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American Morning

Barack Obama Making a Big Push on Virginia; The Big Fight for Movie Rights; Comedians Struggling to Come Up with Jokes on Presidential Candidates

Aired July 17, 2008 - 08:00   ET


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: What makes this even more interesting is that the average donation was just $68 and it doubled what he raised in May. Nonetheless, though, when you combine the campaigns and the party committees, Obama is still behind John McCain. Right now, Obama and the DNC have $72 million in cash. John McCain and the RNC, $95 million.
Barack Obama making a big push to become the first Democratic presidential candidate to carry Virginia since Lyndon Johnson did back in 1964. The presumptive Democratic nominee has opened 20 offices throughout the state. Next week, John McCain opens his fifth office in Virginia.

And John McCain is probably going to have a hard time convincing African-American voters to choose him over Barack Obama. But that won't stop him from trying.

Our Dana Bash breaks down McCain's speech to the NAACP yesterday.


DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If your audience is the NAACP and your opponent would be the first black president, you start here.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESUMPTIVE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Don't tell him I said this, but he's an impressive fellow in many ways.


BASH: That was John McCain's biggest applause line, an icebreaker about Barack Obama, who got a thunderous reception two days earlier. McCain was greeted with mostly polite clapping. One person so indifferent, he read the paper.

McCain came armed with new education initiatives.

MCCAIN: The worst problems of our public school system are often found in black communities.

BASH: He pushed merit pay for teachers and hit Obama for opposing school vouchers.

MCCAIN: All that went well over the teachers union, but where does it leave families and their children who are stuck in failing schools?

BASH: The reaction, dead silence.

McCain's chances at winning black votes are incredibly steep. A fresh "New York Times" poll shows 89 percent of black voters support Obama. Just two percent say they'll vote for McCain.

MCCAIN: Whether or not I win your support, I need your goodwill and your counsel.

BASH: But McCain came looking mostly for just that, goodwill, to show he's a different kind of Republican. After George Bush was elected, he did not attend the NAACP conference for six years. McCain came, and even opened it up for questions...

MCCAIN: I know that you have a couple of things on your mind.

BASH: ...knowing he would get some tough ones, like from this teacher in an Obama T-shirt who says teachers can't afford food.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What are you going to do, Senator? We can't continue this way.

MCCAIN: I want to reward good teachers.

BASH: If nothing else here, kudos for coming.

GRETCHEN WOODS, DES MOINES, IOWA: After hearing him today, I may listen to him again.

BASH (on camera): Democrats sent out a list of black forums, John McCain skipped this campaign season. But most NAACP members we talked to after McCain's speech said they won't vote for him but they do respect him for coming and especially for taking questions, something Obama did not do.

Dana Bash, CNN, Cincinnati, Ohio.


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: In Denver, Colorado, the Democratic National Committee along with some of the city's homeless organizations plan on giving the city's homeless --almost 4,000 homeless free movie tickets, passes to cultural attractions during the convention. That plan, though, is coming under fire.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's better than them doing it like a police week. You know, what good is that going to do? They clog the jail that's already clogged.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It depends on how they do it. I mean, if they're coming in here just running (INAUDIBLE) to jail, I think that would be yes. You know, if they are going to offer places for them to stay, and give them things to do, cool. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There are no plans to relocate the homeless, to keep them out of the downtown area. If anything, we're trying to educate the homeless population on what is available.


CHETRY: Some, though, say that whisking homeless people off of the streets into movie theaters is hiding, not helping the problem.

ROBERTS: Happening now, a final farewell this morning in Washington, as former White House Press Secretary Tony Snow is laid to rest. You're looking at a live picture this morning from Catholic University's Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

The President and First Lady will join friends and family for the funeral mass that begins at 10:00 a.m. Eastern. Tony died Saturday after a long fight with colon cancer. He has survived by his loving wife, Jill, and their wonderful three children.

CHETRY: And a sobering message from Pope Benedict XVI speaking to pilgrims gathered for World Youth Day. This is in Sydney, Australia. The pope warning that the world's natural resources are being squandered by, quote, "insatiable consumption." He also slammed television and the Internet for exalting violence and sexual degradation as entertainment.

All are getting ready for the Olympics in Beijing. Rehearsals for the opening ceremony is now underway. An Olympic officials set off rings of fireworks, beautiful site, at the National Stadium known as the Bird's Nest. The Olympics now just 22 days away.

ROBERTS: The hostages go Hollywood, just rescued from the Colombian jungle, now they have got more drama to deal with. The big fight for the movie rights.

CHETRY: Also, how do you stay PC and still poke fun at the presidential candidates like Barack Obama? Why some comedians find it so tough to be funny, they don't want to cross any lines.

Also, stagflation. That's the state of America's economy right now. So, how can you keep your money safe in a downturn like this? Well, our CNN's personal finance editor Gerri Willis joins us to talk about it.

ROBERTS: And your own little bit of James Brown from his funky jump suits his Grammy award. What else we found for sale inside the auction for the Godfather of soul. You're watching the "Most News in the Morning."


ROBERTS: Hearing on Capitol Hill today on how some of the wealthiest people in America are reportedly dodging big tax bills by illegally hiding money overseas. Today's hearing comes after a six- month investigation uncovered thousands of Americans' set up secret Swiss Bank accounts and failed to report them to the IRS, ducking an estimated $100 billion in taxes.

And in just about a half an hour's time, the prime time Emmy Awards will be revealed. Kristin Chenoweth and Neil Patrick Harris will make the announcements at the Academy of Television Arts and Science. Some of the buzz for Best Drama includes "The Wire" and "Dexter" along with favorites like "Lost" "House" and "Grey's Anatomy."


CHETRY: All right. I also like Ali Velshi. He's joining us now to talk a little bit about (INAUDIBLE).


CHETRY: Not yet.


CHETRY: Now, if oil goes down, continues to go down a little bit, maybe you will get an award.

VELSHI: And it has. It's been two days in a row oil has been going down. In fact, it's lost almost $10 in two days. Take a look at what happen yesterday. Oil was down $4.14. But even after $10 in two days, look at where we are. We're still at $134.60 a barrel but that was enough to give a little bit of hope to investors and they charged ahead on the stock market.

Take a look at what happened yesterday. We had the best day on the major markets that we've had in about three months. The Dow was up by 2.5 percent, the NASDAQ up by more than three percent. The S&P 500 up 2.5 percent. But again, still from lows. Look a look at what we've done over the last year in the Dow.

I don't know if I -- there we go. We've got that chart. We're still very low compared to where we were a year ago. In October, remember, Kiran, before I was the profit of doom, I was telling you about another record on the Dow and another record on the S&P. We were really up there. We've come down quite a bit.

But you know, a couple of days has given some hope that things are going to be OK. We've got bank earnings this week. We heard from Wells Fargo yesterday. They did very, very well. This morning, JP Morgan didn't do as well but did beat the street's expectations and as a result of that, stock futures are looking higher for this morning. So, maybe there's some hope.

CHETRY: See that? We like to hear that.

VELSHI: So, I'll get an award one day.

CHETRY: Sure will. Thank you.

ROBERTS: I love you talk about hope. It was like Robin Williams' reap on golf. And at the end of this long hoe, we're going to put the wee flag to give you hope!

VELSHI: I don't know what it is. It's in the distance, but I'll bring it.

CHETRY: Thanks, Ali.

ROBERTS: Thanks, Ali. Stagflation is the name given to slow economic growth and high unemployment. That's what the American economy is facing right now. We're going to give you tips on how to keep your money safe.

CHETRY: And Rob Marciano is in the CNN weather center. He is tracking extreme weather for us this morning.

Hey, Rob.

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Hey, Kiran. We're watching Florida. They got some trouble today with more heavy rain and some trouble at the tropics. Details coming up when AMERICAN MORNING comes right back.


CHETRY: Welcome back to the "Most News in the Morning." This is a jumping shark. That's right. Off the coast of Florida. One photographer snapped the picture of a blacktip shark bursting out of the water just within feet of a surfer. Certainly took him by surprise.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I saw something in the background. What was that? And I looked at the display and backed it up just a tad and there's this spinner shark.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's the species that's known to jump and I've seen it. Many people have seen it, and as a consequence, I believe the pictures are real.


CHETRY: I guess there are some questions about whether or not they were doctored. Well, you know, maybe you'd like to see it from far away but probably certainly not if you were riding that wave at the time.

One theory says that the blacktip jumped to dislodge suckerfish called remoras. Very few shark species like it can jump from the water. But there you see it, Rob. Little too close for comfort, huh? Maybe you like surfing, too. You never know.

MARCIANO: I never understood that about surfers. They're definitely a little bit more brave than I am. That picture alone would give you the -- never want to get on board.

(WEATHER REPORT) CHETRY: How about it? There's so much other stuff to worry about, like just staying on the board. Now you got to worry about sharks jumping behind you. All right, Rob, thanks so much.

MARCIANO: Exactly. See you.

ROBERTS: That picture of the shark, that's nothing. Show this picture of the shark jumping behind the surfer again.

CHETRY: Let's see it.

ROBERTS: OK. All right. Look at the picture I found. All right. Take a look at this picture. The picture I found is much better. I got a white -- great white shark attacking a guy trying to get out of a helicopter. Come on.

CHETRY: That's fake. That's Photoshop.

ROBERTS: No way. No way. That's real.

CHETRY: That's way worst, than just a spinner shark while surfing.

ROBERTS: There you go. It is fake, by the way.

Congressman John Peterson says the current energy crisis is a bigger threat to America's future than terrorism. Peterson says natural gas and gasoline prices are eating away at America's middle class.

I spoke with Peterson earlier on AMERICAN MORNING, and he laid out some of his plans to solve the problem.


REP. JOHN PETERSON (R), PENNSYLVANIA: We need to conserve. We need to make -- help people be more fuel-efficient on everything they do. We need to assist people with tax breaks and tax credits to phase out their old furnaces, to get rid of their old cars, to get rid of -- stop wasting energy. We waste a lot of energy in this country.


ROBERTS: Peterson is also a supporter of offshore drilling and says that he would use money generated from that fund to develop alternative energy sources.

CHETRY: So, how do you stay PC but poke fun at Barack Obama? Why some comedians are finding it still tough to be funny but not cross the line.

ROBERTS: Summer blockbuster. From the jungles of Colombia to Hollywood invite. Freed American hostages cashing in.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TED JOHNSON, MANAGING EDITOR, DAILY VARIETY: This is a combination of a strong female character as well as an adventure story.


ROBERTS: You're watching the "Most News in the Morning."


ROBERTS: This morning, the American hostages' story of survival in the jungles Colombia looks destined to be played out on the big screen. Right now, studios are scrambling for the rights to their story.

CNN's Kareen Wynter is following the bargaining.

KAREEN WYNTER, CNN GENERAL ASSIGNMENT CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John and Kiran. If Hollywood has its way, this Colombian hostage rescue story could soon hit the big screen.


WYNTER (voice-over): A daring real life rescue played out on tape and in the news.


ROBERTS: It was a stunning end to a hostage drama.


WYNTER: Three Americans, a former Colombian presidential candidate and 11 other hostages held by a rebel group in Colombia for years, finally freed. Within hours, Hollywood wanted a piece of the drama.

TED JOHNSON, MANAGING EDITOR, DAILY VARIETY: There's several different deals that appear to be in the works for the Colombian hostage story, which tends to happen sometimes with major events that have this much intrigue.

WYNTER: "Variety's" Ted Johnson says it's the type of story that writes itself. Ingrid Betancourt, who was taken hostage in 2002, is reportedly in talks with a literary agency in France, while Hollywood is pursuing the three Americans.

JOHNSON: Almost all the principals, who are involved, are in the process of securing agents or meeting with agents, and coming up with their own deal.

WYNTER: Las Vegas-based businessman Phil Maloof, whose family owns the Sacramento Kings and Las Vegas Palms Hotel and Casino, is among many jockeying for the movie rights.

PHIL MALOOF, BUSINESS MOGUL: We're in talks with the Colombian officials right now and also with Ingrid. We got an offer in to her and hopefully within the next couple of weeks, we'll know whether or not she goes with us.

WYNTER: Industry watchers say there's already some buzz around who would play the role of Betancourt.

JOHNSON: This is a combination of a strong female character as well as an adventure story that has the potential to hit many different quadrants of the movie audience.

WYNTER: But securing the rights is only half the challenge. Industry watchers say bringing a production like this to the big screen could take years.


WYNTER: The big question then is, will producers still be able to sell this story to a movie audience?

John and Kiran?

CHETRY: Kareen, thanks.

Well, John McCain versus Barack Obama, not the battle on the trail, but with comedians struggling to come up with jokes this year. We're talking with one funny man who tells us why.

And stagflation. That's the name of America's economy now. So, how can you keep your money safe in a downturn like this? CNN's personal finance editor Gerri Willis tells us.

ROBERTS: Who killed the electric car?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are fearful.


ROBERTS: If you never saw the movie, Miles O'Brien brings you up to speed and goes for a ride in the car you can't buy. You're watching the "Most News in the Morning."



JAY LENO, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW JAY LENO": McCain had to follow Barack Obama at the NAACP. That's like Wilford Brimley trying to follow Miley Cyrus at The Teen Choice Awards. Good luck.

Actually, the latest poll show Barack Obama and John McCain are dead even, dead even. See what happened was Obama moved to the right, McCain moved to the left and they became the same person.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CHETRY: Not so much. Anyway, some midnight mad cap from Jay Leno about the candidates. And the campaign trail jokes are a staple of late night humor, of course.

But my next guest says that poking fun at candidates isn't what it used to be. It's because comedians across the country are struggling to come up with some politically correct punch lines.

Comedian and Obama supporter, Andy Borowitz, the creator of, it's a daily fake news column that many people love to check out, joins me now.

Andy, thanks for being with us.


CHETRY: So, are we in this PC culture where we can't make fun of the candidates this year?

BOROWITZ: Let's hope not. I mean, that's political correctness is the end of comedy. So, we're just going to forget about that. We can't be politically correct. We have got to make people laugh.

CHETRY: What we've seen, though, and of course, with the satire, the different page of "The New Yorker" igniting a firestorm of controversy as well, there are some who say that, you know, in this political season people are being a little bit more careful about what they feel comfortable joking about.

BOROWITZ: Well, I think that's true. But I think that's bad. I think we should be able to -- you know, I am an Obama supporter but one of the reasons I'm supporting him is because I'm confident that he can be ridiculed. I really do think, because that's my bread and butter.

CHETRY: You also made this fake news article, right?

BOROWITZ: That's right.

CHETRY: Showing the jokes that have been approved by the Obama campaign.

BOROWITZ: Yes. Well, they're very politically correct Obama jokes. Because the thing about Obama is that he's very serious and he likes to get his point across.

So, here's a typical Obama joke, which is that Obama and a kangaroo drive into a gas station and the gas station attendant says, we don't see many kangaroos in here and Barack Obama says, at these prices I'm not surprised. And that's why we need to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. So, that's hilarious.

CHETRY: That was given an OK by the campaign. All right.

BOROWITZ: Yes. That was a hilarious approved Obama joke. CHETRY: Give us one more.

BOROWITZ: Well, a Christian, a Jew and Barack Obama are in a row boat and Barack Obama says this joke won't work because there's no Muslim in this boat. So, that's another appropriate Barack Obama joke.

CHETRY: Now, are people too sensitive? This is interesting. This is what the "New York Times," pointed out about these lack of jokes that we've seen in the presidential candidate Barack Obama, saying that, "There's been little humor about Mr. Obama, his age, speaking ability, his intelligence, his family, his physique, and within a late-night landscape dominated by white hosts, white writers, and overwhelmingly white audiences, there has been almost none about his race.

(OFF-MIKE) about his race and is joking about race off limits?

BOROWITZ: Well, you know, I think the people are sensitive about race, but I think there are so many better things to laugh about Barack Obama. I think his speaking, his very soaring rhetoric, his inspirational speeches, I actually have started talking like that around the house.

Like, for example, last night my wife said, we can't have sex. And I said, yes, we can, yes, we can, because I have the audacity of hope, Kiran. I do.

CHETRY: That's right. So, he's now inspiring you to better your marriage.

BOROWITZ: Inspiring me, inspiring me, absolutely.

CHETRY: Love it. How about John McCain?

BOROWITZ: With John McCain, I feel bad for him because he's easier to joke about. There's the default joke about him, which is that he's old, which I think is unfair.

I mean, I think he's actually very youthful and vigorous. And the only thing that's old about him is like what he says and what he does. That's it. I mean, I would say like when he was announcing his campaign, he said that he vowed to campaign in all 13 colonies. And I think that that was a bad move on his part.

CHETRY: He is also getting tweaked for not being as Internet savvy as some suppose.

BOROWITZ: He's not. He's not. He doesn't know about the Goggle like George Bush does or the Internets.

CHETRY: Or the Internets.

BOROWITZ: Exactly. He's having trouble with that. But he is comfortable with a lot of technology like for example the cotton gin, very good with that -- the butter churn. He's going to emphasize that a little bit more.

CHETRY: All right, fine. One of the things that they're really having a lot of fun with is that he addressed the NAACP yesterday.

BOROWITZ: That's right, his base. His core audience. That was amazing. I mean, we have not seen him really in the company of a lot of black people, so that was kind of a surprising moment for John McCain.

CHETRY: All right. Well, you know what? I think that there is plenty to work with this campaign season. You guys just can't be afraid.

BOROWITZ: We can't be afraid. It was so great to join you at the smooth side table.

CHETRY: We brought it just for you. We just want to hypnotize you with the loose side after the segment.

Andy Borowitz, as always, great to talk to you. Thanks for being with us.

BOROWITZ: Thanks, Kiran.

ROBERTS: 27-and-a-half minutes after the hour now. And here are some of this morning's top stories. Breaking this morning. The U.S. reportedly ready to send diplomats to Iran for the first time since the hostage crisis almost 30 years ago.

"The Guardian" newspaper says the State Department will announce plans for establishing a U.S. interest section in Tehran. That's a way of exercising diplomacy without actually opening an embassy, which would require reestablishing diplomatic relations.

In Israel, it's a day of mourning as the remains of two soldiers return in a prisoner swap with Hezbollah are laid to rest. Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev received posthumous promotions. They were kidnap by Hezbollah two years ago in a cross-border raid that led to the 34-day long war with Israel.

President Bush heads to California today for a hands-on look at the wildfire damage there. And it's the state's worst ever wildfire season. Right now, firefighters are hoping that more controlled burns will block a spreading blaze. 27 homes have been destroyed along the state's central coast. Another 200 had been evacuated.

Your safety in the skies. Pilots are accusing a major airline of sacrificing it to save on fuel. They say U.S. Airways pressured them to fly, sometimes over the ocean, with less fuel than they felt was safe. The airline says they merely held training sessions on the issue and there was no intimidation.

CNN's Deborah Feyerick is following the story for us this morning.

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The U.S. Airline Pilot Association took out a full page ad in "USA Today" accusing U.S. Airways management of pressuring captains to reduce fuel levels in order to save money. Eight pilots filed complaints with the Federal Aviation Administration as did the union. They accused the airline of trying to infringe on the captain's authority by making them fly with less fuel than they're comfortable with. Well, the Depart of Transportation says fuel levels should always be up to the pilot.


MARY PETERS, TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: The pilot is the last authority that determines how much fuel that plane takes, and pilots have that discretion, and are routinely given that discretion. So, if a pilot doesn't feel that a plane has enough fuel in it for the trip that he or she is about to make, then they have the discretion of not flying that flight.


FEYERICK: Prior to filing the complaints, the eight pilots, all of them senior captains who normally fly international flights were called in by U.S. Airways to do fuel conservation training. The union says the pilots were carrying 10 to 15 minutes' worth of extra fuel and calls the training intimidation and harassment.

The U.S. Airway says the eight pilots were way above average in terms of the amount of fuel they had when the planes landed. A spokesman for the airline says if you carry too much fuel, you burn too much fuel. Now, with the high price of oil, it's a balance between having enough to travel safely but also fly efficiently. Captains are fearful their jobs are in jeopardy, but U.S. Airways says that training is not punishment and that the jobs are safe. U.S. Airways will pay $2 billion more in fuel costs than it did last year. The FAA says it's looking into the matter. Deborah Feyerick, CNN, New York.


CHETRY: Well, the FBI is investigating the failed California bank IndyMac for possible mortgage fraud. The Feds are looking into whether the bank used false information to give away loans to risky borrowers. IndyMac was taken over by federal regulators last week. The FBI is now investigating 21 companies tied to the sub prime mortgage crisis.

ROBERTS: "ISSUE #1" this week, both President bush and Fed chairman Ben Bernanke acknowledged in so many words that the U.S. economy has seen better days. The economic downturn has a lot of people throwing around the term stagflation, something we haven't heard for quite a while. CNN personal finance editor Gerri Willis is here to explain and tells us to talk about what we can do to protect our money. First of all, stagflation, everyone around in the 1970s remembers. That includes me, remembers what that was. Remind us.

GERRI WILLIS, CNN PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR: Right. Exactly. And it wasn't pleasant, was it?

ROBERTS: No, it was terrible.

WILLIS: Yes, exactly. Well, stagflation, in case you haven't been around for a while, let's define what it is. It's a period of really slow economic growth, you're seeing the Merriam-Webster definition right here. Inflation is high and folks get stuck in this awful place in the middle where their income is not buying what it used to, yet they don't have any opportunities, because the economy is growing so slowly.

Now, the last time we saw it, late '60s, all the way through the early '80s, it was a terrific bout of stagflation. They're calling what we're going through right now stagflation-like, John. It's not as bad as it was back then but you remember higher unemployment, 10.8 percent unemployment rate, inflation double digits. It was really tough for folks out there, and this is really something that's hard to deal with. It's even better to have a short recession than to have an extended period of stagflation.

ROBERTS: So in terms of dealing with this, what can people do to protect their money, their investments?

WILLIS: Right. Exactly.

ROBERTS: All of them.

WILLIS: You've got to think seriously about how to handle your investments and your savings. Your first impulse might be, oh my goodness, I have to do something to keep my money safe, I'm going to put it in cash equivalents, money market accounts, savings accounts. That could be just the wrong thing to do. And here's why, it's because inflation is running so long high you're getting a 1 percent return on your money. Inflation is four percent. You're losing money. You're losing the value of your dollar, so you've got to make sure that you're putting your money to work in index fund, plain vanilla easy PC investment. Very easy to do.

It's great place to go and you can try something called Treasury Investment Protected Securities, sold on the treasury web site at What they do is they pay you a return that is based on inflation, so as inflation goes up, your returns increase. So a couple of things to think about there today as we go into this period of high inflation, really tough for folks out there.

ROBERTS: You know, when you look at money market accounts or even just leaving your money in a bank account, a lot of people are looking at three percent and say at least I'm making something, whereas if I keep my money in mutual funds I'm losing 10 percent to 15 percent.

WILLIS: But you're also buying stocks on sale, if you're on mutual funds. If it's a stock fund, you know, you're getting a good deal at least. You're definitely losing money but that you're never going to regain in the money market fund. Now, I'm not saying don't have some cash savings. You should have some cash savings but at the end of the day, don't lose everything to a bank account, to a savings account on money market. That's a recipe for disaster. ROBERTS: Gerri Willis, some good advice and we'll see you again on "ISSUE #1." Noon today, right.

WILLIS: Thank you, John.

CHETRY: As you always says, think of it like a shoe sale, getting the stocks for a little cheaper. Thanks, Gerri.

Well, funky stuff for sale. The godfather of soul's estate up for auction, capes and all. Lola takes a look at the bids.


ROBERTS: (voice-over): Plugged in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every day I meet people who would like to be driving this car.

ROBERTS: The car you won't find on any lot because most of them ended up here, in the scrap heap.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's incredibly frustrating.

ROBERTS: Miles O'Brien on the death of the electric car. You're watching the most news in the morning.



ROBERTS: 36 minutes after the hour. Just in, some new housing numbers out right now, and our Ali Velshi here with all of that. Hey, Ali.

VELSHI: Hey, John, just getting the numbers in, these are housing starts, that's the number of homes that were under construction or began construction in the June. The numbers are interesting, it's up 9.1 percent. That's pretty good but it's a split. If you take the single family homes that were built they're actually down 5.3 percent, that's the slowest pace in about 17 years.

That's bad news, but there was a surge in what we call multifamily units, that's apartment buildings, and that overcame that, which gave us an increase of the 9.1 percent. The other thing that's interesting is we also saw a record number of building permits. Now, that's stuff that is supposed to actually, that's building permits for construction that's going to go on. We saw that up 11.6 percent so that's the good news.

The bad news is we saw jobless benefits a little higher than we expected them to be so a mixed market this morning. The JP Morgan numbers that came out a little earlier have sent the futures a little bit higher so we do look like we're going to have a positive open this morning on the market. So, mixed stuff on housing, that's the news we got now.

ROBERTS: Ali, thanks so much for that. Appreciate it.

A car that never stops for gas. Sounds pretty good, right? Well, one San Francisco man plugs in his car and then sails right by the rest of us, paying more than $4 a gallon. So why don't the rest of us have that option? Our Miles O'Brien took a ride with this fellow and Miles joins us now live from Powder Springs, Georgia. Good morning, Miles. It's a pretty good-looking ride you got there, sweet.

O'BRIEN: Yes, it's not bad, John, I'm driving an '89 Doran. A Doran, I guess if you got two of them, it would be Duran Duran. But in any case, this is a prototype. You can't buy this thing, and that's really basically the problem. There is no practical electric car available on the U.S. market today, and for electric car enthusiasts they say why not? Because the technology is here to make it possible, just watch what happened when I drove with a big enthusiast in San Francisco.


MARC GELLER, ELECTRIC CAR OWNER: I forget this time, started or not started.

O'BRIEN: Once you get Mark Geller started on the subject of electric cars, there's no stopping him. So it really doesn't inconvenience you?

GELLER: There's definitely no inconvenience and a tremendous amount of pleasure in passing gas stations and watching the price rise.

O'BRIEN: Marc has been breezing by gas pumps in San Francisco for seven years. This is his second all-electric car, a used plug-in Toyota Rav-4, used because right now there isn't a new practical electric car on the U.S. market. Is it frustrating?

GELLER: It's incredibly frustrating. It's frustrating because every day I meet people who would like to be driving this car.

O'BRIEN: Ten years ago, Detroit, seemed positively plugged in.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The electric car is here.

O'BRIEN: General Motors built and leased about 1,000 of the fabled EV1s after a California law mandated sales of zero emission vehicles.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's the future. I'm happy.

O'BRIEN: But by 2003, California backed down. GM repoed the EV1s and destroyed them amid protests. Marc was among the protesters. So why does he think Detroit pulled the plug?

GELLER: I would say because they are fearful of how disruptive plug-in cars will be, and how unattractive their old product line will appear.

O'BRIEN: Marc says a fully charged battery takes him 120 miles. Normally a charge overnight at home is more than enough to get him through the day. And here's the kicker. Marc works for a solar power company. His own roof is covered with solar cells.

GELLER: As soon as I got the car I realized now I understand why this makes sense. I can create my own electricity.

O'BRIEN: Will you call yourself an electric car zealot?

GELLER: A zealot might be a little strong but I truly believe that this is an option consumers would love to be able to purchase.


O'BRIEN (on-camera): This is the option he's talking about, this is the Rav-4, not the one in the piece but another one here in Georgia. Take a look under the hood here. It's pretty straightforward. There's not a lot to it and basically the batteries go all through the vehicle. There are only a few hundred of these in the world because Toyota leased most and took them back and destroyed them. The ones for sale are still out there for sale. The man who own this is one is Stephen Taylor. Stephen bought this on eBay. You bought these a few years ago for how much?


O'BRIEN: Today if I wanted to find one on eBay, how much would it be?

TAYLOR: The last one went for about $70,000.

O'BRIEN: $70,000. I guess, there's a lesson there in the demand for these vehicles.

TAYLOR: Yes, there's a huge demand. There are a lot of people that really want these kind of vehicles but just can't get them.

O'BRIEN: Why? Let's talk about it, just briefly. Demand on the power grid. Everybody had one of these and we're all plugged in, we'll we have a complete blackout nationwide or something?

TAYLOR: No, because most people charge their cars up at night, and that's when the power companies have a ton of excess power available. In fact, they really need to you use it, because it helps them equalize their investment and assets.

O'BRIEN: All right. We know this is better for the importation of liquid fuels. Briefly, is it a wash as far as pollution goes, because if power here is generated by coal?

TAYLOR: Yes, when you throw in the coal, these cars are still about as clean as a Toyota Prius, which is pretty much the cleanest car on the road. These are also the only cars that you can buy that get cleaner every day that you own them. Even a Prius gets dirtier as you own it and drive it more miles.

O'BRIEN: Stephen Taylor, electric car enthusiasts. He has about half dozen of them right here. We appreciate you bringing them out and showing them to us. And John, just to put this in perspective, the average American in the course of a day drives about 30 miles and almost every car here can handle that kind of range.

ROBERTS: Everything old is new again. Fascinating stuff. Miles, thanks so much.

CHETRY: I can't believe they were repoed and crushed and the whole thing was you know -

ROBERTS: They'll be back just like Arnold says, they'll be back.

CHETRY: I hope so.

Well, dress like a sex machine, how about that? A bid on the godfather of soul's cape. Lola takes a look at what's for sale at the auction in James Brown's estate.


ROBERTS (voice-over): Perfect fit.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm not an alcoholic, I'm a drunk. Alcoholics go to meetings.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She got arrested for drunk driving.


ROBERTS: Jeanne Moos looks at mug shots where the perps are dressed to a T. You're watching the most news in the morning.



CHETRY: Well, it's your chance to own a little piece of the godfather of soul. Well, controversy at the same time. Today, in New York, Christie's auction house will be selling off some personal items from the late James Brown. And among them one of this trademark outlandish outfits, even some hair care products. Our Lola Ogunnaike is here with a preview.


LOLA OGUNNAIKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He doesn't have James Brown's fancy footwork but this adorable replica is just one of the many items up for grabs at Christy's godfather of soul auction. Furniture, capes, sunglasses, shoes, instruments, and lots and lots of sex. No surprises there, the man did sing about being a sex machine.

SIMEON LIPMAN, CHRISTIE'S POP CULTURE SPECIALIST: He was the sex machine nonetheless, as you can see, he was proud of this particular outfit.

OGUNNAIKE: He was just as proud of his pompadour. Want his rollers and afro sheen? All yours for 300 bucks.

LIPMAN: Here we have some of the pieces from his own personal beauty salon that was in his basement.

OGUNNAIKE: Wait, he has his own personal beauty salon in his home?

LIPMAN: Absolutely. Think you got a piece of -

OGUNNAIKE: Oh, I have James Brown hair!

LIPMAN: That makes it more valuable.

OGUNNAIKE: We've got studs, fringe, we got sequins and sleeveless and totally bedazzled.

LIPMAN: Um-hum.

OGUNNAIKE: What is going on here?

LIPMAN: He loved to make a spectacle on stage, and certainly these clothes reflect that.

OGUNNAIKE: Furs belonging to his wife, the godmother of soul, are also in the collection. Guess what?

LIPMAN: What? I feel good. You knew that I would now.

OGUNNAIKE: Over the years, Brown was honored with dozens of awards both for his music and his contributions to the civil rights movement.

$15,000 to $20,000 will get you the Grammy he won in 1986 for "Living in America," or you can spend that same amount and walk away with one of these.


CHETRY: Well, there you go. Exciting and a lot of fun for fans of James Brown. Not everyone in his family, especially his heirs are happy about this auction.

OGUNNAIKE: Yes. They're not feeling good about this auction at all, Kiran. In fact, they're devastated about the auction, but it's still happening. The South Carolina courts said it could go on. The court-appointed trustees were actually the ones that are overseeing his estate were the ones that authorized the sale but his kids. They're upset about it. They don't want to see any of this stuff leave. Al Sharpton who looked to James Brown as father is also upset about this sale as well.

CHETRY: And the reason why, you said, his estate was left in such disarray they need to bring in some money? OGUNNAIKE: His need is in complete disarray. They need to recoup some funds and this is expected to net anywhere from $1 million to $2 million and it's much needed money.

CHETRY: Wow. All right. Well, keep us posted on how it goes. As you said, they're even planning some protests outside of the auction house today?

OGUNNAIKE: They're going to be protesting at the auction house and they're going to be in Al Sharpton's show protesting the sale as well.

CHETRY: All right. Thanks so much, Lola.

OGUNNAIKE: Thank you.

ROBERTS: Coming up next in 12 minutes to the top of the hour. Flush the fat, can drinking more water help you lose weight? We're Paging Dr. Sanjay Gupta for the answer.

Also ahead, what not to wear when you're arrested. Our Jeanne Moos shows you because remember, a mug shot is forever.


ROBERTS: We are always on top of the latest medical news here on AMERICAN MORNING and as a result you often have questions so every Thursday we dig into Dr. Gupta's mail bag. Sanjay joins us this morning. Sanjay, let's dive right in. Ellen from Tunnel Hill, Georgia, writes "my friend claims that drinking a gallon of water daily will flush the fat out of your body, resulting in weight loss. Is this true?"

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Oh, Ellen, I wish it were true. Unfortunately it's not. It's absolutely not true. The only way to really lose some of that weight is to actually burn more calories than you consume. It's sort of a simple formula there. Part of that is going to be exercise. And if you're exercising you want to drink as much water as possible. That's going to be important to stay hydrated.

Let me give you another tip there. A gallon of water, I don't know if your friend is a woman or a man that's too much overall. For women, two to three quarts probably enough, men, three to four quarts depending on your overall size, but just drinking the water alone, Ellen, probably not going to do much for you.

ROBERTS: All right. And another question to answer, this one comes from Joyce in Charlottesville, Virginia, down there at the University of Virginia. "I'm prone to mosquito bites and any other insect bites whether I spread DEET on my jeans or not. What is the best deterrent and also the best relief for these irritating itches after a bug bite?"

GUPTA: This is the time of the year when a lot of people start asking questions like this. You mentioned one of the substances that actually typically does work, DEET is one of them, pecaradin is another substance that can offer some relief. Your best bet if you're particularly prone to this is to try and stay away from wooded areas that have a lot of bushes for example as well, and also look is look at your shampoo and your soap. If they're heavily scented those can be very attractive to all sorts of biting creatures and stay away from standing water. That's where they like to breed and hang out.

Now, as far as what works. If you do get bit there are several different products out there - anti-histamines for example, that takes away that sort of swelling that often accompanies those itches. Ibuprofen or acetaminophen will take away some of the pain. Topical creams, you can carry some of these with you, hydrocortisone cream, for example, will help almost immediately and skin protectants will soothe the skin, oatmeal, baking soda as well. John.

ROBERTS: We got time for one more question today, Jamal in Denver asks "we will be having our first baby in August, what is the ideal room temperature suitable for a baby?"

GUPTA: Well, Jamal, first of all, let me say congratulations, that's terrific news, being the father of two young girls myself. I can tell you most parents are so nervous that they tend to just bundle up that baby with multiple layers and put lots of bedding around the baby as well. You really don't need that. What we have found is one single layer, a onesie for example is enough and to keep that baby's room temperature between 68 and 72 degrees, seems to be the ideal temperature.

You are right to worry about the fact that babies aren't as good about regulating their body temperature as adults but tends to be if they're overheat, rather than cool too much. You really want to make sure they don't overheat. One layer, 68 to 72, that should do it for you. Congratulations again, Jamal.

ROBERTS: Good advice, Sanjay, thanks so much.

GUPTA: All right.

ROBERTS: And don't forget that every Thursday we turn to Dr. Gupta's mailbag for your questions about the medical stories that we cover so if you have a question for Dr. Gupta, go to and click on the link, e-mail us your question. Sanjay will be here to answer them every Thursday on AMERICAN MORNING.


ROBERTS (voice-over): Perfect fit.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm not an alcoholic, I'm a drunk. Alcoholics go to meetings.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She got arrested for drunk driving.

MOOS: Did she really?

ROBERTS: Jeanne Moos looks at mug shots where the perps are dressed to a "t." You're watching the most news in the morning.


CHETRY: Well this just in to CNN right now. The Emmy nominations announced just minutes ago and the nominations for best comedy "Entourage," "The Office," "Curb your Enthusiasm," "Two and a half men" and "30 rock." All good shows. How about dramas?

ROBERTS: "Boston Legal," "Damages," "Dexter," "House," "Lost," yes, and "Madmen." We'll be looking forward to the Emmy Awards and see who wins.

Hey, it's bad enough when you are arrested by the police, then you get busted by the fashion police on top of it.

CHETRY: Just what is appropriate attire for your mug shot? CNN's Jeanne Moos looks at some criminal closeups.


MOOS (voice-over): People who get busted like to hide their faces with their hair, with their hoods, with their shirts. But you can't hide from a mug shot and when this Michigan man was photographed in a "World's Greatest Dad" tee shirt after allegedly arranging underaged sex that got us thinking about perps suited to a tee.

For instance, the mug shot of the guy wearing "Trouble Finds Me" or "Out on Bail."


MOOS: Out on bail.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's what it could say on the back, not anymore.

MOOS: The folks at the smoking gun web site specialize in legal documented and mug shots. Imagine getting arrested in an, "if we get caught it's all your fault" tee, or "it wasn't me" and who needs a written confession when you're wearing one. "I make stuff up." "Trust me, I'm a liar." "Nobody's perfect," goes perfectly with a face that shrugs. "Every idea I have gets me in trouble" and the mother of all mug shot understatements "I may not be Mr. Right." Andrew Goldberg is a mug shot connoisseur sifting through -

ANDREW GOLDBERG, MUG SHOT CONNOISSEUR: Hundreds a day and thousands a week.

MOOS: Out of those thousands, one like "I'm a virgin but this is an old tee shirt" sticks out. Like a virgin.

Or the opposite. "Support your local hooker."

But some t-shirts are prophetic. "I'm not an alcoholic, I'm a drunk. Alcoholics go to meetings."

GOLDBERG: She got arrested for drunk driving.

MOOS: Did she really?


MOOS: Things not to say to a police officer. What are the chances of getting arrested with that on?

GOLDBERG: The first thing is oink, oink.

MOOS: Some of the t-shirts merit busted by the fashion police. "Overly Caucasian, do not place on dance floor," "motorcycles helping ugly people have sex since 1903." "Warning, I have PMS and a handgun." Arrested people seem to like to insult others with their t- shirts.

GOLDBERG: It says "you're a freakin' idiot but he's the one locked up." "98 percent naughty, 2 percent angel."

MOOS: "A party has arrived all right." "Trust me, I do this all the time." "I live in my own little world but it's okay. They know me here." "Stupidity is not a crime."

GOLDBERG: And obviously that's not what he got arrested for. Stupidity.

MOOS: Nope, it was aggravated assault with a folding knife. Who needs to dress for success when you can dress for arrest. Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


ROBERTS: So what are you going to wear when you were arrested?

CHETRY: That's such a loaded question. Hopefully I will never have to worry about that. Fingers crossed.

ROBERTS: That's going to do it for us. We'll see you again bright and early tomorrow morning. Thanks for joining us on this AMERICAN MORNING.

CHETRY: And right now, here's CNN NEWSROOM with Tony Harris and Heidi Collins.

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

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Hi there, everybody. I'm Heidi Collins. You'll see events come into the NEWSROOM live on this Thursday morning, July 17th. Here's what's on the rundown.