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North Korea Issues New Warning: Ready to Take "New Self-Defense Measures"; Former President Bush Breaks His Silence; General Motors Drives Toward Bankruptcy; Corruption in Mexico Escalates Border Violence; Activist Judge: Do Politicians Mean What They Say?; Catholic Priest Renounces Faith After Sex Scandal; American Girl Unveils First Jewish-American Doll; Obama Shows His Support for Palestinian President; Judges at Risk In and Out of Court

Aired May 29, 2009 - 06:00   ET


ALINA CHO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everybody. Thanks so much for joining us on this AMERICAN MORNING. It is Friday, May 29th.

I'm Alina Cho. Kiran has the day off; feeling a little under the weather. So feel better, Kiran.

You're feeling a little under the weather.


CHO: But you're looking strong.

MARCIANO: You know, it's just being here around this great AMERICAN MORNING family in New York makes me feel on top of the world. Yes, they're laughing.

John Roberts has the week off, enjoying some well deserved time off.

CHO: That's right.

MARCIANO: All right. We're following lots of stuff this morning. Stories developing and we're to break them down for you in the next 15 minutes.

Here's a list, including a new warning from North Korea in the past hour. This as the Pentagon responds to the long shot question, could the U.S. wage a third war if it had to?

And out of retirement, President George Bush breaking his silence and giving his first major speech since leaving office. A lot of people wondering if he'd follow Vice President Dick Cheney's lead and criticize President Obama. We have the answer and the highlights of last night's speech that people will talk about today.

Plus, on the front lines of America's war next door. Criminals in Mexico waging new attacks and staging a wild prison break. We have the pictures and the exclusive report from CNN's Michael Ware.

CHO: But we begin this morning with two big developing stories out of the Pentagon. One, an urgent appeal by two of America's top generals to keep a lid on photographs showing detainees being abused overseas. President Obama already blocked the release of the photos but the ACLU is filing an appeal. And the military is now warning the court's decision could put U.S. lives in danger.

But first, news just in to CNN. North Korea is warning it is ready to take "new self-defense measures" if it is provoked by the U.N. Security Council. The news comes as Defense Secretary Robert Gates reacts to North Korea's latest saber-rattling.

Barbara Starr up early for us at the Pentagon.

So Barbara, just yesterday we reported that the U.S. military raised its alert level in the region. What is Gates saying now?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning to you, Alina.

Secretary Gates on his way to the Pacific for an already scheduled security summit in the region, spoke to reporters on the way and said that he does not see a crisis on the Korean Peninsula at this point. Gates there obviously trying to be the voice of reason, diplomacy, saying right now he sees no reason to add troops, weapons, or additional equipment to the South Korean theater. So he's trying to take a very low-key approach.

But certainly the question is being asked around Washington. What if heaven forbid a third war for the United States was to break out, could the military handle it?

General George Casey, chief of staff of the U.S. Army, was asked that question this week and he said, yes. But he said it would take about 90 days to swing all the troops into action because you have to think of it this way, on one side of the world, U.S. troops here fighting a counterinsurgency war in Iraq and Afghanistan, foot patrols through villages and towns, and rough terrain on foot fighting insurgents. In Korea, it would be a heavy war, armor, artillery, and missiles. Quite a different job. It would take some time.

Casey says, however, they could do it -- Alina.

CHO: And Barbara, also important to point out that there are still 28,500 U.S. troops along the border there inside South Korea. I want to move on to the other point here about those pictures of detainee abuse overseas.

President Obama famously now has said that he does not want those photos released. The ACLU, of course, appealing that decision. But as you know, General David Petraeus and Ray Odierno now warning of backlashes but not just in Iraq and Afghanistan, Pakistan as well.

Barbara, what does that say to you?

STARR: Well, you know, both generals very interestingly did file paperwork with the court saying in their view, releasing those photos would endanger U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. General Petraeus went one step further and said it would also hurt the situation in Pakistan where the very potentially weak army there, they're a bit fragile in their fight against the insurgents. If these pictures were to come out, it would only incite that war if you will even more.

And, you know, just yesterday, Alina, we saw four major bomb blasts by insurgents in four Pakistani locations. The military there struggling to fight against the militants so Petraeus doesn't want to see anything further unsettle that effort -- Alina.

CHO: Barbara Starr live at the Pentagon for us. Barbara, thank you - Rob.

MARCIANO: Also new this morning, Alina, former President George W. Bush breaking his silence and making his first major address since leaving office. He spoke before a group in Michigan talking candidly about his time in the White House and the difficult decisions he made, including the tough interrogations of terror suspects.

CNN's Jason Carroll is working the story. He joins us live this morning.

It seems like it's been a long time since we heard from the former president.

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A long time, and a lot of people watching this to see exactly what he was going to say.

There were no TV cameras allowed inside the hall where President Bush addressed 2,500 members of the Economic Club of Southwestern Michigan, but CNN did have a producer at the event. As President Bush answered questions on everyone's mind, would he follow Vice President Dick Cheney's lead and go after President Obama for his crackdown on tough anti-terror policies? The answer? No.

Shortly after taking the stage, Mr. Bush said, "Nothing I am saying is meant to criticize my successor. There are plenty of people who have weighed in. I didn't like it when a former president criticized me, so therefore I am not going to criticize my successor. I wish him all the best."

President Bush did go on to explain his decision to let interrogators get tough with terror suspects, including 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed telling the audience, "I made the decision within the law to get information so I can say to myself, I've done what it takes to do my duty to protect the American people. I can tell you that the information we got saved lives."

During a question and answer session with the audience, President Bush also defended his administration's decision to bail out big banks as the financial crisis hit. He said that that was a move meant to prevent another Great Depression.

And when asked about his legacy, President Bush said, "I hope it is this: The man showed up with a set of principles, and he was unwilling to compromise his soul for the sake of popularity."

As for the presidential perks he misses most, Air Force One and White House food.

President Bush is back in the spotlight tonight. He'll speak alongside former President Bill Clinton in Toronto at an event being billed as a conversation between the two presidents. We'll have to see if that conversation turns into a debate.

MARCIANO: Well, maybe, they're just going to talk about food and flying Air Force One.

CARROLL: Well, we know Bill Clinton, though, loves food, but he's never one to hold his tongue. So we'll see.

MARCIANO: That will be interesting.

CHO: That was interesting he talked about his book as well, saying that his first chapter is called "Why Did I Run for President." He's happy working on the memoirs as well, President Bush that is.

MARCIANO: I'm sure there will be several books to come. Thank you, Jason.

CARROLL: You bet.

CHO: Thanks, Jason.

You know, we're also following developing news this morning. It looks like time is running out for General Motors. The bankruptcy filing appears to be imminent.

Christine Romans watching that story very closely "Minding Your Business." So at this point, you know, employees are being asked to call that toll-free number before they check in to work.


CHO: Is this a foregone conclusion at this point?

ROMANS: It is a foregone conclusion, I think. And because there was a securities filing yesterday that show that GM is trying to clear up some hurdles that would slow down the bankruptcy. Good morning, everyone.

This is about General Motors shaking off assets that are dragging it down and trying to emerge as a new GM and trying to get everyone who is involved with this company to agree to that. This is what the extreme makeover of GM would look like, what we can tell from the securities filings with the company and the administration has been telling us.

Current stock shareholders would get nothing in the new company after it goes through bankruptcy and a merge. Creditors would get 10 percent, but they would be allowed to purchase an additional 15 percent. So creditors, those bondholders who had balked, have now -- they're coming onboard now. The union would get 17.5 percent, and the government, that's you and me, taxpayers, 72 and a half percent of this company. Of course, it would require tens of billions of dollars more of our money for this new company up to $50 billion.

Let's talk about what this new GM would look like. It would have GMC, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Buick. These would be the brands that you would know for GM. These brands the government hopes will come out of the bankruptcy process in two or three months.

The old GM would be Hummer, Pontiac. Pontiac is going away. Saturn, Saab, the company likely to divest, try to sell off some of these things.

Also with Latin Americans, European operations, it would have fewer dealers, fewer plants, fewer employees, and less debt. And again, the critical latest piece of news here is that the bondholders who had said no way to the deal have now said, OK, we'll accept this new deal for less debt for a 10 percent stake, maybe a bigger stake in the company and we're marching toward a bankruptcy filing likely on Monday.

CHO: Unbelievable that we're talking about this when this company was once known as generous motors.

ROMANS: Right. And now it's known as government motors.

CHO: That's right.

ROMANS: That's what the headlines call it now.

CHO: Christine Romans "Minding Your Business," Christine, thanks.


MARCIANO: Thanks, Christine.

Also new this morning, a friendly fire shooting claims the life of a New York City police officer. Authorities say an off-duty rookie cop was chasing a suspected car thief with his gun drawn when he was shot and killed by a plainclothes officer who was part of an anti- crime unit that spotted the chase and intervened.

President Obama is pushing hard for Israelis and Palestinians to resume peace talks. He met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the White House on Thursday. The president says for the peace process to move forward, Israel must stop settlement construction in the West Bank and Palestinians must increase security there to protect Israelis. We'll have more on the president's meeting with Abbas later this hour.

And America's war next door. CNN's Michael Ware in Mexico, on the front lines and shows us why Americans should pay attention.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Heavily armed and obviously well-trained, federal police appear to be sweeping in to transfer maximum security prisoners. But this is not what it looks like. These men are not police.


MARCIANO: The violence now closer than ever. And you won't believe the incredible lengths the bad guys are going to, to take control.

It's nine minutes after the hour.


CHO: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. Twelve minutes after the hour on the nose.

Forced to rein in credit card practices, banks are finding new ways to increase fees. And a report in "USA Today" says they're taking direct aim at your checking account. Some of the country's major banks are raising monthly fees, charging customers for accounts that remain overdrawn and imposing fees for transferring funds to cover overdrafts. The banks defend the policies saying that with jobs going away, consumers have become riskier and the higher fees reflect that risk.

A 13-year-old Minnesota boy who spent a week on the run with his mother to avoid chemotherapy has resumed treatment. Daniel Hauser suffers from Hodgkin's lymphoma. Hauser's parents say the chemo made their son so sick they wanted to treat his cancer with alternative medicine.

And Prince Harry, welcome to New York City. The 24-year-old British prince is making his first official trip to the United States. Today he's going to tour the World Trade Center site and also meet with families of 9/11 victims. He'll also visit a British garden in Lower Manhattan to honor the 67 British citizens who died in the terrorist attacks. Tomorrow he'll take part in a polo match -- Rob.

MARCIANO: Alina, it's a war being fought on America's doorstep and it's getting a little too close for comfort.

Mexico's bloody drug war is escalating and there seems to be no way to control it. As corruption reaches high into the Mexican government, corruption so blatant that everything, even prison breaks, appear to be inside jobs.

CNN's Michael Ware has the latest chapter "caught on tape" from Mexico.


MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Watch closely to what you're about to see. It's incredible. Grainy security camera video at a prison in Mexico. Heavily armed and obviously well-trained federal police appear to be sweeping in to transfer maximum security prisoners.

But this is not what it looks like, for these men are not police. Fake police officers arrived in this convoy. The uniforms legitimate, their cars marked as cop cars. And within two minutes and 55 seconds, they'd scooped up 53 inmates, stolen 23 guns, and driven back out the gate and away.

Of the 53 prisoners freed, at least 12 were cartel members. And why many of the 53 were in that cell block that night is a mystery, as almenter (ph) been held elsewhere. Later, 44 prison guards were questioned.

When we patrolled neighborhoods in Juarez with Mexican police, we knew corruption is a deeply entrenched way of life here. The corruption is so bad, honest officials don't know who to trust. After all, just this week, federal police arrested 10 mayors of Mexican cities and 17 other officials. They charged them with corruption, and it's the latest escalation in the two and a half year war. A war that has seen President Felipe Calderon put 45,000 troops into battle against the cartel.

And it's a war that, so far, has taken the lives of 7,499 people. Most of the dead were cartel foot soldiers, but many were innocent Mexican civilians caught in the crossfire and a few Americans have been killed as well.

When we visited the war's frontlines in Juarez, right next to the Texas City of El Paso, we found the story of this mother of two, Marisela Molinar (ph). A U.S. resident, murdered, gunned down within yards of the El Paso border crossing as cartel assassins targeted her boss who was sitting beside her.

Now, another American is dead. This time a 15-year-old high school student. She died while sitting with her family at a baptism party in Juarez. She was cut down by a stray round from a firefight that swept past the house.

All this bloodshed and for what? A war U.S. and Mexican law enforcement officers agree cannot be won, at least not the way it's being fought now.

A war fueled by America's appetite for drugs and one commonly waged by cartel members with U.S. weapons in their hands smuggled south across the border.


MARCIANO: That was CNN's Michael Ware. Terrifying stuff happening down there.

CHO: Yes, incredible video.

You know, the term activist judge wearing its hat again with the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. We are digging deeper on what that really means as the president's Supreme Court choice burns up our "amFIX" phone line.

Listen to this.


VALERIE, NEW YORK (via telephone): The Republicans must realize Obama will never nominate a conservative judge, so they should just accept the moderate nominee and be glad Obama didn't nominate a blatant liberal.

MIKE, FLORIDA (via telephone): Let's see. Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich have all expressed their dissent against the Supreme Court nominee, Sotomayor. That sounds like the best ringing endorsement for the American people that I have ever heard.



CHO: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. Twenty minutes after the hour.

The White House now digging in for a confirmation fight over President Obama's Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor. And her historic selection this week has drudged up a familiar and politically charged argument.

Carol Costello live from D.C. with a new segment that we're calling "I'm Just Saying." Nobody better to do it than Carol.

So, Carol, we hear the term activist judge a lot lately. We've heard it in the past but a lot of people are wondering what exactly does it mean.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You got that right. You're right.

We hear politicians say it all the time, "we don't need an activist judge legislating from the bench."

But what exactly does that mean? Critics roll their eyes when they hear we don't want an activist judge on the bench when, in reality, that's exactly what they want.

I'm just saying, if that's true, why not drop the act and tell voters what you really mean?


COSTELLO (voice-over): It's a buzzword that's got staying power.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Activist judges.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Activist judges.

COSTELLO: It's used so often and is so politically loaded, Jonathan Turley, a constitutional law expert, suggest you turn off the TV when you hear it.

PROF. JONATHAN TURLEY, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY LAW SCHOOL: This type of name calling is perfectly juvenile. It's simply saying that nobody could possibly disagree with my interpretation of the constitution.

COSTELLO: But those who use the phrase argue activist judges are dangerous because they legislate from the bench.

MCCAIN: They want to be spared the inconvenience of campaigns, elections, legislative votes, and all of that.

COSTELLO: A too-liberal court, he says, will pick and choose which laws it doesn't like and find a way to change their meaning or throw them out.

If that's the case, then how to explain the court under Chief Justices Rehnquist and Roberts. Both are conservative. And under their leadership, experts say, the high court overturned about 65 state or federal laws. That's more than were overturned in the previous liberal-led courts.

So is that bad? Good? Both?

TURLEY: The curious thing is that yesterday's judicial activists are often today's judicial heroes.

COSTELLO: In 1954, many accused activist judges of wrongly overturning state laws in Brown versus Board of Education on the grounds school segregation violated the U.S. Constitution. Today, those judges aren't considered evil activist judges, but wise men.

Some say the problem with the term "judicial activists" today is that it's evolved into something that has nothing to do with actively impartially interpreting the law.

NINA TOTENBERG, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Conservatives for a couple of decades have succeeded by using that term as a pejorative. Liberals in the last few years have adopted it as a pejorative about this court.

COSTELLO: That means those who say they don't want activist judges really do if they support their beliefs. And some say the term has become so politically charged it affects who a president nominates.

TURLEY: The tendency is to appoint someone who's never said or done nothing particularly interesting in their career.

(END VIDEOTAPE) COSTELLO: And done, some say.

Enter Judge Sonia Sotomayor. Apart from a controversial ruling in an affirmative action case, another hot-button social issues like abortion, the death penalty and religion, Sotomayor hasn't issued any substantive rulings on those things. Which, of course, makes charges of judicial activism very hard to pin on her.

And Alina, that's why people are saying this is such a brilliant choice by Barack Obama.

CHO: I love the activist judge perfectly juvenile.

Carol Costello live from D.C. Carol, thank you - Rob.

MARCIANO: Alina, a popular Catholic priest who broke his celibacy vow leaves the church to be with the woman he loves. He's now part of a new spiritual family. What the Catholic Church is saying about that today.

And there they go again. People on the far right and left saying something completely off the wall. Our independent analyst John Avlon has been in his sights and will name his "Wingnuts of the Week."

It's 24 minutes after the hour.


MARCIANO: The passion of a Catholic priest in Miami is prompting a surprising change of faith. Father Alberto Cutie is joining the Episcopal Church. The announcement comes just weeks after photos of the popular priest kissing a woman surfaced in the media and Cutie was removed from his duties in the archdiocese of Miami.

Jason Carroll joins us with more on the conversation or the conversion of the man known as, I guess, Father Oprah. We talked about him before.

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, very popular guy and I think you've seen those pictures. Very controversial. Those pictures definitely a shocker.

There were some who thought the career of this popular priest was over. Not so. He is back and his return is renewing the debate over Catholic priests and their vow of celibacy.


CARROLL (voice-over): What's a Catholic priest to do when he has taken the sacred vow of celibacy but is caught in a woman's arms? Pray for forgiveness? Ask for redemption?

If you're Father Alberto Cutie, keep the girl and find another denomination.

ALBERTO CUTIE, FORMER CATHOLIC PRIEST: I will always love and hold dear the Roman Catholic Church and all its members who are committed to their faith and have enriched my life. I have decided to become part of this new spiritual family in the Episcopal Church.

CARROLL: Cutie read a prepared statement announcing his decision.

CUTIE: Those who know me understand that I would never want to hurt anyone deliberately, especially my family, my friends, and the church community.

CARROLL: The Catholic Church removed Cutie from his duties after these pictures surfaced showing him cavorting with a woman. He later identified her as his girlfriend, embarrassing for a priest so popular in Miami he was known as Father Oprah to parishioners.

Now, he has the woman he loves at his side and a new church at his back.

CUTIE: My personal struggle should in no way tarnish the many faithful brother priests who are celibate and are faithful to the commitment that they made.

CARROLL: Unlike Catholic priests, Episcopal priests can marry. The Catholic Church has struggled for years to recruit priests, leaving some Catholics to call for an end to the vow of celibacy.

Bill Manseau used to be Catholic priest until he married his sweetheart -- a former nun.

BILL MANSEAU, FORMER CATHOLIC PRIEST: I see for the solution for the Catholic Church in regards to its diminishing clergy is to open up the ranks of the clergy to married and single men and women.

CARROLL: Not likely to happen any time soon, so says some priests who are still in the church.

FATHER JAMES MARTIN, CATHOLIC PRIEST: It's really up to the Vatican to decide. And I think that's going to take some time.

CARROLL: Vatican analysts agree.

JOHN ALLEN, CNN VATICAN ANALYST: Recent popes have made it clear they are not interested right now in reopening this can of worms.

CARROLL: As for Cutie, he wants his privacy respected and hopes to keep preaching the message that help make him so popular.


CARROLL: Cutie still has a process to follow before he can be ordained as an Episcopalian priest. That includes approval by a church hierarchy and passing several exams. Cutie says he plans on marrying his girlfriend. The Episcopalian bishop in Miami said he would be "a dumb guy if he didn't."

Big change for what you might be hearing from the Catholic Church.

MARCIANO: And such a high-profile priest as well. Definitely a big story. But I'm sure there's a lot of guys like him are struggling with it, so it's definitely a big commitment.


MARCIANO: All right, Jason. Thank you - Alina.

CHO: Thanks, Rob.

Thirty minutes after the hour, bottom of the hour. Checking our top stories this Friday morning.

A new warning from North Korea. Pyongyang says it is ready to take "self-defense measures" if provoked by the United Nations. The Security Council is considering tough sanctions on the communist regime for conducting an underground nuclear test. North Korea's latest saber-rattling comes as U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates told reporters he did not consider the situation in the region to be a crisis.

"The New York Times" is reporting that the Pentagon wants to create a cyberspace command that would be in charge of computer warfare. President Obama is expected to sign an executive order in the coming weeks to establish the military command. It will compliment his plan to safeguard the public in private sector computer networks. Today, the president will announce the creation of a national cyber czar to head up that effort.

And an anti-smoking group wants any movie that contains scenes of people smoking cigarettes to get an R-rating. The American Medical Association Alliance says research proves on-screen encourages more kids to pick up the habit. On-screen smoking, that is. Hollywood started considering smoking scenes as a factor in parental guidance and ratings two years ago, but critics say it has not made a difference.

Well, it is that time again for our weekly segment that we call "Wingnut of the Week." It's a title independent analyst John Avalon gives to someone on the far right and on the far left who he says is trying to divide us rather than unite us. His motto, "The center is under attack. And it's time to take it back."

John Avlon also a columnist for the He joins me now.

John, good morning to you. Good to see you.


So, this week's big story, obviously President Obama's nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. I want to get to your pick of "Wingnut of the Right." You say that is Charmaine Yoest, president of Americans United for life - and there's the sound cue there - this week's "Wingnut on the Right" for releasing a statement that says -- and I want to put it up on the screen. That, "Judge Sonia Sotomayor will perpetuate the role of Supreme Court as National Abortion Control Board. Her judicial philosophy undermines common ground. She is a radical pick that divides America."

Now, you say this is further evidence that all is fair in love, war and Supreme Court battles, right?

AVLON: Exactly right.

Well, you know, Supreme Court battles have become the wingnut Olympics right now. I mean, right-wing talking points are ready weeks before who ever President Obama name at this place. And they just want to insert the name.

But this statement seems to me to go above and beyond. This is a statement that really tries to paint Judge Sotomayor as a threat to the Republic. It is classic dehumanization and demonization, and that's a sort of thing that there's should be no place for it.

CHO: Inflammatory, you say.

AVLON: At least that.

CHO: All right.

We want to move to your "Wingnut on the Left" pick for the week. New York representative Carolyn Maloney is your pick for sponsoring legislation that gives federal employees four weeks of paid family leave. And here's the kicker, she says it will not cost taxpayers a dime.

Take a listen.


REP. CAROLYN MALONEY (D), NEW YORK: There are many reasons we should vote for this bill today. HR626 is pay-go neutral. It won't cost any money. This benefit can save the government money by reducing turnover.


CHO: You know, my mom always says there's no such thing as a free lunch.

AVLON: And your mom is right. There is no such thing as a free lunch. And when someone offers it to you, better watch your wallet.

You know, the problem with this is we are in a period of unprecedented debt. Some would say generational thief. And when people go to the floor of Congress and try to claim that a new entitlement won't cost Americans any money, well, we should know better.

We are in a situation right now where government employees already get very generous benefits -- 12 weeks unpaid leave, thanks to Clinton's Family Medical Leave Act. But expanding this to paid leave will bring us further into debt. At a time when we should be doing entitlement reform, we should not be expanding entitles.

CHO: Yes. By some estimates, the first five years would cost $850 million. You know, the old Washington joke, is a million here, a million there. Some pointed out that this is real money.

AVLON: Eight hundred and fifty million dollars over five years is real money, and it's something that should be getting our blood up.

I think the more folks try to buy this idea that we can spend entitlements -- things that are bringing GM to their knees. It's brought California to brink of bankruptcy, talking about the former Comptroller General David Walker says already is $56 trillion on the books in debt. That we can expand that and it won't ultimately come out of taxpayer's pockets? That's just not credible.

CHO: All right. What's a wingnut segment without Levi Johnston, the father of Bristol Palin's son. I know you pick your wingnuts for the week, but I just want to tell viewers that he is in a July issue shirtless in "GQ" magazine. Also poses with his baby, gives an interview.

I mean, this is -- at a certain point, isn't enough enough? I mean, doesn't it qualify him as a wingnut?

AVLON: Well, I don't know about wingnut. But I think he's certainly -- you know, his 15 minutes are up. And I think it's time to behave with a dignity of a dad. Posing shirtless with your baby. You know, give it up, man. Time to move on.

CHO: I got to agree with you on that one.

John Avlon, thank you so much.

AVLON: Thank you.

CHO: Rob.

MARCIANO: All right, Alina.

Well, she's just 18 inches tall, and all the buzz today. She was years in the making. And our Lola Ogunnaike introduces us to the new edition to the famous collection of multiethnic American Girl dolls.

It's 35 minutes after the hour.


JACQUI JERAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The bonding classroom is the great outdoors for students at the Lovett School in Atlanta.

ELLIOT MCCARTHY, THE LOVETT SCHOOL: This is something we'll actually use later in life.

JERAS: They are digging in the dirt, getting lessons in environmental sustainability.

MCCARTHY: It's much healthier for you. It's less chemical. It's completely natural and it costs less.

JERAS: The school's organic garden is just the beginning.

ALEX REYNOLDS, SCIENCE TEACHER: The idea that your labor can then nourish you is a life blessing, you know. And the fact that you take responsibility, if you do something wrong, you have to fix it.

JERAS: Food from the garden goes to the cafeteria, and menus change depending on what's fresh. The dining hall is also tray less. Saving thousands of gallons of water use to wash them.

(on camera): The cafeteria does more than just cook with sustainability in mind. For example, all of the oil that's used for fried foods is ultimately turned into biodiesel.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the actual end product.

JERAS (voice-over): That biofuel is used to fill up the school's maintenance vehicles for half the cost of gas. There's even a wind turbine on campus creating electricity. But the key is keeping the students involved.

BILL DUNKEL, PRINCIPAL, THE LOVETT SCHOOL: It's really important for us to educate young people to be good citizens for the 21st century.

THOMAS MACDONALD, THE LOVETT SCHOOL: That's my earth and my water and my air, too. So I don't want anybody trashing it.

JERAS: Jacqui Jeras, CNN, Atlanta.



MARCIANO: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning.

American Girl dolls are known for their unique identity representing different time periods and ethnic cultures. Our Lola Ogunnaike got a sneak peek at their latest offering, a Jewish immigrant girl living in New York circa 1940.


LOLA OGUNNAIKE, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): She's 9 years old, 18 inches tall, and has luscious brown hair. Offer a warm shalom to Rebecca Rubin, American Girl's first historical Jewish doll.

JUDITH HERBST, SENIOR MANAGER MARKETING, AMERICAN GIRL: She's born here in New York. Her parents have emigrated from Russia. And so she goes through those trials and tribulations of a traditional family with her Bubbie and her mom and her dad, and understanding what life is like on the Lower East Side.

OGUNNAIKE: Rebecca has been in the works since 2000, the shade of her hair, the style of her dress, her life in the early 1900s, all were meticulously researched. Even her accessories are historically accurate.

(on camera): And I understand that you can purchase a menorah with her as well. Is that true?

HERBST: (INAUDIBLE), there is a menorah, there's a Shabbat set, there's a Challah set.

OGUNNAIKE (voice-over): New York City's Tenement Museum will offer tours for girls eager to learn more about Rebecca's fictional past.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What we're extraordinary please here is the degree now to which the Rebecca Rubin story paralyze, tells, through a doll the same story we tell through this. It's a story of struggle. It's a story of coming to the United States because of aspirations and hope.

OGUNNAIKE: These ladies are more interested in hair than history when they got an early peek at the new girl in town.

UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: I love her hair. And she's just so pretty.

UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: That's very leathery and like the feathers.

OGUNNAIKE (on camera): So what do you think of her hat?

UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: I like it because it's got a ribbon.

OGUNNAIKE: Clearly, they're sold. Now all they have to do is convince mom.

UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: The puppy dog please really works. And if she says no, then go to daddy, so -- that usually gets it.


CHO: So muscle tough.

OGUNNAIKE: Muscle tough. A muscle tough indeed.

And you can learn from Abby about how to manipulate people that you love. So the interesting thing about Rebecca Rubin is that she's $95, but all the girls I spoke with said that she is well worth the price.

CHO: Well, and you know, they just like to look at pretty little dolls to play with. You know, they kind of don't pay attention to that stuff at that age, right?

OGUNNAIKE: They don't at all. And what I found really fascinating is at all the girls, they played with different types of dolls. So the white girls play with black girls and the Jewish girls played with the Asian dolls and the Mexican dolls. Cross cultural.

CHO: That's great to hear.

MARCIANO: They don't build big doll houses for them, too. That would be a money maker.


MARCIANO: Quite, I guess.

CHO: Always talking at the bottom line, Rob.

MARCIANO: Always. Always.

CHO: Thank you.

MARCIANO: That's what all the money.

CHO: Lola, thank you.

MARCIANO: Thanks, Lola.

All right. We're following breaking news this morning. Reports just in that North Korea test fired another missile. Our Pentagon is working the story. It will get the latest next.

Plus, hurricane season hasn't even officially started yet. But the first tropical depression has formed in the Atlantic. We'll have details. Reynolds Wolf is tracking that storm. That's coming up next.


CHO: Fifteen minutes before the top of the hour.

CNN has just confirmed that North Korea has launched a short- range missile off its East Coast. This just coming in out of our Seoul Bureau. That brings the total to six missile launches from North Korea just this week.

And it follows the big news that the North Korean government conducted an underground nuclear test, which by the way registered by the USGS as a 4.7 magnitude earthquake.

U.S. and South Korean troops in the region are on high alert. Secretary Robert Gates, the Defense secretary, is speaking out about this as well. Our Pentagon is working up its sources. And it also follows the news that North Korea said that if the U.N. takes action, perhaps in sanctions, that it will take self-defense measures.

Again, the big news coming just in to CNN is that North Korea has test fired a short-range missile off its East Coast. That brings the total to six missiles total, and it follows the big news of an underground nuclear test. We are following this story very closely. We'll have much more from the Pentagon in the next hour. MARCIANO: We are following another developing story off the East Coast of the U.S. It's a tropical depression. It's not even a hurricane season yet. Reynolds Wolf is tracking it at the CNN severe weather center.

Reynolds, what do you have?


CHO: This morning, we're continuing our special series "Life after Graduation." All this week, we've been looking at how new college grads are dealing with an uncertain job market.

So we want to hear from you this morning. Call our show hotline. That's 877-MY-AMFIX with your questions. In the 8:00 hour, we're going to be talking with a career coach. She's going to answer your questions and give you advice.

Also, when courtrooms erupt in violence, unpopular rulings that put judges at risk. Seems these kinds of episodes are on the rise. What some are doing to protect themselves.

It's 49 minutes after the hour.


MARCIANO: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning.

President Obama is moving aggressively to try and jump start Middle East peace negotiations. He met with Israeli leaders at the White House, and now he's met with president of the Palestinian Authority amid questions about just how much authority Mahmoud Abbas really has.

CNN's Jill Dougherty is looking at that.


JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Half his territory is controlled by the militant group Hamas. Politically, he's living on borrowed time.

But there he was, the Palestinian president, sitting side-by-side with the American president. The message -- the U.S. supports Mahmoud Abbas.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: President Abbas, I think has been under enormous pressure to bring about some sort of unity government and to negotiate with Hamas. And I am very impressed and appreciative.

DOUGHERTY: President Obama was even handed, urging Israelis and Palestinians to abide by their responsibilities.

MAHMOUD ABBAS, PRESIDENT OF THE PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY (through translator): If the time is of the essence, we should capitalize on every minute and every hour in order to move the peace process forward.

DOUGHERTY: But President Abbas refuses to talk with the Israelis unless they free settlements in disputed areas. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who sat in the Oval Office just last week said the settlement should be allowed what he calls natural growth.

Barack Obama isn't taking that as the final word.

OBAMA: We don't have a moment to lose, but I also don't make decisions based on just the conversation that we had last week. Because, obviously, Prime Minister Netanyahu has to work through these issues in his own government, in his own coalition.

DOUGHERTY: One Mid-East watcher predicts a rocky ride to peace.

AARON DAVID MILLER, WOODROW WILSON INTERNATIONAL CENTER: This process is going to be like a thousand days of root canals. It's going to be excruciatingly painful. The chance of success are very low, but the administration has clearly made this a priority.

DOUGHERTY (on camera): President Obama says he's not proposing any artificial timetable, but he says we can't continue with the drift, the fear, the hopelessness saying we need to get this thing back on track.

Jill Dougherty, CNN, the State Department.


CHO: Well, you've seen it so many times before. People flying into a rage after a court ruling, and then it's an all-out brawl. We're going to tell you what some judges are doing to stay safe.

Fifty-four minutes after the hour.


MARCIANO: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning.

With President Obama's historic choice of Judge Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court, there's new interest in the day-to-day decision making of federal judges. I mean, think about it. Half the people in court are going to be upset about the actual outcome, and those rulings can actually put the judge at risk.

Jeanne Meserve in Washington today shows us how we're looking to help protect those judges.

Good morning, Jeanne.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Rob, you know, when you think of high-risk jobs, you probably don't think of judges but you should.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MESERVE (voice-over): In the courtroom, emotion often spills over into violence. Reggie Walton recalls his days as a superior court judge in Washington, D.C.

JUDGE REGGIE WALTON, U.S. DISTRICT COURT: They used to call it the Jerry Springer courtroom because there were so many fights that took place either outside or inside the courtroom.

MESERVE: As a federal judge, Walton presided over the trial of White House official Scooter Libby. That case and others have provoked so many threats that U.S. Marshals put surveillance cameras around Walton's home, and he's taken other protective measures he prefers not to disclose.

WALTON: You can't let it impede on what you do as a judge, but obviously you're concerned about your security and security of your families. So you do take it seriously.

MESERVE: With good reason, in Chicago in 2005, authorities say a man whose case had been dismissed murdered a federal judge's husband and mother. The number of threats against federal judges and prosecutors is rising. 500 in 2003 and more than 1200 last year, and it's expected to go higher.

BOBBY FAGAN, U.S. MARSHALS OFFICER: Most of these individuals have a great deal of frustration and anger towards -- I mean, they didn't get their day in court and justice -- justice was denied to them. And in the federal court, it's the final forum.

MESERVE: Often, they've already threatened judges at the state or local level, where local police and sheriffs provide protection.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Police are everywhere.

MESERVE: Four years ago in Atlanta, a prisoner wrestled a gun away from a deputy and went on a rampage killing a judge and three others. To prevent a similar incident in Louisiana where Laurie White sits on the bench, only judges can carry firearms in the courtroom.

JUDGE LAURIE WHITE, ORLEANS PARISH CRIMINAL COURT: You better have a strong gut. It's not an easy spot. And I think you do this job at your own personal risk. And the point is whether you depend on everybody else to protect you, or whether you want to provide a lot of your protection.


MESERVE: And it isn't only life and death that's at stake, that threats are often meant to intimidate and undermine the justice system itself.

Rob, back to you.

MARCIANO: We certainly want to keep them safe so they make the right decisions at the end of the day, don't we, Jeanne?

Thank you very much. Jeanne Meserve live for us in D.C.

And for more on the challenges judges face, check out Jeanne's blog. Just log on to