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Thousands of Air Traffic Controllers to Retire; Political Pop: Howard Stern, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Nude Political Calendar; Study: Mouth Wash Better than Flossing for Killing Bacteria

Aired June 15, 2004 - 08:30   ET


BILL HEMMER, CO-HOST: Thousands of air traffic controllers hired by President Reagan back in the '80s are about to retire, and the FAA may not be ready for that.
Will fewer eyes on the sky actually mean trouble for travelers?

Our Kathleen Koch has more now in Washington.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 100 clear to land. 100 and 7.

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In hundreds of towers and radar centers around the country, the clock is ticking toward retirement. Nearly half of the nation's air traffic controllers, some 7,000, are expected to leave over the next nine years, most hired in 1982 to replace the striking controllers fired by President Ronald Reagan.

LEWIS STEPHENSON, AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER: We picked up the ball and ran with it, and I think we did pretty well. And we're starting to turn to hand it off to anybody, and we don't see anybody there.

KOCH: A new study by the Transportation Department inspector general finds the FAA hasn't yet determined precisely how many new controllers it will need, where or when.

The FAA insists it has the situation under control.

MARION BLAKEY, FAA ADMINISTRATOR: The FAA has been very accurate in predicting the numbers over time. So we believe we've got a pretty good feel for it, and it's hardly a crisis at this point.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rocket 1-1, check wheels down. Flight low pressure. Runway 1-9 at estimated 230 at 8.

KOCH: The FAA says not all controllers who become eligible will want to retire. It suggests a crisis could also be delayed by giving waivers to work past the mandatory retirement age of 56.

Two controllers who help guide Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base have such wavers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think I'm the best controller here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've seen everything that can happen, happened at least once before, and I know how to react to it.

KOCH: But the controllers' union warns of dire consequences if the government doesn't start training and hiring new controllers now.

RUTH MARLIN, KATL AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL ASSOCIATION: We won't have certified controllers. We won't be able to operate the air space. And when there is a severe shortage, you only have two choices. And that is to curtail services or to reduce the margin of safety.

KOCH: If the FAA underestimates the retirement bubble, there is no quick fix. Training a controller takes at least three years.

Kathleen Koch, CNN, Washington.


BILL HEMMER, CO-HOST: In addition to this, hearings set for Capitol Hill today, in fact, on the status of that workforce -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Well, it's time now for a little something we like to call "Political Pop." And our panel is here to put just the right spin on each and every political story.

Joining us this morning is our renowned humorist, Andy Borowitz. You like that, don't you, Andy?

ANDY BOROWITZ, HUMORIST: Renowned. By whom, I'd like to know?

O'BRIEN: By me. I don't know. Of Also this morning, political strategist Serena Torrey joins us. And Mark Simone. He's a talk show host from WABC Radio right here in New York City.

Good morning. Welcome.


O'BRIEN: Let's get right to it. Mark, we're going to start with you this morning. Let's talk about Howard Stern and his potential impact on the election.

Because I think it turns out something like four percent of swing voters, by some research they've done, actually listen to Howard Stern. He's been saying vote for Kerry, not for Bush.

SIMONE: Well, you have to swing a little to listen to Howard Stern.

BOROWITZ: Watch your language!

SIMONE: It's a myth created by Howard Stern. He's great at becoming the victim. And the only thing that would hurt him, is if this FCC crackdown stopped. Because it's done wonders for his ratings. He's gone through the roof in the last ratings book.

O'BRIEN: The drama is making him more listenable, more appealing to more people.

SIMONE: Yes. Also remember, it's not the Bush administration cracking down. The guy leading this, the commissioner, Michael Copps, is a Democrat appointed by Clinton. You've never heard Bush say a word about this, and frankly, Kerry has never defended Stern either and whenever he's asked, he supports Bush on this.

SERENA TORREY, POLITICAL STRATEGIST: But you've got to look at the numbers. This is a man who has millions of loyal listeners and for the first time, he's telling them to make a completely different choice in a presidential election. The power of broadcast, as you know, is extraordinary. What is you were asking everyone to vote for Andy?

O'BRIEN: I'm asking everyone to vote for Andy. I can't even do it with a straight face.

BOROWITZ: With all do respect on Howard Stern, I'm not going to let Howard decide how I'm going to vote. I'm going to wait to see how Bubba the Love Sponge...

O'BRIEN: Right. There are other people you'd weigh in on.

SIMONE: This is like getting the endorsement of Omarosa or -- remember, most of his listeners are New York, L.A. These are places Bush isn't going to win, anyway.

O'BRIEN: Interesting. Let's talk about Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Let's see if we have the videotape here. Have you seen his pictures from "Around the World in 80 Days"? He has, like, a five- minute cameo in this movie.

And you know, people talk about the acting. He plays an egocentric polygamist priest in this new Disney movie. But look at that hair. I mean, forget the role itself! He's got this big weave of hair on his head.

Do you think that some people will say it's good to see him poking fun at himself or do you think, actually, "Hello, you're governor. That's not very governor like"?

TORREY: You know, the Governator didn't exactly take a classic trip to politics. This is a guy who's traded on his fame. He's -- governor of California is not easy task in this day and age. President Bush is stiffing the poor Governator on after-school funding.

He's got to do something to keep his approval ratings up.

BOROWITZ: I don't think this -- I don't think this affects his profile as a politician. Because no one's going to come away from an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie thinking he's an actor. I don't think it's going to affect him in the least.

O'BRIEN: He says -- He's drawing the line. He says, "I won't do press for it."

BOROWITZ: There you go.

SIMONE: It's not that it's embarrassing for a governor to be in this. It's embarrassing for an actor to be in this film. I mean, it's what happens when you get too old to play these kind of roles anymore. You have to mock yourself.

I mean, he's an aging film. I know in this film, he used a stunt man for the love scenes. And that's when you know you're just over the top.

O'BRIEN: Yes. At that point it's like you've got to move on or something. But you know, he had another career. He's the governor. He should be focusing on that.

BOROWITZ: He has that to fall back on.

O'BRIEN: Let's talk about these -- the Dames Demanding Democracy. These are a bunch of women who are doing a calendar where they're buck naked, and they're going to raise money for

BOROWITZ: Yes, they're raising money to defeat Bush, and I'm thinking, you know, I understand why Howard Stern may be supporting the whole Kerry thing. It involves naked women, which is a big thing. But you know, I don't know. It's probably pretty harmless.

O'BRIEN: These are not necessarily women you want to see naked. I say it with great respect to women's bodies everywhere. Some of them are a little older. There is one model, I guess who apparently.

BOROWITZ: Infinitely better than seeing John Kerry naked, though, I think. I think so. I think it's fine. It probably will do no harm.

SIMONE: They are older. And this one is wearing an orthopedic thong. I mean, that picture...

O'BRIEN: You're kidding, right?

SIMONE: No. But the problem here is, you've got Kerry's daughter with that see-through dress. You've got...

BOROWITZ: Problem?

SIMONE: If being naked is a campaign technique...

O'BRIEN: It's working.

SIMONE: Well, if that's the technique, I want Madeleine Albright away from this election.

TORREY: I don't think there are limits to the lengths people are going to go to express results politically.

O'BRIEN: That's what these women say. They say that if you're getting naked, it shows -- they don't really want to do it, but it shows how dedicated they are.

SIMONE: To be serious for a moment, it shows the problem of the Democrats, is that they can't seem to argue the policies. It's everything else except arguing the policies

O'BRIEN: You want these naked women to be arguing policies on their calendar?

SIMONE: With their clothes on.

BOROWITZ: No behind left behind. That's going to be the policy.

O'BRIEN: That is a great slogan. I will recommend you for president. Andy Borowitz. For everyone who's voting, Andy Borowitz is running!

You guys, don't go away. Thanks so much.

Let's go back to Bill.

HEMMER: All right, Soledad. Now 23 minutes now before the hour. In a moment, if you don't like to floss, you might not need to, after all. Sanjay explains that here.

Also, cyclist Lance Armstrong about to go to court. We'll tell you why he's out to clear his name.

And Mickey Dee is fighting back. Why the fast-food chain has something to say about a certain filmmaker. Andy explains that, when we continue right after this on AMERICAN MORNING.


O'BRIEN: Flossing has long been considered the gold standard for preventing gum disease. Well, the latest news from the world of oral hygiene might actually surprise you.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins us from CNN Center with much more on this.

Good morning, Sanjay.

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad. A very interesting story, and a lot of dentists are going to be interested to hear about this, specifically looking at comparing mouthwash and flossing.

You mentioned flossing is the gold standard. Many will say that it's still the gold standard, if you do it right. The problem is, according to about 90 percent of dentists, 90 percent of dentists say most people don't know how to floss properly, or don't do it adequately.

And therefore, they've been looking for other things to try and add as a substitute, if you will, for flossing.

So Listerine -- the makers of Listerine actually sponsored this study, and they looked at mouthwash versus flossing. That's a pretty good study, even though these makers sponsored it.

But they tried to figure out, if you actually compared mouth rinse versus dental floss, how did it pan out? Brushing plus mouth rinse, 20 percent less plaque, 11 percent less gingivitis.

Brushing plus floss. And this is all flossers, if you did it wrong, you did it right, 3.4 percent last plaque, 4.3 percent less gingivitis.

Soledad, the concern about this is that plaque often contains bacteria. That can often lead to gingivitis, a pretty significant gum disease which can lead to loss of teeth later on in life.

So an important study, an interesting study. No one is saying throw out the floss, especially if you're doing it right, as of yet, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Of course you never really know if you're doing it right. I mean, I floss. I don't know if I'm doing it right or not.

Does it matter what kind of mouthwash you use, specifically? Or -- I mean, obviously, Listerine sponsored it. So I'm sure they'd love everybody go out and buy Listerine. But did it matter across the board?

GUPTA: Yes. Two points you make. First of all, again, if you go to your dentist and you learn that you're flossing properly, certainly don't stop flossing.

The optimal sort of therapy is going to be to brush, floss, and use the mouthwash two times a day. Listerine did sponsor this study, but if you're out there looking for a specific type of mouthwash, there are ingredients to look for. They're going to be your best ingredients. There they are: thymol, eucalyptol, methyl salicylate and menthol.

Also, the ADA, the American Dental Association, gives a seal of acceptance on certain mouthwashes they think are going to be adequate towards combating gingivitis and plaque -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: What's in that list of products that makes the mouthwash -- mouth wash, sorry -- so much better than the floss?

GUPTA: Well, the thing about it, there's two things. One of them is that most don't floss properly. So if you're not doing it right, it's probably not going to provide as much of a benefit for you.

And I think a lot of dentists are sort of coming around to that thinking.

The second thing is, I mentioned the bacteria in the plaque. The mouthwash is going to have a much better chance of actually killing some of the bacteria in that plaque versus flossing. So those are your two reasons there, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: So now we're supposed to brush, and use floss and then use mouthwash.

GUPTA: Three things. A long time.

O'BRIEN: Thank you, Sanjay, for adding another 15 minutes to my morning routine! I'm up 3:45 every morning. I'm just kidding.

Thanks, Sanjay. Appreciate it.

Still ahead this morning, Lance Armstrong has beaten the field six times in the Tour de France. Now he's beaten cancer as well. But he's got a new battle now in court. We'll explain, just ahead as AMERICAN MORNING continues.


HEMMER: It's about 45 minutes past the hour. Time to check the other news with Heidi Collins again.

Heidi, good morning.

HEIDI COLLINS, ANCHOR: Good morning, Bill, and good morning to you, everybody.

A detention hearing expected to take place tomorrow for a Somali citizen being held in connection with a terror plot. Federal law enforcement officials say Nuradin Abdi has been linked to a plan to blow up an Ohio shopping mall. He was arrested in November of last year. A homeland security official says he believes the terror plot has been prevented.

The State Department is repeating its warnings for Americans to leave Saudi Arabia. This as the search continues for a kidnapped American contractor, Paul Johnson. The U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia said yesterday, the Saudi government is doing all it can to find Johnson. He was reported missing over the weekend. An Islamic militant group has claimed responsibility for the abduction.

And Boeing has won a nearly $4 billion contract with the U.S. Navy. Boeing will be responsible for developing a new Navy patrol plane which will replace Lockheed's P-30 Ryan. The plane is being designed to hunt submarines. The project is expected to be completed by 2013.

Health news now. Too much headache medicine may actually lead to more headaches. It's called a rebound headache. And doctors say taking over-the-counter medicine frequently for the pain could do more harm than good.

The American Headache Society advises watching so-called headache triggers, like fatigue, dehydration and stress.

And attorneys for cyclist Lance Armstrong, reportedly initiating libel proceedings today. Armstrong wants to block the release of a book which claims Armstrong used illegal performance-enhancing drugs. In a statement, he denies the allegations. He is set to participate in the Tour de France next month. HEMMER: For six in a row, right?

COLLINS: Unbelievable.

HEMMER: Thank you, Heidi.


HEMMER: Check of the news now, the business news. "Passion of the Christ" hasn't come out on video and DVD, and one retailer is ready for that. And McDonald's has a beef with "Supersize Me."

Andy Serwer is "Minding Your Business." Good morning, Drew.


HEMMER: Your plate's loaded.

SERWER: I'm not going to do the weather. He's trying to get me to do the weather.

HEMMER: You need more work.

New inflation numbers?

SERWER: Yes. Just coming out this morning, you guys. Prices for the month of May rising 0.6 percent. That's higher than expected, but probably not to worry. Most of that is gasoline prices. The price of gas is up 8 percent in the month of May.

The core, which excludes volatile energy and food price, only up 0.2 percent. That's what Wall Street expected. But still, I think the Fed will probably be raising rates at the end of June.

Let's talk about Sam's Club. Have you gotten your calendar marked, by the way, August 31st is when "The Passion of the Christ"...

O'BRIEN: The day I'm due.

SERWER: The day you're due is the day "The Passion of the Chris" comes out on DVD.

Well, I agree. That is maybe a lesser thing, certainly, for you.

Here's what we've got. Sam's Club, which is the warehouse club, of course, owned by Wal-Mart, is offering church groups packs: 50 packs, of these DVDs for sale. The first time the store has done anything like that.

They're selling 50-pack DVDs for $898. That's $18 a DVD, or $16 if you buy them in videos. And traditionally, you know, church organizations sold these DVDs to groups like that, but now Sam's Club is getting into the mix.

I want to talk about McDonald's.


SERWER: Let's do that.

O'BRIEN: The "Super Size Me" documentary.


O'BRIEN: Doing incredibly well and of course has gone on to do incredibly well everywhere else?

SERWER: It has. I've tried to see it on Saturday night. It was sold out. It really is doing very well. Morgan Spurlock's documentary, "Super Size Me," about a guy who eats only at McDonald's for 30 days.

So far, McDonald's has mostly been mum about this movie, preferring not to comment at all. But now the folks at McDonald's in Australia are fighting back. They're fighting mad, and they're starting a campaign to fight against it.

This is their website. "Seen "that movie"? Talks about all the claims that they think are untrue. The head of McDonald's in Australia, Guy Russo, says, "I'm of Italian descent, and I wouldn't eat spaghetti Boulonase (ph) every day. This is just a movie about someone who eats too much," which is slightly true.

O'BRIEN: And Morgan Spurlock, we interviewed him on the show. He sort of admitted that. I mean, he's not saying necessarily -- you could eat healthy food that's fattening...

SERWER: Right.

O'BRIEN: ... and gain the same amount of weight and ruin your body.

SERWER: And the whole thing is theater and it's fun to watch. We should remember that.

O'BRIEN: Interesting. All right, Andy, thanks.

HEMMER: In a moment here, why Michael Jackson's wallet is a bit lighter, staying lighter than usual for the time being. We'll explain that in a moment.


HEMMER: A check of the file with Jack now. Good morning.


Teresa Heinz Kerry at the age of 65 says she is sexy. In an interview to air tonight on the "CBS Evening News," Heinz Kerry, who has talked bluntly about her Botox injections, says, quote, "I'm cheeky. I'm sexy. Whatever, you know? I've got a lot of life inside." Which compensates for the other half of that -- her comments were a reaction to Senator Kerry's description of his wife as, quote, "Saucy, sexy and brilliant."

Of course, she's also worth $500 million.

VH1 is looking for talented people who think they act like, sing like and look like the original members of the "Partridge Family." The cable music channel is going to update the '70s sitcom with a seven-episode reality series, "In Search of The Partridge Family."

It will document the search for the perfect cast, and auditions will take place around the country in July. Put that in your date book.

Turns out postal carriers everywhere are afraid of dogs. It's like cobras and mongeese. Is it mongeese or mongooses? Mongeese? The plural of mongoose.

HEMMER: I don't know. We'll have to look it up on, right?

CAFFERTY: Anyway, back to our story about the postman and the dog. The German post office has got a solution, they think. They are training mail carriers in dog psychology, and they claim that they've reduced attacks by 80 percent.

The training includes courses on how to read a dog's body language, mask their fear, move slowly and speak in a soothing voice. Since 2001, the Germans have trained 79,000 postal workers. I guess it's working. Dog bites are down, they say 80 percent.

O'BRIEN: Better than using spray or something on those little dogs.

CAFFERTY: The other way is carry a gun.

HEMMER: Hang with me, Jack, here. A little slow for some reason.

CAFFERTY: The cobra and the mongoose.

HEMMER: It's probably mongooses. Don't you think?

CAFFERTY: I'll bet it's mongooses.



HEMMER: Why don't we continue and I'll see.

O'BRIEN: After the commercial.

CAFFERTY: To be continued.

HEMMER: After Chad maybe.


HEMMER: Here it is -- no, no, no, no. Mongooses.

CAFFERTY: There we go.

HEMMER: Score for Jack Cafferty! Well done.

CAFFERTY: That's an even one.

O'BRIEN: I feel so much better -- I feel so much better now that I know that.

Chad Myers, a look at the weather for this morning. Good morning.


O'BRIEN: Still to come this morning, a possible terrorist plot in the Midwest.


JOHN ASHCROFT, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Man was targeted for death and destruction by an al Qaeda cell.


O'BRIEN: In the next hour, the latest on what the government says could have been a disaster. Stay with us. You're watching AMERICAN MORNING.


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