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WEEKEND EARLY START

Campaigns Heat Up In Swing States; Nevada Man Unemployed and Uncommitted; Beirut Car Bomb Kills Top Official; Fiscal Cliff Examined; Healthy Pumpkins

Aired October 20, 2012 - 06:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


RANDI KAYE, CNN ANCHOR: From CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta, this is EARLY START WEEKEND.

New endorsements for the presidential candidate from swing state newspapers across the nation. And you might be surprised by their choices.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: They're the 8 or 10 percent who may decide the election. All morning we are putting the uncommitted voter in focus.

KAYE: They're fun, they're delicious and, guess what, they're good for you, too. We'll share the health secrets of pumpkins.

It is Saturday, October 20th. Good morning, everyone. I'm Randi Kaye.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. And thanks for starting your morning with us.

We're getting to a delicious pumpkin recipe this morning.

KAYE: I'm looking forward to those. We're going to be making pumpkin smoothies later on.

BLACKWELL: Mmm-mmm.

KAYE: Have you ever had one?

BLACKWELL: I have never had one.

KAYE: All right, it's good stuff.

BLACKWELL: All right.

KAYE: But we do begin this morning with the controversy surrounding Lance Armstrong. He appeared publicly for the first time since the U.S. Anti Doping Agency said the cyclist was part of a doping program. Armstrong, who has repeatedly denied the charges, spoke at the anniversary gala for his Livestrong charity. He resigned as chairman of Livestrong this week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LANCE ARMSTRONG, CYCLIST: I am, and I think I can speak on behalf of this entire team behind me, truly humbled by your support. It's been an interesting couple of weeks. It's been a difficult couple of weeks for me, for my family, for my friends, for this foundation. I get asked a lot, people say, man, how you doing? And I say -- and I say this every time. And I mean it. I say, I've been better. But I've also been worse.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: It has called for Armstrong to be stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and banned from the sport for life. The International Cycling Union, which governs the sport, says it will respond to the charges on Monday.

KAYE: To Michigan now where police are searching for a gunman they say is randomly targeting people in a shooting spree. Authorities believe the shootings, at least 15 so far across three counties, are connected. No one has been injured. They've set up a multi-agency task force to try and track down the suspected shooter. He is supposedly firing a handgun from his car at other drivers. They are reportedly looking for a dark, older model Chevy Cavalier or Ford Mustang.

BLACKWELL: To politics now. And with just 17 days until the election, we have new numbers in those big battleground states. Here's the latest CNN/ORC poll. President Obama and Mitt Romney are in a dead heat in Florida. Romney leads by just one point. Twenty-nine electoral votes are at stake and that makes Monday's final presidential debate in Boca Raton all the more critical. It might also explain why Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan teamed up in Daytona Beach for a rally yesterday. Well, today, Romney is hunkering down in Florida to start his debate prep. Vice President Joe Biden is also in Florida for a two-day swing.

There are new charges of voter fraud in the swing state of Virginia. A campaign worker is accused of throwing voter registration forms into his dumpster. Well, Colin Small faces 13 counts of voter fraud. Investigators say he worked for a private consulting firm which was contracted by the Republican Party to register voters. The sheriff says Small threw out eight voter forms and they do not believe this is widespread.

KAYE: The "Salt Lake City Tribune" handed a big endorsement to President Obama yesterday. It slammed Romney saying, "we have watched him morph into a friend of the far right, then tack toward the center. Through a pair of presidential debates, Romney's domestic agenda remains bereft of detail and worthy of mistrust." Obama also got a nod from "The Tampa Bay Times," which said Obama is stronger than Romney on economic and social issues.

BLACKWELL: Well, the polls in the swing states are the closest they've been this election season, especially in Florida.

KAYE: Yes, certainly there. Campaigns are fighting for an advantage. And here's our national political correspondent Jim Acosta with more.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Randi and Victor, even though it's early, we're starting to hear the makings of closing arguments from both campaigns. From the president, who says Romney has no core, to Romney who says the president has no plan.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): While Mitt Romney is preparing for his final debate with President Obama in Florida, he and his running mate, Paul Ryan, are testing out the campaign's message for the next battle to come, for swing state voters.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, they have no agenda for the future, no agenda for America, no agenda for a second term. It's a good thing they won't have a second term.

They have -- they've been reduced to petty attacks and silly word games. Just watch it. The Obama campaign has become the incredible shrinking campaign.

We have to work on a collaborative basis.

ACOSTA: Another part of that swing state pitch can be found in this new Romney campaign ad that casts the GOP nominee as a bipartisan problem solver.

ROMNEY: But we need to have leadership. Leadership in Washington that will actually bring people together and get the job done and could not care less if it's a Republican or a Democrat.

ACOSTA: It's a change in tone for a candidate who once called himself a severely conservative governor during the primaries, prompting the president to accuse Romney of Etch-a-Sketching his past.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We've got to name this condition that he's going through. I think -- I think it's called Romnesia.

ACOSTA: The president is getting a boost from new state unemployment numbers showing the jobless rate dropping in Florida, Ohio, Nevada, Colorado and Wisconsin. Romney had a joke for the improving economy at a benefit dinner in New York where he and the president exchanged punch lines.

ROMNEY: If you're better off now than you were four weeks ago.

ACOSTA: Friday's map reads like a calendar. The more candidates and surrogates flooding into battlegrounds, the closer the election.

JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The American people are so much better, so much stronger, take so much more responsibility. Neither Congressman Ryan or Governor Romney give them credit for.

ACOSTA: Newspaper endorsements are also starting to come in. After picking President Obama four years ago, "The Orlando Sentinel" chose Romney, saying "we have little confidence that Obama would be more successful managing the economy and budget in the next four years." But "The Denver Post" stayed with the president, saying "the economy has made demonstrable, though hardly remarkable progress." In Daytona Beach, where a biker convention is in town for the weekend, Florida voters are getting revved up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm undecided. Leaning towards Romney, though.

ACOSTA (on camera): And why is that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, because I'm not crazy about what Obama has done in a nutshell.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I really don't like Romney that much. I would have voted for him if he actually had respect for women.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: After their final debate, the candidates will be, where else, but in swing states. The president will stay here in Florida, while Romney and Ryan will head off to Colorado.

Randi and Victor.

KAYE: Thanks, Jim.

And now to Illinois where Republican Congressman Joe Walsh has caused an uproar after talking about his views on abortion during a debate with Democrat Tammy Duckworth. He said that he's pro-life with no exception and that the exception for life of the mother is just an excuse for an abortion any time for any reason. That has supporters of abortion rights outraged, especially Walsh's Democratic colleague Jackie Speier. She's talked to CNN's John King about her own abortions.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D), CALIFORNIA: I mean I've had many pregnancies. I have had miscarriages. I've had first trimester abortions. That's what a DNC is when you miscarry. I've had second trimester abortions. That's what happened when I lost the fetus at 17 weeks. It had -- there were substantial complications to that pregnancy and I was at risk. I guess I'm frustrated by the fact that there are some members of the Congress that can't -- can't use science and medicine to make their statements. I mean they make utterly false statements.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAYE: The uproar has forced Walsh to clarify his statements. He says he's pro-life for child and mother.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOE WALSH (R), ILLINOIS: When it comes to having an abortion to save the life of a mother, I will say again that, outside of the very rare circumstances, such as ectopic pregnancies, during which both the mother and baby will die if the baby is not aborted, and other rare health issues and circumstances, the research is pretty clear that with the advances in modern medicine, an invasive and traumatic procedure like an abortion is often, thankfully, not necessary to save the life of a mother.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAYE: About 600 women die each year in the U.S. from pregnancy and child birth according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

BLACKWELL: And now to money. The Dow dropped 205 points on Friday on the 25th anniversary of the worst one-day crash in history. On October 19, 1987, the Dow Industrial average dropped 22 percent. Today's markets are showing concern over worse than expected corporate earnings and the instability in Europe.

KAYE: The uncommitted vote. With just over two weeks to go, it can still turn the election upside down. We'll share the stories of those whose vote is still up for grabs.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KAYE: Decided yet? Yes, well, probably, maybe. That's the mindset of as many as 10 percent of voters just 17 days from the presidential election. They may be leaning one way, but they can still be swayed. And we're focusing on those uncommitted voters this morning. Voters like Joe Stoltz, an unemployed father of three. This is his story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOE STOLTZ, UNEMPLOYED UNDECIDED VOTER: You know, I read a saying and, you know, there are those who dream and wish and there are those who dream and work. And that really hit home with me. At that point is when I decided that I was going to get my butt off the couch, I was going to go down to the community college and I was going to see what I could do to combat this economy that we're in.

I had a flooring business and it was doing really great. We had so many jobs. Everything was rolling like I was on the right path. And then the economy crashed and the housing market crashed and slowly it got worse and worse and I had no work.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And people think you're the teacher instead of the --

STOLTZ: Yes, they'll probably be going, hey, so what do we do today, professor?

Yes, it's kind of nerve-racking going back to school being 43. I'm going to be in class with, you know, 17 and 18 year olds. I think I'll do OK because I've done a lot of coaching at middle school level and I can relate to them a little bit. So, I think it will be all right.

Some of the runners in the Olympics I was watching --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They -- the ones in the back --

STOLTZ: He'll run in the back and he'll just kind of hang back and see what they've got in front of them and then, bang, right at the end, they just put it on.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes;

STOLTZ: Just keep your kick hard. Keep kicking.

When I voted for President Obama, I really felt that things were going to get better. He really instilled a lot of hope in me and my family. And then I started to lose that hope and was unsure about where he's leading our country. A really good detailed plan for the economy will definitely sway my vote one way or the other.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: With this textbook also comes a CD in the back of the book, which is our keyboarding pro software. If you choose not to complete all 25 lessons, then you will not be able to complete this course.

STOLTZ: The biggest life lessons I've learned with the economy is that I need to rely on myself a lot more.

This 2012 election, it means a lot. I'm not sure of who I like yet, but I really want the country to move forward. I want it to affect my family and me as well so we can really get this country back on track.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KAYE: Coming up next hour, we'll continue our focus on the uncommitted voter, including a life-long Democrat who is now leaning towards Mitt Romney. We'll see what prompted that change of heart.

BLACKWELL: Malala Yousefzai, she's the brave Pakistani school girl who was shot by the Taliban after speaking out for girls. Well, she's in a British hospital and we'll hear what the doctors are say about her recovery.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLACKWELL: Malala Yousefzai, the Pakistani school girl activist who was shot in the head by the Taliban, is showing signs of remarkable recovery, standing for the first time in her U.K. hospital since the attack and even communicating with doctors. But doctors say that she's not out of the woods yet.

And take a look at this. CNN has received hundreds of messages from around the world for Malala. This one reads, "I hope you make a full recovery, Malala! The world needs more people like you. Best wishes and a thank you to your doctors."

Now, to send you message of support, tweet with the #MessageForMalala or visit facebook.com/cnninternational.

Well, now to a new controversy over the September 11th attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Four Americans died in the attack, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. Well, now, Republican leaders of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee have released a batch of cables and e-mails from the ambassador and other diplomatic security workers. They say the documents paint a picture of the Obama administration ignoring a rapidly deteriorating security situation in Libya. But administration officials say the documents don't tell the whole story. They also fear the release of the unedited cables could endanger the lives of Libyans working within the U.S.

To Syria now where more than 80 bodies have been found in a mass grave on the country's east coast. Eighty men, women and children were all brutally executed. A U.N. Arab League envoy is working for a cease- fire. More than 30,000 people have been killed in the last 19 months.

KAYE: And there are fears that Syrian violence is now spilling over to their neighbor, Lebanon. In the country's capital, Beirut, a large, deadly car bomb was detonated in rush hour. The bombs impact tore balconies off apartments, left rows of mangled cars and charred buildings and shook the windows in CNN's offices there, about a 10- minute drive from this scene. A top Lebanese intelligence official, known for his anti-Syrian stance, and at least two others were killed in that explosion. More than 100 people were injured. Nick Paton Walsh joins me now from Beirut.

Nick, good morning. Do we know who is responsible for this? I mean some are certainly pointing fingers at Syrian President Bashar al Assad.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, we do not know who is responsible for this, but, of course, that has not stopped the blame game from beginning. Just to be clear, Syria and their ally in Lebanon, Hezbollah, have condemned the blast yesterday, but that hasn't stopped pro (INAUDIBLE) here pointing the finger towards them. Here's what one leading Lebanese political power broker had to say, pointing the blame squarely at Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WALID JUMBLATT, CHAIRMAN, LEBANON PROGRESSIVE SOCIALIST PARTY: When you see what he's doing, Bashar, even with his own people after 18 months, 19 months killing people, destroying cities, kidnapping people, torturing people, you cannot but realize that he's taking revenge. He took revenge of Wissam Hassan because Wissam discovered the plot to sabotage the security in Lebanon. So they killed him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALSH: Now, this is really what's happening in the (INAUDIBLE) elite here. Mr. Jumblatt himself up in the hills. Many leading figures here concerned they may also be on a list in the future. And this blame game continuing as Lebanon wakes up today assessing its future in the light of that substantial blast right in its center.

Randi.

KAYE: So certainly others are concerned it sounds like. Does Lebanon (INAUDIBLE) then?

WALSH: This morning, things have been relatively quiet. We are seeing protests getting underway against yesterday's assassination. I've just been out to the main airport road, and key artery in this city, to see tire burning, tires still burning, blocking that key throughway, and also youths out there. Many of them Sunni. So effectively pro the western coalition, which Mr. al-Hassan, who was killed yesterday, was also in alliance to. Men with firearm also seeing evidence around there. So a fear of continued tension, not necessarily this spiral into violence that many have feared maybe as a result of this, but we are still looking for the days ahead to see quite what happened and how long these protests persist and the level of destruction they cause in Beirut. People in Beirut waking up again to the billowing black smoke over their horizon.

Randi.

KAYE: And if indeed the Syrian regime is behind this, why focus on Lebanon, Nick?

WALSH: Well, the theory about this, of course, is entire speculation at this point that this assassination had anything to do with Syria. But the theory of those who espouse that particular idea is that Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, is under great pressure and he wants to have to do two things. One, to distract attention from his own civil war in his own country by destabilizing his neighbors so the world attention is split, but also perhaps remind those people inside Lebanon who are trying to take a side in Syria's civil war, and there are claims that people in Lebanon are assisting the Syrian rebels with arms, to remind them that Syrian has a reach still into this country and can cause havoc here to try and get them to back off.

Randi.

KAYE: Nick Paton Walsh for us. Nick, thank you very much. And we will, of course, continue to watch the news from Beirut throughout the morning.

BLACKWELL: Debates, doping and the Dow Jones. Some week, huh? Well, if that's not enough, how about a world leader who takes a dramatic fall. And this is not hyperbole. It is just a really hard fall. It's all next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KAYE: It is just about half past the hour. Welcome back, everyone. I'm Randi Kaye.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. Thanks for starting your day with us. Here are five stories we're watching this morning.

KAYE: For the first time we are hearing from Lance Armstrong since the release of a scathing report from the U.S. Anti Doping Agency detailing what it called overwhelming evidence of Armstrong's involvement in doping as a professional cyclist. Armstrong addressed supporters last night at the anniversary celebration for his Livestrong charity.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LANCE ARMSTRONG, CYCLIST: It's been an interesting couple of weeks. It's been a difficult cup of weeks for me, for my family, for my friends, for this foundation. I get asked a lot, people say, man, how you doing? And I say -- and I say this every time. And I mean it. I say, I've been better. But I've also been worse.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAYE: Armstrong, who has never failed a drug test, has repeatedly denied doping allegations. He stepped down as chairman of Livestrong on Wednesday.

We have an update now on the Oregon woman who disappeared after leaving for work Tuesday. Twenty-one-year-old Whitney Heichel was on her way to work just five minutes from her home, but she never arrived. Yesterday children playing at a nearby apartment complex found her cell phone. Police say the phone contained texts asking if she was OK. They would not say if Heichel responded.

And number three, attorneys for George Zimmerman will be able to see Trayvon Martin's school, medical and social media records. A judge ruled in favor of the defense during a pretrial hearing in Florida. The prosecution and Martin's family wanted to keep the records private.

Zimmerman is accused of second degree murder for shooting the unarmed 17-year-old back in February. He claims it was self-defense.

And a trip to the Texas State Fair took a frightening turn for some attendees after a 200-foot-tall ride called the Stratosphere got stuck after reportedly losing power. Take a look there, 24 riders were stranded but eventually brought to safety by members of the Dallas Fire Rescue Team.

And finally, the first openly gay professional boxer in history is celebrating this morning. Last night Orlando Cruz won his first match since coming out two weeks ago. The Puerto Rican beat his opponent in a unanimous decision in Kissimmee, Florida. Cruz says he has been touched by all his support and he hopes his big win will earn him a chance at a world title fight.

Victor?

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: President Obama comes back swinging in the second debate. Mitt Romney unknowingly puts himself in a bind. And sweet, sweet Honey Boo Boo picks a president. Here's what you may have missed in the week that was.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FORMER GOV. MITT ROMNEY, R-MASS., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That's why I put in a five-point plan.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Governor Romney doesn't have a five-point plan, he has a one-point plan.

JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW": It's alive! It's alive!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You want to rush down the debate stage and take a swing at him.

JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He started talking about binders.

BLACKWELL (voice-over): It was a debate few will forget this week that was and the sequel, oh, it had some real stingers like this.

ROMNEY: It took the president 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror.

OBAMA: Get the transcript.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN HOST: He did, in fact, sir. So let me call it an act of terror.

OBAMA: Can you say that a little louder, Candy?

CROWLEY: He did call it an act of terror.

BLACKWELL (voice-over): And this.

ROMNEY: I went to a number of women's groups and said, can you help us find folks? And they brought us whole binders full of women.

BLACKWELL (voice-over): Binders full of women. Cue the president.

OBAMA: We don't have to order up binders to find qualified, talented, driven young women.

BLACKWELL (voice-over): Ross Perot was driven to endorse Romney this week; President Obama, well, he got Honey Boo Boo.

HONEY BOO BOO: I like Obama.

BLACKWELL (voice-over): And the boss.

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN, MUSICIAN: Voting matters. Elections matter. Think of the events of the last 12 years and try to convince yourself they don't.

BLACKWELL (voice-over): It was an ugly week for Lance Armstrong.

LANCE ARMSTRONG, CYCLIST: What am I on? I am on my bike (inaudible) six hours a day.

BLACKWELL (voice-over): What he is not on any more, Nike's payroll. The company dumped him after the massive evidence supporting those doping allegations.

PATRICK DEMPSEY, ACTOR: I think the best thing he could do is really confess the truth.

BLACKWELL (voice-over): Armstrong says he's never doped. He also resigned as chairman of his charity.

Speaking of resignations... VIKRAM PANDIT, CEO, CITIBANK: I have a job to do and I haven't finished it.

BLACKWELL (voice-over): He has now. Citibank CEO Vikram Pandit also resigned this week. His abrupt departure shocked Wall Street, but he'll be just fine with the $261 million he earned at Citibank.

And another leader falls, literally. Australia's prime minister went down hard Wednesday on a trip to India. Ladies, the take-away here is --

JULIA GILLARD, PRIME MINISTER OF AUSTRALIA: If you wear a heel, it can get embedded in soft grass.

BLACKWELL (voice-over): Careful.

And that's the week that was.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: Now, I have never worn heels. The first time I said that on television.

KAYE: I will say, it's not easy.

BLACKWELL: Has that happened to you?

KAYE: It -- no, not like that. Not that embarrassing. But, I mean, I have fallen. That's why you escort me over to the desk so nicely, right?

BLACKWELL: Yes, that's why. But we've got like a smooth, hard surface. I can't imagine some of the things that, you know, you have to run through fields.

KAYE: Yes. But where were her people to help her, you know? Catch her before she went down?

BLACKWELL: That's true. She recovered well.

All right. Sunscreen, you know, it's supposed to prevent burns, not create them.

KAYE: But a big brand is recalling some of its products and you'll hear why.

And good morning, New York City, glad you're with us, waking up with us. What a nice shot that is. Glad you're with us on EARLY START WEEKEND.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KAYE: Welcome back. The Dow Jones dropped more than 200 points on Friday in the wake of disappointing corporate earnings. But according to some Wall Street CEOs, it's Washington that is the biggest threat to Wall Street.

Earlier this week, 15 CEOs from some of the nation's biggest banks wrote a letter to the president and Congress urging both sides of the aisle to come together in an effort to avoid that fiscal cliff.

Earlier, I asked CNN business correspondent and host of "YOUR BOTTOM LINE," Christine Romans, if these CEOs are so worried, how worried should we as the general public be?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: We should be worried. We should be worried because Congress, I mean, I've been calling it congressional malpractice. They're taking us to the very brink here. When you look at what's in the fiscal cliff, it's the average tax increase of $3,500 a family. That means your taxes are going to go up next year.

It's unemployment at the end of the year by about 9.1 percent, a recession in the first part -- a recession. If we go over the fiscal cliff, it means a recession. That means businesses close, factories close, people lose their homes, people lose their jobs.

It's spending cuts of $1.2 trillion over a decade. That means your services are cut. If you work for these federal agencies, you're going to see tons of jobs lost, maybe 277,000, at least temporary jobs lost there, and the defense sector would be just, would be just sliced. I mean, you see a lot of jobs in places with a lot of defense contractors, a lot of jobs lost there, as well. It's a very big deal.

KAYE: Yes, this is serious stuff.

Ali Velshi actually sat down this week with William Dudley, the New York Fed president. Listen to what he said about the fiscal cliff.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM DUDLEY, PRESIDENT, NY FED: Well, I would say it's worrisome, even today, because I think people's uncertainty about how the fiscal cliff is going to be resolved is actually having its effect today on hiring and investments.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAYE: So, is that true? Have we seen the effect? I mean, is just the threat of the fiscal cliff affecting jobs and investment already?

ROMANS: Yes, at a very time when you're seeing the economy, which is growing too slowly, start to pick up a little bit of steam, yes, yes. And when you talk to CEOs and when you talk to small business owners they say, I'm just going to -- look, this is the time of the year when you're making your hiring plans and your business plans for next year, right?

So you are not going to open a new factory in the end of January if you don't know what's going to be happening with the tax situation. You don't know whether there's going to be huge government budget cuts and you don't know -- if the government doesn't know how it's going to run its business next year, you have to be very careful about how you're running yours right now.

KAYE: Yes, of course. And the White House now appears ready to go right to the edge with the GOP and is insisting that tax cuts for the rich not be included in any compromise to avoid the cliff. The president, as you know, has been here already twice for the GOP and lost. So what leverage do you think he actually has now, if any?

ROMANS: That's a really good point because we've been here before. As "The Washington Post" this week is saying for the first time that the president is once again going to say, I will not cut taxes again on the rich. And this is just a no-go for the GOP. So, it's promising a showdown, again, at the end of the year, even -- he's lost this battle twice.

I mean, there are some budget hawks, Randi, who call them the Bush- Obama tax cuts now for the rich because the president has already extended them once before. It promises to be a (inaudible). I will say, though, that some economists are starting to say there is no way, no way that Congress would give us this self-inflicted wound.

I mean, it's not even Russian roulette. This is a gun that has every single barrel loaded. So there's no way that they'll really take us over the edge, but how they fix it, that's what no one knows.

KAYE: Yes, exactly. Well, we'll be -- we'll be watching it along with you, Christine, thank you.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

KAYE: And be sure to catch "YOUR BOTTOM LINE" coming up this morning at 9:30 Eastern.

BLACKWELL: Well, here's a story that will make you say what? A popular sunscreen being recalled because it could catch fire. Yes, Banana Boat is voluntarily recalling its continuous spray sunscreens -- they're the ones that mist. The company says the product takes longer to dry on the skin and that contact with a flame could cause that sunscreen to ignite.

Google is out with a new budget computer. The Chrome laptop will retail for about $249. It's being called a, quote, "computer" (inaudible) -- will be made by Samsung. It's being pushed as the second or third computer in a household. You can preorder on sites like Amazon and Best Buy.

And it's almost Halloween.

(CROSSTALK)

KAYE: My favorite time of year.

BLACKWELL: Really?

KAYE: I do have a pumpkin. It's a sparkly one. It's all decorated. BLACKWELL: We have been talking this morning about my love for Christmas music.

KAYE: Yes, and my love for Halloween and Thanksgiving.

BLACKWELL: Are there really like Halloween songs other than "Thriller"?

KAYE: No, there's just pumpkins -- other than "Thriller"?

BLACKWELL: I mean, that's the Halloween song, isn't it?

KAYE: That's scary Halloween. Pumpkins and pumpkin pie and all that good stuff, that's the real Halloween.

BLACKWELL: Well, I hope you saved the seeds from your pumpkins because they could provide some healthy benefits. Our national -- our national -- that word is nutritional -- expert mark (inaudible).

(CROSSTALK)

BLACKWELL: He tells us how.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

KAYE: Welcome back. We are hungry and we have been looking forward to this all morning. Fall time is pumpkin time, of course. And they're not just good for making pies or carving for Halloween. They actually have some health benefits, too, from boosting your immune system to weight loss. The nutritional benefits from pumpkins can actually enhance your health.

BLACKWELL: Celebrity fitness and nutrition expert Mark McDonald is here with that. Mark, I love the smell, first, of pumpkin.

MARK MCDONALD, FITNESS AND NUTRITION EXPERT: Me, too.

(CROSSTALK)

BLACKWELL: And it can really boost your immune system, tell us how.

MCDONALD: Well, pumpkin's loaded in (inaudible), vitamin A and vitamin C, which helps you fight off colds, keeps your skin nice and healthy and counters those free radicals.

BLACKWELL: OK.

KAYE: And it's also good for, what, for your brain health, your heart, lowering cholesterol, right?

MCDONALD: Yes. It's got something called phytosterols, which help lower --

KAYE: Phytosterols?

MCDONALD: Yes. KAYE: OK.

(CROSSTALK)

MCDONALD: -- like, it's a form of cholesterol.

KAYE: All right.

MCDONALD: So, what it ends up doing is it lowers your LDL, your bad cholesterol, which forms a plaque in your arteries, so, it's really good for your heart.

BLACKWELL: And what I'm also learning is that it's pretty good for digestion, too.

MCDONALD: Optimal. So when you look at pumpkin, one cup only has 49 calories, 3 grams of fiber, which helps stabilize your blood sugar, keeps you satisfied between meals, keeps that hunger nice and calm, so it really helps improve your digestion.

KAYE: Which is why we are making these pumpkin smoothies this morning. I actually make these at home, so I thought maybe we'd make them in the studio and maybe folks at home want to make them. And we want to first, of course, thank troy, our producer, for making these lovely (inaudible) pumpkins for us (inaudible).

MCDONALD: These are the most beautiful pumpkins ever.

KAYE: Now let's go through the ingredients here. I should tell you this is a vegan recipe, so you can add whatever other stuff you want. But we have here two cups of almond milk, half a cup of rolled oats, chia seeds which are kind of interesting, if you've never had them before.

BLACKWELL: They are interesting.

KAYE: I know. Victor's been eyeing those all morning -- one cup of canned pumpkin, which is really easy to make or I guess you can just carve your own; some blackstrap molasses, half a tablespoon of blackstrap molasses; one frozen ripe banana, two teaspoons of cinnamon and a little ground ginger and nutmeg here combined.

And then at the end, we add some maple syrup. All right? So you want to help me do the honors here?

MCDONALD: I love it. Where do we want to start?

KAYE: Dump it in.

MCDONNELL: Do we want to start with the almond milk? (Inaudible)?

KAYE: Let's put the milk in first.

BLACKWELL: Now I've got a question --

KAYE: Standing back. BLACKWELL: -- about some of these ingredients.

KAYE: OK.

BLACKWELL: Most of them I recognize from the super market. Chia seeds and blackstrap molasses I've never seen.

KAYE: Chia seeds are --

(CROSSTALK)

BLACKWELL: I mean, am I supposed to go and just --

KAYE: Chia seeds are really good for omega 3s.

MCDONALD: Omega 3s, great source of fat, some protein in them.

MCDONALD: From the two extra healthy people. But for the rest of us, whereabouts (inaudible) find (inaudible)?

(CROSSTALK)

MCDONALD: You can get chia seeds at almost any grocery store in the health food section.

BLACKWELL: OK.

MCDONALD: So there is --

BLACKWELL: I haven't been there.

KAYE: I am standing back because I don't want to get splattered. OK. And then we'll add the syrup at the end. At least that's how I do it.

MCDONALD: This is awesome.

BLACKWELL: Remember the lid. Remember the lid.

KAYE: Oh, the lid? What lid?

(CROSSTALK)

MCDONALD: Come on, Victor.

BLACKWELL: I'm trying, but I've never had chia seeds.

KAYE: OK, let's see if we can get this going. I think it's on. Let's see, all right.

BLACKWELL: Oh, boy.

KAYE: Blend, see how easy that is. All right, that's going to go -- yes, hold it. That would be a disaster. All right.

So, we got this going and you can blend it for however long as you want to, but we did just because in the magic of television we have a blended-up recipe already.

BLACKWELL: There you go.

KAYE: There you go. Now, I hope you guys like it.

BLACKWELL: Yes, me, too.

MCDONALD: And if you want it a little more thick, you can put a little ice in it.

KAYE: (Inaudible) at the end. And actually you can add the maple syrup at the end, too. I just put a little --

MCDONALD: For a little sweetener?

KAYE: A little sweetener, sure.

(CROSSTALK)

KAYE: (Inaudible). Sorry.

BLACKWELL: Can I get some maple syrup, please?

MCDONALD: And if you want a protein boost, you can put some protein powder in it also.

KAYE: That's a great idea, yes.

MCDONALD: And like for vegan or vegetarian, you can do hemp protein.

KAYE: That's right.

MCDONALD: Yes, see?

KAYE: (Inaudible).

So what do you think?

BLACKWELL: It's got so much texture.

MCDONALD: I love pumpkin so much. It takes like a pumpkin pie in a liquid form.

KAYE: That's what it is. It's a pumpkin --

MCDONALD: It's the best.

KAYE: Now this is supposed to make two, the recipe that we did here. But it is pumpkin pie for two and you can add some coconut whipped cream on top and maybe a little more cinnamon -- Victor is not loving this at all.

MCDONALD: Victor?

KAYE: You are not. You and I are like, yes, we're good.

Here, cheers.

MCDONALD: Cheers.

BLACKWELL: This is wonderful.

MCDONALD: You know, it's a healthy pumpkin pie, right?

KAYE: It's a healthy pumpkin pie.

You got it. You got it.

Pumpkin pie in a cup.

Well, thank you, thank you.

And, Troy, love these.

BLACKWELL: I don't think I had enough blackstrap in mine. Maybe that's what's happened.

KAYE: Isn't that great? Look at it.

BLACKWELL: (Inaudible) more teaspoons --

MCDONALD: Troy might be the greatest glitter pumpkin person ever.

KAYE: All right. Well, that was fun. Sorry you didn't enjoy it.

BLACKWELL: I'm kidding. OK? I'm -- I thank you, because it's a new experience.

MCDONALD: It will grow on you.

BLACKWELL: I love new experiences.

Hey, it's a group key to the presidential candidates in this election. Next hour, our focus on uncommitted voters and the power of their ballots.

But, first, the best of the late-night laughs; that's coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KAYE: A new little princess is about to join the Disney kingdom and she will be making history as the very first Latina princess. But some are asking if she's actually Latina enough. Yesterday I asked CNN entertainment correspondent Kareen Wynter about Disney's response to all of this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KAREEN WYNTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Disney is being quite low key about all of this, Randi. And you would think -- you'd think they would benefit from all the publicity in unveiling a Latina princess. It's a pretty big deal. You see, Disney is introducing their first Latina princess, Princess Sofia. She's going to debut next month on the Disney Channel in a TV movie called "Sofia the First: Once Upon a Princess." There's also going to be a TV series on Disney, as well as Disney Jr., but some groups, Randi, they don't think Disney is going far enough with this character.

They say Sofia doesn't look like a Latina girl and is being voiced by a white actress. So they're a little upset about all of this with Disney. A Disney rep told "Entertainment Weekly," when it comes to kids, hey, a princess is just a princess.

You know, Randi, I think I have to agree with that. Does it really matter here? There was a lot of fuss, by the way, made with the launch of Tiana, the African-American princess, several years ago. And so many kids have fallen in love with her. I think they'll fall in love with Sofia as well. And her big debut will be no problem. But still, a little bit of controversy to start all of this out.

KAYE: Controversy around a cartoon and a princess. Amazing.

Also, the NBC sitcom, I wanted to ask you about "Animal Practice" being canceled. And PETA is celebrating this.

WYNTER: They definitely are. You see, PETA had protested the show. It featured a monkey dressed in a lab coat and they say that's cruel. So they're crowing about all of this. They're calling the cancellation a victory. They say it sends an extremely strong message here, that using animals for cheap laughs on TV shows is archaic and uninteresting to today's viewers -- that was PETA's words.

The ratings for the show, they were weak, which is why it was canceled and it probably didn't help that the show may be most memorable for irritating viewers, Randi, during the Olympics this past summer. NBC interrupted the closing ceremonies to debut "Animal Practice," which didn't go over quite well with audiences. So, another short-lived TV show you see right there, Randi.

KAYE: And that little monkey, though, quite a star. I have seen him in spreads in magazines. Living the good life. Drinking champagne and staying at the nice hotels.

WYNTER: Yes, that's really what we remember about the show, the monkey. But, you know, sayonara for the monkey and the cast.

KAYE: Well, he'll find work elsewhere, I'm sure.

Kareen Wynter, nice to see you. Thank you.

WYNTER: Thanks, Randi.

KAYE: And we have an update on that Disney Latina princess controversy. Disney has responded to the critics through Facebook. The company writes, "Sofia is a fairytale girl who lives in a fairytale world. All of our characters come from fantasy lands that may reflect elements of various cultures and ethnicities, but none are meant to specifically represent those real-world cultures."

(MUSIC PLAYING)

BLACKWELL: We have all the news you missed overnight in just minutes, but, first, some late-night laughs.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CONAN O'BRIEN, HOST, "CONAN": Both candidates now working very hard to shore up their support among women. That's the big thing. In fact, today they both pledged to increase domestic production of Ryan Gosling movies.

OBAMA: Still making the most of my time in the city. Earlier today I went shopping at some stores in midtown. I understand Governor Romney went shopping for some stores in midtown.

ROMNEY: We're down to the final months of the president's term. As President Obama surveys the Waldorf banquet room with everyone in white tie and finery, you have to wonder what he's thinking. So little time. So much to redistribute.

JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE": A CNN poll today said that 46 percent of viewers who watched thought Obama won and 39 percent thought Mitt Romney won. So it looks like Obama's strategy of staying awake through this one has paid off.

STEWART: I have these great pictures from the two debates, but I don't know which debate they're from. So if you could --

OBAMA: All right.

STEWART: -- have two pictures. There's one picture. I don't know if you can get that.

And then there's the other picture. And I'm wondering, can you tell me, do you know which debate was which.

BILL MAHER, HOST, "REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER": When Mitt Romney claimed that Obama did not call the Benghazi attack in September an act of terror until two weeks later, and then Obama said, "Check the transcript," and Candy Crowley, the moderator, came in and said, yes, I was there, true -- it's true, he did call it that.

Mitt Romney was furious. He was so mad at Candy Crowley, he took her right out of his lady binder.

OBAMA: Tonight is not about the disagreements Governor Romney and I may have. It's what we have in common, beginning with our unusual names. Actually Mitt is his middle name. I wish I could use my middle name.

ROMNEY: A campaign can require a lot of wardrobe changes. We -- blue jeans in the morning, perhaps, suits for a lunch fundraiser, sport coat for dinner, but it's nice to finally relax and to wear what Ann and I wear around the house. (END VIDEO CLIP)

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