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American Morning

Children of Texas Polygamist Families Reunited; Deadly Tornadoes Hit Minnesota; Democratic Candidates Campaign in Puerto Rico; America Honors Its Fallen Heroes

Aired May 26, 2008 - 07:00   ET


JAKE QUERY, WIBC MORNING NEWS HOST: He was in Indianapolis campaigning and went to the predominantly black neighborhood in Indianapolis to maintain peace and urge for peace on that night in April when Martin Luther King was assassinated.
So you're talking about April there. Then he goes to California in early June of 1968, and his last words were let's go to Chicago and win there. So what that means is it's interesting, and I thought this and people have mentioned it. Isn't it interesting that in April and June of 1968, Bobby Kennedy was still right in the middle of a campaign, exactly where we are right now?


QUERY: However, in 1968, keep in mind if he was in California and if he was getting ready to go to Chicago, that means two of the biggest states were still up for grabs. With Hillary Clinton now, you look at the point with the numbers, and you wonder what other states are out there where Hillary Clinton is going to be able to maintain any sort of closing the gap with Barack Obama. And as a result, you do have to wonder if Hillary Clinton is not in this thing too far and if it's not hurting her party.

But I can kind of understand and I think people here understand where she was coming from...


QUERY: ... because when you look back, certainly those dates would lead you to believe that it went far into 1968.

ROBERTS: Yes. I think that some people were just saying it was certainly an unfortunate choice of words on her part. Jay Query, Terri Stacy, good to see you folks this morning. Thanks for being with us. We'll check back in with you.


ROBERTS: All right. Take care.

STACY: Thank you.

QUERY: Happy Memorial Day to everybody.

ROBERTS: Good Memorial Day to you as well as we remember the troops. Thanks -- Kyra.

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: We've got breaking news now from the Midwest, where tornadoes, thunderstorms and also hail pounding several states from Iowa to Minnesota. The deadly spring storm killed a 2- year-old child in the Minnesota town of Hugo. That's just 25 miles north of Minneapolis. Nine people were seriously hurt there.

And six people dead this morning from tornadoes in Iowa. Four people were killed in the north central town of Parkersburg. One person is missing there, and then minutes later that tornado struck nearby New Hartford killing two more people.

Ed Lavandera is standing by live now in Hugo, Minnesota. Rob Marciano here with us in New York tracking the extreme weather. Let's go ahead and begin with you, Ed.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Kyra. We're just on the edge of the subdivision here in Hugo, Minnesota, that was hit so hard by that tornado that came through here last night. This morning rescue teams are still searching through the homes in the subdivision making sure that there's no one else injured or no other victims that were found.

This is the subdivision where a 2-year-old child was killed because of that storm, and also an incredible story of survival as well. The 6-year-old child who was found dead in this subdivision as well, on their way transporting that child to the hospital was resuscitated in the ambulance. That person, that child is in critical condition, one of the nine that you mentioned, Kyra, that is still in critical condition. So an amazing story of survival, if everything works out well there.

But these rescue teams back in this subdivision checking out the homes, making sure and trying to figure out at what point residents will be allowed back in. And, of course, down in Iowa, at least six people killed in several towns there as another swathe of devastating storms cut a path of destruction through Iowa as well -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Ed Lavandera, are you -- or what's the word with regard to as, obviously people are still out there going through the devastation and going through the wreckage, do they feel pretty confident that there hasn't been any more loss of life at this point?

LAVANDERA: They do. I think they're doing that just mainly as a precaution. Remember, there were also -- this is the subdivision where there were some 20 people unaccounted for. We've been told by city officials here this morning that all of those people have already been accounted for. So good news on that part.

PHILLIPS: All right. Ed Lavandera, appreciate it. John?

ROBERTS: Barack Obama pinch-hits for Ted Kennedy. Senator Obama gave the keynote address during the commencement at Connecticut's Wesleyan University in place of Kennedy. Kennedy was scheduled to give the address but canceled after his cancer diagnosis last week. Thousands of people gathered on the hill overlooking the ceremony to watch the speech. Wesleyan officials estimated the crowd at 25,000.

And Hillary Clinton insists that she is staying in the presidential race until it's over. In an op-ed in the "New York Daily News" she wrote, "I am not unaware of the challenges or the odds of my securing the nomination, but this race remains extraordinarily close. If Senator Obama wins the nomination, I will support him and work my heart out for him against John McCain. But that has not happened yet."

The Democratic candidates hit the beach over the weekend in Puerto Rico where 55 delegates will be up for grabs in next Sunday's primary. Our Suzanne Malveaux is there live this morning.

Good morning, Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, good morning, John. Equal time for Iowa, Des Moines and equal time here for Puerto Rico. Really Barack Obama over the weekend campaigning here, obviously trying to wrap this thing up.

But for the Clintons, it is going to be a family affair. We're going to see not only Hillary Clinton, but Bill Clinton and Chelsea, all of them trying to make the last big push for the last big contest.


MALVEAUX (voice-over): Campaigning Puerto Ricans call Boricua- style. Barack Obama, at a Kaminaka (ph), a traditional Puerto Rican political parade.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To make a difference, it's exciting. It's really exciting, and I think I'm really proud to be part of all this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For some reason, we do have a big delegation. So it does make a difference in terms of the amount of delegates. That's a big factor.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If we win Puerto Rico, we'll win the nomination. And if we win the nomination, we'll win the general election.

MALVEAUX: Obama first opened a campaign office here two months ago. He put out ads in Spanish. He talks about growing up on the island of Hawaii with little means, and stresses the need to bring U.S. troops from Puerto Rico serving in Iraq home.

For Hillary Clinton facing increasingly tough odds to win the nomination, capturing as many of Puerto Rico's 55 pledged delegates and the popular vote is critical in convincing undecided superdelegates to swing her way.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I promise you this. I will work for a resolution of Puerto Rico's status by the end of my first term in office.

MALVEAUX: Bill and Chelsea Clinton have stumped here before. Clinton is the favored. As the senator of New York, she represents one million Puerto Ricans in her home state and she's got a strong Latino following.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She's the best candidate not only for Puerto Rico, but for the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're hoping that she continues and once they decide the votes of Michigan and Florida, hopefully she'll still be in the game.

MALVEAUX: Since Puerto Rico is a commonwealth and not a state, residents here can vote in the primary, but not the general election. Issue number one here is statehood. Both candidates pledged to resolve it during their first term, leaving it up to the Puerto Ricans to decide what's best.

While Clinton went a step further, suggesting a constitutional amendment which would allow those on the island to vote.


MALVEAUX: And, John, there are four million people who live here. There are another four million Puerto Ricans who live on the mainland and Clinton is certainly hoping that works in her favor. And, John, she issued a familiar challenge that we've heard before, another debate. Barack Obama is saying meet me any time, any place to debate the issues that concern Puerto Ricans.

As for Obama, he has moved forward. He's actually going to be campaigning in those general election states of New Mexico, Nevada and Colorado -- John.

ROBERTS: So let me ask you this question, Suzanne. Are you following the candidate around back up to the Montana, South Dakota, and other states? Or did you decide because the primaries a week from now you'll stay there and cover Puerto Rico from now until Sunday?

MALVEAUX: We're trying to work that, John. I think you had something to do with us being here today, your push last week. So if you just put a good word in for me, I'm working on it.

ROBERTS: Somehow I figured if you were able to cover the Hawaii caucuses, you'd be there in Puerto Rico. Good job. Suzanne Malveaux this morning. Suzanne, thanks.

PHILLIPS: She's got a traditional shirt, too. She's already been shopping in Puerto Rico. Next thing you know, she'll be dancing once she'll come back.

All right. Well, it's one of the loudest Memorial Day tributes. Rolling Thunder roared into Washington yesterday for its 21st annual ride for freedom. Bikers from the group's 88 chapters across the country and overseas came together to bring attention to service members held captive or missing in action. Take a look who went along for the ride. Now, here's what makes me nervous. He's actually on the hog there, cruising, taking pictures while driving. That's not safe, John.

ROBERTS: I had a camera especially set up on my mirror.

PHILLIPS: You're right.

ROBERTS: And I just trigger it if I put it in my left indicator button.

PHILLIPS: No, you enjoy that every year and I love it.

ROBERTS: It's great.

PHILLIPS: You always say, well, there's the Saudi ambassador. There's the former joint chairman chief of staff. There's all these amazing people that ride along on this.

ROBERTS: Yes, there's a lot -- it's such a great tribute to the men and women who served in the military, those who are still missing, and those who gave their lives for this country. And I'm just really proud to be a part of it every year. It's great.

PHILLIPS: How far did you go?

ROBERTS: Because I had to go to New York and come back up to New York, I didn't exactly got the chance to ride to The Walls. I just went with a group of people.

There were 3,500 riders in our group alone, and there's typically five or six big groups that come into the city. We went as far as the Pentagon and went downtown for a little while.


PHILLIPS: And for all our viewers, John doesn't just have one Harley, but two Harleys.

ROBERTS: Well, you know, they serve different purposes.

PHILLIPS: Oh, they do. Explain that?

ROBERTS: One is a single rider, the other is a dual rider.

PHILLIPS: OK. The crew? You guys interested in double riding with John.


PHILLIPS: OK, there you go. Jay's (ph) a taker.

ROBERTS: Yes, Jay's (ph) a taker. Nobody else.


PHILLIPS: Jay is a very free-flowing kind of guy.


ROBERTS: Wesley (ph) is a guy who is just somebody that likes two hands on the bars.

PHILLIPS: Well, thousands of travelers are headed home this weekend, preferably not on John's Harley.

We're putting airlines to the test. We're going to look at some of the most delayed flights. How we fared, coming up.

ROBERTS: Plus, holiday party season and it means that police are out in force.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Drivers have generally driven drunk more than 87 times before being convicted the first time.


ROBERTS: Coming up, we'll look at one police department that is cracking down after suffering a tragedy in its ranks.

PHILLIPS: And the U.S. says that violence in Iraq is down, the biggest drop in years. We're going to talk about that with Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, straight ahead.


PHILLIPS: Reunited after the raid. Three families from that Texas polygamist ranch have their children back this morning. But they're still not allowed back into the compound where officials say that they found pregnant teens and child brides. CNN's Sean Callebs sat down with one of the families.


SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For weeks, FLDS members have complained Texas officials had no right to seize more than 450 children from a sect ranch near Eldorado. Now that an appeals court has sided with the FLDS, a dozen children for the time being have been reunited with their parents.

JOSEPH JESSOP, FLDS MEMBER: It was so comforting to hold them, to take them out and put them in the car and know that we were going to stay with them that night.

CALLEBS: Joseph and Lori Jessop were reunited with their three children Friday. We're not showing the faces of any FLDS children because it's still unclear if they were victims of a crime. The Jessops say their children were hospitalized while in state care and that the entire incident has scarred the young ones, and they believe the raid was a form of religious persecution. JESSOP: We don't feel like they'll just back off until they've thoroughly investigated everything and prosecuted us for anything they can.

CALLEBS: Allegations of multiple marriages and child brides. One of the conditions of the interview with the couple is that the Jessops who say they're monogamous not be asked about polygamy. Renee Haas is their attorney.

RENEE HAAS, JESSOP LAWYER: I see every indication that CPS wants to keep these children, and I see every indication that they want to destroy the religion.

CALLEBS: The state remains adamant that child abuse was prevalent at the ranch, and that the children were removed for their own safety. The ordeal has made the Jessops targets of taunts.

LORI JESSOP, FLDS MEMBER: People yell at us, pligs (ph). It hasn't been that so much now. It was that way at first.

CALLEBS: Pligs (ph) stands for polygamists. The Jessops say they just want to live in private on the YFZ Ranch, but believe Texas authorities won't let that happen. Sean Callebs, CNN, San Antonio, Texas.


ROBERTS: Thirteen minutes after the hour, and breaking news overseas. China says three reservoirs near the epicenter in this month's devastating earthquake are now in danger of collapsing. The news comes after a powerful aftershock shook the region yesterday killing eight and toppling tens of thousands of buildings that had withstood the first quake. The official death toll from the original earthquake now stands at more than 65,000; 23,000 more are still missing.

A chilling ordeal for two divers, much like the movie "Open Water." They were separated from their diving group on Friday in the shark-infested waters of Australia's Great Barrier Reef, which is where that movie "Open Water" took place. The two, who tied themselves together to help stay afloat, managed to swim for 19 hours before rescuers spotted them.


JOHN EDWARDS, HELICOPTER PILOT: We were fortunate enough to be able to pick them up after they were sighted by one of the light helicopters, and they seem to be in excellent spirits and in excellent condition.


ROBERTS: The two of them suffered no injuries. They have reportedly sold their story to a British newspaper for $1 million. Wow.

PHILLIPS: I had nightmares, by the way, after watching that movie.

ROBERTS: Oh, absolutely.

PHILLIPS: You mentioned that in the beginning, and how one died of hypothermia and the sharks came and ate him. And, yes, it's not really good for morning talks. Sorry about that.

All right. How about a mission to Mars? Let's talk about that. Talk about signs of life on NASA's landing probe near the planet's north pole minus the polar bears. We're going to tell you what scientists are looking for coming up.

ROBERTS: Plus, Rob Marciano is watching the extreme weather in the Midwest after last night's storms. He's here with us in New York. Hey, Rob,

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Hey, John. Only last night for the past four days, we've seen well over 100 tornadoes touch down. We'll go over where they were, what kind of damage they did. It is extensive and what you would expect later today. AMERICAN MORNING will be right back.


MARCIANO: Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING. Over the last four days, we have seen 167 reports, preliminary reports of tornadoes, yesterday 43 alone across five different states. Here they are across the map there.

The panhandle of Texas in through parts of Kansas, several reports of tornadoes touching down there. By far, the most extensive damage all across parts of Iowa and in through Minnesota, that one just towards Parkersburg, several reports there clearly the same tornado. At least six fatalities with that particular storm. Also, a fatality in through parts of Minnesota.

First off, though, I'll show you some pictures out of Iowa where that storm ripped through Parkersburg and then motor off to the east at about 25 miles an hour. Serious damage there Sunday. This happened about 6:00 in the evening and obviously residents scrambling to put things back together quickly.

Up the road or up further to the north in parts of Minnesota, serious damage there with this twister near Hugo, which has a population of almost 12,000 people. So subdivisions torn apart in that area and one toddler was reported to have died in this particular storm.

Now, check out this video. They called it the land of 10,000 lakes. When a tornado moves over water, well, then, it becomes a water spout. This was I-report video from Leech Lake, Minnesota. Definitely some dramatic stuff there. You typically see them much cleaner over the water because well, there's not as much dirt to fly around.

All right. What can you expect today? Things are going to stretch out a little bit farther to the east today. The biggest threat will be hail and some tornadoes. We don't think it will be quite as widespread. Nonetheless, still, from the Texas panhandle all the way up through parts of Ohio and in through parts of upstate New York across the Allegheny of Pennsylvania, that's where we'll see the threat today.

So it continues to be a problem. This is the time of the year for sure, but hopefully things will quiet down after four straight days of some crazy weather. John and Kyra, back over to you.

ROBERTS: They could certainly use a break. Rob, thanks very much.

MARCIANO: You got it.

PHILLIPS: New this morning, scientists say that they're soon going to learn much more about Mars. NASA landed a probe near the north pole of Mars. It's the first successful attempt of such a mission.

That probe has a robotic arm. It can actually scoop up the ice and the dirt, and experts say that they could take that to preservatives, any type of evidence that life is there now or was there possibly in the past.

Well, exploring Mars is a challenge that dates back to the '60s. Here's your AM extra.

In July 1965, Mariner IV became the first spacecraft to take pictures of Mars from orbit. Then in 1976, Viking 1 and 2 became the first American probes to actually land on Mars. Then in 1999, a setback when the Phoenix's sister craft, the Mars Polar Lander, crashed on entry. In 2004, more success. The Spirit and Opportunity rovers land and sent photos that suggest that there was actually water on Mars.

ROBERTS: As a nation salutes its fallen troops, a sign that security forces in Iraq are making progress. But will those gains hold? We'll ask the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, coming up in just a few minutes.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These people are driving a gun with a 4,000- pound bullet.


PHILLIPS: The crackdown born from a tragedy that hit too close to home.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're bringing the (INAUDIBLE). It's a great night.


PHILLIPS: A police department determined to stop drunk driving ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


PHILLIPS: A CNN exclusive now, on the hunt for pirates on the shores off of Somalia. The U.S. Navy is actually trying to chase down these outlaws at sea before they seize another oil tanker.

CNN's David McKenzie on board the USS ship. David tells us about the hunt for these pirates.

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kyra, it's quite extraordinary. Across this coast, these are some of the most dangerous outlaws on earth. Just in the past few weeks, we've had a number of tales of pirates going out taking vessels, bringing them back towards Somalia's shores.

But now, there's a coalition force where on two days on a U.S. Destroyer out in the middle of the ocean between Yemen and Somalia, they're essentially are hunting these pirates. They've become like beat cops of the ocean patrolling these seas, trying to see if they can catch these pirates. And really, it's an attempt to make these waters safe for the major commercial route that these waters are. Kyra, back to you.

PHILLIPS: You're aboard a pretty incredible ship, compliments there of the U.S. Navy. Can you give us a little show and tell of the asset that destroyer has in the search for these pirates and the takedown of these pirates?

MCKENZIE: That's right, Kyra. Right now, actually we're on a friendship, we're on that U.S. Destroyer for two days. I'll show you over here.

This ship essentially is a refueling vessel. It's a massive tanker. But over here, they even have guns and they have defense mechanisms on these ships. Earlier today, they had a covert commando group come on to the ship as if we were a hijacked vessel. They came in and took some of the sailors who are pretending to be those pirates.

Essentially the coalition forces are in those areas. They're training up the whole time. The problem is right now, the rules are such that they can't go into territorial waters.

Just as behind me on the coast of Tabuti (ph), they can't go into those waters. They have to stay in international waters. It's a major problem and they're trying to push those rules to mean that they can take the pirates back towards the coast of Somalia. Back to you.

PHILLIPS: OK. And I apologize, David, I thought you were actually on board that U.S. Navy ship. That's where you have been for the past couple of days to clarify that.

David McKenzie, appreciate it. Thanks so much.

ROBERTS: A record-setting free fall from the edge of space. A French skydiver will attempt to jump from 130,000 feet. We'll have the details of his death-defying feat, coming up for you.

PHILLIPS: As we head into the final stretch of the primary season, a lot to talk about health care. But where do the candidates stand when it comes to mental health plans? We're going to break down their positions straight ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


ROBERTS: Turning now to the race for the White House, Senator Barack Obama picks up three more superdelegates. They are from Hawaii where Obama grew up. According to CNN totals, he now has 1,969 delegates. That is 57 short of what he needs to clinch the nomination.

Hillary Clinton tried to calm a controversy over a comment that she made about Robert F. Kennedy's assassination. In an op-ed piece in the "New York Daily News," she wrote, "I was making the simple point that given our history, the length of this year's primary contest is nothing unusual. I was deeply dismayed and disturbed that my comment would be construed in a way that flies in the face of everything I stand for and everything I am fighting for in this election."

And John McCain wrapped up his weekend with a meeting at his Arizona ranch. On the guest list were McCain's former campaign foe Mitt Romney, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, and Florida Governor Charlie Crist. That led some people to believe that McCain was interviewing potential running mates, but McCain said the weekend was purely social.

Former Republican Congressman Bob Barr of Georgia is now the Libertarian Party's presidential nominee. He beat eight other candidates at the party's national convention in Denver. Barr perhaps best known for his role in leading the impeachment effort against President Bill Clinton. Some think that he could play the spoiler, siphoning votes away from John McCain.

We'll be talking about that. Bob Barr joins us live here on AMERICAN MORNING, 7:55 Eastern.

PHILLIPS: Today, Memorial Day, America salutes its fallen heroes. And while it's a day of remembrance, it's also filled with hope for the many families who have loved ones now overseas.

I'm joined this morning from Washington, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen. Admiral, good to see you this morning.

ADM. MIKE MULLEN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF CHAIRMAN: Good morning, Kyra. PHILLIPS: Something that you wrote that has stuck with me, you say to truly observe Memorial Day is to observe the life that these heroes lived and to pledge ourselves to live our lives accordingly.

MULLEN: Well, that is representative of so many of the young people that I'm with who are serving our nation today. And they give so much, they care so much, even those who ultimately sacrifice their lives, the families would like -- they remember them as they were. They remember them for their contributions and for their great service to our country.

PHILLIPS: And you always seem to do that. That's one thing that amazes me. You have the memory. You remember these men and women so well and their personal stories.

And you wrote a piece that came out today and you talk about Army Corporal Jessica Ellis from Lake View, Oregon. Tell me about her and why you decided to talk about her and honor her today specifically?

MULLEN: Well, she's a very special young woman who paid the ultimate sacrifice, and too often in the case that young people pay this kind of sacrifice and we don't get to know them. So the whole intent was to say what a special young lady this woman is and how she is remembered and revered in her hometown by people that have known her a long time and what a bright light she always was and that she will always be remembered that way and it really personalizes that sacrifice and she is representative of so many young people who are serving in our military today and to be remembered, this Memorial Day weekend.

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: And let's have a reality check as well. As we remember people like Jessica Ellis and the lives lost. You know, this is a country that is still plagued by so much violence, you've got a government that cannot take care of its country right now, Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki, struggling to do that right now, he's got a police force that is still extremely corrupt. The military is not ready to secure its country. Looking forward, can you even here today with the thousands of lives lost look at that country and say, all right, here's something that I see within that government that is giving me hope?

MULLEN: Actually, I have seen Prime Minister Maliki in recent operations in Basra, what he's doing right now in Sadr City and the Iraqi Armed Forces performance up north in Mosul and they may have turned a corner in that regard. I mean, they have actually executed some exceptionally good operations, so I'm a little more optimistic in that regard than say we were a year ago. And that the Prime Minister himself clearly has generated political support that he didn't have before, he's taken charge of his military, they're more successful. And so I'm, again, modestly optimistic compared to where I was let's say this time last year.

PHILLIPS: Well, we're moving into a political year, a very pivotal, historic political year and the war in Iraq is still very unpopular, more than 60 percent of Americans not in support of this war, very controversial war. When you hear candidates come forward and talk about pulling troops out, does your heart sink?

MULLEN: Well, my heart doesn't sink, certainly I understand where we are in terms of electing a new president and we, you know, I, as chairman await the results as do people throughout America and literally around the world. It's really in that time that I'll certainly make recommendations based on directions I get from a new president and I recognize where we are in the war right now. And certainly and anxious once we get there to give my best advice to whoever that will be.

PHILLIPS: And the final thought as we leave you today, just remembering the fallen, you have spent a lot of time going to numerous funerals. I know last time I asked you couldn't even give me a count of how many. You have interacted with the troops at all different levels. Today, as we look at the pictures. You look at your position as the chairman on the Joint Chiefs, not only remember the fallen, but those left behind as well.

MULLEN: We - I try to focus a great deal on those who have given so much and their families. And all of us throughout the land, I would hope we would take a few minutes today to remember those who have paid that ultimate sacrifice, the families who support them and still have great needs as well as the thousands who have been wounded and have returned home. We need to reach out as a country, take care of them, take care of their families. We have the resources and do so in a way that really recognizes their great sacrifices for our great country.

PHILLIPS: Joints Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen, appreciate your time this morning.

MULLEN: Thanks, Kyra.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Though it is meant to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice for the nation, Memorial Day also means the start of the summer party season. The time when police say that more people tend to drink and drive. And has officers nationwide concerned about their own safety. AMERICAN MORNING's Alina Cho explains.


ALINA CHO, CNN, CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Nassau County Police Sergeant Walter (Trech), a 25-year veteran of the DWI Highway Patrol has arrested thousands of drunk drivers. His message to junior officers heading out for night duty.

You're going to save a life, if not tonight, it will be tomorrow night. These people are driving a gun with a 4,000 lb. Bullet.

CHO: A message that hit home when one of their own, police officer Kenneth Baribault was critically injured after pulling over a driver for DWI and then was hit by another drunk driver. Baribault was the third county police officer injured by a drunk driver in the past year. It could have happened to any one of them.

WALTER TRECH: It's always in the back of your mind.

CHO: After that Baribault incident, Nassau County launched a new crackdown on DWI with stepped up checkpoints and extra patrols way into the morning when many drivers have been drinking for hours.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Quite frankly, it's time to do change the game plan.

CHO: Despite decreases in the '80s and '90s, the number of Americans killed by alcohol impaired drivers remains a third of all crash deaths, more than 13,000 people a year.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Drivers have generally driven drunk more than 87 times before being convicted the first time.

CHO: Mothers Against Drunk Driving is urging states to enact tougher laws including making ignition interlocks and in car breathalyzers mandatory for convicted drunk drivers. The car actually won't start if the driver is legally drunk.

On this night, several drivers called in to report a weaving car. Sobriety tests showed the driver had a blood alcohol level twice the legal limit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That was an expensive cocktail, a $50,000 car which was up for seizure, it's lawyer fees, it's a fine, it's about 10 years of increased, tripled insurance.

CHO: This night, (Trech's) department made 20 DWI arrests.

TRECH: If we bring in 30, that's a great night as far as the enforcement is concerned. Unfortunately, if you look at it the other way around, if you're bringing in 30 people, what do you have out there?


CHO (on-camera): Officer Baribault is still in the hospital in a coma and in a gesture of support, the owners of Triple Crown contender "Big Brown" announced that would donate a portion of their winnings for the college education fund for Baribault's 6-year-old son. John and Kyra.

ROBERTS: Alina, thanks very much. And angered by the tragedy Nassau County executive Thomas Suozzi is taking the crackdown a step further. Tomorrow, he is planning to publicly release the name and address of every person arrested for drunk driving over the weekend.

PHILLIPS: It's a pretty deadly weekend for tornadoes that killed 7 people across the Midwest and we saw one twister actually formed live on the air. Take a look at how it developed right before your eyes. We'll have that straight ahead in the next hour.

ROBERTS: And third party politics. Bob Barr becomes the Libertarian Party nominee. Will he play the spoiler for John McCain? I'll ask him, the newest candidate joins us live ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


PHILLIPS: Investing guru Warren Buffett says the U.S. is in a recession. And even told a German newspaper that economist might not agree but people are definitely feeling the effects. He also added that the recession could be longer and deeper than what many people think.

And checking the CNN gas gauge this morning, it's another record high for gas prices. $3.94 a gallon, according to AAA. That's the 19th straight record high. It's 35 cents higher than last month and 73 cents higher than last year. And by the way, John Roberts made that call before Warren Buffett about the economy and that gut feeling that you have that it's not as good as we think.

ROBERTS: Well, I just feel that gas prices are going to do a lot more harm to the economy than maybe people have an indication of it right now. A little worrisome there. High prices are not though, but the Memorial Day weekend is the start of the summer travel season. So we put the airlines to the test.

Our Jeanne Meserve rate the most delayed flight in the country. 90 minutes late on average. Jeanne joins us live from Newark's Liberty National Airport. Jeanne, which flight has earned this dubious honor and how did you make out when you took it?

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's a Continental flight takes off from Newark here and flies out to Dayton, Ohio. As you said, more delays more often than any other flight. Here's our experience last week.


MESERVE (voice-over): Our journey started last Wednesday evening. That's Europe, we don't need that, unfortunately, we wish we were flying to Europe, but only Dayton today. The board showed Continental Flight 2286 on time. We headed to the gate and boarded just a few minutes late. But just after they shut the door. Well, the crew has just announced that we're going to be delayed for about an hour because of airport traffic. We waited in a long line for take off and it was indeed almost an hour before we were airborne.

So here we are in Dayton, we got here four minutes early even though we took off from Newark almost an hour late. How is that possible? Continental put an hour pad in the schedule to compensate for Newark's routine delays. That gives passengers a realistic arrival time, but it also means that our wait on the tarmac wasn't recorded as a delay, which makes this statistic even more amazing.

In March, this flight was officially late more than 92 percent of the time, with an average delay of an hour and a half. This flight may be the worst, but the cascading affects of bad weather, congested air space and the over scheduling of flights at some airports is making plenty of other flights late too. SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: Passengers were delayed by 320 million hours last year. 320 million hours. If you divide that by 24 hours in a day, 365 days a year, passengers were delayed a total of 36,500 years.

MESERVE: And if your flight is canceled, it could be tough to get another.

BYFORD TREANOR, DALLAS-FORT WORTH INT'L AIRPORT: Because of load backers being as high as they are and the flights are limited. It's not just a simple thing of getting up the next day, it may take you one or two days to get out.

MESERVE: The airport at Dallas-Ft. Worth is trying to ease that pain. It now has a stock of cots and pillows, toiletry kits, even diapers and formula for stranded travelers.


MESERVE: Now, the Federal Aviation Administration has announced that it is opening some military air space to commercial flights. It's also going to give pilots more flexibility to fly around bad weather rather than sitting on the tarmac, waiting for it to pass. They're hoping that will ease up the delays. But let me say John, the number one cause of delays is bad weather and that's obviously out of everyone's control. Back to you.

ROBERTS: All right. Seems to be. Jeanne Meserve for us this morning. Jeanne, thanks very much.

PHILLIPS: While plunging from the sky, a world record could be set this morning. French sky diver, is it Michel Fournier?

ROBERTS: Michel Fournier.

PHILLIPS: Mr. French speaker.

ROBERTS: He's going to try to break the sound barrier and free fall from the very edge of space at 130,000 feet.

PHILLIPS: Well, Murray Oliver of our affiliate CTV, John, caught this piece this morning and we bring it to you now, has the whole story.


MURRAY OLIVER, REPORTER, CTV NEWS (voice-over): All's quiet here now, but in just a few hours, 40 kilometers above this sleepy prairie airfield, a man plans to fall to earth from the edge of space. Michel Fournier aims to set a record and test the body's survival in extreme altitudes.

FRANCINE LECOMPTE, GITTINS TEAM SPOKESPERSON: Everybody is totally thrilled. We're looking at Michel, who's so ready, I mean, it's like he wants to jump. OLIVER: Fournier's ambition is very nearly out of this world. Lifted by a balloon, he'll ride a capsule like this one up through the atmosphere wearing an outfit similar to a space suit.

MICHEL FOURNIER: The maximum is set.

OLIVER: Twice before Fournier tried and failed to rise high enough. This time the former paratrooper says nothing will stop him. He'll rise past 39,000 feet, average cruising altitude for a 747, past 62,000 feet, the Armstrong line where blood boils without a pressurized suit. Past 103,000 feet, the current record set in 1960, reaching 130,000 feet, Michel Fournier will jump. He'll be in free fall descent for around seven minutes, his body reaching speeds of 1,500 kilometers per hour.

LECOMPTE: What we really need to know, I mean what scientists need to know, NASA needs to know. Everybody. It's like can a man survive at 1.3 mac. You know, that has never been done. We can enter that. You know, I mean, that's going to be a real stepping stone for them.

OLIVER (on-camera): Authorities in his native France refused to give permission to attempt the jump there. So he's trying here. Fournier says it's all for the good of future space exploration that the lessons learned will hopefully one day allow for the rescue of astronauts from outer space.

Murray Oliver, CTV News, Saskatchewan.


ROBERTS: That is pretty extraordinary.

PHILLIPS: What I love about you, 1,500 kilometers and you could tell me how much that was in miles per hour.

ROBERTS: Approximately.

PHILLIPS: In two seconds.

ROBERTS: It's 0.6. Ground breaking photos from Mars. A successful landing on the red planet, scientists looking for signs of life.

PHILLIPS: And drivers looking to beat or drivers rather looking to beat high gas prices with smaller cars are encountering a problem, demand is so high those cars are going for a small fortune even used one. That story in our next hour.


ROBERTS: For the millions of Americans suffering from mental illness, treatment can be costly. Many health care plans don't cover mental care. So where do the presidential candidates stand when it comes to mental health? CNN medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is live at the CNN Center in Atlanta. Elizabeth, how much do their plans vary?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, it's interesting, John. Obama and Clinton, their plans are actually relatively similar, McCain's however is different. And let's take a look at the central question here, you kind of alluded to it. It's called mental health parity. If you have depression or substance abuse issues, should your health insurance be just as generous as if you had a broken leg. Well, many people say yes, but not everyone has jumped on this bandwagon. So, let's take a look at how the candidates differ. Well, Clinton and Obama strongly support mental health parity, meaning that insurance companies should give just as much coverage for mental health issues as physical issues. McCain does not support this at this time. And so it isn't surprising then, John, that the mental health parity bill that just passed the Senate, Clinton and Obama supported it, McCain did not. John.

ROBERTS: Elizabeth, what about senior citizens and military veterans in particular, because there's so many people coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan who are showing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder?

COHEN: That is so true. That's a huge issue. Let's talk about seniors and vets. Let's talk about the differences among the candidates. For seniors there are some differences, let's take a look at them. First of all, Clinton wants more money for at-home care. This would be care at home for - I'm sorry this is for veterans, this is for people who are suffering from mental health issues returning from the war. Obama wants more money to recruit mental health specialists who sometimes are in short supply and McCain takes sort of a different tack, he's looking for more money for veterans and military hospitals. That's where he sees is the best fit of where the money ought to go.

And for seniors, let's take a look there, for seniors, for Medicare, the two Democrats want the same thing, parity for mental health coverage. For McCain, he's working to change policies. He wants to cut down on escalating Medicare costs, and then once he gets those costs down, to take it from there and figure out what to do with mental health care for seniors.

ROBERTS: Elizabeth Cohen with a rundown for us this morning. Elizabeth, thanks and we're back right after this.


ROBERTS (voice-over): Crashing the party, a former congressman becomes another choice in the voting booth. Whose hopes could he spoil in November? Bob Barr joins us live. Plus, "Mission to Mars." Miles O'Brien shows us why life could be around any corner, ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.



SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: ... larger than yourself when you realize that true potential and discover the roles that you'll play in writing the next great chapter in the American story.


ROBERTS: Barack Obama took a break from the campaign trail to pitch in for Ted Kennedy. Senator Obama gave the keynote address during commencement at Connecticut's Wesleyan University. Kennedy was scheduled to speak but has to cancel after his diagnosis of a brain tumor last week.

Senator Barack Obama picked up three for superdelegates over the weekend, all of them from Hawaii where he grew up. By CNN's count, he's just 57 away from clinching the Democratic nomination. Former President Jimmy Carter is now telling Hillary Clinton to call it quits by early June. The final contests are being held on June 3rd, a week tomorrow.

And meanwhile, Hillary Clinton is trying to clear up what she meant when she invoked the Robert Kennedy assassination the other day. In an op-ed piece in Sunday's "New York Daily News," she wrote, "I was making the simple point that given our history, the length of this year's primary contest is nothing unusual. I was deeply dismayed and disturbed that my comment would be construed in a way that flies in the face of everything I stand for and everything I am fighting for in this election."

Former Georgia Republican congressman Bob Barr has won the Libertarian Party's nomination for president. He left the GOP two years ago and now political pundits are wondering how many voters might follow him. Bob Barr joins us now from Denver this morning which is the site of the Libertarian convention.

Congressman Barr, it's great to see you this morning. You hope to be on the ballot in all 48 states, maybe all 50 states and some people are wondering if you just might play the spoiler for the Republican party this year?

BOB BARR, LIBERTARIAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, there are two folks that are out to spoil a race here, it's Senator Obama and Senator McCain. They're setting out, I think, to spoil our chances. Look, John, every candidate in this race, every candidate in every race is a potential spoiler for the other. That's not really the point. The point is the American people need a choice, they want a choice, they deserve a choice and we aim to give it to them.

ROBERTS: Your exploratory committee did a poll before you declared and found out that you might grab as much as seven percent of the vote in a McCain-Obama matchup. There was another poll that found six percent and another poll that found three percent. That could be enough to change the game for Senator John McCain in some states, including there in Georgia, where President Bush won by 15 points, more than 15 points back in 2004. Could you take votes away from John McCain?

BARR: We intend to take votes away from both Senator McCain and Senator Obama if he is in fact the Democrat nominee. But there are millions of voters out there that are not going to vote for Senator McCain and we aim to reach those voters with the message of smaller government and more individual liberty, I think it's a message and a strategy that will, you know, really resonate, John, with an awful lot of American voters. And those poll figures that you mentioned indicate the bare minimum, we have just begun this campaign. I just received the nomination for the party yesterday. We are going to launch a very vigorous campaign all across America. As you indicated, we hope to be on the ballot in every state. So those numbers are going to change and change dramatically upward in the months ahead.

ROBERTS: You still have some positions that you need to square with the Libertarian Party, and that was opposition to medical marijuana, your support of the Patriot Act, your co-sponsorship of the defense of marriage act. It's got some people to wonder if you're Libertarian version of rino, a lino, a Libertarian in name only.

BARR: We have a very united party right now. We have a platform and a message that will resonate with Americans from all across the ideological spectrum because they're all united in standing for liberty. The message that you bring of freeing up our economy so that businesses and individuals can keep more of their money, reducing government regulation, reducing government interference in people's lives is really going to resonate with the American public.

ROBERTS: But what do you say to people who want to know why you supported the Patriot Act? Why you co-sponsored the defensive marriage act? Both of which fly in the face of Libertarian beliefs.

BARR: Well, I wouldn't be too hard, too fast to talk about the defense of Marriage Act flying the face off anybody's platform. It simply stands for the proposition that each state is free to make up its own decision, its people are able to decide for themselves what their definition of marriage to be and no one state should force another state to adopt its definition. A very, very sound individualistic and state's rights policy.

With regard to the Patriot Act, I've been working for five years now to either amend or repeal the Patriot Act because of the way it has been used and abused by the Bush administration to curtail the civil liberties of American citizens in this country. We can defend America without taking away civil liberties and the privacy rights of American citizens and we ought to be doing that.

ROBERTS: Former congressman Bob Barr, now the Libertarian candidate for president. Thanks for joining us this morning. We'll see you on the trail.

BARR: Yes, sir, John. Thank you.

ROBERTS: Thank you. Kyra.

PHILLIPS: A French sky driver trying to reach new heights this morning and then fall to the earth. Michel Fournier trying to set a world record by free falling from 130,000 feet.