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American Morning

Legal Battle Over Jackson's Children Looms Over; U.S. Troops Launch Major Offensive in Afghanistan; A Look Inside Neverland Ranch; Cash-strapped California Issues IOUs; New Video of Michael Jackson's Last Rehearsal Released

Aired July 03, 2009 - 06:00   ET


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Good Friday morning to you. It's the third of July. It's a holiday today. So -- why are we here?

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: I know. And you were here last night covering for Campbell as well, huh?

ROBERTS: Just have to set a cot at my office and just stay there.

Thanks for joining us on the "Most News in the Morning." I'm John Roberts.

CHETRY: Well, we're here because we're following a lot of developments this morning and we're going to be breaking down the top stories for you in the next 15 minutes.

One is a potential bombshell regarding the custody of Michael Jackson's two older children. The singer's ex-wife, Debbie Rowe, says that she will fight for custody but her lawyers are telling reporters something different. Also, there are some new details of a public memorial for Jackson.

ROBERTS: This morning, CNN takes you inside Neverland, the fantasy home that Michael Jackson lived in for nearly 20 years. It's now vacant but still filled with so many memories for better or for worse.

CHETRY: Also right now, the first big test of President Obama's new strategy for the war in Afghanistan is under way. Thousands of U.S. Marines deep inside enemy territory the same time U.S. forces are desperately trying to rescue one of their own captured by insurgents in that country.

ROBERTS: But we begin with a number of major developments in the Michael Jackson investigation. This morning the legal battle over Jackson's children taking another twist.

Debbie Rowe, Jackson's former wife and mother of his two eldest children, told the Los Angeles television station that she wants custody. But her lawyer told reporters that she hasn't quite made that decision yet.

Meantime, a judge has pushed back a guardianship hearing scheduled for Monday. And this morning, the Jackson family firming up details for a public memorial in downtown Los Angeles. CNN's Kara Finnstrom is live outside the Staples Center in downtown L.A. And, Kara, what are the details of that memorial as we know them now?

KARA FINNSTROM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jermaine Jackson did share a few details. It's Michael Jackson's brother.

First off, we should say that he has also shared that the family will be holding a private memorial service for family and friends Tuesday morning before that massive public memorial is set to take place here at the Staples Center starting at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday morning.

This is home to the Los Angeles Lakers and the Clippers. It seats some 20,000 people. We are told that 10,000 tickets will be given away to the public and a press conference is set for later this morning to share the details of it. Those tickets will be free, but fans are going to have to register for them.

You also mentioned, you know, another major development. The lawyer for Debbie Rowe coming forward. Debbie Rowe, the mother of the two eldest Jackson children. He said yesterday that he just wanted to clarify that Debbie Rowe's position right now is that she hasn't made up her mind and has not decided whether she will seek custody of the children.

What she told that L.A. TV station is that I do want my children. And he wouldn't really provide any further clarification of how you move from one statement to the other but simply said, standing by itself, it was a distortion of the truth. No final statement has been made.

Now Debbie Rowe did give up custody of her children back in 2001. But two years later, she decided that she wanted to seek temporary guardianship. And a court ruling at that time said that her parental rights had been improperly terminated could open up the way for a custody battle.

We can also tell you that the next court date now has been set for July 13. It's been moved back and this is a temporary guardianship court date. Right now, Katherine Jackson has temporary guardianship and the judge will decide whether that should remain so.

ROBERTS: All right. Kara Finnstrom for us this morning outside the Staples Center. Kara, thanks so much for that.

CHETRY: And meanwhile, the Jackson family says it is preparing to go to court over custody of the late singer's three children. Last night at a primetime exclusive, Jermaine Jackson told Larry King that the kids are right where they need to be, with their grandmother.


LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": Do you think it's proper that she be responsible for the kids?

JERMAINE JACKSON, MICHAEL'S BROTHER: Yes, I think it's very proper because the way my mother raised us, the way we know how she's very just beloved, the joy and making sure that they'll be OK, I thought it was the right choice.

KING: What do you make of the ex-wife possibly seeking custody?

JACKSON: We'll see. Larry, the will is what it is. And the will was really written well. And it was executed by the executors and they did a great job. It's what it is.


CHETRY: And the topic also came up on "Anderson Cooper 360." CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin discussed whether Debbie Rowe has a strong case if she were to, in fact, try to fight for custody.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR, "AC 360": Clearly, this is what Michael Jackson wanted. We're not sure now what Debbie Rowe wants. What do you make of her sort of stepping in now saying, well, maybe she does want to fight for custody?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, this could get complicated because ordinarily the biological mother does have first claim. But this is to put it mildly not an ordinary situation. She's had virtually no relationship with the kids. Katherine Jackson apparently has had a relationship with the kids.

But there's another factor here that we haven't mentioned yet that's very important. What do the kids want? They're 12, 11 years old. Blanket is 7. A judge will ask the three of them who they want to live with and that will have a big impact on the resolution of this case.


CHETRY: And Rowe has said that she was concerned about splitting up the three children. She also said she would accept custody of the youngest child but did not expect the court to actually go along with that.

Meantime, Neverland Ranch, of course, was Michael Jackson's dream home. It was based on the fictional fantasy island in the story "Peter Pan." It had an amusement park there, a merry go round, roller coasters, even a zoo.

ROBERTS: But the property was nearly sold at auction. And last night during Larry King's primetime exclusive, we got a rare tour of Neverland. Here's CNN's Ted Rowlands with that.


TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Miko Brando, the son of the late actor Marlon Brando, spent much of the last 20 plus years at Michael Jackson's side. He was our guide taking us through Neverland Ranch.

Miko, you spent a lot of time up here. This place is so big that obviously this isn't just for decoration. This train station was a real train station with a real train.

MIKO BRANDO, MICHAEL JACKSON'S FRIEND: A real train, steam engine train, a large one. He used it for years to get from the residence up to the theater and the zoo.

ROWLANDS: It's about a quarter mile away.

(on camera): Michael would put on videos on each of the monitors.

BRANDO: Right.

ROWLANDS: Same video.

BRANDO: He'd put videos and cartoons, whoever wanted to see him, watch him on all the screens. He'd sit here and eat candy, eat all of those sweets he'd want. And the kids would just hang out here and watch videos all night long.

ROWLANDS: And this is just a minuscule part obviously of the compound here, one small portion of it where people would come and hang out. The outside, here's where the train would come through, Miko. This room is what?

BRANDO: This is the living room. The piano used to be over here with a bunch of photos on the piano. A castle he had built sitting over here. Living room chairs, furniture, sofa, the TV on the wall. He had a beautiful marble front here in front of the fireplace. He had the Oscar that he got standing on the right side of the fireplace.

ROWLANDS: The Oscar from --

BRANDO: "Gone with the Wind."

ROWLANDS: "Gone with the Wind" that he apparently paid $1.-some million for it.

BRANDO: Yes, sir.

ROWLANDS (voice-over): Inside the house, 13,000 square feet. As for Michael Jackson's bedroom --

(on camera): You're looking at the doors and you could see the locks on the doors, Miko. Privacy was key in this room, obviously.

BRANDO: Yes, he liked his privacy. When the doors were open, you know, it was OK. But when it's locked, he wants privacy. He had his privacy.

ROWLANDS: This is one of the bathrooms. There are two bathrooms in the suite. And this is the area where Michael Jackson also slept sometimes. There's a staircase up there with a small bedroom upstairs. You say he slept on both levels.

BRANDO: Yes. He slept wherever he felt like sleeping. He crashed out so he had a choice of two. ROWLANDS: There's been a lot of talk about this closet. It is massive. And in the corner of it is a secret compartment or secret little area. And, Miko, you said this is sort of a safe room just in case.

BRANDO: Yes. This was just some place, you know, in case something ever happened. It will be -- went around.

ROWLANDS: When you look at the house now, Miko, it is unfurnished, obviously. Give us a sense how different it was fully furnished?

BRANDO: Oh, it was the place. I mean, I've seen a lot of houses in my life but this was the house.

ROWLANDS (voice-over): Ted Rowlands, CNN, at the Neverland Ranch.


ROBERTS: An interesting inside look there.

CHETRY: Sure enough. Is it going to turn to another Graceland? I mean, are they going to open it up to the public for thousands and thousands who loved Michael Jackson to be able to tour for themselves?

ROBERTS: The problem might be access, though, because there's just one little mountain road in and one road out. And, you know, Graceland, you've got pretty good traffic areas. So I don't know if the county will allow them to do that. But we'll see. I mean, there's going to be a lot of wrangling over so many things in the years to come.

New this morning, President Obama gearing up for a visit to Russia and the G-8 summit in Italy next week. In an interview with "The Associated Press," the president warned Russia's government against using old cold war tactics when dealing with Washington. President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev also plan to discuss Iran's political situation and its nuclear program.

CHETRY: Pakistan now where U.S. missile strikes target militant hideouts in the lawless tribal area of South Waziristan. According to Pakistani security officials, at least 15 people are reported dead, more than two dozen others injured. The missile strikes again happening near the Afghan border.

ROBERTS: And the U.S. offensive continues in Afghanistan. Marines are pushing deeper into Taliban strongholds this morning. American troops have suffered their first casualty of this massive campaign.

Gary Berntsen who is the CIA operative in charge of the operation against Tora Bora back in 2001 is coming up in just a couple of minutes to talk more about that offensive in Helmand province.

Nine minutes now after the hour.


CHETRY: Welcome back. Eleven minutes past the hour. New this morning.

If you're planning on hitting the road for the big holiday weekend, traffic may be bad for you but at least gas prices won't be. According to AAA, gas prices have dropped for the 12th consecutive day. The average cost of a gallon of regular now $2.62. In July of last year, that same gallon would have cost you an average $4.11.

ROBERTS: He may be in big trouble with his wife but not the law. South Carolina law enforcement officials have reviewed Governor Sanford's travel records and say there was no evidence of a crime. Investigators say there is no reason to believe that the governor used public funds while visiting his mistress in Argentina. The governor, his wife and children will spend the Fourth of July holiday together in Florida.

CHETRY: Vice President Joe Biden is in Iraq this morning. It's a surprise visit. It comes as American troops withdraw from key areas of the country. The VP will meet with U.S. troops as well as Iraqi leaders, and he will also re-emphasize President Obama's promise to drawdown U.S. forces in Iraq.

ROBERTS: This morning thousands of U.S. Marines are on the move in southern Afghanistan. It's the first major offensive under President Obama's strategy to turn the tide there. And just to the east, the search under way right now for an American soldier being held by insurgents suspected to be Taliban.

Gary Berntsen is a former officer with the Central Intelligence Agency. He spent an awful lot of time in Afghanistan fighting there and planning. He's also the author of "Human Intelligence: Counterterrorism & National Leadership" as well as "Jawbreaker" talking all about the operation in Tora Bora. And Gary is with us now.

Gary, when these Marines embarked on this operation "Strike of the Sword," they were told by their commanding officer that they're going to make history. He said, "You're going to change the world this summer. It starts this morning."

No outside power has ever been able to do that in Afghanistan. Can they change history this time around?

GARY BERNTSEN, FORMER CIA OFFICER 1982-2005: They can if they understand that the goal is to attempt to stabilize and eventually to put the Afghans in charge of their own future and their own destiny. This is not about America conquering the Taliban. It's about America attempting to help the Afghans reestablish security so that the Afghans eventually will be able to take this over.

We're not sure about what the form of this, whether it's going to be central government or tribal groups, Afghan tribal groups, what this formula will look like as we go forward but that's what it is.

ROBERTS: On our big vista wall behind you here, we've got a graphic of Helmand province. This is where this operation is under way. Tell us a little bit about the geography of the area. They're fighting in a specific little slice right down through the center, the Helmand river valley. Tell us about that.

BERNTSEN: Right. The south of Afghanistan has been the homeland of the Taliban. Mullah Omar who's the leader of the Taliban, never visited Kabul, the capital. Kandahar next door, the next province over to the east was its capital, but Helmand is the place where the majority of the opium comes out of.

Probably 50 percent of the opium that comes out of Afghanistan which is almost 100 percent of the world's opium comes out of that place. And they're fighting on the river valley there, the Helmand river valley and there's a ton of opium in there. Establishing control for this valley and for this area is critical. And in addition to sort of hoping to break the Taliban's control of that province of which, you know, NATO only controlled half of it, it's also a system as they start to do interdiction on the opium which funds the Taliban.

ROBERTS: Now, according to reports, when the Marines moved in there, they encountered very little resistance from the Taliban. They kind of melted into the surrounding areas. A lot of places to hide in there.

How do you suspect the Taliban is going to take this new operation? Will they sort of regroup, you know, and then sort of harass the Marines. Or could they just kind of wait them out because they can't stay there forever?

BERNTSEN: Well, essentially, they don't want to do a head-on assault on the United States Marine Corps because they're going to lose.

ROBERTS: That one is --

BERNTSEN: They're going to lose.


BERNTSEN: They're going to lose. Then you have head-on confrontations. They're going to sort of just try to move back, take control of villages and areas where the Marines aren't. And it's going to be essentially, you know, a chase of the Taliban around this area.

But it's going to be -- you know, the Marines are there to seize and to hold and to build the local security forces at the same time. And also to support, as you were mentioning earlier, sort of a strategy that does, you know, all these other things in Afghanistan. The doctors, development, all of that.

ROBERTS: I guess it's an implication of the Iraqis to the strategy in Iraq to clear, hold and build. This is General Stanley McChrystal's first operation that he's been leading in Afghanistan. Can you apply the Iraq model to there? Is there any reason for the locals in Afghanistan to side with the United States? BERNTSEN: You're not going to duplicate it exactly. But some of the principles of it will be useful and, of course -- you know, building the security forces as we did there. But I think McChrystal, the good thing about McChrystal now is that he's going to stay not just one year, but his command is going to extend for three years. He's got a group of officers. They're going to rotate them.

We have not had the level of continuity in Afghanistan that we have needed. And apparently they're redesigning the command model to extend for three years. This is a good thing for us.

ROBERTS: Let me ask you about the soldier who was captured in northeastern Afghanistan. Special ops forces are out there looking for him. What do you think the chances are to find him?

BERNTSEN: This is going to be very, very difficult. We do have the cooperation of the Pakistanis on the other side of the border. The Pakistanis are putting some definite pressure on the Taliban. So the possibility of some success and, you know, rescuing him has increased by that.

We have rescued hostages in the past. Some of them have, you know, freed themselves as the "New York Times" journalist. And so I wouldn't think of this as completely without hope but this is a tough thing. Very difficult, and they'll attempt to use this in IO, information operations against us, propaganda to try to break the will of the American people. They'll try to show film or photos to try to sort of, you know, to sort of cause a loss of faith.

ROBERTS: As they do (INAUDIBLE) the same thing.

Gary, it's always great to see you. Thanks so much for coming. I really appreciate it.

BERNTSEN: Thanks, John.

ROBERTS: Seventeen minutes now after the hour.


CHETRY: Beautiful shot this morning of Lady Liberty on Liberty Island, New York Harbor. And for the first time since 9/11, the crown up there you'll be able to get in it. Well, that is if you're willing to wait.

They're going to actually, in time for the Fourth of July celebrations, allow the crown to be open to the public. But you're going to need a ticket and a lot of patience. The company that ferries visitors to Liberty Island says only 30 people -- that's right, 30 people an hour will be allowed to climb those 192 steps to get up to the observation deck. The month of July is already completely sold out.


CHETRY: I've done it before. We went on a class trip in eighth grade and we got to climb all those steps.

ROMANS: It's awesome.

CHETRY: But you don't realize now 30 people an hour, I mean, I guess if you get a ticket now, you can go in a few years.

ROMANS: If I did it again, I would not want anymore than 30 people an hour in there because you can get a lot of people lined up.

CHETRY: It's hot.

ROMANS: Those little stairs, you can't turn around and go back down. But it's really cool and it's worth -- it's worth the wait. If they can sell tickets ahead of time so you know what your time slot is, you don't have to wait a lot, that would be really helpful.

ROBERTS: They do that at the Washington monument in Washington.


ROBERTS: And that works really well.


CHETRY: It seems to work at Space Mountain too. We'll ask Rob about that. He's in Disney today, by the way.

Meanwhile, your minding our business this morning. And California -- I mean, we know they're in a big budget crunch but this gets almost preposterous.

ROMANS: It's a total mess. California is broke, It cannot pay its bills and that means people who are owed money by California, people who need money, small businesses, vendors who are doing -- who employ people in the state will not be paid. They're going to get IOUs instead. Some $50 million of IOUs instead.

You know, you can't pay your vendors and your bills of IOUs. And you certainly can't put food on the table with IOUs, so it's a really critical situation right now in California. I don't think we can state enough how critical it is.

This is what it looks like. California is going to have to pay millions of dollars in interest, of course, on those IOUs. It's going to hurt the state's bond rating. Already it has the worst long-term credit rating in the country.

Residents who are awaiting tax refunds are going to have to keep waiting. In fact, some $200 million in personal income and corporate tax payments will be delayed. Regional centers that provide services to people with disabilities, they will get IOUs instead of the money they're owed. And the CalWORKs (ph) Welfare Program won't $495 million right away. It's going to have to delay that.

So this is going to hurt social service providers, small businesses. Even the vendors who supply the food for the California prison system, by the way, which is a huge prison system, they're going to get IOUs. It's pretty difficult to keep paying your workers when you're not getting paid by the people who you're supplying the food for for the California prison system. So everything from welfare recipients to seniors, people with developmental delays, to the prison system, to people who are, you know, average Janes and Joes who are sitting there waiting for their tax refund are going to have to wait a little bit longer. So it's a very critical situation there.

ROBERTS: Do you have a "Romans' Numeral" for us this morning?

ROMANS: I do. And the number is eight. And it has to do with California and the global economy.

CHETRY: I think I know. Is California the eighth largest economy in the world?

ROMANS: It is. It is. It's the eighth largest economy in the world. This is why it matters so much.

I mean, it is bigger. The economy of California alone is bigger than Spain, it's bigger than Canada, it's bigger than Brazil, it's bigger than India, it's bigger than Russia.


ROMANS: Think of that. Think of an economy that size that can't pay its bills handing out IOUs.

CHETRY: Stimulus money not helping?

ROMANS: Stimulus money -- they had actually asked for TARP money earlier and they were denied by the White House. The White House says that stimulus money will be coming and that will help education. That would help some other places. So that's supposed to help. It's just not quite there yet.

ROBERTS: I wanted to point out to this is the second day in a row you're wearing black.

ROMANS: Oh, sorry. I know and it's our nation's independence and I'm wearing black. So you're nice, bright and yellow.

CHETRY: Yes. I was going to wear a red, white and blue, but I thought you'd make fun of me so I didn't.


CHETRY: The funny thing is, though, when we talked to Christina Romer, we asked about that when Arnold Schwarzenegger came hat in hand and said I need a handout. And she said, let them work themselves out. But I kind of got the impression they left the door open. Maybe they have to help out California.

ROMANS: I mean, I don't -- it is such a critical situation there. And I want -- California is really the shining example of it that a lot of states are in trouble. You're going to see higher taxes and lower services across the country.

ROBERTS: Yes. Something's going to happen.

ROMANS: That's right.

ROBERTS: They can't be going like this forever.

ROMANS: That's right.

ROBERTS: Thanks, Christine, "Minding Your Business" this morning.

It's 24 minutes after the hour.


ROBERTS: We're back on the "Most News in the Morning." Some of the last images ever recorded of Michael Jackson performing. A lot of people talking about it.

CHETRY: It's amazing to see because it was just two days before we found out he was dead. And basically, it's a full-length dress rehearsal and Jackson sounded strong. He was working his way through a series of dance steps. Here's a look.


MICHAEL JACKSON'S LAST REHEARSAL: Some things in life they just don't want to be. But it's hardly worth living. All I want to say is that they don't really care about us. All I want to say is that they don't really care about us.


CHETRY: Wow. And those who watched Michael Jackson perform say they're convinced he was healthy, that he was ready for those 50 scheduled performances in London. But, you know, some of them reporting that he was frail and not able to handle that are not true.

ROBERTS: Yes, he was definitely thin. He's always been thin. He looked a little thin than normal though.

The president of AEG Live, the promoter for the concert, the show's director, were with Jackson at that final rehearsal. Last night, they spoke about Jackson's tour and his last night alive to Anderson Cooper on "360."


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR, "AC 360": There is a report out by unnamed sources that he didn't want to do 50 shows. You're saying point blank, that is not true.

RANDY PHILLIPS, PRESIDENT & CEO, AEG LIVE: That is absolutely not true.

KENNY ORTEGA, SHOW DIRECTOR, THIS IS IT TOUR: It's the way he wanted to do them, you know. Michael wanted to make sure that he had that sort of turnaround time. Because what Michael did when he went on stage, I mean, he put it out like no other performer ever. I mean, he gave -- he exhausted himself.

COOPER: What happened? What do you think happened to Michael Jackson? You saw him the night before he died.

PHILLIPS: We all saw him that night when he finished Wednesday night, 12:30 in the morning. I looked over and he, Kenny and Frank DiLeo (ph), who is managing him during this process, were hugging each other.

I walked him to the car. I was going to my car, and he put his arm around me. And with that soft voice of his, he whispered in my ear, thank you, we're going to get it there together. I know I can do this.

COOPER: Randy, you're a businessman. From a business standpoint, did you have concerns about being in business with Michael Jackson? I mean given his history on backing out on some concerts.

PHILLIPS: The answer, Anderson, is yes. It would be untruthful for me to say I wasn't. We had those concerns. I discussed it with the gentleman I worked for, Phil Anschutz, who owns the company, and Tim Leiweke(ph).

But you know what? In very few times in anyone's career do you get a chance to touch greatness. OK? And to me, it was worth taking that risk. And a reporter asked me if I would do it all over again. And the answer is, hell yes.

COOPER: As part of the business proposition, Michael had to undergo a medical exam for to get insurance.


COOPER: Do you have the results of that exam? Was there a drug test for that exam?

PHILLIPS: The insurance carrier sent a doctor out from New York named Dr. David Slavic (ph), I believe. And independent of us. We had nothing to do with it.

He examined Michael for about five hours at his house, and I think they went somewhere for some other tests. And I'm sure there was a blood test.

We're obviously not privy to the patient-doctor relationship with that information. But the insurance broker told us that he passed with flying colors, OK, and that the only issue was there some slight hay fever.


ROBERTS: And you wonder too, did they release that video to prove that he was in good condition as well, because there's $85 million in tickets hanging out there. Somebody's going to have to pay for them.

CHETRY: Exactly. And the other thing too, all of the talk of what condition he was in and whether he was close to death and everything. I mean, you see him there on stage dancing and performing.

ROBERTS: He looked pretty good.

CHETRY: Yes, he did.

ROBERTS: 30.5 minutes now after the hour. Checking our top stories -- the Jackson family face potential custody battle now with the mother of Jackson's two eldest children.

And sources close to the singer tell CNN that during Jackson's tour in 1996 and 1997, the pop star was traveling with what's called a mini- clinic, including an anesthesiologist.

CNN's Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta spoke exclusively to the doctor who was part of that mini-clinic. You'll hear what he had to say coming up in about 30 minutes.

CHETRY: U.S. intelligence officials saying there are no indications whatsoever of an impending long range missile test by North Korea. The north fired four short range missiles off of its eastern coast yesterday. The intelligence officials say the launches may be part of routine military tour.

ROBERTS: President Obama says his administration needs to do more to create jobs. The president says he was disappointed by the latest jobless rate of 9.5 percent. The president says his administration had stabilized the housing and financial markets, but more needs to be done to both save and create jobs.

CHETRY: We knew that politics can be partisan at times. And each week we take a look at someone who seems to be trying to divide us rather than divide us, someone my next guest calls a "wing nut."

I'm joined by of independent analyst John Avlon. He's also a columnist for the "Daily Beast" and author of "Independent Nation," and says the far right and the far left are equally insane at times, and so they deserve to be called out who is here.

Good to see you here, by the way.

JOHN AVLON, COLUMNIST, THEDAILYBEAST.COM: Good to see you. Happy fourth.

CHETRY: You too, nice red tie.

AVLON: Thank you very much.

CHETRY: So we'll start with the left this week, and it really has to do with we've been talking about so many states that are really in trouble with their budgets. New York is one of them, one of these states facing a lot of problems in trying to closing a budget gap.

What's happening in Albany?

AVLON: Albany has been called the most dysfunctional legislature in the nation. But things have recently hit a new low beyond what people thought was perhaps possible.

During their fourth week of a Senate stalemate, which has essentially stalled all government business, including this week, hitting a new low where public school kids are getting caught in the crossfire.

The tabloids have been on to them for a while here in New York. They have compared them to clowns. And the public anger is really getting out of control.

But this week they really proved they deserve it by failing to reauthorize Mayor Bloomberg's successful mayoral control school program which has basically reverted the city back to the old board of education. No one thought this would happen. This is really legislative malfeasance.

CHETRY: And I understand that Governor Paterson is quite upset this. In fact, he's threatening to withhold pay for these legislators until they get something accomplished or break the stalemate.

AVLON: Yes. It took four weeks to decide that we should perhaps hold pay for these folks.

But this has been going on for four weeks. It's chaos. It's the hyper-partisanship, these little games they're playing up there that are so childish. This is not what democracy is supposed to be about. And they deserve to be called wing nuts of the week this week, because they're not getting the job done.

CHETRY: All right. And so constituents are probably paying attention for when these people come up for election.

Let's also talk about the wing nut on the right this week. And we've heard a lot of language that really frankly is shocking at times. And the latest one is from a state representative. Tell us about this.

AVLON: Oklahoma Representative Sally Kern declared an Oklahoma proclamation of morality last week blaming this nations economic downturn on moral decline. Yesterday she held a press conference. Let's listen.


REP. SALLY KERN, (R) OKLAHOMA: We believe our economic woes are consequences of our greater national moral crisis. And we're asking -- this national has become a world leader in promoting abortion, pornography, same-sex marriage, sex trafficking, divorce, illegitimate births, child abuse, and many other forms of debauchery.


AVLON: Not all forms of debauchery are considered equal except in Representative Kern's worldview. And the fact that she has time for this kind of hyper-ideology is what's got people so furious. She even castigated Pres. Obama for dedicating a month to what she called the immoral behavior, that would be Gay pride month.

But she's been in this business before.

CHETRY: And what reaction has there been to this proclamation that she made her constituents and people in Oklahoma?

AVLON: She was reelected unopposed in 2006. But there is a frustration that this has nothing to do with the business of local government or balancing the budget.

What Sarah (ph) Kern is tapping into is this kind of anger and resentment that potentially stokes the differences. And she has been in this game before. In May of 2008, she said that homosexuality was a greater threat to the United States than terrorism.

So this is somebody who's been a wing nut for a while.

CHETRY: And you know, what brings all of this together seems to be the fact that your concern is that these people are elected to do the business of people, to help us in these tough economic times, and that hasn't been happening.

AVLON: No. They get pulled into their own hyper-partisanship, their own posturing, and they're not doing the people's business. And that's what's so frustrating.

Now they feel they can get away with it because local legislators have a 98 percent reelection rate. That's why it's time for us to declare independence to these folks and really start fighting back. We need districting reform, we need open primaries.

We need to pull these wing nuts in, and the moderate majority of Americans need to start holding them to task.

CHETRY: If you want to read more about John's wing nuts, go to We'd also like to hear what you think, and if you have any ideas for him, he's open to them.

AVLON: Absolutely.

CHETRY: Good to see you, John, thanks so much.

AVLON: Thank you.

CHETRY: It's 35 minutes after the hour.


ROBERTS: A quick look at the a.m. rundown, the stories are coming up in the next 15 minutes here.

They are about to unveil a new guest at Disneyworld, President Obama. We're going to check in with Rob Marciano who is live in the Magic Kingdom this morning with details.

That's a boondoggle if I ever heard one.

CHETRY: He wanted to ride the teacups.

ROBERTS: He does weather conferences in steam boat springs. Now he's at Disneyworld. I want his job.

Today history is going to be made. A town that was once at the center of racism during the civil rights era breaks with its past and swears in its first black mayor. It's a great story.

In Michael Jackson's close friend Uri Geller opening up about Michael's medical history, saying at times he was "so scared for him because of the apparent drug use."

And an interesting trend around the world, a new model of manhood that's emerging. We're hearing that the so-called he-man may no longer be hot. We don't need to pump you up anymore.

CHETRY: Carol Costello found some real signs that the macho man has left the building and took his hot air with him. Here she is.


CROWD: Equal pay for equal work!

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Forget the fight, ladies, you've won. As Reihan Salam writes in "Foreign Policy Magazine," the macho men's club is dead.

COSTELLO (on camera): The death of macho? That's extreme, isn't it?

REIHAN SALAM, NEW AMERICAN FOUNDATION: Not at all. I think that macho, the idea that men are running the show, the idea of that man bluster and bravado is the way to run a planet is utterly dead.

COSTELLO (voice-over): How do we know? Well, he says the signs are everywhere, from Iran, where female rage is on display, to Lithuania where voters overwhelmingly elected their first female president, to back home on Wall Street where macho masters of the universe are blamed for America's broken economy, where more women are holding on to jobs in this recession while more men become unemployed and disempowered.

SALAM: There is going to be a very heavy backlash from a lot of those men who found that their unearned privilege of maleness, of macho, is going away really, really fast.

COSTELLO: So fast, some say, many men are now grappling with an identity crisis. Just think, over the course of 40 years, the ideal man has more from John Wayne to Clint Eastwood to Rambo. And who is today's ideal man? Brace yourself, it's someone like the sensitive Paul Rudd.

Of course, there are those who say it's way too soon to ring the macho dead knell. Some feminists think machismo is alive and kicking. But even they say maybe the best answer is somewhere in between.

COURTNEY E. MARTIN, SENIOR CORRESPONDENT, "THE AMERICAN PROSPECT": I think that less seasonal and our culture is healthy. The issue here is to create balance in both men's and women's lives so that we don't feel restricted by the gender roles we have to be in.


COSTELLO: Whether you think a little machismo is good or bad, who knows? There is something disturbing going on -- fewer and fewer young men are choosing to go to college. Some say this has become a crisis because, let's face it, industrial jobs in the United States are dying off. Brain power is where it's at -- John, Kiran?

ROBERTS: Carol Costello for us this morning.

CHETRY: You can be brawny and brainy, you guys. I hope are not trying to take the man out of man.

ROBERTS: I just hope that we haven't gone from Arnold Schwarzenegger saying it to Elmer Fudd saying "I'm here to pump you up."

CHETRY: Exactly.


Well, we want to know what you think. Read it on Carol's blog -- You don't want to take the man out of the man, do you?

We've got Rob Marciano live at Disneyworld. He's an example of brains and brawn right? How much can you bench press, 60, 70?

MARCIANO: At least, I would think.

CHETRY: All right, we'll check in with him. He's at Cinderella's Castle. Macho man.


CHETRY: It's 45 minutes past the hour. Our Rob Marciano is in Disneyworld in Orlando.

ROBERTS: Go figure.

CHETRY: Yes, outside of Cinderella's Castle. Enjoying -- I'm sure you're getting a hard hitting breakdown of the Orlando cumulus clouds this morning.

ROB MARCIANO, METEOROLOGIST: We'll see some of those letter on today. Good morning guys, and thanks for that illustrious introduction.

We are here, and it's fourth of July for a couple of reasons, one being the Hall of Presidents. If you've ever been to Disneyworld, you know that they have this audio animatronics show that's been around since 1071 with all the presidents in there that get up and do a little spiel.

It's very life like and a great historical review of our nation's history, especially presidentially.

Well, we have a new president, I don't know if you heard. His name is Barack Obama. So they're debuting his lifelike being here, and actually had to go to the White House to get his actual audio. Take a listen.


BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: The American dream is as old as our family, but as timeless as our hopes. It is reborn every day in the heart of every child that wakes up in a land of limitless possibilities.


MARCIANO: It's kind of eerie to see actually the voice and then his animatronics, very lifelike in the way he actually moves. They study has moves and they study his expressions, and they get it done that way. That debuts today.

The Fourth of July weekend, let's breakdown weather-wise what's going to be happening. The rain is out for tomorrow's activities. Boston may see a few lingering showers. Fireworks looking good. Go to the beaches, waters are on the seaboard. Almost long island, more through the day. Not only are we debuting the hall of presidents here, the revamped hall of presidents, behind me in Cinderella's castle, 1,000 immigrants will be naturalized citizens today. Taking the oath of citizenship. Celebrating the fourth of July in all American style -- John and Kiran?

CHETRY: We're only teasing you because we're jealous. What a fun place to be for the fourth. Seriously, the fireworks show was amazing.

And the Hall of Presidents, you have to remember the animatronics, back when they first did this that was so innovative it was unbelievable, and still one of the best attractions in Disney. And it's really cool that they have now brought in our new president, and he's there in the hall of presidents as well, so neat.

MARCIANO: It's cool. It's a 25 minutes showing and takes you through 220 years of history. I saw it yesterday, and it's really fantastic for all ages. It's a great review of what is a great country.

Guys, talk more in an hour.

ROBERTS: It's almost a little freaky how close --

MARCIANO: Yes, it is. It is.

CHETRY: Yes, I get goose bumps.

ROBERTS: Rob, thanks so much for that. We'll see you again soon.

48.4 minutes now after the hour.


CHETRY: Welcome back to the most news in the morning.

It was a town once known as racial hatred, and now it has its first black mayor. Ed Lavandera tells us about a day that many thought would never come.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John and Kiran, James Young still considers himself a small town guy. But since he was elected the first black mayor of Philadelphia, Mississippi, he's become a powerful symbol to many people across the country.


JAMES YOUNG, PHILADELPHIA, MS MAYOR-ELECT: There are times and seasons, I think, for everything.

LAVANDERA: As we sat on the porch of a friend's home in Philadelphia just days after election in May, the power of the moment his him, a black man elected mayor of the Mississippi town that was the center of white hot racism during the civil rights era.

YOUNG: The places that we were locked out, I'm going to have the key. The places that we could go, I've got the key. When you've been treated the way we've been treated --

LAVANDERA: After our interview, James Young says he got a call from the actor Jamie Fox, who invited him and his daughter to the BET Awards show.

JAMIE FOX, ACTOR: I saw his story, and I said please come out here and bless us in a completely different way.

LAVANDERA: There he was in the spotlight, receiving a standing ovation and the community humanitarian award.

FOX: Mayor James young, you make us proud, man.


LAVANDERA: Quite a ride for a man whose earliest memories of growing up in Philadelphia are of the Ku Klux Klan roaming his neighborhood streets.

He started out as a hospital housekeeper. Then he worked his way up to become the city's EMT director. Now he's the most important public official in town.

YOUNG: But it also sends a message to those who says what cannot be done if you prepare yourself. If you keep yourself in the right frame of mind, anything is possible in America. Anything is possible.

LAVANDERA: James Young will be sworn in as mayor today. He says it's a moment that proves hearts and minds can change, even in this once deeply segregated town.

YOUNG: Who would have thought a little country boy like me would be mayor of Philadelphia, Mississippi in '09? I couldn't have even wrote that in a fairy tale. It would have been a big fairy tale.

But that's why -- that's why it's overwhelming to be a part of this history.


LAVANDERA: James Young tells me that the attention he has received since that interview that aired back in May has been overwhelming, strange, and truly humbling. But he does realize that after this fourth of July weekend, the hard work really begins -- John and Kiran?

CHETRY: Ed Lavandera for us. Thank you so much.

Coming up later this month, will be following our groundbreaking documentary "Black in America" with "Black in America 2". So don't miss it. It premieres July 22 and 23 right here on CNN.

ROBERTS: We are finding all kinds of fascinating things about the life of Michael Jackson from people who are very close to him. Uri Geller, the famous mentalist, knew him for 15 years and spent a lot of time with him.

I talked with him yesterday, and he was talking about Michael Jackson's alleged drug use, saying that many times Uri Geller feared for Michael Jackson's life, didn't want to leave him alone, would even sleep on the floor of his room just to try to keep him away from drugs some startling revelations coming from them.

CHETRY: It's very scary.

And Michael Jackson also bringing to light our major problem in this country with abuse of prescription drugs and how common it's become.

I was shocked when I found out that overdoses on prescription medication is the second leading cause of accidental death behind car crashes. And so we're going to talk about someone who used to be an addict and tries to help other people break out of that cycle.

ROBERTS: Yes. We've got Uri Geller coming up next too, so make sure you stay tuned for that -- 55 after the hour.


ROBERTS: Welcome back to the most news in the morning.

Learning shocking new details from Michael Jackson insiders about the singer's relationship with prescription medicine. Sources tell CNN while touring back in the 1990s, Jackson travelled with what amounted to a mini-clinic complete with an IV pole and anesthesiologist who would medicate him.

We spoke with Jackson's close friend Uri Geller who talked about the fact that he was really, really worried for Michael Jackson. We've having a clinical problem with that interview, so we'll get that coming up in just a couple minutes.

CHETRY: And also the Little League or, we're going to be talking to Sanjay Gupta. He tracked down another doctor who Jackson used to work on tour back in the '90s. And he also had some very eye-opening things to say about what he experienced.