Return to Transcripts main page

American Morning

The Challenges of Trying Accused Plotters in NYC; General Motors Reports $1.2 Billion Loss; Militias on the Rise in the U.S.; President Obama in China; Why Will Won't Say the Pledge; On the Hunt for Roadside Bombs

Aired November 16, 2009 - 06:59   ET


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to AMERICAN MORNING. It's a Monday. It's November 16th. I'm Kiran Chetry.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you. I'm John Roberts. Thanks for being with us.

Here are the big stories that you'll be seeing in the next 15 minutes or so here in the Most News in the Morning. President Obama taking his message of change to China using a town hall meeting with Chinese students in Shanghai to press the country's leaders on human right. We'll take a look at the challenges that the President is facing on this historic visit. Our John Vause is breaking it down for us this morning from Beijing.

CHETRY: It's been a thorn in President Obama's side since day one. What to do with the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay? This morning, the government is checking out in the Illinois maximum security prison. There's a lot of vacancies at the small town that could use the jobs and the money. We'll hear what locals think about the prospect.

ROBERTS: Plus, ever since President Obama took office, the numbers have been on a sharp rise. Militias in the United States, armed and trained they say they will fight for their rights, but some legal experts are worried that they go too far. It's part one of our a.m. original series, "patriots or extremists?"

CHETRY: We begin the hour now with the President's first ever trip to China. He's now in Beijing to meet with the finest president as well as other Chinese government leaders. Earlier, President Obama courted Chinese students. It was an American-style town hall meeting in Shanghai. Here's a look.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I see China's future in you. Young people whose talent and dedication and dreams will do so much to help shape the 21st century. I've said many times that I believe that our world is now fundamentally interconnected. The jobs we do, the prosperity we build, the environment we protect, the security that we seek, all of these things are shared.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CHETRY: The president also talked to the students about the need for universal freedoms in their country. President Obama may hear some tough talk himself from Chinese leaders during their meetings. Our John Vause is breaking that down for us this morning from Beijing

JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John and Kiran, the reels of standard meeting will take place in the next few days. When President Obama meets with senior Communist officials, they'll be looking for assurances from Mr. Obama that he's committed to a strong U.S. dollar reducing the federal deficit and it is also committed to free trade.

VAUSE: Next comes the hard part, U.S. President Barack Obama face-to-face with the three most powerful Communists in China: President Hu, Parliamentary Leader Wu and Premier Wen. Most analysts believe U.S.-China relations are good but have shifted in the last twelve months with global issues taking center stage. The economic crisis, climate change, nuclear proliferation.


UNIDENTIFIED PARTICIPANT: So it isn't a matter of being erratic friction over there at this point. The issue we're figuring out whether we can work together on that and there's a lot writing on that.

VAUSE: With the U.S. government continuing to run huge budget deficit, mostly financed by China. In a way, President Obama will be meeting with his bankers, we'll need to convince the Chinese government that their huge holdings of U.S. dollars and debt are both safe. While the U.S. wants China to allow its currency to gain in value, believing right now its deliberately undervalued to give Chinese exporters an unfair competitive edge. But there was no support for that at the weekend economic summit of twenty-one Asian leaders in Singapore. And then there in the issue of human rights.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The United States will never waiver from speaking up for the fundamental values that we hold dear.

VAUSE: U.S. officials say it will be raised even though Mr. Obama did not meet with the Dalai Lama in Washington last month to avoid a backlash while visiting Beijing.

UNIDENTIFIED PARTICIPANT : Obama has put to the side the number of issues that were major irritants over the year, particularly human rights, Tibet and so on. The calculation, I think, in Washington is that the previous approaches to these issues have been counter productive.

VAUSE: At this meeting here in Beijing -- here tonight is the fifth time these leaders have met face-to-face this year. An indication of just how important the relationship is between these two countries. And analysts say that given the long and complicated agenda don't look very hard outcomes, they say it's more like an on-going conversation. John and Kiran... (END OF VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: John Vause for us this morning. John thanks so much. President Obama's decision to try suspected 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four of his alleged co-conspirators in New York City is drawing fire. A lot of second guessing in the Sunday talk shows, including from the city's mayor at the time of the attacks, that a certain former New York's senator backed up her boss.


RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: If part of Barack Obama deciding we're not at war with terrorism any longer. So, this is not treated as if it was an act of war, which it should be treated like. He has told us we can't use the word war on terror. The only problem with that, John, is the terrorist haven't stopped going to war with us.

HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: The Attorney General's determined after consulting with veteran prosecutors that this is a case that appropriately can be brought in our federal courts. Their cases will be brought in the military commissions, I'm not going to second guess the Attorney General.


ROBERTS: And when the 9/11 suspects arrive in New York, about twenty blocks from where the World Trade Center once stood, they will face unprecedented security. Subways and streets will be closed and snipers positioned on rooftops.

There is also the question of what to do with the other terrorist suspects currently being held at the present Guantanamo Bay. Right now, a federal task force to shopping for locations stateside to house the suspects. In fact, in just a few hours, the task force will converge in a tiny, economically-stressed town of Thompson, Illinois. It's got a near empty maximum security prison with plenty of space.

Elaine Quijano was live in Thompson this morning and typically Elaine will talk about issues like this. The (INAUDIBLE) principal sets in not in my backyard but what do folks there say.

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, people that we have talked to here in Thompson, John, say they very much support the idea. They understand, they say, the national security concerns, the idea of their being an increased risk, perhaps, of with detainees, maybe being brought to the prison behind me. But they say for them, this is personal, this is about opportunity. They view this as a chance for their town to make a comeback.


QUIJANO: About 150 miles west of Chicago, sits the farming community of Thompson, Illinois. Population 600... Where the biggest building in town, a 145 million dollar state prison sits mostly empty. And just down the road at Sunrise Restaurant... UNIDENTIFIED PARTICIPANT: Thank you.

QUIJANO: The talk is all about how to fill it.

ARDEN WEAVER, RESIDENT OF THOMPSON, IL: I myself, I have no objections.

QUIJANO: Like others in Thompson, Arnold Weaver (ph) has heard the concerns about security and bringing suspects from Guantanamo to U.S. soil. But he's not worried.

WEAVER: I don't feel... With the modern technology in this prison, I cannot picture anybody escaping.

QUIJANO: Neither did restaurant owner, Zendel Zendeli. His take, that it doesn't matter who's being held in the prison.

ZENDEL ZENDELI, RESTAURANT OWNER: All the prisoners are in there for a reason. They won't make serial killers any less dangerous than anybody else. You know, they will bring all kinds of prisoners there.

QUIJANO: The Thompson Correctional Center reportedly houses only 144 minimum security inmates. But the state of Illinois is jumping at the chance to fill more of the prison's 1600 cells.

SEN. DICK DURBIN, (D) ILLINOIS: Make no mistake about it. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. We have a chance to bring more than 2000 good paying jobs with benefits to this region.

QUIJANO: Bank in Thompson, the shuttered businesses in main street tell the story on the toll the recession has taken the town and its people.

UNIDENTIFIED PARTICIPANT: We need jobs in our area, very depressed, both economically and emotionally. People are looking for these jobs.


QUIJANO: Now later this morning, federal officials are set to take at the facility behind me then local officials in the afternoon. In the meantime, John, some Illinois Republican congressmen are expressing their opposition. They say, look, we understand full, well, economic picture here in Illinois, but they insist that national security concerns front everything else. John?

ROBERTS: Alright, let's see the way it goes. Elaine Quijano for us this morning at Thompson, Illinois.

CHETRY: Seven minutes past the hour. Also new this morning, the White House setting a pressure on Pakistan to expand its fight against the Taliban. Officials say the cooperation from the Pakistani government will be critical to the President's strategy in Afghanistan. National Security Adviser General James Jones went to the Pakistani capital of Islamabad this weekend to pass that message along, the strategy and new trip increases could be announced this week, according to "The New York Times."

ROBERTS: The Monday morning commutes is a little more cheaper today. AAA now reported that the price of a gallon of gas drop the here down a nickel for the past eleven days. The average price for a gallon of regular unleaded now two dollars and sixty-one cents.

CHETRY: Well after a long and winding road spending more than 45 years. The Library of Congress will be honoring Paul McCartney. The 67-year old former Beatle will be third recipient of the Gershwin Prize for popular song. Sir Paul will accept the award at the star- studded tribute concert to be held at Washington D.C. this spring. No acts had been announced yet.

ROBERTS: Joins Paul Simon and Stevie Wonder... (CROSSTALK) who also got the ward recently. The terror trial in New York, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed comes to Manhattan, what's at stake? Our legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, has got all the details coming right up. Eight minutes now after the hour.


CHETRY: Ten minutes past the hour, welcome back to the most news in the morning. President Obama has been taking a lot of heat from the decision to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of September 11 and four others in civilian federal court, just blocks from Ground Zero, in lower Manhattan. The move is both politically and legally risky but the payoff could be enormous as well. Joining us to talk about it, CNN Senior Analyst Jeffrey Toobin. Great to have you with us.


CHETRY: And also we have Bill Gavin with us. He's head of FBI in New York, ran the investigation in 1993 World Center bombings. Great to have you with us as well, Bill. One of the things that Attorney General Eric Holder said, Bill, is that there's president to this, that he's looking at history as a guy. Do you agree that some of the other trials of terrorists that were tried in civilian court successfully will be a model for this or do you think, what going on with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed any other force a different story?

BILL GAVIN, FORMER ASSISTANT DIRECTOR OF FBI NEW YORK: I believe with what's going on right now with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is a totally different story. If you listen to people, such as Judge Mike Mukasey (ph), who read the trial of Omar Abdel Rahman in New York.

He is absolutely opposed to bring any of these un-uniformed soldiers of the Jihad into the United States. It answers the political precedents closed at Guantanamo at the time it increases the chance of damaging in the United States and having the citizens put at risk. Its just not the right thing to do at this particular point in time.


CHETRY: ... standpoint because politically, a lot of people has come out, Republicans and there had been some Democrats, Independents as well, Senator Lieberman, Senator Jim Weber of Virginia, they say they were wishing it was a military tribunal instead. From a legal stand point, can this be conducted successfully given the fact that some question the status of where they were arrested not on U.S. soil. And some other questions about the harsh interrogations tactics.

TOOBIN: There's no question about... it's possible that this could work, it's also possible that this trial would simply fall apart. This is, as you said, a very risky thing to do. There is the issue of criminal discovery, a lot of classified evidence will have to be provided for the defense to give them access to the information they need to defend themselves. Do we want to give that sort of information to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

How do we deal with the fact that he's water boarded? It is clear that there is other evidence against him. They will not have to use the information that was disclosed in the waterboard. People forget that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed has given interview to Al Jahi Zira talking about his role in these attacks. That evidence is clearly admissible. That can be used but there are a lot of questions that... and just the length of this trial. This is likely, I think to go into 2012. That is a very demanding experience.

CHETRY: From a legal standpoint, what is more legitimate about federal civilian trial than a military tribunal? Just legally speaking...

TOOBIN: There is a lot of question whether a military tribunal will be supported by the Supreme Court as a legitimate way of trying a defendant. It worked in World War 2 but our standards have changed a lot since World War 2. There were no such things as warnings in World War 2. So, there is a real legal question about military tribunals especially they ended in death penalty are legitimate. There is no doubt that a verdict by a jury of 12 civilians in federal district courts will be viewed as legitimate. Aournd the world, in the United States, and by our appeals courts. If they get convicted here, they're going to be executed.

CHETRY: And Bill, what are your biggest concerns about security, some had said that there are profound security concerns bringing these terrorists to New York City, having them housed here during the course of the trial or it is more of the disclosure of information that as Jeff said the defense is going to have a right to that could help other that could be terrorists in the future.

GAVIN: Well, in terms of security, you know, there are no doubts they could steal the court house, they could do a pretty good job, plus talking about the world's best civilian police force, the New York City police department. They can do the job.

What gives me great concern is the fact that these individuals now have all the rights of American citizens in a courtroom. It will turn it into a three-ring circus, not trying the devastating effects of destroying those two buildings and the taking of all those lives.

They will be trying the waterboarding. We'll be trying all those kinds of things and we create another of the stage for other players to come on the stage and do things in the United States, plan them and carry them out because as Jeff said this will be a protracted trial, and they'll have all the time in the world to do what they want to do. Maybe not in New York but in some other portion or part of the United States and other cities.

CHETRY: Exactly.

GAVIN: It's going to be undesirable.

TOOBIN: Just plant one idea. There is -- it is not clear which judge will be selected to try this case. There are lots of judges in the southern district of New York in that courthouse. Some are really good, some are not so good. If they get a judge who will not ride her (ph) on this case, who will not really push it forward, it could be a disaster. It's random selection who the judge is, that the government has a tremendous amount riding on that decision. That should be in a couple months we'll know.

CHETRY: All right. Well, I want both of you to listen to what conservative columnist William Kristol said about the situation and then weigh in. Let's listen.


BILL KRISTOL, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": He was arrested in America. He was arrested in Minnesota in August of 2001. That's why he's the twentieth hijacker. The FBI got him before. They read him his rights when they arrested him. They had a clean shade of evidence.

They have -- where was Khalid Sheikh Mohammed arrested? In Pakistan, in a pre-dawn raid. He wasn't read his rights.


CHETRY: He's saying that look, you can't, you know, take the two cases, Zacarius Moussaoui (ph) and hold that up as a model because of the many, many differences and the fact that he was arrested in the United States as well as others. Do you think there's going to be trouble in terms of the Miranda Rights issue and other things in having this case thrown out?

TOOBIN: This is the kind of thing that the Justice Department has already dealt with. The interviews with Al Jazeera, you don't need a Miranda warning if someone gives an interview to the press. I don't think that's a serious issue. Remember, we tried the individuals who bombed our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. That was foreign case that was tried in the very same courthouse. I don't think Bill Kristol knows what he's talking about, frankly.

CHETRY: What do you think, Bill?

GAVIN: I totally agree with Jeff. It's a different set of circumstances and they will be able to try them, but it's going to be very, very difficult. And also, the case of the judge selected by random selection is going to be paramount of importance in this particular case. CHETRY: And you have firsthand experience with that as well. As we said, you ran the investigation into the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

All right. We're going to have to see how this one plays out. Meantime, thank you for your insight this morning. Bill Gavin, as well as Jeffrey Toobin, appreciate it -- John.

ROBERTS: We are starting a new original A.M. original series this morning, "Patriots or Extremists," militias on the rise in the United States. We go to Michigan training with one.

Our Jim Acosta has got that story for you. It's a fascinating one, one that you don't want to miss. Coming right up.

Eighteen minutes after the hour.


ROBERTS: Twenty-and-a-half minutes after the hour. Gerri Willis here "Minding Your Business" this morning. I was just looking at the taxpayers' portfolio wondering how our investment in General Motors is doing these days.

GERRI WILLIS, CNN PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR: Well, it's doing better than it was, but it's not out of recovery yet. GM reporting third quarter earnings for the first time since it was in bankruptcy. The results far better than previous quarters, but they are still losing money. As a matter of fact, they reported a net loss of $1.2 billion.

They say they're making great progress on reducing their costs. The old GM had a structural cost of 22 billion. The new one, 9.1 billion. So, just the cost of paying their employers, turning on the lights, running the factories is down by more than half. And this is how they're showing improvement. They say they have a healthier balance sheet and competitive cost structure.

So, some good news there for your investment, obviously. The real headline out of this, though, is GM is saying they are going to pay back part of their government loans, yours and my money, taxpayer money, some 50 billion starting at the end of the year. They're going to repay 6.7 billion or 13 percent of the eighth, which is an actual loan. So this is what they're going to be paying back. They're going to use some of the government money that they got to repay, which is completely legal under the terms of the loan.

And as you know, the balance of those monies, what's actually an equity stake. The Treasury Department bought stock in GM, a 60 percent equity stake which they are going to cash out when the company goes through an initial public offering at the date yet to be announced. We don't know yet.

ROBERTS: I love the math. It's like me saying to you it's like me owing you 20 bucks. And I say, hey, you have another $20? Thanks. So here, I'll give you back the 20 I owe you. WILLIS: It's a lot like that. It's like a lot like that.

CHETRY: But the other thing too is one of the things you said cost cutting and restructuring, some of the biggest problems was with the legacy costs, right? Have they made any changes in terms of trying to adjust for that? I mean, they were paying the pensions of people who work for the company forever.

WILLIS: Well, mostly what they've done is reduce their existing cost by reducing head count. That's been the big story here and that's what we've seen. Those were the numbers that I cited before in terms of the reduction of costs.

Another interesting thing that I think happened. You know, you wonder did "cash for clunkers" work, right? Did it bailout GM?

Well, they did see a boost in sales. Their sales units sold 11.7 million in the fourth quarter that will go down because "cash for clunkers" is gone now. So, you know, we're going to keep an eye on GM obviously, continue to watch their results. We're going to have more information at 8:30 when the CEO speaks. We'll have some more details for you.

ROBERTS: All right. Gerri Willis "Minding Your Business" this morning. Thanks so much, Gerri.

WILLIS: My pleasure.

CHETRY: Well, militias on the rise since President Obama took office. Coming up, part one of the new series, "Patriots or Extremists." Jim Acosta has a look.

Twenty-four minutes past the hour.


CHETRY: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. Twenty-six minutes past the hour right now.

Since President Obama's election, legal experts have been tracking a huge increase, they say, in militia activity here in the U.S. with at least 100 new groups cropping up since January.

ROBERTS: We spoke with one group and while some members will not show their faces, they are not afraid to talk about their mistrust of the government, and they are even more suspicious of the president.

Our Jim Acosta is with us live for part one of A.M. original series, "Patriots or Extremists." So these groups have a right to form, first of all?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They absolutely do. Even their critics will admit that. And we did contact nearly a dozen different militia groups across the country, and only one, the Southeast Michigan Volunteer Militia, allowed us to take our cameras to one of its training exercises. Armed with a small arsenal of semi-automatic weapons, the militias' leader say they are simply defending their rights.


ACOSTA (voice-over): Once a month in the woods 30 miles outside the nearest city.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're practicing target acquisition.

ACOSTA: Members of the Southeast Michigan Volunteer Militia meet for training.

(on camera): Is it getting bigger?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, absolutely.

MEMBERS OF THE SOUTHEAST MICHIGAN VOLUNTEER MILITIA: I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Training for what depends on who you ask, but this militia member, who didn't want to give his last name, worries the government will eventually take away his gun rights.

"BRIAN", SOUTHEAST MICHIGAN VOLUNTEER MILITIA: Well, any time we get a Democratic president in the office, people become concerned, including myself and we get a resurgence out here.

ACOSTA: Others just don't like President Obama. So, you don't trust him?

MICHAEL LACKOMAR, SOUTHEAST MICHIGAN VOLUNTERR MILITIA: In short, I think he could be dangerous for the nation.

ACOSTA: Michael Lackomar sees the militia as a check against government overreach.

LACKOMAR: Just the simple fact that we are out here doing this will give somebody pause, will make them think twice.

ACOSTA: Because you're ready to defend your rights?

LACKOMAR: Ultimately, yes. Down this fire.

ACOSTA (on camera): Right.

(voice-over): And they're prepared to teach anyone, even this reporter how to fire a semi-automatic weapon like this Russian assault rifle.


(on camera): The members of this militia insist they are not enemies of the government. They say they just want to be prepared in case the government becomes the enemy.

MARK POTOK, SOUTHERN POVERTY LAW CENTER: The truth is, is that these groups are popping up like mushrooms after a spring rain. ACOSTA (voice-over): Earlier this year, Mark Potok with the Southern Poverty Law Center put out a report warning of a surge in militia activity that came with the election of President Obama. Since that report was issued, Potok says his staff has counted 100 new militia groups across the country.

POTOK: There really is this kind of terrible fear mixed with fury about the idea that President Obama is somehow leading a kind of socialistic, you know, takeover of America.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is not an Obama-centered organization.

So we put this across as wound...

ACOSTA (voice-over): But militia leader Lee Miracle (ph) says his group is different, teaching survival skills that might be needed after a natural disaster.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two at one, put your rifle back down.

ACOSTA: As a military veteran who's now a postal worker, Miracle urges respect for the president.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As opposed to work, he's my boss. He's (INAUDIBLE) he's still my boss, but...

ACOSTA: He's your boss?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's my boss, yes. He's my boss. He should come out and have some barbecue with us.

ACOSTA: If he did, he'd find a movement that's not just gaining new members --

(on camera): How many of you are new to the militia?

(voice-over): It's getting more worried.

(on camera): How many of you are worried about the constitution right now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Worried as in the sense that it's not being followed.



ACOSTA: The signs the Second Amendment those militia members could not specify which of their constitutional rights are being peeled away and the Obama administration, we should mention, has not proposed any new gun control measures. It is unclear just how closely militias are being watched by federal authorities. The FBI and ATF both declined our request for interviews -- John and Kiran.

CHETRY: And when you take a look at least the group you profiled there, there's no women.

ACOSTA: That's right.

CHETRY: And there's no minorities.

ACOSTA: Well, there's one woman there.

CHETRY: There was one woman?


CHETRY: OK. One woman and no minorities.


CHETRY: So who are the people joining these groups?

ACOSTA: And I should mention more than just one woman. There was the 13-year-old daughter there and the reason why I mentioned that. The gentleman that you saw towards the end of that piece, Lee Miracle, the leader of that militia. We're going to go home with him and his family to figure out just who are joining these militias, who are these folks. He includes his children in these activities, including his 13-year-old daughter who is firing a shotgun. I should mention better than myself out there on militia day.

CHETRY: You weren't too bad.

ACOSTA: And we'll have more of that tomorrow.

ROBERTS: All right. Is it all about gun rights then?

ACOSTA: A lot of it is about gun rights. A lot of it is about distrust. They just don't trust this president. They think he is out to peel back rights and the gun issue is their big ones. You know, we should mention that the gun control issue specifically is really unrealistic in many ways. Because the Obama administration knows and Democrats know that it will be political suicide for them to go after gun control measures. In fact, the attorney general indicated just recently that he's not even going to go back to the assault weapons ban that was enacted during the Clinton administration.

ROBERTS: (INAUDIBLE) in the Senate.

ACOSTA: Exactly.

CHETRY: It's interesting that one of guys in your piece said, we're doing this perhaps so that we're a deterrent...

ACOSTA: Exactly.

CHETRY: ... to having anything happen.

ACOSTA: They want to give people pause.

CHETRY: Right. I'm very interested to meet the family tomorrow. ACOSTA: You will.

CHETRY: Thanks, Jim.

ROBERTS: Great story, Jim.

ACOSTA: You got it.

CHETRY: We also want to know what you think. Are militia members patriots or are they extremists? And o you think that your rights are slipping away or do you think that these militias go too far? Join us tomorrow and we're going to have part two of Jim's piece.

And also head to our blog,

ROBERTS: Crossing the half hour now, checking our top stories this Monday morning. Drug companies are quietly pushing through price hikes while at the same time promising to cut prescription costs by $8 billion a year.

According to "The New York Times," the average price of a brand named drug jumped by about nine percent in the past year. That means a year's supply of the daily drug now costs you $200 more on average. Drug companies say the hikes cover the development of new medicines.

CHETRY: Well, if you take Zetia to manage your cholesterol, you may want to hear this. A study of more than 200 patients found that it failed to reduce the thickness of artery clogging plaque while rival drug, niacin did by about two percent. And this is not the first study to question Zetia. Our Elizabeth Cohen is going to be joining us a little bit later in the hour to talk more about this. What cholesterol drug do work according to the studies and also the drug makers response to this new study.

ROBERTS: And President Obama in China right now, pressing leaders on human rights. The president spoke to Chinese students and took questions at a town hall meeting in Shanghai this morning. He emphasized the importance of personal freedoms including an uncensored internet.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These freedoms of expression and worship of access to information and political participation, we believe are universal rights.


ROBERTS: The president told the students the more freely information flows the stronger society becomes. He is now in Beijing to meet with China's president.

A 10-year-old boy from Arkansas is taking a stand by sitting down. Will Philips is refusing to pledge allegiance to the flag in his fifth grade classroom until there really is, as the pledge says, liberty and justice for all. He says until gays and lesbians have equal rights.

Joining us now in an exclusive interview are Will Phillips and his father, Jay. They're in West Fork, Arkansas this morning. Will and Jay, good to see you this morning. Thanks very much for being with us. And Will, let me ask you first of all, when did you decide that you weren't going to stand up and recite the pledge?

WILL PHILLIPS, WONT SAY PLEDGE UNTIL GAYS HAVE EQUAL RIGHTS: I decided that I was going to do that the weekend before when I did it. I was analyzing the meanings of it because I want to be a lawyer.

ROBERTS: All right. So what did you decide in analyzing the meanings of it that caused you not to stand up and recite the pledge?

WILL PHILLIPS: Well, I looked at the end and it said "with liberty and justice for all." And there really isn't liberty and justice for all. There's -- gays and lesbians can't marry. There's still a lot of racism and sexism in the world, yes.

ROBERTS: All right. So you think that the country isn't living up to the ideals of the pledge and you took it upon yourself to sit down and not recite the pledge of allegiance until the country comes in line to embody the ideals that are embodied in the pledge?


ROBERTS: All right. So, your teacher, who is a substitute teacher at the time, was giving you grief about not standing up. This went on for a few days. What did you eventually say to that teacher?

WILL PHILLIPS: I eventually very solemnly with a little bit of malice in my voice said, "Ma'am, with all due respect, you can go jump off a bridge."

ROBERTS: You said, solemnly, with a little bit of malice in your voice, maybe you can go jump off a bridge. And we saw your dad, Jay, put his face in his hands just then. That obviously, earned him a trip to the principal's office. And you were contacted after that, what did you think when you heard what was going on there at school?

JAY PHILLIPS, FATHER OF WILL PHILLIPS: My initial response was measured and considered, thoughtful and was -- he's dead. That's it. He's doomed. However, when I got home and I talked to him, the more I heard from him, the more it became apparent that this wasn't a typical act of juvenile delinquency. This was a very atypical act of juvenile delinquency.

He just made it clear that he sat for four days and took brunt of the criticism. And reminded her that it was his first amendment right and that he didn't have to stand or say the pledge. And on the fourth day, he lost his temper.

Now, he did apologize in writing to the teacher and we really want to emphasize, we have a wonderful school district, a wonderful town. This is a great community and that the teacher, in our opinion, was just trying to... ROBERTS: Got you.

JAY PHILLIPS: ... to handle what probably to her seemed like a student who was trying to give the fill-in teacher a hard time.

ROBERTS: Got you. All right. Let's bring in Will here again. Will, why is this issue so important to you that you would commit as your dad said this atypical act of juvenile delinquency?

WILL PHILLIPS: Because I have many -- I've grown up with a lot of people and good friends with a lot of people that are gay and I really -- I think they should have the rights all people should. And I'm not going to swear that they do.

ROBERTS: So what's the reaction been from your fellow students at school to you not standing up for the pledge and the views that you hold about this issue?

WILL PHILLIPS: Not very good. They've taken from what I said an assumption that I'm gay and the halls and the cafeteria, I've been repeatedly called a gay wad.

ROBERTS: A gay wad. What's a gay wad?

WILL PHILLIPS: I really don't know. It's a discriminatory name for homosexuals.

ROBERTS: OK. All right. Well, Jay, were you prepared, this has obviously gone well beyond the school. This is the sort of thing as you know gains the attention of the national media, were you prepared for the type of reaction both positive and negative that your son's actions have precipitated?

JAY PHILLIPS: Well, actually before we heard from anybody, my first thought was oh, my god, this is the type of thing you see on CNN. And I sat down and talked to him and I said, you know, you realize there's potentially severe ramifications to this.

And we ran through everything and his words to me were that if there was a chance to talk to the local newspaper or something like that, that he wanted -- he saw it as an opportunity to raise awareness and for education and he was very, very clear in that he felt that just because he's 10 years old doesn't mean he doesn't have opinions...


JAY PHILLIPS: It doesn't mean he doesn't have rights and doesn't mean that he can't make a difference.

ROBERTS: He does seem to have very strong opinions we should say and obviously they are very reasoned out. We should say that he's an extraordinarily bright child. He skipped the fourth grade, went right from the third grade to the fifth grade.

But Will, as we prepare to leave you here, what will it take for you to stand up and say the Pledge of Allegiance? And I ask this question based on what we saw in the off year election just a couple of weeks ago. Same-sex marriage initiative was put to the test, put to the voters in the state of Maine. And every state across the nation where it has been put through the voters, it has gone down to defeat.

So, the Democratic process is taking place here, it seems to be something that voters at large do not support. So what will it take for you to return to saying the pledge?

WILL PHILLIPS: For there could truly be liberty and justice for all.

ROBERTS: And what does that entail?

WILL PHILLIPS: That entails everyone being able to marry.

ROBERTS: All right. Will Phillips, Jay Phillips, great to see you this morning. Thanks so much for joining us. We'll keep watching the story. It's certainly an interesting one.

ROBERTS: Wow. He's got his arguments down.

CHETRY: He does. He's a really, really well spoken little kid.

ROBERTS: He is and he is certainly impassioned about this as well.

CHETRY: He is. All right. Well, still ahead we're going to be checking in with Chris Lawrence live. He is on the road where some of the most dangerous, dangerous items that are killing our troops are roadside bombs. But finding them and finding out who's laying them has proved to be a huge challenge. How the U.S. Army is going on attack. 40 minutes past the hour.


CHETRY: Forty-three minutes past the hour. Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is now creating a task force specifically focused on IEDs, improvised explosive devices. The number one killer of troops in Afghanistan. Soldiers hunting for these bombs face the possibility of being blown up each time they go out on patrol.

ROBERTS: Every mile of road, every blind curve could be a threat to them. Chris Lawrence is live in Kabul, Afghanistan this morning. Chris, you've been going out with soldiers on bomb-hunting missions. What kind of things are insurgents using to make these bombs.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: It's scary, John, Kiran. I mean, they are using cigarette packs, tin foil, batteries, bicycle seat frames. It is very difficult to track these kinds of things coming over the border when you can find them in just about anyone's backyard.


LAWRENCE (voice-over): In Afghanistan, it's man versus bomb. Soldiers are getting frustrated finding an enemy they can't touch.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It feels like sometimes there's nobody for you to blame.

LAWRENCE: Lieutenant Charlie Droeshagen (ph) is with the fourth engineer battalion. They go looking for bombs to clear the routes for other NATO soldiers and marines. They are also the only unit to deploy to Iraq this year and then move directly to Afghanistan.

(on camera): In Iraq they'd see one person or one team plant a fully assembled bomb. But the tactics are completely different here.

(voice-over): One man gets paid to dig a hole.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He doesn't know what the hole is for. He just knows that he's getting paid $20 U.S. to go dig it.

LAWRENCE: That hole will sit for days until a second man is hired to string a wire.

LAWRENCE: ... sit for days until a second man is hired to string a wire.

FITZGIBBON: And then someone else will come along and - and might - might have a different role in it.

LAWRENCE: It may take a month, but a killer bomb is being assembled even as patrols pass by.

FITZGIBBON: And unless you start putting the puzzle pieces together, you don't realize that that's exactly what they're doing.

LAWRENCE: Lieutenant Matt Fitzgibbon calls the militants ingenious. Another officer in Kandahar told us they've learned how to place warnings that only Afghan civilians are likely to see.

The road clearance team has lost 11 soldiers, including four last month to a devastating 1,000 pound bomb.

SGT. LUIS ROJAS (ph), US ARMY: The vehicle got blown - it got blown out a good 20, 30 meters away from the road.

LAWRENCE: Sergeant Luis Rojas (ph) tried to comfort the driver. ROJAS (ph): I was actually caressing his head at the time, you know, talking to him, you know, telling him to stay with us.

LAWRENCE: Rojas (ph), who's got a wife and daughter, has seen so many friends die, he thinks IEDs are inevitable.

ROJAS (ph): (INAUDIBLE) today, they were leaving (ph), or, you know, tomorrow that we're clearing the routes.

LAWRENCE: On the battalion's memorial wall, they've left room for more names. And with three months left in their tour, the unit has dozens of roads to clear before they see their families.

DROLSHAGEN: It's nice to get sympathy and - and understanding from home, mostly because it reminds us that there's a normal world out there without roadside bombs.


LAWRENCE: The good news is the unit did not get hit on their next run out. The bad news is the insurgents are - are just ingenious, in the words of one soldier. He says sometimes they're planting bombs not so much to inflict mass casualty but as a test to see how much damage a particular vehicles can withstand or how soldiers deploy from their vehicles after an explosion - John, Kiran.

ROBERTS: They're always watching. Chris Lawrence for us in Kabul. Chris, thanks so much.

Winter storm warnings, advisories and watches across the country. Our Reynolds Wolf is checking in on all of the extreme weather across the nation today. He'll have his report coming right up.

Forty-seven minutes now after the hour.


ROBERTS: Good morning, Denver, where it's partly cloudy right now and it's just -listen to this. You ready? Eighteen degrees later on today, sunny with a high of 44.

Our Reynolds Wolf is checking all of the extreme weather across the country for us this morning. He's at the Weather Center in Atlanta. And while we've got clear skies in Denver today, some parts of the nation expecting snow today.

REYNOLDS WOLF, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. You know, John, I think you're probably thinking about the Central Plains where - let me - let shift gears a little bit.

You know when you're a kid and get one of those snow globes and you shake it up and snow goes flying all over the place inside that little plastic ball? Well, that is kind of the situation right here in parts of the Central Plains, in south of Omaha just to the west of Kansas City. It's going to be like driving through a snow globe, especially on parts of I-35 we're going to have the strong winds, anywhere from 2 to 8 inches of snowfall and that is an issue that could continue into the early evening hours, so people heading out this morning on the way to work are going to be dealing with it, on the way home it could be the same story.

Now, the reason why we're seeing that issue is because this double barreled low that is just roaring its way across the nation. Right now it's tapping into that cold air from the north and it's got that moisture coming in from the Gulf of Mexico, and it's that overrunning moisture and that cold air at the surface that's really going to be the big component that's going to cause the snow affect.

Meanwhile, back out to the Pacific Northwest, try this on for size. Up on Mt. Rainier today, we're going to have wind gusts topping 100 miles an hour, temperatures about 15 degrees below zero. So it's going to be brutal there at the very top. However, in the valleys, look for some scattered rain showers, possibly some snowfall in the northern cascades.

Breezy conditions for a good part of the four corners, although not quite as strong as what you're going to see in the Pacific Northwest. A mix of sun and clouds in Southern California and then of course through the Mississippi Valley, northward to south of Chicago, look for scattered showers. No problems in the southeast, with a beautiful day and a high of 74 degrees in Atlanta, going to 79 in Tampa and 81 along Alligator Alley. You're going to be able to pull the windows down today and you're not going to need the air conditioner, 80 degrees. Not bad at all.

Fifty-seven degrees in Boston, back over to New York with 60, 43 in Denver. We just showed you live images there. And Phoenix with 74. In terms of your delays, could have some problems in Boston, New York Metros, and of course Houston, in St. Louis and Memphis, you might have some issues with rain, low clouds, low visibility. That's the trifecta for you, and similar conditions for Denver later on this morning. Not a problem, but could see some low visibility issues into the afternoon.

That is a look at your forecast. Again, Mt. Rainier - 100-mile- per-hour wind gusts. Crazy stuff. Let send it back to you guys.

ROBERTS: All right. Reynolds, thanks so much for that. We'll see you soon.

CHETRY: Yes, and Reynolds, congrats by the way. We see you have your AMS seal. We always knew you were a good forecaster, but now you have the seal to prove it.

WOLF: Got to love it. Thanks, guys.

CHETRY: Rock on!

All right. Well, still ahead, last night's Colts-Patriots game was an instant classic. New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick has some explaining to do this morning. Now, his stunning gamble, going for it on fourth down deep in his own territory, well ahead, late in the game, well, it backfired. Peyton Manning made him pay with a touchdown pass that gave the Colts a comeback 35-34 victory.

The Colts are now 9-0. They've won 18 straight regular season games.

ROBERTS: There were some interesting goings on in the NFL yesterday. There was the fake field goal for the - by the Redskins over the Broncos, that they - the Broncos had plenty of time to read and still missed it. My goodness.

CHETRY: Yes, a lot going on. What was the other one? Kneeling down just one yard before making a touchdown to run out the clock? You've got to have your head in the game.

ROBERTS: It's all strategy is what it is. It's all strategy.

CHETRY: Yes, it is.

Well, this morning's top stories just minutes away, including Sarah Palin back in the spotlight again. Her book, "Going Rogue," is out, but does she have a solid political future? Does she want one?

James Carville and Leslie Sanchez are not seeing eye to eye on this one. They're going to come join us to talk more about it, still ahead.

ROBERTS: She's got a solid bank account now, that's for sure.

Plus, NASA finds water on the moon, but what does it mean? Is it a big deal? We'll talk to one NASA scientist who says it's, quote, "The greatest thing since crunchy peanut butter."

CHETRY: Some like the smooth and creamy still, though.

Hey, meet Katie Coleman, astronaut mom. Coming up in our next hour, the first in a year-long series as we follow the NASA astronaut and mother as she prepares for a November 2010 trip to the International Space Station. That and a lot more, coming up at the top of the hour right here on CNN.


ROBERTS: Good morning, and thanks for being with us. It's Monday. Came around awfully quick, didn't it? It's November the 16th, and thanks for joining us in the Most News in the Morning. I'm John Roberts.

CHETRY: I'm Kiran Chetry. Glad you're with us. We have a lot of big stories we're going to be telling you about in the next 15 minutes.

First, President Obama is taking his message of change to China, using a town hall meeting in Shanghai to call for greater freedoms for the Chinese people. Now, the hard part, the president sits down with the country's leaders. We're getting a live report from Beijing, just ahead. ROBERTS: From Guantanamo Bay in Cuba to America's heartland. It's Thomson, Illinois, and is it the new home for suspected terrorists? Today, a government task force will visit a nearly empty prison there, but what are folks in this small town hit hard by the recession saying about all this? We're live in Thomson this morning.

CHETRY: Well, ever since President Obama took office, their numbers have been on a sharp rise. Militias in the US, armed and trained, and they say they'll fight for their rights, rights some of them think President Obama is trying to take away.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anytime we get a Democratic president in the office, people become concerned, including myself, and we get a resurgence out here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you don't trust him?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In short, I think he could be dangerous for the nation.


CHETRY: Coming up, our Jim Acosta has part one of our AM Original series, "Patriots or Extremists?"