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CNN NEWSROOM

All the Ingredients For a Strong Outbreak of Storms in the Great Plains and the Midwest; John McCain Speaks in Florida; Astronauts Outfitting New Kibo Lab; Air Force Shake-Up at the Pentagon; Mississippi Remembers R.F.K.

Aired June 5, 2008 - 14:00   ET

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


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: June 5, 1968. It should have been a triumphant day for Robert F. Kennedy. The younger brother of an assassinated president was himself gunned down while running for president. This hour we will remember Bobby Kennedy and his impact 40 years later.
I'm Brianna Keilar, at CNN world headquarters in Atlanta.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Don Lemon right here at the severe weather center.

Weather is on our radar today in a big way. You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.

We have all the ingredients today for a strong outbreak of storms, especially in the Great Plains and the Midwest. CNN of course is your weather headquarters today. We have all the resources all in place and we're going to cover all them for you.

Meteorologist Bonnie Schneider, is right behind me, she's in the CNN severe weather center. Her colleague Mr. Reynolds Wolf is at the storm predictions center in Norman, Oklahoma.

We are also tracking some i-Reports from our viewers there on the ground. You see our i-Report producer there. He's going to join us in just a little bit to tell us what's going on. We want you to send your i-Reports to i-Report.com. We don't want you to take any chances. Your safety comes first.

But first out of the gate, we want to take you to some developing new video just into the CNN NEWSROOM.

This is Ceresco, Nebraska. Look at the damage here. Look at what a storm did. I'm looking at this new video just as you are. You can see damage to the roof tops there and also people just starting now to gather in the streets. Look at that. Someone's garage, the front of their home, the truck parked out front. This is just how dangerous those storms can be. We're expecting hopefully there won't be that much damage. We're expecting a very critical severe day when it comes to weather.

Let's get started right away. Now right behind me now, Bonnie Schneider. BONNIE SCHNEIDER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Don, I'm afraid we're going to see more pictures like that for today because we are looking at a very serious threat for severe weather. We have not one, but two large tornado watches. Both of these watches are issued as what we call PDS, particularly dangerous situations.

The first one we're looking at is the most recent one, this goes all the way from Kansas down through Oklahoma. As you can see, we're going to zoom into the region. What we are looking at is definitely the threat for severe weather further north as well. The second tornado watch covers most of Nebraska including the city of Omaha. We're watching the severe weather threat for today because we have a high risk of severe weather.

Reynolds Wolf, is going to be reporting from the storm prediction center where these types of advisories are issued. It is unusual to get high risk. High risk means the greatest risk for the largest area with the most tornadoes possible in terms of prediction. Now this is just a prediction. We could see more or less. But generally speaking, when you have an area of high risk, you're talking about the possibility of 20 large tornadoes or more. So that's something we're watching. We had one warning so far in southeast Colorado. That has now expired. But this area is ripe for severe weather. Here is a little bit more on the high-risk quotient. You can see that the structural damage is likely to be reported. It is possible we could see winds of up to 80 miles per hour. The high risk again issued by the storm prediction center.

I'm going to walk over here and we're going to talk a little to Reynolds Wolf who is right there, right where all the action is happening. This is the area where Reynolds is at the storm predictions center, where the advisories are being issued. High risk not issued that often, Reynolds. Not only that, but we actually have a new update for tomorrow that we have a moderate risk in terms of tornadoes. So two days we're watching out for severe weather. As you know it's been an active tornado season thus far.

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, unfortunately Bonnie it has been a reoccurring theme. We've seen this scene replay itself over and over again and certainly today as you mentioned it's going to be just crazy in terms of rough weather. A while ago I spoke with lead forecaster John Hart. He was talking about a big concern he's got, that big concern would be right up here in parts of Nebraska.

One area of concern, extreme northeast and central Nebraska. One thing I want you to notice at home, you're tuning in, you're seeing the cloud cover and the heavier storms well to the north. One thing you have to keep in mind is that it hasn't happened yet. Give it an hour, give it two hours. We could see explosive development talking about possibility of some large tornadoes, damaging winds, large hail, heavy rainfall. It is going to be very rough there to say the very least. Again, those tornado watches as Bonnie shared with you moments ago ladies and gentlemen pushed down through parts of Nebraska and into Kansas and even here into Oklahoma. But the farther south it appears that some of these storms are going to be a little bit more linear where wind could be more of the threat. Right now you see our forecasters right behind us, they're working very hard. They've been here all morning, they're going to be here all night long. We have meteorologist David Payne right here-- I'm sorry, David Imey, going over these charts. If you look over from David, you'll see our lead forecasters. On the far side of the room you've got Brian Kerr. He's working here and you'll see he's going through a bunch of these charts. I don't want you to think of the atmosphere as just a two-dimensional thing. They look as it as a three-dimensional type of thing from the lower to mid levels and the upper levels of the atmosphere. Now there is a layer Bonnie, that is in the mid levels we refer to as a convective cap. It has been very strong, we do expect it to break again some parts of Nebraska, mainly southeast Nebraska, the real area, the bull's eye they're very concerned with.

That's the thing we're going to watch here easily for the next couple of hours through the evening and perhaps into tomorrow as well. It's just a volatile situation. It's amazing to watch it unfold here. As we get more warnings and watches that are sent out, we'll certainly deliver them to you.

SCHNEIDER: Absolutely, Reynolds. You mentioned that cap breaking. Part of what you were saying earlier about how we're going to see these storms erupt throughout the day is because the heating of the day will just build and build and build. So I think you're going to be seeing it even right where you are in Oklahoma. You're very close to that severe weather threat.

WOLF: A little bit too close for comfort Bonnie.

SCHNEIDER: Exactly. So be careful out there. We're going to have more on these tornado watches. If we get any tornado warnings, the moment we get it in Don, we are going to bring it to you live.

LEMON: All right, Bonnie Schneider and Reynolds Wolf joining us, Bonnie from the severe weather center and Reynolds Wolf from the prediction center. Thank you both very much.

We also want to tell you, this is our i-Report page. I- Report.com, just go right there, refresh it and see if we're getting anything new here. But go to i-report.com and send us your pictures or your video. But of course we want you to stay out of harm's way. Walk over here, of course these i-Reporters, all of our i-Reporters keeping our i-Report producers very, very busy today.

Tyson Wheatley is joining us now, he's at our i-Report desk. Tyson, you got some desk. He's going to join us with some new stuff.

Tell us what you've got. What is this -- from Moscow?

TYSON WHEATLEY, IREPORTER: Yes you know, last night, Indiana got hit pretty hard. We've got a couple of examples today I can show you from Indiana. This is some pretty compelling video that was taken by a guy named Dean Spiegel, this is from Moscow, Indiana. He took some pictures of some severe damage including some to this historic covered wooden bridge as well as some damage to a hundred-year-old brick school.

LEMON: What's this, you've got more stuff. You've got thunderstorms and what have you, all of this all over.

WHEATLEY: This is some flash flooding taken in Bloomington, Indiana last night. This is by a gentleman named Larry and his image is pretty compelling because you can see there was a flash flood and there were some cars that actually got caught in the -- as the water rushed in.

LEMON: All right Tyson, what's next, more flooding?

WHEATLEY: We've got stories that are coming in from all over the country. Those are just two examples from Indiana but we also have -- we had this great example from Virginia today also Ohio. So it's severe weather happening near you, if you're experiencing some of this, you have an image, a video you want to share, go to i-report.com and you can share with the world and you can also be a part of CNN's news gathering.

LEMON: Absolutely. And Tyson Wheatley, will be taking your i- Reports and possibly getting them on the air for you. And again, we want to stress, stay out of harm's way, but get us those i-Reports because we'd love to get them on the air. CNN is your weather center today. Make sure you stay with us throughout the day and throughout the evening as we get the severe storms, the severe weather across the country. Brianna?

KEILAR: Hey Don, let's take you now to Lake Buena Vista, Florida. John McCain is taking questions from members of the Florida society of newspaper editors. Let's listen.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) PRESUMPTIVE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: ... control system that was designed and implemented in the 1950s. But the earmarking system is one which is so damning in the respect that when we sit down and we say to the American people, look, we're going to have to reform social security, and it's going to require some tough decisions.

But we're also going to tell the American people that it's our obligation not to pass on a broken system to a next generation of Americans. Let's do the tough things. But if we don't go to them with clean hands, and we've been very careful in the use of every single one of their tax dollars that they send to Washington, D.C., that they can't spend themselves, then they're not going to be willing to join into those much-needed reforms. So we have to reform that system so that we can have credibility with the American people. And again, we've got to reform social security and Medicare. Isn't it our obligation not to hand off to an unluckier generation of Americans A system it's a safety net that all of us believe in, that is broken? Isn't it important for us to tell young workers today that they will not receive the same benefits that present-day retirees do unless we fix the system? There's no argument about that. But we've got to reform the way we do business. And so reform is something I'm proud of. I'm proud of my record of reaching across the aisle, whether it be the gang of 14 where we kept the senate from deteriorating into some kind of lower level of debate. It was called the quote, nuclear option, because it was going to blow up the United States Senate. Or whether it be working on campaign finance reform, or whether it be working on immigration reform which we have to go back and work on again, or whether it be all of the other reforms, and sometimes I have won, sometimes I have lost. But I've always put the American people first.

And when I tried to do some of these things, my friends, I was not popular with republicans. And sometimes I was not popular with democrats. I was not elected Ms. Congeniality in the United States senate every year. But I am committed to maintaining a record of reform that I have clearly -- I've clearly made over the past years. Prosperity. My friends, I don't have to tell you that Americans now are worried -- American families are sitting around the table in Florida tonight and all over America saying how are we going to stay in our home, how are we going to be able to afford these increased payments that we simply can't afford?

Other families are sitting around the kitchen table saying we're one of the well over 200,000 Americans who recently and suddenly lost their jobs, most of it certainly not their fault and certainly not anticipated. So we're going to have to return prosperity to the American people. And we've got to give them a clear blueprint on how we're going to make it possible for hard working decent American families to stay in their homes by getting a guaranteed 30-year FHA loan at the present level of the value of their house, to keep hundreds of thousands of people in their homes. We're going to have to create ways for them to get new jobs.

My friends, we're in an information technology revolution. It is a revolution, and it's been going on for some time. And it's almost unprecedented in history. The last one was the industrial revolution. And it's created jobs and opportunities and growth for our economy, but it's also had the unintended consequences of leaving people behind.

When I go to Michigan and I see what's happened to former workers in the automobile industry, it's heartbreaking. So what we have to do is embrace this new technology, accept the fact and enjoy the fact that there's new jobs and the old jobs aren't coming back, but we've got to care for the displaced worker. We have to design and implement displaced worker programs that are effective. We can do it best by going to the community colleges all over America and saying design and implement these programs which will meet the local needs so that people can have another chance, especially those older workers, especially them, who find their lives of earning -- the opportunity to make a living and hold a job, and as we know, a job is more than just a job. It's self respect. It's all of the good things that go along with it. So we want to give them another opportunity. So prosperity is important.

I have a fundamental belief that -- I have a great belief that the fundamentals of our economy are very strong, very strong. It's out there. You can travel around this country and see places. A lot of the new technologies are going to be spent exactly on making this nation energy independent and that's vital. That's vital. Energy independence is going to have to be our prime objective because we're sending $500 billion or more a year to overseas to countries that don't like us very much. Some of the money ends up in the hands of terrorist organizations.

Prosperity is directly related to our removing our dependence on foreign oil and developing the new technologies which we can and must do. Green technologies are profitable and beneficial to the future of this nation's economy. So we've got a nexus of greenhouse gas emissions. Our economy and national security all meeting together in our demand, in our requirement, our absolute necessity, to become energy independent. And we can do that. And we do it through wind and tide and solar and hybrid cars.

My friends, why is it that the Brazilians now, 50 percent of their automobiles are powered by alternate energy? And we just passed a farm bill, a farm bill -- who wants to vote against a farm bill? We just passed it and I opposed it and opposed previous ones that subsidize ethanol which distorts the market. It puts a 54 cent a gallon tariff on imported sugar cane based ethanol. How can we do these things? How can we pass a farm bill and vote for it, as Senator Obama has supported it, where we're given $93 million in tax breaks to thoroughbred race horse owners, $15 million to asparagus growers. In all due respect to asparagus lovers. But the point is, we can't keep doing these things. We can't keep doing this business as usual in Washington.

I believe that prosperity is the future of this nation. Now, I'd like to end up with peace. My friends we live in a dangerous world. I don't have to tell any of you or any American citizen, we're in two wars. We're in a transcendent challenge with radical Islamic extremism and this challenge has many manifestations and many evils. I don't know if you recall some weeks ago when al Qaeda took two mentally disabled young women and put suicide vests on them, sent them into a market place and by remote control detonated those vests. This is an evil that's hard for our minds to encompass or comprehend. They're out to destroy everything we stand for and believe in. This is a global struggle and it's not going to be over soon. But I have every confidence we will prevail and we will never surrender.

Of course we have the war in Afghanistan as you know. What's happening in Pakistan has a great effect on what's happening in Afghanistan. By the way, I've been to Waziristan and I've seen how hard that country is -- that part of the world is to control and to govern. And we've got problems with corruption in Afghanistan. I'd like to give you some straight talk. In the poppy crop grows, we've got some problems with dual command structure and other things. But we are showing some progress against the Taliban there, but it's long and it's hard and it's difficult. The good news is there are other nations, not as much as we want, and not as many. But there are other nations that are joining us in our effort in Afghanistan. So we -- but I want to finally focus with you on what General Petraeus has described as a central battleground in the struggle against radical Islamic extremism, and that's Iraq.

I know you recall that a little over a year ago when the surge began I supported it, and many political pundits including a few in this room, though I will not ask them to raise their hands -- predicted that my political aspirations were at an end. In fact, I was reminded in the words of Chairman Mow who said it's always darkest before its totally black. But I had gone to Iraq not long after our initial success. I had met with generals and colonels and majors and sergeants and privates and people who came up to me and said, Senator McCain, we can't win this conflict. We don't have enough troops on the ground, we've got the wrong tactics and the wrong strategy, we can't win.

And I came back and I argued as strenuously as I could against that strategy. Because my own knowledge and experience and background, but also because I was listening not only to the generals, but to all levels of our military who were there, these brave young Americans. And I argued for this new strategy. And the new strategy was implemented, and it is succeeding. I can look you in the eye and tell you its long and it's hard and it's tough and there's a lot of hurdles to overcome, but we are winning in Iraq now. Thanks to General David Petraeus and a brave wonderful young group of Americans who have performed with enormous skills.

The Iraqi government and military is now in control in Mosul, Basra and Baghdad, the three largest cities in Iraq. It's the Iraqi military and government with American military support, not the other way around. Now, this enemy is not defeated. They are on the run. And there are many enemies there, not just al Qaeda. As you know there's Shiite militias, there's those former baathist, there's a number of groups, there's outright militias, there certainly were in Basra. But the Iraqi government to the pleasant surprise of some of us, Maliki has shown some very strong leadership. So we are succeeding. I want to assure you that I know that if we had done what the opponents of this war wanted to do, and that is to have a date for withdrawal which would have taken place a long time ago, I believe with all my heart --

KEILAR: You're listening now to John McCain. He's in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, he's talking to the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors, he's basically addressing them and he's going to be taking some questions. As you know, this week the democratic primary season in its final throws, but the campaign trail for the general election really heating up. That's what we're seeing here with John McCain.

The best political team on television all over this. Coming up in the 4:00 p.m. hour of "THE SITUATION ROOM," our Candy Crowley will be sitting down for a one-on-one interview with Barack Obama.

I also want to tell you that Barack Obama will be holding a rally, an event of his own, that's going to be in the 6:00 eastern hour and that's going to be in Bristol, Virginia. You of course will get a chance to see that ahead in "THE SITUATION ROOM."

LEMON: It is one of those "what if" questions that's been around for decades. What if Robert F. Kennedy had won the White House? Nobody knows, he was gunned down, assassinated 40 years ago today. But the RFK legacy is alive.

KEILAR: Also, look up, way up. You can't see them, but there are two astronauts that are busy, busy, busy 200 miles over your head. We have a shuttle "Discovery" update coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KEILAR: Well, it is risky business, you know, the uniforms they're kind of a pain but the view. There is nothing like it on earth. This is space walk day for the crew of shuttle Discovery.

Let's go live to our space correspondent Miles O'Brien for details. What are they doing here?

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN SPACE CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, they are outfitting the exterior, that big Japanese laboratory we called Kibo, it's about the size of a school bus. It's been latched onto the International Space Station.

There you see a picture of the hatch, pretty exciting, huh? But it's live from space, Brianna. So that makes it so much more exciting, doesn't it? That hatch is moving 17,500 miles an hour 200 miles above us. Does that thrill you? There's a better shot. That's actually what Ron Garan is seeing right now. I'm not sure what it is. But, ok, now we're inside the lab. This is director's choice, NASA director's choice. Why don't we roll some tape and show you some of the highlights of this 3 1/2 hour space walk. Three hours 20 minutes actually. That's a pretty picture, isn't it?

KEILAR: That's beautiful.

O'BRIEN: That's not bad at all. That's Ron Garan. And this, this is a tool time guy's -- I didn't do a very good job of that. It's a tool time guy's dream. That is a (INAUDIBLE) on steroids. If you have about $15,000 to spend, you can get one of those. Why would you need one if you weren't on the space station?

KEILAR: What's he doing with that thing, Miles?

O'BRIEN: They're basically going through and taking away all the shipping materials for the Kibo, all the stuff that attached it to the shuttle, some heat shields and they're adding some television cameras to the exterior so the people inside can see what's going on, on the outside without going outside. They'll get the robotic arm in a position to be operative. This is all the exterior work to get the Kibo ready.

KEILAR: Miles, what are they going to do with this laboratory?

O'BRIEN: Big things, big science, Brianna. They're going to learn about what -- really the big question up there on the space station everybody asks, what's the science? They want to learn more about what happens to human beings in long-term duration space flights so they can take a more educated trip maybe to mars some day. There you see the time lapse of Kibo making its way from Discovery's trunk all the way over to the International Space Station being latched in. I should tell you this about Kibo, Brianna, it doesn't have its scientific experiments, its racks in there yet.

Let's take a look at the picture inside. This is Garrett Reisman, who's an International Space Station crew member inside the Kibo, it looks rather voluminous. He is showing us you can't swim in space. Listen to the NASA commentator.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After the Kibo was open for business --

O'BRIEN: The bottom line is Rob Davis is not having any fun there, is he?

KEILAR: It looks like fun. And you know what, I think we're going to have to end it on that because I'm getting a wrap. But that looks like a lot of fun.

O'BRIEN: OK, see you.

KEILAR: All right Miles, thanks for the update on that. We will be talking to you later.

LEMON: There's a very good reason why we're wrapping this up, we want to get to Bonnie Schneider in the severe weather center she has some breaking news for us. Bonnie, take it away.

(WEATHER REPORT)

LEMON: A new study says the number of homes in foreclosure hit a record high and it's only going to get worse? Susan Lisovicz is at the New York Stock Exchange with the grim details for us. Hi Susan.

SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Don.

This is really an outright tragedy. More than one million homes are now in the foreclosure process, the mortgage banker's association says that is indeed a record and things could even get worse since the delinquency rate also hit a record. More than 6 percent of all mortgage payments were more than 30 days past due in the first quarter. California, Florida, Nevada, Arizona, the hardest hit states, those areas of course went through a building boom just a few years ago. But now many of those homes are just sitting and sitting on the market. Michigan and Ohio, also seeing a lot of pain, high number of foreclosures there. Many auto workers there losing their jobs to downturns in the economy. Don?

LEMON: All right, Susan Lisovicz at the New York Stock Exchange. Susan, thank you very much.

KEILAR: At least the stars are not immune to troubled economic times.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's face it. He is a normal person. Foreclosures happen to everyone. You just get behind. It's a snowball effect.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: Ed McMahon facing foreclosure.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: All right, it's time now to tell you what we're working on for you right here, in the CNN NEWSROOM. A shakeup at the Pentagon, following a scathing report about mishandled nuclear trip missiles. Sources tell CNN that the secretary of the Air Force and the Air Force chief of staff have been asked to resign.

Continental is the latest airline to announce cutbacks. It will retire 67 planes and eliminate 3,000 jobs in response to rising fuel prices.

The U.N. Security Council, I should say, is meeting to discuss a major breach of diplomatic immunity in Zimbabwe. Security forces detained U.S. and British diplomats today and held them for hours before releasing them.

KEILAR: It's really a dangerous day that could be developing across the heartland, today. Let's get right now to Bonnie Schneider. We are here in our severe weather center. Tell us what's going on.

BONNIE SCHNEIDER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, right now Brianna, we have a new tornado warning. And it's a serious situation because we have reports from trained weather spotters that we actually have funnel clouds that have been sighted in this region.

Let's take a look at the radar and we can show you where the tornado warning is at this time. Right now, it's in southeast Colorado. And what you'll find is that this area is definitely ripe for more tornadoes, unfortunately. We're looking at this across much of the region. In fact, the tornado warning that we're seeing, is Kiowa and Prowers County. And as we zoom into the region, we are looking at some very heavy downpours in and around Colorado -- in southeast Colorado. So this tornado warning goes until 1:15.

We are also tracking not only this, but also some large areas that we're watching for tornado watches. And this includes all the way down through Kansas, into Nebraska and then northward as well. And here's Oklahoma City. And Oklahoma City, not in the tornado watch box, but we could still indeed see the severe weather break out in this region. Some of the most dramatic frequent lightning strikes were seen here. It's right on the border with Nebraska and South Dakota, in and around Sioux Falls area. And that's where we're seeing some of the worst damage right now.

I want to show you the severe weather outbreak we're expecting today. Now, we're looking at the high probability of severe weather. Meaning we may see possibly 20 tornadoes, two of the 20 could be intense, intense storms, possibly as strong as EF-2 on the scales. So we'll be watching for this area right through here, into Kansas, into Nebraska, for some of the worst weather.

And once again, this threat is just getting going because we're expecting, the outlook for the tornado watches, actually go straight into the evening hours. We have strong dynamics in the upper levels of the atmosphere and also some very warm temperatures on the ground. Here's a closer look at the high risk that I was speaking of earlier.

We could see winds possibly up to 80 miles per hour with these thunderstorms. Structural damage as well as frequent tornadoes and a large concentration of it. Just to let you know that we're not even done yet. By the time we get through today, somewhat unusual, we are looking at the outlook for more tornadoes tomorrow.

And I want to walk over here and we're going to talk to Reynolds Wolf, who is actually at the storm prediction center in Norman, Oklahoma, where these outlooks are actually issued.

And Reynolds, we're not only looking at the threat for high risk today, but already tomorrow, the folks right behind you have issued a moderate risk for tomorrow. So this is going to be a continuing threat.

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Oh, sure. And it may even continue into three days, Bonnie.

We're talking about some really, really unsettled air in parts of the central plains and part of the upper Midwest. The one area that we're really watching very carefully here at the storm prediction center, has got to be in parts of Kansas and Nebraska. Take a look at this, explosive convection especially in central Kansas. Now, folks at home I want you to watch this couple of frames, and then boom, right there. You just see a lot of the development right there. That is just an idea of just how explosive this has been.

Now what happens in the atmosphere is you have this layer of air, really dry air, in the mid-layers, they refer to as a convective cap. It's kind of like a cap on a bottle of soda. You shake up the soda bottle and then the cap comes off, you see the fizz come out. Well that is basically what happens. That fizz, that convection, you're seeing these large storm clouds develop, you're seeing that potential of tornadoes, damaging winds and large hail. And in speaking of all that activity, we've got our forecasters right here behind us, they've been working around the clock. You can see they're just going through one chart after another. They're taking a look at what's happening in all levels of the atmosphere. On the other side of the room, you can see again, more activity there. They're checking out just how widespread this event may become, covering not just one particular region but states.

And Bonnie, as you mentioned, an event that could stretch into a couple of days. One thing -- one really key thing to mention that you were talking about. I know we're really focusing on the tornadoes and we have to focus on that. But that straight line winds, too. You're talking about winds that possibly could reach up to 80 miles per hour. Where that's the equivalent of a category one hurricane. So, you don't have to have just a tornado to cause widespread damage. If you have these winds, it can be just as damaging, just as deadly as any tornado. So certainly something we really need to be aware of, especially over the next couple of hours and into the evening.

SCHNEIDER: You're absolutely right, Reynolds. And those straight line winds, that's something we've been watching this season. It's been such an active season already. We have seen above average numbers for the entire year. And we're only here in May -- in June, rather. It's very incredible that we're already seeing such high numbers.

So Reynolds, thanks for that report.

I'm going to throw it back to Brianna Keiler now, where we're going to keep track of any tornado warnings. If we get any more in Brianna, we will let you know.

KEILAR: Yes, we're going to be staying here in the CNN severe weather center, we'll be coming back, checking with Bonnie Schneider. Obviously, a whole lot going on today. And she's going to be keeping us up to date on that.

Don, let's get over to you for some other news.

LEMON: Absolutely. And we have some new video in of some of that damage. And we'll bring that to you a little later on in the newscast.

In the meantime, we want to get to some developing news.

It is a military shake up at the top level of the Air Force leadership. A four star general is being relieved of duty, his civilian boss, the Air Force secretary also leaving. And it's all over something that happened nine months ago. We're not talking about a baby here.

Straight to the Pentagon and our senior correspondent, Jamie McIntyre. This is at the high levels, Jamie.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Don, you know it's hard to imagine an issue more important than the safety and security of America's nuclear weapons. And that's at the heart of this controversy.

Of course, as you said, it started last year, an embarrassing incident in which a B-52 bomber flew across the country from Minot, North Dakota, to Barksdale, Louisiana, without anyone realizing that six nuclear tip missiles were on board. That sparked a huge investigation, a reassessment of how things were going. And now, after that investigation has been completed and apparently the Air Force has failed to make significant improvements, Defense Secretary Gates, is taking some decisive action. He's firing both the civilian head of the Air Force, that's Air Force Secretary Mike Wynn, and the general in charge of the Air Force, the military leader Air Force Chief of Staff, Michael Moseley. Both of them asked to resign. In other words, they're being fired for the failures here.

And just about an hour and a half from now, Defense Secretary Gates, will announce this officially here in the Pentagon. And we're told at that time, he'll release some unclassified details of that very damning report that was done by Navy Admiral Kirk Donald, who was assigned to review what the Air Force had done. He's the chief of nuclear propulsion for the Navy, an outside, independent investigator. And apparently that report, according to officials who have seen it, is quite damning.

Secretary Gates will release a significant amount of unclassified conclusions from that report this afternoon. And then the rest of the report is going to remain classified. As you can imagine, it's the most sensitive issue, this issue of nuclear weapons, something that the Pentagon's standard policy is to neither confirm nor deny. So unprecedented action today in firing both the military leaders of the Air Force, and releasing this information about the safety of nuclear weapons -- Don.

LEMON: Absolutely. And if you can just remind us, Jamie, because this is a bit convoluted, but nine months ago that plane flew over six or seven states?

MCINTYRE: That's right.

It flew all the way across the country, from north to south. Nobody realized that mistakenly -- and what they thought were dummy weapons, or deactivated weapons, were actually live nuclear weapons. Nothing happened, but it really pointed out the problem. And since then, the base in Minot, where the weapons are stored, has undergone surprise inspections and tests. And they've failed some of those tests as well, even though they knew they were under the microscope and were supposed to be doing everything possible to correct the shortcomings that allowed the debacle in the first place.

So, Secretary Gates very unhappy about that. And he's, again, taking actions to hold the top leadership accountable.

LEMON: We are monitoring that.

Senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre.

Thank you, Jamie.

KEILAR: The legacy of Robert Kennedy, 40 years ago today an assassin fatally wounded him. And ahead in the NEWSROOM, find out why students at the University of Mississippi say they owe a lot to his legacy.

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KEILAR: The all but certain general election match-up between Barack Obama and John McCain looks just about even. We've got a new national Poll of Polls -- that's leading our Political Ticker.

You can see here that it shows Obama with a two-point edge over McCain, 47 percent to 45 percent. A very tight race. Obama led by one point earlier this week.

LEMON: The Democratic Party is joining the Barack Obama campaign in rejecting donations from lobbyists and Political Action Committees. The Obama team also is sending one of its top fundraisers to help the DNC. The national party has lagged behind its Republican counterpart in raising campaign cash.

KEILAR: Michelle Obama is going to be on "The View" later this month. She is planing to co-host the morning TV talk show on June 18. And if you're a "View" watcher, you may remember that John McCain's wife, Cindy, co-hosted back in April.

This is all in our Political Ticker that you can find right at CNN.com.

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LEMON: Forty years ago today, shots rang out in a Los Angeles hotel and Robert Kennedy, a senator running for president, was killed. A few years earlier, Kennedy had been attorney general in the administration of his brother, John F. Kennedy. And in that role, had a major impact on integrating America's schools.

CNN's Rusty Dornin reports from the University of Mississippi campus in Oxford.

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RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): People here still call it the "Battle at Ole' Miss," when attorney general, Robert Kennedy, ordered federal marshals to accompany James Meredith to class at the University of Mississippi. But by 1968, the riots and hatred seemed like ancient history to Donald Cole. He arrived as a freshman, just two months after presidential candidate, Robert Kennedy, was assassinated.

He thought that by then, since the campus had been integrated, he would be accepted by fellow students.

DR. DONALD COLE, ASSOC. DEAN, UNIV. OF MISSISSIPPI: Some of the guys, who were much bigger than I, would stand on the sidewalk and make me get off the sidewalk and sort of walk around. And sometimes I did, sometimes I didn't.

This is just one of the shots that I remember.

DORNIN: Angry over university policies, he protested with other black students and was expelled. He returned for his graduate degrees. Now he's a math professor, as well as an associate dean.

(on camera): Would you be here today teaching if it wasn't for Robert Kennedy?

COLE: There would be no way that I would be here.

I stand on his back, and many others who are here stand on his back as well. It was -- he helped to give us all a liberation.

DORNIN (voice-over): Confederate flags once waived at every college game. Not anymore. They're no longer acceptable at college events.

(on camera): There are still tensions arising from past traditions of white supremacy and all its symbols, but the university is trying to actively change the environment, to make it more accepting and recruit more African-American students.

(voice-over): Today, 14 percent of the students are African- American. The building where Susan Glisson works for the Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation is named for a white supremacist. An irony, she says, that is not uncommon here. Glisson says many African-American students still miss out on some of the traditional fun festivities at Ole' Miss.

SUSAN GLISSON, WINTER INST. FOR RACIAL RECONCILIATION: It's pretty white when you walk through that space. Black students don't necessarily feel welcomed, but they want to be a part of that familial experience. And so we're trying to break down those barriers.

DORNIN: Melissa Cole agrees. She's part of a group known as One Mississippi, wanting to bring students together to interact and talk about race.

MELISSA COLE, STUDENT: It's easier right now for everybody to have equal opportunities to attend the same class and get the same scholarships. But it's so much harder for them to want to have relationships with each other.

DORNIN: For students wanting to help heal the scars at Ole' Miss, Kennedy's action at James Meredith's bravery packs some powerful lessons.

JAMES MCGRAW, STUDENT: It taught us that we can't wait around for change to be forced upon us; that we have to lead this fight for change.

DORNIN: A fight begun by two men now revered as agents of change.

Rusty Dornin, CNN, Oxford, Mississippi.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: Robert Kennedy's name has come up a lot over this past presidential election. There's a new book that talks about him, and how he inspired America. "The Last Campaign: Robert F. Kennedy and 82 Days That Inspired America" by Thurston Clarkk. Thurston Clarkk is going to join us to talk about that as we continue with our black in America segment, right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

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LEMON: We're following severe weather today in the CNN NEWSROOM. Our Bonnie Schneider working it all from the weather center -- Bonnie.

BONNIE SCHNEIDER, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well Don, we have new tornado warnings to tell you about. And I want to zoom in on some of the ones that we have, and we can show you exactly where they are located.

We're going to put up the query for this one. We've got actually three. One of them is affecting a rural area. This one is for Frontier, Hayes and Lincoln County in Nebraska. We're watching it closely because it goes until about 2:15 p.m. You can see the people in the storm path, 364. So some of these are over some rural areas, but they are producing some deadly lightning strikes.

As we zoom into this region, this is actually hail that is falling in this system. So we're going to see large hail with these storms.

We're heading southward now. We have other tornado warnings to tell you about. Let's zoom in and take a query and show you exactly where they're located. For Greeley, Logan and Wallace in Wichita Counties, and that's is Kansas. And also to the south we have another one for Keelah (ph) and Prowers County -- that's actually in Colorado. That's the same counties that we had issued about an hour ago.

So sometimes the same thunderstorms roll over the same places, and we tend to get repeats in these areas.

If you're watching us from any of these regions, once again, make sure you have your NOAA weather radio on because it may not be stormy where you are right now, but when a warning is issued, it means it's a serious situation. And this is a very volatile environment that we have.

The set up for today -- we have two large areas that we're watching for tornado watches. One of them includes Wichita in Kansas. The other one, of course, includes areas into Oklahoma, including areas to the south where our Reynolds Wolf has been reporting from, and also Nebraska -- Omaha, Nebraska, under the gun for a tornado watch.

This is all part of a larger setup where we're looking at the threat for high risk in terms of the multitude of tornadoes and the intensity of tornadoes. These will probably be very large scale and long-lasting tornadoes that you can see here, through Nebraska, into cities like Kansas City and Wichita.

So this severe weather outbreak is really just starting now with three tornado warnings that we're following in parts of Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska. And as you can see, the threat for tornadoes will continue for tomorrow. We have another day that we're watching for severe weather.

So here, Don, as you can see, we are very busy in the severe weather center. We have our team of meteorologists working with me as well. And we're going to be bringing to you every warning as we get it, moment by moment.

LEMON: Absolutely. You can -- better believe that you're not going to miss a thing. And of course we want you to be safe as well. So we're going to check back with our Bonnie Schneider, as well as the rest of our weather team, throughout the day on CNN. Bonnie, thank you very much.

Gas prices hit another record high overnight, just a hair below $4.00 a gallon. But wait, haven't oil prices been falling? Why not gas prices?

CNNMoney.com's Poppy Harlow has our energy fix from New York.

Hi, Poppy. Give us our energy fix.

POPPY HARLOW, CNNMONEY.COM: Hey there, Don.

Yes, really interesting day. There's a lot of developments. The national average for regular right now $3.989, just a little more than a penny below $4 a gallon. This may be a moot point though with oil prices making a giant leap today, one of the biggest we've seen, up in excess of $5.00 a barrel right now from just what we saw this morning.

When we headed into the trading day, oil prices had fallen $13, more than 8 percent from the peak we saw two weeks ago. And since oil prices make up more than 70 percent of the price of retail gasoline, you'd think that that would cause gas prices to fall.

But no, they've been climbing. Of course, though, this is a moving target.

Oil today soaring again, I just want to reiterate this point, up more than $5.00 just from what we saw this morning. Now analysts say gas prices, they tend to rise faster than they fall. And with the surge in oil, what we're seeing today, gas prices may not ease any time soon. The "Wall Street Journal" notes that the price of oil is still high enough that even if gas and oil fall in concert, gas prices would only be just a few cents lower than they are right now.

But hey, Don, for weary consumers out there, people struggling to fill their cars up and pay all their bills, a little relief in prices would certainly help -- Don.

LEMON: Absolutely.

Hey, I've got a quick question for you. Oil isn't the only factor affecting gas prices?

HARLOW: No, definitely not.

Refinery capacity -- that plays an important role. Refineries are what turn oil into gas. The U.S. hasn't built a new refinery in more than 30 years. But that may soon change. While most voters in South Dakota on Tuesday were very focused on the Democratic primary, others were deciding whether to support a proposal hat would allow a new $10 billion refinery to be built just north of Elk Point, that's South Dakota, right in the southeastern corner of the state there.

Voters approved the proposal. Proponents say hey, it's going to bring some really needed jobs to the region. Others, the opponents of course, are worried about what that means for the environment. But it's still not a sure thing. The potential builder, that's Hyperion Resources, says they're considering some other sites for the refinery.

Don, we're following this closely for you.

But again, keep a close eye on oil prices. We're sure doing that on CNNMoney.com from the energy fix desk. We're covering this story for you. Also, on our Web site, six possible solutions to the rising cost of oil and more on today's big surge.

Don, back to you.

LEMON: All right. Thanks, Poppy.

HARLOW: Sure.

KEILAR: He was the brains behind 9/11, or so he says. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, among those before a judge today at Guantanamo Bay. We're going to tell you about his very specific request.

LEMON: John McCain's foreign policy views -- he's heavily identified with the war in Iraq. But beneath the surface, he offers a few surprises. We'll take a look.

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