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American Morning

Fred Thompson for President?; State of the Gulf: Long Road Back From Katrina

Aired May 31, 2007 - 06:00   ET


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Critical scare. This morning, a new call for tests on every passenger who flew with the man quarantined for tuberculosis.
Plus, top down summer fun. But are they safe? How the newest convertibles stand up in a crash, on this AMERICAN MORNING.

And good morning to you. It is Thursday, May 31st. Glad you're with us. I'm Kiran Chetry.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: I'm John Roberts. Good to see you again.

Stories "On Our Radar" this morning.

Check your inbox because there might just be a little less junk mail in it. The world's spam king was finally caught. This one fellow was responsible for possibly billions of junk e-mails every year.

Wouldn't that be nice if there was a little less junk e-mail?

CHETRY: Yes, if they caught a couple more of these spam kings. We're going to talk more about that.

Also, keeping an eye on Tropical Storm Barbara. This could become the first hurricane of the season. That's a look at the radar right now. It's spinning southwest of Mexico and could shape up to bring hurricane-force winds. The Atlantic hurricane season opens up tomorrow and we're going to be checking in with Chad Myers, of course, and getting a live report coming up in the half hour.

ROBERTS: See how ready people are for that.

And hunting gear for your cat. It's actually anti-hunting gear. A way to save wildlife and birds from hungry kitties. Look at this. They put a nice little green . . .

CHETRY: Neoprene bib. I'm still not getting it.

ROBERTS: Neoprene bib on the cat. It also keeps the cat clean when the cat's eating. But apparently that, combined with a little bell, just scares away the birds long before the cat can get anywhere near them. And so the cat goes hungry and the birds fly away.

CHETRY: That's right. That's why they make Fancy Feast, I guess. They don't need the birds.

ROBERTS: Exactly.

CHETRY: First, though, latest development in our top story this morning. The tuberculosis patient currently being treated at Atlanta's Grady Memorial Hospital, could be transported to a hospital in Denver as early as today. Denver's National Jewish Hospital specializes in respiratory disorders like TB. And now the CDC is recommending that all of the passengers on the two transatlantic flights seek testing for tuberculosis. Mark Hill was on the flight from Atlanta to Paris. He told Paula Zahn that he's a little angry about the whole situation.


MARK HILL, SHARED FLIGHT WITH TB PATIENT: Well, I'm bitter only because as the story has unfolded in the last 24 hours, it's gone from him suggesting that he was told that he should not fly -- and that story seems to not be consistent with what the authorities are saying. So if he was told definitely that that could be a problem for other passengers, then I think it was somewhat irresponsible for him to get on that flight and endanger people like myself.


CHETRY: Coming up in the next hour, we're going to talk to Hill and also another passenger who was on that same flight.

ROBERTS: In Washington this morning, the tuberculosis scare is sparking serious security questions in Congress. Lawmakers point out that the infected man was on a government watch list when he arrived at the Canadian border, but U.S. authorities still let him in. The House Homeland Security Committee plans to take a close look at that lapse during a hearing next Wednesday.

CHETRY: The man accused of killing a former Russian spy is now lashing out at the British government. Andrei Lugovoy held a press conference in Moscow just a couple of hours ago. He says that it was British intelligence that poisoned Alexander Litvinenko with radioactive material in London last November. The British, of course, denying this.


ANDREI LUGOVOY, FORMER RUSSIAN SPY, (through translator): You do not have to be a law expert to understand that carry out such crimes. You must have a motive. Alexander was not my enemy. There was no love loss between us. What kind of books he wrote in the U.K. I've been in business longer and I was not interested in such activity.


CHETRY: The British government wants Lugovoy extradited. So far the Russians are refusing that. Lugovoy also claims that Litvinenko was working for British intelligence at the time of his death and that MI-6 even tried to recruit him. ROBERTS: The plot thickens.

Fred Thompson one step closer to a run for the White House today. He quit his acting job on "Law & Order" and could start raising money and hiring campaign staff as early as tomorrow. Thompson is a former Republican senator from Tennessee. If he got in now, he would start the race in third place, behind Rudy Giuliani and Senator John McCain.

CHETRY: To the White House now where President Bush is going to be meeting with Iraq's president, Jalal Talabani a bit later today. Both leaders are expected to discuss the troop buildup in Iraq, as well as the recent escalation in violence there. Talabani is on a three week trip to the United States. It also includes a stop for medical treatment at the Mayo Clinic.

Also, President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin are planning a meeting in July in Maine. The president inviting Putin to stay at the Bush compound in Kennebunkport. The meeting comes at a time when some bad blood between the U.S. and Russia is at a post Cold War high. Arguments and disagreements on how to best handle Iraq, Iran, Kosovo, missile defense and more.

ROBERTS: The Taliban is claiming responsibility this morning for the downing of a helicopter in Afghanistan that killed five American soldiers. Two NATO passengers on board also died. The trouble didn't end there. The rescue team responding was ambushed. Much the same thing happens in Iraq all the time. It was forced to call in an air strike. The helicopter was a large Chinook used mainly for transporting troops.

And the military is investigating a fourth suicide today at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba. A Saudi detainee was found yesterday in his cell. Three detainees killed themselves last June in an apparent suicide pact.

CHETRY: Well, for the first time, the chemical melamine has been found in animal feed made by American companies. Now there's word that that did enter the human food supply. But the FDA is saying that the amount is too small to be a risk to people. Two companies, Timbek (ph) of Ohio and Uniscope (ph) of Colorado are recalling their products. They used melamine, they say, as a binder in the food, not as a way to artificially boost the protein count, as was the case in China. You may remember the pet food laced with melamine came from China and is believed to have killed cats and dogs, many of them, across America.

Well, the feds say that you could see less junk mail in your folders today thanks to the arrest of just one man. He's being described as one of the top 10 spammers in the world. Officials say that Robert Soloway was behind millions of spam e-mails. They also say he used so-called zombie computer to send them. The computers are called zombies because their owners typically have no idea that their machines have been infect and that their machines are being used to send out all of this spam. Soloway faces 35 charges, including fraud, as well as identity theft. ROBERTS: Coming up now to six minutes after the hour. Tragedy in the wild topping our "Quick Hits" now. The first panda released into the wild after being raised in captivity was found dead in a forest in southwest China. Officials think that he fell from a tree while being chased by other pandas. He survived less than a year outside of his confinds.

They caught a lizard, but did they catch the lizard? Private trappers captured this lizard, thinking that they had napped the 80- pound monitor (ph) lizard that's been terrifying a neighborhood near Orlando, Florida. It seems, though, that they got the wrong one. There's more than one monitor lizard out there. This is the big guy.

CHETRY: Oh, that's got to hurt.

ROBERTS: Ouch. This is the big guy that police have been looking for. Officers apparently shot it twice last week, but he still got away.

Planning to spend the summer cruising around with the top down? Before you take off, see what Greg Hunter found in the latest convertible crash tests.


GREG HUNTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, well, I'm in a Volvo dealership. But this doesn't look like a convertible, but it is. How well did it do in the latest crash test, along with other cars? I'll tell you when AMERICAN MORNING continues.


CHETRY: A beltway disaster tops these "Quick Hits" now. Police say that a motorcycle rider caused a seven-car chain reaction crash in Prince George's County, Maryland. Two people were killed and 15 others hurt, including two police officers. All lanes of the inner loop were shut down for nearly five hours.

High and dry and praying for rain in south Florida this morning. The drought has Lake Okeechobee at its lowest level in six year. It's a big problem since the lake is a backup drinking water source for 5 million residents. It's also the life blood of the Everglades.

And Tropical Storm Barbara gaining steam now off the coast of Mexico. It's expected to head toward the resort of Acapulco in the next few days. The National Hurricane Center warning people living along the western coast of Mexico, as well as Guatemala, to keep listening and trying to monitor what's going on with this storm.

And someone else who's probably been doing that all morning, I imagine, is our own Chad Myers.

So this is the first one, but it's not in the Atlantic.

(WEATHER REPORT) ROBERTS: Eleven minutes after the hour. Maybe you've noticed, there are more people driving with the top down these days. In fact, the number of convertible cars on the road has doubled since 1990. Now the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has conducted its first ever convertible crash tests. AMERICAN MORNING's Greg Hunter wanted to be right in the thick of things, so he's there in Rockville Center, New York, with all of the details.

Hey, a snazzy looking automobile you've got there. Look at that.

HUNTER: Is this sweet?

ROBERTS: Very sweet.

HUNTER: It's kind of a hard top convertible.

ROBERTS: Very, very nice.

HUNTER: Well, there was a time -- a nice piece of engineering, isn't it? Yes, it's a Volvo C70. We're at Carp (ph) Volvo on Long Island. And there was a time when having a roof over your head really did make you a lot saver. But not so much anymore.


HUNTER, (voice over): Despite conventional wisdom, most convertibles built today are pretty safe.

DAVID ZUBY, INSURANCE INSTITUTE FOR HIGHWAY SAFETY: These vehicles in general are offering as good of protection as their full roofed counterparts.

HUNTER: The Insurance Institute bought 20 brand new convertibles. Two copies of each. One to crash in the front and one to crash in the side. All to find out how will they protect you in an accident.

Overall, the cars performed well in frontal crash tests. Eight of the 10 cars scored good, the institute's highest rating. The top safety picks, the Saab 9-3 and the Volvo C70.

ZUBY: The Saab is rated good in all three tests -- the front, side and the rear whiplash test.

HUNTER: Volvo.

ZUBY: The Volvo C70 is rated good in all three tests -- the front, side and the rear whiplash test.

HUNTER: Both vehicles have roll bars to protect you in the even of a rollover. Five of the 10 convertibles tested make this standard equipment. Not included in the study is a rollover crash test. That's because the institute hasn't come up with a way to repeat the same rollover crash over and over. So, for now, it's pushing automakers to include electronic stability control as standard equipment because it greatly reduces the chance for rollover. The lowest rated car in the study is the Pontiac G6.

ZUBY: There are a number of problems. The first obvious one is that there's no inflatable protection for the driver's head.

HUNTER: So your arm gets protected, but not your head.

Pontiac says their car "meets or exceeds all applicable federal motor vehicle safety standards" and "is moving to equip all applicable passenger cars with head protection by 2009."

The institute says it was disappointed in the BMW 3 series, the most expensive convertible tested. Even though it's a brand-new design with side air bags. The vehicle scored only marginal in the side crash test. In an e-mail response, BMW wrote, "we are confident that, on the road in the real world, BMW vehicles are among the safest. This conclusion is supported by real-world crash data not only in the U.S. but worldwide."

If you can't afford the more expensive models, the moderately priced Mitsubishi Eclipse also scored well on the institute's front and side crash tests.


HUNTER: The institute says there is -- it is a fact that if you have a convertible, you do have a little less protection. Of course, the roof does protect you. It also gives you, you know, containment of the passengers. But, overall, these convertibles in this test did much better than any convertibles of yesteryear. Check this out. This is the Volvo C70. And it's like a hard top convertible. It's pretty slick. And if you want the whole list, if you'd like to have the whole list of convertibles they tested, they tested 10, go on to and go to AMERICAN MORNING. There you go.

ROBERTS: Excellent. Greg, thank you very much. I take it that you'll so enthralled with that car now that you're going to be driving away with it later on this morning?

HUNTER: Yes. I'll drive away with it with about me and 40 or 50 grand. Yes. But it's a safe car.

ROBERTS: Well, if you drive away with it this morning, you may have a police escort to take you on your way.

Greg, thanks very much.

So let's recap those results for you. The Saab 9-3 and the Volvo C70 were the top safety picks of all the convertibles, achieving good in all three categories. The Mitsubishi Eclipse was third and more economical than the first two as well. As for the bottom three, the BMW 3 Series, the Audi A4 Cabriolet and last on the list was the Pontiac G6. So there you go. Very first convertible crash tests from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

CHETRY: Thanks, John. Well, topping our "Quick Hits" now, murders and robberies up around the country for a second straight year. In a preview of a report that's due out next week, the FBI says mid-sized cities are seeing the biggest increases. The preliminary stats showed violent crimes rose 3.7 percent nationwide during the first six months of 2006. Gangs and youth violence are being blamed.

Also, no second chance for a Florida transsexual. The Sarasota city council decided against -- not to hire Susan Stanton as city manager. Susan used to be the city manager in Largo, but lost that job this year when she changed from Steve to Susan. Steve had enjoyed 14 years of excellent job reviews there in Largo.

Daddy dearest dishes new dirt. What Lindsay Lohan's father is now saying about the actress. What he says she's addicted to -- dangerous pain killers, when AMERICAN MORNING continues.


ROBERTS: Nineteen minutes now after the hour. A sad farewell topping our "Quick Hits." A rare northern white rhino named Nadi (ph) has died at the San Diego Zoo. She came to the U.S. from Africa back in 1972. No cause of death was given, but the zoo says she was showing signs of old age. The species is critically endangered. There may be only 13 left worldwide.

And tracking the rare one-horned rhino in Nepal. Wildlife officials say the endangered species has fallen by half in one reserve. They're being targeted by poachers for their horns. In china, the rhino horn is valued as an aphrodisiac and in Arab countries, they use them to make dagger handles, fetching as much as $14,000 on the international black market. Quick question, rhino horn is made of -- compressed hair.

And cats in a flap in Australia. Researchers say these colorful $9 bids make it difficult for felines on the hunt. Four out of five cats were prevented from killing birds and other animals. Scientists say that it's not clear if the bibs stopped the cats from pouncing or if the bright colors warned off wildlife or if the cat just felt too silly to go hunting.

CHETRY: It looks like someone's trying to make some money off something very strange.

John, thanks.

Well, it seems like everybody's got something to say about Lindsay Lohan's wild weekend and run to rehab. You saw the pictures splashed all over the papers. Well now it's one of her parents, Lindsay's dad, Michael Lohan, who has certainly had his own share of problems, is now weighing in on his daughter's erratic behavior. AMERICAN MORNING's Lola Ogunnaike is here to tell us more about what he said.

Good morning.


CHETRY: It's sort of the pot calling the kettle black in this situation because he's had a lot of problems with alcohol, as well.

OGUNNAIKE: Yes. He just got out of jail after serving a two- year stint for DWI. And now he's saying that his won daughter, Lindsay, is not only addicted to alcohol, but she's also suffering from an pain killer addiction -- an addition to the pain killer OxyContin. So, yes, and he's saying that, you know, she needs to be in a faith-based rehab program.

How does he know this? Because he's actually studying to be a drug rehab counselor now. Very interesting. And he thinks that she should be a part of an organization called Group Teen Challenge.

CHETRY: This is where he's working? He's trying to become . . .

OGUNNAIKE: This is where he's studying to work, yes, as a drug rehab counselor. So the apple does fall very far from the tree. But, and, again, I think it's interesting that, you know, Lohan, she's come under fire for all of her misbehavior in the past few weeks. You saw, you know, the DUI, the arrest, and now she's in treatment and now any of the pictures of her with her looking very awful and now she's in her rehab program and her father is saying that she, you know, she needs to come out of her rehab. Also, the organizations where she's been having drinks are under fire, as well.

CHETRY: Right. I mean you see these pictures of her. She's in all of these clubs and she's not 21. That's pretty obvious. And one of the interesting things, it seems that some of these young underage people do is they put alcohol in water bottles so it doesn't look like they're drinking.

OGUNNAIKE: Right, the vodka in water bottles trick has gone over, well, for years. But now authorities are cracking down and they're saying, look, we're not taking this and they've been having undercover investigations for the past few weeks, which people don't know. And Ladu (ph), the place that Lindsay was actually partying the day that she was caught in those God awful pictures, is saying, look, we are cooperating with California Department of Alcoholic Beverage and Control and we are taking this very seriously.

CHETRY: Yes. So it will be interesting to see what happens because, of course, all of these clubs get so much notoriety when celebrities shows up, whether they're of age or under age.

OGUNNAIKE: Yes, but we have to see if they're going to be willing to take the responsibility for what comes out of their wild partying at these places, as well.

CHETRY: Yes, exactly.

Lola, great to see you. Thanks a lot.

OGUNNAIKE: Thank you.


ROBERTS: Well, Lindsay's stock may be sinking, but other stocks still on the rise. It's 24 minutes after the hour now. Ali Velshi here "Minding Your Business."

Good morning to you.


Twenty-four hours ago we were sitting here and we looked at the Chinese markets, which had tanked, and the futures were indicating that U.S. markets would also have a rough day. Not so. Not only was the Dow up 100 points, not only did the Dow set a new record yesterday, but the S&P 500 finally set a new all-time high after seven years.

Let's take a look at that. It's opening up today at 1,530. The highest close until now was March 24, 2000, 1,527 points.

Now let's take a look at all the indices. The Dow, the S&P and the Nasdaq since 2000. The Nasdaq's in red. That's the one that's nowhere close to its high. The Dow is in yellow. We know that that's setting new reports. The S&P 500 has sort of been tracking the Dow, but this is the first time it's reached its peak.

Now what does this mean. The S&P 500 is 500 stocks. It's much, much broader than the Dow. We talk about the Dow all the time, but the Dow is 30 stocks. The S&P 500 is the one that most people have in their 401(k) or their IRA. You either buy it as a mutual fund, which tracks the S&P 500 or as a stock you can buy called a spider, which does the same thing that the S&P 500 does.

So this probably has more to do with your portfolio than the Dow does. It's useful if you're not a stock picker to look at your portfolio and see if you're getting that kind of performance.

ROBERTS: And what about the Nasdaq, which is always called the tech heavy Nasdaq? What's keeping it depressed?

VELSHI: Tech. Tech was 33 percent of the market back in 2000. In fact, the reason the Dow and the S&P 500 have taken so long to get back up here is to make up for all the laagers in there. The biggest component now in the S&P 500 is financial services and banking. And the biggest gainer since the October 2002 slump, energy stocks, up 208 percent. I wonder why.

ROBERTS: You only have to stop by a gas station to figure that out.


ROBERTS: Ali, thanks very much.


ROBERTS: Kiran. CHETRY: "Quick Hits" now and the top story on is a sad one. Seven killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan. It happened last night. The Taliban claiming responsibility. NATO is now investigating, it says, and officials say the team that responded to the crash was ambushed and had to call in an air strike.

Also on CNN's most popular list. The search intensified for people at TB risk. Those are the health officials in U.S. and Europe looking for passengers who flew on transatlantic flights with a man who was infected with the deadliest kind of tuberculosis. The CDC is now recommending that all passengers on those flights be tested.

Still to come, is your inbox overflowing with junk mail? Has it in the past? You might notice a bit of a change today. We're going to tell you why coming up.

You're watching AMERICAN MORNING. The most news in the morning here on CNN.


CHETRY: Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING. It's almost 6:30 a.m. East Coast time and some pretty shots of New York. The first one was the George W. Bridge. Going to get pretty heavy with traffic probably in a couple of minutes now and there was a couple of shots of mid-town Manhattan. Pretty shots today.

ROBERTS: The weather here has just been spectacular the last few days.

CHETRY: You've got a few allergy issues, though. It's all taken care of, right?

ROBERTS: I seem to have found the holy grail of allergy control, which I'm really happy about.

CHETRY: Well, thanks so much for being with us. It is Thursday, May 31st. I'm Kiran Chetry.

ROBERTS: And I'm John Roberts.

Some stories "On Our Radar" this morning.

Fred Thompson quitting his job on "Law & Order." He is launching a testing the waters committee tomorrow. Is it a sign that he's about to join the race for president and how much will he shake things up if he does get into the race? Just a couple of minutes from now, we'll be talking with Mike Allen of the Mike, very familiar to people who watch this program. Me broke this story yesterday. He'll be here to tell us more about that coming up in just a few minutes.

CHETRY: All right. We're not going to see -- this will be vintage shots now. No more "Law & Order" for Fred Thompson.

Check this out. "On Our Radar" right now, also, we're following the latest on Tropical Storm Barbara in the Pacific. The Atlantic hurricane seasons begins tomorrow. So far in the Pacific though they've had two named storms already. Chad Myers tells us just how rare that is.

Meanwhile, we're also going to be getting an update from New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin, what he claims he still needs from Washington, and some of the comments he made yesterday at his State of the City, the first one in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. He said New Orleans is coming back whether you like it or not. And he also went on to say, so you may as well deal with it, calling on both the federal and state government to do more to get things back to where they were.

ROBERTS: Ray Nagin, always been a bit of a flame thrower.

And proving that it's never too late for love, an 87-year-old bride weds a 78-year-old groom. Obviously, she's into much younger men.

CHETRY: How cute. There they go. They talk about why they found love so late in life with one another and what holds them together. We'll talk more about that a little later.

First, though, the latest developments on our top story, and that's this tuberculosis scare going on. The patient currently being treated at Atlanta's Grady's Memorial Hospital, but later today could be headed to Denver. Denver's National Jewish Hospital specializes in respiratory disorders like tuberculosis. Now the CDC is also recommending that all passengers that were on two transatlantic flights be tested for TB.

Mark Hill, one of the passengers on that flight from Atlanta to Paris, he told Paula Zahn that he's very angry about the whole situation.


MARK HILL, SHARED FLIGHT WITH TB PATIENT: Well, I'm bitter only because as the story has unfolded in the last 24 hours, it's gone from him suggesting that he was told that he should not fly, and that story seems to not be consistent with what the authorities are saying. So if he was told definitely that that could be a problem for other passengers, then I think it was irresponsible for him to get on that flight and endanger people like myself.


CHETRY: Yes. Some of the other passengers also expressing that same sentiment. Coming up in our next hour, we're going to talk more to Hill and another passengers who was on that flight.

The TB scare is sparking some serious security questions in Congress as well. Lawmakers point out this infected man was on a government watch list when he arrived at the Canadian border, but U.S. authorities still let him in the country. The House Homeland Security Committee plans to take a closer look at that lapse during a hearing coming up next Wednesday.

ROBERTS: The man that the British government calls a spy killer is lashing out at his accusers this morning. Andrei Lugovoi held a press conference in Moscow just a couple of hours ago. He says it was British intelligence who poisoned former Russian agent Alexander Litvinenko with radioactive Polonium-210 back in London in November.

The British government says Lugovoi is the killer, though. They want him extradited. So far, the Russians have refused to do that.

Lugovoi also claims that Litvinenko was working for British intelligence at the time of his death, and that MI-6, which is Britain's spy agency, even tried to recruit him. That being Lugovoi.

Reaction from the Middle East this morning to the United Nations' approval of a tribunal to look into the assassination of Lebanese former prime minister Rafik Hariri. Beirut celebrated when the United Nations said it would prosecute the suspects accused of killing Hariri in Lebanon. The papers there this morning are worried that the tribunal could destabilize the country.

And Syrian papers are very critical today. The United Nations has pointed a finger at Syria's possible involvement in the assassination.

CHETRY: Well, the feds say that you could see less junk mail starting today because of the arrest of just one man. He's described as the top 10 spammers in the world -- one of them, at least.

Officials say Robert Soloway (ph) was behind millions of spam e- mails. They say he used so-called zombie computers to send them. They're called zombies because the owners typically have no idea that their machines have been infected and are being used to send out these e-mails. Soloway (ph) faces 35 charges, including fraud and identity theft.

ROBERTS: Wouldn't it be nice if you woke up today and there was just a little less spam in your e-mail?

The Republican Party may have a new star in the race for president. Fred Thompson has quit his acting job on "Law & Order". And according to the, he'll get in the race over the 4th of July holiday weekend.

Mike Allen, who's a familiar face to all of us here at AMERICAN MORNING, joins us quite often, broke the story for He's in our Washington bureau.

Good morning to you, Mike.


ROBERTS: Hey, so we know that he's launching a testing-the- waters committee probably as of tomorrow, start to raise money, hire some people. ALLEN: Right.

ROBERTS: There's still some speculation as to whether or not he's actually going to get in the race, but you say you have got some pretty solid sources who say he's going to.

ALLEN: Yes, John. I was just talking to some people in the campaign a few minutes ago. They were overwhelmed by the response that they got after the senator made some fund-raising appeals.

There are now some e-mail fund-raising letters going around this morning. Hundreds of calls yesterday from people who want to help, hundreds of people who want to interview the senator, as well.

And so they're going full speed ahead with their plan. As you said, John, very quickly starting the testing-the-waters committee, which, as you know, John, is really a "you can send me a check" committee. But as soon as they get a little of that seed money within the next couple of weeks, a few staff members will go on the payroll, some of whom will be familiar names from the Reagan, Bush 41 and Bush 43 administrations.

And then probably the first week in July -- a possibly date is July 5th -- they say it's not set in stone -- the senator is likely to do his formal announcement. He's going to do it in Nashville, and we're told that the campaign is going to be run from there, although they'll also have an office in northern Virginia, where Senator Thompson now lives.

ROBERTS: Right. And just as a point of reference, testing the waters is exactly the same way that Rudy Giuliani put it, and we saw that he got in the race. Not much question that Fred Thompson will probably jump in, as well.

What does he bring to the party, Mark, for party faithful? What does he bring to the race?

ALLEN: Well, John, as you know so well, a lot of Republicans have been dissatisfied with this field for whatever reason. That's where Senator Thompson saw his opportunity. And what we're told is he's going to offer himself as a consistent conservative, someone that is safe to vote for, is the way one person put it to me.

It's the theory of his strategists that a lot of Republicans and conservatives have qualms about some of these candidates. The way it was put to me is that a lot of conservatives don't, for different reasons, trust a lot of the top front-running candidates.

So, Senator Thompson hopes to fill that gap with his sort of, like, folksy populism. At the same time when people are concerned about security, somebody told me he's the ultimate papa bear.

ROBERTS: You know, we have seen polls that put him in third place even though he's not running, and polls seem to be pretty consistent, depending on which state you're in. He takes votes away from the front-runner, whether that be Romney in one state, or Giuliani or McCain. But the question people are wondering, and this was a question that was bounced around a little bit in the dinner that I was at on Saturday night with a whole lot of Republicans, many of them from the administration, is he too late to the game?

ALLEN: Yes, that's a good question. And John, I think that that's why you saw this flurry of activity this week.

They were trying to find the sweet spot between holding back. As you know, Senator Thompson clearly saw the advantages to being a non- candidate candidate. You always want the girl you can't have. And for now, that's who he is.

But you're totally right, they were beginning to see real deadlines. Endorsements being snapped up. They need to convert this huge amount of online interest -- the Fred Heads, they're sometimes called -- into real action on the ground. People that have been involved in presidential campaigns know how difficult that is.

So, they decided that they couldn't wait much longer than midsummer to make it official to show that he's serious. And John, one of the drawbacks about this candidate here, one of the questions is, does he have the fire in the belly? Is he really serious?


ALLEN: And this parade of action you're seeing is, in part, designed to answer that question, to say, yes, he's serious. And as Senator Clinton said, in it to win it.

ROBERTS: Well, Mike, I think you've come you up with a campaign slogan -- Fred Thompson, the girl you always wanted but couldn't have.

Mike Allen of

Thanks very much. Good to see you.

ALLEN: John, have a beautiful day.

ROBERTS: You too.

CHETRY: Well, President Bush reaching out to Russia's Vladimir Putin. That tops our "Quick Hits" now.

President Bush inviting Putin to stay at the Bush compound in Kennebunkport, Maine, this July. Bad blood between the U.S. and Russia is at a post-Cold War high. There are disagreements over Iraq, Iran, Kosovo, and a new missile defense system Russia has been talking about.

Also, a close call in Indiana. The pilot of an F-15 ejected from the jet before it crashed, parachuting safely to the ground and walking away. The Air National Guard says the pilot has 15 years of flying experience. The F-15 doing practice maneuvers with seven other jets.

And Tropical Storm Barbara gaining steam off the coast of Mexico. Expected to head toward the resort of Acapulco in the next few days.

We have the forecast ahead. Plus, we're coming up to the Atlantic hurricane season, as well. Chad Myers is going to break it all down for us.

You're watching AMERICAN MORNING. The most news in the morning here on CNN.


ROBERTS: Dealing with flight delays in the Big Apple. Some "Quick Hits" now.

The group that runs New York City's major airports is setting up a task force to speed up arrivals and departures. Kennedy, LaGuardia, New York Liberty rank among the worst in on-time performance. And there's nothing like going out to the runway and being told you're number 25 for takeoff.

Thieves took several thousand dollars and a gun from the driver of an armored truck in Miami Beach, Florida. The guard had gone into a Walgreens to deliver bags of money when he was robbed by two men in broad daylight.

And talk about a cold-blooded marketing stunt down under. Take a look at this. An Australian museum sent a staffer dressed up in a dinosaur suit roaming around Sydney. He was trying to drum up business for a new exhibit and managed to surprise the lunch crowd and scare some kids who thought he was a real dinosaur.

CHETRY: I just feel bad thinking, how hot must it be to be traipsing around Australia in some sort of huge, plastic dinosaur costume.

It could be worse, Chad, right?


CHETRY: Well, "Quick Hits" now.

New Jersey is starting an agency to fight fat. It's setting up the Office of Nutrition and Fitness. New Jersey leads the nation in overweight and obese children -- 17.7 percent of children are considered obese in that state, or overweight, according to recent CDC survey.

Also, blame the West for a dramatic surge in cancer that's predicted in Asia over the next 10 years. And researchers are claiming that Asians are picking up bad habits like smoking, drinking, and eating unhealthy foods from westerners. Asian cancer rates could climb 60 percent by 2020.

Trying to reason with hurricane season. It kicks off tomorrow. So, what would the Gulf Coast do if another storm like Katrina rolled their way?

We're live in Louisiana when AMERICAN MORNING comes right back.


CHETRY: Big bucks for a movie dress topping our "Quick Hits," $192,000 for the pink cocktail dress worn by Audrey Hepburn. Of course every woman wanted to look like Audrey Hepburn in the 1961 film "Breakfast At Tiffany's". Well, one person is going to.

That's more than six times look like her. This is more than six times what Christie's Auction House in New York thought they would get for it. That dress went to a private European buyer.

Well, it looks like big girls do cry. Paris Hilton not enjoying her last days of freedom before reporting to jail on Tuesday. People around her are telling magazines that she's crying a lot, not eating at all. And one Web site,, saying her cell mate has already been selected. She's going to be bunking with an inmate who is doing time for reckless driving, so they'll have a lot to talk about.

Maybe coming soon to a town near you, the world's smallest horse. No, that is not a dog. That is Thumbelina, kicking off a tour of 47 states.

She's going to be visiting children at a New Jersey hospital. They're hoping that Thumbelina can raise $1 million for children's charities.

There she is. The tiniest horse in the world. Very sweet.

ROBERTS: What a cute little horse.

Fifty minutes after the hour.

With the new hurricane season set to begin tomorrow, New Orleans is still reeling from the Katrina disaster 20 months ago. Last night, Mayor Ray Nagin formally addressed the state of his city for the first time since Katrina hit.


MAYOR RAY NAGIN (D), NEW ORLEANS: We have endured and suffered more than many thought possible. Our finances are stable and improving. Many of our citizens have returned, and more are planning to rebuild. New Orleans, in many ways, is like the patient that lives and thrives, despite a doctor's diagnosis of a serious illness.


ROBERTS: This morning, CNN's Sean Callebs is taking a look at rebuilding efforts along the Gulf Coast region. He is live in Venice, Louisiana.

If you want to know where that is, that's about as far as you can get south in Louisiana before you hit the Gulf of Mexico. It's part of Plaquemines Parish.

Good morning, Sean.

How are things looking down there? Because during Katrina, that area of Louisiana was literally wiped off the map.

SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It really was. And things have turned around a great deal here.

Captain Rolands (ph) getting ready to head out, one of the shrimpers here. He catches shrimp for the dock here in Venice.

Good luck out there. I know it's going to be a nice day out there for you.

But things have -- this parish is really a tale of two stories. In the southern half, about the last 35 miles of this 70-mile-long parish, John, the levees simply aren't being rebuilt. So, the concern is even a tropical storm could flood this area.

Now, up North, in the town of Belle Chasse, the levees are being worked up on there to a great deal. Most of the 22,000 people that still live in this parish live up in that area. But, commercial fishing, recreational fishing, John, very important. And this area is coming back pretty well.

ROBERTS: What about the fishing fleet? Because one of the enduring pictures from Hurricane Katrina was up in Belle Chasse, where a couple of those big fishing trollers were actually right up on the highway. And we know that so many boats got wiped out. It was almost like a "Forrest Gump" situation.

Are they come back pretty well down there?

CALLEBS: It really was. The shrimping industry has only come back about 50 percent. Crabbing industry, too, is suffering, and also oyster.

You talked about all those boats that were up on that area. They actually got rid of those by bringing in giant air mattresses and Crisco, basically inflating them and sliding those boats back in the water.

But look at this marina here down in Venice, John. All this simply gone.

Remember, when Hurricane Katrina blew into this area, it actually touched land first in Plaquemines Parish in the town of Burris (ph). But this area is coming along well. People hope that they don't have a storm this year, because if the predictions are right, man, even a tropical storm could push this off the map again -- John.

ROBERTS: Well, it looks really nice from where you're standing right now. It looks like they've done a very good job in coming back.

Something we want to ask you about a little bit later on this morning, Sean, is that Road Home program and see if that's doing any good. Sean Callebs for us this morning down there in Venice, Louisiana. I've been down there. It's just a beautiful part of the country.

Ahead, the latest on that tuberculosis scare. The Centers for Disease Control recommending that all passengers on the two transatlantic flights get tested. We'll speak to two passengers coming up live in our next hour.

You're watching AMERICAN MORNING. The most news in the morning is on CNN.


ROBERTS: Fifty-six minutes after the hour.

The last stop on a more than 60-year haul. "Quick Hits," starting in Iowa now.

Eighty-year-old Dale Hansen (ph) is hanging up the keys and retiring as a bus driver. He's been shuttling kids to school in Stanhope, Iowa, since the end of World War II.

And they're rocking to the oldies. Take a look at this -- birthday present of iPods yesterday for 20 folks who turned 100 years young in Rockville, Maryland. From the looks of it, some have even figured out how to use them. But you've got to wonder, what do they got on them?

And proving that it's never too late for love, Edna and Richard Torrence tied the knot at their nursing home in New Jersey yesterday. Edna is 87. Her groom, a spry 79.


RICHARD TORRENCE, JUST MARRIED: She's stuck with me through thick and thin, three heart attacks and cancer, and I'm still here because it was meant to be.


ROBERTS: Ah, yes, Edna the cradle robber. The newlyweds didn't rush into anything, though. They had their first date 10 years ago.


ROBERTS: And knew a lot about each other.

CHETRY: Congratulations to them. How about that?

Three minutes before the top of the hour. Ali Velshi joins us now, "Minding Your Business".

Some good news for Northwest Airlines. They're coming out of bankruptcy and they're trading for the first time.

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm unclear whether coming out of bankruptcy is better news than going into bankruptcy for a U.S. airline, because nothing seems to change. But Northwest Airlines emerges from bankruptcy today after 20 months. It follows Delta, coming out of bankruptcy last month, which means for the first time in five years, a major U.S. airline isn't in bankruptcy.

What does it mean to you? Nothing. The same thing it meant to you when they went into bankruptcy. Nothing.

In fact, airfares are probably going to be higher. Fuel prices, which are a major component of airlines' expenses, are up. Travel is up for the summer. Airlines are overbooked.

In fact, "The Wall Street Journal" was -- did a story that said they're so overbooked that if you aren't able to get a seat on a flight, if you're bumped from a flight, it could actually be a few days before you get back on some routes.

CHETRY: Oh, wow.

VELSHI: Because these airlines are so fully overbooked.

Now, you've got overbooking, higher gas prices. Your fares aren't going anywhere. They're not going lower.

CHETRY: The other thing they were saying is they're factoring in to the flight time, expected delays. It's just so routine now to have the delays that they factor them in.

VELSHI: Yes. It's like the movies. They fake the start time. They're going to start to fake the start and finish times for flights.

CHETRY: Right. The only difference is, you can't run in after the previews. You've got to be there.

VELSHI: Right. You've got to be there for the start.

So, airline travel. And, in fact, I'm going to talk later about the fact that we know that gas prices are up. Accommodation prices are up, as well.

So, it's going to be an expensive summer.

That's it for me. I'll be back in half an hour.

But the next hour of AMERICAN MORNING starts right now.