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Afghan Troops Preparing for Battle with Taliban Militants; Former Vice President Al Gore Endorses Obama for President; Barack Obama Will Visit Iraq and Afghanistan Before Election Day; Deadly Flooding Continuing to Move; California Begins Handing Out Same-Sex Marriage Licenses

Aired June 17, 2008 - 08:00   ET


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Crossing the top of the hour now and breaking news to tell you about. Demonstrators kidnap police during violent protests in Peru. Officials say the mob overpowered the officers, injuring close to 40 people and taking another 40 hostage. They were demanding a larger share of mining royalties.
And deadly clashes overnight in Lebanon. The Army says machine gun fire and mortars killed three people there. Troops were forced to step in twice to stop the fighting between pro and anti-government factions.

We're also following breaking news out of Afghanistan this morning. Afghan troops are preparing for battle with Taliban militants. This morning, NATO dropped leaflets warning residents to stay inside when fighting breaks out.

Afghan officials say hundreds of Taliban fighters have taken over villages outside of Kandahar and are blowing up bridges and planting mines to keep villagers from leaving.

Now to the "Most Politics in the Morning." Former Vice President Al Gore is throwing his political weight behind Barack Obama. At a rally in Michigan, Gore argued the length of years in Washington has nothing to do with preparedness.


AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: The other party seems to think that age and experience are factors that will work in their favor during this campaign. But our shared -- our shared experience as a nation tells us otherwise.

I remember when one prominent Republican wondered out loud whether the Democratic nominee -- and I quote "Really is grown up enough to be president." Another used the phrase, quote, "Naive and inexperienced." Yet another said quote, "The United States cannot afford to risk the future of the free world with inexperience and immaturity in the White House," end quote.

Who are they talking about? Every single one of those quotations came from the campaign of 1960 when the Republicans attacked John Fitzgerald Kennedy for allegedly lacking the age and experience necessary to be president. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: CNN senior political correspondent Candy Crowley joins us now live.

And Candy, Al Gore coming out in a way this election campaign that he never did in 2004. How much of an effect will his backing have, do you think?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, recall, John, that in 2004 he did in fact endorse Howard Dean. It didn't go so well and that may be one of the reasons why he sort of steered clear at this point. But he brings, you know, a lot to the table.

First of all, to listen to him, an experienced politico, who was vice president for eight years, who was in the Senate for some time, who had a father that was in the Senate, I mean, he is Washington bred politician. To hear him talk about how experience doesn't necessarily translate and comparing Barack Obama to JFK brings some weight to that assertion saying -- listen, this is not all about how many years that you spent in Washington.

He can fund-raise for him. He's already started doing that on his Web site. For the first time, Al Gore asking his members, many of them interested in climate change, to contribute to Barack Obama. He has said, I'll do anything I can to get him elected.

He is seen in the Democratic Party as a walking, talking symbol of what they lost in 2000. Of how every vote does count. So he can stir them up and get them to the polls. So there are things he can do. As you know, no endorsement puts anybody over the top. But a lot of things bring together a victory and certainly Al Gore can be one of them.

ROBERTS: I recall, Candy, back in 2000, Bill Clinton and Al Gore passed the torch in Monroe, Michigan, just south of Detroit there, which really hammered home how important the state was in 2000. Barack Obama spending two days there.

How worried is the campaign that they could lose the state to John McCain.

CROWLEY: Well, listen, they're getting pounded by a state Republican saying -- Gee, Barack Obama, where have you been? You didn't come and campaign here. As you recall Michigan didn't follow Democratic Party rules and the Democratic said -- listen, your primary isn't going to count. Barack Obama took his name off the ballot. As you recall, Hillary Clinton did not.

Nonetheless, neither one of them campaigned there. So they are looking at Michigan because if you put together an electoral map, and everybody is saying -- well, this will be a different year. Perhaps Barack Obama can make inroads in the interior west. Perhaps he can pick up some of the southern states.

But it is hard to find a scenario, particularly if he were to lose Pennsylvania and Florida, that does not include Michigan. Democrats see it as a must-win state. Republicans see it as a possible pickup.

ROBERTS: And awfully close there in terms of the poll numbers. But only a snapshot of the picture and still a long way to go to November. Candy Crowley for us this morning from Washington. Candy, thanks.

CROWLEY: Thanks, John.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Speaking of Barack Obama, he says he'll be visiting Iraq and Afghanistan before Election Day. But Obama and his opponent, John McCain have some critical differences over how to wage the war in Iraq and how to end it.

McCain says Obama is wrong for opposing the surge, and Obama says that McCain's judgment is flawed, so we're going to the war zone for some answers.

Our Michael Ware is live in Baghdad.

And Barack Obama spoke by phone with Iraq's foreign minister and talked once again, reiterating his plan for withdrawal. How is that being received and what would it be like with an Obama presidency when it comes to Iraq?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kiran, honestly, I really think it's time for Senator Obama to come clean. Now, it's fine for Senator Obama to have his strategy to pull American troops home. I mean, who back in the States doesn't want that? Who doesn't want to see this war end? And that's a fine policy to have.

But Senator Obama, let's hear your real analysis of what the nature of this war is. Who Americas really fighting and who's really winning and who's really losing. Then let's hear for once from Senator Obama what the implications will be of his plan.

Tell us what will be the consequences to America's interests to the price of oil and let's hear that you're prepared to bear those costs for your plan to withdraw American troops.

Now, talking to the Iraqi foreign minister is a fine thing to do, and he must be commended for it. But I've heard the foreign minister talk for hours in his well-polished diplomatic way and never say a word. You're not going to be getting the real picture out of the foreign minister of Iraq -- Kiran?

CHETRY: And give us your perspective. What is that real picture?

WARE: Well, basically, this is a war against Iran or a war of conflict or contest for influence between Washington and Tehran. This war is not about al Qaeda, if indeed it ever was. This war has been about Iran from the beginning, and it's only taken the last year and a half for the military to wake up to that. And I'd like to hear the campaigns address that. And in that contest for influencing this country, America is currently losing. The president of Iraq, according to America's war commander, General David Petraeus, is just a reality of life that he's an agent of influence for Iran.

That all the major factions of this government were actually created inside Iran or received weapons and funding from Iran or at least have long-standing ties to Iran. So that's the real situation on the ground. You might have something looking good on paper with the numbers of civilian and military deaths down, and that's welcome. But there's a big price to pay for this and there's a big winner. And right now, it's not America. Let's hear from the campaigns on this -- Kiran?

CHETRY: Michael Ware for us in Baghdad this morning. Thank you.

ROBERTS: Seven minutes after the hour. Fear and frustration in the flood zone. New warnings for people living along the Mississippi River.

California begins its first full day of handing out same-sex marriage licenses. Massachusetts has been doing it for four years. Have attitudes there changed? We'll ask one couple. That's just ahead.

Plus, Barack Obama said he will visit Iraq before Election Day. Coming up, we're going to talk with Senator Claire McCaskill. She is Obama's national campaign co-chair about the impact of that trip could have on his policy to pull troops out.

And Senator Obama's appearance with Al Gore has got people buzzing about his potential choice for vice president. He may have just dropped the hint that Hillary Clinton is off the list. You're watching the "Most News in the Morning."


CHETRY: Happening right now across the Midwest. Deadly flooding is continuing to move. Emergency officials warning that the waters are now full of toxic sewage -- farm chemicals and fuel. The swollen Mississippi is expected to crest over the next few days and the Army Corps of Engineers says more than two dozen levees are at risk.

The damage to the agricultural economy is also expected to be in the billions. Economists saying that food prices will continue to rise as a result of lost crops.

Our Rob Marciano is in the CNN Weather Center with more on that right now.

Corn has already been planted. They would have to do some replanting. Of course, that's very expensive. Soybeans, though, I thought were not necessarily in the ground yet.



ROBERTS: 15 minutes after the hour. Ali Velshi, the hairless prophet of doom, is off today because we have the priestess of positive news with us this morning. Stephanie Elam with finally, finally some good news -- on the gas/oil front. It's about this big.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: A feather of good news but I guess, you know, we need it anywhere we can get it. So, let's take a look at gas prices -- down two tenths of a cent yesterday. So this ends 10 days of consecutive increases. So, we went from basically $4.08 to almost $4.08, basically. That's what it has to be. But gas is up seven-and-a-half percent from a month ago. Right now, based on these numbers, they're up 36 percent from a year ago.

The cheapest gas is in Missouri. And the most expensive gas is in California, which -- I was in L.A. last week and it's really expensive.

All right. Let's take a look at oil prices. Oil, almost getting up to $140 a barrel yesterday. I mean, it was like -- you could kiss it, it was so close, but the new intra-day trading high that we saw. But then, we saw that it came back down, lost a quarter yesterday to $134.61. And so, there we are. Today, we'll have to see what happens, but it looks like demand is not going anywhere, so --

CHETRY: Should we always look back from last year. It was $3 a gallon at this time last year. We didn't know we had it so good.


CHETRY: So, maybe we should think we had it good now because who knows?

ELAM: Who knows what's going to happen? Yes, some people are saying $150 a barrel could be on us in a couple of weeks. So, we'll see.

ROBERTS: Headaches, but thank you for that.

ELAM: You have to speak really high for that.

ROBERTS: Thanks, Steph.

CHETRY: Well, Barack Obama says he's going to be going to Iraq before Election Day. Coming up, we're going to talk to Senator Claire McCaskill. She's Obama's national campaign co-chair, about the impact that it will have on voters here at home.

ROBERTS: Coming up on AMERICAN MORNING -- trailblazers. One of the first same-sex couples to be married in Massachusetts on what it meant then and what it means now.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feel very secure now that we're married.


ROBERTS: And the fight to stop others from following in their footsteps.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is an ongoing issue. It has not gone away.


ROBERTS: You're watching the "Most News in the Morning."



JAY LENO, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO": Of course, with gay marriage now being legal, this will give birth to the next big growth industry here in California. Gay divorce. Gay divorce.

Hey, you thought heterosexual divorce was ugly, wait until Mike and Steve go 15 rounds over a PT Cruiser and a Jack Russell Terrier. OK. That would be -- oh, oh, that will be unbelievable!


ROBERTS: The California court decision on gay marriage fuelling the late night talk shows. And hundreds more same-sex couples will get their marriage licenses today in California. But the honeymoon could soon be over. Voters will decide in November whether to keep gay marriage legal. In 2004, Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage.

CNN's Deborah Feyerick joins us now here in the studio with a look at one couple's life four years later.

How are they doing?

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're doing very well as a matter of fact, John. And part of the big fight against same-sex marriage in Massachusetts was that it would destroy the institution of marriage. Yet, for many couples, marriage has given them a deeper sense of identity and how they relate to each other and how others relate to them.


FEYERICK (voice-over): David Wilson and Rob Compton pay their taxes, love their kids and work through their problems much like any other married couple. DAVID WILSON, ROB COMPTON'S HUSBAND: I feel very secure now that we're married. It feels like, you know, we have a legal right to each other.

FEYERICK: Wilson and Compton married four years ago. The day same-sex marriages became legal in Massachusetts. Since then, an estimated 12,000 gay and lesbian couples living in the state have tied the knot.

(on camera): When you first saw this and realized this is your certificate of marriage, this legalizes the whole thing?

WILSON: It was a pretty -- a pretty important moment.

FEYERICK (voice-over): They now have a will together. Co-own their homes and filed joint state taxes. David also joined Rob's dental plan. They say the biggest change is the way people treat them.

WILSON: They don't have to make the judgment who are they, what's this couple? It's been defined for them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let the people vote.

ROB COMPTON, DAVID WILSON'S HUSBAND: People rallying around telling us the sky is falling and the earth is going to come to an end if this is allowed to happen and then it happened. And the clouds suddenly cleared up and the sky's blue again.

FEYERICK (on camera): These halls were filled with people.


FEYERICK: State lawmaker Paul Loscocco vividly recalls the crowds in the State House warning same-sex unions would destroy marriage. He had objected on legal grounds but like others changed his mind after speaking with constituents.

LOSCOCCO: It's certainly more than half I think in Massachusetts now are very comfortable with the idea of same-sex marriage.

FEYERICK: And by default getting used to the idea of same-sex divorce, 48 in four years.

COMPTON: Our relationships have the same stresses and strains, and sometimes they break as well.

FEYERICK: Groups opposed to same-sex marriage say the fight though less visible remains strong.

KRIS MINEAU, MASSACHUSETTS FAMILY INSTITUTE: It has not gone away in the hearts and minds of people, particularly parents.

(END VIDEOTAPE) FEYERICK: Now, David and Rob say that when they go to the hospital and refer to one other as husband or spouse, the staff more readily accepts the relationship. They don't have to go through a long-winded explanation which is often the case when you refer to someone as a partner and that's really changed things for them.

ROBERTS: So the state recognizes same-sex marriage. The federal government does not. How does that complicate things for these couples?

FEYERICK: Well, it complicates things in a very big way. In the state of Massachusetts they file taxes as a married couple. However, the federal government does not acknowledge it, so there they have to file independently. They own a lot of joint assets and so it's parsing, it's splitting and it's being recognized in one area but not in another area. And so that is -- that's difficult for them.

ROBERTS: Jay Leno and you both mentioned this idea of now gay divorce. Any idea if the rate is any higher than for heterosexual couples?

FEYERICK: It seems to be about the same, but it's very painful, again, because the state and the government don't recognize the same rights. And that can be really tricky when it comes to dividing up children or even dividing of assets.

ROBERTS: Fascinating story. Deb Feyerick for us this morning. Deb, thanks.

CHETRY: You're watching the most news in the morning. And Barack Obama saying he will head to Iraq to see the situation for himself before Election Day. Obama's national campaign co-chair Senator Claire McCaskill joins us live on the impact that it may have on his policy to pull troops.

Coming up on AMERICAN MORNING --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think steroids are as American as apple pie.


CHETRY: Bigger, stronger, faster.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody is like walking around blindly just saying steroids are bad, steroids are bad and nobody has the information.


CHETRY: The new documentary that takes a hard look at hard bodies and what people will do to get them. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can get some side effects -- aggression, depression, mood swing.


CHETRY: You're watching the most news in the morning.



GORE: On January 20th, 1961, as a 12-year-old boy, I stood in the snow in front of the capitol as John Fitzgerald Kennedy took the oath of office. I know what his inspiration meant to my generation, and I feel that same spirit in this auditorium here tonight building all over this country this year.


CHETRY: Former Vice President Al Gore last night as he endorsed Senator Barack Obama for president. In addition to picking up that big backing, Obama announced that he will be traveling to Iraq and Afghanistan before Election Day. And joining us now with more on that is Senator Claire McCaskill. She's the co-chair for Obama's national campaign.

Good morning. Great to see you this morning, senator.


CHETRY: So there was a call yesterday, Iraqi foreign minister Zebari speaking with John McCain -- speaking with Obama. Now, Zebari and John McCain, though, both agreed that the surge is working. Barack Obama has said that he's still committed to pulling troops out of this Iraq. Is he on the wrong side of this issue?

MCCASKILL: Absolutely not. Certainly, he is pleased that there has been a lessening of the violence there, but that doesn't change the reality of Iraq right now.

We are spending $2 billion a week that we don't have. It is unraveling our economy. We have to force the Iraqi government to make the political decisions necessary. You know, the surge was supposed to create political progress and it has not.

We have not had the political progress necessary. And by the way, what's really hard for Senator Obama is the idea that Iraq has all of this money. They're making off oil right now and they're not spending it. Rather, we're spending American tax dollars instead of Iraqi oil profits.

CHETRY: Much has been made, especially from John McCain's camp as well as Republicans, that Barack Obama has actually not been to Iraq in some time to see for himself. He is now planning a trip, but it's been a while. How does he make those types of determinations without getting a firsthand look?

MCCASKILL: First of all, he gets constant briefings. As a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, he clearly has had conversations with the people in our government and the people in the Iraqi government that he needs to consult with.

But what his plan is, he's made very, very clear. There's a stark difference between John McCain and Barack Obama when it comes to policies in Iraq. He wants a reasonable and careful withdrawal. And John McCain thinks that we should continue to have bases and a permanent presence there for decades and decades to come.

Certainly, Barack Obama understands that we need to pay attention in the Middle East. But there is a stark difference between their positions. And I believe the position that Barack Obama has is one that American people want.

CHETRY: Our own correspondents on the ground also paint an interesting picture of exactly what's taking place and taking shape in Iraq. That being the growing influence of Iran from those leaders. How does Barack Obama propose to deal with that -- let's say, if there is a based withdrawal of troops, to make sure that that country is not unduly influenced by its neighbor?

MCCASKILL: Well, first of all, there are competing factions within the Shiites and there are many in Iraq in prominent positions that want to also fight the influence of Iran. The important thing is that we retain our maneuverability as a military that we focus on Afghanistan and the growing problem there.

What we have done by this irresponsible policy in Iraq is we have become pinned down and we have not taken the larger view of peace and stability in the Middle East. That is what Barack Obama is about. That is why he thinks it's important that we withdraw as carefully and as reasonably over a period of time as we possibly can.

CHETRY: Is there a possibility that his position will evolve after he makes these trips to Iraq and Afghanistan?

MCCASKILL: I think what he's going to do after the trips to Afghanistan and to Iraq is he is going to be even more certain that it is important that he be pointed and firm with all of the leaders in the Middle East about the role of the United States and the way our military can help with stability but not break the bank in the United States.

We have many needs here at home that, frankly, cannot be met if we continue to borrow $2 billion a week from China.

CHETRY: Senator Claire McCaskill, Obama's national campaign co- chair live from D.C. this morning. Thanks for being with us.

MCCASKILL: Thank you.


ROBERTS: Coming up on 29 minutes after the hour. And here are some of the top stories this morning. Emergency officials say Midwest flood waters are spreading a toxic mix of sewage, chemicals and fuel across the heartland and now the Army Corps of Engineers is warning that more than two dozen levees along the Mississippi are at risk of overflowing.

More misery in southern China not far from the earthquake zone. More than 60 people have died in some of the worst flooding there in decade. Over 2 million acres of crops have been destroyed.

And breaking news from Afghanistan. Afghan troops could be headed for a battle with Taliban militants after Taliban forces took over several villages. NATO has dropped leaflets warning residents to stay inside when the fighting breaks out.

Our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr has been working the phones with NATO sources this morning, and joins us to tell us what she learned.

Initially, Barbara, NATO wanted those villagers out of the area. Now they're telling them to stay. How much does that complicate potential plans for attack against the Taliban?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, what seems to be going on, John, is NATO is at least getting ready, if that is what it's going to take to get the Taliban out of this region. You're going to hear a lot about this area called the Arghandab District.

Now what NATO officials are telling us is they are dropping leaflets telling the Afghan people in these villages to stay in their homes, that that is the best way to keep their families safe if combat breaks out in the days ahead.

It's getting complicated, I have to tell you. In the last hour, a press release came out from the U.S. spokesman saying they saw no evidence of Taliban control in these villages, but that's not what NATO is talking about. NATO is talking about Taliban presence. There was a prison break, of course, last week in Kandahar in this region. 400 Taliban escaped from that prison.

And since then, reports have grown of the Taliban presence in the region. Not clear whether they're exactly the escapees or other Taliban, but they are getting ready to deal with this. A lot of coalition forces moving into the region, trying to figure out exactly what's going on, John.

ROBERTS: Barbara Starr for us at the Pentagon with the very latest. Barbara, thanks.

CHETRY: New arrests this morning after a compelling video was released by the Israeli human rights group, B'Tselem. The group says it shows an attack on Palestinian villagers by Israeli settlers. B'Tselem has been around for almost 20 years and says its primary goal is to change Israeli policy in the West Bank. And we warn you some of the images in this piece may be disturbing.

CNN's Atika Shubert shows us.


ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN JERUSALEM CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The video is shaky, the sound is weak. But the menacing appearance of four masked men is clear enough, especially when one takes the first swing.

This video was provided by Israeli human rights group, B'Tselem. It's part of the group's shooting back project. A program that gives video cameras to Palestinian communities to document what they say is daily harassment. B'Tselem says this woman shot the video and was severely beaten in the attack.

The group says the woman's husband and brother in-law were also injured as they tended their sheep next to an Israeli settlement. Police used the video as evidence to make two arrest Tuesday morning. Young men from the nearby Israeli settlement of Sulcia. The first time B'Tselem's cameras have been used in a police investigation.

SARIT MICHAEL, B'TSELEM: We're very much hoping we will break the equation of Palestinian versus settler or soldier. And of course we know that the Israeli security forces are always much more willing to believe settlers and soldiers and mistrust Palestinians when they report this type of violence.

SHUBERT (on-camera): These are the Hebron hills, the area where the attack took place. Tensions are particularly high here because Israeli settlers and Palestinian villagers often live literally a stone's throw away from each other competing for the same grazing areas and agricultural lands.

SHUBERT (voice-over): Palestinian attacks on Israelis also occur. Police say there are nearly daily reports of rocks thrown at Israeli cars driving in west bank settlements. But the violence allegedly by Hebron settlers captured on B'Tselem's video has caused a lot of discussion among many Israelis, especially as soldiers are clearly seen in the video looking on, not interfering.

Still, Israeli police insist these types of incidents are rare. And they say they're now investigating whether the Palestinian shepherds may have provoked the attack by not wearing traditional dress.

MICKEY ROSENFELD, ISRAEL POLICE: The way they were dressed could also possibly have been something which was provocative. And this might have been something which led to the actual incident itself.

SHUBERT: B'Tselem says it will continue to deploy cameras ready to record whatever may happen next.


SHUBERT: Now, just this morning, there is another report of an attack on Palestinian shepherds at another Israeli settlement in the West Bank. B'Tselem says this supports what they've been seeing, an increasing trend in the number and the violence of these kinds of attacks -- Kiran.

CHETRY: Atika Shubert for us in Jerusalem this morning. Thank you.

ROBERTS: The short list getting shorter. Who is in and who is out of the VP race on both sides. That's coming up.

We've been talking for months about how Americans feel about the candidates. What about our friends in Europe? Coming up, we take a look at what we call the eurobama mania surrounding the Democratic candidate.

Coming up on AMERICAN MORNING, second chance.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So you came here as a failing student?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What are your grades now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's like B-minus.


ROBERTS: Inside the school that's taking troubled students and turning them into college-bound grads.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Having your voice hurt can equate to passing a class.


ROBERTS: Find out the secret to their success. You are watching the most news in the morning.


CHETRY: Just in, some new economic numbers on wholesale prices. They bolted ahead in May. They say it's the fastest pace in six months. Largely because of energy and food prices. This according to the Labor Department. They reported that what they call the producer price index which essentially measures the cost of goods before they reach the store shelves, shot up 1.4 percent in May. And they say that that was up from a modest 0.2 percent rise in April. They call it the biggest increase since November -- John.

ROBERTS: All right. Well, another big, big, big moment last night in the Barack Obama campaign when former Vice President Al Gore appeared on stage with him to a crowd estimated at some 20,000. The whole thing's got people buzzing about who could be the next vice president. CNN's Mary Snow is here with more on that.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John and Kiran, Senator Obama doesn't have a running made, but he does have a chief of staff for whoever he chooses. Barack Obama's campaign announcing that former Clinton campaign manager, Patti Solis-Doyle will serve as chief of staff to the eventual vice presidential nominee. She was pushed out of her job with Clinton back in February after the campaign hit hard times.


CROWLEY: She is now at this point the favorite person of Clintonites.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: So, should read into this that Hillary Clinton is not going to get that --

CROWLEY: I could tell you that some people do saying well, if she's going to be in charge of the vice presidential staff, this certainly means Hillary Clinton won't be picked. I'm not sure I would go that far.

SNOW: Former Virginia Governor Mark Warner accepted his party's nomination for Virginia's open senate seat ruling out any chance of being Obama's running mate. And this guy, former Senator, presidential candidate and vice presidential candidate John Edwards is now leaving some room to maneuver.

JOHN EDWARDS (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I'd take anything he asked me to think about seriously, but, obviously, this is something I've done and it's not a job that I'm seeking.

SNOW: Other names being mentioned, another former primary rival, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson and two big Clinton backers, Indiana Senator Evan Bayh and Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell, add Virginia Senator Jim Webb, former Georgia senator Sam Nunn and Kansas governor Kathleen Sebelius to the long list too.

No word on the McCain-Romney ticket?


SNOW: The list of possible number twos on John McCain's GOP ticket hasn't changed much in the past few weeks. Among those mentioned are two one-time rivals for the nomination, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and ex-Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee.


SNOW: Other names on the list of potentials for McCain, Florida Governor Charlie Crist, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty. All are considered strong candidates -- John and Kiran.

ROBERTS: All right. Mary Snow for us this morning. Mary, thanks.

CHETRY: Looks like Senator Barack Obama's message of change resonates across the pond. What they're calling Eurobama mania growing in Europe. We'll take a look.

Coming up on AMERICAN MORNING --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think steroids are as American as apple pie.


CHETRY: Bigger, stronger, faster.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everything think walking around blindly just saying steroids are bad, steroid are bad and nobody has the information.


CHETRY: The new documentary that takes a hard look at hard bodies and what people will do to get them.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's like walking around blindly just saying steroid are bad, steroid are bad and nobody has the information.


CHETRY: The new documentary that takes a hard look at hard bodies and what people will do to get them.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can get side effects, aggression, depression, mood swings.


CHETRY: You're watching the most news in the morning.


CHETRY: Steroids changed the face of baseball history and they also changed the lives of one American family, some for the better and some for the worst. Brooke Anderson takes a look at a new documentary.

BROOKE ANDERSON, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: Kiran and John, filmmaker Christopher Bell turns the camera on himself and his two brothers to chronicle their obsession with muscle and how it led them down a dicey path of steroid use.


ANDERSON (voice-over): For Christopher Bell, body image was paramount.

CHRISTOPHER BELL: I was a fat kid from Poughkeepsie, you know, from upstate New York and I wanted to know like how do I get like Hulk Hogan.

ANDERSON: He and his two brothers idolized Hulk Hogan and Arnold Schwarzenegger seen here pumping iron. But when he learned his idols got help from steroids, it triggered a moral dilemma.

BELL: Do you follow the rules or do you follow your heroes?

ANDERSON: The Bell brothers followed their heroes and began taking steroids. Their involvement is explored in Bell's new documentary, "Bigger, stronger faster." There we're introduced to people like Greg Valentino.

GREG VALENTINO: My biceps are humongous. I think steroid are as American as apple pie.

ANDERSON: Bell questions why steroids have been banned for everything but medical uses.

BELL: Everybody is like walking around blindly just saying steroids are bad, steroids are bad and nobody has any information.

ANDERSON: Dr. Glen Bronstein of Cedar Sinai Medical Center says steroids are only safe in modest doses and must be supervised by a physician.

DR. GLEN BRONSTEIN, CEDAR SINAI MEDICAL CENTER: If you use them in massive doses then you can get some side effects, some things as psychiatric changes, aggression, depression, a variety of mood swings, a decrease in fertility, a decrease in testicular size.

ANDERSON: Steroids helped Bell's brothers, Melly become a champion power lifter.

MELLY BELL: I love steroids. I think I'll probably be on and off of them probably forever.

ANDERSON: But steroids didn't help his older brother Mad Dog achieve his dream of becoming a pro wrestling star. Later he became depressed and attempted suicide.

MAD DOG ANDERSON: There's no way I should alive right now, there's no way.

ANDERSON: Revelations of her sons' steroid use devastated their mother.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why did our boys not feel that they were good enough? I am broken to my soul. My heart is broken.

BELL: My mom broke down and cried to me and I was like trying not to cry, you know. You try to be the tough guy and it's difficult. It's tough.

ANDERSON: Bell claims his steroid days were few and happened roughly ten years ago. But admits he's still tempted.

BELL: There is actually a clash in America between doing the right thing and being the best and you can't always do both.


ANDERSON: "Bigger, stronger, faster" is currently in theaters in limited release around the country and will open in 15 additional cities including Seattle and Nashville this week. John, Kiran, back to you.


CHETRY: Can you just see the devastating effects but as he said sometimes you know, doing the right thing and being the best don't work out together.

ROBERTS: You know, there was a survey done several years ago. It was for Olympic athletes who were Olympic caliber were asked, if you took steroids and were guaranteed you'd win everything but knew that you don't live another five years would you continue do it? And I think the majority said yes.

CHETRY: That's shocking.

ROBERTS: Amazing. CNN NEWSROOM just minutes away. Right now, Tony Harris at the CNN Center with a look at what's ahead. Good morning to you, Tony.

TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, John, good morning to you. Good morning, everyone.

We've got these stories on the NEWSROOM rundown for you this morning. Sandbag or else. Residents along the Mississippi are told to shore up their levees before the river takes their land.

California gold band rush, same-sex couples head to the clerk's offices. The first full day same-sex marriages are legal in the state.

And mile markers for the servicemen and women who made the ultimate sacrifice. Running for the fallen. Join Heidi and me in the NEWSROOM. We get started about 15 minutes from now at the top of the hour on CNN.

John, back to you.

ROBERTS: Tony, thank you very much. A second chance for success for minority students. Our Soledad O'Brien takes us to the high school that is giving them new hope.

Coming up on AMERICAN MORNING, viva Obama!


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would say Obama forever.


ROBERTS: Obama mania lands in Europe from Italy to Germany to Paris. Politicians are even stealing his lines. Embracing Obama. Elaine Quijano looks at the ripple effect across the pond. You're watching the most news in the morning.


CHETRY: This just in this morning, some new economic numbers out there today to tell you about. Wholesale prices jump in May. The Labor Department reports its producer price index shot up 1.4 percent. It's the biggest jump in six months, the government blaming high food and energy costs for fueling those higher prices. Also some new housing numbers out and the news not looking good here. Construction falls 3.3 percent in May, signaling more woes for the down housing market -- John.

ROBERTS: It's just about ten minutes to the top of the hour now. Welcome back to the most politics in the morning. From Berlin to Paris to Italy, Senator Barack Obama seems to have widespread appeal among Europeans. What is fueling their Eurobama mania?

Our Elaine Quijano takes a look.


ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi playfully tweaked his President Bush's choice for successor by explaining that he, too, would prefer a president John McCain.

SILVIO BERLUSCONI, ITALIAN PRIME MINISTER (through translator): This is for a very selfish reason and that is that I would no longer be the oldest person at the upcoming G-8.

QUIJANO: He may be joking but his countrymen are serious about Senator Barack Obama.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From here I would say Obama forever.

QUIJANO: A view echoed on the streets of Berlin.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hear that he wants to change very much the things in America and I like that.

QUIJANO: Europe analysts say the change message resonates with Europeans. REGINALD DALE, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: There has been an outburst of what one might call Eurobama mania in which he's compared to Nelson Mandela, John F. Kennedy, even Abraham Lincoln.

QUIJANO: A comparison also repeated on the streets of Paris.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think that America needs to have a very good president like Kennedy or -- and I think Obama is a bit like Kennedy.

QUIJANO: One Italian politician even tried capitalizing on Obama's popularity by presenting himself as the Italian Obama and translating the senator's slogan, yes, we can. But some observers say Europeans aren't giving Senator McCain a close enough look.

DALE: Any European politician or diplomat who has studied what John McCain has said will see that it reflects a lot of their own concerns. He's been pressing all the right buttons in Europe. And while Barack Obama has been focusing on defeating Hillary Clinton.

QUIJANO (on-camera): Those issues include climate change and strong trans-Atlantic relations. But experts say whoever wins the election, Europeans might still be disappointed because of unrealistic expectations.

Elaine Quijano, CNN, London.


ROBERTS: Sticking with Europe, more problems for director Ron Howard as he adapts Dan Brown's best selling thrillers to the big screen. You remember that for the "Da Vinci Code," Westminster Abbey denied Howard access because the story was theologically unsound.

Well, now, the Vatican banned the new Howard-Tom Hanks movie from filming on its ground or at any church in Rome for that matter. "Angels and Demons" which was a prequel to the "Da Vinci Code" was called, "an offense against God by the Vatican." Church leaders say the movie does not represent proper Catholic values. So, go look for somewhere else to shoot.

CHETRY: Coming up on AMERICAN MORNING, a look at the American dream. Can Americans still afford the big house and a nice car in this economy? Well, our Veronica de la Cruz takes a look at what you think. She has your i-reports coming up.

ROBERTS (voice-over): Coming up on AMERICAN MORNING, second chance.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you came here as a failing student?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What are your grades now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's like B-minus.


ROBERTS: Inside the school that's taking troubled students and turning them into college-bound grads.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Having your voice heard can equate to passing a class.


ROBERTS: Find out the secret to their success. You're watching the most news in the morning.


CHETRY: Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING. We're taking a special look this week at the American dream, the idea that if you work hard, you can make a better life for yourself, regardless of where you started. But with the economy in so much turmoil, we wanted to know, do you think the American dream is dead or alive?

Veronica de la Cruz is here with your i-report. And we're getting some really interesting feedback.

VERONICA DE LA CRUZ, CNN INTERNET CORRESPONDENT: Unfortunately, a lot of our I-reporters are saying it's dead. Take a listen to this. 34-year-old Stephen Willis sent us this i-report from Louisville, Kentucky. This is a graffiti outside his apartment in the highlands district. He said he laughs when he hears the American dream is alive and kicking. He's a medical billing specialist. He hopes to go back to college.

He said, "In the real world, you find yourselves constantly trying to throw sandbags up to stop the impending flood. In my world I'm doing it the sandbagging all alone. I guess you could say my American dream is to one day be able to work only on attaining the American dream, not always having to focus on surviving."

And Tracy Cruz and her husband are living small but largely in debt in Florida. She writes, "If the American dream is characterized by food, gas and housing detective, then we're living the American dream."

Unfortunately, a lot of that, Kiran.

CHETRY: Pessimistic e-mails today. We had some good ones yesterday, though. People still believe --

DE LA CRUZ: We have the rest of the week, so I'll find you some positive ones. CHETRY: Thanks, Veronica. Meanwhile, we do want to hear what you have to say. So head to our Web site at and tell us whether your American dream is dead or alive. Send us an e-mail or click the i-report link to submit pictures or video.

ROBERTS: One high school in New York City is beating the odds, graduating almost all of its seniors and turning around the lives of minority students in the process.

Our Soledad O'Brien has got the latest in CNN's special report "Black in America."


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Principal Elijah Hawks of the James Baldwin school in New York City says his school has something most principals only dream about, a 94 percent graduation rate.

ELIJAH HAWKES, PRINCIPAL, JAMES BALDWIN SCHOOL: The only way one can do this work and do it well is if you believe that a student's failing in your class is your responsibility.

O'BRIEN: It's a new public school, made up mostly of transfer students and paid for with taxpayer money. The classes are very small. Just 17 seniors last year. But what's most surprising, many of the students were failing out before coming here. How bad were your grades?


O'BRIEN: Really?


O'BRIEN: So you came here as a failing student?


O'BRIEN: What are your grades now?

GARRIQUES: It's like B-minus.

Your graduation rate is significantly higher than the average graduation rate in a New York City public school, with far fewer students, I'll give you, but much higher.

Having your voice heard can equate to passing a class.

O'BRIEN: Almost half the students are African-American. A Harvard University study shows these black children start falling behind academically by age three. A separate Harvard study found in urban areas, the average black student performs on a level about four years below his peers. Over a million students attend New York City public schools. About three quarters are minorities, 70 percent are impoverished. JOEL KLEIN, CHANCELLOR, N.Y. PUBLIC SCHOOLS: For as long as anyone can remember in America, our African-American and Latino students are way underperforming white nation students.

O'BRIEN: Schools like Baldwin are fighting to change that.

GARRIQUE: I just thought if I could like -- if I was guided the right way, then I would succeed.

O'BRIEN: The school's success proves size matters.

SHELLY OCTOBER, TEACHER, JAMES BALDWIN SCHOOL: Small schools are just where it's at, where you can sort of, like, delve into what a student is and who that student is and what they're about. And I think that that's our core.

GARRIQUES:: I had teachers on my butt. And i like that, because I never was used to that. They helped me change to a better person and got me focused.

O'BRIEN: There are also helped by mandatory week-long camping trips where students work to overcome challenges.

HAWKES: There's a lot of pushing and cajoling that leads up to students taking that trip and taking that leap of faith. And it's transformative for so many of them.

O'BRIEN: So transformative that a once failing student is now planning for college.

GARRIQUES: Like, I grew up a screw-up. So I'm not going to, like -- I'm going to change the pattern. I'm going to do something with myself. I'm going to go to school and make something out of my life.

O'BRIEN: Soledad O'Brien, CNN, New York.


ROBERTS: And be sure to catch our special investigations unit presentation of "Black in America" comes your way July 23rd, 24th right here on CNN.

CHETRY: I want to say thanks so much for joining us on this AMERICAN MORNING. I'm glad you were with us today.

ROBERTS: Day two.

CHETRY: That's right.

ROBERTS: Many more to come. CNN NEWSROOM with Tony Harris and Heidi Collins begins right now.