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American Morning

Baggage System at JFK Airport Back Up and Running; President Bush Announcing a Degree of Durability in Iraq; New McCain Ad Mocks Barack Obama's Star Power; E-Mail Bomb Threat Warning of More Explosions in India

Aired July 31, 2008 - 08:00   ET


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: A look now at some of the stories breaking. An Associated Press review says two-thirds of all bridges in the country need repairs and haven't gotten them. It comes a year after the deadly Minnesota Bridge collapse. The review found that only 12 percent of the more than 1,000 bridges have been fixed, though none are in danger of collapse. 13 people died when the Interstate 35W Bridge fell last August.
The baggage system at New York's John F. Kennedy Airport is back up and running at this hour. There was a glitch in the bar code scanning system yesterday, and it left at least 1,000 pieces of luggage around ticket counters. They were trying to sort them by hand. Needless to say, it was a huge headache for travelers.

American Airlines was forced to cancel five flights and delay 48 others because of that baggage snafu. Six additional flights were canceled this morning. But again, they say they have sorted out that software glitch and the baggage handling is running as normal.

President Bush is approving a major reorganization of the country's intelligence agencies. The new guideline strengthens the role of the director of National Intelligence. The leader of the country's 16 spy agencies. It gives the directors office more control over spending and over contacts with foreign intelligence. The job that was normally done by the CIA. The director's office was created after the September 11th terror attacks.

ROBERTS: And we've got breaking news happening right now. In just a few seconds, President Bush expected to walk out of the oval office under the colonnade where a podium is set up there, and he's going to be talking about Iraq.

This was supposed to be the day that the U.S. and the Iraqi government reached an agreement on long-term troop deployment in Iraq. President Bush talked about this in previous State of the Union Addresses, thinking along the lines of maybe the South Korea model or the Germany model, where a certain contingent of U.S. troops would stay there as long as decades.

Let's listen to what the president has to say.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This has been a month of encouraging news from Iraq. Violence is down to its lowest level since the spring of 2004, and we're now in our third consecutive month with reduced violence levels holding steady.

General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker caution that the progress is still reversible, but they report that there now appears to be a "degree of durability" to the gains we have made.

A significant reason for this sustained progress is the success of the surge. Another is the increasing capability of the Iraqi forces. Iraqi forces now have 192 combat battalions in the fight, and more than 110 of these battalions are taking the lead in combat operations against terrorists and extremists.

We saw the capability of those forces earlier this year, when the Iraqi government launched successful military operations against Shia extremist groups in Basra, Amarah, and the Sadr City area of Baghdad. Because of these operations, extremists who once terrorized the citizens of these communities have been driven from their strongholds. As a result, our Ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, was able to walk the streets of Sadr City last Wednesday, as something that would not have been possible just a few months ago.

This week, the Iraqi government is launching a new offensive in parts of the Diyala province that contain some of al Qaeda's few remaining safe havens in the country. This operation is Iraqi-led. Our forces are playing a supporting role. And in the moments -- in the months ahead, the Iraqis will continue taking the lead in more military operations across the country.

As security in Iraq has improved, the Iraqi government has made political progress as well. The Iraqi Council of Representatives has passed several major pieces of legislation this year, and Iraqi leaders are preparing for provincial elections.

And Prime Minister Maliki recently returned from a successful visit to Europe, where he held important diplomatic discussions with Chancellor Merkel, Prime Minister Berlusconi, and His Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI.

The progress in Iraq has allowed us to continue our policy of "return on success." We now have brought home all five of the combat brigades and the three Marine units that were sent to Iraq as part of the surge. The last of these surge brigades returned home this month.

And later this year, General Petraeus will present me his recommendations on future troop levels including further reductions in our combat forces as conditions permit.

As part of the "return on success" policy, we are also reducing the length of combat tours in Iraq. Beginning tomorrow, troops deploying to Iraq will serve 12-month tours instead of 15-month tours. This will ease the burden on our forces and it will make life easier for our wonderful military families.

We're also making progress in our discussion with Prime Minister Maliki's government on a strategic framework agreement. This agreement will serve as the foundation for America's presence in Iraq once the United Nations resolution authorizing the multinational forces there expires on December the 31st.

We remain a nation at war. Al Qaeda is on the run in Iraq, but the terrorists remain dangerous, and they are determined to strike our country and our allies again. In this time of war, America is grateful to all the men and women who have stepped forward to defend us. They understand that we have no greater responsibility than to stop the terrorists before they launch another attack on our homeland.

And every day they make great sacrifices to keep the American people safe here at home. We owe our thanks to all those who wear the uniform and their families who support them in their vital work. And the best way to honor them is to support their mission and bring them home with victory.

Thank you very much.


ROBERTS: President Bush there this morning, in the Colonnade, just outside the oval office, talking about Iraq. And again, this was supposed to be the day that the U.S. and the Iraqi government announced a long-standing troop agreement that would see a certain contingent of American forces stay in Iraq for some time to come.

That agreement has not been reached. I don't know when it will be reach, but President Bush announcing this morning a degree of durability, as he said, in the gains that have been made there in terms of lowering the amount of violence.

Well, critics will still say that there has not been a whole lot of political progress and still a long way to go there. Also saying that he hopes to get some recommendations on future troop withdrawals from General Petraeus in the very near future and the deployments will be reduced from 15 months now to 12 months, which will take a lot of pressure off of U.S. forces.

Also saying that we need to keep up the fight against terrorists in Iraq, but of course there is a real division between Republicans and Democrats over exactly where the central front in the war on terror is now. Is it still in Iraq or has the center of gravity now moved to either south-western Afghanistan or those wild tribal areas in Pakistan now. We'll be hearing more about this throughout the day.


CHETRY: And we want to get some perspective on this now with our senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre. He joins us this morning from Washington as well.

And the president reiterated what he called his plan of a return on success.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, Kiran. With the surge over, violence down, the big question now is how fast, how soon can U.S. troops come back. And aides to General David Petraeus tell us that despite the urgent need to shift troops from Iraq to Afghanistan, General Petraeus is in no hurry to accelerate that decision.

He has got about 45 days after the surge ends and we are told by aides close to him that he plans to make that decision at the end of next month or early September, just before he turns over control in Iraq, to his successor General Raymond Odierno.

We are expecting, though, that he will recommend troop downs, even though, as the president noted they still think the progress is reversible. In fact, some units that were scheduled to go to Iraq have already been told not to pack up and get ready to go -- small units and that's how the reduction of forces in Iraq will take place.

In addition, there are indications that there is some weariness among U.S. commander about drawing down troops too fast despite the so called durability of the progress. And one evidence of that is that they have 2,000 troops on standby in Kuwait -- Marines, that are a reserve force, that could be deployed to Afghanistan if necessary but Iraq commanders, including General Petraeus, believe they need that extra reserve just in case something goes wrong in the days ahead.


CHETRY: Jamie McIntyre for us this morning in Washington. Thank you.

And Barack Obama telling voters the McCain campaign is trying to scare up support with repeated attacks against him. We're going to hear more from Barack Obama in his own words.


CHETRY: Welcome back to the "Most News in the Morning." We are following "Issue #1," your money. The price of a gallon of gas falling now for the 14th straight day. The national average is now just below $3.91 a gallon, according to AAA. A little bit of good news there if you're planning on taking a nice summer vacation, John.

ROBERTS: A little tiny, little, Itsy Bitsy Weeny piece of good news there. High fuel price is certainly taking its toll on the nation's airlines. CNN's Dan Simon shows us. Skycaps are the latest victims of the economic slowdown.


DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From curbside, it appears business as usual.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you just want to check how many bags?


SIMON: Passengers here in San Francisco check their luggage and give some money to the skycap, and not just the tip. Many airlines are charging big fees to offset rising fuel prices. That's in addition to that already costly ticket.

(on camera): The new fees have triggered a massive backlash, not from the passengers, but from those collecting the money here outside -- the skycaps. They say many passengers are cutting back on their tips. The fee is making it tougher for people to shell out more money, even if it's just a few dollars.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't blame them feeling that way. I would probably feel the same way if I were a passenger. I know how frustrating it must be.

SIMON: This skycap of 33 years is afraid he may lose his job for speaking out. So he asked that we cover his face and alter his voice. He says his take-home pay has been slashed by at least 30 percent.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not easy watching a good job economically disintegrate, day by day, month after month, you know, with every change of policy.

SIMON (voice-over): One complaint we heard often, the $2 per bag that several airlines are charging, just at the curb. The airlines pocket the money. Skycaps say many passengers mistakenly believe it goes to them.

SHANNON LISS-RIORDAN, ATTORNEY: A few years ago, the airlines started looking at that cash that was handed over from the passengers to the skycaps, and decided that was another income stream that the airlines could use to help their bottom line.

SIMON: Boston attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan was so dismayed that she filed lawsuits against several airlines on behalf of skycaps all over the country.

LISS-RIORDAN: They don't need these $2 per bag charges in order to survive, but the skycaps need that money because that's what they've lived on.

SIMON: In a suit against American Airlines, a jury earlier this year awarded nine skycaps $325,000 for lost tips. But due to legal technicalities, a judge has ordered a new trial. American says it will continue to fight the matter in court. It argues that the skycaps don't work for the airline but for contractors. So, it's not obligated to give or share those $2 fees.

United, U.S. Airways and JetBlue have also been sued in federal court over the fees. None of them gave us a comment, citing the pending litigation. But the Air Transport Association, which represents the airline industry, says while it is not involved in the lawsuits, the curbside fees are a legitimate way to recoup soaring costs. Passengers we talked to sympathize with the skycaps.

ADRIENNE HOYER, AIRLINE PASSENGER: I always tip them. It's $2 a bag no matter what. That's just courtesy. It's not their fault. They're doing their job.

SIMON: A job that now pays substantially less in this tough economy. Dan Simon, CNN, San Francisco.


ROBERTS: American Airlines had this to add about the treatment of skycaps and the lawsuit, quote, "That some skycaps have taken the position that the tip portion of their income should somehow be guaranteed is simply unfair to passengers and the airlines. American Airlines' implementation of the $2 per bag curbside check-in fee, and later the checked baggage fees, is in line with federal laws."

CHETRY: Well, she's a model, actress, children's author -- Brooke Shields. And she's here to talk about her new book "Welcome to Your World, Baby."

ROBERTS: A new McCain ad mocks Barack Obama's star power, comparing him to those symbols of shallowness -- Britney Spears and Paris Hilton. Hear what Obama is saying about it in his own words. You're watching the "Most Politics in the Morning."


ROBERTS: It's coming up at 19 minutes after the hour. Welcome back to the "Most Politics in the Morning." More verbal volleys on the campaign trail. Barack Obama says John McCain and the Republicans are using scare tactics to hold on to the White House. That after McCain launched a new attack ad suggesting that Obama is more celebrity than leader.

From now until election time, we're going to bring you more of what the candidates are saying -- "In Their Own Words." It's part of our commitment to helping you make an informed choice on election day.

Right now, here is Senator Obama talking to supporters in Missouri about McCain's new ad.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESUMPTIVE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: John McCain and the Republicans, they don't have any new ideas. That's why they're spending all their time talking about me. You haven't heard a positive thing out of that campaign in a month. All they do is try to run me down. And you know -- you know this in your own life, right? If somebody doesn't have anything nice to say about anybody, that means they got some problems of their own.

So, they know they've got no new ideas. They know they're dredging up all the stale, old stuff they've been peddling for the last eight, 10 years. But since they don't have any new ideas, the only strategy they've got in this election is to try to scare you about me.

They're going to try to say that I'm a risky guy. They're going to try to say -- well, you know, he's got a funny name. And he doesn't look like all the presidents on the dollar bills and the five- dollar bills, and they're going to send out nasty e-mails. And, you know, the latest what they got me in an ad with Paris Hilton, you know. Never met the woman.

But you know, what they're going to try to argue is that somehow, I'm too risky. Basically, what they're saying to you is we know we didn't do a real good job, but he's too risky. Well, let me tell you something.

When we are in such dire straits economically, when our foreign policy has gotten so messed up, what's a bigger risk? Choosing change or choosing to do the same things that got us into this mess in the first place?


We -- that union, union, that is the real risk -- is that we miss this moment, that we miss this time, that we decide we're not going to go ahead and do what is needed because we're afraid. We are going to create a better America. That's what this election's about. That's the choice you have in November.


ROBERTS: And in just about 20 minutes' time, we're going to hear from the presumptive Republican nominee, John McCain, in his own words.

Through her daughter's eyes. Brooke Shields writes a children's book and gets a little help from her 5-year-old, and she's here to talk about it, next.

CHETRY: Competing against smog.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pollution gets down into the lugs. It can cause inflammation. And so, generally, it is not helpful to athletes.


CHETRY: 3 million cars off the road, but is it enough? What's being done to clear up Beijing's haze? You're watching the "Most News in the Morning."


CHETRY: Well, Brooke Shields has been in the public eye since she was a child, and now she's the mother of two little girls and she's written a children's book called "Welcome to Your World, Baby."

Brooke Shields joins me now to tell us all about her latest project.

Thanks for being with us this morning.


CHETRY: Full disclosure, I'm also a mother with two young ones. SHIELDS: I know. Congratulations.

CHETRY: This is adorable.

SHIELDS: Thank you.

CHETRY: And you really got a lot of help, actually, from your 5- year-old in writing this.

SHIELDS: I have actually stolen all the credit and she actually did all the writings. These are things that she has said to me over the past -- just waiting for her younger sister to be born, and then over the past two years, and I was approached by her precons (ph) to write this book about siblings, about a child who was sort of used to ruling the roost and all of a sudden now there's a new little person. And I wanted it to start off happy, and in anticipation, rather than sort of dread and fear and then sort of culminating in -- well, I think I want the baby to stay.

That's why I said to her -- what do you want to do? Do you want to decorate the room? What do you think she should wear? What do you think she should do? What are the things you're going to do with her? And so, I sort of got her engaged as much as possible.

CHETRY: They are three years apart, right?

SHIELDS: They are. Yes.

CHETRY: She was 3 when the new baby came along. And there are some cute things especially in this part where she talks about helping you wash the baby and she says your feet -- especially your feet, I almost want to eat them but that would be silly.

These are things that 3 year olds really said.

SHIELDS: And then she really said that -- she said, mom, she smelled so good. I want to eat her feet, she said, but that would really be silly. So, I recorded these. I just would write them down and when the baby -- when we came home, she was with us.

She opened the door and made this grand gesture and said -- well, here it is, welcome to your world, baby! Literally, she said that. She was like a little ring leader and so that was the title. And now, I'm working on the second one which is about the girls and their dad.

CHETRY: It's very cute. It's also vastly different from your memoir, "Down Came the Rain." Well, you documented and sort of talk about your struggle with postpartum depression after your first baby. But you said this one was the hardest book you've done and the hardest thing you've done -- why?

SHIELDS: It dealt with some original thought, I think. You know, the book obviously "Down Came the Rain" was a different experience, but it was something sort of -- there was a catharsis in it and necessity. This, really, I felt I had to be accountable not just to myself but to my girls, and sort of represent them properly and you have to be so precious when you're writing a children's book.

You know, I'm usually very verbose and I like to just keep talking, so it's easier to write a longer book. But these, you have to bring everything down to one line and it has to be shown in a wonderful drawing, which thank God for Corey, the designer's drawing.

CHETRY: And it's beautifully illustrated, by the way.

You also touches about anyone who has more than one child deals with, and that's how do you balance, especially when they're both young children. How do you balance making sure that the one child continues to feel special, but that the newer one doesn't sort of get gypped either.

SHIELDS: Or that the newer one doesn't become the main focus, and that there's just -- I think that they're something that happens where we sort of have this built-in dialogue where we displace people.

Oh, you're not going to be the baby anymore. Oh, well here she comes -- you know. And basically, it's sort of your reign is over. And I think it's important in our dialogue to constantly engage them. I mean, I don't know anything about mothering except for the fact that I have two kids.

So, I've always just said to Rowan, my older child, just what do you think about it? And what do you -- I wanted to try to give her some power. And I think that that's what they want. They just want to know that their world isn't going to change too much. Maybe it will just get enhanced, you know.

CHETRY: You know, it also turns the parents' world upside down, of course, as we've all learned. And one of the things that you have been helping to advocate for is this mother's act, which would help educate new mothers and offer resources if they feel they possibly are going through postpartum depression, tracking it, getting help for it early. Tell us why you feel that is so important.

SHIELDS: Well, I think also what this act was, what we are trying to do unfortunately, it hasn't gone as far but it's good that we're even at that stage. It's a good sign that people are starting to talk about it is in screening, screening parents early.

I mean, in the first year of a child's life, you bring that child to the doctor at least, you know, once a week, for so many months, and the mother is never addressed. It's all about the child. And there are so many hormonal changes and biochemical changes that are happening that women need to be sort of monitored more. And that really the responsibility does need to fall on the doctors and the nurses to sort of really just watch the progress of the mothers as well.

And I think it's just really important with the amount of women suffering from postpartum is extraordinary. And no matter how short or long the suffering, damage does get done, and women don't have to be suffering on that level.

CHETRY: Very, very important issue as well.

Brooke Shields, author, "Welcome to Your World, Baby." Very cute book. And thanks for joining us to talk a little bit about this today.

SHIELDS: Thank you and congratulations on your family.

CHETRY: You, too -- John.

ROBERTS: 29 minutes now after the hour. We're following breaking news right now. An e-mail bomb threat warning of more explosions in India. It was sent to the Japanese Embassy in New Delhi.

Authorities say the message warned of a bomb being planted at a popular market in the capital city. The e-mail warning comes just days after 43 people were killed and some 29 explosions that rocked two Indian cities. Police are trying to determine if that threat is credible.

Europe's most wanted man is making his first appearance in court today, 13 years after being indicted on charges of genocide. Radovan Karadzic, the so-called Butcher of Bosnia arrived at The Hague yesterday. The ex-Bosnian Serb leader faces 11 counts including genocide and extermination.

As you saw here on AMERICAN MORNING just about 20 minutes ago President Bush delivered an update on the status of Iraq saying "there is a degree of durability in the successes seen there." It comes as the top U.S. commander General David Petraeus is planning to recommend more troop cuts. Let's bring in our senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre, who has been watching this live from the Pentagon this morning. Jamie.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, the surge now officially over and President Bush is citing what he says are positive results, including the fact that violence, he says, is at its lowest level in Iraq since May of 2004. U.S. casualties are dramatically lowered, nine U.S. troops died in Iraq this month, that's the lowest of any month. Just a month ago it was 29. A year ago at this time it was 79. But while declaring the surge a success, President Bush stopped short of declaring victory in Iraq.


PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker cautioned that the progress is still reversible. They report that there now appears to be a degree of durability to the gains that we have made. Significant reason for this sustained progress is the success of the surge.


MCINTYRE: Now, despite the desperate need to shift troops from Iraq to Afghanistan, General David Petraeus will be taking over responsibility for Afghanistan, appears in no hurry to make that decision. Sources say he wants to consult with all his commanders and he'll make that recommendation late in August, or early in September, just before he turns over command in Iraq.

President Bush also announcing something that the Pentagon had said before, that tours of duty in Iraq will go from 15 to 12 months, that also will pre-empt some of the troops to help shift those resources to Afghanistan late this year or early next year. John.

ROBERTS: But still, Jamie, commanders in Afghanistan are not going to get anywhere near the number of troops that they're really looking for, will they?

MCINTYRE: Well, U.S. commanders, how many troops they need, they have sort of an insatiable desire but they have an immediate need for at least 10,000 troops, a couple of combat battalions and really a critical need for trainers. Canada also issued a call for more troops. Canada is, you know, carrying a lot of the load in the south there and they are feeling the pinch from not having reinforcements they need. They also need a lot of things like helicopters to get around. There's a real gap between what NATO has as a mission there and what they need to get the job done and they're going to begin to address that but yes, you're right, they're not going to have all of the troops they would like.

ROBERTS: Jamie McIntyre for us at the Pentagon. Jamie, thanks.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN, ANCHOR: Well, now to the Olympic host city of Beijing and a look at what hundreds of world class athletes will be breathing in for more than two weeks. Our cameras actually captured this shot just a few hours ago right before sunset. We'll show it to you in a second here. The summer games are eight days away and China's abysmal air quality is a big red flag for many of the athletes. CNN's John Vause tells us how the dirty air could impact the games.


JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): And so it returns, after just a few clear days, a heavy, gray haze once again hangs over this Olympic city.

LO SZPEING, GREENPEACE CHINA: Beijing's airport today is probably not up to what the world will be the examining from an Olympic hosting city.

VAUSE: Will the dead calm conditions and a buildup of pollution, Chinese officials have announced another emergency plan. More factories will be closed in Beijing, as well as nine neighboring cities. Already Beijing has taken half the cars off the road with the system of even and odd license plates. That system will be now be expanded here and implemented in five other cities.

VAUSE (on-camera): The new emergency pollution measure will take effect 48 hours before a forecasted period of still calm conditions, when smog usually builds up and can't be dispersed.

DU SHAOZHONG, BEIJING ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION BUREAU (through translator): We're still optimistic that during the Olympics we can reduce pollution below our target threshold," says this senior official.

VAUSE: But some athletes are not convinced. Well, Chad's Haile Gabrselassie, an asthmatic, has already pulled out of the marathon because of fears for his health and other endurance athletes from the U.S. and reportedly from Japan, plan to wear masks.

JARROD SHOEMAKER, USA TRIATHLETE: We'll wear the mask up to the race and then after the race. It's kind of a test if it would work and I felt perfectly normal, perfectly fine. That's my plan, again, for this year to wear that mask.

VAUSE: Doctors say high levels of pollution will impact performance especially for endurance athletes like marathon runners who breathe in around 100 liters of air every minute, compared to six liters for an average person not playing sports.

MALCOLM GREEN, BRITISH LUNG FOUNDATION: Pollution down into the lungs, it can cause inflammation, it can cause people to have asthma, to get asthma episodes and so generally it is not helpful to athletes.

VAUSE: And with this city shrouded in gray, it is a long way from the green games, Beijing had promised when it won the right to hold the Olympics seven years ago. John Vause, CNN, Beijing.


CHETRY: We now know that Hillary Clinton and what her role will be at the Democratic National Convention. She's going to be speaking on day two, Tuesday, August 26th and it's a landmark day for women, it's the night that celebrates the 88th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment which gave women the right to vote.

ROBERTS: John McCain again questioning Senator Barack Obama's leadership ability. We will hear what the presumptive republican nominee is saying in his own words.


ROBERTS (voice-over): They're back. The pot-smoking duo of Cheech and Chong reunite.

CHEECH: We're going to be going from coast to coast, trying to remember our show.

ROBERTS: The story behind the "Light up America" tour. You're watching the most news in the morning.


ROBERTS: 42 minutes now to the top of the hour and just in to CNN, new economic numbers out, our Gerri Willis joins with us that. Hey, Gerri.

GERRI WILLIS, CNN PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR: Hey, John, yes, we have numbers on GDP, that's the broadest measure of the economy's growth. The economy in the second quarter up 1.9 percent, that was below estimates of 2.3 percent, but still strong, saying it's the stimulus money really making the economy grow in that quarter, also that comes on top of first quarter growth of 0.9 percent, so you can see some improvement there.

Now, we also have weekly application for jobless applications, 448,000 for the previous month. That is up 44,000, and that is a weekly, is the highest weekly boost in five years. So a big change there in from the Labor Department.

Also business news right now, I want to tell you about Exxon. We told you it was going to report its earnings. Well, here they are, $11.68 billion, that is the largest earnings of any U.S. corporation in our country's history, so very big there. Very big difference there, and we did some math here, that is $90,000 a minute that Exxon earned in the second quarter, a whole lot of dough, but no surprise to you guys, you've watched those oil prices go up and up. John.

ROBERTS: All right. Gerri Willis for us today, and you can hear much more on this in "Issue #1" with Gerri and the rest of the CNN money team, noon Eastern here on CNN. Kiran.

CHETRY: Well, hear the word change and you might think of Barack Obama but John McCain insists he's the one who will bring about change in Washington. Now, as part of our ongoing effort to help you make an informed choice in the election, we're going to play more of what the candidates are saying in their own words, right on the campaign trail. So right now here's John McCain suppressing his independence to voters in Colorado.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I spoke up against this administration for their mistakes in Iraq. I fought for the surge strategy that's going to bring our troops home with honor and victory. I spoke up against my party for out-of-control spending and I spoke up against this administration and Congress, who just gave us another energy bill with more giveaways to big oil, but nothing, nothing to free us from our dangerous dependence on foreign oil.

My independence hasn't always made me friends in Washington. I was not elected "Miss Congeniality" in the United States Senate again this year. Time and again, time and again, I've heard politicians, pundits and pollsters warn me, warn me that my position on this or that issue would cost me the presidency, but I don't answer to them. I answer to you, and you will always know exactly where I stand, and that no matter what, I'll always do what I believe is right for our country.

We need to change the way that government does almost everything. All these functions of government were designed before the rise of the global economy, before the information technology revolution, and before the end of the Cold War. We have a lot of work to do, a lot of work to do, and to get it done, we're going to have to have the strength to really change Washington and change the way we're doing business.

I know that you know that Senator Obama is an impressive speaker and the beauty of his words has attracted many people, especially among the young, to his campaign. I applaud his talent and his success. And Americans, all Americans, should be proud of his accomplishment. My concern with Senator Obama is that on issues big and small, when he says what he says and what he does are often two different things, and he doesn't seem to understand that the policies he offers would make our problems worse and not better. Senator Obama says he's going to change Washington, but his solution is to simply make government bigger, and raise your taxes to pay for it, and I want to look you in the eye, I will not raise your taxes, nor support a tax increase. I will not do it.


CHETRY: Again, Senator John McCain in his own words.

ROBERTS: Serious concerns about AIDS in the African-American community. Our Dr. Sanjay Gupta opens up the mail bag, and he's got some answers for you, ahead.


ROBERTS: America's favorite stoners are together again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To be all-embracive of the whole country, we decided to name this tour "Cheech and Chong, light up America."

ROBERTS: Cheech and Chong join forces. You're watching the most news in the morning.



CHETRY: Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING. We have a little bit of breaking weather news right now. We're going to head down to Rob Marciano at the CNN Weather Center, reports of a funnel cloud spotted in Minnesota, is it, Rob? What's going on?

ROB MARCIANO, CNN, METEOROLOGIST: Yes. We showed you this complex heading towards, into Minnesota with some damaging winds that were reported earlier. Now it's beginning to see a little bit of rotation so the National Weather Service has issued a tornado warning for McLeod and Meeker county in central parts of Minnesota and what's concerning about this, is that it is west of Minneapolis, and it's all heading easterly at about 45 miles an hour. So there you see the pink - the purple area, that is the area that is under a tornado warning, and again, a funnel cloud being, funnel reported so far, and we could very well see a tornado touching the ground there, well west of Minneapolis but heading that way, Strout, Litchfield, Cedarwood, Darwin and Dassel are some of the communities that are in the path of this and we'll keep you posted into the CNN AMERICAN MORNING news room in about 10 minutes.

Kiran, back up to you.

CHETRY: All right. Rob Marciano, thanks. John.

ROBERTS: 45 and a half minutes after the hour. After 25 years Cheech and Chong are getting back together for a new comedy tour called "Light up, America." In a press conference, Tommy Chong called marijuana his fountain of youth.


TOMMY CHONG: I attribute all my youthfulness, my -

CHEECH: Memory?

CHONG: Memory -- [ laughter ] - to marijuana.


ROBERTS: That's working well for him. Our Lola Ogunnaike joins us now. Why are they getting back together? Oh, sorry. M-o-n-e-y.

LOLA OGUNNAIKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It has something to do with the green, and I mean the dollars, not the weed. They decided that they left a lot of money on the table, and they've watched people like Harold and Kumar. They've watch the Seth Rogans of the world make a little cottage industries out of half baked, daze and confused. And they decided, look were the architects of the stoner film. If anyone is going to make cash out of this, it should be us?

ROBERTS: So, 25 years, why so long for them to realize other than Tommy Chong's failing memory, why would it be a good idea?

OGUNNAIKE: Well, you know, actually they ended up -

ROBERTS: Gee, I forgot how much money we made back then.

OGUNNAIKE: Has it been 25 years yet? T hey both went off in really divergent directions. I mean, Cheech went pretty straight and actually had a significant career as an actor. He's been in a lot of the Robert Rodriguez movies. He plays Hurley's father on "Lost." Chong on the other hand, he stayed with the weed and he was busted for selling bongs online in 2003 and served nine months in jail.

So he's finally got it together. They finally decided that they've argued enough, they're over the bickering and they want to do it while they're still alive and still fairly sober, and coherent.

ROBERTS: I remember I used to listen to their albums when I was a teenager.



OGUNNAIKE: Sober, of course. Right?

ROBERTS: Absolutely. I didn't follow their example. I enjoyed their comedy. But on that note, are they still smokin'?

OGUNNAIKE: They are definitely still smokin', not letting go of it at all. I mean, couldn't you tell from the press conference?

ROBERTS: As I said, it's been working well for them. All right, Lola Ogunnaike, we're looking forward to this. Thanks for bringing us that.

OGUNNAIKE: Thank you.


CHETRY: All this time I thought they were just acting. Unbelievable. Sometimes you don't want to know.

OGUNNAIKE: You don't want to know.

CHETRY: CNN NEWSROOM just minutes way. Heidi Collins at the CNN Center with a look at what's ahead.

Good morning, Heidi.

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you, Kiran. "Issue #1," at the top of the NEWSROOM rundown this morning. Where is the economy headed? Good question, right? Two new indicators are just out. We crunch the numbers with the CNN money team.

And American Airlines cancels flights out of New York's JFK this morning. A software glitch leads to a baggage backup.

And this sign caught President Bush's eye outside Cleveland late yesterday. He brought his motorcade to a halt to wish Ruth Harris a happy 91st birthday. Meet the birthday girl, coming up in the NEWSROOM, top of the hour on CNN. Kiran.

CHETRY: Heidi, thanks.

Well, some health concerns about AIDS in the African-American community, we're paging Dr. Gupta for some answers, next.


CHETRY: We're always on top of the latest medical news here on AMERICAN MORNING. As a result, you often have questions and every Thursday we dig in into Dr. Gupta's mail bag.

ROBERTS: CNN's chief medical correspondent is with us this morning from Atlanta. Good morning, Sanjay. Let's dive right in here.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, guys. HI. All right. ROBERTS: Our first question, a follow up to your reporting yesterday. Crystal in Denver writes "it's hard to believe the epidemic of AIDS among blacks in America. Can the virus be spread in saliva?"

GUPTA: It is hard to believe. These numbers are pretty staggering, in case you didn't catch them, about 47 percent of the HIV-AIDS cases in America are among African-Americans, only 13 percent of the population. So those are hugely disparate number. To your questions though, the answer is no. It can not be spread through saliva, kissing, handshaking, mosquitoes, swimming pools. Those have been myths that have been propagated on the internet quite a bit.

That's not how the virus is spread. It is spread through sexual contact, through unsafe needles and syringes. Always practice safe sex, always use clean needles and syringes, that goes for doctors' offices as well. And also if the mother has HIV the best practice is probably is she's going to get a C-section instead of vaginal delivery and she's probably not going to breast feed. That's what we now know. But yes, those numbers were very shocking yesterday.

ROBERTS: It certainly were.

CHETRY: Our next question comes from Nancy in Las Vegas, and she writes "why do doctors generally refuse to give colonoscopies to people under the age of 50?"

GUPTA: It's a great question, Nancy. It probably has more to do with public health than it does individual's concerns. And what I mean by that is if you look at people across the spectrum you typically don't see many abnormal polyps or colon cancer before the age of 50, and that's why the screening recommendations sort of come in. Around the age of 50, they recommend getting a colonoscopy and then every ten years after that, if the first one is normal. Now, if you have a family history or you have some other concern they may move that screening a little bit earlier.

ROBERTS: And Sanjay, finally, Rupert in Pennsylvania writes to us this morning to say "I know several people with celiac disease but never hear much about it from the media, is it curable?"

GUPTA: Rupert, great question. You know, it's interesting because probably on estimate, there's about three million people who have celiac disease in the United States alone. About 97 percent of them are undiagnosed. That's remarkable, probably one of the highest undiagnosed of any disease. It is not curable.

But I do want to quickly introduce you to the official spokesperson for the National Celiac Foundation Awareness Program who happens to be our own Heidi Collins.

We brought her in for you. Heidi.

COLLINS: Hey there, Sanjay. And hey everybody out there talking about celiac disease. Sanjay's absolutely right, the biggest problem with the disease which is an is auto-immune disease, so no, not a cure.

This is something that you will live with for the rest of your life. A gluten, which is a protein found in wheat is toxic to your body if you have celiac disease. It's a simple blood test. If you have some of the symptoms or even if you don't and you suspect that something is wrong, you're just not feeling right, go and get the blood test, that's the very first step. And your doctor can hook you up with that. I want to send you to our web site to as in central park is the web site. Sanjay.

GUPTA: Heidi, yes, and it's worth of pointing out Heidi and I talk about this all the time. And her son, Riley, has it as well. So if you have it, you might want to get your children checked as well.

ROBERTS: Sanjay, some good tips this morning. Thanks very much for that.

GUPTA: Thanks guys.

ROBERTS: See you next week.

Senator Obama attacking McCain's choice of footwear. So what about John McCain and his $500 Italian shoes? A closer look at the candidate's well-heeled campaign?


ROBERTS: Well, most of us could not walk a mile in John McCain's shoes because most of us couldn't afford it.

CHETRY: Well, have you seen what the candidate is wearing on his feet these days, talk about a well-heeled campaign, here's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We don't expect John McCain to be an a shoestring budget when it comes to shoes, but $520 Ferragamo calf skin loafers? That's right up there in John Edwards' $400 haircut territory.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel pretty, oh so pretty.

MOOS: It wasn't pretty when the liberal "Huffing Post" style section revealed loafergate. Photos of McCain wearing the same $520 Italian shoes on a golf cart ride and on a stroll through a grocery store. Ferragamo narrowly missed getting buried in an applesauce avalanche.

MOOS (on-camera): Neiman Marcus carries the pricey Ferragamo shoes and here at their web site you can experience what it feels like to literally walk in John McCain's shoes.

MOOS (voice-over): Check out that buckle. The author of "The Perfect Fit, what your shoes say about you" had this to say about what the Senator's shoes say.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would say flashy. I wonder if McCain fancies himself as a bit of a fashion plate.

MOOS: We're guessing maybe the senator has some help in the shoe shopping department from his fashion plate wife, but wasn't Senator Obama the guy being called an elitist?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Looking too much like a "GQ" cover who is aloof.

MOOS: But Obama got a dressing down from his family on "Access Hollywood."

MICHELLE OBAMA, WIFE OF SENATOR BARACK OBAMA: These pants he's had for probably about 10 years.


MICHELLE OBAMA: And don't pan down to the shoes. We talked about getting new shoes for him.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have four pairs of shoes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's a really typical, average guy count on shoes.

MOOS: Least you think voters don't notice footwear -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you tie your shoes so you don't trip over it.

MOOS: She did. Holes in the sole seem to impart campaign trail creed. In 1952, a hole in Adelaide Stevenson's shoe led to a campaign jingle.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'd rather have a man with a hole in his shoe than a hole in everything he says.

MOOS: And I'd rather have a hole in a shoe than a man with a hole in both socks, on former World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz. Some are using shoes to both campaign and entertain.

Presidential candidate McCain was spotted wearing his $520 Italian shoes when he met with the Dalai Lama, though it's hard to notice their feet. What with all the hand-holding. The Dalai Lama was wearing sandals, so should they meet again, perhaps this simply $275 Prada sandal might work for Senator McCain. Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


CHETRY: A guy's got to have a nice pair of shoes. Right?

ROBERTS: You need to have a nice pair of shoes. CHETRY: That's right.

ROBERTS: You don't need to have 15 nice pairs of shoes.

CHETRY: No. He's worn those from the grocery store to the Dalai Lama meeting so maybe he only has one. Maybe it's a bargain at 500 bucks.

ROBERTS: Put all his chips into one basket.

CHETRY: Well, thanks so much for joining us this morning on AMERICAN MORNING. We'll see you right back here tomorrow.

ROBERTS: Right now, here's CNN NEWSROOM with Tony Harris and Heidi Collins.