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North Korea Sentences US Journalists to Twelve Years of Hard Labor; Seventeen Bodies Pulled from Air France Crash Site; Crash Still a Mystery; Stimulating the Stimulus

Aired June 8, 2009 - 07:00   ET


JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And just in to CNN this morning, the State Department is responding saying, "We are deeply concerned by the reported sentencing of the two American citizen journalists by North Korean authorities, and we are engaged through all possible channels to secure their release. We once again urge North Korea to grant the immediate release of the two American citizen journalists on humanitarian grounds."

Ling and Lee were working on a report about North Koreans fleeing the country when they were detained by soldiers patrolling the border between China and North Korea. They were working for Current TV, a media company co-founded by former Vice President Al Gore.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the charges "baseless" and demanded their release. And just before the sentencing, Laura Ling's sister, Lisa, spoke about her sister at a commencement speech in San Diego.


LISA LING, LAURA LING'S SISTER: Quite honestly, the story that my sister went to do wasn't one that we were that concerned about because they had no intention when they left the United States to cross into North Korea. My sister is an amazing journalist and she's very passionate about what she does.

Yes, she's -- I mean, she is a good person who wanted to tell a story and this unfortunate event has happened. And we just hope that she's OK and that she'll be returned home to us.


CARROLL: And Lisa Ling's family as well as Euna Lee's family, they've been holding vigils to try and draw attention to the cause of these two young women. North Korean experts say the U.S. will continue back door negotiations. Several senior administration officials say the idea of sending Al Gore to help is under consideration. Also a possibility, sending New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson who has worked in the past to release people held in North Korea.

In the meantime, the Swedish ambassador will be working behind the scenes to help. And some North Korean experts still believe that there is room for negotiations here.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. Certainly there must be, because 12 years hard labor for what they're accused of doing, the crime wouldn't seem to fit the punishment.

CARROLL: Right. And there's also a theory that perhaps they'll use it as some sort of bargaining chip or something.

ROBERTS: Yes. Exactly that might be what's going on.


ROBERTS: Jason, thanks so much.

Coming up in the next hour, by the way, we're going to be talking with New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson. He helped get, as Jason was saying, people out of North Korea. It was back in 1994 and 1996. We'll ask him whether he may get involved this time around, get his take on the best way to deal with the North Koreans. He's been consulting with the administration on all of this.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: All right. We look forward to hearing from the governor. Meantime, there is more now on Laura Ling and Euna Lee in an "AM Extra."

Both of them worked for Current TV which is a web-based television channel. It was started by former Vice President Al Gore.

Laura Ling is 32. She's a Chinese American and recently gained attention for her reports that she did on the drug wars in Mexico. She's been married to a Beverly Hills-based financial analyst for 12 years. Laura is also the younger sister of journalist Lisa Ling who has reported for CNN. Laura's family says she suffers from an ulcer and needs medication.

Euna Lee is 36. She's a Korean American videographer. She joined Current TV back in 2005. She is married to an L.A.-based actor and comedian and has a four-year-old daughter named Hannah.

Well, we're also following this story now from the White House. CNN's Elaine Quijano working her sources.

And, Elaine, we're hearing from the administration for the first time this morning. What are they saying?

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Kiran. Just a few minutes ago, we received a statement from the White House. It is from White House Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton who says, "The president is deeply concerned by the reported sentencing of the two American citizen journalists by North Korean authorities, and we are engaged through all possible channels to secure their release."

So, Kiran, that is the initial reaction that we are getting at this hour, confirming that President Obama has, in fact, been informed of these latest reports regarding the detention of these two journalists -- Kiran.

CHETRY: North Korea is certainly on the radar of this administration right now. This is all happening as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is trying to deal with the situation regarding these recent nuclear and missile tests by the North.

QUIJANO: Well, that's exactly right. The sentencing is happening on the heels of some tough talk really from the Obama administration including some possible next steps designed to curb North Korea's nuclear ambitions.


QUIJANO (voice-over): After North Korea's provocative actions, including its missile and nuclear test last month, the regime could wind up back on the U.S.'s list of state sponsors of terrorism, according to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, we're going to look at it. There's a process for it. Obviously, we would want to see recent evidence of their support for international terrorists.

QUIJANO: Clinton says the U.S. is just beginning to look for that evidence but if officials do press ahead, it would ratchet up tensions even further. The move would mean South Korea could possibly intercept North Korean ships suspected of supplying missiles and nuclear materials to other countries, actions Kim Jong-il's regime has warned would provoke retaliation. Still, President Obama on his trip to Europe made clear the U.S.'s patience with North Korea is wearing thin.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't think that there should be an assumption that we will simply continue down a path in which North Korea is constantly destabilizing the region.

QUIJANO: CNN foreign affairs correspondent Jill Dougherty says behind the scenes U.S. officials are grappling with how best to deal with the regime.

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: There's enormous frustration about how to really put the pressure on them and get them to do what they have promised to do, which is end their nuclear program.

QUIJANO: For now, the U.S. wants tougher United Nations sanctions.

CLINTON: If we do not take significant and effective action against the North Koreans now, we'll spark an arms race in northeast Asia. I don't think anybody wants to see that.


QUIJANO: Now as for the journalists, over the weekend, Secretary Clinton said that their detention was a humanitarian issue separate from political matters. And she called on North Korea to release the two women. Now that North Korea has ignored those calls, that, of course, is only going to add to the pressure on the U.S. to change its approach -- Kiran.

CHETRY: Elaine Quijano for us at the White House this morning, keeping us abreast of all of these developments that I'm sure will change throughout the day as well. Thanks, Elaine.

ROBERTS: Also new this morning, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin is a long way from the French quarter this morning. Nagin and his wife are quarantined in China after a passenger on their flight from the United States showed symptoms of the swine flu. They're being kept at a hotel in Shanghai along with a member of the mayor's security detail. A spokesman says the Nagins have shown no signs of the H1N1 swine flu virus.

Are you noticing it at the pump, yet? Gas prices continue to surge nationwide this morning. According to AAA, the average cost of a gallon of regular rose to more than $2.61 overnight. That's up more than four percent just the past week.

And search teams have now discovered 17 bodies from the ocean where the Air France Flight 447 went down last week. Investigators now zeroing in on the plane's speed sensors to see if they might have malfunctioned. An Airbus pilot and aviation safety expert offers his take in the crash and its possible cause coming up.

It's eight minutes now after the hour.


CHETRY: Welcome back to the "Most News in the Morning." The Obama administration could announce as early as today a list of the nation's largest banks that can repay billions in federal loans.

The Treasury Department has invested $200 billion in more than 600 banks under its financial rescue program. And in recent months, more and more banks have sought permission to return that money. They want to avoid restrictions such as limits on executive pay. The administration has allowed about 20 smaller banks to repay that money.

Well, last night's Tony Awards anything but a good time for Poison's Bret Michaels. At the end of the band's performance with Broadway's "Rock of Ages," a piece of the set, there you see it, comes right down on Michaels from the rafters. He literally gets clothes lined, knocked to the ground.

It's not clear how badly he's hurt. A spokesperson for the Tony says that he missed his mark. There have been some other rumblings about it because there was live blogging going on during the show as well, but he didn't break his nose or anything. But it certainly looked like he could have with that.

ROBERTS: That just dropped at him.


ROBERTS: I mean, it was like he was tackled.

CHETRY: Yes. Well, hopefully, he is OK.

Stephen Colbert going commando. The Comedy Central pundit taping shows for the 450 troops at Camp Victory in Iraq. The top commander in Iraq was his guest for the first taping, and he brought the shears in a show of solidarity.

Colbert got a nice high and tight hairdo. There you see it getting shaved there. President Obama joined them on satellite with orders to give Colbert a military-style haircut. It was the first time in U.S. history that a TV show actually was produced entirely in the combat zone.

ROBERTS: Seventeen bodies have now been recovered from the wreckage of Air France Flight 447, but the cause of last week's crash is still a mystery this morning. New reports say at least a dozen other flights traveling in the same area at around the same time had no problems with weather conditions, none at all.

Joining me now is Captain John Cox. He's the president and CEO of Safety Operating Systems. He's flown Airbus jetliners and is familiar with their controls and their systems, and he's in Tampa for us this morning.

John, it's great to see you this morning. What do you make of this idea that some 12 other planes flew through that area? Air France had four flights, couple from Sao Paulo, one other one from Rio de Janeiro went through that area of thunderstorms without any kind of problems.

CAPTAIN JOHN COX, AIRBUS EXPERT: Well, I think that it says that the weather itself is probably not the single cause for this accident. This accident like just about all that I've ever been associated with is going to end up being a series of events. And we're going to end up having learned those series one piece at a time to understand what happened.

ROBERTS: Yes. These things do seem -- you know, Air crashes do seem to be a cascade of events if history is any guide, unless there is some instantaneous catastrophic event like what happened with TWA 800. That Air France sent out some literature over the weekend regarding one of the air speed indicator sensors. It's called a pitot tube and there might be some potential problems with that.

Have there been in your knowledge -- has there been in your knowledge of this Airbus, which I know that you've flown, you've flown the A320, I believe, not the 330 that you have gone in simulator on the 330. What do you know about these potential problems with anomalous speed readings?

COX: The fleet has shown a little bit of this issue to come up before. I'm aware of three or four previous cases in the fleet history but it's typically been short duration. And so what we learned by the information that the airplane uplinked to the Air France maintenance facility is they had a lot of very confusing signals that the pilots would have been confronted with. And exactly what caused that, it could possibly be the pitot tubes or air speed indications that would be causal in some ways.

But why the crew was not able to satisfactorily determine which of the air speed indicators was bad, there's a procedure for it. And where that procedure didn't, wasn't acted on properly or failed, that's going to be something the investigators are really going to have to look into carefully.

ROBERTS: John, according to Air France, there's been some problems with the sensor icing over in certain conditions. You know, could that potentially have happened near at altitude 35,000 feet, flying through this thunderstorm area? Could that sensor have possibly iced over and therefore given incorrect speed readings?

COX: It's possible. Usually at the cruise altitude, it is so cold that you really don't get a lot of icing. But this particular sensor has shown on rare occasion this icing issue to come up at cruise before. So I think the fact that there is something unique here, that that as an accident investigator, when you find something unique, you really want to concentrate and look to see if that could have an effect on the accident.

ROBERTS: And as you know, captain, because you've flown this aircraft, the Airbuses are flied by wire systems, which means its all electronic controls that activate the controlled surfaces. And if you were to lose power, you would obviously lose your control of the aircraft. There was a lot of redundant systems, but there has been a problem, as you mentioned, at cruise. And this really showed up, I guess in October of last year.

A Qantas airliner was flying in the South Pacific area. Three hours into the flight, everything seemed to be going fine. The computer which controls the aircraft with the autopilot on suddenly got these different speed readings and went haywire thinking it was going too slow, put the plane into a dive to try to pick up some more speed. Apparently, 100 people were injured as they were knocked into the roof of the cabin.

Could something like that potentially have happened here? And while pilots usually recover from that maneuver, if you're flying around thunderstorms with updrafts and cross currents and lightning in the area, could that have maybe caused the catastrophic cascade of events?

COX: John, I don't think so. In the case of the Qantas airplane, the failure was from an Air Data Inertial Reference Unit known as ADIRU. And it broadcast some spurious information and the airplane reacted. The autopilot system attempted to follow it.

It is -- although the ADIRU on the Air France accident airplane also displayed some problems, it was a failure-type message. And so I don't believe that we're going to see anything that would connect these two. The Air France airplane has a number of system failures that the Qantas airplane did not.

Also, these ADIRUs are fairly or pretty reliable.


COX: You don't -- and you don't see that. Additionally, the autopilot on the Air France airplane had disconnected, so it's -- you put all that together and I don't believe we're going to end up seeing a correlation between the Qantas and the Air France airplanes.

ROBERTS: So what do you think about the potential for foul play here?

COX: As an investigator, until you know exactly what caused it, you need to leave everything on the table. I wouldn't rule it out, but there's been nothing right now that shows me that it would be a prime suspect.

ROBERTS: Captain John Cox, it's great to talk to you this morning. Thanks for sharing your expertise with us. Really appreciate it.

COX: Thank you.

ROBERTS: Seventeen minutes now after the hour.


CHETRY: Welcome back to the "Most News in the Morning." Twenty minutes past the hour now with a live look at Columbus Circle in New York City. Sixty-eight degrees right now but it's going up to 76.

Got to keep the umbrella handy, though. We have some showers in the forecast. Rob Marciano will be along in just a few minutes. He's here in New York as well with a look at the rest of the national forecast.

ROBERTS: Must have been a tough year for the travel industry. It looks like it might actually be getting worse as well.

Christine Romans here "Minding Your Business" this morning. You know, I guess the airlines are prime property here.


ROBERTS: But it's weird that every flight that I ever fly, and I fly a lot, is jammed.

ROMANS: And I've been doing a lot of flying. And frankly the plane that I'm flying on are smaller planes that they're packing. You're flying on big planes and you're saying those are packed, too.

It's less cost to travel. I mean, they've had to lower the fares to get people on board. So it's good for you if you're trying to get a cheaper fare. And it's not good for you if you don't want to be on a packed -- jam-packed flight, but that's been happening too.

Look, the losses in the industry this year could be $9 billion. The International Air Transport Association says that it's just incredible. Revenue is expected to just evaporate some $80 billion. Why? Listen to this -- this list of reasons. Falling demand, collapsing yields, broken consumer confidence and pandemic fears.

I mean, what else could there be? I mean, it's really a very unusual set of circumstances. Even with lower gas prices, lower jet fuel prices, they're still hurting. And now they're concerned that those jet fuel prices are going to be rising, too.

The CEO of this Air Transport Association says greedy speculation must not hold the global economy hostage. I mean, they're worried about speculation driving those prices higher.

So think of that $9 billion in losses. Cargo volumes have plummeted. They've stabilized but 20 percent lower than last year's levels. I mean, you could really see how bad that is when we're spending 20 percent fewer stuff and air passenger levels are down about eight percent. So it means for you you could get some better fares because they got to cut fares to try to get you on those planes and fill them.

ROBERTS: Sounds strange though, the only half empty plane I've been on in the last six months was a JetBlue from Austin to JFK.

ROMANS: Half empty. How much was the fare?

ROBERTS: All the other ones were jammed. I don't know. I think it was pretty standard.

ROMANS: Right.

ROBERTS: It was a business trip, so I didn't pay for it.

CHETRY: But he does pay for it now.

Well, it's time now for "Romans' Numeral." Every day Christine gives a number that's driving a story about your money and we were talking about the airlines. Today's numeral?

ROMANS: 32.1.

CHETRY: How much you have to weigh to comfortably sit in the coach seat?

ROMANS: Ah, that's funny. This guy named Frank Flores (ph) on Facebook guessed 32.1 is the percentage of people who think the airlines are doing a good job. Frank Flores (ph) on Facebook, that's not right.

ROBERTS: That's at least three times.

ROMANS: It's the average seat pitch. It's another word (ph) for leg room, 32.1.

ROBERTS: 32.1 inches?

ROMANS: Yes, about ten -- you know, about ten years ago, it was more like 34, 35. Your seat is getting smaller and smaller and smaller. They're putting more people on those planes so that they can make more money. They're taking out the galleys in some cases because they're not serving food on many of these flights anymore. They're putting more seats in there.

The industry, however, says the seats are smaller, they're lighter, so you don't feel like you're not -- but you're really getting squished in there. A lot of people on those planes.

ROBERTS: You know, they are missing an entire area of the aircraft that they could fill with seats. ROMANS: What's that?

ROBERTS: The ceiling. You know, hang people upside down. More money (ph).

ROMANS: More people, the same amount of cargo hold. The same amount of overhead bins.

CHETRY: If you can sit up there, you fly free.

ROMANS: There you go. There you go.

ROBERTS: Thanks, Christine.

Twenty-three and a half minutes after the hour.


CHETRY: Welcome back. A little Jimmy world this morning, watching in D.C. right now. It's a live look. It's mostly cloudy, 66. A little bit later some isolated thunderstorms, 85 degrees.

Twenty-six minutes past the hour now. A reality check on the Obama administration's economic stimulus plan. Nearly 800 billion of your dollars being used to create new jobs and new public works projects. But with unemployment higher than 10 percent in 93 metropolitan areas, there doesn't seem to be a lot of stimulating going on.

Jim Acosta live in Washington now. We're expecting to hear an announcement on this from the White House today. What's going on?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kiran, this morning, the president will be meeting with the vice president and the cabinet to talk about ways to accelerate the flow of stimulus funds into government projects. In other words, it's time to stimulate the stimulus.


ACOSTA (voice-over): It's a caution sign on the road to recovery. The White House warns the stimulus, like the program's highway projects, is a work in progress.

When the president signed the Recovery and Reinvestment Act, he vowed the $787 billion program would save or create three and a half million jobs. So far the administration says the program has saved or created just 150,000 jobs in its first 100 days. That's fewer than the 345,000 job losses in May alone, which is why Vice President Biden says the White House is looking at new ways to get a better bang for its buck.

JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will not be satisfied until we're adding jobs on a monthly basis.

ACOSTA: House Republicans who never supported the stimulus are all but saying, "I told you so." REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: While the president is trying to convince us the plan is working and that more jobs are being created, it's clear we're continuing to lose an awful lot of jobs.

ACOSTA: After all of that talk about shovel-ready projects, the Recovery Act's own Web site shows the Transportation Department actually ranks fourth in stimulus spending so far. Education comes in first.

CHRIS WHATLEY, COUNCIL OF STATE GOVERNMENTS: I think that if you were to poll all of America they would probably think that there's $800 billion worth of asphalt in the Recovery Act.

ACOSTA: As stimulus supporters point out, much of the money is going to save the job of teachers.

WHATLEY: States are facing their worst revenue shortfall that they've ever faced. And when states hit the wall on tax collections, they make stark choices. They lay off teachers. They furlough prisons.

These are things that have an immediate impact in the lives of communities, and states are still facing very tough choices. But without the Recovery Act they would be in dire situations.

ACOSTA: There would be more layoffs of teachers and police officers.

WHATLEY: Without doubt.

ACOSTA: The administration predicts job creation will come next.

DAVID AXELROD, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR POLITICAL ADVISER: The president said it was going to take some time for it to filter through the system and that employment was the last thing that was going to respond.

ACOSTA: But by then, stimulus critics argue the economy would be staging a comeback.

PETER MORICI, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND, ECONOMIST: Yet economists were forecasting all along that the economy would come out by the end of the year. So you can't have it both ways. If you relied on economists, then why did he not rely on their projections?


ACOSTA: Plenty of pressure on the White House to show results. The nation's jobless rate stands at 9.4 percent, inching closer to what most political experts agree is dangerous territory, double digit unemployment.

And, Kiran, you can go straight to the Web site. It's still there, and do your own research on this. And I was really surprised to have to say when I looked at this Web site putting this story together just how many links there are to expenditures from the stimulus that were designed to save the jobs of teachers. A lot of money coming out of education funds to save those jobs. And so that's why the White House is careful to say saved or created 3.5 million jobs. They say without this money, there would be a lot more layoffs out there, Kiran.

CHETRY: Yes, and it's interesting, Jim, just coming up in about a few minutes from now, we're going to be speaking to South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford who was one who actually ended up having to go to court. He did not want to use $700 million of that stimulus money in South Carolina saying that he felt it was wasteful and that generations to come would have to pay the price. So it is interesting as you said that --

ACOSTA: He may have to take that money.

CHETRY: Yes. Well, looks like he is.


CHETRY: We'll talk to him about that coming up as well. Still a debate as to whether or not it's the best move to make.

ACOSTA: Plenty of debate, that's right.

CHETRY: Jim Acosta for us this morning, thanks.

ROBERTS: Thirty minutes past the hour, checking our top stories and breaking news this morning.

North Korea sentencing two American journalists to a dozen years of hard labor. North Korea says Laura Ling and Euna Lee were convicted of "committing hostilities" against the Korean nation and illegal entry after a four-day trial that ended this morning. A State Department spokesman says the U.S. is deeply concerned by the sentence and is urging North Korea to immediately release the women.

A warning from the man accused of killing a Kansas abortion doctor in cold blood. He says similar acts of violence are in the works across the country. Scott Roeder making that claim in a phone call to the "Associated Press" from his jail cell. The Justice Department has ordered stepped up security at abortion clinics.

The mayor of New Orleans and his wife were quarantined in China this morning. Ray Nagin is visiting Shanghai on an economic development trip. The mayor's office says a passenger on his flight showed symptoms of swine flu prompting the quarantine but the mayor apparently is OK.

Back to our breaking news this morning, two American journalists have been sentenced to 12 years of hard labor by North Korea's highest court. The guilty verdict handed down overnight against Current TV Laura Ling and Euna Lee for what North Korea says is the grave crime that they committed against the Korean nation and their illegal border crossing. The State Department reacting almost instantly. Our Zain Verjee following that for us today.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: John, some pretty swift reaction from the U.S. in a statement right off the sentencing. The State Department says "we are deeply concerned by the reported sentencing of the two American citizen journalists by North Korean authorities and we are engaged through all possible channels to secure their release. We once again urge North Korea to grant the immediate release of the two American citizen journalists on humanitarian grounds.

The two reporters were convicted of severe crimes against North Korea and they got a longer than expected punishment, 12 years. That's tough even by North Korean standards. It's not clear whether they are going to be held in one of those notorious Stalin like Gulag labor camps with gross human rights abuses or held in a prison and do some labor. Experts are saying that there could also be a diplomatic opening here, John, in all of this, where the U.S. sends someone high level to North Korea on a humanitarian mission to make a token apology that could get them released. John.

ROBERTS: All right. Zain Verjee for us this morning. Zain, thanks so much. Just hours before her sister was convicted, Lisa Ling was delivering the keynote speech at National University's graduation ceremony in San Diego. The former host of "The View" spoke to more than 1,200 students about her own experiences as a young reporter. And she talked to reporter about her sister Laura's intentions in North Korea.


LISA LING, LAURA LING'S SISTER: Quite honestly, the story my sister went to do wasn't one we were that concerned about. Because they had no intention when they left the United States to cross into North Korea. My sister is an amazing journalist. And she's very passionate about what she does. Yeah, she's -- she is a good person who wanted to tell a story. And this unfortunate event happened. We just hope that she's OK and that she will be returned home to us.


ROBERTS: Laura Ling and Euna Lee were reporting on human trafficking by Kim Jong-Il's regime when they were taken prisoner back in March.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Well, re-education through labor is a common punishment in North Korea, according to the U.S. State Department. Their criminals are sentenced to different types of camps depending on the crime. But a report out this year by the State Department says life is tough in all of them. Here's more now on an "AM Extra." Camps can be as large as 200 square miles. Prisoners sometimes receive little food and can be denied medical care. You have to remember this is a nation where many of its people are starving and need food. So imagine what it would be like in a labor camp. Former labor camp inmates reported that they were never allowed to change clothes, some also report only being allowed to shower maybe six times a year.


New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson knows a lot about negotiating the release of detained Americans in North Korea. He's done it before and may be called on to do it again. At the top of the hour, Governor Richardson joins us live to talk about how the situation needs to be handled moving forward.

CHETRY: Wanting to turn down millions and millions of dollars in stimulus money that could help your state, especially if your state is dealing with unemployment rates higher than the national average, is it the smart thing to do in the long run or is it political posturing. We're going to talk to Governor Mark Sanford. He's joining us in just a moment from South Carolina about why he thinks a lot of this money is just a waste.


CHETRY: Welcome back to the most news in the morning. 38 minutes past the hour now. South Carolina stands to collect $2.8 billion in federal stimulus money but the state's governor doesn't want all of it. In fact, Mark Sanford rejected $700 million. A lot of it was earmarked to go towards education and public works projects. Later today though he will actually reluctantly sign the request for that money. His state's Supreme Court ruled Thursday that he have to take it. So if South Carolina in dire financial, why is the governor opposed to accepting the cash. Governor Mark Sanford joins us now from Sullivan Island in South Carolina. Thanks for talking with us this morning.


CHETRY: Well, your state has an unemployment rate right now of 11.5 percent. It's the third highest in the country. You also, according to some of the statistics, have 15 percent of the people in South Carolina living in poverty, which is the 12th highest rate in the country. Doesn't your state desperately need all the money it can get technically?

SANFORD: Yes, but the question is in what form. And I think when you look at the money that was going to come in this case from the federal government, it came with very serious strings attached. In this case, it would have put us about $1 billion in the hole 24 months from now. It would have prevented us from making some changes to the way that our state government operates so that we would have been on a firmer financial ground going forward and it wouldn't allow us to shore up our finances in what could be a prolonged financial storm. So it came with very serious strings attached.

CHETRY: You wanted to be able to use some of that money to pay down the debt, right, and they were not allowing you to do that?

SANFORD: Yes. We said, look, we're fourth in the nation on a per capita basis in our indebtedness. And it seemed to us that with this kind of windfall and this money represents the lottery of all lottery wins for state governments across the country, then it would be prudent to set some money aside. You know, if a family won the lottery, they wouldn't just go out and spend it all, they'd put some money aside for a rainy day, for paying down the credit card balance, for paying off the mortgage and I don't know why state government should be exempt from that same principle.

CHETRY: Now, I hear you on that note. But it was actually some students and education officials that file these lawsuits and one of them an 18-year-old student by the name of Casey Edwards, a high senior now going on to attend Duke. They were very concerned because they were saying that it would have been teacher layoffs, et cetera. And that $185 million will now go to prevent those things. Isn't a good thing in terms of making sure that teachers can get paid and that these layoffs can be prevented given that you guys are dealing with the third highest unemployment rate in that nation?

SANFORD: It's a longer conversation on the unemployment rate. We are the ninth fastest labor force growth in the United States of America. So one of the ways that you can lower unemployment rate is leave the upper northeast or the rust belt and load up the kids, load up the U- haul, and say we're out of here. That's a way of lowering your unemployment rate. We happen to have a lot of people entering our state and there's an absorption number that sort of skews our number but without challenging that number let me just say this - the court case that was brought was predicated on, again, we've got to just spend more money on education.

I don't think that dollars in the education are the only cure to having a great educational system. The question was can we make sure that those dollars going into the education system actually go to teachers and actually go to the classrooms, which is the frontline of learning in the educational process. We will go this year in South Carolina from spending $3.3 to $3.5 billion even without the stimulus money on education in South Carolina. The tug-of-war all along in our state has been can we actually make some restructuring changes so that less money is trapped in the administration, less money is trapped in outdated programs that no longer work and put that money into, again, the frontline of education or law enforcement or a whole host of other services in our state.

That's what the battle line was about. And holding some money back and paying down debt we thought to be eminently financially sensible rather than just simply taking the money and spending it and leaving in place a whole host of programs that in many cases don't work.

CHETRY: Well, you basically become the nation's staunchest critic of the stimulus. The only governor to go to court over control of the money. And some conservatives are saying it positioned you well for a presidential run in 2012. What's your response that some of this has to do with your political future?

SANFORD: Well, you know, those who are critics say you're just doing it for that reason. But what I would say in response is, give me a break. Look at the last 15 years that I've been in politics. I mean, when I was in Congress and turned away federal money nobody said I was running for president. I mean, I've got - you can call them zany, you can call them, I call them principles, but a long history of voting or acting this way.

When I think that something is fundamentally skewed and when you look at this federal stimulus package and what you were just reporting on a moment ago, in terms of stimulus money not in fact producing the jobs that the administration had originally claimed, what I see are disastrous federal policy that will encumber the very students that are in schools across South Carolina right now, with a mountain of debt that they will be digging out of for a very, very long time.

CHETRY: By the way, are you considering a 2012 run for president?

SANFORD: No, I'm considering, you know, can I make it through this next week. And given today, can I make it through the day in terms of getting all the paperwork signed in what the Supreme Court has now compelled with regard to us accepting this money. Again, something we think will prove to be both a mistake from the standpoint of restructuring that South Carolina and a mistake from the standpoint of federal finances that I think will not be solved in issuing more debt to solve a problem that was created by too much debt. I'm focused on here and now.

As chairman of the Republican Governor's Association focused on a bunch of seat coming up 2010.

CHETRY: Well, all right. Good luck to you. A lot of governors around the country have a lot of challenges ahead with these state budgets for sure. But we want to thank you for your time. Good to talk to you this morning. Governor Mark Sanford from South Carolina.

SANFORD: My pleasure.

CHETRY: Thanks. 44 minutes after the hour.

SANFORD: Thank you.



CHETRY: 46 minutes past the hour. Welcome back to the most news in the morning. A quick look now with the AM rundown, these are stories that are coming up in the next few minutes. You want to stay tuned for.

A hip-hop summit, hip-hop meeting politics. A group of hip-hop artists like Jay-z and young Jeezy inspiring others to take action and to get involved in politics on Capitol Hill.

North Korea sentences two U.S. journalists to 12 years of hard labor. Will New Mexico's Governor Bill Richardson step in? We're going to ask him when he joins us live. He's helped negotiate for others in the past.

Plus, gas prices creeping up yet again. What is behind the jump at the pump? When they told us were weren't going to see it over $2.50, $3 a gallon this summer. Well, Christine Romans is "Minding your Business." She'll be joining us in just a moment with that.

ROBERTS: Before that, let's fast forward to these stories that will be making news later on today. The Dow on its best tear in 26 years. At 9:30 this morning we'll see if that rally continues. GM and Citigroup being dropped from the index today, replaced by Cisco and Traveler's insurance. Overseas Japan's Nikkei closed up one percent with European stocks falling this morning.

The President and Vice President will be focusing on the economy this morning. They'll be meeting with cabinet members to come up with a plan for spending billions of dollars in stimulus money over the next several months.

And at 7:30 tonight, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich who is the keynote speaker at a big republican fund-raiser in Washington. It will be his first major speech since calling Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, a "Latina racist." He has since dialed back from those comments. Meanwhile, Judge Sotomayor back on Capitol Hill today for more meetings with senators.

And we're happy to have Rob Marciano in the studio with us this morning, tracking the weather forecast. And some pretty severe weather in Colorado yesterday.

ROB MARCIANO, CNN, METEOROLOGIST: Yes. We had a lot of severe weather reports over the weekend, John and Kiran. I'll show you a couple of still pictures, these are shots of twisters near the Aurora area. A couple of I-reporters are sending this one in and kind of started as a rope tornado, and then widened, and then touched down on the ground, did have a little damage as well.

Show you that piece of video touching down near a shopping mall where there was, you know, some structural damage there. So dangerous weekend certainly for severe weather. Sixteen reports of tornadoes alone yesterday from Colorado, Wyoming in through parts of Missouri as well. And we may very well see a severe weather threat again today.

Let's roll ahead to the maps and give you an idea what's going to be happening. Cold front very slowly moving to the south. It's pretty cold to the north. Severe weather, what can you expect specifically in where this red highlighted area we'll show you just that. Tornadoes, large hail. Isolated tornadoes, I think. Just a slight risk of it and mostly east of Kansas City. Damaging winds also possible. Right now radar kind of unorganized with rain in through Chicago. But those rain and thunderstorms will cause some delays likely at both airports including midway. St. Louis will see some delays as well, and if you're traveling through Memphis that could be an issue as well.

97 in Dallas. Meanwhile 58 degrees in Minneapolis. So 15 to 25 degrees cooler across the northern tier. There were reports not only of tornadoes in Colorado but also of snow. So winter trying to hold on over there. Summer just around the corner.

CHETRY: I was just going to tell you that I was trying to get some I- report video for you because those are some amazing pictures of the funnel clouds. I thought I saw either a water spout or a tornado. I was trying to get my camera in the car.


CHETRY: It turns out it was water vapor, I think, from a cooling, from like a nuclear power plant. But I swear the way it looked. It literally looked like it was some sort of, you know, --

MARCIANO: And you kind of want it because you got that weather geek inside you and you're married to a weather geek.

CHETRY: Well I married to a weather geek but I really wanted to be able to give you these i-report pictures. You know, so that you can see it for yourself. I know you'll love them.

MARCIANO: Just don't put yourself in danger when you come close to those cooling towers.

ROBERTS: Exactly.

CHETRY: I'm getting singed with some water vapor. That's how dangerous that's going to get.

MARCIANO: I appreciate the effort.

ROBERTS: Ten minutes now to the top of the hour.



CHETRY: You want me to break out my dance moves? No, later, oh, we're on? Hi. Welcome back to the most news in the morning. Rapper Jayz and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, sounds like a strange couple, right? Don't worry, Beyonce. The two were joining forces for something called the hip hop caucus. Congressional correspondent Brianna Keilar is live in D.C. to tell us what it's all about it. I will tell you this I cannot dance and I wouldn't try. But you know how it goes sometimes when people who shouldn't be dancing try to break out the moves.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. You know, not so pretty, although I would want to see your moves here, Kiran. I think you can do it well. And what I hear you saying, is you don't think that any young Jeezy songs are on Nancy Pelosi's iPod? Is that what you think?

CHETRY: I bet you there's a couple.

KEILAR: You know, I suspect there is not. Actually, Kiran, but no matter says the Air Force chaplain who was in charge of the hip-hop caucus. He says what it's about is uniting these high profile hip-hop artists as well as their message and their fans with activists and politicians.


KEILAR (voice-over): Hip hop meets politics in young Jeezy's hit song and on Capitol Hill.

REV. LENNOX YEARWOOD, PRESIDENT, HIP HOP CAUCUS: You are at the table, you are on the menu. There is no in between.

KEILAR: Reverend Lennox Yearwood heads up the non-profit hip hop caucus. An advocacy group for young people of color in poor urban communities. And this day House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has given him a seat at her table.

REP. NANCY PELOSI, HOUSE SPEAKER: Thank you very much.

KEILAR: The Rev as he is called is pushing the hip hop caucus's top issue, "Green the Block," creating new green jobs while saving the environment.

YEARWOOD: So we could have people in urban communities. They can get back to work. They can now start retro fitting homes and weatherizing roofs and putting up solar panels.

KEILAR: The caucus also registers young voters trying to engage them in the political process with a little help from high profile recording artists like Jay Z, TI and Kisha Cole. Yearwood says it's working.

YEARWOOD: What's the filibuster, rev? What's going on? So who is Nancy Pelosi? Why did Biden talk so much?

KEILAR: Rev wants to build on that political curiosity. Born of a historic election. He knows young voters can be fickle, but believes this time they'll stick around.

YEARWOOD: There's no stopping us now. We say hip hop can't stop, won't stop.


KEILAR: And Rev Yearwood will tell you that's really the challenge, because getting the youth vote out can be hard enough, but getting people to continue to be interested. These young and urban voters to continue to be continually interested following an election, that can be impossible, Kiran.

CHETRY: No, it's really interesting. We had Bow Wow on our set a few times talking about getting people out there, getting the vote out there. He goes by just Bow wow now. But I asked what's going to be challenging right now. It's so exciting with these historic presidential race, but how do you keep the interest up especially in some of the midterm elections?

KEILAR: Yes, exactly. Although Rev Yearwood says it does help having President Obama in power. He says just from his point of view, that that's keeping a lot of their followers, the people who joined the hip hop caucus. He says it's very different this election than it was say after 2004, where they saw some of that interest slip away.

CHETRY: Pretty neat. All right. Brianna Keilar, great to talk to you this morning. Thanks.

ROBERTS: Well, nutrition experts are always advising us to eat fish. And a lot of people love fish. I know I love fish, but there are some new reports in a new documentary that suggests by the middle of this century, there may be no more wild fish available to eat. It's a shocking new report.

Actor Ted Danson narrates this new documentary. It's called "The End of the Line." And Ted's going to be here in a few minutes to tell us all about it. Make sure you stick around for that.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

ROBERTS: And a following breaking news for you on this Monday morning, the 8th of June. Thanks for joining us. I'm John Roberts.

CHETRY: And I'm Kiran Chetry. Glad you're with us.

We're following all the latest developments this morning on the North Korea situation. Two U.S. journalists that have now been sentenced to time there have been found guilty in North Korea. Laura Ling, Euna Lee sentenced to a dozen years of hard labor after they were picked up just at the border with China. They were doing reporting on refugees in China. North Korea claimed that they inadvertently went and crossed the boundary.

Right now Washington is working many channels to try to secure their freedom. We have some updates for you. We're going to be speaking to Governor Bill Richardson, somebody who has secured the freedom of others stuck in North Korea in the past.

Well the news comes as the Obama administration is warning it's considering placing Pyongyang back on the list of states that sponsor terrorism. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton calling North Korea's recent nuclear provocations very dangerous for the region and the world.


HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: We will do everything we can to both interdict it and prevent it and shut off their flow of money. If we do not take significant and effective action against the North Koreans now, we'll spark an arms race in northeast Asia. I don't think anybody wants to see that.


CHETRY: The regime, the communist regime has conducted recent nuclear and missile tests. And they're also concerned about North Korea's shipping nuclear material to other rogue nations.

Well, it could be some new sticker shock at the gas pump if you filled up lately. Today marks the 41st straight day of increases. This morning, the price for a gallon of regular gas is up nearly a cent to $2.62 a gallon. In a moment, we're going to break down why gas prices keep going up. They're up 50 percent since the beginning of the year.

ROBERTS: But we start with the breaking news in what's now a human face of the escalating tensions between the United States and North Korea. Overnight, U.S. journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee were sentenced to 12 years at a labor camp after being convicted of what the North Koreans call "grave crimes." CNN's Jason Carroll joins us now.