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AMERICAN MORNING

Crisis in Myanmar; Tensions Remain High in Philadelphia; Army Barracks in Disrepair; Crude Prices Hit a New Record High; Sky-High Oil Hits Airline Industry; Scientology Versus Anonymous

Aired May 8, 2008 - 08:00   ET

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


DAN RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These people are reaching breaking point. How much longer will they be made to wait before the help they desperately need arrives. Dan Rivers, CNN, Southern Myanmar.
(END VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: So how does the crisis in Myanmar compare to one of the worst natural disasters in history in this country, Hurricane Katrina? Let's look at some fast facts for you. First of all, the storm, hurricane versus cyclone.

There's no difference. It's just what the storms are called in different parts of the world. Cyclone in the Indian Ocean, the Southwest Pacific and hurricane in the Atlantic. As for the power of those specific storms, during Katrina, the winds topped at 130 miles an hour. The cyclone hit 150 miles an hour.

Storm surge was devastating in both. In Katrina, the surge peaked at about 28 feet. It's believed to have been about 12 feet in Myanmar. 1836 people died in Katrina. The government in Myanmar puts the official death toll there at 22,000. But a U.S. diplomat says ultimately it could top 100,000.

If you want to take action to help the victims of Myanmar, you can impact your world. Go to cnn.com/impact. You can find out news on recovery and humanitarian efforts and links to organizations that are helping in Myanmar right now.

Alina?

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, the Reverend Al Sharpton is free this morning after he and more 200 others were arrested during protest of the Sean Bell verdict. Hundreds of demonstrators crowded streets and blocked bridges in New York City to protest the acquittal of three officers in Bell's shooting death on his wedding day. Bell's fiance and a survivor of the shooting were also arrested and released.

In Philadelphia this morning the third and last suspect wanted in the weekend murder of a police officer is now under arrest. Tensions remain high in Philadelphia. Six police officers have been taken off street duty in another incident while the department and the DA's office investigate a violent arrest that was all caught on tape.

CNN's Jason Carroll is live for us in Philadelphia this morning. Jason, good morning.

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And good morning to you, Alina. You know, to say that that videotape shows improper police behavior would be an understatement. But despite what you see on the tape, both the city's mayor and the police commissioner say it does not reflect the way these officers were trained.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CARROLL (voice-over): The video captured by a Philadelphia news helicopter has stunned the city and embarrassed its police department. It shows what happened late Monday night after police stopped three men suspected in a shooting. At least a dozen officers repeatedly kicked and beat the men after pulling them from their car.

MAYOR MICHAEL NUTTER, PHILADELPHIA: I don't like what I saw on the tape. I think we need to be very clear about that. Again, the officers are trained professional law enforcement people. We have very high standards here in Philadelphia and what you saw on the tape is behavior that is unacceptable.

CARROLL: City officials say the officers have been under stress, ever since this weekend when one of their own, officer Steven Liczbinski was shot and killed responding to a bank robbery.

COMMISSIONER CHARLES RAMSEY, PHILADELPHIA POLICE DEPARTMENT: Police officers operate under stress all the time. But there are periods of time when quite frankly there's more stress than you'll have during other times.

CARROLL: The beating last for more than a minute. The mother of one of the men, Lionell Dyches, who was kicked by the officers say there's no excuse.

LEOMIA DYCHES, LIONELL DYCHES MOTHER: I don't believe it is stress.

CARROLL: What do you think it is?

DYCHES: You see 14 white police officers beaten three black males and a dog, in the area where I live at I can see it constantly.

CARROLL: The three men beaten by police are in custody facing charges ranging from attempted murder to aggravated assault in connection with Monday's shooting. The attorney representing the three men says it's the officers who should be facing criminal charges.

SCOTT PERRINE, LIONELL DYCHE'S ATTORNEY: They should be dismissed from the police force and they should be charged as criminals because that was criminal behavior. That was not police work.

(END VIDEOTAPE) CARROLL: As for the officers involved in that beating, at least six of them have been placed on administrative leave. More are expected to be placed on leave while this internal investigation continues.

Alina?

CHO: CNN's Jason Carroll live for us in Philadelphia. And Jason, thank you.

And we are updating now a story we've been following for you on AMERICAN MORNING. Army barracks in disrepair. The army is going to spend $248 million to fix problems with the barracks at bases around the world. The problem first came to light, you may recall, after the father of a soldier stationed at Fort Bragg posted a YouTube video showing the horrible conditions there.

More than 43,000 U.S. troops classified as medically unfit for combat since 2003 were apparently sent to war zones anyway. "USA Today" is reporting that most of the troops are in the army which is doing most of the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Pentagon records don't list how serious the health issues were or whether they were treated before deployment.

John?

ROBERTS: There is no sign that she is slowing down. With her campaign low on cash and losing key support, Senator Hillary Clinton has three stops in three states today. She starts the day with a rally in Charleston, West Virginia. Barack Obama is meeting with more undecided superdelegates. That will be in Washington today.

He has picked up five more since he left North Carolina with a 14-point victory. A 1972 Democratic presidential nominee George McGovern has flipped. The former Clinton supporter now says she needs to do what is right for the party.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE MCGOVERN (D) FORMER PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I'm proud that I endorsed Senator Clinton last October. But I think the time has come in the life of the Democratic Party, in fact, in the life of the nation, for us to get together on a candidate as soon as conveniently possible.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: Well, it's near impossible if you do the math. So where does Hillary Clinton see a seam? CNN's Tom Foreman takes a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With the odds of Beating Obama looking so bad with other Democrats wanting her out, with her money running low, why won't Clinton quit? Her husband has offered one answer.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My family is not big on quitting.

FOREMAN: But there are plenty of reasons to keep running. One, she could catch a break. The uproar over Pastor Jeremiah Wright hurt Obama. If a worse proper emerged and poisoned his campaign, the superdelegates would almost certainly give her the nomination, especially if she's the last candidate standing.

Two, she could trade her exit from the race for a share of the power. It's risky but some Democratic insiders believe that is in play right now. CNN Contributor Carl Bernstein.

CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: They think that she will seek the vice presidency and that perhaps force Obama to take her because she will still have some bragging rights and Obama might have no choice.

FOREMAN: And three, raising money to pay off mounting campaign debts is hard for a want-to-be president but harder for a used-to-be candidate. And as long as she's running --

JEANNE CUMMINGS, THE POLITICO: It's also possible Barack Obama would help her do that. And that would allow her to exit the scene a little quicker which might be something he would like to encourage.

FOREMAN (on camera): Clinton supporters want her to stay in the race because she promised she would. And they still believe in her. For the candidate herself, however, the motivation may be much more complex.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you all.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Remember she fought for health care reform years ago, long after many others said the battle was lost. And she clearly thought somehow she could still win. Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS: And the winner is -- well according to "Time" magazine it's already over. Barack Obama is on the latest cover. The article inside talks about his primary strategy and about his next challenge in November. Look at that, and the winner is -- and there's his picture. Pretty declarative.

Barack Obama is going to be with Wolf Blitzer, by the way, in the "SITUATION ROOM" this afternoon. It's his first national interview since the North Carolina and Indiana primaries. That will take place at 4:00 p.m. Eastern.

Republican Mike Huckabee faced the same situation that Hillary Clinton is in now. A couple of months back, the odds were stacked against him. Party members were calling on him to drop out. I spoke with the former candidate earlier this morning. He told me that Hillary Clinton has every right to stay in the race and she is playing by the rules set by her party.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE HUCKABEE (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And what if we did that in Major League Baseball? What if we did that in NFL football? Once the team got four or five touchdowns ahead, we just said look, it's pretty inevitable here, the math doesn't work, let's end the game.

Is that the way we ought to play it? So I've got to give, you know, Hillary some credit that, yes, it doesn't look like she's going to get the nomination, but she entered this thing to play to the finish line, and I think that's what she's attempting to do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: Huckabee thinks that the longer the race goes on, the more likely the winner will pick the loser as a running mate. So maybe the dream team is alive after all.

CHO: Maybe it is. You know, on the Republican side, Senator John McCain is making the media rounds hoping to steal the spotlight from his Democratic challenger. Today, he is going to sit down for two interviews including "Live with Regis and Kelly." But it was last night during his record 13th appearance on "The Daily Show" that McCain came under pressure for his ties to a quote, "religious person."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JON STEWART, HOST, THE DAILY SHOW: You, sir, have your own person, religious, I don't want to say zealot, but a religious person endorsing your campaign that Americans have expressed greater concern your relationship with him, 43 percent. Will you take the opportunity right now to repudiate and denounce President Bush?

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

STEWART: Sit down, sit down, sir! What do you think of that, though?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There is a technical difficulties.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHO: When in doubt, smile and say nothing. You know, Stewart says if McCain really wants to win this thing, he ought to think about putting Senator Hillary Clinton on the ticket. McCain said quote "That's one I've never contemplated." I can't margin why.

And for the most politics on the web, head over to cnn.politics.com. There you will find the complete coverage of the presidential race. ROBERTS: A Texas sinkhole swallows up more land right in front of cameras. Amazing footage of the hole as it grows ever bigger. We'll tell you just how big it is now. Coming up.

CHO: And crude prices hit a new record high. It's reaching almost $124 a barrel. Sky-high oil hits the airline industry. Find out why your next flight could cost you. That's ahead, too. We're coming right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Guess who's back? "Hairless prophet of doom."

ALI VELSHI, CNN SENIOR BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes and I've got -- I've got doom stuff. You know what, tomorrow morning I definitely like there's not going to be record in oil prices and I keep saying I'm going to not come to work. I think maybe I'll do that tomorrow. But we do have a record today.

ROBERTS: You should just not come to work.

VELSHI: You should just not come to work. I mean, you get a break from the bad news. But I am here today. So, you've got the bad news.

There's been a bit of a jump in gas prices, actually. We have a new record. And it's by a couple cents. We're now at $3.65 for a national average of gasoline. This makes sense because we've seen oil price go up. In fact, overnight, oil hit $123.93 a barrel. So, we're up close to $125 a barrel.

We've heard people talking about $150 and $200. Iran's oil minister -- and Iran is a member of OPEC -- says $200 can be expected fairly soon. He did mention, by the way, he said it's not that oil prices are high; it's just that the U.S. dollar is low.

OK. As I say, unleaded gasoline $3.65 is the average right now. This does lead to not only a lot of expense when you're filling your car but air fare increases.

And we have another attempt at an air fare increase. Delta has initiated this one right now. United has been the one who's been doing most of it this year. But Delta has initiated this one. It's a $20 round trip increase. It is the 15th attempt this year by major airlines to increase air fares with a fuel surcharge. Ten of those 15 attempts have been successful.

And at this rate, we're on track for 40 increase attempts versus just 23 last year. And it is May. So, our friends at FairCompare say if you are trying to plan a summer vacation, at least the ticket part of it, book it now because they're only going to get higher because of fuel surcharges.

ROBERTS: You know, all it takes is just hear your footsteps coming in the studio and the muscle in my neck tenses. Can't you find some good news? VELSHI: You know, these things go up and down. I'm going to beat her. I'm going to lead the charge when gas prices go down.

CHO: Bet you are.

VELSHI: I'll have grown hair by then too.

ROBERTS: And monkeys will be flying.

VELSHI: Exactly.

CHO: Along with the pigs. Thank you, Ali.

VELSHI: All right.

CHO: All right. Scientology versus Anonymous. Masked protesters take on the religion of L. Ron Hubbard. Find out why they're targeting the church. Plus, we'll hear from a Scientology spokesman who calls them cyber terrorists.

And then there's Rob watching the extreme weather.

Hey, Rob. Good morning.

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Hi. Good morning, Alina. We had seven tornadoes touching down last night. And severe weather on the move to the east today. Plus, the land is sinking around Houston, Texas. We'll run it all down when AMERICAN MORNING comes right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MARCIANO: Welcome back. Take a look at this amazing video of a giant sinkhole in Texas getting bigger and bigger even as the camera is rolling as it happens. Local television news footage shows a mammoth crater swallowing up oil field equipment and other vehicles. It's in the town of Daisetta, about 60 miles northeast of Houston.

The hole is about two football fields long and deep enough to hold a 15-story building. Folks there are saying they're not sure what caused it. They have had some rain. I suppose if they're pumping oil out of that area, that wouldn't help either. Anyway, cool video coming to you.

(WEATHER REPORT)

CHO: Here's the real question. Within that rain, you're going to ride your bike then today? No, you're going to stay off the bike.

ROBERTS: I'm going to go to Colorado today.

CHO: Oh, that's right, that's right. That's right. That's right.

ROBERTS: My son is graduating from college. So I'll be out there in the sunshine of Colorado. I could probably go skiing, Rob, because A-Basin is still open. MARCIANO: Yes, A-Basin is there. They're definitely -- they'll be on the beach as they like to say in A-Basin, barbecuing and sunny. Enjoy.

ROBERTS: Might not be a bad idea. Rob, thanks.

You're watching the "Most News in the Morning." Scientology versus masked protesters. The church calls them cyber terrorists. They call themselves anonymous. Find out why they're targeting Tom Cruise's religion. And more coming up.

CHO: And hold on to your wallet. Electric bills shooting sky high along with gas prices. Find out how you can fight back. Gerri Willis shows us how to pinch a penny. Ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHO: Welcome back. The House is expected to pass a bill today to provide $300 billion in guaranteed loans to homeowners who are at risk of foreclosure. Now the bill also offers a $7500 tax credit to first time home buyers. President Bush is threatening a veto. He says the plan costs too much money and bails out lenders and speculators instead of the borrowers.

Well, you've got to be brave to open up your electric bills these days. Rising fuel costs are pumping up the cost of your utilities, too. In Maryland, for example, residential customers could see their bills go up $137 a year to about $1800 annually.

Personal finance editor Gerri Willis shows you what you can do about this. So why are these prices going up so much? Double digits in some cases.

GERRI WILLIS, CNN PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR: Absolutely. You, we've seen big increases. In fact, Potomac Edison right now is asking for a 29 percent increase.

Ouch! OK, so here's what's going on. Just as you are having a hard time paying for gas for your car, so the power plants are having a hard time paying for the fuel to run their operations. As a matter of fact, most of these run on coal and coal prices have doubled in the last year. Let's take a look at where some of these prices are going.

You see, Illinois prices are up 33 percent, Hawaii up 29. These are bill shocks for folks out there who are struggling already with their own energy prices.

CHO: You are talking about adding insult to the injury. I mean, you know you're being pinched at the pump. You know, your air fares we are hearing from Ali are going up and now this. And a lot of people are getting their power shut off. It's so sad, especially now. So, what can people do to cut their electric bills, because there are practical things you can do at home, right?

WILLIS: Exactly. You know, there's a lot of experimentation going on I should say as well. Some power plants are offering -- some utilities are providing programs to consumer that would allow them to buy at peak and non-peak times, so you would be able to reduce your bill that way.

But simple things you can do. Keep in mind this is going to be a hot summer according to the farmer's almanac. So keep your house locked down tight, close the blinds, the curtains and the shutters. And shade your home naturally by planting trees on the sun side so they block the sun in the summer.

But in the winter, the leaves fall and guess what, the sun comes through and your house can get heated up. Easy, practical things you can do to try to save. Clearly, though, people are going to be struggling to stay cool this summer.

CHO: That's right. Unfortunately, you don't have that tree option in New York City. All those apartment buildings. But anyway, personal finance editor Gerri Willis, thanks for those tips.

WILLIS: My pleasure.

CHO: And you can learn more about the economy and your money which is issue no.1 for Americans. Join Gerri, Ali and the entire CNN money team for "ISSUE #1." That's today at noon Eastern here on CNN and online too at cnnmoney.com.

John?

ROBERTS: It's coming up on 24 minutes after the hour. Let's get an update on our "Quick Vote" question this morning.

Do you think it's time for Hillary Clinton to drop out of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination? Right now, 69 percent of you say yes, it's time. 31 percent say no, we want her to say in. Head to cnn.com/am. Keep those votes coming and you can also visit our Web site. Send us an email. Let us know what you think, www.cnn.com/am, follow the links that say "contact us."

You're watching the Most News in the Morning. Anonymous critics, a new group taking on the Church of Scientology. Why they are afraid to show their faces. Why they say the church destroys lives. And a rare public response from a Scientology representative.

And do you know that you can bring the price of gasoline down by driving slower? We will tell you how that works. We've also got today's headlines when AMERICAN MORNING returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: It's 27 minutes after the hour. Scientology has some prominent followers and some very vocal critics. But now some of those critics are anonymous taking their campaign to the Internet. CNN's Kareen Wynter explains.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KAREEN WYNTER, CNN GENERAL ASSIGNMENT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Church of Scientology has had its share of critics over the years and more than its share of negative press. The church has always fought back, but now the critics have harnessed a new flat form, the Internet. And Scientology may have a harder time defending itself.

Groups like this one called Anonymous are using cyberspace to challenge the church.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are anonymous. We are legions.

WYNTER: The group's postings on YouTube generated heavy traffic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We want you to be aware of the very real dangers of Scientology.

WYNTER: Anonymous recently staged protests in several cities alleging among other things the church tears families apart, something the church denies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They don't care who you are, they disconnect you from your family.

WYNTER: The group is made up of a growing coalition of anti- Scientology activists. Some say they are former Scientologists. They wear masks they say to shield themselves from potential harassment by the church and claim their actions are harmless.

The Church of Scientology calls Anonymous cyber terrorists who have polluted the Internet with lies about the religion and that is not all.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: January 2008, a message from Anonymous is sent to the Church of Scientology.

WYNTER: The church released this video to the media alleging Anonymous made thousands of harassing phone calls to church members including death threats. Anonymous says it has waged an online war against Scientology but says it's not guilty of any hate crimes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a categorically false accusation. We want change but through peaceful methods.

WYNTER (on camera): The FBI told CNN it's investigating whether the group's online videos crossed the line between free speech and illegal activity. First Amendment attorney says that is often a fine line that is open to interpretation.

DOUGLAS MIRELL, FIRST-AMENDMENT ATTORNEY: From a First Amendment perspective, everybody who speaks on the Internet has the right to speak. So long as they are expressing their opinion and aren't defaming anybody. That doesn't mean that the church won't try to come after them.

WYNTER (voice-over): Legal experts say the church may be facing its biggest challenge yet. Trying to protect its image in a loosely policed medium seen by millions of people. Kareen Wynter, CNN, Hollywood. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: Well, we're going to get reaction now from a representative of the Church of Scientology. Tommy Davis is a spokesman for the church and he joins us live now from our Los Angeles bureau.

Mr. Davis, thanks for getting up early. The Church of Scientology refers to Anonymous as a group of cyber terrorists. They say they are simply protesting the church and that they are harmless.

TOMMY DAVIS, CHURCH OF SCIENTOLOGY: You know, John, the reality on it is that in our case, we're dealing with things like, you know, 96 death threats, bomb threats, acts of vandalism, you know, these kinds of things that are very destructive and very harmful. And we have to take measures on our part to ensure the protection of our facilities and our parishioners and their physical well-being as a general rule. When you're talking about this group and referring them to -- referring to them as cyber terrorists, you know, these are the kind of people who, you know, put together imagery intended to cause epileptic seizures and then hacking into the epilepsy foundation's Web site and throwing it up there. Trying to cause people to have epileptic seizures. And they do these kinds of things for laughs. And they say this themselves.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: You are leveling these accusations at this group. The FBI which is looking into it says it has found nothing to connect this group Anonymous with what you are talking about or death threats against members of the church. The FBI at this point says it has no reason to believe that charges would be leveled against this group.

DAVIS: Well, I disagree. And that's definitely not the case. We talked to local law enforcement. We talked to the Justice Department, there are definitely ongoing investigations. But, you know, really the issue is here is that these things happen, we report them to law enforcement. It's really in the hands of law enforcement to prosecute them for their hate crimes. And we leave it to them for that.

From our standpoint, we are carrying on. The world-wide interest in Scientology has never been higher. I mean, Scientology has grown more in the last five years than the last five decades combined. You have 7,700 churches, missions and groups, an enormous amount of interest in Scientology and what we do. So, we are interested in putting too many information out there. People can find out for themselves what it is. Which is really what they ought to be doing - is you can walk into a church, you can see what Scientology is. You can go online at, you know, scientology.org and see for yourself, and make your own decisions about what Scientology is about and on any subject people should really find out for themselves what it is rather than listening to cyber gossip or hate mongering which is really the kind of thing that's going on.

ROBERTS: All right. On that point, help us to understand something about the church. And this is what this group Anonymous is protesting. They claim that the church separates family members. There is this practice of disconnection where if you are a member of the Church of Scientology to the best of my understanding here on this issue, because I'm not a member, I don't fully understand it, but if you are a member of the church of Scientology and someone in your family or a friend or your spouse is skeptical or critical of the church's Scientology, you are supposed to disconnect yourself from that person. And Jenna Miscavige-Hill who is a nurse, a niece rather of the church's leader David Miscavige says that happened to her, which is the reason she left the church a couple of years ago. And she now has a Web site bringing together former members of the Church of Scientology to talk about issues like this.

DAVIS: Well, first of all, this is a perfect example of how the Internet turns things and twists things. There's no such thing as disconnection as you are characterizing it. And certainly, you have to understand --

ROBERTS: Well, what is disconnection then?

DAVIS: Scientology is a new religion. You have, the majority of scientologists in the world, they are first generation. So, their family members aren't going to be scientologists and this kind of thing. And scientology absolutely mandates and it's really part of the code of being a scientologist to respect the religious beliefs of others. So, certainly someone who is a scientology is going to respect their family members' beliefs.

ROBERTS: What is -

DAVIS: We consider family to be a building block of any society. So, anything that is characterized as disconnection or this kind of thing it's just not true. There isn't any such policy in the church that's dictating who people should or should not be in communication with. You know, it just doesn't happen.

ROBERTS: People talk about secrecy surrounding the church of scientology. And there are reports that only 10 percent of church members know the real origin story of the church. And they say that would be like if 90 percent of the members of the Catholic Church were not allowed to read the book of Genesis. Is that true?

DAVIS: Absolutely not. I mean, it's so untrue. It couldn't be further from the truth. Again, I'll say it again, I mean, the best thing for people to do is they really have find out for themselves. They can walk into a church of scientology. There's informational displays that they can go through on their own, see videos about what it scientology is -

ROBERTS: Well, help us to understand here -

DAVIS: Or go to the Web site, scientology.org. And there's over 82 videos. I mean, three hours of content that describes what scientology is, what we believe, you can hear scientologists talking of their own faith.

ROBERTS: Right. DAVIS: It's that open of an activity.

ROBERTS: Well, quickly help us understand here, Mr. Davis, what is the basic belief of the church of scientology?

DAVIS: Well, I mean that could still be Encyclopedia Britannica in terms of what scientology is about and what it does. I think the better way for me to answer that question is to say -- what can scientology do? And it's something that you apply to your life. It's tools for living and for improving relationships and these kinds of things, raising I.Q..

ROBERTS: Because as you know, there are some people, and one of them is a correspondent for the "Village Voice," who says the basic belief system or the basic tenet of this church of scientology is to rid the body of space alien parasites, to clear oneself.

DAVIS: Well, John, does that sound silly to you? I mean, it's unrecognizable to me. Here's the thing, there is a lot of people out there talking about what they say scientology is. And actually, no, I'll correct that. There's a small amount of people talking about what they think scientology is. They spread it on the Internet and then other people read it and they think, oh, that must be what it is, which is why I say people should just come into the church, and see for themselves, and find out what it is and they can make their own decisions. Read a book by L. Ron Hubbard.

You know, pick up a book like "Scientology Fundamentals of Though" and you can see what scientology is, what our beliefs are and what we practice and why and how people can use scientology in their lives. That is the whole point is how you can apply it to improve your life, whether you want to call yourself a scientologist or not, that is a personal decision. But people should go online, go to scientology.org. Check out the videos, get a book, read it. Think for yourself, make our own decisions and then people can make judgments based on that. The kind of things you are talking about they are unrecognizable to me.

ROBERTS: Tommy Davis, spokesperson for the church of scientology this morning from Los Angeles. Thanks for taking the time to be with us today.

DAVIS: Absolutely. Thank you, John.

ROBERTS: Appreciate it. Alina.

DAVIS: No problem.

CHO: John, a heated phone call to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, one of Hillary Clinton's wealthy backers, angry about Pelosi's views on holding revotes in Michigan and Florida.

And Hillary Clinton talking about breaking up OPEC. Is that possible? What does it mean to you? That story is ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDREA BERNHOLTZ, TRAVELS 200 DAYS A YEAR: I'm Andrea Bernholtz, and I am the president of a fashion company called Rocking Republic and I travel about 200 a days out of the year. The first thing I put in my bag when I travel beside my passport is my iPod because I have to put my soundtrack of my life in my ears before I go anywhere, and I have my hand sanitizer, which I cannot leave home without. I cannot afford to get sick. I always, always keep in my carry-on a quick little change of clothes, my newsboy cap, a skinny pair of jeans, these are super versatile, you can tuck them into your boots when you are in Italy,. You can roll them up on the beach in Barcelona.

In case my luggage gets lost, at least I can land and always look fabulous. When I check in, I introduce myself to the hotel manager. I always, always get a business card especially in foreign counties, because if found return to this place. I've traveled extensively with my dogs. It actually doesn't complicate travel. It makes it really nice. It kind of makes every place home.

CHO: Take a look at that. Another day, another record for gas prices. $3.65, ouch. Some people think we are on our way to $4 a gallon.

Issue number one, the sinking economy is crushing car sales. Toyota is reporting its profit is down a whopping 28 percent or $1 billion for the first three months ending in March. And gas prices as I just mentioned hit a new high today, $3.65 nationally for a gallon of regular. So, as prices go up, some say speedometer should go down. Listen to this, researchers say you should actually try to keep your speed to 60 miles an hour, rather than 65 or 70. Now, you would only save 2 percent or 3 percent of your gas. But if everyone did it, some say gas prices could go down by up to 10 percent. John.

ROBERTS: And with gasoline hitting another new high today, Hillary Clinton is talking about breaking up OPEC, the oil cartel that controls a major portion of the world oil. CNN's Barbara Starr has got a reality check on Clinton's idea.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: with gas prices edging toward $4 a gallon, OPEC is suddenly in Senator Hillary Clinton's line of fire on the campaign trail.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think it's time we go after OPEC. They are a monopoly cartel. That has nothing to do with a free market.

STARR: But can the U.S. really do anything to break the oil cartel? Most experts say good luck. Here's why -- the U.S. would have to increase its own production and cut consumption to have any meaningful influence on OPEC's grip on the market.

ROBBIE DIAMOND, SECURING AMERICA'S FUTURE ENERGY: That means that instead of talking about ways of breaking up a cartel that we're not really able to break up, it would be like the Red Sox wanting to break up the Yankees. It just can't happen.

STARR: Former Congressman Lee Hamilton says the U.S. really can't do much to influence OPEC to lower prices.

LEE HAMILTON, FMR. CHMN, HOUSE FOREIGN RELATION: Our bargaining leverage here is just not all that great because of our need for their product.

STARR: Ironically the U.S. military is spending billions protecting and keeping open OPEC's shipping links in the Persian Gulf.

HAMILTON: I think if we got too demanding of OPEC, they could very well say get your bases out of here. And that would mean we've had more difficult time, maybe an impossible time of keeping the supply lines secure.

STARR: Keeping access to air fields and ports in OPEC countries like Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates is paramount to the United States military. Now, made more important giving growing concerns in the gulf about Iran's nuclear ambitions and its ability to shut down the strait of Hormus.

STARR (on-camera): In other words, the U.S. has little or no leverage to break OPEC. It might be a crowd pleaser on the campaign trail but it's certainly not going to fly in the Middle East. Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.

ROBERTS: The price of oil will be just one of the top picks as CNN tackles "Issue number one, the economy." Join Gerri Willis, Ali Velshi and the CNN money team for "Issue 1" today, noon Eastern on CNN and online at cnnmoney.com. Make an appointment, be there.

CHO: The music will be there too. Coming up, a Hollywood heavy weight and a supporter of Senator Clinton is now getting tough with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Hear what he is demanding to keep Clinton's race for president alive.

And what the race for the White House has to do with toast. Stay with us on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: 44 minutes after the hour now. Now, for the race for the White House. One of Senator Hillary Clinton's major backers is reportedly picking a fight with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. It involves movie mogul, Harvey Weinstein of Miramax Films, and a threat that he will stop donating to congressional democrats if Pelosi does not get behind the plan to pay for a re-vote in Michigan and Florida. This happens to be the Clinton campaign plan. CNN's Ed Henry joins us from the White House. Ed, you got some exclusive details on this. What went down in the phone call?

ED HENRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, CNN learned that this was an explosive conversation. Three officials familiar with the call say that Harvey Weinstein appeared determined to try and buy Hillary Clinton some more time in her battle with Barack Obama by pressing Nancy Pelosi to support this plan he is trying to put together to finance a revote in Florida and Michigan. Also pressing Pelosi to back off on comment that superdelegates should support the candidate whoever is leading in pledged delegates in early June, otherwise Weinstein says he would help cut off money to congressional democrats, house democrats in particular.

Pelosi I'm told refused to back down saying "don't ever threaten me again." Now Pelosi's office is confirming to CNN there was a phone call, but they say she gets a lot of call about the presidential campaign and she won't characterize it. Weinstein's office also confirming there was a call. They won't comment on whether there was a threat. They are just saying that Weinstein is focused in trying to make sure that every vote is counted in Florida and Michigan. But the point is while some backers of Clinton and Obama publicly are starting to make nice in private this is still very, very tense. John.

ROBERTS: All right. Ed Henry for us this morning. We should also mention Harvey Weinstein formerly of Miramax. That's where he was best known from.

Ed Henry, thanks.

CHO: CNN NEWSROOM just minutes away. Tony Harris at CNN Center with a look at what's ahead. Hey, buddy. Good morning.

TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Alina, good morning to you. Good morning, everyone. Help for the desperate on the NEWSROOM run down this morning. The first United Nations plane filled with food for cyclone victims arrives in Myanmar. Predictions now the death toll may reach 100,000.

Hillary Clinton campaigns in three states today. Barack Obama lobbies undecided superdelegates in Washington.

On alert for severe storms today, Nashville to New Orleans, roughly in the bull's eye. The plains already hit by dangerous weather.

And a chance to win free gas if you go to church. Betty is with me in the NEWSROOM, we get started in just a couple of minutes at the top of the hour on CNN. Alina, back to you.

CHO: And whatever it takes. Tony, thank you. We look forward to it about 14 minutes from now.

ROBERTS: To make anybody get religion -- it's Thursday that means we are opening up Dr. Sanjay Gupta's mailbag. Our chief medical correspondent tackles your health questions. What's in the bag today?

DR. SANAJY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: It's good to know that people are watching because we got a lot of questions about segments that we did this past week. So, we're going to answer some of those. Also a remarkable procedure out there to try and treat atrial fibrillation. It's going to make you go, gee whiz. How does it work? I'll have it for you coming up on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Ten minutes to the top of the hour. Every Thursday we ask our Dr. Gupta to open up the mailbag and answer your medical questions.

CHO: And Sanjay, we're lucky enough to have him here. So, let's get right to it. You know, a lot of viewers have been writing in asking about the tip you gave on Tuesday regarding prescription costs. I remember this, you mentioned that you could break a pill in half to save on costs. But you weren't suggesting people take a half dose?

GUPTA: No what doctors will do sometimes is give you double the dose. So for example, a 10 milligrams and you're supposed to take it once a day, you get 20 milligram tablets, some of those tablets are actually scored. You pay the same price whether it is 10 or 20 milligrams, this was a tip on how to possibly save money. Again, you know, not all doctors would recommend this. If you look at those tablets, they are scored and doctors will sort of tell you on the slide we'll give you 20 milligram tablets, break them in half. Again, just another tip out there.

ROBERTS: Next question is from Gale in Fort Meyers, Florida she write and says "it's starting to get hot outside, I'm worried about my 70-year-old mother. Do you have any tips on preventing heat related illness this summer?" You know, down there in Florida, the humidity is so thick, you can cut it with a knife.

GUPTA: When you have humidity and heat, what's happening as you know, John, that you can't evaporate the sweat off your skin. That is your natural cooling mechanism and that's the problem here. I think the key for this grandmother is to obviously have someone looking for early signs. They may just be fatigue, you may have overall changes in cognition, people not remembering or slurring some words. Heart rate starts to go up and someone starts to develop heat exhaustion. You got to get them to air-conditioning. Simply having a fan is not enough. And that's something that we've talked about in the past with heat exhaustion. Public libraries, malls, if you can't afford the air-conditioning bills, which maybe very expensive. It can help.

ROBERTS: Because you actually stop sweating, right?

GUPTA: That's right.

ROBERTS: Evaporation doesn't work anymore.

GUPTA: When you stop sweating your face turns red. And someone who is not sweating - that could be a bigger warning sign than someone who is sweating profusely.

CHO: Hey, we have one more, time for one more. Jeremy from Highland Park, Illinois writes "I am going to be undergoing what is known as "The Maze." All right. So I don't know what this is. Explain this to us. This is your gee whiz moment.

GUPTA: I think it's pretty interesting. People have atrial fibrillation which is a cardiac rhythm irregularity. If they are having this and it's a problem, for a small minority it can be, they will try medications to see if they can correct it. They will try actually shocking the heart back into a normal rhythm. If nothing seems to be working, they will take an aggressive approach to this where they actually do open heart surgery and make little cuts all over the heart muscle tissue and allow that to scar in. What that does is sort of re-direct the electrical patterns that are going through the heart at any given time. And hopefully puts the electrical patterns back into a normal rhythm.

ROBERTS: Unbelievable.

GUPTA: Gee whiz.

CHO: Gee whiz is right. You make it easy to understand. Sanjay, thanks.

ROBERTS: Appreciate it.

A quick look now at what CNN NEWSROOM is working on at the top of the hour.

HARRIS (voice-over): See these stories in the CNN NEWSROOM.

The first U.N. plane loaded with food lands in Myanmar today.

Hillary Clinton plans campaign stops in West Virginia, South Dakota and Oregon.

Oklahoma gets pounded by another round of strong storms.

A labor strike escalates into street violence in Beirut.

The Olympic flame tops Mt. Everest.

And a chance for free gas, but you've got to go to church. NEWSROOM top of the hour on CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHO: Hey John, you know, we've been wondering what does Hillary Clinton's run for the White House have to do with toast?

ROBERTS: It's what some of the critics are calling her candidacy. But Clinton has not lost her appetite for the race, while others have had their fill of the seemingly endless campaign. It's the Moos' news in the morning. Here's Jeanne Moos.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's the battle between yes, we can, and yes, we will.

Yes, he can!

Yes, she will!

MOOS: But will it ever end?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This race is over.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This nomination fight is over.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We are in the middle of it. Or toward the end of it.

MOOS: Publicly at least Hillary can't swallow the idea that she's toast. The thing about waiting for toast to pop is that though it takes only a few minutes it feels like forever, sort of like this campaign. Even before the latest primary, some folks had their fill.

GARY SHANDLING, COMEDIAN: I honestly can't watch it anymore. I got physically tired of watching either of them talk anymore.

MOOS: Maybe John McCain inadvertently found the solution to that.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So, whoops.

MOOS: When he started talking into the wrong end of the mike. While Hillary was at the mike after she eked out her Indiana victory, she got a hand from two tiny hands.

CLINTON: And Indiana would be the tie breaker. Well --

MOOS: This kid applauded even when no one else did.

CLINTON: Having an opportunity to meet so many of you.

MOOS: Though he also got nabbed on TV picking his nose and repeatedly squealing. So, the opposing spouses also stuck out. Michelle Obama wearing orange and Bill Clinton looking red. Bill and Hill shared a long hug while Barack kept in touch with his wife with a touch of his hand. The Web site Jezebel photo shopped the famous photo to poke fun at predictions gone wrong favoring Hillary. And slate was counting down her chances with the Hillary death watch. She is shown on a sinking ship with her chance of winning the nomination likewise sinking. This campaign has gone on so long that -- that Obama girl has released her seventh video. This one co-starring libertarian presidential candidate Mike Gravel.

MIKE GRAVEL, LIBERTARIAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm not a YouTube celebrity.

OBAMA GIRL: Do you even sing more than me.

GRAVEL: I'm seeking the presidency you should drop your crush on Obama.

MOOS: If Hillary did this -- the race really would be over. Instead Hillary is saying --

CLINTON: We'll see where it all ends up.

MOOS: Who needs a crystal ball when you've got a toaster. Jeannie Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHO: Let's just say Mike Gravel should stick to his day job, I guess. Right.

ROBERTS: He's not going to be attracting Obama girl any time soon.

CHO: Hey, one more quick on our "Quick Vote" question before we go. We asked should Hillary Clinton drop out of the race for the democratic presidential nomination? 59 percent of you say yes, 31 percent said no.

ROBERTS: Tough numbers this morning. We've also been reading through your e-mails on this. Gary on Alpharetta, Georgia writes in today and says "Senator Clinton needs to get out of the race. She has a math problem. The math doesn't work under any situation. If she splits the party, this will be a disaster and the republicans will have another four years of bad policy."

CHO: We heard from Donna in Tell City, Indiana. She writes "everyone wants to keep doing the math on the democratic nominee but what about the math that everyone is overlooking?" She says, "if Obama is the nominee, we may as well hand over the presidency to McCain. The poll show he can't win against him and the Republican Party knows this too, that is why they are crossing party lines to sabotage this election process."

ROBERTS: One thing we noticed when we read these e-mails is that they are so polarized and there is so much emotion on either side of this, you wonder how the party can come together.

Chuck in Plano, Texas said this one and he writes in to say "we already have a president who is stubborn and unwilling to listen to public opinion. The more adamant Hillary is about continuing in the race for the nomination the more concerned I am that as president she would give us four more years of stay the course gridlock." To all of you who voted or wrote in, thanks very much.

And a programming note as well that we want to pass along to you. We had Barack Obama on last week, he didn't talk to anybody -- we had him on earlier this week.

CHO: That's right. I know.

ROBERTS: You go into a time warp on this shift. We had him on Monday. And then he hasn't talked to anybody on a national basis -

CHO: But he will be with Wolf today.

ROBERTS: He will -- 4:00 this afternoon. The 4:00 p.m. hour of the "Situation Room" Wolf Blitzer and Senator Barack Obama. So, look forward to that. Coming your way this afternoon.

CHO: You're heading to Colorado for your son's college graduation. A milestone in his life, a milestone in yours.

ROBERTS: I'm celebrating freedom from tuition day today.

Thanks so much for joining us on this AMERICAN - T.J. Holmes will be here along with you tomorrow.

CHO: That's right. CNN NEWSROOM.

ROBERTS: See you on Monday.

CHO: We will. CNN NEWSROOM with Tony Harris and Betty Nguyen begins right now.

TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning, everyone. You are in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Tony Harris.

BETTY NGUYEN, CNN, ANCHOR: Yes, and hello everybody. Good morning. I'm Betty Nguyen.

HARRIS: You will see events come into the NEWSROOM live on this Thursday morning, May 8th. Here's what's on the rundown.