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Green Zone Lockdown: Diplomats Ordered Inside; Suicide Link to the Drug Singulair?; Sen. Bill Nelson's Plan to Elect a President; Dad Saves Son Who Fell in the Well

Aired March 28, 2008 - 06:00   ET


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Meanwhile, though, we have breaking news and rising tensions in Baghdad this morning. New moves from the prime minister of Iraq, Nuri al-Maliki. Iraq's parliament convenes a special session this morning to address days of fighting that has been taking place between government troops and Shiite militias. U.S. diplomats in Baghdad are being warned to stay under cover until further notice after repeated rocket attacks into the Green Zone.
Two U.S. government workers have been killed this week. Iraqi authorities making the move to impose a city-wide curfew in Baghdad. This will stay in effect until at least Sunday. Also, Prime Minister al-Maliki says he will skip the Arab Summit this weekend because of the intense fighting. Al-Maliki and Iraqi troops are facing off against followers of fellow Shia and anti-American cleric Muqtada al- Sadr. Al-Sadr has called for an end to the bloodshed, and he is urging all groups to adopt a political solution.

CNN's Kyra Phillips is live in Baghdad. And Kyra, you know, we talk about this, we keep saying affiliated with Muqtada al-Sadr, but how much control does al-Sadr really have over some of these factions that are fighting?

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's interesting to watch how it's all been going down in the past couple of days. You know, Muqtada al-Sadr has a lot of power in this country. He is a radical Shiite cleric. He has thousands and thousands of people that support him. So when this fighting broke out, you saw the protest around the country and you saw the violence in Shia neighborhoods break out all the way into Baghdad, even mortar attacks, rocket attacks into the Green Zone, trying to send a message to Nuri al- Maliki, the prime minister, to get his forces out of Basra.

But what we're seeing now is a battle not only militarily but politically, Kiran, and it will be interesting to see how this unfolds because we haven't seen violence like this in months actually, this type of civil unrest. So weapons, as you know, Nuri al-Maliki has asked all the militia men to lay down their weapons by tomorrow. It will be interesting to see if indeed that does happen.

CHETRY: How much is at stake politically for the prime minister?

PHILLIPS: Well, there's a lot at stake. It could strain the relationship between him and the United States. I mean, the U.S. forces said, look, this is your battle. You're in charge of this. You've got to take care of your own country and show that you are able to handle the security situation. So they have stayed out of this except adding air support like they usually do to troops on the ground.

Overnight in Basra, I'm told that U.S. military forces did drop bombs from the strike fighters. But with regard to getting involved with troops (ph) on the ground it's just not going to happen, Kiran.

CHETRY: All right. Kyra Phillips in Iraq for us this morning, thanks.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: North Korea test-fired several short- range missiles off of its western coast overnight as South Korean news agency says three ship to ship missiles were launched. North Korea is blaming the United States for a stall in nuclear talks saying that America's demand for full disclosure of its nuclear program is "unjust." The State Department says until North Korea comes clean, it will remain in the list of countries that support terrorism.

The embarrassing disclosure that the U.S. accidentally shipped parts for nuclear missiles to Taiwan has prompted a full review of all American nuclear weapons and related materials. U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates ordered the inventory after warhead fuses were sent to Taiwan in 2006 instead of helicopter batteries.

In another dramatic breach of nuclear security, last August, a B- 52 bomber flew across the United States, mistakenly armed with thermonuclear cruise missiles. Secretary Gates says the inventory review should be completed within 60 days.

An explosion and drug-related violence has Mexico going to war against drug gangs. Two thousand troops are heading to the U.S. border today to curb drug-related violence. Most of them will be deployed near Juarez, Mexico, across the border from El Paso, Texas. The Mexican government says 200 people have been killed by drug gangs since January.

Big endorsement from inside Pennsylvania politics for Senator Barack Obama. According to today's "Philadelphia Inquirer," Democratic Senator Bob Casey is expected to say that he is backing Obama today, and will join him on a six-day bus trip across the state. Governor Ed Rendell, Congressman John Murtha and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter are all campaigning for Hillary Clinton. Pennsylvania holds its primary on April the 22nd, with 158 delegates at stake.

And for the first time, Barack Obama says he would have left his Chicago church had his controversial former pastor not stepped down. This is a clip from ABC's program "The View." It was recorded yesterday and will air today.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Had the Reverend not retired, and had had he not acknowledged that what he had said had deeply offended people and were inappropriate and mischaracterized what I believe is the greatness of this country, for all its flaws, then I wouldn't have felt comfortable staying there at the church.


ROBERTS: Reverend Jeremiah Wright's comments on race and U.S. foreign policy have sparked anger after they were circulated on YouTube. Wright has been out of sight since the controversy erupted -- Kiran.

CHETRY: There's a lot of buzz this morning in political circles about potential vice presidents. Maybe some people are just dreaming, but still nonetheless, it's certainly being talking about.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg introduced Barack Obama in New York yesterday. This is the second time that they've appeared together in recent months. And while Bloomberg has not endorsed anyone, both he and Obama had some nice things to say about each other.


MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (I), NEW YORK: In this great hall, 148 years ago, a presidential candidate from Illinois gave a speech in the way only he could. He offered a brilliant and beautiful defense of his position on slavery. That man, of course, was Abraham Lincoln. This morning, it is my honor to welcome another man from Illinois who is also running for president.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: At a time when Washington is divided and old ideological battles, he shows us what can be achieved when we bring people together to seek pragmatic solutions.


CHETRY: On the Republican side, Mitt Romney helped John McCain raise money in Utah and Colorado. And even though these two certainly didn't seem to get along during the primary race, it did spark talks of a possible McCain-Romney ticket.


MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's an honor to be here with Senator McCain. He is a man who is proven and tested, an individual who is, without question, the right person to be the next president of the United States.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We are united as a party, where Governor Romney can play such a key role is that we have to really energize our party.


CHETRY: McCain picked up around $400,000 in his fund-raiser in Utah. There's also a new CNN Opinion Research poll showing that one in six people who support either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama say they would rather sit out the election than vote for the other candidate. We're going to talk a little bit about how that could affect the general election race, and whether or not it could sink Democrats' chances.

Plus, how will Democrats choose a nominee? The chairman of the Democratic National Committee Howard Dean is going to be joining us to talk all about that at 7:30 Eastern time.

ROBERTS: You know, one of the last times that we had Howard Dean on, we asked him if he was comfortable with the tone of the rhetoric in the campaign. And he was saying yes, he thought that it was good and healthy. Apparently, he's not so pleased with it these days. Tone it down a little bit.

CHETRY: You know, we'll see if he has changed his mind as the weeks have gone by.

ROBERTS: Good to talk to him this morning.

New questions this morning about the allergy and asthma drug Singulair. Nearly 30 million prescriptions were written for it last year. But now, the Food and Drug Administration is looking into possible links between patients who take Singulair and suicide.

CNN's chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta at the medical update desk breaking early for us this morning. Sanjay, why did the FDA launched this investigation?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's interesting. It's sort of a true medical investigation. This drug has been around for about 10 years. It has been approved for 10 years, and a lot of people, as you point out, take it. But there were a few suicides, about four in our investigations that we think that they're talking about here. So relatively small number in terms of the total number of people taking the medication, but still enough for the FDA to say, let's look into this.

John, when an investigation like this takes place, basically they had this group of people who committed suicide and they look for common trends among them. And seemingly here, one of the common trends is they were taking this medication, Singulair. So that's sort of how the investigation works. There is no link. No one is saying there's a link right now. But they're saying, let's prompt this investigation, which could take several months, nine months, they're saying, before they have more answers.

Now, a couple of things, first of all, Singulair is what's called a leukotriene antagonist. You don't need to remember that name. Basically what that means is if you're having an allergy attack, if you're having some sort of asthma attack, then it's going to basically block a bunch of cells from causing you to have those awful symptoms there. Take a look at the numbers you see on the screen. We're leaving that up.

But Merck is saying, look, we tested this. In 11,000 patients, 40 clinical trials, there were no specific suicide links or suicide risks. Having said that, they've updated their labeling several times over the last 10 years to reflect things sort of in a gradual manner. Under the less-common side effects, take a look.

We actually have the list of things here, made a full screen because you can never read these small little things. But they do say behavior, mood related changes, aggressive behavior, bad, vivid dreams. The very bottom, they do say suicidal thoughts and actions.

Again, the FDA is saying, we have not made a link here between Singulair and suicide, but because of these suicides, we're going to look a little further.

ROBERTS: So Sanjay, like many people, I've got some Singulair in my medicine cabinet, and I'm thinking this morning, and as I'm sure many other people are, what do we do if we're taking Singulair? And are there other allergy medications...

GUPTA: Right.

ROBERTS: ... that made have similar side effects?

GUPTA: Yes. So it's a good question. It's a question we get asked all the time when we do this sort of reporting. I think the best answer is this. You know, this is something to be aware of at this point. If you have had some problems with the medication, if you think it may have caused depression, caused some anxiety, caused something along these lines, you may want to say, well, maybe it's the medication. Talk to your doctor about that.

The risk, John, of course, as you know, and I'm not exactly sure why you take the medication -- but asthma, particularly bad asthma can be a really big problem. So don't suddenly stop taking this medication. That can be more dangerous certainly than taking the medication in the first place.

The second part of your question, yes, this class of drugs, known as leukotriene antagonist, there are the drugs on that list as well. There's a drug called --I have the name here somewhere, but they're Accolate and Zyflo, are two other medications that you need to be concerned about as well. We're not sure again if there's any kind of suicide link here, but they fall in that same class of drugs.

ROBERTS: All right. Good advice for us this morning from Dr. Sanjay Gupta. And Sanjay, we'll be back a little bit later on because lots more to talk about this morning. Thanks, Sanjay. See you soon.

GUPTA: Thank you.


CHETRY: Meanwhile, we get a check of the weather this morning. Reynolds Wolf is at our weather update desk tracking extreme weather, including winter storm warnings in the northeast. Aren't we supposed to be in spring?

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: You know, that's what the calendar says. But mother nature is going to have her own way and the way this morning for it to work for many people is going to really tough on many of the roads and parts of New England.

Let's go right to the weather computer. And as we do see, you can see all red (ph) on the map, plenty of watches, plenty of advisories and warnings as well. What we're going to be seeing in that part of the world is quite a bit of snowfall, could see anywhere from three to eight inches of snow in the highest elevations, and we're going to see most of it coming down.

But in places like Boston, back into Warwick (ph), even into New York, it looks like the temperatures is going to be just above the freezing point so no big worries in terms of heavy snowfall. But back in Manchester, places like Springfield, even into Bennington, that's where the snow is really going to pick up in spots.

Meanwhile, make or far away south into places like New York and southward to Philadelphia, dry mostly for the time being, but you do see that moisture forming out to the west, so keep the umbrellas handy. You may need them.

Who's going to -- let's say from the Finger Lakes region back over to parts of Vermont and New Hampshire, you're going to see the heaviest pockets of snowfall, some also in upstate Maine. But in parts of the Ohio Valley, it's not snow but rain that we're talking about. We see the slow moving frontal boundary moving from west to east. And a few spots like Charleston may be dealing with a bit of flash flooding as we have the scattered showers and few embedded thunderstorms moving through the region.

Also, we have a chance of seeing some severe weather as we move into the weekend. Coming up during our next update, we're going to talk about that severe weather chance. That's only moments away. Let's send it back to you guys in the studio.

CHETRY: All right, Reynolds. Check in with you throughout the morning, thanks.

WOLF: You bet.

ROBERTS: You are watching the "Most News in the Morning" here on CNN.

Hearing "daddy help me" from the bottom of a well, a toddler wonders off and plunges into 10 feet of water. Why his father is being held as a hero this morning.

And his state was stripped of its delegates for holding its Democratic primary earlier. Now, Florida Senator Bill Nelson is calling for a whole new way to, not only hold primaries, but also elect a president. His plan when we talk with him, next on AMERICAN MORNING.


ROBERTS: Fifteen minutes after the hour on a Friday morning. We're back with the "Most Politics in the Morning." Is our current electoral system broken? Our next guest says we need a complete overhaul. His state, Florida, has no part in this year's Democratic primary process since Florida broke party rules by holding its primary too early and was stripped of its delegates.

Joining me this morning from Jacksonville is Democratic Senator Bill Nelson. Senator, good morning to you. So you --

SEN. BILL NELSON (D), FLORIDA: Good morning, John.

ROBERTS: Do you believe this system is broken, and why do you think it is?

NELSON: If ever we've had an example of a mess, it's this one. And I don't think there's anybody in America that is satisfied with this presidential nominating process.

ROBERTS: Oh, I don't know. I think John McCain is pretty happy with it.

NELSON: Well, I'm talking about on the Democratic side.


NELSON: But when you get around to the November election, you know, people are increasingly dissatisfied when you can have the most votes for president and the other candidate who gets less votes in the country ends up being elected, as last happened in the year 2000.


NELSON: And it's happened a few times in our history. So we ought to abolish the electoral college as well.

ROBERTS: Well, let's actually take a look at your entire proposal here. Here's what you're laying out. First of all, in terms of choosing a nominee for the Democratic primary, you're suggesting rotating regional primaries instead of the system that we're going through right now. And then in terms of electing a president, abolish the electoral college to allow the president to be elected by popular vote nationwide and also allow early voting.

Let's come back to that first point since we're still in the primary season, and the general election is a little ways off. How would the system of rotating primaries work?

NELSON: Well, it replaces the primaries and caucuses that go now, and if it keeps going like it is, they keep jumping each other. The first one will be at Halloween. So let's have a system of rational primaries that start in March and go through June of the presidential year. Let's group up states according to lots drawing one through six, where you have a combination of small states and big states all on one particular date, and let's do that six times from March to June. And then, you've got a little bit of order out of the chaos that we have now.

ROBERTS: So you know what's going to happen is that Iowa and New Hampshire are going to scream bloody murder about this whole thing, particularly since, you know, every four years their economy gets a tremendous boost from the amount of advertising, the amount of money that comes into those two states because of these primaries. So what do you say to Iowa and New Hampshire?

NELSON: Of course, they're going to kick up and scream. But those states are not representative of America as a whole. And why should they have an outsized influence in determining who's going to be the presidential nominee?

So that's what Senator Levin of Michigan and I are saying. Let's combine small states, large states, drawn by lot, on the order of one through six, and let's give a more representative sampling of America to determine who's going to be our presidential nominee.

ROBERTS: Senator, why is it so much worse this year than in others? And are you concerned that the Democratic Party could implode over this whole thing and basically you'll hand John McCain the general election?

NELSON: The answer is, because it's Even Steven. A nominee hadn't been determined early on like the GOP with John McCain. And as a result, you've got all of these party rules getting into the way of voters' rights. I'm speaking of Michigan and Florida. And there's no end in sight. We can't get a compromise.

I've been trying since last summer to get the DNC to work it out so that they would not be denying the vote to almost two million Florida Democrats that came out and voted. And, yet, we are where we are because we can't get agreement between the candidates because each of the candidates feel that this offer of compromise is to their advantage or disadvantage, and the other one feels the other way. So we can't get agreement.

ROBERTS: Your latest proposal for a compromise in the Florida situation is to seat all of the delegates at the convention in Denver in August and allow them a half a vote based on the results of the Florida primary. But people say because you are a Hillary Clinton supporter, you can't be an honest broker in any plan here. What do you say?

NELSON: Well, somebody's got to solve this thing, and I've talked to Barack and Hillary and the Chairman Howard Dean about this. Basically, you'd go back to what the DNC rules say, and they say if a state moves early, they're going to be penalized half their votes. That's what the Republican rules said as well, and that's what the Republicans did.

So I'm saying, well, penalize Florida half its votes and let's move on. And because at the end the day, John, if the Democratic Party disses and stiff-arms Florida, how do you think Floridians are going to feel come the November election?

ROBERTS: Well, you think they'll sit out?

NELSON: Well, already we're seeing in the polls that 20 percent of independents in Florida are saying they're less likely to vote for the nominee because of the way they've been treated.

ROBERTS: Right. And we've also got some polls that show that 16 percent of both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton supporters would sit out if their particular choice doesn't become the nominee.

Senator Nelson, we'll put some of what you said to Chairman Howard Dean coming up about an hour from now. Thanks for being with us this morning.

NELSON: That's great, John. Thanks.

ROBERTS: All right, Senator, good to see you again.

So we want to know what you think. We're going to be asking this question all morning. Should the electoral college be scrapped in choosing a president? Presidents elected by a national popular vote nationwide instead? Yes or no. Cast your vote at We'll have the first tally of votes coming up later on this hour.

We also like to know what you think in terms of some comments. So shoot us an e-mail. The address is, or you can send one through our Web site. We'll be reading them throughout the morning -- Kiran.

CHETRY: All right. You're watching the "Most News in the Morning."

And some dramatic images coming in overnight of Tibetan protesters. They stormed a U.N. compound in Nepal. We're going to have more on what's going on with this raging battle.

Also, a dad's amazing save after seeing his toddler tumble down a well.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My head come out of the water. I already had his above the water, and he's looking at me crying, saying, daddy, daddy, help me.


CHETRY: A dramatic story and how it all turned out, ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


CHETRY: Well, a small town hero is becoming the talk of the nation this morning. A man from Weldon, Iowa, jumped into a well. It was filled with 10 feet of water to save his 2-year-old son's life. Reporter Steve Carlin of CNN affiliate KCCI has this touching story.


STEVE CARLIN, CNN AFFILIATE REPORTER, KCCI (voice-over): It happened quick as a flash. MATT CHUMBLEY, FATHER: I hadn't had my eyes off of him for 30 seconds at the most.

CARLIN: Around 4:00 on Wednesday afternoon, Matt Chumbley was out in the yard raking.

CARLIN: Were you scared?

His 2-1/2 year old son, Ayden was next door.

CHUMBLEY: And when I turned around, he was gone.

CARLIN: Chasing Freddy (ph), the family cat.

CHUMBLEY: When I last seen the cat, she was standing on this well platform.

CARLIN: A rotten plywood platform that crumbled under the Chumbley boy's 25 pounds.

CHUMBLEY: And he was yelling for daddy, and I looked down and he was down in there.

CARLIN: Thankfully, Ayden was treading water.

CHUMBLEY: He had on a big Carhartt coat, and I think it just kind of acted like a life preserver.

CARLIN: Quickly clearing away rotting wood and cinder blocks to get to his son, Matt made a big mistake.

CHUMBLEY: But when that block hit him, I was scared. Very scared.

CARLIN: A cinder block fell in, the impact sending Aiden under water. In the well his dad dove.

CARLIN (on camera): Now, we don't have permission to be on the neighbor's property, but Matt Chumbley tells me that well opening is about as big around as my shoulders and the water is 10 feet down.

CARLIN (voice-over): Ten feet down and at least 10 feet deep.

CHUMBLEY: When my head come out of my water, I already had his above the water. And he's looking at me crying saying daddy, daddy, help me.

CARLIN: Climbing out quickly, Matt ran to his wife Beth.

BETH CHUMBLEY, MOTHER: And they were just soaking wet and had gunk all over them.

CARLIN: It looked like the cinder block had done some serious damage.

Your nose hurt a little bit? And your head hurts a little bit? Bleeding and scared, they rushed Ayden to the hospital. Anxiously watching the examination, Matt and Beth overheard their brave little boy sweetly answer this question from an EMT.

B. CRUMBLEY: Is your daddy your hero? And Ayden just looked up and said, yes, my daddy is my hero.


CHETRY: Oh, wow, unbelievable. So glad it turned out -- I mean, as we saw, he was banged up, but his parents say he's going to be OK. He didn't break anything.

ROBERTS: Oh, that cinder block, if it had been, you know, this much further toward the center of his head, probably would have killed him. Wow.

CHETRY: I know. And then, to know that he had that jacket, a heavy jacket on that acted as a life preserver instead of the opposite.


ROBERTS: Instead of dragging him under.

CHETRY: Ten feet deep.

ROBERTS: Wow. What a lucky young fellow.

CHETRY: Amazing.

ROBERTS: Wow. Amazing story.

Hey, another round of flight cancellations to tell you about. Another several thousand passengers forced to sleep at the terminal. Will Delta and American Airlines be back on track this morning? We'll have that for you.

And the VP stakes, Obama-Bloomberg, McCain-Romney -- are they the tickets to bring divided parties' back together again? That story and today's headlines when AMERICAN MORNING returns.


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: 6:30 on a Friday morning. Thanks so much for being with us.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: I'm John Roberts along with Kiran Chetry.

Breaking news for you from Iraq this morning. The State Department ordering personnel at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad to stay inside until further notice. The directive is in response to rocket and mortar fire that's targeting the international zone. The so- called Green Zone.

Two American government workers have been killed this week. Overnight, meanwhile, coalition war planes bombed Shiite Militia positions in the southern city of Basra.

Five former secretaries of state are offering advice to the presidential candidates. They are urging the next administration to close the Guantanamo Bay prison camp and open talks with Iran. The bipartisan group includes Colin Powell, Henry Kissinger, Madeleine Albright, James Baker, and Warren Christopher.


CHETRY: Well, Alina Cho joins us now for some of the other stories making headlines this morning including the ongoing situation with Tibetan protesters.

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Lots of new developments overnight. Good morning, guys. Good morning, everybody. We have a standoff overseas to tell you about. And this is it. Tibetan protesters right now are clashing with police at a U.N. compound in Nepal. These are some of the first pictures we're getting in.

Of that still pictures obviously, about 20 protesters apparently scaled the walls of the compound in Kathmandu today. A hundred more demonstrated outside. Police arrested about 60 people and are trying to negotiate with the Tibetans who are apparently holed up in a U.N. conference room. Nepal and neighbor to China, does not allow protests of the Chinese crackdown on Tibet.

Terrorist assassinations in Pakistan to tell you about. Officials say two anti-terror agents were gunned down by a suspect on a motorcycle happened in the City of Karachi. The killings come as Pakistan's new government is expected to name cabinet ministers later today.

A top military critic of the Bush administration steps down today. Admiral William Fallon will give up his command of U.S. forces in the Middle East today in an official ceremony.

Earlier this month, you may recall, Fallon suddenly announced he was retiring right after he said the U.S. should stop beating the drum for war with Iran. Fallon's deputy will take over until the Pentagon finds a permanent replacement.

A follow-up now to a story we first brought you earlier this month. The college gossip message board is now denying it did anything wrong and is slamming a lawsuit filed by New Jersey's attorney general.

The site encourages college kids from across the U.S. to post anything they want about their peers no matter how hurtful or untrue. The attorney general claims juicycampus may be violating the state's consumer fraud act by suggesting that it doesn't allow offensive material but then not enforcing that policy.

And learn English or go to jail. That's the choice of judge in Pennsylvania is giving three Spanish-speaking men. They pleaded guilty to robbery, conspiracy charges. The judge says they can stay out on parole if they learn to read and write English, earn their GEDs and get full-time jobs. Otherwise, they'll have to spend two years behind bars. Not much of a choice here right?

Attorneys for two of the men apparently are deciding whether to appeal while a lawyer for the third man says he thinks the sentence is probably good for his client.

Apparently, in order to plead guilty the men needed a translator and then the judge said, you think we're going to provide a translator for your entire lives? You better learn English. And so now they're given the choice, you can stay out of jail, learn English in the meantime.

ROBERTS: Well, tough love there.

CHO: That's right.

CHETRY: Thanks, Alina.

CHO: You bet.

CHETRY: Well, a beef stake talk is heating up today. There are two candidates who appeared with two possible runningmates. And that got people buzzing. We saw independent New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg introducing Barack Obama. Also, former rivals John McCain and Mitt Romney joining forces yesterday as well.

So could these tickets, potential tickets, help unite two divided parties? Joining me now to discuss this is chief political writer of the politico, Mike Allen.

Mike, good to see you this morning.


CHETRY: You, too. Are these just dreams for people. Let's start off with the Barack Obama-Michael Bloomberg probability. How likely is that?

ALLEN: Well, this might be the real dream ticket that people are talking about. They are definitely seem to be an old man crush between the two of them as they were announced.

I'm not sure that this would do a lot for Senator Obama in the red states with the moderates or independent swing voters, that he might be trying to reach. But it obviously does give him right away balance on the economy issue, which will be the number one issue this fall. Your viewers will remember Michael Bloomberg, who is now technically a Republican but he was a Democrat before.

CHETRY: And how much outside of the circles of Washington, D.C., and New York City does Michael Bloomberg really make a splash?

ALLEN: Well, that's the issue -- is that he is pretty liberal and pretty similar to Senator Obama in his views. And so it would be mainly a pick to show experience, to reassure people, sort of the way President Bush throwing out the name of Colin Powell as secretary of state reassured voters back in 2000.

CHETRY: All right, I got you. Well then, there was also John McCain who is standing right there beside Mitt Romney. Bitter rivals it seemed in the primary. I mean, at debates, you could tell -- it didn't look like this two at any love lost for one another. But here's what McCain said yesterday in Salt Lake City when he was asked about the possibility of a McCain-Romney ticket.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We are united. Now our job is to energize our party, and I believe that Governor Romney can play a very important role in that.


ALLEN: Well, he didn't exactly seem to be leaping out of this suit, as my mother would say. And I think that they both definitely were on their best behavior. Yesterday, we were told that they were joking around on the plane together as they flew from Salt Lake to Denver yesterday.

Definitely Governor Romney would add, again, the economy credential, that's the topic that Senator McCain is least comfortable talking about. Ironically because he was chairman of the Commerce Committee. But that definitely would help him.

On the other hand, Kiran, you point to the chemistry issue. Another name to throw out for Senator McCain is the former congressman from Ohio Rob Portman. He's younger, been in the Congress. He was the trade ambassador, great with the media, very popular with the Bush-Cheney crowd, good with conservatives. So that might add a lot to Senator McCain's offerings.

CHETRY: All right. One other thing that could be the ultimate dream for some Democrats, and this was in a piece by Joe Klein on that floats, one solution to the protracted Democratic race, and that of course is giving the nomination or helping al Gore somehow secure the nomination at the convention and then have a Gore/Obama ticket.

ALLEN: There's a lot of what ifs in there. I think Democrats have two good nominees. They don't need a third. I think a more likely Gore scenario would be to maybe help break that tie on possibilities for Senator Obama. Most people think that he is going to go for national security, reassure voters there.

One Democratic pollster said to me, I don't know what the nominees' last name will be, but his first name will be general.

CHETRY: Yes, all right. Mike Allen with the, chief political writer. Thanks for being with us this morning.

ALLEN: Have a great weekend, Kiran.

CHETRY: You, too. And maybe we'll get some more info on this because a little bit later, the Democrats are going to be -- Democrat -- well, let's just say this. Howard Dean is going to be joining us. The chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

Boy, it does feel like a Friday, doesn't it? And we're going to ask him a little bit more. Because as you said, John, last time he was on the show, he didn't seem terribly bothered by all the back and forth that was going on with Hillary and Barack Obama. And we'll see if he's changed his mind.

ROBERTS: Apparently, he's starting to get concerned. So we'll talk with Howard about all of that.

Meantime, thousands of airline passengers stranded again as two airlines make another round of voluntary aircraft inspections. But this morning, there is hope for people who are trying to get where they are going. What Delta and American are saying? That's coming up on AMERICAN MORNING.

And he's a Democratic superdelegate who has endorsed Barack Obama. But Puerto Rico's governor is now facing charges that could land him in prison for years. What it means for him and that all- important primary that's coming up there on the 1st of June, ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


ROBERTS: 42 minutes after the hour. Delta Airlines is expecting to fly its regular schedule today after another round of cancellations left thousands of passengers stranded. Yesterday, the airline scrubbed 275 flights of its MD-88 planes.

Mechanics have been checking whether wiring was properly covered near the fuel pump in the plane's wheel wells. American Airlines also expects to be in a normal schedule today. It canceled 132 of its flights involving MD-80s after scrubbing 318 of them on Wednesdays. So all those poor, frustrated people that you see in those pictures there, hopefully, will be on their way to wherever they need to get.

CHETRY: Well, the presidential candidates have been talking a lot this week about America's number one issue, the economy. Ali Velshi joins us now with a look at what they are saying on the campaign trail. And whether or not any of this is going to actually happen in a timely manner.

ALI VELSHI, CNN SENIOR BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Right. And that's exactly it. I think that's where -- there's been a bit of a tipping point this week and that we've seen the candidates talking about things that can be done now.

In fact, this afternoon, we'll be hearing President Bush speak about housing. Well, let's just start with Hillary Clinton. She has been making about a speech a day on money issues. Here are some highlights. She wants to put $30 billion into a fund that deals with places that have been exposed to heavy foreclosures, a way to buy out some of that land or protect it from becoming vacant and things like that. She wants to add $25 to a home heating fund. $25 billion that is. $10 billion to unemployment insurance and $5 billion into green collar jobs, energy efficiency and alternatives. About $70 billion worth of money matters that she's announced this week.

Barack Obama made a couple of major speeches as well in which he talked about money. He also wants to add money, some money, $10 billion to areas with lower property tax bases. $10 billion to a foreclosure prevention fund, including things dealing with foreclosure and mortgage fraud. $10 billion to unemployment insurance and $45 billion in tax rebates to workers and retirees.

Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have both also spoken of what they would do when and if elected president about enhancing people's ability to save money.

John McCain, we're all ears, as soon as he decides he wants to get a little bit more specific about money. He is sort of backed off his, I don't really know much about the economy stuff. But he has been focusing on what his issue number one is, and that is foreign policy.

We are not yet -- we don't yet have enough specifics from John McCain to compare him to the others. We do know that in John McCain's case, he wants to keep the tax cuts that make the tax cuts permanent that the President Bush brought into place.

He also wants to eliminate the alternative minimum tax and he also has a very different plan on health care than Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. His is very market based. But we are waiting for some specifics about what he suggests can be done right away. So that's what they're talking about.

ROBERTS: Everybody feels that way when they see the alternative minimum tax.

VELSHI: Exactly.

ROBERTS: But thanks, Ali.

VELSHI: All right.

CHETRY: Still ahead, the economy, "ISSUE #1," as we've been saying. A top issue for voters and a little bit later, Ali, Gerri Willis, and the rest of the CNN money team will be tackling that issue. It's 12:00 noon today, right here on CNN. See you then.

Also more on "ISSUE #1" coming up in the next hour. We're speaking with Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. He's going to be joining us live. He's talking about some programs that are out to make filing and getting your rebate check a little bit easier.

And he's also going to weigh in on what's been going on with the mortgage crisis and the bank borrowing from the fed. A lot to talk about with the Treasury secretary. Hope you'll stick around, about 30 minutes from now. ROBERTS: For soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, adopting a dog can be a reminder of home. But that's special bond is often broken when they leave the war zone. Now though, the SPCA has form "Operation Baghdad Pups." Its mission, unite soldiers with the pets that they were forced to leave behind.

The program was inspired by Mark Feffer (ph) who was reunited with his dog.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To have formed that bond with her and others have, you know -- and now to have a resource so that no one ever has to go through what we went through again.


ROBERTS: We're going to hear more of Mark's emotional story, which inspired the program, when he joins us with his dog, Cinnamon. That's coming up live in our next hour.

CHETRY: It is just amazing that he was able to get this dog back after leaving Afghanistan and, boy, what a journey from that.

ROBERTS: We thought it was a miracle reuniting people with their pets that they lost in New Orleans.

CHETRY: Exactly.

ROBERTS: And you could imagine most of the way around the world.

Impeccably dressed to impress on her first state visit. Carla Bruni, the new wife of French president, Nicholas Sarkozy, meets with British Royalty and causes a stir. Our Jeanne Moss has got her own unique look at the visit coming up.

And Puerto Rico's governor facing criminal charges. What does it mean for the upcoming primary there that's become now so important to the race for president? That's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


CHETRY: Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING. Our "Legal Brief" now. The governor of Puerto Rico will turn himself in this morning to authorities. He is saying he's innocent of 19 criminal counts. And they're related to the financing of three political campaigns that date back to 1999.

Now, this comes as Puerto Rico is becoming a big player in the presidential race for one of the fist times in years. Its primary now June 1st with 55 delegates at stake. AMERICAN MORNING legal analyst, Sunny Hostin, joins us now with the impact of this.

So, now you have Puerto Rico in play. And this is the first time I believe since the '80s. And at the same time, criminal charges against their governor. SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, I mean it's another day, another governor. And this is something -- of course, my family is from Puerto Rico. I've really been watching this. Many people are watching this.

He is in a lot of trouble at this point. He has been indicted, Kiran, 19 counts. Charges being waged against him at this point: conspiracy to violate federal election laws, making false statements to the Federal Election Commission, wire fraud, federal program fraud, tax crimes. We're talking about 19 counts.

Unbelievable. And as you mentioned before, all related to the fact that he was trying to settle unpaid campaign debts for a little over, you know, a million -- a little under a million dollars. What's I think interesting also, he's accused of receiving about $57,000 of designer suits and also using campaign funds to pay his American Express bills.

CHETRY: All of this, he's flatly denying.

HOSTIN: Flatly denying. He maintains his innocence. In fact, he released this statement, and he says, I want to assure the people of Puerto Rico that I have never solicited nor accepted a contribution in exchange for a government contract, never permitted the illegal use of public funds." He is flatly denying this.

CHETRY: All right. You know, and something else that sort of throws a monkey wrench into the mix as well is Governor Acevedo is actually a superdelegate. He's indicated that he is an Obama supporter. And as we've talked about, Puerto Rico is going to be a crucial. So, a lot of questions up in the air as to what happens now.

HOSTIN: Absolutely. But let's face it, this primary is in June. This is not something, Kiran, that's going to be settled immediately. Unless he takes a plea and he probably is not going to do that.

CHETRY: Is there pressure to resign?

HOSTIN: Pressure to resign? Absolutely. We know that. We've seen that with this sort of governor's scandals. But I don't think that this is going to happen before June. If he does get convicted or he does resign, yes, absolutely I think he will well lose his superdelegate status. And this is something that we're going to have to watch. It's going to be a crucial, crucial thing for this election.

CHETRY: Keep us posted.

HOSTIN: Will do.

CHETRY: Sunny, great to see you. Thanks.


ROBERTS: She stole the show at her very first state visit to Great Britain. The French president's new bride. All about what she was wearing or what she wasn't wearing in old photos. Our Jeanne Moos takes a look at her evolution in fashion.

And more investment banks are asking the Fed for help. We're talking with the Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, coming up at our next half hour about that. And other big issues affecting your money. Stay with us at AMERICAN MORNING.


ROBERTS: Senator Bill Nelson of Florida is calling for an overhaul of the country's presidential election laws. Nelson wants to eliminate state primaries and caucuses and instead have six rotating inter-regional primaries to choose the party's nominee.

Nelson also wants to replace the Electoral College system with a nationwide popular vote to elect the president. That would require a constitutional amendment.

Past efforts to eliminate the Electoral College have failed to gain widespread support. But we want to know what you think. And that brings us to our "Quick Vote" question. Should the Electoral College be scrapped and presidents elected by a nationwide popular vote? Cast your votes for us this morning at

Let's take a look right now. 89 percent of you are saying, throw the whole system overboard. Yes. Scrap the Electoral College. 11 percent of you say, no, I love it, keep it. Keep those votes coming this morning. We'll be checking the results throughout the morning.

And we also want to know what you think. Shoot us an e-mail, the address is or you can send one through our Web site. We'll be reading them throughout this morning. It's going to measure how people are feeling about all of this in this election year.

CHETRY: Wow and that "Quick Vote" certainly says a lot, right? Near unanimous.

ROBERTS: Certainly does.

CHETRY: Well, the "Times of London" called her impossibly glamorous. She is the new wife and now the new first lady of France. French President Nicolas Sarkozy's new wife. She's a former model, by the way.

ROBERTS: Yes. And this week, past and present collided head on as she went to her first state visit to Britain. And who better to take a look at how it all came off than CNN's Jeanne Moos?


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): She came, she saw, she curtsied and rarely has a curtsy looked quite so chic. Dressed in Dior, at least she was dressed.

A 15-year-old nude art photo of former model, Carla Bruni, circulated just as the French president and his new wife began their state visit to Britain. And what a state it left the media in. (INAUDIBLE) Ooh la la. One paper described her as Jackie O dressed as a nun. She's been romantically linked in the past to men ranging from Mick Jagger to Donald Trump. She does have Jackie O's breathy voice.

CARLA BRUNI-SARKOZY, FRENCH FIRST LADY: You, in the face of all this, you're the hope. Thank you.

MOOS: As her husband addressed parliament, she perched elegantly. She did everything elegantly, from eating, picking off a speck of something. She even wiped her nose elegantly.

The media obsessed on her accessories, for instance her purse. Last year than the one displayed by a guest attending a charity luncheon for Madame Sarkozy. Her Dior flats merited a close-up. And one paper pointed out her heels were lower than her husband's. Perhaps to minimize the fact that she's taller than he is.

By the final gala, any nun look had pretty much disappeared. Earlier at a press conference, a French reporter asked President Sarkozy about his wife.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: And don't you think she's kind of stolen your show? Isn't it a bit too much?

MOOS: The president bitingly replied, by asking such a question, the reporter showed he must have had an unfortunate experience in marriage. Of his wife, he said, I'm proud that people have seen her for what she really is, a humanitarian.

The public has seen a lot of her, albeit partially obscured by stars, a black bar, a pink bar, notation, NS4W -- not suitable for work, and best of all, the flag of France.

(on camera): Remember back when some Americans were mad at France over the Iraq war and there was all that talk about naming French fries freedom fries?

(voice-over): That prompted this post commenting on Carla's nude photo. Here in America, we call those freedom thighs.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


ROBERTS: So they're having their fun now, but it will all wear off.

CHETRY: That's right. Just keep the pill box hats coming.

ROBERTS: She's a pretty glamorous first lady though. Yes?

CHETRY: That's right.

ROBERTS: No question about that.

CHETRY: Resembling Jackie O.

ROBERTS: Lots ahead and the next hour AMERICAN MORNING starts right now.

Financial security.


SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Seems like if the phone were ringing he would just let it ring.


ROBERTS: Clinton and Obama blast McCain on the economy. The "Most Politics and Money in the Morning."

Henry Paulson and Howard Dean, live this hour.