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AMERICAN MORNING

Obama Hopes to Improve Relations on Russia Trip; Judge OKs GM Asset Sale; Lucky 17,500 Fans Retrieving Tickets to Memorial; Franken Joins Senate; N.Y. Subway System Sells Naming Rights for Station

Aired July 6, 2009 - 08:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ALINA CHO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everybody. It's just about two minutes before the top of the hour, 8:00 on the East Coast. Good morning and welcome to AMERICAN MORNING." It's Monday, July 6th. I'm Alina Cho. John Roberts has the week off.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Good to have you with us this morning. I'm Kiran Chetry. We've got a lot going on this morning. Here's what's on the agenda. These are stories we're going to be breaking down for you in the next 15 minutes. Right now, President Obama, as well as the entire first family, is in Russia. The president meeting this morning with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to hammer out a nuclear arms reduction agreement. We're going to be live in Moscow.

CHO: Yes to a new GM. A federal court judge here in New York City approving the sale of the troubled automaker's assets, saying it's the only way the bankrupt carmaker can survive. So, what does this mean for GM's future? Our Christine Romans will be here to explain.

CHETRY: Today the 17,500 tickets for Michael Jackson's memorial service will be handed out. It's just a fraction of the more than 1.5 million people who entered to win a seat. In a moment, we're going to be live in Encino for more on the memorial preparations that are under way as we speak.

CHO: And Sarah Palin, the soon to be ex-governor of Alaska, is hitting back at critics on Facebook and Twitter, saying she made the right decision. And this morning, you at home are sounding off, too, on her sudden resignation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KATY BROWN, CNN IREPORTER: Right now, with her stepping down, that was not a smart move. I think that represents her as a quitter rather than a politician or a Republican. I don't think it was a smart move. I don't care if it's to concentrate on her family or her book or whatever else she has lined up. That was not a smart move as a politician.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHO: That's one viewpoint. In just a moment, we'll get two. We're going to talk to strategists Leslie Sanchez and Jamal Simmons about why now? What is she going to do next? And where this puts her within the Republican Party -- Kiran. CHETRY: Meantime, President Obama is meeting this morning with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. Talks expected to focus largely on arms control. And first lady Michelle Obama as well as first daughters Sasha and Malia will be joining the president on his weeklong trip.

Our White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux is also live in Moscow this morning. And Suzanne, the relationship between Russia and the United States, of course, this is one that could use a little work right now. What do you think the top priorities are going to be?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it certainly could use some work. And one of the things that we're going to see is how the relationships unfold. The President Obama meeting with Medvedev today, as well as tomorrow. And then obviously with Vladimir Putin, which may be a different kind of story. They are a little bit frostier when it comes to the two of them.

But we saw these two leaders sit down this morning. They're going to be sitting down for several hours to talk before a press conference. President Obama saying he welcomed the hospitality. Medvedev saying that even the weather favors us. It may be chilly outside, but warm inside.

And one thing we're already learning, Kiran, is even before this summit begins, some progress. Both these leaders to announce later this morning that they're going to reduce their nuclear arsenals somewhat. It is a first step in trying to come up with another arms- reduction treaty that expires in December. What to replace that with? It is also the first step in what they call pressing the reset button.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX (voice-over): President Obama seeking a new tone in the complicated U.S.-Russia relationship. A second meeting with President Dmitry Medvedev, but most important, his first face-to-face encounter with Vladimir Putin.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The old Cold War approaches to U.S.-Russian relations is outdated, that it's time to move forward in a different direction. I think Medvedev understands that. I think Putin has one foot in the old ways of doing business and one foot in the new.

MALVEAUX: Still a key question: Is Putin really in charge even though Medvedev is most visible on the world stage?

ANDREW KUCHINS, CSIS RUSSIA AND EURASIAN PROGRAM: You can have the photo opportunities between Mr. Obama and Mr. Medvedev, but for some of the really tough issues, for the things that we are more -- that we're deeply concerned about Russian behavior and that are very, very high priorities for our interests, got to find a way for Mr. Obama to convey to Mr. Putin.

MALVEAUX: On the table: diffusing tension over a U.S. missile defense shield in Europe, pursuing a new nuclear arms reduction treaty and helping with the war in Afghanistan. President Obama sees Russian cooperation in keeping Iran's nuclear ambitions in check. But can he get them to agree to possible economic sanctions? A positive sign, Russia voting with the U.S. for tough sanctions against North Korea after its recent nuclear tests. Mr. Obama telling European allies...

OBAMA: I've reaffirmed our commitment to a more substantive relationship with Russia, working with the Russian government on issues where we agree and honestly confronting those areas where we disagree.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: Kiran, there are already some signs of good will between these leaders. The U.S. --s a new agreement to allow the U.S. to cross and use Russian airspace to help deliver U.S. supplies in the military mission in Afghanistan. Also, as I'd mentioned before, these two leaders expected to come out later this morning and talking about an initial agreement in reducing some of their nuclear arsenals. Just a first step these leaders say. There's going to be a press conference later this morning for more of those details -- Kiran.

CHETRY: And also, tell us what first lady Michelle Obama and the girls are planning to do while in Russia. We saw them coming off the plane as well with the president.

MALVEAUX: That's right. Actually, Michelle Obama's going to be visiting an orphanage. They're all going to go and experience a kind of a cultural show tomorrow, so the girls are going to be touring the area of Moscow, as well. And so, we'll see some of those events will take place with the president and Michelle today, and then the whole family participating in some of those things tomorrow.

CHETRY: Sounds good. Suzanne Malveaux for us traveling with the president. Thanks.

CHO: Former Secretary of State Colin Powell is worried that President Obama may be biting off more than he can chew. In a weekend interview with CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION," Powell said he's concerned the Obama administration is spending too much and saddling the nation with more debt than it can pay off.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEN. COLIN POWELL (RET.), FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: I think one of the cautions that has to be given to the president, and I've talked to some of his people about this, is that you can't have so many things on the table that you can't absorb it all, and we can't pay for it all.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHO: Powell, who is a Republican, endorsed President Obama over Republican candidate John McCain, but he says the president, quote, "has to start taking a very cold, hard look at the cost of tackling climate change and reforming health care during a recession."

Yes, got to always watch the costs.

Looks like a clear road ahead for General Motors's plan to climb out of bankruptcy. Christine Romans is "Minding Your Business." So, the old GM's selling to a new GM.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS REPORTER: That's right. The bankruptcy judge, Alina and Kiran, actually approving the sale of some of these assets of GM to this new GM. It's the latest stumbling block has now been overcome to letting this company emerge from bankruptcy and eventually becoming a smaller, but new and hopefully more efficient company. The judge saying the only alternative to an immediate sale is liquidation. A disastrous result for GM's creditors, its employees, its suppliers, who depend on GM for their very existence and the communities in which GM operates.

So, this judge saying some of those bondholders are concerned that the Treasury Department has just shoved this plan at them and not given them their do say in the bankruptcy process. And some people who have actually been suing, people who are the victim of accidents, who have been suing GM, who, their claims will be left behind, those people obviously not happy about this. But the judge saying there simply is no other choice if this company is going to go forward. The other choice would be liquidation.

So, what does it mean for you? For all the different stakeholders, as they say, in this process. For taxpayers, it means, well, your money has now translated into a 60 percent stake in the company. For customers, it means there'll be four brands now. There will be far fewer dealerships, 40 percent of their original dealers. Thousands of dealerships will be closing. And for retirees, for 650,000 retirees, future retirees, it will mean lower benefits, having to accept some lower benefits, although past retirees, their benefits levels will remain the same.

So, a lot of different moving parts here. It's not out of the actual process quite yet, but GM -- and it would be a success story for this Obama administration. You just heard Colin Powell saying there's a lot on its plate, a lot of things that they've been doing. It would come out quicker than they had promised. They had thought it would take at least three months, maybe six months, but this thing is moving rapidly now.

CHO: Really? OK. Well, good.

CHETRY: Now all they have to do is just sell more cars, right?

ROMANS: That's right. I mean, this is where the hard work begins. And that's a very good point. The hard work begins now. And they're coming out with far fewer plants. Dozens of plants are closing -- or a dozen plans are going to close. A lot fewer employees. I mean, it's a different company.

CHETRY: Fewer brands.

ROMANS: Fewer brands. The new GM will be a different company. Now they have to prove that they can survive. CHETRY: Thanks, Christine.

Well, it's seven minutes past the hour now.

Also new this morning, the exiled president of Honduras is returning home, promising to do so after failing to reclaim his post last night. Jose Manuel Zelaya tried to land at the airport. Military vehicles, though, from the interim government blocked him. He ended up going to El Salvador. The army ousted Zelaya more than a week ago after he pushed to change the constitution to stay in office.

CHO: In Iran, opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi plans to form a new political party before President Ahmadinejad is sworn in for a new term. A leading reformist newspaper reports the party will be focused on reining in the republic's leadership. An influential group of clerics spoke out against the election this weekend, calling Ahmadinejad's government illegitimate. It was an act of defiance against the country's supreme leader, whose word is supposed to be final.

CHETRY: And investigators say they are close to retrieving the flight data recorders of the plane that crashed in the Indian Ocean last week. A 13-year-old French girl was the sole survivor. Investigators say they've picked up a signal transmitted by those data recorders, and once they are recovered, the devices could help determine what caused that Yemenia Airways plane, which was an Airbus 310, to crash.

CHO: And did you see this? The men's final at Wimbledon was one for the record books. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And Federer stands alone.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHO: Four hours, 16 minutes, that's how long it took. Roger Federer hoisted the championship trophy on center court for the sixth time. Andy Roddick didn't go down without a fight. He forced an incredible 30-game fifth set. Always kiss that trophy. The win is the...

CHETRY: First -- I'm sorry. We saw Pete Sampras, and then we just saw Federer's wife...

CHO: That's right.

CHETRY: ... who's due to deliver, right, in a couple weeks.

CHO: That's right. In August, yes, and they just got married in April. You know, by the way, this is Federer's 15th career grand slam win. He just broke Sampras's record 14 prior to that. It was an amazing feat, really, if you take a look at it. But four hours, 16 minutes. You play tennis, don't you?

ROMANS: No, I don't play tennis.

CHO: Oh, you don't play tennis.

ROMANS: I love to watch tennis.

CHETRY: It was the ultimate for tennis fans.

CHO: It was.

CHETRY: Although, you know, after a while, people are like, is this ever going to end? But it was so exciting, as well.

CHO: It was. I mean, four hours, it's a record. It's a record for a championship match.

CHETRY: We're talking to Christine. That's who we're talking to.

ROMANS: I'm the headless voice...

CHETRY: There you go.

ROMANS: ... outside of the shot.

CHO: Sorry.

ROMANS: No, it was amazing to watch that. And I felt like Andy Roddick, he just looked so let down after, like he was trying to hold back tears almost. Just think how much he really wanted it, how much he really wanted it.

CHO: Yes, because you never know when you're going to get to a final again. You know, he was so close.

CHETRY: But it's hard (INAUDIBLE) 30 games.

ROMANS: That's what makes it so incredible to watch. You know, there's always -- somebody's got to win, and somebody's not going to win.

CHETRY: Alina will teach you how to play.

CHO: Or Kiran.

CHETRY: For a small fee.

ROMANS: Love it.

CHETRY: Well, still ahead, we are talking about Governor Sarah Palin. Won't be governor for very long. She announced she's resigning, but there are so many questions surrounding this. We're going to be speaking with Leslie Sanchez and Jamal Simmons. They're joining us to talk about that.

Also, some interesting comments from the vice president about the stimulus and where the economy is headed. And also, we're going to hear about what Colin Powell said, some advice, possibly, for the president. Ten minutes after the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHO: Twelve minutes after the hour. New this morning, the death of former NFL quarterback Steve McNair has been ruled a homicide. Police in Nashville say McNair was shot four times at close range Saturday. Two of the bullets hit his head. McNair was married, but police say he was also involved with a 20-year-old woman named Sahel Kazemi. She was also found dead from a single gunshot to the head and with a gun underneath her body. Investigators say they're not looking for suspects, fueling speculation of a murder-suicide.

CHETRY: Former D.C. Mayor Marion Barry has some new legal problems this morning. Barry's now a council member in the nation's capital, and he was arrested by U.S. park police Saturday on an accusation of stalking. A 40-year-old woman claims that he was stalking her, flagged down a park police officer near Anacostia Park, pointed to someone in another car and said, that guy's stalking me.

Well, he was arrested as a result, cited and then later released. He does have a mandatory court appearance for the stalking allegation. He was arrested back in 1990, you may remember, when he was Washington's mayor, caught smoking crack in an undercover sting.

CHO: And you and your kids probably know him as Ron Weasley. British actor Rupert Grint from the "Harry Potter" movies is actually recovering from a mild case of swine flu. That's according to his agent, who said Grint had to take a couple of days away from filming the next "Potter" film. He's apparently now back on the set.

CHETRY: All right. Swine flu. Poor guy.

Well, it's the announcement that has the political world scratching its head, Sarah Palin's decision to step down as governor. And since her sudden resignation three days ago, there seems to be more questions than answers about why she is leaving before her first term is up. So, what's behind the move?

Let's bring in Republican strategist Leslie Sanchez and Democratic strategist Jamal Simmons. Great to see both of you this morning. He is also a former Democratic communications adviser.

So, let's listen to the clip right now. This is just a bit of the press conference. I mean, you know how long it was. And at first, you know, if you had just heard it before knowing what it was about, because we got the tape later because it was in Alaska, you wouldn't have really known what she was talking about at first. But let's hear a little bit of that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. SARAH PALIN (R), ALASKA: Well, in response to asking -- do you want me to make a positive difference and fight for all of our children's future from outside the governor's office? It was four yeses and one hell yes, and the hell yes sealed it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: She's talking about polling her family and asking if she should step down. So, Leslie, you've said in the past that the governor has a bright future in the Republican Party, could be a strong candidate for 2012. What do you make of this?

LESLIE SANCHEZ, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: That's a lot in one statement. I will say that, Kiran.

I think overall we have to take her at face value with respect to what she's saying, putting her family first and priorities. That said, the long-term implications, it's yet to be seen how viable a candidate she can be for 2012 or any political future.

One thing you cannot take away is, she's incredibly charismatic. She has tremendous natural talent. But to use her own analogy -- she was talking about a forward and forging ahead --, I think this is a forward who left at halftime. There's a lot more questions than answers.

In the short term, it has tremendous negative implications as looking as someone who can't complete a task, someone who didn't take the heat. And I think it positions the Republican Party in a place where we don't want to be, especially with one of our darlings.

CHETRY: Well, she said she was a point guard, by the way.

(LAUGHTER)

SANCHEZ: Point guard, forward. Thank you.

CHETRY: Jamal, I want to ask you what you make of it. I mean, she certainly has a strong following. She is loved by many conservatives. I mean, she had a really high national approval rating among Republicans. What do you think that this bodes for the future?

JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, you know, I watched this thing on Friday, and -- her statement on Friday. And I've got to tell you, I was riveted. I was supposed to be going out to have crabs with a bunch of friends, and I could not leave my couch.

I think that -- I'm going to go out on a limb here. Sarah Palin's finished as a presidential candidate anytime in the foreseeable future. One thing you can't do in politics is, you know, kind of walk away. I've never known a politician to just walk away at the height of their sort of popularity and their expectation and you know, for -- and then come back at it without some repercussion.

She was governor for two years, a little over two years. I think she's got not a lot of experience to then come back and run on later. And what she's going to do? Go out and do a book tour? Go and give some speeches? So she quit her job so she could make more money because she didn't like the limelight? Well, you know what? Welcome to the NFL. It's tough when you want to be a national candidate, and she should be ready to take those hits. SANCHEZ: You know, let's look at the positives here. She has tremendous charisma. She's had a successful record on energy policy. There's so many more things she wanted to do with respect to the natural gas pipeline through her state. I think some more legislative accomplishments would have bolstered her heft in terms of political credentials.

But she did take on her own party. She has an appeal with the American public because of that fresh perspective. And a lot of people want to discount that. The problem is, you juxtapose that next to these decisions that we know so little about.

CHETRY: Right.

SANCHEZ: Until we understand the context of why she made this decision, why she continued to elaborate on this decision on social networking sites like Twitter, I think it causes more speculation that in the short-term again can be more harmful to her political career than beneficial.

CHETRY: All right, let's move on so we can get to this one. This is talking about the economy and some comments that Vice President Joe Biden made. The economy as we know has shed 1.6 million jobs since the stimulus was signed into law in February. And also a lot of estimates have it only 5 percent of the stimulus money actually being spent out there to this date. And the Obama administration has gotten some criticism for that. And this is what Joe Biden said about it on ABC this week. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The truth is, there was a misreading of just how bad an economy we inherited. We misread how bad the economy was, but we are now only about 120 days into the recovery package.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: So he said -- he used the term "misread" twice. Jamal, is he admitting that perhaps there was some wrong calculations by this administration on just how dire a situation we're in and what we need to get out of it?

SIMMONS: You know, I spent about two years studying economics in different forms in graduate school. And the first thing you learn it's not really science. All of these projections are based upon, you know, economists trying to figure out what they know at that particular moment and trying to project forward. So, it's hard to predict.

Although, you know, I've got to tell you, they've got some of the best economists in the world in the federal government. So, they should be able to figure out. And there were people at the time who were saying the stimulus package was too small they were putting out. I think they made a political choice to do the stimulus package they did, the size that it was. They got it out there. But it certainly should have been -- they may have to go back and get a second one. The question's whether or not Republicans and Congress will let it happen.

CHETRY: A second one? They've haven't even spent -- they've only spent 5 percent, though, Jamal. I know they said that more of this was going to happen later on in the summer. But it was $787 billion. They spent $44 billion. Leslie, I mean, I know that the government doesn't move as fast as we'd all like it to at times, but what's the deal with that?

SANCHEZ: No, look at the bottom line. This is an administration that looked historically and said we can spend our way out of this recession. And the bottom line is, we saw with President Bush and the disappointment a lot of conservatives with him in throwing a lot of money at -- with the TARP, you know, the Troubled Asset -- the bank relief fund and all this. And still people were questioning, what is the U.S. doing with those dollars? Are we wisely spending our money?

I think this is a great example that they have no idea what the impact of massive spending was going to be. They said unemployment was not going to get above 8 percent when they signed this and got the American public and some of their Democratic legislators to go along with it. And it's not proving effective.

And I think the bigger issue, as much as we complained about the $800 billion, you know, under President Bush, the potential U.S. exposure there is really closer to $14 trillion to $16 trillion when you talk about the banking, the Fed, FDIC, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. This is of tremendous concern to American voters in terms of debt and the impact it has on jobs and job creation.

SIMMONS: Leslie, we already know that there's -- that some of the banks are already starting to pay back some of the money earlier. What we also know, though, is that the stimulus package was meant to be time-released over the course of a couple of years. So, to talk about it not all being released in the first six months I think is not really right. It was meant to...

CHETRY: But Jamal, let me just ask you...

SIMMONS: ... come out piece by piece in order to get it out over a period of time.

CHETRY: ... and I'm not trying to pick on you...

SANCHEZ: But he says that the economy would be recovered anyway.

CHETRY: Wait hold on, Leslie. I'm not trying to pick on you, Jamal. But I'm just asking, did you expect more than 5 percent by now would've gone out if this was passed in February? Signed in February?

SIMMONS: I would expect more than 5 percent.

CHETRY: Did you think more than 5 percent would be out by now to the states? SIMMONS: Yes, I would expect more than 5 percent would be out right now. But that doesn't mean that it's failed. That means that they've had trouble getting it from the federal coffers to the states, to the cities out to some of the businesses that it's going to have to go to. And I think they need to get on it. They need to move faster, get it out there faster, get people back to work. And I think that the administration understands that, and they're moving to fix it.

CHETRY: All right, well, we...

SANCHEZ: I think there needs to be accountability with those dollars. Just because you put money...

CHETRY: We're going to have to leave it there. Leslie, I know you'll be twittering about it in about 17 seconds anyway.

(LAUGHTER)

CHETRY: But anyway, Leslie and Jamal, great to talk to both of you. Thanks for joining us this morning.

SIMMONS: You, too. Thank you.

CHETRY: Well, what do you think about Sarah Palin's resignation? Head to our blog, CNN.com/amfix. We're going to talk more about that. You can weigh in on what you think about, you know, the plan for recovery for the hundreds of thousands of people out there that are now unemployed.

Twenty-two minutes past the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MUSIC PLAYING)

CHETRY: Twenty-four minutes after the hour. Welcome Back to the Most News in the Morning. Last-minute preparations are under way right now for Michael Jackson's memorial service. Los Angeles police bracing for potentially historic crowds tomorrow. It could be the most-watched media event in history.

Earlier, Kiran spoke to first assistant chief of the Los Angeles Police Department about the city's plans to handle the crowds.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: What are you expecting, and how are you looking to handle the situation?

JIM MCDONNELL, FIRST ASSISTANT CHIEF, LOS ANGELES POLICE DEPARTMENT: Yes, I guess the crowd estimate is the $64,000 question that everybody's wondering about, and we are, as well. We had the Laker parade about two weeks ago. We had about 250,000 people turn out for that. Overall, very orderly crowd. A few incidents that we dealt with quickly. I anticipate that the crowd here will be well-behaved. It will be a crowd that gathers for the right reasons and keeps the reason they're there in mind. But as far as putting a number on it, we have reached out a number of times, every chance we get, actually, asking people to stay home if they don't have tickets.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHO: CNN's Kara Finnstrom live for us in Encino, California. So, Kara, as you know, they're handing out 17,500 tickets to lucky members of the public in pairs, 8,750 pairs of tickets. So, how exactly will all of those tickets be distributed today?

KARA FINNSTROM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alina, first of all, to put all of this into context, hundreds of millions of people, media analysts now say, may watch this online or on TV. So, you can imagine the excitement of those 8,750 people who are going to get those sets of tickets.

What they've been told is to report to Dodger Stadium today, where they will certain in a secret passcode that they've been given through their registration form. In exchange for that, they will get two wristbands and then also two tickets. One of those wristbands will be put on their wrist immediately. The other goes to their guest. And when they turn up at Staples Center tomorrow, we're told if that wristband is in any way damaged or taped, they will not be able to get in. This is to try and prevent scalpers.

But tomorrow, everything will be cordoned off around Staples Center. And we're told only people, you know, with proper tickets and also credentialed members of the media will be allowed in. As far as what they're going to see, though, Alina, still very few clues available. We can expect that it will be a star-studded performance. But the only performer confirmed right now to CNN is Jennifer Hudson.

CHO: Kara, just very quickly, we don't have a lot of time, but the very latest on the investigation now.

FINNSTROM: Well, we do know overnight that the "L.A. Times" was reporting that three more search warrants were issued, at least three. And this is to try and find out some more details about whether prescription drugs may have played a role in Michael Jackson's death.

CHO: CNN's Kara Finnstrom live for us in California. Kara, thank you -- Kiran?

CHETRY: All right, these are the two names: Deka Motanya and Nick Menusous (ph). Both of them won tickets to the Michael Jackson memorial that's going to be taking place at Staples Center. I'm sure they're the envy of their friends, 1.6 million people signed up to try to get these tickets. And Deka and Nick (ph) are going to be joining us next to talk about what it's going to be like for them, what plans they have as they take part in this historic tribute to Michael Jackson.

Twenty-eight minutes past the hour. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHO: It is 30 minutes after the hour. Checking our top stories on this Monday morning, a peaceful protest apparently spun out of control in western China. State-run media is reporting at least 140 people are dead, more than 800 injured. The protests may have been a reaction to racial violence against ethnic Muslims in southern China.

CHETRY: Also, President Obama is in Moscow right now. He met earlier with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, and these are the first pictures of them shaking hands in to CNN this morning. Also a dispute taking place over missile defense and reducing nuclear weapons. They're both on the agenda as the two nations try to hammer out some agreement. There's also a high-stakes meeting with Russia's former president and current prime minister, Vladimir Putin still on tap.

CHO: A warning that chronic hunger could be the defining human tragedy of this century. It's in a new report from Oxfam International. It's aimed at G-8 leaders as they get ready to meet in Italy this week. And it says the changing climate could radically affect crops, forcing mass migrations and conflict over water resources.

CHETRY: One congressman not happy about all the attention on Michael Jackson's memorial service. Peter King, a Republican from New York, posted this video online.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: Let's take some time out to really look at the people who make this a great country, the men and women of the armed forces, police, firefighters, teachers who work in really rough neighborhoods, people who volunteer with dying cancer patients, people who work in AIDS clinics, they're the ones we should be glorifying, not some pervert like Michael Jackson.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: Now, we contacted Congressman King. King's press secretary told us he stands behind what he said, and he's certainly someone who is not shy about expressing his opinion.

CHO: He certainly isn't. Now despite Congressman King's opinion, more than a million people signed up online for a lottery to say goodbye to the King of Pop -- 1.6 million to be exact. And they probably thought they really had no shot. But guess what? Late last night, close to 9,000 diehard Michael Jackson fans got the e-mail they were hoping for, saying they'd won two tickets to the star-studded tribute at the Staples Center in Los Angeles tomorrow.

And guess what? We're joined live from San Francisco by two fans who beat the long odds, 1 in 182, I'm told. Deka Motanya is her name, and Nick Manousos is her boyfriend. Good morning, guys. So glad you're with us.

DEKA MOTANYA, WON TICKETS TO JACKSON MEMORIAL: Good morning.

CHO: I should mention, Deka, that you are the lucky winner, and Nick is the boyfriend of the lucky winner.

MOTANYA: Yes.

CHO: So. you get to go Nick. So, I just want to say, Deka, I read your Twitter post here: "Omg, omg, omg, omg, I got tickets to the Michael Jackson memorial service." Did that pretty much sum up how you feel about this?

MOTANYA: Yes, I didn't quite know what to think. I opened the e-mail, I showed it to Nick. And I was like, is this real? He just stared at it for a minute. And then, it's like, oh my gosh, and then I Twittered it because I couldn't believe it. I didn't know what else to say. Oh my gosh, Oh my gosh, I got it. It wasn't expected. Completely unexpected.

CHETRY: Yes. And the funny thing is, so now you guys have to kick it into high gear, right? Make your plans, figure out how you're going to get down there. You're in San Francisco, you've got to get down to L.A. and I'm sure flights aren't easy to come by. We had to, you know, make sure we got our stuff organized quickly because there's going to be a lot of people flying to LAX. How are you guys planning on getting there?

NICK MANOUSOS, WON TICKETS TO JACKSON MEMORIAL: Yes, that was kind of the first thing we did. As soon as we verified the e-mail was actually real, We started looking online, and we got some good flights with Southwest. Luckily there's tons of flights from San Francisco to L.A. daily on Southwest.

MOTANYA: Yes.

MANOUSOS: It wasn't that big of a deal for us. I guess we got it before the big rush happened.

CHO: Well, lucky for you guys you guys were in San Francisco. So, I guess if you couldn't get a flight, you could just drive there. Now, Deka, I have to ask you, because there are so many people who are Michael Jackson fans, but you went to the next level, and you're going to make that trek to the memorial service. What is it about Michael Jackson that made you want to be there in person at the memorial service?

MOTANYA: Well, he's just been such a big part of my life. I mean, growing up, I've always - he's always been around and his music has always been a part of my life and he just represents joy and happiness, no matter what club you're in or party you're in, if someone plays Michael Jackson, everyone is really happy and starts dancing and you connect with people. And remember just as a kid his music videos being such a big event and my whole family get together, like when "Remember the Time" came out or "Black and White" video, network premiere, they'd end everything would stop to watch Michael Jackson's video. So it's always such a big deal and they just always make me so happy. CHO: I know.

CHETRY: It's interesting that you say that, I mean, of course, "Thriller" was the first album that I ever purchased. I remember saving money for it, as well and there are those great memories. In the later years of his life, things seem to change for Michael. And those around him say that, you know, there was sadness there. And, you know, here we have this memorial where hundreds of thousands of people - this is a man who at times felt so lonely. Do you think he knew how loved he was? And do you think that - he was able to find his own happiness despite all of the fame and everything that came with it?

MOTANYA: Well, I hope so. I don't know. Even when he was going through the trial, he still had fans out there every day supporting him. So I hope he still felt how much he meant to people and how he affected people. But I don't know, we didn't really hear any interviews or seen any interviews with him towards the end. But I mean, I hope he found some peace. But from just what we've seen on TV and hear about it, it seemed like he was going through a lot of things and had a lot of pressure and stress that most people wouldn't be able to handle. So I just hope he had some peace and he knew how much that he was loved.

CHO: Well, 17,500 tickets being handed out 8,750 pairs, you got one of them. Let's hope you're in the Staples Center. I know that 11,000 of you will be in the Staples Center. Another 6,500 will be in the overflow area across the street at the Nokia Center. But either way, I'm sure you're going to be so glad to be there tomorrow.

MOTANYA: Yes. We're going to get there early.

CHO: OK, good. Thank you. That's pretty good advice.

CHETRY: Have a great time.

CHO: And you're getting there early, too. You're getting on the flight right after the show, starting at 6:00 a.m. Eastern tomorrow. 3:00 a.m. Pacific, as you'd like to say, Kiran. AMERICAN MORNING is going to be live on the ground in Los Angeles. Kiran is going to be outside the Staples Center as fans gather for the tribute and that starts our coverage of the Michael Jackson memorial service, right here on CNN. Thirty-six minutes after the hour.

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CHO: Thirty-nine minutes after the hour. Some of the top videos right now on cnn.com. Take a look. After years of various pills and medicines, some allergy suffers are trying a salty alternative. They are known as salt caves, the walls and floor are covered with sea salt, and sodium chloride is pumped into the room through a ventilation system. Doctors say those saline caves are only useful when used with prescription medicines. Yes, small detail. Also, you're looking at the police car of the future. It's equipped with front and rear video cameras, heat sensor cameras, license plate recognition technology, and tons of other bells and whistles. It looks like something straight out of a movie. Production on that is expected to start in 2012.

And several companies in Argentina are going green in new innovative ways, by recycling old billboards and parachutes into hip messenger bags and other items. Another Argentinean company creates clothes with solar panels that can power iPods and cellphones. Pretty cool.

CHETRY: Well, after more than eight months, the last Senate seat will be filled this week, Senator-elect Al Franken heading to Capitol Hill, giving the Democratic caucus a filibuster-proof 60-seat majority, but that doesn't guarantee that the Beltway will be free of gridlock. Our Jim Acosta is on the story from Washington this morning. And Jim, it's very interesting because Al Franken himself when he was talking about it said I'm not just going to be the 60th vote for the Democrats, I'm here to represent the people of Minnesota.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Although that's not what the Democrats hope. They definitely hope he will be that 60th vote. And Al Franken will be on the Hill today. It's not clear just yet when he'll be sworn in as a United States senator, but Al Franken's arrival in Washington already has Democrats seeing 60 in the Senate, where Republicans may have lost their last legislative weapon, the filibuster.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our next senator, Al Franken.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Democrats are counting the seconds until live from Washington, it's Al Franken.

AL FRANKEN (D), MINNESOTA SENATOR-ELECT: Thank you.

ACOSTA: The former "Saturday Night Live" comedian turned politician is about to hand his party 60 seats in the Senate, if you include the two independents now aligned with Democrats. Franken, a Harvard graduate who can do the math, is downplaying expectations.

FRANKEN: The way I see it, I'm not going to Washington to be the 60th Democratic senator, I'm going to Washington to be the second senator from the state of Minnesota.

ACOSTA: But that's not how others in the Senate see it.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: What I think is, it should be a game changer.

ACOSTA: It takes 60 senators to kill a filibuster. So Vermont's independent Senator Bernie Sanders is challenging any wavering colleagues within the new Democratic supermajority to stick together, and block any filibuster attempts aimed at health care. SANDERS: At the very least what we should be doing united is saying to the Republicans, you cannot filibuster a strong health care bill to death. If it turns out there are only 52, 53, 54 people who vote for final passage, that's the way it is. That's the majority.

ACOSTA: But in that deck of 60, there are a few wild cards. Take Connecticut's Joe Lieberman, who told the "New Haven Independent" he is not sold on a Democratic health care proposal that will give the public the option of joining a government plan.

SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (I) CONNECTICUT: I'm skeptical of it, both in substance and in the politics. By the politics, I mean, I think we're not going to get the votes to pass the overall bill and it becomes conditional.

ACOSTA: Other democratic wild cards from red states in the west and south are also in the mix, which may explain why the White House knows 60 is not necessarily a magic number.

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We don't get everybody from every party on every vote. That includes the democratic party.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: Not to mention the fact that two prominent Democrats, Ted Kennedy and Robert Byrd, have been battling illnesses, and it's still unclear whether recent Republican turned Democrat Arlen Specter will even be a reliable vote. Given all that, it may take some magic for the Democrats to get to 60, but Al Franken is good enough. He is smart enough, and doggone it, Kiran, he is almost a United States senator. It could happen today.

CHETRY: And there you have it. All right. So, I'll tell you what, they probably feel better than the republicans do. They'll take 60, right?

ACOSTA: I think they'll take 60 and then some. Absolutely especially the way things are going these days.

CHETRY: Jim Acosta, good to see you this morning. Thanks.

ACOSTA: Good to see you.

CHO: All right. Kiran, so who says the news is all bad? We wanted to know where the happiest place in the world is. And we're going to tell you right after this. Forty-four minutes right after the hour.

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CHO: Forty-six minutes after the hour. So, where is the happiest place on earth? People there live longer than us, they're happier than us, apparently and they have a year-round real tan. CHETRY: Maybe that's why it sounds like paradise.

CHO: Costa Rica the happiest place on earth, according to a new survey by a British nongovernmental group.

CHETRY: They say Costa Ricans have the second highest life expectancy on the planet only behind Canada. And the study weighed life span and people's happiness against their environmental impact. Nine out of the top 10 spots were Latin American nations. Surprisingly, developed nations didn't do so hot. The United States was all the way back at 114th. But one Australian expert says the survey is flawed with "magical thinking."

CHO: Have you been to Costa Rica?

CHETRY: No, but number two, Dominican Republic, I've gone there at least three times, nicest people, happiest people, gorgeous. I think it has to do with having beautiful white beaches.

CHO: Yes, that might have something to do with it.

CHETRY: Or Caribbean blue water. What do you think, Rob?

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: That certainly helps. I've been to Costa Rica, as well. It's good living down. Pura vida is what they say. Obviously, it rings true. I think maybe if you live in Disney World that may extend your life, as well. I feel that much younger after my trip on Friday.

CHO: I'm sure you do.

MARCIANO: Good morning, guys. Again, we've got a little bit of action happening today across parts of the south and the northwest with some thunderstorms, but generally speaking, we're starting to see things a little bit more normal than they have been. Across the northeast, you're warmer, but not hot yet. Low levels of humidity, plenty of sunshine, but less rain than we saw last month. So that's good news, you'll probably get a shot of rain tomorrow as everything kind of filters around that area of low pressure, which is also the thing that's keeping you on the comfortable side.

This area down here, this is kind of a stalled stationary boundary. It has lifted a little bit farther to the north, but it's going to be the focal point of where we'll see our storms today. Some of which can be heavy at times, and especially across parts of Louisiana and Mississippi, some of those thunderstorms could produce some heavy rain. 92 degrees in Dallas, it will be 85 degrees in Memphis.

Speaking of rain, well ducks like to hang out in the water, right? Have you ever seen a duck who likes to hang out with a doggie? Look at that, easy now, killer, that mallard becoming fast friends with this puppy dog, male and female, and I'm not sure how they go about their daily lives, but apparently the duck likes the kitty cat. I'm not sure the feeling is mutual there. Two animal stories today on this Monday. That's what you get on a holiday weekend. CHO: I didn't realize this was "Animal Planet."

CHETRY: I love it though. I can't help it. That's so cute.

MARCIANO: That's how busy the weather department is this morning.

CHETRY: The Labrador is so cute.

CHO: It's Monday, it's July -

CHETRY: It is. All right. Well, Rob, good to see you. We'll be out in L.A.. So a little chilly in the morning down there.

MARCIANO: All right. Have a safe trip.

CHETRY: All right. Fifty minutes past the hour.

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CHO: Fifty-two minutes after the hour. Just a gorgeous shot of Central Park. Makes you want to run around the reservoir, doesn't it? Sunny and 73 right now. It's going to be mostly sunny and 83 later today. Just a beautiful day to be in New York City. Welcome back to the most news in the morning.

The New York City subway system has come up with a unique way to make a quick buck. But some say strap hangers say it's nothing short of a sellout. Our Richard Roth is live from the Atlantic Avenue- Pacific Street subway station. That's in Brooklyn, New York. So, Richard, good morning. Why is that Brooklyn subway entrance so groundbreaking?

RICHARD ROTH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, New York City residents last week had to start paying more to ride the subway. But here at this station, anger is even higher because of the name change.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Read about it in the A.M. New York News. Good morning, people. Good morning.

ROTH (voice-over): The big news at this bustling Brooklyn, New York subway station is its name. New York City has sold the name of the massive Atlantic Avenue-Pacific Street station to Barclay's Bank.

DALE HEMMERDINGER, MTA CHAIRMAN: This is the first time we've ever succeeded in getting somebody to pay for a name.

ROTH: The signage isn't said, but it may look like this Barclay's, a British Bank in one of Brooklyn's oldest public train station.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's a (INAUDIBLE) for it's a bit of a slippery slope then I can imagine when you start to sell branding names of government-run and/or owned institution.

ROTH: New York City Transit, like its subway performers, needs money. Ridership has dropped as the global economy has gone off the tracks.

JEREMY SOFFIN, MTA SPOKESMAN: Light transit systems all over the country and the world, we are facing, you know, budget deficits.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We still won't accept your money.

ROTH: Many of the locals don't think Barclay's should be a sign of the times.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And what do you expect me to say? That's ridiculous. The whole country's a branding nightmare.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A London bank shouldn't be the name of this train station. It's something that belongs in the public domain.

ROTH: A real estate developer working with Barclay's is paying $200,000 for 20 years for the naming rights. It's the underground branding for a plan Barclay's Sports Arena above the subway. Some riders don't mind the switch.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If they can do it, why not?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The trains are run the same way, I couldn't care less.

ROTH: Some do care and are committing the old name to memory.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Atlantic Pacific, Atlantic Pacific, that's what I say now, and that's what I'll always say.

ROTH: In the last century, New Yorkers often had trouble reading anything in the subway because of graffiti. It's much cleaner now, and New York City said corporate cash entering the subways helps keep fares low. Of course, conductors will have much more to announce.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Same reason.

ROTH: Money.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Same reason.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROTH: These signs are going to be phased in the next couple of years. Of course, the Atlantic Yard project with the Barclay's arena will be the centerpiece that's already been controversial for years in this area of Brooklyn. Alina, back to you.

CHO: Richard Roth for us, live for us in Brooklyn. Richard, thank you.

CHETRY: And we have some breaking news into CNN now. According to "The Washington Post," former defense secretary Robert McNamara died. He was 93 years old. "The Post" hearing from family members that he died in his sleep in his home early this morning. McNamara served as the secretary of defense. He was the eighth secretary of defense, serving during the Vietnam war under both presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. Again, Robert McNamara, 93 years old, and according to "The Washington Post," he died in his sleep in his home in Washington early this morning.

Fifty-five minutes past the hour.

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CHETRY: Welcome back. Before we leave you, the tributes continue for Michael Jackson. And over the weekend, Madonna paid her respects in the same London arena where Jackson was supposed to stage his comeback tour, which was set for a week from today. Let's take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MADONNA, SINGER: All right, people! Let's give it up to one of the greatest artists the world has ever known, Michael Jackson! Long live the king! Come on, everybody!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHO: You know, there's only one Michael Jackson, but he's not bad.

CHETRY: I know.

CHO: And Madonna giving you a tribute. That's a big deal.

CHETRY: And that will probably be the first of many people recreating Michael Jackson that we will see.

CHO: Yes.

CHETRY: By the way, starting at 6:00 a.m. Eastern tomorrow morning, AMERICAN MORNING is live on the ground in Los Angeles. I'll be outside the Staples Center as fans gather for the tribute and Alina Cho will be here in New York, holding down the fort here and our coverage starts at 6:00 a.m., again, tomorrow morning, Eastern time right here on CNN. And thanks so much for being with us this morning. Great to have you, as well. Thank you.

CHO: And a split show tomorrow.

CHETRY: Talking long distance.

CHO: Hopping on a flight right now. We want to remind you to continue the conversation on today's stories. Go to our blog at cnn.com/amfix. Thank you so much for joining us on this AMERICAN MORNING. Right now here's CNN NEWSROOM with Heidi Collins.