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American Morning

Obama Set to Announce Afghanistan War Plans; President's Planned Troop Increase May Garner Republican Support and Democratic Dissent; Tiger Woods Says Car Accident Incident Now Closed; Wall Street Spending Again?; Thai Farmers Tricked Into Forced Labor; Health Care Lobby Record Spending; Flu Fears and Reality; Civilians in Body Armor

Aired November 30, 2009 - 07:00   ET


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Good Morning to you, it is Monday November 30th. Welcome to AMERICAN MORNING. I'm Kiran Chetry.

JOE JOHNS, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Joe Johns in for John Roberts.

Here are the top stories we'll be telling you about on the next 15 minutes. On the eve of President Obama's high stake speech on Afghanistan, a number of democrats are lining up against the expected surge. We're live at the White House where this morning the President is under growing pressure from both sides.

CHETRY: Tiger Woods wants a little bit of privacy right now. The golf great letting Florida police now that he has nothing more to say to them about his Friday morning crash. He's asking everyone to leave his family alone. Meanwhile, the speculation is swirling about an alleged affair involving Woods and a New York nightclub hostess. All of the latest twists and turns ahead.

JOHNS: The manhunt for a cop killer may be over. Police say a suspect in the slayings of four Washington state police is holed up in an East Seattle house wounded and possibly dead. The question on everybody's mind, why did former Governor Mike let this guy out of prison nine years ago. The answer is straight ahead.

But first we begin with fresh criticism one day before president Obama unveils a new strategy for the war in Afghanistan, a plan that is expected to call for an additional 34,000 U.S. troops with allies sending a few thousand more.

But as the president preps for tomorrow night's primetime address, it's becoming clear some key members of his own party need convincing.


SEN. CARL LEVIN, (D) MICHIGAN: I do not believe we should send more combat forces at this time. That's been my position. Combat forces are where we are the ones doing the fighting without an Afghan partner.

If we have Afghan partners that are fully involved in the fight, partnering with us, which is on the job training for them, critically important, I can be more supportive.


JOHNS: Our Suzanne Malveaux is live at the White House. And Suzanne, what are the big challenges the president faces in presenting this plan.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Joe, there are certainly a lot of challenges, and senior administration officials I speak with actually acknowledge this. They know this is a very important speech tomorrow.

But first and foremost they have to show that the president knows there's a commitment on the side of Afghan government as well. You're not only talking about an increase in U.S. troops, there has to be a direct correlation between that increase as well as really an increase in the Afghan security forces.

On the one hand you've got trainers who have got equipment helping them to move forward and take over their own security. But on the other hand, you'll hear the president talk about tens of thousands of combat forces that are going to be on the ground to take on Al Qaeda and to take on the Taliban and the insurgents. That can be a murky mission. The enemy can be hard to identify, hard to contain. And the mission could become ambiguous.

And so a senior administration officials says that the main thing the president has to do is outline something that is very specific and that is unambiguous and that indeed says that the Afghan government, the Afghan people are going to be a clear part of this partnership -- Joe.

JOHNS: So what kinds of things, Suzanne, are we expecting the president to say? Have you gotten any sort of a preview of the language he might be using?

MALVEAUX: Well, we certainly have a sense of what he's going to outline here. We're talking about in the neighborhood of 35,000 U.S. troops additional. That includes as well about 5,000 or so from NATO allies, a total of 100,000 U.S. forces on ground to date. We're talking about a commitment of $75 billion a year in terms of the cost of the war.

And also an exit strategy -- the president is going to outline some of the expectations, the benchmark for the Afghan government, and that is going to be equally important, not only U.S. troops, but what he expects from Hamid Karzai and his people for the U.S. to eventually pull out -- Joe.

JOHNS: Suzanne Malveaux at the White House, thanks so much for that.

And stay with us. In less than ten minutes we're going to dig deeper into what Republicans want to hear from President Obama tomorrow night when we talk with Congressman Tom Price. He just came back from Afghanistan. CHETRY: And other stories new this morning at three minutes past the hour.

A new report by Senate Democrats saying that we had Usama bin Laden within our grasp and let him get away. It's blaming the Bush administration for not capturing or killing the terror mastermind just three months after 9/11.

The report says bin Laden was cornered in Afghanistan's mountainous Tora Bora region and had even written his will on December 14th, but there were not enough troops to stop him from slipping over the border into Pakistan where he is believed to be to this day.

JOHNS: The Senate will start debate on the health care bill in just a few hours. Discussions are expected to last several weeks and Republicans are standing together all opposing the bill. In fact, minority whip Senator John Kyl is urging Democrats to throw out this bill and start over.

Some moderate Democrats have said they'll help the GOP block the bill if the public option, the government-run insurance plan, remains inside it.

CHETRY: The shortest drive of Tiger Woods career creating quite a media frenzy. The golfing great has told police he has nothing more to say about crashing his car in front of his home early Friday morning.

And now speculation is swirling about an alleged affair between Woods and a New York City nightclub hostess. The woman is denying reports she's involved with the worlds' top ranked golfer and met over the weekend with high profile attorney Gloria Allred.

Susan Candiotti is live in Windermere, Florida this morning where Tiger's silence is sure stirring up the media this morning. Hi, Susan

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is, Kiran, hi. What a weekend it has been. Tiger Woods' minor traffic accident has really stirred things up and has morphed into kind of a strange match play between the golfing phenom and the Florida highway patrol. And it's not over yet.


CANDIOTTI: Three times not the charm for investigators trying to get Tiger Woods to talk about his late night driveway crash into a fire hydrant and a tree.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is strange we have seen the broken appointments.

CANDIOTTI: With questions swirling around him and the Florida highway patrol turned away three times, that has a lot of people even more curious.

He issued a statement on his website saying he wants to keep the incident a family matter. "This situation is my fault," Woods says, "and it's obviously embarrassing to my family and to me. I'm human and I'm not perfect. I will certainly make sure this doesn't happen again."

But what does that mean? Is he talking about an accident or something else?

JON WERTHEIM, SENIOR WRITER, "SPORTS ILLUSTRATED": That's definitely the line that gets the yellow highlighter, that if this is a standard random occurrence, if he flukily has a car accident, you're not quite sure why he's making promises that something will or won't happen in the future.

CANDIOTTI: The fact is, by Florida law, Woods didn't have to talk to police. Instead he did only what he had to do -- provide them his driver's license, registration, and proof of insurance. Woods' lawyer handed them over, but investigators left the house without coming face to face with the biggest name in golf.

Woods' agent gave CNN the following statement -- "Although Tiger realizes there is a great deal of public curiosity, it has been conveyed to FHP that he simply has nothing more to add and wishes to protect the privacy of his family."

In his own statement Woods refers to his wife. Police say she told them she bashed out the SUV's rear passenger window with a golf club to get him out of the locked car. "She was the first person to help me. Any other assertion is absolutely false."

Yet again Woods doesn't claim what false assertions he means. A neighbor's call to 911 that night reveals little.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have a neighbor, he hit the tree. We came out here to see what is going on. He's laying down.


CANDIOTTI: ... a subpoena for Woods' medical records to document his injuries. Woods' lawyer says his client won't say another word about this, leaving investigators and other people to wonder what really happened that night? Kiran.

CHETRY: Susan Candiotti for us live in Windermere, Florida. Thank you.

JOHNS: Other stores new this morning.

Police say a suspect in the murders of four Washington state police officers is trapped in an east Seattle house, wounded, and possibly dead. Negotiators are still trying to communicate with 37- year-old Maurice Clemmons.

Authorities say Clemmons had a 95 year prison system commuted by then governor Mike Huckabee in Arkansas in 2000. Huckabee's office the commutation was based on the parole board's recommendation. All of the four officers killed were parents. The shooter opened fire without warning and police have yet to come up with a possible motive.

CHETRY: Secret service agents have now interviewed the Virginia couple that crashed a White House state dinner last week. The questioning took place on Friday and Saturday at the neutral location according to a senior federal official.

No word on what was discussed. We're told agents may want to interview Michaele and Tareq Salahi again and may bring criminal charges against the couple.

JOHNS: And the price of 12 drummers drumming, 11 pipers piping will cost you a bit more this holiday. Every year the folks at PNC Wealth Management measure the cost to celebrate the 12 days of Christmas, and this year the price tag to buy all the gifts and the holiday carol is $87,403. That' up about $800 from last year. The main culprit, the pesky golden rings, up 43 percent.

CHETRY: There you go. And what did we say the most expensive item was? The nine ladies dancing.

JOHNS: Must be like the Rockettes or something.

CHETRY: Yes, $5,473 per performance, the costliest item on here. More than the lords a leaping.


Well, we know that some Democrats are speaking out against a troop surge in Afghanistan, but what about Republicans? Will this be the issue where they side with the president? We're going to talk with one representative just back from Afghanistan about what he wants to hear about an Afghanistan plan from the president tomorrow.

It's nine minutes past the hour.


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

President Obama is expected to announce plans to send more troops to Afghanistan -- 34,000 more is the expected number. We know that some Democrats in Congress are not happy about it. But what do Republicans want to hear from the president tomorrow night in order to put their support behind him on this issue?

Congressman Tom Price just returned from Afghanistan with a Georgia delegation where they had a chance to meet with General Stanley McChrystal and he joins us this morning from Atlanta. Congressman Price, good morning. Thanks for being here.

REP. TOM PRICE, (R) GEORGIA: Good morning. Glad to be with you, Kiran, thank you.

CHETRY: Sure, glad you're with us this morning. What are the most important things you heard from General McChrystal and others on the ground when it comes to defining success in Afghanistan? PRICE: Well, we were over with the troops on Thanksgiving Day and had an opportunity to have Thanksgiving dinner with a number of troops from Georgia and elsewhere. It was just wonderfully heartening to be with them.

We had a chance to meet with General McChrystal, and General McChrystal's words were that this was doable, that the mission was accomplishable, but what he needed were more troops, and recognized the challenge that the president has.

I think the take-home message that we would give is that when the president talks tomorrow night, if he says that he's going to commit 32,000 or 34,000 more troops and maybe it will work or maybe it won't, that's not the message we need to hear, it's not the message that the world needs to hear.

What the world needs to hear is he's going to commit the number of troops necessary and he's going to accomplish the task, accomplish the mission of keeping the American people safe. That's the most important thing.

CHETRY: Well the president has spoken about that, and he has said that it is very important to defeat the Taliban and Al Qaeda, to send a message to the world that it's the war that we need to fight. That's been his argument since the campaign trail.

What is he going to say tonight that is going to determine whether or not Republicans throw their support behind the president when it comes to his plan for Afghanistan?

PRICE: Well, I think the tone of his message, the tone of the president's message is incredibly helpful, because if he talks about an exit strategy only and if he talks about benchmarks in terms of calendar timelines, then that's where the challenge is, because the Afghan people are just sitting on the fence. They're hedging their bets right now. They are not certain America is committed to prevailing in this mission.

If the president is very resolute, if he's very specific about what he believes the mission is and what can be accomplished, then I think we'll be fine.

If however he hedges his bets and plays to his political base, then there are real problems to be had because then the Taliban and others who are interested in making certain that we don't accomplish our mission, those folks then just wait us out.

CHETRY: The bottom line though is the president is going to announce tomorrow, according to our reporting, that he's going to add an additional 35,000 troops, almost as much as General McChrystal wanted, and he's going to let the general get what he wants and win this war.

The Republicans are supporting the president, right?

PRICE: Well, if indeed -- if that's what he says, then, yes, absolutely. General McChrystal's message was very clear, and that is that the mission is accomplishable.

And remember what the mission is. It's to degrade Al Qaeda forces and it's to make certain that the American people are safe. And as long as we make certain that we keep our eyes on that mission and make sure the president is resolute about accomplishing that mission, then I think the support of the Republicans in Congress will be there.

However, if, again, the president hedges his bets and says that maybe we will, maybe we won't -- the tone is so important in this message. He has got to, make certain that he delivers a message to both the American people and to the world that the Americans are committed in making certain that we degrade the resources that Al Qaeda has and the ability of them to harm the American people again.

CHETRY: It certainly shapes up to be an interesting dynamic. Our Democratic president getting the support of Republicans in Congress when some in his own party are very opposed to our presence and our continued presence and in this case a ratcheting up of our presence in Afghanistan.

REP. TOM PRICE (R), GEORGIA: It really is. But remember the president has said this was the right war. He campaigned on this as much as he campaigned on anything else. And so hopefully what we will hear once again is a resolute that's a resolve on the part of the president to make certainly that the mission is accomplished.

General McChrystal, Ambassador Eikenberry and others who are over there who met with many generals on the ground, they are confident, they're confident if given the appropriate resources that they'll be able to accomplish the mission. And that's what we need to hear. That's what the American people need to hear...

CHETRY: Right.

PRICE: ... the importance of this strategy, the importance of this engagement. And again, the mission to be accomplished is the preservation of security for the American people. And as long as we stick to that mission, stick to that goal, then we'll be fine and I think the American people will be appreciative.

CHETRY: Well, you added your name to a letter to the president basically criticizing him for taking as much time as he did to decide on a strategy. You know, critics will say, look, even in Afghanistan for eight years, what's a couple more months to make sure we're getting the strategy correct?

PRICE: Well, a couple more months is important because at the end of August, General McChrystal submitted his report to the president. When we talked to the troops on the ground in Afghanistan just last week, what they said is that they didn't see the need for this three-month delay.

Now in hindsight, it may have been the appropriate thing to do. However, the most important thing is to make certain that our troops are safe and that we accomplish our mission. The president took an extended period of time. General McChrystal described it as a thoughtful process, and that's important, yes. But the most important thing is to make certain that our troops are protected and that they're able to accomplish their mission.

This delay from my perspective and from many of us in Congress's perspective was not absolutely necessary to be the length of time that it has been. However, if that's what is necessary, was needed to rally the support of those folks necessary in Washington, and the American people for this challenge, then so be it. We don't want to look back. We want to look forward.

CHETRY: Right.

PRICE: But I think it's important that the president comes out and is very, very resolute and very strong in his message tomorrow night.

CHETRY: Looking forward, are you supporting a war surtax that one of your fellow congressmen is going to put forward. People pay one percent to go towards fighting the war?

PRICE: No, I think that's as cynical as it is irresponsible. The fact of the matter is the protection of the American people is the number one challenge, the number one task for the United States Congress. It ought to be a priority in our budgeting process.

There's all sorts of money that has been ill-spent to date. I would propose to the president that he begins to decrease spending in non-defense areas, non-defense discretionary areas in Washington where you can save significant amounts of money. A penny on the dollar will get us hundreds of billions of dollars in order to accomplish the priorities that we ought to have for the American people. And one of the priorities absolutely has to be and must be the protection of our land and degrading the resources that Al Qaeda has.

CHETRY: Congressman Tom Price, thanks for joining us this morning.

PRICE: Thank you, Kiran.

CHETRY: Also a reminder, CNN's coverage of President Obama's Afghanistan speech begins tomorrow night 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

JOHNS: Well, you can debate whether the recession is over or not, but it's certainly looking like bankers are spending money again as if the financial crisis never happened. You want to hear about this. Gerri Willis has the details next.

It's 18 minutes after the hour.


JOHNS: Gerri Willis is "Minding Your Business" this morning. And you're going to tell me that bank executives are rolling in dough.

GERRI WILLIS, CNN PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR: That's right. That's right. Believe it or not.

JOHNS: The TARP banks?

WILLIS: They are spending like drunken sailors. They're the six largest banks in New York.

JOHNS: How come they're doing it?

WILLIS: They are making a lot of money. Let's take a look at some of these numbers here, because I want to talk a little bit about how much money they're making.

Here's the expected compensation at six of the largest banks. Now you can see it looks like it's a downward trend, like 2009, $112 billion. But that's only three quarters. Once you factor in that fourth quarter, it will probably be higher than 2007.

So you've got to -- you know, you've got to say that, you know, these traders, these investment bankers are making more money. They're buying $200,000 wristwatches, $15,000 Caribbean vacations. We're going to tell you the money is back and these people are spending it. The anecdotal stories that we're hearing, just unbelievable the money going to --

JOHNS: Even the ones we bailed out? Even the ones that got the government money?

WILLIS: A lot of those people have already paid that money back. There's only Bank of America and Citigroup are still paying that money back. So, yes, we are seeing some of the banks that received TARP money, some of these executives are now back at spending. And it's not just executives, remember. At investment banks and trading houses, people on the trading floor make lots and lots and lots of dough.

JOHNS: Right.

WILLIS: You don't have to be running a big unit to make a lot of money.

CHETRY: All right. So here's the question, where's the -- it seems like we're living in two worlds.


CHETRY: So we have people struggling. You just told us the last hour about foreclosures continuing to grow. The help for homeowners program not necessarily doing what it's hoping to do. And then unemployment in double digits, so how do we get from that and then we take a look at what's happening on Wall Street?

WILLIS: Well, it is -- it's a tale of two cities, really. You have people at the high end who are making more and more money. The economy has already turned around for them. For the rest of us it hasn't yet because unemployment is so high, and that's really what's affecting Americans right now. But I have to tell you, look how it's trickling down here in New York. Luxury home sales are on the comeback. This money is fueling sales of homes throughout the region. If you look at Manhattan sales, they're up 46 percent from the previous quarter. Hamptons are back after really -- I mean, that area really had lots of problems. But I feel your pain here.

JOHNS: So...

WILLIS: Kiran, you know, like the rest of us are wondering, you know, where is the economy going? When is it going to turn around? When am I going to get a job? And the Wall Street traders and bankers are piling in the dough.

JOHNS: Wow. OK. Well, thanks very much.

WILLIS: Well, you know, a little perspective for you.

CHETRY: It's good perspective. Gerri Willis, "Minding Your Business," thanks so much.

WILLIS: My pleasure.

CHETRY: Well, still ahead, investigators basically say it's modern-day slavery. The story of 30 farmers who came from Thailand to America only to be forced to work for nothing.

Twenty-four minutes after the hour.


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

You know, it's a problem that's actually hiding in plain sight. Modern-day slavery. The State Department says up to 17,500 people are basically trafficked into the U.S. every year, usually women and children.

JOHNS: But this next story puts a new face on a global crisis. Thirty men who say they moved halfway around the world for a shot at the American dream but were tricked into a life of forced labor. Sean Callebs joins us live for part one of our A.M. original series, "No Way Out: Human Trafficking."

Good morning, Sean.

SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Joe and Kiran. If you listen to U.S. officials, they say as many as 200,000 people right now are working in the United States as forced laborers. It is a staggering total.

We're going to bring you the story of these 30 people from Thailand who answered a help wanted ad. They were trying to improve their lives, but in essence almost ended them.


CALLEBS (voice-over): Chinnawat Koompeemay's nightmare shortly began four years ago.

CHINNAWAT KOOMPEEMAY, HUMAN TRAFFICKING VICTIM (through translator): I never imagined that this kind of thing would happen in the United States.

CALLEBS: Koompeemay desperate to provide for his family says he answered an ad from a job recruiter in rural Thailand. The recruiter promised an $8 an hour job in America, he says, picking tobacco in North Carolina, and he'd get a U.S. visa.

KATE WOOMER-DETERS, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: When they heard that there was a job in the United States and not just a job, but a job on a legal visa in the United States, I think that was really the golden ticket for them.

CALLEBS: But there were problems from the outset. First, he says, there was a payment up front, 25,000 Thai baht or 11,000 U.S. dollars, money he borrowed from loan sharks before he left his home in Thailand. Once in North Carolina, Koompeemay says there was no work, no money, and his passport was seized by the recruiter, Million Express Manpower. Koompeemay says he and the other 29 farmers who came with him realized they were trapped.

KOOMPEEMAY (through translator): Some of the men were so stressed out to the point that they seemed suicidal.

CALLEBS (on camera): Koompeemay says he begged for work and when Katrina hit the gulf coast, Million Express Manpower brought some of its employees to New Orleans. He says the men were told to gut this condemned hotel and were forced to live there while doing the job. And all of this without pay.

KOOMPEEMAY (through translator): We couldn't find anything to eat. We happened to have some uncooked rice with us, so we trapped pigeons and cooked the pigeons to feed ourselves.

CALLEBS (voice-over): Eventually they were brought back to North Carolina where one night they say they escaped. Luis CdeBaca is the U.S. ambassador charged with fighting modern-day slavery.

LUIS CDEBACA, U.S. AMBASSADOR: This is a hidden crime. The very nature of this crime masks it from us.

CALLEBS: Eventually Koompeemay and 21 others sued Million Express Manpower under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. The company never responded and the court said the evidence justified a default judgment of nearly a million dollars.

WOOMER-DETERS: These men don't look like the typical trafficking victims. They're not women. They're not in the sex trade. They're not behind a barbed wire fence.

CALLEBS: Koompeemay has been reunited with his wife and two children. He asked us not to say where he's living, still concerned about the traffickers.

You do feel lucky. Even after everything you've been through, you feel lucky.

KOOMPEEMAY (through translator): I do feel very lucky that I could turn crisis into opportunity.


CALLEBS: He is here legally now working. His two children are in school. And they are here on something called a T Visa. That is a special visa for people who have been victimized by human trafficking.

And, Joe and Kiran, to give you an idea just how big of a problem this is, authorities say it is the fastest growing crime in the world and now only second to the drug trade -- back to you, guys.

CHETRY: So upsetting. Sean Callebs for us -- thank you.

Also, tomorrow, the victims don't always come from the other side of the globe, we're looking at the growing problem of young girls -- young American girls who are bought and sold as sex slaves in towns and cities across the country. Sean has a look at that tomorrow right here on the Most News in the Morning.

JOHNS: It's 30 minutes after the hour.

Checking our top stories, Dubai's main stock change took a pounding today, closing down more than 6 percent. Today was its first day of trading after the financial arm of Dubai said it needed more time to pay back $60 billion in debt. That financial mess took a toll on American markets here Friday and this morning, Dow futures are slightly down.

CHETRY: Well, the manhunt for the killer of four Washington state police officers may be over. Police are now telling "The Associated Press" that a suspect in the murders is trapped in an east Seattle home wounded and possibly dead. Negotiators are still trying to communicate with 37-year-old Maurice Clemmons. Authorities say Clemmons is an ex-con who had a 95-year prison sentence commuted by then-governor of Arkansas, Mike Huckabee, back in 2000.

JOHNS: And Tiger is not talking. The golfing great refused to speak to police for the third time yesterday. He's only saying he's embarrassed about his Friday morning car crash and could use a little privacy. As for those tabloid stories about an alleged affair he's having with New York City nightclub hostess, Woods writes, "The rumors are false, unfounded and malicious."

The Senate begins debating its health care reform bill today. You're probably already noticing more and more commercials on TV trying to shape that debate.

A record $165 million is already spent on health care ads. And there's a reason for that. Remember Harry and Louise? They're the actors who some say single-handedly shifted the case for health care reform against the Clinton administration in the 1990s.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Government-imposed spending limits for every region of the country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, if our plan runs out of money...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Rationing the way I read it, you know, long waits for health care and some services not even available.

ANNOUNCER: Government-controlled health care -- Congress can do better than that.


JOHNS: They certainly had a real impact. Fifteen years after Harry and Louise entered our living rooms, millions of dollars are being pumped into a whole new generation of lobbying for and against the health care bills in Congress. Are they effective and who are they targeting?

Joining me from Washington is Evan Tracey, founder and president of the Campaign Media Analysis Group.

Good morning, Evan. Thanks for coming in today.


JOHNS: So, let's talk a little bit about the money. We have a graphic here we can show you. One hundred eighty million dollars has been spent on health care in past year, with pro-reform dishing out about $67 million and those against the current reform bill putting it about $70.3 million -- $80 million spent in just the past two months.

Now, this is just a ton of money for an off year when there's no election. What's going on with this?

TRACEY: Well, we have come a long way since the "Harry and Louise" campaign. But you can see how big advertising is now in the lobbying process. These dollars are designed to really raise awareness and change public opinion. And that's why you're seeing so many of them spent right now -- which is really kind of crunch time in this health care debate.

JOHNS: All right. So, let's just take a listen to a couple of the ads to give people an idea of what we're talking about.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi. I'm government health care.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I'm Jamey (ph). So, if I don't have insurance, Obama is going to tax me a thousand bucks?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. Not a tax, little lady, a fine.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm a spin doctor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm here to give you the facts about Medicare.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm here to scare you.


JOHNS: Now, these are pretty light-hearted ads. Are they hitting people in the same place that the "Harry and Louise" ads did?

TRACEY: Yes, they are lining up. A lot of these ads, as you would expect, are in these states right now where you're going to have the swing votes in the Senate and they're really designed to sort of move public opinion and really try and change the perception on the health care debate.

As you see this debate unfold right now, it's really becoming sort of the metaphor of the status quo versus government-run health care. And that's really what's sort of duking it out in these media markets right now where these key Senate voters or key senators are.

JOHNS: And they're very subtle ads though, but at the end of the day, they are negative.

Do you think there's a danger of blowback here?

TRACEY: Well, the danger comes right now in the timing. What we are in is sort of the key Thanksgiving to Christmas period where, you know, most consumers are focused on a lot of things and this has usually been a political ad-free zone. But if you go back to the last presidential primaries, we saw that the candidates had to deal with the same thing. It's really -- what's the tone, what's the balance, to target these consumers and voters so that you don't have blowback or you don't have people getting more upset about these ads than informed.

JOHNS: Give us a sense of where these ads are running? What parts of the country?

TRACEY: Well, the majority of these, as I said, are really focused into some of these key senator states like Louisiana, Arkansas. You're also seeing a lot of ads running in House districts, which tells me that, right now, the strategists think that there may still be some action in the House. But it's really the opening salvos of the 2010 election where you're going to see health care become a big part of the midterm elections whether it passes or it doesn't pass. These candidates are clearly going to be held accountable for their votes.

JOHNS: And talking about the next -- the midterm election, a lot of people obviously say that when you have a midterm election, the party out of power is the party that ends up getting the most people to the polls or whatever.

What do you see the influence of this barrage of ads being?

TRACEY: Well, I think what you're seeing is that the midterm elections are being teed up as a referendum on health care. And it's going to be a big issue that both parties are going to try and leverage. Clearly, members of the Congress that vote against this plan are going to be held up to being in the pocket of the insurance industries. And the people that vote for it are going to be voting for a big government solution.

So, you know, you're starting to see some early framing on the health care issue in the context of the 2010 elections.

JOHNS: Great. OK, thanks so much, Evan Tracy. We appreciate your coming in. And we'll be back in touch.

TRACEY: Great.

CHETRY: It's 37 minutes past the hour.

One teen's near death from swine flu serves as a cautionary tale to parents everywhere. Elizabeth Cohen is going to join us with that story -- coming up.



CHETRY: And welcome to your day, Atlanta, where it's cloudy right now, 53 degrees, going up about five degrees for a high of 58 a little later. But rain is in the forecast.

It's 40 minutes past the hour. Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning.

For most children, if they do catch the swine flu, it isn't very serious, thank goodness. Your pediatrician will likely recommend a few days of rest and plenty of fluids.

But what if your child is in real danger and you're the only one who can see it? What should you do?

Senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is live from CNN Center with one family's story.

And the reason this is so scary is because it seems so arbitrary. Most kids get sick for a few days, as we said, get over it. In some other cases, children die from swine flu.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Kiran, arbitrary is a great word. You just can't always predict which kid is going to become seriously ill from swine flu. But let me tell you, when a child becomes very ill from H1N1 flu, things go downhill very, very quickly. Parents need to be vigilant.

Let's listen to one family's story.


COHEN (voice-over): Jessica Samples was captain of her high school swim team, a perfectly healthy 15-year-old girl until H1N1.

(on camera): So, on September 27th, Jessica has been feeling sick but nor horrifically sick.


COHEN: And so you took her to the urgent care center.


COHEN: And what did they tell you?

A. SAMPLES: She was to rest for two days, 48 hours, stay out of school for 48 hours, drink plenty of fluids.

COHEN: So, the next day, September 28th...

A. SAMPLES: She had a really bad cough. And I just wanted to be safe than sorry.

COHEN: So, you brought her for the second time to go and see doctors in less than 24 hours.


COHEN (voice-over): Once again, doctors sent Jessica home.

(on camera): September 29th, this is now day three.

A. SAMPLES: Day three.

COHEN: She's already been to the urgent care center. She's been to the hospital.


COHEN: You took her in a third time.

A. SAMPLES: She said her hands and feet were numb and I knew something was wrong. I didn't know what but I knew something was wrong.

COHEN: How would you describe the speed of it?

A. SAMPLES: In zero to 60 in 10 seconds. That's how fast it went down.

COHEN (voice-over): After being told twice to go home, this is how Jessica spent the next two weeks: fighting for her life in the intensive care unit at Cook Children's Medical Center in Fort Worth, Texas. The virus had gone to her heart. Her heart couldn't function on its own.

Dr. Linda Thompson was one of the first doctors to treat Jessica.

(on camera): It sounds like when she got here, her heart was barely beating.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The heart was trying to beat but it just wasn't being filled with blood.

COHEN: This machine did the work that her heart and lungs couldn't do any more.


COHEN (voice-over): Three times, Jessica almost died. But in the end, it was maternal instinct that saved her life.

(on camera): So, if Jessica's mother had waited another 12 hours, another 24 hours before bringing her back in, would Jessica have survived?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think we would have pulled her through.

A. SAMPLES: My first prayer when she first woke up was, "Thank you, God, for giving me a second chance with her," something that a few days before I didn't think I was going to have.

COHEN: Your mom really saved you?


COHEN: That's pretty amazing.

A. SAMPLES: She asked like, "Mom, did I almost die?" She didn't even comprehend how sick she's been.


CHETRY: It seems outrageous though, I mean, thank God this has a happy ending. But for some families, it does not have a happy ending. So, what do parents do if they're turned away, as you said, from the emergency room a couple of times? She had to bring her for a third time to get her admitted.

COHEN: Right. You have to do what Andrea Samples did, the woman we just met. You have to be your child's best advocate. You can say specific things -- tell the doctor how worried you are, tell the doctor that you've seen that your child has gotten worse. List the specific symptoms if you can. She's having trouble breathing. It seems to me that her -- that her fingers or her toes are turning blue.

These are the signs you want to look for. Fast breathing, bluish skin color, fever with a rash, if symptoms improve, then worsen. If any of those things happen, specifically say that to the doctor that you see. And if you feel like a doctor is not listening, repeat to yourself the mantra, "I know my child best, I know my child best," and ask to speak to a different doctor.

CHETRY: All right. What a scary story, though.

And tomorrow, Elizabeth will be taking a look at the problem of bogus H1N1 tests. How do you know that your doctor is actually getting the right information?

For one little girl, swine flu hit hard and fast. Her story right here on the Most News in the Morning.

Forty-five minutes past the hour.


JOHNS: Miami, Florida right now. This is the time. Kiran is dancing already.

CHETRY: No, I'm not!

JOHNS: You know, this is the time of year in Miami where I think there are a whole bunch of art shows down there. I was looking online, at Lincoln Road, Collins Road -- Collins Street.

CHETRY: Collins Avenue. (INAUDIBLE) Collins Road.

JOHNS: Yes. Collins Avenue. It's Collins Avenue. Right.

CHETRY: I roller bladed up and down there. I didn't stop at any art museums, though.


CHETRY: They didn't let you in with wheels.

JOHNS: No. Of course not.

CHETRY: You could damage the fine art. It's going to be 81 there later today. What a great place to be.

JOHNS: Fantastic. And Rob, you're rolling with the weather, and I'm hearing it's not supposed to be so good, right?

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: That's right. Joe -- Joe, you don't -- you're not fooling me. You're not kidding anybody with this art show thing. Are you really that sophisticated?

JOHNS: Hey, I checked it online, straight up. There's art shows down there. MARCIANO: All right. Lots of stuff to do in Miami, including roller blade. Although, Joe, you and I probably shouldn't be roller blading.

JOHNS: No. I -- I don't do that. I'd break my neck.

MARCIANO: That's -- among other things, it could be dangerous.

Across parts of the east, we've got this slow moving front, actually snows across New Mexico. They'll see several inches but not over a foot in some of the spots there.

Speaking of snow, we'll see a little bit of lake-effect snow with -- as this system passes, but it has been unusually dry in places like Syracuse. A new record, 278 consecutive days with less than an inch of snow. The last time they saw snow of that magnitude, February 24th. So they -- and they've been keeping records for over 100 years.

So, what are we looking at with this? Just rain for most part, just a little bit of snow mixing in. Northern parts of Upstate New York and -- and Maine, and maybe a little lake-effect behind it. But maybe an inch or two at best. Looking for rain to kind of slow down across parts of the south, temperatures behind this front will be in the 40s and then 50s. And as we mentioned in the last hour, this is the last day of hurricane season and it's been unusually slow, and we'll take it. I don't think we'll see much in the way of tropical systems at least until 2010.

Joe and Kiran, back up to you.

CHETRY: All right. Rob Marciano for us. Thanks so much.

MARCIANO: See you guys.

CHETRY: Well, still ahead, civilians train with role playing Afghans about how to act in the middle of a war zone. We're going to take a look at how this is helping make some situations that could be quite deadly a bit safer.

It's 50 minutes after the hour.


CHETRY: Fifty-three minutes past the hour. Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning.

Tomorrow, President Obama steps squarely into the middle of what could be his lasting legacy. In a prime-time address, he's reportedly planning to ask for about 34,000 additional troops for Afghanistan. But it's not just US forces headed to the war zone.

Our Jill Dougherty is live in Washington, and we're also talking about civilians headed to the front lines, Jill.

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Right, Kiran. You know, there's a whole other side to the president's strategy on Afghanistan, and that is civilians. He says that they are every bit as crucial as the number of troops that he'll be sending.

But most of them have never been to a war zone, so the State Department, along with the military, is giving them a crash course in survival and we went along with them to experience it.


DOUGHERTY (voice-over): Our Black Hawk helicopter flies low over fields and woods, destination now in sight. The Muscatatuck Urban Training Center, a half-hour flight from Indianapolis, Indiana, this week, transformed into a village in Afghanistan.

On the ground, 36 civilian trainees in camouflage jackets and body armor.



DOUGHERTY: They're from the State and Treasury Departments, US Agency for International Development and the Agriculture Department, all volunteered for at least a year in Afghanistan. Part of the civilian surge critical to the new strategy, tripling the number deployed on the frontlines.

They're using their skills in law, agriculture, medicine to help the Afghan people get the services they desperately need. Without that, they could turn to the Taliban. The team's mission today, help solve a land dispute between two Afghan tribes.

HARRIS (ph), STATE DEPARTMENT VOLUNTEER: I'm Mr. Harris, senior representative of the State Department at (INAUDIBLE).


DOUGHERTY: Real Afghans, some of whom don't speak English, play the role of provincial officials and tribal leaders.

HARRIS (ph): OK. I would like to welcome everybody.


HARRIS (ph): From the bottom of my heart.


DOUGHERTY: The reading from the Koran, the translator, hot tea they're offered to drink, the soldiers from the Indiana National Guard -- every detail as authentic as possible.

DOUGHERTY (on camera): How real is this?

BRENDAN O'BRIEN, STATE DEPARTMENT: I thought it was very real, actually.

DOUGHERTY (voice-over): Brendan O'Brien served in Kabul, Afghanistan as consul general. He's going back for another year as an information officer. This new training, he says, is critical to understanding how the military function. His life depends on it.

O'BRIEN: The military culture is almost -- is a foreign culture. It's almost as foreign as the Afghan culture to State Department, to USAID, to the Department of Agriculture.

DOUGHERTY (on camera): Just as in Afghanistan, these teams are accompanied every step of the way by the military. They rely on them for security and for mobility.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have a lot of problems.

DOUGHERTY (voice-over): At the same time, these civilians, unarmed, have to establish trust. The war, as they say, can't be won only with guns.

In this vignette, an Afghan plays the role of a pregnant woman as Maura Mack, a USAID health development officer listens closely. Mack has never been to Afghanistan. She leaves this December for Logar Province. This lesson, she says, taught her...

MAURA MACK, US AGENCY FOR INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT: ... the importance of building these relationships with the people, listening to them, the etiquette, the politeness, building that trust and rapport with them so they really can share with you what their concerns are and be willing to work with us, because we need to work together.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How did they interact? How well did it go for you? What -- what impressions did you have?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The one thing that nobody asked me was about what sort of disease are very common in this province.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Got on the birds, took off, did a little ride, kind of windy, knocked us around a little bit.

DOUGHERTY: The Afghan staff, the trainees, the military give their feedback, lessons that could make all the difference when these civilians take off for real to Afghanistan.


DOUGHERTY: Now, those numbers, roughly 1,000 civilians, don't seem very high in a country the size of Texas. The State Department says you can multiply that times 10, because each civilian is usually accompanied by about 10 others, Afghans and aid workers, specialists, along with staff from international non-governmental organizations -- Kiran.

CHETRY: Jill Dougherty for us this morning. Thank you. JOHNS: Tiger Woods takes the blame for his mysterious car crash, but questions are piling up.

We're back with the top stories in just a minute.