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911 Tapes Just Released From LA Metrolink Train; New I-35W Bridge Opened Today in Minneapolis; Bracing for Another Shockwave on Wall Street; Secretary Rice Gives Important Speech on US-Russian Relations; New Polling Numbers from the Battleground States

Aired September 18, 2008 - 08:00   ET


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Also new this morning. 911 tapes just released from inside of that Metrolink train seconds after that deadly crash just north of Los Angeles, Friday.

CALLER: We just collided with something. I don't know what. We have a lot of -- I've got several people who are injured and bleeding.

OPERATOR: Can you tell me how many people are hurt?

CALLER: Well, I see 1, 2, 3 -- those are probably mine -- 4,5,6.

OPERATOR: That's just on your car?

CALLER: That's just in my side of the car.


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Well, meantime, federal investigators say the train's engineer was using his cell phone to text message during his shift. It is unclear, though, if he sent a text before he ran a red light and caused that collision with the freight train.

The new I-35W Bridge opened today in Minneapolis more than a year after the old bridge collapsed into the Mississippi River killing 13 people. The new bridge contains hundreds of sensors designed to provide early warnings of any possible structural problem.

Back to our top story. We're bracing for another shockwave on Wall Street. Ali Velshi is minding your business. He is live at the New York Stock Exchange where, I'm sure, there's a lot of uncertainty before the market opens today in just about 30 minutes.

ALI VELSHI, CNN SENIOR BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Kiran, this day seems endless particularly for traders here on the New York Stock Exchange. But in fact, we've compressed it for you so you get some sense if you weren't sitting around looking at the big board all day.

Take a look at what it looked like yesterday. It was never in positive territory, even though we had thought after the government extended this loan to AIG that things would get better. It just got worse and worse through the course of the day. And by the end of the day, the Dow Jones industrials had closed down 449 points. That's the second biggest loss this year. It's a loss of more than 4 percent on the Dow, almost 5 percent on the NASDAQ and almost 4.75 percent on the S&P 500.

Now, when you are looking at your own investments and comparing them, take a look, the Dow is down almost 20 percent for this year, substantially lower than its highs in October. If you have mutual funds or I.R.A. investments that are in -- funds that emulate the Dow or the S&P 500, you will be seeing that sort of loss, even if you've done what all the experts said and diversified your investments.

I just want to tell you, if you have to make decisions about what to do right now, remember that once you sell, you've locked in your loss. That doesn't mean that you shouldn't sell. It just means you want to consult whoever it is you think you should consult. You want to think about this before you do it. There is nobody who thinks this doesn't come to an end at some point.

But where are we in the process? One piece of good news, Central Banks around the world have injected $180 million in new credit to make available to banks that need money because they're having trouble on short-term loans. These are -- this is an effort between the Federal Reserve, the Bank of Canada, the Bank of England, the European Central Bank and the Swiss National Bank and the Bank of Japan.

The number you see there, $247 billion, is the new number. The new total of money that is available to banks. That is seeming to have some positive effect on markets right now but, as you know, these days anything can swing markets one way or the other.


CHETRY: All right. Wasn't trying to rush the opening there. We have 87 minutes to ponder this stuff before the opening bell. All right. Ali Velshi for us. Thanks.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: 87 minutes to sweat. The economy pretty much all the presidential candidates are talking about. In Las Vegas, a city hit hard by foreclosures and dwindling tourism, Barack Obama is promising change while saying his opponent is no maverick, just the same "O", same "O." CNN's Suzanne Malveaux is live for us in Las Vegas this morning.

And Suzanne, I'm sure that whenever either one of these candidates says anything about the economy and the turmoil in the financial markets, people are hanging on their every word.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: People are listening very carefully, John. Obviously, people are suffering here in Las Vegas. You just take a look at the numbers. 80 percent up, the home foreclosure rate since last year. We're talking about tourism down 4 percent, conventions down 10 percent. Three major airlines that used to fly here all out of business.

So, essentially, there are fewer people that are here in Vegas. They're staying for shorter periods of time. So, it really isn't surprising that we saw about 12,000 people packed into this baseball stadium simply asking what is Barack Obama going to do.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm not a "Johnny- come-lately." I didn't just show up yesterday and start calling for change. I've been talking about change for two years now.

MALVEAUX (voice-over): It's a full-court press, rallies.

OBAMA: We can't steer ourselves out of the crisis if the new driver is getting directions from the old driver.

MALVEAUX: E-mails and a new ad blitzing the airwaves across the country and in critical swing states.

OBAMA: Our troubled economy isn't news.

MALVEAUX: Barack Obama is on the offensive, seizing the crisis on Wall Street as a rallying cry, first as an all-out indictment on President Bush's economic approach.

OBAMA: It's a philosophy that says that we should give more and more to those with the most and hope that prosperity trickles down.

MALVEAUX: Obama says despite John McCain's 26 years in Washington, he doesn't blame McCain for the crisis, just for promoting more of the same.

OBAMA: He tells us that he's the one who will take on the "old boys' network" in Washington.


OBAMA: What's wrong with this picture? The "old boys network" -- you know, in the McCain campaign, that's called the staff meeting.


MALVEAUX: Obama is offering his own six-point blueprint to restore confidence on Wall Street, including more government oversight on banking, greater law enforcement regarding trade deals and more cooperation between regulatory agencies.


MALVEAUX: And, John, one of the groups that is really suffering are the retirees. A lot of people come here to Vegas simply to retire and they're seeing their nest eggs disappear. The State of Nevada has actually asked the federal government for a grant, a housing grant, to help some of these folks out.


ROBERTS: All right. Suzanne Malveaux for this morning. Suzanne, thanks so much. CHETRY: Meantime, Senator John McCain tried to sell his economic plan to the battleground state of Michigan. It's the place that has the highest jobless rate in the nation. And running mate Sarah Palin faced her first town hall. Dana Bash is live for us in Grand Rapids.

Dana, of course the economy is such a huge issue in Michigan. Were voters talking about that?

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, Kiran, John McCain made a point of starting his joint town hall with Sarah Palin talking about the economy, talking about the fact that he insists he won't leave workers "hung out to dry," especially as Wall Street is getting billions of dollars of taxpayer money. And he also, no surprise, hit Barack Obama particularly for his tax plan, saying that that will only make things worse.

But for this first town hall that Sarah Palin attended, the audience was kind of friendly and it was surprising they didn't ask any questions specifically about the number one issue here, and that's jobs. But for the most part, what we saw was Sarah Palin trying to show that she's just fine in venues that aren't as controlled as we've seen her before.


BASH (voice-over): He was wrapping up his answer to the first voter question about confronting radical Islamic terrorism and she jumped in.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: But I know a great deal about it, I know how to handle it and I know how to defeat it. But it's not going to be a short struggle. Thank you. Always.


GOV. SARAH PALIN (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I want to add something to that. Sometimes my running mate is a bit too humble. We need to remember who it was who pushed for and supported and risked much for the strategy that is working in Iraq.

BASH: Sarah Palin playing character witness for John McCain. But her first town hall meeting was as much about beefing up her chops as his. And McCain carefully deferred to Palin on issues he wants her to take on, like energy.

PALIN: We have hundreds of trillions of cubic feet of clean, green natural gas onshore and offshore. It's a matter of Congress allowing these lands to be tapped.

BASH: And this from a former Hillary Clinton supporter.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Anyway, my question is, equality for women begins with economic empowerment. Can you give us some details?

PALIN: I'm a product of Title IX in our schools, where equal education and equal opportunities in sports really helped propel me into, I guess, into the position that I'm in today where --

MCCAIN: Did I mention she was the point guard on a state championship basketball team?


BASH: The first question specifically directed at Palin was the seventh one asked, what she says to those who want to know if she can balance it all.

PALIN: As a mother, I just wanted to hear your response to the people out there that have said that you can't be a mother and the vice president, which, of course, you can.

PALIN: Well, let's prove them wrong. And just I'm very, very blessed to have this opportunity.

BASH: Palin was asked about one issue where the running mates disagree.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you been able to convince the Senator on drilling in ANWR?

PALIN: I'm still working on it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the next question is --

MCCAIN: This town hall meeting is adjourned.


BASH: And Palin was also asked by a clearly friendly voter what she says to those who don't think she has enough foreign policy experience. Well, Palin responded that she's ready and even offered to play what she called "stump the candidate." But, Kiran, that didn't happen.

McCain stepped in and started talking about a couple of points on her resume for her, like the fact she helped negotiate with oil companies for a natural gas pipeline in Alaska and then they moved on to another question.

CHETRY: Yes. They certainly appeared to really just light each other up and almost as if they've known each other for years. Very, very interesting dynamic there. Dana, thanks.

BASH: It sure is. Thanks.

ROBERTS: Frustrating and dangerous. That's how a U.S. diplomat describes dealing with Russia. Now, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will put relations with the country at the top of her agenda today. You're watching the "Most News in the Morning."


ROBERTS: 11-1/2 minutes after the hour. We're back with the "Most News in the Morning." Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is in Russia today for what's being billed as an important speech on U.S.- Russian relations. This as a major U.S. diplomat says dealing with Russia is frustrating and dangerous but, quote, "matters enormously."

CNN State Department correspondent Zain Verjee is live in Washington for us this morning.

Zain, what can we expect from the speech today?

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. Well, the State Department's really been pumping up this speech for days. Secretary Rice will be giving it here in Washington. She's going to be harshly criticizing Russia, saying it's taken a dark turn that it's authoritarian at home and aggressive abroad and it's just worsening its behavior.

Relations are pretty chilly between the two countries after the outbreak of fighting between Russia and close U.S. ally Georgia. Secretary Rice is also going to say Russia is already paying a price for its actions.

John, this is being billed as one of the most blunt, the most stinging, the most important speeches the secretary of state has made in office.


ROBERTS: Her expertise of course, Zain, is in Russian affairs. She was a Russian scholar. But why won't the U.S. push Russia harder? Why won't they punish Russia a little bit more?

VERJEE: Well, the thing is the U.S. really needs Russia's help on a number of international issues like negotiations with Iran, negotiations with North Korea. And the truth is the U.S. doesn't really want a major rift with Russia, so it's not pushing serious, harsh actions things like sanctions. Now the number three diplomat at the State Department says that the U.S. and the entire world need to work together and push back hard against Russia. And this official says that Russia has a clear choice to make.


WILLIAM BURNS, UNDERSECRETARY OF STATE FOR PUBLIC AFFAIRS: At a moment of critical economic choices, at a moment when Russia can innovate, diversify beyond hydrocarbons and develop to the full its greatest resource, its enormously talented people, it is in danger of missing an historic chance and stagnating amidst mounting corruption, cronyism and demographic ills.


VERJEE: Burns added, too, that the U.S. should prepare for frustration, maybe even danger in its future dealings with Russia. So, you know, John, this is going to spill way beyond November's election. Whoever is in the White House is going to have to wrestle with the big Russian bear. John?

ROBERTS: Yes. A lot of points of friction between the two nations. Zain Verjee for us this morning in Washington. Zain, thanks so much.

It's now 13, almost 14 minutes now after the hour.

CHETRY: Parrots talking politics.




CHETRY: Jeanne Moos looks at a most unusual conversation between Ralph Nader and a bird.


RALPH NADER, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would get more media if I just dressed up as a panda.


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


CHETRY: 16 minutes past the hour. Rob Marciano tracking the weather picture for us today. Relatively calm, a little bit of fire danger in the west.


CHETRY: I got you. So even after the storm moves out, the lasting effects, they're going to feel it for a while there unfortunately.


CHETRY: All right, Rob, thank you.

MARCIANO: All right. See you, Kiran.

ROBERTS: John McCain and Barack Obama are running neck and neck now. We're going to take a look at new polling numbers from the battleground states and see how they could change the magic electoral map.

We're getting our first listen, by the way, from inside the California commuter train just seconds after its deadly crash with that freight train.


911: OK. We have the units already on the way. Do you know how many people are hurt?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I can see about seven to eight people in the one car. I mean -- and that they are bleeding and on the floor.


ROBERTS: More of those dramatic 911 calls on the "Most News in the Morning."



LARRY KING, HOST, LARRY KING LIVE: Have you formally endorsed the ticket?


KING: What does that mean?


TRUMP: I am basically very strongly -- you have to understand, I've known him. I like him, I respect him.

KING: So, you're endorsing him.


TRUMP: He's a smart guy, and I think he's going to be a great president.

KING: So you're endorsing him?

TRUMP: Sure.


TRUMP: I'll endorse him on your show. Why not?

KING: You just endorsed him.

TRUMP: I endorsed him.


ROBERTS: Of course we should point out that when we had Donald Trump on last week, he also said he was supporting John McCain, which counts as an endorsement if ever I've heard one. He said, though, that it would be much different if Barack Obama had chosen Hillary Clinton as his running mate.

And we've got some new polls out today that we want to show you. First of all, this is the electoral map, by the way, the swing states. The ones that could decide the election are highlighted in yellow. We should tell you, a new poll of polls just out today has got a two- point spread on the national level.

It's got Barack Obama ahead, 47 percent to 45 percent with 8 percent of voters undecided. But let's take a look at this electoral map now. We got some new data in for Florida, which of course is an important swing state. Let's bring up the election map from 2004 and take a look at how it shook out then.

President Bush beat John Kerry 52 percent to 47 percent in Florida. We, of course, remember what a battleground it was in the 2000 election campaign. John McCain had been ahead five to seven points. Our new CNN poll taken over the last three days now shows it's even up at 48-48. So, Florida, really a battleground according to our latest polls. Another of course very important state is the State of Ohio. Let's take a look here. 51 percent for George Bush, 49 percent for John Kerry in the year 2004. Here's what our new poll show about Ohio. 49 percent for Barack Obama, 47 percent for John McCain.

Now, poll of polls that was taken over a greater period of time, between September 8th to September 16th. Again, ours taken over the last three days showed the split was a little greater and it was in favor of McCain. It had McCain with 48 percent, Barack Obama with 45 percent. So, it could be an indication in our latest polls that perhaps the news about the economy is starting to have some effect here on the campaign trail.

Another interesting state to take a look at here, because it was such a red state for so long here, look at this 56 percent to 44 percent, George Bush over John Kerry. That state now, according to our latest poll numbers, 48 percent for John McCain, 47 percent for Barack Obama.

Now, we should also point out that in that poll of polls taken over that wider period of time, the 8th to the 16th, it had John McCain with a wide margin here, 52 percent to 42 percent. So, again, that was an average of some polls taken over a longer period of time. Again, this could be reflective of changing sentiments just over the past few days.

We'd also talked a bit about Indiana because Indiana of course right next door to Barack Obama's native Illinois. And this is why the polling is important here in Indiana. Let's take a look at what happened in 2004. Look at this. President Bush beat John Kerry by 21 points, 60 percent to 39 percent. Here's what our latest information is showing us about Indiana. 51 percent for John McCain, 45 percent for Barack Obama. So, it's indicating that while that still is in what we call the lean Republican category, the margins much narrower this year than they were back in 2004. So, what does it mean for the overall picture here in the election? Let's go back to our electoral map.

At the moment, it means that none of these states really change with the exception of Ohio. We now find that Barack Obama is leading John McCain 49 percent to 47 percent. So if this were to go blue, that would change the Electoral College count here. Give Barack Obama 253 to 189.

Still, though, we've got to tell you, it's only two points. So for now that stays in the tossup category, doesn't go leaning one way or the other. But certainly an interesting race that shaping up here with just about 40 days left in this campaign.

And, you know, all analysts have said this is going to be a tight one, and our polling would seem to indicate that yes, indeed, it is going to be.

By the way, if you live in a battleground state, you've got a question or you want an issue tackled, e-mail it to us. Go to Tell us what's on your mind because we're looking at the issues inside those battleground states, talking to radio talk show hosts about it. We'd love to hear from you.


CHETRY: Well, battleground North Carolina. The state has been Republican red in the last seven elections, and now Democrats are hoping they can turn it blue. We're going to be live in North Carolina to find out what's on the minds of voters there. Why the polls are so tight there and what issues could change the dynamic.


ROBERTS: 28 minutes after the hour. And breaking this morning, an American high school student was among the 16 people killed in a deadly terrorist attack on the U.S. Embassy in San'a, Yemen. The family of Susan Elbaneh says their daughter went to Yemen three weeks ago to get married. She was at the embassy to fill out paperwork, to get her husband to come back to the United States along with her. The State Department says the brazen attack bears all the hallmarks of al Qaeda.

Israel's Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni won a narrow victory to head Israel's ruling party. That puts her in line to replaced Prime Minister Ehud Olmert who is resigning amid claims of corruption. Israel has not had a female prime minister in 34 years.

This morning Central Banks around the world are hoping to stop financial fallout by pumping billions of dollars into the world's banking systems. And this morning, Dow futures up now more than 30 points, but that's down substantially from hours earlier when they were up over 100.

The futures aren't the only thing that's up, though. Oil prices back up over $100 a barrel, building on yesterday's more than $6 gain and gold was also up yesterday by nine percent. It went up 70 bucks, a record one-day gain.

And of course this morning we are "Minding Your Business." CNN's Allan Chernoff joins us now. And the bailout was supposed to bring some stability to the markets. What happened?

ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it certainly didn't. And if this was a bailout, I would certainly hate to see a failure. The markets really stunned by what happened yesterday. And all we can say is that at least there are a few people smiling on Wall Street. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHERNOFF (voice-over): AIG employees are relieved the government bailed their company out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody is glad that's happened. We're very, very happy.

CHERNOFF: And AIG insurance policyholders who were on edge before the rescue have new security. But for the average American, Uncle Sam's lifeline to the nation's biggest insurance company had so far failed to bring financial stability. Not only did stocks sink, but the nation is now $85 billion deeper in the hole.

CHERNOFF (on-camera): Where will that chunk of change come from? The Treasury Department has already started raising the money, borrowing $40 billion Wednesday by selling one-month treasury bills to investors around the world, especially those with dollars to spare.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Literally, the people who are giving us money, literally, if you're counting the pennies that are transacting tonight it's going to be China and the Middle East.

CHERNOFF: But Washington has to raise funds for more than just the $85 billion AIG rescue loan. It's kicking in $200 billion to support mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. That's on stop top of the $29 billion the Feds put on the line to facilitate an emergency purchase of broker Bear Stearns.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're borrowing more money every time we do one of these bailouts. Absolutely.

CHERNOFF: While the U.S. went deeper into debt to help AIG, it may turn out to be a good deal as some AIG employees argue.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the taxpayers and the government got a great deal. They got - for putting up $85 billion.

CHERNOFF: AIG has to repay the loan with an interest rate that currently tops 11 percent, and the government gets 80 percent of the insurance giant, which has assets that are worth hundreds of billions.

BILL VELTO, AIG: The company that they invested in is one that's well diversified, has a great deal of financial strength, a great deal of assets.


CHERNOFF: And AIG is going to try to sell some of those assets, including its aircraft leasing division. Hopefully, if it can sell enough of those, it will be able to pay off Uncle Sam. John.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN, ANCHOR: Yes, because getting the bridge loan doesn't solve the underlying problem, does it? CHERNOFF: No and it's not easy these days to get a loan, not only for AIG but increasing for all of corporate America. That's part of the problem right now we're having in the financial markets.

ROBERTS: And we will soon see how deep that goes. Allan Chernoff, thanks very much.

CHETRY: A bridge loan different than a loan for a bridge.

ROBERTS: Exactly.

CHETRY: All right. Just trying to clarify this morning.

ROBERTS: Don't go there.

CHETRY: Well, in other news, Governor Sarah Palin is defending John McCain's recent remark that the fundamentals of the U.S. economy are sound, saying that it's unfair for Barack Obama to attack the verbiage that McCain used. In Nevada, Obama pressed the attack, making a joke of McCain's experience. Let's listen.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Senator McCain, then, bragged about how as chairman of the commerce committee in the Senate he had oversight of every part of the economy. Well, all I can say to Senator McCain is, nice job. Nice job.


CHETRY: Now, McCain in a new ad says that Obama's only solutions are, "talk and taxes." So we're sorting fact from fiction. And it's not always easy to do on the campaign trail because sometimes statements in these ads or by the candidates can be misleading. Sometimes they're taken out of context and other time they're just flat-out wrong. Alina Cho is here with an "A.m. Reality Check." It's part of a new initiative that we're doing each day, taking some of the comments and some of the claims that have been made on the stump and seeing how they jibe with reality.

ALINA CHO, CNN, CORRESPONDENT: Well, you won't believe the team of researchers we have working, you know, around the clock to really parse the words, parse the statements, Kiran. Good morning, everybody. Last hour we took a close look at an ad from Barack Obama and his widely used claim that John McCain has voted for the bills President Bush supported 90 percent of the time. You've heard about that, right? Well, it turns outs to be true. This time we are checking up on something John McCain is saying on the campaign trail about Barack Obama and his energy policy. Take a listen.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My opponent is against nuclear power. He's against offshore drilling. And, my friends, that's not the way you make America energy independent.


CHO: The charge that Barack Obama is against nuclear power, as you just heard, the reality check, not true. Here's Obama during his acceptance speech last month in Denver.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: As president, I will tap our natural gas reserves, invest in clean coal technology and find ways to safely harness nuclear power.


CHO: And if there was any doubt, the Obama campaign has a couple of more details online, including this statement in its, "new energy for America plan." Take a look here on your screen. "It is unlikely that we can meet our aggressive climate goals if we eliminate nuclear power as an option. However, before and expansion of nuclear power is considered, key issues must be addressed including security of nuclear fuel and waste, waste storage and of course, proliferation.

Now, McCain also mentioned offshore drilling in that clip you just heard. Obama was against lifting bans on offshore drilling. But he has said more recently that he would be willing to compromise in any new energy plan. So McCain's statement, Kiran, does not pass our reality check. Again, we are doing this every single day. Great tool for voters, a lot of them undecided. Hopefully this will help.

CHETRY: Especially with our ongoing crisis right now in the financial markets. Some of these positions may change. So we're going to need the reality check even more.

CHO: Yes. And that's where it gets murky sometimes.

CHETRY: Yes. Alina, thanks.

CHO: You bet.

ROBERTS: This morning we're hearing the first seconds after that deadly California train crash that were caught on audiotape.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's just the back - the back car is pretty much mangled --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Complete - looks like it's completely destroyed. I bet you you're going to have a lot of fatalities there.


ROBERTS: The newly released 911 calls from inside the disaster.



OPERATOR: Can you tell me if anybody is unconscious?

CALLER: Uh... I can't tell you... I don't see anybody here unconscious right here. Well, I just see one that might be (inaudible)... I just see one who might be.

OPERATOR: OK. Try not to move anybody around unless it's absolutely necessary

CALLER: Right. Right. We're telling him to stay still.

OPERATOR: OK. Is there any bleeding with a clean cloth -

CALLER: Yes, there are several people bleeding.

OPERATOR: Have a clean cloth or... have a firm pressure on the wound until we get there.



ROBERTS: Chilling 911 calls from inside the crash of that California commuter train last week. One the angles that the investigation into the accident is now focusing on is text-messaging. Was the engineer distracted? CNN's Thelma Gutierrez went to a training ground for conductors to get an expert's take on the crash. And she's here now with that.

THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, Kiran, this locomotive is part of the Modoc railroad training academy in Sacramento. It's the only training school of its kind. It's nonprofit for conductors and engineers in the country. Behind the controls now is Dave Rangall. He's a former conductor and instructor and he runs the school.


GUTIERREZ (voice-over): Dave Rangall has trained hundreds of engineers and conductors about the dos and don'ts on the track. He says last week's train crash in Los Angeles has shaken the railroad industry to its core.

DAVE RANGALL, MODOC RAILROAD ACADEMY: The tragedy is, is that something happened. And whatever happened had gone horribly wrong.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ma'am, is that a train versus another train or train versus a vehicle?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, train versus another train.

GUTIERREZ: 25 people died, 135 injured. Federal investigators now say the Metrolink engineer responsible for operating the passenger train had sent and received text messages while he was on duty. What they don't know yet is precisely what time. While that's against Metrolink's, there are no federal safety regulations that address the use of cell phones or similar devices by locomotive engineers. Rangall says train crews often carry phones but he says he and other railroad workers don't believe texting alone would distract an engineer long enough to ignore alarms that an experienced engineer is trained to look out for.

Like this alerter alarm that Rangall says is in every train. It goes off every few seconds and the engineer has to hit a button to make it stop. What is it doing right now? It's flashing.

RANGALL: It's telling me to do something, to interface with the locomotive to bring it to a stop, to do something, to keep me alert, to keep me aware, to keep me awake.

GUTIERREZ: And it's doing that every 20 seconds.

RANGALL: Yes, it's going off.

GUTIERREZ: If you don't hit the button, the train stops. Then there are the railroad signals. The NTSB says the engineer was familiar with the route. Rangall wonders how he would have missed all three signals.

RANGALL: Were a train to look at those signals, to respond, to interpret the signals.

GUTIERREZ: Well what if you're distracted and not looking up and don't see the signals. Is it easy to go through one, two, three signals?

RANGALL: No, not really.


GUTIERREZ (on-camera): Like the airlines that has two pilots in the cockpit, Rangall believes for safety there should be two railroad crew members in each cab. Rangall says the academy has graduated 500 engineers and conductors who are operating safely at railroads across the country. John, Kiran.

CHETRY: Battleground North Carolina. A state the republicans have won in the last seven presidential elections now up for grabs this time around. We're going to find out what issues matter to voters out there. You're watching "the most news in the morning.


CHETRY: Welcome back to the most news in the morning. With the presidential election shaping up to be a close race, we're looking at all the key battleground states. And today it's battleground North Carolina. Now, a democrat has not won North Carolina in 32 years. And right now, a number of the polls show John McCain with a big advantage over Barack Obama. But we have a new CNN opinion research poll just out that shows McCain has a one-point lead over Barack Obama, which is essentially a statistical dead heat. Joining me now from Greenville, South Carolina is radio host Pam Stone. Thanks for being with us, Pam. You're just across the border of North Carolina. Your radio show broadcasts well into North Carolina territory. What are you hearing from your listeners about the issues? And what is going to turn their vote this election?

PAM STONE, LIBERAL TALK SHOW HOST: Well, number one, thank you for having me. I'm thrilled to be here. And I am a liberal talk show host. I'm the only liberal talk show host in the Carolinas and most of my audience are conservatives because the liberals don't even believe there would be a talk show. I have to kind of lure them like frightened dogs to come on.

What I hear mostly, Kiran, is the economy, the economy, the economy and health care, which is tied into the economy. Because the people that make up the demographic that listen to my show, they range from dairy farmers, really rural people, to the banking industry in Charlotte. And everyone is affected by this. And when you have, you know, where I broadcast from, because I broadcast from my farm. The signal is south of Charlotte.

If people around me are making $30,000 a year, that's good money. And they're terrified about the price of gasoline. They're terrified about health care prices because what they're seeing with the McCain plan is tax credits. But if you're not earning enough money in the first place to buy health insurance, you're not going to get tax credits. You know, and the average price for health care for a family of four in this country is $12,000. So take that out of a $30,000 yearly income before taxes, $30,000 before taxes and you don't have anything left.

CHETRY: So when you say you're in a mostly conservative area, though, are those people going to vote for John McCain despite the fact that you said you believe they're not going to benefit from the tax breaks?

STONE: I - from what I'm hearing, I don't think so. Bush won the Carolinas, North Carolina, I think, by 12 points in 2004. And what I was hearing from conservatives then was, you know, I'm really not happy with the way things are going. I'm not happy about this war. I'm not happy about the spending. But I don't want to change presidents in the middle of a war, which I always thought was interesting because you're going to have to change presidents in the middle of a war because this war isn't going to be over in four years.

And now what I'm hearing, even with the addition of Sarah Palin, which definitely energized the base for the conservatives, they're still not real thrilled with McCain's policies because they're not voting for Palin. They're voting for McCain. So I don't know if they're just going to stay home. I'm not sure.

But there is an enormous ground swell of support for Barack Obama and the fact, you know, don't forget that polls don't reflect students, first-time voters and it doesn't reflect people that have cell phones and not land lines. And there's hundreds of thousands - I've never seen in my life such an energized base of college students as I have for Barack Obama. And I think - I would not be surprised if even your poll, your recent poll is misleading. I would not be surprised if Obama actually had a lead coming into North Carolina.

CHETRY: All right. It is very interesting and we do have to wait and see how those first-time voters shake out, whether or not they will go to the polls. But you're right, a lot of energy no doubt in this election, a lot of people paying attention. So it will be very interesting. Pam Stone from the "Pam Stone Show," WLNK. As you said, the liberals shouldn't be afraid to call. They can call your show.

STONE: No. I had the Indigo Girls on last week. Come on, there's a place for you.

CHETRY: All right, Pam. Good to talk to you.

ROBERTS: 48 1/2 minutes after the hour now. CNN NEWSROOM just minutes away. Heidi Collins at the CNN center now with a look at what lies ahead. Good morning, Heidi.

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you John. And good morning everybody. Here's a look at what we're working on in the NEWSROOM now. Dark days on Wall Street. But could billions pumped into the market by central banks mean a light at the end of the tunnel?

And a close race getting closer. We just heard about it. New presidential polls in now from key states. We're going to break down the numbers for you.

And sweet treat. How licking a lollipop may help prevent tooth decay. We get started at the top of the hour on CNN. John.

ROBERTS: All right. Heidi Collins, will see you soon. Thanks very much.

49 minutes into the hour. This just in to CNN. Labor department reports unemployment claims spiked by about 10,000 last week. That's being attributed to job losses caused by Hurricane Gustav, which slammed into the Gulf Coast of Louisiana late last month. Many residents in the hurricane zone were prevented from filing for unemployment benefits until last week. So that on top of the turmoil in the financial markets as well.

Are you allergic to work? Or are those migraines at the office stress related? Our Dr. Sanjay Gupta on how to deal with getting sick at work. He's got the mailbag.


CHETRY: Well, we're always on top of the latest medical news here on AMERICAN MORNING. As a result, you often have questions for us.

ROBERTS: So every Thursday we dig deep into Dr. Gupta's mail bag. Sanjay joins us this morning. Good to see you, Sanjay.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, guys. ROBERTS: Let's dive right in here. Chrissy from Florida writes, "can work make you sick when you're under pressure all the time?" She needs to ask that question? "I get migraines every day, she says, when work is stressful." So Can work make you sick?

GUPTA: Well, you know, Chrissy, the answer is yes. But you know, it's a little more profound than that. I find this pretty interesting, this idea that psychological problems can cause physical manifestations. It's more than just conjecture. Now, there's a lot of evidence that it can cause stomach pains. It can cause headaches, like you mentioned. It can cause sinus trouble. It can cause joint pains. It can increase your blood pressure. So there's a lot of different things.

And there can be all sorts of triggers, which is the first step in trying to control this. Try to sit down and figure out what the trigger is. Is it your boss, your kids, your executive producer? You know, you don't know what it might be. But Once you figure that out, you can start to really control it and a lot of those physical manifestations will start to go away.

CHETRY: Well, Sanjay, we have Jennifer in Georgia with the next question. She writes - "our 17-month-old son was recently given peanut butter during snack time and he had a severe allergic reaction. How common are peanut allergies, what causes them, and what steps can we take to ensure we avoid peanuts?"

You know, one interesting thing that I thought when I saw this, Sanjay, is most schools and nurseries and day care environment don't even serve peanuts of any kind because of that reason.

GUPTA: They don't and they're so careful now about not spreading any spatulas or anything that have touched anything that might have peanuts on it. So it is a big deal. The peanut protein seems to be the biggest culprit here. This protein is really problematic. In a child's immune system that is not yet fully developed it sees that protein, it doesn't know how to react exactly so it overreacts. The airway can swell, your hands can get itchy. It can cause death in some situations. So this can be a very serious problem. You've got to read the labels when you're out grocery shopping. This is so important. Sounds obvious, but so many people have to turn that bottle over, read the labels.

Alert others there's a peanut allergy in the family. Don't share food as you mentioned, Kiran, important as well. And an epinephrine shot. Epinephrine is adrenaline. You put it, you inject it into someone's body if they're having an allergic reaction and it can immediately stall some of those allergic symptoms. But this is a problem. I think about it all the time, you don't want to give peanuts to young children as you know, Kiran.

ROBERTS: Sanjay, the last question of the week comes from Jane, who writes - "I fear having a stroke because I have high blood pressure and a family history. What are the signs to look for?

GUPTA: The one thing that - and this is an important sort of just a reminder about all vascular-type problems, whether it's a stroke or a heart attack. When anything is caused by a vascular problem, it tends to come on suddenly. So, if it's something that's coming on slowly over time, it's probably not going to be a stroke or a heart problem. If it comes on suddenly, a sudden loss of vision, sudden numbness in an arm or a leg, sudden inability to speak or paralyzing of the face. Those are things that you have to look for. The way to try and avoid it, especially if you have a family history, is just what you might think. You know, control your blood pressure, try and get the best diet and exercise. But also, you can get an ultrasound of the arteries here in your neck. Those are called the carotid arteries. If they're blocked a certain percentage, doctors may recommend cleaning those out protectively or prophylactically.

ROBERTS: Good advice, doc. Thanks.

CHETRY: Yes, thanks, Sanjay.

GUPTA: Bye, guys.

CHETRY: And by the way, if you have a question for Dr. Gupta, go to E-mail your questions. Sanjay will answer them here on AMERICAN MORNING next Thursday.

Parrots talking politics. Jeanne Moos looks at a most unusual conversation between Ralph Nader and a bird.

RALPH NADER, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'd get more media if I just dressed up as a panda.

CHETRY: You're watching "the most news in the morning."


ROBERTS: Well, what do parrots and pandas have to do with Ralph Nader's presidential run? Jeanne Moos has got the answer to that question.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Birds of a feather campaign together.

NADER: Thank you, Cardoza, for keeping me company.

MOOS: The last time he ran for president, Ralph Nader used action figures of his opponents.

NADER: Neither George W. Bush nor John Kerry have an exit strategy.

MOOS: This campaign Nader put out a video communing with a friend's parrot to make a point.

NADER: National television has just blacked out the Nader-Gonzalez campaign. Sometimes I think I'd get more media if I just dressed up as a panda. MOOS: Well, it sure worked for the so-called hurricane bear during coverage of Hurricane Ike. A cameraman had to be ordered to get off the bear.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, we're watching a person in a bear suit right now. That's a first. But you are correct. Gus, if you could swing back over that way so we can show the folks at home what's left of this pier.

MOOS: Hurricane bear ended up with his own website with over 500,000 hits and his own t-shirt. No wonder Nader is joking about dressing up as a panda and heading for the zoo.

NADER: Cast nervous glances at a female panda.

MOOS (on-camera): You know, it's getting harder and harder in this campaign to find a nonpartisan parrot.

PARROT: Barack Obama.

Yes, we can. Yes, we can.

MOOS: At least yes, we can, doesn't make folks call the police.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They heard somebody calling for help. Help me, help me.

MOOS: Authorities broke down a door of a Trenton, New Jersey, home, only to discover that "help me" came from Luna, the cockatoo. Ralph Nader's right. We in the press can't resist an animal story. The only thing more alluring than pandas is a Guinness record story like the 2'5" smallest man posing with a woman with the longest legs. Now, that gets global media attention. So while Nader muses -

NADER: To be or not to be a panda.

MOOS: It's too bad he couldn't pander to both the shortest voters and those with the longest legs. Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


CHETRY: There it is. That outfit looks good on Nader. How about it? Well, thanks so much for joining us on this AMERICAN MORNING. We'll see you back here tomorrow.

ROBERTS: And we continue with CNN NEWSROOM. Here's Heidi Collins.