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American Morning

Obama Visits the Middle East; Air France Wreckage Found; Americans Desperately Seeking Stem Cell Treatment Overseas; Reunion on Hold for Father and Son as Brazilian Court Judge Suspends Custody Order; What Muslims Want From President Obama; Bulgari Up Close; Investigation on Defective Drywall; Two American Journalists On Trial in North Korea

Aired June 03, 2009 - 06:00   ET


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Thanks very much for being with us on this Wednesday, the 3rd of June. A lot to tell you about this morning. I'm John Roberts.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Kiran Chetry. A big trip for the president. He is heading to the Middle East, and we're following several developments this morning about that. A look now at the stories we're going to be breaking down for you in the next 15 minutes.

President Obama headed to the Middle East. He's expected to touch down in Saudi Arabia in just over an hour and 15 minutes. Some big goal for the trip to reset relations with the Muslim world. In a moment, we're going to be live in Riyadh to examine what's riding on the president's words.

Also, signs of debris but no survivors from the Air France plane that crashed in the Atlantic off the Brazilian coast. The U.S. joining Brazil and France in the search for wreckage and answers. We're live in Rio de Janeiro where the doomed flight took off.

And only on CNN, desperate families with sick loved ones spending thousands and thousands of dollars to travel overseas for untested stem cell treatment. The only proof that it will help, blind testimonials on Web sites. It's a story that you don't want to miss.

ROBERTS: But first, right now, President Obama on his way to the Middle East with an open hand and a new agenda. He is expected to touch down in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia at about 90 minutes' time. There he's going to meet with a key ally, King Abdullah. Then tomorrow it's on to Cairo where at about this time, the president will deliver an important and highly anticipated speech in an attempt to win over hearts and minds in the Muslim and Arab world.

CNN's Ed Henry is traveling with the president. He joins us live from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia this morning.

And, Ed, a lot on the president's agenda the next couple of days.

ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John. A big trip for this president. Top White House aides believe this is the chance to hit the reset button not just on Israeli- Palestinian peace talks but on America's entire relationship with the Muslim world.


HENRY (voice-over): The president's outreach to the Muslim world began week one when he gave his first television interview in office to Al Arabiya.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My job is to communicate the fact that the United States has a stake in the well- being of the Muslim world, that the language we use has to be the language of respect. I have Muslim members of my family. I have lived in Muslim countries.

HENRY: On a later visit to Turkey, the president took his shoes off to show respect before entering a mosque. And in a speech to the Turkish parliament tried to make a clean break from the rhetoric of the Bush years.

OBAMA: Let me say this as clearly as I can. The United States is not and will never be at war with Islam.

HENRY: Top aides say the president plans to build on that theme in Cairo where expectations are building perhaps too high.

IBRAHIM EL MOALLEM, SHOROUK GROUP, LEADING ARAB PUBLISHER: Everybody is looking for him as a magical man.

HENRY: Ibrahim el Moallem, a media mogul and influential cultural figure in Egypt, says years of frustration has built up on the Arab street.

MOALLEM: We think if we can handle the problem of the Arab- Israel conflict not in a bias, not in a double standard way, and if he can really begin to reach and overhaul comprehensive justice, this will immediately win the hearts and the minds of the Arabs and the Muslims.

HENRY: That's one reason in advance of his trip. The president has been getting tough on Israel pushing a two-state solution in meetings with a resistant Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. And he used a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas last week to issue a warning to Israel.

OBAMA: In my conversations with Prime Minister Netanyahu, I was very clear about the need to stop settlements, to make sure that we are stopping the building of outposts, to work with the Palestinian Authority in order to alleviate some of the pressures that the Palestinian people are under.


HENRY: Now all of that pressure on Israel has alarmed some pro- Israel Democrats back in Washington. The president tried to calm those concerns in an interview with the BBC yesterday, basically saying that he believes a two-state solution is also in the interest of Israel in order to quell violence here in the Mideast, John. ROBERTS: It will be interesting few days here. Ed Henry for us live in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia this morning. Ed, thanks so much.

CHETRY: In another developing story right now, the search at sea for the wreckage of an Air France jetliner where the U.S. Navy now joining the recovery effort just hours after debris that's believed to be from Flight 447 was found scattered on the surface of the Atlantic several hundred miles off the coast of Brazil.

One expert saying it could be among the hardest recovery since the search to find the Titanic which ended up taking decades. It's a race against time to find the so-called black box as well to explain possibly what doomed the Air France flight with 228 people onboard.

CNN's John Zarella is live in the Brazilian capital of Rio de Janeiro. That's where families of passengers have gathered.

Good morning, John.

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Kiran. And whatever hope those families of the missing may have had quickly evaporated late yesterday afternoon when Brazilian authorities announced that there was little doubt debris found off the coast of Brazil was from Flight 447.


ZARRELLA (voice-over): No one could hold back the tears. Their fathers, mothers, children, all missing. As families gathered at the airport in a nearby hotel awaiting word on their loved ones, the Brazilian air force was finding what everyone dreaded -- debris, a life vest, seat, metal drum, and an oil slick.

Commercial vessels from France and the Netherlands in the area began looking for survivors about 700 miles off Brazil's Atlantic coast. No one was found.

(on camera): The search for the missing plane is not confined in just where the debris was found but encompasses hundreds of square miles. And that's because the ocean's currents could have carried that debris many miles from where the plane may have gone down.

(voice-over): Joining the search now, the U.S. Navy has sent one of its P-3 Orion aircraft to the area. It's a mass of international effort for a tragedy that has touched so many people in so many countries.

KRISTI NELSON, FRIEND OF MISSING PASSENGER: The flaming red hair, the trademark red hair.

ZARRELLA: Kristi Nelson looks at photographs of Anne Harris' (ph) Facebook page. Harris and her husband Michael were on the flight. Nelson had known them about six months but they were like family.

Part of an expatriate community living and working here in Rio, they dined together, partied together. The Harrises are from Texas, Nelson and her family from Canada.

NELSON: I really hope that they are able to determine how this happened and we can all rest assured that it was quick and easy.

ZARRELLA: Determining how it happened may not be easy. The area where the plane is believed to have gone down is some 8,000 feet deep. Recovering the plane's data and voice recorders may prove very difficult.


ZARRELLA: The Brazilian Navy continued its search last night as did the Brazilian Air Force. They will work throughout the day today looking for more debris. And by the end of the day, they tell us, they will have searched thousands of square miles of the Atlantic Ocean -- Kiran.

CHETRY: Oh, wow. All right. John Zarrella for us this morning, thanks so much.

ROBERTS: Also new this morning, investigations are under way into reports the United States accidentally released highly confidential nuclear information including maps that identify where materials are made (ph), nuclear weapon is stockpiled.

The "New York Times" reporting a 266-page document detailing civilian nuclear sites and programs was published on-line last month. The information was removed from a government Web site yesterday. The "Times" says the document contained no information about military nuclear operations.

This morning rising tension and growing concern that North Korea may be getting ready to test fire yet another long-range missile that has the potential to reach the United States. Military officials say the tests could happen within a week. A South Korean newspaper also reports the North is getting ready to test fire four other missiles from both coasts.

Swine flu may have faded a bit from the headlines but the Obama administration is making it a priority. The White House asking Congress for $2 billion to prepare for a possible swine flu epidemic. President Obama says he is making the request out of an abundance of caution.

CHETRY: Well, it's a story you don't want to miss coming up in just a minute here. Most of us know we'd do anything to save a dying child. But would you spend thousands of dollars and fly halfway around the world to get a treatment that's not guaranteed? Drew Griffin looks into some families that are doing just that.

It's eight minutes after the hour.


ROBERTS: Welcome back to the "Most News in the Morning." No death penalty for the man accused of killing late-term abortion provider Dr. George Tiller. Scott Roeder was charged with first- degree murder yesterday and if convicted, he will face a mandatory life sentence and will not be eligible for parole for at least 25 years.

Last night in an exclusive interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper, Roeder's ex-wife said she was scared of his strong anti-abortion sentiments.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR, "AC 360": You said you were shocked and mortified to hear that your ex-husband was charged of Dr. Tiller's murder, but you weren't surprised, why?

LINDSEY ROEDER, SCOTT ROEDER'S EX-WIFE: Well, it was quite a startling thing to open the door to the ATF and have them tell me that. But over the years, he was so anti-abortion. And so -- so anti-abortion and anti-government and anti-tax and he was so supportive of other people who had killed abortionists or killed clinic workers that I knew how he felt about Dr. Tiller or any other abortion doctor shouldn't be allowed to live.


ROBERTS: Roeder will be back in court in about two weeks' time to make his official plea.

It's a date that Chinese authorities would rather forget. Tomorrow, June 4th, marks 20 years since the bloody crackdown on student protesters in Tiananmen Square. The Chinese government has shut down blogs, Internet forums and social Web sites like Twitter. And as in past years, they have rounded up dissidents and shipped them out of Beijing.

Right now, negotiations under war over when to hold Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation hearings. Republicans say they would prefer that the hearings be held in September. Democrats would like them sometime in July before the August break so that the judge will be in place for the Supreme Court's opening session.

And with the nation's first Hispanic Supreme Court nominee, we want to remind you this October, CNN presents "Latino in America," a look at how Latinos are reshaping American politics, schools, businesses and neighborhoods -- Kiran.

CHETRY: Big question this morning -- how far would you travel? How much money would you spend to save your dying child?

Well, every day, desperate Americans are flying to places like Peru, Mexico, China, seeking a miracle in the form of stem cell therapy. They're spending tens of thousands of dollars despite the fact that there is no scientific evidence that therapy will work. More now from CNN's special investigations unit correspondent Drew Griffin.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SPECIAL INVESTIGATIVE UNIT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We met 8-year-old Sierra Factor and her family amidst an emergency. The seriously ill girl was being transferred to Arnold Palmer Children's Hospital in Orlando.

Sierra has a genetic disease called spinal muscular atrophy, SMA. She also has kidney problems and a restrictive lung disease since the age 14 months. She's been in and out of hospitals.

SHAYLENE AKERY (ph), SIERRA MOTHER: There's no cure for her disease. All three of her diseases are terminal.

GRIFFIN: In August, Shaylene Akery (ph) will take her daughter to a clinic outside Shanghai and pay $26,500 for six injections of what she believes will be embryonic stem cells. All she knows of the clinic is from this Web site --

AKERY: We really are kind of just walking into it blindfolded.

GRIFFIN: Well, that's really scary.

AKERY: It's scary but everybody says that they're so nice over there.

GRIFFIN: Testimonials on the Web site talk of amazing results but also lack any scientific proof. We ask the Chinese Web site for backup to the claims but haven't yet received a reply. Sierra's father divorced from her mother says the testimonials are enough.

GRIFFIN (on camera): We've done a lot of research. Can I ask you where the evidence is that China is working?

A.J. FACTOR, SIERRA'S DAD: On their Web sites, and some of that stuff.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): How can it be true? That's just it. Experts on spinal muscular atrophy and the Food and Drug Administration say there's no evidence stem cell treatment works.

Stem cells show promise, say researchers, but the results are years away. Even so, Lucie Bruijn, head of scientific research for the ALS Association says many with the debilitating ailment known as Lou Gehrig's disease had gone to China, to Peru, and to Mexico for just such treatment.

GRIFFIN: When somebody, a doctor, or anybody says to a patient, "I have a stem cell treatment for ALS that's going to make you better," that's just not true?

LUCIE BRUIJN, ALS ASSOCIATION: No, it's definitely not true. And certainly you hope that that's going to come from an ALS clinician who is very knowledgeable and the likelihood is that they would say there are things being developed and in progress and it's very promising, but we don't have anything to offer you now.

GRIFFIN: But that is not what this man is saying. Dr. Burt Feinerman, on his Web site, says he can treat Lou Gehrig's disease. You might be surprised to learn what else he says he can treat not here in the U.S. but at a clinic in Peru -- Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, cancer, multiple sclerosis.

(on camera): The International Society of Stem Cell Research says these experimental treatments do not work and the only thing that should be done if you're a patient is to enter into them without paying for them, because if you pay, you are most likely, as you said, being scammed.


GRIFFIN: You said 80 percent of the people in this business are scammers.

FEINERMAN: Well, that's true.

GRIFFIN: That seems like good odds you're going to get scammed.

FEINERMAN: I think that when someone makes a decision about having stem cell treatments that they should look at who are the players.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): We will look very carefully at this player who says he is a self-proclaimed expert in stem cell treatments.


GRIFFIN: Kiran, this is such a heartbreaking story. On the very day we met Dr. Feinerman, he was flying to Lima, Peru to meet up with three more desperately sick Americans who would seek this unproven treatment after paying thousands and thousands of dollars -- Kiran.

CHETRY: I know you're looking into this more. You're doing a series of reports on this. But can you just give us any hint when you talk about the testimonials. Has this worked for some people? Or some people claim their children have been cured?

GRIFFIN: When you follow up on it, it's not a cure. It's a matter of they feel better for a little while. We think it worked. There was some improvement and now it's worn off.

What the experts are telling us is a lot of this has to do with the placebo effect. They want to feel better. They want to feel like it worked.

We talked to many other people, though, who simply came back because it did not work. Their loved ones did pass away.

The feeling is there is so much promise in stem cell research that these people in these desperate conditions want to believe that the promise is actually being fulfilled somewhere overseas where there's not so much political baggage wrapped around stem cells. But, really, the truth is that we're ahead of the game here. We're trying to do the research that will bring stem cell treatments and we're just not there yet -- Kiran. CHETRY: All right. Fascinating look at this, Drew. We look forward to your other reports.

And by the way, if you want to find out more on this, we're going to be covering it throughout the week. Also on our Web site,


ROBERTS: So imagine this, a mother takes her child to visit family in a foreign country. Some days later calls up her husband and says I'm not coming back and neither is the child. It's a custody battle that has raged on for years. It looked like it was over, but still in limbo this morning.

Our Deb Feyerick has got that report coming right up.

It's 18 minutes after the hour.


CHETRY: Welcome back to the "Most News in the Morning." We're 21 minutes past the hour now. Here's a quick look at some of the stories on the a.m. rundown coming up in the next few minutes.

President Obama is just about an hour away now from arriving in the Middle East, bringing a new message to the Muslim world. The GOP already looking ahead to the 2012 presidential race. We'll have some brand new numbers on who their favorite candidate would be right now, and it may surprise you.

Also, hard financial times? Not the case for everyone. Alina Cho heads to Rome and finds one famous family still living the life of luxury -- John.

ROBERTS: There are new developments this morning in a story that we told you about yesterday. A New Jersey father's attempt to bring his son back from Brazil is now on hold.

A Brazilian Supreme Court justice suspended a court order granting David Goldman custody of his 9-year-old son. Father and son were separated way back in 2004 when the boy's Brazilian mother took him on vacation and never returned. She divorced Goldman and remarried but she died last year.

CNN's Deborah Feyerick is following this developing story for us.

You know, I'm a father a couple of times over. I can't imagine what this guy is going through.

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is so hard and you can see the pain on his face when he talks about it. But, John, what makes this custody case so amazing is the boy's mom died giving birth to another child. So Sean Goldman is being raised in Brazil by his step dad. The boy's real dad, David Goldman, has been fighting to get him back for the last five years. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID GOLDMAN, FIGHTING FOR CUSTODY OF SON: With no blood relation to keep another parent's child is against their own laws, national laws, let alone international and American laws. My focus is to do what I can by every legal means and all matters of law to reunite with my son and bring him home.


FEYERICK: Now Goldman thought that they had come -- a Brazilian court ordered the boy returned to the U.S. where he would have 30 days to get adjusted to his new life. Then Goldman would get full custody under Brazilian law.

Now keep in mind, David Goldman never gave up custody in the fist place. The day before they were to be reunited, a Brazilian Supreme Court judge suspended the order Tuesday saying taking the child in an abrupt manner could cause him psychological harm.

Now this case has reached the highest levels of government both in the U.S. and Brazil. The State Department is actively involved. And now the entire Brazilian Supreme Court will decide the fate of U.S.-born Sean Goldman.

ROBERTS: Let's talk about the mother, first of all. Was she within her legal rights to take the child in the first place?

FEYERICK: Well, she was within her legal rights to take the child. But, as far as David Goldman knew, he was going to join them in Brazil on vacation. Goldman says his wife, Bruna, told him not to come, not to follow, and not to try to get his own child.

ROBERTS: You mentioned she got remarried. What legal standing might the new husband have in this whole case?

FEYERICK: And that's what's so interesting is that after her death, a Brazilian family court gave the stepfather custody. Another issue is actually the divorce itself. It was done completely in Brazil. David Goldman says he never signed any papers ending the marriage, so it is still murky. And you have two countries with two different laws and that's what's come into play and that's what made it -- that's what has made this so difficult.

ROBERTS: And a child and a father caught in the middle of it all.

FEYERICK: Absolutely. And the child -- this is interesting -- the child thought that his dad has simply disappeared.


FEYERICK: And so when David Goldman came to see him --

ROBERTS: She told him he died, right?

FEYERICK: It was -- well, when he came to see him about a year ago, the toddler was like, why haven't you visited me?


FEYERICK: So he didn't know that the dad was trying to get him back and that makes it even more difficult.

ROBERTS: Unbelievable. Deb Feyerick, thanks so much for that. We'll see how this turns out.

It's 24 minutes now after the hour.


ROBERTS: Welcome back to the "Most News in the Morning." In a little more than an hour, President Obama touches down in Saudi Arabia. One hour, three minutes and about 12 seconds there.

It's the first stop of a historic mission to mend fences with the Middle East. Then tomorrow in Egypt, he'll deliver a highly anticipated speech to the Muslim world. But can he reach those whose hearts have been hardened against the United States?

CNN's Zain Verjee is live in London for us this morning.

Hi, Zain.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN CO-ANCHOR, "CNN TODAY AND WORLD NEWS": Hi, John. You know, President Obama is really lowering expectations in that speech in Cairo. What he's saying is that one speech is not going to solve all the problems in the Middle East. What he wants to say is that dialogue is really important between the two sides and he is saying clearly that the west needs to learn more about the Islamic world.


VERJEE (voice-over): America's next big ad campaign in the Muslim world -- President Barack Obama's speech in Cairo. He's had a warmup.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We do not consider ourselves a Christian nation or a Jewish nation or a Muslim nation.

VERJEE: And is now gearing up for the big moment.

OBAMA: A nation of citizens.

VERJEE: His message -- the U.S. is not at war with the Islamic world. Some Muslims are excited about the speech.

HIBA AL-HAJJAR, UNIVERSITY STUDENT: I like Obama a lot because he's like usually diversified. He likes all people from all cultures. So I hope that his visit to the Middle East will improve and change the situation.

VERJEE: Others, skeptical. EHAB JUHABI, PALESTINIAN: Nothing would be changed because I think the Americans would keep supporting the Israeli state forever.

VERJEE: Mr. Obama has already gained ground in the Muslim world because he's not George Bush. But Mamoun Fandy, a Mideast expert, says Muslims want more than just talk. They want action.

MAMOUN FANDY, DIRECTOR OF MIDDLE EAST PROGRAM, ISS: That he's very serious about solving the Arab-Israeli problem. That he's very serious about engaging the Muslim world on the basis of recognizing their equality.

VERJEE: According to many estimates, there are more than one billion Muslims in the world and the vast majority are moderates who want to hear that they are part of the solution to world security.

ISMAIL YUSANTO, LEADER OF MUSLIM ORGANIZATION: We do not want anything from Obama except the realization of what he said -- mutual respect, mutual understanding and mutual interest between USA and Muslim world.

VERJEE: Fandy says on this trip, looks will matter.

FANDY: Obama looks like half of the Muslims. His wife looks like probably half of the Egyptians and the Saudis. So he's a familiar face that will be aspiring to the young Muslims who look like Obama that they can be global leaders.


VERJEE: President Obama says that he wants to communicate to young Muslims across that region that they need to leave a legacy of building up their countries and not destroying them and really restoring the prestige of centuries ago in the Islamic world when they were really at the forefront of mathematics and science. And that is something that would resonate in that part of the world -- John.

ROBERTS: A lot of people are going to be watching that speech tomorrow, no doubt.

Zain Verjee, thanks very much. Appreciate it. Good to see you this morning.

VERJEE: Me too.

CHETRY: Coming up now on 30 minutes past the hour. We check our top stories.

The GOP already thinking about the 2012 presidential race, but supporters don't seem to have a clear front-runner just yet.

A new CNN/Opinion Research poll shows it's really a dead heat right now among Republican voters. Mike Huckabee getting 22 percent of the vote. Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney getting 21 percent each. So virtually a three-way tie there. Also, Newt Gingrich and Jeb Bush finishing behind. Another hike in gas prices for the start of the summer driving season. AAA reporting the national average for unleaded regular is up to $2.55 a gallon. That's up more than two cents from the day before and it's the 36th straight daily increase. The price of gas has jumped 50 cents over that time.

Well, President Obama will be overseas when the NBA finals get under way tomorrow night. But he has made his pick. He said he likes the L.A. Lakers to beat the Orlando Magic in six games. The president as you probably know big basketball fan, and he correctly picked the University of North Carolina to win the NCAA basketball title.

Some of us picked Pitt and we lost.

Well, back now to this morning's big story. President Obama about to touch down in Saudi Arabia where he'll meet with King Abdullah. The president is hoping to get some help as he struggles to jumpstart the peace process in the Middle East. But some of the move so far being met with resistance even from inside his own party.

Ben Smith is the senior political reporter at Politico. He wrote an article about the issue in an article this week.

Thanks for being with us. Good to see you, Ben.


CHETRY: So the big issue has been the issue of these Israeli settlements on Palestinian land. And President Obama has really put a lot of pressure on Israel to stop expanding them. Israel says in some cases it's just because of natural growth they're going to have to do it.

So why is this issue so divisive, first of all? And why is it a key to any peace agreement?

Well, I think it's partly key because for the Palestinians, they see particularly certain of these settlements on land that they hope to make ultimately part of the Palestinian state. They see them growing. And they see this is a really deliberate Israeli strategy to kind of create that on the ground. They're going to make it impossible to create the kind of Palestinian state they want. Certainly some in the Obama administration, I think, basically see it the same way.

They made it very clear to Netanyahu that what he did was he was last in office, which is to, you know, to push the expansion of the settlements really won't be tolerated this time.

CHETRY: And this is a little bit of a departure from the way that George W. Bush handled the issue, right?

SMITH: Yes. I mean, Bush did put some pressure on the settlement issue, on the Israelis, but it was all done in private. It was done with sort of tacit and may be written understandings, but not public pressure. And then this sort of principle of the Bush administration was that these were disagreements between friends and they were going to be kept in private.

CHETRY: It's interesting because you speak about public pressure, and there are some Democrats in Congress that are actually pushing back against that as well.

Congressman Gary Ackerman of New York said, "I don't think anybody wants to dictate to an ally -- speaking of Israel -- what they have to do for their own national security interests."

And we also heard from Congresswoman Shelley Berkley of Nevada saying, "My concern is that we're applying pressure to the wrong party in this dispute."

You also have APAC; a really strong lobby. They got 329 members of Congress to sign a letter saying work closely and privately as you just indicated with Israel.

So how much will the White House listen to some of that pushback from fellow Democrats in Congress.

SMITH: I mean, on one hand, you know, it's early. You know, Obama has got a few years before he's running for re-election. Well, somebody over there told me, look, we can just -- we can safely ignore the New York delegation for a little while, at least, because, you know, what can they do?

But, you know -- I mean, the rules of political gravity still apply here on the Obama administration. And they're going to put public pressure on Israel that looks like, you know, as in the past. You know, Israel's allies in Congress are going to freak out about it.

CHETRY: Is it a challenge, though, in terms of making sure that Israel doesn't feel too isolated. We just had a recent poll out showing that, you know, only about 31 percent of Israelis believe that the Obama administration is pro-Israel as opposed to either neutral or pro-Arab.

SMITH: Yes. I mean, I think the Israelis should be listening really closely to what he says in Cairo. Because that would be, presumably, if he's going to pressure the Israeli prime minister in a meeting with him, he'll have some sort tough talk for the Arabs in Cairo. And I think the Israelis will be keeping a close eye on that.

CHETRY: And what do you expect out of this speech? What do you expect to hear when he speaks in Egypt?

SMITH: He's got this real balancing act between, you know, demonstrating how to respect for -- for, you know, Arab world in general, for Egypt's government in particular, at the same time calling for change. Among other things, democratization in Egypt. And I think that's going to be a really fine line to welcome.

CHETRY: All right. Challenges ahead for sure. He's trying to play down some of the expectations.

Ben Smith, senior political reporter at the Politico. Thanks so much for being with us this morning.

SMITH: Thanks for having me.

CHETRY: Thirty-four minutes past the hour.


CHETRY: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. Thirty- seven minutes past the hour now. A quick look at the A.M. rundowns. Some stories that are coming up in the next few minutes that you want to stay tune to see.

Tomorrow's technology today. That's right. We're going to get a preview of the gadget that will give you -- let you live a couch potato lifestyle and still have the best lawn in town.


I mean, didn't they try to do this with vacuum cleaners a few years back? I mean, the Rumba? I don't know. Well, supposedly it works. We'll show it to you.

Also, more Americans worried about toxic drywall in their homes. What a nightmare. You build your house from scratch. You think it's going to be perfect. And then you find out that the drywall is causing huge problems.

This drywall made in America, by the way, not China.

Also, Lisa Ling talks to us, pleading for mercy as her sister gets ready to go on trial in North Korea.

ROBERTS: Well, no doubt, in this down economy, retailers are taking a big hit, and luxury is no exception. So how do you market high-priced jewelry in an economic downturn. For some, like the Italian luxury house of Bulgari, it's all about tradition.

CNN's Alina Cho recently traveled to Rome, and got an up close look at the Bulgari Family jewels.


ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If diamonds could talk, these rocks could reveal some of the most guarded secrets in Hollywood, the A-list in jewels designed by Bulgari, one of the last public companies that is still family owned.

NICOLA BULGARI, VICE CHAIRMAN, BVLGARI: It gives a certain reassurance. To deal with people I think is important, no?

CHO: Nicola Bulgari is the grandson of the founder, Sotirio Bulgari, a man who started out selling silverware.

BULGARI: This was the site. CHO: Right here at this spot in Rome in 1984. In 1905, Sotirio Bulgari moved his small store down this Spanish steps to this location on Via Condotti, the Madison Avenue of Rome. It's still there today, but back then --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody thought Bulgari was a wind berserk.

CHO: Today, Bulgari is a Roman empire, a $2 billion business with 270 stores worldwide, 125 years in business.

Celebrated in Roman style with an exhibit of jewels through the ages, including an entire room devoted to Elizabeth Taylor who met the Bulgaris on the Roam set of Cleopatra.


CHO: It is also where Taylor began her love affair with Richard Burton. When the story broke, Taylor fled to the Bulgari store to hide out from the Italian paparazzi.

BULGARI: She spent time here close door, talking, chatting, right in this room, because this room was very private.

CHO: Richard Burton once said I taught Liz about beer, she taught me about Bulgari.

BULGARI: I can say that men love jewelry more than women in a way, you know, because they see their own success in their wives.

CHO: Today Nicola Bulgari spends his downtime under the Tuscan Sun, an avid collector of cars, movies and his real passion, classical music. Yet he loves the eternal city.

BULGARI: Roam shines, wherever you go, it shines, right?

CHO: The family jewels do, too.

CHO: A love Bulgari says endures.


CHO: It is that rich history that Bulgari is hoping will help them through this recession. Like most luxury companies, Bulgari is hurting, too. Laying off workers, shutting stores and the CEO is even taking a 75 percent pay cut. But that same CEO tells me it's one thing to be hip and trendy in a span of 20 years, but it's hard to compete with a company that's been around for a century.

And guys, a luxury company really relies on its image more than anything else, and more than any other sector. And they're really hoping that rich family history, the family roots, will help sell jewels.

ROBERTS: Yes, great story about Elizabeth Taylor. But did he dish about any of the other famous folks who have worn his jewelry.

CHO: It's interesting. He said he doesn't like to kiss and tell, but one thing he did tell --

ROBERTS: But he did.

CHO: But he did. One thing he did tell was that Imelda Marcos, the woman who was famous for her shoe collection, loved jewelry. She loved Bulgari jewelry.

In fact, when she came to New York, she would often call Mr. Bulgari in the middle of the night, 2:00, 3:00 in the morning and say come to my hotel, bring the jewelry. And, of course, they obliged.

CHETRY: And what's going on with your ears this morning? Anything?

CHO: No, just my own. Just my own.

CHETRY: Just from the Cho collection.

CHO: From the Cho -- that's right.

CHETRY: Thanks, Alina.

CHO: You bet.

CHETRY: So 42 minutes past the hour.


ROBERTS: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. A live look at New York City there for you, where it 62 degrees, going up to 74 degrees. Keep the umbrellas handy, though, because showers are in the forecast.

Forty-five minutes after the hour. Let's fast forward through some of the stories that will be making news later on today. It's a story that we're going to be covering all day.

In about 45 minutes at 7:25 Eastern, President Obama arrives in Saudi Arabia, Riyadh, where he's going to meet with King Abdullah. We'll have all of that for you, live, when it happens. A lot of pomp and ceremony will be going on.

This afternoon at 2:30 Eastern, the heads of Chrysler and General Motors can expect the Capitol Hill grilling. They'll be firing it up today. At a Senate hearing, they'll address concerns and anger over plans to close thousands of dealerships.

And at 11:30 Eastern, members of Congress will join former First Lady Nancy Reagan to unveil a statue of the late former President Ronald Reagan in the Capital Rotunda.

And that's what will be making news throughout the day.


CHETRY: Well, Father's Day is just around the corner. And already people in our newsroom are wondering what they should get dear old dad. Well, before you offer the standard tie or the slippers, there's a new high-tech gadget out there that could give your dad or husband the break he deserves while still letting him have the best lawn in town.

Sean Callebs has the story that's on the cutting "Edge of Discovery."


SEAN CALLEBS, CNN GENERAL ASSIGNMENT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This summer, the Lynch Family wants to spend more time playing and less time working.

MITZI LYNCH, HOMEOWNER: It's actually nice not having, you know, to be outside doing yard work for hours on a Saturday afternoon.

CALLEBS: They're hoping this little robot can help.

LYNCH: My son decided to call this, Mowie.

CALLEBS: It's real name is Automower. A battery-operated and self-charging device that could give your lawn that freshly mowed look and you will never even break a sweat.

So how does it work? Simply program the times you want it to start and stop, then a wire installed around your yard lets Automower know where to cut and guides it back home when it needs recharging.

GENT SIMMONS, PRODUCT MANAGER, HUSQVARNA: It can operate day, night, you know, rain, winds, it doesn't matter. The Automower is designed to be out there whenever you need it out there regardless of weather condition.

CALLEBS: And this gadget is just as green as the grass it clips. The Automower doesn't use gas or oil and gives off zero emissions, plus --

SIMMONS: You don't have to have chemicals or fertilizers to put down. The grass decomposing actually acts as a natural fertilizer. I think you're going to see more traditional mowers that will have alternative fuels, more traditional mowers that will have battery technology. This is the way that the industry is trending.

Sean Callebs, CNN.


CHETRY: There you go.

ROBERTS: Husqvarna is a good company. So maybe this thing actually works.

CHETRY: The beauty you live in New York and you never have to do that again.


CHETRY: Unless you want to mow your concrete sidewalk.

ROBERTS: Husqvarna makes good motorcycles, chainsaws, things like that.

CHETRY: You'd know.

ROBERTS: I'm the tool guy. The tool man right over here

CHETRY: Forty-seven minutes past the hour.


CHETRY: Well, when we need help, we'll just go to the control room. That was the shot this morning.

Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning.

There's been a lot of reporting on this defective Chinese-made drywall that may be damaging homes and even causing health problems. It's a story that we've been following closely here on AMERICAN MORNING. But now federal investigators are also setting their sights on wallboard that was made by American companies.

CNN personal finance editor Gerri Willis has a closer look.


GERRI WILLIS, CNN PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR (voice-over): Their dream home.

JILL SWIDLER, HOMEOWNER: The AC went out, the appliances went out, we had jewelry tarnishing and the plumbing fixtures tarnishing, but none of that seemed to be related.

WILLIS: The Swidlers built their home themselves. Michael, a construction foreman by trade, had overseen the building of more than 500 homes in Florida. For his own home, he bought 289 sheets of Tough Rock brand drywall made by Georgia Pacific at a nearby lumberyard.

(on camera): You don't have Chinese drywall in this house?


WILLIS: Right, Michael? You built this house.


WILLIS: What is it that you have?

M. SWIDLER: Georgia Pacific.

WILLIS (voice-over): The Swidlers knew about complaints regarding tainted Chinese drywall, but their walls were lined with the product made by an American company. J. SWIDLER: One of the first things we notice was the plumbing fixtures in our kids' bathrooms. Little by little they started corroding. They brushed their teeth in this for three years.

WILLIS: The fire alarm was going off randomly. Copper wires were turning black and within months soot blanketed the fixtures.


BRIAN WARWICK, ATTORNEY: This gypsum is not natural gypsum. And that's the issue.

WILLIS: Brian Warwick is representing the Swidlers and their lawsuit against Georgia Pacific. He says the problem with Tough Rock brand is its key ingredient is synthetic gypsum, which contains chemical materials scrub from the exhaust of coal-fired power plants.

(on camera): So you don't really know what the connection is. You don't have science behind it to tell you specifically what's causing the problem.

WARWICK: The science is yet to be developed on actually going through the process. We believe our experts know what the problem is.

WILLIS (voice-over): Representatives from the Florida Department of Health and the Department of Environmental Protection say they found the Swidler home appears to have the same symptoms as homes containing Chinese drywall, in which state and federal studies have found sulfur.

Georgia Pacific would not agree to an interview with CNN, but did say in a statement, "We are disappointed that they elected to pursue a lawsuit without first informing us of their concerns. We stand behind the quality of our products and take costume complaints seriously."

Afraid for the health of their families, they have moved to a rental home nearby. Their dream home facing demolition.

J. SWIDLER: If it's going to corrode our house like it has, it's got to be doing something negative to our bodies.


WILLIS: All right. The Consumer Product Safety Commission also has an active investigation into the tainted drywall. Its labs focusing on exactly what is in this drywall and how it might be connected to the problems these families are coping with.

ROBERTS: Any preliminary reports on what they're finding?

WILLIS: You know, we had a report out from the EPA, but it's highly technical. It's about the composition of this kind of drywall, but we don't have any conclusions about whether it's really impacting people's health.

Of course, people say that they feel poorly in these houses. That they have sore throats, headaches, that kind of thing. But there's really no connection yet in the science. That's what we're waiting for.

ROBERTS: So do we know if the EPA found sulfur in it?

WILLIS: They found a number of -- they gave us a report with a number of chemicals listed in it. It's clear. You can smell this. We were talking before you smell the sulfur. You walk into the house, you smell the sulfur. And the question is how does the sulfur that's in the drywall actually become active in the house and move away from the drywall and into the -- into, you know, we saw the faucets, we saw the air conditioner. How does it move around?

So those questions are yet to be answered. It's not just the composition, it's also how it interacts in your house.

CHETRY: What a nightmare, though. I mean, as you said, they built this from the bottom up. It was their dream home. And then they might need to tear it down.

WILLIS: May need to tear it down. And, of course, John, built it himself.

ROBERTS: Incredible.

CHETRY: Right.

ROBERTS: Gerri, thanks so much for that. Great report.

WILLIS: Fifty-four minutes now after the hour.

ROBERTS: Lisa Ling. She's talking out about her sister, Laura Ling, and her partner, journalist Euna Lee. A little more than 12 hours from now, they go on trial in North Korea for entering the country illegally. We're going to hear a little bit from Lisa coming up. And what she's doing to try to get her sister and her sister's colleague released. Stay with us.


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

You've seen their faces. The two American journalists captured and accused of spying in North Korea. And within hours, they are set to go on trial. The sister of one of the journalists, reporter Lisa Ling from CNN's "PLANET IN PERIL" series has pleaded for their release.

Our Jason Carroll here now with what a trial in North Korea could mean. And by any stretch of the imagination, it's got to be a frightening prospect.

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And this has been so -- this has been such a terrifying ordeal, not only for the two women who are involved but for the families as well. If the trial proceeds and there is a conviction, they could be looking at an independent sentence at a prison or a labor camp. One of the many problems here is so little is known about North Korea, let alone the country's legal system. What is known, a fair trial is not likely.


CARROLL (voice-over): Trapped in one of the most isolated countries in the world, North Korea, imprisoned, accused of spying and awaiting trial. This is what American journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee are facing. Their families pleading for their release saying both women are terrified.

LISA LING, SISTER OF KIDNAPPED JOURNALIST: They never meant to cross into North Korea. I mean, that was never their objective. And if for some reason they may have, then we are sorry. And we hope that the North Korean government will show mercy.

CARROLL: Lisa Ling received a surprise call from her sister last Tuesday saying she was being treated fairly. Ling who is also a journalist has reported from North Korea for "National Geographic" and knows just how dangerous the country can be.

LING: How does the great leader defend it against big powers like America.

CARROLL: With his wife's trial just one day away, Laura Ling's husband said the strain has been unbearable.

IAIN CLAYTON, HUSBAND OF KIDNAPPED JOURNALIST: As you can imagine, it's probably been, you know, the worst few months of my life.

CARROLL: Both Ling and Lee are reporters for "Current TV," a media venture started by former Vice President Al Gore. They were reporting on North Korean defectors living along the China-North Korea border when they were taken into custody on March 17. The North Korean government claiming the two entered the country, illegally, a charge the State Department and Lisa Ling deny.

In an interview on AMERICAN MORNING, former vice president says he'd even consider going to North Korea to help.

AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: I would do anything within reason including that at the drop of the hat. But it is -- that's not -- it's not some place that you just buy a ticket and show up at the airport.

CARROLL: Complicating diplomacy, North Korea angered the world with recent nuclear test and missile launches. Ambassador Wendy Sherman is an expert on the region and has met the country's leader, Kim Jong-Il, and knows he will influence the trial's outcome.

WENDY SHERMAN, FORMER NORTH KOREA POLICY COORDINATOR: He understands how important family is to each other. And so I hope that he takes that understanding and releases these two young women and returns them to their families.

CARROLL: Victor Cha has also been to North Korea, the former director for Asian Affairs under George W. Bush says the country's legal system has little rhyme or reason.

VICTOR CHA, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY, CSIS KOREA CHAIR: I think what you would expect to see is something in between a prison sentence to, you know, perhaps even sentencing to some sort of labor camp. Hopefully, those will just be a token sort of punishment.


CARROLL: Again, the trial is set for Thursday. Representatives from Sweden have been working behind the scenes to try to engage the North Koreans. They're looking at what happened in the '90s when an American pilot accidentally flew over the region and was taken into custody. He was released after he promised to apologize.

ROBERTS: She had this ghost coming down hours from now.

Jason, thanks so much.

Don't miss "AC360" tonight, by the way. Lisa Ling and both journalists' husbands will be live with Anderson at a vigil, hoping for their release. That's on "AC360" tonight at 10:00 Eastern.