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Interview With Senator Barack Obama; Unexpected Threat Killing and Injuring U.S. Troops in Iraq; Sign of Troubled Economy; Cyclone Over the Weekend in Myanmar; Death of a Champion

Aired May 5, 2008 - 06:00   ET


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: The Democratic rivals brought their gas tax holiday debate to the Indiana Democratic party's Jefferson- Jackson day dinner last night in Indianapolis.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And when I say solution, I mean immediate action on gas prices. If I hear one more time from someone here in this state how desperate they are because of the gas price increases, I will be totally committed even more than I am today to making sure that we do get relief and we get it as soon as possible.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Instead of reducing our dependence on oil, we saw it grow and grow and grow to the point where we send hundreds of millions of dollars every day to hostile nations to pay for our addiction. That's the big part of why you're paying $4 a gallon at the pump.


ROBERTS: The campaigning starts early Both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton join us live this morning. Barack Obama will be with us in about 20 minutes time. Our latest CNN poll of polls, an average of three recent polls shows Obama ahead of Clinton in North Carolina by eight points. That's up two points over the weekend. In Indiana though, Obama and Clinton are dead even at 45 percent. CNN's Dan Lothian is live with the election express. He's in Indianapolis this morning. A lot of talk Dan over the weekend about this gas tax. How is that issue playing there in Indianapolis?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It continues to be a big issue here and as you mentioned, Senator Clinton really isn't backing down from her claim that this is something that voters really want and will appreciate. She does point out that obviously we're not talking about a whole lot of money here, but that any amount of money will provide some relief. But what is interesting is what when she was asked yesterday on one of the Sunday morning talk shows, she really couldn't or tried essentially sidestepped the question about whether or not any economists supported this gas tax holiday. Senator Obama on the other hand has said that many economists out there have said that this simply will not work and he's pointed out again that this is nothing more than a campaign trick. So she continues hammering away at this gas tax holiday and saying that this just shows that Barack Obama, who's opposed to this is simply out of touch with these working class voters John.

ROBERTS: He is also hitting her pretty hard on her comments regarding Iran and when she said that if Iran were to attack Israel, we could quote obliterate them or we would be able to obliterate them. Is that an issue that's gaining any kind of traction there?

LOTHIAN: It really is. And, you know, in these final hours before the primary tomorrow, it really has heated up and she made these comments last week when she was asked if Israel was attacked by Iran, would she attack? She said she would attack and that that attack would quote obliterate them. Senator Barack Obama said that this essentially just shows that she sounds a whole lot like George Bush. Senator Clinton really isn't backing down; she's standing by it. She says this kind of tough, tough talk is really needed in order to keep Iran in check. So, again, in these final hours before the primary here, Iran remains a central issue in this campaign. You might recall a while back, Senator Obama was talking about it and saying that he would actually in his first year as president would be willing to sit down and meet with Iran's president. On the other hand, Senator Clinton has said that she would be open to diplomatic approaches with Iran, but not at the presidential level. So Iran again, a big issue in this campaign with just hours to go.

ROBERTS: Dan Lothian for us from Indianapolis this morning, Dan, thanks and we'll have an opportunity to ask both of the candidates about both of those issues. As we said, they join us as they start their day of campaigning, Barack Obama first at 6:20 Eastern. Hillary Clinton will join us in our next hour at 7:25 Eastern. Big day of politics ahead here on AMERICAN MORNING.

ALINA CHO, CNN ANCHOR: And some big guests in the interview. Moving on now, internationally, we're also following some breaking in Myanmar. The election there could be postponed after a powerful cyclone made landfall over the weekend, killing more than 350 people. The country's military is now pressing ahead with a crucial referendum on a new constitution. Pro-democracy groups in the country want next week's election postponed until aid can reach the region, so that voters can get to the polls. The United Nations is sending teams there today. Several coastal villages were destroyed. State media is reporting close to 100,000 people are homeless and dozens of roads blocked by debris and downed power lines.

Iran says it will not stop its nuclear program despite new efforts by the United Nations to get Tehran to stop enriching uranium. The Associated Press is reporting this morning that the country's top leader says he will not give in to international pressure and that quote, no threat can hinder the Iranian nation from its path. The UN has already imposed three sets of sanctions. John.

ROBERTS: The Federal courthouse in downtown San Diego will be closed today as workers repair damage to the front entrance caused by a suspected pipe bomb explosion. The FBI is reviewing footage from surveillance cameras placed outside the building. No injuries were reported and no one has claimed responsibility for the attack.

A manhunt underway this morning in Philadelphia after a suspected cop killer escaped from a halfway house. Police Sgt. Stephen Licbinski was shot at least five times while responding to a call about a bank robbery late Saturday night. The second suspect has been charged with murder, robbery and related offenses and a third man was killed by police at the scene. Investigators recovered two vehicles, weapons and $38,000.

And if you live in New York City, your Monday morning commute could be affected after two subway train cars derailed outside of a station near central park. Some 400 passengers were evacuated yesterday by a rescue train. No serious injuries reported in the mishap. Transit officials say the train's operator and conductor will be given a blood alcohol test.

CHO: Well a vote today on the deal for the victims of the Minnesota bridge collapse. That $38 million plan is expected to pass quickly in the Minnesota state house. It allows victims to get up to $400,000 apiece. There's also a supplemental $13 million fund for people who suffered the worst injuries. The collapse on August 1, you'll recall, killed 13 people and injured 145 others. Officials expect the rebuilt bridge to open in December.

President Bush honored high school graduates in Greensburg, Kansas one year after that town was devastated by a tornado. It was the president's first ever high school commencement speech. He praised graduates and their families as models of American compassion and resiliency.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The tornado tore apart the beams and boards that held your houses together, but it could not break the bonds of family and faith that hold your town together.


CHO: Well, it was an active weekend in the Midwest and southeast for tornadoes. At least eight touched down in Arkansas on Friday. Eight people were killed, 400 homes were damaged.

ROBERTS: Coming up, Warren Buffett, the maverick billionaire investor shares his thoughts on the economy. Ali Velshi has got that just ahead and he calls the gas tax holiday a classic Washington gimmick that would do little to help consumers. What does Barack Obama propose instead? We're talking to him live about 10 minutes from now coming up on AMERICAN MORNING.


CHO: Welcome back on this Monday morning, stick around because in 10 minutes time we'll be talking live to Barack Obama. That's at 6:20 Eastern time, his first live interview of the morning we should mention. We'll also be joined by Hillary Clinton live. That's at 7:25 Eastern time. A very big day ahead of the crucial primaries in Indiana and North Carolina tomorrow.

ROBERTS: Get Barack Obama while he's fresh or half asleep I'm not sure which.

CHO: One or the other.

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to both of you.

CHO: Good morning, good thank you, welcome back.

ROBERTS: He's so excited he dropped his pen.

VELSHI: Very exciting to be here, back in a second. It's all about business today. All right, we have been doing some polling here at CNN. The CNN Opinion Research poll says that the economy is issue number one at this time more so than it's been for the rest of this campaign or where it's been so far. Forty nine percent of Americans are responding that it is the number one issue; 19 percent is the second largest group and they say that Iraq is the biggest largest issue. How big a deal is a recession? According to Warren Buffett, it's just not that big a deal. This past weekend, there was an event called Woodstock for capitalists or at least that's what it's known as. The official name is the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting. That takes place in Omaha. Berkshire Hathaway is the company headed by Warren Buffett. He says and he's been around for a few years, he's says don't worry too much about the recession. It's important to you as it affects your economy. For those of you who are investing for your retirement, don't worry too much about it. Listen in.


WARREN BUFFETT, BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY: The world is going to be a lot better 20 years from now or 40 years from now, it's going to be better for your children and grandchildren. This country will do wonderfully over time. But we will have a number of recessions in your lifetime.


VELSHI: Warren Buffett obviously has made a lot of money in his life. He takes a view about how to invest in businesses and he says, when he finds a business that works well, he invests in it without regard to how it's going to do in the next six months or eight months or next year. If it's a good business, it'll be a good business for a long time. I'll be bringing you a few more nuggets of wisdom from Warren Buffett through the course of the morning.

CHO: He is called the oracle of Omaha.

VELSHI: For a reason, he does very well.

CHO: That's right.

VELSHI: I'll try and keep my hand on the pen next time. I'm very excited to be here.

ROBERTS: Thanks Ali. We'll see you soon.

Holding it in for 9,000 years and then boom, a volcano comes to life shaking the ground, boiling the earth and turning the skies gray. Rob Marciano is tracking extreme weather. Rob, you figure holding it for nine years, you would want to blow like that, wouldn't you?



ROBERTS: It's great to hear that the temperature will be up around 80 degrees for a primary instead of minus 20. Whoever thought it was going to go on this long? And don't forget, about 3 1/2 minutes from now, Barack Obama joining us to talk about what's going on there with tomorrow's primaries, where the race stands and talk about the issues as well.

Meantime cold storage in your hot shot. Check this out. A guy from Illinois named Bill Vermante (ph) shows his eternal devotion to his favorite beer by turning his coffin into a Pabst blue ribbon can. He even hopped in to try it on for size because see, he's not dead yet. He decided to use the coffin as a cooler for a party that he's throwing Saturday. That's why it's full of ice.

CHO: Kind of morbid, but I guess he's made his point.

ROBERTS: Some people want to be buried in their car. Some people want to be buried in their beer. If you've got a hot shot, send it to us. Send it to our Web site, and follow the hot shot link.

CHO: Stick around because Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton faced off in North Carolina and Indiana. But first they're going to join us right here on AMERICAN MORNING. What message does Senator Obama have for voters? We'll ask him when he joins us live. That's next on AMERICAN MORNING.


ROBERTS: Twenty minutes after the hour, an important day tomorrow in the Democratic race for president. People go to the polls in the all-important states of Indiana and North Carolina and joining us this morning from Evansville, Indiana, one of those competitors, Barack Obama.

Senator, it's good to see you this morning.


ROBERTS: I want to just stipulate at the beginning of this interview, we are declaring a Reverend Wright free zone today. No questions about Reverend Wright. Our viewers want us to move on so this morning we're going to move on. Is that OK with you?

OBAMA: Fair enough. That sounds just fine.

ROBERTS: Let's get right to the issues then. You have criticized Hillary Clinton about this idea of a gas tax holiday, calling it a typical political gimmick. Here's her response to your criticisms to that.


SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think we have been for the last seven years seeing a tremendous amount of government power and elite opinion basically behind policies that haven't worked well for the middle class.


ROBERTS: So that could be read as a not so subtle dig at you, that you're an elitist who doesn't understand the problem that regular folks are going through with these gasoline prices. What do you say?

OBAMA: I think that's nonsense, if that's what she intended because the fact is that for 20, 30 years, we haven't done what's needed to make sure that people are making ends meet. I mean what's absolutely true is that during the Bush administration, there hasn't been much regard for what ordinary people are going through. But if we're going to deal seriously with gas prices, we're not going to pretend to do something by offering a tax holiday that would at best provide 30 cents a day for three months for a grand total of $28.

ROBERTS: So what would you do instead?

OBAMA: It is more likely, John, just to let me finish, it's more likely to reward oil companies further because they'll just jack up their prices to fill up whatever the gap was that's left by a suspension of the gas tax. So what I have said is, I want to provide a middle class tax cut of up to $1,000 per family per year, a much bigger amount of relief that can cover not only rising gas prices, but also rising food prices and at the same time I want to invest in alternative energy and raising fuel efficiency standards on cars, something that I've been calling for for years and that Senator Clinton has opposed in the past. We can't keep on putting off the day of reckoning, five years from now, 10 years from now, 20 years from now. There's nobody who thinks that a gas tax holiday is going to lower gas prices over the long-term.

ROBERTS: But all of that that you mentioned would take a long time to get through Congress. Is there anything that could be done immediately, if you were president today to try to bring some relief to people at the pump?

OBAMA: What I've said is let's go ahead and pass the second part of my tax stimulus proposal that would put some money immediately in the pockets of people. Listen, I'm meeting people every day who can't get to a job because they can't fill up the gas tank or they are trying to figure out how to make ends meet now that they have had an extra $100 taken out of their bottom line at the end of the month. So I understand how badly people are hurting. If we're serious about helping them, let's provide them some relief, but let's not pretend that we're doing something by suggesting a gas tax holiday that will not be paid for and frankly it is very unlikely that you would see President George Bush sign the kind of windfall profits tax that Hillary Clinton says she would use to pay for it. ROBERTS: Senator, you have also been very critical of Hillary Clinton's statement about Iran and this idea that if it attacks Israel, we would be able to quote obliterate them. Your answer to that same question was far more ambiguous than hers. Is there any room for ambiguity when it comes to the issue of Israel's survival?

OBAMA: That's not what I said, John. I wasn't ambiguous at all. I said that if Israel was attacked, we would respond forcefully and an attack on Israel, one of our most important allies in the world, would be considered as an attack on the United States. Using the word obliterate, however, is the kind of language that we have seen George Bush use over the last seven years and it's precisely that kind of provocative language that Senator Clinton criticized others for in the past, suggesting that if you're running for president, you shouldn't be stirring up international incidents. We now have Iran bringing complaints to the United Nations. Particularly when you're doing it right before an election, it's probably not the best way to approach foreign policy.

ROBERTS: If Iran attacked Israel with a nuclear weapon, would you use the United States nuclear arsenal against Iran?

OBAMA: John, I'm not going to speculate. As I said before, Senator Clinton was the first one to suggest we should never talk about the use of nuclear weapons and gave a lot of us a lengthy disposition on that. Look, here's the bottom line. Israel is our ally and we will protect Israel. More importantly, though, we should be keeping our nuclear arsenal out of the hands of Iran, which is why I have called consistently for a mix of sanctions, but also carrots and direct talks to get Iran to stand down. That's the kind of leadership that we need out of the White House and that's the kind that I intend to provide as president of the United States.

ROBERTS: Senator, you have really been pounded by the Clinton campaign during this primary process, but a lot of people believe that that's nothing compared to what you would face should you become the nominee and have to go up against John McCain in the general election. Some analysts have noted that you have a little bit of a glass chin when it comes to these attacks. The last month that you've had this primary campaign, many people say has not been your best. What are you going to do if you become the nominee to fend off attacks that will come at you from the Republican side?

OBAMA: John, I think as you have said, we have probably taken as many hits as anybody has in this presidential campaign. Senator Clinton has not. John McCain certainly has not and yet I'm still here and, you know, competitive in both North Carolina and Indiana. So we feel very confident about the fact that the American people are interested in who's going to be fighting for them. Who's going to make sure that they're living out their American dream? Who's going to make sure that college is affordable for their kids, that jobs are here and that's, you know, ultimately what this is about. This is not about me and you know, certainly, you know, one of the things I'm confident about is that during the course of this campaign, as long as I stay focused on what people are caring about every single day, then our campaign's going to be just fine. More importantly, I think we can mobilize the American people to start meeting some of the challenges that lie ahead.

ROBERTS: One more quick note if I could, senator because we're running out of time here, if after this entire primary process and you leading in the popular vote, the number of contests won and pledged delegates, if Hillary Clinton becomes the nominee, how will you feel personally on that?

OBAMA: John, I'm not going to speculate on that because I intend to win. That's why I'm here.

ROBERTS: Should it happen, how would you feel?

OBAMA: John, the day before two important elections the last thing I'm thinking about are super delegates. What I'm thinking about are the folks that I'm out there fighting for.

ROBERTS: We apparently have time for one more question, if I could just beg your indulgence here. Florida and Michigan, twice on this program, Hillary Clinton said there's no way to determine who the nominee will be until their situation has been resolved and their delegates counted. Do you agree with that? And can you see a scenario under which you could declare a nominee without Florida and Michigan being involved?

OBAMA: I think there's no doubt that we've got to get Michigan and the Florida delegation seated. That's something that I've talked about consistently.

ROBERTS: But are they critical to the determination of a nominee? Could a nominee be decided without Florida and Michigan being counted?

OBAMA: I think as I said before, that it's important for us to make sure that they are seated and it's important that they're taken into account. I always have said that the people of Michigan and the people of Florida deserve better. Unfortunately we set up the system and a set of rules and you know, none of us ended up campaigning in Michigan or Florida. My name wasn't even on the ballot in Michigan. So the question at this point is how do we make sure that those states are recognized that they're participating but it's following rules and everything is fair. And I think that's what our campaign is looking to achieve.

ROBERTS: Senator Barack Obama for us this morning from Evansville, Indiana. Good luck to you tomorrow. Thanks for being with us. Hopefully we'll be able to talk with you again on Wednesday following the primaries.

OBAMA: Thank you so much John.

ROBERTS: And we'll have equal time for Senator Hillary Clinton. She'll be with us live in our next hour here on AMERICAN MORNING, 7:25 Eastern.

CHO: That's right, less than a hour from now. And speaking of Senator Clinton, this morning we need to hear from you. Here's our quick vote question for the day. Did she go too far when she said the U.S. could obliterate Iran if it attacked Israel? Cast your vote at We also want to hear from you via e-mail as well. Tell us your thoughts. Again, that's

The World Health Organization is trying to calm fears that a deadly virus could threaten the Beijing Olympics. Twenty five children have died from that highly infectious virus and more than 5,000 have been infected. The WHO says the virus affects mainly children and it doesn't see it as a threat to the games. China's health ministry has issued a nationwide alert to contain the spread.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has wrapped up her latest Mideast trip this morning holding talks with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Rice said on Sunday that the Bush administration believes a peace deal between Israel and Palestinians can be reached by year's end. That's an ambitious goal.

She spent the weekend in Jerusalem meeting with Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. President Bush heads to the region next week to celebrate Israel's 60 years of independence.

Iran this morning announcing the talks on Iraq's security are off. Iran says it will not meet with the U.S. unless American and Iraqi forces end their crackdown on Shiite militias in Iraq. The U.S. says Iran is backing those militias. Iraq says the crackdown will go on even if Iran pulls out of the talks.


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: It's about 31 minutes after the hour. An unexpected threat is killing and injuring U.S. troops in Iraq and now members of Congress are outraged. A congressional investigation is underway to determine why some soldiers have been shocked and in some cases electrocuted in showers and swimming pools. What's more, an American contractor may be responsible.

Barbara Starr joins me now from the Pentagon with more on this.

Barbara, what's up?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, John, it seems absolutely beyond belief, something as simple as bad wiring killing U.S. troops.


STARR (voice-over): Staff Sergeant Ryan Maseth stepped into the shower on January 2nd at his base in Baghdad, turned the water on and died. The 24-year-old combat veteran was electrocuted by a short and a water pump, according to the army. His mother Cheryl is heartbroken.

CHERYL HARRIS, MOTHER OF ELECTROCUTED SOLDIER: He was a Green Beret, he was a weapons master, he was trained to survive. And hearing that he was electrocuted, it just was so senseless to me. STARR: Maseth is at least one of 12 service members the military says have been electrocuted in Iraq since 2003, most by improper grounding of electrical systems in areas such as swimming pools and showers.

Congressman Henry Waxman, Chairman of the House Oversight Committee, is calling for an investigation and says Kellogg, Brown and Root, the largest American contractor in Iraq, had the job of maintaining the shower building and may have known about the electrical problems.

Maseth's parents are suing KBR claiming in part in a court filing, "The water pump servicing the facility was manufactured by a Chinese company for sale to countries outside the United States because it failed to meet applicable U.S. safety standards."

KBR said in a statement it's cooperating with investigators, adding, "At the time of Staff Sergeant Maseth's tragic death, however, KBR was providing repair services at the facility in response to requests issued by the Army."

But the family attorney, Pat Cavanaugh says it's all too late.

PAT CAVANAUGH, FAMILY ATTORNEY: In Ryan Maseth's building, they, in fact, knew about it, reported it, were funded in excess of $3 million to fix it, and for whatever reason, did not fix it.


STARR: And John, that's really the central question in this case alone. KBR by all accounts knew of the problems but nobody told them to fix it and apparently nobody decided that it was all that serious. A number of cases on electrocution now pending. A lot of people asking what is going on.


ROBERTS: I'm sure that this is an issue on which that there will be no shortage of outrage. Barbara Starr for us at the Pentagon this morning. Barbara, thanks.

CHO: 33 minutes after the hour. Veronica De La Cruz joins us with other stories making news this morning.

Hey, Veronica. Good morning. Happy Monday. Welcome back.

VERONICA DE LA CRUZ, CNN INTERNET CORRESPONDENT: Thank you. Nice to see you. Nice to see you, John. Good morning to you, both. And good morning to all of you out there. Here's what's new this morning.

A day without a record for the price of gas. Checking the AMERICAN MORNING gas gauge, 3.61 is the new average for a gallon of self serve regular which is down about a penny from Thursday's all- time high. Last month, gas was at $3.32. Last year, the price was $3.03. And a sign of the troubled economy. Many states are so short on cash they are letting tens of thousands of prisoners out early. That's what "The Washington Post" is reporting.

State lawmakers think they'll save billions of dollars by letting nonviolent, not sexual offenders out of prisons. Critics are concern about so many convicts suddenly turning loose on society. In just a couple of minutes AMERICAN MORNING's legal analyst, Sunny Hostin, will join us to talk about whether or not this will endanger the public.

Prince Harry gets a medal for his service in Afghanistan today. He and about 160 other members of the Household Cavalry got the medals from Harry's aunt and the princess royal. The prince had to come home from Afghanistan early after his assignment there became public.

And finally, Power Bob players check their number because someone out there is holding a ticket worth more than $180 million. The ticket was sold in Rice County in Southeastern Minnesota. The drawing was Saturday but no one has come forward yet.

It is the biggest payout in Minnesota history. $180 million over 30 years, or a lump sum of $60 million after taxes. All right, grab that pen, because here are the winning numbers 2, 28, 36, 42, 46 and that power ball number is 40. The winner has one year to come forward and claim that prize.

But you know, something tells me that person is going to want to come forward really soon. Because can you imagine losing that little piece of paper?


ROBERTS: We want to hang on to this.

ALI VELSHI, CNN SENIOR BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: But one shouldn't probably be in too much of a hurry to do that when it's that kind of money. Because if it becomes public so quickly then all of a sudden everybody's lined up to give you advice.

And it's not just about people think it's because people want your money, but they want to give you advice and make money doing that. That's a tough thing because you know how many people end up not keeping that money after they win it.

CHO: $60 million after taxes on the (INAUDIBLE).

ROBERTS: Something I've never experience.

CHO: That's right.

ROBERTS: 36 minutes after the hour. A hairless profit of doom here this morning and what horrible necessary about to dump on us this morning, our great oracle.

VELSHI: Because I have busted for being the hairless profit of doom last week on Jon Stewart. I've decided it's all about exciting stuff. So I've got Christmas in May for you when we come back. Gifts, free stuff, well, not free, but heavily discounted stuff for everybody. Stay with us to find out. We're coming right back on AMERICAN MORNING.


VELSHI: Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING. I'm Ali Velshi. We are one day away from the primaries in Indiana and North Carolina. And as such, we're going to continue our fairly heavy coverage here at CNN all day. In the next hour, about an hour from now you'll be hearing from Hillary Clinton right here on AMERICAN MORNING. So you'll want to stay tune for that.

Now in keeping with the idea of giving you some opportunities and some good news to think about in the world of money, I've got Christmas in May coming up for you. Now think about this.

The retailers in America have been having a tough time with people holding back on what they buy. But now we've got a double whammy of stimulus checks, stimulus money going out to Americans and some people already getting their tax refund. And that according to America's Research Group which tracks America's retailers is going to result in some good opportunities for you to spend that money.

If you've got some big purchases to make, listen to Britt Beemer. He is the CEO of America's Research Group.


BRITT BEEMER, AMERICA'S RESEARCH GROUP: So what you are going to see this year I think that more than you've seen in the last two years, the discount over Memorial Day will be incredible. So if somebody is watching this show and they want to save money, don't spend any money, wait until Memorial Day because you're likely to see 50, 60, even 70 percent off advertising specials over that weekend.


VELSHI: Now, we're obviously talking about the kind of things that you go to the mall to buy. Cars, which also often see sales on Memorial Day, they don't have that much of a margin. So, you can't get 30, 40, 50, 70 percent off of a car.

But if you're looking at purchases at the store, the Memorial Day sales, you know, there are only Memorial Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving and then toward Christmas. Those are the real opportunities for retailers to move their goods. They don't want to get stuck with stuff that people aren't buying. So, they're thinking they might clear it out.

CHO: I know you might find this shocking, but I actually was in the stores over the weekend and I noticed that a lot of things are on sale.

ROBERTS: I need a new power drill. Do you think I can get one of those on sale?

VELSHI: That's exactly the kind of thing that would probably go on sale. Because it's the kind of stuff they want to just keep on moving. Obviously, clothes, Alina, as you know a thing or two about, clothes, you don't want sticking around for a few months because they go out of style. So, if you've got money to spend, Memorial Day might be the time to spend it.

ROBERTS: Ali, thanks.


ROBERTS: We look forward to that.

CHO: All right. Stay tuned because we're watching some breaking news. A cyclone over the weekend in Myanmar. 350 people dead. More than 100,000 people displaced. We're going to have an exclusive live report from inside Myanmar, coming up after the break. Stay with us.


ROBERTS: It's coming up at 44 minutes after the hour. Welcome back to the "Most Politics in the Morning" here on AMERICAN MORNING.

We spoke with Senator Barack Obama a few minutes ago. Senator Hillary Clinton will be with us, coming up live at 7:25 Eastern. We'll ask her about what Obama said about the gas tax holiday, Iran and more.

So, make sure that you're around for that in some way, shape or form.

CHO: On the eve of Indiana and North Carolina. Big day in politics.

We want to get you inside Myanmar right now. A devastating cyclone over the weekend has killed 350 people, destroyed thousands of homes, 100,000 people are displaced. Many roads are clogged with debris and downed power lines. We want to get an exclusive report right now from our correspondent inside Myanmar, who is joining us by phone.

So, describe the scene around you?

VOICE OF DAN RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alina, it is a scene of utter devastation here. Hundreds if not thousands of trees have been brought down by the 130 miles an hour winds across the city. The entire city of Yangon is without electricity. Much of the city is without clean running water.

The food supplies are getting very short. There are huge queues for fuel. Most people are trying to get fuel for the lucky ones they've got generators. (INAUDIBLE).

The queues already we saw today are stretching right around the block. And the death toll, as you say, is climbing steadily, already it's put at more than 350 dead. But I imagine that that will grow much, much bigger.

CHO: I understand that U.N. teams will begin arriving there to Myanmar very soon, possibly as early as today. Are you getting a sense that the help will come soon, maybe even today?

RIVERS: Well, we've done a fairly extensive tour of this city in the last two or three hours. We didn't see really any coordinated relief at the moment. And with one Red Cross truck handing out water -- that was pretty much the only thing we saw. A few small teams of soldiers hacking away at fallen trees.

But the main problem is that so much of the city is clogged by these fallen trees. In many places, getting out of town is impossible completely. And so that's really (INAUDIBLE). The airport has only just reopened within the last few hours. So now that the airport is open, perhaps we'll get (INAUDIBLE) some help.

CHO: All right. Our correspondent inside Myanmar for this exclusive report on the cyclone that has killed 350 people there. Thank you very much.


ROBERTS: Terrible situation there.

States under budget pressure during tough economic times. They're thinking about freeing prisoners to save money. See if that move might put the public in danger. Our legal analyst Sunny Hostin joins us next on AMERICAN MORNING.


ROBERTS: Coming up on 10 minutes now to the top of the hour. Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. States facing a budget crunch are considering letting tens of thousands of criminals out of prison early to save money.

Let's bring in our former AMERICAN MORNING legal -- let's bring in our former prosecutor, currently our AMERICAN MORNING legal analyst. Sorry, I didn't mean to make any sort of --

SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: On this day I lose my job?

ROBERTS: I didn't mean to make an employment statement there.

So, let's take a look at this because it seems on the surface, to make some economic sense. State of California wants to release 22,000 prisoners and would save $1.1 billion over two years. Guys insert graphic here.

Rhode Island $8 billion over five years. Kentucky $30 million over two years. So it makes financial sense, but does it make sense in terms of putting these people out on the streets in society? How do you feel about that?

HOSTIN: You know, it makes me nervous. I don't think that it make sort of the criminal justice sense. We've always said if you do the crime, you do the time. And now if you do the crime, you may not do the time because your state doesn't have enough money.

I think people really have to be concern especially in a state like California that is saying we're going to let them out and we're not going to supervise them, no parole.

ROBERTS: Yes. I mean, they won't even pay for parole, right?

HOSTIN: Exactly.

ROBERTS: So they just basically open the door and say thanks.

HOSTIN: Thank you. And I think that should be a real concern. The other thing is they're saying these are nonsexual, not violent offenders. But the bottom line here, John, is people that are violent offenders don't start out that way typically and statistically. They sort of work their way out.

And so if you're letting someone out that's nonviolent and you're letting them out without any means of checking them through a parole system, we could have some problems here.

ROBERTS: They do say that they want to put them into treatment. Treatment without parole supervision, does that work?

HOSTIN: You know, I think when you look at some of the statistics, some states spend a lot more money on prison than they do on education. On prison, more than job training.

And so, if you're going to release someone that's nonviolent and not sexual offender and, yes, you give them some training, that may be an answer, but does that really answer your fiscal concerns. Probably not because that's cost money as well. So I think this is sort of a half-baked idea in my opinion.

ROBERTS: You were suggesting before we went on that sometimes these people escalate their crimes?

HOSTIN: Absolutely. Again, violent offenders don't usually start out that way. They work their way up. These are sort of entry level crimes. And what about drunk drivers? What do you do about that? Someone hurt someone. Drunk driving, is that someone that just gets right out?

ROBERTS: Higher rate (INAUDIBLE) with drunk driving.

HOSTIN: High rate. And so again, this is something that really needs to be studied and it's something that should be of concern to our viewers.

ROBERTS: Sunny Hostin for us this morning. Sunny, thanks.


CHO: All right. We just heard from Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama. Now a sit down with Senator Hillary Clinton is just minutes away. About 30 minutes away.

She's also the focus of our "Quick Vote" this morning. Here's the question. Did Clinton go too far in saying the U.S. could obliterate Iran if it attacked Israel? Here's what Senator Obama's response was when we asked him about it.

Well, we're going to get that to you a little bit later. But we want to get to the "Quick Vote" results at this point. 78 percent of you say, yes Senator Clinton did go too far. 22 percent of you say no she didn't. Safe to say that that is in line with what Obama thinks.

We want you to keep those coming this morning. We're going to bring you the results throughout the morning. Also go to and send us an e-mail on this, too. We want to hear your thought. You can hear Senator Clinton's response to the question. You can bet she'll be asked. That's coming up at 7:25 Eastern right here on AMERICAN MORNING.

ROBERTS: Parting shots.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We can't keep on putting off the day of reckoning.


ROBERTS: We've talked with Barack Obama. Coming up, Hillary Clinton defends her gas tax plan. Live, on the eve of the crucial Tuesday primary.

Plus, death of a champion.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She went out in glory. She went out as a champion to us.


ROBERTS: Calls for a change after a filly's tragic run for the roses.


CHO: Five minutes before the top of the hour. People are still talking about that tragedy at the Kentucky Derby over the weekend. The filly Eight Belles broke her front legs and had to be put down just passed the finish line. Couldn't even get to the ambulance.

Now there are calls for changes to racing. CNN's Jason Carroll is here now with more on that.

Reminds you of what happened to Barbaro a couple of years ago. So sad. JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, really a sad story, you know. Whenever something like this happens to a great horse on the track, it really captures the attention of so many people. Eighth Belles' death has now brought calls for safer horseracing.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Her ankles were collapsed in both front, she couldn't stand on either one.

CARROLL: Eight Belle's trainer says the horse ran the race of her life. But critic say great horses are giving their lives for the sport. Some fault improper breeding.

HOLLY HAZARD, HUMANE SOCIETY OF THE UNITED STATES: They are 1200 or 1500 pound animals who are running on legs that are smaller than a human leg. And so of course when you are breathing for a speed and strength and not for support, you're going to end up with a larger number injuries.

CARROLL: She's a nice filly, I like her. Trainers like Carlos Martin say traditionalists would never race a female filly, even one as talented as Eight Belles with male colts.

CARLOS MARTIN, TRAINER: It's unfortunate this happen, because, you know, the filly did distinguish herself, you know.

CARROLL: But you are old school in some ways. You would not have run a filly in this particular race?

MARTIN: Probably not.

CARROLL: Why? He says fillies will overexert themselves to compete with colts. But tragic finishes have befallen male horses, too.


CARROLL: In 2006, Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro shattered his leg during the (INAUDIBLE) in his bid to capture the Triple Crown. Despite a valiant fight, Barbaro was later euthanized.

(on camera): One study suggests a good way to make horseracing safer is to change the type of track horses like these are running on.

(voice-over): The study found turf tracks have one-third the risk of causing a horse fracture than dirt tracks.

REID CHERNER, USA TODAY: I think it's a totality of all these questions, breeding, racing services, age, how hard we're running them. I think every question needs to be asked.

CARROLL: Eight Belle's trainer says he expects a rush to blame.

LARRY JONES, EIGHT BELLE'S TRAINER: They're going to get criticize everything you do in here and second guess. There's going to be somebody that will come up with the idea, will the filly shouldn't have been in there. But like I said, it wasn't the race.


CARROLL: And a University of Florida study found that of every 1,000 thoroughbreds that race, one or two receive deadly injuries. Obviously, most of those injuries are not caught on national television. Animal rights advocates say if they were televised you would have a lot more people calling for safer racing.

CHO: Yes and a lot of people saying that those dirt tracks should be banned now because they're not as safe.

CARROLL: Just one of the suggestions, yes.

CHO: One of the many things we'll be talking to a horse trainer later -- a medical director. Jason Carroll, thank you so much.


ROBERTS: Such a tragedy what occurred yesterday -- Saturday, rather.

Two minutes to the top of the hour now. The candidates are up early getting their messages out before two crucial primaries and the race for the Democratic nomination. 187 delegates up for grabs tomorrow in Indiana and North Carolina.

137 delegates separate Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Obama has 1,736. Clinton has 1,599. 2,024 delegates needed to clinch the nomination. Our latest CNN poll of polls, an average of three recent polls shows Obama ahead of Clinton in North Carolina by eight points. That's up two points over the weekend. In Indiana, Obama and Clinton are dead even at 45 percent.

CNN's Suzanne Malveaux is live for us this morning in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Suzanne, you had an opportunity to listen to Senator Obama a little while ago when he was here on AMERICAN MORNING. Still going very hard at Hillary Clinton over this gasoline tax saying that it's just not a solution.

What do folks there in that state think about it? Is it a solution for them?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, John, this is one of those issues that really resonate with voters. You talk to them, they ask questions of the candidates and they all have some sort of story about their commute. How difficult things have been.

So all of these candidates are really looking for some way to connect with the voters and the voters obviously looking for solutions. One of the things that we see here in Indiana and North Carolina just within the last couple of weeks, the reason it's caught fire is because it resonates with voters but also it gives each one of this candidates an opportunity to paint their opponent in a certain way. It's a storyline. Senator Clinton uses it against Obama to make this perception that somehow he doesn't relate to working class folks. Obama has turn this around and says look this is more business as usual in Washington.