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Roxana Saberi Leaves Iran for Vienna; Obama to Resume Military Tribunals for Terror Suspects; Karl Rove is to be Questioned on U.S. Attorneys' Firing; Airline's Dirty Little Secret: Low Salary; Interview With Al Gore; Debates Over Legalization of All Drugs; Gates on the Defensive; "Angels & Demons" Debut; Pop Culture Goes Celebrity Baby Crazy

Aired May 15, 2009 - 06:00   ET


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Good Friday morning to you. It is May the 15th. Welcome to the Most News in the Morning. I'm John Roberts.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Kiran Chetry. Glad you're with us. We begin with news just in to CNN moments ago.

The Iranian-American journalist convicted of spying by Iran and later freed has just arrived in Vienna. There you see the pictures of Roxana Saberi. She was able to leave Tehran early this morning shortly arriving at Vienna's airport. Saberi thanked all of those who helped to win her freedom.


ROXANA SABERI, FREED JOURNALIST: Vienna because I heard it's a calm and relaxing place. And also the Austrian ambassador to Tehran (ph) and his family were very helpful to me and my family during this period. So I want to thank him again and the family and all the other people in the nation and the world who helped us during this time.

I heard that certain people -- many people went through a lot of trouble because of me and with someone on a hunger strike. Both journalists and non-journalists around the world I've been hearing supported me very much, and it was very moving for me to hear this.


CHETRY: Well, Saberi went on to say that she will talk about her entire ordeal in Iran sometime in the near future.

We'll also be breaking down a number of other big stories for you in the next 15 minutes including a White House reversal.

In just a few hours, President Obama will announce plans to resume military tribunals for terror suspects, the tribunals that he promised to stop during the campaign. We're live at the White House with details on why the president changed his mind on this issue.

Former Bush White House senior adviser Karl Rove is expected to be questioned by a special prosecutor today. It's part of a criminal investigation into why nine U.S. attorneys were fired back in 2006. There could be criminal charges against former administration and justice officials if it's determined those dismissals were politically motivated.

And, by the way, coming up a little bit later on the show, we're going to talk to one of those U.S. attorneys who was fired.

If you fly a lot, hearings on Capitol Hill this week may have given you a disturbing look inside the cockpit of a deadly commuter plane crash near Buffalo. Details about poor training and low pay have many of you wondering who's flying your plane and what exactly is their training level.

ROBERTS: Well, back now to developing news and a decision that could have President Obama taking heat from the left.

In just a few hours, the president will announce he is reversing course on military tribunals for terror suspects. These are the highly controversial commissions created under former President Bush. During the campaign, the president blasted the Bush administration for using the tribunals calling them an enormous failure.

CNN's Jill Dougherty is the only reporter live at the White House this early.

And, Jill, the big question, why the change of heart from the Obama White House on this particular issue?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: John, I think you have to start looking at President Obama as the constitutional lawyer president. And in this issue, remember, when he came into office, one of the first things he did was suspend those tribunals and they reviewed them. And why did he do that? Because he thought they were flawed and that they didn't conform (ph) with American values. In other words, they might not be actually constitutional.

So they reviewed them and now he is changing the position. They are -- they are letting, in some cases, those tribunals go forward. But they're adding protections for these few criminals who are being held.

Now, some of his supporters are going to be angry, especially the liberals and people who support civil rights and constitutional rights. They probably should have looked at the fine print, John, because this is a president who's looking at these cases very, very lawyerly and very carefully and switching his views.

ROBERTS: You mentioned in there, Jill, something about rights but the Obama administration looking to make some serious changes in how these tribunals operate?

DOUGHERTY: Well, let's go through the protections. They're going to increase expanded due process rights. And those would be -- they will limit hearsay evidence that should not be used in court cases in the United States. They're going to limit that hearsay evidence.

They'll ban evidence gained from cruel treatment -- things like waterboarding. And they will give those people more latitude to pick their own lawyers.

It's important to point out, John, though, these are not the full rights that American citizens would enjoy.

ROBERTS: All right. Jill Dougherty for us live at the White House for us this morning. Jill, thanks so much.

CHETRY: Former Bush administration official Karl Rove is scheduled to be interviewed by a special prosecutor today about the 2006 firings of nine U.S. attorneys. It's part of an ongoing criminal investigation to figure out whether or not former administration officials lied or obstructed justice in connection with these dismissals. Those firings triggered a political controversy, ended up forcing Attorney General Alberto Gonzales from office back in 2007.

Jeanne Meserve is live in our Washington bureau this morning.

So, Jeanne, what is the special prosecutor hoping to find out from Karl Rove today?

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, the prosecutor, Nora Dannehy, isn't commenting publicly, of course. But the bottom line is this, she's trying to determine whether any former White House or Justice Department officials broke any laws in connection with the firings of these U.S. attorneys. Did they lie? Was there obstruction of justice?

When the U.S. attorneys were fired, administration officials said it was because of poor performance. But the key question has been was it really for improper political reasons.

Rove's attorney isn't commenting even on whether or not the interview is taking place today. Just noting that Rove has said he would fully cooperate with the investigation.

CHETRY: And this also isn't the first or last probe into this matter, is it, Jeanne?

MESERVE: No. The Justice Department's inspector general and Office of Professional Responsibility looked at the matter and concluded there were improper political motivations in some of the firings, but they did not have the authority to compel Rove or any other officials from the Bush White House to testify. And because of that gap, they recommended a criminal probe.

And as a result, then Attorney General Michael Mukasey appointed Dannehy. The House Judiciary Committee is also looking into the matter. They, too, will be talking to Rove.

CHETRY: All right. Coming up in a couple of hours on our show, we're actually going to be talking to one of those U.S. attorneys who was let go for his thoughts on what he thinks should happened and who he thinks is responsible.

Jeanne Meserve, thanks.

MESERVE: You bet.

ROBERTS: New this morning, a stunning decline in the number of Mexican immigrants that are going to the United States. The "New York Times" reporting today, says this data from the Mexican government shows a 25 percent drop from August of 2007 to August of 2008. The likely reason -- a lack of jobs in America because of the recession. Both countries also reporting a decrease in arrests along the border.

Starting today, three public schools in Queens, New York will be closed for at least a week because of a flare-up of the swine flu. One middle school confirming four students and an assistant principal had the H1N1 flu, and the assistant principal is in critical condition and on a ventilator. And more than 240 students in another middle school stayed home yesterday with flu-like symptoms.

And this morning, all eyes focused on this weekend's graduation speaker at Notre Dame University. President Obama will be the sixth sitting U.S. president to deliver the university's commencement address. Protesters are outraged that the Catholic university would honor a public figure who supports abortion rights.

And you at home are weighing in, and the controversy lighting up our show hotline.


ANNE, GEORGIA (via telephone): My husband is a graduate of Notre Dame University, and I'm a graduate of Misericordia University, both strong practicing Catholics. We both voted for Obama and believe he should speak at Notre Dame and receive the honorary degree.

NORMA, INDIANA (via telephone): I think that President Obama has the right to free speech just like everybody else. And I hope that the people at Notre Dame are dignified enough to not interrupt this man's speech. This is so ridiculous.

NANCY, LOUISIANA (via telephone): I do not believe that Barack Obama should go to Notre Dame and speak at the commencement exercises because I don't think that it would be wise to go to Rome and slap a pope in the face.

MARGARET, ARKANSAS (via telephone): I do not feel that he should be going to Notre Dame. I know they invited him, but his stances are against the Catholic religion, against their faith. Thank you.


ROBERTS: We want to hear what you have to say about this and all the big stories. Call our show hotline at 1-877-MY-AMFIX.

And coming up, we're going to talk with Emily Toates. She's a senior at the University of Notre Dame who plans to boycott her graduation ceremony because of President Obama's appearance to deliver the commencement address.

And a reminder that you can see the president's speech live right here on CNN Sunday. That will start at 2:00 p.m. Eastern.

CHETRY: Also this morning, an eye-opening fact from the Buffalo plane crash hearings. Wait until you hear how little some money the pilots were making and why that may put your safety at risk.

Also, do Americans care anymore about global warming? John had a chance to speak exclusively with former Vice President Al Gore about his climate project event this weekend and much more.

It's eight minutes past the hour.


ROBERTS: New York, New York. Ain't it grand?

Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. A live look at New York City where it's 60 degrees, going up to 75 today. Some showers are possible, but it looks like it's going to be a half decent day.

We're back with the Most News in the Morning and a look now at some of the other stories new this morning.

The Boston trolley driver accused of text messaging his girlfriend before a crash last Friday has been fired. Close to 50 people were sent to the hospital after he rear-ended another trolley. He could still face criminal charges. Meantime, the union representing the trolley driver says it will fight a new ban prohibiting its members from carrying cell phones or texting devices on the job.

The hospital where octomom Nadya Suleman gave birth to her octuplets has been fined $25,000 for violating her privacy. California health officials say Kaiser Permanente's Bellflower hospital did not do enough to keep staffers from accessing Suleman's medical files. Fifteen hospital workers were fired for the alleged privacy breach back in March.

And a follow-up now to a story that we brought you earlier this week here in AMERICAN MORNING. The Federal Trade Commission asking the federal court to shut down telemarketers who are allegedly using deceptive robocalls to sell people bogus extensions of their vehicle service contracts. The FTC calls it a massive scheme to deceive consumers into thinking that their vehicle's warranty is about to expire -- Kiran.

CHETRY: All right. Well, this information new this morning for us revealing passengers aboard the commuter plane that crashed outside of Buffalo trusted their lives to a co-pilot making just a little more than $23,000. It's a slim salary that may have forced her to cut costs when it came to commuting across four time zones before getting behind the controls of that flight back in February.

CNN's Jason Carroll joins us now with more on this.

And we talked a little bit about this yesterday as well. The fact of the matter is that you're on your own to get to your -- you know, to get to whatever city you're flying out of, regardless of how much money you make.

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. And it's very common. You know, there are a lot of pilots out there who are doing this.

Even so, the first officer's mother basically saying her daughter is being used as a scapegoat. She says her daughter was well- qualified and well-trained. Well-paid? Well, that is a different story.


CARROLL (voice-over): The investigation into the crash of Colgan Air Flight 3407 revealed something many outside the aviation industry may not have known.

PETER GOELZ, FORMER NTSB INVESTIGATOR: A dirty little secret that we're not paying these folks enough to fly safely.

CARROLL: Twenty-three thousand nine hundred dollars, that's how much First Officer Rebecca Shaw made a year working for Colgan Air. An amount that raised concerns with NTSB investigators and came as a shock to her mother.

LYN MORRIS, MOTHER OF CO-PILOT: She told me what she was making - I was amazed. I thought she was making a lot more.

CARROLL: Shaw had a second job at a coffee shop when first hired, and she lived with her parents in Seattle. Investigators questioned if that salary prevented Shaw from living closer to her job in Newark, New Jersey. She took two flights cross-country overnight before the doomed flight. Did that, investigators ask, prevent her from getting needed rest?

MORRIS: I don't think she came to work too tired. I think she came to work ready to do her job and do it to the very best of her ability.

CARROLL: Pilot Ben Berman says the airlines had been cutting back for years. Berman is with a major carrier and just took a 25 percent pay cut. Still, it's better, he says, than the days of flying a regional jet.

BEN BERMAN, COMMERCIAL PILOT: I suffered as a regional pilot for years. And I started out at $11,284. Very, very difficult to live life.

CARROLL: Some aviation experts say while pilots are doing their best, low pay could lead to complications in the cockpit.

CAPT. PAUL RICE, AIR LINE PILOTS ASSOCIATION: Flying is an exacting business. And as such, you have to have all your capacities available to you.

CARROLL: The president of the Regional Airline Association takes offense to suggestions lack of pay equals lack of performance. ROGER COHEN, REGIONAL AIRLINE ASSOCIATION: This kind of linkage just doesn't make any sense to any average layman out there that someone would do less of a job to protect his or her own life, let alone their responsibility to the passengers simply because they weren't paid as much.

CARROLL: The average annual starting pay for a regional pilot? About $18,000. Compared to a janitor? Twenty-one thousand dollars. Or a New York City cab driver with just a few year's experience? Twenty-two thousand dollars.

Some passengers say it is time to pay pilots more.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am putting my life in their hands, and so I do think that they need to upset (ph) whatever it takes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everything about the airlines makes me nervous. Yes.


CARROLL: Well, aviation experts we spoke to say in order for pilot compensation to change, it has to start with a strong recommendation from the National Transportation Safety Board and the public has to get involved as well and demand that pilots be paid more.

CHETRY: The flip side is, are people willing to pay more to fly?

CARROLL: That's the question. And, you know, that's exactly what's going to happen. You know, if you increase the pay, who's going to pick up that costs? The passengers most likely.

CHETRY: Jason Carroll, thank you.

ROBERTS: Fifteen minutes after the hour. Expecting lots of heavy weather throughout the Midwest today and flood watches continue in Indiana. And we'll show you why.

Some pictures coming in to us from Indianapolis yesterday. A woman had driven her SUV up a road and the water was rising from the nearby creek. She felt that she couldn't back out down the road, so she called for help. Firefighters came and rescued her. Just after they got her out, the floodwaters, as you can see, swept the car away. And there it is rolling over and over and over before finally sinking and coming to rest.

So this happened yesterday in the floodwaters there in Indianapolis. And again, as they're towing the vehicle out, those flood watches continue all weekend long in Indiana and expecting again severe weather across portions in the Midwest today.

She was very lucky.

CHETRY: She certainly was.

ROBERTS: Yes, just in time.

Ahead, my exclusive interview with Al Gore and his battle to reverse global warming. The plan he desperately wants passed by Congress and why time may be running out.

And the new drug czar says he's banning the phrase "the war on drugs." Is it political correctness or good policy? We'll find out.

Sixteen minutes after the hour.


ROBERTS: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning.

Al Gore is lobbying hard this morning for a bill that's before the House of Representatives. It would set a ceiling on greenhouse gas emissions for U.S. corporations. Gore is hosting a climate project conference in Nashville this weekend with an eye toward moving from a campaign of public awareness about global warming to advocacy and activism.

I spoke exclusively with the former vice president about his mission, the measure before Congress, and why he thinks it's so important to get it passed now.


ROBERTS: So this climate project conference that you've got going on there in Nashville, the goal of this is to make the transition from raising public awareness for climate change now to advocacy and activism. Why the need to highlight this transition? I thought it was all part of the same thing.

AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, it is part of the same thing, but the public debate has reached a new stage. We had planned it in advance, but you know, the legislation to address the climate crisis has now reached the stage that a lot of people thought it never would. It's about to come out of the key committee in the House of Representatives and go to the floor.

ROBERTS: This bill that you're talking about, the Waxman-Markey Climate Bill, you say that it's a moral imperative to pass this legislation. You're up on the Hill recently voicing your support for it, yet it only gradually curbs greenhouse gases and does nothing about developing countries. Is this bill everything you want? Is it a good start? How would you characterize it?

GORE: Well, I think it is a good start. We'll see all the details of the bill later on.

You know, I think the essence of this challenge, John, is to set in motion the forces of change so that we shift over to renewable energy and start making the job creating investments that are going to really get our economy going on a sustainable basis. And once that transition begins to shift, it will be unstoppable because countries all over the world are beginning to do what we're beginning to do. ROBERTS: Every since a Pew poll found that global warming ranks last on the list of people's top priorities, I read an analysis by Gallup poll editor Frank Newport recently who said there's no evidence that the campaign against global warming is winning. He says, "It's just not caught on. Any measure that we look at shows Al Gore losing at the moment. The public is just not that concerned."

He says the public is concerned about the economy. Are you worried that concerns about the economy are eclipsing the work that you're trying to do?

GORE: Well, I think that people understand really well that the climate crisis and the economic crisis are intertwined. We can't continue to spend hundreds of billions of dollars every year overseas for foreign oil. We're already seeing a real shift toward job- creating activities that really help to solve the climate crisis.

And as for those polls, John, I strongly disagree with the couple that you mentioned. There are other polls that show that very, very high percentages of Americans now believe very strongly that we do have an obligation to solve this crisis and that we can help our economy as we do so.

ROBERTS: There's some pretty strong language coming out in a new article in the British publication, "The Lancet." It's a medical publication. It says that climate change is the biggest global health threat of the 21st century. What effect might casting it in that light have in renewing public interest in climate change?

GORE: It's just a good representation of the reality.

You know, a lot of the viruses and bacteria that have thrived in the tropics are now moving northward away from the tropics and subtropics as the planet warms. And they're leaving their niches and getting into populations that haven't developed resistance and immunities over the years, because colder winters and colder nights in a stable climate helps to preserve the balance that works in our favor.

So it's yet another reason why we have to pay attention to stopping this crisis before it really gets out of control.


ROBERTS: In the next hour of the Most News in the Morning, more of my exclusive interview with Al Gore. The former vice president weighs in on Dick Cheney's recent criticism of the Obama administration. And for the very first time, he talks about North Korea's decision to put two journalists who work for his current television network on trial.

CHETRY: All right. We look forward to that.

And meantime, the nation's new drug czar says he's dropping the term "war on drugs." We're going to tell you why and also break down the administration's new approach to America's drug addiction. It's 24 minutes past the hour.


MELISSA LONG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A sports car and scooter. An unlikely pair, but they have something in common.

STEVEN SHAPIRO, VECTRIX OWNER: You just plug it in to a regular socket and charge it.

LONG: Neither use gas. Steve Shapiro bought this highway- friendly Vectrix Maxi scooter last year when gas prices were high.

SHAPIRO: It takes two hours to charge and then you have about 50 to 60 miles of driving. Underneath the seat and in this back storage compartment, I can get the equivalent of three bags of groceries.

LONG (on camera): We know the trunk can hold a couple of bags, but could I actually fit my workbag. Let me find out?

The trunk -- does it hold my laptop? It's a tight squeeze, but it fits.

(voice-over): For those willing to give up gas but not the trunk space, the Tesla Roadster might be a better fit.

JEREMY SNYDER, TESLA MOTORS: Ninety-five percent of America drive less than 100 miles a day. The Roadster has a range of 244 miles. So for daily driving purposes, this suits 95 percent of Americans.

LONG: For about $100,000, it goes from zero to 60 in under four seconds, a bit faster than the Vectrix.

(on camera): This vehicle has a lot of pickup. It can go from zero to 60 in 6.8 seconds. Gun it.

(voice-over): This may change the quintessential road trip -- no more gas stations.

JOHN ANTHONY, RIDES SCOOTER TO WORK: When you're riding this, you do keep an eye out. There are a lot of outside outlets. And I have plugged in.

LONG: Melissa Long, CNN.



CHETRY: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning.

That's a live look right now at Indianapolis where it's 53 degrees going up to 77. Thunderstorms are in the forecast, though, so keep that in mind if you're traveling today.

Twenty-eight minutes past the hour. A look at your top stories this morning.

The Obama administration is expected to order a new round of military attacks against the Taliban. The strategy according to defense officials is to weaken the Taliban with the hope that more militants will decide to join reconciliation talks between Afghanistan and the United States.

Pope Benedict spending his last few minutes in Israel right now before heading back to the Vatican. His last stop will be the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, the site widely known as the place where Jesus was crucified. The pope departs from the Vatican at 7:00 this morning.

Also this morning, evidence, a common virus affecting up to 50 percent of American adults could play a role in high blood pressure. Scientists at Harvard say mice with the virus CMV (ph) developed higher blood pressure than uninfected mice. Scientists say that more test are needed but the discovery could provide doctors with a new approach to treating high blood pressure which is a leading risk factor for heart disease and stroke.

ROBERTS: The nation's new drug czar is raising eyebrows for promising to stop using the phrase "war on drugs" because it could be misleading. He says he favors treatment and prevention over locking up drug users.

Joining me now to talk about this and the debate over legalizing drugs is Jeff Miron. He's an economist at Harvard University who supports legalization. And Andrew Wainwright who works to help addicts through his company, Assistance in Recovery. He's a former addict, and he is against legalization.

So, the new drug czar, in an interview with "The Wall Street Journal" said the following, gentleman: "Regardless of how you try to explain to people that it's a war on drugs or a war on a product, people see a war as a war on them, a war on individuals. And we're not at war with people in this country."

Jeff Miron, he's not advocating legalization. In fact, he opposes it. But he wants a greater focus on treatment and prevention rather than incarceration. His own stepson suffered from addiction.

Are his ideas the right ones or the wrong ones?

JEFF MIRON, DIRECTOR OF UNDERGRADUATE STUDIES, HARVARD: Well, I think they're a huge step in the right direction. I completely agree with him that the metaphor "war on drugs" is incredibly counterproductive and sends exactly the wrong signal. We shouldn't have a policy which targets people within our own society and punishes them for something that they're doing which may not be harming others.

I wish it would go farther and support legalization. And I think there's another option which is both legalize and not spend money on treatments but I still think that the stance he's taking will at least open debate and give us a better tone to the overall policy. ROBERTS: Andrew Wainwright as we mentioned you had problems with drugs. You were in treatment. In fact, you were pushed into treatment after an intervention. If drugs were legal as Jeff Miron has advocated, would you have ever sought that treatment?

ANDREW WAINWRIGHT, PRESIDENT & CEO, ASSISTANCE IN RECOVERY, INC.: I think it's a -- I think legalization is a tough road, a tough pitch. I think when folks are that unstable and making that difficult decision, it's hard for them to ask to advocate on their behalf.

So, I'm not a proponent of legalization. I'm a proponent of treatment. And I'm excited with the new drug czar and the road we're taking here. I think the opportunity for more treatment and a new understanding about addiction is, I think, our best bet moving forward.

ROBERTS: Back in the 1990s, Barry McCaffrey who was the drug czar, talked, you know, very much the same sort of talk that Kerlikowske is talking about, ending the war on drugs. He said that addiction had to be treated more like a disease like cancer. He increased funding for treatment and education.

In fact, take a look at the figures here. Funding for treatment went up 35 percent. Education and prevention went up 52 percent. Yet at the same time, two million more people became drug users during that time.

Andrew, it doesn't sound like it worked very well.

WAINWRIGHT: Well, I think we're looking at a shorter period of time to judge long-term effects. And we have been battling, you know, what we call the "war on drugs" for 40 years. We had surge in drug use in the late '80s and the early '90s. And some of the studies are coming out just, you know, only five years later.

I've seen a real big rise in treatment availability, and the cost of treatment to make it available to larger numbers of people in the late '90s and the beginning of this century. So, I think that the numbers in recovery are going up. I think the advocacy and the understanding of recovery is going up. I think the gamut and the opportunities we have to treat this disease, that's our leading proponent.

ROBERTS: Jeff, Kerlikowske wants to take a look at programs, the one called High Point North California. It's one of the -- they take the most violent offenders who are dealing drugs and they put them in jail. But the other ones, they bring them together in a community meeting setting with family and friends, and they say, look, we've got all this evidence on you. We could put you in jail, but we won't put you in jail if you promise to reform your ways. Apparently, in High Point it's been very successful.

Is that something you think that could translate across the country?

MIRON: I think that there are some merits in those sorts of program. Partially, they're not a strict criminal justice approach. Therefore, they don't generate the sort of violence that a strict incarceration or arrest approach does.

At the same time, I think those are little bit of false hope, because part of what happens in those situations is they push the drug activity to some other part of the city or some other part of the area. More generally on treatment, I think we have to avoid assuming that that's a cure. It's absolutely right the treatment is very effective for lots of people.

But thinking that we can avoid having to deal with the negatives of drugs by providing treatment is a false hope. We have to accept that there will be a whole range of use patterns whether it's legal or illegal. For example, as we've seen with alcohol.

ROBERTS: Why don't you talk to us about that, Andrew? What did treatment do for you?

WAINWRIGHT: Well, I think today -- I think that Jeff is right. We need a multi-tier approach. You know, societally -- you know, some of that is criminal justice, some of that is prevention and some of that is treatment.

Today, treatment is the only real route. When folks are already addicted, which a generous part or portion of this population 22 million Americans are, it's the only real answer. We've proven that putting them in jail and filling up for a (INAUDIBLE) folks isn't the answer. So in lieu of another great solution, which we're hoping are coming --

ROBERTS: Well, I mean -- well, talk from personal experience. Did treatment save you?

WAINWRIGHT: It did. I was born and raised in Washington, D.C. Went to treatment from there to Minnesota in 1995, and so for 12 years as a singular product of the treatment system. Without that, I don't know what could have happened.

ROBERTS: All right. Andrew Wainwright, Jeff Miron, it's good to check in with you this morning. Obviously, we'll be talking a lot more about this in the coming weeks and months.

Thanks very much.

CHETRY: A lot of people are suddenly asking a lot of questions about Defense Secretary Robert Gates. We're going to tell you why his handling of the Pentagon budget and the war in Afghanistan are suddenly coming under scrutiny.

Tom Hanks and Ron Howard stirring up lots of controversy with "The Da Vinci Code," and the two teaming up for the sequel, "Angels & Demons." We're going to tell you the early buzz.

It's 34 minutes past the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ROBERTS: Low clouds hanging over the Capitol building this morning in Washington, where it's 65 degrees going up to a high of 77. Watch out for some scattered thunderstorms today.

Thirty-eight minutes after the hour. Let's fast forward through stories that will be making news later on today.

In a little less than two hours at 8:16 Eastern, shuttle astronauts will take an ambitious walk amongst the stars during their second scheduled spacewalk. The two astronauts will attempt to install gyroscopes and batteries in the Hubble Space telescope.

At 1:00 p.m. Eastern, Vice President Joe Biden heads to Los Angeles to see the administration's stimulus plan in action. He'll visit a community housing group that helps to improve the quality of housing in South Central, L.A. He's also expected to discuss the use of stimulus dollars to eliminate lead-based paint from home.

And today -- yes, it's bike to work day. At 8:00 a.m. Eastern, Energy Secretary Steven Chew -- I know it doesn't look like he's riding a bicycle, but he will be then. He'll ride his bike from his home to a rally at freedom plaza in D.C. Cyclists are expected to flood city and local streets across the nation.

And that's what's going on today - Kiran.

CHETRY: All right, John. Thanks.

Well, Defense Secretary Robert Gates is under some fire. Some in Congress are questioning the handling of the Pentagon's purse strings and some in the military are wondering exactly what the change of tactics in Afghanistan are really going to mean.

Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr joins us this morning.

So the Republican holdover from the Bush administration is actually starting to hear from some members of his own party right now?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Indeed, Kiran. You know, Bob Gates has won kudos for the last two years on the job. Now, the first signs of dissent.


STARR (voice-over): Capitol Hill, for the first time, signs of dissent. From Republicans who say Defense Secretary Robert Gates tried to keep his staff from telling Congress details of the $534 billion Pentagon budget.

REP. JOHN MCHUGH (R), NEW YORK: You mentioned the nondisclosure statements that some call a gag order that kept this Congress from doing its job. And that is what worries me.

STARR: Some in Congress worried favorite weapons programs are getting cut without their input. SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISS (R), GEORGIA: You and your staff made many of these budget decisions yourself and very few if any people in the services knew what your decisions were until you announced them.

STARR: Chambliss wants to reverse Gates' plan to stop F-22 fighter production. Gates said it's time to dump big weapons that aren't being used in the current wars. Congress is being lobbied by contractors who say thousands of defense jobs will be lost.

Gates didn't hide his irritation when questioned about counseling much of the army's future combat system.

ROBERT GATES, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: I couldn't agree more that vehicle modernization is a high priority, the Army's highest priority. And I totally support it. But we've got to get it right if we're going to spend $150 billion on it.

STARR: When Bob Gates replaced Donald Rumsfeld in December 2006, he was portrayed as a calm leader who could also win the war in Iraq. But once again, tough times in the war zone, this time it's Afghanistan.

GATES: From a military perspective, we can and must do better.

STARR: He fired the commander he put into place less than a year ago.

GATES: I've asked for the resignation of General David McKiernan.

STARR: But two days later, he tried to say it was anything but a firing.

GATES: I view what has happened with General McKiernan as an -- as an accelerated change of command.

STARR: McKiernan isn't the first senior official who found his career ending early in the Gates-run Pentagon. Uniformed and civilian alike have been shown the door.


STARR: Well now, the real fight is coming -- Bob Gates versus very powerful defense industry lobbyists trying to convince Congress to maintain those big weapons programs - Kiran.

CHETRY: All right. Barbara Starr for us at the Pentagon this morning. Thanks.

ROBERTS: "Angels & Demons," the prequel to the "Da Vinci Code" is set to debut this weekend. Why one group is promising to protest the film with a sit-in.

And it's that time of week when our independent analyst hands out awards to the wingnuts -- people on the far right and some on the far left, who've gone a bit wacky this week. See who gets awarded today. It's minutes after the hour.


ROBERTS: Forty-four-and-a-half minutes after the hour on the Most News in the Morning.

Vatican officials refused to allow director Ron Howard access to any church property for the filming of his new movie "Angels & Demons." And they're not saying much about the opening of the film this weekend either because they don't want to help publicize it.

Kara Finnstrom now on the prequel to "The Da Vinci Code" that already has religious groups very upset.

KARA FINNSTROM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, Kiran, the big new blockbuster in theaters this weekend has some religious groups upset. But for the film's makers, that may not be such a bad thing.


FINNSTROM (voice-over): Sealed crypts, secret societies, murder and intrigue. A highly anticipated "Angels & Demons" is hitting theaters today with the conservative media watchdog group, The Resistance, promising to disrupt showings with sit-ins and the Catholic League mounting a public information campaign.

BILL DONOHUE, THE CATHOLIC LEAGUE: You want to enjoy it for entertainment, have at it. To the extent that you think that this stuff is true, what they're saying about the Catholic Church, what I can demonstrate to you that this stuff is made up, that these things are smears, myths and, some cases, lies.

FINNSTROM: "Angels & Demons" is a follow-up to the successful and oh-so-controversial "Da Vinci Code." Both films based on bestsellers by author Dan Brown.

In "Angels & Demons," a centuries-old secret organization called the Illuminati tries to wreak havoc on the Vatican.

RON HOWARD, DIRECTOR, "ANGELS & DEMONS": The ideas that Dan builds into these thrillers are thought provoking and they stir a little controversy. And it's -- and that's something that appeals to me.

FINNSTROM: And to the big studios, too, says entertainment columnist Ben Widdicombe.

BEN WIDDICOMBE, CELEBRITY EDITOR, THE STYLELIST.COM: Film marketing budgets are being slashed. It's all about getting news outlets to want to write about the film themselves, give them editorial space that studios don't have to pay for. The best way to do that is to get someone, some group, to come out and say, don't go and see this film.

FINNSTROM: Three years ago, it worked big time for "The Da Vinci Code." The blockbuster took in more than $77 million opening weekend, one of the best U.S. launches of all time, and $232 million worldwide.

But compared to the protest back then, the resistance to "Angels & Demons" has paled. This time around, most major Catholic groups aren't telling people to picket or boycott the film, just to take it at face value.

FATHER JOHN WAUCK, HOLY CROSS UNIVERSITY: I don't think that the Vatican has any particular interest in getting in an argument with a novelist. And in this case, in the case of "Angels & Demons," we're dealing with a novel that's transparently false -- it's simply a -- you know, a thriller.


FINNSTROM: Many critics are calling "Angels & Demons" a better overall movie than "The Da Vinci Code," but without the outcry, it may not have the same draw at the box office - John, Kiran.

CHETRY: Going to go see it?

ROBERTS: Yes. I got to go see "Star Trek" first, though.

CHETRY: I know. Me, too.

ROBERTS: I kept -- this week, I wanted to go see a movie in the afternoon and things kept coming up, so...


ROBERTS: ... next week, let's hope.

CHETRY: Yes. You need to talk to former vice president. Ask him if he's going to see "Star Trek."

ROBERTS: And then former President Musharraf was in town yesterday, met with him, too, so busy, busy week.

CHETRY: Busy, busy week.

All right. Well, more bad news for America's auto workers. First, Chrysler announced that it is closing hundreds of dealerships. Now GM says that it plans to start doing the same, having to shut down thousands of stores. How many jobs are on the chopping block? Well, the CNN Money Team is going to be breaking it down for us.

Also, the banks are broke and many stores strapped for cash. But it seems that the celebrity weeklies are still getting big bucks for those celebrity baby pictures. Are the snapshots really worth the millions these stars are getting?

It's 48 minutes past the hour.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JAY LENO, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO": Well, apparently from the TV show "Jon & Kate Plus 8," you know this show? About a married couple with eight kids, and according to people here, the couple might split, because Jon is seeing someone else. They have eight kids. He's seeing someone else, yes. Ironically, you know who he's seeing? The Octomom.



CHETRY: You can guess the punch line a mile away sometimes, can't you?

Any who, baby talk is all the buzz these days. In fact, in Hollywood right now, bidding wars are brewing for the next celebrity bundle of joy. And despite the recession, magazines and TV shows are now shelling out more money than ever before for these first photos. But do the huge payouts translate into huge sales?

Christine Romans has the story for us.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Jessica Alba's baby girl, Brangelina's brood and Seal and Heidi Klum are expecting number four. You get the picture? Pop culture has gone baby crazy.

ROBERT THOMPSON, SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY CENTER FOR TV & POP CULTURE: I think we've always been obsessed with celebrities. I think pregnancy for celebrity now is a new form of getting themselves on the cover of celebrity magazine. Getting their buzz on Internet. ROMANS: And we're eating it up. Call it escapism in an ugly recession. In magazines, on TV shows, on websites like "People" magazine's

ULRICA WIHLBORG, ASSISTANT EDITOR, "PEOPLE" MAGAZINE: Celebrity magazines and TV shows have increased in such a big boom just in terms of the amount of media that's out there. And people really want to be able to relate to celebrities and their babies.

ROMANS: Married, single, adoption, twins, it's a far cry from the days of old Hollywood when Ingrid Bergman was ostracized for having a child out of wedlock, when starlets and leading men tried to keep certain parts of their personal lives away from the flashbulbs.

DEENA WEINSTEIN, SOCIOLOGIST, DEPAUL UNIVERSITY: Pregnancy was not seen as something that was glamorous and beautiful. And, of course, we know that that's changed since Annie Leibovitz' "Vanity Fair" picture of Demi Moore. That's was wakeup call to this whole fascination.

ROMANS: There are the babies of the famous and a new twist -- becoming famous for having babies. No question, babies sell. And a bad economy means working to attract as many eyeballs as possible. The sale of entertainment magazines fell in the second half of 2008 and that means expect more babies.


ROMANS: The first celebrity baby on the cover of a magazine was little Ricky Ricardo -- actually little Desi Arnaz, the son of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. He appeared on the very first cover of "TV Guide" in 1953, the same day President Eisenhower was inaugurated. The news of his birth eclipsed the inauguration in the headlines of some U.S. papers. Imagine, a baby picture eclipsing the president's inauguration.

So, it's a trend that began then and now never before have we seen so many babies selling magazines.

CHETRY: Very interesting. You say it could be what keeps the magazines afloat.

ROMANS: Oh, yes. I mean, as magazine sales decline, they're looking for what's going to sell and grab those eyeballs, babies are selling. People want -- in a recession, people want to see happy babies.

ROBERTS: We're expecting more then. Two here.

ROMANS: We're too busy with the ones we've got already.

ROBERTS: Every week, somebody does it, somebody in the far right or the far left comes out and say something a little off the wall. So our independent analyst John Avalon is here to hand out his Wingnut of the week award. That's coming right up.

Fifty-four minutes now after the hour.


CHETRY: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning.

Four minutes before the top of the hour now, and a time for a weekly segment that my next guest calls "The Wingnut of the Week." It's a title that independent analyst John Avalon awards to someone on the far right and on the far left who is, in his words, trying to divide us rather than unite us.

John Avalon is also a columnist for and the author of "Independent Nation," and he joins us with this week's picks.

So, welcome, by the way, again.


CHETRY: Just remind us and our viewers again on how we define a "Wingnut"? What exactly is it?

AVLON: A wingnut is someone on the far right wing or far left wing of the political spectrum. You know, these are the folks, the professional polarizers, the unhinged activists, the folks who are trying to always hijack our debates and divide us.

CHETRY: And you say they really have a disproportionate influence on our debates about certain issues.

AVALON: They do, and that's why, you know, the center's under attack, so it's time for us to fight back and take back the debate.

CHETRY: All right. So let's start.

This is who you picked for the wingnut on the left, Wanda Sykes. You know, she caused a lot of commotion for saying this at the White House Correspondents' Dinner last Saturday.

Let's listen.


WANDA SYKES, COMEDIAN: Rush Limbaugh was the 20th hijacker but he was just so strung out on OxyContin he missed his flight.

Rush Limbaugh, "I hope the country fails"? I hope his kidneys fail, how about that?

He needs to do a waterboarding. That's what he needs.


CHETRY: All right. So, someone says, wait, she's just a comedian and she was trying to get laughs at the correspondents' dinner. So what's the harm in her joke and why do her comments qualify her for wingnut of the week?

AVLON: I think even with the generous discount for edu-comedy, Wanda Sykes went over the edge. It should always be too soon for a 9/11 joke especially with the president an arm's length away.

And when a roomful of folks, the White House correspondents, folks who are supposed to add to the civility of our debate, who are laughing out loud to jokes about somebody's kidney's failing or somebody's drug addiction, I think it's a sign of the way that we start to dehumanize people who disagree with us in American politics.

CHETRY: All right. So he was the butt of that one, but he's actually the wingnut on the right this week as well. Our Rush Limbaugh.

Here's a sampling of some of the things that he's been saying this past week.


RUSH LIMBAUGH, CONSERVATIVE RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: The wheels are starting to come off here a little bit, because these were fundamental elements of Obama's identity during the campaign. These are the fundamental elements that attracted the left and emboldened them. Anti-American military, embarrass them, humiliate them, make them lose. Terrorists are the good guys, we shouldn't be capturing them. We are the reason they are terrorists.


CHETRY: All right. There you have it. He's certainly really dominated the voice of the GOP for the past several months. And, you know, the left has been saying he's the new voice of the Republican Party.

Why did you pick him as the wingnut of the week?

AVLON: Well, the man is a professional polarizer. That's what he does. And he is the source of a lot of the GOP's problems even if they don't fully get it. And it's not just the left who are saying Limbaugh is the face of the Republican Party. The newest dino had Dick Cheney.

So this is a real problem. This guy's adding to this hunt for heretics, this obsessive social litmus test that's going on in the Republican Party that's leading them to try to excommunicate any folks who screw with them, including members of the McCain family.

So, you know, if they don't make a bigger tent, all that's going to be left is the circus. And they're going to be wondering why they are declining party preaching or shrinking base, it's because they're folks are on the past not the future.

CHETRY: The problem is that he's not an elected official within the GOP. He's just a radio talk show host.

AVLON: Yes. And that's a sign of the deep dysfunction of our politics right now, that he has such a disproportionate influence, that members of Congress are afraid of being attacked by Rush Limbaugh. That is a sign of the politics that's gone completely off- center.

And taking on Rush Limbaugh is going to be an important role for whoever's going to lead the GOP to the next generation. Really building beyond the base, reaching back into the center and ran into some independents who they should be able to build bridges with. But not as long as deeply polarizing political figures are their face.

CHETRY: All right. Well, I want to let everybody now out there, if you have new ideas for John Avlon for next week's wingnut, if you hear something that sounds good, or in this case, bad, shoot us an e- mail.

Great to see you, John.

AVLON: Great to see you. Thank you.