representing the WWE, their lawyer, McDevitt, Mr. Black that runs the wellness program and administered the drug test, seemed to be somewhat relieved that only testosterone was found in his system. As someone that used and abused steroids for over 20 years, testosterone was the major drug that I used. It was the one that most of us used. It is probably the most widely used and abused steroid there is on the market.

ROBERTS: In fact, one of those representatives for the WWE appeared on Nancy Grace on "Headline News" last night. Let's take a quick listen to what he had to say and then I'll get you respond.


JERRY MCDEVITT, ATTORNEY FOR WWE: All the speculation about the impact of steroids on this case were essentially removed from the case by Doctor Sperry (ph). Testosterone that was found in Chris' body could have been taken and probably was taken after the April 10th test, which, as we know, anybody can do.


ROBERTS: So, there again, you hear that the steroids were not involved. The WWE claims that it has rigorous procedures for testing for steroids and that Chris Benoit never tested positive for steroids, therefore it wasn't an issue. What do you say?

WILKES: Again, I say it's totally and utterly ridiculous. It's absurd to think that they can pass that off. I mean they must think we're a bunch of idiots. I can look at Chris Benoit and other guys on that program. I don't need a toxicology report. I don't need a drug test. I don't need anything other than to watch the show and see that guys are still using and abusing steroids.

On top of that, let's just look at the records of the doctor there in Atlanta when his office was raided. It was proven, or at least to this point, that he was subscribing or prescribing a huge amounts of steroids to Benoit. So I think that's ridiculous.

ROBERTS: How big a problem are steroids in the world of professional wrestling? And what percentage of wrestlers do you believe use them?

WILKES: Well, I'm no longer in those dressing rooms, but, still, from someone that was there, I spent my career in that business, it's a problem. It's a big problem.

Again, just look at the show. Just watch the show. You see these huge, bulked up, leaned up bodies. I mean, that's proof enough that these guys are on something, some type of muscle enhancing drug.

It is a problem. I could sit down right now and write out the names of over 50 men and women that I wrestled with, traveled with, worked out with, had them in my homes, I went into their homes, got familiar with their families. I can give you the names of over 50 of them I considered friends that are dead as a result of this business, the life style and the drug, steroids, prescription medication that go along with it. So for them to insinuate that it's not a problem, for them to stand back and act like they have no culpability in this, it's absolutely ridiculous.

But remember one thing. This is the same company, it's the same promoter that when Owen Hart tragically fell to his death from the rafters in Kansas City doing a stunt he didn't want to do but one they insisted he do, this is the same promoter that they had his lifeless body drug from the ring and the guys going to the ring for the next match had to pass his lifeless body. He didn't even have enough decency about him that night to stop a match. So you don't expect him to, you know, step up to the plate and do anything right now.

ROBERTS: Well, Del, we thank you very much for your opinions this morning. And it's good to see you again. Thanks for coming on.

WILKES: I appreciate you having me.

CHETRY: CNN "Newsroom" is just minutes away. Tony Harris is at the CNN Center with a look at what's ahead.

Hi, Tony.

TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Wow, Kiran, strong stuff there.


HARRIS: Good morning, everyone.

Brazil plane crash on the "Newsroom" rundown this morning. Investigators examining the runway at a Sao Paulo airport. Water buildup may have caused the plane to skid into a building. Some 200 -- believe that -- 200 feared dead.

NFL star quarterback facing federal charges today. He is indicted in an alleged dog fighting ring.

And marketing junk food to kids. The government grading food to media companies today in the fight against childhood obesity.

Heidi is with me in the "Newsroom" this morning. We are keeping you up-to-the-minute on any breaking news at the top of the hour right here on CNN.

Kiran, back to you.

CHETRY: We'll be watching, Tony. Thanks.


ROBERTS: What to do at the bust of a controversial Supreme Court justice tops our "Quick Hits." The NAACP wants a statue of ex-chief Justice Roger Taney moved from the front of city of hall in Frederick, Maryland. Taney penned the infamous Dred Scott decision which upheld slavery.

The home of Tom Sawyer's sweetheart is about to get an upgrade. The Mark Twain Home Foundation received $250,000 in tax credits to restore the Becky Thatcher house in Hannibal, Missouri. That house sits across the street from Twain's boyhood home.

And is Barack Obama's online fund-raising just smoke and mirrors? Tom Foreman looks into claims of fuzzy math. Raw politics coming up next.



It was raining corn and soybeans during a major storm in Minnesota. Your "Quick Hits" now. A lightning strike tore a hole in a grain elevator in Clarks Grove. People were told to get out of the nearby area because they were fearing that 350,000 bushel elevator would topple. There you see all of the corn and soybeans coming out. Thankfully it did not topple. People were allowed to go back home.

And poker crowned a new champion this moaning. There he is. Jerry Yang defeated Tuan Lam in the World Series of Poker main event, taking the top prize, $8.25 million. Finishing second wasn't too bad either because Lam earned $4.8 million.

Yang outlasted more than 6,000 players over seven days. The last day took nearly 16 hours to complete. Yang will donate some of his winnings to charity, including the Ronald McDonald House and the Make A Wish Foundation. So good guy. Make a lot of money.

How does it end so fast for me, but they can play for 16 hours?

ROBERTS: It's all about the bluffing. Time for raw politics now. Tom Foreman is saddled up. He's riding in with a look at some of the horse races for us this morning.

Good morning, Tom.


And as they say out west, the Republicans had better cowboy up. Many in Washington clearly feel pummeled over this war. Hardly in the mood for an election. And the latest CNN poll shows that feeling goes way beyond the beltway.


FOREMAN, (voice over): In the great Republican horse race, the newest numbers from New Hampshire show Mitt Romney has a substantial lead over Rudy Giuliani, with hop-along John McCain and the undeclared Fred Thompson trotting behind. But look who is in first place from another poll. None of the above. It shows almost a quarter of all Republicans are still unhappy with all their choices. And unwilling to commit.

The Obama rama under the ol microscope. Some political insiders are suggesting he has inflated the number of his donors by counting every person who buys a hat, bumper sticker or button. Response?

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The reason that they're listed as donors is because if they purchase it through the campaign and it goes into the campaign coffers, it would be a violation of campaign laws if we did not list that. So all we're doing is abiding by the law.

FOREMAN: The raw read, he's right. Other campaigners have farmed their mechanizing out to vendors, so they can't count their buyers are donors. They call it sour grapes, kids.

And ride 'em cowboy. Guess who's hanging tough for the Democratic nomination? New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson. Our latest numbers have him in third place in New Hampshire. Behind Clinton and Obama, but above John Edwards. Not a back venture anymore.

GOV. BILL RICHARDSON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I am moving into the first tier and you'll be seeing that in Iowa and New Hampshire too.


FOREMAN: Richardson has a wagon load of experience and he's done pretty well in fund raising. About $13 million altogether. So you cannot count him out of this rodeo yet. Very happy folks in the Richardson camp right now.

ROBERTS: Very difficult for a second-tier candidate to break through to that upper tier. So for Richardson to do that is quite an accomplishment. FOREMAN: Yes. And, really, what's happened in New Hampshire for him is, he hasn't moved, but John Edwards has dropped down. And this is something we've been saying for weeks on raw politics. The way the second tier moves up is more a matter of the top one stumbling or slipping and then you get in there. It's very hard to, as you say, earn your spot. Very few can do that.

But Richardson's a guy who really has some chops. And from the beginning I said, you've got to watch him because he's not a guy who's going to lay down and just say, oh, well, I'm second tier. I can't make it. He's going to keep grinding away and that's just what he's doing.

CHETRY: He has a pretty good sense of humor about it as well because I remember John asking him about the second tier.

FOREMAN: Yes. Yes, well, and his commercials, where he does the job interview thing, where he sort of cites all these amazing accomplishments in his life. Many of the people are very accomplished.

CHETRY: Right.

FOREMAN: And then they're saying, why do you want to be president? Good sense of humor is resonating with people. He's playing very well. Look, I'm the second tier guy but I ought to be first tier and now maybe he's making his move.

CHETRY: Next to New Hampshire.

ROBERTS: Tom, thanks for that. Good to see you.

FOREMAN: Good seeing you all.

CHETRY: Thanks.

Well, here's a quick look at what CNN "Newsroom" is working on for the top of the hour.

HARRIS: See these stories in the CNN "Newsroom."

Investigators focus on runway problems in Brazil. Some 200 people feared dead in a fiery plane crash.

All night debate. Now senators push for a vote on another measure to force U.S. troops home from Iraq.

NFL quarterback Michael Vick facing federal charges related to dog fighting.

And solar car race. Texas to New York. If the sun shines.

"Newsroom" top of the hour on CNN.



JON STEWART, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART": Here it is, your moment of zen.

ROBERTS: Here's the real danger. The active ingredient is ethyl alcohol. Which is ethanol. Which is the same thing you can run your car on. But it's also the same thing that's in liquor.

CHETRY: Can children really get drunk by doing this?

ROBERTS: Can children get drunk on hand sanitizer? That's the question we're going to ask this morning.


ROBERTS: Yes. And there it was, the moment of zen on "The Daily Show." I'm glad we provide him with non-stop laughs.

CHETRY: I'm still trying to figure out why that was funny? Was it -- wasn't that funny. Kids were getting drunk on hand sanitizer.

ROBERTS: It all depends on your perspective, I guess.

CHETRY: I guess so.

ROBERTS: Kids getting drunk on hand sanitizer is a funny thing.

CHETRY: Well, there's a new accessory, by the way, in the celebrity world. Speaking of getting drunk.


CHETRY: And this is the new -- and Lola's supporting it -- a dubious new fashion accessory for the likes of Lindsey Lohan and others who can't control their drinking.

ROBERTS: That thing is just making the rounds this morning, isn't it?

OGUNNAIKE: Yes. I call this the latest in convicture. We love it. Lindsey Lohan just got one last weekend. What this actually does is it tests the alcohol level in your body. And you'd think it comes through your liver, most of it does, but some of it comes through your sweat and that's how it picks it up.

So, again, Lindsay Lohan got one this weekend. But she's usually ahead of the fashion curve. She's so behind this time, you guys. Tracy Morgan, he got his in May. E got hers last month. And Michelle Rodriguez got hers earlier this year. She wore it for a few months and now he's over it.

CHETRY: Well, so usually the courts make you wear these if you've had a DUI conviction or have had -- run into some other trouble with the alcohol. But Michelle Rodriguez is saying that she's on the straight and narrow but this is sometimes giving her false positives. OGUNNAIKE: Well, when she had hers on, she said it was giving her false positives. She said, you know, simple things like Listerine and shampoos could actually be picked up by this thing. We had an expert on earlier today that totally debunked that. I suspect it probably was a little more than Listerine and shampoo that was giving her her false positives, but I don't know.

ROBERTS: Didn't she actually ask for more jail time rather than have to wear the bracelet?

OGUNNAIKE: You know, she loathed this thing. On her blog, she just railed against it. She said it looked like a VCR. It is really big. I actually think it looks like a walkman.

ROBERTS: Hey. Well, you know, all you've got to do is don't drink and drive, then you won't have to wear it.

OGUNNAIKE: That's true. But it is really annoying. It's only eight ounces, but it feels really heavy.

CHETRY: And it bangs up against your other ankle, because I tried it on earlier as well, when you try to walk. But it was interesting because the woman from the company also said that people who are recovering alcoholics, they get scared. They don't want it off after the 90-day period that they usually wear it because they say it's really been a crutch and its helped them not to drink.

OGUNNAIKE: Well, I think Lindsay Lohan's going to want it off because this is really disturbing her fashion groove. You can't wear your skinny jeans with this. I wonder, actually, how is she going to wear this. Because Michelle Rodriguez, she wore it out to the Mark Jacobs show. Tracy Morgan's posing with his in pictures. Will Lindsey make it a fashion statement. Will she dress it up with sequins and crystals and flashing lights? What is she going to do? Or is she going to wear bell-bottoms over this thing and just hide it.

CHETRY: Hey, that's a good idea. We'll go with that one, Lola.

OGUNNAIKE: Go with the bell-bottoms.

ROBERTS: That's why they make bell-bottoms, right?

Hey, thanks so much for joining us on this AMERICAN MORNING. We hope that you will be back again tomorrow. We'll see you then.

CHETRY: Absolutely.

In the meantime, CNN "Newsroom" with Tony Harris and Heidi Collins begins right now.

TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning, everyone. You are in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Tony Harris.

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Heidi Collins. Good morning, everybody.

Watch events come into the NEWSROOM live on Wednesday morning. It is July 18th. Here's what's on the rundown now.

Two hundred people believed dead in a hellish scene. An airliner skids off a runway and into a building. Did shoddy construction play a role?

HARRIS: Sleepy senators. Democrats trying to advance an Iraq troop withdrawal measure this morning. The vote after an all-nighter.

COLLINS: An alleged dog fighting ring. Is it a career-ender for a star quarterback.