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Chinese Food: Cardboard in Buns; Runway Close Calls; Beckham's Kids: Star's Soccer Academy

Aired July 13, 2007 - 06:00   ET





ROBERTS: Democrats launch a new attack over Iraq.


PELOSI: We are taking a giant step forward in bringing that war to an end.


ROBERTS: The president sticks to his guns.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't think Congress ought to be running the war. I think they ought to be funding our troops.


ROBERTS: Pressure building on both the U.S. and the Iraqi governments on this AMERICAN MORNING.

And good morning to you. It is Friday, the 13th of July. Not a great day for all of those parakavidekatriaphobia out there.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: I really have to give you props for being able to say that this morning. I had trouble with triskadekaphobia, which is only being afraid of the number 13.

ROBERTS: The number 13. Yes. To be afraid of Friday the 13th is parakavidekatriaphobia.

CHETRY: Bless you.

ROBERTS: Thank you for that.

I'm John Roberts, along with Kiran Chetry. Thanks for joining us on this Friday. CHETRY: And on our radar today, America's news idols, if you want to call them that, are waking up in California this morning. Boy, you would think royalty was arriving. This is David and Victoria Beckham. Of course, superstars over there across the pond in the U.K. Posh Spice, of course, is what she was formerly known as. Well, they now live in America and they arrived in L.A. last night. He's about to start a huge, high-paying soccer career here. Can he re-energize the sport? He's already inspiring some young kids. So we'll show you how.

ROBERTS: Or could it all be over very soon? Because as you'll see, he's on the cover of "Sports Illustrated" magazine. And typically that's the kiss of death for anybody's career.

CHETRY: We'll see if he can buck the trend.

ROBERTS: And they're calling it -- it's either the Americanization of David Beckham or the Beckhamization of America. Which one is it going to be.

Also, a rough day for one local television reporter. Take a look at this. Her attempt to get an interview with the father of a man just sent to prison, whoa, ends up on the ground. We'll give you the full story on what happened there. Stay with us.

CHETRY: He looked like, for a second, he thought, maybe I should go back. No, there it is.

ROBERTS: Well, maybe he thought, oh, I'm really in trouble. Maybe I should go attend to her. And then he thought, no. It turned out that the guy was in trouble.

CHETRY: Better get out.

Well, we begin, though, with the showdown over Iraq. The Democratic controlled house voting to withdrawal U.S. combat troops by next spring. The president saying that Congress should stick to funding the war, not managing it. A bill passed last night in the House and it would require troops to begin withdrawing within four months and for that withdrawal to be completed by April 1, 2008.


REP. NANCY PELOSI, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Iraq is an obstacle to our having a full fledged war on terrorism, with the focus on Afghanistan and other places. With this legislation, sponsored and led by -- authored and led by Chairman Skelton, we are taking a giant step forward and bringing that war to an end.


CHETRY: The House bill is unlikely to survive a Republican filibuster in the Senate. And even if it does, President Bush has already promised he would veto it.

ROBERTS: More details are emerging this morning from a leaked classified intelligence report about the strength of al Qaeda. Sources tell CNN, the report shows that al Qaeda has increased efforts to get terrorists inside the United States and has nearly all of the capabilities to make it happen. The head of Homeland Security said this week that his gut told him an attack could happen this summer. Yesterday the president was asked what his gut told him.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Tells me that -- my head tells me as well -- is that when we find a credible threat, I'll share it with people to make sure that we protect the homeland. My head also tells me that al Qaeda's a serious threat to our homeland and we've got to continue making sure we've got good intelligence, good response mechanisms in place.


ROBERTS: The president also repeatedly stressed the importance of taking on al Qaeda in Iraq as he unveiled an interim report that found the Iraqi government had made progress on eight of 18 benchmarks set by Congress. Let's get a reality check on that now from CNN's Michael Ware. He joins us live in Baghdad.

Michael, you've heard what's in the report. How does that square with what you see on the ground there in Iraq?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, John.

Look, what I have to say is that the authors of this report are far more generous than I would ever be in making my assessment of the situation here on the ground. I mean, for example, to suggest that there's been satisfactory progress in the area of sectarian violence is quite a stunning claim to be made by the White House.

OK. Here in Baghdad, they're finding less bodies on the streets each morning tortured and executed, but we're still balking about 500 or 600 each month. Now that's just in the capital. That does not account as a measure for what else is happening in toward sectarian violence elsewhere in the country.

It almost dishonors the suffering of the Iraqi people here to say that because, bear in mind, too, in the past 12 months since the Samarra bombing, hundreds of thousands, literally hundreds of thousands, about 50,000 Iraqis a month have been fleeing this country or have been displaced. So there are simply less targets for the sectarian violence. Some of the neighborhoods that were once mixed are now homogenous. The ethnic cleansing has been successful. There's no Shia left in some suburbs to attack or vice versa with Sunni.

And, finally, we're seeing the American military is now allowing some Sunni neighborhoods to have their own Sunni militias. As long as these militias agree to target al Qaeda, they're allowed to operate with U.S. support. The flip side is, if there's a Sunni militia in your neighborhood, the police death squad can't get to you. So it really is an inaccurate reflection of reality. John.

ROBERTS: And, Michael, is there any sign that this so-called surge is working and is there any reason to believe that things will be markedly better by the time that General Petraeus delivers his report in two months?

WARE: Yes, look, it's an extraordinarily difficult things to gauge, whether this surge is, in fact, working or not. Now, don't forget, the surge is just the capital of Baghdad. And in some of the fertile presence that surrounds it. It's not the rest of the country and it's not the complete answer to the country's questions.

Now, General David Petraeus, the American war commander here in Iraq running the operation, is keeping his indicators close to his chest. He's not telling people what are the things he's judging the success or measuring the success of this surge by. Why? Because if he tells everybody what those measures are, then the insurgents and the Iranian-backed Shia militia are going to go and attack those numbers. They'll specifically try and skew the picture that he'll be able to present to Congress and he doesn't want that.

Nonetheless, for example, the deadly EFP roadside bombs that punch through American armor with ease have doubled in the last three months. We're still seeing American soldiers killed at roughly the rate of three a day. And as the second most powerful general in this country said, our enemies are surging while we are surging. So it's a tough call.


ROBERTS: All right. Michael Ware for us live in Baghdad this morning.

Michael, thanks.

And we're going to talk more about Iraq with two congressional leaders this morning. Rahm Emanuel, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, joins us in the 7:00 hour. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will be with us in our 8:00 hour.


CHETRY: Well, also new this morning, North Korea wants one-on- one talks with the U.S. military as part of negotiations over their nuclear program? An unusual request that comes amid recent progress on ending the nuclear standoff. Tomorrow, a team of U.N. inspectors arrives to oversee the shutdown of a nuclear reactor in the north. The U.S. has said it will begin peace talks, possibly hopes of a peace treaty with North Korea, as soon as the country gives up its nuclear weapons program.

And Iran now saying it will allow U.N. inspectors to visit a reactor that's currently being built. A reactor that could produce plutonium. This came after two days of talks between Iran and the IAEA. That's the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog group. U.S. beef is back on the market again in South Korea this morning, but not everyone's happy about it. American beef was banned in the country since December 2003 after an outbreak of mad cow disease. But take a look at these pictures. These are angry protests in Seoul. In fact, one shop decided to pull the meat from its shelves in protest.

ROBERTS: A typhoon is hitting Japan at this hour. Check out this amazing iReport video just in. This is from the southern island of Okinawa. Violent winds and heavy rain flipped over trucks and knocked down trees and power lines. Hundreds of flights are grounded in the region. The typhoon is now heading up Japan's Pacific Coast.

Here in the United States, wildfires are burning in at least a dozen western states, with more thunderstorms and high temperatures expected today. In Utah, firefighters are working to keep the Milford Flat Fire from jumping containment lines. So far more than 350,000 acres wiped out there.

A flash flood watch is in effect for much of eastern Oklahoma right now. More rain is expected to hit the Tulsa area today and throughout the weekend. Police say an 80-year-old man drown late yesterday when his pickup truck was washed from a road near Davenport.

CHETRY: And time now to get a look at what's new this morning with our AMERICAN MORNING team of correspondents. They've been working these stories for us. We begin with Chad Myers. He's tracking this morning's extreme weather.

Good morning, Chad.


CHETRY: Now Friday the 13th starts out lucky, at least for some investors. The Dow with its biggest point gain in nearly five years. Our Ali Velshi is following that for us.

Are you superstitious, Ali?

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, there are some reasons why you might want to check your portfolio as soon as you get into work this morning. The Dow and the S&P both closing at record all-time highs. The Dow closing at its highest point, 13,861. Kiran, that's 3,000 points higher than it was a year ago.

As you said, it's the biggest point gain in nearly five years. If you like percentages more than points, it's the biggest percentage gain in nearly four years and the 50th record close for the Dow in the last nine month. All 30 Dow stocks were high.

By the way, Exxon Mobil became the first company ever to be worth more than half a trillion dollars. Does it continued today on Friday the 13th? We'll get earnings from GE in a couple hours. We're keeping a close eye on oil. The price of oil dropped below $73 a barrel today. I'll be on this all morning and keep an eye on your portfolio at the same time. Kiran.

CHETRY: All right, Ali, thank you.

There's also a new development this morning in the search for a missing Illinois woman. It's a case that's had a strange -- a few strange twist, in fact, and Alina Cho has been following the developments for us. She joins me now with more.

Hi, Alina.


First, there was that video that surfaced of a popular TV reporter in a swimsuit at the home of that missing woman's estranged husband. Now that husband has been named a person of interest and he is not cooperating with police. The family of the missing woman spoke out to "Larry King Live" last night. We'll have that story coming up.


CHETRY: Alina, thank you.

ROBERTS: In Connecticut, a reporter gets put in the middle of a story as Erin Cox tries to question the father of an alleged Internet predator who was just sentenced to prison. The father hits her, knocking her to the ground. David Shefelbine was arrested for breach of peace and later released. His son, Scott, was sent back to prison for violating the terms of his release by meeting with a 14-year-old girl.

CHETRY: John McCain, is he running on empty? That tops our "Quick Hits" now. CNN has learned that McCain's presidential campaign has only about $250,000 left. Sources say the campaign has nearly $2 million in debt, all by wiping out its cash on hand.

The former mayor of Newark, New Jersey, facing 33 counts of fraud against the city that he used to run. Prosecutors say Sharpe James charged tens of thousands of dollars on city credit cards to pay for vacations for himself and female companions.

And a blackmail beauty queen survives a scandal and turns out on top. We'll tell you what Miss New Jersey did to keep her crown, come up.


ROBERTS: An expanded investigation into pro wrestler Chris Benoit's doctor tops your "Quick Hits." A tip led investigators to 68 boxes of old files, including patient files and billing statements. Dr. Phil Astin is already charged with writing bad prescriptions, but nothing related to the death of Benoit.

The man at the center of a tuberculosis scare is now at the center of a class action suit. That tops your "Quick Hits" as well. Eight people who shared a flight with Andrew Speaker have now sued him. Speaker ignored doctors advice and traveled abroad to get married, potentially exposing travelers to his tuberculosis.

Confirmation hearings for surgeon general nominee, Dr. James Holsinger, focused on his views on homosexuality. Holsinger said he would serve all Americans and that his views have changed since 1991 when he wrote a paper calling homosexuality, "unnatural."

CHETRY: All right. We'll see if he makes it through.

Well, as we just told you, there are new developments this morning in the search for a missing Illinois woman. It's a case that's had a couple of very strange twists, including one reporter let go from her job because she was videotaped in a swimsuit outside of the husband of this missing woman's home. Alina Cho is following this for us.

CHO: That's right. And now there's another big develop, Kiran.

You know, police have named the estranged husband of that missing woman, Craig Stebic, as a person of interest and worth. Authorities believe Lisa Stebic, who's been missing for 10 weeks now, was a victim of foul play.

Now this comes just day after that video surfaced of a popular TV reporter wearing a swimsuit in the backyard of Craig Stebic's home. As you can see, she's wrapped in a towel there. Reporter Amy Jacobson had been covering the story and says she was visiting to the house and was just aggressively pursuing a source and trying to get to know the family.

Now the video was shot on a rival TV station on Friday, but it was actually held for release until this Tuesday. Jacobson, the reporter, has been fired. But police say the incident has no bearing on the investigation.

Now Lisa Stebic was last seen on April 30th. She and her husband were going through a divorce but they were still living together with their two children. On the day she disappeared, she had mailed a petition seeking to remove her husband from her home and Craig Stebic is believed to be the last person who saw her.


MELANIE GREENBURG, STEBIC FAMILY SPOKESWOMAN: Well, I know he was the last person to see her that day. I don't know what happened to Lisa. All I know is that there's no way that she would leave her two, precious children. Something has happened to Lisa. What exactly that something is, I don't know. But our family needs closure. We need to find out what has happened to Lisa. We need to get to the bottom of this mystery.


CHO: Now police say Stebic has been less than uncooperative and has twice refused to allow police to interview his two children, who authorities believe may have critical information about their mother.


CHETRY: That is really a sad situation. And it's developed into an even more sad situation because they think that, you know, she met some sort of foul play. Do they have any reason to believe that Craig Stebic and this reporter were involved in any way?

CHO: Well she emphatically denies it. In fact, she accuses the rival TV station that shot that video of her in her swimsuit of implying that there was some sort of romantic relationship. She says her husband has been completely supportive. And what's interesting, Kiran, about this, is that even the people who dislike her, those who like her and dislike her, admit she's extremely aggressive. She gets lots of exclusives and she'll do just about anything to get a story. What's ironic in this case is that it was a rival TV station that got the scoop.

CHETRY: That's right and then held it for two days and put it over there after the weekend.

CHO: They got proper promotion and then held it until Tuesday.

CHETRY: All right. Keep following that case for us. It's a really interesting one. Thank you, Alina.

CHO: All right. You bet.

ROBERTS: Nineteen minutes after the hour.

Miss New Jersey will get to keep her crown. Pageant officials made their decision yesterday after Amy Polumbo went public with pictures that were used to blackmail her. They weren't nude photos, but Polumbo admits they did show her acting in an unladylike manner. When it was over, she thanked people for their support.


AMY POLUMBO, MISS NEW JERSEY: I want to thank the public and the media for treating me so well and for believing in me. And I also want to thank God for getting me through this. Thank you.


ROBERTS: Polumbo will keep her $10,000 scholarship and compete in the Miss America Pageant.

CHETRY: Well, a massive, two alarm industrial fire in Phoenix tops your "Quick Hits" now. This fire burned through hundreds of wooden pallets and then it spread to a row of tractor-trailers. You can see the flames just enormous. It took about 90 firefighters most of the night to get it under control. Investigators say they believe it was sparked by a blown transformer.

Well, cooler heads have prevailed in the case of a cow ticketed for mooing too loudly. The prosecutor decided not to go -- the owner -- well, they decided not to go after the owner of Wally (ph). This was a 900-pound cow from Minnesota. The whole beef started when a neighbor complained about Wally's mooing.

Well, call it the tiara tisk. What happened during a high- profile photo shoot with Queen Elizabeth and what the BBC is saying about it this morning. We have the latest next on AMERICAN MORNING.


CHETRY: Team sex tops our "Quick Hits" now. There's a new report out with some positive news showing that fewer teens are having sex. And when they do, more are using condoms. Health officials say that the teen birth rate has also hit a record low, as well as a record low of sexually transmitted diseases and more teens are graduating from high school.

Well some of those teens should head to New York. The off Broadway show, "My First Time," is giving away free tickets to virgins. A hipmatist will apparently be on hand to make sure that people, in fact, are virgins.

And two elephants got lose from the circus in New Market, Ontario, Canada. They roamed the neighborhood for a while before trainers were able to get them back. Someone accidentally disconnected the power from the electric fence holding them in. The only injury was to a small tree. It was uprooted and then eaten.


ROBERTS: Well, it's not often that you see the queen with such a surprised look on her face. And here's the back story here. The head of the BBC says that he's not going to step down, even after he had to apologize to Queen Elizabeth. It all had to do with the queen, her crown and an American photographer. ITN's Nina Nannar has more.


NINA NANNAR, ITN REPORTER: It is the jewel in the crown of the BBC's fourth coming schedule. But this trailer for their documentary, "A Year With the Queen," shown to journalists, got it badly wrong. This is what was shown of her royal photo shoot with Annie Leibovitz.

ANNIE LEIBOVITZ: I think it would look better without the crown. Less dressy. The garter robe is so (INAUDIBLE).

QUEEN ELIZABETH: Less dressy! What do you think this is? I'm not changing anything. I've had enough dressing like this, thank you very much.

NANNAR: She appears to have walk out. But this is how the trailer should have been edited.

QUEEN ELIZABETH: I'm not changing anything. I've had enough dressing like this, thank you very much.

NANNAR: This was actually the queen on the way to the photo shoot, not leaving it in an apparent huff, as was shown.

LEIBOVITZ: The garter robe is so (INAUDIBLE).

QUEEN ELIZABETH: Less dressy! What do you think this is?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I strike back to our main story that the BBC has apologized to the queen. The apology . . .

NANNAR: After the palace contacted the BBC, the broadcaster issued an embarrassing an embarrassing, on air apology. In a statement it said, "the BBC would like to clarify that the clips shown were not intended to provide a full picture of what actually happened or what will be shown in the final programme. The BBC would like to apologize to both the Queen and Annie Leibovitz for any upset this may have caused.

ROBERT LACEY, ROYAL BIOGRAPHER: You know, like us all, she has bad days. And I think that day it was a pretty bad day, you know, and maybe, you know, putting all that gear on, the robes, the dress underneath, having the tiara carefully placed by the hair dresser beforehand. And, you know, being asked to -- can you take off the crown? I think that was the last straw for the queen.

NANNAR: The apology, however, did not come in time to stop these headlines. The apparent "Storming Out," a widely reported "Royal Wobbler," even "A Very Royal Flounce."

Nina Nannar, ITV News.


CHETRY: Isn't that unbelievable? Just the way that it's edited, showed her walking. It appears she . . .

ROBERTS: A royal wobbler. I love the idea, too, that they say the story wasn't designed to give you the full picture. What were they trying to do?

CHETRY: Right. Yes, exactly.

ROBERTS: Isn't that the goal of news, is you give people the whole picture?

CHETRY: It should be, for sure.

Well, an undercover video that was shot shows a sting in China. Food laced with cardboard instead of pork. When they were confronted about it, what did the people who made these dumplings say about it? You're not going to believe what they said. We're going to go live to Beijing to show you more on this, coming up on AMERICAN MORNING.


CHETRY: And good morning. It's 6:30 on the East Coast this morning, including in Miami. This picture coming to us from WPLG. It's already 80 degrees in Miami. Getting about 10 degrees hotter, a little chance of some isolated thunderstorms in the afternoon. But what a pretty shot this morning on the water.

And welcome. It is Friday. It's Friday the 13th, by the way.

I'm Kiran Chetry, along with John Roberts.

ROBERTS: Good morning to you.


CHETRY: And from Japan to China, from pet food, kids toys, to a lot of the foods we eat, there are questions being raised about whether or not we can trust products coming from China. This is a first, though -- food made of cardboard.

For that story, we go to John Vause in Beijing.


JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): On state-run national television, viewers across China watched the latest food horror story unfold, an undercover investigation exposing small roadside stores in Beijing which use cardboard instead of meat as the main ingredient in a snack known as baozas (ph). They're like dumplings, and are as popular here as hot dogs in the U.S.

"Most people can't taste the difference. It fools the average person," this man says.

Authorities have announced a citywide crackdown on illegal food vendors because many fail to meet the lowest of health standards. But the communist government has a much bigger problem than bad street food and is struggling with an international crisis, from tainted pet food, to toxic toys.

In the past week, Beijing has announced an immediate ban on diethylene glycol, a solvent found in antifreeze, from being used in toothpaste. Small food must improve hygiene or be shut down. And from September, all food exports will have an inspection and quarantine symbol to guarantee safety.

The U.S. has warned standards had better improve.

CARLOS GUTIERREZ, COMMERCE SECRETARY: I believe that what they do now will determine whether they continue to be a growing, exporting country, a country with future growth viability, or they stop their growth.

VAUSE: And state media reports the People's Liberation Army is now insisting food suppliers pass hygiene and safety tests. "To strengthen food safety is to guarantee that PLA's combat capacity," said one official in the China daily newspaper. And with the Olympics a year away, a food quality monitoring system will be trialed next month. (END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: Now, despite all the controversy, all the mounting evidence of widespread problems, one high-ranking Chinese official says it is, "The malicious stirrings of some foreign media which is to blame for this crisis" -- Kiran.

CHETRY: Blame the media, but it really was a rogue roast illustration to see the cardboard in those dumplings. I mean, even though it was these largely unregulated street vendors, it really does paint a disturbing picture.

VAUSE: Yes, absolutely. I mean, don't out in Beijing at the moment. It seems to be a very dangerous pastime -- Kiran.

CHETRY: John Vause for us in Beijing.

Thank you.




CHETRY: Well, has the FAA been covering up dangerous mistakes at one of the country's biggest and busiest airports? Investigators say there's been a cover-up for years by the FAA and air traffic controllers at Dallas-Fort Worth International, including attempts to blame pilots for things like near misses.

Scott Bloch heads the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, which is responsible for conducting investigations like this one.

And you recently just concluded -- you actually concluded your investigation on Monday. And just in reading some of your conclusions, you use very strong language, calling this a "culture of fraud," as well as a "shocking saga".

What, in your opinion, went on here?


What we have here is a situation that cuts to the core of air traffic safety upon which the flying public depends and pilots depend, as well. And we have substantiated the highly credible allegations of Ann Whiteman (ph), a whistleblower, as well as an anonymous whistleblower. And we've also concluded a lengthy investigation of personnel on the ground at the FW International Airport.

As a result of our investigation, we have substantiated and sent to the secretary of Transportation, Ms. Peters, demanding a full investigation of cover-up, of operational errors, of assigning errors that controllers commit to pilots, or simply whitewashing those errors and claiming they don't exist. And it's been going on for a lot of years.

CHETRY: What is their motivation to do that? They just don't want to get -- they don't want -- the air traffic controllers and the union don't want to get in trouble, so they want to blame the pilots? Or do they want to keep things moving in the skies and they're willing to take some shortcuts here?

BLOCH: I believe that this is a culture of underreporting that derives from management's desire to cut down the numbers so they would look better. And then more recently in the last few years, the pay for performance system has been implemented. And top officials in Washington have been encouraging the managers of airports to cut their operational errors, and as a result of a meeting last summer, in 2006, the FAA began what we believe is a national problem of shifting the blame to pilots, even though it's the controllers that do it.


Well, here's what the FAA said. They said, "The flying public can rest assured that the FAA thoroughly investigates every safety incident, whether it was the result of a controller or pilot error, and closely tracks and addresses any pattern of errors."

Does that match with your findings?

BLOCH: No, it doesn't, and it also doesn't match with reality.

Three years ago, we investigated a similar claim by Ms. Whiteman (ph), which was substantiated by the Department of Transportation inspector general. FAA had to take the blame for a culture of underreporting that resulted in near misses and dangerous situations over a seven-year period.

Now we're going on a 10-year period. They've never corrected the problem, and it needs to be taken care of. This is a serious situation, Kiran.

CHETRY: So you've then these recommendations to the Transportation Department, and they're going to be looking into this now?

BLOCH: Yes. Pursuant to our powers, they are required to look into it and report back to us. And we expect a full investigation.


Scott Bloch, Office of the Special Counsel.


BLOCH: Thank you.




ROBERTS: Soccer superstar David Beckham and his Spice Girl wife, Victoria, are taking America by storm. The couple attracted a swarm of photographers and reporters when they arrived in Los Angeles last night. Beckham is set to begin a new chapter in his soccer career in his new hometown, and as CNN's Chris Lawrence tells us, some of Beckham's biggest fans are already bending it at a school that bears his name.


CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): He's an international soccer star married to a former Spice Girl.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you happy to be in Los Angeles?

LAWRENCE: On Thursday night, the Beckhams officially arrived on U.S. shores. And in the August issue of "W" magazine, the couple sets their sights on becoming the new American idols.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bella, are you winning?

BELLA HERNANDEZ, BECKHAM FAN: No, I'm losing one here.

LAWRENCE: Before he kicks one ball here, Beckham is a hero to these kids.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Come on, Bella. Take your time.

LAWRENCE: Until now, 5,000 miles separated Bella Hernandez from her dream of seeing Beckham.

HERNANDEZ: Well, it makes me kind of nervous to see that I'm going to actually meet him. It's not just like a fantasy anymore. It's just actually going to come true.

LAWRENCE: Beckham opened this soccer academy in the Los Angeles area more than a year before he signed with the L.A. Galaxy.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) you're getting beat by a girl.

LAWRENCE: Now the Home Depot Center is home.

(on camera): You're playing right now where he's going to be playing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. I think it's wonderful. I think it's like -- it's like, it makes me feel like I'm in professional footballer already.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Send your next offender. Get ready. Send your next offender.

Good. Quick. Quick. Quick. LAWRENCE: Companies hope American kids not only bend it like Beckham, but spend it, buying tickets to soccer matches with their families in tow.

MO BOREHAM, DAVID BECKHAM ACADEMY: So the fact that the kids can go and actually watch their hero rather than watch him on television or DVDs.

LAWRENCE: Beckham arrives in America with two goals: becoming a regular on the red carpet...



LAWRENCE: ... and inspiring kids like these on the green.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well done. Good. Excellent.

LAWRENCE: Chris Lawrence, CNN, Carson, California.


CHETRY: All right. Maybe everyone will start bending it like Beckham here in the states.




CHETRY: Well, three minutes before the top of the hour right now. Ali Velshi joins us.

You were just coming in from Macy's, buying some Paris Hilton jeans. And you're back.


Well, listen, retailing is doing very well. And if you remember at the end of last year, I've been on this kick, this home theater kick. I just got my whole place redone.

My, like, twelve-and-a-half-foot apartment has got, you know, flat panels and all, because last year was the year of the flat panel. At the end of the year, you were paying 40 percent less for a flat panel than you were at the beginning of the year. And that push at the end of the year, these price drops in electronics, flat panels and DVDs, was started by Wal-Mart, which at the end of the year started heavily discounting its electronics.

Well, now Wal-Mart, which used to sell those off-price no-name electronics brands, has started putting -- putting a big push into brand name electronics. Last month, the company started selling Dell computers in their stores. It says the electronics that it's selling are doing very well.

Wal-Mart's been trying to sink its teeth into something that's going to do well for the last few years. It might have arrived at something.

This is going to hurt Best Buy and Circuit City, because every time Wal-Mart drops its prices, those guys have to drop their prices, and the amount of money they make on a DVD or a TV is actually very small. The margin is tiny.

But their pain is going to be your gain. Look to see cheaper prices on electronics across the board as this year goes through. So any of you who don't have the fancy flat panel like I do, you, too, can have one this year.

They really are fun, I must say.

ROBERTS: Did you ever get the iPhone?

VELSHI: Did not get the iPhone. I never got the iPhone.

ROBERTS: All this talk and still nothing.

CHETRY: Maybe you want to hold out for the iPhone now.

VELSHI: I'm holding out for the next one. Yes.

CHETRY: Thanks, Ali.

VELSHI: Yes. Then we can talk about it again.

CHETRY: We'll see you in a few.

Meanwhile, the next hour of AMERICAN MORNING starts right now.