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Singer Sings Alternative National Anthem Sparking an Uproar; Obama Says No Iraq Policy Reversal; Four Hundred Wildfires Burning in Big Sur Threatens Homes; Is Deregulation To Blame for Airline Mess?

Aired July 4, 2008 - 07:00   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: : After that hit the airwaves, Republican Congressman Tom Tancredo wrote an op-ed in Thursday's "Denver Post," calling on Denver officials to fully condemn Marie, a woman he says "is angry at America for its shortcomings. She does not like singing the national anthem because it makes no mention of the suffering of black people."
But Marie says she was expressing herself artistically in honor of her parents and their fight against segregation.

RENE MARIE, SANG "ALTERNATIVE" ANTHEM: They took matters into their own hands, basically. And that's what you have to do.

COSTELLO: This isn't the first time an individual's interpretation of our national anthem has sparked controversy. Back in 2006, the Spanish language version of the song was released to support illegal immigrants. It sparked loud protests.

And way back in 1969, Jimi Hendrix's screaming guitar version sparked controversy because it seemed an anti-Vietnam war statement. Today Rene Marie's version is giving some ammo to at least one Republican to use against Colorado Democrats.

The city will host the Democratic convention in August, and Congressman Tancredo ended his op-ed piece with this.

"I suspect that right now the Democrat National Convention is asking how they can work Marie into the program to affirm her right to artistic expression. Go for it, girl."

COSTELLO (on camera): It's pretty safe to say that the city of Denver will not be inviting Marie to sing the national anthem again any time soon. As for Marie, she offers no apologies and no regrets.

Carol Costello, CNN, Washington.


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Some new information this morning on the condition of the three freed American hostages. Doctors say they are in good condition after surviving five years in the Colombian jungle. More family reunions are expected today as they continue the reintegration process at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas.

Some 400 wildfires burning right now in California. And for the first time in year, a firefighter lost his life battling the flames.

63-year-old Bob Roland was a volunteer recruit. The blaze was bearing down on the coastal community of Big Sur. At least 20 homes and 100 square miles already charred and the flames are only five percent contained. The popular tourist town evacuated right before the Fourth of July weekend.

Well, who needs fireworks when lightning strikes 600 times. Meteorologists say that a violent electric storm hit the Portland area yesterday. Officials say that it sparked some small fires. It hit utility poles and caused some power outages, but no one was hurt.

And our nation turns 232 years old today. In Washington, D.C., they expect about a half million people to gather on the mall to watch the fireworks.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Armed forces around the world are celebrating our independence today. We are live at Camp Spiker in Iraq and checking in with our troops in Afghanistan.

And here back at home, Barack Obama is on the defense, forced twice now to deny that he is flip-flopping on his campaign promise to bring the troops home from Iraq.

CNN's Jessica Yellin has got more for us.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John, Kiran, it was a scramble for Barack Obama to put out a firestorm of questions over his signature issue. His pledge to withdraw from Iraq.


YELLIN (voice-over): Barack Obama has made his name as a different kind of politician. A candidate who says what he means and doesn't change with the political winds, which is why he can't afford to be seen as shifting positions on big issues.

He faced a firestorm about whether he's backing off the central pledge of his campaign to withdraw combat troops from Iraq within 16 months of taking office. The concern became so intense, he found himself in an odd spot this afternoon holding a do-over press conference.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're going to try this again. Apparently I wasn't clear enough this morning on my position with respect to the war in Iraq.

YELLIN: The problem? Obama triggered a deluge of questions with this statement earlier in the morning.

OBAMA: When I go to Iraq and I have a chance to talk to some of the commanders on the ground, I'm sure I'll have more information and we'll continue to refine my policies.

YELLIN: Republicans accused him of flip-flopping. So he faced reporters a second time to insist he's been clear all along.

OBAMA: That I would bring our troops home at a pace of one to two brigades per month and at that pace we would have our combat troops out in 16 months. That position has not changed. I have not equivocated on that position.

YELLIN: When pressed, he refused to commit to that 16-month time frame, insisting any good commander in chief adjusts.

OBAMA: I would always reserve the right to do what's best in America's national interests. And if it turned out, for example, that, you know, we had to, in certain months, slow the pace because of the safety of American troops in terms of getting combat troops out, of course, we would take that into account.

YELLIN: Though he insists he intends to end the war. Still, the McCain campaign quickly fired off a statement insisting that Obama has reversed his position, proving once again that his words do not matter. That they are just empty words. Obama fired back, saying they're playing politics.

OBAMA: I think what's happened is that the McCain campaign primed the pump with the press to suggest that somehow we were changing our policy when we hadn't.


YELLIN: Clearly the McCain campaign thinks it's found a strategy, accusing Obama of changing positions now on a number of issues and will keep pressing its flip-flop claim -- John, Kiran.

ROBERTS: Jessica Yellin for us this morning. Jessica, thanks.

And Obama has said that he intends to visit Iraq and Afghanistan this summer as part of an official congressional trip -- Kiran.

CHETRY: The Pentagon has extended tours for 2,200 marines in Afghanistan. And commanders faced with increasing violence say they need thousands more boots on the ground with more U.S. and NATO troops now dying in Afghanistan than in Iraq.

CNN's David Mattingly has more.


DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The war the U.S. can't afford to lose. Maybe the war it can't afford to fight. U.S. and allied troops killed in Afghanistan spiked to a seven-year high.

Now two months running, it is bloodier than Iraq. U.S. Joint Chiefs Chairman Michael Mullen says it's a matter of too many fronts and not enough troops.

ADM. MICHAEL MULLEN, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: What we're going through right now is an ability to -- in almost every single case, win from the combat standpoint, but not unlike the insurgency in Iraq, we don't have enough troops there to hold. And that is key, clearly, to the future of being able to succeed in Afghanistan.

MATTINGLY (on camera): Forty-six U.S. and allied troops were killed just in June, the deadliest month for allied personnel since attacking the Taliban in 2001. Experts say the new Taliban is driven by leaders hiding safely in Pakistan, funded by the homegrown illegal opium trade in Afghanistan, and adopting suicide tactics used by al- Qaeda in Iraq.

MULLEN: I am and have been for some time now deeply troubled by increasing violence there. The Taliban and their supporters have without question grown more effective and more aggressive in recent weeks, as the casualty figures clearly demonstrate.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): Maybe even more troubling, casualties in Afghanistan demonstrate how stretched U.S. forces are. Moving troops in Iraq to fight the Taliban elsewhere could jeopardize hard fought progress.

The Pentagon will extend the tours of 2,200 marines already in Afghanistan. Mullen says it could be months before the U.S. could move more.

MICHAEL WARE, CNN BAGHDAD CORRESPONDENT: You can pull them out of Iraq if you like and send them to Afghanistan as long as you're prepared to pay the price in terms of American strategic interests.

MATTINGLY: And the winner of that battle would be Iran, emboldened to spread influence without the fear of a full-on military response. It would be a new front Mullen says the U.S. would find very stressful. More than enough reason for the back burner fight in Afghanistan to, again, be front and center.

David Mattingly, CNN, New York.


CHETRY: Right now, there are 32,000 U.S. military personnel in Afghanistan.

ROBERTS: Opponents of gay marriage are going to war with McDonald's. The American Family Association is calling for a boycott of the fast food restaurant chain.

The organization is angry because McDonald's joined the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Congress. That is a group that promotes gay-owned and gay-friendly businesses. The AFA is saying that there are people who don't want a fast food chain going toward a group that's against their values. McDonald's is not backing down saying, "Hatred has no place in our culture."

CHETRY: Still ahead, snooping on celebrities. State Department employees caught red-handed looking at passport files. And now, it looks like there are way, way more files being looked at than previously thought. Could they be taking a sneak peek at yours?

ROBERTS: Plus, airline mess. Rising fees, long delays, job cuts. The former head of American Airlines tells us why he thinks deregulation is to blame.

CHETRY: And political pandering. Is it possible to win the White House while still being a maverick or candidate for change? You're watching the "Most News in the Morning."


ROBERTS: Hey, it's coming up on 12 minutes after the hour. Welcome back to the "Most News in the Morning."

Chrysler is looking for financial help from China. It announced the deal with China's Great Wall Motors to use each other's distribution networks and a shared technology. Chrysler would like to have a bigger piece of the skyrocketing Chinese car market to offset a sales slump here at home. Chrysler sales through the first five months of this year are down 19 percent.

Close to 7,000 people could lose their jobs, so American Airlines can pay for fuel. The company has notified the Flight Attendants Union that it will cut up to 900 jobs starting August 31st. But the nation's largest airline says it plans to shed eight percent of its workforce in total. That translates to a total of 6,800 employees.

Thank God it's Thursday. That's what state employees in Utah will be saying starting next month. The state says it's going to experiment with a four-day workweek to save energy costs and commuter expenses. Workers will have to put in a 10-hour day, though.

I'd be willing to do that. Wow.

It's a billion dollar court battle with your privacy smack in the middle. A court is ordering Google to give up the names and Internet addresses of every person who has viewed material on YouTube. That adds up to tens of millions of names. Viacom, which owns CBS, Nickelodeon, MTV, Paramount Pictures and others, want the information to determine how many users are watching unauthorized material on the Web site.

CHETRY: Well, to another matter of privacy and that's passport file snooping. You know, first it was the files of the presidential candidates that made a big buzz. Now an investigation shows that someone has been peeking at celebrity passports.

State department correspondent Zain Verjee is live in Washington now with more on just how many and who. Hi, Zain.

ZAIN VERJEE, STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Kiran. Well, the report says that there are some really big holes in the system that makes it easy to access the personal data of millions of Americans.


VERJEE (voice-over): It started back in March with isolated snooping into Senators Clinton, McCain and Obama's passport files. That prompted personal apologies from the secretary of state and she ordered the investigation.

Now, a new State Department inspector general's report suggests a lot more snooping of celebrities' passport records than previously thought. To test the system, investigators made up a list of 150 entertainers, politicians, athletes. Some of the most searched on Google; 127 have their private records accessed.

It's not clear if the hits were authorized, but it's suspicious. Nine of the high profile people had more than 100 hits on their files. We're told too that it's possible there's been more snooping into presidential candidates' passport records. The report says snooping has gone undetected and unpunished.

Passport records have personal information like a Social Security number or date of birth. The State Department says it will cut in half the number of people that can look at files, but that still leaves 10,000 worldwide who could still peek.


VERJEE: They're also adding more investigators. Right now, Kiran, they have only two, but that's going to be increased to eight -- Kiran.

CHETRY: All right. Well, any indication that this was possibly politically motivated, Zain?

VERJEE: Well, it's not clear there was that concern. The report suggests that the workers who peeked at the files were just curious. But we're told that it is possible that the presidential candidate files that were snooped into, again, taking a closer look at those. But right now, the State Department is saying that it's just reviewing the circumstances in which people looked at the records. So it's not clear if anything was politically motivated.

CHETRY: All right. Zain, good to see you on this Fourth of July morning. Thanks for getting up with us -- John.

ROBERTS: The California coastline up in flames. Find out why one man is breaking a mandatory evacuation order to save his home.

And before you get caught in an airline nightmare this weekend, see what a former airline CEO says about all those flight delays and those extra fees that we're all paying. He'll tell you what the airlines don't want you to know. Stay around for that.


ROBERTS: Four hundred wildfires are burning and flames. They're closing in on the Big Sur region of California. Now it's a race to get out of town and save what you can on the way.

CNN's Dan Simon reports for us this morning -- Dan.

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John and Kiran, we are in the heart of Big Sur. Right now, this town is really in danger. Right now, the flames are heading down this canyon.

Hundreds of homes are said to be at risk. This area under a mandatory evacuation order. But as is usually the case, not everyone has left.


SIMON (voice-over): Boarding up windows. Something people usually do for approaching hurricanes. But Dave Egbert thinks it may save his house from catching fire.

DAVE EGBERT, BIG SUR RESIDENT: I've been putting up this plywood because that's going to help protect the house from any radiant heat. That's the big thing I'm trying to do right now. I've been busting butt on this all day.

SIMON: Egbert shouldn't even be here. Big Sur and its 1,400 residents are under a mandatory evacuation order, but he says this house is also how he makes a living. He'll do anything to protect it. He uses his garden to host a syndicated TV show about how to grow plants.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why are you staying?

EGBERT: Because -- because the house is all I got. I'm sorry. I got to protect it. That's what I got to do. So if I don't have a house, I don't have a livelihood. So I've got to keep the house going as long as I can.

SIMON: Egbert knows more than most about protecting homes. He's also a volunteer firefighter.

EGBERT: I'm trying to do a balancing act of serving the community as I can and then trying to defend my home as I can.

SIMON: The fire is making an aggressive move not only toward homes, but Big Sur landmarks like the famous Ventana Inn resort. The hotel undergoing an $18 million renovation. Fire crews in place to douse any flames that may erupt here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So what happens if you got -- if you have embers that start coming this way towards the end.

CHRIS AURINGER, FIREFIGHTER: Well, there's a lot of debris and litter on the grounds that can catch fire and transfer fire to the structures. So we're going to remain in place.

SIMON: The fire raging for almost two weeks. Many of the 1,500 firefighters have been here since the beginning. This woman making the most of her break.

As for Dave Egbert, he says he would never want to live anywhere else.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is it that you love about Big Sur?

EGBERT: Well, of course, the beauty of it. You know, and it's kind of ironic that the beauty is the thing that also could destroy us because we have this really steep mountains covered in brush and trees. And that's the most beautiful thing about Big Sur how it is so steep and descended to the ocean, but it also makes it incredibly difficult to fight fire.


SIMON: You can just see how steep that terrain is. And that's why crews are having such a hard time getting up there, getting their bulldozers and heavy equipment up there as well to make containment lines. That is the challenge that they're operating under at this point.

Meanwhile, obviously on this holiday, you would have a lot of tourists milling about this town. But right now, it is completely empty. John and Kiran, back to you.

CHETRY: And Rob Marciano has the forecast now for the fires as well as the Fourth of July. Hey, Rob.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Hi, Kiran. We are looking at that marine layer. It's been helping the firefighters a little bit, but winds do gust even though they come off the ocean. So that's been an ongoing battle the more of the way the dry winds across parts of Nevada and Utah.

Red flag warnings posted for this area as the storms that came across the Pacific Northwest last night creating a critical fire danger. Low levels of humidity, 20 to 30 miles an hour gusts, and lightning is what caused, as you know, most of these fires.

Speaking of lightning, check out this video from Tuesday night out of Portland, Oregon, and it lit up the skies there. Pretty rare event to see a lightning storm there and then also lighting up the skies in Chicago.

Yes, taste of Chicago yesterday. And they -- it was kind of chilly. Temperatures in the 60s. Folks were dressed in sweatshirts and fleeces as they grew up the fire works in Chicago. A sight that will be repeated, I'm sure, tonight across many spots as we celebrate the birth of America.

One more map. Might cause some problems from St. Louis to Boston. Little stationary front that will stay there right through the weekend. Pop up showers and thunderstorms kind of just be light on your feet. Maybe you'll be able to dodge some of the raindrops. John and Kiran, back over to you.

CHETRY: So rain for a big swath of the west -- of the east there?

MARCIANO: It will rain but it'll be on and off. You know, just keep your fingers crossed. And there'll be -- there'll be breaks in the action. Don't you worry. I think it won't spoil everybody's party.

CHETRY: All right. Let's check out some other fireworks.

MARCIANO: All right.

CHETRY: This is Mount Rushmore. The National Memorial lit up last night. Gorgeous fireworks display there over the Shrine of Democracy.

This is the 11th year they've done this; 30,000 people usually attend this celebration and 50 million people will watch it on TV.

Wow. Fifty million watch that on TV? They use more than 5,000 shells. Beautiful sight.

ROBERTS: Lovely place to have that fireworks display.


ROBERTS: And the stuff that Rob was showing us from Chicago because of the coolness of the night air, the clarity of the fireworks was just incredible.

CHETRY: Maybe we're not going to get that lucky tonight, he said, at least in the east.

ROBERTS: Did it rain last year in New York too?

CHETRY: I feel like it did.

ROBERTS: Yes, look at that.

CHETRY: But that's a long ways back to remember.

ROBERTS: Look at that.

CHETRY: I can't remember what I did yesterday.

ROBERTS: Look at that. Beautiful.

Pragmatism or pandering. What if the maverick and the man about change have to change their positions to win the White House? Barack Obama and John McCain on the political tight rope.


CHETRY: Well, long lines, flight delays, extra fees. And holiday travelers are expected to have an even harder time getting out of town this year.

Joining me now, Robert Crandall, former CEO of American Airlines in Gloucester, Massachusetts, today. Hopefully you have some answers for us.

You know, you wrote this op-ed back in April of the "New York Times" that "airline service by any standard has become unacceptable." How bad is it right now?

ROBERT CRANDALL, FMR. CEO, AMERICAN AIRLINES: Well, it's sad and we've all experienced it, Kiran. There's a lot of late flights. There's a lot of congestion. A lot of delay. A lot of things that all of us would rather avoid.

So the fact of the matter is because we don't have and never have had any kind of a national transportation plan. Things have deteriorated terribly since the industry was deregulated in 1978.

CHETRY: Where do you put most of the blame? With the airlines themselves? With the federal government? The airports?

CRANDALL: No. I think -- I think the problem clearly is that the government simply doesn't have a plan. And has regarded, looked at the deterioration of the airline system with complete indifference.

CHETRY: Now, if you were advising the government on -- on some steps that they could take that would sort out this mess, where would you start?

CRANDALL: Well, the first thing I'd do is I'd say, look, we need a new air traffic control system. The one we've got is obsolete. 40 years old.

We know how to build a better air traffic control system, but we haven't had the resolution to do it. The second thing I'd say to them is, look, it's very silly to allow the airlines to schedule a hundred airplanes into a time slot at an airport where they know perfectly well it can only operate 50. Though I'd say to the government let's built the ATC system. Let's regulate capacity at the busiest airports so that we don't have long cargo lines, burning fuel while we sit waiting to take off.

Let's do a number of other things. Let's have some new bankruptcy laws. Let's have some different labor laws. Let's impose a modest level of price regulation. Let's stop taxing transportation more heavily than we tax the guns and ammunition, for example.

Let's see if we can't (ph) develop a plan that will leave America with a viable set of airlines and a viable air transportation system.

CHETRY: So you seem to be saying that the airlines are not going to do this themselves, that they need the government to step in and demand things like, don't over schedule flights because they're not going to actually be able to take off?

CRANDALL: Well, Kiran, they can't do it themselves because if any one airline, for example, let's take LaGuardia, as an example. If a given airline were to take 10 or 15 flights out of LaGuardia in a particular hour, another airline would simply fill in those slots with other schedules.

And so, the guy who cut would lose. And the guy who added would gain and there'd be no decrease in congestion. So there does need to be in some industries, and the airline industry is one of them, some governmental oversight and some modest regulation.

CHETRY: In attempting some of this, we haven't really seen a lot of it happen. But a lot of passengers and employees at the airlines certainly feeling squeezed.

Robert Crandall, former CEO of American, thanks for joining us this morning.

CRANDALL: My pleasure, Kiran.

ROBERTS: We're crossing the bottom of the hour now, and here are some of the top stories that we're following on this Independence Day.

Rescued Colombian hostage Ingrid Betancourt now on her way home to Paris to be with her family. She left Colombia last night after reuniting with her children for the first time in more than six years.

A rare piece of patriotic history found behind a flea market picture frame. It's a rare song manuscript of "America." You may know it as "My country this of thee." An art collector says he found it tucked behind a framed picture that he bought at a New York flea market for ten bucks. Could be worth tens of thousands of dollars. "America" was first played in public 177 years ago today.

The governor's mansion isn't a bachelor pad anymore. Florida Governor Charlie Crist proposed to his girlfriend of almost nine months and his engagement making news on the presidential campaign trail. That's because Crist is thought to be a potential running mate for John McCain. Not since 1852 has America had a bachelor vice president.

Are there changes in Barack Obama's position on Iraq? He says no, holding two press conferences yesterday to clarify his stance after republicans accused him of flip-flopping on the issue. Meantime, a new CNN opinion research corporation poll shows voters believe both candidates change their positions for political reasons. Take a look at this. 61 percent think that John McCain does it, 59 percent say the same about Barack Obama. Now, that is a statistical tie.

CNN special correspondent Frank Sesno is taking a closer look at the shifting winds in this year's presidential campaign. He's here now.

FRANK SESNO, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: John, Kiran. Barack Obama and John McCain are trying to cast themselves as reformers, candidates whose positions are based on principle, not politics. What then are we to make of all their flips and flops in the course of this campaign.


SESNO (voice-over): What if the maverick who drove now flies the "Straight Talk Express?" And the guy who says he's all about a different kind of politics -


SESNO: Really are all about change? Changing their own positions, that is. Obama's flipped on public financing for his campaign. He was all for it until he wasn't. On meeting with Iran's president, would he sit down without preconditions, he was asked?

OBAMA: I would.

SESNO: Simple enough. Until it got complicated.

OBAMA: If and only if it can advance the interests of the United States.

SESNO: On Iraq? First it was simple. Out in 16 months. And now?

OBAMA: We must be as careful getting out of Iraq as we were careless getting in.

SESNO: Small changes too, the lapel pin. Now you don't see it, now you do. Jeremiah Wright like a grandmother till he wasn't.

McCain flipped a bunch too. He supported the congressional ban on more offshore drilling but now opposes it. He opposed ethanol but now supports it. Both for energy security he explains. McCain famously voted against President Bush's tax cuts, now extending tax cuts as part of his platform.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I want to keep it in the wallets and purses of the American people.

SESNO: His positions have changed on immigration, repeal of Roe v. Wade, not to mention a reverend or two along the way. What if these candidates keep doing this. They'll be judged accordingly. Is it pragmatism or pandering? Political expediency or evolution? It matters because both are staking their political claims on being a different kind of politician. It matters because that's how they say they'll fix health care reform. Iraq. The economy. Energy.


SESNO: Are flip-flops politically fatal? It depends. The first Bush said read my lips, no new taxes. Then raised them. His conservative base never forget or forgave and he lost in '92. Another no new taxes president, Ronald Reagan raised taxes as part of a social security deal and remains a republican hero. So it's about context. Reputation. The story line. Things this year's candidates are desperately trying to define. John, Kiran.

ROBERTS: Frank Sesno this morning reporting on that. Frank, thanks so much.

CHETRY: Well, do you know John Adams from Gomez Adams? If so you're doing better than some of the people who took Richard Roth's July 4th quiz. He hit the streets and he tells us how the average American did. You're watching the most news in the morning.


CHETRY: An amazing example now of how HIV prevention really works especially when it deals with not passing the virus from a mother to a child. And it's happening south of the border in Peru. Chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta takes us there.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: In Peru, at least 1,500 children live with HIV/AIDS. As I will show you, UNICEF hoped to drive that number down starting with new mothers like Adelaida Delgado.

What you're witnessing here is very, very important. What they're doing is doing a rapid test trying to figure if Adelaida here is, in fact, HIV positive. She has had this baby a couple of hours ago. If in fact this test comes back in 30 minutes as being positive. This baby should not be breast-fed. She will only formula fed after the next six months.

The first priority to diagnose and treat as early as possible. What now happens here, any woman coming into any maternal child health clinic is tested for HIV. No questions asked. No exceptions. For Adelaida, it's good news. She tested negative. It doesn't mean that some of stories still aren't very heartbreaking.

For example, this little seven-month-old boy was abandoned here after his mother tested positive for HIV. We don't know if the boy has HIV or not, but no state orphanage will take him for the next 18 months. So, for the time being he's sort of stuck.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The impact of UNICEF is every child is diagnosed, and one who is HIV positive the right steps can be taken.

GUPTA: The right steps in Peru? Stopping an epidemic before it ever begins. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, Lima, Peru.


CHETRY: And joining Dr. Sanjay Gupta this Sunday, July 6th, 8 p.m. for the "Survival Project, One child at a time."


CHETRY (voice-over): Coming up on AMERICAN MORNING, shot down. No fire works on the fourth. Why more and more cities are pulling the plug.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To hear that it's not going to be here this year is devastating.

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



ROBERTS: Welcome back to the most news in the morning here on CNN. The fourth of July means flags, food, and fire works, of course. But on America's birthday, we wanted to know how much or how little real Americans know about our founding fathers. And who better to hit the streets of New York City to find out than our Richard Roth who looks like he's taken a little bit of a trip back in time this morning. Good morning, Richard.

RICHARD ROTH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. Happy Fourth. Yes, July 4th. We think we know what it means. I've come here this morning to New York's Historical Society on the Central Park West famed Central Park west side. And you can see behind me Ben Franklin, Mrs. Franklin. And they're all here for you if you want to. But if you can't get here, I've got a little tip here on how to understand July 4th.


ROTH (voice-over): America's independence day can start with a bang, too. Nowadays, though this seems to be the way America remembers July 4th. So I went looking for the true meaning of the holiday.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I guess, like, just freedom of doing whatever you want to do when you want to do it.

ROTH: Isn't that leading to the rue nation of our country?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And they're off.

ROTH: Uncle Sam's founding fathers had to jump through hoops to obtain independence from Britain. Do their offspring really remember them?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE; John Adams, it looks like.

ROTH: You're correct. Next.


ROTH: Correct.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Kind of looks like John Adams.

ROTH: You're correct.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're going to embarrass me. Benjamin Franklin?

ROTH: That is correct. I'm going to give you a 100 but I don't have it with me.


ROTH: John Adams.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE; George Washington?

ROTH: John Adams. What about John Hancock? Who is he and what did he do?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Eddie Murphy. No, I'm kidding.

ROTH: Thomas Jefferson. Who's this man?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know. But I'm blocking traffic.

ROTH: He's one of the faces of the drafters of the Declaration of Independence. One of the original copies is on display at the New York Public Library. Come on, you knew this report will end up in a museum.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's neat to see documents from America's past.

ROTH: At the New York Historical Society, fire works the way they were more than 200 years ago.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's amazing that people stood up for their rights and we now have the great America that we have now.

ROTH: An exhibit honoring Lafayette. Yes, a Frenchman fought for free to help America gain independence.

KAREN HUSLER, NEW YORK HISTORICAL SOCIETY: Lafayette, a Frenchman, coming to American taught us what was really good about ourselves and how the whole world saw us.

ROTH: He was in independence day which was about the constitutional Congress until they blew up the White House.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm going to get deported now. Great. Thanks, guys.


ROTH: Seriously, a lot of people did know some of the answers. You know how these random street quizzes, John, you used to stand outside the White House doing them. I'm sure. It's July 4th here at New York City's Historical Society. I'm standing with Mr. --

ROBERTS: I was going to say, we used to play with the tourists out front of the White House, you know. But who you got with you there? Obviously I recognize Ben.

ROTH: Yes. This is Ben Franklin. And this is Mr. Franklin who yesterday appeared on the "Oprah Show." This is Marquette de

Lafayette, the Franklins, you know, Debra Reid Franklin, not much known about, very supportive to her husband. I don't think they had any counseling. Ben, you know, invented a lot of things. And Marquette de Lafayette heavily praised here, helping out with no money and teaching America how to celebrate.

ROBERTS: You know, I notice too in all the pictures you were showing just how much John Adams actually looks like Paul Giamati. It's uncanny.

ROTH: Yes, well, John Adams had to move sideways to get that declaration of independence through.

ROBERTS: All right. Richard Roth for us this morning outside of the Historical Society. Thank you very much, Richard. Always good to see you.

CHETRY: Well, the mustard belt is on the line. The world's greatest competitive eaters will be in Coney Island today for the annual Nathan's famous hot dog eating contest. There you go. Six- time champion, Takiro Kobayashi. That's not him. I think we're going to see him in a second here. He's going to try to win back his title. That's not him either. But these guys are all good competitive eaters as well.

ROBERTS: That's a bunch of hotdogs.

CHETRY: There he is. Mr. Kobayashi. Last year's champ was Joey Chestnut who we saw a second ago. He carved down a record 66 hot dogs and buns in just 12 minutes. How do you have a six pack after eating that many hotdogs?

ROBERTS: Those are hotdogs laid sideways.

CHETRY: That's true. One here and one here. He's so skinny you can see it. This year's going to be harder, though. They only have ten minutes. They shaved the competition down by two minutes.

ROBERTS: 12 minutes was far too long to be able to scarf down 60 dogs. How do those guys do it?

CHETRY: They practice a lot.

ROBERTS: I had one hot dog in Central Park yesterday and I was like --

CHETRY: You know what they do, they stretch their stomachs eating things like heads of lettuce, huge heads of lettuce at one sitting.

ROBERTS: Without chewing?

CHETRY: No, I do think they chew.

Well, still ahead, freed from captivity, now rescued Colombian hostage Ingrid Betancourt is flying home to France. She had a tearful and joyous reunion with her children yesterday. And now she's going to get a hero's welcome in France as well.

ROBERTS: And on the frontlines of the wildfires. A trained firefighter and photographer says they're getting bigger and stronger. And he knows why.

CHETRY: And a CNN exclusive. A secret entry point along the Syrian border allowing militants to slip in and out of Iraq undetected. Ahead we're going to travel with the Syrian Army to get a firsthand look at what else is going on there.


CHETRY: They're self-centered, spoiled and fabulous if you ask them. But now some mean teen girls are literally in for a dose of reality. CNN's Brooke Anderson explains.


BROOKE ANDERSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hollywood calls them "Mean Girls."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Get in, loser, we're going shopping.

ANDERSON: Or queen bees. Teenage girls. Materialistic, selfish, and lacking sugar, spice, or anything nice.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can't help I'm the center of attention.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can make my fiance cry. All I've got to do is snap my fingers.

ANDERSON: A new reality T.V. know is taking on seven real life "Queen Bees" who have been told by their friends and family that they need an attitude adjustment and is giving them a chance to change for a cash prize.


ANDERSON; Psychologist and life coach Dr. Michelle Callahan counsels the girls in the show, which will air on Nickelodeon, the N Network.

MICHELLE CALLAHAN, PSYCHOLOGIST, "QUEEN BEES": A "Queen bee" is a person who, I think, usually thinks of themselves as the center of the universe. A lot of times they step over the line towards being inconsiderate and rude and mean and hurtful to other people.

ANDERSON: Some stars like Paris Hilton and Nicole Ritchie have capitalized on their bad behavior, but each of these girls is competing to improve her conduct the most.

CALLAHAN: The goal is really to "Queen bees" change their attitudes and change their behavior.


ANDERSON: A contestant deemed the most reformed wins $25,000. But the show's format and cash incentive don't sit well with the woman who wrote the book popularizing the term "Queen bees."

ROSALIND WEISMAN, AUTHOR, "QUEEN BEES AND WANNABEES": It doesn't take girls seriously. You look at these girls and you absolutely can dismiss them out of hand. They look superficial. They look ridiculous. And we don't look at them as people. We look as them as things to mock.

ANDERSON: At the end, they say their motto is reality shows with morality and they assert this show will make a difference.

SARAH TOMASSI LINDMNA, GENERAL MANAGER, THE N NETWORK: These girls create drama every day, but, again, we were doing that to the end of helping them work through some of their issues and the combination of those two things we thought just, you know, would lead to great television.

ANDERSON: Let's just hope that the winner with 25k in her purse doesn't let it go to her head and become even more materialistic and self-centered than ever. Brooke Anderson, CNN, Hollywood.


ROBERTS (voice-over): Coming up on AMERICAN MORNING, the gas gamble.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's like a debit card. I saved a lot of money.

ROBERTS: The web site that lets you pay for fill-ups in advance before it gets any higher.

Plus, no boom. Just bust. Why many towns could have a July 4th without this. You're watching the most news in the morning.



ROBERTS: This morning, Iranian state radio says Tehran will respond today to a new proposal on its nuclear program. Under that proposal, the European Union would halt sanctions if Iran suspends enriching uranium for six weeks. Joining me now live in London is our chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour. And Christiane, oh, you know, apparently she's just getting herself set up. Because she was getting some late information. But the news is here. And Christiane joins us now. And Christiane, Iran may be looking favorably upon this latest proposal from the EU. What can you tell us about that?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Hold on one second, John. Basically, I've just been told by the office of the Javier Solano, the chief EU foreign policy minister that he today, Solano, got a call from Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Saed Jalili and it was a very positive tone. The call was very friendly,

positive according to Javier Solano's office and they said that very shortly they would be responding to this offer and this proposal that Javier Solano gave to Iran back on June 14th when he went to Iran.

Now, I cannot tell you whether they're going to respond positively to this, but we do know that the words and the tone from Iran have been more positive recently than in the past and this response would come much more speedily than responses have come in the past. It was June 14th that this proposal was taken there, John.

ROBERTS: Christiane, what can you tell us about the details of this proposal, this idea of a freeze for a freeze? I know that you're messing around a little bit with your equipment there. Take whatever time you need.

AMANPOUR: It's OK, I can hear you. I'm sorry. This is live television and I just got off the phone. But yesterday I was told by a western diplomat very close to this process that in fact the nuts and bolts of the proposal that Iran was looking at what was just what's been published on the internet but a side letter that would allow Iran to keep enriching uranium at its current level, which means 3,000 or so, just over 3,000 centrifuges, but would not let Iran for a period of some weeks install or manufacture any more centrifuges. That means it would not be able to enrich anymore than it's currently enriching.

In return for that, the EU would for a period, a similar period of six weeks refrain from supporting or organizing or imposing any new sanctions. And this would be in order to sort of start pre- negotiations about the actual heart and soul of what the U.S. and the EU want, which is to resolve the nuclear issue and that the actual meat and potatoes of that discussion, would still involve a suspension of Iran's uranium enrichment. John.

ROBERTS: Just to recap again, Christiane. You're saying you're hearing from EU sources and we're also hearing from the Iranian side that they may respond today. We do not know how they're going to respond. But let's look back a couple of weeks ago to the editorial board meeting that we had with Condoleezza Rice. She said at the heart of this matter is the fuel cycle. That the United States does not want Iran to have the fuel cycle. This EU agreement wouldn't seem to satisfy that, so where do they have to go from here?

AMANPOUR: Well, that's precisely right. The fuel cycle is indeed the enrichment, which involves the centrifuges. And what appears to be going on according to western diplomat, is some kind of mutuality, some kind of choreography, some kind of attempt to finesse the impasse that all sides are at the moment. And it would seem if this is, in fact, what is on the table, it would seem that that does actually basically go some way to allowing Iran to maintain that it has convinced the international community of its right to enrich uranium. Now just to go back a little bit, this kind of freeze for freeze situation was very similar to what was proposed by Muhamad Al Baradai, the head of the IAEA more than two years ago when Iran only had 20 centrifuges compared to more than 3,000 now. He basically said then, look, they're doing it. Let's have vigorous, robust verification. They want an R&D experimental program. Let's get in

there and do it now and make sure it keeps, you know, at a small level.

Well, the U.S. said no. We can't have any discussion unless there's a total uranium enrichment suspension. And basically now they're at 3,000-plus centrifuges. And something similar is being worked out right now. John.

ROBERTS: Christiane, there's just one other interesting points to take a look at here. As we're expecting this response from Iran today and indications that it could respond favorably, the head of the Iranian revolutionary guard corps has warned just in the last 24 hours that any action taken against Iran's nuclear facilities would be seen as an act of war and would be responded to. What do you know about that? What is that saying?

AMANPOUR, Well, that is what's come out of Iran, but I mean, they would say that, wouldn't they? So we were told. I mean, if a country is thinks they're being threatened with a military attack, it's likely to say while we consider this an act of war and we will take measures to defend ourselves. And in fact, we've heard Iranian officials in the fast for several years now saying that, in fact, if there was such an attack on their facilities, then they would take all means necessary to defend themselves. They've talked about being able to defend their interests, being able to strike U.S. and other interests and also being able to do what they think they could do in terms of blockading the Persian Gulf and not allowing oil to pass. True, I mean those kinds of things have been said in the past?

ROBERTS: Christiane Amanpour for us in London today. As a good correspondent, always does working her sources right up until the last second. Thanks, Christiane. Happy independence day.

CHETRY: Well crossing the top of the hour. We're following breaking news right now. Oil prices falling for a change. Below $145 a barrel this morning as the U.S. dollar strengthened against the Euro. It's not much relief, though. The price of gas has yet hit another record, $4.10 a gallon for regular.

A search for suspects right now after a bomb explodes at an outdoor concert in Belarus. More than 50 people were injured. The concert was commemorating Belarus independence day.

And the military extending tours for 2,200 Marines in Afghanistan. They'll stay at least one month longer. Officials say they need the manpower to beat back the dramatic rise in violence...