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Tropical Storm Lee Heads Towards Louisiana; President Obama to Give Jobs Speech in Detroit; "March for Jobs"; Rebels Poised to Attack; Lee Soaking the South; Palin Slams Obama at Tea Party Rally; Romney Courting Tea Party; Bachmann's $2 Gas Pledge; China Tried to Arm Gadhafi; "Ready to Negotiate a Cease Fire"; Amanda Knox Appeal Resumes; DSK Returns Home to Paris; Tropical Depression Lee Heads Towards Gulf Coast; Fires Threaten Hundreds of Homes in Texas; Over Four Job Seekers Compete for Each Available Job in America

Aired September 05, 2011 - 06:59   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): A stubborn storm soaking the south. Tropical depression Lee dumping more than a foot of rain on New Orleans and the worst flooding may be yet to come.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Texas inferno. A massive wildfire, reportedly 60 miles long blazing through the lone star state this morning. One resident telling CNN, you can smell the earth burning.

ROMANS: Poised for attack. The showdown in Libya getting even more intense this morning. Rebel forces getting ready to launch an assault on one of Moammar Gadhafi's last strongholds.

COSTELLO: And it's all about jobs this Labor Day. The president and the people who want his job fanning out across America, including Mitt Romney who suddenly seems to have a taste for tea on this AMERICAN MORNING.


COSTELLO: And good morning to you. It is Monday, September 5th. Happy Labor Day. Welcome to AMERICAN MORNING. I'm Carol Costello.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. Ali has Labor Day off.

Up first, Lee is now a tropical depression moving across the southeast this morning. Its center of circulation is sitting in southern Louisiana right now where it's expected to dump as much as 20 inches of rain in some spots throughout -- through tonight. The storm made a very slow landfall this weekend.

Here's what Lee looked like from an oil rig out in the Gulf of Mexico where workers were riding out the storm despite the wind- whipped waves. Measuring the wind speed is what that oil worker is doing right there. A foot of rain fell in parts of Louisiana and Mississippi, triggering flash floods.

This is what it looked like in Plaquemines Parish. Water from the Gulf of Mexico began overtopping levees in dozens of spots there.

Ed Lavandera is live in Crown Point, Louisiana, which felt the brunt of the storm about 15 miles south of New Orleans. Good morning, Ed.


And this is what folks around here are dealing with this morning. That water is creeping up out of the inter-coastal waterways, pushed up. It's a tidal surge problem here now. It has much less to do with the rain. We haven't seen any significant steady rainfall since yesterday morning.

But the problem is, is the winds are still pushing to the north, and it's pushing the water out of these canals and waterways into these neighborhoods. We're in the town of Crown Point. These are areas where we've seen mandatory evacuations throughout the weekend because of situations like this. The water creeping up and in many places, very close on the doorstep of dozens and dozens of homes in these low-lying areas.

Water has gone into several homes, but that hasn't really happened. There's a frantic effort going on right now. They've got crews sandbagging and they've created these little makeshift levees, these long, plastic tubes that they fill with water to create levees and try to control the water. They've laid about 26,000 feet of that, a great expense to try to protect as much of these -- as many of these homes as possible.

What they need is for the wind to shift back toward the south. That will push water back out into the Gulf of Mexico. But as you mentioned, Christine, this storm is so dreadfully slowly moving. I feel like we've been talking about this storm for three days just being over Louisiana. It's hard to imagine it still hasn't moved farther north. But at one point this storm was only moving two to three miles per hour, and you could walk faster than that. Christine?

ROMANS: All right. And you can't outrun the rain drops, that's for sure. Ed Lavandera, thanks so much.

COSTELLO: Deadly wildfires burning in Texas this morning, at least 1,000 homes in danger of being burned to the ground. Hundreds of households have been evacuated. The largest fire in burning in Bastrop County, that's just southeast of Austin. CNN's Chris Welch is there now. So describe what's happening there.

CHRIS WELCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Let me begin by giving you a quick update on the numbers. And I want to stress these numbers are from last night. We've just, you know, we're getting to the morning hours. When daylight comes they'll get a better idea.

But so far they say officials say there are at least 300 homes burned to the ground, completely destroyed at this point, and 5,000 people have been evacuated. That is just here in this county alone. Fires have spread out, have opened up yesterday over several counties in this part of the state near Austin, also on the eastern part of the state. And that's where we had two confirmed fatalities so far, eastern part of the state.

But I want to stress, the serious part of this fire, what broke out yesterday is what officials are very concerned about. They say their efforts -- all efforts will be focused here today on basically assessing the situation once daylight comes and figuring out exactly whether they will be able to fight this or not.

The winds have remained strong. They say this fire is zero percent contained at this point. They set up official evacuation shelters across the state. They don't have an exact number on how many that is. They say unofficially several have popped up all over. So this is a very serious situation.

They expect to hold a morning briefing. We don't know exactly what time that will be. We expect it sometime around maybe the 9:00 or 10:00 eastern hour. But at this point officials just telling us this is serious. We don't know the extent and may not for a couple hours. But they expect it to be bad.

COSTELLO: Chris, those fatalities you talked about, a mother and her 18-month-old child. They were trapped in their mobile home when it was overcome by flames. Are people listening to the evacuation orders?

WELCH: Yes, Carol. I think it's safe to say they are. Officials have told me that people have come from all over to fill these shelters. They've said hotels are filling up with, you know, families and children who clearly they have come from homes where, you know, these folks who are in the shelters have no idea whether their home is still there or not, whether their life is still there or not.

A lot of people in this area in Texas in general, rely on ranching, on farming. And with a fire like this, it can completely destroy a livelihood, a career. So this is -- that's just one other factor to this disaster that officials are watching.

COSTELLO: Worst factor of all. Chris Welch reporting live for us from Bastrop County, just southeast of Austin. Many thanks to you, Chris.


COSTELLO: President Obama heads to Detroit later this morning to talk jobs on this Labor Day. This after touring Hurricane Irene's aftermath in the northeast. The president visited two flood ravaged towns in New Jersey yesterday, surveying the damage left behind. He met with residents who lost their homes and businesses, promising help for the recovery and pledging financial federal resources.


BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The main message that I have for all the residents not only of New Jersey but all those communities that have been affected by flooding, by the destruction that occurred as a consequence of hurricane Irene, is that the entire country is behind you. And we are going to make sure that we provide all the resources that are necessary in order to help these communities rebuild.


COSTELLO: And that's a whole lot of resources. From North Carolina to New England there's an estimated $6 billion worth of damage.

ROMANS: I did my back-to-school shopping in Wayne just so I would spend my dollars some place where I knew people were trying to get back to work. A lot of things are up and running again. Big signs saying "We're open," come here.

New this morning, college football season kicking off to a rocky start. Over the weekend three stadiums evacuated because of bad weather. More than 50,000 fans were evacuated at West Virginia University. Their game was delayed three hours. At the University of Notre Dame lightning and storms caused the first ever weather delay. The stadium had to be evacuated not once but twice. The University of Michigan had to end its game early, clearing its massive 110,000 seat stadium during the third quarter.

COSTELLO: That is a massive undertaking.

ROMANS: I'll say.

COSTELLO: The suspect in the disappearance of American Robyn Gardner in Aruba plans to challenge a judge's order to hold him for an additional 60 days. Lawyers for Gary Giordano plan to file an appeal today. The 50-year-old Giordano has been in jail in Aruba for the past month. He has yet to be charged with a crime.

ROMANS: The United States postal service warning it may be forced to shut down this winter. "The New York Times" is reporting the agency is struggling to pay its bills and says it will not be able to make a $5.5 billion payment due this month. The postal service is calling on Congress to step in and help straighten out its finances.

COSTELLO: A terrifying high-speed crash during a practice run at the first ever Baltimore Grand Prix. Brazilian Tony Kanaan loses control during the first turn. He hits the back of Helio Castroneves's car and launches into the air before smashing into tire barriers. Incredibly neither driver was hurt. For some reason Kanaan's brakes were not working. He was traveling at 190 miles per hour. So it's amazing everyone is A-OK this morning.

ROMANS: I'll say.

All right, Donald Young stirring things up at the U.S. Open. The flashy 22-year-old lefty from the south side of Chicago, one of four American men to reach the round of 16. That hasn't happened since 2003. American Andy Roddick also advancing. The 2003 U.S. Open champion reaching the quarters with a straight set win yesterday over France's Julien Benito.

Second seeded Rafael Nadal also moving on to the quarterfinals with a straight set win over Argentinian David Nalbandian. That's in a blistering New York heat yesterday.

COSTELLO: And you know what heat dozen. It causes severe cramping. Quite a scare for Rafael Nadal and his fans two hours after that match the Spaniard talking about his game at a post-match press conference. And look. He suddenly wincing in pain and slides out of his chair onto the floor. It was a really bad leg cramp. Nadal's camp says he will be fine. He jumped up shortly after that. Man, that looks painful.

ROMANS: He's even cute even when he's grimacing in pain, Carol.


COSTELLO: I would have rubbed his cramping leg for him.

ROMANS: Carol's interview with him 00 there you go. Tennis's top player, he was feeling good. No wincing here. He is feeling good about his chances this weekend. Novak Djokovic doing a victory dance Saturday night after advancing to the round of 16. The top seeded Serb improving his 2011 record to an absolutely astonishing 60 and two.

COSTELLO: He's been having a phenomenal season.

ROMANS: How do you say his last name? Djokovic?

COSTELLO: Djokovic. You go.

ROMANS: My brother-in-law is Serbian. I should know all the Serbian pronunciations. He wrings my neck. Funny.

COSTELLO: It tough games in tennis.

Still to come this morning, one city turning its Labor Day parade into a march for jobs, only not everyone is invited to this year's march. Find out why.

ROMANS: Plus, the president's plan to create jobs. One proposal is infrastructure spending. But is it really the answer to putting Americans back to work? It's 12 minutes after the hour.


ROMANS: Good morning. "Minding your Business" this morning. U.S. markets are closed today for Labor Day. On Friday that dismal jobs report pushed markets down. The Dow, NASDAQ, S&P 500 all lost more than two percent after it was reported there were no net jobs created last month.

This week, America's high jobless rate remains front and center. President Obama will give his big jobs speech on Thursday and today he will be talking about jobs at an event in Detroit.

Pushing European markets down overnight Friday's U.S. jobs report, also a local elections loss for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, a local elections loss. There's a mounting pressure on her and on other EU leaders over the financial bailout of Greece. Concerns over Europe's debt problems also likely to have an effect on U.S. markets this week.

Honda is recalling nearly one million Fit Compacts CRV and the City vehicles worldwide over a problem with a window switch that could catch fire. That includes more than 80,000 CRV vehicles in the U.S. The company says no injuries or deaths have been reported related to the switch problems.

Don't forget for the very latest news about your money, check out the all new

It's 15 minutes past the hour. AMERICAN MORNING will be back right after this quick break.


COSTELLO: Eighteen minutes past the hour. Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING.

In Pittsburgh today, unions are inviting thousands of the city's unemployed and underemployed to march in the Labor Day parade, but not everyone is welcome. Some politicians are being told thanks, but no thanks.

Joining me now to talk about this is, Jack Shea, he's president of the Allegheny County Labor Council AFL-CIO; and Jim Bonner, who is an unemployed bus driver who will also be attending today's parade. Welcome to you both.


COSTELLO: Jack, let's -

JIM BONNER, UNEMPLOYED BUS WORKER: Good morning. Thank you for -

COSTELLO: Thank you both for being here. I really do appreciate it. Because I know it's Labor Day and you're busy, but you have important things to say.

So, Jack, let's start with you, the big Labor Day Parade is set for later today in Pittsburgh. You're calling it a march for jobs. Who are you asking for help?

SHEA: Well, actually, we're asking President Obama, actually, to take the gloves off. I think the bipartisan peace that he's been trying to drive home for two and a half years hasn't worked and we're asking him to just take the gloves off, be more proactive.

And actually we're asking the Republicans who have stopped everything that he's tried to do, to please, do something about jobs. We all know what the numbers were last month and they're terrible and I blame that directly, I lay that at the feet of the Republicans who have been stalling him. You know, basically - COSTELLO: And not - and not President Obama, who some people say -

SHEA: Oh, not at all. I think President Obama has some great ideas, some great programs, but I don't have to tell you, Carol, you see what they're doing as well as anybody else. They haven't come up with one job program since they've been elected in 2010. When they were elected in 2010 we know what they did to everybody in Ohio and Jersey and all those other states and it's not President Obama.

President Obama has some good programs, but he can't get anybody to go along with him to try - to try the programs to see if they work.

COSTELLO: OK. You mentioned bipartisanship, and I know that this year's parade is by invitation only. You're not allowing politicians you deem anti-union to march in this parade. But isn't this a time we all kind of have to work together no matter what our core beliefs are? Why keep them out?

SHEA: Well, actually, we have tried.

Let me give you an example. We have Senator Toomey, who wants to absolutely weaken people with the bargaining table. He's come out publicly and said it since he's been elected, so he don't like the working class folks for 364 days a year, I don't think he wants to be around us one day in a year.

Now we did invite Republicans that we work with who understand workers issues. Very honestly, anybody anymore who has wages and benefits and a pension, either the corporations are coming after them and they're the same, let me point out to you, the same corporations that are not paying their fair share in taxes, right?

So what they're doing is they're making all the workers, they're all getting their wages dumped on, nobody has had a real increase for the last 10 years. I've been bargaining all my life. I know - I know the changes. And I'm telling you it's not good. It's not good for the workers.

So, you know, we're playing a little defense, but we're taking the gloves off. I think it's time we take the gloves off and say, hey, let's start worrying about working families for a change.

COSTELLO: Jim, let's talk to you now, because you're an unemployed worker. You're a bus driver. You were laid off six months ago. Who do you look for for help? I mean, who's out there helping your cause?

BONNER: Well, we have - we still have the labor movement helping us out. But our union Local 85 here in Pittsburgh is doing a fairly good job in getting - in trying to get the issue out and talk to people.

I have been out myself with a few other people, a group called Pittsburghers of Public Change. We're out trying to raise the issue about what's happened here along with public transportation. COSTELLO: But let me ask - let me ask you it this way.


COSTELLO: What do you want to hear from President Obama on Thursday? What do you want to hear from him when he gives his big jobs speech?

BONNER: Well, I don't want to hear it on Thursday. I want to hear it tomorrow or today. I want to hear on how he's going to fund infrastructure, fund highways and bridges, and most importantly fund public transportation right here in Pittsburgh and also throughout the whole country.

I want to see these - these good-paying jobs that are being taken away from us be put back in. These are the jobs that the politicians will talk about creating, but once they get in there, they want you to work for $10 or $12 an hour and that's unacceptable here in Pittsburgh and throughout the whole country.

COSTELLO: Are you - are you losing hope -

BONNER: I'm sorry.

COSTELLO: -- that anyone can fix what's wrong with this country?

BONNER: No, I'm not. I remain optimistic. I remain confident that if we as a labor group, as the bus drivers, as the electricians, as the people of the United States, if we fight back together we can win this battle.

But we have to fight. We have to be strong. We have to get into the streets and tell the ruling class this is uncalled for. This is unnecessary and this will not be tolerated.

COSTELLO: And, Jack, you said the president should take off the gloves. What do you want to hear from the president on Thursday? He's going to be looking at lawmakers straight in the eye in this Joint Session of Congress. What do you want him to say?

SHEA: I would like him to say especially to the Republicans who have stonewalled him, here's what you want in your district, we'll do it. Here's what you want in your district, we'll do it. And when they wouldn't agree with him, then I want him to point out people by name.

I don't want him to say that Congress wouldn't do this or that. I want him to say, this one wouldn't do it, that one wouldn't do it no matter where they're at. I want him to fix infrastructure. We saw - we saw the hurricane just a week and a half ago come up the East Coast and we saw the damage it did. And it didn't take much to do it.

And the point being is, our infrastructure, our sewers, our bridges, our schools, they're getting old. They need fixed. We got to start putting people back to work. And when you do, and there's no doubt about it, I've been around long enough to know this, when you put people back to work, they go out and they spend.

And when they go out and spend, everybody feels pretty good. People go to a restaurant and say, boy, everybody must be doing OK. I've got to wait in line a couple minutes to get a table.

My point is, that President Obama has tried and tried, because I watched this stuff pretty closely and he's tried and they've said no. As a matter of fact, they have actually went the opposite way and they said all they're interested in is one thing, to make sure he's a one- termer and that's terrible. We have never treated other people like that.

Let me give - make just one more point if I may. If President Bush was still in office today, and he was on board when we got - oh, gees, mental block on TV, it's terrible. But when he killed the al Qaeda guy, right? We would be putting a statue in every city in the United States. President Obama was in office, he's the one who called the shot and guess what happened? They ignored it, they brush it off, it's water off their back.


SHEA: That's how they're treating the man. It's not fair.

COSTELLO: I got to wrap it up.

Jack Shea, Jim Bonner, I'm sure many Republicans, Jack, would disagree with you. They blame the unions -

SHEA: I realize that.

COSTELLO: -- for a lot of what's happening in this country and - but we're only hearing one side of the story this morning.

Thanks to both of you for joining us. We appreciate it.

SHEA: Thank you, Carol.

BONNER: Thank you.

COSTELLO: And now we want you to talk back on this story. The question we're asking you this morning, do unions help or hurt America?, We'll read your comments later this hour.

I think they were a little fired up.

ROMANS: I would say so, on Labor Day, too.

COSTELLO: On Labor Day.

ROMANS: It's the big day for the cause, right?

COSTELLO: It's basically, yes.

They invite (ph) President Obama, although many union people say President Obama hasn't done much for the unions lately.

ROMANS: You know, when you look at an underemployment rate of 16.2 percent, I mean, just brings new fire to Labor Day in general. You know, everyone wants America to get back to work. How to get there, that's the big question.

All right. Still to come this morning, an awkward moment at the Tea Party rally in New Hampshire. Why some people didn't appreciate a comedian's joke right before Sarah Palin took the page - took the stage, rather.

And Michele Bachmann not backing down from one of her biggest campaign promises. She says she can bring the price of gas down to $2 a gallon. She can do it under a President Bachmann, $2 gas. Coming up, find out how she plans to keep that promise.


COSTELLO: DeMint is in demand. The South Carolina Republican and Tea Party are becoming something of a fire brand this morning. Six Republican hopefuls for president coming to his Presidential Forum today.

The question this morning is DeMint the new presidential kingmaker on this AMERICAN MORNING.

And good morning to you. It is Monday, September 5th. Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING. I'm Carol Costello.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. Ali has the morning off.

Here are this morning's top stories for you.

Texas still bone dry, strong winds are whipping up more wildfires there. One of the largest fires threatening about 1,000 homes near Austin this morning. In East Texas, a mother and her 18-month-old child died when their mobile home was overcome and burned by the flame.

After talks failed, Libyan rebel fighters have poised attack pro- Gadhafi forces in a town of Bani Walid, one of Gadhafi's last strongholds. Libya's new leaders have given Gadhafi's loyalists until Saturday to surrender or face military forces.

And Lee, now a tropical depression, moving very slowly, very slowly inland after pounding the Gulf Coast with rain by the bucket full and it's carrying more flooding rains as it heads across the southeast.

Rob Marciano live in the extreme weather center. You know, gosh, Rob, Ed Lavandera was telling us it's going about two-and-a-half miles an hour at one point. It's just -- we could out walk this thing.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, it wasn't moving very rapidly, but it is beginning to pick up some speed and has lost intensity. That's the good news this morning. But the cloud canopy getting trained in a pretty strong cold front and that's going to mean we're going to spread this thing out over a lot of real estate and a lot of people as well.

The other threat with this is tornadoes. We do have a tornado watches extended for pretty much all of Alabama, at least the southern part of it. Panhandle of Florida the smidgen of Georgia until 4:00 local time and we've seen a number of tornado warnings indicated by radar with that spin that often accompanies these systems off towards the east of them.

All right, this thing will continue to move towards the north and east and as I mentioned, it will pick up speed, but it still has a lot of moisture with it. So flood warnings are posted for eastern parts of Mississippi. There have been evacuations in Jackson proper, some homes and some apartment complexes being flooded out.

And flood watches and even a couple warnings already for the northeast because of all the saturated soil, obviously, from Irene and flood ravaged regions there. Good news with Katia, although it's getting stronger there look at the eye popping now out, 100-mile-an- hour winds, Category 2.

The storm is now forecast with this strong cold front to be nudged out to sea. I think at this point, we can breathe a sigh of relief there. But Lee may cause some problems for a lot more people than Katia moving forward.

ROMANS: Rain, rain, go away unless you're in Texas. They want that rain. They're not getting it. All right, thanks so much, Rob.

MARCIANO: You bet.

COSTELLO: We begin this half hour with politics. Sarah Palin has been stealing the spotlight even though she won't talk about her political ambitions for 2012. This weekend in Iowa, she continued to slam President Obama calling him a president who promised to cut the deficit in half and instead tripled it.


SARAH PALIN, FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: He wants to win the future by investing more of your hard earned money in some hair brained ideas like more solar panels and really fast trains. These are things that venture capitalists will tell you are nonstarters yet he wants to do more of them.

We're flat broke, but they think that these panels and really fast trains are going to magically save us. He's shouting, all aboard Obama's bullet train to bankruptcy.


COSTELLO: There was an awkward moment just before Palin took the stage. A comedian named Eric Golub telling a joke comparing liberals to special needs children. Of course, the former Alaska governor is the mother of a special needs child.


ERIC GOLUB, COMEDIAN: The left should love Sarah Palin. She has a beautiful, adorable, special needs child that she cares for while balancing everything else.

For that reason alone the left should worship Sarah Palin and adopt her as one of their own because the leftist haters are an entire political ideology of special needs children.


COSTELLO: Palin returns to New Hampshire today to speak to a Tea Party rally in Manchester. We'll keep you posted.

ROMANS: All right. They're calling him the kingmaker. South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint is hosting six Republican candidates at a presidential forum this afternoon.

Mitt Romney will be among them. The former Massachusetts governor has been -- I don't think you can say cozying up, but he's been meeting and greeting the Tea Party lately.

COSTELLO: You mean like pandering? It will be the first time Romney and Texas Governor Rick Perry square off on the same stage, so that will be interesting as well.

CNN deputy political director Paul Steinhauser joins us live from Columbia, South Carolina, this morning. So Paul, what can we expect to come out of this forum? It's kind of strange. Two lawmakers and then a professor will be asking these candidates questions, right?

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN DEPUTY POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes. It's a forum so it's not a debate. They speak one at a time. Each candidate will get about 20 minutes and take questions from among them, Jim DeMint as you mentioned, the senator from South Carolina down here, two-term Republican and yes, DeMint has really become a kingmaker among Tea Party activists.

He's very influential with them. He's got a lot of support among Tea Party members and Tea Party activists across the country. Remember last year, DeMint went against his party in endorsing a lot of Tea Party type Republicans like Marco Rubio and Ron Paul and others.

And he was very influential last year and we think DeMint could be influential this time around in the race for the Republican nomination. Six candidates, let's name them real quick, Michele Bachmann, the congresswoman from Minnesota, Herman Cain, former Godfather's Pizza CEO and radio talk show host.

You've got Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker, Ron Paul, the congressman from Texas, Rick Perry, of course, the Texas governor and Mitt Romney, he was a late add, the former Massachusetts governor who's making his second bid for the nomination. Ladies --

COSTELLO: Paul, you know, I joke that Mitt Romney is pandering to the Tea Party, but he's certainly wasn't -- I'm thinking of another word -- I'll say cozying up to the Tea Party before. Why does he think it's so important to be a part of this forum today?

STEINHAUSER: Yes. The forum today, he was a late entry there. He changed his schedule to make sure he could be here. The rally last night, that Tea Party Express rally in New Hampshire, that was the first time that Mitt Romney actually spoke in front of a Tea Party rally since he's jumped into the race for the White House earlier this year.

You know, we talked to his campaign officials and they say he's not doing anything different, but here's what has changed in the last couple weeks. Rick Perry has jumped into the race and now Rick Perry not Mitt Romney is at the top of the polls.

The top person in our CNN/ORC poll as well as others so the dynamics in this race have changed and maybe that's why we're seeing Mitt Romney apparently changing a little bit.

ROMANS: All right. Thanks so much. We can't wait to see it because we are going to be able to watch it, and we're going to be able to see it in its entirety beginning at 3:00 p.m. Eastern, Paul, the entire presidential forum, 3:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN. Full coverage if you will anchored by John King. OK, we are, of course, an exclusive national broadcaster of this forum.

All right, Michele Bachmann doubling down, the 2012 presidential candidate is pledging once again to bring gas prices down to $2 a gallon. She made that promise on CBS's "Face the Nation." So how will she pull it off?


REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Embarking in an all of the above energy strategy. What the president has been doing is strangling the United States energy sector.

I want to do what House Republicans have been talking for a long time and that is embrace an all of the above energy solution so that we can be our own answer. We all realize we can no longer be dependent on foreign sources of oil and energy.

One thing that we know again, gasoline was $1.79 a gallon when President Obama came into office. We can bring the price of gasoline down, but not with the current policies of this administration.

My pro growth, pro energy policies, will bring the prices down because again, it's not government directed, it's private sector directed.


ROMANS: So Bachmann addressed a previous statement about drilling in the everglades. She says she would not do anything to compromise water or air quality. She believes the U.S. should tap into its resources, but should do it responsibly.

Carol, of course, many people say to get $2 gasoline, you basically need another recession. The reason why gas prices -- gas prices go down quickly would be because the demand would dry up because the economy is so weak.

COSTELLO: Drilling --

ROMANS: All of the above approach would include more drilling, takes a long time --

COSTELLO: I was going to ask you that. She's talking about more domestic drilling, if we depended more on that we would get more oil out of the ground in our country and that would drive gas prices down because we wouldn't be dependent on foreign oil.

It takes time to get those oil fields up and running in the United States, so when will we see that $2 a gallon gas, even if that would work?

ROMANS: I think a $2 gas campaign pledge is -- it's a round number that's appeals to a lot of people. It's much more difficult and complicated than that. I think also, presidents get to much credit and too much blame for things like gas prices and stock markets and all that kind of stuff.

You know, it's a very -- I don't know -- when I see $2 gas I cringe because I worry so badly that gas -- last time we saw gas go down abruptly when the economy was falling apart. I don't want the economy to fall apart, you know.

Anyway, still to come, a big day in court for Amanda Knox. Her appeals trial winding down. Details on this one straight ahead.

COSTELLO: Plus, find out who was apparently trying to help arm Moammar Gadhafi's forces during the final days of his regime. You're watching AMERICAN MORNING. It's 38 minutes past the hour.


ROMANS: Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING. Right now, Libyan rebels are waiting for a green light to launch an attack on Bani Walid, one of the few towns still loyal to former leader Moammar Gadhafi.

Rebels have given Gadhafi loyalists there until Saturday to surrender, but there are indication opposition forces may enter this town before that deadline.

COSTELLO: CNN also this morning from opposition leaders that China apparently tried to help arm Moammar Gadhafi's forces in late July.

According to a senior member of the transitional government documents found in Tripoli indicate that Chinese companies offered to sell rocket launchers and anti-tank missiles and other weapons to Gadhafi despite a ban on such sales. China says its companies did not sign military trade contracts with Libya.

ROMANS: And one of Moammar Gadhafi's sons says he is ready to stop the fighting. Saadi Gadhafi called our Nic Robertson to say he's ready to negotiate a cease-fire. He's considered a moderate compared to other members of his family. He also said he has not spoken to his father or his brother in two months.

COSTELLO: Amanda Knox's effort to overturn her conviction for the murder of her roommate in Italy is entering its final stretch. Her appeals hearing resumes today and you'll remember new DNA analysis is calling her conviction into question.

ROMANS: Our Zain Verjee live in London. Zain, good morning. This trial has been simply fascinating, especially after the most recent sort of scientific or forensic evidence there.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: It really is and this is going to be a pivotal week, the final stretch. The defense and the prosecution are going to present their final arguments.

What happened, critically, the last time was that independent forensic experts were brought in to analyze two really, really key pieces of DNA evidence. The first was a knife that was found with Amanda Knox's genetic material on it.

What these experts said, that was just too small, they had questions, too, about how it was collected and the fact also that it was not double tested. The other key piece of evidence was the clasp on the victim's bra strap.

The basic issue with that, the experts had, was that it was contaminated. They said it had been lying on the floor for something like six weeks and then the analysts came in, they picked it up, they passed it around in a way that would have contaminated it and it was even caught on videotape.

So they said that that piece of evidence as well as the knife was not permissible. That really did give Amanda Knox a boost.

COSTELLO: We'll see what happens. Let's talk about Dominique Strauss-Kahn because he's back in France, but his troubles are far from over.

VERJEE: Right, exactly. He is back in Paris. I spoke to an analyst in France today and he said the one question everyone is asking today, is when is he going to talk? Is he going to bring his wife with him on TV?

We want to hear his side of the story they say. Also something like 61 percent of the people in France don't believe that he should ever be in politics. Remember this was the guy that was going to run for president of France against Nicholas Sarkozy.

He's a smart guy, very intellectual and with the world economic crisis, many people in France are thinking, well, he may look for some kind of a behind-the-scenes advisory role. But the accusations against him for rape by one French writer as well as a civil judgment case still pending in New York City are still going to dog him.

ROMANS: He hasn't been convicted of anything, and the French have a different perspective on things like this. I mean, if they decide this is just an affair of the heart or it's just his personal dalliances they're much more likely, aren't they, Zain, to forgive him and he could have a second, you know, a renaissance, if you will?

VERJEE: The French all about amore. And they have a different standard sometimes with the affairs of the heart like this. But I think that this one really has impacted not only Dominique Strauss- Kahn but the country as well. There is a percentage that may look at this case sympathetically toward him, but because of the allegations that continue to come forward, his chances for rehabilitation are still going to be pretty tough.

He is an intellectually respected guy, so he may be able to maneuver himself and build a future to for him around that. But I think the jury is still out in France because they want to hear from him.

ROMANS: Thanks so much, Zain Verjee. There are those who say it caused a renewed importance of feminism in France too, like maybe there is this new mood that --

COSTELLO: I don't think the French presidency is in the stars for him any longer.

ROMANS: I think you're right.

All right, time now for "Romans' Numeral." The number, 4.5. here's a hint. It's not how many jobs are lost or created a day, but an important number to keep in mind if you're on the hunt for a job. It's all about the competition. AMERICAN MORNING will be right back with the answer.


ROMANS: A lot going on this morning. Here's what you need to know to start your day. Forecasters expect Lee, now a tropical depression, to bring more heavy rain and flooding as it moves across the southeast. The storm dumped a foot of rain on parts of Louisiana and Mississippi this weekend and spawned several tornadoes.

Lee's strong gusty winds have whipped up the wildfires burning in Texas. A fire near Austin is said to be threatening been said to be threatening 1,000 homes right now. Authorities say a mother and her child were killed when fire burned their mobile home.

Police are investigating the death of a man whose body was found at the home of NFL player Anthony Smith. The 37-year-old victim was discovered at the bottom of a swimming pool. Police say they don't suspect foul play.

Republicans who would be president will spend Labor Day in South Carolina. They're attending a key Tea Party forum hosted by GOP Senator Jim DeMint. CNN will carry that event live starting at 3:00 pm eastern.

"The Help" doesn't need any at the box office. The movie is number one for the third straight weekend taking in just under $15 million for the first three days of the holiday weekend.

And will Eddie Murphy be hosting the 2012 Oscars? Reports say the actor and comedian has emerged as the leading candidate to host the Academy Awards ceremony next February. A final decision could be made this week.

You're caught up on today's headlines. AMERICAN MORNING is back in 60 seconds.


ROMANS: All right, today's "Romans' Numeral," the number is 4.5, four and a half. It's the number of unemployed people competing for each job openings. Carol, that's an improvement, believe it or not.


ROMANS: It's an improvement. And some companies are saying they have a position available, but the skill set and the jobs open in this country are not quite matched. But four and a half, that's your competition. That's your competition out there.

COSTELLO: Now you know.

We asked you to talk back on one of the big stories of the day. We asked you this question, do unions help or hurt America? I'll get my sheet here. We asked for your responses. This from Sohail (ph), "Unions are the best thing that happened in the past, but with all the labor laws in place now, unions are the worst thing for the present."

This from Skylar, "As a former health care worker, union member, and union representative, I have to say, yes, unions do more good than not. My former union helped increase wages, gain benefits for working students, and it developed a more comprehensive work-life balance. But I do admit that sometimes unions can be counterproductive. It's all about balance."

And this from Michael, "the unions have sucked the life out of this country by driving our factories overseas. I've watched this country fall apart for the past 40 or 50 years because of unions cheating companies out of their capital."

Keep those responses coming, I'll read more later on, on AMERICAN MORNING.

ROMANS: We had a lot about teachers and teachers unions. There's been an interesting movement there because so many teachers get frustrated with their union. And at the same time they don't like to see governments going after unions, like in Wisconsin. They're frustrated by that, too, and a lot of teachers feel like they're caught between their union and what they would like to see as well. So it's a real tough situation. It's a controversial issue, so keep those responses coming.

Still to come this morning, weaker, but still causing problems -- tropical depression Lee dropping more than a foot of rain on New Orleans and still threatening with high winds and coastal flooding. We'll have a live report for you. It is 54 minutes past the hour.

COSTELLO: Also, the latest on the deadly wildfire still raging in Texas. A live report from Bastrop County where fires have destroyed more than 14,000 acres. You're watching AMERICAN MORNING.