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American Morning

Feds Fail Security Test; Obama's Stimulus Under Fire; Crisis in Iran; Jackson's Doctor Speaks Out; Obama Tackles Global Economy

Aired July 08, 2009 - 08:00   ET


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: And we're coming up right now on two minutes before the top of the hour on this Wednesday, July 8. Good morning, glad you're with us on this AMERICAN MORNING.

I'm Kiran Chetry.

ALINA CHO, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Alina Cho. John Roberts has the week off, enjoying a couple of days. Nice to be with you.

Here's what's on this morning's agenda, the stories we're going to be breaking down for you in the next 15 minutes.

A shocking new report showing government offices around the country are at risk of a terrorist act. Undercover agents got bomb- making materials through security and put devices together inside federal buildings. Our Jason Carroll has details, he'll be with us in just a moment.

CHETRY: And Republicans are slamming the $787 billion stimulus asking, where are the jobs. The administration says it's only spent about $100 billion so far. And if that's the case, why are some Democrats now talking about yet another stimulus? The debate over money, live from Washington.

CHO: And we got this development overnight. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says more sanctions may be needed to deal with Iran's repressive regime. It comes as President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad calls the country's recent disputed presidential election quote, "the most beautiful, clean and free election" in that country's history. We're going to talk with Iran expert Reza Aslan in just a moment.

But we begin with shocking new details about your security. A brand new government report raising serious questions about safety in government buildings across the country.

Our Jason Carroll has been pouring over the details of this report. And Jason, what's surprising to me is that we're not talking about one building, we're talking about 10.

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's incredible, isn't it? In just how easy it was for these undercover agents to penetrate security. It's absolutely stunning. Here's the bottom line. According to the report, the Federal Protective Service isn't doing a good job at protecting government buildings like it's supposed to.

The proof? Caught on tape.

Investigators said they were greeted at this sight -- a security guard asleep at his post. Investigators in plain clothes were not stopped once as they smuggled bomb parts past guards at 10 different security checkpoints. They were able to pass through standard check points like this one, getting access to high-level places like at the State Department, the Department of Justice, even at Homeland Security.

And here's another disturbing part. The undercover agents brought in real bomb parts for their tests and were able to build the bombs in bathrooms, then walk around with them hidden in briefcases. They detonated that devices at a remote site.

Take a look at the powerful result.


The guards in question all work for the Federal Protective Service, an agency that handles security at 9,000 federal buildings. Mostly through the use of private contractors. All this part of a report from the government accountability office which is the investigative arm of Congress.

The report says that federal protective service routinely failed to give these guards proper training, in one region guards haven't received training on x-ray machines since 2004. The GAO says the agency has already taken some steps to improve oversight. And the Senate Committee on Homeland Security will actually take this up in hearings later today.

Absolutely incredible when you look at all this.

ALINA CHO, CNN ANCHOR: It really is. I mean, from the simulated explosion to making the bomb, making materials in the bathrooms, too, to the guards asleep at will.

CARROLL: Right. And, you know, and looking to this report, we found other examples. An example of a guard who was looking at an adult Web site instead of, you know, looking at the computer like he was supposed to. And in another case, an infant in a stroller was taken through the x-ray machine because the device was not online as it was supposed to. Nobody noticed. An infant going through an x-ray machine.

CHO: Wow. Well, this will be contentious hearings coming up, you can bet.


CHO: Jason Carroll, thanks so much.

You know, some government agencies are still suffering the effects of a July 4th cyber attack that knocked out numerous Web sites, including those used to fight cyber crime. The Associated Press is reporting that the Treasury Department, Secret Service, Federal Trade Commission and Transportation Department Web sites were all down at some point over the holiday weekend. Even into this week. South Korean officials say their government and private Web sites were also hit, and that the attacks may be connected.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Turning to the Most Politics in the Morning now. An ambitious agenda right now waiting President Obama at the G-8 Summit in Italy. The president will be tackling a number of pressing issues, including global warming, as well as Iran's nuclear ambitions and the global recession.

Back here at home with unemployment at its highest level in more than a quarter century, Republicans are pouncing.

CNN's Jim Acosta is live in Washington this morning.

And the Republicans releasing a new ad and saying that the stimulus isn't working.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN GENERAL ASSIGNMENT CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Kiran. A whole lot of barking here in Washington as we are about to show you.

You know, with the president overseas, Republicans here in Washington believe they have found Mr. Obama's Achilles' heel -- the economy. Top GOP leaders are pointing to some recent conflicting statements coming out of the White House on the stimulus, asking once again whether it was the right approach to ending the recession.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where are the jobs? We put the dogs on the money trail to find out.

ACOSTA (voice-over): In the latest sign the economy is in the doghouse, Republicans are seeking their bloodhounds on the stimulus with this video that asks -- where are the jobs?

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), MINORITY LEADER: I'm John Boehner. This is Ellie Mae. She hasn't found any stimulus jobs yet, and neither have the American people.

ACOSTA: It's an issue that dogged the president all the way to Russia where Mr. Obama clarified statements made by his own vice president on the recession.

JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: There was a misreading of just how bad an economy we inherited.

ACOSTA: Not exactly, according to the president.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I would actually, rather than say "misread," we had incomplete information.

ACOSTA: Who still believes the stimulus was the right call.

OBAMA: There's nothing that we would have done differently.

ACOSTA: But Republicans point to President Obama's dire warnings back in February when he urged the Congress to pass the stimulus.

OBAMA: We're moving quickly because we're told that if we don't move quickly, that the economy is going to keep on getting worse. We'll have another 2 million or 3 million or 4 million jobs lost this year.

ACOSTA: It turns out even with the stimulus, the economy has shed 3.4 million jobs in just six months. While the president says he's now open to a second stimulus, one of his top economic advisors is already calling for one.

Laura D'Andrea Tyson told an economic seminar in Singapore "We should be planning on a contingency basis for a second round of stimulus."

Republicans say the White House can't get its story straight.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MINORITY LEADER: They said the stimulus was necessary to jumpstart the economy, yet now with about 500,000 jobs lost every single month they've started to admit that they simply misread the economy. These were costly mistakes, and we can't take them back.

ACOSTA: Despite a rough couple of weeks for Republicans, GOP strategists see their own political green shoots of recovery on the economy.

DOUG HEYE, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Nothing has really galvanized the Republican Party more than the stimulus vote. One thing that we've seen is that the president's popularity, while he is still popular throughout the nation, really is taking hits in key states.


ACOSTA: And which state is he talking about? Well, for one, he is talking about the key battleground of Ohio. There is a new poll out there showing the president's numbers slipping when it comes to the economy, and that may explain why the White House is not alone in considering a second round of stimulus spending.

Democrats in Congress are also kicking around the idea of a sequel, including the House majority leader, even though some in the Congress, in the Democratic Party, are clearly disappointed with the original. The Senate Majority Leader, Kiran, Harry Reid said, yesterday, he is not convinced that a second stimulus is needed.

So despite a lot of discipline on the Democratic side over these last several months, when it comes to the stimulus, when it comes to the economy, they are all over the map on that one.

Kiran? CHETRY: All right. We'll have to wait and see.

Jim Acosta for us this morning, thanks.


CHO: Other stories new this morning, the embattled former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, remember him? Well, he has landed on his feet. "The New York Times" is reporting that Gonzales will teach a political science course at Texas Tech on contemporary issues in the executive brand.

Gonzales resigned from his Bush administration post two years ago. He was much maligned during his tenure over illegal government wiretapping and the alleged politically motivated firing of several U.S. attorneys.

CHETRY: Another famous face may try his hand in politics is actor Alec Baldwin, telling "Playboy" magazine that he seriously considering a run for Congress. The Emmy-award winning star of "30 Rock" says he has even considered moving to Connecticut and would, quote, "love to run against Joe Lieberman."

CHO: And Alaska Governor Sarah Palin may have had 20 million reasons to quit before her term was up. Now Palin already has a $4 million book deal, and a report in the "Daily Beast" says between speaking fees and a possible TV or radio show, Palin could be earning as much as $20 million a year. Her governor salary $125,000 a year.

CHETRY: There you go. Well, meantime, there is a new Gallup Poll-USA Today Poll suggesting that Sarah Palin's sudden resignation has actually improved her standing among Republicans.

Two-thirds want her to be a, quote, "major national political figure" in the future. Three-fourths of Democrats polled hope she will not be. So there you see the big difference.

And Palin's decision to quit is still a major topic on our show hotline, 877-my-amfix. Here's what you guys are saying.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (via telephone): I do believe that she is a good person, and I do believe that she has a bright future. I think she's very smart, and I think she's doing the right thing for her.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (via telephone): I think Sarah Palin's resignation was one of the biggest blunders of political history.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (via telephone): I know what they don't like about Sarah Palin. It is her Christian values. But she has the values that the founding fathers had.

MR. TAYLOR (via telephone): Sarah Palin, guess what she's about to do. Don't be surprised -- talk show, book deal. She is about to help the world. (END AUDIO CLIP)

CHETRY: All right. So we want to know what you think about the story or anything else that's on your mind. Call our show hotline. It's 877-my-amfix.

And It looks like David Letterman is still using Sarah Palin as a punch line even though he took a lot of heat for some comments he made last month.

Let's listen.


DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN: The governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin, has announced that she's stepping down. She will no longer be the governor of Alaska.

And yes, today, she went, first thing, woke up, went out on her porch and waved good-bye to Russia.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Waved good-bye to Russia.

LETTERMAN: Waved good-bye to Russia.

Obama was waving --


CHO: I can see Russia from my house.

CHETRY: Which she didn't say...

CHO: Yes, I know.

CHETRY: ...which Tina Fey says.

CHO: Which has Tina says.

You're right.

CHETRY: But if you ask most people, they think that Sarah Palin said that because of that spot-on impersonation.

CHO: I mean, listen, you know, Letterman, this last time, even though he took some heat as you mentioned, his ratings gold. He edged ahead in the ratings ahead of Conan because of that.

CHETRY: And there were some also --

CHO: He knows what jokes work.

CHETRY: Yes. Exactly.

All right. Nine minutes after the hour.


CHO: Good morning, New York. Take a look at that shot there. Partly cloudy and 67 degrees right now, but guess what? Forecast looks pretty good. Mostly sunny and 79, a great day to be in New York.

Twelve minutes after the hour. Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning.

To hear Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad say it, last month's election was, quote, "The most clean and free election anywhere in the world." He made those comments in a nationally televised address. Opposition leaders of course claim that election was rigged. And they're now in the midst of a three-day general strike under the cover of an Islamic religious holiday.

Reza Aslan is the author of "How to Win a Cosmic War." He joins us now from Los Angeles.

Reza, good morning to you. President Ahmadinejad as you just heard called the election the most free and clean election in the world. He also called for some changes saying that the structure of government should changes, changes in government should be considerable.

You know, it sounds like he is making some concessions here. But if he's still in power, is it going to make a difference?

REZA ASLAN, AUTHOR, "HOW TO WIN A COSMIC WAR": Yes. Well, I'm not sure if I would call it concessions necessarily. This was kind of a blusterous speech, vintage Ahmadinejad in some ways. But you know what?

It is interesting, though, is that there are some real cracks and fissures starting to appear at the very highest levels of the regime. And when Ahmadinejad talks about changes, what he's talking about is something very fascinating. He's talking about an even greater role for the executive office.

What's perhaps unexpected about the last four years of the Ahmadinejad regime is as disastrous as it may have been for both Iran and I think the international community. He has managed to put even greater power behind the office of president, which as you know, was not all that powerful of a position.

CHO: I found this interesting. You wrote in the "Daily Beast" that you spoke to one aide to opposition leader Mousavi who told you -- and I want to put this up on the screen, quote, "Please tell the Western media to keep paying attention to us. Please let them know that if they are watching, fewer of us will be killed. It is when America stops paying attention that the regime loses all restraint."

It's just interesting to see that, you know. Who could forget those protests just after the election. But, of course, Western media access to a large degree has been cut off. So, you know, if those protests -- if we're not seeing those pictures that you see there up on the screen right now, I mean, does this mean the end for protestors, and does Ahmadinejad ultimately just stay in power?

ASLAN: Well, I think in the West we do have this sense that perhaps the revolution or the uprising, however, you want to refer to it, has come to an end, as a result of the brutal crackdown that you were referring to. But nothing could be further from the truth.

You know, this is far from over. I think what's happened is that although the number of people on the streets have obviously diminished, the uprising itself has, in some ways, shifted from the streets to the halls of power, and more interestingly, to comb the religious center of Iran.

Right now, it seems as though the two sides, the pro-Ahmadinejad and the anti-Ahmadinejad sides have fairly solidified. It's the people in the center, which is primarily the clerics, the religious establishment, that has yet to go one way or another.

Some groups have already committed to the reformist movement, some have committed to the Ahmadinejad movement. But the body itself hasn't decided one way or another. And really, that's going to decide where Iran goes from here on out, where the clerics put their weight.

CHO: And Reza, I find this interesting, because we're in the midst in Iran of a three-day Islamic holiday, and some are using this as an opportunity to have a general strike.

So, I mean, is this really sort of the protestors' way of hitting the government where it hurts, in the wallet?

ASLAN: Yes. In fact, this seems to be now the primary strategy of the protest movement is to try to use a general strikes, withdrawing money from state-run banks, spending less money in some ways, as a way of hurting Iran exactly where it counts.

Because, as you know, Iran has an economy right now that's in just shambles. The annual inflation rate is about 26 percent. The official unemployment rate is about 20 percent, but some people in Iran say that unofficially it may be as high as 40 percent.

And now with greater isolation as a consequence of the way in which the election was carried out and the brutality of the regime in responding to the protestors, Iran's government could very easily collapse. It's going to be very difficult for this regime to continue business as usual under Ahmadinejad.

CHO: Well -- and I think we should remind people, this is officially a holiday of prayer and solitude. And as one protestor said, you know, "I dare the government to come after me as I'm praying in the mosque."

So at any rate -- Reza Aslan, we thank you so much for your perspective on this, joining us live from Los Angeles.

Thank you.

ASLAN: My pleasure. CHO: Seventeen minutes after the hour.


CHETRY: All right. There's a shot this morning.

Good morning, D.C. Right now, it is beautiful and sunny, 69. And later today, 83 for a high.

New this morning, the federal government is officially acknowledging that African-American slaves built the U.S. Capitol building. There will be a marker inside of the new Capitol Visitor Center, which will come from some of the original stones excavated by the slaves. It will be placed there in their honor.

Historians say that African-American slaves worked six days a week, 12 hours a day without any pay to build it.

CHO: Billionaire T. Boone Pickens is shutting down his giant wind farm project. The oil tycoon billionaire wants to wean the United States off foreign oil so he spent $60 million promoting what he calls The Pickens Plan. It was well publicized, but now a change of plan. He says the capital markets have dealt us all a setback so the wind farm, well, that's on hold.

CHETRY: An upside to the economic downturn. Americans across the country are spending less time stuck in rush hour traffic for the second year in a row. This is according to a study done by Texas Transportation Institute. They attributed to changes in the economy and gas prices saying that traffic is actually getting better in Los Angeles although "better" would be a relative word since the city still tops the list for the worst traffic jams in the country.

There you go, but we made it to the airports, though.

CHO: Yes, you did. Caught the flight.

CHETRY: Relief.

CHO: Had no problems.

Home prices likely to keep going down. Christine Romans "Minding Your Business."

So what's going on?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is your biggest asset. This is likely the biggest investment you will ever make in your house. And for those of you who are watching the value of that house continue to decline, there's some troubling news from the PMI mortgage insurance folks who did a survey and found that it is likely that home prices for frankly most of the country could continue to go down for the next couple of years. As many as 324 of the nation's 381 metropolitan areas are now facing a higher risk of lower home prices into 2011. What are the riskiest home markets? No surprise here, really. According to PMI, Riverside, California and some of the areas around that, Miami, Florida, and around there, Los Angeles, California, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida and Las Vegas, Nevada -- you'll remember these were incredible hotspots over the past two years. The building and home price spikes there were just phenomenal. And now that bubble has popped and the pain there is expected to continue for a couple of years.

The most stable housing markets, though, if you live here -- Cleveland, Ohio; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Columbus, Ohio; San Antonio, Texas and Houston, Texas.

Frankly, I need to do a piece about this. There's something going on in Texas. When I look at places where they are creating jobs and where home prices have been pretty stable there, towns in Texas that have been doing pretty well.

Now speaking of the dropping home values, it's also meaning that equity lines are vanishing. And that's proven to be a little bit troublesome for people who rely on those equity lines for entrepreneurs, for small businesses and the likes. That's another kind of off-shoot of this home-price story that we continue to follow. How it's putting a crimp on small business.

But if you're wondering what's going to happen to the value of your biggest asset, your home, at least this survey shows that it could in many of the nation's metropolitan areas, either be flat or continue to fall over the next couple of years.

CHO: But the other side is that, you know, if you're looking to buy --

ROMANS: And that brings us to the "Romans Numeral."

I'm glad you saw that.

CHO: Oh, OK.

ROMANS: Ninety-eight percent is the Romans Numeral, the number that we used every day to try to like advance this story a little bit, 98 percent. And this is home affordability improves across 98 percent of the housing markets. That means as these home prices have fallen, your asset, if you own it, has been going down and that has been troublesome. But if you are looking to get into the market, it is more affordable now than it has been in years.

Interest rates are low. That's part of the story. Home prices have been falling. That's part of the story. So for first-time home buyers, the kind of people who would be buying mortgage insurance most likely from this PMI group that put this number out, this is an opportunity for some people.

And they even note in the report that, what do they say, they say this lower prices are going to continue to incentivize repeat in first-time home buyers back into the market. So there are some opportunities for people out there even as we continue, just knowing that if prices continue to fall, you're going to have a longer -- no more flipping, folks. This is -- you buy a house and you live in it, and you don't take all the money out of it. It's a new day. It's a new normal.

CHETRY: That's the other flip side of being harder to come by the home equity lines or credit. A lot of people were, you know, encouraged or sort of pushed into taking out these equity lines or credit that it ended up taking the money out of their homes, the value of their home.

ROMANS: And we owe to somebody who use that money to send a kid to college? And now, you know, look, I mean, you got to pay the money back and the house price has gone down. It's tough. It's a tough situation for a lot of people. And it is your biggest asset. So we'll keep tracking there, on your house for you.

CHETRY: Christine, "Minding Your Business" for us this morning.


CHETRY: Thanks.

CHO: It is 25 minutes after the hour.


CHETRY: It's 27 minutes past the hour now. And we have some breaking news this morning, one of Michael Jackson's doctors is speaking out. It's his long-time dermatologist Dr. Arnold Klein. He's the one who was the subject of some tabloid rumors about whether or not he was the father of some of Michael Jackson's children, including the two oldest children. Well, he made this statement just a short time ago to ABC News.


DR. ARNOLD KLEIN, MICHAEL JACKSON'S DERMATOLOGIST: All I can tell you is best of my knowledge I'm not the father of these children. I'm telling you, if push comes to shove, you know, I can't say anything about it. But to the best of my knowledge, I'm not the father of these children.


CHETRY: All right. That leaves maybe some more questions than answers, "to the best of my knowledge." He said that twice.

All right. Well, Klein also went on to say he didn't think Jackson appeared to be in poor health and says that the singer even danced in his office just three days before he died.

CHO: A medical first. You know, it's being called a scientific first. Scientists have created human sperm from stem cells in a laboratory. Yes, you heard that correctly. And researchers say this break-through could ultimately help treat male infertility. CHETRY: All right. Also, a thin and frail-looking Kim Jong-Il in video just in to CNN. He is North Korea's leader making a rare appearance this morning in North Korea. The country is marking the death of its founder, Kim's father, Kim Il Song. This is the second major state event Kim Jong-Il has attended since reports surfaced last summer that he had suffered a stroke. He is now 67 years old.

Well, today, President Obama moving from Russia to Italy trying to tackle a global economic crisis. The president arrived in L'Aquila just a couple of hours ago. And he's there to meet with world leaders at this week's G-8 Summit.

It is a tough balancing act, though, trying to do what's best for your bottom line, as well as dealing others into the fold.

Our Suzanne Malveaux is with the president.

And, you know, we're talking about a global recession. And so everybody's looking out for their home country but also figuring out a way that we can all get on better economic footing. Quite a challenge.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Kiran. And when you think about it, these world leaders have different ideas about what is best for their own economies.

We've seen President Obama really pushing for an economic stimulus putting money into the economy to turn things around. But there are other world leaders that say we want tougher regulations for financial institutions.

We saw the president early this morning. He met with President Napolitano of Italy. Later he'll be meeting with the Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. And here's what he said. He thought the priorities were when it comes to dealing with the economy and some other significant issues the next couple of days.


OBAMA: We are working hand-in-hand in places like Afghanistan to ensure that we are isolating extremists and strengthening the forces of moderation around the world. On the international front, we discussed the importance of Europe and the United States raising standards on financial institutions to ensure that a crisis like the one that's taken place will never happen again.


MALVEAUX: So part of it, Kiran, is really trying to get everybody on the same page here, to come up with a strategy after this is over so that it doesn't happen again.

We heard the president emphasize over the past couple of days, just yesterday in Russia, talking about the need for transparency, for accountability, some tough regulations, opening those markets. Those are the kinds of things that he's going to be talking about sitting down with world leaders here over the next couple of days.


CHETRY: And, Suzanne, where you are, that's a town that suffered that massive earthquake back in April. Some 300 people lost their lives. And we understand that aftershocks still hit that region from time-to-time.

Is there some sort of backup plan there in the event of another quake.

MALVEAUX: There certainly is. I mean, that's a question that's come up on a number of times. Robert Gibbs, the press secretary, said that there is definitely an emergency plan, a backup plan, that is in play in case there is really strong aftershocks. There was one that happened on Friday. They seem to be getting weaker, but if there is a strong aftershock then these world leaders, they will be choppered out of here, airlifted and sent to Rome about 60 miles or so. That's where they can complete the summit, continue their business here.

But there is a plan in place. And they're also here, we should let you know that President Obama is going to be touring some of the earthquake damage in the site later this afternoon. It is part of an effort, Berlusconi's effort, to bring attention to some of the progress that's being made for some of the folks, the Italians who are homeless and also to try to drum up some funds, some money to help in the recovery efforts. Kiran?

CHETRY: Suzanne Malveaux for us this morning from L'Aquila. Thank you.

So what exactly is the G-8? Why should you care? Here's more in an "AM Extra." It's an annual meeting of the eight major industrialized nations that's Japan, the U.K., France, Italy, Germany, Canada, Russia and the United States. And the leaders meet once a year to discuss major world issues to sum up their discussions with a final statement as well. Other countries are also allowed in. This year more than 30 world leaders will be attending the summit representing more than 90 percent of the world's economy.

ALINA CHO, CNN ANCHOR: And on a lighter side, "Tonight Show" host Conan O'Brien is also following the president' trip overseas. He's making a joke out of the president's speech yesterday in Moscow. Look.


CONAN O'BRIEN, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH CONAN O'BRIEN": Today in Russia President Obama delivered a speech to the graduating class of Moscow's New Economic School. That's right. The title of his speech was "Can we borrow 4 trillion rubles?"


CHO: He always does this at the end. All right. But I digress. 32 minutes after the hour.

You know, obviously, Italy is hosting the G-8 summit there in L'Aquila. The Prime Minister there, Silvio Berlusconi embroiled in a series of sex scandals as we've been hearing. Some people are following this very closely. I'm one of them.

You know, some accusations of hiring prostitutes, having relations with teenagers. His wife is divorcing him now. So is he fit to lead? He seems to be brushing it all off. But we're going to have a live report from Italy after this.



CHETRY: 36 minutes past the hour. These are top videos on right now. Crowds drenched but ecstatic at the London premier of the newest "Harry Potter" movie. Tuesday, the movie's star was soaking it all up.


DANIEL RADCLIFFE, ACTOR: I'm having far too much fun as it is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And what do you think - the fans - honestly I've never heard so much screaming at a premiere before.

RADCLIFFE: It is mad. It is absolutely mad. But it is great. And you can't - I mean you have to take it in this madness. I'll never have anything like this again.


CHETRY: "The Half-Blood Prince" opens in theaters in the U.S. July 15th.

And playing a game of I-Spy on Britain's new top spy. Swimsuit pictures of Sir John Sawers, the incoming MI-6 chief were posted on his wife's Facebook account along with personal family details. The pictures were then published by the British newspaper "The Daily Mail." In his new post Sawers will be the head of cyber security. Maybe the place to start would be with his family's privacy settings Facebook. Alina.

CHO: Yes. Sounds about right.

You know they made billions and broke barriers. Today in our special series "Black in America," Ed Lavandera introduces us to two brothers who have built an empire literally from the ground up and they never forgot where they came from.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You know you've arrived in the business world when your office can look like this. Michael and Steven Roberts launched their business empire from a historically black neighborhood in North St. Louis. They estimate their company which holds everything from hotels to TV stations to be worth almost $1 billion.

(on camera): So someone watching this who says that's real easy for these guys, they've got millions and millions of dollars, they can go out and buy whatever they want. You know, I have two quarters to rub together. What do you tell that person?

MIKE ROBERTS, ENTREPRENEUR: That we also had two quarters to rub together. We weren't rich, we weren't poor but we just never had any money either.

STEVEN ROBERTS, ENTREPRENEUR: We tell folks learn it, get your hands dirty, little sweat equity, then you will know it. It becomes yours.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): The Roberts brothers say the key to success is putting ideas into action. They are relentless workers, always looking to make a deal.

MIKE ROBERTS: We're creatures, animals of the earth. What other animal retires? I mean, if a lion retired, you know, today, tomorrow morning he becomes breakfast, right?

STEVEN ROBERTS: Mike was elected first.

LAVANDERA: They were both elected to the St. Louis board of Alderman. Out of a one-room office they created an empire made up of 76 companies with 1,100 employees. They run TV stations, hotels. They own commercial real estate and telecommunications companies. Their name adorned every property. The Roberts Village, the Roberts Loft, the Roberts Mayfair Hotel. But don't try comparing them to Donald Trump.

MIKE ROBERTS: What may appear to you today as ego 40 years from now will be legacy. And black folks need legacy. We have to have examples of successes in order for us to be able to let the generations to come know that many of the successes that occurred by African-Americans in this country can be seen and pointed out and can be emulated.

LAVANDERA: The Orpheum Theater in downtown St. Louis symbolizes the Roberts quest for legacy. Decades ago their mother and other black people were only allowed to sit in the highest balcony. Now the Roberts brothers own the theater.

(on camera): Mom has been in the balcony. I assume she gets a front row seat?

ROBERTS: Oh, yes. Yes. Mom can sit wherever she likes.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): That is priceless.

MIKE ROBERTS: Hey, ma. How are you doing?

LAVANDERA: Ed Lavandera, CNN, St. Louis, Missouri. (END VIDEOTAPE)

CHO: And for more stories of people stepping up, taking charge and creating solutions, watch the documentary "Black in America 2" premiering July 22nd and 23rd, only on CNN. 40 minutes after the hour.



CHETRY: This shot coming to us from KGO, San Francisco, California, where it is clear and 56 right now. A little bit later, sunny and 64. You know what they say -

CHO: What do they say?

CHETRY: The coldest - the coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco?

CHO: Yes, yes, right.

CHETRY: It is cold there this time of year. We used to drive from Sacramento, it would go down 20 degrees. Anyway, it's pretty though.

CHO: A lovely shot.

CHETRY: The water's for looking though, not swimming.

If you are into numbers, today is your day. Today is July 8, 2009. So it is 7/8/09.

CHO: Right.

CHETRY: And then what are you going to be doing today, Alina, at 12:34:56 this afternoon?

CHO: Taking a nice little nap, hopefully.

CHETRY: Yes. Hopefully.

But if you do it, there's a whole number sequence. See 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and then 07-08-09. And numerologists say and this is very rare that this could be a day to make money.

CHO: Or not.

CHETRY: Buy the lottery ticket. We'll see.

Meanwhile, Jacqui Jeras joins us this morning. We know what it was like yesterday in some parts of the area, a very unusual - I thought it was unusual actually for a tornado-like weather to sweep through, you know, the New York area. And then when I sent you the article -


CHETRY: There was just a tornado in 2006 but it was the exact week.

CHO: She thought she was getting up to the second research. It turns out poor sleep deprived Kiran is digging up research from 2006.

CHETRY: I just to do -


JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Anyway, we did have four of them, by the way, back in 2006. So what you were talking about they say what rolled through Westchester county and also the Yonkers area last night was probably not a tornado but a lot of hail and probably some damaging winds as well. Take a look at that. You know, it almost looks like winter. Doesn't it? Some people actually got shovels and had to scoop the hail out. It got into homes. We had trees down, power lines down, even this morning thousands of people are still without power. The storms have subsided and we are looking at pretty nice conditions this morning in New York City but we're probably going to see some redevelopment especially into parts of New England as we head into the afternoon hours. So be aware that we could have some stronger storms later on today. Kiran? Alina?

CHO: Jacqui, thank you.

Also new this morning, bulls four, people zip. It is that time of year again. Take a look.

You know, don't you worry about those people? Don't you wonder why they do it?

CHETRY: I guess it's tradition but --

CHO: Four people were slightly injured. Thankfully it's only slightly. But this was yesterday, second day of the running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain. Of course, an annual tradition. The bulls came from a ranch with a reputation for raising fierce animals. Thankfully though no serious goring.

CHETRY: It looked like it was running pretty smoothly actually.

CHO: Yes, pretty smoothly. Yes.

CHETRY: All right. Well, like I said, rock on with the tradition.

CHO: That's right.

It won't catch us there.

Hey, you know, Italy, as we know, is hosting the G-8 summit. That's due to get under way today in fact. But its Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi embroiled in this sex scandal, you know, allegations of hiring prostitutes, relations with teenagers, his wife is going to be divorcing him. But you know, he's been brushing it off but there is a big question about whether he is fit to lead. And what are Italians saying about this? Well, we'll go live to Italy to find out in a moment. 46 minutes after the hour.



CHO: 49 minutes after the hour. Welcome back to the most news in the morning. President Obama is in Italy right now meeting with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. That's ahead of this week's G-8 summit but that's not what most Italians will be reading about in their morning paper. Instead all of the headlines there are about their prime minister's latest sex scandal.

Our Paula Newton is watching it all live from L'Aquila, Italy. Paula, you know, the headline here says it all -- "Mamma Mia!" What's going on?

PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. And I have to say, just when you think you've seen it all from Silvio Berlusconi, here comes another one. What triggered all this really was a very open and public demand for divorce from his wife and the rest right now is history. Take a look.


NEWTON (voice-over): With his roots in showbiz, Silvio Berlusconi has always pursued what Italians call la bella figura or "making a good show of it." The G-8 meeting, his third with hosting duties is no different. But the scandal swirling around him this time beats all, even for Berlusconi.

In an interview with CNN, Patricia D'Addario admitted being a high-paid prostitute and is now at the center of an investigation into whether Italy's prime minister paid for sex.

PATRICIA D'ADDARIO (through translator): I feel that I am the only one that is here telling these things that no other woman dare say.

NEWTON: Berlusconi has denied all charges. But as lurid pictures of parties at his lavish villa hit the papers, some are now questioning not just his judgment, but whether he's fit to lead Italy.

The "Economist" magazine has always had an opinion on that. "Mamma Mia!" was how it greeted his latest election victory. And still its editors admit --

JOHN PEET, "THE ECONOMIST": Surprisingly a large number of Italians find him rather charming and cheerful and his brushes with the law, they kind of almost sympathize with because the Italian state is not highly respected by many Italians.

NEWTON (on camera): And what has been an incredibly frustrating for both the opposition and his critics is that the more (inaudible) Berlusconi seems to be, the more popular he becomes with Italians.

FRANCO PAVONCELLO, JOHN CABOT UNIVERSITY: Obviously Berlusconi is a very tough man especially when he's in the midst of a fight. And I think that he is going to be taking this G-8 with the usual energy and enthusiasm.

NEWTON (voice-over): To all this, Berlusconi recently told CNN he had never committed a gaffe.

SILVIO BERLUSCONI, ITALIAN PRIME MINISTER (through translator): I have never made any gaffes. Not even one. Every gaffe is invented by the newspapers.


NEWTON: You know, the papers don't have to invent it. We can't make this stuff up, Alina, in terms of the kinds of incidents that we have with him on camera. You know, I sat down with him a few weeks ago for more than an hour. He cracked several jokes throughout. He says, Alina, this whole scandal won't touch him and almost to prove him right in the last few days, new polls say that his approval ratings here in Italy have barely budged, just down a few points.

Alina, he's going to be using that charm here at the G-8 summit, trying to use it on Barack Obama. He's built a basketball court for him here. That's what he's going to rely on to try and prove to people that despite all this, look, I can charm the pants off these people, so to speak, and we can get a lot done here at the table.

CHO: Well, and he seems to sort of let everything slide off his back. You know, I was struck by the way that he responded to the allegations of prostitution by saying, listen, this sort of just takes away the whole idea of conquering a woman. The whole conquest aspect of it. And so, why would a man pay for sex? But, yes. I mean, he seems to be bullet-proof, if you will, in the eyes of the Italian public. But you will be watching it all for us, Paula Newton, I will be sure of that. So thank you for that live report. Kiran?

CHETRY: All right. Still ahead, we're going to look into why we crave certain foods. It might just not be our lack of self-control. It may actually be that we're scientifically wired to get taken for a ride by certain types of food. 53 minutes past the hour.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT(voice-over): This is the view of the world from outside your body, as seen in the movie "Ghost." Swedish researchers are creating a similar experience in their labs. Using 3-D goggles and cameras, researchers enable participants to see themselves from above, or even feel like they are the dummy in this room.

HENRIK EHRSSON: It's quite amazing, you are a within your body all your life and you think the brain should know what your body looks like. Then in ten seconds it can completely re-evaluate the situation and accept the body of a different individual, a different gender even.

TUCHMAN: So how does it work? First the subject wears a head- mounted video unit. Then researchers play video they want the person to see. When she looks down this is what her eyes see. The researcher then touches her body and a dummy simultaneously. With this view the test subject's brain makes a connection. And presto, she's the dummy. To test the connection, the dummy is cut with a knife and the test person reacts.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It feels like you are trying to incise by (inaudible) so I've experienced being a plastic man.

TUCHMAN: Ehrsson said the possibilities are endless. Cameras could show how you appear to others and help improve low self-esteem. Amputees could use the therapy to give their new prosthetic limb a sense of feeling.

EHRSSON: Our idea is if you have a new body, maybe a different gender or a different group or race, maybe that can change the way you think about yourself, feel about yourself and think and feel about other individuals.

TUCHMAN: Gary Tuchman, CNN.



CHETRY: All right, 57 minutes past the hour now. And there's a beautiful shot this morning of Lady Liberty, just a big milestone this weekend, right? It was the fourth of July weekend when they opened up her crown for the first time since 9-11.

CHO: All 354 steps to the top.

CHETRY: Yes. Whoa. So beautiful day out there. 68 degrees right now, going up to about 80 in New York.

So you have food cravings? We all have food cravings, right? Why is it always ice cream, chips, pizza? We never really crave broccoli and celery. Do we?

CHO: You're right about that.

I mean, maybe we should maybe train ourselves to, but we don't. But guess what, there is actually scientific evidence that shows that our brains are being hijacked by food.


CHO (voice-over): Ever wonder why that chocolate chip cookie seems to have so much power over you? Or why potato chips are so addictive?


ANNOUNCER: Bet you can't eat just one.

CHO: Researchers say our brains are being high jacketed by fat, sugar and salt.

DR. DAVID KESSLER, AUTHOR "THE END OF OVEREATING": Add flavor, add texture, add temperature, add color and what do we end up with? One of great public health epidemics of our time.

CHO: Former FDA commissioner Dr. David Kessler is author of the new book, "The End of Overeating." Kessler says by combining fat, sugar and salt in all kinds of different ways, food makers are stimulating our desire to eat, even when we're full.

KESSLER: Back 20 years ago the average bite had about 20 chews. Today food goes down in one or two chews. It is a wash. We get stimulated and we reach for more and more.

CHO: We just can't help ourselves. Just ask four-star chef Daniel Boulud.

DANIEL BOULUD, OWNER, CHEF "DANIEL" RESTAURANT: You know, the sweet, the salty, the crunchy.

CHO: Chef Boulud treated to us a tasting menu, a bite-size symphony of sweet, salty and fatty foods.

BOULUD: It's about tasty fat.

CHO: With every taste -

(on camera): Oh, it's so good -

(voice-over): I found myself -

(on camera): Oh, my god -

(voice-over): Unable to stop eating.

BOULUD: You don't know why but it feels good.

CHO: Like the short ribs that melt in your mouth, and mashed potatoes with cheese inside. Sometimes you don't even have to taste the food to know that you want it.

BOULUD: Sometimes it is the eyes. You know, you cross the room with a beautiful souffle or something, and everybody's looking and say, oh, I want that.

CHO: Why Boulud agrees with Kessler that portion control is so important. When it works.

BOULUD: We don't how much we eat of it. We just control how much we give you. If you want more, that's out of my control.

(END VIDEOTAPE) CHO: Those mashed potatoes were the best thing I've ever had in my whole life. There was cheese inside the mashed potatoes. And that molten chocolate cake, it wasn't just chocolate inside like normal, it had chocolate and caramel mixed. You don't crave sweets so much.

CHETRY: I don't but I'm a French fry-aholic. You know, the funny thing -

CHO: What's your favorite meal again?

CHETRY: Mango, buffalo wings with chili cheese fries and a beer.

CHO: Fat, sugar and salt.

CHETRY: Where's the sugar? Oh, the mango. You got me. You got me. Yours is the molten chocolate souffle.

There you go. Time to eat. Meanwhile, continue the conversation on today's stories, go to our blog Thanks so much for joining us this morning. And we will be right back here tomorrow.

CHO: Here's "CNN NEWSROOM" with Heidi Collins.