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Taliban Releases Video of Captured U.S. Soldier; U.S. Troops on the Front Lines Destroy Drug-Making Chemicals; New Deal to Save Main Street Lender; Remembering Walter Cronkite; Struggles of the Uninsured; Tracking Obama's Promises; NASA Facing Budget Cuts and Layoff; Iranian Artist in Concert to Raise Awareness

Aired July 20, 2009 - 06:00   ET


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Thanks very much for being with us as we start a brand new week on this Monday, the 20th of July, an auspicious occasion in American history.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Sure is. It's the 40th anniversary since we landed on the moon. We're going to be talking about some of those conspiracy theories because a small minority of people believe we never really landed on the moon.

ROBERTS: You know, I fully believe it happened. I absolutely believe it happened. I mean, they left a lot of junk up there, you know. If you want to see, know that it actually happened, we have a very powerful telescope, and look for some of the junk out there.

CHETRY: All right. Well, we're going to be debunking some of the biggest myths surrounding our walk on the moon a little bit later. But meanwhile, we are following some other big stories for you this morning that we'll be breaking down for you in the next 15 minutes.

On the ground in Afghanistan, U.S. forces are trying to rescue one of their own after he turns up in a Taliban video. We're live with new details on who this private first class is, where he may be, and his family's prayers to get him home safely.

ROBERTS: A CNN exclusive this morning, we are taking you to the front lines of Afghanistan as U.S troops push into the hotbed of Taliban violence in Helmand province. See their mission as they secure villages and disrupt drug trafficking rings.

CHETRY: And with President Obama pushing Congress for health care reform and legislation and soon, a new "Washington Post"/ABC News poll is suggesting that the president's approval rating is slipping on key issues like health care. Approval of his leadership on health care now dropping below 50 percent for the first time. We're going to take a look at the president's six-month report card.

ROBERTS: And celebrating the life and legacy of the legendary CBS anchor Walter Cronkite. He passed away on Friday at the age of 92. This morning we're going to talk with Dan Rather who took over the anchor chair following Cronkite's retirement.

We begin this morning with the disturbing video of a U.S. soldier captured by the Taliban. The 28-minute long video providing the very first public glimpse of Private First Class Bowe Bergdahl since he disappeared from his base in eastern Afghanistan nearly three weeks ago.

The U.S. military is condemning it as propaganda and a violation of international law. In the video, the 23-year-old talks about his family and his fears.


PFC. BOWE ROBERT BERGDAHL, U.S. ARMY: I am scared -- scared I won't be able to go home. It is very unnerving to be a prisoner.


ROBERTS: This morning Bergdahl's friends and family are praying for his safe return. CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr is following all of the developments for us from the Pentagon. Do they have any idea where he might be, Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, if they do they are not saying. Bowe Bergdahl disappeared from his base in eastern Afghanistan back on June 30th. They have been looking for this American soldier ever since then, looking at the possibility he could be on either side of the border in Afghanistan or even Pakistan. Certainly they are not saying publicly.

But now that this private first class is a prisoner, we hear the tape, we hear him. And Private First Class Bergdahl tells us how he feels. Have a listen.


BERGDAHL: My girlfriend who is hoping to marry. I have my grandma and grandpa. I have a very, very good family that I love back home in America. And I miss them every day that I'm gone, I miss them. And I'm afraid that I might never see them again and that I'll never be able to tell them that I love them again. I'll never be able to hug them.


STARR: Throughout the 28 minutes, his captors put a number of political questions to him. He answers. He's very even toned, very measured. Certainly, however, answering these political questions about the war under duress.

His family in Idaho has asked for privacy, asked for the media not to bother them. They've issued a very short statement over the weekend saying, "We hope and pray for our son's safe return to his comrades and then to our family, and we appreciate all the support and expressions of sympathy shown to us."

That from Private First Class Bergdahl's family in Idaho. The military is keeping the family fully informed of all developments. And after three weeks, they are continuing to hunt for him -- John. ROBERTS: And certainly our thoughts and prayers are with Bowe and his family. Barbara Starr for us at the Pentagon this morning. Barbara, thanks so much.

And friends of the captured soldier's hometown are urging the U.S. military to get Bowe back. One Idaho neighbor speaking to CNN affiliate KTVB and directly to Private Bergdahl.


TIM BAKER, FAMILY FRIEND OF MISSING SOLDIER: Bowe, if you see this, know that we love you and we're praying fervently for you, and prayers are going up for you from all over the world. Stand tall and stand firm. And to all our valiant men and women in uniform, know that the American people believe in you, support you and are 100 percent behind you. And we thank God every day that you have our backs.


ROBERTS: Bergdahl's neighbors say they didn't know about his capture but the family asked them not to talk about it, fearing that any publicity might compromise his safety.

CHETRY: A U.S. fighter jet crashes in southern Afghanistan today. The crew was able to safely eject shortly after taking off from NATO's Kandahar airfield. It's the fourth wreck in three days. Officials say there is no indication insurgent activity caused that crash.

And a CNN exclusive from Afghanistan. U.S. troops pushing deeper into a Taliban stronghold. It's also a part of the country that produces more opium than anywhere else in the world. And our own Ivan Watson is on the front lines along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border where U.S. troops are going into huts. They're gathering and destroying chemicals that are used to process heroin.

And Ivan joins us live now. What can you tell us about these drug trafficking rings?

IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kiran, I'm standing in front of more than 1,500 bags of poppy seed that have been assembled by the Marines from the Second Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion. These were gathered over a series of raids over the last 48 hours up in nearby bazaar (ph) where the Taliban is believed to have controlled the area up until this Marine push into this area.

The Marine offensive into southern Helmand province, which could be described as the opium capital of the world. More than 90 percent of the world's opium and heroin comes from Afghanistan, and a lot of it comes from Helmand province. Significant portions of this province in southern Afghanistan were controlled by the Taliban.

And this is a major shift for the U.S. military, which has argued in the past that it is not into the drug interdiction business. It is focused on combating this insurgency. Kiran, last night we went out with the Marines on this raid into the bazaar (ph). Let's take a look at some of the materials we gathered during that visit.


WATSON: We're on a night operation with the U.S. Marines in southern Afghanistan in Helmand province. And right now the Marines back here are rigging these chemicals with explosives, C-4 plastic explosives. You can see them getting ready for what will be a controlled explosion in a couple of hours.

Now, the reason for this -- the reason that these C-4 plastic explosives are being placed here is because these chemicals are believed to be used to process heroin. More than 90 percent of the world's heroin comes from Afghanistan, and the bulk of that comes from this very province in southern Afghanistan which has not really been under the control of the Afghan central government in years.

Part of the reason why this operation over the course of this month is such a big deal is because the Marines have moved into areas where the Taliban have been able to operate freely, where drug cartels have been able to operate freely. In the fields around this town where we're located right now, you can see miles of poppy fields growing there where the heroin is then later produced using some of these chemicals.

In addition to this, the Marines have found chemicals used for improvised explosive devices, these deadly weapons that have helped make this the bloodiest month yet for NATO forces in Afghanistan.

In a couple of hours, we expect before the sun comes up that these shop market stalls here in this busy bazaar, normally a busy bazaar, will go up in smoke.


WATSON: Kiran, we did film that explosion two hours later. Let's take a look at that blast and the huge chemical fire that followed.


WATSON: And this is, of course, just part of this operation that's under way here. Kiran, back to you.

CHETRY: And the pictures are amazing, Ivan. It's interesting you talked about this shift. I mean, the Obama administration, it appeared believed at first that in destroying these poppies and these opium crops, it was driving some of the farmers there to actually support the insurgency. How are they going to tackle that challenge as well on top of all this?

WATSON: That is the big question here because this is an impoverished country. This region is impoverished. And most of the locals here, they rely on this opium growing industry. So how can you replace their livelihood? All of this here, this is basically the next season's harvest that's going to go up in smoke here when the Marines dropped 2,000 pound bombs off of a B1 bomber on this.

Well, we're hearing that the U.S. government, that the British government, and the United Nations, they have plans to pouring aid into this area but that is the real challenge and this war has been going on for eight years. There have been a lot of problems, promises rather, to reconstruct Afghanistan and many Afghans will say we haven't seen the results yet.

This time around they're promising to funneling aid to help rebuild this place. One of the big challenges also, Kiran, the Afghan central government hasn't had the backbone and credibility or the manpower to really follow through along with its international partners for bringing these aid programs for the impoverished people here. So we're going to have to follow this in the months to come -- Kiran.

CHETRY: Ivan Watson for us in Helmand province in Afghanistan this morning, thank you.

ROBERTS: The Apollo 11 astronauts will be at the White House later on today to mark the 40th anniversary of their historic walk on the moon. July 20th, 1969, 40 years ago today, the Eagle landed on the moon. And Neil Armstrong took mankind's first steps on the lunar surface. Astronaut Buzz Aldrin followed Armstrong out the door. He reflected on the mission last night at the National Air and Space Museum.


BUZZ ALDRIN, APOLLO 11 ASTRONAUT: We are moved by a young American president who challenged himself and all of us to think boldly and not retreat from our vision of what we could do in space. The path that John F. Kennedy inspired us to choose was not easy. In fact, it was very hard. But it served the betterment of America and ultimately the ending of the Cold War.


ROBERTS: The Apollo 11 astronauts are pushing for the next giant leap, its man mission to Mars. And later on this hour, our John Zarrella will look at the future of space flight.

And that was really one of those you always remember where you were when you heard those words, "The Eagle has landed."

CHETRY: So fascinating, this day, and there's still a lot maybe perhaps fueled by the Internet of conspiracy theorists questioning whether or not it actually happened. We're going to be talking a little bit later to a Syracuse university professor who helps debunk some of those myths.

ROBERTS: Some people just have too much time on their hands, you know. CHETRY: Well, and it's interesting that every major event, life changing event in American history there's a conspiracy theory about why it might not have happened.

All right. Well, we're going to be right back. We have much more ahead. It's 11 minutes after the hour.


CHETRY: Well, unfolding as we speak, the leading lender for Main Street who is in desperate need of help could actually get a bailout. It's not from Uncle Sam, though. CNN's Christine Romans joins us now with details on a deal to save CIT. You told us we need to know why CIT matters. They're responsible for helping some of these small businesses out.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And tens of thousands of small businesses this morning are trying to figure out just what kind of deal it will be, who will help them. Will it be the bondholders? Will they be able to salvage this company? All weekend that's what they were working for. And this is why CIT matters to so many people on Main Street.


ROMANS (voice-over): There are many storms at his store in Middleboro, Massachusetts, but he's never seen one like this.

BOB SAQUET, OWNER EGGER'S FURNITURE: I'm not about to call it quits and throw in the towel. Now we'll be around. We'll find suppliers. I just feel sorry for the manufacturers that I would lose.

ROMANS: His is one of a million small businesses that depend on the CIT group, the latest lender to face financial ruin. CIT was denied a bailout last week by the federal government because its failure wasn't deemed detrimental to the financial system as a whole.

CIT did receive $2.3 billion as part of the initial Bush administration bailout last fall. But this time, the Treasury Department issued a statement citing "a very high threshold for exceptional government assistance." Bottom line, CIT wasn't big enough to get help. The National Retail Federation says that was a mistake.

MALLORY DUNCAN, GENERAL COUNSEL, NATIONAL RETAIL FEDERATION: What we're saying is that CIT is too important to fail. It literally finances the lifeblood of the retail economy.

ROMANS: CIT specializes in a type of lending called factoring. Factoring keeps businesses afloat so they can stay operational while they wait for the money to roll in.

DUNCAN: If CIT is not there, that 80 to 90 percent up front cash that the supplier needs in order to produce more goods to sell to another retailer isn't available and consequently is likely the supplier will go out of business.

SAQUET: Maybe from the big picture CIT is too small to deal with, but from the bottom end, this is the small business that dwells.

ROMANS: Saquet says he doesn't know why the government bailed on CIT's bailout, but he fears that decision may need lights out for small businesses across the country.


ROMANS: And that's why so many are nervous this morning about just what sort of deal CIT will get and how much breathing space it will allow them. This is a company that has cash flow problems. This is a company who many of the people it's lending money to aren't able to pay their loans back. It's something we've seen again and again and the economy is tough.

We don't know the details yet, what kind of deal there is, if any right now, but we know that that deal does not involve the United States government. New phase, we're turning a new phase in those financial bailouts. This time the government stepped back and said Wall Street and free market economy, you've got to handle it on your own.

ROBERTS: What are the chances that CIT is going to be able to restructure enough loans that can at least maintain some cash flow?

ROMANS: In the very near term, that's what they're trying to do, to buy themselves some time. What the "Wall Street Journal" and the "Financial Times' are reporting is that the deal that's been worked out is a very punitive deal, 10 percent plus interest rates on those loans. That would just buy them a little bit of time to keep the cash flowing -- to keep the cash flowing from Main Street while CIT tries to figure out how to keep its own cash flowing. So this is not the end of the story, I think, John and Kiran.

ROBERTS: Christine Romans "Minding Your Business" this morning. Christine, thanks so much.

He was the "most trusted man in America." He passed away at the age of 92 on Friday. Up next, Dan Rather standing there beside Walter Cronkite in this old photograph with his reminiscences of America's anchorman. Stay with us. We'll be right back.

It's 18 minutes after the hour.


ROBERTS: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. Tributes and memories still pouring in for the legendary Walter Cronkite who, as you know, passed away Friday at the age of 92. For countless journalists, he was the ultimate role model. Dan Rather had the job of replacing Cronkite, the CBS anchor chair back in 1981. He now anchors HDNet's Dan Rather Reports," and Dan is with us this morning.

Dan, it's good to see you. Thanks for coming in.

DAN RATHER, ANCHOR, CBS EVENING NEWS, 1981-2005: Good to see you again, John. ROBERTS: You know, it's interesting that we have an auspicious occasion today, the 40th anniversary of the landing of man on the moon, July 20th, 1969. Walter Cronkite was such a huge, and not just reporter when it came to the space program, but such a huge fan of it as well.

RATHER: He was a great enthusiast in the space program. And you know, when the reports came in that Walter was not doing well two or three or four weeks ago, I said to myself, he'll make it to the anniversary of the moon landing. And he did. He did make it to the anniversary of the takeoff.

But not only with the space program but the moment that Karen Oakland (ph) wrote this, I think enough to impose it, it resonated with me, that for a so-called boomer generation of Americans, Walter Cronkite represented a timeline of their life. Civil rights movement, Kennedy assassination, Vietnam, the space program. Just in that whole period of mid 20th century America, he was the timeline.

ROBERTS: You know, for a large part of America, too, who were all born after 1981, they don't know Walter Cronkite's history. So many people are hearing this talk about America's anchorman, "the most trusted man in America," they're not quite sure what to make of it. What would you say to those people in describing Walter Cronkite?

RATHER: Well, first of all, let me pause and say that my thoughts are with the Cronkite family, his children whom I have met over the years. But beyond that and in answer to your question, he helped invent, in fact I would say more than any other person, he invented television news as we know it today.

And you're quite right people born after 1981 say, you know, who are you talking about here? Well, this was a man that brought us in, in terms of news into the television age. Television news came of age with the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963. Before that, newspapers were dominant. After that, television news became dominant. That's number one.

Number two, Walter Cronkite set the platinum standard for quality news of integrity. That the people who watched the news were people who were passionately, actively, personally involved in gathering the news. I've said it before and I think it could be said many times, Walter Cronkite was not just playing a reporter on TV, he was a reporter.

ROBERTS: Oh, right. He was sort of the consummate reporter, too.

RATHER: He was the consummate reporter. I think one reason Walter was still popular as an anchorman and he was the country's most popular anchorman for no fewer than 12 or 13 years was that he had such a passion for gathering news and presenting news. He loved it. And Walter Cronkite was a very competitive fellow.

ROBERTS: Oh, yes. David Halperin (ph) wrote last week that nobody would beat Walter Cronkite at a story. But he was also a person who believes that opinion had no place in news and we see so much of that on television these days. He also wasn't one to let his emotions show, but on a couple of very, you know, prominent occasions, I recall, in 1962 when he announced that Kennedy had died -- or 1963, sorry, he announced that Kennedy -- my father died in '62, I always get those mixed up -- he took off his glasses and he choked back emotion. You could see it there.

And then 40 years ago today when the Eagle had landed, he took off his -- you know, he rubbed his hands together, he couldn't believe it and he let out a "Wow." And it was, you know -- I mean, this was, you know, I guess natural honesty and authenticity of Walter Cronkite that if something really affected him, he'll let you know about it but it was just an honest reaction. It wasn't the calculation that we see of so many people who are on television.

RATHER: Often thought about this is that as one who succeeded Walter Cronkite, nobody could replace him the great Walter Cronkite. I succeed him but particularly on those days when I succeeded him as anchorman of CBS "Evening News" I thought a lot about the key to Walter's connection with the audience. And you use the word "authenticity," he was authentic. There was no pretense about Walter Cronkite.

As far as news is concerned, you know, straight up, no change here. He didn't like gadgets and gimmicks. I know for election night coverage, as the years went by, they always have some new gadget or gimmick. Walter had very little patience with that. It was the authenticity of the man, and what you saw on television was what you got and you knew it.

Now about opinion, he felt very strongly that as anchor he shouldn't be giving his opinion. Other people could give analysis and commentary, but his role was to be the straight reporter, to be an honest broker of information.

At the time he broke that, which was one of the highlights of his career...

ROBERTS: Vietnam.

RATHER: ... or the highlight was about Vietnam. And when he went to the Tet Offensive, walked the ground himself, made an assessment. As he has written in his very book called "A Reporter's Life" that he decided in there that he had to speak up. And he did, and it made a difference.

ROBERTS: Do you think that that was a turning point in the war? Walter called that in his book his proudest moment.

RATHER: I think it was his proudest moment. And let's face it, Walter Cronkite had a lot of moments about we should be proud. How he handled the Kennedy assassination, how he handled the moon landing.

I wouldn't say it was the turning point, but it was a very important turning point. And I wouldn't argue with anybody who said from a historical perspective it was the turning point. Because after that, it was pretty clear things had to change in terms of American policy in Vietnam. It took a while but change they did.

ROBERTS: He stepped down in 1981. At that time, CBS had a mandatory retirement policy. When you hit the age of 65, you had to retire. You worked on the "Evening News" until you were 73.

Peter Jennings was 67 when he died. Charlie Gibson is 66 and still going strong. Morley Safer, 77, Mike Wallace worked full time at "60 Minutes" until the age of 88.

You know, I guess in his later years, Walter Cronkite sort of regretted that he left at the age of 65. Was he pushed out too soon by the system?

RATHER: Well, first of all, and I know there's a lot of misunderstanding about this. He wasn't pushed out at the time. I know this because I talked to him about it and told him straightforwardly, if you don't want to go, if you're not ready to go, he interrupted me in mid sentence, the second sentence and said, Dan, you don't understand. I can't wait to get out of here. And the reason, as his longtime aide (INAUDIBLE) said, he wanted to go out as a champ. He wanted to go out on top. And who can blame him for wanting to do that?

And he chose the time. He didn't have to go at that time, and he knew it, but he wanted to get out. And what happened is, once he got out, he said he wanted to sail and spend his own time.

But after a few months, I do think that he regretted it, that he felt that he had left too soon, which I think is fairly normal for a lot of people who leave particularly high-profile jobs. But no doubt that he wanted to go out at that time. He felt it was the right time.

The game was changing. Television news game was changing. CNN had started up. ABC News, which had not been a competitor worthy of the name, was beginning to gain ground under the late, great Roone Arledge (ph).

The cosmos of television news was changing. Walter knew it. He knew it was going to be a much fiercer, much more difficult, competitive environment, and he wanted to go on top. People tend to forget Walter Cronkite as anchor didn't start on top. It took him a better part...

ROBERTS: Huntley-Brinkley were on top.

RATHER: ... seven years to get on top, and he knew what it had taken to get there. And once becoming, if you will, the heavyweight champ of the rightfully legendary Walter Cronkite, an iconic figure, he wanted to go out on top, and he deserved to do so.

ROBERTS: We'll all remember what he meant to America.

Dan, it's great to see you. Thanks for dropping by.

RATHER: Great seeing you, John. It's good to see you, John.

ROBERTS: Thank you so much.

Twenty-eight and a half minutes now after the hour.


ROBERTS: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. It's 31 minutes after the hour.

And checking our top stories now. The U.S. military says a Taliban video showing a captured American soldier is pure propaganda and in violation of international law. On the tape, 23-year-old Private Bowe Bergdahl from Idaho says he is scared that he will not be able to go home. Bergdahl's family and friends say they are praying for his safe release.

CHETRY: South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford is again apologizing for an extramarital affair with his Argentine "soul mate" and asking people in his state to forgive him. Sanford wrote an op-ed in "The State" newspaper saying that God will change him so that he can emerge from the scandal more humble and a more effective leader. Sanford has said that he would work to repair his relationship with his wife and the mother of their four sons.

ROBERTS: And the Pulitzer Prize-winning author Frank McCourt has died. He was 78 years old. McCourt had been gravely ill with meningitis and was also being treated for skin cancer. McCourt was most famous for his memoir "Angela's Ashes," recounting his childhood living in poverty in Ireland. The book was his first and turned him into a literary celebrity. Before that, McCourt spent nearly three decades as a high school English teacher in New York City.

CHETRY: Well, President Obama is pushing health care reform again today. He'll be speaking at the Children's National Medical Center this afternoon. And the president has been waging an all-out campaign to gain support to help the 46 million Americans with no health care.

CNN's Jim Acosta is live in Knoxville, Tennessee, where you had a chance to see firsthand the struggles that people who have no health care are facing.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Kiran. You may be wondering with this health debate that's going on how the uninsured go about getting treatment. Well, in many cases, they rely on charities like the one based right here in Knoxville called Remote Area Medical. They have been caring for the uninsured for decades.


ACOSTA (voice-over): It started before sunrise. People in wheelchairs and holding babies waiting in line for their number to be called.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So who's got number one?


ACOSTA: And with that the doors were open.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 141, where are you at?

ACOSTA: Within minutes, the charity organization Remote Area Medical transformed this high school in Tennessee into what looked like a hospital for the uninsured.

STAN BROCK, FOUNDER, REMOTE AREA MEDICAL: We have had to cut back on our operations in places like Haiti and Guatemala and India because of the tremendous demand here in the United States.

We're getting into the nitty-gritty here.

ACOSTA: The group's founder, Stan Brock, took us on a tour of his operation that provides medical, dental and even eye care at no cost.

BROCK: And all of these people that you're seeing here, and all of our support staff, they are all doing it for free.

ACOSTA: The licensed doctors, dentists and nurses fly in from across the country on their own dime. Some patients can barely make it through the front door.

KEN SMITH, REMOTE AREA MEDICAL PATIENT: The way my blood pressure was so high, I might have had a stroke, and you know...

ACOSTA (on camera): If these folks weren't here?


ACOSTA (voice-over): Need your teeth pulled? No problem. Need glasses? Stan's got them.

ACOSTA (on camera): And this is all free?

BROCK: Absolutely free.

ACOSTA (voice-over): But Brock says it's Washington that could use the glasses.

ACOSTA (on camera): Would you like to see the president? Would you like to see members of Congress come to one of your events and see these folks firsthand?

BROCK: Oh, well, I think that would be a marvelous idea. Nothing would please me more than for us to be put out of business here in the United States so that we can concentrate on these places where the need is so, so desperate.

ACOSTA (voice-over): One thing Brock and his volunteers can't stand, turning people away. KRISTIN ROBERTS, VOLUNTEER: Seeing the lines here, seeing the need for services in so many ways is very clear evidence that we need health care reform in this country.

ACOSTA: As the sun was setting, Remote Area Medical had treated nearly 500 patients. And there were cars lining up for the next day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much.



ACOSTA: Now, as for how they pay for all these services and equipment, it's all through donations. And later this summer, Remote Area Medical will be holding more events in southwestern Virginia, on an Indian reservation in Utah and even in Los Angeles, all while this health care debate is raging in Washington. And until Washington fixes American's health care system, Kiran, Stan Brock says he will be in business.

CHETRY: It is amazing how many people line up and how many people they're able to treat like that. Jim Acosta for us this morning in Knoxville, thanks.

Also, we want to hear what you think about this story and also what about some solutions out there. Should the government add more taxes to families making more than $250,000 to help pay for health care reform. Send us thoughts by going to our blog,

Right now, it's 36 minutes past the hour.


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

And a quick check of the "AM Rundown" now and the stories that will be coming your way in the next few minutes.

Forty years after the moon landing, there are just seven NASA launches left. So, what will become of the agency now facing budget cuts and layoffs?

Iranian dissent on display, but this time in America. We take you to a concert where they are trying to raise awareness of the reform movement there.

And a U.S. soldier, who vanished in Afghanistan last month, appears in a Taliban video. We are live at the Pentagon with the next step for the U.S military - Kiran.

CHETRY: Well, an important milestone in President's Obama's tenure. Today marks six months since he took office. The president still enjoying widespread public support. But on key issues like health care, a new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows that his support is slipping, dropping below 50 percent for the first time. Our next guest has been keeping track of the president's campaign promises. Bill Adair is the founder and editor of Pulitzer Prize- winning Bill joins us from Washington with his six- month report card.

Good to see you this morning, Bill.


CHETRY: So, what do you make of the new polling? Is it hard high to keep high approval ratings on controversial and costly initiatives like what we're talking about, with health care and the stimulus plan?

ADAIR: Well, absolutely. And I think what we see is early on in his presidency, President Obama was able to accomplish a lot of things early. He got done a lot of things through the economic stimulus. He did -- he kept a lot of promises through just simple presidential power.

But now comes the hard part, and I think that's what you're seeing in the poll.

CHETRY: And let's talk about some of those promises on health care, because you guys have been tracking them at PolitiFact. One of candidate Obama's pledges would require large employers to contribute to a national health plan. And there you see one of the promises that he made on the trail.

Now, you moved this from "No Action Taken" to the "In the Works." And he's getting a little bit of push-back on this. Well, he wants health care legislation passed before the August recess in Congress.

CHETRY: So, how far along is he on this?

ADAIR: Well, it's definitely earning an "In the Works" on our Obamameter, which rates the president's promises.

But, as you mentioned, there is a lot of push-back. And it's interesting to watch because it's not just coming from Republicans. There are a lot of Democrats who are pretty wary about this. And now we have the governors yesterday saying they're concerned about the Medicaid cost that might come down the road.

So the promises on health care are going to be -- are going to be tough to keep. But there were 10 that we moved to "In the Works" last week.

But it's going to be an interesting two weeks to see what happens.

CHETRY: And, you know, for a lot of people sitting at home saying what we've needed for decades, you know, some sort of changes to health care, we see this coming down the road, why does it have to happen by August? Politically, why is that so crucial? ADAIR: Well, momentum is everything in a lot of things -- in baseball and in politics. And I think that the president very much wants to get the momentum going and force Congress to do things before the recess. Legislative bodies really tend to do a lot in the waning hours of a session. And so I think the White House is afraid if they don't get it done before the August recess, they'll lose that momentum.

CHETRY: All right. So, we're at the six-month mark, and you guys have kept his tally, as we've said, of some the campaign promises.

So, let's take a look right now because we put a -- we put it on the screen tracking them. Thirty-two promises kept, a compromise made on 10 of them, seven promises broken, 12 stalled, 78 in the works, and, of course, you know, not to be too rough on him, we're only six months into this, but 376 promises where there has been no action.

What are lies ahead for his key priorities? We know he has a long to-do list.

ADAIR: Well, what he's got to do is build some coalitions. He's got to continue to make deals like he has with hospitals and the pharmaceutical manufacturers and try to get some of these promises kept.

A lot of those 32 promises kept were included in the stimulus. And that enabled him to get a lot done, a lot more I think than people realize.

But what's grown on our Obameter, as you showed there on those numbers, are the numbers that are stalled. Some of the promises that he made, they were important to key constituent groups like repealing the "don't ask don't tell" policy on gays in the military.

CHETRY: Right.

ADAIR: We've got that rated "Stalled."

So, he's got to prioritize and I think he's got to form coalitions.

CHETRY: Well, we have one Truth-O-Meter we should get to before we say goodbye to you. And this is where we run some of the statements that are made in Washington through your Truth-O-Meter to see how they add up.

And we have Republican senators who've been highly critical, as you know, of this economic stimulus package out there. And some of them are arguing that the Obama administration is actually using stimulus money almost to launch a PR campaign to support the stimulus.

One of them was Republican Senator Robert Bennett of Utah who said, "The administration is wasting millions of taxpayer dollars on a PR campaign."

So, what's the verdict on that claim?

ADAIR: Well, we didn't rate the wasting part, but we were wondering if he's correct that they're spending millions of dollars on signs. We gave that a "Half True" on our Truth-O-Meter.

And the truth is kind of somewhere in the middle there in that the administration is encouraging states to put up signs for a highway project that's funded by the stimulus, not requiring it. And the math, we're not quite sure if it will add up to millions as Senator Bennett suggests, because it's up to the states.

So, that one gets a "Half True" on our Truth-O-Meter.

CHETRY: All right. Bill Adair, editor of, always great to talk to you. Thanks for joining us this Monday.

ADAIR: Good morning. Thanks.

CHETRY: And for the full political scorecard, by the way, and all the topics that we've discussed with Bill Adair, you can head right to our blog at and check it out with more details for yourself.

Be right back. It's 44 minutes past the hour.


ROBERTS: Forty-six and a half minutes after the hour. Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning.

We'll be running down all the conspiracy theories about whether or not it actually happened a little bit later on this morning.

But 40 years ago today, people from around the world sat in front of their televisions glued to the grainy black and white images of Neil Armstrong becoming the first person to walk on the moon. But after that one small step for a man, there are now questions about the next giant leap for NASA, which is facing budget cuts and layoffs.

Here's CNN's John Zarrella with that.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three, two, one. Booster ignition and liftoff of Endeavor.

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): And now there are seven, the number of space shuttle flights left.

Nearly 30 years of flying astronauts in a reusable space plane, soon just a chapter in history books.

DAVID LECKRONE, HUBBLE SPACE TELESCOPE SCIENTIST: And it just makes me want to cry to think that this is the end of it.

ZARRELLA: When the last shuttle flies in September 2010, it leaves a gaping hole behind.

Because of NASA budget cuts, the next generation vehicle, the Ares rocket and Orion capsule, key components of the Constellation program, won't be ready to fly astronauts until 2015. Until then, NASA has to carpool with the Russians to get to space.

Thousands of shuttle workers not needed for the new vehicle will lose their jobs. Workers who are needed may not be around if more budget cuts spur the delay of the next generation of spacecraft.

And further delays are possible. An Obama administration ordered blue ribbon panel is reviewing NASA's direction after shuttle ends, i.e., the Constellation program, which Leckrone says is fuzzy on direction.

LECKRONE: And I just don't see that if that organization, within NASA, this producing Constellation, doesn't begin talking to their customer, potential customer base, they're doing to end up with something that no one is interested in using.

ZARRELLA: Precourt says Constellation is clearly visionary.

CHARLIE PRECOURT, ATK LAUNCH SYSTEMS: It behooves us to build an architecture that can serve a multitude of missions for those next 50- plus years. And that's where this was first envisioned was to think about space station, lunar asteroids, beyond maybe to Mars.

ZARRELLA: Built as less expensive than shuttles, safer for astronauts, the Constellation program is supposed to be everything shuttle is not.

(on camera): Funny how perceptions change. For decades, the shuttle program was maligned as too costly, too complicated a vehicle, too risky, too unreliable.

Now what do you hear? Too bad it's over.

John Zarrella, CNN, at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.


ROBERTS: And 40 years after the moon landing, conspiracy theories still spark public imagination.

So, coming up, we're going to Robert Thompson. He's a professor of television and popular culture at Syracuse University and see if we can finally put some of these theories to rest -- theories like why is the flag waving when there is no wind on the moon? And why are there no stars in the sky? That's coming your way at 7:30 Eastern.

Right now, it's coming up on 10 minutes to the top of the hour.


CHETRY: Some dramatic clouds this morning in Kansas City, where right now it is 56 degrees. Going up to a high of 85, where it's supposed to be sunny. What our Reynolds Wolf tells us that we could also be looking at some severe weather for Kansas City, Missouri.

Hey, Reynolds.


CHETRY: Yes. You said that we've had unseasonably cool weather. So I was just very thankful for that, since this was the week that my air conditioner broke.

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes. You know, timing is everything. Now we'd say timing was awfully good for you. No question.

CHETRY: You know, you want to have AC in July usually, right.

WOLF: Usually, yes.

CHETRY: All right. Reynolds Wolf for us. Thanks.

ROBERTS: Video released over the weekend of Bowe Bergdahl. He was the soldier who was captured in northeastern Afghanistan.

Our Barbara Starr live at the Pentagon this morning with the desperate search to try to find Bergdahl.

Stay with us.

It's now six minutes to the top of the hour.


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

Dramatic new video of a major protest coming in to CNN from inside Iran this morning. You're looking at amateur video of a huge rally of university students on the streets in the historic city of Shiras. This demonstration follows a call from a former President Rafsanjani to release people arrested in last month's uprising. They made that call on Friday prayers just before the weekend.

And while the Iranian government clamps down try to silence the opposition there, it cannot quiet the voices coming from beyond its borders. What happened in New York City last night may in fact be proof of that.

And our Reza Sayah was there, and he is here this morning to tell us all about it.

Good morning.


You know, every since the 1979 revolution in Iran, there's been a very large Iranian diaspora. These are Iranians who left the country because they didn't like the social freedom there, they wanted more political freedom. And many of them over the past month, they have been looking at the protest, the crackdown by the government, they have been yearning to go back.

For a group of musicians in New York, that has not been possible, so they have decided to get a little creative.


SAYAH: In a lounge in Manhattan's Lower East Side, a group of young musicians take another step toward stardom, but their thoughts are half a world away, they say, in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

JOHNNY B, LEAD SINGER, ELECTRIC BLACK: Since the event started unfolding in Iran, it's all that I've been consumed with. I haven't really been thinking about anything else.

SAYAH: Johnny B doesn't fit the common stereotypes, but he's Iranian. For the past month, the lead singer of Electric Black has seen the Iranian government's brutal crackdown on mostly peaceful protesters.

JOHNNY B.: It's heartbreaking.

SAYAH: Raam says he's heartbroken, too.

RAAM, LEAD SINGER, HYPERNOVA: I wish I was back there on the streets right now, you know, with my brothers and sisters.

SAYAH: Three years ago, the lead singer for Hypernova was in Iran, but rock and roll is considered un-Islamic. Played in public and you can spend the night in jail. Today it's Iranian protesters landing in jail.

RAAM: These kids are out there in the streets. They are risking their lives on the name of freedom and justice. And we over here on this side of the pond, we feel very powerless.

SAYAH: Then came the idea to simply raise awareness. So musicians Hypernova, Electric Black and the Eskanderian, Esfand and filmmaker Nari Manhamid created Freedom Glory Project.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to dedicate this song to all the people, the brave ones who stood up (INAUDIBLE).

SAYAH: Just days after the disputed vote in Iran, the group wrote and dedicated a song to Iran's opposition movement. It started playing sold out shows in New York.

(on camera): Some say a concert in the lover east side of Manhattan can have little impact on a opposition movement half a world away that's facing fierce government crackdown, but don't tell these guys that they can't make a difference.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a part of us that wants to stand up and let our voices be heard.

(END VIDEOTAPE) SAYAH: Freedom Glory Project rocking in the Lower East Side of Manhattan on Sunday night. You know what's remarkable, it's not just Iranian artists who want to help, it's American artists, including folk singer Joan Baez, singing a version of "We Shall Overcome." Even John Bon Jovi did a version of "Lean on Me" in Farsi. Farsi a bit rusty, but...


ROBERTS: He did a good job.

CHETRY: Pretty amazing to hear him do that.

Now, a lot of people are saying how much of an impact does it make inside Iran for these types of protests, these types of events to take place outside of Iran.

SAYAH: Iranians are very Internet savvy. They don't have all the television stations, but they monitor the Internet. They see these people, word gets out. And any type of event like this inspires them. So they are watching. And that's going to energizes the movement over there.

ROBERTS: All right. Reza Sayah, it's good to see you this morning. Thanks for dropping by. Appreciate it.

SAYAH: Good to be here.

You're welcome.