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Obama Heads to Middle East; Air France Wreckage Spotted; The Science of Hunting and Recovering Flight 447; Mortgage Rates Heading Higher; Families Desperately Seek Stem Cell Therapy Treatments Overseas
Aired June 3, 2009 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Now we're crossing the top of the hour now. It's 7:00 Eastern on this Wednesday, the third of June. Thanks for joining us on 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 have a lot going on. We're following several developing stories this morning. We're going to be breaking them down for you in the next 15 minutes.
As we speak, President Obama is heading to the Middle East. He's expected to touch down in Saudi Arabia at about half an hour. And a big goal for the trip is to reset relations with the Muslim world. In a moment, we'll be live in Riyadh to examine what's riding on the president's words.
Military planes and ships from Brazil, France and America are zeroing in now on the floating wreckage of an Air France jet in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. It disappeared during a thunderstorm with 228 people onboard. Authorities now say there are no survivors and investigators also not hopeful that they'll be able to recover the so-called black boxes. Some experts are comparing the hunt for wreckage to the search for the Titanic.
Well, mortgage rates are heading up higher. Nationwide average, 5.25 percent for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage. That's up nearly a quarter point in a week.
Christine Romans is going to be joining us with more on what you need to know if you're looking to buy a home, hold on to one, or maybe you were thinking about refinancing.
First, though, right now, President Obama is on his he way to the Middle East with an open hand and a new agenda. He's expected to touch down in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in about 28 minutes. There he'll meet with a key ally, King Abdullah. Tomorrow, it's on to Cairo, Egypt where the president will deliver an important and highly anticipated speech to try to win over the hearts and minds of the Muslim world.
CNN's Ed Henry is traveling with the president. He joins us live from Riyadh.
And, Ed, he's certainly trying to downplay just how much impact that his speech is going to have. But clearly, people are listening and eager to find out what he has to say.
ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. Good morning, Kiran.
This is the president's first real crack at high stakes Mideast diplomacy. He wants to restart those Israeli-Palestinian peace talks but also wants to have a broader reset of America's entire relationship with the Muslim world.
HENRY (voice-over): The president's outreach to the Muslim world began week one when he gave his first television interview in office to Al Arabiya.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My job is to communicate the fact that the United States has a stake in the well- being of the Muslim world, that the language we use has to be the language of respect. I have Muslim members of my family. I have lived in Muslim countries.
HENRY: On a later visit to Turkey, the president took his shoes off to show respect before entering a mosque. And in a speech to the Turkish parliament tried to make a clean break from the rhetoric of the Bush years.
OBAMA: Let me say this as clearly as I can. The United States is not and will never be at war with Islam.
HENRY: Top aides say the president plans to build on that theme in Cairo where expectations are building perhaps too high.
IBRAHIM EL MOALLEM, SHOROUK GROUP, LEADING ARAB PUBLISHER: Everybody is looking for him as a magical man.
HENRY: Ibrahim el Moallem, a media mogul and influential cultural figure in Egypt, says years of frustration has built up on the Arab street.
MOALLEM: We think if he can handle the problem of the Arab- Israel conflict not in a bias, not in a double standard way, and if he can really begin to reach and overhaul comprehensive justice, this will immediately win the hearts and the minds of the Arabs and the Muslims.
HENRY: That's one reason in advance of his trip the president has been getting tough on Israel, pushing a two-state solution in meetings with a resistant Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. And he used a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas last week to issue a warning to Israel.
OBAMA: In my conversations with Prime Minister Netanyahu, I was very clear about the need to stop settlements, to make sure that we are stopping the building of outposts, to work with the Palestinian Authority in order to alleviate some of the pressures that the Palestinian people are under. (END VIDEOTAPE)
HENRY: Now that pressure has alarmed some pro-Israel Democrats back in Congress. The president tried to ease some of those concerns in an interview with the BBC saying he believes that a two-state solution will be helpful to Israel because it could quell some violence here in the Mideast, Kiran.
CHETRY: Ed Henry for us. We look forward to hearing more. And the president is going to be touching down in just a few minutes in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Thanks.
So what do you think we can expect to hear when President Obama delivers that speech to the Muslim world tomorrow? Here's more in an "AM Extra."
The president says that the goal of the speech is to open a dialogue and repair the U.S. image in the region. He checked (ph) the president to talk about Israeli-Palestinian relations as well, Iran's nuclear ambitions, and the buildup of troops in Afghanistan as well as the draw-down of troops from Iraq.
You can see the speech right here on AMERICAN MORNING. It's tomorrow, 6:00 a.m.
ROBERTS: Another story developing right now, the search at sea for the wreckage of an Air France jetliner. The U.S. Navy joining the recovery effort just hours after debris from Flight 447 was found scattered in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, several hundred miles off of the coast of Brazil. There are no signs of human remains. And French accident investigators say it's unlikely that rescuers will recover the so-called black boxes that could help explain what doomed the Air France flight with 228 people onboard.
CNN's John Zarrella is in Rio de Janeiro where Flight 447 originated with the very latest.
JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, Kiran, whatever hope families of the missing might have had quickly evaporated late yesterday afternoon when government officials here announced there was little doubt that debris found off the coast of Brazil came from Flight 447.
ZARRELLA (voice-over): No one could hold back the tears. Their fathers, mothers, children, all missing. As families gathered at the airport in a nearby hotel awaiting word on their loved ones, the Brazilian Air Force was finding what everyone dreaded -- debris, a life vest, seat, metal drum, and an oil slick.
Commercial vessels from France and the Netherlands in the area began looking for survivors about 700 miles off Brazil's Atlantic coast. No one was found. (on camera): The search for the missing plane is not confined in just where the debris was found but encompasses hundreds of square miles. And that's because the ocean's currents could have carried that debris many miles from where the plane may have gone down.
(voice-over): Joining the search now, the U.S. Navy has sent one of its P-3 Orion aircraft to the area. It's a mass of international effort for a tragedy that has touched so many people in so many countries.
KRISTI NELSON, FRIEND OF MISSING PASSENGER: The flaming red hair, the trademark red hair.
ZARRELLA: Kristi Nelson looks at photographs of Anne Harris' (ph) Facebook page. Harris and her husband, Michael, were on the flight. Nelson had known them about six months, but they were like family.
Part of an expatriate community living and working here in Rio, they dined together, partied together. The Harrises are from Texas, Nelson and her husband from Canada.
NELSON: I really hope that they are able to determine how this happened and we can all rest assured that it was quick and easy.
ZARRELLA: Determining how it happened may not be easy. The area where the plane is believed to have gone down is some 8,000 feet deep. Recovering the plane's data and voice recorders may prove very difficult.
ZARRELLA: The Brazilian Air Force and Navy searched all night and will search all day, continuing to look for more debris from Flight 447. At the end of the day, they tell us, they will have searched thousands of square miles of the Atlantic Ocean -- John, Kiran.
CHETRY: John Zarrella for us this morning. Thank you.
Also new this morning, investigations are under way into reports that the United States accidentally released highly confidential nuclear information, including maps that identify where material to make nuclear weapons is stock piled in the country.
"The New York Times" reporting that this 266-page document detailing civilian nuclear sites and programs was published on-line last month. The information was removed from a government Web site yesterday when the "Times" alerted them to it. The "Times" says the document contained no information about military nuclear operations.
Also this morning, rising tension and growing concern that North Korea may be ready to test-fire another long-range missile, a missile with the potential to reach the U.S. Military officials say the tests could happen within a week. A South Korean also reporting the North is getting ready to test-fire four other missiles from both coasts. Well, right now, negotiations are under way when to hold Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation hearings. Republicans say they prefer to hold the hearings in September. Democrats want them sometime in July before the August break so that Sotomayor can be confirmed in time to start the new court session in October.
And with the nation's first Hispanic Supreme Court nominee, we want to remind you that this October, CNN is presenting "Latino in America." It's a look on how Latinos are reshaping American politics, schools, businesses and neighborhoods.
ROBERTS: So you heard just a moment ago that French authorities are pessimistic that the flight data recorders will ever be recovered from Air France Flight 447. But back in 1987, the cockpit voice recorder of a South African Airways plane was found in 16,000 feet of water.
So, is all hope lost? We'll talk with an expert in underwater recovery operations coming up next.
It's now ten minutes after the hour.
ROBERTS: Twelve minutes now after the hour. Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning.
One expert said it could be among the hardest recovery since the search to find the Titanic which took decades. This morning, an Armada of ships is converging on an area about 400 miles northeast of the Brazilian island of Fernando de Noronha. Some are carrying submersibles that can work miles underwater, all to start piecing together the disaster of Air France Flight 447.
Our next guest knows an awful lot about these kinds of operations. John Perry Fish joins me now from our Boston bureau this morning.
John, it's great to see you. So what will -- what will searchers be looking for at this point in their operation? And what kind of topography of the ocean floor are they going to be searching in?
JOHN PERRY FISH, UNDERWATER RECOVERY EXPERT: Good morning, John. The searchers are going to be looking for a very important piece of equipment called a digital flight data recorder which is an example of one that's here.
ROBERTS: Hold it up a little higher if you could there.
ROBERTS: Go ahead.
FISH: These record many, many parameters of the flight, the aircraft, its altitude, even the amount of force that one of the pilots might put on a pedal. And it's very important to find these in order to find out what happened to the flight.
Attached to each of these data recorders is what we call a pinger. It puts out an acoustic pulse once a second for 30 days, as soon as it's submerged in the water and these contacts are joined by electrical forces. So it's important to find these and they'll be looking for these in an area that's fairly deep -- as deep as a couple of miles and also part of the mid-Atlantic ridge, which is a mountainous area that runs all the way from Iceland down into the south Atlantic.
ROBERTS: Some people described it as trying to look for a flight data recorder in either the rocky mountains of the Grand Canyon.
FISH: That would be right. And these are very small instruments and sonar used to image the topography may not be able to see that. But the pinger that's attached to it might be the key to finding it.
ROBERTS: So how will they be looking for the pinger? I know that the Navy is flying one of those Orion P-3 surveillance planes over the area. They've got some submersibles in the water. Will they all have their ears tuned to the frequency of this transponder?
FISH: The aircraft won't, but anything that's submerged underwater that could sense the acoustic pulses, they will have receivers that are tuned to this frequency of this pinger.
ROBERTS: Now you're an expert in side scan sonar, and many people will be familiar with that. That's the way that they located John F. Kennedy's plane off the coast of Martha's Vineyard. It's also the way that much of the wreckage of TWA Flight 800 was found off the coast of Long Island. In the type of ocean bottom that you're talking about, you're an expert in this particular field, is side scan sonar very effective?
FISH: Well, it's difficult if there's a lot of geology in the area. But side scan is probably the best tool to try and locate the debris field of a downed aircraft.
ROBERTS: Now we talked just a second ago about John F. Kennedy's plane, TWA 800, Egypt Air 900, they were all found in relatively shallow waters. I guess the wreckage of the "Challenger" space shuttle was found in about 1,000 feet of water.
But we're talking about, as you said, a couple of miles of water here -- 12,000, maybe even 15,000 feet. Is it possible to find anything at that depth and with those crushing pressures too, which by some estimations would be 7,000 pounds per square inch?
FISH: Now, that's correct. The pressure is high, but instruments are produced and designed and developed. We currently use them that work at those depths.
One of the problems is getting the instrumentation down that deep requires long tote cables and it's very time consuming. So the fact that its deep water may increase the time that it takes to locate the debris. ROBERTS: Now we mentioned just a few minutes ago, the French authorities were pessimistic about finding anything. I mentioned that in 1987, the cockpit voice recorder from a South African Airways plane that went down off the coast of Mauritius was found in 16,000 feet of water. So, I mean, if you were a betting man and, you know, based on your expertise, would you think that they would find anything from the aircraft?
FISH: I do. I think it's possible to find it. It's just going to take a little bit longer and will require a greater effort working in this deep water.
The South African Airways debris was located and Air India back, I believe, in the '70s...
FISH: ... was located in very deep water in the north Atlantic. So I believe it can be found, it just will take a little longer.
ROBERTS: All right. We'll keep on watching the story very closely.
John Fish, thanks for joining us this morning. Really appreciate your perspective on all of this.
FISH: Thank you, John.
ROBERTS: All right.
It's now 16 minutes after the hour.
CHETRY: Well, forget about tennis elbow. What about cell phone elbow?
Apparently, it's one of the new...
ROBERTS: I got that yesterday.
CHETRY: You did not.
ROBERTS: Talking on the phone, my elbow went...
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: No way. Wow.
CHETRY: All right. Well, this is apparently one of the new problems. Forget BlackBerry thumb, now you get cell phone elbow. I'm going to get you a hands-free device.
ROBERTS: I think that will be good.
CHETRY: Then all you'll get is a bad headache.
ROBERTS: Still just throw it away and I'll be done with the number of problems.
CHETRY: Well, by the way, buying a house may be getting a bit more expensive. Christine Romans is "Minding Your Business."
You know, everyone was saying refinance, refinance.
ROMANS: I know.
CHETRY: Interest rates are so low. So what's going on?
ROMANS: And refinancing applications have fallen most recently according to the data because mortgage rates are rising. In fact, the jump we've seen in mortgage rates has been pretty shocking over the past week and a half.
Something is happening here. What's happening is in the global markets, money is going into stocks and it's coming out of treasuries. That's driving treasury prices down. Well, yields are up and that's pushing mortgage -- more than everyone wanted to know -- mortgage prices higher.
Here's what we have for the mortgage rate, 5.25 percent now on the mortgage rate. Just last week, it was 4.81 percent. So a lot of people have been rushing to refinance.
First-time homebuyers have been saying, wow, with an $8,000 tax credit and with these really low below five percent mortgage rates, this is great for me. And now suddenly in the last week and a half, you had a really quick sharp reversal there. So a lot of people are watching this.
CHETRY: It's still worth it, though. It's still lower than --
ROMANS: For a lot of people it is. But when we talk about the recovery, there are a few things that can choke off the recovery from our perspective. One is you can't refinance to get more money, you know, get a cheaper payment. That can choke up the recovery. Check, mortgage rates are rising.
Gas prices rise. Check, that's happening. Jobs no growth, check, that's happening. All of these things kind of worry people.
CHETRY: Thirty-six days in a row -- 36 days in a row we've seen gas prices, they shot up in the past 36 days, 50 cents on the gallon.
ROMANS: You know what? And I'm telling you, it's making a liar out of me. Two weeks ago I sat here -- right here I sat here and I called everybody I know -- people who put these numbers together. The real experts say, don't worry, the peak is behind us. It's not going to get worse. Now, the professionals on this crew have all told me they know it's going to $4. I mean, these guys would know, right?
CHETRY: Oh, don't say that. Please.
ROMANS: But no.
CHETRY: But they said it wasn't going to go over to $2.50.
ROMANS: They did.
CHETRY: And now they're saying, well, maybe it will be three.
ROBERTS: Pants on fire.
ROMANS: But I hope that they're wrong. But what this is saying is that there's this big global movement of money and it's going into commodities, come into stocks, coming out of treasury.
ROBERTS: All right. Time now for "Romans' Numeral." It's something that we bring you every day here on the program. Christine gives us a number that is driving a story about your money today. And today's "Romans' Numeral" -- "Romans' Numeral" is...
ROMANS: Fifty-four is the number.
ROBERTS: Oh, I know what that is.
ROMANS: What is it?
ROBERTS: The new 35.
ROMANS: Ooh, John, maybe.
No, 54, John gets extra points for that one. Fifty-four is the difference in your monthly payments based on how much mortgage rates have gone up over the past week. So if you were trying to refinance a week ago, boom, it would have been like $1,374 for your monthly payment on a $200,000 loan. And if you were trying to refinance today, it'd be $1,428.
So your payments would be higher today because that's so much higher they'd be today because of the rising rates over the past week. Just to put a little bit of perspective for you.
Fifty-four bucks, 54 -- the new 35.
ROBERTS: Christine, thanks very much.
We'll take you now across the world, thanks to the resources, the international resources of CNN. There's Air Force One, just touched down in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. There's King Abdullah. He's waiting for the president in a gazebo not far off of the runway there.
And there we lost the shot. See, it all happens when you're on live TV.
We'll have the latest -- there we're back now -- we'll have the latest on the president's arrival in Saudi Arabia coming right up.
Twenty-three minutes now after the hour.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ROBERTS: We're back with the Most News in the Morning. A live look there in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia as Air Force One just pulls up to the red carpet there, the president's arrival in Saudi Arabia where he's going to be meeting and greeting King Abdullah in just a little while.
Starts off with a 21-gun salute, and the two of them will make their way down the red carpet to review the troops, have some tea together and then they'll head off to the king's farm where the president will have some meetings with them, dinner, and spend the night. So we're covering all of that for you this morning.
Right now, let's go over to Kiran.
CHETRY: Yes, what do you think, John? He did that overnight flight to Saudi Arabia. You think the president actually got any sleep there on Air Force One?
ROBERTS: Oh, I'm sure he did. Yes. You know, he got a little double bed up front that he can snooze in and I'm sure that he did.
CHETRY: All right. Rested and ready, landing in Riyadh.
Well, we're 26 minutes past the hour now. Every day there are desperate Americans who board planes and fly to places like Mexico, China, Peru. Many of them are parents with children who are sick, who have been told that the disease their child has is terminal. And they're seeking a miracle in the form of stem cell therapy, spending a fortune for it even though there is no scientific evidence it actually works.
CNN's special investigations unit correspondent Drew Griffin spoke to families who are literally putting everything on the line for what amounts to an experiment. He joins us now from the CNN Center in Atlanta.
And, Drew, they're also opening themselves up to scams. But, you know, it's so heartbreaking because these are people who are so desperate they'd do anything if it means possibly saving the life of their loved one.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SPECIAL INVESTIGATIVE UNIT CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Kiran. You really have to put yourself in their shoes. How do you say no? They are searching for a cure for the incurable, which is why the family you're about to meet is about to go to China really responding only to the promises on a Web site.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SPECIAL INVESTIGATIVE UNIT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We met 8-year-old Sierra Factor and her family amidst an emergency. The seriously ill girl was being transferred to Arnold Palmer Children's Hospital in Orlando.
Sierra has a genetic disease called spinal muscular atrophy, SMA. She also has kidney problems and a restrictive lung disease since the age 14 months. She's been in and out of hospitals.
SHAYLENE AKERY, SIERRA'S MOM: There's no cure for her disease. All three of her diseases are terminal.
GRIFFIN: In August, Shaylene Akery will take her daughter to a clinic outside Shanghai and pay $26,500 for six injections of what she believes will be embryonic stem cells. All she knows of the clinic is from this Web site -- stemcellsChina.com.
AKERY: We really are kind of just walking into it blindfolded.
GRIFFIN: Well, that's really scary.
AKERY: It's scary but everybody says that they're so nice over there.
GRIFFIN: Testimonials on the Web site talk of amazing results but also lack any scientific proof. We ask the Chinese Web site for backup to the claims but haven't yet received a reply. Sierra's father, divorced from her mother, says the testimonials are enough.
GRIFFIN (on camera): We've done a lot of research. Can I ask you where the evidence is that China is working?
A.J. FACTOR, SIERRA'S DAD: On their Web sites, Chinastemcell.com and some of that stuff.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): How can it be true? That's just it. Experts on spinal muscular atrophy and the Food and Drug Administration say there's no evidence stem cell treatment works.
Stem cells show promise, say researchers, but results are years away. Even so, Lucie Bruijn, head of scientific research for the ALS Association says many with the debilitating ailment known as Lou Gehrig's disease had gone to China, to Peru, and to Mexico for just such treatment.
GRIFFIN: When somebody, a doctor, or anybody says to a patient, "I have a stem cell treatment for ALS that's going to make you better," that's just not true?
LUCIE BRUIJN, ALS ASSOCIATION: No, it's definitely not true. And certainly you hope that that's going to come from an ALS clinician who is very knowledgeable and the likelihood is that they would say there are things being developed and in progress and it's very promising, but we don't have anything to offer you now.
GRIFFIN: But that is not what this man is saying. Dr. Burt Feinerman, on his Web site, says he can treat Lou Gehrig's disease. You might be surprised to learn what else he says he can treat not here in the U.S. but at a clinic in Peru -- Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, cancer, multiple sclerosis.
(on camera): The International Society of Stem Cell Research says these experimental treatments do not work and the only thing that should be done if you're a patient is to enter into them without paying for them, because if you pay, you are most likely, as you said, being scammed.
DR. BURTON FEINERMAN, STEMCELLREGENMED.COM: I didn't say that.
GRIFFIN: You said 80 percent of the people in this business are scammers.
FEINERMAN: Well, that's true.
GRIFFIN: That seems like good odds you're going to get scammed.
FEINERMAN: I think that when someone makes a decision about having stem cell treatments that they should look at who are the players.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): We will look very carefully at this player who says he is a self-proclaimed expert in stem cell treatments.
GRIFFIN: And, Kiran, on the very day we met Dr. Feinerman, he was heading to Peru to meet three more desperately sick Americans seeking help through stem cell's unproven research.
CHETRY: All right. You're looking more into this and some of the people behind these claims. I want to let our viewers know they can also find more information on Drew's story at CNN.com/amFIX.
ROBERTS: We're crossing the half hour now and checking our top stories.
The price of a gallon of unleaded gasoline went up a couple more cents while you were sleeping. Taking a bigger bite out of your shrinking budget every day now. The average cost nationwide, according to AAA now, $2.55 a gallon. The price has gone up every day for 36 straight days, rising 50 cents a gallon over that period.
Well, the new face of the GOP please stand up. According to the latest CNN opinion research corporation poll, there is no clear front- runner emerging to take on President Obama in 2012. Republican voters were asked to pick from five potential candidates. Mike Huckabee got 22 percent of the vote. Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney, get 21 percent each. Newt Gingrich and Jeb Bush finished well back.
And if you're feeling tingling in your ring finger and pinky, you might have cell phone elbow. Orthopedists say they are seeing a lot of people who hold cell phones to their ear for long periods of time, they say that can damage the nerve beneath the funny bone and that's no joke. Doctors recommend switching hands more frequently or better still go hands free.
Well, just in to CNN, there you're looking at live pictures of King Abdullah there on the far left coming down the escalator. He is going to go out there to greet President Obama, the start of a five- day visit for the president, one that also includes visits to Egypt where he will make a significant speech to the Arab and Muslim world. He is also going to Germany and France. President Obama going to meet with the king today and spend the night at his farm. It's on to Cairo tomorrow for that big speech. And lots of pomp and circumstance about to happen here in Saudi Arabia.
CHETRY: That's right. We're going to see him meet and greet the president. We're going to hear the national anthems of both nations. They're going to sit in a gazebo for tea or coffee together and talk. A lot of interesting issues facing them as well. One of the big ones is whether or not Saudi Arabia will be willing to accept some Yemeni prisoners being held right now at Guantanamo Bay there. Fears that if they go back to Yemen, they could perhaps be allowed to escape from prisons there. Some talks about whether or not Saudi rehabilitation centers for terrorists might be a place that they can go.
ROBERTS: And of course, you know, the central issue is here is going to be the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Saudis proposed a peace plan back in 2002 that the Israelis did not accept. And in fact, one of the most vocal opponents was now the current prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. So the president will be going to Saudi Arabia looking for some concessions here, some sort of normalization of relations with Israel. Potentially some additional aid to the Palestinians. According to all reports though, he's likely to get a very polite "thanks very much" but we put our best offer on the table. Now it's time for Israel to come to the table.
ROBERTS: So, we'll see what happens there.
CHETRY: Right. And Aaron David Miller is a former Middle East negotiator, he's also the author of "Too much Promise Land." We're bringing him now from the D.C. bureau as you're watching this and as John mentioned, you know, this talk of who gives next in terms of any type of demands, the talk of the settlements being dismantled on areas that hopefully Palestinians at least hoping will someday be a Palestinian territory. What do you think of the biggest issues on the table for President Obama as he talks to King Abdullah in Saudi Arabia?
AARON DAVID MILLER, FORMER MIDDLE EAST NEGOTIATOR: I mean, I think the core issue was going to be Arab-Israeli peace. And the king is going to basically be from Missouri on this one. He's not going to give much until the president shows him, show me that the Israelis are prepared to do a comprehensive settlements freeze. Even that might not be enough. So the president really has to be - fulfill his role as persuader in chief. And he's going to have to do a lot of persuading.
ROBERTS: And Aaron, let's take a little pause here. The president now just greeting the king. A little bit of pomp and circumstance. Let's listen in for a second here.
You're hearing just the very last shots there of a 21-gun salute as they meet with each other. Some narration here from Saudi media. They're going to proceed down the red carpet, greeting dignitaries, reviewing the troops and then they'll go in either in the gazebo, depending on the heat, or they may go to a building for some tea.
But Aaron, Tom Friedman had an interesting interview with the president, in which the president talked about this idea of the difference between what people in the Arab world say in public and what they say behind closed doors. That what they're not saying is that they're more afraid of Iran than Israel. They're afraid to say that incitement and negative rhetoric towards Israel is not working. A lot of Arab states decry the treatment of Palestinians in public but in private, they have not been particularly helpful to them when it comes to ponying that money.
So, what can the president do here to try to bring what happens behind closed doors out into the public and get more cooperation from them on these crucial issues?
MILLER: That's really the strategy. I mean it's not really a question of a speech. The question is, will the speech have legs? Is the president - does the president have a strategy to lean on both the Arabs and the Israelis in order to create some sort of process, meaningful process that gets the negotiations. And this is a huge hill to climb. I mean, the reality is if the president could deliver - get King Abdullah and the Arabs to make a partial downpayment on their 2002 initiative, to reach out to the Israelis, he'd have much more leverage in trying to deal with Prime Minister Netanyahu on the issue of the settlements freeze.
But the reality is, it's all sequencing. And in the end, it may well be that neither side is going to budge first which will well mean that the president at some point in the next several months may have to come up with his own ideas about how to move this forward.
ROBERTS: Aaron, let's just pause for the national anthem here.
CHETRY: Aaron David Miller still with us now. We're just pausing after the national anthem. A lot of pomp and circumstance as President Obama just arrived in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia ahead of these meetings that he's going to be having with the king there, King Abdullah.
Aaron, I also want to ask you about this tricky issue when it comes to democracy for President Obama. If he doesn't push for greater freedom in the Middle East, he will certainly upset some of the region's embattled democracy activists. But if he does push for political change, he'll also risk undermining some of the autocrats, you know, whose support he hopes to get as he tries to get a comprehensive peace deal with Israel. So how does he balance those two?
MILLER: Well, he's going to give a speech in the capital of a country that has a serious deficit in democracy and may well be trying to move to some degree in that direction.
CHETRY: You're talking Cairo, Egypt, where he's going to have a speech tomorrow. MILLER: Exactly. The reality is if he wants President Mubarak's help on Arab-Israeli piece, if he wants King Abdullah's help on stabilizing oil prices and creating some sort of coalition, an Arab coalition against Iran, he's not going to be able to go to these capitals and lecture these leaders about Jeffersonian democracy. And the reality is this is the conundrum it seems to me that American policy faces when it comes to promoting human rights, the rule of law, and accountability. If you want to get ahead on other issues, it's very difficult to tell your host that they've got to significantly change their regimes and surrender power.
So it's the triumph, I suspect, of a more pragmatic policy this time around...
MILLER: ... over a more idealized one, which seemed to characterize some of the policies of the previous administration.
ROBERTS: And what do you think, Aaron, about the choice of Cairo as a location. In a column today, Rasla Aslan, who we all know well, says that it's a grave mistake to do it there. One that could make the entire event a fruitless exercise. It would have been better if he wanted to reach out to the Muslim world to do it in a country like Indonesia, which has a representative democracy, maybe a country like Malaysia. Both of which have huge Muslim populations.
MILLER: Look, forum follows function. He's in Cairo for a reason. Not only is Egypt the largest and most powerful Arab state, but if the president is going to use this speech as I suspect and hope he will, to deal with the Arab-Israeli issue, there is no better place to do it than in Cairo. After all, this speech is being given on June 4, 2009. That's 42 years after the day that proceeded the 1967 war. And it seems to me that the symbolism here is quite stunning and remarkable.
And if the president can use this speech to be a breaker of icons, to say to the Israelis, look, you cannot remain a Jewish, democratic, and secure state and hang on to the West Bank. And to say to the Arabs, look, you've got to get over this issue of non- recognition of Israel, stop spewing out anti-Semetic propaganda in the state media. These are the illusions that have propagated this conflict. And the president should be the persuader in chief. He should be the breaker of icons and the shatterer of illusions. That's about all that he's going to be able to do on this particular trip. The hard stuff will come later.
CHETRY: As if that's not hard enough from some of the things that you just said, right, Aaron. I also want to ask your take here and weigh in on this news that just came in this morning. Israel with some of the most explicit comments yet on the matter of Iran. The foreign minister in Russia Avigdor Lieberman saying that Israel does not intend to bomb Iran.
This is, of course, a big issue, concerns about Iran's nuclear program and whether or not Israel would take a step to try to - to try to set that back. What do you think about those words from the foreign minister of Israel?
MILLER: I think there are -- they're wise. I think the last thing we need is to start banging the drums about the prospect of the military confrontation. We're a long way from that. Serious diplomacy needs to be done. If that fails, sanctions need to be applied. If those don't work, perhaps the option of some sort of blockade. But we're a long way away from an action.
A unilateral Israeli strike against Iran that will have consequences that will reverberate through the American economy for regional stability. And we all may find ourselves in a 100 if not 1,000-year war with the Muslim world which frankly is hardly the thing we need right now.
ROBERTS: Well, let me come back to this idea, Aaron, that we talked about a few moments ago, that Tom Friedman highlights in his terrific column today in "The New York Times." This idea that, you know, the Arab nations talk very publicly about Israel but behind closed doors they are far more concerned about Iran. One of the things that the president will try to do over this next couple of days while he is in the Arab World is to build a moderate coalition against Iran. How much success do you think he'll have in doing that? And will it be all behind closed doors or may they make some public pronouncements about their concerns?
MILLER: Look Tom is a real smart guy and the reality is that concern and fear over Iran is a form of leverage. A form of pressure. But I don't think we can bank on this. The reality is that these states, these Arab states live in a region. They're in a region that's vulnerable to Iranian retaliation. They're going to be extremely wary about what they say and what they do in regard to standing up to the Iranians. Because they will be the ones who are directly exposed. On the Arab-Israeli issue, it seems to me, we got to pursue this on the merits of the case. If there are opportunities, then we need to go after them. And I think the president should. Not going be able to use fear of Iran to generate serious movement on the Arab-Israeli issue. It just won't compute.
ROBERTS: All right. Aaron David Miller, it's always great to catch up with you. Thanks for joining us this morning with all that as we watch the president and King Abdullah go inside for some tea and some meetings with dignitaries and from here, they are going to go on to the king's farm. And the president will be spending the night there. They are also having dinner together.
CHETRY: He's going to check out too his fine collection of 260 Arabian horses that live in that air-conditioned stable. That should be quite a photo op as well.
ROBERTS: But what's really interesting about it too is that the president doesn't have time to go visit the stables. So what are they going to do is he's going bring all the horses out and line the driveway with them so that when the motorcade comes in, it's going to be this incredible panorama of horse flesh -
CHETRY: Wow. ROBERTS: As they drive toward the main house there.
CHETRY: Neat to see for sure.
We're going to take a quick break and when we come back we're going to have much more about the president's visit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. And of course, tomorrow morning, we're going to be bringing you a special coverage of his he much-anticipated speech to the Muslim world. That's happening at 6:00 Eastern right here on CNN.
ROBERTS: That's a lot of horse flesh. It's 44 1/2 minutes after the hour.
CHETRY: All right. More live pictures coming to us from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, excuse me, combined the two there. CNN NEWSROOM just getting these in. President Obama is meeting with King Abdullah. Today, he's going to spend the night at the king's farm as well. And then it's on to Cairo, Egypt tomorrow. That's where is going to be giving his long-awaited speech to the Muslim world. So there you see the president and the king sitting down in that area right there. And that's air conditioned, right? They were concerned that -
ROBERTS: That's the building inside. You know, the king is 84 years old. And even though he's well acclimatized to the climate of Saudi Arabia, it's quite hot outside. And so they could have had this ceremony in one of the gazebos they set up outside. And of course, a Saudi gazebo is quite an elaborate type of thing. But they decided to take this inside, I think, because of the heat and air conditioning.
So they'll spend a few minutes here exchanging pleasantries, probably reading a few pronouncements and meeting with the dignitaries and then they'll get in the motorcade and go off to the king's ranch. As we were talking about a moment ago, he's got an amazing string of horses.
CHETRY: Beautiful Arabian horses, right? Two hundred sixty of them, I believe.
ROBERTS: They will all be lined up along the driveway in the entrance to the ranch because President Obama doesn't have time to go visit the air-conditioned stables. So that will be quite an interesting piece of video that we should get in just a little while here. That will be probably in about an hour's time. We'll see that.
Of course, one of the central issues here in the meetings is going to be the Arab-Israeli conflict or at least the Israeli- Palestinian conflict. And what could be done about that? Saudi Arabia floated a peace plan back in 2002 that Israel rejected. One of the prime opponents of that, Benjamin Netanyahu who is now the prime minister.
President Obama will be asking Saudi Arabia to make some concessions, some sort of maybe normalization of relations with Israel. You know, exchange some envoys, ambassadors or something like that, visas, perhaps, and maybe give more money to the Palestinians to help them along. Saudi Arabia though rejecting all of that.
CHETRY: Yes. And the on-going debate about recognizing Israel - some Arab countries, Muslim countries refusing to do that and also Israel's settlement issue in whether or not these settlements in some of the West Bank territories are going to continue to grow, something that Benjamin Netanyahu advocated and it's something that the president, our president is going to be pushing back on, which is something that's a departure from the last administration as well.
ROBERTS: And of course, all of this will be leading to a tomorrow's big speech in Cairo where the president will be addressing the Arab and broader Muslim world. He says in one speech is not going to repair relations between the United States and the Muslim world but he certainly is going to make -- will try to make a good start of it all and we'll be carrying that speech live for you tomorrow morning beginning at about 6:10 a.m. Eastern.
Right now, it's 10 minutes before the top of the hour. An amazing custody case has been going on since 2004. A man's wife took their son to visit family in Brazil, called them up and said, "I'm not coming back, and neither is our child." He's been fighting to get them back for the last five years. Almost had them in hand yesterday. We'll tell you where the case is today. Coming right up.
ROBERTS: New developments this morning in the case of a New Jersey man who was hoping to take custody of his nine-year-old son and bring him home from Brazil this week. It's an emotional story that we have been following every step of the way that even got the Obama administration's attention.
David Goldman's wife took their son to Brazil on a two-week vacation back in 2004 and never returned. She died last fall and the Brazilian courts awarded custody of the child to Golden, but Brazil's supreme court has just stepped in to block that ruling.
Our Deborah Feyerick has been tracking all of these latest developments. You've got to feel for this father here. I mean, he's been trying for so long and this close and wait a minute, no.
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely and not only that but also the pain of knowing that his son has no idea of what's really going on and doesn't understand just how desperately his own dad has been fighting to try to get him back, but what makes this custody case so amazing is the boy's mom died giving birth to another child. So Sean Goldman is being raised in brazil by his step-dad. The boy's real dad, David Goldman, has been fighting to get him back for the last five years.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID GOLDMAN, FIGHTING FOR CUSTODY OF SON: To allow a man with no blood relation to keep another parent's child is against their own laws, national law, let alone international and American laws. My focus is do what I can by every legal means and all matters of law to reunite with my son and bring him home.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FEYERICK: Now Goldman thought that day had come, a Brazilian court ordered the boy return to the U.S. where he would have 30 days to get adjusted to his new life. And then Goldman would get full custody under Brazilian law. But keep in mind, David Goldman never gave up custody in the first place. The day before they were to be reunited, that's today, a Brazilian court judge ordered -- suspended the order, saying that taking the child in an abrupt manner could cause him psychological harm.
Now this case has reached the highest levels of government, both in the U.S. and Brazil, and the State Department is actively involved. Now the Brazilian Supreme Court will decide the fate of this U.S.-born child.
ROBERTS: So, let's talk about the mother. Was he blindsided by this whole thing, or were there signs that she was unhappy and might decide to...
FEYERICK: That's probably one of the most difficult thing about this case is you know, you all have sort of 20-20 hindsight. David Goldman said they were perfectly happy. They got to Disney. Everything seemed right.
ROBERTS: So he thought, huh?
FEYERICK: But now, he says, when he sort of came upon his wife packing her bags, there were simply too many bags being packed. The irony being that she left all Sean's clothes in his little closet back in New Jersey so David Goldman is living in this house with this room frozen in time and every time he opens that closet you got clothing of a four year old. It's really poignant.
CHETRY: And then also. She got remarried then in Brazil, and does that man want to keep the baby?
FEYERICK: He does. And he's been aggressively fighting for it. They (INAUDIBLE) family unit. They're very well off. He goes to private school, the child and he's got a good quality of life but again it's not his dad.
ROBERTS: Well, so, I mean what's the next step in all of this?
FEYERICK: Well, David Goldman is there. He's in Rio right now. He's going to wait and see what happens. Again, the Supreme Court has to hear about it. The group that filed a petition basically, is suspending this order, it's a political group. So, it's even more sort of tricky and sticky.
ROBERTS: So this is mired in Brazilian politics.
FEYERICK: Correct. ROBERTS: Big Brazilian...
FEYERICK: Not a great place to be mired.
ROBERTS: Deb, thanks so much for that report. We'll keep following this closely because I find this thing fascinating. All right. Thank so much.
CHETRY: Thanks, Deb.
Still ahead, talk about networking site, social networking sites, they're all free to use. But coming up, that may not be the case. We'll explain why. It's 56 minutes after the hour.