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American Morning

Government Says Investigators Able to Sneak Bombs Past Airport Screeners; FDA Stepping Up Warning Against Diabetes Drug Avandia

Aired November 15, 2007 - 07:00   ET


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: We sure are and welcome. It is Thursday, November 15th. I'm Kiran Chetry.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning from Las Vegas, Nevada. I'm John Roberts. A lot of people eagerly anticipating tonight's debate to see if Hillary Clinton can recoup from that performance that she gave at the last Democratic debate in Philadelphia. Was that a one-off little slip, or is it a trend and a sign that maybe she does not have all the answers?

A lot of people are awaiting to see how she does tonight. We lead off this morning, though, with a CNN terror watch. A scary report for flyers. An embarrassing one for airline security.

The government says investigators were able to sneak bombs past airport screeners, smuggling liquid explosives and detonators past checkpoints at 19, 19 different airports. Some of the things anyone can buy at your local hardware store. Our Homeland Security correspondent Jeanne Meserve is in our Washington bureau live for us this morning. Jeanne, to say this is troubling would be a real understatement.

JEANNE MESERVE, HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And the head of the TSA, Kip Hawley is going to be grilled about it today at the Congressional hearing. He's likely to say that the TSA is going to be deploying more effective screening machines at the nation's airports. He's also going to be talking probably about the constant testing TSA is doing of its screeners.

CNN was given exclusive access. A simulated bomb is put in a carry-on bag. That bag is then taken to a checkpoint and put through an extra machine, but, as you will see shortly, the screener misses the bomb in this instance. A trainer almost immediately shows the screener the mistake he's made.


TSA TESTER: What does this look like inside here?

TSA TESTER: Jumpin' out at you.

TSA TESTER: Exactly, so what do you have there?

TSA TESTER: We have an IED.

TSA TESTER: That's right. You just missed that one. (END VIDEO CLIP)

MESERVE: CNN did see two tests. And the other test, the screener did find the bomb component. By doing this 2,500 times a day at airports all over the country, the TSA believes it is improving screener performance. But, as you mentioned, John, GAO investigators did get past screeners with bomb components hidden in their carry-on bags and on their bodies earlier this year.

This GAO video shows you what some of these devices could do if the components were then assembled. GAO says they would do severe damage to an airplane. In the test at 19 airports, screeners sometimes just missed prohibited items. But in other cases, the screening machines and pat-down policies just were not good enough to find the components -- John?

ROBERTS: And even sometimes, Jeanne, in secondary screenings as they were patting down these investigators, they missed them too. Extraordinary report. Jeanne Meserve this morning for us from Washington. Jeanne, thanks.

Now let's go back to New York, and here's Kiran.

CHETRY: And also new this morning from the terror watch. A radical Islamic cleric who once applauded the September 11th attacks could be coming to the U.S. to face terror charges. British courts ruled this morning that Abu Hamza al-Masri can be extradited. He faces charges here of trying to set up terror training camps in Oregon back in 1999 and 2000. Hamza also wanted for plotting to kidnap 16 westerners in Yemen back in 1998. He is currently serving a 7-year sentence for trying to insight violence in the U.K.

Also, disturbing video this morning of a tasering that turned out to be deadly. This is in Canada. And a warning that some of the video you're about to hear and see is very graphic. It happened at Vancouver International Airport. It involved a distraught passenger from Poland. He did not speak any English.

Witnesses say he was confused, tired, throwing things at the arrival gate after his first plane ride ever, and then a 10-hour wait at baggage claim. He was supposed to meet up with his mother, but they never found each other. Later when he tried to walk away, police zapped him with 50,000 volts.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get down! Get down!


CHETRY: The Mounties first said they put up a fight, but then the video came out, it was clear that he was trying to walk away, at least from the part we saw. They say, though, that doesn't tell the whole story.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CPL. DALE CARR, ROYAL CANADIAN MOUNTED POLICE: It's only one piece of evidence, and it's one person's view. It's through the view finder of one individual.


CHETRY: His mother is very upset about the situation saying that her son died for nothing.


ZOFIA CISOWSKI, TASER VICTIM'S MOTHER: That away from taser. They should do something because that is killer.


CHETRY: There are now several investigations planned by the coroner and police and that could take months.

ROBERTS: The House has approved another war funding bill that appears to be heading nowhere fast. Democratic leaders narrowly passed a $50 billion emergency war funding bill last night. President Bush had asked for $200 billion to fund the war.

The bill also calls for the President to withdraw all combat troops from Iraq by next December. Republicans fought bitterly against the timetable in the bill, and it's got little chance of passing the Senate and getting to the President's desk.

The longest serving Republican House speaker in history is expected to announce his retirement today. GOP sources say Congressman Dennis Hastert will make his last speech on the House floor. His early departure will mean a special election in his Illinois district, which he has represented now for 11 terms. Hastert stepped down as speaker when Democrats took control of Congress last year. He replaced Newt Gingrich back in 1999.

Can Broadway be saved just in time for the busy holiday season? Producers and striking stagehands are scheduled to go back to the bargaining table this weekend. Thanksgiving weekend is one of the busiest times for business on Broadway when thousands of tourists pour into New York City for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade -- Kiran?

CHETRY: Well, a stormy night across the south, and the storm front is on the move. Reynolds Wolf in more Rob Marciano at the weather update desk. Too bad you didn't get a little bit more rain from that system. At least in Atlanta, Reynolds.

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Oh, you're absolutely right. I mean, it's so frustrating for us because we have been so eager for the rain to come through, and we're very optimistic. We did get some rain. We're happy about that. We just could have used quite a bit more, to say the least.

Let's show you how it stands right now. As you go right to the weather computer, you're going to see this frontal boundary. It stretches nearly 1,000 miles from just east of the Great Lakes clear down to the Gulf of Mexico. And as we zoom that on parts of the southeast, the rain now moving off. The front leaving Atlanta in its wake, and now the rain is moving back towards Savannah and closer to the Atlantic Ocean, and even one part of it towards the Gulf of Mexico and Northern Florida.

So how much did we get? Well, in some parts of the south, namely Nashville, we had over three inches of rainfall. Nearly an inch and a half in Chattanooga. Montgomery, Alabama. Not too bad. But in Atlanta out of the airport, where we really truly need it, just over a tenth of an inch of rainfall.

I mention these frontal boundaries are very long one, nearly 1,000 miles. On the top half of the system, it is moving through parts of the Northeast from Burlington, Vermont. The high elevation, you could be seeing some snow. Back in New York before the day is over, look for some scattered showers. Let's send it become to you, Kiran.

CHETRY: Thanks a lot, Reynold.

WOLF: You bet.

CHETRY: Well, she collapsed on live television. Her father passed away, and now Marie Osmond said she's facing her most difficult crisis yet. Last night on CNN's "LARRY KING LIVE," Osmond confirmed that her 16-year-old son, Michael, checked into rehab last week.


MARIE OSMOND, ENTERTAINER: Yes, my son was put into a rehab. It's really hard, but it's a reality, Larry. Seventy percent, like you said, of kids under age 18 are dealing with this. It's affecting every single family in our country.

My son is amazing. He is dealing with a lot. He is one of my kids. He is dealing with adoption issues, all kinds of things right now.


M. OSMOND: Yes, I think he was. He is the most amazing kid, and --

KING: How are you dealing with it?


KING: Yes, but --

M. OSMOND: It's been a hard week.


CHETRY: Yes. That's Marie Osmond getting visibly upset at that. Michael is one of Marie's eight children, and she says in spite of everything she's going through, she does plan to take on "Dancing with the Stars."

We have a health alert for you this morning. The Food and Drug Administration stepping up its warning against the diabetes drug Avandia and its potential risk to the heart.

CNN's chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins us now. This is one when we really need you the most because they talk about warnings, but it's not being pulled. And so a lot of people who are on it are saying what do I do, doc?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it is confusing, and it keeps me in play, as you pointed out as well. But just to give you a sense of how much deliberation there was in this drug, the FDA themselves actually voted 8 to 7 to keep the drug on the market. One vote the other way, and this drug would be gone.

So, obviously, it's not overwhelmingly in one direction or the other. Regarding Avandia, let me try to put a little bit of context, the way that I understood this. There's a lot of studies on this diabetes drug.

In May, there were studies that came out and said they could increase your risk of a heart attack. A few weeks later, there were studies that came out and said just the opposite. Then there were a third set of studies that came back again and said, yes, it does increase your risk of heart attack.

So what -- after deliberation, obviously, very tough deliberation, the FDA decided to do was sort of up the ante on their existing black box warning, which is the most severe warning that you can put on a medication saying this drug may increase the risk of heart attack, gave some details about the studies, and says this is obviously something you need to talk to your doctor about.

If you are someone who's at risk in particular of having heart attacks, which a lot of diabetics are...

CHETRY: Right.

GUPTA: Then you have to be very careful about this medication. We talked to the makers of the medication, GSK, they say that Avandia remains a safe and effective medicine for most patients, and that's sort of the bottom line here.

I'll say that what was interesting, the Canadian health system, who's also been evaluating this release -- their own statement about this saying it should only be used if other oral medications for diabetes don't seem to be beneficial.

CHETRY: Yes, that's what I was going to ask you. Does it do anything that's just so different and so much better than some of the other because there's a lot of diabetes drugs on the market?

GUPTA: What typically happens on a lot of patients who are diabetics is some medications seem to work better than others, and we don't know exactly who or why those medications are going to work. But that Forman (ph), for example, is another medication that works very well. Canadian Health System says try medications like that.

If they're not working, if they're not substantially controlling your blood sugar, then you may try Avandia, but you got to be watched closely for the risk of heart attack.

CHETRY: All right. Well, if you're on -- taking Avandia right now, definitely check with your doctor after this news.

GUPTA: Yes, and they say it will be 2014 until they get the definitive data. That's six years away. Long time to wait, but they're working on it.

CHETRY: All right. Sanjay, thanks. We'll check in with you in a couple of minutes.

GUPTA: All right. Thanks.


ROBERTS: What goes up must come down. Your "Quick Hits" now. California, Florida, and right here in Nevada -- all once the hottest real estate markets in the country, now hotbeds for foreclosure. How they went from boom to bust and why it affects you no matter where you live. Our Gerri Willis joins us in the next hour of AMERICAN MORNING to talk more about that.

A new study says complaints about airlines are coming in too fast for the Department of Transportation to handle. The DOT has gotten more than 8,000 consumer complaints through September of this year. That is up 70 percent from last year, but only 25 of those cases have been settled.

You pay at the pump while oil companies rake in the dough. Does that seem fair? Send in your questions to, and we'll ask them. The president of Shell Oil, that's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


ROBERTS: Coming up now to 14 minutes past the hour. Oil for food scandal fallout. Your "Quick Hits" now. Chevron has agreed to pay $30 million to settle allegations it had both oil from Iraqi companies paying illegal bribes to Saddam Hussein. The investigation did not say Chevron made any direct kickbacks to Saddam now.

Venezuela President Hugo Chavez calling on OPEC members to give deep discounts to the poorest countries. They could pay just $20 a barrel instead of prices in the current 90 plus range. Chavez said it's not ethical to charge the U.S. and Haiti the same price. His critics are accusing him, though, of trying to buy political influence with his nation's oil wealth.

Gas prices could approach an all-time high as you set your holiday budget. Triple-A says they rose about a half a cent overnight to $3.11 a gallon. Could get closer to May's record of $3.22, as they catch up with oil prices -- Kiran? CHETRY: That's right. Well, big oil posting huge profits while the average American paying more than $3 a gallon at the pump, so the president of Shell Oil set out on a 50-city tour to face the public, many of whom ask him, why can't you cut us a break? So we're asking your questions today.

John Hofmeister, the president of Shell Oil joins us this morning. Thanks for being with us.


CHETRY: So, you know, you're pretty brave that you decided to do this since, you know, you were heading out on tour. You didn't just get hate mail, but you actually received a death threat at one point.

HOFMEISTER: Well, you could call it that. It was a picture of me hanging from a high branch of a tall tree.

CHETRY: So you felt like, you know, people are very fed up and people are very upset about the price of oil. And so, you set out to explain to them what more about why we're seeing this rise in oil?

HOFMEISTER: Well, it was more to listen. Listen to Americans about their issues, their concerns, to see what could we possibly do about it. And I'll tell you, I've come away with a very strong conclusion. And that conclusion is, it's time for Americans to agitate their government to open up more oil and gas resources in this country.

We are slipping in our production of oil and gas in this country year over year. We are prohibited from 85 percent of the outer continental shelf. Most Americans don't know.

CHETRY: What you're saying is you can only do off shore drilling in about 15 percent?

HOFMEISTER: Fifteen percent. That's it. So we're pulling on exports from around the world into this country. We have billions and billions of barrels of oil that we can't touch in this country by public policy. It's time to tell our politicians, let's get more oil and gas in the short-term so we can work on alternative energies over the longer term.

CHETRY: Here's what gets people fired up, though. We have -- we hear these profits reports. You had worldwide profits rise 16 percent last quarter. Net profits at nearly $7 billion. Yet, people are paying 90 cents more per gallon of gas than they were last year. So a lot of people are saying, why are the profits so high if we're seeing this drop in oil production in the last quarter?

HOFMEISTER: The profits are very high because the crude oil price is so high. Most of our profitability comes from what we call the upstream business, so we're producing oil from old fields that have been produced for years and years. That cost of getting that oil out of the ground is very low. Probably single digits or low double digits. And yet, the high price of oil comes through to the bottom line.

The good news about those profits is it enables us to invest in more resources in the future. So, for example, last quarter we also announced putting a big addition on a joint venture refinery we have in Port Arthur, Texas. That's going to cost $7 billion to build that refinery. So it's expensive to add on to additional production, but we must do it.

CHETRY: We have a couple of e-mailers. Bernadette from Leesburg Florida says, why can't big oil companies take much less in profits and pass the savings on to the consumer? And this is really a theme that we've gotten from a lot of our e-mailers.

HOFMEISTER: And it's a theme I've gotten from 50 cities across the United States. Why can't we cut our profits? Our profits are average profits for American industry. It's about 7.5 percent net to sales. That's not a big number compared to banks or other financial institutions, compared to pharmaceuticals, which have a much higher profitability. But our numbers are big because our volumes are so big.

And so the point is that to invest in new oilfields, we need our profits to pay for the costs of additional production, whether it's in this country or whether it's somewhere else in the world. And that new production is coming from more expensive fields and more expensive technologies.

CHETRY: Let's get --

HOFMEISTER: So the profits are going back into the business.

CHETRY: All right. Let's get one more. Andrew wrote to us. Why gas prices go up with the oil when oil goes up, but we don't see it go down a penny when oil falls a few dollars?

HOFMEISTER: There's different things that happen on the street level when it comes to retail prices. Retail prices really do come from the demand on the street. The crude price is about half the cost, but, of course, cost and price are very different things.

So with the crude oil being high, that puts a big cost out there, but it's the demand on the street, the local cities, so today in the U.S. there's prices up around $3.40. There's prices around $2.80 for the same gallon of regular in different parts of the country. That's a reflection of different demand levels in different parts of the country.

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: But you guys are also in the refining business and the distribution business, so you are getting it on that end. We simply don't have enough gasoline in this country to keep up with demand. So even if the government allows you to drill off shore like you've asked for, you're not building enough refining capacity to actually give us the gasoline we need. Why no plans on the books for real extra refineries in this country?

HOFMEISTER: Yes. Through the 1990s, we actually had excess capacity, so we didn't invest. There were too many refineries, and that's why the oil price or the gas price was so low during the 1990s.

As we come into the decade, we have been looking at increasing volumes. In fact, in Shell we've increased by about a third across the nation over the course of the last decade. So we've been adding on to existing refineries. This new announcement for Port Arthur, Texas, is a very big deal. This is 325,000 new barrels a day when that new refinery is up and running.

CHETRY: Just yes or no really quickly because we've got to go. Should people start looking at ways to cut their usage, buying smart cars, buying hybrids, trying to use less?

HOFMEISTER: Well, everything that we can do to conserve helps in the short-term. Over the longer term, we need more energy. The economy grows. We need more energy. People like their lifestyle. They want to drive. We want to help them drive.

CHETRY: All right. John Hofmeister, president of Shell Oil company, thanks for answering our questions this morning.

HOFMEISTER: Thank you.


ROBERTS: Your "Quick Hits" now. Mexico's president, Felipe Calderon, blasting the United States for what he calls the "growing harassment of Mexicans in the United States."

Speaking at a conference yesterday in Mexico City, Calderon claimed Mexicans are being used as symbolic hostages on the hot button immigration issue. Calderon has been a frequent critic of U.S. immigration policy.

U.N. officials say a joint peacekeeping force will not be ready to take over in Darfur as planned at the start of the year. They blame Sudan for resisting contributions from outside of Africa and blame U.N. member countries for failing to offer helicopters and other critically needed equipment. More than 200,000 people have died in Darfur since 2003.

She is the odds-on favorite here, but how will Hillary Clinton fair in tonight's big debate in Las Vegas? We're already getting a preview of what to expect. Our John King is going to join us with a look ahead. That's later on AMERICAN MORNING.


CHETRY: Twenty-four minutes after the hour. Now, back live in Las Vegas at the scene of our Democratic debate tonight here on CNN, starts at 8:00 Eastern time.

This is going to be a very important debate and one anxiously anticipated because you remember at the last debate in Philadelphia, Hillary Clinton stumbled a bit when trying to answer a question about whether or not she supported driver's licenses for illegal immigrants. She was asked about New York Governor Eliot Spitzer's plan. Her Democratic opponents accused her of waffling, not giving a straight answer, trying to calculate her answer so that it wouldn't alienate any one particular element of the party. It would preserve her chances in the general election. She admitted to our Candy Crowley that it wasn't her best night.

So a lot of people will be looking at tonight's debate wondering if she can regroup from that or she just momentarily not back on her heels. Or is this a sign of a crack in the famous Clinton armor?

Join Campbell Brown, Wolf Blitzer and myself for the Democratic presidential debate live from Las Vegas tonight. All begins at 8:00 Eastern.

Now, this is one I'm really looking forward to, Kiran. This could be one that could mark a turning point one way or the other in this campaign.

CHETRY: It will be very interesting, and we'll all be watching, of course, John, as you and Campbell ask those questions and Wolf moderates tonight.

Meantime, the talk of New York, at least. Alex Rodriguez and the New York Yankees. Maybe they're getting become together. A-Rod, as you remember, opted out of his contract. It was for a huge amount of money. The Yankees said, you know what, if he did that, they don't even want to negotiate with him. But it seems that the open market wasn't so kind, so A-Rod is now back talking with the Yankees.

The two sides reportedly close to agreeing on a 10-year $270 million deal. A-Rod's agent Scott Boras who initially was asking for $350 million has not been part of the negotiations.

A new discovery may help researchers link humans to apes? Well, a 10 million-year-old jaw bone was discovered in Kenya, and it's believed to come from a new species of giant ape, which could be a common ancestor of gorillas, chimpanzees, as well as humans.

ROBERTS: Wow. Fascinating stuff.

A look now at a story coming up in the next half hour that you can't miss. There's still wine and cheese, but more and more women are ditching Tupperware parties for -- get this -- taser parties.

CHETRY: Yes. We could hardly believe it ourselves when we did the story couple of days ago. We're going to speak to the woman who says that tasers really are a must for a modern woman, for security, to protect themselves. She holds these parties because she says, you know, at least in the states that they're legal, she wants to make sure people know how to use them correctly if they end up in an emergency.

We're going to talk to her. We'll have that story and the day's headlines when AMERICAN MORNING comes right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ROBERTS: Shot this morning. Philadelphia -- looking a little cloudy. Well, not so wonderful this morning, 61 degrees. Expecting some rain today. Unlike we have here in Las Vegas, where it's going to be 77 degrees and not a cloud in the sky. That's really unusual for Las Vegas, isn't it?

Thursday, November 15th, I'm John Roberts in Las Vegas. Good morning to you. Thanks for joining us on this AMERICAN MORNING.

CHETRY: It's good to see you, John. I'm Kiran Chetry. Las Vegas certainly seems to be the place to be, of course, with the Democratic debate coming up tonight, 8:00 p.m. We're certainly looking forward to it.

ROBERTS: Oh, yes. It's going to be a terrific time, Kiran. A lot of people really anticipating tonight's debate because they want to see if Hillary Clinton will do a little better than she did in the last one.

CHETRY: All right. The polls are showing she's doing all right so far. We'll check it out. John, thanks.

Meanwhile, new this morning. Police in the Philippines say they've killed three suspected militants, arrested three others during a raid. Police say they also found that it's linking the militants to a bombing earlier this week inside of the Philippine House of Representatives that killed two people.

A case of friendly fire now being investigated by the U.S. military in Iraq. A Sunni Sheik says that U.S. troops opened fire on his followers who were helping to rid the Baghdad area of Al Qaeda. The military confirmed that it did kill 24 fighters there. Officials say troops came under fire, called in air strikes, but they're still gathering details.

Some extreme weather moving across the south Lexington, Kentucky, still trying to recover from a major storm. Hard rain and high winds pounded the area. Residents reporting what looked like a funnel cloud. At least six homes were damaged by the storm. No injuries reported. Keep in mind this area has been dealing with drought conditions as well for months.

Well, wind also a problem in Kimball, Tennessee. This was also part of that same storm system. Several homes damaged. Trees knocked down. Once again, witnesses reported seeing a tornado in the area.

Also, drought conditions once again on the minds of people in Atlanta as heavy rain finally made an appearance there. Rain triggered by a cold front blowing through the area and still going on in some places this morning. All told, though, Atlanta got just over one-tenth of an inch. They needed much more. Atlanta's been dangerously dry for so long that Governor Sunny Perdue led a prayer vigil for rain two nights ago. John.

ROBERTS: Well, we're live in Las Vegas this morning, Kiran, ahead of tonight's big democratic debate on CNN. Senator Hillary Clinton will walk up to the podium as the frontrunner, but how much house money does she still have left? Our chief national correspondent John King joins us now. All eyes are going to be on Hillary Clinton tonight, John, wondering if what happened in Philadelphia was just a momentary setback or if this is an indication of a campaign that has been knocked become on its heels.

JOHN KING, CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's the first time she's been back on her heels, John, on this whole campaign. She herself says it was not her best performance. Her rivals see ways to get her on policy issues, immigration chief among them. Look for big sparks on tonight especially since her evolution yesterday on this whole idea of driver's license for illegal immigrants. They also say she's calculating. She's poll tested. She's too cautious. The big thing they want to say to democratic voters is do you really think she can win in November? Now, they're trying to make her vulnerable after a campaign in which she has been anything but vulnerable.

ROBERTS: You mentioned an evolution on this issue of driver's licenses for illegal immigrants. Chris Dodds campaign spokesperson yesterday said that this is flip-flopping cube. She was for it, before she was against it, before she was for it, before she was against it. Hillary Clinton, her campaign admits that maybe she wasn't adequately prepared for the last time and they're making darn sure that this time she is.

KING: She took a few days off the trail. When the candidates' public schedule says no public schedule that tells you something. It's usually private fundraisers or private preparations. She did some debate prep time. She needs to get the answer on immigration and other issues right. She needs to be more assertive tonight. (inaudible) on immigration though, she will say now she thinks she now as president she would not support giving driver's licenses to illegal immigrants. Some of the other democrats, Obama and Richardson among them disagree with her. They think illegal immigrants should get driver's licenses. It's a big policy dividing the democratic party.

ROBERTS: In New Mexico they do have driver's licenses for illegal immigrants, and Richardson supports that.

KING: And Republicans think that's an issue in which they can hammer the democrats.

ROBERTS: Do you expect that the boys, as Bill Clinton calls them, are going to come out swinging tonight?

KING: I do, because we are now closer and closer to Iowa. They believe she is back on her heels a little bit. The question is would any frontrunner, frontrunners always wobble a little bit. Can you knock her down? Can you get her off her game? That's why she took extra time to prepare because she has been near perfect in all but one debate. And so she will be in the spotlight tonight. The attacks will come.

ROBERTS: Somebody from Nevada making a little bit of news. Democratic leader in the senate Harry Reid on this issue of the war funding bill. He says President Bush is not going to get his money unless he signs on to this idea of time tables. Democrats time and time again, they attach these timetables to these funding bills and eventually they just end up giving the president what he wants. Why do they keep doing it?

KING: They're doing it because their own party demands it, and their own base is frustrated that almost a year now into the democratic-controlled congress, 11 months into it, they have not been able to do much to curtail the president again at all on Iraq. So, they're back at it again. They're trying to give him much less money. So, you have to get all the troops out by December 2008 and you have to start planning troop withdraws immediately. But guess what, it passed in the house with a very narrow majority. They do not, again, have the votes to override a veto. So, it's more of an issue than it is a policy right now. The democrats feel they need to do this. What's interesting is republicans will tell you while our polling shows opposition to the war, still at all-time highs. They don't sense the anger, especially among independents and their own republican voters, and republicans feel safer standing up to the democrats, and this stalemate will go on.

ROBERTS: Yes, the drop in violence recently in Iraq. It seems to have calmed things down at least on the republican side. John King, good to see you.

KING: Good to see you.

ROBERTS: Thanks. We'll see you tonight. Looking forward to it.

Don't forget, join the best political team on television for the democratic presidential debate. Live from Las Vegas. Campbell Brown, her CNN debut, on with Wolf Blitzer and me during the debate and then John King, Candy Crowley, Bill Schneider and everybody else. The best political team on television, coming up on Anderson Cooper 360 tonight following the debate for lots of post game analysis. Going to be a great evening here in Las Vegas. Kiran.

CHETRY: Be watching. Thanks a lot.

Warned about abortion in your "Quick Hits" now. The U.S. conference on Catholic Bishops meeting in Baltimore wrapping up a statement that catholic voters must always oppose abortion. The statement said that political choices may affect individual salvation. Catholics make up one-quarter of the electorate, but rarely vote as a block.

John McCain defending himself from critics who say that he should have defended Hillary Clinton. McCain instead laughed when a supporter called Clinton the "b" word at a campaign event afterwards. McCain said he wanted to make light of the comment, and his response was appropriate that he respects Senator Clinton, the Clinton campaign has yet to comment.

And forget Tupperware parties. How about taser parties? We're going to show you what it's all about and what women are learning about personal safety. Ahead on AMERICAN MORNING. Also, what can bring a former President Clinton to our own chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta? "One night only" was an event designed to help America fight fat and get fit. We're going to show you some highlights ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


CHETRY: Well, some hidden dangers and no brainers may be on this list of the 10 worst toys. Go Diego Go animal rescue boat is on top of the watch list. There's a picture of it. It's all according to a group called "world against toys causing harm." They say the bathtub boat from Fisher-Price may contain lead paint. Then there is sticky stones from Geocentral. This group saying that the magnetized stones, if swallowed, could stick together across the intestines causing serious infection and possibly even death. Also on the list Jack Sparrow's spinning dagger, a toy from the popular "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie. Again, this is part of this group. This is not the Consumer Product Safety Commission but a different group called "World against Toys causing harm." They put out a list like this every year before the holidays. 40 minutes past the hour. Reynolds Wolf keeping an eye on the weather for us. I know you guys had a little bit of rain in Atlanta, you need some more though.

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN, METEOROLOGIST: We really, really could. We just kind of like light scattered showers here and there in Atlanta. We had less than actually still one-tenth of an inch of rainfall. We need a lot more but unfortunately, that's not in the cards for us. This is the big weather maker, though, Kiran. It's a slow-moving frontal boundary that came right through Atlanta, dumped a little bit of rainfall. Heavy rainfall now moving through parts of south Georgia, northern Florida. As we follow the other end of this frontal boundary, it is moving into the northeast bringing some scattered showers to Burlington southward into places like Canaan even into and New York. You're going to see some showers as you make your way through the mid day hours and into the afternoon. But also, some cold air coming in. You may be dealing with some snowfall in the high elevations, in parts of Pennsylvania, back up into Vermont. Maybe even west Virginia before all is said and done.

Now what I want to do is I want to take you over to the other side of the planet where we're watching an immense storm. This is Sidr, tropical storm, tropical cyclone, if you will, which is right between a category four and category five hurricane at this point. Incredibly powerful with winds of perform 155 miles per hour. Some gusts up to 190 miles per hour. The storm is expected to make its way onshore as we get into Friday and into Saturday. Notice it will be weakening considerably, and just to the east of Kolkata and into Bangladesh, nearly three million people have already been evacuated from this part of the world. Certainly something we're going to watch for you. Kiran, let's send it back to you.

CHETRY: Reynolds, thanks so much.

Well, for some time Dr. Sanjay Gupta has been urging Americans to get off the couch and fight obesity as part of the "Fit Nation" tour. Last night, he was joined by a very special guest, former President Bill Clinton, for a very special "Fit Nation" summit, and Sanjay is here to tell us all about it. What an honor to get the former president to be interested enough in that he wanted to team up with you.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN, CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. You know, childhood obesity has been his biggest domestic post-presidency initiative, and he has actually joined us a couple of times talking about this very issue. We call this a solution summit, Kiran. You'll appreciate this as a journalist. So often we talk about issues, but rarely do we sort of get to take that second step and talk about solutions to some of the issues as well. He is very engaged on this topic, and last night, for about 75 minutes we came up with five solutions with this audience full of people who are thinking about this, who really decided that childhood obesity could shorten the life span of children so much so that they have a shorter life span than their parents. It's something that we can't ignore anymore. Some of the solutions they came up with, for example, seriously targeting school lunches, recognizing that sets a paradigm for a child's lifelong eating. Elimination of trans fats. You are doing that here in New York City already, but everyone seems to agree that this is something that needs to be eliminated. How you get there is a little bit more controversial. Bringing food to urban areas. Healthy foods to urban areas. People, especially we talked about, Kiran, some say it's easier to get a handgun in some cities than it is to get a fresh tomato. That's got to change. Alliance for a healthier generation. That's something the president is working on specifically looking at the fact that kids now develop life-long habits, and finally, there's a lot of grassroots projects. You know, he is a former president of the United states, obviously, so he thinks grand, but a lot of grassroots projects seem to make a difference. Whether it's painting mile markers in cities, buying bikes for an entire city so they ride around as opposed to driving. These things seem to make a difference.

CHETRY: You know, it's very interesting that you bring that up. I just read one article. I think it was either a principal or a superintendent who just cut out sugar in her school. She saw the kids' test scores rise, disciplinary problems go down, and their fitness go up. So, I mean, and that was just at the local level. She just said there's no sugar in our school.

GUPTA: Right and I think we're getting to the point now where people say this is important. You know, there's a lot of opposition to even eliminating trans fats, for example. People are saying, okay, we get it now. We used to cook everything in animal fat in this country, and people finally said that it is so bad for us. We just got to stop doing that, and the same thing is starting to happen with trans fats as well. The statistic that he says that alarms me as a parent and I think you as well, again, is that our kids right now have a good chance of having a shorter life span than us parents despite all the science advancements, despite all the technological advancements. This one problem, childhood obesity, could erase all that.

CHETRY: Scary, SCARY thought. Sanjay, thank you.

GUPTA: Thank you. CHETRY: If you have a question for Dr. Gupta, by the way, e-mail us. Today is the day. Go to Sanjay is going to be answering your questions today in our wonderful mail bag segment.

Tupperware is out. Tasers are in. What happens at a taser party? We'll find out next coming up on AMERICAN MORNING.


ROBERTS: Coming up now on 12 minutes to the top of the hour. Back live from Las Vegas. If you are just joining us, here's a look at what's making headlines this morning. O.J. Simpson is back home in south Florida this morning. Here's brand new video from our affiliate WSVN. Simpson arrived at the Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood, International Airport right around 5:00 this morning, Eastern time. A Las Vegas court ruled yesterday that Simpson will stand trial again. This time on kidnapping and armed robbery charges. It all stems from a reported attempt to recover stolen sports memorabilia. The kidnapping charge carries a life sentence in prison.

Explosives smuggled past airport security. A scary report by the feds coming out just a week before holiday travel begins. The government says investigators were able to sneak past checkpoints in 19 airports with liquid explosives and detonators. Some materials are available at any hardware store.

We're on a terror watch with a live report coming up for you at the top of the hour.

And be sure to tune in tonight for an America Vote Special. The democrats debate hosted by Wolf Blitzer live in Las Vegas. Miss Campbell Brown's CNN debut, and I'll also be here. It all kicks off at 8:00 p.m. Eastern. Kiran.

CHETRY: Thanks, John.

Well, can the next line of self-defense be found in this device? It's a taser. It's a pink one. One of many that are marketed for women. Our next guest has been hosting taser parties. Dana Shafman, the president of Shieldher incorporated, and she joins me from her home in Phoenix this morning. Dana, thanks for being with us.


CHETRY: We first had this story brought to our attention a few days ago, and, you know, the way that it was being written was forget Tupperware parties. Taser parties are the new thing. It's something that you think is quite important, actually. Why do you want to educate women about tasers and how to use them correctly?

SHAFMAN: Well, I just feel that, obviously, if we can heighten the awareness of women with regard to their personal safety and self- defense that they're less likely to become a target for someone that's looking to either assault them and/or rape them or do any of the above. CHETRY: You want to make sure that if they are going to be using these, they do it properly. You actually hold these parties where, what do you bring in a law enforcement officer and they sort of demonstrate how to properly use a taser if you find yourself in that situation?

SHAFMAN: That's correct, Kiran. We actually bring in an instructor with, that's been taser-certified so they can actually teach the proper manner in which to deploy the taser as well as safety that goes along with the taser.

CHETRY: And so you know how to do this yourself. Why don't you show us the proper way to handle and also use if you need to, a taser.

SHAFMAN: OK. Sure. Basically, it's a one-handed type device, so the proper way to handle it is basically to hold it close to you with a distance that is safe, about 15 feet or less. Basically you open the safety, and you go ahead and shoot.

CHETRY: All right. At that point we're hearing the clicks. How long do you have to hold it down before you get somebody away from you?

SHAFMAN: You actually -- it's immediate. As soon as you press the button, it goes continuously for 30 seconds at which point if you still feel like you are in danger, you can certainly hit it again up to 50 times.

CHETRY: Wow. Have you heard any stories where someone or a woman has had to use this and was able to protect herself or possibly save her life because she had one?

SHAFMAN: You know, I actually haven't heard anything. Because it's rather new on the market, I have yet to actually hear of somebody that's actually used it in protection of themselves, but I have a feeling as we continue to get it out in the hands of the public, that we'll start hearing more and more stories about how something has been averted because of the use of their taser.

CHETRY: You know, the Justice Department came out with a study last month that showed that tasers are generally considered safe and that most victims are not hurt at all. However, there have been cases, in fact, this morning ironically enough, we have a story about a man in Canada who was tasered by some Mounties in an airport. He ended up dying. How do you make sure that people are using this judiciously and they only really fear for their own safety and that they're doing it right?

SHAFMAN: Well, I generally preach this not as a weapon. I preach it as a vehicle for self-defense. So, basically when I sell the taser, I like people to use it as a deterrent so they don't actually encounter that situation. With regard to the lethalness of the unit, I have been tased myself, and I have not had any long-term effects from that, so without having proper knowledge of what that incident was in Canada, unfortunately, I can't speak to that, but I can tell you everyone that I have encountered that's been tased, there's been no long-term effects.

CHETRY: They're legal in your states. There are about ten states where they're not legal. I think we have them real quick - Hawaii, Massachusetts, Michigan, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Wisconsin and D.C. do not allow them. In other states, actually they do. And the model that you are selling is about $400, and as you say, it gives you peace of mind. You live alone, and you say that you know this is something that's helped you sleep better at night, right, Dana?

SHAFMAN: Absolutely. Can I tell you my quality of life has been increased because I live without the day to day fear of somebody assaulting me because I have taken the step to protect myself with my own device rather than counting or relying on some other entity to protect me.

CHETRY: Dana Shafman joining us. She's the president and owner of Shieldher. Thanks for being with us this morning.

SHAFMAN: Appreciate it, Kiran. Have a great day.

CHETRY: You too. John.

ROBERTS: Coming up to seven minutes to the top of the hour now. Eight minutes to the top of the hour, rather. A personal crisis for Marie Osmond tops your "Quick Hits." She confirmed on CNN's "Larry King Live" last night that her 16-year-old son Michael checked into rehab last week. She wouldn't say why. Only that she was proud of her son. Osmond is also mourning the loss of her father, the family patriarch, George Osmond. He died last week at the age of 90.

A new tribute to the crocodile hunter. A life size statue of Steve Irwin and his family is being unveiled this morning at the Australian National Zoo. Irwin was killed last September in a freak accident when he was stabbed by a sting ray while diving with them off the Great Barrier Reef. Today is the first ever National Steve Irwin Day.

Security scare right before a busy travel weekend. How the fed snuck bonds though the airport. That ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


CHETRY: Three minutes past the hour. Ali Velshi is "Minding your business". He is breaking down this banking troubles, the mortgage troubles. Talking about what a right down is.

ALI VELSHI, CNN "MINDING YOUR BUSINESS": You know, we had another couple of them this morning. One from UBS and one from Barclays, something totaling $5 billion or $6 billion. My producer and I are looking at each other saying we can't just announce two more banks that have write downs. When people are looking at me saying what is a write down. Most of you don't have write downs in your life, so you don't know what we're talking about. So, I want to tell you what a write down is. I'm giving you an example that will relate to you. Take a look at this, you got a house. It's worth a quarter million dollars, right. You buy it in 2006 for a quarter of a million dollars. The housing market is going down. You have lost 10% on your house. It's now worth $225,000. You are not selling it. It's not going anywhere. It's an asset. You are thinking that your house is worth $225,000. That would be a write down. It's not going anywhere. It's not money that you have actually paid out. It's a change in the value. That's exactly right. A write-down is a change in the value of what you got. So, the banks are saying because of these bad mortgages and these loans that they've bought from mortgage companies, the change in the value of their assets has gone down. Now, just to give you a sense of it, we've had about $30 billion in write-downs in this quarter that we're in right now. One estimate from Citigroup, which, by the way, had such a big write-down and I'm not sure why we believe their numbers, but the one estimate from Citigroup says it will be about $64 billion. That's what we're talking about. These banks saying we thought we had assets that were worth x, and now they're worth this. That's what a write-down is. Different from a write-off. If your house is destroyed by a fire, your car is totaled, that's a write-off. That means that asset is gone and it's written off and there's no chance it's ever coming back. A write-down is a reduction in the value of your assets. So, that's now that I can go back tomorrow to telling you about banks.

CHETY: Well, and the reason why is every time we hear this news about a write-down here, a write-down there, it's affecting the market.

VELSHI: Sure, it is because we investors, when you invest in a company, you invest based on the value of its assets and its business and its cash flow. When all of a sudden that comes down a big chunk, you look at your stock and say I'm not sure I want to pay that much for this company, and people start selling. So, that's part of it. That's separate and apart.

CHETRY: You have a write-down in your portfolio too, 401k.

VELSHI: In many ways, that's exactly what happens. So, the write-down at the bank actually does trickle down to you exactly that same way.

CHETRY: How are futures looking today?

VELSHI: Futures are mixed. They're down a little bit, but, again, it's, you know, we have inflation numbers coming out in half hour. So that could change things a little bit, and if they're anything newsworthy, I'll let you know.

CHETRY: Thanks, Ali. We'll check in with you in the next hour as well. The next hour of AMERICAN MORNING starts right now.

Bombshell report, airport security under fire. Screeners missing bomb parts packed into carry on bags. Toxic holiday, a consumer warning before you trim the tree or hang the wreath, why are they selling decorations with lead? Plus from boom to bust.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It has pushed the entire economy under. CHETRY: A live look at ground zero in the mortgage crisis. We're live from Las Vegas where the democrats are putting it on the line on this AMERICAN MORNING. A beautiful shot this morning from Las Vegas. It is Thursday, it's November 15th. It's also John's birthday, by the way. So, happy birthday.

ROBERTS: Hey, thanks.