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American Morning

U.S. to Reduce Air Strikes in Afghanistan; Obama Condemns Iran's Crackdown; American Accused of Being a Spy Detained in Iran; Insurance Revoked Days Before Surgery; Governor Sanford Returns from Buenos Aires

Aired June 24, 2009 - 08:00   ET


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: And it is 8:00 here in New York. Good morning. Glad you're with us on this AMERICAN MORNING. It's Wednesday, June 24th. I'm Kiran Chetry.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you. I'm John Roberts. And here's what's on this morning's agenda. Stories that we'll be breaking down for you coming up in the next 15 minutes.

In Afghanistan, it's an all-out assault on the Taliban. And the U.S. commander there is now ordering a drastic change in military strategy.

Barbara Starr at the Pentagon on how our troops are shifting gears.

There are also some new pictures this morning of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad meeting with a visiting official from the Republic of Belarus. It's his first public appearance since election violence erupted. In a moment, we're going to be talking to an American who was detained in Iran just a few days ago.

And President Obama is overturning another Bush administration edict. He is sending an ambassador back to Syria four years after we pulled ours out. We are live at the State Department this morning, examining why the White House thinks that we need to get closer to Damascus and right now.

We begin with breaking news in the escalating violence in Afghanistan. Coalition and Afghan forces report killing 23 Taliban fighters. And this morning, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan thinks that the key to winning the fight requires a change in strategy.

CNN's Barbara Starr is live at Pentagon for us this morning.

Barbara, it's been said often that military might alone is not going to win the game in Afghanistan.

What else are they planning to do? How are they changing strategy?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, even as U.S. and British forces at this hour continue in those heavy firefights down in southern Afghanistan, you are right -- President Obama's top commander now is looking for a game-changer in the war strategy.


STARR (voice-over): Already, it's the deadliest month in Afghanistan for U.S. troops since last September. For Afghan civilians, it's getting more dangerous as well with insurgents attacks in early June at the highest level since 2001.

These U.S. Marines in southern Afghanistan are on the frontline against the resurgent Taliban. British troops have also launched a massive air assault. But combat is about to change here.

After less than two weeks on the job, CNN has learned that the new commander in Afghanistan, U.S. Army General Stanley McChrystal is issuing new combat rules aimed at cutting down on the number of Afghan civilians killed by air strikes. McChrystal has made it clear keeping civilians safe is a top priority.

GEN. STAN MCCHRYSTAL, ISAF COMMANDER: The Afghan people are at the center of our mission. In reality, they are our mission. We must protect them from violence, whatever its nature.

STARR: General McChrystal's classified order say, if civilians might be in the area, the first option for U.S. troops is to withdraw instead of firing back at the Taliban, unless troops are in immediate danger.

Telling troops to consider withdrawing from a fire fight comes after a highly controversial air strike in Farrah (ph) Province where at least two dozen civilians were likely killed. Retired Brigadier General Mark Kimmett says the new policy may be essential to winning in the long term.

BRIG. GEN. MARK KIMMETT, U.S. AMRY RET.: We may perhaps lose that particular target, but we don't lose something much greater if we attack it, which is support of that town, support of that city.


STARR: So U.S. troops might withdraw from certain firefights and the second part of the new strategy -- don't look for U.S. troops to keep chasing the Taliban everywhere they find them.

General McChrystal is also saying push the Taliban out of the towns and cities. Let them go up into the mountains and have their hideouts there for now. At least that will keep civilians safe. And for him, that's the top priority right now.


ROBERTS: We'll see if it works.

Barbara Starr for us at the Pentagon this morning.

Barbara, thanks so much. CHETRY: Also this morning, we're monitoring all the developments in Iran from our correspondents around the world as well as posts on social networking sites. And we're hearing the strongest language yet from President Obama on Iran. He's calling the bloody crackdown on the streets of Tehran an outrage. He's also questioning the results of Iran's presidential election.

CNN's Suzanne Malveaux is live at the White House for us.

Suzanne, is the president changing his tone because of the criticism that's been out there lately?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Kiran, he's definitely hardening his language against the Iranian regime. But yesterday we saw him laugh at the suggestion that this is in response to criticism from some conservatives. Instead, what his aides have been saying is that he is responding to what they have seen as this crackdown on demonstrators and all the violence in the street over the last 48 hours.


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's become a symbol of the Iranian protest movement.

(on camera): Have you seen this video?

OBAMA: I have.

MALVEAUX: And what's you're 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 said that essentially they're in a holding pattern now. They're simply waiting to see what is going to happen on the ground in Iran. What is going to be the outcome of the elections before they can move forward with nuclear talks.


CHETRY: Suzanne Malveaux for us this morning at the White House. Thanks.

ROBERTS: Republicans and conservatives have been hammering the president for not taking a stronger stand against Iran.

John McCain has been leading the charge. The Arizona senator appeared last night on CNN's "Larry King Live."

He was asked if the president's latest remarks go 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.


ROBERTS: McCain went on to say that he would like to see the president pushed for new sanctions against Iran.

The president's ramped up rhetoric on Iran and the Republican response to it, certainly generating lots of calls to our A.M. show hotline. Here's a sample of what you're saying on AmFIX.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) 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 this for themselves, so we don't end up being in another foreign country fighting a war that's really not ours again.


ROBERTS: Of course, we want to hear what you think about Iran and anything else that's on your mind. Call our show hotline at 877- my-amfix.

CHETRY: All right. Well, still ahead, we're going to be talking to an American who's going to give her first-hand account of what it was like being in Iran, what it was like being stopped by militia members and pulled out of her taxi cab, questioned for more than an hour.

We're going to talk about it, just coming up in just a minute.


ROBERTS: Eleven minutes after the hour now. The latest in the continuing saga of South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford.

According to South Carolina newspaper "The State," Governor Sanford was not hiking the Appalachian Trail as his office says for the last two days. He disappeared last Thursday. Apparently, a correspondent for the state met him at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport returning from Buenos Aires where apparently, he says, according to "The State," he has been for the last few days.

So the mystery deepens here. We're on the phone to "The State" and hope to get more for you in just a couple of minutes.

This is really unusual. They say he was hiking definitively the Appalachian trail, but a reporter meets him at Hartsfield Airport this morning in Atlanta saying he's on his way back from Buenos Aires.

CHETRY: So either -- I mean, so we literally had quotes from his office saying "this is where he is."


ROBERTS: Yes. "Don't worry, this is where he is. He's coming back."

CHETRY: They were not telling the truth apparently. And then number two, the other odd part of that was his wife's comments where she said "I don't know where he is," then she said "I'm not worried about where he is." And then she said "today, I'm a mom."

ROBERTS: I think I figured this out. I think he's secretly working for the CIA.

CHETRY: Secretly? Not anymore if that's the case.

But anyway, it is quite an odd and unusual story, even though politics is odd and unusual just in general.

ROBERTS: Wow. The best of times.

CHETRY: Right. We'll try to get to the bottom of this. We'll find out, because "The State" has been doing a lot of digging. And, of course, our own investigative bureau has as well. So we're going to find out more information.

ROBERTS: Apparently, he said he cruised the Coast of Buenos Aires to unwind after the legislative session. But how did the whole Appalachian Trail thing get in there? I wonder.

CHETRY: They always blame it on the Appalachian Trail.

Well, as we've been telling you this morning --


ROBERTS: They always get, you know, (INAUDIBLE).

CHETRY: Exactly. Well, we've been monitoring all the latest developments out of Iran through our CNN correspondents around the globe. Also the social networking sites that have been coming out as well.

And there's word this morning that Iranian authorities have arrested several foreign nationals, some of them with British passports, some of them they claim are being linked to the country's post-election violence. And our next guest is an American who was traveling in Iran, detained in the aftermath of the election.

Michelle May is now in Dubai where she joins us.

Thanks for being with us this morning, Michelle.


CHETRY: So you had quite an interesting and at times terrifying experience in Tehran. This was your third trip to Iran.

Tell us what happened when you went.

First of all, why you went and what happened.

MAY: Kiran, I went because I had been there two times before, and I feel very connected to the country and the people there. I have a lot of friends. An so when I was watching the election, the run-up to the election and the election results, I just felt a real need to be there with my friends and I just wanted to be a part of what could possibly be history. So I made arrangements kind of last minute.


CHETRY: And you had an Irish passport. You arrived days before those protests started. And explain what happened when you said you were riding in a cab, your taxi was stopped, you were pulled from that taxi and you were questioned.

MAY: Yes. I was in a net cafe prior to that, and this young man befriended me. I was trying to download CNN to find out -- this was the day after the Ayatollah gave his prayer on Friday. And I was trying to read about it on CNN and he was trying to help me. So he helped me hail a taxi to meet a friend for lunch. And about half-an- hour into that ride, the next thing I know, there are two motorbikes on either side of my taxi. He's on the back of one of them and three big Basij guys are on the others, and they pulled me over. And I knew what was happening. And, of course, I was terrified. And I immediately started screaming saying, no, no, no. He got into the taxi, the one who spoke English. And he told me, I needed to get out and go with them.

And so, I stood up to get out of the taxi, but then I thought I'll make a scene on the street, maybe they'll leave me alone. However, that didn't work. I think because everyone's just terrified of the Basij right now. So they took me by either arm and they put me into a car that had pulled up. And then I was with them for a little bit over an hour.

CHETRY: You were just trying to explain to them that all you were doing was just trying to find out some information of what was going on, at the same time they were wondering or accusing you, right, of possibly spying. And you went through this back-and-forth for quite some time, terrified.

At what point did you realize that you were going to be OK, that they were actually going to let you go?

MAY: Well, it was when after an hour we drove by a police station and there were about 50 policemen out there wearing uniforms. And I actually trust the police there. And so I banged on the window and the guy next to me, the one who spoke English said, OK, we'll stop. And after a half-hour, they brought me into the police station where I was questioned there. And I had a pretty good idea at that time that everything was going to be OK, because they really had nothing on me. I'm not a terrorist. I'm not a spy.

CHETRY: Right.

MAY: So they really had nothing to go on.

CHETRY: And at that point they -- you know, but it still could have turned out very differently. I'm sure that some of those thoughts ran through your mind.

But for people that have no idea what this is like, I mean, what is it like to be there right now? Because you eventually, they recommended that you leave, that you go to Dubai, which you did.

But while you were there, many of us, maybe we don't realize just the lengths that people are going through and the risks that people are putting themselves through to even go out there on the street, to protest and to even record and send information so that everyone else in the world can see what's going on right now.

What is that like to experience?

MAY: They are extremely brave. I don't even know how they're doing it, because honestly everyone I know there is just scared. And they wouldn't -- at this point, the way things are since last Friday, I don't know anyone who's actually going out and protesting. So those people who are, like I said, they know that they're risking their lives but they are so fed up that they're willing to do that.

So there is definitely a very tense feeling on the streets there. Like I said, the day that I was there, Saturday, there actually weren't that many people on the streets which is pretty rare. It's definitely a scary time. It is a very strange time, very different than how it normally is there.

CHETRY: Thanks for letting us know a little bit more about what it's like there and telling us your first-hand account. I'm glad that everything worked out for you. You're now in Dubai safe and sound.

Michelle May, an American visiting Iran with quite a story to tell.

Thanks so much for being with us this morning.

MAY: Thank you very much.

CHETRY: Seventeen minutes past the hour.


ROBERTS: Twenty-one minutes after the hour.

Of course, we're all been intrigued by the whereabouts or the where-is-he-abouts of Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina. Just reading this article in the "The State," a correspondent met him at the Atlanta airport this morning.

This is very, very odd.

CHETRY: Yes. There is a lot going on. I mean, if you just, you know, getting wind of this story, what happened is there were a lot of questions asked because the governor of South Carolina simply disappeared, it seemed. And there were some concerns where did he go? Where was he? And when there was inquiries from the media, his staff put out a statement saying, "This is all much ado about nothing. He's taking a break after the stimulus bill. And all he wants to do is just get a little bit of time to himself. We know where he is." Then a little bit later they said, "He's hiking in the Appalachians. That's why he's unavailable." And now, today, another bombshell which is, he was nowhere near the Appalachians.

ROBERTS: He just returned this morning to the Atlanta airport from Buenos Aires, where he says he was just kind of driving along the coast. But here's a weird thing. He left from the Colombia airport. This is according to the governor. According to Genus Smith (ph), who wrote about this in "The State."

He left from the Columbia airport where one of his cars was found. One of the governor's cars was found. But he returned to Atlanta, he says, because he wanted to avoid the media scrutiny he would have gotten from coming back into Columbia.

There was another state-owned car at the Atlanta airport. Now was that his? Was it pre-positioned there? If it was, who pre- positioned it?

CHETRY: A lot of questions about exactly what's happening.

ROBERTS: And apparently his staff did get in touch with him while he was in Buenos Aires to say, "Hey, governor, this whole trip is starting to make a lot of news, you know. And apparently he came back early. So why if they contacted him in Buenos Aires did they still say he was hiking the Appalachian Trail.

CHETRY: And the other question is --

ROBERTS: Just saying.

CHETRY: There's a lot of questions.

All right. Well, hopefully, we'll be able to get more to the bottom of it. I'm sure he's going to address it at some point so we'll bring you that.

ROBERTS: It's a mystery.

Anyways, on to health care. President Obama says that he's very confident that he's going to get a program in place that will drive down the cost of health care for Americans who have it, while at the same time, helping out some 46 million Americans who do not have health insurance.

A lot of help is needed here particularly when the cost of this thing came out the other day.

Jim Acosta live in Dallas this morning with the story of a Texas woman who claims that her insurance company could have killed her.

Jim, what's this all about? JIM ACOSTA, CNN GENERAL ASSIGNMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, you know the president is getting ready for this town hall meeting tonight on health care reform. And he's running into a lot of resistance in Washington over the cost of overhauling the system. But advocates for reform say there are also the costs of doing nothing. 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 insists rescissions are rare, but a congressional report found the practice is profitable saving insurance companies $300 million over the last five years. Which is why the president says as part of any health care reform package, he does not want to see the insurance companies to be able to cherry-pick the best customers.


ROBERTS: Well, she is definitely driven in her cause here, Jim.

But in terms of, you know, looking after herself, does she have any help? Anybody helping her out here?

ACOSTA: You know, she's pretty much on her own. She has some elderly parents who live in Jacksonville, Florida. So she pretty much drives to and from her chemotherapy sessions on her own. She's not completely cancer-free. She does have a support group, but she's pretty much on this journey by herself. She is a brave woman. She did that interview with us dealing with some serious medical issues. And one thing I should point out, because of this battle that she had to go through with the insurance company, her surgery was delayed by some two months. And she says during that time the cancer grew inside of her, making her condition far worse and making her struggle far worse as she goes down this road.


ROBERTS: It's a heck of a road to walk alone, too.

Jim Acosta for us this morning in Dallas.

Great story, Jim. Thanks so much for bringing that to us.

ACOSTA: You bet.

ROBERTS: Twenty-seven minutes now after the hour.


CHETRY: Thirty minutes past the hour now. We check our top stories.

And a bit of a push-back from the top in Iran. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had his first official meeting since his controversial re-election. The is the first time we're seeing him in the country since the election violence broke out. And Iran's supreme leader also laid down another warning saying that his country will not give in to any demands on the election.

We're finally getting some answers to the mystery surrounding South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford. And this keeps getting weirder and weirder. He is no longer missing. He is back.

He's not just back in the state, he's back in the country. A reporter with South Carolina's "The State" newspaper met him this morning at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson Airport. The report says Governor Sanford spent the last few days in Buenos Aires. His staff had said that he was hiking the Appalachian Trail, but the report says Governor Sanford decided against that, wanting to go somewhere exotic instead. And Sanford stresses he was alone.

CHETRY: That's exotic. I'll tell you that.

Well, while the president was talking up his health care plan, the conversation at his news conference eventually turned to his bad habit -- smoking.


OBAMA: I've said before that as a former smoker, I constantly struggled with it. Have I fallen off the wagon sometimes? Yes. Am I a daily smoker, a constant smoker? No. I don't do it in front of my kids. I don't do it in front of my family. And you know, I would say that I am 95 percent cured, but there are times where - there are times where I mess up.


CHETRY: The president compared his struggle to that of a recovering alcoholic saying it is one reason he feels health care reform is so important.

Well tough times can drive people to do desperate things. Faced with car payments that they can no longer afford, more and more people are choosing to get rid of their cars in a radical way - fire meets fraud. Jason Carroll has more on that story for us. We usually see this in, you know, mobster movies. These people torch the car, or torch a business.

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you know what's interesting about this? You talk to experts and they say the worse things get with the economy, the more and more of these types of crime that they see. And they say it is happening in Florida, California and Texas. More and more burned cars turning up in tow yards. These are cars reported stolen from their owners but detectives don't have to look far to find the real thieves.


CARROLL (voice-over): Watch the upper part of your screen. Surveillance video shows a man setting a car on fire. It's the type of crime happening across the country. Prosecutors say the supposed victims turn out to be the perpetrators.

PAULA ROW, ESSEX COUNTY PROSECUTOR: Ordinary people are hiring others to torch their vehicles.

CARROLL: Why? And who's doing it? Prosecutors in Newark, New Jersey have some answers.

MICHAEL MORRIS, ESSEX COUNTY ASSISTANT PROSECUTOR: There are all types but it really is Jane and John Q. Citizen.

CARROLL: Like this convicted elementary school principal. Or this Dallas chiropractor and this businessman who both pled guilty to attempted insurance fraud. Driven, investigators say, by economic desperation to commit owner give-ups. That's when an owner reports their vehicle stolen, but actually stages the theft, torches the car to collect the insurance money.


CARROLL: Don't take Dallas sheriff's detective Tom Reilly's word. Listen to the owners themselves. This is John McCreery, that chiropractor.

JOHN MCCREERY, CONVICTED OF ATTEMPTED INSURANCE FRAUD: I made a lot of mistakes. It's affecting me financially.

CARROLL: And that businessman -- ARTHUR STEWART, CONVICTED OF ATTEMPTED INSURANCE FRAUD: You have to think of the consequences.

CARROLL: Riley says the owners agreed to be videotaped as part of their plea agreements. He uses the tape for a public awareness campaign.

REILLY: What better ways that hear the words from people that committed fraud.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What we have here is a -

CARROLL: In Newark, New Jersey, a visit to a tow yard with the detective who showed us more signs of the problem.

DET. MARLIN BULLOCKS, ESSEX COUNRY ARSON TASK FORCE: These are aluminum wheels. They're still present. The tires are still present.

CARROLL (on camera): So again why would car thieves leave such expensive tires on the car?

BULLOCKS: Exactly.

CARROLL (voice-over): The latest numbers here disturbing. Exclude Essex County where Newark is located, and New Jersey only prosecuted about 25 vehicle arson cases in 2007, include Essex County, that number more than triples for the same period.

(on camera): What do you do to try to combat it?

DOW: We are aggressively prosecuting the wrong doers here. We will prosecute those who hire as well as those who set the fire.


CARROLL: Well, a lot of these owners are shocked when they find out the penalty for committing these types of crimes in New Jersey are facing up to 10 years in prison. You know who ultimately pays for this? People like you and me.


CARROLL: Because - those who pay their premiums, pay on time, have to compensate for those who don't.

CHETRY: All right. Fascinating the lengths that people go.


CHETRY: It's a sad commentary.

ROBERTS: Exactly rue what the guy said though about leaving nice tires on the car? No car thief is going to do that. Because sometimes you come down the west side highway in New York, and you see cars that have been torched. There's nothing on them. CARROLL: And you know, the thing is too, torching the car means nothing because there are all sorts of ways that detectives can find out. I mean, you know -

CHETRY: They can find out if you accidentally dropped your Blackberry in the water when you tell them it mysteriously malfunction.

ROBERTS: That's easy.

We have some incredible pictures to show you this morning from Turkey. Take a look at this. Amazing. In the upper right-hand part of your screen, there is a four-year-old boy standing at the top of the steps. Boom, suddenly he's at bottom of the steps because that car which swerved to avoid a puppy in the road went off the road. Take a look there, right at the top, you can barely see him. The car comes along, bicycle goes by, too. Just missed the bicyclist. Whack, hits the kid, knocks him down the stairs. Luckily for the kid he landed on his butt. He got up and walked away.

CHETRY: Goodness.

ROBERTS: Look at that, boom! One more time.

CHETRY: Makes your blood run cold but in the end thank goodness he's fine.

ROBERTS: It looks like there was a parent there, too. So I guess the kid was just playing on the steps in front of his home and that car came out of nowhere. Wow.

Somebody, providence was smiling on him.

CHETRY: His little angel helping him out there.

All right. We all want to know how to live longer. Right?

ROBERTS: Do we really? I'm not sure. I'm kind of done already.

CHETRY: We do. Of course, we want to know how to live longer! How about live for the life that we have, live healthier, stronger?

ROBERTS: There you go. It is not the years that you live, it is the life in the years.

CHETRY: Yes. Exactly. We'll we're going to tell you what to eat to live longer. You know, you sure you've heard the studies, this diet, this diet but there is some new research. It's very interesting about what foods may actually prolong your life.

ROBERTS: Does it involve eggs, smoked salmon and hollandaise sauce?

CHETRY: Yes, eggs Benedict three times a day is the secret to longevity.

ROBERTS: I'm going to live forever. Damn.

CHETRY: We'll be right back.



ROBERTS: 39 minutes now after the hour. Congress said the White House continue debating the universal public healthcare option. The president takes his healthcare pitch to America in a town hall meeting tonight. But beyond the bickering, there is some who just keeps speaking up for the little guys. Joining us now as part of our special "Black in America" series is one of those people, Marian Wright Edelman. She is the president of the Children's Defense Fund.

Mary, it's great to see you this morning. Thanks so much for coming in.


ROBERTS: You testified before a House committee yesterday on healthcare for children and I just want to read part of what you said. You said, this is talking about the new healthcare proposal that's in the house, you say "under your proposal children cont get their fair share of needed reform and rather than being better off than they are now, some are at risk of being worse off."

I mean, part of the expanding health coverage in America is supposed to be to take care of all these folks, what's missing in the House bill?

EDELMAN: What is missing in the House bill is a guarantee of a national eligibility standard in the Children's Defense Fund with like 300 percent of poverty. So that you don't have 50 different state measures as to when a child is entitled to get healthcare, it needs to be a guarantee as we guarantee to senior citizens. It needs to be helping those folks who are poor and in the middle class, we need to have a very strong commitment to giving all children the same comprehensive child appropriate benefit packages. The House did not do that.

We want the Medicaid benefits to children yet because children are little adults and has been designed for children and applied to all children who are uninsured and under insured. And thirdly, we want to make it simple. They are not reforms, there is adequate reforms in the House package to make it easy for parents and children to actually get the care that they need. There are so many Bureaucratic barriers. Six of the nine million uninsured children today are currently eligible for Medicaid and for the Child Health Insurance Program but they don't get it because of bureaucracy. We want to change that.

ROBERTS: Mary, why is it so difficult to get healthcare for children? As you said, people who are in retirement get Medicare but we saw the resistance to the expansion of the S-CHIP program in the last administration, why can't these kids get adequate healthcare?

EDELMAN: Well, I ask myself that all the time since the overwhelming majority of American people want our children, all of them and our pregnant women to have healthcare even to the point of increasing their taxes but children don't vote. Everybody makes wonderful rhetoric and we now have the chance to put some meat behind that rhetoric. The president has promised the child health mandate. Speaker Pelosi has talked eloquently in the past about covering all children, they have an opportunity to do it now. Children are prevention, they are cost effective and they are cost containment. So our leaders just need to do what they say.

ROBERTS: All right. So democrats in Congress are talking the talk, why aren't they walking the walk?

EDEMAN: Well, we are hoping that they will walk the walk. We are pleased with what some of the (inaudible) has an option in one of the Senate finance packages to provide 275 percent national eligibility floor to do some of these simplifications, to give the benefits of Medicaid to CHIP children. We hope that they will all do that. That in the end, all children will be covered, all pregnant women will be covered. That we will all have the same benefit package because there are not two or three or 50 different classes of children and that it will be easy for parents. So health reform has to be good health reform for children.

ROBERTS: And you know, when you look at the overall health of children in America, there are some really stunning disparities here that really fall along racial lines. 25 percent of African-American children, 26 percent of Hispanic children are described as being in less than good or excellent health. That number for white, non- Hispanic children is 12 percent. That's quite a difference.

EDELMAN: That's quite a difference. Racial disparities and you know, permeate all around child care systems. And we have a chance again now to correct it. Two thirds of all uninsured children are children of color. We have been making alliances with NAACP, with American Native Americans Fund, with the Asian Justice Funds and we're all trying to say all children but we got to pay particular attention to make sure that the cradle to prison pipeline which is becoming the new American apartheid, we are feeding children into the system by not having them get the pre-natal care and the healthcare they need. So poor children of color really can be helped in the cradle to prison pipeline which we must stop by making sure that every child gets healthcare this year.

ROBERTS: One more quick point if I can get to you make here. You mention the word "pay." The big question is, how do you pay for all of this particularly in this economic climate?

EDELMAN: Well, we pay for it the same way we pay for all options on the table. But you know -

ROBERTS: You borrow more money? EDELMAN: Well, no, we didn't ask the bank to pay for it. We didn't ask the drug companies to pay for it. So it will be passed to the drug things. We didn't ask to pay for things when we had the tax cuts for the wealthy. We've got the money. We don't have a money problem. What we have is a priorities and values problem. And if the president and if the Congress are serious about containing health costs, then we've got to invest in prevention and in all of our children.

Children are cost containment and it is time to do what is right and to do what is economically sensible. Every day we deny immunizations to all of our children. It costs us $16,000 on the other end. Every day we send them off to the emergency room and rather than primary care we're spending, we're wasting money. So children are prevention and they are cost containment. We have the money. We're a $14 trillion economy. We just need to care enough and value our children and the future.

ROBERTS: Marian Wright Edelman, you're fired up about this. It's good to see.

EDELMAN: Nice to see you.

ROBERTS: Thanks for being with us this morning.

EDELMAN: Thank you for having me.

ROBERTS: All right. Take care.

And for more stories of people on the ground and people using ground-breaking solutions to transform the black experience, watch CNN continue the investigation with "Black in America 2." That is coming up next month here on CNN. 45 minutes now after the hour.


CHETRY: Well, we've been following these bizarre and ever- changing, it appears, story of the whereabouts of one of our governors. South Carolina's Mark Sanford. And we have some new information this morning that even though his staffers had told everybody that - when people inquired about his whereabouts, because he had been - no one knew where he was since last Thursday, I believe. They said that he was hiking the Appalachian trail. Now we find out today according to the local newspaper down in South Carolina that he was actually in Buenos Aires.

ROBERTS: Appalachian trail, Buenos Aires. They're right next door to each other. They can make that mistake.

CHETRY: Yes, exactly. And our own David Mattingly has been looking into all of this. He found out some new information as well and he joins us on the phone right now. David, thanks for being with us. It is quite an unusual story, right? For you to be covering?

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on the phone): Unusual story, to say the least. We were chasing the governor here in South Carolina based on information from his (inaudible) that he was hiking the Appalachian trail, only to find out this morning that "The State" newspaper from Columbia intercepted the governor at the Atlanta Hartsfield Airport this morning. And he tells them he was in Argentina. He had flown to Buenos Aires at the last minute. He says that in fairness to his staff, he did plan to go hiking on the Appalachian trail but changed his mind at the last minute, wanting to do something instead that was "exotic," as the newspaper reported.

And so he flew to Buenos Aires to spend a few days there unwinding after a rough legislative session. This is something that his staff had said that he wanted to get away to clear his head, but apparently they didn't know where he was getting away to, obviously. And Buenos Aires was quite a bit off of the original Appalachian trail. So the governor is back at work today. He cut his trip short because of all the attention his trip was getting. And he's back at the office today. We're wanting to know - we've got calls in to his staff wanting to know if he's going to be speaking to the media today to offer any further explanation of why he went off without being in touch with his staff or anyone else in state government.

ROBERTS: David, stay with us. Because we also have on the telephone with us Gina Smith. She is the correspondent from "The State" in Columbia that wrote the article this morning. Gina, was it actually you who met the governor at the Atlanta Airport today?

GINA SMITH, CORRESPONDENT, "THE STATE" (on the phone): Yes. Good morning. Yes, it was me. We had a tip and some other information that we put together and had a hunch that Governor Sanford may be flying into the Atlanta airport. I jumped in the car last night and drove up to the airport this morning and waited outside of the gate to see if he would get off of the plane that was deboarding from Buenos Aires. And sure enough, there was the governor.

ROBERTS: Wow, well, that's some good reporter's instinct shoe leather that you employed there. What did the governor tell you about where he was, why he went there and why he wasn't on the Appalachian trail like his staff insisted?

SMITH: Right. That's the first question I asked him. I said we thought you were on the Appalachian trail, what's going on? And he said, "you were correct in what you said. He had thought about going hiking on the Appalachian trail. He's enjoyed hiking the Appalachian trail since he was in high school. He told his staff that he was "likely" going to hike the Appalachian trail but then he said at the last minute he decided to do something more exotic and went to Buenos Aires where he said he has been two times before, most recently about a year and a half ago. He says it was a tough legislative session. As you know, he made a lot of national headlines for his refusal of the $700 million in stimulus money. He says it feels great to just go someplace where he's not easily recognizable, where he can people watch, where he can walk around.

CHETRY: But wait, Gina, let me ask you about this though - can I just ask but this one part? I mean, look, everybody has a right to go away. I mean, whether or not protocol was breached and he should have, you know, either passed on the duties or let the lieutenant governor know where he's going. I'm sure that's going to be asked. But I think the thing that struck a lot of people was he has four kids and a wife.

SMITH: Right.

CHETRY: And initially his wife said - she told the "Associated Press," she didn't know where he was. Then she said he's just taking some time away from their four boys to write something. And then said she wasn't worried. That's the part I think that struck a lot of people as odd.

SMITH: Right. Right. I agree with you, I think it is odd and I think there's more to the story yet to be told. We're working that angle right now trying to put together some of these pieces and figure out what was going on. I did ask him what he did while he was away. He said he drove along the coast. He says it is a beautiful city. I asked him if he was alone. He said, yes, he was alone. I asked him if he stayed in a hotel. Then he said he saw where I was going and he didn't want to discuss anymore.

ROBERTS: So, here's a question that I have. So he left out of the Columbia Airport in South Carolina.

SMITH: Right.

ROBERTS: There was one of his gubernatorial - the state police vehicles that was found there at the Columbia Airport. There was also a state police vehicle that was at the Atlanta airport. Was that a vehicle he was going to use to go home?

SMITH: I don't know about a vehicle being at the Atlanta airport. I did ask him though, I said, "governor, you know, you left out of Columbia on Thursday. Why are you coming back through Atlanta?" And he said, "well, when I talked to my chief of staff yesterday he said there was all this media hype, all this media attention and I thought it would be easier to come through Atlanta." Interesting to note, there was an aide there who met him. I don't know if it's one of his legislative aides. I don't know if it is a family friend, but there was someone who obviously knew he was in Buenos Aires who came and met him at the airport and escorted him out to what I assume is a private car or state car? I don't know.

ROBERTS: All right. Which then raises the question, David Mattingly, of if the staff knew he was in Buenos Aires, why were they continuing to insist he was on the Appalachian trail yesterday?

MATTINGLY: Well, the staff was saying that they - all the way up until late yesterday evening were saying that, as far as they know, that he was on the Appalachian trail. He only contacted the staff once speaking to his chief of staff. That was yesterday morning when he called in and found out about all the media attention that was being generated by his absence.

CHETRY: All right. And meanwhile, of course, as we know, why do people care? Can you guys just sort of explain what's going on? I'll start with Gina. Just explain what's going on with the relationship he has with the lieutenant governor. I mean you guys were all tipped off by various other politicians saying something doesn't smell right here.

SMITH: Yes. Sanford has a lot of enemies. I think that's fair to say. On both sides of the aisle because he's very ideological. He disagrees a lot with his fellow republicans. He's made a lot of enemies. So there are definitely a lot of people who would love to catch him not being where he's supposed to be. Obviously he's term- limited. So we're coming up on 2010 when there is going to be an election. I believe Lieutenant Governor Andrew Bauer is one of the contenders for the governor's seat.

ROBERTS: Right. And you know, of course then there is also looming in the distance, in some distance away, 2012 presidential election. A lot of people think he might be a contender for that. So the mystery continues to unfold. Gina Smith, David Mattingly, thanks for being with us this morning.

CHETRY: There we go. Good work, you're right. She felt that plane.

ROBERTS: Good instincts on her part.

CHETRY: Coming off of it.

ROBERTS: Quite a little shoe leather there.

It's 55 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 for Georgia Tech researchers. Look at how we live now and how we might live in the future.

BRIAN JONES, AWARE HOME RESEARCH INSTITUTE: The over arching theme has really been health in the home. 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: Jell-O, raspberry flavor.

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

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



ROBERTS: And we're one minute now to the top of the hour. All day long here on CNN we're going to continue to follow the situation in Iran. A massive peaceful demonstration planned for today. We don't know if it is going to happen. People are supposed to gather near the Parliament building, but of course the supreme leader has threatened a crackdown on any further demonstrations. So we'll keep a close eye with our sources there on the ground in Tehran to see what's going on today and whether or not if there is this big massive demonstration, of course, the government forces will crackdown on them.

CHETRY: That's right. Also, detained some foreign members of the media, especially some people in Britain, claiming that they're helping foment this violence and so we're going to keep following that.

Meanwhile, we're also going to be following this much more curious case of the missing governor. Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina who went missing literally seemed to just sort of go away. No one knew where he was as of last Thursday. Now we found out thanks to some, as you put it, gum shoe reporting by these reporters at "The State" newspaper, a local paper. He was in Buenos Aires but telling his staff and others that he was in the Appalachians.

ROBERTS: The Appalachian trail now extends to Buenos Aires, we understand.

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

CHETRY: All right. Now, here's CNN NEWSROOM with Heidi Collins.