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American Morning

Black Conservative Voters Decide Between Party or Race; Levees on the Brink Along the Mississippi; Obama Camp Apologizes for Muslim Headscarves Controversy; Hamas and Israel Call Truce; FEMA Backtracks and Sends Supplies Back to Louisiana; North Korea Close to Revealing Information on Nuclear Activity

Aired June 19, 2008 - 07:00   ET


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: John McCain has been trying to make an outreach to African-American voters in this country. But is there any way that he can at least with conservative African-Americans run against this sense of history here?
ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS, HOST, "THE ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS RADIO SHOW": Of course, he can run up against it. John McCain is a very attractive candidate. We have tremendous respect for him given his war record and the fact that his willing to stand up even to conservatives. It's what he believes in.

But let me just tell you, my mother is voting for Senator Barack Obama. Let me be clear on that. There is no -- speaking about that, she is determined and she's voting for him, which shocks me based on the issue that she never thought that she would live to see the day that she would see the progress of America where we could show people that we've moved beyond this silly issue of race and this ignorance based on our vote on someone based on whether -- or what their race is.

And I won't vote for Senator Barack Obama because he's black. I can't do this. But I pray that some in this country don't vote against him because he's black. He should rise and fall on his own merit.

And so, it has caused me to step back not only with my mother but some in my family that they're willing to consider him.


WILLIAMS: But not based on race but based on the substance of the issues and the progress of this country.

ROBERTS: Right. Any way you look at it it's going to be a transitional moment in American politics.

Armstrong Williams, good to see you. Thanks for coming in this morning.

WILLIAMS: Thank you, John.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: And you're watching the "Most News in the Morning."

It is 7:01 here on the East Coast. We're following breaking news this morning.

A levee breach along the Mississippi this morning, just 30 miles north of St. Louis. And the situation there is very serious.

These are live pictures right now from Winfield, Missouri, coming to us courtesy of KMOV. This breach is about 150-feet wide and the water is now rushing toward the town of Winfield. It is feared as many as 30 levees downstream could overflow this week. We will continue to follow that developing situation throughout the morning.

Also, frozen barges on the Mississippi standing still this morning and traffic shut down because of the flooding. The news doesn't get any better. A 280-mile stretch of the river is expected to remain closed at least for another 10 days.

We go live now to our Ed Lavandera in Hannibal, Missouri, with the latest details this morning. Hi, Ed.


Well, of course, Hannibal, Missouri, the childhood home of the legendary writer Mark twain. And he once said that the Mississippi River could make its own way that no engineering skills could make it do otherwise. And of course that Twain theory will be put to the test today as the Mississippi River takes on these manmade creations of levees that have been built up in the last few days by hundreds of volunteers who have been bagging sand and trying to lift up the size of the levee in anticipation of the river cresting here, which isn't expected to happen until sometime Friday.

A little over 31 feet is expected. So you can see here that the levee has been built up for quite a distance. And the town here just on the edge and the water coming close. We're seeing this repeatedly in various towns dotting the Mississippi River. So at this point, many of the residents here feel like they've done what they've been able to do and they're just waiting to see how the river will react.

And as you mentioned, down south of where we are in Winfield, that levee breach here this morning causing some concern. And these breaches have actually lessened some of the pressure in various other towns as water has flown and submerged farmland. It's actually decreased some of the pressure in towns like Hannibal where there haven't been breaches. But officials here say don't let that fool you, that the water levels here still expected to rise because there's still water coming down this way -- Kiran.

CHETRY: All right. Ed Lavandera, thank you.

And if you've been seeing these pictures and hearing the stories and you'd like to help the people in the Midwest and impact your world, you can head to to find the aid agencies that are helping out.

ROBERTS: Senator John McCain tackling the energy issue. He is now calling for 45 new nuclear reactors to be built by the year 2030. McCain says it has been so long since the country has had a new reactor that the knowledge needed to build one is disappearing.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Right now, we have 104 nuclear reactors in our country, generating about 20 percent of our electricity. Every year these reactors alone spare the atmosphere from the equivalent of nearly all auto emissions in America. Yet for all these benefits we have not broken ground on a single nuclear plant in over 30 years. And our manufacturing base to even construct these plants is almost gone.


ROBERTS: Meantime, some oil analysts say lifting the ban on offshore drilling will not significantly lower gas prices. The analysts say offshore oil will not boost supplies right away, and drilling could put a strain on an industry already seeing equipment and worker shortages.

Meantime, four oil companies are in final talks on contracts to return to Iraq. Exxon Mobil, Shell, Total and British Petroleum are close to signing deals with Iraq's oil ministry. They are expected to be announced on June 30th. It will be those companies' first commercial work in Iraq in 36 years. They were kicked out back when Saddam Hussein rose to power.

Senator McCain's new stance on offshore drilling is very different than one he had just a few years ago. It is now a stance that mirrors President Bush's, something that McCain has been trying to avoid. For more on all of that, here's CNN's Ed Henry keeping them honest this morning.


ED HENRY, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Republican John McCain is trying to appeal to independent voters by saying he's no President Bush.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The next president must be willing to break with the energy policies not just of the current administration, but the administrations that preceded it, and lead a great national campaign to achieve energy security for America.

HENRY: And yet the president and McCain are marching in lock step on how to deal with $4 a gallon gas. They're demanding Democrats end the federal ban on offshore drilling, claiming it could lead to a drop in oil prices given the expectation of increased supply.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know the Democratic leaders have opposed some of these policies in the past. Now that their opposition has helped drive gas prices to record levels, I ask them to reconsider their positions.

HENRY: A clear attempt to spread political blame from a president fearful a recession could mar his legacy. But Democrat Barack Obama fired back that offshore drilling will not help lower gas prices in the short term.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: At best you're looking at five years or more down the road. And even the most optimistic assumptions indicate that offshore drilling might reduce the overall world price of oil by a few cents.

HENRY: But Obama's solution, a push for plug-in hybrid cars and other alternatives to oil will not give consumers short-term relief either. And congressional Democrats are determined to block the president's push for offshore drilling, currently prohibited by a 1981 law and a 1990 executive order.

A fascinating family drama since it was the president's father who signed that order banning offshore drilling, while his brother Jeb more recently opposed such drilling as governor of Florida.

HENRY (on camera): And the president's embrace of McCain's proposal for more drilling could complicate the senator's efforts to distance himself from this White House. An appeal to the middle.

Ed Henry, CNN, the White House.


ROBERTS: So how much oil is out there offshore? When could the oil be recovered? Would it lower prices at the pump? We're going to cut through all the spin. We've got oil analyst commentator Jim Lacamp from RBC Wealth Management coming up at 7:55 Eastern this morning to tell us all about that -- Kiran.

CHETRY: Also this morning, the Obama campaign is apologizing for not allowing two Muslim women in traditional headscarves to sit behind Obama and directly and behind him in front of the TV cameras at a rally in Detroit earlier this week. So who made that decision and why?

Senior political correspondent Candy Crowley is live in Washington with more for us. Hi, Candy.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Kiran, good to see you. You're right. You know, in campaigns, they know very well that old adage that a picture is worth a thousand words. But in this case it was what was not in the picture that caused all the discussion.


CROWLEY (voice-over): When two young Muslim women wearing headscarves were told recently they could not sit behind Barack Obama at this rally, it raised questions in their community.

DAWUD WALID, COUNCIL OF AMERICAN ISLAMIC RELATIONS: It speaks towards a bigger issue as far as the pervasive Islamophobia is in our society that two Muslim females would be turned away.

CROWLEY: The two separate incidents involving two different women were first reported by, which quoted one of the women saying she was told she could not sit behind Obama "because of the political climate and what's going on in the world."

The Obama campaign apologized saying the actions of the volunteers were offensive and not reflective of the candidate. Aides also sent out several pictures showing Obama with women and men in Muslim dress. Apology accepted but it brings up an issue many want Obama and John McCain to talk about.

WALID: We would like to hear for both of the senators to say it clearly to the American public that Muslims and the Islamic faith should not be demonized.

CROWLEY: It's a continuing challenge for Barack Obama whose name and mixed race heritage put him in the crosswinds of cultural divides. Black and white, Christian, Jew and Muslim.

Anonymous e-mails meant to damage his bid endlessly looped through cyberspace.

WALID: He has affirmed his Christianity but he has not explicitly to our knowledge come out and say, well, this Islamophobia is wrong. It's un-American.

CROWLEY: Obama does not always walk both sides of this line, but he has on several occasions made that point.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's not just that I'm a Christian and so these e-mails are misinforming people. They're also feeding on anti-Muslim sentiment, and that's also wrong.

CROWLEY: It is, in the end, hard to make history without being caught in the crosswinds.


CROWLEY: And in this new era of campaigning when so many people have cell phones with cameras and YouTube is everywhere, campaigns now really have a new headache. It is not even just what is in the picture but what is not in the picture - Kiran.

CHETRY: Candy Crowley for us this morning in Washington. Thank you.

ROBERTS: Ten minutes after the hour. New this morning, a truce between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

It started this morning and it appears so far to be holding. Israel agreed to lift its economic blockade and allow fuel to the area. And there are more incentives if the truce holds up for a week.

The worldwide resources of CNN taking you to Israel this morning where our Atika Shubert joins us live via broadband. She's in Sderot, which on the Israeli side of the border there between Gaza and Israel, certainly has been ground zero as far as the attacks go. Atika, what's the atmosphere like there on the ground in Sderot this morning? ATIKA SHUBERT, JERUSALEM CORRESPONDENT: Well, many here are relieved that the truce is holding. We actually went to a school this morning where kids were walking to school. Morning and evening is usually when the most rockets hit, but this morning it was quiet. No rocket attacks, no sirens blaring, no having to rush to the bomb shelter.

And one teacher that we spoke to said she's cautiously optimistic that the truce will hold. But on the other hand, they have seen truces collapse in the past. What they're hoping is that with this temporary cease-fire of just six months, at least residents on both sides of the border will be able to experience what life might be like if there was peace. So far, the truce is holding. Both sides are abiding by it. We'll have to see whether or not it lasts, John.

ROBERTS: So far, good news this morning. Atika Shubert in Sderot in Israel for us this morning. Atika, thanks very much.

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

Up next, cash only. Why the next time you fill up your tank the gas station might say no to your credit card.

ROBERTS: Then supplies return. CNN's first (ph), FEMA to backtrack and start returning the $85 million worth of brand-new household supplies that were meant for Katrina victims but never made it to them. It's a story that you'll see only on CNN.

CHETRY: And then a little bit later, levee danger. East St. Louis under the gun this morning. The town closely watching four main levees there.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is serious. This is serious business here. The great Mississippi doesn't play, and it's showing you that today. As we stand here now, we see the water seeping underneath our feet.



CHETRY: You're waking up to a tiny bit of relief this morning, but not much. The Automobile Association of America says that the national average for a gallon of regular unleaded fell two-tenths of a penny. The average is now $4.07 a gallon around the country.

But the bigger news is that it's the third straight decrease which hasn't happened in six weeks. So a little bit of we'll take what we can get this morning.

Meantime, the high price of gas is forcing some gas stations to stop accepting credit cards because higher charges mean bigger card fees that the stations then have to pay. Usually that fee is around two percent, which means for every $4 gallon of gas the station must pay 10 cents in credit card fees. And the pain at the pump having an effect on drivers as well. They're changing their habits, it appears, cutting down driving by 30 billion, with a B, miles collectively from April to November. And it's the biggest drop since the gas shortages of 1979 and 1980.

The Transportation Department says to put it in a little perspective, 30 billion miles. That's what it looks like.

Like Ali Velshi's paycheck. Right there. Well, minus one zero.


CHETRY: Thirty billion miles. That's about 3.7 million trips around the earth.

VELSHI: That's how much we've cut out? I mean, how much do we drive? This is nuts.

CHETRY: I wish --

VELSHI: If that's what we can cut, well, the United States, American drivers, and that includes trucks, by the way, consume 10 percent of all of the world's oil that is produced every day. In fact, the United States a little less than five percent of the public -- can I have that fancy music because this is important stuff?

The United States is five percent of the world's population, and we consume 20 percent of the world's oil.

I like that.

CHETRY: Thank you.

VELSHI: All right. President Bush yesterday --

ROBERTS: When you do this, it just adds that extra little sting, you know.

VELSHI: With 30 billion miles --

President Bush yesterday, by the way, announced that we are in some sort of a crisis here and we need to actually do something about the price of oil. Now, there are a few schools of thought here and if you believe that one of the answers is drilling for more oil, then you might want to hear what he had to say.

He suggested that we drill a lot more offshore oil. He follows on a suggestion from John McCain made the previous night in a speech that we have to open up the drilling to the 18 billion barrels or so that are probably around the places on the Outer Continental Shelf that we don't already drill. We drill mainly in the western Gulf of Mexico and off the coast of California.

One of things that President Bush also suggested yesterday was a greater emphasis on getting oil from shale. Shale oil is basically stone found in the western United States in the Green River Basin. It's found in other places but the greatest concentrations are in the Green River Basin, which is in Utah, Wyoming and Colorado. And theoretically, there are 800 billion barrels of retrieve -- billion barrels of retrievable oil in the Green River Basin which would be a lot more than Saudi Arabia has. In fact --

ROBERTS: Three hundred billion?

VELSHI: Billion, yes. But it's like the tar sands in Alberta. There's so much oil there, but it is expensive to start drilling there. Once you -- not drilling. You mine it, actually.

But just to show you the comparative costs of oil, if you're drilling for oil in plain old land that's easy to get to, about 20 bucks a barrel. Once you get into water, it can get up to $60 a barrel. Shale oil, depending on again, the initial costs are very high but it gets up to $50 a barrel. And oil sands in Canada, $60 a barrel. So again, we're at 135 bucks a barrel. So --

ROBERTS: So that looks like a bargain in comparison.


ROBERTS: Ali, thanks so much.

VELSHI: All right.

CHETRY: Well, Tiger Woods out for the season. His bad knee knocked him off the course after a big win at the U.S. Open. Dr. Sanjay Gupta is going to be joining us in a couple of minutes to explain what this new surgery entails and how long before Tiger is back on the links.

ROBERTS: And supplies meant for Hurricane Katrina victims given away by FEMA. This morning because of a CNN report we've got some action to tell you about. You're watching the "Most News in the Morning."


ROBERTS: 21 1/2 minutes after the hour. A number of towns and cities are taking issue with FEMA's flood maps insisting that they're outdated and poorly drawn. As a result, homeowners in what FEMA calls designated floodplains are required to purchase almost $2,500 in flood insurance.

In Colorado, homeowners say the maps were drawn with decades-old equipment. And in Washington, D.C, the agency had to drop plans to expand the flood zone after an outcry from residents and the city's mayor.

Less than a week after we broke the story here on CNN, this morning some of the $85 million in Katrina supplies that FEMA just gave away are heading back to Louisiana. The state has announced that truckloads of household supplies intended for people whose homes were damaged or destroyed are on their way back to Louisiana from Texas. It's all because of our report.

CNN special investigations unit correspondent Abbie Boudreau has got the follow up.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is so important.

ABBY BOUDREAU, SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS UNIT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At a news conference, top Louisiana officials blasted FEMA for not telling them that $85 million worth of supplies meant for Katrina victims existed. Sitting in warehouses for the last two years unused.

BOUDREAU (on camera): When you found out that those items were just sitting in the warehouses for two years, what was your reaction?

GOV. BOBBY JINDAL (R), LOUISIANA: Well, obviously, this is another ridiculous example of the bureaucracy not working the way that it was supposed to.

BOUDREAU (voice-over): U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu says her office took action right after seeing our investigation last week.

SEN. MARY LANDRIEU (D), LOUISSIANA: Two truckloads are now on its way to Louisiana. I don't know what FEMA was thinking when it gave away $85 million of taxpayer items. They need to start thinking straighter about this.

BOUDREAU: Here are some of the items that are on the way as we speak, scheduled to arrive by Friday. They've been given to Texas, one of 16 states that got the supplies, but still had some sitting in a warehouse.

Earlier this year one Louisiana agency was asked if it wanted the supplies and said no. But that agency didn't share the offer with the other state officials. The head of Louisiana's Recovery Authority acknowledges a breakdown in communication.

PAUL RAINWATER, LOUISIANA RECOVERY AUTHORITY: There's enough blame to go around but at the end of the day, it's about getting things down to the folks in Louisiana.

BOUDREAU: Senator Landrieu says with the flooding disaster in the Midwest, what happened in Louisiana is a wakeup call for FEMA.

LANDRIEU: It's another example of FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security not being ready for prime time. Now, I hope they get ready because there are levees breaching all over America. There are cities now underwater. I hope that this doesn't happen again.

BOUDREAU: Abbie Boudreau, CNN, Washington.


ROBERTS: And Louisiana officials say that they're going to move quickly to get those supplies into the hands of people who desperately need them, even now almost three years after that storm. Incredible.

CHETRY: It is unbelievable what she uncovered. Well, you're watching the "Most News in the Morning."

North Korea may be just about ready to open up its nuclear program to explain what exactly has been happening all these years. Christiane Amanpour has the latest for us.

Also, critical condition. Levees on the brink this morning. East St. Louis just down river from the latest breach, and that's where our Drew Griffin will join us.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I see hotels. I see a casino. I see all of downtown East St. Louis. We're not talking about acres and acres of flooded corn here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. We're talking about 155,000 people who live here. We're talking about 50,000 jobs. We're talking about oil refinery. We're talking about mayor businesses. We're talking about major development in this part of the country.



CHETRY: North Korea is close to revealing some details of its nuclear program. That's according to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice who defended the decision to continue diplomacy with North Korea, saying that they've been making progress.

Joining us now with more news on North Korea's nuclear program is chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour. Great to see you this morning. So exactly how far are they going on this thing?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're going quite far. And Secretary Rice made her statement to the Heritage Foundation, the conservative think tank in Washington yesterday. It goes from where we went to North Korea with the philharmonic and heard from the negotiators there that they want to close this file. They want to get beyond this sort of impasse with the United States on the nuclear issue.

And so, they're going to give a full declaration of all their nuclear activities as the U.S. and the others to the six-party talks have demanded. And this apparently is going to happen soon.

CHETRY: You know, to some it sounds like, well, we've heard this before. We've been down this road before with North Korea, and it always somehow doesn't seem to happen. What could be different this time?

AMANPOUR: Well, the truth of the matter is that, in fact, the Clinton administration was in negotiations and did have a freeze. The Bush administration came in and threw that all out the window, thought that they could get a better deal from North Korea, ended up getting shut out by North Korea who threw out the nuclear watchdog, IAEA. And then the Bush administration has come back and is trying to get now a similar deal to what the Clintons had, although disabling the reactor at Yongbyon, which North Korea is doing, is further than freezing it which they did under the Clinton administration. And there may be some visual symbolic aspect to this as well, which would be to destroy the cooling tower at Yongbyon, which would make it virtually impossible to rebuild.

CHETRY: And then, where could we see the future going with North Korea?

AMANPOUR: Well, they will then, as Secretary Rice said, be taken off the U.S. list of states that sponsor terrorism. They will be taken off the sanctions that under the trading with the enemy list, but there will still be other sanctions in place. There'll be a 45-day period of monitoring to see whether everything is going well before some of the additional protocols are in.

CHETRY: Right.

AMANPOUR: But the fact of the matter is to have North Korea inside the tent rather than outside the tent, give up its plutonium, which it created and it did make nuclear weapons with, is a big deal and very significant.

CHETRY: You also noted where she made the announcement.

AMANPOUR: Well, I noted it because she has to convince the conservative public opinion in this country that this is a good deal. As you know, many conservatives are saying, here we go again, giving North Korea the benefit of the doubt. And she's saying, look, it may not be perfect but it is much better than nothing and, in fact, we have achieved something. Although as I say they've taken eight years to get back to where they've started from.

CHETRY: Right.

AMANPOUR: But still, it's significant. Interestingly, though, it's also been criticized by the Obama campaign. So she's got criticism on the left and -- well, in the Democratic campaign, and on the right of the Republican opinion. So that has to be explained.

CHETRY: Very interesting. Christiane, great to see you as always. Thanks for being with us.

ROBERTS: Just crossing the half hour and here's what's making news this Thursday morning.

Oil rig attack. The most powerful militant group in the African nation of Nigeria taking responsibility today for attacking an offshore rig yesterday. Shell says that it has now shut down production in the area because of the attack.

Money for the war. The House striking a deal to pay for the war and the bill is huge. $165 billion. The deal also paves the way for billions to go to emergency flood relief for the Midwest. And levee breach. Along the Mississippi this morning, just 30 miles north of St. Louis, the situation there is extremely dangerous. These are live pictures from Windfield where a levee there was just breached. The breach is about 150 feet wide and you can just look at all of the water there that poured out of the penned up Mississippi River. It's feared as many as 30 levees downstream could overflow this week.

Rising water has now rushed past more than 20 levees. Further south along the Mississippi, engineers aren't worried ant water overflowing levels as much as they're worried about water seeping underneath them and also undermining the levee and perhaps taking it out. This is CNN animation of what that could look like if it happened. Four main levees along the Illinois side of the river in danger now of that type of leakage and as well a complete breach.

The town of East St. Louis is under the gun right now. That's where we find CNN's Drew Griffin from our Special Investigations Unit.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: On the Illinois side of the great river, East St. Louis is sitting precariously in the path of a potential disaster. And all that protects it and its residents from the floodwaters of the Mississippi are four levees that no one can guarantee will hold.

TIMOTHY KUSKY, SAINT LOUIS UNIVERSITY: These ones have already been determined by the army corps of engineers, by FEMA, to be structurally deficient and in danger of failing at heights of about 40 feet.

GRIFFIN: And I see all hotels. I see a casino. I see all of downtown East St. Louis. We're not talking about acres and acres of flooded corn here.

KUSKY: No. We're talking about 155,000 people who live here. We're talking about 50,000 jobs. We're talking about oil refinery. We're talking about major businesses. We're talking about major development in this part of the country.

GRIFFIN: Tim Kusky, professor of national sciences at St. Louis University is one of the foremost experts on what causes levees to fail. He outlined in a book exactly how New Orleans levees would fail two years before it happened. Now he's concerned what happened in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina could happen here. The immediate fear is subterranean cracks, leaks in these earthen dams that will expand as the pressure from the rising floodwaters continues. It's called seepage. Enough seepage can create the kind of blowout that could erode the levee from the bottom up. One stop on our tour, the professor pointed out it's already happening.

KUSKY: This is water that's come underneath the levee.

GRIFFIN: He is certain that this is water coming from underneath the levee. And this is a sign of a particular failure in a levee? KUSKY: It's a sign of under seepage. And the under seepage is the first stage of - of dangerous conditions that can lead to levee failure. It has to get a lot worse than this. But this is the first stage. And this is a warning sign.

GRIFFIN: This is serious. This is serious business here. The great Mississippi doesn't play. And it's showing you that today as we stand here now. We see the water seeping underneath our feet.

East St. Louis city manager Robert Betts is now reviewing the city's evacuation plan. He says he will have inspectors monitoring for more leaks until the immediate danger passes. But this is not a new problem. Last August, the Army corps of engineers concluded the levees that are supposed to protect Metro East St. Louis are at risk of failure due to structural deficiencies. The army corps has offered to help the three counties in the area try to fix the problem. But says it'll take time and more than $100 million. The river is expected to crest here sometime Monday. Drew Griffin, CNN, East St. Louis, Illinois.


ROBERTS: So much worry in such a huge area there in the midwest this morning.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN, ANCHOR: Oh, yes. Just how much change from yesterday. We're going to talk about a few levees breach.

In the meantime, Ali Velshi joins us with more on one congressman's proposal. He says we could see energy independence within 20 years.

ALI VELSHI, CNN SENIOR BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And one of the things -- one of the positive outcomes of high energy prices is we start treating this like a crisis. Could I get that fancy music again? There's one congressman who is out here saying that we can do this. It's called the New Manhattan Project and he's going to pay money to people who can solve our energy problems. I'm going to tell you more about how you can get some free money and save us some energy right after the break. You're watching AMERICAN MORNING.


CHETRY: That was probably the stanza of the song we shouldn't have played. That's Kid Rock "All Summer Long."

VELSHI: I think we should play it. It should be our theme all summer long.

CHETRY: It's the official AMERICAN MORNING theme song. That's right.

ROBERTS: It's a great mash up of "Werewolves of London" and "Sweet home Alabama."

VELSHI: It really is.

ROBERTS: It just screams summer. It puts you in a good mood. VELSHI: Absolutely. And we're going to have high gas prices all summer long.

ROBERTS: Which isn't going to put us in a good mood at all.

VELSHI: Which isn't going to put us in a good mood but you know, the thing about these high gas prices and high oil prices is it really has forced people to think about this for a long time. What we're going to do about lowering gas prices in the immediate future, I don't know. We are thinking now about -- it's really brought to the forefront the issue of how much energy we use in the United States.

Virginia Congressman Randal Forbes has decided that he wants to launch a New Manhattan Project. Now, this is interesting. Because a number of people have referred to the Manhattan Project as the kind of effort that the United States needs in terms of research and science and spending in order to get ourselves to a greater level of energy independence. Right now the United States produces one quarter of the oil that it uses on a daily basis. It's not even enough to fuel our vehicles on a daily basis. So, Randal Forbes wants to come up with a system, the New Manhattan Project which would offer cash prices to individuals or entities that would come up to, would create a solution for seven problems actually.

I just got a few of them listed here. One is to increase fuel economy affordably to 70 miles per gallon. Right now we're at 25. We're going to go up to 30-something. Barack Obama wants it to go up to 40. This is talking about 70 miles per gallon. Cut home and business energy usage in half. Reduce the cost of biofuels so they're competitive with gasoline, which at $4.07 a gallon, which is probably easier than it was a year ago. And capture emissions from coal powered plants. More than half our electricity comes from coal power plants. And coal is probably the growing form of fuel for electricity. Also he wants to create greater use of nuclear power which is something that John McCain, I'm sorry, mentioned two nights ago as a center piece of his energy policy. So a New Manhattan Project. There are a lot of things in the works right now about energy. This one caught my attention as worthy of some thought.

ROBERTS: We've got to do something. It's got to be a moon shot.

VELSHI: That's exactly. These are the examples. Space race and Manhattan Project. So, something to think about.

ROBERTS: Ali, thanks so much.

CHETRY: Meanwhile, there's a new Muslim controversy for Barack Obama centering on what you didn't see at a televised Obama rally in Detroit on Monday. Two women in traditional head scarves were kept out of the picture. And now the Obama campaign is apologizing.

Also Rob Marciano watching extreme weather for us this morning. And we're still talking about the Mississippi river. A lot of sandbagging going on to try to prevent some levee breaks. Hi, Rob.

ROB MARCIANO, CNN, METEOROLOGIST: Hi, Kiran. And all that water heading towards St. Louis. So, we're going to highlight areas there that are of concern. Plus severe thunderstorms heading toward Texas. Dallas, specifically. AMERICAN MORNING will be right back.


ROBERTS: Breaking news right now out of Missouri. New video of a new levee break along the swollen Mississippi River. This one overnight in Windfield. It's about 45 miles northwest of St. Louis. Live pictures for you this morning. And just look at that water. It's big muddy spills over those levees. This is 150 foot wide rupture. It sent waters racing toward a secondary levee. Now people from Iowa's quad cities to St. Louis, all that huge stretch of the Mississippi there now in danger. National Guard Troops, residents and even prisoners are sandbagging to try to shore up more levees on the river. This is a serious problem and getting increasingly serious by the hour there in the midwest.

CHETRY: You know, we spoke just yesterday to the army corps of engineers, the brigadier general in charge of that area who said, you know, we do all we can. But when you have something like this, a 500- year flood, something you just don't see, there's nothing you can do about it. Our Rob Marciano joins us now with more on the forecast, what is coming up ahead for this area?

MARCIANO: Well, hey, Kiran. Boy this is a dramatic live pictures coming in. We'll show you some of the river stages here. These are the gauges. Major flooding all along this area. We'll zoom into that Windsor area where the break just south of the Windsor locks. This is where it happened. And then all that water heading into farmlands there with that 150 foot wide levee break. The secondary levee that John was talking about is close to the town of Windsor just to the east of Highway 79. Everybody west should be okay. Everybody east is being asked to leave. A little bit farther downstream towards St. Louis, concerned about that. No doubt about it. Especially they got a couple casinos here that are of concern.

Here's a familiar skyline. There's the arch. Here's the west side where the skyline is. This casino right here is on the water. That's the President casino. They've shut down operations for now. But if you like to roll the dice, you can to Luminaire place which is just up the road, a little bit farther inland.

Texas, Dallas got some severe thunderstorms rolling into the Dallas- Ft. Worth metroplex at this hour. These are motors southeast at about 20. These got some hail. They got some lightning, and some heavy rain. Denton county under a severe thunderstorm warning at the moment and rough weather heading towards the big D. before too long. Not a whole lot of rain expected in the flood zone but a slice of Missouri, John, tomorrow has a chance of seeing maybe a couple tenths of an inch of rain. Back up to you.

ROBERTS: Well, they already have enough water, they certainly don't need more.


ROBERTS: Rob Marciano this morning. Rob, thanks.

More of the most politics in the morning from you now. Cindy McCain is in Vietnam this morning. And CNN's John King is right there with her. He traveled all the way to Hanoi for a one on one interview in which Mrs. McCain confronts the controversy over her comments about Michelle Obama's patriotism. She also talks about what led her to finally release information on her income taxes.


JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Under steady pressure from the democrats, your husband had said adamantly for a long time your financial life was separate from his, you wouldn't release your taxes. And you were forced under political pressure to release the summary. Did you not like that?

CINDY MCCAIN, WIFE OF JOHN MCCAIN: It wasn't the democrats that forced it. I felt that if it was that important to the American people and there was discussion about it, OK I will. I mean, sure I said no. But the American people said, you know, we really are - we really think we should see. And I said OK.

KING: And now the democrats are raising a stink about your husband's use of your family jet at a time his campaign was short on money. Is that a relevant question or is that silly season?

MCCAIN: It's a relevant question. The rules are very clear actually. And if you notice today, there was a discussion from three or four different attorneys backing up our discussion and our understanding of the law. It's, you know, we'll see. We'll see where this takes us. But our understanding and from what our attorneys have said the law was clear and our use of it was very appropriate.

KING: You say spouses should not be the issue. The candidates are the ones who would be president. You did step forward at one point on the campaign when Mrs. Obama had said for the first time that she's proud of her country, you did step forward and said I've always been proud of my country. You saw a reason to say that, did it sound like a political opening?

MCCAIN: No, it wasn't a political opening. No, there was nothing planned. I'm an emotional woman when it comes to service to our country. I watch many people's children leave and go serve. This is something that is the fiber of the McCain family. It was nothing more than me just saying, look, I believe in this country so strongly. I think she's a fine woman. She's a good mother. And, you know, we both are in an interesting line of work right now.


KING: Mrs. McCain also told us that back when they were dating, her future husband used humor to describe his more than five years of captivity here during the Vietnam war and that she did not learn the details of the beatings and the torture he endured until ear years later when he was writing his autobiography. John and Kiran. ROBERTS: John King for us in Hanoi. In the meantime, both John McCain and Barack Obama have been turning up the rhetoric in recent days concerning who's tougher on terror. Joining us now on the telephone from Chicago is Barack Obama's chief campaign strategist David Axelrod. David, it's great to have you with us this morning. Thanks for being on.


ROBERTS: Let me -- before we get into some of the issues I just talked about ask you, have you had a chance to listen to Cindy McCain here. Walk back her comments a little bit. I wanted to know what you thought about what she said particularly in light of this new organization that you have surrounded Michelle Obama with, which in part is designed to beat back these rumors, to beat back these attacks that are floating out there around her.

AXELROD: Well, first of all, we haven't surrounded her with a new organization. We hired a new chief of staff. That's all we've done thus far. But in terms of Cindy McCain, you know, I thought what she said was unfortunate. Michelle, as she's expressed powerfully, loves this country as much as anybody I know. And has lived the greatness of this country. You know, daughter of a laborer who worked throughout his life so she could go - do what he did and go to college and her brother could go to college. So what she was referring to and she said it at the time was her - her concerns about the political system.


AXELROD: And we all as Americans share a concern about the nature and the level and the tone of our politics. So I thought it was unfortunate when she said --

ROBERTS: Right. But what about her further explanation that you just heard there from Hanoi?

AXELROD: Well, I didn't hear an explanation. She just said that the McCain family feels strongly about America. And I think the Obama family does as well. I think most Americans do.

ROBERTS: Hey, Karl Rove has got an editorial in the "Wall Street Journal" today in which he takes aim at Senator Obama's plans to put a windfall tax on oil companies. He's saying why are you taking aim at oil companies because their profit margins are far lower than some other sectors such as financial services, retail, information technology. Not only do they have higher margins but they've got higher profits as well. So, why single out, David, the oil industry as opposed to going after these high profit makers that are out there as well?

AXELROD: Well, obviously Americans are suffering right now with gasoline. Prices over $4 a gallon. What Senator Obama had said is we need to have some offset to help families get through this period. And the windfall profits tax he proposes to help families this winter get through with what are going to be very, very debilitating home heating prices. But, look, in the long term we need an energy policy in this country that Mr. Rove and President Bush haven't provided. And Senator McCain is pretty much echoing all their policies here. So that's the real issue. Where were the fuel efficiency standards? Where was the alternative fuel push? Where were the things that were necessary to put this country on a path to energy independence and to - and to a better energy future? And I look forward to his next column on that.

ROBERTS: All right. We'll see what happens. David, it's good to talk with you. We'll get you on more. Thanks very much for joining us this morning.

AXELROD: Thanks, John. Happy to be here.

ROBERTS: Take care.


CHETRY: Out for the season. Just three days after that unbelievable win at the U.S. Open, Tiger Woods says surgery on his knee is going to keep him out for the rest of the year. Coming up, Dr. Sanjay Gupta takes a look at what it'll take to get Tiger back on the course.

Also, 18 billion barrels of oil. That's how much President Bush says is waiting to be found off the shores of the U.S. coming up in about ten minutes, one energy expert tells us how soon we could see that oil at the pumps.


CHETRY: After winning the U.S. Open in a dramatic playoff, Tiger Woods announced yesterday that he needs reconstructive knee surgery. He ruptured his ligament, and it's one of the most common types of injuries. It happens to about 200,000 people each year. And we're paging Dr. Gupta for more on this. CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Gupta, joins us now from Atlanta. Good to see you. Welcome back from Africa, by the way, Sanjay.


CHETRY: It was also revealed that he was playing with some stress fractures. So, basically he played 91 holes on a broken leg?

GUPTA: Yes, I mean, he had the stress fractures from the intense rehab that he'd been undergoing from his previous operation two months ago. So, you saw those grimaces. Painful for sure. Now, he tore his ACL last year. And as you mentioned, this is not a particularly common injury for golfers. It's more common in football players, basketball players, skiers. When your foot sort of plants and your knee sort of rotates, bends backwards, side to side. That's what causes the injury often. I want to show you quickly, Kiran, what happened specifically with an operation like this.

Take a look at this animation. You have the knee, basically. Let me see if I can pull that up. You have the knee and you have these ligaments around it called the anterior cruciate ligament and the posterior cruciate ligament. Spin that around, take that old ligament off that had actually, again, been torn last year. They drill some holes in the top bone, in the bottom bone over here. And then eventually they take part of the ligament from the front of the kneecap and actually drill that, or sort of tunnel it, if you will, through those holes. And when they tunnel that through the holes it sort of stabilizes the knee again. What you saw is obviously is sort of a simplification. The operation takes anywhere between 30 minutes to an hour. Sometimes they use a ligament from a cadaver, sometimes they use the patient's own ligament. But that's basically what he's going to have done some point soon, Kiran.

CHETRY: And what are the chances that he can play 100 percent again?

GUPTA: It's tough to say. This is Tiger Woods. When you watch his swing he puts so much torque on that left leg as he swings. And that's part of the issue certainly with him. But you know, people say six months to 12 months maybe before he's back. You know, a regular person would be back to 100 percent. It's going to be a little more difficult to say with him. But keep in mind again, he tore that ACL last year. So, he's been playing with a torn ACL for some time. What really sort of, you know, caused that pain for him were those stress fractures. Those will definitely heal.

CHETRY: All right. Sanjay, great to see you. Thanks.

GUPTA: Thanks, Kiran.


CHETRY (voice-over): Buried treasure.

PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We need to increase supply, especially here at home.

CHETRY: President Bush says drilling for more oil is the answer. An energy expert tells us when we could see a drop in prices.

And reintroducing Michelle Obama. Back in full view of valuable women voters.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Before seeing her, I kind of thought she was hard.

CHETRY: And with a team to respond to attacks. You're watching the most news in the morning.



ROBERTS: Two minutes to the top of the hour. President Bush is urging Congress to lift the ban on offshore oil drilling. He says it'll help combat rising oil and gas prices. But will Americans see the payoff any time soon? Let's get the low down on this. Jim Lacamp is an energy commentator, senior vice president with RBC Wealth Management. He's in Dallas, Texas, this morning. First question, Jim, how much oil is out there? Do we really know?

JIM LACAMP, ENERGY COMMENTATOR: Well, nobody knows for sure, John. But there's a lot of people who are thinking now that the 18 billion barrel figure that the Department of Energy is throwing out there might be a little low. Based on what brazil has found off of its shores. And now we have China, Russia and Cuba drilling in the Florida states so this has accelerated this argument about drilling off shore.

ROBERTS: All right.

LACAMP: The official number is 18 billion barrels. The real number nobody knows for sure.

ROBERTS: So a couple of big questions out there, how long will it take to bring these fields on line if Congress were to overturn the ban and would it lower the price at the pump.

LACAMP: OK. Right now, there is a lot of problems getting ships delivered, rigs delivered. So, these things are taking a lot longer than it usually would because of the global demand for oil and how much drilling is going on around the world. So, normally if you're going to drill off shore, it will be three to four years before you'd see any oil. I would push that back a couple of years and say it's going to be five or six years. What it would mean at the pump if the figures are right on how much is there, at least 0.50 for individuals per gallon when they fill up their car.

ROBERTS: Really.

LACAMP: Now, where's oil going to be though five years from now when we get that oil. And that's the magic question.

ROBERTS: So, you think it would lower the price of gas at the pump by 0.50 cents a gallon?

LACAMP: Yes, I do. And I don't know what level we're going to be lowering it from.