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American Morning

Obama Seeks New Afghanistan Approach; Soldier Relives Fort Hood Attack

Aired November 12, 2009 - 08:00   ET


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you. It's Thursday, November 12th. Welcome to AMERICAN MORNING. I'm Kiran Chetry.

T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning to you all. I'm TJ Holmes, sitting in today for John Roberts.

Here are some of the big stories we'll be telling you about in the next 15 minutes. Options -- the president wants more of them when it comes to a war strategy in Afghanistan. He sent his National Security team back to the drawing board yesterday. We're live at the White House where the president appears to be looking for a way out of the war.

CHETRY: There are also brand-new developments this morning in the case of the American dad trying to get back his children who his ex-wife abducted and took to Japan. This morning, Japanese officials have essentially dropped all charges against Christopher Savoie, but a big challenge remains. Will he ever be able to see his kids again?

HOLMES: And a CNN exclusive, a survivor of the Fort Hood shooting speaks to our Dr. Sanjay Gupta and relives those moments when the gunman opened fire.


SPC. LOGAN BURNETTE, US ARMY: He stood up, screamed "Allahu Akbar," and then just started shooting.


BURNETTE: He did. At the top of his lungs.

GUPTA: "God is great"?

BURNETTE: Yes. It was like he just stood up and began firing on all of us, and then taking steps and re-loading and firing again -- and reloading and firing again.


HOLMES: And you will hear more from that Army specialist, Logan Burnett, and how he survived that harrowing encounter.

Meanwhile, after eight months -- eight meetings rather and months of agonizing over the war in Afghanistan, it's back to the drawing board, essentially, for President Obama's national security team -- their four options for a troop surge rejected in their forum yesterday by the president. He wants any future ideas to include a way out of the war. And now, America's ambassador to Afghanistan, a retired and respected three-star general is raising doubts about the wisdom of sending any reinforcements at all.

Our Jill Dougherty is live at the White House for us this morning.

Jill, he's not necessarily rejecting the idea of sending more U.S. forces, but he doesn't want to send them without knowing how they're going to be getting out and when they're going to be getting out.


You know, this is really -- the concept shift is this: that the president is really focusing on the other side of this, the end game. How do they eventually hand over to the Afghans this effort to win this conflict? And it's really hinging on these doubts and concerns that are being expressed about the government of Hamid Karzai, which has, awash in allegations of corruption and mismanagement.

So, the president says to his team, his national security team, "Go back, look at this, and give me the idea of how and then when U.S. troops could hand over."

A senior U.S. official tells CNN, that essentially, there are two sticking points. One of them would be a time line, but the other one is definitely, how does the government of Hamid Karzai step up to the plate? Is it capable of doing that?

Also, CNN talked with General Petraeus and he said, even though all of this is going on, that the president is getting closer to a decision.

Let's listen to what he said.


GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, CMDR., U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: We are, indeed, nearing a decision on this very important topic. And I think it's very, very essential that we recall why it is that we are in Afghanistan. And that is no ensure that that country does not once again become a sanctuary or safe haven for al Qaeda and the kind of transnational extremists that carried out the 9/11 attacks.


DOUGHERTY: But what's coming from the White House, too, is that the U.S. commitment is not open-ended -- T.J.

HOLMES: Well, Jill, we got reports out there about the U.S. ambassador in Afghanistan actually saying he doesn't want to see a troop surge of any kind for those reasons you mentioned -- about that government, about the corruption, about the instability there.

So, is the White House saying anything about the comments from one of their top guys in Afghanistan?

DOUGHERTY: Well, officially, they are not, because these are certainly classified documents. As they say, here's what came out from Tommy Vietor from the White House. "We won't discuss classified documents publicly, but as we have said for months, success in Afghanistan depends on having a true partner in the Afghan government."

And that's a very clear statement of what they're talking about. Success can only come about if the other side, if the Afghans, can take over and really win this.

HOLMES: All right. Jill Dougherty at the White House for us this morning -- Jill, we appreciate you so much.

And coming up in 10 minutes, we'll be breaking down a lot of these developments on Afghanistan with Daniel Markey. He's a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. He used to work for the State Department and is just back from Afghanistan as well as Pakistan. Also, we're going to be talking to Colonel Andrew Bacevich. He's a military historian and professor of international relations at Boston University. The two men see this thing very differently.

CHETRY: Four minutes passed the hour. It's time to take a look at the other stories new this morning.

It was a wild scene after a Mexican town took matters into its own hands. Hundreds of people are tossing rocks and gasoline at a town hall Tuesday. They were hoping to get at four men accused of trying to kidnap a local businessman. Police used tear gas to break up the crowd. The four men were quickly ushered out of town.

HOLMES: Also, a developing story this morning. Japan dropping all charges against an American father accused of kidnapping his own children. You'll remember, Christopher Savoie's ex-wife broke the law and fled there with their two kids. Earlier, Kiran spoke exclusively to Christopher Savoie and his wife, Amy, about what they're going to do next.


CHETRY: Are you in communication with your ex-wife? And is there a chance that something can be worked out, a split custody agreement, despite what has happened?

CHRISTOPHER SAVOIE, FATHER OF ABDUCTED CHILDREN: I think there could be, but I think that the main principle we have to have here is that we had a custody agreement. This is not a custody fight. There is a custody agreement that was agreed to in the United States that my ex-wife ignored, completely, and broke federal and state laws in order to ignore.


HOLMES: And Christopher Savoie said he also fears that if Japan does not change its ways, his children will grow up without a father.

CHETRY: Belligerent, defensive, and argumentative -- that's how one military official described Fort Hood shooting suspect, Major Nidal Hasan, as a psychiatrist in training. New reports are saying the doctors overseeing his training did raise concerns about his extremely strong religious views and also his odd behavior in the months before investigators say he fired on fellow soldiers. But the group overseeing his training reportedly saw no evidence that Hasan could turn violent.

HOLMES: Well, for the first time, we are hearing exclusive details about what really happened at Fort Hood.

CHETRY: Yes. For those who actually survived it themselves.


CHETRY: Our Dr. Sanjay Gupta spoke with one of the soldiers who was targeted, shot, and lived to tell about it.


BURNETTE: I got down once the shots were fired, out of instinct. And, you know, I didn't know what to think, but seeing bullet wounds in the back of a friend's head, seeing, you know, friends grabbing their arms and blood just everywhere.


BURNETTE: It's a -- it's a pretty hard thing to see. And not having any way of defending yourself.

GUPTA: You saw a bullet in the back of your friend's head?


GUPTA (voice-over): Authorities now say it was Major Nidal Hasan who was pulling the trigger, spraying those bullets, killing Specialist Burnette's fellow soldiers.

(on camera): What did he look like? And was he -- did he look angry? Did he look mad?

BURNETTE: Serious and intent. He stood up and screamed "Allahu Akbar" and then just started shooting.

GUPTA: He screamed "Allahu Akbar."

BURNETTE: He did, at the top of his lungs.

GUPTA: "God is great."

BURNETTE: Yes. It was like he just stood up and began firing on all of us, and then taking steps and reloading and firing again -- and reloading and firing again.

GUPTA (voice-over): Burnette had been hit and he didn't even know it. He was crawling away, but the gunman kept coming closer, kept firing. Burnette felt hunted.

BURNETTE: And I was crawling, he hit me in the elbow and once again...

GUPTA: So, you're crawling away and he's shooting at you?

BURNETTE: Yes. As well as other people who were already on the ground.

GUPTA: What did it feel like to get shot?

BURNETTE: I didn't know I'd really been hit in the hip. I knew my leg wasn't working right for some reason, so I didn't know where I gotten hit. I could see visually my arm. I could see my pinkie. And I saw that when my arm got hit, I was already on the ground.

GUPTA: And here's what happened next -- just a few minutes later, doctors here at Metroplex got a call that eight wounded soldiers were going to come in through this emergency room. They quickly determined that Logan Burnette was one of the most serious and off to the operating room he went.

Let's take a look.

The bullet came very close to his blood vessels, though?


GUPTA: If it had been just a little bit further back?

BURBRIDGE: If it would have been one inch further back. It would have taken out the blood vessels to his leg and he very could have bled to death right there.

GUPTA: Specialist Burnette has had two operations, and he has more to come. He is beaten. He is battered. But he as also told me he has had time to think.

There's a brotherhood, a sisterhood, that I've always seen when I've traveled, the military all over the world. Your brother takes a shot at you?

BURNETTE: Right. Three times and shoots at all your other brothers. It's a -- it's definitely a strange feeling.

GUPTA: What do you think should happen to him?

BURNETTE: I'd like to make sure one way or the other he can never hurt anybody else.

GUPTA (voice-over): Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, Fort Hood, Texas.


HOLMES: All right.

CHETRY: It's just amazing.


HOLMES: Yes. To hear -- we've been hearing so much and details starting to trickle out, but we're starting to hear more and more directly from the folks over there.

CHETRY: Yes. And just how quickly -- I mean, in the worst- case scenario, about the stopping and the reloading, stopping and reloading...


CHETRY: ... and the fact that so many were able to survive because of the quick thinking of their fellow soldiers.


We'll hear more stories out of Fort Hood and try to get more answers about why it happened in the first place.

But also, some answers about Afghanistan coming up. What should the president do? We're going to be talking to two men, a strategy debate -- two men who see things very differently about the way forward.

Stay with us.


HOLMES: I'm going to get back to our top story now. Two big developments that could affect the future of the war in Afghanistan: The president sending his national security advisors, essentially, back to the drawing board, he wants ideas for an exit strategy for the war; and reports that the U.S. ambassador to Kabul is sending top- secret memos warning against any troop increase.

Here to break it all down for us: Daniel Markey, the senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. He used to work for the State Department. He's just back from Afghanistan and Pakistan. He's with us in Washington.

And also, Professor Andrew Bacevich, a military historian and professor of international relations at Boston University. Also, his son killed while serving in Iraq in 2007.

Gentleman, thank you both for coming in and spending your time.

Mr. Markey, I will just start with you.

I'm going to get both of your reactions essentially to the developments we saw last night.

And, Mr. Markey, tell me -- what do you think now, after all these months and all these meetings, that the president still not quite to the point, he wants to go with one of these options on the table? What's your reaction to the overnight developments?

DANIEL MARKEY, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Well, I'm not all that surprised by the idea that there would be another delay. It looks to me like a delay of more like weeks, not months. As you know, the president is on his way out to Asia. So, he was unlikely to make a call immediately, under any circumstances.

But I'm pleased about the point that are -- the points that are being raised by the ambassador. I think the political side of this campaign was always the weakest one. And while they come pretty late in the process, I think it really is important that we try to find a firmer political foundation in Afghanistan, and Karzai has repeatedly shown himself not to be wanting to play that role of a firm foundation for our efforts.

HOLMES: Well, Professor Bacevich, how did you see it?

ANDREW BACEVICH, PROFESSOR, BOSTON UNIVERSITY: Well, you know, it strikes me that although it's at the 11th hour, perhaps we're finally going to have an authentic debate at Afghanistan. I mean, if you think about it, the so-called "four options" that the president has had under consideration really become one option in the sense that they're simply variations on a theme. How many troops, how much hard power should we use to try to pacify Afghanistan? It sounds like the president is not persuaded that pacifying Afghanistan using hard power is the answer.

So, I'm hopeful that this rejection of the four options might actually produce a real alternative that will give us a real debate.

HOLMES: And, Professor Bacevich, how do you essentially see it? It's that we need to re-examine how we're viewing Afghanistan, which along the way, we have viewed it as it's necessary to the future national security of this country, to the U.S. Do you think we need to re-examine that question?

BACEVICH: Absolutely. I mean, let us go -- let us ask the basic question. And the basic question is: what's the threat? The answer to that question is: the threat is violent anti-western jihadism.

Will the pacification of Afghanistan eliminate that threat? Will it even appreciably reduce that threat? It seems to me the answer is clearly "no," and therefore, anybody who contemplates spending hundreds of billions of dollars and sacrificing hundreds, if not thousands, of American lives, is really promoting a policy option that really doesn't get to the heart of the matter.

HOLMES: Well, let me get Mr. Markey in here on that point. Do you think the answer is clearly "no" as well? Do we need to look at this as possibly -- I mean, a lot of people can't imagine the idea of thinking that Afghanistan and its security down the road is not a matter of national security for this country. You see it as clearly, no, the way the professor just said?

MARKEY: No, actually, I disagree with professor Bacevich on this point. I think that if we look at Afghanistan, we see a place that if left returned to its pre-9/11 conditions or anything similar to that would pretty likely return to a place that could provide safe haven to a variety of international terrorist groups, including, but not limited to Al Qaeda and would potentially also prove destabilizing to its nearest neighbor, to Pakistan, which is also of serious concern to the united states and poses direct threats to American interests, not least because Pakistan has nuclear weapons, but it also has entrenched terrorist networks that I think would avail themselves of future safe haven in Afghanistan if we were to let up the pressure.

HOMES: Well gentleman, last thing to both of you. What are the delays doing now to the process? What some people are calling delays. You know, the President's on his own timetable, he can take his time. But a lot of people say this is delay, the process is being stretched out, and now there seems to be a riff within the administration at the highest ranks about what should be done. So what is that going to do moving forward, just the fact that the process has got a bit messy. Last question to both of you but Mr. Markey, you start?

MARKEY: Yes, I actually don't have a problem with these delays. In a lot of ways, the political situation in Kabul is so messy right now; the elections were such a disaster. I don't have a problem with continued uncertainty in Washington until they start to smooth out the politics and find a strategy for really providing some serious leverage over Afghanistan and over President Karzai in particular to change the way that he does business there. So a few more weeks is not a problem.

HOMES: Professor Bacevich?

BACEVICH: I agree. I mean, I don't care how long it takes the president to make his decision, as long as the decision he makes is a wise one. I would simply emphasize that the core question that the President should focus on is not what is is -- what should be the fate of Afghanistan. Rather, the core question is, what strategy should the United States pursue in order to reduce the threat posed by violent Jihadism? That answer is not going to be found by spending $500 billion in Afghanistan.

HOMES: All right, well Daniel Markey, Professor Bacevich, we appreciate both of you. Certainly, both of you have some expertise and insights into this in an intimate way. So we appreciate hearing two different sides on this issues. Gentleman, thank you so much, you all enjoy the rest of your day.

MARKEY: Thank you.

BACEVICH: Thank you. CHETRY: 18 minutes past the hour right now. If you're thinking of donating this year, you need to consider Uncle Sam and its stunning how many millions they've gotten already. We'll explain, still ahead.


CHETRY: I'm sorry I love Taylor Swift. She rocks.

HOMES: I do now. After the whole incident before. That whole thing, I'm a huge Taylor Swift thing.

CHETRY: Yes. Then she had to perform that whole thing on the subway and she did it even though she was so nervous, poor thing. Well anyway, she won, she's 19 years old, and she's adorable. She won four country music awards last night in Nashville, including the biggy. This is the one Kenny Chesney gets a lot. That's Kenny Chesney by the way on the top left. But she won it. The youngest ever to win that prize. The song was, by the way Kenny's song, "She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy." By the way, have you ever ridden on a tractor?

HOMES: I have. At my Aunt's farm. Seriously, this is for real.

CHETRY: And you don't like country music?

HOMES: Not much.

CHETRY: Anyway.

HOMES: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) on the tractor.

CHETRY: OK, well, they go hand in hand at times. Let's listen to Taylor Swift when she accepted the award.


TAYLOR SWIFT, SINGER: I'll never forget this moment, because in this moment, everything that I have ever wanted has just happened to me.


HOMES: That's awesome.

CHETRY: I know. She's such a great girl. Well, Swift was able to get through her thank yous without interruption. Well, Kanye West was not in the building. In fact co - host Brad Pay zinc, Carrie Underwood jokingly opened the show with "Mamma Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Kanye."

HOMES: Uh - huh, you know what, I'm sorry, deserved it.

CHETRY: I was going to say -

HOMES: It was good fun -

CHETRY: There you go.

HOMES: It was in good fun last night. Christine Romans here with us this morning, good morning to you.


HOMES: You look different from when we saw you earlier?

ROMANS: I changed my hair a little bit.

CHETRY: That's what we ladies do; just change your hair a little.

HOMES: Change it between segments. OK, but hello. This got everybody talking about this morning. Talking about what you would do with your money if you wanted to give it away to charity. This is the last person people would want to give it to. The last thing people would -


ROMANS: I know these people get enough of my bleep money, right? This is Uncle Sam. CNN money has found there is this little -- known provision where you can donate to charity, the charity being the national debt. You can give money back to the government to try to pay down that debt. Now that debt right now stands at -- if you can't read that, folks -- that's $11.9 trillion and counting, in fact, counting so much that since I made that graphic, it's more than that right now. But $11.9 trillion is our outstanding national debt. So you and your family can simply decide to, you know, write a check to Uncle Sam at the end of the year.

In 2009, $3.1 million came into the coffers from people who decided they wanted to give a little back, give a gift to Uncle Sam to try and pay that number down. You could see how the number has pretty wildly varied over the past ten years or so. But look, see, there you go.

HOMES: Who are these people?

ROMANS: You can give to the poor -- most of the people give $100. In 1994, somebody gave I think $3.5 million. But most of the people give just $100. There are people -- some of them are States. When they settle an estate, they realize that the person has designated a little bit of money to pay down the national debt.

CHETRY: It's almost like taking your money and throwing it into a huge, black hole, isn't it?

ROMANS: No, really how much is your $100 going to eat away. Personally I would prefer to use the ballot box. My vote is more powerful because maybe we could rule down the national debt better by voting for people who have an idea that you can't just keep raising the debts. But you have to, you know; try to spend within your means.

HOMES: And I assume you can write it off, just like any other -- ROMANS: It's tax deductible. It's tax deductible. Would you do it? I mean, don't know if personal finance experts would recommend that you should do it. You should probably pay down your credit card debt before you pay down the national debt. But it is a very big number. And who knew. A little-known 1961 law, you can donate to charity, the needy, that's Uncle Sam.

HOMES: That's Uncle Sam.

CHETRY: They are needy. We know that.


ROMANS: It's true. True. And my Roman's numeral is five.

HOMES: Five.

ROMANS: Because I wanted to put this in perspective a little bit about -- hmm, five. It gives you an idea of the scope.

CHETRY: Is it a number -- a dollar amount?

ROMANS: This is -- number five has to do -- this is five people a week actually give money to Uncle Sam. Most people don't --

CHETRY: We all give money to Uncle Sam every day.

ROMANS: I stand corrected. We've all just given money to Uncle Sam right now. Yes, you're right, donating specifically to the charity that is our national debt. Isn't that interesting?

HOMES: It is.

ROMANS: I think it's really interesting that somebody believes in it so much, they fork over money to pay the national debt. Most of us think of the national debt as some big number that's kind of like - out there. We don't know what it means and how we're going to pay for it. But, some people really believe in it enough that they --

HOMES: You feel like you're helping out and it's patriotic, maybe. A lot of people think.

ROMANS: Maybe, maybe. I'd say a food bank would probably get more bang for your buck in the very near-term.

HOMES: All right. You heard it here, folks. Thank you, Christine Romans, and you can stay with us because coming up at 9:15 eastern; President Obama will make a statement about the economy before he heads off to Asia. You can see that right here on CNN. Also check that out on

CHETRY: And also, we are very pleased about our next guest. Let me take out this autograph request. Please sign for Michelle. This is Andre Agassi's new autobiography, Open, it's really fascinating. It's actually pretty hard to put down. He just really talks about everything, whether it's some problems he had with drug use, some of the bitterness about how he felt about the game of tennis. Even bad hair days. Guys have them too. He is going to be joining us to talk much more about this, Andre Agassi with us, autobiography, in just a few minutes. Its 26 minutes past the hour


CHETRY: 28 minutes past the hour now. Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. Some are asking if we're seeing the beginning of a Republican resurgence. And if that's true, well, there's one man that may help lead the way.

HOMES: He's the House Minority Whip, Eric Cantor. He's outspoken, has an eye on the future of the Party, and Brianna Keilar has her eye on him lately in part four of our a.m. original series, GOP: The Next Chapter. Good morning again, Brianna.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, T.J. and Kiran. As you know, Eric Cantor is this fresh GOP face, in part because he looks younger than his 46 years. He's a tireless politician, he's careful, his message and image, tightly controlled. And spending time with Cantor, you really get the sense that nothing about his steady rise in the Republican Party has been an accident.


And yours, Eric Cantor!

KEILER (voice over): When Republicans swept the top three offices in Democratic - leading Virginia last week --

REP. ERIC CANTOR, (R), and MINORITY WHIP: The Republican resurgence begins again tonight!

KEILER: We followed Congressman Eric Cantor to his hometown of Richmond. He rallied the Republican troops --

CANTOR: Thanks for what you're doing.

KEILER: -- with an eye towards next year's congressional elections.

CANTOR: We're going to take them all and work here in Virginia. So we can unite our Party and begin to appeal to independents with solutions that affect our everyday lives.

KEILER: Jumping from one interview to the next, cantor shows why as the House's number two Republican, he's his Party most visible Congressman. It's been 18 years since this lawyer left his family's real estate business to enter politics as a state legislator.

This is where your political career started?

CANTOR: This is right here, we're right on the grounds of the Capital of Virginia.

KEILER: The future of his party Cantor says depends on returning to its roots of fiscal discipline and delivering a positive message.

CANTOR: And it really is about that optimism that the people are looking for again. And what they hear coming out of Washington is not that.

KEILAR: Back in Washington, where he's nearing his tenth year in Congress, cantor says he's trying to sell real-world solutions to kitchen table issues.

CANTOR: Because people are afraid. They're afraid that their future won't be anywhere near what their past was. They're afraid that their kids are not going to have as good of a life as they have.

KEILAR: As a father of three, Cantor says those concerns hit home, where you may be surprised to learn, he keeps the enemy close.

Your wife is a Democrat?

CANTOR: Yes. But I think I'm working her over. We've almost been married 20 years. But again, she is very much on different sides of some issues than I am.

KEILAR: As Minority Whip, cantor's job is to keep Republicans in line on votes. One of the party's biggest fundraisers, House Republicans repay him with loyalty, helping him deliver big results, including a unanimous House Republican vote against President Obama's stimulus package in February.

Before this past weekend's big vote on health care reform, he strategized with one of his deputy vote counters. But trying to overcome an 81-vote disadvantage even for the disciplined Eric Cantor...

CANTOR: OK, bye-bye.

KEILAR: ... can be tough.


KEILAR: Now, talking with sources on Capitol Hill, including Republicans, many wonder privately if Cantor can deliver. He surrounds himself with a team of aides that are very effective at promoting their boss. Expectations are very high. So, Kiran and T.J., the question is, can Eric Cantor meet those expectations?

CHETRY: And then, of course, people are also asking, is he going to be running for president somewhere down the road?

KEILAR: Certainly the natural question. And before Sarah Palin was announced as John McCain's running mate, there was some buzz that Cantor was being vetted, though later reports seemed to dispel that buzz. So I asked him, 2012, he said, "I'm not intending to run for president." I said, 2016? He said, "I'm not running for president, not intending to running for president."

But whispers on the hill that he has the eye on the speakership of the house should the Republicans reclaim the majority.

CHETRY: Brianna Keilar for us this morning, thanks.

HOLMES: I want to check some of our top stories now.

Virginia is under a state of emergency because of drenching rains from the remnants of tropical storm Ida and a coastal nor'easter. The governor Tim Laine putting agencies on alert, telling them to be ready for heavy flooding.

Our Rob Marciano is telling us up to eight inches could fall before the storm moves north tomorrow.

CHETRY: The Colorado couple who told the world that their son had flown away in a runaway balloon will plead guilty tomorrow morning for trying to pull off that hoax.

An attorney for Richard Heene says that his client will admit committing the felony offense of attempting to influence a public servant. His wife Myumi will plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of false reporting to an authority.

Both face jail time. The prosecutor, though, is recommending probation.

HOLMES: Mike Tyson, retired Boxer, but still fighting according to some, this time in an airport. The former boxing champ is in the back of that car there, arrested after a scuffle at Los Angeles International Airport.

Police say he punched a member of the paparazzi in the head, sent him to the floor. The photographer only had a cut on his head. So I guess Tyson doesn't have the right cross he used to.

Both men have been charged with misdemeanor battery.

Turning back to a story we've been following a lot over the past really weeks and months, swine flu. And the vaccines, they're in pretty short supply, and an outbreak is on the move. A federal official telling CNN this morning around 4,000 people are now dead because of this H1N1 flu, that number four times higher than previously thought.

Bring in senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen to explain. Elizabeth, why the huge jump?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: It sounds so scary, doesn't it? And so I think it's important for us to say right here that this isn't about the virus being anymore virulent, it's not anymore deadly. T.J., it's kind of an accounting issue. In the past, what they've done, they've just looked at cases that were laboratory confirmed H1N1, where it was clear, there was a test. But what they haven't really included, at least as they've made their press conferences, are the numbers where it looks like swine flu, doctors are sure it's swine flu, but they never actually did the tests.

So you've heard hear people say, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's a duck. Now they're sort of saying if it walks like swine flu and oinks like swine flu, then we're pretty convinced it's swine flu, and that's why the numbers are going up.

HOLMES: I guess that's one way to put it. The numbers may go up, and we see this with seasonal flu as well. We see thousands, tens of thousands, really, every year die of it.

But what's really been concerning, talking to the doctors, is exactly who is dying from this H1N1.

COHEN: Right, there's a huge difference in the population that's dying from the H1N1 compared to the folks who die usually of regular seasonal flu.

Take a look at these numbers. They are really telling. With seasonal flu, 90 percent of the people who die are age 65 and older. Flip it around. With H1N1, 90 percent of the die are 65 or younger.

Now, it's no one saying that, of course, it's tragic when anyone dies, but it is different when you're seeing 20 and 30-year-olds die than when you're seeing 95-year-olds die. It's a different situation.

HOLMES: All right. We appreciate the perspective, because these numbers are scary. Elizabeth Cohen for us this morning. Good to see you. Thank you so much.

COHEN: Thanks.

CHETRY: Well, still ahead, this is a great book. It's hard to put down. It's Andre Agassi's autobiography. It's called "Open." He really opens up about a lot of things in his life, the highs and the lows and what lessons he's learned. He's going to be joining us live in just a couple of minutes to talk about this.

It's 36 minutes past the hour.


CHETRY: It's 39 minutes past the hour. Welcome become to the Most News in the Morning.

For years he absolutely dominated the world of tennis. But in his new book, Andre Agassi admits that he actually hated the game.

HOLMES: Yes. Can you believe that? The memoir is called "Open," an autobiography. And Agassi is also opening up about using crystal meth and a whole lot more. He is here for the "A.M." breakdown, the man himself, Andre Agassi. Good morning to you.


HOLMES: Good to see you.

AGASSI: Thanks for having me.

AGASSI: Can you imagine the reaction this book may have gotten. I listen to a lot of sports radio and watch a lot of ESPN and it's been pretty harsh.

AGASSI: It has been, but to some degree it doesn't really surprise me. You got to remember, I've spent years processing a lot of these mistakes in my life, and it would be hard for somebody to put it in context over a headline. It's a body of work which happens to be my life.

It was a portion of 1997, but at the end of the day, the anger and disappointment, I've turned that on myself for a lot of years.

CHETRY: It's interesting, though, because when people write their autobiography, sometimes you want to gloss over the worst of it and you want it to be almost like a lesson. You know, people can learn from your experience, draw inspiration.

But you were just brutally honest in this book about so many things, your ups and your downs. Did you debate it within yourself when you thought I'm going to put pen to paper and write this, about how much you were going to tell the world?

AGASSI: Well, it wasn't an option. The alternative I didn't consider, because you know the stories of your life. Everybody has all these stories about their life. But what is your actual story? What is your message?

And I always felt like my story was pretty inspirational to people who knew parts of it. I fell to 141 in the world, I came back to number one. But the truth is, I climbed Mt. Everest, but I was starting at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, and I think there was some real power in it.

And if my experiences can help those people who wake up in a life that they didn't choose for themselves or wake up in a life that they find themselves in, or wake up in a marriage they don't want to be, kids that are looking to find a way and make sense, adults labeling them.

And if I can help somebody avoid those pitfalls or get through some of that or give them the tools to move on with their lives, I'd be -- I'd consider it a huge success.

HOLMES: The book is called "Open." I don't think anybody who's reading it or has read it or looked at it has any question. You've been quite open in this book. But a lot of the criticism has been you should have been open back then.


HOLMES: Why did you not? Once you failed that drug test, why didn't you come out and tell people then and own up to it versus now in a book that some say -- that thing has gotten a lot of headlines, people are interested and you're going to sell a lot of books for it, but why not then?

AGASSI: Because I was ashamed, to put it bluntly. I didn't know what to do. It was a time in my life that I had no one to turn to and confide in at the time. Nobody knew about this, even in my personal life. And like most people in life, one mistake tends to lead to other mistakes.

But from that day, from that day moving forward, I feel like my life was an atonement for it, because I said to myself, you know, how many people really get a second chance? And that second chance, I've lived with a pretty heavy weight as a result.

And it was never something I could come out with in a press release. It's nothing that anybody could understand in an article. It's taken me 400 pages to take somebody through the journey and the context of my life.

I lied because I was ashamed and I tried to figure out what I'm going to do about it every day from then.

CHETRY: Another interesting and fascinating admission in the book is about whether or not you even really like tennis at all. You talked about how this was sort of forced upon you. Your dad wanted you to succeed. It was not an option. It was his single-minded purpose, not yours, even at a very young age.

And you write, "I hate tennis, hate it with all my heart, and still keep playing, keep hitting all morning and all afternoon because I have no choice."

What was that like for you, not necessarily choosing what became your career and what you were known for?

AGASSI: Well, you know, in that contradiction between what I want to do and what I have to do felt like the core of my life as a little boy.

I always played for other reasons. Early I played for my father. Through a lot of just straight fear -- not fear of abuse, but just fear of letting somebody down that really wanted this for the family, wanted this for me.

Then I go to this academy, which I kind of refer to as a glorified prison, and I find myself trying to succeed to get out of there, rebelling in many ways. But the way out is to win.

And then all of a sudden I'm on the world strange carrying out my teenage rebellions in front of the world.

And I just always kind of felt trapped by tennis. And it wasn't until I was 27 years old, 141 in the world, and I literally said, I have no reason to play anymore. I can quit, I can move on.

But I said, you what I'm going to do, I'm going to choose it. For the first time in my life, I'm going to choose my life. And that started a trend for me that led me to my school that I built, and all of a sudden I'm playing for a team back home that I'm connected to but still much larger to me. All of a sudden tennis gave me my wife.

CHETRY: Steffi Graph, for people who don't know. And you have two beautiful kids.

AGASSI: Yes. And I felt the scales being balanced. All of a sudden the price came with some good. And so I don't have a love/hate relationship with tennis, I have a hate/love relationship with tennis.

HOLMES: Did Tennis, the USTA back, do you think they had an interest as well in making sure some of this stuff didn't come out? Were there ever those discussions quite frankly that you know of, talking about keeping this quiet, because you were at the time certainly a golden boy of tennis.

How much damage would it have done to come out then versus it coming out now? People think still now this hurts the game of tennis.

AGASSI: Yes. I wasn't privy to the backroom conversations or what took place. What I do want to emphasize though, we're talking about 1997. We're talking about a pre-era of the sensationalizing of any sorts of drugs in sports, but certainly recreational one.

And in 1999, tennis has always been the pioneer in the testing. We never had to have it, but we did in 1997, but it was in- house. In 1999 we reached out to WADA and said, listen, we need a more comprehensive, sophisticated approach to protect the integrity of our sport. And WADA handles Olympic athletes.

And since that day in 1999 that WADA came on, two years later, I've been tested 150 times, 20 urine samples, 12 blood samples, out of competition testing -- the lengths that the players of my peers of tennis go to to protect that integrity, I think, is really unmatched in sports.

CHETRY: I have to ask you a question about your hair. Because it's what you were also known for, were having this long hair and you say that was part of the facade, that you actually started losing your hair as a teenager right? When you were 17 years old. Why did you think, "I have to wear a hairpiece. I have to keep up this image?"

AGASSI: Well, two reasons. First of all, I watched my brother lose his hair. And for anybody that's lost their hair as a teenager might identify with the panic and the emotional kind of reaction you have to it. It was pretty hard on him. So that left a mark on me. And now you add to that that so much attention was given to my hair, you add to that that so much of my image or the way people thought of me was my hair.

CHETRY: There was the -- look... AGASSI: There we go; those are the pictures I want to see. And so I just flat-out didn't know what to do. I mean, it's like, I'm losing my hair and I didn't know what it would mean to my business, to my career, to what people thought of me and I didn't know what I thought of me.

So every time somebody had an opinion, it's just -- every time I expressed myself, you know, it was exploration and it was treated as if it was true, as you know. And I didn't have that luxury of understanding myself until I was done with my career. And that's why I wanted do this book.

HOLMES: Well, that's a good look. You should keep it always. I remember when you cut it. I was a bigger fan at that point.

AGASSI: Thank you.

HOLMES: That's a good look for you. It works but we appreciate you being here. Good luck with the book.

AGASSI: Thank you.

HOLMES: Really, good luck with it and good luck down the road. I know you've got a lot more probably criticism coming in, but you seem to be taking it in stride and answering all those questions. So that's something to be said for that as well.

AGASSI: Well, I enjoy watching you guys every day, so. Thanks for having me.

HOLMES: And we appreciate it. All right.

CHETRY: Thank you, thanks for coming by.

By the way his book is now available and you can actually read an excerpt of it. It's in the book stores now.

HOLMES: You can also go to our show blog to check out some of those excerpts before you get it. The address is

CHETRY: Don't go anywhere. You have a lot of signing to do now. You've got a lot of lady fans here.

And still ahead, we're going to be talking about extreme weather. There's the southwest especially parts of Virginia getting hit with a lot of watches and warnings. They're dealing with not only the remnants from Ida, but also a Nor'easter coming through; our Rob Marciano tracking all of that for us.

Forty-seven minutes past the hour.


HOLMES: What is that? Is that a mean joke showing a picture of Chicago? I spent eight hours in O'Hare yesterday trying to get out of there; trying to get out of Chicago. CHETRY: Right. What was the problem? Some malfunctions?

HOLMES: Two different planes had safety issues with a door. We boarded, had to de-board, got on the third flight at 9:00 last night and finally got here to Atlanta to be with you lovely folks -- excuse me, to New York.

CHETRY: You don't even know where you are because you got in at 1:00 in the morning and you came in to the building at 4:00, you poor thing. But hey, you know, if this was him on three hours just wait until he gets a full night tonight.

HOLMES: Oh my goodness, just wait until tomorrow.

CHETRY: There's no stopping you as he holds yet another cup of black coffee.

HOLMES: It's tea with a lot of sugar. I appreciate it.

CHETRY: I'll help you out here.

HOLMES: Oh Rob, yes please, it's Rob Marciano who's joining us please.

CHETRY: Just -- could you pause for a minute while T.J. has a little bit more tea. Then you can start your weather forecast.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Don't let me interrupt tea time up there, big guy. I mean, and where was you, you just chatted it up with Andre Agassi. I feel really horrible for you.

HOLMES: No, no, no.

CHETRY: Great guy, a great guy.

MARCIANO: That was a great chat, I enjoyed that very much. A big fan.

Hey guys, check out, go back to your tea, I'll take care of this part.


MARCIANO: High pressure in control across the northeast. And this low is what's left over from Ida, kind of -- of getting a little bit more energy. And the difference is just slamming these folks with wind. I mean, it really is coming down in spots; winds gusting 40 to 50 miles an hour in a couple of places.

As a matter of fact, let's just check it out right now. Virginia Beach, there's climbing in at 50-mile-an-hour winds at some point. You go up through the Delmarva, Bethany Beach to about 47, 49-mile-an- hour winds. And then this doesn't include the storm surge. We're seeing much, much worse storm surge with this than when we did when Ida came on the Gulf of Mexico. As a matter of fact, high tide this morning at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, already the third highest height ever. And I think that'll be worse when we get to later on this afternoon. So certainly an impressive storm on all counts and the rainfall as well, we've seen a lot of inland flooding, 3 to 8 inches of rainfall possible later on today across eastern parts of the Delmarva and the mid-Atlantic.

Not the greatest weather for tennis. Maybe a hot cup of tea would get you through the day.

HOLMES: Yes, you've got a side of crumpets here as well. All right, thank you Rob.

MARCIANO: All right see you guys.

CHETRY: All right, still ahead, we're going to be taking the CNN challenge yet again. This is where you test your news knowledge if you want to get a leg up, go to

But T.J. and I are going to be playing. We're bringing the floor crew in this time. We had to answer too many questions in the last hour. We're going to put their knowledge to the test next.

Fifty-two minutes past the hour.


CHETRY: Five minutes before the top of the hour. We're playing the CNN challenge, And this time we don't have to worry about answering them right. We're going to put our news crew to the test.

HOLMES: This is the lightning round now. I think that belongs to Rick.

CHETRY: That's right.


RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Come on, pick me. Wolf picks the really hard questions. I'm your guy.


HOLMES: Yes, he is our guy.

CHETRY: All right. There you go. So let's do it. We'll hit "start." This is going to get us to the lightning round. And we're going to start now.

You have a certain amount of time on the clock; 90 seconds and we have to go. Who did the senate Democrats invite to lunch to discuss health care? All right, look? You see it? You have to switch the words around?

CHETRY: All right. They got it, c-l-i-n-t-o-n. Submit. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: George Clinton.

CHETRY: It's Bill Clinton. Come on guys. All right, here you go.

HOLMES: What company made an unsuccessful $16.5 billion deal for Cadbury?

CHETRY: Which of these guys? You have drag it and put it in the circle?


CHETRY: Nestle. They Go with Nestle. Submit.

All right. It's too late now.

Let's keep going. The U.S. Unemployment rate rose above 10 percent for the first time since what date? Remember this, guys?


CHETRY: '83. Got it right.

HOLMES: Two out of three isn't bad.

All right. Fort Hood experienced a deadly attack on November 5th. Where is Fort Hood?

CHETRY: You have click on the state. Where is it, guys?


HOLMES: You'll really going to get a talking down if you didn't get that one right.

CHETRY: All right. Here you go, next, we have 34 seconds left. What caused a short circuit in the world's largest particle accelerate, the large hadron collider? What caused it? What caused a short circuit? Oh, my gosh? What is it?

Pass. All right, let's keep going. I love how we pass and it takes us back to the question. It looks like a baguette.

A baguette.

See, it keeps going --

Okay, viewers, you get the idea.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Baguette. You're right.

CHETRY: I said baguette. I was right? It's a baguette?

All right. Let's check the answer. Give it to us.

HOLMES: All right. You get the idea, folks. Play this with your crew at your house as well.

CHETRY: In fact, you can have our crew. Take them home with you and play it with them.

Anyway, it's pretty fun though, as you can see. It's a fun game to play with friends and it's also fun because when you get into some of the later rounds, the anchors are really talking to you and cheering you on and Rick's pretty funny.

HOLMES: Glad we've got an Atlanta-based guy in there. We'll work on that.

It is about two and a half minutes to the top of the hour. Quick break; we'll be right back.


CHETRY: Well, thanks so much for being with us today. We'll see you right back here tomorrow and it'll be Friday.

HOLMES: All right. Heidi Collins, "CNN NEWSROOM" right now.