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QUEST MEANS BUSINESS

Super Storm Aftermath; Wall Street Reopens; Power, Transport Issues; New York Governor Praises Public Response; Working to Restore Power; US Dollar Holds Steady; Greek Debt Crisis; Cameron Loses Key Vote; Barclays Faces Further Fine in US; European Markets Down; GM Cost-Cutting; Why Wall Street Closed for Sandy

Aired October 31, 2012 - 15:00   ET

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


RICHARD QUEST, HOST: The East Coast struggles to recover from Super Storm Sandy. We will show you the latest pictures.

The New York Stock Exchange and NASDAQ are back in business. We will be live there in a moment.

And Greece forecasts an even bigger recession and more debt problems.

I'm Richard Quest. We have an hour together and, yes, I mean business.

Good evening. Super Storm Sandy has claimed at least 50 lives in the United States and one in Canada, a woman who was hit by storm-tossed debris. Damage is expected to run into the tens of billions of dollars, 9,000 people spent the night in Red Cross shelters along 13 states.

On Manhattan's east side, Bellevue Hospital is evacuating 700 patients due to a power failure. Ambulances are lined up outside the hospital in preparation. Hospital officials say the evacuation could take two days.

National Guard troops arrived overnight in Hoboken in New Jersey and are rescuing families trapped by floodwaters. The navy is sending amphibious landing ships to the coast of New York and New Jersey in case they are needed.

President Obama has stopped by FEMA headquarters, that's the Federal management agency in Washington. He's gone to New Jersey to join Governor Chris Christie on a tour of the damage caused by Sandy.

After the longest weather-related shutdown in 120-odd years, the New York Stock Exchange is back --

(RINGS BELL)

QUEST: -- in business. The market's down just 36 points.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(OPENING BELL AT NEW YORK STOCK EXCHANGE)

(CROWD CHEERS)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

QUEST: That's the cheer, and that's the mayor. Mayor Michael Bloomberg rang the opening bell. His honor, along with a scattering of investors braced Sandy's aftermath to ring the trading floors. Vast swathes of the transport system are still out of action, flooded or damaged, limited service on the subway may resume tomorrow.

Right now, the Dow has shed early gains. It's dipped into the red. Alison Kosik is at the New York Stock Exchange, joins me now. Good -- good afternoon to you, Alison. We were -- first of all, congratulations. The market is open. When it opened --

ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes.

QUEST: -- we had been told there would be two things: heavy volume and it could be very choppy. What have we seen?

KOSIK: Well, it is a little choppy. We're certainly not seeing heavy volume. We're seeing pretty light volume, but pretty good volume, considering everything that's going on outside of this place and how tough it is to physically get here, as well, and get around the city.

A lot of what everybody thought would happen didn't come true, meaning a huge sell-off, and that huge volume.

And a lot of it may just have to do with everybody up and down the East Coast, they literally don't have power. A huge amount of them, millions of people. So, that could really have an impact on -- the reason why we're not seeing these huge numbers in volume today, Richard.

QUEST: Now, if that is the -- if that is the reason, then we've still got the jobs number on Friday, we've go the end of the month, and we've got the presidential election. I'm seeing people suggesting that nobody really wants to be on the wrong side of the market on any one of those issues.

KOSIK: Oh, sure. And you look at today and why it was so important to really open today. It is the last day of the fiscal year for 20 to 25 percent of the mutual funds that are in the US, so you're -- you are seeing a lot of these mutual funds really squaring their positions.

And if they've already squared their positions, which many have already done back before the market actually fell quite a bit since its rally. A lot of these hedge fund and mutual funds owners said: "We're already on the right side. We're jut going to sit back and watch all the action after this and wait for the fiscal year to end, wait for the elections to end." And a lot of that may be why the volume is light, as well.

QUEST: Alison Kosik at the New York Stock Exchange. We thank you for that. The Dow just -- Dow off just 30-odd points. The NASDAQ is also up and running, and Facebook is one of its main movers. Maribel Aber is at the NASDAQ and joins us now.

Maribel, it's almost -- it seems, perhaps, a little bit odd and maybe even perverse to be talking about individual stocks, so we will get to Facebook in a second. Give me the overview. Did NASDAQ get up and running, and did it do it smoothly?

MARIBEL ABER, CNN MONEY CORRESPONDENT: Sure. You know what, Richard? I checked in with NASDAQ first thing this morning. They confirmed that it would be all systems go for them, green light. In fact, trading has resumed here, everything is going as scheduled.

But trading, you heard it from Alison, it's been pretty tepid. It's been pretty tepid today. We thought we were going to see a lot of volume, we thought this was going to be the day that traders were going to be shoring up their positions here, but that really hasn't happened. Could be do because maybe they did shore up before this thing happened.

QUEST: All right.

ABER: And it could be -- hello?

QUEST: No guesses --

ABER: Still with me there?

QUEST: Yes -- no, I'm still with you. I was just being a little imprudent and impolite and interrupting you. I just wanted to sort of say, Apple and Facebook --

ABER: Sure.

QUEST: Now, we know Apple had some fairly dramatic top management changes. They happened -- really, the market hasn't had a chance to react. And Facebook, also, the market hasn't had a chance to react.

ABER: That's right, Richard. We've got that big management shakeup at Apple. Two of its top executives being let go, the most prominent being, of course, Scott Forstall. He was responsible for the iOS software running iPhones and iPads. He was also part of that maps feature fiasco.

Apple right now is down about a percentage point, it's at $598.04. I saw it tick over higher than that, looks like it's come back down again, Richard.

The other company you mentioned there is Facebook and, again, today is the day that many Facebook employees will finally get a chance to sell their shares for the first time.

This lockup of their so-called restricted stock units, that's expired, so now a total of 234 million Facebook shares are newly eligible for sale today. Right now Facebook is down 4.2 percent, $21.02. And again, Richard, all that hype, not a lot of volume.

QUEST: All right. Maribel, many thanks, indeed, at the NASDAQ. So, as you can see, there is not only trading underway in New York, there is actually corporate news, as well.

We need to focus a little bit more on the super storm and what's left behind, particularly the 6 million people across the eastern United States who don't have any power. What's being done to get that power back? QUEST MEANS BUSINESS, we are live tonight at the CNN Center.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

QUEST: Now, you're looking at one of the most remarkable images that captures the impact of Sandy's destruction. It is the view of the Williamsburg Bridge. It is shot from North Williamsburg at 11:00 on Tuesday. On the left side, Brooklyn, lit up like a Christmas tree, right through its heart on the bridge.

And then on the right, Manhattan and the surrounding part of the island remains shrouded in darkness. It is quite an extraordinary picture that brings us.

Now, as we've been reporting, limited subway service will return to New York on Thursday, but there are a lot of problems to fix, and this gives you some idea of them. This, of course, is Manhattan, the lower part, from Central Park.

Starting down at the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, where Governor Andrew Cuomo was shown the damage on Tuesday, the governor said three of the seven East River tunnels now pumped clear of water, particularly for subway use. No subway service, though, is lower than 34th street, and that's so -- pretty much 34th Street will be about there. Nothing lower than that.

If you go into the East Village, we see that almost 2 million people are without power across the lower part of Manhattan. These are some of the explosions that took place in transformer. ConEd substations exploded on Monday night with the force of what was happening. That's the East Village in that part of the city.

Now, going into midtown, and you start to see people lining up at banks, even at the CNN satellite truck to charge their phones. This is a charging -- literally -- station near Grand Central Station.

And the -- one of the defining pictures of this crisis, the crane is still hanging and dangling not far from Broadway, 57th Street. It was building one of the most expensive apartment buildings in the city, and now of course, it's -- they've got a real problem, how to get this thing down, because you need a crane to get a crane down, if you get my drift.

Later in the program, by the way, I'm going to take the whole island of Manhattan, for the Profitable Moment, and I will be basically explaining to you what is where and showing you how the whole thing fits together.

New York's governor has praised the public response. Andrew Cuomo has asked residents to be understanding until things get back to normal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: New Yorkers have been great all through this. The -- we're going to need some patience and some tolerance.

Traffic is very difficult for two reasons: we still have some passings that are closed, Midtown Tunnel is still closed, et cetera. So, there's a high volume of traffic in the city itself. Many of the traffic lights are still out, so there's a certain amount of confusion at the intersections.

In terms of power restoration, we are working very hard. That is going to be a situation that is also going to be developing on a day-to-day basis.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

QUEST: That's the mayor -- sorry, the governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo. Thomas Fanning is president and chief exec of Southern Company, one of the largest power generators in the United States, and you have some of your staff in the area who are helping and dealing with the crisis.

THOMAS FANNING, PRESIDENT AND CEO, SOUTHERN COMPANY: We sure do, we've got about 2,000 people helping right in the mid-Atlantic area. They were originally deployed to Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, DC --

QUEST: Even though these aren't your problem areas? You're helping your competitors?

FANNING: Our industry has a decades-long practice of mutual assistance, and so this is a normal part of that. There's 53,000 people from our industry helping in this restoration effort.

QUEST: OK. What is -- we know the size and the scale, so we know that that's the big issue, but what's the biggest problem? Is it power lines down? Is it flooding in stations?

FANNING: So, Richard. Think about the size and scale of this storm, and let's think about the problems these people are dealing with. It's not just rain, it's not just snow, wind, flooding. So, the first thing we've got to do is assess the damage.

Some of the places where the damage occurs is inaccessible, so they're trying to get out there. Then and only then can they deploy the resources in the most effective way to get it done as safely and as efficiently as possible.

QUEST: I do not doubt for a moment the complexity and difficulty, but I do question, even a really bad storm, a dreadful storm, a terrible storm, that can cause such havoc. Is this an infrastructure issue? A lack of investment issue? Or is it just one of those things?

FANNING: It is not a lack of investment or an infrastructure issue. The United States has the best electric network in the world. And in fact, when storms like this happen as infrequently as they do, this industry has a terrific track record of getting the power back to the people.

QUEST: Wouldn't you be better off putting more power lines to homes underground?

FANNING: At about five times the cost. You're talking hundreds of billions of dollars of additional cost, and there is a function that deals with the frequency of outages and the duration of outages when they invariably occur, and underground electricity infrastructure --

QUEST: You agree it would be better?

FANNING: -- has less frequent outages, but the duration of outages for underground infrastructure is much greater. So, additional cost and much longer outages really doesn't serve America's interest.

QUEST: Unless there is a shift in weather patterns that we may be seeing, which I don't know, Jenny Harrison can answer that question to us later. The old question: are we seeing more hurricanes and bad weather as a result of global warming that might make you have to rethink these things?

FANNING: Well, that is a question for somebody else at another time. I run a power business, and our job right now is to get the lights back on.

QUEST: OK, so let's talk about getting the lights back on. I, having already asked you just about three or four impossible questions.

(LAUGHTER)

QUEST: I'm not going to ask another one. But you've been good and you've been helping me in this. I'm understanding a lot more. When realistically will the bulk of people see -- ?

FANNING: Remember when I said the most important thing we can do is assess the damage, then deploy the resources?

QUEST: All right, yes.

FANNING: Every issue is a local issue. Restoration -- restoring electricity --

QUEST: What's your gut feeling? What's your gut feeling?

FANNING: Restoring electricity after one of these massive outages depend on every different location. It is impossible to say at this point when the power will be restored. We've already made great progress. We've reduced outages from 8 million to 6 million. When we're going to substantially reduce it to zero is anybody's guess at this point.

QUEST: I could sit here and talk to you for the rest of the hour, but unfortunately the currencies await us on a busy day.

FANNING: Great seeing you.

QUEST: Good to see you. Thank you so much for coming in.

FANNING: Absolutely.

QUEST: All right, let's talk about those currency. The US dollar generally holding stead against global currencies. The pound is making decent gains, up around a third of one cent -- percent. The euro and the Japanese yen are flat. QUEST MEANS BUSINESS, those are the rates --

(RINGS BELL)

QUEST: -- this is the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

QUEST: There are tougher times ahead for Greece. It is predicting an even deeper recession and a worsening debt problem. The country says it's expected the economy will now shrink by 4.5 percent next year.

The government debts are set to rise to an all-time high of 189 percent of economic output. The latest unemployment figures show that a quarter of Greeks are out of work. The figure's even higher for young people. And behind those grim statistics, a deeper problem has taken hold. Diana Magnay with this report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DIANA MAGNAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just as he has done every week for one and a half years, Petros Korelas prints off his CV, ready for his trip to the jobs center.

Age 24, he still lives with his parents, because like most young Greeks, he can't afford not to. Greece has 55 percent youth unemployment. Very few jobs even for graduates like Korelas, with two masters degrees.

PETROS KORELAS, JOB SEEKER: They look at me like, "What are you doing here, child? Go abroad." That's what I say.

MAGNAY: Whilst we're waiting, we meet George Kaligaris, back at the job center to cancel his unemployment benefit. His old employers offered him part-time work for 400 euros a month.

MAGNAY (on camera): How much is your rent?

GEORGE KALIGARIS, TRUCK DRIVER: Five hundred.

MAGNAY: So, how do you survive?

KALIGARIS: I look at what other job -- extra.

MAGNAY (voice-over): If you're unemployed in Greece, you get 360 euros -- $460 -- a month for one year only. After that, you're on your own. And if you've never paid national insurance contributions -- i.e. you've never had a job, you don't get anything, which means many of the young can't claim.

MAGNAY (on camera): You'll often hear Greece referred to internationally as the "sick man of Europe" being given a dose of medicine -- austerity -- that's just not working.

And yet, when you speak to people here, they give you this kind of psychological profile to match, that the country is in a national state of depression, which people find hard to shake, even with jobs and a steady income, and where the young, the qualified, only see a future for themselves outside of Greece.

MAGNAY (voice-over): At a time when so many need counseling, psychotherapists admit that few can afford it. The aptly-named Therapia Stamou-Mazaraki offers a special rate for the jobless who need her help.

THERAPIA STAMOU-MAZARAKI, SYSTEMIC PSYCHOLTHERAPIST (through translator): The depression tends to make you passive, so I tried to encourage people to set small goals like, tomorrow will be fun, or I'll take the time to play with my children, to be energetic, take walks, and to stop talking about the past and what they used to have or don't have now. We can't perform miracles, but we can take simple steps.

MAGNAY: But sometimes miracles do happen.

KORELAS: You can't understand how I feel right now. I am coming for one and a half years, and for the first time, I just received a bit of paper. I never asked for something more, I never asked for something less.

MAGNAY (on camera): Well, you wanted a job, didn't you? This is just a phone number.

KORELAS: It's a phone number, but it's a phone number that could -- it's a lead.

MAGNAY (voice-over): Just an answer phone for now, but maybe a job tomorrow.

Diana Magnay, CNN, Athens.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

QUEST: And one note on EU and debt issues: the British prime minister, David Cameron, has lost -- narrowly lost a vote in the House of Commons in London. MPs in London have voted for -- calling for sharp cuts in the EU budget.

The prime minister had tried to put forward a counter-proposal, but that now seems to have failed. It's an embarrassment more than anything else for the prime minister. But that's taken place just in the last hour in London.

Barclays is facing a fresh fine for misconduct. The scandal-struck British bank is under investigation by the US Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission over whether it breached corruption laws in the energy industry. It was fined a total of $460 million for manipulating libor.

And the banks' also paying billions in compensation for the misselling of protection payment insurance. Barclays reported a pre-tax loss of $75 million in Q3.

Moving on. In London, Barclays shares closed down more than 4 percent, pulling the FTSE 100 lower. Other euro bourses are down. Athens slid again, it's down nearly 10 percent so far this one week.

General Motors will slash half a billion dollars from its European costs as it tries to make the unit break even by the middle of the decade.

The carmaker expects to lose up to $1.8 billion in the region this year, double what it lost last year. GM's net income slid 12 percent Q3 to $1.5 billion. It's better than Wall Street was expecting. Shares are up nearly 9 percent. It's not so much what they lost, it's the prospect for the future.

The markets in the US are up -- ooh. Don't make too much fuss. It's up one point. We should actually make a fuss. It's one point in very difficult circumstances. Alison Kosik spoke to the chief operating officer of the New York Stock Exchange.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LARRY LEIBOWITZ, CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER, NEW YORK STOCK EXCHANGE: I have to say, in this case, almost everything they warned you about came true, and maybe then some. So, you're trying to figure out, are we going to be able to get people to sites? How are we going to do these things?

It's one thing if one firm is in sort of disaster recovery mode. The world can kind of handle that. But if everybody's in disaster recovery mode and sort of spread all over the world and there's a technology problem because it may be something people aren't used to doing, it makes it a lot harder to solve when people are all over the place or not at work, half- staffed.

People didn't want to send people in to make sure that things worked, because then they'd be putting people in harm's way. And so, it became a risk-reward issue, particularly, remember, we're at a time where we're seeing a lot of technology problems over the last year or two. We've seen a lot of jolting to the public confidence when the market isn't working the way it's supposed to.

And I think between that and the fear of the risk for human loss of coming in and being either trapped here or away from their families, we call came down on the side of let's not take the risk of forcing a decision that could be highly risky.

KOSIK: If we were ever in the situation again, feel confident in saying, OK, let's just do all electronic?

LEIBOWITZ: Well, I think what we're going to do is do after the fact, go through and say what could we have done differently? What do we need to do differently in the future? We worked collaboratively with the other exchanges in the industry.

Because really, this is not us in a vacuum. This is how do we work with everyone to make sure that the solution works better, and you always learn from, "Gee, what could we have done better. Did we make the right choice this way, given what we knew and all the facts at the time, boy. Trying to open even yesterday would have been challenging.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

QUEST: Coming up next, a battleground state barometer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Solid shot, 1500 yards. Advance the round. Fire!

(GUNSHOTS)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

QUEST: The Quest -- following the White House on the plains of Iowa, an American Quest --

(RINGS BELL)

QUEST: -- next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

QUEST: Hello, I'm Richard Quest. More QUEST MEANS BUSINESS in a moment. This is CNN, and on this network, the news always comes first.

And a hospital in the heart of New York City is being evacuated of 700 patients. Bellevue Hospital on the east side has suffered a critical power failure because of flooding from Super Storm Sandy. Hospital sources say the evacuation could take two days.

At least 50 people have died in total across the entire United States from the storm. Almost 6 million people are still without power.

President Obama is in New Jersey to assess the devastation from the storm. He'll tour the area with the governor, Chris Christie, who has strongly praised the president's response to the crisis. Christie is a Republican who supports Mr. Obama's opponent, Mitt Romney.

The unemployment rate in the eurozone reached 11.6 percent in September, that's a record high. Eurostat says nearly 150,000 more people were classified as unemployed last month as the continent grapples with the economic crisis.

Reports of new violence continue out of Syria. Earlier, a bomb went off near a Shiite shrine in southeast of Damascus. There were fatalities, but news report deny -- give different numbers. Several people were wounded as a result. These pictures are said to show the aftermath of the blast.

The UN's refugee agency says it's growing concerned about the violence in Myanmar. It says camps are stretched to capacity, and food, water, and medical help are in short supply. Authorities say dozens of people have been killed in clashes between Buddhists and Muslims in the country's west.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

QUEST: In the past few hours, Barack Obama has arrived in New Jersey to see the aftermath first-hand. The state's governor, Chris Christie, describes the images as "unthinkable." He says Jersey's shoreline, which you can see here -- well, you don't need me to describe it.

Christie says even though it will be rebuilt, many of the iconic parts that made the shoreline what it was have been washed into the ocean. This drowned roller coaster in Seaside Heights is one example. It's not roller coasters, of course, that are important, it's infrastructure and lives, and lives more than infrastructure.

Floodwaters are damaging New Jersey's infrastructure. The neighboring state of New York have been declared disasters zones by the president, which unlocks access to federal help. The governor praised the president and said now's not the time for politics.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), N.J.: This is so much bigger than an election. This is the livelihood of the people of my state. And what they expect me to do is to get the job done. And when someone asks me an honest question, I give an honest answer.

How's the president been to deal with? He's been outstanding to deal with on this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

QUEST: Now Jason Carroll is in New York, and joins us now.

The latest situation where you are and what is really the grassroots of what's happening?

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Richard, here's the situation in Manhattan and actually not just Manhattan but Brooklyn and Queens as well. The city's trying to get back on its feet again. People are trying to get back to work. The problem is it's gridlock just about everywhere you look and as a result, this is what folks are having to do.

This is the Queensboro Bridge behind me; I'm on the Manhattan side. Queens on the other side. Since we have no subway service, since there's no train service, and buses are packed, people are basically doing it the old-fashioned way: they are walking across bridges like the Brooklyn Bridge, the Queensboro Bridge in order to try to get into the city.

If you do try to get a bus and there is some bus service taking people where they want to get to, this is the line that you have to deal with. This is just one of many that we're seeing all across the city, people lining up for hours just to try to get a bus to try to get into the city.

I want to bring in one of the commuters who's finally made it here, Brianna (ph) -- I'm told your name is Brianna (ph), yes? Tell me about your story, how long did it take you to get from point A to point B?

BRIANNA (PH): I'm actually heading home right now. I work in Midtown and it took me four hours just to get to work this morning.

CARROLL: Four hours? And so how did you get to work? Did you walk? Did you take a bus? Combination?

BRIANNA (PH): (Inaudible) I took a supposed express bus.

(LAUGHTER)

CARROLL: How express was the express?

BRIANNA (PH): Not express at all.

CARROLL: Not express at all, and so, Richard -- thank you very much, Brianna (ph).

Basically that's what a lot of folks in the city, thousands are having to deal with, Mayor Bloomberg making an announcement just a little while ago, trying to do what he can to try to ease the congestion here in the city, basically saying that starting tomorrow at 6:00 am from 6:00 am to midnight, all non (inaudible) to have at least three passengers inside their car, doing what he can to try to alleviate the gridlock here in the city.

QUEST: Jason Carroll is in New York with that update, and very graphic account of what's happening.

Incidentally, the mayor also said at a news conference that the marathon is still expected to take place on Sunday despite damage resulting from Hurricane Sandy.

The president will return to the campaign trail tomorrow, making stops in Wisconsin, Colorado and Las Vegas. Ali Velshi, who we hope has somewhat dried out since he was last on the road, has been touring some of the key states in the battleground. But he's in Ohio, a crucial state, with 18 electoral college votes that the president -- well, both sides need.

Ali?

ALI VELSHI, CNN HOST: Richard, we're going to be watching Florida, Virginia and Ohio very, very carefully. These are swing states that have big numbers. This is 18 Electoral College votes, 270 needed to win.

Right now our newest polling indicates a slight edge for President Obama. He's got one in Virginia as well. Romney's got the edge in Florida. But all of the edges are within the statistical margin of error. So these are dead heats.

Now in Ohio, this is a microcosm of America, the concerns here are the same ones that play out everywhere. First of all, jobs: I am in Youngstown, Ohio; it's almost a shell of the city it used to be. At one time, this was the second biggest steel center in the United States after Pittsburgh. But steel disappeared. There are shells of mills --

(CROSSTALK)

QUEST: Ali --

VELSHI: -- in this town.

Yes?

QUEST: I hate to be crass, but I'm going to be, and the core question that people watching -- no matter the cynics, the skeptics, the doubters, the whatever you want to call them, they want to know are we seeing any impact of Sandy on the politics? That's what people want to know.

VELSHI: Yes. Here, no. In other places, absolutely, yes, particularly in the Obama-rich northeastern states.

But President Obama, as you know, has somehow worked this out so that he's looking so presidential that even the governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, who might have been his opposite -- there were a lot of people who wanted Chris Christie to be the Republican candidate, is talking about what a great job President Obama is doing.

QUEST: Has -- again, more crassness from Quest. Has Romney played the fact that he is -- he has no role to play until now, has he played his cards well?

VELSHI: Well, he had a rally here on Saturday, which he turned into - - in Ohio, which he turned into sort of a food drive for the people of New Jersey. But there are a lot of people who say while he avoided taking jabs at the president, he has -- he didn't handle that all that well and, frankly, they're drumming up comments that he's made and that Paul Ryan's budget proposal has in it that anything that requires disaster relief spending by the federal government needs to immediately offset by spending cuts. And that simply play all that well by people who get hit by a disaster.

That said, Richard, none of this is playing all that big in Ohio right now. Their concerns, where the whole country's concerns are economic first, in Ohio, it's an even bigger deal. So at the moment, the battle in Ohio is because of -- is to determine who saved the auto industry. Was it Barack Obama or was it, you know, or was it Mitt Romney's plan that was better?

That's what's playing out here, bigger than Sandy. The only thing we've got in common with Sandy here is that it hasn't stopped raining.

QUEST: And the only thing, perhaps, in common there is that Ali Velshi is in both of them. The moral of the tale: be careful where Velshi heads. The rain will surely, a little cloud, follow. Well, Ali Velshi, good to see you in Ohio, putting it absolutely just as we wanted, understanding what's happening.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUEST (voice-over): Some international travelers are still waiting to fly in or out of New York. The city airports are no longer underwater. We will update you on that, QUEST MEANS BUSINESS, next.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MUSIC PLAYING)

QUEST: The "Business Traveller" update now, and we are going to spend a second or two talking about the airports in New York that have reopened. But it'll be sometime before travel gets in and out anything like normal again.

This is the traffic in and out of Kennedy. And you can see there's an enormous amount of traffic going in. But what, of course, happens is that they had to get the planes back into Kennedy before they could send them out again. You can't send them out if you haven't got them in.

And what we notice in the early hours of the morning was that one airline in particular took advantage of the easing of the restrictions, 10:00 pm last night, and that was JetBlue, which brought an enormous number of its planes -- and I suspect a lot of these planes that we're seeing going into Kennedy, except the internationals out here, belong to JetBlue.

Joining me now on the line is Dave Barger, the president and chief exec of JetBlue, one of the most significant largest domestic carriers. He's on Long Island.

So, thank you, Dave; good to talk to you. You're slowly but surely getting things back to normal. But it is a long way for you to get an operation up and running.

DAVE BARGER, PRESIDENT AND CEO, JETBLUE: It really is, Richard, and so nice to be speaking with you as well. And for us, I think the preplanning on the front side was very solid.

I mean, when you think about the city of New York and what was happening with the port authority moving airplanes out of harm's way, positive. And so slowly, we're now bringing our aircraft back into the New York area. e don't expect to be really back to 100 percent of operation until Saturday right now at the earliest.

QUEST: Dave, what's your understanding of the position at LaGuardia? I've heard rumors that a barge hit one of the pontoons or the approach lights, what can you tell us about LaGuardia?

BARGER: Well, I think with LaGuardia right now, we are planning an operation into LaGuardia on Thursday. So tomorrow. And, again, we don't have the final notification yet from the port authority.

But Richard, to think that that airport literally, the air side was underwater, I mean, yesterday, they've done a tremendous job. It's navigational aids, it's checking bag systems. So we're going to bring it up slowly. But we're hopeful that tomorrow we could see an operation there.

QUEST: And for you, as an airline, I mean, obviously, you had to fly the planes out when you got word that this was happening. You wanted them to be in safety. You -- I mean, it was really noticeable this morning. It was only your planes that were going into Kennedy to start the operation up again, Dave.

BARGER: Well, I tell you, Richard, this is our home. We're the largest airline at Kennedy. We're the only customer airline based in New York City. And I think our ability to really move with alacrity, we moved 66 airplanes out of the northeast on Sunday into Monday.

We had them stacked up like cordwood in places like San Juan and Ft. Lauderdale- Hollywood and Orlando and Buffalo and -- but that first airplane that came back in was a reposition out of Sacramento and the first live customer flight right after FedEx was us coming in from Long Beach. So this is our home and I think we understand the geography really well.

QUEST: It's always -- I mean, I know there will be a learning period after this takes place. What can we learn from the way this was handled? Or is it your gut feeling this was actually textbook?

BARGER: I'll tell you what, if it's not textbook, it's very close to it. Again, I think some ink still has to dry on the pages. But Hurricane Irene, Richard, 14 months ago, really helped this whole region from a preplanning perspective.

And so New York City, and you think of New York State, New Jersey, Connecticut, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the airlines, really working together, I'll tell you what, my thinking is going to be with this catastrophic event, it's going to be textbook or very near close to it.

Some really good work took place in advance and during and after the storm.

QUEST: Dave, we'll talk on happier issues on a future occasion. Thank you for joining us.

BARGER: Always a pleasure, Richard.

QUEST: (Inaudible). Many thanks indeed.

And that's the CEO of JetBlue, one of the country's largest carriers. I don't know whether we still call them low-cost carriers. They're carriers, legacies and low-cost, it all seems to be passe these days.

Now so this is an example of what's going into -- no, I was going --

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QUEST: I was about to going into Kennedy (inaudible) coming out of Kennedy. But here, Jenny Harrison, who appeared slightly startled, and none more so than me and you, the viewer.

JENNY HARRISON, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Oh, yes, hard to give us both a shock and at our age.

No, I was --

QUEST: Hey, hey!

HARRISON: I know. I know. You'll always be older than me. I know I shouldn't keep reminding viewers, should I?

Look, let me talk about (inaudible) the number of closures, what's going on. This is all that's showing up when it comes to delays. And of course, you know the reason why, Richard. So do i. It's because when you've got the airports shut, obviously it doesn't come up as actually being delayed.

It does actually say they're closed. But also because there are so few planes coming in and out of the other two major airports in New York, there aren't any delays really to talk about, because there are so few planes. So at the moment, San Francisco and Windsor Locks. So that is about it.

Now in terms of the storm system, where it is going, where is it heading next, it hasn't moved a great deal in the last 24 hours. It is very slowly edging northwards, still some rain, some sleet, some snow as well, but all of that beginning to peter out, very cloudy picture. And the winds, of course, are weakening at the same time. So this is the storm system. It is heading up towards Canada.

Now it is Canada's turn to obviously really take into account what could potentially happen, and certainly environment Canada, they have issued warnings for very heavy amounts of rain, also this strong gusty winds and even for some storm surge and all of that across in Quebec and of course as this moisture hits the colder air, we will see some snow up there as well.

Now I want to tell you still about another storm system, the remnants of Nilam. This in southern India. This, again, impacted a huge area and a big number of people. This is just one of the images from there. Now the authorities are actually they don't expect to see, hopefully, really big numbers at all when it comes to loss of life. They really did put some good plans into action.

There is about 5,000 people are actually evacuated in a very short space of time. So hopefully to get away from these floodwaters. But look at when the storm actually came on shore. A wind gust of 75 kph in Chennai and huge amounts of rain, 163 millimeters, 186 and since Sunday some areas getting onto three-quarters of a meter.

And when I tell you that this sort of rain is almost double what this region of India sees not just in October but October, November and December, because of course, now we are heading, supposedly, into the dry months.

Now the rain will continue and with the winds, still we could be seeing some of this storm surge and this inland flooding, coastal flooding certainly, across the East Coast, but also the West Coast. There's winds, of course, changing direction, coming in from the west on the West Coast. So accumulations around Mangalore.

We could see some areas, quarter a meter of rainfall and certainly on the East Coast to the north of Chennai, the same sort of situation. There it is again, just to show you those airport delays, so no real changes there.

And if you're heading in and out of Europe, well, you need to be aware again. Certain regions of the Med, we've got some warnings in place, heavy amounts of rain, some snow along the line of the Alps, but in actual fact, not particularly heavy snow but very unsettled with showers and strong winds pushing in to the northwest, Richard.

QUEST: We thank you for that. Jenny Harrison at the World Weather Center.

Ali Velshi chose the bus. I went for something a little more stylish, the California Zephyr. QUEST MEANS BUSINESS.

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QUEST: Now I took the train, as you know, from Chicago to San Francisco, to get the lie of the land ahead of the presidential election. It is my "American Quest."

And one my first stops was Iowa, a state that could go either way at the polls, if you believe. It has split the last 10 elections evenly in seven of those 10 races it voted for the winner. Iowa could be a barometer of the way other swing states may sway.

This is "American Quest."

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QUEST (voice-over): I have left Chicago.

And I'm heading west to Iowa, across the border to one of the states where Romney and the president are even.

Here we will see how the election is playing out on the plains.

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QUEST (voice-over): It's a scene straight from central casting, from the costumes to the tents, the campfires, even the right former president.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Solid shot, 1,500 yards. Passed around. Fire!

QUEST (voice-over): They're reenacting a guerilla raid in 1864, when Confederates attacked Iowa at one of the northernmost battles of the Civil War.

Today, rain almost (inaudible) the battle. But these hardy Midwesterners bravely pressed on. After all, to Kathy Kroeger, what's a bit of rain?

KATHY KROEGER, CIVIL WAR REENACTMENT ACTOR: We're doing it because we're history buffs. We like the Civil War. We like the time period. And it's something that people don't teach anymore.

LANCE MACK, "ABRAHAM LINCOLN": The Union victory certain.

QUEST (voice-over): Abraham Lincoln, that seminal president, who isn't up for election this year. No matter, we can ask this presidential pretender what Abe might have made of this year's fight.

MACK: Dismayed at the anger that is expressed on both sides of the aisle. It's difficult to understand at times how this far into the election campaign there can be people who remain undecided.

QUEST (voice-over): Difficult, perhaps, and crucial to the result.

QUEST: What's happening here is more than just a bunch of people dressing up to reenact the war 150 years ago. From this, we can actually learn something about the election in 2012. Now as then, the issue is the role of government.

HOWARD HUBBARD, CIVIL WAR REENACTMENT ACTOR: Being a student of history, I've seen the way our government's been going and the way it's been intruding more and more into the private sector.

KIRK SWANSON, CIVIL WAR REENACTMENT ACTOR: As a conservative, I believe in a smaller government with less red tape.

QUEST (voice-over): The role of government. Mitt Romney is liked here because he favors cutting back. Barack Obama is liked by others because he believes government has a role to play. On this question, the country is divided.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I like certain things that I hear over here; I like certain things that I hear over there. But it seems to be who did what wrong.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whoever wins, I hope Congress is the opposite party so they can't railroad a bunch of stuff through.

QUEST: If you were a year older and could vote...?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'd go with Romney. Obama had some great plans for everything. But I just -- I personally just don't want to see him have another term.

QUEST (voice-over): The South attacks, the North fires -- the heavy stuff. The battle, a defeat for the men in blue.

Here, they fight the violent past vigorously and the peaceful present with every bit as much fervor, always remembering, in the end, they are all Americans.

RUSTY CORDER, CIVIL WAR REENACTMENT ACTOR: Whoever wins, I hope they follow the Constitution the way it was written. The men that wrote that was pretty bright men.

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QUEST (voice-over): Battle over, guns down, which means it's time for me to leave. There's another swing state awaiting and a night's sleep on the California Zephyr.

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QUEST: And indeed, on that battleground state, it's the Frontier State, the independents and the undecideds who will make the difference. And I get the chance to swap the Iron Horse for the real thing. More after the break.

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QUEST: Tonight's "Profitable Moment," and instead tonight, we thought we would explain to you the geography of which we're talking so much about in recent days. This is the tri-state area, tri-state: New York State, Connecticut and New Jersey. And with that, the various commuter rail lines that go across, Long Island Railway, Metro North and New Jersey Transit.

But what we've been talking about most of all, of course, has been Manhattan. And when we talked about Manhattan or New York City, you're really talking about five boroughs. You know them: Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island and the one where we've seen perhaps most of the stories in recent days, it is Manhattan.

Manhattan itself is made up of a number of districts. It may be an island, but you've got uptown; you have Midtown. You've got the Village and you've got the financial district. But note and watch. The water is everywhere around Manhattan and that is what has caused the problem in recent days.

And recent as the water has gone across the bridges and the tunnels. Those bridges, the George Washington Bridge, the Brooklyn, Manhattan, Williamsburg. On the West Side and the East Side, these are the arteries that make Manhattan function and that's why when these have clogged, when these have been destroyed, that's why it has been such a major problem for the city, the city of New York.

And that is QUEST MEANS BUSINESS for tonight. I thank you for joining us. Whatever you're up to in the hours ahead, I hope it's profitable. The headlines next.

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QUEST (voice-over): The news headlines: Seven hundred patients are being evacuated from a hospital in the heart of New York. Bellevue on Manhattan's East Side has suffered a critical power failure because of flooding from the superstorm. At least 50 people have died in total across the United States from the storm.

The president is in New Jersey assessing the devastation. He'll tour the area with the governor, Chris Christie, who has praised Mr. Obama's response to the disaster. Christie is a Republican who supports the opponent, Mitt Romney.

David Cameron, the British prime minister, has lost the parliament vote on the E.U. budget after a rebellion by members of his own party. The amendment calls for real term cuts in the E.U. budget. The defeat would raise questions about his control in his own party.

And reports of new violence continue to out of Syria. Earlier a bomb went off near a Shiite shrine southeast of Damascus. The fatalities, news reports are giving different totals of the damage.

You are up to date with the news headlines. Now we go to New York, live and "AMANPOUR."

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