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A Discussion with Director of FEMA; 'Paging Dr. Gupta'

Aired September 20, 2004 - 08:30   ET


HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Just about half past the hour, the 8:00 hour that is, on this AMERICAN MORNING. In a few minutes, we're going to talk about the hardline taken by House speaker Dennis Hastert when talking about John Kerry, basically suggesting Kerry would be soft on terrorists in a sense that al Qaeda would like to see him elected president. So can that backfire? We'll talk about all sides of that.
BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Also this hour, the director of FEMA, about the destruction left behind by Ivan. How are the storm victims now coping? And what will it take to get them back on their feet? When we left southern Alabama early Friday morning, there were already 250 people in line for ice.

COLLINS: Unbelievable, isn't it?

HEMMER: It's about 9:00 local time down there in Alabama.

And you know why, these people get out now, they are going to live with the hardships left behind. I mean, Pensacola, who knows when the power can come back on based on the pictures we've seen.

COLLINS: Yes, the gas lines are awfully terrible, too, people waiting forever for gas.

HEMMER: Michael Brown in a moment here.

COLLINS: Also want to check on the stories now in the news this morning. Kelly Wallace is here do that once again.

Good morning, Kelly.

KELLY WALLACE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning again, Heidi. Good morning, Bill. Good morning, everyone.

We begin in Iraq. A second Sunni cleric has been assassinated in the last 24 hours in Baghdad. Both men were members of the influential Sunni Committee of Muslim Scholars. A spokesman says the cleric was gunned down on his way to a mosque for prayers. Another cleric was killed last night.

Some tough words expected this morning about the war in Iraq. President Bush steps up his criticism of Senator John Kerry at an appearance in New Hampshire. He will address the United Nations in New York tomorrow.

And Senator Kerry will detail his own plans for peace in this morning during a speech at New York University. CNN will have live coverage, starting at 10:00 a.m. Eastern.

The largest racketeering case in history goes to court tomorrow, unless there's a settlement today. The government is suing Big Tobacco for $280 billion. It claims the tobacco companies manipulated nicotine levels, lied about the dangers of smoking and aimed advertising campaigns at young teens.

And beginning today, new checkpoints procedures will be in place at airports nationwide. Airport screeners begin new procedures to better detect explosives hidden in clothing or carry-ons, including using so-called "people puffer" machines at some airports. That's a look at what is in the headlines at this hour.

Now back to Bill and Heidi.

HEMMER: All right, Kelly. Thanks for that.

It is all hands on deck for FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, dealing now with what is considered a hurricane three-peat. The FEMA director Michael Brown in Birmingham, Alabama, this morning.


HEMMER: What is your biggest concern now there in Birmingham?

MICHAEL BROWN, FEMA DIR.: Bill, I'm really concerned about hurricane fatigue. You know, the families and the victims in Florida and Alabama have just been beaten up, and I really worry about them. But I know that they're going to rebuild. There's an enthusiasm there, but they're just worn out.

HEMMER: FEMA workers over the weekend took their own videotape. In fact, we can show that for our viewers. What did you find on that videotape that may help you better assess the needs at this point, whether it's Alabama or the Panhandle of Florida?

BROWN: Well, I think there are several lessons learned. One, when governors or local mayors ask you to evacuate, you need to evacuate.

I think the second thing we learned is even though FEMA, I think, does a great job through the Department of Homeland Security, really preaching the preparedness message. We've got to penetrate even further into the population about how important it is to be prepared, to realize what it's like to go without power for two or three days, or sometimes even two or three weeks.

HEMMER: And on that same note, when will power be restored?

BROWN: Well, you know, President Bush and I yesterday looked at a couple of areas where I'm just afraid it's going to be a long time before power is restored, because not only are the feeder lines down, the distribution lines are down, and even all the poles and wires to individual houses are done. I'm afraid some people may be without power for a couple of weeks. HEMMER: If you look at the number of people killed throughout the storm, places like North Carolina, flooding in Pennsylvania, do you think people knew how strong this storm could be ultimately?

BROWN: I don't think so. I think we're so accustomed to a hurricane being a coastal event that we often forget about, you know, this inland flooding which I always talk about causing most deaths after a hurricane, unfortunately is coming true in this situation. You know, when you think about Hurricane Ivan causing disaster declarations through Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, the Carolinas, you can see how strong the storm was and how dangerous it was.


HEMMER: The head of FEMA there talking with us earlier today. He also says if you want more information about how you can help, go to the Internet, -- G-O-V -- or also online there.


COLLINS: More now on the state of the presidential race and the escalating campaign rhetoric. Vice presidential candidate John Edwards is striking back at Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, who suggested this weekend that al Qaeda may find it easier to carry out a terror attack with the Kerry-Edwards team in power.


REP. DENNIS HASTERT (R-IL), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I haven't talked to Osama bin Laden or al Qaeda, I'm not sure what they would say in a public statement, but it's my impression they will try to influence this election. And if I was making an impression, and I don't have data or intelligence to tell me one thing or another, I think they -- I would think they would be more apt to go to somebody who would file a lawsuit with world court or something rather than respond with troops.


COLLINS: CNN's senior political analyst Bill Schneider joining us now with his thoughts on all of this.

All right, so, Bill, you heard what Hastert just said. John Edwards responded. He defended his boss. He said that Hastert is has just joined this fear-mongering crowd. Let's listen to what Edwards said. I'd like to hear your comment in a moment.


SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He said, and I'm paraphrasing him now, he said last night, something to the effect, that al Qaeda wants John Kerry to be president of the United States.

Let me just say this in the simplest possible terms. When John Kerry is president of the United States, we will find al Qaeda where they are and crush them before they can do damage to the American people.


COLLINS: All right, Bill, what do you make of all of this, these two exchanges here?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POL. ANALYST: I think a lot of voters see the Hastert comments, like Dick Cheney's comments last week, as exploiting fear. They know that fearful and angry voters are more likely to vote for President Bush.

So, therefore, what critics see is a systematic effort by the Republicans to frighten voters. And what we have been seeing in the polls in the last few weeks is more and more women who were strongly for John Kerry now split, and they think a that may be because of fears.

COLLINS: But isn't terrorism a very big issue in this election?

SCHNEIDER: Terrorism is a very big issue. But also the Cheney comments and the Hastert comments seem to be, to critics at least, an effort to exploit and heighten those fears so that they will drive vote to Bush.

SCHNEIDER: All right. Well let's talk a little bit about Kerry being apparently whipped up into a fighting frenzy, his words. He says he's ready to fight. He's going to speak at NYU tonight. We also know that there will be five mothers of U.S. soldiers who have been in Iraq that are going to speak as well. They're going to be criticizing President Bush and how he has handled the situation in Iraq.

What does all of this mean? I mean, has Kerry not been giving it his all up until now?

SCHNEIDER: Well he has been, but his position has not been clear to a lot of voters. The situation in Iraq is changing very rapidly on the ground. There are now the intelligence reports that were very pessimistic back in July, plus criticism from Republican senators like Dick Lugar and Chuck Hagel, that the situation is not going well. This is an opportunity for Kerry to be able to score points on Iraq and address the issue in a way that really hasn't gotten much traction in the campaign so far.

Iraq was a diminishing concern, we found, among voters since the end of June when they had the handover of power to the Iraqi government. Now suddenly, that concern may be growing, and the one thing we know is voters concerned about Iraq are voting for Kerry.

COLLINS: Well, what about the Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi? We know that he's going to be visiting Washington this week. Is that going to have any sort of effect on politics here?

SCHNEIDER: I think it depends most importantly on what's happening in Iraq, not what's happening in Washington. I think President Bush is going to embrace the Iraqi prime minister. They are going to talk about the advance of democracy and an outlook that is very rosy for elections in Iraq and for democracy, but that could be easily undercut by very dangerous developments on the ground in Iraq.

COLLINS: Bill Schneider, thanks so much as always, CNN's political analyst. We appreciate your time.


COLLINS: All right. Bill, back to you.

HEMMER: From the state of Texas, Heidi, a bizarre scene on a highway there on Sunday. A raging bull out of control. In fact, it ran, galloped rather for two miles before it exited the highway. That's when he spotted a man with in a red shirt. The bull charged, knocked the man to the ground, then it was back to the highway, where the big rigs tried to corral that cow. The bull damaged a police car along the way. Fortunately, no one was hurt, including the man in the red shirt off to the sideline.

In a moment here on AMERICAN MORNING, a little dot barely bigger than the eye of a needle could change the way millions shop. But does that mean Big Brother is watching? Andy explains that in a moment.

Also, paging the good doctor. The new treatment that could benefit a quarter of a million Americans with a potentially deadly condition. Now only about 100 people worldwide can get it. We'll talk about it with, Sanjay, after this.


HEMMER: Home dialysis could improve the quality of life for patients suffering from chronic kidney failure. That's our topic today with Dr. Sanjay Gupta at the CNN Center with more on this.

Sanjay, good morning.


Yes, about 300,000 people in the United States alone need dialysis to stay alive. That usually means going to a center a few times a week. But what if you could change that equation to get home dialysis every day in the comfort of your own home?


GUPTA (voice-over): Dadi Ding was diagnosed with chronic kidney failure 22 years ago. Treatment meant traveling to a center three times a week for four hours to get dialysis.

DADI DING, DIALYSIS PATIENT: I receive a little bit of in-center hemodialysis, just a few months, and it was really very difficult for me to keep a job.

GUPTA: Then she switched to home dialysis. But with a conventional machine, it still took several hours. These days, Ding removes toxins from her blood in a fraction of a time it used to take. She's one of about 100 patients in the U.S. and Britain using her own personal hemodialysis unit developed by Access Limited.

DING: This is a different (INAUDIBLE). It's just like your own kidney. It cleans your blood, but it's outside your body.

GUPTA: With few exceptions, Medicare covers three dialysis treatments per week, but some doctors say that's not enough.

DR. ORLY KOHN, UNIV. OF CHICAGO HOSPITALS: In between dialysis, the patient accumulates a lot of the chemicals that normally the kidney would normally be getting rid of.

GUPTA: About a quarter of a million Americans now rely on dialysis at centers, and medical experts say that number is expected to double by the year 2010 as obesity and diabetes rates continue to soar.

Access Limited works work within Medicare's guidelines for coverage, so patients like Ding can benefit from more treatments per week.

DING: When I first started everyday, I used to skip Saturday. That's the night that I would usually go out and stuff. And then on Sunday, the whole Sunday, I just feel kind of tired,and I don't want to do anything. And so I decided, why ruin my weekend this way, so I, you know, now I don't skip Saturday anymore. So I always do seven days a week.

GUPTA: The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services are working with Congress and the National Institutes of Health to expand coverage for more frequent dialysis.

In the meantime, a number of other companies are developing similar in-home units, aimed at improving the lives of dialysis patients with better efficiency and flexibility.


GUPTA: And the real key, Bill, here is to keep in mind the kidneys work 24 hours a day, all the time. So if you're doing dialysis three times a week, it may have a worst outcome than in terms of this daily dialysis. So it's gaining some momentum, Bill.

HEMMER: If you can do it at home, how long does that treatment take then, Sanjay?

GUPTA: Well, it still takes two and a half to three hours to do a full course of dialysis, although some folks are starting to develop units that you can actually do at night, so that you can do it while you're sleeping. If you travel to a center, it's typically four hours, three times a week. It doesn't count travel time as well -- Bill.

HEMMER: Yes. so that's one convenience certainly. But the other main advantages at home or what?

GUPTA: Yes, the advantage at home, but certainly, again, if you have toxins that are building up in your blood in between these dialysis sessions three times a week, people don't feel well. They may feel lethargic. They may not be able do the activities they're used to doing. If you can do daily dialyze, get those toxins out of your body on a daily basis, you may feel better, you may be more energetic and get things done in your life that you otherwise wouldn't be able to do -- Bill.

HEMMER: All right, interesting story. Thank you, Sanjay, for that.

GUPTA: Thank you.

HEMMER: At the CNN Center -- Heidi.

COLLINS: Still to come this morning, Paris Hilton is ready to trade in Beverly Hills for Capitol Hill, believe it or not. "The Cafferty File" is coming next, here on AMERICAN MORNING.


JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Time now for the final installment of our "Future is Now" series -- pretty good series, too. ID tags could change how we live, which is a prospect that excites some and frightens others.

Andy Serwer is here with more. This is a good series. I like it.

ANDY SERWER, "FORTUNE" MAGAZINE: Thank you. Thanks. This is our last one -- kind of got blown out last week by the hurricane, so we're finishing up here.

This is about the next generation of bar codes, only these little babies can be sewn into clothing or even inserted under the skin. Check it out.


(voice-over): This tiny dot has the power to revolutionize the way we live and work. Delta says this dot will ensure your luggage never gets lost. Wal-Mart could use it to make sure hot toys are always on the shelves come Christmas. That dot is called RFID, which stands for radio frequency identification -- the next generation of bar codes.

DAVID DONNAN, PRESIDENT, N. AMER. CHECKPOINT SYSTEMS: Radio frequency identification tags are really used to identify the product to ensure that it's in stock, that it's in the right place, it's on the right shelf.

SERWER: Dave Donnan works for Checkpoint Systems, one of the big players in RFID. He's working with retailers to track everything from clothes to drugs. But these ID tags do more than just keep tabs.

DONNAN: I place it down by the screen, and automatically it shows not only the product but also wardrobe selection ideas. SERWER: That's where RFID gets controversial. The RFID dots can be hidden in chunky plastic tags or even woven into clothes. And they can only be turned off by the stores. Privacy advocates worry that as the readers and tags get cheaper, they'll be everywhere, and that means big brother could always be watching.

DONNAN: There's one pair of pants that was picked up and put back. There was three of them picked up and put back. The consumer didn't buy them.

SERWER: But the same privacy concerns have been around for years. The technology is already used with highway toll tags and access cards for hotel rooms and offices.


(on camera): On the horizon for RFID tags: implanted into humans so military personnel could be tracked, for instance, or tags that contain medical information.

Kind of more mundane application, I discovered: There's a club in Barcelona, Spain, called Baha Beach, Tuesday night is RFID night. They were inserting RFID tags into customers' hands so they didn't have to carry money or wallets or pocketbooks or purses. And they could waive their hands by the readers, and it would debit their bank account when they were buying drinks. Now, that is cutting edge over there.

COLLINS: Who'd cut them off?

SERWER: I don't know. It just...

CAFFERTY: Down on the beach later at night, you know where to find them in the morning. Dial in their frequency.

SERWER: That's right, yes.

CAFFERTY: Thanks. That's good stuff.

In an effort -- on to "The Cafferty File." In an effort to promote the profession of male nursing, which we like do at every opportunity here on AMERICAN MORNING, the Nebraska Hospital Association has launched the Nebraska Men in Nursing 2005 calendar. This is probably the only national exposure that that picture will get. There it is.


CAFFERTY: Now, there were 65 of these guys that tried for a spot on this calendar. These are the lucky 12. Those are New York City firefighters. Compare the 2004 FDNY calendar with the 2005 Nebraska Male Nurses calendar, and we posed the question: Which one do you want hanging on your wall?

SERWER: It depends who you are. CAFFERTY: Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie are in talks to take the third season of their "Simple Life" show to Capitol Hill. I like this. The girls are going to try to find jobs as political interns.

According to the "New York Daily News," House Speaker Dennis Hastert and Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, both Republicans, have been approached with this idea. Both have declined the offer. Hastert spokesman told the newspaper he, quote, "didn't think it was such a good idea," unquote.

Madonna spoke to 1,000 Kabbalah followers yesterday at a Jewish mysticism conference in Israel. And we want to share some of her more notable nuggets of wisdom with you this morning.

First, the material moron said this: She was hesitant to come to Israel before realizing, quote, "it is no more dangerous to be here than it is to be in New York." That was the first one. And then she said, "We want to put an end to hatred with no reason." We want to put an end to hatred with no reason. Note to what's her name: There is no hatred without a reason. People don't hate for the hell of it; they have a reason.

I can hardly wait for the book to come out.

SERWER: Her name's Esther now, by the way.

CAFFERTY: Her name is...

COLLINS: Maybe it's the Kabbalah water that she's been drinking.

CAFFERTY: And where do they find 1,000 idiots to show up to listen to her say anything.

SERWER: That tour got a lot...

HEMMER: That would be the other reason to hate her.

SERWER: Her tour got a lot of coverage in Israel. A lot of the tours have stayed away for three or four years now, and her going there brought a lot of attention back to it.

HEMMER: A lot of her followers are following her there, for no reason.

SERWER: No reason.

CAFFERTY: Being in Israel is no more dangerous than being in New York City. I mean, what do people like...

HEMMER: She lives in London. She lives in London now, you know? She doesn't know.

Let's get a break.

CAFFERTY: Unbelievable. HEMMER: In a moment here, John Kerry's going primetime on "Late Night" later tonight, taking a page out of Bill Clinton's campaign playbook -- minus the saxophone.

Back in a moment -- top of the hour here when we explain on AMERICAN MORNING.



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