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American Morning

Food Crisis Hits Home; Clinton and Obama Both Claim Ahead on Popular Vote; Cell Phone Porn Becoming a Dangerous Trend; Food or Fuel: Does Ethanol Have a Downside

Aired April 24, 2008 - 06:00   ET


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: The price of gasoline hit another record high overnight. It's $3.55 a gallon now. That's up another two cents. And the shortage of food around the world is hitting the United States in a new way.
Warehouse stores like Costco and Sam's Club are now limiting sales of imported rice. Sam's Club in Tampa is reportedly out of Basmati rice and isn't sure when it will get any new shipments. The global food shortage is caused by a number of different factors, including higher prices to deliberate drought, and some people blamed that push to turn food into fuel such as ethanol.

AMERICAN MORNING has got a team of correspondents around the world in the crisis and the possible solutions to it as well. Ed Lavandera is in Dallas where customers are looking to save by shopping directly from farms. Our Dr. Sanjay Gupta is in Lima, Peru, this morning, where the answer may be found in a new focus on the humble potato.

Ali Velshi breaks down where your money is going for a gallon of gasoline, but let's begin with CNN's Sara Sidner who is live in New Delhi, India, this morning. And Sara, you've talked with families and officials. This crisis only just beginning to unfold there on the subcontinent.

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's true, John. India is really a numbers game. Let me put it in perspective for you.

The United States has a population now of about 300 million people. That's just one-third of the population here in India which stands now at 1.1 billion people. Three hundred million people here live on less than $1 a day in dire poverty. So any change in food prices is a real hardship for them.


SIDNER (voice-over): Tea and bread, a simple meal, but the only one this family of seven will see today. They live on less than $3 a day. Hunger is never far away.

Prices are going very high. I cannot fulfill my children's requirements. I cannot buy what I need, says Chandrawati (ph). Once a month, Chandrawati (ph) goes to the ration shop and gets a bag of wheat, rice and sugar for a fraction of the market price. But it's barely enough. Dad worries as he searches for more work. At the end of the day, I cannot fulfill my responsibilities to my family, he says. Mom is forced to skip some of her own meals. For all the talk of its looming middle class, India is still home to more than half of the world's hungry, and that number is growing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would say we are in a crisis. The critical stage is still to come.

SIDNER: The Indian government is scrambling to cope with the surge in food prices by halting exports of rice and trying to give farmers some relief from crushing debt.


ROBERTS: Oh, a couple of technical problems there with Sara Sidner this morning. But Sara, thank you very much for that report. An incredibly important issue that we're following today.

Congressman Jim McGovern of Massachusetts says corn-based ethanol is driving up the cost of food, one of the factors involved. He is the co-chair of the House Hunger Caucus. He's visiting the White House this morning. We'll talk with him in just a few minutes, 6:20 Eastern here on AMERICAN MORNING.

He is suggesting that maybe it's time to revisit this whole policy of biofuels, though he doesn't necessarily know if Congress is willing to do anything about it at this time. But we'll put that question to Representative McGovern this morning in just a few minutes -- Kyra.

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: A brand new fight in the race for the Democratic nomination. Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are claiming that they're ahead in the popular vote as they try to win over uncommitted superdelegates. Clinton says that if Michigan and Florida are included, she leads by 100,000 votes and she's won the big states that's needed to carry the White House. But Obama shooting down that notion saying he's up by half a million without Florida and Michigan and it's the pledged delegates that matter. Both candidates tried spinning the numbers.


SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's a very close race, but if you count as I count, the 2.3 million people who voted in Michigan and Florida, then we are going to build on that.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There have been a number of different formulations that the Clinton campaign has been trying to arrive at to suggest that somehow they're not behind. I'll leave that up to you, guys, if you want to count them --


PHILLIPS: Rallies are planned Saturday in seven Florida cities to demand that the National Party count Florida's delegates. And a showdown in the Senate. Republicans blocking a bill that would make it easier for workers to sue for pay discrimination saying it would trigger a flood of lawsuits. The Democrats says the measure was needed to help employees get back loss -- or back loss wages. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama interrupted their campaigns to voice support for the bill.


SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm hoping you will stand up and vote to make it clear that women who get up every single day and go to work deserve to be paid equally to their male counterparts.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you work hard and do a good job, you should be rewarded no matter what you look like, where you come from, or what gender you are.


PHILLIPS: A legislation already passed by the House was intended to reverse the Supreme Court decision limiting salary discrimination suits.

ROBERTS: Five minutes after the hour. U.S. intelligence officials say they have a videotape and other evidence supporting their case that Syria was building a nuclear reactor with help from North Korea. Israeli war planes bomb the facility last year. CIA Director Michael Hayden will brief the Senate and the House intelligence committees today. Syria said the site was an unused military facility.

President Bush will meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas today to discuss peace talks with Israel. Abbas wants the United States to play a larger role in the talks. He is calling for a peace agreement by January which would include timetables for the creation of a Palestinian state. Abbas also met with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice yesterday.

Former President Jimmy Carter is firing back at the Bush administration after he spoke with leaders of Hamas. One day after returning from the Middle East, Carter said no one, including the secretary of state, urged him against traveling to Syria or meeting with the militant group.


JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There was never anyone, anywhere in the Bush administration in this country that asked me or even suggested that I not go, or that I not meet with Hamas or Syria. Never. Nobody.


ROBERTS: On Tuesday, Secretary of State Rice told a different story. She said that her agency warned Carter not to visit with leaders of Hamas.

PHILLIPS: And a sharp questioning by House Democrats, FBI Director Robert Mueller says that his agency warned the Justice Department and the Pentagon that some interrogation tactics may have been illegal. Mueller says that the agency first raised concerns back in 2002 when terror suspects were subjected to waterboarding by CIA interrogators. At that time, the Justice Department considered waterboarding and other harsh interrogation methods legal as long as they didn't result in organ failure or death. Mueller refused to say how the agency reacted to the FBI's concerns.

A Child Welfare official say that the hundreds of children removed from the polygamous sect in Texas are being placed in foster homes where they won't have contact with other kids. TVs will be turned off, and they can still be home schooled. They say it's meant to protect the children who until now have lived a secluded life.

ROBERTS: Ahead this morning -- moving so fast that it's hard to keep up. Gasoline prices reaching new highs. Our senior business correspondent Ali Velshi is "Minding Your Business."

And parents beware -- prosecutors say it's a dangerous new trend. We'll tell you what kids are doing with their cell phones that could send them to jail. That's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


PHILLIPS: Now getting tougher to keep pace with gas prices. Senior business correspondent Ali Velshi here with more. Good morning.

ALI VELSHI, CNN SENIOR BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. You know, I think I'm just going to take the day off when gas prices aren't up one day and that's how you'll know.

ROBERTS: Wait a second.


VELSHI: You don't see me.

ROBERTS: Wait a minute.

PHILLIPS: You mean Saturday off.

ROBERTS: That means you'll be off.

PHILLIPS: I'll be off in 2000. No one -- they're not -- it's not a record. I'll take it out. So you don't see me, don't worry about gas prices.

It's up again. Up again, more than a couple of cents now. The average for a gallon of self-serve unleaded is now $3.56, $3.556. So we put it up to $3.56 because otherwise we just have too many numbers on the screen. Look at that. Up from $3.25 a month ago. $2.86 -- you can probably recite these things in a pop quiz, what these prices are because we put them up every day.

Let's see how that breaks down by the way. When you take the components that go into a gallon of gas, let me tell you how that works. The single biggest component, 74 percent of it is oil; $2.59 of that three -- I calculated this, by the way, at $3.50, just to round numbers. $2.59 is oil, 40 cents are federal and state taxes. About 26 cents goes into refining, and about 25 cents goes into distribution and marketing. That's also the profit for the gas station.

I mean, again, that's -- the gas station is making about 12 -- 12, 15 cents on a gallon of gas. So that's how it breaks down. So it is oil. And when we bring that barrel up, we tell you about the record prices of oil, it's because it has a direct impact obviously, a massive impact on the price of gasoline.

We don't have a record on the price of oil, by the way. It's two days in a row now we've seen slightly lower prices of oil.

ROBERTS: What is it now? What is it right now?

VELSHI: $118.


ROBERTS: That's still a --

VELSHI: What a deal. It went up on your way home.

ROBERTS: Thanks. All right, Ali. See you soon.

VELSHI: We'll talk more, by the way, about the food issue a little later on.


VELSHI: That's a very important issue. Yes.

ROBERTS: Extremely important issue. Something we're following closely this morning.

It's 11 minutes after the hour. Severe weather on the move now, possible tornadoes, even baseball-sized hail. Not in parts of Texas. Our Rob Marciano is tracking it all from Atlanta. Good morning, Rob.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, guys. Yes. Yesterday, we had 10 reports of tornadoes in Texas and Nebraska. Today, the action shifts a little bit farther to the north. But it's going to be just as dangerous. We'll go over it all when "AMERICAN MORNING comes right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) MARCIANO: Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING. I'm Rob Marciano tracking severe weather again today. Yesterday's reports, check them out on this Google Earth map. Ten reports in total mostly across parts of northern Texas and through Palo Pinto and Iraan (ph), Texas. We had baseball-sized hail. So some serious action happening here yesterday and some of this stretched all the way up towards parts of Nebraska.

You see the heat -- how wide and large the system is all the way up to the Canadian border to as far south as the Gulf of Mexico. So it's a pretty big one and then there's more energy that's going to be coming in behind us.

Right now, we don't have any severe thunderstorm warnings that are posted. But Little Rock, Arkansas, you're getting hammered with some heavy thunderstorms with rain and possibly some flooding. Most of the flooding though has been across parts of southwest Missouri.

Boy, the past two months, this area has just been inundated with moisture, and there's more coming this morning. So flash flood watches and warnings have been posted for a good chunk of the state in Missouri. Flash flood warnings posted until 10:00 local time. With all this rain that's heading over that area, they are looking for stuff to begin to pile up water wise.

Severe threat today, here it is. It shifts a little bit farther to the north, and through parts of northern Kansas and southern parts of Nebraska. This is a moderate risk for severe weather that could include damaging winds, large hail, and isolated tornadoes later on this afternoon.

Moderate risk is one step up from slight. It usually means that we're going to have a pretty active afternoon like we saw yesterday. Hopefully any tornadoes that do touch down remain in rural areas and don't do a whole lot of damage. We'll see, though, John and Kyra, as everything tomorrow then shifts to the east into more populated areas. So we'll see how long our luck holds on. Back up to you in New York.

ROBERTS: All right. Thanks, Rob.


PHILLIPS: All right. "Hot Shot." A zebra, a bit of a surprise.

This is what staffers found when they opened up a building at Georgia's Emory University Wednesday morning. Apparently someone just left them there all night. He reportedly ate a college catalog, wasn't really polite enough to use the restroom afterwards. And the animal control officer lured him down the stairs with a bucket of oats. They knew the zebra's owner, and they just called him up.

Now, bear (ph) the headline. Who in Atlanta owns a zebra? And why?

ROBERTS: It must have been some college prank. What do you think? PHILLIPS: I don't know. Beautiful zebra.

All right. If you got a "Hot Shot," send it to us. Head on our Web site,, and follow the "Hot Shot" link.

ROBERTS: Hey, a disturbing new trend appearing at schools around the country. Find out what some teens are doing with their cell phones that could land them in big trouble with the law. That's just ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


PHILLIPS: Prosecutors around the country are offering up a pretty stern warning to parents right now. What your kids are doing with their cell phones could get them in a lot of trouble. Veronica De La Cruz here with what's becoming a pretty disturbing new trend.

VERONICA DE LA CRUZ, CNN INTERNET CORRESPONDENT: Hi, good morning to you. You know, here's the thing. So much to show that half of all teenagers these days have cell phones, they're ubiquitous, they're everywhere. And cell phones with cameras -- well, those could get you in trouble if they aren't handled properly. Here's what we're talking about.

Just recently, Davis County prosecutors charged a 15-year-old Utah boy with a third-degree felony. His crime? Police say he was swapping nude cell phone pictures with fellow students. Others involved were charged with lesser crimes, and prosecutors have seen many similar cases like this pop up across the country just in the past six months alone.


RON DUNN, DAVIS COUNTY JUVENILE PROSECUTOR: It appears to be a mutual decision to engage in a level of flirtatious behavior.

TROY RAWLINGS, DAVIS COUNTY ATTORNEY: It's photos of their private parts in a lot of these, but there are also, you know, those cases where the person is, you know, taking an image of themselves and engaging in sexual conduct either with themselves or -- you know, or with another person or another individual.


DE LA CRUZ: And that's where things get serious. These photos end up getting passed around. They end up on pages of maybe MySpace, Facebook, other Web sites. And whether or not kids realize it, this is considered a crime, a type of child pornography if you will, which is illegal, even if it is taking place between minors, and punishments could range from mandatory counseling, maybe jail time, to registering as a sex offender even, if you are convicted of more serious charges.

And then the other thing, Kyra, is that in some states, parents can be held accountable because they are the ones who are footing the bill. PHILLIPS: Nothing like a story like this. It's 6:20 in the morning. Every parent is wide awake now, going in and checking all the cell phones of their kids. What can parents do? Is there anything they can do?

DE LA CRUZ: Absolutely.

PHILLIPS: Besides not letting them have a cell phone.

DE LA CRUZ: Right. They take the cell phone away. There are other options out there. There are programs that you can install on a person's cell phone, on a kid's cell phone to monitor their cell phone activity, watch the phone calls they're making, watch their text messages. You would also receive a copy.

Also, you can block their Internet access. You can buy them a cell phone that doesn't have a camera. Stop the problem altogether. But I think first and foremost, education, communication -- that really is the key here.

You want to let them know that, you know, they might think that they're just being naughty, this could be a joke. But it really could be a crime. And what's worse is that a parent can be held accountable because again, it's your child and you're footing that bill.

PHILLIPS: All right. Veronica De La Cruz, thanks -- John.

ROBERTS: Twenty-one minutes after the hours. It's a phrase that we have not heard since World War II -- hording food. As the price of grain and flour skyrocket, Sam's Club and Costco, the two biggest U.S. warehouse retail chains, are restricting sales of certain types of imported rice. They say it's to prevent a shortage in real emergency. But the people who are buying it say they are stocking up before food prices climb any higher.

And that brings us to this morning's "Quick Vote" question. U.S. stores rationing rice -- is it producing panic, or is it a sensible solution? Cast your vote for us this morning at We'll have the first tally of votes coming up later on this hour.

And we'd like your thoughts on it as well. Send us an e-mail. Is there a bigger food problem that the U.S. is ignoring? What about using food as fuel? We want to know what you think.

Go to our Web site at and follow the link that says "contact us." We'll read some of those e-mails coming up at our next hour of AMERICAN MORNING.

PHILLIPS: And you're watching the "Most News in the Morning."

A new focus on biofuel. The price of gas keeps going up. The price of food reaching a crisis point around the world. Should the U.S. be turning food into fuel?

Windfall profits for Iraq's oil industry. We're going to tell you about what they're -- how they're raking it in and what U.S. lawmakers have to say about it. That's straight ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


ROBERTS: It's 24 minutes after the hour now. As food prices rise and shortages spread, ethanol is getting some of the blame. Critics say that food prices are spiking partly because more corn is being used to produce ethanol, and because more land is being cultivated with corn instead of other crops. Are they right?

Congressman Jim McGovern of Massachusetts is co-chairman of the House Hunger Caucus. He joins us now from out Washington bureau. Congressman McGovern, thanks for being with us this morning. Jean Ziegler, who's an expert with the United Nations, calls the production of biofuels from food sources, "a crime against humanity." What do you say about that?

REP. JIM MCGOVERN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Well, first of all, not all biofuels are created equally, and my objection is to biofuels that are created with food. I think food should go into someone's belly and not into someone's gas tank. And the bottom line is that while corn ethanol and other kinds of food-produced biofuels are -- you know, are responsible for the kind of the spike in food prices, they're not the only reason. But nonetheless, that's how we have control of it. We need to kind of reassess our position on that.

ROBERTS: What part do you believe that increased corn pries because of ethanol production plays in the rise in food prices? One- fifth of the U.S. corn crop is now used to produce ethanol.

MCGOVERN: Well, what happens is that corn grown is now being put to a biofuel used to be put toward consumption. And so, there's less corn, you know, that's being used for food and as a result, you know, you have with the shrinking supply, you have higher food prices.

And, look, you know, corn is used not just, you know, for -- you know, regular meals that one has. But corn is also used for corn feed, so the price of chicken goes up, the price of meat goes up, and as corn syrup in a lot of different things. And so, as a result you have this situation that is contributing to higher food prices not only here in the United States, but around the world.

And this is a crisis, so we need to do something about it. And we have control over the issue of corn ethanol.

ROBERTS: Now, ethanol supporters are pushing back aggressively of the criticism of their industry. Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa calls all of this -- this criticism of ethanol production, "a big joke." Are they right?

MCGOVERN: No, he's not right, and those who say that are not right. But we need to be -- we need to be realistic. The bottom line is we have a food crisis.

Much of it has to do with droughts, the high price of oil, the increasing demand from China and India. But a part of it has to do with our overreliance on corn ethanol. Look, I'm a supporter of biofuels in general. I just don't believe we should be moving in the direction of producing biofuels that are made with food. I think we should be looking at ways to -- you know, corn husks could possibly produce biofuel in the future. You know, let's use our brain power and to try to create this second generation of biofuels.

But the bottom line is we have control over this. We're kind of going down the wrong path when we go down the road of corn ethanol. And it's not only resulting in higher food prices, it's also not particularly good for the environment.

ROBERTS: Right. We've seen food riots and shortages in many countries. Here's what Lester Brown of the Earth Policy Institute said about all of that. Take a quick listen.


LESTER BROWN, EARTH POLICY INSTITUTE: The most immediate thing that can be done to restore some semblance of stability in the world food economy is for the U.S. to restrict the amount of grain being used to produce fuel for cars.


ROBERTS: There is increasing pressure from some world leaders for the U.S. to cut down on its production of ethanol, particularly with the use of corn. You've said we need to go to other sources. President Bush has set a target of 60 billion gallons of ethanol on the market from domestic production by the year 2030.

We're not yet ready to bring these other forms of ethanol production like cellulosic ethanol from switchgrass on line. So do you think that we will, to reach those targets, be ever more increasingly reliant on corn as a source of ethanol and therefore exacerbate the food problem even more?

MCGOVERN: Well, unless we change our ways, we will be more reliant on corn ethanol. What I'm advocating is that we reassess what we've been doing.

Look, we kind of jumped the gun. We embraced corn ethanol. We all want energy independence. There's no doubt about that. But the bottom line is we need to pursue energy independence through another means. Our kind of reliance on corn ethanol has produced other problems.

ROBERTS: Is this --

MCGOVERN: It's not good for the environment and has resulted in higher food prices here in the United States and around the world. And, you know, food prices are going up, you know, not only means that it's tough for the average family to afford food. But in some parts of the world, it means that people are going to starve to death.

ROBERTS: But is there -- MCGOVERN: And so, we need to do something.

ROBERTS: Congressman, is there anybody in Congress, though, including yourself, who's willing to go to the mat and say, hey, whoa, we got to slow down on this. We got to change our policy until we're ready to bring these other technologies on-line?

MCGOVERN: I'm willing to go to the mat. I've been talking about this issue for quite sometime.

ROBERTS: You got some legislation in the works?

MCGOVERN: Well, we're looking at ways to try to reassess our position here which is one of embracing corn ethanol and trying to move it toward something else?

ROBERTS: But are you willing to write some legislation?

MCGOVERN: Yes, I am. Absolutely, I am. We have a crisis right now, a food crisis. You mentioned food riots. We have higher food prices here in the United States.

Look, we have people in the United States who can't afford to buy their groceries. We have people in the United States who are food insecure.

ROBERTS: So how -- so how soon might you be willing to write some legislation?

MCGOVERN: I'm working on it right now. So you'll be the first to know as soon as I introduce something.

ROBERTS: Excellent.

MCGOVERN: But the bottom line is that this is an issue that we need to focus on. This is a crisis. Food prices are going up here in the United States and around the world. We have people in the United States who can't afford their groceries.

We have people around the world who, quite frankly, if the world doesn't step up to the plate and provide additional funding, people are going to starve to death. So this is something we need to focus on right now.

ROBERTS: OK, do us a favor. Let us know when you're ready to go with the legislation because we need you back on.


ROBERTS: And we'll talk about it.


ROBERTS: Congressman Jim McGovern of Massachusetts, thanks for being with us this morning.

MCGOVERN: Thank you.

ROBERTS: All right.


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: A twist in the battle between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Both now claimed that they have more popular votes. Clinton says that if Michigan and Florida are included, she leads by more than 100,000 votes. Now, Obama's name wasn't on the Michigan ballot.

Both candidates had agreed to boycott states holding primaries earlier than the Democratic Party allowed. Now, Obama leads Clinton by a half a million votes if Michigan and Florida are not counted.

And the debate over what to do about Florida and Michigan prompted a heated exchange last night on CNN's "LARRY KING LIVE" between Clinton supporter James Carville and New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson who's backing Obama and disagreed about whether those delegates should count.


GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D), NEW MEXICO: We all decided we won't going to participate in those two. Then all of a sudden now when Senator Obama in one of the states hasn't even on the ballot, you want to count the delegates there. You can't change the rules.

JAMES CARVILLE, CLINTON SUPPORTER: You know, maybe the governor was on vacation and not taking phone calls when myself and Governor Rendell, and Governor Corzine offered to pay for a revote in Florida and Michigan. By the way, I will point out, of people actually voting, Senator Clinton leads the popular vote. People did go vote in Florida, but didn't go vote in Michigan. They didn't count the delegates after they voted. But we ...

RICHARDSON: That's false. Totally false. How can you say when they didn't participate, James? How can you say that? That is lunacy. That is lunacy.

CARVILLE: I have not interrupted you.


PHILLIPS: As we mentioned, Obama was not on the ballot in Michigan and neither candidate campaigned in Florida.

ROBERTS: A battle over billions could hold up the latest war funding bill. Aides say House Democrats want to add nearly $13 billion to the bill that is intended to provide extended unemployment benefits and education funding for veterans.

But President Bush has promised to veto any bill that goes over his $108 billion request for military and diplomatic efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The top U.S. military commander in Iraq is getting a promotion. General David Petraeus will take over the U.S. Central Command and oversee the wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan. The White House wants Petraeus' former deputy in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, to replace him. If approved by Congress, Petraeus said Odierno would be in his new job by September.

PHILLIPS: U.S. Inspector-General for Iraq Reconstruction says Iraq could take in as much as $70 billion in oil revenues this is year. His report is prompting Congress to consider laws that would force Iraq to shoulder more of the cost of rebuilding their country.

I recently returned from Iraq and reported on the corruption in the Iraqi oil industry. And here's some of what we found.


PHILLIPS (voice-over): What looks like homes on the outside are really warehouses to store barrels of smuggled oil, gasoline, and other oil products. And underneath the barrels, buried tanks of petroleum products, deep underground.

An Iraqi Coast Guard commander says they just don't have the means to fight them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The smugglers are just more powerful. They have heavier firepower and their ships are incredibly armored. 30 millimeters thick. We shoot at them but we can't catch them.

PHILLIPS: I sat down with Iraq's Minister of Oil.

So you know there's a problem that the Iraqi Coast Guard needs help.


PHILLIPS: They need weapons. They need manpower.

AL-SHAHRISTANI: Now, we know that because our pipelines keep attacked all the time.

PHILLIPS: What are you doing to support the Iraqi Coast Guard now?

AL-SHAHRISTANI: There's still work that has to be done, particularly with aerial surveillance and with aerial equipment not only to detect but to be able to attack and stop the smugglers. I've always been telling the Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Interior that if you can sink a couple of those boats, this would be the best message to the smugglers that they cannot do it anymore.


ROBERTS: So, they're stealing this oil out of the pipelines. Do they have any idea how much revenue they're losing for this?

PHILLIPS: No. It's billions of dollars. I mean every month, $5 billion of revenue comes from the oil. I mean, and then you look at the conditions there and you think of the $11 to $12 billion a month coming from the U.S. and you're thinking where's that money going? What's happening?

I mean corruption and smuggling, it's a tremendous problem. And these mafias, they're massive. I mean, the Coast Guard can't stop them. And they cut deals with the tribes and they siphon the oil out of the pipelines and they're selling it. Their main client -- Iran.

ROBERTS: Yes and all of this is increasingly raising eyebrows in Congress. Maybe something will come of it. We'll see. I don't know.

34 minutes after the hour. Alina Cho joins us now with more headline news.

Good morning to you.

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you on this Friday eve. Good morning, everybody.

New this morning, Congress will take a closer look at the proposed merger of Delta and Northwest airlines today. The move comes just a day after both companies announced a combined first quarter loss of $10.5 billion.

Some lawmakers think the merger would lead to job cuts and higher ticket prices. The airlines say rising fuel costs are forcing them to merge in order to survive.

A new warning from government scientists about global warming. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or NOAA says greenhouse gases are accumulating in the earth's atmosphere faster than ever. They say that despite efforts to curtail their growth and that they say is causing the earth's temperature to rise. The carbon dioxide level, for instance, is driven up mostly by burning fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas.

A breath of fresh air for casinos in Atlantic City. Listen to this. The city council there has voted unanimously to ban smoking on the gambling floors on all 11 Atlantic City casinos.

John Roberts among those cheering the move. The major loophole in the New Jersey ban on smoking in public buildings, casinos had been exempt. Casino workers, of course, cheered the move saying nobody deserves to work in an ashtray. The ban takes effect on October 15.

This morning for the first time, we're hearing the desperate call to 911 after a grizzly bear trained to be in the movies turned on his trainer. That call was released overnight. Take a listen.


OPERATOR #2: Hold on, ma'am. She's at Onyx Summit off of Rainbow Lane. There's a bear. We think it's an animal attack.

CALLER: Yes, bear attack!

OPERATOR #1: A bear attack?

CALLER: A bear attack.

CALLER: He's bleeding heavily from his neck. We're trying to get him into the car. We need someone here immediately.


CHO: The 700-pound bear attacked and killed a trainer, 39-year- old Steven Miller is his name. He was bitten in the neck. The reason we're showing you that movie is because the bear named Rocky had just been featured in the film, "Semipro" was touted one of the best trained in show business. Authorities are known debating whether that bear should be euthanized.

Stick around because coming up at 7:55 Eastern Time in a little more than an hour, we're going to talk to the assistant curator at the Columbus Zoo. He'll be talking about whether grizzly bears can ever be safely handled by humans and trained.

ROBERTS: The bottom line in all, this is a wild animal. Can a wild animal ever be fully trained?

CHO: At the end of the day, yes, they're going to do what they want to do. And in this case, we saw that it turned deadly.

But anyway, we want to show you more incredible video we're getting in to CNN. It shows a police helicopter. Take a look. Topeka, Kansas making a crash landing. The chopper went down in a parking lot at Washburn University.

The video actually came from a security camera on a pole. The rotors knocked down the light pole. You can see the police responding there in the dark a bit. The chopper is on its side. Nobody was hurt, thankfully. The pilots had reported some engine trouble.

And finally, when all else fails, pray. That's what a Washington church group is doing in hopes the gas prices will go down. They'll try anything. They prayed at the pump, bowed their heads and asked God for cheaper gas. Happened at a D.C. area gas station. No word on the point of their work, but we can report that other drivers actually joined the church group in prayer. Listen. Divine intervention, whatever it takes. I mean, $3.56 a gallon.


PHILLIPS: They pray for rain and then help with the drought. And it happened. They prayed on the steps and --

ALI VELSHI, CNN SENIOR BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think the gas thing -- the signals got crossed because I said the price of oil has actually come down a little bit in the last couple of days. So, maybe they just like -- gas, oil, there's some kind of ...

CHO: I wouldn't know what to do if I woke up and didn't see an e-mail saying another record overnight with gas prices.

VELSHI: Right, right. Exactly. Neither would I.

ROBERTS: I would wait for the other shoe to drop.

VELSHI: Right, right

ROBERTS: Sorry, that was an error we sent out.

VELSHI: Yes, exactly.

And by the way, we've got rice prices -- you've been talking about food. Rice prices are another one of those commodities like wheat and corn, more than doubled in the last year.

We're going to tell you how that's actually going to affect you. Something we're not used to seeing. Limits on how much you can buy. AMERICAN MORNING's coming right back and we'll tell you that when we come back.


VELSHI: Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING. I'm Ali Velshi. We've been talking about the food crisis. And it is a crisis. The price of commodities having increase as much as they have over the last couple of year. Well, now, if you're looking to stock up on rice, you're going to have to do it surreptiously.

Particularly, if you're shopping at places Costco or Sam's Club. Let me first tell you about the price of rice, where it's at right now. This is the price of trader's pay. But it's 24.82 for 100 pounds. Most people can figure out that's a lot of money for something that's supposed to be sort of a basic commodity.

Now, over at Sam's Club, they're putting some limitations on how much of this you can buy. They've got 20-pound bags of rice. Sort of bulk rice. And they're limiting what you can buy to four bags at a time of jasmine, basmati, and long grain white rice.

Now you might say to yourself, why do I need more than four 20- pound bags of rice. It's not generally people at home who are buying this. But what's happening is these places have become a good place for smaller restaurants and operations to stock up on their stuff.

They don't need to come in with a truck. They can get what they need. And as a result, they are limiting that so that people don't use their rice and resell it. It's a bit of an issue. I mean, there's one thing about limiting prices because you don't want your retail product to become a wholesale product. That's never been an issue with Sam's Club and Costco. They've never tried to do that.

Costco has limits, too. They just don't have them as consistently. These are at all Sam's Club stores. This is about controlling supply, because it is that that expensive. And that's where we start -- it just starts to trickle in, because clearly those restaurants can't buy as readily as they'd like to. It's going to cost more to you, the consumer.

ROBERTS: Who would have thought that we would be in the food hording in 2008?

VELSHI: Yes, that's exactly right. That tells you something. This is a big problem.

ROBERTS: Ali, thanks very much.

An April shower turns into a snowstorm in Northern California, plus the rest of the extreme weather. Rob Marciano has got it next on AMERICAN MORNING.



PHILLIPS: Well, it's sentencing day for Wesley Snipes in his tax case. And prosecutors say they want to make an example of the action star. Straight ahead, AMERICAN MORNING's legal analyst Sunny Hostin on the punishment that Snipes could face.

ROBERTS: And just a day after her big win in Pennsylvania, Senator Hillary Clinton is looking for more. Why she says she actually has more popular votes than Barack Obama. It's the "Most Politics in the Morning" ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


ROBERTS: Ten minutes now to the top of the hour. Prosecutors want to send a message today, when actor Wesley Snipes is sentenced in a Florida Federal Court for failing to file tax returns. They're requesting them maximum penalties, three years in prison and a fine of at least $5 millions.

Prosecutors told the judge that the case presents an opportunity to deter tax crimes nationwide. Our AMERICAN MORNING legal analyst Sunny Hostin joins me now.

So they're claiming that he owes them $15 million in back taxes (INAUDIBLE) government and the $41 million. Let's get this unique defense called the 891? What is that all about?

SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's really interesting, John. It's this sort of obscure section of the tax code that a lot of people in this tax avoidance movement try to use. And what they argue is that foreign sources of income for U.S. citizens are taxable, thus trying to make the argument that any money that you make in the United States is not taxable.

They also make this argument that the IRS is not really a proper government agency, and so the IRS can't collect taxes anyway. It really is a frivolous argument. It is a movement. It's all over the Internet. Many, many people are part of that movement, but, again, it's a frivolous, frivolous interpretation of the law. It just doesn't work. It has no legs whatsoever.

ROBERTS: As they said at the top of this, what they're sentencing, they seem to be trying to send a message. You've read through the court documents and the arguments that the government is making. How will you start by this whole thing?

HOSTIN: You know, I've written this. I have it here. It's about 37 pages. The tone was very, very impressive to me. Very, very shocking. It's clear that the government wants to send a message. When you look at it, it says this case cries out for the statutory maximum term of imprisonment, as well as a substantial fine because of the seriousness of dependence (INAUDIBLE) crimes and because of the singular opportunity this case presents to deter tax crime nationwide.

And a lot of people, John, think that he got off. He did not get off. He was convicted of three-counts and those three counts expose him to three years in prison. And that's what the government is asking for.

ROBERTS: So what do you think the judge will do today?

HOSTIN: I think he is going to get jail time. I think it's a wonderful opportunity to sort of send this message out and he's going to be sentenced today at 9:30. Everyone is going to be watching. I'm going to be watching and I think that he's going to be facing some time.

ROBERTS: We'll hear from you later on this, Sunny. We'll see if you're right. Thanks.

PHILLIPS: And a new fight in the race for the Democratic nomination. Hillary Clinton says that she has more popular votes than Barack Obama. How she came up with it? That's coming up next.

ROBERTS: CNN exclusive. One-on-one with the attorney defending the alleged mastermind of 9/11.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are going against the entire United States government.


ROBERTS: A navy captain who served in Iraq represents the other side in the first war crime tribunal since World War II.

And reaching out. John McCain's bid to grab some Obama-Clinton voters while they go at each other.


ROBERTS: Five minutes to the top of the hour. Is it uncalled for hysteria or careful planning? Sam's Club and Costco are now setting restrictions on purchases of certain types of rice.

Sam's Club says it's a temporary cap intended to ensure that there's plenty of rice for all members, limiting sales of 20 pounds bags of imported rice to four per member. Some Americans have even started hording the grain as its price has doubled this year.

And that brings us to this morning's "Quick Vote" question. U.S. stores rationing rice? Is it a good idea?

Right now, 66 percent of you say it's producing panic. 34 percent say it is a sensible solution. Cast your vote at We'll continue to tally the votes throughout this hour.

We also want to hear from you on this as well. Send us an e- mail. Is there a bigger food problem that the U.S. is ignoring? What about using food as fuel. We want to know what you think. Go to our Web site at Follow the link that says contact us. We'll read some of those e-mails in our next hour here of AMERICAN MORNING.

PHILLIPS: The "Most Politics in the Morning" now. Just a day after her win in Pennsylvania, Hillary Clinton claims that she has more popular votes than Barack Obama. But the Obama camp says it depends on how you count.

Jonathan Capehart is the editorial board writer for the "Washington Post." He joins me now from our Washington bureau.


PHILLIPS: Good morning. Good to see you. Let's go ahead and listen to both candidates and then I want to get your reaction.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We think that if at the end, we end up having won twice as many states and having the most votes, then we should end up being the nominee.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm very proud that as of today, I have received more votes by the people who have voted than anybody else.


PHILLIPS: OK, so who's ahead? Lay it out for me here? I'm confused. They both say it's each other.

CAPEHART: Well, Barack Obama is ahead in total pledge delegates. Senator Clinton is ahead in popular vote, but only if you count Michigan and Florida. And as we know by now, those two primaries are contested. Senators Clinton and Obama are on the ballot in Florida, but only Senator Clinton was on the ballot in Michigan. But, listen, neither --

PHILLIPS: Does it matter in the end, that's what I'm wondering. Does it matter in the end?

CAPEHART: Yes, it does matter in the end. It matters more for Senator Clinton. Because remember, neither candidate can get to the magic number of 2025 to secure the nomination. They're going to have to get there by getting superdelegates.

Now, if Senator Clinton can make the -- can have the moral argument that, hey, look, I've got the most popular votes, more people voted for me than voted for Senator Obama, therefore you must take that into consideration when casting your vote, Mr. or Ms. Superdelegate. Please think about that.

So, for Senator Clinton, it's very important. The popular vote argument is very important to her.

PHILLIPS: Now, Jonathan, Why can't Obama close the deal with white blue-collar workers?

CAPEHART: You know, if I had the real answer to that, I wouldn't be sitting here right now. I'd be on a beach somewhere.

PHILLIPS: Well, should we be talking about race again? Race and gender? We haven't talk about it in a while. Is it making an impact?

CAPEHART: You know, as much as I wouldn't want to admit it, I do think that race could possibly be a part of this. Senator Obama, for most of his campaign, ran a campaign that was deemed post racial. That it did not matter. He was a serious candidate talking about serious issues that faced all Americans.

But somewhere along the line, he had to -- suddenly he became sort of the black candidate for a lot of people. And I think that was aided by the comments and the snippets of the sermons from Reverend Jeremiah Wright. And I think that's a nightmare for him that's going to keep recurring and I just want to let you and maybe viewers out there who don't know this, but Reverend Wright is due to speak at the National Press Club on Monday.

So this is something that could come back to haunt Senator Obama, given what Reverend Wright says on Monday.

PHILLIPS: OK. So that's the race factor. What about the gender factor? I mean, if we go back to Gloria Steinem and what she said months and months ago, about look that's an even bigger issue, than the race factor. Is that playing a part here at all?

CAPEHART: Yes. Race and gender certainly playing a part. And gender in particular. I mean, look, who help push Senator Clinton over the top. Yes, she got a huge majority of Catholic votes, but she got an enormous majority of the female vote and white working women's vote.

What we're seeing here in this historic Democratic campaign are two constituencies within the Democratic Party that are enormously proud. You have African-Americans who are proud of Barack Obama and coming out and voting for him in droves, 92 percent voted for him in Pennsylvania. But you also have women who are enormously proud of Senator Clinton and would like to see her become the first woman president.