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American Morning

President To Capitol Hill; Letterman's Security; Minding Your Business

Aired June 12, 2007 - 06:00   ET


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Political CPR. President Bush heading to the Capitol today, determined to bring the immigration bill back to life.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I believe we can get it done.


CHETRY: The president's spokesman, Tony Snow, weighs in live.

Plus . . .




CHETRY: All jokes on TV.


LETTERMAN: If you're good on (INAUDIBLE) tonight, the L.A. sheriff may let you go home early.


CHETRY: But a jail break by the man who threatened to kidnap his son is no laughing matter for David Letterman, on this AMERICAN MORNING.

And good morning to you. It's Tuesday, June 12th. I'm Kiran Chetry.

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

Some stories "On Our Radar" this morning.

New polls overnight on the presidential race that you'll be interested in. Hillary Clinton, of course, continues to hold a big lead, but there appears to be one big factor behind her success. We're going to tell you about that coming up a little bit later on. The big question is, will the support or will her broadest measure of support last all the way through the general election?

CHETRY: Very true. We'll talk about that.

Plus, freedom denied for the teenager that was sent to prison over a consensual sex act. We've followed this case of Genarlow Wilson for quite some time. It's full of twists and turns. Well yesterday a judge order him released. They called his sentence a miscarriage of justice. Then, though, a last-minute legal maneuver ended up keeping the young man locked up this morning. So we're going to talk about the latest in the Genarlow Wilson case.

ROBERTS: Plus, fight night fans go wild at a soccer game. We'll show you more of these hard-hitting pictures. And all the way up into the stand, riot police with shields. Unbelievable stuff.

But we begin this morning with a rescue mission. President Bush makes a rare trip to Capitol Hill today to attempt to revive the immigration bill. He'll join the Senate Republicans at a policy lunch. The last time he did that was five years ago. He's got a tough fight ahead of him. Dana Bash is on Capitol Hill this morning with a preview.

Dana, is the president going to find a receptive audience there at that policy lunch today?

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, he'll find a polite audience, no question about it, especially in a room full of Republicans. But there is no question also, John, that the president's influence is significantly diminished here, especially in his own party. And nowhere do you see that more than on the issue of immigration because the conservative base so vehemently opposes him on this particular issue.

And most Republicans really are putting their own personal, political standing now ahead of loyalty to the president. Listen to this. The Senate top Republican, Mitch McConnell, he said that when the president comes here, he warned him, he said, don't try to twist political arms on this particular issue because it's just not going to work. That's pretty amazing to hear from the top Republican in the Senate just hours before the president shows up here.

ROBERTS: Now Democrats have long said, Dana, that if the president wants this bill to be passed, he's got to come to the table here. And they're saying that he's not getting enough votes. He only got I think six or seven of them for the last vote in the Senate there and he's got to get a whole lot more in the House.

This is what Harry Reid said yesterday. He said, "we believe it will take stronger leadership by you to ensure that opponents of the bill do not block the path to final passage." Is it possible for the president to come up with the number of votes he needs to, to get this thing through?

BASH: It is going to be very, very hard. And what you just saw is sort of the classic Democratic tactic right there is, yes, is they run the Congress now and they certainly do need an accomplishment, the Democrats. But they're saying to the president, look, you've got to come up here, you've got to deliver more than, like you said, John, seven Republican votes for a procedural measure last week that would have kept this immigration bill alive.

What is going on right now is sort of a tug of war between Republicans and Democrats on the progress here. So that's why you heard the Senate's top Republicans send a message to the president, you coming up here and trying to twist arms on an issue that your own party just disagrees with you on just isn't going to work.

ROBERTS: Boy, not a good place to be in his shoes today. Dana Bash up on Capitol Hill, thanks.

BASH: Thank you.

ROBERTS: We'll check back with you a little bit later.

And coming up in our 7:00 hour, we're going to talk with one of the Republicans that the president needs to win over today. Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama joins us. And in our 8:00 hour, one of the architects of the plan, Republican Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona will be here. And later on this hour, we're going to get the White House perspective from Press Secretary Tony Snow, who will be joining us from the North Lawn of the White House.

CHETRY: Well, voters sent a clear signal back in November and now they're sending another one. Congress's approval rating at its lowest point in a decade. According to a new "L.A. Times"/Bloomberg poll, only 27 percent of Americans think Congress is doing a good job. That compared to 36 percent back in January. Not all that high either back then.

Voters, though, not happy with the leadership. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi scoring only a 36 percent approval rating. Newt Gingrich had 46 percent back in 1994. The poll also showing that voters feel the majority backed down against President Bush and congressional Republicans over the war in Iraq.

Well, a no on the no-confidence vote for Al Gonzales, attorney general. Despite the backing of seven Republicans, it never made it to the Senate floor last night. Republicans blocked it in a procedural vote. The non-binding resolution doesn't have any legal weight but Democrats were hoping that it would push Gonzales to resign. Republicans calling it a political stunt.

ROBERTS: The prosecutor in the Scooter Libby case has filed papers early this morning asking the judge to send Libby to jail pending his appeal. Libby has been sentenced to 30 months in prison. His attorneys say he should be free while he appeals his conviction on perjury and obstruction of justice, but special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald says Libby's appeal is not likely to result in his conviction being overturned and, in that case, the law says he should make his case from behind bars. CHETRY: The state of Georgia fighting a judge's order to release Genarlow Wilson, the man at the heart of a controversial case. Wilson's mother celebrated yesterday when the judge voided the 10-year sentence. He called it cruel and unusual. But the state prevented Wilson from being released while it appeals. Wilson's attorney called it a cruel game.


B.J. BERNSTEIN, GENARLOW WILSON'S DEFENSE ATTORNEY: This is wrong. This is -- there is just nothing right about this. There is nothing right about this. I don't know who is pulling the strings here. I don't know -- understand why smarter heads can't prevail, why people consistently have said, keep this kid a convicted felon, ruin his life on the sex offender registry and now the games are continuing.


CHETRY: Well, Wilson was sentenced under a law that was later changed partly because of the unusually long sentence that he received. It was a consensual sex act that took place when he was 17 with a 15-year-old. B.J. Bernstein, his lawyer, Genarlow Wilson's lawyer, will actually be joining us in about an hour and a half to talk more about the case.

ROBERTS: Looking forward to that.

Big problems in Afghanistan. U.S. troops killed seven Afghan policemen this morning in an apparent case of friendly fire. Details are sketchy, but by most reports the police were under attack by the Taliban near the border with Pakistan and the Americans came in to help. A U.S. helicopter, though, mistakenly fired rockets at the Afghan police. If confirmed, it would be one of the worst friendly fire incidents of the war in Afghanistan.

The White House says it will appeal a ruling barring it from declaring civilians enemy combatants. The decision came yesterday in Virginia in the case of Ali al-Marri. Al-Marri has been in military custody since 2001 after entering the U.S. legally. The government claims he is a sleeper agent for al Qaeda and has held him indefinitely without any charges. The ruling means that al-Marri must be moved into the civilian court system.

CHETRY: The top two Palestinian leaders survived separate assassination attempts today. Prime Minister Ismail Haniya's house was hit by a rocket propelled grenade in Gaza. Earlier, mortars were fired into the compound of President Mahmoud Abbas. Haniya is a member of Hamas. Abbas is from the Fatah movement. Both sides say the fighting in Gaza has reached a state of all-out civil war.

ROBERTS: A massive search continues this morning for a missing soldier in Fort Hood, Texas. Sergeant Lawrence Sprader disappeared on Friday during a land navigation exercise on the Fort Hood training range. Searchers on the ground and in the air have been scouring the 15,000 acre training site ever since. CHETRY: Well, NASA's going to fix the shuttle Atlantis while it's in orbit. An astronaut will go on a space walk to try to tuck in a corner of thermal blanket that came loose on takeoff. NASA says the fix is simple and it will save damage to the shuttle. The mission has been extended by two days so that the crew can get more work done.

ROBERTS: Well, a baby boom is sweeping the nation. Two sets of sextuplets were born just hours apart in Arizona and Minnesota. This picture are of the Arizona six. Five of them hooked up to ventilators. In Minnesota, all six babies are in critical conditions. Both sets of sextuplets were the result of fertility treatments. Doctors expect to see more multiple births as women wait until later in life to have children and often turn to fertility treatments.

CHETRY: Well, it was fans gone wild at a soccer match in Columbia this past weekend. Take a look at this video. At least two dozen people were hurt when a brawl erupted between fans of two opposing teams. There you see police out there with shields and other riot gear. They were called in to calm things down. A doctor at a local hospital says most of the injuries were caused by sharp objects. But again, only about a dozen people hurt. It's unbelievable looking at the video. It looks like many could have been killed in a stampede.

ROBERTS: It's incredible. Passionate about their soccer there.

"Quick Hits" now.

Former Senate rivals, Democrat Tom Daschle and Republican Bill Frist are teaming up to fight poverty. The One Vote '08 Tour will take them to four presidential battleground states, raising awareness of extreme poverty and disease around the world. The One Campaign is the brainchild of U2 lead singer Bono.

The border officer who ignored a warning to stop globe-trotting TB patient Andrew Speaker at the U.S./Canadian boarder is taking early retirement. The unidentified inspector had been on leave and under investigation. Speaker, as you know, has a dangerous form of tuberculosis.

Well, no laughs from David Letterman over the prison break by a man who threatened to kidnap his son. Alina Cho joins us live with that story coming up.


ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, that man and another inmate are both still at large this morning. They escaped from a Montana prison and they're believed to be armed and dangerous. I'll tell you how Letterman dealt with it on his show last night when AMERICAN MORNING continues.


CHETRY: New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson makes a big campaign promise to L.A. He says that he is going to help end traffic. The Democratic contender for the White House says he wants to build a light rail system to help untangle the mess along L.A.'s freeways. He says that mass transit is the best and the cleanest way to get the city moving.

Meantime, Senator Hillary Clinton is turning her attention to New York's airports. She wants to investigate a series of near misses that took place last month. She says that aviation security needs to be a top priority.

And New York City may be needing to get ready for a major hurricane, at least according to Homeland Security Chief Michael Chertoff. Experts say that New York is due for a major hurricane. And if one comes, it could cause $100 billion in damages and displace some 3 million residents.

ROBERTS: A rescue mission is underway right now in Bangladesh. Mud slides triggered by monsoon rains buried bamboo and straw shacks. More than 100 people have been killed, 11 of them struck by lightening. Forecasters say more than 8 inches of rain fell in just three hours, flooding some areas with as much as 4 feet of water.

And flooding is also a major problem in this country today. Parts of Oklahoma are under water. Dozens of people in the town of Dewey had to evacuate their home with the water in some spots rising as much as four feet. Just like in Bangladesh. Firefighters had to deal with one flooded home that was engulfed in flames.

Thirteen minutes after the hour now. Reynolds Wolf is in for Chad Myers today.

And we still have extreme weather across the country.


CHETRY: To Montana now where a manhunt is underway at this hour for two escaped convicts, including the man once accused of plotting to kidnap David Letterman's son. Investigators are releasing some new information about the pair. They say that the men may be armed and have food, as well as other supplies. David Letterman's security team has been warned. Our Alina Cho is outside of Letterman's studios in New York with more on this developing story for us.

Hi, Alina.

CHO: Hey there, Kiran. Good morning to you.

The man who tried to kidnap David Letterman's son and another inmate are both still at large this morning. And as the search for them continues, last night on his show, David Letterman, who's intensely private and rarely talks about his family, made no mention of the news, but spoke at length about his son.


DAVID LETTERMAN, "LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": My son comes up to me and he says, daddy, would you like to roughhouse? CHO, (voice over): For those who don't know what's going on in David Letterman's personal life, last night was just another show wrinkled with stories about his son.

LETTERMAN: Wham. And I take a knee to my nose.

CHO: But more than 2,000 miles away, in Montana, authorities are searching for 45-year-old Kelly Frank and another inmate. Frank was arrested back in 2005 for plotting to kidnap Letterman's son, Harry. He came to know the family while working as a painter at the talk show host's Montana home. At the time, Letterman mentioned the ordeal on his show.

LETTERMAN: But I want to just take a second here to thank some people.

CHO: On Friday, Frank and the other inmate took off in a truck while working on the prison's minimum security ranch under little supervision.

MIKE MAHONEY, MONTANA STATE PRISON WARDEN: We do believe that these two individuals may be in possession of a weapon. In addition, the complication is our intelligence indicates that Mr. Frank is very familiar with this area.

CHO: Local authorities are getting help from the feds, including a Blackhawk helicopter. Montana authorities are also in touch with Letterman's security team.

MAHONEY: He was just concerned if our intelligence indicated the Letterman family should be concerned about being a risk if this guy had -- we had any intelligence that he had an agenda.

CHO: Letterman's family is not believed to be in danger.


CHO: Now, both CBS, which broadcasts "The Late Show" and Worldwide Pants, Letterman's production company, had no comment.

Meanwhile, if you're wondering just how these two guys got away, well, they were under what the prison called indirect supervision. Now that means they were not considered a danger. So essentially, during the daylight hours, they were able to roam freely on a 40,000 acre ranch on prison grounds. They were checked, in some cases, as little as every two hours.

And another interesting point, Kiran, Kelly Frank, the man who tried to kidnap Letterman's son, he was up for parole in just three months. And last night the warden told me he can't believe he tried to escape and, in fact, he called it a dumb decision.

CHETRY: Yes, that's unbelievable if he only had three more months to go in that situation. Alina, do authorities have any reason to believe that these two suspects are trying to make their way to New York. CHO: No, they don't. In fact, I asked the warden that last night. He says he has no reason to believe that these two men are interested in any sort of what he called retaliatory conduct. What I can tell you about the search is that there was a theft in the area over the weekend. A man apparently stole a box of ammunition, three knives and some food. And they believe the man who committed that theft was the man who escaped with Kelly Frank, the man who tried to kidnap Letterman's son.

CHETRY: Wow. All right. I'm sure there's some jangled nerves at the Letterman camp right now.

Thanks so much, Alina.

ROBERTS: Eighteen minutes now after the hour and some news from the campaign trail. Fred Thompson is sending a new shock wave through the Republican presidential race this morning. Check out this new poll by the "Los Angeles Times" and Bloomberg. The former senator from Tennessee is now second behind Rudy Giuliani. Twenty-one percent of voters say they will give the nod to the former "Law & Order" star. Thompson is still not an official candidate but is expected to get into the race in a few weeks.

Meantime, Thompson aids are striking up new talks to possibly have their boss take part in the Iowa straw poll this August. The contest was expected to be an easy win for Mitt Romney after John McCain and Rudy Giuliani pulled out, saying it's just to expensive to participate. The straw poll is an early but highly unscientific indicator of which candidates Iowans like for president.

On the Democratic side of the equation, Hillary Clinton continues to hold a big lead over her closest competitor, Barack Obama. Thirty- three percent of voters in "The Times"/Bloomberg poll liked Clinton, compared to 22 percent for Obama. Al Gore isn't even a candidate, but take a look at this, holding third spot now with 15 percent over John Edwards.

As for Hillary Clinton success in the polls, analysts say she can thank one group of voters -- women. Today's "Washington Post" says twice as many women in a recent survey favored Clinton over Barack Obama. That could mean good things for her come primary season. Back in 2004, women made up the majority of Democratic primary voters.

CHETRY: Some "Quick Hits" for you now.

A former New Orleans police officer charged in a videotaped beating has apparently committed suicide. Lance Schilling was set to go on trial later this month for allegedly beating 64-year-old Robert Davis, a retired school teacher, who had returned to check on his property after Hurricane Katrina.

Mississippi's attorney general is suing State Farm Insurance again, claiming the company failed to honor a settlement that was reached back in January. That deal called for State Farm to pay at least $50 million to some 35,000 policy holders in Mississippi. And it was a freak car accident caught on tape. A car plunging from a parking garage. We'll show you the pictures, coming up on AMERICAN MORNING.


ROBERTS: Twenty-three minutes after the hour now.

The case of the $54 million pants. Some "Quick Hits" for you now. The case of the judge who was suing his dry-cleaner for $54 million for a lost pair of pants goes to trial in Washington, D.C. superior court this morning.

Summer means lots of bug spray and sunscreen, but should the two of them be mixed? The FDA is looking into the two in one products. A handful of small studies have shown that sunscreen might increase how much bug repellent, like DEET, is absorbed by the body.

And cheer up because it will be good for your memory. According to a new study, people who were anxious or depressed are 40 times more likely to develop memory problems than people with sunnier dispositions. Researchers say the findings shed major light on the early predictors for Alzheimer's disease.

CHETRY: Interesting.

Twenty-four minutes past the hour now. Ali Velshi is back "Minding Your Business." If you're thinking about leaving young kids to a career choice, what would you say?

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. Well, you know, you think about career options. You think about what will satisfy them. Then you think about what the best paying job in America might be. And right now it seems to be the head of a private equity fund.

We've been talking about these for a long time. The two guys at the top of Blackstone, which is probably the best known of the private equity funds, are going to net more than $2 billion when that fund goes public in an IPO later this year. Now these private equity funds are private companies that buy other companies and then they sell them a few years later, usually for a big profit.

Now let's talk about Blackstone. We've seen $400 billion worth of private equity deals this year alone. The two guys at the top of Blackstone are Pete Peterson. He's the chairman. He's 81 years old. He's going to sell about 60 percent of his stake in the company. And for that he's going to get about $1.8 billion. His 2006 salary, by the way, salary and gains from his investments was well over $200 million.

Stephen Schwarzman is the CEO of Blackstone Group. He's likely to net more than $450 million. A mere pittance from the IPO. But he's holding on to a lot of his share. So when the company goes public, he'll still own 23 percent of it. His 2006 salary and gains for investment were almost $400 million. Now, we only usually know about CEOs of public companies because they have to report their salaries. Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sacks earned $54 million in 2006. So you can see what a big jump it is to get into the private equity world.

CHETRY: For sure.

VELSHI: So, you know, if you're looking to start a fund or something.

CHETRY: Yes, I'll write that down.

Ali, thanks so much.


ROBERTS: Here's a rather bazar story. A man died when he drove his car right off of the upper level of a parking garage in Houston. He drove right through the wall, leaving that gaping hole there. The car fell 41 feet before landing upside down on the roof on the building next door. Police think that the driver was backing into a parking spot and, obviously, didn't hit the brake.

We're back in a moment.

CHETRY: Coming up on AMERICAN MORNING, storm of concern. Phony reports sent to the National Weather Service's Web site spark storm warnings and panic across entire cities. How is fiction mistaken for fact? And can the FBI pull the plug on these web savvy weather scoundrels? Next on AMERICAN MORNING.


CHETRY: Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING. It's 6:30 Eastern Time and a beautiful shot this morning of Lady Liberty standing high above New York Harbor. It's shaping up to be in the 80s today here in New York City.

ROBERTS: That is such a great scene, isn't it?

CHETRY: Beautiful.

ROBERTS: Fantastic.

Good morning to you. I'm John Roberts.

CHETRY: And I'm Kiran Chetry. Thanks so much for being with us. We have a lot of stories on our radar this morning.

ROBERTS: Absolutely.

President Bush has got some arm twisting to do today. He's going up to Capitol Hill for the Republican policy lunch. Republicans still reluctant to pass that immigration bill that the president wants. Can he change any minds? We'll put that question to White House Press Secretary Tony Snow, who's going to be joining us in this half hour. CHETRY: How about this one? You think you're helping out when you call into the National Weather Service or let them know that you've seen extreme weather. You want to warn other people so that they also can get to safety.

Well, what if some jerk, pretty much, put in false warnings for hurricanes, thunderstorms and other things that sent people into a panic? Well, it actually happened, and now it's sparking a lot of concern as to how they regulate this.

So we're going to be talking to Reynolds Wolf.

ROBERTS: Don't sugarcoat it. Tell us what you really think.

CHETRY: Well, you've got to be a jerk if you do that, right?

ROBERTS: I would think so.

And was the final scene of "The Sopranos" series a setup for a movie?

The show's director and creator, David Chase, breaking his silence, speaking out to the Newark "Star-Ledger," of all newspapers. That's pretty much a given.

We'll tell you what he's saying about the whole thing.

CHETRY: Yes, he wanted to keep the criticism in Jersey. How about that?

Well, we start with the immigration bill and a late effort by President Bush to try to save it. Freshly back from Europe, the president now heads to Capitol Hill today to rally support. He'll be attending a policy lunch with Republicans. The last time he attended such a meeting, five years ago.

And in just about 15 minutes, White House Press Secretary Tony Snow will be joining me live with a preview of the president's trip to the Hill.

ROBERTS: And take a listen to this. They're supposed to protect the border, but some National Guardsmen were busted for doing just the opposite.

Three Guardsmen from Texas yesterday were charged yesterday with smuggling 24 people across the border. They allegedly made several trips in uniform, pocketing up to $2,000 per passenger. They were stationed on the border to back up border patrols as part of Operation Jump Start.

The no-confidence vote on Attorney General Alberto Gonzales never made it to the Senate floor last night. Republicans blocked it in a procedural vote. A resolution of non-confidence doesn't have any legal weight, but Democrats think that it might push Gonzales to resign. Republicans call it nothing more than a political stunt. CHETRY: Well, for the second time in as many days, insurgents have hit a bridge in Iraq. This morning they bombed one on a highway south of Baghdad. Word is there were no injuries and that bridge was not badly damaged. Yesterday, insurgents bombed an overpass, killing three U.S. soldiers.

There are reports this morning that U.S. troops killed seven Afghan policemen in an apparent case of friendly fire. The details are sketchy, but by most reports, the police were under attack by the Taliban near the border with Afghanistan. The Americans came to help, but a U.S. helicopter mistakenly fired rockets at the Afghan police. If confirmed, it would be one of the worst friendly fire incidents in the Afghan war.

And the top two Palestinian leaders survived separate assassination attempts earlier today. Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh's house was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade in Gaza. And earlier, mortars were fired into the compound of President Mahmoud Abbas.

Haniyeh is a member of Hamas. Abbas is from the Fatah group. Both sides say the fighting in Gaza has reached a state of all-out civil war.

ROBERTS: Well, Genarlow Wilson, the man who is at a controversial case in Georgia, remains behind bars this morning despite a judge's order yesterday to free him. Wilson's mother celebrated yesterday when the judge voided the 10-year sentence. He called it cruel and unusual. But the state immediately appealed, preventing Wilson from being released.

Wilson was sentenced for having consensual sex with a 15-year- old. At the time, he was 17. The law he was sentenced under was eventually changed, partly because of his unusually long sentence. Genarlow's attorney, B.J. Bernstein, is going to join us live at 7:30 this morning to talk more about their obvious disappointment and that he will be staying behind bars.

CHETRY: NASA's going to fix the shuttle Atlantis while it's in orbit. An astronaut will be going on a spacewalk to try to tuck in a corner of a thermal blanket that came loose on takeoff. NASA says the fix is actually pretty simple and that it will save damage to the shuttle. The mission has been extended by two days, not because of the fix, but so the crew can get more work done.

ROBERTS: Well, have a listen to this. A strange religious rirtal is once again drawing attention to a tiny town in Spain, a place where they jump babies.

Every year at the end of the Corpus Christi festival in Castrillo de Murcia, mothers line up their babies and grown men jump over them. The men represent the devil, and it's believed that they take the evil from the infants as they pass over them.

Supposedly, the guys doing the jumping have never missed a landing. Let's hope they don't.

CHETRY: Exactly. That's a good thing, I guess.

Well, a cause for alarm online. Phony storm reports sent to the National Weather Service's Web site, and they sparked some real storm warnings. They caused panic in entire cities.

We're going to tell you how that happened.

Also, the man behind "The Sopranos" series finale speaks out. Was that final scene a setup for a movie?

What David Chase is saying next on AMERICAN MORNING.

The most news in the morning is here on CNN.


ROBERTS: Michael Moore says he's being investigated because he criticized the Bush administration. Your "Quick Hits" now.

The government sent the filmmaker a letter a while back saying that it was looking into a trip that Moore made to Cuba during the filming of his new movie "Sicko". Moore's speaking out against the investigation, suggesting the government may try to confiscate part of the film.

Al Pacino and Yoko Ono say they want to protect dead celebrities in New York City. The two are pushing a law that would require authorization to use the images of celebrities in advertising and promotion even after they're dead. Right now in New York, laws protect only living celebrities.

CHETRY: Well, a weather-savvy person is causing a lot of problems at the National Weather Center. Meteorologists say that they received more than 50 phony weather reports on a Web site that they use to track severe weather. In fact, one report claimed that a tornado had touched down in Blue Mound, Illinois, that it caused damage, that it caused injuries, and this led a local TV station to interrupt broadcasting for three hours to report on this severe weather.

The National Weather Service said it appears the person who filed the reports had a good deal of weather knowledge and some access to online radar that would show where that storm was headed. The FBI is now investigating, and so is meteorologist Reynolds Wolf, who joins me now to talk more about this.

First of all, how did this person dupe the weather service to the point where broadcast stations were going on for three hours?

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, surprisingly and alarmingly, it was very simple for them. What they did is they simply went to a Web site for that local National Weather Service office and submitted the information saying that there was, indeed, a tornado. And again, the National Weather Service took that information and passed it on to the community, and that's why we had the warning, the false one, at that. Let me show you how it's supposed to be done.

This is the National Weather Service out of Peachtree City, Georgia, and we're going to scroll down, where you'll notice it mentions the type of event that anyone can go online, if they have this event -- say a strong storm or in their neighborhood -- they can submit they've seen a tornado and whatnot. But as you scroll downward, you'll also notice a little bit of a verification.

Let's scroll down all the way to the very bottom, where you describe the damage. And look, here you go: your name, which is required; your street address, also a big requirement. Then you also mention, again, just the way that you can be contacted -- telephone numbers -- then you submit the form.

Now, the weather office that happened to be in the Midwest -- we're talking about Illinois -- didn't have these requirements. So that was the reason why they were able to submit the report.

CHETRY: So -- OK, so each local National Weather Service reporting station has a different Web site?

WOLF: It does. There is really no uniform rule as to how it's done. And unfortunately in this situation, you had someone who did have the knowledge of meteorology.

I'm thinking it was maybe a student, maybe someone who was just playing a trick, who did have meteorological knowledge. The problem is, you have people that become desensitized to this information.

You give information about a false tornado, the National Weather Service sends it on to the television stations, the television stations broadcast that information. And if it doesn't occur, then people aren't going to -- you know, these reports won't hold that same validity.

CHETRY: Right.

WOLF: So then people won't take these reports seriously and then you have tremendous issues.

CHETRY: Sure, that is a concern. Hopefully this is an isolated incident, and hopefully the FBI, which is looking into it, will get to the bottom of it.

But thanks for showing us how this works, Reynolds.

WOLF: You bet.


ROBERTS: Forty-one minutes after the hour now. It's like that old Harry Nilsson song, "Everybody's Talking at Me."

David Chase is speaking out. Paris Hilton is putting in collect phone calls to Barbara Walters. Lola Ogunnaike is here to try to unravel it all for us.

So, David Chase came under a lot of heat for this ending to "The Sopranos". What's he saying?


Well, he's not saying much. But he did tell the "Star-Ledger" that he wasn't trying to blow people's minds and thinking, wow, this will tick them off. "People get the impression that you're trying to mess with them, and it's just not true."

And he's not explaining, he's not justifying. He's not reexamining it at all.

In fact, he's in Paris right now having a good old time, while we're sitting around our water coolers, discussing, belaboring, analyzing what the ending means. What does this all say?

ROBERTS: So there you go. He's taking it to the bank.

I watched this yesterday.


ROBERTS: I hadn't seen it on Sunday night. I watched it yesterday and...

OGUNNAIKE: What did you think?

ROBERTS: ... and while the ending is very jarring and for a second you say, what happened, did my cable go out? You know, given further thought, it sort of suggests to you so many different possibilities. And I think it was a rather clever way of ending the show, if you wanted to leave people thinking.

OGUNNAIKE: Well, he definitely left people thinking, but he also left people speculating about whether or not there will be a film. He has said for now, there will not be a movie. Never say never, an idea could pop into his head, but right now, he doubts it.

ROBERTS: Yes, and Al Gore is not going to run for president, either.


ROBERTS: What about Paris Hilton? What's she saying?

OGUNNAIKE: Paris Hilton is also saying a lot. The main thing she's saying though is that she has found God in jail. I know, I know, but Paris has found the lord. And she's reached out to Barbara Walters, called her collect on Sunday, the lord's day, and they had a conversation about her time in jail, how she's been faring.

ROBERTS: She also said all this dumb blond stuff was an act? OGUNNAIKE: She says the dumb blond stuff is completely an act, and an act that she will drop as soon as she gets out. She's done with it. She wants little girls that look up to her to think more of her.

She also wants to do more with her life and her celebrity. She's talking about charitable work now, working with MS victims, people suffering from breast cancer, because she had grandmothers who suffered from both diseases. So she's really thinking about the future now and turning her life around.

ROBERTS: Well, if it's an act, she deserves an Academy Award.

Lola, thanks.

OGUNNAIKE: All around.

CHETRY: It's like, Paris, no one plays a dumb blond like you. Boy, made for that role.

Well, a major school overhaul topping our "Quick Hits" now.

Washington, D.C., mayor Adrian Fenty taking charge of the schools. As of midnight, he's expected to fire the school superintendent this morning. Among major urban districts, D.C. ranks among the highest in spending and the lowest in results.

Washington's former mayor and current council member Marion Barry goes on trial today for traffic charges, accused of driving under the influence, misuse of tags, and operating an unregistered vehicle. He says the charges are unfounded.

Barry served time on misdemeanor drug charges back in 1990 and then was reelected as mayor after he got out.

Off to Capitol Hill. President Bush heading straight to the Senate today to try to bring that immigration bill back to life. Can he make it happen?

We're going to be talking to White House spokesman Tony Snow about the immigration issue up next.


ROBERTS: Forty-eight minutes after the hour now. A deadly fire tops your "Quick Hits" this morning.

This just in. Five children are reported dead this morning after an early-morning house fire in Pittsburgh. Police say the children range in age from 2 to 7. The fire happened in the East Liberty neighborhood of the city. As many as 12 people might have been living in the house at the time.

There's an ethics hearing today for the prosecutor in the Duke sexual assault case. Durham D.A. Mike Nifong could be disbarred in North Carolina if the ethics board finds that he mishandled evidence in the Duke rape case. All the charges against the lacrosse players were dropped.

And two sets of sextuplets born just a few hours apart in Arizona. Five of the six babies are hooked up to ventilators. All but one of them were under three pounds in weight. And the other set of six was in Minnesota, where all six remain in critical condition.

Ali Velshi is here now "Minding Your Business".

And that uncomfortable intersection between medicine and pharmaceuticals is causing controversy yet again.

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. There's a court case going on in Boston. It's being brought by cancer patients and their insurers.

And the allegation is that a number of oncologists might have made treatment decisions for their cancer patients based on how much they could make on the drugs that they were using. The allegation, the lawsuit sites four of the biggest pharmaceutical companies in the country -- AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers, Johnson & Johnson and Schering- Plow -- and say the drug companies actually calculated to the penny how much these doctors would make on the drugs that they sold, and that the sales reps would actually show up in doctor's offices, or talk to them or their staff with spreadsheets, alleging how much they could make on a particular drug.

One of the files that was brought up and "The New York Times" has reported on is a Schering-Plow representative who told -- told doctors they could make $2,373.84 on just the drug alone. The sense that they could do that.

Now, a lot of doctors have said, we didn't do this, we don't make those decisions. But at least one has said absolutely they did, and they did change their treatment regimen based on the fact that they could make more money on some drugs than others.

Now, how does this happen? The system has changed now, the reimbursement system has changed. But it used to be that they could charge the patients or the health insurer the list price, but they were actually sold those drugs at a lower price.

So, they were making the spread in the middle. In fact, one piece of information shows that oncologists made some 65 percent of their profits just from the drugs.

ROBERTS: It's almost like the clothing industry.

VELSHI: Yes. You don't sort of think of this -- I mean, I don't think anybody begrudges the fact that these doctors should make money, but this alleges they weren't maybe making money the right way.

ROBERTS: Disturbing stuff.


ROBERTS: Ali, thanks. We'll see you in a half an hour. VELSHI: Yes.


CHETRY: Thanks, guys.

Well, rallying support for the immigration bill on Capitol Hill, President Bush will be meeting with GOP senators today. So can the president get more of them to support the plan?

Joining me now is White House Press Secretary Tony Snow this morning from the White House lawn.

Hi, Tony. Good to see you.

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Hi, Kiran. Good to see you, too.

CHETRY: Well, in just a few hours the president's going to be having lunch with the Senate Republicans. Yesterday, though, the top Republican in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, basically said the president won't make much of a difference because not many are "undecided," as he put it.

How will the president change any minds today?

SNOW: Well, you know, there are a couple of things going on right now, Kiran. There are actually a lot of people who are decided who like what has been going on in terms of developing an immigration bill. What they didn't like last week was that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid wanted to cut off the debate so that a number of Republicans who had amendments they wanted to propose didn't get to have their hearing before the United States Senate. So, you know, it's possible to kind of over-interpret what happened in that cloture vote.

What now is going to happen, we think, is that Senate Republicans are going to get together on a series of amendments, they're going to present them to Harry Reid, who has given us the belief that he'll go ahead and permit that debate after they finish debating an energy bill that comes up today. And if that's the case, we're confident it's going to pass.

CHETRY: Right. Looking at possibly adding eight to 12 GOP amendments. But that really brings us to one of the criticisms of the bill, which some GOP senators are saying, look, just give us some more time. Maybe we need a few months to have open hearings since this compromise was really decided behind closed doors.

Why not public hearings on such a huge issue with huge implications?

SNOW: Well, a couple of things. It's not as if the issue has not been debated.

Number two, it will be debated in the House of Representatives. Number three, during the course of these negotiations, you did have regular meetings between members of the Republican caucus and those who were speaking on their behalf.

And number four, you have had an amendment process much like what we saw last year.

We're going to have 30 or 40 amendments. So there is going to be a careful debate about it.

The real question is, do you want to address the problem? Because it's a problem, everybody agrees about it. And also, Americans, I think, are rightly skeptical about the fact that immigration reform passed 21 years ago, promised a lot of stuff...

CHETRY: Right.

SNOW: ... didn't deliver it. So, we actually look forward to a debate so we can demonstrate why this bill is a lot different, especially when it comes to the pivotal issue of security.

CHETRY: Also, how about when it comes to cost? There's a Heritage Foundation estimate that says it will cost taxpayers some $2.6 trillion. You're shaking your head no. This takes into retirement and other benefits for people that are eventually given legal status, and into account the increased tax revenue, as well.

Are we fully aware of the future implications of this bill?

SNOW: Right. Look, I love our friends at Heritage, but this is a study that's highly controversial, because it basically assumes that any immigrant is merely going to be a consumer of government services, rather than a contributor to the economy.

CHETRY: It actually doesn't. It takes into account increased tax revenue for people that would then be legally working and on the books.

SNOW: Well, let me -- let me continue. It -- what it actually does is still assume lower levels of income and so on.

We have got a Council of Economic Advisers that put together their own study, and is there's a fair amount of academic research indicating that when people come here to work, they contribute to the economy. In fact, the benefits are overwhelming. And so, frankly, we think that that study is kind of an outlier, both academically and in terms of the strengths of Americans (ph).

CHETRY: So what does that study say about the cost?

SNOW: What the study says it that you're going to have a net benefit that is significant. Academic research indicates, for instance, in California, net benefit of immigration, of immigrants who come to work, including taking out what they consume in services, is in the billions of dollars. A similar study has been conducted in North Carolina. Same result. Use common sense, Kiran. If you have people who come to this country, they're working and contributing to the economy, they're buying, they're using goods and services, they are paying taxes -- and by the way, this bill does not guarantee -- it says that people do not have access to the welfare system.

One of the premises in the study is completely at odds with the bill that's being debated right now. So, again, I understand that it's important to try to tote costs and benefits, but you also have to take a look at the actual bill and the actual experience of working Americans.

CHETRY: Yes. I think some of the senators have to take a look at the actual bill, as well. I know it's a hefty read there.

Tony, you've been an inspiration to many with your brave fight. How are you doing right now?

SNOW: Doing fine. I got some good news last night. We did a CAT scan and it looks like the tumor is getting smaller rather than larger. So, woo hoo! I'm happy about that.

CHETRY: And so are we. We wish you the best. And thanks for your time this morning.

SNOW: Thanks, Kiran.

CHETRY: We're also going to have more on the immigration fight at the top of the hour. We're going to be talking to one of the Republicans that the president needs to win over today. A little bit later on the Hill, Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama is going to be joining us.

Also today, one of the architects of the plan who's come under a lot of fire from his constituency. That's Republican senator Jon Kyl of Arizona. He's going to talk about the bill with us, as well.

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


ROBERTS: A couple of minutes now before the top of the hour.

Opie and Anthony will soon be back on the bird (ph). Some "Quick Hits'" for you.

The shock jocks are going to resume live shows on XM Satellite Radio on Friday. They were suspended for a month after a guest described a rape fantasy that involved Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and First Lady Laura Bush.

Some boy band memorabilia on the auction block. Nearly 300 platinum and gold records and CDs from boy bands such as 'N Sync and the Backstreet Boys are going to go on the auction block. They belong to Lou Pearlman, the man who helped launch those bands. He allegedly owes $130 million to banks and millions more to investors that he allegedly defrauded. Authorities say they don't know where Pearlman is.

And a new postage stamp will honor the late president Gerald Ford. The 41-cent stamp will be issued on August the 31st. President Ford died back in December. The commemorative design was unveiled Monday at the annual Ford Foundation dinner in Washington.

The next hour of AMERICAN MORNING starts right now.