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Christopher Reeve Dies From Heart Failure at 52; Major League Baseball's MVP Ken Caminiti Dies at 41; Senators Reach Tax Measure Deal

Aired October 11, 2004 - 07:00   ET


BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. He will always be known as Superman for the movie and for the superhuman strength he showed after becoming paralyzed. Christopher Reeve has died.
In the presidential race, a huge clamor over the word nuisance today. John Kerry said it. The Bush team pounced on it.

And 700 feet above the ground, a hot air balloon collides with a radio tower. Passengers with only one way to get down alive.

All ahead on this AMERICAN MORNING.

ANNOUNCER: From the CNN Broadcast Center in New York, this is AMERICAN MORNING with Bill Hemmer and Soledad O'Brien.

HEMMER: And good morning. Starting another week here. Good to have you along with us today. Heidi Collins in for Soledad. Good morning to you.


HEMMER: The way Christopher Reeve responded to the tragedy in his life is part of what makes his life so amazing. Reeve died yesterday, and we'll spend a lot of time today looking back on his career and his life. And a bit later, Sanjay reports on the complications over the weekend that caused his heart failure.

COLLINS: Yes, such a surprise there.

Also politics this morning, Jeff Greenfield will be with us looking at the fall-out from Friday's presidential debate. Has the race been transformed once again?

HEMMER: We shall see, yes.

Jack Cafferty, welcome back from vacation.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you very much.

HEMMER: Nice to have you back.

CAFFERTY: Pleasure to be back with you.

The 2000 presidential election, the national nightmare that gave us the Supreme Court decision after weeks of waiting for the folks in Florida to figure out if they could count the votes or not, they've had four years to fix the system, it's still broken.

World's most powerful democracy, and we may expect to have a worse election this year than we had four years ago, if that's possible. We'll take a look at it.

HEMMER: And if the election is as tight as some polls say, you might be right.

CAFFERTY: I mean, it's just -- it's inexcusable. It's just, you know.

HEMMER: We'll look at it. Thank you, Jack.

CAFFERTY: Why should I be surprised?

HEMMER: Top stories again this hour, Kelly Wallace back with us again this week. Kelly, good morning to you.

KELLY WALLACE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you. Good morning, everyone.

We begin with news about Yaser Hamdi. He is now back in Saudi Arabia after almost three years in U.S. military custody. Hamdi was designated by the U.S. as an enemy combatant and accused of fighting alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan.

His attorney tells CNN Hamdi was released yesterday from the U.S. Navy base in Charleston, South Carolina. Under terms of a plea, deal he cannot return to the United States for 10 years.

In Iraq, two more American soldiers have been killed. U.S. military sources say insurgents fired rockets at the troops in Southern Baghdad. Five other soldiers are wounded.

The attack comes at defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, warns of a possible increase in violence ahead of the January elections in Iraq. Rumsfeld made the comment yesterday during a surprise visit to the troops.

In Afghanistan, it could be days before any ballots are counted in the country's first ever, direct presidential election. Officials say they are waiting for ballot boxes to be hauled from remote polling places.

Some are being brought to Kabul by donkey, this as election organizers are creating an independent panel to investigate charges of voting irregularities.

And Congress will adjourn today, but first it has some business to do. The Senate is set to approve a corporate tax overhaul later this morning. Senators reached a deal on the measure over the weekend. It approves almost $140 billion in tax breaks for manufacturers.

The Senate will also OK two spending bills for disaster relief and homeland security. What could this all mean for your wallet? Andy Serwer is "Minding Your Business" later this half hour.

That's a quick check of the headlines. Now back to Bill and Heidi and news about actor Christopher Reeve.

HEMMER: Thank you, Kelly.

COLLINS: Thanks, Kelly. In fact, actor Christopher Reeve was known for his great strength on the big screen as Superman and for his relentless courage following a near fatal horse riding accident nine years ago.

On Saturday, Reeve slipped into a coma after going into cardiac arrest in his suburban New York City home. He died yesterday evening from heart failure with his family by his side.

Here now is CNN's Sherry Sylvester with a look back at Reeve's life.


SHERRY SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Christopher Reeve disproved the saying, "There are no second acts in American life."

His second act could not have been foreseen, becoming a symbol of the will to persevere in the face of devastating injury. Reeve's career really began with the 1978 blockbuster "Superman."

Reeve starred in a total of four "Superman" pictures, but he also sought other challenging roles on stage and in film. One project, 1987's "Street Smart" passed him as a devious magazine writer swept up in the world of a predatory pimp.

He co-starred with Jane Seymour in the fantasy romance "Somewhere In Time", a film that attracted a cult audience.

His life was to change dramatically the day of May 27, 1995 when he took part in an equestrian tournament in Culpepper, Virginia. Reeve struck a rail head first when he was thrown from his horse. The impact crushed two vertebrae in his neck, damaging his spinal cord.

CHRISTOPHER REEVE, ACTOR/ACTIVIST: What happened was I had a hemorrhage right in the middle of the cord in a segment at the second vertebra, which is about the width of your pinky.

SYLVESTER: Reeve credited his wife, Dana, with rallying his spirits giving him the will to live.

REEVE: I'm going to get up out of this chair and throw it away and walk.

SYLVESTER: His primary focus became a political and medical one supporting research into spinal cord injuries. He formed his own foundation and lobbied Congress for increased government funding. He took an active role in the debate over federal funding of stem cell research. REEVE: If we keep giving our scientists the funding they need to do the research, very soon I will take my family by the hand, and I will stand here in front of this star on the Hollywood walk of fame.


COLLINS: Reeve is survived by his wife, Dana, their 12-year-old son and two adult children from another relationship.

Christopher Reeve was 52 years old.

HEMMER: And a fighter to the end, too, Heidi.

More now on Christopher Reeve's career and his death. "US Weekly's" BJ Sigesmund back with us here on AMERICAN MORNING. And good morning to you, BJ.

HEMMER: You interviewed him several years ago. What struck you?

BJ SIGESMUND, STAFF EDITOR, "US WEEKLY": It was one of the most incredible interviews I have ever done. And I interview a lot of people over the phone for my job. But this one was different because he would speak in these beautiful, eloquent sentences, and then he would pause for about 15 seconds to catch his breath.

He couldn't speak for a very long time at one time. But -- and the transcript was so interesting for that reason because everything that came out of his mouth was gorgeous, but then he would pause to catch his breath.

HEMMER: People may not know or remember, but in 1978 when he was picked for the role as Clark Kent in "Superman," he was virtually unknown when it came to film at that point.

SIGESMUND: Yes, I mean he was only 26 years old or so when he got the job. And this was a career-making role. I mean, he followed it up in "Superman 2" and in "Superman 3." And even though the role was probably not the great acting triumph that he always wanted, it gave him the clout in Hollywood to do other smaller, more interesting roles.

One of my favorites -- I'm sure you don't have the view roll of this -- but one of my favorites is a movie called "Somewhere in Time" that he did with Jane Seymour, a very romantic movie about time travel that he did in 1981.

You can catch it on cable some time. It shows what a great talent he actually was.

HEMMER: Back in the late summer of 1995, over there across the Hudson in New Jersey, I was at the press conference when his wife Dana met reporters for the first time. And Christopher Reeve had not seen publicly at that point.

But you could tell in her voice and her conviction the strength of the two of them going forward, a shadow of things to come... SIGESMUND: Right.

HEMMER: ... of what we have all seen of their strength over the past nine years.

SIGESMUND: Well, I think everyone can see that he was a beacon of hope not just for people in wheelchairs but really for anyone with disabilities. He never gave up. He always fought. He always said, I'm going to walk again.

He got political. There was never one ounce of self-pity to Christopher Reeve over these last nine years. And that is, indeed, I believe, more of the legacy that he leaves than his acting work, what he did.

HEMMER: Yes, and anywhere in the world he would walk into -- I remember one time he told Larry King he'll walk into a pub in Scotland or Ireland or somewhere in England, and everybody would say, hey, there's Superman.


HEMMER: Thanks BJ.

SIGESMUND: Thank you.

Much more coming up later this hour. Back to Heidi now, again -- Heidi?

COLLINS: Former national league MVP Ken Caminiti is dead at the age of 41. His agent says he suffered a heart attack in New York on Sunday. Caminiti's life was marked by great success on the field and terrible problems off it.

He was the unanimous choice for MVP in 1996 when he led the San Diego Padres to a division title. After his career ended in 2001, though, he admitted taking steroids and sparked controversy by saying he estimated half the players in baseball used them, too.

And just last week Caminiti admitted in court he had violated his probation for a drug conviction testing positive for cocaine last month. Ken Caminiti dead at age 41.

I want to take a moment to look at our first check of the forecast now. Chad Myers standing by at the CNN Center with the latest weather update. Boy, kind of a dismal morning here, Chad.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It has been -- and for a lot of folks in Louisiana, as well, who are trying to get water out of their houses. All that rain from Tropical Storm Matthew, now Tropical Depression Matthew. It really just dying out, nothing really left of it except the rain.


MYERS: Heidi, back to you. COLLINS: OK, Chad. I think some of that was all right to hear.


MYERS: Some.

COLLINS: Appreciate it on a Monday morning.

HEMMER: Thank you, Chad.

In a moment here, Wednesday night is the final debate between George Bush and John Kerry. In a moment, the Bush campaign with its spin on comments that John Kerry made over the weekend. Both camps talk about it in a moment.

COLLINS: And check this out, a terrifying scene at a balloon festival, the latest from New Mexico.



HEMMER: Back to 2004 campaign now, where the Bush campaign is putting its own spin on John Kerry's comments in a "New York Times" magazine interview. Here is what he said in part.

And quoting, "We have to get back to the place we were where terrorists are not the focus of our lives but they're a nuisance. As a former law enforcement person, I know we're never going to end prostitution. We're never going to end illegal gambling. But we're going to reduce it, organized crime to a level where it is not on the rise. And it isn't threatening people's lives every day.

And fundamentally, it's something that you continue to fight, but it's not threatening the fabric of your life."

The Bush campaign jumping on the first part of that statement. The view from the Kerry camp, first, today with Jeanne Shaheen, chairman of the Kerry campaign in Manchester, New Hampshire.

And good morning. Welcome back here.


HEMMER: The Bush folks say that's a pre-9/11 view. What do you say about it this morning?

SHAHEEN: Well, as you pointed out, they have taken John Kerry's comments out of context, as they have throughout this campaign.

HEMMER: I didn't point out that they took it out of context. I'm asking you what you think.

SHAHEEN: What -- I'm sorry. You read the entire statement, which I think pointed out pretty clearly to people that it was taken out of context, as they have throughout this campaign. And I think you have to ask yourself, why are they so interested in attacking John Kerry? Why do they keep misrepresenting what he said? And I think the answer is pretty clear. It's because they don't want to talk about the issues that people are facing, the jobs lost, the higher cost of health care, the high coast -- cost -- of home heating oil which we're seeing at oil goes over $50 a barrel.

And unfortunately the Bush-Cheney administration hasn't offered any answers to any of those issues.

HEMMER: Let me get back to the statement, though. Do you see it as a nuisance, terrorism?

SHAHEEN: Oh, John Kerry has been very clear. He said it in both debates. He has said it throughout this campaign that he believes terrorism is a threat, and when he is president he will do a better job than George Bush has of hunting down the terrorists and of killing them wherever they are found.

He also believes we need to do a better job of protecting our ports, at making sure that our chemical plants, our nuclear power plants are protected. And that's what he's going to do.

And unfortunately, what we heard from George Bush in the first debate was that he doesn't think we can afford to do that. Well, after spending almost $200 billion in Iraq, we should be doing what we need to do to make us safe at home.

HEMMER: I want to get back to this statement again here. Do you believe he chose the right comparison, prostitution, gambling? And if you could offer a better clarification, we'd like to hear it.

SHAHEEN: Well, the issue is who is going to make us safer here at home? What George Bush has done in Iraq is to divide our friends and unite our enemies and that does not make us safer.

John Kerry understands that what we need to do to be safer at home is to work with our allies in the global community and it is to have a strong military and to do what we need to do here at home.

HEMMER: Would you...

SHAHEEN: ... protect our ports...

HEMMER: Yes, would you...

SHAHEEN: ... protect our chemical plants.

HEMMER: ... have advised him to use different words in that interview?

SHAHEEN: You know, I think he's been very clear about what he would do. He would hunt down the terrorists and he would kill them.

He's been very clear at saying what we did in Afghanistan was not the way to go, that when we had a chance to get Osama bin Laden, what George Bush did was to take our troops out of Afghanistan and go into Iraq. That didn't make us safer.

HEMMER: Jeanne Shaheen this morning in Manchester, New Hampshire. Thanks for your time.

SHAHEEN: Thank you.

HEMMER: From the Bush side now, Marc Racicot, is the chairman in Arlington, Virginia. And welcome back here as well.

You believe the statement that John Kerry made shows a pre-9/11 view of the world. You clarify now what you mean by that.

MARC RACICOT, CHAIRMAN, BUSH CAMPAIGN: Well, Bill, Jeanne, I think, has missed the point here. The fact of the matter is you do have to place it in context. And the context is when John Kerry first spoke to the issue of terrorism, you'll probably recall, he said, I don't like to use the word "war on terrorism," it's more of an engagement.

And then subsequent to that on a number of occasions, he said, it's not really primarily a military operation. What it is, is a law enforcement operation, which signals his understanding that you wait.

You wait until such time as there's damage and tragedy that visits your shores, and then you investigate it like a law enforcement effort. And this just confirms it again when he refers to terrorism as a nuisance or at least places it in the same category as a nuisance like gambling or prostitution.

HEMMER: Here is what Democrats will say, though, back in August with NBC and on the screen you can read it at home. He said to Matt Lauer, "I don't think you can win it," meaning the war on terror or terrorism itself. "But I think you can create conditions so that those who use terror as a tool are less acceptable in parts of the world."

Is he, essentially, saying the same thing that John Kerry suggested in that interview over the weekend?

RACICOT: I don't think anywhere remotely close when you look at this. John Kerry has looked at it from the very beginning as a law enforcement reaction. In other words, you wait.

Even though you may see gathering threats, even though you have had extraordinary damage done and injury imposed upon the people of this country on our soil, you continue to wait while those threats gather and treat it as a law enforcement operation and consider it a nuisance.

That's what we think the point of comparison here is, Bill.

HEMMER: On this issue from Iraq, in the "L.A. Times" this morning, would like to get a clarification on the suggestion by a senior administration official quoted in that article saying that there will be no major offensive launched in places like Fallujah, Ramadi until after the election, more so because of a political situation in this country reflected on the ground in Iraq.

Is that the case right now for the war in Iraq?

RACICOT: That's not my understanding. Although I'm certainly not a part of those briefings, and I certainly don't make policy there. The fact of the matter is the president has said on more than one occasion that we will stay focused and we will continue to pursue the terrorists regardless of the circumstances that surround virtually any other circumstance because our safety and security of our families and our children here depend on that.

HEMMER: Are you saying the article is wrong then? Major assaults are not on hold?

RACICOT: I don't know the answer to that question. All I'm telling you is that president has told the American people we will continue to stay focused and pursue our objective at every moment in time.

HEMMER: All right. Marc Racicot from the Bush side, there. Thanks for your time this morning. As well, Jeanne Shaheen before you.

Another reminder to our viewers, the presidential candidates debate for the third and final time Wednesday night in Tempe, Arizona.

Our prime time coverage will start at 7:00 Eastern time. The debate gets underway at 9:00 Eastern that same night -- Heidi?

COLLINS: A frightening scene at the international balloon fiesta in Albuquerque, New Mexico yesterday. High winds pushed the Smokey the Bear balloon into a radio tower, ripping it apart and forcing the balloons 69-year-old pilot and his passengers, two boys, to climb down nearly 700 feet down that tower there. You see them doing it.

Federal officials are investigating to see what happened. And coming up in the next hour on AMERICAN MORNING we are going to talk with the pilot and the two young passengers who took that terrifying ride. Initially suppose to start off as very serene and lovely, high above, just floating around.


HEMMER: What a contrast.

Get a break. Here in a moment, the Senate gives an OK to a sweeping tax bill. Who is getting the big break?

In a moment, we'll have a look at that after this on AMERICAN MORNING.


COLLINS: The Senate and its sweeping corporate tax bill. Well, who will it affect? Andy Serwer is here to explain it all, "Minding Your Business" this morning. ANDY SERWER, "FORTUNE" MAGAZINE: Good morning to you.

COLLINS: Good morning.

SERWER: It's affecting the congressmen because, and the senators, because they are working today. And today is usually a holiday.


SERWER: They worked on Sunday. Of course, they don't usually work on Sundays either. But that's another story. We're talking $140 billion tax bill, breaks for corporations that the Senate will be voting on today.

Really a tradeoff -- they are going to be cutting the corporate tax rate -- that sounds bad -- from 35 percent to 32 percent. But they are also closing some tax loopholes.

Interesting politics going on yesterday, Heidi. Senator Mary Landrieu yesterday holding up the bill because she wanted to force a vote on encouraging employers to give compensation to reservists, national guard reservists. That will be happening today.

Now, look for a quick check of the pork this morning because, of course, the bill does have some pork. Let's check that out because really interesting -- here we go.

Hollywood producers are benefiting from the bill, and goodness knows they need it.

CAFFERTY: Yes, poor things.

SERWER: These are people. Bow and arrow makers, obviously, that's been a business in decline over the past several decades.

CAFFERTY: Hundreds of years.

SERWER: Hundreds of years.

NASCAR track owners, well NASCAR is doing very, very well, of course. So they need the tax break. Native Alaskan whalers, I'm not too sure about that. Chinese fan importers.


SERWER: Importers, sorely in need...

HEMMER: Is it the electric fan or the manual kind?

SERWER: No, you plug them in...


SERWER: Well, they could work if you didn't plug them in.


SERWER: You just put your hand up there.

HEMMER: NASCAR dads by the way.


HEMMER: A big voting block in 2004.

SERWER: Coincidence or not?

HEMMER: I think not.

Thank you, Andy.

What's up, Jack?

CAFFERTY: The first Afghan -- pardon me -- Afghan elections were held this weekend amid concerns of voter fraud and errors at the voting booths. Sound familiar?

Four years ago, the Florida recount disaster, problems with the election process, still have not been fixed. We've had four years to figure out how to count votes in this country, and we ain't figured it out yet.

Election officials are concerned that the changes made after 2000 will cause additional confusion and more court fights after this election. There are legal challenges mounted already in five states, three weeks before the first vote is cast.

In 2000, problems with registration systems caused an estimated 1.5 to 3.0 million votes to simply be lost and this year could be worse thanks to something called provisional ballots.

So here's the question, how confident are you that the election will be accurate?

This is a joke, right? I mean in four years we can't figure out how to count...

HEMMER: Four years ago I spent 37 days in Tallahassee, Florida. I'm thinking this year...

SERWER: Did they get you a hotel room there?

HEMMER: ... Columbus, Ohio, maybe? Perhaps.

CAFFERTY: Unbelievable.

HEMMER: Thank you, Jack.

COLLINS: All right, Jack, thanks.

And still to come this morning, the Monday edition of "90-Second Pop." Jenny from the block says she's keeping her personal life out of the spotlight from now on. But did she dish anything last night on the premier episode of "Inside the Actor's Studio"?

And one time Hollywood bad boy Sean Penn takes on the guys who created "South Park" and the new team America over the November election.

Find out what all the fuss is about ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


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