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American Morning

Interview With Senator John McCain; Three Bombings in Spain This Morning; Oil Down, Dollar Up Following Another Fed Rate Cut

Aired May 01, 2008 - 08:00   ET


THOMAS WILES, SON BELIEVED TO BE KIDNAPPED: He and I had traveled a couple of days earlier down to Miami and back and it was a very pleasant, uplifting day for me. And I think for him also.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: And your company has been extremely successful. And we've talked about this ransom note and the issue of money and the kidnapping of your son.

I want both of you to respond to this. Do you believe that this was a targeted kidnapping solely for the purpose of gaining money?


PAMELA WILES, SON BELIEVED TO BE KIDNAPPED: It's very possible. I really don't want to speculate. I really don't know. But I think, yes, it's very possible.

PHILLIPS: Tom, final thoughts. Anybody in the company that was disgruntled any type of relationship problems, maybe your son might have had with a former co-worker?

T. WILES: None that I know of. Robert tended to get along well with people and he's not the kind of a young man who really makes any enemies.

PHILLIPS: Why do you think the search has gone all the way to Thailand? Pamela? Or Tom?

P. WILES: I prefer Tom to answer that.

PHILLIPS: Go ahead, Tom.

T. WILES: Robert was working with a company in Thailand in an effort to develop some aviation business. It's not unusual. We have relations with companies all over the world.

PHILLIPS: Pamela, final thought?

P. WILES: Umm, final thought is --

T. WILES: We love him and we want him back.

P. WILES: We love our son. He's a fantastic person and we did originally have a reward for $10,000 for tips leading to Robert. Now our thoughts are $50,000 for information leading to his whereabouts and $200,000 for information leading to an arrest and a conviction. We really would like the audience's support. And please call in with any little information. And we just really want our son back.

PHILLIPS: Understandably. It's got to be really tough as parents. Pamela and Tom Wiles --

P. WILES: It's very hard.

PHILLIPS: No doubt. Well, Pamela, the search for your son and the investigation. Appreciate your time this morning.

P. WILES: Thank you so much.

T. WILES: Thank you, Kyra.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: It's two minutes after the hour now and to the "Most Politics in the Morning." Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama hit the ground running again today in Indiana. The Democrats are campaigning hard there with five days to go now until the primary.

Meanwhile, Republican John McCain takes his campaign to Ohio and Iowa today. McCain is reeling against congressional earmarks. He says the Minnesota bridge collapse is a tragic example of what happens when money is wasted on pork barrel projects instead of fixing infrastructure.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: To somehow believe that this outrageous practice of earmarking is somehow acceptable because there are some good projects and programs in them actually is in direct contradiction of everything I stand for and believe in.

Now, people are entitled to their opinion. Members of the Appropriations Committee feel very strongly this is a vital thing earmarking. I think it's wrong.


ROBERTS: McCain has pledged to eliminate earmarks estimated at $18 billion last year. Senator McCain is going to be our guest coming up at 8:25 Eastern. About 20 minutes from now right here on CNN.

And we'll be streaming the interview, live, online as well in case you don't happen to have a television set at work or something and you're headed off there, you can watch at

The former chairman of the Democratic National Committee from the time that Bill Clinton was president is set to announce that he is backing Barack Obama.

Joe Andrew explained his decision in a letter, writing, quote, "The simple answer is that while the timing is hard for me personally, it is best for America. We simply cannot wait any longer nor can we let this race fall any lower and still hope to win in November. June or July may be too late. The time to act is now." So the Democratic rate for superdelegates looks like this at the moment. Hillary Clinton leads with 260. Barack Obama has 240. Around 230 superdelegates remain uncommitted.

Senator Obama's wife, Michelle, sat down with our Suzanne Malveaux last night along with Caroline Kennedy who is campaigning with the Obamas. Michelle Obama said that she wants to move on from the controversy over their former pastor and focus on the issues. She added that her husband is ready for any criticism headed his way.


MICHELLE OBAMA, BARACK OBAMA'S WIFE: The one thing Barack knows is that when you are seeking one of the most powerful positions in the world, you've got to be able to take it. And you've got to, you know, know that the problems that are coming at you are going to be big and they are going to require emotional fortitude and courage and stepping out and hurting feelings and a whole range of things. This is an important test. And he has always said that.

He's said measure me not by what other people say or do, but by how he handles himself in this race, the kind of organization he's built, the kind of campaign he's run. And let me tell you as an unobjective observer who is sometimes very critical of my husband, he's done a phenomenal job.


ROBERTS: Former Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee is also weighing in on the Jeremiah Wright controversy. Huckabee who is a Baptist minister, called Wright's recent comments, quote, "absurd" and he questioned the pastor's motives for speaking out.


MIKE HUCKABEE (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The anger has no basis. If it's not true that a man because of his color is held back and can't be president, then so much of what Jeremiah Wright has said is invalid. So, Jeremiah Wright needs for Obama to lose so he can continue to justify his anger, hostile, bitterness against the United States of America.


ROBERTS: Tough words. Huckabee says Obama's campaign is being derailed by someone who doesn't want him to prove that we have made great advances in this country.

PHILLIPS: Right now we're following breaking news out of the Middle East. Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas is recovering at a hospital in Jordan after undergoing emergency angioplasty surgery. The operation clears blocks of blood vessels to prevent a heart attack.

An aid says that the operation was a success. Abbas is scheduled to return to the West Bank tomorrow and is expected to meet with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice over the weekend.

CNN has learned that a U.S. missile targeted and may have killed a major terror leader in Somalia overnight. The White House won't confirm the strike, but a source says that the U.S. was going after the head of the Al-Shabab, a group with ties to al Qaeda. The U.S. has hit several terror targets in Somalia over the past year.

ROBERTS: Six minutes after the hour. Three bombings in Spain this morning to tell you about. The bombs targeted labor related buildings in the bask region. No one was hurt because no one was in the buildings at the time. The reason for that, today is May Day, traditional workers holiday. Police say the bombings were carried out by the separatist group ETA.

Meantime, May Day protests got rough in Berlin. Police arrested dozens of rioters who threw rocks and smashed windows to mark May Day.

PHILLIPS: Oil is down, the dollar is up following another fed rate cut. Just a coincidence? Find out, straight ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


ROBERTS: It's coming up on nine minutes after the hour. And for the 17th day in a row now gas prices have hit a record high, looking at the AMERICAN MORNING gas gauge -- ding, ding, ding, there it is.

National average for a gallon of self-serve regular $3.62. Up 33 cents from last month, 64 cents from last year when gas still under $3 a gallon.

You know, I can't quite figure out -- why do we do that? We just want to conflict more pain on people? We tell them what it was a year ago.



PHILLIPS: I'll tell you where the pain. When we start talking about $7 a gallon, now that's pain. We don't want to see it gets that bad.

VELSHI: You know, I think the thing is that when you see it sort of tick up like that, you don't really register when you are supposed to do something about it. It's like my gosh --


ROBERTS: We also don't know when the ticking is going to stop either.

VELSHI: You don't know. So I mean, part of the thing is that when we look at price of gas, but it's related to the price of oil. About 74 percent of the price of a gallon of gas is determined by a barrel of oil.

Now for whatever reason, we are seeing a pull-back in the price of a barrel of oil. It's only about $113 and a half this morning. If you want to pick one up --


VELSHI: Yes, it's a bargain. And one of the things that we look at is the relationship between the price of a barrel of oil and the level at which the U.S. dollar is. And the good news that we got this morning is that the U.S. dollar has been strengthening over the course of a week. It's about $1.55 toward the Euro. You know, it was $1.60. So for those of you planning a vacation.

Take a look at this chart that compares how the dollar has performed over the last few years versus crude oil. The red is the dollar, green is crude oil. And you can see it's almost directly correlated -- inversely correlated. When the dollar goes up, crude oil goes down. When the dollar goes down, crude oil goes up. So, that's one piece of information that goes into the price of oil. The other one, of course, is supply and demand.

And finally, one thing that we've got going on these days is people trading oil just to make money in it, speculating in the price oil. They are not people who are buying oil to make it into petroleum or gasoline. So, that's part of the issue that we've got right now.

Those are the three factors driving the price of oil and one of them might be helped by the dollar.

PHILLIPS: So what should we invest in?

VELSHI: Well, folks who are investing in commodities and oil, because the stock market wasn't particularly the best place to go or real estate, as the Fed cuts rates, it might make other investments more attractive. It doesn't mean it's going to happen right now.

But there are some people who think there's run-up in oil and commodities might start to ease up. Some people say as much as 35 percent. I have somebody telling me the other day they felt that $45 or $50 of the price of a barrel of oil right now is all speculative.

ROBERTS: And how long before that works through the system and we start to see these prices for gasoline (INAUDIBLE) back down?

VELSHI: That's a good question, but at least this easing in the price of oil -- usually it's about a two-week lag. So, maybe we'll see that. But then we've got that increase in demand for gasoline and AAA says $3.90 by --

ROBERTS: And we've got reformulation and all of that.

VELSHI: Yes. So, I don't think you're getting a break for a while.

ROBERTS: All right. Ali, thanks very much. PHILLIPS: We've talking about not seeing a break, we're talking about the worst flooding in a hundred years. We're going to tell you why the river is rising in Fort Kent, Maine. That's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


PHILLIPS: It's been called the worst flooding in a hundred years. Way up north in Maine, the St. John River is five feet above flood stage. That's due to a mix of rain and melting snow. Believe it or not, more than one hundred homes and businesses have been evacuated now in the town of Fort Kent.

ROBERTS: The water is really high there.

PHILLIPS: Not a fun situation to be in. I have lived in flooded areas. And it makes everything difficult including being a weather guy like -- or meteorologist like Reynolds Wolf, (INAUDIBLE) track the reasons and he's going to continue.

ROBERTS: He's down there in Atlanta tracking the extreme weather.

Potential tornadoes in the Midwest this morning, Reynolds? Good morning.


ROBERTS: From health care to a holiday for gasoline tax to Iraq, Senator John McCain joins us live just a few minutes from now to talk about all of that.

PHILLIPS: And economic times are tough and yes, they're getting tougher. Personal Finance Editor Gerri Willis has tips for us, keeping our money and investments hopefully inflation-proof.


ROBERTS: 19 minutes after the hour. The price of gasoline hit a record high this morning. Regular now selling for $3.62 a gallon nationally. Of course, it's a major campaign issue with Hillary Clinton and John McCain both supporting a gas tax holiday, cutting the 18.4 cents federal tax from a gallon of regular. Barack Obama, though, firmly against it.


SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would immediately lower gas prices by temporarily suspending the gas tax for consumers and businesses.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Sounds good, maybe it polls well. But here's the truth, it would save the average family $30 over the course of three months.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ROBERTS: So, whose plan do you support? It's our "Quick Vote" question. Right now, just one percent of you like John McCain's plan to have a federal gas tax holiday. 17 percent prefer Hillary Clinton's plan to have a holiday paid for by tax and oil company profits. The overwhelming majority of you, though, 82 percent, support Barack Obama's opposition to a holiday.

And send us an e-mail. Tell us your thoughts about it. Go to our Web site Follow the link that says "Contact Us." We'll read some of those e-mails, coming up in about 25 minutes' time here.


PHILLIPS: Well, prices rising all around us, and the dollar continuing to weaken. How do you keep your money and investments safe from inflation? Personal finance editor Gerri Willis joining us now to help us protect our portfolio. Maybe a little inflation 101 first.

GERRI WILLIS, CNN PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR: Yes, exactly. Well, you know, we talk about inflation. Ali Velshi describes it all the time. Simply rising prices. We've seen this in the grocery store, the gas pump. Take a look at this numbers. You probably -- when you go out to buy eggs, milk, butter, you name it. Those prices are up -- way up. And you know, it's a real problem for families. But that's not the only thing it affects.

PHILLIPS: Well, we want to inflation-proof our portfolio. As you like to put. We are all worried about our retirement savings, even though we are hopefully not going to be there very soon. We're thinking about it.

WILLIS: Exactly. Well, and you know, it depends on how close you are, right? Well, look, inflation is like having a hole in your pocket. That dollar of retirement savings that you put away today is worth 96 cents because inflation is running at four percent. This just ease into your returns all the time.

If you have money in a money market account, you're probably losing money right now with an inflation of four percent or you could be close to it. So you want to think about where you're putting your money. One big problem area, bonds. Bond returns, get an interest rated coupon on a bond, inflation just eats right into that. So that's a problematic area.

One thing to think about, Treasury Inflation Protected Securities. These are sold by the Treasury Department on their Web site -- You can buy those securities there. Their principle is adjusted with inflation. So you get a little benefit there. And I know, retirees in particular are really worried about this. Young people are very conservative investors because they worry about the markets.

PHILLIPS: Yes. I used to be very aggressive, but got more conservative. Actually, I had a lot of bonds funds about six months ago. Now you're scaring me. You're telling me that's not good right now. So that's whole another story for me. But how can we protect ourselves? You've already taught me something.

WILLIS: This is an argument for investing in stocks really, because stock returns are less affected by inflation compared to bonds. And even at a time like this when the stock market has been uncertain, you really want to think about investing in equities because at the end of the day you have to have all your stuff in a number of baskets to actually win by the time you get to retirement.

PHILLIPS: Gerri Willis, thanks so much.

WILLIS: My pleasure.

PHILLIPS: And the economy is issue no.1 for voters. You can join Gerri. You can learn more about this. Also, Ali Velshi on the CNN money team for "ISSUE #1" today at noon Eastern, right here on CNN and online at if you have any more concerns and questions.

ROBERTS: One-on-one from a gas tax holiday to turning the corner in Iraq, Senator John McCain joins us. Coming up next on AMERICAN MORNING. Don't you dare go away.


ROBERTS: It's 24 minutes after the hour. Welcome back to the "Most Politics in the Morning." And joining us now live from Cleveland, the presumptive Republican nominee Senator John McCain.

Senator, good to see you, again. Thanks for being with us.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thanks, John. Good to be with you.

ROBERTS: We want to talk policy here because it's very important to people, health care, particularly complex issue, people have a lot of questions about it. So let me first start by asking you the plan that you outlined the other day. Do you want to see a complete end to employer-based health care plans?

MCCAIN: No. Absolutely not. I want to give the people a choice as to whether they want to keep their employer plan, funded plan or go out with their $5,000 tax credit and go across state lines and around this country and get the insurance policy of their choice. Whichever they want to, it's based on choice.

ROBERTS: So how much of a reduction -- you are saying that if people go out there and they shop the market for it, that they will get a reduction in price. How much of a reduction in price are you shooting for the average family?

MCCAIN: I'm looking for a substantial reduction in price with the other reforms that we are going to have to put into place like outcome based treatment, cash in counseling, like increasing community health centers, like walk-in clinics. A whole bunch of measures.

But, of course, when you have choice and competition which we do not today in many respects and transparency, then obviously you are going to reduce costs. And that's what we have to do and that will give Americans a greater access to health insurance and at lower costs.

ROBERTS: I was just doing some rough math yesterday. The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that the average cost for a family plan for Americans and it could be higher or lower, but the average cost is about $12,000 of which the employee shares $3200.

So if you take that $3200 and you factor in your tax credit of $5,000, it comes up to $8200. So you are looking at a lowering of costs of about $3800 for these folks to break even unless the employer compensates them with some extra income. Do you think you can get that level of reduction?

MCCAIN: Well, first of all, you're paying -- one of the reasons why you are paying that much is because there's so many uninsured that adds to everybody's health care costs when the uninsured have to be taken care of. So that's a significant part of that.

The other math part of it is that if you have an open and transparent system where you can shop around the country just as you do for automobile insurance, then obviously you are going to get more competition and lower costs. And the $5,000 tax credit you are talking about will go to families right now who don't have any -- who don't have any. So they will be $5,000 better off than as far as refundable tax credits concerned than they certainly are today.

ROBERTS: And do you have any kind of estimate of how many people need to move from the employer-based system to a market-based system in order for there to be that kind of level of purchasing power that would actually increase competition and reduce prices?

MCCAIN: Well, we know fundamentals. Fundamentals are when you have choice and competition costs go down. And right now, people do not -- right now, when employer-based insurance, they don't have any choice as to what kind of plan it is. They just can take that or not at all. And now they are going to have choices and they are going to have a transparency and they are going to be able to go online and choose the insurer of their choice and they are going to be -- have it tailor made to them.

But we have to reduce overall costs. You can't just look at this as a single aspect. The problem with health care in America, John, is not the quality of care. It's the cost of care and the inflation associated with care.

So, we bring the cost down and we get inflation under control, which is nearly double digit by a series of steps, including outcome- based treatment of people with chronic diseases, including many other aspects of health care reform, based on transparency and information technology, then you're going to bring overall costs down and you are going to give Americans choice. And right now they are bound to the employer-provided insurance, which doesn't give them choices.

ROBERTS: Senator on that point of people who suffer from chronic illness or preexisting conditions, one of your most outspoken critics on your health care plan is Elizabeth Edwards who says, there's no provision in there for people who have preexisting conditions that she with her breast cancer wouldn't be able to get a health care plan and someone like you who has been through melanoma treatment in the past wouldn't be able to get a health care plan.

MCCAIN: Well, the fact is we will have a guaranteed access plan. We will work with the states and the legislators -- legislatures. There's now 20 states --

ROBERTS: Have you got details on that yet?

MCCAIN: No, because I have to negotiate with the states and the legislators and the governors. But there are plans out there that are being implemented by the states. And we understand that that has to be taken care of.

And I understand that there will have to be a federal contribution to it. But right now we have to all come together and join and understand that those costs are really something that has to be addressed and we have to do it through risk -- increasing risk pools, by doing a whole lot of -- taking a lot of measures, which will be successful, we can do that.

ROBERTS: Senator, I want to switch gears here and talk about the gas tax holiday. It's gone to be the conversation of the morning. Tom Friedman in "The New York Times," a couple of days ago wrote this about your plan, he said, quote, "This is money laundering. We borrowed money from China and ship it to Saudi Arabia and take a little cut for ourselves as it goes through our gas tanks. What a way to build a country." What do you say to that idea? Because it's estimated it will cost about $9 billion or $10 billion for this gas tax holiday. And many people believe that the oil companies would never fully pass on that savings to the American people?

MCCAIN: Well, first of all, obviously they would have to. But second of all, I respect Tom Friedman, he's one of the brightest and most intelligent individuals in America. But Tom, let's give low income Americans just a little break this summer. That's all this is about. This is not the end of western civilization. This does not solve our dependence on foreign oil. What it does is give low-income Americans who drive further with older automobiles and are bearing the brunt of this a little bit of a break for the summer. Americans are not feeling too good right now, if you look at the polls.

ROBERTS: But, who pays the --

MCCAIN: So let's give them a little break and give them a little relaxation. Of course, that doesn't mean they are going to buy more gasoline. It means they are going to have a little money left over maybe to buy a better meal, maybe to buy something for their kids. Maybe that is what this is all about. And I understand in New York City that you don't really drive a long way. Most of the time. But and then maybe you're chauffeured. But the point is...

ROBERTS: Can I ask you one more question, Senator? Can I interrupt this tirade against Tom Friedman for a second? I'm running out of time.

MCCAIN: I'm not against Tom Friedman. I like, admire and respect him.

ROBERTS: I m running out of time here. I want to ask you one more question. Carl Rove in the "Wall Street Journal" yesterday had an editorial in which he said people need to know more about you personally. You know, your record is well-known but your personal life isn't well-known. You need to get out there and tell people more about who John McCain really is with some stories. Do you got something you would like to, you know, pass along to folks that might illuminate who you really are?

MCCAIN: Not really. But again, I want to reiterate - can I just reiterate my affection and respect for Tom Friedman and all economists. But let me just say this will be a long campaign, John. And I hope we will be able to explain to the American people why my qualifications and experience and knowledge and give me the judgment to lead this country. But obviously I'm a little reticent about some things, maybe I shouldn't be but I am, but I'll try to do better.

ROBERTS: Senator McCain, it's always a pleasure to talk to you. Thanks for being with us this morning.

MCCAIN: Thanks a lot, John.

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

PHILLIPS: Both democratic candidates are in Indiana this morning. Hillary Clinton campaigns in Indianapolis, Jeffersonville and Terra Haute. Barack Obama visits Southbend. And the race appears to be tightening. A new national democratic poll of five polls shows Clinton closing to within two percentage points of Obama's lead. 12% of voters are still unsure. The Obama campaign is trying move past the controversy over the Reverend Wright. That is what he is doing as well. And his wife, Michelle, spoke exclusively to CNN last night joined by Caroline Kennedy who is campaigning with the couple. Mrs. Obama said speaking out against their former pastor was painful and she tells our Suzanne Malveaux it's time to move on.


MICHELLE OBAMA, SEN. BARACK OBAMA'S WIFE: I was proud of the statement he made yesterday. It was a tough thing for him to do. It is a painful situation to be in.

Yes. It as painful. Yes, it's been difficult. But I think that, you know, the more difficult thing that this country is facing is really trying to move politics into conversations around problems and problem solving. And that's what we are going to be pretty determined to do. I think, you know, this is about all I'm going to say on the issue. And I think that you know, we're going to close this chapter and move into the next phase of this election. So, with that, I'm hoping that we'll talk about something else.

(END VIDEO CLIP) PHILLIPS: Senator Clinton said yesterday that Wright's comments were offensive and outrageous. Wright on Monday defended his belief that September 11th was brought on by America and that the government may have conspired to spread AIDS among African-Americans. Alina Cho is here with other stories making headlines. Hi, Alina.

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning again, guys. Good morning, everybody. 34 minutes after the hour.

New this morning. She's a wife, a mother of three and police say she's been on the run for 32 years. Not anymore. Police say Susan LeFerve escaped in 1976 from a detention camp in Michigan. She was serving a 10 to 20-year sentence on heroin charges, and escaped after serving less than a year. Since then, she changed her name to Marie Walsh, moved to California and got married. But an anonymous tip in March lead authorities to her.


SUSAN LEFERVE, ARRESTED AFTER 32 YEARS AS A FUGITIVE: Flashed his badge and just said "are you Susan LeFerve?" And I just thought, well, this is, you know, this is the moment. This is it. This is finally has happened, all these years.


CHO: Interesting. She's now being returned to Michigan where she will face escape charges and much more she may have also have to finish her nine-year sentence.

Well, if you thought getting into college was tough, try preschool. This is parents camping out at the Mary Lynn Elementary School in Atlanta. They have since moved inside because registration started a couple of minutes ago. The school is free, but can only take 20 preschoolers. And apparently they have already picked the first five. Again registration just getting under way now. Cameras are there inside as well. Several parents and more than 20 were reported to have been online since Monday. Many more are there right now.

And we have been telling you that we have the best political team on television. Clearly, others agree. Our own Candy Crowley was honored by the New Hampshire Political Library. The ceremony was last night. The nonpartisan group awarded CNN's senior political correspondent with the New Hampshire Primary Award for her political coverage. Well deserved. Congratulations, Candy. She's going to have to make room on the mantel. She's got a Dupont, an Emmy --

ROBERTS: She's great.

CHO: A Gracie Allen, everything else.

PHILLIPS: She's one of the best writers in television, by far.

CHO: Oh, she most certainly is. And braved the cold, as one of the wire copes said in New Hampshire during the primary. PHILLIPS: She braved a lot of things.

ROBERTS: I remember the poor thing when she standing there out in Des Moines when it was zero degrees.

CHO: Yes, that -- coming out of her mouth.

ROBERTS: Alina, thanks.

CHO: You bet.

PHILLIPS: We've got some pretty amazing video to show you now. A ritual baby toss in India. These poor kids. I don't know. It's dropped 50 feet.

CHO: Oh, my god.

PHILLIPS: Supposedly this brings them good health. Creates a lot of anxiety too, I'm sure.

ROBERTS: Now, hang on, we stopped it there, but the child actually lands in a sheet and is OK. They have been doing it for 500 years and apparently never had an injury.

Live pictures for you now. May day is one of the most important dates on the Cuban calendar. Maybe a chance for the new leader Raul Castro to announce major changes. We'll go live to Havana ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


PHILLIPS: Live pictures now from Havana, Cuba. 500,000 people expected to march. It's the first May day with Raul Castro officially in charge. CNN's Morgan Neill is live via broadband right there in Havana. Hi, Morgan.

MORGAN NEILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kyra, it's the biggest day on the communist party calendar. We got hundreds of thousands of people here in the Plaza of the Revolution. Marching behind me, the government expects some 500,000 people here today. I can tell you, it's not that easy to get that many people into a parade. We were coming in this morning about 4:30, we saw bus after bus, school buses trucking people in. This is a holiday we see every year here. But this year, the environment is a bit different.

Raul Castro officially became the country's president at the end of February. He's moved quickly to make some changes. He's removed from prohibition that particularly hurt Cubans. For example, Cubans can now buy cell phones and put them in their own names. They can enter tourist hotel. They can buy things like DVD players and computers that were formerly forbidden.

And he's made some changes that could wind up being more important in a countryside, turning over unproductive unused farmland to individual farmers, small farming coops that farm at least in part for profit. Now, the United States and other critics of Cuba say that these are cosmetic changes, that most Cubans can't afford these things anyway, which are certainly true. Nevertheless, these measures have been well received here. And that essentially is the new atmosphere here on May day. Kyra.

PHILLIPS: That is indeed interesting to see if there's a new relationship between Raul Castro and the United States as well. And marches and rallies being held today across the U.S. to show support for immigrants' rights. If you would like to watch any of those events, you can go to We'll be streaming them all day long.

ROBERTS: Reynolds Wolf at the CNN Weather Center tracking extreme weather. And we've got all kinds of it today, Reynolds.

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes. We really do. And when you think of it, what is it that has a chance of isolated tornadoes, some strong thunderstorms, some large hail, fire dangers and even some heavy snowfall, it's today's national forecast. And we're going to talk about that coming up right ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


WOLF: Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING. You know, it's hard to believe that a good part of the nation could be dealing with a chance of fire, some rain and even some snowfall. I mean, what a weird weather day it is, it's all due to this system, this area of low pressure, we got a line of moisture coming in from parts of the south. A lot of cold air vecting in from the north, very dry conditions for the desert southwest.

Let's begin first with the chance of severe storms. Primarily, across much of Iowa, back into Nebraska, and even just a sliver of Kansas, into Arkansas and back into Missouri, we could see some strong storms. Isolated tornadoes will be a possibility. Also, you could see some hail, maybe some flash flooding. On the other side of the system, it's going to be snow. That's going to be your big story there where in points, I would say back near Rapid City, the snow could really begin to pile up. Southward, we go into Colorado where we could be dealing with this, not only the snowfall but some really strong wind gusts. Some wind gusts topping 50, 60 miles an hour or so.

If you are driving a vehicle, a high profile vehicle out of Denver going back on parts of i-70 through those high mountain passes that wind could really get intense. So, expect a rough day there for you. Now, the question is how much snow are you going to see? Well, you're going to be dealing with the potential anywhere from eight to 16 inches of snowfall into the west of Denver. However, back into Rapid City, we're talking one to three feet.

And of course, we have the fire danger in fact in parts of New Mexico, which we're going to talk about throughout the rest of the morning. But for now, let's send it back to New York to John and Kyra.

ROBERTS: Reynolds, thanks very much. PHILLIPS: Reynolds, what did your mom and dad do to make sure you were a healthy baby?

WOLF: To be a healthy baby?

PHILLIPS: Yes, what did they do? Any rituals, any kind of special porridge?

WOLF: You know, they would set up a giant sling shot and just get food products and just kind of move them in my general mouth area. That is how I got to be sort of a big kid.

PHILLIPS: OK. You see Reynolds' hand he can palm three basketballs. Yup, there it is. High five, brother.

ROBERTS: That pales in comparison to this.

PHILLIPS: Here's what they do in India. Take a look. Newborn babies thrown off the roof of a tower for good luck.

ROBERTS: That is so wrong.

PHILLIPS: There is something wrong about that. 50 feet but the good part is they land on a sheet. All right. Locals say they have been doing this now for 500 years. And there has never been any accidents.

WOLF: It gives a new meaning to the term bouncing baby.


WOLF: Bouncing baby boy. Bouncing baby girl.

PHILLIPS: I tell you what. I'll stick with the Flintstones vitamins. That is what my mom gave me.

ROBERTS: Watch this. Apparently it brings good luck and good health to the baby. But I just can't see how either one of those would actually come to pass. The kid will be traumatized forever.

WOLF: That is disturbing.

ROBERTS: CNN NEWSROOM just minutes away. Fredricka Whitfield at the CNN Center with a look at what's ahead.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, that doesn't look like a good thing to me. I don't know.

ROBERTS: I don't know.

WHITFIELD: Just me. A little severe.

ROBERTS: I don't think that the American Pediatric Association would recommend that.

WHITFIELD: No. They would not be endorsing that. ROBERTS: Do not try that at home.

WHITFIELD: That is right.

ROBERTS: Hey, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Good to see you. Well, taking it to the streets, live coverage all day in the NEWSROOM. Immigrants and their supporters will rally in cities across the nation today. We explore the political and business realities of U.S. policy.

Five days before the Indiana primary, Barack Obama gets the backing of a former democratic party boss.

And that shiny gloss makes your lips glisten, but a study suggests it might also lead to skin cancer. We're in the NEWSROOM. Join us at the top of the hour on CNN. Kyra and John.

ROBERTS: Looking forward to that. Thanks, Fred.


ROBERTS: Coming up next, we open up Dr. Sanjay Gupta's mailbag. It's Thursday, Friday eve, to answer your medical questions. For instance, why is your blood pressure high in the doctor's office but normal when you go back home? We'll have the answer coming up.


ROBERTS: We are always on top of the latest medical news here on AMERICAN MORNING. And as a result you often have questions about it.

PHILLIPS: Every Thursday we dig into Dr. Sanjay Gupta's mailbag. Sanjay joins us this morning. Let's dive right into it. Our first question from Kristine of Huntington Station, New York. Sanjay, this is what she writes, "I saw a show on TV where one of the doctors had her eggs frozen. I don't know much about this. But can you please explain what egg freezing is and what your thoughts are about it?"

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: All right, Kristine. Well, first of all egg freezing has actually been around for quite some time. People are talking about it more than ever. For about a decade now, people have been talking about egg freezing. You basically retrieve unfertilized eggs and you do what's called a slow freeze. So, you slowly lower the temperature and store those eggs in nitrous. A couple of important points, Kristine, the eggs are only as healthy as they are at the time of retrieval. So, for a 40-year-old woman is donating her eggs, they're going to be less healthy, for example, than a woman in her 20s. This is important. The ideal use of sort of using the freezing egg process is someone who might be undergoing a chemotherapy and something and won't be able to become fertile. They harvest those eggs and use them for fertilization later on. It's expensive, costs about $10,000. And often times insurance doesn't cover it, Kristine.

ROBERTS: Hazel from Athens, Georgia, gets the next question this morning, Sanjay. "Could you discuss "white coat syndrome"?" Why is blood pressure high at my doctor's office but normal at home?" Because a lot of Sanjay's patients ever experience this because he has a real comic effect.

PHILLIPS: Basically, a bedside manner.

GUPTA: Hazel come see me. No white coats. No, you know, what you're talking about is actually something about 10% to 20% of people suffer from. Under particular situations of stress or anxiety, one of which might be a visit to the doctor's office and seeing all those white coats, someone's blood pressure, specifically the upper number of their blood pressure, what's called the systolic blood pressure can actually go up. And it can be confusing because every time you go to the doctor's office, the number is high, but it might actually be lower at home.

What a lot of doctors might recommend if you think you have white coat syndrome is to actually wear a 24-hour blood pressure monitor. That's going to give you a more sort of accurate reading over time. If it is low at home and higher in the doctor's office, your diagnosis, Hazel, is correct.

ROBERTS: But, Sanjay, don't doctors sometimes prescribe blood pressure medication even for some people who have that transient high blood pressure?

GUPTA: Absolutely. And sometimes if it's a little - if it seems not seeming to make sense, they will try and take several different readings over time. But yes, there's probably people who get treated for white coat syndrome which again affects about 10% to 20% of the population.

ROBERTS: All right.

PHILLIPS: All right. We've got time for one more question, Sanjay. This one comes from Christopher from St. Petersburg, Florida. This is what he wants to know "Friends of mine have started to have colonics and swear by them. What does the medical community say?"

GUPTA: Well, you know, people do swear by them. Because they say they boost your immune system, they say they give you more energy. The medical community is not so much on board with this. First of all what we are talking about here is essentially an irrigation of the colon, using water or using some sort of solution. A lot of doctors say look your colon does a fine job of simply getting rid of contaminants on their own. If it's more done for constipation, increasing the fiber in your diet simply might make a big difference. About 35 grams of fiber for men, 25 grams per women. Great morning television talk. But, you know, most doctors, to your question, Christopher, think that your colon does a fine job on its own.

PHILLIPS: What about burning the wax in your ears? Is that another one of those -- you know how everybody talks about it. Clear out the ear canal?

GUPTA: Burning the wax. PHILLIPS: You've never seen that before.

ROBERTS: You take a big lighter and stick it in your ears.

GUPTA: What have they been doing to you over in Baghdad, Kyra?

PHILLIPS: It is very popular with the Iraqi therapists.

GUPTA: I swear, Kyra. This won't hurt a bit.

PHILLIPS: But you'll be able to hear really well and no more ear aches. OK. It's all a farce, is that what you're telling me?

GUPTA: I'm not going to recommend that one.


GUPTA: Not that one.

ROBERTS: Thank you, Sanjay.

GUPTA: All right, guys. Have a good one.

ROBERTS: You can e-mail Sanjay by going to our Web site, He answers your questions every Thursday right here on AMERICAN MORNING.

TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: See these stories in the CNN NEWSROOM. Immigrants and supporters rally across the nation today. Extensive live coverage.

A former democratic party chairman set to back Barack Obama today.

Michelle Obama, her exclusive interview with CNN.

Homes in Maine under water from heavy rain and melting snow.

Gas inches to another record high.

And could wearing shiny lip gloss invite skin cancer? NEWSROOM just minutes away. At the top of the hour on CNN.


PHILLIPS: Well, it's as natural as kissing babies or shaking hands, presidential candidates touring factories and businesses.

ROBERTS: It makes for great photo opportunities but do White House hopefuls really know what they are looking at? Our Jeanne Moos has got the answer.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They may be potential presidents. That doesn't mean they know what they are looking at.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's just kind of oozing all over the place.

MOOS: Also oozing all over the place, the press. This is what's known as the candidate tour, every step is orchestrated.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Back up guys. If you could back up, please.

MOOS: Half the time you get the feeling the candidate is clueless about what he is staring at. Or what the guys in the suits actually do or exactly what it was he was just looking at under the microscope.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Colon cancer cells.

MCCAIN: There's no such thing as a dumb question, right?

MOOS: No dumb questions. It is the answers that can make a candidate glaze over.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The control systems, filters are all the same downstairs.

MCCAIN: What is this telling me?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is looking at the fluorescence.

MCCAIN: A-ha, fascinating.

MOOS: The candidates tend to do a lot of pointing during these tours. They do a lot of touching as well. Pass by objects that could be felt anyone. What is this thing, is it a missile, does it fly? It is a wind turbine.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It looks like a big surfboard.

MOOS: Just begging to be autographed. The candidates seem happiest during the tours when they are meeting the works especially ones that address them as Mr. President.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are you doing, Mr. President?

OBAMA: Good to see you. It's got a ring to it.

MOOS: He thinks that has a nice ring to it. Listen to what Hillary heard from a steelworkers' union official talking about looking for a leader.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That has testicular fortitude. You know, that's exactly right.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I do think I have fortitude. Women can have it as well as men.

MOOS: These tours sure require fortitude. Candidates better be prepared to do a lot of nodding.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every one of those ports can be fitted with special probes to measure like oxygen concentration.

MOOS: Nodding, nodding. Remind you of anything? At least going on all these tours is good preparation to become nodder in chief. Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


ROBERTS: Do you think he meant to say intestinal fortitude?

PHILLIPS: That is exactly what he meant to say.

ROBERTS: My goodness.

PHILLIPS: And she stomached it well.

ROBERTS: Yes. There you are. Well, final check at our "Quick Vote" question for you now. We have been asking which candidates' plan for dealing with rising gas cost gets your support. Just one percent of you like John McCain's plan for a federal gas tax holiday, 17 percent for Hillary Clinton's plan to have the holiday but have it paid for by a tax on profits on oil companies and 82 percent say they like Barack Obama's plan to not have a gas tax holiday.

We've also been reading through hundreds of e-mails this morning. J.T. from Albuquerque supports Obama and writes "The McCain and Clinton suggestions have temporarily repealing the gas tax is simply another political "feel good" measure much like the much touted, but absolutely worthless stimulus check."

PHILLIPS: And Julie from Ballston Spa, New York says "Obama is out of touch. Hillary Clinton's promise of the return of the Windfall Profit Tax on oil companies and a holiday now on gas taxes offers "hope" to the average American worker that we can make it from pay check to paycheck."

ROBERTS: Thanks to all of you. Thanks so much to all of you actually for writing in this morning and for voting. We'll be back here again tomorrow.

PHILLIPS: That's right. CNN NEWSROOM with Tony Harris and Fredricka Whitfield take it from here.

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

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Fredricka Whitfield. Heidi getting use to maternity leave. HARRIS: You will see events come into the CNN NEWSROOM live on this Thursday, May 1st. Here's what's on the rundown.

WHITFIELD: Rallies around the country today. Immigrants and their supporters protest U.S. immigration policy. Live coverage.

HARRIS: Watching the river flow, right through the middle of town. Homes in Maine under water from heavy rain and snow melt.

WHITFIELD: Lip gloss, can it increase your risk of skin cancer? Dangerous shine in the NEWSROOM.