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Puerto Rico Votes; Rules Committee Decision Fallout; First Tropical Storm of the Season; Dancing for Forgiveness

Aired June 1, 2008 - 07:00   ET


ROB MARCIANO, CO-HOST: Good morning from the CNN Center in Atlanta, this is CNN SUNDAY MORNING. I can't believe it's June already.

MARCIANO: June 1st.

NGUYEN: This year is half over, folks. That is so hard to believe. It seems like we'd just started. Oh, no, not the case today. We've got a lot to tell you about.

Good morning, everybody. I'm Betty Nguyen. And it's 7:00 a.m. here in Atlanta as well as in San Juan, Puerto Rico, for voters will be heading to the polls in one hour.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's a travesty of democracy, you can't make up votes. You can't decide when other people want to vote without (INAUDIBLE). People voted. And we should count what people did, not make it up for convenience.


NGUYEN: The Democratic Party makes a decision but that doesn't mean every vote counts.

MARCIANO: And happening now. It's the start of the Atlantic hurricane season, and CNN, of course, your hurricane headquarter. We're going to tell you about the first tropical storm of the season. Plus, show you what you need to know, what you need to have to get your family prepared.

NGUYEN: Look at this. Muslim men are dancing for forgiveness. CNN goes into Pakistan to bring you this Faces of Faith you have to see to believe.

MARCIANO: Well, primary season is almost over.

NGUYEN: Can you believe that?

MARCIANO: We still have three contests to go, at least, on Tuesday in South Dakota and Montana.

NGUYEN: But today, it is Puerto Rico with 55 pledged delegates at stake, residents start casting their ballots next hour. Now, preliminary polls show Senator Hillary Clinton in the lead heading into the primary. She is in San Juan this morning. Senator Barack Obama is in South Dakota gearing up for Tuesday's vote there.

MARCIANO: Well, one decision has already been made. A major hurdle has been cleared for the Democratic Party. Finally, it's deciding what to do with Michigan and Florida.

CNN deputy political director, Paul Steinhauser, joins us live from Washington.

Paul, help me, help me, help me break it all down. What happened yesterday and what does it mean?

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN DEPUTY POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, you know, the Democratic Party knew it had to do something. They had to resolve this. They didn't want to alienate voters in Michigan and Florida. Those are two important states. The Democratic Party really needs to win to take the White House back in November.

So, yesterday's decision, it helps, it's a big step, but not everybody is happy with the decision.


STEINHAUSER (voice-over): From the protesters outside...


STEINHAUSER: To the testimony inside.


STEINHAUSER: Democratic Party's Rules and Bylaws Committee hearing was a spirited affair. Job number one: Figure out what to do with Florida and Michigan which broke party rules by moving up their primaries. The contest took place but the candidates stayed away, and Barack Obama wasn't even on the ballot in Michigan. On the agenda: How to penalize the states yet still seat some of their delegates and how to divide them between Obama and Hillary Clinton.

The states made their case.

SEN. BILL NELSON, (D) FLORIDA: Almost 2 million Florida Democrats voted. These voters violated no rule. They committed no crime. They do not deserve punishment. They deserve to be heard.

SEN. CARL LEVIN, (D) MICHIGAN: We've got no ax to grind for either of the candidates. That's not our point. Our point is we want the Michigan delegation seated in full.

STEINHAUSER: But after hours of public and private deliberations, the committee voted to seat both delegations -- with each delegate getting only half a vote.

Clinton won both disputed primaries but Saturday's decision only allows her to make a small dent in Obama's lead in the delegate count.


STEINHAUSER: And after the decision, a lot of angry supporters of Hillary Clinton coming out of the hearing room and they were very vocal. And what's next? Is this the final step?

Well, the Hillary Clinton campaign can take this on, they can appeal this decision. It can go to the credentials committee in a month, and you know what -- it could actually even go all the way down to the convention at the end of August.

The Democratic Party really doesn't want that to happen.

MARCIANO: Well, Paul, you know, if you had to choose which person this kind to lean towards, Senator Obama, I guess, gets a little bit of an advantage with this decision?

STEINHAUSER: Yes. Senator Obama gets a little of an advantage here since the delegations didn't get a full representation, it doesn't let Hillary Clinton catch up to him in the delegate count. He's still ahead.

What it has done as well though is move the goalpost back. It was 2,026 delegates needed to clinch the nomination -- now with the decision here, it's 2,118 delegates to clinch the nomination. So, the goalposts are moved back a little bit, Rob.

MARCIANO: While all this is going on, I'm hearing that Senator Obama now looking for a new church after that controversy.

STEINHAUSER: Yes, this must have been a tough decision for him. This was -- Trinity United Church of Christ was -- he's been there about two decades. This is where he got married. This is where his children were baptized.

But after the Reverend Wright controversy and just this past week, the comments -- the controversial comments from Father Michael Pfleger as well, Reverend Wright first and then the Pfleger controversy, Barack Obama announcing yesterday that he had sent a letter to the pastor of the church saying he was resigning.

MARCIANO: All right. Paul Steinhauser, thanks for that update and the insight.

Of course, today is a busy day, it's decision day for Puerto Rico. Join the best political team on television for full coverage of the island primary. Wolf Blitzer runs the show from the CNN Election Center this afternoon starting at 2:00 Eastern.

NGUYEN: Well, the death toll, it is still rising from the devastating earthquake that hit China almost three weeks ago. The official news agency now says the confirmed death toll is just over 69,000 people. Nearly 19,000 others are still missing and millions are homeless.

You know, we've been talking a lot about the many children killed in the quake, and the families just devastated by their loss, but there is another group of people who are alone in the aftermath and all but forgotten.

CNN's Kyung Lah reports now from China.


KYUNG LAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The earthquake orphaned 5,500 children in an instant. But the group you don't hear about as often are elderly orphans, people who are now alone, their family members killed in the earthquake. The government estimates there is are 4,800 of them who are now completely alone.

Elderly who are alone face some unique obstacles. They need to be cared for but they're not necessarily adopted like children. There has been a ground swell of support for this group from volunteers and some are being cared for by friends and neighbors.

But the concern is, what happens a few years from now and what about their mental health as they spend their latter years without family.

Despite these challenges the government pledges they will be cared for.

Kyung Lah, CNN, Dujiangyan, China.


MARCIANO: The next move in the Texas polygamy case may come next week. On Tuesday, a hearing is set to resume in San Angelo in one case involving a mother from the polygamist group's ranch. Last week, the Texas Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling that the state didn't prove there was an immediate danger when workers removed more than 400 children from the compound in April.

The hearings are all part of a massive custody case that's underway. Parents say they should get the kids back. Now, after the high court decision, some are questioning whether the state did the right thing in taking the children in the first place.

NGUYEN: Well, today does mark the official beginning of the Atlantic hurricane season.

MARCIANO: Yes, and wouldn't you know, we've already had our first named storm of the season to tell you about. It started yesterday, it's still kind of bring (ph) -- tropical storm Arthur is moving west over Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, made a landfall yesterday over Belize.

CNN's meteorologist, Reynolds Wolf, is tracking it all.

Reynolds, you and I were watching this thing kind of flare up yesterday morning. And sure it enough, boom, there it was, tropical storm.

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It really is hard to believe. I mean, you remember that this was -- actually it's a cluster of clouds in parts of the Caribbean, and it really just begun to develop. There's still some deep convection and it's right off the coast. But as soon as this thing crosses over into the Yucatan, it's going to begin to lose a lot of its strength very rapidly.

These storms drive so much their power from the warm ocean water. So, once it gets on land, every second that passes, every moment that passes, this storm will continue to weaken considerably. So that is certainly the good news that we have with regards to this.

However, keep in mind when this storm system makes its way to higher elevation, and necessarily in parts of Yucatan, a little bit deeper inland, what we can anticipate is the possibility of flash flooding. When it gets to higher elevations, you're going to have something we refer to often as orographic lift which could -- yes, it's kind of like the effect of getting a damp wash rag and squeezing all the water out of it. So, you're going to have -- some more often have some tremendous issues.

Plus, the Yucatan peninsula, although we're not expecting incredibly strong winds, winds of 40, say, 35 miles an hour, so, you're not going to have barrier here. So, what are you going to have, these winds are going to have nothing stopping them from spinning right across much of the Yucatan. So, people in Campeche back southward to Guatemala and, of course, to much of southern Mexico are going to be dealing with all this.

Now, coming up, we're going to give you a look at, not only what's happening here in the Yucatan, but we're also going to take a look at a way to be prepared for this hurricane season. Especially people on the gulf coast, on the Mid-Atlantic states -- of course Florida, you need to be prepared. We're going to give you some ideas and how to (INAUDIBLE) just that, coming up in a few moments. That, including a look at around the country of today's forecast.

NGUYEN: Well, that is definitely some good and important information. We are staying tuned for that. Thank you, Reynolds.

WOLF: You bet.

MARCIANO: Thanks, Reynolds.

All right. Do you know the one place in your house that you shouldn't be during a hurricane?

NGUYEN: Somewhere near a window, maybe?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That area which is a lot better than I had (ph), and since I have the accordion shutters, why have a weak spot on your house?

(END VIDEO CLIP) MARCIANO: Just ahead, some valuable information that could save life and property if you're in the path of a serious storm.

NGUYEN: And coming up in Faces of Faith.

It's a religious festival where frantic dancing is not a sin but actually the way to salvation.


MARCIANO: Today is the first day of the 2008 Atlantic hurricane season. And this year, the weather experts once again think it's going to be an above normal year.

So, are people actually bracing for hurricane season? Here's John Zarrella.


JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Neil Rubin is getting a new garage door installed at his home.

NEIL RUBIN, HOMEOWNER: This one is supposed to withstand, I think, 150 miles an hour in that area which is a lot better than I had (ph), and since have I the accordion shutters, why have a weak spot on your house?

ZARRELLA: And the garage door is considered the weakest spot in a home.

JACK TROUT, ELECTRONIC DOOR LIFT: You lose the garage, you lose a roof, you lose the contents of the house, everything is gone.

ZARRELLA: But a Mason-Dickson Poll conducted for the National Hurricane Survival Initiative found a staggering 95 percent of the 1,100 adults questioned didn't know this. And 30 percent said they would not start preparing their homes until a hurricane warning is issued.

CHUCK LANZA, BROWARD EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT: All the wood is gone from the stores at 24 hours, the plywood is gone from all the larger stores, people need to make those plans early in the season.

ZARRELLA: The survey found bad habits resurfacing that existed before the devastating wake-up call season of 2005.

Katrina, Rita, and Wilma. An astounding 50 percent said they had no disaster plan or survival kit. Why the complacency?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because they've been through it so many times that, you know, most of the time it doesn't hit.

ZARRELLA: Emergency managers say while many people may not be prepared for the long aftermath, they do, in most cases, enough to survive a storm. LANZA: People, still, at the last minute, usually will make the right decision. The problem is that they don't have a plan in place and they haven't bought the supplies they need.

ZARRELLA: And this may not surprise you. The high price of gas is compounding the underpreparedness problem, that's because people aren't buying the supplies they need because they're spending so much money to fill up their gas tank.

(on camera): Another number coming out of the survey that you shake your head over, 85 percent of the people polled said they had no intention of doing anything to strengthen their home against a hurricane.

John Zarrella, CNN at the National Hurricane Center in Miami.


MARCIANO: Being prepared, obviously, would help things when hurricane season gets cranked up. Reynolds Wolf here in the CNN Weather Center. He went shopping yesterday to help us, you know, think about -- a lot of stuff here in a hurricane preparedness kit that I wouldn't think about.

WOLF: Absolutely. The number one thing is hopefully you can evacuate so this will be never an issue. But for many people who are going to be stuck in an area that's going to be ravaged by hurricane, you're going to live (ph) without water, you're going to live without power, life is not good. It can be a big issue.

And I can tell from personal experience, being in Florida in 2004, we were without power, every time the storm came through. So, three times without power.

MARCIANO: So, you might not be in the evacuation zone but you lose power for a couple of days.

WOLF: We're still going to have that issue.

MARCIANO: So, (INAUDIBLE), flashlight, out clearly (ph).

WOLF: Absolutely, you're going to have to have these things. I mean, having a flashlight obviously is going to make things better for you. You aren't going to have a lot of running water in many cases. You have the flooding, say for example, Katrina. You're not going to be drinking much of the water there. So, you're definitely going to need the bottled water.

You're not going to wash your plates, so, you definitely want to have some plates that are disposable. When it comes to food, you need to have nonperishable items you see right here like, obviously, the canned goods.

What I found interesting, Rob, is when shopping for people food, people food in many of the cans you don't have the pop tops. Yet, for pet food you do, which also brings back the importance of having a flashlight. Because if you're opening this in the dark you may want to make sure you open the right can.

MARCIANO: Sure. We'll do that so that Fido can open the can himself. It makes easier -

WOLF: The dogs that have opposable thumbs can definitely do that.

When it comes to other things, obviously, you need to have something to clean up with, to wash up with, the small travel sizes are always easy to get.

MARCIANO: This mosquito repellent, these are wipes? Are these?

WOLF: Those are wipes. Just like the little handy wipes you have. And I'm sure you could -- you know from personal experience dealing with the storms like Katrina, you'll often have a lot of bugs in these tropical locations. You're definitely going to need something to ward off the insects.

Toothbrushes -- with the kids, you don't want to forget the diapers, that's also a very important thing. You can get cool things like this. And I say cool, I mean literally and figuratively. Just these little - these little Ace cold compresses, not only just to, maybe take care of a boo-boo but also to help you cool down.

MARCIANO: Yes, just put (ph) on your forehead. So, you crack that and boom, it turns cold.

WOLF: It is a great experience. Yes. It's one that everyone should try. And also, in terms of things like dental care, you're going to definitely going to need that. Take a look at this. You can get a pack like this, Rob, this is for you, man -- the combination of both the toothpaste and the toothbrush.

MARCIANO: Look at that, it's flavored as well.

WOLF: Yes, it makes a big difference.

MARCIANO: Do you have the baby wipes here?

WOLF: The baby wipes we have, actually combo wipe that is not only for kids but also for adults. That's probably under here somewhere. Some, of course, that are just -- Clorox and others.

MARCIANO: But if your water is out, I mean, the only way to clean yourself would be with baby wipes.

WOLF: Absolutely. And, of course, water, it definitely helps. Water probably the most important thing you have. People can live without food obviously for a long time but water you got to have it.

MARCIANO: You don't necessarily to need the high end stuff.

WOLF: You don't need the high end stuff. Absolutely, basically the wet kind of water is the best kind. And you need roughly a gallon per day per person.

MARCIANO: What did you spend on all of this?

WOLF: Believe it or not, this just around $100. There are ways you can do it a lot more. Spend some more high end, you can do it a heck of a lot cheaper. And a lot of this stuff, people can just keep them in their homes. And the cool thing is, Rob, you get it, you put it in a bag, you put it in your closet and you just kind of, you know it's there but you never have to deal with it. It can stay there for a long time. And, you know, it's one of those things that it's there to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.

MARCIANO: And it's stuff that you'll use, regardless.

WOLF: Absolutely, yes.

MARCIANO: Like the Charmin To Go. This is something that I haven't seen. You may want to take that along road trip if you're traveling.

WOLF: My gift to you, man. Absolutely, and, of course, many, many things. We're going to be showing people more ideas throughout much of the morning.

MARCIANO: All right. Cool. Great stuff, Reynolds. And we certainly hope for a quiet one. We'll see what happens. We already have one tropical storm on the books.

WOLF: You bet.

MARCIANO: All right. Betty, back to you.

NGUYEN: That's good information. Like you said, better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it. Good stuff there. Thanks, guys.

WOLF: You bet.

NGUYEN: Well, trying to make dreams come true.

Check him out. This young man has his eye on Olympic gold but his parents could be deterred by green. Not enough cash to get to Beijing.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN: The news channel trusted by more Americans. Now: Back to CNN SUNDAY MORNING.

NGUYEN: The Olympic torch continues its relay today in Yichang, China, it's the second stop in central China's Hubei Province.

MARCIANO: These pictures are from yesterday's relay. Yichang is where the famous Three Gorges hydro power plant is located. Before the journey begun, all torchbearers observed a minute of silence for the victims of the May 12th earthquake.

NGUYEN: Well, with some of - the Olympic is fast approaching, some of the athletes' family members are blown away by how much it's going to cost to get to Beijing and see their loved ones compete. One D.C. area family is even counting on bake sales just to cover the expenses.

Take a look.


NGUYEN (voice-over): Under the watchful eye of his father and coach, Gary Russell, Jr. works up a light sweat.

GARY RUSSELL, JR., ATHLETE: I've been watching and (INAUDIBLE) psychologically. Then you go into that.

NGUYEN: Gary is a member of the U.S. Olympic team that will compete in Beijing this summer. The 19-year-old bantamweight has gold medal hopes and his father is determined to see it person.

GARY RUSSELL, SR., FATHER/COACH: I know I'm going. I'm claiming it. We're going.

RUSSELL, JR.: It mean a lot to me to have my father there.

NGUYEN: The problem is the cost -- $24,000 to be exact. Airfare, a one-month hotel stay and event tickets, and that's just for one person. U.S. Olympic officials say they only cover the expenses of athletes. Families have to make to Beijing on their own.

Gary senior has his own skills in the ring but he's counting on his skills in the kitchen to get him to China to see his son's big moment.

RUSSELL, SR.: Right now, I'm making a pineapple upside-down cake and they sell pretty good.

NGUYEN: Gary senior is baking cakes, selling t-shirts -- doing everything he can to raise money without selling out his son's future.

RUSSELL, SR.: And if a promoters who call, and suggest that if you sign your son, if you consider signing with us then we'll pay the bulk of the expenses for that, you know. And I couldn't do it.

NGUYEN: Gary junior says he wants his parents with him but that he's focused on the task at hand.

RUSSELL, JR.: Hopefully, they'll get there. If not, you know, (INAUDIBLE).

NGUYEN: He recently came home from training to surprise his mom for Mother's Day. It's a family affair for the Russells who are determined to see their son compete just as determined Gary junior says he'll do his part in the ring.

RUSSELL, JR.: I'll try to come home with the gold. I've got to come home with the gold.


NGUYEN: And we hope he does. But, my goodness, Rob, $24,000 just to get there to watch their son play -- and that's for one person. MARCIANO: Yes. Well, I mean, it's the other side of the world, you know.

NGUYEN: Yes, that's true. But, I mean, my goodness.

OK. Well, here's the deal. The Russells say the community has rallied around them and they are optimistic that they'll raise the money in time to go to Beijing. So, good luck to all of them.

MARCIANO: All right, sweet.

Big time decision yesterday, the deal is done. DNC seats Florida and Michigan, about halfway, though. We'll talk live with one of the committee members, coming up.

NGUYEN: Plus, politics and religion are not mixing well for Barack Obama. So, he is walking away. That's ahead on CNN SUNDAY MORNING.



SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D-IL) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And so, this is not a decision I come to lightly, and frankly, it's one that I make with some sadness.


NGUYEN: It is a sad Sunday morning for the senator, his family and his church. The presidential campaign has Barack Obama ending a long relationship. And we'll give you details on that.

But in the meantime, welcome back, everybody, on this Sunday. I'm Betty Nguyen.

MARCIANO: And I'm Rob Marciano in for T.J. Holmes.

The DNC finally decided what to do with Florida and Michigan, reinstating some of the delegates stripped away in January.

NGUYEN: It's punishment for breaking party rules with early primaries.

OK. So, this is how it shakes out. In Florida Hillary Clinton gets 105 delegates, Barack Obama gets 67.

MARCIANO: In Michigan, a compromise netted Obama 59, Clinton got 69. It took most of the day to finally agree on the new math but not everyone was satisfied.


JENNY DOGGETT, CLINTON SUPPORTER: I think they have done the worst thing they could do, which is somehow make it up. You could have counted whatever you wanted to count that was a real piece of data. But the idea that you make something up, this number that comes out of the DNC is not Democratic.

OBAMA: This results in Senator Clinton obtaining a substantial number of additional pledged delegates. She nets a significant number of additional pledged delegates, but I also understand that many members of the Florida and Michigan delegation feel satisfied that the decision was fair.


NGUYEN: All right. So, the states get to send their delegates to the convention but each delegate only gets half a vote. It was indeed a tough day for the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee.

And Ralph C. Dawson is a member of that committee and he joins us on the phone now from Washington.

I want to get your take on this as people are trying to digest exactly what happened yesterday. Do you believe this was a fair decision?

RALPH C. DAWSON, DNC RULES COMMITTEE MEMBER (on phone): Yes, I do. I think that the number of delegates attained, for example, by Senator Clinton were similar to that which she got in Pennsylvania and Ohio. I think that the result was not only fair but enhances the prospects for unity within the party because it represented a compromise between the supporters of Senator Clinton and Senator Obama where both of the supporters stepped forward and showed leadership to achieve the unifying result.

NGUYEN: But does it provide unity because Clinton's campaign says the committee's decision on Michigan delegates, Michigan delegates, does not reflect the votes of the people and in a statement which we're going to put on the screen, they said, "The committee awarded to Senator Obama not only the delegates won by uncommitted, but four of the delegates won by Senator Clinton. This decision violates bedrock principle of our democracy and our party." So I wanted you to give us reaction to that from your perspective. Why was it divvied up in such a way in Michigan?

DAWSON: Well, I happen to think that statement was wrong because the contests held in let's stick with Michigan in particular, the contest held there, was not a primary within our rules. It was a contest conducted outside of our rules, and therefore it was wrong to say that Senator Clinton had won any particular number of delegates as a result of that contest.

NGUYEN: If you look at the votes Senator Clinton had 55 percent and Obama 40 percent. And according to what you guys determined yesterday, Clinton is saying look, you gave Obama this 40 percent which some of the undecided was in there that could have gone to, say, not Clinton but Edwards instead. But you gave that to Obama.

DAWSON: The result we reached was a product of negotiation and consensus reached within the committee. It reflected the fact that the Michigan Democratic Party itself had proposed a solution similar to this, and it was built on the solution proposed by a broad cross- section of the leadership in Michigan. So, we believe that what we did is appropriate under the circumstances.

NGUYEN: All right. Well, Clinton's camp suggested that they might appeal which mean this is could go all the way up to the convention. But let me ask you this. You are an undecided superdelegate Clinton is fighting for every single vote, hoping when the dust settles she wins the popular vote. If that's the case, how much does that play into your decision as an undecided?

DAWSON: The decision as to what I would do as an undecided automatic delegate was not influenced very much by the results yesterday. Yesterday was a day for reviewing appeals from the two states, and trying to do what was fair under the circumstances and under the rules of our party. To me that's a separate issue than the issue of what we must ultimately do as a superdelegate.

NGUYEN: All right. Ralph C. Dawson, member of the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee joining us by phone today. We do appreciate your time. Thank you.

The math has changed a bit with the Florida and Michigan decisions. Now it will take 2,118 delegates for a majority. Barack Obama leads with 2,051 and that includes 327 superdelegates, Hillary Clinton has 1,877. Like we said earlier there are 55 pledged delegates up for grabs in Puerto Rico today.

MARCIANO: Meanwhile, Senator Barack Obama says he's quit the church he has been attending for almost 20 years. The back story here is of all of the controversial sermons by his former pastor and another minister that had become issues on the campaign trail. Christian Farr is outside Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ. Good morning, Christian. What else can you tell us?

CHRISTIAN FARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, members are trickling in right now and coming in for the past half hour getting ready for the service that's going to happen at 7:30 Central Time. And of course this church has been under a microscope because its most high profile member, Senator Barack Obama was running for president. It's been under a microscope because of the comments by its former pastor, the Reverend Wright and recently visiting pastor, the Father Michael Pfleger, who is a community activist in the area of Chicago.

As we said, the members are trickling in now. Obama has decided to leave the church and made that official to the pastor and here is what he said about his decision.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's clear that now that I'm a candidate for president, every time something is said in the church by any one associated with Trinity, including guest pastors, the remarks will be imputed to me even if they totally conflict with my long-held views, statements and principles.


FARR: Now, the Reverend Otis Moss, who is the current pastor of the church right now, issued a statement saying, "Though we are saddened by the news we understand that this is a personal decision. Rob?"

MARCIANO: Christian, Barack Obama is not quitting the faith, just quitting the church. Any word as to a new church he might be wanting to attend?

FARR: What we've heard that Senator Barack Obama is going to be searching for a new church for his family, one he's not going to politically vet and one he can sit in the pew and have some nice reflection.

MARCIANO: After all, that's what it should be all about, right, Christian. All right. Well, we'll continue to watch the folks as they trickle in there. That's a big church in Chicago. We appreciate your report. Christian Farr live from Chicago, thanks Christian.

NGUYEN: Still talking politics this morning, Senator John McCain makes an unannounced visit to Walter Reed Hospital. Cameras were not allowed and his campaign did not say why his motorcade went to the hospital yesterday afternoon. He did leave two hours later.

And you can join the best political team in television for our coverage of the Puerto Rico primary, Wolf Blitzer runs the show from the CNN Election Center this afternoon at 2:00 eastern.

MARCIANO: Ahead, the dark cloud over the housing market does have a silver lining. If you know where to look and if of course you have good credit. That helps

NGUYEN: Also ahead, Josh Levs will explain what a boomer-rang is. Don't we know?

JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Not this kind, my guess is. We'll find out why it's a growing trend in the economy. We're going to have that and you can weigh in on how your family is coping and changing. Just ahead, CNN SUNDAY MORNING.


NGUYEN: The U.S. housing market continues to cool for investors but things, they are beginning to heat up.

MARCIANO: CNN's Ali Velshi looks at how the real estate market can get you on your money.


RON DRALUCK, MORTGAGE EXPERT: A lot of people think it's a terrible time to invest. That's not so at all.

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Mortgage expert Ron Draluck says money and good credit could have you cashing in on today's real estate market.

DRALUCK: Interest rates are close to a 45-year low. Which means your house payments on these new mortgages will be low. And since we are in a crisis, the mortgage banks and companies have tightened up in their criteria to qualify for loans.

VELSHI: Draluck believes it's a good time to turn real estate into rental property.

DRALUCK: People that normally could have bought a house can't do it anymore. There's more renters out there than almost ever before.

VELSHI: To get your most bang for your buck he suggests investing in locations where property valuess are likely to go up.

DRALUCK: Areas that may be fast appreciating may be close in to work, shopping centers and hospitals, that sort of thing.

VELSHI: No matter where you buy the best time to invest in real estate may be right now. Ali Velshi, CNN, New York.


MARCIANO: Even families who are doing OK financially are still having to make some adjustments in the current economy.

NGUYEN: Our own Josh Levs has found that the belt tightening has created interesting new trends. Is this the boomer-rang part?

LEVS: No, but you're excited for that, aren't you.

MARCIANO: Who wouldn't be, really?

LEVS: I think of Australia when I hear that. Here's the thing. This is a recommended by a viewer to take a look at how the economy is affecting families and the shape of families. And I saw an i-Report right here that got me thinking about this. Take a look at this. This photograph is Naomi and Lucas.

They sent us their photo and talk about how the economy is shaping their life. I want to show you a quote from what he wrote us. "He says you know what, we're now spending more time together. We now share most of our commute." They also say that they decided to have the wife stay home when their first baby arrives in July. So congratulations to them.

That got me thinking, how are families restructured. And right here at we have a story about some in the 40s and 50s, this is Dale Booth right here, 54 years old, he can't retire and he can't get a job. He had only one interview after spending out hundreds of resumes. This is where we get to the boomer-rangs. We think of baby- boomers being that generation. Take a look at this. I was reading about this in the "Pittsburgh Post-Gazette." A lot of baby boomers are now having to move in with their parents because of the economy. Hence you get boomer-rans, them returning to their parents' homes and never leaving again.

Now that's a couple generations under one roof. What about three generations. I have a series of articles on line. This is from "St. Louis Post-Dispatch" that talks about, "They're back. More and more college graduates are now moving back with their families as well." In fact, here is a survey here. Look at this. Just under half of perspective graduates from college this year are planning to boomerang back to their parents. That brings me back to i-Report. What we want to do is invite you, send us your stories how the economy is shaping your family. Are you spending more time together because you can't go out as much, spending more time in the car because you have to commute together. Are you as a family moving back in with multiple generations under one roof. Someone suggested it can seem like a sit- com if you have three or even four generations having to live in one home right now because of the tightening economy. Go to Click on i-report. There you go. Betty and Rob. That's the idea here.

Are people having to boomerang more and more, if so what's it like for you, share your stories. We'll in turn toss some of them right here on CNN.

NGUYEN: I mean just imagine three or four generations under one roof, you can't go anywhere. Man oh, man. Tempers are going to flare. You know, really?

MARCIANO: We're coming back to the core family roots?

NGUYEN: Is that what it is?

MARCIANO: With everyone living in one house. We're going back to that.

LEVS: That's the prettier view but in recent decades we haven't had to do that. The question is, if that's happening more how is that going to affect our country? Let's keep an eye.

NGUYEN: Very interesting. All right, thanks, Josh.

MARCIANO: Boomer-rang. All right.

So rising gas prices. If anybody is going to have a pretty view of rising gas prices it is going to be Rick Sanchez.

Join him for a CNN special on the gasoline crunch. "Four Bucks, What's Next?" America's fuel nightmare. That airs at 8:00 Eastern tonight here on CNN.

And this reminder. You can see CNN's Ali Velshi and Gerri Willis on ISSUE #1 all this week at noon Eastern.

NGUYEN: I was kind of floored by this story. Ahead, take a look. You might think these robbers are wearing surgical masks.

MARCIANO: No. You're wrong. Try women's underwear. We can see your face.

NGUYEN: Why? What is wrong with people?

MARCIANO: Some people have a fetish and are criminals at the same time. Reynolds? NGUYEN: That does not include you, of course.

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: That is so -- that is so thong. I mean wrong.

MARCIANO: Absolutely. What a way to segue to weather.

NGUYEN: You had to go to women's thongs? What?

WOLF: I'm speechless. Whatever you say I support you.

Good time, man. Let me tell you. We have an underwear-free forecast. Even that sounds bad.

NGUYEN: Don't say that it's underwear free.

WOLF: We've got a lot going on in the tropics and around the nation. Please stay tuned. Please. We'll see you in a bit.


MARCIANO: Welcome back. It is 49 minutes after the hour. Time for a check of this morning's headlines.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three, two, one. Booster ignition and liftoff of shuttle Discovery.


NGUYEN: Space shuttle Discovery taking off with its seven-member crew headed for the international space station. On board Discovery a brand new science lab and a much-need toilet pump to fix a broken commode.

MARCIANO: From commodes to women's panties, here we go. Stories that very well could lock us out of the building. Colorado police searching for a pair of robbers dressed in women's underwear. Throngs strategically placed over their heads, so it's fashionable I guess, but not exactly effective. You can still see their faces. Nice work. Police say the men are in their 20s, made off with cash and cigarettes during this convenience store raid a couple of weeks ago.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three, two, one.


NGUYEN: Talk about a jaw dropping tummy aching good time. Eric "The Red" Denmark scarfed down 21 hot dogs and buns to win his hot dog eating primary in Missouri. Now next on his plate, the Original Nathan's Famous competition on Coney Island. Eric the Red, as he calls himself, competes for the Mustard Yellow Belt and the reigning title. MARCIANO: That's highly coveted belt.

NGUYEN: What was the guy who kept winning over and over again?

MARCIANO: I was talking to Alan Chernoff about it because you know, he covers it.

NGUYEN: Every year.

MARCIANO: Every year. And I can't remember the names but they are colorful names and characters and attractive while doing that.

Tropical Storm Arthur churning over the Yucatan. Meteorologist Reynolds Wolf tracking it all.


NGUYEN: Speaking of names, we did find out the guy who kept winning that Nathan's Original hot dog contest. Kobayashi. Joey Chestnut, I believe, won last year.

WOLF: How proud his parents must be. That's my boy. Right there. What a crazy morning. From the panty wearing thieves to the hot dog eating contest.

NGUYEN: You know what? You get it all here at CNN.

WOLF: It's a family show. It's a great thing. Thanks for letting me do part of it.

MARCIANO: All right, Reynolds. See you in just a little bit.

You bet. Some hard choices ahead for many Katrina victims along the Gulf Coast. With the start of the new hurricane season, FEMA says government trailers are not adequate housing. The agency wants people to move out of the trailers now, today. But many people have nowhere to go. An in-depth look at a problem with no easy answers coming up in our 9:00 hour.

NGUYEN: Also looking for forgiveness through a wild dance. Take a look.

They are just getting started. This think takes off. Let me tell you. Ands we're going to take to you Pakistan for a colorful religious festival.

MARCIANO: And can you spell guerdon? In the next hour -- not sure if I pronounced that right, hear from the winner of this year's National Spelling Bee. And yeah, he definitely can spell it.


MARCIANO: Muslims in Islamabad are just ending the week long Bari Imam religious festival that honors the patron saint of Pakistan's capital city and is the focus of our "Faces of Faith" this morning. CNN's Reza Sayah is in Islamabad and has a look at this colorful festival.


REZA SAYAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: How fast can you spin around without getting dizzy and crashing head first into the ground? How fast can you move your neck without pulling a neck muscle? In Pakistan, they can do it really fast.

Welcome to the Bari Imam Festival in Islamabad, an annual celebration where people dance for five days straight at breakneck speed at drum beats that keep going and going.

The Bari Imam Festival celebrates the Sufi saint Bari. In Urdu, Bari is loosely translated into the one who forgives. So the thousands of people who come here pray for forgiveness. But here, pray means you have to dance and dance some more.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I like it very much.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You go into meditation the minute you start dancing.

SAYAH (voice-over): Honoring God through euphoric dance is a ritual in Sufi religion, a mystical branch of Islam. Here all Muslim sects are welcome. For five days in a country marred by militancy and Islamic extremism, Pakistanis dance. Sometimes with the help of mind altering substances.

Nevertheless, this is still advertised as a Muslim festival. You won't find men dancing with women. In fact here, you won't find many women at all.

People come from hundreds of miles away to get here. Some of them walk in bare feet. For five days many of them will eat, sleep, and dance here.

(on camera): Three years ago a heartless murderer planted a bomb here. More than a dozen people died. But clearly nothing is stopping the dancing and the drum beats. Reza Sayah, CNN, Islamabad.


NGUYEN: From the CNN center this is CNN SUNDAY MORNING. It is June 1st. We are halfway through the year, folks. 8:00 a.m. at CNN headquarters in Atlanta, 7:00 a.m. in the heartland. Good morning, everybody. I'm Betty Nguyen.

MARCIANO: Good morning. I'm Rob Marciano in for T.J. Holmes. A final decision for the Democratic National Convention. But not everyone is happy. Some supporters for Senator Clinton are promising to push her all summer to that convention.

NGUYEN: Plus, the nation's newest spelling bee champ, not them. We'll get you a picture shortly. We actually tested him, believe this or not, you should with a word that he actually had a hard time spelling. Who knew? Find out what it was this half hour. MARCIANO: We start with politics, the polls are opening in Puerto Rico this hour. Resident there is are deciding what to do with the 55 delegates at stake in today's primary vote.

NGUYEN: Preliminary polls show Senator Hillary Clinton in the lead heading into the primary. She is in San Juan this morning. Senator Barack Obama is in South Dakota gearing up for Tuesday's vote there. Well, two other primaries are now in the books, Florida and Michigan.

The Democratic National Committee's rule-makers came to a compromise agreeing to seat the delegates at their convention, but with only half a vote for each delegate.

CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser joins us from Washington this morning to break it all down.

So, how exactly does this work because it sounds like Florida got a different deal than Michigan?

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN DEPUTY POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, that's because in Florida Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were both on the ballot. In Michigan, you know what -- Barack Obama wasn't on the ballot. The Democratic Party knew they had to do something about this, Betty. It was a problem, they had to solve it. Florida and Michigan, important states the Democrats need if they want to take back the White House in November.

Remember, this all started about a year ago. Both states decided to move up their primaries to have a bigger slice of the action. The Democratic Party penalized them. They figured out they had to do something to solve this problem. They can't alienate all these voters.

So, they came up to -- they spent all day yesterday in Washington, D.C. They'd just kind of laid out the decision, full delegations will be seated but they only get half a vote each. That they hope this is the end of the process, but it may not be over.

And after the vote -- after the vote, there were a lot of angry Democratic Party supporters, most of them backers of Hillary Clinton, they came out. There was some yelling. There was some screaming in the lobby outside of the committee room and here's what some of them had to say.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I came from St. Louis, Missouri, and I came here. It's not relevant whether I support Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. I believe in Democracy. I believe that everyone has the right to vote and to be counted. I don't understand why they did what they did in there.


STEINHAUSER: Very emotional as you can see there and it may not be over, Betty, because Hillary Clinton can still appeal this process. About a month from now, the credentials committee meets, it could go to that. And you know what? She could take it all the way to the Democratic convention in August in Denver.

That is something Democratic Party leaders don't want to happen. They want to get this over with.

Barack Obama was in South Dakota last night. Here's what he had to say about what happened.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D-IL) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This results in Senator Clinton obtaining a substantial number of additional pledge delegates. She nets a significant number of additional pledged delegates, but I also understand that many members of the Florida and Michigan delegation feel satisfied that the decision was fair.


STEINHAUSER: So, take a look at the numbers. Hillary Clinton picks up 87 delegates because of what happened with this resolution. Barack Obama picks up 63 delegates. She makes a small dent in his commanding lead in the delegate count but she would have liked to have made up more than that.

It also pushed the goalpost back now. Instead of 2,026 needed to clinch, 2,118 are now needed to clinch. He is closer than she is. She caught up a little bit last night but he is still ahead.

NGUYEN: All right, so what does this mean for the popular vote as we look at all those numbers that were up on the screen?

STEINHAUSER: This is where the decision helps Hillary Clinton out. You've heard her for about a month now say that she is ahead in the popular vote.

Now that Michigan and Florida have been resolved, we think, this means that you would assume that their popular vote totals from their primaries can count. That put Hillary Clinton ahead in the popular vote and that is what -- that is her argument that when it comes down to it, the superdelegates who are undeclared should come to her because she is ahead in the popular vote and she is more electable as she says.

But remember, this is not about the popular vote. This is about a battle for delegates.

NGUYEN: Got you. But a lot of people will argue, you know, when it comes to -- especially superdelegates should they vote the will of the people? So, we'll see how it shakes out. Boy, it's a mess though, isn't it, Paul? My goodness.

STEINHAUSER: It is. It's not over yet.

NGUYEN: No, it's not. Well, thank you. And it's a good thing to have you on board to help us sort it all out. Coming up next hour: We're going to take you live to Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ, and hopefully, hear from some of the other parishioners about Barack Obama's decision.

And speaking of decision, it's decision day in Puerto Rico. Join the best political team on television for full coverage of the island primary. Wolf Blitzer runs the show from the CNN Election Center this afternoon at 2:00 Eastern.

ROB MARCIANO, CO-HOST: Other headlines this morning, presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Senator John McCain, showed up unexpectedly at Walter Reed Hospital yesterday. Cameras were not allowed inside and his campaign did not say why his motorcade went to the hospital yesterday afternoon. He left two hours later.

And a U.S. military helicopter crashes south of Baghdad. The military says two soldiers were injured. Officials think it was due to a mechanical failure but an investigation will get under way to determine the exact cause.

NGUYEN: Well, new numbers out of China this morning as the death toll continues to climb from the devastating earthquake that hit earlier this month. The official news agency says the confirmed death toll is now just over 69,000 people. Nearly 19,000 others are still missing and millions are homeless.

MARCIANO: The hurricane season officially starts today and we already have the first named storm to tell you about. Tropical storm Arthur formed yesterday. It made landfall. Now it's moving west over Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula this morning, and I suppose it should be getting weaker.

Reynolds Wolf has been tracking the storm as has the national hurricane center. He joins us live from the CNN weather center, the hurricane headquarters and all that jazz.

NGUYEN: Well, you know it is that time of the year.


NGUYEN: Here we go again, Reynolds.

WOLF: Yes, I know. It means, it's just one after another. Finally here it is, the season is beginning, right on cue, actually, boom, ahead of the game, yesterday when it first really began to form. What's interesting is what we're watching some developments in parts of the Caribbean just over the last 24 to 48 hours, and boom, this thing did begin to explode. Now, when I say, exploding, it has gotten more powerful but it's the same time, it's a very weak tropical storm with winds right around 40 miles per hour.

It is expected to weaken because, as Rob mentioned, it's going to be moving onshore, when it does it's going to be away from that warm water which is its primary power source and it's going to becomes less of a threat in terms of wind. But it's still going to be a big rainmaker. In fact, this could drop anywhere from, say, 10 inches to well over a foot of rainfall over the next 12 to 24 to 48 hours. This storm is expected to become a tropical depression very quickly, and then, make its way westward by Wednesday.

Now, if there's a chance, if it does happen to move back out into the Bay of Campeche, or into the Gulf of Mexico, there is the potential that this thing getting a lot stronger, strengthening once again, maybe could veer a little bit more to the north. But right now, it poses no threat to us, certainly some good news.

Meanwhile back home, it is a rude awakening for people in parts of Chattanooga, along Missionary Ridge. And look out, you've got some heavy storms this morning, some south of Murphysboro (ph). Back over, we go to parts of Bentonville and Fayetteville near the campus of the University of Arkansas, Razorbacks, we've got some thunderstorms this morning. It's same story for parts Kansas and into Oklahoma this morning as these showers begin to pop up. Some very, very strong storms just south of Wichita at this hour.

So, that's where it's going to be, a lot of activity along this frontal boundary. Things clearing out a little bit in parts of northeast, so, there's rainfall early and plenty warm and dry in parts of the desert southwest.

That's a look at your forecast. Let's send it back to you at the news desk.

NGUYEN: Look at all that rain today though. Folks may be staying in on this Sunday.

All right. Thank you, Reynolds.

MARCIANO: Thanks, Reynolds.

WOLF: You bet, guys.

NGUYEN: Well, coming through with an act of substantial generosity.

Just ahead: How lots of residents along the gulf coast are back on their feet with help from half a world away.

MARCIANO: Also ahead this half hour: We will hear from the new National Spelling Bee champion. We tried to stump him. We'll tell you about the hard word we threw at him. That's coming up.


NGUYEN: Well, time to leave. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is closing its trailer parks for victims of Katrina and Rita back in 2005.

MARCIANO: But the agency says it will take a little more time to close all of the parks. FEMA had set yesterday as its target date for moving all the remaining families out of trailers and into apartments or motels. But by day's end, about 350 families still remained in trailers.

NGUYEN: Well, a helping hand for hurricane victims, one foreign leader comes through on a promise backing up his words with actions.

Here's CNN's Jim Clancy.


JIM CLANCY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They were pulled to safety through rooftops. The old, the young, rescued from hurricane Katrina's rising floodwaters.

It was the late summer of 2005 and the city of New Orleans was desperate.

Half a world away, one man watched these scenes unfold on satellite television and was stirred into action.

HAMAD BIN KHALIFA AL THANI, EMIR OF QATAR: When I saw this and I saw people lose - I mean, the family losing their children, nobody knows where they've gone, the water going inside to school, to houses to hospital, no electricity. You know, if we were in that position, of course, we know what's the tragedies could be.

CLANCY: Qatar's emir, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani responded. His nation, rich in oil and gas, is credited with giving one of the largest single recovery packages to New Orleans and the gulf coast.

MAYOR RAY NAGIN, NEW ORLEANS: They're one of the few that really came forward early with a $100 million commitment. You know, my hats off to them.

CLANCY: At children's hospital, a young patient crafted a personal thank you.

AL THANI: Oh, thank you. What's your name?

CLANCY: Children's health care is a major beneficiary of the Qatar Katrina fund but Adam who has spina bifida was more curious to know why all the TV cameras were following this towering emir.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Why did you bring all these camera people?

AL THANI: They like me.

CLANCY: The genial Sheikh Hamad has lots of new fans in a city where most people admit they never heard of the nation of Qatar. Sheikh Hamad not only wrote a check for $100 million, he carefully divided those funds between education, health care and housing, hand-picking schools and charities to put that money to work.

Arian Gilyot and her family lost everything in the storm. She's back in school with the help of one of more than 2,000 scholarships paid for by Qatar.

ARIAN GILYOT, UNIVERSITY STUDENT: It's amazing the generosity that people have to just step up and say, look, you need help and I'm here. I can do it. Let's do it.

CLANCY: The emir and the people of Qatar have helped rebuild many lives.

Ask Rodney Hart, the Gulfport, Mississippi resident who lost his apartment in the hurricane. Today, he owns a new home and can boast of his personal visit with Sheikh Hamad.

RODNEY HART, NEW HOMEOWNER: It was very thrilling because, you know, I wouldn't expect all those motorcades like that. You know, I thought he was the president.

AL THANI: Well I really hope that our gifts went to the right places and to see good result out of it.

CLANCY (on camera): You realize this is going to affect people for the rest of their lives, your gifts?

AL THANI: Well, I'm happy to hear this.

CLANCY (voice-over): Jim Clancy, CNN, New Orleans.


NGUYEN: Wow, what an amazing gift -- $100 million to help the people of hurricane Katrina and Rita.

MARCIANO: Yes, nice to see other countries helped us.

NGUYEN: Yes, absolutely.

MARCIANO: Josh Levs is standing by right now.

NGUYEN: Yes. He's adding up the political numbers for us this morning. Hey there, Josh.

JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning to you, guys.

So, in order to understand what really happened yesterday and who comes out ahead, you need to -- well, I'll show you coming up using our cool new technology. You'll see it right here on CNN SUNDAY MORNING.


NGUYEN: The Democratic National Committee has resolved the issue of whether to seat delegates from Michigan and Florida. End of story, right?

MARCIANO: Yes. Maybe - no, not exactly. Josh Levs -- he's been crunching the numbers. He's got some new technology he's going to show us.

Hey, Josh.

LEVS: Hey, guys. Yes, this is a great time to use it. I want to show how -- if you really want to understand, get a grasp of what went on yesterday. It is a numbers game, as we know, and sometimes the Democratic race feels like "The Matrix." So, I want to show you how you can understand some of the most important numbers going on. This, obviously, is

But I'm going to take to our election center right here. This right here -- let's close in on the Democrats -- because this is where the delegate race stands right now. You can follow it everyday. This is the overall delegate race. What you'll see -- yesterday's events do not revolutionize who is leading or where things stand.

You can see the breakdown of pledged delegates and superdelegates. Obama wins in both. And way down here, see that number, 2,118, now, because of yesterday's events, the total number that you need to win this race went up, so, in a way, that it makes that look like it's further away. You can follow this everybody.

Now, anytime I talk about numbers, I like to point to one of the most important numbers in any presidential election which is the money which we sometimes forget about. Let's take a look here. What we have now at is a map and a chart showing how much money every candidate has raised using the latest reported figures.

Over here you have the Democrats. Look at this Barack Obama figure -- about $235 million as of last reporting. Clinton was at about $189 million.

And if we scroll across the screen, it's going to shake a little bit as I do this, but look, we've got the Republicans right over here with Mitt Romney who had raised the most among the GOP and then, John McCain -- Mitt Romney over 100 million; John McCain at about $77 million.

And as we (ph) pull back out a little bit because this map is a great feature. Take a look at this map right here. All the darkest states in darkest green, that's where the candidates get the most money -- anything in dark green, Texas, California, Illinois. You're seeing more than $10 million raised from those states.

Keep in mind, when the candidates are traveling all over the country, a lot of it is because of the money. This map explains why.

Obviously, for the latest news at anytime, go to the CNN Political Ticker. Right now, you can read about Clinton supporters and them being angry and saying, some are going to support John McCain.

Let's go back to the home page right there. There you go, guys. -- we update it at least once a day, maybe more often. And as the race keeps changing, certainly after Puerto Rico and all these other changes, keep an eye there and you can see everyday where that race stands -- Betty, Rob.

NGUYEN: All right. Thank you so much.

MARCIANO: Thanks, Josh.

NGUYEN: And you know, speaking of numbers, we're going to give you some more because they're going to come from Puerto Rico today. So, join the best political team on television for full coverage of the island primary. Wolf Blitzer runs the show from the CNN Election Center. It's this afternoon at 2:00 Eastern.

Can you believe it? One particular word at the National Spelling Bee puzzled everybody. I mean it was jaw-dropping almost, including the 2008 spelling bee champ. He was kind of scratching his head.

MARCIANO: We're going to hear from him next.

Also coming up: Fantastic plastic, would you cross the open ocean in a raft made of water and soda bottles? It's about to happen beginning today. We'll tell you where and why.


MARCIANO: Well, America has a new National Spelling Bee champion.

NGUYEN: Oh, yes. Thirteen-year-old Sameer Mishra of West Lafayette, Indiana, aced the word -- are you ready for it -- guerdon, to capture the title. And you know -- appropriately the word means a reward, something that you have earned or gained.

And, boy, has he gained a national championship. There he is. The new champ, Sameer Mishra joins us now from Washington.

How does it feel? I mean, you are the man this morning.

SAMEER MISHRA, 2008 SPELLING BEE CHAMPION: Yes, it feels great. I'm so happy and when -- when I won, I was ecstatic. I felt like jumping up and down.

NGUYEN: Were you surprised because we're going to show some video of this but I saw you put your hands on your face and it almost seemed like -- oh, my gosh, it really happened?

MISHRA: Yes, it was a really surreal moment like I couldn't believe that it was happening. Like when we were down to three spellers, I didn't notice it. I was just like so into the bee, it was amazing.

MARCIANO: You know, this word seems -- I assume there's a lot harder words than this one that you had to go through. What was the hardest word you had to spell?

MISHRA: Well, the hardest word I had to spell was probably like not most (ph), like amazing looking. It was called "Sinicize," and it meant like about a ruling to a Chinese cultures and it was just difficult word to spell because the first letter could be spelled in a lot of different ways because of the "S" sound.

NGUYEN: Yes. Well, you know, you had a lot of very difficult words and, in fact, one that almost stumped you. We have some video of that. It was in the preliminaries and it's quite a word. So, take a listen.




MISHRA: Numnut?


ANNOUNCER: No, Numnah is a felt or sheepskin pad placed between a horse's back and the saddle to prevent chafing. Can I say it then you say it?



MISHRA: Oh, Numnah.




NGUYEN: Oh, my goodness.

MARCIANO: Yes, totally different, isn't it?

NGUYEN: So, yes. So, when you heard that, what was going through your mind? Obviously, we heard what came out of your mouth, but did you think -- holy molly, what am I about to spell?

MISHRA: Yes, I was like so confused and I was really bewildered. I was like -- oh, my God, what is this word and where does it come from.

MARCIANO: Well, we both know that it's actually two words. So, it wouldn't have been in a spelling bee.

NGUYEN: Exactly. But you know, when you were working your way to that final round, you had to go through a lot of different words and, in fact, you didn't do so well with one and you misspelled it. Did you think that it was over -- there was no way you were going to win after that?

MISHRA: Yes, well, I was spelling the word. When I got to the end, the last -- the last three letters, I completely blanked out and I misspelled the word. And I really thought that I wasn't going to make it and like -- the hard -- the one - you know, the year of hard work I've really done this past year was going to go to waste.

MARCIANO: You talk about hard work. How does one prepare for a spelling bee other than memorizing the dictionary?

NGUYEN: Right.

MISHRA: Well, there are several lists that actually they have provided that, you know, and I decided to go through the dictionary because this was my last year and I thought that if, you know, I was going to give it my all, you know. And so, I decided to go through the dictionary actually.

NGUYEN: I love that because you said this is my last year. You're only 13 years old.

MARCIANO: Yes, you did it, kid.

NGUYEN: So, you're ready to hang it all up. Hey, your sister. You've watched her compete in the spelling bee, the National Spelling Bee before, but you're the one who brought home the big prize. So, is there going to be a little teasing going on in your house?

MARCIANO: Bragging rights.

MISHRA: Well, definitely. I'm probably going to tease her a bit but she was my coach this past year. Well, she's always been my coach and I have a lot to thank because she's really pushed me through this way and I would probably never have won if it was without her.

NGUYEN: So, essentially this is partly her win too, huh?

MISHRA: Yes, most definitely. My parents have excellent support for me and my sister is just amazing.

NGUYEN: And some pretty good kids, too, I assume.

MARCIANO: Should we put him to work?

NGUYEN: Yes, we need to put you to work. We're going to try to stump the band here with you and provide you with some words. First up...

MARCIANO: Here, this is not our idea. And if we mispronounce them, you correct us.

NGUYEN: And don't ask us for a definition or use it in a sentence or anything like that, all right? You're not going to get that here.

MARCIANO: Yes, here's the first one. I think it's biological -- psyllium.

MISHRA: Psyllium?

MARCIANO: You remember that - you're not even in biology. At 13, you don't even have that biology, do you?

MISHRA: Yes, well, OK -

MARCIANO: First of all, how do you know -- what's the trick to know whether something starts with like of an "S" or "P"...

NGUYEN: "S" or "PS" or...

MARCIANO: Are there tricks that you use when you trying to spell a word you're not familiar with?

MISHRA: Yes, well, I try to master a language pattern that appears in like French -- languages like French and German and things like that. So, I'll be -- I can like, you know, figure out the spelling of a word easier. Yes.

NGUYEN: And you know, you would really need a definition or maybe in a sentence to help you out which we can't provide you with, all right? So, let me give you another one.

MISHRA: Can I spry telling it.

NGUYEN: Can you do it? All right, bring it on.

MISHRA: I think so.


MISHRA: Since you said to have (INAUDIBLE) "P" or an "S," I'm going to go that it has a silent "P" at the beginning.

MARCIANO: There you go.

NGUYEN: I gave you a hint, didn't I?


NGUYEN: You are awesome. All right, one more before we've got to go.


NGUYEN: Onomatopoeia.

MISHRA: Onomatopoeia - O-N-O-M-A-T-O-P-O-E-I-A.

NGUYEN: Oh, you act like you can do that in your sleep. I love it. Hey, congratulations. That is such a wonderful honor. You've worked very hard for it and we are so proud of you.

MISHRA: Thanks.

MARCIANO: Go play with your friends, enjoy.

NGUYEN: Yes, go spend some of that cash you earned.


MARCIANO: Thanks, Sameer. Best of luck to you.

MISHRA: Thanks.

NGUYEN: I love how he spelled that. I mean, it just rolled off his tongue like that's no big deal. We got this.

MARCIANO: Yes. I was pretty impressed that you said it actually. I don't think...

NGUYEN: Yes, I had a pronunciation for it.

MARCIANO: Nice work. Well, in the water cooler today, what can you do with 15,000 plastic bottles and an old Cessna, an old plane -- will make a statement, I guess? This raft named "Junk" was built to highlight the problem of plastic trash in the ocean.

NGUYEN: This video was shot a couple weeks ago during its sea trial off Long Beach, California. But later today, it actually sets sail for Hawaii. On the way, it will pass through, and study an area of the Pacific that is filling up with trash.

MARCIANO: We'll be following the raft's progress over the next few weeks and explain more about its environmental mission.

NGUYEN: And CNN is on the ground in Puerto Rico as residents there cast their ballots in a Democratic primary -- 55 delegates are at stake.

MARCIANO: But first, HOUSE CALL with Dr. Sanjay Gupta starts right now.