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American Morning

Olympic Torch Arriving on U.S. Soil; International Olympic Committee will Meet Friday to Discuss Scrapping the Relay; High Food Prices Could be Here to Stay; The Power of Alligator Blood

Aired April 08, 2008 - 08:00   ET


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Nancy from Waterville, Maine says "What better way to stop jihad than to promote democracy in the Middle East? If we pull out now, there will be a slaughter like nothing before. It's a no brainer to stay and turn our enemies into someone we can deal with."
And thanks for everyone who wrote in. We're going to check in with our "Quick Vote," as well as read some more e-mails in the next hour.

And the next hour of AMERICAN MORNING starts right now.

War reports. Three presidential candidates to question America's top general.


SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: How much longer is this supposed to go on?


CHETRY: This morning, Hillary Clinton tells us her plan to end the war.

Plus, a gator that can aid. How alligators might be life savers in the fight against infection on this AMERICAN MORNING.

Right. Stop you in your tracks today. There he goes again. Welcome. Hey, it's 8:00 a.m.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: I was waiting for those guys from "stomp" to hit the garbage cans together.

CHETRY: Thanks so much for being with us this morning. We got a lot going on from Washington all the way to the Middle East to San Francisco, where the Olympic torch has just arrived.

ROBERTS: We start off with breaking news this hour from Iraq this morning. A ceasefire shattered reports that hundreds of people are running for their lives from Baghdad's Sadr City as troops clash with Muqtada al-Sadr's Shiite militia.

The dodging rocket fire, bombs, grenades, and machine gun fire blamed for killing at least 14 civilians around Baghdad and 11 American troops since Saturday.

The latest violence comes as General David Petraeus returns from Iraq to convince Congress that the so-called surge is working. His latest report card on the war comes in front of several skeptical lawmakers including all three candidates for president, who will be there to question the general and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker.

CNN's Jill Dougherty joins us now from Baghdad.

Jill, what is the latest from there?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, you know, overnight, certainly that was the news coming out of Sadr City. That slum on the northeast side of Baghdad. Lots of sporadic fighting, attacks. People leaving to try to get out of that area.

That, of course, is the government forces allied with the United States forces who are fighting the Mehdi militia. Who are part of the troops who are supporting Muqtada al-Sadr, the Shiite cleric. So that was number one.

Number two, John, is, in fact, just happening now. There had been a very big demonstration that was planned for tomorrow, Wednesday, by Muqtada al-Sadr -- the cleric. And he was going to try to bring one million people on to the streets of Sadr City. And just a few minutes ago, they announced that he is calling that off.

So, that is a very interesting development. It's back and forth constantly between Muqtada al-Sadr and the Prime Minister Nuri al- Maliki. That is the latest.

And then, in another development, literally this morning. Another part of the city told that it has to drop any type of weapons in the part of the city that's called Katamia (ph) -- another Shiite neighborhood. No one can have any weapons. They have three days to give them up.


ROBERTS: Jill, was there a reason given for canceling that big demonstration tomorrow?

DOUGHERTY: They did say that there was fear that the government might crack down and attack some of the supporters. In fact, before that happened, there had been reports from the political wing of al- Sadr's people saying that the government forces who are actually stopping cars outside of the city, trying to stop young men from moving in, in cars for the demonstration. Coming up from the south.

So, apparently, they fear that there might be some big confrontation. And tensions are already high because of what is happening.

ROBERTS: Right. Jill Dougherty for us this morning in Baghdad. Jill, thanks very much. Kiran?

CHETRY: We're also following some developing news this morning on Iran's nuclear ambitions. A defiant announcement from Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He is claiming that Iran is installing 6,000 centrifuge at a nuclear complex that would triple the country's ability to enrich uranium for nuclear fuel.

Now, the U.N. has sanctioned Iran three times now for refusing to stop enriching uranium. The U.S. charges Iran as trying to build nuclear weapons. Iran insists it's for developing nuclear power.

Well, the Olympic torch arriving on U.S. soil within the hour. And we have new video now of the flame encased in a lantern just after it touched down in San Francisco. This was about 90 minutes ago that this video came out.

There were no protesters seen at the airport, but they are expected tomorrow when the torch makes it's only North American run. Well, you may remember these pictures from yesterday.

Pro-Tibetan protesters scaled the Golden Gate Bridge prompting officials to close that bridge and the sidewalk for the first time since September 11th. The pictures are amazing. Hopefully, we'll be able to show you them in a second here of this huge, huge banner that was unfurled and attached to the cables on the bridge as well. We'll get it for you a little bit later.

Also, some developments overnight. The International Olympic Committee will meet Friday to discuss scrapping the relay. The president of the IOC says that no plan right now was on the table. But there are some members who are saying maybe it would be a good idea to end it early because of all these rallies and protests.

Our Kara Finnstrom is in San Francisco this morning with more new developments surrounding tomorrow's relay. And so, we saw the torch arrived. Relatively, quiet there at least at the airport arrival. But they are expecting some more protests surrounding the relay.

KARA FINNSTROM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They certainly are. Thousands of protesters are expected, Kiran. And we did get a chance to speak this morning with one of the local organizers for the San Francisco leg of this relay. And he tells us that as of right now, this relay is going on as planned despite the IOCs saying that it will be talking later this week about possibly scrapping the international part of this relay.

We're going to show you some more video right now of that torch being brought in to the airport here. It was actually brought in behind closed doors. Lots of extra security here. But the entourage, accompanying that lantern, which carries the flame whisked through security, whisked through customs behind closed doors, and then whisked out a back door.

So relatively uneventful arrival here for this flame which has really generated so much controversy. The massive protests in England and in Paris where this actually had to be halted early, the relay, because of all the protests there.

Actually, some of the protesters blocking the route for the relay and actually trying to grab at the torch. And the organizer for the local event that we spoke with earlier this morning says all of this has caused some concern amongst the torch bearers. And he confirmed for us that one of the torch bearers here in San Francisco has now dropped out.


DAVID PERRY, OLYMPIC TORCH RELAY SAN FRANCISCO SPOKESPERSON: We have heard of one torch bearer who will not be carrying the torch. And out of respect for that person's privacy, I'm not going to mention that name. But I understand anyone that might feel that they don't want to expose themselves to something more than protests. So, we do know of one person so far.


FINNSTROM: And Kiran you referred earlier to that small, well- organized protest that took place yesterday on the Golden Gate Bridge. We can show you some of that video now. Three people scaled the Golden Gate Bridge, unfurled the huge banner, as well as a Tibetan flag up there.

They were protesting China's policies against Tibet and what they call its dismal human rights record. Thousands more of those protesters expected as well. Some big names here in the city both tonight and tomorrow. The relay does kick off at 1:00 local time tomorrow. And there will be lots of extra security on hand. Firefighters, ambulances along the route.

And Kiran, they are talking about possibly shortening that route even further. They say they will be making decisions as they go tomorrow.

CHETRY: Kara Finnstrom for us this morning in San Francisco. We'll have to wait and see how it turns out. Thank you.

ROBERTS: We told you that we would be hearing from the U.S. Commander in Iraq this morning. We're also hearing from one of the presidential candidates who will be questioning him.

Earlier this morning, I spoke with Senator Hillary Clinton about what she plans to ask General David Petraeus today.


SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I'm going to, you know, ask what is the way forward. A year ago, we were told that this action by the president would give the Iraqi government the space and time to make the decision it had to make.

Even General Petraeus, a few weeks ago said that hasn't happened. We haven't seen the Iraqi government stepping up. How much longer is this supposed to go on? (END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: Senator Clinton went on to say if elected president in a year from now, she would begin ending American military involvement in Iraq.

Senator Barack Obama will hear from the top two Americans in Iraq today when they go before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this afternoon. As a junior member of the committee, Obama will likely be one of the last to speak at the hearing. But we'll be following that for you.

CHETRY: Well, Senator John McCain is suggesting that both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are being reckless with their calls to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq. McCain telling a veteran's group in Kansas City that his Democratic rivals are making promises they can't keep.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Promise withdrawal of our forces from Iraq regardless of the calamitous consequences to the Iraqi people, our most vital interest, and the future of the Middle East is a height of irresponsibility. It is a failure of leadership.

We are no longer staring into the abyss of defeat. And we can now look ahead to the genuine prospect of success. Our goal is an Iraq that no longer needs American troops. And I believe we can achieve that goal, perhaps sooner than many imagine.


CHETRY: McCain also said that last year's troop buildup in Iraq has led to a sharp drop in sectarian violence and that pulling out now would jeopardize the gains that have been made.

ROBERTS: Coming up on 10 minutes after the hour. High food prices could be here to stay. Warning out from the World Bank with ramifications for the future. Ali Velshi here now with more on that.

We used to say food -- glorious food, but now it's just plain old expensive.

ALI VELSHI, CNN SENIOR BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Very expensive food. And really -- look at breakfast time right now. Whether its Wheaties, Rice Krispies, or Corn Flakes, it is all really expensive.

Now, we know that commodity prices have been going up around the world for a long time, largely because there's a whole lot of economic growth in parts of the world like India and China and very populous places. So, copper, gold, oil -- all those things have been going up.

But look at the price of food. The World Bank says that if you take a basket of overall food prices since 2000, the increase is 75 percent. But that's everything. There are some things that haven't gone up. Everything that grows has gone up.

Wheat since 2000, up 362 percent. Rice since 2000, up 318 percent. And corn, which we're calling maize for the purpose of this exercise, is up 250 percent since 2000.

Now, much of the increase in corn, of course, is because in the United States we have a policy where we use corn for ethanol. And that has caused people who grow other crops to be more interested in growing corn because they get more money for it. The corn farmers are doing OK. But it's affected the price of wheat, sorghum, soy beans -- all that kind of stuff.

Now, John was quite incensed about why rice has gone up. As a result of this, rice and corn are not...


ROBERTS: I was not. I was quizzical.

CHETRY: He wanted you to prove why, when we are trying to use ethanol, (INAUDIBLE).


VELSHI: OK. Exactly. Now here, the problem is it's not interchangeable. But many countries that consume rice as a staple or corn as a staple don't actually grow it. So, they import it. And you can't -- if the price of any alternate grain, for instance, Rice Krispies, Wheaties or Corn Flakes. Right? You can eat any of them for breakfast.

But if they're all expensive, if the source for all of them are expensive, you run out of options. You don't have an ability to switch out. Not that a country that has rice as a staple or corn can all of a sudden change. But even if they could, they can't change to anything. The food sources are just expensive.

According to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, 36 countries are in crisis this year nearly because of the food prices and will require external assistance. And remember, this is a big deal. When countries need food coming in, that's a big deal. So, this is not a short-term problem.

ROBERTS: So, if we don't make ethanol out of corn, what do we make it out of?

VELSHI: Well, we make it out of things that we don't use for food or that are really waste. And that takes a little -- it's a little harder to do that. With corn, you can literally grow it, put it into a factory and make it into gasoline. And we have an infrastructure for that. It's going to be more complicated.

ROBERTS: So, this whole idea of cellulosic ethanol.

VELSHI: Yes, things like switch grass and other kinds of biofuels. Great concept. Corn may not have been the right idea to use for it.

ROBERTS: Ali Velshi, thanks very much. Keep it right here to learn more about issue no.1, the economy. Join Ali, Gerri Willis and the CNN money team for "ISSUE #1" all this week at noon Eastern right here on CNN, and online at

CHETRY: Meanwhile, Alina Cho joins us with other stories new this morning.

Hey, Alina.

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, guys, good morning. And good morning everyone.

We begin with some breaking news this morning. A deadly protest over the economy in Egypt. A security official says a 15-year-old boy was killed during clashes over the rising cost of living and shrinking paychecks. Egyptian police went after protesters who tore down a billboard of the President Hosni Mubarak.

A new crew is speeding toward the International Space Station right now including South Korea's first astronaut. The Expedition 17 crew launched this morning in Kazakhstan. There's a look at it.

So-Yeon Yi (ph) was picked out of 36,000 applicants in a 2006 nationwide contest in South Korea. This is a big source of pride for the South Korean people. Also making history on this flight, a second generation spaceman, the crew's commander is the son of a Russian cosmonaut.

In sports this morning, there is joy in Jayhawk nation this morning. The University of Kansas beat Memphis to win the NCAA basketball championship. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'll extend the game.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Almost lost the handle. Chalmers for the tie.


CHO: That was the winning -- well, not the winning three- pointer, but a key one. That three-pointer were just two seconds left in the game. It tied the game, sent it into overtime. Kansas went on to win 75-68.

The dramatic come-from-behind victory triggered, as you might imagined, lots of celebrating overnight in Lawrence, Kansas. Lots of blue and white there. It is Kansas' third national title but their first in 20 years.

CHETRY: And I'm sure they will all be in Econ 101 9:30 this morning.

CHO: That's right. A little drunk.

And finally, the cast of "AMERICAN IDOL" sat down with Larry King last night and famed judge Simon Cowell gave Larry King and probably more than a few in the audience quite a scare. Take a listen.


LARRY KING, HOST, LARRY KING LIVE: The world waits with bated breath. Simon, is this the last year of "AMERICAN IDOL"?


KING: You're live all over the world.

COWELL: Yes. We decided that we're going to call it quits after this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to show up, but...

COWELL: Kidding.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can feel the house going away or the cars being taken.

KING: He was kidding or not kidding?

COWELL: I'm kidding. We are doing at least another two more.



CHO: At least another two more. At least another 200 more the way that show is rated. "IDOL" airs three times a week including a special 2 1/2 hour show called "CHARITY" -- called "IDOL GIVES BACK." That's on Wednesday night, but 33 million viewers a week on average or more than that. They're not quitting any time soon.

CHETRY: And I wonder if we'll see any wardrobe changes. We had a skin tight black T-shirt the first few seasons. He's moved up to a sweater material and sometimes gray. Ali, could he use some pinstripes, maybe some...

VELSHI: I'm the guy who an hour and a half ago admitted that I have the -- what did I say, the body of an infant. So, I'm not sure I'm the guy you'd be asking about skin tight black T-shirts. I was just looking but I'm thinking, the more I wear, the better. Sort of it gives me shape.

CHETRY: Exactly.

CHO: We love you, Ali.

VELSHI: Alina, thank you. CHETRY: Layers -- layers are your friend.

ROBERTS: The power of alligator blood. New research says that super antibiotics from it could fight some of the most aggressive diseases known to man. Full report on that coming up.

And the Democratic nominee could be picked by superdelegates. Probably will be in fact. Should they go with their personal loyalties or bow to the will of the majority? Grasshopper, we'll have that pearl of wisdom for you, ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


CHETRY: Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING. All three political candidates are back in the Senate today. They're off the campaign trail, which is rare as we've seen over the past few months. And they're tackling another critical campaign issue, which is the war in Iraq.

Top U.S. Commander in Iraq General David Petraeus is giving a report today. A progress report on the direction of the war. It's going to resonate with many, many voters including Pennsylvania Democrats. Their primary exactly two weeks from today. And many analysts say that Hillary Clinton needs to win big to stay in the race.

Joining me now, one of the party's so-called super, superdelegates. This means that he not only gets to give his input, but then he can actually appoint additional delegates to the convention.

T.J. Rooney, chairman of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party. Thanks for joining us this morning.

T.J. ROONEY, CHAIRMAN, PENNSYLVANIA DEMOCRATIC PARTY: Hey, Kiran, good morning. Nice to be with you.

CHETRY: First of all, explain what power that gives you as a super, superdelegate for people that are not necessarily totally familiar with the way the Pennsylvania Democratic Party works.

ROONEY: Well, it's a little bit of a misnomer. I don't have a cape and I don't have a wand or anything like that.

This Democratic National Committee allocates to each state party additional add-on delegates or in a common vernacular superdelegates. Pennsylvania has three. They will be decided on June 7th when our state party meets in Harrisburg.

CHETRY: All right. And right now, you are supporting Hillary Clinton.

ROONEY: I am indeed.

CHETRY: There are some polls out right now showing a tightening of the race for the Democratic nomination in Pennsylvania. In fact, this is our poll of polls that was taken between the end of March and first week of April here.

Hillary Clinton at 49 percent. Barack Obama at 42 percent. And a small margin about 9 percent still undecided. Will you stay with casting your nod to Hillary and encouraging the others to do the same if indeed Pennsylvania itself goes to Barack Obama?

ROONEY: Well, first of all, Kiran, with all due respect, I don't think that is going to happen. I think we are going to have a good victory for Senator Clinton here in the state. My advice to superdelegates is to look at certain key factors.

Who is the most electable? Who had been successful in the key states that will determine who the president is in November? Because at the end of the day, Kiran, the election that really counts is the one in November. So I'm just going to encourage my fellow superdelegates to consider those factors that are absolutely relevant.

CHETRY: You know, we had Hillary Clinton on the show about an hour ago, and John asked her about the situation with Michigan and Florida. And the fact that as it stands right now they are not going to be seated the delegates for those states. What is your take as another key swing state, battleground state as they put it in the general election, about whether or not this needs to happen and be resolved before you guys head to the convention?

ROONEY: Absolutely, Kiran. Not only do I think it needs to happen. But I think what we need to have is another vote in both Florida and Michigan. There can't be any ambiguity when it comes to who our nominee is. And to be able to rightfully lay claim to the popular vote, I think you are going to need to vote in all the states, especially the states that are as critical as Florida and Michigan.

So first of all, I hope that they have a revote in Michigan. We can do that. We can remove any ambiguity and we can go to the convention, confident in our knowledge that our nominee is somebody who can win the critical, important states but also can win the ultimate prize in November.

CHETRY: Problem with that, though, critics of a revote say is that this was already agreed upon. That everybody said OK, these are the rules, and we are going to stick with it.

But now, because of the circumstances that seems that the Democrats have found themselves in a little bit of trouble when it comes to this situation. I don't think many thought it would go on this long.

ROONEY: Circumstances, Kiran, are what they are. I would like to give, to put the genie back in the bottle and erase, you know, the circumstances that lead to us having these issues in Michigan and Florida.

The bottom line is that it's not too late. We can do this up until the middle of June. And then, we can, again, we can remove any shadow of any doubt about who has more pledged delegates, who has more popular vote, and then ultimately who our nominee should be. CHETRY: Outside of Washington, I want to know what people in the streets of Pennsylvania are thinking about this situation with one of Hillary Clinton's chief campaign strategists deciding to go ahead and step down from that position -- being encouraged to, because he met and promoted a free trade agreement with Colombia. One that not only Hillary Clinton opposes, but I know a lot of Democrats that are going to be voting in your state certainly oppose as well. Is that resonating?

ROONEY: I can tell you that on the streets of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, nobody knows who Mark Penn is. You know, what I think is most relevant is that Senator Clinton took quick decisive action in removing him from the campaign.

And at the end of the day, Kiran, the only position that counts in all of this is Senator Clinton's position. She is clearly, clearly opposed to the Colombian trade deal that Mr. Penn was representing on his behalf or on his firm's behalf.

But I guarantee you that there's not a lot of buzz going on in the Lehigh Valley about who Mark Penn is and what he said and ultimately what he does.

CHETRY: All right. Well, it's great to have you with us. T.J. Rooney, chairman of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party.

ROONEY: Thank you very much.

CHETRY: You guys got two weeks left so I'm sure a lot going on. A lot of attention in your state. Thanks.

ROONEY: No doubt.

ROBERTS: 24 minutes after the hour. The heartland getting hammered with some nasty weather. Tornadoes and softball sized hail. Our Rob Marciano is tracking extreme weather ahead.

And could it be a ferocious weapon against some aggressive diseases? How alligators could help treat infections. We're paging Dr. Gupta, ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


ROBERTS: Gator blood to fight the superbug? A new study suggests alligators may be the source of a powerful healing agent. Researchers say that the isolated proteins in gators blood that kill certain bacteria that attack humans.

CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, at the medical update desk for us this morning.

Sanjay, there's plenty of examples of science turning to nature for medicines. Looks like we've got another case here.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Could be. Gator-aid, just came up with that, John. Do you like that? ROBERTS: How long did you work on that one?

GUPTA: Too long actually. I should have come up with that much sooner. Look, you know, it is interesting. This idea that you can actually take gator blood, it could possibly use in some way to treat burns, ulcerations, even what is known as the superbug, MRSA.

That is what researchers have been focused on for some time. Looking specifically at -- taking some of the blood and putting it in a Petri dish and figuring out does it kill bacteria, does it kill funguses? The answer seems to be yes.

Which you are looking at there, quickly, as a picture of how they actually extract some of that blood. It's from a vein just behind the alligator's skull. And that's how they basically take this blood and then put them in a Petri dish. They have found in the past that it can even attack the HIV virus.

Again, just in Petri dish studies so far. Hard to know whether or not this will translate. But let me tell you, John, we did some digging into this specifically. And they found that this extract of gator blood killed nine of 11 bacteria and six out of eight funguses as well.

Some of those bacteria and funguses difficult to treat. So there may be something here, John, in terms of actually taking this gator blood.

ROBERTS: All right. So we've got an animal -- we are thinking about introducing some animal proteins into a human medication. Are they concerns?

GUPTA: Yes, you ask a great question. What you are bringing up is the idea of zoonotic. Basically, you know, could you also be introducing infections or diseases that are typically relegated to the animal community into humans?

What the researchers have said, basically, is that this probably wouldn't be something taken internally. Interestingly enough not like a pill or something like that, but rather as an ointment or a cream. So if you had a burn or an ulceration or a sore for example on your skin due to a bacterial infection, this might provide some relief in that sort of example.

Now, the other thing, John, that you mentioned, there have been other examples of actually taking properties from animals and introducing human medications. Heparin, for example, which is a blood thinner, actually comes from pig intestines.

And a medication used to treat cystic fibrosis actually comes from pancreatic enzymes from pigs. So there is a precedent for this, John.

ROBERTS: I remember doing a story some years back on snail venom being used to treat pain. All this stuff, though, is a long way off. It's not going to be on store shelves or even on your pharmacist counter any time soon. So what could people do in the meantime to try to boost their immune system?

GUPTA: Yes, you're right. First of all, about seven to 10 years just to give you an example of how long something like this takes to come to market. It is tough to boost your immune system. Obviously, the basic still apply, John. You know, good sleep, good eating, good diet. I will add to that though something people may not think of is zinc and iron. Getting plenty zinc and iron in your diet that seems to boost your blood cells overall including these blood cells that fight infections. That can boost your immune system. Whole grains, meat, leafy green vegetables. Good sources for that, John.

ROBERTS: All right. I don't know if I got the sleep thing down. But I'm working on the diet thing. Sanjay...

GUPTA: Not working both ends of the day anymore. It's a little bit better.

ROBERTS: And the older I get, the more rusty I feel. So maybe I've got the iron supplement in there as well. Sanjay, thanks very much.

GUPTA: Thanks, John.

ROBERTS: See you again soon.

CHETRY: Well, the Olympic torch now in America touched down about two hours ago in San Francisco. And officials are preparing for more pro-Tibetan protest when it makes its relay run tomorrow. Overnight word that perhaps the rest of the trip for the torch could be canceled ahead of the Beijing Olympics, following the latest development there.

And also, get ready to see the presidential candidates in a different light when they are the ones who get to do the questioning instead of answering the questions. Take on Iraq's top general about what's going on with the war. We are going to take a look at some of those questions they will be asking, coming up.


ROBERTS: Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING on this Tuesday, it's the 8th of April. I'm John Roberts along with Kiran Chetry. Good to have you with us this morning.

CHETRY: Yes. We start with breaking news out of Iraq this morning. Anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada Al Sadr postponing a mass rally. It was scheduled for tomorrow in Baghdad. And violence is still continuing right now. There are reports though that hundreds of people are leaving Baghdad Sadr City as troops clash with Iraq's Shiite, Al Sadr's Shiite militia in Iraq. Dodging rocket fire, bombs, grenades, reports of machine gun firing as well, all of these blamed for killing at least 14 civilians around Baghdad and the 11 American troops since Saturday. Al Sadr, the cleric, has called for a million of his supporters to show up in Baghdad tomorrow to mark the anniversary of Saddam Hussein's fall. And the house to house fighting that's raging in Baghdad complicating the job of the top U.S. commander, General David Petraeus who will be giving lawmakers a progress report in just under an hour. Now, earlier I spoke with General Richard Myers. He's the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff about his take on the situation in Iraq.


GEN. RICHARD MYERS, FMR. JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: I think the ethno-sectarian violence was sort of the impetus for the surge, and now it's that violence that was out of control is now pretty much under control. American casualties have come down by a large extent as well. So I think from a security standpoint we've set the conditions for the Iraqi political process to make some progress.


CHETRY: General Myers added that while he thinks there has been progress made in the Iraq parliament, a lot of it is still fragile.

ROBERTS: When the U.S. commander in Iraq goes before Congress, he's going to face tough questions from lawmakers including all three presidential candidates. Two of them will be at the Armed Services Committee hearing. That's Senators McCain and Clinton. Senator Obama will be there on the Foreign Relations Committee this afternoon.

And it could get heated when the candidates have the opportunity to ask General Petraeus about the current situation and the future of Iraq. What lines of questioning can we expect? CNN senior political analyst Candy Crowley joins us now from Washington.

Candy, we had Hillary Clinton on a little bit earlier. She said she wasn't keeping in mind the idea that this could be an opportunity in the presidential campaign but certainly a lot of people will be looking to candidates this morning to see how they frame questions and what line of questioning they pursue?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN, SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. I think there's two things here. What are the questions and what's the tone? Here we are in the midst of a very fierce presidential contender battle. The Senate, a very political body. And here we have three people, John McCain, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama, who need to look like a commander in chief. They need to know their stuff. But they need to be kind of above the sort of partisanship that sometimes comes forward in these hearings.

In terms of what they want to ask, I think the Democrats at least will follow two main lines of questioning, and that is, OK, let's accept that in general, the past couple of weeks, notwithstanding the surge, has worked and there is at least more stability in Iraq. Now what? The troops have done their job. Once again, the political apparatus is lagging behind. Now what do you do? So, I think that there is that.

And also something you are hearing on the campaign trail, more and more from both Obama and Clinton is this is costing so much. It is hampering us from doing things here at home. They are also arguing that this war is so expensive it has hurt the economy. So I think you will hear questions about OK, going forward, how much is this going to cost?

So tonally and question-wise, this certainly feeds into their presidential campaign. As you know, others are very anti-war based and beyond in the Democratic party. So, they have to sort of satisfy that, ask tough questions as well as looking like a commander in chief and not making any huge gaffs in their questions on national TV.

ROBERTS: Candy, the economy, of course, is issue number one but Iraq not far behind. The candidates always talking about it on the campaign trail, in particular, John McCain. What are the major differences between their Iraq policies?

CROWLEY: Well, the differences are largest between John McCain and the two Democratic candidates. As you know, John McCain began, he voted for the resolution to use military force in Iraq. He is now against early troop withdrawal. He argued just yesterday this would leave Iraq in a very unstable condition and would argue for U.S. forces returning at some point. And early on, he was a proponent of sending more U.S. troops. And in fact, on the campaign trail, John McCain says very often that while he agreed with the war and George Bush, he disagreed with the number of troops that were sent in. He always thought there should be more.

Now, as for Hillary Clinton, she also voted in favor of that Iraq war resolution, this has been early on a problem for her in the anti- war Democratic party. But she voted to withdraw troops by March 8th. And she has opposed the Bush plan to send additional troops. She was against the so-called surge. She now supports as does Obama phased deployment beginning in the first year of what she hopes will be a Clinton administration.

Some similar things with Barack Obama except from the very beginning. Barack Obama, of course, was not in the senate when that war resolution came up. But he did give a very powerful speech about against going in to Iraq, saying it would result in chaos and was, in fact, the wrong target. He also as Hillary Clinton did voted to withdraw troops by March 8th. He opposed the Bush plan of the surge. He now also like Hillary Clinton supports phased redeployment.

So, with Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, they started in the same place, they are pretty much ending in the - I'm sorry, started in a different place, pretty much ending in the same place. John.

ROBERTS: All right, we'll be watching this morning. The Armed Services Committee this morning at 9:30. Senate Foreign Relations at 2:30. You can see coverage of both here on CNN and at Candy Crowley, thanks very much. Good to see you as always.

We want to know what you think as well. What's your assessment of Iraq? Right now, 9 percent of you say we should give it more time. 4 percent say it's improving, but not quickly enough. 86 percent say it's a no-win situation for America. Cast your vote at We'll tally your votes throughout the rest of this half hour. We also want your e-mails as well. Drop us a line at, let us know what you think. We will read some of those e-mails coming up in about 15 minutes' time. Kiran.

CHETRY: And there's a tornado watch. It's going on this morning in the Midwest. A series of thunderstorms rolling through Tulsa, Oklahoma. There you see some video right now of the storm dumping what they describe as quarter size hail in the area. Also some reports of window damage to a school. Rob Marciano tracking all of this for us in the CNN Weather Center.

There's nothing like the sound of hail, you can tell, you know, just by the way that it hits the ground and unfortunately your house and car as well.

ROB MARCIANO, CNN, METEOROLOGIST: Yes, luckily that hail wasn't extraordinarily large. Sometimes we can get them the size of baseballs and even softballs this time of year, in this part of the country. That will certainly be an ongoing threat not only today but in the next three days. Let's deal with what's going on right now. We have this tornado watch box that remains in effect for the next couple of hours and there have been severe thunderstorms within that.

There are reports of quarter-size hail and winds up to 60 miles an hour. No severe thunderstorm warnings at this point. No twist but this line of heavy weather is certainly heading towards Ft. Smith right now, right up the i-40 corridor. Kansas City back through St. Louis, your rains will be increasing. This has been heavy throughout the morning in an area that doesn't need the rain anymore. That's going to continue to slide off to the east. The severe weather heads to the east across the mid south, and through Arkansas, and northern Louisiana today. and then tomorrow, Kiran, we will get another punch of energy coming out of the Rockies and even better, or I should say worse threat of seeing severe weather tomorrow and on Thursday. Kiran, back up to you.

CHETRY: Rob, thanks.


CHETRY: And still ahead, what makes a student choose say Howard University over Harvard University? We are kicking off a tour of historically black colleges and asking what it is that draw students to them today.

Also, the tax man coming, just a week away. That's right, a week away. If you're still trying to decide what to declare and to deduct, Gerri Willis to the rescue, our personal finance editor will be joining us. She has some last-minute tax tips. So, grab a pencil and a piece of paper. She will have good stuff for you coming up on AMERICAN MORNING.


CHETRY: An update now on some news that we've been telling you about this morning. And that is the travels of the Olympic torch on American soil. The torch there you see it, arriving in San Francisco about two hours ago. It's encased in a special lantern there. Protests are expected today and tomorrow when the torch makes the only North American leg of its relay. And in fact, yesterday, a lot of action surrounding the pro-Tibet anti-Chinese protest. There you see the pictures. They were just amazing. Seven people arrested after demonstrators actually scaled the Golden Gate Bridge. They were able to unfurl that pro-Tibet banner and actually get it up there to stay along the cables of the Golden Gate Bridge. There were protests, as we said, in Paris and London. And now, the International Olympic Committee is having to decide whether or not they may want to cut short the month-long worldwide relay. Several IOC members have suggested canceling it and actually sending the torch back to China. They still have not made any final decision on that yet. John.

ROBERTS: 15 minutes now to the top of the hour. Calling all tax procrastinators and you know who you are. You've just got one week left to file your return. With time running out, CNN's personal finance editor Gerri Willis is here to help. What are the biggest things that people might miss if they wait until the 11th hour to file their tax return and just sort of OK that's it, hand it in?

GERRI WILLIS, CNN, PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR; Well, a lot of people do that. And I'm guilty as well of being late this year. I have to file an extension. But look, 63 percent of Americans do not itemize. And you should itemize if you are eligible for it. There's a government study that shows if you don't itemize and you can, you are leaving $438 on the table. You're giving Uncle Sam more money than you should. Also, state income tax deductible, if you don't way pay it, if you're in a state like Florida that doesn't charge it.

State sales tax is deductible. College tuition is deductible for folks with income of $65,000 or less. That deduction is $4,000. That's nothing to leave on the table. And if you made energy efficient upgrades last year before December 31st. Let's say, you improved insulation or maybe you put in some energy efficient windows you get a $500 credit, that is a dollar for dollar credit.

Of course, stock market losses a lot of people out there had stock market losses last year, those are deductible as well. And you know, John, I want to say, if you sold your primary home and you had a loss, not tax deductible out there. Now, if it was a rental property, you may, may be able to deduct your losses. But for the folks out there struggling with homes who have losses, no good news.

ROBERTS: I remember living in the state of Florida, no state income tax, it was great, unlike the state of New York which drops a piano on your head if your income is 50.

WILLIS: Oh, yes.

ROBERTS: But you alluded to this, you're filing for an extension, people who can't make the deadline, they can file an extension but what do they have to keep in mind in doing that?

WILLIS: It's file number 4868. You definitely want to be sure to file that. and listen, this doesn't get you out of paying taxes. You still have to pay your taxes. And as a matter of fact, you can't underpay or you will face some pretty hefty penalties, an interest of 7 percent. So you want to make sure that if you are late, you file the right form and you pay anyway. A lot of people forget that, John.

ROBERTS: Those penalties can add up.

WILLIS: That's right.

ROBERTS: Gerri, some great tips. Thanks very much.

WILLIS: My pleasure.

ROBERTS: Keep it right here to learn more about "Issue #1, the economy." Join Gerri, Ali Velshi and the CNN money team for "Issue #1." All this week at noon Eastern right here on CNN and online at Kiran.

CHETRY: All right. Well, CNN NEWSROOM just minutes away. Betty Nguyen at the CNN Center with a look at what's ahead. Good morning, Betty.

NGUYEN: Good morning to you. Well, troop withdrawals on the table in the NEWSROOM today. General David Petraeus updates lawmakers on the Iraq war. That happens in about 45 minutes. Of course, we have live coverage, distinct analysis, the CNN team in place to keep you informed.

Iraq and the race for the White House. The three presidential candidates among the senators questioning General Petraeus today.

And you have been following it, and so will we. The Olympic torch arriving in San Francisco. CNN working on live coverage of the relay and those expected protests.

A fast-moving Tuesday in the NEWSROOM. That's all at the top of the hour on CNN.

CHETRY: All right. Thanks, Betty. We all know what happens with older kids and adults. But your baby's sleep disruptions can actually trigger obesity as well. Dr. Sanjay Gupta with new details for us this morning.

And also, we sent Chris Lawrence back to school. He is tour of historically black colleges, talking to students about what draws them to the campuses, ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.



You know, most parents have gone through this, their babies don't sleep through the night, that's why parents don't either. But there are two new studies that say you should actually pay attention to how much sleep your infant gets because it's just as important for babies and toddlers to get enough sleep as it is for as we've talked about adolescent and even adults. And so, we're paging Dr. Gupta with more on this new study that they did. They focused on infants and babies and why it's so important to make sure they get enough sleep. What did they find, Sanjay?

GUPTA: Well, first of all, Kiran, this story is tailor made for you. I'll tell you, in terms of getting enough sleep for you and your babies. You're absolutely right, a lot of the studies in the past have focused on school aged children, teenagers and adults. This is one of the first studies that actually looked at toddlers. And they found exactly, as you said, this relationship between lack of sleep and weight gain. What they found specifically is infants and toddlers who weren't getting enough sleep, specifically at least 12 hours, were higher risk, about two times higher risk of becoming overweight or obese as older children, even adults.

Now, exactly why that is, it's a little bit unclear. But the idea that if you are not sleeping enough, you are releasing more hormones that cause you to gain weight seems to be one theory. Another theory is if children aren't sleeping enough, what other bad habits might they also be doing including eat more junk food, for example. Look, let me tell you something, Kiran, I am no parenting expert and you know, they say doctor practice what you preach. And it is difficult sometimes. But let me give you some benchmarks in terms of how much sleep your kids should be getting. It's remarkable amount of sleep actually if you think about it. Infants 14 to 15 hours of sleep. Toddlers 12 to 14 hours of sleep. Preschoolers 11 to 12 hours of sleep. It is hard to get that much, Kiran. As you pointed out, if they are not getting it often times you are not getting it either. Kiran.

CHETRY: That's right. Now, do they care if it's broken up or not? Some kids may not be the best nighttime sleepers but take a couple of naps. Does that all count within that 24-hour period?

GUPTA: That was the first question I thought of as well. Because my kids are nappers. They don't always sleep through the night. But yes, this was based on total sleep, so total sleep in a 24-hour period. Kiran.

CHETRY: You wonder, why do you feel so busy if they are only supposed to be awake for ten hours? They certainly accomplish a lot in the few hours they are supposed to be up.

GUPTA: Do you see these bags underneath my eyes? Absolutely.

CHETRY: Unbelievable. All right. Sanjay, thank you.

GUPTA: All right. Thank you.

ROBERTS: What you got to do though is make sure you coordinate the two of them so they are on the same ten-hour sleep schedule.

CHETRY: Yes. You come over and help me out with that. I'll pay you top dollar.

ROBERTS: I'm good with kids. CNN is going back to school as part of our "Black in America" series. We are touring historically black colleges, why they were founded and what is the draw today. AMERICAN MORNING's Chris Lawrence is on the first stop of CNN's campus tour. He joins us now from the campus of Florida A & M University in Tallahassee. Good morning to you, Chris.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN, CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning, John. It's so exciting to be here. And you know, this "Black in America" tour is incredible to watch. This is just some of what you are going to be seeing on about half a dozen campuses across the country. This is our graffiti wall where students and some of the teachers can write what it means to be black in America to them. So, you'll get a great, great representation across the board at some of the schools.

Our partners at "Essence" magazine are helping us conduct this poll. Students can go in and instantly answer questions about some of their experiences with affirmative action. Different experiences that they've had taking what about it means to be black in America today. Of course, you can look up there and you could see some of the programming, CNN Soledad O'Brien and some of our black in America programming that will be playing at some of these jumbotrons and some of the screens across the black colleges. And this is a great thing. These key observation will be set up at a lot of the colleges where students can go in and they can do their own i-reports. And they can instantly record an I-report answering certain questions.

See, there you go. And some of these will be posted on instantly. Jermaine Fletcher actually is the winner. They judged these to find the best of the best. Jermaine Fletcher here won the contest here at Florida A & M. And you can go to and see some of Jermaine's work as well as others, because we want to engage not only the students here on campus but also the alumni who may be spread out all over the country. They can go online and become a real part of what's going on here.

And of course, what alumni from Florida A & M is not going to recognize this site, the Florida A & M marching 100, just some of the great music we expect here on campuses across America.

ROBERTS: They are hot. Chris Lawrence for us on the campus of Texas A & M University for us this morning. And the historically black college tour rolls on Thursday, North Carolina Central, on Friday, North Carolina A&T. You can learn more about CNN's special series on our Web site,

CHETRY: All right. What is your assessment of Iraq? We are reading some of your e-mails and taking a look at the "Quick Vote" this morning ahead of the big testimony that's taking place in about 30 minutes on Capitol Hill. AMERICAN MORNING will be right back.


CHETRY: Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING. Let's take a final check of our "Quick Vote" question and we ask what is your assessment on Iraq? 10 percent of you say we should give it more time, 4 percent say it's improving but not fast enough and 86 percent of you say it is a no-win situation for America. We've also been asking for your e- mails on this topic as well.

And Judith from Lake Park, Georgia, says "I wish we could just get out of there and let them take care of themselves, it doesn't seem like we are getting anything done that is worth doing and I don't think the people really want us there."

ROBERTS: And Nathan from Boubonais, Illinois writes "hello, when are the Democrats going to get it? We are at war! To take our troops out of Iraq could be the worst mistake that we can make."

And thanks so much for joining us here on AMERICAN MORNING. We'll see you again tomorrow.

CHETRY: That's right. Meanwhile, keep watching CNN NEWSROOM with Tony Harris and Betty Nguyen, starts right now.

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

BETTY NGUYEN, CNN, ANCHOR: And hello everybody. I'm Betty Nguyen, in for Heidi Collins. You can watch events come into the NEWSROOM live on this Tuesday, April 8th. Here's what's on the rundown.