Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

Jackson Fans Retrieve Tickets; Hearing Scheduled on Jackson's Estate; Honduran Protests Turn Deadly; Russian, U.S. Presidents Meet; Measles Cases Increase; Where Does Sarah Palin Go from Here?; General Motors Sells Assets; 140 Dead in China Protests

Aired July 06, 2009 - 10:00   ET


HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Saying goodbye to the King of Pop. Millions of people want to be at the Staples Center tomorrow, but only 8,750 fans will get tickets today to attend Michael Jackson's memorial service. Meanwhile, Michael's mother, Katherine Jackson, is scheduled to court today regarding Michael's estate. CNN's Kara Finnstrom is live in Los Angeles for us this morning.

So Kara, let's begin with how the ticket process works, and then we'll talk about his mother.

KARA FINNSTROM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: OK. A lot of developments out here. You know, Heidi, I mean, the number of people that are expected to watch this, it's just massive, unprecedented. Many analysts now saying hundreds of millions of people expected on TV and on-line to watch the service.

In person, as you mentioned, just under 9,000 people, the lucky ones that actually have these tickets. And here's what they got to have to do today. They were notified via e-mail, given a secret passcode. And what they will have to do is go to Dodgers Stadium. They'll turn that pass code and exchange for two tickets and also two wristbands. One of those wristbands will be slapped on their wrists right away. That is to try to assure that none of these tickets are resold as much as they can do that.

And we're told that folks who show up to the memorial service tomorrow morning, if those wristbands are damaged or taped in any way, they will not be let in. Heidi, the only people let in are folks with the tickets and then also those with media credentials. Everyone else being asked to stay away. We're told the whole area around Staples Center will be cordoned off. Police really not wanting to see crowds on the sidewalks

COLLINS: All right. And about this hearing now, today, what are we expecting? Are they making any decisions regarding Michael Jackson's estate?

FINNSTROM: Well, here's what we know. It's going to take place less than two hours from now. Lawyers for the executors of the will as well as lawyers from the Jackson family will show up. The purpose of this hearing is to decide whether the executors of the will shall take their power now and start executing, you know, start doing what they do as executors of the will. This will be the Jackson family's first opportunity to try and fight that or to try and postpone that if they want to do that for any reason.

COLLINS: All right. Kara Finnstrom following all of the angles for the Michael Jackson story for us. Sure do appreciate it. Kara, thank you.

And next week Michael Jackson's ex-wife, Debbie Rowe, is due in court for a custody hearing concerning her two children with him. Rowe confronted photographers who swarmed her while she was walking out a restaurant in (INAUDIBLE), California yesterday.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Debbie, are you ready to fight for your kids, Debbie? Are you ready to fight for your children?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nobody touched you.

ROWE: You just did. Don't.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you ready to fight for your children?

ROWE: Are you ready to get your butt kicked? Don't (EXPLETIVE DELETED) touch me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Debbie, are willing to take a (INAUDIBLE) settlement for the kids?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How important are the kids to you, Debbie?


COLLINS: Lawyers for Rowe says she has not reached a final decision on whether she will seek custody of Jackson's two oldest children. Jackson's will named his mother, Katherine, as the guardian of all three children. Tomorrow, you can join us for around-the-clock coverage for the memorial celebrating the life of the worldwide pop icon as family, friends and fans say goodbye. "Michael Jackson, the Memorial," CNN, all day, Tuesday, beginning on AMERICAN MORNING at 6:00 a.m..

Turning to the latest now on the disputed presidential election in Iran. A reformist Web site says a member of opposition candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi's campaign office in the city of Mashad has died of torture during detention. CNN is unable to confirm or deny that report. Also today, the British government reports one of its embassy staffers in Tehran has been freed now from jail. That leaves one other staffer still behind bars. The top Iranian cleric said Friday he could be tried for inciting post-election unrest. But other leading clerics came out over the weekend against the results of the disputed presidential election. So we'll stay on top of that developing story for you as well.

Now, for the latest from Honduras, where a plane carrying the deposed president was refused permission to land. The plane landed in El Salvador instead. Well, back at the Honduras Airport, violence broke out. CNN's Karl Penhaul was there.


KARL PENHAUL, CNN VIDEO CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Gunshots ring out. Honduran soldiers fire at supporters of ousted leftist President Manuel Zelaya try to bust the airport perimeter. Protestors launch rocks and the military responds with bullets and tear gas. It's unclear if they are firing into the air or directly at civilians. A dying man is carried through the crowd.

Video clearly shows him bleeding from a head wound. The Red Cross confirms an initial death toll.

HUGO ORELLANA, HONDURAN RED CROSS OFFICIAL (through translator): We have one person dead, a man in his 20s, from a gunshot in the head. And eight people wounded.

PENHAUL: He says. Amid the violent clashes, protestors report more may have died. This man soak soaked in blood says a child died in his arms.

JUAN ANGEL ATUNEZ, PROTESTER (through translator): I ran over beside the boy to try and help him because I didn't want him to die but he died.

PENHAUL: He tells me. Word comes that Mr. Zelaya's arrival was imminent. He was sent into exile after a military coup a week ago and is trying to reclaim his presidency.

(on camera): We just had word that Mr. Zelaya's plane is already in the air and now dozens of soldiers are heading towards the airstrip to try and prevent the plane from landing or arrest him if it does.

(voice-over): A wide executive jet carrying Mr. Zelaya buzzes the airport. The runway is heavily guarded. A military fighter plan scrambled to force Mr. Zelaya's jet out of the air space. Thousands of Zelaya's working class supporters turned out Sunday vowing to risk their own lives to protect their president.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'll fight. Ready to die.

PENHAUL: The interim government put in place by the military coup threatened to arrest Zelaya and put him on trial for corruption and treason. Riot police attempted to block the highway to the airport but later backed off.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): They're Hondurans like us, we don't want to fight our own people, he says. There's no way on to the runway for Zelaya's supporters, the airport is closed off. Zelaya headed off to neighboring El Salvador.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We're calling on the people of Honduras to stage a peaceful insurrection. We will not give up. We want Manuel Zelaya back.

PENHAUL: He says. The struggle to restore Zelaya to power seems far from over. The revolt against the coup has now turned bloody. Karl Penhaul, Tegucigalpa, Honduras.


COLLINS: Deposed President Jose Manuel Zelaya is expected to hold talks with officials from the Organization of American States in Washington today. The OAS is made up of the nations of the western hemisphere. The group's goal is to strengthen cooperation on democratic values, defend common interests, and debate major issues for the region and the world. There are 35 member states but 34 of them are active. Cuba was suspended back in 1962.

Turning to another major story we are following this hour, the first U.S.-Russian summit in seven years. The first family arriving in Moscow just a few hours ago. President Obama taking part in a wreath laying after landing. Now holding talks with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

Our White House correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux, covering the president's visit. Joining us now live from Moscow. So Suzanne, what can we expect to hear from the two leaders today at this press conference, coming up, oh, we think in about 20, 25 minutes or so?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: In about 20 minutes or so, Heidi, we expect both of them to obviously emphasize the positive here. We talked about trying to press that reset button and we heard from both leaders this morning and Medvedev saying that the weather may be chilly but it's warm inside. That he is really trying to warm things out between these two leaders.

First thing that we expect is that they are going to make an announcement, talking about both sides reducing their nuclear arsenals. It is just a first step, a first step in replacing a nuclear arms treaty that will expire in December. So that is one of the things that they are going to talk about and unveil some details.

The second thing is, this agreement that now allows the United States to use Russian air space to help supply the U.S. military mission in Afghanistan. That is also significant. So these two things will be laying out the details. And they'll also be talking about some of the challenges as well. This is clearly a relationship that is evolving, it is changing, but it is the first real U.S.- Russian summit in seven years, Heidi.

COLLINS: Yes, that is very interesting given the history with Russia and Afghanistan. Certainly. Talk to us a little bit more, if you can, Suzanne, about the relationship between President Barack Obama and Medvedev. It's got to be a relatively new relationship, yes?

MALVEAUX: Sure. And it was interesting to see when they first got together. This is their second meeting. We have fresh pictures from this morning. When they first got together; however, the NATO summit, it was very warm. You saw them patting each other on the back. They were mugging for the cameras when they had a big group photo. So, it was the kind of thing we have not seen before when you looked at President Bush and say, Vladimir Putin. It seems like it's a very warm relationship. They're trying to get to know one another but all eyes are going to be tomorrow, as well, Heidi. That is when President Obama is going to have his first face-to-face with the Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Their relationship a bit chillier. We'll, see how that goes. Because obviously Putin has a lot of sway in Russia as well.

COLLINS: You bet. The dynamics is going to be very, very interesting, indeed. Suzanne Malveaux for us this morning, live from Moscow. Thank you, Suzanne. And we are going to be hearing from President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev at a joint news conference from the Kremlin. It's expected to begin at the bottom of the hour. We, of course, will bring it to you live when it happens.

President Obama's week long trip takes him from Russia to Italy, on Wednesday, for the annual G-8 summit. And from there he will travel to Ghana for his first visit to a sub-Saharan nation on the African continent.

A big move in the business world. A bankruptcy judge has approved the sales of General Motors' assets to a new GM. The judge saying essentially he had no choice otherwise the company would face liquidation. Here's what it means. Taxpayers will have a 60 percent stake in the new company. Four benchmark brands that's Chevy, Cadillac, Buick and GMC will remain. The others ultimately sold off. And future retirees will have lower benefits now than current retirees.

A small town in South Carolina living in fear as police look for a serial killer.

Also ahead severe weather on the way in parts of the south. Our Rob Marciano is standing by in the severe weather center with details. Hey, Rob.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Hi, Heidi. Thunderstorms already rumbling across much of the south, some of which will contain some heavy rain. And again, we got our second tropical storm in the Pacific this season. That's all coming up in just a few minutes. We'll see you soon.


ANNOUNCER: Live in the CNN NEWSROOM, Heidi Collins.

COLLINS: In South Carolina, investigators stepping up their efforts now to find a serial killer after five people are dead in just over a week. It's happening in Gaffney, which is 50 miles southwest of Charlotte, North Carolina. Take a look at the sketch of the man that deputies are looking for. Now, they say it's their best guest at the killer's appearance based on witness reports. Police say they have evidence linking all five killings to each other. Meanwhile, funeral services were held yesterday for a 50-year-old Gena Linder Parker and her mother, 83-year-old Hazel Linder. Hundreds of people turned out to remember them both.


ANN MCCLOPPOLIS, GENA PARKER'S FRIEND: She's a sunshine. I mean she lit up a room. At football games, she always would ring the cow bell all the time. She's the greatest supporter. She loved her family.


COLLINS: About 100 investigators are working on the case. Deputies are urging residents to be vigilant.

It was a homicide. That's the official word now from investigators on the death of former NFL star Steve McNair. Nashville Police found McNair dead on Saturday next to the body of this woman, Sahel Kazemi. Police believe that the two were dating even though McNair is married. McNair was shot multiple times and Kazemi was shot once and the gun was found under her body. So far, police have not made a ruling on her death. McNair's family is understandably in disbelief.


FRED MCNAIR, STEVE MCNAIR'S BROTHER: It's very disturbing that a person of Steve's caliber to be just killed like that, and I mean, it's just bad. I can't really believe that it happened like that, without him putting up a fight or something like that. It's just hard to believe.


COLLINS: McNair played 13 seasons in the NFL, many of them in Nashville.

A mayhem at a party in Miami. Police say as many as three gunmen stormed and opened fire hitting 12 people. Three of the wounded were rushed to the hospital and they are now in critical condition. Another person who tried to escape the gunfire was hit by a car. Police have not made any arrests and are looking into possible motives.

Quickly, I want to take you back to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. We've been watching this meatpacking fire. These pictures, now on tape, we understand, it is still raging pretty well there. You're just looking at a live shot a moment ago. Lots and lots of black smoke. About 100 firefighters are out there fighting this thing. Again, some meatpacking plant. People have been evacuated in the area and the mayor has put out an evacuation order. Lots of roads are closed around there. So, we are continuing to follow that because we do keep getting pictures into the NEWSROOM in Milwaukee, Wisconsin there.

Rob Marciano joining us now from the severe weather center. Because let's see, what do we have, storms in the south and heat continues to rise...


COLLINS: ... and then we're coming down from a great fourth of July weekend.

MARCIANO: And it was pretty decent, I think. I think most people in the U.S., lower 48 at least, enjoyed a pretty nice holiday weekend.


MARCIANO: There was a handful of folks that got rained out but (INAUDIBLE). Happy birthday, America. Good morning, you know, life isn't fair but that's the way it goes. What's fair so far is that we haven't had a hurricane or tropical storm in the Atlantic basin so far this year. But the Pacific has had two. This is the second one. This tropical storm, Blanca, winds at 40 miles an hour, winds, moving to the west northwest about nine miles an hour. It's about 420 miles or so from the southern tip of the Baja, California and the forecasts is to continue its west northwesterly moving. That will be away from any landfall and will be weakening.

So, not a big deal there. And the low that's been giving the folks in the Northeast really a cool and wet end of June or all in June, for that matter, is now a little drier. It's letting a little bit more sunshine in. But it's still not much of humidity and heat. So, a pretty (INAUDIBLE) and a couple of showers across the extreme northeast. But that is about it.

This is the area across the south, in the Gulf coast, south of Dallas, just north of New Orleans getting towards Apalachicola. That's going to be the focal point of these showers and thunderstorms today. It's a front that's kind of been far enough south to give most of these folks some pleasant weather for a couple of days but now it's kind of moved a little bit farther to the north. This is pretty much where it should be this time of year. Maybe a little farther to the north even as we get towards the end and middle part of July.

So, temperatures today will be on the toasty side in, say, Phoenix and Vegas. But other than that, we're not too bad, 85 Atlanta, 82 degrees New York. That's pretty good. Eighty-seven degrees expected in Denver. Speaking of - look at that. Talk about cobalt blue skies (INAUDIBLE)...

COLLINS: Wow, that's got to be Denver.

MARCIANO: It is Denver, at times today will get up into the upper 80s. But tomorrow and the next day could very be in the upper 90s. So we'll get toasty in the Mile High City, for sure.

COLLINS: All right. Hey, what's on your collar? Makeup?

MARCIANO: Where? Which collar? A smooch.

COLLINS: Yes, a little bit. I'm just playing with you. All right, Rob.

MARCIANO: See you later.

COLLINS: We'll check back later.


COLLINS: Thank you.


COLLINS: It was a big party even by New Orleans' standards. But this year's Essence Festival was about more than just great music. Wal-Mart had a booth there, asking concertgoers to buy furniture for Hurricane Katrina victims. In all, $30,000 worth of furniture is being donated to families still rebuilding. This year's festival featured acts like Beyonce, John Legend, Lionel Ritchie. This year marked 15 years for "Essence's" yearly celebration.

Protecting your child from the measles. A recent spike in cases has health officials concerned but some parents are more concerned about possible side effects from vaccines.


COLLINS: One billion dollars, that's how much the U.N. secretary-general, Ban Ki Moon, says it will cost the world to fight the swine flu pandemic. He says the money is needed to make sure the poorest countries get vaccine supplies if the H1N1 virus continues to spread. The World Health Organization says 429 people died of swine flu and more than 94,000 have now been infected.

For your "Daily Dose," this morning, a new reminder about the importance of vaccinations. New York City health officials are reporting and increase in measles cases in Brooklyn in the past couple of months.

Senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is joining us now with more details on this. Good morning to you, Elizabeth.


COLLINS: What have they found?

COHEN: What they found is that more and more kids over they years are getting measles because fewer and fewer people are vaccinating.


COHEN: Now, exactly, now a lot of people think of measles just as sort of a nuisance. Measles is a lot more than a nuisance. Kids actually can die from measles and that's why New York state officials are putting out the alert to doctors in the area. They say that there have been 11 cases recently all just in Brooklyn. These are kids ranging in ages from eight months to four years and also to adults.

Now, as I said, the number of measles cases have been rising over the years. Let's take a look at what happened. In 2000, for example, there were very few cases of measles, if any. 2004, 37 cases. 2005, 66 cases. 2008, 140 cases. 2009, 25 cases so far. So hopefully they'll break the trend there but you can see that there have been more and more cases and, again, it is thought that it's because people are not vaccinating, even though study after study has shown that the measles vaccine does not cause autism.

COLLINS: OK. I have so many questions for you. Do we have numbers - I would be curious to know if there are numbers provided as well on people who have not gotten the vaccine so that we know that the number of vaccinations has also gone down and then the number of occurrences in getting measles has gone up.

COHEN: Right. That's true and there are numbers showing that the number of vaccinations has gone down. And in fact, when you look at the 11 cases in Brooklyn, none of those people had been vaccinated. Now, some of them were too young to be vaccinated but most of them could have gotten the vaccine and didn't.

COLLINS: All right. Well, I mean, when you talk about vaccinations and one of the reasons why you do it is because of the idea of public health concerns. So that not everybody gets sick. So it's not just your child. I mean, you need to watch out for the other kids, too.

COHEN: This is really one of the few things that you do for other people, not just for yourself.


COHEN: And with measles, it's particularly pressing. And here is why. Babies cannot get the measles vaccine. It just won't work on them. So, a kid from birth until their first birthday - they're completely vulnerable to measles. So, you got a three-year-old walking around that hasn't been vaccinated, they could get that little baby sick. So if you don't vaccinate your kid, not only are you taking a risk for your own child, which some would say, but should be allowed to do with your kid. You're putting other children at risk. And I think that's an important thing to remember.

COLLINS: Yes, very important. Do you want to talk briefing about when should you be getting vaccinated.

COHEN: Let's get the schedule for vaccination. As we talked about one year, So, the first time your supposed to get your child vaccinated is at 12 to 15 months of age. The second dose, by age 6. Now, what they are seeing more and more is that the people are, a, not getting it, and b, delaying it. And if you delay it, if you decide to wait until 18 months or two years for that first dose, you're making your kid more vulnerable during that period of time.

COLLINS: Yes, and just to wrap this thing up, the concern for some people is the possibility of autism, which, once again... COHEN: Studies have shown that isn't there.

COLLINS: All right. We'll continue to hear more and more about that debate, I'm sure. Thanks so much. Elizabeth Cohen, our senior medical correspondent.

We are waiting for President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. We are watching this live coverage and bringing it to you of their summit news conference coming your way in just a few minutes.


ANNOUNCER: Live in the CNN NEWSROOM, Heidi Collins.

COLLINS: We are expecting to hear from President Obama and Russian President Medvedev shortly. In fact, the two are taking part in the first U.S.-Russian summit in seven years.

We should learn about progress made in arms reduction and we're going to bring that news conference to you live from Moscow -- you see the shot there -- just as soon as it gets underway.

Alaska Governor Sarah Palin rose to the national stage as a surprise vice president candidate. You remember that. Now she's defying expectations again by leaving the highest office she's ever reached. So, where does she go from here?

Joining us now live from Washington to weigh in a bit, CNN contributor and talk radio show host, Bill Bennett.

Bill, nice to see you. Thanks for being with us. Let's listen to something that Sarah Palin said on Friday, then I'll get your reaction here.


GOV. SARAH PALIN (R), ALASKA: Life is too short to compromise time and resources. And though it may be tempting and more comfortable to just kind of put your head down and (INAUDIBLE) along and appease those who are demanding hey, just sit down and shut up, because that's a worthless easy tack out -- that's a quitter's way out.

And I think the problem in our country today is apathy. It would be apathetic to just kind of hunker down and go with the flow. We're fishermen. We know that only dead fish go with the flow.


COLLINS: OK. So Bill, according to that, she's not quitting, I mean, if you look at it that way, right? What is she doing?

WILLIAM BENNETT, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: You know, you've got to say, whether you like her or not, the whole new vocabulary, a whole new set of metaphors is fish, moose, caribous, snow machines...

COLLINS: That's right. There was some sports in there, too, earlier I think.

BENNETT: By the way, can I just mention you can see Alaska from Russia?


BENNETT: Where you guys are...

COLLINS: This is a very well intertwined story as we wait for the Russian president...

BENNETT: And let me just comment. I got to comment. Look at the architecture of those buildings? It's fantastic, by the way.

COLLINS: Yes. It is beautiful. You're right, I'm still...

BENNETT: Pre-communist. Has there ever been any good communist architecture?

COLLINS: Not that I'm aware of.

BENNETT: All right. Anyway, what does she up to? Who knows? You know, there's the old line, who knows the mind of woman? But with this woman...

COLLINS: Careful now.

BENNETT: I know. I'm in dangerous ground. But I'm also experienced on this. Who knows the mind of a woman? But this woman, particularly. Look, she could be stepping aside to say, look, I've had a rough time. I'm going to take advantage of the fact that notoriety, although it's been difficult, has brought me the opportunity to make a lot of money for my family, to build the nest egg.

She's got this incredible book deal. She is the most sought- after speaker, Heidi, as you know. For Lincoln Day dinners...


BENNETT: ... she's going to speak in circuit and make money, and she could be doing that for the next year and we wouldn't know for sure whether she has presidential...

COLLINS: But if she had never been governor of Alaska, I mean, she wouldn't be getting those jobs. If she hadn't been governor of Alaska, she likely wouldn't have been vice-presidential candidate.

And so now the people of Alaska -- and I hadn't really thought about this before we had an interview just a few minutes ago with someone from the "Anchorage Daily News" up there, saying, hey, do the people of Alaska are saying, where are you going? You're abandoning your post 18 months before your term is up.

BENNETT: Well, that's what a reporter says.


BENNETT: Now see there's...

COLLINS: They want her to go?

BENNETT: Well, she sees the world in terms of pundits, reporters, the media establishment, the Washington establishment, and then the people. Now that's a little harsh. Those extremes, you know, are not -- doesn't divide the universe.

However, I have to tell you, after going on CNN yesterday, the "STATE OF THE UNION" with your colleague John King and hearing, you know, Ed Rollins just blast her and Donna Brazile blast her and almost every political type and reporter blast her, we opened it up on the radio this morning, Heidi.


BENNETT: And 5-1 in favor of Sarah Palin.

COLLINS: Really.

BENNETT: Including callers from Alaska who said...

COLLINS: Well, I mean -- there's no doubt, obviously, that there are people who are interested in her and are supporters of her and like a lot of what she's doing. But I want to hear what we're about to say, and forgive my interruption, people were calling from Anchorage?

BENNETT: From Wasilla, actually.

COLLINS: Wasilla. OK.

BENNETT: We go far and wide, as you know better. But I know from all over the country, and it was 5-1. And it was what you'd expect. People said, we like her. We like her style. We like her approach.

Interesting "New York Times" editorial this morning by Ross Douthat. He said, you know, she represents how you can make it in this country and make it big without having gone to Columbia or Harvard like Barack Obama.

COLLINS: Yes. But wait, doesn't that mean, Bill, that they would like her to stick around? The people who are supporting her? That's what I was saying earlier.


COLLINS: Want her to stay as governor?

BENNETT: No. She doesn't.

COLLINS: No. They want her to go on and do, what, something bigger? BENNETT: Even if people in Alaska wanted her to stay, if she's got larger ambition, how much does it matter to the people in the lower 48 that she leaves the governor job early? We had one or two callers that said she quit and I don't like quitting. But most of the callers said they didn't see the distinction.

Remember when Tim Pawlenty, Heidi...

COLLINS: Yes, of course.

BENNETT: ... the governor of Minnesota said I'm not going to run again?


BENNETT: Most people don't see a difference. Frankly, they don't see a moral bit between saying I'm not going to run again and I'm leaving my job early. Particularly if she's hitching herself to a larger purpose. I'm just telling what the folks said this morning.


BENNETT: Now will she be subject to criticism? Yes. Also, maybe more important, she will now have a vetting process if she's seeking higher office which will be much, much longer than the ad at the time when she was picked for vice president.

This woman can be vetted for three years. Can anybody withstand the three-year vetting? And it's going to be tough, and particularly tough on her because we know there are some people who have an incredible adamancy against her.

COLLINS: Yes. All right. Well, it's always an interesting story out of Alaska, that is for sure.


BENNETT: And Bill Bennett, host of "Morning in America," we sure do appreciate your insights. We'd love to you stick around for the next event that's coming up as we continue to follow this story as well.

Bill, thank you.

BENNETT: Thanks, Heidi.

COLLINS: We are watching for the president of the United States and also Russia's to come up very shortly here. We've got a live picture of that. There you see several different shots, actually.

Also, want to get back to the blog just real quickly because we have been asking you what do you think about Governor Sarah Palin's career plans? Everybody is sort of speculating about what could happen next here as she has announced her resignation from the governorship of Alaska. It's going to happen at the end of the month. We've been getting a ton of comment. We want to go ahead and read you just a couple responses really fast right here from the Heidi Collins' page.

This one from Rich says, "As far as her not fulfilling her duties, she explained that. She doesn't agree with a lame duck situation. How much duty did Barack fulfill while he was running for president? Was it way more honorable to step aside and allow another to govern?"

And the next one from Fran says, "Sarah Palin and Elisabeth Hasselbeck of "The View" will start up their own talk show. Rush Limbaugh will be the announcer."

There you go. We love our bloggers, don't we? Go ahead and give us your comment, everybody, sure do appreciate that, on Sarah Palin today.

Meanwhile, though, the Obama administration achieving a victory on the business front today as the bankruptcy judge clears the way for the establishment of a new GM.

Our Christine Romans is here now with what this actually means for taxpayers and also GM customers.

All right, who wins in all of this? Besides the Obama administration.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, the Obama administration wins one step closer to getting out of bankruptcy and starting a new road for GM leaving some cumbersome and unprofitable assets in its wake.

The judge, Heidi, is saying that there was simply no other choice. The only alternative to an immediate sale, the judge wrote, is liquidation and that, of course, would be a disastrous result for the GM's creditors, its employees, the supplies who depend on GM for their own existence, and the communities in which GM operates.

So, here you have a bankruptcy judge saying that the new GM can go forward. It can close down some factories, it can shut down brands, it can sell off unprofitable assets, it can sever relationships with thousands of dealers and turn into this new GM and move forward.

Of course, it is pending appeal now.


ROMANS: The whole deal has to be consummated. But much closer here. And frankly, that victory I say for the Obama administration from that point of view is that this is happening even more quickly than they had promised barring any kind of last-minute hurdles here.

Now not everybody happy about it, of course. There are people with lawsuits against the old company, product liability lawsuits who will be left behind.


ROMANS: And there are also bond holders who say that they've got a real my way or the highway point of view from the Treasury Department, and they would have liked more of a say in how this company was structured.

Who gets what? Taxpayers, this is why they're calling it "Government Motors" now. Taxpayers will own 60 percent of this company. As I said there will be four main benchmark brands. It'll be Cadillac, Chevy, Buick and GMC.

And then of course retirees, 650,000 retirees, Heidi, will get fewer benefits. Future retirees will have less rich benefits than past retirees. So, you know, that's going to be a change for people as well. But a lot of jobs already lost here . I got to point it out again. A lot of jobs have been and there will be far fewer people and you know, coming forward with the new GM as it tries to survive going ahead here.

This is really the beginning, I would say. It's not the end of this bankruptcy process, Heidi. I would say it's definitely the beginning because they have a lot to prove declining volumes.

COLLINS: Absolutely.

ROMANS: U.S. automakers still a very rough recession. This is -- there's still a lot to be done.

COLLINS: Yes. No question about it. We know you're following it closely for us, too. Appreciate it. Christine Romans, thank you.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

COLLINS: In fact now that the judge has approved GM's bankruptcy plan, the hard work really begins. What's next for the embattled automaker?'s Poppy Harlow has the breakdown for us now from GM -- excuse me from New York.

POPPY HARLOW, CNNMONEY.COM: GM on all of our minds.

COLLINS: Yes, no kidding. So, it's a good question. What is next?

HARLOW: Yes, I mean, Christine said it perfectly, saying the toughest road really is ahead. This is the beginning, a long struggle. They want to be lean. They want to be profitable. They are neither of those at this point.

Closing down, though, to try to achieve about a dozen factories, cutting about 40 percent of GM's dealerships, focusing on those four brands that Christine mentioned. The analysts that we spoke with, they're still skeptical. Despite this plan, despite the judge's favorable ruling about whether General Motors can really make a long- term comeback.

He told us this just buys General Motors more time. It erased these billions of dollars in debt, but it doesn't fix the fundamental problem, some argue, and that is that GM still faces declining market share. And I want you to look at this chart because this paints the picture.

1985, GM sold 40 percent of the cars and trucks in this country. Beginning of this year, less than 20 percent and it's been a steady decline for more than 20 years for General Motors. And it still, Heidi, faces huge labor force cost, that's an issue. You have union workers, some of which had made concessions, but it's really those future workers, Heidi, where the pay cuts have been taken.

But GM is shrinking. They are not bringing on a lot of new employees. So how much cost does that really cut from this company? A tough road ahead for GM, Heidi.

COLLINS: Yes. It sounds like it. What do they have to do to turn things around? Dare I even ask?

HARLOW: Well, they have to build cars that people want to buy. And I want to clear something up because we went to GM a week or so ago in Detroit, and people say no one buy GM cars. They do. GM sells more cars in the U.S. than Ford or Chrysler. However, they're selling less and less cars. So that is a problem.

The CEO, Fritz Henderson, coming our and saying, this is about going back to basics. Exciting people with our brands. He says if the company can do that, we're going to change the public perception. In a statement today, Fritz Henderson, the CEO, came out and he said this.

"Now it is our responsibility to fix this business and place the company on a clear path to success without delay." This is an executive that likes to work very, very quickly but, Heidi, this may be GM's last chance to get it right, Heidi.

We want to know what you think. Weigh in on I have a new page. Just getting into the (INAUDIBLE) of things.

COLLINS: All right.

HARLOW: Yes. People are writing in. And let us know what you think. Is this the right plan for GM? Heidi?

COLLINS: OK. Very good. Poppy Harlow, thank you.

In fact, we are waiting to hear from President Obama and Russian President Medvedev. We are going to have live coverage of their summit news conference coming your way any minute.


ANNOUNCER: Breaking news, revealing developments, see for yourself in the CNN NEWSROOM.

COLLINS: Very quickly, we want to let you know that we are expecting to hear from President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev shortly. In fact, we are getting a little bit of an update right now as we continue to show you these gorgeous live pictures out of Moscow.

You're looking at the new economic school there where this announcement or I should say news conference will be taking place. We are hearing things are running a little bit late. The president -- President Obama, in fact, has not arrived yet inside the building. So we continue to wait for him and the Russian president, as well, to being that news conference.

When it happens, we, of course, will bring it to you live right here on CNN.

In northern Afghanistan now, four U.S. soldiers died today in a roadside bombing. U.S. Marines also caught up in a firefight right now that began in a town in the Helmand Province. The Marines were forces to stop shooting for a while after they found out women and children were caught in the cross fire.

Yesterday, Joints Chief Chairman Michael Mullen talked about where the recent violence is happening. He talked with our John King on the "STATE OF THE UNION."


ADM. MIKE MULLEN, CHAIRMAN, U.S. JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: I'll take you up close now into Helmand where the fighting is really going on and you can see, specifically in this area of Garmsir as well as Khan Neshin, which is where the Marines are engaged.

But what cuts through there is this river, the Helmand River, the whole river valley. And this is really the most concentrated area for opium growing and we expect significant combat challenge with respect to the Taliban who've been there and we haven't been able to both defeat them and then clear the area.

And it's this extra footprint of Marines, I think, that will allow us to not just secure the area for the Afghan people but also hold it.


COLLINS: The Taliban claimed responsibility for today's attack on the U.S. troops, but they claimed five soldiers were killed and two were injured.

Former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara has died. According to family members, he died in his sleep at his Washington home this morning. McNamara served as secretary of defense under two presidents during the Vietnam War. He was 93 years old.

What began as a peaceful protest turned deadly in China. Right now more than 100 people are dead and that death toll could rise.


COLLINS: Back to that developing story we've been talking about this morning out of China -- 140 people are dead, more than 800 injured after a protest turned violent in western China. Chinese media reports the protests spun out of control on Sunday, deteriorating into a deadly riot in the country's western Xinjiang region.

Details now from our Emily Chang.


EMILY CHANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Protesters commandeered the streets of Urumqi in northwestern China screaming, chanting, swelling. These pictures from China's state-run media. An eyewitness says throngs of ethnic Uighurs, men, women, and children, left their market stands in the city's bazaar district to join in.

Chinese riot police responded swiftly, pushing the crowds back. The witness, an American studying in Urumqi said that's when the crowds turned violent, throwing rocks, vegetables, setting vehicles on fire.

UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT: They were smashing windows on cars driving by, smashing bus windows which have been evacuated, you know, one thing that's really heavy, and there was tear gas. I heard several bouts of gunfire, explosions.

CHANG: Police reportedly fired shots over the crowd. The riot quickly hit Chinese blogs. (INAUDIBLE) video and photos like these online, though they cannot be independently verified by CNN. In the end, state media reports at least 140 people killed, more than 800 injured.

Urumqi is the capital of China's Xinjiang province where almost half the people are Uyghur and mostly Muslim. There's a long history of ethnic tension between Uyghurs and Hun Chinese.

Around the Olympics, a bombing in Xinjiang killed 16 police. The Chinese government blames what they call Uyghur separatists.

RUSSELL MOSES, CHINA ANALYST: What you are seeing is stereotyping on both sides. The resisters themselves believe that everyone in the government is evil. The state believes that these are terrorist individuals who are being driven from the outside.

CHANG: The Chinese government says the latest protests were masterminded by activists outside the country, saying the violence is a pre-empted violent crime. It is instigated and directed from abroad and carried out by outlaws in the country.

(on camera): But many protests reportedly said they are angry about how the Chinese government handled another incident in southern China at a toy factory in Quangdong. State-run media reports an ex- employee started a rumor that a group of Uighur men raped two Hun Chinese women.

It led to a massive brawl between Uighur and Hun Chinese factory workers and ended with two Uighurs killed and may have ignited this bloody outpouring of pent-up frustration in Urumqi.

Emily Chang, CNN, Beijing.


COLLINS: Quickly, now we want to show you some of the vides coming in to us. Dodger Stadium is what we're looking at because, you may or may not know, it's going to be about 80, 7000 people there? They won the lottery in order to be able to go to Michael Jackson memorial.

It's going to be tomorrow, as you probably know. Each one of those people won two tickers. So slowly people are arrive once again. Live pictures coming our way on a Dodgers Stadium.

We're back in just a moment right here on the CNN NEWSROOM.


COLLINS: We are waiting to hear from President Barack Obama and Russian president Dmitry Medvedev. We're going to have live he coverage, of course, of their news conference coming your way from that building. It's the new economics school in Moscow. Very shortly here. You'll see it on CNN live.

And we continue to follow that story as well as Matthew Chance who's had a look at what the two are hoping to accomplish. Watch this next.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Well, after years of souring relationship between Russia and the United States, the presidents of the two country is set to hold talks here in Moscow with both say saying that they're determined to make a fresh start and to reset strained ties. Just listen to the tone of the remarks head of this important summit.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think that there has been a time over the last several years where Russia and the U.S. relations were not as strong as they should be. What I said coming in is that I wanted to press the reset button on relations between the United States and Russia.

DMITRY MEDVEDEV, PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA (through translator): Unfortunately, relations between our two countries have worsened over these last years. A crisis of confidence, lack of action, unwillingness to take any new steps. Call it what you will, but the fact remains, that although our country's presidents had a good personal rapport, Russian-U.S. relations declined to a level practically on par with the cold war era. CHANCE: First on the agenda then is arms control. Both countries want to cut the numbers of cold war era nuclear war heads they maintain, also agreeing in principal to reduce that arsenals from more than 2,008 to as low as 1500.

Afghanistan is another area where the U.S. and Russia are keen to cooperate. Moscow announcing it will soon allow U.S. military equipment including weapons and ammunition to be transported across Russian territory to supply U.S. forces on the ground in the war zone.

Russia saying he has a share entrusted with Washington and fighting Taliban militants in the region.

Other issues, though, are much more difficult. Moscow is bitterly opposed to further expansion of the military allowance, to include former Soviet Republics like Ukraine and Georgia and, of course, U.S.'s stated plans to deploy elements that it's controversial.

Missile defense system in Eastern Europe have always grated Moscow. It says -- it potentially its own nuclear deterrent.

DMITRY TRENIN, CARNEGIE CENTER: Analyst say that the U.S. and the Russian president can find a way of collaborating on this issue. That will be a major breakthrough.

Then we would be able to say at some point that we have left the box of mutual destruction short between the U.S. and Russia. Then we'll start talking strategic collaboration. Not just reductions of the weapons that are still pointed at each other. But to doing something together against third-party challenges.

CHANCE: Challenges like Iran. And it's controversial nuclear program. Russia it's been a major diplomatic backup and is providing the Islamic Republic with traditional weapons and nuclear technology for that to stop the relationship between Moscow and Washington, may have to get a whole lot better.

Matthew Chance, CNN, Moscow.


COLLINS: I'm Heidi Collins. CNN NEWSROOM continues right now with Tony Harris.