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American Morning

U.S. Military Confirming New Offensive Under Way in Diyala Province; National Security System Still Broken According to Congress; Barack Obama Accusing John McCain of Flip-Flopping Over Affirmative Action

Aired July 29, 2008 - 08:00   ET


ALINA CHO, CNN ANCHOR: Also breaking right now in Iraq, the U.S. military is confirming that a new offensive is under way right now in the violent Diyala Province. That's northeast of Baghdad. The Iraqi military calls the area the last major stronghold for al Qaeda near the capital city.
The national security system is still broken, that's according to a report that was mandated by Congress. Despite a major overhaul after the 9/11 attacks says the Pentagon, the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security still aren't working together to fight terrorism.

Homeland Security correspondent Jeanne Meserve joins me now from Washington.

So, Jeanne, it appears that the left hand isn't talking to the right, huh?

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And they cite some examples. One of them is failure of the coalition of provincial authority in Iraq to successfully reconstruct and stabilize that country but that is just one example cited by the project on national security reform to illustrate how the country's security apparatus is malfunctioning.

Why isn't the system working better? According to the report, competition among agencies, the top reason. Leadership failures, no long-term planning focus, an inflexible budget process, difficulty recruiting and retaining employees, incompatible computer systems and partisan turf battles in Congress.

Many of these criticisms are not new but despite the expenditure of a lot of time and money since 9/11, the report says the problems persist even with the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, the office of the director of national intelligence and the National Counterterrorism Center.


CHO: Well, they certainly didn't miss anything. I mean, that's quite a list there, Jeanne. So, what about fixing this problem? You know, are there any recommendations?

MESERVE: Well, the project on national security reform is working with both presidential campaign staffs. It develops specific proposals that will be unveiled in October. The group says the start of a new administration would be the right time to try and make some of the needed changes.


CHO: Well, we all look forward to that. CNN's Jeanne Meserve, always a pleasure. Jeanne, thank you.

MESERVE: You bet.


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Senator John McCain says he may get the results of his biopsy today as he campaigns in Nevada and Colorado. The senator spoke exclusively to Larry King last night on CNN. And Dana Bash joins us now from Washington.

Do we know anything more about this biopsy that he had. What kind of a mole it might have been?

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We still know what Senator McCain and his aides told us yesterday, John. And that is that he had what they're calling a mole-like growth removed from his right cheek which is the opposite side of his face from the extensive surgery he had on his left side when he removed that melanoma back in 2000. But here's what he told Larry King last night.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESUMPTIVE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I go to a routine check-up every three months, Larry. And as you can see, it's just a routine thing. And that we do quite frequently for those of us that when we were young, that we had great exposure to the sun.

As you know, my dad was in the navy and we lived in places where I was at the beach a lot and that's -- I'm paying a price for that, but it's fine. It is a routine thing and I get it done every three months or so.


BASH: And there you heard Senator McCain say that it's a routine. The Mayo Clinic where he went for the check up yesterday released a statement saying virtually the same thing, John. They called it minor. And I checked in with the campaign this morning to see if, in fact, we would get the biopsy results today. Well, they said they have nothing further on that yet but they promise to keep us posted, John.

ROBERTS: You know, Dana, the last one that he had removed here was quite an extensive surgery. The one on the left side of his face because the senator says he'd let it go for a long time. As far as we know, though, he doesn't have what's called metastatic disease, which means that it's spread throughout his body. But even if it's localized here, what are the political ramifications of being 72 years old next month. Oldest person ever to run for office for a first term as president and health becomes a real concern here.

BASH: You're exactly right, you know. Even if everything is fine and obviously everybody hopes that that is the case. The political reality is really just how you described it, John.

It is a reminder that McCain obviously is a cancer survivor. Also, that in the next month, he is going to be 72 years old. He would be the oldest president ever elected. His advisors know very well. They look at polls and they know that that does worry voters.

The other thing politically that were puzzling and perhaps problematic for McCain is that we didn't find out about what McCain and his staff called a routine check-up until after it happened.

And because of that element of surprise, because of McCain's history, it overshadowed what his aides really worked hard yesterday to stage which are sound bites standing in an oil field hitting Obama on the issue of offshore drilling.

ROBERTS: Well, as you know, from covering the White House, Dana, there are plenty of times when President Bush would come out with a bandage on his forehead and we'd say what happened? So, it's the same thing with Senator McCain.

We should also point out, too, that plenty of people in their 40s get melanoma as well.

BASH: Unfortunately, that is true.

ROBERTS: Yes. Not necessarily a factor of age purely. Dana Bash in Washington. Dana, thanks so much.


CHO: Barack Obama back on the campaign trail and sounding very confident after a fund-raiser in Arlington, Virginia, last night. He talked about his chances of winning in November.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESUMPTIVE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: We are now in a position where the odds of us wining are very good, but it's still going to be difficult.


CHO: And Obama may be close to picking a running mate. Virginia Governor Tim Kaine reportedly said he and Obama had very serious conversations about the VP spot. And, yesterday, Obama spent several hours at the offices of the man leading that search team.

Deficit disaster. New economic forecast numbers from the White House and what it means to you.

Flames 100 feet high and burning in all directions. The latest on those out of control wildfires in California threatening 4,000 homes and now a national landmark.

And terrorism at the Olympics? Alarming new video just released. Who are the people behind it? Is the threat for real? You are watching the "Most News in the Morning."


CHO: Taken up to a little Beatles.

ROBERTS: Who doesn't want a little money now and then?

CHO: That's right. Especially now, right? Gerri Willis here minding our business. What's up?

GERRI WILLIS, CNN PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR: Well, I wanted to talk a little bit this morning about student loans. You know, a lot of people out there, they need student loans. Have to have them for the coming school year -- the coming college student year and interestingly, the math --

ROBERTS: We should say -- hang on. Your microphone is not on.

WILLIS: Yes. I know. Let me talk into your microphone, Alina.

CHO: There we go. Is it on? I guess it's on then.

WILLIS: I think I'm ready to go now.

ROBERTS: There you go. OK, we got it.



ROBERTS: Pretend that didn't happen. Take two. All right, Gerri is here "Minding Your Business" this morning.

CHO: Gerri, what do you have for us?

WILLIS: Student loans. Do you want to talk about the student loans? How to get money? The Massachusetts Student Financing Authority has said that they are not going to give out loans this year. They're contacting 40,000 students and they're not able to help them with money. The credit crunch is the reason. Lots of student loans out there in the crosshairs.

It's tough for students to get money, and it's because these loans were packaged in secure ties just like mortgage debt, just like credit card debt. So now it is tough for these folks to get money because of the credit crunch. So, what's going on? There's less money for private loans. They're used to be great loan discounts if you paid on time. All of that is gone away, you know. So the question, of course, is what do these kids do?

ROBERTS: Yes. So, where do they go to get help?

WILLIS: Well, there are lots of places to go to get help. has great information on what is available and where to go for money. Don't forget about the free money. There are still scholarships out there., has a great place to go -- is a great place to go to find some of those.

You know, I got to tell you something funny. I found scholarships for people who speak Klingon.

CHO: Come on.

WILLIS: Yes. Yes. I'm serious. There's a lot of free money for silly stuff.

CHO: Tell Jason Carroll about that.

WILLIS: One more web site, Think about that if you're trying to consolidate your loans. This is where you have to go now. You have to go to the government to get the consolidation.

ROBERTS: I didn't know that Klingon was an official language.

WILLIS: It's a language -- it's a sort of a joke. But it's a language scholarship.

CHO: Oh, it's a joke.

ROBERTS: And Gerri, of course, this morning, doing what she can to save money by turning off her microphone to save batteries.

WILLIS: Sorry about that.

ROBERTS: Gerri, thanks so much.

CHO: Saves the environment.

ROBERTS: The White House says the economy this year and next will not grow as fast as originally thought as Elaine Quijano tells us. It comes as a part of a new look at the nation's bottom line which shows a record budget deficit -- approaching $.5 trillion.


ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: John and Alina, Democrats are taking aim calling the $482 billion deficit a sign of the Bush administration's flawed economic policies, but the White House argues that deficit simply reflects the price of boosting the nation's economy.


QUIJANO (voice-over): $482 billion. That's how much the U.S. government is expected to be in the red. In other words, how much more the government is spending than it is taking in. And add that to the debt -- what the U.S. already owes, $9.5 trillion, and some say that's a recipe for financial disaster.

ROBERT BIXBY, EXEC. DIR. THE CONCORD COALITION: The federal government has to pay interest costs just like if you're borrowing on your credit card. You have to pay interest costs. And last year, we spent over $200 billion on interest alone. One reason that the budget deficit is a problem is the taxpayers have to pay more and more on the national credit card.

QUIJANO: And the deficit may not cover the entire cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

DANA PERINO, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We make no apologies for the money we've spent to protect the people of this country.

QUIJANO: The Bush administration blames the higher than expected deficit on the slumping economy and the need for a $168 billion stimulus package meant to give the U.S. a financial shot in the arm.

JIM NUSSLE, OMB DIRECTOR: Getting the economy back on track was a higher priority than immediate deficit reduction.

QUIJANO: While the $482 billion is a record dollar amount, experts say as a percentage of the nation's economy, this deficit is a little over 3 percent. Not nearly as high as the 6 percent in 1983.


QUIJANO: At the same time, the White House is painting a less rosy economic picture than originally forecast, predicting higher than expected inflation, higher unemployment, and slower economic growth over the next year.



CHO: Elaine Quijano at the White House for us.

98 days until the election, we heard some words of confidence from Barack Obama saying his odds of winning are, quote, "very good." But was he presumptuous in saying that? We're going to be talking with two top radio hosts on the latest bumps on the road to the White House.

ROBERTS: And at 13 minutes after the hour, Rob Marciano in the CNN Weather Center.

We got extreme weather today, Rob?

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. Everybody's hot down south. Record-breaking heat across much of the south. Going to happen again today. We'll talk fires out west. AMERICAN MORNING will be right back.


CHO: 15 minutes after the hour. Welcome back to the "Most News in the Morning." 25 homes, 26,000 acres, all gone. Firefighters are trying desperately to contain a fast-growing wildfire near California's Yosemite National Park. Another 4,000 homes are in danger right now. High temperatures, dry timber and steep terrain making this fight even tougher.

According to early reports, the fire started as a result of hunters shooting target practice. Whoops. Rob Marciano, 15 minutes past, looking all of this.

This fire over the weekend, I notice, Rob, jumped from 1,000 acres to 16,000 like almost overnight. It really, really grew fast. What happened? What's the outlook for today?


CHO: Hey, Rob. If you get to the airport fast, after the show, take a plane up here, you might be able to catch John on the course later.

MARCIANO: Come on, really?

CHO: You still have time.

MARCIANO: Is that an invite?

CHO: I think it's an invite. I'm inviting you.

MARCIANO: Sounds good.

CHO: There you go. All right, Rob. Thanks.


ROBERTS: All right. Let's leave it alone.

Barack Obama accusing John McCain of flip-flopping over affirmative action. So, where do both candidates stand on the issue? We're going to break it down for you ahead.

CHO: A new terror tape shows the Olympic symbol engulfed in flames and the Turkistan Islamic Party vows to attack the Summer Games.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a chance to sort of elevate their profile.


CHO: Terrorist threats in Beijing. You're watching the "Most News in the Morning."


ROBERTS: The future of affirmative action has made it on to the campaign trail. Senator Barack Obama sees room for improvement while John McCain has changed his view. So where exactly do the candidates stand on the controversial issue?

Here's CNN's Carol Costello.


COSTELLO (voice-over): Affirmative action is, shall we say, a political hot potato. Once touted at a sure-fire way to help rectify discrimination based on race and gender, it's now considered by some no more than a quota system that actually promotes reverse discrimination.

TODD GAZIANO, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: There is no justification for forward-looking racial preference policies that have no timetable, will never end, and amount, in fact, to quotas.

COSTELLO: Gaziano says have changed. Look at the man leading the Democratic charge for president and the woman who was his main rival. Others say it's a stretch to use them as an example that equal opportunity abounds.

WARD HENDERSON, CIVIL RIGHTS COMMISSION: These are extraordinary individuals. And their success cannot be attributed, of course, to all the advances that we have made as a country. Their personal accomplishments have to be taken into account as well.

COSTELLO: In fact, experts say minority enrollment at major universities has fallen. And it would be difficult to say discrimination on the job has disappeared for ordinary people.

But, despite this, and despite pro-affirmative action rallies in states like California, voters have limited the scope of affirmative action in at least three states. Seeing it as a quota system that's anything but fair.

A measure which would eliminate affirmative action is in the works in Arizona, John McCain's home state.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC ANCHOR: Opponents of affirmative action are trying to get a referendum on the ballot here that would do away with affirmative action. Do you support that?

MCCAIN: Yes, I do. I do not believe in quotas. But I have not seen the details of some of these proposals. But I have always opposed...

STEPHANOPOULOS: But the one here in Arizona, you support?

MCCAIN: I support it, yes.

COSTELLO: In the past, McCain has voiced opposition to hiring quotas, while supporting the principles of affirmative action. As for Barack Obama, who has long supported affirmative action, opponents point out even he is approaching the topic gingerly.

OBAMA: I also think that we have to think about affirmative action and craft it in such a way where some of our children who are advantaged aren't getting more favorable treatment than a poor white kid who has struggled more. That has to be taken into account.


COSTELLO: It is important to keep in mind there is a difference between quotas system and an affirmative action programs. Quotas systems are against the law. Affirmative action programs are not and have been successful in promoting diversity.



CHO: Carol Costello for us.

The duelling ads debut. New TV spots released by both presidential campaigns, and the experts critique the commercials.

ROBERTS: Plus, Olympic jihad? Who's behind this alarming new terrorist video? Is the threat for real? You're watching the "Most News in the Morning."



JAY LENO, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO": I guess you heard that Barack Obama apparently has a sore hip from playing basketball. He had it looked at at the hospital and he's feeling much better today. And I think his hip is a lot better. He met earlier with Condoleezza Rice. Did you see the meeting?


LENO: Let's take a look at him and Condoleezza. Look at this.


CHO: That's pretty good. Jay Leno having some fun with presidential candidate Barack Obama there. Senator Obama had some interesting comments of his own last night with less than 100 days until the election. He sounded very confident about his chances of winning.

Joining me now from Los Angeles conservative radio talk show host Michael Reagan. And here in New York syndicated talk show host Lionel. He is the author of the book, "Everybody's Crazy Except You and Me."

Thank you both for joining me this morning.

So, you know, Obama made these comments after a fund-raiser in Arlington, Virginia, last night. Let's take a quick listen.


OBAMA: We are now in a position where the odds of us wining are very good, but it's still going to be difficult.


CHO: And Lionel, still 98 days left until the election. Isn't Obama being a bit presumptuous here?

LIONEL, TALK SHOW HOST: Yes! Absolutely! Take it easy. He's scaring me. You know, people have, you know, counted John McCain out. They talk about his age. They talk about his skin cancer. The question that people ask and should ask is -- look at the map of 2004. Are the states the same? Electors vote, states vote. If that map of 2004 is the same today, then McCain will win.

You know, this pie in the sky, this apotheosis of Barack Obama could lead to his downfall. Take it easy.

CHO: Oh, you're using a little reverse psychology here, huh? Michael, you're laughing. What do you think about all of this?

MICHAEL REAGAN, CONSERVATIVE RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: You know, Michael Dukakis could have made the same statement back in the 1980s. Jimmy Carter could have made the same statement back in 1980.

At this point in time, it is all over the map. The only poll that really counts is the Election Day poll. I started looking at polls the week before the election actually happens. Right now, they're going to be all over the place.

CHO: But it's so fun to look at the polls.


REAGAN: Barack Obama is all over the news.


CHO: So fun.

REAGAN: Oh, yes. Great for us. It's great for us to talk about. But last week, Barack Obama was all over the news. Of course the polls are going to be up. He's been look good. The problem he might have is if he starts believing the polls, John McCain might, in fact, likely Lionel says, take this whole thing away in November.

CHO: Well, in fact, the latest CNN Poll of Polls shows that Obama has a five point lead over McCain, 45 percent to 40 percent, but of course it is still early.

LIONEL: Means nothing.

(CROSSTALK) CHO: I agree with both of you guys. OK. All right, OK. Listen, I want to get --


CHO: OK, guys. I want to get to the duelling campaign ads.

REAGAN: Jimmy Carter was 33 points ahead of my dad at this point.

CHO: OK. All right, point taken. Listen, we want to talk about these campaign ads. First, as you guys know, tomorrow, will come out with a new pro-Obama ad, which will air for a week on MTV and Comedy Central. Let's take a quick listen. We'll talk on the other side.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm sorry, mom. I'm sorry.

NARRATOR: For eight years.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We all thought it was gone.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And now it's back.

NARRATOR: Hope. It could happen to you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is your brain.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And this is your brain on hope. Any questions?


CHO: It's pretty funny. Michael, so, what do you think? Will it work?

REAGAN: It's Yes, it will work for the group who watches Not going to work for me, probably not going to work for Lionel. It will work for the people who watch


CHO: It's airing on MTV and Comedy Central. I mean, they are going to be targeting young voters.


CHO: OK. All right.


REAGAN: I'm not watching MTV. I'm not watching. They are targeting young voters. What happens to young voters --


LIONEL: Michael, you are not exactly the MTV crowd. You still have a Victrola for God sake.

REAGAN: I'm not. But the reality is I think we also know that MTV and young voters, historically, look at these ads, they think it's great, but the night before every election, they go out on a binge and they ended up on a hangover and they end up not voting.

LIONEL: Something tells me this is different. This time is different but I'm going to tell you something. as much as it -- you know, the general betray us may be real cute in, you know, the world of lefty blogosphere, but a lot of people took great umbrage at that., you know, there are some names that stick with you. Halliburton, Shinola (ph),

CHO: OK, all right, Lionel.

LIONEL: You got to be very careful.

CHO: OK. All right. Listen, I want to get to the other ad. As you guys know, McCain has been attacking Obama's character, especially of late. He first said Obama would rather lose a war than lose an election. Now, he's criticizing Obama's decision not to visit wounded troops during his recent trip overseas, specifically in Germany.

McCain came out with this ad over the weekend. Let's take a listen.


NARRATOR: And now, he made time to go to the gym, but canceled a visit with wounded troops. Seems the Pentagon wouldn't allow him to bring cameras. John McCain is always there for our troops.


CHO: Now, McCain reiterated that criticism on "LARRY KING LIVE" exclusively last night saying he thought of the Secretary of Defense. Obama said he didn't want to visit the troops because he didn't want to make the trip seem too political.

So, Lionel, did Obama make a mistake here? What's going on?

LIONEL: Well, if you read today's "New York Times," they refute to this particular issue. The question was they say you can go, but go by yourself. He wanted to bring a retired general with him. He said, no, he is part of your staff. Obama should have gone and visited the troops as he did the wounded troops in Afghanistan and Walter Reed. This issue, I give it two more hours' worth of talk. It means nothing.

CHO: Am I sensing that there --


LIONEL: No matter what he does --

CHO: Wait a minute. Am I sensing, Michael, that there might be an agreement on this point? What do you think?

RAY: Well, I tell you, were this really plays out is the fact that when he was in Afghanistan and Iraq, and he was asked about the soldiers and who was responsible for what's going on in Iraq and why the government's able to stand up and why they're able to get things done and the surge is working, he refused to really credit the military for the great job they're doing and what Petraeus is doing in Iraq and of course, Afghanistan.

So then he goes to Germany and plays basketball instead of going to the troops and uses a campaign aide, with an excuse not to go there. John McCain was right to come out with the ad and I'm glad he did.

CHO: Michael Ray -


CHO: Hey, hey guys. OK.

LIONEL, AUTHOR, "EVERYONE'S CRAZY EXCEPT YOU AND ME": What John McCain has is his military career. This is the only thing he has. He has to use it and maximize it whenever he can. The ad is distorted. I'm telling you two hours from now, nobody's talking about it.

CHO: All right, guys. We got to go. We got to go.

Lionel, Michael Ray, syndicated radio show host. Never short on words. You guys got to get some coffee. You got to work on that energy there. Thank you for joining us. We'll see you again very soon. Bye-bye. John.

ROBERTS: 31 minutes now after the hour. And here's some of the top stories that we're following for you. The White House says the economy will grow more slowly than previously expected this year and next. It also warns that prices for goods and services could go up almost four percent. Unemployment also likely to rise. The forecast comes as part of a new budget report showing a record $482 billion deficit.

Breaking this morning in Iraq, the U.S. military is backing a new fight against insurgents in violent Diyala province. Iraqi officials say it is the last major stronghold for Al Qaeda in Iraq near Baghdad. U.S. and Iraqi commanders say they are optimistic because the offensive is using more U.S. troops and better prepared Iraqi forces.

Meantime, a new government study says the best way to defeat the Al Qaeda is with less force and more intelligence to root out leaders. The Iran Research Corporation also says officials should use the term counter terrorism rather than war on terror. One author says the terrorist should be viewed as criminals and not holy warriors. Republican Senator Sam Brownback says the Chinese government is pressuring U.S. hotels in Beijing to monitor visitors internet traffic during the Olympic games. Brownback will release documents supporting his allegations today. His warning comes as a disturbing new video from a terrorist group has officials on alert about a possible attack at the Olympics.

CNN's Jeanne Meserve has got a further look into that.

MESERVE: Alina, John, a little-known jihadist group in China is making threats against the upcoming Olympic games but there is debate about how seriously to take them.


MESERVE (voice-over): In a recently released video, the Olympic symbol is engulfed in flames. An explosion is super imposed on the image of a stadium and leader of the Turkistan Islamic Party threatens to conduct violent military actions against the upcoming games.

T.I.P. which is believe to have links to Al Qaeda is fighting for a Muslim state in Western China. It has claimed responsibility for several bombings in China and while those claims have not been verified, its videos do show the construction of a truck bomb and a martyr message.

Intel Center, a private intelligence firm that monitors terrorist groups, uncovered the videos and released them to the media. It says the threats should be taken seriously.

BEN VENZKE, INTEL CENTER: We have video material of them conducting vehicular bombings, executions of security force members, attacks on security force convoys and other types of operations. Very much like we see groups in Iraq and Afghanistan.

MESERVE: U.S. intelligence officials describe T.I.P. as dangerous but question whether it has the capability to mount a spectacular attack on the Olympics in the face of a massive Chinese security operation.

But as the 1996 bombing in Atlanta demonstrated, even a small device can have a huge impact when amplified by the prism of the Olympics. The T.I.P. may be calculating that its threats whether carried out or not will be noticed.

VENZKE: Most people in the world are not aware of that there is a jihadist group operating in the Xinjiang province or anywhere in China for that matter. So this is sort of a chance to sort of elevate their profile.


MESERVE: In earlier statements, the T.I.P. threatened an attack with biological weapons. That is not repeated in their new video and there is considerable doubt about their capability to do that. John, Alina, back to you. ROBERTS: Jeanne Meserve for us this morning.

The Transportation Security Administration, T.S.A. is now asking for help from the airlines. They want to get thousands of people off government watch lists who don't belong there including our very own Drew Griffin.


REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D), TEXAS: I also want to know why you curiously wound up on a list after you did an investigation that asked questions about the United States' air marshals.


ROBERTS: That is the $64,000 question. We'll tell you about Drew's latest efforts to clear his name.

CHO: Plus this, big money bundlers. Questions about the major donors to the Obama campaign. How they may be getting around a conflict with lobbyists.



CHO: 37 minutes after the hour. Thanks to a series of reports by Drew Griffin, a CNN special investigations unit, Congress is now tracking down on the T.S.A.'s terror watch list. Congress wants Griffin and thousands of others who don't belong on the list, taken off. And now the T.S.A. is asking the airlines to step in. Here's Drew with the story.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS UNIT (voice-over): With Congress now bearing down on watch list mistakes, the Transportation Security Administration will look for help from the airlines. Along with asking airlines to store dates of birth on travelers, the T.S.A. wants air carriers to count how many passengers are stuck on the watch list. Forced to go to ticket counters to verify who they are rather than quickly getting tickets online or checking in at a kiosk.

That has been happening to Jim Robinson who has been stopped every time he flies for the last three years. Even though he's a former assistant attorney general. And to me. Since CNN began airing reports critical of the T.S.A..

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are on the watch list.

GRIFFIN: The T.S.A. insists I'm not on a watch list. Even though just last week I was stopped again and told I was as I checked in for a flight to Detroit. The T.S.A. also says it is actively exploring enforcement action against air carriers who inaccurately tell passengers they are watch listed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are on the watch list.

GRIFFIN: A watch list?


GRIFFIN: What does the financially strapped airline industry say about the T.S.A.'s proposals? The Air Transport Association told us the airlines have been given assurances for more than four years that T.S.A. would soon be taking over responsibility for vetting passenger names against government watch lists. It hasn't happened yet. The T.S.A. says next year. So the airlines are waiting but Congress may not.

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee has written a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff demanding solutions. She says 32,000 people have written to Homeland Security demanding to get off the list they are apparently mistakenly on.

REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D), TEXAS: I want the burden of clearing this up to be on the agencies that are the holders of the responsibility, the Department of Homeland Security, the Secretary of the department, and the attorney general of the United States of America.

GRIFFIN: Along with clearing up the list, Congresswoman Jackson- Lee wants to know how some people got on it in the first place.

LEE: Frankly, I also want to know why you curiously wound up on a list after you did an investigation that asked questions about the United States' air marshals.

GRIFFIN: If this is just a case of mistaken identity, we have asked the F.B.I. if CNN's audience can help catch the real terrorists? Specifically, CNN has asked for the name, photos and location of any suspected terrorist using either the names James Robinson or Drew Griffin. The F.B.I. refused saying their policy is not to discuss individuals on or not on the watch list. Drew Griffin, CNN, Atlanta.


ROBERTS: 20 minutes now to the top of the hour. He won't take money from lobbyists but see how Barack Obama gets huge donations from big business another way. They call them bundlers and they're raising big cash for the campaign but is it fair?

And more from CNN's exclusive interview with John McCain. What he told only Larry King about choosing his vice presidential running mate and how close he is now. The one-on-one interview.

CHO: And losing weight is tough enough but once you do it, how do you keep from gaining it all back? 30 minutes, three times a week? Not enough. We're "Paging Dr. Sanjay Gupta." See what he says you have to do to keep those pounds from creeping right back on.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ROBERTS: Senator John McCain could get the results of a biopsy today on a small piece of skin that was removed from his right cheek. McCain has had melanoma four times. He spoke exclusively with CNN's Larry King saying voters don't need to worry.

LARRY KING, CNN HOST: John McCain joined us last night for a wide ranging discussion. We spoke about Barack Obama, running mates and the GOP nominee's health. Take a look.


KING: Is it fair that voters should be concerned about your health, though? I mean, you've had four melanomas surgically removed. It's not an issue. It's certainly a concern, isn't it?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't think so, Larry. I mean, as I say, melanoma is something if you look at it and you be careful, it's fine. I had one - I had one serious bout with it and that was frankly due to my own neglect because I let it go and go and go. And in fact I was running for president at the time. I'm not making that mistake again. But I want to again urge our viewers, if you remember anything I say tonight, be careful in the sun especially with children. Because this melanoma is an increasing threat to the lives of Americans and people all over the world.

KING: The election countdown clock is ticking. The next 99 days, is going to be very interesting. I'm sure you'll agree.


CHO: Larry, thank you.

Last hour we looked at John McCain's money trail. Now it's Barack Obama's turn. The democratic candidate has promised not to take money from lobbyists but big money may be still coming in to the campaign through another door. Here's CNN's David Mattingly.


DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Obama campaign is in an extraordinary money machine, especially impressive because it made an unprecedented pledge, no money from lobbyists.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't believe we can take on the lobbyists if we keep on taking continue their money.

MATTINGLY: It sounds like out with the old days of big lobby money and in with the small donor. In fact, campaign figures show 94 percent of the money going to Obama comes from people writing checks for $200 or less. Sounds good, right? But some political observers say that doesn't mean lobbyists had been locked out. They could still have influence.

LISA LERER, THE POLITICO: Just because you don't take money from lobbyists, of course, does not mean you're not taking money from big business. MATTINGLY: The Center for Responsible Politics estimates Obama has taken $18.8 million from lawyers and law firms. Some that employ lobbyists or special interest clients. One of the big rewards for big lobby contributors was access to the White House if your candidate won. But some say where lobbyists are out of campaigns, they have only been replaced by so-called bundlers.

MATTINGLY (on-camera): Bundlers are deep pocket contributors who work to get others to reach into their deep pockets to give the maximum allowable individual contribution. This creates huge bundles of cash.

MATTINGLY: The Obama campaign says it does use bundlers. This e-mail obtained by CNN shows a top dollar Obama fund-raiser definitely acting like one. The e-mail promised a private meeting with Obama for Iranian-Americans if the group could raise $250,000.

SHIEL KRUMHOLZ, CENTER FOR RESPONSIVE POLITICS: We know that Barack Obama has raised at least $52.2 million from bundlers or about 18 percent of his overall receipts.

MATTINGLY: The Obama campaign says the e-mailer was wrong to make that promise and fell short of the stated dollar goal. A spokesman says the candidate spoke to the group for 15 minutes pausing for hand shakes and photos. In fact, the campaign now seems to want to make sure everyone at least has a chance to meet the candidate.

OBAMA: If you make a donation in any amount by July 31st, just even just $5, you could be selected to come to Denver to attend the convention and even join me backstage.

MATTINGLY: And that is the all-time perk behind any contribution. David Mattingly, CNN, Washington.


ROBERTS: CNN NEWSROOM is just minutes away now. Heidi Collins at the CNN Center for us with a look at what lies ahead. Good morning, Heidi.

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you, John. California's fire battle in the NEWSROOM. Wildfire near Yosemite National Park threatening 4,000 homes today. 25 houses have burned.

Presidential candidate John McCain waiting for biopsy results today. Doctors remove a small growth to see if skin cancer returned.

And sure, the economy is sour but it's a sweet time to get rich. We'll show you how. The CNN money team is ready to roll on "Issue number one." Spend your Tuesday in the NEWSROOM at the top of the hour on CNN. John.

ROBERTS: Looking forward to it, Heidi. Thanks so much.

Trying to lose weight but find you keep putting the pounds back on? New exercise suggestions could help. We're "Paging Dr. Sanjay Gupta" this morning. Hey, Sanjay.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. There's some emerging characteristics about people who lose weight and keep it off. I'm going to tell you what those things are. Five tips to help you coming up after the break.


ROBERTS: Well, you ought to fight for your right to party, better party in the swamp. The "Princeton Review" has picked the University of Florida as the number one party school in America. It surveyed 120,000 students. You seem it had a lot to celebrate in Gainesville recently. Back to back basketball titles, the national championship football in the past three years. So you could forgive them if they were a little celebratory in the last little while. Number one party school, "Princeton Review." They actually study that. Amazing.

CHO: My alma mater, Boston College, letting me down. There's always next year.

ROBERTS: Yes. My son's alma mater, the University of Colorado.

CHO: That's right. Another good party school, yes. All right, John. Thanks.

A new study says 86 percent of Americans could be overweight or obese by the year 2030. And health care costs associated with that could soar to almost $1 trillion. Meantime, studies show that most people who lose weight will actually regain at least one third to one half of what they lost. Now researchers are proposing exercise guidelines to keep the pounds off for good.

We're "Paging Dr. Gupta." He's in Atlanta. CNN's chief medical correspondent, Sanjay, you know, you always hear 30 minutes a day, 30 minutes a day, maybe three times a week. But you got to sweat a lot more to make it count, huh?

GUPTA: Well, you know, I think the 30 minutes a day most days of the week still applies if you're at your perfect weight. And you want to maintain that weight which is unfortunately an increasingly smaller percentage of us. What this study was specifically looking at was people who want to lose weight and then keep it off. You know, maintain that weight in the long run. This is something that is increasingly harder for people to do. That sort of yo-yo of their weight back and forth.

You know, if you look at people across the board. At six months, people who are on exercise program 50% of them lose about 10 percent of the initial weight. Here's the problem though, two years, 25 percent kept the 10 percent of that initial weight off, not enough. The question though was who are these people who are actually able to be successful at it? And what they found is that these are people who tend to exercise around 275 minutes a week. That's about 55 minutes as day. A lot. Too much especially if you're very busy. But this is what it took to actually get that weight off for once and for all. Now, there are some other emerging characteristics about people who tend to be successful in the long run at losing weight and some of these might surprise you. First of all, eat breakfast every day. And people think they need to starve themselves. In fact, eat frequently every four to five hours. You tend to eat less if you do this. Think about that for a second. Eat consistently on the weekdays and weekends. So a lot of people say I'll starve myself during the week and splurge on the weekends. Not a good idea. Weigh yourself often, two to three times a week is what they say and again, exercise, exercise, exercise. Look, again, Alina. 55 minutes a day is a lot but this is - these are the people who had the most success in actually keeping the weight off.

CHO: Yes. you're talking almost five hours a week. It's incredible. A lot of people too busy for that as you alluded to, Sanjay. And just so you know, I step on the scale every morning.

GUPTA: No one's asking. I would never ask you to do that, Alina. We won't ask you what it says either.

CHO: OK. Thank you. Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Sanjay, thanks. John.

GUPTA: Thank you.

ROBERTS: Alina steps on the scale every morning and it says, what's that? I thought I felt something. No, I guess not.

CHO: He doesn't leave me alone about this.

ROBERTS: She will blow away in a stiff breeze.

Breaking up with Obama is the love fest fizzling? Our Jeanne Moos takes a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: some of the words that came up was arrogant, controlling, disciplined, on message. One reporter said they're more disciplined than the Bush people.

ROBERTS (voice-over): Is the notoriously fickle media back on the market again?


ROBERTS: They love him. They love him not. They love him. They love him not. Is Barack Obama's relationship with the press on the rocks?

CHO: CNN's Jeanne Moos as only she can takes a look.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Smitten, smitten. That's all you hear. Foreign leaders seem smitten. John McCain claims the press is smitten. MCCAIN: As a throng of adoring fans awaits Senator Obama in Paris and that's just the American press.

MOOS: Senator McCain sure cracked himself up. But something else was cracking up, Gabriel Sherman wrote an article in the "New Republic" entitled -


MOOS: Not this one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The end of the affair is being hailed as the year's great romance.

MOOS: Yes, well, 2008's great romance between the press and Obama seems to be on the rocks. What are some of the words that struck you that the press used to describe the campaign?

SHERMAN: Some of the words that came up was arrogant, controlling.

MOOS: It's sure still seems chummy.

OBAMA: What are you guys going to do in Berlin? Huh?

MOOS: But photos aren't the only thing snapping.

OBAMA: All right, guys. One of those must have worked.

MOOS: Reporters started snapping after being trapped on a plane while Senator Obama met secretly with Hillary. They asked Obama's communications director who do we complain to?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE; That guy looks like me.

MOOS: The spokesman laughed alone.

MOOS (on-camera): Reporters who cover Obama say he covers his snippy swipes at the press with a smile.

MOOS (voice-over): Whether ordering ice cream.

OBAMA: These people are not helpful.

MOOS: Or being asked for the umpteenth time about the surge?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are not going to ask you whether, you know, to change your position here.

OBAMA: You're not going to ask me but go ahead.

MOOS: Of course, Senator McCain gets annoyed at the press after "The Wall Street Journal" did a story or two that irked him. He dissed their reporter.

ELIZABETH HOLMES, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": Senator McCain, Elizabeth Holmes from "The Wall Street Journal."

MCCAIN: Who else has a question? Yes, go ahead, please.

MOOS: The funny thing about the end of the affair with Obama is that it comes to light just as the McCain campaign puts out an Obama- love video mocking the press.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's the media's love affair with Barack Obama is all-consuming.

MOOS: The break-up comes after all that "Saturday Night Live" razing of the media.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there anything we can get for you?

MOOS (on-camera): In love, out of love. It sort of reminds me of something. Something Alicia Keys sings about.

ALICIA KEYS, SINGER: Teenage love affair.

MOOS: Teenaged love affair launched when you heard him speak.

OBAMA: We could change this world. Will you help us?

MOOS: Yes, we can. "End of the affair." Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


CHO: You know, Jeanne and her producer spent all day looking for those clips. They do such a great job.

ROBERTS: I tell you it's a well documented band wagon effect. Everybody's on it and then everybody's off it.

CHO: You're right.