Return to Transcripts main page

American Morning

Interview with Michele Bachmann; $1.2 Billion Missing From MF Global; Delta Cuts International Routes; Anti-Government Demonstrations Break out in Egypt; Three Americans Arrested in Egypt for Protesting; Peace Corps Celebrates 50th Anniversary; GDP Revised Down to Two Percent; Meditate Your Problems Away; Overcoming Obstacles; Recipe for Disaster

Aired November 22, 2011 - 08:00   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Carol Costello. Three Americans arrest in Cairo during violent clashes with the military. They are accused of hooliganism. And this morning, Egyptians are staging a million man sit-in in Tahrir Square.


The bull's eye goes to Newt Gingrich. A new candidate is at the top of the pack ahead of tonight's big GOP debate. We will speak to Michele Bachmann about how she plans to get back in the mix -- on this AMERICAN MORNING.


COSTELLO: And good morning to you. It is Tuesday, November 22nd. Ali and Christine have the day off. It's me and Alina Cho this morning.

CHO: Good morning.

Good evening, everybody. Thanks for joining us.

First, we start with breaking news from Cairo.

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

And just a short distance, our Ivan Watson reports that soldiers have been pelting protesters with tear gas. Twenty-four people have been killed, 1,700 injured during four straight days of violence.

COSTELLO: CNN has also confirmed that three Americans are among those under arrest right now for taking part in Egyptian protest. The Egyptian state television is showing what appears to be the ID cards of those three American students. You see them standing there. They're studying abroad.

An Indiana driver's license clearly shown, along with what appeared to be an American university in Cairo ID card. The names of the students could not be made out. The country's general prosecutor's office says they're accused of throwing Molotov cocktails and carrying no passports when they were picked up authorities. We'll have a live report out of Cairo. That's coming up soon.

CHO: Another big story this morning, there will be a new candidate at the top of the pack when the Republicans square off tonight live in the CNN national security debate. It will take place in Washington, in the shadow of the White House.

COSTELLO: That's right. A brand-new CNN/ORC poll shows that Newt Gingrich has shot to the top.

Joe Johns is live outside of the debate hall this morning.

So, Joe, can we expect Newt Gingrich to be taking many pointed questions, not only from the moderator, but from his fellow candidates?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: That's absolutely true. You know, as the frontrunner, that person is always going to take some slings and arrows. You know, Carol, the question we wake up with this morning is about the congressional supercommittee and its failure and how that's going to affect the government. Automatic budget cuts are supposed to go into effect that could affect the Department of Defense in a very significant way. So, we'd like to see what these candidates are going to say about that.

As far as the individual people who are going to be in front of the microphones, based on their resumes, there are probably three candidates you'd expect to know a lot of this stuff. That would be Newt Gingrich the former speaker of the House; Jon Huntsman, the former ambassador to China; and Rick Santorum, who was a member of the Senate leadership.

So, those three you expect to know a lot of the stuff. Some of the other candidates, not so much. And there could be a real fact checkers bonanza there with the number of them. We'll be watching very closely to see how Herman Cain does.

And then there's question of President Barack Obama. He, of course, is going to take a lot of heat even though he isn't in the room and after these candidates say what they think about his policies, presumably they propose many of those policies. What do you do next? What's the answer? What do you want to do aside from what this president has already done and being opposed to that?

So, it should be a very interesting debate as we look at the foreign policy issues, the national security issues and, also, get into the issues of the economy -- Carol.

COSTELLO: They've all been fascinating debates. So, I can't wait for tonight's debate. Joe Johns, thanks so much.

CHO: I want to bring in CNN deputy political director Paul Steinhauser now.

Paul, so, you heard Joe talk about it a little bit. Newt Gingrich, the man to go after tonight?

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN DEPUTY POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes. And, look why. Take a look at our brand new CNN/ORC national poll. This is a Republicans and Independents who lean towards the GOP. Let's check out those numbers and guess who's on top now.

For the first time in CNN polling, there he is, the former House speaker at 24 percent. The former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney at 20 percent. That's four-point margin for Gingrich, basically all tied up with the sampling error.

Herman Cain, the businessman, at 17 percent. His numbers have been slipping lately because of allegations of sexual harassment.

And Rick Perry holding steady down there at 11 percent. Ron Paul, the congressman from Texas at 9 percent. Everybody else in the lower single digits.

So, what explains Gingrich's rise. Go to the numbers right here and you can see the debates, the debates are helping Newt Gingrich out.

Is he the most qualified candidate? Does he have the most experience as commander-in-chief? Complex issues.

Well, look, number one right there. Gingrich over Romney on qualified to be president, understand the complex issues, same thing on commander-in-chief. These debates are giving Newt Gingrich a lift because he's had strong performances.

But as Joe said, when you rise to the top, you come under more scrutiny. And we could see that tonight at our showdown just a few blocks from the White House -- Alina.

CHO: CNN deputy political director Paul Steinhauser with a debate preview -- Paul, thank you.


COSTELLO: Thanks, Alina.

Congresswoman Michele Bachmann fresh off a meeting with Donald Trump and she is predicting an upset in the Iowa caucuses. Congresswoman Bachmann also has a new book out titled "Core of Conviction: My Story." And she joins us before she heads to Washington to mix it up tonight.

We were just talking. You're here. You're going to travel to Washington to be ready for your 11th debate. You must be exhausted.

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I'm excited to go because this is my favorite topic of all, national security. I sit on the House Intelligence Committee. Of all the candidates in the race, I'm the only one who's currently involved in foreign affairs and national security.

So, this is one of my favorite topics. And CNN always does a great debate. So, I'm looking forward to it tonight.

COSTELLO: We're happy you think that way.

Let's talk just a bit about Newt Gingrich. He shots to the top of the polls. A lot of people polled said he's the guy that has the most comprehensive, informed answers about national security. Do you agree with that?

BACHMANN: I think that I'm the best prepared when it comes to national security, but I think one thing that we've seen is that 70 percent of the voters are still undecided about who their pick is. This is very fluid and very much in flux and we think there's going to be an upset on January 3rd in Iowa.

We worked very hard. We got a good ground organization and we think we're going to be the winner in Iowa.

COSTELLO: Why do you think so many Republican voters are not sure about their pick at this point?

BACHMANN: Well, I think that people usually don't make their minds up until they absolutely have to and they're doing a good job, too. They're vetting the candidates.

That's what we want to make sure, because after all, we're vying to be the leader of the free world. This is a very important position. We want someone who is familiar with national security and with economics. I'm a federal tax lawyer. I'm a private businesswoman, started my own profitable company.

They want to know where you are on social issues and are -- what is your affiliation with believing that we shouldn't raise taxes and the government needs to get the house in order.

COSTELLO: Republican voters seem to be all over the place. I mean, you have your surge. Newt Gingrich is having his surge now. Mitt Romney can't seem to break the 30 percent approval rate. I mean, what is it when you think it comes right down to it. What are they undecided about?

BACHMANN: Well, they're taking the full measure of each candidate. I think what we've seen is a lot of surprises from the candidates.

That's one thing that I think is very different about me. I won the Iowa straw poll, the most important election that has been held so far. And I'm the one that won that race. But what people are seeing is as they're peeling back each candidate and taking a look, they're trying to find out who is the consistent conservative in this race.

There are no surprises with me. We have our Web site, But we also put one up that is because of all the candidates in the race --


COSTELLO: If you are not that steady, conservative candidate, why have you lost the surge? Why are --

BACHMANN: Because the voters have taken a good look at each candidate, which is a good idea. But I think they're going to come back home on January 3rd after taking a look at the candidates and they'll see that I'm the consistent conservative in the race.

COSTELLO: So, what will happen in Newt Gingrich's surge?

BACHMANN: Well, I'm not sure what will happen in that. But I think I'm going to win the Iowa caucus because it's time to have a mother in the White House. We never had that before, to have a mom in the White House, I think it's time.

COSTELLO: And you talk about being a mother a lot in your book.


COSTELLO: And I just wonder why is it important to have a mother in the White House?

BACHMANN: Well, because I think the perspective that a mom has. We give birth to these babies. We pour our entire life into them and I think if there's anything that I know, it's that this next generation is worth it, these children are worth it.

And what's happening to our economy right now is unconscionable. We had to have a future for them. We didn't raise these children to walk into a life of not having sufficient resources. And now, the economy is collapsing and I think we need to have someone who gets the economy. I do.

COSTELLO: So, with the mother's sensibility, the super committee failed to reach an agreement.

BACHMANN: They did.

COSTELLO: How would you have gone in -- if you were Barack Obama and you were in his seat, how would you have gone in and said to the two sides, get it together?

BACHMANN: Well, number on, I would have engaged. The president didn't engage. He was completely disengaged last summer with the debt ceiling fight and he was completely disengaged on the supercommittee.

He was gone for the most crucial nine days.

COSTELLO: How would you --

BACHMANN: He was -- it's like, where's Waldo? Where's the president?

COSTELLO: How would you as president, how would you have inserted yourself into the negotiations?

BACHMANN: Sure. Well, let me what I would have done. What I would have said last summer is that we are going to pay the interest on the debt. We are not going to default. No need to lose our AAA credit rating -- unfortunately, it did.

And then I would have said, all 535 members of Congress, we're going to stay in Washington. We're not leaving until we prioritize our spending.

That's the problem. Congress is spending money we don't have. We're acting just like Greece.


COSTELLO: But specifically the supercommittee, how would you have gone and said, look --

BACHMANN: I would have never done the super committee. It was a ridiculous idea.

COSTELLO: That was the reality we faced right now.

BACHMANN: No, we didn't have to do it. See, that's the problem.

COSTELLO: We did. It's the reality.

BACHMANN: But that was the problem with Barack Obama. He was just fine reducing down to 12 members. That's not what people sent us to Congress to do. They want to have the 535 members get together.

We need to be about the good of the country right now and the good of the people, not about partisan labels. This has to be about solving this budget problem and the president failed to lead.

COSTELLO: The country is very partisan right now. So, knowing what you know about the -- you know, how both sides think and the issues on what both sides will not budge, how would you get them together? How would you make them work together as president of the United States?

BACHMANN: Well, one thing that I wouldn't have done is to have not been engaged in the process. So, what I would have done is said, here's our maximum number. This is what we're going to spend. Now, each one of the committees -- we already have committees -- each one of you will function and have to reach this level and no more.

I would have drawn a big red line in the sand and said: that's it. We're not spending more than this money, now figure it out.

COSTELLO: Would you have said something like, hey, Republicans on the supercommittee, maybe you should think about maybe raising some taxes, and, hey, Democrats, maybe you should think about cutting some entitlement programs? Maybe if you're both open to those ideas, maybe you can come to some sort of compromise. Would you have said something like that?

BACHMANN: Well, isn't it interesting that Republicans offered tax increases? I didn't -- wouldn't have gone with tax increases, but the Republicans on the committee offered that.

But, again, let's get the context of what we're talking about. In the next 10 years, we're looking at taking on another $8.5 trillion in debt. It took us 219 years to get that much debt. So, in 10 years, we'll take on that much debt. All the supercommittee had to do was back of that debt, $1.2 trillion.

That in itself is failure in my mind. As president of the United States, I don't intend to add any more debt. We already had $15 trillion in debt. We've got to balance our budget and chip away at that debt. That's the direction I want to go because it's the next generations that are going to have reduced standard of living because their taxes are going to be so high. That's going to kill the American economy.

COSTELLO: And just a last question about the super committee, because already, Congress is trying to get out of this -- these automatic cuts of $1 trillion, right? And the president says, look, if you're going to do it, I'm going to veto it.

Would you veto it, too?

BACHMANN: What we need to do is get our books to balance. See? The president isn't focused on the main thing.

COSTELLO: But would you veto?

BACHMANN: But the president is wrong. The president is approaching this wrong. He's being reactionary rather than leading.

It's just like his foreign policy. He leads from behind by the administration's own words. He needs to lead from the front.

By saying that he's going to veto, what he says is he likes the results of the super committee because recognize what we're talking about. Tonight's CNN is having a foreign policy debate. Because of the failure of the super committee next year, 200,000 troops might have to be cut when we're engaged in four wars -- four wars: Uganda, Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq. Never in the history of the United States have we cut back on troops when we've been at war.

The president has failed. And that's why we're looking at failure in foreign policy, as well.

COSTELLO: Thank you so much.

Are you excited about the debate tonight?

BACHMANN: Oh, I love it. I can't wait. It's my favorite time.

COSTELLO: I was going to ask you because you said in this book when you decided to run for president, you got together with your husband, Marcus, and you prayed. And God said, God gave you the message that you should serve your country.

So, I just wanted to ask you if you regretted following that edict.

BACHMANN: Not all. It's not an edict. We're Christians. We pray about our decisions and we're very happy that we did.

COSTELLO: So, it's not too much?

BACHMANN: No, not all. What a wonderful opportunity.

COSTELLO: Thank you so much for being here today.

BACHMANN: Thank you.

COSTELLO: We appreciate it.

And don't forget, once again, tonight is the night CNN hosts the Republican national security debate starting at 8:00 p.m. Eastern. Wolf Blitzer is the moderator. It's cosponsored by the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute. That's live tonight at 8:00 Eastern, right here on CNN.

CHO: All right, still ahead, tear gas and rubber bullets in Cairo's Tahrir Square. We'll take you live to the million man sit-in which is turning ugly.

Plus, flash flooding shuts down a major interstate in Arkansas and the rain just isn't stopping.

Our Jacqui Jeras is tracking the severe weather across the south today.

And which companies top the naughty and nice holiday list this year. We'll tell you.

Five (sic) minutes after the hour.


COSTELLO: Oh, good morning to our friends in Memphis, Tennessee. It's kind of rainy and windy there. Sixty-three degrees, and it's not going to stop either because there's going to be thunderstorms later with a high of 69.

CHO: They need to wash the camera lens off.


CHO: Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING.

Flash flood warnings issued in Arkansas. Torrential rain forced several highways to close yesterday, including I-30 in Little Rock which has since reopened. Forecasters say some areas may see more than eight inches of rain. Matt Mosler of affiliate, KARK, is live for us in Russellville, Arkansas this morning. Matt, good morning. What' the latest?

MATT MOSLER, REPORTER, KARK: Well, last night, we had about 6.2 inches of rain here in Russellville. Now, that's about as much rain as the city of Russellville gets in an entire month. They got it in about a 24-hour period. At one point, it was raining at a rate of one inch per hour, and as many of you know, that's just going to overwhelm some storm drains.

There's a creek that runs outside of Russellville when it fills up with water. They have to pump it into the lake. If that pump is not working or if the water overloads that pump, it will back up into this parking lot. We're in a strip mall called the city maul, and that's exactly what happened last night. They had about two or three feet of water that came into this pizza store and this doughnut shop.

They were swamped with water. There's a water line in there about two feet deep. You can still see there's water here in the parking lot of the city mall parking lot here, but behind us, there are several stores back. The water came up so quickly, and nobody was really prepared for it. They didn't have sandbags and what you can se in the store here, which is going out of business.

They came over to the store. They took their mulch. They took their sand. They took their potting soil. They wrapped this around (ph) it, and they packed it around the doors and for the most part, that kept the water out of the stores. There's no water that got into the AT&T store, the Quizno's.

They tell me that this is about the highest this water has been in this parking lot since about 1988. But I talked to the city police here not too long ago. They said all the water has receded and the drains are working pretty nicely now. The roads are moving. The traffic moving smoothly along the highways. So, things are getting a little bit better here in the city of Russellville.

COSTELLO: We're glad to hear that, even though it's just a little bit better.


MOSLER: Yes. A little bit better.

CHO: Thank you so much for the update.

COSTELLO: Let's head to Atlanta now and check in with Jacqui Jeras. Just a little bit better.

JACQUI JERAS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Little bit. And you know, when it's that bad, any little bit really helps. That's for sure. And we will continue to get better throughout the day today. The storm system is on the move now. So, we're going to watch for areas to the east of there for the threat of flooding as well as severe thunderstorms.

And here you can see on our map how large this system is and it's really affecting in cross and parts of the upper Midwest, stretching through the Ohio Valley and all the way down into parts of Texas. In fact, look at that nasty line of storms just to the west of Houston area. A ground stop has just been issued now for Houston Bush Intercontinental Airport because of those storms until nine o'clock.

Philadelphia looking at delays around 40 minutes and that's because of the low clouds. You know, you're not getting that rain just yet up and down the east coast, but the clouds are there, and that's enough to cause some of those delays. This will be the big focus area then today really from Houston over towards New Orleans and up towards Nashville even into Cincinnati.

Damaging winds, I think, will be our primary concerns today, but isolated tornadoes will be possible. Warm air up ahead of this system. We're talking near record highs in parts of the southeast and the west dealing with the storm system out here, too. It's going to be incredibly windy.

We're talking as much as two feet of snow into the higher elevations, and wind gusts along the Oregon coast could reach 60 miles per hour. For those of you that are traveling for tomorrow, the nation's midsection is your best bet for smooth sailing because the coast of the country going to expect some delays. Back to you guys.

CHO: All right, Jacqui Jeras, thank you.

COSTELLO: A computerized Christmas light show to the Angry Birds theme song. Enough said. Just look.



COSTELLO (voice-over): That's not as annoying as I thought it was going to be.


COSTELLO: It's kind of cool.

CHO: It's kind of cool.

COSTELLO: Yes, it is. John Storms (ph) from Austin, Texas sent us this video. He says he's been building light displays for more than ten years, but it's only the second year it's been computerized. Storms likes to call it the holiday ahh factor.

CHO: Somebody's got a little too much time on his hands.


CHO: Anyway, it is pretty cool.

All right, coming up next. We're going to check the early morning markets.

Plus, which airline is cutting several routes from Atlanta this morning. We're "Minding Your Business" next. Twenty-three minutes after the hour.


CHO: Twenty-five minutes after the hour. "Minding Your Business" this morning.

U.S. stock futures are trading mixed at the moment after markets closed lower across the board yesterday. 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 on both S&P and Moody's rating agencies, reaffirmed America's credit rating. The third agency, Fitch, on the other hand, announcing this morning it could knock down the outlook for the U.S. rating, but it won't have a decision until the end of the month.

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. And now, federal prosecutors and the FBI are investigating the firm once headed up by former New Jersey governor, Jon Corzine.

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.

And Consumer Reports is putting out its annual holiday list of naughty and nice companies. Take a look. The naughty ones include AirTran for tacking on fees. If you want to choose your seat online, Liberty Travel for not (ph) including taxes and fees and its advertised vacation prices, and Sirius XM satellite radio for charging you extra to mail your bill.

What about the nice list? Cable Visions on there for giving out rewards like free movie tickets. American Express for providing refunds of up to $300 if a retailer won't accept returns within 90 days of purchase, and lastly, Costco for automatically extending the manufacture's warranty for TVs and computers.

Still ahead, we're live in Cairo's Tahrir Square, once again, breaking out in violence. AMERICAN MORNING is back after a break.



COSTELLO (voice-over): Egypt on the edge. The military bloody crackdown on protesters continuing for a fourth day, and three Americans have now been arrested for their alleged role in the uprising on this AMERICAN MORNING.


CHO: And welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING for a Tuesday. I'm Alina Cho along with Carol Costello. Your top stories now.

CNN has now confirmed that three Americans are among those under arrest right now for taking part in protests in Egypt. Egyptian state television is showing what appears to be I.D. cards of three young American students studying abroad. The names of the students could not be made out. The country's general prosecutor's office said they're accused of throwing Molotov cocktails and carrying no passports when they were picked up by authorities.

COSTELLO: Newt Gingrich topping a brand new CNN/ORC poll. The House speaker with 24 percent of the vote pulled ahead of Mitt Romney for the first time but is within the poll's margin of error. Gingrich was at eight percent in a CNN poll last month.

CHO: And Gingrich's first test at the top is just hours away. CNN hosts the Republican national security debate that starts at 8:00 p.m. eastern time. Our Wolf Blitzer will moderate and co-sponsored by the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute. That is tonight 8:00 p.m. eastern right here on CNN.

COSTELLO: Right now in Cairo, Egypt, protesters are clashing violently with military police. Ivan Watson is following the developments in Tahrir square. Ivan, it doesn't look like things have calmed down, anyway.

IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they haven't. The crowds have swelled and so has the death toll with the ministry of health here saying that 28 people at least have been killed since Saturday, aost of them here in Cairo, but also somebody killed in Alexandria and also in another city.

These demonstrators that are gathered here for the most part, they're calling for the downfall of the ruling military council which took over after similar protests brought down the former president, Hosni Mubarak, last February. And there's a lot of anger particularly among men and women who are engaged in running battles with riot police in the streets beyond the square where we're looking right now. Take a listen to what one young man had to say. He traveled here from another city this morning to join into the protests.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We didn't start the mess. They started it when they kill 35 persons and they put them in it. They started it, not us.


WATSON: So, you get some of the anger there that we're hearing, unlike last February and January in the anti-Mubarak protests. I would say the crowd here is much angrier, much ready to fight, and much younger. And I don't know what they're going to try to do to try to come to some kind of negotiated solution. We've seen military officers, army officers trying to come between the riot police and the demonstrators to then only get pelted with stones when they've tried to mediate between the two sides here. Back to you. CHO: All right, Ivan Watson live for us in Cairo. We apologize for the technical difficulty there. But, obviously, so many people gathered for a sit-in. Nine months ago they were upset at Mubarak and now they are upset at the military. So we will be watching that story very closely.

Meanwhile, thousands have gathered for a massive rally at the University of California Davis campus. Students and the board of faculty are calling for the resignation of Chancellor Linda Katehi. Now, the rally was sparked by this here video of cops pepper spraying nonviolent student demonstrators in their faces at point blank range. It happened on Friday night, and since then the video has gone viral. Two officers and the police chief were put on administrative leave. Katehi has since apologized for the incident, but now it may not be enough.

COSTELLO: Jerry Sandusky's attorney telling ABC news he thinks his client may soon end up in jail if new accuser come forward and prosecutors bring up new charges. The former Penn State defensive coach was released on bail after he was charged with 40 counts related to sexual abuse of young boys. This coming as Penn State announced that former FBI director Louis Freeh will lead an independent investigation into those child sex abuse allegations.

CHO: So happy birthday to the U.S. Peace Corps. The volunteer organization is celebrating 50 years. Coming up we'll hear inspirational stories from a famous former member. It's 35 minutes after the hour.


CHO: Good morning, Atlanta, Georgia. Not a bad day there, partly cloudy and 59. Thunderstorms later with a high of 77. It's home of the mother-ship of CNN.

Welcome back. It's 38 minutes after the hour. It's a celebration the U.S. Peace Corps is turning 50. The Peace Corps is, of course, a very special program, volunteers devoting two full years of their lives to helping others, work that touches countless people around the world and leaves volunteers with an experience they carry for the rest of their lives. Watch.


MAUREEN ORTH, FORMER PEACE CORPS VOLUNTEER: One day a posse of men came, five of them on horseback with a horse for me. They knocked on my door and brought me up the mountain for the first time. And they said, we want to build a school and we need to figure out how to do it. It took us about a year to build the first two-classroom school. Even today when I come up the mountain, I can barely get through it without starting to cry or my throat catches.


CHO: That is Maureen Orth. She will never forget that school. And in fact the special correspondent for Vanity Fair Just returned from Medellin, Columbia, again, where she just helped to deliver 600 computers to the one laptop per child program. Hey, Maureen, great to see you. Welcome.

ORTH: Thank you.

CHO: You know, so, you're celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps in a very special way by creating these Peace Corps video postcards. We just saw yours in the intro you were a volunteer back in the 1960s in Medellin. Why did you decide to do it and how formative were those years for you?

ORTH: Well, honestly, back in those days there weren't a lot of opportunities for women other than being a teacher or a nurse, or, if you wanted to see the world, maybe to be a stewardess on an international airline. John Kennedy had recently died, and I wanted to ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country. All those things played into it. And really it has been one of the most formative experiences of my life, and it helped me with journalism, too. I didn't realize until many years later.

CHO: In what way?

ORTH: It teaches you to fit in into a different culture on any level. It teaches you empathy, which you completely need to get people to talk to you. And it teaches you to listen and be sensitive to hear what the other person is trying to say.

CHO: You can do a number of things. You were involved with schools, of course, as we see here. I had a very good friend who taught bee keeping, if you can believe it, in southern Paraguay back in the day. Having said that, former senator Chris Dodd is featured in these postcards, and he said beside his family it's the most important thing he has ever done in his life. Is this something you hear a lot from the former volunteers?

ORTH: I think so. I think the Peace Corps allows Americans to live at a level that and with different people that they never would have dreamed of. And I think the real lesson of the Peace Corps and what we tried to show on, which is the Web site we've launched to show this, is that, you know, really god doesn't discriminate in who he gives intelligence and sense of humor and artistic talent to. It's just that People need an opportunity. When we can go live in these remote places, we are the Americans that probably most of these people have first seen.

So, what I want to say is that the Peace Corps cost five hours in Iraq, our annual budget. And I think it's really one of the best programs for cultural understanding and cross communication around the world that the U.S. possibly has.

CHO: I mentioned my friend who was in Paraguay. It was interesting because we actually went back years later, and what I found fascinating was, first of all, he sent a letter and it took three weeks to get there and it arrived after we arrived. And then the other thing was that they had just gotten electricity. And so it is a part of the world. It's mutually beneficial, isn't it? ORTH: Absolutely, because you learn so many -- Peace Corps volunteers had been in I think 139 countries and you learn all these languages and you really form these friendships. For example, I have this foundation now,, which we have three schools that we do English and laptop computer training and leadership. We've now got two kids from my computer club at my school sent two technical solutions to the MIT media lab which developed one laptop per child just from the use of the computer and everything.

So for us who have served, particularly at a young age, it really give use a wide, universal view you might not have otherwise. And it also influences. Your family comes down to visit you and it could have a much wider effect than just the one volunteer.

CHO: I know you said, as we saw in the video, that you can barely get up that hill without crying every time you go back, and I know you've been back several, several times since your time there in the '60s. I don't want to let you --

ORTH: I go three or four times a year, actually.

CHO: Do you really?

ORTH: I've got these three schools and I've got this whole foundation through public-private partnerships.

CHO: That is amazing.

I don't want to let you go before I ask you about this. Many of our viewers but not all of them know that you were married to the late Tim Russert, the legendary moderator of "Meet the Press." Your son, Luke, is following in dad's footsteps. He is working as a correspondent for NBC, and for the first time yesterday he sat at the anchor chair at MSNBC. What has that been like to watch your son do something your husband did for so many years?

ORTH: Well, I have to say watching him host "The Daily Rundown," which he is about to do in a few minutes also today and tomorrow, I mean, for me to be able to see him hold his own with people sort of mine and his dad's age that his dad used to interview all the time, I'm sitting there going, am I really watching him talk to people like Jim Miklaszewski in the Pentagon and Richard Engel in Egypt and Dan Balz from "The Washington Post"? I said, this is what Tim used to do. He's 26 years old. So I'm a very proud mom.

CHO: I bet you are. In fact your Twitter handle is @LukeR'smom. I love that, by the way.

Maureen, thanks for much for coming over and talking to us about this. Happy Thanksgiving.

ORTH: Happy Thanksgiving to you.

CHO: All right, Maureen, thank you so much.

Over the decades, the Peace Corps has left a big impact on the lives of so many people. You can hear more stories and inspiration and celebrate the 50th anniversary by checking out Maureen's new Web site,

Your morning headlines are next. It's 45 minutes after the hour.


CHO: Forty-six minutes after the hour. Here are your "Morning Headlines".

Just in to CNN, bad news for the U.S. economy. A new report just released says the economy actually grew at a slower rate than first thought in the third quarter. The second estimate for third quarter GDP says the economy grew at a rate of two percent instead of 2.5 percent.

U.S. stock futures are trading lower off that news and markets closed lower across the board yesterday. Volatility is very high right now because of concerns over Europe's debt problems and also the super committee's failure to cut a deal.

A million-man sit-in is under way this morning in Cairo's Tahrir Square; 28 people have now been killed in four days of violent clashes between demonstrators and the military. Overnight, Egypt's entire interim government resigned just days ahead of parliamentary elections. And three Americans have reportedly been arrested, accused of throwing Molotov cocktails during yesterday's demonstrations in Egypt.

Newt Gingrich topping a brand new CNN/ORC poll. The former House Speaker with 24 percent of the vote. He's pulled ahead of Mitt Romney for the first time, but that's well within the poll's margin of error.

Newt Gingrich wearing the bull's eye tonight, CNN hosts the Republican national security public debate that starts at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time. The focus: national security but don't be surprised if candidates face a barrage of questions about the super committee's failure to cut $1.2 trillion from the budget. Our Wolf Blitzer will moderate.

Flash flood warnings issued in Arkansas. Torrential rain forced several highways to close yesterday, including I-30 in Little Rock, which has since reopened.

It's been six months since a tornado tore through Joplin, Missouri, killing 161 people and destroying thousands of homes and businesses. A memorial service will be held this afternoon and 161 trees will be planted in memory of each victim.

Forty-eight minutes after the hour; that's the news you need to know to start your day. AMERICAN MORNING is back after this.


COSTELLO: Is there anywhere in the country where it's not raining? I need to go to Florida or something. It's probably raining down there, too.

Good morning, New York. Cloudy, 46 degrees and yes showers today with a high of only 49.

Are you stressed? Just take a second, focus, and breathe. Oh, I feel better already. A new study finds that people who meditate are usually happier. MRI images show that those who can focus their thoughts are able to switch off other areas of the brain that are linked with day dreaming, anxiety, even ADHD.

So, if you want to give it a try. Researchers say focus on something as simple as your breath. That's called mindful meditation or yoga.

CHO: Yes, right exactly. Tell that to people working in newsrooms all across the country.

So, what separates me and you? Well just about a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend. A new study finds that the average number of acquaintances separating any two people in the world is 4.74. I'm not sure where they got the 74 part but in the U.S. it's only 4.37.

COSTELLO: That's half a seven.

CHO: That's right. That scraps the old saying of six degrees of separation. Study was done by Facebook and the University of Milan. Interestingly enough they randomly looked at 721 million Facebook users which is more than one-tenth of the world's population.

COSTELLO: Yes and excuse my cup. I'm like dealing with this cold.

CHO: Battling a little bit of a cold. Yes.

COSTELLO: It's lemon tea and it's making me feel a lot better.

Ok, Kiss, one of the most successful rock bands in the entire world, but here's something you did not know about Kiss. The lead singer Paul Stanley was born deaf in one ear. But that does not stop him from making music, you know that. Here's chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta with this week's "Human Factor."


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): To rock and roll all night and party every day. That's always been Paul Stanley's dream.

PAUL STANLEY, SINGER: If somebody had told me at 58, 59 I'd be running around on stage without a shirt you know and in tights and high heels, I would have said, what drug are you taking?

Come on and love me.

GUPTA: But the road to rock stardom as the front man for Kiss was difficult. Few people know it, but Stanley was born with a condition that should have steered him away from music.

STANLEY: I had a physical deformity called a microtia.

GUPTA: One of Stanley's inner ears, the ear canal which conveys sound to the brain never developed. Figuring out the direction of sound was particularly challenging and he was also born with an underdeveloped outer ear.

(on camera): Did you get teased a lot? With a tough comment.

STANLEY: It was horrible. I have to say that childhood was not fun.

GUPTA: You decided to grow your hair out, I mean, and that's become such a signature look of you and the band. Was that in part because of wanting to hide your ears?

STANLEY: Absolutely.

GUPTA: You grew your hair to do that.

STANLEY: Absolutely.

GUPTA: Strength and a bit of defiance got Stanley through the taunting.

STANLEY: Something told me inside that I could do music and, interestingly, being deaf in one ear was not something that I saw as a hardship or something that -- that was s hindrance at all.

GUPTA: But eventually off stage hearing loss did become a hindrance. So Stanley had surgery.

STANLEY: So basically you take a power drill and aim into the head.

GUPTA: The surgery was successful, but does not equal self- acceptance. That Stanley learned over time and by working with kids.

(on camera): You talk to kids who have microtia. So they're right now, they're like Mr. Stanley I'm the one getting teased on the play ground, I'm not the rock star.

STANLEY: And how cool it is for them to hear somebody say, I was there and look what I did. You can get through this and you'll find out how much something means to you by how hard you're willing to work to overcome it.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, Los Angeles.



CHO: It is too late to apologize.

COSTELLO: Way, too late.

CHO: Welcome back.

What do you get when you mixed five pounds of bleach flour with two rambunctious toddlers? How about this -- a recipe for disaster. 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 --

MARY NAPOLI, STAY-AT-HOME MOM: What are you doing?

MOOS: Stay-at-home mom Mary Napoli stayed eerily calm.

NAPOLI: Oh, boy.

MOOS: The boys, by the way, are one-and-a-half and three- and-a- half.

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

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

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

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

NAPOLI: Oh, my gosh. I don't know what to do. I think I'm going to throw up.

MOOS (voice-over): But instead of throwing up, Mary kept regurgitating one phrase.

NAPOLI: Oh, my gosh.

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

NAPOLI: Oh, my gosh. Oh my gosh.

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

NAPOLI: Oh my gosh. It's not fair.

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

NAPOLI: My God. It's like a snowman puked all over my living room.

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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wonder if Tank had anything to do with it? Can you tell me, what happened?

MOOS: The flour kids weren't talking either.

NAPOLI: What happened, Zach?

MOOS: Mary called her mother-in-law for help. By the way, those of you who say this video is fake or Fakey McFakeovitch, you don't know how flour flies.

(on camera): Mary and her mother, 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 this rug away and a light bulb emitting a burning flour smell.

Hardest to clean, the couches.

NAPOLI: I mean we haven't even paid off those couches yet.

MOOS: During clean up Zach slipped on the flour and cut his lip. Mary left the kitchen sink and came running.

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

(voice-over): So next time you think you have had a bad day, remember Mary.

NAPOLI: 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 --


NAPOLI: Yes, I see.

MOOS: New York.


CHO: So, every time you sniffle and cough today, think about that mother.

COSTELLO: I know. I know.

My favorite part was when the little boy said, "What's the matter, mommy?"

CHO: Exactly. A lot.

COSTELLO: Thanks for joining us on AMERICAN MORNING today. "CNN NEWSROOM" with Hala Gorani starts right now. Hey, Hala.