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Preparations for Michael Jackson's Memorial Service Underway; Obama in Moscow to Meet Russian Leaders; Sketch of Suspected Serial Killer in South Carolina Released; General Motors Gets Approval for Asset Sale; People React to Sarah Palin's Resignation
Aired July 06, 2009 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Well, happy Monday and welcome to AMERICAN MORNING. It's July 6. I'm Kiran Chetry. We have Alina Cho with us this morning.
ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. The all-girls show. Good morning.
CHETRY: It sure is.
CHO: John Roberts has the week off, and glad to be sitting next to Kiran. Good morning.
CHETRY: You, too. Did you have a nice Fourth of July weekend?
CHO: I did. There was a lot going on and we had fantastic weather in New York.
CHETRY: For once.
CHO: For once, exactly. We got a slow start to the summer but we are following several developing stories this Monday morning. We're going to be breaking them down for you in the next 15 minutes.
Right now, preparations are under way for Michael Jackson's memorial service. It will take place tomorrow at the Staples Center.
The Los Angeles Police Department says it expects hundreds of thousands of mourners from around the world to flood the city but just 17,500 tickets are being given out to the public. And police say if you don't have a ticket, stay home and watch it on TV. We're live in Los Angeles.
CHETRY: But it's also the first formal summit between Russia and the United States in seven years. President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev could be making a big announcement tonight on nuclear arms. Also, the president's first face-to-face meeting with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin could prove to be even more critical. We're live on the ground in Moscow.
CHO: And a suspected serial killer is on the loose in South Carolina. Five murders in just one week. That's the police sketch of the suspect.
Police say the shootings all happened within ten miles of each other, and authorities do believe the killings are linked. In a moment, we're going to go live to Gaffney, South Carolina to talk to the sheriff who is heading the investigation.
CHETRY: And developing right now, President Obama arriving in Moscow this morning for a summit with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. The two leaders will be talking about nuclear arms reductions. But it's another meeting the president has planned that could prove even more challenging and perhaps more critical. This morning we're live on the ground in Moscow with the global resources of CNN, and Suzanne Malveaux is there.
And what are we expecting today, Suzanne?
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Kiran. President Obama arrived here just about half hour ago, so 5:30 Eastern Time, 1:30 local time. And even before this U.S.-Russian summit for two days, U.S. officials briefed us saying that they expect these two leaders to come out later today and announce that there is going to be at least some reductions in the nuclear arsenals on both sides.
All of this really is just a first step -- a first step in what they are saying is setting the reset button for U.S.-Russian relations.
MALVEAUX (voice-over): President Obama seeking a new tone in the complicated U.S-Russia relationship. A second meeting with President Dmitry Medvedev. But most important his first face-to-face encounter with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The old cold war approaches to U.S.-Russian relations is outdated. It is time to move forward in a different direction. I think Medvedev understands that. I think Putin has one foot in the old ways of doing business and one foot in the new.
MALVEAUX: Still a key question, is Putin really in charge, even though Medvedev is most visible on the world stage?
ANDREW KUCHINS, CSIS, RUSSIA AND EUROSIA PROGRAM: You can have the photo opportunity between Mr. Obama and Mr. Medvedev. But for some of the really tough issues for the things that we are more -- that we're deeply concerned about Russian behavior and that are very, very high priorities for our interest, got to find a way for Mr. Obama to convey that to Mr. Putin.
MALVEAUX: On the table, diffusing tension over a U.S. missile defense shield in Europe, pursuing a new nuclear arms reduction treaty, and helping with the war in Afghanistan. President Obama sees Russian cooperation in keeping Iran's nuclear ambitions in check. But can he get them to agree to positive economic sanctions? A positive sign Russia voting with the U.S. for tough sanctions against North Korea after its recent nuclear test. Mr. Obama telling European allies --
OBAMA: I reaffirmed our commitment to a more substantive relationship with Russia, working with the Russian government on issues where we agree and honestly confronting those areas where we disagree.
MALVEAUX: Kiran, there are already some signs of goodwill, a new agreement allowing the United States to use Russian airspace to help supply the U.S. military mission in Afghanistan. That is one of them. Also, an expected announcement later today when it comes to reducing the nuclear arsenals on both sides.
Obviously, this is just the beginning, as you had hinted to earlier today. As well, he's going to be meeting with Vladimir Putin. That happens tomorrow. And that is really going to be the test to see whether or not this relationship has improved if there is in fact a thaw -- Kiran.
CHETRY: Suzanne Malveaux for us there covering this critical trip. Thanks so much. We'll check in with you a little later.
CHO: This morning Governor Sarah Palin is firing back at critics and defending her decision to step down. Palin telling supporters on Twitter, "Critics are spinning to hang in there." Lieutenant Governor Sean Parnell will serve out the remainder of Palin's term.
He said he understands Palin wanting to protect her family and the state from numerous ethics investigations, most of which have been dismissed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LT. GOV. SEAN PARNELL, ALASKA: I was very surprised at first. But then as she began to explain why she was doing it, I began to see that it was -- Sarah Palin wants to get moving to put Alaska's interest first.
Remember that basketball metaphor she used where she talked about the full court press be an honor and how it's time for her to pass the ball to a teammate so we can progress here in Alaska with our agenda? And I think that was an apt way of describing how she perceived things.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHO: Parnell will be sworn into office on July 26th. And we want to hear what you think about this story. A lot of people sounding off already. Sound off on our blog too, CNN.com/amFIX. And stick around, our Sean Callebs is live in Alaska with reaction to Palin's sudden decision that shocked the political word. We're going to talk to him in about 20 minutes -- Kiran.
CHETRY: Also following developing news out of California, last minute preparations right now under way for Michael Jackson's memorial service. Los Angeles police are bracing for potentially historic crowds tomorrow. Fans are being urged to stay off the streets to watch from home.
Meanwhile, the 17,500 people who won tickets to the event have to pick them up at a distribution center. All of this as the investigation into Michael Jackson's death takes another turn.
Word overnight of search warrants being issued in the case. Kara Finnstrom is live in Los Angeles with details for us.
And we'll talk about the investigation in just a minute. But first about these tickets and how they're being distributed. What they're really trying to do is keep this orderly and also make sure that scalpers and people aren't trying to sell these tickets that they get. What is the plan right now if you are one of those lucky few?
KARA FINNSTROM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. I mean, that's a big concern for organizers here is that scalpers might get a hold of those tickets. Here's how it works.
Overnight some 8,750 people were notified that they got those tickets. Today what they are being told to do is to head to Dodgers stadium. They've been given a secret code that they have to turn in in order to get the tickets and in exchange they get two tickets as well as two wristbands.
Now, one is put right on their wrist to ensure that they don't give their ticket away. There is a little bit of concern about that second wristband. They give that to a family or friend member, a family member or a friend who then puts that on their wrist. The tickets need to be accompanied by someone with a wristband on, and we're told that those wristbands are damaged that no one will get in.
Now, the memorial service set for 10:00 a.m. tomorrow morning at Staples. And those folks with those wristbands and the tickets are the only ones that will be let in, unless you have a media credential. Everyone else being kept far away from Staples Center.
Now, also, as you mentioned, some new developments overnight. The "Los Angeles Times" reporting that three search warrants have been issued. No additional information on what may have been recovered during those searches, only that those searches took place on Wednesday and that everything else is sealed.
So three additional searches that have taken place. "The Los Angeles Times" reporting that detectives were looking for evidence, perhaps that prescription medication may have played a role in Michael Jackson's death.
Back to you.
CHETRY: And one quick question, the LAPD again saying, you know, it's best not to try to come down to the area. We do know that they're blocking off, you know, a big section out there. But what are they going to show? People stay at home who want to see this on TV, what they can expect to see?
FINNSTROM: Well, we know it's going to be a star-studded performance for anyone, whether they're there or whether they're at home. CNN has confirmed that Jennifer Hudson will be taking part in the performance, but we're still waiting for all the details on this, Kiran, as far as -- you know, you can only imagine the long list of celebrities that would like to take part in this. And we also don't know who's going to be delivering the eulogy yet. All those details that we're hoping to start getting later on today.
CHETRY: Really interesting as we understand a lot of the stuff is still taking place at the last minute because there's so much to juggle as they try to figure out how best to pull this off. Kara Finnstrom has been following every bit on this, and we'll check in with you again later on through the morning. Thanks so much.
And also, there is little promoters can do to try to stop people from selling one of the two tickets that they win. You get two if your name was selected. But some people are already doing just that. Here's more in an "AM Extra."
The bids are already pouring in on eBay. There are already more than 50 posts offering tickets to this event. Bids range from $1 to a $1 millions. Of course, there's no way of knowing if the tickets up for grabs are real, of course.
Also, make sure to join CNN for complete coverage of the memorial celebrating the life of Michael Jackson. I'll be out there in L.A. starting tomorrow morning 6:00 a.m. here on AMERICAN MORNING.
CHO: Hey, got to hop on a flight after the show.
CHO: It is nine minutes after the hour. Also new this morning, the exiled president of Honduras promising to return home today after failing to reclaim his post last night. We're watching this one very closely.
Jose Manuel Zelaya tried to land at the main airport at the Honduran capital in a jet that was loaned by the Venezuelan government. But military vehicles from the interim government blocked him apparently. He ended up going to El Salvador. The army ousted Zelaya more than a week ago after he pushed to change the constitution and stay in office.
CHETRY: The death of former NFL quarterback Steve McNair has been ruled now a homicide. Police in Nashville say McNair was shot four times at close range Saturday, two bullets in the chest and two in the head. McNair was married but police say he was dating 20-year-old Sahel Kazemi. She was also found dead from a single gunshot wound to the head and the gun underneath her body. Investigators say they are not looking for suspects fueling speculation it was a murder suicide.
CHO: And police in Gaffney, South Carolina releasing a sketch of a suspected serial killer who they say has terrorized the small peach- farming community. Five people have been shot and killed just since last weekend. The sheriff who is heading up the investigation will join us live in just a few moments.
Ten minutes after the hour.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CHO: Twelve minutes after the hour. We're watching a developing story for you on CNN.
Right now, they are searching for a serial killer in a small town in South Carolina. Police in Gaffney releasing a sketch of a man who they say has killed at least five people in just over a week.
This weekend many Fourth of July celebrations were canceled there, replaced by a funeral for an 83-year-old woman and her 50-year-old daughter, two of the victims found shot to death last week.
Gaffney is located just about 50 miles southwest of Charlotte. It's a small peach-farming community of just over 50,000 people. More than 100 investigators are on the scene right now. And leading the investigation is Bill Blanton. He's the sheriff of Cherokee County South Carolina.
Sheriff, good morning and thank you for joining us. Sorry it's under these circumstances. I want to get right to the investigations. The victims as far as we know did not know each other. They range in age from 15 to 83. Why do you believe that these murders are linked?
BILL BLANTON, SHERIFF, CHEROKEE COUNTY, S.C.: Right now, we don't have a current motive or connection between these murders. With a community this small, it's very possible. I knew all the victims and it's possible that all the victims knew each other. But we don't have any information that linked -- right now that links the killer to --
CHO: So you're just saying that because of the sheer number of murders in a small ten-mile radius in this small span of time that you believe that these might be linked. I understand that you had just six homicides in all of 2008. So it's just because of the sheer number that you believe that these all might be linked?
BLANTON: Well, they are linked. They're linked through the investigation and through evidence. That's how we've linked them. Yes.
CHO: Can you tell me at all about a kernel of the evidence that has led you to believe that these murders are linked?
BLANTON: No. We haven't been discussing the crime scene or any physical evidence at this time. But we're confident it's the same guy.
CHO: OK. Let's talk a little about the suspect. We want to put the sketch up there.
You believe he's in his 40s and maybe driving a Ford Explorer. It's a pretty general sketch there. But what are some of the distinctive features about the suspect that you can tell us about?
BLANTON: Well, first of all, you're right. We believe he's possibly driving a goldish-tan or champagne, we've got in different colors, possibly a Ford Explorer. But we're not focusing on just that. We're focusing on anything that even looks like a Ford Explorer. But his description is between 6'1" and 6'3" to the witnesses are saying 250, so we're saying probably 230 to about 250. He's got salt- and-pepper hair. He's had a ball cap on at all three. That's pretty much a general description of him. His clothes have been different.
CHO: Sheriff, obviously there's never a good time for this to happen but happening around right around the Fourth of July, I understand a lot of Fourth of July celebrations were canceled in Gaffney. You're urging door-to-door salesmen not to knock on doors. What else are you telling residents about how they can try to stay safe?
BLANTON: Well, generally, it's the same information just that the crime prevention officer would use that people need to check on their neighbors, especially family and loved ones that live alone or elderly that live together. Travel in at least groups of two or more.
But I've noticed the community is concerned and have a right to be but a lot of things are still going on. We have three schools that will be starting today, and they're going to be on regular schedules. Businesses are open, but people are using caution. And that's what we're asking them to do. Just be cautious until we do catch this murderer.
CHO: Understandably a lot of people concerned in your community of 50,000. Bill Blanton, sheriff of Cherokee County, South Carolina, we thank you for your input. Sheriff, thank you.
BLANTON: Thank you.
CHO: Seventeen minutes after the hour.
CHETRY: Welcome back to the "Most News in the Morning." Well, it took an epic final match at Wimbledon for Roger Federer to make history. I mean, these two barely broke a sweat. Four hours and 16 minutes, including a fifth set to win an astounding 30 games.
You know my dad and I have these times (ph) sometimes. It's just no one can win.
Federer took his sixth Wimbledon title. Big kiss for that one. Fifteen grand slam tournament wins for the Swiss player beating American Pete Sampras's old record of 14 in a career. And get this, Federer is only 27 years old.
CHO: His wife is pregnant on top of that.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: What a huge year. I have games like that but only because nobody can ever return a ball.
ROMANS: Or we'll play all day to try and return a volley.
CHO: I stopped watching it like when it was 10-11, and I thought, no, it's going to end soon.
CHETRY: Right. It was cool.
ROMANS: No, it was very cool.
CHO: That was very cool.
CHETRY: It was wonderful.
You're here minding our business this morning.
ROMANS: I am.
CHETRY: And we're talking once again about the autos and General Motors.
ROMANS: That's right. The epic battle for the future of America's auto industry. That's right.
GM, a bankruptcy judge has approved the sale of GM's assets to the new GM. This approval coming late yesterday after final -- you know, final arguments on Thursday.
The judge thought about it over the weekend, delivered his take yesterday. And that is this bankruptcy moving forward very, very quickly.
The judge in this deal saying that essentially the only alternative to an immediate sale is liquidation. A disastrous result for GM's creditors, its employees, the suppliers who depend on GM for their own existence and the communities in which GM operates. In the event of a liquidation, creditors now trying to increase their incremental recoveries will get nothing.
Bottom line, this judge said, the sale should go through because that is the best results for the most number of people. The judge saying it's the only way for GM to survive. GM, of course, as you know will close dozens of factories. It's going to slash and close brands. It's going to close up to 40 percent of its dealer network. That's thousands of small business owners across the country who will be shuttered.
Not everyone very happy about the way this has been going, however. There are people who are car accident victims, who have lawsuits against the old GM, whose lawsuits will not transfer to the new GM. And, of course, there are investors who think that they could get a better deal from the government. They don't like the fact the Treasury Department has, as they say, trampled on their rights and made them accept this deal.
But look, the judge is saying this is the best result for the biggest number of people. Chevy, Cadillac, Buick and GMC will be the new brands that will come forward here. But this will be the beginning of the story.
CHO: Right. And the other thing is, I mean, what other choice do they have, right? I mean, in the sense, right?
ROMANS: That's absolutely right. This is a company that lost $28 billion last year. Now -- now, they have to prove -- they have to prove that they're going to be able to be competitive. They're going to be much smaller but they can be competitive and that they can be a viable American car company. And that's where the hard work starts.
It's not done yet. I want to say that it's not done yet. This could happen pretty quickly, but this would be even quicker than the Treasury Department and the Obama administration had promised. So a victory, if you will, for the Obama administration for trying to redo this company quickly through the bankruptcy process.
CHO: And they need to start making cars that people want to buy. That's the other thing. But you worked to furiously over the weekend to come up with your "Romans' Numeral."
ROMANS: I did. I didn't do anything over the weekend except to work on "Romans' Numeral."
CHETRY: I don't buy that. She was flipping burgers on the grill.
ROMANS: I actually spent four hours watching tennis.
335,000 is our number.
CHETRY: "Minding Your Business" cozy (ph). Sorry, go.
ROMANS: 335,000 is the number. And, you know, it's a number to try to put a little -- a finer point, I guess, on the story of the day and that is the number of jobs lost in the auto industry since the recession began. We talked about it a little bit on Friday, you know, how many jobs have been lost in the auto industry.
CHETRY: What are you talking about, since like 2007?
ROMANS: Yes. Yes. That's a third of it.
So it just is to show you the incredible path that this industry has traveled, if you will, over this recession.
ROMANS: Now you've got GM on the verge of coming out of bankruptcy. Chrysler already has, but a lot of people will not be a part of this industry when it goes forward.
CHETRY: We keep talking about needing to save or create 150,000 jobs, right? I mean --
ROMANS: That's right.
CHETRY: We're way behind on that number.
ROMANS: That's a very good point. You're right.
CHETRY: Christine Romans for us "Minding Your Business" this morning.
It's 24 minutes after the hour.
CHETRY: Welcome back to the "Most News in the Morning." It's 27 minutes past the hour.
And right now, Alaska's soon to be ex-governor, Sarah Palin, is keeping a low profile after her political bombshell announcement that happened right at the beginning of the Fourth of July weekend.
CHO: Yes, exactly.
CHETRY: Hey, guys, I'm stepping down. So much for a quiet weekend.
CHO: Low profile, then high-profile decision. Yes. That decision to resign before her first term is becoming a big topic of conversation among our iReporters. Here's what some of you are saying. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID WHITE, IREPORTER: Do you mean to tell me Governor Sarah Palin is stepping down. You had the scandals of Senator Ensign and Governor Sanford. That didn't help you. And here is now, Sarah Palin stepping out of the national spotlight.
RICK SENO, IREPORTER: This is a woman that has no experience, that obviously cannot even finish the job for which she was elected. And the fact that the Republicans are now going to rally around this woman and potentially elect her as their presidential candidate in 2012 is just a joke.
KATY BROWN, IREPORTER: I'm sorry, Palin, I backed you up so long. But now with you quitting, that's not my style. So Sarah Palin, I think you just made a mistake.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHO: So the question this morning, what are people saying in Alaska. Our Sean Callebs is live in Anchorage right now.
And, Sean, what is the buzz up there? Good morning.
SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, it's -- good morning to you guys.
It's interesting because a lot of those reports came from outside of Alaska. We were talking to some people last night after we got in here. A lot of people say, look, she's always been a much larger political figure outside the state. A lot of people here say they are still going to support her and perhaps this is a way for her to go out and trumpet such things as the energy plan to get Alaska's name out there a bit better.
Who knows? I mean, people really haven't seen much of her since that bombshell as you put it, on Friday. This is one image of her riding in a parade in Juneau on Saturday. But since then, Kiran and Alina, she's basically been in the western part of the state fishing with her family, keeping a low profile.
CHETRY: So interesting. "The Daily Beast" today has 11 theories why Palin resigned. And, of course, everyone is buzzing about it. So has anybody heard from the governor since she announced this decision?
CALLEBS: Really she's -- only by -- the way everybody here, some folks nowadays, especially on a holiday weekend, Twitter and Facebook. I want to read something that she posted on her Facebook over the weekend.
She begins by saying, "How sad that Washington and the media will never understand it's about country. And though it's honorable for countless others to leave their positions for a higher calling and without finishing a term, of course, we know by now for some reason a different standard applies for the decisions I make."
And, you know, a lot of people say that's the problem. That she's basically making herself the victim in all this. But she says she is the ultraconservative and she is the one that is going to appeal to the party's base -- Kiran and Alina.
CHO: But, Sean, you know, I mean, forget about Palin for just a second. You're there in Anchorage. I mean, what are Alaskans saying?
I mean, there's so much buzz. Is she laying the groundwork for a 2012 presidential run? Is she going to work on her memoirs? Is she going to have a talk show? I mean, you know, there's so much buzz. What are Alaskans saying to you about what they think she might do?
CALLEBS: You know, a lot of people are waiting for the other shoe to drop. And, of course, Palin, her camp, her attorney have said, look, you know, there is no other shoe. In fact, the FBI came out and made a very unusual statement saying we are not investigating her.
A lot of this comes back to a sports complex in her hometown of Wasilla that bloggers have been saying, look, she has some vested interest in this, perhaps got a kickback. But the FBI saying absolutely not. But to Alaskans, what are they saying? They're curious like everybody else. They want to know, you know, is she going to end up somewhere perhaps as a very well-paid analyst or will she go around the country and make speeches?
And, you know, a lot of people say that's the problem. That she's basically making herself the victim in all of this. But she said she is the ultra conservative, and she is the one that's going to appeal to the party's base.
Kiran and Alina? ALINA CHO, CNN ANCHOR: But Sean, you know, I mean, forget about Palin for just a second. You were there in Anchorage. I mean, what are Alaskans saying? I mean, there's so much buzz.
Is she laying the groundwork for a 2012 presidential run?
Is she going to work on her memoir?
Is she going to have a talk show?
I mean, you know, there are so much fuzz.
What are Alaskans saying to you about what they think she might do?
CALLEBS: You know, a lot of people are waiting for the other shoe to drop. And of course, Palin, her camp, her attorney have said, look, there is no other shoe.
In fact, the FBI came out and made a very unusual statement saying, "We are not investigating her." A lot of this comes back to a sports complex in her hometown of Wasilla that bloggers have been saying, look, she has some vested interests in this, perhaps got a kickback. But the FBI saying absolutely not.
But Alaskans, what are they saying? They're curious like everybody else. They want to know, you know, is she going to end up somewhere perhaps as a very well paid analyst? Or will she go around the country make speeches. But I think to a person, everybody thinks she is setting the stage for 2012.
KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Sean Callebs for us.
He is up there in Alaska, as people like to say. We'll check in with you again no doubt. Thanks, Sean.
Also, we want to hear more from you about Sarah Palin's resignation. Call our show hotline, 877-MY-AMFIX., and you can also head to our blog, CNN.com/amfix.
CHO: It's going to be a popular place. Thirty-one minutes after the hour.
Checking top stories this morning.
Los Angeles bracing for tens if not hundreds of thousands of Michael Jackson fans, even though just a fraction will actually have tickets for tomorrow's memorial service that gets under way at 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time, 10:00 a.m. Pacific tomorrow at the Staples Center. Those tickets will be handed out today, by the way. Security, as you might imagine, is massive. Twenty-five hundred officers will cordon off the downtown Staples Center at a cost of around $2.5 million.
Kiran is heading on a jet plane. She's going to be live in Los Angeles for the memorial service beginning tomorrow at 6:00 a.m. Eastern Time. CHETRY: The woman accused of withholding cancer treatment from her autistic son has now been charged with attempted murder. The nine- year-old died in March. He was diagnosed with leukemia back in 2006. Prosecutors in Massachusetts say she canceled at least a dozen chemotherapy appointments and didn't file at least half of his prescriptions.
CHO: And you may have noticed some cheaper gas prices at the pump this weekend. AAA says the average price for a gallon of regular is $2.61. That's more than a dollar lower since this time last year, and it is the 15th consecutive day the average price of gas has dropped.
CHETRY: Well, right now, lawmakers in Washington are tackling everything from health care reform to preparing for the 2010 census. But not everything they're saying is true. In fact, some of the things they're saying are outright lies. Our next guest separates fact from fiction. Bill Adair is the founder and editor of the Pulitzer Prize-winning PolitiFact.com. He joins me from D.C.
Good to see you this morning, Bill.
BILL ADAIR, EDITOR, POLITIFACT.COM: Good morning.
CHETRY: All right. Well, President Obama wants Congress, of course, to pass health care legislation. They're on break now and they'll break again in August. So he wants them to try to get something done in the meantime. But a lot of people are saying, wait a minute, can we afford this right now?
The president was asked about that issue at a town hall. And he said Medicare and Medicaid are the single biggest drivers of federal deficit and federal debt by a huge margin. So, he was basically making the argument that for people who said we can't afford to do something, we can afford not to.
And you guys put this through the Truth-O-Meter. Are Medicare and Medicaid driving up the deficit more than anything else the government spends money on?
ADAIR: Well, we gave that one a "Mostly True" on the Truth-O-Meter. And the reason was that over the long-term Obama is correct. Yes, if you go out 50 to 75 years, Medicare and Medicaid are really the big drivers. But right now, it's really the economic stimulus, the other things related to the downturn, the bank bailouts, the downturn and tax revenue that are driving the deficits, so. But over the long-term Obama is right. So he gets a "Mostly True" on our Truth-O-Meter.
CHETRY: All right. Let's go to the next one, and this is an interesting one. It's a persistent rumor, of course, that you know about. You guys actually did a Truth-O-Meter on this, in fact, during the primary campaign. That Barack Obama was not born in the United States and there's no proof that he was.
And -- well, we have the conservative publication "WorldNet Daily" accusing White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs of lying for saying that the president's Hawaiian birth certificate was posted on the Internet. What is the verdict on that?
ADAIR: "WorldNet Daily" gets a "False" on the Truth-O-Meter for that one. It is posted on the Internet. Now, the distinction that the birthers (ph), the people who believe there's some sort of conspiracy here, contend is that it's not the official birth certificate. And indeed, you know, there is -- there is the original birth certificate that exists in Hawaii that is not the certified copy that's on the Internet.
But officials in Hawaii say this is a real birth certificate. It says the same thing as the certified one that is in Hawaii. And for all intents and purposes, it is his birth certificate. So when the state of Hawaii says that, we decided to rate this one "False" on the Truth- O-Meter.
CHETRY: All right. So it was basically just -- there is a birth certificate, it's just not the certificate of live birth, but they pretty much say the same thing.
ADAIR: They say exactly the same thing. And it's just amazing to us how this thing persists. There are other things to back this up, too. When you go back and you look at newspapers from the month that Obama was born, they mention that he was born in Honolulu on those dates. So, it really is time to put this one to rest, I think.
CHETRY: All right. Here is something that you guys have been doing a lot of fact checking on. This is Minnesota Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann. And she made some comments to the "Washington Times" about the community organizing group ACORN's involvement in the census. And we want to remind viewers that ACORN was under scrutiny, right, for allegations of voter fraud during the presidential election. But let's listen to what Bachmann said about ACORN.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
REP. MICHELE BACHMAN (R), MINNESOTA: ACORN has been named one of the national partners which will be a recipient again of federal money, and they will be in charge of going door-to-door collecting data from the American public.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
CHETRY: All right. Well, there you have it. So, she is saying that ACORN will be in charge of collecting data. When it comes to this claim, what do you say, Bill?
ADAIR: That one gets our lowest rating, "Pants on Fire," on our Truth-O-Meter. And Congresswoman Bachmann has amassed quite a record on PolitiFact. She is 0 for 5. Everything that we have checked has been wrong. In this case, she's wrong that they're being paid. She's wrong they're going to go door-to-door. ACORN is merely a partner that's helping to recruit workers for the census. That one gets a "Pants on Fire."
CHETRY: And just one connected to that. She also said that because of this, she's not going to be answering the census completely, that she -- or the only thing that is required of the Constitution is that you say how many people are in your household. And you say that's also misleading for people.
ADAIR: Yes. We gave that one a "Pants on Fire," too. She is -- she is in effect telling people to break the law. Federal law actually requires that you answer all questions on the census. And so for her to say that, it's wrong that-- she's wrong that the Constitution says that. And we gave it a "Pants on Fire" because we thought it was remarkable that a congresswoman would be encouraging people to violate federal law.
CHETRY: All right. Back to the drawing board for Congresswoman Bachmann.
Meanwhile, you can check all of this out on PolitiFact. Read more about it because it's very interesting, all of the claims that you go through and you check.
Bill Adair, great to see you as always. Thanks for being with us.
ADAIR: Thanks, Kiran.
CHETRY: Thirty-seven minutes past the hour.
CHO: Forty minutes after the hour. Welcome back to Most News in the Morning.
The observation deck in the Statute of Liberty's crown reopened this weekend just in time for America's birthday. It had been closed, you'll recall, since September 11th for security reasons. Tickets, get this, are going fast. In fact, trips to the top are sold out through most of September. Our Susan Candiotti got a look inside.
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Gazing up at Lady Liberty's crown makes so many wonder what it's like to be inside her head.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Awesome.
CANDIOTTI: With the formal ribbon-cutting on the 4th of July, the Statue of Liberty is open again for a remarkable climb up an American landmark.
UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: I almost saw the whole New York City and a lot of ocean, also saw a lot of people. They're really tiny.
CANDIOTTI: Eight-year-old Alana Bartneck (ph) and her dad were among the first 30 to score tickets online.
Exhilarating for some, a workout for others. Huffing and puffing up the 354 steps.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my goodness.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good morning, gentlemen.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was shaking because I'm claustrophobic. But it was worth it. It was a neat experience.
CANDIOTTI: Also neat is the intricate double helix staircase to the ground.
(on camera): So I can look up.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can look up, you can see this spiraling staircase.
CANDIOTTI (on camera): Oh my!
(voice over): We made the climb up those narrow stairs.
(on camera): If you have any issues with heights, it's kind of scary when you look over the side and peer down below. All of these double railings are brand-new.
(voice over): One of the safety features mandated before the reopening.
Another safety mandate -- limiting visitors to ten at a time. Three groups an hour period. Beyond the camera's view, new security measures, some in place since 2004, including machines to detect explosives.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We feel confident that the security measures we have in place are sufficient to protect the people and the visitors here to the Statute of Liberty.
CANDIOTTI: Including her crown, the thickness of two copper pennies.
(on camera): You can see the bottom of the torch out the window and, of course, Lady Liberty's arm. These waves that you see in the ceiling actually represent the curls on the other side. Lady Liberty's curls. You can go online to buy tickets to come inside the crown, but there's quite a long wait already. But it is something not to be missed because it will only be open for two years before they close everything down again for more renovations.
(voice over): Susan Candiotti, CNN, Liberty Island, New York.
CHO: I haven't been up to the crown, no. It feels like 1,000 degrees up there, I understand.
CHETRY: Well, hopefully, you can get a little breeze.
CHO: You know, I've been seeing all kinds of pictures from people who did make it into the crown this weekend. But there's really one that left a lot of people smiling.
It's from Aaron Weifinger of San Francisco proposing to his girlfriend Erica just after they made it to the top of the stairs. She did say yes. They're 26 and 27 or 25 and 26. He picked the spot because their families came to the United States from Ellis Island. So there are some sentimental reasons there. Erika said the spot was perfect and she was speechless and so excited.
If you're going to climb 354 stairs, there better be some payoff.
CHETRY: Yes. And can you imagine him thinking about it the whole time, what if she says no, what if she says no. Claustrophobic there.
CHO: They're from California, by the way. That's a long way to travel for the proposing.
CHETRY: I love the little kid with the sippy cup in front of the shot just watching. So cute.
Forty-three minutes after the hour.
CHETRY: Welcome back. It is Monday and we're having a fun time here this morning.
CHO: Yes, we are. If you have to work, you know, I'd like to sit next to you, Kiran.
CHETRY: Me, too. Me, too. And you know who else is here with us? Rob Marciano back --fresh back from Disney.
You were out there in Disney, seeing a lot of great things.
CHETRY: I know. They were -- they were -- what were they doing? They were having a ceremony for newly naturalized citizens. That was wonderful. And that you get to see the fireworks display over the Cinderella's castle.
ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, you know, they seemingly have those every hour. We got to see them during the daytime when we were there. Didn't stick around for the nighttime show. And the whole (INAUDIBLE). That was the other thing. This was all political.
CHO: Of course.
CHETRY: Of course.
MARCIANO: President Obama --
CHO: I understand it was your idea to go there.
MARCIANO: Actually wasn't but I didn't argue with them. I went happily as you can imagine. Any story in Disney is a good story for sure. Good morning, guys. A good way to celebrate the 4th of July, anywhere near Disney or any all-American joint like that.
CHETRY: All right, Rob. Thanks so much.
Forty-eight minutes after the hour.
CHETRY: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. Fifty-one minutes past the hour now.
Across the country, local governments are making spending cuts, trying to get by on a smaller budget. And one way they're making ends meet is by cutting emergency services. And as Jeanne Meserve reports, that could leave people in danger.
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Kiran and Alina, firefighters are among those feeling the pinch in these tough economic times, but are cuts in fire services putting lives at risk?
MESERVE (voice over): A 47-year-old man died in this Flint, Michigan fire in April. The first firefighters on scene attempted a rescue but because of recent cutbacks didn't immediately have a pumper truck to douse the flames.
MARK KOVACH, FLINT FIREFIGHTER: If we had the water, potentially, we could have made it up the stairs on the first try.
MESERVE: Last month in Alameda, California, a firefighter was injured, his colleagues say, because cut backs slowed the response. Officials in both Flint and Alameda dispute that budget decisions had a significant impact on these tragic events, but the Firefighters Union maintains that communities all across the country are playing Russian roulette by cutting fire services.
JEFF ZACK, INTL. ASSN. OF FIRE FIGHTERS: We're seeing firefighters furlough, laid off, taking cuts in pay, cuts in benefits. Stations are being closed. Stations are browned out.
MESERVE: In Atlanta, Georgia, this firehouse is one of five that have been shuttered. The Firefighters Union says the city has half the fire personnel it should.
JIM DAVIS, ATLANTA FIREFIGHTERS UNION: On any given day, we'll only have 140 firefighters on duty in the city of Atlanta to protect a city with a daytime population well over 1.5 million, which is a national scandal.
MESERVE: A survey in January indicated six percent of cities have cut emergency services. Though the number has almost certainly grown, experts say emergency services are almost always the last thing on the chopping block. CHRIS HOENE, NATIONAL LEAGUE OF CITIES: The fact that you're seeing cities around the country making cuts to these services is evidence of the depth of the current recession.
MESERVE: Take Prince George's County, Maryland.
MARK BRADY, PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY, FD: We have to be fiscally responsible to the citizens and residents and do the job and provide the services that we need to provide the best that we can with the resources that we are provided with.
MESERVE: County officials say public safety is not being jeopardized.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Currently there is no staffing at this station today.
MESERVE: But firefighters insist job and overtime cuts, furloughs and rotating station closures are increasing the risk to firefighters and the communities they serve.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nobody's home. Turn out the lights.
MESERVE: The Obama administration has proposed increasing grant money to pay for firefighting positions, but as communities' budgets get tighter and tighter, more are expected to cut emergency services, which really can make the difference between life and death.
Kiran, Alina, back to you.
CHO: Jeanne, thank you.
We are watching the Michael Jackson story I would say very closely. The memorial service will be held at the Staples Center tomorrow In Los Angeles. It gets underway at 1:00 p.m. Eastern -- yes, 1:00 p.m. Eastern, 10:00 a.m. local.
CHETRY: 10:00 a.m. local time, yes.
And they still have this logistical hurdle that they really have to cross. I mean, the people who got the tickets, they need to show up, they need to prove that they are who they registered on the computer. And already cropping up on eBay.
CHO: Yes. And the incredible thing that we were reading this morning which we were talking about is, there is literally another circus coming to town. The Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus...
CHETRY: That's right.
CHO: Five-day stint is set to start on Wednesday, just a day after the memorial service. And they're going to do that traditional parade of elephants coming through. It's set at 3:30 a.m. tomorrow, just hours before that memorial service is set to start. We're going to be live to Los Angeles. We're also going to talk to two people who were lucky recipients of those free tickets for the memorial service later on this morning.
It's 54 minutes after the hour.
CHO: It's 55 minutes after the hour. Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning.
The Senate's top Republican is sounding a warning about a Democratic plan for government-run health insurance. He says the U.S. could wind up like Canada. So we were wondering, is that so bad? Dana Bash traveled to Ontario, Canada to find out.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're going to feed the fish?
DANA BASH, SENIOR CONGRESSSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): For Shana Holmes, simple pleasures, playing with her dog, walking in her garden, are a gift. Four years ago, she was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Told if it wasn't removed she could go blind or die.
SHANA HOLMES, CANADIAN PATIENT: I realized right after the surgery how bad my vision was.
BASH: Shana is Canadian, but for her surgery she went to the U.S. because it would have taken four to six months just to see specialists in Canada's government-run health system, the only option here.
HOLMES: All my life I've lived in this country with public health insurance and I always thought that I would be OK, that everything would be fine.
BASH (on camera): So this is basically all of the surgery.
(voice over): Shana's bills at the Mayo Clinic where she was treated total $100,000. She borrowed from family and friends.
HOLMES: And that's the stuff that I face is tragic, having dinner with my friends and I know how much money I owe them.
BASH: Republicans in Washington they are seizing on Shana's story and other accounts from Canada to warn against government involvement in health care.
Doctor David Zelt is chief-of-staff on Ontario's Kingston General Hospital. GOP Senate Leader Mitch McConnell singled out Kingston as Exhibit A of staggering delays in Canadian care.
We played to Zelt his speech.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MINORITY LEADER: Knee replacements. Well, at Kingston General, the average wait is about 340 days.
BASH: Zelt's response, McConnell is exaggerating.
DR. DAVID ZELT, CHIEF-OF-STAFF, KINGSTON GEN. HOSPITAL: Average time to get a knee replacement here is 91 days.
BASH: But he does admit Canada's system where the government covers everyone, there are limits and shortages. Some patients do have to wait.
ZELT: I'm not going to say that we don't have issues. But again, if you take the other side of the coin, these patients have access.
BASH: Despite her Shana Holmes' horror story, Canadian officials insist most patients with life threatening problems are treated quickly.
Doug Wright can attest to that. He has cancer, a tumor on his leg. He's got the money to get care in the U.S., but says there's no reason.
DOUG WRIGHT, CANADIAN PATIENT: I've not had to wait. I've seen, you know, some of the best specialists in the country.
BASH: And though taxes are high here, he and others remind us Canadian health care available to all is free.
BASH: Now, to be clear, no Democratic health care plan now on the table calls for the kind of government-run system they have here in Canada. But consider this statistic. All Canadians have health care coverage, that's 33 million people compared to 47 million, that's just the number of uninsured in the U.S.
Kiran and Alina?
CHETRY: Dana Bash for us this morning. Thanks so much.
CHO: Good morning. We're just crossing the top of the hour, 7:00 on the East Coast. Good morning and welcome to AMERICAN MORNING for this Monday, July 6th. I'm Alina Cho. John Roberts has the week off.