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AMERICAN MORNING

Iraqi Prime Minister Orders End To Some Coalition Checkpoints In Sadr City, Baghdad.

Aired October 31, 2006 - 07:00:00   ET

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


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR, AMERICAN MORNING: Welcome back everybody. It's Tuesday October 31. I'm Soledad O'Brien.
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR, AMERICAN MORNING: I'm Miles O'Brien. Happy Halloween to you. Thanks for being with us.

We begin in Iraq. Here's what new this morning. A showdown over the Shiite strong hold of Sadr City. Iraq's prime minister is ordering the end of coalition blockades aimed at bottling up the Mehdi militia, controlled by Muqtada al-Sadr, Iraq's most powerful Shiite cleric. That follows al-Sadr's nonspecific threat against the U.S.

The Pentagon is looking at increasing the size of the Iraqi security force and sending more American troops to train them; 103 U.S. troops have died in Iraq just this month.

And a horrifying story, mass murder coming out of today's testimony at the Saddam Hussein trial. We're watching that as well.

Lifting those blockades is a major shakeup of business as usual in Iraq. CNN's Arwa Damon live from Baghdad with more on this power struggle, really, between Muqtada al-Sadr and Nouri al-Maliki, the prime minister of Iraq -- Arwa.

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT, AMERICAN MORNING: Miles, good morning.

The prime minister's office just did issue an order to lift all checkpoints and blockades around Sadr City and checkpoints throughout the rest of Baghdad. However, what he means by that -- and we just received this clarity from a spokesman for the prime minister -- he means all checkpoints that have been imposed as of last Monday.

Last Monday is when a U.S. soldier was kidnapped in Baghdad. Following that, there were massive searches around the capital and towards mid-last week we saw these searches enter Sadr City and we saw these blockades placed around Sadr City. Sadr City is a Mehdi militia strong hold. That is the militia loyal to radical Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadre.

Residents have been protesting these blockades. Muqtada al-Sadr office issuing an order, or rather calling for all government employees to not go to work, ordering all shops closed. Following that, now the prime minister, himself, is ordering the blockades around Sadr City, as well as these extra checkpoints that we have seen around Baghdad, part of the search for this missing soldier to be removed by 5:00 p.m. today.

But by all counts, this does appear to be a victory for Muqtada al-Sadr and his Mehdi militia, Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Arwa Damon in Baghdad. Thank you very much.

Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Violence in Iraq is out of control. Part of the Pentagon's newest plan to get a handle on the violence calls for increasing the size of the Iraqi security forces. CNN's Barbara Starr live at the Pentagon for us this morning.

Good morning, Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT, AMERICAN MORNING: Good morning, Soledad.

Well, proposals appear to be under discussion, both here in Washington and in Baghdad, with the new Iraqi government, of course, about expanding the size of Iraqi security forces, perhaps, in particular, the Iraqi army.

It is said to be a relatively modest increase that they are looking at, perhaps 20,000 to 30,000 additional troops in the Iraqi army. All of this could mean some delay, perhaps, in bringing home a significant number of U.S. troops because, of course, what they will need to make any increase in the Iraqi army successful is more trainers, more U.S. military trainers. The goal here, again, all of this is part of an effort to get the Iraqi security forces to take over more quickly -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: So what is the strategy to get those numbers up higher and fast?

STARR: Right. There's a couple of things we are looking at, we are told. One would be to increase the budget. Increase the amount of money spent on Iraqi forces, get them better equipment, more equipment, better armor protection. Increase the levels of their capabilities. Again, put more U.S. trainers with each army unit, each Iraqi unit, get them trained up more quickly. And basically try and whatever they can to move up the timetable because that is critical.

Of course, we'll recall that General George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, last week, said he was looking to 12 to 18 months before he thought Iraqi forces could stand on their own -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Barbara Starr is at the Pentagon for us this morning. Thanks, Barbara.

At the Saddam Hussein trial today a witness told how he and 34 other Kurdish prisoners were taken to be shot by Iraqi troops back in 1988. He escaped, but prosecutors say 182,000 Kurds died at the hands of Saddam's henchmen during the Ansol (ph) campaign -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: A possible diplomatic breakthrough in the North Korea nuclear weapons crisis. The Kim Jong-Il regime apparently agreeing to return to talking with the U.S. and five other nations. CNN's Hugh Riminton with more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HUGH REMINTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT, AMERICAN MORNING (on camera): The Chinese ministry of foreign affairs has confirmed that North Korea is returning to the negotiating table. There have been talks in the last couple days here in Beijing involving the United States' Chief Envoy Christopher Hill, plus China and North Korea, essentially talking about returning to talks.

It appears that effort has borne fruit. North Korea returning to six-party talks soon. No precise date being given at this time. All of this, of course, follows North Korea three weeks ago testing a nuclear weapon despite the condemnation of the international community and U.N. Security Council sanctions that were brought to bear.

North Korea initially defiant, but all the pressure urging North Korea to return to talks have apparently led now to the point where there will be new negotiations in the North Korean nuclear crisis. Hugh Riminton, CNN, Beijing.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

S. O'BRIEN: Here at home the campaign for control of Congress, here's what's new this morning. We're one week away from the midterm elections. We have new CNN poll numbers out, just about an hour ago, on the nation's hottest races.

President Bush is making a major push. He's trying to sway some of those key House races. The best political team on TV has us covered this morning. Candy Crowley is in St. Louis, Missouri. John King's in Nashville, Tennessee and Dana Bash in Alexandria, Virginia for us.

Let's begin with the Show-Me state, Candy, good morning to you.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, AMERICAN MORNING: Good morning, Soledad.

When we're looking at the new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll, we see why they call this a battleground state. It's 49 to 49 between Republican Senator Jim Talent and his Democratic challenger Claire McCaskill.

Obviously, right now, it comes down to just about everything because anything can swing these polls. The major issue that has been out there, of course, has been the stem cell initiative that is on the ballot. Neither camp is really sure how that stem cell initiative will work for or against them.

Right now what we are focused on, both of them, is voter turnout. Jim Talent has been in the southeastern part of the state where he is very strong. Claire McCaskill spent yesterday wooing the African-American vote via radio and television. So, McCaskill going to her base, basically the urban centers and the suburban centers of St. Louise and Kansas City, while Talent goes out in the more rural areas.

Democrats say that they are making inroads there in the rural areas, but Talent believes he can hang on. So, right down to the wire here, Soledad, 49-49, hard to get much closer than that.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes, it would be. Candy Crowley for us. Thanks, Candy.

Let's turn to Tennessee now. CNN's latest poll numbers are out and show that the Republican candidate Bob Corker has opened up a bit of a lead over the Democrat Harold Ford, Jr. John King is in Nashville for us this morning.

John, of course, we've been talking over the last many days about that campaign ad. Good morning.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, AMERICAN MORNING: Good morning, Soledad -- excuse me, good morning.

Yes, this is a race that has received quite a bit of attention, most of the notoriety because of the TV ads that are quite controversial. Some say even some race baiting. A white woman in one of those ads saying she met Harold Ford, who is the Democratic candidate, who is African-American, at a Playboy party. His campaign and African-American groups have criticized that ad.

The new poll out this morning will give Republicans some cheers. It shows, among all voters, a statistical dead heat, but among the likely voters, those most likely to vote one week from today, Republican Bob Corker has opened up, according to our poll, and 8- point lead, 52 to 44 percent, over Democrat Harold Ford.

Now, Harold Ford's campaign is hoping that the polls won't matter if he gets a significant African-American turnout, above normal, come election day one week from today. And coming in tomorrow to help him with that effort is a Democratic politician with huge popularity among black voters, the former President of the United States Bill Clinton.

Bob Corker is also getting some high-profile help in the final days. First Lady Laura Bush is coming into the state. Republican Senator John McCain is coming into the state as well.

Both campaigns say the focus now, obviously, is on turning out the vote. It's quite an interesting campaign. Harold Ford says he's a moderate Democrat, a different kind of Democrat. He's been trying to criticize Bob Corker as a "stay the course" Republican. Saying that he support he president on Iraq . That's its time for a change in Washington.

Quite interesting, I talked to Bob Corker last night. And he says while he supports the war in Iraq, he says it is time for a significant strategy shift in Iraq. He says if he goes to Washington, one message he would deliver to the Republican president of the United States is, maybe it's time to get a new Defense secretary.

So, Iraq, an issue in this race, Soledad. It will go down to the end, although, Republicans are quite a bit happy this morning, encouraged anyway, by our new poll numbers.

S. O'BRIEN: Those numbers might be coming down to the battling friends of the candidate, as they make their appearances.

KING: That's right.

S. O'BRIEN: John King for us. Thanks, John.

Let's turn to Virginia now, Republican Senator George Allen is trying to hang on to his seat. The new CNN poll shows, though, that Democrat Jim Webb has a lead -- a slim lead. Dana Bash is in Alexandria, Virginia for us this morning.

Dana, good morning to you.

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT, AMERICAN MORNING: Good morning.

And things really changed, Soledad, for George Allen because of what Virginians, many of them call was his "macaca" moment, when he appeared to use a racial slur aimed at an aide to Democrat Jim Webb.

Well, in the two-plus months since that moment, George Allen has apologized, explained his remarks, but what has happened is a 16-point lead that Senator Allen has had -- had -- has evaporated. As you mentioned a new CNN poll conducted by Opinion Research Corporation shows that Jim Webb, the Democrat, has 50 percent of the vote, George Allen, 46 percent. That is a statistical dead heat.

But it does show why this race, in Virginia, just like the one in Tennessee, has become really rough and tumble. For example, Democrat Jim Webb, he is somebody who is a former Navy secretary, and had written some articles about women in combat, saying at the time, that he did not think that they belonged in combat. Well, Republicans have begun airing ads and also sent mailings out saying that he, essentially, has a problem with women.

But this is also a race about the issues as well, Soledad. Iraq looms large here, as it does everywhere. George Allen, Soledad, is one of those Republicans who's changed his tune. Used to say "stay the course". Now we talked to him over the weekend he said it's time for the administration to change their tactics in Iraq.

S. O'BRIEN: Watching that race closely, too. Dana Bash for us, this morning. Candy Crowley and John King, thanks, guys, all part of the best political team on TV.

President Bush is on the campaign trail again today. He's in Georgia; he's trying to rally the Republican vote in both Texas and Georgia. On Monday the president talked more about than just terrorism and taxes. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: For decades activist judges have tried to redefine America by court order. Just this last week in New Jersey another activist court issued a ruling that raises doubt about the institution of marriage.

We believe that marriage is a union between a man and a woman and should be defended.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

S. O'BRIEN: The president campaigns for congressional candidate Matt Collins today in Georgia. It's one of two Georgia congressional races that Republicans see as their best shot at beating incumbent Democrats.

You're going to want to catch a special two-hour edition of "The Situation Room" at 7:00 p.m. Eastern tonight. Paula Zahn will join Wolf Blitzer live from CNN Election Headquarters all this week -- Miles.

Happening this morning, that deliberately set wildfire in Southern California that killed four firefighters is now fully contained. Two men who were questioned by arson investigators have now been released.

Another food scare this morning. At last 170 people sick, 11 hospitalized in 18 states after a salmonella outbreak, contaminated lettuce or tomatoes may be to blame. But government health investigators have not yet identified a specific product or brand.

Following a government attack on a religious school in Pakistan, Islamic leaders have called for nationwide demonstrations. They blame the U.S. for the attack against suspected al Qaeda militants, which killed 80 people. The U.S. denies involvement in the strike. The villagers say the victims were innocent students and teachers.

The U.S. and it's allies conducted naval exercises in the Persian Gulf. Forces conducted a mock boarding and search of a vessel. The drill was aimed at training forces to block the transport of weapons of mass destruction and related equipment -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Some stories we're watching for you this morning, could it be a breakthrough in the North Korea nuclear crisis? An announcement out of China this morning. We'll tell you what's been said.

And on the home front, personal impact of one of the deadliest months of the war in Iraq. Those stories ahead, stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

S. O'BRIEN: Some of the top stories we're watching for you this morning, a powerful typhoon killed 10 people in the Philippines. The storm is expected to hit Vietnam later this week.

The Pentagon admits it needs to increase the number of troops in the Iraqi military. Numbers could reach into the thousands -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Overnight news, that the death toll for U.S. servicemen and women in Iraq reached 103, making October one of the deadliest months in the war. Of course, those numbers do not really tell the story. CNN's Kareem Wynter has more from California.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KAREEM WYNTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT, AMERICAN MORNING (voice over): Sergeant Norman Taylor, Blythe, California; Sergeant Lester Baracini, Bakersfield, California; Corporal Kenny Stanton, Hemet, California, just some of the faces of American servicemen killed this October, the fourth deadliest month on record for U.S. forces since the start of the Iraq war.

Gloria and Kenny Stanton just buried their son.

KENNY STANTON, SR., FATHER OF SOLDIER KILLED IN IRAQ: I've never had such a traumatic thing happen to me. I don't know how to go on.

WYNTER: Twenty-year-old Corporal Kenny Stanton, Jr., was a Hemet, California high school graduate and military police officer who wanted to make his family proud. Gloria Stanton grips her son's dog tags, a small piece, she says, of what's left of him.

GLORIA STANTON, MOTHER OF SOLDIER KILLED IN IRAQ: It's my way of feeling I have him close to my heart. I mean, he's already there, but this is a part of him that he had with him.

WYNTER: Stanton was killed in October 13, by a roadside bomb in Baghdad. Days later, still fresh with grief, the town of Hemet buckled under more crushing news.

DR. PHIL PENDLEY, SUPERINTENDENT, HEMET SCHOOL DISTR.: Well, it's just an incredible run of bad luck.

WYNTER: The death of yet another serviceman, 23-year-old hospital Corpsman, Charles Sayer, killed by enemy fire in western Iraq October 23rd. District Superintendent Doctor Phil Pendley says Sayer is the fourth hometown hero to die in combat since the war began.

PENDLEY: You think, one happened so we paid our dues, but then another one happens. And you think, well, it couldn't be us again. Now here we are at four.

WYNTER: Sadness also filled the small desert town of Blythe, California. Where 21-year-old Sergeant Norman Taylor, nicknamed "buddy", was a high school standout and cadet battalion commander, eager to serve his country.

1St SGT. GERALD EDWARDS, U.S. ARMY: He understood, that death was there. That was not an issue. I think he knew the reality of living and dying.

MICHAEL GILMORE, PRINCIPAL, PALO VERDE VALLEY H.S.: I hugged him before he left and I said, "Keep your head down, Buddy." He said, "I'm going to try." I was thinking of that.

(SOBBING)

That wasn't enough. Sometimes keeping your head down isn't enough in war.

WYNTER: Unlike their Hemet neighbors, who've lost four servicemen, residents here say this community's first war tragedy cuts deep.

(on camera): Since the start of the war in Iraq, more than 280 servicemen from California have been buried in cemeteries like this one all across the state. Each grave, a symbol of the family's grief, and some say, a reminder of the cruel casualties of war.

G. STANTON: I think of all the pain that all the families are going through, those that have lost their children. I don't want anybody to feel the same way I do right now.

(CHURCH BELLS CHIME)

WYNTER: Kareem Wynter, CNN, Hemet, California.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

S. O'BRIEN: Sad story there.

It's 18 minutes past the hour. Let's get a quick check of the weather from Chad this morning.

(WEATHER REPORT)

M. O'BRIEN: Stories we're following right now, another health scare possibly linked to produce. Plus, Andy tells us what MySpace is doing to crack down on copyright violations. That's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

M. O'BRIEN: Top stories we're looking at for you this morning, major progress in the effort to end North Korea's nuclear program, perhaps. The Kim Jong-Il regime apparently ready to return to talks with the U.S. and five other countries. This comes from the official Chinese news agency.

And NASA today will decide whether to send astronauts on another and final repair mission on the Hubble space telescope. Without those repairs the Hubble telescope will conk out before too long.

Now that they have corporate ownership YouTube and MySpace are suddenly getting a little more fussy about copyright issues and what not. Andy Serwer is here to explain.

This could change the whole tone of these place, online?

ANDY SERWER, CNN FINANCIAL CORRESPONDENT, AMERICAN MORNING: That's what a lot of people who use these web sites were afraid of and it looks like it's coming to pass.

A couple of hot websites growing up; comes the corporate crackdown at MySpace. We'll start with them. First of all, now owned by Rupert Murdock's NewsCorp. They're going to start a program of audio fingerprinting, which block users from uploading copyrighted materials. So, in other words, if you start putting on songs by Tom Petty or the Fuggies or something, on your website, without paying for it, you're going to be notified.

S. O'BRIEN: Apparently you can get around it if you play it in the background on your stereo.

SERWER: Right.

S. O'BRIEN: But if you take it out of a file, you actually have the fingerprint.

SERWER: Right. So, if you have bad quality, it's OK.

(LAUGHTER) S. O'BRIEN: Right.

SERWER: And if you frequently upload copyrighted music, you will be permanently barred from MySpace. Wow. How far they've come. No longer a kind of cutting edge icono-classic place. It's now corporate.

M. O'BRIEN: Yeah.

SERWER: Same thing we must say, about YouTube, which of course is owned by Google. Viacom has requested that the video website take down a whole slew of Viacom videos, including videos from John Stewart and Stephen Colbert. Thousands have been removed. Now there's a great irony here, because these two, YouTube and Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert sort of all fed off each other. I mean, Steven Colbert joked, for instance, that he deserved $700 million of the $1.65 billion that YouTube got from Google, because he said he was up there so much. That was his calculation. And that clip was on YouTube, and has now been removed.

M. O'BRIEN: Ah, the irony there.

SERWER: Yeah.

S. O'BRIEN: Is that a smart move? Because YouTube kind of sets this tone of popularity, right?

SERWER: I agree. I don't think this is a smart move. What are they going to do, sell that clip somewhere? They're not going to sell that clip anywhere.

S. O'BRIEN: That's a mistake.

M. O'BRIEN: You can get the clips elsewhere, on their sites, can't you?

SERWER: I don't know about that.

M. O'BRIEN: I'm pretty sure you can.

SERWER: But the YouTube, the popularity -- you can get, yes. You can get them on their sites, but YouTube has such a massive presence that you want to -- everything should be there.

M. O'BRIEN: I think you have to play with them somehow, figure out a to do it.

Andy Serwer, what's next?

SERWER: What's next? Halloween statistics, the business of Halloween. And it is a big, big, big business, getting bigger for grownups. Which I don't necessarily think is right. But we'll get into that debate later.

(LAUGHTER)

M. O'BRIEN: OK.

S. O'BRIEN: The controversy.

M. O'BRIEN: It ain't right, says Andy.

SERWER: Yes.

S. O'BRIEN: Here's a look at some of the stories we're following for you. Just seven days to go until the midterm elections. We're going to follow the money. See who is getting the most help from big business as well. Plus, we'll take you inside a prison that once held Al Capone. These days the only inmates you might find there are ghosts. Hence, the scary music.

We're back after this short break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

M. O'BRIEN: Seven days now until the midterm elections. This morning, a look at the checkbooks of big business and their influence on the fight for who controls that dome, right there.

S. O'BRIEN: Breaking news out of North Korea this morning. The country is expected to return to talks aimed at ending it's nuclear weapons program.

M. O'BRIEN: Salmonella poisoning surfacing all across the country. Lettuce and tomatoes could be making people sick. Investigation is still early on that one.

Those stories and more ahead on this AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

M. O'BRIEN: Salmonella poisoning surfacing all across the country. Lettuce and tomatoes could be making people sick. The investigation is still early on that one. Those stories and more ahead on this AMERICAN MORNING.

S. O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. It is Tuesday, October 31st. Happy Halloween.

M. O'BRIEN: No costumes for us this morning. I'm Miles O'Brien. Thanks for being with us.

(NEWSBREAK)

M. O'BRIEN: One week until the election. And while political pros are obsessed with who will control Congress, when all is said and done, turns out corporations are hedging their bets. They just want to make sure they end up, either way, with some friends in Congress.

AMERICAN MORNING's Ali Velshi is here following the money trail. Hello, Ali.

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Dressed as a morning reporter. This is my Halloween costume.

M. O'BRIEN: It looks good. I like it.

VELSHI: An investment.

All right, no big secret that Big Business favors Republicans, or has traditionally favored Republicans. But with polls showing that their friends in high places might be in some trouble leading into this election, big business has decided to cozy up with the Democrats.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VELSHI (voice-over): Corporate America likes Republicans.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRES. OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you, all.

VELSHI: For the most part, Republicans have kept hourly wages and taxes low, and they keep their hands out of business as much as possible. Republicans like corporate America, and its hefty donations. According to one mutual fund company 76 percent of the firms in the S&P 500 lean Republican in their political donations.

But with Republican fortunes flagging, corporate America is looking for some new friends. Remember, big business is big for a reason -- it's smart. It's not that corporate America wants the Democrats to win, but if they do win, Big Business doesn't want to lose.

According to a "New York Times" analysis, as the campaign entered its final month, American corporations shifted more than 10 percent of their political donations from Republicans to Democrats. Lockheed- Martin, for instance, went from being a mainly Republican supporter to being a mainly Democratic supporter, at least in October.

Still, some on Wall Street are staying solidly red. Democratic threats to raise taxes on the oil industry mean that so far this year, 83 percent of Big Oil's money has gone to Republicans. The drug companies aren't looking for new friends either. Democrats want to renegotiate the Medicare prescription drug plan.

So far this year, 69 percent of the pharmaceutical and health care industry's political donations have gone to Republicans. Restaurants and small businesses are worried about Democrats raising the minimum wage, which has been stuck at $5.15 since 1997, though Wal-Mart has been preparing for that for two years. Though, it still gives more to Republicans than Democrats, it now spreads the donation love more evenly.

Now some industries aren't just doing it to get in good with the Democrats, they actually stand to gain from a Democratic win. Life insurance companies, for instance, could get a big payout if the Democrats bring back the estate tax, because people would need more life insurance. And alternative energy companies could also get a boost from a Congress that isn't so much about Big Oil.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VELSHI: Now while the Republicans have companies that donate in a solid Republican way, the Democrats have the same thing, CostCo, Starbucks, Coach, these are all companies that have traditionally more to the Democrats. And Apple Computer and Google both give more than 90 percent of their political donations to the Democrats. They have done that traditionally.

M. O'BRIEN: So could they overthink this, and could there be some sort of backlash? Are they playing with fire here?

VELSHI: You know, even -- look at Exxon-Mobil, this is a company that has no interest in a Democratically controlled Congress, but even still, over the last 10 years, they've given seven percent of their money to the Democrats.

Companies hedge their bets, and they give them to candidates, not just the parties. So the candidate who got helped from one of these big companies is going to remember that when it comes to vote on something that has to do with an oil company or a Wal-Mart. It's the way they've always done it. It's just interesting that they're shifting over. They're not shoring up the Republicans when times are tough, they're hedging a little more.

M. O'BRIEN: Companies don't have friends; they have vested interests, so to speak.

VELSHI: That's correct.

M. O'BRIEN: All right, Ali Velshi. Thank you very much -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: More on that salmonella outbreak that's across 18 states.

CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins us this morning -- 172 people sickened, 18 states, including Wisconsin, Michigan, Arkansas. I mean, really runs the range across the nation. How unusual is this?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SR. MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, to have no discernible sort of cause yet, it's in produce, that's all we know as before when they said it was specifically in spinach, for example, and it appears to affect a lot of states. Most of the cases appear to be in Massachusetts now. So you get the sense of how an investigation begins. You start to pinpoint it. Maybe either Massachusetts, or around Massachusetts or produce that comes into Massachusetts and is cleaned, but there's a lot of different ways that this can occur when you talk about salmonella specifically, and from how it's caused.

They talked about potential contamination with spinach. Same thing with salmonella here, potentially contaminated by animals. Typically beef, poultry, milk and eggs. Also one of the difficult things here is that contaminated food will look and smell normal. So the average consumer won't be able to say, well, this might be infected. And also contact with pet reptiles and birds. Here we're pretty sure it's produce, according to what the CDC is telling us, but that's another way that it might come in as well.

S. O'BRIEN: Of the 172 people who've been sickened, I think it's 11 that are actually hospitalized, and no deaths so far. Is salmonella usually as deadly as E. coli?

GUPTA: It isn't. With salmonella and E. coli, there's lots of different strains, so you can sort of run the gamut in terms of not so bad to really bad. The really bad and the E. coli can be deadly. The H5N1 that we've talked so much about. With really bad salmonella possibly in someone who's already sick, it could be a problem. But typically the symptoms are going to be diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramps. You're going to typically need antibiotics. It will just revolve on its own. It's going to be a miserable few days for somebody. The elderly and obviously people with weakened immune systems are at more risk.

S. O'BRIEN: If you can't tell by looking at your food that it's, you know, it's turned or it's bad, how do you protect yourself against salmonella.

GUPTA: It can be hard. And that's part of the reason the CDC and THE FDA is struggling a little bit with these, because they put out these advisories, and it's a question of, well, do I not eat it?

S. O'BRIEN: Thanks for the advisory, but what do I do?

GUPTA: Yes, right. We're talking about all produce here, so what do you do with that.

There's certain things that you can do in general, cook your beef and poultry. Obviously eggs, make sure you clean those very thoroughly as well. All produce must be clean. Even though it might be triple-washed in the bag, you've got to clean it again. That's something that's important. A lot of people find it simpler just to take the produce out after it's been triple-washed and eat it. They still recommend washing that. And we say this all the time, but wash your own hands, because you can get contaminated from the produce, then touch your child.

S. O'BRIEN: If you put a piece of chicken or something on the counter, you clean the chicken, you cook the chicken thoroughly, but your counter is not clean, you could pass that along in another piece of food.

GUPTA: Yes, and you could also touch it and contaminate your kid as well, so that's a problem.

S. O'BRIEN: All right. Well, I guess that's good advice then to really just be careful.

GUPTA: Yes, we'll stay on top of this one for sure.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes, all right. Excellent. Sanjay, thanks, as always -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Coming up in the program, one week before the midterm elections, President Bush on the campaign trail again. CNN has new poll results on the nation's hottest races. Some very interesting numbers you'll want to hear.

Plus, NASA makes a move on the Hubble space telescope. Is fixing it worth the risk? We'll take a look ahead, on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

S. O'BRIEN: Of course, haunted houses are scary. Prisons can be scary. So just imagine how terrifying a haunted prison would be. We go in search of criminal ghosts on this Halloween.

Sumi Das goes in search of criminal ghosts on this Halloween. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SUMI DAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From 1829 to 1971, Philadelphia's Eastern State Penitentiary housed roughly 75,000 inmates. Dark and imposing on the outside, its walls rise like a castle, but on the inside, it's a modern ruin -- paint peels, roofs are caved in. Shawn Kelly (ph) worked at the prison since it opened for public tours in 1994.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you walk into a cell and the furniture is sitting on its side, and there's sort of this disarray of papers on floor, and you just can't help but feel someone was in the room before you walked in.

DAS: The most infamous inmate, Chicago mobster Al Capone. This is how his cell was thought to have looked when he did time in 1929. Some say the people in prison here still linger.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would say there are some actual souls trapped here. DAS: Gary Johnson volunteers as a locksmith at the penitentiary. The first time he saw a ghost, Johnson said the back of his head turned to ice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, we exist, we always have, and we're always going to be here at the prison, and then he actually winked at me, and then he just faded back into the wall.

DAS: Reporter: Even kelly, a self-professed skeptic admits if there's anyplace that would be haunted it would be here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's that quote from Edgar Allan Poe where he says, I don't believe in ghosts, but I've been running from them all my life.

DAS (on camera): The locksmith Gary Johnson has grown so accustomed to the ghosts, he's actually named them, Mr. Shadow and Smiley.

Sumi Das, CNN, in the Eastern State Penitentiary, Philadelphia.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

S. O'BRIEN: Smiley is not exactly a ghost-like name.

M. O'BRIEN: I'm not so scared.

It's kind of a Casper the Friendly Ghost thing.

M. O'BRIEN: Smiley the ghost, yes.

(WEATHER REPORT)

M. O'BRIEN: Stories we're watching for you this morning, a possible breakthrough in the North Korean nuclear crisis. And with just a week before the midterm elections, we're going to look at some key Senate races that are virtual dead heats.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

M. O'BRIEN: A big day for Hubble lovers the world over. NASA administrator Mike Griffin poised to announce in an hour or so whether he will green-light a space shuttle mission to repair and upgrade the venerable and invaluable Hubble Space Telescope. And it appears the Hubble may once again be the comeback kid of space science.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People love Hubble. It's rewritten the astronomy textbooks.

M. O'BRIEN: The 16-year-old Hubble Space Telescope may soon be thanking its lucky stars yet again. NASA appears poised to launching a shuttle crew to repair and refurbish the eagle eye above the sky for a fifth and final time.

MARIO LIVIO, SPACE TELESCOPE SCIENCE INST.: There is no question in my mind that this is worth the risk, and I, of course, am very hopeful that this is what the administrator will decide.

M. O'BRIEN: Astronomer Mario Livio has worked with Hubble since the very beginning. He was among hundreds of scientists crest fallen when former NASA administrator Sean O'Keefe pulled the plug on repairing Hubble in the wake of the Columbia accident in February of 2003.

LIVIO: Initially it was difficult to swallow and to understand.

M. O'BRIEN: O'Keefe's concern? Hubble is nowhere near the International Space Station, and the crew would have no place to wait for a rescue mission if their orbiter was damaged and unsafe for re- entry.

SEAN O'KEEFE, FMR. NASA ADMINISTRATOR: It raises the risk substantially higher than any other mission that would go to the International Space Station, which is what all the rest of them are until we retire the shuttle.

M. O'BRIEN: But the man who led the Columbia accident investigation believes a trip to the space station is not inherently safer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And here they come.

M. O'BRIEN: The real risk is whether to launch at all.

ADM. HAROLD GEHMAN (RET.), COLUMBIA ACCIDENT INVESTIGATION: If you ask the question, should we go to the International Space Station or should we go to the Hubble, it's a toss-up. But if you ask the administrator of NASA, should I go to the Hubble or stay home, well, it's infinitely more risky to go to the Hubble than stay home, obviously.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And liftoff of Space Shuttle Atlantis.

M. O'BRIEN: Now that NASA has flown two post-Columbia missions without big pieces of foam flying off the external fuel tank, it's proven it can thoroughly inspect an orbiter in space, and has tried out some heat shield repair techniques. The agency appears poised to reverse O'Keefe's decision. From day one, his successor, Mike Griffin, has said fixing Hubble should be a priority.

MICHAEL GRIFFIN, NASA ADMINISTRATOR: We very much want to do a Hubble repair mission.

M. O'BRIEN: And any astronaut worth his or her salt feels the same way.

JEFF HOFFMAN, FMR. ASTRONAUT: You're taking a considerable risk, which all of us have known about and we've all accident, when we strap ourselves onto the top of a rocket which contains as much energy as a small atomic bomb.

M. O'BRIEN: Former astronaut Jeff Hoffman was a spacewalker on the first Hubble repair mission in 1993. He and his crew mates fixed the flaw in the telescope that left its vision hopelessly blurry. The three repair missions that followed have radically improved Hubble's ability to see to the very edge of the universe, capturing galaxies in formation, planets and our own solar system, and crumbling comets.

HOFFMAN: When I look at the incredible scientific results and the impact that it's had on the public, I have to say, it's worth it more than almost any other mission that the shuttle has flown.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

M. O'BRIEN: Now, Hubble can see back in time. And of course, we had to see back in time to find some old footage of previous Hubble repair mission. Look what we stumbled across here. This is from 1993, young reporter here at CNN. Let's watch real quickly.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

M. O'BRIEN (voice-over): Hubble's ground-based masters will spend about two months fine tuning the mirrors and machinery installed during this repair mission. Only then will we know for sure if the space telescope can do what it was explore the outer edges of the universe.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

M. O'BRIEN: That's the outer edge of the universe right there for me.

S. O'BRIEN: Your hair was a solid four inches higher.

M. O'BRIEN: I had a chinchilla, pet chinchilla which I kept on my head at that time.

Anyway...

S. O'BRIEN: When was that?

M. O'BRIEN: That was 1993, the first Hubble repair mission.

By the way, if they do this mission, they're going to replace the batteries and the gyros, and put in two instruments, and it should be good at least until 2013. So we'll keep you posted as that decision come out.

S. O'BRIEN: And we'll run your old videotape again, too, because that's priceless.

M. O'BRIEN: Haven't changed a bit.

S. O'BRIEN: Ahead this morning, control of Congress is at stake one week from today. We got some new poll results to share with you, to say which candidates have the edge.

And searching for weapons of mass destruction at sea. U.S. and allies are in a critical test. More news straight ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

(BUSINESS HEADLINES)

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