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American Morning

Congressional Dems Give Mixed Messages on Public Option; Taliban still a threat to NATO Forces; Obama Prepared to Address Congress on Health Care; Bernie Madoff's Property to be Auctioned Off; Is China Spying in U.S.?

Aired September 09, 2009 - 07:00   ET


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: That brings us exactly to the top of the hour. It's 7:00 Eastern on this Wednesday, 9/9/09. I'm John Roberts.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: And you're going to experience this once. It's 9/9/09. So, enjoy it.

Well, here are the big stories that we're breaking down for you in the next 15 minutes.

Some are calling it the high noon moon of his presidency. Tonight, President Obama puts himself smack in the middle of the health care debate with a primetime address to Congress and the entire country. Lawmakers are back from recess and some brought voters' anger with them. We're live on Capitol Hill with a look at what's at stake.

ROBERTS: It's as close as you can get to the fight against the Taliban.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you all right?


ROBERTS: Our Michael Ware on patrol in the dead of night in Afghanistan when a roadside bomb explodes a split second too early, sparing his and his people that he was with lives. You'll see the gunfight that followed and why he's lucky to be alive today.

CHETRY: The penthouse apartment, the waterfront mansion, a yacht with a fitting name, Bull -- you fill in the blank. No, it's just Bull. Our Christine Romans has an inside look at how Bernie Madoff lived the good live after ruining other people's and whether there are any potential buyers for all of his stuff now.

ROBERTS: And the spies among us -- today, China. We know that they are buying a lot of this country, but do you know how much that they are allegedly stealing from our space program to our academic labs to symbols of our military dominance? A look at how many secrets are not so secret anymore.

CHETRY: First, though, we are just hours away no from President Obama's make or break health care speech to a joint session of Congress. After an August recess where the debate was dominated by angry town hall protests, the president will now try to regain control of his top domestic goal.

And the critics screamed that the original plan for a public health insurance option, saying it is a step towards complete government controlled health care. In fact, many middle of the road House Democrats say that they will vote against health care reform if it includes a public option, and that is putting the president in a bit of a bind.

The only bipartisan proposal being considered by congress right now is the plan that's in the hands of the so-called gang of six. We told you about it yesterday. Instead of a public option, it would include a system of privately owned cooperatives.

This is something that's going on in the Senate finance committee right now, and this morning we could find out whether Republican's in the group like it as well. But already some liberal Democrats are saying that would be dead on arrival.

Our Brianna Keilar is live on the phone on Capitol Hill this morning. And Brianna, first from the House, it seems right now, when you listen to their leader, Nancy Pelosi, she said she's confident that a bill coming out of the House would include a so-called public option. Not everybody agrees.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Not all House Democratic leaders agree, in fact, Kiran. They are not speaking with one voice.

When you listen to the number three in the House, Jim Clyburn, he's saying basically I support a public option, a government run insurance plan, but maybe we need to tweak it to find a compromise here. He's suggesting pilot programs that would basically state the regions put up into them, but they wouldn't go across the board. It would be a straight up public option.

But listen to what Steny Hoyer, the number two Democrat in the House, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said late yesterday.


REP. STENY HOYER, (D) MAJORITY LEADER: I'm not one of those that says if you don't have a public option it's not a good bill. I think it's a very good bill. I think the public option makes it better.

REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D) HOUSE SPEAKER: And I do believe that in order to pass a bill in the House, we will have a public option. This is the legislative process.


KEILAR: So one microphone there, two very different things that you're hearing -- no public option not a deal breaker for Steny Hoyer, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Kiran, still firm for her support in that government run insurance plan.

CHETRY: All right, so there's the House. Now let's head over to the Senate side. And we are learning new details, Brianna, about Max Baucus' plan and the supposed 10:00 a.m. deadline that he's encouraging for the people that he's working with. What is going on with that?

KEILAR: The pressure is really on here, Kiran.

Senator Max Baucus, according to Republican Senator Chuck Grassley as well as some Democratic sources, say he will likely decide today whether this bipartisan group of six can come to some sort of consensus or whether the months and months of discussions they have been having really are not going to yield any sort of agreement.

So he put out a proposal over the weekend. We know more about it today. Not only does it include that nonprofit health cooperative that we were talking act yesterday, but also there would be no mandate for employers. Employers would not be mandated to provide health insurance for employees. So there would be penalties for bigger companies if they don't.

And individuals would be mandated to get health insurance. If they don't, they would pay a penalty. For a family of four, for instance, a household bringing in $66,000 or more per year, up to $3,800 for an annual fine there. This is a $900 billion price tag.

And what Senator Baucus did yesterday was he said to these Republicans and Democrats in this small group, if you have counter proposals or revisions, I want to see them by 10:00 a.m.

And Kiran, we're going to pay a lot of attention early this afternoon. This whole group will meeting at around 2:30 p.m., and we'll be waiting to see if anything comes from that, because some Republicans say this timeline is really just too tight for them.

CHETRY: And some of them, like Olympia Snowe, said she wanted to wait and see what the president said before making a decision on that. So it will be interesting for sure.

Brianna Keilar for us on Capitol Hill this morning. Thanks so much.

And coming up in about ten minutes, we're going to hear from White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. How can the president convince and the American public we need this now, and how many specifics will we hear in the president's speech tonight?

ROBERTS: New this morning, a fierce gun battle with the Taliban ends with the rescue of a kidnapped "New York Times" journalist today. The newspaper reporting British commandos stormed a room where this man, Stephen Farrell, was being held captive and opened fire.

Officials say that Farrell's Afghan translator was killed in a hail of bullets. Farrell was captured on Saturday while covering a deadly NATO airstrike that killed at 90 people The kidnapping had been kept quiet by CNN, "The New York Times," and other media outlets out of concern for Farrell's safety.

And that dramatic rescue underscores the escalating dangers in Afghanistan to soldiers, reporters, and innocent people caught in the middle. And right now, as the violence intensifies, CNN is the only bringing you exclusive reports from the war zone in Kandahar in the southwestern part of Afghanistan.

All this week, our Anderson Cooper, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and Michael Ware are live from the battle zone.

So just how dangerous is it to be on night patrol with the Afghan police deep in Taliban country? Watch what happens when one of our own feels the danger firsthand.


MICHAEL WARE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is one night, one police patrol in Kandahar. A hidden Taliban roadside bomb, and IED, is about to hit this Afghan police gun truck. A CNN cameraman and I are riding in it.

By some miracle it detonates a heartbeat too soon, otherwise we would all be dead. Instead, gravel rains over us

WARE (on camera): Are you all right?

WARE (voice-over): Then comes the shooting, a so called death blog of police firing aimlessly to ward off further attack.

But, this is the true front line against the Taliban. It's where President Obama's war will ultimately be won or lost. On that front line is my old friend, Afghan police commander Mullah Gulakund. I've been away for six years reporting in Iraq, so it's a relief just to see he's still alive.

It takes a certain kind of man to survive so long on the Kandahar front, a hard warrior with little mercy, and men like Gullakund. As a police commander, he's been killing Taliban since December, 2001. For the Taliban, that means he's been a target for eight years.

I have no idea how he survived.

"I protect myself," he says. "God has a date for everyone's death. When that day comes, they will die. But my day has not yet come."

The men and boys he commands guard the backdoor to Kandahar. After Mullah Gul's outpost come territory fully controlled by the Taliban. Through that mountain pass just beyond his check point, it's all Taliban.

As for our night patrol, we've just broken the Muslim fast of Ramadan with Mullah Gul and his forces in a neighborhood called Loya Wolla (ph).

WARE (on camera): It's very hard to see me where we are right now because the men we're with are using as little light as possible. These are Afghan police patrolling Kandahar. This is the birthplace of the Taliban.

Let's get moving and back in the truck. These men do this every night. And where we are right now is a Taliban held neighborhood. The commander said if they went patrolling there would be attacks almost every night.

WARE (voice-over): In Mullah Gul's vehicle, he warns me we could be heading into trouble.

MULLAH GULAKUND, AFGHAN POLICE CHIEF: The street that we are getting inside that now, it's called (inaudible). And this is the most dangerous place international.

WARE (on camera): Really?


WARE: This is the most dangerous area.

This is where they have a lot of contact with the insurgencies, fire fights, IEDs. There's a curfew in place here for 10:00 p.m. For anyone on the streets after 10:00 prime minister is deemed suspicious.

Here we are in the middle of the night moving through the neighborhood, watching the police at work.

WARE (voice-over): We arrive at an intersection controlled by Taliban fighters. The commander says every night they are spotting as many as 20 or 30 Taliban gathering here to share information and for when the launch attacks.

But by establishing this one permanent patrol base, a check point not far from here, he's managed to force the Taliban to move to another area.

We didn't know the strike against our vehicle was only moments away. The police gun truck CNN cameraman Sama (ph) Kasumi (ph) and I are riding in enters this back street. The Taliban bomb is hidden ahead of us.

It seems victory is still a long way off.

Michael Ware, CNN, Kandahar.

ROBERTS: And coming up, another dramatic moment from the front line. Dr. Sanjay Gupta reporting from inside an Afghan ER when suddenly his surgical skills are needed yet again.

CHETRY: It just goes to show you, as Michael Ware was saying, if it would have detonated a half minute earlier or a few feet earlier, he would have been dead. ROBERTS: And there are so many stories like that across Afghanistan and in Iraq as well. You talk with people in the U.S. military, they have had so many close calls. And it's, like you said, a heartbeat to make the difference between life and death.

CHETRY: Amazing reporting by Michael Ware though, for sure.

Meantime, on a little bit of a lighter note, we are talking about whether or not people are going to try to cash in on Bernie Madoff's misfortune, the fact that his homes are up on the auction block now. The sheriff's deputies are trying to get them sold and get as much money back as possible for Madoff's victims.

Christine Romans joins us after the break with a look inside some of the posh palaces.


ROBERTS: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning.

We are just hours away now from President Obama's make or break health care speech to Congress. Right now Washington is back in action. The bipartisan compromise is in the works in the Senate. And the nation is waiting for details from the man who put his political clout on the line in the name of reform.

Here to give a preview of tonight's speech from the White House north lawn, President Obama's Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. Robert, good to see you this morning, thanks for being with us.


ROBERTS: Good. So what is the president going to do tonight? Is he going to outline an actual plan or just a series of ideas?

GIBBS: Look, he will outline some very specific ideas that I think will leave people with a couple thoughts when they walk away from the speech.

One, they will know that this plan provides safety, security, and stability to the millions of people that have health insurance each and every day but are watching their premiums skyrocket and double every few years.

Secondly, for those who don't have health insurance but need affordable coverage, he will lay out a plan for how people can get that as well. He'll talk about the crippling cost of health care on government and why we just can't afford to wait longer. We have to act now.

ROBERTS: So why not an actual plan? There are so many people who have said if the president really wants to lead here, and Bob Dole said the other day, that the president proposes and Congress disposes, why doesn't he lay out an entire plan? It sounds like he's doing much more of the same that he did back in the summer. GIBBS: No. Look, I think people, again, will walk away understanding clearly where the president is. John, we're not going to send up to Congress 1,300 pages of legalese. What the president is going to do is refocus the effort and make sure people understand what's in health care reform for them.

ROBERTS: You have repeatedly said the public option is a very important tool in bringing health care to uninsured Americans. But, as you know, there's a lot of resistance to it in the Senate and the House among the blue dog Democrats.

Is the president prepared to drop a public plan in order to get a deal?

GIBBS: Most important John, what you will hear the president do tonight when he talks about the public option, which he will, is the importance of providing choice and competition in the health care system.

We have a private insurance market that then to be dominated by just one insurance company. I tell the story of a friend of mine in Alabama who started a small business in January. He had to go buy health insurance for his family. And 89 percent of the market in Alabama is dominated by exactly one health insurance company.


GIBBS: He was lucky his family is healthy, but he has talked to a lot of small business owners that haven't been so lucky. They've been denied coverage and they don't have additional choices.

This president will talk about the value of a public option and how we can get choice and competition for those on the private insurance plan.

ROBERTS: But like so many of your predecessors, Robert, you have the uncanny ability to duck without even moving your head. The question was, is he prepared to drop a public option in order to get a deal?

GIBBS: The president is excited about outlining this plan. He will talk about the public option, and we'll talk about how we can get to where we want to go.

John, the one thing I have learned in only a few minutes as White House press secretary is don't break the news the boss is going to make.

ROBERTS: All right, well, let me ask you this question, then. Malpractice reform is something that's very important for your colleagues on the Republican side and it's also very important for doctors. It's not so important for people on the Democratic side. Is the president prepared to talk about malpractice reform tonight?

GIBBS: He is. He'll talk about it tonight. John, I think this is a good example. The president is going to talk about the downside of what many doctors have told him is the practicing of defensive medicine, where doctors because they are worried about this order more and more tests in order to make sure that they don't get sued.

That costs our system billions and billions of dollars every year.


GIBBS: But John, this is a big test, because the president is going to outline things that Republicans want to hear.

I think the test for Republicans is to hear the message of millions and millions of Americans that are struggling with the high cost of health insurance. Are they ready, willing, and able to come to the table and work with the president to get something done, or are we just going to stand on the sidelines without a plan?

That's the challenge tonight for Republicans.

ROBERTS: Back to the malpractice reform issue. Is he prepared to embrace the idea of caps that so many Republicans and many doctors want the president to do? They say their costs are so high because of liability insurance that it's driving up the cost to every patient who walks in the door.

GIBBS: I'm not going to get in front of the president on this, but I will tell you and your viewers he will discuss the subject tonight as part of health care reform.

ROBERTS: All right.

There is a lot of concern among Democrats in Congress that if they don't get health care reform passed that in the 2010 mid-term elections they could lose anywhere between a low of 20 seats to a high of 40 seats, which would change control of the House of Representatives.

Does the president have in mind as he goes before Congress tonight the potential political consequences as well?

GIBBS: Look, I think the consequences, John, that the president is focused on are the consequences for millions of Americans that are struggling with health insurance, struggling to pay for it. What happens to them if we don't act?

Trying to predict what's going to happen, not an election that's going to happen this year, but an election next year is for very smart pundits and prognosticators that have a crystal ball that I certainly don't possess.

It's a little bit like telling me not who's going to win this year's World Series, but next year's World Series. That's a long way off. The best politics is good policy. We need to get something done for the American people who watched their premiums double over the course of nine years, who watched insurance companies tell them they can't get coverage because they have a preexisting condition.

Those are the problem we have to address because Washington has to demonstrate for the American people that it has the capability of solving the biggest problems we face in this country. That's a challenge for all of us, Democrat, Republican, and Independent.

ROBERTS: Robert Gibbs, always great to catch up with you. Thanks for joining us this morning.

GIBBS: Thanks, John.

ROBERTS: See you again soon.

It's 20 minutes after the hour.


CHETRY: It's 23 minutes past the hour.

Christine Romans is minding your business. It's interesting because there was just so much anger and so much hate about Bernie Madoff and people were just so irate about the situation and still are.

And now, in a weird way, we are getting an inside look at what his life was like. It's up for sale.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: His life is up for sale, that's absolutely right. The victims, the people who were the victims of the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme will get a piece of all this property seized that has been seized by the U.S. marshals and now is being put out on display to try to generate some interest I would suspect from real estate brokers and the like.

And bow we're having breakfast in Palm Beach. Let's look at the Palm Beach estate of Bernie Madoff that has been seized by the U.S. marshals. And now our cameras have been allowed to go through it.

First, the most important thing here is the location on the inner-coastal waterway, an 80 foot dock. This is what the marshal has to say about just where this property is.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have a great panoramic view of -- from north to south from the dock, from the backyard, a view of downtown Palm Beach, a spectacular view. This would be one of the selling points of this property. It's a western exposure, so you're going to have absolutely wonderful sunsets in the afternoon.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ROMANS: Yes, this is really, location here, an 80 foot dock on the inner-coastal water way. In fact, the property of the half acre is assessed at $7 million. The house, which you are looking at right now, is assessed at $778,000.

ROBERTS: We're going to say, if he's spending all the time talking about the view, the house can't be great.


ROMANS: I would live in this house. The Palm Beach house, the house built in '73, 8,700 square feet, five bedrooms, seven bathrooms. In Bernie Madoff's closet, nine shelves.

It's also full of bull representations, every kind of artwork of old English bull breeds, and artwork of statues of bulls, also fish. The bull theme, I just love. If you're bullish on Wall Street you're optimistic that stocks are going to go up, although the guy was not even trading his victim's money in many cases.

And bull is more apt for...

ROBERTS: So you say the property was assessed at $7 million, the house at $700,000?

ROMANS: That's right. This is location, location, location. When you look at his properties in Montauk, we've seen his place on East 63rd Street on Lexington Avenue, you look at this place, he's a guy who had his -- he was somebody who -- those are great location real estate pedigree in all of those places.

ROBERTS: I Google Earthed his property out there on Montauk and it's a spectacular location.

ROMANS: It's 100 feet from the beach. You can't even get that close to the beach anymore. You can't build that close anymore.

CHETRY: Get your checkbook -- maybe you could get some.

ROMANS: The Montauk place had some 70 brokers go through, 23 different showings. So our U.S. marshals playing real estate agent is generating some interest.

CHETRY: There you go. Christine, thanks so much.

Meanwhile, Jeanne Meserve is going to give us an inside look. We start off our spy series this week, and she's talking Chinese spies right here in America. How are they going undetected? It's a very interesting story.


CHETRY: Welcome back to the most news in the morning. It's 29 minutes past the hour right now.

The FBI ranks China as one of the biggest espionage threats to the U.S. over the next decade.

ROBERTS: From top secret research to items up for sale on eBay, some of our most intimate national security details could be at risk.

CHETRY: Yes. And for today's look at the spies among us, Homeland Security Correspondent Jeanne Meserve joins us live from our Washington newsroom. Hello, Jeanne.


You know, the Cold War is over, but spying definitely is not. Experts say along with Russia, one country runs a particularly comprehensive and successful espionage against the U.S. and that country, as you say, is China.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And liftoff of the space shuttle Discovery.

MESERVE: The space shuttle, the International Space Station, the Delta four rocket, and the F-15 fighter, some of the most sensitive and valuable technologies developed by the United States.

And information about all of them was given to China by this man. Don Fan Chung, a nationalized U.S. citizen, saw an aerospace engineer with a secret clearance.

A search turned up 300,000 sensitive documents hidden under his house, letters with marching order from his Chinese handlers, even a medal from the Chinese government. He was convicted in July. He had been spying for China for more than three decades.

Experts say Chung is just one player in a complex and comprehensive Chinese espionage operation.

MESERVE (on camera): What kind of information are they getting from us?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're getting pretty much everything.

MESERVE (voice-over): The Chinese government says such charges reflect an old cold war mentality.

WU JIANMIN, CHINESE MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS: They want to put up stories to demonize China for their benefit. It's not good.

MESERVE (on camera): So the allegations are not true?

JIANMIN: Not true.

MESERVE (voice-over): But there is ample evidence the Chinese are siphoning secrets to aid their military and economic development. Since 2006, the U.S. government has prosecuted 60 people for stealing secrets for China. DAVID KRIS, ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: We have stopped some things from happening that if we had not stopped them then would have resulted in very grievous losses. Of course, you don't know what you don't know.

MESERVE (voice-over): Chinese cyber capabilities are sophisticated and though it's difficult to prove the government and its surrogates are believed to have infiltrated computers at most U.S government agencies.

ALAN PALLER, SANS INSTITUTE: The sad joke in the Pentagon is somebody can't find a document, someone else will call the Chinese.

MESERVE: Computer expert say the Chinese hackers may have left behind code that could be triggered to shut down or destroy critical infrastructure even weapon systems. The Pentagon recently told Congress, "Of all the foreign intelligence organizations attempting to penetrate U.S. agencies, China's are the most aggressive."

KEN DEGRAFFENEREID, FORMER COUNTERINTELLIGENCE OFFICIAL: It is a damaging thing and it is unprecedented.

MESERVE (on camera): And it's continuing?

DEGRAFFENREID: And it is continuing. And we're not mounting a proportionate response at all.


MESERVE: The U.S. wants to stay on good terms with the Chinese. And some experts say that has made it more difficult for the U.S. to deal effectively and forcefully with Chinese espionage. Espionage that some believe is already jeopardizing the economic and military strength of the United States. John and Kiran, back to you.

ROBERTS: Jeanne Meserve for us this morning. Jeanne, thanks so much.

Tomorrow our "Spies Among Us" series takes a look at the black market for bombs. Could terrorists get their hands on nuclear material in the black market and smuggle a device into the United States.

Sweeping across the bottom of the hour and checking our top stories. A deadly wildfire burning north of Los Angeles has now grown to more than twice the size of California's capital of Sacramento. Officials say the station fire is slowing down and is about 60 percent contained. But it's already the eight largest wildfire in California the past 75 years. A reward for information leading to the arsonist who started it is now up to $150,000. Two firefighters died trying to fight that fire.

CHETRY: Practicing what you preach, the new chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board says she is raising the bar, banning employees from talking or texting while driving on the job. Deborah Hersman, a self-described BlackBerry addict herself, said the risk of something catastrophic is too great. You may remember the fatal train wreck in California where record showed the train operator was sending and receiving texts up to the moment before the crash.

ROBERTS: And it may take a little longer to pay off those college loans. A new survey says starting salaries for college grads this year are down more than one percent to under $49,000. That's if they have a job at all. Those who responded to the poll said offers are down 20 percent compared to last year.

CHETRY: Well, today, the Supreme Court is going to be meeting to hear a case that could drastically change future political campaigns. There's an unflattering film about Hillary Clinton when she was running for president back in 2008 that was blocked by the federal election committee. The FEC claimed that basically it looked like a giant campaign ad and that violated the law. Well, now, it's the high court's turn to weigh in.

And joining me for more insight on this case is Jonathan Turley, a professor at George Washington University. Thanks for being with us this morning.


CHETRY: This is a case by the conservative advocacy group, Citizens United. They challenged this ruling, as we said, all the way up to the Supreme Court asking the question really, who is entitled to free speech. Meaning, does it not just cover individuals, but corporations and in this case, this large, political group. So what's at stake when we take a look at the case that the Supreme Court is about to consider?

TURLEY: Well, there's a great deal at stake. And it's coming at very important time before the mid term elections or the Obama administration. Because this case, as you know, is being heard a second time. It's a rare September argument. And the justices asked specifically for additional argument on whether the campaign finance restrictions were, indeed, constitutional.

That raises, in many people's mind, the possibility that the court could make the impact of this case even greater, to strike down part of the campaign finance laws.


TURLEY: Specifically, there's a case called Austin in 1990 where they ruled that Congress could restrict contributions by corporations.

CHETRY: All right. Let's look at both sides. If the Supreme Court were to rule in favor of this group, corporations do have the same free speech rights as an individual, your speech wouldn't be regulated by campaign finance law. So some are asking wouldn't this then give deep pocketed corporations and groups a free will to possibly, you know, get a big leg up when it comes to the political campaigns and the candidate if they want to see for president?

TURLEY: Well, that is the fear that this is divided - the civil liberty community and the free speech community. They're actually on both sides of this case. There are dozens of (INAUDIBLE). For many free speech advocates, this is maybe a case of strange bedfellows, but they agree with the Citizens United and say that if you start to say that these types of movies are electioneering, prohibitive speech, it could sweep into - its coverage like books.

And indeed, the last argument before the court, the U.S. government said yes, we could restrict books during these election periods. And that really sent a chill throughout the free speech community. On the other side, you have people saying yes, but campaign finance abuse is strangling the democratic process. So you have these two very worthy values -

CHETRY: Right.

TURLEY: And I think you have very strong arguments on both sides.

CHETRY: Yes, you're right. And as you said, strange bedfellows, because it doesn't necessarily follow the partisan lines that we've seen sometimes in this debate. The other interesting thing if they were to say no, this would basically have the Supreme Court ruling that corporations do not have the same free speech rights as individuals as it relates to the election process, right?

TURLEY: Yes, one of the objections made by people like Ted Olsen who is arguing this case for Citizens United is that speech shouldn't depend on who the speaker is, that it shouldn't depend on who is giving the speech to determine whether the government can censor it or restrict it or prohibit it. And to say that it's a great basic value. But here, Congress saying, if you are a wealthy corporation, we are going to treat you differently in your speech.

It could not be more important. And of course, we have changes on the court, not just the appearance of Sonia Sotomayor in her first appearance, in a Supreme Court case but, also, Sam Alito replaced Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. And Justice O'Connor was one of the critical five votes that first upheld campaign financing. So there are changes on this court that could threaten campaign finance rules. Now think of what that would mean. If they were to strike down part of the campaign finance laws...

CHETRY: Right.

TURLEY: This would occur right before the midterm and you would see major amounts of money being dumped into the campaign.

CHETRY: This also extends to running for Congress as well, Congress and the presidency. So you're right, it could have implications. We'll be watching this. Again, they take it up today. So this will be very interesting. Thanks for putting it in plain English for us as best you could. Jonathan Turley, we appreciate it. Thanks.

TURLEY: My pleasure. ROBERTS: Famed photographer Annie Liebowitz faced a deadline to pay back $24 million or lose her work. What's happening with that case now. We'll tell you coming right up. Thirty-eight minutes after the hour.


ROBERTS: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. Christine Romans is minding your business this morning. We were just saying, somebody out there has got money, who is it?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Oh, yes. Well, it's all the lobbying for health care reform. This is shaping up to the most expensive lobbying campaign in the history of the United States. $375 million spent so far in everything from lobbying to television ads to campaign contributions. Here's how the lobbying shapes up. You got drug companies, hospitals, nursing homes, doctors, and health professionals, health services and HMOs, you got health insurers, lawyers, these are all of the money spent so far in lobbying $279 million.

Then you got another $75 million for television ads. And $23 million to 2010 campaign war chests. So much at stake. It's shaping up to be this very big expensive battle. It's interesting. Because you look at all of these different groups, some of them actually spending cross purposes to one another. But clearly, a lot of money being spent here. It is a political power machine that is happening right now in Capitol Hill.

ROBERTS: And there's so much at stake.

ROMANS: Oh, yes. Yes.

CHETRY: And that brings us to our "Romans' Numeral." This is the number that Christine gives us each hour about a story that's driving your money. So what is the numeral today?

ROMANS: Oh, I love this one. It's six. And it has to do with lobbying.

ROBERTS: The numbers of (INAUDIBLE) average lobbyists.

ROMANS: Oh, it's way more than that, John. That would be a double digit one. It is the number of lobbyists per lawmaker on the health reform debate. Six to one. Boy, just think of it. Your elected officials are bombarded. Six to one, the ratio of lobbyists to lawmakers on health care reform. Hopefully your voice is being heard somewhere, ladies and gentlemen.

ROBERTS: Christine Romans, "Minding your Business" this morning.

CHETRY: Thanks, Christine.

ROBERTS: Thanks, Christine.

She had until midnight to pay back a $24 million loan or risk losing every photo she has ever taken or ever will take in the future. Now, we're waiting to find out if the famous celebrity photographer Annie Leibowitz made good on that loan and whether she'll be able to keep her life's work.

And Our Capital Company sued for the money. Her attorney says they are still in talks to resolve the dispute and it pushed the deadline back now to October 1st.

CHETRY: All right. Well, another hurricane forming in the Atlantic. Fred is now a powerful category two storm. Rob Marciano tracking it all from the extreme weather center for us this morning. Hey, Rob.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Hey, Kiran. This thing has doubled in intensity since we spoke yesterday. Almost a category 3 storm. Where is Fred headed? A complete forecast track is coming up when AMERICAN MORNING comes right back.


CHETRY: All right. Well, right now, it's 45 minutes past the hour. We are heading to the weather center in Atlanta Rob Marciano tracking Fred for us. Fred, you said, has doubled in size since you even brought it up yesterday. What's going on?

MARCIANO: Yes, unbelievable explosion in intensity at least, Kiran, over the last 24 hours. Here it is, category 2 storm now with winds of 105 miles an hour. So very impressive. You can kind of see that circulation last a couple of frames, a very distinct eye beginning to form right there. So it is definitely on the move and getting better organized. It's moving west-northwest at about 13 miles an hour. And the forecast track, you may be interested in this. By the way, it's pretty far away. I mean, it's out there by the Cape Verde Islands which is just off the coast of Africa.

Here is the forecast track from the National Hurricane Center bringing it to category three status probably today or tonight and then weakening it somewhat. Notice the quick turn towards the north. This is making a northward turn before it even has a chance to stay on what we call the sub tropical ridge which typically shoots these things to the west. So I think one of the reasons for that may be because it started and got its act together so close to Africa.

All right. A little bit closer to home. What's going on across the Northeast? Well, you're in for a bit of a wet pattern. It's going to include many of the major, metropolitan areas, from New York to Philly back to D.C.. Area of low pressure right here moving very slowly up the coastline. And that will meet consistent east winds off the ocean, keeping things rather cool and rather moist for folks who live in New York City. So just be aware of that.

Also on the moist side, across parts of Texas today, it will be cool out west. But temperatures will be, as mentioned, cool in New York. 70 in New York. 66 degrees in Boston. 77 degrees in Chicago. Heat is starting to rebuild across parts of Dallas and Houston. Temps there will be in the lower 90s. Shuttle coming home tomorrow night. Hopefully, we'll have a smooth landing at Cape Canaveral.

John, Kiran, back up to you.

CHETRY: All right. Sounds good. Thanks, Rob.

ROBERTS: Remember a couple of years ago, when our Dr. Sanjay Gupta was in Iraq, there was an emergency. They asked him to scrub in to perform an operation. Well, he's in Afghanistan this week and guess what, it happened again. Forty-six and a half minutes after the hour.



ROBERTS: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. Our Dr. Sanjay Gupta has been reporting from the war zone in Afghanistan all week. And today, we have a happy update to bring you on the two-year- old boy named Malik. Dr. Gupta was in the E.R. as the toddler was rushed in with a massive brain injury. He had fallen down a hill and struck his head. We're thrilled to tell you, Dr. Gupta saw little Malik and he is showing surprisingly good progress.

And this morning, we're "Paging Dr. Gupta" again where he is reporting from inside an Afghan E.R. and get this, while covering a story about a doctor from his hometown, they asked Sanjay to scrub in because they were one surgeon short.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One, two, three.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): U.S. Army major Augustus Brown is the only vascular surgeon for the entire country of Afghanistan.

DR. AUGUSTUS BROWN, VASCULAR SURGEON: Probably an antipersonnel mine that he stepped on. And basically amputated his legs. His feet were gone. And we completed the amputations.

GUPTA: Brown is 43 years old, and he's a long way from home. The same hometown as mine which makes this all the more personal.

BROWN: The deal was when they need you for whatever they need you, go. That's it.

GUPTA: The go call came January 29th, and there has been no rest for this battlefield surgeon.

(on camera): We're here in one of the trauma bays of a cath roll 3 (ph) hospital . It's an unusually quiet moment, but I wanted to give you an idea of the numbers here which gives you a reflection of what's happening here in Kandahar, what's happening in Afghanistan. On average, they usually see about 80 patients a month, mainly traumatic patients. By April, it's 100 a month, and take a look at August, roughly 230 patients a month. And I think by fall the numbers will increase even more.

They asked me to help out. They needed four surgeons. They only have three. This is what happens when they have a hospital as busy as this. One of your children was born while you were deployed.

BROWN: That's true.

GUPTA: How do you deal with that?

BROWN: It is a sacrifice to my family, but it's a privilege.

GUPTA: When you had to say goodbye to your wife and many kids. You have lots of kids like I do, tell me about that conversation.

BROWN: It was hardest for my son. And the oldest is six years old. That's always hard. There's no silver lining on that. He gave me a good luck charm. It's a little stuffed dog. It's in my uniform and I always go with it. The promise was as long as I keep it on, I'll be safe.


GUPTA: It's worth pointing out Dr. Brown is a reservist. They typically spend about 90 days here, and then they were asked do they want to stay longer. Dr. Brown was asked that question and decided he wanted to stay a year. Also I want to show you some video that really boosted the morale of everyone back here. This is a video of Malik.

Take a look at him. As you remember there was some concern that he wouldn't even survive the operation. He is surviving, and he is even starting to make some progress with the strength on the left side of his body. We'll continue to have updates on him all week long. John and Kiran, back to you.

ROBERTS: Good news from Dr. Gupta in the war zone. And you can see more exclusive reporting from Sanjay on "AC 360," live from the battle zone in Afghanistan all this week at 10:00 p.m. Eastern, 7:00 Pacific. Eight minutes now to the top of the hour.



CHETRY: Five minutes before the top of the hour now. Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning.

You know, although a lot of people here in the U.S. flock to tanning salons to get a golden glow to make their skin darker, across India the demand for skin whiteners is soaring. And it's not just women who want the products, it's guys, too, looking for that fair skin that advertisers say that women swoon over.

Our Sarah Sidner has the story now from New Delhi. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This television commercial is sending out a not so subtle message to men in Asia. One actor says I'm unlucky because of my face. Not because of your face, because of the color of your face, the other says. Then he throws him a skin whitening cream. You get her just like that, referring to the girl they were staring at and indeed after putting on the cream he does, in the ad anyway.

Skin whiteners once mostly targeted to women in India are now being advertised to men from some of the world's best known cosmetic brands. A marketing study found sales for skin whitening have jumped more than 100 percent in rural India.

JAWED HABIB, SALON CHAIN OWNER: That's the most important.

SIDNER: Jawed Habib says he knows why. He runs 140 unisex salons in India and around the world.

HABIB: We always have a complex towards the white skin, towards the foreign skin or foreign hair.

SIDNER: In recent years Indians have gained more disposable income than ever before and Habib says guys are not shy about spending it on their looks.

HABIB: They are trying everything.

SIDNER (on camera): Men used to be embarrassed about this sort of thing.

HABIB: Not anymore. I don't think so. I think nowadays they are very conscious to look nicer.

DEEPAK RAJPUT, DELHI RESIDENT: Why not? Everybody wants to look good. Everybody wants to look handsome, beautiful. Why not me?

SIDNER (voice-over): But in a country where most people have brown skin, the message being sent to men and women by these skin whitening advertisements has some outraged.

BRIDAD KARAT, MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT: Basically, I mean, it's - I think it's completely racist and highly objectionable.

SIDNER: Bridad Karat is a member of India's Parliament and has complained about the ads to Indian authorities. We contacted three major producers, (INAUDIBLE) Unilever and (INAUDIBLE) did not respond.

Skin care company which sells in Pakistan did, say they are just giving the public what it wants.

Still, critics argue these commercials are simply reinforcing a stereotype that India should be trying to shed, not encourage.

(END VIDEOTAPE) SIDNER: One of the advertisers wrote us just a few moments ago and basically they said, look, in our part of the world, meaning Asia, people want fair skin and that is their right. I guess it just depends on what you think looks good -- Kiran.

CHETRY: That's very interesting. As we said it's just so interesting that here in the U.S. and here in the States, people are always trying to be more tan, and want a golden, you know - they want to be golden brown. And there it's the opposite.

SIDNER: The grass is always greener.

CHETRY: Very true. Sara, thanks.

ROBERTS: Or lighter.


ROBERTS: Or darker, as the case may be.

CHETRY: Yes, exactly.