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Hurricane Sandy Threatens East Coast; Undecided States in Focus; Miraculous Recovery of Malala; The Week That Was; Teenager Dies After Drinking Two Monster Energy Drinks

Aired October 27, 2012 - 06:00   ET


CHRISTI PAUL, CNN HOST: From CNN world headquarters in Atlanta, this is EARLY START WEEKEND.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Looks like it's going to be a pretty bad storm.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST (voice-over): While you were sleeping, Hurricane Sandy was downgraded to a tropical storm -- Sandy. But the massive storm is still barreling north. It could leave millions of people without power and the damage to the campaigns could be catastrophic.

PAUL (voice-over): Of the 50 states electing the president, these are the states that could swing either way -- all morning we're putting the undecided states of America in focus.

ZIAUDDIN YOUSAFZAI, FATHER OF MALALA YOUSAFZAI: This is not only my daughter. This is the daughter of everybody.

BLACKWELL (voice-over): She's walking and talking and asking for her school books. The miraculous recovery of the girl they could not kill.


PAUL: Rise and shine, it is Saturday, October 27th. Good morning, everyone. Thanks for keeping us company here. I'm Christi Paul, in this morning for Randi Kaye.

BLACKWELL: And it's good to have you with us.

PAUL: Thanks, Victor, good to be here.

BALDWIN: I'm Victor Blackwell.

I need to sit closer so you can punch me. Thanks for starting your day with us.

It's good to have you with us, as well. We begin with Tropical Storm Sandy, which is slowly making its way toward the East Coast. The storm is responsible for about two dozen deaths in the Caribbean and now it's near Florida. And while Sandy has been downgraded to a tropical storm, it is expected to regain strength later this weekend. PAUL: Yes. In fact, CNN estimates damage from wind alone could top 3 billion -- that's billion with a B -- dollars. The exact location of Sandy's impact, though, that's what's still not known. Officials throughout the mid-Atlantic and northeast are really encouraging residents to prepare right now. Several states of emergency have already been declared, including New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland.

A limited state of emergency has been issued for Maine and as of now the National Hurricane Center says several tropical storm watches and warnings are in effect for parts of the Florida and Carolina coast. So strong winds and rain could hit the northeast as early as Monday.

BLACKWELL: Let's bring in meteorologist Alexandra Steele now.

And Alexandra, Sandy is now a tropical storm. Winds are close to 70 miles per hour, but how soon could it return to hurricane strength?

ALEXANDRA STEELE, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, we could see it return to hurricane strength late tomorrow but I don't -- because this has been downgraded to a tropical storm, we're talking tropical storm force winds extending out from the center 450 miles.

This is a massive storm. Really nothing like this we've seen. What we've got is really a combination. It is a powerful and really potentially deadly and has been hybrid storm.

So, here's the deal. Here's the tropical storm, 70-mile-per-hour winds but I just want to give you kind of the breadth and depth and scope of this thing. The west side of it is in the Gulf; the east side of this wind shield is already in the central portions of the Atlantic Ocean. So it is massive.

but what makes this so different, really so incredible and the oddity that it is? Well, here's what it is. Normally this time of year when we have a hurricane or a tropical storm, it gets caught up in this polar jet stream and that automatically takes it eastward.

What is different about this is this area of high pressure and low pressure to the south of it. It's called a Rex block. Really all it is, as this storm moves eastward, instead of being pushed continually eastward, it's a wall. So it's being forced to go back westward because of the flow around this high. So this is really the culprit.

What is also strange about this, so we have got this incredible air pushing it westward -- so this is the kind of the potential of where it will go. It's massive in size, it's a hybrid, so it's got the moisture from a tropical storm, it's got the energy from almost an area of low pressure like a nor'easter.

So tropical storm force winds extending out 450 miles plus snow in the forecast with this thing. This is the (inaudible) -- this is the forecast models pushing it and you can see the consensus with this, which is odd. Certainly this far out, as well.

But this is the scary part. What happens here, so it brings it here, making landfall somewhere between Washington and New York City, but then look what happens here, kind of just rotates and spins and that's the scary aspect.

Remember, Irene in Vermont, all that flooding? Say this is rotating and spinning for 24 hours, dumping an inch of rain an hour. So this is the potential for devastating and deadly flooding. Couple that with, of course, this wind field, 70-mile-per-hour winds extending 450 miles out and the potent energy with this, bringing snow potentially to the mountains on the western side of it.

So, guys, this thing really -- computer models have been running for about 25 years and they have never had to kind of run this exact scenario. So a lot of very intriguing but incredibly scary things about it.

BLACKWELL: All right, Alexandra, thanks.

Now a storm of this size and all the wind and the rain that comes with it can cause a nightmare, not just in terms of weather, but also power outages.

In Maryland, they are already asking for around 2,000 people to come in from out of state to help the power company. They're also opening a staging area at Baltimore's airport to prepare for the storm's arrival.


PAUL (voice-over): And in nearby Virginia, as many as 300 National Guardsmen could be put on active duty to help with recovery efforts after Sandy passes through the state. A small number will be in place in the eastern shore area by tonight with others held in reserve until needed.


BLACKWELL: The storm is already having an impact on the presidential campaigns, especially in some key swing states. Both Vice President Biden and Mitt Romney canceled campaign rallies in Virginia Beach, scheduled for this weekend.

Now, the Obama campaign says the change was taken out of an abundance of caution and so that police and emergency crews could stay focused on helping people with the storm.

First lady Michelle Obama has canceled a campaign rally in another critical swing state, New Hampshire. It was scheduled for next week at the University of New Hampshire campus in Durham. Well, the campus is closing for the storm. Next hour we'll be talking with a member of the political operation there about the four electoral votes in New Hampshire and why they are so crucial.

PAUL: Forget about the campaign events alone, there are fears that the storm could prevent some people from voting altogether. Edison Electric Institute warned that customers -- or warned customers that Sandy could knock power out for seven to 10 days, and we're 10 days out here, which, of course, could include the Election Day. Power outages could affect electronic voting as well, while flooding and extensive damage could actually keep people from even making it to the polls.

Sandy's political ramifications don't stop there, by the way. Just look at this picture that we've put together, showing some of the campaign layers impacted by a major storm hitting the East Coast.

Now, as we mentioned, campaign events across the country are already being delayed or canceled altogether. Also, we've told you to expect huge travel delays in addition to impacting millions of travelers. The campaigns may have to make some last-minute maneuvering.

And finally, a major storm hitting the most densely populated section of the country could divert local and national media coverage from politics to weather, news, updates, meaning less visibility for the candidates.

BLACKWELL: Well, one state where they're counting on high visibility is Ohio. We have a new poll for you from Ohio, one of the -- maybe the crucial swing state for this election season.

PAUL: Yes. It's good news for the president, not great news, but good news, apparently. Our Martin Savidge is in Cleveland with more.


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That new CNN poll -- good morning, Victor and Christi -- as you point out does not show any real change between where Mitt Romney and President Obama were, say, a couple of weeks ago, after that first debate.

It's still 50 percent in favor of President Obama and 46 percent to Mitt Romney. That 4 percent divide, we should point out, is still well within the margin of error.

But it also shows, by not changing, that other polls and other pundits that have spoken of some sort of shift in Ohio going in favor of Mitt Romney -- momentum, I think, some people refer to -- is not reflected in the new CNN poll. It is where it was a couple weeks ago. President Obama hangs on to Ohio and many believe he will hang on and be re- elected to a second term.

This is not for a lack of trying by both candidates to win over last- minute votes and they are doing that by spending an incredible amount of money. In the state of Ohio, both candidates have now spent about $177 million, buying up television time; much of that money has been spent right here in northern Ohio.

We should point out in the Cleveland market in 2008, total campaign ads, television time, $36 million. In 2010, it was up to $44 million spent. So far, we are at $88 million in Cleveland alone. Some say it's closer to $97 million and we've still got a way to go -- that's a staggering 140 percent increase over 2008. The cost of a 30-second commercial in the 6 o'clock news is up 400 percent in this market. And then I'll leave you with one other fascinating fact. If you were to take all the political commercials that have run in the Cleveland market, say, since the beginning of October and ran them all back-to- back-to-back, you would be sitting down and watching them for four and a half days straight, 24 hours a day.

No wonder people here are saying they aren't suffering from voter fatigue; they're suffering from voter PTSD.

Back to you, Victor and Christi.

BLACKWELL: That is a long, long time.

Martin, thank you.

Speaking about polling, that could even impact -- or be impacted by the storm. Gallup Poll editor in chief Frank Newport (ph) tells NBC News that if large groups of people cannot be contacted because of power outages and disruptions, they, quote, "might have to stop polling for the days when the storm hits."

PAUL: President Obama is going to lose Florida hands down. That's the claim our next guest is making. You're about to hear why.



PAUL (voice-over): You're looking at live pictures. You're looking at live pictures from Charleston Harbor in South Carolina, where people are already bracing for Tropical Storm Sandy as the storm makes a slow march up the coast. The National Hurricane Center has issued, by the way, warnings and watches for parts of the Carolinas. For all you folks there, be careful.

BLACKWELL: Let's head down 95 a few hundred miles and go to the beautiful Sunshine State of Florida. The president and Governor Romney really, really want your votes in Florida. They're among the most sought after in the nation. And lest you forget, the Obama campaign put out a potent reminder.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Five hundred and 37: the number of votes that changed the course of American history.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Florida is too close to call.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The difference between what was and what could have been.

So, this year, if you're thinking that your vote doesn't count, that it won't matter, well, back then there were probably at least 537 people who felt the same way.

BLACKWELL (voice-over): Ah, yes, the Florida recount. That was 12 years ago. Can you believe it?

But when you see the hanging chads in this picture, the guy checking the ballots, it all comes back.

The popular vote (inaudible) is important and so are Florida's 29 electoral votes. Here to talk with me about Florida this morning, Burnie Thompson, host of the conservative radio program, "The Burnie Thompson Show," which is broadcast out of Florida.

Good to have you back.


BLACKWELL: Let's start with one name. Who is going to win Florida?

THOMPSON: If it were held today, Mitt Romney would win Florida.

BLACKWELL: OK. So you say Mitt Romney. President Obama is going to lose it; he won in '08. Why do you think the president is going to lose it?

THOMPSON: Well, first of all, he won the vote from women; he won the vote from independents pretty handily in 2008. He is neck and neck with women now and independents are leaning pretty strong toward Mitt Romney.

I think that's because, Victor, people wanted hope and change in 2008. People wanted that, but it's much harder to run on a record than it is to run on promises. And right now we know one-third of the American labor pool is out of work.

We know that the net worth of American families has plummeted 40 percent and Americans are watching the president, we feel, mislead us, on very important issues, such as Benghazi.

BLACKWELL: Well, let me ask you about this. You say that Americans want the hope and change. How can both Republicans or people who are voting for Mitt Romney, if they're independents, say that things have changed too much, they quote-unquote "want their country back," but they still didn't get change. How can you have the argument both ways?

THOMPSON: Well, that's easy, Victor, that's easy. Republicans never wanted President Obama's hope and change. Democrats and independents did.

BLACKWELL: Let's talk about those independents.

THOMPSON: And those are the ones right now who are the ones you're talking about. Those are the ones who are most disappointed.

BLACKWELL: OK. Let's talk about something that happened on your show. A caller called into the show and gave you a bit of a warning, right?

THOMPSON: Well, he gave Republicans a warning, the same thing I have been doing. In other words, if Mitt Romney wins this time around, I'm an embarrassed Republican, Victor. If Republicans win this time around and screw it up, I don't know if they're going to -- I don't know if we're going to vote for them again. And that's what the caller said. Do we have the sound --

BLACKWELL: Yes, let's listen to it. I think we do have it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to give the Republican Party this warning, that I'm with you by default. But if you don't do something over the next four years, we're -- it's just going to flip right back to Democrat.


BLACKWELL: And, specifically, that warning is for what element of the Republican platform? Where are they going wrong, from this caller's perspective?

THOMPSON: Well, I think if we vote Republican this time around, what we want is Mitt Romney to govern as a conservative, not as a RINO, not as a Republican in Name Only.

Republicans are longing for real conservatism, smaller government. Quite frankly, a lot of Republicans worry that Mitt Romney is the guy to do that.

Right now, there are enough of us in Florida who are willing to say we're willing to go from a humongous government Democrat to a big government Republican and then from there we'll go to a smaller government Democrat or a Republican. We just want a president who puts the people back above the government.

BLACKWELL: But Grover Norquist, a few months back, said that all you need is a president with a few working digits to sign whatever Congress passes. Right? Do you really that much care what Governor Romney's core principles are if he's just going to sign whatever comes out of the House and Senate?

THOMPSON: Well, we absolutely care. Look what Senator Barack Obama ran on. He said George W. Bush signing statements -- he's made the executive branch too powerful, but it turns out he didn't have a problem with executive orders and signing statements, he had a problem with who was doing it.

We and independents in Florida want a president who will stay within the parameters of the legitimate authority of the presidency. And President Obama is not impressing independents in Florida by running on Bill Clinton's record and blaming George W. Bush. Independents are saying, what about your record, Mr. President? And they're not happy with it.

BLACKWELL: All right, Burnie Thompson, thank you very much.

THOMPSON: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: We have a lot more. We're going to talk about the other undecided states of America next hour. Be sure to stay with us for that. We're going to talk about New Hampshire; the four electoral votes there could really be the difference in this historically close race.


PAUL: Oh, this is a story that has really caught a lot of people. Awake, talking, now getting a visit from her family. We have got the latest on Malala Yousafzai, the 15-year-old girl shot by the Taliban.



BLACKWELL (voice-over): Residents of Charleston and other cities all along the East Coast are awaiting Sandy's approach. The exact time and location of landfall, who knows. Right? But the storm is currently in the Atlantic Ocean. Meteorologist Alexandra Steele will be along in a few minutes with the latest on the storm's path.

PAUL: And those of you who are traveling over the next few days, Sandy is expected to have a major impact on land and in the air.

Now, right now, Amtrak says all of its trains are operating as scheduled. Crews, of course, are going to be monitoring tracks throughout the northeast, though.

BLACKWELL: Meanwhile, several airlines are revising their change fee policies ahead of the storm, you know, what they charge you if you want to fly at a different time or to or from a different city. You got to check with your specific carrier for the details.

PAUL: All right, let's move you to Syria. Evidence that a cease-fire is not holding right now. It was called to mark a Muslim holiday.


BLACKWELL (voice-over): Twelve people have been killed today, 150 others died on Friday, according to an opposition group. Another group added that there were almost 300 other cease-fire violations, including gunfire and shelling.


PAUL: This time last year he was Italy's prime minister, but now Silvio Berlusconi could be headed to prison. The media magnate was sentenced to four years for tax fraud. The case revolved around payments for broadcast rights to American movies to be shown on TV in Italy. Berlusconi told CNN that the verdict was a, quote, "unacceptable, political sentence." He is expected to appeal.


BLACKWELL: American football hits England Sunday with the St. Louis Rams hosting the New England Patriots. Now, to get in the spirit, the St. Louis Rams and coach Jeff Fisher practiced on a pitch this weekend.

Rams owner Stan Kroenke is -- sorry -- Kroenke is also majority owner of the famed soccer franchise Arsenal. Sunday's game will be the sixth International Series match for the NFL in London.

PAUL: All right, we have an update for you on Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani girl who was shot by the Taliban.

BLACKWELL: She's now getting some really important visitors. Matthew Chance has more from outside her hospital in Birmingham, England.


Well, Malala Yousafzai, that 15-year-old Pakistani political activist is inside this Queen Elizabeth Hospital behind me in Birmingham, in central England, where she is receiving the best possible medical care she can get, having being shot in the head by the Taliban earlier this month.

She has also been reunited with her family for the first time since she was medevaced to Britain from Pakistan, again, earlier this month and it was a very emotional reunion, indeed. Take a listen.


CHANCE (voice-over): Recovering in a hospital bed, Malala Yousafzai is now surrounded by her family. This is the first video of the 15-year- old activist since she was shot in the head by the Taliban then evacuated to Britain earlier this month.

Her father, who arrived from Pakistan on Thursday, spoke of what he called her encouraging progress and of the family's emotional reunion.

YOUSAFZAI: I love her and, of course, this morning, last night when we met her, there were tears in our eyes and they were out of happiness, I think.

CHANCE (voice-over): The attack on Malala, as she was returning from school in the Swat Valley, has provoked widespread outrage. Thousands have protested across Pakistan, where she has been a vocal campaigner for girls' education. She was targeted by the Taliban because of it.

Now, public anger has turned against the militants. And her father, who has vowed to return the family to Pakistan, expressed his gratitude.

YOUSAFZAI: When she fell, Pakistan stood and the world raised. And this is a turning point, which is not only my daughter, which is the daughter of everybody.

CHANCE (voice-over): Now her supporters are watching her recovery.

CHANCE: Doctors here at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham talk of Malala's very good progress. The head wound, they say, is no longer infected. And there does not appear to be any brain damage. Her vision and hearing appear good, although they're still being tested. And they say she has a very good recollection of the traumatic events that brought her here.

CHANCE (voice-over): And she's not forgotten her cause, either. One of the first things she asked, says her father, was whether he'd brought her school books, a sign of how determined this young girl remains.

CHANCE: All right. Well, doctors do, though, say that there is a long way for her to go. There's a lot of reconstructive surgery she has to have done on her head. Remember, the bullet shattered her skull and there's been a big piece of bone taken out and they have to put that back or replace it with a titanium plate.

And so there's lots more medical work and also psychological counseling to do before Malala will be fit enough to leave this hospital.

Victor, Christi, back to you.

PAUL: Boy, what a powerhouse she has become.

Now stay with us. More in a moment.


PAUL: It is the bottom of the hour on a Saturday, welcome back, thanks for sharing your company with us. I'm Christi Paul in this morning for Randi Kaye.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. Thanks for starting your day with us.

We're closer now, close enough for you to punch me. You reached out last time --


PAUL: (Inaudible) so be careful.


BLACKWELL: Here are five stories we're watching this morning.


BLACKWELL (voice-over): Our big story, Tropical Storm Sandy. While you were sleeping, it was downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm, but people along the East Coast are watching this storm. It's moving slowly, already having an impact on parts of Florida.

This is Ft. Lauderdale, where the cleanup has already begun. The National Hurricane Center says tropical storm watches and warnings are in effect for the state.


PAUL: And just 10 days and counting until Election Day 2012 now. The race is as tight as they come.


PAUL (voice-over): The latest CNN Poll of Polls has Romney at 48 percent, President Obama at 47 percent. So, essentially, this is a dead heat.

The president's campaigning through New Hampshire today, hoping to win some of those voters over, Mitt Romney headed to Florida -- both key battleground states.


PAUL: But stick with us for updates because this tropical storm, Sandy, could certainly change all the campaign plans.


BLACKWELL (voice-over): Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has been released from the hospital after getting into a car crash in Las Vegas. The accident happened when vehicles in his motorcade crashed with a civilian car. The 72-year-old Democrat suffered rib and hip contusions, but we're told he's in good condition.


BLACKWELL: Warnings ignored. That's the finding of a report from the Food and Drug Administration in the meningitis outbreak responsible for 25 deaths.


BLACKWELL (voice-over): Mold and bacteria overgrowth were detected and reported almost 90 times since January to the New England Compounding Center, the company linked to the outbreak. The FDA says it's found no evidence the company ever responded to those warnings.


PAUL: And, finally, Lance Armstrong is being asked to return the money from his Tour de France wins. We're talking all of it.


PAUL (voice-over): Armstrong's been stripped of every one of those seven Tour de France titles in the wake of doping accusations. Record books will show no winners for those races. Tonight at 9:00 Eastern, CNN is presenting a special report on Lance Armstrong. Hear part of that report coming up in our next hour.


BLACKWELL: All right. Those are the five stories we're watching.

Let's go back to the top now, Sandy, the tropical storm that has ravaged the Caribbean, leaving nearly two dozen people dead as a result. And despite being downgraded, Sandy is expected to still pack a huge punch when it hits the U.S. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL (voice-over): Forecasts call for the storm to return to hurricane strength. And while the timing and location of Sandy's landfall is unclear, people are bracing along the Eastern Seaboard. Governors in New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, they've issued states of emergency while the limited state of emergency is in effect for Maine.


PAUL: Meanwhile, the governor of Delaware is prepared to declare mandatory evacuation of coastal areas if Sandy remains on its current path.


PAUL (voice-over): And in nearby Virginia as many as 300 National Guardsmen could be put on active duty to help with recovery efforts after Sandy passes through that state.

For those of you who are traveling this weekend, Sandy is certainly going to have an impact. Several airlines are announcing they will revise their change fees. You're advised to just check with your carrier for specifics.


BLACKWELL: Meteorologist Alexandra Steele joins us now.

Alexandra, we're talking about Maine and Maryland and Pennsylvania. Where is the storm now?

STEELE: We're talking Maine to Miami Beach, is what we're talking about. You're talking airport delays and cancellations. You could think of tens of millions being impacted: Boston, New York, Washington, Dulles, Reagan National. I mean, every major airport on the Eastern Seaboard could be impacted.

You talked about Virginia and Maryland, potentially in the Delmarva, 10 inches of rain. So this is behemoth, unprecedented, anomalous -- all those words really do apply. Why? All right. Here it is. It has been downgraded but that certainly does not lessen the damage or the rain or the wind field. We'll see with this in the mid-Atlantic and the northeast. Why? What's so crazy about this?

Well, what it really is, it's a hybrid of the storm. It's got the moisture from the tropical nature of it but it's also got the impacts and the energy from an area of low pressure, like a nor'easter, a classic nor'easter, fusing together for a potential explosion in terms of the wind and the rain amount.

And normally this time of year, we have a hurricane or a tropical storm. This polar jet stream takes it eastward. But this is the culprit. What we have is called a Rex block, an area of high pressure here, low pressure to the south. So as this thing pushes east, it gets caught up in a wall and essentially can't move any more eastward. So it's the winds that are taking it farther westward. So that is the problem. So it does have the fuel of the jet stream and it is expected to reintensify when it interacts with the jet stream Sunday into Monday.

Monday, really, when we could see this make landfall with the center of circulation, but, you know, landfall on this, really, there's so many bigger aspects with this inland.

Look at this, so this is the computer model guidance. The consensus is unbelievable. All of it has it pushing westward. But then what happens -- and, really, kind of the scary aspect of it -- it kind of meanders and rotates. What does that mean with a tropical storm with this punch potentially? Twenty-four hours of sitting and stalling and rain, flooding and the intense winds.

So that's really the scary scenario inland, really what we could see. So that's why we're talking upstate New York, even western Pennsylvania. So there it is. Monday we could see it make landfall here in the Delmarva. The punch with this, guy, even snow is an aspect. That is what is so incredible about this hybrid, this powerful hybrid of a storm.

We'll talk more about the wind field potential and the rain amounts coming up soon.

BLACKWELL: President Obama talks horses and bayonets. Donald Trump talks trash. And Big Bird is the word for Halloween. Here's what you may have missed in the week that was.


FORMER GOV. MITT ROMNEY, R-MASS., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He's become a president of status quo.

FORMER GOV. MITT ROMNEY, R-MASS., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You definitely have a case of Romnesia.

REP. PAUL RYAN, GOP VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: If there's one thing that you know about Mitt Romney, the man is a leader.

JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's OK. He's not going to get elected. You're going to be OK. You're going to be OK.

BLACKWELL (voice-over): Election 2012 nearing the home stretch, this week that was, a week that started with the final debate. Time to make nice, right?

Not so much.

ROMNEY: Our Navy is smaller now than any time since 1917. That's unacceptable to me.

OBAMA: Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets.

BLACKWELL (voice-over): Ouch.

OBAMA: We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them.

BLACKWELL (voice-over): Sassy.

OBAMA: We have these ships that go under water, nuclear submarines.

BLACKWELL (voice-over): But, really, there was some nicety, right, Mr. Romney?

ROMNEY: The president was right to up the usage of that technology. I congratulate him on taking out Osama bin Laden. I want to underscore the same point that the president made. I supported his action there. I felt the same as the president did.

JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW": I think Romney is leaning Obama.

BLACKWELL (voice-over): Ah, but it did not last long.

ROMNEY: We haven't heard an agenda for the president and that's why his campaign is taking on water and our campaign is full steam ahead.

BLACKWELL (voice-over): Team Obama knows full steam ahead. The president went on a two-day battleground blitz this week or, as he calls it --

OBAMA: Our 48-hour fly-around campaign marathon extravaganza.

BLACKWELL (voice-over): Speaking of extravaganza, did you hear about Donald Trump's big, huge, major, mega game-changing bombshell announcement about President Obama? Yes, neither did we. But he did come out with this dud.

DONALD TRUMP, ENTREPRENEUR: If Barack Obama opens up and gives his college records and applications and if he gives his passport applications --

BLACKWELL (voice-over): You get the point.

But the president got the last laugh.

OBAMA: This all dates back to when we were growing up together in Kenya. And --


BLACKWELL (voice-over): And from big hair to Big Bird.

BIG BIRD, MUPPET: I'm glad to be the way I am.

BLACKWELL (voice-over): The Halloween costume is already sold out this year with one man to thank.

ROMNEY: I like PBS, I love Big Bird.

BLACKWELL (voice-over): And that is the week that was.


BLACKWELL: Such a good line for the president. "... when we were growing up in Kenya."

PAUL: That was a great -- that was a great line.


PAUL: There have been a lot of good one-liners.

BLACKWELL: Yes, there will definitely be no shortage of one-liners from the campaign.


BLACKWELL: OK. So why did Europe and the economic debt crisis take second stage to places like Mali, China, Iran, Israel in last week's foreign policy debate? Our Richard Quest says it's because neither Romney nor Obama can do anything about it. We'll explain.



BLACKWELL: And this is just coming in. Al Qaeda's leader Ayman al- Zawahiri is calling for the kidnapping of Westerners.

PAUL: Yes, this is coming from new video that was posted on Islamic websites.

He also apparently attacked President Barack Obama for, quote, "lying to the people about the U.S. military's withdrawal from Iraq and its coming withdrawal from Afghanistan." This is a two-part video, we understand. It was posted, as I said, on an Islamic website. As soon as we get some more information, we'll bring you what we know.



BOB SCHIEFFER, CBS HOST, PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE MODERATOR: The first question -- and it concerns Libya --

ROMNEY: Mali has been taken over, the northern part of Mali by Al Qaeda-type individuals.

OBAMA: China's both an adversary but also a potential partner in the international community.

ROMNEY: The opportunities for us in Latin America, we have just not taken advantage of fully.

OBAMA: As long as I'm President of the United States, Iran will not get a nuclear weapon. I made that clear when I came into office. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: China, Iran, Latin America, Mali, those are some of the countries discussed at Monday's third presidential debate. There was more talk about Mali than Europe. But the question is why.

I asked Richard Quest, host of "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS," how either candidate can have an effect on the U.S. economy without dealing with Europe.


RICHARD QUEST, CNN HOST: They are powerless to do anything about it. There is a reason they haven't talked about it in the debates or it's not an issue in the campaign. They can't do anything about it. They can cajole, they can berate, they can try and have some influence.

But the Eurozone and the European Union is a trading block just almost as big as the United States. It has more people in it. So, President Obama -- and certainly we know from Tim Geithner, the Treasury secretary, who continually beats them over the head for Europeans to do something. But they are powerless. They have to stand and watch.

BLACKWELL: OK. So, we know that, over the last four years, the president's tried this diplomacy with Europe.

Has it worked? You say it's because he can't do anything.

QUEST: On economic grounds, absolutely. And this is a debt crisis in the heart of the European countries.

No matter how it started, no matter where it's going, it is up to the ECB, the European Central Bank, the central bank for Europe. It is up to the European Commission. It's up to the IMF. The U.S. could have some influence there. But fundamentally, fundamentally the U.S. has to stand on the sidelines, watch, be worried and warn.

BLACKWELL: Now debt and deficit, big issues for a lot of voters this election season. We know that Governor Romney has said in the third debate that U.S. is on track to follow Greece, that America is the next Greece.

Is this just really hot rhetoric or is it likely?

QUEST: I mean, it was a wonderful little sound bite, wasn't it? You know, if Obama gets elected, U.S. is the next Greece. I mean, that is -- it's just hyperbole.

But the differences between the U.S. and Greece are so enormous that it doesn't really bear really fair comparison, not only because the U.S. has got the dollar, which is the world's largest reserve currency, it's got the largest single market, it's growing at 2 percent, it's got unemployment at just over 7.8 percent. So there's all these issues.

What the governor is talking about, of course, is debt and deficits and the very high level of U.S. debt, which at some point is going to have to be addressed. Whoever gets elected to the White House, whichever party takes the House and the Senate, they are going to have to deal with the debt crisis.


BLACKWELL: Now I also got a chance to ask Richard about his stateside train trip through the U.S. He talked to voters from Chicago through Iowa and Utah and California.


QUEST: This was brilliant. And I'll tell you why I really liked it, because I got to see -- I got to see Americans, whether it was in the Civil War reenactment in Iowa or at BYU in Utah, or in Colorado (inaudible).

And I got to hear what their concerns truly are in this election season. It gives you a better perspective than the metropolitan elitism of the coasts.


BLACKWELL: And to catch more of Richard's road trip, check out "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS" or watch CNN at NEWSROOM INTERNATIONAL Monday noon Eastern.

Can you imagine sitting next to Richard Quest on a train?


BLACKWELL: I mean, if you've got four hours --

PAUL: A small space for a big personality.

BLACKWELL: Yes, a big personality for just one seat.

Something really serious here, a teenager dies after drinking two Monster Energy drinks over two days. Yes, but the question is, who is to blame? Is it the drink? I asked chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta what doctors are saying about it.


PAUL: Well, Sandy is now a tropical storm. You'd think that would be good news.

However, it's expected to return to hurricane strength over the next couple of days.


BLACKWELL (voice-over): Yes, in New Jersey and all up and down the East Coast, preparations have begun for Sandy's arrival. Now officials are warning of heavy rain and strong wind and the potential for widespread outages. CNN estimates that wind damages alone could top $3 billion.


PAUL: I want to tell you about some medical news right now. The parents of a 14-year-old girl who died after drinking two Monster Energy drinks are suing. The makers of the drink say they're not to blame. I spoke with chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta this week, though, about what's in these drinks and whether the FDA needed to warn the public.


PAUL: What did doctors say, first of all?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, with regard to this girl, Anais Fournier, there was a report and they said that she had an underlying condition. It's something known as Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. It causes collagen problems in her body and also caused problems in her heart. She had something known as a valve regurgitation.

They say that the cause of death for her was caffeine toxicity. They said it was just a lot of caffeine on top of this condition. Standard advice is if you have a heart condition like this, avoid excess doses of caffeine. But that's what they sort of concluded here. That's what the coroners concluded.

PAUL: All right. So if we're talking about that much caffeine, how much is it that was it in this drink?

GUPTA: Well, you know, it's quite a bit. And this is one of those things I think people don't always realize. Let me just give you a little bit of a frame of reference here. If this were a 24-ounce can, this is the particular drink, that would be equal to about seven Cokes or just as many Pepsi cans.

PAUL: At a time?

GUPTA: At a time. And in this particular case, what we know about this girl, is she took one one evening or one night and then within a 24- hour period, took another one. So that's -- I think that's sort of the concern. Caffeine doesn't hang around your body that long, but there are several different things in these energy drinks that, I guess, cause their concern.

PAUL: So in your medical opinion, is 24 hours -- you know, they were spaced far enough apart, do you think that really would have been enough to kill her?

GUPTA: Well, in this situation, it's hard to know. And I think but in this situation, you know, even just one of these cans, keep in mind, again, is you know, seven Cokes, almost as many Pepsis.

And you also have these other substances -- you can read the on the can -- taurine, for example, guarana -- these are these supplements that can be caffeine-like. They're not caffeine, but they can behave like caffeine. So, could they possibly be all acting together?

PAUL: Well, I mean, we know there have been five deaths total, but the FDA never warned the public. Why is that?

GUPTA: Well, what the FDA will say is, look, before a warning, an official warning like that, you have to draw some cause and effect. That hasn't been determined yet. This is obviously an ongoing lawsuit and people can report adverse events. That's part of the reporting process.

If you think something happened to you as a result of a product, you can report that. But it doesn't mean the FDA automatically issues a warning until they can prove that themselves.

PAUL: All right. Sanjay Gupta, thank you so very much.

GUPTA: Thank you. You got it. Any time.


BLACKWELL: States of emergency declared all up and down the East Coast.

PAUL: Yes, we're looking at what could be an unprecedented storm just days before the big Election Day.




PAUL: Well, it is the height of election season, which means it is a gold mine for comedians.

BLACKWELL: Yes, they are loving it. Here are the funniest "Late Night Laughs" from the week, starting with Jay Leno's take on the presidential debate, the last one.


JAY LENO, COMEDIAN: I thought Bob Schieffer did a great job before the debate. Bob Schieffer instructed the audience not to clap for any reason because in his house that makes the lights go on and off, you know.

Well, this was not Bob Schieffer's first time. No, no, he also moderated the Bush-Kerry debate in 2004 and the Lincoln-Douglas debate in 1858. So (inaudible).


CONAN O'BRIEN, COMEDIAN: Today a poll found that President Obama won last night's debate among a voting bloc known as Walmart Moms.

(LAUGHTER) That's true.

And Mitt Romney won the debate, according to the voting bloc Wouldn't Be Caught Dead at Walmart Moms.


LENO: One of President Obama's winning points last night was about how sanctions against Iran are crippling their economy. And believe me, if anyone knows how to cripple an economy, it's President Obama. So you see that (inaudible).


JIMMY FALLON, COMEDIAN: A source close to Romney just revealed that he gets a spray tan before a major campaign event. Now I guess that explains Romney's new Secret Service code name, The Mittuation.


Yesterday Obama visited the swing state of Ohio for the 17th time this year -- 17 times. People are so used to seeing him, now when he shows up, they're like, oh, hi -- oh.


DAVID LETTERMAN, COMEDIAN: Donald Trump called President Obama and he said, I'll give you $5 million, $5 million if you can release your college records and your passport. You -- here's $5 million. Release your college records and your passport. And I said, hey, Don, I'll give you $5 million if you release that thing on your head.


LENO: Well, experts say the entire 2012 election could come down to just eight states. The states are confusion, dismay, depression, apathy, shock, disbelief, despair and anxiety. Those are the eight states.



PAUL: Boy, this is the time when you really see what comedians have in them, their creativity and their talent.

BLACKWELL: The late-night hosts and "SNL," every Saturday night, it is appointment television.

All right. Thanks for starting your morning with us, we have got much more ahead on "CNN SATURDAY MORNING." Starts right now.