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Three Americans Arrested in Cairo; Who's Commander-In-Chief Material?; Violence Escalating in Tahrir Square; Egypt's Interim Cabinet Resigns; Do Aliens Exist?; Pres. Obama's Veto Pressure; Plane Filled With Pot Lands In Texas

Aired November 22, 2011 - 06:00   ET



CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Republican candidates gather in the shadow of the White House tonight for the big CNN national security debate. It is the first test for Newt Gingrich as frontrunner.

ALINA CHO, CNN ANCHOR: Cairo bracing for a million-man sit-in. Police beating demonstrators on the fourth straight day of violence, and now late word, three Americans have been arrested.

COSTELLO: Is there anybody out there? NASA re-launching a program to listen for alien life, searching for signs, on this AMERICAN MORNING.

CHO: Good morning. It's Tuesday, November 22nd. Ali and Christine are off this morning. I'm Alina Cho along with Carol Costello on this AMERICAN MORNING. So glad you're with us.

COSTELLO: Glad you're with us. Good morning to you.

Up first this morning, breaking news out of Cairo, three Americans were arrested outside the Interior Ministry in Tahrir Square. They're accused of throwing Molotov cocktails during violent protests in Cairo.

Bloody clashes between the Egyptian military and protesters are escalating right now. Thousands of demonstrators are packed into Tahrir Square for a million-man sit-in.

Just a short distance away, our Ivan Watson reports soldiers are pelting those protesters with tear gas. Twenty four people have now been killed, 1,700 injured during four straight days of violence. We'll have a live report from Cairo coming up.

CHO: A big story we're watching this Tuesday morning -- it's a chance to convince voters that you're commander in chief material. Of course, we're counting down to tonight's big CNN national security debate.

It will take place just a few feet away from the place every candidate wants to call home -- the White House. There's a look at the stage and time lapse video of it going up and just hours before the contest, a new candidate has surged to the lead in a new poll. COSTELLO: Wow, that's cool video. Isn't it?

CHO: Yes, it is.

COSTELLO: I just want to watch it go. It's complete, almost. Joining us now is Joe Johns, our CNN political director, Paul Steinhauser also with us and Chris Lawrence with voters shifting opinions on the war.

So Joe, the first question to you, while the focus for the debate tonight is foreign policy, the "Super Committee's" implosion, well, I'm sure that will come up.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Carol. I hope I can hear. I'm having a difficult time hearing what you are saying. I can tell you this. Number one, this was sort of about what you could expect.

The questions tonight that are sure to come up include, what happened to the "Super Committee?" In some ways it's political science 101. When you put a system in place in Washington, D.C., it's very difficult to change.

Now, of course, we have another element of political science 101. That is, of course, the blame game. Democrats blaming Republicans. Republican blaming Democrats. We all know the outlines of all this. It's tax cuts against entitlement spending.

So is this over? Certainly it's not over, a long way to go. We have automatic spending cuts that will go into place starting in 2013 if nothing else is done. We'll also hear from the candidates as we move towards next November's election.

We've got a preview, of course, from some of the Republican candidates running for president. Themes we'll probably hear in tonight's debate. Let's listen.


NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The failure of the "Super Committee," which I had suggested several months ago was the dumbest, single legislative idea that I have seen.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You have a president who didn't get involved in the process. Who didn't pick up the phone, bring in the Republicans, bring in the Democrats, make a proposal of his own.

MICHELE BACHMANN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The problem isn't we aren't paying enough in taxes. The problem is the government is spending too much money. And Barack Obama has been AWOL. No disrespect to the president, it's kind of like, "Where's Waldo?"


JOHNS: So the president for his part, of course, blames Republicans for not getting a deal. He, too, would like to see some other arrangement than the spending cuts, but if they try to go around what is now in place with the automatic spending cuts, he says he will certainly veto that. Back to you.

COSTELLO: Thanks, Joe.

CHO: All right, we want to bring in CNN deputy political director, Paul Steinhauser now. So Paul, Newt Gingrich for the first time is the frontrunner in our CNN/ORC poll heading into this debate, but Mitt Romney seems more electable. That's no surprise. So how do you see it playing out tonight?

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN DEPUTY POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, I think with Gingrich now being on top, according to our latest poll numbers, you're going to see him maybe the target of some of the other candidates for the first time.

Take a look at our numbers. CNN/ORC, as you mentioned, out last night, and as you can see there is Newt Gingrich for the first time, 24 percent of Republicans and independents who lean towards the GOP say they're likely to vote for him.

At 20 percent, Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who's making his second bid for the White House that four-point margin for Gingrich within the poll sampling error. So basically it's all tied at the top.

In third place, Herman Cain, you can see right there at 17 percent. He was tied for the top with Romney, but his numbers have been slipping with controversies over the last couple of weeks and then everybody else down there a little bit lower.

So a whole new ball game that keeps changing in this battle for the GOP nomination race. It may change again. These debates have been extremely influential, all eyes on tonight's contest.

CHO: Part of the reason why Newt Gingrich is now polling better. All right, Paul Steinhauser, thank you.

COSTELLO: Let's bring in Chris Lawrence now. He's live at the Pentagon. So Chris, moments ago CNN and ORC released these foreign policy polls with the heavy focus on tonight's debate. What are the polls showing?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, they show, Carol, that some of these candidates may be in a tricky position tonight when they have to defend some of the positions that they've taken on national security.

Take a look at this first poll. Look at the difference and the change from about seven years ago and how Americans feel about attacking another country. The CNN/ORC poll asked, should the U.S. attack another country that has not attacked the U.S.?

Look at that a change, only saying yes, about 24 percent now and no, the answer from about 74 percent of Americans. That could cause problems for candidates like Mitt Romney who said as recently as yesterday that Iran needs to understand that America does have military options, that America will take military action.

He may be asked to explain that position tonight. Another big issue on the table is getting troops out of Iraq. Obviously, the president announced all troops going to be out by the end of the year.

Take a look at this next poll. It asks, you know, should President Obama remove combat troops from Iraq by the end of the year? Nearly two-thirds of Americans say, yes, he should. Now let's drill down on that topic just a little bit more and look at the breakdown.

President Obama should remove combat troops from Iraq by the end of the year. This was asked of Democrats, Republicans and independents. Take a look at the difference, no surprise. Democrats at about 71 percent agree with that.

But look at the disparity between independents and Republicans. That 24-point gap could cause problems for candidates like Newt Gingrich who last month when the policy was announced said Obama is right. No short-term advantage for the U.S. to even be in Iraq.

Then a couple of days later said that this was ushering in defeat, that thousands of lives would have been lost for nothing more than defeat. So it really shows the very fine line the candidates have to walk appealing to the base now to get the nomination, but also taking positions they'll have to defend if they are eventually the nominee.

COSTELLO: Wow. What a change.

CHO: I want to restart this round-robin that we have going. Joe, start with you, question, with this debate focusing on the national debate and foreign policy. Which candidate or candidates do you think will benefit from this the most?

JOHNS: You know, it's funny. When you look at Newt Gingrich's comments, he's been pretty consistent saying this was just a bad idea. The "Super Committee" was not going to work. So that's an interesting point of view.

He's always tried to portray himself as the adult in the room, and to that extent, it might be to his benefit. There's any number of questions in all this. You look at Mitt Romney. This is a guy who says, yes. I can do better. I have a better idea.

I think the president of the United States has really sort of been asleep at the switch, if you will. So it might help him, too, but right now this is largely a talking point on the campaign. I think a lot of people know what the voters believe, and a lot of people also think that the voters haven't been real engaged on this issue. So, we'll see.

COSTELLO: OK, to you, Paul. Who needs a breakout performance tonight?

STEINHAUSER: Well, I think a couple people. First of all, Herman Cain, seems foreign policy has not really been his wheelhouse. So maybe he's been studying up and maybe he's going to have a breakout performance.

Rick Perry, the Texas governor, was the frontrunner back in August when he jumped in the race, but he has stumbled because of poor performances in debates. No doubt about that. We've seen it several times this autumn.

So I think a strong performance from him would help. What about some of the lower tier candidates, I guess you could call them like Rick Santorum and Jon Huntsman. Listen, they've got a lot of foreign policy and national security experience.

So this may be a format for them to shine. Who's going to be, I guess, in the bull's eye? Well, yes, Gingrich and Romney because they're the frontrunners. When you're at the top, you have more scrutiny. We could see that play out tonight.

CHO: All right, Chris, you have long been stationed at the Pentagon and you're an expert in foreign policy and national security. So what's the one thing we should be watching for tonight?

LAWRENCE: Well, I think you know, some of the candidates obviously, you've got -- have different expectations. Herman Cain has to show that he sort of has the chops to be commander in chief. That he has a firm understanding of foreign policy.

Look, even though the economy is far and away the number one issue for most Americans heading into this next election, there's still a baseline that people expect from a commander in chief, a certain knowledge of foreign affairs, the ability to command troops, to make decisions on an international level.

So I think some of the candidates will be trying to meet that baseline. Others who have already surpassed it, such as Mitt Romney, will have to explain some of the more definite positions they've taken on issues, like Libya and Iran.

COSTELLO: Joe Johns, Paul Steinhauser and Chris Lawrence, thanks so much for being with us. We'll catch you in the next hour of AMERICAN MORNING. Thanks.

CHO: And coming up at 8:05 Eastern Time, Republican presidential candidate Congresswoman Michele Bachmann will join us live.

COSTELLO: And of course, don't forget. Tonight is the night. CNN hosts the Republican national security debate starting at 8:00 p.m. Eastern. Wolf Blitzer moderates. It's co-sponsored by the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute. That's live at 8:00 Eastern right here on CNN.

CHO: Still to come, chaos in Cairo. Violence erupting again in Tahrir Square as the entire interim government in Egypt resigns.

COSTELLO: And actor Hugh Grant fighting back against the British press calling tabloid reporters cowards. The latest on the hearings into the U.K. hacking scandal when AMERICAN MORNING continues. It's 12 minutes past the hour. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHO: Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING. Breaking news happening right now.

Deadly fighting between protesters and the military government raging for a fourth day in Egypt. Twenty-four people have been killed. More than 1,700 others injured. And hours ago, Egypt's cabinet resigned, just days ahead of a parliamentary election.

Our Ivan Watson is watching all the developments for us live in Cairo this morning. Ivan, demonstrators are staging a million-man sit-in today. Set the scene for us.

IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I don't think we're quite at a million people yet, but definitely the numbers have swelled, if you want to see, Alina, as Joe is going to pan out across the crowd. In Tahrir Square, thousands of people slept in the square overnight. They're establishing camps there. First-aid stations as well.

Because we're going to zoom in and show you in the direction of where the clashes have been going on now for three straight days and nights, in the direction of the Interior Ministry, where riot police are firing pretty much every minute canisters of tear gas, despite that and despite the effects it's had, where you have people being rushed out, overwhelmed by the tear gas, by ambulances, mostly angry young Egyptian men and women, who are on the front (ph) lines facing off against the riot police, are not backing down.

They are continuing to stand their ground. They are not going to give up this territory. In addition to the 24 people killed here in Egypt, according to the Ministry of Health, and I expect that number will rise due to the number of ambulances we saw streaming out of here through the night. At least one person had been killed in the second City of Alexandria in similar clashes and at least 60 people wounded there -- Carol -- Alina, sorry.

CHO: That's OK, Ivan. Very quickly, just as we were going to air this morning, we heard a report that three Americans were among those detained in Egypt. What can you tell us about that?

WATSON: Well, Alina, the images of these three prisoners were shown on state TV last night. They were shown their I.D. cards. It looked like they were students at the American University of Cairo, but we haven't confirmed that yet. One of them appeared to have a driver's license from Indiana.

Now, the Prosecutor's Office here is accusing these three Americans of hooliganism, saying they were caught throwing Molotov cocktails. Now, the U.S. Embassy here says it's looking into this report. It hasn't been able to confirm the detention of these three apparent Americans, but they say one American female student was detained yesterday, and later released.

There's a large number, a large expatriate population in Cairo and in Egypt. This is a major tourist destination as well as a place of study for a lot of students. So it's not surprising to hear that foreigners and Americans are getting caught up in this.

The bigger picture, elections are just six days away. Can you still hold parliamentary elections with this kind of violence going on in the Egyptian capital? Alina.

CHO: Ivan Watson watching the developments for us live in Cairo. Ivan, thank you very much.

Also new this morning, an armed standoff at an Air Force Base in Colorado has ended peacefully. Air Force officials say an airman with a gun surrendered to authorities more than 12 hours after barricading himself in a building at the base. No shots were fired and no one was injured. Officials say the airman was facing a discharge over legal action in a civilian court.

More than $1.2 billion in customer funds may be missing from the bankrupt brokerage firm MF Global that's nearly double the original estimate. Federal prosecutors and the FBI are now investigating the firm which was headed up by former New Jersey governor, Jon Corzine.

COSTELLO: Part of a major highway between Memphis and Dallas reopened this morning. After an intense downpour washed it out yesterday, Interstate 30 in Little Rock, Arkansas was closed. A stretch of roadway almost every trucker in this country knows well. More rain is on the way this morning.

Jacqui Jeras is in the Extreme Weather Center. More rain?

JACQUI JERAS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. More rain but mostly south of I-40. So that's the good news is that this whole system is moving now and it's pushing off to the east, but we still have a lot of areas being impacted by it. Really from the Central Plains States through the Ohio Valley, and then stretching on down into parts of Texas, and some really intense thunderstorms crossing along I-20 right now in northern parts of Louisiana.

The rainfall, though, is just incredible. Every city you see listed here in Arkansas, this is a daily record rain report. So Little Rock itself, more than six inches, and this is a record now also for the month of November. So flood watches and some warnings remain in effect. So this is going to be the area we're concerned of. There you can see the I-40 Corridor I mentioned as well as along I-55 and over towards Paducah, Kentucky. So a good one to two inches on top of what you already have in those areas.

On top of that, we're getting some really warm air pulling up ahead of our system. So thunderstorms could be severe later today. Places like New Orleans, over towards Birmingham, even up towards Cincinnati. Cold air on the back side of this system. So highs only in the 30s today for you in Minneapolis, but we're pushing 80 in places like Atlanta. Not great for a lot of travelers out there today, guys.

CHO: All right. Jacqui Jeras, thank you very much. COSTELLO: The so-called Super Committee blew it. Soon you could pay for it. Coming up, how Washington's failure could affect your paycheck with a matter of weeks.

CHO: Ouch. And, if you're planning some online shopping at work today or maybe even Black Friday, beware of the boss. A crackdown on online shopping? We'll explain.

Twenty-one minutes after the hour.


CHO: Welcome back. "Minding Your Business" this morning.

U.S. markets closed sharply lower yesterday, and stock futures are already up today following European markets higher. But volatility is very high right now because of concerns about Europe's debt problems and also the U.S. Super Committee's failure to cut a deal.

Stocks sank on that news, but at the same time investors breathed a big sigh of relief when both S&P and Moody's ratings agencies reaffirmed America's credit rating. The third agency called Fitch on the other hand announcing this morning it could knock down the outlook for the U.S. rating but it wouldn't have a decision until the end of the month.

Up next for Congress and your money, whether or not to extend the payroll tax holiday or let it expire at the end of the year. The tax holiday is worth about $934 to the average worker. Critics argue that if the program is not extended, it could hurt the fragile growth rate of the U.S. economy.

Delta is cutting back on international travel. Much of the cuts will come from transatlantic flights. The airline says the changes to overseas routes are necessary because of high fuel costs and economic uncertainty. Delta plans to trim its flight capacity by two percent next year.

Bad news for bargain hunters this holiday. Companies are apparently cracking down on online shopping at work. A new survey finds that 60 percent of companies interviewed have blocked shopping sites. And a warning for those who do have access -- nearly a quarter of companies track your every online move.

And some good news on the jobs front, Big Three automaker General Motors is restarting its plant in Spring Hill, Tennessee. That will bring back about 700 jobs. The company says it plans to bring the assembly plant back online to backstop extra production needs.

AMERICAN MORNING will be right back after the break.


COSTELLO (voice-over): Rising up in rage, protesters missing (ph) for a million-man sit-in as a new critical crisis erupts in Egypt on this AMERICAN MORNING.

CHO (on camera): Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING. It's 30 minutes past the hour. Time for this morning's top stories.

The GOP field getting ready for tonight's big CNN National Security Debate in Washington. It will focus on foreign policy, terrorism and defense, but it's a virtual lock that the Super Committee's failure to find $1.2 trillion in budget cuts will come up.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg slamming the highest levels of government including the president for the budget gridlock.


MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (I), NEW YORK: I just think that the failure of the super committee to come to an agreement is just a damning indictment of Washington's inability to govern this country. I don't know how you'd reach an agreement if you don't sit down at the table and talk to each other, and I think it's a failure -- people say, who do you blame? The blame is both sides of the aisle, and both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.


COSTELLO: President Obama saying he won't stand for any attempt to roll back automatic budget cuts triggered by the super committee's failure.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Already, some in Congress are trying to undo these automatic spending cuts. My message to them is simple: No, I will veto any effort to get rid of those automatic spending cuts, domestic and defense spending. There are will be no easy off ramps on this one. We need to keep the pressure up to compromise. Not turn off the pressure.


COSTELLO: The across-the-board cuts will affect almost every level of government, and his defense just as hard as domestic spending.

CHO: Egypt is unraveling. The country's interim civilian government resigned overnight days ahead of parliamentary elections. And for a fourth consecutive day, there have been bloody clashes in Cairo's Tahrir Square between protesters and the military. Demonstrators today are staging a million man sit-in.

Well, just nine months ago, the Egyptian military refused stand in the way as demonstrators drove President Hosni Mubarak from power. All of that has changed.

Former undersecretary of state Nicholas Burns joins us live from Providence, Rhode Island, this morning. Mr. Burns was also the ambassador to Greece and NATO.

Good morning, Ambassador.

So, who could forget those massive demonstrations in February that brought down Mubarak? Now, as you can see, it's happening again. A lot of people, really, are scratching their heads and they still don't understand why in a post-Mubarak Egypt, this is going on. So what's happening?

NICHOLAS BURNS, FORMER UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, it's certainly the most serious crisis in Egypt since the fall of Mubarak. The military is losing control of the streets and they're losing the credibility with the people of Egypt because they've used excessive force and live ammunition against protesters over the last three or four days. They've arrested thousands of people over the last several months and tried them in summary fashion. And they are widely perceived to be trying to carve out protection and autonomy for themselves when this does transition to civilian rule. All of that's made them very unpopular.

And now, you have calls by many political parties in Egypt for a rapid transition away from the military towards some type of civilian rule. But it's unclear who would rule Egypt in interim before an election. So, it's a chaotic political scene.

CHO: That is the big question, because the latest news, as you well know, is that Egypt's entire cabinet resigned in protest. So, how significant is this in the larger scheme of things, and who is in charge?

BURNS: It's a very significant blow, really, to democracy. You know, the elections are planned for next Monday, November 28th, the first round of elections, parliamentary elections. There was a well- defined process over the year to have elections, write a constitution, finally elect a president as well as a parliament. All that's now it's in question because of this urge by the political parties to get rid of the military and to have them step down.

But this is a big country. It's a country with a lot of poverty, with a lot of social and sectarian tensions. And so, it's not going to be easy to find an interim government that could rule a civilian government as effectively or at least with as much authority as the military has done.

CHO: And while all of this is unfolding, Egypt's economy, as you know, is struggling. I found this so interesting that a quarter of people under the age of 25 are unemployed. So, people are hopping mad. Are you saying that these elections, you don't think will make a difference?

BURNS: Well, it's unclear whether the elections on Monday will now go ahead. Will the military be able to hold the elections, oversee them, at a time of massive social instability with thousands, or even millions of people in the streets of Cairo and Alexandria and other countries?

And as you rightly say, this is all taking place at a time of severe economic meltdown. Egypt itself with lacks jobs, lack of hope for the young people who comprise the majority of the country. This situation is quickly sliding out of control and the military needs obviously to find a way to placate its critics and go ahead with these elections.

CHO: Hmm, which is why you see all of those people pouring out into the streets right now. You have been privy to backdoor diplomacy. So far, the U.S. is not commenting directly on the situation in Egypt and not directly involved officially.

But if you had to guess, what do you think is happening diplomatically behind the scenes?

BURNS: Oh, I think the administration must be very worried. The State Department spokesperson, Victoria Nuland, did criticize the Egyptian military's treatment of the protesters yesterday. I think the administration is going to try to reach out to the military. We have a close relationship with the Egyptian military. Counsel them not to use force. Not to use live ammunition. Open a political dialogue with the political leaders, the civilian leaders, if you will, especially in the Islamic parties to try to get this situation under control.

CHO: Ambassador Nicholas Burns, I thank you for your perspective this morning. Thanks for joining us.

BURNS: Thank you.

COSTELLO: A TSA worker in Virginia now under arrest and charged with sexual assault. Police say 52-year-old Harold Rodman was wearing his uniform during the attack and showed a badge to the victim. Local reports say the TSA immediately removed the suspect from his security post and is helping in the investigation.

CHO: Actor Hugh Grant is taking on the British press. Yesterday in London, he testified at a government hearing into the U.K. phone hacking scandal, insisting reporters hacked his phone. He also told the panel that he believes the tabloid hire criminals to get their stories.


HUGH GRANT, ACTOR: I just think that there has been a section of our press that has become, allowed to become toxic over the last 20 or 30 years. Its main tactic being bullying intimidation and blackmail, and I think that needs a lot of courage to stand up to, and I feel it's time, you know, that this country's historically had a good record standing up to bullies. And I think it's time that this country found the courage to stand up to this bully now.


CHO: Well, that's something you don't see every day. The parents of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler also testified. They reporters at Rupert Murdoch's defunct "News of the World" tabloid hacked their daughter's phone after she went missing, even leading phone calls giving them false hope that their daughter was checking messages and still alive.

COSTELLO: Ah. Let's talk about sports, shall we?

Justin Verlander, Alina, one of your favorites, I'm sure.


COSTELLO: He is the American League's most valuable player this year. Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander -- the mighty righty captured 13 of 28 first place votes to become the first starting pitcher to win MVP honors in 25 years. Verlander also captured the Cy Young Award for winning 24 games while pitching a second no-hitter this season.

CHO: You actually knew before you read that, that he was called the mighty righty. That I did not know.

COSTELLO: I have to bring you to a Tigers game.


CHO: I actually like baseball. Some day we'll do it.

COSTELLO: I'm going to hold her to that.

CHO: All right. Do you believe --

COSTELLO: And make her drink a beer.

CHO: Hey, I like beer.

Do you believe in aliens? Some people say there is proof out there. Coming up, we're going to meet a team of scientists on the hunt to find it.

And it's air travelers' number one complaint: too many carry-on bags taking up space in the overhead bin. Now, a few members of Congress say they got a plan to un-stuff those overheads.

Thirty-seven past the hour.


COSTELLO: Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING. It's 40 minutes past the hour.

Major League Baseball is mourning the loss of Seattle Mariner center fielder Greg Halman. The 24-year-old was found stabbed to death Monday in the Netherlands. Police has arrested his 22-year-old brother. Halman made his big league debut just 14 months ago and played in only 44 games for the Mariner.

CHO: Penn State announcing that former FBI director Louis Freeh will lead an independent investigation into child abuse sex allegation. The university was slammed by critics who fear that the investigation would be handled by its own people.

Freeh saying that this investigation will go back as far as 1975, a much longer period than the Jerry Sandusky grand jury covered. By going back that far, Freeh's investigation would cover the entire time the Second Mile charity has existed.

Now to overstuffed, overhead bin. The number one complaint of air travelers. With the holiday travel season under way, two Democratic senators from Maryland and Louisiana want to tackle the problem. They've introduced a bill that would allow passengers to check one bag for free. That way, you don't have to try and cram everything into a carry-on.

CHO: I love this idea.

A chilly, but safe landing, for three astronauts. The U.S. commander and two flight engineers from Japan and Russia landed safely in Kazakhstan this morning. They spent nearly six months at the International Space Station. A new crew headed by a U.S. astronaut has already been sent up to replace them.

So, do aliens exist? Believe it or not, we might soon find out.

An extraterrestrial project once backed by NASA is searching for signs of life. No Martians just yet, but scientists discovered hundreds of new planets and who knows what or who may be living on them.

It sounds like a project for CNN's John Zarrella. He joins us live from Miami with details.

So, what is this all about, John?

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Alina and Carol. You know, later this week, NASA's going to send a rover to mars that has the capability to find signs of life. So, we decided to take a look at how the search for life in the universe is going. And what we found is pretty amazing.


ZARRELLA (voice-over): Probes to mars. Telescopes searching for other earths. Listening for life out there.

There's no proof yet, but the body of evidence is growing. We are not alone.

SETH SHOSTAK, SETI INSTITUTE SENIOR ASTRONOMER: But one thing that strikes you is every time we learn something new about the universe, what we learn is that our situation doesn't seem to be all that special. And that suggests that life is not all that special either.

ZARRELLA: But it is still just that, a guess, based in part on astronomy in overload. Findings from telescopes like Hubble, Spitzer, Chandra, new discoveries at a breathtaking rate revealing the sheer mind-blowing grandeur of the universe. Consider these heavenly numbers just for a minute: perhaps 1 trillion, with a T -- that's right -- trillion galaxies in the universe.

Stars, you ask? OK. How about 300 sextillion? That's three followed by 23 zeros.

So, where does that leave us with planets? More specifically, planets like our own?

WILLIAM BORUCKI, KEPLER PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR: We're learning that the fundamental importance to mankind. How frequent are earth around other stars?

ZARRELLA: Bill Borucki is the principal investigator for NASA's Kepler telescope. Its mission: find planets similar in size to the earth orbiting their suns. So far, it has been successful beyond expectations. Of the 1,200 planet candidates, Kepler has found nearly 70 are earth-sized.

NATALIE BATALHA, KEPLER CO-INVESTIGATOR: The indication from data we have in hand is that small planets are common, that the galaxy makes them efficiently. So, they're going to be abundant.

BORUCKI: The number is large enough. So, there must be many billions of such planets in our galaxy. So, that's been a very happy surprise.

ZARRELLA: How many are orbiting at just the right distance from the sun to support life? More than 50 candidates found so far where life might be possible.

What Kepler can't do is detect life. So, for now, that will remain just a guess.


ZARRELLA: Some billions of planets the size of earth just inside our own Milky Way galaxy. Now, again, Keppler can't tell you exactly whether they have life, can't even see their oceans. That's going to be left for spacecraft of the future to do, but, you know, it's found one planet, big planets, 1,200 in all.

One of them has the density of Styrofoam. So, now, tomorrow, what we're going to do is look at NASA's next great observatory called "The Web Telescope" which promises findings even greater than hobble (ph), but wait until you hear how much it's going to cost -- Alina, Carol.

COSTELLO: Who's going to pay for it, I wonder?

ZARRELLA: I wonder.

COSTELLO: I wonder.

CHO: We can't be the only planet in this universe with life, right? Right? I mean, you know?

COSTELLO: It's a start. CHO: Anyway, I'm glad they're probing. Thank you, John Zarrella.

COSTELLO: Glad they're probing.

All right. Coming up, chaos in parliament. The free trade vote that turned into a free for all for some lawmakers.

CHO: And talk about flour power. Jeanne Moos with two toddlers who got their hands on a five-pound bag of flour while mom wasn't around. Look what happened. You're watching AMERICAN MORNING. It's 46 minutes after the hour.


JOSH PASTNER, HEAD COACH, UNIVERSITY OF MEMPHIS: Hi. I'm Josh Pastner, head coach, University of Memphis man basketball team. I spend roughly 200 days a year traveling around the country. I've got to have a phone charger, my wall charger, my cell, my Blackberry.

Usually, the old school museum phone, just look at this. It just gets it done for me. My running shoes and my workout clothes. I always carry my duffel back. You can squish it like that if you need to so that you can make sure you get it into the bins above. I always used to think I would be a good film and be able to put stuff in the back of trunks or something.

The fastest way to get through security is be ready when you're up there. It's my old adage of proper preparation prevents poor performance. Number one dislike being on the road is away from your family. My daughter's eight months. I'm always calling and that's why the whole reason I try to get home that night.

Even if it's 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning, just so I can see them when they wake up. There's no place like home with a good old "Wizard of Oz."

Thanks for spending the day with me today, and I look forward to seeing you on the road in the very near future.


CHO: Ten minutes before the top of the hour. Here's what you need to know to start your day.


CHO (voice-over): Breaking news happening right now. Deadly fighting between protesters and the military government raging from a fourth day in Egypt. Twenty-four people have now been killed. Three Americans have been arrested accused of throwing Molotov cocktails during yesterday's protests.

Republicans getting ready for the CNN national security debate tonight in Washington 8:00 p.m. eastern. Our Wolf Blitzer is moderating. The candidates could face a barrage of questions about the Super Committee's failure to cut $1.2 trillion from the budget.

President Obama is vowing to veto any attempt to roll back automatic budget cuts that would trigger by The Super Committee's failure saying we have to keep the pressure on.

More rain on the way in the south after downpours shut down parts of I-30 in Little Rock yesterday. Reports say as many as 88,000 cars and trucks were detoured.

A chaotic session in South Korea's parliament -- take a look at this -- after free trade agreement with the United States was approved. Shouting match broke out with opposition lawmakers and one lawmaker even set off a tear gas bomb in the chamber during voting. The trade deal takes effect as early as January.

And a plane packed with marijuana touched down at Houston executive airport last night. Here's the really strange part. There were no pilots found onboard. Officials say the aircraft made a hard unscheduled landing which caused some damage to the front nose gear. Police are still trying to figure out when the pilots bailed.


CHO (on-camera): That's the news you need to know to start your day. AMERICAN MORNING is back after this.


COSTELLO: Welcome back.

CHO: So, what do you get when you mix five pounds of bleach flour with two rambunctious toddlers?

COSTELLO: Nothing good. In fact, you get one big mess. Here's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Mommy's not feeling so well, so she stays a little longer than usual in the bathroom, and when she comes out --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are you doing?

MOOS: Stay at home mom, Mary Napoy (ph), stayed eerily calm.


MOOS: The boys, by the way are 1/2 and 3 1/2.

UNIDENTIFIED KID: Uh-oh. What's the matter, mommy?

MOOS: What could possibly be the matter with having flour all over your house?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As soon as I stopped recording, I sat in the middle of the floor on the living room and started crying.

MOOS (on-camera): Talk about flour power, the entire mess was caused by one five-pound bag.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh my gosh. I don't know what to do. I think I'm going top throw up.

MOOS: But instead of throwing up, Mary kept regurgitating one phrase.


MOOS: From the chair seat to the window ledge on the door.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my gosh. Oh, my gosh.

MOOS: We counted at least 27 "oh, my goshes."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my gosh. It's not fair.

MOOS: Mary had just gotten home from the grocery store and said she forgot to lock the cupboard.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My, God! It's like a snowman puked all over my living room.

MOOS: Reminds us of the dog gets in the trash videos, the one where the culprit is identified by an incriminating clue.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you tell me what happened?

MOOS: The flour kids weren't talking either.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What happened to that?


MOOS: Mary called her mother-in-law for help. And by the way, those of you who say this video is fake or fakie mcfake oh vitch, you don't know how flour flies.

(on-camera): Mary and her mother-in-law used a shop vac to remove most of the flour, but there were two items that were beyond salvaging.

(voice-over) She had to throw away this rug and a light bulb admitting a burning flour smell. Hardest to clean, the couches.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We haven't even paid off those couches yet.

MOOS: During cleanup, Zach slipped on the flour and cut his lip. So, Mary left the kitchen sink and came running.

(on-camera) Unfortunately, the faucet was also running, the sink overflowed, and flooded the kitchen.

(voice-over) So, next time you think you've had a bad day, remember Mary --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I told my mother-in-law that I feel like I've inhaled so much flour I'm going to start to rise.


MOOS: At least Andrew was dressed for bad behavior like a prison inmate.

Jeanne Moos, CNN --



MOOS: New York.



COSTELLO: I don't even know what to say.


CHO: It's not fair.

COSTELLO: She has a nice mother-in-law that came up and helped her with all that.

CHO: What can you do? You've got to laugh, because you can't cry.



Just ahead in the next hour, let's talk about Egypt. It's erupting right now in extreme brutality. A new political crisis and a mass street fight. We'll take you live to Cairo, next.