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Who is Elena Kagan?; Fighting the Massive Oil Leak; How Did Greece Cause Economic Instability?; The Case for Kagan; Energized By Algae

Aired May 10, 2010 - 15:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: The man is back. CNN NEWSROOM continues right now with Ali Velshi.

ALI VELSHI, HOST: Tony, don't go too far. I'm new at this. I want to make sure it goes OK. Stay there in case I need to hit the button and go back to you. Have a great afternoon.

As Tony said, I'm Ali Velshi. I'm going to be with you for the next two hours today and every week day, taking important topics that we cover a step further. I'm going to try and give you a level of detail that will help you put your world in context. And we have a lot to deal with today, so let's get started right away.

Here's what I've got on the rundown. Elena Kagan, you are going to be hearing her name a lot over the next few weeks. And if things go according to President Obama's plan, she could be very important to you. We'll dig deep into Elena Kagan's history to see what kind of Supreme Court justice that she'd make.

Plus, markets around the world are staging a forceful rebound on news of a massive bailout in Europe. Is the world out of danger? And how did little old Greece get us into this mess in the first place?

And the U.S. is now linking the Pakistani Taliban to the foiled car bombing in Times Square. We'll tell you about this group and how it fits into an increasingly complex web of terror groups.

Well, presidents come and presidents go, but Supreme Court nominees, well, they sometimes become judges and stick around for decades. Maybe even for generations. That's why Supreme Court nominations are some of the biggest decisions that any president ever makes. And it's why we on this program want to answer a question: who is Elena Kagan?

So let's for starters tell you this. She's 50 years old, which makes her exactly 40 years younger than the man that she hopes to succeed, retiring Justice John Paul Stevens. She's Jewish, which is noteworthy, because Stevens is the high court's last remaining protestant. So if Kagan is confirmed, the court will be made up of three Jews and six Catholics; no Protestants.

Also, if she's confirmed, three women on the court, and six men. That is the most diverse court -- Supreme Court ever. Kagan is a product of New York's Upper West Side. She's single; she has no children. You want to know if she's got education? Well, I'll say. Undergrad at Princeton, masters in philosophy from Oxford, law degree from Harvard. Harvard actually plays a big role in the Elena Kagan story, because she joined the law school faculty in 1999 after the Republican Senate failed to take up her nomination to the federal appeals court in D.C.

She became the dean of the law school at Harvard in 2003. She also taught at the University of Chicago, alongside Professor Barack Obama. And before that, she clerked for Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and federal Judge Abner Mikva.

She was a domestic policy aide to President Clinton. And under President Obama she was the first woman solicitor general the United States has ever had. That's the person, by the way, who represents the U.S. government in arguments at the Supreme Court. So she's familiar with the Supreme Court.

Now, one job that you didn't see listed in everything I just told you, you might look at that and say, wow, she is supremely qualified for this. She's never been a judge. Supreme Court justices, by the way, do not have to be judges. But if Elena Kagan is confirmed, she'll be the first non-judge justice since 1972. Now, whether that is a plus or a minus or neither depends on whom you talk to.

And right now I want to talk to two people who know a lot about this: CNN senior legal analyst Jeff Toobin and Michael Avery, a constitutional law professor at Suffolk University.

Gentlemen, good to see you both. Thank you for being with us. Jeff, you know a great deal about the Supreme Court. You've written a great book on it. And you know Elena Kagan. You were in school with her. Tell me what the best way we have is to find out what kind of person -- what kind of judge, justice on the Supreme Court a nominee will make.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think the -- you look at her jobs, and you look at how she's done them. She has been a Democrat, capital "D." She is someone who worked in the Clinton administration. She worked in the Obama administration. She is very clearly a Democrat.

Just how liberal she is I think is less well-known, is not known, certainly not by me. But let's start with that.

In terms of her personality, I think you've got a pretty good sense of it in the announcement today in the East Room. She is confident. She is outgoing. She is intelligent.

VELSHI: Let's -- hang on a second. Let's listen to it. Let's listen to it in her words.

TOOBIN: OK.

VELSHI: Here's a little bit of -- it wasn't a big statement, but here's a little bit of what Elena Kagan had to say this morning when President Obama announced her nomination.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... is one of the nation's foremost...

ELENA KAGAN, SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: I am humbled by this nomination and by the confidence you have shown in me. During the last year, as I have served as solicitor general, my long-standing appreciation for the Supreme Court's role in our constitutional democracy has become ever deeper and richer. The court is an extraordinary institution in the work it does, and the work it can do for the American people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TOOBIN: Jeffrey, definitely confident. Didn't say anything there that was going to tip anybody off to how she's going to rule on things.

And you could also see, as the president, and vice president and solicitor General Kagan walked in and out of that room, why Thurgood Marshall nicknamed her Shorty.

VELSHI: That's right.

TOOBIN: Because she is a short person.

VELSHI: Michael, good to see you again on the show. Tell me about this: what is the most important reason why I should care about -- about Elena Kagan? What is going to face the court that is going to most influence my life in the next -- in the next couple of years?

MICHAEL AVERY, CONSTITUTIONAL LAW PROFESSOR, SUFFOLK UNIVERSITY: You know, as solicitor general, Elena Kagan has put forward an agenda before the Supreme Court, which is President Obama's agenda, on several important issues, including national security, state secrets, government accountability. And the positions that she's taken and the government has taken have been shockingly conservative.

And those of us who thought that Obama and his solicitor general would take some serious steps to repair some of the damage to constitutional democracy that President Bush did, have been very disappointed. And so I'm nervous, very nervous about this nomination, and I'm nervous about what the future holds.

VELSHI: You're saying you're nervous about it because you would have expected president Obama to appoint somebody who was more liberal in their thinking than you think Elena Kagan may turn out to be?

AVERY: Look, right now, we don't have any liberals on the Supreme Court. We have some hard right-wing ideological conservatives, and we have some moderates. And there is no voice on the court for individual rights. There's no voice on the court for government accountability. There's no voice on the court for taking seriously those provisions of the Constitution that are most important to people who are concerned about the government abuse of power. And we could have -- we could have gotten such a person this time.

VELSHI: And Jeff, this is where it becomes relevant that she hasn't been a judge. Because if you're a judge, you have a lot of writing. You have a lot of opinions on things. We don't really know with Elena Kagan.

TOOBIN: Well, I don't think we don't know at all. I think we have some sense of where she is.

And I'd just like to disagree with Michael a little bit. Yes, it is true that the center of gravity in the court has moved to the right over the years. But it is not true that there are no liberals on the Supreme Court. Steven Breyer, Ruth Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor so far; John Paul Stevens who's leaving, I think have been liberal on many issues. And so I don't think the court is as conservative an institution.

But it is also true that Barack Obama's administration has been pretty conservative on national security issues. He's not completely thrown out everything about the Bush policies. And both Obama and Kagan reflect that view. But this isn't any secret, and they are not ashamed of that. They are tough on national security and proud of it.

VELSHI: All right. We're going to find out, hopefully, a lot more about Elena Kagan. Jeff Toobin, thanks very much for joining us. We'll be tapping into you a lot.

And Michael, good to see you again. Michael thank you, Michael Avery.

All right. It was new and huge and built -- billed as the best solution to stem that massive oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico. But that giant dome we've heard so much about, well, it failed. Now it's back to the drawing board. We're going to look at Plan B straight ahead.

And you all know that I'm from Canada. But I've got to tell you, your American pastime has really been growing on me in the last decade or so. In fact, it's downright inspirational. I'm going to take you out to the ball game, a perfect ball game in my "XYZ" later in the show.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELSHI: All right. A big disappointment. We were all expecting some result from this huge structure that BP created to try and stop the leak in the Gulf of Mexico. On paper, it seemed like a great idea. But it was actually a flop when it was deployed.

Now, let me show you what it was supposed to do. As you see in this animation, BP over the weekend lowered a 100-ton containment dome -- It's really a big concrete block -- 5,000 feet under the water. It was supposed to cap off the bigger of two leaks. There are two leaks underground. This one was supposed to go on top of them.

And you see that pipe out of the top? It was supposed to force the oil up there, and it was going to be piped right to the surface so it was contained.

Here's the problem: as they lowered this thing, there's a natural gas in the water, a chemical reaction because it's so cold around this containment dome, created this slushy, icy mix which clogged the inside of the container making it impossible to funnel the oil to the surface tanker. On top of that, it was threatening to actually lift the entire dome off the ocean floor.

A BP official says several other options are being considered. But initially this one didn't work. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DOUG SUTTLES, CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER, BP: What we're going to do is keep developing options, and keep trying these options until we get this flow stopped. And ultimately, the backstop is the relief well.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: Now just a short while ago BP said it was given the green light from the Environmental Protection Agency to continuously bump dispersant under the water onto the leak. Dispersant is a soapy mix that dissolves the oil and tries to break it up. Environmentalists and fishermen who make their living off the gulf have expressed some concern about the effect that this dispersant will have on the environment. BP says it will take periodic tests of the water during the process.

Now, to give you an idea of the vastness of the oil spill, I want to show you a map that superimposes on the left. This is the size of the oil spill. In the middle of that map on the left you can see the outline of Washington, D.C. So that is the oil spill put over Washington, D.C.

On the right side, take a look at that. That is the oil spill put over New York. And you can't even make out where Manhattan is in there; it's so small.

So this is just to give you a geographic sense of how big this oil spill actually is. It shows you the magnitude of this disaster and its potential long-term impact.

All right. It is bigger than the stimulus. It's bigger than the bailout. The global plan to rescue Greece and the euro has investors around the world practically giddy. Wait until you see what stock markets have been doing today. We've got worldwide coverage, starting with Christine Romans and Richard Quest, straight ahead. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELSHI: As you know from watching last week, T.J. and Don were sitting in for me, and on Thursday when this market went nuts, I wasn't here for it. But take a look at this: the Dow is up 330 points, which by the way, is about 100 points fewer than it was earlier this morning when the market first opened.

And this is all on news of a massive, massive bailout by European banks, by European governments and central banks of Greece and the European Union.

Now, you've been following this story for a while. It's affected your 401(k). So you may be wondering exactly how little old Greece caused all of this problem. So let me give it to you. This is an oversimplification, but the bottom line is, how is it that little old Greece did all of this?

No. 1, the Greek government spends far too much money. When you join the European Union, there are rules about how much of a shortfall or deficit you can have. Greece's shortfall is four times the European Union's limit.

No. 2, the cost of bar rogue in Greece has skyrocketed. That's what happens when you're a high-risk investment. So it's expensive for them to borrow money. Here's the interesting thing: Germany and France are major lenders to Greece, so that's a bit of a problem when you invest in a country because you think the return is going to be good. And then all of a sudden it looks like they may not be able to pay for it.

Greece has a bloated public sector. About one-third of its workers are somehow connected to the public service. One in ten Greeks actually work for the government.

The public in Greece does not support the reform that's taking place right now. And that's why you're seeing riots and marches and things like that.

Here are another couple issues about Greece. Tax evasion, big, big problem in that country. One-third of Greeks declare that they make no money at all. That, of course, affects the government's ability to take in money.

And here's the word of the day: fakelaki. I hope I'm pronouncing that correctly. That is Greek word for envelopes, bribery. To get things done in Greece, you often have to bribe. In fact, there's an estimate that says bribery averages $2,500 per family annually. In other words, on average, a Greek family has to shell out $2,500 to get things that should be routine and should be done by government.

All right. There's a little stage-setter as to why Greece got into trouble. How that ended up affecting the rest of the world is yet another story. But I've got two experts here to tell us about exactly what is going on. Christine Romans is my colleague, my co- host on "YOUR $$$$$," which airs on weekends on CNN. Richard Quest, the host of "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS" on CNN International.

Christine, let's start with you. A massive, massive bailout announced which is bigger than TARP, bigger than the stimulus bill, because Europe's economy is actually bigger than the United States.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: That's absolutely right. And you can think of it, Ali, as basically a promise from Europe that has basically an unlimited war chest to solve any of these sovereign debt crises, as they pop up. And it's exactly what investors wanted to hear.

So here's how big it is. Let's just take it apart. It's 750 billion euros. So you translate that into what we're looking at here, and you can see that it's about $570 billion for the euro zone, in euro zone government-backed loans. It's 77 billion in EU emergency fund, and it's 284 billion from the IMF. That's how it all comes -- you know, gets divvied up -- there it is, right there -- for a total of more than $900 billion, almost $1 trillion.

Separately there's the Fed, the Federal Reserve Bank of the United States, Canada as well. Some other countries are all going in and promising that they are going to continue some of the emergency lending procedures that they had in place to make sure that the lending is still moving. So a couple of different parts to this.

VELSHI: Yes.

ROMANS: And clearly...

VELSHI: And in fairness, that's, by the way, what other world central banks did when the U.S. got into trouble in September of 2008. They've all sort of come together on this as one of the areas in which international governments and central banks work together.

Richard, you feel that I may have left something out of my explanation as to how Greece got into this mess and got the rest of the world into it.

RICHARD QUEST, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Yes, well, I think there's another thing to that, another crucial fact which seems to have got swept under the carpet, if I may, Ali.

And that is, look, this $1 trillion is not being used to bail out Greece, or anything like it. This $1 trillion is being used to defend the euro. And that means defend it against Spain, Portugal, Italy, Ireland, all the other countries within the euro zone that could be about to become attacked by what one finance minister, the finance minister of Sweden, called the wolf pack, in terms of attacking them.

So what they have done, Ali, is they've built this vast wall of money that they hope they'll not actually have to need. I suspect they'll have to use a good portion it. And really, they're looking -- they are actually looking to speculators in the market, right in the eye, and say, "We now dare you to attack the European single currency."

VELSHI: Now, Christine, to a lot of Americans, it will sound good that the euro has lost some value. Certainly, if you're traveling to Europe it will become cheaper. But we in America, particularly as -- as a country that is reeling from this recession and from the destruction of our manufacturing sector, it's a bad thing if the euro goes particularly -- becomes weak against the U.S. dollar. ROMANS: Well, because then its -- exports start to look really good. But I think there's a bigger -- there's a bigger question than that. And that is, you can't have Europe coming unglued. And that's -- that's what this is all about. This is about stabilizing Europe, which is better for the global recovery, and the like.

I mean, this -- what we're seeing right now is a flight out of the safety things, like treasuries and the dollar, and back into riskier assets again. And that's something that -- that people want to see. Because they don't want to see all this crisis. They want to see things calm down.

VELSHI: Richard, we refer to them as the PIIGS countries: Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, and Spain. These are all countries that, to some degree, have had massive, massive financial problems, beyond what the U.S. has, because of the U.S.'s ability to continue to print money.

Does this problem -- does this solution solve that problem? Are we going to be sitting around for weeks and weeks talking about all of these individual countries and the danger of them taking down the global economy?

QUEST: No. I mean, that is exactly what this whole thing is designed to try and protect. The $1 trillion to prevent the PIIGS countries from having to go to the markets, and basically -- look, imagine, think of it in the United States' terms. Imagine if California, Texas, Michigan, and Florida were in such a dreadful financial state, that they risked -- you have to add a few more states in to get the numbers right...

VELSHI: Right.

QUEST: ... but they risked bringing down the whole U.S. economy. They risked the value of the dollar. They risked all sorts of...

VELSHI: Right.

QUEST: ... financial calamity and catastrophe.

It can't happen, of course, because the United States has fiscal monetary and political union. Well, in Europe, all we have is monetary union. We don't have fiscal union. Governments can spend their way into incontinence. We don't have, really, political union. Every country can do its own thing up to a point.

And what we're learning today, with $1 trillion now in their back pocket, is that there's going to have to be radical reform. The PIIGS countries, as you call them the PIIG countries, can no longer basically throw a smoke screen up and pretend that all is well in their economies. When the analogy -- Christine knows the analogy well.

Christine, you know the one about when the tide goes out, that's when you find out who was swimming naked?

ROMANS: Yes.

QUEST: That's what Europe's discovering today.

VELSHI: That's interesting. He just managed to talk about swimming, and he...

ROMANS: And also the emperor in no clothes?

VELSHI: He's managed to talk about swimming naked and incontinence. I think that might be a first for our show in the same segment.

Richard, thanks very much.

ROMANS: Ali, I've got to say one thing.

VELSHI: Go ahead.

ROMANS: Follow-through. The most important thing for the markets now is that all of this has proper follow-through. That you don't have countries backtracking and you don't have...

QUEST: Yes, yes. Yes.

ROMANS: This is just the beginning of this story. It's not the end of it.

VELSHI: All right. We will have you both on. Thank you for making this so clear to us. And thanks, Richard, for -- for giving us naked incontinence discussions. Good to see you both.

All right. You can catch Christine and me, by the way, both on "YOUR $$$$$" on Saturdays at 1 p.m. Eastern and Sundays at 3 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.

All right. Powerful tornadoes could hit parts of the U.S. at any time now. Chad Myers is tracking it very, very closely for us. He'll tell you if your community is under the gun. We're tracking this straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELSHI: Chad, glad to see somebody -- I'm working on figuring out where everything is in this place. So I'm glad you're here. Good to see you, my friend.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Good to see you.

VELSHI: I understand we've got tornadoes, and they're -- what part of the country are we looking at right now?

MYERS: Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, probably even Colorado. You asked for the bulls eye. We're talking Eastern Colorado, back into Texas, Oklahoma City, Kansas, back into Tulsa. Maybe even into Arkansas. VELSHI: Ironically, you just -- you just drew a line around something that doesn't appear to have any weather systems around it at all.

MYERS: Correct. And do you know why?

VELSHI: Why?

MYERS: Because it's cloudy there.

VELSHI: OK.

MYERS: So I'm going to add the clouds in.

VELSHI: OK.

MYERS: And the clouds keep the heat out. They say, no severe weather here.

VELSHI: Right.

MYERS: Clouds. So you know what that does? You have to look for where the clearing is, right back here, western Oklahoma. There you go. Childress, back over toward Elphiss (ph), and then all the way up into Western Kansas. That's where the severe weather is going to pop first. But all these clouds are slowly eroding away.

VELSHI: I see.

MYERS: By 2, 3 p.m., it will be sunny, and when it's sunny, it heats up fast.

VELSHI: Now your team, you guys always come up with great descriptions about what is forecast. And I just saw one a few minutes ago. You were talking about long-track tornadoes. Intense tornadoes.

MYERS: Long-track tornadoes happen because they are literally out there all by themselves.

VELSHI: Right.

MYERS: You get one storm out here all by itself, it gets to be the big dog.

VELSHI: Right.

MYERS: You have one bowl of food, and you have one dog, it's going to get to be a big dog. You have one bowl of food and you have eight dogs, they're all going to be littler.

VELSHI: Got it.

MYERS: So if you want big storms, you don't want eight of them; you want one of them. We expect there to be one, one, one, one, one, far enough apart that they don't eat each other's food, or use each other's moisture. VELSHI: All right. We'll stay on top of that. Thanks so much, Chad. Good to see you again.

MYERS: Good to see you. Welcome back.

VELSHI: I like -- I'm liking the new place. I like what you've done with it while I was away.

All right. Britain's prime minister, Gordon Brown, is on his way out as leader of the Labour Party in that country. How is that going to change negotiations over forming a new government in Britain? What's that got to do with you? We're going to find out when we come back. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELSHI: Big news today as the appointment of Elena Kagan, the solicitor general of the United States, to be the next justice, associate justice of the Supreme Court. Right now, there is a briefing going on in the White House. Let's go right to it.

Robert Gibbs is there. On his right is General Stanley McChrystal, who is taking the mike right now.

GEN. STANLEY MCCHRYSTAL, COMMANDER, U.S. FORCES AFGHANISTAN: Good afternoon.

I'm pleased to be here this week to participate in President Karzai's visit to the United States. I'd like to start by recognizing the courage and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform. It's my honor to represent them here today, and to provide you with a brief overview of their efforts in Afghanistan.

I'm also encouraged by the efforts of U.S. civilians in Afghanistan. It's good to be here today with my colleague and friend, Carl Eikenberry.

Our strategic priority is a development of the Afghan National Army and Police, the forces that will ultimately secure Afghanistan. Much work lies ahead to mature this force, but its growth is largely on track.

Our operational priority lies in securing the southern part of Afghanistan, an area that includes Kandahar, the spiritual center of the Taliban, and Helmand, an economic hub of the insurgency.

Ten months ago, we began a series of operations into Taliban- controlled parts of the Helmand River Valley, expanding the Afghan government's influence into these critical areas. This year, building on the progress of those operations, we've continued that expansion.

In February, the first of the 2010 uplift forces approved by President Obama partnered with Afghans to secure parts of central Helmand that had remained under the control of the Taliban. With additional arriving forces, we'll reinforce ongoing efforts to secure Kandahar, an environment that is uniquely complex and will require a unique solution.

This effort is being led by the Afghans, and will focus on the complex political and governance aspects of Kandahar. These dimensions are at the heart of the problem, and their solution will ultimately be decisive.

Our efforts in Afghanistan are ultimately about change in the perceptions of people. Afghans long impacted by conflict and struggle, believe more of what they see than what they hear. Only when they experience security from coercion, and only when they benefit from better governance, will they begin to believe in the possibilities of the future.

This is a process that takes time. It will demand courage and resilience. We will encounter increased violence as our combined security forces expand into Taliban-controlled areas. Increasingly, the momentum will shift to the Afghan forces. Over time, security responsibilities will transition to Afghans.

Seeing clearly the challenges in front of us, I have confidence that our campaign plan will succeed.

Thank you.

CARL EIKENBERRY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO AFGHANISTAN: Thank you.

Good afternoon. I'd like to offer some brief comments myself to complement those of my friend and partner in Afghanistan over many years, General Stan McChrystal.

Like Stan, I'd like to start by recognizing the courage and sacrifice of our men and women in our armed forces, those of the coalition and Afghan forces, and their civilian counterparts, which now include those from 13 United States government departments and agencies. Our combined civilian military team in Afghanistan is one that we're proud of and very humbled to lead.

President Obama's strategy directs our combined team to break the momentum of the Taliban, to protect the Afghan people, and help build essential Afghan government capacity. The Afghans must take the lead in their own security and governance in order to defeat and preclude the return to Afghanistan of al Qaeda and their terrorist allies. Together, we're stabilizing in secure areas while helping enable Afghan institutions which have been devastated by decades of turmoil, reclaim complete leadership of their people's security.

We cannot succeed in Afghanistan by military means alone. As well, our civilian mission cannot succeed without the contributions of the military and accordingly, our efforts have been redesigned and transformed over the past year.

Our civilian presence has more than tripled now over the past year to over 1,000 people, and with a far greater percentage of those personnel being assigned to locations outside of Kabul, where they serve as members of an integrated civilian military team with units from our NATO, ISAF allies and our own forces. Our embassy and our mission organizations have been restructured so that we can achieve better unity of effort among our very diverse group of civilian diplomats, development specialists, agricultural experts, and law enforcement agents on the ground.

And finally, we've reprioritized our developmental programs and tailored them to effectively address that which is essential to our success in Afghanistan, with particular emphasis on agriculture, key government services, critical infrastructure, and essential aspects of rule of law.

We're confident that we're much better postured to help deliver the progress needed in the months ahead. In governance, we've seen President Karzai make some very important decisions about how to carry the parliamentary elections forward. And following the Karzai administration's commitments to the international community made in January in London, the government's chief anti-corruption body, called the High Office of Oversight, has now been given new powers by presidential decree and can act with more autonomy. And we've recently seen high-profile public corruption trials taking place in Kabul.

Briefly regarding the visit to the United States of President Karzai and key members of his cabinet, you're aware of the extensive preparations made by both sides in anticipation of this very important event and there will be serious dialogs in the days ahead on far- ranging issues, including how to --

VELSHI: That's Ambassador Carl Eikenberry, the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, along with General Stanley McChrystal giving a briefing, an update on the situation in Afghanistan.

Obviously, the other big news we're following out of Washington, D.C., is the appointment of U.S. -- the nomination of U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court. Obviously, that has to go through the Senate first, but President Obama announced her nomination to the Supreme Court a few hours ago.

Right now, she represents the government in the Supreme Court when there's a case the government is involved in. If confirmed, she will take Justice John Paul Stevens' place on the Supreme Court.

That growing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico may get some help from robots. Today, crews used a deep-sea robot to try and thin the oil out by shooting a chemical called a dispersant into the mass. It's the third round of that spraying. Other short-term solutions like a 100-ton containment dome haven't worked out, so workers are trying to drill a relief well as a more permanent option but that could take up to three months. We'll stay on that story for you.

And markets across the world surging today. The euro strengthened after Europe's finance ministers approved a big rescue package to stable the Eurozone. Now 16 European countries will have access to a nearly $1 trillion package. Not just Greece, but it does come after Greece's battered economy sent markets tumbling. Well, being a judge is like anything else, you've got to start somewhere. So why not start at the top? President Obama picks a nominee for the highest court in the land who's never decided a case. We'll hear the case for Elena Kagan after a break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELSHI: Thurgood Marshall used to call her "Shorty," Harvard Law used to call her dean, and President Obama calls her a trailblazing leader, a consensus builder and one of the nation's foremost legal minds. America's first woman solicitor general, very possibly our fourth woman Supreme Court justice.

Now, as you may have seen live here on CNN, the president tapped Kagan to replace the retiring Justice John Paul Stevens who is 40 years old older than she is. Kagan is a native New Yorker, specifically a child of the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Her schooling took her from Princeton to Oxford to Harvard Law School, where, as I mentioned, she later became the first woman dean.

Now, she is the first Supreme Court nominee since 1972 who has never sat on any other judicial bench. She's never been a judge. But keep in mind, nowhere does it say that justices actually have to be judges.

Plenty of people are lining up to judge Kagan and that brings me to CNN political analyst Gloria Borger and Roland Martin.

Let's start with you first, Gloria. Tell me about this appointment. We expected it was coming. It does not look like there are obvious road blocks to her nomination just yet. Is that how you see this playing out?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. I think so. I think, look, you have some liberals who are concerned that she's got a very strong bent on executive power that they don't like, and you have conservatives who don't like the fact that she briefly moved recruiters for the military from the main recruitment place at Harvard to somewhere else and then eventually they were moved back as a result of court ruling.

So, you know, she is somebody that conservatives might not like, that liberals might not like. But all in all -- and I just came from a meeting with White House counsel Bob Bower and the senior presidential adviser David Axelrod -- it seems to me that they believe that they can get a filibuster-proof majority for her.

VELSHI: Roland, I saw something you wrote for CNN.com today talking about a double standard. Tell me about that.

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, yes, of course. You have folks who have questioned the diversity of her hiring at Harvard Law School. In that in terms of 29 various folks hired for tenure or tenure-track positions, nearly all of them were white males; you had no African-Americans, one Asian-American female. The real criticism I have, though, as Gloria mentioned, that folks on the left, if a republican president nominated someone like this, the typical groups -- civil rights organizations, feminist groups -- would be up in arms questioning that person's commitment to diversity. And the point I raised is, will you see the left criticize her the same way they would in a republican candidate.

But also, what you have here, Ali, one of the issues is that this is a system set up for the right, to be frank. The left never will appoint someone who is a strong liberal. Remember when Harriet Myer was appointed by President George W. Bush? The right said, she's not conservative enough. And so democrat presidents typically appoint centrist judges, but never someone who is a strong liberal like you see on the right, they will always appoint a strong conservative.

VELSHI: Gloria, what are you thinking about this?

BORGER: Well, you know, we don't really know what she is, and that's part of the worries that the left have. They're afraid, you talk to people on the left and they say, gee, we're afraid she could become our David Souter. Remember, lots of republicans were surprised by how liberal a Judge David Souter became.

So, you know, I think you're going to hear it -- I think you're going to hear this from both sides.

VELSHI: Gloria, when are we going to get more -- are they going to be in the hearings? Because right now the criticism is on all sides is a bit muted because of what you said. Because she's not a judge, we don't have her writings.

BORGER: Don't forget, she worked in the Clinton administration. She worked for Joe Biden during the Ginsburg hearings. So, you know, there is a paper trail of sorts from her when she did work in a democratic administration. It takes time to get all of that and I'm sure you will get it.

But in the end, I'm told, what these folks were looking for over at the White House is somebody who could go toe-to-toe intellectually with John Roberts, and who was a young person, and somebody who would be able to work with the swing justice, Kennedy.

VELSHI: And maybe bring him over.

BORGER: And they think, you know -- and bring him over. They think that's what they have with Kagan.

VELSHI: Roland, 30 seconds for you.

MARTIN: Ali, a serious concern I also have, we now have an East Coast Supreme Court. If you went to an Ivy League school, that seems to be the only way you get on the Supreme Court. With Justice Stevens coming off -- he went to the University of Chicago, got his law degree at Northwestern -- nearly everybody on this court is Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Cornell. What does it say to the rest of the country, if you go to another law school, you have no shot ever becoming a Supreme Court justice? And so, I think diversity in terms of geography is important as well, not everyone going to Ivy League universities.

VELSHI: If it were me, I would get somebody from Texas A&M, Roland.

MARTIN: There you go, smart move.

(LAUGHTER)

VELSHI: Good to see you both.

BORGER: There are also nominate no more protestants on the court either, by the way.

VELSHI: That's right. That's right.

MARTIN: That's right. Three Jewish --

BORGER: No more white Anglo-Saxon protestant men.

VELSHI: Yes, gone. We'll have lots to talk about this.

Gloria, thanks so much for being here. Roland, good to see you, as always, thanks so much.

Listen, here's an interesting one. It slimes up the sides of swimming pools, it fills up fish tanks, but some people have significantly higher hopes for algae. They want to use it to fill up your fuel tanks. I don't just mean line the sides of it. This is our "Big I" and it's coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELSHI: Today's "Big I" -- turning green-blue into black gold. A company called OriginOil says it's figured out a way to convert algae into oil that's more efficient than other methods have ever been. I'm joined now by Riggs Eckelberry, he's the CEO of OriginOil.

Riggs, thank you for joining us. Are you with us?

RIGGS ECKELBERRY, CEO, ORIGINOIL: Yes, Ali, thank you.

VELSHI: I can hear you, and you're going to show up in a second.

In the meantime, you've got this remarkable -- there you go, good to see you. Excellent haircut.

ECKELBERRY: Thank you.

VELSHI: Riggs, This is an interesting concept. First of all, just give us a little bit of history. There has been a movement for some time to turn algae into oil. I suppose it's a good way to understand what oil is in the first place, right? It's kind of the same stuff.

ECKELBERRY: Algae, many, many millions of years ago actually came about to solve the CO2 problem the planet had back then. Vast amounts of algae were created, subsequently died, and later became petroleum. So we're really using that ancient algae as petroleum today.

VELSHI: Is there enough algae to make this worthwhile? Is there enough algae in the world?

ECKELBERRY: There's a lot of algae in the world, but we plan to make it in industrial process systems in big tanks, you might say, close to CO2 emitters. So imagine a power plant, a coal-fired power plant that's putting out a lot of CO2, we can suck up the CO2 with a huge algae system right next to it that continuously creates algae.

VELSHI: All right. And how -- you've got some new news here. You've got a way that is going to -- you're going to unveil that's going make this very, very efficient and scalable and usable. Tell us about this.

ECKELBERRY: Well, we've got our big, big news all along has been that we can -- algae lives in a lot of water. So people have thought algae was a great fuel all along. But it's like Kool-Aid. And how do you get the Kool-Aid out of the water? That's a big challenge, and nobody had the solution until very recently.

We now can crack the oil from the algae without having to remove the water. So that's a big breakthrough. And of course, and a lot of other breakthroughs --

(CROSSTALK)

VELSHI: Sorry, go ahead.

ECKELBERRY: No, please go ahead, Ali.

VELSHI: We've just been running a video here that I want to show our viewers that has a bit of a process on it. So you can just give us a the kind of explanation that I would be able to understand on what you actually do with this algae that makes it into oil.

ECKELBERRY: Sure. So what you're watching is a time lapse of about an hour after we've done our little process.

And what we do is a combination of ultrasound and electrical pulses to essentially crack the algae cell, which is microscopic, and force it to let go of its little droplet of oil.

And, of course, the oil rises to the top, and the bond mass goes to the bottom, and then it's very easy to pull out the different layers, and now you've got your oil. And your bond mass is also extremely useful as a fuel or fertilizer or livestock feed.

VELSHI: Riggs, what is this oil you extract? What is it like? SI it like crude oil? Is it something else? ECKELBERRY: We call it straight vegetable oil, because it literally is a high polyunsaturated vegetable oil, very healthy for you, in fact. It's also useful, of course, for plastics, varnishes, fuel. Many, many -- hundreds of uses, actually.

VELSHI: But you do with it what you do with oil. In other words, you can refine it or distill it into different forms, depending on what use you want to achieve?

ECKELBERRY: We like to call it crude without the tar, because this is -- algae became crude through fossilization, so it became mineral. Today we've got oil that's vegetable, and that means it doesn't have all those heavy metals or the tar.

VELSHI: How big can this become? I mean, is it possible that we're going to see either on restaurant menus or at gas stations that we're getting fuel or oil from algae?

ECKELBERRY: I'm not going to talk about whether algae is going to be a food for the world. I think that's for macro forecasters.

But what we see is the tremendous ability of algae to suck up vast amounts of CO2, which, of course, is being emitted everywhere. So we will see a movement towards algae systems being located all over the world, wherever CO2 is being emitted and creating energy at those locations. You're talking about a phenomenal distributed energy trend that I think is going to transform the energy picture over the next 10, 15 years.

VELSHI: Doing the two things at the same time, cleaning up CO2 and creating energy.

Riggs, we'll follow this very closely. Good to have you on the show, thanks for with being us.

ECKELBERRY: Thank you, Ali.

VELSHI: Riggs Eckelberry is the CEO of OriginOil.

A surprise announcement from Barbara Walters. We'll have details straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELSHI: OK. Before we get going in the next hour, I want to tell you about two major medical stories.

Barbara Walters made a big announcement on "The View" today. Walters says she will take time off as she undergoes heart surgery -- listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, ABC'S "THE VIEW")

BARBARA WALTERS, JOURNALIST: Now, let's of people have done this, and I have known of this condition for a while now and my doctors and I have decided that this is the best time to do the surgery. And since the summer is coming up, I can take a nice vacation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: That's putting a nice spin on that. Walters will be undergoing valve replacement surgery. She is 80 years old, she is expected to come back to "The View" as soon as she recovers.

Plus this, the cost to treat cancer has soared. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention says that it's nearly doubled in the last two decade. This isn't per person though. Researchers say the reason is the growing number of cancer patients. The study also points out that about 5 percent of medical costs are linked to cancer treatments.

All right, coming up on 2:00 p.m. Eastern now, here's what we've got on "The Rundown."

When President Obama picked his Supreme Court nominee, he looked within his own administration. We'll talk about the solicitor general who could be in for a big promotion.

Plus, the debt crisis plaguing Europe sent shockwaves across the globe and across global markets last week. This week, a totally different story. Bailouts in the weeks and markets rebounding big time. But are we really out of danger?

Also, I'm going to take you out to the ballgame. America's pastime is really growing on me. Matter of fact, I'm down right inspired, and I'll tell you why in my "X-Y-Z."