Return to Transcripts main page

American Morning

Obama in Berlin, Will Deliver Key Speech This Afternoon; Dolly Storms Texas; Bush Administration Turns 180 Degrees on Axis of Evil; An Inside Look on Guantanamo Bay's Prison Cell; Discussing Obama's Overseas Trip; Race Relations in America

Aired July 24, 2008 - 07:00   ET


TARA WALL, "WASHINGTON TIMES": But, you know, I think if you look at the numbers, over 70 percent of Americans believe that Iran is acquiring or will acquire nuclear weapons. It's a very real threat. At the same time, you see 46 percent of Israelis who say John McCain would make a better leader, a better president for Israel.

So these are the things that Barack Obama has to deal with as it relates to Israelis and Jewish voters. It was over, I think, 70 percent of Jewish voters voted for Kerry. Barack Obama's about down to 62 percent. Now, that's still, of course, the majority of Jewish voters. But he has a gap there that he's going to have to close and it doesn't help when he makes those announcements and pronouncements.


WALL: I've talked to Jewish voters who have said that they've switched their support from Barack Obama to John McCain because of the Ahmadinejad issue and that he really has not been able to grasp that. Now I think that Israeli leaders, if you hear some of the comments that have been reported from them, they seem to be a bit more satisfied at this point that Barack Obama said, you know, clearly, I'm going to, you know, make sure that they don't acquire weapons. You know, we'll see about that.

ROBERTS: Still plenty of time to hear more on this. Tara Wall, it's great to see you. And we'll see you back here later on tonight for more of our continuation coverage of "Black in America."

WALL: Sure. You bet. Thanks for having me.

ROBERTS: Good to have you.

WALL: Yes.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: It's 7:00 right now and the top stories. Breaking news, Obama in Berlin.

Barack Obama scheduled to tour the city's Airlift Memorial in the next half hour. At 1:00 p.m. Eastern, he'll give a speech at Berlin Victory Column in a downtown public square.

And Dolly downgraded. Now a tropical storm steadily soaking the Texas and Mexican highlands this hour. That storm expected to continue weakening as it moves further inland. Rob Marciano will have the latest forecast track for us in just a moment.

And another 70 cents. That's how much the federal minimum wage is going to be going up starting today. It's now $6.55 an hour. This is the second of three scheduled increases. The next bump happens in July of 2009.

And breaking this morning, Barack Obama in Berlin right now where he's set to make a big public speech at 1:00 Eastern this afternoon, following talks this morning with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Senior political correspondent Candy Crowley is traveling with the candidate and joins us from Berlin. Hi, Candy.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Kiran. This is really the center piece of this Obama trip, as you know. He is really flying through these countries. It's really five countries in five days. But this is really what they've all been building up to.

I think you can see behind me what a scene this is. This was very carefully stage managed as many things are, obviously, in political campaigns. This is the picture that they want going back to the United States and what they obviously hope for is a huge crowd here of Berliners so that they send the message back home, listen.

If you're tired of America not being liked overseas or people being hostile to this country because of policies, I'm the guy that can bring us together back with our old allies. It's what -- it's been his message all along from Jordan to Israel, here in Germany on to France and then to England.

So that's a message we're going to hear. And what is he going to talk about tonight? We asked him that actually on the plane coming from Tel Aviv to Berlin. What he really wanted to do and he admitted there really are two audiences here that he wants to give the same message.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There's no doubt that I want to -- there's no doubt that part of what I want to communicate on both sides of the Atlantic is the enormous potential of restoring a sense of -- of coming together.


CROWLEY: So again, Kiran, this is a time, a speech that Obama's going to give. He is going to talk about the real potential there is, he thinks, for coming together between Europe and the U.S., all the things that could be done on the problems that plague the world, as he sees it. Not just terrorism, but global warming, international trade. That kind of thing.

So the message he wants to send back home, again, is, if you want to restore America's reputation overseas, I'm the guy to do it -- Kiran. CHETRY: All right. Thanks so much, Candy. And we're going to be bringing you live coverage of Barack Obama's Berlin speech 1:00 p.m. Eastern time. We'll also stream it live on You can go to to view it.

ROBERTS: Tropical Storm Dolly still has plenty of life left. The storm made land fall as a Category Two hurricane crashing into the Texas barrier islands with winds of 120 miles an hour yesterday. Tropical downpours could continue in some areas until tonight.

Our Rob Marciano is tracking the storm from the weather center in Atlanta. He's got a look at what Dolly left behind. Good morning, Rob.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, John. Still she's got some winds of 60 miles an hour. Just doesn't want to die or at least dying a slow death. Flooding going to be the main issue as well.

Came to shore as a Category Two, Dolly was the strongest storm to make a U.S. land fall since Wilma back in 2005.


MARCIANO (voice-over): With winds gusting at 120 miles per hour, the eye of Hurricane Dolly crashed into Texas South Padre Island around 1:00 p.m. local time.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: If these roofs collapse, if these signs go down, firefighters are all over helping people evacuate and (INAUDIBLE) to evacuate. But you can see this is a Category Two hurricane. And it's incredibly treacherous.

MARCIANO: Dolly's triple digit winds ripped the roof off this house.

JACQUELINE BELL, RESIDENT: The first, you know, bang, I thought it was one of the air conditioners flying. And then we went outside and we saw the debris.

MARCIANO: Seeing the conditions as unfit, firefighters demanded residents to leave the endangered building. Soon after land fall, Dolly was downgraded to a Category One storm. Its winds still powerful enough to down power lines, snap trees, ground traffic lights and cripple gas stations. Eventually the winds died down, giving way to heavy rain.

TUCHMAN: Intense rainfall. It's actually hailing now. And it's coming down so strongly that I really can't keep my eyes open while I talk.

MARCIANO: Flooding became the top concern for Texans.

GOV. RICK PERRY (R), TEXAS: We could have areas that have up to 12 inches of rain. So, again, preparing for the worst and praying for the best. MARCIANO: And as the storm heads west, the focus remains the rain. How much will fall and how bad will the flooding be?


MARCIANO: National Hurricane Center is actually off the forecast for how much rain is expected to fall. We've already seen record breaking amounts. This thing slowly marching across the Rio Grande, still a strong tropical storm with 60 miles an hour winds. Eventually become a tropical depression but it doesn't really matter what the winds are right now.

We've got to wring out all that moisture and it's doing it in a very slow capacity. Here it is, 90 or so miles northwest of Brownsville and still especially the southeastern part of the storm holding itself together very, very well. So 10 to 20 inches of rainfall still possible before this thing is done. And so, flash flood watches and warnings have been posted for much of the Deep South.

Texas, ironically enough, the central part of Texas, John and Kiran, is where we need the rain. That's where the drought is and most of the rain is staying far south. So flooding is going to continue to be an issue in the next couple of days. Back to you.

ROBERTS: Rarely falls where it's needed. Rob, thanks so much.

MARCIANO: All right.

CHETRY: Well, we're going to check right now, some other stories making headlines across the country.

Right now, a 98-mile stretch of the Mississippi River closed after an oil spill. A tugboat pushing a barge collided with a tanker dumping thousands of gallons of oil into the river. The Coast Guard says the tugboat was operated by a pilot who did not have the proper license.

And check out this crash. It's caught on a police dash cam in Burnsville, Minnesota. An officer pulled over a car on a highway. Then an SUV plows into the back of that car at highway speed. There you see it.

Amazingly, no one was seriously hurt in that crash. And it's not the only time something like this has happened. In fact in the past 2 1/2 years, eight Burnsville Police Department cruisers have been smashed into during traffic stops.

ROBERTS: Unbelievable.

Kentucky changes the way it honors fallen soldiers. From now on, the state is only going to fly flags at half staff for troops native to Kentucky and only for one day. That excludes soldiers from other states who were stationed at bases in Kentucky. Supporters of the change say it will now be easier to note who is being honored. A new warning about cell phone use from one of the nation's top cancer experts. Dr. Ronald Herberman, head of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute is issuing a warning to his employees. He says that cell phones should be used with hands free devices, on speaker phone, or better yet just send a text message. And he says that children should only use cell phones in an emergency. Dr. Herberman says that no link between cell phones and cancer has been proven. There is "a growing body of literature that indicates there is the possibility."

CHETRY: Well, divorce drama YouTube style. A New York woman airing her dirty laundry all over the Internet. And now, she speaks out after her day in court.

ROBERTS: Also, President Bush doing a 180 on his own axis of evil. North Korea. Iran. Will diplomacy work?

CHETRY: Plus, only on CNN. A prison cell that holds what the Pentagon calls the worst of the worst. An exclusive look inside, one on one, at Gitmo. You're watching the "Most News in the Morning."


ROBERTS: 11 1/2 minutes after the hour. Have you noticed, Ali Velshi leaves and the price of oil goes through the floor? What's up with that?

STEPHANIE ELAM, BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: I don't know. Maybe he does something to keep his head nice and conditioned and so when he's not here, he doesn't need to deal with oil.

ROBERTS: That stupid barrel that he brings, it's jinxed.

CHETRY: That's why we love to see Stephanie because you always have good news when it comes to oil prices.

ELAM: I don't know why that happens but you're right. That has lately been happening and it's the same story again. We've got oil down another, oh, how about almost $4, $3.98 yesterday.

Take a look at that, $124.44. And in case you're thinking, wait, weren't we like way higher? We were because we actually are down from $145.18. That high was hit July 14th. So we're talking about a drop here of almost $21 in just -- I mean, what was that? Like just a little bit over a week.

So it's a quick drop here that we've seen. Part of it having to show inventories. That number higher than expected there so it shows demand may be falling off a bit. And so that's why we're seeing oil prices where they are.

The markets overall yesterday, they were on the upside. Nasdaq may actually get more of a pop today because Amazon had some strong earnings after the bell yesterday. But the Dow, as you can see there, tacking on 29. Nasdaq 21. And it's the same thing we've been seeing here where the markets kind of hang out right around the, you know, flat line for most of the trading session, and then they come back at the end in that last hour and rallying.

So we are seeing a little bit of hope in the markets right now. So right now, we are set for a mixed open. But you never know by the time we get to 4:00.

CHETRY: Right. Good news. And we also heard from AAA this morning that gas prices down a little bit as well nationwide.

ELAM: They are.

CHETRY: Still above $4 a gallon.

ELAM: Still above $4 but we're talking about $4 and just over 2 cents. So we are down there from $4.11, just above that hit on July 17th. So I guess we'll take every little bit.

ROBERTS: You know, Ali Velshi's not expected to be back until the 4th of August. So maybe we'll be down to 60 bucks a barrel.

ELAM: Yes, but I don't know who the lucky person is going to be because tomorrow is my last day with you for a while. So I don't know. We'll have to see.

CHETRY: Steph's getting married, by the way. Congratulations.

ROBERTS: Congratulations.

ELAM: Thank you.

ROBERTS: That's great.

ELAM: That's why I won't be around.

CHETRY: That's right.

ELAM: I won't be watching oil prices.

CHETRY: Have fun getting married and have fun on the honeymoon.

ELAM: Thank you.

ROBERTS: It's great to have you while we got you.

ELAM: Thanks.

CHETRY: Well, sweat shop allegations for a factory that supplied some big name brands like Macy's, The Gap, Express, Victoria's Secret -- all had clothes coming from the sweat shop. We'll tell you more.

ROBERTS: YouTube divorce.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am the biggest -- in the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ROBERTS: A public plea backfires leaving the star of these online rants out in the cold.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it totally sucks.


ROBERTS: You're watching the "Most News in the Morning."


ROBERTS: 16 minutes now after the hour. Time to fast forward to the stories making headlines later on today. At 10:00 this morning, two former members of Warren Jeffs' polygamist sect, the FLDS, will testify at a Senate hearing. You can catch live coverage of that hearing on air and online at

Also at 10:00 this morning, we're going to be watching and listening to see if CNN's Drew Griffin's name comes up at a House Transportation Security hearing. Why are we listening? Well, it recently came up on the terrorist watch list. TSA Administrator Kip Hawley is going to be testifying and we will carry that live for you.

And at 12 noon, fitness guru Richard Simmons hits the house to talk about childhood obesity and then takes everyone outside for their own jumping jacks and leg stretches. Can't miss TV.

We're told that he's going to be wearing a proper suit to the hearing and then change into the short shorts for the exercises.

Also at 12:00 noon, CNN anchor and special correspondent Soledad O'Brien is going to host a live one hour online special entitled "Black in America." Your reaction on Focus under "Black in America" documentaries, the online exclusive will examine your reactions to last night's program. Check it out at

And that's what we're following this morning -- Kiran.

CHETRY: Iran and North Korea, two countries once branded part of the axis of evil by President Bush. But now, diplomatic talks between Washington officials and Pyongyang and Tehran have some asking if the administration has flip-flopped on its hard line stance.

State Department correspondent Zain Verjee is live in Washington this morning for us. Hi, Zain.

ZAIN VERJEE, STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Kiran. Well, it's really a major shift in administration policy. But this new diplomatic push could be coming way too late.


VERJEE (voice-over): The Bush administration has turned 180 degrees on the axis of evil within the last week. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice meeting with the North Korean foreign minister, the highest level talks in four years. A reward for North Korean moves to get rid of its nuclear weapons. Secretary Rice told reporters, "From time to time, it's important to give a little push to the diplomacy." She sent a top diplomat to join talks with Iranian officials about their nukes.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: What we've done is to make a step that we think demonstrates to everyone our seriousness about this process.

VERJEE: For years, the U.S. has refused to talk unconditionally to its foes. So what gives? Legacy?

BARBARA SLAVIN, AUTHOR, "BITTER FRIENDS, BOSOM ENEMIES": I think Bush with only six months left to go realizes that he has not given diplomacy a real chance against Iran.

VERJEE: Some experts say the Bush U-turn is what presidential hopeful Senator Barack Obama urged all along. Talk to the enemy including Iran. Others say it could backfire.

DANIELLE PLETKA, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: Engagement can lead to foreign policy successes. Certainly from our enemy's standpoint, it is viewed as a sign of weakness and desperation.

VERJEE: The new U.S. approach has had some success with North Korea, but North Korea hasn't agreed on a plan to prove its telling the truth about its nuclear weapons. And Iran refuses to even discuss suspending its nuclear activity. Rice herself called that meeting disappointing and not serious. And she's threatening more sanctions.

PLETKA: I think that they're sending mixed messages to our adversaries about what our bottom lines are. Moving the goal posts is always a mistake no matter what your initial policy.


VERJEE: Experts say what the U.S. is doing right now, though, will make it a lot easier for the next administration to pursue talks with Iran because that war, Kiran, they say has been broken.

CHETRY: So is there any chance of major progress for this administration or have they missed the boat when it comes to Iran?

VERJEE: With Iran many analysts that we spoke to said, yes, you know, the U.S. really has missed the boat here. Well, they do add, too, there, Kiran, is that the problem in the Middle East, they say right now, is that it's pretty much in a holding path, and they're just waiting it out, running out the clock for the next administration.

They add, too, that it's unlikely that Iran will really agree to all that much right now and give the Bush administration any chance to claim success or credit.

CHETRY: Zain Verjee for us in Washington. Good to see you. Thanks.

ROBERTS: 20 minutes after the hour now. It's where the government keeps the terror suspects they call the worst of the worst. Jamie McIntyre gives us an exclusive look inside Bravo 111 at Guantanamo Bay.

CHETRY: And a historic election that has shown us how far we've come and maybe how far we still need to go when it comes to matters of race relations. We'll continue our "Black in America" discussion with an all-star panel coming up next. You're watching the "Most News in the Morning."


ROBERTS: It's 22 1/2 minutes after the hour. A YouTube soap opera viewed by millions of people has come to a close. The woman who aired all of her husband's dirty laundry finally got her day in court. And now, she may be turning to Craig's list for a place to live.

CNN's Carol Costello has got the story.


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If you ever thought of using YouTube as a tool in your divorce, don't. Tricia Walsh-Smith produced a series of videos publicly pleading her case for a nice settlement in her divorce.


TRICIA WALSH-SMITH, APPEALING DIVORCE RULING: I am the biggest idiot in the world.


COSTELLO: Well, a New York judge did call Mrs. Walsh and this YouTube efforts "a calculated and callous campaign." Incited it as a prime reason to grant Mr. Smith a divorce and to uphold their 1999 prenup.

WALSH-SMITH: I think it totally sucks.

COSTELLO: That means bye-bye to the Park Avenue apartment for Mrs. Walsh-Smith, a swanky dwelling she desperately wanted to keep.

WALSH-SMITH: My husband had no grounds when he filed last October. He was throwing me out with only $50,000. Now, you heard in the court tonight, $50,000. He had plunged me into debt.

By doing YouTube --


WALSH-SMITH: We never had sex. He said it was because he had high blood pressure.


WALSH-SMITH: By doing YouTube, I brought attention to my plight and I get the other $700,000 when the divorce is finalized.

COSTELLO: But that $750k isn't nearly enough for the now former Mrs. Walsh-Smith. But what she calls an injustice may spur her back to her career as a successful Broadway playwright.

WALSH-SMITH: Actually they inspired me to regain control of my life and my career, and in the process bring to the attention of the world the plight of women in divorce.

COSTELLO: As for Mr. Smith, the Broadway mogul worth $60 million who said in court he was humiliated and hurt by his estranged wife's YouTube rants --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You think you have a relationship with her and all that cordial, or you're just upset?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, we're human beings and obviously we'll be as cordial as possible.

COSTELLO: In the end you think the judgment was fair? Are you happy with it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, the judgment is very fair.

COSTELLO: And what would you say to her now if you were speaking in person?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good afternoon.


COSTELLO: That's right. He would just say good afternoon. Now, the judge granted the divorce on the grounds of cruel and inhuman treatment on the part of the Mrs. And you guessed it. The Mrs. plans to appeal -- John, Kiran.

ROBERTS: Carol Costello for us this morning. That no such thing is bad publicity may still hold true though. Walsh-Smith's lawyer now says she's got a music video and several play writing projects already lined up.

CHETRY: All right.


CHETRY: Inspiration for people everywhere.

ROBERTS: Only in America.

CHETRY: Yes, exactly. If you think you have it bad, you don't. Look at those two.

Well, our "Black in America" discussion continues with the focus on the historic presidential election and why racial sensitivities are running a little high. You're watching the "Most News in the Morning."


ROBERTS: 28 minutes after the hour now. Welcome back to the "Most News in the Morning."

Now for something that you'll see only on CNN, an exclusive tour of Gitmo where the area, including the area at least, where the detainees classified as the worst of the worst are being held.

Our Jamie McIntyre got the tour while covering the trial of the man accused of being a key lieutenant to Osama bin Laden. And Jamie is at Camp Justice in Guantanamo Bay for us this morning. Good morning, Jamie.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Reporter: Good morning, John. You know, even as the Pentagon wants to close Guantanamo, it's still trying to put the best face on the conditions here. And as a result, I got to go some place where hardly anyone gets to go except the people who really don't want to be there.


MCINTYRE (voice-over): Down a cool dim hallway, behind a remote- controlled steel door --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Open Bravo 111. I repeat, Bravo 111.

MCINTYRE: -- is a prison cell that holds what the Pentagon likes to label the worst of the worst.

MCINTYRE (on camera): I'm actually inside a high security cell in Camp Bravo. This is the kind of cell detainees are kept in. This one's set up for display purposes. It's 12 feet by 8 feet. You can see it has a sink and a toilet.

And behind me you can see a window that you can see light through, but it's not the kind of window you can actually see outside. It's been made opaque. And behind me, these are the items you get if you're in compliance. Prayer rug, a couple of sets of shoes, a light brown uniform, extra blanket.

These are the items you get if you're not in compliance. A prayer rug, some religious items, a pair of flip-flops, and the famous orange jumpsuit.

MCINTYRE (voice-over): This is the recreation yard where even the hardcore cases get up to three hours of outside activity, with an exercise mat, a soccer ball and Gitmo's version of a treadmill. There's even an arrow pointing to Mecca.

But you won't see any prisoners in this video. The military restrictions on photography are draconian. All images must be digital so military censors can delete the ones they don't approve of. That includes any faces of detainees and any security measures including locks and towers. So any glimpse into the shadowy world of Gitmo is just that. Only a glimpse.


MCINTYRE: John, you can hear me talking very softly while I was holding that camera. That's because they told me I couldn't talk loud because they didn't want the detainees in the next cell to hear me. It's part of the isolation that they have imposed on these detainees. Even though we had just a very small taste of it.

When you're inside behind the wire, you really get a feeling of just how isolated they are. Now, the minimum security facility, the detainees or prisoners can actually walk around and co-mingle a little bit. They even have some movie nights. But everything is tightly controlled. The prison officials, the guards were - they don't even wear name tags. They don't even want the detainees to know who they are.

ROBERTS: Well, it might have been a glimpse, just a taste, Jamie, but it's one we didn't have before. Thanks for bringing that to us. Jamie McIntyre, Camp Justice there in Guantanamo Bay this morning.

Thirty-one minutes after the hour. Here are this morning's top stories. Barack Obama in Berlin right now, set to make a big public speech this afternoon following talks this morning with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Better late than never. A bill to help hundreds of thousands of struggling homeowners on its way to the Senate. The House passed it yesterday when President Bush ended his veto threat. The bill would provide aid to say 400,000 home owners from foreclosure by letting them refinance with more affordable government-insured loans. The nation's two mortgage giants, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would also get federal protection and new federal oversight.

Sweat shop allegations for a factory that supplied some big time name brands. The New York City Labor department says the factory called Ginshun (ph) cheated 100 workers out of more than $3 million since 2005. It's accused of making them lie about the conditions there and giving them two time cards per week so no one qualified for overtime. Companies like Macy's, the Gap, the Express and Victoria's Secret all had clothes come from there. All said they take the matter seriously and have strict policies about fair working conditions -- Kiran.

CHETRY: Well, Barack Obama's getting set to make history as the first black presidential nominee for a major political party. His unprecedented candidacy has put a new spotlight on race, religion and politics in America. And we're taking a look at these issues as part of our special "Black in America" coverage.

Joining us to discuss this and more is Ken Blackwell, the former Ohio Secretary of State, California congressman Maxine Waters and Illinois congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. Welcome, all of you and thanks so much for being with us today.


CHETRY: Congressman Waters, let me talk with you first. Just about not even if Barack Obama is actually elected president, but just the history that's already been made with his candidacy. How will that change things for other would be black politicians?

REP. MAXINE WATERS (D), CALIFORNIA: well, I think what Barack Obama has done is he has shown the world that he's competent, he's capable, he's smart. Already you see new faces, young, black faces emerging on television. Helping to analyze the news and put spin on the news. There will be opportunities opening up in corporations all over America. He will have to change the face of America and open up new opportunities and new possibilities for many folks who are competent, ready to take their places in this society, and would not have had those opportunities had he not demonstrated that it is possible.

CHETRY: And Congressman Jackson, how important is it for young black men and women to have political role models to look to and say, I also want to aspire to be that?

REP. JESSE JACKSON, JR. (D), ILLINOIS: I think it's critical. When you look at the fact that Barack Obama will assume the democratic nomination on August 28th, 2008, 45 years after Martin Luther King Jr. on that very anniversary delivered the "I have a dream" speech. Many members of our generation were not there in 1963. and so the parallels between Dr. King's vision of America and the emergence of Barack Obama as the democratic nominee on that day will be a tear jerking and a very extraordinary moment in American history.

I think for not just African-Americans but for all Americans. We have come an extraordinarily long way in a very short period of time. And Barack Obama is establishing a new paradigm for how we behave not only in our individual capacities but in our collective capacities as a society. I would make this one very brief point.

On July 4th, 1776 we were one America. A very different America. By July 4th, 1852, Frederick Douglas said and offered a stern rebuke about the condition that many African-Americans found themselves in. By July 4th, 1863 the northern army of the republic had won a great battle at Gettysburg and Abraham Lincoln delivered a speech about the great task remaining before us.

By July 4th, 2007, Barack and Hillary Clinton were locked in an extraordinary campaign for the presidency. And by 2008, Barack Obama's the presumptive nominee. And by 2009, July 4th, the 44th president of the United States. That's an extraordinary contribution that this nation has made to the idea of what it means to be an American.

CHETRY: And if he is elected president, it would be, of course, because of the voters. And that's what I want to ask you, Kenneth Blackwell, he said back in August of last year, "I guarantee you African-American turnout if I'm the nominee goes up 30 percent around the country, minimum." Are we going to see more black voters register and go to the polls because of Barack Obama.

BLACKWELL: I'm sure that's the case. But let me tie into what Congressman Jackson just said. In 232 years we have made a tremendous statement. We are the most diverse democracy on the face of the earth. And while we celebrate that diversity, we have never lost sight of the fact that there is still a whole basket of infinite possibilities that are out there.

And Barack's candidacy really reinforces that in this country, it's not just about - it's not just about dreaming. It's about achieving. And I don't think he has to win the presidency to make that statement. He's already made that statement. And it speaks volumes about Americans. And while Europeans like to jerk our chain, we are the most vibrant democracy on the face of the earth.

CHETRY: You know, it's interesting you talked about the 232-year history. And we asked in a CNN "Essence" magazine poll about whether or not people thought life had improved for black men in the past decade. And it's interesting because 60 percent of whites said yes and only 35 percent of blacks said yes.

And I'll start with you Congressman Waters.

If each of you could weigh in briefly, what are still some of the biggest challenges facing the black community today?

WATERS: We continue to struggle with the main issues of the day. There are health care concerns. African-Americans die disproportionately from preventable diseases. We absolutely have to have universal, comprehensive health care. We're struggling still on the education front. While this president has the policy of leave no child behind, many children are being left behind. These are poor children. These are children of color. These are children in inner cities and rural communities.

In addition to that, we have a criminal justice system that really has not come to the point where we have representation at all levels of that criminal justice system to deal with the problems. And African-American, African-American men in particular, are disproportionately incarcerated for longer periods of time. And so we continue to struggle with those issues that our foremothers and forefathers struggled with. And those who come after us perhaps will still have to deal with them. They're huge. They're not to be easily solved.

CHETRY: No, no, not at all.

And Kenneth Blackwell, let me ask you this.

Because when they asked the problems in our latest poll, money and finances is at the top of the list with 20 percent of people saying that was the biggest problem in black families? BLACKWELL: It's jobs, jobs, jobs. But I can tie into what Maxine is saying. It's about the family. The continued breakdown of the African-American family and American families in general is a major, major problem that we have to continue to deal with.

But as it relates to African-American men, it's about education. And too many of our young men and women are locked on plantations of dysfunctional schools. And we're going to have to push our school systems and broaden the basket of choice to make sure that we're empowering those young people with the brain power and the opportunity to live productive lives.

CHETRY: I wish we had more time to talk about all of this.

But Congressman Jackson, I just want to ask you before you leave because there was a lot made of the comments that your father said regarding Barack Obama.

Do you think that will hurt his legacy?

JACKSON: Well, I certainly hope not. I hope people will look at that as a momentary lapse in Reverend Jackson's judgment. I do want to respond very quickly to this thought that Maxine and Mr. Blackwell talked about and that is simply this - there will be when Barack Obama is elected president no African-American in the United States Senate.

There are two African-Americans who are governors, only one is African-American and we have a long way to go to build a more perfect union for all Americans. And so I would hope on the Reverend Jackson side that people would see that as a momentary lapse in his judgment. It was unfortunate. But I hope we'll also forgive, redeem, and move on. That really is the message of the Obama campaign. Hope is alive. We are moving forward. And we're going to move forward as one nation and one people.

CHETRY: Well, Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., Congresswoman Maxine Waters and Kenneth Blackwell, former Ohio Secretary of State, thanks to all of for being on our panel today. Great discussion.

BLACKWELL: Good to be with you.

WATERS: Thank you.

JACKSON: Thank you.

CHETRY: Well, part two of Soledad O'Brien's special report "Black in America" airs tonight and it's a hard look at the state of black men in America. It's tonight 9:00 Eastern right here on CNN.

ROBERTS: It's 20 minutes now to the top of the hour. Our Ali Velshi is way, way up north in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. We're going to hear from him in just a little bit. Stephanie Elam meantime has got some news on a slight increase in the minimum wage. Good morning, Stephanie.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. Some Americans are getting a raise today. and right after the break I'm going to tell you how much minimum wage is going up. You're watching the most news in the morning.


CHETRY: You know, I was just thinking, you don't seem the least bit nervous for being about to get married in two days.

ELAM: Well, I'm not, no. It's not, it's Saturday. I guess I have another week to get nervous. Is that how it works.

CHETRY: Exactly.

ELAM: I'm kind of excited about it.

CHETRY: No run away brides here?

ELAM: No. No runaway brides but I guess most people probably would care more to hear about the minimum wage than my marriage. So, let me just tell you that the minimum wage is going up today. A lot of Americans will be getting a raise. 70 cents. Let's go ahead and take a look here at the number here. It's going up to $6.55 an hour. There you go. The next raise, this is all part of a whole plan that came out. It was called the fair minimum wage act of 2007. So this is the second wave of it.

The third wave will be next year on the same day. And it will go up to $7.25. But before all of this legislation came out last year, the minimum wage, the national minimum wage, had been untouched since 1997. And it was left at $5.15. When you think about inflation, that kind of makes you think that this needed to happen at some point.

Of course there are two sides to this. One side, you've got people like coming out of the Economic Policy Institute saying this is a move in the right direction, but at the same time if you look at a family of three after 2009's increase they'll still be below the poverty line. Other companies saying, this is a hard time with inflation for us to worry about having to increase how much we pay.

ROBERTS: Stephanie, thanks so much for that.

ELAM: Sure.

ROBERTS: Some African-Americans may be 40 percent more likely to contract HIV. Our Dr. Sanjay Gupta takes a look at some startling new genetic research.

CHETRY: Texas waking up water logged this morning. Dolly weakens over the highlands. And our Rob Marciano is tracking her every move. Good morning, Rob.

ROB MARCIANO, CNN, METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, Kiran. Looking at the latest advisory from the National Hurricane Center. And Dolly dying a very, very slow death. Still some issues with her. Plus the northeast forecast, that's wet, too. AMERICAN MORNING will be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MARCIANO: Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING. I'm Rob Marciano. Tropical storm Dolly now downgraded a little bit, 50 mile an hour winds. That's the latest advisory of a couple minutes ago. So, still holding together quite well for a hurricane that came on shore almost 24 hours ago. Forecast track though bringing across the Rio Grande eventually dropping to a tropical depression over the next, probably 12 hours. But it's the rainfall now that's going to create the largest problems.

Already we've seen record breaking rainfall in Brownsville just from yesterday, over six inches. Kingsville, Texas, almost five. Harlington, almost four. And there's more rain obviously piling up on the radar today. A slow movement to the west. That's one of the reasons, so slow, in this southwestern quadrant, seemingly just holding on. And that seems to be - it has been the strongest part of the storm. 10 to 20 inches now forecast for this area in total. So that's up from yesterday forecast. It has a lot of worry going on across deep South Texas. Flood watches, of course, are posted.

Also some heavy rain across parts of the northeast this morning. Kind of a messy drive to work. Commuting across the tri-state area. And we also have flood watches up for parts of the northeast. So stay dry. It'll be, though, cool. 75 comfortable degrees for you for daytime. Enjoy. John and Kiran.

ROBERTS: Rob, thanks very much for that. See you again soon.

CHETRY: And here's what we're working on for you this morning.

From cyberspace to college campuses, many young conservatives are getting increasingly worried that John McCain isn't appealing to young voters. What he's doing to bridge the GOP's generation gap.

ROBERTS: And another democratic issuing an environmental challenge. John Edwards is here live with his plan to build affordable and green homes. You're watching the most news in the morning.


ROBERTS: Nine minutes now to the top of the hour. Welcome back to the most news in the morning. African-Americans may be much more look likely to contract the HIV virus according to new research. A genetic variation could increase the likelihood by up to 40 percent. This is part of our look at being "Black in America.

We're "Paging Dr. Gupta" this morning. Increased odds of 40 percent,

Sanjay, that's huge.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: It is huge. And the idea that a gene could somehow regulate your likeliness of developing - likelihood of developing an HIV infection also very interesting. The numbers are pretty high, John, in terms of the number of people who might be affected by this. This was based on a study of about 3,400 people. But the implications quite huge. This particular genetic glitch if you will, found in 60 percent of African- Americans, found in 90 percent plus of Africans overall.

And as you said, if you have the genetic glitch, it increases your likelihood of becoming infected with HIV if exposed by 40 percent. So this is a pretty big thing. As we dug a little deep near into this, John, we found as well that interestingly enough with this particular genetic variant, if you have it, you're more likely to get infected but you're also more likely to live longer with the HIV infection. Hard to explain that one.

And also, this particular genetic variant protects people against an ancestral and more lethal form of malaria. There was another form of malaria that used to exist hundreds of years ago that was particularly deadly. If you had this genetic variant, you were protected against it, which is part of the reason that is probably stayed and continued and been preserved through populations, John.

ROBERTS: Do you have any idea, Sanjay, what the mechanism is at work here and is it ultimately could it lead to better treatments, maybe even preventive measures, potentially even a vaccine?

GUPTA: It is hard to figure out the actual mechanism here, although a lot of people are looking into that. As far as, you know genetic counseling or what you would do with this, it is actually hard to do. You know, we talked to some doctors about this and they say, look, we couldn't possibly encourage people or say it is OK to engage in high risk behavior because you have this genetic variant. No one is going to say that.

But you know, I had a chance to actually travel with - to Nairobi and visit these prostitutes and in these slum villages. And the reason we were there was because some of the prostitutes despite the fact they had numerous sexual encounters every single day never contracted the HIV virus. And the question was why, looking into their bodies, trying to figure out what can we take from what is happening in their bodies and apply it to everyone else. We're not there yet. But to your point, that's exactly what they're trying to do.

ROBERTS: I had an opportunity to go to the same clinic and it is fascinating, the research that they're doing down there.

GUPTA: Yes, they're taking their blood, seeing is there something different about their blood that prevents the HIV infection from taking hold. They don't know yet but it could be great to be able to take that and apply it more globally.

ROBERTS: Certainly would. Sanjay Gupta, thanks very much for that. Appreciate it. All right, doc.

Catch part of the second part at least of our special series "Black in America" tonight. It's at 9:00 p.m. Eastern. Tonight's episode looks at the black man. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHETRY (voice-over): Dolly comes ashore, ripping up homes, flooding streets, leaving locals knee deep in damage.

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It is incredibly treacherous and most people are surprised by how strong it is.

CHETRY: The storm creating new flooding fears right now.

Plus, video vixen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Best-selling product of all time is sex.

CHETRY: The hip-hop industry in question. Whether it is hurting young black women.

CNN's special report on being "Black in America."



CHETRY: As part of the documentary "Black in America," CNN is taking a look at a range of experiences in Black America. And that includes rap and rap videos. Some young women hope that dancing in a rap video is a stepping stone to a dance career. But at what cost? CNN's Soledad O'Brien joins us now looking into this issue. Good to see you this morning.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you very much, Kiran. You know, there are a couple of things we know. One rap is a billion dollar industry. And number two, all the criticism, its misogynistic and objectifies and sexualizes women. And we have been talking about this for a long time there are plenty of women who dance in these video who would say this is a job that could be leading to a career, maybe one day.

So we asked them, did they think they're being exploited. What cost do they think this is? Take a look.


O'BRIEN (voice-over): Melyssa Ford was spotted by a video director when she was a young student. You were studying to be a forensic psychologist, right?

MELYSSA FORD, ACTRESS/MODE: Right at New York University.

O'BRIEN: She went on to become a star of the hip-hop screen. Many say she was the very first video vixen.

FORD: It is a really big paycheck. Not very many people that are going to throw away that opportunity based on, you know, having such a strict moral code.

O'BRIEN: So when you're doing projects, do you think about the image you're projecting to young black girls?

FORD: A common question I found myself asking every time I would take on a project, am I perpetuating a negative stereotype?

O'BRIEN: Critics say the stereotype of the hypersex black woman that's being used to sell hip-hop music is hurting young black women.

YVONNE BYNOE, HIP HOP HISTORIAN AND AUTHOR: It's not so much that a black woman expressing her sexuality is wrong. It is - the problem is that it is the only image along with a few other stereotypical ones that you will continually see. Young people and young women in particular are looking at a lot of these videos as models for how they develop their own femininity and own ideas about what womanhood is.

O'BRIEN: Hip-hop videos continue to push the envelope when it comes to the oversexed female image in the name of selling albums.

All time, ever paying, best-selling product of all time is sex. And that is something that will be around here until. So until I guess that dies down as the number one product, we'll always see highly attractive women on videos.

O'BRIEN: Powell is auditioning models for his latest hip-hop video. And Jivanta wants the part. For her it is another opportunity in an industry that is all about exposure.

JIVANTAN, MODEL/DANCER: I would like to do more serious roles instead of the typical video girl. I wish that females weren't portrayed as what they are, but, you know, but it is.

O'BRIEN: An industry critics say has gone too far. Are these videos, not necessarily yours, but as a group, you know, are they demeaning to women?

FORD: Yes, I definitely have to say that. I would definitely have to say that now, yes.


O'BRIEN: As you can see many of these women feel that they're kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place. You want to be a dancer but there are not a lot of opportunities for black women especially to be dancers. So then there is this one opportunity. And Melyssa Ford, you know, she's come around. She is now very critical of the industry today. But she said, I got to tell you there are record company executives, you know, she dances, rappers rap. But someone puts it on the air. And it's not her.