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Senate to Vote on Electronic Surveillance Measure; Bush Impressed by Russia's New Leader; Cargo Plane Crashes in Colombia

Aired July 7, 2008 - 08:00   ET


ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I think it's going to stay at a category 1 status, but you know, a couple days ago, we didn't think it would get to even a hurricane status, or be this far west. So certainly a reason for concern as it continues to motor across the tropical Atlantic.
Satellite pictures showing that classic cloud pattern that we so are used to seeing with the hurricane, that signature move wit the outflow and even a little, you can see the last couple of frames here, just a little bit of an eye right in through there.

All right. It's moving west-northwest about 17 miles an hour. It is forecast to shift a little bit farther towards the north. We've got high pressure over it which tends to shove things west. Whenever we get weakness in that high, that's when things start to move a little bit farther to the north. So certainly Bermuda would be under the gun with this.

Here is the forecast track -- 85, might touch 90-mile-an-hour- winds. That would keep it below category 2 status. But with right now, being located 750 miles east of the Winward Islands (ph), we've still got some time to play with.

We should know -- we've been mentioning this all morning, John, that back in 1996, Bertha, same name, they just rotate them, developed in the same spot and hit North Carolina as a category 2. So we certainly want to keep an eye on this dangerous storm, now a hurricane, as it continues to move west-northwest about 17 miles an hour.

Back to you.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, I remember well all of the damage it did to Wrightsville and Topsail Beaches. Just literally wiped all the houses off the topsail. Incredible.

MARCIANO: That's -- $60 million in damage so it's definitely a pretty bad storm.

ROBERTS: Certainly like to avoid a repeat.

Rob, thanks so much.


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Turning to politics and Senator John McCain, zeroing in on issue number one.

Speaking today in Colorado, McCain will lay out his plan to fix the economy and balance the budget. The McCain camp says it can get the U.S. back in the black by cutting wasteful spending and overhauling a number of federal programs including Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

And former Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry is trying to use the economy and the downturn against rival John McCain. Appearing on CBS's "Face the Nation" yesterday, Kerry, who's an Obama supporter, said McCain's stance on the economy and taxes is just more of the same.


SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: If you like the Bush economy, if you like the Bush tax cut, and what it's done to our economy, making wealthier people wealthier and average middle class struggle harder, then John McCain is going to give you a third term of George Bush and Karl Rove.


CHETRY: Kerry also called McCain's judgment when it comes to the Iraq war, quote, "dangerous."

To that, McCain supporter Lindsay Graham said we're winning in Iraq because McCain spoke out against his own administration to push for more troops on the ground.

This morning President Bush is getting to know the new Russian leader on the sidelines at G8 summit in Japan. He met Russia's new president Dmitri Medvedev for the first time since he took office in May. Mr. Bush says he's a smart guy who means what he says.

With more on that meeting, here's CNN's Elaine Quijano.

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: John and Kiran, it's a top headline at the G8. The outgoing U.S. president assesses his incoming Russian counterpart.


QUIJANO (voice-over): Beneath the smiles and pleasantries, the meeting was a chance for President Bush to size up Russia's new president, Dmitri Medvedev.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I found him to be a smart guy who understood the issues well.

QUIJANO: On the sidelines of the Group of 8 Summit in Japan, the two men met for the first time since Medvedev took office in May.

BUSH: I'm not going to psycho-analyze the man, but I will tell you that he's very comfortable, he's confident and that I believe that when he tells me something he means it. QUIJANO: The cautious assessment stands in sharp contrast to 2001 when President Bush, after his first meeting with Russia's then- president Vladimir Putin, famously said, he had looked Putin in the eye and added ...

BUSH: I was able to get a sense of his soul.

QUIJANO: Now, Medvedev, Putin's hand picked successor, says he agrees with the U.S. on the need to curb Iran's and North Korea's nuclear ambitions.

But like Putin, he's firmly against the Bush administration's plan for a missile defense system in Eastern Europe. Medvedev says he wants to reach an agreement on that issue as well, and while President Bush may only have six months left in office, in Medvedev's words, he's very comfortable dealing with George.


QUIJANO: John and Kiran?

ROBERTS: Elaine Quijano for us this morning -- Elaine, thanks.

And new this morning, some good news about flying. We all know the hassle of taking your laptop out of its bag as you head through those snarled security lines but now new technology could save you the trouble.

TSA has been testing new X-ray machines that can check your laptop while it's still in the case. We'll keep an eye on this one for you.

And a critical two days ahead in Hollywood as the Screen Actors Guild considers a strike. Its sister union, AFTRA, voting on a new contract. The results are expected to be announced tomorrow. Insiders say its approval could lead to civil war in the industry.

CHETRY: Gas prices hit a new record while oil comes down slightly from an all-time high. Growing demand worldwide fueling the hunt for energy ahead.

ROBERTS: And firefighters looking to Mother Nature to give them the upper hand in putting out those stubborn wildfires. A look at the progress that's being made in Northern California just ahead.

CHETRY: Also a church starts giving out bus tickets, the latest effort to help people deal with high gas prices.

You're watching the "Most News in the Morning."


ROBERTS: Everybody's taking the money and runs -- and run everybody's taking the money and running, it would seem these days, because here's the worst story of the morning. Beer prices are skyrocketing. The Labor Department says retail beer prices saw their largest increase in almost three years in May. Analysts say a number of reasons why you're paying more for a cold one, including the rising cost of grain used to make beer, there's a worldwide hop shortage going on and also barley has become more expensive.

ALI VELSHI, CNN SENIOR BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: And by the way, the energy involved in making that is more expensive.

CHETRY: I was going to say if you're from the Ali Velshi School of Why, it's demand for beer is up and the speculators have run amok.

VELSHI: I will check before saying it but I actually I think the demand for beer is not up.

CHETRY: I'm teasing you, because that's what you always say about oil.

VELSHI: See? I'm specific. I'm specific about it.

So I was in Alberta for a couple of reasons but I was in this weekend for the Calgary Stampede.

CHETRY: You're there to buy...

VELSHI: I want to show you my equipment. Hold on a second. My stampede -- oops my belt just came off. OK, well, it just came off...

CHETRY: The belt's too big for your britches, that's the problem.

VELSHI: That's the buckle. That's my Calgary Stampede buckle.

Now it's not the only reason to be in Alberta, by the way. This is really kind of...

CHETRY: It looks great with a three-piece suit.

VELSHI: ... embarrassing. I want just take this thing off. All right. It's a bit of a problem.

ROBERTS: We have to change the rating of the show if you're going to be doing that.

VELSHI: Somebody -- want to give you the belt buckle.

CHETRY: Probably look better on Pete, anyway.

VELSHI: All right. Let me tell you what the news is here in Alberta. They have the largest reserves of oil in the entire world. Now that's something we've been looking at because, as you can see, probably right here on the bottom of your screen we have a new record for gas prices, $4.11.

Anything happening there? ROBERTS: No, nothing.

VELSHI: No, it's you. All right. Well, theoretically, you'd see a little thing in the right bottom right corner of your screen, $4.11 per gallon of gasoline.

ROBERTS: There it is.

CHETRY: There it is.

VELSHI: There we go.

VELSHI: $4.11. Oil hit $145.29, that's where it settled on Friday. It actually went higher than that. So we are on an energy hunt and we are looking for oil wherever it may be or energy wherever it may be. And our first trip took us to Ft. McMurray in northern Alberta where they have the oil sands where there's oil right in the sand.

Take a look.


VELSHI (on camera): This is it. This is what we came here for. This is oil sand. It's sand that's encased in water and oil. In fact, this is about 10 percent real crude oil.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Taking advantage of this fuel.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to lose certain things, you know? Our traditional lifestyle will erode.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I come here and every teacher that ever told me you don't do good in school, you're never going to make it. I'm making triple what they make.


VELSHI: So there's a lot of stories up there. One is that there's oil right in the ground. Two, it's that it's doing something to the land. We're going to talk about that and the environmental impact. And three, you can go up to Ft. McMurray, Alberta and get a job in whatever you want.

We saw signs for $13.5 at A&W and we know McDonald's and all those places are playing, plus these oil workers make $100,000, $120,000 a year to start, because there's so much work up there.

For the next three days, I'm going to be bringing you this edition of our energy hunt. We're going to be in Ft. McMurray, Alberta, and I'll be showing you that story all this week on AMERICAN MORNING and on "ISSUE #1."

ROBERTS: Just be sure if you go up there for a job, you bring your insect repellent, right?

VELSHI: I'm still healing from the bites.

ROBERTS: Yes, black flies the size of moose up there.


CHETRY: You're making 100 grand a year you can afford some heat.

VELSHI: You can buy some -- yes.

CHETRY: Thanks.

VELSHI: Our producer, by the way, brought some kind of -- like no-kill, doesn't-hurt-the-environment kind of mosquito repellent?

CHETRY: Worked well for you?

VELSHI: Didn't work.

CHETRY: Killer mosquitoes.


ROBERTS: Thanks.

CHETRY: Well, it's issue number one to you, and it's a big campaign issue. Today both candidates talking about their plan to run the world's largest economy. We'll take a look, coming up.

Also, firefighters battling wildfires in California today, getting a little bit of help from the weather. We're going to talk about how that fight is going.

You're watching the most news in the morning.


CHETRY: Well, we're following breaking news in this morning. You're waking up to Hurricane Bertha, the first hurricane of the Atlantic season this year. A storm now packing winds of about 75 miles per hour and the location, now 750 miles east of the Leeward Islands.

Bertha, again, the Atlantic's first hurricane this year.

Our Rob Marciano is tracking it for us -- John?

ROBERTS: The weather today will help firefighters battling dozens of wildfires in California. Cooler temperatures, higher humidity, it will all help to make progress against the fires.

Our Kara Finnstrom is on the fire lines covering the story.

KARA FINNSTROM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this has been the scene all across California, fierce wildfires that refuse to be put out. During the last month, firefighters battled more than 1,000 fires. This morning, hope that they may be making progress against the two largest which have threatened thousands of homes.


FINNSTROM (voice-over): A small air force is in the skies above California, 140 tankers and helicopters dropping hundreds of thousands of pounds of water and flame retardant.

Right now, crews in the air and on the ground are taking full advantage of a gift -- higher than expected humidity and cool temperatures.

RICK NEWTON, U.S. FOREST SERVICE: Today's a big day to get a lot of this work done before the weather changes on us.

FINNSTROM: Firefighters near Big Sur in northern California, where a stubborn wildfire has destroyed 22 homes, are intentionally lighting backfires to destroy fresh fuel around the blaze's edges.

Down south near Santa Barbara, volunteer firefighters in an isolated canyon community, use their own trucks and fire retardant to spray down their own homes.


FINNSTROM: Those firefighters working in the shadow of the state's swelling ground attack.

Across California, 24 major wildfires are raging, with more than 20,000 firefighters converging with trucks, shovels and hoses.

GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), CALIFORNIA: Our personnel and resources was stretched to the breaking point. Our firefighters are exhausted.

FINNSTROM: Over the weekend, hopeful sign they're gaining ground in both Big Sur and Santa Barbara. But with the fire season raging long before it usually starts, nobody expects much of a break.

UNIDENTIFIED FIREFIGHTER: It's going to be that kind of year.


FINNSTROM: And here near Santa Barbara firefighters are feeling confident enough that they've started lifting some of those mandatory evacuations -- Kiran, John?

CHETRY: Kara Finnstrom for us on the fire lines, thanks.

ROBERTS: Sixteen minutes after the hour.

The top-secret plan to protect our political conventions. Weapons ripped right out of the comic books to keep the peace. But some may be not fiction after all.

We've got that for you.

CHETRY: Coming up on AMERICAN MORNING, divine intervention.


BISHOP THOMAS TOBIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC DIOCESE OF PROVIDENCE: At least there'll be some way of getting them around.


CHETRY: The church takes on high gas prices.

You're watching the "Most News in the Morning."


COLLINS: Welcome back to the "Most News in the Morning."

Gas prices up to $4.11 a gallon this morning. One church is adding bus tickets to its charitable giving.

Our Dan Lothian has that story.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, Kiran, the high cost of gasoline has caused a lot of people to turn to public transportation, but even that for many is too expensive.

So here in Rhode Island, the diocese is offering a ticket to ride.


LOTHIAN (voice-over): Jennifer Munoz has a car. But these days, with gas over four bucks a gallon, the single, unemployed mother of two, is riding the bus, running errands and looking for a job.

JENNIFER MUNOZ, COMMUTER: It helps save money. I don't have to keep filling my tank up every few miles.

LOTHIAN: And she doesn't have to pay for this trip to the grocery store because the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence is picking up the tab.

MUNOZ: It means I don't have to be set back when I don't have the money for the gas. I can still depend on me to go do what I have to do.

LOTHIAN: The diocese, which provides shelter and food for the needy, is now handing out books of 10 one-way bus tickets, each book worth more than $17, tapping into their charity fund to pay the bill.

TOBIN: We thought that by purchasing these bus tickets and sharing them with people if they can't afford gasoline, if they don't have their own car, at least to be some way of getting them around for some basic needs.

LOTHIAN: The church never expected to be in the business of funding public transportation, but as gas prices kept increasing, so, too, was the burden on many commuters, like Munoz, who not long ago was driving a large SUV.

(on camera): And why did you get rid of it?

MUNOZ: The gas is too expensive. Way too expensive. So...

LOTHIAN: So you...

MUNOZ: ... I had to downgrade.

LOTHIAN: So downgraded to a small car?


LOTHIAN: And then now even that is too expensive?

MUNOZ: Yes, it is.

LOTHIAN (voice-over): So far the diocese has spent more than $17,000 to buy bus tickets and more than 400 of the books have been handed out to people who can show they have a real need.

TOBIN: We have a very simple application process. We don't want to make this so burdensome or so bureaucratic that it defeated the purpose.


LOTHIAN: Bishop Tobin says he realizes that this effort won't solve all the problems of those who need a little help, but he says at least it will help relieve some of the pain. John, Kiran?

ROBERTS: Dan Lothian, reporting for us this morning.

You're watching most news in the morning.

Both Barack Obama and John McCain talking about issue number one this election, the economy. Coming up, a look at candidates' proposals and the attacks from their opponents.


ROBERTS: Coming up on AMERICAN MORNING -- secret security.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The ball breaks, powder expels.


ROBERTS: High-tech weapons protecting the political convention. The $50 million plan you might never hear about.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why are you so interested in keeping it a secret? (END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: You're watching the most news in the morning.


ROBERTS: Twenty-three minutes after the hour. It is the most important issue to you, the economy. This week, both candidates will spend much of their time laying out their plans to fix it, plans both new and repackaged.

Joining me now to talk more about this is radio hosts, Laura Flanders and Joe Pagliarulo, otherwise known as Joe Pags.

Welcome to both of you this morning.

So, Joe, let's start with you. John McCain, big re-launch at the campaign after retooling last week, going after "ISSUE #1," compete with a pledge to balance the budget after four years.

How does he do that?

JOE "PAGS" PAGLIARULO, RADIO/TV TALK SHOW HOST: I don't think he does. But you know John McCain had to re-launch this economic plan because he admitted he doesn't know anything about the economy. I think that he thought Iraq was going to be the big deal. He thought it was four, five months ago, and he thought that it was going to be heading into November, which is a big win for him.

And he said I don't know anything about the economy, let's fix Iraq. Well, now, he has to get a vice presidential candidate that knows something about the economy and got to come forward and say, I'm going to fix foreclosures, I'm going to fix unemployment, I'm going to fix the budget.

Well, he can't balance a budget in four years. It's nice to says it, it's nice to wish it, but I don't think it's going to happen.

ROBERTS: And what about Barack Obama? He's not pledging to do anything, is he?

LAURA FLANDERS, RADIO/TV TALK SHOW HOST: Well, this guy's -- McCain's looking about a shakeup in his campaign. This wasn't a shakedown. I mean what he's brought on to his campaign to show how different he is from Bush.

Three Bush aides who are now saying, well, maybe Barack Obama is in Michigan and Missouri and Ohio, talking about jobs and you're in Katahena(ph), Mexico City and Toronto boosting the next, you know, salaries thinking trade deal, you better get your ass back here and start talking about what the Americans really care about when you know anything about it or not which he clearly does not.

And you know what, Iraq is going to be the big economy. Iraq is going to be the big issue. And no matter how much the media this week have tried to carry McCain's message for him -- because heaven knows he can't speak it...

ROBERTS: You know what, but wait...

FLANDERS: ... the American public are absolutely clear about the difference between these two candidates.

ROBERTS: Why do you say Iraq is going to be the main issue, because any polling...


ROBERTS: ... that we've ever done shows the economy's the number one issue, and growing as the number one issue.

FLANDERS: This is where the issues come down clearly, on Iraq and the economy. John McCain, there is not an iota of daylight between his policies and Bush's except maybe he's a little bit more focused on Iran and Iraq than Pakistan and al Qaeda, even than Bush.

But Barack Obama has been clear and the American public are 100 percent clear. One of these guy has a plan for getting out of Iraq as soon as he gets in, beginning to bring troops home as soon as day one, and the other guy does nothing but talk about...


PAGLIARULO: I'm not really sure why, but the economy is Barack Obama's big win. If he goes Iraq he's going to lose horribly. I mean let's talk about Iraq all day long. Barack Obama is a flip-flopper, worst than John Kerry on his best day. But when it comes to Iraq, he's got focus on Iraq and Iran. If he doesn't that's the future of the problems in the world. How can he ignore that?

And by the way...

FLANDERS: John McCain got it right, which is Iraq, which is Iran? Which is Sunni? Which is Shia? I mean if you want to talk flip-flopping I don't think that's...


PAGLIARULO: Well, we can also talk about Barack Obama's grandfather freeing the hostages over at (INAUDIBLE) and Auschwitz, but, I mean, we won't go into that because that's just silly. (INAUDIBLE) every once in a while.

FLANDERS: That is silly.

PAGLIARULO: The bottom line is, the people calling my shows, John, say $4 a gallon for gas, you've got to be kidding me. Who is getting the money? Is it the oil companies? Is the government screwing us? What's going on here? Why is it that I'm now paying double per month for gasoline that I ever did before? The economy's a big, big problem.

FLANDERS: And McCain... PAGLIARULO: And we can focus on Iraq all we want but that's only for McCain.

FLANDERS: And McCain is out there pitching useless off shore drilling to oil...

PAGLIARULO: Not useless at all.

FLANDERS: ... corporations.

PAGLIARULO: Let's start getting our own resources. That's ridiculous.

ROBERTS: I think there's some argument as to how much use it would be particularly in the near term.

But Laura, let me ask you this question. I don't know if you heard my interview this morning with Robert Gibbs, communications director for the Obama campaign.

Are you concerned that he may not be able to stick with the timetable of 16 months to get troops out of the Iraq?

FLANDERS: You know, Barack Obama can't win. He can't win if he takes advice. He can't win if he doesn't take advice as far as the media is concerned. He has always said he will take advice. He will take advice, you know, much to the dismay of some of his more anti-war (INAUDIBLE). He has always...

ROBERTS: You know whether or not he holds to a 16-month timetable is not the media's fault and he put that number out there.

FLANDERS: Yes, but it's the media's point...

ROBERTS: Are you concerned that he...

FLANDERS: ... suggesting that...

ROBERTS: ... that he'll be able to stick with it and is it important that he sticks?

FLANDERS: Absolutely, it's important that he sticks with it. It's important that he's -- I would moves it up faster than -- you know, 16 months but that's just me. Most American people want troops out beginning on day one. That's what he's promised day end, we'll find out.

PAGLIARULO: That's to true. Most of the American people do not want that. Most of the American people want to win there and Barack Obama's confused about that.

The problem is -- if we get 16 months is just sending a letter to those in Iraq, the insurgents, hey, guess what, 16 months from now, how about it, man, Iraq is yours.

FLANDERS: No. PAGLIARULO: We can't do that. John McCain wants to win and Barack Obama wants to get out.

ROBERTS: But do you really think that's going to happen?

FLANDERS: They're sending a message that you need to get yourself together to be able to rule your own country, which is what majority of Iraqis, what the Iraqi government want.

PAGLIARULO: We're telling them something today. Get yourself together and get ready to attack in 16 months from today.

FLANDERS: Watch any poll you want from Iraq, that's what the Iraqis, what they want...


ROBERTS: I mean, Joe, do you have any doubt that if General Petraeus, should he still be in command...


ROBERTS: ... came to Senator Obama and said, look, we got to stop this, that Senator Obama would agree or at wouldn't at least give him a good listen to?

PAGLIARULO: I have doubts -- I have doubt about Barack Obama having the fundamental judgment to be able to talk to General Petraeus now, whereas he couldn't when there was the Senate hearing.

Just like Hillary Clinton. They have the Senate hearings and they said, General Petraeus, I don't believe you.

Basically what the woeful disregard, suspension disbelieve, whatever the crazy line was, they didn't believe him. They called him a liar. Now he's the smartest guy on earth. We're going to go to him and get his advice on when to get out of Iraq.

Barack Obama, from the beginning, has said we're getting out, we're getting out, we're getting out. Doesn't matter what the recourse is once we leave do there. Now he's saying, we'll get out only if they say it's OK to get out because he's going center. He's got to go center if he wants more voters.

ROBERTS: Well, let me finish up with this, if I could.

FLANDERS: He said the same thing from day one.

PAGLIARULO: Absolutely not.

ROBERTS: "New York Times" editorial on Friday, weighed in on these changes -- what it saw as changes made by Senator Obama, not very complimentary about it either, saying, quote, "We are not shocked when a candidate moves to the center for the general election, but Mr. Obama's shifts are striking because he was the candidate who proposed to change the face of politics. Demand a passionate conviction who did not play old political games.

Every candidate has to shift. You know you're on the conservative side, you run to the right, and you run to the center. If you're a Democrat, you run to the left, run to the center.

But does he have a problem with one of those things?

FLANDERS: I mean, no, if John McCain wants to make a campaign vow to you out of consistently when it's consistently being wronged, go for it. Barack Obama has consistently said he will take advice on these issues and that's exactly what he's doing.

Are they -- is it the advice I want him to take? Not exactly. But it's not any different from what he said at the beginning of this campaign. It's the media that have created this straw man out of this guy, made him into something he's not.

And now they're saying, oh look, he's changed. He's very consistent. Go back and look at his records starting February, March...


ROBERTS: All right. Folks, we've got to wrap this up.

PAGLIARULO: All right.

ROBERTS: But there's plenty of time between now and November to talk about the issues.


ROBERTS: We thank you very much. Laura Flanders, Joe Pags, -- good to see you again.

PAGLIARULO: All right, John.

ROBERTS: Good to see you again.

COLLINS: Well, we're closing on the half hour and we're following breaking news and that's the first hurricane of the 2008 Atlantic season. It's now churning over the Atlantic Ocean.

Hurricane Bertha packing winds of 75 miles per hour and those winds are expected to strengthen a bit in the next couple of days as the storm feeds off the warm waters.

Right now Bertha is 750 miles east of the Leeward Islands. Forecasters say it's still too soon to say if the storm will hit land.

And Congress back at work this morning after a week-long break. They'll be busy. Among the issues they have to tackle a $300 billion to help homeowners facing foreclosure.

The Senate is also expected to vote on an electronic surveillance measure that provides telecommunications companies with immunity for wireless wiretaps.

And this plane needs a nose job, you could say. This Northwest Airlines flight from Detroit to Tampa landed safely but its nose cone was caved in. You can see it when you get a closer shot of it. Northwest says 128 passengers were on board. They were never in any danger. Calling it, "a minor maintenance issue." The cause is still being investigated. The plane is thankfully grounded for now.

And we have some breaking news from Afghanistan this morning where officials say a suicide bomber killed at least 41 people and wounded dozens in Kabul. That blast happened at a crowded street near the Indian embassy. And our senior international correspondent Nic Robertson was recently in Afghanistan. He joins us now from London with more on this. And how significant is it that Taliban denying any involvement in this incident this morning?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is significant. I mean, number one, can we take this at face value? The answer is probably no. There are lots of different Taliban groups. They fight on the battlefield sometimes side by side but completely separately fighting their own battle because there are different groups inside the Taliban. They are not homogeneous. So one group may have carried it out, another group may be denying it. It's got all the hallmarks of a Taliban attack.

But most importantly for them, so many civilians were killed in this particular attack. And this is what the Taliban can't afford to have happen. They can't afford to lose Afghan support. What they do is to normally strike at coalition, Afghan security forces. By killing civilians they lose support among the people. They're not popular already. They can't afford this sort of thing to happen. That would be one assessment of why they would be denying this right now. Kiran.

CHETRY: And also, why Kabul? It's often escaped a lot of the violence associated with Afghanistan.

ROBERTSON: You know, it's easier for the Taliban to attack in other parts of the country where they're more indigenous. In the south they've got broader support, they're out in remote villages, it's easy to intimidate the local population, put up roadblocks on main highways, the group, and to have the sort of command and control are ways away from where the coalition and Afghan forces can readily strike them.

In the capital, Kabul, this is where the Taliban can create the most terror possible. Kabul has seen some of the benefits of having the coalition there, shops are better stocked now, the roads are cleaner, and the roads are better repaired. There are newer buildings going up. But fear is what the Taliban can instill in the capital by these bombings and that's what they're trying to do there.

CHETRY: All right. Nic Robertson for us in London this morning. Thank you.

ROBERTS: Thirty-two minutes after the hour now. This just in to CNN. A crash of a cargo plane in Colombia, just outside of Bogota, in a little town called Madrid. It was a U.S. owned cargo plane. It was taking off from Bogota en route to Miami. It crashed into a home when it crashed shortly after takeoff. It killed two people inside the home. The eight crew members who are on board though, all survived.

As you can see, wreckage strewn about the ground. It's amazing anybody survived this crash. But again it crashed into a home, in the town of Madrid which is just outside of Bogota. It was on its way to Miami at the time. The eight crew members did survive though. We'll keep watching this for you and we'll bring in the details just as soon as we get them.

Pepper ball rifles, goo guns, and sonic rays. Some of them are just wild rumors but some may not be. Some of those weapons may be used to protect our political conventions this year. Ed Lavandera is at the convention site in Denver where the democrats are going to meet in August and he's got more for us. Ed.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John and Kiran, to prepare for this summer's political conventions, Congress is giving the host cities, Denver and St. Paul, Minnesota, $50 million each to pay for security expenses. But what exactly that money is being spent on is top secret here in Denver.


BOB NEWMAN, ANTI-TERRORISM CONSULTANT: $25 million buys a lot of very interesting things.

LAVANDERA: Bob Newman is an anti-terrorism consultant, helping some Denver companies prepare for the democratic convention. He's anxious to see what kind of crowd control weaponry authorities will deploy for the convention.

NEWMAN: There are also these crazy rumors going around.

LAVANDERA: City officials and the police department won't talk about most of the weapons and equipment they're buying.

HEATH FLEENER, EXACLIBER TACTICAL: This is your pepper rounds.

LAVANDERA: But they have confirmed one report that several hundred thousands of high powered pepper ball rifles will be used to disperse crowds.

FLEENER: When that hits, the ball breaks, the powder expels. The same exact reaction as pepper spray. Except it's powder.

LAVANDERA: Congressional testimony revealed there will also be specialized gas detection equipment and biohazard equipment. Science fiction-like weapons that may or may not be part of the arsenal, like the goo gun.

It shoots a, almost like a rubbery gelatinous mass that when it strikes the body, it come out in a continual stream it wraps around limbs and wraps around the torso and the person can't move. LAVANDERA: It can also make a humvee spin in place. Then there are the weapons that would make unruly crowds run for cover like a sonic ray gun, a device which emits an ear piercing sound and a microwave device that can be focused on an area and make you feel like your skin is on fire. The ACLU has sued the city of Denver to find out if these weapons are in the arsenal.

MARK SILVERSTEIN, ACLU OF COLORADO: Instead of asking the public how come you want to know? Maybe the question should be posed to the government, why are you so interested in keeping this secret?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rational people are not concerned. But we know who are concerned are those the ones who are causing problems.


LAVANDERA (on-camera): In Minnesota where republicans are holding their convention, the ACLU says it's also trying to find out how the security monies are being spent but law enforcement agencies insist these weapons should be kept secret so they have the upper hand in keeping the convention safe. John and Kiran, back to you.

ROBERTS: Ed Lavandera reporting from Denver. The convention is going to have a huge impact on the city. Here's a look at an "A.M. Extra." At least 35,000 people expected in Denver 15,000 of them will be media covering the event. The party says 21,000 people have signed up as volunteers. And the city says the convention could bring in up to $200 million. Kiran.

CHETRY: Today we're going to hear from three former American hostages, their home free after five years in the jungles of Colombia. This morning, new details about their daring and deceptive rescue.


CHETRY: Changing sides.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Younger people, they're saying, look, enough of the rhetoric.


CHETRY: The country's newest citizens bring some new ideas.




CHETRY: How they could turn the tide in Florida.

You're watching the "Most News in the Morning." (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: More campaign news now. Republicans and democrats see a political opportunity in the wave of new naturalized citizens. But their pledge of allegiance to the United States, many of these first- time voters must now decide on a political party.

Susan Candiotti now with a political fight over new citizens.


SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Leonor Gonzalez is a wanted woman. Republicans want her and so do democrats.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As American citizens it is your right to vote. Make your you get your voice is heard.

CANDIOTTI: Gonzales is one of 6,000 people sworn in as U.S. citizens recently in Miami Beach.

LEANOR GONZALEZ, NEW VOTER: I'm feeling so good because finally, I'm going to become a citizen, an American citizen.

CANDIOTTI: A new American citizen who can vote. Just outside the swearing in ceremony, republicans and democrats are wasting no time trying to scoop up a potential mother lode of voters.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They just became citizens and they're excited about registering.

CANDIOTTI: Laura's considered a key presidential swing state and every new voter is crucial. One target group, Hispanics.

CANDIOTTI (on-camera): This year in Florida for the first time, more Hispanics are registering as democrats than republicans. And the GOP says it will catch up. From January through May, the Florida Democratic Party says it picked up more than 30,000 Hispanic democrats, almost two-thirds more than Hispanic republicans. In the case of Cuban-Americans, many of them don't automatically vote republican anymore.

RAUL MARTINEZ (D), CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: You do have a lot of the elderly Cubans that are still sticking with the republican party. But the younger Cubans, they're saying, look, enough of the rhetoric of Cuba.

CANDIOTTI: But increasingly, new Hispanic Americans are from Colombia, Venezuela, Central America. Senator John McCain recently made trips to Colombia and Mexico.

CARLA RIVER, REPUBLICAN PARTY OF FLORIDA: Senator McCain does what he does best, he talks directly to the people, explains how he's there to help. He's very interested in helping the Hispanic community.

CANDIOTTI: This man just registered as an independent. He's leaning toward McCain.

ROBERTO FALCON, NEW VOTER: I prefer McCain because he has more experience.

CANDIOTTI: Leonor Gonzalez is in Senator Obama's camp.

GONZALEZ: I think Obama.

CANDIOTTI: Why is that?

GONZALEZ: Because I think he has more experience in economy.

CANDIOTTI: As new citizens, many of them will experience U.S. politics in a way they never have before, voting for a new president.

Susan Candiotti, CNN, Miami Beach.


ROBERTS: Well, congratulations to all those new citizen. It's quite a special experience to go through.

Today the three former American hostages expected to speak about their five years in captivity. And this morning, we are learning new details on the amazing rescue mission that freed them.

And Lyme disease, it's a potentially crippling infection carried by ticks and doctors say it's on the rise.

Many in the medical community are split on how to treat them.


ROBERTS: It's 44 minutes after the hour. Today, we will hear from the three American hostages for the first time since their dramatic rescue from deep in Colombia's jungle. And this morning, we're learning much more about the elaborate rescue operation that freed them and what they went through during more than five years in captivity.

CNN's Karl Penhaul is in Colombia for us.


KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: FARC rebel toting assault rifle, mount watch in a drug plantation in eastern Colombia. The time on the video says 1:22 p.m. 15 of the rebels' most valuable hostages wait nearby, including former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt and three American defense contractors. The rebels believe that a helicopter that had just land is a humanitarian mission to ferry their captives to another guerrilla camp. They have no idea this is the final phase of a daring operation by Colombian military intelligence months in the planning.

It's now 1:24 according to the video. One military intelligence officer posing as cameraman asks a question to this FARC commander known as Cesar. Cesar seems relaxed but declines to answer. Like the other hostages, American Keith Stansell is handcuffed, ready for the flight.

1:27, Stansell utters the word gringos for Americans and shows the plastic cuffs to the man he thinks is a bona fide cameraman. The lieutenant Raymundo Malagon held hostage for 10 years seems agitated. I'm the Lieutenant Malagon of the glorious Colombian army and I've been held in chains for 10 years, he says. A minute later, the hostages walk the final yard on their way to the waiting chopper. The audio is cut as we see Ingrid Betancourt preparing to board. She looks haggard after more than six years as a hostage. A last shot of the guerrilla captors. And minutes later, this - pure joy. Betancourt is in tears. The hostages have just been told they are free.

PENHAUL (on-camera): The full details of such secretive military operations are rarely revealed. But the key fact, 15 long suffering hostages and now home free.

Karl Penhaul, CNN, Bogota.


ROBERTS: And this morning, Cuba's former president Fidel Castro now calling on Colombia's FARC rebels to release all their hostages but at the same time, Castro says, the rebel group should not lay down its weapons.

CHETRY: Well, CNN NEWSROOM is just minutes away. Tony Harris at the CNN Center with a look at what's ahead.

Happy Monday, Tony.

TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, good to see you, Kiran. Happy Monday to you. Good morning, everyone.

We track Hurricane Bertha all day in the NEWSROOM. Plus the California wildfires. Humid, cooler weather helps firefighters near the coast but parts of the state can you believe this, will top 100 today.

Should grade school children be on cholesterol lowering drugs? A prominent pediatrician's group says yes.

And an odd item, we found on eBay, a woman is selling her soul, huh, find out why, and if there are any takers. Plus recession proofing your life. Our issue number one focus all day in the NEWSROOM. We get rolling at top of the hour right here on CNN.

Kiran, back to you. Have a great day.

CHETRY: You too, Tony. Thanks.

Well, we're talking about Lyme disease. It's painful and it's sometimes crippling and it can be cured. Find out why doctors are split on how best to treat it. You're watching the "Most News in the Morning."


ROBERTS: Forty-eight minutes after the hour. And the top videos right now on Most popular, Kilauea's fireworks, the Hawaiian volcano giving its own fourth of July show this weekend. At times, the lava spewed 150 feet into the air. Kilauea is the most active volcano on the planet.

CHETRY: Also, freighter in flame. An entire ship igniting into a fireball in the Miami River. The cargo, which included 6,000 gallons of fuel, cars, bicycles and mattresses, helped feed the flame even further. All nine crew members who lived on that ship got out safely.

ROBERTS: And the drummer from the rock band Lit's announcing he's been diagnosed with a brain tumor. 38-year-old Allen Shellenberger now undergoes radiation treatments five times a week. He says he would never make it without the support of his band mates and his daughter who just graduated high school.

You're watching the most news in the morning. And that is the most popular video on We'll be right back.


ROBERTS: Well, summer is peak season for Lyme disease, a painful and sometimes debilitating infection spread by deer ticks. Some doctors are even calling it an epidemic. But Elizabeth Cohen reports this morning, the medical community is split on how to approach the disease and she's here now with more on that.

Good morning, Elizabeth.


John, Lyme disease is the most common insect-borne disease in the United States, with 20,000 reported cases a year. But some experts say those numbers are really much higher. This was Mandy Hughes three years ago. She limped, had problems with balance and constant headaches and joint pain.


MANDY HUGHES, LYME PATIENT: It literally feels like you got into a severe car accident like you were hit by a Mack truck and you were allowed no medical attention.

COHEN (voice-over): In the new independent documentary "Under our Skin", Hughes describes spending 10 years being widely misdiagnosed by 15 doctors.

HUGHES: She claims one even accused here of making it up. You're an attractive girl. And obviously you don't feel like you're getting enough attention. COHEN: Today, Hughes says, after a Lyme disease diagnosis and 15 months of antibiotics, she still feels the lingering effects of the disease but the everyday pain has subsided.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have a seat in here.

COHEN: Some Lyme specialists worry many patients like Hughes are misdiagnosed.

DR. DANIEL CAMERON, INT'L LYME AND ASSOC. DISEASES SOCIETY: My view is we have an epidemic of Lyme disease.

COHEN: Patients don't always have the classic Lyme symptoms like a bull's-eye rash or swollen joint.

DR. BRIAN FALLON, COLUMBIA UNIV. MEDICAL CTR.: The physician may not think of Lyme disease, may not test for Lyme disease and, therefore, the person may be infected for months, maybe even years, without knowing it.

COHEN: Fallon says even the standard blood test fails to detect the infection at least 20 percent of the time. If untreated, doctors say, Lyme can be crippling.

FALLON: The disability associated with Lyme disease is worse than a disability that you might see with someone after a heart attack.

COHEN: That's why Hughes says she's grateful a doctor finally caught her Lyme disease.

HUGHES: I was upset that it was allowed to go so far before I could get help and that so much of my freedom and my life had been taken from me during that time.


COHEN (on-camera): So much about Lyme disease is controversial. For example, Hughes and others say they needed more than a year of antibiotics to get healthy again but the Infectious Disease Society of America, those doctors say just a few weeks of antibiotics usually help most people. John.

ROBERTS: Yes. It's a difficult disease for some people to get through. Elizabeth Cohen for us this morning, thanks very much.

COHEN: Thank you.

ROBERTS: Good information on that.

This is already, by the way, the most e-mailed story on For more information on this and other health stories go to

CHETRY: Hidden treasure - a first look at priceless artifacts and the ancient story they tell about nomads covered in gold. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These guys were doing very well.


CHETRY: You're watching the most news in the morning.


CHETRY: Well, we've got leave you with a big bunch of balloons this morning because we set a record. Not us, but Mr. Ken Couch.

ROBERTS: Although you tried. You met balloon guy last year.

CHETRY: Look at the pictures. This is the second attempt, many more attempts but anyway, check out this video. 200 miles on a bundle of party balloons and the man behind it all Ken Couch. He says he made it from Oregon to Idaho on a lawn chair tied to 150 helium-filled balloons. And as we just said, he was with us last year as he tried the attempt.

He fell about 40 miles short last year, saying that he used the BB gun to burst too many balloons at once and it really messed him up. His flight took about nine hours before he slowly brought himself back down to earth by shooting the balloons with a B. gun.

ROBERTS: You want to be very careful with that, you only get one balloon at a time.

CHETRY: He says it's a lot more expensive than you think. The helium ends up costing a lot of money.

ROBERTS: Well, anytime you buy your child a balloon at a parade, you know, it's like ten bucks for a balloon, right?

CHETRY: Exactly.

ROBERTS: Those are pretty big balloons too.

CHETRY: Well, it's something like out of a movie. Priceless items thought to be destroyed then rediscovered after years.

ROBERTS: Treasures from Afghanistan, they're on display for the first time at the National Gallery of Art in Washington. And our Zain Verjee toured the exhibit.


ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: You know, everyone is ga ga about "Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull" and you know, his treasures. But do these beat that?

FREDRIK HIEBERT, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC: Let me tell you the stories that those Afghan stories have to tell, you know, 70 percent of the capital city of Afghanistan was ruined during the civil war. The museum was ruined. These guys had to live through all sorts of horrific things and yet they kept this code of silence to preserve their own culture. I think that's magnificent.

VERJEE (voice-over): Those heroes preserved the treasures of their country's past. Kept the secret so well that they had to be cut free from their hiding place.

HIEBERT: They actually started to crack open the safes.

VERJEE: After they were rediscovered in the National Palace.

HIEBERT: The boxes were opened and out came some fabulous treasures. Treasures 2,000-year-old pieces of gold.

VERJEE: The priceless artifact survived the Soviet invasion, the rise of the Taliban and the U.S.-led invasion. Let's look at the gold, you know.

HIEBERT: It catches everybody's imagination.

VERJEE: Weapons sparkle like jewelry.

HIEBERT: It's remark able that someone, a nomad was wearing this much gold.

VERJEE: Today, we think of a nomad as being pretty poor with some cattle. But Afghan nomads at the time were remarkably wealthy.

HIEBERT: These guys were doing very well. If you can imagine 20,000 pieces of gold that meant that every single one of these individuals of the six individuals was wearing about 20 pounds of gold.

VERJEE: And a crown for a nomad princess.

HIEBERT: It's as if there were just freshly excavated. We get to see them for the very first time.

VERJEE: Zain Verjee, CNN, Washington.


CHETRY: Pretty cool. Get down there to the nation's capital. It's right in your backyard.

ROBERTS: And much better than Al Capone's vault. This one when they opened the safe, there was something in it this time.

CHETRY: Exactly.

ROBERTS: We're going to see you again tomorrow. Thanks so much for joining us on this AMERICAN MORNING.

CHETRY: That's right. Keep watching. Right now, "CNN NEWSROOM" with Tony Harris and Heidi Collins.