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American Morning

Michael Jackson Memorial Preparations Underway; Obama to Meet Russian Leaders in Moscow; Newspaper Publisher Apologizes for Pay to Play Access Event; Police Brace for Jackson Memorial; Palin Suffers Backlash from Shocking Resignation

Aired July 06, 2009 - 07:00   ET


ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: 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. Glad I'm here with you.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Good to have you with us as well. We have a busy week ahead, of course. Here's what's on the agenda. These are the stories that we're going to be breaking down for you in the next 15 minutes.

A lottery to say goodbye to a legend. Late last night, a few thousand Michael Jackson fans got the e-mail that they had been waiting for and, in fact, they did win two tickets to his huge public memorial that's going to be taking place. With tickets or not, they are coming by the tens of thousands and they'll be watching by the tens of millions. And this morning we're asking is the LAPD ready for all of this.

CHO: Plus, hitting the reset button with Russia. Right now, President Obama is meeting with President Medvedev in Moscow. On the agenda, nuclear weapons and thawing icy relations. But the real test could come a bit later when Obama is going to meet face-to-face with Russia's former president, Vladimir Putin.

So who's really in power there? Our Suzanne Malveaux is in Moscow tracking every development.

CHETRY: And many in Washington still saying she did what, about Sarah Palin's decision to step down. The man known as the architect of two successful White House runs was baffled by the move. And one conservative even called her a quitter. So what does this mean for her chances if she even wants to run for president in 2012? We're going to explore that.

Also, we begin with the latest on the memorial for Michael Jackson. There were estimates that this morning hundreds of millions will be planning to watch Michael Jackson's memorial service on TV and online tomorrow. It could be bigger than the final farewells for John F. Kennedy Jr., our former president, or Lady Diana. But late last night fewer than 9,000 fans got the e-mail that they've been waiting for that they won two free tickets to be there in person.

Our Kara Finnstrom is tracking the story for us live outside of the Jackson family home in Encino.

Hey, Kara. A lot of questions about all of this.


CHETRY: But first of all, they were waiting to get this e-mail indicating that, yes, they are one of the lucky few. And so, what now?

FINNSTROM: Well, Twitter was abuzz this morning, Kiran, with people who are so excited to learn that they were one of the 8,750 people to receive those e-mails. So here's what they do today.

They have been told to go to Dodgers stadium. They have been given a secret code which they have to turn in in exchange for two tickets. They go, and then also a friend or a family member goes with them and then they will also get two wristbands. Now one of those will be secured to their wrist away. This is to try to prevent scalping. And then the other they will attach to the wrist of a family member or a friend.

Yes, once they come actually to the memorial service tomorrow morning 10:00 a.m. Tuesday at Staples Center, they will have to have that wristband on. If it's damaged in any way, it's been taped, we were told they will not be let in. The whole area has been cordoned off and only people with, you know, those proper wristbands and tickets or members of the credentialed media will be allowed in.

Also overnight, Kiran, some developments on the investigation front. "The Los Angeles Times" reporting that the Los Angeles Police Department has issued at least three police warrants, this to try and secure some information about whether drugs, prescription medications in particular could have led to Michael Jackson's death. There had been so many different doctors involved with Michael Jackson over the years that we are told police have had a difficult time actually putting together his whole medical history.

"The L.A. Times" reporting that this is exactly what they were trying to do with those search warrants. We know that they were issued on Wednesday. But as far as whether anything was found or exactly what they were looking for, Kiran, all that's under seal.

CHETRY: All right. What about the performances for tomorrow's memorial? What can people expect who are going to be watching this, whether or not they have a ticket watching it in person or at home?

FINNSTROM: Well, they have been very secretive about this. You can only imagine that it's going to be, you know, a blockbuster list. We know Jennifer Hudson is going to be performing but that's it, you know. And we also don't know who's going to be performing, who's going to be delivering the eulogy rather, or who else might be speaking there tomorrow.

So the folks who are organizing this have been very quiet about all this. We're going to have to wait until -- maybe they'll give us some kind of hint later today. But it may be, well, may be tomorrow, that we don't find out until we actually attend that service.

CHETRY: Kara Finnstrom for us this morning. Thanks so much. And also looking ahead, at 8:30 Eastern, we're going to be talking to two Michael Jackson fans who were lucky enough to win tickets to that memorial. We're going to hear why they feel they have to be there.

Also, AMERICAN MORNING. is going to be live in Los Angeles. We start at 6:00 a.m. Eastern Time, that's 3:00 a.m. local time. I'll be outside the Staples Center as Jackson fans gather for the memorial.

And we don't expect to be alone. We think people are going to start lining up and, you know, milling about the place that early. A lot of people are going to be showing up, but how are police and other officials out there going to be handling the crowd?

CHO: A lot of questions about that. Yes, I mean it's a big undertaking. Lots of security. $2.5 million to undertake this, you know. And they say, you know, if you're not one of those lucky people to get a ticket, stay home and watch it on television. But you can bet that there are going to be plenty of people who aren't going to heed that and go out there.

CHETRY: Exactly. They're closing off a big section but we're going to have to see whether or not people line up outside of that as well to try to just be close to it.

CHO: The people finding out if they're getting their tickets today, so a lot of excited people finding out about that and going to pick up their tickets later.

Meanwhile, watching new developments now in the search for a serial killer in Gaffney, South Carolina. Police have now released a sketch of the suspect who has killed five people in just over a week, and they want to you take a hard look at it. It's kind of sketchy.

He is described as 6'3", 230 pounds. And he may be driving a gold colored Ford Explorer. Yesterday, hundreds of people attended a funeral for two of his victims, an 83-year-old woman and her 50-year- old daughter. Police say both were found shot to death last week.

And the shooting death of former NFL quarterback Steve McNair this morning has officially been classified as a homicide. Police say McNair was found dead in a national condominium on Saturday shot twice in the chest and twice in the head. A woman that police say he was dating, 20-year-old Sahel Kazemi was also found dead from a single gunshot to the head and with a gun found underneath her body, but police won't call this a murder suicide just yet.


DON AARON, NASHVILLE POLICE SPOKESMAN: While it is clear that Steve McNair's death is a homicide as a result of being shot four times, the police department is not yet classifying Miss Kazemi's death. She does have a single gunshot wound to the side of the head, but there is more investigation required. We're going to be interviewing persons throughout the day today and probably for the next several days. I would expect that it will be a number of days before the classification is placed on Miss Kazemi's death.


CHO: McNair was married and had four children. He was the NFL's co- MVP back in 2003 and he led the Tennessee Titans to their only Super Bowl appearance -- Kiran.

CHETRY: Right now, President Obama is behind closed doors. He's meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in Moscow.

And the president also is in Russia less than an hour ago. There are some new pictures just in to us on the agenda nuclear arms reduction as well as improving relations between old Cold War rivals. And there you see the family arriving, the president as well as the first lady, and their two daughters, Sasha and Malia.

We also have White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux live in Moscow for us. I read your tweets that you saw everybody arriving. And it's a meeting with another Russian leader also that could prove to be quite critical for the president this morning.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. We are watching that meeting taking place obviously between the president of Russia and President Obama, but it's going to be tomorrow as well when he meets Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to see if the relationships, the chill has actually thawed.

But at this moment, those two leaders meeting, Medvedev as well as President Obama. And U.S. officials even before this U.S.-Russia summit, confirmed by sources this morning, say they expect these two leaders to come out and announce a commitment on both sides to reduce their nuclear arsenals.

This is really just a first step when it comes to taking a look at a nuclear arms treaty that will expire in December. It is also a first step that U.S. officials say in pressing that reset button between U.S. and Russia.


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 possible 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: And, Kiran, there really 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. The other, of course, is what we expect these two leaders to come out and announce some sort of reduction in nuclear arms on both sides. Really just a first step. But these two leaders will tell us about the details of those agreements and take some questions at a press conference in just a few hours -- Kiran.

CHETRY: That should be interesting. All right. We'll take that live hopefully. Suzanne Malveaux for us this morning. Thanks so much.

CHO: It took an epic final match at Wimbledon for Roger Federer to make history. Watch.

He always jumps so high at the end. After four hours and 16 minutes including a fifth set that went an astounding 30 games, Federer took his sixth Wimbledon title.

And there's Pete Sampras. And he broke Pete Sampras' record. You know, that's 15 Grand Slam tournament wins for the Swiss player. He beat Pete Sampras' old record of 14 in a career. And get this, Federer is just 27 years old. He looks great.

You know, you and I were talking just a second ago. We both played in high school.

CHETRY: That's right.

CHO: We have very similar games (ph).

CHETRY: Alina was a first seed, though. I was only number 15 (ph).

CHO: That's OK. That doesn't mean I can play now. We both can't serve. We both have wicked back hands. Very similar game. We need to get out there.

CHETRY: I'll tell you, after 30 games you've got to carry me off the set.

CHO: Four hours.

CHETRY: I can't believe that they were just -- they just still looked great. And Andy Roddick looked a little let down obviously.

CHO: Yes. I mean, a lot of people were saying this might be his year but, you know, he's young, too.

CHETRY: He is.

CHO: He's got some time.

CHETRY: You've got your whole life ahead of you.

CHO: Eleven minutes after the hour. Here's a check of other stories new this morning.

The new GM getting the green light. A federal judge here in New York is allowing the bankrupt car giant to trim down and sell some of its assets saying it's the only way GM can keep on going.

CHETRY: Tragedy at Magic Kingdom. Authorities are saying that two monorail trains crashed at Walt Disney World in Orlando killing one of the operators of the monorail.

It was the train's last run of the night. It happened at 2:00 in the morning. Only a handful of passengers were on board. A few of them were treated at the scene. Disney offered its condolences to the driver's family but isn't saying much else about how the accident happened. It's still not clear what went wrong.

CHO: Plus, Governor Sarah Palin stepping down. A shocker to start the holiday weekend. The announcement came on Friday.

She tried to clear things up on Twitter, but one conservative is calling her a quitter. The headline grabbing move has some in the Republican Party lashing out. We'll tell you what they're saying.

Twelve minutes after the hour.


CHETRY: Michael Jackson's public memorial could end up being the biggest celebrity goodbye in history. The LAPD says if you don't have a ticket, don't come. But who knows just how many fans will line the streets of downtown L.A. It could be hundreds of thousands.

So with California basically broke, how will police keep the situation under control? We're going to talk with first assistant chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, Jim McDonnell. He's live with us from L.A. this morning.

Thanks for getting up with us to talk to us.

CHIEF JIM MCDONNELL, FIRST ASSISTANT CHIEF, LOS ANGELES: Good morning. Nice to be here with you.

CHETRY: Well, are you guys -- I know you guys are used to this. You're used to dealing with crowds of epic proportions for various reasons. But they have expectations of perhaps 100,000 people or more coming out there, even though everyone has said if you don't have a ticket, don't come it. What are you expecting and how are you looking to handle the situation?

MCDONNELL: Yes, I guess the crowd estimated is the $64,000 question that everybody is wondering about and we are as well. We had the Lincoln parade about two weeks ago. We had about 250,000 people turn out for that, overall a very orderly crowd. A few incidents that we dealt with quickly.

I anticipate the crowd here will be well behaved. It will be a crowd that gathers for the right reasons and keeps the reason that they're in mind. But as far as putting a number on it, we have reached out a number of times, every chance we get actually, asking people to stay home if they don't have tickets, enjoy it from the company of their own home with friends rather than coming out standing in the hot sun on a city street...

CHETRY: Right.

MCDONNELL: ... two to three blocks away from the venue.

CHETRY: Right. And then the other question is, how are you guys communicating with the organizers of the event? I understand that some of this stuff still isn't necessarily set in stone, especially when Michael Jackson's actual funeral for the family could be. So how are you all coordinating to make sure that, you know, you guys know what's going on, and they've made their decisions final as we get closer and closer to this happening?

MCDONNELL: Yes. We have a point of contact with the family. We're working very closely with AEG, the company that is putting on the event at the Staples, the people who own the Staples Center. We've had that point of contact since the very beginning, so we're working through all of the complexities of this. And I think that it's running as smoothly as possible given the circumstances.

CHETRY: You know speaking of Staples Center, so that is a venue that holds 20,000. There are many other venues in Los Angeles that would hold many more. Was it intentional to try to keep this to a smaller group of people that are actually invited to this event or did that have to do with some of the connections with AEG and Michael?

MCDONNELL: I think there were a number of things that went into it. Certainly, I'm sure that had a big piece in the decision making. But I think the venue itself lends itself to being able to put on an event like this.

There are other larger events. They're older venues. They're not wired the same. It would take a tremendous amount of work in a very short period of time to be able to get them up to speed to be able to do what will be done with things that are already in place at the Staples Center.

CHETRY: I got you. Now, of course, the cost of this is going to be quite high as we all know. And the city of Los Angeles right now facing its worst fiscal crisis that the city has seen in decades. You have a $530 million budget deficit, which I'm sure you guys are familiar with. Are you concerned about how much this is going to cost and how this might deplete some of the resources of your city and your city's police?

MCDONNELL: Yes, certainly, the cost weighs heavily on all of us. We're well aware of how expensive it is to police one of these events. The only, I think, thing that comes to mind is how expensive it is if you don't do it right. And we have every intention to go out there and deploy heavily, deploy appropriately to be able to deal with any eventuality.

However, we will try to demobilize as quickly as we can, given the circumstances that the crowds are less than we anticipated. We'll be able to break up some of those officers deployed, put them around the city or if they're on overtime to be able to send them home.

CHETRY: I got you.

MCDONNELL: That's something that is -- that we deal with all the time and we're very, very watchful of the bottom line.

CHETRY: And how many officers do you expect to be out there?

MCDONNELL: I wouldn't give an estimate on that. That's something we don't talk about before the event anyway.

CHETRY: All right. Well, as if you didn't have enough to worry about, a circus is coming to town as well. So good luck with the elephants.


CHETRY: All right.

MCDONNELL: Yes, thank you very much.

CHETRY: Jim McDonnell, first assistant chief, LAPD, thanks for your time this morning.

MCDONNELL: Thank you, Kiran. Thank you very much.

CHETRY: Nineteen minutes past the hour. Starting at 6:00 in the morning, we're going to be out there as well. I'll be live from Staples Center in Los Angeles. Our special coverage is going to be starting right here on CNN 6:00 a.m. tomorrow morning. It will be 3:00 a.m. local time. So hope you join us for that.

Nineteen minutes past the hour. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHO: Good morning, Detroit. It is 21 minutes after the hour. Clear and 65 degrees right now, but it's going up to 81.

A little cloudy now but those clouds will part later is what we're told. It will be a sunny day in Detroit. We've got a beautiful weekend here. So close to the summer but Chamber of Commerce weather.


CHO: Yes, something like that. And rainy, very rainy.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: A hot day to trade a hot day in the "Washington Post" newsroom again. That story.

CHO: Yes.

Yes. I was reading it in the front page of the business section on Sunday of the "New York Times."


CHO: Of course, they went to town on this one.

ROMANS: This is right. This is "Minding Your Business" on a "Washington Post" story. The "Washington Post" incredible story uncovered by "Politico" last week. A flier surfaced showing that the "Washington Post" publisher and editor was trying to sell for $25,000 a private dinner in her home to connect lobbyists and CEOs with news executives and top government officials.

The air of exclusivity and access with something that "Politico" rightly noted would cause outrage in the newsroom and it certainly did. And today -- actually yesterday, Katharine Weymouth, the CEO and publisher of the "Washington Post" apologizing for this whole plan, this plan to sell access to the small event in her home for $25,000 to government officials and "The Post" news executive.

Here is what she had to say. The flier did not accurately reflect what we had in mind. The flier, of course, surfacing prompting a "Washington Post" to sell off for $25,000.

"Our mistake was to suggest that would hold and participate in an off-the-record dinner with journalists and power brokers paid for by a sponsor." Of course, you know, there are people who work in the newsroom who's saying what exactly did they have in mind if that's not what they were trying to do. It looks as though the "Washington Post" is trying to play it sort of as a rogue marketing person who might have put out this flier promising this exclusive access.

But seriously, in a time when lobbyists and access, that's all supposed to be behind us, and this is supposed to be a much cleaner kind of situation, it really was a loss of faith for the "Washington Post."

CHO: I think to remind people, you know, when you talk about division of press and sources, it's really church and state.

ROMANS: Oh, absolutely.

CHO: And so, I mean, that's why so many people were aghast and outraged.

ROMANS: And I will point out that the White House, even Robert Gibbs was asked about this on Friday, and he was like, look, they hadn't signed up for any of these things either. So whoever put that flier together hadn't -- was making promises --

CHO: He made a joke about it, too.

ROMANS: Absolutely. CHO: You don't want Robert Gibbs making a joke about the newspaper.

ROMANS: Anyway, serious, it's something that the publisher of this newspaper still having to deal with four or five days later. The fallout from this stuff only continues.

CHETRY: You have a "Romans' Numeral" for us as well this hour?

ROMANS: I do. I do. And it's 22. And it has to do with the pressures the "Washington Post" may be under trying to raise more money.

CHETRY: Twenty-two percent?

ROMANS: Twenty-two percent is the number.

CHETRY: Is that how much their revenue has fallen in the past quarter?

ROMANS: Yes. Absolutely. Very good, Kiran. The revenue --

CHETRY: And I can't even read up your paper.

ROMANS: Kiran is starting to read me. She's starting to understanding where I'm going. It's the revenue decline in the newspaper publishing division for this company for the first quarter of 2009.

It underscores the financial pressure that this company and many newspapers are under. And, of course, the "Washington Post" says, look, a lot of companies, newspaper companies and media companies sponsor conferences. The difference here is yes, they do. The difference here is that that idea that comes with exclusivity, a small group, $25,000 in her home, that's what really made people angry.

CHO: Christine Romans minding our business. Christine, thank you.

CHETRY: Right now, it's 25 minutes past the hour.


CHETRY: Twenty-seven minutes past the hour. Welcome back to the "Most News in the Morning."

Alaska's governor, Sarah Palin, is defending her decision to resign from office on Twitter. There's been a huge backlash in Washington, and some of our iReporters are having their say as well. Let's listen.


KATY BROWN, CNN IREPORTER: Right now with her stepping down, that was not a smart move. I think that represents her as a quitter rather than a politician or a Republican.

I don't think it was a smart move. I don't care if it's to concentrate on her family or her book or whatever else she has lined up. It was not a smart move as a politician.


CHETRY: Sean Callebs is following this developing story live on the ground. He's in Anchorage this morning.

And, Sean, so people in her home state have had some time to digest this. What are they saying this morning?

SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think a lot of people are actually wondering what exactly is going on. I mean, many of them were simply in the dark.

Remember, this happened just before the July 4th weekend. I think a lot of people are waiting for the other shoe to drop. Is there something more to this? I think everybody though thinks that she is paving the way for 2012. But what she will do in the interim, that's what everybody wants to know.

Will she make the tour, the speaker circuit and make that ton of money? Will she become an analyst for some TV network somewhere? What's going to happen to her? People have the same questions here that they do everywhere.

CHETRY: And, Sean, you know, there's just -- as we were talking about earlier, I guess there's theories out there. There are so many theories.

Is she going to run? Is she not going to run? Is she going to do something other than politics? Why did she do it?

And so, when do you think we're going to get more answers because we heard the very long speech at the press conference? But there's still so many questions and probably even more after hearing what she said.

CALLEBS: Yes, she's been pretty buttoned up since then, very quiet. Even on this holiday weekend, the governor made one brief appearance that was in a parade in Juneau. But how is she communicating? How is she getting her word out there? The way so many people do nowadays -- Facebook and Twitter. I want to read you something that she shipped out on Twitter this weekend saying, "Critics are spinning so hang in there as they feed false info on the right decision made as I enter the last year in office not to run again."

But you know, she has 18 more months to go in office. So a lot of people here saying, look, she's making herself out to be the victim. The ultraconservative who perhaps is more popular in the Lower 48 than she is here. Remember she was widely popular here before she joined John McCain's ticket but now her approval rating has dipped from the 80s into the 50s -- Kiran.

CHETRY: All right. Sean Callebs for us in Anchorage probably digging around and trying to find out some more information for us today. Thanks so much.

And we also want to know what you think about Governor Palin's plan to resign. You can sound off on our show blog at, or call our show hotline 877-MY-AMFIX.

And we're coming up to the bottom of the hour. Thirty minutes past the hour.

We take a look at our top stories. Close to 9,000 Michael Jackson fans got the e-mail they were hoping for late last night. They're getting two tickets each to tomorrow's memorial ceremony in Los Angeles. 1.6 million people signed up online and many may go anyway.

L.A. police think that as many as 700,000 people could swarm the area tomorrow. We'll talk to two of the lucky ones who got tickets live at 8:30 Eastern.

CHO: Now the story that we're watching for you this Monday morning, President Obama is meeting this morning with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. The two leaders expected to announce an agreement to reduce nuclear weapon stockpile. Also on the agenda, the war in Afghanistan and Iran's nuclear threat.

CHETRY: Also the shooting death of former NFL quarterback Steve McNair officially ruled a homicide. But there are a lot of questions about the circumstances. Police say McNair, who was married and had four children, was 36, was found dead along with a 20-year-old girlfriend in a Nashville condo Saturday. Police have not yet ruled it a murder suicide just yet.

CHO: There is major dissension in the ranks within Iran this morning. A group of clerics in Iran is declaring that country's recent presidential election invalid. There are also some signs that the White House may be changing its position on the possibility of Israel taking military action against Iran. Vice President Joe Biden making those comments.

Joining us to talk about this now Afshin Molavi. He is an expert on the mideast and author of the new book "The Soul of Iran." He joins us from Washington D.C., our nation's capital. Afshin, good morning to you. As I mentioned, an influential group of clerics declaring Iran's presidential election illegitimate, invalid. Why is this significant and what should we take from this?

AFSHIN MOLAVI, FELLOW, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: In many ways the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khomeini - he derives his legitimacy from cleric unity, any time you see this kind of clerical dissension in the rank, it's a chink in his armor, it's a chink in the armor of the entire Islamic republic. But the important point to remember however is that the clerics are not as powerful as they were 10, 15, 20 years ago. What we've been seeing over the past ten years is the gradual security militarization of Iran. And once we see cracks in the armor of the security, once we see factionalism among them, then I think that will be much more serious for the republic.

CHO: I want to turn to two conflicting statements by Vice President Joe Biden on Israel and Iran. I'll get your reaction on the other side. The first one is from April of 2009, the second one from just yesterday on ABC's "This Week." Let's listen.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: I don't believe that Prime Minister Netanyahu will do that. I think it was ill-advised to do that.

Israel can determine for itself as a sovereign nation what's in their interest and what they decide to do relative to Iran or anyone else.


CHO: All right. Afshin, so is this Biden just being Biden, or is there something deeper going on here? And does this reflect a possible shift in U.S. policy?

MOLAVI: No, I think the first part of you know Biden just being Biden. You know, it remains to be seen. Will the Obama administration backtrack those comments over the next couple of days? We'll probably see if they do. It was also noteworthy that on the same day the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff Mike Mullen did say that an Israeli strike on Iran would be deeply destabilizing to the region. But there is one thing that's clear, the Obama administration is deeply frustrated by Iran.

President Obama staked a lot of political capital on his engagement strategy. Even before these elections and the crisis erupted in Iran, Iran was not reacting positively to that. So there is a great deal of frustration within the Obama administration, perhaps Vice President Biden is channeling some of that frustration.

CHO: You know, Iran's President Ahmadinejad actually said that he would want to meet with President Obama at the U.N. G-8 United Nations General Assembly this fall in September. I mean, are we supposed to take this seriously?

MOLAVI: Well, you know, and I think as you said President Ahmadinejad said he'd like to do it in front of the international media. You know, I'll give you a quick story, Alina. I was in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia attending an OPEC heads of state summit and while all of the other heads of state left the hall, Ahmadinejad stuck around for a couple of hours to talk to the broadcast media. He likes the international light. He likes this kind of foreign policy theatrics.

But this is precisely why he developed a lot of opposition within Iran particularly among some of the elites. Because they thought he was more interested in theatrics than substance. If you're really interested in resolving a dispute, you do it behind closed doors. You engage in serious discussions. This to my mind was not a very serious offer.

CHO: It's a fascinating story. We know you're watching it closely particularly since much of the media access in Iran has been cut off to the larger public. So Afshin Molavi, we thank you for joining us this morning.

MOLAVI: Thank you.

CHO: 35 minutes after the hour.


CHETRY: Welcome back to the most news in the morning. After more than eight months, the last Senate seat will finally be filled this week. Senator-elect Al Franken is headed to Capitol Hill. He is giving the democratic caucus a filibuster proof 60-seat majority. But it doesn't guarantee that the beltway will be gridlock free. Our Jim Acosta is on the story from Washington this morning. Hey, Jim.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Kiran. They have been keeping the seat warm for quite sometime. He hasn't been sworn in as senator just yet. But Al Franken's arrival in Washington already has democrats seeing 60 in the Senate where republicans may have lost their last legislative weapon, the filibuster.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our next senator, Al Franken.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Democrats are counting the seconds until live from Washington, it's Al Franken.


ACOSTA: The former "Saturday Night Live" comedian turned politician is about to hand his party 60 seats in the Senate, if you include the two independents now aligned with democrats. Franken, a Harvard graduate who can do the math is downplaying expectations.

FRANKEN: The way I see it, I'm not going to Washington to be the 60th democratic senator I'm going to Washington to be the second senator from the state of Minnesota.

ACOSTA: But that's not how others in the Senate see it.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: What I think should be a game changer.

ACOSTA: It takes 60 senators to kill a filibuster. So Vermont's independent senator Bernie Sanders is challenging any wavering colleagues in the new democratic supermajority to stick together, and block any filibuster attempts aimed at health care.

SANDERS: At the very least what we should be doing united is saying to the republicans, you cannot filibuster a strong health care bill to death. If it turns out there are only 52, 53, 54 people who vote for final passage, that's the way it is. That's the majority.

ACOSTA: But in that deck of 60, there are a few wild cards. Take Connecticut's Joe Lieberman, who told the "New Haven Independent" he is not sold on a democratic healthcare proposal that will give the public the option of joining a government plan.

SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (D) CONNECTICUT: I'm skeptical of it in substance and in the politics. By the politics, I mean, I think we're not going to take the votes to pass the overall bill and it becomes conditional.

ACOSTA: Other democratic wild cards from red states in the west and south are also in the mix, which may explain why the White House knows 60 is not necessarily a magic number.

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We don't get everybody from every party on every vote. That includes the democratic party.


ACOSTA: Not to mention the fact that two prominent democrats, Ted Kennedy and Robert Burt have been battling illnesses and it's still unclear whether recent republican-turned-democrat Arlen Specter will even be a reliable vote. Given all that it may take some magic for the democrats to get to 60. But Kiran, Al Franken, he's good enough, he's smart enough and doggone it, he is almost a United States senator.

CHETRY: Her knew that was coming. We all knew that was coming, right? Hold up the mirror.

ACOSTA: I had to do it. I'm sorry.

CHETRY: Good to see you, Jim. Thanks.

ACOSTA: Good to see you.

CHO: 41 minutes after the hour. Here is what's on the "A.M. Rundown" in the next few minutes. Subway for sale, public transportation paid for by the private sector. Why train conductors may be getting a mouthful to say at one train station.

And serial killer on the loose. The reaction from one South Carolina town as the search for that serial killer search continues.

Plus the first formal summit between U.S. and Russia in seven years. The first pictures just in to CNN just as the first family arriving.

The new effort to hit the reset button on relations. We are live in Moscow. 41 minutes after the hour. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're hot but you isn't so bright. There we go. Yes, it will work. Oh -

CHO: Robots from space and prehistoric animals in a battle for the top spot at theaters over the holiday weekend and early numbers show both "Ice Age, dawn of the Dinosaurs" and "Transformers, Revenge of the Fallen," both pulled in $42.5 million. They will tally the final numbers today to decide which movie actually earned July 4th bragging rights. Johnny Depp and Christian Bale came in at number three with the crime drama, "Public Enemies."

Rob Marciano joining us with a look at the weather today. Hey, Rob, there's another movie out called "Hangover" that everybody here wants to see. Have you seen it?

ROB MARCIANO, CNN, METEOROLOGIST: I have not because as you know, I don't drink so I wouldn't want to even see that part of society. But is it good?

CHO: I haven't seen it. I mean, I'm just saying, you want to go see it together.

MARCIANO: That's fabulous.

CHO: Anyway, I digress, what's the weather looking like?

MARCIANO: Well, for once in New York, as you know, not exactly the best weekend to go see a movie because it's been so nice. Comfortably cool temperatures, just enough sunshine to warm you up in the afternoon. But keeping the levels of humidity down, so perfect scenario after what was a pretty nasty June for you, folks. You will get a little pulse of rain, I think, tomorrow. But decided that looks pretty good. All pulse went through upstate New York about to head to the Adirondacks. That's not too big of deal. It should be gone maybe once it hits Burlington, Vermont.

And then this line of showers and thunderstorms just south of Dallas, north of New Orleans. This is where a front kind of been hanging around the past couple of days. It was as far south as central Florida. Here it is on the national map for today. It starts to migrate a little bit farther up towards the east. So we'll start to see a bit of a build of humidity and heat back towards this part of the country later on this week. And Denver could easily get into the upper 90s before too long. All right.

Some obligatory animal video for you. A baby elephant was born in the Sydney Zoo there. 250 pounder. Don't have a name yet. But this was born from the mother Tong Li, which - she was rescued from a Thailand logging camp. And this is an endangered species. So pretty big deal. Two more on the way here. Believe it or not, Alina and Kiran, the gestation period for that animal is 22 months. So you think you guys got it bad. 22 months. CHO: I thought a nine-month pregnancy -

CHETRY: And we think we have it rough, right?

MARCIANO: Exactly.

CHETRY: Imagine giving birth to something that's 250 pounds.

MARCIANO: Yes. So you stop your complaining already.

CHETRY: Hey, we didn't complain.

MARCIANO: Just kidding, guys. Good to see you.

CHO: He's coming after us on Monday.

CHETRY: That elephant was adorable though.

Hey, coming up, in just a few minutes, we are going to be talking to two lucky winners. You know how many people, 1.6 million was it? Tried to win tickets to Michael Jackson's memorial service that's taking place at the Staples Center in L.A., we're going to talk to two of those lucky winners coming up. It's 47 minutes past the hour.



CHETRY: This is some Tony Bennett for you this morning if you're still wiping your eyes and saying it's not really Monday, is it? Just trying to wake you up this morning. It's beautiful out there, 68 degrees as you look at New York City, going up to sunny and 82.

All right. 50 minutes past the hour.

And welcome back to the most news in the morning. You know, the New York City subway system has come up with a unique way to make a quick buck during this economic meltdown. Some straphangers say it's nothing short of a sellout. Richard Roth now live from the Atlantic Avenue-Pacific Street Subway station. This is in Brooklyn with a sign of the times. Hey there, Richard.

RICHARD ROTH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, and good morning. The panhandlers are always asking for money in the subways. Well, for years the people who run New York City's subways have been looking for someone to give them money, a lot of money, and it's happening here in Brooklyn.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Read about it in the "A.M. New York News." Good morning people. Good morning.

ROTH (voice-over): The big news at this bustling Brooklyn, New York subway station is its name. New York City has sold the name of the massive Atlantic Avenue Pacific Street station to Barkley's Bank. DALE HEMMERDINGER, MTA CHAIRMAN: This is the first time we've ever succeeded in getting somebody to pay for a name.

ROTH: The signage isn't said but it may look like this Barclay's, a British Bank in one of Brooklyn's oldest public train station.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's a (inaudible) for it's a bit of a slippery slope then I can imagine when you start to sell branding names of government-run institution.

ROTH: New York City Transit like it's subway performers needs money. Ridership has dropped as the global economy has gone off the tracks.

JEREMY SOFFIN, MTA SPOKESMAN: Light transit systems all over the country and the world, we are facing, you know, budget deficits.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We still won't accept your money.

ROTH: Many of the locals don't think Barclay's should be a sign of the times.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And what do you expect me to say? That's ridiculous. The whole country's a branding nightmare.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A London bank shouldn't be the name of this train station. It's something that belongs in the public domain.

ROTH: A real estate developer working with Barclay's is paying $200,000 for 20 years for the naming rights. It's the underground branding for a plan Barclay's Sports Arena above the subway. Some riders don't mind the switch.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If they can do it, why not?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The trains are run the same way, I couldn't care less.

ROTH: Some do care and are committing the old name to memory.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Atlantic Pacific, Atlantic Pacific, that's what I say now and that's what I'll always say.

ROTH: In the last century, New Yorkers often had trouble reading anything in the subway because of graffiti. It's much cleaner now and New York City said corporate cash entering the subways helps keep fares low, of course, conductors will have much more to announce.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Same reason, money. Same reason.


ROTH: These new signs are going to be phased in at the subway station, and who knows, Kiran, what's next. Perhaps the Acme Columbus Circle Station or maybe Enron Times Square. It's all the end - you never know where this could end up. CHETRY: And in Brooklyn of all places, you know, where they like to be independent and free from the commercialism. But what are you going to do, we're going to Staples Center, right? I mean, every single major sports arena is renamed you know after -

CHO: Or the Nokia Center across the street.

CHETRY: Literally. Richard doesn't look too happy about it at all. All right, Richard.

ROTH: Well, it could get a little confusing in the subway.

CHETRY: I hear you. At least they're not renaming the United Nations any time soon.

CHO: As far as we know.

55 minutes after the hour.


CHO: Just about four minutes before the top of the hour. New developments now in the search for a serial killer in South Carolina. Police now have a sketch of the suspect. There's more than 100 investigators comb the tiny town of Gaffney for a man who they say has killed at least five people. Richard Lui filed this report of a community in fear.


RICHARD LUI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): It is the day after July 4th celebrations that did happen here in the town of Gaffney, but now residents are dressed in black, remembering both the second and third victim of what county officials are calling a serial killer. Both teachers, a mother and a daughter leaving behind a very sad community.

(voice-over): Pallbearers arrived Sunday afternoon at the First Baptist Church for a memorial service for 50-year-old Gina Parker and her mother, Hazel Linder, age 83. A new normal in this small town, police officers along the streets, in front of the church. And watched as Parker's co-workers arrived in a school bus along with others who came to pay their respects to the two women.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What can you say? Our hearts go out to the family and we have to come to show our support.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was sunshine. I mean, she just lit up a room.

LUI: While there were words of warning for the killer.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If he comes to me face to face, I'm ready, I'm loaded, and aimed for him. That's all I can tell him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm afraid for my life. You know, it's going to be kind of like a dog fight. And I tell you, I'm going to win. LUI: Gina and Hazel were found bound and shot to death on Wednesday in the mother's rural home. County officials say this is their best guest at the identity of the killer. Described as unpredictable by the sheriff. The suspect is identified only as a white male, 6'2", with salt and pepper hair. They believe he's driving an early 90s two-door Ford Explorer. Police are also linking him to the death of 15-year-old Abby Tyler, who died on Saturday and her father Steven who was found dead on Thursday at their family business.


LUI: The county sheriff saying that they are working with local, state, and federal officials right now to follow up on all leads that they've been receiving within the last week on this suspect. They are also putting on the ground over 100 task team members to try to stop what they're calling a serial killer. Kiran? Alina?

CHO: Richard Lui for us. Good morning, everybody. It's just about two minutes before the top of the hour, 8:00 on the East cost. Good morning, and welcome to AMERICAN MORNING. It's Monday, July 6th, I'm Alina Cho. John Roberts has the week off.

CHETRY: Good to have you with us this morning. I'm Kiran Chetry.

We've got a lot going on this morning. Here's what's on the agenda. These are stories that we're going to be breaking down for you in the next 15 minutes. Right now President Obama as well as the entire first family is in Russia. The president meeting this morning with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to hammer out a nuclear arms reduction agreement. We're going to be live in Moscow.

CHO: Yes to a new GM. A federal court judge here in New York City approving the sale of the troubled automaker's assets saying it's the only way the bankrupt car maker can survive. So what does this mean for GM's future? Our Christine Romans will be here to explain.

CHETRY: Today the 17,500 tickets for Michael Jackson's memorial service will be handed out. Just a fraction of more than the 1.5 million people who entered to win a seat. In a moment, we're going to be live in Encino for more on the memorial preparations that are underway as we speak.

CHO: And Sarah Palin, the soon to be ex-governor of Alaska, is hitting back at critics on Facebook and Twitter, saying she made the right decision. And this morning, you at home are sounding off too on her sudden resignation.


KATY BROWN, I-REPORTER: Right now, with her stepping down, that was not a smart move. I think that represents her as a quitter rather than a politician or a republican. I don't think it was a smart move, I don't care if it's to concentrate on her family or her book or whatever else she has lined up, that was not a smart move as a politician.


CHO: We're going to talk to strategists Leslie Sanchez and Jamal Simmons about why now. What is she going to do next? And where this puts her within the Republican party. Kiran.