Happy Monday everybody. Lots of news tonight….
OBAMA IN RUSSIA-U.S. and Russian relations have been strained for awhile now, and last year’s Russian invasion of Georgia sure didn’t help matters. “President Obama”, Jake Tapper reported on WORLD NEWS, “pledged to re-set that relationship and today there were some clear signs of progress…and some indications where two will never see eye to eye.” Good news-a preliminary deal on reducing the two nations’ nuclear stockpiles by as much as one-third. President Obama noted “As the world’s two leading nuclear powers, the United States and Russia must lead by example.” Tapper tells us that “President Obama heralded Russia’s agreement to let the US use the airspace of its former Cold War enemy to transfer troops and military equipment to fight the war in Afghanistan.” As for areas of disagreement, there’s the aforementioned conflict with Georgia and Russia’s occupation of parts of that country that the US opposes. Tapper notes that “the point of greatest tensions-(Russian President) Medvedev opposes US plans for a missile defense system in Eastern Europe which President Obama argues would be modest, built only to shoot down missiles from rogue states such as Iran or North Korea.”
What do the Russian people think of the United States? Clarissa Ward, filing for WORLD NEWS notes that “In a recent poll, 46% of Russians say they had a negative opinion of the US. That’s up from just 7% in 1990. But the majority also said that with President Obama’s visit to Moscow this week, they do expect relations to improve.”
President Obama continues his Russian visit tomorrow-he’ll be meeting with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin as well as continued meetings with Russian President Medvedev among other events. Also tomorrow-Jake Tapper sits down for a non-exclusive interview with President Obama. All five nets will be granted interviews. The first one begins at 4:15am ET (we are 2nd in the queue) and the White House notes that “all interviews are embargoed until the last interview is finished”.
SOUTH CAROLINA SERIAL KILLER-Some good news for the terrified residents of Gaffney, South Carolina. The man they believe was responsible for the deaths of five Gaffney residents was apparently shot and killed in an overnight altercation with police in Gastonia, North Carolina after a failed burglary attempt. Jeffrey Kofman, filing for WORLD NEWS, recapped the dreaded deeds of the past ten days: “The killing spree began a week ago Saturday when a 63-year-old peach farmer was shot in his home. Then last Wednesday, a retired teacher and her daughter were both killed. The Thursday, a local business owner and his young daughter were gunned down in his store.” At a press conference a short while ago, we learned that the suspected serial killer's name was Patrick Tracy Burris. North Carolina prison records show the 41-year-old served more than seven years for felony breaking and entering and larceny. He has a lengthy record.
–TUESDAY MEMORIAL PERFORMERS-Jim Avila, filing for WORLD NEWS, noted “the massive memorial at Staples Center tomorrow will be heavy on celebrity performances.” Who’s coming? Avila: “Mariah Carey leads the list of performers. She’s expected to sing Michael’s early hit “I’ll Be There”. Other headliners include Beyonce, Smokey Robinson, Jennifer Hudson, Lionel Ritchie, Usher and Stevie Wonder. From the sports world, Magic Johnson and Kobe Bryant…Diana Ross is a maybe because of security concerns. Former girlfriend Brooke Shields is a yes. And while all the Jackson family is expected to attend, including his 3 children, Michael’s 2 ex-wives Lisa Marie Presley and Debbie Rowe are definite no’s.”
-PROBATE HEARING-From Lauren Perle: “LA Probate Judge Mitchell Beckloff said he'll wait until an August 3rd hearing to consider whether the 2002 will filed last week is valid and controlling. But in court, none of the parties came forward to say they've heard of any superceding wills that would trump the 2002 will. For now, Judge Beckloff has allowed the executors of the 2002 will (John Branca and John McClain) to appoint a temporary special administrator to control Jackson's assets until the Aug. 3rd hearing. Also, Beckloff vacated his June 29th order that says that Michael Jackson died intestate, meaning without a will. This doesn't mean the 2002 will is valid, just that for now we're assuming there's a will (if he didn't have a will all his money would go to his 3 kids).” Avila adds: “Overall it was a victory for the executors today. Katherine Jackson's attorneys were walking a high wire. They didn’t want to vacate her special administrator status today… Which allows her to control the money… But could not challenge the will directly… Because it contains a no-contest provision. That means if Katherine contests the will… She loses out on her 40 percent. The judge reminded Mrs. Jackson's attorneys of that, upon which they quickly pointed out they are not contesting the will. They were just trying to keep Katherine as a temporary administrator.”
-ABC NEWS LIVE COVERAGE-Reminder that ABC News will broadcast live coverage of Michael Jackson’s memorial service on Tuesday, July 7 at the Staples Center beginning at 1:00 PM ET/10:00 AM PT. Charles Gibson will anchor “Remembering Michael Jackson” from New York and will be joined by “Nightline” anchor Martin Bashir. “Good Morning America’s” Robin Roberts, “Nightline” anchor Cynthia McFadden and Senior Law and Justice Correspondent Jim Avila will report from the Staples Center. Brian Rooney, Lisa Fletcher, Mike von Fremd and Ryan Owens will also contribute to the special coverage. ABC NEWS RADIO and ABC NEWS NOW will also be offering anchored coverage.
-TUESDAY NIGHT MAGAZINE SHOW COVERAGE-At 9:00 p.m. ET, Diane Sawyer and Barbara Walters will co-anchor a special edition of “20/20”. Sawyer, from ABC News headquarters in New York, and Walters, from the Staples Center in Los Angeles, will report on the highlights from the memorial service and other news of day. At 10:00 p.m. ET, “Primetime: Family Secrets” will report on Michael Jackson’s children, the custody battle with Debbie Rowe and feature a rarely seen interview with Rowe from 2003. Diane Sawyer and Elizabeth Vargas will co-anchor the program with Jim Avila reporting from Los Angeles. (thanks to Cathie Levine for the press release that I copied from!)
-TUESDAY GOOD MORNING AMERICA-will be broadcasting a live West Coast show tomorrow as well. Robin Roberts co-anchors the broadcast from Los Angeles.
SARAH PALIN-Governor Sarah Palin’s surprise announcement Friday that she is leaving her post later this month continued to resound in political circles far from the great state of Alaska today. While her political future remains unclear, her opportunities for what to do next seem extensive. Kate Snow, filing for WORLD NEWS, notes that “Governor Palin’s phone is ringing-sources tell ABC NEWS-she’s being offered everything from hosting TV shows to Radio to speaking engagements. But aside from a book deal, the Governor will wait until she leaves office to consider other offers.” Governor Palin, Snow tells us, has “gone fishin’. She left her home here in Wasilla over the weekend to go to a remote part of the state, her husband’s hometown of Dillingham where the family fishes for salmon every summer.” Late note-Snow is travelling to Dillingham as of this writing to sit down for a non-exclusive interview with Governor Palin. We hope to include at least a soundbite from the interview for NIGHTLINE-the full fruits of the interview can be seen tomorrow morning on GOOD MORNING AMERICA.
ROBERT MCNAMARA-One of the principal architects of the Vietnam War is dead. Robert McNamara, the Vietnam War-era Defense Secretary for Presidents Kennedy and Johnson has died today at the age of 93. McNamara, Charles Gibson noted on WORLD NEWS, “was a man of extraordinary accomplishment. As head of the World Bank, he worked to eradicate hunger and was called ‘the conscience of the west’. Before coming to Washington, he had modernized the Ford Motor Company and killed the ill-fated Edsel. But all of it, everything, is overshadowed by Vietnam.” A war that McNamara came to have serious doubts about. Gibson: “In private, McNamara came to have serious doubts that the US could win in Vietnam. After he expressed them to President Johnson, he was given the Medal of Freedom, and shown the door.”
BAD DAY IN AFGHANISTAN-Today was a tough day for U.S. forces and their allies in Afghanistan. Luis Martinez: “There were seven US fatalities in three separate incidents in different regions of the country. That makes today the deadliest day for US troops since 10 were killed on July 13, 2008 when nine died in a deadly attack on a remote outpost in Kunar Province.
-Kunduz (Northern Afghanistan) IED Blast – kills four US military trainers
-Southern Afghanistan – two Americans killed in a roadside blast
-Eastern Afghanistan – American soldier dies of wounds from a firefight
There has also been a deadly NATO helicopter crash in Zabul Province (southern Afghanistan) with three British and Canadian fatalities.”
STEVE MCNAIR- Police say the gun found at the scene where former NFL star Steve McNair was shot to death was bought by his girlfriend less than two days before the two were killed.
Police are still waiting for ballistic and gunpowder residue tests before deciding if she was slain or committed suicide. McNair's death has been ruled a homicide. A public memorial and viewings are scheduled later this week for McNair. The public will have a couple of opportunities to attend viewings in Nashville on Thursday and a memorial will be held later that evening at Mount Zion Baptist Church. A second memorial service will be held Saturday at Reed Green Coliseum in Hattiesburg, Miss., on the campus of the University of Southern Mississippi. McNair, 36, was from Mount Olive, a small town nearby.
WESTERN CHINA UNREST- Chanting "Strike down the criminals," hundreds of paramilitary police with shields, rifles and clubs took control of the streets Monday in the capital of western China's Muslim region, a day after the deadliest ethnic violence in decades. State media said at least 156 people were killed in the unrest, which did not bode well for China's efforts to mollify long-simmering ethnic tensions between the minority Uighur people and the ethnic Han Chinese in Xinjiang – a sprawling region three times the size of Texas that shares borders with Pakistan, Afghanistan and other Central Asian countries. Chinese state news media said early Tuesday that police have arrested more than 1400 people in connection with the unrest.
GAS PRICES-Prices down and trending down further. Dan Arnall: “The Energy Department reports that the average price of a gallon of gasoline has dropped by three cents in the past week to an average price of $2.61. This is the second week where prices have fallen — this week, in every region of the country. Today's prices are 37% below the All-Time RECORD level from a year ago ($4.114).
It's likely consumers will continue to see dropping prices at the pump. Oil prices fell for the fourth day today to $64.05 (down $2.68). Recent concerns about continued trouble in the economy has forced oil to drop 13% below the recent high of $73.38 (June 30). If the trend continues, we should expect further declines at the pump.”
BOSTON WOMAN/AL QAEDA-Matthew Cole and Megan Chuchmach report: “Speaking publicly for the first time since she was captured in Afghanistan last July and extradited to New York in August, terrorism suspect Aafia Siddiqui denied shooting an American soldier at her mental competency hearing in a New York courtroom today, where she alternated between outbursts, rambling, and moments of resignation with her head down on the table in front of her. ‘I can assure you I am not psychotic,’ said the MIT-trained scientist, dressed in mismatched green and tan-colored prison garb and covered in a full hijab so that only her eyes were visible. Siddiqui, who speaks fluent English, also told the court, ‘I didn't shoot anybody’ and ‘I did not fire no [sic] bullets.’ Her attorneys argue that Siddiqui has a mental disorder and is incompetent to be on trial, while prosecutors maintain that any signs of mental illness are all just an act. You can read more in their blotter effort