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Pope's Health; Florida Missing Girl Mystery; '90-Second Pop'

Aired March 14, 2003 - 07:27   ET


BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: You can get the latest news every morning in your e-mail. Sign up for AMERICAN MORNING quick news, There for you all the time.
In a moment, a developing story out of Europe. Within the past hour, the Vatican now gives another update on the condition of Pope John Paul II. Live to Rome in a moment as we continue after this.


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome back, everybody. It's half past the hour on this AMERICAN MORNING.

We're going to get right back to the pope's health in just a few moments. The Vatican issuing a medical update about an hour ago. We learned a lot about the pope's condition. He's breathing on his own. He's communicating with those around him. We'll tell you a little bit about what he had for breakfast and how he was making some jokes, too, when we chat with CNN Vatican analyst John Allen just ahead.

HEMMER: Everything we've heard so far seems to be good news. So, we'll get back to John in a moment here.

HEMMER: Also, a statewide search in Florida for a missing young girl, Jessica Lunsford, disappearing on Wednesday night, two days ago. We'll talk to the county sheriff about some clues now in the case and whether or not their theories on what might have happened are now playing out. A lot of concern in a very small county, right on the Gulf area of Florida, where they do not see a whole lot of crime.

O'BRIEN: What a weird case.

HEMMER: That it is. And we'll get to the sheriff in a moment here.

O'BRIEN: All right. But first let's get to the headlines.

Good morning, Carol. Nice to have you here in person.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, I'm here in person. Thank you, Soledad.

Good morning, everyone.

"Now in the News."

President Bush is back in Washington this morning after his first overseas trip of his second term. The president wrapped up his European tour with a stop in Slovakia, and that's where he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Mr. Bush urged Putin to reaffirm democratic values in his country, but Putin denied his government was backsliding on rights.

Word this morning some advisers on an FDA panel looking at the safety of some of those popular painkillers had ties to the drug makers. Today's "New York Times" is reporting the FDA advisers consulted in recent years for the makers of Celebrex, Bextra and Vioxx. According to the newspaper, if they had not cast their votes, the committee would have voted to stop marketing Bextra and Vioxx. The vote on Celebrex would have been the same. The "Times" said most of the advisers said their relationships with the drug companies did not influence their votes.

Lawyers for Kobe Bryant's accuser may get their first chance to grill the NBA star under oath today. The attorneys are scheduled to question Bryant for up to seven hours today in Los Angeles. The woman accusing Bryant of sexual assault filed a lawsuit against him last August, weeks before criminal charges against Bryant were dropped. The civil trial could begin as early as this summer.

And people in the Northeast -- I don't have to tell you this -- they're waking up to a blanket of fresh snow outside of their homes this morning. It's pretty now, but it won't when you go outside. And in a couple days it will be downright ugly. This is what it looked like in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Further north, some areas are reporting more than six inches of snow. We'll get to Chad just ahead. And according to Chad earlier, it was the light, fluffy kind of snow, so it really wasn't that bad. Of course, he's in Atlanta.

O'BRIEN: It's never so bad when you're looking at it.

COSTELLO: From 60 degrees.

O'BRIEN: It doesn't look so bad, all things considered.

COSTELLO: It's winter.

O'BRIEN: It's winter. Kids like it. What can you say? Carol, thanks.

Let's get right back to the latest now on the condition of Pope John Paul II the day after doctors at a Rome clinic performed surgery on the 84-year-old pontiff. The pope underwent a tracheotomy to ease what was described as a breathing crisis, his difficulty breathing, brought on by a recurrence of the flu-like symptoms for which the pope was hospitalized earlier this month.

Meanwhile, the Vatican is reporting in the last hour that the pope is breathing on his own without the aid of a respirator. And doctors have advised the pope not to speak for at least the next several days.

CNN Vatican analyst John Allen in our Rome bureau this morning.

Hey, John, good morning to you. You've heard the latest briefing. Anything to add, in addition to what I just listed there?

JOHN ALLEN, CNN VATICAN ANALYST: Well, Soledad, as you say, I think the news out of the Vatican this morning is all good. Apparently, the pope is breathing normally. He is comfortable, has communicated with his aides, and appears to have come through this rather routine surgery. But, of course no surgery for a man who is almost 85 and in his medical condition is ever truly routine. But appears to have come through it in pretty good shape.

O'BRIEN: Has the Vatican given any prognosis at all?

ALLEN: No. And I think they're going to be extraordinarily cautious about doing that. I mean, listen, you know, after his hospitalization at the beginning of this month and his 9-night stay, 10-day stay in Rome's Gemelli hospital, they were pretty optimistic about saying he had made a full, swift, complete recovery, and he was more or less back in business. And obviously, that was a little premature. So, my suspicion is they're going to be very cautious this time.

My guess, Soledad, is, you know, we're in Lent, of course, in the Catholic Church, and we're coming up on Easter in two and a half or three weeks. My guess is in the meantime, they're probably going to tell us very little about the pope's condition, and we're probably see very little of it.

O'BRIEN: The Vatican, I think, has a reputation, it's fair to say, of always downplaying any sort of crisis about the pope's health. At the same time, what are the medical facilities like inside the Vatican? I mean, for the pope to be moved at all and to have to go to Gemelli hospital for this tracheotomy, it's a very serious deal.

ALLEN: Yes, that's right. I mean, obviously, you know, the pope has a personal physician, Renaldo Butsinetti (ph). And there is quite a bit of medical equipment up there in the Apostolic Palace. That's the building in which the pope has his apartment.

But, you know, I mean, things like the intervention he had last evening, the tracheotomy, you know, need the anti-septic environment of an actual hospital in order to be performed with safety.

In addition, there's always the fear that given his breathing problems, he might go into respiratory arrest and need some kind of artificial assistance. And the equipment certainly on the 10th floor of the Gemelli hospital, which is permanently set aside for his use, is much better.

I mean, let's not forget, the pope himself has jokingly referred to the Gemelli as the third Vatican after St. Peters and after Castel Gandalfo, which is his summer residence, because, you know, he's now been there nine times as pope. It's only about two and a half miles away from the Vatican.

So, when there is some fear that he's going to need serious medical intervention, that's obviously where they're going to take him. O'BRIEN: Yes, it's funny his sense of humor about that, and then, of course, his sense of humor, as we're hearing reported today, even as he recovers from the tracheotomy, it's nice to hear those reports. John Allen, nice to see you. As always, thanks a lot, John. Appreciate it.

ALLEN: You bet, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Bill.

HEMMER: Soledad, thanks. It's 25 minutes now before the hour.

We want to shift our attention now to the story in this country about a 9-year-old girl from Florida now missing. Jessica Marie Lunsford has not been seen since Wednesday night. She's 4 feet 11 inches tall, weighs 70 pounds and has light, brown hair. She was last seen wearing her pink nightgown. There has not been an Amber Alert issued for her. But there is a statewide search under way now in its second day.

The Citrus County sheriff is Jeff Dawsy.


HEMMER: Sheriff, she lives with her father and grandparents in the coastal town of Homosassa. What were the circumstances surrounding her disappearance?

SHERIFF JEFF DAWSY, CITRUS COUNTY SHERIFF: Very unusual. The father returned home in the early morning hours of yesterday. And upon entry of the residence, the young girl was gone.

HEMMER: The father returned home around 6:00 in the morning Thursday, is that right? He was out all night with a friend?

DAWSY: Yes, he was out all night with a friend. The child was not in any harm's way. As you said, she was in residence with her grandparents. The grandparents put her to sleep around 10:00 on Wednesday evening. And when the father came in around 5:45, they noticed that Jessica was not there.

HEMMER: Have you questioned the father?

DAWSY: Well, we have questioned everybody. Nobody is a specific subject, but we had some questioning with the father, the grandfather and the grandmother yesterday, throughout the day.

HEMMER: Is the father considered suspicious after being out all night?

DAWSY: No. We were able to verify his whereabouts. He was with a lady friend of his. And after verifying it, it feels his alibi falls with the statement we received from him.

HEMMER: Why is there no Amber Alert put out for this girl? DAWSY: Well, in talking with the FDLE, there's a light difference. We don't have a car, per se, a description of a car, and we cannot prove at this particular time a valid abduction. I think as today goes on, we'll be having some conversation with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and re-review this case with them.

HEMMER: Yes, the mother, I believe, lives in Ohio, is that right? Have you talked with her?

DAWSY: No, we're not sure where the mom lives. The FBI went up to Ohio, the last address we had, and there was nobody at the residence. We're still having trouble locating her. We're running down some leads in that area. But she really doesn't play an integral part in this child's life.

HEMMER: She did not leave without any shoes, apparently. That's what the investigation has shown. What does that indicate to you, Sheriff?

DAWSY: Well, that and the clothes she wore, which was a nightgown, leaving the residence just does not hold true to this young girl. This girl is very cautious about what she does. She usually does not leave the residence without telling the grandparents where she's going. And that particular time of the evening -- dark, a little cool, fog -- I just don't believe that young girl walked out on her own volition.

HEMMER: Your county is crime-free almost, the second-lowest crime rate in the entire state of Florida. Ever had a case like this...

DAWSY: That's correct.

HEMMER: ... in recent times, Sheriff?

DAWSY: Not in recent times. I've been in this county for almost 20 years as a law enforcement officer. I never remember working a case of this nature.


HEMMER: Another thing the sheriff tells us this morning, the door was locked at night. It was unlocked in the morning. He says he's also talked with the family a number of times, but his office has found no reason to be concerned after those conversations -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: A terrible and perplexing story, Bill.

Let's get a check of the weather this morning.


HEMMER: Today could be the day of reckoning for Wal-Mart's fight against organized labor. Andy has that story, yet again today back in the news. We'll get to Andy on that. O'BRIEN: Plus, "Ray's" Jamie Foxx is the odds-on favorite to win the Oscar for best actor. But one of the 90-second poppers says there may be an upset in-the-making. Those predictions are ahead on AMERICAN MORNING. Stay with us.


HEMMER: Welcome back, everybody. Jack's talking about Chris Rock, Sunday night, the Oscars and all of those great films this past year, he says with tongue-in-cheek.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The Academy Awards on Sunday will celebrate a group of best picture nominees that grossed 40 percent fewer dollars than any comparable group of best picture nominees in the last decade. One's a film about boxing and euthanasia, another about a guy with long fingernails and mental illness. And there's one terrific film about the great Ray Charles. But that's just my opinion.

And let us not forget those insipid red carpet interviews. You know, the lame questions and even lamer answers by people who just can't get enough of themselves.

So here's the question: How much do you care about the Academy Awards?

Brian in South Carolina says: "I'd have to say watching the motion picture industry pat itself on the back ranks right up there with hog calling, jabbing an ice pick in my eye or a biography of Jack Cafferty when it comes to an evening of entertainment."

Donna in Pennsylvania: "There are more exciting things to watch than to see who's wearing what. I'll watch a minute or two of it to see who the big winners are, but I won't watch the whole thing."

William in Virginia writes: "On a scale of 1 to 10, I give the Academy Awards a zero for interest on my part. Shameless and excessive self-promotion is never interesting."

Jim in New York writes: "Jack, considering there's no hockey to watch, straight guys like us don't have much of a choice."

That's a reference to Chris Rock, who made a reference to people who watch the Oscars, which we don't have time to go into.

Janet in Tacoma, Washington, writes: "I confess. The family not only watches, we have a pool on who can pick the most winners. It's a tradition. And if that's not bad enough, we do the same thing for the Tonys. Help!"

HEMMER: Yes you need it.

O'BRIEN: I think that's cute.

CAFFERTY: Do you? Well, so did I. That's why we included it.


CAFFERTY: It's adorable.

O'BRIEN: It is.

CAFFERTY: It's lovely. Why wasn't there a full screen of Janet's e-mail?

HEMMER: Because you have to read that thing right there.

CAFFERTY: What? No, no, no. Oh, yes, the Pentagon confirms the U.S.' -- we haven't done this for so long I almost forgot about it. The Pentagon confirms the U.S. is secretly holding informal talks with some of the insurgents in Iraq. Some say that that is breaking the promise not to negotiate with terrorists.

Join Andy and me and Susan and Allen Wastler on "IN THE MONEY" when we take a look at this story Saturday at 1:00, Sunday at 3:00. It's the way that I supplement my income and pay my youngest daughter's college tuition.

HEMMER: You do?

CAFFERTY: So please, please watch.

HEMMER: And the bills are very high. By the way, tell Brian (ph) your bio is a lot more interesting than people think.


HEMMER: We could sit around and talk about Jack's life for a very long time.


O'BRIEN: Yes, we could, but we won't.

HEMMER: And some days we do.


HEMMER: Thank you, Jack.


O'BRIEN: Instead, let's talk about business. Some Colorado workers are deciding today if they're going to unionize at the world's largest retailer. That and a look at Wall Street this morning. Andy is "Minding Your Business."



Let's talk about the market yesterday, a good one for investors. The Dow was up 75 points, making up a lot of the ground that we lost in that sell-off on Tuesday. This morning in focus, telecom stocks. You may remember last week, we told you MCI agreed to be bought by Verizon. Qwest was in the picture. Now they've come back in with another bid. More on that later in the program.

A tiny group of workers is challenging the world's largest company. Seventeen employees at a Loveland, Colorado, Wal-Mart -- they work in the tire and lube express department -- are voting today to unionize. And this is big stuff, because it's only the second time in the United States that workers have ever voted whether or not to unionize at a Wal-Mart.

Several years ago in Texas, workers -- meat cutters voted to unionize, and the company eliminated the position nationwide. Also, the company recently shut down some stores in Canada that voted to unionize. The vote is expected to be very close.

Listen to this. It's very interesting. There are 17 workers. Nine of them voted to get the vote going. Subsequently, two left for college. One got fired. They brought six new ones in. Of course, there are all sorts of union organizers there. The company is there. And just a tremendous amount of attention on this little town and this tiny department. You know, there are a million employees, and 17 are going to be voting today. It's a real big deal.

O'BRIEN: We'll see what happens.

SERWER: Yes, we will.

O'BRIEN: It will be interesting. All right, Andy, thanks.

SERWER: You're welcome.

O'BRIEN: Well, "The Aviator" might be Martin Scorsese's best shot yet at an Oscar for best director. But will another Hollywood titan stand in his way? "90-Second Pop" is up next on AMERICAN MORNING.


O'BRIEN: Does Usher have anything to do with the Oscars, or do we just like Usher? Is that why we're playing him? Because he's cute, that's why we like him.

Good morning. It's time for an all-Oscar edition of 90 second pop." Our pop pundits this morning, Andy Borowitz of Crystal McCrary Anthony, the author of the "Gotham Diaries." And Devin Gordon of "Newsweek."

Nice to see, you guys. Good morning.

We're talking all Oscar, all morning. Let's get right to it. Best actor/actress category. We're going to combine two categories to begin with. Some people think it's a shoo-in. For the women it's going to be Hilary Swank. But for the guys, a little debate here. Crystal, why are you not getting with the gang? CRYSTAL MCCRARY ANTHONY, AUTHOR, "GOTHAM DIARIES": I seem to be the only one who is not debating this. I'm totally out on a limb. But I do believe that Don Cheadle for his role in "Hotel Rwanda" deserves the Oscar for best actor. I mean, it was a completely nuanced role.

O'BRIEN: Did you miss Jamie Foxx and Leo DiCaprio?

DEVIN GORDON, "NEWSWEEK": Because there's the key word.


ANTHONY: Right. I think he deserves...

GORDON: Is it going to happen is the big question. And it's definitely not going to happen.

ANTHONY: Well...

GORDON: There's no way Jamie Foxx is going to lose this one.

O'BRIEN: Why? I mean, is it the groundswell public opinion? Or is it just he's just way out there?

ANTHONY: He didn't get a "GQ" cover.


ANTHONY: That did it. The "GQ" cover did it, I think.

BOROWITZ: I thought Jamie Foxx was actually going to win president of Iraq. He has won, like, everything. But, I mean, it is -- I mean, I think Don Cheadle might actually be the best actor in the category.

ANTHONY: Thank you.

BOROWITZ: But Jamie Foxx, that role, the bar is set so high, the things he had to do. He actually had his eyelids glued shut. He actually played the piano. I mean, he lost...

O'BRIEN: He sang.

BOROWITZ: He lost weight. He did everything.

O'BRIEN: And he carries that film.


O'BRIEN: I mean, a lot of people say the film is actually not so great, but he makes it great.

BOROWITZ: The film is a B-plus, and he's an A-plus.

O'BRIEN: And he makes the film. GORDON: You know, this is a performance. You know, the Academy Awards are a show. And he sealed it, I think, with his Golden Globe acceptance speech.


GORDON: When he got up there and he was great, people were, like, I want to see more of that. We're going to get this guy an Oscar.

O'BRIEN: All right...

GORDON: See a little sequel.

O'BRIEN: Sorry, Crystal.

ANTHONY: I still say Don Cheadle.

O'BRIEN: It's going to happen for you. But we'll see, won't we? OK, supporting roles. Let's talk about actor. Best supporting actor, Morgan Freeman. I love him.

GORDON: Yes, that's what people are saying. I mean, the buzz is that the award is headed towards Morgan Freeman.

O'BRIEN: He's the narrator...

GORDON: And he's been nominated a couple times actually for basically the same role. So, maybe they'll give it to him this time.

O'BRIEN: And we should say, he's the narrator in "Million Dollar Baby."

GORDON: He's the narrator.

O'BRIEN: And he's the janitor or kind of (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

GORDON: He's sort of the overseer of the -- yes. And I think -- but I think that there's a possibility for an upset here that someone like Thomas Haden Church in "Sideways."

BOROWITZ: I think Thomas Haden Church, you know, the Academy Awards always likes to reward adversity. And he was on that show "Wings" for, like, six years. So, I think there's a chance.

GORDON: If you can overcome that, you can overcome anything.

BOROWITZ: But he was -- I mean, he was phenomenal. Again, it's like another -- you know, I sound like Cojo (ph) or something, but he was great, too. But, I mean, yes.

ANTHONY: I still say Clive Owen also for "Closer."

BOROWITZ: Very good.

O'BRIEN: All right. So you guys are saying it's an open... GORDON: This one is a very wide-open category.


O'BRIEN: And maybe this is one everyone will watch where it's not going to be a shoo-in. How about best supporting actress?

ANTHONY: Sophie Okonedo.

O'BRIEN: Yes, I think I would agree with you on that.

ANTHONY: Yes, for "Hotel Rwanda." I mean, another nuanced performance. And, you know, it was not an easy role for her to do. I mean, there were no stunts, and it was raw emotion. It was complex. I think that her role is very similar to Don Cheadle's in that they played off of one another. But at the same time they didn't have, you know, the big hoops, and they weren't able to have, like, say -- no disrespect to Jamie Foxx and all of the people who are fans of his, but they didn't have any crutches in this. There were no gimmicks in this.

GORDON: It was not a flashy performance.

ANTHONY: No, it was not a flashy performance. It was difficult to do.

O'BRIEN: Some people really dislike Cate Blanchett. I mean, some pick her to win, but other people say she was just impersonating, you know, what she had seen of Katharine Hepburn.

GORDON: Right. Yes, those are the people who don't have academy votes, I think.


GORDON: I think the people who do are going to go with her.

BOROWITZ: And I think for the same reason...

GORDON: It's Katharine Hepburn, for crying out loud.

BOROWITZ: I think for the same reason that Jamie Foxx is so impressive. When you're impersonating somebody who is so well-known and we're so familiar with and you pull it off...

ANTHONY: That is true.

BOROWITZ: ... you get a lot of credit for it.

O'BRIEN: All right, let's talk about best picture and best director. Who walks away with best picture?


GORDON: Clint is getting both of them.

O'BRIEN: Really? You think Clint Eastwood will get both?

ANTHONY: For best director.

GORDON: That's what I'm saying. I think he's going to get both of them. I mean, for best picture, the bellwethers previous to this have gone "The Aviator's" way. The producers (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the award being the big one. But just something tells me that, you know, it just seems like people love that movie.


GORDON: And, you know, it's the one that makes you cry, too.

O'BRIEN: They love "Million Dollar Baby."


O'BRIEN: And they don't love "The Aviator." I think that's true. I don't think you get the sense of this embracing of "The Aviator."


BOROWITZ: You know, I liked "The Aviator." I have to say, I learned so much about Howard Hughes' life. I had no idea Howard Hughes' life was so long, for example. That was one thing. But it's really now, all kidding aside, you know, people say, like, it's not the best Scorsese film, as if that's a diss.


BOROWITZ: You know, he has made some of the best films ever. And I -- you know, I went to see it this week, and I thought, you know, this is like taking on a major epic. It's sort of in the "Citizen Kane" category of this larger-than-life character. And he pulls it off. I really think it's a great film.

O'BRIEN: And so, are you saying that he's going to win?

BOROWITZ: I think he has a real shot. I think it's...

ANTHONY: Maybe for best picture...


ANTHONY: ... but then Clint Eastwood, best director.

O'BRIEN: We will see, won't we? I'm going. I got my dress. I got my shoes. I'm getting my hair done, yes.


ANTHONY: We'll wave.

O'BRIEN: Unfortunately, I don't get a vote in any of it. But we'll see. BOROWITZ: Who cares? You get to go to the parties.

O'BRIEN: Exactly.

ANTHONY: You get to look great.

O'BRIEN: You know, that's what it's all about, isn't it? What they're wearing, anyway, that's what we're going to talk about on Monday. Thanks, you guys. Appreciate it.

And, in fact, join us for a Monday morning special edition of "90-Second Pop" coming to you straight from L.A. We're going to take a look at the winners, the losers and, of course, more importantly, what they were wearing. The good, bad and the very, very ugly of the 77th annual Academy Awards. That's Monday -- Bill.

HEMMER: Soledad, thanks.

Top stories in a moment here. And new developments on the condition of the pope. The Vatican now with new details about his surgery and how he's doing at this hour. Live to Rome as we continue, top of the hour here on AMERICAN MORNING.


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