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American Morning

Obama Toughens Stance on Iran, Condemns Crackdown; Iran's Government Extends Deadline for Election Review; NTSB Focuses on Computer Failure on D.C. Train Crash; Fly Clear Program Shuts Down; Woman With Cancer Fights Insurance Company Over Policy Rescission; Swedish Ambassador Meets Lee and Ling; Major Change in Federal College Forms, Buzz Aldrin Has New Book Out

Aired June 24, 2009 - 06:00   ET


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome, glad you're with us. It's about a minute before 6:00 here in New York on this Wednesday, June 24th. I'm Kiran Chetry.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning to you, I'm John Roberts. Here is what's on the agenda this morning, the big stories that we'll be breaking down for you in the next 15 minutes.

President Obama stepping up his criticism of Iran, saying the U.S. and the world are appalled by the Iranian government's crackdown on protesters. Republicans are reacting to his remarks. We're going to go live to the White House for that this morning.

CHETRY: And investigators are still gathering clues to try to find out what caused the deadliest train crash Washington, D.C. has ever seen. Nine people killed. And there are some serious questions this morning, one, about the fitness of that train, should it have even been running, its brakes, and also the computer that runs the entire D.C. Metro system.

We're going to be asking those questions when we speak live to the lead NTSB investigator, Debbie Hersman, in just a few moments.

And the mysterious disappearance of South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford taking yet another strange turn. Was Sanford actually hiking the Appalachian Trail, or was he somewhere else entirely? We'll find out.

CHETRY: First, though, this morning, President Obama talking tough on Iran. He's now calling the bloody crackdown in the streets of Tehran "an outrage." And this is his strongest language yet. He's also calling into question the results of the presidential election in Iran.

CNN's Suzanne Malveaux is live for us at the White House. And, Suzanne, some are asking whether or not the president's changing his tone perhaps being a little bit more harsh on Iran because critics have been saying he's been too soft.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, President Obama definitely hardened his position against the Iranian regime. He was asked whether or not this was in response to some conservatives who had been criticizing him, urging him to use tougher language.

The president in the press conference yesterday actually laughed and said, no, that that wasn't the case. But he did say that it was in response to what he had been seeing in the streets, on the ground inside of Iran.


MALVEAUX (voice-over): Tough new language from President Obama on Iran's crackdown on demonstrators.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The United States and the international community have been appalled and outraged by the threats, the beatings and imprisonments of the last few days. I strongly condemn these unjust actions.

MALVEAUX: The president denied that his remarks were any different, following criticism from some Republicans who accused him of being soft on the Iranian regime.

OBAMA: We've been very consistent the first day, and we're going to continue to be consistent in saying this is not an issue about the United States.

MALVEAUX: Mr. Obama specifically dismissed criticism from his former presidential challenger, John McCain.

OBAMA: I think that all of us share a belief that we want justice to prevail. But only I'm the president of the United States.

MALVEAUX: And as president, Mr. Obama did weigh in on Iran's elections.

OBAMA: There is significant questions about the legitimacy of the election.

MALVEAUX: Mr. Obama also got emotional over the video of Neda, a demonstrator apparently killed on the street, who has become a symbol of the Iranian protest movement.

(on camera): Have you seen this video?

OBAMA: I have.

MALVEAUX: What's your reaction?

OBAMA: It's heartbreaking. It's heartbreaking, and I think that anybody who sees it knows that there's something fundamentally unjust about that.


MALVEAUX: And, Kiran, the president admitted that the administration essentially is in a holding pattern here. They are waiting to see what is going to come out of the elections in Iran. They are not changing their policy regarding nuclear talks, but as one senior administration official put it, that is certainly at the moment on ice.

CHETRY: And just a little side note, it was supposed to be his first Rose Garden news conference, what happened?

MALVEAUX: Well it was pretty hot in D.C., so they said they were going to move it inside to the briefing room. There were some logistical issues as well. So one of my producers actually handled much of that while we were -- it was quite amazing, Kiran, because it was jam-packed inside that briefing room. Obviously, a lot of people in that small little space.

It was first press conference in the briefing room. It would have been his first in the Rose Garden. We're kind of hoping for a Rose Garden one next time.

CHETRY: Right. You'll take the humidity over being crammed. Suzanne Malveaux for us this morning, thanks so much.

Meanwhile, Republicans and conservatives have been pretty critical of the president for not taking a stronger stand against Iran. And as you heard from Suzanne, John McCain has been leading that charge. The Arizona senator appeared last night on CNN's "LARRY KING LIVE" and he was asked if the president's remarks went far enough.


LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": All right, Senator, you said that Mr. Obama's response has not been enough. Was today enough?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Well, I think it was very important what the president said today. And I appreciate it. I'm not sure the president still appreciates that with a regime that is illegitimate, that beats and kills its citizens on the streets of its cities, that your fundamental relationship is very -- makes it very difficult to do any serious negotiations. I don't think the president quite understands that, but I appreciate his words.


CHETRY: He went on to say that he would like to see the president push for new sanctions against Iran -- John.

ROBERTS: President Obama's tough tone in Iran is getting plenty of reaction from you on our show hotline at 877-MY-AMFIX. Here's some of what you're saying.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (via telephone): War-hungry John McCain and the Republicans need to stop looking for more trouble where there doesn't need to be any.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (via telephone): I think the president is doing the right thing. I don't think we should get involved with another country's election results. We certainly can feel for them and what they're going through, but we have to stand back at this point.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (via telephone): Maybe let Iran, you know, fix it for themselves. We don't end up being in another foreign country fighting a war that's really not ours again.


ROBERTS: Meantime in Iran, this new video just in to CNN. Iranians are learning that their government is extending a deadline for the Guardian Council to finish its review of the presidential election. The chief of the council says its group needs more time to make sure that the examination of the election is "meticulous."

Our chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour is following developments for us from London this morning. So what should we make of this latest declaration by the Guardian Council?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, according to my sources, probably not very much. From the first day of the dispute, very informed sources told me that police don't have any doubt this election result will not be changed. And already the Iranian parliament and authorities are making plans for the inauguration of President Ahmadinejad.

So I think they perhaps are going through the motions. According to the Web site of one of the candidates, the conservative Mohsen Rezai, former head of the Revolutionary Guard, he has now taken away his complaints and is no longer challenging the results.

On the issue of the killing of Neda, the Iranian Farsi (ph) news agency is saying that they're investigating that and that so far, they have come up with contraband firearms having been used. That's what they say their investigation has come up with. That it was either a terrorist or some kind of smuggler and they're trying to figure out exactly what that is.

Then also we're hearing, I'm hearing from my sources, that the crackdown is intensifying in terms of the intelligence going out, seeking Internet addresses, seeking telephones, seeking even those cars, including taxis who had pictures of Mousavi up in their taxis before and after the election. And as you've seen with video being posted out, also Basij continuing to go house to house.

In other words, many, many Basij, police, paramilitaries on the street and that crackdown intensifying in terms of finding out who's been responsible for putting out videos, telephone calls, SMS and the like -- John.

ROBERTS: Christiane Amanpour reporting for us from London this morning. Christiane, thanks so much for that. We'll check back in with you later on.

CHETRY: And more news now, new this morning. The 13-year-old Minnesota boy who was ordered by the courts to undergo chemo says that he's angry about the mandatory treatment that he is now receiving. Daniel Hauser and his mom fled the state for a week last month trying to avoid chemo. Doctors say after two rounds of treatments, the tumor in Hauser's chest is much smaller now. But the teen is insisting the chemo is making him sick and he told "The AP" that he believes that it was actually the alternative treatments he's taking that are responsible for his improvement.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney has a book deal. It's due out in 2011, a few months after George W. Bush publishes his memoirs. The AP reports he's getting at least $2 million. Cheney said that he's doing it because "there are a lot of interesting stories that ought to be told."

Well, investigators are still searching through the debris of Monday's deadly train wreck in Washington. It now appears the operator did hit the emergency brake. So are we any closer to figuring out what went wrong? In a moment, we'll be talking to Deborah Hersman with the NTSB for the latest on this investigation.

Eight minutes past the hour.


ROBERTS: Well they don't quite rule the world, but I guess they rule their own world in some ways. Partly cloudy and 77 degrees at the Capitol Building right now in Washington. Later on today, it's going to be hot and sunny, a high of 86 degrees. No rain in the forecast at this point, which is a good thing.

CHETRY: All right. Love it. Well, welcome back to the "Most News in the Morning."

Investigators now on the scene of the Washington Metro train crash are saying that the moving train was in "automatic mode" when it rear-ended that second train. And it's raising questions about why the computer system failed to recognize where the two trains were and prevent that collision.

Also new this morning, there are some new evidence that the train operator did try to activate the emergency brake, but it failed to engage. There are also some other concerns about the safety of the cars involved. The NTSB says that it recommended the metro either retrofit those cars or phase them out and as we now know, that did not happen.

Nine people died in that accident. Many others injured. It's the worst in the system's history.

Debbie Hersman is the NTSB lead investigator at the crash site and she joins us this morning from Washington. Thanks for being with us this morning, Debbie.


CHETRY: Well, you're investigating why the one train didn't stop, even though officials say that the emergency brake control was depressed and that there was evidence that the operator did try to slow her car before impact. What have you learned about that?

HERSMAN: Well our investigators on scene yesterday were able to examine the accident train. We did look at the striking train and we found some evidence there to confirm what Metro had told us, that they expected the train to be operated in automatic mode because it was rush hour.

We found three control surfaces within the operator's cab. One was a dial that was dialed into the automatic mode. The other was a toggle switch that was put on automatic train protection mode. And the other was a master controller and that handle was in a position that would be consistent with automatic operation. And so that evidence on scene confirmed to us some of the information that we had heard earlier. We also noted in the --

CHETRY: Wait. So let me stop you for that part.

I just want to ask you about that part. So what you were basically saying is you found three different control surfaces that appeared that this train was in auto, and if it was in auto, it's supposed to have a fail-safe, right, that stops it if it seems like it's coming too close to another train. Did that fail?

HERSMAN: Well the design of the system is set up to keep trains separated, to have positive separation between trains, to control speeds, to give them speed information. And so what we're trying to figure out is what happened in this accident. That's exactly why we're here.

We are just in the process now of being able to get access to the track, to do some testing of the track, of the surface and of the signals. They're just completing moving the wreckage away. And so we're going to be working on that today.

CHETRY: Let's go back to that computerized signal program that you talked about. When the train is in auto, it's supposed to -- I mean, that system is supposed to be working all the time. But there was an incident back in 2005 when this auto system did not relay proper information, and I believe this was in Foggy Bottom, one of the stops on the train. And it was quick-thinking drivers who used those emergency brakes to avoid the crash. So how in the future can the metro officials guarantee that this auto system works going forward?

HERSMAN: Well I think the important thing is to try to figure out what happened in this accident. We have been briefed by Metro officials about the 2005 incident, and we're getting documentation on that as well. But I think in this situation, we really need to figure out what happened here. And our investigators are still working to uncover that. We've had one full day on the accident scene, and we're gathering a lot of information about the train, about the tracks, about the equipment and about the operator.

CHETRY: I got you. Meanwhile, going forward, what do you say to people that are riding the Metro? I mean, you have thousands and thousands of people that board every day. I mean, is it safe right now as you guys are trying to figure out what happened and whether this emergency brake failed, and whether or not these aging cars had something to do with it? Is it a safe system this morning?

HERSMAN: Well, I just want to correct something. We don't have any indication that any brakes failed. And so we have -- we have evidence that there may have been an emergency brake application. The mushroom, the button for the emergency brakes was found in the depressed position. And we saw some gluing of the brake rotors, which indicates to us on that first car that there may have been some emergency braking that took place prior to the collision.

We have a lot of work to do, I think, with respect to the automatic train operation of the system. Until we figure out what happened in this accident, Metro has advises. They're going to be running all of their trains in the manual operation mode. And so we are going to continue to work to find out what happened. And anything we find out, if we think that there's a safety issue, we will make recommendations immediately.

CHETRY: All right. Debbie Hersman, NTSB board member, thanks for joining us this morning.

Of course, there's still trying to figure out the ins and outs of the crash, but they say that they do have evidence that that emergency brake was pushed down.

ROBERTS: Yes, she just said that.


ROBERTS: The little mushroom was in the depressed position.

CHETRY: And as we know, the trains still hit each other so, obviously, she wants to wait until they know everything. But, I mean, clearly something failed.

ROBERTS: Yes. Well, also, you know, the train was going fairly quickly. It takes a long time to stop a train. Maybe they just didn't have time.

Well, this week's strange disappearance of South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford getting even stranger now. According to his staff, Sanford took a hike along the Appalachian Trail. But authorities in Columbia, South Carolina say a black Chevy Suburban they believe was used by the governor was found at the airport there.

Inside the car was a duffel bag, a sleeping bag, shorts, shoes, even sunscreen and a ball cap. Plus a parking permit for his child's school on the windshield.

Meantime, CNN affiliate WYYF reports another missing state vehicle was found at Atlanta's Hartfield-Jackson Airport. Governor Sanford is expected to return to work today. Yesterday, CNN's David Mattingly caught up with his wife, who told him, "I am being a mom today. I have not heard from my husband. I am taking care of my children."

Interesting article in "Politico" today talking about his potential run at the presidency in 2012, saying, you know, there are always candidates who have erratic behavior. But how weird is too weird when you're running for the presidency?

CHETRY: It seems like there's a big scope there, right? You know, the weirdness. But --

ROBERTS: It runs the gamut from Gary Hart who changed his name and his age. All (INAUDIBLE) to this side, and where do we go from here.

Seventeen minutes now after the hour. Stay with us.


ROBERTS: Welcome back to the "Most News in the Morning." Some headlines now from around the country.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs said to be recovering well after undergoing a liver transplant at a Memphis hospital. The hospital made the announcement yesterday, with the permission of Jobs. He is expected to return to work by next week after a six-month medical leave.

CHETRY: And Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has paid back more than $8,000 for her nine trips that were taken by her children. You may remember there was an uproar during the campaign over those trips. State investigators found no wrongdoing on the part of the governor.

ROBERTS: And in Ohio, despite objections, New York's Naked Cowboy says he plans to perform this summer at his hometown of Greenhills, Ohio. You may have seen Robert Burke's act in New York strumming his guitar wearing nothing but underwear and cowboy boots.

He does that in the middle of winter, too. I don't know how he stays warm.

CHETRY: Rain, sleet, snow, hail.

ROBERTS: It doesn't matter. He's always out there. A candidate for mayor in Greenhills calls Burke a "deviant," but the Naked Cowboy insists the show will go on.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: That's one way to get him to come home, I guess. You know, just say you're...

ROBERTS: Tell him he can't.

ELAM: You can't come home and then he will.

ROBERTS: Be there for sure.

Twenty-one minutes after the hour. Stephanie Elam "Minding Your Business." And let me ask you a question.

ELAM: Oh, yes, one of them.

ROBERTS: Do you know what this is? Do you have any idea what this is?

ELAM: Yes.

ROBERTS: This is useless...

ELAM: Yes.

ROBERTS: ... is what that is.

ELAM: But it looks like it's pretty well worn, though. You got some use out of it. It's got the slide marks of it going into the machine to take you out.

ROBERTS: Yes. Yes. I did use this a lot. This is a clear card to speed you through the airport. It doesn't work any more.

ELAM: Right. Yes, they're gone now. Back to the line for the rest of us who were using it.

CHETRY: (INAUDIBLE) date of birth.

ELAM: Yes. And the year. Make sure you get the year.

But really, this was a program that you may have seen in some of the airports. This was in about somewhere around 20 airports in the country. And these clear lanes allowed people to buzz right into the line, get to the security a little bit faster. Still have to take the shoes off, still have to get the stuff screened. But they did get through the line quicker so they get to the airport later to make that flight.

CHETRY: Meaning that in terms of being stopped for any type of questions about whether you're on a terror watch list, you're clear for that.

ELAM: They're clear because they have all of your information in files. They have your date of birth. I think they do a retina scan. I think they have fingertips. They can do the fingerprint scans on that, so they know who you are.

Your information is clear, so therefore you can get to the line. You're not going to have to worry about going to some little room while getting the four S's on your ticket.

So this is a big deal that they're closing down for a lot of people like John here. Two hundred fifty thousand customers saying it cost about $200 a year. They're not getting their money back for the service.


ELAM: Yes, they're saying because the issue here is really that they don't have the money. Their senior creditor is saying they couldn't work out a deal with that company so they have no money at this point. But the information is being secured and they're deleting it so that nothing happens. CHETRY: You're right.

ELAM: And also a lot of airports already have special lines. They're not like clear, but they have lines for first class, business class and if you're an elite passenger.

ROBERTS: If you're a bawler (ph).

ELAM: Yes, if you're a bawler (ph).

CHETRY: Did you have to go through a big (INAUDIBLE) to get that and give a lot of information?

ROBERTS: Yes. I had to do a retina scan. I had to do fingerprints. I had to give a lot of information. But not too much information, Social Security number, et cetera, et cetera.

But here's the thing. All it did was it got you into a special line where there wasn't anybody. There was nothing extra.

ELAM: Right. Exactly.

ROBERTS: We went through the same security screening, the same thing. It was a little concierge service to go through.

ELAM: And that's the thing. It started after 9/11, really in 2005. It started really as really as a service that people were going to need, business travel, because travel was so hard after 9/11. But then it became an amenity almost because people stopped traveling as much.

ROBERTS: It was a concierge service, full stop.

ELAM: Yes.

CHETRY: All right. Hopefully they'll delete your information.

ROBERTS: I was hoping to get my money back, but I guess not.

ELAM: No money for you.

CHETRY: All right.

ROBERTS: No money for you.

CHETRY: We'll be right back. Twenty-four minutes past the hour.


CHETRY: Welcome back to the "Most News in the Morning." President Obama says he's confident that he'll be able to get a plan in place that will drive down the crushing cost of health care for Americans who have it and also help the 46 million Americans who do not. One thing's clear, though, a lot of help is needed.

Jim Acosta is live in Dallas with the story of one Texas woman who says that her insurance company made it nearly impossible for her to get treatment that she so badly need. Jim Acosta this morning for us.

Hey, Jim.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Kiran. You know, the president has this town hall meeting tonight on health care reform and is running into plenty of resistance in Washington over the cost of overhauling the system. But there's also the cost of doing nothing, according to advocates for reform, when you consider the story of Robin Beaton.


ACOSTA (voice-over): When Robin Beaton isn't selling antiques, she's fighting a battle on two fronts. One against breast cancer. The other against her insurance company.

ROBIN BEATON, CANCER PATIENT: I trusted them and they let me down really bad.

ACOSTA: Just three days before she was scheduled to undergo a double mastectomy last year, Beaton says she got this letter from BlueCross/BlueShield of Texas.

BEATON: They rescinded my policy completely.

ACOSTA: After learning of Beaton's diagnosis, the insurance company investigated her medical history, found something she had not disclosed, then canceled her coverage. It's a little-known industry practice called rescission.

And what was that like when you got that letter saying your policy had been rescinded?

BEATON: It was like -- I was -- they were issuing my death.

ACOSTA: So what was Beaton's undisclosed condition? Her dermatologist says Beaton had warts.

DR. KENT AFTERGUT, DERMATOLOGIST: Nothing precancerous in any way and absolutely nothing related or that would have any involvement with breast cancer.

ACOSTA: So she fought back.

BEATON: I pray that you will listen to my story and help people like me.

ACOSTA: Telling a hearing on Capitol Hill, she called Texas Congressman Joe Barton, who called the insurance company and raised hell.

REP. JOE BARTON (R), TEXAS: If somebody inadvertently omits something, or there's something that's not material to the claim, that claim, in my opinion, should be paid. End of story. ACOSTA: BlueCross of Texas reinstated Beaton's policy and paid for her surgery.

BEATON: I owe my life to Joe Barton.

ACOSTA: Company officials declined to discuss Beaton's case, but released a statement to CNN, saying, "During our review of such cases, every effort is taken to retain the member's coverage." An insurance industry spokesperson acknowledges rescission is controversial.

SUSAN PISANO, AMERICAN HEALTH INSURANCE PLANS: I think we understand that this is a problem. And we strongly advocate for making changes that will do away with this.

ACOSTA: But at the hearing -- three insurance CEOs were asked to take a stand against rescission.

REP. BART STUPAK (D), MICHIGAN: Would you commit today that your company will never rescind another policy unless there was intentional fraud?

DON HAMM, ASSURANT HEALTH: I would not commit to that.

RICHARD COLLINS, UNITEDHEALTH GROUP: No, sir, we follow the state laws and regulations.

BRIAN SASSI, WELLPOOINT, INC.: No, I can't commit to that.

ACOSTA (on camera): But the journey hasn't ended.

BEATON: No, I don't think it ever ends when you have cancer.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Still battling her cancer, Robin Beaton now wants to take on the insurance industry, an industry she says messed with the wrong Texan.

BEATON: They will not be able to do that again. They can't do what they did to me. It won't happen. It's going to stop.


ACOSTA: The insurance industry says rescission is rare. But one congressional report found that the insurance companies saved $300 million over five years with this practice. And the president says the insurance companies are going to have to accept the fact that they won't be able to cherry-pick the best customers as part of health care reform -- Kiran.

CHETRY: All right. And you mentioned that she's still battling cancer. What's her prognosis now?

ACOSTA: She is not cancer-free, Kiran. She has another round of chemotherapy later this week, and then she goes to another reconstructive surgery on her breasts. So she's still dealing with all of this.


ACOSTA: And as she mentioned to us during our interview yesterday, you're never really cancer-free. It's an ongoing battle that never stops.

CHETRY: So now she has two battles to fight. Well, we certainly pray that she makes a full recovery.

Jim, thanks so much.

ACOSTA: You bet.

ROBERTS: Just about half past the hour now and checking the top stories. Another Bush administration policy bites the dust. President Obama deciding to send a U.S. ambassador back to Syria four years after America's envoy was withdrawn to protest the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic (ph) Hariri. A senior administration official says they are engaging Syria more, and it is in America's interest to have someone in place there.

CHETRY: Well, Citigroup is planning to raise the base salaries of its employees by, on average, 50 percent or up to 50 percent. The bank, you may remember, received $45 billion in federal bailout money. A spokesman will only say that Citigroup, quote, "Continues to examine ways to insure its employee compensation practices are competitive." It looks like the biggest increases are going to be going to investment bankers, as well as traders.

ROBERTS: And President Obama wants to make the federal forms for college aid a little more user-friendly. The current form has 153 questions. It is so long and complicated that millions of families just give up trying to fill it out. The White House will announce changes today. The goal is to boost college enrollment among low and middle-income students.

Of course this morning, we are monitoring all of the developments out of Iran. There is word this morning that Iranian intelligence officials have arrested several foreign nationals in connection with the post-election protests. Some are said to have British passports.

And Iran's supreme leader says his government will never give in to forceful demands from other nations regarding the presidential election. This as President Obama steps up his criticism of the Iranian government's treatment of its people.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. The Iranian people have a universal right to assembly and free speech. If the Iranian government seeks the respect of the international community, it must respect those rights and heeded the will of its own people.


ROBERTS: We want to take a look now at how countries in the Middle East are reporting events in Iran.

Salameh Nematt is a Middle East analyst and international editor for "The Daily Beast."

He joins us now from Washington.

Salameh, it's good to see you this morning. So how is this change in tone from President Obama being taken in that particular region?

SALAMEH NEMATT, INTERNATIONAL EDITOR, THEDAILYBEAST.COM: One of the Iranians welcomed Obama's statements condemning the violence committed by the Iranian authorities against the peaceful demonstrators.

Throughout the Middle East, people in general are happy to see the U.S. actively involved. At least in upholding these principles of freedom, democracy and human rights.

However, governments look at things differently, especially non- democratic governments, who do not necessarily want to encourage their own people to go down that dangerous path of seeking to express themselves the way the Iranian people have been doing, which has been very inspiring for people in the region.

ROBERTS: As we said at the top of this, several foreign nationals, some with British passports, apparently have been arrested today in Iran. We're also getting reports out of Iran that the regime is thinking of, quote, "downgrading" relations with Britain over its -- they're calling it interference in the post-election results.

Are they really trying to make this about somebody other than them?

NEMATT: There's no doubt about it. The Iranian regime is trying to blame this on foreign forces. It has always done so simply to discredit the protestors and to discredit the opposition movement. Ironically, an opposition movement that basically was triggered from within the establishment. After all, Mir Hossein Mousavi and Karubi and Rafsanjani are establishment figures in the conservative theocracy and they have dissented.

So we have a case of arrests within the establishment that express itself in these elections with Khamenei and Ahmadinejad on one side, and the other clerics and former conservative officials on the other.

ROBERTS: In another proclamation today, Salameh, from some government officials suggesting that Neda, Neda Soltan, this young woman who was killed over the weekend, who has become a rallying point for the reform movement, was killed either by a fellow demonstrator or some rouge elements, some smuggler or somebody like that, as opposed to claims that the reformist demonstrators had that she was shot dead by either a member of Iran's official security forces or by member of the Basij militia.

Is anybody going to buy that?

NEMATT: I doubt it. And especially, you know, this is the most ironic thing. That you'd have somebody like Neda shot down in cold blood, in broad daylight. And the Iranian authorities do not even announce any investigation into this. And do not, you know, tell us what exactly happened. They just dismiss people, you know, being killed in the streets like that as if they are nobodies. And, you know -- and we don't even have an official tally of the dead and the injured in these demonstrations. At least 17 people have been killed. Some figures put it as high as 150.

The Iranian authorities are hiding these crimes, and they're not holding anybody responsible. Whether it's in police or whether it's the Basijis or anybody else. This is the kind of rouge regime that we have to beat, I'm afraid.

ROBERTS: You mentioned clerics just a moment ago. And we saw something interesting in the protest video that came out of Iran yesterday. Clerics marching along with the reformers.

Is that beginning to show cracks in the regime?

NEMATT: There's no doubt. The regime has cracked. The question is how will this payout. We should make no mistake. This regime has been entrenched over three decades, consolidating power. It's not going to go away easily. We still don't have a core, solid, secular, political opposition that could actually mobilize people effectively. It's going to take a long time, but there is no doubt that the administration has cracked. And it's a question of time before people will opt for change, a real change that will manifest itself probably in the coming year or two.

ROBERTS: And Salameh in terms of what we might see in the streets in the coming days and potentially weeks if this continues, John Kerry, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee say, quote, "It's not going to be a pretty outcome on the streets."

How bad do you think it's going to get?

NEMATT: Well, the signs were ominous. When you expel the foreign journalists, when you suppress the media and you basically control cell phones, et cetera, and do all the surveillance things, then you are about to do something you're ashamed of. And this is what the Iranian authorities are doing.

They're expelling journalists. They're shutting down media offices. And basically, you know, carrying out a campaign of purges. Or these are the beginning of a purge of everybody who protested in these, in these demonstrations.

And I think that, you know, this is symptomatic of authoritarian regimes. And I agree with Senator Kerry, it is ominous and it is probably going to get worse if the demonstrations continue.

ROBERTS: Let's hope that you're both wrong. Salameh Nematt from "The Daily Beast." It's good to talk to you this morning. Thanks for joining us.

NEMATT: Pleasure. Thank you.

ROBERTS: Thirty-seven minutes now after the hour.


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's called the aware home, and in this case, home is where the smart is. The house is actually a cutting-edge lab where Georgia Tech researchers look at how we live now and how we might live in the future.

BRIAN JONES, AWARE HOME RESEARCH INSTITUTE: The overarching theme has really been health in the home. And that's really where the future is for health care and health care delivery.

PHILLIPS: Here you'll find phones that help the deaf communicate with 911. Computers that recommend a healthy meal based on what's in the fridge. Even high-tech gloves that identify objects for the blind.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jello, raspberry flavor.

PHILLIPS: There are also motion sensors and cameras throughout the home. They record daily activities and send it to this digital picture frame connected to the Internet. Family members could use it to check in on the disabled or elderly remotely.

JONES: One of our areas of research has been in providing a device that can help older adults better communicate with their family.

PHILLIPS: No one lives in the aware home full time, and most of the products won't be available to the public for a few more years, but it may be a glimpse of a new way to live.

Kyra Phillips, CNN, Atlanta.



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

This morning the families of two American journalists sentenced to 12 years of hard labor in North Korea are speaking out. Swedish ambassador was allowed to visit and Euna Lee and Laura Ling yesterday.

CNN's Alina Cho now with details of that meeting.

They're still being held. There's still a lot of fear for their safety and the uncertainty of...


ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. The families are so obviously concerned. Terrified really with what's going on.

Good morning, guys. Good morning, everybody.

You know, this was the first meeting between the Swedish ambassador and Laura Ling and Euna Lee since the two women were sentenced to 12 years of hard labor earlier this month. It was the fourth meeting overall. The last time was on June 1.

Now, Ling and Lee were accused by the North Korean government of spying. Now the U.S. government isn't saying much about the latest developments, but here's what a State Department spokesman, Ian Kelley said late Tuesday. And I'm paraphrasing here.

He said this meeting just happened, really. Not providing a lot of details, and even if I had the details, I wouldn't share them with you because of privacy concerns. Of course, that is extremely understandable here.

The State Department went on to say the release of the two journalists is a top priority. And that the U.S. is pursuing what it calls many different avenues. But, again, not surprisingly, no other details coming out about this.

The families of Ling and Lee released a statement to CNN saying the families of Laura Ling and Euna Lee are grateful to the North Korean government for allowing the Swedish ambassador to visit Laura and Euna. We continue to appeal for their release on humanitarian grounds.

Now the families have spoken to Lee and Ling once since they were detained back in March for what the state-run North Korean news agency called, quote, "the grave crime" they committed against the Korean nation and their illegal border crossing. The two reporters were on assignment for Current TV. Remember, that's former Vice President Al Gore's media venture.

Earlier this month, after the women were sentenced, family members appeared on CNN urging the North Korean government to show compassion and release the two women.

Now the Swedish ambassador said to be in constant contact with the North Korean Foreign Ministry. The ambassador, the Swedish ambassador is in charge of protecting U.S. interests there, which is why he is meeting with the two women.

But you can understand, you know, Lisa Ling saying that she and her sister, Laura, are best friends. They are both journalist. They'd be at, you know, all corners of the world and somehow they've managed to talk to each other. And to only speak that one time. You can imagine. A really, really tough time for the family. Both families.

You know, I was in North Korea as you know a year ago. And, really, when you travel around, you're with a government minder.

CHETRY: Right. CHO: And so for anybody who thinks that this isn't a big deal if they did cross into North Korea, it is a very, very big deal.

CHETRY: And in fact, Lisa Ling was also in North Korea.

CHO: She was. She was a few years back. I believe it was for Discovery TV or something. She's doing a documentary.

CHETRY: Yes. She went with a doctor who was doing cataract surgeries.

CHO: That's right.

CHETRY: She also talked about what it was like to be there. They were trying to take a picture, I believe of a statue, and the minder came over.


CHO: They are very strict about it.

Oh, and they did the same thing to me. You know, they're very strict about what you can and cannot shoot when you're inside that country. I mean, it is the way that they do business over there.

CHETRY: All right. The family holding on hope that they'll hear something more and soon on these two women.


CHETRY: Yes, absolutely. Thanks, Alina.

CHO: You bet.

ROBERTS: So, it's coming up now on 45 minutes after the hour.

Let me ask you a question -- Larry King in his brand-new book over his remarkable journey talks about when he first dated a younger women. And he says he was out to dinner with her and he says -- it was near November the twenty-second. And he says, "Where were you when Kennedy was assassinated?" She says, "I wasn't born then." "I wasn't born then."

So let me ask you this question, where were the two of you on July 20th, 1969?


CHETRY: I wasn't born yet.


CHO: I wasn't born -- hey, I wasn't born yet.

ROBERTS: OK. Well, July 20th, 1969, as many people will remember, was the day that Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong landed on the moon. Buzz Aldrin has got a brand-new book out. It's called "Magnificent Desolation." Those are the words that he used to describe what it was like to stand on the moon there back in 1969.

And Buzz joins us, coming up next to talk all about his remarkable journey to the moon, through depression, alcoholism and back.


CHETRY: All right. Forty minutes past the hour right now.

Rob Marciano is keeping an eye on some hot weather. Dare we even say heat wave in some parts of the country.


CHETRY: Yes. You're not going to hear us complaining today.

MARCIANO: That's a change.

ROBERTS: Yesterday it turned out to be a very nice day.


ROBERTS: Yesterday was very nice.

CHETRY: That was a little humid.

ROBERTS: Well, it rained late last night.

MARCIANO: You said you weren't going to complain.

CHETRY: Yes, and also it could have been -- oh, sorry, Rob.

MARCIANO: See you guys later.

ROBERTS: All right. Thanks, Rob.

Some incredible pictures to show you this morning. They come out of Turkey.

Over the weekend, a car crashing into a four-year-old boy standing on some steps. Look at the top right corner of your screen. There's the little boy. Then the car swerves right into him. Watch this. Just terrible.

But the little boy got up and walked away, unharmed. Look at him.

The driver said he veered off the road trying to avoid a puppy.

CHETRY: Oh, man, what do you do in that situation?


ROBERTS: Went off the road. Look at him, right over the top there, boom, knocked him all the way down the stairs. Tried to avoid a puppy and instead hit a kid.

CHETRY: How lucky is the angle. He sort of just clipped him.

ROBERTS: Just clipped him, and the little boy, as you saw, landed on his butt. He could have landed on his head. And that definitely would have hurt him really, really badly.

CHETRY: All is well that ends well.

ROBERTS: Somebody looking over him at that particular time.

Ten minutes now to the top of the hour.


ROBERTS: Forty years ago, mankind forever change what NASA astronaut's Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin took those first few steps on the surface of the moon.

Today, Buzz Aldrin is telling all in a brand new memoir called, "Magnificent Desolation." Revealing details about that mission Apollo 11 and how it changed his life forever.

Buzz Aldrin joins me now.

It's great to talk to you. I've never had a chance to sit down with you. But I remember where I was, what I was doing to the moment when I heard those words, "The eagle has landed."


BUZZ ALDRIN, AUTHOR, "MAGNIFICENT DESOLUTION": We keep tracking where everybody was at that time.

ROBERTS: When you look back on that, 40 years ago, where does that achievement stand in the panorama of human achievement?

ALDRIN: Well, you know, those of us in the space program are pretty biased, and those of us in the military are also. But I believe it contributed significantly to advancing the end of the Cold War. And, of course, it provided a nonending expansion path of exploration. And what we did then is celebrated now. But it's also an indication of what we can do in the future. And America took us to the moon. America can take us to Mars.

ROBERTS: Well, let me ask you this question.

Do you think that we should go to the moon first? Or do you think we should just aim directly for Mars.

ALDRIN: Yes and no. We've been to the moon, 40 years ago. By the time we could get back, it would be 50 years or so. It's time for us to be leaders of the rest of the world and helping them to go, while we take our resources and economically, and judiciously, direct them toward longer-duration flights, visiting asteroids, comets, cycling back and forth. Showing people really what we can do and getting them the progression that we had in the '60s and '70s of the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo program. And that created a lot of excitement for people, and we can certainly do that again, instead of going back and doing what we did before.

ROBERTS: You know, I want to talk a little bit about your memoir. "Magnificent Desolation," which were the words that you used to describe what it was like standing on the surface of the moon. And, of course, that famous photo, which we see behind you there of Neil Armstrong and the LEM reflected in your face suit.

After you got back here, you were one of the most famous people in the world. You're so well-known. You toured all over, promoting the space program. And yet your personal life took a real downturn into depression and alcoholism. What happened? What led to that?

ALDRIN: Well, I inherited those tendencies. My mother committed suicide a year before I went to the moon. Her father committed suicide before I was born. So it's something that is genetic, and so is alcoholism a good bit, too.

But more important than that is my very structured life. I clearly was imbued with, what can I do for the future. The big picture off somewhere. So I began to try to do that. But I wasn't capable, because I didn't have the confidence. I was unstructured.

ROBERTS: So what pulled you out of that slide?

ALDRIN: Other people. Thinking about helping other people. Other people helping me. Getting out of my own direction of existence. And there's great fellowship involved in recovery.

ROBERTS: Well, it's a fascinating memoir of an incredible life, "Magnificent Desolation."

Buzz Aldrin, it's great to see you. Thanks for stopping by.

ALDRIN: Oh, thank you so much.

ROBERTS: We really appreciate it.

ALDRIN: Right.

CHETRY: There you go.

ROBERTS: He's an interesting fellow. He really is.

CHETRY: And he certainly seems it will be -- as you said, putting out this book soon. And he also wanted to raise a little bit of money for one of his charities. And so he decided to rap with Snoop Dogg and a couple of other rappers. And we have some video of that that we'll show you a little bit later. I mean, it shows you, you know, that he knows how to have a little bit of fun as well.

ROBERTS: Eighty years old. He said he feels more challenged in his life personally than he ever has. He's still going strong.

CHETRY: There he is.

ROBERTS: He's still a real champion of the space, of the space industry as well.

CHETRY: Fifty-six minutes past the hour.