Return to Transcripts main page

American Morning

Protests Continue over Iranian Election; U.S. Watching Iran's External Actions; FAA Promises to Regulate Regional Airlines; First Revolution via Internet?; Dad Keeps Fighting for Son's Return from Brazil; Stomach Surgery through the Mouth

Aired June 16, 2009 - 08:00   ET


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: And we're crossing the top of the hour now. It is 8:00 Eastern on this Tuesday, the 16th of June. Thanks for being with us. I'm John Roberts.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Kiran Chetry. We're following breaking news this morning. A look now at what's on the agenda and the stories that will be breaking down for you in the next 15 minutes. We start in Iran, where the government's Council of Guardians, a group of clerics and scholars that help decide the outcome of the election agreeing now to a recount of some of those ballots from Friday's disputed presidential race. We're also following reports that seven people were killed during yesterday's protests that took place in Tehran.

Happening right now overseas, markets are mixed over fears that it is taking longer than expected for the economy to find its footing. There are some manufacturing numbers that came out yesterday from the U.S. that made the Asian markets turn down. We're going to find out though in a few minutes whether there are numbers showing that the housing market is making a comeback. Our CNN Money Team is standing by to bring you that information, and we'll have it for you the second we get it.

The FAA demanding regional airlines adopt new safety rules, such as limiting pilot hours, to prevent fatigue. The proposal comes after a rare summit meeting that took place yesterday with airline executives looking at the deadly commuter plane crash that happened near Buffalo in February.

And we begin with our breaking news out of Iran and growing doubts about the honesty of Iran's election. This morning, the council in charge of overseeing the election says it will recount some votes, and it has the apparent authority to throw out an election if it sees fit. The opposition, though, calling for a new election entirely.

And there are also new protests on the streets of Tehran. Yesterday's reports that seven people were killed after the military turned their guns on a sea of protesters. And the tensions are escalating, and President Obama now weighing in, saying it's up to Iran to determine its own leaders, but that it would be wrong to stay silent about the violence.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am deeply troubled by the violence that I've been seeing on television.


CHETRY: This morning, by the way, there are brand-new images of the deadly struggle to overturn an election and perhaps force out a hardline regime.


CHETRY (voice-over): This amateur video shot north of Tehran's Azadi Square captures the chaos as a day of mostly peaceful protests turn violent. Iran's state radio confirming seven shooting deaths after protesters apparently tried to storm a compound linked to the government's Revolutionary Guard. Our Christiane Amanpour in Tehran covering the demonstrations when the violence broke out.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They had taken this decision to try to allow this, political rallies to take place in a peaceful atmosphere. And what they told us they were doing was cracking down on the violence.

CHETRY: Earlier in the day, opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi led hundreds of thousands of Iranians in a massive rally stretching more than five miles, according to Iranian television. Mousavi urging peaceful protests, vowing to, quote, "pay any costs" to fight the results of an election he believes was stolen from him. But then the bullets began firing, and as security forces limited the access of news crews, citizens pulled out their cell phones to document the chaos.

OBAMA: I'm deeply troubled by the violence that I've been seeing on television. The democratic process, free speech, the ability of people to peacefully dissent, all those are universal values and need to be respected.


ROBERTS: Well, right now, politics in Iran may be at a turning point as supporters of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi refuse to back down. Joining me now from Tehran is CNN international correspondent Reza Sayah.

Reza, what's the situation of the ground there like right now? There was supposed to be a pro-Ahmadinejad demonstration going on at present and then about a half hour from now, one for Mousavi. We also heard that Mousavi may be holding a press conference.

REZA SAYAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John, and that makes for a very dangerous situation. Let's get you up to speed. Today at 5:00, there's a scheduled gathering of Mir Hossein Mousavi supporters. This is something that they organized yesterday. There was a lot of buzz about it during the protests in the march to Azadi Square. That gathering was supposed to take place at 5:00 p.m. today in midtown Tehran at Valias (ph) Square.

And then this morning, word of pro-Ahmadinejad supporters organizing their own protest, their own demonstration just a few blocks away from Mir Hossein Mousavi supporters, demonstrators, and that took place at 3:00 p.m. We just spoke to someone who's at the intersection where this demonstration is taking place.

And she tells CNN there's thousands of people there. There's a large crowd. They're carrying Iranian flags, which has been become the symbol of the Ahmadinejad campaign. They're chanting slogans -- "death to America," "death to Israel," "death to the enemies of Iran." There's also chants for the supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, the chant saying "we are all your soldiers, Khamenei, we await your orders."

Now, there's word that Mir Hossein Mousavi, the candidate that's disgruntled, that's protesting the vote, has urged his supporters not to attend this gathering that's scheduled to take place at 5:00 p.m. We're also hearing that the Ahmadinejad supporters are making their way to that location. So, certainly this makes for a volatile, explosive situation. You can be sure that there's riot police there, members of the Iran's Basij, the ununiformed volunteer militia.

So, we'll see what happens. In the coming minutes, there's going to be escalating tension. There's word that they want Mir Hossein Mousavi's supporters to pull back, but some people are heading over there regardless -- John.

ROBERTS: And Reza, this decision by the Guardian Council to do at least a partial recount of Friday's disputed election, how is that being taken there in Tehran? Does anyone have any faith that it could be done transparently, accurately and fairly?

SAYAH: Well, certainly the government has faith, and they assure that everything, including the election, was transparent, and this revote -- recount is going to be transparent. But for the Mousavi camp, this isn't good enough.

Earlier this afternoon, I spoke to an adviser for Mir Hossein Mousavi, and he told me, look, we don't want a recount because we want all of the ballots to be accounted for. He tells us there's about 53 million ballots that were printed, but about 39 million of them were used. He wants to see what happened to the 14 million.

And he tells CNN that with a recount, there's not going to be any accountability for the remaining 14 million ballots. He is calling for a complete revote. And there's no word of how -- even if the Guardian Council is going to consider that. But that's what they're saying. They said, a recount is not good enough for us. It's an indication of their defiance -- John.

ROBERTS: All right. Reza Sayah for us this morning in Tehran. Reza, good to see you. Thanks so much for that report.

CHETRY: And also developing this morning, Washington is focusing on Iran's disputed nuclear program. The U.S. is now urging Tehran to return to high-level talks regarding its nuclear intentions.

CNN's Barbara Starr is live at the Pentagon. The president was asked whether or not any of this violence was going to change the administration's stand about wanting to continue with direct diplomacy down the road. But also, Barbara, the military, are they worried about Iran's nuclear program among many of these other concerns, given what we've been seeing right now in the country?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Oh, absolutely, Kiran. You know, officially, the U.S. military's certainly on the sidelines, but behind the scenes here at the Pentagon, they're watching 24/7.


STARR (voice-over): Hundreds of thousands of Iranians in the streets. The U.S. worries this tense political situation could become a broader security crisis. Trita Parsi, who runs an organization opposed to the current regime, says if the Iranian leadership feels seriously threatened, it could possibly try to divert the people's attention.

TRITA PARSI, NATIONAL IRANIAN AMERICAN COUNCIL: If the internal battles are getting a little bit too intense that the Revolutionary Guard may actually prefer to have an external enemy and some sort of a confrontation.

STARR: U.S. military commanders in the Persian Gulf have been told to be on guard. Don't let an encounter with Iranian forces escalate.

It's happened before. Last year, U.S. warships came close to firing on Iranian Revolutionary Guard boats that were acting aggressively. In 2007, British naval personnel were captured and held for days before being released in a public showing by President Ahmadinejad.

Other concerns: Iran's meddling in Iraq and Afghanistan and its development of long-range ballistic missiles that could threaten Europe. But the core issue remains Iran's nuclear program. The U.S. is working with other countries to pressure Iran to give up its nuclear weapons efforts regardless of who is president of the Islamic republic.

IAN KELLY, ACTING ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE FOR PUBLIC AFFAIRS: These get to the very heart of this administration's priorities in terms of nonproliferation concerns about the possibility of an arms race in that part of the world.

RICHARD HAASS, AUTHOR, "WAR OF NECESSITY, WAR OF CHOICE": The best thing we can do is keep our eye on the ball of what Iran does. Support for terrorism, their nuclear program, whoever is the Iranian government. What we care about is what we do.


STARR: And you know, Kiran, if all of that wasn't enough to worry about, the U.S. also very concerned about any Israeli military reaction if one develops because, of course, for Israel, Iran's nuclear efforts do remain threat number one -- Kiran.

CHETRY: All right, Barbara Starr for us this morning at the Pentagon. Thank you. We're also going to be looking at the breaking news developments in Iran and the political fallout here in the U.S. We're joined by Tina Brown and Tony Blankely in just a couple of minutes.

ROBERTS: New this morning, we have got some reports out of North Korea that say two American journalists sentenced last week to 12 years of hard labor now admit entering the country illegally. The the state-run news agency says Current TV reporters Laura Ling and Euna Lee, quote, "admitted and accepted" the sentences handed down by North Korea's highest court.

Outrage this morning over what critics are calling a racist e-mail about the president. Tennessee state Senator Diane Black says one of her staffers has been reprimanded but not fired for sending the e-mail using the state computer. Take a look at this. The e-mail shows a portrait -- a photo of each U.S. president except President Obama. He is depicted only as a pair of white eyes on a black background. The staffer, Sherri Goforth, admits she forwarded it but claims she did it accidentally. Sent it to the wrong mailing list, actually.

And David Letterman says he's sorry. "The Late Show" host is issuing an apology last night to Alaska governor Sarah Palin. You'll remember the Letterman joke last week that Palin's daughter was quote "knocked up by Alex Rodriguez" at a recent Yankees game. Letterman says the joke was intended to reference Palin's eldest daughter, 18- year-old Bristol, but it was her 14-year-old daughter, Willow, who was actually at the game with the governor. Palin called the joke disgusting and inappropriate. Now Letterman admits the joke was in poor taste.


DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, "LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": I told a bad joke -- I told a joke that was beyond flawed, and my intent is completely meaningless compared to the perception. And since it was a joke, I told, I feel that I need to do the right thing here and apologize for having told that joke.

So I would like to apologize, especially to the two daughters involved, Bristol and Willow, and also to the governor and her family, and everybody else who was outraged by the joke. I'm sorry about it, and I'll try to do better in the future. Thank you very much.


ROBERTS: Well, for her part, Palin says she accepts the apology, but supporters have seized on this. A "Fire David Letterman" rally is planned for later on today outside of his studios on Broadway in New York City. Twelve minutes now after the hour.


CHETRY: Welcome back to the Most News In The Morning. We're following breaking news out of Iran right now in the aftermath of the country's disputed presidential election. Seven people have died in election protests.

It also appears now that some of those ballots will be recounted. But the leading opposition leader Mousavi is saying that that is not enough, and he wants a complete new election and that millions of ballots have gone missing. In the meantime, President Obama is keeping a close eye on the developments, and says that the world is watching.


OBAMA: I am deeply troubled by the violence that I've been seeing on television. I think that the Democratic process, free speech, the ability of people to peacefully dissent, all those are universal values. And need to be respected.


CHETRY: And joining us now with a look at the political fallout for the president, Tony Blankley, conservative columnist and author of "American Grit" in Washington and also in New York, Tina Brown founder and editor in chief at

Great to have you both with us. Also, Tony, let me ask you, the president weighing in, saying he was deeply troubled, as we heard, by the violent protests, but also that we respect Iranian sovereignty and want to avoid the U.S. being the issue inside of Iran. Is this hands- off approach, Tony, the right move?

TONY BLANKLEY, AUTHOR, "AMERICAN GRIT": Well, I would have liked to heard earlier and more emphatic support for the people in the street. I mean, the president got the wake-up call at 3:00 a.m. on Saturday morning. And we finally have a statement, which is an OK statement.

But this strikes me that we're past the point of peaceful dissent on both sides. We're watching violence, we're seeing the people being shot down in the street. And simply being in favor of peaceful dissent doesn't speak, I think, to the passions in the streets of Tehran today.

CHETRY: And Tina, the French, Spanish and German leaders all gave statements, spoke out over the weekend about the reports of irregularities we didn't hear from our president over the weekend about it. But also the E.U. this morning coming out, saying they're very concerned by the unrest and re-emphasizing their insistence on the right to protest. Should the U.S. have responded sooner or more forcefully at this point?

TINA BROWN, EDITOR IN CHIEF, THEDAILYBEAST.COM: I actually think that Obama has been conducting this whole question with a great deal of sophistication. He has a much bigger game to play at this point. If he starts rushing out and speaking in a sense for the crowds in the streets in Tehran, he is being premature in that, because we still don't really know that was really the upshot.

The fact that we have seen that the streets packed with the kids, we've seen about the Twitter revolution -- a huge amount of Iran in the countryside did vote for Ahmadinejad. And with Obama, he has to have his worries about what to do about Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan. He needs to negotiate with Iran over these very big issues, which are very important to America.

So he doesn't need to kind of be tagged as the great Satan, perhaps, by Ahmadinejad if he ends up supporting a digital revolution that is extraordinarily moving and energizing and important and world shaking, actually. But it could be premature. I think he's done the right thing to hold back.

CHETRY: All right. Well, he is getting some criticism at home about it. In fact, Senator McCain was on NBC a couple of moments ago. Let's listen to what he said, and I'd like to get your reaction.


SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: The president should speak out that this election is flawed. It is wrong. It's a deprivation of the Iranian people of their basic human rights.


CHETRY: Tony, what do you think about the words of McCain? Should he be speaking out more strongly about possible human rights violations?

BLANKELY: I agree with the senator. And I guess -- interested in what Tina said that the president has bigger issues. I don't think there is a bigger issue than tyranny and freedom. And this is the moment to stand with freedom around the world and on the Internet. We should be -- this is the administration, digitally the most sophisticated we've ever had, they should be using the White House Web sites. We should be banging away, supporting freedom. This is the moment.

BROWN: I think, of course, we need to support freedom, but I think the president has already made his statement, saying how troubling it is. And I have no doubt that Obama has really this kind of clever way of seeming as if he's holding back so he comes in with something considerate, thoughtful, and impactful. He's not one to rush to the TV and start making statements about his diplomacy before he's thought it through.

CHETRY: Do you still think it's a good idea, Tony -- he's said he's still committed to quote "hard-headed diplomacy" as well as direct talks with Iran, given the violence that we've been seeing? BLANKELY: Well, look, I think American presidents should always be in favor of diplomacy when useful. I do think it's interesting that the concept of negotiating without preconditions is being put to the test today, because he's dealing with a regime that may survive after having killed its own people. Do we want to quickly be negotiating with them or do we want to have some -- it could be sort of an indecency to talk with someone who has killed his own people. We'll find out whether the diplomatic approach of no preconditions always makes sense.

CHETRY: And lastly, Tina, quickly. You had an interesting article about the impact of the social media like Twitter and Facebook on The Daily Beast this morning. Would this possibly be the first revolution we've seen led by the Internet?

BROWN: Yes, it's enormously exciting. Not just because what you're seeing is Twitter's ability to get people actually out, pass messages and organize in this extraordinarily viral way. It's shaking us all up to watch it as well as shaking Iran up, but also because it shows how that solidarity that it can engender -- I mean, rather like civil rights protests were carried off, singing rousing hymns. The fact is that it emboldens and nurtures and sustains this feeling of writing democracy simply by allowing people to talk to one another in this way. It's a very, very exciting thing, and no doubt it is revolutionizing politics in an extraordinary fashion.

CHETRY: Well, we're watching it unfold as we speak. And so we'll continue to follow it, see how it turns out. Tina Brown as well as Tony Blankley, great to talk to both of you this morning. Thanks for being here.

BLANKLEY: Thank you.

ROBERTS: Just want to come back to the story of the Iranian election -- the disputed election on Friday and protests that are going on.

This is a picture of a downtown square in Tehran. This comes to us via Press TV. These are supporters of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who are out there today, who are demonstrating in support of this idea that he won the election. Of course, now, the Guardian Council is saying it's willing to look at some of the ballots that were cast in Friday's election to see if there were any voting irregularities, opposition candidates, including Mir Hossein Mousavi are saying that there were widespread irregularities. How do you count that many paper ballots -- handwritten paper ballots that quickly?

We're going to keep following this story for you this morning and bring you more on it as we see these developments unfold. Apparently Mousavi supporters who were supposed to have a demonstration either in the same place or very near to it called off their demonstration for fear that there could be further clashes.

We're also looking at what the FAA is going to do in terms of regional airlines. A lot of safety concerns have been raised in the last few weeks since that Colgan Airways plane went down just outside of Buffalo, in the wintertime. We've got Allan Chernoff and his latest on this investigation, this continuing investigation in the regional airlines, coming right up.

It's 22 minutes now after the hour.


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

The FAA is promising major changes for the nation's regional airlines to address the growing concern about passenger safety. They include better access to pilot training records and new rules to fight pilot fatigue.

At a summit meeting on air safety, the government's top aviation official said the Colgan Air crash near Buffalo, New York, made it clear that steps are needed to improve air safety on regional carriers.

CNN's Allan Chernoff is following that for us this morning. Allan, you've been doing such a great job following all of these problems with regional airlines.

What do you got for us this morning?


Here's one example of what they're talking about. This is the application, one part of the application that the pilot of that plane filed. It lists only one failure of a check ride. And indeed, that pilot failed had several check rides. Colgan Air didn't find out about it.

Now the FAA says it will give airlines access to all records that the agency maintains on pilots. And the FAA says it's going to rewrite the rules on pilot duty time to take into account the grueling number of flights that regional pilots have to fly. These are some of the results of yesterday's summit where the new FAA chief Randy Babbit conceded there are cracks in the system when it comes to ensuring safety.


CHERNOFF (voice-over): Tragedy at regional airlines is all too common. The past six fatal airline accidents in the U.S. have been at regional or charter airlines.

RANDY BABBIT, ADMINISTRATOR, FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION: And some of the things that I have heard and seen recently about the regional airline industry just aren't acceptable in this day in age.

CHERNOFF: Indeed, this former captain at a regional airline, who asked to remain anonymous told CNN, some FAA inspectors regularly ignore safety problems.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) probably some kind of secret relationship, to be quite honest. I mean, the FAA knew exactly what was going on, never did anything about it. So, clearly they had some kind of unspoken bond that you would think they would be doing more of their job.

CHERNOFF: The transportation secretary says such problems belong to past administrations.

RAY LAHOOD, U.S. TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: That will not happen under the administration of Ray LaHood and Randy Babbit.

BABBIT: I concur.

CHERNOFF: Some FAA inspectors like Christopher Montaleon (ph) , who repeatedly complained of safety problems at Colgan Air, claim they faced reprisals. Last year more than 30 FAA whistle blowers had complaints pending against the agency.

(on camera): They say there's a cultural problem within the FAA that opposes reporting of safety issues.

LAHOOD: They will not be shoved under a rug, they will not be put aside. The complaints that you're talking about were under previous administrations. We will pay attention to any kind of complaint or accusation, or, any kind of concern that expressed by an employee of the FAA. We're both committed to that. It's a new day at the FAA. And it's a new day at DOT. Our number one priority will be safety.

CHERNOFF (voice-over): Industry executives met \Monday, at an FAA safety summit. But some regional carriers were not present, including Gulfstream International, which had trained and employed the pilot when February crashed the Colgan airplane near Buffalo.

(on camera): They said they were not invited to today's summit.

BABBIT: There were a lot of carriers that weren't invited to the summit. (END VIDEOTAPE)

CHERNOFF: In fact, there were only about 40 airline industry officials at yesterday's summit. But the FAA says it is going to hold as many as 10 additional meetings throughout the country to make sure that all airlines get the message safety has to be number one.

The FAA administrator is also going to demand that all airlines adopt the agency's Aviation Safety Action program. That allows airline employees to self-report safety violations. The inspector general of the Department of Transportation last month criticized the FAA for not making full use of that program. Randy Babbit says he'll let the public know if any airline fails to put that safety notification program into effect -- John.

ROBERTS: You know, Allan, I was just reading this certificate -- this document that you showed us a moment ago. This is Captain Renslow -- the captain that...

CHERNOFF: Marvin Renslow, yes.

ROBERTS: The area that he failed in was landings and approaches to landings and an approach and landing and with power plant failure.

What were they doing when they plane went down?

CHERNOFF: Right. Well, that...

ROBERTS: They were on approach.

CHERNOFF: That's exactly right. That was something that Colgan Air knew about. They didn't know about some of the other failures.

The FAA now saying airlines have to have a full knowledge of a pilot's history.

ROBERTS: My goodness. Allan, great story this morning.

Thanks so much for that.

CHERNOFF: Thank you.

ROBERTS: By the way, for more on Allan Chernoff's in depth reporting on airline safety -- the terrific job that he's been doing, you can read his blog on

ROBERTS: It is now 29 minutes after the hour.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

ROBERTS: It's 31 minutes now after the hour. And checking our top stories, breaking news to tell you about this morning. Protests taking place in Iran for and against the president right now. And after seven people were killed in bloody demonstrations yesterday, the nation's Guardian Council, which oversees elections is agreeing to recount a limited number of presidential ballots.

North Korea's nuclear threat topping the agenda as President Obama welcomes South Korean President Lee Myung-bak to the White House today. The two nations expected to discuss ways to strengthen their alliance and cooperation in the region.

And the dismantling and rebuilding of General Motors continues. The auto maker announcing a deal to sell its Saab unit to a consortium of buyers led by a Swedish car maker. CHETRY: We have more in our developing story this morning out of Iran. And a lot of questions about social media and how social media may be shaping what is going on there in the disputed aftermath of the election. Is Facebook and Twitter actually help fuel the outrage over that outcome? Some say yes, the others are calling it a cyber-revolution.

The Iranian government appears to be trying to block Internet access and other communications this morning. The "New York Times" reports that many citizens are saying they're unable to send text messages, but they are managing to post blogs on Facebook and to coordinate protests using Twitter. Twitter reports that post-election violence has become the most popular topic on the service worldwide.

And supporters of both President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi are promoting these instant rallies online. It really is an amazing turn of events in Iran. CNN's senior editor of Mideast affairs Octavia Nasr is with us now for that angle of the story. It's very interesting, Octavia, some are saying, you know, this could basically be the first Internet revolution that we've seen.

OCTAVIA NASR, CNN SENIOR EDITOR OF MIDEAST AFFAIRS: Yes, that's what we're hearing. Many people are using that word. And I tell you, it's a new day in Iran and a totally new era. The era of the internet. This is where we're going to find out what's going on. People are addicted to being in touch with people inside Iran, we're getting first-hand reports and accounts, and as you're seeing on the streets, you know, people demonstrating and fighting each other. They're doing the same on the internet.


NASR (voice-over): Iranians beaten and bloodied while emotions filling the Internet and TV screens capturing the world's attention in real-time for the first time on this scale since the Islamic revolution. Setting social networking sites on fire from YouTube to CNN's iReport, images from Iran are constantly uploaded, representing both sides, keeping the story going and feeding a worldwide curiosity about the future of Iran.

Here, supporters of reformist Mir Hossein Mousavi rejecting their candidate's defeat in presidential elections. Crying foul, saying their vote was robbed and they want it back. President Ahmadinejad supporters celebrated their candidate's victory in mass rallies, as well. Those images were carried on the regular Iranian channels across Iran and around the world.

Following the vote, results were quickly announced in favor of the incumbent Mr. Ahmadinejad. Signs of descent were apparent, but also signs of crackdowns. Mr. Mousavi's whereabouts unknown for a while and no straight answers about guarantees of his safety or vote transparency. Media outlets such as the Dubai-based Al Arabiya Network were shut down for reporting on the violence that followed the vote. Some journalists got their share of the violence and their movement was controlled and limited. That didn't stop Iranians from spreading the word about what's happening in their country. With the help of social media, such as YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter, their voices got louder and support came to them from all corners of the globe. Within hours, the voices of Iranians both pro-Ahmadinejad and pro-Mousavi found a forum for support on the Internet. A matter (ph) of their divided voices echoed from the streets of Tehran.


NASR: One interesting development today, as you reported earlier, the gTalk, Yahoo Messenger are down. They're blocked in Iran. People got around it. They found a way with the help from the outside. People have been sending them what they call proxies. These are ways to get around the block, get around the filtering that the government is imposing on the Internet, and just before the segment, I just was able to reconnect with one of my contacts. She's thrilled. She is an Ahmadinejad supporter. She's thrilled to be able to stay in touch. They don't want to be cut off at this point.

CHETRY: Yes, very fascinating stuff. But in fact, I guess Twitter was planning some sort of scheduled maintenance that they postponed because of what's been going on in Iran. And as we said it's the most talked about situation that's taking place on their site right now. So fascinating. Octavia Nasr for us this morning. Thanks for being with us.

NASR: Thank you.

CHETRY: Thirty-six minutes past the hour.


ROBERTS: Well the president's push for a public health care has lawmakers split along party lines and some fractures within the same party as well. Democratic leaders are demanding one, republicans vowing that they're never going to support one. Our next guest has come up with a compromise, non-profit health care cooperatives. But can they cover enough people, keep costs low, and cruise through Congress?

Joining us now from Capitol Hill is the man who came up with the co-op plan, democratic senator Kent Conrad of North Dakota. Senator, it's great to see you this morning. For the benefit of the folks at home to understand how this works. Can you give us a quick overview of how your co-op program would actually operate?

SEN. KENT CONRAD (D), NORTH DAKOTA: Yes, John, we have hundreds of cooperatives around the country that are very successful. Cooperatives instead of being government run, government controlled are membership-run, membership-controlled. So cooperatives, we've got lots of them. Ace Hardware is a cooperative. The "Associated Press" is a cooperative. Land O'Lakes is a cooperative. In health care, out in Seattle, they have a very large cooperative. 600,000 people, very successful at providing health care coverage. ROBERTS: So there are a lot of people who like this idea of a cooperative uses government seed money to get it going, but falls short of being a government plan. But some people are pretty skeptical about the whole idea. And one of those is Howard Dean, the former chairman of the DNC who says "this is a big mistake. These co-ops will be very weak. Many won't have the half million members that most experts think is necessary to influence the market. Insurance companies will be licking their lips." What do you say to that?

CONRAD: I say the world is changing very dramatically. Look the actuaries that we have consulted have said that they believe these will be successful in part because of the insurance reforms that are going to be part of this package. In part because another 40 million people are going to enter the market. And these health care cooperatives are going to be very attractive.

Look, we already have one in Washington. 600,000 people, it's got the highest approval ranking of any of the health care plans in Washington state, and as I say, the cooperative model has been around for 90 years. Very successful in many different business lines.

ROBERTS: If I could, let me just ask you about that cooperative that you've cited twice out there in Washington state. It's the Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound, but even the folks who are running that cooperative say it's not really a cooperative, it's more of a hybrid. It almost operates like an HMO, because it's got its own clinics. It's got its own doctors. It's got its own nurses and they also say that it works in Washington state because payments to providers are typically lower in Washington state. It's a more efficient system there. Would that same sort of system operate in a really high-cost environment like you'd see in areas of California, particularly here in New York City?

CONRAD: Yes, we believe this model can work anywhere. You look at cooperatives, they are operating nationwide, very successfully. Group health out in Washington is, I think, a good example of what works in an urban setting as well as a rural setting because Washington state has both. But look, one of the things they say is because they have lower rates of reimbursement, that allows them to provide efficiencies. That's what we've got to do across the country.

We cannot continue with this ever escalating cost. That's going to wreck families. It's going to wreck businesses. It's even going to wreck the government if we don't get a hold of it.

ROBERTS: Yes. But this is also loosely based on the model of rural electrical utilities across the country. And every one of those, according to the association that they're under, gets government subsidies. So could we potentially be getting ourselves into a scenario under your plan where we are perpetually subsidizing these health care co-ops?

CONRAD: No, that's a very different situation. Rural electric cooperative serve in rural under served areas where there is a continuing government subsidy to a degree, largely for the construction of facilities, not for ongoing operations. But look at the other cooperative models, whether it's the "Associated Press," they get no government subsidy, Land O'Lakes, Ace Hardware, they get no government subsidies. Even REI is a cooperative.

ROBERTS: All right. Well, we'll keep on looking at this, senator, and we'll see how it flies in Congress. Certainly people are looking for some sort of compromise. We appreciate you being with us this morning. Senator Kent Conrad of North Dakota. Really appreciate it. Thanks so much - Kiran.

CHETRY: Well, maybe even following this case of David Goldman. He's a father who dropped his son and wife off at the airport. He thought it was going to be a short trip to Brazil. They never returned home. He joins us on his five-year battle to bring his son back.


CHETRY: The case has made international headlines, a father's desperate quest to get his son back. It's been exactly five years since David Goldman's wife took their then four-year-old son to Brazil and never came back. Five years without his child.

Now, since then, he's been fighting to be reunited with his little boy, Sean, and just when he thought it was over, another setback. He joins us now to talk more about his case. David, thanks for being with us. So today you're marking really an unwelcome anniversary. It's been five years since you had your son, Sean, with you. It looked like things were turning in your favor that the high court ruled they're going to honor the Hague Convention, most of those in the court said your son should come back to you. What's the delay right now?

DAVID GOLDMAN, FATHER: Well, what was filed in front of the Supreme Court was, in fact, the Brazilian judicial system was going to honor the Hague Convention, that the government was going to still be a party to the Hague Convention where they received children back under the Hague from America, as well. And they decided yes, we are going to honor the Hague convention, we will return children.

This particular case, a couple of them pointed out that Sean has been here way too long and this needs to be resolved. And then they punted it back to the second-level federal court, where there was a stay because of an appeal from this Linsa Silva (ph) guy to keep my son there. Hopefully with the Supreme Court ruling, with the 82-page report from the first-level federal judge ordering my son to be returned home immediately...

CHETRY: Right.

GOLDMAN: As well as Brazilian court-appointed mental health experts evaluating my son, saying he's been under psychological trauma, emotionally damaged from this family in Brazil, pointing he needs to be home. And other...

CHETRY: They also even called it parental alienation, saying that his stepfather, that's who he's staying with right now, correct?

GOLDMAN: He actually lives with his Bruna's parents.

CHETRY: OK. So and that's an odd situation in itself. Just take us back to what happened. You were married. You were happily married, at least you thought. Your wife goes away for a couple of weeks.

GOLDMAN: I drove her to the airport with my son and her parents for a vacation. I love, hugs and kisses with my blessing. Have a safe trip and actually I was going to down and visit with them at the end of the trip and fly back to help with Sean, bringing him home.

CHETRY: And what happened?

GOLDMAN: I get a phone call when it was actually on Father's Day. Two days after they arrived. David, we have to talk. You're a wonderful guy, you're the best father I could ever imagine for my child, but if you ever want to see him again, you need to come to Brazil, meet with my attorneys, sign 10 pages of legal papers, giving me full custody never pressing criminal charges, and a bunch of other demands. Another one was filing to the courts here that we will be separated.

CHETRY: And that you had no inkling that there was any trouble in the marriage?

GOLDMAN: I had no clue. I had no clue.

CHETRY: Do you know what happened?

GOLDMAN: She said that she decided that she was Brazilian and wants to stay in Brazil where she is known.

CHETRY: And subsequently, sadly she passed away in childbirth, right. And since then, your son, Sean, has been living with her new husband?

GOLDMAN: Yes. She - well, we were still married in America. America doesn't recognize this marriage to this guy. She married him in Brazil for 10 months before she passed away. And now, this man is trying to say that he's got more claim of custody over my own child. He's got no blood relation to my son. And yet, the court in Brazil, the state court he filed some motion trying to remove my name from my son's birth certificate, to totally erase me and my parents and my son's whole paternal lineage from his life and replace it with his own.

CHETRY: I know that you've been to Brazil, your congressman actually accompanied you there in helping with this effort. And it's been a very difficult situation because, I mean, you've been away from your own son for so long now. How does he react to you? And what are your concerns that even if you do get him back, what the psychological damage of this whole tug-of-war will be on him?

GOLDMAN: My concerns are what is being done to him right now. And those are things that I can't control. And again, as evidenced from the evaluations that he's being under a lot of - he's being psychologically and emotionally damaged by them in Brazil, where he is now is not a healthy environment. They have to look at the boy. They have to look at the child, not their own selfish or whatever reasons. But he is a child, he's a human, and he's my son.

I'm not worried about when we're home. I know I will take care of him as I always had before he was abducted. Remember, he lived over four years with me and he was fine and he could call when I was able to speak with him crying to come home to his father. Crying he wants to come home and he wants to see his friends. He wants to see his grandma and grandpa. They tried to erase all that themselves in front of the media like he never had a life here, which he did and still does waiting.

And it's not about the five years that we missed. But still he's only nine. He's got his whole life ahead and there is bonding and healing. And the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children actually has a program, a four-day program for parents who are reunited with their abducted children to help them reconnect and rebond.

CHETRY: Well, we wish you the best of luck in this situation. I know it's been a tough road for you. And the courts still have to rule, but hopefully within weeks you may be reunited. Thanks so much for joining us this morning.

GOLDMAN: Thanks. I hope so.

CHETRY: Fifty-one minutes past the hour.


ROBERTS: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. Obesity starts with your mouth. The more food you put in it, the more weight you gain. So, it's only fitting that a new type of weight loss surgery is also going through the mouth to help people lose weight. In our series "Fit Nation," Dr. Gupta explains. Sanjay is here this morning. Sanjay, as I said it's fitting weight gain starts with the mouth. Weight loss could start with the mouth too.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: This is - you're absolutely right. This is pretty fascinating stuff. It's called natural orifice surgery, and this isn't the first procedure to be done through a natural orifice in the body. Probably not going to be the last one either. But it's sort of interesting the way that this works. You're talking about actually going through the mouth all the way through the esophagus into the stomach. Take a look at this animation that we have over here. That might really show you what we're talking about here.

Take a look at the specific device here. I don't know if it's actually going to cue up or not. There we go. You see the device, they're going through the esophagus, down into the stomach. What happens, John, it applies suction, creates a small pouch, and there's a little staple gun in here. It staples part of the stomach shut so you're basically getting that sort of small pouch that you often get with other types of operations, as well. Again, it's called TOGA, transoral gastroplasty. TOGA, for short.

And it's pretty new. It's still in clinical trials. So it's not something that you can get at your doctor's office right now. There are people who say, look, be a little bit careful with a procedure like this. The makers of the procedure, the people who designed the device that after a year about 45 percent weight reduction, but after periods of time after that, it's hard to say how long this lasts. We know, for example, John, you and I talked about a lap band procedure...

ROBERTS: Right, right.

GUPTA: It lasts for a certain amount of time but then the effects start to diminish.

ROBERTS: So, this is very similar to the lap band procedure, I guess, just done internally as opposed to externally. Who is the right type of candidate for this surgery?

GUPTA: Yes, that's a good question. You know, there are all sorts of different questions, both psychological as well as physical that doctors will often give before doing a procedure like this. But if you look at the way that it works, you can get a sense of whom might benefit from it the most. You see food will sort of come down here and get sort of - go slow as you see there. It takes longer for it to pass through the GI system. So people who eat steaks and potatoes, for example, will get a good result. People eating a lot of ice cream or high fatty foods, that food can still pass through quickly.

ROBERTS: Got you.

GUPTA: Also if you're looking at just pure body habits, we know that 25, for example, BMI is what's considered overweight, 30 is what's considered obese. Usually, not too many people get to about 35, in terms of their BMI which is a height-weight ratio. Will they be candidates for this procedure? So who is to say for sure? But this natural orifice, this new technology type of procedure, I think is pretty interesting.


GUPTA: No incisions.

ROBERTS: It's fascinating. Can it be reversed easily, as well?

GUPTA: That's a good question. You know, I'm not sure about actually taking the staples out this way, you know, backwards. But other type of operations, they will let you make a hole into one of the intestines and take out your gall bladder for example through your mouth. So I mean, this is catching on.

ROBERTS: Oh, Lord.

GUPTA: Your tongue hurts afterwards.

ROBERTS: All I need is a foot removed from my mouth on occasions, Sanjay. That should be easy enough, right?

GUPTA: I'll work on that.

ROBERTS: All right. Dr. Gupta for us this morning. Doc, thanks so much.

Fifty-eight minutes after the hour.


CHETRY: We're following breaking news right now. You're looking at live pictures of Tehran, in Iran, where thousands of supporters of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have gathered. This is a mass rally taking place. There is another demonstration for the leading opposition candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi. It's also scheduled to take place at this same spot but just a little later in the morning.

In order - well, it's the afternoon there, in the evening actually, in order to prevent more bloodshed, Mousavi was pleading with his passionate supporters not to show up. Meanwhile, all of this is happening, there's a backdrop of the real impact of the social media organizing over twitter for these protests and these rallies, using Facebook and being able to communicate using text messages, as well.

ROBERTS: Yes, the big question is whether or not this is going to be limited to a couple days of protests and as we saw, tragedy, bloodshed yesterday, seven people killed, or if this is a beginning of a snowball that could end up in some sort of challenge to the existing regime.


ROBERTS: The next few days may be critical in determining that.

We'll continue the conversation on today's stories, go to our blog at

CHETRY: And thanks so much for joining us on this AMERICAN MORNING. We'll see you back here tomorrow. Meantime, CNN NEWSROOM with Heidi Collins starts now.