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American Morning

Kristen Revealed: Friends Speak Out; Foreclosures Up; Florida Solution: New Vote Plan Proposal; Aspirin and Asthma: Small Dose Cuts Risk; Call Girl Activities Revealed

Aired March 13, 2008 - 07:00   ET


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Meet Kristen, the woman who allegedly cost a governor $4,000 and his political career.

GOV. ELIOT SPITZER (D), NEW YORK: I am resigning from the office of governor.


CHETRY: New this morning. What her friends knew, brand new pictures and her troubled past.

Race -- back in the race.


SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I certainly do regret deeply that, you know, it was said.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We keep on thinking we've dispelled this. It keeps on getting raised once again.


CHETRY: The "Most Politics in the Morning" on this AMERICAN MORNING.

And welcome. Thanks for joining us this morning. I'm here in New York. John is -- the day after a pretty exciting dinner last night, hanging out in D.C. this morning.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. Got to have dinner last night with Bill Gates and Colin Powell talking about issues that they want to see talked about in this election season. We'll chat more about that coming up.

But we begin right now with breaking news out of North Carolina. Police arresting a second suspect overnight in the murder of UNC student Eve Carson. They say that they received an anonymous tip that 17-year-old Lawrence Lovett was hiding out in a house in Durham. They say that Lovett was the person driving the car in the ATM surveillance photos that were released last week. There's a shot of a man believed to be Lovett there in the front of that car using the ATM machine. A SWAT team surrounded the house that he was holed up in around 4:00 a.m. Apparently, Lovett put up no resistance when he was arrested. The other suspect, 21-year-old Demario Atwater, was arrested yesterday and charged with first-degree murder. Police now say they believe he was in the back seat. There's sort of a shadowy figure in the back seat of the car in that ATM photo. Atwater is being held without bond. Carson, the popular 22-year-old University of North Carolina student body president, was shot to death about a mile from campus a week ago -- Kiran.

CHETRY: Well, this morning, we're also learning more about the woman at the heart of the scandal that ended the political career of New York Governor Eliot Spitzer. "The New York Times" broke the story and said that Spitzer hired this prostitute on February 13th.

Well, "The Times" says she's an escort known as Kristen, and there is her MySpace page. Her birth name Ashley Youmans. She goes by the name Ashley Dupre, 22 years old, an aspiring singer from New Jersey who lives in New York. Dupre told a reporter from "The Times," "I just don't want to be thought of as a monster. This has been a very difficult time. It is complicated." "The Times" says Dupre has appeared in federal court but has not been charged with any crime.

Meantime, two of Ashley Dupre's friends joined us earlier on AMERICAN MORNING. Freddy Sagastume and Rob Cummings say that were trying to break into the business together and had no idea about her other alleged career.


FREDDY SAGASTUME, FRIEND OF ASHLEY DUPRE: I was surprise, you know. It's like somebody you view like a little sister, you know. Still do. And, you know, you just want to make sure that she's all right.


CHETRY: Right now, we bring in CNN's Jason Carroll, who has been following these fast moving developments. You know, of course, a huge bombshell when this story first broke.


CHETRY: And then yesterday, when the information about exactly who this person was broke as well. A lot of questions.

CARROLL: Yes. And just another embarrassing development for Governor Eliot Spitzer. Spitzer resigned yesterday after a federal affidavit revealed details surrounding his $4,300 encounter with that prostitute named Kristen. "The New York Times" says that prostitute's real name is Ashley Dupre, a 22-year-old aspiring musician, originally from New Jersey. She is a young woman with a troubled past. On her MySpace page, she talks about being homeless and being the victim of abuse.

Sources say Spitzer started using the escort service she allegedly works for eight months ago. Federal agents had him under surveillance twice this year. Spitzer spent less than three minutes at the podium yesterday. He apologized to his family and to the public.


GOV. ELIOT SPITZER (D), NEW YORK: To every New Yorker and to all those who believed in what I tried to stand for, I sincerely apologize. I look at my time as governor with a sense of what might have been. But I also know that as a public servant, I and the remarkable people with whom I worked have accomplished a great deal. There is much more to be done, and I cannot allow my private failings to disrupt the people's work.


CARROLL: Spitzer's resignation becomes official on Monday. That's when Lieutenant Governor David Paterson will be sworn in as New York's new governor. As for Alexandra Dupre, her attorney isn't saying much. He would not even confirm "The New York Times" report that Dupre is in fact Kristen.

CHETRY: All right. Jason Carroll following the latest for us this morning. Thank you.

ROBERTS: Now to presidential politics this morning, Kiran. Geraldine Ferraro remains defiant and Hillary Clinton is keeping her distance. Ferraro resigned her position as a Clinton fund-raiser yesterday. She has been under fire for saying race is the reason that Barack Obama is ahead in the presidential contest.

Our Suzanne Malveaux is following the democratic drama. She's been following the Hillary Clinton campaign. So, how much damage has this done to the campaign and sort of, you know, where does Ferraro stand now with it, and what does Hillary Clinton have to do to kind of clean up the mess?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, John, it certainly was a distraction over the last 48 hours for both of the campaigns, but specifically for Hillary Clinton. It was a big problem for her. I spoke with Geraldine Ferraro yesterday on the phone. We had a conversation. And she said she has no regrets. She has no apologies about the comments she made. She says, I am who I am, and I'm going to speak up and I'm going to speak out. But obviously, she realized she created a problem for Hillary Clinton.

ROBERTS: Remind our viewers of exactly what it was that she said...


ROBERTS: ... and why so inflammatory.

MALVEAUX: Well, what she said was, was that essentially Barack Obama was in the position that he was in because he was black. That if he was a white man or white woman he would not have gotten to the point where he is. A lot of people found that very offensive inside the Obama campaign, outside of the Obama campaign. People inside of Clinton's own campaign found those offensive comments.

Geraldine Ferraro says, look, the Obama campaign was pushing this and they accuse me of being racist. They didn't actually say she was racist. They said it was offensive comments. They were very careful about that.

ROBERTS: She was there out to say that they were attacking me because I'm white.

MALVEAUX: Yes, she did say that. But she did also yesterday, distanced herself and said she realized what was happening here. It was too politically damaging. She sent a letter. I'm going to read in part.

She said, "Dear Hillary, I'm stepping down from your finance committee so I can speak for myself. You can continue to speak for yourself about what's at stake in this campaign. The Obama campaign is attacking me to hurt you. I won't let that happen."

ROBERTS: Hillary Clinton originally came under some criticism for not immediately repudiating her remarks. She said, she doesn't speak for me but it wasn't very much of a forceful denunciation. She since changed her position on this.

MALVEAUX: Well, I was at this event last night. It was the Black Press of America. Obviously, Hillary Clinton still trying to court the African-American vote, not giving up on it yet. Was issued essentially an apology and an explanation. Let's take a listen.


SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I rejected what she said, and I certainly do repudiate it. And regret deeply that, you know, it was said. Obviously, she doesn't speak for the campaign. She doesn't speak for any of my positions. And she has resigned from being a member of my very large finance committee.


MALVEAUX: She's not kidding when she says very large. We're talking about thousands of people who are part of this finance committee. If you raise money for her essentially you're part of the committee. There is some politics obviously that's going on here. Those comments were offensive to a lot of people. That was a sincere belief.

But also, you have to take into account it was last week Samantha Power. This is an adviser to Obama called Hillary Clinton a monster. There was a lot of pressure for her to step down. Ultimately, she did. And so, you did have the Obama campaign that was calling attention to this saying, look, what are you going to do here about Ferraro?

ROBERTS: Yes, it's just one side before the other. Just when these advisers just sort of step off the reservation a little bit, they get hit pretty hard from the other side.

Suzanne Malveaux, good to see you here in Washington for a change.

MALVEAUX: Good to see you, John.

ROBERTS: All right. Take care.

We're going to be talking with Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean, by the way, coming up 7:30 Eastern here on AMERICAN MORNING about this and, of course, the Florida and Michigan primaries. Will there be a redo? -- Kiran.

CHETRY: And exactly how will they pull it off if they do decide to do it? A lot of questions for Howard Dean this morning. We hope he answers them.

Also, Alina Cho here with some other stories new this morning for us. Hi, Alina.

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Kiran, good morning. Good morning, everybody. New this morning, the Pentagon has reportedly admitted filming interrogations of terror suspects. According to "The New York Times," a military review has turned up nearly 50 tapes so far. They cover the interrogations of two al-Qaeda suspects, convicted terrorist Jose Padilla, and Ali al-Marri, an accused enemy combatant.

According to "The Times," at least one of the tapes showed forcible gagging. Now, the Pentagon says there's nothing on the tapes that could be classified as torture. The CIA is under investigation for destroying tapes that showed terror suspects undergoing the controversial interrogation technique known as waterboarding, which stimulated drowning.

A new report out today says the FBI improperly gained access to telephone, e-mail and financial records of Americans. Now, the Justice Department report says the FBI used so-called national security letters to gain access to those records as part of terrorism investigations, but without a judge's approval. Officials familiar with the report say all of the lapses occurred before new rules were put into place last March.

Southwest Airlines says it expects normal operations today after having to pull jets from service and cancel some flights. Inspections found "ambiguity related to required testing." A CNN investigation revealed congressional documents that showed Southwest flew dozens of planes without mandatory safety checks.

Our Drew Griffin first broke this story. He's going to join us in our next half hour.

The link is complete. The space shuttle "Endeavour" has docked with the International Space Station. Before the linkup, the shuttle's commander guided the ship through a 360-degree back flip so the station crew could take some key pictures. Now, those photos will be examined for possible damage to the shuttle just after liftoff. During the 16-day mission in space, astronauts will install a giant new robot and a new science lab. They'll also do lots of floating there.

And it's just the preseason but apparently never too early for base brawl, get it? It happened between the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays. Shelley Duncan of the Yankees takes a hard slide into second with his spikes up. Ouch! Spiking the second baseman in the leg apparently got a cut there. Umpire ejects Duncan. But watch the right side of your screen. Jonny Gomes of the Rays comes in from the outfield and well, there you have it. Huge brawl, benches cleared.

But there's some back story to this, Kiran. There may be retribution. This may have been retribution rather. Last week, Elliott Johnson of Tampa Bay collided at home plate with Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli...


CHO: ... breaking his arm. At the time, Yankees manager, Joe Girardi, said the play was too aggressive for spring training. So a little tit for tat there.

Hope the Yankees don't get into another fight today. That's because actor and comedian Billy Crystal is going to be playing for them. He signed a one-day contract with the team. He suited up yesterday to practice with the Yankees. What a thrill for him, huh? So he's going to play in today's exhibition game against the Pittsburgh Pirates. He's going to wear number 60 since the game is one day before his 60th birthday.

CHETRY: It's pretty cool. How can anyone do that, or you have to be special?

CHO: I think you got to be Billy Crystal.

CHETRY: All right.

CHO: Well, he's a big Yankee fan, you know.

CHETRY: Of course.

CHO: And he's in the stands a lot.

CHETRY: Here he is warming up.


CHO: That's pretty cool.

CHETRY: I think he's warming up with Derek Jeter.

CHO: Yes.

CHETRY: Once in a lifetime.

CHO: I'd like to warm up.

CHETRY: Exactly. Please, can we walk on, coach? Put us in. Too rough for us, Alina, with all the spiking and hard slides.

CHO: Absolutely. We've got to stay right here. What a deal?

CHETRY: Thanks.

CHO: You bet.


ROBERTS: Let's hope that Billy Crystal keeps his feet on the ground tonight, too.

The benefits of taking aspirin. A new study says it does more than just help heart patients. Our Dr. Gupta tells us what else the tiny tablet may prevent.

Plus, we're learning more about this morning about the call girl at the center of the Eliot Spitzer scandal. Who is she? And what do prosecutors want to know from her. That's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


ROBERTS: Fifteen minutes now after the hour. Rob Marciano at the weather update desk for us this morning tracking the extreme weather. And if you feel like you'll need some more snow and you live in the Great Lakes region, today is your day. Good morning, Rob.

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: The whole season is your season. Good morning again, John. We have a serious amounts of snow across the western Great Lakes and it continues to pile up today. Record breakers in some spots including many spots of Wisconsin. The extreme northeast corner getting it today as well as the upper end of Michigan. And the U.P. of Michigan, we're also seeing a little bit of action.

Detroit and through Cleveland, you might see a little bit of a mix sliding back. This is a quick mover much like the Alberta clipper that moved through the northeast yesterday. This will scoot by quickly to the north as well. Green Bay, Wisconsin -- hello -- 80 inches of snow there. That is an all-time record since they've been keeping records, and more snow expected today. So you'll be digging out in there. As we head toward spring, certainly the potential for flood.

Rain in the valleys, mountain snow across the northwest corner of the U.S. as well as parts of the Sierra Nevada. Up around Lake Tahoe, those will start to see some snows with this and some wind as well. And this is going to encompass probably the western third of the country eventually getting into the Wasatch of Utah. Salt Lake City, you're going to see some wintry precipitation as well.

As this storm ejects into the plains, we'll see some strong north and northwesterly wind. Relative humidities are low. So a critical fire danger today for parts of New Mexico. And then, later on today and tonight, the potential for some severe weather across parts of the Midsouth. John, back up to you.

ROBERTS: All right. Rob, thanks very much. Let's hand it over to Kiran now.

CHETRY: Well, there are new numbers in to CNN this morning that show more bad news for the mortgage crisis. February foreclosures up 60 percent, and this is compared to February of 2007, up 60 percent since last year. According to Realty Track, a company which deals in foreclosed property, more than 223,000 homeowners filed for foreclosure last month alone.

Joining us to explain what all of this means and what you can do to avoid foreclosure is CNN's personal finance editor Gerri Willis. It's astounding when you hear that, 220,000 plus.


CHETRY: In one month.

WILLIS: Yes, 250,000 people. And then look like there was a ray of hope there, right? It was better than January, but the experts say that's just a seasonal effect. After the holidays, people typically get into more financial problems and they lose their homes.

Now, let's talk a little bit about what those numbers look like and what they mean. Let's look at high foreclosure states to start with. Nevada, at the top of the list here. No surprise. One in 165 homes in foreclosure there. California, one in 242. This is just big numbers. Every state on this list that you're seeing right here were states that had incredible housing price growth during the boom, really benefited.

I got to tell you, the take-away from the numbers we're talking about today, according to the folks that I'm talking to, is that the remedies that are coming out of the administration, out of states across the country, it's not working to solve the foreclosure crisis. We're still dealing with such big, big numbers here.

CHETRY: Yes. And what about some advice for people if they're feeling like they're teetering on the edge and they could be facing this soon? Is there anything they can do?

WILLIS: Well, the conventional solution has been to sell your house. That's the easy way to get out of it but it's tough now with what's going on in the markets. So you may want to find some other solutions. Typically a lot of people are asking for loan modifications. That's when you change your loan just a little bit. Maybe you're forgiven a couple of payments. Maybe they put the payments on the end of the terminal loan.

They change up your loan so that you can get a little breathing room, a little help. This can be tough to get. If you're contacting your lender, ask for the Loan Modification Department. That's how that works. But you got to take the imperative here and actually make the phone call.

Now, another thing you can do is what's called a short sale. That's when you find somebody out there who wants to buy your house but maybe they aren't willing to pay what you owe on it. Now, in some markets, some distressed markets, lenders out there are willing to take that money. They're going to say, OK, we'll close out the deal, we'll move. But, you know, we'll allow you to sell it and we will eat the loss. That's happening in some markets.

In really tough markets, Detroit, et cetera, deed in lieu of foreclosure. This is when you essentially mail our keys to the lender. You give up on everything, even the equity you have in your house. In both of those last two cases, you may or may not have to make up the difference between what you sold the house for and what you gave it up for and what it's actually worth. There's a big gap there that sometimes people have to repay, maybe take out another loan to make the bank hold. Sometimes the banks will forgive it.

CHETRY: It's tough. It seems like you're picking the least terrible option out of a lot of less than desirable option.


CHETRY: And it's also tough if you simply are out of work or you've been laid off. And it doesn't matter how much you restructure, you're still not making that payment, you know. So it's a really tough time.

WILLIS: That's absolutely true. But, you know, if you take the initiative and reach out for help, one other thing to do if you're in trouble today, contact the Department of Housing and Urban Development. They have a Web site, They have counselors who can walk you through the process I just described, and help you pick out the best solution for you. It's a great place to go for help.

CHETRY: All right. A lot of people need it. Gerri, thank you.

WILLIS: My pleasure.


ROBERTS: Florida's Democratic Party Chair is urging the presidential candidates to consider a combined vote by mail/in-person plan as a redo of the January 29th presidential primary. If approved, the new Election Day would be Tuesday, June the 3rd. But in this convoluted and controversial primary season, there's a new problem.

You see, the plan might be illegal. We talked with Florida election officials. They say that a mail-in vote is against state law. We're going to be talking with DNC Chairman Howard Dean about all of this coming up for you at the bottom of the hour.

And it brings us to this morning's "Quick Vote" question. What should Florida do about its delegate dilemma? Well, here's how it looks right now. Sixteen percent of you say there should be mail-in ballots. Thirty-six percent say hold another election, and 48 percent say a committee should decide at the convention. Cast your vote at We will continue to tally your votes throughout the morning.

Well, the hits just keep on coming for aspirin. A new study out says that it may prevent asthma in women. And we're paging our Dr. Sanjay Gupta. He's got more on this. Good morning to you, Sanjay.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: A finding that a lot of people didn't expect overall. Sorry, I have a little problem with my -- I have to be there.


GUPTA: A problem potentially that a lot of people didn't expect from aspirin, actually helping reduce asthma overall. There are a lot of benefits. You can add this one to the list as well. What exactly is going on here? Which women benefit, and how much they have to take? We have it for you coming up on AMERICAN MORNING. Stay with us.


ROBERTS: Twenty-four minutes after the hour. You have heard about aspirin's heart benefits. Now, new research suggests that small doses of aspirin can reduce the risk of women developing asthma at an older age. A study of 40,000 nurses aged 45 and older found that among those taking the aspirin, a 10 percent reduction in new asthma cases.

Our chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta is at the medical update desk. And Sanjay, this may seem surprising to many people because, don't most people develop asthma as a child?

GUPTA: They do. That is the typical age for them. They develop asthma, but there is something known as adult onset asthma, which is exactly what you might think it is. And it can be harder to treat in adults oftentimes than in children as well.

Now, this particular study that you're talking about actually looked at aspirin in women specifically, and found that irrespective of age, irrespective of whether a woman had gone through menopause, whether they were smokers, whether or not they exercised, is exactly what you said, John. They had a 10 percent reduction in overall new asthma cases. Now, the amount of aspirin we're talking about here is a baby aspirin every other day. So not huge doses of aspirin, either, to get this benefit.

And also, it's important to point out that this was used purely as prophylaxis, meaning in women who had not developed asthma, it reduced the number of new asthma cases. So it's not a good medication to take if you already have asthma. Sometimes it can actually worsen the situation if you do.

You know, asthma is a big problem. It continues to be a big problem, John, among kids and adults. About a quarter of all emergency room visits are due to some asthma related problems. About 5,000 people a year die of it still. So this is potentially some good news, John.

ROBERTS: So when we're looking at the potential benefits of aspirin in preventing asthma in older individuals, is there any kind of a difference in the effect between women and men?

GUPTA: Well, you know, it's interesting. There are differences in aspirin between women and men overall. This study looks specifically at women. There have been previous studies that looked at asthma in men and showed a benefit there as well. But, you know, we made a graphic, John, because this gets confusing.

I want to put this graphic up, if we can, for our viewers. And just take a look at this. Leave this up for a second because I want to talk about some of the other benefits of aspirin for just a minute.

Look at the overall women under 65 on the left, women 65 and older, and men of all ages. In terms of reducing heart disease, it works for all ages. Preventing first attacks, though, women under 65 don't seem to get a benefit, and for some reason there's a gender difference when it comes to stroke as well. Men don't seem to get any benefit in terms of warding off stroke from aspirin.

So people, take a look at that graphic. We get this question a lot, John. There's the answers as best as we could find them.

ROBERTS: All right. Sanjay Gupta for us this morning with new information about the benefits of aspirin from the bark of the lowly meadow tree (ph). Who ever knew, Sanjay, to be so beneficial?

GUPTA: There you go. Yes, wonder drug. Absolutely.

ROBERTS: All right. We'll see you again soon.

GUPTA: All right. Thanks.


CHETRY: Well, now, to the scandal swirling around New York Governor Eliot Spitzer. A prostitute alleged to have had this rendezvous with Spitzer has been identified now by "The New York Times" as Ashley Dupre. These are pictures from her MySpace page. And a lot of questions this morning about exactly who she is. There's some information also that prosecutors might want to get from her.

Ashleigh Banfield has been covering this story for truTV, and she joins me this morning. Great to see you.


CHETRY: So, yes, "The New York Times" yesterday came out with the news that this is a girl who was known as Kristen but it really this 22-year-old from New Jersey named Ashley Dupre. What is going on right now possibly behind closed doors as to whether or not she's going to face charges or cut a deal in this situation?

BANFIELD: Well, this is the proffer time, they like to call it. And basically, that's the offer of proof where the feds ask these girls -- and, by the way, there are many -- ask them to come in and tell me everything, don't leave anything out. Because if you leave something out, it will make your life more difficult. So essentially, this is sort of the investigative time.

Yes, they can hold things over these girls, depending on what they have in their life. Do they have drug charges? Do they have other issues of illegality? Prostitution, though, not a federal issue.

CHETRY: Right. So they're trying to basically get as much information, try to turn them witness in that situation.

BANFIELD: Pretty much.

CHETRY: And what is percolating about whether or not this is a one-time person or whether or not there's a big history here with prostitutes?

BANFIELD: Well, the hard thing is that these girls do not want to talk publicly. They're already under the microscope of the feds and are feeling the full weight of the government at this point. However, through their attorneys, we have learned that at least one of the other girls who had sex with Governor Spitzer, allegedly so, did so approximately a year ago, which would put him right in that window of inauguration, kind of an unpleasant thought.

And, also, that there are more. This is the rumor. Certainly not substantiated. But without question, these girls don't necessarily like to talk to one another. They don't like to talk to the press. And they sure don't like to talk to the cops. But under the duress, they don't have a whole lot of choice.

CHETRY: How do the prosecutors want to use that information if they do get other girls to come forward? Are they trying to bust Eliot Spitzer for being a John or does it go into the money transactions?

BANFIELD: Not necessarily. And not being in these conversations it's hard to say. But here is the deal. With regard to Spitzer's illegalities or alleged illegalities, it's not as though it's easy to say, hey, there's definite money laundering. You have to be working with dirty money for money laundering.

CHETRY: Right.

BANFIELD: And his money was clean. It might have gone into a dirty situation allegedly, but that's necessarily the case. And then that whole structuring issue, when you want to charge him with structuring, you and I both know you can't take $10,000 out without having some eyes upon you. And if you take incremental money out in smaller amounts, that can be considered structuring.

Well, let's just say the charge for the hookers was $4,000. You take $4,000 out. Your intent is to pay for the service, not to structure. So that could be very difficult as well. So actually, Kristen is already rumored to have signed or I'm not going to say rumored. She and her attorney offered this in front of a federal magistrate earlier this week, signed a financial affidavit, filled it out. So I'm assuming that since it's a finance affidavit, they want to know about payment.

CHETRY: Right.

BANFIELD: They want to go after the money trail. They don't --

CHETRY: Speaking of that, you mention this --

BANFIELD: Prostitution is not a federal thing, unfortunately in this case.

CHETRY: And, you know, there's talk of the Mann Act and...


CHETRY: ... transporting people and all of that. But get back to the money. When you talk about $4,000, you talk about the high price of this -- the people that were part of this escort service, it's not just because these are really pretty girls. It's for, of course, the discretion as well as which begs the question, who are these other eight clients cited in this one form that we had a chance to look at? Other high profile people, are we going to be hearing more about who these people may have been?

BANFIELD: Oh, my god, don't you want to know?

CHETRY: Of course.

BANFIELD: Wish I could say I'm here to tell you. But let me at least say that I think there are definitely eight other clients who are absolutely in a panic right now because yes they are paying for discretion. They're paying dearly for it. So, also, these services go right across the continent and overseas into Europe as well. So I think we're talking about some pretty high rollers here. "Kristen" has probably seen some pretty special people in her life. And I think without question, when this story broke in the paper over a week ago, I think Mr. Spitzer knew something was coming down the pike. I think others are probably very, very afraid that they'll be named as this investigation goes forward.

CHETRY: And that's the type of stuff these prosecutors want from people like "Kristen" and the others.

BANFIELD: And the weird thing is, they weren't after this in the first place. They were just after the money trail with regard to Mr. Spitzer and they sort of stumbled upon this whole sort of ugly situation. Imagine, the amount of work that's gone into this, 5,000 plus e-mails, 6,000 plus text messages and phone calls. I mean they really found a big cache of nastiness.

CHETRY: Stay tuned. We'll probably be hearing much more. Ashleigh Banfield of True-TV. Great to see you this morning. Thanks for coming.

BANFIELD: Congratulations on the baby, by the way.

CHETRY: Thank you. You, too. I mean she already has her two. John.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN, ANCHOR: You can never have enough.

Florida on the verge of unveiling its plan for a primary redo. But could efforts to count the vote actually break the law? As does the man in this frame look like he has a headache? Howard Dean straight ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


ROBERTS: Good morning and thanks very much for being with us on this Thursday, the 13th of March. I'm John Roberts in Washington, D.C. today.

CHETRY: Good to see you, John. I'm Kiran here in New York. And the focus, though, right now at least is on Florida. Florida Democrats saying they're ready to roll out their plan vote again, but the idea to use your mailbox as a ballot box apparently illegal in the sunshine state. As you know, Florida and Michigan were stripped of their delegates for holding their primaries too early. And now Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are squaring off about what to do.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: All of us are interested in making sure they are seated in some way that doesn't advantage one candidate or another too much.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In my view, there are two options. Honor the results or hold new primary elections.


CHETRY: Well, our next guest is stuck right in the middle of all of this and trying to hammer out some sort of solution. Howard Dean, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Great to see you this morning. And thanks for being with us.


CHETRY: All right. So, we'll get to the latest in this on-going Florida saga which is that the Democratic party is proposing this combo, it would be part mail-in vote apparently and part in-person election slated for June 3rd. What have you heard from leaders in Florida about whether or not this is going to happen?

DEAN: Well, the leaders are pretty much divided among partisan lines. I was in Florida yesterday. I spent a fair amount of time on the phone with some of the members of the congressional delegation, Senator Nelson. So there's lots of division about this. And this is the fun part of my job, I get to bring these sides together.

Here's the bottom line. We'd like to find a way to seat Florida and Michigan. We'd like to do it in a way that's fair, that both sides believe is fair. Fair to the voters but also fair to the campaigns because when you change the rules in the middle of the game, which is what's being proposed here, you've got to do it in a way that both campaigns agree is fair.

CHETRY: You didn't want to change the rules in the middle of the game to begin with. In this situation, what do you think is the best case scenario or the best option in.

DEAN: I think the best option is whatever we can get the candidates to agree with, which puts a vote back in the hands of the people of Florida and Michigan. And that's going to be not so easy to do. Once you had the, once you're halfway or three quarters of the way down the track as we are in this race, to go back and change something, that makes -- that's a big deal. So this is going to require some delicacy, some diplomacy. But look, the issue is here do we want to be united in the convention? If we wanted to be united in the convention, we ought to try to fix this problem now and not wait until the convention to fix it.

CHETRY: Some of what you're saying like you can't change the rules in the middle of the game seem to be echoing in the sentiments of the Barack Obama camp, who feel that you know, they were told that it wasn't going to count and they went ahead and removed their name from the ballot in Michigan. No one campaigned in Florida. And yet it seems the Hillary Clinton camp is more for either seating it as it went and allowing those results to count from back in January or doing this mail-in process.

DEAN: I think both campaigns at this point are going to say what advantages them of course. But there is a middle ground, there is a ground of fairness. And that's what we'll seek out.

CHETRY: You know, also, to add to this, Florida election law forbids the state to run its own election by mail. That would have to be done then by a third party. How would that work?

DEAN: Well, again, I haven't seen the proposal, I don't want to react to their proposal without having seen it. But, of course, there are going to be problems and things like that. And that's why there is a proposal so that and a comment period so that we can take a look at what they're proposing and see what the problems might be. And we'll do that.

Look, the bottom line here is these are two states. They are important states, but there are 48 states. 42 states have voted so far. This is the most extraordinary campaign in my lifetime. We have two great candidates. And we're going to beat John McCain. John McCain is wrong on the economy. He just got caught steering 40,000 jobs out of the country. He's wrong on Iraq. He's wrong on health care, which he supported the president's veto of health care for our kids. We're going to beat him. The only thing that can cost us the election if we're not united. And that's my job is to get us united.

CHETRY: Right. Well, that's what why I want to ask you about because we have been hearing a lot of beating up on John McCain coming from the candidates but we've been hearing a lot of beating up on each other from the Democrats. And, of course, you know the Geraldine Ferraro situation. She stepped down from the Clinton camp after those comments that essentially said that Barack Obama wouldn't be succeeding the way he did unless he was black and then, of course, Stephanie, Samantha Power rather from Obama's camp stepping down after calling Hillary Clinton, "a monster." So, how damaging is it when you have the se personal attacks going back and forth that seemed to be sucking up all the oxygen?

DEAN: Well, you know, the surrogates say things that they shouldn't say and then they leave campaigns. You know, I wish you guys would spend a little more time on the 40,000 jobs that Senator McCain and his lobbyist folks just sent to Europe. You know, the reason that these people who make these inflammatory remarks are in the news all the time is because you put them in the news. So, I'd prefer to focus on the economy. You know, this election is going to turn on whether people can pay their mortgages or not. I think our party is going to be a whole lot better for ordinary Americans than the Republican party. We don't need four more years of George Bush and that's what we get with John McCain.

CHETRY: You know, when you talk about what makes it into the news cycle and what doesn't make it into the news cycle. There are very, very important issues. But there's no denying that the camps are attacking each other back and forth. Why aren't we hearing more about those issues and less about the personal attacks back and forth?

DEAN: Well, again, that's because you choose what goes on the news, not me. I mean, we spent a lot of time talking about Senator McCain's record, particularly these problem with campaign finance reform, which he just violated that law too after he helped write it. So, again, we talk about it. We put it out there and you decide what goes on.

CHETRY: Well, in fairness, we've been running a lot of campaign speeches and letting the candidates sort of speak in their own words. People have been getting a chance to get a taste of it all. And hey, you're here and you're welcome any time.

DEAN: That's true. And thanks very much.

CHETRY: Howard Dean, DNC chair. Thanks for being with us this morning.

DEAN: Thanks for having me on.

CHETRY: It brings us to our "Quick Vote" question. What should Florida do about its delegate dilemma? Right now, 17 percent say they should issue mail-in ballots. 37 percent say they should hold another election. And 46 percent, the majority that we've asked this morning, believe that they should have the committee decide at the convention exactly how these delegates with will be seated. Cast your votes, still time And we'll have another tally of your votes, many of them actually throughout the morning. John.

ROBERTS: Coming up now at 41 minutes after the hour. Some breaking news to tell you about this morning. This coming from the Associated Press in Baghdad. In central Baghdad, a parked car bomb exploded, killing eight people and wounding 41. Our bureau folks there in Baghdad are working to get more details on this and we'll bring those to you just as soon as they get them.

The Pentagon has reportedly admitted videotaping interrogations of terror suspects. According to the "New York Times," a military review has turned up nearly 50 tapes so far. They cover the interrogations of two Al Qaeda suspects, Ali Al-Marri, an accused enemy combatant and convicted terrorist Jose Padilla. Our Jamie McIntyre is live at the Pentagon. And Jamie, we heard so much about the CIA tapes that were destroyed. What do these Pentagon tapes show?

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: These tapes came to light because lawyers for one of the terror suspects Ali Al- Marri alleged that their client was abused during these interrogations back between 2003 and 2004. These were interrogations by the DIA and the FBI not at Guantanamo Bay but on U.S. soil at the U.S. Navy (brig) in Charleston, South Carolina. The attorneys for Al-Marri say at one point their client was close to choking because his mouth was duct taped shut causing in their words serious pain.

Now, a spokesman for the Defense Intelligence Agency confirmed the incident to CNN this morning saying, "the individual was chanting very loudly during the interrogation, being very disruptive. He was asked to cease the loud chanting. He continued to do so and was advised if he didn't discontinue the disruptive behavior, that his mouth would be taped. He continued and his mouth was taped."

Now, spokesman Don Black says the tape was reviewed at the highest levels. It showed no abuse nor anything that violated the strict directives that governed the military installations at the brig on U.S. soil. This tape is among 37 that had been kept from those interrogations back in 2003 and 2004. Both of Ali Al-Marri and Jose Padilla, who has already been tried and convicted. Now, the DIA says routinely these are treated as working documents. Often, they're transcribed and routinely the tapes are destroyed. But there have been some, as I said about 37 that were kept from these two interrogations. And this one set of tape may become part of a legal process for Ali Al-Marri.

ROBERTS: We should mention Jamie just to make sure that our viewers are clear that the DIA is the Defense Intelligence Agency. Do we expect more tapes might surface? And where do you think they might be headed? Could they end up in a c congressional hearing?

MCINTYRE: Well, of course, you know, the CIA famously acknowledged back in December that it destroyed some tapes which might have shown some abusive interrogation techniques. In addition, the Pentagon is reviewing video imagery from Guantanamo Bay where they kept a lot of things on digital video recorders. The images there were routinely recorded over. Along with that video is sort of surveillance that would show the handling of detainees, although it could have involved some interrogations. Reviews are going on there but they haven't found anything that would qualify as interrogations at that point. So, we're not sure if any other interrogation videos will surface.

ROBERTS: Jamie McIntyre for us from the Pentagon this morning. Jamie, thanks. Kiran.

CHETRY: Well, there are some new questions surrounding Southwest Airlines and its maintenance record. The company grounding more than three dozen planes after problems with maintenance. What did they find? And is this part of a larger problem? We get the latest on an ongoing investigation CNN has been following.

Also, cleaning the air you breathe. The EPA expanding its efforts to cut smog in cities and towns across the country. We're paging Dr. Gupta about just how important that is. And how much of an impact the air you breathe can have on your health.


ROBERTS: Too dirty to breathe. That's what the Environmental Protection Agency says about the air in more than 300 cities and towns across America. The EPA is announcing new guidelines for cutting smog, part of a multi-billion expansion of efforts to clean up the air. Our chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins us again from Atlanta. They're talking about ozone here, which is one of the major contributors to ground based pollution. Sanjay, who's greatest at risk in terms of health when we're talking about high ozone levels?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN, CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: The elderly, the young. People with COPD, people with pre-existing heart problems, people that have asthma. A lot of people are at risk, John. Think about this, we breathe in about 15,000 liters of air every day. So, you can imagine if you are breathing in air that's too polluted the effects that can have on your health. The ozone, as you mentioned, John, as you know, is essentially nitrogen oxide that is released from chemical factories, from plants, from cars, all kinds of exhaust. It is mixed with sunlight and that becomes smog that we have become so familiar with.

Again, it can have all sorts of detrimental health effects especially if the smog levels are too high. The question is, what is too high? And that's sort of what's at the heart of these new guidelines. Right now, they say about 80 to 84 parts per billion is the sort of maximum limit. And what the EPA wants to do is actually reduce that benchmark to about 75 parts per billion. Some say that's a step in the right direction, not necessarily enough. As things stand now, there's about 85 counties of the 700 that actually measure this that have levels that exceed the existing levels -- existing requirements of 80 to 84. When the new requirements go into place, 75 parts per billion. There's going to be 327 counties that will have levels too high, John. So the work is cut out for them certainly.

ROBERTS: It is. Sanjay, talking about pollution, ground-based pollution and smog, the Beijing Olympics are coming up this summer. And world record marathoner Haile Gebrselassie, highly favored to win he marathon says he may skip the Olympic games because the pollution there is so bad. He thinks it might actually hurt him. You've been to China. You've reported on the pollution there. Is he right in those fears?

GUPTA: Well, he also has exercise-induced asthma so he's obviously very concerned about that and for all the reasons that we've talked about. Yes, I was there. The air can be - you know, it's one of those things you get there and you can smell it. You can feel it. You can almost feel it in your sinuses pretty quickly. So it is very polluted. 17 of 71 of the most polluted in the world, as you know, John, are in China. It's really two components, the ground component of ozone but also particulate matter. You have actual particulate matter in the air and the rate is often twice the level of what is considered safe.

So, it can be a real problem. You know, the other interesting thing is the leading exercise physiologist for the United States Olympic team is actually recommending that the United States athletes wear masks in the days leading up to their events. Not during the actual competitions themselves but don't be surprised, John, as you watch the Olympics if you see the United States athletes actually wearing masks as they are walking around Beijing as you see them preparing for some of their events.

ROBERTS: Oh, my goodness. That's not a sight that I'm sure the Chinese government wants the world to see. Sanjay Gupta for us this morning. Sanjay, thanks. Kiran.

CHETRY: Still ahead, dozens of Southwest Airlines planes pulled off the line for inspections. This comes after some questionable findings on maintenance records. Our Drew Griffin of CNN's Special Investigation Unit has been digging into this. He has new details when we come back.


CHETRY: Southwest Airlines says that they expect normal operations this morning after inspecting nearly 40 planes. Those were pulled off the line after discrepancies were found in safety inspection records. As we've been telling you, Southwest could face a record $10 million penalty from the Federal Aviation Administration over missed inspections. CNN's Special Investigations Unit correspondent Drew Griffin first broke the story and joins us now with new details this morning. Hi, Drew.

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN, SPECIAL INVESTIGATION UNIT: Missed inspections that they didn't find last year. Now they're dealing with inspections that they didn't find as of Tuesday night. Tuesday night, the company grounded these 44 planes. Thirty-eight of them were part of the service yesterday. That means they had to take them offline. One-hundred-and-twenty-five flights were canceled. Now, as of last night, according to the company's Web site, all of the planes have been inspected and all of the planes are expected to be back in service, which means Southwest is expecting, according to its Web site, a normal day of operations today. But the question remains how did this happen yet again that they missed mandatory inspections, that they had to pull these planes out of the system and, more importantly, that the FAA never caught it.

CHETRY: That is the question. What do they say about the fact this seemed to happen under the noses of the supervisors?

GRIFFIN: Yes, well Southwest is saying that they did this entire thing out of an abundance of caution. They are trying to make sure that their records comply with the strict rules of the FAA. But critics of the Federal Aviation Administration say this goes way beyond that. The entire investigation developed not from the FAA but from congressional investigators at a House Transportation Committee who had whistle blowers come to them and say, look, I work for the FAA, Southwest is not living up. And there's a manager at the FAA that's allowing them to fly these flights without inspection. That caught the attention of the Office of the Special Counsel and says these could be rampant in the industry.


SCOTT BLOCH, FEDERAL OFFICE OF SPECIAL COUNSEL: We believe there is significant potential that the FAA is allowing these practices, this lax practice of not complying with air worthiness directives to occur nationally.


GRIFFIN: Now, Southwest and the FAA are preparing for a congressional hearing next month in which Congressman Jim Oberstar, a long term critic of the FAA, is expected to bring this to task, see if what he says is there's too cozy a relationship between the agency that oversees the airlines and the airlines.

CHETRY: And the other thing is s o Southwest is going to get stuck paying $10 million, a fine coming from the FAA when the FAA also could be in some hot water.

GRIFFIN: Right. There must be some culpability there. In fact, one FAA manager, the manager who allowed Southwest to fly has been "demoted." So, there has been some repercussions there but obviously the congressional critics at the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee say it goes way beyond one guy at the FAA.

CHETRY: Bottom line, people want to trust that these planes are flying and trusting their lives and their families' lives are safe.

GRIFFIN: Let me take two seconds. Southwest, great airline. 37 years, no catastrophic incident. They haven't had a crash, OK. They haven't had a crash and they fly more people in this country than any other airline. So, you know, let's keep this all in perspective. But the fact is they need to follow those air worthiness directives mandated by the FAA.

CHETRY: Good job, Drew. Great to see you, by the way. Thanks. John.

ROBERTS: Three minutes now to the top of the hour. China shuts down its side of Mt. Everest. Hear why. And what it means for the Olympic games. That's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


CHETRY: Overnight arrest. Police round up a second suspect in the murder of the University of North Carolina student body president.