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American Morning

Michigan Delegates: Plan to Split Up; Democratic Candidates Both Campaigning in Pennsylvania; McCain on Service to America Tour; Oil Grilling: Companies Testifies on Capitol Hill

Aired April 01, 2008 - 06:00   ET


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Oh, wishful thinking. Yes, it's April 1st, April Fools. Be careful how you prank people because apparently these things don't go over well at the workplace.
KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Thought I'd try anyway.

ROBERTS: Yes, we'll recount for you. Coming up, some of the most famous April Fools jokes.

But we begin right now with a race for the White House exactly three weeks away today from the Pennsylvania primary and this morning there is a new possible solution to Michigan's delegate dilemma, and this is not an April Fools joke. It's a proposal being floated by Congressman Bart Stupak.

Eighty-three of the state's pledged delegates would be split based on the January primary, according to this plan. That means that 47 would go to Hillary Clinton whose name was on the Michigan ballot, 36 would go to Barack Obama, or the same breakdown as those people who voted uncommitted. The remaining 73 delegates would be divvied up according to the nationwide popular vote total after all of the primaries are completed. Florida and Michigan were stripped of their delegates for holding their primaries too early. We'll find out more about this plan coming up later on this morning.

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are nearly crossing paths today in Pennsylvania. Both are heading to Wilkes-Barre and will be there about the same time today holding town meetings just blocks from each other.

Dan Lothian is live in Philadelphia. He's with the Election Express and joins us. Good morning, Dan.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. Indeed, both of the candidates will be here in Pennsylvania. The focus again will be on the economy as they try to reach out to those, especially those working class voters. Senator Clinton has a double-digit lead here in Pennsylvania. Nonetheless, she's been fighting criticism that she should drop out of the race because the math is simply against her. Some of Obama supporters have been putting all the pressure, although Obama himself had said that Senator Clinton should stay in the race as long as she wants to. For her part, Senator Clinton says that she's not going anywhere.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I see that sign out there which says please don't quit. Well, one thing you know about me is I do not quit.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think it is a good thing. It is a healthy thing that so many people are passionate. I think it is great that Senator Clinton's supporters are as passionate about her as my supporters are about me. I think that's helping to drive high turnout.

I think that is making this historic race that much more compelling. I think that Democrats will be unified. We will be unified when this whole thing is over. I am absolutely convinced of that regardless of who the nominee is.


LOTHIAN: Senator Clinton has been trying to use this controversy to her advantage. She's been telling voters out there that essentially what her detractors are trying to do is to suppress their votes, to keep their vote from being counted. That is a message that is now part of an ad that she has sent out, or rather a fund-raising letter that she has sent out. Obviously, she's tried to get the base energized so that they can come out and vote for her -- John.

ROBERTS: I know it's early there in Philadelphia, but have you heard anything yet, Dan, and your reaction to this Bart Stupak plan that's being floated to allocate the Michigan delegates?

LOTHIAN: Yes, you're right. It is early and have not heard anything about that. But clearly, John, any time you hear the various solutions that have come up for Michigan or for Florida, the one caveat that you always have to remember in all of this is that both of the campaigns have to sign on and certainly up to this point, we haven't been able to get any unity from either the Barack camp or the Clinton camp as to the solutions for Michigan and Florida.

ROBERTS: Well, maybe we're hear something more on that later on this morning. Dan Lothian for us this morning in Philadelphia.

LOTHIAN: That's right.

ROBERTS: Thanks. Kiran?

CHETRY: Well, as the Democrats fight on, presumptive GOP nominee John McCain is trying to connect with voters. Today, he'll be visiting his high school in Alexandria, Virginia. It's part of his week-long biography tour, Service to America, and the focus is on his family history as well as his patriotic roots. McCain is also talking about the war in Iraq telling reporters his wartime experience makes him a better candidate than the Democratic front-runner, Barack Obama.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It just plays a fundamental misunderstanding of history of how we maintain national security and what we need to do in the future to maintain our security in the face of a transcendent challenge, radical Islamic extremism. And I understand that because he has no experience or background in any of it.


CHETRY: McCain will be holding a town hall meeting at 10:30 Eastern time. Later today, CNN's Dana Bash goes one-on-one with McCain.

There's a troubling report out this morning showing more than a million high school students are dropping out every year. It's just one of the staggering numbers released by America's Promise Alliance today. It's a group that was founded by former Secretary of State Colin Powell. He found that fewer than half of high school students in 17 of America's biggest cities will graduate from high school.

The highest dropout rates are in Indianapolis, Cleveland and Detroit where three out of every four teenagers quit. Powell calls the dropout rate a catastrophe. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings is expected to announce plans today to hold summits in every state to help get students better prepared to attend college.

Well, Alina Cho joins us now with other stories new and developing this morning. Hi, Alina.

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Kiran, John, good morning. Good morning, everybody. New this morning.

President Bush is in Ukraine right now. He's pledging to work as hard as he can to help Ukraine and Georgia gain membership to NATO. That's despite the objections of Russian President Vladimir Putin who does not want to expand the alliance eastward. President Bush talked to reporters a couple of hours ago saying Russia does not have veto power.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Ukraine now seeks to deepen its cooperation with the NATO alliance through a membership action plan. Your nation has made a bold decision, and the United States strongly supports your request.


CHO: Next stop for the president, Bucharest, Romania. He'll meet with NATO leaders there over the next three days.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is calling for President Bush to consider boycotting the opening ceremonies of the upcoming Olympic Games in Beijing. Why? Well, Pelosi is a critic of China's crackdown on Tibetan protesters and she's also met with the Dalai Lama that happened last month. Pelosi thinks the president maybe should avoid the ceremonies but not the games all together. Germany's Angela Merkel has announced she will boycott the Olympics all-together, and France's president, Nicolas Sarkozy, may skip the opening ceremonies. Well, this morning, one of the first Olympic athletes is joining the protest. The captain of India's soccer team is refusing to carry the torch through New Delhi. Anti-Chinese protester expected to follow the torch around the world over the next several months; 1,500 Tibetan protesters rallied in front of the White House yesterday demanding President Bush boycott the opening ceremonies.

A show of support for Barack Obama's former pastor in Chicago. Last night, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright's former congregation held a special prayer meeting for him. Wright did not speak but as you can see there, he was in the audience. The congregation's ministers defended Wright against what they say have been unfair attacks in the media. Wright came under fire following several racially-charged sermons criticizing U.S. policies. And, of course, as most people know by now, those videos of the sermons made the rounds on YouTube.

The ex-husband of Andrea Yates is a dad again. It's one of's most popular stories right now. Rusty Yates' second wife, Laura, gave birth to a baby boy 11 days ago. Rusty Yates remarried two years ago after his first wife Andrea drowned their five children in the family's bathtub back in 2001. Andrea Yates was found not guilty by reason of insanity and remains at a Texas mental institution. Her lawyer says she's aware of her ex-husband's new child and is "at peace with it."

Well, no more mouth to mouth. The American Heart Association says hands-only CPR works just as well on people who suffer sudden cardiac arrest. You saw it here first on AMERICAN MORNING, the story how CPR, using just chest compressions not stopping from mouth-to- mouth, actually tripled the survival rate in a pilot program in Arizona.

We're going to talk with our chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta about this new approach to CPR coming up in our next hour.

And guys, take a look at this. A field of dreams made out of Legos entirely. That's pretty incredible, huh? A student at the Milwaukee School of Engineering says it took him seven years and seven different versions to build a replica of Milwaukee's Miller Park. There are even people inside.

He was just 10 years old when the real stadium was constructed. Here's the coolest part or one of the coolest parts. The model actually has a retractable roof just like the real Miller Park in Milwaukee. Apparently, guys, he's the president of the Society of Model Engineers of which we are all members, of course.

CHETRY: Oh, yes.

ROBERTS: So what's your bet? Does that end up in the Lego Museum or the Smithsonian Museum of American History?



ROBERTS: Yes. Pretty impressive.

CHETRY: It obviously has a built specialized Lego pieces. I couldn't go home and do that with my Lego set.

CHO: Maybe. I don't know. He said --

ROBERTS: Something with your Lego set.

CHO: Well, yes --

VELSHI: About 4 1/2 years and the Miller people got involved. So what do you need, kid?

ROBERTS: Probably.

CHO: He had trouble finding pieces apparently for that.

CHETRY: Seriously?

CHO: Yes. It took him a while to get it all together, but seven years or something.

CHETRY: It paid off.

CHO: It's paid off.

ROBERTS: Thanks, Alina.

CHO: You bet.

ROBERTS: The nation's independent truckers are planning to park their rigs today to protest the sky high cost of diesel fuel. Truckers can pay up to $1,000 for a fill up there with some 500,000 independent truckers nationwide.

Our own Ed Lavandera is watching the possible strike from a truck stop at Dallas. We're going to check in with him later on this hour.

Big oil gets a grilling on Capitol Hill today. A House Committee will question executives from five U.S. oil companies about soaring gasoline prices and record industry profits. Pump prices have risen to record levels this year. Executives from Exxon Mobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, BP America and Shell will answer questions today. Those companies made more than $120 billion last year. Lawmakers want to know why they should keep billions of dollars in tax breaks.

And for more on this, senior business correspondent Ali Velshi is here.

VELSHI: $19 billion and tax breaks and these lawmakers in the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. They'll be talking to this oil companies executives. They are not CEOs, by the way, of the oil companies. There are other executives. But here is what they're talking about. Take a look at the price of gasoline. We know that it still remains at record prices, about $3.29 when you round it up for a gallon for self-serve unleaded. That's compared to $3.17 a month ago and $2.69 a year ago. But as you were just talking about, these truckers, for instance, who used diesel, diesel is way above $4 a gallon right now.

I know just yesterday when I was in New Jersey, it was going to hit $4. It was much more than that. In Pennsylvania and Texas, they're grouping together. We're expecting that there might actually be a group of truckers getting together around the country today and may be parking their rigs.

The research director for the Consumer Federation of America, they did some research on where gas prices could go. And at $100 a barrel or higher, which is where oil is right now, here's what the research director Dr. Mark Cooper had to say about gasoline prices.


DR. MARK COOPER, CONSUMER FEDERATION OF AMERICA: Consumers could be staring at 75 cents more per gallon at the pump over the next few weeks, which would mount up over the course of the rest of the year to $75 billion out of their pocketbooks.


VELSHI: So we're up at $3.30, $3.29 now. Another 75 cents. In other words, he's saying before Memorial Day, we could get to $4 a gallon as a national average. There some states already paying more than $4 a gallon. We'll follow this hearing today. The people -- the companies testifying will be BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell. They'll be on Capitol Hill, and we'll be taking an eye and keep an eye on that.

ROBERTS: Of course, when people ask you, why is diesel so much more expensive than gasoline when it used to be cheaper.

VELSHI: Yes. It used to be cheaper. There has been an increased in demand for diesel and as a result, it has to be processed in the same refineries. It's the same problem. It's the refining problem. It's not the source. It's the bottleneck for getting to diesel.

So a lot of people bought diesel. Diesel gives you longer mileage. It gives you -- you know, your engines last longer on diesel, so they tend to be used in industrial vehicles but it's costing a lot more per gallon.

ROBERTS: And there's a lot of car manufacturers that are going to diesel.

VELSHI: Yes. Yes.

ROBERTS: Demand has only been increased from here.

VELSHI: Yes, that's right.

ROBERTS: Ali, thanks.


CHETRY: Well, you're watching the "Most News in the Morning." And still ahead, we have more spring snow storm ended up shutting down I-70 in the Colorado Rockies, the Vail Pass for hours. Rob Marciano has your extreme weather forecast coming up next.

Also, Chelsea Clinton asked about the Monica Lewinsky scandal again by a student. This time she had a new response, though. You'll hear it next.


ROBERTS: Fifteen minutes now after the hour. Extreme weather in the Colorado high country. More than 10 inches of snow contributed to a deadly crash on I-70 near Vail Pass, piling up as many as 75 vehicles. One person was killed. At least 20 people were treated for broken bones and other injuries. I-70 now open after being shut down for seven hours.

Parts of Oklahoma are on flood watch this morning after a line of severe storms moved through there. Seventy-mile-an-hour winds and nickel size hail slammed into Oklahoma City. The National Weather Service confirmed two tornadoes touched down around Oklahoma City yesterday.

And thunderstorms and high winds also hit central Missouri. Strong winds knocked down trees and street signs. At least three people were hurt, and many homes and buildings were damaged. Severe weather again on the move. As to where it's going to be today, Rob Marciano at our weather update desk tracking the extreme weather. Good morning, Rob.

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, John. Yes, it's on the move to the south and east. So that line of severe weather is now heading into the states of Mississippi, Alabama, eventually into Georgia as well. Here it is on the radar imagery mostly through central Mississippi and in through central Alabama. Some larger cities now beginning to get pegged.

I-20 seeing some action in through this area. You see this cluster? As these things begin to break apart, you see that. That, you know, sometimes when they split up like that they can get a little bit stronger so we'll watch that. Regardless, they'll certainly be some heavy rain with that.

Birmingham, Alabama, if you are having a nasty start to your day, this line of thunderstorms some of which have been severe will be drifting off to the south and east as this front continues to move to the south and east as well.

All the while, this heavy rain has created, agitated the flooding conditions across parts of the deep south with flash flood watches and warnings still posted across parts of the Mississippi, and there's more rain that's going to be rolling your way. Ten to 18 inches of snow expected across the U.P. of Michigan. Winter just didn't want to quit out there, and it will be a windy day across the lower hand of Michigan as well. John, back up to you.

ROBERTS: Rob, all this heavy rain that they've been getting in some parts of the south there, what's it doing to the drought that they were experiencing last year?

MARCIANO: Well, most of the drought, the extreme drought conditions are across northern Georgia, eastern Tennessee and western Carolina. So we are getting some help. But this is the time of year where we recharge the reservoirs, where we get the rain that we need for the summer. We're getting some. Is it enough? That's the other question.

ROBERTS: All right. We'll keep track of that. Rob Marciano for us this morning. Rob, thanks. We'll see you soon -- Kiran.

CHETRY: All right. Thanks, John.

Well, interesting developments over the past 24 hours in the race for president. Is there proof that Barack Obama may be more liberal on issues like gun control and abortion than he's admitted in this presidential campaign?

Also, learning a little bit more about unpaid bills owed by Hillary Clinton's campaign including health insurance tabs.

Also, Chelsea Clinton back in the spotlight facing another question about Monica Lewinsky.

John Dickerson is CNN's political analyst and chief political correspondent for Good to see you this morning, John.


CHETRY: Let's start with this report in the "Politico" that Senator Barack Obama may have played a greater role than his aides previously acknowledged. It dates back to this 1996 state Senate seat bid and this questionnaire that he filled out, a survey about issues and stances on things like gun control and abortion.

At first, they said that it was filled out by an aide who didn't clearly understand his position and then, I guess, later it was provided to the Web site, the actual questionnaire that seems to show his handwriting. Is this political fodder to question his electability?

DICKERSON: Well, anything is political fodder because the Clinton campaign is pushing so hard on that argument. It's a little attenuated here. There is evidence that his positions have evolved, but this was quite a while ago, and the evolutions in his positions have not been so striking.

What is a little bit of a problem here for Obama is that the campaign said, you know, he made it essentially sound like he had nothing to do with the questionnaire. Now, his handwriting is on it. It appears that he had at least some role in it. Certainly, will be fodder for Clinton but I don't think it's going to do any great damage.

CHETRY: It also goes with the "National Journal" concluding that Barack Obama actually had the Senate's -- according to them, most liberal voting record back in 2007 as well. How is that going to play in a potential head-to- matchup with John McCain?

DICKERSON: Well, McCain has already used that call by the "National Journal" that labeled him the most liberal senator. There's a sort of little hanky with the way that rating is done, so that's certainly Obama's argument. But Republicans and McCain are going to use the questionnaire. The liberal ranking and anything they can to name Obama as a very far-left senator if he makes it to the general election.

CHETRY: Also, reported yesterday some of Senator Hillary Clinton's unpaid campaign bills and reportedly among them health insurance claims for her campaign staffers. She's, of course, made universal health care the centerpiece of her campaign agenda. How is this playing?

DICKERSON: Well, it's a little embarrassing. The campaign says those bills have been paid. What may be most interesting about this is what it shows about the finances of the campaign. You know, when the campaign starts to die, one of the first things that happens is bills don't get paid and the campaign says there was no lapse in any coverage for any of the employees and that these have been paid. But it could be a sign that, you know, they're short on cash they start putting their money into other parts of the campaign because they just don't have it to pay everything quickly.

CHETRY: It's so interesting how campaigns work. I feel like just a month ago we were talking about how much money both candidates were raising record amounts of money and now, we're talking about what? $300,000 in health insurance claims that were delayed payment for two months. What happens in that short amount of time?

DICKERSON: Well, what happens is you have to run television ads, you have to fly the candidate around, you've got all these staffers that you got to actually pay. There are some bills you can let lapse a little bit. I mean, the campaign runs into the same challenges that all the rest of us face in paying our bills.

And so, there are some that you can let lapse that it won't affect coverage. And also, there's a question of just, you know, campaigns, you know, as they extend much longer than certainly the Clinton campaign thought, raising money and continuing to raise money at the pace you need is a very difficult thing to do.

CHETRY: Let's talk about Chelsea Clinton, by the way. She was an event in North Carolina yesterday. And again, she was asked by a student about the Monica Lewinsky scandal. She was actually asked about the last time she was asked about it saying that -- at least the student was saying he does think it's the business of people who want to know. So let's hear how Chelsea answered that.


CHELSEA CLINTON, FORMER FIRST DAUGHTER: Well, sir, I respectfully disagree. I think that it's something that is personal to my family. I'm sure there are things that are personal to your family that you don't think are anyone else's business either. On a larger point, I don't think you should vote for or against my mother because of my father.


CHETRY: How do you think Chelsea is handling these questions?

DICKERSON: She's handling them pretty well. You can argue about whether this is part of the national dialogue, but she's handling them quite well and in a very measured tone. And, you know, she no doubt is getting lots of good practice for any future political career she may want to have.

CHETRY: You know, it is difficult for her. You know, she's the daughter. She really didn't have anything to do with it. But isn't it pretty hard to argue, I mean, the Star report went out in paperback, you know, that this is private?

DICKERSON: Well, indeed, it is hard to argue. And so there are two questions here. One, whether it should be part of the national discussion and, you know, it has to be. Secondly, though, it's the question of whether Chelsea Clinton has to be the one that has to answer for this.

We can argue about that but certainly, yes. This is a part of the conversation. This is a part of the Clinton record and presidency and, you know, they have to deal with it because it's a question everybody has. She doesn't necessarily have to deal with it though as the daughter of the Clintons.

CHETRY: John Dickerson, CNN political analyst, thanks so much for being with us.

DICKERSON: Thank you.

ROBERTS: A warning today about aircraft landing gear. The Federal Aviation Administration says a major supplier used substandard parts. Which airline is now taking action. We'll tell you.

And April is autism awareness month. Autism much more common than most people think. We'll share some of your personal and inspirational stories ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


CHETRY: Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING. Pressure growing for world leaders to use the Olympics in Beijing to protest China's crackdown in Tibet. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is asking President Bush to consider skipping the opening ceremonies this August. German's chancellor, Angela Merkel, is boycotting the Olympics altogether, and France's Nicolas Sarkozy may stay away from the opening ceremonies as well.

So we want to know what you think. It's this morning's "Quick Vote" question. Should President Bush boycott the Olympic opening ceremonies?

Cast your vote, and we'll have the first tally of the votes a little later in the hour. You can also shoot us an e-mail, Send us your two cents. We'll be reading some throughout the morning.

ROBERTS: Or even three cents if you feel like it.

Autism will be diagnosed in more than 25,000 children in the United States this year. Around the world, as many as 35 million people may have it. CNN is devoting its resources to look into the mystery of autism, its causes and potential treatments.

Meantime, we've been asking you to send us your personal stories. And Veronica De La Cruz is here now to share some of those with us. Good morning to you. Welcome back.

VERONICA DE LA CRUZ, CNN INTERNET CORRESPONDENT: Thank you very much. You know that tomorrow is World Autism Awareness Day. And we have been asking you to send us your I-Report, your tales of what it is like living with autism. And many of you have already gone to You've submitted photos and stories of inspiration. We want to go ahead and share a couple of those now.

One I-Reporter writes, "Living with autism in my house is not a burden but a blessing. For 3 1/2 years, there were three people living in our home but you could you only hear two voices. Now, there are three voices and we're loving every moment and every sound.

Another I-Report sent to us by Suret Haynor (ph) in Ghana, West Africa. Her son has autism and 10 years ago, she founded a group called Autism Awareness Care Training and decided to move to Ghana to help families dealing with the disease there.

So again, keep your stories coming. You can head to Submit yours. We're going to continue to read them. We're going to read some of those tomorrow. In the meantime, I want to show you our Special Report online at It's called "Unraveling the Mystery." There you can learn more about the disorder, what the symptoms are, statistics.

You can also get the latest news as well as final links to other online resources for people who might be dealing with autism. Again, that special report is online right now. You can find it at

And it's not just our site, John. There are others as well. I found a really interesting one called Interactive Autism Network where families are linked up with researchers who are looking at the disorder. ROBERTS: Some good information there, and some heartwarming and touching personal stories.


ROBERTS: Thanks for bringing those to us.

Again, stick with CNN for a look at the global impact and the latest science concerning the developmental syndrome of autism in a global investigation, all day tomorrow right here on CNN.

CHETRY: Still ahead, it was supposed to be a state of the art airport terminal although it's a bit of a bumpy liftoff for Heathrow's Airport new terminal for thousands of passengers, 20,000 lost bags and counting. That guy just has his hand in his hand, shaking his head there. I feel for you buddy.

Well, the Federal Aviation Administration sending out a major warning today as well about possible landing gear problems. It says a major parts manufacturers gave airlines shoddy parts. Now, one airline isn't taking any chances. We're going to have details on that as well, coming up on AMERICAN MORNING.


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Kind of a dreary shot this morning of New York City. Take a look at that.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: I said dreary at the exact second you did. That's what I think about when I (INAUDIBLE) this morning.

ROBERTS: We are so connected. We're just -- you know. You finish my sentences. I finish yours. I get your coffee. You never give any for me. I understand it. 57 degrees right now in New York City. Going up to a high of 66 today and showers as well. So, that's -- what you see out there is pretty much what you're going to get today. But it is a lot milder than it has been for the last couple of days.

CHETRY: And I brought you vitamins this morning. So, that's sort of the equivalent of coffee, right? Looking out for you.

ROBERTS: I appreciate that.

CHETRY: Well, good morning once again.

We have some new news this morning regarding airline travel. The FAA issuing a security and safety alert about airline landing gear. Now, this alert says that maintenance provider AAR Corporation provided substandard parts for hundreds of Boeing jets worldwide.

The FAA detailed more than 300 instances of unapproved parts being shipped. U.S. Airways is now saying it is voluntarily removing several parts after a partial landing gear failure of a parked plane in October. Fifty flights canceled this morning at the new terminal, that's in Terminal 5, at London's Heathrow Airport. And look at that scene of baggages piled up there. About 20,000 bags piling up after the failure of an $8.5 billion computerized baggage screening system.

Imagine the nightmare for people looking for their bags and the workers having to answer those questions this morning. British Airway says it could take a week for those bags to be re-screened and sent out to their owners. Another 50 flights will be canceled tomorrow as well.

Delta Airlines raising fees today. And frequent flyers will now be charged a $25 handling fee for award tickets booked over the phone. Also sending a child on a flight alone will now cost $100 for a nonstop trip. And the price of taking a pet onboard is going from $75 to $100. The fee for oversized luggage is also going up -- going up 50 bucks from $100 to $150.

ROBERTS: Possible turning point in the latest violent surge in Iraq. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has ordered an end to random arrests after a week of assaults on Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's militia. This comes after al-Sadr ordered his militia off the streets. Estimates put the death toll at more than 400 since the fighting began a week ago.

Word of a major Taliban capture in Afghanistan. Police say that they arrested Mullah Naqibullah, a senior Taliban military commander. The police say that he led a gang of militants in an ambush against the police convoy. Three other attackers were killed. The police chief says that he has been captured twice before and escaped both times.

And 14 members of a Russian doomsday cult left a cave this morning after spending more than four months underground waiting for the world to end. Fourteen members are still inside. The group that emerged included two children. Seven other members left the cave on Friday after melting snow caused a small cave-in.


CHETRY: To politics now. There's a new proposal to seat Michigan's delegates at the Democratic National Convention. Under Michigan Congressman Bart Stupak's plan, 83 delegates would be awarded based on January's primary. So, what that means is that Senator Hillary Clinton would get 47 and Barack Obama would get 37 based on who voted uncommitted. The remaining pledged delegates would then be split up based on the nationwide popular vote once all the primaries have been completed.

New York's former governor Mario Cuomo calling for a campaign truce of sorts. The party elder proposing that Senators Clinton and Obama share the ticket. In fact, he appeared in last night's "Situation Room" to explain more about the idea.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MARIO CUOMO (D), FORMER NEW YORK GOVERNOR: If you insist on fighting all the way through the convention and all the hairy questions that are going to come up, then do this. Agree in advance that if you win, you win and you're the candidate for the presidency and your opponent becomes the candidate for the vice presidency. That would at the very least mollify some of the constituents of the person who does not succeed, whether it's Hillary or Obama.


CHETRY: Cuomo said that he thinks that if the Democrat-on- Democrat clashes continue, he thinks that it will put Republican John McCain in the White House.

ROBERTS: That critical Pennsylvania primary just three weeks from today now. And this morning Senators Clinton and Obama are crisscrossing the state. At one point, the two will be holding town hall meetings just blocks from each other. But it's between pledges to end the war in Iraq and mend America's economy that the two are talking about the heated campaign.


SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I know that a lot of Senator Obama's supporters have tried to stop this election before people, you know, get a chance to vote and I just don't agree with that. This is a very close race. We're just separated by, you know, just a hair's breath in terms of votes and delegates.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We will be unified when this whole thing is over. I am absolutely convinced of that. Regardless of who the nominee is. And the reason I believe that is because whatever differences exist between Senator Clinton and myself, they pale in comparison to the differences between either of us and John McCain.


ROBERTS: Obama calls the protracted campaign a struggle, but insists it will strengthen the party in the long run.

Senator John McCain continues his "Service to America" tour this morning with a visit to his high school in Alexandria, Virginia. McCain told supporters yesterday that he comes from a long line of military men. Both his father and grandfather were four-star admirals. McCain said his wartime knowledge makes him a better candidate than Senator Obama.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, doesn't either, hasn't read or understand the history of this country and warfare and the way that we secure alliances and secure the peace. And that's through military government-to-government agreements that call for United States presence and mutual defense, not only in that country itself but also in the region. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: McCain will hold a town hall meeting at 10:30 this morning and later on today, CNN's Dana Bash is going to talk one-on- one with the presumptive Republican nominee.

CHETRY: Lots of extreme weather to tell you about this morning. Check out the damage that was done by some high winds in Missouri. Winds as strong as 60 miles an hour whipping through the state yesterday. Tree branches, power lines knocked down. And the wind even peeled the roof of a store in Independence. That's video out of Kansas City. So, a big mess in much of the state yesterday.

Meanwhile, Rob Marciano at the CNN weather center tracking the rest of the extreme weather for us, including some troubles down south as well.

Hey, Rob.


ROBERTS: A call to stall by the nation's truckers who say the cost of diesel fuel is making it hard to make ends meet. We are live at a Texas truck stop with more on the plan work stop agenda possible fallout.

And ultimate fighting for kids? How young is too young to learn how to make someone tap out? Is there anything on the books? We'll take a look ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


CHETRY: On the campaign trail in Pennsylvania, Hillary Clinton taking time to speak with some truckers. They're just getting slammed right now by the high price of diesel fuel. She told them the next president needs to focus on helping working class families and also to develop energy alternatives.

The truckers honked their horns, voicing their concerns during the fuel price protest. There it was yesterday at the state capitol in Harrisburg. Pennsylvania's diesel fuel tax of 38 cents a gallon by the way is the highest in the country.

And independent truckers nationwide are calling for a work stoppage today. They plan to park their rigs to protest the skyrocketing price diesel fuel. Economy issue No. 1 for Americans.

And our Ed Lavandera is live at a truck stop. He's in Dallas. What are you finding out there, Ed?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Kiran, the large trucking companies nationwide are participating in this organized shutdown so it's really falling on the shoulders of independent truck drivers to send out this message that they're angry about these rising diesel fuel prices. But because of that just what kind of impact this shutdown will have is really hard to gauge. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Word of an independent trucker shut down is rumbling across the country's highways.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I turn the key off. We're done.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just to saw some solidarity.

LAVANDERA: There are about 500,000 independent drivers nationwide but it's hard to say how many drivers will actually join in this loosely organized shutdown and turn off their engines for a whole week.

RON JONES, TRUCK DRIVER: If we shut down for five days or six days, we're making a statement. We are not going to put up with prices like that unless our pay starts to increase.

LAVANDERA: Filling the gas tanks of a big rig can cost as much as 1,000. About $300 more than it cost last year. That's having a devastating impact on the independent drivers like Ted Gennick. Most drivers aren't reimbursed for their rising fuel bills so they eat the extra costs.

Is it harder for independent guys to kind of stay afloat?

TED GENNICK, INDEPENDENT TRUCK DRIVER: It is because we don't have the purchasing power. So we're not able to get the discounts that the large carriers get from both fuel resellers, maintenance, and repairs, tires. We're paying premium dollar for those.

LAVANDERA: And at gas stations where the average price for a gallon of diesel fuel has passed $4, the owner of this popular trucker pit stop in Dallas says he's seen grown men brought to tears.

JOHN BENDA, GAS STATION OWNER: We're in for hard times in the next few months. It really is now affecting people and changing their lives and their lifestyles and we'll see it over the next few months.


LAVANDERA: Kiran, there are about three different trucking associations that represent drivers around the country. None of these organizations say they are supporting this shutdown although they do say they understand why these drivers are so angry and understand the reasons they're doing it.

But one of these organizations actually said that they worry that this shutdown will actually have more of a devastating impact on them because after all these drivers are only making money when they're driving.


CHETRY: That's very true as well. Ed Lavandera, tough situation for them. Thanks. ROBERTS: 14 minutes to the top of the hour. Ali Velshi here to talk more about this and the overall impact. Obviously, this is trickling through the economy.

ALI VELSHI, CNN SENIOR BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: It's a big deal. I mean, the story that Ed is on is a big deal. I was driving through Pennsylvania this weekend and I actually saw signs of gas station they support the truckers. There's a big rally in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania where truckers just took the cabs of their trucks and drove around for awhile honking their horns.

It's basically to draw attention to this. Ed was saying about 500,000 truck drivers and the country are independents, which means they don't work for one of the major carriers or one of the major fleets.

The problem here is nobody can actually support a trucker strike because that would be antitrust. We're too dependent on trucking. So it would be forcing someone's hand and that wouldn't really be legal. But there are a lot of independent moves to get truckers to park their rigs for a day.

The impact on a day would have zero impact on the price of gas. I think, Ed, alluded to that. That never works. The stoppage -- I mean, that's not what the point of this will be. The point is will be to draw attention to how important trucking is and it is very important.

If there were a prolonged trucking strike, we don't have enough capacity in the trucking industry to pick up for those 500,000 drivers out of about 3 million drivers in total. It's not like there is enough trucks and drivers sitting around and waiting to take that. The cost of all of the things that get delivered would be much more.

But the impact of a strike on any particular industry would be minimal. So it's not likely to happen on any organized fashion. He was talking about diesel prices. A truck costing almost $1,000 to fill. Diesel right now, $4.02. Now, a year ago it was $2.85. We're talking about $3.29 for a galloon of gasoline and how that may go up 75 cents. Well, Diesel goes up pretty much at the same rate these days. The gas is going up.

CHETRY: And then you factor in, in states like Pennsylvania with 38 cents a gallon fuel surcharge over diesel, highest in the country.

VELSHI: Correct. Yes, I mean, these truckers are getting -- what happens in many case of deliveries like if you send something in Fed Ex, you get a fuel surcharge, right? If you send yourself by plane somewhere, there's a fuel surcharge.

What a lot of these trucking organizations are saying is that fuel surcharge gets charged to you, it doesn't get to the driver. So they would like legislation in place to -- so that when there's a fuel surcharge charged the shipper, that gets to the driver because it's the driver who is paying the extra gasoline. And they are saying what's happening, the customer is paying it at the front end. They get, they have to pay it because the gas prices are higher and the driver is not getting it. So that's what they like do. They'd like to draw attention through a strike to the idea that it's not -- they are getting a raw end on this one. And it's important. We depend on trucking. A great deal in this country.

ROBERTS: Well, no indication that the cost of fuel is going to go down.

VELSHI: No, none whatsoever.

ROBERTS: We either have to get used to this or figure out a way around it.

VELSHI: Figure out someway around it, yes.

ROBERTS: Ali Velshi for us this morning. Ali, thanks. Of course, the economy is issue No.1. Join Ali, Gerri Willis, and the CNN Money Team for their show, "ISSUE #1." All this week at noon Eastern right here on CNN.

CHETRY: Also, some fresh calls this morning to protest China's crackdown on demonstrators. House speaker Nancy Pelosi asking President Bush to consider skipping the opening ceremonies of the Olympics in August.

Angela Merkel of Germany is boycotting the Olympics all together. And France's Nicholas Sarkozy may also stay away from the opening ceremonies. So it brings us to this morning's "Quick Vote" question. Should President Bush boycott the Olympic opening ceremonies?

Right now, 72 percent of you say yes. 28 percent say no. Cast your vote, We'll continue to tally them throughout the morning. And we're also going to be reading some of your e-mails on the question as well. So head to our site and send us an e-mail on your thoughts.

We'll be reading them throughout the morning.

ROBERTS: There you go. "Story Soundoff" this morning. It is brutal and at times hard to watch. Kids who say they want to grow up to be ultimate fighters. But how young is too young to start training? Is there a legal age limit? We'll find out ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


ROBERTS: 53 minutes after the hour. Ultimate fighting is a bloody and violent sport in which just about anything is fair game. Its growing popularity has caught the attention of younger fans who want to get into the action, too, and emulate their heroes.

And some of the kids who are involved here are as young as 6 years old. The president of Ultimate Fighting Championship says participating in mix martial arts is the safest playing youth football but is it legal for kids? Joining us now is AMERICAN MORNING's legal analyst, Sunny Hostin.

Good morning to you.


ROBERTS: So where are these young kids participating in this?

HOSTIN: This is happening all over the country, John. But the bottom line is that it is only, only legal in Missouri. In many, many states this is a misdemeanor, punishable up to six months in jail, $1,000 fine. But it is happening all over the country. And in some states, it is not regulated but that does not mean that it is legal.

ROBERTS: So what's the cutoff age, then?

HOSTIN: We're seeing it with children as young as 6 years old. And I mean -- if you look at pictures that we're showing 6 years old. That is a baby. And all those children are below the age of consent. And I think that it is likely illegal in many, many states.

ROBERTS: Right. But I'm just wondering though that you say that it's illegal in many states. So, do you know what the cutoff age in those states as to when it is legal and when it is not?

HOSTIN: It's typically below the age of consent. And so you're talking about...

ROBERTS: Really?

HOSTIN: Yes -- 16 years old in some states. 17 year olds. 18 years old.


ROBERTS: Over 18 years old (INAUDIBLE), right?

HOSTIN: Exactly.

ROBERTS: So the kids, at least in Missouri we know they have to wear. They wear headgear and they wear pads on their hands. But what about gyms that might be involved in training these young folks? Are they liable if they get injured?

HOSTIN: I think it is possible. If this is a misdemeanor in a particular state and you have a gym proprietor or someone training these children, a coach training these children, absolutely, absolutely. And there are certain circumstances, John, where you see the parents are held liable for this type of thing.

I mean, if you look, it's very, very violent. It's aggressive. Do we want to teach our children this type of thing? This is assault. This is battery. It's assaulted behavior as far as I'm concern.

ROBERTS: OK. There are plenty of young kids of being some as young as 3 or 4, that participate in martial arts. Legally, what's the difference? HOSTIN: You know, I think there is a difference. Martial arts certainly is about the avoidance of confrontation. This is a much more aggressive sort of sport as they are calling it. And I think there is a difference between martial arts, boxing and this. Some people are calling this human cockfighting.

And so, when you're talking about a child doing this type of thing, I think that there is exposure there.

ROBERTS: OK, so martial arts might teach you the avoidance of violence and you pull your punches, but boxing. Lots of young kids involved in boxing.

HOSTIN: I know and I think I think, you know, for me philosophically, certainly I think that that shouldn't be legal but it is legal and so I there's a close call. And we're going to see a lot of litigation here. It hasn't been tested because this is really a new phoneme. But it is something that we will follow.

ROBERTS: Yes. We will definitely have to look more on this. Maybe go out to Missouri and find out what they are doing out there.

HOSTIN: Absolutely.

ROBERTS: Sunny Hostin for us this morning. Sunny, thanks.

HOSTIN: Thank you.

ROBERTS: Now back to Kiran who has got some breaking news for you this morning.

CHETRY: That's right. We have some pictures to show you of a fire that's in progress right now at a hotel in Lockport, Illinois. This is coming to us from WLS. Our affiliate there out of Chicago. Lockport, Illinois, about 35 miles southwest of Chicago, Illinois. A little bit north of Joliet.

We're told right now that there are several rescues taking place. We can of course see fire and rescue on the scene trying to knock down that fire. We're told that it's still obviously fully involved as they try to put it out and at the same time conduct rescues.

Again, all we know right now is that this is at a hotel. This is in Lockport, Illinois. And the pictures certainly tell the story. We're finding out more information. This is about 35 miles southwest of Chicago just before 6:00 in the morning there and we're getting new details and we will bring them to you as soon as we have more information.

Let's take a quick break. When we come back here on AMERICAN MORNING, a scary number of high school dropouts and a major gap between inner cities and the suburbs. Some cities in particular. A new report that's being called a catastrophe by one of the nation's most respected public servants. We're going to get details ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.