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Mississippi Tornado Kills 10: Rescuers Searching for People still Trapped; Wall Street; Reforming Wall Street: Senate Set For Key Test Vote Today; Arizona Immigration Law Heats Up; Goldman Bet on Housing Crash; Are Corporations People Too?

Aired April 26, 2010 - 06:00   ET


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you. Thanks for being with us on this AMERICAN MORNING. Happy Monday.


CHETRY: It's April 26th. I'm Kiran Chetry.

ACOSTA: And I'm Jim Acosta. John Roberts is off today. Here are the top stories we'll be telling you about this morning.

Tornado terror across the southeast. The violent weather tearing a path of destruction for nearly 188 miles. At least 12 people were killed over the weekend. Entire neighborhoods are gone.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were finding ourselves in the middle of the storm and glass was going everywhere. And she panicked and was trying to get over here and (INAUDIBLE). The car just picked up. It turned sideways, slung us across the intersection there.


ACOSTA: We are live this morning with the stories of incredible survival and loss.

CHETRY: Senate Democrats gearing up for a test vote this afternoon to see where they stand on Wall Street reform. Some Republicans would like to slow things down. Others are bargaining for a bipartisan deal. The Democrats don't want their bill watered down. The backroom battles in a live report from Washington ahead.

ACOSTA: And the fight against Arizona's tough new immigration law. Opponents taking their case to the state capitol in Phoenix yesterday. They say it will turn every Hispanic into a possible suspect. We'll tell you how the new law is hitting home for one immigrant soldier.

And the amFIX blog is up and running this morning. Join the conversation right now. We want to hear from you about everything that's in the news. Just go to We'll be reading your comments throughout the morning -- Kiran. CHETRY: First, though, across the southeast this morning, they are hunting for survivors after the deadliest and most destructive tornado outbreak this season. Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour calling one county a scene of, quote, "utter obliteration."

There were reportedly 54 sightings of tornadoes across seven different states. Hundreds of homes damaged or destroyed, and thousands of people still without power. In Darlington, South Carolina, the furious winds overturned mobile homes, ripped trees out of the ground and knocked down power lines. At least three people were injured there.

Then further west in Alabama, two deaths have been blamed on the storm. One twister carved the path of destruction across the city of Albertville. At least six homes were leveled. The storm also damaged schools and businesses.

But by far, the greatest destruction from the weekend's tornado outbreak was in Mississippi, where the unstoppable force of nature claimed 10 lives, including three children. In Yazoo, Mississippi, the tornado measured a mile wide. It tore apart homes, churches, flipped cars, leaving behind nothing but debris. One resident said the twister was like looking into the eyes of death.

Our Ed Lavandera is live in Yazoo City, Mississippi, this morning with the latest. Hi, Ed.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Kiran. Kiran, this is what's left of the Hillcrest Baptist Church here in Yazoo City. Preliminary reports from the National Weather Service say that at one point the storm that passed through here, the tornado, measured more than -- about a mile and a half wide with winds of 160 miles per hour. A devastating storm that cut a devastating line through Mississippi all the way from Yazoo City where we are where four people died, all the way to Choctaw County where five people died, including three young girls.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This storm is something for you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know if they can do anything now.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): We found Matthew McCray and his wife Jo on a back road in Choctaw County, Mississipi. Their house blown 40 feet off the foundation. His guitar is muddied, but it's days like these that inspire the Mississippi blues.

(on camera): What was it like being in there when this happened?

JO AND MATTHEW MCCRAY, SURVIVORS: That quick. What I hear was that whoosh, then it's that whoosh (ph) again and the tops were gone.

LAVANDERA: Was it incredibly scary?

J. MCCRAY: I just started praying here, asking the Lord to save, save. I told my honey, honey, I don't believe he's going to save us.

M. MCCRAY: Oh, he did.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Along this dirt road, the tornado killed its three youngest victims, two sisters and a 3-month-old baby girl.

(on camera): This is where 13-year-old Brittany Jo and her 9- year-old sister Tian (ph) were killed. They were here with their parents when the storm hit. The force of the storm so powerful that essentially disintegrated their mobile home. It was thrown beyond that tree line right over there. The girls' grandfather tells us that their bodies were found back in the woods over here.

JW CARTER, VICTIMS GRANDFATHER: Nice kids, good grades in school. Just amazing.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Ron (ph) Sullivan and five others were able to walk out of this grocery store.

RON SULLIVAN, SURVIVOR: There's a Coke machine that's turned over that kept that roof from falling on me so --

LAVANDERA (on camera): Can we go see it?

SULLIVAN: Oh, certainly.

And I never touched the ground.


SULLIVAN: No. When it hit, it blew me back. The next thing I felt was that wall and myself falling backwards. They always talk about you hear the train. There was no train. There was a bomb.

LAVANDERA: What goes through your mind when something like this is happening?

SULLIVAN: The only thing that entered my mind are two things. Please don't let anything else fall on me and I hope my wife is OK.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): His wife Peggy was just a few feet away.

(on camera): When the tornado struck here, it launched that 5,000-pound gasoline tank into the back of the grocery store. It rolled this way. Peggy Sullivan was standing right behind this white freezer. The tank lodged up against it and saved her life keeping her from getting crushed.


LAVANDERA: Kiran, what's interesting, what we've heard throughout the weekend from people who survived this storm is that this is a very hilly terrain through this part of Mississippi, and that even though there were warnings and people knew the bad weather was coming, the massive tree line for most of this area kept people from actually seeing the storm coming. So it wasn't until it was right upon them that they realized that this tornado was causing so much damage. That's what made it so much scary for so many people -- Kiran.

CHETRY: Yes, just to see all of the debris behind you, it's extraordinary. We're going to be covering much more on this this morning and the cleanup efforts as well. Thanks so much, Ed.

ACOSTA: Amazing that one gentleman playing the guitar in the middle of all that devastation.

CHETRY: I know.

ACOSTA: Just amazing devastation down there. And for more on what we can expect from the weather today, let's bring in our Rob Marciano at the extreme weather center.

Rob, that was just an unbelievable sight, what happened in the southeast yesterday.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, and how long that twister was on the ground. As Ed mentioned, at one point a mile and a half in width, a monster, monster storm.

Here's a look at the path and the sightings along that 57-mile stretch, from Eagle Lake through Yazoo City, where it cranked through yesterday. Also, I want to show you this time lapse imagery as this thing cranked through Mississippi, Alabama, and then eventually through Georgia. Tremendous energy released in the atmosphere on Saturday and yesterday was no picnic either.

We have a storm watch that's in effect through parts of South Florida for the next hour for tornadoes possibly, especially south of Tampa into the Fort Myers and Naples area getting across Alligator Alley over towards Fort Lauderdale.

Up towards the north, just the general rain from D.C. and New York in the Delmarva and mid-Atlantic. A slight chance of seeing some severe weather today, but nothing, nothing like what we saw yesterday or over the weekend.

It was a slow start to the 2010 severe weather season, guys. And we have some great video from storm chasers in the plains on Friday and Thursday. But we knew once this thing got into the populated areas of the southeast, there could have been deadly consequences and unfortunately, this storm really exploded over Mississippi on Saturday.

We'll talk more weather in about 30 minutes. Back to you guys in New York.

CHETRY: Rob, thanks so much.

Meantime, it's shaping up to be a very busy week at the White House. Immigration, climate control, all high on the president's agenda. But Wall Street reform still priority one today. Senate Democrats are set for a key test vote later this afternoon, and that's setting off a lot of calls to try to get a bipartisan deal done.

Suzanne Malveaux is live at the White House this morning. So, Suzanne, can Democrats and Republicans wind up agreeing on something here when it comes to financial reform?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hard to believe that could be possible, Kiran, but maybe it is. I mean, I had a chance to talk to the president's economic advisers, Larry Summers as well as Austan Goolsbee, late last week to ask what they thought the chances were. They believed and pretty optimistic that this is going to be passed at least by Memorial Day.

But the Democrats are not taking any chances. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, he's going to be conducting a test vote essentially to see if debate can start on this very important issue. They believe that they're going to be able to get enough support from Republicans to move forward to debate financial regulatory reform.

And one of the lessons learned from President Obama and the health care debate, all of that was that you cannot allow the opposition to actually form and shape the message, the argument. And that is why we are hearing from President Obama. We heard from him on Saturday. His radio and Internet address outlining this, saying that he used the auto industry as an example. They were once in the tank. They're roaring back. He believes that with financial regulatory reform that the same is going to happen with those big banks going to be held accountable. Take a listen.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These reforms will put an end once and for all to taxpayer bailouts. It would bring greater transparency to complex financial deals, and they will empower ordinary consumers and shareholders in our financial system.


MALVEAUX: The president is also trying to debunk this notion that this is going to be a big bailout type of fund for these big banks. It has allowed the taxpayers holding the bag once again. He says that is not happening, that that is not true. Again, Kiran, one of those things that the White House, the president believes they have to do early on, which is to shape the debate, shape the message.

And that is why he is going once again on the road. It is called the White House to main street tour. A couple of stops, I'll be with the president on those stops, about three of them in Iowa talking to farmers, talking to small business people, holding a town hall. Then he heads to Missouri as well as Illinois, obviously putting this out there, saying this is important. We want to get this done fairly quickly -- Kiran.

CHETRY: Suzanne Malveaux for us live bright and early at the White House, up for us. Thanks so much.

ACOSTA: Also new this morning, if you see an alien, be careful. That is the warning for maybe the smartest man on our planet, Stephen Hawking. Hawking says it's a mathematic certainty that there is other life somewhere out there in the 100 billion galaxies that exist. He says while some may be simple, others may be floating on massive intergalactic ships. This is his warning and may only want earth for its natural resources.

You may want to think about "Independence Day," Kiran. It's all part of a new documentary series by Hawking set to air on Discovery. And he is serious about that, by the way.

CHETRY: Yes. Well, he says just mathematically speaking, and you have billions of universes out there.

ACOSTA: Right.

CHETRY: There has to be some other life. It may not be what we think of.

ACOSTA: Exactly.

CHETRY: It may not be us.

ACOSTA: That's right. It may not be "Star Trek," to say the least.

CHETRY: Maybe tiny microscopic microbes, but they're out there.


CHETRY: All right.

ACOSTA: And I'll take it from him. That's for sure. He's a smart guy.

CHETRY: Me too.

CHETRY: Well, still to come on the Most News in the Morning. Thousands turn out to protest Arizona's controversial new immigration law. But is there a chance that this law will be overturned before it even had a chance to be put into action? We're going to talk about it coming up.

Ten minutes after the hour.


ACOSTA: Waking up on the bright side with The Killers. It is 6:13. Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning.

You know, protests are heating up over Arizona's tough new immigration law. The Democratic congressman from Arizona is urging the president not to acknowledge the law. And civil rights leaders led by Reverend Al Sharpton say they will march in the street and invite arrest by refusing to comply.

CHETRY: Thousands of people staged a peaceful protest outside the state capitol in Phoenix yesterday. The new measure would require police to question anyone they believe might be an illegal immigrant. Opponents say Hispanics will be unfairly targeted, profiled even. An immigrant soldier about to ship out to the war zone was among yesterday's protesters. Thelma Gutierrez has his story.

THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kiran, his name is Jose Medina. He's a soldier who's just about to deploy. But before he left, he sat down with us to talk about his feelings and fears over this new immigration law in Arizona that could affect his family.


PFC. JOSE MEDINA, U.S. ARMY: I'm here because this is something that's close to my heart. I went off to protect this country and protect my family. That's what hurts. It's my job to try and save lives.

GUTIERREZ (voice-over): Private First Class Jose Medina is 20 years old, an Army medic, home on leave in Arizona.

MEDINA: I remember when I first joined the military. They would ask where are you from? And I was proud to say I'm from the great state of Arizona, because I was raised here, I grew up here. I don't know if I can say that so proudly. I don't know if I want to live here any more.

GUTIERREZ: For Medina, this is personal.

(on camera): You were not born in this country?

MEDINA: No, I wasn't.

GUTIERREZ: You were born in Mexico?

MEDINA: That's right. Originally.

I came here illegally when I was two.

GUTIERREZ (voice-over): But now he has his green card.

MEDINA: I thought I (INAUDIBLE). This country has given me so much.

When I heard of the law that passed, I couldn't believe it because the America that I know, the freedom, the liberties that we enjoy, are for everyone. It's a shame, because I loved the state. I grew up here. But a state that doesn't even want you here?

I might take this uniform off, and I'm just another Hispanic.

GUTIERREZ (on camera): Why do people feel indignant about being asked to produce an I.D. that they ought to have?

MEDINA: It's an insult, almost, because the color of your skin, because you're not white. GUTIERREZ: Is this that you resent the fact that you could be stopped and asked for your papers while you're fighting for this country? Is that what angers you?

MEDINA: It's not so much anger, it's hurt that, you know, that could happen to me, it could happen to my family, my friends.


MEDINA: Come on, man. Come eat.

GUTIERREZ (voice-over): Hours before his flight, Jose Medina invited us to his going away dinner.

"VICTOR", CLOSE FAMILY FRIEND: You may go to Afghanistan, you may go to Iraq. After this night, man, we may not see you again.

You're offering your life for this country, for all of us, but you might maybe stopped (ph) tomorrow by your (INAUDIBLE).

MEDINA: It's my duty to go and do what I have to do.

GUTIERREZ: Before Jose Medina left Arizona, he told me he was leaving with a heavy heart.

MEDINA: I worry, will my family live in peace. And what good is keeping us safe here if we lose ourselves, if we lose a part of what makes America so great? We drive here into (ph) our own people's hearts.


GUTIERREZ (on camera): Medina says that as a soldier, one of his biggest concerns is that under this law, somewhere in Arizona, a Gold Star mother who lost a child could be racially profiled and detained. He says that would be the ultimate insult -- Jim, Kiran.

CHETRY: Thelma Gutierrez for us. Thanks so much.

And coming up at 8:30 Eastern Time, we're going to be talking with Senior Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin about Arizona's new immigration law and the challenges it may face in court.

ACOSTA: Right, and we want to know what you think. Sound off on our blog at

Coming up next on the Most News in the Morning, subprime mortgages betting short and secret e-mails. We'll break down how Goldman Sachs thrived as the economy collapsed.

Christine Romans is here with a preview -- Christine.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Oh, yes. Goldman Sachs, revered on Wall Street for being the smartest guys in the room. Well, new e-mails show that indeed Goldman Sachs, even as the rest of the world thought housing was going to go up forever, was starting to get nervous and selling short in the housing market.

We have interesting inside e-mails about how executives were -- were viewing their position in the housing market and how they made money off of the big, big collapse that hurt America. That's right after the break.


CHETRY: Twenty-two minutes past the hour right now. We're "Minding Your Business" on this Monday morning.

We're talking Goldman Sachs again, and there's new evidence that Wall Street's most profitable bank not only bet on the housing crash but then bragged about it in some newly released e-mails. Christine Romans is here to explain.

So it drives most of us crazy when we see the hubris, you know, taking place, but the bottom line is this isn't really that different than what goes on all the time on Wall Street, is it?

ROMANS: Well, Wall Street was making money, Goldman Sachs in particular -- unlike others on Wall Street, frankly. It was making money on both sides of the housing market.

It was standing right there in the middle, making money on both sides, and late in 2006 -- the company told me recently that late in 2006, for 10 days in a row their internal alarm bells started to go off that housing was in trouble. And so, they moved quickly -- quickly to get rid of their long position in housing, meaning not to be caught when housing crashed.

At the time, it looked really smart. Now, we're looking at all of these e-mails, wondering, it looks a little arrogant and fishy, someone say.

Goldman made money on the way up and on the way down by selling bundles of risky home mortgages and investments, then by betting that those same investments would take a dive when housing prices dropped.

Here's how that works. Goldman and other firms, they took positions on both sides of an investment. Some are longs -- that means it's a bet that the investment will do well -- some are shorts -- that's a bet that -- that they're going to go sour.

In one internal e-mail message released over the weekend dated July 25th, 2007, Goldman's Chief Financial Officer, David Viniar, called it the big short. After, the company made $51 million on bets that housing securities would drop.

And in May 2007, after Long Beach Mortgage Securities, a unit of Washington Mutual, said almost $50 million in loans are worthless, one Goldman trader wrote, good news because they made $5 million in profit because the firm have shorted those bonds.

Last week, a Senate review of WaMu said it had, quote, "polluted the financial system" with those sour loans, yet Goldman, apparently, as it almost always does, came out golden.

Goldman denied it made a big profit off the housing market's failure and said lawmakers had -- had cherry picked these e-mails from nearly 20 million pages of documents it handed over. But I just want to make a quick point here about Goldman's position during the whole housing debacle.

It's one of the reasons why Warren Buffett invested billions of dollars into this company a little more than a year ago, because these guys are known as -- seen as the smartest guys in the room --

CHETRY: Hey, can I ask you one question?

ROMANS: -- in terms of risk management.


CHETRY: I think a lot of people at home are saying, wait a minute. So they made money on the way up --


CHETRY: -- they made money on the way down --


CHETRY: -- why did they get billions of dollars in government bailout money?

ROMANS: Oh, that -- and that goes -- and that is an argument that's been going on for more than -- for more than a year because everyone was really hurt. They still had a lot of different exposure. There was huge concern in the Treasury Department that if you gave money to some companies and not other companies, that you would single out some people to have a run on the bank and the like.

Goldman has gone back and we've talked about did Goldman need the money? Sometimes, you know, what they say -- they didn't -- they didn't need the money. The Treasury Department said, yes, everyone --

ACOSTA: And they paid it back.

ROMANS: The whole -- and they paid it back.

The who banking system got -- got slammed, but these e-mails, you guys, are --

ACOSTA: You got to wonder if this is the tip of the iceberg.

ROMANS: Oh, well, if these are just four or five e-mails out of 20 million --


ROMANS: I mean, the company turned over 20 million e-mails to --

ACOSTA: Exactly.

ROMANS: This is going to be a tough week for Goldman Sachs. There are hearings tomorrow, "Fabulous Fab" Tourre -- we all can't wait to meet him, right? He's the vice president trader who -- who wrote some e-mail talking about how he was going to stand above the wreckage of all the garbage that he'd written and investments that he'd sold that, you know, that --

CHETRY: Right.

ROMANS: -- that had been part of the housing market's decline.

All of that comes tomorrow in a big hearing on Capitol Hill.

CHETRY: Well, we'll be watching.

ACOSTA: It could be a long summer. Yes, exactly.


ACOSTA: Thanks, Christine. Appreciate it.

Coming up next on the Most News in the Morning, a recent ruling could allow corporations to pour millions into political campaigns. The push is on now to try to level the playing field.

It is 25 minutes after the hour.


CHETRY: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning.

Twenty-seven minutes past the hour right now. Top stories just three minutes away.

But first, Democrats on Capitol Hill are getting ready to introduce a new bill targeting a Supreme Court decision on campaign finance rules. The court's five to four decision says that blocking campaign cash from corporations actually violates our right to freedom of speech.

But, according to (INAUDIBLE) a poll found that nearly 80 percent of Americans disagree with the court's decision.

Our Carol Costello is live with the story in our D.C. Bureau.

We remember this big moment, right? It was at the State of the Union where the president criticized the ruling by the Supreme Court, and you saw some of them mouthing, "Not true," and shaking their heads during that.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, yes. They weren't very happy, were they?

What -- but with this new bill, let the lawsuits begin anew. The Van Hollen/Castle Bill, a bipartisan bill, doesn't seek to overturn the Supreme Court ruling, only to blunt it.

Lawmakers think people ought to know who's paying for political ads and that there ought to be some regulation when it comes to how much companies pour into political campaigns.

But pro-business lobbyists don't buy that. They say the legislation is a clear attempt by Democrats to take away corporate rights and they're threatening a lawsuit.


COSTELLO (voice-over): It sounds so simple, the Supreme Court ruled Exxon equals Joe Citizen. In other words, corporations are people too, with the same rights as individuals when it comes to political speech.

DAVID BOSSIE, CITIZENS UNITED: I m going to have to sign a few places --

COSTELLO: Citizens United, the organization dedicate to free enterprise, successfully fought for that ruling, which benefits labor unions too.

BOSSIE: Whether they're liberal or conservative, everyone wins. Everyone is able to participate fully and completely in the process, and that's a wonderful thing for Democracy, it's a wonderful thing for your average person.


COSTELLO: Democrats disagree. They say the ruling allows companies to use their profits freely in the weeks leading up to an election. They could even target specific candidates.

Some insist it's already happened in Texas.

CHUCK HOPSON (R), TEXAS STATE LEGISLATURE CANDIDATE: All of a sudden, I saw this ad, and I said, what is this?

COSTELLO: Chuck Hopson, a pharmacist, is running for a seat in the Texas State Legislature.

HOPSON: A friend of mine called and said, Chuck, there's a corporate ad against you in the paper. And I said, yes, who is it? And he has looked it up on the website, and we found out who it was.

COSTELLO: The ad reads, "Vote for a real Republican." It was paid for KDR Development Inc.

KDR's president, Larry Durrett, had run unsuccessfully against Hopson in a previous election. Durrett did not return our calls.


COSTELLO: There was nothing citizen Hopson could do except raise his own money to fight back. It's the sort of thing that keeps Democratic lawmakers awake at night. Imagine a Fortune 500 corporation putting its resources into political ads to elect the candidate.

So, Democratic Congressman Chris Van Hollen, joined by Republican Mike Castle, will introduce a bill this week. If passed, it would limit donations of foreign-owned companies, require American companies to inform their shareholders about political spending, and require CEOs to appear in political advertising.

Maryland Congressman Donna Edwards is taking their fight a step further.

REP. DONNA EDWARDS (D), MARYLAND: I'll introduce a constitutional amendment so that we the people can take back our elections and our democracy.

COSTELLO: Those who represent corporate America say, good luck with that. They say Congress is overreacting.

BRUCE JOSTEN, U.S. CHAMBER OF COMMERCE: No corporation is going to run an ad, an express ad, which is what this is really about, saying, using the magic words, "vote for" or "vote against" and say, "paid for by CNN." I'm just going to guarantee you that's not going to happen.

COSTELLO: Because no company would risk alienating its customers. And anyway, it might not work. Despite KDR's ad, Chuck Hopson won the Republican primary with 61 percent of the vote.


COSTELLO: The measure would also require powerful trade groups, like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, to identify the companies that fund its political-related spending.

Senator Chuck Schumer is trying to come up with a similar Senate bill but there's no Republican right now to join him. So, sources say he's waiting.

As for Citizens United, who brought the case to the Supreme Court, its president, David Bossie, told me he will review the bill. If he doesn't like it, and it passes both the Congress and the Senate, he'll consider taking the government to court again -- Kiran.

CHETRY: All right. We'll see how it ends up.

Carol Costello for us this morning -- thanks so much.

Meanwhile, it's two minutes past the bottom of the hour -- that means 6:32 here in New York.

ACOSTA: Exactly.

CHETRY: Well look at the top stories right now.

Rescue crews right now are in the process of searching for anyone who survived as officials from FEMA now make their way to Mississippi to help out residents in the aftermath of this weekend's deadly tornadoes. At least 10 people were killed in Mississippi, three children. It was the worst outbreak of violent weather so far this spring.

Mississippi governor, Haley Barbour, has declared a state of emergency in 17 counties in the state, and the threat of dangerous weather is not over yet. In little more than 10 minutes, we'll be live with Rob Marciano with the forecast.

ACOSTA: And Senate Democrats are planning a test vote on their Wall Street reform bill. Later this afternoon, some Republican leaders are still hoping to negotiate a bipartisan deal. Democrats will need support from at least one Republican to get 60 votes and avoid a filibuster to move forward with a formal debate on the bill -- Kiran.

CHETRY: And crews are hoping a robotic submarine can stop a stubborn, dangerous oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico. Forty-two thousand gallons a day is now spilling into the ocean, one mile beneath the rig that exploded and burned last week. The robotic submarine is attempting to activate a shut-off device at the well head known as a blowout preventer.

At 7:10 Eastern Time, we're going to be speaking with the Commander Mark McCadden of the Coast Guard. He's going to get us up- to-date on those efforts.

ACOSTA: All right. Buckle your seat belts -- Florida Governor Charlie Crist faces a tough decision. Folks are wonder if he will bolt the Republican Party and run for the Senate as an independent -- a big question this week, Kiran.

CHETRY: Yes, a big change of fortune for once very popular Florida governor.

ACOSTA: Absolutely.

CHETRY: Quinnipiac recent poll, he is now trailing Republican rival Marco Rubio. Now, Rubio had a 23-point lead. There it is right now, and this is in polling conducted about a week ago. The race is definitely getting interesting and it could have a major effect on the future of the GOP.

To break it down, Adam Smith joins us from Florida this morning. He's the political editor of the "St. Petersburg Times."

Adam, great to talk to you this morning.


CHETRY: So, you've been following all of this extremely closely. And million-dollar question right now out in Florida seems to be: will Governor Crist run as an independent, I mean, take himself off, as a Republican, in an effort to stay alive? What are you hearing down there?

SMITH: I think the betting is that he definitely will. As a few days ago, I think he maybe had genuinely not quite made up his mind. If he had his numbers (ph), he'd run as a Republican. But that looks virtually impossible for him to win doing.

ACOSTA: And, Adam, I was down in Florida covering this race a couple of months ago. And it's a remarkable turn of events. Charlie Crist was considered a front-runner for the vice presidential slot with John McCain in 2008. Now he's trailing Marco Rubio by, what, 23 points right now. He was once leading Marco Rubio by 30 points. Now, he's behind 23 points.

You're down there in Florida watching this race every day. How do you account for this?

SMITH: I think it's a lot of factor. I think, you know, number one, his decision to run for Senate rather than run for reelection as governor had a lot of people scratch their heads and wondering if he's really more about himself than he is about governing. I think he kind of misjudged the electorate. He was very much of a bipartisan, consensus seeking, and the electorate kind of shifted underneath him and moved to the right.

ACOSTA: Right. There was the support of the stimulus measure.

CHETRY: Right.

ACOSTA: When President Obama was down in Florida, very early on in his administration, and that hug, as you remember, Kiran.

CHETRY: Yes. I mean, no one wanted to hear it. He said that I'm doing this for the -- I'm doing this because stimulus dollars are going to help Florida. But that was certainly not the temperature of the electorate down there.

And it really isn't just about Crist's downfall. Marco Rubio has had an incredible surge as well. He's now considered one of the brightest starts of the GOP. He's gotten high-profile endorsements, the most recent, Vice President Dick Cheney. And he's sort of -- as some call him, the sweetheart of the tea party.

What -- how did he get all of that momentum?

SMITH: I think in a lot of way, he was just the perfect candidate for the time. He's a very -- he was former House speaker. So, he didn't come out of nowhere. He's a very skilled politician, very charismatic. And he was -- and nobody gave him a shot in heck when he first started. But he just kept building and building momentum, and the electorate was right with him, more and more angry, like the Republican voters, with the direction that Obama has taken the country.

ACOSTA: And, Adam, this is -- this is the amazing development in this race. Let's put this up on the screen if we have it. A recent poll showed Crist would actually win in a three-way race declaring himself as an independent -- if this Quinnipiac poll is accurate. If the race were held today, Charlie Crist, 32 percent, Marco Rubio, 30 percent, Kendrick Meek down in Florida, trying to gain traction as a Democrat there, with 24 percent.

How does that strike you, that poll, Adam? It should be an interesting race if he does this.

SMITH: It is because it's just absolutely unchartered territory. So, you kind of throw the playbook out the window. We're not talking about, really, a two-person race. Kendrick Meek is a very credible Democrat.

So, this is not sort of a Joe Lieberman situation. These are three very credible candidates and anything can happen. It's completely unpredictable.

ACOSTA: And you're looking forward to watching this thing I bet, too, right? I mean --

SMITH: You got that right.

ACOSTA: It's going to be a fun race.

CHETRY: You know, and it's interesting because it has risen to the level of national interest for sure, because a lot of people are saying, what does this say about the future of the GOP as well? Is there no room for moderate candidates within the GOP? That somebody like Marco Rubio who had no traction a year ago has really ousted -- I mean, in some ways in the polling, a very popular player in the GOP?

SMITH: I think that's true. But it's broader than just have the tea party candidates taken over the Republican Party. A lot of this is stuff that, you know, Florida is a mess, economically, right now, and Charlie Crist, you know, plenty of moderates have become disenchanted with Charlie Crist because he seemed a little too detached.

CHETRY: So, you think it's an anti-incumbent as well, not just --

SMITH: I think it's very much of an anti -- yes, anti- incumbent, the economy has got everybody very anxious here, and the tea party. It all kind of feeds into it.

ACOSTA: Well, we'll be watching. Adam Smith of the political editor with the "St. Petersburg Times" -- not watching it as closely as you are, but I'm envying your position down there. This is going to be fascinating race to watch. Thanks, Adam, very much for joining us this morning. We appreciate it.

SMITH: Glad to join you.

ACOSTA: All right.

CHETRY: Thanks, Adam.

ACOSTA: Well, coming up next on the Most News in the Morning: is Facebook going too far? The move to fight back against the social networking site to protect your privacy.

It is 38 minutes after the hour.


ACOSTA: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning.

Disturbing story about former Poison front man and reality star, Bret Michaels -- he remains in critical condition this morning. A message posted on the 47-year-old's Facebook page says he is in intensive care and under 24-hour surveillance. Michaels is suffering from a brain hemorrhage. According to his publicist, he was rushed into intensive care at an undisclosed location on Thursday for a severe headache. Michaels also had his appendix removed last week.

CHETRY: I don't know if you saw him on "Rock of Love," which is his reality show --

ACOSTA: Right.

CHETRY: -- that he was shooting, trying to find love. But he also suffered from diabetes. And so, he had some health problems that seemed to have gotten a little bit worse. I mean, we're hoping for the best and hope the news is good.

ACOSTA: Absolutely.

CHETRY: Minding your business this morning, the New York toy company executive who's hit the streets --

ACOSTA: I love this story.

CHETRY: I know -- wearing a sandwich board, hey, anything to get attention --

ACOSTA: Absolutely.

CHETRY: -- has finally found a job after more than two years.

ACOSTA: There you go.

CHETRY: I am happy for this guy --

ACOSTA: Attaboy!

CHETRY: -- because you know what? He just got up everybody and went out there and did it.

ACOSTA: Absolutely. I love this guy.

CHETRY: Twenty-five months he was out of work. He says that he gave more than 100 interviews. And, of course, we talked to him right here on CNN. But again, he doesn't need the sandwich board. He got the job.

ACOSTA: Take off the sandwich board, put it aside, and show it to the grandkids someday.

CHETRY: I'm very happy for him.

ACOSTA: Absolutely.

CHETRY: Do you know where he's working?

ACOSTA: I believe at a new toy company.

CHETRY: A new toy company?

ACOSTA: It's my understanding.

And plus, New York senior senator wants federal guidelines to protect how social networking sites use and share your personal information. Democrat Chuck Schumer says it's in response to new Facebook features that track where you go on the Web. Facebook says the new features which allow you to share stories on new sites, including, encourage social activity across the web.

So, Kiran, I think, you in particular, should pay attention to that. You're a big Facebook user.

CHETRY: I'm not.

ACOSTA: You're not.

CHETRY: I twitter more.

ACOSTA: You're tweeting.

CHETRY: I use Twitter more. Yes, I can't help it.

He did get a job -- you're right -- at another toy company. He was introduced at a toy fair.

ACOSTA: That's right.

CHETRY: Unfortunately, he says he's making about half what he was making at his peak. But, hey, he can work his way up. I know it's hard. Unemployment is another huge deal.

ACOSTA: And I was -- and I was reading that he was starting to lose hope and then this happened. So, best of luck to him.

CHETRY: Good for him.

ACOSTA: Absolutely.

CHETRY: Absolutely.

Forty-three minutes past the hour right now. We've been talking about the severe, severe weather that hit the south. Rob Marciano is going to have more on the aftermath of the tornadoes that hit many areas, hardest hit, many parts of Mississippi, but also, what we can expect today.

ACOSTA: And the travel forecast.

And in 10 minutes, 3D movies are becoming big business for Hollywood. But are they really here to stay? "Avatar," is that the end of it? We'll find out.

CHETRY: I don't know.

ACOSTA: We'll see. But they look funny in their glasses. So, we'll have to stay tuned for that.

It is 43 minutes after the hour.


CHETRY: Welcome back. Boy, Miami doesn't look too inviting this morning, does it? Seventy-six degrees and cloudy, as we can see. Later, 84 degrees, and they are, of course, set for some thunderstorms as well today. Probably some remnants with its system (ph) this week.

ACOSTA: Right. Yes. And I was about to say, I could use a little south beach this morning considering our period is in New York, but it doesn't look much better down there in Miami. Let's turn to Rob Marciano now for a quick check on this morning's weather headlines. Good morning, Rob.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, Jim. Good morning, Kiran. The storm that has brought the entire U.S., the past five days and now into the northeast, and the track of the storms are rolled through Mississippi yesterday, quite impressive. And now, updated reports from the National Weather Service and their storm survey team saying at one point, the storm that rolled through Mississippi was an EF-4 with winds of 170 miles an hour. So, they preliminary said the EF-3 probably would go higher and turn of the F-4 right now with 170.

We saw the damage, and the path of this thing, 97 miles long. Unbelievable, and at one point, a mile and three-quarters in width. Monster, monster tornado with devastating result. All right. Tornado watch in effect for parts of Florida. That's about to be allowed to expire, but still, heavy, heavy rain and rough weather moving through the Naples and Ft. Myers area. And this will be going across the swamps into east and south Florida. West Palm down the Ft. Lauderdale in Miami will be under the gun for the next few hours.

Rain across parts of the northeast. This is the northern part of the storm. There will be some embedded thunderstorms at times today and regardless is going to be some heavy rain and wind that time. And that's certainly going to will slow down air travel if you plan on getting on an airport. New York City, Metro, and Boston, typical spots here, an hour-plus delays expected there. Same with D.C. and Philadelphia. Cleveland and Pittsburgh will see some delays also. With the 78 degrees, not a drastic cool down behind this front. Sixty-seven degrees expected in Atlanta and 55 with some rain in New York City. Talk more about this wrath of tornadoes over the weekend and just -- at the top of the hour, guys. Back up to you.

ACOSTA: Yes, we're looking forward to that system being ushered out. Thank you very much Rob. We appreciate it.


CHETRY: We have a lot of comments coming in to our blog this morning about a number of different topics. Let's us take a look at a couple of them right now.

Leslie writes, papers please as Arizona law wreaks of racism of the past, and Arizona will suffer economically. Tourism will decline.

ACOSTA: And Brian H. says, I'm sure it is inconvenient to have your immigration status checked, but how inconvenient is it for the legal citizens as well as their families who have been kidnapped, murdered, et cetera. As you can see, a lot of strong feelings out there on the subject, and you can join the conversations. You write now at

CHETRY: Also coming up this morning, our top stories just minutes away, including the governor called it Katrina-like destruction. A deadly tornado obliterating entire neighborhood to nearly 200 miles across Mississippi. We're live as rescue teams head out again this morning to sift through the rubble looking for survivors.

ACOSTA: And at 15 minutes after the hour, spilling 42,000 gallons a day, the oil rig explosion in the Gulf, what started out as a human tragedy, now becoming an environmental one. We'll talk about the emergency effort to contain the leak. >

CHETRY: And at 48 minutes past the hour, will real aliens be more like E.T. or predator? The smartest man on earth says he has an idea and you may not want to hear the answer. Those stories and much more coming up.


CHETRY: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. It is now 53 minutes past the hour. Time for your AM House call, stories about your health.

Kids who are not allowed to watch R-rated films are less likely to try alcohol according to a new study. They interviewed thousands of middle school-aged children, almost a quarter of those whose parents let them watch R movies quote, "all the time" started drinking in the next couple of years. That's compared to about 3 percent of kids who are forbidden from watching them.

ACOSTA: How did they think looking into that. One movie that's completely kid friendly, "How to Train Your Dragon". It topped the box office this weekend. It certainly getting a boost from the 3-D animation. CHETRY: I tried and saw the rage these days (ph).

ACOSTA: It is.

CHETRY: And saw this new again.

ACOSTA: I love it.

CHETRY: The 3-D technology is nothing new, but, you know, it's actually growing in popularity lately. And as entertainment correspondent, Corrine Winter, tells us, experts say that we're just now able to see the full potential of 3-D.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We will send them a message.

CORRINE WINTER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): "Avatar" message is that the future could mean big bucks when it comes to 3-D. Created and shot with 3-D technology, the film is the highest grossing movie of all time, abruptly $400 million coming from 3-D screens alone in the U.S.

With so much money making potential, hopes are high that this late as 3-D boom doesn't go bust. And there's a movement under way to blaze this trail straight into the future.

WINTER (on-camera): Is it fair to call you a 3-D guru? You've been doing since the beginning of time.

BUZZ HAYS, INSTRUCTOR/V.P. SONY 3D TECH. CTR: Sure. I mean, yes, there's been a bunch of guru out there --

WINTER (voice-over): Buzz Hays began working in 3-D before it was cool. He's the leading structure at Sony Pictures brand new 3-D technology center where filmmakers are immersed in an intensive hands- on course on how to actually film in 3-D, a method much different from converting 2-D movies to 3-D. That process drew mixed reviews from critics what's used in "Clash of the Titans."

WINTER (on-camera): Some would say how important is this? Does the audience really see the difference?

HAYS: I think they already are. I mean, based on some recent releases in theaters, I think people are very vocal about the quality of 3-D they see. So, we want to raise the bar.

WINTER (voice-over): And stay above it, says camera director, Jack Masset (ph), who enrolled in the class because he says his future depends on it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The language of 3-D is really different than the language that we've all learned to utilize in 2-D. with the great increase in 3-D, I don't want to be left behind.

WINTER: One executive who says he's ahead of the game is Jeffrey Katzenberg, CEO of DreamWorks Animation. He recently blasted the 2-D to 3-D conversion process, warning that it could turn audiences away.

JEFFREY KATZENBERG, CEO, DREAMWORKS ANIMATION: For the first time in well over a decade, we're actually seeing admissions go up and 3-D is the reason.

WINTER: And they're willing to spend a little bit more for that experience?

KATZENBERG: Well, if you give them something great and that's the thing we just, I think, everybody is being very protective of it right now, this is a beautiful golden goose and it's -- you know, giving us golden eggs.

WINTER: And in this golden age of advanced technology, where 3-D movies have fired up the box office, industry leaders like Buzz Hays say the future looks bright.

Corrine Winter, CNN, Heber City, California.


ACOSTA: Yes, you know, the key is that there are good movies in 3-D, because we all remember Jaws in 3-D. And the 3-D did not help the Jaws franchise. It already run its course, so --

CHETRY: Want to jump the shark.

ACOSTA: Soooo.

CHETRY: However, I will say this, keep it short is well because "Avatar" was very long to have on 3-D glasses.

ACOSTA: That's true.

CHETRY: I don't know, maybe a little queasy.

ACOSTA: That's true.

CHETRY: I liked it, but you know --

ACOSTA: Note to James Cameron.

CHETRY: All right. We're going to have your top stories coming up in just three minutes. We'll be right back.