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American Morning

Iranian Government Steps up Crackdown on Foreign Media; Hillary Clinton Breaks an Elbow; A Look at Iran's Power Structure; Ten Banks Repay Bailout; Obama on a Tightrope With Iran; Same-Sex Backlash; Did Baby Boomers Generation Cause the Financial Crisis: Slumdog's Dream Home; Soccer Player Protest in Iran

Aired June 18, 2009 - 06:00   ET


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to American morning. It's Thursday, June 18. Glad you're with us. I'm Kiran Chetry.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning to you. I'm John Roberts. We have got an awful lot to tell you about. A very important day today in Iran. Following several developing stories this morning, we'll be breaking them all down for you in the next 15 minutes here on the "Most News in the Morning."

The first thing that we're asking today is could this be a moment of truth in Iran? We're about 90 minutes away from what's expected to be massive protests across the nation.

And within the past hour, the government rolling out its toughest crackdown on the foreign media yet, forbidding CNN from not only covering today's demonstrations but also limiting our reporter there to just one report for the entire day across all of our network platforms. And there's like 11 of those. So one report for 11 different networks today from Iran. That's the extent of the crackdown.

And this morning because of that crackdown, there's no way to overstate the importance of the Internet in the protest movement. More and more information is being gathered by ordinary citizens as being distributed on those social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook. We're keeping a close eye on all of that for you today.

And Hillary Clinton sidelined, not by tough diplomacy, but she took a nasty fall outside of the White House, a fall that was bad enough that sent her to the hospital. We'll tell you what it's all about coming up.

CHETRY: We begin, though, with the breaking news out of Iran. And right now, there are tens of thousands of Iranians gearing up for mass rallies protesting that country's presidential elections. But it's an image that the Iranian government is trying to clamp down on.

In the past hour, officials there forbid our reporter on the ground, Reza Sayah, from covering the day's demonstrations and they've only allowed him to file one report all day.

We still have the global resources of CNN, though, for us this morning. We have Christiane Amanpour. She is live in London. And Isha Sesay is live at our Iran desk in Atlanta monitoring all of the news coming out of Iran over the social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.

But we begin with Christiane. And, Christiane, what will this continued protest mean for the results of this election?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's going to be interesting to see whether they keep going along the same size as we've been seeing in the next -- in the last few days. We do not know the size or frequency of what's happening outside of Tehran. And we also know that, you know, there were several people killed according to the Iranian government over the last few days when they attacked one of those military outposts of the revolutionary militia.

And so today, Mousavi has called on any people who come out to wear black in respect to those who've been killed. So that's basically what we know right now.

Importantly, we should wait for Ayatollah Khamenei to lead Friday prayers, which is tomorrow, Friday. And he has taken the decision to lead Friday prayers and he will, or at least he's expected, of course, to talk about the situation. And it's important to hear, I think, what the top leadership in Iran is going to say about what's been going on. And I think we'll know a bit more about what to expect after that Friday prayers -- Kiran.

CHETRY: And, Christiane, what do you think will happen next? After -- you know, we're seeing this now day after day after day of these protests.

AMANPOUR: Well, again, it's going to be interesting to see whether this keeps up steam. Obviously, we've already heard from the Guardian Council that they're going to be recounting some of the contested areas.

I've been told that there is not going to be a re-election or an annulment of the election and that President Ahmadinejad is more than likely to remain and be president. The Iranian government has already sent him out to various international speeches and conferences where he's being congratulated by certainly the Russian and the Chinese presidents. And I think that is what is going to remain.

I think still what's pretty unique in that region is that these protests and rallies in support of both candidates, both the president, Ahmadinejad, and Mousavi are still allowed on the streets and that the press is, despite restrictions, still able to at least report some part of it.

CHETRY: Christiane Amanpour for us in London this morning. Thanks so much.

And, you know, John, the fascinating thing is it has continued to pick up steam. I think the government there certainly hoping it would be tamped down. But even the Iranian soccer team risking, you know, reprisals wore these pro-democracy, the green arm bands at one of the World Cup qualifier games in Korea.

ROBERTS: Yes. For at least part of the game and then mysteriously the armed bands disappeared. Were they told to take them off?


ROBERTS: Or did they just take them off?

CHETRY: I think they were told by security officials that they couldn't have them on anymore. But again, by the time they were off, millions had already seen that.

ROBERTS: Yes, and then the point was made. Of course, you know, whether it be in Iran, whether it be here in the United States, whether it be in South Asia, Southeast Asia, the world is watching the massive demonstrations of defiance in Iran.

With foreign journalists banned from reporting on the unrest and the government crackdown on the flow of information, protesters are relying heavily on social networking Web sites like Twitter and the greater Internet to tell the world what's going on there. And, of course, we're keeping an eye on all of it. There's massive flow of images and personal messages coming out of Tehran.

Isha Sesay is live now for us this morning at CNN's new Iran desk in Atlanta monitoring everything that's coming into us from the Internet. And there really is, Isha, a torrent of information that we're picking from.

ISHA SESAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Yes, absolutely, John. We are being hit by a flow of information that's feeding into us here at the Iran desk where we are very, very closely following what's happening on the ground there as the clock counts down to what could effectively be one of the biggest demonstrations seen in that country since the Islamic revolution.

Now, one of the big social networking tools we're seeing in all of this is Twitter. As we know, the authorities are clamping down on protesters and their use of the Web so Twitter has really risen in its prominence in all of this. And what we're already seeing as we monitor is that people are already tweeting about that demonstration which is due to start in about 90 minutes from now.

We won't show our viewers the actual Twitter feeds they're usernames, because we don't want to put anyone in harm's way. But we do want to show them this.

This is something that Sarah who's working on the desk for this came across. It's a support war there on Twitter where people can effectively sign up to show their support for what is happening there in Iran.

You noticed how a lot of those boxes -- those avatars are green. Green, of course, the color closely associated with Mousavi. People signing on, showing that they are in support, showing solidarity for what's playing out. Another thing that Sarah pointed out to us was that Twitter is kind of being used as a kind of clearinghouse. It's funneling people to other various Web silts.

Look at this. It says we ask Google to change Google logo for one day. John, people are using Twitter now to guide people to this Web site where they can vote to see whether effectively one Google to change their banner to green.

We don't know how today is going to play out. What we know is we're expecting thousands of people to turn out for this ceremony of mourning, which is what Mousavi has called it.

We do know how demonstrations played out yesterday. We want to show our viewers some video that we have. Let's show them this first piece of video which clearly shows the persons on the street very calmly mingling with security forces in their midst.

You see men and women there on the streets. You clearly see people in white. They're clearly in uniforms. No pushing, no shoving, no tousling. Yesterday, largely peaceful.

Let's show the second piece of video that we also have. Now that really does underline how technology has moved into a vital place in all of this. You can see, if you look closely there, a lot of people have their cell phones out. They're taking pictures. They're texting. All of them showing that they need to capture what is taking place there in Iran.

And, John and Kiran, we will monitor what is happening there in Iran. As I say, that protest due to start shortly. Back to you.

ROBERTS: Yes. Pretty obvious too, Isha, that despite the best efforts of the Iranian government to try to block the lines of communication, there's a lot of information getting out. Can you read us any of the messages that you've been monitoring there in Atlanta?

SESAY: Some of the messages that we have they've been keeping an eye -- I won't go back to the screen just not to put anyone in harm's way. But a lot of them saying this demonstration is getting one way shortly.

It's a big day. All of them basically just rallying each other saying, you know, protest out loud even though, you know, they are appealing (ph) to each other to wear black, to carry placards, basically just urging people to get out there, John.

ROBERTS: All right. Isha Sesay at the CNN headquarters there in Atlanta monitoring everything that's coming in on the Internet from Iran this morning.

You know, we talk a lot about the president of Iran and the supreme leader and the Guardian Council. How does it all fit together? What is the power structure there in Iran.

Fawaz Gerges is going to be joining us in a couple of minutes. He's going to lay it all out for you to give you a clear understanding of exactly how things work there in Iran and whether or not Mousavi and his supporters are going at Ahmadinejad or if this actually a competition between them and the Supreme Leader Khamenei?

CHETRY: Right. And what changes just as a result of the presidential election? I mean, there's a whole other power structure that calls a lot of the shots. And so we want to break it down for people who are not as familiar with how Iran works in the central workings of the government.

ROBERTS: It should be interesting.

CHETRY: Yes, very interesting stuff.

And meanwhile, there are some other new stories we're following this morning. The secretary of state is going to have to have surgery in the next couple of days.

Hillary Clinton took a tumble on her way to the White House yesterday. Coming down hard on her elbow, she actually broke her elbow. She has to trim back her schedule as a result, cancelling several appearances and events, including one that was to take place with Angelina Jolie this morning for World Refugee Day. And I believe she has that surgery, right, on her elbow.

ROBERTS: Yes, yes. In the next few days, you know, within the next week at least. Sure, it's extraordinarily painful. That's a sensitive part of the body.

CHETRY: Oh, we wish her the best certainly.

And meantime, the countdown is on for today's planned launch of an unmanned spacecraft to the moon. The mission was originally planned (ph) to make way for the shuttle Endeavour's liftoff, but, as you know, yesterday's launch had to be postponed for the second time because of a hydrogen leak.

And Billy Joel headed for divorce court for the third time. No, certainly not a charm between the 60-year-old singer and his third wife, Katie Lee Joel who's 27. They're now separating after five years of marriage. In a joint statement, the not-so-happy couple says they remain caring friends with admiration and respect for each other.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

ROBERTS: And it's 12 minutes after the hour. We continue to follow the breaking news coming out of Iran.

Big massive demonstration planned for today. It's being called the day of mourning. Tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of people will be taking to the streets to protest the results of last Friday's election.

And the government continues to crack down on foreign news organizations and our attempts to cover what's going on there. They have limited our correspondent, Reza Sayah in Tehran to one report for the entire day. So we're having to kind of work around all of this today because we're not getting a whole lot of information coming out of the city itself.

You know, we've been talking so much about this in the last week. We want to break down the power complex, the structure inside that country.

Fawaz Gerges is joining us now. He's a Middle Eastern scholar at Sarah Lawrence College. He's the author of "Journey of Jihadist: Inside Muslim Militancy."

So let's take a look at this because, you know, everybody thinks that the president may be sort of one of the higher ups. And, in fact, he is fairly high in the power structure, but certainly not the highest. We've got a graphic that we want to put up on our wall behind us.

The supreme leader, the Ayatollah Khamenei, he's got all the power. And there's also the Guardian Council, and then we see the president, Ahmadinejad. Give us the relation here, Fawaz, on all of this.

FAWAZ GERGES, MIDDLE EASTERN SCHOLAR, SARAH LAWRENCE COLLEGE: We call him the supreme leader but he really is called by the Iranians the leader. He is the commander in chief. He is the president in the American system. He is appointed for life.

He is the only person who can call, for example, Martial Laws. If the situation deteriorates, the leader -- the supreme leader has the ultimate constitutional authority to call on the army and the police and the Revolutionary Guards to come down on the streets. He makes decisions of war and peace.

John, what we have in the last few weeks, we have reports that he's becoming more and more isolated. And if you really observe very closely his conduct, initially a few hours after the interior ministry said that Ahmadinejad won the elections, he came out and he said, the outcome was sacred and blessed.

Yet two days later, what did he say? He called on the Guardian Council, basically, which is really -- I mean, he leads the Guardian Council to basically look into voter allegation of voter fraud. And this tells you that the arguments coming out of Iran is that he's becoming more and more isolated. There is an uprising ahead.

ROBERTS: So he was appointed in 1989. He's been the supreme leader since then. The Guardian Council, as you mentioned, what does it comprise?

GERGES: The Guardian Council has 12 members -- the supreme leader, that is Ali Khamenei, appoints six and the parliament appoints the other six. The Guardian Council is like the Supreme Court in the American system. It's a conservative body that has oversight over Iranian laws.

For example, the Guardian Council is the authority to either rectify or annuls the elections. The Guardian Council now basically has been told by the supreme leader to observe or look into the voter -- the allegation of voter fraud.

ROBERTS: So then, when we look at the current president, Ahmadinejad, how much power does he really have?

GERGES: You know, I mean, probably many Americans think that the president -- yes, he is elected while the supreme leader is not elected. But he is not the commander in chief. He is the human representative of the Iranian nation basically. But his most important function is the economy and he frames the moral debate. And as we know, John, Ahmadinejad mismanaged the economy, disastrously.

Iran now faces truly a grave economic crisis. And also in terms of social policy, he cracked down against woman rights movement. He unleashed the morality police. You have really radical conservatism and that's why the reform movement in Iran is really designed to basically defeat Ahmadinejad who is seen by women and young voters as a highly reactionary figure.

ROBERTS: We should point out, though, when we look at the reform movement, there are still conservatives. It's not like they're, you know, they might be a little more moderate than Ahmadinejad but they're certainly not way over on the line.

GERGES: You know, and this is really for our American audience, John, why Mousavi, the oppositional leader and the clerics who support Mousavi want to work within the system.

I would argue that the reform movement, the female and young voters would really like to restructure the system. They want more social freedoms. They want more freedom, freedom of expression. So even though Mousavi and the clerics around him would like to say, look, we want to work from within the system, the movement has a logic of its own. It wants really more social freedoms and personal freedoms.

ROBERTS: And that's what really could provoke a clash.

GERGES: And that's really what it is.

ROBERTS: All right. Fawaz Gerges, it's good to see you this morning. Thanks for joining us.

Coming up now at 17 minutes after the hour.


CHETRY: Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING. It's 20 minutes past the hour right now. We have Christine Romans with us. We missed you the past couple of days.


CHETRY: You left us and now you're back.

ROMANS: I know I'm back. And let me tell you, I feel richer today. Do you feel richer? I feel a little richer.



ROMANS: $222 richer today.

ROBERTS: I feel poorer.

ROMANS: Actually, I'm $222 less poor because ten banks repaid my TARP money. The Treasury Department --

ROBERTS: Oh, they gave you a check, did they?

ROMANS: They took it off of my bill, apparently. We all have a very big bill actually with the government.

You know on Tuesday night, late into the night, the Treasury Department officials were still working there, getting ready to get this repayment from these ten big banks. And for months, you have been screaming about "give us our money back" and ten big banks have.

ROBERTS: And don't forget to give me back by black t-shirt.

ROMANS: Sixty-eight -- $68 billion they turned in yesterday. So by the late afternoon, that was all in. And all together now, $70 billion has been returned including $2 billion from smaller banks. But some of the big household names have repaid their bailout money still working on trying to figure out how to buy back these things called warrants, which is the last kind of -- the last kind of, I would say, tie we would have to these banks given the fact that they are important in our economy.

So there you go, $222 is your share of money that has been returned to the government.

ROBERTS: They came up with that money awfully quickly, didn't they? For being in such distress?

ROMANS: Well, you know, here's the thing. Moody's and S&P and others say they're not necessarily more healthy. In fact, Moody's has this great TARP repayment. TARP, of course, that horrible name for what the bailout is. TARP repayment should in no way be interpreted as a return to a normal operating environment. So --

CHETRY: They say they're still not necessarily lending, right? They wanted to be out from under the thumbs so they can worry -- they can worry about executive compensation and things like that, but they're not necessarily able to lend as much as they were before?

ROMANS: That's because there aren't as many people who are as creditworthy and it's because they're scared. I mean, they're scared after everything that happened last fall. And so you're right, the lending levels are not as high as they have been in the normal economy. But what the government says is, look, without this bailout, the lending would have been even worse than it is. CHETRY: All right. Let's get to Christine's "Romans' Numeral." This is a number that she brings you each hour that is driving a story about your money. And are we still talking about the banks repaying money?

ROMANS: We are talking about the banks and we're talking about this big overhaul at the banks. It all kind of goes together. The number is six.

And, you know, I think Secretary Geithner is heading to the Hill today. He's going to talk to the Senate. He's going to talk to the House. He's going to try to sell this plan to have this new kind of regulation simplified but more powerful regulations. Six is the number. It has to do with that.

ROBERTS: The number of committees he'll be appearing before?

ROMANS: Well, I'm sure that actually that will be eventually, that number may be double digits.

CHETRY: The number of regulatory agencies that will be created under this?

ROMANS: Very close. It is the number of banking regulators in the past. Six banking regulators. And how well did they do to prevent the banking crisis?

CHETRY: Six in general for the entire federal government.

ROMANS: There were six different banking regulators. The FDIC -- it's best (ph) if you count the SEC. The FDIC, the OTS, the OCC, it's an alphabet soup of banking regulators.

We're not going to have fewer of them actually. We're going to kind of consider shuffling the deck a little bit. But they are making it smarter and better but six different agencies that regulated all the banks.

CHETRY: I thought you meant six people crunching the numbers and that's why so much stuff got missed.

ROMANS: But look how well they do. Six different groups.

ROBERTS: Now that number was actually three.

ROMANS: Right. The six different regulators, and look at how well they did. Look, you know -- they all -- way to go, everybody. Way to go, regulators, for preventing this crisis. So we'll see if they can do a better job next time.

ROBERTS: Christine Romans "Minding Your Business" this morning.

Well, it had to happen, right? PETA now weighing in on President Obama's fly-swatting prowess. As you've probably seen the president very publicly swatted and killed a fly while cameras rolled during an interview with CNBC. Well, PETA says they support compassion for even the smallest of animals and insects should be given the benefit of the doubt. The group even sent the president a humane fly catcher called a "Katcha Bug" that traps bugs and allows for their safe release back into nature.

Catch and release program --

CHETRY: Now everybody was groaning today when we were talking about that story in the meeting. But -- but, I have to admit I erred on the side of -- I mean, I'm a meat eater, OK? So PETA would not like me. But I err on the side of trying to catch and release, even the horsefly.

ROBERTS: I don't want to kill even the smallest of animals, but he gave the president -- gave that fly a chance. He gave him the benefit of the doubt. He said get out of here. The fly didn't, landed on his hand. That was it.

CHETRY: But if he would have to catch a bug, you got to pull it right out, caught the bug...

ROBERTS: Yes, that would have worked.

CHETRY: ... released him in the South Lawn.

ROBERTS: He was carrying the Teddy Roosevelt big stick.

ROMANS: Sorry, I thought that was impressive. The fly is little -- you know.

CHETRY: Yes, it was a Mr. Miyagi move on the part of the president.

ROMANS: Mr. Miyagi, nice one.

CHETRY: All right, Christine. We'll see you in a couple.

Meanwhile, it's 24 minutes past the hour.



DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, "THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": Here's the breakdown of the Iranian election. 63 percent of the vote for Ahmadinejad. Mousavi, he's got 34 percent of the vote, and three percent goes to Ralph Nader. Again, I don't -- who knows?


ROBERTS: Actually, Ralph Nader was not in the election. But you probably know that, right?

Welcome back to the "Most News in the Morning." We are just about an hour away from another mass of protests in Iran. And this morning, the government is expanding its crackdown on foreign journalists limiting CNN to filing just one report for the day. Of course, we're appealing that decision.

As tensions in the country rise, the hard line Iranian government is accusing the Obama administration of "provocative conduct." For President Obama, it's a delicate balancing act. CNN's Brian Todd has got that part of the story for us this morning.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John and Kiran. The president got a lot of praise early on for striking just the right balance on a number of difficult issues, but he's under intense pressure right now to take a much tougher stance against the Iranian government.


TODD (voice-over): Walking perhaps the most unsteady tightrope of his young presidency, Barack Obama finds the Iranian crisis one of the toughest to nuance. He's repeatedly said he doesn't want to be seen as meddling, but the Iranian government complains of just that, telling Swiss diplomats who handled U.S. business in Tehran that America is interfering in the election process. Others say the United States is not doing enough.

A senior Israeli official tells CNN, "The administration's response is "not strong." The Israelis have long pushed for a tougher line on Iran, but their statements give the current backlash against the president some critical mass following challenges by some Republicans in Congress.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARMED SERVICES RANKING MEMBER: I'm frankly incredulous that anybody should say we should abandon our advocacy for free and fair elections anywhere in the world much less Iran, whish is ruled by Muslim clerics who are obviously extremists.

TODD: The White House also finds itself defending the president's comment that "the difference between Ahmadinejad and Mousavi in terms of their actual policies may not be as great as has been advertised." Says one long-time Middle East observer --

DAVID MAKOVSKY, WASHINGTON INST. FOR NEAR EAST POLICY: There's clearly differences for the non-reformer (ph). And I think he went a little too far to the edge and he can walk that back.

TODD: White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was asked to pin down what the president meant by that comment.

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Regardless of the outcome of what we're seeing, the United States still has two principal national interests as it relates to the Islamic Republic of Iran. The state sponsorship of terror and the support of terror as well as their pursuit of a nuclear weapon.


TODD: On the overall criticism for not bringing more pressure to bear on the Iranian regime, another White House official told us the administration simply cannot be drawn too deeply into this post- election fight. It could empower the hardliners in Iran, this official says, and could even be seen as a justification for a tougher crackdown. John and Kiran, back to you.

ROBERTS: Brian Todd reporting for us. Brian, thanks so much for that.

We want to update you now on the breaking news that's coming out of Iran, the story the hard-line government does not want told.

Within the next hour, a massive rally is planned in the streets of Tehran to protest last Friday's president election. Thousands of people expected to be wearing dark clothes to mourn those who have killed in the violence so far. We still don't have an accurate figure on how many were killed either.

Still higher: AAA reporting the national average price for unleaded regular gasoline now $2.69 a galloon. That's up just slightly from yesterday. But it is the 51st straight daily increase. Over that time, the average gasoline prices jumped more than 63 cents.

And the 9-year-old boy at the center of an international custody battle said that he would, quote, "Break down totally if he is sent back to live in New Jersey with his biological father." Sean Goldman apparently told his psychologists he wants to live with his stepfather in Brazil. Lawyers for the little boy just released the transcript of that conversation. Goldman was taken to Brazil by his mother. That was back in 2004 for what was supposed to be a family vacation. She divorced her husband while she was in Brazil, hung on to the child, later remarried and then died recently in childbirth.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: And those pictures and video we are looking at right now is when he was Little Sean with his father, David. He was on our show this week. And he said that he thinks what's going on is parental alienation that the stepfather and his family want to keep, you know, his son and so they are trying to turn him against his father.

ROBERTS: It's such a -- such a tough position that he's in. This Goldman fellow.

Pretty bad.

CHETRY: It's terrible. And terrible for the little boy caught in the middle of this tug of war as well. So we're going to continue to update on how this works out. Most of the court rulings have said he needs to go back to his dad.


CHETRY: All right. Well, over promising and under delivering. That's how gay rights activists are describing the Obama administration. They say that the president's order extending some benefits to same-sex partners of federal workers doesn't go far enough.

Joe Solmonese is head of the Human Rights Campaign. And he wrote a letter to the president expressing the gay community's frustration with how the administration is addressing some of the policies and the priorities. And Joe was actually standing behind the president when he announced that order last night.

Thanks for being with us this morning, Joe.



CHETRY: It's kind of a, you know, a double edge sword for you. You wrote a very passionate letter. You were there last night when he signed this. But at the same time, you don't think that this administration is going far enough. Explain your position?

SOLMONESE: Well, I think you have to really divide this into two categories. I mean, there are a number of issues that I and the community are frustrated about and are angry about from, you know, good, honorable, courageous gay and lesbian soldiers who want to serve their country and are being kicked out of the military to a lack of work place protection in this country for LGBT people. No federal response to hate crimes violence all across this country.

So those are things that we are calling on this administration to move more quickly on as well as Congress. But what the president did yesterday was begin the process to the degree that he could under the law of trying to make the nation's largest workforce, the federal government, a more equitable place for our community.

And he did what he could, and federal employees will go to work today with a greater set of protections, you know, work place discrimination, policies protecting people based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

CHETRY: Right.

SOLMONESE: Greater access to health care for their children. So there are some things that he was able to do.


CHETRY: So let's look quickly at what this signing of this memo will guarantee for the federal employees, domestic partners. They get access to long-term care insurance. They get sick leave to care for a partner and the use of Foreign Service medical facilities.

But here's what it does not include that have some people upset. It does not include health or retirement benefits, because that would take an act of Congress. And some of those benefits were already being voluntarily given out by employers.

So the administration is saying it's a first step. But do you think that they should have gone ahead and tried to get this through and made some of these issues that were talked about on the campaign trail a priority now that they're in the Oval Office. SOLMONESE: Well, I think with regard to the federal workforce, you're right, that it's a sort of a mixed bag in terms of who was enforcing those policies and who wasn't. So, clearly, the directive from the president was that all agencies should enforce those policies. But, you know, the most important part of this equation for me is the health care benefits. And the conveyance of health care benefits to federal employees. That will really complete this package of benefits.

And as you said, the way to do that is through an act of Congress. The Domestic Partner Benefits and Obligations Act is the bill and the principal sponsors of it were standing next to me behind the president last night, Senator Lieberman and Congresswoman Baldwin.

He called on Congress to give him that bill. I stayed afterwards and talk with the president and with the Congresswoman Baldwin and Senator Lieberman about getting that bill to the president's desk. That is to my way of thinking, and I think to most federal employees that you would talk to the most critical part of making the federal workforce a more equitable place to go to work everyday for our community.

CHETRY: All right. Let's talk about DOMA, that's the acronym for the Defense of Marriage Act. And there's a lot of anger in the gay community right now taking place because of a court filing by the Department of Justice last week in support -- reiterating support for the Defense of Marriage Act, which effectively bars the government from recognizing same-sex unions.

And this is what you wrote in your letter to the president. "I cannot overstate the pain we feel as human beings and as families when we read an argument presented in federal court implying that your own marriages have no more constitutional standing than incestuous ones.

So yesterday there was a rally -- I mean, there was -- people were trying to rally support about this. The Defense of Marriage Act and how this administration is handling that. That was something that was put in to place by then President Clinton. And now it seems that it's being reinforced within the Obama administration.

What read are you getting about that?

SOLMONESE: Well, you know, there has been debate among lawyers on both sides of this, about whether or not the administration even had to defend this position. More and more people are suggesting that they did have an obligation to defend the government's position. But it's the language in the defense of that position that I and so many people found so offensive and so over the line and unnecessary.

And that really is the bulk of what my letter to the president addressed was the language that was in that defense. Quite frankly, at this point, the only thing that is going to appease our community is overturning the Defense of Marriage Act.

It's the only way, really, to move beyond this situation. Now, Congress will in pretty short order introduce legislation to do this. As I said to people yesterday, it is not what the president said yesterday that matters. It is what he and Congress decide to do moving forward, and what we as a community do moving forward to push them to overturn this legislation and this discriminatory policy.

CHETRY: Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign.

Thanks for joining us this morning.

SOLMONESE: Thank you.

ROBERTS: Thirty-seven minutes now after the hour. Of course, the big story of the day continues to be Iran, and what's going to happen there with these massive protests on the streets. And what should the American response be?

Should President Obama continue to sort of talk diplomatically and cautiously as he is. Or should he, as John McCain suggested yesterday, really jump in there with a lot of criticism.

In our 8:00 a.m. hour, and that's long hours away from now, but if you're around, make sure that you tune in for this or find some way to Moorhead Kennedy. He was one of the Iran hostages not released until January 28th, 1980. He will be joining us to give us his take on all of that.

CHETRY: It's interesting because some of the rhetoric coming out of Iran right now is trying to blame America for, you know, inciting this whole, quote, "Moussavi" --


ROBERTS: Exactly. And you wonder, you know, is the White House strategy to not let the United States become a part of it, and certainly Iran seems to be trying to bring the United States in. So we're going to be talking about all of that this morning. Meantime, we'll be right back after this.


ROBERTS: Forty-one minutes after the hour. You know, a lot of commencement addresses were given this year. I happen to give one at the University of Colorado in which we said, you know, as baby- boomers, sorry for screwing up the world.

CHETRY: It's all your fault.

ROBERTS: Yes. Hope you can do a better job at it than we did.

And Christine Romans following through on all of that this morning.

Are we really the cause of America's financial ills?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: And trying to look at the numbers behind it. You know, the baby-boomers won. You're just such a huge group. So when they slow down or when they make a mistake, you know, yes, it hurt. And also, they really abandoned the frugality of their parents, you know. They simply were not frugal. Any change in their spending- buying behavior frankly affects the world.

So does this one of the reasons why we're in this big problem right now?


ROMANS (voice-over): While we're playing the blame game for the financial crisis, add baby-boomers to the list.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Blame it on the baby-boomers? You can't blame it on anybody.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's the debt caused the problem.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's going on now goes far beyond just the baby- boomers.

ROMANS: Credit crisis or not, some say we were headed for tough times even before this meltdown. Money manager Harry Dent wrote "The Great Depression Ahead".

HARRY DENT, AUTHOR, "THE GREAT DEPRESSION AHEAD": We've had this boom since the early '80s where this rising baby boom generation in increasing numbers has been earning and spending more money. We have been saying for a long time that right around this period, late in this decade that this massive generation would peak. And there's spending and productivity, and they would start to become savers.

ROMANS: 78 million Americans were born between 1946 and 1964. Dent says typically they hit a spending peak at age 46, level off at 50. And spend less the rest of their lives. The youngest boomers turned 45 this year.

Retail experts say this huge buying group is slowing down.

BRITT BEEMER, CHAIRMAN, AMERICA'S RESEARCH GROUP: This group historically has always been the buyer of big-ticket items. They were the ones that drive new car sales for years and years. They were the ones that drove people buying a second vacation home.

ROMANS: Accounting for 40 percent of consumer spending. But as boomers retire, that number will drop. The economy will stay sluggish for years, Dent said, and we should have seen it coming.

DENT: Every 40 years, this happens. The generation cycle would get major peaks in the stock market and the economy.

ROMANS: Boomer blame was the theme in some commencement addresses. The boomers abandoned the thrift of their parents and practiced the art of spending borrowed money.

Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels in a commencement address called his administration self-absorbed, self-indulgent and all too often, just plain selfish.

But some economist say don't blame boomers alone.

DIANE SWONK, CHIEF ECONOMIST, MESIROW FINANCIAL: It's not baby boomer centric. It's not centric to any one given demographic. Consumer spend within the context of the incentives they are given. And the incentive was to die in debt. And unfortunately, we're all still alive. And we owe a lot of debt now.


ROMANS: The incentive was to die in debt, but we're all still alive. Blame them or not, boomers are certainly feeling this. According to Pew Research Center Survey, 55 percent of boomers say it's likely that their income will not keep up with their cost of living.

And, John, I accept your apology.

ROBERTS: You know, for me now, I'm more worried, you know, if the money is going to run out long before the years will.

ROMANS: I know. And that's the real thing that really hurts about it, is the boomers might get a little bit of the blame here, but they certainly are feeling it more than anybody else, because they are the ones who are so close to retirement. And their parents are living longer and still alive so any of inheritance...


CHETRY: It's OK. You're children is going to help you out.

ROMANS: ...or all of that.

CHETRY: You know what, they're going to be huge success and they're going to put you up in a nice little home right next to theirs.

Yes, they have to.

ROBERTS: Monkeys might fly out.


CHETRY: One or two -- one or two is going to make it for you. Don't worry, John.

Christine, thank you. Love that.

Forty-four minutes past the hour.


CHETRY: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. I was walking in the NEWSROOM, and I heard shouting and screaming. It wasn't the usual, you know, banging the heads of the staff. It was actually an iReport that we received.

ROBERTS: There was a lot of that, too. Mostly before you came.

CHETRY: Some amazing pictures out of Nebraska. This was a tornado that was caught on tape. And one very, very animated storm chaser who drove directly toward it. Let's listen.


A.J. FABLE, TORNADO WITNESS: It is now a half mile wide. It's huge! Oh, my God. Debris coming up. We got structural damage. We got damage on this building and it is tearing this building apart. Debris in the air. It's tearing this building apart. Literally in front of my eyes.

Look at this. It is tearing this building apart!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're approaching a storm.

FABLE: I am literally 400 yards away from it. It just ripped the roof off of this building. This is truly incredible.

It is 2/17/2009. Debris is everywhere. It is huge.

Debris is in the air. You can see it swirling around. The cases of the building. I'm way too close.


ROBERTS: What's way too close?

CHETRY: I'm sorry. I'm way too close as he's driving toward it.

But, you know, I have to laugh. Remember when Rob Marciano spent a few days with the storm chasers that we're doing this.

ROBERTS: Oh, come on. You're not going to do that to him.

CHETRY: No. I'm saying I bet you they would be like, if this guy was with them, they would have booted him out after the first day.

I mean, I love it -- A.J. Fable. He was hilarious. But they would -- that would have been too much for the scientists, right?

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, that's right. You don't want to hear a man of science say, we're way too close and still be driving toward it. Nonetheless, you know --

ROBERTS: I bet you would have loved to have been there, though?

MARCIANO: And the guys and gals in Vortex 2 certainly would have loved to chase that storm. That was massive. And the National Weather Service will go out there and check out to see the damage path. Pretty populated are.


MARCIANO: Around 4,000 people in that town. And so far, no reports of injuries or fatalities.

ROBERTS: That was exciting stuff, though. Amazing.

MARCIANO: Yes. It would be exciting to be -- I don't think I would have driven that close.

But, hey, hat's off to him. The guy is making a buck selling us that video. We appreciate it.

ROBERTS: There you go.


ROBERTS: Rob, thanks so much for that.

MARCIANO: All right. You got it.

ROBERTS: Ten minutes now to the top of the hour.


ROBERTS: Out of the slums and in to the burbs. It's a dream come true for one of the young actors discovered in the Oscar-winning movie "Slum Dog Millionaire."

CHETRY: Yes. The film's producer bought his family a new home. And our Sara Sidner got a look at the new digs in Mumbai.

SARA SIDNER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Kiran, John, the two "Slum Dog Millionaire" actors have spent their whole lives living in these slums. But that is about to change -- at least for one of them.


SIDNER (voice-over): "Slum Dog Millionaire" actor Azhruddin Ismail might be famous, but he's still just a boy who needs his mom to wake him up in the morning.

Even after the big success of the movie he acted in, Azhruddin is still waking up in the slums. But not for much longer.

(on camera): How difficult is it living here?


SIDNER (voice-over): But he and fellow Slum Dog actor, Rubina Ali, who lives down the street have been offered a way out.

"After facing so many problems, we've stayed on the road and live in the mud and muck, God gives everyone something or the other," Azhruddin's mom says. They have two options.

The government has offered them a tiny 8 x 10-foot flat and the "Jai Ho" trust which was set up for the kids by the films' producers has offered to pay about $50,000 for another flat. Ishmael's family is planning to take them both. They found a home in this neighborhood and want the government flat in another.

But Rubina Ali's dad has refused the offer so far. He stop talking to the Jai Ho Foundation frustrated over the terms and the condition, and he says the government flat is too far away.

"The kind of happiness I get here I won't get in a bungalow or a big flat," he says. "I don't want to go far from here. I want to live with my people."

(on camera): Now that the families have been offered homes out of the slums, it's not a matter of whether they can live but if they want to. The truth of the matter is there's fear in change and this is home.

Are you a little bit afraid to leave?

"I feel sad leaving this place and going somewhere else," she says. I got used to my pathetic condition.


SIDNER: Azhruddin's family expects to move out in the next eight or nine days, but the drama continues with Rubina's family.



CHETRY: Sara Sidner for us. She's been bringing us these incredible reports firsthand.

I mean, shocking just to see how other people live. And also, when offer that chance to move on to a better life, they're still thinking, you know, they're not sure. She said this is home. This is people. There's a community there as well.

ROBERTS: I think it's been an amazing way to live.

CHETRY: Sure is.

CHETRY: Well, still ahead, we are covering all of the latest details coming out of Iran. We have new information this morning. New protests and rallies that are planned. And all of this still leaving us wondering what exactly is the outcome going to be. It's still up in the air this morning.

ROBERTS: Difficult to find out, too, because our access is severely restricted today. We'll tell you all about that coming up.

Fifty-five minutes after the hour.


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

We're coming up on two minutes before the top of the hour.

With the media cutoff from the uprising in Iran, protestors have found another way, from the streets to the soccer field.

Alina Cho is here with that.

What we witness yesterday, one of the world's cup qualifier game is just astounding.

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It really was. I mean, I think it's surprise, shock a lot of people.

Good morning, everybody.

You know, as thousands take to the streets and protest of last week's election there, the Iranian National Soccer Team took to the field with their own apparent message now. It happened in Seoul. Members of the Iranian team, including the captain, one of the most famous athletes in Iran, wore green wrist bands during a qualifying match for the World Cup.

Now you might say, why green? Well, many Iranians believe it was a silent show of support for the Iranian opposition leader Mir Hossein Moussavi. Now green was the color of Moussavi's campaign.

The gesture very simple. Just some green tape, wrapped around the wrist. But, of course, it spoke volumes. Iran, remember, has banned international media from covering protest but that's soccer match, it was broadcast live across Iran.

It also gave fans of the game the chance to publicly voice their opposition to the dispute election. They held signs as you see there like, "Where is my vote?" and "Free Iran."

Now remember, in addition to banning coverage of the protest, Iran has also blocked access in Iran to social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook, which Iranians have been using to get images and commentary out.

It's also worth mentioning that the team does not normally wear bands of green, and the players only wore the wristbands for the first half of the game. Reports say the team was forced to remove the green bands during half time. The matched, by the way, ended in a tie. The Iranian team was eventually eliminated.

Now, keep in mind that Iran's National Soccer Team is so closely associated with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that he recently ordered the use of his very own presidential plane to fly the team to a match in North Korea.

So to have these players wearing these colors of Ahmadinejad's chief rival Moussavi, a very big deal. Interestingly enough, Ahmadinejad, as you guys know, is a very, very big soccer fan. No word if he saw that game, though.

CHETRY: Millions of people did, though. And that's the really interesting part.

(CROSSTALK) CHO: Guessing he probably saw it, too.

CHETRY: Silent protests that spoke volumes.

Alina Cho, thanks so much.