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American Morning

Static Kill Option Being Considered by BP; Department of Agriculture Employee Resigns After Racially Charged Remarks; "You're in the Library!"; Ground Zero Islamic Center Fight; U.S.-U.K. Summit; USDA Racial Preference Admission; Leak Concerns

Aired July 20, 2010 - 06:00   ET


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to AMERICAN MORNING on this Tuesday, it's July 20th. Thanks for being with us this morning. I'm Kiran Chetry.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you. I'm John Roberts. Good to have you with us this morning. A lot to talk about, so let's get right to it.

Zero tolerance. The U.S. Department of Agriculture accepts the resignation of an employee after a video shows her telling an audience that she withheld assistance to a white farmer because of his race. But does the video tell the whole story? We've got it and we'll play it for you.

CHETRY: An end to the disaster in the Gulf could be in sight. There is a new plan to kill BP's ruptured oil well for good, and officials are considering whether to try it this week. It's called the static kill. We're going to talk about how it works in a moment.

ROBERTS: The fierce dispute over plans to build a mosque just two blocks from Ground Zero. An ad from a conservative group saying it's being constructed to celebrate the murder of 3,000 Americans on 9/11. The networks won't air the ad. We'll talk to the man behind it.

And the amFIX blog is up and running as it is every day. Join the live conversation going on right now. Just go to

CHETRY: But first, developing this morning, racially charged remarks coming back to haunt an official at the Department of Agriculture. Shirley Sherrod, the agency's director of rural development for Georgia, has resigned after a video was posted of her speaking at an NAACP event. In the video, Sherrod describes how she withheld assistance from a white farmer.


SHIRLEY SHERROD, USDA DIRECTOR OF RURAL DEVELOPMENT FOR GEORGIA: I was struggling with the fact that so many black people had lost their farm land. And here I was faced with having to help a white person save their land. So I didn't give him the full force of what I could do. I did enough. So I took him to a white lawyer that we had that had attended some of the training that we had provided. So, I figured if I take him to one of them that his own kind would take care of him.


CHETRY: Well, in a statement, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said, quote, "There is zero tolerance for discrimination at USDA, and I strongly condemn any act of discrimination against any person." Meantime, the head of the NAACP, Ben Jealous, also released a statement, quote, "Racism is about the abuse of power. Sherrod had it in her position at USDA. We are appalled by her actions just as we are with abuses of power against farmers of color and female farmers."

ROBERTS: And this video coming just days after the NAACP and the Tea Party clashed over allegations of racism. In about ten minutes' time, we'll break down the implications of this video and whether it tells the whole story with James Peterson. He's an assistant professor of English and Africana Studies at Bucknell University.

Well, a static kill could soon be in play. BP still anxiously testing the integrity of its ruptured well is now considering a dramatic new option to seal it once and for all. We're in day 92 of this disaster and a new procedure called static kill could stop this nightmare in its tracks.

CHETRY: It works by pouring heavy mud into the capped well forcing all of the oil and gas back down into the reservoir it came from. Officials could decide to try it in the next few days. Meanwhile, methane gas discovered leaking from the ocean floor is apparently not being caused by pressure tests on the well, that according to scientists. They say it's actually a natural occurrence and not an indication of a serious leak somewhere below the seabed.

ROBERTS: Our Rob Marciano is live. He's in Orange Beach, Alabama this morning. Rob, talk to us about this static kill. How does it work and when might they undertake it?

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, the reason that they're considering it now is because the pressure that they've been measuring this past few days, now we're day five where we've had this well actually capped and we've been doing these tests. The pressure is slightly lower than they anticipated. They were hoping to get it up around to 8,000 to 9,000 psi. It is about 6,800 psi. And they would think normally, well, is the integrity of the well still intact? Is there seepage happening? Is there a leak somewhere?

They don't think that after five days of this now. They have found some seepage. They think it's natural. You mention the methane bubbles. They don't think that's a huge concern. Might be from some of the cement that they used. So they think that maybe the lack of pressure might be that the reservoir of the oil underneath -- we've leaked so much into the Gulf that that may have depleted and decreasing the pressure. Because that pressure is decreased, because it is below 7,000 PSI or so, they think they may be able to try this static kill which in essence is the same as the top kill that we tried about a month ago, but we don't have that ongoing pressure of the oil coming out of the well. So it's static pressure. The oil is not spewing out. There's just that pressure there so it's a static pressure. It's a static kill. They pump mud through the choke-and- kill lines and try to suppress the well that way.

We'll know in the coming days if they're going to try that. It does behoove BP to do that. If they drill the relief wells as planned, they'll be able to measure how much oil has been spilling into the Gulf, pretty much exactly. And that would determine liability wise just how much money BP owes in this gulf disaster.

So, they may be encouraged to do this static kill in that fashion. But the end result, the end of all this will still come regardless of the static kill when they finish drilling these relief wells and the timeline for that is still by mid-August.

We're very close. We're only about four feet away from the well from relief well number one, and about 100 feet from getting to the bottom point. But they still have to line that well and actually make an intersection with that. So we're still looking at mid-August before the relief well is complete -- John.

ROBERTS: All right.

CHETRY: All right. If they attempt it and it works, it will be a bright spot. We haven't heard a bright spot in a while, since last Thursday when they finally stopped the leaking. Thanks so much, Rob.

Well, also later this morning, a Navy blimp is scheduled to fly over Orange Beach, Alabama in search of oil slicks and threatened wildlife. CNN's Amber Lyon has been granted exclusive access to take you inside the blimp to see how that mission operates. We'll be catching up with Amber later on this morning and the latest on static kill from Rob all coming up in the 8:00 hour of AMERICAN MORNING.

ROBERTS: Also new this morning, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in Kabul today, along with representatives of 60 other nations for a one-day international conference on the Afghanistan war. The plan they're adopting calls for handing over security to the Afghan government by the end of 2014. Clinton says the U.S. and the world is with Afghanistan despite the fact that troop withdrawals are now scheduled to begin next year.

CHETRY: Los Angeles district attorney is looking into the business practices of Goldline International. It is a popular company that sells gold items on TV and online. Reports now of complaints by customers saying they were either lied to or misled or pressured into buying gold coins not worth what they originally thought. Among the company's pitchmen, conservative commentator Glenn Beck, former president candidate Mike Huckabee, and Fred Thompson. Congress is also looking into the case.

ROBERTS: And check this out. A UFO sighting over China causing panic, confusion and lots of speculation as to what it could be. It shut down an airport in southeastern China for about an hour. Local reports say it didn't show up on the radar. A source tells the "China Daily" that it may be part of military exercises. Certainly almost does look like a rocket of some sort. The government would just say that an investigation is ongoing.

CHETRY: There you go. Isn't that what they always say when you see those things in the sky?

ROBERTS: It didn't appear on radar.

CHETRY: Well, let's get a check of this morning's weather headlines at seven minutes past the hour. Jacqui Jeras in the extreme weather center.

Boy, we had some extreme weather last night around this area. Boy, I mean, the rain was coming down, the wind.

JACQUI JERAS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Absolutely. But better today across parts of the northeast. And a lot picking up on our radar here anyway. Flooding rains and damaging winds again across parts of the Midwest. And this will be one of our primary weather concerns yet again today.

We're looking at just an incredible amount of rain and a lot of flooding. Kirksville, Missouri, recording a lot of flooding in northern parts of the state right now. There you can see that severe thunderstorm watch in effect as well because those winds could be in excess of 60 miles per hour. There you can see the threat area right across the nation's midsection once again today and more hot stuff across parts of the south.

And we're also tracking very heavy rain across parts of Puerto Rico. This is a tropical disturbance that has some potential for development in the next couple of days. Could be heading towards the Gulf. We'll talk more about that coming up in the next half-hour. Back to you guys.

ROBERTS: Uh, oh, that's not good news. Jacqui, thanks. Look forward to the update on that.

Still to come on the Most News in the Morning, relief could soon be on the way for more than a million Americans. Democrats in the Senate break a logjam. They're now ready to make a key vote on unemployment benefits.

CHETRY: Also, the fight to stop the building of a mosque near Ground Zero. It's heating up. Our Allan Chernoff talks to the man behind an ad campaign into keeping from being built.

It's now eight minutes past the hour.


ROBERTS: It's coming up now at 11 minutes after the hour. And developing this morning, Shirley Sherrod, the Department of Agriculture's rural development director for the state of Georgia, has resigned after making some controversial comments. She stepped down after a video surfaced of her telling an NAACP audience how she withheld assistance to a white farmer because of his race.


SHIRLEY SHERROD, USDA DIRECTOR OF RURAL DEVELOPMENT FOR GEORGIA: I was struggling with the fact that so many black people had lost their farmland. And here I was faced with having to help a white person save their land. So I didn't give him the full force of what I could do. I did enough.


ROBERTS: This comes just days after the NAACP charged the Tea Party with tolerating racism in its ranks. Joining me now is James Peterson. He's an assistant professor of English and Africana Studies at Bucknell University.

So everyone from the agriculture secretary, Professor Peterson, to the NAACP has moved very quickly to condemn what Sherrod did. What's your take on all of this?

JAMES PETERSON, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR, BUCKNELL UNIVERSITY: Well, I would also agree with the response so far in the sense that this is a pretty textbook example of what we call institutional racism.

But I wouldn't think of this as existing in a vacuum of history. Right? There's a history behind this. And if we can see the full YouTube clip, it would become clear that the issues of the historical relationship between black folk and land and the allocation of resources and distribution based upon the U.S. government is really weighed heavily on her and her interaction with this farmer.

Now she also said that the farmer was acting -- was talking to her as if he was superior to her so there was some precedent for, or some issue that produced her response to him in this situation. But I would look at the history here, too. There's a huge irony in this that here we have this example of institutional racism, a black woman denying a white farmer, whatever the full complement of her resources in terms of assisting him with this issue.

But if we look back to slavery, to 40 acres and a mule to the GI bill to mortgage lending practices, we've often seen a lot of institutional racism working against black folk. And so it weighed heavy on her heart that she had this choice to make. And I think she thought a little bit too much probably about that history and that probably shaped her decision. I think that's why we got this particular outcome.

ROBERTS: To your point of the way that the farmer was behaving toward her, we do have a little clip of what she said about that. Let's play what she said, then I'll ask you.



SHERROD: What he didn't know while he was taking all that time trying to show he was superior to me was I was trying to decide just how much help I was going to give him.


ROBERTS: Does the fact that somebody might be obnoxious or ignorant or hostile to you, is it still incumbent upon you to do everything you can to help them and can you lay off this idea, I didn't help him because he was white, because he was obnoxious to me?

PETERSON: Well, first of all, particularly when you're in a governmental position, you have to be fair and balanced and you have to be objective.

But again, the history here is so heavy. Right? The history is so weighted with the ways in which particularly land has been denied and/or allocated along racial lines that I think that just weighed heavily on her heart. And what she's saying in this anecdote is that him acting superior to her or however he disrespected her brought on the rush of all those feelings and that particular history.


PETERSON: And that shaped her decision here. It's unfortunate but we can't ignore the historical sort of precedence that made her think and feel the way she felt in that particular moment.

ROBERTS: But how history weighs on her heart does not excuse what she did. Correct?

PETERSON: It does not. I mean, listen, this is a textbook case of institutional racism. It's that normally, institutional racism is not black against white. Historically, it's been white against black or white against whatever person of color is in question, but this is still institutional racism. We can't endorse it.

ROBERTS: It's hard to get the entire context of this because we don't have the full clip.


ROBERTS: At one point, she talks about taking this white farmer to a white lawyer saying, "I took him to one of his, quote, "kind."


ROBERTS: Which certainly is charged language. But then she goes on to say this. And again, we don't have the full clip but maybe it's beginning to put this in context. So let's listen to what she said here.


SHIRLEY SHERROD, USDA DIRECTOR OF RURAL DEVELOPMENT FOR GEORGIA: That's when it was revealed to me that it's about the poor versus those who have. It's not so much about white. It is about white and black, but it's not, you know, it opened my eyes. Because I took him to one of his own. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: Now, we don't hear where the clip goes from there, but where do you think, Professor Peterson, she's going with this?

PETERSON: It's clear that this is an anecdote. This is -- you know, in our sound bite culture you hear us in the media always talk about context, context, context. It's clear she's using this as an anecdote to talk about how she's progressed from this moment and how we can't use race in all these issues and we can't let the weight of our historic -- historical sort of issues with race shape our individual issues.

So I think she's using this as an anecdote to work through her own issues, but also to show to the audience that we can move beyond and transcend some of these circumstances.

ROBERTS: Now, of course there's been a little bit of a fight brewing between the Tea Party and the NAACP, that the NAACP accusing the Tea Party of -- of allowing racism in its ranks, you know? And so here, now, that she was on the other foot and the NAACP didn't say anything about this until it went public. So where do you come down on that?

PETERSON: Sure. Well, the shoe is not on the other foot here. I mean talking about whether or not the Tea Party is racist is a totally different issue. I mean, this particular narrative or this anecdote within the framework of the NAACP conference does not in any way have any indication about NAACP's platform, and I think we need to sort of separate those two things.

I understand that there's always one -- you know, we always want to do tit for tat, particularly in political discourse, but I don't think this is a good example to use that.

ROBERTS: Professor James Peterson, it's great to talk to you this morning. Thanks so much for joining us.

PETERSON: Thanks for having me, John.

ROBERTS: Great to get your perspective on this. Appreciate it.

PETERSON: Thank you.

ROBERTS: Thanks -- Kiran.

CHETRY: Well, in just a few hours the Senate is expected to vote on a bill that would extend jobless benefits for millions of Americans. Democrats have failed three times to get it passed, but today's swearing in of the new senator from West Virginia should provide the 60 votes needed to end a Republican filibuster.

President Obama yesterday accused Republicans of holding unemployed Americans hostage to election year politics.

And the Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to sign off today on Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan. The vote was delayed by a week by Republicans who said they needed more time to consider her nomination.

If approved, Kagan's nomination would go to the full Senate. She would replace retiring Justice John Paul Stevens and she'd also be the fourth woman to serve on the High Court.

ROBERTS: Internet downloads are already close to killing CDs, so will technology kill the book next? A look at the battle between the hardback and the e-book, coming right up.

It's 18 minutes after the hour.



ISAIAH MUSTAFA, ACTOR: Hello, ladies. Look at your man, now back to me. Now back at your man, now back to me. Sadly, he isn't me. But if he stopped using ladies scented body wash and switched to Old Spice, he could smell like he's me. Look down, back up.


ROBERTS: "Minding Your Business" here on AMERICAN MORNING.

Yesterday, we talked to one of the masterminds behind that Old Spice ad that now famous ad campaign that's gone viral like not many other things before.

Well, if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, the folks at Old Spice should thank the students at Brigham Young University.


STEPHEN JONES, PRESIDENT, HUMOR U: Hello, scholars. Look at your grades, now look at mine. Now back at your grades, now back to mine. Sadly, they're not like mine. But if you stop studying in a cave and started studying like me, they could be like mine.

Look at your shirt, now back at mine. Look down, back up. Where are you? You're in the library with the man your grades could be like. Did you know that eight out of five dentists say that studying in the library is six bazillion times more effective than studying in your shower?

Now close your eyes. Now open your eyes. Where are you? You're in a beautiful, quiet place where you can study. Look at your hand. Now back to me. I have it. It's the laptop with access to bucket loads of library databases. Look again. The laptop is now a celestial sandwich here in the snack zone.

Anything is possible when you're in the library.

I'm on a cart. Charge (ph)!


CHETRY: That was great. He imitated his voice perfectly, too.

ROBERTS: They -- well, they imitated the production very well, too. Nicely done.

CHETRY: The only slip-up was he didn't catch the -- he didn't catch the backpack exactly in place (ph). I wondered how the -- how the ad, the Old Spice ad had that sweater land perfectly on his shoulders without a hitch.

ROBERTS: It's computer graphics, I would think. I thought he did a great job.

CHETRY: Yes, they were great. Good on you.

Well, more Americans are embracing e-books, if they're at the library they're not possibly going through the Dewey Decimal System anymore trying to find regular books. says that for every 100 hardcover books it sold over the past month, it sold 180 e-books. Amazon says sales of its Kindle e-reader have tripled since a price drop last month.

But don't count out paper books yet. Publishers Weekly say last year e-books were just a sliver of the publishing industry accounting for less than one percent of sales.

ROBERTS: And for those of you who have wistfully walked past the shop of these last few years, don't worry, the Soup Nazi is coming back to Manhattan. No, not on Seinfeld.

The guy who inspired the Seinfeld sitcom character is going to reopen his original Midtown soup shop today at noon Eastern. Al Yegenah closed his store six years ago, but held on to the lease. We're told that Jerry Seinfeld is still banned from coming in.

Remember, if you go there today, know what you want, have your money out, be prepared to move quickly to the left or it's no soup for you!

CHETRY: So that's one place where the customer isn't always right.

ROBERTS: You -- you ever eaten there?


ROBERTS: Oh. Oh, it was beyond belief. It was so -- very expensive.

CHETRY: Have you ate there six years ago and they closed?

ROBERTS: Oh, yes.

CHETRY: Why'd they close then? ROBERTS: Because he went into the franchise business. He decided he was tired of doing the soup thing every day, day in and day out. So he closed up that shop, went into franchise business. It did OK but not what it was supposed to do. So now they're coming back.

He's actually not going to be there every day, but he will show up once in a while. So maybe that will keep people coming in for a glimpse of Al.

CHETRY: Well, there you go. Well, good luck.

Meanwhile, we're continuing to follow the controversy of the building of a mosque and cultural center near Ground Zero. There's a new ad campaign out trying to drum up support against the building of the mosque. We'll have more with Allan Chernoff.

Twenty-four minutes past the hour.


ROBERTS: Top stories just minutes away now. But first, an "A.M. Original," something that you'll see only on AMERICAN MORNING.

The fight over plans to build an Islamic Center near the site of the World Trade Center reaching a new level of nasty this morning.

CHETRY: A conservative group using graphic footage of 9/11 and militant Muslims in a new ad titled "The Audacity of Jihad."

Allan Chernoff talked to the man behind it and he joins us now. This entire issue, of course, raises very, very heated feelings on both sides.

ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Oh, boy. This sensitive stuff, no question about it.

Well, Scott Wheeler has turned his passion for political ads into a campaign against an Islamic Center and a mosque near Ground Zero. Mr. Wheeler wrote, produced the ad. He wasn't able to sell it to the networks, but have a look. It is anything but subtle.


CHERNOFF (voice-over): NBC and CBS turned down this ad opposing a mosque near Ground Zero.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And to celebrate that murder of 3,000 Americans, they want to build a monstrous 13-story mosque at ground zero.

CHERNOFF: Those are the words of ad producer Scott Wheeler.

SCOTT WHEELER, AD CREATOR: We know that -- that in the past, Muslims have established mosques at locations where they want to declare dominion. CHERNOFF: Wheeler, who served a year-and-a-half in the Army, runs a small political action committee -- the National Republican Trust Pact. It has no ties to the Republican Party. No full-time staff. When he learned about plans to build an Islamic Community Center that would include a mosque two blocks north of Ground Zero, he says he had to send a warning. The mosque would be a victory for the terrorists.

CHERNOFF (on camera): The people establishing this facility, you think they're celebrating the murder of 3,000 people?

WHEELER: I think so.

CHERNOFF: How are they celebrating?

WHEELER: Well, by erecting a mosque to their martyrs which they have traditionally done all over the world.

CHERNOFF (voice over): Those martyrs, claims Wheeler, are the 19 hijackers of the 9/11 planes.

WHEELER: You can also look at how many Muslims see mosques. They see them as military barracks.

CHERNOFF (on camera): Do you think this will be a military barrack?

WHEELER: Well, they call the faithful their soldiers.

CHERNOFF: The fact is, this building has been functioning as a prayer space since last fall. For the Friday midday prayer, the most important for Muslims, this place is packed with more than 400 worshippers.

CHERNOFF (voice-over): Those congregants, just a handful, come on most days say Wheeler's claims are outrageous.

ZAED RAMADAN, CONGREGANT: It's tremendously offensive as a Muslim-New Yorker and an American that anyone would make the attempt to associate myself, who is a proud American, whose family served as first responders.

CHERNOFF: The property developer and the Imam waiting for approval from New York's Landmarks Commission to erect a new building here, say their intent is to provide a community center that can improve relations with non-Muslims.

But Scott Wheeler, who is using the ad controversy to try to raise funds for his pact, maintained there is a connection to the 2001 attack.

(on camera): Can you show us any proof that the people behind this community center have ties to al Qaeda?

SCOTT WHEELER, NRT PAC: I think there's been proof in the media already. Well, not to al Qaeda. Why do you keep asking me about al Qaeda? I said we don't know. I said we can establish --

CHERNOFF: Aren't they the ones behind 9/11?


CHERNOFF: Mr. Wheeler may not have any proof that al Qaeda is backing this mosque, but he certainly does have support. A recent Quinnipiac Poll found that 52 percent of New Yorkers are opposed to the community center and mosque being built near ground zero.

CHETRY: And you're talking a little bit about the ad deemed too controversial to run on TV? Was that intentional to get some buzz for it?

CHERNOFF: I asked them about that. You know, that is an approach that a lot of people take. They try to get their ads rejected, then try to garner tremendous amount of publicity. He says, no, absolutely not. He says he may be reworking the ad to get it on the air and says he will be trying other networks. He also said he'll be pitching CNN. That's what he said.

ROBERTS: Controversial issue, to be sure.

Allan, a good look at this morning -- thanks so much for that.

In one hour's time, we're going to get the other side of this story. The developer of the Islamic community center makes his case to our own Deb Feyerick.

CHETRY: Meantime, it's 31 minutes past the hour -- time for a look at this morning's top stories.

And BP is considering a new option to seal its ruptured well for good in the Gulf. It's called a static kill -- similar to the top kill procedure that failed a month ago that would involve pumping heavy mud into the containment cap to force the oil and gas back down into the reservoir where it came from. This would be somewhat easier theoretically, at least, because it wouldn't have all the pressure of the bubbling gas and other hydrocarbons working against the mud. The oil giant could decide whether or not to try the procedure this week.

ROBERTS: The Obama administration is sending 1,200 National Guard troops to patrol the southwest border beginning next month. The troops will be deployed to four border states -- Arizona, Texas, California and New Mexico -- and provide support for a government crackdown on drug smuggling and illegal border crossings.

CHETRY: Racially-charged comments have led to the resignation of Shirley Sherrod, the Department of Agriculture's rural development director for Georgia. In a video, Sherrod is seen telling an NAACP audience how she withheld help to a struggling white farmer.

In a statement, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said, "There is zero tolerance for discrimination at USDA and I strongly condemn any act of discrimination against any person." The NAACP also issued a statement backing similar sentiment of Vilsack.

ROBERTS: Also this morning, a summit meeting at the White House. President Obama welcomes British Prime Minister David Cameron on his first official trip to the United States.

CHETRY: The future of the war in Afghanistan will be a major topic of discussion, but also front and center: fallout from the BP oil spill.

Our Ed Henry is live at the White House with a preview.

And, Ed, good morning to you. This is a very important meeting, of course, for both sides.

ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Kiran. A critical alliance and yet the president never quite got on the same page with the last British prime minister, Gordon Brown, who seemed to take every little disagreement as a personal slight. This time the relationship seems to be getting off on the right foot.


HENRY (voice-over): When heavy fog prevented British Prime Minister David Cameron from being able to fly into Toronto last month for the G-20 Summit, President Obama offered his new friend a lift, and the two men joked about their team's tying in a World Cup match as they exchanged beer from both nations to pay off a friendly wager.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I advised him that in America, we drink our beer cold. So, he has to put this in the refrigerator before he drinks it. But I think he will find it outstanding and I'm happy to give that a shot, although I will not drink it warm.

DAVID CAMERON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: It's 5.2 percent. You can have it cold, it's all right.

OBAMA: Cheers.

CAMERON: Cheers.

HENRY: Cold is the perfect word to describe the president's relationship with former Prime Minister Gordon Brown. But aides insist these two leaders are developing a strong personal bond.

CAMERON: A conservative vote is a vote for change.

HENRY: Even though they come from different ideological backgrounds, they're of the same generation and shared campaign messages of hope and change.

NILE GARDINER, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: We are going to see a significant improvement in the personal chemistry between the British prime minister and the U.S. president post-Gordon Brown. But having said that, there are some significant tensions in the background which could certainly, I think, play havoc with the best laid plans.

HENRY: Chief among those potential bumps is Afghanistan, with both leaders under heavy pressure to bring their country's troops home amid questions about whether the war is worth fighting.

(on camera): We believe we now are winning in Afghanistan?

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think he would tell you that we are in a better -- in better shape than we were, that we have and we are constantly evaluating the resources that we've added.

HENRY (voice-over): Cameron, meanwhile, has bristled at the Obama administration's grilling of BP over the Gulf oil spill.

GARDINER: Eighteen million British people have pension funds linked to BP. So, Britain has a huge economic state. But I think that David Cameron is going to send a very clear message that he believes that BP is responsible for this crisis, and should pay for it.


HENRY: So, the new prime minister wants to try to find common ground on BP, as well as in other thorny issue, the release of the Lockerbie bomber. President Obama expected to press him on that in their private meetings today, but Cameron has already publicly said he disagrees with the position to release the bomber. He's also planning to meet with some senators up on Capitol Hill today who are upset about that. And Cameron on this trip may even announce a British government investigation into the whole affair.

All signs that it really does want to smooth things over with the Obama White House -- John, Kiran.

ROBERTS: Ed Henry for us at the White House this morning -- Ed, thanks. Looking forward to that summit today -- thanks.

CHETRY: Well, the summer's newest blockbuster "Inception" takes your classic espionage caper to a whole new place, inside your mind and inside your dream. So, can you really tweak with a person's brain while they're asleep? We're talking to a dream expert next.

Thirty-six minutes past the hour.



LEONARDO DICAPRIO, ACTOR (acting): Think about it, Ariadne. How did you get here? Where are you right now?

ELLEN PAGE, ACTRESS (acting): Am I dreaming?

DICAPRIO: You're actually in the middle of the workshop right now sleeping. This is your first lesson in shared dreaming. Stay calm.


CHETRY: Well, there was a look at Leonardo DiCaprio and Ellen Page in Christopher Nolan's summer blockbuster, "Inception." A lot of people are saying it was a mind-blowing thriller. No big spoilers, though, we promise.

The movie, though, deals with stealing and planting thoughts inside of someone else's mind while they dream, a sort of nocturnal espionage. Science fiction, right, or is there any bit of reality to it at all?

Well, for more, I'm joined by Deirdre Barrett. She's a clinical psychologist with Harvard Medical School and she's also a leader in the field of dream research.

Thanks for being with us this morning.


CHETRY: Have you seen any notice that since this film has come out, and there's been a lot of buzz about it, that people are starting to take more interest in your field?

BARRETT: Yes. Or I think, especially people who have not been thinking about dreams very much, the movie gets them really started thinking.

CHETRY: Yes. Well, we saw this clip from the movie there. And Leonardo DiCaprio was playing this coach on this dream escapade, if you will. The main premise is that people's dreams are essentially open territory for stealing ideas, for implanting ideas.

Is there any truth to that idea that dreams can be manipulated?

BARRETT: Well, not in the -- you just walk into someone else's dream via drugs and electrical wiring the way it's posited in the movie.

There's certainly research that you can influence people's dream content in a number of ways. One is -- one is just by suggestions before they go to sleep. And people can influence their own dreams by self-suggestion as they're falling asleep, that they'd either like to dream on a particular topic or to know they're dreaming while they're dreaming as in that clip.

But also, there is some research that if you whisper to people very softly as they sleep, or you're flashing lights, or various sensory stimuli may make it into the dream and influence the dream content.

CHETRY: That's very interesting. What would be the point of doing that though? Is it -- is it a way -- is there some sort of help to be gained? Is there a way to maybe calm people's anxieties or help them work through issues through dreaming?

BARRETT: Yes. Most of the -- most of the ways that people try to influence dreams -- and again, in reality, it would tend to be cooperative ways, people want to influence their dreams, not the stealing kind of thing like in the film.

But people -- people who have nightmares, recurring nightmares, can learn by self-suggestion at bedtime that if that dream starts, they want some other more positive outcome, can learn to influence recurring nightmares in ways that help them stay calmer through the day.

People can also use it in growthful ways to try to dream a solution to a personal problem, or even very objective problems. Scientists have dreamed answers to important scientific issues, important devices have been invented in dreams.


CHETRY: Oh, I just think that's very fascinating that idea of lucid dreaming that you are referring to where it fascinates a lot of people to be conscious about what you're possibly trying to accomplish, and then being able to make that happen. How do you train yourself to do that?

BARRETT: The simplest technique has to do with just suggesting as you're falling asleep that, "when I dream tonight, I want to know I'm dreaming," to have the last thought in your mind.

But there are a number of things you can do by day to make it more likely. If you can make yourself really take seriously -- this is hard to do -- checking whether you're awake. Do things look realistic? If you try to read something, can you read it? Is it written in your native language? If you look away and look back, does it still say the same thing?

If you do that sort of little check during the day, it will eventually make it into your dream, and one of those times you'll realize -- no, this isn't real realistic, oh, my God, this is a dream.

CHETRY: That's interesting. I dream a lot and I dream very vividly and I remember my dreams, and a lot of them are based on things that happened in real life. Then I talk to other friends and they say, "I don't dream at all."

Is it true that some people dream very vividly and others don't? Or that people have different levels of recall about what they were dreaming?

BARRETT: It's the recall. We're all dreaming about every 90 minutes through the night. And if you were awakened after every period, you would remember dreams. But they're not getting transferred into long-term memory unless you wake up.

So, some people recall up to five elaborate dreams a night, and some people recall less than a dream a year. There's a huge range. But if you get interested and you pay more attention to your dreams, that usually increases recall.

CHETRY: Fascinating stuff. Deirdre Barrett, clinical psychologist at Harvard Medical School -- thanks for joining us this morning.

BARRETT: Nice to be here.

ROBERTS: Jacqui Jeras is in for Rob Marciano this morning. She's going to have this morning's travel forecast right after the break.

CHETRY: Also in 10 minutes, there was misunderestimate, the google, all wee-wee'd up. These are all words that our politicians ended up making into, I guess, the every day human language. Well, our Jeanne Moos has her take on one thing that there's no refudiating. It's Sarah Palin and her Twitter account.

Forty-five minutes past the hour.


ROBERTS: Forty-eight minutes after the hour. Good morning, New York. Right now, it's partly cloudy and 75 degrees. Later on today, the heat wave continues. Ninety-two degrees and sunny in New York City.

CHETRY: Enjoy the sun which mean (ph) the raindrops at least this week. Right now, we got a check of the weather with Jackqui Jeras. She's in the Extreme Weather Center for us this morning. Hey, Jackie.

JACQUI JERAS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Hey, guys. We're waking up and we're focusing on the nation's midsection again today. That's because we're going to continue to see that conga line of storms just making their way across the area throughout the rest of the work week really. And here, you can see that severe weather threat across northern parts of Missouri, damaging winds in excess of 60 miles per hour. But the other big issue with this, in addition to that, is that the downpours are so heavy.

We can see two to five inches easily and some of that could even fall within an hour's period of time. So, flood watches and warnings are in effect all across that area. And you can see the severe weather focus to go along with it from eastern parts of Colorado, stretching all the way through the Ohio River Valley. South side of the storm, same story in terms of the temperatures is that you're going to continue to stay hot and muggy. Lots of 90s across parts of the South and heat advisories in effect from Kansas City toward down Tulsa again today.

Our other top weather story is that we're focusing on the tropics. We got an area of low pressure trying to develop here north of Puerto Rico. And we do think some development is going to be possible now, and there you can see that the computer models are bringing it up towards the Gulf possibly, though a few east of Florida. So, we'll have to watch and wait and see. There's a medium probability of development of this storm in the next couple of days, but more likely as it starts heading up towards the Florida straits or in the Gulf of Mexico.

It has a greater chance of intensifying. So, this is something we'll be watching very closely in the upcoming days. John and Kiran, back to you.

ROBERTS: All right. Jacqui Jeras for us this morning.

Just a little while ago, we're telling you the story of Shirley Sherrod, the U.S. Department of Agriculture official from Georgia who resigned after charges that she made racist comments before the NAACP because she said she wouldn't help a farmer because he was white. That was one side of the story. We got the other side of the story from Shirley Sherrod coming up right after the break. She says it's nothing of what people are saying it was. So, let's hear from her coming right up. Fifty minutes after the hour.


ROBERTS: The U.S. Department of Agriculture accepts the resignation of an employee after a video surfaced showing her telling an audience that she withheld assistance to a white farmer because of his race. Let's listen to what she told the NAACP.


SHIRLEY SHERROD, FMR. USDA WORKER: I was struggling with the fact that so many black people had lost their farm land. And here I was faced with having to help a white person save their land. So, I didn't give him the full force of what I could do. I did enough.


CHETRY: Does that video tell the whole story? Joining us now on the phone from Albany, Georgia is Shirley Sherrod, herself. Thanks for being with us this morning, Shirley.

SHERROD: Thank you.

CHETRY: You say that this was part of the story and that it was part that was spliced enough to show you in a bad light, that this isn't the whole story. Will you finish for us how this ended?

SHERROD: OK. I was speaking to that group like I've done many groups, and I tell them about a time when I thought the issue was race and race only. And I tell them the story of how I've worked with a white farmer back in 1986. I was not working for the Department of Agriculture. I was working with a non-profit organization assisting farmers throughout South Georgia and the Southeast. And this farmer came to me for help. I was telling the story about how working with him helped me to see that the issue is not about race, it's about those who have versus those who do not have.

And I tell how I took him to a lawyer who I thought would help him. In the end, that lawyer didn't. In the end, I had to frantically look for a lawyer because when USDA lifted -- I'm sorry. When the court lifted the injunction against USDA in May of 1987, this white farmer was one of 13 that was foreclosed on by the state of Georgia. I had to frantically find a lawyer who would file a chapter 11 to stop the foreclosure. He couldn't -- at that time, we had up to 12.

CHETRY: Yes. But let me just get back really quickly, you said you didn't give them the full force of what you could do. You said you did enough, and then you referred to the race (ph) of the lawyer as well saying that perhaps because the lawyer was white, that he would help him. So, what did you mean by that?

SHERROD: What I meant was, I didn't know anyone else, but it thought taking -- I didn't know another lawyer at that time who was local, who knew something about chapter 12. But I thought if I took him to a white lawyer, he would definitely do all that he could to help save his farm.

ROBERTS: Miss Sherrod, let's make it clear though, that this happened 24 years ago. You eventually worked with this white farmer. You eventually became friends, you say, with the farmer and his wife.


ROBERTS: So, the question I have is, when the U.S. Department of Agriculture came to you and said you have to step down, why didn't you just say, wait a minute, you don't know the full story. Here's the full story, why should I step down?

SHERROD: I did say that, but they, for some reason, the stuff that Fox and the Tea Party does is scaring the administration. I told them get the whole tape and look at the whole tape and look at how I tell people we have to get beyond race and start working together.

ROBERTS: Many people at home might be thinking if you're recounting an old story, why did you succumb to pressure to step down, why didn't you fight this?

SHERROD: If I tried to fight it and didn't have any support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, what would I do?

CHETRY: Let me ask you this. Did you talk to the NAACP about it because I just want to read from our audience what Ben Jealous, the president said. He said referring to you and this surfacing of the tape, "her actions were shameful. While she went on to explain in the story, she ultimately realized her mistake as well as the common predicament of working people of all races. She gave no indication she'd attempted to right the wrong she had done to this man. And the reaction from many in the audience is disturbing."

This is from Ben Jealous. Did you try to clarify with the NAACP your story?

SHERROD: No, I haven't had had a chance to talk to anyone. All of this was happening so fast. And it's unfortunate that the NAACP would make a statement without even checking to see what happened. This was 24 years ago, and I'm telling a story to try to unite people with that now.

ROBERTS: Certainly, you're coming out and telling your story now takes it to a different level, and obviously, we're going to keep following this. It's good to get your side of it.

Sherri Sherrod, former Agriculture Department official. Thanks for joining us this morning. And perhaps, we can get you back on again, get your face on TV as well and talk to you more about this as the story continues to develop.

SHERROD: I don't mind.

ROBERTS: All right. Thanks so much.

CHETRY: Thanks a lot.

ROBERTS: Two minutes to the top of the hour. Top stories coming your way right after the break. Stay with us.