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Key Week in Oil Leak Battle; U.S. Faces New Terror Threat; Helping the Autistic Communicate; L.A. School Enjoys Success; Rash of Extreme Bullying and Kid Violence
Aired May 23, 2010 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: All right, everyone it is the top of the hour.
I want to tell you about a key week ahead in the battle to stop the oil gushing in the Gulf; a live look at the constant blasts under water, millions of gallons so far. And on Tuesday or Wednesday, BP will try to do a top kill on the well and it could be the last best chance of capping it.
The method involves pumping heavy drilling fluid into the well and then trying to seal it with cement. So why is it taking so long? Why is it taking so long? A top kill has never been done so deep before -- nearly a mile under water -- and BP has to get a lot of equipment in place before moving forward.
Meantime, some key government officials are clearly getting frustrated with the company's efforts so far.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEN SALAZAR, INTERIOR SECRETARY: I have no question that BP is throwing everything at the problem to try to resolve it because this is an existential crisis for one of the world's largest companies, so they are throwing everything that they can at the problem.
Do I have confidence that they know exactly what they are doing? No, not completely.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: And with each the oil spews, the political pressure is also mounting.
But as our Kate Bolduan tells us, both the administration and BP, they are trying to get critics to back off this weekend -- Kate.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Don, the White House is strongly defending the government's response to the spill so far. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs, pushing back on the mounting criticism from the right, the left and in between that the government isn't doing nearly enough to take control of the catastrophic situation still unfolding in the Gulf.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There's a lot of criticisms that one can have, certainly for BP and even for the government in how we got to this. But I don't think anybody could credibly say even as frustrated as they are and as frustrated as we are that the government has stood around, done nothing and hoped for the best.
We were activated the moment that this oil rig exploded. This has been on the President's agenda ever since that happened.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: A top BP executive is also trying to answer criticism today that the company can't be trusted and has been trying to downplay what's actually going on 5,000 feet below the surface.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN HOST, "STATE OF THE UNION": No one believes that only 5,000 barrels of oil are coming up off, off the ocean floor. A lot of people think BP has been covering up and not telling people what's actually going on.
How do you respond to the idea that you've even got on Capitol Hill that don't believe a word you're saying?
BOB DUDLEY, BP MANAGING DIRECTOR: Those words hurt a little bit because -- we've been open about -- what we're doing, we've -- what we're doing is certainly not anything in secret. We've had direct oversight and involvement from government agencies from the very first hours afterwards. There's nobody, nobody who was more devastated by what's happened and nobody that wants to shut this off more than we do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: The White House announced yesterday President Obama has formed a special independent commission to investigate the oil spill and figure out how to prevent it from ever happening again, be it changes in regulation or something else.
And two more top Obama administration officials are heading down to the Gulf tomorrow: Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano -- Don.
LEMON: Kate, thank you very much for that.
The man who's overseeing the cleanup for the administration still has trust in BP. Coast Guard Commandant Thad Allen says the government has to rely on BP because the company has the technology needed for the job. Thad Allen told our Candy Crowley on CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION", that he has faith in the company.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Your relationship with BP has been good. Do you trust them, because you got to know that there are a lot of people out there that think they really didn't tell us the truth about the flow rate; that they didn't tell us the truth about what safety regulations that they had or would have when they started drilling.
Do you trust BP? Are they doing what they say they are doing?
ADM. THAD ALLEN, COAST GUARD COMMANDANT: When I give them direction or the federal agency coordinator gives them direction we get a response. I've got Tony Hayward's personal cell phone number, if I have a problem, I call him.
Some of the problems we have had that we worked through are more logistic and coordination's issues.
CROWLEY: Do you trust them?
ALLEN: I trust Tony Hayward -- when I talk to him I get an answer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Tony Hayward is BP's chief executive. He recently said the environmental impact of the spill would be quote, "Very, very modest". Commandant Allen disagreed saying it's obviously not modest in Louisiana.
Get the very latest updates and full coverage of the impact that the oil spill has had on the Gulf Coast region at CNN.com/oil spill. It's a great place to see all the reports as they come in.
Investigators at the site of that Air India crash have found the plane's cockpit voice recorder. They are still looking for the flight data recorder hoping for clues to what caused the Boeing 737 to overshoot the runway in Mangalore, killing 158 people. Only eight people survived.
The plane had taken off from Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. India's Civil Aviation Minister says, human error cannot be ruled out in the crash. And the top government regulator says it could take months to determine exactly what happened.
Family members waited hours today to be allowed into a mortuary, I should say, to identify relatives who are among the dead. So far, 128 of the 158 victims have been identified.
CNN's Sarah Sidner has spoken with one of the eight people who survived. Her name is Sabrina and she is a student in her final year of medical school. She wants to keep a low profile and she didn't want us to show her face. She described what happened as the plane tried to land.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SABRINA, CRASH SURVIVOR: Instead of decelerating and stopping, it picked up more speed and it kept going really fast. And we all knew that it was something abnormal because everything was shaking. After that I remember like -- we had some sort of plunging sensation as though we were going down a slope.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: And when the plane finally came to a stop, Sabrina says she thought she was dreaming. She was rescued by several farmers who heard her cries and helped her to an ambulance.
In southern Afghanistan, the Taliban is claiming responsibility for a rare direct attack on NATO's biggest base in the region. Insurgents fired rockets and mortars in an attempt to breach the perimeter of the Kandahar airfield but were turned back by security forces.
Several coalition troops and civilian employees were wounded but there are no reports of any deaths.
In a new video released today a fugitive American-born Muslim cleric is warning of future attacks against U.S. citizens. In the video, Anwar Al-Awlaki justified the killing of civilians as revenge for U.S. forces killing women and children in Iraq and Afghanistan. He says all Americans, including civilians, are legitimate targets.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANWAR AL-AWLAKI, U.S.-BORN MUSLIM CLERIC (trough translator): Now, when it comes to the American people as a whole, they are participating in the war because they are the ones who voted for this administration and they are the ones funding these wars.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: An expert from the video was released -- an excerpt, I should say, was released in April. The entire video, however, has now been posted on radical Islamic Web sites.
Deciphering Al-Awlaki's message to determine how big a threat he actually may be to the U.S. -- our terrorism expert will join us with more on this story.
Well, less than 24 hour after coming home without their children the mothers of three hikers accused of spying in Iran are given new hope their children may follow but there is a catch.
Plus this --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my gosh. Oh, my gosh.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's really freaking close to the house.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Storm chasers finding themselves a little too close to a massive tornado, a little too close.
And don't just sit there. Be part of our conversation and make sure you send me a message on Twitter, on Facebook, hey, follow me on Twitter. And make sure you check out my blog, CNN.com/Don. You'll find our Rick Horrow's blog there as well. We want to hear what you think.
LEMON: As we just told you Americans tonight face a new threat of terrorism from a man who was born here. On a video released today, Anwar Al-Awlaki urges Muslims to repeat what happened to the Fort Hood Army Base where 13 people were gunned down. He is now the target of a federal manhunt; that's according to the White House.
So, joining me now to talk about all of this is Paul Cruickshank, he is a terrorism consultant for CNN.
So Paul what do law enforcement think this Muslim cleric has done? What type of influence has he had on al Qaeda?
PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM CONSULTANT: Well, there's great concern about his influence. This is his prime time al Qaeda video debut it's got all the production values of a "60 Minutes" interview. This guy is calling for attacks on the United States, on attacks on United States' civilians.
He's a rock star preacher in radical circles. He has a lot of influence. He has a powerful and pervasive influence over English- speaking radicals, so there is great concern.
Next to Osama bin Laden, this is the most charismatic guy in the jihadist movement. And he's now directly calling for attacks here in the United States. He says that several people who launched attacks against the United States recently were students of his in this video -- Don.
LEMON: So then, what should our concern here? You know we -- ever since 9/11, we have the threat level and we've seen it raised. We heard Robert Gibbs today saying, hey, listen this guy is a murderous thug and we're going to hunt him down. How concerned should we be as Americans?
CRUICKSHANK: Well, concerned because Al-Awlaki is saying that they don't need the spectacular attacks now anymore against the United States to create alarmed panic. He is saying you can do small attacks, like Times Square, like the Fort Hood shooting and still create a lot of disruption here in the United States.
That's his message for al Qaeda and it's a message which seems to be getting through, Don.
LEMON: So listen, you know we did that program that's called "AMERICA IN AL QAEDA", more and more of these incidents seem to be happening to citizens. So then, what is the concern here as far as the intelligence community? I asked you what the concern should be for Americans. What about the intelligence community?
CRUICKSHANK: Well, there's great concern about American citizens and permanent residents here in the states becoming radicalized. There has been a surge in radicalization recently according to American counter terrorism officials; there have been about 20 cases in the last year.
And if you talk to American counterterrorism officials, they say this guy, Awlaki, has been a big part of the explanation (ph) for this. That he's reached out to people online, there's been interaction and he persuaded some people to launch attacks.
For example, Nidal Hasan, the Fort Hood shooter; he also, it seems, to have a relationship with Faisal Shahzad who tried to launch an attack in Times Square. So this guy is a guy who has real influence, Don and that's very, very concerning to U.S. officials.
LEMON: Thank you, Paul Cruickshank. I appreciate your expertise, sir.
CRUICKSHANK: Thank you.
LEMON: It is a problem that is not going away in our schools; kids being bullied to the point they can't take it anymore, two more taking their own lives this week alone. That story is coming up.
LEMON: You know, autistic children can live a closed off existence sometimes devoid of any way to communicate with the world around them and many parents of autistic children know the fear and the frustration in trying to get through to their kids without any success.
But there is a new technology helping these families break through their barriers. And joining us now is tech whiz Katie Linendoll. She's in New York to tell us about it.
You might recognize her -- I want to tell you this -- as the technology host from A&E's the show, "We Mean Business". Hello, tell us about this new technology, Katie.
KATIE LINENDOLL, TECHNOLOGY EXPERT: Absolutely.
Well, often, we are so bombarded with new technology and gadgets that sometimes really amazing technology gets overlooked. In this case there's a new gadget, it's called Speaks4Me. And what it does is it allows autistic children to be able to communicate.
Very revolutionary technology; and also, how it works is -- it is a very portable gadget -- it uses drag and drop technology with thousands of different word in which they can choose from. They then string the words together. It forms a sentence and then the gadget actually speaks that sentence.
So this is not only great for autistic children but also any nonverbal adults that have disorders as well.
LEMON: Oh, really cool. So there is an amazing story about how it was created. Tell us a little bit more about this, how it came about.
LINDOLL: Right. Well it is an amazing story and actually a very touching story. So, there was a guy in the UK, a father of a very autistic 11-year-old son named Caleb. And Caleb wasn't able to speak. He was on his tenth birthday and they were visiting speech pathologists and they said not only is he never going to be able to speak again, he's also never going to be able to communicate with a device.
But the odd part about this was when his father realized -- he was a techie, by the way -- is that he was using his DVDs and he was visiting sesamestreet.org and kids nowadays are so immersed in technology. And that's what people need to realize.
What he did was, he put all of his funds into creating Speaks4Me. On Caleb's tenth birthday, he released the prototype, using again that drag and drop technology in a portable, light-weight, sleek device. Caleb was now able for the first time to communicate.
So this is really a prayer answered for any severely autistic child anywhere.
LEMON: Oh, that's really cool technology. And speaking of technology advancing, I understand that you have -- you want to show me some technology as well. You're trying to keep up with me with your new little technology there?
LEMON: Oh, wait, hold it up higher. It says "Don Rocks."
Guess what I have for you there Miss Linendoll? Do you see this one?
LINENDOLL: What do you have for me? I can't see you, but I bet it is great.
LEMON: It says, "Katie Rocks". Mine is not as high-tech as yours.
LEMON: I did it on my doodlebug.
LINENDOLL: I love it.
LEMON: We talked about something really quickly as we go but guess what is going on. It is a birthday of a big someone that you and I grew up with.
LINENDOLL: It is.
LEMON: Check it out.
LEMON: This is what we're talking about. Look, you can't see mine --
LINENDOLL: 30th birthday.
LEMON: There it is. I play it on my iPad all the time; Pac-man and Ms. Pac-man, Junior Pac-man.
LEMON: It's his birthday, right? You are the technology guru.
LINENDOLL: It is 30.
LEMON: Yes. Thank you. You are the technology guru, I appreciate you coming on and sharing the story about the device for autistic children. Thank you so much. And thank you for being such a good sport, ok.
See you soon.
LEMON: All right.
A tabloid sting appearing to be an attempt to buy access to the royal family, apparently taking the bribe? None other than Sarah Ferguson herself. It is all caught on tape.
LEMON: I want to check your top stories right now. Jamaica has declared a state of emergency after gang members blockaded large sections of the capital -- we are talking about Kingston -- and traded gunfire with security forces. Today's violence erupted after a week of escalating tensions over possible extradition of Jamaica don to the U.S. on drug and arms trafficking charges.
Iran's intelligence minister is signaling Tehran might be open to a prisoner swap. That may help the three American hikers who have been held there since last July on espionage charges. Their moms visited them for two days then came home yesterday. The Iranian official wants the U.S. to make a humanitarian gesture toward Iranians being held before a prisoner swap can be discussed. He did not elaborate on that.
The Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson, says she is devastated by an undercover video posted online today. On it the British tabloid "News of the World", appears to show Fergie accepting money from an undercover reporter posing as a businessman in exchange for access to her husband, her ex-husband Prince Andrew take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH FERGUSON, DUCHESS OF YORK: On to the next thing. 500,000 pounds when you can to me open doors.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To Prince Andrew?
FERGUSON: Yes. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is that a deal?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But I have to give you a thousand dollars.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Fergie issued a lengthy apology today. It says, "I very deeply regret the situation and embarrassment caused. It is true that my financial situation is under stress. However, that is no excuse for a serious lapse in judgment and I am very sorely that this has happened. I can confirm that the Duke of York was not aware or involved in any of the discussions that occurred.
I am sincerely sorry for my action. The duke has made a significant contribution to his business role over the last ten years and has always acted with complete integrity."
Some educators believe teachers unions can be an obstacle to good education but in California, a system of publicly-funded charter schools call Green Dot is enjoying success with all of its teachers unionized.
CNN education contributor Steve Perry visited with the principal of those Green Dot schools to find out how things work.
STEVE PERRY, CNN EDUCATION CONTRIBUTOR: I'm a principal. You're a principal of a very successful school, by the way. One of our challenges is working with the union. How do you work effectively with the unions and Greendot?
HARRIS LUU, PRINCIPAL, OSCAR DE LA HOYA ANIMO CHARTER HIGH SCHOOL: We make sure that we have -- our folks have voices in the decisions that we make on campus. And so in that, you know, day to day, we have folks that participate in those functions at school, whether it be in deciding on a curriculum, deciding on schedules, deciding on stipends, deciding on the budget. We include our parents as well in those conversations.
ABIGAIL GARCIA, PRESIDENT, ASSOCIACION DE MAESTROS UNIDOS: Our teachers union was actually started by the founder of Greendot and it was because he believed in grassroots organizing. That's essentially what the union is. The union is going to complement our organization and not necessarily be an obstacle to progress in our organization.
PERRY: How do you hold teachers accountable?
LUU: Aside from making sure that the lessons are proper and our observations are done frequently, providing them with feedback to say, you know what? You've done this well. Or you haven't done this well.
PERRY: How do you know if they've done it well?
LUU: The kids must be learning. That is the bottom line.
PERRY: How do you measure that?
LUU: Student achievement.
PERRY: Standardized tests?
LUU: Could be one of them.
PERRY: What else?
LUU: Day to day behavior, the whole child. If the child is adjusting well, if the child is positive, if the child is doing well on their courses in school, standardized tests are just but one measure of that.
GARCIA: We have to work together. And I think Dr. Luu said it best, that together we're better.
PERRY: Steve Perry, CNN, Los Angeles.
LEMON: The warnings aren't being heard. The problem of school bullies is getting worse; several extreme cases this week alone. And two students may have taken their own lives because of it.
Up next, a student facing that problem every day in her school and experts are here to help her family protect her.
LEMON: So, listen, just take a couple minutes and pay attention, sir matter what you are doing. If you are barbecuing -- whatever it is -- just pay attention to the television. This is a really important story, I promise you.
A string of just flat-out evil acts by kids against kids is shocking the country right now. In two separate cases, one in Florida the other Oklahoma, two 11-year-olds may have committed suicide. A girl and boy, their families say, just couldn't take the bullying anymore.
Near Miami, a 15-year-old girl recovers, beaten so badly, she was put in a medically-induced coma. Police say another teenager repeatedly kicked her for a comment she said about his dead brother.
It goes on. In New Jersey, police charge a 17-year-old boy for, they say, defecating in a classmate's soda can. Then in New Hampshire, four people just arrested for forcibly tattooing obscenities on a developmentally-disabled 14-year-old boy.
Enough is enough. It is time to talk about how to stop bullying and meanness. Dr. Wendy Walsh is a psychologist. Susan Berry is the mom of Elisabeth, who is 12; they say Elisabeth has been bullied for two years now.
Thanks to all of you for being here.
Elisabeth, I'm going to start with you. You are very brave for doing this. Really, thank you. I appreciate it. And just say what you have to say because we do want to hear it.
You know, you are just one year older than the kids who may have been -- you know, committed suicide. I know is a difficult question but have you ever thought of anything so drastic and so desperate in your own life?
ELISABETH BERRY, VICTIM OF BULLYING: No actually, I have a little saying and the saying is, if you want to let them win, then let them but that means that you didn't fight for your rights and stuff. You know it is sort of like saying keep your chin up and everything will be fine.
LEMON: Good for you. Good for you. You know, but not all kids are as mature as you and may have the sense of self-you have. So it would be great if they all do. And I'm going to talk to Dr. Wendy about that in just a bit.
But Elisabeth, I want to stick with you because I want to find out your story. What you are going through right now, how are bullies hurting you? You had an incident where girls circled you. Tell our viewers about that.
BERRY: Well, I was really scared and I felt like I could never exit that circle, they would never let me exit my little -- well, they wouldn't let me ever go away. I mean they kept on telling me to come back and come back and they kept on moving with me.
LEMON: What were they saying to you?
BERRY: They were telling me to not runaway from my feelings and they wanted me to listen to what they had to say. But I already knew what they were going to say, they were going to talk about lies and they were going to talk mean to me and try to get me to give them my power to them.
LEMON: Were they calling you names or anything like that?
BERRY: Yes, they were, actually.
LEMON: Can you say - because I'm sure people are going through the same thing, if you can say what they were saying to you, you may help someone else. And because it's just words. What kind of things were they saying to you?
BERRY: Well, well, they were -
SUSAN BERRY, MOTHER OF BULLYING VICTIM: Tell you you were stupid?
BERRY: Yes, they were telling me that I was stupid and they were saying that I'm a liar and, well - LEMON: Yes.
BERRY: They were just saying that I am not the innocent person here and if I go and tell about what they are doing to me, I'm never going to turn out to be the innocent person.
LEMON: So the threats? Ms. Berry, when you hear about all of this, what do you think?
SUSAN BERRY: I'm afraid. I'm afraid for her and I'm also afraid for the children that are doing it. I think that if they only knew what they were doing to her inside or as much as they were scaring her, I don't think - I don't think that they would do it, but it is fearful for her.
LEMON: Really - I mean, when someone is threatening your child like that and calling them names, you really - can you feel that way? I don't have kids but if someone was doing this to my niece or some kids I knew and I saw it I would be really upset.
SUSAN BERRY: I do get upset. But there's a fine line you have to walk when your child is being bullied at school. You can only push so far for the school district and the school that she goes to for them to help you. You know, these are the educators that are teaching her, the ones that are giving her grades. You don't want to push what you have there. So it's a fine line that you have to walk.
LEMON: OK. Let me bring in Dr. Walsh now. Because Dr. Walsh, as I mentioned earlier, as she mentioned, Elisabeth said, I don't want them to take my power away. Not everyone has the sense of self that she has. So what can be done to stop this? Is there anything than done from the student to the parents to the administration?
DR. WENDY WALSH, PSYCHOLOGIST: Well in fact, Elisabeth, you have more self-esteem than the average victim of bullying because the average victim of bullying, you know, has low self-esteem, often wants to fit in, often is missing some kind of social cues. What's important for you is to form alliances with people who love you for you and who you are.
And that's really the key because what's happening in early adolescent is, of course, kids are self-identifying with the group. They're trying to do what the group thinks is cool and if you take anyone of those girls outside of that group they would be an entirely different person. And that is the key to solving bullying, and not that it should be put on you, your mom, or the school system - well, maybe the school system should get involved more.
But we have to teach empathy and compassion. There's an amazing pilot study going on in Canada right now, where they're taking adolescents and taking them into daycares and preschools and asked again to look at preverbal humans and imagine again what they are feeling when they're crying, when they're hitting another. So that they're learning empathy and compassion for somebody else.
LEMON: So listen, doctor, you know, bullying was nothing new. I was bullied when I was a kid. I was called names. I might have done it to other people but I think it was a different -
WALSH: Oh, Don -
LEMON: But you know, I was a smart aleck in school. I got my shots in. But there are, there's a difference between kids being kids, playing the dozens, making fun of then bullying, I think bullying gets a to a whole new other level. So my question is - is it worse now? Is bullying getting worse?
WALSH: Well, I think what we're seeing is this group coercive behavior is becoming dangerous and it's crossing a line into criminal activity. Now plenty of psychological studies have been done on what is the profile of an average kid who becomes a bullier? Well, you know, more than 60 percent of them, I'm going to get on my soap box again, Don, come from divorce, a family of divorce, maybe even a blend family, there is a step parent involved and they're not spending a lot of one-on-one parent time because both parents are trying to make ends meet and work long hours.
So I often say the problem is not the parents, it's the culture that doesn't support families. The culture that doesn't provide adequate help along the way so that parents can better manage their children, also children who have been spanked, corporal punishment on a child increases the likelihood that they would hit another child.
WALSH: So as much as the studies come out, we keep trying to tell people, listen, if you want to discipline your kids, remove their technology that really changes their behavior, but don't hit them that would teach them how to hit.
LEMON: And doctor, you know, some good points there, but I want to give the last words here to Ms. Berry and her daughter, Elisabeth, Susan Berry and her daughter. What would you like to see first of all, to the parent, Susan, what would you like to see done?
SUSAN BERRY: I think that there should be more programs available for the parents to teach them how to cope with the bullying, how to open up to their children because we really don't know what our children are feeling. I'm sure that some of my daughter's emotions she keeps to herself. And so before the children, more children injure themselves, there has to be a way for them to have dialogue with the people that care about them.
LEMON: That was my thoughts exactly because they don't always share. OK, Elisabeth. Your mom said, you know, she is sure that you keep some thoughts to yourself. What do you want the kids to know, parents, anyone watching to know about being bullied, how it makes you feel, what you would like to be done about it. It's your time right now. Tell me.
ELISABETH BERRY: Well, this is going out to the kids who are being bullied and, you know, the parents who are having a hard time. I am very scared sometimes even to walk out of my front door. I'm scared to even go anywhere where I know there's somebody who really doesn't like me and who bullies me. On my bus. Anywhere that I go. Even off of school grounds, I am being bullied by at least one with, maybe even more people. And I feel scared, I feel like I shouldn't even be on that because that many people want to bully me.
LEMON: And I'm sure there are many, may others who feel the same way.
Elisabeth Berry, thank you. Susan berry, thank you very much.
SUSAN BERRY: Thank you.
LEMON: And Dr. Wendy, always a pleasure to see you. All of you come back and see us, will you?
SUSAN BERRY: OK.
WALSH: Thanks, Don.
LEMON: Thank you.
Maybe they didn't think it would be that big.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my god. Oh, my god.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's really getting close to the house.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Storm chasers front and center of a massive tornado. The story, straight ahead.
LEMON: I want to check your top stories right now.
This week could be the last best chance to cap the oil gusher in the Gulf of Mexico. On Tuesday or Wednesday, BP will attempt to do a top kill to cap the leak. Crews will pump heavy drilling fluids into the well and then trying to seal it with cement.
Meanwhile interior secretary Ken Salazar says he believes the company is trying everything but he's not confident BP knows what it is doing.
A van carrying former President Bill Clinton was hit from behind in the Merit Parkway in New Haven, Connecticut today. He was on his way to deliver the commencement speech at Yale University. Clinton told the TV station the accident was just a fluke and he is fine. There you go pictures of that SUV right now just into CNN moments ago. We will update own that story as we get more information here on CNN.
A crew of the "Atlantis" will perform one last safety inspection of the space shuttle tomorrow. The shuttle and its six crew members undocked today from the International Space Station. "Atlantis" is now heading home on it's final voyage and is due to land Wednesday. That is history. It's sad to see that go away there. That particular shuttle program going away very soon.
An amazing weather phenomenon caught on tape, caught up close, way too close for storm chasers. I guess. Was it too close for you? You are used to seeing those storm chasers do that?
JACQUI JERAS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, I mean, it looks like they were in an OK position actually to me, and maybe about a mile away. You know, it's hard to judge in the plane because you can see so far away. So sometimes it is hard to tell exactly how close it is to the people.
LEMON: Cool video, though.
JERAS: Oh, my gosh, this was a monster. Listen to what those storm chasers were saying, by the way.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know and we are going to have to get south in a hurry, but I'm trying to stay on this. That is going to hit their house.
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JERAS: Wow, amazing pictures. And what a scary thing, even if you are in a safe place to watch that and know that is moving towards a house because a tornado like this that is so large this thing is at least half a mile wide, by the way, causes a whole lot of destruction. Thankfully it only hit one house, no injuries. There was some damage also to power lines.
Now, today, we are looking at the threat of severe weather as we head into the evening hours still. And the threat stretches from the upper midwest all the way down into the panhandle of Texas here. This will be ongoing for tonight. Large hail will be the biggest threat, maybe two inches in diameter or more but we are also looking at a slight risk of maybe seeing a little bit of rotation.
Our other big weather headline today, the temperatures that been crazy or what? Way above average across the upper midwest, way below average across the west, we had record lows in San Francisco, 47. Appleton, Wisconsin with record highs of 88. So a big flip-flop going on there and last but not the least, we are keeping our eye on the tropics.
Hurricane season, Don, starts June 1. But trying to get a little something going out here in the Atlantic. Right now, all the models is finally coming to a bit of consensus, going up to the north, and pulling away from the coast, but it could bring wind and rain to the Carolinas by Tuesday.
LEMON: OK. Since were just doing hurricanes, and then was that last year or the year before? I can't -
JERAS: Like every season?
LEMON: I know it happens every year, I know. JERAS: We were a little quiet last year. This year is looking like a big season. So -
LEMON: All right. Thank you, Jacqui Jeras. We appreciate it.
You know, it is one of the most reliably democratic congressional seats in the country and it's home and the birthplace of President Barack Obama. So what is going on there that's making Republicans so happy? That is the question.
LEMON: The Connecticut Senate race is going to be fun to watch this year. On Friday, state Republicans endorsed this woman to be their Senate candidate.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Even more shocking, Stephanie striking her own mother down.
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LEMON: That's not so out of the ordinary for politics, right? That's usually how it's done? Well, that is Linda McMahon getting slapped at WWE professional wrestling, an event. McMahon's husband, Vince, runs the WWE and she vows to spend millions on this race. If she wins the August GOP primary, she will take on Democrat Richard Blumenthal who spent the week trying to explain his past comments about his military service during the Vietnam war.
Our deputy political director Paul Steinhauser joins me now. Paul?
In this corner, Linda McMahon. And in this corner, Richard Blumenthal.
PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN DEPUTY POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Don, you are good. You know, if you need another career -
LEMON: Let's get ready to rumble. Is this for real? Does she have a chance here?
STEINHAUSER: Yes, it's for real. You know, pro wrestling and politics kind of brings you back a dozen years to when Jesse Ventura won the governorship out in Minnesota. Why is she for real? Why does she have a chance? Well, you mentioned part of it. She has got a lot of money and she already spent a lot of money on TV commercials. That has help her big time.
Also, she is running as an outsider, Don, and as an anti-establishment kind of person. You know that is a very good thing this year with that anti-establishment feeling and that anti-Washington feeling. So yes, she is probably going to be the favorite in the primary against a former Republican congressman of Connecticut. That's in august, Rob Simmons. She wins that, she faces off in the big arena against Richard Blumenthal, the attorney general up there in Connecticut. And as you said, he was the overwhelming favorite, according to polls, but he's got a little bit of trouble now on whether he served in Vietnam or during the Vietnam era, Rob - Don. I'm getting confused.
LEMON: Rob, Ron, Don, Fran.
STEINHAUSER: Too many names.
LEMON: It's been so much confusion, wait, am I talking about Rand Paul, Ron Paul, Ron, Don, Rob?
So listen, it would be interesting if we could really - politics handled like that, you know, a good whop with, you know, sometimes, probably make it a lot more interesting to watch.
Hey, let's - can we talk about Hawaii? Real quick, Paul. Because it is the president's home state, besides Chicago, this is where he was before then and a democratic seat that has been held there for decades in trouble. Big deal or not a big deal?
STEINHAUSER: The Republicans are saying it is a big deal. There was a special election yesterday. They won it. This is the seat Honolulu's first congressional district. You are right. This is where Barack Obama grew up, It's where he went to school. It is now in Republican hands, at least until November. What happened?
There were three candidates, Don, and two of them were democrats so they split the vote on the Democratic side, allowing the Republican candidate to win.
National democrats are downplaying this, you now what, in November when we only have one democrat on the ballot, we are going to win it back but you know, Democrats do very well in Hawaii. Republicans don't. So the Republicans are really bragging about it today.
LEMON: Yes, listen, my producer said one last question, so I'm going to roll one question to you. The president has a very busy week. He is going to meet with - having lunch with Senate Republicans and then he's headed to the West Coast. What is going on for his week?
STEINHAUSER: Yes, this rare meeting with Senate Republicans on Tuesday. What's on the agenda? It's immigration and border security and clean energy and climate change. These are the two bills that the president wants to get passed this year. He is going to see if there is any common ground for Republicans. He is going to California to fund raise for Barbara Boxer. The senator out there faces a very tough re-election. And then on Wednesday, he has got a jobs event at a solar energy plant. So, a busy week for the president.
LEMON: All right. Thanks, Raul, Paul, Rand, I mean Ron. Thank you, sir. I'm going to see you at 10, right? You're going to be back with us? STEINHAUSER: You got it.
LEMON: All right. See you soon. Thank you.
The Supreme Court and Elena Kagan, that nomination it will bring another woman to the bench but whether it will bring more diversity is up for some debate. We are going to talk about it.
LEMON: For the first time ever, there will be three women on the Supreme Court if Elena Kagan is confirmed, of course. That's another step towards diversity but in other ways, the high court is more exclusive than ever.
Here's how, for example, four of the justices would have grown up in New York City with eight of the nine from the east or the west coast. All nine will have attended either Yale or Harvard Law School, and eight will have served as judges. And for the first time ever, there won't be a Protestant on the court despite the fact that more than 50 percent of Americans are Protestant.
Interesting, right? It hasn't always been this way. 50 years ago, six justices were from the nation's heartland. Only three had attended Harvard or Yale. Protestants were easily the court majority. And you had a former governor and former U.S. senator as justices but they were all white men.
So, there had been some changes, some toward diversity, but many really the other way. What do those shifts say about the court and the effect that they might have. So joining us is Robert George. He is a professor of politics at Princeton University and a former judicial fellow at the Supreme Court. So is there a concern that the justices are so similar in background in work experience that it might affect their decisions.
PRO. ROBERT GEORGE, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: Well, a lot of people are wondering where the representation is from the heartland and from all of the different religious denominations that we have in the country. Not a single Protestant, as you said, will be on the court, if Elena Kagan is in fact confirmed.
And this is despite the fact that not only 50 percent or more of Americans are Protestants. But a very large percentage of them are evangelical Protestants and there's not a single evangelical amongst the justices but despite the fact that there are some very distinguished evangelical Protestant, legal scholars and judges out there making that list.
LEMON: How much did that matter, professor, though? We were supposed to have this separation of church and state. And once religion shouldn't play into the way and affect their rulings on the court.
GEORGE: Well, it's interesting, throughout our history, there has been an effort to make sure that all of the different religious denominations were represented on the court precisely so no one would think that the court was being run by a single religious denomination or one or two religious denominations.
For a long time, there's a quasi official Catholic seat to make sure that there was at least one Catholic on the court or one quasi- official Jewish seat. There was even a quasi-official southern seat. You go black occupied that for a while.
LEMON: So they're considering all the rulings in the court in the recent years and the justices, do you see a difference? Do you think it has made a difference that there's so many Catholics and few protestants. John Paul Stevens, the last protestant and there are now but two Jewish members of the court -
GEORGE: There are two now and if Elena Kagan is confirmed, there will be three.
LEMON: Has that made a difference recently. I think this is one of the most conservative courts we've had in recent history.
GEORGE: Well, whether it's a conservative court or not. I think it's a debatable question. Whether it's had an impact, there was also a debatable question. It's just impossible to know what the impact has been. And, of course, you shouldn't jump to the conclusion that a justice will be more conservative because he or she is a Catholic or a Protestant or Jewish. Because today the lines of religion are not ideologically between the different religious denominations. They're within their religious denominations.
Conservative Catholic Protestants and Jews have a lot more in common with each other politically and morally and socially than they have with liberal members of their own religious denominations.
LEMON: Hey, listen I wish I had a lot more time to talk to you about this but I want to ask you, Richard, real quickly here, about the judicial ranks and about looking outside the judicial ranks. This has brought a bit of controversy here. Do you see a problem with that with Elena Kagan not having served as a judge before?
GEORGE: No, I don't see a problem with that at all. There is a long tradition in this country of non-judges serving. It's been a while since someone served who didn't have judicial experience. But the most recent chief justice before - Chief Justice Roberts. The person that Chief Justice Roberts replaced Chief Justice Rehnquist, himself, wasn't a judge before he went on to the Supreme Court. He worked in Washington and Justice Department.
You haven't mentioned one other common factor, at least with the last three, the last three nominees, including Elena Kagan. All three were undergraduates at Princeton.
LEMON: Yes, OK? And?
GEORGE: Well, you're --
LEMON: You're touting your school. Is that what you're -
GEORGE: Ambitious young people will perhaps see that there's a recipe here. What you need to do is you need to go to Princeton and then be Catholic or Jewish and then go to either Harvard or Yale Law schools. That seems to be the recipe.
LEMON: Well, I mean, you're a professor at Princeton as well so maybe it says a lot about, you know, what's happening in your school. Maybe that's not a bad thing. Yale and Harvard and Princeton turn out some of the smartest and brightest minds in the country.
LEMON: Hey, listen, we have to run. Thank you very much, professor.
GEORGE: Thank you.
LEMON: All right. You know, many school systems around the country are in desperate need of money and we'll tell you where kids will have to pay to ride the school bus.
LEMON: So on Sunday, we always try to catch you up on some o the news you might have missed throughout the week. No more free ride for students in Parker, Colorado starting this fall. Colorado's third biggest school district will start charging students to ride the school bus there. At 50 cents for every ride, the school district says it will save $2 million. That's a lot of money.
Apple's reversing its controversial policy of banning iPad customers from paying in cash. A little known policy requiring the use of a credit card isn't new. It was put in place to allow Apple to keep track of how many iPads a customer bought. The limit will remain at two. The company reversed it's decision after California grandmother was turned away while trying to by with cash.
I'm Don Lemon at the CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta. We're back at 10:00 pm Eastern. Thanks for joining us; I'll see you then.
Meantime, STATE OF THE UNION with Candy Crowley starts right now.