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CNN Sunday Morning

Freed American Heading Home; Obama Rebuts Health Care Critics; Obama to Meet Egypt's President; Foreclosed Homes Cause More Problems to Owners and Local Government

Aired August 16, 2009 - 08:00   ET



And check out this new video into CNN. We have learned that John Yettaw, the man right there, is an American who has been released from a Myanmar jail, thanks to the efforts of Virginia Senator Jim Webb. We're going to get the latest details on exactly how that went down.

From the CNN Center, this is CNN SUNDAY MORNING. It is August 16th, 8:00 a.m. here at CNN headquarters in Atlanta, 7:00 a.m. in the heartland.

Good morning, everybody. I'm Betty Nguyen.

T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: And hello to you all. I'm T.J. Holmes. Glad you could be here.

There are some tropical storm warnings issued for parts of Florida. We're going to get the latest from our Reynolds Wolf.

But first, our top story, developments today.

NGUYEN: Yes, let's get right to it.

Less than 48 hours ago, he was a prisoner in Myanmar. This hour, American John Yettaw is one step closer to home. Thanks to the efforts of Virginia Senator Jim Webb.

Now, Yettaw and Webb, they are traveling back on a government plane. And you see Yettaw here getting off of that plane in Thailand just a short while ago. He did not talk to reporters, however, Senator Webb did.

Here's what he had to say.


SEN. JIM WEBB (D), VIRGINIA: I feel fortunate that the government honored my request to allow him to come back here to Thailand with me. He was on the aircraft with me. He's not a well man. He had a medical incident this morning when they read him his ordinance of deportation. He's now undergoing a thorough medical review here in a hospital, and see if we will be able to return to his family. We had many different discussions, in depth discussions about different issues, some of which divide us and some of those unite at some (INAUDIBLE) were part of the future. And during those discussions, I made three requests to the Burmese government. The first was that they should consider on humanitarian grounds the release of John Yettaw. I'll explain a little bit more about that in a minute.

The second was that I be allowed to meet with Aung Sang Suu Kyi and have a discussion with her. And the third was that they consider my strong recommendation that free Aung Sang Suu Kyi from her current sentence of house arrest and allow her to participate fully in the political process. That, hopefully, will be moving towards election in Myanmar in 2010.


HOLMES: All right. Two out of his three requests, Dan Rivers, were granted. Still don't know what's going to happen with Aung Sang Suu Kyi, if she's going to be able to actually participate in the election, if she's going to be released.

But let's start with Yettaw first -- Dan Rivers, again, our international correspondent in Bangkok. What do we know, exactly where is he and when is he going to be coming back home?

DAN RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right, well he's being examined at a hospital here in Bangkok, we understand. He actually, as the senator has said, had some sort of medical incident when they told him he was going to be freed. He's been having seizures and epileptic fits.

He's not a well man. He's got diabetes as well, and he's also of a troubled mind, I think it's fair to say. He's a former Vietnam veteran who was under the impression that he had to go and warn Aung Sang Suu Kyi in some way, possibly, about an assassination attempt or something that he had in his mind. And that's why he embarked on this bizarre episode where he swam the lake in central Rangoon, to her house to try and warn her.

He spent two days before he was discovered. And that's what sparked this whole massive incident, which was resulted in her being given 18 more months house arrest.

So, he will be back on a plane fairly soon, possibly even within the next few hours, back to the United States. As you say, Senator Webb did not get the third thing that he asked for, which was the freedom of Aung Sang Suu Kyi, that was always going to be pretty difficult. But he did spell out clearly that there is a recalibration going on of U.S. policy towards Myanmar. Clearly, they are looking at trying to engage, trying to have some sort of dialogue, possibly more trade and relaxing sanctions.

And I think this was an important visit. Although it was unofficial, clearly, he has the ear of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. He went there with her blessing to try to find out what was possible, what they were willing to compromise, and what could be done to move things forward.

HOLMES: All right. Dan Rivers, one more thing before I let you go. You and I talked about this yesterday, whether or not -- or exactly how this would play in Myanmar. How exactly the government would use this trip by Senator Webb as some kind of a propaganda mechanism -- how is this visit and now, how it all went down with the American being released? How was this playing in the region?

RIVERS: It's played extensively on the state-run TV, MRTV. They've shown extensive pictures of Senator Webb meeting with Senior General Than Shwe, meeting with Aung Sang Suu Kyi. I think they want to give the impression, well, look, you know, here's this U.S. senator coming in, he's holding all these high-level talks, you know, we're doing everything we can to engage with the international community.

The critics of Senator Webb will say, he just scored an own goal, he's handed this propaganda cue to the regime. And yes, you've got the freedom of John Yettaw, and that's great to him and his family, but you have not achieved anything tangible on the freedom of Aung Sang Suu Kyi or moving democracy forward.

He will respond by saying, well, it will be the small steps at a time. This is the beginning of the process and perhaps we should look at the bigger picture here. He pointed out in the press conference, "Look, China doesn't hold elections, we trade with them. Vietnam doesn't hold elections, we trade with then. North Korea has seen engagement with President Bill Clinton going there."

So, there is clearly a reassessment of the broader age of policy here and specifically with relations to Myanmar.

HOLMES: All right. Dan Rivers for us in Bangkok -- Dan, we appreciate you this morning. Thank you so much.

NGUYEN: All right. Back here at home, we want to get to the latest on the weather outside, because we are your hurricane headquarters, as you see right there. And so far, we haven't seen a hurricane as of yet, but that does not mean it is in the works. We've got two tropical storms out there and Reynolds Wolf has been watching all of it for us as well, and he joins us now.

Hey, Reynolds.

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Hey, guys. You know, between Ana and Bill, I think Bill is more likely to become a hurricane. But we have actually a third system we're dealing, hard to believe, this morning, tropical depression number four, which is actually off the coast of Florida.

We're going to start with that one and then go back to Ana and Bill and give you an idea where those are headed. First and foremost, we got to the Sunshine State of Florida where we see those scattered showers that are forming right off the coast. You know, it's the counterclockwise rotation, this textbook for you tropical system.

This one is expected not to remain stationary, but actually edge it's way a bit further to the north. And as it does so, it's going to move right past Apalachicola. And then, it should stall out in parts of Alabama, bringing some heavy rainfall. So, for people who have been battling all kinds of issues, especially with people like Chilton County, Alabama, yes, you're going to get some rain. Some places could see up to six inches of rain before the day is out.

Meanwhile, what we're also going to be seeing -- these two systems that we have that are just spinning their way in the Atlantic. We got Ana over here. We got Bill a little bit farther back out towards the east. Ana is not looking all that impressive this hour. I mean, you know, look at the outflow, it looks really disfigured this time, being sheered apart. A little bit of upper level winds are having an effect on that.

Farther back to the east, we see Bill. Bill -- a much stronger storm for the time being.

But we do anticipate that Ana is going to fluctuate in power and is going to make its way a bit more to the west. So, it's expected to interact with land, which should weaken it a little bit. Winds are 45 as we get into Monday morning. By Tuesday, increasing to 50, but then back to 35, as we get into Wednesday, and then, Thursday, into the Straits of Florida, perhaps even right over Havana, Cuba, as it make her way over the next couple of days.

Now let's tackle Bill. Take a look at that. How do you like the sound effects? It's going to be roaring for you as you go from Monday into Tuesday. Then as we get into Wednesday, a category two storm possible, at least according to this forecast from the National Hurricane Center. Then as we get into Friday, I want you to notice that number three, that stands for a major hurricane. Category three storm on the Saffir-Simpson scale, winds of 115 miles an hour possible.

It should be just north of many of the islands as you notice. But it's also going to be moving into an area with very minimal shear and very warm water. So, there's a chance the storm could strengthen and certainly one that bears watching.

One thing, very quickly I want you to watch, chances of stronger storms across parts of the Midwest and into the central plains. Flash flooding and severe storms, especially for the late afternoon.

OK, guys, that is a wrap on your forecast. Let's send it back to you at the news desk.

NGUYEN: You are busy man. And you know why we can tell that? The sleeves rolled up.


WOLF: It's the magic.

NGUYEN: It's a telltale sign. OK.

HOLMES: Thanks, Reynolds. NGUYEN: Thank you.

So, this may be a make or break month for health care reform. Today, President Obama is taking a break to check out the Grand Canyon, the latest stop on his trip out west. But, as our senior White House correspondent Ed Henry tells us, the health care debate seems to follow the president everywhere he goes.


ED HENRY, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Family time at Yellowstone National Park -- the first family expressing joy at the sight of Old Faithful.

But a sharply different emotion from the president at a health care event in Colorado. For the first time, he invoked last year's death of his own grandmother to slam conservatives, like Sarah Palin, who have accused him of promoting euthanasia.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I just lost my grandmother last year. I know what it's like to watch somebody you love that's aging, deteriorate. So, the notion that somehow I ran for public office or members of Congress are in this so that they can go around pulling the plug on grandma -- I mean, when you start making arguments like that, that's simply dishonest.

HENRY: The only really pointed exchange...

ZACH LAHN, UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO STUDENT: I would love to have a debate, just all out, anytime, Oxford style, if you would like.

HENRY: College student Zack Lahn pressing on whether a public option would wipe out insurance companies.

LAHN: How in the world can a private corporation providing insurance compete with an entity that does not have to worry about making a profit, does not have to pay local property taxes, they do not have to -- they're not subject to local regulations. How can a company compete with that?

OBAMA: It's good to see a young person who's very engaged and confident challenging the president to an Oxford-style debate. I think this is good, you know? This is good, you know? I like that. You've got to have a little chutzpah.

HENRY: The president said the details are not final, but broadly speaking, the charge is not true.

OBAMA: And in fact, right now, you've got a lot of private companies who do very well competing against the government. UPS and FedEx are doing a lot better than the post office.

HENRY: In a sign of just how engaged the public is right now, Lahn told me he drove four hours to get here. He expressed disappointment the president did not have more details, but was satisfied in one way. LAHN: I've learned that town -- that these town halls are genuine. And that's something I was very, very happy it.

HENRY (on camera): Really?

LAHN: I was very concerned when I came up here. I was talking to my friend that I was afraid that people are going to be called on for questions were going to be plants. And I'm not saying that none of them were, but I'm saying that I came here with a genuine question, and if he knew my question, he might not have wanted to call on me. But he called on me not knowing anything about me and that is one thing I do respect.

HENRY: The first family's summer tour of national parks continues Sunday at the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Then the president wraps his western swing Monday in Phoenix with a speech to the VFW's annual convention before heading back to Washington, as his fight for health reform reaches a critical stage.

Ed Henry, CNN, Grand Junction, Colorado.


HOLMES: Well, the president's town hall crowds, even though, as you saw the young man challenging him there, they've been pretty much polite to the president, but similar events haven't gone so well for some other politicians. Republicans deny stirring up protests at town halls, but in this week's GOP address, Utah Senator Orrin Hatch says he's happy to see opponents of the president's plan speak out.


SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: Nearly 85 percent of Americans have coverage. And they are really worried about what reform means for them, especially our seniors. And these concerns are moving from kitchen table conversations to town hall discussions.

I am disappointed about the attempts to characterize the behavior of Americans expressing their concerns as, quote, "un-American," unquote. Although I strongly encourage the use of respectful debate in these town halls, we should not be stifling these discussions. There is nothing un-American about disagreement. In fact, our great nation was founded on speaking our minds.

Families are voicing their concerns because they feel like they are not being heard in Washington, and I'm here to tell you that your voices are coming through, and it is essential for all of you to be involved in this issue.


HOLMES: Well, Hatch was part of the Senate committee involved in health care negotiations, but he left that panel in frustration last month.

NGUYEN: All right. So, overhauling health care, hosting a Middle East ally and then getting ready for a Martha's Vineyard vacation -- all of it part of a busy week for President Obama.

Paul Steinhauser is CNN's deputy political director.

And, Paul, let's get to those health care town hall meetings. Are they causing some -- or creating some clarity, or just causing some more confusion?

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN DEPUTY POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Maybe a little bit of both, Betty, and we're going to see a lot more over the next couple of weeks. Remember, we're only two weeks into a five-week summer recess for Congress. So, there are a lot more town halls planned and there could be protests at some of these.

I'm looking at my list right here and I can see, we're going to be covering five town halls -- at least five town halls tomorrow, CNN will be doing that with our producers, with our correspondents and photojournalists. So, we're going to be covering the good, the bad, and the ugly.

NGUYEN: OK. Let's get to those Mideast peace negotiations. They're getting back on the front burner this week. How so?

STEINHAUSER: Hosni Mubarak, the president of Egypt, will be right here at the White House on Tuesday. And this was rescheduled from earlier this summer. The president and President Mubarak last met back in June when Barack Obama was in Cairo, giving his speech to the Muslim world. The president has also met earlier this year with the Israeli prime minister.

So, Tuesday when President Mubarak is here at the White House, front and center will be the Mideast peace process, Betty.

NGUYEN: And at the end of it all, the Obamas head to Martha's Vineyard. Not too bad. Besides a little R&R, anything special planned?

STEINHAUSER: You know, this is going to bring back memories of the Clinton years, because if you remember, back in the 1990s, President Bill Clinton spent a lot of time summering in Martha's Vineyard. Now, it's time for Barack Obama to try it out. We believe he leaves about a week from now, and we believe that the first lady and the girls will be heading out there a little early. We think it's a one week of summer vacation before coming back here to Washington, Betty.

NGUYEN: All right. And after all these town hall meetings and flying all across the U.S., I imagine he's looking forward to that little rest and relaxation at Martha's Vineyard.

All right. Paul Steinhauser, you're not getting any rest. You're working 24/7. We appreciate it. See you later.

STEINHAUSER: Thanks, Betty.

HOLMES: Well, young people in their 20s are the largest group of uninsured Americans, so will the president's health care plan change any of that?

NGUYEN: Our Josh Levs is on the case for us, and he joins us now live.

Hey, Josh.


Will it cover college students? We've been getting a lot of questions from college students there. So, the truth squad looks at the facts and we have a verdict.


NGUYEN: All right. We have been hearing a whole lot of promises about what health care reform will do for Americans. Well, one of them is that uninsured college students will be helped. The question is: how true is that?

Our Josh Levs is here with the truth squad to find out some answers for us. So?

LEVS: There's actually a lot of uninsured college students out there.


LEVS: For this, I didn't realize how many are. We actually have this on the graphic. Let's go straight to it.

It's about one in five college students in America, 20 percent of college students are uninsured. And that's a pretty big chunk when you take a look at it. Now, there are various reasons for that, but some people are uninsured because your parents' insurance plans only cover you up until a certain age.

Let me show you a question that we got. I think this is a really good example for a truth squad, because we are taking questions directly from you and then we're investigating them. Take a look right here. This came to us from David in Portland, Maine. He says, "I'd like to know if under Obama's insurance reform plan, if students like me who turn 25 and can't be on their parents' insurance anymore while they're full-time students will be covered."

You know, especially in this economy, you got more people going back to being full-time students. So, it is an increasingly important question.

Well, we took a look at it. Here's a fact I can show you about President Obama's health care plan. His plan would, indeed, help those who are too old for their parents' insurance. This is something that the president is pushing for.

So, for your specific question, here's our verdict: True. Yes, indeed, it would help. But let's emphasize -- this is the president's plan. We're not at a place where Congress, even either chamber has a full bill, final bill that they're voting on, let alone anything going to the president. So, we cannot tell you what the final bill will be. We can tell you however, the president is pushing for that.

And you can get all the latest truth squads right here at It's one of the main links on this new page. We encourage you to check it out right here. There's a link to all of these fact checks, every single one that we've done so far. The truth squad is all over it.

In fact, if we zoom back in here for just a second, I'll show you how it works. Once you click on that, it traces you through a lot more details. You can see links as well.

And, if you would like to spend time reading the bills itself, there's a House bill that's 1,000 pages, there's a Senate bill you can read as well, not the absolute final ones, but you can read them. Plus, I've done something here at my page, I've given you a whole bunch of links right there that will take you to a lot of the facts that are out there.

In fact, let's go to this graphic. You can see one simple Web address that will get you to absolutely everything, my page here, has all sorts of links for you, that way you don't have to write any of this down. We'll get you to everything.

Also, if you do the social media networks, I'm on Facebook and Twitter, at JoshLevsCNN.

And, guys, the truth squad has a lot more questions we're facing from what we're getting here, and a lot more verdicts coming this week.

NGUYEN: All right. We like those answers. Thank you, Josh.

LEVS: Thanks a lot.

HOLMES: It's bad enough when you're in foreclosure, a lot of people in foreclosure because they can't make their mortgage payment.

NGUYEN: Right.

HOLMES: But can you imagine being in foreclosure and then on top of that, you start getting fined. Yes, some homeowners are finding this out. We got their story, coming up.

NGUYEN: And when an elephant took a wrong turn and actually lost a leg, some human volunteers stepped in to do the right thing.



NGUYEN: That is T.J. Holmes' personal request this morning. A little Carly Simon to wake you up or maybe get you to relax.

HOLMES: You never know with me.

NGUYEN: Get up and make that breakfast.

HOLMES: All right. Well, we can keep that going as we talk about this next story here.

NGUYEN: Yes. These folks need a little relaxation because they are dealing with a lot. OK. Here it goes. First, came the foreclosure notice, then the moving van.

HOLMES: Yes. Weeks passed, and for some years, then the real problem started.

Our Alina Cho shows us the foreclosure fake-out that's happening all across the Rust Belt right now.


ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When Dellian and Valerie Sharp found out the bank was taking possession of their home after they defaulted on their mortgage, they thought it was the worst day of their lives. They were wrong.

DELLIAN SHARP, HOMEOWNER: We could spend 45 days in jail over this housing issue.

CHO (on camera): Does that seem ridiculous to you?

D. SHARP: It does to me because it's like we don't own the house.

CHO (voice-over): They do own it. In November of 2006, a judge agreed the Sharp's home was the bank's property and should be sold at auction. The couple moved out. But a year later, they learned Bank of America never followed through on the foreclosure.

In a statement, B of A told CNN, the bank has not foreclosed on the property and the customer still holds the title. The Sharps are shocked and the practice is perfectly legal.

JOSIAH MADAR, NYU FURMAN CTR. FOR REAL ESTATE & URBAN POLICY: A number of the foreclosed properties have very little value left in them by the time they're reaching at the end of the foreclosure process. And if it's going to be more expensive to follow the foreclosure all the way through and take the property -- they just won't do it.

CHO: It's happening in cities across America -- banks walking away from so-called toxic titles. The Sharps are facing thousands in fines from the city of Buffalo, New York, for property violation and unpaid taxes. That's on top of the thousands they've already paid in court fees.

(on camera): I mean, look at this. (voice-over): Daniel Benning works as a housing court mediator. He calls the vacant homes vulnerable targets.

DANIEL BENNING, HOUSING COURT MEDIATOR: These are attractive to people of criminal intent.

CHO (on camera): Because they're empty.

BENNING: They're empty. The bank refuses to allow anyone to move in, but they refuse to do anything to the property, as you can see. And it affects not only this property, but the properties next to them.

CHO (voice-over): The city of Buffalo even filed a lawsuit, alleging 37 banks that walked away from foreclosed homes are responsible for the city's loss in property tax revenue and an increase in police and fire calls.

As for the Sharps...

D. SHARP: When you look and you find that something you thought was going is still there, OK, now it's -- what's next?

CHO (on camera): Well, what is next?

D. SHARP: We have no idea.


D. SHARP: We have no idea.


NGUYEN: And that is such a difficult position to be in.

HOLMES: In an already tough one.

NGUYEN: Right.

HOLMES: And my goodness, to add that on top of it. Insult to injury, some would even say.

Good morning to you all. A lot of you are just waking up here on this Sunday morning. We're going to be checking all the headlines for you this morning right after the break, some stuff you may have missed.

NGUYEN: Yes. Listen to this story, really a gargantuan task, getting a new leg for an elephant who stepped on a land mine. We're going to show that to you.

HOLMES: It sounds impossible, but they did it.

Also, Sir Paul McCartney, the crowd turned out for him last night.

NGUYEN: He was rocking out in Atlanta last night.

HOLMES: Betty was among them. I think she's playing drums in the back there.

More of this right after the break.


HOLMES: And welcome back to the CNN SUNDAY MORNING. Hello to you all. I'm T.J. Holmes.

NGUYEN: Yes good morning, everybody, I'm Betty Nguyen. Thanks so much for joining us.

All right, let's get to our top stories right now. There is some video just into CNN. In fact, it came in just a short while ago.

John Yettaw, an American sentenced to seven years with hard labor in Myanmar, he is arriving right there as you see it in Bangkok. He'd been arrested for going to the home of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who is under house arrest.

Now, Virginia Senator Jim Webb negotiated his release from a Myanmar jail. And it is the first time in more than a decade that a member of Congress has visited Myanmar.

I want to get to this news as well; a 7.0 magnitude earthquake has struck off the western coast of Indonesia's Sumatra Island. Now, there is no word yet on any possible damages or injuries and no immediate tsunami warning.

So we are watching very closely that part of the world for you and we'll bring you developments.

Let's take you to Taiwan now; some much-needed international aid, arriving in villages just cut-off by mudslides and flooding. Typhoon Morakot battered the island last week, triggering the worst weather disaster there in 50 years.

That storm is blamed for killing at least 120 people, but thousands of survivors, they are temporarily in shelters at this moment and many of them still in villages and they're trying to be rescued by volunteers. So we are on top of that story as well.

And this: about 2,000 firefighters are on the scene of this blaze in Santa Cruz, California. It is one of 11 wildfires burning right now out west. The Lockheed fire has burned nearly 7,000 acres since Wednesday and forced nearly 3,000 people to evacuate. Now about 30 percent contained.

HOLMES: Well from now until mid-September, you're going to hear a lot from some religious leaders backing health care reform. They're trying to convince Congress to pass reform this year.

Have you seen this ad? Its part of a national campaign called "40 Days for Health Reform" and religious leaders nationwide have also been staging prayer vigils and rallies and on Wednesday the president will take part in a Web cast with 25 faith-based leaders.

Time for a "Faces of Faith" conversation. And for our conversation this morning, let's bring in Rabbi Jonah Pesner, the director of Just Congregations, a National Group of Synagogues in Albany. Good morning to you sir. And also, the Reverend Derrick Harkins, with 19th Street Baptist Church in Washington, he's here as well, actually in Cleveland though, this morning. I got that right.

Good morning to you both. Now, this new initiative here, let's be clear, are you all backing -- I'll start with you, Reverend Harkins, are all you backing the president's particular plan or you are just out there pushing for some kind of a health care reform plan?

REV. DERRICK HARKINS, 19 STREET BAPTIST CHURCH, WASHINGTON: Well, thanks for being able to be with you, T.J. And it's important to note that there is not a complete body of legislation in place yet.

And what's important to know that the conversation needs to continue. It needs to continue civilly and productively so that we can have a piece of legislation that leads us to health care reform.

So when it comes to backing a particular plan, well, that's in process, but we want to make sure -- millions of people of faith want to make sure that health care reform moves forward.

HOLMES: Well, Rabbi Pesner, I took a shot at it there with Reverend Harkins, he kind of got around it a little bit. But I want to ask you as well Rabbi, do you -- I know we have -- I think it's actually five different committees who are working up there on Capitol Hill. There's not one piece of legislation yet.

But the President -- President Obama, has laid out certain things that he does want in that legislation. Are you all, this group, in support of what you're hearing coming from the president, as far as some of those specifics of a plan?

RABBI JONAH PESNER, DIRECTOR, JUST CONGREGATIONS: Well, first, let me also thank you, T.J., for advancing this important conversation. The faith community is behind health reform in American -- and Reverend Harkins, it's an honor to be with you as well this morning.

HARKINS: Thank you.

PESNER: We support a lot of what the president is saying. We're looking forward to having a conversation with him, just this coming Wednesday.

The important thing is that this health reform plan has got to be good for the working families of America, who right now are suffering with health care debt. They have pre-existing conditions, the system is broken and it needs a fix and the faith voice is clear on this, T.J.

HOLMES: And Rabbi, let me bring you back in here, sir, I guess, what place -- I mean, does religion play in a -- I guess you could call it the policy issue, certainly, but specifically in health care.

Does religion play a more specific role in health care?

PESNER: You know, T.J., I think it's a great question. And religion plays an important role in the health care debate for two reasons.

First, there is the ancient moral imperative of all three of the Abrahamic traditions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are all clear on this. It says in the Book of Genesis that every human being is created in God's image. And we take that very seriously.

Health care is an obligation and a right, not a privilege.

But, secondarily, in our pews, in our churches, in our synagogues, in our mosques, we hear every day when we pastor, the real stories of suffering. I had one man who came to me to share that he was full of dread and anxiety because his 25-year-old daughter was going to go off the family health plan, because she aged off and he was living in dread. And I thought what kind of a country is this if a father has to live in fear of his daughter's 25th birthday?

So when we hear these stories in our pews, we have to mobilize and organize and act on them to protect the folks of the grassroots.

HOLMES: Well, Reverend Harkins, kind on that point there, certainly you want to push the -- our legislators or our Congressmen and women to actually get something done, but I guess you're mobilizing a lot of the congregations around the country as well.

What role, I guess, can you play and other pastors, ministers, rabbis -- whatever it may be -- people will listen to you guys. They will listen to what you all are saying to us as we sit in the pews.

So do you all -- are you all in a unique position here to kind of wield some power, in effect, influence in this particular policy debate?

HARKINS: Well and I think as the Rabbi's very well stated, part of that is just helping people to understand that there's a really compelling sense of this that comes from our faith traditions. You know if I were back in the pulpit at the 19th Street Baptist and I'd lift a text and it probably would be Matthew 25:36, it simply says, "I was sick and you came and took care of me."

And I think also helping people to understand that -- at the very grassroots level, influencing legislators, influencing the government to understand that this is a reform issue that deals in people's lives.

Ideal with people in my congregation on one end of the spectrum who are seniors and they're always concerned about catastrophic illness and whether or not that will not only realign their own lives, but the lives of their families.

And then I also deal with the young people who are entering the job market. And they're worried about whether they can afford health insurance that's adequate or if they were to either lose their job or change their jobs, if there's any possibility that their coverage would be able to continue.

So -- so these are issues that people face in pews, in congregations, all across America. So I think helping people to understand the compelling nature of this issue is very much what we can do. And we'll be, hopefully, preaching, teaching and encouraging people about this through these next 40 days and certainly beyond.

HOLMES: Awesome; preaching and teaching needs to be going on instead of a lot of this yelling back and forth we have been hearing.

So certainly good luck to you both, Reverend Derrick Harkins and Rabbi Jonah Pesner, excuse me, I wish we could spend some more times with you guys. I know you all have the big phone call coming out with the President on Wednesday but we'll be keeping an eye on you over the next 40 days of this campaign.

HARKINS: T.J. let me invite people...


HARKINS: join us at and join us for that call.

HOLMES: Well by all means, sir, thank you so much for that. You guys have a good Sunday.

PESNER: Thanks T.J.

HARKINS: Thank you.

HOLMES: All right.

PESNER: Thank you.

PESNER: Bless you.

NGUYEN: All right T.J.

You've got to listen to this story and watch it as well.

A 48-year-old elephant in Thailand gets a prosthetic leg. Yes. This elephant right there was injured in a land mine explosion about ten years ago. Well, he's been walking with the help of an artificial leg made of canvas, but a permanent leg has been made by a prosthesis foundation and we understand the elephant is day A-ok.

But unfortunately, it had stepped on land mine during a -- working at a logging camp along the Thai/Burmese border and her front left food was so badly damaged that it had to be amputated.

The elephant's name is Motola (ph) and again, it was injured back in 1999. So been waiting on this new leg for quite a while and -- can you just imagine trying to create that mold and put it on that elephant? But it's working and she is doing A-ok.

All right, so up next, Michael Vick's return to the grid iron.

Stay tuned for that.


HOLMES: All right. He was a Falcon, now he's an Eagle. He's back on the field.

Our Larry Smith, good to see you.

We've been having you here, it seems a lot over the past year or so with all these ...

NGUYEN: Keeping you busy.

HOLMES: ... big sports stories breaking but we appreciate you.

But Michael Vick, on the field again.

LARRY SMITH, CNN SPORTS: Yes, back on the field and wearing number 7. His old number 7 once worn by Eagles great quarterback Ron Jaworski. But he's back, now the question for Michael Vick is, when will he play? How soon will he play? What kind of impact will he have on this team?

We do know that it's a $1.6 million contract for the first year. That money is not guaranteed. As the team said if things don't work out, they can cut him at any time and move on. But Michael Vick again, trying to rehabilitate not just his life, but also now his career after 18 months in prison on those dog-fighting charges.

On Friday, I spoke with Tony Dungy, the former Super Bowl winning coach of the Indianapolis Colts who has been a mentor of Vick for the past couple of months and talked about his role in helping Vick make this transition and get back on the field.


TONY DUNGY, FORMER NFL HEAD COACH, INDIANA COLTS: Well, I talked to Andy Reid a lot, I talked to the Eagles organization, and I just talked about a lot of young men who make mistakes, who go down the wrong path. And what you've got to try to figure out is if they've changed, if they're different? Are they going to be a good teammate, a good person in the locker room and the community? And I told the Eagles I thought he would be. I thought he'd be very positive and I hope that bears out.


SMITH: And one thing also, we did see some protesters outside there on Friday. Michael Vick is going to see this. This is a part of reality for him.

Wherever he goes -- hey, listen, Philadelphia fans are tough on the players that they like. It's been infamous; the booing of Santa Claus at an Eagles' game once. We've all talked about that.

This is going to be a part of his career, of his life, of his playing time on the field be it at Philadelphia or elsewhere. He's going to see these things and it's not going to go away any time soon.

NGUYEN: And he's already been at practice. How ready is he to be back in the game?

SMITH: Well, I'll tell you what? The video I saw, he looked pretty good. One of our coworkers is an Eagles fan, had a pretty good tight spiral on his ball there.

He cannot play in the final two pre-season. He cannot play in the regular season until he gets final clearance from Commissioner Goodell. That might not come until week 6.

But you're going to see him in a lot of different sets, not just at quarterback McNabb, but he's also --- they're going to try to find a way to get the ball in his hands and they're going to try to have a lot of fund with that.

HOLMES: Has Goodell not given any sign of when he might have another conversation and revisit this? He said he'll make a decision by week six; he could make that decision tomorrow if he wants to.

SMITH: Yes, he really could. I think right now -- well the first thing, is we have not heard from him an official comment since the Eagles signed him. He's under no pressure to do anything. Michael Vick, unless there's an injury, is not going start for the Eagles in week one.

So he's got time to make this decision. But could he make it and say he can play in week two? Yes, he could.

NGUYEN: What is he doing off the field to try to repair his reputation?

SMITH: He is doing things at the Humane Society. And the people there feel that he is sincere when given that chance. He's going on a nationwide anti-dog fighting crusade, talking about ills of dog- fighting and giving a speech like that.

He had one in Atlanta here last week. He says that will continue. And one thing the Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie said in his press conference immediately after the one that you saw here live on CNN is he said, "Listen, that is an integral part of what he has to do. He has to maintain those kinds of things off the field; otherwise, this partnership doesn't work." He said Michael Vick and we all know that Michael Vick does not get a third chance. This is a chance he's got.

NGUYEN: Trying to get that complete image overhaul right now.

SMITH: Right, exactly. It's going to take some time.

(CROSS TALK) HOLMES: Larry we appreciate you. We appreciate it. Good stuff down there. You've been following that story for the past couple of years and you have been along for this weird journey.

NGUYEN: It has been a wild ride hasn't it?

SMITH: Very few I haven't heard or read about Michael Vick in the past couple of years.

HOLMES: Appreciate it. Thanks so much.

NGUYEN: All right.

We want to get you to this. A concert performed right here in Atlanta Last night on the very day of the 40th anniversary of Woodstock. And that concert from Sir Paul McCartney.



NGUYEN: "Baby you can drive my car." Yes. That is the first song that he came out singing. It was a packed audience. This is an outside venue at Piedmont Park in Atlanta...

HOLMES: Where are you in that crowd?

NGUYEN: You can barely make me out. Actually, wasn't I behind on the drums?

40,000 people turned out for this. We're getting some video right now via our affiliate WXIA. And great weather for the first part of it, and then it just started pouring down rain.

But I tell you what? Those concert-goers didn't care. They weren't leaving. They were there to see former Beatle, Paul McCartney.

HOLMES: Coming up next, another man who can draw quite a crowd, John King.


NGUYEN: Well, there is another subject besides health care that is causing quite a stir in Washington.

HOLMES: And this has to do with the new school lunch ads, sounds simple enough. But, specifically, those that refer to the President's daughters.

CNN's Brian Todd explains.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A health food campaign with a VIP critic. Dr. Neil Barnard of the Physicians' Committee for Responsible Medicine says it wasn't long after his group put up these ads in Washington's Union Station, advocating a vegetarian lunch option in public schools that they got a call from White House attorneys.

They contacted us the day after the ads went up and they said, you can't talk about the President's children. And we pointed out that the comparison really is about the schools.

TODD: The ad shows a Florida schoolgirl named Jasmine saying, "President Obama's daughters get healthy school lunches, why don't I?"

Barnard's group says on several days earlier this year when Sasha and Malia Obama's private school offered a vegetarian choice for lunch, the D.C. public schools offered no such choice. The group wants Congress to institute a mandatory alternative.

(on camera): There's one Republican pollster quoted as saying, if the White House hates you, it's not going to help your agenda. Are you worried about that kind of backfiring?

BARNARD: Not in the least. The President, I believe, would support a healthy meal for Jasmine and every girl like Jasmine.

TODD (voice-over): Dr. Barnard says his group's Web site has seen a lot more traffic since the ads went up but that White House attorneys hinted they might take legal action. Barnard says a first amendment attorney has told him he's on solid legal ground.

We called one White House lawyer Barnard mentioned. She didn't return our calls. First lady Michelle Obama's office referred us to a comment by Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, who said they're trying to protect the girls' privacy and we hope that others will be respectful, as many in the media have been, about not using the girls as a publicity stunt.

One journalist who covers presidential politics says that position will likely garner support.

SUSAN PAGE, USA TODAY: It's hard to grow up in the public eye. There are times when the president's children are unavoidably in the limelight. But other than that, even for an advocacy group, I think there's a sense in town that you probably should leave them alone.

TODD: In January, a toymaker introduced two dolls named "Sweet Sasha" and "Marvelous Malia," but they changed the names of the dolls after the White House complained about the girls being used for marketing purposes.

(on camera): The Physicians' Committee for Responsible Medicine is determined to keep these ads running through the end of this month. They're targeting Congressional staffers who pass through this hallway every day on their way to work.

The thing they're pushing for, new legislation to require more fruits and vegetables in public school lunches comes up in the fall.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


NGUYEN: And there is much more to come on this CNN SUNDAY MORNING. We're right back after this.


NGUYEN: All right. So health care, town hall meetings, presidential elections and Afghanistan; there is a whole lot going on this week in politics.

HOLMES: All right. And our chief national correspondent John King as promised here to tell us what is happening in just a few minutes on "STATE OF THE UNION."

Good morning to you, sir.

The president's health care, town halls; they're not yelling at the president. How's he doing right now? Is he changing people's opinions with this bit of a tour he went on? It's an onslaught of health care reform from the president.


JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's a good debate across the country, but it's an increasingly contentious point. The funny point, T.J., you make -- and good morning to T.J. and Betty -- the funny point you make is that some at the White House wish somebody would get up and yell at the president. Because they think he might need one of those confrontational moments to essentially take a critic and try to convert him into a supporter.

But the president, support for his plan, support for his way of doing things -- on some of the issues, not all of the issues -- is in decline and the president is the best weapon the White House believes it has so you see him traveling the country. He was in New Hampshire this week. He was in Montana. He was in Colorado, and he's taking a bit of a vacation here. But make no mistake about it, the president's plan right now to get everything he wants is in serious doubt and he's out there trying to turn public opinion his way.

NGUYEN: All right, John, so help break it down for us. What, specifically, part of the plan seems to be drawing the greatest resistance right now?

KING: The public option I think -- what is the public option? They want to have a government-run health care plan where you wouldn't necessarily have to take your health care from the government. The supporters of this know there would be a menu of options available to you. Some of them would be private HMOs or other health care options, but there would be a government-run plan and it's very hard to sell.

Never mind the conservative critics of a government plan. They think it would be the beginning of a federal takeover, but even many conservative Democrats in places where the president has been traveling say, "I don't think so. This is too much reach for the government." So, one compromise on the table is some kind of a regional co-op plan.

And the President at his Colorado town hall yesterday said something quite interesting. It's factual on the one hand but politically it's interesting. He said, we can't just focus on the public option; a lot of important things to talk about.

Many took that as a signal from the President, that look, we're going to have to compromise on this one.

HOLMES: All right. John, one more before we let you go here.

We're talking about the debate that's happening in the public, but behind the scenes, are the actual Congressmen and women, are they actually still working on health care reform, or right now they're just getting the feedback from their constituents?

KING: Some are. Members of the Senate Finance Committee say they will keep in touch during the August recess, even though they've all gone home. And their staff, more importantly continues to change ideas because it's an -- we have one month -- very interesting to watch.

The Democrats say if they can't come up with a bipartisan plan in the senate by September 15th -- one month from now -- then the Democrats will have to make a decision so say, look, we have the muscle, we have enough votes in the house, and maybe enough votes in the senate to try to force it through on a party line vote. That would be a very controversial, tactical decision for the Democrats and the President to make. And then, of course, we would have to see what would the policy proposals in the plan.

The next couple of weeks are fascinating on the question of, will we get health care this year, and if so, will it have some Republicans on board? Or will the Democrats try to do it all on their own?

NGUYEN: Yes. That's why we're calling it a "Make it or break it month."

All right, John king, see you at the top of the hour with "STATE OF THE UNION".

HOLMES: As we said, we will see him in just about a minute and ten seconds.

Now we do want to give you quick look -- a final look at what's happening. We have some big stories you might have missed overnight.

John Yettaw, an American, sentenced to seven years with hard labor in Myanmar arriving in Bangkok -- this is from the newest video we've gotten overnight. He had been arrested for going to the home of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi who is under house arrest. Virginia Senator Democrat Jim Webb negotiated Mr. Yettaw's release.

Also President Obama and his family visiting the Grand Canyon today; last night he held another town hall meeting in Colorado where he went after critics of his health care goals. He called some of the knocks against his reform plan, and I quote here, "dishonest."

Also, keeping an eye on a couple of tropical storms. You see the big guy and the little lady in this picture, essentially. They're churning in the Atlantic. Tropical storm Ana, she's headed towards the Virgin Islands. That's the one, the little on the left of your screen, you can see a little formation, a little spinning going on there.

Our Reynolds Wolf tells us Bill, which is the one -- the big boy in the back there, tells us he has the potential for possibly becoming a Category 3 hurricane and already some warnings and watches have been posted for some parts of Florida.

That's it for Betty and I here. We're going to hand it over now to John King and "STATE OF THE UNION."