Return to Transcripts main page


Countdown to Election Day; Fear of Muslims; Cholera Cases Rise in Haiti; Putting the Glitz Back in Baghdad; Rising Health Care Costs

Aired October 24, 2010 - 16:59   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Just nine days and counting before the mid-term elections and its crunch time for the candidates which will make for some very busy days on the campaign trail. CNN deputy political director Paul Steinhauser is at the CNN politics desk in Washington. Paul, where do we stand right now in this battle for Congress?

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN DEPUTY POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, Fred, let's talk about the House of Representatives. That is the chamber most likely that -- that Republicans have a better shot of grabbing back. Check this out. This is our CNN poll of polls, what we do is take the latest national polls and average it together and this is the generic ballot as we call it.

We ask a standard question that others ask. Would you vote for the generic Republican or Democrat in your Congressional district? Look at those numbers, 50 percent say Republican and 42 percent say Democrat. That eight-point advantage for Republicans is up slightly about two points from about a week ago, a week and a half ago for the republicans.

Fred, you know it was in 1994 the Republicans had a ten-point advantage on the generic ballot just before they came back and won control of both chambers of Congress. Look at this as well. Here is the magic number; Republicans need a net gain of 39 seats, 39 seats to win back the House of Representatives. And some of those top non- partisan political handicappers say that is very, very likely.

In the Senate, it's a much tougher story for the Republicans. They need -- they need exactly ten seats to reclaim the chamber. That is a tougher, taller order. It is not out of -- you know, not out of the realm of possibility but a little bit tougher, Fred.

WHITFIELD: OK. So we know the candidates are busy trying to campaign. We know even President Obama and the first lady is out there as well, and so goes for the former President Bill Clinton. What's he up to today?

STEINHAUSER: Oh, man, I tell you. Bill Clinton, the former president has become the kind of go-to guy for the Democrats this year.

We have live pictures right now. As we speak, he's in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with John Dingell, longtime Democratic congressman there who is facing a very tough re-election this year and there's the president with him right now. But wait, there's more. He's going on to Minnesota later today. He's going to be tailgating. Well, it is football season, right? There's a big game up there. A big game up there, it's the Packers/Green Bay game and he's going to be at a tailgate party. He's going to be campaigning with a Democratic state lawmaker up there, Tarryl Clark is the name and she's challenging, Michele Bachmann, a Republican congresswoman, who is very popular with Tea Party types. So we will be tailgating, in all the name of politics, Fred.

WHITFIELD: Oh wow, very busy week. Busy week for the president of the United States, as well, first lady, they're going to be out on the campaign trail this week and at the same time the Republicans have kind of given them a little criticism saying that, you know, the president needs to be spending more time in the White House particularly as it pertains to the jobless numbers and this ongoing economic problem.

STEINHAUSER: Yep and you'll see the president right back here after being back on the campaign trail tomorrow. He's got four days back here in Washington, D.C. before heading out one more time. And as you said, there will be a lot of top Republicans as well in the campaign trail. Nine days to go, Fred. WHITFIELD: Wow, countdown is on. All right, Paul Steinhauser, thanks so much, appreciate that.

So both parties are going into overdrive to sway undecided voters in particular in these final days, but they are failing to fire up many women who are noticeably unenthusiastic this election season, and that could spell trouble for Democrats in particular. CNN's Samantha Hayes explains.


SAMANTHA HAYES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Following politics is a little like fashion. As a candidate, you have to be able to spot the trend.

CARLA LIGGON MILLER: You just get so worn down with your regular routine in life that you, I don't know, once you get home the last thing I want to do sometime is catch up on the political world.

HAYES: While the political world is gearing up for the midterm elections, less than two weeks away, CNN polling director Keating Holland says there's a change in women.

KEATING HOLLAND, CNN POLLING DIRECTOR: We haven't seen this in the past, but this year, it does look like women are less enthusiastic about voting than men are.

HAYES (on camera): This is bad news for Democrats who generally enjoy more support from women. And while more women approve of the job President Barack Obama is doing, 48 percent to men at 42 percent, it's men who generally vote Republican, who are extremely enthusiastic about the upcoming election, 15 points higher than women.

HOLLAND: Alex Sink who's running for governor in Florida is winning by like among women by four points, five points. That should be 15, 20 points.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: When my grandmother was a secretary at a bank -

HAYES (voice-over): In a series of West Coast campaign stops last week, the president tried to energize female voters for female incumbents like Senators Barbara Boxer and Patty Murray. The problem, according to Stephanie Schriock at Emily's List, a political action committee that promotes pro-choice female candidates is simply timing.

STEPHANIE SCHRIOCK, PRESIDENT, EMILY'S LIST: Part of it is that Democratic women and independent women tend to make decisions late in the game. And again, it goes back to the busy lives that we're leading that this isn't kind of a nationalized race.

HAYES: Designer and entrepreneur, Jewell Green supports the president and is urging women to vote for Democrats.

JEWELL GREEN, SMALL BUSINESS OWNER: I think they are doing a good job of at least trying to get everybody about business and entrepreneurship again and giving you that push you need.

HAYES: If they are going to hold on to Congress, Democrats hope that's a trend that quickly catches on. Samantha Hayes, CNN, Washington.


WHITFIELD: All right, meantime women voters may be the key to the governor's race in Florida, in particular. CNN senior political editor Mark Preston is live for us in Tampa, Florida, right now. So how is the race shaping up there, especially as it pertains to women?

MARK PRESTON, CNN SR. POLITICAL EDITOR: Well, what a great segue coming out of that piece from Samantha, Fred. The fact is right now Alex Sink is only up five points on Rick Scott when it comes to women and that's within the margin of error of our CNN/"Time" Magazine/Opinion Research Corporation poll.

That is not good news for Alex Sink. Now overall, she is trailing Rick Scott, the Republican nominee, by three points which, again, is within the margin of error. Bottom line, this race is going to go down to the wire, of course, until November 2nd.

We'll see both candidates on CNN tomorrow night at 7:00 p.m. They will be here to debate their final debate before voters actually head to the polls. Well in fact, some voters have headed to the polls because of early voting, but women voters as our own Keating Holland had just said in that previous package, have become problematic for Democrats in this election year, Fred.

WHITFIELD: And so Mark, something unique to this election season, this mid-term election season, why is that it seems these gubernatorial races are getting as much if not more attention they have perhaps more importance than some of the congressional races.

PRESTON: Sure. And you know, look, we saw President Obama in Minnesota yesterday for Mark Dayton. On Sunday, two days before Election Day, he'll be in Ohio for Ted Strickland, the Democrat running in a very tough race out there. The reason being is because it's all about redistricting and it's about who is going to have control over redrawing the congressional and the state lines.

Now Republicans right now are poised to pick up some major gains, both on the governor level as well in the statehouse level. If they are able to do that, they are going to be able to basically take a state and carve it up so that they are able to build Republican majorities in as many districts as they want, and that is what really, really is causing some fear among Democrats, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All of it could be very pivotal then. All right, thanks so much, Mark Preston, appreciate it from Tampa, Florida.

All right. Somali pirates hijack yet another vessel. That's coming up next.


WHITFIELD: OK. You look at the calendar and I know you're thinking about trick-or-treating. Maybe you need to start thinking about pulling out the skis. Jacqui Jeras in the Weather Center. Let's just skip fall and head straight to winter.

JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: I know. Well you know, if you grow up up north or you live near the mountains, you always think to yourself, if we can make it through Halloween without the parkas, you know.

WHITFIELD: I know. It ruins your costume.

JERAS: It kind of does a little bit, but, hey, you know, it's kind of fun for those of us not dealing with it, right, to go ahead and take a look at it. This is a shot from KUSA, this is Loveland ski area in Colorado outside of Denver where they open today and they are claiming that they are the first ski resort in the U.S. to open up with that snow coming down.

Man, this is the first significant snowfall of the season, no doubt about it, and this is a very potent vigorous storm that's made its way onshore with a trail, just a river of moisture that stretches all the way across the Pacific, believe it or not, very strong gusty winds on the back side of it. Just moisture laden system here so we're talking about several inches of rainfall into the valleys. You get into the foothills, we've already seen as much as five to six inches in parts of California, and then the snow, it's going to be heavy at times.

We've got warnings across the Cascades as well as the Wasatch range into the Rockies where we're talking about six to 12 inches of snow. Now this is a Pacific system, so it's a little bit warmer which means the snow levels are going to be a little bit higher, so we're talking about maybe 4,000 feet where we think those snow levels are going to be, and this system is going to stick with us through the next couple of days. So it's not really going to clear out until say Wednesday, so use a lot of caution.

We're also talking about severe weather across parts of the Southern Plains. There you see a tornado watch across the Ark-La-Tex area. No reports of damage just yet. We had a couple of warnings but nothing on the ground, and there you can see severe thunderstorm warnings heading towards Texarkana so you want to stay indoors and wait until the storms pass. Those will all move to the east as we head into tomorrow. So some very active weather. A lot going on. Pretty to see those snow pictures though, hey Fred.

WHITFIELD: Oh, it's beautiful, very beautiful. Love it, and earlier, those leaves, changing the leaves pictures too.

JERAS: Oh, I know, it's that time of the year.

WHITFIELD: It's a beautiful time of year.

JERAS: I know.

WHITFIELD: Thank you, Jacqui, appreciate it.

OK. So after a promise to eradicate al Qaeda, Yemen appears to be acting. The governing party says more than 1,000 soldiers and security personnel have been sent into a province that's considered an al Qaeda stronghold. U.S. officials think militant anti-American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki is in the region but Yemen says he's not the specific target.

And a top U.S. diplomat is playing down reports of peace talks in Afghanistan. Interviewed on CNN's "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS," special envoy Richard Holbrooke says that while there have been contacts with the Taliban, he won't use the word negotiations.


RICHARD HOLBROOKE, SPECIAL ENVOY: I will not use that word. I know what a negotiation looks like and these are things that you're referring to are mostly described by contacts and discussions, not involving the United States. Let's not leave the viewers with the impression that some kind of secret negotiation like the famous secret negotiations on Vietnam is taking place because it's not.


WHITFIELD: Holbrooke says there are obstacles to formal negotiations, including the lack of a clear Taliban leadership structure.

All right, NPR's decision to fire news analyst Juan Williams is stirring up a lot of discussion and debate about how Muslims are viewed in this country and what does or does not constitute bigotry? Williams' contract was terminated Wednesday after he admitted to feeling uncomfortable when flying with people in traditional Muslim garb. Here now is CNN national correspondent Susan Candiotti.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When news analyst Juan Williams talked about feeling nervous when flying with someone dressed in Muslim clothing, people weighed in.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's a natural fear obviously with everything that's going on over the past decade. But, I don't know, it's not my personal belief. But I'm not going to be afraid of anything like that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He spoke for a lot of people, but I think a lot of people are wrong.

CANDIOTTI: How do Juan Williams' views figure in the general climate about Islam?

(on camera): A recent Pew Research Center Poll shows favorable opinions of Islam have been going down over the past five years, from 41 percent in 2005 to about 30 percent now.

(voice-over): At an open house in a mosque on Long Island, New York, this Muslim worshipper admits it hurts to know some make assumptions about her.

SEEMI AHMED, MUSLIM PEACE COALITION: It scares me to think that I walk into an airplane or -- or anyplace, and airports and strike fear into people's hearts. That's not a very nice feeling.

CANDIOTTI (on camera): If you have fear, does that mean the same thing as being bigoted?

ATHAR SUHAIL, MUSLIM CENTER OF LONG ISLAND: Yes, it is. Yes, it is. But -- because I believe this fear is based upon lack of knowledge.

CANDIOTTI (voice over): To overcome a lack of knowledge, this Bay Shore, New York mosque joined a growing number of mosques nationwide inviting neighbors to spend some time with them, not only listening to sermons but breaking bread.

This woman accepted the invitation and wishes even more would.

MIRIAM FLYNN, VISITOR: They think they had to want to educate themselves. And I think that's one of the biggest problems is that people don't and people think that they know it all, people think that they understand and they're not open minded.

CANDIOTTI: One Muslim group spokesman said Williams' comments were not bigotry but a wakeup call to Muslims to break a stereotype.

IBRAHIM RAMEY, MUSLIM AMERICAN SOCIETY: He just voiced an opinion that a lot of people have. And I think in that context we should regard the remarks as -- as food for dialogue and not fuel for anger and -- and more hostility between different segments of the society.

CANDIOTTI: This meeting called one more step in that direction.

Susan Candiotti, CNN, New York. (END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: European military officials confirm Somali patrols have seized a petroleum ship off the Kenyan coast. They commandeered the Singapore-registered vessel York last night. The ship has 17 crew members including a German captain, Ukrainians and Filipinos. Officials in Singapore say they are working with the ship owner and other government agencies to secure the hostages' release.

All right, coming up, we always look forward to this. Josh Levs with the hottest new viral videos, and Josh, one of the videos today is about a lot of people gathering at an airport to save lives.

JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: To save lives, yeah, and it's a fun one, too. Take a look at this.

There you go, that's what you need to see. How these people are on a mission to save lives. I'll be telling you about it. Plus, how to turn sounds from your house into a hit song on YouTube. And how to create your own animated cartoon by downloading a new free program. I got all that for you, plus some art videos named most creative in the world. All of it coming up next in "Viral Video Rewind."


WHITFIELD: All right, coming up the most amazing street vendor you've ever seen. That's in one minute, but first a look at the headlines.

China's currency is a big concern for the U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is in China for talks on economic relations. Geithner has publicly hammered China over its currency, saying Beijing keeps it at artificially low levels to boost Chinese exports. And authorities in the United Arab Emirates say that doctors have determined severe fatigue was behind the death of American swimmer Fran Crippen. The 26-year-old Olympic hopeful died yesterday during a marathon swimming world cup in the United Arab Emirates. Divers searched for Crippen when he didn't finish the race. They found his body two hours later.

And in India, a celebrity wedding. Actor/comedian Russell Brand and pop star Katy Perry are now husband and wife. A spokesperson for Perry says the two were married in an elaborate ceremony that was very private and spiritual.

I'd say it's time for some feel-good videos which apparently are topping today's "Viral Video Rewind." Josh Levs here. All right, what do we have?

LEVS: OK so sometimes we see flash mobs and you know by people out of nowhere will get up and start dancing and usually it's just to be silly, which is fine, it's fun, it makes people happy. Rarely do you hear about it happening for a cause, right?


LEVS: So imagine you're at an airport, you're hanging out, you've got a long layover, nothing's going on, they suddenly --

WHITFIELD: Bored to tears.

LEVS: And then what are you doing in an airport? Well suddenly everyone around you starts doing this. Take a look.





LEVS: This is from the Halifax Stanfield Airport in Canada, and what happened is it was a fund-raiser. People got sponsors and they raised money for breast cancer research.


LEVS: And you can see they've got some good fancy footwork going on, too. Look how big it gets. Get to the next section of the video I put in there. All the other people, at first you think they are just watching -- no, it should be like a later segment -- anyway, more and more people come along and what you see is eventually they got enough people. They're saying that they raised $7,700 for breast cancer research.

WHITFIELD: Wow. Very generous airport.

LEVS: Yeah, you know.

WHITFIELD: Travelers.

LEVS: Not too bad and they worked at this for a while and you know, it's nice to see somebody taking this viral video concept and turning it into a fundraiser to do something good which we've talked, the growing problems of cancer in America and these people are doing something about it.

WHITFIELD: Catchy tune.

LEVS: "Candy Man" by Christina Aguilera. And by the way, everyone is watching this now thanks to this great website called that picks up on live videos.

WHITFIELD: There you can see many more people joining it.

LEVS: There you go, people started joining in.

WHITFIELD: They are thinking about it.

LEVS: All right, now I promised you before the break, I'm going to show you the most amazing street vendor you've ever seen. One thing I love about viral videos is that sometimes people are traveling and they capture just someone doing his job or her job. Well, look at this guy.

This is a street vendor in Bangkok, Thailand, and he has this amazing pouring technique that everybody is talking about now. He pours iced tea -- he pours it, pours it and pours it and it looks like it's just a solid string.

WHITFIELD: It sure does.

LEVS: So a traveler picked up on this, posted it on YouTube, now everybody is watching it.

WHITFIELD: And everybody now wants to go to Bangkok.

LEVS: I know, and find this guy, and actually the link to all of my Facebook page, we can help you track down the name of the market where that guy is. All right. We talked about how do people have enough time to do some of the things that they are doing.


LEVS: You've got to see this hot wheel. You have a son and I have a son. They would go crazy over this.

WHITFIELD: I have no extra time for any of this.

LEVS: Imagine this, then. Imagine this.


LEVS: Look at this. Look at this hot wheels display. Two brothers in Australia came up with -- they're obviously adult brothers, they put together a track like that.

WHITFIELD: Don't let my son see that.

LEVS: They start the whole thing by playing ping-pong. They use a ping-pong ball to hit the car which gets it going on the track and it goes wild.


LEVS: And just spins and spins and spins and it just keeps going.

WHITFIELD: If my little guy is watching this, it means this is going to be our evening project now.

LEVS: You think you can do all that in one evening?

WHITFIELD: No, of course not, but he's going to make me try. I want to build that.

LEVS: Now the next thing I'm showing you is what might become a new phenomenon. There's a program out there called Xtranormal that will allow you to create your own animated video.


LEVS: By just typing in words, and watch what happens, here's an example of a guy. This guy put one together called "You're sure you want to go to law school?" Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your father says you want to go to law school.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's right. I'm really excited about becoming a lawyer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my god. Why would you do that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to help people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you are pre-med and got a "C" in organic chemistry.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A D+ actually. How did you know?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lucky guess. And now you can't think of anything else to do?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, I want to help people.


LEVS: All right, so this is the idea. And all you have to do is you download the program, you type in the words, you can ultimately make the commentary you want to make. Lots of people watching that because people are eating that up.

WHITFIELD: That's funny.

LEVS: And you know, this could be a new phenom.

WHITFIELD: Got that dry kind of delivery.

LEVS: Because it's that robotic voice.


LEVS: But, you know --

WHITFIELD: I'm really happy, believe me, I tell you so.

LEVS: You think about what they're saying, it conflicts with it. I'll tell you what, skip this next one because I want to get to one after it because we've got to get to Fred's moment of relaxation so we're going to go to the next one.

This is sounds from a garden. This guy look natural sounds from a garden. Let's listen to this for a bit. Only pure and natural sounds. He uses the chime, he knocks on things, he moves the leaf around. Then he goes to record his mom talking and he takes her syllables. Skip to the next section of this video and listen to what it is.

This is an ode to how much she loves gardening, kind of a gift for her, by Eric and Matthew -- look at this one. This, OK. This is one of the ones that was named one of the most creative, innovative videos by YouTube and the Guggenheim. This is from a guy in Australia, Nick Burkin (ph) from Dawesville, Australia, who put this together.

WHITFIELD: I did like that.

LEVS: Kind of a little bit of that relaxation feel that you like.

WHITFIELD: I like the whole gardening thing. Nice lavender in her garden there, nice.

LEVS: As always, all the links are up for you at my Facebook and Twitter page. It's JoshLevsCNN, right there. Always send me your favorites, we'll bring some of them to you next week. And I'll tell you, lots to celebrate there and it's always nice to see some people doing something to also raise some money, you know.

WHITFIELD: I know, giving back, getting people involved. That's fun. Does this mean that you have something scary next week you think, Halloween, remember?

LEVS: You know, actually, I think I am going to have something scary. That's interesting that you say that, because I have a scary one also.

WHITFIELD: I don't like scary movies, but I think you can handle whatever may be delivered. People are only going to go so far.

LEVS: Send me your favorite scary videos and I'll use my judgment about what Fred can handle.

WHITFIELD: Yes, thriller, more thriller, less scary.

LEVS: High pitch screaming, I don't think.

WHITFIELD: Good, thanks, Josh.

LEVS: See you Fred, you got it.

WHITFIELD: All right, putting the glitz back into Baghdad's night life, possible? A new restaurant has the Iraqi capital talking.


WHITFIELD: The death toll rises across Haiti from cholera. It's now killed more than 250 people. Five cases have been confirmed in Port-au-Prince, the capital. The city still recovering from that massive earthquake. CNN's Paula Newton is about an hour north of there in Saint Marc which is the epicenter of this cholera outbreak. So I wonder, Paula, are there the resources in place to go out and look for victims as opposed to waiting for cholera victims to come find help?

PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What they have tried to do is actually get the word out to tell people, look, if you're vomiting, your diarrhea is severe, you must come to a medical facility like this. Having said that, they have more mobile health teams out there, but what they really want to do is to spread the word about sanitation. Washing your hand, not using the water and the rivers here which are now most likely contaminated with cholera. And the other thing, Fred, you know, it's been the end of a very chaotic and long day here for everyone. They finally started to get some of this orange netting up behind me and that means isolating those patients that are being treated for cholera, and that is key. Fred?

WHITFIELD: So the majority of those who are coming down with cholera, are they children, or are they the more vulnerable older people? Is there a real profile here?

NEWTON: There isn't a profile, and the doctors say that they have seen really from every walk of life in terms of every age, even in this facility. The problem is when you start to talk about those severe cases, and I can tell you those here, if you see the very old and the young children, they are the ones that are weakest and most vulnerable. You can see it in front of your eyes, and also it's very difficult at times to be able to treat them for their symptoms adequately. They are getting special care here, but we still see very basic medical care. I still saw people lying on the concrete floor. People are still in the open air here, as you can see, just lying out on cots.

A very difficult situation that I have to add there's cautious optimism tonight that they are at least stabilizing the situation. They tell me, Fred, look. That doesn't mean they aren't going to have more deaths from cholera and more confirmed cases that they feel that they are starting to get a handle on this.

WHITFIELD: Paula Newton in Saint Marc, Haiti. Thanks so much.

Going across the seas now, an ultra posh restaurant has opened in Iraq's capital. The joint Lebanese/Iraqi venture hopes to capitalize on Iraq's hunger for the return of its night life, and so far business is booming. Here's CNN's Arwa Damon.


ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's glitz and glam more common to the banks of the French Riviera than Baghdad's Tigris River. Iraqis are flocking for the opportunity to spend an evening in a bubble of normalcy. It started when we were having difficulty finding a place to have lunch, Lebanese businessmen and partner in the project Fadi Yassine explains.

So along with Iraqi entrepreneur Jumaa Al-Moussawi and others the idea of Baghdad's Lebanese Family Club was born. "Most people look at me and they say you're an adventurer," Al-Moussawi he says. "I like adventures, and as long as there is adventure in my country, I am not afraid."

Still, there is the reality of operating this type of a business in a place like Baghdad. The restaurant doesn't serve alcohol to appeal to the capital's growing conservative class. The windows are all shatter proof to protect the clientele in the event of an attack, and the establishment shuts down at midnight because of the ongoing curfew.

Despite all that, business is booming. Outside lines of fancy cars drop off patrons before valets drive them off. Security is tight and guards are on patrol and gun carriers must check their weapons at the door. "Iraqis just want to be able to relax and take their families out," Al-Moussawi tells us. People get surprised walking into a place like this with its decor and touches that you don't even see in the Gulf or neighboring countries. All the materials are imported. The design and decor unique in Baghdad.

(on camera): Creating all of this was quite the remodeling job. This started off as a basic house. Upstairs there were two bedrooms and a bathroom now turned into the VIP areas. Underneath there were just basic pillars holding up the structure and the garden that was in front only came out to right around here. That palm tree actually is the final boundary. Transforming it into this cost $3 million.

(voice-over): Adding to the cost over 200 employees, including a highly paid Lebanese staff and $750 a day just to run the three generators. Still, the investors say they can make their money and turn a profit in a year. They are so confident that they are already planning their next project, a country club with indoor/outdoor pools and horses. Ambitious, perhaps, but word of the new restaurant is spreading fast. We ran into a group of Westerners working with a non- governmental organization. American Leah Rush could hardly believe that a place like this one existed in Baghdad.

LEAH RUSH, GLOBAL SPORT: Inside of here it's a place of plenty, and everything is in order and outside it's -- it's chaos.

DAMON: And it's that chaos and people's desperate need to escape it that the owners here say make the ideal business opportunity. Arwa Damon, Baghdad.


WHITFIELD: Back in this country, it's open enrollment time for your health insurance. Do you know what you should be buying? Well, we can help. That's two minutes away.


WHITFIELD: As if health care prices aren't high enough, there's another spike coming. We'll explain what plan you might be -- you might be on.

All right. That's in one minute, but here first a look at the headlines.

Security forces in Yemen are on the hunt for terrorists. They have swept into an area believed to be a hiding spot for al Qaeda. The U.S. believes a Yemeni-American cleric linked to the Ft. Hood shooting suspect is in the region, but Yemeni authorities don't say they are specifically targeting him.

And in Juarez, Mexico, the death toll from a shooting at a house party has claimed 14. As many as 14 others were wounded. The victims, all young people, between the ages of seven and 30. Drug cartel gunmen stormed another house party in the area back in January killing 15 people.

And the West Pacific is still being battered by Typhoon Megi. The storm has dumped heavy rains on the Philippines, Taiwan and now southeast China. People there are piling up sandbags in anticipation of the flooding. Dozens of people in that region are reported dead or missing.

There are just nine days until the mid-term elections, so we want to get you caught up with the developing stories from the campaign trail. Here's what's crossing right now on the CNN Political Ticker.

Harry Reid says he's confident heading into the final week of campaigning in Nevada. The Senate Majority Leader told CNN senior White House political correspondent Ed Henry that he's happy friends like President Obama and Vice President Biden have been in town to lend their support. He says their interest is not a sign that he's in trouble. First Lady Michelle Obama will be in Nevada on election eve.

And Jerry Brown is widening his lead in the race for California governor. A new poll from USC and the "Los Angeles Times" shows Brown sporting a 13-point lead over Republican Meg Whitman. His biggest boost may be coming from Hispanic voters who favor Brown over Whitman by 36 percent.

And Alaskans will get their say and they will get a chance to hear from their Senate candidates in a debate tonight. Right now it looks like a battle between Republicans Joe Miller and Lisa Murkowski. The incumbent Murkowski is running as a write-in candidate after losing in the primary to Miller. Miller is backed by the Tea Party movement.

All right. So it is open enrollment time and when you sign up for your health plan for the upcoming year, look out for higher prices. Costs are up 14 percent for a family plan on average to about $4,000 a year. Joining us now to explain the big increase and what we should do about it is health care expert Andrew Rubin. Andrew, why in the world are we seeing this kind of increase?

ANDREW RUBIN, NYU LANGONE MEDICAL CENTER: Well, listen, this has nothing to do with health care reform. Long before health care reform was passed, employers were shifting costs on to their employees, and this is just a continuation of rising costs in the health care system. The insurance companies increase the amount they charge employers, and employers pass that on to their employees. WHITFIELD: OK. So let's talk about how in the world you can try to keep the costs down. Let's look at some of the options. HMO, PPOs often among the choices. You say an HMO might be something you want to consider.

RUBIN: Yeah. You know, HMOs had a bad rap a long time ago. People didn't like the idea of their care being so tightly managed and not having the ability to go out of network but so many doctors and hospitals are actually in network right now so you have to check and make sure that the HMO has good coverage in your area and the premiums tend to be the same for the employee at a PPO which has a little more flexibility, you know, for seeing doctors, but you save all the money on co-pays and deductibles. They tend to be a lot less in an HMO.

WHITFIELD: It used to be that the HMO was ideal if you were very young or extremely healthy. Not the case if you already have pre- existing conditions, et cetera, you need specialists. You feel like people should change their minds on HMOs now?

RUBIN: Yeah. I mean, the reality is, again, most doctors take insurance now around the country and, you know, it's up to the employee or the individual to check and make sure their doctors are in the HMO panel, but if you live in the big cities in particular, you're going to find that an HMO is a really good option now.

WHITFIELD: OK. You say regardless of the plan that you choose, you need to stay in network because that means keeping the costs down.

RUBIN: Sure. If you're an HMO and you go out of network you're in a lot of trouble. You're responsible for all the costs but with a PPO, you're allowed to go out of network and you can actually -- depending on how the plan is structured, if you go see an out- of-network doctor you can spend a lot of money on co-insurance accounts. If you're in a PPO, make sure your doctor is in network.

WHITFIELD: OK and back to those young people and a plan that they may want to choose. You say look for a plan with a high deductible. Why?

RUBIN: Well, you know, listen, it's always a gamble when you choose a high deductible plan, but there's no question they are less expensive, and if you're a younger adult, a younger American, you know, it's less likely you're going to get sick.

Now, that could still happen and, you know, that would be bad if you had a high deductible plan, but if you don't really have a lot of money and the high deductible plan is an affordable option for you, a younger American might want to consider that because, again, the odds are more in their favor that they are not going to get sick.

WHITFIELD: You also say to maximize your health plan you need to take advantage of free screenings and preventive checkups.

RUBIN: Sure. We've been talking about this a lot, Fredricka. A lot of employers are now offering screenings and wellness exams and it's good for your health. It's good for your employer because if you stay healthy, you know, they spend less on the health care, but they also now are offering discount, sometimes offering discounts, on the premiums that you have to pay and they may lower your co-insurance amounts if you participate in the screenings and wellness plans so, you know, you have to check to see what they are offering. But if they offer it, take advantage it.

WHITFIELD: And a lot of companies are offering flexible spending accounts. You say take advantage of that?

RUBIN: Sure. You know, with the flexible spending account, you actually lose the money if you don't spend it every year, so you want to make sure, look at what you spent the previous year on medical bills. Again, it's kind of a gamble how much you put in there, but if you spent $500 of your own money last year, why not put it in flexible spending account if it's offered to you and you'll get the tax benefit of having that money put in there pre-tax.

WHITFIELD: OK. And real quick when it comes to prescription drugs. You say go generic as opposed to the name brand, but oh, my gosh, the argument has been for a lot of people that the potency may be different for generic versus a name brand.

RUBIN: Listen, we hear this and talk about this all the time, and I have -- I'm not a doctor but have a lot of friends who are physicians, and if it's a generic brand they tell me, they tell me it's the exact same thing and you hear a lot of people say it and you can't imagine how many people I know who don't do it. If it's an option and your physician says it's OK, go generic. You will save a lot of money.

WHITFIELD: All right. Andrew Rubin, thanks so much. Good to see you. Appreciate it.

RUBIN: Good to see you, too, sure.

WHITFIELD: All right, some endangered baby turtles were headed in the wrong direction with no chance of survival until some kids came to their rescue.


WHITFIELD: I think you're going to like this story. Some baby sea turtles got a helping hand from junior and senior high school students in the Marshall Islands in the northern Pacific Ocean. An environmental worker who helped with the rescue sent us this iReport, take a look. They're so cute. Green sea turtles, by the way, are endangered. They're supposed to head for the ocean after they hatch but one student actually found a baby turtle heading inland instead, it got a little confused.

So classmates launched a search and collected a dozen more misdirected sea turtles, apparently from a nest that was facing the wrong way. Extraordinary that that actually happens. So they took the baby turtles to the beach and they watched as they scurried safely into the surf. More turtles hatched later on and they were taken to the beach as well. In all, about 100 baby turtles were rescued, so they at least made sure that those turtles got to the shore. Oftentimes, seagulls scoop them up before they make it to the water so they got that far. Let's see if that increases their survival rate. Less than half make it.

JERAS: When they go the wrong way, they usually go towards the light, right, the moon over the ocean. So there's some regulations I know here like on the East Coast of the U.S. and Carolinas and Georgia that you can't have your lights on at night because it can confuse the turtles.

WHITFIELD: Yes, I love that, being sensitive to nature like that. Hey, Jacqui Jeras with us now. We're talking a little turtles but we're also going to talk pumpkins because this is the time of year when everybody enjoys either carving those pumpkins or, perhaps, eating pumpkin pie after Halloween, on to Thanksgiving, but now, this incredible report of a shortage of pumpkins. Can you believe it?

JERAS: Yeah. It's not the kind that you carve out your Jack-o- Lanterns, it's the kind most people use to make pumpkin pies. What would thanksgiving be without pumpkin pie? Do you love the pumpkin pie?

WHITFIELD: I love the pumpkin pie. I can do without all the other stuff, without turkey, without trimmings, but without pumpkin pie, no.

JERAS: You've got to have a little slice.

WHITFIELD: I've got to have some pumpkin pie.

JERAS: All right, well bad weather, the last couple of years along with an increase in demand, has caused a lot of Americans to go into a pumpkin panic.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, great pumpkin, where are you?

JERAS: While Linus was in search of the great pumpkin, last year, many Americans were in search of the pumpkin pie. The great pumpkin shortage of 2009 happened because these fields in central Illinois were so wet that pumpkins were literally rotting on the vine. Now that a new season approaches, Americans want to know, will these pumpkins be enough to get them through the holiday season?

(voice-over): Welcome to Morton, Illinois. It's the self- proclaimed pumpkin capital of the world and home to Libby's Pumpkin -- 95 percent of all canned pumpkin in the U.S. is produced here. Phil Friedrich has been growing pumpkins on this land for 32 years and says the last three have been among the worst.

PHIL FRIEDRICH, PUMPKIN FARMER: Every two or three days, I mean, you were getting rain, fighting mud. It just -- it was relentless. It just wouldn't let up on us.

JERAS: This year, the heat has been good for the crop, but there are other obstacles creating less than ideal yield.

(on camera): What else are you dealing with, disease?

FRIEDRICH: Yes, yeah. That's, that was, that's probably the main enemy we've had the last few years on this crop is the disease. It's just because of the excess water.

JERAS (voice-over): Harvest season is in full swing and things are looking up. Yields are pushing 85 percent and pickers are in the fields 24 hours a day to bring it in.

(on camera) Once the pumpkins are picked, the race is on to keep them fresh and to get them processed. It takes less than 24 hours for these pumpkins to leave the field and get put in a can.

(voice-over): Three years of bad harvests have consumers in a pumpkin panic.

EVAN LUNDE, LIBBY'S PUMPKIN: Yes, there actually were six cans left.

JERAS: Evan Lunde is the brand manager for Libby's and says those six cans were all that was left just before Thanksgiving of '09. This has created pumpkin hoarders who snatch up the product in bunches and selling it for major mark-ups on eBay.

(on camera): Lunde says that 50 million pies are made every year, so should you purchase the pricey pumpkin or risk an empty oven?

LUNDE: We obviously, as you can see around you, have quite a bit right now. This is only one of our locations and we will continue to pack for probably another three or four weeks and our plan, if everything goes well, is that we will not only be able to supply our customers and consumers' needs for this baking season, but also into 2011 as well.


JERAS: So, it appears as though there's going to be enough to get us through the season. However, Evan Lunde there in the story told me that they're concerned because people have been panicking about not having enough pumpkin that they're kind of buying it in droves. If they see it on the shelves, they're getting it and so they think people are buying more than they normally would which could lead to another shortage.

WHITFIELD: Absolutely. Oh my goodness. So wait a minute, so, if the majority of those pumpkins, that type of pumpkin are being canned --

JERAS: Right. That's all you do with it.

WHITFIELD: What about the fresh pumpkins you might get in your produce section that you might want to ingest, make for your pies, et cetera?

JERAS: Well there are different kind of pies that you can make pumpkins with and in different parts of the country will do all that. But this is specifically for the canned pumpkins. When I did the research for this story, I was shocked to learn, Morton, Illinois, Morton, Illinois on the map, 95 percent of all canned pumpkin in the U.S. comes out of there. So, they say about 50 million pies are baked in the U.S. And pumpkin is one of those super foods so people are doing more than just making pie with it. They're making breads and muffins and soups and I had pumpkin ravioli. Have you had the pumpkin ravioli?

WHITFIELD: Oh, I love pumpkin ravioli. I'm really hungry now.

JERAS: And it's so good for you. I know, it's dinnertime.

WHITFIELD: And it is so much easier when you're being cooking with pumpkin to use the can because I've tried that, tried to go the much more, like, holistic route.

JERAS: Yeah.

WHITFIELD: And it took forever to boil that pumpkin and get it soft enough and it just wasn't good.

JERAS: It is. Oh and one other thing I wanted to mention, the troops will have their pumpkin because Libby's wanted to make sure that all the soldiers overseas who are serving, they sent their first shipment of canned pumpkin from this season overseas for them.

WHITFIELD: Oh, I love that. Did you hear that snicker? That was Don Lemon who was laughing at the notion of me in the kitchen trying to boil pumpkin.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: No I said, oh, come on!

WHITFIELD: Oh, yeah, right. Everyone knows I'm not much of a cook. But I try every now and then. All right. Hey, wait a minute!

JERAS: And I did make that pie in the piece, by the way.

WHITFIELD: Oh, good, you did?

JERAS: Just so you know.

WHITFIELD: It looked good. Was everybody happy with it?

JERAS: It tasted good too.

WHITFIELD: All right very good, impressive. Thanks, Jacqui.

All right, thanks so much. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. I'll be back here of course next weekend as will Jacqui.

Up next is Don Lemon with the next hour of the day's headlines, snickering and all. In the 7:00 Eastern hour, Don will be talking with the coach of the American swimmer who suddenly died while competing in Dubai. Such a sad, terrible story. Much more right after this.