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September 27th, 2012
11:02 AM ET


While AMC’s “Breaking Bad” has viewers enthralled with the drug trade, the United States is engaged in a highly serious and expensive battle with narcotics, and no fans in sight. The bill has reached a combined $30 billion so far this year, and 1.2 million Americans have been arrested for drug related offenses. It’s clear that the war on drugs is failing. Combating drugs is a major issue this election year, so how would President Obama or Mitt Romney handle drug policy over the next four years. John Zarella explores the issue.

President Obama and Mitt Romney agree on one thing in this election, the war on drugs must be won by communication and prevention.

Romney has said, "The President of the United States must make a priority of helping reduce demand in this country and communicating to our young people, and older people that when they use these illegal drugs, they are contributing to the deaths of people around the world."

President Obama has said, "The United states can focus on drug treatment and prevention and helping people with addiction."

Filed under: 2012 • 2012 election
September 27th, 2012
10:57 AM ET

Erin McLaughlin on J.K. Rowling's new novel for adults: customers driven by curiosity

The author who made “Harry Potter” a household name has now cast her wand on adults. J.K. Rowling’s highly anticipated new novel, “The Casual Vacancy”, hits shelves today. A million copies have already been sold. CNN’s Erin McLaughlin joins “Early Start” live from a bookstore in London this morning where the book has just gone on sale.                

McLaughlin got her hands on the copy just like anybody in the U.K. can, lining up at the local bookstore. So far, “we have not seen the kind of frenzy here in the U.K. that we saw for the launches from the ‘Harry Potter’ series,” McLaughlin says. The long lines are missing. “Customers seem to be driven primarily by a curiosity to see what Rowling has in store for them next,” she says.

Rowling has herself said, “I have gone from dragons and unicorns and all the fun that’s involved in writing that, to a book that’s intensely personal that expresses a lot of my reality,” in an interview with ABC.

Filed under: Book
September 27th, 2012
10:43 AM ET

CNN's Jason Carroll on NFL deal with referees: 'refs really got the better end'

 A sigh of relief.

The NFL lockout is officially over. Monday night’s wrong call seems to be the league's last straw and finally compelled the NFL to come to a new eight-year collective agreement with the referees last night. This means the replacement refs are off the field and the regulars are back on when the Baltimore Ravens host the Cleveland Browns tonight. Jason Carroll joins Zoraida Sambolin and Alina Cho on “Early Start” this morning with more on the settlement.

 The agreement seemed inevitable after Monday night’s play. “There was definitely a lot of incentive to get back to the table and to get this thing fixed,” with “both sides working late into the night to make sure that they can get a deal that both sides would be happy with,” Carroll reports. While there were compromises on both sides, “I think it’s clear that the refs really got the better end of the deal,” Carroll says. They will keep their pensions and receive a pay bump.

 The unprecedented eight-year deal was finally reached after intense pressure from the outside. “It was really the pressure coming in from the fans, from everyone watching NFL, to really get this done,” Carroll says.

Filed under: Sports
September 27th, 2012
10:28 AM ET

CNN Foreign Affairs Reporter Elise Labott on Israel and Iran at the U.N. General Assembly

World leaders have gathered at the U.N. in New York City to discuss global issues all week for the U.N. General Assembly.

President Obama addressed the General Assembly earlier this week and issued a strict warning against a nuclear Iran. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had his turn at the podium yesterday. Today, Palestinians are expected to ask for expanded status in the U.N., followed by a speech from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. CNN Foreign Affairs Reporter Elise Labott joins Zoraida Sambolin and Alina Cho on “Early Start” with a preview of today’s U.N. General Assembly proceedings. 

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas made a dramatic stand for full statehood at the U.N. when he addressed the General Assembly last year. This year, he is expected to campaign for observer status, Labott says. Many are viewing Prime Minister Netanyahu’s address as his “final warning on Iran.” “I think he’s going to warn the world about Iran’s nuclear program,” Labott says.

Surprisingly enough, President Ahmadinejad’s speech yesterday was far more muted than Labott had predicted. “Instead, he talked about that new world order that he sees, when the world powers would have less influence,” Labott. The irony also lies in the fact that “Iran is a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, Israel is not.” There is now a fear of a possible nuclear race in the Middle East if Iran becomes nuclear, since Israel is already nuclear. Labott says that many countries are saying they must “address this double standard and have a nuclear free Middle East, and Israel doesn’t even want to talk about it.”

Filed under: U.N. General Assembly
September 25th, 2012
10:31 AM ET

Christine Romans takes an in depth look at the issues of 2012: Paying for College

Christine Romans delves into the issue of college tuition and student debt this morning, an issue at the forefront of the election for young Americans. She speaks with Jackie Giovaniello, who graduated from Brown University this year and decided not to head straight to medical school. Jackie instead took a research job at Sloan-Kettering Hospital to help pay off her student loans, which adds up to $100,000. "It's nice to have a paying job, full-time, where I can pay back part of my student loans before going to med school and possibly adding on a lot more," Jackie says.

Jackie is burdened with this enormous debt because she didn’t qualify for many grants. Her middle class family is considered too wealthy under the current standards, yet not wealthy enough to afford the tuition of over $50,000 per year for Brown. "When you're in the middle class, you are a normal suburban family. But you just don't make an outrageous amount of money so you can't pay for these outrageous prices for tuition, you know," says Giovaniello. She’s one of many young people with the same predicament; the reason student loan debt hit $1 trillion last year and became a key issue in the election.

Romans explains President Obama’s present actions and second term proposals to alleviate the burden as well as Mitt Romney’s plans to help students. While the candidates have widely differing solutions, the students see one problem. They feel left out in the cold.

"A lot of people who don't have students in college or don't have kids my age just think that, oh, you're either wealthy enough to go to college or you get financial aid from the government. It's that simple,” Giovaniello says. “But it's not that simple.”

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Filed under: 2012 election • College • Education
September 25th, 2012
10:24 AM ET

CNN Political Reporter Peter Hamby on foreign policy in the Romney campaign: 'taken over the economy'

Foreign policy is the focal issue in New York City and the election now with the opening of the U.N. General Assembly underway today. President Obama will be under scrutiny while delivering two speeches today, one at the U.N. General Assembly and the other following a speech by Mitt Romney at the Clinton Global Initiative meeting. CNN Political Reporter Peter Hamby reports live from Washington with details.

Romney is taking the opportunity to distance himself from his recent gaffes and target Obama on his foreign policy. “This has really taken over the economy as the main thrust of the Romney campaign message,” Hamby says. “The goal here is to paint President Obama as weak, as projecting weakness overseas.”

Hamby also touches on the president’s address to the U. N. General Assembly today. He has an advantage and a burden as president today. “The president has to sooth anxieties both here and overseas about the Middle East. But, you know, politically, he gets to look presidential,” Hamby says. “Mitt Romney doesn’t get to step in front of the U.N. General Assembly, the president does.”

September 25th, 2012
10:18 AM ET

CNN Foreign Affairs Reporter Elise Labott on Obama's appearance on 'The View': 'A little foolish'

Tuesday marks the opening of the U.N. General Assembly and the world’s spotlight will be on President Obama. The President is expected to speak to the U.N. General Assembly about the recent unrest in the Middle East, the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya and issue a new warning to Iran over its nuclear program. Even with all this international bedlam, however, the president is not slated to meet with any international leaders, yet he made an appearance with the First Lady on “The View.” CNN Foreign Affairs Reporter Elise Labott joins John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin on “Early Start” this morning with more on the president’s address.

Labott says that the President will touch on the anti-American protests raging across the Middle East in recent weeks. "Secretary Clinton was speaking to the Clinton Global Initiative yesterday, and she kind of previewed what the president was going to say about the need to not have extremists hijack the Arab Spring,” Labott says. “[Obama] has to voice U.S. outrage in this video decrying the prophet Mohammed, but at the same time say violence is not the answer and we need to really think about how the Arab Spring should go forward," adds Labott.
Berman points out that Secretary Clinton has been meeting with global leaders to do her part while President Obama is campaigning on "The View.” “It looked a little foolish for the president to be talking about some of the issues on “The View” with the girls on the couch, while Secretary was meeting with all of these leaders about all of these important issues yesterday,” Labott says.

While it is campaign season, Labott says the president is banking on his foreign policy credentials of ending the war in Iraq or killing Osama bin Laden, which could be better applied on meeting with world leaders. “It just seemed a little weird that here had this world stage to show how important he was as a world statesman and here he is talking on ‘The View’.” Labott says, “It might have been a little bit error in judgment, or his aides might have advised him a little badly on this one, because it does make a difference.”

September 25th, 2012
08:10 AM ET

Best Advice: Forest Whitaker

Oscar winning actor Forest Whitaker gives us some good advice he received from his mother.

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Filed under: Best Advice
September 24th, 2012
11:59 AM ET

Jim Walsh on Ahmadinejad's interview with Piers Morgan and his upcoming speech at the U.N. General Assembly

Over 100 heads of state and world leaders are descending to New York City for the 67th annual U.N. General Assembly. President Obama and Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai are scheduled to speak tomorrow, while Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is scheduled to take the podium Wednesday morning.

On Sunday, Ahmadinejad spoke to CNN's Piers Morgan where the Iranian President slammed an anti-Islam film and the deadly protests it triggered in the Muslim world. This morning on “Early Start” International Security Analyst Jim Walsh weighs in on Ahmadinejad’s interview and who the Iranian president will meet with while he is in New York City.

Walsh says he is used to Ahmadinejad granting “softer” interviews and then delivering a “fiery speech” at the U.N. assembly. “I think you can expect the full gamut, the full range of remarks. Some will be conciliatory, some will be inflammatory,” Walsh adds.

Walsh also weighs in on Israel’s statement that Iran is six months away from a nuclear bomb. “The International Atomic Energy Agency is in [Iran’s] nuclear facilities almost on a weekly basis issuing reports every three months.” “Iran is the most watched nuclear country in the world. Its not just the U.S. its not just Israel… we’re all focused watching every move that Iran makes. So, do we know everything? No. But we have a pretty good idea” Walsh adds.

Filed under: U.N. General Assembly
September 24th, 2012
11:36 AM ET

CNN's Elise Labott on the U.N. General Assembly and Obama's decision not to hold private meetings with world leaders

The world is headed to New York City this week for the 67th annual United Nations General Assembly. The session is scheduled to begin tomorrow where President Obama will speak exactly six weeks before the U.S. election. Obama will however skip traditional private meetings with foreign counterparts but will be appearing on the TV talk-show "The View" on Monday with his wife. Instead Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be holding meetings with some of the visiting world leaders. CNN’s Elise Labott joins “Early Start” this morning to discuss the latest.

Clinton “is going to be meeting with the president of Libya today to talk about how they would protect U.S. diplomats in Tripoli in the wake of that consulate attack,” says Labott. “She’s going to be meeting with the presidents of Yemen, Tunisia – no one is going to be meeting with President Morsi,” adds Labott.

Labott further explains that while past presidents running for re-election have held Bilateral Meetings at UNGA, President Obama is “not really inclined to.” Labott says, “I think what’s happening right now is you see a lot of criticism from Prime Minister Netanyahu of President Obama about doing what he said …these red lines on Iran – how far would Iran go before the U.S. would get involved? President Obama not really inclined to give… Prime Minister Netanyahu a meeting and so [Obama’s] not meeting anybody.”

– CNN’s Elise Labott reports

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