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American Morning

More Information Flowing out of Iran, Largely by Twitter; Iran Admits Ballot Boxes Stuffed; Obama on the Hot Seat; Pivotal Time for Women in Iran

Aired June 22, 2009 - 08:00   ET


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: That brings us now to the top of the hour. Thanks for joining us in the Most News in the Morning. It's Monday. It's the 22nd of June. And I'm John Roberts.


Here's what's on morning agenda. Stories we're going to be breaking down for you in the next fifteen minutes.

Iranian state TV is reporting more than 450 people have been arrested now in violent confrontations like the one you're seeing here this weekend between protestors and Iranian security forces. Iran says that 17 people have died since the election protests began. There are, though, unconfirmed reports that the number of deaths could be as high as 150.

ROBERTS: Iran's election protest has been dubbed the Twitter revolution. Officially, the United States is on the sidelines. But we'll tell you how the military is responding to this cyber-driven revolt. We're live at the Pentagon this morning.

CHETRY: And fees on top of fees. Two airlines are about to tack $5 on to their $15 baggage fee this summer. So if you pay that at the airport check-in, that's when you're going to get that extra fee.

U.S. Airways and United announcing that they'll charge $20 a bag unless you pay the fee ahead of time online.

Our Stephanie Elam is "Minding Your Business." Coming up in the next half hour, she's going to break down what might be next in terms of these additional fees for airline travelers.

And we begin with the latest on the uprising in Iran in a stunning admission from Iran's Guardian Council, which is admitting now that ballot boxes in 50 Iranian cities were stuffed. The country's election authority, though, rejects any suggestion that these 3 million votes they're saying would have made a difference.

Defeated opposition candidate Mir Hossein Moussavi is calling on supporters to continue their protests despite these violent clashes that have been taking place with police that left at least ten protestors dead over the weekend. And we're seeing dramatic video from protestors on the front line. You can also hear the sounds of gunfire.

Listen to this.


CHETRY: In the meantime, here at home, Republicans have intensified their criticism of President Obama saying that his response to the political crisis in Iran has been too timid.


REP. MIKE PENCE (R), INDIANA: I don't believe that having the president of the United States express a word of unqualified support to the brave men and women who are risking their liberty and their lives on behalf of freedom on the streets of Iran would constitute meddling.

My thought is when president -- when Ronald Reagan went before the Brandenburg Gate, he did not say, Mr. Gorbachev, that wall is none of our business.


CHETRY: All right.

Let's turn now to our chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour. She's tracking developments from London, and has more on Iran's admission of these voting irregularities in the presidential election.

Let's listen.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Kiran, that admission of potential discrepancies with three million votes in 50 different cities in Iran from the Iranian Guardian Council comes just as an important think tank here in England. Charterhouse has put a lengthy paper describing potential irregularities in the election there on June 12th.

Iran also stepping up its criticism of foreign government, including Britain, the United States and other European governments, accusing them of interfering in internal affairs, but also of potentially leading some of the protests. Britain has issued a strong refute and rejection of that allegation.

Iran also, the foreign ministry blaming CNN and other foreign media for being involved in the protest. Again, CNN strongly rejecting such allegation.

Iranian-state media also carrying reports that Iran says it's arrested more than 400 people, including journalists since the protest began. The Iranian police chief also saying on state media that while it's equipped to put down riots and it is equipped with riot gear, it has not been given permission to use any firearms.

Now there have been reports of at least a dozen deaths, officially claimed. Perhaps many, many more according to eyewitnesses, and many eyewitnesses have blamed that on the Basij militia, the hard-line revolutionary militia, the vigilantes, who are officially unaccountable, but obviously accountable to the state.


CHETRY: Christiane Amanpour for us reporting in London on what's been going on there. And it certainly is really a critical moment that we're witnessing in history when you take a look at this.

And the interview that you did with the two Canadian brothers who were Iranian was fascinating. And when you asked, why people were out there risking their lives, he said, I don't think they're afraid anymore. I think that the fear is over.

ROBERTS: And for many of them, at least, they've gotten past that. And they say that, you know, 30 years of this and they're finally kind of breaking loose. But it does seem to be keeping some people off the streets, because the protest weren't as large yesterday as they were from previous days.

Support for the protestors in Iran could be found this weekend in streets of several major American cities. Demonstrators urging President Obama to stand with the Iranian people in Los Angeles, Atlanta, New York and Washington. Many of them wearing green, the color that's become symbolic of the campaign of Iran's opposition leader Mir Hossein Moussavi.

President Obama is taking a lot of heat from Republicans and conservatives for not being more critical of the Iranian government. And the "New York Times" citing administration's sources reports even Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would like him to take a stronger stand.

Our Jim Acosta is live in Washington this morning.

Jim, any chance that we might see some sort of modification in the president's position this week?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN GENERAL ASSIGNMENT CORRESPONDENT: I don't think so, John. And it may depend on events on the ground. If events on the ground get worst, it may see the president ramp up his rhetoric. But for now, the president appears to be standing firm and making only measured and restrained comments on the unfolding developments coming out of Iran. But some Republicans in Washington argue that approach is too hands off.


ACOSTA (voice-over): With Iran quickly becoming one of the biggest foreign policy tests of his administration, President Obama is feeling the heat in Washington where key Republicans argued the White House is being too cautious at exactly the wrong time.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: There's a monumental event going on in Iran. And, you know, the president of the United States is supposed to lead the free world, not follow it.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: And, again, it's not so much about Iran, although it certainly is at the moment, but it's also about being on the right side of history.

ACOSTA: At first, determined to keep the U.S. on the sidelines and avoid any appearance of meddling in Iranian affairs --

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is a concern to me and it's a concern to the American people. That is not how governments should interact with their people.

ACOSTA: The president is now dialing up his rhetoric on the violent backlash against protestors in Iran. Mr. Obama said in a statement over the weekend, "We call on the Iranian government to stop all violent and unjust actions against its own people."

He only had to look out his windows at the pro-democracy demonstrators gathered outside the White House to note how the issue has come home.

But President Obama has his defenders, ranging from conservatives, Henry Kissinger and Pat Buchanan to congressional Democrats who say an aggressive stance against the Iranian government would have tainted the protestors in the streets as American tools.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (R), CALIFORNIA: It is very crucial as I see that we not have our fingerprints on this. That this really be a truly inspired by the Iranian people. We don't know where this goes. And I sure wouldn't want to be responsible for thousands of people being killed, which is a distinct possibility.

ACOSTA: Even GOP elder statesman Richard Lugar warns that the U.S. has no choice but to engage Iran diplomatically in the future no matter how the current standoff is settled.

SEN. RICHARD LUGAR (R), INDIANA: We would sit down because our objective is to eliminate the nuclear program that is in Iran.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Even though -- even though, they are shooting people in the streets and beating people in the streets and arresting political opponents.

LUGAR: Yes. In order to have any kind of a relationship when you'd be able to talk to people, hear from people, argue with people.


ACOSTA: But other Republicans have noted even leaders in Europe have taken a much tougher stance in Iran. Just over the weekend, French President Nicholas Sarkozy called the elections a fraud and described Iran's crackdown as brutal and inexcusable.

John, some Republicans calling the president more European than the European leaders, at least in their response to what's happening in Iran right now.


ROBERTS: And looking too, Jim, at an urgent that just crossed from the AFP, it says, Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard Corps threatened Monday that it would meet any further protests against the presidential election with a, quote, "revolutionary and decisive repost." So we'll see what happens on the streets today.

Jim Acosta for us this morning.

Jim, thanks so much.

ACOSTA: You bet.

CHETRY: A story that certainly captured the attention of many of our viewers who have been watching all of this unfold. You guys have a lot to say about the situation in Iran.

Here's a sample of what's been coming in to our A.M. show hotline.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (via telephone): I'm an Iranian-American, and I'm really surprised that our president is not supporting the Iranian people who are suffering. They want freedom. That's all they're asking for. Freedom. Why can't we help them?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (via telephone): I'm not quite sure what makes Americans think that they have the right to comment or interfere in the actions of sovereign nations all around the world. We had no business invading Iraq, we had no business deposing their leader, and we have no business meddling in the election affairs of other countries.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (via telephone): We can't even run our own election rights. So we should stay out of Iran's. Here in Minnesota, we still don't have a senator that we elected.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (via telephone): Have we forgotten this is the country that took our people hostage for more than a year? We need to pay attention to the dangers and the insanities that come from places like this.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (via telephone): Plain and simple, the United States needs to mind its own business and take care of their own, and not worry about everyone else.


CHETRY: A lot of differing opinions this morning, but some very intense ones.

Thanks for the calls.

By the way, if you'd like to weigh in, we listen to these every day, 877-my-amfix. It's 877-692-6349.

We try to get a good mix of them and try to get as many as possible on the air.

Still ahead, just how pivotal a moment in history is this for the women of Iran?

We have Julie Menin of the DNC Women's Leadership Forum. She's going to be joining us next to weigh in.


CHETRY: All right. Well, we're looking right now at the images that continue to come in to us. Protests in Iran. It's really hard to miss, though, the number of women taking part in the demonstrations. Iran has a highly educated population. Women making up 65 percent of university students. And in this particular situation, post-election, many are asking will this be a pivotal moment in history for the women of Iran?

Our next guest says it is a situation that we certainly cannot afford to ignore.

Julie Menin is a member of the Democrat National Committee Women's Leadership Forum. She wrote a very interesting essay on this issue on the and she also hosts a show "Give and Take" that airs on the local NBC affiliate here in New York.

Thanks for being with us this morning, Julie.


It's interesting, in the piece that you wrote on Huff Post, you were critical of the administration saying that perhaps we do need to do more or at least say more about what's going on in Iran.

Why is that so crucial?

MENIN: Well, that's exactly right. When President Obama said last week, he equated Ahmadinejad with Moussavi and said that there's really no practical import or difference between the two, I don't agree with that at all.

Moussavi conducted an incredible campaign on women's right. He talked about eradicating the morality police, which currently terrorize the streets of Tehran and arrests women who are not appropriately dressed. He also talked about eradicating some of the very oppressive laws that affect women in Iran.

We have to remember that for women in Iran, they are truly second- class citizens. They don't have the right to work unless their husband permits it. They don't have the right to travel or even carry a passport unless their husband permits it. And also polygamy is legal in Iran, so men can have up to four wives. So it's hard for us in America to understand how severe the situation is for women's rights in Iran.

CHETRY: The other interesting thing when you talked about the administration, because we have been talking about the criticism coming from more conservative circles, but also from Democrats themselves about how the administration should be responding to this. Another very interesting point that was brought up is the fact that, you know, they're acquainting Moussavi's wife with the Michelle Obama of Iran.

MENIN: Right.

CHETRY: We, of course, know what an influential first lady we have right now, who is a strong woman in her own right.

MENIN: Exactly.

CHETRY: And then to sort of juxtapose that with what our role should be, not wanting to meddle, but to say, we understand and we're hoping for more freedom.

How do you balance that?

MENIN: Well, that's exactly right. I don't think it's meddling for the president of the United States to say we absolutely empathize on the side of these protestors.

We have to remember that England and France came out right away with very strong statements. Even France, even Sarkozy, came out with a strong statement condemning the elections and supporting the protestors. And it's imperative for the United States to do that.

I think the best parallel in history we can look at is 1956 in Hungary when the United States basically supported a revolution against the Soviets, and then when the Hungarians did that, the U.S. stood by and did not act, and failed to act and the Soviets crushed the protests. And that's what I fear we're going to see here. And we're missing a historic opportunity. We don't want 2009 to be viewed in that kind of lens.

CHETRY: And, of course, somebody that's become the tragic face of the protesting is this young woman, Neda, I think, that, again, we are going to show some video of this because it really -- you have to see it as heart breaking as it is. If you have kids in the room, just a warning.

But she was a young philosophy student who was apparently shot while she was protesting. She was out with her father. And her name means "the voice" or "calling" in Farsi.

And she's certainly become this figure, they're actually having a memorial for her. They want to protest and they want to go out in the streets in her memory. She's really become a martyr.

What does it mean when we're starting to see women take on these key roles? And what's happening post-election?

MENIN: That's exactly right. First of all, she's a hero. And all of these women who are protesting are really courageous heroes. They are putting their lives on the line each and every day for women's rights and to try to fight the oppression of women in Iran. And she is someone, who I think will be held up for martyrdom for many, many years to come.

We have to remember that yesterday, in looking at the protest, many of the women were condemning their male compatriots calling them cowards for running away from the military police. So it's really women who are at the forefront of these protests.

CHETRY: This is the other interesting thing. A Gallop Poll came out in 2007 showed that 3 in 4 Iranians agreed women should be allowed to hold leadership positions in the cabinet in the National Council. Be able to hold jobs outside the home. Again, these are things that we take for granted here in the United States.

MENIN: Exactly.

CHETRY: But by comparison, they said that they agreed for this. By comparison, other Islamic countries don't necessarily agree, but their women do have more rights. It's an odd juxtaposition. Also, when you look at the education of Iranian women. How has that been able to happen for so long?

MENIN: Well, that's exactly right. I mean, if you look at a country like Afghanistan where the Taliban crackdown on women having an education and you compare that to Tehran where women actually are promoted to have an education, it is a very strange anomaly.

Because, yes, women have an education. As you'd point out, 65 percent of all women in the universities are composed of women. But really the main point is that these women cannot hold the kind of jobs they want to have. They cannot be judges and preside of a trial. They cannot hold cabinet positions. And, literally, they cannot work unless their husbands allow them to. I mean, that is true repression in its purest form.

CHETRY: And might we see this change with everything that's been going on with this protest. Might we see a change regardless of whether it's Moussavi or Ahmadinejad that just a cultural change?

MENIN: Absolutely. What these protests are all about is change. It's women and young people who are fighting against the regime. We have to remember that in event 3/5 of the population is under the age of 35. It is really a young people and a women's movement. And I do hope that by seeing this women and young people on the streets, risking their lives each and everyday, it is hopefully going to lead to change.

CHETRY: Julie Menin, great to talk to you and get your perspective. Appreciate it.

MENIN: Thank you.

CHETRY: Thanks for coming down.

MENIN: Thanks.

ROBERTS: Of course, Kiran and Julie were talking about Neda, that philosophy student who was killed in Tehran over the weekend. Students are big part of the demonstrations there.

And coming up next on the Most News in the Morning, we're going to go to Iran to talk with a student who has been involved in those demonstrations. A student who claims that he was beaten by the appellant paramilitary siege during one of the demonstrations. We'll get his view on what's going on today and where this is all headed according to the youth movement there.

20-1/2 minutes now after the hour.


ROBERTS: It's coming up now on 23 minutes after the hour.

Joining us on the phone is an Iranian student who we can only identify for safety reasons by his first name, Mohammed. He has been a part of the protest. He's also been a target of the violence. Mohammed is with us.

Can you tell us because it's been difficult, Mohammed, getting information from the ground there in Tehran today. What is the scene like on the streets? Are there more demonstrators out there on the streets? Or is it much quieter than it has been in recent days?

MOHAMMED, STUDENT DEMONSTRATOR (via telephone): Hello, actually, I approximated on Saturday's demonstrations on central parts of Tehran. What I saw, I saw thousands of security officers that tried to break up the crowd. They used canisters and batons and water cannons against us. They attacked us. And we also in response attacked them. We attacked them by throwing the stones. And we build trenches in the streets, and actually really defended, too.

ROBERTS: Right. So there was quite a large confrontation going in there over the weekend. But can you tell us what the scene is like on the streets today?

MOHAMMED: Actually, yesterday -- today was a long day in Tehran. And yesterday, there wasn't any organized rallies in Tehran, because we take orders from our leader, Mr. Karubi, Mr. Hossein Moussavi. The connections, the communication is very difficult, more than even you can imagine in Tehran. But I, myself, haven't received any orders from our leaders yet. But as soon as I get any order, I will participate in any demonstration that they tell us.

CHETRY: And Mohammed, this is Kiran here as well with John.

When you say receiving orders, tell us how the protests are organized. How you guys are sort of called to go and where.

MOHAMMED: Actually, I'm a regular person. I'm not behind the scenes. I cannot tell you exactly how these demonstrations are organized. But as I know, as people said, there is a council, there is a group of Iranians reformists who organize these demonstrations and they tell us in any way that they could and we just follow.

CHETRY: Right. No, what I mean is like, do you get it on your cell phone, text messages. Are you able to use the Internet?

MOHAMMED: Actually, they reduce the Internet speed. And we have severe problems with the messenger software and every software like messenger. (INAUDIBLE) by making calls, friend, messages, calls to his friends or her friends and try to gather as much to tell as he or she can.

ROBERTS: Mohammed, we have been talking this morning sort of about what the students are fighting for, and whether the students are fighting for something different than the older, more established political candidates like Moussavi are.

Are the students seeking regime change? Are they looking to bring down the Ayatollah and completely change the form of government there in Iran? Or are you looking for, as has been suggested, more civil rights, more freedoms within the context of the existing regime.

MOHAMMED: Yes. Let me tell you something. For about three decades, our nation has been insulted by this regime. Now Iranians are united again one more time after 1979 revolution. We are peaceful nation. We don't hate anybody. We want to be an active member of international community. We don't want to be isolated. Is it much of a demand for a country with more than 2,500 civilizations. We don't deny holocaust. We do accept Israel's rights. And actually, we want -- we want severe reform on this structure. This structure is not going to be tolerated by the majority of Iranians. We need severe reform as much as possible.

ROBERTS: Interesting perspective this morning from Mohammed, a student demonstrator there in Tehran.

MOHAMMED: And finally --

ROBERTS: Yes, go ahead.

MOHAMMED: Excuse me, sir. I have a message. I have a message, international committee. Will you let me tell it?

ROBERTS: Yes, go ahead.


MOHAMMED: OK, Americans, European Union, international community, this government is not definitely -- is definitely not elected by the majority of Iranians. So it's illegal. Do not recognize it. Stop trading with them, impose much more sanctions against them.

My other message to international community, especially on President Obama directly. How government that doesn't recognize its people's rights and oppress them brutally and mercilessly can have nuclear activities. This government is a huge streak to global peace. (INAUDIBLE) to insane person. We need your help international community. Don't leave us alone.

ROBERTS: All right.

CHETRY: Mohammed, what do you think that the international community should do besides sanctions? MOHAMMED: Actually, this regime is really dependent on importing gasoline, more than 85 percent of the Iran's gasoline is imported from the foreign countries. I think international communities must sanction exporting gasoline to Iran and that might shut down the government.

ROBERTS: OK. Again, perspective from inside Tehran from Mohammed. A student who's been involved in the demonstrations, and a plea from Mohammed this morning for the international community to do more to support their movement.

CHETRY: Yes. Powerful message. Thanks for that perspective. It's a very unique one and one that we're lucky to get this morning.

Twenty-nine minutes past the hour.


ROBERTS: Thirty minutes past the hour now, and checking our top stories.

A Canadian journalist working for "Newsweek" magazine has been taken into custody in Iran. "Newsweek" says Maziar Bahari and his computer and videotapes were all seized, too. The magazine is demanding Iranian leaders release him immediately. The AP reports at least 24 journalists and bloggers have been arrested since protests began last week.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: And a major test of how far the U.S. will go to stop North Korea. Right now, a U.S. destroyer is tracking a North Korean ship. This is a ship that's suspected of carrying elicit weapons believed to be headed to Myanmar.

Yesterday, Senator John McCain said that we should board this North Korean vessel if there's hard evidence that the north is moving missiles or weapons technology and North Korea saying that would be an act of war. Defense chief Robert Gates ordering additional missile defense installments in Hawaii as a precaution in case North Korea fires another missile.

ROBERTS: Well, this year's hurricane season has its first named storm. Tropical storm Andres came together off the coast of Mexico. Much of that country now under a tropical storm warning. And forecasters say the storm could dump heavy rains across southwestern Mexico for the next two days.

CHETRY: With the news media black out imposed by Iran's government, we've been getting incredible pictures and video from Iranians on the frontlines of the protests and we want you to see and hear these images just as they came to us. In some, like this one, you could hear the sound of gunfire in the streets, you could hear people screaming and shouting. Here's a little bit of it.


What's happening in Iran has been dubbed a twitter revolution. And while the U.S. is officially on the sidelines, the top brass at the Pentagon and the State Department are responding to that. CNN's Barbara Starr joins us from the Pentagon this morning. How are they responding, Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Kiran. Here at the Pentagon, the State Department across Washington, officials are struggling to understand what social networking is all about. But when they look at Iran, they are seeing the real power of the street.


STARR (voice-over): It's being called the twitter revolution. A protest of Iran's election outcome. Iranians using twitter, youtube, texting, cell phone videos, any social media they can to mobilize and tell the world what's happening in their country. It's a communications revolution with global implications for repressive government trying to control the internet and social networking.

ROBERT GATES, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: They just can't draw the net tight enough to stop everything.

STARR: What's unique here in defiance, young computer savvy Iranians are finding alternate online routes to get around their government's fire walls and filters.

VOICE OF RICARDO REYES, DIR. OF COMMUNICATIONS, YOUTUBE: And people are getting around it. And these youtube logos represent videos uploaded from Tehran.

HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: The use of twitter is a very important one, not only to the Iranian people, but now increasingly to people around the world and most particularly young people.

STARR: Gates and Clinton know it's a young person's communications revolution.

CLINTON: I wouldn't know a twitter from a tweeter, but apparently it is very important.

GATES: My guess is some of these countries that the leadership is kind of like me. I don't have a clue what it's about.

STARR: But Gates is serious about understanding the new freedom of communication where millions of young people in their 20s and 30s are communicating faster than the U.S. military can react.

GATES: How do we reach them in a way that they understand? And this department, I think, is way behind the power curve in this. And that scenario where I think we have a lot of room for improvement.


STARR: And you know, Kiran, we're even seeing it today, the Iranian regime trying to crack down, trying to shut off those paths of communication. But still, many young Iranians getting the word out via any media they can. Kiran?

CHETRY: And we just heard from Mohammed when he called in as well, talking about how difficult it is even as they try to slow the bandwidth and try to slow down the internet access in Iran, but they're trying nonetheless to get the word out. Barbara Starr for us at the Pentagon. Thanks.

ROBERTS: And of course, we want to hear what you think of Barbara Starr's story and anything else that's on your mind for that matter, call our show hotline 877-MYAMFIX. We're going to take a short little break. We're going to continue our coverage, of course, of the Iran crisis.

We've got something else to talk about this morning, as well. You know how airlines charge you for just about anything these days? Well, they're finding other sneaky ways to make money, too. Like, how would you like to pay extra for an exit-row seat? Stephanie Elam with all of the ways that they're trying to get you for money, coming right up. 35 1/2 minutes after the hour.



ROBERTS: Yes, you just can't look. Really, there is no bright side to the weather in New York.

CHETRY: We need --

ROBERTS: Mr. Brightside, Mrs. Brightside, no Miss Brightside, no new nothing. Cloudy and 67 right now. Later on today, showers and a high of 76. But if you live in New York, you're used to that, right, so it doesn't matter. Forget about it. The weather's going to be lousy all week long.

CHETRY: Maybe you should get in a plane and fly somewhere where it's sunny, if you can afford it?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: If you can afford it. That's the catch right there.

ROBERTS: If you can afford all those little thrills -

CHETRY: Right.

ELAM: Maybe you can afford the ticket, but then by the time you get on the plane just get off the plane, you realize that you maybe $25 lighter in the wallet. Let's take a look at what we're talking about here. It seems airlines have found ways to make money even though they're not raising fares. That's not the way they're doing it now. They're just basically nickel and dimming you all the way through the friendly skies as it were in this case. Because after those oil prices, gas prices skyrocketed last summer, they've taken a look at it, people were resisting that, they weren't buying plane tickets. Hey, you know, what, you can fly, but we're going to charge you for that pillow and that blanket. So let's take a look at some of the ways that they're making money. Starting. Off with Legion Air. They are a small carrier but they are charging a convenience fee if you book on-line of $13.50. Also, which, by the way is how most people want to do it. Take a look at Air Tran, if you want that extra row seat, extra leg room there, you know, for our friends who are six feet tall and higher, I guess that will be very important. $20 more to do that, and if you want to book your travel in person or by phone many airlines it'll cost you between $10 and $45 to do that. Don't forget about checking a bag, if you check a bag, you'll probably going to pay for that. And if you want to do it at the airport, you're probably going to pay even more because you're doing it there. So it's a fee on top of a fee. So they're working out these ways to make this happen.

And just to give you an idea of how much money this is making the airlines. United Airlines in the first quarter of this year made about $259 million just in fees, just in the revenues that they got.

ROBERTS: In the quarter?

ELAM: Just in the first quarter. So we're talking about probably $1 billion they'll make this year just off these fees.

ROBERTS: So how much money would they be losing if they didn't have these fees?

ELAM: It's - well I guess that's the issue that they point out and why they'll probably not going to go away and if one airline picks up one and it's six, the rest of them tend to do that as well.

ROBERTS: How much money would they be losing if they didn't have these?

ELAM: That's the issue that they point out and why they'll probably not going to go away. And if one airline picks up one and it sticks, the rest of them tend to do that, as well.

ROBERTS: I would love to stop flying.

ELAM: Would you? Teleporting would be great.

ROBERTS: It would be. It would be good.

ELAM: Yes. Work on that.

ROBERTS: I saw "Star Trek" over the weekend and -

ELAM: (inaudible) movie. See if you can get that technology -

CHETRY: The "Situation Room" (inaudible)

ELAM: Yes, that's true. The "Situation Room."

ROBERTS: By the way, in your 6:00 a.m. appearance you were suggesting that we were ballers -

ELAM: No, you. You're the baller.

ROBERTS: I'm the baller which I looked up in the urban dictionary and that's any thug that's living large.

CHETRY: There you go.

ELAM: That's not exactly quite the way I meant it, but I feel like I should be able to mingle between both of them. But I will refrain from calling you something else.

CHETRY: Really also it can mean, which is the part we chose to pick, is that somebody who is just like a successful ball player, is nimble, can make his way out of court -

ROBERTS: Somebody who has got game.


ELAM: Game, has access, working with teammates.

ROBERTS: I may have game, but it's certainly not basketball. I am like the embodiment of the term white men can't jump.

CHETRY: Stop calling him the baller, I call him the biker.

ELAM: Right. Exactly, we will call him baller. See, Kiran and I are from the same era, went to school in the same town, just about. So you know, we related on that one.

CHETRY: We know ballers.

ELAM: Yes. Oh, I know ballers.

ROBERTS: Yes, I went to school in the (inaudible) period. So -

ELAM: He's not letting this go.

ROBERTS: That's it. Minding you Business this morning.

CHETRY: The urban dictionary always comes in handy on this show.

All right. Thanks so much, Stephanie. Appreciate it. Still ahead, the harrowing rescue. This reporter that was stuck for seven months under Taliban's thumb, made his way out. How did he do it? And what happens now? 42 minutes past the hour.


CHETRY: Welcome back to the most news in the morning. We've been getting a lot of reaction,, as well as our own home page, A lot of people really touched by the story of Neda. She was the young philosophy student who really became a martyr when she was gunned down on the streets while protesting. She ended up dying in her father's arms. A lot of people have been writing in about it saying thank you for keeping her name alive. Rest in peace. Others talking about just how difficult it is to see it. Such a sad story, but thanks for reporting it. Others saying it's literally nauseating to watch the video, but you have to have these accounts out there. And so we thank people for weighing in this morning on twitter. Also we talked to Mohammed who was somebody who went to these protests, as well. And we're talking about the difficulty in being out there and the risk that everybody who is protesting knows to their life and another one of our tweeters wrote good phone interview with the Iranian men. It was the most interesting in days, nice work. So I think people really want to hear and know more about the stories from the people that are actually living it in Iran right now.

ROBERTS: Yes, definitely with trying to clamp down on so much information to hear from somebody who has actually participated in this protest. It's very interesting.

CHETRY: All right. We look forward to continuing to hear from you. Meanwhile we're following developments in Iran literally moment by moment this morning through our own people on the ground and i-reports that continue to flow in. We'll return to that in a moment. First, it's another story that will have people talking today.

He may have thought it was now or never. "New York Times" reporter David Rohde is free this morning after a desperate and daring escape from the Taliban. He'd been held for seven months in north western Pakistan. Our senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson join us live from Islamabad with more on exactly how he was able to make this escape, but certainly a daring one, Nick.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It certainly was a daring one, because he'd been held captive by the Taliban for about seven months. He was with Taja Ludin, his Afghan assistant, and it came a point when they realized they had an opportunity out of the compound and get away from the Taliban. They jumped over the wall. Mr. Ludin hurt his ankle in so doing, but what is quite amazing about this is that the pair of them were captured along with their driver in Afghanistan and taken by the Taliban a little while later across the border into Pakistan where clearly the Taliban thought it was much easier and safer for them to keep these men hostage and kidnapped there.

And we've heard here from the Pakistani military have told us that one of their soldiers found the two men in north Waziristan, right close to the border of Afghanistan, took them to a Pakistani military base, over there, the base then took them here to the capital, Islamabad and handed over to U.S. officials and the two men flown back to Afghanistan to the big U.S. military base at Bagram before David Rohde was able to leave the region and be reunited with his wife. Of course, all of this, a terribly trying time for his family and for his employers, the "New York Times." Kiran.

CHETRY: Certainly was no doubt. Nic Robertson this morning from Islamabad, thank you.

ROBERTS: So where's about the last place you'd expect to find E. coli bacteria. How about cookie dough? Well, some people have been made sick because they've been eating raw cookie dough that's contaminated with E. coli. It has led to a recall. Elizabeth Cohen, our senior medical correspondent joins us, coming up in just a second to tell you more about all of this. It's 48 minutes after the hour.


ROBERTS: Well, after a rather unusually cool spring, hotlanta, living up to its name over the last couple of days. Partly cloudy and 77 there. Later on today, isolated thunderstorms, and a high of 91. I guess with the humid yesterday, the temperature touched 100, maybe a little more than that yesterday.

Some people love it so much, they can't even wait to bake it before they eat it. And now investigators from the Food and Drug Administration are trying to find out whether Nestle's refrigerated cookie dough is the source of an E. coli outbreak. They took lab samples over the weekend. And from a Virginia food plant, Nestle voluntarily recalled their cookie dough products on Friday and customers are being advised to throw them in the trash. Let's go to the CNN Center in Atlanta where CNN's senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen has been following the story all weekend. How many people sick now, Elizabeth

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John, we're talking about a lot of people. We're talking about 65 people ill in 29 states, and 25 of those people have been hospitalized. Now, it's interesting that all of the people who are sick or 70 percent rather are under the age of 19. And most of them women. And the FDA was in Nestle facilities this weekend taking samples. They're trying to figure out how did this happen? E. coli is something that lives in the intestines of animals like cows. And they're trying to figure out how in the world it might possibly have gotten into cookie dough.

Now, let's take a look at what Nestle has to say about this. They put out a statement recently that said Nestle Toll House cookies made from refrigerated and frozen dough were perfectly safe for consumption when prepared according to instructions on the label which clearly state that the raw dough must be baked before consumption. Now, the FDA is saying if you have these products in your fridge because sometimes people buy them and freeze them and use them later, get rid of them. Do not eat these Nestle cookie dough products. John.

ROBERTS: Yes. Cookie dough are popular indulgence for many people, even it's an ingredient in some ice creams. But in the overall raw cake batter, raw cookie batter, is it a health risk to eat?

COHEN: You know, it's interesting, because when you make it home, you're making cookie dough when you're cracking eggs in there, you should never lick the spoon when you're making it at home because you have raw eggs in there. Now the eggs are pasteurized in commercial products, but still, many of those products like the Nestle products will clearly say do not eat raw, you must cook first.

ROBERTS: Any theories on where a bacteria that lives in the intestines of animals got into cookie dough? We've seen it in spinach, but that's, you know, typically runoff from a farm or fertilizers. Is there any theory on how this got into cookie dough?

COHEN: You know, two thoughts here, John, one is look at how it got into peanut butter. What's going on there, if you remember that outbreak a while back is that it was something that was in the factory. It was on the machinery, it somehow was part of the processing plant. And that's how it got into peanut butter. But I do want to note, no one has actually found E. coli in a Nestle product yet. What they have found is that people who ate Nestle cookie dough raw got sick. So I just want to make that clear.

ROBERTS: All right. Elizabeth Cohen for us this morning. Elizabeth, thanks so much.

COHEN: Thanks.

ROBERTS: 54 minutes now after the hour.



CHETRY: We talked about melding songs together, that could also be "Men in Black." I think that movie (inaudible) "Staying Alive" beat.

ROBERTS: Good, yes. Definitely.

CHETRY: It's the stuff we talk about during the breaks. 56 past the hour right now. Mostly cloudy, 68 degrees a little bit later, cloudy and 85. Hey, well the sun is now shining on the White House. We should enjoy it, right?

New this morning, an iPhone becomes exhibit A in a lawsuit against the TSA. A man claimed that agents harassed him while they held him at the airport because he was carrying too much money. Even though carrying too much money isn't a crime.

Homeland Security correspondent Jeanne Meserve picks it up from there, live in Washington. And as we told you the last time, we we're fascinated by this story. It's like they picked the wrong guy to pick on, if you know what I mean.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Exactly, and now the American Civil Liberties Union is suing the Secretary of Homeland Security over what it calls unlawful searches and detentions at the airports. And as you say the potential evidence is an audio recording of TSA screeners.


MESERVE (voice-over): This iPhone captured the conversation between the Transportation Security Administration agent and a passenger.

TSA OFFICER: I'm just trying to ask some questions to figure out what this is all about so I can get you on your plane. But you want to play smart ass, and I'm not going to play your (expletive) game. MESERVE: The agent was talking to Steve Bierfeldt. He works for the Campaign for Liberty, an upgrowth of the Ron Paul presidential campaign which promotes the constitutional rights. Bierfeldt was flying out of St. Louis when screeners saw this cash box in his carry on. At the time it contained $4,700, proceeds from the sale of political items.

Although there are no restrictions on carrying large sums of money on flights within the U.S., the T.S.A. detained Bierfeldt and along with other law enforcement agencies questioned him for almost half an hour, and appeared to threaten him with arrest, unaware the phone in Bierfeldt's pocket was capturing every word.

OFFICER: The question is why do you have this money? That's the major question.

STEVE BIERFELDT, AIRLINE PASSENGER: Yes, sir. I'm asking whether I'm legally required to answer that question.

OFFCIER: Answer that question first. Why do you have this money?

BIERFELDT: Am I legally required to answer the question?

OFFICER: So you refuse to answer that question?

BIERFELDT: No sir, I'm not refusing.

OFFICER: Well, you're not answering.

BIERFELDT: I'm simply asking my rights under the law.

Swearing at me, cursing at me, threatening to handcuff me. Take me to the DEA and the FBI. Just the inconvenience. No, it wasn't worth the (inaudible) at all.

MESERVE: The TSA says the agent has been disciplined for using inappropriate tone and language but said in a statement "a passenger who refuses to answer questions may be referred to appropriate authorities for further inquiry." The ACLU says Bierfeldt did not refuse to answer questions and his detention and questioning violated constitutional protections against unlawful search.

LARRY SCHWARTZTOL, AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION: TSA believes its passenger screening is an opportunity to engage in free wheeling law enforcement investigation that have no length to protecting flight safety.


MESERVE: The ACLU and Bierfeldt believes that this incident is reflective of a much large problem but this passenger happened to be carrying a pocket copy of the U.S. constitution and the latest technology. Kiran.

CHETRY: Jeanne Meserve for us this morning, thanks so much. ROBERTS: By the way, we're going to be following the developments coming out of Iran all day today. We've got our network up and running to collect as much information as we possibly can on the ground there, getting it out via the internet, as well. And we invite you to continue the conversation on today's stories, go to our blog at That's going to wrap it up for us. But the news continues, thanks for joining us on this AMERICAN MORNING. We'll see you back here again tomorrow.

CHETRY: Yes. Thanks so much for being with us. And right now, here's CNN NEWSROOM with T.J. Holmes.