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American Morning

Last U.S. Combat Convoy Leaves Iraq; Fastest Growing Companies; Are Americans 'Islamophobic'?; New Orleans, Then and Now; Drugs & Gangs in your Kids' Schools

Aired August 19, 2010 - 08:00   ET


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you. Thanks for being with us on this AMERICAN MORNING. Thursday, August 19th. I'm Kiran Chetry.

T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning to you all. I'm T.J. Holmes sitting in today for John Roberts.

We have been waiting seven and a half years to report this news that the last U.S. combat brigade has pulled out of Iraq. This happened within the past 24 hours. Some 4,000 service members crossed into Kuwait. They'll be back in the U.S. within a matter of weeks.

But thousands more are still behind in Iraq. They are there for the next phase of the mission, Operation New Dawn.

CHETRY: Also, polls show that most Americans are against building an Islamic center and mosque near Ground Zero nearly nine years after the September 11th attacks. Has America become, in some ways, Islamophobic? That question is the focus of "TIME" magazine's next cover story.

And we're talking to "TIME's" deputy international editor for some answers this morning.

HOLMES: Also, New Orleans then and now. Director Spike Lee is returning to the city to follow up on his post-Katrina documentary, "When the Levees Broke." We're going to be talking with him live this morning. He'll be in the studio with us to talk about his new project and what he found in New Orleans now five years after the storm.

CHETRY: And, of course, the amFIX blog is up and running. Join the live conversation right now. Go to

HOLMES: Well, it's being called the beginning of an end. We are witnessing it right now in Iraq. In the last 24 hours, the last U.S. combat brigade rolled out of Iraq, crossing the border into Kuwait.

CHETRY: With the 4th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, otherwise known as the 4-2, is now expected back in America by mid- September.

And our Arwa Damon joins us live from Baghdad this morning.

So, of course, this certainly marks the end of a major shift in Iraq, but, also, the beginning of something else. Explain that for us.

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. What we are seeing happening here is basically President Obama fulfilling his pledge to have combat troop levels -- or U.S. troop levels, rather, to 50,000 come the end of August.

We've been seeing the U.S. military drawing down for months now. Ever since Iraq's elections back in March, we've been talking to the soldiers as they've been moving out. A lot of them have been talking about what an intense experience this has been, saying that at the onset of the war back in 2003, no one expected it to be lasting this long. And here they are, 7 1/2 years later almost.

And for them, there is a sense of finality. Now, for those troops still left behind, also a quick note, that we are still 6,000 troops away from reaching that 50,000 goal. But for those troops that are going to be staying here beyond September 1st, they are going to be part of Operation New Dawn, which is going to be seeing them in what is officially known as a noncombat role. They are going to be advised and assisting units. That being said, though, Iraq does still remain a very volatile environment.


SPC. DON LANPHER, U.S. ARMY: I mean, we put our blood, sweat and tears, you know, since we have been here for 12 months. And, you know, we know we did our job. We know it's not going to be in vain.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's such a hard decision?

LANPHER: But there's a lot of excitement right now, of course.


DAMON: A lot of the soldiers have been talking about how even when they do go back home, they're going to be keeping a very close eye on what happens in Iraq. They have suffered so much here, both emotionally and physically. It has been a very grueling experience. Some of them have even had to carry their combat buddies off of the battlefield. They've seen their friends die.

And they are also aware, to a certain degree, that the situation here is still unpredictable. We have a political vacuum. We don't have a new government seated just yet. And they are aware of the fact that politics and violence here is still very intertwined.

CHETRY: Very true. Arwa Damon for us this morning in Baghdad -- thank you so much.

Also, by the end of this month, America's military role in Iraq, as we've said, officially ends. But 50,000 troops will remain behind in a support role for the Iraqi troops and government.

The administration is branding the winding down phase of the war, Operation New Dawn. HOLMES: Our Suzanne Malveaux live for us at the White House.

Suzanne, good morning to you and this is good news for everyone. And it makes people feel good to hear that's part of this combat mission is over. And the president for him as well, he's fulfilling a promise, he can say.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You can absolutely say that, T.J., that he's fulfilling a campaign promise. We've heard it time and time again. That was one of things he was driving forward, that he would bring the Iraq war to end.

But I have to tell you, they are a bit cautious here at the White House as to how to present this. They are not presenting it in any elaborate fanfare at all for a number of reasons. Some of them that Arwa touched, the deadline for troop withdrawal is actually officially on Tuesday.

And then the Iraq mission, the U.S. mission in Iraq, far from being "mission accomplished." There's going to be a large U.S. footprint when it comes to the State Department and civilians involved in trying to keep peace.

And all of this could simply change. There could be an increase in violence and chaos inside of Iraq. And so, the president, he issued this statement, a letter yesterday, saying that yes, we were well on our way to pulling out U.S. troops.

He also gave a brief statement yesterday in Columbus, Ohio, very much like what he has said in the past. Take a listen.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are keeping the promise I made when I began my campaign for the presidency. By the end of the month, we will have removed 100,000 troops from Iraq and our combat mission will be over in Iraq.



MALVEAUX: So, very specifically talking about the combat mission being over in Iraq. Over -- covering President Bush for seven year or so -- that mission in Iraq changed, the goal of the mission changed. Initially, it was about bringing forward democracy and then it changed to stability and then rather a violent less society.

This is something that the president, of course, is trying to keep that mission very narrowly focused here, saying this is -- the combat mission is over, leaving a lot of wiggle room in terms of what could happen next -- T.J., Kiran.

HOLMES: Suzanne Malveaux for us from the White House today -- Suzanne, thank you so much, as always. CEHTRY: Well, it's become a verb now. People say pulling a Slater. And Republicans are using the former JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater's dramatic exit stunt to make a political point. The new Republican National Committee ad shows Democratic lawmakers fleeing President Obama and his slipping approval ratings by -- you guessed it -- using Air Force One's emergency slid slide.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Attention, passengers, fellow Democrats, we're just about ready to depart D.C. and go on my national fundraising tour to your home states. That's right. I'm coming to your hometowns.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With the president's approval rating at an all-time low, a lot of Democrats don't want him anywhere near their districts.


CHETRY: There you go.

HOLMES: It's kind of creative.

CHETRY: A little bit.

The Democrats also, though, were sort of getting in on this last week. You remember White House spokesman Robert Gibbs joked there's no truth to the rumor that I have an inflatable exit to my office after he was taking some heat for some comments he made about liberal Democrats.

HOLMES: Well, we have all felt that way a time or two, that we wish we could escape work.

Not here, Rob Marciano, not at CNN.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I was going to say, for as much as you talk about, you know, your travel troubles from New York to Atlanta, maybe you want a little inflatable slide out of there this morning. But you are looking good up there, pal. You will have no problem, I don't think, getting from Atlanta -- New York to Atlanta, although there may be afternoon thunderstorms across the south. Flying in the afternoon has always been of an issue.

One to four inches of rainfall across parts of eastern Tennessee and Kentucky. This is an area that got just pounded last night with heavy rain, in some cases, up to nine or 10 inches of it. But most of it is moving a little bit farther towards the east. So, the Carolinas will be under the gun as well parts -- other parts of the mid-Atlantic today.

Hot and humid across parts of Texas. The threat for severe weather across the northern tier. And it will be rather warm in spots, 94 degrees expected in St. Louis, 99 to 100 in Dallas, 89 degrees up there in New York City. Oh, come on, every once in a while, you feel like pulling a Slater, especially a Thursday or Friday rolls around after a long week.

See you back on Monday.

HOLMES: Yes. Right.

CHETRY: The best part, grab two beers. All right. (INAUDIBLE)

MARCIANO: Yes, do it in style.

CHETRY: There you go. Thanks, Rob.

HOLMES: Rob, we appreciate you, buddy.

CHETRY: We are taking a look at the issue -- actually "TIME" magazine cover story. We have some exclusive video as well. Is America Islamophobic?

We're going to be joined by "TIME's" deputy editor, Bobby Ghosh. He actually spent a lot of time in Iraq as well. He was the bureau chief in Baghdad for years for the magazine. So, we're also going to talk to him about historic end officially of combat operations.

HOLMES: Also coming up, we've heard so much about how businesses are cutting back. Well, would you believe there are some out there that are growing at a pretty good clip? We have Fortune's Top 100 fastest growing companies.

Our Ali Velshi back in New York with us this morning. He is coming up.

Stay here. It's nine minutes past the hour.



CHETRY: Eleven and a half minutes past the hour now.

The uproar over the Islamic center and mosque near Ground Zero has taken over everything from the news cycle to political debate going on right now in this country.

And "TIME" magazine is the first news organization that's actually been allowed to film prayers going on inside of the site, of the Park 51 mosque. A look now at it. This was shot during evening prayers marking a holy month of Ramadan, which continues until early September, as part of "TIME's" investigation for its upcoming cover story, "Is America Islamophobic?"

The article is written by "TIME's" deputy international editor, Bobby Ghosh. And he joins us now.

And thank for being with us. Bobby, you've also spent a lot of time, as we know, in Baghdad. You were the bureau chief there for "TIME" magazine.

So, I want to ask you first about the news overnight. You know, the breaking news last night dramatically, just like we all, 7 1/2 years ago, watched the beginning of the shock-and-awe campaign live. Last night, live, we are watching the last of the combat troops rolling into Kuwait and sort of the gates closing on that.

As we look to that, and we look at what we've learned and how far we have come with the past 7 1/2 years in Iraq, what is your take on what we left behind?

BOBBY GHOSH, TIME MAGAZINE: Well, to start with, we are still -- we left behind 50,000 American soldiers who are not necessarily combat soldiers, but who are combat enabled -- which means if the situation in Iraq continues to deteriorate, as it has in recent months, some of those soldiers may find themselves once again in harm's way and once again having to go out and actually engage in combat operations. We hope that is not the case.

We've left behind a country that now has a form of democracy. It is very messy. Perhaps it was always going to be messy. It's certainly going to be unsettled and unstable for a very long time to come.

There's -- you will notice that there are not a lot of Iraqis sending us "thank you" cards as the American military leaves. It's a part of the world that is now in some ways more unstable than it was 10 years ago. The U.S. presence has contributed -- although not exclusively -- to that instability.

CHETRY: I want to ask you, though, about anything good -- I mean, anything good come of the seven years sacrificing trillions of dollars and thousands of lives?

GHOSH: Yes, of course. Iraqis are much freer now than they were under Saddam Hussein. Most Iraqis are grateful for Saddam Hussein being removed from their lives. As I said, there's some form of democracy -- Iraqis have more freedoms to express themselves, more freedom to elect their leaders, more freedom to travel, more freedom to leave. They have a free media.

All of these things are important gains. At some point in this country, they'll have to be a discussion about the costs that the United States paid. And in Iraq, there's also a discussion about the costs that country paid and the lives of ordinary Iraqis, civilians, who died, in achieving all these things.

CHETY: It's interest when you take a look at what people think about it. Has the U.S. achieved its goals in Iraq? This was asked earlier in the month, CNN/Opinion Research poll -- nearly 70 percent of people said no.

GHOSH: Yes, because it was -- because those goals when they were set by President Bush were unrealistic and very, very large. We were not just going into Iraq to remove a dictator. We were going to change the political landscape of the Middle East, and this one democracy would then lead to a number of democracies all over the Middle East and the whole world would change. That's a very unreasonable expectation, and, of course, I'm not surprised. People say we haven't --

CHETRY: We have downgraded those, quote, "goals," or, you know, over time, and then people still -- overwhelmingly are --- don't believe that we've reached them in Iraq. And as you said, I mean, this is something we'll have to see as support role continues for U.S. troops. The actual combat role is over.

I want to change topics, though, and talk about the cover story in "Time" magazine. Is America Islamophobic? And the subtext is what the anti-mosque uproar tells us about how the U.S. regards Muslims, do you believe that this -- debate, this highly charged emotional debate over the really renovation almost because of a mosque is already there --


CHETRY: -- it typifies how people feel on larger scale about Muslims in America?

GHOSH: Well let me clarify. You don't have to be an Islamophobe to have reservations about this particular project. You don't have to be prejudice to have very genuine concerns about it. But what we have seen in the process of this debate and about mosques, not just here in New York but all over the country, is that there has been a vicious -- some very vicious, it's a very vicious hate speech has entered the mainstream of the discussion in this country. And that is -- we are seeing some Islamophobe views been expressed by people who we wouldn't have expected it from. When you have legitimate political figures comparing the religion of Islam to Nazism. That is something on a scale that we have never seen before.

CHETRY: I want to -- people are going to wonder what we are talking about.


CHETRY: So I want to read what Newt Gingrich said. Newt Gingrich is against the mosque being built that close to ground zero and what he said in the Nazi comparison is quote. "Nazis don't have the right to put up a sign next the holocaust museum in Washington. There is no reason to accept a mosque next to the World Trade Center. Is that -- that's something, of course, received a lot of attention. Do you think that's the main sentiment, though, of people who oppose the mosque? Which the majority of people polled, New Yorkers, as well as others, do oppose it being built there.

GHOSH: That's not the only reason. There are lots of people who feel not unreasonably they emotionally attached to that particular space. There are people who are concerned genuinely for the feelings of the families of the victims at the World Trade Center. There are people that have -- as I said, perfectly legitimate reasons to have concerned. But what this debate has done is brought out from previously what was in the fringes into the mainstream along reasonable people, a lot of hate speech and a lot of very vicious hate speech that we haven't heard before.

CHETRY: And not just the mosque debate. The controversy over this one. But we have seen a bit of a change many say over the past few years. Any of it linked to the fact that we've seen more instances of either attempted or homegrown terror that we thought, I mean after 9/11 a lot of people said this is a problem the United States doesn't have, what Europe has, problem with radicalization within the borders. And we have the Times Square bomber and few other thwarted attempts or plots. Has that added to this fear and feeling that Islam in America perhaps is radical in some ways?

GHOSH: Absolutely. There is certainly alarm that has grown in concern and suspicion. But there are also people who are taking advantage of this for political reasons. Who are taking advantage of this concern, who are take advantage of the fact that a lot of Americans don't know very much about Islam. It is a very small religion in this country. Compared with some other places in the world. So many Americans and we have a poll that shows us we don't really know that much about it.

So - and now you have people, who for political reasons are taking advantage of the combination of fear and lack of knowledge and adding to this toxic language. And are spreading sometimes, knowing full well, spreading lies and misrepresentations about the faith. And are tarring and entire community, and entire religion with -- that they are all from -- all potentially terrorists. That your neighbor, who is an American citizen, and -- by all polling proud to be an American citizen, happens to be a Muslim, may potentially someone who is talking against us.

We have polling that shows this is attitude is now beginning to spread. We have nearly two-thirds of the people that the poll said they had a negative or not positive view about Islam. Lots of people say that they -- that American Muslims may not be patriotic. Nearly a quarter of the people said American - they thought American Muslims were not patriotic. Another quarter were not sure if they were patriotic. And this sort of doubt and suspicion just seems to be growing and because of these controversies over the mosques that said -- these are now coming to the mainstream.

CHETRY: Well it is a very thoughtful piece. And we appreciate your sharing some of your insights with us this morning.

Bobby Ghosh great to talk to you, as always, thank you.

GHOSH: Thanks for having me.

CHETRY: Well you can check out "Time" the investigation into being Muslim in America and the controversy or the Islamic center in lower Manhattan. Go to the magazine's website, T.J..

HOLMES: Oh Kiran, coming up, we have heard an awful lot from Dr. Laura Schlesinger after that racial rant she used the "N" word. But you haven't heard a lot from the caller. You haven't heard it all from the caller until this morning. Speaking to us exclusively. You will hear from her. Also this morning, our Ali Velshi is here. And he is naming names. And you might want to make a list of these names. These are companies that could make you some money in a tough environment. It's 20 minutes past the hour, stay with us here on this AMERICAN MORNING.


HOLMES: Guess who's back? Not me.


HOLMES: That song is not for me.

CHETRY: That's Ali's theme song. There he is, look at him.

ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: I'm working. I'm working here. I'm trying to make people rich. I'm trying to give you some money makers.

HOLMES: Do you want to start with me then?

VELSHI: Yes, totally. You know what Kiran said something to me earlier, I'm back and have good news. Because when I was resident here on this show, it was a terrible time in the economy.

CHETRY: Before we booted you out.

VELSHI: Before you booted me up, stocks going up, down. It was terrible. I have got some good news though. "Fortune" worth reading, great magazine worth reading, in the new edition has the top 100 fastest growing companies in America. Listen, that's not the be all and end all but a good place to start, take a look at companies that are actually growing in this tough environment.

I want to give you two snapshots. First thing, I will give you the top three companies which you can buy and have for yourself. But let me just tell you about them. The first one is a company called Eldorado Gold. It is a Canadian Gold company. That's a bit of a misnomer because many gold companies are Canadian.

The Canadian stock exchange have historically been the home for mining companies. It is an attractive place to go, investors go there to invest. So this company - you have you seen what's going on with the price of gold. It has been increasing. This company tries to keep its production costs for an ounce of gold to 325 bucks an ounce. So that means anything more than 325 bucks an ounce, this company is making money on it. So that's why that company is doing very, very well. The second one is Green Mountain Coffee Roasters. You know this company?


CHETRY: Yes. The one where they have the prepackaged --

VELSHI: the little Keurig cups, yes. Those little K cups.

CHETRY: Right. VELSHI: So you see those all over the place.

CHETRY: we have them right over here.

VELSHI: I think we changed the system here. But we used to have them here. Bed Bath and Beyond sells them. Everybody has got these things. They are doing particularly well because they have got more and more brands. When it came out it was just a few types of coffee. Now they have got lots. This company is doing very well.

The third one, Ebix, which is a software services company to the insurance industry. This company has made more money in the first three months of this year than it had in all of 2007. Now when you are looking at stocks and companies, remember a couple of things. Growth is interesting. But price, some other people also think those are good companies.

So the price-to-earnings ratio, the price of the stock, compared to how much it earns, in two of the three of these companies, in Eldorado Gold and in Green Mountain -- is high. Which means someone else is in on that secret about it being a good company. More exciting though, I want on show you the fastest risers. Because fastest risers companies are the ones you end up hearing about in five years, they end up being big, big companies.

The first one is called First Solar based out of Tempe, Arizona. And they, obviously, are a solar company. They manufacture film based solar cells, thin film solar cells. Doing very, very well. Obviously that's --

CHETRY: Is this for home building? Or for - is this more for --

VELSHI: No, no. This is - sort of larger-scale sort of collection of solar energy.

CHETRY: Like huge solar panels frames.

VELSHI: Right. Yes. So this is a less efficient way of doing it than the other way of making solar cells. But it is -- it is growing in popularity. There's versatility. First Solar is doing very, very well. Fast rising company. The second one I want to tell you about is DG Fast Channel.

This is a company that lets say takes an ad - that a company has made. That normally you would have to take a TV ad, you know, convert it to HD and then send the tape or the disc over to CNN and we run it. Well these guys, it is all digital. It is all done on servers and online. And hence somebody could finish the ad at 6:00 this morning, let's say somebody need ad political ad overnight to respond to something.

CHETRY: Right.

VELSHI: We could be running it right now on TV. That's just - I mean it seems intuitive. But it actually works. They are doing it. The third company I want to tell you about, this one is very, very exciting. Intuitive Surgery. This is a company that uses robots to do some simple surgeries. And when I say simple surgeries, the -- they take -- high definition video feed and camera. It goes inside of a patient and can do things like removing tumors and taking suture skin out, you know, sort of basic things. But it is less invasive. So the healing time is much shorter. The cost is much lower. Obviously this is -- in a high health care cost environment, companies like this will do very well.

So these, within that list of 100 companies in the magazine, these are the fastest risers. Just stuff to think about. Don't go buying them because I said so. Buy the magazine. That's a smaller investment. And you study it yourself, make sure do you a little more research into it and never back the truck up and buy, you know, use all your money to buy the stock in one company. But it is a tough environment and there are some companies making money and growing.

CHETRY: And hopefully hiring down the road.

VELSHI: And hopefully hiring.

CHETRY: That's another good thing.

VELSHI: Yes, that's a good point. Because it is not just that you might invest in these companies. You might want to know where they are hiring. You might want to move to those towns and you might have your kids study whatever it is that you studied to work in the industries because they are all technology and all growing technologies.

HOLMES: Good stuff. And good news.

VELSHI: You see. I'm not just the hairless prophet of doom like the other guy called me.

CHETRY: No, that's right.


HOLMES: One o'clock.

VELSHI: One o'clock on the air.

HOLMES: All right, we'll see you then.

VELSHI: All right, good.

CHETRY: Thanks Ali.

VELSHI: I will see you back in Atlanta.

HOLMES: You will.

CHETRY: You will.

VELSHI: You will pleasure to see you.

CHETRY: You too. Come back more often. VELSHI: Thank you.

CHETRY: Well still ahead we are going to be talking to director Spike Lee. He premiere as new documentary If God's Willing and The Creek Don't Rise. It's about five years post Katrina and then of course, add on, the oil spill aftermath. He's going to join us to talk about it.

HOLMES: And you have heard plenty from Dr. Laura but you haven't heard yet from the woman who actually called in to Dr. Laura for help and then got that "N" word rant. You are hearing from the caller exclusively this morning, Anita Hanson. Stay with us, coming up on the bottom of the hour.


CHETRY: It's 31 minutes past the hour right now. A Denver woman that called Dr. Laura last week in search of advice the only to find herself at the end of a hurtful tirade says that she is not ready to meet or speak to Dr. Laura any time soon.

HOLMES: Anita Hanson is her name. She broke her silence this morning right here on CNN. She believed Dr. Laura's public apology for using the "N" word during their conversation is not sincere. She also says she's been on what she described a crying spree since that call.


NITA HANSON, CALLER TO DR. LAURA'S RADIO SHOW: After speaking with Dr. Laura, I was so confused. I was hurt, because I was just calling her to get advice about what I could do about this situation, how to talk to my husband.

So the thought of -- I was calling her to get help, and I did not expect to hear the things she said to me. I didn't want to turn this into a racial thing. I just wanted some advice on my relationship.

HOLMES: And you thought that even after all of this went down and the way she reacted that you went back and questioned yourself and felt maybe had you done something wrong.

HANSON: I did. I did. And that's why it was very important for me to listen to the tape because I thought that I had honestly said something wrong. Did I do something wrong? Did I say something wrong? And I -- I just wanted to go back and hear the tape just to make sure that what I said was OK.

And -- you know, there's -- it was just huge. It was -- there's month way to explain the feelings you get or how you can react when something like this happens.

HOLMES: Miss Hanson, have you reached out to Dr. Laura or has she reached out to you? Have you two spoke since?

HANSON: No, I haven't spoken to Dr. Laura. But she did -- on Wednesday, when she apologized, she wanted me to call in and wanted to give me the advice she should have gave me the day I called. But I have not talked to Dr. Laura at all.

HOLMES: It sounds like you didn't take her up the offer to call in. Would like to talk to her?

HANSON: No, sir. At this point there's nothing she can do for me. You know, I called for help, and there's nothing she can say to me at this point.

HOLMES: Apology, it sounds like, is not good enough at this point.

HANSON: No. It is not. If she would apologize -- I think -- I think she apologized because she got caught, to be honest with you. The tape disappeared, and I had to try to find the tape. But she's only apologizing because she got caught.

HOLMES: Let me put up now for our viewer viewers, if she hasn't talked to directly or reached out, she at least gave us a statement. Let me put it up for our viewers. I'm quoting here, this may be the first time you are hearing this.

She says, quote, "I would like to tell Jade I'm sorry." That's the name you used when you called in. "I would like to tell Jade I'm sorry. She called to ask for my advice and help. In giving my answer I didn't not only didn't help her but I used words that offended her and others, and I would like to say again I'm sorry."

How do those words ring to you this morning?

HANSON: It's more than just the "N" word. That whole conversation, she says -- she says I shouldn't marry outside my race. Dr. Laura acted as if I tried to set her up. And that's not what happened. I called for advice. I didn't try to set this woman up.

At the end of the tape she is like nice try, Jade. I was like, what is that supposed to mean? So I don't think she is sincere in her apology. She thinks it is OK to use the "N" word. And it is not sincere.

HOLMES: And in your opinion, is it ever OK, no matter what context -- of course Dr. Laura didn't call you the "N" word but used it. Do you think it is OK in any context to use it no matter what context?

HANSON: It is never OK to use that derogatory word. A whole race -- it is just a very hateful word. Dr. Laura -- I have a problem with Dr. Laura because she is old enough to know better. She knows where the word came from and why it is used. She knows the whole civil rights movement and how, you know, black Americans had to fight to get to where we are at today.

HOLMES: Again --

HANSON: -- use that word. HOLMES: I think nobody accused her of being an unintelligent woman. With her knowing and understanding it, why do you think she decided to use it? Not once, not twice, but several times? If she is smart enough to know better, why would she do it?

HANSON: That's how she honestly feels. That's how she honestly feels.

HOLMES: What --

HANSON: And she just got caught saying it.

HOLMES: Last thing -- any chance you will forgive and would like to possibly meet up or talk to Dr. Laura again?

HANSON: Not any time soon. It is still very hurtful. You know, I was -- I listened to her all the time. But it is still very hurtful. In some ways you can say I trusted her or trusted her or listened to her advice. And it is very hurtful.


HOLMES: You can hear the whole time, beer summit, people like to refer to it, people get together, two sides, not going to happen in this case. Not any time soon. She is still upset.

CHETRY: Very interesting to hear her point of view this morning and get a chance to see who was on the other end of the call.

Still ahead, director Spike Lee is here and joins us in the studio, coming up. There he is now walking in. He premieres his new documentary, "New Orleans Five Years Later." Little did he know when he started the documentary that he would have to go back because of the oil spill.

It's 37 minutes past the hour.


CHETRY: It's 40 minutes past the hour. Welcome back to the Most News of the Morning.

Five years after documenting the impact of hurricane Katrina, director Spike Lee has done it again and took his cameras back to New Orleans, to the Gulf coast, even to Houston, where many people have been displaced. And Lee talked to hundreds of people about the city's struggling to rise from ruin, including actor and activist Brad Pitt.


BRAD PITT, ACTOR: Many, we were -- couldn't believe the ineptitude of the recovery effort. And coming down here and hearing people's stories and frustration with no finding a clear path home, we thought we could help out.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HOLMES: Spike lee's new documentary, "If God is Willing and the Creek don't Rise," premieres Monday night on HBO. He is here with us now. Good morning. Good to see you, as always. Do you want to explain the title to us?

SPIKE LEE, DIRECTOR: The title was something my grandmother would say often to me. She lived to be 100 years. The lady is in life, I will call her every night. I'm in Brooklyn, she was in Atlanta, Georgia. I would say mama, I would call her my mama. I'll speak to you tomorrow. She would say Spikey, if god is willing, the creek don't rise. It's an old southern say.

CHETRY: It is just -- it is an interesting saying. You titled your documentary after it for what reason? Just the endless hope that is still visible in New Orleans despite everything they have been through?

LEE: There is hope, there's a lot of despair. But times like that, you have to get on your knees and pray that things are going to work out. And I think that people have done a lot of praying in New Orleans, Louisiana, the Gulf states, since August 29, 2005. We are coming up on the fifth anniversary very soon.

And the first day we shot, the first day of filming was the Super bowl. The Saints win. We thought that was going to be -- we shot -- we thought -- felt we shot the end of the fill temperature first day. Now the tone throughout right in the middle of Mardi Gras. People are floating. Then the whole world changed on the 28th of April.

HOLMES: Let's stop right there. Stop it and April 20th didn't happen and we ended on the Super bowl. Take the gulf disaster out, would you have walked away encouraged by what you saw five years later? Would you have been film good and felt the city was doing good at the time?

LEE: Yes. The city was flying. It was levitating. Mayor Landrieu had just been elected. New Orleans has problems like any other city. But things looked good. People were feeling good about themselves. And people were feeling that they are -- New Orleans was being reinvented and reinvigorated and renewed. And BP messed it all up.

CHETRY: I want to ask you about that, because you actually ended up dedicating an hour of your documentary to the --

LEE: Yes.

CHETRY: -- oil spill.

LEE: We were done shooting. We were done.

CHETRY: You went back to the drawing board.

LEE: The thing blew up. It fell apart. We had to do it. This turned out -- we knew it was big. Or we didn't know it would turn out to be the greatest oil disaster in the history of the world. So the last hour is all on BP.

CHETRY: You went out there after the explosion happened as well, we were down there 37 days. This is where the oil was coming to shore, the height of the tourist season where all the people make money, the height of the shrimp season. And there was a devastation that was palpable that could you see and feel.

Now here we are four months later and the government, BP, and several other, you know, scientists say that it is OK now, that 75 percent of the oil is gone and the other 25 percent --

LEE: That's malarkey. I don't believe it. And two days ago, a survey came out out of the University of Georgia which disputes that.

For all -- we can't go for okie dokie, because that's what this is. Let's go over, walk two blocks away, and it is the whole -- it's a scam. How in the world -- this is the world's biggest oil disaster. And we are going to shuffle some cards and now 75 percent of the oil is gone?

What's important is they did not say is this 75 percent of oil on the surface in Gulf of Mexico or 75 percent of the oil in the gulf? I don't believe it. BP, this is a massive campaign of spin, and as Americans, we have to be smarter than that and go for this.

HOLMES: A lot of people agree with you on that point there. Last thing here, though, how resilient can people be? We know that they can come back in New Orleans. They are tough folks. But how much more can a city take?

LEE: If something happens -- god forbid, they are still -- we are still not out of the hurricane season. That would be the knockout punch. Because they've been down twice on the canvas and like Ali, put their hands on the rope and lift themselves up. But -- human beings only do so much. And -- have -- a third hit within a space of five years that would be devastating.

CHETRY: When you talk about that, by the way, has there been a recovery? When we talked about how much money was spent, some $120 billion. Most of it going to emergency funding right after. But also in helping the rebuilding, that's not to mention the private donations and other things to try to help New Orleans rebuild.

Is New Orleans as good or better than it was before?

LEE: Before? August 29, 2005?


LEE: They are on their way back. They still have problems. I mean, as a guy in the film, (INAUDIBLE) says 37 percent of African- American population still has not returned. And that's for two reasons. Other people said, look, I got a life here in Atlanta, San Antonio, Houston; others can't go back because where they lived, the public housing was knocked down and the rents are quadrupled.

So Mayor Landrieu has a lot on his plate.

HOLMES: New Orleans has a lot on their plate. Monday though --

LEE: Monday and Tuesdays it's two parts.

HOLMES: Monday and Tuesdays two parts. We'll see them both Monday and Tuesday. If God is willing and the creek don't rise.

LEE: The creek don't rise --

HOLMES: And the creek don't rise.

LEE: Thank you.

CHETRY: By the way. Spike Lee, great to see you.

LEE: Thank you very much.

CHETRY: Thanks for coming in today.

HOLMES: It's good to see you Spike.

LEE: Thank you.

CHETRY: By the way, this weekend as well, CNN's Soledad O'Brien has a special report: "NEW ORLEANS RISING". She looks at how one neighborhood devastated by hurricane Katrina is being rebuilt. "NEW ORLEANS RISING" airs Saturday and Sunday at 8:00 p.m. right here on CNN.

Its 47 minutes after the hour.


CHETRY: Its 50 minutes past the hour. Rob Marciano is in the Extreme Weather Center for us this morning keeping track of things. And then we're talking about some storms. Some wind, a lot going on today.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, heavy rain overnight, guys, across parts of Tennessee and some swift water rescues that are happening not only just north of Nashville but some -- some of the counties just south of Nashville. Ten to seven inches of rainfall in a very short period of time and this is an area that got hit hard as you may remember during the month of May. So water is not the first thing that they need.

The good news is though, it's beginning to shift a little farther to the east in those counties eastward. We've got flood watches that are posted for another one to four inches of rainfall potentially later today.

Heat is on again across eastern Texas and in parts -- across parts of Arkansas and northern Louisiana where advisories are up; 99 degrees expected in Dallas and 91 degrees in Houston. Another area where it's hot, this time of the year, is in Spain. And if you're watching the bullfight, it got pretty heated yesterday in northern Spain.

Check out this video. The bull is saying you know what? I've had enough of this. You want to fight me? I'm going to fight you. How about that?

Bull jumps into the stands and goes after those blood-thirsty spectators. Dozens of injuries from this bull on the loose and as you can imagine, the crowds scurrying and running for their lives there.

You know they just recently outlawed it in Barcelona. But that outlaw does not take effect until 2012. And this bull certainly does not want to wait for that ban to take effect. Dramatic stuff, guys. I've never been to a -- to a bullfight. But --

CHETRY: That's awful.

MARCIANO: -- if I wasn't -- yes. I can imagine and --

HOLMES: Doesn't make you want to go.

CHETRY: No I mean, it's just you've -- it just so senseless. I'm sorry. I mean, I can't -- it hurts me to watch it.

MARCIANO: Well, now we know that the bulls have a sense of vengeance.


CHETRY: Yes. Well, those poor things is just trying to get away after being stabbed a billion times.


CHETRY: And then, you know, taunted. But hey, that's just me.

MARCIANO: It it's another reason to continue that ban. There is the proof.


CHETRY: Thanks Rob.

HOLMES: -- we appreciate you buddy.

MARCIANO: See you guys.

HOLMES: And Kiran, we appreciate your views on bullfighting this morning as well.

It's coming up on nine minutes to the top of the hour here. We are taking a look at the country's schools. We were talking about some of the graduation rates. That was the big story earlier this week.

Now we are talking about gang and drug-infested schools. Elizabeth Cohen is going to be along for the new 2010 national teen survey. Stay here with us.


CHETRY: Coming up to five minutes before the top of the hour. It's time for your "A.M. House Call".

When you send your kids to school you expect that they are going to have to deal with challenges of reading, math, science; but in way too many public schools, teens are also facing issues dealing with drugs and in some cases gangs.

HOLMES: And the National Center for Addiction and Abuse found 27 percent of teenagers are dealing with these threats.

Our senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen is along with some of these details. It's not enough that the kids are having a tough time in class. You've got other things to deal with besides the curriculum.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Oh right, absolutely. You know, it's the mission of this group and many others to get rid of drugs in schools. So what they learned in this study is that if you want to get rid of drugs you've got to get rid of the gangs.

What they found is that the gangs are quite prevalent in public schools, less so in private and parochial, much less so. And if your kid is in a school where there are a lot of gangs, they are five times more likely to smoke marijuana and five times more likely to have friends who use cocaine, meth, heroin and twelve times more like to smoke.

CHETRY: For a lot of families, public schools are the only option, so what do parents do if their kid has to go to a school where this is an issue?

COHEN: You now, to quote Joe Calipano (ph) who runs this school, he said, "you have to raise hell". If you can't tolerate having gangs in school, if there were gangs in your workplace, you wouldn't let that go on. You would -- or drugs. You would expect your employer to get rid of those gangs. So he said really you have to make a fuss.

Secondly, what you have to do is be very in touch with your child. Lots of studies have shown that parents who are very in touch with their child, what they are doing, where they are going, who their friends are, those kids are less likely to be in gangs or use drugs.

Elizabeth Cohen for us, thank you.

COHEN: Thanks.

CHETRY: Appreciate it.

HOLMES: Well, four minutes to the top of the hour. Quick break; we are right back.


CHETRY: Sure is.

HOLMES: We have a small problem. People are loud enough when they eat chips. Now they are loud when they open the chips. By all means, Kiran, go ahead and demonstrate.

CHETRY: Grab a bag. Here we go. These are made of plant material instead of plastic. They are totally compostable. Here we go.

That's what it sounds like when you open the bag. A guy that tested it, he actually bought a radio shack sound meter. He said that the decibel level on this is a 95 which makes it as loud as a gas lawnmower; slightly softer than a subway train going by.

HOLMES: Yes. What do you do? You are trying to save the earth. Is it worth a little noise? People -- she is not exaggerating. You just naturally open the bag.

CHETRY: We will leave it for later.

HOLMES: It was a good idea.

CHETRY: It was a good idea. Maybe they can make them a little quieter and just as environmentally friendly -- back to the drawing board.

Happy birthday, by the way, T.J.

HOLMES: Thank you for that. Thank you, thank you.

CHETRY: congratulations. Not only a newlywed but finally entering your late 20s.

HOLMES: Yes, feels great. Feels great.

CHETRY: And it was great to have you with us.

HOLMES: Good to be back with you guys.

CHETRY: Meanwhile continue the conversation on today's stories, head to our blogs,

That's going to do it for us. We'll see you back here tomorrow.

HOLMES: But now, it's time for us to hand it back to Atlanta, where I'm headed. Kyra -- in the "NEWSROOM".